CANTRELL is a skater turned rapper based in Atlanta and in 2019 he released a promising yet sophisticated and fully formed EP called Devil Never Even Lived (which is a palindrome). An ear for a creative and emotionally vibrant beat is something he brought to his single “Crown Me.” The trap beat with a spare, impressionistic piano figure and melancholic drones the song give it a dreamlike weightiness that fits the rap, with a several bars from critically acclaimed rapper Mick Jenkins, about seeming to have to always be on alert from the pitfalls of life and the music business and the people who might be poised to take you out. That and all the challenges you have to juggle just to get through seemingly all the time. That kind of vigilance takes its toll on your psyche when you feel like you have to maintain it all times. The song reflects that existential tension while hinting at a hope of relief from that if only in accepting these perils and putting yourself in a frame of mind to feel how these things affect you without surrendering to despair. The title invokes the image of a checker game and how you get a piece across the board but you’re still in the game and you still don’t know if you’ll win. And that sense of realistic ambivalence strikes deep. Listen to “Crown Me” on Spotify and connect with CANTRELL at the links provided.
Who:Telefon Tel Aviv w/Steve Hauschildt When: Thursday, 1.30, 8:30 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: On Dreams Are Not Enough, Telefon Tel Aviv delves into states of mind and existence as represented by the titles of the song: “I dream of it often,” “Standing at the bottom of the ocean,” “Mouth agape,” “Eyes Glaring” etc. The compositions combine texture and tone in a way processed to convey a sense of space and a journey into the imagination in a way to perhaps suggest that indeed merely having dreams is inadequate to having a life worth living even if we are often guided by them. Like a nod to Langston Hughes’ famous lines about a dream deferred. A dream does not, after all, occupy the same space in the psyche as conscious experiences. Songwriter Joshua Eustis invites on a journey to make these sonic spaces that might have sat in the backburner of his mind manifest. Steven Hauschildt has been crafting exquisite sonic experiences with software and analog synth for years including during his time with experimental electronic pop group Emeralds. As a solo artist his mastery of emotional colorings is impressive and his latest offering is 2019’s Nonlin.
What: Natural Violence Tape Release Show w/Many Blessings, DJ Pop CTRL and Dem Deya Sound System When: Thursday, 1.30, 8 p.m. Where: Meadowlark Bar
Friday | January 31
What:Whipporwill w/Natalie Tate When: Friday, 1.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive Why: Whipporwill’s 2019 album The Nature of Storms charts a perilous personal journey that could have ended the band as it endured a fraught tour that took it through extreme, inclement weather followed by a period of personal travails that would test anyone’s resolve to continue with something as dubiously rewarding a music often is. But the result is a dynamic set of songs that transcends expectations knowing the group has roots in folk and indie rock as its compositions are imaginative and evocative with an ear not just for melody but deep atmosphere and emotional tenor. Whipporwill doesn’t hit us with an album full of the same, tried and true dynamics, rather, a series of well developed concepts as set pieces and short stories connected by a larger narrative about life and the interconnected significance of our experiences. Natalie Tate is one of Denver’s most interesting and talented songwriters who hasn’t played around town much but her combination of musical chops and a spirit of experimentation and innovation in songcraft has branched in fascinating directions since she emerged in the local music scene several years back.
What:Goon (album release) w/Sunk Cost, Gack and Sweet Kiss When: Friday, 1.31, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Goon’s Natural Evil takes modern hardcore in a much more experimental direction with the use of noise and atmospheric sounds in a way that is both pointed, intense while warping those edges and taking the angular quality of the music and splaying the dynamic in unpredictable and ultimately wilder directions. The record frankly showcases how a merely excellent hardcore band can become one that can influence more than connoisseurs of that style of music as the appeal transcends subgenre.
What:Jacket of Spiders, Swami and Flat Earth When: Friday, 1.31, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Jacket of Spiders includes former members of Tarmints, Twice Wilted and Cynic’s Bane. The result is surging, swirling guitar rock that is both colossal and ethereal and frankly out of step with a lot of what’s happening in Denver at the moment. Fans of the members’ previous bands as well as Space Team Electra and Bowery Electric should check out what the band is doing.
What:Damn Selene album release w/R A R E B Y R D $, 3Two and Stoney Bertz When: Saturday, 2.01, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Damn Selene has been one of the most respected hip-hop artists of the Denver underground for a handful of years in the more experimental end of that scene. The artist’s beats are rooted in noise, darkwave and industrial soundscaping paired with emotionally charged vocals taking at aim at society with honesty and a gift for combining storytelling with mythmaking and self-examination. Those qualities manifest brilliantly on the new album Nobody By That Name Lives Here Anymore. Selene’s vibrant synth work and transporting melodies vibe well with those of R A R E B Y R D $ whose blend of radical vulnerability and swagger weaves well with its own entrancing beats informed by a rich palette of sounds drawing from dub, analog synth music, classic hip-hop, noise, ambient music and whatever has caught the trio’s ear at the moment.
