Saturday – Monday | September 4-6 What: Down In Denver Fest When: Labor Day Weekend Where: Larimer Lounge Why: With the erosion of the national and local media especially in coverage of local music and culture as a parallel to increasing income inequality the curation of a local scene virtually everywhere in America has all but disappeared. Publications that once served as active legacy institutions that traditionally documented and preserved local culture in a robust way have either dissolved or transitioned to a digital marketing portal model with a subsequent narrowing of content and cultural mission. Music festivals often following a lifestyle branding concept in sync with the lifestyle model of much of digital media following the implosion of the blogosphere can feel like Philip K. Dick circa Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was more of a prophet than we’d prefer to believe. The Down in Denver Fest organizers remember a time when the rich and broad diversity of Denver’s local scene was more honored and represented in local music festivals and older artists were not expected to retire but, rather, respected for their past and current efforts. While Denver and other cities are in disarray with the forces of drastic income inequality and subsequent gentrification local cultural history seems to pass into irrelevance like a social media feed more quickly than at any previous moment in human history, episodes without context, products to consume and discard. But this is antithetical to lived human experience and human life and our collective craving for connection not just to other people but our experiential, existential context that defines our lives for a certain period or our entire lives. Maybe Down In Denver Fest won’t provide this to everyone but the inspiration behind it is the understanding that local culture and the people who make it a living thing past and present are not just the atomized dots of a marketing galaxy but a continuum that can be and is accessible. So go expecting to see a broad slice of bands representing decades of Denver music history from bands from a variety of genres and styles to DJs from the Denver underground. Visit the event website for the line-up and schedule and to sample artists. Also listen to the Queen City Sounds Podcast featuring a handful of stories from the Denver scene from some of the people that were involved and have helped to make various corners of the city’s musical milieu.
Monday | September 6 What:Midwife w/Sympathy Pain and Sketches When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Midwife is touring more broadly in support of her 2021 album Luminol, a soothing yet heart wrenching record mourning deep loss and fumbling for healing the caustic burns on your heart from the death of friends, the crumbling of the cultural infrastructure that gave one’s life more definition than it might have had and a nation and international community in disarray from grand forces of inequality and the rise of fascism and science denial with no seeming relief on the horizon. It isn’t a dire record but an honest one cast in gossamer guitar work and introspective, dreamlike vocals that tap into those dark places of the mind and not to say it’s all going to be okay but rather as a reminder that you’re not crazy and your feelings of despair, deep discontent and righteous anger are real and valid. Midwife is also performing at Trident Bookstore in Boulder on September 8 and The Coast in Fort Collins on September 12.
Thursday | September 9 What:Denver Meatpacking Company w/I’m A Boy, Wiff and Sleep Demons When: 7 p.m./8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Denver Meatpacking Company pull liberally from 90s alternative rock for inspiration but its fuzzy guitar work is couched in solid pop hooks that prevent it from sounding like a throwback act. Which makes it a good pairing with I’m A Boy and its own power pop sensibilities and refreshingly unaffected love for bombastic and theatrical rock and roll.
Sunday | September 12 What: Denver Does Denver When: 1-10 p.m. Where: Green Valley Ranch Town Center Amphitheater 5060 Argonne St., Denver, CO 80249 Why: It has been 11 years since the last Denver Does Denver event happened when various musicians in the Denver scene covered music by peers and influences in local music at the Meadowlark Bar and its environs. This reboot of the event, once again curated by educator and member of experimental funk and world music phenoms Pink hawks, Yuzo Nieto, is taking place outdoors in Green Valley Ranch and features a typically fascinating set of musicians showcasing the creative wares of other bands and songwriters that otherwise wouldn’t normally be thus recognized for their impact.
Thursday | September 16 What:St. Vincent When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Annie Clark has been experimenting with concepts across her musical career and giving us not only a respectable body of work and consistently fascinating songwriting and inventive musicianship but a creative arc in which she’s willing to take risks. None more so than her 2021 album Daddy’s Home. It is clearly a well-arranged series of vignettes about life in New York City as told through the sonic lens of 70s pop and rock like an East Coast answer to Joni Mitchell’s fantastic and insightful 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon. The structure of the album feels like reading a short novel with a cinematic scope and revelations about character and concept reminiscent of the flow of Virgnia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Every tour, certainly for her last three albums, has involved creative and entrancing production and even set design subverting the standard rock and pop paradigm so if you go expect some of that deep creativity for which Annie Clark and St. Vincent are rightfully known.
Friday | September 17 What:Herbie Hancock When: 7 p.m. Where: Ellie Caulkins Opera House Why: Herbie Hancock and his stunningly brilliant keyboard and synth work alongside his mindblowingly talented collaborators put on one of the greatest live shows going regardless of genre. His roots in some of the jazz legends of the 60s and 70s are impressive enough but his albums under his own name often reveal a passion and genius for composition that he channels into accessible and engrossing songs and performances that remain relevant and powerful.
Friday and Saturday | September 17-18 What:Westword Music Showcase When: See schedule per day at http://www.westwordshowcase.com Where: Rino Arts District and Mission Ballroom Why: The Westword Music Showcase returns with an expanded presentation in the Rino Arts District northwest of downtown Denver including performances at the Mission Ballroom for headlining acts like Young The Giant, Kaytranada, Thundercat, Matoma, Hippo Campus and Duke Dumont with a bevy of local acts nominated by experts in the local scene tapped for their knowledge by the long running alternative weekly paper.
Monday | September 20 What: Mannequin Pussy w/Angel Du$t and Pinkshift When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Philadelphia’s Mannequin Pussy has long commented on sexism and its effect on identity and how those issues dovetail into the colonist mentality and the most deleterious and sometimes subtle corrosive effects of capitalism. But doing so in a way that seems as tender and sensitive as it is ferocious, cast in noise rock and melodic punk. In 2021 Mannequin Pussy released its gloriously caustic EP Perfect.
Monday and Tuesday | September 20 and 21 What: Mdou Moctar When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Mahamadou Souleymane is a Tuareg songwriter from Niger who is known to the musical world at large as Mdou Moctar with a growing international following despite the lyrics to his songs being in Tamasheq. His intricate guitar work and sincere performance style renders what might seem exotic to some Americans immediately relatable. Moctar’s fusion of blues and rock with West African musical styles and sounds come off both familiar and arrestingly fresh. In 2021 he released the album Afrique Victime through Matador, his first for an imprint other than specialist label Sahel Sounds. An intense and engaging performer, Moctar’s gracious and self-effacing demeanor doesn’t quite prepare you for the emotionally charged journey of the show but makes it one you want to take.
Tuesday | September 21 What: Twin Tribes and Wingtips w/Plague Garden When: 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: A great pairing of the Brownsville, Texas lo-fi post-punk band Twin Tribes and Chicago’s darkwave pop sensations Wingtips. The former released a beautifully curated remix album in 2021 called Altars including remixes from Turkish post-punk legends She Past Away, Dave Parley of Prayers, Wingtips and Bootblacks. Wingtips’ new record Cutting Room Floor is a gorgeously composed set of expansive and bright yet hazily moody and reflective pop songs subverting the tropes of sounds and aesthetics borrowed from 80s era synth pop by many modern artists and seemingly as influenced by the likes of Thompson Twins and Howard Jones as Depeche Mode and Fad Gadget. Opening the show is Plague Garden whose 2021 album Requiem of Souls is a great expansion on their brooding and atmospheric blend of industrial and post-punk into more pop territory including an excellent cover of Tanita Tikaram’s 1988 hit single “Twisting in My Sobriety” that highlights the song’s then unfashionable level of self-examination.
Tuesday | September 21 What:Torres w/Ariana and The Rose When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Torres has from early in her career blended a more electronic pop aesthetic with a raw and gritty folk-inflected songwriting style and dynamically emotional vocals. Her 2021 album Thirstier is brimming with high contrast sounds that give the songs a forcefulness that was always there in her music but made unmistakable this time around.
