Video Premiere: Church Fire “fear my bad time”

Church Fire in December 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Ahead of the release of its newest album puppy god, Denver industrial darkwave dance darlings Church Fire are setting forth a couple of music videos. The first is a collaboration with Tom Nelsen of Echo Beds and Sense From Nonsense and a video for the song “fear my bad time.” Nelsen’s gift for inspired, micro world building and futuristic horror filmmaking seems particularly apt for this particular Church Fire track. The video displays the band in distorted pixelated form, explorers virtually exploring a desolated alien landscape as though using avatars through early 1990s technology. The song itself is a rush of rhythm and burnished, glitched out harmonics charging and then floating over a stream of pulsing rhythm. It’s a song about deeply baked in commodification of even the very basic essentials of life and finding ways to subvert that power dynamic, a theme that Nelsen helped to express through the use of archaic aesthetics to reclaim the means of expression as a path to bypass oligarchic colonization of our creative impulses in showing Church Fire operating on the edges of the ruins of the near future like the post-apocalyptic Max Headroom rebels we can all be. Watch the video for “fear my bad time” on YouTube below and go catch the Church Fire album release show for puppy god at the Hi-Dive on October 15, 2022 where the trio will celebrate the new record and sharing the stage with Xadie James Orchestra, Dragon Drop and Sell Farm. For more information on Church Fire visit its Instagram page and to download the album on release day visit the Witch Cat Records Bandcamp also linked below.

Azarias, Nabuddah and Sudo Black Collaborate on the Striving and Aspirational Zen of Avant Polyrhythmic Hip-Hop Track “Cross Continental”

Azarias, photo courtesy the artist

The striving bravado of the lyrics of “Cross Continental” flows with confidence and profane creativity while delivering a Zen-like mantra about aspirations and the folly of attaching too much value to the financial currency of society. These are the kinds of lyrics one hears in plenty of hip-hop tracks but not often enough with the incredible musical backdrop on this track. Azarias, Nabuddah and Sudo Black worked together to have a song that utilized a palette of tropical sounding percussion on top of a more industrial aesthetic which of course in the early 80s was directly influenced by hip-hop production. The call-and-response vocal aspect syncs perfectly with the truly unconventional polyrhythms as the main vocal lines gives a focus and solidity to at beat that on its own is imaginative but together there is a dynamic that completely sets this song apart from a lot of hip-hop you run across day to day. Using more robust percussive sounds in the beat and not the predictable trap sounds immediately brings a vital quality worthy of the commanding and deft rap performance. Fans of turn of the century alternative hip-hop will appreciate how the song incorporates earthy subject matter with avant-garde arrangements in an incredibly accessible fashion. Listen to “Cross Continental” on Spotify.

DARLING.’s Poignantly Falling Out of Love Shoegaze Song “Midnight” Has a Sound Like the Inversion of Nostalgia

DARLING., photo by Laing Goostrey

DARLING. seems to let all the tones linger into a hazy horizon on its single “Midnight.” The song feels like it was conceived of as echoing in a large space with shadowy ceilings and walls too distant to immediately discern. This has the effect of being melancholically reflective and feeling cut off from familiar people and places and left to process complicated emotions around a relationship that appears to be dissolving with nothing to fill that eroding place in your heart. What makes the song especially poignant is how how the lyrics aren’t angry, they don’t point in any directions, they just describe the sensations and the feelings of uncertainty and confusion when things don’t seem to be working the way they once were. The creative use of piano and then an emphasis on synth and rapidly shimmering, pitch shifted guitar swells and the dual vocals give a depth of expression to the song that lingers with you long after its over such is cumulative expression of sliding into a resigned loneliness that isn’t painful in a way that has an easily processed immediacy but something more common in adulthood and that is the unexpected drift that can happen in relationships that have gone on for some time and there is an inertia that has kept them going but the spirit to maintain it just isn’t there and there may not even be good, logical reasons why. Mood-wise it’s reminiscent of early Beach House but cold and sorrowful rather than warm and affectionate, like an inversion of nostalgia. Listen to “Midnight” on Spotify and follow DARLING. at the links below.

