Twelve Earth-Shattering Denver Experimental Bands of 2016

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7. Sister Grotto
2016 Album: You Don't Have to Be a House to Be Haunted

Madeline Johnston has refined her sound in various projects over the years. With Sister Grotto, she's found a vehicle for her unique blend of delicacy and intensity. On the 2016 album You Don't Have to Be a House to Be Haunted, Johnston employs all of the sounds she's developed with this project to powerful effect. Whether with her deeply affecting, breathy vocals, synths, guitar, strings or percussion, Johnston stitches simple elements together to invade the psyche in a way that is as affecting as her album's title.

8. Solypsis
2016 Album: Ambient/Noise/Drone 7 

With Solypsis, James Miller has been incredibly prolific, releasing albums on multiple experimental music labels. No matter the genre, Miller knows how to sculpt industrial music. Technology Scum Records released a set of seven of Miller's songs as the seventh edition of its Ambient/Noise/Drone series. Think the most abstract end of Slowdive and completely organic Daniel Lanois, and you get the idea.

9. Thug Entrancer
2016 Album: Arcology

In writing the music for what would become the new Thug Entrancer album, Ryan McRyhew tried to avoid any influence from the broader music world. It was a kind of unplugging in an era where everything seems to be nodding to something else in the music and art world. The result: a brilliant electronic-music album that sounds like the on-board set list for future interstellar flights.

10. Tollund Men
2016 Album: Autoerotik

It had been close to three years since lo-fi industrial band Tollund Men last performed live in Denver, but in the summer of 2016, the Men returned. Since the project's 2011 debut, it had transformed from a beloved underground darkwave band into an international phenomenon with rare releases garnering unusually high profits on the resale market. So it's only fitting that Tollund Men would drop an album called Autoerotik and a tour album in 2016. Both, of course, are out of print, but there's an official download site. Although the group is best experienced live, you can still check out its music on YouTube or track down increasingly rare official releases from what has already become a cult band.

11. Voight
2016 Album: Malware

In the year and a half since Voight debuted, opening for the Soft Moon, it went from unabashed, albeit talented, imitators of A Place to Bury Strangers and Suicide to charting its own brand of dark, industrial post-punk. The edgy urgency of Malware is a leap forward from the band's early singles.

12. Weird Al Qaida
2016 Album: Plastic Family

Part electronic, part bizarro acoustic psychedelic rock, one could compare Weird Al Qaida's 2016 album Plastic Family to something that might have happened had Sun City Girls, Butthole Surfers and Legendary Pink Dots collaborated on an album to freak themselves out a little. Weird Al Qaida plays out live once in a while, and while its members don't seem like aliens from another dimension, the music sounds like it could be.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.