Wednesday | September 22 What:Waltzer w/Vision Video, Voight, Lord Friday the 13th When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Waltzer is Sophie Sputnik who fronted punk band Killmama for more than a few years. But her music theater background seems to have been yearning for greater expression if the debut Waltzer album Time Traveler is any indication and the bizarre music video for “Destroyer” which is like a humorous horror movies as a backdrop to soulful, R&B pop. Maybe Sputnik got to listening to a lot of Erykah Badu, Harry Nilsson and Todd Rundgren but she makes that lush, almost orchestral sound seem spare as well. Athens, Georgia-based post-punk/pop band Vision Video is an interesting contrast with its 2021 album Inked in Red reminiscent of 80s jangle pop, XTC and Pink Turns Blue. Voight is a Denver-based band that collides together noise rock, industrial/techno beats, emotionally-charged vocals and caustic shoegaze-y soundscapes.
Wednesday | September 22 What:Front 242 w/Consolidated, Blackcell and DJ N810 When: 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Front 242 is one of the pioneers of the EBM wing of industrial music of the 80s with its stark visual style akin to a stylized Futurist aesthetic. Claiming to be apolitical and even amoral, Front 242’s pulsing, atmospheric dance music nevertheless takes aim at corrupt religious and political figures without an explicitly verbalized critique, rather choosing to present them as absurd and cartoonish. By contrast the overtly political industrial band Consolidated is part of this tour and from its album titles, to its music and confrontational performance style the group from San Francisco leaves no doubt about its leftist politics and activist cultural orientation while also injecting very pointed commentary with humor that also manages not to distract from the message. Denver’s long-running noise/industrial/EBM duo Blackcell opens the show with its own richly imagined and immersive soundscapes.
Wednesday | September 22 What:Ratboys X Wild Pink w/Bellhoss When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Earlier in 2021 Wild Pink released A Billion Little Lights, a pop album of lush orchestration and sage and sharply observed comments on one’s changing perspectives and priorities as one ages into adulthood physically and psychologically and the subsequent realization that the sureties of now will sometimes seem like the follies and cringe-worthy moments of the future. While songwriter John Ross wrote the album from the perspective of a single human life the themes seem to resonate strongly with society overall in the past decade and coming to terms with blind spots, injustice, inequality and chronically bad habits that have a fallout for oneself and others.
Saturday | September 25 What: Lost Relics and Never Kenezzard When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: Two giants of Denver sludge metal, Lost Relics and Never Kenezzard both demonstrate how heavy, doomy metal can be dynamic and even expansively psychedelic while hitting hard. Expect a new Lost Relics EP soon and Never Kenezzard’s follow-up to the excellent 2016 album Never Say…
Monday | September 27 What:Esmé Patterson When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The beginning of the global pandemic in March 2020 landed just in time to thwart plans for Esmé Patterson and her band to tour in support of her then new album There Will Come Soft Rains. The new record showcased Patterson’s ear for subtle emotional dynamics in songwriting and for expressing the complexity of one’s feelings in an uncluttered way. The spare melodies of the new batch of songs also demonstrate an attention to space in the songs perhaps as a symbolic way of honoring the need to such in one’s life in order to make sense of what can feel overwhelming. Not a pandemic record but sure seems like one that addresses little things in life we often ignore in our rush to push through everything when we need to and never really taking the time to feel what we need to in order to maintain a healthy state of mind.
Wednesday | September 29 What: Judas Priest w/Sabaton When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Perpetually underrated yet highly influential, Judas Priest is one of the pioneering bands of heavy metal that still occasionally tours and is still a powerful live act due in no small part to singer Rob Halford’s expressive and operatic vocals. With hits like “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight” from its 1980 album British Steel, Judas Priest started to break into the mainstream with subsequent regular rotation on MTV. Getting to see Judas Priest at a theater like the Mission Ballroom with its excellent sound and seating layout is likely to be the most enjoyable environment to take in the band’s broad range of moods and highly charged dynamics.
Thursday | September 30 What: Fat Tony and Cadence Weapon When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Fat Tony and Cadence Weapon are rappers from Houston and Edmonton, Canada respectively but who both draw on an electric palette of sounds and influences and their use of imaginative beats and production have set them apart from many peers from early on in their respective careers. Their individual blends of classic rapping with free associating sounds and textures in the beat with an ear for songwriting and impassioned delivery make this one of the hip-hop shows to see this year in Denver. Fat Tony is touring following the 2020 release of his album Exotica and Cadence Weapon with his 2021 album ParallelWorld.
This sprawling best of list was intended for publication in January 2021 but other priorities got in the way and I had written about many of these in brief in my year end best column for the December 2020 print edition of Birdy magazine in December. Others I wrote up for Birdy throughout the year. All of that text is here hopefully not in a form with my errors edited back in. At any rate it begins with what I’m going to call the album of the year, Type II by UK post-punk experimentalists Sex Swing. It not only stretched post-punk beyond the usual boundaries these days and it articulated the conflict, the outage and confusion of a world coming to terms with the great shortcomings of modern, international capitalism, the inadequacy of the conservative/far right and neoliberal government to address the needs of people across decades and most painfully and poignantly in the moment. That agony and anomie can be heard throughout the album but even separate from that context it’s just a great, experimental rock album. The original verbiage for the Birdy piece reads “An uncomromisingly mind-altering psychedelic noise rock ride through 2020 hell.” With any luck we’ll see the band in North America sooner than later and see for ourselves if the live show delivers. What follows is the rest of the best of list for 2020.
A.M. Pleasure Assassins | Careless Laughter | Self-released This latest EP from Fort Collins-based, math-y post-punk band A.M. Pleasure Assassins sounds like it was written after a long period of contemplation and self-imposed exile from one’s usual social activities. “Said Yer Outta Gas” is imbued with a rush of exuberance reflected in its words about emerging from winter into a period of new beginnings. “Get It Right” finds the band waxing into the warped garage punk territory like something one would expect out of Memphis, Tennessee the past two decades — raw and ragged yet bracing. “Cain Was Killing Abel” strikes a more contemplative tone and the sprawling “Pretty Dead Beat” creates a beautifully hypnotic pulse of sounds with bell tones processed through reverb and distorted drones for an effect like a late 90s Yo La Tengo track. The four songs give the impression of nostalgic reflection, but one where you see and feel deeply the joys and pains of a good time in your life that you are wise enough now to know to enjoy in its full measure rather than through the lens of selective romanticism.
Abrams | Modern Ways | Sailor Records
Adulkt Life | Book of Curses | What’s Your Rupture?
ADULT. | Perception Is/As/Of Deception | Dais Records Darkly urgent industrial dance anthems to purge today’s desperation, confusion and chaos.
Angel Olsen | Whole New Mess | Secretly Group A tender yet bracingly fragile portrait of the realization that you can never adequately prepare for everything life might throw your way.
Anna von Hausswolff | Sacro Bosco | Southern Lord
A Shoreline Dream | Melting | Late Night Weeknight With its first release since 2018’s Waitout EP, A Shoreline Dream presents a set of songs that seems less ethereal than their previous output. From opening track “Turned Too Slow” to closing song “Atheris Hispida” the progressive shoegaze duo has seemingly focused its attention on the texture and physicality of the music. One is tempted to say the guitars are more like hard rock, but only if your idea of hard rock is more in the vein of Swervedriver. But “Downstairs Sundays” has more in common with folk music in its intricate guitar interplay though threading through an uplifting, introspective drone. A Shoreline Dream still gives us its usual transporting melodies, but this time its astral realms are more focused and vivid as though coming out of its musical dreamstate into a phase of making those dreams real.
Autechre | Sign | Warp Records Cleanses the mind with textural tones and hypnotically immersive, abstract rhythms.
