Alex Nauva’s Hybrid Synthwave/Chillwave “Vivid” is a Psychic Palate Cleanser

Alex Nauva, photo courtesy the artist

The stream of distorted white noise give Alex Nauva’s “Vivid” the feeling of flying through the air in a dream. The phasing on the main melody line and pulsing rhythm under the soaring higher tone second melody is reminiscent of something you might have heard on an early 80s Gary Numan album. But the composition has breezy, bright quality that feels like a modern re-imagining of the early, experimental syth pop. Nauva is the frontman of Swiss post-punk band OGMH but on “Vivid” there are no vocals, rather layers of contrasting textures and emotional shifts that are both introspective and uplifting. Like listening to the song will cleanse your psyche ever so slightly and in the current period of amplified angst and turmoil we all need a bit of that. Listen to “Vivid” on Soundcloud, connect with Nauva at the links provided and take a listen to his new EP Yume from which this track hails.

open.spotify.com/artist/0sSNWTcImp5SbbdAVxn1WR
soundcloud.com/alexnauva
youtube.com/channel/UCXtJ-IRZsKXPCCq5QAblOXA
alexnauva.bandcamp.com

Torche Writes “A Lot of Riffs Inspired By Synths,” Performs at Larimer Lounge on September 18

Torche Band
Torche, photo by Dan Almasy

Torche (performing tonight, September 18, at Larimer Lounge) started in Miami in 2004 after the dissolution of Floor, the band guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks and former guitarist Juan Montoya had played in through much of the 90s and early 2000s. Torche picked up some of where Floor left off but took the heaviness in a more melodic and experimental direction across several albums including 2019’s Admission (N.B., Floor has reunited since its 2004 split and is technically still active). The new record reflects the band’s eclectic influences and roots as a band. New bassist Eric Hernandez or heave noise rock weirdos Wrong has played with Torche on and off filling in for drummer Rick Smith when the latter was not able to tour including, according to Brooks, a 2006 European tour. So the new role simply meant Hernandez was still playing with his friends in a new capacity. “After we lost two guitar players Jon [Nuñez] started playing guitar and he said we should get Eric to play bass,” comments Brooks.

Torche has never really fit the mold of a heavy metal band and Admission sounds more like a heavier neo-shoegaze album or noise rock record than heavy metal even though there are plenty of moments when the band plumbs those sonic depths that are part of its overall aesthetic. Part of this is accounted for by the fact that Brooks and the other members of Torche came up in Miami. Earlier in life, according to Brooks, he saw Melvins in 1991 and Godflesh on its early tours in 1989 or 1990. “I thought this was the type of stuff I wanted to do,” says Brooks. But finding like-minded musicians was a challenge and the guitarist moved to Atlanta in 1995 for a few years because the drummer of Floor lived there. Then the band got another drummer who lived in central Florida posing another challenge in the commute and Brooks “would drive three to four hours to practice on weekends.”

Locally Floor would play a club called Churchill’s often and frequently drove to Gainesville, Florida to play where a sizable audience might be found but back home it was playing to friends. So Floor and then Torche built up an audience well beyond their respective home towns out of necessity and have since cultivated a national and international fan base on a fairly grassroots basis.

Perhaps reflective of Torche’s non-genre purist sound is its current tour with experimental synth and heave drone band Pinkish Black for the bulk of the journey and ethereal yet emotionally charged darkwave project SRSQ (Kenndy Ashlyn formerly of Them Are Us Too) for the first leg of the tour. Torche’s current sound seems more introspective than one would expect from its previous offerings and when bringing Hernandez up to speed for the kinds of things to have in mind for moods and tones, Torche recommended listening to the first three Gary Numan albums for inspiration.

“We write a lot of riffs inspired by synths,” says Brooks. “Gary Numan is a big influence on us. So we threw that out. It’s the same thing except we’re playing guitars. The vibe.”

Admission has the evocative Richard Vargas cover art with a simple design favored by Torche this time out rather than anything too intricate. The image is of a head with the lower face intact but the upper head having exploded into the aftermath of a volcanic eruption suggesting either blowing minds of having one’s mind blown.

Although Torche has been around for fifteen years and toured internationally and it supports the members of the band, the group still operates like an underground outfit but one with the cachet to have albums released on the likes of Relapse with its two most recent records. But as with a lot of bands who are still playing small clubs and theaters Torche does its own driving and selling its own merch most of the time. Although its name is known among connoisseurs of heavy music the band isn’t so far removed from the challenges of its early days.

