“Surfacing” by SCERE is the Sound of Swimming Your Way Through Life’s Murk to Better Places in the Psyche

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SCERE self-titled EP cover (cropped)

SCERE’s debut, self-titled EP is reminiscent of 90s downtempo with a more industrial approach to the beatmaking. This is exemplified no better than on the single “Surfacing,” on which the serpentine structure of the rhythm gives one the impression of singer Coral wandering in a dimly lit room (as evidenced by the music video) unwinding and unpacking her struggles to herself and yearning for someone, maybe herself, to take her home whether literally or a place where she can feel grounded again and gain the strength to emerge from a kind of stasis or psychic funk. The streaming, hazy melodies and the layered beats accenting the emotional colorings of the vocals have a similarly sensual quality heard in “#1 Crush” by Garbage. The dynamic range of dense atmospheres and spacious, melancholic tonal spaces is wide but subtle making it a compelling journey of a song and EP overall. Producer Ged Denton is also a member of Der Prosecutor and C-TEC (which includes members of Front 242, Cubanate and Nitzer Ebb) and brings some of that expertise to this project in method but creating a decidedly different sound. Watch the video for “Surfacing” on YouTube and follow SCERE at the links below.

scere.com
soundcloud.com/scere

Best Shows in Denver 4/19/18 – 4/25/18

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Khruangbin performs Monday, April 23, 2018, at The Bluebird Theater , photo by Mary Kang

 

Thursday | April 19, 2018

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Atari, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents Speakeasy Series Season 2: Atari and Pythian Whispers
When: Thursday, 04.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This latest edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 will be an early and short show from Denver ambient artists Atari and Pythian Whispers. Being in the latter, no comment. Atari, though, is David Bridges, a DJ who manufactures records to create truly unique beats in an analog format. He uses some electronic components in his beatmaking but its that he has been known to cut records apart and put them together in different arrangements for a show or recording. The result sounds like tape collage, ambient industrial but the craft involved is a step beyond what most musicians making similar music would be willing to undertake.

Who: Glasss Presents: Gold Trash, Church Fire, EVP and Mirror Fears
When: Thursday, 04.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sort of an all-star experimental electronic pop lineup. Mirror Fears set a high bar for emotional intensity and a complete synthesis of dream pop, industrial and noise with her 2018 album Eaten. Church Fire similarly doesn’t skimp on the emotional singing in its live show and on its albums but its style is more embodied in the band name because Shannon Webber has a fiery performance style that is impossible to ignore. EVP channels a lifetime of anger into its music even though some of it sounds like it could be a companion piece to what Grimes has been up to lately. Gold Trash sounds a bit more raw and chaotic than the other acts on the bill, it’s sound seeming to have been informed by the sonic brutality and, yes, trash culture embrace vibe of both Atari Teenage Riot and Royal Trux.

Friday | April 20, 2018

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Front 242, photo courtesy Front 242

Who: Front 242 w/Blackcell, EVP and DJ Slave 1
When: Friday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Front 242 was the first band from Belgium most people outside of Belgium had ever heard about. Which is interesting because Front 242 remains a bit of a cult band. But the group pioneered the style of electronic industrial music called Electronic Body Music, or EBM. Developing alongside peers like Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, D.A.F. and Front Line Assembly, who were making likeminded music from the early to mid-80s going forward, Front 242 enjoyed a brief period of commercial success by the early 90s. Its single “Rhythm of Time” appeared in the 1992 thriller Single White Female boosting the band’s profile at a time when alternative rock had opened the doors into the mainstream for all sorts of leftfield music that could fit under that umbrella including Front 242.

After 1991’s Tyranny For You, Front 242’s musical style evolved rapidly and dramatically as embodied on a twin 1993 release of both 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09: 12 Off. The big beats that were the driving engine of the band’s earlier music seemed gone but not the robotic, distorted vocals. The tracks seemed less stark and revealed the influence of more sample based composition. Through the rest of the decade and into the 2000s, when Front 242 released music it was obvious the group was learning from the new electronic groups or the era including the IDM, “Big Beat” and house/techno/rave artists that dominated the electronic music world of the 90s and 2000s. Front 242 hasn’t released a new full album worth of material since 2003’s excellent Pulse, its then first album in a decade. But that means that if you’re going to the show you’ll probably get a nice slice of its classic material.

Who: Afroman w/David Frederick, SwizZy B and guests
When: Friday, 04.20, 4:15 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Since April twentieth in Denver is basically a punchline for a fake holiday there are too many events “celebrating” legal recreational cannabis. Afroman, more than many artists of the past two decades, made more of his 2001, what might be considered a novelty, hit “Because I Got High” than anyone had in years. Since then Afroman has been kind of a mascot for legalization of cannabis so even if this show is basically about that it should be entertaining anyway.

Who: Alphabet Soup #32: MYTHirst feat. Nancy A. Finney, Suffers Beats, DaShwoo, R A R E B Y R D S $, Brother Saturn, Babah Fly, Bentstickremedy
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Deer Pile
Why: The Alphabet Soup series has been a sure fire way to see some of the most forward thinking hip-hop / beat driven electronic music makers in Denver. This edition is no different but included are ambient/dream pop artist Brother Saturn. Otherwise any show with R A R E B Y R D S $ and Babah Fly indicate that someone somewhere in putting together the lineup knows Denver underground hip-hop history while being aware of the most interesting new crews operating.

