Reverb And The Verse has been going in Denver since 1999 when Shane Etter and Jahi Simbai (aka Providence) met through friends who figured they might gel as a duo. Between Etter’s technical wizardry with synthesizers and production and Simbai’s deft and thought-provoking wordplay Reverb And The Verse became a staple in the local underground music scene. But their wide-ranging musical interests and eclectic aesthetics always seemed to make them perhaps too experimental or not otherwise right for the hip-hope scene and too hip-hop for other scenes. And yet Etter and Simbai have produced an impressive body of work across ten albums including their 2022 and final album BLACKWALL. From jump it’s a decidedly different and engrossing album that hits like a secret and great industrial or darkwave record but with a hip-hop production aesthetic (of course much of industrial production was inspired by hip-hop sampling techniques and sequencing) and Simbai’s commanding vocals and incisive social analysis. One would hope that in an era when Vince Stapes, Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown, Tyler the Creator, Death Grips, Moodie Black, Dälek and clipping. thrive that Reverb And The Verse would have been embraced by a wider audience but time will tell. BLACKWALL is arguably the duo’s finest moment across a catalog of consistently impressive and imaginative work with something to say with poetic finesse. All of it can be found on the Reverb And The Verse Bandcamp page.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Etter and Simbai to discuss their backgrounds in music, engineering (not the musical kind) and the ideas and experiences that shaped their extraordinary music. Listen below on Bandcamp and look out for a vinyl release later in 2022 and, with any luck, live performances of these songs and news of what the artists will do next.
This best of list was intended for publication in 2020 and parts of the entries with comments were published in my year end best list for the print edition of Birdy magazine in Denver for the December 2019 issue. The full best of list is presented here with those short reviews included with the appropriate album and the rest included without comment and several album covers shared as well. The album of the year was All Your Sisters’ Trust Ruins (listed first) because it encapsulated the mood of the year and the band put on one of the best shows of 2019 and the record felt like a leap forward in style and execution for the band. Soon I’ll publish the full best of 2020 list too in a similar format with the commentary for those items that made it into the print edition of Birdy for December 2020.
All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins | The Flenser A brutal, maximalist summation of the turmoil, conflict, sense of chaos and confusion, rage and frustration and overwhelming flood of negative input from world and societal events of the previous few years. In articulating those feelings and experiences and more alone as powerfully as it does, this album by All Your Sisters transcends genre by providing an example of how industrial and darkwave music can burst beyond established conventions with the sharp-edged and precise percussion framing and channeling the fiery energy at the core of the songwriting.
Adia Victoria | Silences | Atlantic
Adrianna Krikl | Celestial | Self-released
Aldous Harding | Designer | 4AD
Alex Cameron | Miami Memory | Secretly Canadian
Altas | All I Ever Wanted Was | Self-released A lush deepening of the band’s sweeping, cinematic aesthetic.
Anamanaguchi | [USA] | Polyvinyl
Andre Cactus | Dune Juice | Multidim Records
Andy Stott | It Should Be Us | Modern Love
Angel Olsen | All Mirrors | Jagjaguwar Poignantly dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny.
Bestial Mouths | INSHROUDSS | Rune & Ruin
Bellhoss | Geraniums | Self-released Buoyant, lo-fi slowcore love songs for inner awkward nerd.
Bethlehem Steel | s/t | Exploding in Sound The utter exorcism of oppression through bursts of melodic/atonal poetry.
Big Dopes | Crimes Against Gratitude | Self-released Captivating indie pop earworm vingettes of American malaise and hope.
Big Thief | U.F.O.F. / Two Hands | 4AD
Bison Bone | Take Up the Trouble | Self-released
Black Belt Eagle Scout | At The Party With My Brown Friends | Saddle Creek
black midi | Schlagenheim | Rough Trade Records A primer for the new avant-guitar rock revolution.
