This is the debut of our record reviews column. It has that name because each review here will generally be a brief set of impressions on each album. Because that might be more useful to most readers than an extended analysis. It may include releases that came out earlier in the year and each column will be updated as we add reviews. The featured album will usually get more attention and for April 2018 it is the new Black Moth Super Rainbow record Panic Blooms, out May 4 through the band’s own Rad Cult imprint.
Black Moth Super Rainbow – Panic Blooms – Rad Cult
Why is the new BMSR album the featured album? Because Tobacco and company are making some of the most idiosyncratic pop music today and the world needs more art that isn’t so easily nicked and dumbed down for people who can’t meet the art on its own terms, enjoy it thusly and perhaps be changed by it in some way.
It’s tempting to call Black Moth Super Rainbow the American Boards of Canada for its masterful recycling and repurposing old electronic music sounds into interesting new shapes that are as retrofuturistically alien as they are comforting. Panic Blooms makes more obvious BMSR’s use of hip-hop production styles in the mixing and beatmaking. But rather than some as-yet-to-exist abstract trap IDM record, this album comes off like the band is trying to reconnect with the musical spirit that first inspired it to make music. Like a search for a reason to keep doing this stuff. There’s always been an element of self-effacing humor in the band’s song titles and lyrics so “Bad Fuckin Times” makes sense. But “Rip On Through,” “One More Ear,” “We Might Be Back,” “New Breeze” and “Bottomless Face” hint at an artistic existential crisis. And yet, this set of songs has a coherence that wasn’t quite there on the 2016 Seefu Lilac EP. Panic Blooms, the title, suggests coming to the realization that maybe one is out of ideas and that very fear that shakes you to the core of your being, cutting you to the psychic quick, can either sink you or blast out yet another vital wave of creativity. The latter seems to be the case here and track to track, it’s a Black Moth Super Rainbow classic on par with 2007’s masterpiece, Dandelion Gum.
Breakdancing Ronald Reagan – Harsh Noise – Self Sabotage Records
Johnathan Cash, aka Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, is too much of an irreverent performance artist to take his sound mashups and collages at face value. Processed and pitch shifted vocals and cut-up short stories amid blasts of echoing white noise make “Playing Windchimes With My Feet” a bit humorous as it is disturbing. Rather than take himself too seriously, Cash has a song called “You Can Tell A Noise Act Sucks If All Their Tracks Have Really Long and Stupid Titles,” which he performs live, in which he describes what makes so many noise acts boring while embodying the same. Meta. The whole Breakdancing Ronald Reagan thing is meta. Equally ironically, Cash’s pieces on this album embrace the shittiness he mocks and pushes the concepts to their ridiculous logical conclusions while having made something worth listening to. Unironically, or so deeply ironic it isn’t, is that there actually is a lot of harsh noise on this tape including negative real or faked audience reactions.
Drinks – Hippo Lite – Drag City
Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley cut out most of the civilized world’s multifold distractions to write the follow up to 2015’s excellent DRINKS album Hermits on Holiday. Not getting poisoned by the incessant inundation of mediocre ideas resulted in one of the most fascinatingly eccentric pop albums in recent years. “Real Outside” has the kind of borderline atonal, unconventional percussion driven, non-standard rhythm that made Young Marble Giants, Liliput and, well, certain songs by Crass so listenable. Many musicians would sequester themselves and come up with the same old stuff they always do, Le Bon and Presley came up with a freak folk pop world or labyrinthine textures and warping tones and melodies to get lost in.
MIEN – MIEN – Rocket Shop
Opening track “Earth Moon” hints that you’re in for a record that was obviously informed by Screamadelica-period Primal Scream, the more gently psychedelic Brian Jonestown Massacre songs and pre-A Northern Soul era Verve. But the kosmische vibe of “Black Habit” breaks that impression. The driving/droning bass and tom heavy drumming and synth swells take the songs right out of what you’d immediately expect of musicians who are also in The Black Angels, The Horrors, Earlies and Elephant Stone. And from there album dives right into different realms of sound in terms of music and production. If “psych” is to continue to have any real meaning it’s going to be more like this in which the musicians clearly want to place themselves into alternate states of consciousness through the music they make rather than imitating someone else’s style completely. Sure there are familiar, comfortable elements if you’re familiar with the band members’ other work but they can’t help but be who they are and that also includes being seekers of experiences that expand the mind and stretch one’s creative capabilities. The album isn’t aimed for a mainstream audience, it’s aimed at the heads that crave something as different as maybe the first time they heard The Black Angels at a time when psychedelic rock just wasn’t in the general zeitgeist. But here there are more overt electronics in the mix and an electronic aesthetic to give a new dimension to what we already expect from the people in this band.
