Kyle Emerson’s New Album Only Coming Down is Like a Long Journal Entry About Embracing the Choice to Grow Up With Your Soul, Creativity and Kindness Intact

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Kyle Emerson, photo by Luka Booth

Kyle Emerson just released his second album as a solo artist, the introspective and thought-provoking Only Coming Down. The songwriter recently relocated back to Los Angeles in August 2019 after a stint back in Denver where he originally came to the attention of fans of psychedelic pop during his stint in the band Plum. For a couple of years, the latter was a bit of a buzz band before it realized that maybe Denver wasn’t the best place to base a band that seemed to have the opportunity expand its reach beyond the local scene, beyond being nominated for local awards and playing the same gauntlet of small clubs and occasionally playing bigger venues like the 550 capacity Bluebird Theater or graduate in draw and popularity to the Gothic Theatre at 1,100. Plum moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and within about a year Emerson had left the band and not long after Plum fizzled out. For some that would have been discouragement enough but not for Emerson who had already relocated once to pursue his dream of being a musician with a career.

Emerson was born in Northern Ohio not far south of Detroit where his father was a worship leader at a non-denominational church. While involved in a worship band Emerson learned some music theory from the group’s leader who also shared his love of Radiohead, indie rock and later era alternative music. Emerson also connected with and studied guitar under a music teacher of a local private school, Patrick Paringer, who had grown up in Seattle and known Elliott Smith. At that time Emerson the current bassist in his live band Dan Volmer who also played in the youth group band.

After high school a number of Emerson’s friends moved to Colorado and Brooklyn. Those that moved to the latter offered to let him join their band and sleep on their couch until he got on his feet. But life in NYC was daunting and Emerson didn’t feel like he was ready to live in the city on his own.

Colorado beckoned in 2014 and before moving to Denver Emerson was blithely unaware of happenings in the state and city. He did not know about the legalization of recreational cannabis or that the city was experiencing its largest and longest period of population growth in many years with many musicians moving to Denver seeking out the opportunity for perceived overnight success of acts like The Lumineers and The Fray or at least to be in a place where music was happening and the scene not yet oversaturated. Emerson’s friend Andrew Bair (now of dream pop phenoms Tyto Alba and other projects), son of the pastor of Emerson’s church in Ohio, had moved to Denver and he felt like with Bair and other friends around he could keep his footing in a less expensive city than New York. So he moved into a two bedroom apartment at Thirteenth Avenue and Marion St. near the former location of the Gypsy House Café and shared a room with Volmer for a few months before moving in with the guys from Plum in the Villa Park neighborhood of west central Denver.

The fledgling band had a lot going for it aside from musical and songwriting talent. Ty Baron was a music business major and did some talent buying at Larimer Lounge, a club where many up and coming acts perform weekly, and Jake Supple had been also playing in Abandin Pictures, a group with some cachet in the local psychedelic rock world (he now performs in Flaural). Both had navigated the local music world both as artists and on the less romantic business end of what it actually means to be in a band that might want to do more than play for a few dollars and free drinks.

But like a lot of bands Plum ran into that often unspoken barrier to a lot of bands from Denver and Colorado generally that prevents most from reaching beyond the local band status. Sure, there are anomalies like the aforementioned Lumineers, The Fray and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and on a smaller scale, Tennis. But outside of jam bands and the EDM world, not a lot of in between being bonafide famous and “local band” status regardless of one’s artistic merits. So even though the move and living in cramped quarters in what was essentially a practice space in L.A. lead to the band breaking up, the decision to relocate was understandable. When you have some hype at home it stands to reason you can build that elsewhere, especially when you’re young.

When Emerson left Plum in 2016 he moved back to Denver where he had some roots and connections and wrote and recorded his moving debut solo album, 2017’s Dorothy Alice. It combined Emerson’s insightful lyrics and storytelling with a folky psychedelia and almost textural atmospheric melodies. The sound has become a bit of the songwriter’s signature sound. Emerson had recently split with his then girlfriend and on top of the other experiences it’s no wonder there is more than a bit of a melancholic vibe to Dorothy Alice that is part of its deep appeal. But recorded with Jeff Cormack of pop band South of France and Justin Renaud of psychedelic rock outfit Sunboy the record reflects Emerson’s renewed hope for his music and his affection for the Mile High City.

