“Undone” by uah begins with the sound of strings strummed for textural rather than tonal effect gives way to a saturated field of sounds. Rapid cycling movement in the field of noise and a vocal seemingly coming to you in reverse. The effect is like a Pink Floyd song, perhaps “Welcome to the Machine,” through the lens of an alternate dimension, those vocals going on to sound like something recorded using an EVP recorder while distorted synths act like the snow of an old television commandeered by an alien using archaic technology to send a desperate message that sounds like the mourning dirge of a dying planet. It’s reminiscent of one of those mysterious broadcasts from the 80s when an old school television or radio hacker would take over a station for a short period of time to transmit an enigmatic message. The song is orchestral though somewhat forbidding and almost overwhelming in the way it hits the ears yet also hypnotic in effect. It recalls an Orbit Service or Legendary Pink Dots composition but rendered in pure electronic form propelled by emotional urgency. Listen to “Undone” on Spotify, follow the acclaimed composer uah aka Usman Haque at the links below and check out the rest of his debut album Let Death Live now available.
Tag: Legendary Pink Dots
Gomddam Memory Fuse Industrial and Psychedelia to Ward Off the Mass Narrative Brainwash on “Pandora’s Omelette”
The enigmatic title of “Pandora’s Omelette” is as mysterious as Gomddam Memory’s music itself. Are the clear vocals and the more distorted vocals both by næringssorg? Is one of them producer ade? It hardly matters as the song strikes a balance between darkly ambient psychedelia reminiscent of an unlikely blend of Legendary Pink Dots and early industrial ministry. The song draws us in with pulses of modulated bass tone as one vocal repeats “crack” and the other “don’t mind” and going on to say “the voices.” Perhaps the song is a creative and poetic exploration of the idea of the conflicting narratives, conscious and those embedded into one’s world view and cognitive framework, that swirl in our minds as influenced by the events around us and our interpretations thereof and those interpretations pushed upon us by family, friends, mass media and what we opt for in our leisure time entertainment. The blend of psychedelia and industrial music is reminiscent at times of the Love and Rockets song “Haunted When The Minutes Drag” and even more of that group’s rock and electronica fusion landmark Hot Trip to Heaven (1994) and the ways in which Love and Rockets mixed the personal with the societal with the more mythical (Gomddam Memory certain invokes the mythical and the mystical and humorous in the song title). Stamping the song with a specific genre or style tag wouldn’t be adequate but fans of the aforementioned with find something to appreciate about this fascinatingly strange track as will people who appreciate the newer darkwave that can see beyond the sometimes narrow framing. Watch the visualizer video for “Pandora’s Omelette” on YouTube and connect with Gomddam Memory at the links provided.
“Song for the Garden” is Half Shadow’s Cosmic Folk Ode to Our Innate Connection With the Forces and Manifestations of Nature Within and Without
There’s that section in the 2005 Flaming Lips documentary The Fearless Freaks where we’re shown publicity photos of the band wandering in a psychedelic landscape and they’re referred to as these trippers and weirdos when Wayne Coyne really wasn’t someone into psychedelics. But that aesthetic and sentiments expressed and the complexity of impressions resonate with the music video for the latest Half Shadow track “Song for the Garden” (from the forthcoming album At Home With My Candles due out April 7, 2022 on Bud Tapes & Dove Cove Records). Jesse Carsten sits with an acoustic guitar in a natural landscape of rock formations, beaches, drying plants, woods in the near distance as animations layer over the top of the footage and images collage together in sync with the way his vocals meld and melt together with the warping background melody and the processing of his own vocals. The lyrics poetically describe what seems to be a mystical experience with the spirit of the natural world itself as an aggregate entity of which we’re never really apart except in the limited and self-involved cognition of typical human consciousness. The music is somewhere between ambient pop, cosmic country and psychedelic folk and wonderfully not choosing to fit into a narrow genre. It’s a song that washes through your mind and makes the truth of being connected to a larger existential context obvious and impossible and unnecessary to resist. Sonic touchstones perhaps worth mentioning would be solo Syd Barrett, Orbit Service and Legendary Pink Dots but best experienced for yourself so watch the video on YouTube and follow Half Shadow and Carsten at the links below.