Who: Zigtebra, Gort Vs. Goom and f-ether
When: Friday, 04.20, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Chicago’s Zigtebra has blended the aesthetics of 8-bit video game music composition, EBM and indie pop. It’s the sophisticated lo-fi musical equivalent of inspired collage art. Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums prog punk band. Probably sounds counterintuitive but this duo makes it work and comes off more like Minutemen than Primus. F-ether’s musical output is fairly diverse. But one might describe the overarching sound as one of minimal synth environments reminiscent of a less abstract Pole or of early IDM artists. Except there’s more modern glitchcore to some of his denser songs. But all within the realm of modern underground dance music.

Who: Coastlands w/Altas and The Leshen
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Coastlands is a Portland, Oregon-based post-rock band. It’s sound is more melancholy and downtempo than its more rock-oriented kin. More Hammock than Explosions in the Sky. Also playing this show is Denver’s Altas. The instrumental rock band is like its own traveling sonic cinema rooted in guitar and synthesizer music. The group’s 2014 album Epoca De Bestias was full of songs that suggested short, epic science fiction films in miniature themselves. As in not inspired by film but inspiring them. We’ve heard lots of post-metal/heavy post-rock and The Leshen fits under that umbrella fine. But intentionally or otherwise the duo has brought in elements of industrial and sludgy blues rock without compromising an interesting sound.

Who: Cigarettes After Sex
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Despite a completely underwhelming showing opening for Garbage in the summer of 2016 and a fairly sparse eight years of output prior merely hinting at what was ahead, Cigarettes After Sex released a respectable self-titled full-length in 2017. It can sound of a piece and yet the dusky tone and Greg Gonzalez’s androgynous vocals are engaging and interesting enough to warrant repeated listens. Even if the live show hasn’t improved, but chances are it has, being enveloped in the ghostly embrace of this music should reward the effort to show up.

Who: 4/20 Funk Fest: Rowdy Shadehouse w/Log and DJ Lucky Luck
When: Friday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: At least if you come to this show, overtly state them aside, it’ll be enough of a celebration of the bombastic and absurd to be fun. Jon Thursday’s melodramatic, hypersexualized stage persona may split the crowd but at least it won’t be boring or forgettable. His band Rowdy Shadehouse has been through some lineup changes but Thursday is able to bring together some real talents to execute his version of funk.

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Slow Caves and Silver & Gold
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery | Fort Collins
Why: Esmé Patterson will bring her literary and penetratingly insightful pop songs to the Downtown Artery for a show with hometown heroes, the surf-y garage rock band Slow Caves and Greeley’s Silver & Gold, a band that sounds like it worked through its emo, alt-country and neo-classic rock roots to make a the kind of alt/indie rock band with an earnest energy and big hooks.

Saturday | April 21, 2018

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MC Chris, photo by Mara Robinson

Who: MC Chris w/Bitforce and An Hobbs
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: MC Chris and his music has been a part of a certain segment of modern American counterculture through his association with Adult Swim through the Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2011 and The Brak Show. Among other projects. Though MC Chris is with some people synonymous with nerdcore, his music goes beyond nerd culture and the nerdly events at which he has performed. Yes, there are 8-bit sounds all over his music and references to video games and RPGs but his production and songwriting is much broader and sophisticated than a narrow subgenre straightjacket could fully encompass. In that way his songs have more in common with other hip-hop than nerdcore. MC Chris’s music may be steeped in and a product of nerd culture but not limited by it. His most recent album, 2017’s Marshmellow Campground, is an irreverent collection of songs about the perils and challenges of childhood and its rituals and experiences that many of us share.

Who: Sugar Skulls & Marigolds album release w/Muscle Beach and Cult of the Lost Cause
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sugar Skulls & Marigolds is celebrating the release of its new record, ‘Til Death Do Us Part on Sailor Records. The hard rock duo would probably be considered metal by most people that see them but for the past few years, and probably from the beginning, the band has created some songs that transcend limiting genre labels by taking the harder edged sounds into more atmospheric vistas. When Sugar Skulls & Marigolds opened for Xasthur in 2017, it was supposed to be an “acoustic” show but it just sounded like a great shoegaze or dream pop band with more grit than usual and revealed these guys had more to offer than being just a talented extreme metal band. The new record is finds both creative impulses informing each other for one of the most interesting heavy albums of the last few years. Also, two of the best heavier bands in Denver or anywhere share the bill with the more punk oriented Muscle Beach and the more instrumental metal/posthardcore Cult of the Lost Cause.

Who: The Book of Love w/Eloquent and The Siren Project
When: Saturday, 04.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: The Book of Love is a band from the 80s and early 90s synth pop world that like groups from that era like Let’s Active and Game Theory who were maybe big on college radio with flirtations with mainstream success, including two tours with Depeche Mode in the mid-80s, but never quite broke through to the audience one might think would be obvious. It wasn’t for lack of quality material and its music was not even as dark as that of Depeche Mode. So The Book of Love became a bit of a cult band in the Goth world of the 90s even after its initial 1994 breakup. Since 2013, The Book of Love has been touring on the strength of its back catalog. Joining The Book of Love for this show is Denver-based Euro-dream-pop-post-punk band The Siren Project, a band that has also yet to garner the attention it richly deserves for its body of work that conjures imagery of hanging out in a fog-enshrouded café in some romantic city on the Continent contemplating the meaning of life and dreams of the future.