Black Mountain | Destroyer | Jagjaguwar
Blanck Mass | Animated Violence Mild | Sacred Bones
Blood Incantation | Hidden History of the Human Race | Dark Descent
Boy Scouts | Free Company | ANTI-
Briffaut | A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away | GROUPHUG
Calexico and Iron and Wine | Years to Burn | Subpop
Cat Tyson Hughes | Gentle Encounters With Things | Self-released Ambient, aural snapshots of memory fragments from the hypnogogic state.
Cau5er | The Tower | Self-released
Ceremony | In the Spirit World Now | Relapse Records
Chastity Belt | Chastity Belt | Hardly Art
Cheap Perfume | Burn It Down | Snappy Little Numbers
Chella and the Charm | Good Gal | Self-released
Chelsea Wolfe | Birth of Violence | Sargent House
Chimney Choir | (light shadow) | Self-released
Chromatics | Closer to Grey | Italians Do It Better
clipping. | There Existed an Addiction to Blood | Sub Pop
Consumer | In Computers | The Flenser
Control Top | Covert Contracts | Get Better Records
Cop Circles | Vacation for Hurt | Self-released Subversive, Laurie Anderson-esque, New Age, No Wave send-up of corporate seminar jingles.
Cosey Fanni Tutti | Tutti | Conspiracy International Heavy and hypnotic industrial rave autobiography through sound.
Curse | Metamorphism | Fake Crab Records Eight, powerful, darkwave, prophetic warnings of our potential future.
Danny Brown | uknowhatimsayin¿ | Warp Records Relentlessly inventive beats and tragicomedic, self-immolating swagger, sci-fi autobiography.
Davi Valois | Bátraquio | Space Cow Music
Deafkids | Metaprogramação | Neurot Recordings Immersive, ambient-industrial death grind.
Doo Crowder | One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims) | Self-released The greatest art pop record since the death of Harry Nilsson.
Dog Basketball | s/t | Self-released
Drab Majesty | Modern Mirror | Dais Records Moodily heartbreaking deep dive into the essence of love, memory and beauty.
Drowse | Light Mirror/Second Self | The Flenser
Dude York | Falling | Hardly Art
Earl Sweatshirt | FEET OF CLAY | Tan Cressida
Elizabeth Colour Wheel | Nocebo | The Flenser Majestic, urban-tribal, noise-sludge dream psych.
Empath | Active Listening: Night On Earth | Get Better Records
Entrancer | Downgrade | Multidim Records
Ex Hex | It’s Real | Merge Records Cosmic New Wave power pop gems beginning to end.
Facs | Lifelike | Trouble In Mind
FEELS / Shannon Lay | Post Earth / August | Wichita / Sub Pop
FM Cubgod | Handsome? | Self-released
Foxes in Fiction | Trillium Killer | Orchid Tapes
Frankie Cosmos | Close It Quietly | Sub Pop
French Kettle Station | Over X Millennia | Self-released Retro-furturist, New Age pop shade jams on contemporary wack culture.
Future Sound of London | Yage | Fsol Digital
Gila Teen | Doesn’t | Self-released
Glissline | Digital Bipolarism | Multidim Records
Gold Trash | Quiet Violence | Glasss Records Collage glitch industrial hip-hop daggers into misogynist culture.
Goon | Natural Evil | Convulse Records
Guerilla Toss | What Would The Odd Do? | DFA Mind-altering, subtropical, disco punk dance pop.
When Janet Weiss, longtime drummer of Sleater-Kinney, said she was leaving the band and partly due to creative differences on the band’s 2019 album The Center Won’t Hold, it came as a shock to most fans. I had seen Sleater-Kinney the first time in October 1998 at The Fox Theatre in Boulder and Weiss was a standout performer among impressive turns by Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker. Having then found out about the band through Brownstein’s insightful commentary on her influences in Roni Sarig’s book The Secret History of Rock I was not let down when I decided to see if it was possible to see Sleater-Kinney in Colorado. Picking up Call the Doctor and then most recent album Dig Me Out felt revelatory like this band was saying things that needed to be said at a time when not a lot of that was in the public discourse. I also saw Weiss perform in other bands over the years. In Quasi basically I was awestruck by her raw power and versatility and how her style seemed different in that band as well as when she was a drummer in Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks.
