Like many other musical projects A Place To Bury Strangers emerged from the early phase of the global pandemic a different band, certainly with a different membership other than guitarist and singer Oliver Ackermann. Following the highly experimental, even by APTBS standards, 2018 album Pinned the group probably had to have a different approach and lineup to avoid coasting into too familiar territory and musical habits. So we heard Hologram (2021) and what seemed more pop and garage rock in structure and sonics. Then the new full-length See Through You (2022) which felt like a reconciliation of Ackermann’s songwriting and soundcrafting instincts and channeling that through new creative filters and doing a sort of self-remix of a sound to expose a raw core that sometimes, if not for the obvious level of creative development, sounded like an early demo from a time before a band has settled on a sound that might appeal to some more conventionally-minded record label type. Then again APTBS doesn’t seem to have kowtowed that direction with any of its records. But whatever the motivations in assembling these sounds for the new record and whatever the methods for achieving these sounds both jagged and vulnerable how would this version of APTBS translate live.
For this leg of the tour Florida-based post-punk band Glove was to have opened the dates but something went sidewise in its camp and that left only the Denver-based openers Polly Urethane & Rusty Steve. It’s a relatively new musical entity though Polly Urethane at a minimum has garnered attention and praise and even recommendation in the local scene with unexpected people telling me I should check out her work and initially thinking it was Polyurethane of Zach Reini vintage, the Godflesh-esque industrial grind duo, upon listening to Polly Urethane’s 2021 EP Altruism with Rusty Steve, Altruism, it was obvious this was going to be something very different. The lush production of the EP and the emotionally refined and powerful vocals hit with greater dramatic effect and force live bolstered by Amber Benton decked out in a white, gauzy dress and long, black hair lending an aspect of one of those vengeful female spirits of Japanese folklore. When Benton crawled up top of some cases on the side of the stage and sang from there as well as going out into the crowd she broke the convention of the audience and performer barrier with a seeming fearlessness but also the intention of transgressing unspoken rules that protect nothing but a subconscious status quo.
The music combined with the theater of the performance was reminiscent of Zola Jesus and her own fusion of classical music and ethereal yet cathartic, darkly electronic pop. And Benton’s persona has to be compared to that of Diamanda Galás—that intensity and conviction perfected melded with a musical sophistication that helps to elevate aspects of the show some less charitable types that aren’t open to witnessing something different might call gimmicky to a realm of high art. At the beginning of the performance there was a projection of a the great, highly political collage artist Barbara Kruger—looked specifically like her 1990/2018 “Untitled (Questions)” piece—that calls into questions assumptions about society, challenging power and privilege. Seemed entirely appropriate to the current political climate even before the Supreme Court started to in full force dismantle civil rights in America. The performance seemed informed by the spirit of Kruger’s piece and if you take the time to give the EP a listen it’s a deeply personal and emotionally rich expression of the fallout of authoritarian influence on culture on the psyche. Really, an unforgettable performance that wasn’t the typical local band opening for someone with whom their music might fit.
From the flood of colored lights projected in shifting arrays and textures to the sheer controlled caustic sonics and brutally syncopated rhythms A Place to Bury Strangers unleashed its steady flow of electrifying sound and launched into “We’ve Come So Far” and didn’t much let up minus some breaks between songs and an unexpected and brilliant interlude toward the end of the set. It felt like being elevated into a different psychological space where your brain is stimulated in with a bright and dense energy pulsing with a driving momentum until we were let down at the end. The guitar and rhythm section just had that kind of rare synergy that is pretty much impossible to ignore with sounds that hit different parts of your listening spectrum.
Even songs you already know and have heard many times over several years had a heightened freshness like the band had learned to rediscover its music to deliver in a way that still felt exciting for them. Most bands probably do this especially after roughly two years of not being able to play live shows. Seeing the outfit going back to 2008 when it came through Denver and played the Larimer Lounge with its gloriously disorienting, scorching swaths of sound this performance felt like the trio was connecting to a new source of inspiration.
At one point toward the latter half of the set the band came off the stage to the center of the room where Ackermann had set up what looked like a self-contained sound generating device through which he could process vocals and his bandmates brought instruments to join in what certainly had to be a familiar experience for anyone who got to go to DIY spaces in America circa 2006-2012 akin to Ackermann’s own venue and studio in New York City, Death By Audio. In taking the show to people off stage in this way it was like the band recreated that experience in a more commercial venue thereby injecting the situation with some of that free form and free flowing spontaneous spirit and energy of the DIY world pre-Ghost Ship and pre-complete corporate/private equity firm takeover of the real estate market nationwide more or less ending that era completely into the foreseeable future. For that alone, this show felt exceptional and subversive. But of course there was more to come including the familiar strains of the always epic and enveloping “Ocean.” But the whole set came off like a scrubbing away of the mundane world and getting reconnected to one’s own raw emotions as expressed through this band that is inaccurately called a shoegaze band or noise rock or simply noise or dream pop or industrial. It’s all of that and beyond that. When the show was over that purging of regular life lingered for long afterward from two sets of deeply imaginative and creative music that directly challenged convention and that’s a gift no one should take for granted.
Partial Set List We’ve Come So Far (Transfixiation) You Are The One (Worship) My Head Is Bleeding (See Through You) Hold On Tight (See Through You) Everything Always Goes Wrong (Exploding Head) Let’s See Each Other (See Through You) Never Coming Back (Pinned) End of the Night (Hologram) In Your Heart (Exploding Head) I Live My Life to Stand in the Shadow of Your Heart (Exploding Head) Have You Ever Been In Love (new song) Ocean (s/t)
Monday | 05.02 What: Dehd w/Pixel Grip When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Chicago’s Dehd amalgamated and stripped to their essence strands of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelic garage rock that might have informed the trio’s bands prior to forming this group in around 2015. The result has been a body of work including what tracks have been released for listening of its fourth album Blue Skies (due out May 27 via Fat Possum Recordings) that consistently deconstructs recent trends in indie rock to create something somehow familiar yet decidedly different. Its inventive rhythms seemingly counter to the R&B flavor of some of its songwriting yet works well in spite of fusing styles so otherwise incongruous and as a live band there is a wash of atmospherics and moods that nonetheless comes across as focused and energetic. Sometimes its early records can when listened to in small samples don’t seem to convey this quality of the band but a deep dive on their records seems rewarding for the attentive listener. Pixel Grip is also from Chicago but its mutant blend of industrial disco synth pop would sound like a noise version of commercial pop if not for its eccentric streak in processing sounds and disregard for convention. Like a more accessible Atari Teenage Riot.
Tuesday | 05.03 What:Mudhoney w/Cyclo Sonic When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Mudhoney is arguably the pioneering grunge band that cohered an aesthetic and attitude beyond the earlier explorations of Green River. Its wild dynamics and ramshackle rock and roll is almost like the early Replacements but more rooted in garage rock and punk. Mudhoney is also a charismatic and highly entertaining live band whose music isn’t inherently silly but despite the immense talent of its membership this group doesn’t take itself too seriously. Opening is Cyclo Sonic which includes members of various important Denver punk bands including Choosey Mothers, Rok Tots and of course Matt Bischoff of influential garage punk legends The Fluid who may have been an influence on Mudhoney and countless other bands of that era.
Tuesday | 05.03 What:Interpol w/Matthew Dear When: 6 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Most people who haven’t been living under a rock for the last 20 years, unless they’re also too young for it to have mattered, have heard of Interpol. More than most other bands of its time and of the so-called “post-punk revival” in the late 90s and early 2000s its brooding and widely dynamic post-punk reached the widest audience. Its 2002 album Turn On the Bright Lights was probably among the most played record in college dorms, hip bars and indie dance nights of that time outside of The Strokes’ 2001 classic Is This It. Paul Banks’ controlled yet highly emotional vocals jibed so well with Daniel Kessler’s nuanced and expressive guitar atmospherics and Sam Fogarino’s ear for subtle detail in percussion alongside Carlos Dengler’s duskily melodic bass lines. Dengler hasn’t been with the band since 2010 but Interpol continues to make evocative and beautifully moody music including its forthcoming 2022 album The Other Side of Make Believe. Brilliant experimental pop artist Matthew Dear could probably have a headlining tour of his though hard to say it would be at Mission Ballroom but you get to see his scintillating songwriting and performance on the same bill with Interpol so treat yourself and don’t skip the opener this time. It’s been 4 years since the release of Bunny so maybe Dear will treat us to new material.