Bambara | Stray | Wharf Cat Records
Bestial Mouths | RESURRECTEDINBLACK | RUNE & RUIN
Bison Bone | Find Your Way Out | self-released
Black Wing | No Moon | The Flenser
blackcell | Burn the Ashes | self-released Denver-based EBM/IDM band Blackcell returns with its first full- length album since 2013’s In the Key of Black. Matt Jones’ processed, distorted vocals sound as ever like a dispossessed human resisting an ever increasing mechanization of life. These dark dance songs articulate so well the struggles of the human condition and seem so resonant for today as meaningful choices and control over your own life are leeched away into increasing labor defined by a gig economy, subscription and streaming services in the modern equivalent of pay-per-view, and a failing political and economic system that has channeled all the world’s wealth into fewer and fewer hands, nickeled and dimed to death and expected to take it like it is or not to streamline the technocratic wealth pipeline. Blackcell offers no answers but this time, its Gary Numan-esque end of the world techno feels particularly cathartic right now.
BleakHeart | Dream Griever | Sailor Records
Body Double | Milk Fed | Zum Vignettes of personal psychological horror expressed as seething, angular post-punk pop.
Body Negative | Fragments | Track Number Records
Bootblacks | Thin Skies | Artoffact Records Soaring synths and guitar sketch a vivid image of a deep yearning for personal transcendence and rebirth.
Boris and Merzbow | 2R012P0 | Relapse Records Alien soundscapes of stunning immediacy that challenge preconceptions of all artists involved.
Botanist | Photosynthesis | The Flenser
Cabaret Voltaire | Shadow of Fear | Mute
Camila Fuchs | Kids Talk Sun | Felte Records Avant-garde, psychedelic synth pop for tropical vacations in parallel dimensions.
Causer | Hellebore: Demos | self-released
Chicano Batman | Invisible People | ATO Records Un-ironic, un-corny psych Tropicalia love songs for an inclusive future of unified humanity.
Choir Boy | Gathering Swans | Dais Records Every song is an introspective Goth R&B ode to radical self care.
Church Fire | Some Lonely Wip | self-released This collection of “unfinished/unmixed/unmastered/instrumentals” bridges the gap between Nine Inch Nails and Crystal Castles with their raw, lo-fi, maximalist glitch. Without the highly emotive and cathartic vocals that have been part of Church Fire’s signature sound we are invited to visit the soundscapes that give those vocals a powerful musical context. What is obvious here is the band’s playfulness and gift for pairing dark tonal choices and buoyant rhythms anchored by spare textural elements. On “pixie death tickle” there are wisps of voices but they serve as more a musical aside from the strong, bright, urgent main passages. The “wip” in the title may refer to “works-in-progress” but these songs would work as mood pieces in a soundtrack to the inevitable English language Inio Asano manga film in mirroring that artist’s talent for simultaneously expressing melancholia and joy.
cindygod | EP 2 | Fire Talk
Clipping. | Visions of Bodies Being Burned | Sub Pop Brooding, seething, menacing industrial hip-hop horror stories from an all too near future.
Cyclo Sonic | Pile of Bones EP | self-released
Damn Selene | Nobody By That Name Lives Here Anymore | self-released
Dan Deacon | Mystic Familiar | Domino Records
Dead Voices On Air | Stone Cross Shuttle Worn | self-released
Deafbrick (Deafkids + Pet Brick) | s/t | Rocket Recordings
Death Bells | New Signs Of Life | Dais Records Atmospheric post-punk brimming with an infectious sense of hope after a time of struggle.
Death Valley Girls | Under the Spell of Joy | Suicide Squeeze Acid jazz flavored garage psych with an ear for emotionally rich infinite horizons.
Drew Danburry | Icarus Phoenix A Sides and B Sides 2020 | Telos
Drew McDowell | Angalma | Dais Records
Dyad | Dormant | self-released Charles Ballas and Jeremy Averitt are perhaps better known for their participation in acts like Howling Hex and Esmé Patterson’s live band respectively as well as their production work for Echo Beds. But DORMANT from their long-running collaborative project DYAD showcases their mutual knack for genre-bending IDM-esque soundscapes. DYAD freely blends elements of non-Western polyrhythms, intricate and textured instrumentation, luminous jazz keyboard progressions and tasteful electronic arrangements that convey an eclectic and international flavor. Imagine music equally influenced by Herbie Hancock, 80s Ethiopian synth pop, Daft Punk, Warp Records artists and informed by a deep sense of play, and you will have some idea of the soothing and imagination stirring quality of this music and its brilliantly new age downtempo future jazz sounds.
eHpH | Infrared | self-released This Denver-based electro-industrial duo minces no words on the opening track “Idiot” in its introductory sample “I’m gonna say one thing, fuck Trump.” And then on to choice sampling of 45s words and those of journalists cataloging some of his offenses against humanity. The menacing descending synth bass progression and minimalistic percussion puts the focus on the words. The rest of the album is less explicitly and specifically topical but it is the band’s most fully realized and focused effort yet. The pulsing pace and Fernando Altonaga’s distorted vocals draw you into meditations on the perils of creeping authoritarianism on “Tarnished.” The pastoral pace and deep melancholy of “Forever Haunted” resonates with the artfully despairing tones of the Closer period of Joy Division the way its circular guitar line and synth melody rides a wave of personal revelation and the contemplation of an unrelievedly bleak future. EhpH has long been one of the more interesting modern EBM bands but Infrared demonstrates that the group of Altonaga and Angelo Atencio have fully integrated those roots with a more contemporary post-punk and darkwave sensibility, thus never sounding stuck in the past.
Emerald Siam | Inventions of Ascension | self-released
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou | May Our Chambers Be Full | Sacred Bones Records
Emmy The Great | April / 月音 | Bella Union
Entrancer | Decline Vol. 4 | Multidim In constructing this latest installment in Entrancer’s Decline series Ryan McRyhew utilized Rob Hordijik’s DIY synth, the Benjolin, as well as the Make Noise Shared System. Though both are modular synthesis devices and visually look complex, McRyhew, in naming the equipment on the Bandcamp page, takes some of the technological mystery out of music making with synths and puts the emphasis on the creativity end. For twenty-seven minutes forty-four seconds of the single track of this album, “Decline XVI,” we travel with McRyhew through the sonic analog of the distorted ebb and flow of civilizational decay that we seem to be experiencing right now. Yet at the heart of the piece we hear a separation of more industrial sounds and those more organic like the inevitability of nature reasserting its primacy in our own consciousnesses and in the entire world.
Equine | Light Wa/orship | Noise Pelican
Eve Maret | Stars Aligned | White Supulchre Records
Eyebeams | It Means Trouble | Hot Congress
Eyedress | Let’s Skip to the Wedding | Lex Records
Eye of Nix | Ligeia | Scry Recordings Uplifting, psychedelic, blackened noise doom journey to a pagan underworld and back.
Facs | Void Moments | Trouble In Mind The post-punk equivalent of crime jazz’s subterranean menace.
Faim | Hollow Hope | Deathwish
Fearing | Shadow | Funeral Party
Fire-Toolz | Rainbow Bridge | Hausu Mountain Records
Flaming Lips | American Head | Warner Records Overflowing with compassion and musical salves for the pain and despair of the fractured American psyche.
French Kettle Station | Spirit Mode | Slagwerk
Future Islands | As Long As You Are | 4AD A soulfully soothing and transporting examination of the roots of one’s melancholic impulses.
Galleries | Resolve | self-released
Ganser | Just Look at That Sky | Felte Records Incandescent yet contemplative post-punk dense with conceptual content and poignant social commentary.
