The Stargazer Lilies Warp Forward and Back in Psychological Time on the Fuzzy, Mind-Bending New Single “Living Work of Art”

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The Stargazer Lilies, photo courtesy the artists

The Stargazer Lilies’ “Living Work of Art” begins like an unmarked cassette found at a thrift store with some tape hiss and white noise the picks up into a fuzzy, warping, worn VHS collage of granulated, phasing melodic tone over which female vocals intone winsomely, occasionally glitching out. Though clearly a modern recording, the band has opted for the opposite of slick production but not quite lo-fi as the sounds are strong and clearly intentional if not 100% calculated. The track comes from the band’s forthcoming album Occabot, out on November 1 on Rad Cult. The latter is more than a clue that Tobacco of Black Moth Super Rainbow is involved and in fact is the producer of the record. But this doesn’t sound like he took over the sound of the band, he just encouraged their natural instincts for going outside their own lines and rules and make an experience as much as individual, coherent songs. “Living Work of Art” seems to simultaneously go forward and backward in an entrancing loop and to evolve in organic ways much as the title suggests. Listen to the single on Soundcloud and follow the band from northeastern Pennsylvania at the links below.

open.spotify.com/artist/0BykdcTFMgGvvyySXL7yGI
twitter.com/TheStrgzrLilies
facebook.com/thestargazerlilies
instagram.com/thestargazerlilies

Best Shows in Denver 10/25/18 – 10/31/18

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Black Moth Super Rainbow performs at The Bluebird Theater on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 with Stargazer Lilies and Air Credits. Photo courtesy the artist.

Thursday | October 25, 2018

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The Damned, photo by Steve Gullick

Who: The Damned w/Radkey and The Darts
When: Thursday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: The Damned famously released the first UK punk single “New Rose” on October 22, 1976 through Stiff Records. While the group didn’t cause as much of a stir as the Sex Pistols or garner as much fame as The Clash, it has, long term has arguably been as influential as both on not just punk generally but also post-punk and Goth with its aesthetic, musically and in terms of visual style. After several lineup changes, including founding member Captain Sensible coming and out of the band, The Damned have persisted as a vital live act. In 2018 the group released its first album in a decade: Evil Spirits. Easily the band’s best, most satisfying record since the late 70s, Evil Spirits doesn’t break new ground, it just reaffirms the fact that The Damned may have been punk but it’s also one not short on strong songwriting. Sounding somewhere between a more raw 70s glam band and thoughtful 80s post-punk, the new set of songs from The Damned are a somewhat melancholic take on the state of the world but inside that tonality is a spirit of defiance through creativity. Also on this tour is Radkey, a trio comprised of the Radke brothers whose style of garage punk is more in the vein of early pioneers like Death and, well, The Damned.

Who: Demeoncassettecult, bios+a+ic + Equine, Pearils & Perils, Juniordeer, Sobremarcha and SADnois
When: Thursday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Demoncassettecult will perform material from his time in industrial noise duo Dr. Montgomery Maxwell at this show. Biostatic will team up for a unique set with guitar drone artist Equine. Pearils & Perils will bring some dusky atmospheric, downtempo R&B..

Who: Fathers and Muscle Beach Tour Kickoff w/Nightwraith and Limbwrecker
When: Thursday, 10.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Two of Denver’s metallic, post-hardcore bands are going on tour and celebrating the occasion with this kickoff tour. Fathers includes now former members of Lords of Fuzz, Black Acid Devil, Cult of the Lost Cause and Native Daughters so its heavy music pedigree is respectable enough. But it’s debut, self-titled record, out in Fall 2017 forged a bit of a different musical identity for its members with music akin to the aggressive and thorny drive and dynamism of bands like Converge and Coalesce. Muscle Beach, especially its newer material, compresses a great amount of energy and movement into a small span of time and cuts out the inessential. In doing so, the trio’s songs defy easy genre designation and despite its relentless energy there is a grace and fluidity to music not really designed to possess either quality.

Friday | October 26, 2018

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Kamasi Washington, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Kamasi Washington w/Victory
When: Friday, 10.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Kamasi Washington is reaping the benefits of a lifetime of learning and honing his craft and bringing to the playing of saxophone and composing music a creativity that has some critics and fans placing him among the jazz legends of yesteryear. History will decide if Washington is worthy of such accolades but his body of work and his various collaborations in the worlds of jazz and hip-hop speaks for itself. He is among one of the true talents bridging various realms of music with equal aplomb. In that way he and bassist Thundercat have much in common as both have contributed to albums by the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winning hip-hop producer and rapper Kendrick Lamar as well as releasing acclaimed and innovative albums in their own rights. In 2018, released both a full-length with Heaven and Earth and a companion EP The Choice. Difficult to assess Washington’s legacy at this point but this is a chance to witness his music live at a medium-sized venue either at The Ogden Theatre or tomorrow night in Boulder at The Boulder Theater.

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Sharone & The Wind, photo by KMiller Photography

Who: Sharone & The Wind’s Night of Terror 2 w/Shattered Halo, Married a Dead Man, Dead But Fancy, Rotten Reputation 
When: Friday, 10.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original BBQ, Englewood
Why: As Sharone & The Wind have developed over the past two years as a band, it has also established itself as a theatrical live act. No holiday is more suited to the group’s dark, emotionally-charged, art metal than Halloween. For the second year running, the band has assembled friends and peers to share a set at Moe’s Original BBQ to ring in the holiday with what will surely be a set that will include props and go beyond a band merely getting on stage and rocking.

