Review: Escapism's 'Side A' Is Electro Ambient & Meditatively Engaging Music

By: Allan Tellis

Colorado’s Escapism play with textures of sound in diverse and surreal ways. On the project’s latest record, Side A, Escapism work with distorted sounds and lighter melodic harmonies with an added element of vocalization to make their tunes interesting and exciting. Escapism is a project fronted by Colorado’s Evan Montoya and signed to Abandon Love in Seattle, Washington.

Although the album is cohesive and most registers under a singular sound, there is enough diversity between the tracks to engage listeners for the long, twenty-song record. The majority of the album is down-tempo, meditatively engaging music that is soothing and dreamlike. Moments like the ending of the record “Sleven,” however, disrupt the dream sequence, with upbeat bass lines inspiring dancing, and creating balance within the album. There are also tunes that feature heavy use of acoustic work, like “I Remember Every Swim” and “Danielle Tells,” which give the listener a break from the more electronic sounds pervasive throughout the rest of the record.

Evan Montoya.

Evan Montoya.

If you are into ambient music and have an ear for experimental arrangement and non-traditional song formatting, Escapism may be exactly what you’re looking for. Escapism are currently on tour, and are even heading overseas to South Korea for some performances. Said Montoya about Escapism’s travel plans, “[We’re] working on playing a few more shows in Denver this year and opening up for a few more acts before we head to Germany, and then South Korea for a few dive bar type shows! Should be fun.”

Escapism also have a music video set to release at the end of August, so make sure to check back for that by keeping up with them here.

-Allan

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Denver's Indie Shoegaze Outfit Corsicana Play The Mercury Cafe This Thursday

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Denver’s Corsicana is the brainchild of 18-year-old Ben Pisano, who started the project in 2014 while still in highschool. With influences including Bon Iver, Death Cab for Cutie, Sufjan Stevens, and Tycho, Corsicana has evolved into a three-piece band live, with atmospheric soundscapes and a shoegaze ambience. Pisano (guitar/vocals) is accompanied by members Amos Chase (drums/synth) and Ryan Skiles (bass) for performances. And speaking of shows, you can catch this crew this Thursday (01/19) at The Mercury Cafe in Denver.

Ben Pisano of Corsicana. 

Ben Pisano of Corsicana. 

Pisano has recorded two EPs under Corsicana, the second of which caught the attention of Pandora Radio and is featured in the online radio’s catalogue. In September of 2016, Corsicana’s first full-length album Haven was released, a work which Pisano recorded himself in full as well. After the release of Haven last fall, Corsicana found themselves touring the Pacific Northwest and getting radio play on CPR’s OpenAir.

Check out Corsicana’s Haven:

Following their show at The Mercury Cafe this week, you can keep up with Corsicana’s 2017 gig schedule here. Whether you peep this ambient indie act digitally or at their show this Thursday, this is a band starting off the year with some sweet buzz from their release last fall, so lend them an ear. Listen to more Corsicana on their Bandcamp page.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

'Colorado Sings Colorado'- Our December Spotify Playlist

By: Joliene Adams

Paper Bird knows what I mean. We both get it. Coloradoans LOVE Colorado. With plenty of good reason. This month's playlist is a love note to you Colorado, and all the music scene does to stoke fires in the hearts and minds of its people. To honor that love Colorado artists also have for their art and the people who listen, here’s our playlist of no-shame-sing-your-heart-out-loud for Colorado. We’re listening and thank you!  

BolderBeat's 'Colorado Sings Colorado' Playlist:

1. DéCollage, Magnetize (2016), “Denver Hustle”

DéCollage is one of those rare, exceptional beasts whose capacity for innovation is matched by their ability to effectively, cohesively render it on repeat. Their knack is a multidimensional, sensorial experience. I wouldn’t call DéCollage stylistic minimalists, but just as the art form of décollage, (where you remove parts to create your art rather than to add like a collage) this group has a sharp sensibility for which parts to leave in, and all the more importantly, which to leave out. They achieve stylistic versatility across and within songs without giving way to clutter.

There’s also something definitively fashionable about DéCollage’s music. This is in no way to trivialize it or call it fleeting. Quite the opposite. It’s so damn fashionable because it picks up on the numerous textures, trends, and facets available in contemporary and past pop to render a whole new thing from all these roots. “Denver Hustle” sounds runway ready. “Hold that pose,” they lyrically interject, “Hustle, hustle, hustle. Shine, shine. Summer, summer. Glow, glow, glow, glow.” Get it girl, get it.

2. Bop Skizzum, Coloradical (2012), “Coloradical”

What we have here is unadulterated funk’n’roll. This band is eight members thick and it sounds like it. “Coloradical” is fit to start a spontaneous street parade from the second the percussion hits. Crunchy guitar and saxophone raise the bar of this tune, and keep the voracious good times spiraling upwards.