“It felt very Denver, very Colorado and it felt great to be back,” says Emerson. “I was living back in that old house where Plum was living. It was like picking up where I had left off in a weird way.”

Emerson didn’t waste any time in writing for his sophomore record nor did he intend for it to come across like a journal entry of the last few years as he moved from Denver to Los Angeles, then repeating that same move and the experiences that framed those moves but it does. In writing the new material Emerson had no working title, which he feels might influence the sound of a record and songs chosen for better or worse, it just came to him one day. “You talk about the come down from anything, a natural high or drugs or alcohol or whatever,” says Emerson. “The more I conceptualize it I don’t know if it gets cooler or more lame but I just think there’s something about if you’re only ever coming down then there was no high on the other side of it.”

Emerson also suffered from a bit of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a kid and the acronym has the same letters as Only Coming Down. It reflects the fact that Emerson feels that music was the only thing that got him out of that head space of focusing so much on minutiae to the detriment of a productive life. Now in the process of writing his third record Emerson realized that he had to grow up.

“It’s not a conscious thing for a lot of people and you dabble in things you know you need to move on from,” explains Emerson. “The last two records are about the woes of growing into yourself. You’re always growing up your entire life. It’s not like you get to a certain place and you’ve arrived. There was something about putting a bookend on a lot of the themes I was writing about and the things I was feeling. The title summarized that feeling in so many ways with just three words.”

The heaviness that many listeners heard on Dorothy Alice is still there on Only Coming Down but the early feedback has remarked on it being upbeat. Whether it’s Emerson’s recent decision to use more electronics on the new record since discarding a purist’s disdain for technology or the more than a hint of hope in his songs that often contrast hope and despair, or the songwriter’s compassionate take on his role as a musician, the new album definitely tilts toward the positive.

“I don’t play party music, it’s not like that,” says Emerson. “But it’s like I stand in front of a room full of people who at the end of the day are just there to have a good time and as artistic as this can get and as some songwriters and musicians think they are I do believe in the power of positivity. I didn’t think about that so much when I was younger but now if you can say yeah this sucks but I’m here for you, it’s going to get better. I think that’s more worthwhile to say than it’s all shit and then we die. I think there’s power and reality in both of those, I just find it a little bit easier living in the first one a little easier.”

Catch Emerson live during his run of shows in Colorado with Houndmouth:

Friday | November 8 at The Bluebird Theater in Denver
Saturday | November 9 at The Fox Theatre in Boulder
Sunday | November 10 at Memorial Hall in Manitou Springs

Best Shows in Denver 4/11/19 – 4/17/19

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Earl Sweatshirt at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom on April 11, photo by Steven Traylor

Thursday | April 11

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Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Earl Sweatshirt & Friends w/Bbymutha and Liv.e
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Earl Sweatshirt released his first mixtape, Kitchen Cutlery, under the name Sly Tendencies in 2008 when he was just fourteen years old. Within a year he was contacted by Tyler, the Creator, who was a fan and changed his performance/musical moniker to what it is now. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, the son of an American law professor and a South African poet and political activist, Sweatshirt has created some of the most sonically inventive and thought-provoking hip-hop of the past decade. He got a bump up early on due to his association and work with Odd Future but his solo albums from 2013’s Doris onward revealed an artist in touch with and non-judgmental toward the deeper regions of his psyche and whose imagination and musical instincts have never been narrowed down to how ideas and sounds fit into established channels of expression. The 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside lives up to the suggestion of the title and probably won’t be played at many parties. But it’s a record that dives deep with an uncompromising search for something real and something that can cut through the haze of our world overstimulated by blandness broadcasted as exciting. 2018’s Some Rap Songs has brighter atmospheres but the words manage to plumb personal darkness further. The production, though, is reminiscent of Black Moth Super Rainbow in its sampling of sounds and music in a highly refined collage of feelings and imagery that fizz and fade out in perfect orchestration with the complimentary layers of rhythm and poetry.

