Torche Writes “A Lot of Riffs Inspired By Synths,” Performs at Larimer Lounge on September 18

Torche Band
Torche, photo by Dan Almasy

Torche (performing tonight, September 18, at Larimer Lounge) started in Miami in 2004 after the dissolution of Floor, the band guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks and former guitarist Juan Montoya had played in through much of the 90s and early 2000s. Torche picked up some of where Floor left off but took the heaviness in a more melodic and experimental direction across several albums including 2019’s Admission (N.B., Floor has reunited since its 2004 split and is technically still active). The new record reflects the band’s eclectic influences and roots as a band. New bassist Eric Hernandez or heave noise rock weirdos Wrong has played with Torche on and off filling in for drummer Rick Smith when the latter was not able to tour including, according to Brooks, a 2006 European tour. So the new role simply meant Hernandez was still playing with his friends in a new capacity. “After we lost two guitar players Jon [Nuñez] started playing guitar and he said we should get Eric to play bass,” comments Brooks.

Torche has never really fit the mold of a heavy metal band and Admission sounds more like a heavier neo-shoegaze album or noise rock record than heavy metal even though there are plenty of moments when the band plumbs those sonic depths that are part of its overall aesthetic. Part of this is accounted for by the fact that Brooks and the other members of Torche came up in Miami. Earlier in life, according to Brooks, he saw Melvins in 1991 and Godflesh on its early tours in 1989 or 1990. “I thought this was the type of stuff I wanted to do,” says Brooks. But finding like-minded musicians was a challenge and the guitarist moved to Atlanta in 1995 for a few years because the drummer of Floor lived there. Then the band got another drummer who lived in central Florida posing another challenge in the commute and Brooks “would drive three to four hours to practice on weekends.”

Locally Floor would play a club called Churchill’s often and frequently drove to Gainesville, Florida to play where a sizable audience might be found but back home it was playing to friends. So Floor and then Torche built up an audience well beyond their respective home towns out of necessity and have since cultivated a national and international fan base on a fairly grassroots basis.

Perhaps reflective of Torche’s non-genre purist sound is its current tour with experimental synth and heave drone band Pinkish Black for the bulk of the journey and ethereal yet emotionally charged darkwave project SRSQ (Kenndy Ashlyn formerly of Them Are Us Too) for the first leg of the tour. Torche’s current sound seems more introspective than one would expect from its previous offerings and when bringing Hernandez up to speed for the kinds of things to have in mind for moods and tones, Torche recommended listening to the first three Gary Numan albums for inspiration.

“We write a lot of riffs inspired by synths,” says Brooks. “Gary Numan is a big influence on us. So we threw that out. It’s the same thing except we’re playing guitars. The vibe.”

Admission has the evocative Richard Vargas cover art with a simple design favored by Torche this time out rather than anything too intricate. The image is of a head with the lower face intact but the upper head having exploded into the aftermath of a volcanic eruption suggesting either blowing minds of having one’s mind blown.

Although Torche has been around for fifteen years and toured internationally and it supports the members of the band, the group still operates like an underground outfit but one with the cachet to have albums released on the likes of Relapse with its two most recent records. But as with a lot of bands who are still playing small clubs and theaters Torche does its own driving and selling its own merch most of the time. Although its name is known among connoisseurs of heavy music the band isn’t so far removed from the challenges of its early days.

“It was really challenging when we first started because we weren’t making any money,” says Brooks. “Now we’re able to survive. The challenging part is actually all the traveling, trying to get sleep. Last night we partied and then I ended up going home and woke up at six o’clock in the morning and my band was in my room and I was like, ‘What the fuck are you all doing here?”’They were staying with friends before but they were in my house. They had broken into my house because I wasn’t waking up. I woke up naked because I took an Uber home, took a shower and went straight into bed. I woke up thought ‘Fuck, there are people in my room!’ The challenge is having privacy.”