$YNDRM Articulates Our Collective Discontent With the Era of Mediated Social Experience on “Shadow Life”
At the start of $YNDRM’s “Shadow Life” we’re drawn in by a mysterious, darkly lush tone and the sound of ethereal xylophone to a story about the mediated nature of a large portion of public life. In a melancholic, reflective emotional quality, $YNDRM sings about the dynamic of how the way we are encouraged by social media and public interactions of all kinds to present a manufactured and finely manicured persona and for what? Fake social capital that gets us nothing of substance? Are out lives destined to be fodder for an algorithm that will never see to our substantive needs as living creatures who crave nourishing lives and experiences and not to be a consumer of the surface level data used to market to us the facade of our desires as massaged by the agenda of the most massive of corporate entities? $YNDRM bemoans this state of counterfeit identities “in a world where nothing seems to matter and points out how that is unsustainable and that this reality is showing signs of fragmenting as is much of culture and the political and economic system despite the seeming all powerful nature of it all. The song is reminiscent of the artier rock end of Peter Gabriel, a more pop Legendary Pink Dots and early solo rock Brian Eno. Listen to “Shadow Life” on Soundcloud and follow $YNDRM at the links provided.
Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2019
This best of list was intended for publication in 2020 and parts of the entries with comments were published in my year end best list for the print edition of Birdy magazine in Denver for the December 2019 issue. The full best of list is presented here with those short reviews included with the appropriate album and the rest included without comment and several album covers shared as well. The album of the year was All Your Sisters’ Trust Ruins (listed first) because it encapsulated the mood of the year and the band put on one of the best shows of 2019 and the record felt like a leap forward in style and execution for the band. Soon I’ll publish the full best of 2020 list too in a similar format with the commentary for those items that made it into the print edition of Birdy for December 2020.
All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins | The Flenser
A brutal, maximalist summation of the turmoil, conflict, sense of chaos and confusion, rage and frustration and overwhelming flood of negative input from world and societal events of the previous few years. In articulating those feelings and experiences and more alone as powerfully as it does, this album by All Your Sisters transcends genre by providing an example of how industrial and darkwave music can burst beyond established conventions with the sharp-edged and precise percussion framing and channeling the fiery energy at the core of the songwriting.
Adia Victoria | Silences | Atlantic
Adrianna Krikl | Celestial | Self-released
Aldous Harding | Designer | 4AD
Alex Cameron | Miami Memory | Secretly Canadian
Altas | All I Ever Wanted Was | Self-released
A lush deepening of the band’s sweeping, cinematic aesthetic.
Anamanaguchi | [USA] | Polyvinyl
Andre Cactus | Dune Juice | Multidim Records
Andy Stott | It Should Be Us | Modern Love
Angel Olsen | All Mirrors | Jagjaguwar
Poignantly dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny.
Bestial Mouths | INSHROUDSS | Rune & Ruin
Bellhoss | Geraniums | Self-released
Buoyant, lo-fi slowcore love songs for inner awkward nerd.
Bethlehem Steel | s/t | Exploding in Sound
The utter exorcism of oppression through bursts of melodic/atonal poetry.
Big Dopes | Crimes Against Gratitude | Self-released
Captivating indie pop earworm vingettes of American malaise and hope.
Big Thief | U.F.O.F. / Two Hands | 4AD
Bison Bone | Take Up the Trouble | Self-released
Black Belt Eagle Scout | At The Party With My Brown Friends | Saddle Creek
black midi | Schlagenheim | Rough Trade Records
A primer for the new avant-guitar rock revolution.
