Queen City Sounds: May 2024 by Tom Murphy

Queen City Sounds
By Tom Murphy
Published Issue 125, May 2024

Absynth Minded – s/t

On the surface this debut full-length from Absynth Minded is a surprisingly effective amalgam of ska, doom and thrash. And with Keith Sanchez on vocals and guitar, and Leonard Leal on bass and backing vocals, the pedigree is there for those who might be more familiar with their past and current membership in, among other acts, Black Lamb, Catheter, Cephalic Carnage and Last Reel Hero. While the masterful musicianship one would expect is certainly a key feature of the songwriting, what is even more striking is while there is an element of humor in the lyrics and name of the band, this album is at its core a kind of subversive art rock in the lineage of Frank Zappa. Because of that the unlikely and eclectic fusion of styles works with a mix and mastering that makes all the elements shine. 

Johnathan Maske – The Down Valley

Only Johnathan Maske can know about the creative paths he’s taken to crafting the songs that make up this album. But the musician and songwriter has been in bands like Two Strikes, Rebel Steele and The Get Together and these songs are miles different from any of that. It sounds like he went on a sabbatical from his regular job and sequestered himself in a remote locale with only a crate of records including the 1968 The Soft Machine album, choice sides from T. Rex, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Fairport Convention, Dylan, Leo Kottke and some of the better modern indie psychedelic music. There is a deeply contemplative tenor to Maske’s words and the production on the music lends it a reflectively existential quality that can come off as nostalgic navel gazing. But really it’s the sound of someone trying to make sense of how complicated life can be, keenly aware that if we don’t take many moments away from the myriad demands on our attention and psyche to sort through things and re-attune ourselves to what really matters now, then we can get lost in the flood of distractions offered and pushed upon us daily. Maske may not even have been alive in the 70s, but this album seems informed by the more ambitious popular music of that decade. 

Lunar Tunes – Pieces of Advice

Skyfloor and Felix Fast4ward have joined their complementary production, songwriting skills and musicianship in the past, but for this collaborative EP they go by the name Lunar Tunes. As the cover art might suggest these songs sound like they come from a brighter and gentler future we might all wish to inhabit now. The free association of organic textures and rhythms, the upbeat melodies, the soothing vocals delivering benevolent words of gentle warning and encouragement, the touch of cassette culture, lo-fi pop aesthetic and glitchy IDM lend every song a quality that feels spontaneous and intimate. Like something you’d expect from an impossible collaboration between early chillwave artists, Aphex Twin and Microphones. Think synth pop made through the lens of underground hip-hop to craft these tranquil yet uplifting half dozen songs. 

Moon Pussy – Death Is Coming

Maybe no recording could quite capture the raw power of Moon Pussy as a live band, especially coupled with its surreal sense of humor and the ferocious energy with every song. But this latest record released via The Ghost is Clear Records is the closest they have come yet to putting onto a record the confrontational spirit, the angular and warping rhythms, the heady momentum, thrillingly jarring dynamics and caustic tones that has helped make them one of the most consistently exciting bands in not just the Denver world of noise rock, but internationally. Across the 13 tracks the trio offers many of their most recognizable live songs unleashed since the release of their 2020 self-titled album like the menacing “Reek,” the playfully demented “Panty Hawk,” and the hypno-industrial stylings of “Rats.” It is pure mayhem beginning to end but tempered with a playful spirit that fans of Shellac, The Jesus Lizard and Mclusky will appreciate.  

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 April install of Queen City Sounds in case you missed it, or head to our Explore section to see more of his past reviews.