Queen City Sounds
By Tom Murphy
Published Issue 119, November 2023
Endless, Nameless – Living Without
Touchstones of black metal, mathcore, post-punk and shoegaze flow all across this album in entrancing interplay with each other in every track. What is most striking is how there is a raw vitality and intimacy inherent to the songs that draw you in like an incredibly personal, bedroom recorded folk song. “A World So Kind” has the cascading guitar arpeggios that only the most nerdy of guitar wizards can execute reliably. But in the middle of the song there is a moment of tranquil ambient soundscaping that feels like one’s heart expanding to fit in more of the world that you knew you had room for. Even when Endless, Nameless careen into aggressive and seemingly clashing dynamics there is an unmistakable vulnerability to the way the songs seem crafted that renders music that might be opaque to some people open and accessible. What makes Endless, Nameless special is how its hybrid style invites the listener in on the band’s own journey of self-discovery and evolution beyond a conditioned rigidity of feeling and spirit to something more tender and curious, and that is what you hear throughout this set of songs.
kill your darlings – Vestigial Hearts
Brett Darling should be remembered for art rock band Slow Crash, dance synth punk phenoms Pep*Squad, noise project Pulled at Four Pins or avant-pop group Stella Luce. Yet it all seems like a preparation for darkwave duo kill your darlings with his wife Jayme. There’s something gloriously unvarnished and unabashed about the noisy synths under and over menacing melodies and what sounds like drum machines combined with physical utility percussion in the mix here, like it was all done purely for fun without any pressure to adhere to genre tropes. The vocal processing could be like something out of early 2000s EBM with the sound overall like a future pop band that didn’t take itself too seriously, but ended up writing songs that have an emotional heft and sharp social commentary. Think a surprisingly cool soundtrack to some late 80s or early 90s cyberpunk film where the music has more of a cult following than the movie. Fans of Velvet Acid Christ and Skinny Puppy’s more pop end will appreciate this best.
M. Sage – Paradise Crick
Matthew Sage wrote and recorded this album from 2017-2021 while based out of Chicago. But its exquisitely textured ambient soundscapes sound like detailed and vivid emotional images of Sage’s upbringing in Fort Collins, CO. With an ear for subtlety in transitions, rhythms and tone, he has a gift for finding the exact combination of sounds to express the energy of a path through the woods in the bright sun of a late winter morning, the babbling of a nearby brook and the myriad insects and fish, of the brisk wind in middle spring, of meandering roads and trails, and the movements of grass and trees. Sage seems to have a mystical, Zen awareness of the environment as a whole experience across time and an attention to the minutiae of composition and sensory stimuli in these pieces. The result feels like organic arrangements manifested through a masterful fusion of electronic sounds and those more physical, laid out to great effect.
Ryan Wong – The New Country Sounds of Ryan Wong
Ryan Wong is best known for his contributions to psychedelic rock, garage rock and post-punk in groups like Supreme Joy, Cool Ghouls and Easy Ease. So this album of lightly shimmery country seemed to have come out of left field. Wong embraces a vocal style here that can veer slightly off center now and then, but that just lends the often more straight-ahead style of homespun immediacy. There’s an underlying sense of humor that is both self-aware and self-effacing, and a song like “Yo Yo” sounds like something Lou Reed might have written had he tried his hand at country before going on to form The Velvet Underground. “Cold Beer” is like a parody of country story songs of yesteryear with spoken word sections, but like the rest of the album, it showcases Wong’s command of the style and his gift for songwriting outside his usual wheelhouse.
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.