Who: Diners, Dingbat Superminx, Petite Garçon, Wrinkle and The Tickles
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Dateline Gallery
Why: The term indie pop may have lost some of its meaning or significance since the early 2000s when some of the most inspired and idiosyncratic pop music made was coming out in the underground. Well, these bands all embody that spirit of not looking to the mainstream to define what makes pop music and Wrinkle, even though clearly a punk band, is not short on hooks. Denver’s Petite Garçon is mostly difficult to categorize except that its songcraft is a not so self-conscious to be a deconstruction of pop but a use of that structure employing sounds in a way most bands in the classic mold would not. It’s also a chance to see a show at the excellent Dateline Gallery so it is for sure all ages.

Who: Oddfellas, Drink Drank PUNK, Sliver, The Pollution and Church Van
When: Saturday, 04.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: Is this a punk show? Pretty much except that Sliver draws a great deal from DC posthardcore and late 80s and early 90s grunge and northwest punk in general: Nirvana (from whose song the band got its name, natch), Tad and Wipers. And The Pollution includes DC punk band United Mutation’s bass player Jay Fox and thus an unusual and interesting mix of punk, psych and krautrock.

Sunday | April 22, 2018

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Ho99o9, photo by Hadas Di

Who: 3Teeth w/Ho99o9 and Street Sects
When: Sunday, 04.22, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: 3Teeth wears some of its influences on its sleeve pretty heavily: Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Stabbing Westward and Marilyn Manson. But it lacks the utter camp of Manson and KMFDM. Just abrasive, crunchy industrial rock guitar and a bit of a throwback to the 90s in that regard yet still not really coming off like a band tapping into nostalgia. Street Sects is almost a performance art band in how confrontational it sounds and the nature of its fog-enshrouded live shows. Like a breakcore band with more identifiable and visceral low end. Ho99o9 is what might be called an industrial hip-hop act. Obvious comparisons have likely been made with Death Grips and Dälek, none of the three groups sound at all like each other except in their use of sounds in a hip-hop context most other hip-hop artists wouldn’t use like industrial beats and darker undertones in the synth lines. Maybe Sole, The GZA, Eyedea & Abilities, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler the Creator, Vince Staples and the like. Wherever Ho99o9 fits in, its menacing and socially critical music has been the perfect soundtrack to the last few years. It’s latest release is 2017’s United States Of Horror, a title that just about sums up the national and international mood of late.

Who: Joe Jack Talcum w/Coolzey, Mister Zach and Daywish
When: Sunday, 04.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: Joe Genaro aka Joe Jack Talcum is perhaps most widely known as the guitarist and one of the vocalists in punk rock band Dead Milkmen. But since 1984 he’s written songs and albums and performed live as a solo artist. Not folk, not conventionally singer-songwriter, but more akin to Robyn Hitchcock or Billy Bragg in that he can be political but also write about love and life in a way that goes beyond tropes. And hey, he may do a Dead Milkmen song or two.

Monday | April 23, 2018

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Carpenter Brut, photo courtesy Carpenter Brut

Who: Carpenter Brut w/Jean Jean
When: Monday, 04.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Franck Hueso, aka Carpenter Brut, is a French synth artist who has been on the forefront of making the kind of music that one might have heard in 80s horror and science fiction movies, and thus perhaps an explanation of part of the project’s name by invoking director John Carpenter whose own synth-based soundtracks for his own films are a clear inspiration to Carpenter Brut and his musical peers in Perturbator, Magic Sword and Kavinsky. On the 2015 release Trilogy, the titles suggestive of horror storylines and the strong, bright compositions nail the combination of camp and compelling songwriting. Hueso has done some soundtrack work but the vast body of his songs are separate from that context and those songs suggest narratives and aesthetic that recent films like Drive, The Guest and others have manifested. 2018’s Leather Teeth pushes the absurdity factor further in terms of subject matter (“Inferno Galore” and “Hairspray Hurricane” being clear indicators) but Hueso’s mastery of the musical form has progressed even further and the live show looks like an immersive experience.

Who: Khruangbin w/The Mattson 2 bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/348081
When: Monday, 04.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Khruangbin’s website airkhruang.com offers visitor a playlist for a trip from any place in the world to another which one can also save to Spotify. Asked for various aspects of the trip, the curated selections are uncannily apt. It also more than hints at the band’s cross-cultural appeal. The trio got started when bassist Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Speer were on tour with Yppah in 2010 during that artist’s run with Bonobo and recognized similar musical interests. After recruiting drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson the group started writing its earliest songs and garnered some attention for its early singles. With what looks and sounds to English-speaking eyes and ears as an exotic name the expectation for the project might have been some resurrection of non-Western versions of Western pop. Instead, Khruangbin’s sound is that of downtempo jazz, surf-rock-esque-yet-smooth-and-moody guitar and smoky funk. Currently touring in the wake of the release of its 2018 album Con Todo El Mundo, Khruangbin has brought along like minded, San Diego-based duo, Mattson 2, a band comprised of identical twin brothers Jared and Jonathan Mattson. The brothers released a collaborative album with Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi fame in 2017 and in March 2018, an album of covers of Japanese jazz originals called Vaults of Eternity: Japan.

