Despite there only being 88 keys on a piano, and only eight notes in an octave, new combinations of those finite number of notes keep emerging with an ongoing supply of innovative new music. Styles are created, revisited, modified, combined - a constant stream of change and evolution. Last night the Hi-Dive hosted a trio of different but innovative bands that made for a memorable night from beginning to end. Each band combined a wide range of influences and fresh thinking to put together a great show.
The night began with local Denver electro-soul group Young Pharaohs. The trio of Ben Martin (vocals, synth), Sam Martin (synth, controller, effects) and Charlie Kern (synth, controller, effects) fused together modern R&B with an experimental approach to a variety of electronic music, creating a future forward sound paired with soulful vocal delivery. The group combined ambient, slow to mid-tempo bass heavy dance music with Ben Martin's emotive vocals. This group was formally known as King Mob, which had the same approach but with what seemed to me a bigger experimental electronic as opposed to R&B influence, but as Young Pharaohs, they've seemed to really embrace the soulful aspect of their music.
Young Pharaohs began their set by unveiling new material right away. They began with a very ambient, deliberately slow building, psychedelic-dream opener titled "Dark Temple", that transitioned into a mellow but forceful hip-hop/R&B inspired piece called "I Don't Wanna Be One With The World". Next came "Mr. 100" a piece that juxtaposed an uptempo, thumping beat with ethereal pads and half-tempo R&B vocals. Then came a trio of songs I've heard performed as King Mob - "The Purpose", "You Remember" and "Moonchild", all songs where the R&B influence this time around was accentuated with the context of the previous songs. The final song, "Put Your Love In My Hands" had an excellent bouncy and funky beat full of big bass and groove that backed a very catchy soulful melody. The continued evolution of this group is welcome, as their R&B influenced identity is much more clear, bringing a dose of soul to the electronic music scene.
Up next was Ava Luna from Brooklyn. This soulful indie rock band featured Ethan Bassford (bass), Felicia Douglass (vocals, synthesizer), Julian Fader (drums), Carlos Hernandez (vocals, guitar, synthesizer), Becca Kauffman (vocals), and Nathan Tompkins (synthesizer), who created a blend of sounds so incredible, it made my imagination run wild. I imagined an acapella group on a street corner a little over fifty years ago, creating beautiful doo-wop style close harmonies with their voices. I imagined them transported to the future, where they discovered and fervently studied the relationship between mathematics and rock music. I imagined when they came together to form a band, that they took the vintage style soul vocals and combined them with their exploratory rock - a musical combination that stimulates the mind, body and soul.
That's what started to cross my mind as Ava Luna began their set with a complex start-stop drum pattern that backed intricate but soulful three-part harmony. Suddenly rhythmic but scattered-in-tone bass, wild synth melodies and stabs, and noisy guitar added layers to the ever-building sound. Next came a psychedelic funk odyssey that intertwined with more contemporary doo-wop blended together with irregular time-signatures and patterns. Even their more deceivingly simple soulful songs were laboriously intricate - each vocalist could hold their own on delivery and command the audiences' attention, but complex backing instrumentation always stealthily drove that sound forward.
Much of their set included not yet released material, as a full length Ava Luna album is just a couple weeks away from release. From their performance, however, it seems it'll likely be an album that will get year-long replay, as the songs were so well written yet so intricate that although they were initially striking, I'm sure the songs will constantly reveal new layers of complexity on each repeated listen. A couple stand-out songs that I did recognize already have that effect, "Clips" from the Services EP, and their single "Wrenning Day". The live version of "Wrenning Day" had a breathtaking and boggling instrumental breakdown addition to it that really revealed the band's instrumental skill. This band's cerebral soul has captivating smooth tension that is incredible to hear and offers a lot to appreciate - definitely check out Ava Luna.
Finally, Twin Sister took the stage for the night's headlining set. I'd seen Twin Sister not long ago, and I was happy to see this five-piece band return. Andrea Estella (vocals), Dev Gupta (keyboards), Gabe D'Amico (bass,guitar), Eric Cardona (vocals, guitar, keyboard, drummable sample pad), and Bryan Ujueta (drums) were back delivering more of their multi-influenced indie pop. Seeing this band do a full headlining set meant being able to see them at their full, diverse range - a mix of psychedelic influenced vintage dream-pop, disco, and various forms of rock (desert rock, krautrock, funk, and post-rock) paired with unique psych-lounge vocals.
Their set began with four currently available songs, starting with the lounge-pop styled "Meet The Frownies" from Shaking Through Volume 1 and transitioning smoothly into the disco dance song "Bad Street" from In Heaven. The first time I saw Twin Sister they experimented with blending songs smoothly into each other to keep a flowing set, so it was nice to see them continue that. "Lady Daydream" from Color Your Life came next and transitioned smoothly into "Spain", both playing off the sort of classic country/desert rock vibe very well, but with a well defined transition that set the pieces apart from each other.
The next two pieces were a glimpse at what future offerings Twin Sister has down the road. The first song was called "The Power of Two" and incorporated a strong funk influence. The second piece, called "Guide Me", was a more soulful song made dreamier with the absence of drums, instead having Bryan Ujueta move to play synth instead. It seems no matter how many different styles the band chooses to incorporate into their sound, they can still maintain a distinct identity because they tailor each style to their own characteristic sound so well.
|Twin Sister & Ava Luna|
The rest of Twin Sister's set incorporated an even mix of songs from In Heaven and Color Your Life, seemingly focusing on the more dream-pop oriented songs in their repertoire. It was cool seeing the shuffling of instruments among band members on stage - sometimes even in mid-song. Eric Cardona was busy switching between guitar, keyboards, and an interesting way of drumming melodies from a sample pad, all the while contributing a lot to vocals. Gabe D'Amico often switched between bass and guitar, even playing the guitar while it was laying on the ground so he could quickly switch to bass. For a finale, Twin Sister played an epic extended version of "The Other Side of Your Face" that had strong krautrock influences and ended with members of Ava Luna joining along in a jam session for an explosive end. Because there are so many influences to Twin Sister's sound, I highly recommend fans of rock and pop to check out the range and unique style of this band.
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