“It was really challenging when we first started because we weren’t making any money,” says Brooks. “Now we’re able to survive. The challenging part is actually all the traveling, trying to get sleep. Last night we partied and then I ended up going home and woke up at six o’clock in the morning and my band was in my room and I was like, ‘What the fuck are you all doing here?”’They were staying with friends before but they were in my house. They had broken into my house because I wasn’t waking up. I woke up naked because I took an Uber home, took a shower and went straight into bed. I woke up thought ‘Fuck, there are people in my room!’ The challenge is having privacy.”

Torche performs on September 18, 2019, at Larimer Lounge with Pinkish Black and Green Druid. Doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m., tickets $23, ages 16 and over welcome

Best Shows in Denver 9/27/18 – 10/3/18

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Courtney Barnett headlines The Ogden Theatre on September 29 and 30 with Waxahatchee. Photo by Pooneh Ghana.

Thursday | September 27, 2018

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Gort Vs. Goom circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: 2X4 Duo Fest: Smashy Claw, Sugar Skulls and Marigolds, Gold Trash and Gort Vs. Goom
When: Thursday, 09.27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This second annual edition of 2X4 Duo Fest features four duo bands (thus the name, of course). For this edition, as with the 2017 event, organizer Logan Rainard of Gort Vs. Goom assembled a genre-diverse bill. His own band, Gort Vs. Goom would have been considered punk 40 years ago before what that was supposed to sound like got more or less settled by some codification of the genre. Bass, drums, vocals and raw power with some nods to prog and art rock. Gold Trash is part noise, part electroclash and general pop chaos. Sugar Skulls and Marigolds would probably fit easily into a broadly metal world except the band’s musical range includes their “acoustic” set which sounds more like ghostly post-punk. Smashy Claw is what would happen if a couple of very self-aware geeks decided to get into writing eccentric alternative pop songs. Only if those geeks weren’t wasting our time with filking and had a real knack for good songwriting.

Who: Too Many Zooz w/Honeycomb
When: Thursday, 09.27, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Too Many Zooz is a percussion and horns-driven jazz band that performs a style of music it calls “brass house” in that it employs acoustic instruments to make sounds that are like the use of samples in an electronic hip-hop beat. The group has performed with Beyoncé on the strength of its chops and creativity and its own albums and shows are an impressive display of what one can do with instruments you’re using to seeing in other contexts once you engage your imagination to see their possibilities in others. The group recently released a video for the single “Car Alarm” in which the trio brilliantly plays around, yes, a car alarm and makes it work.

Who: Slothrust w/Summer Cannibals and Iress
When: Thursday, 09.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Boston’s Slothrust combines a kind of jazz-inflected R&B mixed with fuzzy rock. It’s sound has been compared to the 90s revival of the past few years but the structure of its songs often have more in common with hip-hop than grunge and its quieter more introspective side with soulful folk. Its new record, 2018’s The Pact, brings these sides together well in a well-sequenced album that has the eclectic musicality and depth of expression in its thoughtful lyrics that we’ve come to expect from the band.

Also on this tour is Summer Cannibals from Portland, Oregon. The band’s sound defies easy categorization beyond hard rock but it has some loose around the edges wildness akin to Babes in Toyland and L7. Except Jessica Boudreaux’s voice is both melodic while cutting through the fuzzy sparks of the band’s driving forward momentum. Some might call Summer Cannibals garage punk but it’s guitar work is much more compelling than most of that wave of music and its musical vision more coherent as well.

Friday | September 28, 2018

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Denver Meatpacking Company, photo by Michelle Simutis

Who: Too Many Zooz – Pug In A Tub Tour w/Honeycomb and The Alcapones
When: Friday, 09.28, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: For Too Many Zooz see above for 09.27 at The Bluebird.

Who: Gary Numan w/Nightmare Air and DJ Slave 1
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: For those somehow not familiar, Gary Numan beyond his 1979/1980 Top 40 hit “Cars,” was a pioneer of the use of synthesizer as a compositional element in pop music. His old band Tubeway Army was a post-punk project and that sort of moody, brooding element continued on into Numan’s career under his own name. Throughout the 80s, Numan explored themes of alienation, the impact of technology on human civilization and psychology and the ways technology could be used to write and produce music. Numan also experimented with integrating other styles of music outside his perceived repertoire and his body of work and through the 90s were an obvious influence on industrial music generally and industrial rock specifically. In the 2000s Numan has delved further into conceptual work in his songwriting especially his two most recent albums, 2013’s Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) and 2017’s Savage (Songs from a Broken World). Numan is no stranger to using dystopian science fiction ideas or even simply examination of possible futures extrapolated from the present in his music but Savage is one wherein he posits a near future where global warming has caused a worldwide desert. In seeking answers what remains of humanity seeks answers in ancient religion rather than trying to deal with the world as it is with disastrous results. As with most science fiction a warning with some uncomfortable truths about humans contained within it and a suggestion to seek creative solutions rather than what we think is tried and true.