Black Mountain | Destroyer | Jagjaguwar
Blanck Mass | Animated Violence Mild | Sacred Bones
Blood Incantation | Hidden History of the Human Race | Dark Descent
Boy Scouts | Free Company | ANTI-
Briffaut | A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away | GROUPHUG
Calexico and Iron and Wine | Years to Burn | Subpop
Cat Tyson Hughes | Gentle Encounters With Things | Self-released
Ambient, aural snapshots of memory fragments from the hypnogogic state.
Cau5er | The Tower | Self-released
Ceremony | In the Spirit World Now | Relapse Records
Chastity Belt | Chastity Belt | Hardly Art
Cheap Perfume | Burn It Down | Snappy Little Numbers
Chella and the Charm | Good Gal | Self-released
Chelsea Wolfe | Birth of Violence | Sargent House
Chimney Choir | (light shadow) | Self-released
Chromatics | Closer to Grey | Italians Do It Better
clipping. | There Existed an Addiction to Blood | Sub Pop
Consumer | In Computers | The Flenser
Control Top | Covert Contracts | Get Better Records
Cop Circles | Vacation for Hurt | Self-released
Subversive, Laurie Anderson-esque, New Age, No Wave send-up of corporate seminar jingles.
Cosey Fanni Tutti | Tutti | Conspiracy International
Heavy and hypnotic industrial rave autobiography through sound.
Curse | Metamorphism | Fake Crab Records
Eight, powerful, darkwave, prophetic warnings of our potential future.
Danny Brown | uknowhatimsayin¿ | Warp Records
Relentlessly inventive beats and tragicomedic, self-immolating swagger, sci-fi autobiography.
Davi Valois | Bátraquio | Space Cow Music
Deafkids | Metaprogramação | Neurot Recordings
Immersive, ambient-industrial death grind.
Doo Crowder | One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims) | Self-released
The greatest art pop record since the death of Harry Nilsson.
Dog Basketball | s/t | Self-released
Drab Majesty | Modern Mirror | Dais Records
Moodily heartbreaking deep dive into the essence of love, memory and beauty.
Drowse | Light Mirror/Second Self | The Flenser
Dude York | Falling | Hardly Art
Earl Sweatshirt | FEET OF CLAY | Tan Cressida
Elizabeth Colour Wheel | Nocebo | The Flenser
Majestic, urban-tribal, noise-sludge dream psych.
Empath | Active Listening: Night On Earth | Get Better Records
Entrancer | Downgrade | Multidim Records
Ex Hex | It’s Real | Merge Records
Cosmic New Wave power pop gems beginning to end.
Facs | Lifelike | Trouble In Mind
FEELS / Shannon Lay | Post Earth / August | Wichita / Sub Pop
FM Cubgod | Handsome? | Self-released
Foxes in Fiction | Trillium Killer | Orchid Tapes
Frankie Cosmos | Close It Quietly | Sub Pop
French Kettle Station | Over X Millennia | Self-released
Retro-furturist, New Age pop shade jams on contemporary wack culture.
Future Sound of London | Yage | Fsol Digital
Gila Teen | Doesn’t | Self-released
Glissline | Digital Bipolarism | Multidim Records
Gold Trash | Quiet Violence | Glasss Records
Collage glitch industrial hip-hop daggers into misogynist culture.
Goon | Natural Evil | Convulse Records
Guerilla Toss | What Would The Odd Do? | DFA
Mind-altering, subtropical, disco punk dance pop.
Guidon Bear | Downwardly Mobile: Steel Accelerator | Antiquated Future Records
Gun Street Ghost | Battles | Self-released
Half Shadow | Dream Weather Its Electric Song | Illusion Florist
Haunted Horses | Dead Meat | SIXWIX
Have a Nice Life | Sea of Worry | The Flenser
HEALTH | Slaves of Fear Vol. 4 | Loma Vista Recordings
HIDE | Hell is Here | Dais Records
Holly Herndon | Proto | 4AD
HTRK | Venus In Leo | Ghostly International
Love songs from downtempo dance clubs in the future urban decay.