Torche performs on September 18, 2019, at Larimer Lounge with Pinkish Black and Green Druid. Doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m., tickets $23, ages 16 and over welcome

Best Shows in Denver 03/14/19 – 03/20/19

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Adia Victoria performs at Larimer Lounge on 3/15

Thursday | March 14

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The Drood circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Drood, Church Fire, blackcell, Mudwulf and dizypixl
When: Thursday, 03.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: The Drood could be described as a horror ambient band with a penchant for subverting the dark music paradigm with wry humor and deeply imaginative reworking of tropes into new shapes. It’s what gives the band a kind of timeless and otherworldly quality even as it uses familiar sounds and moods to weave its unusual narratives. Church Fire similarly uses the vocabulary of dance and industrial music to enter mythic psychological spaces to comment on culture and political issues without boring us with didactic and topical platitudes. Blackcell is the longest running industrial/EBM band in Denver but one that has evolved so much since its early days as essentially and industrial noise act into one of the great the abstract/ambient dance/darkwave bands today. Mudwulf will bring an unpredictable collection of underground electronic music to DJ and Dizypixl, known for her work with Skinny Puppy, will provide brain-stirring visuals.

Who: Ian Svenonius’ Escape-ism with his “FoundSoundDreamDrama”
When: Thursday, 03.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Lane Meyer Products
Why: Even though The Lost Record, the debut from Escape-ism, the latest project from Ian Svenonius, the frontman of The Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Weird War and other noteworthy musical entities over the years. Musically it sounds like lo-fi electroclash (or an even more lo-fi take on that musical movement). But that jibes with what is obviously a concept with music videos that look like its borrowing the aesthetics of an un-cool era, particularly the Super-8 vibe of the video for “Nothing Personal,” to pull listeners, and presumably those attending the show, out of everyday consciousness. Across his career as a musician, Svenonius and his partners have attempted to make music to engage both body and mind whereas much of modern culture and entertainment seems aimed at atomizing us as people from each other but also within ourselves. That the show is booked at something outside the usual purview of a bar or conventional venue should be telling as well regarding the aims of the performance.

Friday | March 15

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Josh Ott, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Adia Victoria wNina and the Hold Tight and Brother Sister Hex
When: Friday, 03.15, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Adia Victoria’s 2016 album Beyond the Bloodhounds introduced the world to the songwriter’s brooding, expressive, bluesy songwriting. Her 2019 album Silences finds Victoria expanding her sound, now operating in a realm somewhere between Rubblebucket’s soulful pop and Nick Cave’s smoldering intensity.

What: LEAF Night 1: Performances
When: Friday, 03.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts
Why: This year’s edition of the Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival kicks off with a bevy of visionary avant-garde electronic music. This year’s programme of performances will inclue: Derek Holzer – Vector Synthesis AV Performance, Janet Feder and Joshua Ott – Prepared Guitar & Electronic Image, L’Astra Cosmo – AudioVisual Vector Synthesis, Sean Winters & Angie Eng – Piano and Electronic Image. In the cozy yet spacious performance space that is the Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts, these performances showcase some of the new ways in which creative people are integrating technology in both the musical and visual realm with concepts driving their application. Curated by David Fodel, LEAF strives to bring unique experiences that connect cutting edge artists with audiences/participants open to experiencing something you’re not likely to at a conventional music venue of any kind or all that much in academia either. Heady stuff.

What: Meet the Giant, Dead Orchids and Altas facebook.com/events/326517057982697
When: Friday, 03.15, 8 p.m.
Where: BarFly
Why: A free show and a bill that includes some of the best bands in Denver. Meet the Giant is an emotionally charged dream pop/rock band who are playing music with atmosphere and delicacy and nuance but delivered like its three members spent a youth in punk. Dead Orchids is a beautifully gloomy, bluesy, experimental rock project. Altas may be collectively the funniest band in Denver but the electrifying grandeur of its visceral instrumental rock lacks not for serious explorations of inner space.