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Guerilla Toss, image courtesy the artist

Who: Guerilla Toss w/Black Belt Eagle Scout and H Lite
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Guerilla Toss came up through the underground/DIY music world of Boston and New York where it experimented with musical ideas and concepts, developing what might be described as weirdo electro No Wave funk. Except that wouldn’t encompass completely a sound and performance style that includes the threads of punk fury and wiry energy, noise, prog and the avant-garde. The group recently released its latest album Twisted Crystal, an album that seems to transform some of the band’s frantic, nervous energy into dense yet beautifully expansive atmospheres while using its angular dynamics straight into those more fluid. It’s a fascinating mixture of ideas and sounds that is both alien and comforting in a way that a surreal cartoon or live action show from your youth can be.

Who: Modern Goon, Luxury Hearse, A Light Among Many, New Standards Men album release
When: Friday, 09.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Distillery
Why: New Standards Men released it’s new album People Wonder digitally on September 24. But it’s celebrating the release of the record with this show with like-minded peers at Denver Distillery. The Denver-based band has been releasing some of the more interesting experimental heavy guitar music of recent years in the Mile High City but the material on the new album has as much in common with 90s, dark math rock legends like A Minor Forest and Don Caballero as it does with even an adventurous doom band of today though some of that style of deep droning is present on the songs “Tanned Womb” and “Thirteen Alaskan Islands/Pacific Blood.” But it’s the sparkle and drift over the driving fuzz that makes the music breathe and invites the imagination to project onto its soundscape.

Who: Flahoola, To Be Astronauts, Denver Meatpacking Company
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver Meatpacking Company may hearken back to early alternative rock in the grunge vein but it does so with a charming self-consciousness that transcends any mere nostalgic kick. Flahoola as well but their sound is more like an early 2000s melodic stoner rock band that injects more energy into the rhythm.

Who: Weaponizer and Necropanther
When: Friday, 09.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: Two of the best bands from Denver that in another era would have been considered thrash but thrash already happened and today’s metal bands that aren’t going for pure throwback cachet have been influenced by a broad spectrum of music, heavy and otherwise. Weaponizer’s more gritty style is like a more menacing, grind-esque, speed metal. Necropanther’s sound is closer to melodic death metal but a little too animalistic in the vocals for all of that.

Saturday | September 29, 2018

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What: Whaaat!? A Festival for Games and Experimental Interaction
When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: ATLAS Institute at CU Boulder
Why: This is a one day event dedicated to experimental games (arcade/video, tabletop et. al.) with featured speakers on the subject of gaming and development. Mattie Brice is not just a game designer but an activist in the games industry whose work includes Mainichi, in which players take on the role of the daily life of a transgender person. Her work has also been important on the subject of diversity in the gaming world generally. Pippin Barr, like Brice, is a game designer and educator who teaches game design and programming. Barr’s games are often unconventional and challenge traditional notions of what computer games can be including The Artist is Present, inspired by and involving performance artist Marina Abramović’s piece of the same name. The event gives attendees a chance to witness and participate in cutting edge games and interact with some of the minds behind them. Those interested should register at www.whaaat.io.


Who: Ned Garthe Explosion, Oxeye Daisy and Church Fire
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ned Garthe Explosion makes a good case for why modern psychedelic rock isn’t dead. Even from early on, the show itself has been chaotic and colorful enough to be worthy of the term psychedelic in not only sound, content and presentation. And yet, the songwriting has always been solid and interesting. Oxeye Daisy has seemingly leapt past 90s alt-rock nostalgia into a musical zone that, sure, bears the influences of that era, that is more energized atmospheric pop than anything throwback. Its sound is very much of the present and fans of Wye Oak and Japanese Breakfast should take note. Church Fire has secretly and not so secretly been one of Denver’s most engaging live bands for not just its irresistible dance beats but its willingness to go beyond the map of middle-of-the-road accessibility mixing in noise, industrial dynamic edge and Shannon Webber’s impassioned vocal delivery.

What: Industrial Music For the Masses Vol. 2: DJ Ed Gein and eHpH
When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Milk Bar Green Room
Why: Denver EBM/industrial rock band eHpH has been hitting a strong creative vein of late crafting vibrant and engrossing atmospheric electronic music shot through with a palpable emotional power. Always interesting, the duo is now starting to hit its stride as a band.