Jamila Woods | Legacy! Legacy! | Jagjaguwar
Jenny Hval | The Practice of Love | Sacred Bones
Kal Marks | Let the Shit House Burn Down | Exploding in Sound
Kid Mask | dead sore(s) | Self-released
Dispatches from the industrial glitch techno hard rave revolution.
Kim Gordon | No Home Record | Matador Records
Scathing jazz cool poetry set to hip-hop-inflected noise.
Kristin Hersh | Possible Dust Clouds | Fire Records
Kyle Emerson | Only Coming Down | Swoon City Music
Larians | Looming Boy EP | Self-released
Loneliness and isolation distilled as shimmering IDM nuggets.
Legendary Pink Dots | Angel in the Detail | Metropolis Records
A brilliant synthesis of classical sonic architecture, emotionally charged ambient and deep social critique.
Lightning Cult | EP 2: Ether Waves | Cloud Command Sound
Lingua Ignota | Caligula | Profound Lore
Caustic, industrial fusillade against patriarchal fragility.
Lisa Prank | Perfect Love Song | Father/Daughter Records
Little Fyodor | Pithy Romantic Ballads | Self-released
Arch punk cynic and curmudgeon begrudgingly admits affection and survives.
Lot Lizard | s/t | Different Folk Records
Lower Dens | The Competition | Ribbon Music
Malibu Ken | s/t | Rhymesayers
Mannequin Pussy | Patience | Epitaph
Mdou Moctar | Ilana: The Creator | Sahel Sounds
Intricate African prog suffused with the joy of the creative act.
Moon Pussy | Band Meating | Self-released
Eruptive, searing, angular, anti-pop exorcisms.
Muscle Beach | Charms | Sailor Records
Necropanther | The Doomed City | Self-released
New Standards Men | Field Recordings From Late Capitalism Vol. 10 | Self-released
No Gossip in Braille | Bend Toward Perfect Light | Cercle Social Records
The transmogrification of sorrow into transcendent melodies.
NoSwoon | s/t | Substitute Scene Records
Effervescent yet introspective dark wave synth pop.
Nots | 3 | Goner Records
Nuancer | I Hardly Know Her | Self-released
Obtuse | Who’s Askin’? | Self-released
Gloriously earnestly meaningful, off-the-cuff, utterly unpretentious pop punk.
Oh, Rose | While My Father Sleeps | Park The Van
Oko Tygra | Assistoma | Grey Market Records
Masterfully executed emotionally stirring downtempo dream pop.
Old Time Relijun | See Now And Know | K Records
Orbit Service | The Door to the Sky | Self-released
Pedestrian Deposit | Dyers’ Hands | Monorail Trespassing
The sonic analog of places we don’t want to visit but are drawn to anyway.
Pharmakon | Devour | Sacred Bones
Pinkish Black | Concept Unification | Relapse Records
Pile | Green and Gray | Exploding in Sound
Furiously poetic, orchestral and thoughtful blueprint for arty, noisy post-punk to come.
Plaid | Polymer | Warp Records
Pop. 1280 | Way Station | Weyrd Son Records
POW! | Shift | Castle Face Records
Priests | The Seduction of Kansas | Sister Polygon
Redwing Blackbird | Too Klaus For Comfort | Self-released
Rowboat | Birchwood Halls | Self-released
Secret Shame | Dark Synthetics | Portrayal of Guilt Records
Sheer Mag | A Distant Call | Wilsuns Recording Company
Modern blues punk’s equivalent of Judas Priest’s Stained Class.
She Past Away | Disko Anksiyete | Metropolis Records / Fabrika Records
ShitKid | DETENTION | PNKSLM Recordings
Silence in the Snow | Levitation Chamber | Prophecy Productions
Sleaford Mods | Eton Alive | Extreme Eating Records
Sleater-Kinney | The Center Won’t Hold | Mom + Pop
Slugger | Is Real | Self-released
Sole & DJ Pain 1 | No God Nor Country | Black Box Tapes
somesurprises | s/t | Drawing Room Records
Spirettes | Esoteria | Self-released
An ethereal distillation of deep yearning and determination.