Who: Impiety, Gravehill and Divine Eye
When: Monday, 04.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Impiety started in 1990 as a kind of black metal band. But in Singapore being in such a band was probably a dicey proposition and remains so in a country that banned “Puff the Magic Dragon” in 1963 and the 2001 Janet Jackson album All for You due to its racy album cover and lyrics. Nevertheless, Impiety and other extreme metal bands have operated out of Singapore for years. Since its earliest releases, Impiety has evolved a bit from its early black metal roots to its current deathgrind style. But its musical vision of audio-violence and lyrics that combine an irreverent attitude toward organized religion with cartoonishly occult imagery will ensure Impiety will alienate casual metal fans. Gravehill from Anaheim, California and its 2018 album The Unchaste, The Profane & The Wicked is a bit of a throwback to a time when thrash and death metal weren’t so far apart in sound and the brutal imagery of the lyrics.

Tuesday | April 24, 2018

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Das Mortal, photo by Christine McAvoy

Who: Das Mörtal w/Church Fire
When: Tuesday, 04.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Das Mörtal often gets lumped in with the modern synthwave movement and not without reason. His sensibilities as a songwriter are, according to a July 2017 interview with Get Some Magazine, inspired in part by 80s movie soundtracks as well as 8-bit and 16-bit video game music. But this project sounds less like other synthwave stars like Carpenter Brut, Com Truise, Kavinsky and Perturbator and more like a pop-oriented rock band like Cut Copy whose New Order and OMD influences showed pretty strongly on its 2004 album Bright Like Neon Love. And like Cut Copy, Das Mörtal has evolved into his own sound as evidenced by his 2017 album Always Loved. With nods to mid-90s IDM and mid-80s EBM, Always Loved is packed with songs that pick up where nostalgia isn’t enough of an appeal with an updated take on electronic dance music grounded in songwriting rather than merely well-crafted beats.

Wednesday | April 25, 2018

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King Krule

Who: King Krule w/Standing On the Corner
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: In a time when genre bending and multi-genre artists are becoming more common, King Krule is a standout. Like Deerhunter more than a decade ago, King Krule’s music invites you into a universe of its own as it is not simply rock or a subgenre of electronic pop music or hip-hop. It has elements of all of that and more but is not limited by a need to fit in with something other than Archy Marshall’s expansive imagination. 2013’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon probably got interpreted as being part of the psych-and-punk-garage revival of the time. But Marshall sounded like he was channeling Old Dirty Bastard singing for a weirdo jazz band making its own version of indie rock. Four years later, The Ooz finds the band weaving in more musical DNA to mutate its sound further. Bossa nova and dub underpin the “Dum Surfer” single and the beatmaking compositional element is stronger across the whole album, giving it a soft and hypnotic quality even in its moments of peak emotional intensity.

 

Who: Whores, Bummer, Bland Canyon
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Whores is a sludgy noise rock trio from Atlanta. Reminiscent of Big Business, KARP (naturally) and a less sonically surreal Jesus Lizard, Whores perform with the edgy energy of a posthardcore band rather than with the quickened tar pace of many bands projecting a similar aesthetic. Not as overtly so, Whores shares KARP’s proclivity for humor and irony. After all, on its latest album, 2016’s Gold. there are song titles like “I See You Are Also Wearing A Black T-Shirt” and “Mental Illness As Mating Ritual.” Bummer is a sludge rock band from Kansas City that sounds like what would have happened had Ministry followed a trajectory suggested by the Filth Pig album. Bland Canyon from Denver comes right out of the local post-hardcore scene with former Mustangs and Madras members Nick Krier and Tom Chagolla as well as Matty Clark from Trees. Danny Aranow from Sugar Skulls & Marigolds and Justin Hackl who has played in several local bands including in Native Daughters with Chagolla. It’ll be heavy but also oddly catchy.

Who: Dreamdecay, Product Lust, Weaken, Old Sport
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: Dreamdecay is a noise post-punk band from Seattle. Its urgent, thorny songs don’t fit in with the hardcore scene one might expect the band to come from though it probably plays a number of those kinds of shows. Its grittily atmospheres and meditation on the quandaries of existence in a pre-apocalyptic society should appeal to fans of Silver Daggers, Live Skull and Arab on Radar. Its 2017 album isn’t all the same tempo, tone or texture throughout making it rewarding repeat listening experience. All the bands on this bill have their roots in punk but did us the favor of exploring sounds, rhythms and styles beyond the outworn fashion of punk circa any “classic” year of the past.

Who: Big K.R.I.T. W/Cyhi the Prynce, Childish Major
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Justin Scott a.k.a. Big K.R.I.T. has always used interesting beats to go along with his words and he has aimed at making poignant observations about life that transcend the specific context and situations he references. And he’s mostly made good on that ambition. For his 2017 album, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, Scott delivered twenty songs divided into two sides of the record, the Big K.R.I.T. side and the Justin Scott side, with each embodying a side of Scott’s songwriting identity. The title is a clear nod to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Though that song is a celebratory party song it is also a fascinatingly thoughtful and insightful exploration of what one must do to propel yourself out of life’s lowest moments. It is that spirit that flows through Scott’s record as well with an eclectic array of music to set the mood for both the party and contemplation of the meaning of it all.