Who: 1st Annual Halloween Throwdown Night 1: Dragondeer Vs. Bowie w/Def Knock and The Milk Blossoms
When: Friday, 10.26, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: If the members of Dragondeer weren’t incredibly talented musicians they wouldn’t be able to play their own brand of psychedelic blues much less take on the musical identities of two bands whose music is part of the DNA of international rock music whether acknowledged or not. On Friday night, the group will play songs from the catalog of David Bowie, an artist whose musical corpus combined exquisite, thoughtful, pop music and the avant-garde in various proportions with little regard to strict genre conventions. Opening this first night is The Milk Blossoms, a band whose emotionally tender yet fierce pop songs show how you can seem to be writing from secret places but have the requisite personal bravery to bare the art made from there to the world.

Who: Bluebook EP release w/Shark Dreams and Midwife
When: Friday, 10.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene Bar
Why: It’s been a minute since Bluebook released anything. Julie Davis has been busy with other, equally fascinating projects and having a child, among other things. The new Bluebook material, part of which can be heard on the new EP The Astronaut’s Wife, was written with Jess Parsons and while it contains some of the familiar elements that have made Davis’ music interesting from very early on like her vivid, commanding voice and her use of a difficult to manage and master instrument like upright bass along with various loops and the sounds that Parsons brings to the project. There is a mysterious quality to the band’s presentation of the music these days too and that just gives the storytelling a bit of an atmospheric edge. Also on the bill is one of Denver’s most interesting songwriters and organic soundscapers, Midwife.

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FIDLAR, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Fidlar w/Dilly Dally and Side Eyes
When: Friday, 10.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Fidlar could have just been another garage punk band except that Zac Carper and Elvis Kuehn met while working at a recording studio and thus had a better than average sense of what made recordings sound good and what kind of preparation a band might need to undertake in order to not waste a lot of time not getting what they want out of that process. Nevertheless, there is a freshness to its sound that has as much in common with 2010s indie pop as it does with post-Reatards garage punk—catchy tunes, a little loose around the edges, irreverent and self-deprecating. The group will release its new record Almost Free on January 25, 2019 but you’ll get to hear a good deal of it first on this tour.

Who: Rot Congress
When: Friday, 10.26, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Hot Congress was the promising indie rock label that, for a time in the late 2000s and early 2010s, galvanized a certain segment of the Denver music scene with releases, promotion, events featuring its artists and an eccentric yet striking aesthetic. The label hasn’t been active in years but it maintains its Halloween tradition of gathering local Denver bands associated with Hot Congress for a show called Rot Congress at which the bands dress up and have, on occasion, taken up humorous alternate names. Here is a schedule for this year’s event, all times p.m.: 9:30 Zealot, 10:15 Kissing Party, 11 The Interesting Times Gang, 11:45 The Jinjas.

Saturday | October 27, 2018

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Ian Sweet, photo by Kelsey Hart

Who: Ian Sweet w/Young Jesus
When: Saturday, 10.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ian Sweet is Jillian Medford’s vehicle for exploring the intersections between one’s own neuroses and her responsibilities to others, some of whom she has taken on a type of caretaker role. Or so she so poetically articulates on her 2018 sophomore record Crush Crusher. With luminous melodies, gentle and textured rhythms and lush soundscapes, Medford crafts songs that reflect a strength of character of necessity balanced against the crushing anxiety that develops when battling your own demons and making sure those under your care, formally or otherwise, don’t go neglected. It’s rock, it’s indie pop., it’s dreamy stuff but because of the subject matter and Medford’s imaginative songwriting it has a heft yet uplifting quality suggesting a complexity not heard enough in popular music. Also on the bill, Young Jesus whose what one might call indie prog songs recall late 90s math rock where that music mixed with 90s emo. A bit like Minus the Bear but more melancholy.

Who: 1st Annual Halloween Throwdown Night 2: Dragondeer Vs. The Dead w/Dog City Disco
When: Saturday, 10.27, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: This second night of Dragondeer’s Halloween show features the band taking on the challenging repertoire of the Grateful Dead. As pioneers of DIY, independent music having a viable existence and the soundtrack to a real moment of American counterculture, the Grateful Dead’s can be polarizing. But its blend of psychedelia, bluegrass and improvisational jazz has often been imitated by hundreds of bands with mixed results. But if you go and check out any one of the group’s early records without having some bias getting in the way, it’s interesting stuff unlike much of anything else going on at the time with truly masterful improvisational live performances captured on some bootlegs and its own official live releases, particularly Europe ’72. Will Dragondeer be up to the challenge and not be like so many wack wannabes in the jam band scene? Likely so given the level of talent involved.

Who: The Crüxshadows, Seraphim Shock, Radio Scarlet and DJ Mudwulf
When: Saturday, 10.27, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: The Crüxshadows are one of the very few bands that combine trance and dark wave that doesn’t immediately inspire a chuckle. Mainly because the band has found a way to make that sound good rather than the laughable EBM/Future Pop thing that plagued the late 90s and the 2000s. Joining the Florida band for this show are two Denver bands. Industrial rock/trashy vampire costume performance art band Seraphim Shock are legends in certain Goth circles in Denver. Since the mid-90s, the group has somehow made the schlocky-ness of industrial rock, pop metal and Gothic aesthetics as manifested in the popularity of vampire mythos in the 90s with the novels of Anne Rice and the RPG Vampire: The Masquerade, maybe even Nancy Collins’ Sonja Blue novels, seem not so hokey or gloriously so. Seraphim Shock has been that band to synthesize all of it and make it highly entertaining for over two decades now. Radio Scarlett might be the only legit death rock band in the Mile High City. Even if it turns out it’s the only one, it’s at least good. Okay, there’s Grave Moss too and both are excellent bands.