DARLING. on Facebook

DARLING. on Instagram

DARLING. on 4000 Records Website

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond October 2022

black midi performs at The Fox on 10.3.22 and The Ogden on 10.4.22, photo by Atiba Jefferson
Amyl and The Sniffers, photo by Jamie Wdziekonski

Saturday | 10.01
What: Amyl and The Sniffers w/Boby Vylan and Cleaner
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Amyl and The Sniffers may be named after amyl nitrate aka poppers as well as a humorous nod to singer Amy Taylor’s name but its own buzz has lasted much longer than thirty seconds. The group’s early EPs Giddy Up (2016) and Big Attraction (2017) garnered the group an avid cult following in its hometown of Melbourne, Australia as well as abroad where its fuzz-infused proto-punk sound felt like a stripping back of even punk to its essentials. The band’s 2019 self-titled album and fiery live shows cemented its reputation as one of the most exciting live bands of recent years. In 2021 Taylor guested on the song “Nudge It” by influential UK duo Sleaford Mods and Amyl and The Sniffers released the sophomore album Comfort to Me. As noteworthy as the earlier records were, Comfort to Me has the group sounding as massive as the furious energy that seems to be fueling its performances this year thus far.

Abrams, photo by Kim Denver

Saturday | 10.01
What: Abrams album release w/Lost Relics, Vexing and Lord Velvet, poster art by Mhyk Monroe
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Calling Denver metal band Abrams doom has never quite fit the group even though that’s roughly where maybe its music has landed in terms of framing. Its new album In The Dark has such an expansive spirit and deep atmospherics that its surging melodies and weighty hooks might be compared with those of Baroness, especially the newer offerings from that band. But this new record also has a touch of psychedelia on its fringes. The vocal harmonies sound and the incandescent guitar riffs somehow complement each other perfectly guided by elegantly interlocking rhythms. Live the band’s raw power feels almost as much punk as it does metal with turns of musical phrase that take the music into sonic realms beyond both making Abrams one of the most interesting bands in heavy music out of Denver right now.

Saturday | 10.01
What: Daniel Avery
When: 9
Where: 1134 Warehouse
Why: Daniel Avery is poducer from Bournemouth, UK whose work with the likes of synth pop artist Little Boots and nu disco project Hercules and Love Affair garnered him no small amount of cache in the world of electronic music. His latest solo album Ultra Truth is reminiscent of late 90s Underworld but more ambient, more progressive/ethereal deep house.

The Afghan Whigs in 2017, photo by Chris Cuffaro, courtesy

Saturday | 10.01
What: The Afghan Whigs
When: 8
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Afghan Whigs have long fused R&B and rock in powerful, poetic ways since the late 80s. Early comparisons to the Replacements seem a bit obvious because of the group’s passionate performances even decades later. But there is also in its music a soulful core that offers great distillations of universal human experiences and an evocation of emotion that especially live is irresistible. The group’s 1993 album Gentlemen put it on the map nationally and internationally and even now it sounds like something fairly timeless when a lot of 90s music sounds of the period. The 2022 album How Do You Burn? feels more dark and electronic than previous records but in being so like its expanding on its core sound in a bold way that it began on 2017’s In Spades.

black midi, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Monday and Tuesday | 10.03 and 10.04
What: black midi w/Quelle Chris
When: 7:30 (10.03), 8 (10.04)
Where: Fox Theatre (10.03) and Ogden Theatre (10.04)
Why: For connoisseurs of highly imaginative art rock, London’s black midi has been a go to for finding some of the most wild dynamics and musical ideas this side of Frank Zappa for many years. Its much more than its truly creative and unique guitar and bass compositions and performances its like these guys tap into various sounds in orchestrating a musical experience that exists outside normal time. Its new album Hellfire (2022) feels like a lounge jazz variety show as curated by Anthony Braxton, Zappa or Zach Hill. The group uses its hyperkinetic maximalist approach to songwriting in ways that clearly aim at producing compelling songwriting and not just as an exercise in superior musicianship. Like a Can having come up after being influenced by Women and Hella.

