Saxophones don't find their way into electronic music all that often: There's 808 State, some Nils Petter Molvaer remix albums, and as far as I'd known, not much else.
Now you can place Paul Riola high up on the list. The Denver renaissance musician, best known for his work with Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and his own improvisational jazz Bottesini Project, brought his latest group to the Modbo on Saturday night, and it was pretty revelatory.
Cellar Door consists of Riola on sax, electronics, beats and samples, Yong Bakos on keyboards, and Thomas Chester Murray on guitar. (Bassist Tim Hochman didn't make it down for Saturday's performance.)
Employing a KAOSS pad and more than a dozen stomp boxes and signal processors, the trio proved itself adept at creating expansive — as in 30-minute-plus — soundscapes that combine the best aspects of down-tempo DJing and improvisational spontaneity.
Riola also periodically searched YouTube, sampling audio from hip-hop artists, movie dialogue and a couple African chants. The result was a droney but rhythmic pan-cultural mix, the kind of thing Krautrock pioneers Can liked to refer to as "ethnic forgeries."
Other weekend highlights included Changing Colors' elegiac rendition of "Bird on the Wire" in Acacia Park — nothing like a Leonard Cohen dirge to get a Saturday night party started, I always say — as well as Twin Guns blowing the roof off the Zodiac.
Since I already went on about the New York City garage-punk duo in last week's interview, I'll just add that they do a great version of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" and that their own song, "The End of the Ride," would be a big hit if there was still something like MTV's 120 Minutes to play it. I should also put in a good word for Denver-based openers the Omens, a catchy punk-rock band whose smirky bassist thanked the crowd for staying out late on a Saturday night here in a town where we've all got church in the morning.
The coming weekend offers more reasons to bow before the altar of live music, beginning with the severely talented Molly Boyles & Lipstick Voodoo making their Stargazers debut on Friday night. The free show will also feature DJ PoPs spinning rare '60s and '70s grooves between sets, so you can't go wrong, really.
On Saturday, don't miss local harder-than-hardcore heroes the Ingrates on a bill with Springs metal band the Last Supper at Zodiac. Please note that this is, in fact, a reunion of the local Last Supper, not the Canadian one I initially reported in this column. My apologies for any indigestion resulting from the error.
Then on Monday, it's a de facto Loverleigh reunion as cellist Lisa Show returns from Denver to play with Mike Stephens and friends at Shugas. It's free, all-ages, and music starts at 9.
As for weird outta-town shows, the week's novelty pick goes to Devo playing the Denver County Fair this coming Saturday. As it happens, I'm just in the middle of reading Simon Reynolds' interview with Devo's Gerald Casale in the post-punk history Totally Wired, and he seems like a pretty deep guy, especially when he recalls witnessing a friend being shot at Kent State. That said, I've always found Devo more interesting as a concept than a band, but your mileage may vary. And hey, there'll be cows, right?