“Cool Waters” finds Belfast, Ireland’s bobsled team draws us in with a simple and strong bass line in the beginning of the song on a journey through sparkling guitar tones and unconventional counter melodies with vocals that stand out like a spirit working its way through a mist of noisy drones that somehow sit find in the mix of tonal imagery. The contrasting aesthetics remind one of a time in the mid-90s when a bunch of naff, ersatz alternative rock and tough guy aggro nü metal pushed aside more interesting sounds and tenderness and sensitivity out of mainstream music. So much was louder without saying a whole lot and the bravado then as now was insufferable. But in the underground there was indiepop of the variety that embraced strong songwriting and unconventional pop hooks as well as noise and a spirit of experimentation that operated without reference to popular trends: Felt Pilotes, Apples in Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, Oliva Tremor Control—the whole Elephant 6 thing and its cousin scenes. There was also dream like noise and art rock like Unwound, Versus and Helium that resonated with the ways Sonic Youth took the avant-garde and made it accessible. The fusion of those lineages you can hear in the music of bobsled team and “Cool Water,” from the group’s fantastic full length The Colours Blur, is a fine example of those impulses and influences manifested in a new expression of a similar creative spirit. Listen to “Cool Water” on Bandcamp and connect with bobsled team at the links provided. Score a very limited edition vinyl version of the record on Bandcamp as well.
Thursday | May 31, 2018
Who: Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: EVP, Mirror Fears, Claudzilla
When: Thursday, 05.31, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Industrial/dark pop duo EVP is celebrating singer/guitarist Amanda Baker’s birthday with this show alongside weirdo synth/keytar sorceress Claudzilla and Mirror Fears’ emotionally cathartic electronic compositions.
Who: Glasss Records & Titwrench Presents the 100th Glasss Show: R A R E B Y R D $, Gold Trash, Pearls & Perils, Rachael Pollard, EVP
When: Thursday, 05.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Glasss Records is commemorating its 100th show with an event that includes RAREBYRD$ and Rachael Pollard who will be going to Titwrench Stockholm on June 14 and 15 this year. This show is a short list of the best songwriters and, in the case of everyone but Rachael, electronic music artists in Denver right now. Whether it’s the transcendent hip-hop of R A R E B Y R D $, the noisy electroclash of Gold Trash, the soulful downtempo of Pearls & Perils, EVP’s genre-defying electronic punk or Rachael Pollard’s ability to seemingly write from a middle school diary of dreams, fears and loves with a sublime wisdom and playfulness, this lineup is impeccable.
Who: Hail Satan EP release of Rad Metal w/Dead Characters and Cönaxx
When: Thursday, 05.31, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Jake Fairly’s work as a graphic/comic artist isn’t so difficult to run into around town. Whether it’s his This is Heavy Metal comic or work he’s done for various concerns, his clean lines, use of space and compelling detail are noteworthy. He also has a band called Hail Satan that’s releasing its Rad Metal EP tonight. The band is in the vein of classic thrash and speed metal with a little punk thrown in and Fairly is its frontman. Because the title of the album is humorous while honoring what makes that style of music great, you can bet the band will embody that spirit live as well.
Friday | June 1, 2018
Who: Giardia album release w/Church Fire, Sonic Vomit and Today’s Paramount
When: Friday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Giardia is releasing its latest album tonight. The Denver based band sounds like some kind of art-rock/fusion/prog band. Its songs while containing elements of black metal and grindcore has more in common with Goblin and Naked City. Lots of synth and keyboards and drastic shifts in tone, rhythm and texture to that it never gets bogged down in adherence to genre. Three other bands that don’t really fit anyone else’s mode so well are also playing this show. Church Fire some people probably think of as kind of a dance music band with melodic synth lines and bumping rhythms. But the music runs deeper with roots in noise, industrial, political punk and art rock. Also, vocalist Shannon Webber is an electrifying figure delivering her lines with a theatrical and symphonic intensity like a Kabuki theater performer but reigned in by no one’s muse but her own. Sonic Vomit is coming up from Pueblo to bring its noisy prog death metal and Today’s Paramount could be considered a math-y, No Wave funk band with elements of psych in its sound.
What: New Hinterland Benefit Concert: Pan Astral, Like Miller from Lotus and Flobots
When: Friday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Hinterland Gallery sat north of Downtown Denver for years before the inevitable happened and existence in that part of town became untenable. The gallery hosted numerous events for some of Denver’s most adventurous artists and was a hub/base of operations for the more visually inclined creators including filmmakers, painters and sculptors. It also hosted forward thinking multimedia presentations. This show is a benefit for the gallery’s new space. Performing is genre-bending electronic pop band Pan Astral who will be joined on stage by Luke Miller of Lotus and Johnny 5 and Brer Rabbit of Flobots making it a one-of-kind show for everyone that shows up and one aimed at helping out one of Denver’s true independent art institutions.
Who: Michael Franti & Spearhead w/Xavier Rudd and Victoria Canal
When: Friday, 06.01, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Michael Franti & Spearhead will release its new album Stay Human 2 later this year but for this tour you can catch the band in support of the first volume of Stay Human. These days Franti is more known for his upbeat, highly positive world-music-oriented funk and soul and rightfully so, that’s what he feels is the best vehicle for making music counter to the misguided and destructive elements of world human culture. But that roots level political orientation (he also helps to lead a yoga session around the time of his concerts in Colorado and elsewhere) runs long in Franti’s career going back to his time with industrial hip-hop groups Beatnigs and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy whose lyrics seem oddly prescient over two decades since.