Dr. Hamburger

Who: Belly Eater, Curt Oren, Real Dom, $addy, Oxygen Thief and Dr. Hamburger
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Fairly broad spectrum of noise and related music at this show. Belly Eater from Ohio is sort of a noisy, Atari Teenage Riot-esque breakcore punk band. Chicago’s Curt Oren does avant-garde audio-acoustic music including processed saxophone. Real Dom from Iowa threads together synthwave and noise. $addy makes bizarro video game music for stuff way more interesting and haunting than Sad Satan and without the disturbing baggage of the latter. Oxygen Thief is true bedroom techno dungeonwave, or something. Dr. Hamburger has landed in Denver from Rochester, New York to share his processed real time environment noise. Somehow none of these acts sound anything alike and the bill is better for it.

Who: Chelsea Wolfe w/Russian Circles
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Chelsea Wolfe’s knack for making deep, dark, loud music was built on a foundation of the dynamics and sonics of acoustic, old world folk music. Along with her channeling her experiences with sleep paralysis, anxiety and other psychological trauma into her art, Wolfe’s music has an unexpected depth and emotional intensity beyond anyone trying to pen her music in as doom or Goth or neofolk or anything so narrowly defined. For this tour she’s sharing dates with instrumental metal group Russian Circles whose own music seems to come from a primordial place from which all ancient religions and rituals find their root. Although associated with metal, Russian Circles sounds like its music origins are steeped in posthardcore and, like Wolfe, ancient, certainly pre-Christian, folk music.

Who: Lyrics Born w/Indigenous Peoples, AG Flux and Bukue One
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Tsutomu Shimura used to call himself Asia Born because he was actually born in Tokyo. But early in his career he changed his hip-hop moniker to Lyrics Born so that the perception of his work would be a product of its own merit rather than through some essentialist filter. To his credit, Lyrics Born’s fluid delivery and vocal centered, funk-driven, songs bring an experimental dimension to a style of hip-hop that sounds like something from a classic 80s era rather than something that is pushing stylistic boundaries. Lyrics Born is now touring on his first album in a few years, Quite a Life.

Who: Cuckoo, Magpies (MT), Grave Moss and Surrender Signal
When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Magpies got started in Havre, Montana, close to the Canadian border, in 2006 and given its bright, introspective indie rock probably didn’t find too big an audience at home before moving to Missoula in 2012 where, like most bands that don’t have some kind of marketing budget or an influential PR team, it plays to small rooms regularly. But the band did what not every group does, it went on tour and has released multiple albums including 2017’s Annex. Brooding, fuzzy and anthemic, it’s something for fans of Rainer Maria and Eleventh Dream Day.

Rounding out the bill are three Denver bands that resist pat classification. Cuckoo may have at one point sounded a little like a math rock version of a hardcore band but now that math-y side has become more dominant with intricate guitar work in the context of a spare and simple songwriting context. Grave Moss is sort of like a death rock band if that band wasn’t brooding so much as burning with nervous energy and dynamics. Surrender Signal’s mixture of introspective moods, cool melodies peppered with atonal highlights and emotional urgency is reminiscent of acts on the Teenbeat imprint and early Merge Records.

Who: Courtney Barnett w/Waxahatchee
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Courtney Barnett’s witty, self-effacing songwriting goes beyond merely clever wordplay and a poignant observation here and there. It’s often as though she’s tapping into a modern contemporary zeitgeist or able to express her experiences, feelings and imagined scenarios in a way that is immediately relatable to anyone that has taken some time to ponder what life is all about or at least be amused by circumstances that resist immediate interpretation. Throughout her career, Barnett has been especially adept at humanizing anxiety as experienced. Barnett doesn’t treat the experience as simply a condition to be treated in a clinical fashion, rather she articulates with telling details and humor how that emotional wrecking ball affects one’s life in a myriad of ways, shining a compassionate light on its several darkened corners of in the psyche. You can pick up anywhere in Barnett’s catalog and get a record worth taking the time to delve into but her 2018 album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, is a seemingly more subdued affair sonically speaking if not so much in the words. When you call songs “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” and “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence” you’re not mincing words and on the new record Barnett spares us the niceties in favor of personal truth.

Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee is no stranger to laying bare a powerful vulnerability in her own songwriting and performances. Her own storytelling has a warmth and intimacy that when coupled with the spacious, expansive quality of the music an impact that lingers with you long after the song is over. Crutchfield transmogrifies the fear, uncertainty and anxiety at the heart of the experiences of most people living today in this crumbling and increasingly demanding civilization into anthems of to soothe and comfort without sugarcoating the way things are. Waxahatchee released the Great Thunder EP in 2018.

Sunday | September 30, 2018

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Waxahatchee, photo by Molly Matalon

Who: Courtney Barnett w/Waxahatchee
When: Sunday, 09.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For Waxahatchee and Courtney Barnett see above for 09.29.

