The first single “Audacious” from Ian Chang’s debut album Belonging (out April 24, 2020 on City Slang) features a keyboard line that is percussive in its cadence and synth drones floating in the background like a fog, all while Kazu Makino (Blonde Redhead) provides almost a companion beat with her vocals accenting the melody line parallel to the low end. The deep, layered rhythms of the song allow it to go well outside any pop songwriting conventions which makes Makino’s unique, breathy voice well suited to a song about not hiding behind the usual socially conditioned barriers that prevent direct and honest communication between people. The animated video directed by Qieer Wang brings to the presentation of the song the quality of a graphic novel cast in the visual language of personal mythology and the use of creative visualization to transform one’s own consciousness—it is colorful, surreal and symbolic in blurring any line between conscious and unconscious mind, dream and waking reality, abstracted cultural folklore and concrete existence. And beyond these heady conceits the song and video work as a way that makes an otherwise experimental pop song immediately accessible with its gentle melodicism and sense of coming with a fresh perspective to what might have before been a conundrum in your mind. Watch the video for “Audacious” on YouTube and follow Ian Chang, also a member of Son Lux and Landlady, at the links below.
Who:Brian Jonestown Massacre w/Pale Sun When: Thursday, 05.17, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Brian Jonestown Massacre didn’t kick off any of the handful of psychedelic rock revivals since the 60s but it is one of the few bands that had the emotional resonance and quality of songwriting that made the original wave so interesting. The BJM also brought to the music a musical sensibility that didn’t emerge and synthesize until the 90s after the impact of the alt-country and Paisley Underground of the 80s refined psych, until after house and electronica generally, shoegaze and slowcore brought about different ways to use drones, atmospheres and beats in different contexts. The BJM freely absorbed all of that sort of thing and produced more consistently interesting rock music than most bands of its era. On later records, Anton Newcombe even brought in musical ideas that one might usually attribute to synth pop and krautrock for a hybrid music that pushed far past the bevy of modern psych bands it directly influenced. Pick up pretty much any of their early records and you’ll hear those echoes across a broad stripe of modern rock music. Pick up any of the band’s albums and you’ll hear something interesting that not anyone else is doing quite as well if at all. This show will probably be a more classic Jonetown Massacre set but that just means a good deal of emotionally changed, tonally nuanced songs that come from the heart. Even people who are stuck on the depiction of Newcombe in the great 2004 documentary film Dig! have to admit that he at least seemed like a sincere artist even at his lowest points. Opening is Denver-based shoegaze band Pale Sun, which includes former members of two of the best bands out of that realm of music that never quite hit national prominence in guitar genius and singer Jeff Suthers of Bright Channel and Moonspeed and multi-faceted drummer Kit Peltzel formerly of Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.
Who:Bevin Luna album release w/Jen Korte & The Loss and Wildflowers When: Thursday, 05.17, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Like most of the musicians/bands that come out of Memphis, Bevin Luna’s songwriting is quite eclectic but not in that trying-to-please-too-many-people way. You get the feeling that Luna had to prove herself to some unforgiving audiences before she moved to Denver and started playing in the local scene in 2005. It’s rock haunted by country, traditional blues, folk and played with the energy of what a punk band should be. While not as swamp-haunted as, say, Gun Club or as countrified as Green On Red, Bevin Luna’s songwriting has roots in similar musical territory. Her new album, Baby Dragon, is fuzzier than some of her earlier music and the raw quality of the recordings really enhances Luna’s natural grit.
What:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: R A R E B Y R D $, Shocker Mom, Pearls & Perils When: Thursday, 05.17, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Oh, sure, these artists play more than a few shows together. But it’s an example of some of the best bands/artists going playing shows in less-than-fancy situations to friends regardless of whether strangers will get it, thankful for friends showing up and putting on a great show anyway. To call any of these projects “hip-hop” would be technically accurate but wouldn’t encompass the imaginative soundscaping and beats and the use of natural dance moves in performing the music in a way. A short list of the most emotionally moving vocalists in Denver now would have to include KokoLa and Key Lady from R A R E B Y R D $, Robin Walker who is Shocker Mom and Olivia Perez who is Pearls and Perils. Fans of downtempo, lushly produced hip-hop and R&B should make the effort to check out these artists whether tonight or another time.