Gold Cage | Social Crutch | Felte Records
Hard to Be a Killer: A Tribute to Ralph Gean In an alternate universe Ralph Gean is a beloved rock and roll hero widely known for his brilliantly unique and off-beat songwriting. But the British Invasion derailed that trajectory and Gean instead has since become a bit of a legendary figure with a cult following in Denver music who has periodically played shows and championed by figures as politically disparate as Boyd Rice (who compiled a collection of Gean’s work in 2007) and Jello Biafra. That fandom is reflected on this sprawling tribute album assembled by Arlo White of Hypnotic Turtle Radio and bands like Deadbubbles and The Buckingham Squares. Every interpretation of Gean’s songs is a worthy listen and a fine showcase for his sheer breadth as an artist. Contributions from local, experimental eccentrics like Little Fyodor & Babushka, Claudzilla and The Babysitters lovingly capture Gean’s essential appeal as an artist with an unvarnished charm and humor. Eric Allen of The Apples in Stereo fame highlights the science fiction cowboy persona that Gean could convey while White’s band Diablo Montalban with the late, great eccentric DJ and Denver cultural figure Frank Bell give “Switzerland” a real dark exotica treatment reminiscent of weirder moments in Tom Waits’ catalog. A fascinating portrait of an important yet often overlooked artist.
H Lite | Green Youth Heattech | self-released Anton Kruger has been known for his inventive, hyperkinetic electronic and experimental music. But for this new EP he took a deep dive into contemplative realms of sound. Elegant, heavenly strings, luminous swells of tone and crystalline percussion embody the title of the song “Light Language.” The spacious sound design aspect of all the song’s on the album are reminiscent of Plaid in the enigmatic playfulness and the stretching consciousness to find inspiration through creative work. Every song brings forth a singular and imaginative portrait of tone, texture and rhythm that takes you on a journey to alien spaces that strike one as familiar and ultimately comforting like a dream. It is post-glitchcore IDM that dispenses with the anxiety in favor of a soothing spirit.
Houses of Heaven | Silent Places | Felte Records Gloomy street tribal dance anthems fortified with dark, minor chord melodies.
Human Impact | s/t | Ipecac Recordings
In The Company Of Serpents | Lux | self-released In the Company of Serpents has long been a band that has aimed to infuse its music with its interest in cinema, esoteric knowledge, literature, and with all of those come out of directi human experience, emotion and an attempt to make sense of life and imbue it with meaning. Lux is the fullest manifestation of those aims written into its most sonically dynamic set of songs to date. The crushing yet fluid heaviness of its sound is paired perfectly with elements of song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. “The Fool’s Journey” opens the record as a sort of map for the path set before us ending with the enigmatic “Prima Materia.” It’s a musically diverse and rich album that places In the Company of Serpents apart from a mere doom band and more in the realm of Swans’ and Neurosis’ own heavy explorations of the human psyche.
IDLES | Ultra Mono | Partisan Pointed yet loving politi-punk built on a hip-hop framework.
Insect Ark | The Vanishing | Profound Lore Records A seething and entrancing hybrid of a Junji Ito manga and industrial psychedelic doom.
Jarv Is | Beyond the Pale | Rough Trade Records
jOoHS UhP | Big Glasss | Records This record is so irreverent and self-deprecating it uses the swagger language of much of hip-hop to make statements that are the opposite of anything some other artists would brag about. The irony runs so deep even the elements of the music sounds like swagger. There is a song called “NoWeDon’tWannaMakeGoodMusic.WeTriedAndIt’sBoring.” The glitchy, industrial beats are so unconventional and eccentric you would never confuse this duo with anything resembling traditional hip-hop. It all has more in common with Renaldo & The Loaf and The Residents than even a weirdo like Kanye. Though often confrontational and obnoxious there’s no denying the relentless creativity of the production and glorious seeming lack of regard for how a song is supposed to sound.
Juliet Mission | Surren | self-released Surren is the third EP from Denver-based post-punk band Juliet Mission. As with previous releases the trio’s command of blending layers of atmosphere with strong rhythms and a contemplative melancholy is impressive. The short title track actually has three movements that flow from existential introspection to passages of dark realization to a mood of uneasy acceptance. All four songs in their brooding beauty demonstrate, as have the most recent albums from The Church, that you can write vital and engrossing rock songs from an adult point of view with elegance and grace, and without defaulting to an adolescent, and thus thematically limited, perspective.
Jupiter Sprites| Holographic | Jupiter Sprites Records
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith | The Mosaic of Transformation | Ghostly International
Killd By | Neotropical (tape reissue) | Noumenal Loom
King Krule | Man Alive! | Matador Like The Fall gone hip-hop chillout lounge post-bad trip horror movie dreaming.
Klara Lewis | Ingrid | Editions Mego Distorted melancholic cello drones like the glitched image memories of past life regression.
KoKo La | Curriculum Vitae | self-released Koko La has long already established herself as an artist of note as one of the MCs and producers in the hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $. Her soulful voice and presence often draws out subconscious emotions and gives them form in the music and performance. Curriculum Vitae finds Koko La exploring the experiences that have shaped her. Aided by Machete Mouth and Kitty Opinion$ on a couple of tracks, Koko La excels here with shining a light on those experiences that challenge you in various ways, while at the same time, giving you a better sense of self and the boundaries you must draw the border for people who might seek to dismiss you as a human or otherwise put you in your place. The trap beats and hushed atmospheres provide a fascinating listening experience, like you’re honoring the subconscious thoughts and feelings that affect your waking life by giving them an identifiable form that also allows you to comprehend, embrace and reconcile the wounded sides of yourself.
Lazarus Horse | Oh the Guilt! | self-released
Lithics | Tower of Age | Trouble In Mind Surreal, minimalist post-punk funk disintegrating into disorder like American democracy.
Lone Dancer | Temporal Smearing | Multidim
Mamaleek | Come and See | The Flenser
Many Blessings | Emanation Body | Translation Loss Records Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man renown returns to his ongoing noise soundscapes with the enigmatic and forbidding Many Blessings. In typical fashion this set of five pieces stretches beyond what McCarthy has done with the project in the past. Throughout this album there is not the harsh noise and deconstructed drones of some earlier work. Rather, it is layered collages of sound that give voice to the raw angst and anxieties that sit as a background hum of modern civilization eating away at our collective unconsciousness. The concluding track “Harm Signal” is like a symbol for the whole effort — a flow of sounds, a frequency, that we usually ignore but which causes untold destruction to our existence. These songs identify and give expression to energies and forces we’ve bypassed our whole lives but which are now impossible to ignore, like a sound art metaphor for the social and political forces that have come home to roost of late.
Marissa Nadler | Moons | self-released
Melkbelly | PITH | Carpark Records/Wax Nine
Memory Bell | Solace | self-released
Metz | Atlas Vending | Sub Pop
Midwife | Forever | The Flenser Madeline Johnston wrote Forever during one of the darkest times of the Denver DIY music and art community. Her community was scattered and challenged in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire with so many lives seeming to be on hold with no hint about when thatdespairing period would end. And the 2018 death of Colin Ward hit everyone whose lives he touched so deeply that it seems like the kind of hurt that will never fully heal. Johnston’s almost ghostly, delicate and vulnerable vocals and distorted, ethereal guitar seem to drift together in an effort to make some sense of those feelings with a nuance and sensitivity that always comes across as emerging directly from those places of acute pain and ache and loss, and honoring the need to just feel all of that whenever the need strikes and for however long into your life it lasts even if that is, indeed, forever. An especially touching and evocative tribute to a uniquely restless and creative yet sensitive and emotionally refined person in Colin Ward, Forever is a tender and heartbreaking, healing catharsis in the listen.
Mild Wild | Mild Wild, Vol. 1 | self-released Intensely personal, imaginatively lo-fi aural snapshots of daydreams and poetic observations.
Mint Field | Sentimiento Mundial | Felte Records Dream pop slow burner illuminating and warming the inner regions of the melancholic heart.
Moby | All Visible Objects | Mute Records Retro rave and chillout lounge songs mourning our collective loss, yearning for a hopeful future.
Molchat Doma | Monument | Sacred Bones Records Introspective, elegantly minimalistic, lo-fi, Belarusian gloom pop.