Who: Cyclo-Sonic, The Gurkhas, Cyanidols and Gata Negra
When: Saturday, 10.27, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Skylark
Why: Some of Denver punk’s elder, but not elderly, punk musicians who are still playing in respectable bands will take the stage at The Skylark tonight. Cyclo-Sonic includes former members of The Choosey Mothers, The Fluid, The Frantix and Rok Tots and they can still pull off a spirited performance. Cyanidols include a handful of Denver punk and indie rock veterans including former Tarmints and The Symptoms bassist/vocalist Sonya Decman and Chris Kieft and Oscar Pop who have played in too many notable bands to name going back to the 80s Denver punk underground. Gata Negra is Whitney Rehr’s bluesy punk/power pop band when she’s not also playing in I’m A Boy.

Sunday | October 28, 2018

 

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Victoria Lundy, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures: Herpes Hideaway, Haunted Sound Lab, Victoria Lundy
When: Sunday, 10.28, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This edition of Textures will feature a special encore presentation of Herpes Hideaway’s creepy diorama and puppet set to accompany his dark ambient music and usual witches’ costume. Appropriately enough Haunted Sound Lab will perform as well as Victoria Lundy who will grace the night with her haunting, classically-inspired Theremin and synth compositions. Maybe she’ll reprise parts of her Miss American Vampire release show.

Who: Insane Clown Posse w/Clownvis Presley, Dirty Rotten Rhymers, Swizzy J and Hex Rated (LSP)
When: Sunday, 10.28, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Stampede
Why: Insane Clown Posse brings its dark carnival to Aurora, Colorado for a show at Stampede. The latter is a club that has in years past been known more as a home to country music. But its large dance floor and upper floor open to the performance space lends itself well to larger shows in general. No need to explain ICP but it’s live shows are highly entertaining with lots of over the top stage antics and a high level of surreal kitsch and fun even if you’re not into the music. Clownvis Presley is, yes, an Elvis tribute act with a clown version of Elvis providing the vocals and the name of the band. ICP hasn’t been to the Denver area for a long time despite the Mile High City being a place in America where it is most popular so maybe the guys have something special in store for this tour around Halloween.

Tuesday | October 30, 2018

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Sugar Candy Mountain, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Black Moth Super Rainbow w/The Stargazer Lilies and Air Credits
When: Tuesday, 10.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Black Moth Super Rainbow amalgamated Tom Fec’s sound experiments with making the musical equivalent of collage art, giving it an even more organic and fuzzy around the edges, analog quality than simply processed sampling. As with other artists who mastered their own production style in a like-minded vein such as Boards of Canada, cLOUDED and J Dilla, Fec and BMSR created an otherworldly and transporting sound with a sense of innocence about it yet often profane and frank in content. Adopting stage names (Tobacco and Seven Fields of Aphelion, for instance), BMSR’s shows are often an immersive experience creating an emotional and imaginative zone for the night. The band’s latest full-length, 2018’s Panic Blooms, is an even further reach into abstraction as a means of conveying a direct link into the realms of imagination and emotion. BMSR has always been an alchemical blend of hip-hop, psychedelic electronic music and IDM but one grounded in a working class culture in middle America where a sense of one’s isolation breeds aspirational daydreaming and/or drug abuse as a means of escaping the dream shattering mundanity of everyday life. Where you can see on TV and in media a more glamorous life that seems out of reach of everyone you know and you look at your own life and think, “Is this it? Forever?” BMSR’s music honors that desperation and melancholy while making music suggesting other options and possibilities and finding the extraordinary even within your own psychic angst and disappointment.

Who: Sugar Candy Mountain, Ancient Elk and Palo Santo
When: Tuesday, 10.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Sugar Candy Mountain’s hazy tropicalia and psych folk pop sounds like what a handful of their music videos look like—the soundtrack to a road trip across the American west in a future imagined by Jim Jarmusch. The band’s new record Do Right takes its songwriting beyond the languid, single note picking that is the specialty of bands nicking the Laurel Canyon inspired garage rock vibe for a kind of retrofuturist sound that might be compared to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Three California’s trilogy, in particular 1988’s The Gold Coast. Nerdy science fiction comparison’s aside, Sugar Candy Mountain may on the surface sound like another pop psychedelia band but its imaginative songwriting and knack for capturing a modern sense of wanderlust and dissatisfaction without going dark is not just refreshing but extraordinary.

Who: Amigo the Devil w/Harley Poe
When: Tuesday, 10.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Amigo the Devil’s latest album, Everything is Fine, as in not, is like a collection of modern noir short stories with a darkly humorous bent. That it’s pretty much just Danny Kiranos and his acoustic guitar (with some very minimal percussion and piano on various songs) is even more impressive because it feels full and that anything more would take away from the stark beauty of the songwriting. There’s a song called “Cocaine and Abel,” another called “Hungover in Jonestown,” yet another called “I Hope Your Husband Dies”—all suggesting skullduggery and over-the-top scenes. But there’s a tenderness and sensitivity there too, a nuance of emotion that hits you unexpectedly like the quieter moments in a Cormac McCarthy novel. A great set of music for Halloween week but also enjoyable beyond any seasonal appeal because Kiranos’ music comes from the heart and not a sense of lurid kitsch.