Mondo Obscura – Focus On Black – Symbolic Insight
Mondo Obscura doesn’t sound dated but its mixture of dub, IDM, ambient, dub and techno might have fit in more with the world of music that existed in the early-to-mid-90s when bands like Meat Beat Manifesto, Underworld, The Orb, Faithless, Rabbit in the Moon and Future Sound of London were blurring the lines between experimental electronic music and the more dance-oriented faire you might have heard at rave or a club catering to that kind of music. Particularly so with Focus On Black. Samples flow in a stream of tones buoyed by progressive beats driven by dubby bass lines. It has the structure of cinema with short chapters, fluid, fast cuts, some long takes like a Danny Boyle film or early Matthew Vaughn. Think progressive trance without the wack, safening elements blended in. Perfect after hours music for the chillout zone.
Night Grinder – Animus – Fourfold Records
An angry, prog-inflected industrial concept album is probably the last thing anyone would expect to be worth listening to in 2018. And yet, this sophomore Night Grinder album is such fascinating take on bringing all those ideas and more to bear on the miasma of social ills plaguing us all at once lately. By channeling that overwhelming feeling and refusing to be blasé about events we would have collectively reacted to with horror and utter outrage rather than resignation, Brad Schumacher (aka Night Grinder) has delivered a non-didactic statement across fourteen tracks regarding, yes, the dual meaning of the title, Animus, which means both “hostility” and “motivation to do something.” Schumacher makes no overt suggestions, but honors the fact that the paralysis of Americans in particular and the world generally in the face of the need to do something practical and productive about the seemingly endless internecine conflict across political and cultural divides is only ensuring more of the same evolves into worse. An updated on the Edmund Burke quote about how “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Evil, as it were, may not be triumphing per se, but the shittiest people sure seem to be prevailing, Schumacher just sees an end, not so difficult if complicated, to that trend and articulates that idea throughout Animus without hitting you over the head with an annoying level of messaging.
Solypsis – Solypsis-Devisor – Component Recordings
Out of James Miller’s prolific and diverse body of work, this one seems closest to synthesizing a bit of his Foetus-esque industrial noise beats with his knack for generating unpredictable melodies. Or maybe it’s just that he ties the melodic structure to borderline chaotic beats. There’s plenty of noisy breakcore composition across the album, as in “Death Threat,” and melancholy industrial dub the likes of which is represented well in “Life In A Hole,” but this Solypsis album shines best when Miller seems to go off his own deep end. “Straight From My Heart” is the sound of a songwriter who has hit bottom and still managed to laugh at the absurdity of heartfelt despair. “We Make Our Own Monsters” is uncommonly insightful as a title but is it a bit of a pun when the track is itself a fuzzy, lumbering, monstrous beat that Miller wrote himself in a life of musical output that isn’t exactly short on menacing work? In ending the album with “Wrong Tube,” Miller lets us know that even in his worst personal moments his humor is never completely gone nor is his ability to use the manipulation of minimalist elements to get under the skin of anyone that takes the time to delve into this album.
Who:GLAARE, Fearing, Echo Beds and Voight When: Thursday, 01.25, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Los Angeles-based post-punk bands GLAARE and Fearing will bring their lushly dark compositions to Mutiny, sharing the stage with like-minded Denver acts Echo Beds and Voight. GLAARE’s sound is closer to shoegaze bands with a strong electronic production component like Slowdive and Seefeel. Fearing shares some of those tendencies for slow, soaring atmospheres but with a darker flavor. Both bands had 2017 releases, GLAARE’s To Deaf and Day and Fearing’s Black Sand so expect a show that favors that era of each band’s music. Fans of Black Marble, John Maus and The Prids will find plenty to like about this show.
Who:LANDLINES film premiere w/Dinosaur Jr and Thurston Moore DJ set When: Thursday, 01.25, 6:15 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Vans is releasing its first full-length snowboard film, LANDLINE. Directed by Tanner Pendleton, who made Crazy Loco, about renowned young snowboarder Jed Anderson the screening will be preceded by a panel discussion with filmmakers and others affiliated with the production of the film. The presentation will include a performance from Dinosaur Jr who did some music for the soundtrack as well as a DJ set from Thurston Moore. It’s free but to attend please click the link above or here to RSVP.
Friday | January 26, 2018
Who:Night Grinder album release w/Kid Mask and Muscle Brain When: Friday, 01.26, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Brad Schumacher is a veteran of the Saint Louis noise scene and when he relocated to Denver a few years back his Night Grinder project was a unique combination of experimental bass playing and noisy soundscapes. His new album Animus bridges musical worlds: industrial, noise, ambient, IDM and glitchcore. Although sometimes abrasive and alien, Animus has an undeniable immediacy and intimacy that is the hallmark of Schumacher’s work generally. On the occasion of the release of the album, Night Grinder will be joined by post-punk band Muscle Brain and experimental electronic wunderkind, Kid Mask.
