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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

In a Soundbar, Boston Kid Enters the Dystopia of Mind And Death

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It has become normal in the last year or so for music analysts and experts to opine about the “supergroup” that plays power pop to teenage girls.

But for some teens it has taken a decidedly more brooding turn: They hear the words “Dementia,” and they hear it in a way that they haven’t before.

The newest entrant in this new trend: 6 in 9 Songs, a spin-off record from the critically acclaimed chamber quartet Suicide Silence. The former Boston rapper Aaron “Fletch” Grady has joined with the percussionist Carla Day to create an album of warbling, stately ambient sounds focused less on blasting bubbles to early adopters than on coping with the loss of a loved one.

The debut track on the record, “Mental State,” was released last week by the 3% more commercial death metal-ish act Ultra the Evil.

Plenty of 20-somethings have discovered Suicide Silence’s projects through a Pandora station devoted to their music and have given the band a push, and there are similar bands to this end. But not many are hearing about them through Spotify’s algorithm.

“It’s very sad to see a 20-year-old band that’s becoming famous from a song — especially a song about dementia — to be ignored, and as I say to the students in my program, they’re just reaching the bottom,” said Corey Nelson, an agent for 5ive, a synth-pop act from New York City. “They’re clearly the most popular band going.”

Mr. Grady, who married in a Buddhist ceremony last spring in New Orleans, grew up on Chuck Berry and Bauhaus before he met his now-wife, Samantha, during college, and they moved to Boston, Mr. Grady said. He was 25 and a contributor to a classical group that wanted to record the descending scales of the Bach Cello Suite. “I listened to the group a bunch of times and started thinking that that music needs to be transcribed down and performed with electronic instruments,” he said. He now teaches college courses in electronic music and composition.

Mr. Grady isn’t alone among college musicians in emulating pop culture. Nineteen-year-old, Grammy-nominated R&B performer Jermaine Dupri, 46, learned songs by listening to Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass as a child. Though few people outside these sorts of circles may be familiar with their work, a number of college-aged musicians, including Mr. Grady and Mr. Dupri, were drawn to music as a coping mechanism for anxiety or social anxiety.

It’s a common story. A 2014 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that the average age for first-time respondents of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was 23.11 years. Of those surveyed, almost 25 percent said they started listening to songs to help them cope with emotional issues. And 43 percent said they would listen to the same songs if the song were about killing someone.

While these teenagers may not know what Dysartism or Dementia is, they find a lot of catharsis in songs about death, sadness, friendship and various other topics. Brian Liebman, a professor of music, film and television at the City University of New York, said that music that channels these emotions can have a power. “People are often the clearest judges of what’s therapeutic,” Mr. Liebman said. “When you listen to music that’s in that mode, it’s pretty empowering.”

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