On the title track to his forthcoming EP Rabbit Feather, Jackson Hill brings extremely tactile sounds together with an electronic production aesthetic that both grounds what you’re hearing and transports you to an otherworldly headspace of pure imagination. Soft electronic drones swell and swarm while percussive sounds mark out unconventional rhythms in modulated clicks and snaps, strings resound with an unmistakably delayed and drawn out strum, bass traces downward arcs in jazz-like downtempo style. It is layers of minimalism that matches the surreal imagery suggested by the title of the song. For something so peaceful and spare there is a lot of movement and forward momentum in the song and altogether it sounds like little else unless you could vaguely trace a lineage to some of the work of Laraaji, Brian Eno’s and David Byrne’s 1981 experimental world music album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and maybe the more avant eras of Anthony Braxton. It is a unique and rewarding listen for anyone that has an ear for the music that is somehow both tuneful and requires taking it in on its terms rather than imposing genre requirements in order for it to be enjoyed. Listen to “Rabbit Feather” on YouTube and connect with Jackson Hill at the links below. The Rabbit Feather EP is being independently released on March 18, 2022.
JOYFULTALK used sampled sewing machines as part of the soundscape for it’s song “Rare Earth,” a piece commissioned for the Everyseeker festival. But the effect with what sounds like sampled bird sound and processed beats is more like a prepared environment so that listening to the collage and amalgam of sounds is more akin to walking blindfolded into an indoor bird sanctuary designed to replicate an exotic environment with flowing water around as expressed by the aforementioned sewing machines. It somehow sounds like the tribute sequel to the more unusual sound experiments on Brian Eno and David Byrne’s album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. But no human voices. Jay Crocker and Johanna Hayes in recontextualizing the sounds to convey a deep sense of place but a place no one has actually been through such unconventional methods and samples brought together makes this not a song in any conventional sense but music in the realm of ambient and the broader spectrum of noise. Yet it doesn’t come off as random, or chaotic, but rather reflecting a sound experience you might have in a jungle or a bird sanctuary and because of the intentionality that had to go into its composition it is curiously soothing. Listen to “Rare Earth” on Bandcamp and follow JOYFULTALK at the links provided.
Thursday | August 23, 2018
Who: Adam Faucett, Esmé Patterson, Bellhoss
When: Thursday, 08.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Arkansas-based folk/Americana artist Adam Faucett performs in Denver ahead of the August 24 release of his new record It Took The Shape of a Bird. Faucett’s creative use of vocal tones and dynamics along with his poetic imagery gives his music real character. The same could be said of Esmé Patterson whose creativity in storytelling and richness of emotional colorings in her songwriting makes her noteworthy artist in a realm of music that can sometimes seem same-y. Becky Hostetler’s Bellhoss is also a great fit for this bill since her own spare songwriting provides the skeleton of mood and atmospherics in a way that brings your imagination to bear to fill in the spaces.
Who: short[circuit]circus #1: Structures Beavers Make (ATX noise-ish), Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess, Housekeys, Rose Alley
When: Thursday, 08.23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is the beginning of what will hopefully be a series focused on more experimental music. Structures Beavers Make is an act based out of Atlanta, Georgia that doesn’t limit itself to just lo-fi moody guitar and voice over subtle, ambient beats, as the artist says (jokes) on her Bandcamp page that she might do bad Avenged Sevenfold covers. We can only hope. Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess fortunately also doesn’t fit comfortably in a single, discernible genre somewhere betwixt ambient, experimental electronic dance and samples manipulation. Housekeys is Tiffiny Costello’s ghostly guitar and vocals ambient project. The most obvious comparisons are Grouper and Juliana Barwick or the less noisy period of Flying Saucer Attack. Rose Alley is a “drag noise poet” in that it’s kind of a trippy spoken word performance with environmental sounds to enhance the words.