Saturday | March 16

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Janet Feder, photo courtesy the artist

What: LEAF Night 2: artistTalks
When: Saturday, 03.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts
Why: This second night of the Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival includes the presentations/artistTalks, rather than performance, component of the event with a programme as follows: Derek Holzer – A Media Archaeology Of Vector Graphics, Jason and Deborah Benagozzi – What IS Signal Culture? The Signal IN the Culture, libi rose striegl – Digging In: A hands-on Guide to Media Archaeology, Janet Feder – Trip Sitting: A guided journey along the timeline of psychedelia.

What: Lipgloss pressents: Alice Glass DJ set w/Boyhollow
When: Saturday, 03.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Alice Glass’s musical output since her departure from Crystal Castles in 2014 has been a showcase for a gift for poignant expressions of agonizing emotional turmoil and strength in the face of being torn up from the inside out.

What: Johnlukeirl fka DJ Clap, Techno Allah, Kid Mask, DJ JFK, Timelord SFX, Blank Human and Wayzout
When: Saturday, 03.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: A night of music where ambient, experimental dance and noise meet. A bit more on the bright tones and compositions bordering on an updated version of chillwave on the beats with Johnlukeirl and downtempo ambient noise and glitchcore with Kid Mask along with analog-synth driven ambient with Blank Human so definitely not all of a piece.

Sunday | March 17

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Motherhood, photo by Emulsion Lab/Kyle Cunjak

What: Sliver, Motherhood (CAN), Weep Wave (Seattle) and Thatcher
When: Sunday, 03.17, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This’ll be an eclectic bill with Sliver’s post-grunge bursts of arresting emotional intensity, Weep Wave’s lo-fi psychedelia akin to the likes of Caustic Resin and some of the weirder bands on the Siltbreeze imprint, Motherhood’s math-y art punk rendering of high concept pop songs (see our interview with the band here) and Thatcher’s Velocity Girl-esque shimmery melodies.

Monday | March 18

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JPEGMAFIA, photo courtesy the artist

What: Vince Staples w/JPEGMAFIA and Trill Sammy
When: Monday, 03.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Vince Staples and JPEGMAFIA are two of the most incisive critics of modern culture and the music industry. With a massive knowledge of music far beyond hip-hop both artists have some of the most sonically interesting beats going.

What: Endless, Nameless, Balms, Wander, YUFI64, Old Soul Dies Young
When: Monday, 03.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Denver-based, introspective math rock band Endless, Nameless celebrates its return from its most recent tour this night. Also on the bill is Balms from San Francisco whose fuzz-tinged shoegaze sounds like the melodic analog of waves crashing against jagged rocks. Fans of Ceremony’s most recent music or True Widow will find much to like about Balms. Its debut full-length Mirrors was released in February 2019. Wander is a post-rock band from the Bay Area (San Leandro) whose own dynamic buildups are reminiscent of the subtle yet irresistible flow of ocean tides and coastal breezes.

What: Blood Incantation, Of Feather and Bone, Black Curse, Prison Glue and Many Blessings
When: Monday, 03.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Blood Incantation is a band that sounds like its members are having fun with the sonically absurd possibilities inherent to an over-the-top-yet-technically-challenging genre like death metal. The result is one of the most unusual and powerful live bands you’re likely to see in the realm of metal or anything else. But the band and everyone else on this bill is coming together for a fundraiser for James Trejo of Cadaver Dog and various other projects who was assaulted on tour resulting in a broken orbital floor in his face. Some people’s children.

Tuesday | March 19

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The Black Queen, photo by Jen Whitaker

What: The Black Queen w/Uniform and SRSQ
When: Tuesday, 03.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: The Black Queen is a darkwave band from Los Angeles comprised of former members/associates of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Nine Inch Nails (including Joshua Eustis who also writes and performs music as Telefon Tel Aviv). Its sound combines ethereal dream pop guitar sounds with the sort of soulfulness found in a lot of 80s synth pop. But with a more modern take as though vocalist Greg Puciato wasn’t just familiar with Talk Talk and Heaven 17 but Perfume Genius and Big Black Delta. In 2018 the group released its second album Infinite Games the day it played the prestigious Cold Waves festival (the Los Angeles edition). But this bill isn’t short on noteworthy artists out of the new industrial and darkwave era. Uniform’s confrontational and political minimal synth and industrial assault is along for this show as well as SRSQ (pronounced seer-skew), the now project from Kennedy Ashlyn, the vocalist and keyboard player of Them Are Us Too. The new music is ethereal with emotionally arresting vocals as one might expect but also with more a downtempo, yet majestic, after-hours dance club vibe. The SRSQ album, Unreality, came out on Dais Records in 2018.

