Otoboke Beaver from Kyoto, Japan might loosely be described as a punk band but listen to any of its songs and like most of the best bands from Japan the music defies easy categories. The frantic pace of many of its songs and the irrepressible energy mixed with creative dynamics in even the shortest of the band’s songs suits the surreal quality of the music well. The single “YAKITORI” has a single line repeated in various ways through its one minute forty-four second length: “I’m sorry one day, your post box, throw into yakitori it’s me, destroy!” What does this mean? Does it matter? It works for a song and in the final twenty or so seconds of the song the Japanese lyrics sound like something a company would tag on at the end of a commercial with the disclaimers. And this is intentional. The band’s music and the tracks from its new album Super Champon (released May 6 via London-based label Damnably) are a send-up of traditional culture and the ways hypercapitalism tries to impose a boring conformity and uniformity on humans who aren’t all the same. And on the album the group addresses situations women and not just in Japan deal with regularly but it does so with a deliciously irreverent humor turning it into a chance to make commentary on sexism, consumer culture and the natural human desire to break free of such stultifying constraints.
It’s also obvious the group is having fun making this hyperkinetic and nuanced music and writing songs about whatever is on hand to inspire a song. Though it must be said that a band that can write songs and call them things like “Dirty old fart is waiting for my reaction,” “You’re no hero shut up f*ck you man-whore” and “I put my love to you in a song JASRAC” and perform them with the spirited energy heard across the album has to be honored. “Otoboke” means “feigned ignorance” and considering that meaning paired with “Beaver” and the multiple meanings of that word makes this one of more genius band names in music history. It is perhaps too facile to say that fans of Melt Banana, Shonen Knife and Deerhoof will appreciate Otoboke Beaver but so will fans of the likes of Napalm Death and Ganser.
Charming Disaster is a goth folk duo from NYC that has been weaving tales of human relationships with each other, with the world around them and with the mythologies and beliefs that inform our behaviors since 2012. Inspired in part by the work of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, the project regularly employs unconventional instrumentation in composing poetic and thought-provoking songs in a classic pop vein with an Americana flavor. At times their songs are reminiscent of what the Cramps might have sounded like had they directed their songwriting for a softer dark cabaret vibe or Tav Falco dialing back the rockabilly and emphasizing the folkloric aspect of his work. Whatever the exact way one might use to describe the band’s beguiling body of work, Ella Bisker and Jeff Morris clearly spend some time considering the types of stories they want to convey and the sounds that might best suit it given tools on hand to make every release unique and imbued with its own identity. For the latest Charming Disaster record, 2022’s Our Lady of Radium, Bisker and Morris took inspiration from the life and scientific discoveries of Marie Curie and the era in which she lived including her involvement with séances, the folklore of the mountains from which radioactive ores were mined and the tragic lives of the “Radium Girls” who painted the dials of watches with radium-based paint and were subsequently poisoned by radiation for their efforts. The album was written and recorded during the peak period of pandemic isolation and the musicians made great use of instruments and objects on hand to give the nine songs an intimacy and poignancy that made its inspired and deep storytelling immediately accessible. The record as well as a companion lyric and art book were released on March 4, 2022 with the album available digitally, on CD and translucent green vinyl with black splatter through their Bandcamp page.
Listen to our interview with Bisker and Morris on Bandcamp and connect with Charming Disaster at the links below the interview link.
“Forse Non Sei Tu” (“Maybe It’s Not You” in English) finds Italian psychedelic rock band Alice Tambourine Lover using a shuffling, overlapping structure in the guitar riffs and percussion to give the song a deep sense of reverie appropriate to its subject. The main riff mixes with a guitar lead more like the wailing and drone of one’s memories tangled with the emotions that fix them in your mind. In this case it sounds like words (albeit in Italian, easily translated into some approximation of the original into English thanks to the internet) of someone who was affected so deeply by a lover now lost the vivid emotional remembrances of which are delivered in poetic couplets of sensory memory rendered in terms of ice, fire, fantasies, sips of those memories and drowning in a whirlwind of images and experiences. And then imagining seeing that person who affected you so deeply in places you wish they could and would be but your emotions are so disordered you can’t be sure. The song is more like an sustained impressionistic experience than a song with conventional structure and logic, rather operating according to principles based more on intuition and dreams. Calling it psychedelic rock is perhaps misleading except for the aforementioned levels on which the music works. Sonically it has more in common with Mazzy Star, PJ Harvey and one of the great psychedelic rock bands of the alternative rock era, Sky Cries Mary. The use of acoustic sounds with the electric is so seamless the song consistently sounds like it could have emerged at any point across the last 50 years. Vocalist/guitarist/tambourine player Alice Albertazzi and dobro resonator guitarist Gianfranco Romanelli were once in the band ALIX together and recorded the album Good One with Steve Albini in 2009 but this newer material sounds like a fresh relaunch of the their creative instincts as musicians. Listen to “Forse Non Sei Tu” on Soundcloud and connect with Alice Tambourine Lover at the links below.