Best Shows in Denver 11/16/17 – 11/23/17

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Dead Boys perform at Streets of London on Saturday, 11/18/17, photo by Jeff Fasano

Thursday: November 16, 2017

L.A. Witch
L.A. Witch, photo by Marco Hernandez

Who: L.A. Witch w/Honduras and Palo Santo
When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: L.A. Witch’s 2017 self-titled album has a kind of post-Loaded-era Velvet Underground stark shimmery pop grit coupled with a languid psych spookiness. In the songs there is a strong, often urgent, rhythm giving the songs some oomph even when they’re introspective. Any roots the band may have in surf rock or psych garage or whatever trendy of the sounds of the past five to ten years, it has definitely moved on. “Drive Your Car” could be an updated Wipers song. Singer/guitarist Sade Sanchez has a smoky cool voice reminiscent of a world weary Hope Sandoval. Whatever comparisons seem valid, L.A. Witch has turned tired conventions on their head into an incredibly compelling sound. Denver’s Palo Santo is cut from a similar cloth in every way with haunting yet fiery guitar work and Mimi Nissan’s trance-state style vocals.

Who: Revolting Cocks (Big Sexy Land Tour) and Front Line Assembly w/CHANT, DJ Slave 1 and Ritual Aesthetic
When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: This show signals the end of the train of noteworthy industrial bands, newer and more established, that came through Denver in 2017. Revolting Cocks started with Front 242’s Richard 23 and Luc Van Acker writing music produced by Al Jourgensen, who was often a collaborator. While clearly irreverent at its heart given the band’s name and album titles like Beers, Steers, and Queers and Linger Ficken’ Good the former of which includes a cover of Olivia Newton John’s “(Let’s Get) Physical,” the latter a cover of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” by Rod Stewart, Revolting Cocks have interesting and respectable and influential original music across its spate of albums. The current lineup includes Richard 23 and Van Acker, of course, but also former Ministry and Blackouts bassist Paul Barker and longtime Cocks partner in crime, Chris Connelly whose 2008 memoir Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible, and Fried: My Life As A Revolting Cock was a candid, amusing and revelatory account of being in the industrial and alternative music world in general from the 80s forward.

Front Line Assembly’s vision of dystopian global civilization has unfortunately borne out since it sprang to life in 1986. Up to that time frontman Bill Leeb had been a member of Skinny Puppy and his subsequent music in FLA continued that quality that’s difficult to completely nail to a sub-genre of industrial music. The samples put into the music mirrored the influence of hip-hop production on Skinny Puppy, the extensive use of electronic instruments and synths right in line with that like the EBM bands of that day as well as FLA’s imaginative blending of it all to comment on the nature of technology and its impact on human civilization and our everyday lives. Turns out it has continued to be a fruitful subject for not only FLA but science fiction writers mining that rich dystopian nugget of inspiration.

Who: Cindy Wilson (of B-52s) w/Olivia Jean and Battle Pussy
When: Thursday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Cindy Wilson is a member of influential new wave band The B-52s and her unique vocal style alongside that of bandmates Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider made for some arresting melodies amid the incredibly dance-worthy pop songs that were so idiosyncratic in the specific subject matter, no one else could have made it. And yet there was a universal quality to that individual vision that resonated with the oddball and eccentric inside of most people. Currently, Wilson is touring her solo material. Earlier in 2017 Wilson released a fairly experimental, electronic pop EP called Supernatural and on December 1st she is putting out her debut solo album Change, some 41 years into her music career. If the song “Mystic” is any indication, Wilson still has plenty of relevant and inventive music left in her.

Who: Today’s Paramount, Samvega, Alex Culbreth, Buffalo Party, Mynewt 
When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Samvega from Napa Valley, California doesn’t fit in a simple box: Its music is heavy, it’s psychedelic, it’s avant-garde and bluesy. Melissa and Mercedes Baker are unconventionally charismatic singers who sound like and come off like they spent a couple of decades touring with Heart and went on to do something weirder. The band’s 2016 album The King is Asleep was one of that year’s most interesting rock albums for its diversity and obvious care for making it a unique from the songwriting to the painting for the cover art. Also on the bill is experimental rock band Today’s Paramount. They look like they might be in a ska band, and maybe on the side some of them are, but their weirdo take on prog, jazz and psych is not like much of anything going on in Denver.

 

Who: Melkbelly w/Super Bummer, Princess Dewclaw
When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Initially, Melkbelly may sound like yet another modern rock band copping the vibe of 90s post-grunge underground music. But Melkbelly is way weirder than that and its jazz underpinnings and willingness to sculpt pure noise into something musical is what makes its 2017 album Nothing Valley so listenable to anyone looking for a band that isn’t trying to go full retro these days. One might liken Melkbelly’s sound to stuff like Magik Markers or Shearing Pinx but Melkbelly is often more melodic than that even if it sounds like it too took some cues from Unwound’s sonic fearlessness. Opening are excellent Denver bands Super Bummer with its melancholic, lo-fi, soaring songs of heartbreak and isolation and Princess Dewclaw, who seem to have found a new way to combine noise rock, punk, synthesizers and elemental vocals into something both confrontational and rivetingly fragile.

Who: Roska with Rabit, Trisicloplox, Ulmo, Rameau Contnrol, Laru and ilind
When: Thursday, 11.16, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Rameau Control you can’t really fit into a narrow category of electronic music from melodic bass, dub techno, straight techno to whatever. Calling this bill merely “experimental electronic” does a disservice to the individual artists who all come at electronic music partly from a dance perspective but also as composers of music that absorb ideas and exchange methods and sounds with like-minded artists and co-influencing each other whether from Denver or otherwise. For example, ilind is Isaac Linder who often played Denver DIY venues as a noise and performance artist but one who was into house music.

