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Denver, CO | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

Denver, CO | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Rock Post-rock




"Louder than words"

Pop musicians like to make things easy on their audiences, relying on time-tested formulas that include verse-chorus song structures, predictable chord changes, and sing-along vocal hooks. But out there on the margins, things can get a little more challenging, as musicians experiment with the "through-composed" approach of "serious" classical music, or abandon composition entirely while venturing into more ambient, art-damaged terrain.

In that context, Denver musician Enrique Jimenez's preferences are basically schizophrenic.

"As a listener, I personally gravitate toward stuff that repeats," says the lead guitarist in the Denver instrumental band Altas. "But as a composer, I don't like to repeat things. Which is odd, I know."

Altas integrate both approaches into their wordless soundscapes, which can at times echo the shifting dynamics of Japanese "post-rock" band Mono, the Teutonic trance of Can, or the spaciest sonic excursions of early Pink Floyd. Think Steve Reich meets Mogwai. Or don't think at all and just listen.

"With what we do, there's a balance between repetition and moving the parts forward as a composition," says Jimenez, who's a huge fan of hip-hop production team Blue Sky Black Death, as well as fellow instrumental bands Pelican and Russian Circles. "We try not to dive too much into the welded-together, riff-based type of post-metal that we sometimes get identified with."

Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Jimenez moved to Colorado to study music, film and video production at the Art Institute in Denver. It was here that he and his brother, drummer Israel Jimenez, joined forces with a second guitarist, Juan Carlos Flores. In 2009, they released the self-produced, effects-laden EP Cortometraje, under the band name Panal S.A. de C.V., which translates to "Anonymous Society of Variable Capital."

"It's a business designation that a lot of Latin American countries use, particularly in Mexico," explains Enrique. "But, obviously, that name came with a lot of issues. 'Panal' means 'honeycomb' in Spanish, but only if there's no tilde at the end. Add that little bit of punctuation and it's the difference between 'honeycomb' and 'diaper.'"

So the band rechristened itself Altas (which is Spanish for "heights") and brought onboard keyboardist/electronicist Meaghan Lillis and part-time bassist Amanda Evans, who have dramatically expanded the group's sound in the process.

"We didn't change directions, so much as improve on what we were doing," says Enrique. "When we were playing with Panal, we had touches of keyboards in the music, but that element didn't get fully explored. Luckily, we've been able to work with Megan, who's classically trained. So there are a lot more textures in terms of the synth and ambient parts."

Altas' full-length debut album, Epoca De Bestias, was released last fall. Produced by Enrique and Nick Sullivan, who's picked up a couple of Grammys for his work with Los Lobos, it's arguably among the most engaging instrumental rock albums in recent memory.

Onstage at SXSW earlier this year, the band demonstrated live what can happen when words don't get in the way. Ignoring a microphone at the front of the stage, they crafted a series of highly melodic, ever-shifting songs. Throughout the set, they were either looking down at their instruments or staring out into space, halfway to some place no one else could see.

"Instrumental music may not be the most high-profile type of music, but there's definitely an audience for it," insists Enrique, pointing to the burgeoning success of electronic dance music.

The guitarist also draws inspiration from acts in Mexico and Latin America. "It's a diverse scene down there," he says. "A lot of those guys are making post-rock music, because it's not bound to language, which makes it a little bit easier to get a bigger audience internationally."

As for bands with vocals, Jimenez highly recommends Mexico's Descartes a Kant — "they're really progressive and they really have these crazy song structures" — and Colombia's La MiniTK del Miedo. "I love how they're combining the traditional cumbia and gothic music. It's just very spooky and it's really cool. So those are the kind of things that tend to show up in my musical palette."

That said, the guitarist remains committed to the band's instrumental approach, as well as its more concise, if no less confusing, name.

"It's shorter, it's easier to say, and it fits on posters," says Jimenez. "But now, you know, people are always confusing it with 'Atlas.' If English is your first language, your eyes and your brain automatically switch those letters. It happens all the time." - Colorado Springs Independent

"Altas at Syntax Physic Opera – 01/23/2015"

This past Friday night I stopped by one of my favorite venues in Denver (Syntax Physic Opera) to catch a set by one of my favorite bands in Denver (Altas). You pretty much can’t ask for a better Friday evening, right?