Thursday | 05.05 What:Moodlighting album release w/Mainland Break and Style Animal When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver dream/twee pop band Moodlighting is released its debut album Boy Wonder at the beginning of April and is now celebrating the occasion on this night. Musically the group sounds like it came out of the more recent bedroom pop aesthetic with strong melodic lines and evocatively vulnerable vocals. The album seems to be an assessment of what it’s been like living your post-college years trying to establish your adult life during a global pandemic on top of the usual struggles and the things that make it all endurable from small joys to creative and personal aspirations that you know won’t manifest now but serve as a beacon to get you through the roughest stretches. Mainland Break is a power pop band with a fuzzy and urgent edge that sounds sometimes like it was influenced by the more psychedelic end of Jay Reatard and of course Ty Segall without being weighted down by the now faded psych garage aesthetic of the 2010s.
Thursday | 05.05 What:Drune w/Only Echoes, New Standards Men and Nightwalker When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Remember when there was this active organization called the Denver Art Rock Collective that put on shows featuring bands that were either inspired by or by default fit in with bands inspired by experimental rock of the 70s, 80s and 90s? Stuff like New Ancient Astronauts, The Skivies, Action Friend, Mourning Sickness and such? Maybe not. Well these bands would have fit in that milieu nicely. Drune might have had some origins in doom metal but has long since expanded into more progressive, noise and psychedelic territory as it has developed and a more interesting and original group because of it. Only Echoes is a post-metal/post-rock band that includes Austin Minney who has engineered the releases of more underground Denver bands in the DIY scene than most other people you could name as well as Alex Goldsmith who has spent more than his fair share of time in a broad range of music from hard rock band Sharone to the late, great experimental noise pop group Roommates. Only Echos releases its own album Sunsickness at Seventh Circle Music Collective on May 13, 2022 with Endless Nameless, Abandons and Old Soul Dies Young on that bill. But of course one of the current also outstanding and unusual bands out of Denver now is the art rock/prog/post-rock/space jazz group New Standards Men.
Friday | 05.06 What:BleakHeart tour kickoff w/Matriarch and No Gossip In Braille When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver shoegaze/darkwave metal band BleakHeart is ready to go on a tour with Blackwater Holylight and marking that occasion with a hometown show with the colossal, doom-drone soundscapes of Matriarch and the elegantly haunted post-punk of No Gossip In Braille.
Friday | 05.06 What: The Cult w/King Woman and DES ROCS When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: The Cult were pioneers of post-punk and death rock in an earlier incarnation but by the late 80s were making the kind of bombastic yet moody hard rock that strode the line between heavy metal, alternative rock and the music of its early days. With charismatic frontman Ian Astbury and the surprisingly consistently inventive guitarist Billy Duffy, The Cult remain a forceful live band worth your time to witness. But then there’s also the dark and dramatic metal/folk/psychedelic stylings of King Woman whose 2021 album Celestial Blues was one of the best albums of that year placing her in company with great songwriters who don’t feel the need to fit into a narrow genre yet embraced by fans of experimental music, metal and folk like Emma Ruth Rundle and Marissa Nadler.
Friday and Sunday | 05.06, 05.07 and 05.08 What: Henry Rollins When: 7 p.m. Where:Aggie Theatre on 05.06, Stargazers Theatre on 05.07 and Boulder Theater on 05.08 Why: Henry Rollins is of course the legendary frontman of the final incarnation of Black Flag in the 80s. And he had his own group Rollins Band from the 80s through the 2000s. But for much of that time Rollins was writing intense poems and observations about life and tales from the road that he published in various books across a prolific career as a writer and parallel to that he also did spoken word shows and arguably it is that work that is his greatest legacy as a cultural figure with insightful commentary on what it means to be a human trying to navigate an often perilous social and political landscape and try to pursue a life exploring what interests you and bring it back to inform and hopefully entertain others. His spoken word shows have always been highly entertaining and he’s usually very generous with his time. The most recent tour found Rollins sharing photographs from his extensive travels in parts of the world most of us will never go as a way to hopefully expand the perspective of people who show up. This time around who can say other than it will be well worth the time and resources invested in making it to the gig. You have three chances in Colorado over this particular weekend.
Sunday | 05.08 What:Dorothy w/Joyous Wolf and Classless Act When: 6 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Dorothy is a hard blues rock band fronted by the charismatic Dorothy Martin. A lot of bands have been tapping into classic rock and the blues in recent years with mixed and often cringeworthy, laughable results. But there’s some genuine gusto behind what Dororthy brings to the music. Could be an unusual comparison to make but imagine some 80s glam metal band with better songwriting minus the questionable lyrical content but with the bombast and larger than life energy that those bands aimed to put across and you get some of the vibe of Dorothy.
Sunday and Monday | 05.08 and 05.09 What: The Church When: 6:30 p.m. (05.08) and 7 p.m. (05.09) Where:Washington’s (05.08) and Fox Theatre (05.09) Why: The Church may still mostly be known for their 1988 hit “Under the Milky Way” by most people who only pay attention to a band’s Top 40 charting. But The Church has been releasing extraordinary records consistently from its 1981 debut Of Skins and Heart through its most recent record Man Woman Life Death Infinity (2017) and the forthcoming, tentatively titled, In the Wake of the Zeitgeist is likely to not be short of thoughtful, emotionally stirring material as well. And as a live band The Church has a mystique about them that is also relatable like you want to be a part of it and they make you a part of the experience. Their music is hard to pin down for genre but the psychedelic rock is there, the post-punk, the folk roots and one has to assume most shoegaze bands since the 80s has had more than a brush of influence by The Church. Two Colorado shows this tour and maybe you’ll get to hear some of the new material before it finds official release.
Monday | 05.09 What:Fontaines D.C. When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Fontaines D.C. from Dublin has garnered an international cult following since the 2019 release of its debut album Dogrel. A couple of the members of the band met at college and bonded over a shared love of poetry and inspired in part by both the Beats and classice modern Irish poets like James Joyce and Yeats. And that sensibility can be heard in its narrative songs depicting the way the slow moving wrecking ball of late capitalism is crushing the life out of life for most people and their communities. Yet the music isn’t a bummer, just honest and unpretentious. Its fiery live performances early have evolved into something more nuanced and intense without losing that power and emotional resonance.
Monday | 05.09 What:Christian Death w/Luna 13 and Plague Garden When: 7:30 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Christian Death was the foundational band of the death rock side of early eighties post-punk and its 1981 debut album Only Theatre of Pain a classic of the genre. Valor Kand wasn’t part of the band at that time but for the group’s 1984 follow up Catastrophe Ballet Kand was the band’s guitarist and only constant member since 1983 including beyond band founder Rozz Williams departing and then doing his other projects and establishing a different version of Christian Death before his death in 1998. Under Kand’s leadership the group has explored a variety of styles and in recent years the sound has been more like a fusion of metallic blues punk and deathrock including its 2022 album Evil Becomes Rule. Luna 13 is sort of a blackened industrial metal band from Los Angeles. Plague Garden is a post-punk group from Denver that in the interests of transparency the author of this piece writes but figures people are really coming out to this show to see Christian Death.
Tuesday | 05.10 What:Slow Crush w/SOM When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: SOM’s new album The Shape of Everything (2022) picks up where its previous releases have drifted with a colossal yet deeply melodic sound. Like a slow moving fusion of a classic shoegaze group and a doom band. Post-metal and post-rock doesn’t quite cover it because it has hooks like you’d expect out of one of the better emo and post-hardcore bands of the early 2000s except translated to something with exquisite and epic soundscaping. Fitting that SOM is sharing this bill with Slow Crush from Belgium whose 2021 album Hush is a flood of luminous sounds and grainy textures like SubRosa gone full shoegaze or Tamaryn collaborating with members of Kylesa. Clearly the transcendental metal/shoegaze crossover show of the month and likely the whole year.