What: Mike Krol w/Vertical Scratchers and Slugger
When: Tuesday, 03.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Mike Krol did it right. Emerged during the wave of the recent garage rock/psychedelic rock revival of the 2010s where his fuzz-drenched, wiry melodies fit in with the biggest movement in underground rock in years. Then came out the other end of the wave with his knack for snappy, wiry melodies and charmingly lo-fi production intact. Sure maybe you can hear the touches of Jay Reatard and the Oblivians in the music but Krol’s own spiky highlights and tonal gyrations are his own and his 2019 album out on Merge Records, Power Chords, showcases all of that as well as the songwriter’s keen psychological insight and gift for poetic turns of phrase.
What: Remain and Sustain, Meth., Motherhood, Its Just Bugs and Non Systemaddict
When: Tuesday, 03.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Seventh Circle gets plenty of experimental music through the door but this night is one that’ll be fairly mixed. Meth. is a Chicago-based noisecore band that mixes some genuine soundscaping into its set. Its Just Bugs is a confrontational hip-hop band from Colorado that often uses industrial beats and noise. Motherhood is a trio from Fredericton, New Brunswick that combines high concept songwriting with playfully intricate art rock. Remain and Sustain is a sort of deathgrind/hardcore band from Denver. To name a few.

Wednesday | March 20

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Better Oblivion Community Center, photo by Nik Freitas

What: Metric & Zoé w/July Talk
When: Wednesday, 03.20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Metric’s latest album, 2018’s Art of Doubt, crafts a complex narrative commentary on the factious times in which we live. Rather than something so heavy-handed and topical., the lyrics explore the psychological and existential gyrations that seem to have been reflected on the backdrop of a time of great peril, tension, hope and a desire for relief knowing that tough decisions can no longer be put off as we sit on the brink of climate disaster and extinction. That, in fact, an overwhelming sense of doubt blooms from everyone’s psyche inspiring extremes of feeling and the expression thereof. Across the album the band channels those feelings and rides out the eddies of the flow of feeling and the maddening peaks of heightened emotion. In the live setting Metric manifests its colorful and passionate songwriting in a cathartic and captivating manner so this might be a tour to catch.

What: Better Oblivion Community Center w/Lala Lala and Christian Lee Hutson
When: Wednesday, 03.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why:Better Oblivion Community Center is the latest band from Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst. So yes, literate, thoughtful, refreshingly rough around the edges and emotionally vibrant and warm.

Short Takes #2: August 2018

This is the latest installment of our periodical records review column with the featured album being Them Are Us Too’s posthumous swan song Amends out on Dais Records.

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Them Are Us Too, Amends, Dais Records

Them Are Us Too – Amends – Dais Records

Them Are Us Too’s gift to its listeners is a nearly unmatched ability to distill all the pain, disappointment and sadness of a lifetime of unrequited love and rejection by others, by society and ourselves into soaring melodies that sublimate those feelings into ethereal shadows that can no longer overwhelm us even if they can still haunt us. Amends may be the final record from the band due to the tragic death of guitarist Cash Askew in the 2016 Ghost Ship fire. But the music’s power to take gentle yet strong rhythms and couple them with intertwining melodies, luminescent and melancholy, as a vehicle for honoring genuine emotional expression is a testament to the duo’s enduring alchemical ability to soothe the spirit.