Who:Denver Meatpacking Company, Vic N’ The Narwhals and Waiting Til Three When: Friday, 01.26, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: With the most recent garage rock revival in the rearview with some stubborn holdouts still grinding it out, now increasingly replaced with the inevitable re-invention and resurgence of the kind of fuzzy rock style popular in the 90s, the oversaturation point of the next wave is rapidly approaching. Fortunately, Denver Meatpacking Company is doing it right by writing songs in the quiet-loud vein popularized by Mission of Burma and then Pixies by giving the songwriting a mature but not tamed edge. Vic N’ The Narwhals are clearly influenced by garage rock, psychedelia and more classic rock and roll but blend enough raw energy with sophisticated songcraft to bypass immediate comparisons. Waiting Til Three often seems like the duo took some cues from In the Whale and 2000s garage rock but it has enough genuinely tender material to make you not think it’s not just another band riding that retro music nostalgia train.
Who:EVP, eHpH, Church Fire and Angel War When: Friday, 01.26, 7 p.m. Where: Flux Capacitor 2.0 Why: Some of Denver’s finest darkwave artists will perform at Flux in Colorado Springs this night. The forbidding, darkly luminous industrial pop of EVP, eHpH’s thorny EBM and Church Fire’s politically charged and fiery dance song rituals will make that library building the place to be in the Springs for the duration of the show.
Saturday | January 27, 2018
Who:STRFKR w/Reptaliens When: Saturday, 01.27, 8 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: STRFKR has come a long way since starting as a Joshua Hodges solo project. But the components of the bands sound have remained consistent even as it has refined and evolved from a more indie-synthpop sound of its early albums. The band’s first three albums were a great soundtrack to suburban aspirational daydreaming of a more meaningful existence minus the anxiety. By the time of 2013’s Miracle Mile, STRFKR’s sound wended toward the more funk end of its musical instincts, reflecting its full-band lineup at that point. 2016’s Being No One Going Nowhere fully incorporated the robust low-end that buoyed the more laid back melodies for which that band had become known. In 2017 the band delved into its backlog of unreleased material for three volumes of rarities. But beyond just an “odds and sods” collection, the three volumes of Vault trace Hodges’ personal struggles and unguarded moments as a musician channeled into creative endeavors. With any luck, you’ll get to hear some of this material on the current STRFKR tour.
Who:Circuit Des Yeux w/Howling Hex When: Saturday, 01.27, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: 2017’s Reaching For Indigo is the latest album from Chicago’s Circuit Des Yeux, the more or less solo project of Haley Fohr. With the project, Fohr has explored human relationships, including socialized roles and identity, in a deep way paired with accessible yet boundary pushing music that is beholden to neither pop or avant-garde conventions. The live show is performance art as much as musical so go expecting to see something different from the usual sort of thing you’d see at a small bar/venue like Larimer Lounge. Also on the bill is Denver’s Howling Hex, the long-running project of Neil Michael Hagerty who some may know from his days in Royal Trux and Pussy Galore. Howling Hex finds Hagerty and his collaborators taking concepts and rhythms pioneered by ranchero and norteño artists in making repetition of theme and meter a hypnotic and creative form of songcraft. Of course Hagerty injects other elements of sound into the mix making Howling Hex really unlike any other band with his own roots in music and not much obviously like a Mexican folk style band either.
Who:Church Fire, Eyebeams and Milk Blossoms When: Saturday, 01.27, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Church Fire never bores with its compelling, inspiring shows with music that mixes fiery punk attitude with noise, synth pop and electronic dance music. The Milk Blossoms turn vulnerable, fragile musical and emotional elements into powerful, deeply affecting songs that are somehow both cathartic, gentle and thought provoking. Eyebeams prove that psychedelia had places to go that were not rooted in the garage rock of the past decade. Songwriter and singer Suzi Allegra’s words creatively suss out the intricacies of identity and dreaming with immediacy and insight.
Sunday | January 28, 2018
Who:Dirty Fences w/Sliver and Fast Eddy When: Sunday, 01.27, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Brooklyn’s Dirty Fences sound like the group immersed itself in classic power pop, 70s Oz rock and American proto-punk and carved its own sound out of that raw material. Its latest record, 2017’s Goodbye Love sounds like an homage to life in its ups and downs, to taking risks for fun and experiences beyond everyday mundanity and to the stories that come out of being willing to saying yes to promising opportunities as they come your way. Sliver melds the vitality and aggression of East Coast post-hardcore with the darkness and edge of early 90s grunge into a surprisingly effective amalgamation.
Who:Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band w/Nicki Bluhm When: Monday, 01.29, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Josh Ritter sounds nothing like Neil Young. But he shares Young’s knack for having a consistent, identifiable sound while seemingly never allowing himself to get stagnant or stuck in a boring rut. He also has a similar ability to find ways to talk about everyday life in a way that provides insight and an intimate view into his own psyche, flaws and all without getting maudlin. His latest record, Gathering, is warmly upbeat and almost celebratory while giving a sense of an introspective mood—like you’re being invited into a series of private moments with a friend who isn’t trying to hide or isolate but is still a little emotionally raw from life’s slings and arrows of late.