Iceage, photo by Fryd Frydendahl

Monday and Tuesday | 10.03 and 10.04
What: Iceage and Earth
When: 7 (10.03) and 8:30 (10.04)
Where: The Marquis Theater (10.03) and Fox Theatre (10.04)
Why: Danish band Iceage had an immediate cult following with the release of its 2011 album New Brigade and its tour of small clubs DIY spaces including Rhinoceropolis in Denver, Colorado that year revealed a band that sat at the nexus of hardcore and moodier yet cathartic post-punk. But as the band developed its sound it grew into a brilliantly decadent art rock that might have had more sonic kinship with 80s Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and with its most recent studio offering Seek Shelter it reconciled its various creative instincts for music that had both the forcefulness of its early music and the sophistication of what came after. In September 2022 Iceage released Shake The Feeling: Outtakes & Rarities 2015-2021 including songs that could have easily have been on the records of that time period but which didn’t quite fit in and showcased how Iceage had absorbed power pop and the noise rock of the likes of Dinosaur Jr. Also on this tour are doom legends Earth whose visionary heavy blues psychedelia has been an influence on most doom bands since its own 1989 inception whether they know it or not. Its soundscapes and use of drone has an almost ritualistic, mystical quality that utilizes slow, hypnotic progressions to build dramatic tension and release in a way that draws you further into emotional spaces maybe you had shuffled to the side in the headlong pace of everyday life but are better off experiencing and processing in the ways Earth seems so adept at facilitating with its gorgeous layers of psychedelic heaviness.

Ceremony, photo by Rick Rodney

Wednesday | 10.05
What: Ceremony w/Spy, Restraining Order and Candy Apple
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Ceremony was considered one of the great bands of 2000s hardcore with its 2008 album Still Nothing Moves You standing as one of the most potent examples of that music of that decade. But its own musical ideas were progressing rapidly out of hardcore and 2010’s Rohnert Park contained experiments in sound and songwriting that were well out of the hardcore frame. Zoo (2012), though, had Ceremony well into post-punk territory and though its tour for the album had the band in high, ferocious form it was a fascinating contrast with music that seemed to be more in tune with its atmospheric potential rather than merely the visceral. Since then the group has gone straight into arty almost glam rock territory with its most recent album In the Spirit World Now (2019) making Ceremony a band that is forging a creative path that is yielding fascinating results with every release.

Broken Social Scene, photo by Richmond Lam

Wednesday | 10.05
What: Broken Social Scene w/Jasmyn
When: 7
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Broken Social Scene is a bit of a supergroup making glorious and epic art pop whose membership has included musicians from Do Make Say Think, Metric, Feist, Stars and other notable Canadian musical projects. For this tour the group is celebrating the twenty year anniversary of the release of its monumental 2002 album You Forgot It In People. While orchestral in its arrangements the album’s lush sound felt like an intimate exploration of personal aspirations, identity and culture through an eclectic run of songs that could be awash in nostalgic ambient pop haze and urgent rock songs that harnessed an exuberant energy that seemed to drive the whole album underneath its inspired moments of reverie. The original record featured eleven members and its tour at that time delivered on the seemingly daunting promise of the recorded album and this is a chance to catch that moment in the group’s development one more time.