Friday: November 17, 2017

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Who: Tommy Stimson’s Cowboys in the Campfire
When: Friday, 11.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bruz Beers
Why: Cowboys in the Campfire is Tommy Stimson of The Replacements fame (he has also played in numerous other bands including Guns N’ Roses) and Chip Roberts of Uncle Sippy playing songs together as the name suggests but usually electric. Country punk? For fans of NRBQ? Whatever it is, it’s Stimson and Roberts playing lively, fun songs in a duo format in small venues, record stores, private homes and various other situations across the country this tour. Next time you see Stimson play it’ll probably be in a large theater or bigger so hey, make it to this and you might even get to interact with the musicians, something that would probably never happen at Red Rocks or The Fillmore without paying for some kind of wack VIP access ticket.

Who: Flobots w/Wesley Watkins & Grumpy Uncle (Wesley Watkins and Kalyn Heffernan)
When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Yes, the famous hip-hop band from Denver, Flobots, playing at Larimer Lounge. The opening act, though, is a collaboration between former Night Sweats trumpet player, and leader of The Other Black, Wesley Watkins and Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp. So expect something wonderfully weird but with solid songcraft and inspired lyrics.

Who: The Blasters night 1 w/Reno Divorce
When: Friday, 11.17, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: The Blasters were and are a respected blues-roots band from Los Angeles where it rubbed shoulders with the punk world, paisley underground and early alt-country acts. The Blasters’ sheer skill and energy made a big impression on everyone that saw them even if the band never quite became a household name. Reno Divorce, a rootsy punk band from Denver, opens this night of a two night residency at Lion’s Lair.

Who: Lost Walks w/Midwife
When: Friday, 11.17, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Lost Walks is sort of a high concept Americana-esque band. High concept in that there is a prepared theatrical element to the live shows as the band collaborates with a visual arts group. Also, the lyrics, steeped in a pastoral and noir literature aesthetic, lend themselves to dramatic performance and grand, emotive gestures from the band’s various vocalists including former Bad Luck City frontman, Dameon Merkl. The band’s debut album, 2017’s Wolf, Woman, Man, is a fascinating contrast of bright, dark, moody, reflective and observational. Opening the show is avant-folk artist Midwife whose own 2017 debut, Like Author, Like Daughter, is one of the the best albums of the year for its delicate, fragile evocation of emotions so broad and deep that it always catches you by surprise with its subtle but irresistible power.

Who: Slow Magic w/Point Point and Qrion
When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Slow Magic exists outside of time. The interdimensional creature occasionally releases albums like 2017’s ultra-chillout pop extravaganza Float. You can witness the superstring hopper yourself tonight at The Gothic Theatre.

Who: Big Lo (Florida), RAREBYRD$, iiwii and Brett Gretsky
When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: An experimental hip-hop show at Tennyson’s Tap isn’t unheard of and this time it’s Big Lo from Florida whose beats include a mix of samples and turntablism to create a sense of introspection in the face of impending danger. Before and since moving from Saint Louis to Denver, Rooster Jake has been involved in various hip-hop and experimental projects over the years, his latest being iiwii. Brett Gretzky recently migrated to Denver from Saint Louis as well bringing their mixture of hip-hop and soul. RAREBYRD$ will break your heart with sincerely, deeply felt yet gentle expressions of the lowest points a person can reach in the psyche and still come back with one’s soul intact. They use drum machines, synths and sequencers but it always sounds like it’s coming right out of their imagination and plugged into the P.A..

Who: Ice Troll, Never Kenezzard, Heathen Burial and White Dwarf
When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Pit Stop Tavern
Why: Doom shows don’t happen in far West Denver much but tonight doom orchestra Ice Troll will play Pit Stop Tavern along with sludge metal thrashers Never Kenezzard, noisy death metal trio Heathen Burial and stoner rock outfit White Dwarf.

Saturday: November 18, 2017

Warbly Jets
Warbly Jets perform at The Gothic Theatre on Saturday, November 18. Photo by Moni Haworth

Who: Dead Boys 40th Anniversary tour w/The Roxy Suicide
When: Saturday, 11.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: For four years Dead Boys were one of the most outrageous and influential of the early punk bands. With just two albums under its belt, 1977’s Young Loud and Snotty and 1978’s We Have Come for Your Children, Dead Boys set a high bar for inventive guitar work between Cheetah Chrome and Jimmy Zero, a primitivistic yet inspired rhythm section in Johnny Blitz and Jeff Magnum and literate yet gritty lyrics from charismatic frontman Stiv Bators. The original band split in 1979 but in its wake a lot of the more interesting and scary punk bands of the 80s emerged. In 2017 the band officially re-formed and issued a re-recording of Young Loud and Snotty called Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40 with its new lineup including Chrome and Blitz as well as new members Jason Kottwitz on guitar, Ricky Rat on bass and frontman Jake Hout. The original record was meant as a demo and the new record is of a much higher quality if missing the genius alchemy of the original band. But you’re not getting a second rate re-tread this time around. This version of the Dead Boys may be older but it still packs a punch.

