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The Mysterious Allure of Bands with Secret Identities

What is it about the air of mystery that can turn a good song into a great song? This question popped into our heads recently when we heard that Burial, the Banksy of UK bass music, will be dropping a new single any minute now. The former poster boy for modern musical anonymity (we now know that Burial is really William Bevan) actually inherited the crown from The Knife, the Swedish electronic brother/sister duo of Karin and Olof Dreijer who originally wore masks constantly and avoided live performance or press at all costs. That’s also changed in recent years, with Karin’s Fever Ray projects becoming one of the hottest live tickets and Olof engaging in a not-so-secret stripped-techno side project as Oni Ayhun. There’s obviously a long and storied history to musical anonymity, but in the current age of information overload, we as music consumers are so used to having access to a full personal profile of any public figure that a little mystery behind the music can be refreshing. We examine five who, to varying degrees, are keeping the “sound first, face later” trend alive and well in 2011 after the jump.

Nike7Up

We’ve written about pop music collage artist Nike7Up before, and since then his (her?) array of hypnotic, mesmerizing and downright brilliant songs, less mashups or remixes than complete reconstructions of the entire modern pop canon have just continued to get better. The videos Nike7Up creates to accompany them are often grotesque and always captivating, like an over-caffeinated Mater Suspiria Vision gorging on the early days of MTV. With an output this intense, we actually have little time or attention to go trolling the internet for details about who Nike7Up really is, but even if we did there isn’t much to be found.

Hype Williams

The London duo of “Roy Blunt” and “Inga Copland” nicked the name of seminal music video director Hype Williams for their project (Quick, think of a hip-hop video. Yeah, that was him) and, judging from their music, that’s a decision made out of equal parts reverence and cheek. If their bio is to be believed, they are “the latest incarnation of an 18-year relay project that was conceived in 2005 by husband and wife motivational speakers Father Ronnie Krayola and Denna Frances Glass.” While we have absolutely no idea what that’s supposed to mean, we’re captivated by their output: their Drake-referencing Do ‘Roids And Kill E’rything 7″ was rap deconstruction that bordered on rote, but their new album One Nation is floating, ethereal, and very, very heavy. It’s music that’s timeless beyond the initial chuckle of realization their moniker brings.

iamamiwhoami

How to create an amazing viral campaign and then totally screw it up: enlist the absolute best in Swedish musical talent for a singer/songwriter/electronic project with gorgeous videos, swooping songs and an internet presence catering to puzzle nerds, and then keep it going with no reveal and no resolution at all for over a year. That’s the story of iamamiwhoami, the YouTube sensation that captivated MTV and Boing Boing in equal parts… for a minute. Starting in December of 2009, mysterious videos began popping up on YouTube contained codes that ranged from animals to alpha-numeric sequences. Basically, iamamiwhoami is Swedish singer Jonna Lee and a bunch of other people who have remained completely impossible to track down, and if we sound annoyed it’s because we are. A year and four months is a bit long to remain in the dark when our only reward for following along has been a (brilliant) live iamamiwhoami performance around Christmastime, which found the team behind the project taking a fan from the YouTube community and placing him in the middle of the woods to dance with Jonna. We’d be completely over iamamiwhoami if the music Jonna and her mysterious group of contributors/producers/songwriters created weren’t so damn good. We’ll admit we do still hit “refresh” on the YouTube page once every week or so.

The Weeknd

Mysteriously co-signed by (and possibly involving) Drake, The Weeknd emerged from nowhere in the past few months to create heartbreaking, drug-addled R&B that we can’t stop listening to. Their videos, almost always debuting on their must-follow Tumblr, are completely NSFW affairs of flesh. It’s for this reason we’re suspecting sex-jam maestro The-Dream is behind this somehow, but The Weeknd’s recently-released House Of Balloons mixtape has us too distracted to search much further.

Just A Number 05272011

Is “Just A Number 05272011″ a name? A release date? A complete trick? We have no idea, but if the SoundCloud account for the artist is to be believed, whomever s/he is is from the Isle of Man. What we do know is that this haunted horror-pop is tickling a Fever Ray place in the back of our head, and the weird numbering is making us think iamamiwhoami. We’re not generally fans of conspiracy theories, but if Just A Number 05272011 is another Swedish plot to make the absolute best in electronic pop music, we’ll bite.

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