Tuesday | 05.10 What:Metz w/Moon Pussy When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Canadian post-punk/noise rock trio Metz has been evolving its beautifully discordant sound since 2008. But its 2020 album Atlas Vending though a bit of a grower showcases the band at its most dynamic, frantic and raw yet fully realized. And in many ways its most overtly political in a general rather than topical sense. Obviously Metz wasn’t able to tour in support of the record so this is your chance to catch the wiry power of the group showcasing its recent work. Opening the show is probably the perfect Denver band for the slot in Moon Pussy. The sheer eruption of sounds and nearly unhinged musical dynamics and scorching yet angular sonic assault always seems like something that could go off the rails at any moment but never does. Fans of Touch and Go noise rock weirdness or that of Amphetamine Reptile should definitely make the effort to see Moon Pussy but your appetite for that kind of sonic savagery will get filled aplenty by this show.
Tuesday | 05.10 What: MXMTOON w/Chloe Moriondo When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: MXMTOON garnered a cult following as a bedroom pop YouTuber but her songwriting chops were clear from early on and her thoughtful lyrics expressing the yearnings of a young, sensitive person examining her own insecurities and the intricacies of her own psychology and observations on life resonate much more broadly than one might expect. Employing mostly a ukulele and her own resonant voice, MXMTOON’s performances are confident yet introspective and imbued with a fresh and spontaneous energy. Her sophomore album Rising is due on May 20, 2022.
Wednesday and Thursday | 05.11 and 05.12 What: Nox Novacula (w/WitchHands and Plague Garden on 05.11 and w/Radio Scarlet and Witch Hands on 05.12) When: 8 p.m. Where:Fritzy’s (05.11) and HQ (05.12) Why: Seattle’s Nox Novacula is a brash and energetic post-punk band whose fast-paced songs are more akin to a classic deathrock group with widely dynamic, propulsive rhythms and passionate vocals. Its 2021 album Ascension is a combination of grit and fire with vividly macabre and inspired lyrics that are dark and dramatic yet never cartoonish.
Thursday | 05.12 What:Front Line Assembly w/Rein, Choke Chain, DJs Paul and Eli When: 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Bill Leeb the vocalist of Front Line Assembly got his start as a member of an early incarnation of Skinny Puppy but by the late 80s he had branched off with his own with long time bandmate and collaborator Rhys Fulber called Front Line Assembly in 1986. A pioneering band of the EBM movement and then electro-industrial, Front Line Assembly built on the political consciousness of the music with its often dystopian depictions of the effects of commercialized technology and industry on human lives and civilization. But even if you weren’t into that content as much its soundscapes and mix of menacing sounds and hard, danceable rhythms has been a consistent feature of its music from the beginning up to and including its 2021 album Mechanical Soul. Swedish electro-industrial pop artist Rein is also on the bill with her soulful vocals and well-orchestrated synths and textures. Choke Chain’s distorted, ominous songs are reminiscent of early Nitzer Ebb and his 2021 EP Invoking Shadows has an uncommon edge even for the genre with Mark Trueman sounding a little like William Faith at his most unhinged.
Friday | 05.13 What:William Basinksi w/Tripp Nasty When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Outside of Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and a few others, William Basinski is likely the most famous avant-garde composer in America and certainly one whose work has been most celebrated in recent years including his now classic 2001 electronic masterpiece The Disintegration Loops. His career has been greatly varied and includes work in modern classical and ambient music and styles that are unique to him though informed by process music and tape collage. He rarely comes to Colorado and not often playing a small club. Opening is Tripp Nasty who is no stranger to classical avant-garde, noise, experimental pop music, noise rock and analog synthesizer composition. You never quite know what to expect from Tripp except that it’ll be interesting and of quality.
Friday | 05.13 What:Fozzy w/GFM and Krash Karma When: 6 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Fozzy is the hard rock/melodic metal band fronted by Chris Jericho. The latter most probably know from his professional wrestling career throughout the 90s and on into the 2010s and his outsized persona like he was auditioning to be the lead singer of a rock band. The early Fozzy records were mainly covers albeit pretty solid as far as that goes but more recent offerings reveal the group’s knack for anthemic hard rock as evidenced on its 2022 album Boombox. The single “I Still Burn” has all the aggression and bombast you’d want from a band like this but its lyrics are also introspective and vulnerable and lacking in the bravado that helped make Jericho a celebrity and yet that’s why it’s definitely a cut above a lot of other hard rock that might get compared to 80s glam metal which this is not yet has a similar appeal I its uplifting dynamics and willingness to indulge a tasty and tasteful guitar solo.
Saturday | 05.14 What:ADULT. w/Kontravoid and Spike Hellis When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: ADULT. is an electronic duo from Detroit that has been evolving its blend of dark techno, noise and post-punk since forming in 1998. Early releases displayed the project’s affinity for early techno and around the time of its 2007 fourth album Why Bother? you could hear the experiments in production and soundscapes with beats that yielded fascinating results on the 2005 album Gimme Trouble turn into almost set pieces in an album with an almost cinematic aesthetic, like dynamic visual design translated directly into sound design and songwriting. Since then ADULT.’s releases have been more overtly political and commenting on aspects of culture and society that have been corrosive to human culture and civilization in an accelerating way that has also more or less made cataclysmic climate disaster in our lifetimes a foregone conclusion. Since signing with Dais, the hip experimental music imprint, ADULT.’s output has seemed even more intentional and focused in its critique starting with 2018’s This Behavior, to the 2020 album Perception is/as/of Deception and now to the 2022 album Becoming Undone. Nicola Kuperus and and Adam Lee Miller both have a background in the visual arts and punk and both come through in striking visuals for the album covers (mostly if not entirely designed by Kuperus) and promotional material as well as the composition of the music and certainly in the band’s confrontational live performances. With the current underground popularity of what is called darkwave ADULT. seems to have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance after spending more than a decade pioneering some of the modern style of the more electronic wing of that loose movement while also showing what the music can do when there is a unity of aesthetic vision brought to bear with strong concepts and creative commentary on important issues of the day and personal impact of things like the commodification of all areas of life, misogyny, environmental destruction, societal complacency in the face of rising fascism in what were once some of the most democratic nations on Earth. Though the music is accessible it is also challenging and the opposite of dissociation in a time of global crises. In this interview we discuss the band’s early days and its development, its visual elements and the ways in which the new record has delved in novel sonic areas for the project in line with what the title would suggest as the world as we know it seems to be coming apart or certain in a state of perilous flux. Listen to our interview with Adam Lee Miller on Bandcamp.
Sunday | 05.15 What:OMD w/In The Valley Below When: 7 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were early pioneers of synth pop in the 1970s and turning the style of music into a mainstream phenomenon throughout the 1980s. Turned off by what today might be called toxic masculinity of too much guitar driven rock in the 70s, singer and bassist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist/vocalist Paul Humphries arrived at their own style of music inspire by Kraftwerk as solidified by their having witnessed the foundational electronic band live (McCluskey has the seat number memorized and mentions it now and then in various interviews, such was the enduring impact). The electronic post-punk of OMD quickly caught attention early on and their 1979 debut single “Electricty” was was released on Factory Records, the imprint started by Tony Wilson to release Joy Division’s records. Following a tour with Gary Numan OMD’s self-titled debut failed to chart commercially but the group had built their own studio and had a place to refine recording and composition. And with the release of their second album Organisation (1980) and the hit, anti-war single “Enola Gay” (named after one of the airplanes that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 to great horror and bringing to a swifter end World War II though at what cost, thus the point of the song), OMD garnered international popularity. Through ups and downs of popularity including the lack of love for its arguably most experimental and interesting album Dazzle Ships (1983), OMD persevered until splitting in 1989. But By 2006 interest in synth pop was starting to become more pronounced than it had in decades and OMD re-convened as chillwave, vaporwave and related musical forms gained popularity in the indie music world and then well into mainstream music. Don’t go OMD expecting to see a sedate band performing some of the most gorgeous, most heartfelt electronic-driven pop of all time. OMD plays it like they’re a punk band but with grace and humor.