Friday | August 24, 2018
Who: Boss 302 w/The Landgrabbers and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Friday, 08.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Boss 302 started in the early days of 1993 on the cusp of the breakup of the band that inspired its existence: The Fluid. However, Boss 302 spent several years establishing its own reputation as a fun, rowdy garage punk band with a charismatic frontman in Rich Groskopf and a solid band that wrote songs good for a party in the classic sense rather than the self-parody of party rock in more recent years. Boss 302 had a handful of releases including 1997’s Whatever Happened To Fun, which included its only recordings with Matt Bischoff of The Fluid on bass. The group split in 1999 and reunited in 2008 around the same time The Fluid came unexpectedly out of retirement for a time to play Sub Pop’s 20 year anniversary show as well as a string of other performances, a reminder that it was and still was one of post-punk’s greatest bands. Ten years hence Boss 302 reunited once again in July 2018 for the Mile High Parley with a spirited performance at Gary Lee’s. Even if you’re not familiar with the band’s music, you’ll get to have some laughs and see one of Denver’s best punk bands of the 90s. Also on the bill are country punk band Landgrabbers and post-grunge pop outsider punk band Vanilla Milkshakes.
Who: Lady of Sorrows, Church Fire and Mirror Fears
When: Friday, 08.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Lady of Sorrows is the downtempo, brooding R&B solo project of Lady Justice of industrial/darkwave band Angel War. Church Fire is a band that should be everyone’s radar in Denver at this point but in case not the emotionally charged, noise-infused dance-darkwave band never disappoints with its cathartic live show. Mirror Fears too is in a similar vein but with a more ethereal vocal style and presence whose emotional power washes through you, cleansing the psychic detritus that seems to be stuck in everyone with a heart these days.
Saturday | August 25, 2018
Who: Archipelaghost at final Alligator Party
When: Saturday, 08.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Archipelaghost, an electronic/psychedelic rock band extraordinaire, is moving away as is Marie Litton of Pretty Mouth who will also DJ this show. Maybe they’ll be back through on a tour but for now this is your last if not only chance to catch them before they’ve relocated.
Who: Lead Into Gold, ohGr and Omniflux
When: Saturday, 08.25, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Paul Barker was the iconic bassist and co-producer of Seattle post-punk legends the Blackouts as well as EBM/industrial rock band Ministry during its most popular and productive era. Lead Into Gold was a side project Barker put together in the late 80s/early 90s. The project was basically put on the shelf until 2015 when Low & Slow was released, making available some tracks originally recorded in 1990. With 2017 performances including that at Chicago’s Cold Waves festival, Lead Into Gold became an active band again with a new album titled The Sun Behind the Sun appearing in 2018.
ohGr is the band formed by Nivek Ogre and Mark Walk of Skinny Puppy. Its music is not as dark or as heavy as Skinny Puppy can be, rather more a focus on the playful side of both musicians. Devils in My Details showcased a noisier side of ohGr and a more sound design approach to composing the music, a method Walk and Ogre also applied more to the then subsequent Skinny Puppy album 2011’s HanDover. As per Ogre’s performances with Skinny Puppy, from the early tours for ohGr in 2001 to now his stage appearance is theatrical and dramatic reflecting the flavor of the music. So for the 2018 album Tricks we can probably expect some heavy emphasis on animal imagery for the stage set and Ogre’s costuming.
Sunday | August 26, 2018
What: Textures: Pythian Whispers, Finnocitta and lib.eriana
When: Sunday, 08.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This is the latest edition of Textures the ambient showcase hosted by Wesley Davis of biostatic and his Symbolic Insight imprint. Included on this bill is experimental electronic/ambient duo Pythian Whispers and lib.eriana, the acoustic and production project of Alan Muñiz, former member of avant-garde jazz band Malamadre. Drone, loops and beats artist Finnocitta from Gainesville, Florida will also make an appearance.