Wednesday | October 31, 2018

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Spirit Award, photo by Brenna Nickels

Who: Itchy-O Hallowmass w.Echo Beds
When: Wednesday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Itchy-O recently released its best album to date with Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo. It doesn’t capture the live show because no recording could but as a listening experience it takes you into realms of experience that are an analogue and a companion to the live show that is enjoyable on its own. If you can’t witness the spectacle of a thirty plus member band dressed up as operatives of an inter-dimensional band of mystics and penitents of a an ethos dedicated to human liberation and artistic exploration through group performance art for yourself the record is plenty rewarding on its own. But if you can, make it to one of the band’s infrequent shows and take in its controlled chaos on its terms. For this show the group will share the stage with Echo Beds, the Denver industrial punk band whose own new album, Buried Language, is a leap forward for the band’s presentation in the recorded format. Live, with the oil drum and vocal caterwaul, electronic percussion and cutting guitar work, Echo Beds is as thrilling and forbidding as its recordings suggest and a perfect parallel artist for the way the records translate on the part of Itchy-O.

Who: Amigo the Devil w/Harley Poe
When: Wednesday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: For Amigo the Devil, see above for 10/30/18.

Who: Danzig 30 Year Anniversary w/Venom Inc., Power Trip and Mutoid Man
When: Wednesday, 10.31, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Danzig will perform cuts from across his solo career. Sometimes the music borders on corny but really melodramatic in the best sense but always dark and honest about that side of Danzig’s psyche. On other tours the band plays the hits but for this one the group will dig a little deeper into the catalog.

Who: Colfax Speed Queen, Ned Garthe Explosion, Vic N’ The Narwhals and Spirit Award
When: Wednesday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Spirit Award’s new album Muted Crowd is a good one for the Halloween holiday considering the song “Supreme Truth” is about Japan’s terror cult Aum Shinrikyo and “Witching Hour” is based on singer/guitarist Daniel Lyon’s encounters with the paranormal in a house in Seattle. But the music isn’t spooky so much as dense with energized atmospheres, echoing vocals and urgent rhythms. The Seattle-based trio will be joined by three of Denver’s own off beat rock and roll bands with Colfax Speed Queen’s post-psych garage, Ned Garthe Explosion’s humorous yet intense and colorful take on psychedelic rock and Vic N’ The Narwhals time traveling southern California via the American southwest presentation of R&B-inflected surf rock.

Best Shows in Denver 9/13/18 – 9/19/18

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Angel Olsen performs at The Paramount Theatre on 9/17/18. Photo by Taylor Boylston

Thursday | September 13, 2018

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Joe Dosik, photo by Curtis Essel

Who: Joe Dosik w/Moonglade
When: Thursday, 09.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With funk band Vulfpeck, Joe Dosik is often a bit of a sideplayer on sax and keys but with his recently released solo debut full length Inside Voice, Dosik makes good on the promise of his 2018 EP Game Winner. The lush production and Dosik’s versatile, soulful vocals is like something out of the late 70s or early 80s. Like maybe Dosik sequestered himself away from most modern music and listened mostly to a lot of Billy Paul, Luther Vandross’s 1981 breakout Never Too Much and Joe Jackson’s 1982 album Night and Day. Dosik’s compositions tend to be produced with more space to let atmospherics hang and resolve in a way that great pop artists in the aforementioned era often indulged but which in modern pop seems a bit of an all too human anachronism. These days, that’s the kind of quaint touch we could use more of.

What: Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk at Sie Film Center w/Aaron Cometbus and Anna Brown
When: Thursday, 09.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Aaron Cometbus’ ‘zine Cometbus has inspired generations of artists from other ‘zinesters, comics creators and musicians. His depiction of life across his body of work captured the moment, low and exciting, in a way few have. He and Anna Brown, a writer, surfer, educator and significant figure in the California punk world since the 80s, will be part of a Q&A after the screening of Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk, a documentary about the punk scene in the San Francisco Bay area that brought us not just Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll but the rich punk subculture that it documented and continues to do so including, for better or worse, the wave of pop punk that was the next major musical movement from the underground to emerge as alternative rock was splintering and co-opted by mainstream moneyed music industry interests.

Who: Musical Mayhem: Marvel West, Mean Hand, Limber Wolf
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: In case anyone missed it, Musical Mayhem, the more or less free format monthly hosted by Claudia Woodman is now at Lion’s Lair. While not mainly “weird” music, Woodman’s tastes tend to run that direction. But on this night American band Marvel West will make an appearance along with Mean Hand, a band led by long time Denver underground rock and punk legend Tom Mestnik. Rumor has it Denver’s luminous western slowcore-esque band Limber Wolf is low key releasing its album at this show as well.

Who: Rabbit Fighter, The Pretty Bones, Nighttimeschoolbus, Miss Owl & the Pull Apart
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Touted as “Girl Power Night at Syntax” this show includes the mighty Nighttimeschoolbus, the duo of Robin Walker and Toby Hendricks who combine experimental hip-hop beat making and deeply affecting vocals. Rabbit Fighter has as its Facebook image a scene from Heathers quoting Veronica Sawyer, played by Winona Ryder, saying, “DEAR DIARY, I WANT TO KILL.” And, once in a while, who hasn’t felt that? If it really is a pop band at least it’s probably one with some attitude.