Before Sleater-Kinney split that first time I’d seen the bands four times and bring along noteworthy artists on the tours the way independent bands used to and sometimes still do. Bands like Ailer’s Set, The Gossip and The Quails. I was in retrospect impressed with how the band brought on Rainbow Sugar and The Pauline Heresy to open at The Fox as Rainbow Sugar became one of my bands at that time and so did Pauline Heresy when Yoon Park and Claudine Rousseau formed the post-punk band Sin Desires Marie with Germaine Baca of Rainbow Sugar. Going to see them always seemed inspirational and transformational. Their records seeming to be exactly what I wanted to hear when they came out. When Sleater-Kinney broke up in 2006 it felt like the beginning of the end of an era of music.
Then the reunion happened and following the release of No Cities to Love in 2015 it was obvious the trio was back into the swing of things and the band’s show at the Ogden Theatre with Lizzo as the opening act was fantastic. When Sleater-Kinney returned for Riot Fest in 2016 I felt I had seen a lot more music during the interim and braving an injury I decided to stick around to see them, though feeling for some reason I’d seen the band several times already and knew what they were about. I don’t know what I was expecting but it felt like the band was having fun and rediscovering their power even more as a live band and keeping the vibe casual but electric. It hit me as refreshing and as though somehow the band was tapped into some general mood a lot of people were in with culture and politics. It was a bracing reminder that this band still had something to offer someone like me who has seen and heard so much and didn’t even want to be at a festival given aforementioned injury. It’s easy to get jaded especially when you’re not feeling well. Yet Sleater-Kinney made it seem worth it even if only to catch the band’s set (I also saw Danny Brown, Vince Staples and Ween before going home, all also worthwhile).
So what would a post-Janet Weiss Sleater-Kinney look and sound like live? The album The Center Won’t Hold certainly showcased a band that was evolving in a direction that maybe many fans didn’t appreciate. But it also contained some of the band’s best songs to date and let us know that the band felt the need to do something different and not get stuck in a rut. Weiss has publicly said why she left the band and one can hardly blame her given her reasons. There’s no replacing someone like Janet Weiss whose unique and powerful style uplifts all of her projects. But for this tour Angie Boylan of Aye Nako and Freezing Cold stepped in and more than ably performed songs that would have to be challenging for most other drummers to play. So much so that it felt like Brownstein and Tucker were able to relax and project a sense of joy and solidarity. Katie Harkin and Toko Yasuda helped fill out the instrumentation especially on keyboards so bring that deeply atmospheric sensibility of The Center Won’t Hold.
The set with the current touring lineup felt like a sustained spark of hope in a bleak time in America. Once again, to me, Sleater-Kinney was singing about the things people need to hear, about which many of us are thinking. They also brought to bear insight into the insecurities and psychological trauma that seems to be striking our lives with increasing regularity whether economically, our social lives, the death of friends whether you’re young or old through illness, murder or suicide. The songs on the new record also addressed issues of isolation, being able to look forward when world events seem so paralyzing with a sense that everything is broken and beyond our ability to repair or redeem. The songs don’t try to sugar coat or to say that everything will be okay. But it also isn’t a set of nihilistic songs as that mindset is its own form of despair obsession. The show felt like the band sharing with us a sense that we’re going to need each other in a real and vulnerable way if we have any hope of getting through this period without throwing up our hands and letting the fascists and their cronies take over the world and dictate what’s left of the future of the human race if their program prevails.