Mong Tong | Mystery | Guruguru Brain
Moodie Black | FUZZ | Fake Four
Moon Pussy | Hurt Wrist | The Ghost Is Clear Records Guitar riffs like swarms of angry insects sweeping through. Syncopated percussion like start- and- stop jackhammers. Bass lines like a half- ton coil being struck and emitting a menacing fluidity. Tortured vocals erupt with Brutalist, post-hardcore poetry. All of this helps to make this latest Moon Pussy record the perfect companion and reaction to a radically uncertain world seemingly in perpetual crisis mode and on the verge of we know not what. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint or Touch and Go will be thrilled with the band’s seemingly endless supply of inspired, aggressive and savage noise rock riffs and the ability to articulate directly from a place of desperation and outrage. “Fail Better” should be the theme song of these United States.
Mr. Bungle | The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo | Ipecac
Mr. Gnome | The Day You Flew Away | El Marko Records
Mrs. Piss | Self-Surgery | Sargent House
Napalm Death | Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism | Century Media
New Standards Men | I Was A Spaceship | self-released
Night of the Living Shred | Return of the Night of the Living Shred | self-released The name of this album of course invokes the title of the 1985 horror comedy Return of the Living Dead. And the Colorado Springs-based metal group has taken the opportunity to give us an unusual and eclectic record that not only reflects its members’ broad taste in music but a deeply healthy sense of humor about the world and themselves. “Shred Shoppe Quartert” is an a cappella song in the style of a barbershop quartet. There are rap, punks, death metal, doom and grindcore songs. All of it performed with a charming exuberance even though the entire track list reads like something out of a heavy metal version of Mad Magazine. “We Get it, Mike Patton Is a Musical Genius” with screaming like a cover of something by Naked City with lyrics mocking that? That’s genius. Even though the record is largely a put on in one way or another, the fact that it has so much variety makes it eminently listenable.
No Age | Goons Be Gone | Drag City
Of Feather And Bone | Sulfuric Disintegration | Profound Lore Records
Oneohtrix Point Never | Magic Oneohtrix Point Never | Warp Records
Otzi | Storm | Artoffact Records Emotionally intense post-punk at the intersection of Sleater-Kinney and The Cure.
Perry Weissman 3 | Backlog | self-released
Plack Blague | Wear Your Body Out | self-released
Plague Garden | LEFT IN THE GRAVE | self-released
Pod Blotz | Transdimensional System | Dais Records
Pole | Fading | Mute Records
Primitive Man | Immersion | Relapse Records
Princess Dewclaw | Wild Sugar | Glasss Records On the Wild Sugar EP Princess Dewclaw has reinvented itself as a gritty, industrial darkwave band. That element was there on its 2017 album Walk of Shame (in fact the songs “Walk of Shame” and “Into the Words” have carried over in a significantly different form), but there seems more of an edge here. The vocals come more directly from channeling anxiety and pain into catharsis. Rather than acoustic drums the electronic and programmed drums sync more closely with the cutting synth work. The effect is like a caustic and politically charged take on a pop song with mainstream appeal. In that way it has an appeal similar to that of Alice Glass’s emotionally raw solo offerings.
Protomartyr | Ultimate Success Today | Domino Records Burning poems songs evoking a Jim Thompson-esque modern America in slashing/clashing post-punk.
Public Memory | Ripped Apparition | Felte Records If Tarkovksy and Jarmusch could team up to make a cyberpunk movie this would be the soundtrack.
Rafael Anton Irisarri | Peripeteia | Dais Records
Raspberry Bulbs | Before the Age of Mirrors | Relapse Records
Reverb And The Verse | RESONATE | self-released Since 1999 Reverb & The Verse has been developing and writing some of the most imaginative hip-hop out of Denver. The groupput their songwriting on this ninth record through a rigorous process of experimentation and weeding out the material deemed not quite there. Though steeped in classic MC wordplay, the beats and expertly crafted synth work and rhythms seem as informed by the likes of Minneapolis alternative hip-hop that came out of the 90s as it does 80s and 90s synth pop. All of these elements make for a sonically rich and diverse listen a bit like a cross between Clipse and Meat Beat Manifesto.
Riki | s/t | Dais Records Goth synth pop for skate rink parties in abandoned malls.
Run The Jewels | RTJ4 | Jewel Runners
Shabazz Palaces | The Don of Diamond Dreams | Sub Pop
Shitkid | 20/20 | PNKSLM An unlikely and fascinating hybrid of garage rock and soulful synth pop.
Shocker Mom | The Mediocre Depression | self-released
Sightless Pit | Grave of a Dog | Thrill Jockey Sublime and caustic, often claustrophobic, soundscapes of terrifying and transcendent beauty.
SNAD/Jackson Lee| Jargon/Syntax Error 12” EP | Deep Club Records
SPELLS | Stimulants & Sedatives | Snappy Little Numbers This record is raw even by SPELLS standards. But it’s perfect for 11 songs about the messiness of adulthood with lyrics that frankly go for the jugular. This isn’t new for this pop punk band and its anthemic choruses, but it’s always interesting to hear the contrast between the primal pop of the songwriting and incisive portraits of American life that dispense with the soul-destroying niceties. “We Can’t Relate” is a pointed declaration of the disconnect between the culture of the wealthy and the working class. “I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry” is something of an apology song for being how you have to be in a world that demands essentially unacceptable compromises. Imagine an amalgam of Blatz, Stiff Little Fingers and The Replacements and you have an idea of the sound, the vibe and the sentiments expressed throughout.
Spice | s/t | Dais Records
Sprain | As Lost Through Collision | The Flenser Colossal, sprawling, slowcore deep dives into the catharsis of anxiety and rootlessness.
Spunsugar | Drive-Through Chapel | Adrian Recordings
Squarepusher | Be Up a Hello | Warner Records
Stay Tuned | Remote Control | self-released Brilliantly sampling from American media and entertainment culture, both musically and thematically, Stay Tuned has produced not just a signature song with this arc of eleven tracks but a signature album. Dense with content each song uses the format of autobiography to comment on aspects of society like the shallowness of celebrity culture and the way we formulate our dreams and aspirations in terms and frameworks taken from preexisting constructs like television shows, movies, video games and other media — of course expressed through the corporate controlled channels we most often use to communicate with one another. But in free associating musical and other media references in a collage of sounds in the beat, Stay Tuned uses media tropes and collective myths and imagery to showcase how we can subvert the prevailing power relationships and the monopolistic paradigms of our time.
Stephen Malkmus | Traditional Techniques | Matador
Studded Left | Sidewalk Vitamins | Girlgang Music
Stūrī Zēvele | Labvakar | self-released An endearing indie pop manifestation of the essence of close and warm friendships.
Sumac | May You Be Held | Thrill Jockey
Suo and Data Rainbow | s/t | Multidim
SUUNS | FICTION EP | Joyful Noise
Syko Friend | Fontanelle | Post Present Medium
The Drood | Totally Comfortable | self-released
The High Water Marks | Ecstasy Rhymes | Minty Fresh
The Microphones | The Microphones In 2020 | P.W. Elverum & Sun
The Paranoyds | Pet Cemetery EP | Suicide Squeeze
The White Swan | Nocturnal Transmission | CockThermos
Through Flames | Through Flames | self-released Riveting, radical experiments in political poetry and sound design.
TI-83 | Demo | self-released
Time | These Songs Kill Fascists | Dirty Laboratory Hip-hop artist Chris “Time” Steele displays a true gift for fusing autobiography and lived experience with historical context and knowledge of political theory on this album. He’s always been a brilliant lyricist whose expert wordplay has seemingly effortlessly combined his sharp sense of humor with a wide ranging curiosity about the world and a growing body of knowledge of history, culture and politics. On These Songs Kill Fascists, Steele works with Daiba, Mick Jenkins, long time producer AwareNess, Giuseppe, Ron Miles, JXSHYB, Cat Soup and Psalm One to create a jazz-inflected story cycle commenting astutely on social issues now getting some focus. While a riveting listen purely as a well crafted album, These Songs Kill Fascists does not function as merely socially conscious entertainment, it seems to have been crafted as a form of praxis that challenges artist and listener in a dialectic of critical pedagogy that mutually encourages ongoing personal growth and social transformation.
