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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Check out the hidden talent behind Tucson’s underground music scene

    Emery Mott via Facebook

    The three members of local Tucson rock group Macaulay Vulcan pose against a wall. The group’s live performance sounds nearly identical to its recorded music.

    Tucson rock groups Digital Persuasion and Macaulay Vulcan are relatively recent up-comers in the local underground scene. Though they may not be as well-known as other Arizona-born bands, such as Authority Zero, their strange sounds might catch on yet. After reading through this quick overview of the two groups, hopefully they’ll earn a place in your playlists.

    Digital Persuasion

    This Tucson-native band is one of the most eccentric in town. Creators Daniel de la Huerta and Mike Almeroth said they started Digital Persuasion as a recording-focused group, leading to their August debut album Future Dialect. However, the duo eventually decided to bring Tucson a live re-imagining of their work, and so the two egos of Digital Persuasion were born.

    Look at their Bandcamp page and you’ll find a folky acoustic-electronic hybrid album. The sound is brilliantly bright and clean, modestly layered with crisp guitar, colorful synths and entrancing electronic burbles. The band’s experimentations, while simple, are well-received, benefitting hugely from a strong focus on listenability.

    Digital Persuasion is a completely different beast live. There was a brand new focus on rock instrumentation; the band’s signature synthesizers and pads twitter far below the punk-rock swells of their live guitar, bass and drums. Honestly, though the bones of the tracks are still present, these rough-cut reinterpretations are nearly new tracks all unto themselves.

    While central song elements like the up-tempo flute beat on “Every Dimension” make the transition from record to live performance unaltered out of pure necessity, the group’s more intricate electronic elements, such as the spacey Auto-Tune vocals that weave through “Future Dialect,” are changed almost entirely. Likely due to the limited equipment Huerta and Almeroth have to work with, the band takes their recorded work’s sprawling harmonies of altered vocals and tear it down to the bare essentials by belting out notes through an Auto-Tune pedal.

    None of this is to say you shouldn’t see them live. It is well worth hunting down their next show just to hear their closing number “Try’n Follow.” In their last show, they completely tore down the art-pop watercolor of the original track to reveal a raw breakbeat and bass skeleton, and  built from there. They slapped on a funky guitar and a synth solo so insane it literally brought Almeroth to his knees.

    I could never have known I’d see an awe-inspiring display of ’60s deep funk and hardcore punk spring up from an indie dream-pop album, but I’m not going to be missing Digital Persuasion’s next ingenious Frankenstein’s monster of rock and synth.

    Macaulay Vulcan

    Tucson, home to a math rock band? Strange, I know. Amazingly, the less-popular offshoots of alternative rock, like shoegaze and math rock, are starting to find their way out of the far-off islands of Britain, Ireland and Japan, and a seed has landed right here in Tucson.

    Macaulay Vulcan — made up of lead guitarists Miguel Carranza and Justin Tornberg, drummer Sam Launius and bassist Kevin Moynahan — has released just one small EP, Prison Simulator Baseball, yet their sound is already well-developed. Their sunny, staccato tones resemble fellow math rock group The Redneck Manifesto from Ireland, while their use of exposed, intricate rhythms found on the tracks “Never-Ending Innings, Never Any Outings” and “Panic! At The Costco” follow closely after the work of Don Caballero, who helped establish the math genre.

    Vulcan is the polar opposite of Digital Persuasion live. What you heard on the recording is exactly what you get at the show. The band’s precision at their last show was surgical, never once falling out of their complex time or flubbing one of their breakneck-speed riffs. As a guitarist, it was amazing to watch, and as an audience member, it was just strange.

    Vulcan fails to give you anything live that you can’t get from just listening to their record at home. The fact that all their work is instrumental means that, besides a shy bit of banter while they set up, the show is silent and very quick. Performing the entirety of their recorded works currently takes them less than 15 minutes.

    My advice: If you’re ever in the mood for what Tornberg described as “Coachella-esque rock music,” find their EP online. Prison Simulator Baseball is recorded beautifully, performed flawlessly and might just bring you to a completely new side of rock music. If you have the urge to go to a live show after that, then be my guest and support the band, or just listen to the EP again and look at the band’s Facebook pictures; it’ll be pretty much the same, awesome experience.

    Follow Cullen Walsh on Twitter.

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