Circle of Celebration is the latest release from the NOUS ensemble. The latter is a collaboration between composer Christopher Bono, sound healing artist Arji OceAnanda and ambient music legend Laraaji. Bono had met OceAnanda and Laraaji at the Ananda Ashram near Monroe, NY in 2013 and wasn’t initially aware of their status as accomplished musicians. But the three made an immediate connection over the work of Thich Nhat Hahn, the influential Vietnamese Zen monk and over several years kept in contact and came to record this new album. Incorporating Bono’s classical composition and production background with Arji’s sound healing methods and both Laraaji’s approach to ambient music and his concept of laughter meditation the music goes beyond logical barriers and limitations to stimulate the parts of your brain that create an openness of spirit and relaxation from everyday anxieties. Certainly states of being and emotion we could all use now.
Laraaji became known to a larger world of music through the 1980 release of his landmark album Day of Radiance as the third part of the Brian Eno produced Ambient series. At that time and since his music has exerted an influence not just on ambient music but world music and the use of sound and practice as a meditation for personal and collective improvement and development and Circle of Celebration certainly incorporates all elements of Laraaji’s life in the arts up to this time.
We had a chance to speak with Laraaji about Circle of Celebration and its manifestation of the trio’s philosophical and artistic underpinnings, intersections and goals as musicians linked below through our podcast on Bandcamp. Circle of Celebration releases on Our Silent Canvas Records on November 12, 2021 and you can order the album at the label’s Bandcamp page.
What:Deerhunter w/Moon Diagrams When: Thursday, 07.11, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Deerhunter’s main contribution to modern rock music is fusing a garage punk energy and sensibility with a knack for otherworldly melodies and a gift for soundscaping straight from the realm of dreams. Oh, and a genuinely emotional intensity that comes from a deep place of alienation and, paradoxically, yearning for connection. Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is the group’s 2019 album and a commentary on the seemingly broken world (politically, economically, socially, culturally) we find ourselves in at the moment.
Friday | July 12
What:Froth w/Versing and Shark Dreams When: Friday, 07.12, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Versing’s 2019 record on Sub Pop 10000 is a pointed take on an unwillingness to commit to being on the right side of history at a time when the twin forces of oligarchy and fascism are on the rise and infiltrating and coming to political ascendancy worldwide. Its angular dynamics surge forth with great momentum while remaining tunefully melodic. Froth is a fuzzy psychedelic band whose vocals seem more soulful than bratty and that makes all the difference.
What:The Blasters, Supersuckers and Wayne The Train Hancock and MC Clownvis Presley When: Friday, 07.12, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: The Blasters are legends of southern California rock whose mix of Americana, rockabilly, R&B and blues effected with impressive musical chops and raw passion made the group respected in circles much wider than the image of a blues rock band might now. Supersuckers moved from from Tucson, Arizona to Seattle in 1989, a year after forming, and became immersed in the then burgeoning alternative rock world but like other significant bands of the era like Love Battery and Gas Huffer never really got big but put on lively performances and produced good records. Not really grunge so much as garage rock and in the past couple of decades they’ve been known to do some more country-oriented shows. Seeing as they’re sharing the bill with The Blasters that is a distinct possibility.
What:Hi-Dive Hug Down: Panther Martin, Super Bummer, Jobless, Night Champ When: Friday, 07.12, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Group Hug is putting out albums by some of Denver’s best lo-fi indie rock bands and this is a showcase for some of the best of the lot. None of them are much alike and all experimented with a more popular style earlier in their lives as bands but are now making truly interesting music.
What:Esmé Patterson w/FELIX FAST4WARD When: Saturday, 07.13, 7 p.m. Where: Dazzle Why: Esmé Patterson may have made her name as a songwriter in the more Americana vein with her old band Paper Bird. But as a solo artist she has pushed herself in increasingly interesting directions both sonically and creatively. And as a performer, for that matter, all while making poignant social and personal commentary. She is headlining but also on the bill is FELIX FAST4WARD who is one of Denver’s most gifted and imaginative electronic music composers and producers in various realms including dance, hip-hop and ambient.
What:Extra Gold, Bison Bone, Claire Heywood When: Saturday, 07.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A legitimate country show with a few of the Mile High City’s finest including the folksy/Merle Haggard-esque Extra Gold, Bison Bone and its eclectic yet singular blend of psych, country and pop and Claire Heywood’s smoky, grittily soulful country torch songs.
Sunday | July 14
What:Don Felder When: Sunday, 07.14, 5:30 p.m. gates, 7:30 p.m. show Where: Hudson Gardens Why: Don Felder is perhaps best known as the iconic guitarist for the Eagles during one of the most interesting, musically speaking, points in the band’s career. Sure, you may have heard “Hotel California,” the title track of the group’s 1976 album, who can say how many times but those distinctive lead guitar parts were written by Felder and his guitar interplay with Joe Walsh and Glenn Frey helped to define a certain sound of the 70s in southern California. While still in the band he wrote some songs that appeared on the soundtrack to Heavy Metal including “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” and “All Of You” lending the soundtrack some brooding darkness and beautifully decadent guitar work. Felder’s guitar style fit in with the country rock thing with the Eagles but what made it stand out was his knack for interesting dynamics and atmosphere even when he writes something more straight ahead rock and roll. His 2019 album American Rock ‘n’ Roll is a tribute to the music that is the title.