Who:Breakdancing Ronald Reagan (album release) w/Stye, Docile Rottweiler, Ancient, INC., DJ Anime Love Hotel When: Monday, 01.29, 7 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Breakdancing Ronald Reagan aka Jonathan Cash is releasing his first album as a Denver resident. Even while based in Austin until 2017, Cash was no stranger to the Denver noise scene as a performer at Denver Noise Fest and other events in town. His combination of harsh noise and surrealistic sound collage along with a sometimes confrontational but always visceral performance has made his shows a hit with noiseniks beyond his usual bases of operations. Also on the bill is Stye, the solo project of Nick Salmon of Voight, H. Lite (formerly Bollywood Life) and other local luminaries of the noise world.
Who:The Black Angels w/Ron Gallo When: Thursday, 10.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: The cover of The Black Angels’ new record, Death Song, itself is a commentary on what’s going on in American culture now and its ripple effect beyond the nation’s borders. Red, white and blue in repeating, circles within larger circles, hypnotic and disorienting, an image suggesting chaos but one that also hints at the possibility of a return to some semblance of coherence and peace. The image, designed by guitarist Christian Bland, is part graphic design style and part minimalist art, much like his work on previous Black Angels albums, but one that suggests movement and confused stasis.
The album’s music bears out those qualities with some of the group’s heaviest and most politically pointed, but never preachy, material to date. The Black Angels were one of the bands that pre-dated the relatively recent wave of psychedelic rock having begun life in 2004 and its own career helped to influence and shape the sound of modern psych with its own music and direct advocacy through Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest) and The Reverberation Appreciaion Society. While one of the bigger acts out of psychedelic rock today, The Black Angels and other psych acts make the kind of music that resists full commercial co-optation.
As a live act The Black Angels has always been one that integrates the visual presentation of the music with the sounds so that the experience of the show is one that reflects the experience intended with the creation of the music. This time out the urgency, the heaviness, the fear, anxiety and the catharsis that we all hope comes about on the other end of the current national and international nightmare unfolding as we speak.
Who:Me Me Monster, Gort Vs. Goom and Television Generation When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: Your Mom’s House Why: Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums duo who perform a kind of eccentric punk and jazz hybrid that may remind some listeners of Primus but it’s weirdness has as much to do with one of that band’s influences, The Residents, as with any post-Mr. Bungle art rock band. GvG (for MMO nerds even if not fully intentional on the part of the band) also often perform in costume or some sort of get-up. And Me Me Monster and its commitment to theater and spectacle is a good fit but its own warped hard rock sounds like what might happen if Neil Young got into making psychedelic prog but went through a weirdo jazz phase teaming up with Robin Trower. Television Generation isn’t overtly weird. It’s brand of fuzzy punk, psychedelic garage rock and pop bears some comparison to Love Battery but there is even more of a sardonic sense of humor informing its songwriting and presentation.
Who:Perry Weissman 3, Roger Green and Andy Monley When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Perry Weissman 3 is a long-running avant-garde jazz and rock band that was perhaps most active in the 90s and earl 2000s. Roger Green is the genius guitarist and avant-garde composer who may be best known for his stint in local slowcore band The Czars, which included experimental pop songwriter John Grant. And hey, while we’re talking about former members of The Czars, the band’s other guitarist and vocalist, Andy Monley, is on this bill as well. Monley, however, has plenty of respectable music outside The Czars including his still going tenure with alternative rock band/country punk weirdos, Jux County and his exquisitely written and thoughtful solo material.
Who:Jerkagram, The Uglys, Chromadrift, Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh When: Thursday, 10.26, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Bar (Carioca Café) Why: Jerkagram from Los Angeles is one of those bands that didn’t really fit in a single genre of music so its styles can be all over the place and all at once. But loosely more on the heavier and math-y end of things. In some ways the band is reminiscent of former Denver art rock weirdoes Action Friend who now live and play in L.A.. The Uglys get dubbed this and that and probably haven’t fully decided what they are themselves. How a band can remind you of both Mudhoney, At the Drive-In and Fu Manchu all at once I don’t know but that’s The Uglys for you. Some screamy stoner rock, if you will. Chromadrift? As in Drew Miller? The IDM/ambient artist whose music is so ethereally beautiful it immediately transports you to a better place? Indeed. Filling out the bill are Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh, progressive metal bands from Georgia.
Friday: October 27, 2017
Who:Brujeria w/Powerflo and Piñata Protest When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Brujeria is almost pure schtick as a North Mexico drug cartel/national liberation group/band. Death metal, grindcore, unabashed takedowns of questionable politicians like Donald Trump (pre/post-presidency) and lots of cartoonishly dark humor. But the music to some extent transcends the joke because the musicians are members of other well-known heavy acts like Napalm Death, Carcass, Cradle of Filth, Criminal and others. Opening act Piñata Protest is a highly entertaining hybrid of ska punk and Norteño.
Who:Chelsea Wolfe and Youth Code When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Chelsea Wolfe has spent her career writing in a variety of musical styles but all of it has been a vehicle for her stark rendering of emotional turmoil and channeling that into challenging yet entrancing works of art. Wolfe’s last few records have brought forth in explicable form the subconscious ghosts that have long haunted the songwriter. Her latest, 2017’s Hiss Spun, is the heaviest set of songs Wolfe has yet released. Heavy but also heady and sonically expansive. If some of Wolfe’s previous records could feel and sound claustrophobic as a reflection of an insular creative vision, Hiss Spun is that vision opened up and shared more fully with anyone who might want to share in that experience as someone well-acquainted with personal demons and/or as someone that appreciates an authentic emotional experience so intensely realized.
