While the debate rages about whether or not Denver has a "sound," most artists probably just don't give a damn. Instead of trying to fit bands into certain categories or genres, we have rounded up nine great Denver bands that seem particularly difficult to pigeonhole — though we did try our best, offering readers combinations of labels to help them to navigate the diverse and colorful garden that is Denver music. So whether you're a fan of crazy psycho-dub-slap or semiotic-lounge, check it out.
1. The Milk Blossoms
Beatboxing might call to mind either old school hip-hop à la Wild Style or that one gal laying the beat down for your college's a cappella team. In the Milk Blossoms, beatboxing propels music that somehow combines those two references and more. Drawing both from hip-hop-inflected neo-soul (though no rapping's to be had) and the sweet, well-crafted harmonies of vocal pop music, the Blossoms make music that's hard to pin down but instantly accessible.
2. Joshua Trinidad Trio
Trumpeter Joshua Trinidad creates icy, ambient music reminiscent of the types of records put out by German label ECM. Trinidad truly lets his music breathe, often sounding only a handful of carefully improvised notes over a shimmering guitar and drum accompaniment. We'll let Wynton Marsalis debate whether it's "jazz," but one thing is certain: In breaking down musical boundaries, Trinidad and company certainly create slowly shifting moods and musical emotions.
3. The Other Black
Though the Other Black is on hiatus, due in part to lead singer Wesley Watkins devoting his time to playing trumpet with the Night Sweats, few Denver bands have as ambitious a take on the cross-pollination of musical styles. Swelling to upwards of 24 bandmembers, the Other Black pays clear homage to the sprawling R&B ensembles of the '60s and '70s led by the likes of Sly Stone and James Brown, while adding a healthy dose of hip-hop, an Afrobeat-inspired horn section, and a touch of reggae.
Though eliding easy definition, this massive anonymous ensemble has rightfully earned a spot as one of Denver's best bands to see live, a testament to its ability to wed experimentation and noise — including some unexpected sampling — with propulsive rhythms that drive right to the listeners' core. Who else besides Itchy-O could make your ass shake while staging a sampled conversation between what sounds like Gollum and a disgruntled heifer (see 1:15 in above video).
Trumpeter Shane Endsley's recent move back to his home town of Denver puts this stylistically elusive band on this Denver list. Comfortable in jazz harmonics and improvisation, the band refuses to be confined to that genre. Shifting time signatures, for example, recall both prog rock and twentieth-century classical music. Now the band's recent collaboration with electronic producer Daedelus points to the almost technological precision with which it performs in any genre.
julien doesn't sound like the Internet; it sounds like a particular form of unrelenting happiness only the Internet is powerful enough to promise, or impose. To grime, jungle and hardstyle — styles whose face-paced transmission of rhythmic information strikes a natural affinity with digital life — julian's David Winkler adds pop timbers and harmonies, unorthodox found-sound samples, and his own rhythmic ideas.
Like housemate David of julien — both live in DIY space Rhinoceropolis — 2kwateva's Coleman Mummery makes music closely tied to technology. But where julien sounds like an Internet "ideal," 2kwateva crosses the sounds enabled by contemporary technology — he records all his music on his iPhone — with the limitations of the human, including his strained falsetto voice. Lo-fi yet hi-tech, 2kwateva unites pop and noise sensibilities with a wide swath of electronic genres.
8. Lordz of Posh
The Lordz of Posh may be on terminal pause, but their one-of-a-kind voice warrants mention on this list.
Poshlordz Mauricio and Mason rap about fame, God and technology over murky trap productions with their slow, sludgy and monotone vocal deliveries flitting between irony and vulnerability, exposing an ambivalence toward the the nihilistic promise of satisfaction — if not salvation — proposed by so much "mainstream" trap. But it is not that they reject or invert the promise of pleasure and consumerism. Rather, aided by copious amounts of religious, specifically Catholic, imagery in their videos and performances, they ritualize it, turning their art into a refuge that teeters on the void.
9. Pre-teen O.D.
A cheeky mix of "high" and "low" art, Pre-teen O.D. makes little effort to meet listeners in the "middle," harmonizing saxophone and clarinet for songs that are only seconds long, soundtracking, with gleeful dissonance, the impending cartoon apocalypse.
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