Who: Galaxy Express 555 (MN), Hippies Wearing Muzzles, J. Hamilton Isaacs
When: Saturday, 11.18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Historic Grant Avenue Church
Why: Galaxy Express 555 is Christopher Farstad’s project that incorporates elements of ambient music, experiential sound environment composition, sampling and loops to create music that has the effect of being a soundtrack to some non-dystopian future society of wide open spaces and minds. Hippies Wearing Muzzles is a modular synth project from Denver. J. Hamilton Isaacs is basically Dugout Canoe so you know the beats and analog synth combination will be beautifully transporting yet feel grounded at the same time. All of this is taking place in church where the natural acoustics will give otherwise electronic music a warmth it doesn’t often project.

Who: Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series featuring Equine w/Mondo Obscura
When: Saturday, 11.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked on Colfax
Why: This is the latest in Glasss’s Speakeasy Series in the basement of Hooked on Colfax. This time with ambient duo Mondo Obscura and experimental guitar minimalist Equine. Kevin Richards of the latter played drone guitar for years as Temples after having spent several years in weirdo post-hardcore outfit Motheater where he made strange jazz chords fit into a punk context. This show will be a collaborative set between the two projects.

Who: King Eddie – Holographic Universe Album release w/Kyle Emerson, Panther Martin and déCollage DJ set, visuals by DenVR
When: Saturday, 11.18, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: King Eddie is releasing its debut album Holographic Universe and celebrating the occasion with friends Kyle Emerson (whose pastoral psych pop songs are graced with Emerson’s insightful, observational lyrics) and Panther Martin (if indie rock could have come out of late 1970s New York City, it might have sounded like Panther Martin). King Eddie’s songs sound like the band synthesized modern psychedelic rock with math rock rhythms as though assembling a beat over which the band created a colorful and transporting imagery. Reed Fuchs of déCollage will do one of his unique DJ sets and be prepared for some truly unusual and inspired images from DenVR.

Who: It’s Just Bugs, Nearby Liars, Mouthfeel, Falsetto Boy
When: Saturday, 11.18, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This’ll be a weird one for some people because few of the bands are anything alike. It’s Just Bugs is an industrial hip-hop band. Nearby Liars are somewhere between slowcore and late 90s emo with all the glitter and drifty, sweeping, swelling, dramatic emotional experiences you’d want vicariously from that kind of music to purge the Fall blues. Mouthfeel includes members of Wrinkle, Altered State and Laurium. Falsetto Boy is some post-emo, lo-fi singer songwriter type of music.

Who: The Blasters w/O.G. Country
When: Saturday, 11.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why:The Blasters were and are a respected blues-roots band from Los Angeles where it rubbed shoulders with the punk world, paisley underground and early alt-country acts. The Blasters’ sheer skill and energy made a big impression on everyone that saw them even if the band never quite became a household name. Its 1980 debut album American Music really was a demonstration of how much American music the Alvin brothers, Bill Bateman and John Bazz had absorbed, learned, reinterpreted, amalgamated and reinvented. O.G. Country from Denver, opens this second night of a two night residency at Lion’s Lair.

Who: Liam Gallagher w/Warbly Jets
When: Saturday, 11.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Oasis’ 1995 hit “Wonderwall” made way too many people think maybe they too can sing in a pop band. Part of it was Liam Gallagher’s borderline tone deaf vocal delivery. But Gallagher is a gifted, powerful singer with some charming rough edges to his voice. And to his personality, for that matter. His conflict with brother Noel was the stuff of tabloid news. But one thing we can thank Oasis for was in finishing off some real dreck in popular music by offering something better and more genuine because you knew the Gallagher brothers weren’t faking it. Endless naff covers of “Wonderwall” plaguing karaoke nights and dire YouTube videos aside, Liam Gallagher’s real legacy was not just his music but some truly amazing moments of comedy and inspiredly uncharitable bits of rhetoric over the years as well as tender and earnest expressions of appreciation for other artists even when, such as the case with The Verve in recent years, those expressions come off as a bit of a headscratcher. He probably had a good laugh about that. Gallagher’s debut solo album, As You Were, came out in October 2017. It’s a bit reminiscent of 60s blue eyed soul and David Bowie’s more R&B moments but the songwriting is solid.

Opening the show is Warbly Jets from Los Angeles. It’s self-titled debut album is a bit slick and polished for a bunch of young musicians who clearly have it in them to go full on into the kind of gritty yet tuneful rock and roll that inspired them. But that’s what happens in the music industry often enough and you just have to check out the band in their, one would presume, element, on stage. With any luck you’ll see a band that has shed the self-conscious quality of the record and even where it might be derivative, play like the band believes in itself.

Sunday: November 19, 2017

Chad VanGaalen
Chad VanGaalen, photo by Marc Rimmer

Who: Chad VanGaalen w/NE-HI
When: Sunday, 11.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chad VanGaalen may not necessarily be known for this now but at some point in the future he may be more widely acknowledged as one of the most influential guitarists and producers of his generation. His bedroom recordings for Infiniheart was picked up by SubPop in 2005. His gift for articulating the anxiety and alienation of the modern era clearly struck a chord and his subsequent music has explored some dark and some merely troubling corners of the human psyche with an ear for the perfect harmonic atmospherics and texture. In 2008, Van Gaalen began his relationship with the math rock/post-punk band Women, a band now oft-cited by younger guitar bands as an influence for its creative use of tone, angular rhythms and dynamics. Members of Women are now in Preoccupations. VanGaalen’s 2017 album Light Information sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of Mission of Burma, Helium, 80s minimal synth music and various Jay Reatard projects but the alchemy of that and his own well-developed aesthetic has rendered the songs into something that sounds like something from a long time ago in a place some of us wish existed. It has the kind of vintage sheen like a Ti West film.

