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From Heavy Music to Hip-Hop, Here Are 10 Acts to Watch in 2016 

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click to enlarge Coultrain. - KAT SIMONE
  • Kat Simone
  • Coultrain.

St. Louis singer, songwriter, drummer and visual artist Coultrain — otherwise known as Aaron Michael Frison — initially gained recognition from his work alongside Black Spade in neo-soul/R&B collective Hawthorne Headhunters, whose visibility on the national scene is owed at least partially to a slew of positive reviews for the single "If You Were My Baby," from the group's debut album, The Myriad of Now, on Plug Research Records. (That's the same independent Los Angeles label that gave national acts Bilal, Flying Lotus, and Daedelus their start.)

Though neither Coultrain nor Hawthorne Headhunters released an album last year and they only played a handful of shows, their appearance at Chicago's Double Door opening for Hiatus Kaiyote was reportedly attended by none other than Prince himself. Additionally, Frison's 2014 release, Side Effex of Make-Believe, was re-released on vinyl by Portland label Fresh Selects. In store in 2016 is the release of Hawthorne Headhunters' second full-length album, Fool's Paradise, as well as a rumored new project by the reclusive artist.

Dana Michael Anderson
Originally from Granite City, Illinois, singer-songwriter Dana Michael Anderson is relatively unknown in many St. Louis circles, except to those who've had the privilege to catch him on one of his occasional journeys west of the river to perform at the Tick Tock Tavern or the Focal Point. Edwardsville dive the Stagger Inn Again — where Anderson has been a regular performer and patron for several years — housed the majority of his public performances in 2015, and it provided a regular opportunity for the songwriter to hone his performance skills. Those privileged few St. Louisans who've witnessed Anderson's room-filling baritone, sensitive guitar playing and skillful songwriting know to be on the lookout for great things.

Anderson also spent much of 2015 working on an as-yet-untitled album that's likely to be released next year, alongside long-time local side-men and music educators Miles Vandiver and Zeb Briskovich.

Marble//Wall Duo
This relatively new duo is comprised of pianist/violinist Nika Marble and percussionist Louis Wall. She's a conservatory-trained concert pianist who found herself in need of a new, more improvisatory creative outlet. He's the Native Sound audio engineer and mind behind the collaborative recording project the Texas Room. Together they plumb the improvisatory waters of acoustic drumset/piano duo, often using the piano music of the Romantic and Post-Romantic movements as vehicles for improvisation. Lately the duo has placed an especially heavy emphasis on the piano works of Chopin and Satie.

With only a handful of public performances under their belts, the duo already has plans for numerous 2016 multimedia collaborations, including scoring films for Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer, and screenings wherein they'll improvise a score.

While hip-hop collective MME has been a steadily growing blip on St. Louis' musical radar for the past two years, MME member Muhammad Austin has garnered increased attention for his own music, released under the moniker Mvstermind. As Mvstermind, Austin both sings and raps his emotive lyrics — often heavily utilizing vocal processing effects for an aloof, disembodied sound — and backs them with richly textured tracks of his own creation.

Most recently, Austin appeared on STL Up Late accompanied only by his laptop to perform the spare, introspective "xX Sad Boy Chronicles Xx" and the smooth-grooving, mid-tempo "Mali Moolah." Though he is cagey with the details, Mvstermind says he's currently planning to go back on tour this spring, in addition to putting the finishing touches on an album he hopes to have out before summer.

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