Anna Larson’s piano accents on her modern classical piece “Constant Star” give an emotional nuance and an atmospheric mood that sketches an elegant and vivid sonic image of object of the title. The background electronic drone lends an added luminous aspect to the tonal choices employed in the composition and in doing so suggests multiple meanings and interpretations to the song including an unmistakable sense of emotional intimacy with the “Constant Star” not only being a celestial object inspiring imaginative speculation but a person or a passion that seems to always be there as a beacon in challenging times. It’s certainly a musical work that suggests cinematic qualities and immediately brings to mind the classical music Ken Burns has chosen for his various documentary series and here it’s part of an EP of similarly evocative soundscapes poetically titled Returned Light. Listen to “Constant Star” on Spotify and the rest of Returned Light there as well, both linked below.
“Dream Weaver” builds in your mind images of clear lines, open spaces and unstructured time. The latter suggested by its spare rhythms and cycling melodic synth line with languid, echoing arc of luminous tones over delicate bass accents. It is the mood of a countryside train ride with hours to go to reach your destination and no demands on your attention or energy. It eases your mind into a leisurely state ready to take in whatever comes your way with a Zen-like tranquility. Its minimal techno beat is akin to more chill IDM or trance and while unobtrusive it isn’t music that fades into the background so much as actively soothes your conscious mind. Listen to “Dream Weaver” on Spotify and connect with Mokhov at the links below where you can also listen to the Solid State Dreams album in its entirety.
Carmine Appice is one of the most influential drummers in the history of rock music. He first came to the attention of a wide audience as a member of heavy psychedelic band Vanilla Fudge. His imaginative, powerful and versatile style proved to be an influence on the likes of John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Roger Taylor of Queen, Ian Paice of Deep Purple and really a whole generation of hard rock and heavy metal drummers. Across his long career, Appice has played in and contributed to albums by Cactus, Rod Stewart, King Kobra, Pink Floyd, Sly Stone and now with Appice Perdomo Project, his musical partnership with guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo. The duo released its debut album Energy Overload at the end of August 2021 on Cleopatra Records. We had a chance to speak at length with Appice about when Led Zeppelin played its first North American show in Denver opening for Spirit and Vanilla Fudge, his long experience as a recording artist and performer and how laying down tracks in the early 80s paved the way for him to draw on older drum tracks to send to collaborators to recontextualize the beat by writing other music to existing rhythms in a process not unlike a remix by taking a great drum track and having it as the foundation for new music.
You can listen to the interview on the Queen City Sounds Podcast on Bandcamp below and watch the video for “Rocket To The Sun” on YouTube. For more information on Appice and his prolific and still active career spanning six decades, please visit his official website www.carmineappice.net and check out his colorful and engaging 2016 memoir Stick It!: My Life of Sex, Drums & Rock ‘n’ Roll.
It’s probably inevitable that someone in Denver music is going to think The Velveteers appeared out of nowhere with a record produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys. But after more than half a decade of playing house shows, DIY venues, some touring, UMS appearances, playing more commercial venues and some solid opening gigs the trio finally celebrated the release of its 2021 debut full-length Nightmare Daydream headlining a venue the size of The Gothic Theatre, a big deal for any local band.
I got to the Gothic too late to catch the first opening act, Highlands Ranch-based dream pop trio Dry Ice, but got there in time to see Dreadnought setting up its hefty array of gear. A mainstay of the local doom scene, Dreadnought wasted no time in delivering a catharsis of low end psychedelic drone punctuated by primal riffs and ghostly atmospheric melodies. The vocals both sublimely ritualistic in tone and tenor also engaged in a explosion of pent up emotion to accent finely crafted moments of peak mood at the apex of one of the band’s glacial builds.
From the backdrop with the band’s name and figures of a moon and sun with clouds and other celestial bodies flanking each side of the stage to each member of the band dressed up to take you out of mundane life for an hour and a half or so, The Velveteers prepared us for a theatrical rock show that put the focus on the music. Lead singer and guitarist Demi Demitro came out in a sequined get-up like a cross between a 70s glam rock space alien and Stevie Nicks. Jonny Fig and Baby Pottersmith dressed up like they had walked out on stage after touring in Vanilla Fudge. There was always something special about the band even when I last saw them at the UMS at the Hi-Dive in 2016 but their presence and confidence this time out, however much of an act that might be, was palpable. This was a band that had long since refined its sound and then sought out a direction for the music and its execution, honed that to a high degree, and put it on an album and brought a raw freshness to that material on stage.
