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It takes two to tangle with Phantom Trigger's controlled chaos.

The tracks on Phantom Trigger's eponymous debut album (recorded at Schoolhouse Studios in Rollinsville and self-released in 2000) are longer and more intricate than the band's newer songs. At certain points on the disc, Fausett pulls a violin bow across his guitar and injects spoken-word poetry into the mix.

"It was more of an art-rock thing that we had going, and pulling that off live was very troublesome," he says. "[The audience] didn't know how to respond. Now we really want people not only to enjoy it, but to get it. We want to see some foot-tapping, some dancing, some shaking -- whatever they're willing to give back to us."

Consequently, Phantom Trigger has striven to "skim the fat" and write shorter, more accessible rock songs; they've scaled back the number of instrumentals on the set list and set aside the violin bow. Several of the songs from the album remain live staples, however, and for good reason. "Triangles," for one, is a scorcher, a whirling dervish of a tune about a close encounter of the third kind in Nederland. "I saw triangles in the sky," Fausett wails atop rapid-fire blasts of drums and riffs. "Tsunami" is another tune on the regular set list. With a surf sound murky enough to scare Link Wray, the song is a product of Fausett's quest for a California that "probably disappeared twenty or thirty years ago." His wrathful response? A call for a killer wave to decimate the Golden State. "LTD," a searing ode to Fausett's since-junked 1976 Ford, is also a live highlight. With simple but evocative lyrics ("I wanna drive my car/I wanna drive all day/I wanna drive all night/L...T...D!"), this is the road-song equivalent of fifty cups of coffee.

Phantom Trigger's Brian Fausett (seated) and Todd Discher wig out.
Larry Winter
Phantom Trigger's Brian Fausett (seated) and Todd Discher wig out.

Details

With Black Lamb
9 p.m. Saturday, September 7
Lion's Lair, 2022 East Colfax Avenue
$5, 303-320-9200

9 p.m. Friday, September 13
With Jucifer, High On Fire and Jet Black Joy
Fifteenth Street Tavern, 623 15th Street
$7, 303-572-0822

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As has been the case for nearly ten years, the band's songwriting revolves around Fausett and Discher jamming away in the basement. The seed for new songs can be either a guitar riff or a drum part. "I count each cool riff as a blessing," says Fausett of his composition philosophy, "and try not to go much beyond that."

The band's current agenda suggests it has at least thought beyond the present when it comes to recording and playing music. The two plan to write a slew of new material, record a follow-up album and then hit the road once the logistics of vacation time, a van and money all fall into place. They already have one Midwest tour under their belt, a 1999 jaunt with stops in Michigan and Iowa. Both members are itching to take the Phantom Trigger sound out for another spin. "Brian and I are van-dwellers," says Discher. "We're good at it."

For now, both Fausett and Discher are rooted in permanent structures and working in Denver, a city they see as a somewhat unreliable springboard for a musical career. "Denver is a boom-or-bust town on so many levels," says Discher. "If you're not touring, this town will bust the best of them."

Back in Helm's Deep, though, the boom is sonic and the bust is nowhere in sight. As a wall of sound echoes off of the tapestry-clad concrete, it's apparent that this basement isn't so much a place as a state of mind.

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