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Earthless, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Who: Earthless w/Mad Alchemy and Green Druid
When: Sunday, 09.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: San Diego’s Earthless is on a surface level a sort of bluesy psychedelic rock band akin to Mountain or Uriah Heep. Except with a modern sensibility like its members have already heard and been imprinted a bit by peers like Dead Meadow and Sleep. But Earthless’ embrace of the imagery of natural mysticism and the aesthetics of kosmische musik gives its music an air of otherworldliness even as it employs rock and roll sounds and rhythms that may be familiar to many of its listeners. Its new album, 2018’s Black Heaven, has the band following the rabbit hole of its musical intuition down paths it might not have taken if the songwriting was consciously crafted with standard song structure.

What: Textures: Chromadrift, Blank Human and Ancient Inc. 
When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This latest edition of the Textures ambient showcase features dream pop/guitar drone artist Chromadrift, Blank Human’s modular synth compositions (Blank Human’s Dan Coleman is also in experimental electronic/industrial duo Luxury Hearse) and Ancient Inc., a project that uses field recordings, ancient acoustic instruments and production to create its textured sonic atmospheres.

Who: Brighter Death Now w/Theologian, Echo Beds, Page 27 and Gruesome Relics
When: Sunday, 9 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: As Brighter Death Now, Roger Karmanik has been a prolific and influential maker of forbidding industrial soundscapes and noise. His now defunct record label Cold Meat Industry introduced the world to some of the most innovative and challenging music of its time from 1987 to 2013. This is a rare chance to see the Swedish artist live in Denver with a handful of like-minded local acts.

Monday | October 1, 2018

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Presets, photo courtesy the artist

Who: The Presets w/Blood Red Shoes
When: Monday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The Presets from Sydney, Australia is a duo making the kind of electronic pop that on the surface is fun, high energy dance music. But their latest album, 2018’s Hi Viz makes it more obvious the depth of influence and innovation going on underneath what seems obvious. “Beethoven” and other tracks are reminiscent of the dark, cavernous, mysterious club vibe that was an aspect of the music of Underworld in the 90s—a calming tone amid urgent rhythms. Along with fellow Sydney electronic artist Flume, The Presets helped to bring Australia’s dance music world to a global audience. Even though Hi Viz, as the name suggests, was aimed at broadening the duo’s potential fan base with a diversity of musical ideas loaded into the tracks, the experiments also made for one of the more interesting electronic albums of this year thus far.

Who: The Breeders w/Sasami and Boyhollow
When: Monday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Alternative rock band The Breeders came through Colorado in the spring touring in support of its 2018 album All Nerve. While one of the band’s stronger efforts of the past twenty years it also includes an interesting pick of a cover song with “Archangel’s Thunderbird” by classic psychedelic prog band Amon Duul II. The band is also bringing along Sasami as in Sasami Ashworth, former member of Cherry Glazerrr, on her solo tour in the wake of the release of a couple of acclaimed singles.

Who: Lucy Spraggan w/The Dollhouse Thieves, Sarah Slaton
When: Monday, 10.01.18 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Lucy Spraggan is a singer/songwriter from the UK who was already making a name for herself as an artist of note before auditioning for The X Factor and, in fact, had already signed to Columbia before any episode in which she appeared aired to the public. Spraggan is an LGBTQ activist in the UK and she and her partner foster disadvantaged children and that points to the compassion and and emotional strength of her songwriting. 2017’s I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Writing is brimming with the aforementioned along with an irreverent and sometimes self-deprecating sense of humor. Spraggan’s new album is set for release in 2019 but for this tour you may get to hear some of that material.

Who: IDLES w/Bambara
When: Monday, 10.01.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: IDLES from Bristol, UK put out an album in 2018 called Joy as an Act of Resistance. A bold title and one the band was able to live up to at a time when too much of punk is fairly traditionalist in most ways. Musically it’s more experimental than a lot of punk and could be considered post-punk but the vibe is there and the critique of cultural distraction as aspirational reward, fake do-gooders, self-destruction and toxic masculinity is refreshing. Also on the tour is Brooklyn, New York’s Bambara. There’s a lot of darkwave-inspired bands and a new post-punk revival that’s been going on for nearly a decade but Bambara manages to stand out with some genuinely deep personal darkness in the vocals and sonics reminiscent of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and The Birthday Party in post-come down mode. It’s own 2018 album, Shadow On Everything, delivers on the promise of that title.