Who: Life After Earth and Brother Saturn
When: Thursday, 04.11, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Guess this edition of the Speakeasy Series hosted by Glasss Records could be called An Evening With Drew Miller. Life After Earth is Miller’s darker electro ambient project while Brother Saturn’s gorgeously gauzy, guitar-driven, ambient post-rock is decidedly brighter and more uplifting.

Who: Slow Magic w/Covex
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

Who: Dead Characters, Obtuse, Bernie & The Wolf Rita Rita, Fragile Fires
When: Thursday, 04.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Who: Great Falls w/False Cathedrals, Muscle Beach, Fathers
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Who: Blacc Rabbit w/Shark Dreams and Jeff Cormack
When: Thursday, 04.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Friday | April 12

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Lusine, photo by Sarah M

What: Double-Ply Translucent Caterpillar #5
When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: The free jazz improv prog fusion all-star extravaganza is back (sans the late, great, Ikey Owens who was a regular back in the day) but rather than at DIY space Unit E, at Ophelia’s. Includes members of Rubedo, Holophrase, déCollage, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Kendrick Lamar’s band and The Other Black.

Who: Lusine w/Milky.wav and Snubluck
When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jeff McIlwain has produced a consistently interesting, evolving body of work as Lusine for twenty years. Combining samples that contain elements of physical sound (chains, chimes, bells, other objects truck for textural qualities) into his beats and soundscaping, McIlwain’s songs truly transport the listener to a place that is both unknown and yet ineffably tangible.

Who: Memorybell, Sine Mountain, Mosh
When: Friday, 04.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Tandem Bar
Why: With Memorybell, Grant Outerbridge is able to use his mastery of piano beyond his classical training to craft evocative, minimalist compositions that suggest an intimate familiarity with doubt, unease and the overwhelming demands of modern life and how to untangle that with songs that transcend such contexts by subtly coaxing you lateral thinking and feeling.

Saturday | April 13

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Jane Siberry, photo courtesy the artist

Who: DBUK and Norman Westberg w/George Cessna
When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver Broncos UK is basically the alter ego of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club but one that is moodier, less upbeat and post-punk in the sense as, say, Shriekback, Crime and the City Solution and New Model Army, all of whom incorporated elements of folk, a sense of brooding introspection and a broad array of musical ideas to tell stories that many of their contemporaries weren’t. In 2019 DBUK released Songs Nine Through Sixteen, the follow up to its fantastic 2015 album titled, what else, Songs One Through Eight. For this show the band is joined by Slim’s talented son and experimental singer-songwriter George Cessna as well as Norman Westberg, the legendary SWANS guitarist whose solo output while not sprawling is always worth a listen and where he is able to demonstrate his interest in crafting unique atmospheres with guitar, banjo and drum machine. It might be described as ambient but the kind one might have to compare to the likes of Marisa Anderson or Helen Money.

Who: Get Your Ears Swoll 5: Meet the Giant, Gata Negra, The Jinjas
When: Saturday, 04.13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: People’s Building
Why: Everyone should get to experience Meet the Giant’s powerfully evocative dream pop. Maybe “pop” isn’t the word for it as its music borders on hard rock but informed by the aesthetics of electronic music and post-punk. And the raw emotional honesty of Mic Naranjo’s vocals transcends genre. Gata Negra is probably an anomaly now in Denver in that its blues-tinged music would have been considered alternative rock in the early 90s because it’s using that musical vocabulary in offbeat ways that allow for nuanced and poetic expressions of inner space.

Who: Jane Siberry w/Antonio Lopez
When: Saturday, 04.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill/Quinlan Cafe
Why: Jane Siberry is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter whose prolific career should be more well-known in America outside college radio in the 80s and 90s. Her lilting and melodious vocals and use of space and dynamics give her sometimes minimal elements an unconventional versatility and inventiveness. She has worked with Michael Brook, Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Her song “It Can’t Rain All the Time” was featured prominently in the film The Crow and other songs have been part of the soundtracks of the Wim Wenders films Until the End of the World and Faraway, So Close. Though typically conceptual in nature, both musically and in terms of her subject matter, Siberry’s songs are accessible and relatable in a way music that is more obviously experimental isn’t.

