Astrophagus
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Astrophagus

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voted by local media types one of denver's best underground bands. - The Denver Post


Astrophagus regularly employs two distinct styles. On some songs, the performers come across as rockers with a pronounced gloomy streak; on others, they seem like electro-adventurers. Yet Casualite never feels schizophrenic. The disc remains cohesive thanks to a singular vision that expresses itself in divergent fashion.

Vocalist Jason Cain, who plays standard instruments (guitar, piano) and non-traditional ones (tape player, computer), embodies the act's dual tack. With the help of keyboardist/fellow computer user Joshua Cain, percussionist David Kurtz and bassist Austin Hein, he turns out numbers ranging from "The Risk of Birth Defects," a wordless effort of sublime moodiness, to "Consult the List," which pivots on string-bending solos and couplets such as "Scumbags of the world, unite." Equally effective are "ATM" and "Pigeondust," a pair of hybrids that freshen the sort of structural elements customarily utilized by pop tunesmiths with sonic accoutrements dispensed one byte at a time.

That's how a split personality comes together - Westword - Michael Roberts


The music of Astrophagus carries influences ranging from Radiohead to Doves. On Casualite, you will hear dense layers of synthesizers with kooky electronic beats on one track, guitar-enslaved jaggedness on the next one, and the best of both of these styles on another.
But no matter what direction the music takes, there is always an element of passion that runs through this music, and a degree of intensity that does not come across as too overbearing. This is probably the most integral part of the group’s music, more so than its multifariousness.

Listen to “Innocuous Dance Track” and you’ll understand the band’s unpredictability. This dance number is more deceptive than innocuous. It kicks off with spaced-out Prodigy-like fuzzy sonics and then changes vibe, when instead of the ensuing beats and keyboard sounds, the drums and guitars kick in and the song takes a wild spin into the realm of psychedelic rock, with swirling riffs and a bass line to die for.

Or take “Square Parts Of Houses,” which is in the same vein as the aforesaid dance track that claims to be innocuous. In fact this one starts out even more promisingly, with some chunky beats (probably stolen from Radiohead’s Kid A/Amnesiac sessions), getting more and more pleasing with some nice strokes of guitar, until it gets trashed by rage and some mean garage-esque guitars, and a rabid singer, and there is nothing pleasant about it anymore.

The two brilliantly ambient electro-prog instrumentals “Never Happen” and “Use Care When Using,” take no such nasty turn, and stick to one formula throughout, hiding no surprises within their armor. Another track of the same nature is “The Risk Of Birth Defects.” But this one is way more organic than the other two cuts. Also, more than being just trippy and ambient, it has a great acoustic tune playing harmoniously with the syncopated rhythm from the brilliantly orchestrated drum programming, and has the most structure of all three instrumentals.

The best parts on Casualite are the plain old rock songs, driven by nothing more than a beautiful tune and a whole lot of simplicity. Like the opening cut “ATM,” which is simply a combination of a beautiful piano tune, honest vocals, and what seems like a very folksy accordion playing in the background. A bit more intense and way brilliant is “Riverside,” which is probably the best cut on Casualite. This one has a similar recipe with merely a beautiful piano tune supporting the strongest aspect of the song, the vocals, which possess a sense of restlessness that’s heartfelt.

The unpredictability and variety aren’t the only things that are inviting about Casualite. It is also Astrophagus’ craftsmanship in creating elaborate images as well as humble ones within the tightness of its song structures. Astrophagus is just another indie band that’s not your just another ordinary indie band. - dailyvault.com


Formed in 2003, Denver outfit Astrophagus is a quirky amalgamation of rock, post-everything and electronics. Four piece features the levelled but pissed-off vocals of Jason Cain [who also plays guitars, piano and computer], keyboardist Josh Cain, percussionist David Kurtz and bassist Chris White. While tracks like "Consult The List" and "Innocuous Dance Track" rock out in a serious way, it's the more experimental part of the set that is worth checking this band out. "Riverside" sees the band slowing it down a notch with a nicely tuned ballad, where Cain offers up some bluesy vocal settings, while "Never Happen" turns into a swirl of an electronic mix that features toughly presented samples, while at the same time building up an atmosphere of desolation. Even a ballad like "Threshold" fits into the scheme of things. As Cain wails out desperately with this unmistakable sadness, the rest of the band once again build up atmospherics all around. Great thing is how utterly emotional all of the tracks are. The build up from one track to the next takes the band from peaks to valleys, back to peaks again. Let's hope they keep the momentum going and follow up with another strong effort. Powerful debut. - Gaz-Eta, Poland


voted by local media types one of denver's best underground bands. - The Denver Post


Backbeat writers sound off on the best local releases of 2006.

Astrophagus, Casualite (Helmet r00m Recordings).

Not that many years ago, a majority of musicians tended to segregate traditional and electronic instrumentation. Fortunately, Astrophagus's Jason and Joshua Cain are more enlightened performers. On tracks such as "Square Parts of Houses," the Cains' juxtaposition of guitar and piano with computer-generated beats and blips offers a bracing argument for stylistic integration. - Village Voice Media "Westword"


Astrophagus Prepares for Launch

For Boating is a big step forward for Jason Cain and company.

By Cory Casciato
Published: February 28, 2008

Details:
CD-release show, with d.biddle, Iuengliss and The Life There Is, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $6-$8, 720-570-4500.

Sit in a room with the members of Astrophagus and you will hear the most amazing mix of sound thinking and absurd fancy, of profound wisdom and ridiculous nonsense, that most humans will ever experience. Informed discussion of the recent presidential caucus is punctuated by random jokes about sweaters and Keith Sweat and recurrent mentions of the possibly imaginary genre of porn metal. In that environment, bass player Chris White's explanation of his day job sounds just plausible enough to be true.