Tuesday | October 2, 2018

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at Oriental Theater circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: <PIG>, eHpH, Offerings to Odin, and DJ n810
When: Tuesday, 10.02, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Raymond Watts of <PIG> has been an influential figure on the sound and aesthetics of industrial music going back to the early-to-mid 80s as a producer, an artist and a sound engineer. While touring with Einsturzende Neubauten he had to tangle with a challenging live sound situation with that band’s use of large art pieces and experiments as noisemakers as well as more conventional instrumentation. He contributed to some of KMFDM’s most interesting work and with <PIG> he was an innovator in both industrial rock and finely sculpted ambient music. For this tour it’s mostly going to industrial rock but Watts’ stage performance draws on the antics of Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford and the aesthetics of a Kenneth Anger’s 1963 film Scorpio Rising. Or if not, that’s what it looked like while he was touring with Ohgr over the summer of 2018.

Who: Vase Vide w/Patrick Hale Coyle and Housekeys
When: Tuesday, 10.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Vase Vide is yet more proof that Colorado Springs is “hiding” some of Colorado’s most interesting bands. Sure, synth pop, but too weird and inherently experimental for just that. Daniel Oglesby’s and Kellie Palmblad’s vocal layers and treatments are certainly accessible but challenge conventional notions of what forms pop music can take. Along with the music and visual presentation of the band, Vase Vide may not be so well-known in Denver but the quality of the imagination going into its music and concept should garner the group national and international attention.

Wednesday | October 3, 2018

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Dr. Hamburger, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Enji, Dr. Hamburger and Gothsta
When: Wednesday, 10.03, 9 p.m. doors/9:15 show
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: October’s Weird Wednesday will be extra weird with video game electronics/guitar looping from Enji who will probably perform in an unusual mask. Gothsta is Weird Wednesday host Claudia Woodman’s keytar band and so a bit of glam presentation and the odd but on point cover. Dr. Hamburger is Cameron Farrash from Rochester, New York whose layers of textured beats, drone, harsh noise and ambient tones creates a surreal, even otherworldly ambiance.

Best Shows in Denver 12/14/17 – 12/20/17

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Esmé Patterson, photo Joseph Nienstedt

Thursday: December 14, 2017

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f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Corey Daggers, Snaggletoothe and f-ether
When: Thursday, 12.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is Musical Mayhem at The Skylark Lounge part 1 (part 2 is in two weeks) for December. Typically it’s somewhat an extension of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday meaning it’s the weirder end of Colorado live bands and occasionally an underground touring band. The night is simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. This night, zombie surf rocker Corey Daggers will be performing. As will improvisational noise rockers Snaggletoothe and experimental electronic dance legend in the making, f-ether. It’s 21+ because it’s a bar but it’s also a free show.

 

Who: Prayers
When: Thursday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Prayers, the band that coined the genre Cholo Goth, return in the wake of the release of its 2017 album, Baptism of Thieves. Part industrial, part electro death rock, part synth pop, Prayers has from the beginning articulated a gritty personal vision that is both profane and philosophical, compassionate and poetic about the harshness of everyday life for many people. Perhaps the whole Cholo Goth thing is a gimmick in a way but there is no denying the power and charisma of the band in the live setting. Recently Rafael Reyes and Dave Parley collaborated with former members of Christian Death (Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone) on the Cursed Be Thy Blessings EP.

Friday: December 15, 2017

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The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Nicole Atkins w/The Milk Blossoms and Chella Negro
When: Friday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nicole Atkins is at this point a veteran songwriter whose combination of classic pop (think pre-1960s), indie rock, psychedelia and American lends her music a ring of familiarity while not really sounding like anyone else. Her clever wordplay and bright voice makes it easy to forget the brutal, yet not cruel, emotional honesty of, for instance, her 2011 album Mondo Amore. Atkins’ new album, 2017’s Goodnight Rhonda Lee, finds the songwriter finding new ways to make some fairly stark self-reflection seem hopeful and in turn helps you to find ways to forgive yourself without letting you off the hook. Atkins may be quasi-famous, and rightfully so, at this point, but she’ll be in good company with the local openers. The Milk Blossoms make fragile yet powerful pop songs with unconventional elements. Somehow the ukulele doesn’t seem like a quaint affectation as it deftly expresses the delicate emotional colorings within and on the fringes of the deeply affecting voices of Harmony Rose and Michelle Rocqet. Chella Negro has long been a singer-songwriter in Denver and the whole time she’s managed to write songs that go beyond surface subject matter. Even when one of her songs is overtly about this or that, within those stories Chella dives deeper and digs out those kernels of truth merely suggested at by most other songwriters and finds a way to articulate them in a way that’s relatable to almost anyone.