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Shana Cleveland, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Shana Cleveland (La Luz guitarist/singer) w/Down Time and Ryan Wong
When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Shana Cleveland’s sparkling and lush guitar work in La Luz is one of the reasons that band has never been stuck in some kind of throwback surf guitar thing. That and her introspective vocals that imbue her songs with an enviable mystique in modern music. Her debut solo album, 2019’s Worm Moon, is more ethereal than the music of La Luz but has the same entrancingly dusky quality that band exudes. Worm Moon may be more stripped down than what we’re used to hearing from Cleveland but it feels like we’re hearing her plumbing another layer of emotional depth in an already respectable musical career to date.

Who: Street Tombs (Santa Fe), Zygrot, Blood Loss and Secticide
When: Saturday, 04.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: It’s record store day and Chain Reaction Records, in Lakewood, is worth the trip particularly to get to see some of the best local and regional hardcore bands.

Sunday | April 14

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Swervedriver, photo by Steve Gullick

Who: Swervedriver and Failure w/No Win
When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Before the word “alternative” was a clumsily and ubiquitously applied term for a broad swath of music that emerged out into mass public consciousness in the early 90s, a generation of bands inspired in part by underground music were already embodying music that seemed like a paradigm shift into something different from what was then most “commercially viable.” Swervedriver rumbled to life in Oxford, England in 1989 when sole original member and vocalist/guitarist Adam Franklin and some friends laid down the roots of the band based on songs Franklin had written after his former band Shake Appeal (a nod to the influence of the Stooges) disbanded. Perhaps the right place at the right time, the nascent Swervedriver knew Mark Gardner of Ride, also from Oxford, who gave their demo to Creation Records head Alan McGee who signed the group. Creation would become all but synonymous with “shoegaze.”

All the bands on Creation, pretty much, were sonically massive and shared similar influences but unlike brilliant, ethereal soundcapers Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver had more traditionally hard rock underpinning to the songwriting and its sound seemed more gritty and distorted like some of its American counterparts in the USA who were already poised to turn the music industry on its head while cultural commentators and journalists struggled with an overarching term for that phenomenon. Swervedriver didn’t become a household name like Nirvana or Pearl Jam but its records have remained revered and influential. The group split in 1998 but reunited in 2008 and has since released two noteworthy records since in 2015 with I Wasn’t Born to Lose You and 2019’s Future Ruins. Like former labelmates Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver wasn’t inclined to release a record that wasn’t worthy of its legacy.

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Failure, photo by Priscilla C Scott

In Los Angeles, Failure formed a year after Swervedriver in 1990 at the peak of the popularity of glam metal. Drummer Kellii Scott had grown up a fan of Rush and Iron Maiden and had been an avid live music fan in Los Angeles’ diverse musical world including taking in the sorts of shows at Gazzari’s and The Troubadour as one might have seen in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. But Scott’s eclectic musical tastes meant he was open to whatever seemed interesting or exciting. He was once the drummer of alternative funk band Liquid Jesus whose cover of “Stand” by Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume and through that band and other projects Scott established himself as a talented drummer in town. He was alerted to auditions for a little known group called Failure which was in the process of recording what would be its 1994 album Magnified. When he heard the demos future bandmates Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards had recorded and was immediately struck by the songwriting and how fresh and different its approach to making the music seemed that he wanted to be part of the band.

Failure’s 1992 debut Comfort as well as early Sunny Day Real Estate songs seem obvious influences on midwest emo and post-hardcore by mixing strong melodies with noisy, urgent songwriting and nuanced emotional colorings in the lyrics and Andrews’ vocal delivery. But Magnified put bass at the center of the the instrumentation allowing for guitar to gyre out out in plasmic bursts as the drums kept the dynamics corralled even as each song threatened to careen off into chaos. The new style gave the music a cinematic quality that the band expanded upon greatly with its 1996 then swan song Fantastic Planet. On the latter, Failure prominently introduced piano and acoustic guitar to give its urgent juggernaut of sound another layer of detail, giving the songs some space, no joke intended for a space rock record, to come down from the emotional heights and extremes present across the thrilling but sometimes harrowing record.