"I own a ferret farm in Highlands Ranch," says White with an absolutely straight face. "We feed most of the boa constrictors here in Colorado, from the weak ones." Until his bandmates crack up and start ridiculing him, it's hard to know what to think.

White is the latest addition to the band, joining David Kurtz and brothers Jason and Josh Cain. The members are all longtime friends who share an obvious rapport that Jason calls "that brotherly dynamic." Coming from notably disparate musical backgrounds, they rely on their friendship as the axis around which the group revolves. "We're like the superfriends," Jason declares. "We're kinda like a superhero team. I think I'm like the oblivious and scatterbrained leader."

Couldn't be too scatterbrained. The band's second album, For Boating, has been in the works for two years and required a good amount of focus. The disc has been a long time coming — a couple of songs were written before Casualite, the band's 2006 debut for Helmet Room, was released — and the process of making it took its toll.

"Life is like that, you know?" Jason muses. "Everybody is going through difficult times, so I guess it doesn't really make this album any more special than anything else. It's just kind of a synopsis, or kind of like a narrative of the last couple years we've been together. It reflects that period of time.

"Changes have happened for people, in our personal lives," he goes on. "If you're still doing what you're doing, I think that all changes are good. I don't think that things happen for a reason, but things that occur to you shape who you are. Regretting things, or wishing that things hadn't happened a certain way, is a waste of time."

There's nothing to regret when it comes to For Boating, which is a big step forward from Casualite. Recorded primarily in the studio with minimal cut-and-paste overdubs and engineered by Brian Gerhard at Helmet Room, Boating is both tighter and better directed than its predecessor. The raw electronic experimentation of old has been retired in favor of more organically integrated synthesizer work that adds subtle, powerful ambience and motion without ever drowning out other elements. And the material as a whole is stronger and more mature.

"I think, just as time goes on and you get older, you're well equipped to write things in a more subtle fashion — which I think for the listener is enjoyable as well," says Jason. "But it feels nice to make something that's well crafted, well thought-out, versus just vitriolic anger-spew."

Such ideas and critical thinking generally spring forth from Jason. As leader, he plays guitar and piano and sings, bringing some pretty solid pop sensibilities and songwriting chops. Once he has something to play for the band, each member writes his own part based on the initial song sketches. Josh, for instance, approaches the synthesizer as more of a sound sculptor than a traditional keyboard player. "He plays the knobs of it more than anything," says Jason, "and that's what makes it unique, I think."

"There's too many knobs to not play them," Josh points out.

Chris White's aggressive, overt bass playing keeps things dynamic and opens up new songwriting possibilities, while drummer Kurtz's jazz background and inventive playing serve as the anchor for everything. Since White joined the band, in fact, some of his bass lines have been used as a starting point for new songs, a method of writing that Jason says he enjoys for the novelty of the approach. It also helps take some of the pressure off him. A number of guest players helped carry some of the weight on the new record, too: The pedal-steel playing of Matt Fox, the strings of Carrie Beeder and Josh Trinidad's trumpet add another dimension to the group's sound. In many ways, this album marks the transition of Astrophagus from an intriguing act with largely unrealized potential to a polished act well on its way to realizing that full potential.

For Boating showcases a sound that's as well developed as it is original. The spooky, at times atonal instrumental intro is reminiscent of a horror-movie score. It sets a heavy, foreboding mood for the re - Westword - Village Voice Media


If you can taste, touch, and feel weighed down by your atmosphere, you’re probably in big trouble. For Astrophagus, that trouble borders on catastrophic: The Denver band’s new full length, For Boating, swims in a soup of longing, despair, and disconnection that renders breathing itself a bit difficult. Ragged whispers trickle out of guitarist-keyboardist Jason Cain’s lungs like dark brew from broached kegs, but it’s the heft and texture of the group’s instruments that carry most of the disc’s gravity. Everything from sub-aquatic piano to creaking samples to desert-steppe trumpet- the last courtesy of local jazzman Joshua Trinidad - infuse For Boating with a haunted aura that damn near unshakeable. It doesn’t always work: The Pink Floyd-fucks-Smashing Pumpkins dampness of "Ruiner", for instance, comes off awkward and maybe even a bit forced. But with fog-pickled folk elegies like "Buena Vista Park" chasing and erasing the occasional weak spots, For Boating provides a long, slow, loping drift into the great unknown.

Grade: B+

By Jason Heller
- The Onion


Discography

2006 - Casualite
2008 - For Boating

Photos

Bio

The Following Statements Are All True:

Astrophagus formed in a two bedroom apartment in the year 2003. Since then they have occupied various other spaces such as single family dwellings, duplexes, loft apartments, basements of armories, studio apartments, and double wide trailers. They also make songs, and together have released two albums and played over 200 shows.

Astrophagus have been selected by the Denver Post as one of Denver's best underground bands three years running, have been featured as the dowload of the day on cmj.com, and have been featured in Paste magazine recommends and at Paste listening stations at independent record stores across the country.

Keyboardist Joshua Cain's hobbies include volleyball, travelling, and writing electronic music. His favorite drink is Guiness.

Drummer David Kurtz avidly reads product packaging. He is also an artist and designer of some reknown. His favorite drink is Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Bassist Chris White enjoys fast german cars. He is also a fixed-gear cycling enthusiast. His favorite drink is Coca Cola or Tea.

Singer Jason Cain's hobbies include fishing, reading fiction, and drinking. He is also an expert barista. His favorite drink is Bourbon and Coke.