Who: Lowfaith record release w/Ridgeway, No Gossip In Braille and Voight
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Dream pop/darkwave band Lowfaith is releasing its new album On Loss tonight at Seventh Circle playing with bands in a similar vein. No Gossip In Braille includes Echo Beds frontman Keith Curts and its lush, low key atmospheric rock is almost a polar opposite of his other project in tone and texture. Voight really combines the melancholy mood of a dark post-punk band with the furious energy of a noise punk project. While initially sounding a bit like a a great A Place to Bury Strangers tribute band, the duo has really brought in its more electronic side more fully, giving its already wiry yet brooding sound a calming quality in contrast to its often explosive live intensity.

Friday | September 14, 2018

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Landgrabbers, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Cyanidols, Luna Sol, Flat Earth and Landgrabbers
When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: For something on the harder edge of Denver’s punk world this would be the show to check out tonight. Cyanidols includes Sonya Decman (whose bass prowess and vocal power brought a good deal to Tarmints, The Symptoms and Brain Police) and Chris Kieft who has been a staple of Denver’s punk scene going back to the 80s along with Oscar Pop. Luna Sol is sort of a stoner rock band and includes Shanda Kohlberg formerly of The Swanks as well as former Supafuzz frontman Dave Angstrom. Landgrabbers is a little more countrified but it is a welcome throwback to that time in the Denver punk scene when a band could simply be good and not have to cater too much to some prevailing trend.

Who: Equine, Housekeys, Shawn Mlekush
When: Friday, 09.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Distillery
Why: Even though most of the local music and culture press is sleeping hard on it, the local experimental music scene is pretty active and sizeable. This low key show at Denver Distillery includes avant-guitar and loop maestro Equine, ambient soundscaper Housekeys and Shawn Mlekush who may be playing some entrancing abstract guitar drones and/or using synth in conjunction. Brought to you by Thought//Forms, the gallery that has been home to some of this music since starting up earlier this year.
Who: UaZit, Goon, f-ether, Claudzilla
When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: UaZit from Indiana is this sort of weirdo electronic downtempo project that is as much performance art as it is music. Akin to hip-hop with beats that could work for that but also reminiscent of MC 900 Ft. Jesus. This Goon is not the hardcore band, rather the alternative hip-hop/trap producer. F-ether is somewhere in the realm of dub techno and house. Claudzilla is also an artist that blurs the line between bizarro pop and performance art. She might even do some strange covers as worthy as the originals. But for sure if you think Denver only really produces stuff for the temporary techbro colony that has occupied the Mile High City, Claudzilla is an antidote to such cultural pathologies.

Saturday | September 15, 2018

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Nothing, photo by Ben Rayner

Who: Nothing w/Culture Abuse, Big Bite and Smut
When: Saturday, 09.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Nothing has evolved its shoegaze-y sound since its inception having come out of hardcore and other heavier music but without losing some of the dark edge that informs the lyrics. Its new album On the Blacktop seems sonically the most fully-realized of its records with gritty pop washes and burning shines over melancholic vocals. Even though Domenic Palermo still struggles with health issues and the ensuing psychological maladies that predate and have come about because of those, he still manages to find a way to make it all seem like something you can cope with and not be completely subsumed by even if it seems impossible sometimes. Pop punk has long since made a comeback but Culture Abuse makes it seem like the genre isn’t out of ideas musically and thematically. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream looks like some kind of late 90s party record with the graffiti style visuals and it could be if that party involved some deep existential examinations rather than simply melodramatic songs about love lost forever. Smut from Cincinnati sounds like its members already went through that 90s grunge revival phase and discovered more expansive sounds even if right now it is sonically somewhere in the middle in a way that seems more interesting than throwback.

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Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel, photo Courtesy of Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel

Who: Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel w/Scifidelic and Radio Scarlet
When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m.
Where: The Venue (1451 Cortez St., Denver)
Why: After a bit of a legal battle between Jay Aston and his brother Michael, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel that the band Jay leads gets to use in America while the original band name in the UK and vice versa for Michael. Jay Aston’s band put out its first album in nearly a decade in 2017 with the surprisingly compelling beginning to end album Dance Underwater. The new record gives you a real appreciation for Jay’s talent as a songwriter and musician with a broad tonal and emotional range and great nuance of expression. His band includes members of Gene Loves Jezebel going back to the mid-80s and likely the closest one will get to see the classic line-up of one of post-punk’s underrated groups. In the 80s Gene Loves Jezebel had dance club hits and proved influential on the Goth scene of the time and Jay’s songwriting has been surprisingly durable with his current crop of songs seeming timeless rather than capitalizing on past glory.

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Eyebeams, black light poster image courtesy Eyebeams

Who: Eyebeams EP & Blacklight Poster release w/Kissing Party and An Antiquated Bluff (Josie Cool solo)
When: Saturday, 09.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver’s Eyebeams is releasing its latest EP and blacklight poster tonight at The Skylark. The four-piece makes music that out of having already done the indie pop and psychedelic pop thing and taking the skill set learned there to do something that’s the next step in that creative arc. Suzi Allegra and Nathan Brazil played in some of the best pop/rock bands of the 2000s and 2010s with Games For May, The Pseudo Dates and Fingers of the Sun and wrote literate, smart songs that will presumably someday be part of Denver underground rock canon. Fernando Guzman and Andrew Elkins made their own indelible mark with the experimental/weirdo art rock band Fissure Mystic, a group in which they spent their teen years and early twenties honing the use of raw sound experimentation in a pop song context even if no one would ever really confuse Fissure for being a pop band. Elkins very much brought that sensibility with his end of the songwriting. Allegra played in Fissure for a couple of years, Guzman played in Fingers of the Sun. So Eyebeams is a bit of a consolidation and progression of the musical ideas all four musicians contribute to this band. The new, self-titled, EP demonstrates Allegra’s genius for fully integrating melody with dynamics and for writing songs that have more depth and complexity than simply one emotional flavoring and color without self-indulgent clutter. There is a melancholic tone to all of the songs but also a yearning for knowledge and clarity of oneself yet an acceptance of the reality of ambiguity you come to live with as an adult that as a younger person maybe you churn into melodrama. As a bonus, the band is releasing a special edition blacklight poster of its album cover at the show as well.