Youth Code while a different animal musically, is a great fit for this tour because Sarah Taylor’s own unrelenting emotional intensity on stage is something to witness. The band’s dark, industrial bursts of tones and rhythm have evolved considerably since its earliest recordings and 2016’s Commitment to Complications revealed a band that is more than a thrilling jackhammer of aggressive music. There is a moody underbelly and a catharsis of internalized melancholy alongside the desperation you’d expect.
Who:Church Fire and Motion Trap When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m. Where: Black Shirt Brewery Why: It could be argued that both of the bands on the bill are electronic dance bands of the highest order because they are. Motion Trap, though, is tends toward bright tones and more keyed into the kind of aesthetic for dance clubs because it is very upbeat. But its music is way too steeped in strong pop songwriting to fully fit in that world. One of the few bands it does seem to fit in with is Church Fire whose dark undertones, politically-charged, noisy synth pop is one of the most exciting bands in Denver or anywhere right now. It’s own unabashed embrace of hip-hop beat production and industrial and dance music isn’t necessarily obvious. This will be an outdoor show starting at 8 p.m. so bring warm clothing.
Who:Mux Mool, atruc, RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: Kind of a more leftfield live dance music/hip-hop night with progressive beat maker Mux Mool, alternative hip-hop duo Curta playing as atruc, electro-guitar-based ambient solo act RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines. The latter’s combination of ambient, IDM and dubtechno-flavored beats is always very different from many of the acts in whose company he finds himself. The 2016 album III Pillars was a triptych of hypnotic noise and textured atmospheres that established a sense of place. Except that place wasn’t in normal reality.
Who:Rot Congress Night 1: Loanword, Boat Drinks, Jobless, The Far Stairs, Fake Awake When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Hot Congress, the long-running indie rock collective, has been hosting this Halloween-themed event for years with some of the best bands out of that corner of the Denver music scene. This first night includes ambient project Loanword is on tap as is lo-fi band Jobless and former Hindershot keyboardist Jesse Livingston’s experimental synth pop band The Far Stairs.
Saturday: October 28, 2017
Who:Cults w/Cullen Omori and Hideout When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Cults made a bit of a splash with its debut EP and “Go Outside” single in 2010. Its evocation of upbeat, breezy 60s pop mixed with a sense of the otherworldly. Like an alternative history science fiction story born out of heartbreak, personal trauma or simply plain wanting to recast a drab and depressing present with something more romantic and meaningful without the cheese factor that often accompanies such impulses and creative work that comes out of them. Cults latest record, 2017’s Offering, finds the band maintaining that Julee Cruise-esque, dreamlike, nostalgic tone but this time with a broader palette of sounds and rhythms. Where some of the earlier music sounded like it was tapping into some of Phil Spector’s Gold Star Studios years’ vibe, Offering sounds more present and immediate. Opener Cullen Omori was once a member of up-and-coming pop/rock band Smith Westerns. When that band split in 2014, Omori continued writing and performing under his own name. The music wasn’t radically different but the tone seemed to shift. Smith Westerns was very rooted in 70s rock. Omori’s solo output is more reminiscent of a modern version of a New Wave band with a gently psychedelic overtone. More synth, more lush sounds overall. His 2016 album, New Misery, sounded like an artist who wasn’t creatively cutting all ties with his old band so much as reinventing it and, um, culling the elements that didn’t work for him the first time around.
Who:TR/ST When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Robert Alfons doesn’t yet have a new record out but TR/ST released a new single, “Bicep,” over the summer. The new track sounds like Alfons is wending more in the direction of EBM than the synth/dance pop of his first two records. TR/ST was one of the few bands that Goth DJs in Denver would play out of the wave of dark electro music that has been very much part of the indie underground since the second half of the 2000s. No, it didn’t sound like Depeche Mode or even Erasure but Alfons’ songs were as dark and moody as anything the former has ever released and as celebratory yet thoughtful as the latter’s best material. When TR/ST recently played Denver it was a well-attended show at The Bluebird so here’s a chance to see the project at a much smaller venue.
Who:Mehvana (as Nirvana), Denver Meatpacking Company (as Hüsker Dü) and Lawsuit Models (as Jimmy Eat World) When: Saturday, 10.28, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Bands performing covers sets for Halloween isn’t the most original thing in the world but all the bands on the bill for this show are at least trying out something different with grunge-esque band Denver Meatpacking Company doing a set of Hüsker Dü songs probably focusing on the middle era. It’s not a huge leap for pop punk band Lawsuit Models to a Jimmy Eat World set but putting yourself in someone else’s creative head space even if you’re influenced by their work takes some effort when you’re not some session musician or someone that generally plays in cover bands.