Friday | May 18, 2018
Who:Hot Snakes, Le Butcherettes and Git Some When: Friday, 05.18, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Hot Snakes’ Jericho Sirens, out March 2018 on Sub Pop, is the band’s first album since 2004’s excellent Audit in Progress. And, of course, it’s less playful than Rick Froberg’s and John Reis’s other projects (Obits, Rocket From the Crypt), and has perhaps more in common with their pioneering noise rock band Drive Like Jehu. Angular, at times clashingly atonal, jagged breakdowns, the songs somehow have an anthemic quality that one might attribute to a pop punk band. Except that Jericho Sirens is a seething commentary on how every part of our culture and world civilization in general seems to be on the verge of collapse with public and political rhetoric amping up a kind of Manichaean world view in which one must pick a side or one will be presumed for you. The title of the album, alone, brilliantly and poetically clues one in on the constant state of alert that is encouraged in everyone everywhere all the time now. On this leg of the tour is Le Butcherettes, a band whose own music embodies the violence and contrasts of modern Mexico while examining the nature of identity and the role it plays in our lives and how notions of such can warp perception and impose a harmful cognitive framework. But all headiness and doom and gloom aside, both Hot Snakes and Le Butcherettes are bands whose live show is so viscerally entertaining that even if you don’t look beyond the surface level you won’t regret going. That bands aren’t creating essentially content-free art right now, though, is incredibly refreshing. Git Some, from Denver, is cut from a similar cloth and even if you see Luke Fairchild moving around like a marionette drive by forces beyond his control, what he’s singing about also cuts to the quick of the harrowing reality of modern human, especially North American, life.
Saturday | May 19, 2018
Who:Godspeed You! Black Emperor w/Marisa Anderson When: Saturday, 05.19, 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Marisa Anderson’s guitar compositions channel the sound of the natural world around her. Pastoral in tone with a detail of sound that suggests emotions rendered as sonic texture. Her forthcoming album, Cloud Corner (due out June 15, 2018 through Thrill Jockey), is like a step into that part of America that is off the main roads and outside the thought patterns and resultant culture that pushes us all to go, go, go at the expense of our own long term psychological health. It is music that if we take it in on its own terms reminds us to make time for being human and not the servants of modern post-industrial society. So it makes sense that Anderson is opening for one of the few bands that has maintained some sense of mystique and one that makes futuristic music commenting on world culture using a more classic music approach but not held back by a sensibility and tradition that emphasizes canon through interpreting the works of past masters. Godspeed! You Black Emperor shows how a group of small, committed people can use their talent and work to use conventional tools to demonstrate unorthodox, and even rebellious, ideas. Its 2017 album Luciferian Towers was released along with a statement reflecting a radical, yet completely sensible, view on international human rights. Maybe the band thought it better to think ahead than let the horrible leaders of the world try to dictate all its narratives.
Sunday | May 20, 2018
Who:Mary Lattimore w/Hannah Samano and Bellhoss When: Sunday, 05.20, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Mary Lattimore branches out on her latest album, Hundreds of Days. It’s still the beautifully detailed, intricate ambient melodies that have distinguished her earlier releases. This time out she has experimented more with electric and electronic instruments and equipment as well as her own voice to augment her masterful harp work. Lattimore’s playing has garnered her chances to tour (as a live performer) and collaborate with the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Thurston Moore, Julianna Barwick and gigs doing soundtrack work for the biographical documentaries about Marina Abramović (2012’s The Artist is Present) and Fred Rogers (Won’t You Be My Neighbor, also from 2012). Lattimore’s broad expressive range and ability to write pieces with a keen ear for the percussive and tonal quality of her instruments is impressive. And timeless. Except for the electronic elements it would be difficult to place Lattimore’s music in time and seeing it live or even listening to it on a recording. Of course if you go see it live you will also get to see how visceral an instrument a harp can be even as its ethereal tones seem to float off into infinity.