To Be Continued…

Queen City Sounds Podcast S2E5: Sleepyhead

Sleepyhead, photo by Rachael McNally

Sleepyhead is a rock band that formed in New York City in 1989 at a time when the underground rock of the 1980s in the USA and the UK flowed into what became alternative music by the 90s. But for a brief period Sleepyhead began in the golden age of the indiepop that that one heard in the music of the C86 bands and on Sarah Records. One might have heard echos of the Paisley Underground in the music and of criminally underrated groups like Game Theory and Let’s Active. But Sleepyhead had firmly established its own vibrant musical identity by the time of its 1993 debut album Punk Rock City USA on the even now respected forward thinking pop imprint Slumberland, home to the likes of Black Tambourine, Peel Dream Magazine, Weekend, Papercuts and The Reds, Pinks and Purples. Musical history may remember Sleepyhead in the same company as Chicago’s Material Issue whose own legacy of great pop songwriting and great energy and intelligence and warmth informing the songwriting was critically acclaimed at the time but largely neglected since. With a bit of an extended hiatus following the 1996 album Communist Love Song, Sleepyhead returned with 2014’s Wild Sometimes and a strong reminder of how Sleepyhead’s sharply observed lyrics and creative songwriting concepts remained intact. In 2022 the group, a trio of Rachael McNally, Chris O’Rourke and Derek Van Beever, released New Alchemy, named for the New Alchemy Institute, a research center that did work in organic agriculture, aquaculture and bioshelter design and operated between 1969 and 1991. It was the sort of very pragmatic, sustainability research steeped in the ideas of thinkers like R. Buckminster Fuller that the world could honestly use more of in the face of the multitude of challenges we face with the climate and adapting economic thinking toward something more rational and nurturing not just of the planet but of our own civilization and individual lives. The music is graced with that great shiny jangle guitar work and exquisite vocal harmonies that have made Sleepyhead’s music standout from the beginning and with it a freshness and exuberance that hits the ear as something wholesome and nurturing yet subversive in weaving in heady ideas and focusing on songcraft over adhering to a trendy style. Every song makes great use of space while also brimming with a fortifying denseness of detail and musical ideas. Classic Sleepyhead and a welcome entry in the catalog of one of the great bands of the alternative era.

We had a chance to speak with the band and you can listen to that interview on Bandcamp and to connect with Sleepyhead visit its website where you can find links to listen to their music including New Alchemy. Before the interview you can check out the music video for the single “Pam and Eddie” on YouTube.

Allison Lorenzen’s Video for “Tender” is Like a Dream of Darkly Prophetic Rural Noir

Allison Lorenzen, photo by Reid Fioretti

Allison Lorenzen’s 2021 album Tender is the kind of record you take in and get transported to a place beyond time and outside linear logic. Like dream pop from beyond the Wardrobe to a reconciled, peacetime Narnia. But in Lorenzen’s deep atmospherics are moments of mystery and darkness and Jack Manzi tapped into that for his video collaboration with Lorenzen and the treatment of the song “Vale” through Silver Island Studios. Cast in black and white with stylized movements, some seemingly ritualistic with the trappings thereof as well, and set in a wooded area per the song title, the grainy and hazy drone of guitar perhaps provided by musical contributor Madeline Johnston (Midwife) offering an immediate emotional lens alongside Lorenzen’s own solemn, processional piano and the sparest of percussion, the video is reminiscent of Maya Deren’s 1945 avant-garde film classic A Study in Choreography for Camera. Like if Deren had collaborated with Georgia O’Keefe on the visual design and produced a film rural mystical noir. Lorenzen’s enigmatic lyrics are like a dark prophecy that fades with the sustained gloom of the song like a dream that isn’t a nightmare but imbued with a sense of menace nevertheless. It’s the kind of mood that is somehow worth visiting to give voice to the feelings that haunt you in moments of heightened anxiety as a way to gain comprehension of them and loosen their ability to grip your psyche. Watch the compelling video for “Vale” on YouTube and follow Lorenzen at the links below.

Allison Lorenzen on Facebook

Allison Lorenzen on Instagram

Walshy Celebrates the Dream of Summer Now Ended With the Dreamy Trippy Vibes of “Long Time”

Walshy, photo courtesy the artist

Now that summer is over, Walshy gives us a reminder of the early morning energy of that season with “Long Time.” In the video a woman wakes in a wooded glen and we see a green caterpillar crawl casually over her hand whole she looks at her hands as if they are new parts of her body while around her natural colors turn strange and the sonics of the track warp and wash out for moments before going back on track in warm tones but with a dynamic a little collage and a little like the tape upon which it’s recorded is melting. But she dances on from the green and purple landscape morning into sunset like all of these tripped out color changes are a dream and in the end when she writes on the screen the name of the artist in green paint the whole presentation gets even more meta but in a playful way that suggests that even when life gets a little weird and unsettled we can have fun and get through it if we don’t get too caught up on when things go off the rails a little. Watch the video for “Long Time” on YouTube and connect with the Dublin-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Walshy at the links below.

