In the world of pop, a One hit wonder is an artist with only one successful song, an expression synonymous with a fad, an ephemeral song associated with a period of time, only used as a time capsule rather than an artistic statement. Outside of popular music, an artist with only one album can be associated with a certain mystic associated or with some sense of artistic integrity. A double standard due to the never ending war between art and entertainment but with a similar ending for the artist themselves who rarely profit of either status.
This article will briefly introduce some bands or musical project with only one EP or album but who still retain a uniqueness even years after their publication, either because of their status in the history of the genre, or because they were created at a point in time that can never be recreated but only emulated by passionate fans.
In 2004, Hydrahead was a label associated with bearded individuals bringing an artistic ambition to heavy music. Spearheaded by Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Sumac), Hydrahead offered a home to unusual and unique bands such as Keelhaul, Botch, Cave In, Knut or Discordance Axis. Around such musical weirdos, Mare still stood out with angelic vocals, a jazz sensibility and throat shredding vocals performed over angular riffs. With only five songs exploring the spectrum between Dead Can Dance and Botch, their self-titled EP was a calling card many took as a promise of bigger things to come. Thirteen years later, the duo finally played in London and no other songs have materialised and most likely never will.
When Mayhem released Grand declaration of war in 2000, many probably wrote the band off as a failed experiment unable to recreate the mystic of De mysteriis dom Sathanas. Experimentation was the name of the game but no one could have imagined that the renewal of the tradition would come from the United States. The guitarist John Gossard, leader of the band, had already pulled the plug on this adventure to explore new musical territories. Devoid of any formal promotion, Dead as dreams slowly won over fans by the sheer power of its songs and its mystic, creating a new genre now called Cascadian Black metal. Hypnotic and adventurous, the American band explored even deeper the Shoe gaze elements introduced by Darkthrone bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Deafheaven or Ash Borer later embraced. A true landmark release that inspired the birth of a new branch on the ever growing tree of Black metal.
In 1984, there were no such things as Blast beats, Extreme metal. Black Flag had already decided to slow their music down on My war but these four musicians had a different point of view and single-handedly changed the face of Hardcore and Metal by putting to tape some of the fastest drum parts ever recorded, inspiring in the process generations of speed freaks from Napalm Death, Naked City, DropDead, Magrudergrind, Trash Talk and more. Thirty-three years later, these musicians are still playing for fans of Hardcore, performing these eleven songs for a new generation of maniacs and if their performance in Leeds last year is to be trusted, their passion of the true power of Punk rock and Hardcore has not faltered.
Raised on each sides of the Atlantic, Tatsuya (aka Joseph Nothing) and Eiji Yoshida (Com.A) are two Japanese brothers who released music on their own but decided to release an album together under the name of Rom=Pari. Composed in Tokyo but thought while they travelled the world, View is a forgotten IDM masterpiece sitting somewhere between the Intelligent Dance Music of Aphex Twin and the chaotic brilliance of Venetian Snares‘ brilliance. The unique nature of this album makes it an unlikely candidate for a surprise follow up but part of me still wishes the two brothers will dig out the time to record and to release more material as this album still stands as one of the best I have ever heard in the genre.
Nobody knows, but the artists themselves, when the rapper MF DOOM and the producer Madlib decided to record an album together but this day will remain in the ether as an important one in the history of Hip Hop and music. Back in 204, both names were already prized property in the Rap underground but Madvillainy cemented their presence as two of the most influential rapper and producer of the next decades. As the intro explains, their name sparked « uncontrolled hysteria » and « terrors in the hearts of men », as no one but these could have produced such a collection of short and brilliant songs where every rhyme stands out as the best a good MC could ever come up and each sample sounds like an organic melange of unorthodox classic pulled together to question the sampling culture. Forward thinking and classic at the same time, a masterpiece for the true believers and the soon to become devoted to the cause.
Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf
The regretted Charizma could have been a great MC but his talent was stolen to the world when he died in 1993. His debut album, recorded with his best friend and producer Peanut Butter Wolf was supposed to reveal his talent. Instead, it took ten years for this debut to be issued by the same man after he created the revered label Stones Throw. The album still stands out as an excellent piece but is mostly known for being a reminder of what could have been. A tragedy that the surviving member of the duo took as a starting point for another direction in his life when he decided to found was is still now one of the most revered independent labels in music for the quality and diversity of its output and the devotion it inspires among fans of music and musicians alike (see the documentary My vinyl weighs a ton).