If the band didn’t play all of the new record it sure felt like it covered a lot of territory playing more than twelve songs including some older material. Live the songs of course hit harder with an emotional intensity in a way that is different from the album. The album doesn’t have Demi Demitro crowd surfing a couple of times during the set while still playing guitar. The albums doesn’t have Jonny Fig staring out into the crowd with a mix of heightened focus and sheer joy, the album doesn’t include getting to see Baby Pottersmith and Fig drumming furiously and elegantly in perfect sync with each other and Demitro. Demitro’s beguiling blend of strength, vulnerability, passion and broadly nuanced vocals while captured finely on the records struck one as exhilarating as she and her bandmates moved about caught up in the moment. That much power behind lyrics that actually have meaning and point to an astute assessment of the dubious intentions of various people in one’s life and one’s own human frailties and aspirations is uncommon enough but certainly so relatively early in a band’s career. Hopefully this Gothic show in the end was both a celebration and a graduation to more than the unjustly maligned local band status.
For over half a decade Never Kenezzard has brought its psychedelically-inflected heavy music to stages in Colorado. Fronted by guitarist Ryan Peru the trio draws a bit of inspiration from art rock and the avant-garde as well as the likes of Faith No More and Queens of the Stone Age, Never Kenezzard released its debut album Never Say… in 2016. Peru came up getting into classic rock and alternative rock like many people that grew up in the 80s and 90s but transitioned into a focus on experimental electronic music including IDM and ambient music in the late 90s going on to spend nearly two decades making music along those lines including his now concurrent project Mondo Obscura with Evan Brown. 2021 sees the band releasing The Long and Grinding Road representing the development of the group including a line-up change so that found members Peru and drummer Jason Starkey were joined by Denver underground music figure Don White on bass. The record, available online on November 20, 2021, is a thoughtfully sequenced journey of urban and cosmic myth and the rewards of perseverance. We had a chance to have an extended conversation with Peru about his youth in rural Colorado, his evolution in music, his life in the local scene including his time providing striking projections for shows in Denver’s experimental music scene as part of 75ohms and the vicissitudes of being an independent band with relatively little music and culture industry support for your style of sound-making.
Never Kenezzard celebrates the release of The Long and Grinding Road on Saturday, November 20, 2021 at The Squire Lounge with Sea of Flames and Master Ferocious. The show is at 9 p.m. and it’s free and 21+. Look for the digital release of the new album on the Never Kenezzard Bandcamp page. Listen to our interview with Peru on the Queen City Sounds Podcast Bandcamp page linked below. Over the summer Never Kenezzard released the fetching music video for harrowing single “Genie” for which we did a write-up but you can watch it below following the interview link.
Uniform is an industrial hardcore band from New York that came out of the city’s punk and extreme music scene. Its fiery and abrasive electronic onslaught articulates issues of existential confusion and frustration with the destructive forces of society and within our own minds and clawing a path to catharsis. The group’s 2020 album Shame (Sacred Bones Records) is perhaps its most accessible but also its most deeply personal and raw.
Singer Michael Berdan grew up getting into punk and edgier metal and Singer Michael Berdan grew up getting into punk and edgier metal and eventually helped found Drunkdriver. But in 2011 when stories of drummer Jeremy Villalobos’ rape allegations started coming to light, Berdan left the band citing the aforementioned acts and, with the help of people who wouldn’t coddle him, set about trying to confront any mindsets and behaviors in himself that might have a chance of leading to abusive behavior of any kind.
Uniform got together in 2013 when friend and former bandmate in other projects, Ben Greenberg moved in down the street from Berdan and the two Uniform got together in 2013 when friend and former bandmate in other projects, Ben Greenberg moved in down the street from Berdan .The two shared an interest in industrial music, noise and punk that they used those sounds and textures as a vehicle to express feelings of alienation and comment on that state of the culture and the world. With confrontational performances has connected with fans and other bands leading to multiple collaborations with noise rock duo The Body resulting in an expansion of the scope of its themes and its expanding soundscaping palette.
We recently spoke with Berdan about his early days in music, his handling of the breakup of Drunkdriver and the ever evolving songcraft of Uniform. You can listen to that interview on Bandcamp linked below and you can catch Uniform with Portrayal of Guilt and Body Void at HQ on Monday, November 8, 2021.
Starlight Girls’ “Teenage Crime” deftly combines emotional urgency with a languid pace and melancholic undertones. Angsty guitar work bursting over a minimalistic keyboard melody washing underneath Christina Bernard’s focused vocals tracing the ebb and flow of mood give the song an unconventional rhythm. Without overcomplicating the soundscape the band uses a wide-ranging and expressive dynamic in the percussion and low end that syncs with the other elements of the song operating in their own dynamics and unifies it all toward a goal of making a song that feels expansive, contemplative and emotionally vibrant. It’s a bit like if Air and modern, noisy, psychedelic band collaborated to create a song that is cool yet fiery that washes the nervous energy in your brain away. Listen to “Teenage Crime” on Soundcloud, connect with Starlight Girls at the links below and look out for the band’s new EP Entitled which was released on June 9, 2020 and available on the group’s Bandcamp page.