Sunday | 05.15 What: Cut Copy w/Suzanne Kraft When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Unfortunately Australian band Cut Copy is playing opposite a clear influence in OMD not far from the Paramount at The Ogden. The quartet has made finely sculpted pop songs informed by not just synth pop but modern dance music and shoegaze soundscaping and guitar work since 2001 with a string of albums that seem to have pushed the band into new territory even if in what can sometimes come across as subtle ways but all are beyond a surface level massively different. Freeze, Melt, the 2020 and most recent record, hit a tonal yet highly evocative plateau that sounded like an attempt to reach a place of emotional tranquility and put that across in a set of songs for a time of great turmoil. Also, a consistently surprisingly passionate live band in spite of its ethereal melodies.
Sunday | 05.15 What: Eve 6:The Extreme Wealth Tour w/Field Medic and Jake Flores When: 6:30 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Eve 6 had a bunch of hit singles in the 90s and did well for itself with songs like “Inside Out” and “Leech.” Nevertheless, Eve 6 was one of those mid-to-late alternative rock acts that weren’t so bad but nothing as exciting and as innovative as what came much earlier in the decade. And yet, nothing cringey which can’t be said about all the later-era alternative music. So probably the show will be good. The band also named itself after the titular character in the “Eve” episode of X-Files (S1E11). But one thing that is indisputable is that singer Max Collins’ Twitter account is one of the most real and amusing things you’ll read from any musician in social media and that must be honored.
Monday | 05.16 What: Juan Wauters w/Colleen Green When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Juan Wauters was once a member of psychedelic, indie garage band The Beets who garnered some critical acclaim and popularity during its heyday of the early 2010s. His albums under his own name show a broad spectrum of musical interests. His 2021 album Real Life Situations is reminiscent of Harry Nilsson crossed with Devendra Banhart. Except that Wauters has his own sound wherein he freely goes off the conventional map. Colleen Green made a solid career out of fuzz pop songs across a handful of releases with songs that seemed like a vivid portrait of personal insecurities discussed with a poetic honesty and sardonic humor. Her 2021 album Cool found Green using her songs as a vehicle for shedding outmoded lifestyles and frames of mind that might have seemed critical to one’s identity at an earlier point in life. Her career got going at the height of the indie/surf punk explosion of the 2010s and the influence of pop punk is obvious in Green’s work but her songwriting has always been more interesting than the prevailing trends and her lyrics consistently more sharply observed.
Tuesday | 05.17 What:Nilüfer Yanya w/Tasha and Ada Lea When: 8:30 doors 9 show Where: Fox Theatre Why: Nilüfer Yanya is a UK-based singer-songwriter whose music is a hybrid of various styles and modes somewhere between what some might call indie folk, synth pop, jazz and trip hop. Her subtly expressive vocals alongside lush arrangements and layered textures give her songs a gentle presence with great nuance of emotional resonance. The artist is now touring in support of her 2022 album Painless.
Wednesday | 05.18 What:Author & Punisher w/MVTANT When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Tristan Shone has refined his Author & Punisher project from its early days of using his mechanical engineering skills to modify mechanical and electrical devices as controllers for sound generators and other instruments into a sort of industrial noise project. His latest album Krüller (2021) found Shone pulling back from the colossal wall of sound that characterized a good deal of his previous body of work and the melodic side of his songwriting is more obvious and enhanced as is his expert use of space and overlapping rhythms this time used with even more atmospheric effect so that one might get lost in the gorgeous soundscapes rather than be thrillingly overwhelmed by them. But don’t worry, A&P hasn’t lost its visceral edge and sense that you’re seeing a musical project from an actual cyberpunk future and not the second rate, B-movie version.
Thursday | 05.19 What:Testament w/The Black Dahlia Murder, Municipal Waste and Meshiaak When: 6 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Testament is one of the second wave of bands to have emerged foundational to Bay Area thrash metal. Its aggressive precision was rooted partly in progressive/technical metal and jazz fusion except Testament utilized those ideas to make imaginative, thoughtful, politically charged music. With Chuck Billy’s commanding bark and Eric Peterson’s and Alex Skolnick’s intricately interweaving guitar work these days buoyed by Steve Di Giorgio’s bass and now Dave Lombardo’s (formerly of Slayer) paradoxically tastefully bombastic drums, Testament remains one of the greats of the genre.
Friday | 05.20 What:Molchat Doma w/Pompeya When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Considering world events it’s fortunate that Belarusian post-punk band Molchat Doma (“Houses Are Silent”) is touring North America at the moment. Formed in Minsk in 2017, the trio’s sound fuses synth pop, New Wave and the sort of post-punk informed by both as perhaps most notably embodied by classic Russian post-punk band Kino. There is a melancholic and resigned tenor to much of the music as though there is a spirit of not wanting to get your hopes up too much only to have them dashed by circumstances beyond your control. Which makes it a solid soundtrack not just for a band living in Belarus and in the sphere of Russia but life under this particularly crushing version of late capitalism where you’re encouraged to grind yourself to death just don’t cause any major trouble for the powerful and wealthy. The group’s latest album Monument (2020) was to have come out the same year the band was to undertake its first tour of North America with a May 2020 date at the Hi-Dive. But the pandemic hit and the band’s cachet grew dramatically beyond the appeal of a few dozen connoisseurs of post-punk in every city of size in America and beyond. The track titles on the new record spell out a bleak present and future and despite the sound of the music it also points to an ability to resist the inevitable despair which is always key in the toughest times. This show is sold out and has been for weeks but you never know. Maybe it’ll get moved to a bigger venue or will should there be a future tour.
Friday and Saturday | 05.20 and 05.21 What: Elder Island w/JORDANN When: 8 p.m. (05.20) and 8:30/9 p.m. (05.21) Where:Bluebird Theater (05/20) and Fox Theatre (05.21) Why: Elder Island is a trip-hop influenced trio from the home of that downtempo electronic music that emerged in the 90s in Bristol, UK. Starting life as an experimental folk act its members had access to seeing the great electronic artists of their early days and inspired by the power of that music and its ability to stir emotions in ways different from the types of instruments you’d use to make even experimental folk. But fusing the styles completely and arranging the music almost like a trip hop jazz lounge group, Elder Island’s debut album The Omnitone Collection was a set of lush, soulful, deeply atmospheric pop with surprisingly spare arrangements that left a great deal of room for experimenting with dynamics that invited the listener to project their imagination on to the open spaces of the music. The 2021 album Swimming Static was completed on either end of the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic with work done in between since Elder Island all lived together or nearby. The record reflected the band’s expanding access to analog synthesizers and the ability to freely incorporate those elements into the songwriting resulting in pop songs that have resonance with early analog synth artists like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and OMD as well as synth pop groups of the 80s and modern practitioners of the art of dramatic tonal and dynamic arrangements like Nation of Language and Perfume Genius.
Monday | 05.23 What:Kurt Vile and the Violators When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Kurt Vile has more than proven himself as one of the foremost songwriters to have emerged from the American indie underground with a thoughtful and evocative body of work that traverses and transcends simple categories like psych, Americana and garage rock. His new album (watch my moves) (2022) isn’t too much of a surprise to long time fans of his songwriting and its homespun charm. But where it perhaps departs a bit from expectation is in the subtle sonic details. None of Vile’s albums seem overproduced but this one, granted recorded in his home studio OKV Central, really feels like Vile was honing in on a sound like his own version of what Bruce Springsteen did on Nebraska—relatively stripped down production, spare arrangements, a sense that this could have been done on a four track with few overdubs. Which is saying something considering multiple collaborators worked on the album including Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Cate Le Bon, Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt), Farmer Dave Scher (Beachwood Sparks), Annie Truscott and Lydia Lund (both also from Chastity Belt) among others. It’s a deeply introspective and layered album that sounds disarmingly intimate so it should be interesting to see how it translates to a big stage.