Who: Animal Years w/Tyler Imbrey’s Ghost Revue and House With A Yard
When: Friday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: No link for this show because Ticketfly got hacked but it shouldn’t yet be sold out. At any rate Animal Years borrowed its name from a Josh Ritter album. Seeing as Ritter is one of the most literate, thoughtful and emotionally vibrant songwriters in modern pop music, you can hardly blame them. It’s also a reminder to live life to the fullest and pack as much living in with each year as if you are living seven as, for instance, a dog would. The group’s latest five-song EP Far From Home touches on familiar tones and textures in the realm of pop Americana of the past decade. But Mike McFadden’s voice has enough character to set the band apart from its peers and his words possessed with enough self-awareness and nuance of expression to be worth repeated listens.
Saturday | June 2, 2018
Who: Bassnectar and Nightmares on Wax DJ set, CharlestheFirst and Dorfex Bos
When: Saturday, 06.02, 6:30 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: Bassnectar is rightfully one of the most popular artists who took the underground rave culture and music he experienced as a teenager in the 90s to a wide audience and made it accessible with his creative hybrid of downtempo, dubstep and drum and bass. In recent years, his conceptual multi-media shows, or gatherings, have added a more intentional communal dimension to his days long stints in cities on his tours. For this second of three shows in the Denver area, Bassnectar has brought along one of electronic dance music’s true pioneers with George Evelyn aka Nightmares on Wax. Evelyn started out DJing in clubs in Leeds with his friends John Halnon and Kevin Harper with genre-hopping mixes in their sets with hip-hop, soul and funk as the root. The project found a home at then Sheffield, now London, based experimental electronic label Warp Records with it’s 1991 debut album A Word of Science: The First and Final Chapter. Nightmares On Wax operated as a DJ-based act in the live setting until the late 90s when it morphed into a hybrid of production technology and live instrumentation with a drum machine giving the band’s shows a more intimate feel. Though Halnon and Harper have long since moved on, Evelyn has continued on steering Nightmares on Wax and tonight he’ll get back to doing a DJ set but with a more modern set of tools at hand to mix and weave in an imaginative set of music.
Who: Benefit Show for Miles Elliott Bellinger Webb (son of G. Matthew Bellinger): Git Some, Pretty Mouth, Zebroids and Animal Actress
When: Saturday, 06.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: G. Matthew Bellinger was a bright and talented, but, like many artists, deeply troubled, guitarist and vocalist for the well-known posthardcore legends Planes Mistaken For Stars, Americana alterna punks Ghost Buffalo and noisy sludge rockers Ill Cattivo. When he died in 2017 under unusual circumstances it was a big blow to friends and family perhaps none more so than to his son Miles. The proceeds from this show will toward benefiting Miles and it features some of the Denver area’s best bands including posthardcore noise rock band Git Some (which includes former Planes members Charles French and Neil Keener), dream pop tinged country act Pretty Mouth (fronted by former Ghost Buffalo members Marie Litton, Jedd Kopp and Benjamin Williams) , joke punker performance art band Zebroids and slowcore-ish, math rock-esque, post-rock leaning band Animal Actress which includes former Ghost Buffalo guitarist Tommy Ventura. A lot of talent for one room and for a good cause.
Tuesday | June 5, 2018
Who: Cold Cave, Black Marble, Choir Boy and Boy Hollow
When: Tuesday, 06.05, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Black Marble did something that many modern artists making music in the atmospheric post-punk vein didn’t—sound like every other band out of the neo-post-punk revival. Sure, Chris Stewart tapped into 80s bands that were precursors/pioneers of what is now called minimal synth like Iron Curtain and Solid Space. But his bass-driven melodies had more in common with experimental electronic dance music than rock. Stewart’s 2016 release on Ghostly International, It’s Immaterial, solidified that impression even if the music was even more accessible. The songs seemed to operate from a dreamlike earth, sparsely populated, perpetually late morning and soft lighting, the kind of environment that gives one time to contemplate and work out the angst in your head.
Wednesday | June 6, 2018
Who: A Hawk and a Hacksaw at Shady Grove Series
When: Wednesday, 06.06, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Four Mile Historic Park
Why: Jeremy Barnes some may know as the former drummer of Neutral Milk Hotel but since the early 2000s he and his wife Heather Trost have been making music inspired by Eastern European, Turkish and Balkan folk music as A Hawk and a Hacksaw. Based in Albuquerque the duo also contributed to the early development of like-minded band Beirut. A Hawk and a Hacksaw started as more or less a solo project of Barnes’ but during the recording of the project’s 2002 self-titled debut he met Trost beginning a musical partnership and otherwise since. That initial album was adopted as the soundtrack to the 2005 documentary film Zizek! about Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek. The act is now touring in support of its new album Forest Bathing and with its old world/pastoral tone, where better to experience this music than a park rather than a club. After all A Hawk and a Hacksaw had a form of Japanese nature therapy in mind for the record. According to an April 2018 article in Albuquerque Journal, Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is their “forest bath of choice.” In an era when too much is created to be disposable and conceived that way, it’s a refreshingly out of step perspective for music and how to best experience it.