Who: Cometbus: Live Reading and Q&A with Aaron Cometbus
When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: For more on Cometbus see above on Thursday, September 13. For this night, Cometbus is doing a live reading from his body of work with a follow-up Q&A.

Sunday | September 16, 2018

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Luxury Hearse, photo by Tom Murphy

What: 2 OUTS: An Electronic songwriter gathering: Pearls and Perils, Mirror Fears, And I, Keldari Station, Church Fire, Gold Trash, EVP, Panic Priest, Blackcell, Strange Powers, Lady of Sorrows, Juniordeer, $addy, eHpH, Nighttimeschoolbus, Luxury Hearse, Voight
When: Sunday, 09.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A veritable cornucopia of great Denver musicians writing songs using electronic instruments or, in the case of Voight, using a guitar but writing with electronic music sensibilities. If you go to one event the rest of the year and want a great and fairly broadly representative slice of Denver music that uses electronic instrumentation in a boundary-pushing, interesting way, there won’t be a better chance to see it all in one place because no one else is thinking of an event like this with the level of quality curation that went into it.

Who: WOE, WVRM, Noctambulist and Scepter of Eligos
When: Sunday, 09.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The heaviest show of the week, nay, the month happens tonight at the Hi-Dive. Brooklyn’s WOE may be black metal but its furious live performance feels more like seeing Neurosis combining dark, relentless grinding psychedelia with eruptive energy. WVRM from Greenville, South Carolina is on the surface more straight ahead grind but there’s something flowing underneath that suggests someone in the band is deeply into noise and industrial music. That sensibility gives the music an textural quality and vibe that brings even more an edge to the sound. Noctambulist conveys a similar unconventionality to its death metal onslaught. Like they’re crafting atmospheres to replicate those of a Lovecrafting other dimension hanging with Nodens while he sits back while the Great Old Ones bash it out amongst each other seeding the civilizations of mortal life forms with nightmarish it their darker corners. It seems as though doom is a genre that’s starting to get played out but Scepter of Eligos really challenges that notion because its own take on having roots in that music is to inject it with a healthy heaping of more interesting atmospheric and rhythmic qualities that give its songs an uncommon dimensionality in the genre.

Monday | September 17, 2018

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Angel Olsen circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Angel Olsen
When: Monday, 09.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Angel Olsen is currently on her first solo tour in four years. The songwriter spent some time as a backing singer for Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Cairo Gang before striking out on her own and making a name for herself with her powerfully evocative voice and her ability to vividly articulate a complexity of emotion through lyrics and casting the perfect tone for the song. These qualities were there from early on but 2016’s My Woman revealed that Olsen wasn’t capable of just having a creative leap forward but transforming the sonic breadth of her music. The clever and wise songs of Burn Your Fire For No Witness was a brilliant indie rock album, My Woman was Olsen coming into her own and embracing possibilities for a record that seemed to convey that one can go forward in life without letting uncertainty be a stumbling block to your progress. For this tour Olsen will be performing stripped down versions of new material as well as some of her older songs yet playing fairly large rooms. Something about that hints at Olsen’s dry, absurdist sense of humor while acknowledging that she’s probably going to have to get used to those settings for the rest of her career.

Who: Gillian Welch and David Rawlings w/Punch Brothers
When: Monday, 09.17, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Since early in her career, Gillian Welch has performed with an ineffable gravitas and seemingly easy mastery of her voice and the voicings of her instruments. Maybe her being an orphan, albeit adopted into a musical family, put a haunting in her brain from a young age, a layer of melancholy that many musicians spend a good deal of their 20s and 30s trying to cultivate so that when they try to sing the blues or country or rock and roll it has genuine weight behind songwriting and performance. Welch had that on her 1996 record Revival and has simply evolved into being of the great artists of the modern era alongside her musical partner David Rawlings. At this Welch and Rawlings are no strangers to big format concerts but a late summer show at Red Rocks seems just about perfect for one of their shows.

Tuesday | September 18, 2018

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Nine Inch Nails, photo by Corinne Schiavone

Who: Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco
When: Tuesday, 09.18, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nine Inch Nails has apparently been breaking out some material it hasn’t performed live in quite some time like all of the 1992 EP Broken at its tour kickoff. But that aside, every Nine Inch Nails tour brings one of the best live shows that anyone is doing any given year since the band broke in the late 80s. On a recent tour the group had live set changes on stage in addition to an impressive light show. And as per usual, someone in the NIN camp has great and adventurous tastes in co-headliners and opening acts. In the past NIN has brought on tour underground weirdo rock/electronic bands like Deerhunter, HEALTH and Oneohtrix Point Never. This time out for the co-headlining tour with legendary proto-shoegaze/alternative rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain, there will be Tobacco. The enigmatic electronic/psych/noise artist is perhaps more well known for his otherworldly pop band Black Moth Super Rainbow, but Tobacco is a bit of a different animal and at times could be considered a kind of avant-garde hip-hop with truly unique and mind-altering beats.