Altas goes beyond the conventional walls of instrumental rock. Their most recent release (Epoca De Bestias) is a masterful effort that deserves your full attention. However, you cannot stop there. To really experience Altas, you need to see them live. And I don’t use the word ‘experience’ generically because an Altas live set is exactly that…an encompassing experience of both sense and emotion. Their songs are comprised of warm textures, lucid fluidity and a steady melodic bed laying upon a forceful, driving and powerful rock foundation. Altas should definitely be on the top of your ‘must-see’ list. - CoScene Blog

"The 31 Best Colorado Albums of 2014"

Altas, Epoca de Bestias - When engineer and producer Nick Sullivan worked with Altas to pare the band's sound down to the essentials, he helped turn already excellent material into a focused and impactful album. While certainly cinematic, these songs carry you through emotional experiences in a way that doesn't happen nearly enough with instrumental rock. Exultation, joy, peril, excitement, tranquility, uncertainty, affirmation, confidence, urgency: All of that and more is what you'll experience listening to this record. While simplifying its aesthetic slightly, Altas has actually stretched its songwriting wings on this debut full-length. - Westword

"Top Up-And-Coming Denver Bands Of 2014"

In October, Altas released their debut full-length album, “Epoca de Bestias.” An instrumental post-rock triumph, Altas has spent several years honing their craft. Listening to “Epoca de Bestias,” the time and effort Altas invested into their work is clear. The quartet creates unique, thought-provoking music that’s beautiful and inspired. Don’t miss the opportunity to catch Altas perform live. - CBS Denver

"Altas – “Aokigahara” from Epoca De Bestias"

Named after the infamous “suicide forest” at the foot of Mt. Fuji, this song isn’t melancholy or particularly dark. It does, however, combine rich atmospheres with intricate melodies and rhythms. To call it post-rock doesn’t really do justice to what this song really is. It is cinematic, it is instrumental but it doesn’t spend too long establishing a mood, it does creative a musical narrative with layers of sound that work not on top of each other but with each other. - GutterBubbles

"Altas release their debut album tonight at the Hi-Dive"

When a band releases their debut album, a mountain of expectations can build. The album must accomplish so much as a first-time release can make or break a band.

Tonight at the Hi-Dive, Denver experimental rock trio Altas will host a release party for their debut album, Epoca de Bestias. After several listens of their first full-length effort, Altas have quite a bit to celebrate with Epoca. The freshmen effort is a wholly fresh and thrilling composition, unique to the Mile High City’s music scene.

Epoca de Bestias occupies the same stratosphere as albums from artists such as Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai. Beautifully mastering the ability to convey a story without lyrics, the first album from Altas is engrossing and powerful. Westword’s Tom Murphy said it perfectly earlier this week when he commented, “Altas's songs have always suggested a cinematic narrative and vivid imagery.” The album’s fourth track, “Black Sand,” embodies this sentiment, sounding as though it should have scored the 2010 film Black Swan. Additionally, “Superfund,” Epoca’s closing track, would be the ideal accompaniment for a sci-fi, post-apocalypse movie.

Enrique Jimenez, Altas guitar player, also shared with the Westword that Epoca’s title is, “a reference to the age we live in.” Epoca de Bestias’ opening tracks, “Altepetl” and “Aokigahara,” excel at capturing the intense fervor, endless changes and unyielding challenges of life in 2014.

In an exclusive interview with AXS last month, Altas shared a glimpse into the confidence the three members are developing in their abilities and creative process, “This album [Epoca de Bestias] is the culmination of us honing our sound over the course of the last few years. We've gotten to the point where we are more confident in what we're doing…” While it’s always refreshing to speak with a band that doesn’t imagine themselves to the greatest act in contemporary music, the band’s humility exposes the depth of their personal investment into their work. Epoca de Bestias manifests Altas’s incredible promise and talent. -

"Altas's Powerful New Album Anticipates the Destruction of the Human Race"

In the mid-2000s, guitarist Enrique Jimenez was playing outside the usual circuit of rock clubs and DIY spaces in town, on stages in northwest Aurora and southwest Denver. And that exploratory spirit has benefited his current band, Altas. Formerly known as Panal S.A. de C.V., Jimenez formed the band with his brother Israel on drums and Juan Carlos Flores playing additional guitars and keyboard. They changed the name to Altas (Spanish for "heights") in 2014 in order to usher in a new chapter of the group's history. Altas's debut full-length album, Epoca de Bestias ("The Age of Beasts"), which the band will release this Saturday with a show at the hi-dive, reflects the fruition of the trio's experiments in sound, songwriting, textures and arrangements. The music is entirely instrumental, but Altas's songs have always suggested a cinematic narrative and vivid imagery.