Monday | 05.23 What:Weedeater w/High Tone Son of a Bitch and J.D. Pinkus When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A lot of sonic brutality for the small stage at the Hi-Dive this night with Wilmington, North Carolina’s kings of stoner rock Weedeater. Its doomy, grindy music is like a flood of caustic sonic tar like Thrones but even more metal. J.D. Pinkus will probably bring his heavier solo material rather than his excellent country tunes to this show but you just never know and either way the Butthole Surfers/Honky bassist will be entertaining and fit in somehow. Veteran, Bay Area psychedelic doom band High Tone Son of a Bitch rounds out the lineup.
Tuesday | 05.24 What:Spoon w/Geese When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Lucifer on the Sofa (2022) is Spoon’s latest album and its most arduous in terms of production and release mostly because of the whole pandemic thing that’s still going on. But, as with every other Spoon album, it finds the group exploring new songwriting and stylistic territory. Its previous album 2017’s Hot Thoughts at times sounded like an old synth pop album but with modern sensibilities informing the songwriting architecture. The new record has an immediacy that was always part of the group’s sound but the production makes the music seem very up close and its blend of soul and Americana in the more raw rock and roll songwriting with touches of the unusual around the edges and at times what seems like a sound design approach to arrangements gives the song a different dimension and aural depth than most of its previous output. Of course live Spoon has always been a lively and charismatic group of performers all around. The inclusion of Brooklynite post-punk band Geese on the bill may be a label or management arrangement but it’s also an inspired selection of an opening act as its soul, funk and psychedelia-infused post-punk is reminiscent of something Factory records would have signed in the late 80s. That or a band that would have fit in at 99 Records because its sound is so richly eclectic and its 2021 album Projector a refreshingly different entry in the post-punk canon. Fans of Parquet Courts will indubitably appreciate what Geese is offering.
Wednesday | 05.25 What:Bauhaus w/Automatic and Vinsantos — postponed When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Bauhaus is one of the most influential albums in post-punk and like the best of that first wave of bands they borrowed heavily from dub, early glam rock, psychedelia and the avant-garde. Its gloomy and often hypnotically otherworldly music immediately set itself apart from other bands from a similar background with not just the art school influence and conceptual soundscaping but also the theatrical aspect of its performances as manifested in the songwriting. Its use of melodrama never seemed corny and only enhanced its mysteriousness. Of course it got boosted into a wider circle of fame by basically opening the 1983 vampire film classic The Hunger with its own enduring classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But Bauhaus never rested on its creative laurels with its albums and each one expanded what not just post-punk could be but was essentially an art rock band without the progressive rock baggage. Nearly four decades hence Peter Murphy’s haunting and dramatic warble can still give you chills, David J and Kevin Haskins’ unconventional and fluid rhythms expand the brain with compound time experiments and Daniel Ash’s guitar-as-soundscape approach to the instrument hits like few other guitarists of the era. One of the most imaginative bands of the post-punk era, Bauhaus could just be going for a cash grab, nostalgia tour but it’s not that rote a thing and its new song “Drink The New Wine” (2022) is vintage Bauhaus weirdness and inspired dreamlike moodiness. New wave-esque, minimal post-punk band Automatic, which includes Kevin Haskins’ daughter Lola Dompé on drums and vocals, is also on the bill. Their turn opening for IDLES in April 2022 revealed a band more visceral than its excellent new album Excess might immediately suggest.
Thursday | 05.26 What:A Place to Bury Strangers w/Glove and Polly Urethane When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: A Place to Bury Strangers is often lumped in with the resurgence of shoegaze around the turn of the 2010s and the exquisite sound sculpting with noisy, atmospheric guitar shaped into evocative melodies definitely fit in that loose realm of music. But the knack for employing raw, nearly uncontrolled or not always reigned in noise in the mix made the music have an edginess closer to some kind of old noise rock band like Big Black or even the most unhinged guitar wall of noise that The Jesus and Mary Chain perpetrated so brilliantly on Psychocandy. This group could have skated on those core ideas but its body of work has evolved without compromising an individual vision for how music can occupy psychological spaces with not just organized tones and sonic textures but with the sheer physicality of that sound. Its most recent record See Through You (2022) on initial listen seems more pop oriented in some ways than the more avant-garde Pinned or even earlier records but with it definitely goes off into realms of experimentation that has more in common with some 2000s band that might have not decided to choose between styles and influenced by the most anti-music No Wave, the lowest of lo-fi psychedelic garage rock/punk you might find on the Siltbreeze imprint and menacing, scuzzy post-punk but with lyrics that give glimpses into a head space where a person is trying to pull themselves back together after having their heart stretched thin and feeling like they’ve hit the point of no return and finding some shred of meaning and truth in that low place as a thread to crawl back to something resembling normalcy. It’s both vintage APTBS and the next step in its sonic evolution. Glove is a post-punk band from Tampa that apparently didn’t get the memo that you can’t combine disco with synthpop, glam rock and post-punk and its music all the more interesting for it since the style side of its performance isn’t lacking either. Polly Urethane is a darkwave/industrial artist from Denver whose music has an enveloping vulnerability that feels like a memory of a dream at times even when evoking painful memories while transforming those strong emotions into catharsis. Think The Knife or Jenny Hval but perhaps inspired by the likes of SRSQ.
Thursday | 05.26 What:Faster Pussycat w/Love Stallion and Grind Cat Grind When: 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: In the bloated haze of Los Angeles and international glam metal in the 80s a few bands stood apart from the rest of the Aquanet-teased hair fashion victims wishing they were Led Zeppelin but couldn’t even pull off Aerosmith or Hanoi Rocks with any integrity. One of those was Faster Pussycat whose hedonistic, sleazy glam rock had a core of good songwriting and strong stage presence. It didn’t hurt that lead singer Taime Downe is one of the few people in Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988) to not look silly and whose band in retrospect isn’t incredibly cringe. After the band split in 1993 Downe formed an industrial band called The Newlydeads but reformed Faster Pussycat in 2001.
Friday and Saturday | 05.27 and 05.28 What: Build to Spill w/Sunbathe and Distant Family When: 7 p.m. Where:Aggie Theatre (05.27) and Boulder Theater (05.28) Why: Built to Spill like contemporaries Pavement established that jammy, psychedelic guitar was not antithetical to authentic alternative rock rooted in punk and the 80s underground beyond punk. Singer/guitarist Doug Martsch had been in the more overtly psychedelic post-punk band Treepeople at the same time Built to Spill was forming but the latter became Martsch’s going concern after 1994. The singer’s unconventional yet melodious voice served as a consistently interesting and elegant contrast to the sometimes amped ocean of sound that the band could unleash during the climax of a song and as the embodiment of the music’s more tender moments. BTS’s 1997 album Perfect from Now On was a masterpiece of late era alternative rock with a wide-ranging style of songs that unabashedly indulged in thought-provoking, heartbreaking epics like “Randy Described Eternity” and the bombastically celebratory “Stop the Show.” The band has consistently provided a soundtrack to introspective exploration and contemplation on the meaning of life up to and including its 2022 album When the Wind Forgets Your Name. Most live albums are not as good as the studio albums but BTS’s 2000 Live might as well be a greatest hits album performed at the near peak of its powers surpassed perhaps only by witnessing the band in the flesh.
Friday | 05.27 What:The Antlers w/Wild Pink (solo) When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: When Brooklyn-based indie folk project The Antlers released its first full band offering with 2009’s Hospice it immediately established itself as a band that could make powerful emotional statements with great delicacy and simplicity. The concept album is about a hospice worker and his relationship with a patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. After a hiatus of five years until 2019 due to primary songwriter and singer Peter Silberman experiencing hearing loss. While in recovery Silberman discovered he could still write music and following the 2017 release of the solo album Impermanence The Antlers returned with 2021’s Green to Gold. Opening the show is John Ross of Wild Pink performing solo. His band’s 2021 album A Billion Little Lights is one of the most affecting albums out of the indie rock milieu to be written from the adult perspective with adult concerns without waxing into self-parody or “dad rock” territory.