Even with a few critically acclaimed albums under its belt and having played on the 1997 Lollapalooza tour, Failure split in 1997 citing personal differences. Which is perhaps inevitable given the time, the pressure, knowing that you made some of the cooler records of the era but without that propelling one into the mainstream. After the break-up all the members of the band went on to different projects that helped each develop new musical skills and cultivate creative interests that would go on to help make Failure an even better band when it reunited in 2013. Edwards formed the fantastic, experimental post-punk band Autolux. Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (who had joined after Fantastic Planet was in the can) went on to play in A Perfect Circle and now plays in Queens of the Stone Age (and hasn’t returned to Failure). Scott played in various bands including Blinker the Star, Veruca Salt and Enemy but also did studio sessions for Linda Perry including performances on tracks by Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love. He also did work on a recent Dr. Dre album. Andrews has becoming an in-demand producer and engineer whose work can be heard on songs and albums by Paramore, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Chris Cornell.

After announcing a reunion with the classic lineup of Edwards, Andrews and Scott in late 2013, Failure played its first show in nearly 17 years in February 2014. Later that year Failure would tour the US including dates as part of Riot Fest. Fairly early on in that cycle of rehearsals and performances Failure wrote new material and released the Tree of Stars EP in May 2014 which included live tracks and the new song “Come Crashing.” But it wasn’t long before the band was preparing material for a new full-length, 2015’s sprawling The Heart is a Monster. The album demonstrated how far the band members had come individually as well as its chemistry as a collective. Arranged, produced and sequenced in an almost narrative fashion the albums songs work individually but taken as a whole like a collection of musical vignettes. While critical reception of the new Failure album was mixed it was obvious that there was still something there.

2018’s In the Future Your Body Will be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind was conceived and recorded in phases with three EPs released separately throughout that year and the complete album including the fourth EP released in November. Scott feels it’s the group’s best album and in terms of focus, utilizing the group’s complete skill set, sound palette and bringing to bear a mature, creative sensibility it’s hard to disagree unless one is burdened with the misguided, though often justified, conceit that a band does its best work on its first few albums. The new Failure album sounds like a band that has already been through the stage of discovering what it wants to be and rediscovered what it can be.

What: Kalyn4Mayor Battle of the Bands: Pay2Play Politics: Venus Cruz, Felix Ayodele, Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Tammy Shine, Bolonium, Josh Blue, Chris Fonseca and Christine Buchele
When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kalyn Heffernan is running to be mayor of Denver. As a producer and hip-hop MC with her band Wheelchair Sports Camp, Heffernan has demonstrated her imagination, talent and managerial skills. As an advocate for people with disabilities and queer youth, she has shown her ability to both reach out to and critique vested authority in a productive manner while not compromising her righteous mission. As mayor of Denver Heffernan will bring a much needed helping of good sense, pragmatism (you can’t navigate the world when you’re disabled without this quality), compassion, a knack for productive engagement, a knowledge of issues facing not just struggling populations and gentrification but the city as a whole as well as a love of the city and the people that make Denver a world class city. For this event Heffernan has brought together some friends to raise awareness of her candidacy and to raise funds for her campaign. All the bands are some of the most interesting acts in the Mile High City and the comedians among the town’s most talented.

Monday | April 15

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Ex Hex, photo by Michael Lavine

Who: Ex Hex w/Moaning
When: Monday, 04.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ex Hex was probably not the kind of band anyone would have expected from Mary Timony. The wiry, noise post-punk of Autoclave, Helium’s evolving experiments in tone and concept, Timony’s widely different albums under her own name exposing different aspects of her talent as a musician and songwriter. Inventively angular, often utilizing lo-fi aesthetics to create a quality of mystery, Timony is one of the most interesting musicians of the past three decades. So with the second Ex Hex album, 2019’s It’s Real, Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris have written songs that sound like they could have come out of a weird nexus of early 80s power pop, garage rock, new wave and hard rock. Huge, brash, riffs. Unabashedly bombastic hooks. Plenty of bands have drawn on that earlier era of rock for inspiration but too often it comes with embracing the regressive topics and sensibilities of that time as well. Not the case here. And none of the cheesy production. Just the unabashed joy but paired with a futuristic vision untethered from old school rock and roll cultural baggage. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based noise rock band Moaning who sound, in the best way, like You’re Living All Over Me period Dinosaur Jr after immersing themselves in the Siltbreeze catalog. Meaning understated, emotionally demolished vocals and urgent, gritty melodies and an energetic live show.

