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Archive for Thursday, August 15, 2002

Denali packs punch with mysterious edge

August 15, 2002

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Although Denali takes its name from a mountainous region of Alaska, the band's sound is more befitting a subterranean club in a European metropolis.

The indie quartet  which hails from a location far removed from either place: Richmond, Va.  transformed The Bottleneck into an old-world haunt Tuesday with a set of dreamy but very dark orchestral pop.

Denali's elegant centerpiece, Maura Davis, began the evening seated at a Fender Rhodes, almost as if preparing for a solo performance. The other members gradually fell in step and built each song around her palatial melodies. Her voice conjured visions of Portishead, Blonde Redhead and even Bjrk.

On the fourth song, the vocalist stood up and strapped on a Telecaster, favoring that instrument for the duration of the show. Likewise, the ensemble's material then adopted more of a guitar-based edge.

While the singer naturally elicited the most attention, all the players offered something stylistically unique. Bassist Keeley Davis (Maura's older brother) and drummer Jonathan Fuller were former members of seasoned act Engine Down, and both displayed they had mastered the art of when NOT to play. A third of the performance found them waiting for their cue, thus providing that much more of a dynamic punch when they did unleash.

At times, the group pushed the envelope of technology, as on the tune "Relief" from its self-titled debut album. Here, percussive samples created a noisiness that was nearly overwhelming.

Overall, the band's demeanor was very mysterious  there was hardly a hint of interaction with the crowd. Yet Denali made mountainous statements with its music.

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