Friday | 05.27 What:Animal Collective w/The Spirit of the Beehive — postponed When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Animal Collective is one of the most influential bands of the past 20 years. Its amalgam of psychedelia, folk, electronica, ambient and the avant-garde has yielded a rich and prolific body of work across several albums that has been oft imitated but rarely in a way equal to the group’s truly idiosyncratic songwriting and eccentric methods of composing and performing music with an almost live orchestration/remixing live during performances. It’s truly transporting music, an otherworldly pop. Its new album Time Skiffs (2022) marks the return of Deakin and a robust organic tonal element in the group’s signature, unconventional percussion and what appears to be its most sonically interesting record since Strawberry Jam with its arrangements sounding like weather events coming together to make songs through a purely intuitive process that likely involved a great deal of work to make sound effortless. The Spirit of the Beehive has been making pop music that sounds like something from another dimension like Black Moth Super Rainbow turned into more of a rock band but with a live show that sounds like it’s been orchestrated like a set of medleys and remixes performed in real time.
Friday | 05.27 What:Fiddlehead w/Flower Language, Destiny Bond and Public Opinion When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Boston’s Fiddlehead is an anthemic, melodic post-hardcore band that for the uninitiated sounds akin to an emo band that was more influenced by Fugazi and Jawbreaker than what you might expect. Destiny Bond and Public Opinion are both post-hardcore bands from Denver whose songwriting stretches beyond the too often self-imposed limitations of hardcore.
Saturday | 05.28 What: Ezra Furman w/Grace Cummings When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Ezra Furman and the Harpoons was an excellent band in the more indie folk vein but Furman herself had more to say in music than that loose format. And since writing and releasing music under her own name as a solo artist she’s seemed to have slowly shed obvious stylistic influences like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed among others across several albums since the literary, haunted Americana of 2012’s The Year of No Returning. With the new album All of Us Flames Furman takes into the consideration the concept of the end of the world, certainly the world as we know it, and examination the assumptions and hopes and dubious freedom from thinking the world is over and even finding proof of that with the pandemic and the failure of all political parties in America to deal adequately with the crisis even to this day nevermind the ecological disaster slow crashing through human civilization, the perils of right wing extremism entering into governments worldwide posing a threat on its own and compounding all others as fascism is completely unprepared to actually deal with the crises we face and establish a sustainable response to issues those types fail to comprehend to the detriment of all. The lead single from the new album “Forever In Sunset” is a fiercely compassionate presentation of that whole backdrop as the ambient weight that amplifies whatever mood we’re feeling but suggests we don’t have to be overwhelmed while in survival mode and the meaning and significance of our lives can and will continue beyond the immediate brace of crises at our collective doorstep. Sonically it’s like a great glam rock song with an elevated folk flavor layered with enveloping atmospheres. Which is reason enough to go see how Furman pulls this music off live. But you also get to see Australian singer Grace Cummings whose 2022 album Storm Queen has a brooding grit and fiery passion that is a little reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. But Cummings isn’t ethereal like the latter yet both songwriters have an almost spiritual immediacy and an instinct for crafting the kind of guitar rock that burns from within like the ghost of another era of music trying to manifest through her performance. For instance one hears in the single “Heaven” shades of Big Star, Tommy Bolin and Zeppelin. The rest of the album proves that Cummings isn’t just a rocker, her expressive voice and songwriting chops range far from bombastic heights to tranquilly introspective songs with emotionally vibrant performances. Fans of Aldous Harding will find much to like in Cummings’ rich repertoire.
Monday | 05.30 What:Bestial Mouths w/CXCXCX and Cau5er When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with industrial noise dance phenom Cau5er and Denver-based power electronics artist CXCXCX.
Tuesday | 05.31 What:The Body w/Midwife and Polly Urethane When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: With its extensive history of touring since starting in 1999 there’s a good chance that if you’ve been involved in underground music since that time you’ve seen or had a chance to see The Body from Providence, Rhode Island. The experimental duo might in a reductive way be described as a doom metal band crossed with a grindcore band informed by harsh noise. But drummer Lee Buford and guitarist Chip King really push their art into different sonic territory and in different formations with a fairly long list of collaborative releaes with the likes of Thou, Full of Hell, Unform, BIG BRAVE, and Krieg to name a few. The 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness was inspired by synth pop music and sounds it while also being one of the heaviest and most raw albums of that year that had an inexplicable and undeniable sonic nuance. Its most recent release is a split record with OAA called Enemy of Love and is harrowing fusion of doom, power electronics and intensely pointed social commentary fitting the state of the world today. But it’s not all just the sound of civilization crashing into a burning heap, there are moments when the record uses an almost ambient aesthetic to arrange the denunciation of the world’s destructive bastards and humanity’s seemingly unending instinct for self-destruction. By contrast though completely fitting Midwife is also on the bill with Madeline Johnston’s heartbreaking and soul soothing soundcapes that express a similar pain and rejection of a horrifying situation in the world in a broad and not topical sense while doing so through deeply personal songs about loss and trying to make sense of losses so deep they leave you shaken to the core. Midwife’s 2021 album Luminol provides some of the most transcendent and cathartic passages of music to address the aforementioned to have come out in the past decade. Opening this show is Polly Urenthane mentioned above opening the A Place to Bury Strangers show and will bring to this event her own music to transform trauma into inspiration.
Nathan James Mills channels touches of Jesus and Mary Chain and a bit of A Place to Bury Strangers on his punky post-punk single “These Friends.” Crunchy, fuzzy guitar riffs accent and then drive the dynamics bolstered by a steady beat while Mills considers his relationships with his vices and other people as types of friendships. He lists a short cycle of identity steeped in hedonism in the choruses by asking what would have have to say in casual conversation, with whom he would have sex and would he do drugs while down on his luck and are those kinds of friendships with behaviors and social situations the kinds of friends that are better than misery? Later in the song he sings of losing a friend because maybe he was too caught up in that cycle of past times to be present for a real relationship that isn’t a self-destructive coping mechanism or a tool to facilitate the same because “dysfunction is so pure.” But the moment of clarity peeks in as a hint, as a suspicion with the line “If I ever saw the other side maybe I’d just sit down and cry.” Indeed over wasted time, over wasted opportunities for a life you actually want to have instead of what seems to make you feel alive for a few moments here and there and over the trail of psychological neglect and carnage you’ve left in your wake along the way. It’s a short song at two minutes thirty-one but it packs in a lot and invites exploring one’s own bad habits. Listen to “These Friends” on YouTube and connect with Nathan James Mills on Spotify.
“In The Fray It Wouldn’t Factor” by Absinthe Vows will probably hit many ears as having descended from Floodland period Sisters of Mercy except for the vocals which sound like they were recorded in a darkened closet initially until they become more frenzied and distorted toward the end of the song. The bass line is simple but commanding and the guitar hovers around like a ghost both carrying melody and breaking up into atmospheric textures as it lays back in the mix rather than dominating like it might in another rock band. The lyrics are about a great internal struggle and one against perceived social pressures that in the end don’t really matter as the title of the song suggests. As the song becomes more chaotic in the last third with the vocals urging one to “fight” against insecurity and anxieties one might think of more modern post-punk bands like Pop. 1280 and A Place to Bury Strangers and their own collage of lo-fi, contorted atmospherics and urgent dynamics. Listen to “In The Fray It Wouldn’t Factor” on Spotify and connect with Absinthe Vows on Bandcamp.
“A Faraway Look” by London Duo Hotline Syndrome (comprised of producers sludg3f8ctory and CEO Dreams) slinks in like a kinder, gentler, mellower A Place to Bury Strangers. The accented linger of the bass line propels the ethereal guitar work and whispery vocals before it switches to a more textural, melodic mode. And toward the end incandescent synth tones anchor the ethereal outro into you mind giving the song a strong hook at the end established in the beginning with its irresistible rhythm. It’s rare to hear so many creative elements realized across a three minute plus song but Hotline Syndromes taps into an ambient melancholy and a contemplative, self-aware of exploration of the moods nagging at the edges of your mind with a song with a concise but not austere soundscape and a song structure that guides you through its arc of musical storytelling without nudging. Listen to “A Faraway Look” on Spotify and give the rest of the Heavy Severe 3 EP as well. Connect with Hotline Syndrome at the links below.
