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Beyond the Mainstream: YouTube

From Synthwave to Deep Bass, here are some of the best YouTube channels focused exclusively on music not a part of the usual mainstream kicks, that I routinely go back to.

Photo by Kiyun Lee on Unsplash

I get pretty tired of the radio. Not the content so much as the format of it. They take a good song and proceed to viciously stomp its every beat and tempo switch into your brain to entice you to keep returning to that specific radio program—which, yeah from a business standpoint, I understand but as a music lover, it just kind of makes me tired. So most days I actually connect to my phone Bluetooth and cruise some channels on YouTube that I stumble upon at home when I've got the proper amount of time to coast the search results for whatever music style I'm digging at the moment. I've come across some real gems on YouTube, and I always suggest these channels to my friends when they admit to wanting to find some new music different from the overplayed "Top 40 hits."

Thankfully, Vocal has a lot of dedicated members on its website who are also very fervent about music like myself, and what better place to hype up my favorite YouTube channels than here? 

Confused Bi-Product of a Misinformed Culture

Oh, my HEART. For the sake of expediency, let's just call this wonderful creator Confused. Granted, none of the songs in their (not sure on gender so better safe than sorry, huh?) mixes are created by them, but to deny the effort and artistic talent it takes to create these mixes would be foolish. Confused has a number of different mixes focused on different styles of music. Witch trap, Deep Bass, Trip-Hop, Retro and/or Dark Synthwave, it seems that they deal and master exclusively in the more unusual genres of music—unusual insofar as them not being on mainstream radios. Certainly, I'd never heard of any of these music styles until... last year? Two years ago?

Anyway, my personal favorites out of their collection is the "Rabbit Hole" series focusing on the first two genres I listed above. The first one I listened to was actually the fifth video in the series, and it sent absolute chills down my back the first time I listened to it. Side information, but I'm a huge fan of Halloween—it's my favorite holiday. So I love spooky, ethereal things. I am always looking for ways to honor and celebrate spooky, ethereal things. So when I stumbled upon this music—well.

This mix? Took that love, spread it out like fog over my senses, and breathed something sharp like ice over my nerves while simultaneously engulfing me in something like a ghost of warmth as I just lay there listening to this thing from start to finish. I devoured the predecessors like a woman possessed and then came to covet the final two pieces in the series. Each mix was like a story told in parts, yet still felt something like coherent pieces that didn't rely on the others to convey a whole story. So of course after those ended, I had to look at their other work and honestly you won't be disappointed at any of them. I'm not a fan of every style of music they chooses but I still hear and feel the incredible amount of thought that went into them. 

Definitely recommend the "Rabbit Hole" series (obviously), "As Above, So Below," and any of the "It Came From The 80s" videos if you're into retro synthwave.

ThePrimeThanatos

This music channel is devoted to synthwave, retro electro, and retrowave. If you're a fan of 80s culture or 80s movies and their soundtracks, then you will adore the music found in these genres and subcultures of music. ThePrimeThanatos is an excellent source to start off with, their videos going on from an hour to two hours, and featuring very cool backgrounds that carry the theme and variance of music well. My first foray with synthwave was actually another Youtuber, but the recommended videos on the side of it were practically chock full of Prime's best videos.

 I don't know if I have a favorite video, but my favorite series is probably the "Back To The 80s" series for not only the lengthy, harmonically pleasing music but the vivid artwork that really puts you in a place to enjoy the synthwave. The artwork always reminds me of Blade Runner or even the more recent Ready Player One. I discovered synthwave around the time of witch trap, dark trap, and the others, so while the contrast between the styles of music is great, I still fully enjoyed every piece I could listen to. If you're ready to give nostalgia a place behind the wheel, let it take over your life and give you the cool retro feeling you've always secretly envied. 

Vibes: ZERO

Vibes: ZERO is a powerhouse of music, working in conjunction with other vibes, NINE and XENA, kind of creating this whole community that gives off a pretty cool "dark games and metal ways" vibe. We're focusing on ZERO right now though. To be perfectly honest, I don't remember how I was introduced to them. I think I had been looking up trap remixes of songs because I was looking into more hardcore music that would get me pumped, or at least be slightly interesting to listen to while I dedicated hours to studying some pretty dry subjects in college.

From the results rose "Reborn," a mix from ZERO. What got me at first was, of course, the thumbnail, showing adult Neliel in a very nicely done drawing. So I'm going to use that cliche line always found in comment sections: Came for the thumbnail, stayed for the music. What really kept me to it was the words "Chill Trap and Future Bass." What the hell was chill trap? Literally all I knew of trap was that it was meant to be kind of... hard. Party music, of a sort, right? I figured future bass to be a derivative of Drum and Bass mixed with House music. Kind of wrong, kind of not, but hey. 

From there, intrigued by these new sounds, I moved on to other mixes. Which brings me to my favorites of ZERO's work, the "Dream" series. Yes, as you all can tell by now, I'm a fan of work that doesn't seem to stop. But why would I want it to stop when it's so good? ZERO, on top of being a good DJ, is also pretty organized. On ZERO's channel you can find a ton of playlists that separate the mixes into their appropriate genres like Chill Trap, Melodic Dubstep, Dark Trap and Wave, etc. Their work is definitely worth a listen to, if you're not too busy still being sucked in by the former two channels.

MrSuicideSheep

Sheep was my first experience with mixes, when I discovered him (using him because of the "Mr" in the name) about four or five years ago in college. That was a time when I was desperately relying on music to help get me through chapters of dry text in books, or to power through essays for classes that assigned way too many essays. I remember searching for music in the computer lab of my first school when I was getting my Associate's Degree and needing a mix while I studied in the three hour break in between classes. I came upon the very first mix by Sheep called the Peaceful Solitude mix. 

It changed everything for me. It was the first time—the first realization that music could transport me into another mentality. I mean, sure, listening to Green Day had me feeling kind of punk, and any MCR song had me dramatic for black, etc. But Peaceful Solitude...? I could practically envision myself in some snug, cozy little house or cabin at the cusp of a crystal clear lake on the edge of a forest, a lake so large and so wide you couldn't tell it where it ended and the sky began, the mirror surface reflecting millions of stars to create billions of illusions. 

I've listened to several of his mixes, but I know he has a few more still. My personal favorites are "Approaching Farewell," "Peaceful Solitude," and "Taking You Higher Pt. 4." Respectively, these mixes are dedicated to melodic dubstep, not sure what "Peaceful Solitude" is besides amazing (mixed by Aaron Static, actually, the tracks chosen by Sheep), and progressive house for that last one. 

Shamefully, I must admit that I don't listen to Sheep too much anymore just because I'm a little stuck in my ways of retro and dark-style music, but I know if I go back I'll still be as taken with the structure of each mix as I was when I first listened to him. Honestly, I have to give major thanks to Sheep for expanding my music tastes so much and making me unafraid to try different types of music. If not for him, I might still be replaying tons of recycled radio songs and maybe only straying as far as metalcore or mixes of songs remixed into dubstep.