Who:Sharone & The Wind (“Night of Terror”) w/Black July, 21 Taras and Married a Dead Man When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original Bar B Que Why: It’s a Halloween show that Sharone & The Wind is advertizing as their “Night of Terror” so expect some theatrical shenanigans from the Denver hard rock band. In recent months the band has reinvented itself in a direction more like a cross between a proto-death rock band and a blues-inflected emo group. Sounds like it shouldn’t work but it does. Married a Dead Man is a Goth/death rock band that came out of people who played in the punk and hardcore scene beforehand. Sonically, sort of reminiscent of Sunshine Blind but rougher around the edges at the moment—you know, that ethereal synth with some metallic guitar with a female vocalist who sounds like she is no stranger to belting it a little.
Who:Bob Log III w/Colfax Speed Queen When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bob Log III used to freak people out as the confrontational frontman of Doo Rag. The Crash Worship crowds for whom the duo played probably got it but the Lollapalooza crowd probably wasn’t used to seeing weirdo blues quite that raw and primal. As a solo artist, Bob Log III has only pushed the theatrical side of his act further with strange costumes like a carnie, blues punk Dex Romweber. Denver’s Colfax Speed Queen won’t be quite as stripped down but it’s own psychedelic garage rock is surprisingly forceful and disorienting in its own way.
Who:Lee “Scratch” Perry + Subatomic Sound System w/Gracie Bassie, TNERTLE (solo) When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Other Side Why: Lee “Scratch” Perry is one of the architects of modern music as we know it. As the producer at the now defunct Black Ark in Jamaica, Perry was one of the pioneers of dub, which is a radical remixing and reproduction of existing music and represents one of the earliest forms of electronic music and a creative use of an early version of sampling. Directly or indirectly, as an engineer, producer or musician, Perry shaped the sound of much of reggae music and through that of punk, hip-hop and electronic music from the 70s forward. In recent years, Perry has collaborated with house/experimental electronic band The Orb on original material. His live show is a masterful delivery of his imaginative soundscaping and hypnotic rhythms.
Sunday: October 29, 2017
Who:Ministry w/Death Grips When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: The Fillmore Auditorium Why: Ministry somehow made the crossover from synth pop (With Sympathy) to EBM (Twitch and to some extent The Land of Rape and Honey) to industrial rock (by the time of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste) in the course of seven years. It’s a remarkable transformation and at each stage Ministry was one of the very best bands in those respective genres. Since then Ministry’s newer material has been on the heavier end of music though arguably more difficult to neatly classify. The current touring incarnation of Ministry is focusing on material post-1988. If you’ve been switched off for 30 years and are expecting tracks from the EBM era and would be disappointed not to see it live, don’t go. But if you appreciate Al Jourgensen’s mutant heavy music from The Mind forward, it’ll be a worthy selection of material. Death Grips is an industrial hip-hop band with a charismatic frontman in MC Ride and one of modern popular music’s greatest drummers in Zach Hill. Even if you’re not into hip-hop for some reason Death Grips is really more of an experimental band that doesn’t really bother with splitting hairs between the aesthetics of hip-hop, noise, industrial music or whatever its own style might be that comes out of that.
Who:Haunted Sound Laboratory, Unbridled Sonic Anarchy, Chris Sessions, Jonathan Cash When: Sunday, 10.29, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Textures is an ambient showcase that happens at Mutiny the final Sunday of every month. This time, host Wesley Davis’ own Unbridled Sonic Anarchy will be performing alongside Jonathan Cash who some may know more for his noise project Break Dancing Ronald Reagan.
Who:Vanilla Milkshakes, Denver Meatpacking Company and Uncle Bad Touch When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: This is another Halloween-themed show and apparently grunge/punk band Vanilla Milkshakes will treat those in attendance with its take on The Ramones and DMC will reprise its Hüsker Dü cover set from the night before.
Who:2Mex, Onry Ozzborn, Early Adopted and Curta When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: 2Mex may not be a household name but in the alternative hip-hop scene of the 1990s (and now for that matter) he has long been a star. His witty and imaginative wordplay was honed at the open mic nights at Good Life Café in South Central Los Angeles and he has been willing to couch it in beats that reflect popular music of the time. More importantly his raps criticize his own music culture, American culture in general and himself with humorously poetic sensibility. Onry Ozzborn is a respected alternative hip-hop artist in his own right whose music seems to favor darker tones and downtempo beats. As a member of Grayskul and Dark Time Sunshine Ozzborn’s gritty stories were reminiscent of Aesop Rock’s literary output, and of course the two rappers have collaborated. Opening act, Denver’s Curta, incorporates a more industrial and psychedelic/experimental electronic flavor into its beats. Apparently this will be the last show with founding keyboardist/guitarist Brent Larsen, aka 4Digit who is moving out of town.
Who:Governor Mortimer Leech (Widow’s Bane) undead and unplugged When: Sunday, 10.29, 6 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: Widow’s Bane is the undead pirate band from Boulder. They do interviews in character and perform in character. Is it “character”? Anyway, Governor Mortimer Leech will be performing a rare acoustic show early at Ophelia’s and it’s free.