The Center Won’t Hold
Hurry On Home
The Future Is Here
Bury Our Friends
What’s Mine Is Yours
One More Hour
Can I Go On
A New Wave
The Dog/The Body
What:The Legendary Pink Dots w/Orbit Service, The Drood, DJ Mudwulf and VJ Dizy Pixl When: Thursday, 10.31, 8:30 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: The Legendary Pink Dots and its mystical, spectral, ambient psychedelia will turn 40 next August and is currently undertaking a tour celebrating the landmark date along with its new album, 2019’s Angel in the Detail. The new record contains elements of what has always made LPD great including entrancing atmospheres, singer Edward Ka-Spel’s poetic lyrics that articulate deep truths about the human condition and how it manifests in our lives and civilizations. It also comments on the perilous state of things in the world today and especially in “The Junkyard” and how the elites are trying to finish completing a world system that renders those of us not in that upper one percent of one percent as pieces of junk in world civilization. The surreal and beautifully disturbing music video is well worth a view. Also sharing the bill tonight is the likeminded Denver-based ambient psychedelic rock band Orbit Service which has been gracing local stages and well beyond since the mid-90s. The Drood, also from Denver, is like a dark psychedelic prog band with punk-intensity and a sense of theater and the ability to create exorcistic emotional experiences in song. DJ Mudwulf will set the mood with what is sure to be a great set for the holiday and VJ Dizy Pixl will set the visual mood as per her usual level of excellence.
What:Bethlehem Steel w/Gila Teen and guest When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Bethlehem Steel has been together since 2012 but started garnering national attention for its outstanding performances at the South By Southwest festival in 2016. At that time the group had out a couple of EPs but released its debut full length Party Naked Forever in 2017. Its thrilling collision of fuzzy pop and dynamic atmospheric rock has drawn comparisons to 90s noise pop acts like Weezer and contemporary artists like Courtney Barnett and Waxahatchee. But often enough the group’s expansive, imaginative songwriting and creative ambition has resulted in some music that pushes boundaries of the loud and quiet format that many bands have adopted of late so that its songs will remind some of the emotionally stirring music of older bands like Failure, Slint and Rainer Maria. It has that kind of fire and caustic sound as well as lyrics that delve deep into the darker regions of the psyche with a defiant spirit lighting the way. In September, Bethlehem Steel released its fantastic self-titled full-length for which it is touring in support. Also on the bill is Gila Teen, the experimental post-punk band that brilliantly mixes moody atmospheres with a splintery pop punk.
What:Yung Bae w/Birocratic and Jaguar Nights When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Dallas Cotton started making music as Yung Bae while living in Portland, Oregon but his production-based future funk started garnering him wider audiences while still a student at Oregon State University. His sound straddles that sort of 70s soul and R&B-inspired sounds and the aesthetic of modern electronic pop music. So while he references classic music it comes off with a more modern sensibility and energy. It hearkens to a previous era and the unsullied excitement of that music but in a way that couldn’t really have been accomplished at the time in terms of how he sculpts sound and edits it together. In 2019 Yung Bae released his fifth album in as many years with Bae 5.
What:Dia De Muertos celebration: Altas, Plume Varia and Los Mocochetes When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver instrumental rock band Altas is doing its now annual Dia De Muertos show in which the members will dress in the appropriate regalia for the occasion making the show a true event rather than just another gig. The group’s sweeping, cinematic grandeur and fiery musical pyrotechnics and mastery of mood and atmosphere is worth witnessing alone but also on the bill is psychedelic rock band Los Mocochetes and downtempo dream pop band Plume Varia and its emotionally rich and haunted compositions.
What:The Locust w/Disposal Notice and Its Just Bugs When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: The Locust recently reconvened to bring its mutant, death metal inflected, noisy hardcore on a national tour. The group’s surreal imagery and costumes along with its equally bizarre lyrics has made it difficult to lump in with any convenient musical movement. Its Just Bugs (the apostrophe is left off) is an industrial punk hip-hop group from Colorado and just as impossible to pigeonhole.
What:Twin Peaks w/Post Animal and Ohmme When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Twin Peaks from Chicago weathered the mid-2010s blowout of garage rock and neo-psychedelic rock that was making the underground rock scene of a certain stripe become fairly stale and performatively exciting. What helped was that Twin Peaks was writing good songs and hasn’t stayed stuck in the same sound for its entire career thus far. Its 2019 album Lookout Low sounds like an odd and interesting hybrid of power pop and the weirdo punk of The Fall at its most Lou Reed-inspired, mix in some unusual flourishes of 70s rock with nods to Peter Frampton and Thin Lizzy. All while delivering spirited and sometimes gloriously ragged performances which are much needed at a time when a sanitary quality has permeated too much modern music.