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AZALiA_SNAiL, NEON_RESiSTANCE, Silber (US)/Thokei Tapes (Germany)

AZALiA SNAiL – NEON RESiSTANCE – Silber (US)/Thokei Tapes (Germany)

Pretty much impossible to say when this album was written and recorded post-1980. Its sensibility and aesthetic points to 80s and 90s synth pop. The guitar on “Celeste (Can You Feel It)” sounds like something out of a more ambitious New Wave band but set inside a song that could have come out in the past 10 years among artists tapping into 80s pop sounds to capture a sense of nostalgia. But NEON RESiSTANCE isn’t mining nostalgia. It is doing something more interesting and meta by using an older set of musical parameters and sounds with modern production to evoke a personal style of songwriting that looks forward as many bands of the 80s seemed to be doing but avoiding getting that all wrong by really giving the songs an unusual emotional dimensionality and nuance with nostalgia-tinged melodies as relatable self-reflection and not self-obsession. Sonically it’s difficult to compare this multi-faceted pop record to much of anything else but perhaps Nina Hagen’s 1982 experimental rock/New Wave masterpiece NunSexMonkRock. There was little like that then, there’s little like this now and every track is worth your time.

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bios+a+ic – Vaccine – Symbolic Insight

bios+a+ic – Vaccine – Symbolic Insight

Wesley Davis seems to generate his albums around themes that express the essence of ideas that have taken up residence in his imagination. 2015’s cloudLanD has an airy, drifty feel suggesting a sense of space and peace. Vaccine’s claustrophobic drones and repeating circular phrases spawn others that intersect in ominous, dissonant patterns suggestive of one set of sounds mutually infecting another to produce a third sound that’s darker with descending tones. Not an anti-vax abstraction, but more a comment on not trusting corporations and moneyed interests to provide a cure. In that way, it’s a bit of a cyberpunk ambient album but one that doesn’t make the dystopia seem kinda cool.

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CURTA, End of Future Park, self-released

CURTA – End of Future Park – self-released

Jake Danna minces no words in his critique of American culture in general and his local community in particular. From the self-appointed expertise on all things and the lives of other people due to the internet and social media (“Ghost Milk”) to the limitations of bravado to dignify one’s life and art (“Prop Comic”) and the poisonous, self-eroding qualities of unreigned-in/unexamined cynicism (“I’m Still Cool, Right? (feat. WC Tank), Danna’s observations are a cogent assessment of the root ills of modern America’s writhing cultural anomy beyond platitudes of left and right. 4Digit’s production as further brought into detail by ManMadeMadMan’s mastering is what shines just as brightly. The beats, the streaming details of sound to accent the mood, tone and texture, the vibrant atmospheres and the masterful flow of melodies to suit the moment are not subtle so much as fully integrated and you get a to take in 4Digit’s imaginative composition with the 26+ minute closing track, “The Life of 4Digit Vol. 1.”

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Daisy Mortem, La vie c’est mort, self-released

Daisy Mortem – La vie c’est mort – We Are Vicious

An always engaging listen akin to an unlikely and thus refreshing synthesis of B-52s, Lords of Acid and breakcore, La vie c’est mort from Bordeaux, France’s Daisy Mortem is a sort of decadent industrial dance pop. A lot of American industrial dance groups fall back too much on mediocre 90s EBM. On this EP, Daisy Mortem taps more into mid-80s New Wave’s melodramatic emotionalism but using the sound palette of modern electronic dance music to craft songs with a giant sonic imprint. Imagine the curiously compelling upbeat and alien quality of Classix Nouveaux minus the schlock and with a sprinkling of influence from Sparks and Fad Gadget. If Fellini had lived to make a movie about Bohemian New York City in the 80s, he would have done well to have tapped Daisy Mortem to score the soundtrack because this band is that exact vibe—bombastic, lush and brimming with vitality.