Wednesday | September 19, 2018

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Who: Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco see above for 09.18.

Who: Sinister Pig, Lion Slicer, Suspicious Activity
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: Lion Slicer is a punk band from Green Bay, Wisconsin making a stop in Denver on its “Wooly Eggnog Tour Part 2.” Does that mean it’s a little moldy? Who can say but since the show is free you have little to lose seeing it Chain Reaction Records. The band recently released its new record Lion Slicer Part 2, which if you’re into street punk, is great reminder that stuff didn’t die off into complete and utter obsolescence. Also on the bill are two of Denver’s better political hardcore bands with Sinister Pig and Suspicious Activity.

Who: The Mattson 2 and Astronauts, Etc. w/Stop Motion
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Anthony Ferraro of Astronauts Etc. has written a kind of downtempo masterpiece with his 2018 album Living in Symbol. Something akin to a hazy Laurel Canyon jazz record but one written on the American East Coast while spending the evenings prior to writing in a dimly lit and cozy bar hanging out with Justin Hayward and Joe Jackson. Then taking the recordings infused with all those mysterious, chilled out vibes to Jonathan Rado to put his own haunted psychedelic pop touches into the mixing and mastering. Mattson 2 is cut from a similar cloth albeit one more obviously drawing on jazz roots with real chops to augment its lounge fusion compositions.

Who: Miniature Tigers w/Jasper Bones
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Miniature Tigers came out of the mid-2000s as one of the more promising of Brooklyn’s indie pop bands. Although the influence of The Kinks and Elephant 6 bands were there, Mini Tigers also embraced the use of electronic instruments in its mix of sounds as well but with a more modern rather than retro sensibility. For its 2010 album Fortress the group collaborated on a song with Neon Indian as chillwave was reaching toward the apex of its popularity. The record that broke the band to a national, albeit still fairly underground, audience with touring to promote the album was 2008’s Tell It To The Volcano. This tour commemorates the 10 year anniversary of the release of the album but for a band that has consistently released albums since its inception, it’s a good chance to catch up with what the group is doing now.

Who: Ohmme w/Down Time and Mr. Atomic
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Chicago-based jazz pop duo Ohmme released their debut full-length album Parts in summer 2018 but the group comprised of vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart had already established itself as a going concern melding technical prowess, avant-garde sensibilities and imaginative songwriting. The eclectic resume of both musicians including credits working with the likes of Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention and Chance the Rapper. The synergy of their live performances, though, prove that they’re a force to be reckoned with and not a recording project that is taking tentative steps into the live arena.

Short Takes #1: April 2018

This is the debut of our record reviews column. It has that name because each review here will generally be a brief set of impressions on each album. Because that might be more useful to most readers than an extended analysis. It may include releases that came out earlier in the year and each column will be updated as we add reviews. The featured album will usually get more attention and for April 2018 it is the new Black Moth Super Rainbow record Panic Blooms, out May 4 through the band’s own Rad Cult imprint.

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Black Moth Super Rainbow – Panic Blooms cover

Black Moth Super Rainbow – Panic Blooms – Rad Cult 
Why is the new BMSR album the featured album? Because Tobacco and company are making some of the most idiosyncratic pop music today and the world needs more art that isn’t so easily nicked and dumbed down for people who can’t meet the art on its own terms, enjoy it thusly and perhaps be changed by it in some way.

It’s tempting to call Black Moth Super Rainbow the American Boards of Canada for its masterful recycling and repurposing old electronic music sounds into interesting new shapes that are as retrofuturistically alien as they are comforting. Panic Blooms makes more obvious BMSR’s use of hip-hop production styles in the mixing and beatmaking. But rather than some as-yet-to-exist abstract trap IDM record, this album comes off like the band is trying to reconnect with the musical spirit that first inspired it to make music. Like a search for a reason to keep doing this stuff. There’s always been an element of self-effacing humor in the band’s song titles and lyrics so “Bad Fuckin Times” makes sense. But “Rip On Through,” “One More Ear,” “We Might Be Back,” “New Breeze” and “Bottomless Face” hint at an artistic existential crisis. And yet, this set of songs has a coherence that wasn’t quite there on the 2016 Seefu Lilac EP. Panic Blooms, the title, suggests coming to the realization that maybe one is out of ideas and that very fear that shakes you to the core of your being, cutting you to the psychic quick, can either sink you or blast out yet another vital wave of creativity. The latter seems to be the case here and track to track, it’s a Black Moth Super Rainbow classic on par with 2007’s masterpiece, Dandelion Gum.

 

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Breakdancing Ronald Reagan – Harsh Noise cover

Breakdancing Ronald Reagan – Harsh Noise – Self Sabotage Records 
Johnathan Cash, aka Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, is too much of an irreverent performance artist to take his sound mashups and collages at face value. Processed and pitch shifted vocals and cut-up short stories amid blasts of echoing white noise make “Playing Windchimes With My Feet” a bit humorous as it is disturbing. Rather than take himself too seriously, Cash has a song called “You Can Tell A Noise Act Sucks If All Their Tracks Have Really Long and Stupid Titles,” which he performs live, in which he describes what makes so many noise acts boring while embodying the same. Meta. The whole Breakdancing Ronald Reagan thing is meta. Equally ironically, Cash’s pieces on this album embrace the shittiness he mocks and pushes the concepts to their ridiculous logical conclusions while having made something worth listening to. Unironically, or so deeply ironic it isn’t, is that there actually is a lot of harsh noise on this tape including negative real or faked audience reactions.