Walshy on Instagram

Walshy on Facebook

Walshy on TikTok

Walshy on Twitter

Hoagie Reignz Genre Bends Rockabilly and Rap Musically and Visually in His Video for “Ridin”

Hoagie Reignz, photo courtesy the artist

Borrowing elements of Chuck Berry’s 1964 hit “No Particular Place to Go” Hoagie Reignz finds a way to suffuse hip-hop bravado with rockabilly with his song “Ridin’.” In the video our hero further mixes imagery with a leather jacket with spikes and his ride looks to be a white, 1979 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue Edition. His lady friend is dressed in a red and white polka dot dress and also looks like she stepped out of the late 50s. But the lyrics are like a transposition of today’s lingo to the Chuck Berry style with a few words swapped in so it isn’t wack. And yet while there is plenty of humor underpinning the song it isn’t simply a gimmick. Hoagie Reignz makes this work and his genre bending is inspired and creative with an astute blend of visual signifiers in the video as well. Who doesn’t love a little sly subversion? Watch for yourself on YouTube and follow Hoagie Reignz at the links below.

Hoagie Reignz on Instagram

Hoagie Reignz on Apple Music

Dea Nammu’s “I Can’t Breathe” is a Darkwave Chant For Primal Human Rights

Dea Nammu, photo courtesy the artists

The granular distortion on the cycling electronics at the beginning and throughout Spanish post-punk band Dea Nammu’s “I Can’t Breathe” really enhances a pervading sense of dread and menace. With the measured electronic percussion and minimal guitar work and almost chanted lyrics the song is reminiscent of something Nitzer Ebb might do if it emerged today and came up through the more industrial end of darkwave. But instead of that urgent pacing, this song traces a slow and tortured path as suggested by its lyrics that seem to describe life under an authoritarian order. But it’s more complicated than that though the lyrics are very repetitive and simple. How many people being oppressed directly by state sanctioned violence have declared they can’t breathe? A simple right essential to survival and one that is threatened by air pollution. But that statement in this song and the chorus of “breathe and die” with breath as a metaphor for freedom and life works as the shouted words in Nitzer Ebb’s “Join in the Chant” where the words take on a mythological and symbolic rather than a face value significance and as such the song feels like something much bigger than its individual spare elements suggest separately. Listen to “I Can’t Breathe” on YouTube and follow the Madrid-based Dea Nammu at the links provided.

Dea Nammu on Instagram

SV’s “How Did It Feel” featuring Ariana Celaeno is a Cinematic Trip-Hop Denouement to a Dramatic Romance

You can all but see the end credits of a moody action thriller scroll with overcast sky and gentle rainfall from the very beginning of SV’s single “How Did It Feel” especially once Ariana Celaeno’s breathy vocals drift into the song to linger such is immediate cinematic quality of the song. Celaeno’s voice is like a figure we see wandering off into the foggy distance, dropping lines like “tell me how did it feel/crushing my heart into pieces without any fear” and outlining the various hurts she’s endured from someone that supposedly loved her. Not in an accusatory way, nothing that aggressive, but almost matter of factly and in that way more affecting. Perhaps one could think of it as a summary of the movie that had just happened, though never was, and reflecting on the experience with a mixture of regret and resignation. A lonely piano figure seems to trace this path and synth drones carry an ambient melody in the background, all accented by precise, downtempo percussion lending it lush trip-hop flavor an enigmatic quality that tops off a song that ends on a more satisfying note than many movies these days. Listen to “How Did It Feel” on YouTube and follow SV at the links below.

SV on Instagram