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The Damned, Evil Spirits, Search and Destroy/Spinefarm Records

The Damned – Evil Spirits – Search and Destroy/Spinefarm Records

Easily The Damned’s best record since Machine Gun Etiquette. But it would be more honest to say it’s the band’s best record since it’s debut. Most bands more than forty years into their career are creatively treading water. The Damned apparently found some juice in their collective imagination to write an album in the classic style of writing a cohesive record of quality material beginning to end. Most bands write a record this vibrant early in their careers. “We’re So Nice” rocks harder than but has a similarly deft orchestration of melody and harmony one might expect out of The Zombies. It should come as no surprise that Tony Visconti, one of the minds behind shaping the best Bowie records, was on board for Evil Spirits. But even the most brilliant production can’t make up for subpar songwriting. Even if you didn’t know this was The Damned, so many of these songs are striking and timeless. “Shadow Evocation” is like a long lost cousin to something The Moody Blues might have written in the 60s—a windswept, imagination stirring mini-epic. What makes Evil Spirits such a remarkable album is that The Damned prove track to track that they know that if they relied on only one trick, one tempo, one songwriting style they’d bore themselves as much as us and that should count for something in any band much less one that could easily skate along on the laurels of its older classic material. The Damned have create what should in time be considered new classics with this record.

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Frog Eyes, Violent Psalms, Paper Bag Records

Frog Eyes – Violent Psalms – Paper Bag Records

For its final record, Frog Eyes has refined its raw noir Americana sound to a place of great clarity that brings the conflicted emotions into sharp focus. Carey Mercer still sounds like he’s shaken by the force of emotion even as he delivers his words with the confidence and quaver of a Bryan Ferry. With this album, more than previous Frog Eyes releases, each song sounds like a room, an environment, a psychological space Mercer enters with immediate, cogent commentary. At times, as with “Idea Man,” the music feels like the modern equivalent of an early-to-mid-70s Genesis record with the elegance of sonic detail, mysteriousness and grandeur. Maybe Mercer wasn’t listening to a steady diet of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway or Foxtrot but this Frog Eyes swan song resonates with the artistic ambition and exploring the possibilities of one’s own songwriting and reach as a musician.

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Immersion, Sleepless, swim~

Immersion – Sleepless – swim~ 

Somewhere in England there’s a high tech train station going to the places where it sounds like Boards of Canada songs take place and this is the gentle effervescent music to put you in the mood to be in a place of peace and disconnect from the rough and tumble everyday world. The cycling tones of “Off Grid” seem aimed to help you reprogram your brain to check out of the ambient anomy that comes with life in the twenty-first century and take a trip through a languidly melodic soundscape for nearly fifty minutes before being dropped off in a beautiful place out in the country.

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The Milk Blossoms – Dry Heave the Heavenly – self-released

The Milk Blossoms – Dry Heave the Heavenly – self-released

With heartbreaking imagery throughout, this second album from The Milk Blossoms quickly becomes impossible to resist in drawing you in to tender yet intense emotional experiences that might be off putting to those with an aversion to psychological intimacy at this deep a level. But The Milk Blossoms never seem off putting. The band bares its alchemy of words and sounds with a brave openness borne of knowing you’re speaking truth or at least your truth—a quality that never goes out of style and which can never but completely duplicated as something idiosyncratic to the artist in question. The Milk Blossoms make pop music the way some people make something special for a loved one—with great attention to detail and with a care and affection and without expectation of anything in return. Was this written in an old lighthouse? A treehouse? A cottage in the woods waiting for the winter to thaw? Probably not but it has the feel of taking time out in isolation to allow the nuances and strength of feeling to emerge and find their perfect expression.

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Oryx, Stolen Absolution, Midnite Collective/Graven Earth

Oryx – Stolen Absolution – Midnite Collective/Graven Earth

This is the sound of the world around us crumbling and eroding and our inability or unwillingness to reverse course. Like the manifestation of Derrick Jensen’s Endgame. Oryx could have pummeled us with some doom-y deathgrind but there is simply a greater diversity of musical ideas here than all of that. The dynamics, for one, while often insistent, leave enough space so that the crushing avalanche of sound hits harder. It also means that, unlike some bands in the realm of extreme metal, Oryx’s songs never truly feel same-y. Across this album the duo pushes the boundaries of what the music can be by fully integrating brutal sonics with atmosphere. Stolen Absolution’s long stretches feel like an intense journey but none that leave you worn out for having taken them.