Tobacco | Hot, Wet & Sassy | Ghostly International Bright, bombastic, noisy synths paired with darkly humorous musings disrupt the album’s aesthetic of nostalgic comfort sounds.
Torres | Silver Tongue | Merge Records
Uniform | Shame | Sacred Bones Records Scorching and thrillingly diverse industrial hardcore inspired by noir literature.
Usaisamonster | Amikwag | Yeggs Records
Vivian | The Warped Glimmer | self-released
Voight | s/t | self-released Maybe it’s Chase Dobson’s treatments and mixing and mastering after Adam Rojo and Nick Salmon wrote and recorded this album, but the self-titled Voight album is the closest the duo has come to sounding like it’s blurring the line between its rock and electronic aesthetics. Guitar chords burn and shimmer out, percussion flurries and traces out a minimalist beat and Salmon’s vocals float through the songs like a person who was once lost but is now rediscovering his ability to feel and to express those emotions with a coherent self-awareness. Every song has an expansive quality reminiscent of Clan of Xymox and The Twilight Sad. The tone of the album perfectly walks the line between urgency and introspection without ever compromising an underlying delicacy of spirit and emotional refinement.
Wayfarer | A Romance With Violence | Profound Lore Records
Wetware | Flail | Dais Recordings
White Rose Motor Oil | You Can’t Kill Ghosts | self-released
Windy & Carl | Allegiance and Conviction | Kranky
WL | ADHD | Beacon Sound
Wolf Parade | Thin Mind | Sub Pop
Yves Tumor | Heaven To A Tortured Mind | Warp Records Futuristic, effervescent, downtempo, synth pop-inflected, R&B informed non-binary funk.
October continues to be the busiest live music month for Denver but one with few if any festivals, thank goodness. As usual here are several offerings worthy of your attention.
Thursday: October 19, 2017
Who:Din Virulent & MGNLP w/Rasmussen and Juice Up When: Thursday, 10.19, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: This is basically a harsh noise show but one thing lost on people that either actively despise it or don’t get it at all is that most noise artists are completely unlike every other noise artist. Juice Up has some disorienting arrangements of samples and sounds that’s something like a completely unconventional rhythm but there is a humorous playfulness there. Rasmussen is John Rasmussen of Denver noise legends Page 27. Rasmussen’s solo output is so diverse in texture and tone that even his “harsh” noise sets tend to have a subtlety and nuance that suggests the serious composition and planning that undergirds sounds that aren’t trying to fit at all into a pop song format. Din Virulent sounds like what happens when you chain a few delay pedals together and have them feed back off each other while manipulating the signal for an effect like watching white noise on TV if that image was sound and occasionally felt like it was aggressively charging out at you.
Friday: October 20, 2017
Who:Tera Melos w/Speedy Ortiz, Holophrase and Meet Me In Montauk When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Tera Melos might be one of the more misunderstood bands of the last several years because it sounds like its member spent some time playing in one of Trey Spruance’s projects: lots of unusual rhythms and dynamics requiring a precise musicianship while not sounding too in the pocket; heavy guitars, disorienting tones and an alternating driving and and hanging melodies. Its 2017 album, Trash Generator, is like a math rock shoegaze album with a touch of brutal psychedelia. In that way Tera Melos could be said to be a bit of a musical cousin to noise rock phenoms Deerhoof. Speedy Ortiz sounds like it picked up where The Breeders and Throwing Muses left off in the mid-to-late 90s with captivating, fuzzy melodic songs that take a walk out of every day mundane life while commenting on that life with with and sensitivity. Holophrase is a Denver band that has come out of being a guitar-based indie rock band (albeit one that didn’t sound much like anything contemporary and only slightly like Magazine) into being a mostly electronics-based band with deep atmospheres and Malgorzata Stacha’s layered vocal melodies serving as an emotional and sonic locus for the group’s hypnotic, chilly soundscapes.
Who:Thurston Moore w/The Diary of Ic Explura When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: It is indeed Thurston Moore of influential No-Wave-and-punk-inflected rock band Sonic Youth. His new album, Rock and Roll Consciousness, showcases Moore’s gift for writing moody pop songs bolstered by dynamic and complex yet tasteful guitar work. It’s melancholy stuff but much of Moore’s best material is yet he also manages to lend his songwriting a thoughtfulness not mired by despair. He can create a gritty image and imbue it with some future hopefulness not yet obvious in the moment he documents in his words—being in the moment but knowing that you can never fully get stuck there unless you try really hard. The Diary of Ic Explura is Toni Oswald’s ambient, sound collage experiments that she sculpts into coherent songs by adding instrumentation to elements that aren’t necessarily inherently musical. Like musique concrète with a soundtrack. Which is nothing new in the world of avant-garde music but Oswald’s vibrant and transporting music demonstrates well how noise and composition can work together.
Who:The Juan MacLean When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Deep Club 3rd Fridays brings The Juan MacLean to a relatively small venue. John MacLean’s first chapter in influential music came with his tenure as a guitarist for Providence, Rhode Island-based, experimental post-hardcore band Six Finger Satellite. The band was an early practitioner of fusing electronic elements with the usual punk rock instrumentation and operating in the same musical realm as bands like Arab On Radar, Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer—though predating them all. When SFS split near the turn of the century, MacLean left music for a few years before Six Finger Satellite’s sound engineer, James Murphy (who some may know as starting DFA Records and as a member of LCD Soundsystem) helped convince him to make music again. But instead of doing the noisy punk stuff he’d been doing, MacLean focused instead on forward thinking electronic music and a mutant form of modern disco. And that’s what you can more or less expect at this event.
Who:Don Strasburg, Cuckoo, Ashley Koett When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Cafe Why: Don Strasburg isn’t just a clever name for a band. The Boulder-based outfit doesn’t bother to trace any lines on the punk rock spectrum but fans of modern, mathy emo will find something to like but so will anyone that is into the most genre-bending, noisy post-hardcore. Cuckoo is lo-fi dream pop that would have fit in well on the Siltbreeze imprint or so it’s 2016 album Mermaid’s Don’t Exist would suggest. For fans of stuff like early Sebadoh, Eat Skull, Times New Viking, No Age and Microphones. — update, Don Strasburg no longer on the bill, now Terremoto.
Who:Allout Helter & Black Dots FEST sendoff w/faim, The Larimers, Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Fest has been happening in Gainesville every year since 2002. It’s a mostly punk festival and this year’s festival includes the likes of Against Me!, Pegboy, Hot Water Music, Beach Slang, City of Caterpillar, Hum, Snapcase, Atom and His Package and Rainer Maria. But it will also feature Denver political punk thrashers Allout Helter and melodic hardcore band Black Dots. Sure, both bands play Denver regularly but here they are on one bill to send them on their way to one of punk’s most prestigious festivals.
Saturday: October 21, 2017
Who:Afghan Whigs w/Har Mar Superstar When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Afghan Whigs both predated and embodied what was great about the alternative rock era. The group started as a kind of garage rock band but infusing that sound with soul and R&B, with lyrics revealing a keen insight into human psychology, yielded some of the best records of the 90s. 1993’s Gentlemen was the band’s major label debut, after an independently released 1988 debut and two fine records for Sub Pop, and the record that was a departure from the fuzzy psychedelia of its earlier efforts. As “alternative rock” was running out of steam by the middle of the decade, Afghan Whigs continued to write and record vital music for 1996’s Black Love and 1998’s 1965 before the band amicably split in 2001. Singer Greg Dulli kept on battling his personal demons in other projects throughout the 2000s but in 2011 Afghan Whigs announced it was reuniting. A lot of bands from the alternative rock world have reunited and most of them have had respectable tours and the Whigs were no different. Dulli was and is an electrifying frontman and the band’s performance startlingly powerful overall. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2017 release In Spades. Har Mar Superstar has stylistically been all over the map from silly hip-hop early in the life of the project (Sean Tillman is also in pop band Sean Na Na) to a more Motown-esque soul and R&B sound while often performing all but nude and making an oddly compelling spectacle of himself. But the music is legit and if it’s tongue in cheek it is in the way that only someone with a deep respect for the musical style could pull off.