What:Vivan Girls w/Down Time, Short Shorts and Backseat Vinyl — CANCELLED When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Vivian Girls caused a stir in the indie underground of the 2000s and 2010s with their lo-fi, noisy pop songs. The group’s ability to mix buoyant dynamics with dark, brooding moods and sounds was a fascinating contrast. The band split in 2014 with members going on to perform in La Sera, The Babies and Upset (all still going concerns). But in summer 2019 the group announced it was reforming with a new record, Memory, on the way and released in September.
What:TR/ST w/SRSQ and DJ Slave 1 When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: TR/ST came to prominence as the new darkwave movement was coming together with a sound that seemed to come out of the then renewed interest in vintage synths, that cold, bright, moody sound of Goth-y 80s synth pop and its cousin chillwave. But Robert Alfons’ vibrant, soulful voice and imaginative soundsccaping are the key ingredients that elevated this project above many of its contemporaries. In 2019 TR/ST released The Destroyer (Part 1 and 2), a more experimental and ambient, ethereal set of songs than his previous offerings and a clear product of reassessing directions and ideas to produce something different. SRSQ (pronounced Seer Ess Que as in the lettes for the latter two) is Kennedy Ashlyn the charismatic singer formerly of brilliant dream pop band Them Are Us Too. Her 2018 album Unreality is a moody and emotionally harrowing and cathartic downtempo album that seems to have absorbed the darkness and pain of the underground world in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire and given it a voice that exorcises some of that energy.
What:Keytar Fest IV: The Jinjas, R A R E B Y R D $ and Claudzilla When: Sunday, 11.3, 4 p.m. Where: Glitter City Why: Just like the title of the event suggests, this is a mini festival featuring all projects that incorporate keytars as an essential part of the songwriting and this includes weirdo synth punk Claudzilla and experimental hip-hop/IDM-inflected trio R A R E B Y R D $.
What:Danny Brown w/Ashnikko and Zeeloperz When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Ever since the larger world outside of Detroit started cluing into Danny Brown’s genius following the release of 2010’s The Hybrid, the rapper has garnered a large cult following for his eccentric yet sharply cogent and thoughtful yet raw lyrics and production that incorporates a wide range of sounds that one hadn’t often heard in hip-hop outside of the underground and alternative circles of the 90s and early 2000s. Brown picked up where that left off and pushed things further particularly on his 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition which borrowed its title from a science fiction novel by J.G. Ballard and whose beats sounded almost like a new hybrid of industrial and rap that reflected the atmospherics as much as the textures and rhythms. With his new album, 2019’s uknowhatimsayin¿ Brown follows a similar sonic path but brings together more organic, almost found sounds with processed layers of atmosphere. Intact is his gift for surreal imagery and wordplay that gets under your skin.
Monday | November 4
What:GRÜN WASSER w/Natural Violence, French Kettle Station and Night Shift DJs When: Monday, 11.4, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: GRÜN WASSER is a Chicago-based electro-pop/industrial whose pulsing rhythms and dreamlike moods sound like endless nights wandering a menacing urban landscape and commenting on the culture of the nightlife. That is if the group’s new album Not OK with Things (Holodeck Records) is any indication. There is an almost claustrophobic quality to its densely atmospheric beats contrasted with Keely Dowd’s lightly echoing, ethereal vocals. French Kettle Station has been through more permutations of his sound than many artists bother to explore but of late he’s been developing a sound that’s still rooted slightly in 1980s No Wave disco and modern glitch dance pop but also influenced by 1980s adult contemporary music and its unexpectedly newly influential use and voicing of drums and vintage synths in a way that in any other contexts would be utterly wack but takes on an almost spiritual cast in certain underground electronic artists including that side of what FKS has been up to in the past year or two. His latest album, Over X Millenia takes those ideas and injects them with non-western rhythmic ideas and a New Age music aesthetic for something new yet strangely familiar. Its closest cousin that comes readily to mind is Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.