Who: Alphabet Soup #29: Rare Byrd$, Adam Selene, MYTHirst, Furble Cakes, Chromadrift, DaShwoo and Preston Safeway
When: Friday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Deerpile
Why: This is mostly a hip-hop show with some chill vibes. Chromadrift is an ambient artist whose songs don’t sound like he just put together the money to buy a Yamaha DX-7 and a cheap drum machine to plug into an SP-404. It’s like he’s tapped into a place of true calm and solace somewhere in the recesses of his dream states and made them into songs. Rare Byrd$ is secretly in the top three hip-hop groups in Denver and the group’s songs are incredibly compassionate feminist mantras designed for anyone looking for music or art in general that is strong but has no truck with brutality. As if an old school gangsta rapper/producer ditched the violent imagery and brutal beats for a message of love in both specific and bigger picture senses accompanied by smooth beats possessed of a transcendent and transporting beauty.

Saturday: December 16, 2017

Night Grinder
Night Grinder, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Grotto album release w/Restivo, Moon Atomizer and Night Grinder
When: Saturday, 12.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver’s Grotto is releasing its latest album, Spring Drips, this night. Its instrumental music combines the hazy, blissed out sensibility of downtempo IDM with electro-acoustic soundscapes. The beats are both sculpted electronics and organic-sounding like something you’d hear from Bonobo or Sound Tribe Sector 9 but an aesthetic closer to the playfulness and dreamlike quality of early Björk. Also on the bill is noise/industrial artist Night Grinder. The latter is the solo project of Cribsy Gacy who some from the Saint Louis noise scene might remember for his time in various bands The Icebergs, Monster Sized Monster and Street Justice. Using bass, vocals, various electronic devices in layers, Gacy captures the sense of civic decay and economic neglect along with the accompanying desperation many of us will find familiar but not often articulated in music.

Who: Esme Patterson w/Susto and Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 12.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When Esmé Patterson was in Paper Bird her talent was clear and obvious. There was a lot of talent in that band in general. But it always seemed that she had to tie her self-expression and imagination in the context of that band to an aesthetic that while it clearly had an appeal for many people, probably felt limiting. By 2012, Patterson wrote and released her debut solo album All Princes, I. To anyone only superficially familiar with Paper Bird it might not have seemed too removed from the music of her old band. In fact, it was a stylistic leap in a different direction without ditching what made Patterson’s vocals and songwriting noteworthy—warm vocals that both sound like something very present but evoke something you might have heard on FM radio in the 70s. Her lyrics even then balance well imaginative storytelling with commenting on human relationships with other people and with ourselves.

2015’s Woman to Woman found Patterson taking even more chances as a songwriter by writing songs in response to iconic pop songs of the last few decades including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” a song down there with “Under My Thumb” in terms of being incredibly catchy, well-written songs but with lyrics that might make you think differently of the artists in question. In each case Patterson is creative, sometimes humorous, and thought provoking. With We Were Wild from 2016, Patterson’s experiments and expansion of her musical palette from her previous albums paid off well on the new set of songs. Some of the reviews of that time talked about how unfocused the album seems to be but some of that came off more wanting to expand horizons and ideas rather than getting stuck in a rut. It also matched Patterson’s own inner experience of examining her own life, which isn’t always such a cut and dry, linear process—it’s more emotional, experiential and intuitive. The record is the embodiment of that too. If it didn’t always work at least the impulse was right. What the album, and Patterson’s newer, as yet unreleased, material revealed most vividly was that the songwriter’s guitar work with its chiming, percussive strum was more reminiscent of something like The Cramps or Jeff Buckley than the folk/Americana roots not to mention her willingness as a vocalist to embrace the wilder end of emotional expression beyond that warm, delicate strength that helped make her name.

Who: Decemburger 2017: Bongripper, Call Of The Void, Serial Hawk, Weaponizer, Abrams, The Munsens, Weeed, NightWraith and Sceptres
When: Saturday, 12.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you’re in the mood for a broad spectrum of extreme metal tonight, get to this show at the Hi-Dive. Call of the Void blurs the line between grindcore and death metal with its stark and unrelenting songs. Weaponizer is sort of a combination of black metal and thrash so the songwriting is there but its aesthetic has that chaotic quality that makes black metal so interesting. Its latest album Lawless Age that would be a good name for the era we’re in or one that we seem to be heading into. The other bands on the bill would be worth your time too if you want to see heavy music that isn’t straightjacketed by purist genre emulation.

