Queen City Sounds: March 2024 by Tom Murphy

Queen City Sounds
By Tom Murphy
Published Issue 123, March 2024

New Standards Men – Against Our Vanishings

Comprised of two extended tracks, “Thundercloud in Aquamarine” and “Boney Lunar Dust,” this most recent release from New Standards Men with contributions from Iowa-based avant-garde jazz duo, Sex Funeral, seems to begin each piece with bleak, deep drones slowly rippling out of a place of stasis and emotional paralysis. Both also appear to be a musical acknowledgment of how finding hope and inspiration takes work — often seemingly slow and unglamorous work — that can, when sustained and following diverse pathways, build into something with great momentum. In each case here that build, cast in percussion, guitar drones and flares, saxophone and synth, attains a state of cosmic joy through the sheer organic development of an improvisational composition. Think Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” as rendered by Mahavishnu Orchestra in the instance of the first track and Boards of Canada crafting a tribute to Anthony Braxton with the second. The record is a manifestation of the Latin phrase “Illegitimi non carborundum” in musical form, grinding back with sustained and steady inspiration. 

Pale Sun – Tides

If this band’s 2016 album Darkmoonwhiteout was a momentous drift into space rock bliss, this one leans into the mysteries of the world around us, drawing on that more earthbound sense of wonder and reflection for its echoing and iterative repetitions, like ripples in water. The bass serves as a driving, sinuous pulse while the drums guide the paces with expressive accents. Guitar tones flake off like snowfall or motes from a fire, or the fragments of sunlight on the ocean reflecting back in paradoxically infinite yet consistent variation. The production is intentionally more lo-fi like a bedroom recording. And because of that, the colossal live sound of the band attains an intimate feel that serves Jeff Suthers’ understated vocal performance well, even as the essential energy of each song is preserved. Fans of Bailter Space’s willingness to span crashing space rock freakouts with pastoral soundscapes and the melancholic end of a Flying Saucer Attack, will get lost in these 11 tracks, the significance of which is an Easter egg for those in the know.

Quits – Feeling It

Seeing Quits live can be a thrilling bludgeoning via bursts of cathartic vocals, contorting rhythms and an avalanche of crushing, discordant sounds in which the experience in toto informs the interpretation of the music. This record is a bit of a different animal even though the performances reflect what you can expect to witness at the show. The dark poetry of the lyrics is more immediately explicable, even if its social commentary and psychological insight is couched in stories. The utility of the words are a tonal complement to the scorching and seething gyrations of where guitar, bass and drums intersect to effect a transformative catharsis from music that doesn’t shy away from reflecting the ugliness of human society. It’s a vehicle for transcending how daily reality can drag you down. These songs are a counter to retreating into dissociation from everyday life by living through it and finding glimmers of meaningful experiences that make it all worth it, rather than focusing on the ample excuses for sinking your spirits, thus the title of the album. If the horrifyingly beautiful music made by bands on Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go Records is your thing, you owe it to yourself to give this record a listen. 

Vatican Vamps – s/t

Listening through this album it’s tempting to immediately compare it to seemingly obvious touchstones like Arctic Monkeys or even The Walkmen. But there’s something darker to the band’s sound and its icy synths place it more in the realm of post-punk. The emotional immediacy of the vocals and the group’s knack for tasteful bombast means the songs straddle the realms of harder rocking Britpop and pensively observant melancholia well. Vocalist Nat Lord-Nelson’s time spent living in Europe manifests in not just song titles like “Berlin Is Haunted” and “Salford Love Psalm,” but also in the eclectic and sophisticated yet coherent style of the tracks, along with a distinctly American confidence in the often wonderfully brash and always exuberant performances.   

For more see queencitysoundsandart.wordpress.com

Tom Murphy is a Denver-based music writer and science fiction/fantasy/horror creator. He is also a musician, historian and itinerant filmmaker.

Check out Tom’s February Queen City Sounds in case you missed it, or head to our Explore section to see more of his past reviews.

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  1. Pingback: Queen City Sounds: April 2024 by Tom Murphy - BIRDY MAGAZINE

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