MAD POW: S/T
Mad Pow’s self-titled album takes the listener on a journey that makes one question where they stand in relation to the instrumental voices. This capricious tendency may create a barrier between the listener and the art; however, I found that the dynamism of this Denver band just sent me from one welcomed jam to another. The album is a quixotic conveyor belt, transposing the confounding aspects of dreams into a soundtrack.
Mad Pow’s first track, “Acme Funk,” seems to be a fantasy of the marriage of outer space and the ocean. Lithe guitars move over for a water-bound bassline, then the sounds are braided together. The clocklike groove of “Acme Funk” is the impetus for the album’s demand of time. Sounds presented in the beginning of any given track are quickly disposed of to make way for a new sound, then tinge each other to make for a bouquet of emotions.
With “Acme Funk” setting a temperamental trap, the following track “Desert Village” comes in for the kill. The ethereal guitar balances thoughtfully with the rest of the ensemble, exhibition of Mad Pow’s incredible strength of giving pertinence to every voice. Ghostly harmony makes way for unapologetic griminess. The next plunge into the atmosphere is not in the same, sweet manner as before—it maintains tenacity and comes with a splash of vengeance, rolling like thunder. The piece is a tug-of-war between the ether and landlocked ferocity, signifying the ever-present gritty dissonance for the entity of Mad Pow.
“Contort the Juggler” is evocative of something sexy crawling out of the gutters, yet has moments of music box-like delicacy. “Like Stars Fading to a Rising Sun” begins triumphantly, continues with exhibition of fantastically versatile drum beats, but ends on a more somber note than one might expect. The back-to-back tracks “Airless” and “Isle of the Dead,” ascend weightlessly skyward in layers. Each piece is militant; there is something punk about the attitude of the sound, but Mad Pow—perhaps subtly—wants to be the authority that punk tries to combat. What all of these tracks have in common is their tendency to rock the listener to their core while not letting them know where they stand. Musical shifts that occur in a song can gift a mouthful of melancholy, or a fresh feeling of resilience.
The penultimate track, “Banditos,” is tough, fun, and treads heavily. The final track, “Ranger Mike,” Mad Pow’s antithesis, is sonically different than the previous eight songs, with rattling chains, a slimy guitar, and the addition of a vocalist. The subject of the piece, Ranger Mike, reveals himself to be after those blasted Banditos, but a bit of an outlaw himself, backed by slinky instrumentals.
Mad Pow parades their antics in unexpected yet complimentary layers. The back-and-forth of musical phrases is not diabolical; the distinguishing factor of Mad Pow is texture. I want to listen to Mad Pow on a speedy drive through a mountain-scarred desert, and maybe get pulled over by a cop. A nightmarish scenario I wouldn’t entirely be opposed to in this moment; maybe the cop would hear my music and, like me, be compelled to reflect on the horizon of red rock glowing in the waning light. Mad Pow makes me feel reckless and unpredictable, yet with an unprecedented claim to power.