Dugout Canoe, Milton Melvin Croissant III, Fissure Mystic, Slight Harp and Vivian Girls Friday, June 6, 2008 Rhinoceropolis, Denver Better Than: A line-up of music that’s pretty much the same throughout.
Fissure Mystic’s set at Rhinoceropolis this past Friday was only its second since taking a nine-month hiatus following Simon Elkins departure from the band. Now playing as a trio, the act’s new sound doesn’t stray far from what the outfit had done so well in the past, taking Sonic Youth’s twisted and fragmented textures, giving it some experimental jazz structures and then making it accessible by drawing well-crafted pop songs out of the unlikely source material. The group only played four songs, but it was enough to reestablish its reputation as one of Denver’s most interesting and exciting bands.
Slight Harp played a short set, this time with a guitar to augment its flowing atmospheres. Expanding the boundaries of post rock, the group plays with sounds the way most bands play instruments. With live samples taken from records, synths, theremin and guitar, the members of Slight Harp may not always come up with something accessible to folks accustomed to listening to three-and-a-half minute songs on the radio, but the group is forging its own aesthetic vision.
The Vivian Girls from New York City were up next. Drawing inspiration from the Phil Spector-produced girl groups of the ‘60s, the threesome’s vocal harmonies were swimming in reverb. And while it came off as a bit overdone, the effect fit the music, which recalled post-punk-era Slits with more direction.
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Following the Vivian Girls was Dugout Canoe, a one-man band who plays drums, guitar, trumpet and sings. Twin looping stations helped bring all of the elements together to form lo-fi, delicate, Daniel Lanois-esque pop. The vocals, imperfect by ProTools-altered pop standards, expressed emotions in a way that something too smoothed over never can. The layering seemed deceptively simple, but the sound was spacious and full, resulting in music that’s just a little too original and vital to fit well into a world where polish is king.
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With respect to the increasingly late hour, Milton Melvin Croissant III closed with an extremely short set that never skimped on delivering the raw emotionalism of his songs. He opened with an uplifting, psych pop song that conjured images of tropical climes, drinking coconut juice straight from the source, followed by a tune in which he played his guitar like a percussive instrument that then morphed into a new Arabian funk number—like Dead Can Dance creating the Middle Eastern cognate to dub -- and closed his set with the epic “High Plains Gothic,” one of his most powerful songs. Even though the ending came off the rails, it hardly mattered as he was clearly caught up in the moment.
-- Tom Murphy
Personal Bias: I think Rhinoceropolis always hosts some of the most innovative music in the underground from Denver or elsewhere. Random Detail: Fissure Mystic's Fez Guzman and Taylor Evans-Rice’s parents showed up. By the Way: Dugout Canoe will have his new album out when he gets back from tour.