Spunsugar from Malmö, Sweden released its debut album Drive-Through Chapel in October 2020 on Adrian Recordings. Rather than the ethereal post-rock that passes for entirely too much shoegaze and psychedelic rock of late, Spunsugar’s music has a grittiness and emotional urgency that pairs well with elements of an industrial aesthetic. In that way Spunsugar has more in common with groups like Curve and A Place to Bury Strangers that have embraced a similarly hybrid approach to songwriting and soundscaping. We recently sent some questions to the band about its origins, the subjects of its songs and its decision to sing in English. Connect with the band at the links following the Q&A. Article and interview by Tom Murphy.
Queen City Sounds and Art: Cordelia and Elin met at 13. What did a small town outsider clique look like at that age and what mutual interests draw people who are part of that together?
Elin Ramstedt: We mostly hung out with the weirdos and bonded over music, alcohol and alienation.
Cordelia Moreau: We also had less parental supervision than a lot of the kids at our age so that made it easier for us to do mischief at nights without repercussions!
Q: Cordelia and Elin spent some time hardly speaking to each other and not writing music for several years. What were they discovering and exploring separately that seemed to inform what they would do with the new band?
E: I wrote music by myself but always felt that I wanted Cordelias input because of the way that we complement each other when writing music. I felt restrained. I listened to a lot of music and went to concerts and built up the eagerness to play music with others. I mean it is not easy to be a female in a male dominated industry and I guess it took some time before I realised that this was actually something that we could do as well.
Q: In what ways do you think coming up as the children of farmers and fundamentalists and “trailer trash” in small towns in Sweden shaped your view of and approach to making your music?
E: Maybe that we don’t really take anything for granted. We don’t really feel the urge to be famous or anything, we are just very thankful that we make music that people like and can relate to.
C: It makes us less snobby, I think.
F: Yeah, and it’s something to be proud of. Pride is a feeling we haven’t got an abundance of growing up. I spent a lot of time in my teens being somewhat ashamed of the circumstances around my upbringing, family etc. So to have this thing (the band) that is 100% our own is a great source of pride.
Q: What kinds of places did you play before moving to Malmö and how did that environment influence your early development as musicians?
E: Spunsugar didn’t exist before we all lived in Malmö, from 2018. Cordelia and I played in a band when we were teenagers. We mostly played at youth centers. One time we participated in some kind of music competition and the judges told us that we looked like we were dead on stage.
F: Haha, the same here. I played in several metal bands and also a cover band. We played Creedence, Rollings Stones and Ted Gärdestad songs. That kind of stuff. We played shows at small pubs in front of audiences of a bunch of 50-year old women trying to hit on us. Which was strange for me being 18 at the time. I mean, these gigs weren’t the most inspiring but it gave me a lot of experience of playing live and solving situations revolving playing live.
Q: Knowing virtually nothing about the music world of Malmö myself, I wonder what it’s like for an independent even underground band to develop, book shows and connect with other bands to perform and cultivate an audience? Are there places to play that were integral to your growth as a band? Publications/media outlets that write about local band that were helpful to Spunsugar and other groups?
E: Malmö is a city with a lot of really great pop and rock bands! There are a few places that we have been playing at in Malmö. I think that it is kind of easy to get to play small gigs around Malmö, even if you are a new band. We have played at Plan B like four times haha. We haven’t really had any contact with local media outlets. I mean 2020 has been shitty and we haven’t really played that much live at all since we started the band, but we’re aiming at replacing COVID-19 in taking over the world.
F: Yeah, like Elin said, Plan B has been important to us. They gave us a chance for our first gig and our relationship with them has kind of developed with the growth of the band. We had our release-show for our album there and it was a fantastic night. The local media has been awfully quiet to be honest, but that’s not a problem really. There is a big scene of alternative bands and venues that talked to and about each other so I feel that bands can evolve anyway.
Q: You once opened for Nothing. When and where was that? In what ways do you feel Nothing is an influence on your own art?
E: It was at Plan B in Malmö November 2018. It was our first gig ever!! I think Nothing inspired and inspires us to write heavier music. When we started playing music together our music was much poppier but then we realised that we wanted to play music that is a mix of Britney Spears and Slayer.
C: Also, the soundscape of their latest album is really inspiring. Melodically, their geniuses, and they have a certain atmosphere in their songs that are gentle but hard, depressing but catchy. That’s a great way to write music.
F: I think that gig was a bit of an eye opener too. It was quite daunting to play with a band that we respect so much on our first show. It made me realise that this is real and experiences like this actually could happen to us as well, not only to other more fortunate people. I think we put in a higher gear after that. We took things a bit more seriously.
Q: Your songs are in English. What informed that decision and what helped you coming up to learn and connect with the language in a way that makes it a comfortable choice for creative expression (assuming it is)?
C: I guess it’s because pretty much every song, movie and TV-show we consume is in English. It’s personal enough since it’s a language we speak but if I wrote lyrics in Swedish I’d sometimes lack the ability to reference things I want to reference, as well as a vast enough vocabulary. But I sometimes write in Swedish but not for Spunsugar.
E: It would be too embarrassing for me to sing swedish lyrics. You really can sing about nothing when it is not your native language and it sounds cool anyway.
Q: The title Drive-Through Chapel suggests much like the nature of religion and its role in society. What inspired giving the album that title?
E: You could actually say that we are antichrist himself, kind of, and I think that we are fascinated about commercialization of religion and how it can be expressed.
F: And it’s a good title. I mean, I like how it sounds and looks.
C: I grew up in a religious village, it shaped me a lot. When I moved with my mom I got to see something different while my dad was still in that southern religious world. My mom was heavy into rock music and dark movies so she showed me a lot of dark stuff at a young age. That was a scary, intriguing contrast, but it gave perspective that helped me question organized religion. If that music and those books and films were so evil, why did they make me feel so nice? It planted the seed for my obsession with the plastic workings behind these small time churches.
Q: “Video Nasty” is an interesting title to a song as it references a category of film given that designation in the UK in the early 1980s. How did you become familiar with that concept and do you have particular video nasties you like and why?
C: I’m a horror movie buff and have always been fascinated with the idea of media ruining young peoples minds and making them violent, because I was scared into believing that was how it worked as a child. It doesn’t, by the way. In that song I use this concept as a metaphor for peoples invasion and fear of the sexualities of others. I haven’t done many deep dives into the most obscure ones but I absolutely love I Spit On Your Grave, The Last House on the Left and The Beyond.
Q: There is a real synthesis of electronic music and rock in your songwriting with the drum machine fully integrated. What about that sort of sound have you appreciated in other artists?
E: I like the contrasts.
C: I think it blurs the lines of what time the music belongs to. It’s a little bit 80s, a little bit now and a little bit future sounding. I am a big fan of late 80s to late 90s electronical/industrial sounding metal. Everything from Type O Negative, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, it has a certain type of grit to it while at the same time being cheesier and more mellow than other types of metal.
F: It’s very much a mix of all the things we like. I was a big heavy metal kid growing up, and a quite conservative one too. It was a big eye opener when I found bands that could blend that intensity with other influences. That you didn’t need to sound like Entombed or Sleep to sound heavy or that you could sound beautiful and heavy at the same time.
Who:Karl Blau w/Porlolo and High Plains Honky When: Thursday, 10.11, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Karl Blau has had a rich and varied career spanning the past two decades or so. As a member of lo-fi rock band D+ he wrote songs and performed with Bret Lunsford formerly of Beat Happening and future Microphones and Mount Eerie mastermind Phil Elverum. As a solo artist and musical curator with his Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society musical subscription artist, Blau has been involved in making music in widely disparate styles and often hybridizing them or outright creating something that’s impossible to classify beyond maybe simply pop. In recent years, Blau has been writing songs that seem shaped by everything else he’s made up to now with bossa nova percussion, African pop vocal cadences, hip-hop-and-reggae-informed lyrical phrasing and indie/freak folk sensibilities. In the past Blau has performed solo with a loop pedal and pulled off what sounds like a full band minus robust drums so you’re never full sure what you’re in for barring that it’ll be exceptional.