 

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Peach Kelli Pop, Gentle Leader, Mint Records

Peach Kelli Pop – Gentle Leader – Mint Records

Featuring what might be the album cover of the year for richness of content alone, Gentle Leader is ten songs in the noise pop vein. Upbeat, irreverent, bordering-on-twee-but-confident, Peach Kelli Pop’s songs have great melodic vocal harmonies and wide ranging rhythms. Closing track “Skylight” reveals the band’s experimental guitar edge hinted at earlier in the record confirming that Peach Kelli Pop has more to offer than the exquisite pop gems that have been a large part of its recorded catalog to date.

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Sugar Candy Mountain, Do Right, self-released

Sugar Candy Mountain – Do Right – self-released

The retro-futurist sonic flourishes across this album are reminiscent of a sunny Laurel Canyon psych Broadcast in a pop moment. Or perhaps like Death & Vanilla in that the melodies are nostalgic but the undertones and rhythms suggest a grounding outside the English-speaking music world. As the songs on the album fuzz and incandesce one wonders if the band watched a whole lot of reruns of The Ed Sullivan Show and nailed the vibe and the aesthetic when old Ed had on the hippest guests that didn’t have to compromise and could just shine on a program where the evils of the modern music industry weren’t so firmly in place to insidiously influence and water down popular music into the lowest common denominator product, rather when taste makers had taste and a sense of adventure. Do Right may be retro and couched in a sense of nostalgia but the details on album closer “Do You Know The Place,” and throughout the record, those qualities sound surprisingly fresh at a time when looking back four or five decades and more for inspiration is so played out.

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Synth_Drone collective, Tone Science, Symbolic Insight

Synth_Drone collective – Tone Science – Symbolic Insight

The track names on this album from Denver based synth supergroup Synth-Drone collective suggest a collective telling of life in some far flung future akin to Larry Niven’s Tales of Known Space but with the dark cloak of a minimalist, existentialist Tarkovsky science fiction film like Stalker. The name of the album doesn’t spell out but hints at the scientists of the time depicted in this album searching in earnest for the real science equivalent of the mythical first sound, the teleological ground zero vibration, that launched the universe into dynamic life because it has been discovered that the universe is dying and the only thing that can reverse the process is to discover the appropriate wavelengths to stop the impending doom of all and everything. Except someone in the scientific community knows it’s all for naught and just another attempt by sentient beings to interfere with the natural order of things with the hubristic notion that mortals can fix anything if they set their minds to it when in fact by our temporal nature and perspective we can never known enough to impact everything. Which is a downer but in the case of this album, it’s a beautifully compelling, drone-driven soundscape of a time when humans and other intelligent creatures have to learn to accept the inevitable.

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Wye Oak, The Louder I Call the Faster It Runs, Merge Records

Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs – Merge Records

There’s always been a bit of a cinematic quality to Wye Oak’s music and one might perhaps clumsily say the new album is to If Children what Fargo is to Blood Simple—not massively better but more sophisticated, more intentionally stylized with its newfound skill set and sonic palette. The melding of acoustic instruments and electronic production is so complete that the band seems to effortlessly bring to bear tones, rhythms, textures, melodies and atmospheres to craft songs as experiences. Wye Oak hasn’t ditched classic songwriting methods and models, it’s just taken those structures and filled them out with rich content. But what does Wye Oak have to say this time around? Refreshingly the band asks more questions than providing a set perspective. At a time when too many bold-yet-curiously-vapid-and-trite statements are made in the public sphere, it’s asking thoughtful questions and pondering issues about life and the world without a sense of one’s own certainty as a nod to the fact that we can’t know everything while not discrediting our own thoughts and feelings that makes this record remarkable. The title suggests chasing after goals while those goals we are encouraged to think of as ends in themselves become elusive and we are forced to really think about what it is we’re all on about and if the chase is worth it in the end. Because of that, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs really is the kind of record that needs to be out in the world questioning the dominant paradigm not with firebrand skepticism but compassionate curiosity for ourselves and others.