A co-release between Sailor Records (which is handling the physical product) and Altas's own OcasO imprint, Epoca de Bestias sounds vast, futuristic and menacing in the casual way of a large, mythological animal.

"It's a reference to the age we live in," says Jimenez about the album title. "We think we're highly evolved, and there's still a lot of base-level stuff going on everywhere, and it seems to keep on continuing. People killing people, people doing really horrible things to each other. Things that never seem to go away, no matter how civilized societies become. As a species, we can't seem to get past it. I don't know where that comes from or what a specific solution might be, but it's there.

"Until we're gone, I don't think that's going to stop," he continues. "Eventually our reign over this particular era is going to end. Just like every other species in any other era." That apocalyptic narrative plays out over the course of the new album. "The track order reflects that theme," notes Jimenez. "And it's kind of a journey through how we write music."
With song titles like "Aokigahara," "I Am the Night," "You Knew I Was a Snake" and "Superfund," it's clear that these guys have been pondering the fate of the human race as it embraces its own self-destruction. And yet anyone who has met the members of Altas knows they're not exactly a group of doomsayers; in fact, they're some of the most supportive members of the Denver music community. That spirit partly explains the special guests and collaborations for this album-release show.

Those guests include Meghan Lillis, formerly of Lightlooms, who played piano on the record, and Cherie Cobbs of Plume Varia. "It's not going to be your traditional vocal arrangement, but it's something we've wanted to do to try it out," says Jimenez. Josh Felice of Deep Grey will also provide visual accompaniment for the evocative songs. The result is sure to be an experience worthy of the band's lofty new name. - Westword


Epoca De Bestias - 2014



The phrase ‘instrumental rock’ brings a few cliches to mind: layered, wall-of-sound guitars; noodling solos; excessive song lengths. The Denver-based instrumental/electronic rock band Altas avoids these clichés. Instead Altas focuses on composing epic, tightly crafted songs with unique key changes and dynamic shifts that are galvanized with intricate electronic textures and coupled together with distinct melodic lines. This attention to detail and dedication has led to both local and national recognition, from the group’s recent stint as a finalist for Verizon’s Música Unsigned national discovery contest to being named one of CBS Denver’s “Top Up and Coming Denver Bands of 2014”. Altas is a band that has the talent and ambition to break the mold and create something truly distinctive and enduring.

Altas solidified in 2013 when the band began work on their debut album Epoca De Bestias but the roots of the band go back much further. Brothers Enrique (guitar, synthesizer programming, production) and Israel Jimenez (drums, composition) decided to pool their respective musical talents and formed the band Panal S.A. de C.V. in 2008. Developing a wide range of skill sets, which include Israel’s formal music education at CU Denver and Enrique’s pursuit of learning everything from synthesizer programming, light programming to live sound, the brothers began writing heavy instrumental rock with a melodic bent. After guitarist Juan Carlos Flores was introduced through an acquaintance, he quickly added keyboard duties to his role. The band went on to play every conceivable gig in the Denver area and beyond. From their first show in a Vietnamese billiard hall to The UMS & Westword Music Showcase; established venues in Kansas City & St. Louis to punk-rock clubs in Chicago.

Having developed a distinct set of songs that are winding and cinematic yet tuneful and well-structured as well as performed, toured and the released the EP, Cortometraje, the band decided to re-brand themselves as Altas,. Altas then recruited classically-trained pianist Meaghan Lillis, who now handles keyboard and synthesizer bass duties, to contribute to their 2014 debut full length album Epoca de Bestias. Produced by Enrique Jimenez and Nick Sullivan (who also recorded & mixed the album) and mastered by Joe Lambert in NYC (Pelican, Russian Circles), Epoca de Bestias is a meditation on the destruction of the human species and the culmination of Altas’ years of relentless songwriting, performing and experimentation. The band also developed their dynamic live show. Coupled with stadium-worthy lights and visual elements, it has become a signature aspect of their live performance. Their efforts have paid off, as Epoca de Bestias was named one of “The 31 Best Colorado Albums” by Westword and the driving, intricate lead single “Aokigahara” was named one of GutterBubbles “Top 100 Songs of 2014”. Since then, the quartet has been busy making local television and radio appearances, regional live performances as well as a stop at South by Southwest and summer performances at the Westword Music Showcase and the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase.

Band Members