Monday: October 30, 2017
Who:Cobalt, Worry and Fathers When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Greeley-based black metal band Cobalt didn’t play much in the first decade or so of its existence and nevertheless garnered a bit of an international following. Founding member Phil McSorley left the project in 2014 but Erik Wunder (who also plays in one of Jarboe’s bands) and Charlie Fell (formerly of Lord Mantis, Nachtmystium and Abigail Williams) have kept the band going and completed its best album to day, 2016’s Slow Forever. The band’s previous records were boundary pushing in what can be an insular musical style and Slow Forever‘s expansive dynamism sacrificing none of the bleakness and brutality was something of a new chapter for the band. Colorado Springs-based deathgrind band Worry and Denver’s heavy band super group (with members of Native Daughters, Cult of the Lost Cause and Lords of Fuzz) round out the bill.
Who:Ghoulfriend, Corner Girls, Page 27, art by Katherine Louise, Jesse Nickell and poetry by Kelsey Carolyn Bowe When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Ghouloween 2017 will be held in the basement of Syntax for extra spookiness. It’ll be a night of art, music and poetry. Chances are you won’t see the bands on the same bill again any time soon. Ghoulfriend is weirdo guitar project of Trey Tafoya of Ancient Elk and déCollage. Some bands play psychedelic rock, Ghoulfriend takes the concept of using guitar to expand sound palettes to a higher and more original level while still making it accessible. Page 27 is one of Denver’s, and the world’s, longest-running noise bands. Now, P27’s soundscape has included harsh noise and sometimes still does but it’s more like a hypnotic, modulated drone that pulls in sounds that one does not often associate with the genre called drone. Corner Girls is an excellent surf rock/punk band whose lyrics are often enough an irreverent take-down of patriarchal cultural features that should have been weeded out of our collective unconscious decades ago but somehow still linger and affect people’s everyday lives. Addressing it with music is simply a peaceful and creative way to discuss the issues.
Tuesday: October 31, 2017
Who: Alvvays w/Jay Som bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/337225 When: Tuesday, 10.31, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Alvvays’ self-deprecating pop songs could be glum but Molly Rankin and company seem to realize that wallowing in despair rather than finding the humor in life’s downstrokes is more boring than transforming those moments of intense emotions into something creative. The Toronto band’s promising 2014 debut sounded like a band fully formed and tapping a bit into the pop music that came out of the C86 era in its sophisticated simplicity and unabashed embrace of bright and breezy, catchy melodies. The 2017 album, Antisocialites is highlighted with neon-sounding synths like someone in the band has started listening more closely to Missing Persons including the flourishes of tastefully intricate micro guitar solos. The subtle details make it a consistently rewarding listen. Along for this leg of the Alvvays tour is Jay Som whose lo-fi anthems about identity, self-discovery, self-definition and personal liberation seem very relevant in a time when the boorish, hateful and oppressive side of modern American culture has reared its ugly head in a big way. 2017’s Everybody Works is a bracing antidote to all of that even if it may sound like a gentle indie rock record to many.
Who:Itchy-O w/Altas When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: For the uninitiated, Itchy-O is a roughly 32 member avant-garde music performance troupe that plays its shows entirely in costume like mariachi mystics. The band has a full drum corps and other percussion, a taiko section, bass, guitar, synths, processed vocals and other noises and “dancers” that creep about the crowd during the show. It’s a real spectacle and really unlike other bands in every way. That it can release albums that could be worthy of the live show seems implausible but the band recently released its second full-length album, From the Overflowing, on Alternative Tentacles. The records are no replacement for the experience of the band but fascinating listening nevertheless. Instrumental rock band Altas opens the show with its dynamic, cinematic compositions.
Who: Space In Time, Keef Duster, Colfax Speed Queen and Wild Call When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Space in Time is a hard rock band whose sound harkens to a time when early metal and psychedelic rock were not at all far apart. Obvious touchstones for Space in Time would be Deep Purple, Captain Beyond (which included ex-members of Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly) and Uriah Heep with both bands’ gift for writing melodic heavy rock with a fluidly trippy groove. Keef Duster’s music draws on similar inspirations but wends more toward the doom end of the heavy spectrum. Fronted by Kim Phat, who some may know from garage rock punks Dirty Few, Keef Duster is more than a clever name even though it recently released a song called “Hash Hive.” The latter was mixed and produced by Matt Loui of psychedelic garage rock band Colfax Speed Queen, also on the bill.
Who:Captured! By Robots w/908, Bewitcher and Night of the Living Shred When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Captured! By Robots at this point is a great metal band, bordering on death metal and industrial. Most of the band is comprised of robots constructed by JBOT but a lot of the kitsch factor of the earlier part of the project’s life are gone and the performance is much more focused on doing something that isn’t a complete gimmick. Internationally known deathgrind band 908, from Colorado Springs, shares the bill as does skate thrash band Night of the Living Shred. So basically Bryan Ostrow will be doing throat destroying vocals for two bands this night because he’s the Nivek Ogre of extreme metal.