SRSQ | Temporal Love/Unkept | Dais Records
Stonefield | Bent | Flightless
Strange Ranger | Remembering The Rockets | Tiny Engines
Studded Left | Popular Intuition | S/L INTNL.
Psychedelic post-punk portraits of life and love in our dystopic USA.
Summer Cannibals | Can’t Tell Me No | Tiny Engines
SunnO))) | Life Metal and Pyroclasts | Southern Lord
Swans | leaving meaning. | Young God
Tacocat | This Mess Is A Place | Sub Pop
Telefon Tel Aviv | Dreams Are Not Enough | Ghostly International
The Coathangers | The Devil You Know | Suicide Squeeze
The Hecks | My Star | Trouble In Mind Records
The Ocean Blue | Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves | Korda Records
The Paranoyds | Carnage Bargain | Suicide Squeeze
The Stargazer Lilies | Occabot | Rad Cult
The Twilight Sad | It Won/t Be Like This All the Time | Rock Action
The sound of a valiant struggle against existential failure.
The Vanilla Milkshakes | Punching Cows | Self-released
Humorous and heartfelt pop grunge odes to perpetual outsider status.
Total Trash | Field Guide | Self-released
Melancholic, post-psychedelic, slowcore, glitter jams.
Turvy Organ | The Ghost at the Feast | GROUPHUG
Tyler The Creator | Igor | Columbia
Dense, gritty, hazy beats and meta-exploration of identity as human and artist.
We Are Not a Glum Lot | The Price of Simply Existing | Self-released
Gripping, emo-inflected, math-y, post-punk bummercore.
Weeping Icon | s/t | Fire Talk
Cathartic, thorny, darkwave doom garage.
Whipporwill | The Nature of Storms | Self-released
Wreck and Reference | Absolute Still Life | The Flenser
Xeno & Oaklander | Hypnos | Dais Records
Heavy/heavenly techno for the dance club on Mount Olympus.
Xiu Xiu | Girl with Basket of Fruit | Polyvinyl
Zealot | The Book of Ramifications | Self-released
Short Takes #3: February 2019
earth control pill – leaves on leaves – self-released
Lead track “drippy tree” is an interesting and comforting collage of retro synth sampling and minimalist beats that pulse and bounce softly like one of those balloons with a grip shaped like an animal head that many people rode around on as kids. And that sort of melancholic, textured atmosphere with some white noise melded with abstract melodies layered with flowing tones and blurred beats that is suggested in “drippy trees” manifests in a variety of ways across the album without ever really replicating the feel of each song. In that way it’s reminiscent of early Aphex Twin but after the advent of modern experimental electronic dance music, tropical pop and deep house. Earth Control Pill pulls ideas together for this album as the title suggests as an organic process of layering wherein the elements complement each other seemingly naturally in the context of clearly technologically produced sounds. Altogether the songs, as sequenced, feel like a slow processing of sorrow by soothing the pains of loss while knowing they’ll never fully go away and the feeling of resignation of that reality. “Fog” strikes a somewhat jaunty note and, in fact, sounds the least like fog of all the songs though may highlight a time of fond memories connected to fog and how magical it can seem on an otherwise sunny morning. Whatever the inspiration or impetus behind this collection of music, it might be described as an ambient version of indie pop with the assembled use of discarded and currently unfashionable sounds to make something beautiful and tranquil with no obvious touchstones in contemporary commercially popular music.
Abjects – Never Give Up – Yippee Ki Yay Records
This debut LP from London’s Abjects strikes one as something akin to a frantic, grunge-y power pop record. But in the interest of not getting lazy and being quick to pigeonhole a band, the members of Abjects come from different corners of the world and met up in the UK bringing with them a vastly different set of cultural backgrounds that does give these songs an ineffably different flavor than 90s retro bands that all grew up in countries where the predominant language is English. The rhythms have an urgency yet fluidity that makes it easier to change directions and character rapidly with guitar work and vocals that seem adept at working counter point giving the songwriting an unusual and fascinating dynamism like something one might have heard in early Blonde Redhead songs or out of Velocity Girl.