What:Noise Night at Syntax Physic Opera: Ambigere (WA), Rasmussen, eMMAoWEN, Mirror Fears, Clutch Plague and Sunk Cost When: Sunday, 05.20, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Ultra Metal presents this edition of Noise Night at Syntax. Noise isn’t for everyone but this lineup will be a much more than the cliché of harsh noise and simple pedal chaining. Rasmussen is a member of local noise legends Page 27 but his solo work is often ambient or even in the realm of dance music. Sunk Cost is Ultra Metal founder Johnathan Cash’s harsh noise project and to some it may sound like tuning in to amplified dead stations on the radio. But there is some soundsculpting going on and the visceral impact of those sounds through a P.A.. Mirror Fears is generally known for her brilliantly crafted, melancholic experimental, industrial pop music but as part of her overall musical identity there is the sensibility of noise and the use of sound in ways that simply don’t fit into a standard pop context. Clutch Plague has a more old school industrial, beat driven sound. EMMAoWEN uses soundscaping, harsh noise and sampling to make impactful commentary on culture and touring act, Ambigere from Olympia, Washington, creates sonically tactile environments that are technically ambient but clearly on the harsh end of that spectrum because there’s nothing soothing about it.
Tuesday | May 22, 2018
Who:Wolf Parade w/Japandroids w/Adrian Teacher and The Subs When: Tuesday, 05.22, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Why: Canadian post-punk band Wolf Parade went on indefinite hiatus in 2010 after producing a few of the most interesting rock albums of that time. Rather than the dance punk or Joy Division-esque mode of post-punk, Wolf Parade’s dusky atmospherics were more akin to those of Crime and the City Solution and Nick Cave. Singer and keyboardist Spencer Krug’s multifaceted career in and out of Wolf Parade included stints in noteworthy indie bands Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake as well as his solo project Moonface. Guitarist/vocalist Dan Boeckner subsequently formed Handsome Furs as well as The Divine Fits (the latter with Britt Daniel of Spoon). Wolf Parade announced its hiatus was over in January 2016 and in 2017 it released Cry Cry Cry on Sub Pop. In support of the album, with clear stylistic nods to recently passed rock icons with David Bowie’s lush and emotionally rich songwriting and Tom Petty’s knack for pop storytelling, the band is currently on tour with another of Canada’s most dynamic rock bands of the moment: Japandroids.
From Vancouver, British Columbia, Japandroids played its own brand of punk and what one might call post-garage with a fiery energy at pretty much every show. Influenced by the likes of The Sonics and Gun Club, Japandroids put out an impressive, albeit relatively small, body of work at two full-length albums and two EPs (collected into a compilation humorously titled No Singles) before going on hiatus itself in 2013. And, purely coincidentally, announced it was back together in 2016 with Near to the Wild Heart of Life, which the band said in interviews was its first attempt to craft an album in a more traditional sense rather than written piecemeal in a headlong rush of being a band in its earlier days. If it didn’t have quite the urgency or ferocity of 2010’s Post-Nothing or 2012’s Celebration Rock, the traces of the record’s Replacements-esque, anthemic power pop was already present on the early material. Japandroids now just sounds bigger to match the intensity with which Brian King and David Prowse continue to bring to the live show.
Who:Kimbra w/Son Lux When: Tuesday, 05.22, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Kimbra earned her bona fides by making soulful and eclectic indie rock that reminded fans and critics of other artists. Fortunately, Kimbra had the chops and talent to warrant glowing comparisons. Her debut album, 2011’s Vows, was a combination of upbeat lounge jazz and electronic pop and reminiscent of an Amy Winehouse record. And the album was critically acclaimed, garnering Kimbra the attention of future high profile collaborators like Mark Foster, Flying Lotus and Thundercat, the latter of which performed on Kimbra’s 2014 album The Golden Echo. With the 2018 album Primal Heart, Kimbra has broadened her songwriting palette and vocal range, now establishing a style that’s not so easy to compare to her peers and influences.