Who: Bronze, Terminals, Master Ferocious, The Pollution and The Stunning Cuntz When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Three of the handful of good sludge metal bands from Denver at Mutiny? We’ll have to assume some books will fall off shelves at some point. Bronze is named in reference to Mad Max and its heavy music is more tied to bands from the 70s and early 80s with strong songwriting and good vocals rather than the 90s and 2000s stoner rock bands it may sound like. When there seemed to be way too many stoner rock bands in Denver from roughly 2000-2010, Bronze stood out. Members of Master Ferocious came out of some of the better bands of that era too like The Angry Hand of God. Out of the latter, guitarist Mark Pilloud and bassist Brian Kennedy were involved in the founding of Master Ferocious in 2014 and the newer band still seems to write dystopian songs about the present with guitar work that demonstrates an interesting co-influence from, of course, Black Sabbath and late 70s Judas Priest.
Wednesday: November 1, 2017
Who:Slowdive w/Cherry Glazerr When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Of all the shoegaze bands of the late 80s and early 90s, Slowdive was an early adopter of an ambient and electronic music aesthetic. When the group started as a kind of indie pop band called Pumpkin Fairies, its songwriting, inspired in part by atmospheric post-punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees (the song of whom the fledgling band borrowed its then new name), The Cure and Cocteau Twins. For the 1991 debut full-length, Just For A Day, the ethereal vocals that one now associates with the shoegaze genre was very much in place and so were the expansive, towering guitar drones that the band had developed on its previous EPs.
By the time of the 1993 follow-up, Souvlaki, Slowdive was working with ambient music godfather Brian Eno and had all but abandoned conventional rhythm structure in favor of more organic rhythms giving songs like “Sing” and “Souvlaki Space Station” a quality that melds the tone and the atmosphere into what might later be described as a beat-driven approach to the songwriting. Those musical instincts reached their peak with Slowdive on what might have been its final, and in some ways most daring and interesting album, 1995’s Pygmalion. The latter came out at a time when the alternative music world had long gone down the rockist path with a set of songs based in what seemed like a sonic recreation of pure emotion cast in minimalist textures. It was like a post-rock album seemingly inspired by and synthesizing IDM, abstract dub and ambient house music. The innovative record lost the band their label contract with Creation records and the members of Slowdive went on to other musical concerns over the years including Mojave 3, Monster Movie and The Sight Below.
Perhaps inevitably, Slowdive reunited in 2014 but under its own terms and with the aim of recreating its heart and imagination-stirring music authentically. And its subsequent tours have borne that goal out. Making no promises until the possibility was a bit of a concrete reality, the band didn’t announce new material until Spring 2016. The forthcoming self-titled album, released in May 2017, was not a rehash of the band’s past. It was not an attempt to outdo the sheer experimentalism of Pygmalion. Rather, it was a strong set of songs worthy of all of its earlier music. The music doesn’t feel like nostalgia, it feels like the band knew it had to do something that wouldn’t reject the past but also not be yoked to expectations of any lack of artistic growth on the part of the musicians over the previous twenty-two years. So if you go to the show, and you should if you’re a fan of highly emotionally stimulating music that is an unexpectedly visceral experience, no need to dread any newer, inferior material because the most recent Slowdive songs are far from subpar.
Who: Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Ice Troll, Dear Rabbit and Open to the Hound When: Wednesday, 11.01, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This might be the deluxe edition of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday series for the first half of the month. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is “Electronica Glam Rock” that includes contributions from Never Kenezzard’s Ryan Peru. Ice Troll is a sort of doom rock orchestra. Dear Rabbit is lo-fi avant-garde folk. Open to the Hound is what might happen if Lloyd Cole formed a band that took some cues from The The and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. It’s just that weird but grounded in classic songwriting sensibilities.
Who:Chicano Batman w/Khruangbin and The Shacks When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: To say Chicano Batman is sort of a psychedelic soul band doesn’t quite do it justice because its music comes out of tropicalia, old timey rock and roll and funk without sounding like it’s trying too hard to please everyone. Live, the group presents a unified visual image with matching outfits as one might expect from 60s and 70s Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters and Sunny & The Sunglows. Early on championed by the late, great, Ikey Owens, Chicano Batman got a leg up reaching a wider audience through a 2015 tour with Jack White, with whom Owens had been playing before his untimely death in October 2014. The group’s 2017 album, Freedom is Free, is a bracing antidote to the climate of chaos, desperation and despair that many people have been experiencing with the Trump administration by offering an alternative vision for a better America and a world.
Houston’s Khruangbin is a Thai surf-funk-soul band so it and Chicano Batman are a perfect compliment to one another as Kruangbin’s music isn’t grounded in the same influences even if the music it’s music is also not inspired by music from just one place and one time. Inspired initially by Thai funk cassettes from the 60s and 70s, Khruangbin has found fuel for its creativity in the music that influenced those bands and the music that resulted from those roots that manifested in various ways. Dub, Afrobeat, reggae and hip-hop, among others.