Tuesday | April 16

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Buke & Gase, self-portrait

Who: Yob w/Amenra and In the Company of Serpents
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Amenra is a Belgian metal band that has in its twenty year history helped to redefine what metal can be and sound like and embody the concept of heavy not just sonically but emotionally. Its blend of doom and ambient post-rock is well suited the dark, majestic outbursts threaded together with ethereal introductions, builds and interludes. Its full-length albums are titled Mass followed by a Roman Numeral indicating its sequence in the band’s catalog but also serves as a nod to chapters in the canonical works of a mystical sect. In The Company of Serpents recently overhauled its sound and while still well within the realm of extreme metal and doom, the songwriting bears some comparisons to artists that tap into a dark, forbidding blues. Like maybe Grant Netzorg listens to a bit of Nick Cave or later era Swans. Yob is the influential psych doom band from Eugene, Oregon. Influenced by, of course, Black Sabbath and imaginative art rock bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd, Yob’s music is incredibly heavy but there’s a fluidity and playfulness to its songwriting and presentation that ultimately transforms that heaviness into something uplifting, like a purge of the detritus that plagues the mind due to the build-up of the unreasonable demands of everyday life in late capitalism America.

Who: Buke & Gase w/Like A Villain and Holophrase
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Buke & Gase has always pushed boundaries in its exquisite use of unusual rhythms and otherworldly melodies. Its new album Scholars has the band absorbing mainstream and synth pop and transforming it to suit the group’s own sensibilities as only it can. And this whole bill is filled with vocalists who use their powerful voices as instuments in themselves. Holland Andrews of Like a Villain creates sound environments that recall the soundtracks to Michael Powell films or Diamanda Galas and Björk collaborating on music to accompany a Stanislaw Lem adaptation. Holophrase’s Malgorzata Stacha channels moods and modes seemingly directly from the unconscious and makes it work in the context of experimental downtempo music.

Who: Show Me The Body w/Euth, Law of the Night and TARGETS
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Show Me the Body from New York is technically a hardcore band but the vocal delivery sounds as much like what you’d expect as something from a weird hip-hop band. Fans of Sleaford Mods and IDLES will probably find a lot to like here though Show Me the Body is a bit darker than the aforementioned. The group recently released its 2019 sophomore album Dog Whistle.

Wednesday | April 17

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HEALTH, photo by Faith Crawford

What: HEALTH w/Youth Code and French Kettle Station
When: Wednesday, 04.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: With the 2019 release of Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, its first since the departure of guitarist Jupiter Keyes, proves that the remaining trio still absorbs new musical ideas and applies them creatively in its sonic palette while experimenting with its own production and sound processing as it has since its inception. This time the 8-bit crushing, driving-yet-fluid noise rock and ghostly, pitch-shifted/autotuned vocals give the impression of being layers in a dance track. It’s even difficult to tell whether the drums are analog or not and if so processed or submixed to EQ in unconventional ways. Honestly, knowing either way is irrelevant to anyone but purists of any stripe and HEALTH is a band that ditched notions of purity in music as boring and perhaps quaint long ago. The element that separates this new album and its music from 2015’s Death Magic is an element of industrial beat making. Sure the group worked with French industrial synth phenom Perturbator but if that was an influence it’s been wholly absorbed and incorporated.

Considering HEALTH’s new sound it’s only fitting that it’s touring with Youth Code. Both from Los Angeles, Youth Code was one of the major bands that was part of the recent darkwave revival of the past decade. Its confrontational EBM had the sharp edges of a hardcore band but its emotional resonance has been much broader.

Opening the show is Denver’s French Kettle Station. Always an incredibly energetic and dynamic performer, some might think there’s something of an act to it all beyond it being a compelling element to a live show. But Luke Thinnes’ enthusiasm is sincere and his mixture of 80s adult contemporary, Talk Talk and Arthur Russell. Speaking of 80s adult contemporary, FKS has been on a bit of a Phil Collins kick of late and even sometimes covers one of his iconic songs live.