I’ve always prided myself on an immense capacity for fun, and Bop Skizzum renders that passion musically. Though disbanded as of Valentine’s Day, 2014, Bop Skizzum made the final cut of sixteen potential songs found of Colorado musicians playing Colorado-themed music because: A) Colorado lives for the funk; dies for the funk and B) This tune is fun as hell. May the horn section and keys bring the funk to the fore always.

3. Mesita, With Love, from Laniakea (2016), “Chronolorado”

The piano hit me like a rearview mirror. Reflective. You can see forward past it, backwards through it, but both through the ultimate view of now. Emotively drift off to the gentle unfolding of instrumental minimalism on this track. And no worries: the thematically, existentially-heavy material will lighten your load like a backpack lifted from the shoulders at a journey’s end. All in due time, Chronolorado.

4. Head for the Hills, Robbers Roost (2007), “Telluride Song”

Appropriately, we have one of Colorado’s most popular bluegrass bands of the day singing about Telluride. Joe Lessard’s lovely fiddle, (which I’ve heard described as a violin you can spill beer on) gently brings you in. Solo vocals give way to echoing ones as the fiddle breaks things down hard and shows exactly how beer might get spilled on it, being played with such exuberant force and all. Sam Parks’ mandolin definitely shows how to roshambo right proper all the same too. This is a song the whole family will tap their feet to at the farmer’s market or a bluegrass fest. Classic Colorado for everyone.

5. Fed Rez, Folk Rock (2016), “Danver”

Let’s play a word association game. I’ll say a word, and you say out loud the first word that comes to your mind. Your word is: Denver.

What’d you come up with? I’ll hedge my bets it wasn’t diversity.

Fed Rez brings a Chicano/Mexican contingent into their work heavily on this number, both linguistically and culturally. And the song’s as full of food as a belly on Thanksgiving. “Danver” doesn’t eliminate your appreciation of the song as a listener if you don’t happen to know what a pot of hot posole is or chicken mole either. But if you do, I bet your stomach’s growling.

Fed Rez refer to themselves as allegorical hip-hop. Whatever the precise allegory is on “Danver,” food and location are definitive themes, as you ride around Westwood and Athmar Park to Green Valley Ranch and Park Hill, effectively cruising Denver with the Fed Rez Mile High City natives.

6. Grant Farm, Grant Farm (2012), “Funky Boulder”

This one sure sounds like the Boulder I know and love. As with a number of songs that made this playlist cut, this one’s good for dancing away or driving down a road, hand out the window doing that thing where you swerve and wave it against the force of the wind. But keep an ear- the pace of this song keeps at a clip that the brief escalating drum builds with a charging guitar that could easily get you caught speeding. Ride on you mountain roads.

7. The Good Time Travelers, The Good Time Travelers (2016), “Colorado”

My favorite moment on this tune is a very specific, but subtly calling one. “Getting high in the country, above the tree line, my head’s in the clouds. Getting low, in the ______.” Play another word game with me. What goes there? I’d go with valley. The Good Time Travelers go with canyon. And that’s so Colorado of them! This one’s a lighter, more reflective piece. The acoustic singer/songwriter duo keeps it simple and true. It’s an honest homage to home sweet home.

8. Hang Rounders, Bring Your Sister (2015), “I-70 Westbound”

Hang Rounders hang their hats on a simple foundation of guitar, pedal steel, bass, banjo, tenor guitar, drums, backup vocals, fiddle, and the proclamation that they are best heard live and danced to. Sonically? Good old fashioned country western. Thematically? Good old fashioned country western. Pick a highway, any highway. Pick a past or current flame… aim for one you’d most want to hear say or say to, “Daddy, would you please come home?” Add 3AM and snowing literally, or as metaphor, and you arrive at the same place as the listener: memories and/or daydreams of flying down that chosen road toward a chance of love. Nostalgia.

9. Paper Bird, When the River Took Flight (2010), “Colorado”

“Colorado! It’s your mother’s favorite state!”

Paper Bird represent something a lot of folks think of when they think Colorado music: bluegrass, Americana, and rootsy. They inject a sense of humor into this one, hitting the nail on the head that you’ll all whoop and yell “Colorado!” with joy when you make it here, but in all honesty? “No offense, but we won’t miss you when you’re gone.”

Caleb Summeril’s banjo strums undergird harmonica solos with Paul DeHaven’s guitar make you want to take a turn on the dance floor as each instrument takes it’s turn at the forefront. This is good mountain town porch music to the hilt. They ask you to sing along, and that’s a gas. I sang proudly in the shower to this tune more than any other jam, so that’s absolutely something. Coloradans are nuts for Colorado and Paper Bird sings it proudly.

10. Dechen Hawk, Soul Sessions (2012), “My Hometown”

Dechen Hawk’s hometown is Boulder. So this one’s a love song that is, well, just that: a love song. It just happens to take place in his hometown. References to the city don’t come up, but this well known Front Range artist is a staple of a vital, vibrant component of the local music scene. Our solo artist goes soft and soulful with variations in vocal delivery that keep this track interesting while showcasing a certain diligence of Hawk’s songwriting and musical composition abilities. The ultimately cheery melody alongside the sometimes lamenting lyrical content lend an authenticity and a fresh uplift, despite sometimes hard feelings. And that’s love.

11. Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Even Better Times (2014), “Denver Rock City”

“Denver Rock City” comes at you straight with punk’n’party roll. They sing of changes Denver’s undergone or undergoing in the same lyrical breath as they sing of a stubborn personal refusal to change one’s ways or intentions. They tell you flat out, “And I know it’s a shame South Broadway is gone, but we’re all still kickin’ man- the party’s never gonna stop.” Bud Bronson & The Good Timers full-bodied guitar with rock rolling drums brings the perfect backdrop to keep said party going musically without you ever having to reduce yourself to vodka redbull to do it. They even got me to give it up for John Elway without thinking twice, and I’ve never seen The Denver Broncos play. Live or on television.

12. Lotus, Nomad (2005), “Colorado”

Get in the recliner, chez lounge, or down on the ground and lay on your back because it’s time to float off into full relaxation mode. Mike Greenfield’s light whisking of brushes on the drums and tender splashes on the cymbals combined with Luke Miller and Mike Rempel’s warm and restful guitar chords take you there inherently. It’s an instrumental love homage to Colorado. Considering both the song title, and this track’s downtempo lounge music vibe, you can easily imagine yourself wandering on a warm Colorado summer on a sunset mountain trail with zero of effort (either in imagining, or in physical labor). Chill.

13. Small Hands, This is Our Colorado (Single, 2011), “This is Our Colorado”

Small Hands’ (aka Richie Wallace’s) first two influences listed on Facebook are Hunter S. Thompson and Wu-Tang Clang. Chances are good that could be someone from many places, but any Coloradoan familiar with its literary and musical ties know the two are staples on the scene. If you’re even remotely familiar with the Boulder area, Small Hands will give you known coordinates that stimulate crisp mental visuals in no time. If you’re not familiar with it whatsoever, carefully crafted and accessible lyricism create a mental picture that won’t have you missing out on the joyride: “Lookin’ at the mountain silhouette… sky ahead, electric blue… Towering rocks tempting you to climb… Yellow aspen like fire in a sea of pine…” The song cruises and lets the visuals seep through its hip-hop poetics and uncomplicated, rich electronic and drum backbeats. Smooth.

Make sure to follow us on Spotify to take a listen to this playlist and more Colorado music playlists at BolderBeat.

-Joliene

All songs per the artists featured.

Helicopterbearshark: The Master of a One-Man-Band

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Helicopterbearshark is one talented dude.

When I say “he’s a one-man-band,” what do you think of? Maybe you imagine a guy on a kick drum with a banjo and a harmonica. Or maybe he has an accordion in hand and a cymbal hat on his back. Or maybe you think of this (you weirdo).

But whatever you imagine a one-man-band to look or sound like, Boulder musician Ryan O’Malley and his solo project Helicopterbearshark will change your one-man-band perceptions. And in this case, for the better. This guy rocks.

The HBS setup. Photo Credit: Becky Guidera

The HBS setup. Photo Credit: Becky Guidera

On the first Wednesday of every month, HBS has a residency at the Kitchen Next Door. You can see O’Malley setting up his collective of instruments near the wall across from the community table: a kick and a snare, an electric guitar, a saxophone, a keyboard, and a complex-looking loop pedal station

I’ve seen O’Malley play with several Boulder bands like Whiskey Autumn, Natural Motives, & Fleedami. I even name-dropped him in this article a few months back. But in those capacities, he was always guest-spotting on saxophone. After watching just one Helicopterbearshark performance, I realized O’Malley is a sovereign of multiple instruments. Headphones on and eyes closed, O'Malley looped the start of a song with keyboard sounds and then slung his guitar over his shoulder to add a few chords into the mix, all before moving on to record vocal harmonies and tap out a snare beat. It's impossible not to be engaged in his every move.

sax-y. Photo Credit: Becky Guidera

sax-y. Photo Credit: Becky Guidera

O’Malley describes Helicopterbearshark’s sound as “ambient, jazz, electronic mishmash”. There are elements of these genres in his playing, but Helicopterbearshark is really a project that has to be seen to be best described. After all, O’Malley’s live performance is half the fun. Watching him move from instrument to instrument is entrancing, and the synchronized red light that illuminates his kick drum head with every beat pulls you in closer, like a hypnotizing heartbeat. Sure, it’s awesome to listen to HBS over your crispy garlic smashers, but actually watching O’Malley masterfully move from instrument to instrument is the real treat of the entire Helicopterbearshark experience.

So the next time you’re in the mood to watch one guy produce what sounds like a full band of jazzy, electronic awesomeness, catch a Helictoperbearkshark set. You can see where HBS plays next here. And listen to Helicopterbearshark here.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.