Monday | July 15
What:Have a Nice Life w/Consumer, Street Sects and Midwife When: Monday, 07.15, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Industrial drone, post-punk ambient or whatever one calls Have a Nice Life’s starkly brooding body of work, its dark compositions have proven influential on a generation of bands that have come along since its inception. Also on the bill is confrontational industrial/darkwave band Street Sects and ambient folk soundscaper extraordinaire Midwife.
What:An Evening With Michael McDonald When: Monday, 07.15, 6:30 p.m. Where: Chautauqua Auditorium Why: Michael McDonald’s smooth and soulful vocals have been a part of American rock and pop music for over four decades now. Whether as a singer in Steely Dan (both live and in studio), The Doobie Brothers, as a solo artist and in his numerous collaborations including with the likes of modern hip-hop/jazz genius Thundercat, McDonald brings a deep musicality and keen ear for melody that transcends genre. He will be performing a series of shows in Colorado that we will include on our Best Shows list up to and including his show at the Denver Botanic Gardens on Thursday, July 20.
What:Headboggle, Malocculsion, Page 27, Blank Human When: Monday, 07.15, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Noise shows are a rarity in Denver these days when once you could find them on the regular when it was more possible for artists to have a warehouse to make this kind of thing or where impromptu venues were more open to hosting this stuff forbidding to more mundane sonic sensibilities. This show includes ambient/noise scaper Blank Human and the godfathers of Denver noise, Page 27 in its first show since the departure of long time member Michael Nowak.
What:Imperial Teen When: Tuesday, 07.16, 6 p.m. Where: Twist & Shout Why: Imperial Teen includes current and former members of Faith No More, Sister Double Happiness and The Wrecks. Their left field pop got a boost when “Yoo Hoo” appeared in the 1999 film Jawbreaker. Though the band’s excellent 1996 album, produced by Steve McDonald of Red Kross, garnered no small amount of critical acclaim it was oft found in bargain bins at music stores. The group’s playful songs and interesting and illuminatingly personal takes on controversial themes has set the foursome apart from many of its late era alternative rock/pop peers. In 2019 the group released its latest album Now We Are Timeless. Since Jone Stebbins lives in Denver now, Imperial Teen is in some ways a local band.
What:3TEETH w/Author and Punisher and GosT When: Tuesday, 07.16, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: 3TEETH is one of the better newer industrial rock bands. But the reason to go to this show is to witness Author and Punisher who creates his own instruments and whose cybernetic appearance is no mere affectation as it incorporates controllers of various types that can be executed by a single person. The project’s music is industrial but more raw and experimental than most music calling itself that these days.
Wednesday | July 17
What:The Beths and Girl Friday When: Wednesday, 07.17, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The Beths from Auckland, New Zealand started in 2015 and absorbed some of that worldwide retro-90s fuzz rock vibe of the time. But since the trio is from New Zealand it always manifests differently and its melodies go down unconventional paths and the progressions resolve in fascinatingly unpredictable ways. Plus Elizabeth Stokes’ vocals are bright and strong and not couched in manifesting angst so obviously. The group did title its 2018 album Future Me Hates Me tells you that you’re in for something more interesting than “summer time good time music” and yet the group’s music is upbeat and hopeful.
What:Michael McDonald When: Wednesday, 07.17, 7 p.m. Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek Why: See above for 7/15 for Michael McDonald.
What:Dinner Time (GA), Sliver, Gila Teen and Moving Still When: Wednesday, 07.17, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: Atlanta’s Dinner Time is a low-fi indie pop band with some raw and ragged edges to its songwriting so that it can sound a little bratty and snotty like a punk band you’d actually want to listen to. Also on the bill are ex-nü metal wavers Sliver whose covers of 90s Bush songs, at least in essence, are almost as good as the real thing. Somehow Moving Still invited Sliver’s singer to perform with them because they’re good people and taking Chris Mercer under their wing and cultivate the guy’s tastes until he realizes that Nirvana was not influenced by Gavin Rossdale. It’s an uphill battle. Gila Teen is a post-punk/pop death rock band from Denver and one of the Mile High City’s greatest duos whose emotionally vibrant sad songs chase the blues away.
What:The Head and the Heart w/Hippo Campus When: Wednesday and Thursday, 07.17 and 07.18, 8 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Hippo Campus from St. Paul, MN are technically an indie rock band but its beat-making and pop songcraft is more akin to R&B and hip-hop with a focus on mood and atmosphere. Its diverse and imaginative songwriting manifested brilliantly on its 2018 album Bambi and in 2019 the group released a cadre of songs in two volumes called Demos I and Demos II. The song experiments on both show how the band got from the promising songwriting of the 2017 album Landmark to the sophistication of craft heard on Bambi. At the top of the bill for this show is indie folk band The Head and the Heart. Maybe “indie folk” doesn’t apply so much anymore as the band has expanded its sounds and songwriting style in all directions. Its 2019 album Living Mirage finds the band truly utilizing space in its songwriting in a way that allows for the expansive feelings inherent to its specific musical style to stretch out and resolve organically. Which is interesting to see in the music of a band that has reached its level of relative commercial success when there can be pressure for efficiency in delivering satisfying musical hooks. This line-up plays both Wednesday July 17 and Thursday July 18 at Red Rocks.