Sunday: December 17, 2017

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Susto and Down Time
When: Sunday, 12.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: For the great Esmé Patterson see the write-up above. In addition to the Charleston based alt-country/Americana band Susto, is Denver’s Down Time whose indie rock songs are really not being constructed in a conventional sense seeing as it is partly centered on the drums with Davie Weaver playing drums and sometimes bass at the same time. Alyssa Maunders sounds like a long lost member of Young Marble Giants and her minimal guitar work is more a texture than a vehicle for melody. Justin Camilli’s own guitar work matches Maunders’ for melodic textures but his keyboard work is truly standout. The richly saturated tones aren’t as obvious on the band’s excellent debut EP, 2017’s Good Luck!, but live it’s striking. Fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Foxygen should probably at least give Down Time a listen.

Monday: December 18, 2017

Gary Numan
Gary Numan, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gary Numan w/Me Not You and DJ Slave 1
When: Monday, 12.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan has been an innovative artist in the post-punk, new wave, synth pop and industrial rock genres while being a foundational artist for the latter three. Numan made waves in his homeland the UK with “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” with his old band Tubeway Army. But he crashed into the international mainstream with his 1979 hit “Cars.” Numan’s blending of science fiction imagery with a sound suggestive of a future neither utopian or dystopian pre-dated and yet was somewhat the aesthetic of cyberpunk, which, as with Numan, was influenced by the visionary and literate novels of J.G. Ballard. Throughout the 80s Numan further experimented with music technology and developed a sound that anticipated and influenced the production of 90s industrial rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory. With 2017’s Savage (Songs From a Broken World), Numan proves that twenty-one albums into his career he isn’t out of ideas or things to say or sound experiments to explore. This time out the theme of the album is the most overt in adopting the subject of the environment and its impact on human cultures whether those cultures acknowledge them or otherwise.

Tuesday: December 19, 2017

Agnostic Front
Agnostic Front, photo by Todd Huber

Who: Agnostic Front w/99 Bottles, Street Priests and Ultraviolet
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: Agnostic Front was one of the bands that helped establish New York as a late entry into the first wave of hardcore in the 80s. Early on the band had that more original hardcore sound of loud-fast-rules but by the late 80s, Agnostic Front was one of the pioneers of crossover. While claims of the band having been nationalistic and fascist skinheads are laughable when you look into what its songs are about, the band has always had a tough and uncompromising image. And part of that image has also been its working class politics that embrace being a thinking person in a climate where you’re encouraged to dumb down and obey. At least in its music and its presentation thereof, Agnostic Front was having none of that. Anti-war, anti-oligarchy, pro-social justice, pro-solidarity in the face of fascism, Agnostic Front may be one of the older bands in punk but like many that have stuck around, for example D.O.A. and Subhumans, its sense of political ideas have refined giving the old fire in their belly a different kind of edge.

Who: An Evening with Todd Rundgren
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Who can say they’ve had charting hits over decades and did production work for bands as different as Grand Funk Railroad, Patti Smith Group and XTC? Todd Rundgren’s own music has been on a steady path of evolution since first playing out in rock bands in the 60s and his more recent albums demonstrate his explorations of modern electronic musical styles, 2015’s Global being a good example, while writing music that combines a classic songwriting sensibility with newer sounds and aesthetics that don’t seem awkwardly incorporated, as on his 2017 album White Knight. Throughout most of his long career, Rundgren has adopted new technologies and methods of creating and presenting music and his tours, even for dates at a medium-sized theater like The Oriental, have long been multi-media affairs to enhance the impact of the music. This tour is billed as the “White Night Tour” with hits from across his career so who can say what you’ll hear, especially from a guy who seems averse to the rote and whose catalog is twenty-seven albums long.

Wednesday: December 20, 2017

Mandy Yoches
Mandy Yoches circa December 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Agnostic Front w/Combat Force and Line Brawl
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: See the entry for Agnostic Front above. Also on the bill are Denver hardcore bands Combat Force and Line Brawl. The latter released a worthwhile ripper of a record, Worse Off, in April 2017.

Who: Mandy Yoches w/CRL CRRLL
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Mandy Yoches has done vocals for various bands over the years but in the last handful of years she’s been performing under her own name or with her band The Hell Knows. Her melodious, soulful voice and palpable sincerity are a powerful combination. Yoches doesn’t perform too often but you can sometimes catch her at the Goosetown on a Wednesday in any given month including this night when she’ll share the stage with electro-hip-hop artist CRL CRRLL. Ever since the line between hip-hop beatmaking and experimental electronic dance music soundscaping was obliterated some years back, many artists have been able to tape into a wide variety of musical ideas to craft inventive and compelling music. CRL CRRLL just happens to be one of the most interesting artists occupying that intersection of styles and you can find him playing events like Cloak & Dagger as well as hip-hop and avant-electronic shows with his accessible but forward thinking songwriting.