 

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Drinks – Hippo Lite cover

Drinks – Hippo Lite – Drag City 
Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley cut out most of the civilized world’s multifold distractions to write the follow up to 2015’s excellent DRINKS album Hermits on Holiday. Not getting poisoned by the incessant inundation of mediocre ideas resulted in one of the most fascinatingly eccentric pop albums in recent years. “Real Outside” has the kind of borderline atonal, unconventional percussion driven, non-standard rhythm that made Young Marble Giants, Liliput and, well, certain songs by Crass so listenable. Many musicians would sequester themselves and come up with the same old stuff they always do, Le Bon and Presley came up with a freak folk pop world or labyrinthine textures and warping tones and melodies to get lost in.

 

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MIEN – MIEN cover

 

MIEN – MIEN – Rocket Shop
Opening track “Earth Moon” hints that you’re in for a record that was obviously informed by Screamadelica-period Primal Scream, the more gently psychedelic Brian Jonestown Massacre songs and pre-A Northern Soul era Verve. But the kosmische vibe of “Black Habit” breaks that impression. The driving/droning bass and tom heavy drumming and synth swells take the songs right out of what you’d immediately expect of musicians who are also in The Black Angels, The Horrors, Earlies and Elephant Stone. And from there album dives right into different realms of sound in terms of music and production. If “psych” is to continue to have any real meaning it’s going to be more like this in which the musicians clearly want to place themselves into alternate states of consciousness through the music they make rather than imitating someone else’s style completely. Sure there are familiar, comfortable elements if you’re familiar with the band members’ other work but they can’t help but be who they are and that also includes being seekers of experiences that expand the mind and stretch one’s creative capabilities. The album isn’t aimed for a mainstream audience, it’s aimed at the heads that crave something as different as maybe the first time they heard The Black Angels at a time when psychedelic rock just wasn’t in the general zeitgeist. But here there are more overt electronics in the mix and an electronic aesthetic to give a new dimension to what we already expect from the people in this band.

 

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Mondo Obscura – Focus On Black cover

 

Mondo Obscura – Focus On Black – Symbolic Insight
Mondo Obscura doesn’t sound dated but its mixture of dub, IDM, ambient, dub and techno might have fit in more with the world of music that existed in the early-to-mid-90s when bands like Meat Beat Manifesto, Underworld, The Orb, Faithless, Rabbit in the Moon and Future Sound of London were blurring the lines between experimental electronic music and the more dance-oriented faire you might have heard at rave or a club catering to that kind of music. Particularly so with Focus On Black. Samples flow in a stream of tones buoyed by progressive beats driven by dubby bass lines. It has the structure of cinema with short chapters, fluid, fast cuts, some long takes like a Danny Boyle film or early Matthew Vaughn. Think progressive trance without the wack, safening elements blended in. Perfect after hours music for the chillout zone.

 

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Night Grinder – Animus cover

Night Grinder – Animus – Fourfold Records
An angry, prog-inflected industrial concept album is probably the last thing anyone would expect to be worth listening to in 2018. And yet, this sophomore Night Grinder album is such fascinating take on bringing all those ideas and more to bear on the miasma of social ills plaguing us all at once lately. By channeling that overwhelming feeling and refusing to be blasé about events we would have collectively reacted to with horror and utter outrage rather than resignation, Brad Schumacher (aka Night Grinder) has delivered a non-didactic statement across fourteen tracks regarding, yes, the dual meaning of the title, Animus, which means both “hostility” and “motivation to do something.” Schumacher makes no overt suggestions, but honors the fact that the paralysis of Americans in particular and the world generally in the face of the need to do something practical and productive about the seemingly endless internecine conflict across political and cultural divides is only ensuring more of the same evolves into worse. An updated on the Edmund Burke quote about how “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Evil, as it were, may not be triumphing per se, but the shittiest people sure seem to be prevailing, Schumacher just sees an end, not so difficult if complicated, to that trend and articulates that idea throughout Animus without hitting you over the head with an annoying level of messaging.

 

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Solypsis – Solypsis-Devisor cover

Solypsis – Solypsis-Devisor – Component Recordings
Out of James Miller’s prolific and diverse body of work, this one seems closest to synthesizing a bit of his Foetus-esque industrial noise beats with his knack for generating unpredictable melodies. Or maybe it’s just that he ties the melodic structure to borderline chaotic beats. There’s plenty of noisy breakcore composition across the album, as in “Death Threat,” and melancholy industrial dub the likes of which is represented well in “Life In A Hole,” but this Solypsis album shines best when Miller seems to go off his own deep end. “Straight From My Heart” is the sound of a songwriter who has hit bottom and still managed to laugh at the absurdity of heartfelt despair. “We Make Our Own Monsters” is uncommonly insightful as a title but is it a bit of a pun when the track is itself a fuzzy, lumbering, monstrous beat that Miller wrote himself in a life of musical output that isn’t exactly short on menacing work? In ending the album with “Wrong Tube,” Miller lets us know that even in his worst personal moments his humor is never completely gone nor is his ability to use the manipulation of minimalist elements to get under the skin of anyone that takes the time to delve into this album.