Who:Sound of Ceres album release of The Twin, Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms When: Saturday, 10.21, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: When Ryan and Karen Hover started Sound of Ceres in 2015, setting aside their dreamy indie pop band Candy Claws for the time being, they seemed to be tapping into a daydream realm of freely associating ideas and sounds and something about the purity, honesty and transcendent beauty of the music translated well onto the recording of 2016’s Nostalgia for Infinity. On the 2017 follow-up, The Twin, the band is spending less time drifting through shimmering gossamer and luminous fog. The minimalist songwriting approach this time leaves enough space for greater clarity of tone and distinctness of sounds working in conjunction with each other. It is not a better record but it sounds very focused. Denver dream pop greats Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms open the show potentially opening a vortex into some realm Lord Dunsany would have written about. At least emotionally speaking. Vampires and werewolves aren’t real either, kids.
Who:Torres w/The Dove & The Wolf When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Torres is an artist like PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, EMA or John Vanderslice who are difficult to pigeonhole, whose high imaginative and powerful work cannot be reduced to a simple genre. Mackenzie Scott, the person behind Torres, doesn’t limit her songwriting to a single instrument so her sound has a layered cohesion even as it sounds like she’s going off the rails. There is an honesty, power and vulnerability to her music that comes across perhaps most vividly on her new record, Three Futures. Interestingly enough, Mackenzie got Rob Ellis, a longtime collaborator with PJ Harvey, as well as Portishead’s Adrian Utley.
Who:The Rotten Blue Menace reunion show w/Short Bus Rejects, The Beat Seekers, The Beeves and Sentry Dogs When: Saturday, 10.21, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: The Rotten Blue Menace spent a few years being one of the most entertaining and active ska bands in Denver so it’s only appropriate that it would have its reunion show sharing the stage with a band it likely influenced, Short Bus Rejects, who are playing their final show this night. It won’t all be ska or ska punk because street punkers Sentry Dogs and melodic grunge wonders The Beeves will fill out the bill.
Who:Kitty Crimes (DJ set), Snubluck, DJ Polyphoni and Just, Kevin When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: Kitty Crimes is normally a fast rapper with some explicit content in her lyrics and always pretty entertaining. For the DJ set who knows what might be in the mix because Maria Kohler, aka Kitty Crimes, has fairly diverse taste in music and the rest of the night will be some form of electronic dance music including experimental beatmaker and soundscaper, Snubluck.
Sunday: October 22, 2017
Who:Daikaiju w/TripLip, Kenaima and Chaff When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Since 1999, surf rock band Daikaiju from Huntsville, Alabama, has been performing shows that are the stuff of legend. Fire, acrobatics, the kind of exuberant energy that’s impossible to not be swept up in at the show. They play in costume so you might think of them being, overall, something like Peelander Z and Crash Worship, lucha libre and kabuki. People often use the word “chaotic” to describe the show and fair enough but more like an explosion of fun. Also playing the show is TripLip, which is comprised of people who used to live at the late, great Five Points Denver DIY venue Mouth House. TripLip is more psych and prog but very much in the same spirit as Daikaiju, a band that somehow hosted Daikaiju’s wild live show more than once in a residential neighborhood.
Who:A Giant Dog w/SPELLS and Class President When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: It’s odd that Austin’s A Giant Dog hasn’t broken to a much larger audience. But for now count yourself lucky you’re getting to see the band in smaller venues in Denver for now. Its rowdy, tuneful mélange of early glam rock, punk and power pop is celebratory without coming off insincere. That’s probably because the songs are about things that anyone that isn’t living a glamorous or pampered life can relate to and delivered with an unlikely combination of vulnerability and conviction. In 2017, A Giant Dog released Toy, its most fully-realized album to date, through Merge Records. Denver’s SPELLS is cut from a similar cloth as a brash, minimalist punk band not short on melody in its own right.
Monday: October 23, 2017
Who:Daikaiju, TripLip and Today’s Paramount When: Monday, 10.23, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: For Daikaiju and TripLip see above. Today’s Paramount is sort of a psychedelic jazz rock band with touches of carnival music and ska. But it works and Today’s Paramount doesn’t sound much like anything else in Denver except for maybe a band where the chops, songwriting and humor are blended together well and developed to a high degree like The Inactivists.
Who:Shadows Tranquil, Voight, Equine When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Shadows Tranquil is a band including longtime music fan, often threatening to be musician, finally is, Doran Robischon, and this is the band’s EP release show. Knowing Robischon’s taste for noise, witchouse, dark atmospheric music and stuff on the moody spectrum of all of that, his band will probably be interesting. Voight is the post-punk band that has interwoven strong strains of noisy shoegaze and industrial. Equine is the solo project of Kevin Richards and it’s guitar soundscaping stuff that comes off like a sculpted version of ambient and musique concrète.
Who:Hissing w/SUTEKH HEXEN, Of Feather and Bone, Worm Ouroboros, Vermin Womb and Casket Huffer When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why:Hissing and Sutekh Hexen recently released a split record, fitting since both are more on the brooding end of death grind. Disorienting, hypnotic pummeling through sound and rhythm. Minimalistic yet loud and aggressive. Both are in good company with the rest of this bill. Of Feather and Bone is certainly the more in-your-face style of deathgrind that is thankfully too alienating for casual fans of metal. Vermin Womb is similarly-minded but has more hanging dynamics and sounds closer to the roiling chaos bordering on nasty atmospherics in some black metal. Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Casket Huffer has a flavor that still has some connection to thrash, at least in the guitar work. Oakland’s Worm Ouroboros, however, will be a bit of an anomaly with its beautifully expansive, minimalistic and melodic, ethereal metal rooted in themes of nature and humankind’s relationship with the environment. If you’re fans of SubRosa, Dreadnought and Wolvserpent you’ll probably find something to like about Worm Ouroboros. Update: Worm Ouroboros no longer on the bill, instead Un, the “Aetherical Doom” band from Seattle. Also, it appears Sutekh Hexen dropped out of the show too.
Tuesday: October 24, 2017
Who:Hans-Joachim Roedelius w/Xambuca and Dream Hike When: Tuesday, 10.24, 10 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Hans-Joachim Roedelius is one of the true pioneers of krautrock and synthesizer-based music generally. His diverse body of work influenced the development of the aforementioned as well as new age music, psychedelic rock, ambient and electronic music generally. He was one of the co-founders of Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin in 1968, one of the most important spots for experimental music and the avant-garde of its time. Along with Conrad Schnitzler and Dieter Moebius he formed Kluster (later Cluster after Schnitzler left the group), a band for which any idea seemed a go and its’ mixture of standard rock band instrumentation (albeit used toward unorthodox ends), cello, synths, feedback manipulation and unusual devices to use in music like car batteries and signal generators. Kluster didn’t exactly hit the charts but its legacy of experimentation and recontextualizing sounds continues to this day.
Roedelius has since then been a prolific artist whose projects (solo and otherwise) and collaborations have pushed the boundaries and horizons of experimental music and synthesizers. With Cluster and Harmonia, Roedelius took truly unusual and groundbreaking musical ideas and made them accessible. Cluster collaborated with Brian Eno on 1978’s ambient music classic After the Heat. In the next decade Roedelius’ work helped to refine and further define the aesthetic of techno. But, interestingly enough, Roedelius’ most prolific years came in his mid-sixties around the turn of the century. This is a rare opportunity to witness one of the founders of modern music and especially at a small and intimate venue like The Mercury Café.