Chicago’s NE-HI put out one of the years most repeatedly listenable albums of the year with OFFERS. It’s labyrinthine melodies and straightforward rhythms are a winning combination because it transforms lo-fi garage rock into something extraordinary. Comparisons could be made to Palm, Pavement and Parquet Courts. But its urgent jangle is coming from a different place and that’s what sets the band apart.

Who: Tori Amos w/Scars on 45
When: Sunday, 11.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Tori Amos was one of the earliest artists to attain mainstream commercial success to sing about sexual abuse, her struggle to attain her own creative liberation in a sexist music industry that often could (and often can, truth be told) value women as objectified entities that must fit a fairly narrow mold to present to potential audiences. And otherwise just refreshingly vulnerable and honest depictions of life. Though Amos spent much of the rest of her career exploring and writing thoughtfully on these subjects, in the 2000s, Amos put more focus on more mythical expressions, giving her work new dimensions only hinted at in her earlier work. 2017’s Native Invader is about how we can heal ourselves and the world through facing our challenges and conflicts honestly—which has more or less been Amos’ core message as a songwriter since her solo debut album, 1992’s Little Earthquakes.

Tuesday: November 21, 2017

In The Company Of Serpents
In The Company Of Serpents, photo by Travis Heacock

Who: In the Company of Serpents, Goya, Matriarch and Palehorse/Palerider
When: Tuesday, 11.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A handful of Denver’s best heavy bands are on this bill. Matriarch is a doom/drone band whose 2015 album Magnumus: The 44th Scribe and Lorde of the Hallucinauts has two tracks. And it’s not an EP. It’s also just two lengthy songs that take you on a journey of crushing epics like the soundtrack to Vikings exploring the lands of Irish legend set in South America. Blend all that imagery together and that’s the Matriarch sound. In the Company of Serpents has cracked the monolith of its own sound this past year and the result is 2017’s Ain-Soph Aur, where the band’s songwriting beyond devastating riffs emerges for some of ITCOS’ best songs to date. Palehorse/Palerider is the kind of band where people who have generally played more punk-oriented music got into the soundcaping possibilities of heavy music whether metal or the deep atmospherics of the best shoegaze and post-rock music. Its own 2017 epic masterpiece is Burial Songs.

Who: Mom Jeans. (Side One Dummy), Prince Daddy & The Hyena (NY), Kississippi (PA), Old Sport and Blue Lane Frontier
When: Tuesday, 11.21, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: The lazy thing to do would be to say this is an emo show. Mom Jeans from Berkeley, California is unabashedly so and thus part of that band’s appeal. And more like the late 90s, borderline indie rock variety with the spidery, jangly guitar work. Old Sport from Denver is on the more math-y end of emo with intricate guitar work and song dynamics that sound like someone is thinking in terms of film editing with dramatic drop-outs and sparkling guitar melodies, emotionally charged vocals and a variety of rhythm and texture not common enough in punk generally. Kississippi from Philadelphia is fronted by singer and primary songwriter Zoe Reynolds whose lyrics possess an impressive insight into her own emotional landscape and the ability to translate that into instantly relatable songs.

Wednesday: November 22, 2017

The Zebroids
The Zebroids in 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Git Some, Zebroids, Fast Eddie, Jane Doe
When: Wednesday, 11.22, 9 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Post-hardcore band Git Some has been around for well over a decade when it started in Chicago in the early 2000s. Through various line-up changes members of the band (Charles French and Neil Keener) have also become members of Wovenhand, bringing another level of grit and intensity to a project not short on that already. It’s essentially noise rock with a sense of humor. Speaking of humor, punk band Zebroids is essentially a ridiculous joke of a punk rock band with absurd lyrics and an equally absurd stage presence. Nevertheless, the band is a lot of fun. Jane Doe is a combination of dark, starkly intense poetry, jagged noise rock and free jazz sensibilities. Fronted by the charismatic Becca Mhalek, Jane Doe is one of Denver’s best kept secrets. For now. Fast Eddie is a hard rock band from Denver which includes Micah Morris who some may know as one of the main people behind Barf magazine. Silly name, perhaps, with some fairly absurdist content, but the magazine has provided some of the better content about Denver music and beyond of recent years

Who: Cannibal Corpse w/Power Trip, Gatecreeper and Of Feather and Bone
When: Wednesday, 11.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Cannibal Corpse has been getting under the skin of cultural conservatives and squeamish faux-do-gooders for years with music that itself isn’t something we’re going to hear much of any time soon on commercial radio. But the lyrics, quotable by gore horror fans and metalheads for years, almost gleefully crafted to outrage with being so cartoonishly over the top, is what has landed Cannibal Corpse in some hot water with would-be censors. But the live show isn’t littered with corpses and zombies or anything like that so just go expecting one of death metal’s greatest bands. Opening the show are Dallas-based thrash band Power Trip, Arizonan death metallers Gatecreeper (whose music video for “Desperation” from 2016’s Sonoran Depravation is a harrowing depiction of violence and a bit of a commentary on what leads to that sort of thing), and Denver’s deathgrind powerhouse, Of Feather and Bone.