Bison Bone – Take Up Trouble – self-released
One thing Bison Bone has always done exceedingly well is not limit its songwriting and creativity to the expectations of a subgenre of music. Yes, it’s coming from the world of country but also psychedelic rock but for the latter not in any obvious way. Its instincts seem inspired more by the hybrid country, punk and psych of the likes of The Flesheaters, Green On Red and Uncle Tupelo than much of the Americana that has come along since where it has not been too predictably been bathing in the musical DNA of early 1970s Laurel Canyon. Bison Bone’s music sounds like there is some real grit and real life experience behind it and paying of dues and not trying to mimic a beloved and trendy style of music. Take Up Trouble is urban honky tonk with the relatable storytelling intact but with a flair for wordplay and thoughtful commentary. What really makes these songs is the little details that bring the song together like the minimal guitar solo in the middle of “Hey Bartender” and the drone at the beginning of “Late December” to suggest memories of coming out of the haze of a memorable dream or of the heatwaves on the late afternoon road following a long day of driving and having a moment of reflection on what it’s all been about.
Bruce Lamont – Broken Limbs Excite No Pity – My Proud Mountain
Like an industrial ambient rendition of a culturally hybridized folk music from a hundred years hence, this latest solo record from Bruce Lamont of Yakuza is akin to an Ian McDonald novel. The latter has written several works of science fiction and fantasy that seem aimed at subverting tropes set in places that aren’t the usual locales for fantastic fiction. The influence of anthropology and straight out cultural concepts outside the developed world is so pervasive his work has a tonality and range that is refreshingly unpredictable. Lamont’s interest in non-Western musical ideas too informs these songs of immersive textures and compound rhythms. With “Goodbye Electric Sunday” the science fiction parallels are obvious but throughout Lamont weaves a series of narratives that are reminiscent of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in sounding ineffably futuristic but as a commentary on the civilization on the verge of collapse of now.
Confluence – Closure, Start Over – self-released
Denver’s Confluence represented a musical rebirth for songwriter Ian Gassman whose work in other bands including his 2000s indie rock band Night Owl. The latter was more in a power pop meets Elvis Costello vein. Confluence was much more math rock in the late 90s and early 2000s sense that one heard touches of in the likes of Modest Mouse and Deathcab For Cutie. Confluence made no bones about nor held up its nose at complex arrangements and guitar solos but all in service to the song. Like it was using its technical skills to have fun and not just to show off. This record came out four years after the band was a functioning outfit and serves as a swan song and a reminder of how Confluence managed to fully integrate indie rock with musical chops and emotionally resonant vocals with a refreshingly unironic earnestness. Fans of LVL UP and Palm should definitely give this record a listen.
Eerie Wanda – Pet Town – Joyful Noise Recordings
Obvious touchstones for the 2016 Eerie Wanda album Hum would be 60s pop stars like Margo Guryan and Françoise Hardy. All of that atmospheric soulfulness and orchestrated sonic details was present in Marina Tadic’s songwriting and recording for that record. For Pet Town, Tadic stripped back some of the seeming orchestration and opted for the use of space and non-tonal atmosphere as well as raw guitar recording, fretting sounds included. The result is a more up close focus in sound rather than the nearly panoramic folk pop of Hum. Same introspective, melancholic lyrics but this time reminding one of the vibe of the Beach House’s 2008 album Devotion conveying a sense of warmth, isolation and reflection on times that haunt you with a sense of comfort and nostalgia.