What:The Heroine, Tokyo Rodeo and Stone Deaf When: Saturday, 2.01, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Just when the whole “Southern Rock” thing seems played out, rote and utterly performative, The Heroine from San Antonio is there to play up every trope with a sincerity and conviction that is impossible to mime and has to come from an honest place. The Heroine sounds a bit like a way better and non-wack version of Motley Crue circa Dr. Feelgood and performs its shows like they have something to prove to someone even if only to themselves. Tokyo Rodeo from Denver performs with a similar spirit with its own songs reflecting a fire to live an authentic and vibrant life creating the kind of music that sounds like the people making it really lived and felt deeply and aimed for the catharsis of creative expression that only comes from some form of rock and roll.
What:EarthGang w/Mick Jenkins, Wynne and Jurdan Bryant When: Monday, 2.03, 7 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: EarthGang’s 2019 album Mirrorland was inspired by the 1978 film The Wiz and the band ran with the surreal quality of the film and infused it into a journey into the modern American cultural and political landscape with the attendant perils, struggles and triumphs. The Atlanta-based duo excels at using the formats of jazz, sampling, rap and soul to craft music that might be called psychedelic in another musical context except it isn’t disorienting, it’s focused on lived experience and creating the world you want to see rather than escapism.
Wednesday | February 5
What:Weird Wednesday: Ruche Mere, Claudzilla, Space Jail When: Wednesday, 2.05, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes performances from series host Claudzilla and her strange synth pop songs and unique covers, Ruche Mère a duo that uses electronic and organic instruments including bells and improvised percussive textural sounds to create what might be described post-industrial/post-civilization found object folk and Space Jail’s IDM-esque, ambient psychedelic folk soundscapes.
Who:Nekrofilth album release w/Phallic Meditation and Keef Duster When: Thursday, 01.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Nekrofilth releases its new album Worm Ritual tonight at a show with heavy psychedelic bands Phallic Meditation and Keef Duster. Nekrofilth’s sound is more akin to classic early thrash and black metal. On the new record the band does cover “Poison” by Venom, after all. Like the latter and Slayer, Nekrofilth has a playful quality to its aggression and ripping guitar work. Song titles like “Vomit Dog,” “They Took My Skin,” “Ready to Defile” and “Severed Eyes” suggest a healthy sense of the viscerally absurd with an unironic joy in the cartoonishly horrific the way one might enjoy the gnarliest B horror movie. Fans of blackened thrash rejoice, Nekrofilth has what you’re looking for.
Who:Random Temple w/Thistledown When: Thursday, 01.10, 9 p.m. Where: Black Buzzard Why: “Rhythm & Folk” band Thistledown will perform with Random Temple’s more production-oriented electronic project under his own name.
Friday | January 11, 2019
Who:Product Lust album release show w/Goon, Herse, Candy Apple When: Friday, 01.11, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Product Lust’s feral and driving 2018 album Year of the Rat is being celebrated tonight with a now rare live show as vocalist Kat Salvaggio is attending school out of Colorado. The seething post-punk band’s wiry energy fits in well with weirder hardcore and punk and thus this bill with Goon, Herse and Candy Apple is an opportunity to see bands that have punk of some stripe as their root but who are taking that spark in interesting directions.
Who:Lazarus Horse When: Friday, 01.11, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Lazarus Horse is the band that comes about when someone with good taste in music and good creative instincts writes a bunch of experimental rock music that doesn’t seem obviously influenced by anything else but creative flights of fancy, escaping to daydreams while doing meaningless work as a tool for staying sane in a civilization that’s grinding its best people into the dirt. It’s the soundtrack to that internal rebellion that becomes contagious.
Saturday | January 12, 2019
Who:Glasss Presents: Chromadrift album release w/Gold Trash and Bowshock When: Saturday, 01.12, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Chromadrift’s Cloudless Mind is the bright, ethereal flow of textured melodies that eases the freeze of winter. Fans of IDM and more abstract post-rock will appreciate Drew Miller’s blend of processed guitar, live synths and sequencing. Though the album dropped on January 3, this will be your first chance to see this music live in the new year. Also performing is noisy electroclash duo Gold Trash and downtempo jazz improv group Bowshock.
Who:e-scapes, Zealot and The Far Stairs When: Saturday, 01.12, 7:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: This’ll be probably the first indie rock show worth checking out in Aurora, Colorado since The Masculine organized one in 2009 at the old Other Side Arts space in downtown. The People’s Building is also downtown and across the street from Aurora Fox Theater. Zealot includes former members of The Don’ts and Be Carefuls, The Pseudo Dates, Violent Summer, Ideal Fathers and other bands most people haven’t heard of but should check out. The Far Stairs is a band that makes strange music sound more catchy and accessible than it has any right to.
Who:Pineross EP release w/Lady Gang When: Saturday, 01.12, 7 p.m. Where: Ubisububi Room Why: Kevin Larkin of Chimney Choir fame is releasing his most recent EP Esplanade at this show in the extra intimate and cozy Ubisububi Room underneath the Thin Man and St. Mark’s. Lady Gang sounds like a full band but is just Jen Korte making maximum creative use of a loop station to augment her already considerable talents as a singer-songwriter.
