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Galapagos 4: The Island of Hip-Hop

"We're trying to bring back actual intelligence and reality to [hip-hop]," says Jeff Kuglich, owner and president of Chicago-based label Galapagos 4. Kuglich started the imprint in 1999 with little but a clearly articulated mission: to preserve the integrity of hip-hop music. Sure, it smacked of fresh-from-college idealism, but Kuglich, who was then 22, somehow managed to express his high-minded vision without pretension or arrogance. Read more » 

The Eternals: Sonic Manipulation

Damon Locks and Wayne Montana spent the '90s in the underrated Trenchmouth, helping push the post-rock juggernaut built by pals like Tortoise and others forward into the new millennium. So far, they've spent the 21st century tearing down cozy genre classifications altogether as the brains behind The Eternals.

"By the time Trenchmouth finished," confesses Locks, "we had already become disinterested in playing rock-based music. When The Eternals started, it was our chance to create something different, something we had not heard before."

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Quantazelle: Machine Woman

"I had a Commodore 64 computer when I was six and haven't gone more than four months without a computer since then," says 27-year-old Liz McLean Knight, who says she spends anywhere between seven and 16 hours a day behind the gleaming silver keys of her laptop.

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Syndrome: Curing Ailing Wardrobes

I've spent more weekends than I'd like to admit aimlessly wandering city streets, searching for the item that will both affirm my connection to and set me apart from the masses. It's part of the culture of the urban hunter/gatherer; it's as significant, in its own way, as whittling fertility figurines of soapstone may have once been.

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Watchers: The Punk-Funk Gospel

While New Yorkers boast about the excess of talented bands coming from their metropolis, it wasn't that long ago that Chicago represented the heliocentric center of the indie rock universe. And even though labels like Touch & Go, Thrill Jockey and Kranky are still releasing urgent and challenging music, ironically it's New Jersey label Gern Blandsten that's home to Watchers, one of Chicago's most compelling and genre-killing quintets.

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