At first Sci-Fidelity's website was principally a venue for the String Cheese Incident, Colorado's most extravagant gift to the neo-hippie crowd. No more. The success of the band has allowed the label to expand its roster to include Incident-related acts such as Comotion (a side project) and DJ Harry, as well as the jam-friendly collective Karl Denson's Tiny Universe and the Yonder Mountain String Band, a Colorado combo that builds upon bluegrass without burying it. Next up: A disc by Grammy winner Steve Winwood. That's big news -- and Sci-Fidelity is bound to get bigger.
Boulder's Tom Steenland has been putting out challenging avant-garde sounds on his Starkland imprint for over ten years now, and by keeping his product list modest in size, he's able to maintain high-quality music and packaging. Take Mystery Dances, by Robert Een, who uses voice and cello to create striking music that's occasionally reminiscent of jazz or world music, but is more often impossible to pigeonhole. Just like most other products that proudly bear the Starkland brand.
Headquartered in Bailey, the Capri and Tapestry imprints are the brain-children of Tom Burns, a jazz lover who's devoted himself to getting some of Colorado's finest musicians heard beyond the state's borders. His catalogue features material by saxophonist Fred Hess and trumpeter Ron Miles, both of whom appear on a bracing new Tapestry release, The Long and Short of It, credited to the Fred Hess Quartet. But Burns has also ventured beyond the neighborhood, making available platters by the likes of Louie Bellson and Lee Konitz, whose One Day With Lee was recorded in 2002.
Produced and distributed monthly by "your favorite muthafuckin' white boys," this CD, available free with a purchase at Independent Records, is the hottest mix disc available anywhere in Mootown. DJ Petey and Bedz -- both KS-107.5 mixmasters and members of the DJ collective Radio Bumz -- oversee nights at Bash, Avalon and several other clubs, and they make it their business to know what's hot in hip-hop and R&B. Follow the solid white lines.
For more than a decade, etown, taped each week at the Boulder Theater, has been a staple of better National Public Radio affiliates and commercial stations from coast to coast. (In these parts, it's heard Sunday evenings on KGNU, KBCO and KUNC.) The show, hosted by Nick Forster, of Hot Rize fame, and his wife, Helen, combines environmental talk with live performances by many of the nation's finest acoustic and Americana performers. Bluegrass Roots culls excellent samples of the title genre heard by etown listeners over the years, with several cameos by area favorites. Forster pairs with Nickel Creek's Chris Thile for "Woodchopper's Reel," joins Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, David Grisman and Tony Rice on "Train 45," and spends a "Blue Night" with Hot Rize; elsewhere, fellow Hot Rizer Tim O'Brien offers a fast-fingered take on "Hey Joe," assisted by string man extraordinaire Jerry Douglas. Ralph Stanley, Del McCoury, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs and others demonstrate their pluck as well, making the disc a first-rate edition to the growing etown catalogue.
That Blusom even exists is something of a fluke. Vocalist Mike Behrenhausen (who also drums with Maraco 5-0) and electronic specialist Jme (aka Jamie White, formerly of the late, lamented Acrobat Down) recorded the material that makes up their debut CD more as a creative exercise than a commercial venture. Fortunately, the folks at Kansas City's Second Nature Recordings recognized it for the original and invigorating music that it is. Cuts such as "On Glass" and "X-Photo" combine acoustic and synthetic instrumentation in a manner that's high-tech yet wonderfully human. This rare combination demonstrates how wise the members of Blusom were to Go Slowly All the Way Round the Outside.
A lot of groups both lousy and laudable have made their presence felt this year, but none has seared its image onto this town's collective retina like Bright Channel. Formed from the remnants of the overlooked acts Volplane and Pteranodon, the trio coalesced in February 2001. Since then, it's been a force of noise and beauty, beguiling audiences with a sound that encompasses everything from My Bloody Valentine's bleary psychedelia to the ice-rimmed ghostliness of Joy Division. With swooping melodies, filmy textures and chiseled rhythms, the band's live performances feel less like rock shows than sonic sculptures. But be warned: Although Bright Channel is without a doubt one of the best bands in town, holding your breath for them to release a disc could be fatal.
Reason, the Fray's second EP, is a fitting introduction to an outfit that came out of nowhere and quickly rose to prominence. Though technically founded in 2002, the quintet didn't hit its stride -- or gig much, for that matter -- until around the time Reason was released, late last year. Led by two ridiculously talented vocalists, Joe King and Isaac Slade, and bolstered by anthemic, piano-driven material that could hold its own with anything from across the pond, the Fray is the undisputed valedictorian of the class of 2003.
What's in a name? In the world of rock and roll, a lot. Remember Ned's Atomic Dustbin? What about Nuclear Valdez? Uh-huh, that's what we thought. Some may be inclined to avoid an outfit with a goofy name like Rubber Planet just on principle, but think of the tasty fruit beneath a kiwi's unattractive, hair-laden exterior. Listeners will soon discover that underneath Rubber Planet's ill-conceived moniker are spoonfuls of succulent, guitar-driven pop ditties delivered by a cat named Silver. Somebody get these guys an image consultant already.
Brandy in the greenhouse? Fetch it yourself, Thurston Howell III. Domestic drudgery finally takes its rightful place behind swingin' on chandeliers and flingin' poo.

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