Tuesday | November 5
What:HTRK w/Midwife, Echo Beds, Human Tide When: Tuesday, 11.5, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Since 2003 HTRK, originally from Australia, has been making music inspired by the brooding, otherworldly atmosphere of the films of David Lynch. Though the name of the band is pronounced “Hate Rock” it’s not so much rock except in the experimental sense as much as downtempo and ambient soundscaping. In 2010 founding musician Sean Stewart passed away leaving Nigel Yang and Jonnine Standish to carry on and as a duo HTRK has released a handful of some of the most fascinating music mixing electric music with an electronic aesthetic being made today. The group’s latest album is Venus in Leo with its exquisitely subtle dynamics and cinematic approach to its composition and sound design with lingering, impressionistic guitar riffs drifting around Standish’s hushed and soulful vocals.
What:Kikagaku Moyo w/Minamu Deutsch When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Kikagaku Moyo from Japan is a true synthesis of 70s Krautrock, classic Japanese psychedelic rock and more traditional Japanese folk. Currently the group is touring with the like-minded Tokyo band Minami Deutsch. The group’s urgent rhythms, mesmerizing drones and hypnotic dynamics sound like what it is to travel through Tokyo and its subtle but odd mixture of old world and high tech metropolis side by side in all of the city’s giant districts. On the group’s new EP, Can’t Get There that dynamic often takes you to a place of anxiety and then release as it draws you into its irresistible groove.
What:Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage w/Adam Baumeister When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A rare chance to see eccentric, genius freak folk and comic artist legend Jeffrey Lewis and his band along with local star of experimental folk and psychedelia, Adam Baumeister, head of Meep Records and former member of Navy Girls and Bad Weather California.
What:Negative Approach w/Blood Loss and Tuck Knee When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Negative Approach from Detroit was one of the bands out of that early wave of American hardcore than seemed particularly seething and intense and fronted by John Brannon who went on to noisy psychedelic blues band Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action. Easily one of the greatest frontmen of rock music because he seems to actually be losing his mind swept up in the moment.
What:Weird Wednesday: FangFuck, Zealot and Bolonium When: Wednesday, 11.6, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl & Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday includes left field indie rock local supergroup Zealot and Bolonium a band inspired by Devo and which comes off like an odd combination of band, cheesy game show and Troma film.
What:Kurt Vile and the Violators w/Dinosaur Jr When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m. Where: The Mission Ballroom Why: Dinosaur Jr is the missing link between gritty classic rock like Neil Young, hardcore and 90s alternative rock and more influential on modern music than is often obvious. The mixture of sheer volume with tunefulness reconciled eras of music in a way that is often taken for granted and which bands like Nirvana and other massively commercial successful bands took to topple the music industry marketing machine and culture. Apparently modern folk/psychedelic artist Kurt Vile has felt this influence and thus has Dinosaur on this tour and for its part, the members of Dinosaur Jr have continued to release music, some of the best of its career in the past decade.
Who:Seraphim Shock 20th Anniversary of Red Silk Vow w/Euphorbia and DJ Rockstar Aaron When: Friday, 11.24, 9 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Seraphim Shock started in the mid-90s during, despite what late-comer-commercially successful genre fiction like Twilight might seem otherwise, the height of the vampire craze in America. Anne Rice’s vampire novels with Lestat as a main character were enjoying a bit of a renaissance and Vampire: The Masquerade had become a popular role playing game (in 2018 the 5th edition of the game is due out) with a spin off television series produced by Aaron Spelling for Fox. But Seraphim Shock formed in Denver at a time when LoDo had become a thing that hadn’t dominated all of downtown and plenty of urban decay was a feature of the central part of the Mile High City. Its particular flavor of Goth-industrial music included the musicians performing as vampires with theatrical make-up and garb. What could have been silly instead came off as creating atmosphere and putting on a show rather than the image eschewing late alternative rock underground.
1997’s Red Silk Vow was Seraphim Shock’s debut album coming at a time when the mainstream music world in any sense was having zero to do with the Goth subculture so it seemed an anomaly as vocalist Charles Edward, who performed shows at that time looking Victorian vampire chic including a top hat and cloak, crooned for long lost loves and alternatively raging against cultural conservatism and against a repressive society in general—liberally using the image of Satan as not just the opponent of the Christian god but as a totem against the perverted use of religion to oppress human nature and impulse to creative endeavors.