Who:The Church When: Thursday, 10.11, 7:30/8 p.m. Where: The Fox Theatre Why: Australian rock band The Church is currently undertaking it’s tour for the thirtieth anniversary of its 1988 album Starfish. The band had already made a name for itself with fans of adventurous, inventive, literate and thoughtful yet heartfelt rock music. But Starfish was the group’s breakthrough to not just a wider audience but the mainstream with hits like “Under the Milky Way” and “Reptile.” While the group is justly celebrating the release of its iconic album for itself and fans that maybe didn’t get to see The Church in its 80s heyday (pardon the referential joke to the band’s 1985 album of the same name), the band’s new material is as vital as anything it has done in the past and you’ll get the best of both worlds at this show.
Friday | October 12, 2018
What:Anxious Little Friends Fest Day 1 When: Friday, 10.12, 6 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Record labels Snappy Little Numbers and Anxious and Angry collaborated on this two day festival at the Hi-Dive with some of the better local and not local punk and punk-related bands. For this night you can see two night headliners Off With Their Heads as well as Riverboat Gamblers, SPELLS, Dirty Few, Black Dots, Hooper and Modern Goon.
What:Franksgiving 2018 When: Friday, 10.12, 9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This yearly event benefiting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America is hosted by local connoisseur of weird music Franklin Bell. Naturally he always finds some of the best local odd yet accessible bands for the vent. As usual, Little Fyodor & Babushka Band, one of Denver’s longest running and most consistently interesting weirdo punk institutions will perform as well as not-widely-recognized-but-absolutely-a-local-rock-and-roll-legend Ralph Gean, Fyodor drummer Tricky Dick Wicket’s side project that isn’t Universal Devils, Whiskey Orphans, the “sweet and sensitive keyboard songs” of No Pants Katie with DJ Frank Bell spinning kooky kuts.
Who:Screwtape w/Potato Pirates, Noogy, World Movement and Ultraviolet When: Friday, 10.12, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Screwtape’s politically-charged hardcore and dynamic live show has already made it a favorite among local fans of punk and the group is kicking off its latest tour to the south with this show sharing the bill with ska-punk veterans Potato Pirates and Colorado Springs hardcore outfit Ultraviolet. Who:Multidim Records Official Launch Party When: Friday, 10.12, 8 p.m. Where: Leon Why: Multidim Records is a new Denver-based label focusing on emerging artists in electronic and abstract music. Founded by Tommy Metz (Glissline) and Michael David King (Cities of Earth), this event will feature some of the artists on the label’s roster including the respective projects of the label’s founders as well as Andre Cactus + Ah, River and Mirror Fears.
Saturday | October 13, 2018
Who:ADULT. w/Plack Blague and Voight When: Saturday, 10.13, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: For twenty years, Detroit’s ADULT. has been on the forefront of mixing electronic pop, techno and industrial music with an experimental flair. In the late 90s, ADULT. helped to pioneer the sound and aesthetic that came to be called electroclash by around the turn of the century. As the duo explored sounds and performance it garnered a cult following among connoisseurs of electronic music paired with a dynamic and sometimes confrontational performance style. It adopted and mutated the sound and production ideas running through underground techno throughout the 2000s giving it a powerful and imaginative soundscape to match singer Nicola Kuperus’s emotionally-nuanced vocals. The band’s 2018 album This Behavior was the darker side of the songwriting that went into the 2017 album Detroit House Guests—both rich and dense with sonic detail and inventive rhythms.
Also on the this leg of the tour is Lincoln, Nebraska’s Plack Blague. Raws Schlesinger had been, maybe still is, involved in the Nebraska grind and extreme metal scene in various bands. But Plack Blague is a bit like a leather daddy Big Freedia but with beats that are the industrial and techno analogue to sissy bounce. On previous occasions in Denver, Plack Blague may have seemed to be a sonically abrasive spectacle but the act’s songs have taken on a compelling form beyond the spectacle without sacrificing the striking visual aspect of the band including Schleslinger’s undeniably amazing dance moves.
What:Anxious Little Friends Fest Day 2 When: Saturday, 10.13, 6 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This second night of Anxious Little Friends Fest includes performances from Off With Their Heads, The Bollweevils, SPELLS, Friends of Cesar Romero, Lawsuit Models, Great American House Fire and Bad Year.
What:KGNU Quarterly Showcase When: Saturday, 10.13, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: This edition of the KGNU Quarterly Showcase features some of Denver’s most innovative electronic artists. Shocker Mom’s dreamy, ambient R&B is the latest vehicle from Robin Walker. As a member of Cougar Pants, walker, along with Jessica Hughes, made a particularly tender and emotionally deep yet playful type of indie pop. As a solo performer, Walker distinguished herself as a talented vocalist and songwriter whose use of sound taps into a pre-linguistic part of the human brain, communicating the vibrations of a loving, healing aspect of the universe—which she has manifested most strongly with Shocker Mom. Also catch her in excellent hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus. Larians is the solo side project of Male Blonding singer/guitarist Noah Simons. His brilliant take on IDM, techno and ambient may just be getting started but it’s obvious he’s learned a few things to build beyond from Burial and Aphex Twin. Bios+a+ic is the solo project of Textures Ambient Showcase and Symbolic Insight head Wesley Davis. All of his albums with the project are different and conceptual, representing ideas and sound experiments that tickled Davis’ imagination at the time of their creation. Also on the bill are All Mask and DJ Winter
Sunday | October 14, 2018
Who:Henry Rollins Travel Slideshow Tour When: Sunday, 10.14, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: It’s been a good longer while than usual since Henry Rollins has done one of his spoken tours. This time around he’s sharing his photography and telling stories from his travels around the world. His spoken word shows are always worth checking out and with the images to prompt his memory and engage those who show up it will be a more immersive experience when coupled with his already fantastic storytelling.
Who:Future Generations w/Zuli and Whiskey Autumn When: Sunday, 10.14, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Brooklyn has long been home to eclectic indie rock with artists, of necessity, trying out innovative musical ideas and strong songwriting in order to stand out. Future Generations’ 2018 album Landscape is like a stroll through a person’s day and life and composed as though the melodies and rhythms are a soundtrack with electronic, ambient textures to give the songwriting a context that connects all the music. Sure, each piece can be enjoyed on its own but the record feels like a new take on the classic album format from a time when bands felt like there were no throwaway songs and thought in terms of interconnecting themes. Probably not a concept album but one that works on a very conceptual level too.
Tuesday | October 16, 2018
Who:A Place to Bury Strangers w/Kraus and cindygod When: Tuesday, 10.16, 9 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: A Place To Bury Strangers is often credited as one of the bands that helped to re-popularize shoegaze in the underground. But the band’s contribution has run deeper as guitarist/vocalist Oliver Ackerman created unique guitar pedals with functionality that has helped push the sound of the instrument into new realms of noise and texture. As part of the pedal and sound equipment company/DIY space Death By Audio, Ackerman and company contributed to its creative community in a direct, pragmatic way. APTBS fused lo-fi, shoegaze, noise, post-punk and hardcore in fascinating ways. For an album or two it felt like maybe the project had plateaued even if the songwriting was still good. But the 2018 album Pinned with new drummer Lia Simon Braswell demonstrated that the band hasn’t run out of ideas for heady and disorienting soundscaping. Opening the show is Denver’s cindygod, the follow-up band to shoegaze/noise rock duo Gauntlet Hair. Now the band is a quartet with an even more exhilarating panoply of sound.
Wednesday | October 17, 2018
Who:Sarah Ruth Alexander, Polecat Moon Pussy and Gold Trash When: Wednesday, 10.17, 9 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: [update, Shiny Around the Edges no longer on the bill] Sarah Ruth Alexander’s brooding yet luminous compositions utilizing effected vocals and acoustic instruments have made Dallas’ They Say The Wind Made Them Crazy one of the more interesting bands and critically acclaimed bands that in the past his intentionally been more or less off the internet because its music works best live. Alexander’s solo performances recall some of the most chilling moments of Nico’s solo work, The Marble Index, Desertshore and The End in particular, in its use of organic instruments in a manner suggesting an electronic music aesthetic as a way to tap into deeply rooted spaces in the psyche. One might also hear in her songs resonances with Jarboe’s more intensely tranquil performances with Swans. Moon Pussy is a noise rock band from Denver and Gold Trash could be said to be a soulful yet noisy version of an electroclash band.