Queen City Sounds
By Tom Murphy
Published Issue 122, February 2024
Acidbat – Dead Sun EP
“Beaver Moon” begins with a finely processed progressive beat like an acid version of “On the Run” by Pink Floyd including the warbling off-center sonics. The pacing and rhythm warp and stretch but reassert an urgent forward motion with rapid hi-hat shimmer. It sets the expectation for the 4-song EP that pairs rattling percussion and processed textures with ghostly abstract melodies as on “Cabrone.” And it provides an enhanced depth of sonic field that guides the production throughout so that individual sounds occupy a place in the mix at varying distances. On the title track tones ring out and fade like strings plucked, while an insectoid fuzz of synth pulses, trading duties with a more low-end sound so that the music takes on dimensional space — like getting to be at some grimy dubtechno club in your mind that fans of early Aphex Twin and Autechre will appreciate greatly.
Alien Gothic – High and Dry
Ryan Policky of A Shoreline Dream fame and his compatriot on the latest Genessier EP, Andy Urmacher, collaborated on this album full of surprisingly grimy and gritty production and guitar. ASD’s sound is so often more dreamlike, uplifting yet frequently dark melodies, whereas Genessier is more Skinny Puppy-esque spooky soundscaping. Alien Gothic is like a fusion of both into something darker and more sinister as a commentary on the current state of culture and its feedback loop of algorithmic associations that, because they aren’t organic, often leave people feeling unsatisfied and empty. There are soaring moments of epic deathrock here which are often lo-fi enough to seem as authentic as a found practice space tape by an unknown band. Pretty chords are replaced with buzzsaw edginess, but never without a haunted quality alongside it in the end. Song to song it’s a monument to modern alienation and isolation in grand Goth shoegaze tones.
Calamity – Chiromancy
Kate Hannington’s economy of songwriting across this album is impressive, especially considering it feels fully realized and tonally colored in with its spareness and spaciousness that invites the listener in closer for her stories. Assembling finely crafted guitar riffs with electronic and some live percussion along with synths and field recordings, Hannington gives us a true sense of place physically and emotionally with these songs. Her commanding yet vulnerable vocals always feel like an anchoring presence in the songwriting, like she’s putting the direct human experience of the inspiration of the songs first and orchestrating a flow of textures and tones around that. Hannington relates painful experiences and the realization of hard realities but offers a respite from being sunk by them. The title track, as it were, “Palm Reader” seems to be about being observant and reading the signs but not always being able to benefit from one’s keen perceptions, and in the end not feeling beholden to other people’s “vibes.” Is it an indie album? Sure. A shoegaze/dream pop record? You could be into this if you’re into that. But whatever categories seem to suit Calamity, it’s the astute human commentary and the always evocative songwriting that keeps you listening.
Combat Sport – Celestia Suffers
The rapid percussion with pulsing bass underneath and triumphant melodies of the album’s title track wouldn’t be out of place in the realm of 90s hard trance. Something about the production here emphasizes a buoyancy to the rhythm with the synths sustaining an expansive spirit. Combat Sport doesn’t wear you out with the nonstop adrenaline rush of the music. At the beginning of “Desiderium,” there is a break before the pounding drums come in for a moment then fade, allowing rapid pulsing sounds that dissolve beautifully and give way to other elements in the mix. It’s a subtle way of varying the set if this was something you experienced live at a rave. Combat Sport has clearly been to many raves and brings that awareness to this album that isn’t just dance music, but an expression and purging of melancholy and anxiety. It never gets monotonous and is simply an example of how this music can have real emotional resonance beyond the dance floor.
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Tom Murphy is a Denver-based music writer and science fiction/fantasy/horror creator. He is also a musician, historian and itinerant filmmaker.