After the 90s, Seraphim Shock’s music and image transitioned into an even more cartoonishly Satanic glam rock/Goth-industrial hybrid. Arguably the music was better and more developed it was hitting at the wrong time and long before the resurgence of the popularity of glam rock, Goth, industrial and related music of the last few years. But with this celebration of Seraphim Shock’s first album, maybe Edwards can capitalize on this moment.
Who:Sgt. D’s List, ROAC, Almataha When: Friday, 11.24, 5 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: Early grindcore show at Chain Reaction Records. Sgt. D’s List is an S.O.D. cover band fronted by Alton Schoonmaker of Doperunner and Aberrant. So it’ll be pretty legit and you can check out one of Denver’s best record stores.
Who:The Sehkunts last show w/Smokestack Relic and The Blackouts When: Friday, 11.24, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Bar (Carioca Café) Why: The Blackouts is an all-female hard rock cover band whose members are veterans of the local punk and metal scene. The Sehkunts never played many shows but the people in the band have contributed to Denver’s local culture and music world for decades. The reason it’s the band’s last show is that singer Lisa Cook is moving out of state. Might have something to do with Denver having become a playground for the moneyed at the expense of everyone else. Sounds like all “cool” American cities these days. Cook is perhaps best known as the charismatic frontwoman and guitarist of the punk bands The Emmas and Turbo Knife Fight. In the latter she played with drummer Karen Walton who some may know from her days in the all female punk band Rabid Ragdolls. Walton and Cook played together in the short-lived punk duo Naako Deesko before playing with noteworthy punk and rock guitarist, Sherry Hern. Hern has played in various Denver bands over the years, and having guested in The Emmas now and then, including the all woman punk band Pin Downs and the hip-hop/noise rock phenoms Rainbow Sugar. Primarily an accomplished visual artist these days, Hern can still rock with the best of them. Because there are no real recordings this may be the last time you get to see or even hear The Sehkunts.
Saturday: November 25, 2017
Who:Steve Gordon Benefit featuring Animal / object, Lynn Baker – Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Jazz Duo, David Dinsmore, Gordon Gano, The Noise Gallery and Perry Weissman III When: Saturday, 11.25, 7 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: This is the benefit show for artist Steven Gordon of Animal / object, with whom we recently conducted an interview about his life in and out of art and music. Tonight the aforementioned musicians will perform including Steven’s own band. Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes will perform a solo set, free/experimental jazz group Perry Weissman III will treat us to some of their own weirdness and an all-star case will perform as The Noise Gallery. You can donate to Steven at this link during his time dealing with pancreatic cancer pre-early 2018 surgery while he has to take a leave from his job. Because cancer is exhausting in a way that goes beyond the usual ways most of us experience.
Sunday: November 26, 2017
Who:Textures: Synth Drone Collective When: Sunday, 11.26, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This will be the final Textures Ambient Showcase of 2017 hosted by Wesley Davis but it’s all heavy hitters in the Denver/Boulder synth world with a collaborative set as Synth Drone Collective from bios+a+ic, Mark Mosher, Chris Sessions, Sean Faling, Kuxaan-Sum and Chris Frain.
Monday: November 27, 2017
Who:Purity Ring w/Oko Tygra When: Monday, 11.27, 9 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Ever since the release of 2012’s Shrines, Purity Ring has exerted an influence on pop music production with its imaginative soundscaping born out of their idiosyncratic songwriting style. While still a member of Born Gold, Corin Roddick immersed himself in the art of beatmaking during the downtime that comes with touring and asked Megan James to perform vocals on some of his initial material. The bright, ethereal music sounded like pop songs influenced by hip-hop production. Subsequently the band has worked with Danny Brown and Angel Haze, it’s done numerous remixes, production work on a Chance the Rapper record, recently co-wrote/co-produced three songs on Katy Perry’s 2017 album Witness (whether by chance or otherwise, Katy Perry performed last night at Pepsi Center). But collaborating with massively commercially successful artists aside, Purity Ring’s core appeal is that its work is the product of cultivating their own imaginations and touring with the unique lighting rig designed by Roddick and making music that seems like as great an attempt to express dream imagery as has come down the pike in recent years. Opening the show is the great Denver dream pop band Oko Tygra whose own vision of transcendent sonic beauty will fit in perfectly with what follows the rest of the night.