Who:Luke Vibert, Seied and Kanyon Walker When: Saturday, 01.12, 7:30 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Luke Vibert has long been on the forefront of modern experimental electronic dance music in various forms. Fans of Dilla, Flying Lotus and Blockhead will find a lot to like in Vibert.
Sunday | January 13, 2019
Who:Crushed!? W/The Uglys, Tides, Stonewall BLVD and Arctobog When: Sunday, 01.13, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Originally from the much smaller nearby town of Belen, Crushed!? is now based out of Albuquerque. Its post-hardcore sound has more in common with the likes of a more melodic At the Drive-In or Touché Amoré than the more screamo end of that music. Initially the music reminds one a bit of the great punk bands of the late 90s and early 2000s who adopted a bit of the math rock thing. But its rhythms are more inventive and wide-ranging like something one might have expected out of 90s DC and other East Coast rock like Versus, Helium and The Dismemberment Plan. The group’s 2018 album Sins of the Father is refreshingly difficult pin with a specific genre designation.
Monday | January 14, 2019
Who:R.Ariel, Kafari, Entrancer and Voight When: Monday, 01.14, 7:30 p.m. Where: DATELINE Why: This event is a combination of touring art installation courtesy and musical performances at DATELINE art gallery. R.Ariel’s new album Where You Are is an emotionally uplifting album of ethereal sounds and buoyant flow of bright tones. Kafari’s 2018 album Beholding is a masterpiece of minimalism like it was composed while somehow spending contemplative mornings underwater and absorbing a deep sense of peace. Entrancer has been spending years honing the ability to explore whatever directions his mastery of synthesis and beatmaking takes him. His 2018 album Decline Vol. 1 is true soundscaping that draws you into a sonic journey that while impressionistic and composed of deep layers of tone and texture conveys a sense of place physically and emotionally. Is the “Decline” of the title something to dread or something to greet as the inevitable cycle of life and death? The album offers no pat answers but it certain captures the ineffable moments of decline of a phase of one’s life, of civilizations and of all authoritarian orders. Voight may finally play a deep house/techno set. If not, it’ll be, by far, the loudest project of the night with its fiery and intense industrial post-punk shoegaze.
Who:Solos/Duos – Denver Avant Garde Music Society When: Monday, 01.14, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: This night, long held at other venues over the years, has re-emerged at Thought//Forms gallery. You never know what you’ll see but this night you’ll also get to see a set from Denver’s premiere spontaneous composition band Animal / object.
Who:Freq Boutique When: Monday, 01.14, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: This reoccurring event organized by electronic equipment company WMD, this night is sort of an open mic for synthesizer enthusiasts. This night’s festivities may include a set from hip-hop/experimental electronic dance artist Strange Powers.
Tuesday | January 15, 2019
Who:Mick Jenkins w/Kari Faux When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Mick Jenkins 2018 sophomore album Pieces of a Man is a bit of a tribute to Gil Scott-Heron’s 1971 album of the same name. Like Scott-Heron, Jenkins offers snapshots of the world around him in words with musical accompaniment to set the vibe. The organization of the album and the experience of listening to it is something like a hip jazz and poetry night. The opening track is called “Heron Flow” as a nod to Gil and his record’s opening track, the influential song poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Jenkins and his collaborators evoke the feel of a hazy after hours jazz club across the record with a sense of blending old school production and present day wordsmithing. Jenkins makes fairly mundane life experiences seem mythic and cool as Scott-Heron did in his day. Also on this bill is one of modern hip-hop’s greatest talents, Kari Faux. Her EPs, partly boosted by music appearing in the comedy series Insecure, combine a rebellious swagger with an otherworldly and mysterious quality – a rarity in music generally.
Who:Ensiferum w/Septicflesh and Arsis When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Helsinki, Finland’s Ensiferum is a melodic death metal band in the vein of the Gothenburg style but on the more orchestral end. Its use of acoustic guitars and folk structure and progressions give its music an expansive feel that evokes images of standing at the helm of one’s longboat charging toward unsuspecting European enclaves in the ninth century. Fans of Enslaved may enjoy Ensiferum’s similarly joyful performances.
Who:Supersuckers w/The Hangmen and Reno Divorce When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Supersuckers started playing its brand of fuzzy cowpunk in Tucson, Arizona in 1988 before moving to Seattle in 1989 near the beginning of when more than a few music journalists from beyond the Pacific Northwest were starting to take not of happenings in the Emerald City’s underground. The band never made the big time the way the grunge bands everyone has heard of did but it has been able to carve out a career for itself and its wiseacre, intentionally lowbrow humor. Who else would start off their 1992 album on Sub Pop, The Smoke of Hell, with a song called “Coattail Rider” at the peak of the alternative rock explosion? Such chutzpah must continue to be honored. Oh yeah, the trio’s 2018 album, out on Acetate Records, is called Suck It. That the underground rock world has come back around to the sound Supersuckers perfected three decades ago is surely not lost on the band as a choice bit of irony. The song “History Of Rock n’ Roll” in which Eddie Spaghetti sings about how Supersuckers, the greatest band in the world is a footnote in the history of rock ‘n roll suggests they’re well aware.