Who: Straight White Teeth, Modern Leisure, Briffaut and Whole Milk
When: Sunday, 08.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Patrick McGuire was a member of one of the more promising Denver pop bands Flashbulb Fires before he moved away to Philadelphia in 2015. After sustaining a severe injury that damaged his right arm putting any notion of every playing guitar and piano again in jeopardy. Two surgeries later and McGuire had full use of his arm back only for, according to the Straight White Teeth bio on its bandcamp page for the track “Lifetime,” McGuire and his girlfriend/former bandmate Ella Trujillo had to leave their home due to violence in the neighborhood. Now rootless with no permanent residence McGuire and Small White Teeth has managed to tour with McGuire as a solo act with tracks and what bandmates he can pull together for a show or performance. For the past year, McGuire has been recording and releasing singles rather than a full-length album all at once, a gesture that may give potential bandmates in any given city he may play a frame of reference. That this show will include the great Colorado indie pop bands Modern Leisure and Briffaut, from Denver and Colorado Springs respectively, suggests that maybe someone in either band could join McGuire for this performance.
Monday | August 27, 2018
Who: David Byrne
When: Monday, 08.27, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: David Byrne is rightfully known for his idiosyncratic and visionary music art and performances going back to his days with punk/pop band Talking Heads in the 70s and 80s. His solo material as well as his various collaborative albums including those with Brian Eno (in particular the 1981 non-western ambient/electronic drone/samples masterpiece My Life In The Bush of Ghosts) and St. Vincent (for 2012’s Love This Giant) have been products of a unique imagination and curiosity that illuminate American culture and the human condition in ways that are both eccentric and relatable. Byrne’s body of work is proof that he’s not been one to fully rest on his laurels. This includes his 2018 album, American Utopia, which has been hailed as a return to form by critics. In some senses that is the case with Byrne’s inimitable songwriting style incorporating traditional instruments used in both traditional and decidedly unconventional ways alongside production methods as compositional tools, both giving his deceptively simple songs a sonic and emotional depth to enhance the experience of listening both in the recorded and life form. American Utopia is also a component of the multimedia project Reasons to Be Cheerful which aims to give people a reason to have some joy and hope in a time of seemingly unremitting bleakness and destructive political impulses with their inevitable consequences for the planet including human civilization.
For this tour Byrne is bringing a sprawling lineup to manifest the music of American Utopia as well as material from across his long career. People who purchase a ticket for this current run of shows can also redeem a coupon for a free CD copy of the album with details on the ticket. But the real treat is to see a master of the artform of pop in full bloom well into an already lengthy career.
Tuesday | August 28, 2018
Who: David Byrne
When: Tuesday, 08.28, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For David Byrne see above for Monday, 8.27.
Who: The Binary Marketing Show, New Standards Men, Equine and Sporehive
When: Tuesday, 08.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: The Binary Marketing Show is from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Its layers of drones, simple percussion, minimalist guitar, lo-fi production and spare vocals have an intimate, warm quality that is reminiscent of bedroom recordists and the more imaginative indie pop weirdos of the 2000s like Microphones, Dntel and Casiotone For the Painfully Alone. Going out on a limb maybe you’ll hear a hint of cLOUDDEAD in the way the controlled distorted instrumentals vibe with the understated vocals. Also on this bill are Denver drone guitar experimentalists New Standards Men and Equine as well as avant-instrumental improvisational band Sporehive.
Wednesday | August 29, 2018
Who: Cop Circles, Staggered Hooks, Techno Allah, Goo Age
When: Wednesday, 08.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Meadowlark Bar
Why: Cop Circles is an artist that subverts the tropes of No Wave jazz, indie pop and Afrobeat to make the kind of catchy songs that are fun and danceable on their own but which are often sharp and thoughtful critiques of culture and the way social policies and economic models erode human dignity and our collective quality of life in ways that aren’t obvious unless you take the time to pay attention. Cop Circles music has a way of helping to clarify your way of thinking about these things without hitting you over the head with didactic platitudes. Staggered Hooks is Dean Inman of Dream Hike’s more industrial and ambient project and this may be the last time you get to witness Inman’s gift for sound design live before he moves out of Denver. Techno Allah is sort of a glitchy IDM dance artist. Goo Age makes environmental soundscapes populated by the sonic, abstract equivalents of ambient creatures in 16 bit video games. Not the kind you can or have to overcome, they’re just there to give the scene some character and Goo Age’s IDM-esque beats some serious flavor. Think a way more playful early-yet-updated Future Sound of London circa Lifeforms.