Curtis Cross made his name–Black Milk–in Detroit, twisting the soul sounds of the previous generation around sharp, clean, bass-heavy beats. The J Dilla apostle released a series of ever-improving beat tapes before stepping out from behind his MPCs and synths to grab the mic on 2007’s Popular Demand. Since becoming a double threat, Black Milk has released two critically lauded albums, a string of collaborative projects (with the likes of: Danny Brown, Bishop Lamont, Fat Ray, Guilty Simpson and Sean Price) and become one of the most fiery live performers in underground hip-hop.
Montreal ambient composer Tim Hecker has spent his career challenging the definitions and limitations of ambient. His music is definitely atmospheric, but where some ambient seeks only to fill space, Hecker is out to overwhelm it. Hecker’s brand of ambient often has more in common with drone metal; imposing and glacial. His latest album, Ravedeath, 1972, is a 12-song set of the composer experimenting with a giant pipe organ, and word has it that he’d like to continue those experiments in Iowa City, so look for a church or a campus music building to be rattling come festival time.