Who:Ariel Pink w/Bite Marx When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Ariel Pink as much as Animal Collective and Deerhunter can be said to have been responsible for inspiring a whole generation of musicians to use reverb on their vocals and guitars in an attempt to create a dreamlike soundscape that pre-dated the full-on psychedelic rock revival by half a decade. Except that those three acts did that and pushed the aesthetic further than most of the people they influenced. AC released a few of Ariel Pink’s earlier records before he was a touring act or one that played live much at all. To his credit, like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, every one of Ariel Pink’s albums pushes his own envelope and his new record, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, is a fitting homage to the late, great cult songwriter of transporting psych folk.
Who:Dinosaur Jr w/Easy Action When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Dinosaur Jr is the clear draw for this show and rightfully so. The band has inspired more great guitar music to have come along since the early 80s out of proportion to their level of fame than most other bands you could name. Certain an influence on shoegaze, noise rock, alternative rock in general and any kind of left field music that dares to use guitar sounds with a nod to classic rock virtuosity and punk rock’s willingness to repurpose and deconstruct rock tropes. But get there early and catch one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock music in John Brannon of Easy Action. One, the band is like a psychedelic version of Black Flag with that kind of forcefulness and ability to write guitar riffs that also disorient the senses. Brannon first came to the attention of most people in the know with his hardcore band Negative Approach. But in the mid 80s, Brannon formed legendary noise rock band Laughing Hyenas with the late Larissa Stolarchuk, Jim Kimball and Kevin Munro. For a decade the band set a high bar for intense live performances and songs that really articulated the harrowing struggle between desperation, inspiration and dreams of a more meaninful existence. Easy Action formed near the turn of the century and alongside a re-formed version of Negative Approach it has been Brannon’s outlet for his unique vocal style that is as terrifying as it is riveting.
Who:Tei Shi w/Twelve’len When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Valerie Teicher was born in Buenos Aires and spent part of her childhood in Bogotá and Vancouver, BC. So maybe somewhere along the line her knack for gently but vibrantly soulful vocals started to develop. However it happened, her early singles as Tei Shi found an audience among fans in her then adopted home city of New York, where she moved after attending Berklee. After a string of acclaimed EPs, Teicher released her 2017 full-length Crawl Space. It is an expansive gem of a downtempo, R&B-inflected synth pop album named after a place Teicher used to go to confront her fears of darkness. An apt metaphor for the various situations (emotional, social, professional, personal and so forth) Teicher discusses with nuance and insight across the album’s fifteen tracks.
Who:Dayglo Abortions w/Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service When: Tuesday, 10.24, 9 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: With a name like Dayglo Abortions the Canadian punk band was never going to have to worry about being co-opted by mainstream music outlets. During its existence, Dayglo Abortions have been punk, hardcore and crossover but its messaging has been the same—a big middle finger of irreverence for mainstream normalcy. Read the track list to the 1986 classic Feed Us a Fetus and you might even wonder where this band is coming from except for a healthy and vitriolically humorous disdain for right wing politics and racism and other aspects of Western culture that make it a bummer for anyone trying to live an authentic life. This is also the band that named its 1991 album Two Dogs Fucking. That level of surrealistic humor and pointed political statements didn’t exactly end, thank goodness. Opening the show are Denver’s Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service, all great punk bands that aren’t just irreverently funny but who have some fairly pointed commentary on the ills of American society.
Who:My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/Ritual Aesthetic and DJ Ritual When: Tuesday, 10.24, 8:30 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is celebrating its 30 year anniversary with this tour so they’ll be playing a whole lot of early albums Confessions of a Knife (1990) and I See Good Spirits And I See Bad Spirits (1988) so you’ll get to see some vintage material. The show is the best kind of spectacle and it perfectly blends B-movie horror kitsch, a carnival, trash culture and industrial dance music into an inspired whole. Chances are it will be one of the most fun shows you’ll see all year even if you’re not necessarily into industrial music. DJ Ritual will spin his relatively eclectic set at the show and between bands. Ritual Aesthetic is an industrial rock band from Denver in the vein of stuff like Electric Hellfire Club and Stabbing Westward when that band is more industrial than metal.
Wednesday: October 25, 2017
Who:Arcade Fire w/Bomba Estereo When: Wednesday, 10.25, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Arcade Fire quickly became one of the most popular of early 2000s indie rock bands following the release of its 2004 debut album Funeral. On that tour the band played in Denver at Hi-Dive and Larimer Lounge. By the time Neon Bible came out in 2007, Arcade Fire had become too commercially successful to play small clubs. And that’s where it cold have ended with all the pressures of the music industry guiding the band into tried and true territory. But Arcade Fire actually risked alienating fans with 2013’s Reflektor and its emphasis on the electronic side of the band’s soundscapes. For 2017’s Everything Now, the band recruited Pulp’s Steve Mackey, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Geoff Barrow of Portishead to come in and do production work and the resulting set of songs is lush and has a warm, sweeping quality that one might expect out of a 70s glam rock record. As such the live show is sure to not skimp on a visual component to aid in the elevated tone of the songwriting. It’s kind of a past time of music critics and older fans to trash Arcade Fire today but it’s arguable the band is writing the most interesting music of its career by being willing to push forward instead of sticking to what some people think is what they do best. Bomba Estéreo is an alternative Cumbia band from Colombia.
Who:KMFDM w/OhGr and DJ Ritual at Summit Music Hall When: Wednesday, 10.25, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Kein Merheit Für Die Mitleid does not in fact mean “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode,” per the long-running joke. The industrial band was founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1984 and has undergone numerous incarnations and stylistic shifts from its early performance art-oriented shows to its full embrace of bombastic kitsch, sardonic humor and thoughtful social critique. You can probably start anywhere to get an idea of what the band’s music is about but for beginners give 1997’s Symbols a listen. Which is appropriate enough because Ogre from Skinny Puppy will perform his solo material as OhGr as a kind of co-headliner for this show. His set lists have included a good deal of material from Welt and SunnyPsyOp. And it’s Ogre so his set will have plenty of the inspired weirdness that has made him one of industrial music’s most interesting performers and artists. And who knows, maybe he’ll join KMFDM on stage for “Torture” as he did during KMFDM’s tour for that album in the 90s.
Who:Guided by Voices When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Robert Pollard is by now both a godfather of modern lo-fi rock and one of its most accomplished and prolific artists. Had he ended Guided By Voices after 1994’s epochal Bee Thousand he would still be a legend. But 18 albums later, Pollard is still going strong with two 2017 albums: August By Cake (Pollard’s 100th recorded album) and How Do You Spell Heaven. Not every song is a winner but even Bob’s “lesser” material is worth a spin. The live show is an unabashed flood of splintery rock and roll in an era when there’s too much emphasis on being smooth and polished or faking grit. There’s no fake grit with Guided by Voices except maybe as an inside joke with fans and the audience.
Who: Bell Witch w/Primitive Man, Urn and Oryx When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Seattle-based doom band Bell Witch released one of the genre’s most haunting and crushing albums of 2017 with Mirror Reaper. The duo manage to conjure spectral horror and primal energies crying out in drawn out triumph with processed bass, drums and vocals. A perfect pairing with tourmates Primitive Man from Denver whose own 2017 album Caustic not only beyond lives up to and embodies the album title, it is an evocation of sustained despair, desperation and frustrated rage transmogrified into colossal and punishing songs that somehow also serve as a catharsis and a channel into an inner peace that are the opposite of the songs themselves. Opener Oryx is a sort of doom grind duo and the other opening act, Urn, injects some psychedelic elements into its own brand of doom. Probably the loudest show of the week outside of that Dinosaur Jr and Easy Action show on October 24 but also easily one of the best lineups of heavy music all month.