Lightning Cult – EP 1: Burner – self-released
A welcome return to the songwriting of Mike Marchant who in the 2000s and early 2010s brought an uplifting moodiness and energy to his indie rock bands Widowers and as a contributing songwriter to Houses as well as Mike Marchant’s Outer Space Party Unit. This isn’t as overtly as experimental as Widowers and the Outer Space Party Unit, nor as psychedelic as the latter. Rather it shines on Marchant’s gift for subtle dynamics and vocalizing with strong yet nuanced emotion. Throughout the EP it’s a mixture of texture and bright tones with driven and shaped by the aforementioned qualities. Marchant has struggled with serious health issues for several years at this point and one is tempted to look for that in this set of songs and if it’s there it’s more in the focus of the songwriting to put something together that feels good and honest to perform and worthy of attention beyond one’s consideration shaded by knowledge of his challenges as a human, at least not anymore than everyone faces. As such, Marchant demonstrates here why he garnered such wide attention during his time in Denver because none of this feels rote or desperate to recapture past glory. There is a timeless quality to Marchant’s music because he’s never really tried to fit in with trends while not spending much time mining the past. This EP is a great example of that. It’s not his masterpiece but if this is a comeback it’s better than many we’ve seen.
Lying On Ice – The Dream – Asylum Moon
Pulling apart this record to its components and influences is easy enough because there’s plenty of post-rock informing the guitar ideas, 80s and 90s darkwave and downtempo. But what it really sounds like is if someone got the essence of 80s moody Goth/post-punk but didn’t get trapped there with same production ideas and mood. There’s as much modern electronic pop aesthetic throughout the album like everyone involved is well aware of the likes of Purity Ring, Robyn, CHVRCHES and Phantogram. Composer Jesse Maddox is known more for his work in the world of taiko in Colorado including manufacturing the drums but has had a lifelong interest in dark, industrial music so working with talented dream pop vocalist Angela Cross from Los Angeles with the finished songs mixed and produced by Dave “Rave” Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy fame the project could have been fairly predictable. But it is instead of a deeply atmospheric, sonically rich set of songs including a cover of “Smothered Hope” that shares with the original and deep melancholy and being engulfed with urgent emotions but is more in a psychedelic vein, more Tear Garden than Skinny Puppy. Speaking of the former, Edward Ka-Spel does guest vocals on the stark yet lush and cold “Surrender,” and brings to the song his signature vocals lending a sense of being at the end of one’s struggle with all the things your ego screams to cling to before acceptance of your own mortality sets in.
Shadows Tranquil – Wander – self-released
Doran Robischon was once a guitarist in Gauntlet Hair and since that time there have been hints of a new musical project. Then Shadows Tranquil played shows in the past couple of years. But if you missed them there was no way to hear that music until the fall of 2018. Wander may remind anyone in the know of another Denver band, A Shoreline Dream. But only in that there are the aesthetics of electronic music underlying the songwriting. But there is more noise rock and psych punk behind the drifty push of the songs on Wander. In that way at times one is reminded of Nowhere-period Ride especially when the songs shift dynamics and add expansive layers of atmosphere and percussion only to pull the sounds back and redirect their momentum as the stream of sound progresses. The recording might be a little lo-fi for some tastes but that adds something of a tiny bit of mystique to music that sounds like the musicians skipped the late 90s and 2000s entirely and landed back in 2018 a late entry into the Holy Mountain Records (USA) catalog.
T-Rextasy – Prehysteria – Boogie Agency Records
Balancing the humorous with the meaningful and melancholy is a difficult balancing act in music, but T-Rextasy have long since mastered that art and this record simply reveals an evolution in the band’s sophistication of songwriting. “Coffee” has plenty of profane and playful double entendre while articulating a relatable frustration. The songs aren’t merely irreverent surf-ska punk songs, they’re like musical theater pieces for a play about young urban Bohemia but brimming with sharp observations as social commentary and character sketches that explore what it means to navigate the fraught political, economic and cultural environment in America today. Identity, sexuality, class and examination of one’s yearnings are discussed in story form with an undeniable affection and compassion for all the soft and hurt spots in everyone. Fans of the the melodramatic tones employed by Julie Brown in “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” and the teen tragedy songs of the 60s that inspired it will find much to love with Prehysteria.
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