Who:Y La Bamba w/Malahierba, Stelth Ulvang, DJ A-Train When: Tuesday, 05.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza was born in San Francisco to parents from Mexico and coming up she took in the folk music and folklore of Mexico. She mostly grew up in Oregon and when she formed Y La Bamba in Portland, Mendoza found musicians who shared her musical tastes and inclinations. But rather than a straightforward folk and Americana act, Y La Bamba included, of course, lyrics in Spanish as well as subtle use of electronic instruments to enhance a sense of the otherworldly present in the group’s vocal harmonies and acoustic instrumentation. In a way, the music suggests the feeling one gets from reading the more mystical works of Zora Neal Hurston in which the material world is very tactile but informed by the presence of the spiritual world in the subject matter and the tone of Hurston’s writing. As with Hurston, Mendoza channels her ancestors and their cultural traditions but bringing her own rich imagination and intelligence to bear in her creative interpretation and expression and extension of those ineffable influences.
Wednesday | May 23, 2018
Who:Wye Oak w/Corsicana When: Wednesday, 05.23, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Wye Oak is the rare band that has recognized a rut as it’s threatening to happen. With its 2011 album Civilian, the duo’s music was finding placement in film and television and that would have reinforced a creative tendency by rewarding creation using a generally specific method. So the band took some time off from Wye Oak with drummer Andy Stack moving away from Baltimore in search of being around a different sort of artistic climate in Texas and Portland. Guitarist and vocalist Jenn Wasner put time into Dungeonesse, an electronic pop and R&B project with producer Jon Ehrens. When Wye Oak was working on new music it took a different direction with less emphasis on Wasner’s admittedly imaginative and evocative guitar work and more on beats and textured, composed melodies. Thus the 2014 album Shriek and Tween, the 2016 album that all but outlined that transition from the musical thinking of Civilian to that of Shriek. The 2018 Wye Oak album The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is the kind of album a band releases after it has reinvented itself and then considered what it would like to say next before doing so.
Who:Starjammer vs. Lunetta, Atari, Sleepy Nemo, Human Hearts and Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess When: Wednesday, 05.23, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Starjammer is difficult to categorize beyond it’s self-described “Avant-Garde/Dub-Reggae.” Seems legit as Squids Madden was recently seen playing sax on stage with Godspeed You! Black Emperor at The Ogden. He will also probably bring his lighting rig to add another layer of otherworldliness to this collaborative set with Lunetta, a project that could be described as lo-fi industrial psych. Atari cuts together vinyl records to produce truly unique samples that he manipulates by hand at the live show giving less actual control over frequencies and rhythms from the sample proper. He gives the sounds the contexts and thus the art of what Atari is doing. Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess sounds like some kind of weirdo field recording project mixed with intentional music and noise. Basically, the show with the weirdest music this month unless you’re going to an Ultra Metal event.
Who:Bob Log III w/Simulators When: Wednesday, 05.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bob Log III is a one man band who, sure, plays a mutant version of Delta blues but he does wearing a face-obscuring-ly tinted helmet and otherwise looking like maybe he was pulled from a band in Judge Dredd or a reconstituted civilization following the era depicted in the Max Max movies. When he was a member of Doo Rag, Bob Log III’s confrontational performance style won over audiences when he was opening for much more famous bands. Probably because not many people had seen anything quite like it. Opening for Bob in Denver is SIMULATORS, the noise rock/post-punk band comprised of Bryon Parker formerly of Accordion Crimes and Raleigh and Brian Polk of Joy Subtraction. The band’s jagged rhythms and blunt, to the point music should appeal to fans of Shellac because it often does sound that savage.
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