Tuesday: November 28, 2017
Who:Mogwai w/Xander Harris When: Tuesday, 11.28, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: For 22 years, Mogwai has proven that you can write highly expressive instrumental only rock songs that convey a mood, a sense of place, a non-verbal story better than many bands with lyrics. Early on, Mogwai accomplished this with guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. But following 2011’s towering epic Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, Mogwai has changed direction a bit of incorporated more synths and production into its sound for an effect like soundtracking an experience rather than what could be seen as cinematic vignettes on its previous albums. Mogwai were no strangers to movie soundtrack work at that point but it seemed to take that method and apply it to crafting its music independent of someone else’s creative vision. 2017’s Every Country Sun demonstrated that Mogwai’s gift for humorous, enigmatic, poetic song titles is still as strong as their ability to write evocative, imaginative music even as they no longer seem tied to having to rock.
Opening is analog synth style artist Xander Harris. His work is often compared to that of John Carpenter with good reason—his dark, brooding synth work evokes a sense of claustrophobia and menace while at the same time creating an expansive emotional atmosphere. Often his music seems inspired by dystopian, horror science fiction though in 2017 he did an alternative soundtrack to the Hoichi the Earless section of 1965 Japanese horror anthology Kwaidan.
Who:Hockey Dad w/The Frights and Vundabar When: Tuesday, 11.28, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: If Hockey Dad is a “surf rock” band then surfing in Australia must fit with the marketing clichés used by Foster’s in the 90s. Except that rather than some weak beer, Hockey Dad is a rock duo inspired by 90s punk and garage rock circa The Sonics and The Wailers—melodic, a little rough around the edges and crackling with youthful energy. On the recordings either Zach Stephenson or Billy Fleming must play bass so maybe live they’ll bring on a third member for the tour. The band released its debut full-length, Boronia, in 2016 and its follow-up, Blend Inn, is due out on February 9, 2018 on Kanine Records.
Who:Kanga w/Adoration Destroyed and n810 When: Tuesday, 11.28, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Kanga makes the kind of industrial music certain artists aimed for in the 90s but ended up making sometimes clumsy industrial rock with a short shelf life. As an artist who did music programming for prominent horror films like The Conjuring II, Insidious III and The Devil’s Carnival, Kanga DuChamp has proven to have a real ear for a hook that works in a variety of contexts. Her 2016 self-titled full-length sounds like something from that 90s era of industrial music if the limiting sonic fetishes were shed such as over processed, crunchy guitar, alienating aggression in any aspect of a song, the distorted screaming that got old immediately after Trent Reznor took it in interesting musical directions while many just settled for being monochromatic vocalists. DuChamp actually sings. Her songs are still dense, edgy and dark while not shying away from pop songcraft. Maybe you could compare her music to that of Curve. Catch her at a small club like 3 Kings before she moves on to bigger venues.
Wednesday: November 29, 2017
Who:Ashley Koett, The Corner Girls, Schapero and Terremoto When: Wednesday, 11.29, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Ashley Koett isn’t yet well known anywhere but her sophisticated, jazz-inflected, soulful pop songs are reminiscent of Amy Winehouse had Winehouse come up listening to a lot of indie rock like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie, bands that are no strangers to fully incorporating electronic sounds in their own music. The Corner Girls are a surf rock band with a feminist punk edge. Schapero’s new single “Freaking Out” sounds like a combination of flamenco guitar and emotionally fragile ambient pop—spidery guitar, echoing, ghostly cloaks of sound around the vocals. Terremoto is a band whose sound harkens to that branch of early 2000s emo and post-rock that employs slow, fragile dynamics that reflect an introspective state of mind better than a lot of abstract, chill, ambient music.