Drugs and music

The narcotic groove of Gravity Tapes and Nevayda Gunn

By Rev. Adam McKinney on June 30, 2016

Drugs and music, in certain circles (and definitely among music journalists, myself included), are fairly inextricable. LSD and psychedelia will always be mentioned in the same sentence, as will whiskey and rock, and weed and reggae and pop-punk, and ecstasy and EDM. While it's perfectly fine to enjoy these forms of music without the aid of any clouding substance, drugs and music will always benefit from the dance they engage in with each other. I was under the influence when I briefly considered making a terrible Tricky tune my Myspace page's song about a decade ago. Yes, I sobered up and reconsidered, but there was an evening and a night's sleep wherein I knew what my new favorite song was, and that's a wonderful thing.

There are some bands that may have absolutely nothing to do with drugs, but that draws up certain vibes that evoke feelings associated with foreign substances, even if the listener has zero frame of reference for the drug in question. I've never had any reason to take morphine, for instance, but the band Morphine has forever been linked to that painkiller in my head. Morphine, with their stubborn utilization of only a bass, a baritone saxophone and drums, cut a unique figure in indie rock, and their low-end cool is now forever associated in my head with their namesake opiate.

Denver's Gravity Tapes sound just enough like Morphine to tickle that part of my brain, thanks largely to their attendant saxophone. The quartet is on tour with fellow Denver act Nevayda Gunn, another band that skirts the narcotic outskirts of experimental rock, though in a different way than Gravity Tapes. While Gravity Tapes have the rumble and swagger of Morphine, Nevayda Gunn reminds one of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots-era Flaming Lips, with their electronic downer sheen. "Ballerina Tendencies," in particular, sounds like it could be an early ‘00s Flaming Lips b-side, though updated with a skeletal R&B beat.

Gravity Tapes have a nervy urgency to them which, coupled with the sax, recalls local favorites Bes; these bands' take on progressive rock is heavy on fun and light on pushing listeners away, favoring chugging numbers that don't rely on swerving those who aren't necessarily into difficult music. This is music that can be enjoyed while sinking deeply into a comfy chair, or in a live setting, where active participation is rewarded with a more viscerally felt experience. Nevayda Gunn, meanwhile, could probably be experienced equally well in a pitch black room, with only your innermost thoughts to accompany the hazy outside stimuli.

Taken in conjunction, Gravity Tapes and Nevayda Gunn feel like dusk and dawn, rising up and coming down. If Gravity Tapes' Rare Meat LP is all about mounting tension, then Nevayda Gunn's Days and Days of Psychedelic Sunshine EP feels like the release, with the noir atmosphere of the former complementing the spacey ennui of the latter. Far from leaning too heavily on downbeat energy, though, Gravity Tapes and Nevayda Gunn's music frequently feels like it's telling a story, compelling the listener on a journey that might have an undercurrent of anxiety, but is thrilling all the same.

The dark cave of Le Voyeur, where these two bands will be performing, might just be the ideal venue in which to experience their smoked-out cool. Even for those that don't imbibe, Gravity Tapes and Nevayda Gunn make the kind of music that easily relaxes your shoulders and puts you in a place where your mind is free to wander. I haven't done drugs in a very long time, but there's something still pleasurable about a band inciting a little flashback.

Gravity Tapes and Nevayda Gunn, Thursday, July 7, 10 p.m., Cover TBA, Le Voyeur, 404 E. 4th Ave., Olympia, 360.943.5710