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10 New Artists You Need to Know: March 2017

Marian Hill, H.E.R., Vindata, Sigrid and more

10 artists rolling stone, artists you need to know,

The New Respects and Sigrid are artists you need to know for March.

Cody Myers, Francesca Allen

Once again, we talked to 10 of the hottest artists who are climbing the charts, breaking the Internet or just dominating our office stereos. This month: a still-faceless R&B mystery, a Los Angeles jazz shredder and the most Shazam-ed band in America.

Cameron Graves

Anna Webber

Cameron Graves

Sounds Like: The house pianist for the party at the end of the universe, pulling in signals from John Coltrane, J Dilla, Meshuggah and points beyond.

For Fans of: Kamasi Washington, Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke, Thundercat

Why You Should Pay Attention: A founding member of the West Coast Get Down collective that thundered to global renown with the release of Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, Cameron Graves, 35, cut his teeth playing the classic works of Bach, Schubert and Chopin before he hit Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. There, he bonded with Washington over a shared love of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and the mainstream jazz canon. “I met him when I was around 15, and we both would just hang out and listen to Coltrane all day, and practice with each other,” says Graves, “just ‘shed on tunes like ‘Giant Steps’ and ‘A Love Supreme.'”

Still, spare hours spent shredding out Van Halen and Slipknot tunes on guitar came in handy during Graves’s stint in Jada Pinkett Smith’s nu-metal project, Wicked Wisdom. Since then, he’s also held his own alongside one of the heaviest pioneers of fusion jazz, bass virtuoso Stanley Clarke. Mix up those experiences, stir in a taste for Prince’s revolutionary funk and J Dilla’s mixing-board skills, then add a twist of cosmic insight gleaned from The Urantia Book, an esoteric tome that purports to sort out the whole of creation. The result is Planetary Prince, Graves’s debut album as a bandleader, newly released on the Mack Avenue label.

He Says: “In sports, we always revere the most talented person on the field, the most talented person on the court, and it’s through their extreme skills that we end up revering that person, and creating a celebrity out of that person. And that is exactly what my mission is, personally: to do that in music, to showcase the virtuoso and to try to make the virtuoso a celebrity again, because I think that’s been lost in our society with all the … I kind of call it ‘plastic music.’ It’s brought the bar down in terms of the talent and the quality of the playing.”

Hear for Yourself: “Satania Our Solar System,” the opening track on Planetary Prince, presents all the essentials: a classically poised introduction, a writhing beat equally beholden to slick funk and prog-metal, serpentine electric bass lines, and lean, tight jazz-combo interaction. Steve Smith

Rayvn Lenae

Jimmy Fontaine

Ravyn Lenae

Sounds Like: A young woman finding her voice amidst sounds and colors

For Fans of: Solange, Jhené Aiko circa Sailing Souls, Kelela

Why You Should Pay Attention: Ravyn Lenae is a high school senior – she graduates from the Chicago High School for the Arts this summer – who crafts thoughtful and highly lyrical electronic soul. On her 2015 debut Moon Shoes, reissued by Atlantic Records last year, she sings about life as a dreamy, sometimes-melancholy teenager in a softly assertive voice. Her just-released follow-up, the appropriately titled Midnight Moonlight, delves into more romantic concerns with the same quiet grace. From January to March, the 18-year-old toured across the country with hotly tipped rapper Noname. “Before I left, we had put together an academic plan for me where I would basically be doing school online,” she says. “I thought it would be much easier juggling tour and school. But there’s literally no time to even sleep.” Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Lenae knew she wanted to pursue music at an early age. She sang in church and studied guitar and piano before she linked up with producer Monte Booker, who helped assemble her two EPs. “Honestly, I didn’t know it was a project,” she says of Moon Shoes. “I wasn’t creating with an intention, I was creating solely for releasing my emotions and being creative,” .

She Says: Lenae likes to connect colors with emotions. “I’m a very colorful person,” she says. When asked to describe the difference between Moon Shoes and Midnight in the Moonlight, she explains, “Moon Shoes is very pink and yellow, and maybe orange, very bright, whereas Midnight Moonlight is purple and blue and, I don’t know, gray. Not to say those colors are sad, because a lot of times people like to equate those colors with sadness, or [being] blue. But those colors are more emotion-felt, and deep, and sultry.”

Hear for Yourself: In the short but evocative “Alive,” Ravyn Lenae breaks free of a romantic attachment with no regrets. Mosi Reeves

Nico Niquo

Jordan Obarzanek

Nico Niquo

Sounds Like: Ambient music for hyper-digital hyper-realities

For Fans of: Oneohtrix Point Never, Ryuichi Sakamoto, 2814

Why You Should Pay Attention: Nico Niquo is getting the rare vinyl release from Orange Milk Records, the taste-making cassette label existing at the Tron-bike parallels of vaporwave, experimental electronic music and cutting-edge graphic design. The Melbourne-based 23-year-old born Nico Callaghan creates drifts that nostalgically soothe like some synthetic Windows 3.0–era New Age record but also yearn with the melancholy only time can provide. His second album, In a Silent Way, has the textures of dance music (he’s a fan of electronic experimentalists like Jam City and Huerco S.), but instead of throbbing, it swirls in a beatless cloud cluster. “Making music inspired by dance music, grid-like structures and Futurism is really fun because you can let your imagination run kind of wild,” says Callaghan, “but I wanted to give myself a really odd constraint to drive me to make something a bit more unusual, so no beats. A beat implies something very distinct, but I think it’s possible to make more evocative music in a slightly askew and odd sonic environment.”

He Says: “There are only a handful of ‘instruments’ on the album – some clarinet, saxophone and mallet percussion that friends and I recorded. Apart from that, everything else is kind of like a cheap, plastic impression of an instrument or something divorced from reality altogether. But the main instrumental sound I built everything else around is the ‘eski’ grime synth that Wiley brought to real prominence about 15 years ago. To me, that synth sound is the most futuristic, evocative sound ever.”

Hear for Yourself: The title track to In a Silent Way is a cinematic cluster of arpeggios that recall an anime rendering of Philip Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi. Christopher R. Weingarten