The flier for this show said, in no uncertain terms, "NO COPS" and, as it turns out, none did appear to show up at the house where the event was being held. It was mostly an intimate gathering of friends of Dan Phelps who helps to run the DIY label, Ash From Sweat, and others who have embraced the more experimental end of the hardcore and experimental music scenes of the last decade in Denver.
The show proper took place in the basement of the house and Temples, aka Kevin Richards started things off. Dispensing with the stereo amp set-up and electric guitars generally for this show, favoring instead his twelve-string acoustic, Richards set the mood by setting out small candles, the kind with the thin, cup-like aluminum bases, and burning a stick of incense. When Richards plays, it isn't some straight ahead acoustic singer-songwriter sort of thing. This is a guy steeped in jazz and the avant-garde with a working knowledge of esoteric chord structures. But instead of using that knowledge to show off how much he knows, Richards always seems to have an ear for the emotional impact of music.
This two-song set found Richards exploring a moody side of his songwriting with deep drones underneath introspective melodies that seemed to embody the candlelit intimacy of the room. He also made use of non-verbal vocals and vibrato as though whistling, while distorting the sound with his tongue. It would be tempting to make a comparison between this music and Slint's Spiderland for its dusky and haunting beauty but it had more in common with the less electronically-inflected side of Grouper. Or a For Octavio Paz-era Six Organs of Admittance.
Dan Phelps had various amps chained together in one corner of the basement and he started his set off with a sample of a man repeatedly saying something about why would any woman want to be the equal of a man when she is clearly superior. The guitar work seemed to be streamed through a bank of effects with some samples being triggered or a signal split so that the core sound could be warped in a myriad ways. Some sounds echoing in a kind of rapid spiral while some atonal riffing created a sense of tension to augment vocals that were clearly put through some kind of reverb and dirtied up with distortion and sounding as otherworldly as the hovering tones that also seemed to cycle through the music.
Phelps created a flow of sound that shimmered, fractured and otherwise coursed with a hazy energy that was unsettling, hypnotic and curiously beautiful all at once. Some might call what Phelps did "black metal" or "dark ambient" but really it was the kind of experimental guitar music that is pushing the sonic possibilities of the instrument in an interesting direction.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Critic's Notebook Bias: I've liked the music all three musicians have put out in the past. Random Detail: Ran into the artist/musician Milton Melvin Croissant III and Jacob Isaacs who was once in Angels Never Answer and is now Dugoutcanoe. By the Way: The latest Windows EP is the project's fourth or fifth release.