Akron band Ultrasphinx releases its debut album

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Indie rock power trio Ultrasphinx (from left: Aaron Rogers, Ian Cummins and Joe Dennis) recently released their debut self-titled debut album and will perform at the Grog Shop on Sunday night.

Akron band Ultrasphinx has been around for nearly two years honing its mix of math rock, loose punk energy and hazy, yet kinetic indie rock in area clubs.

Now, the trio of singer/guitarist Joe Dennis, drummer Ian Cummins and bassist Aaron Rogers has released its eponymously titled debut album featuring a dozen tracks at a svelte 36 minutes.

The album was recorded at STUDIO TIME studio in Akron by Rogers and Jason Tarulli, touring front house sound guru for the Black Keys and Cage the Elephant. A few songs were recorded with engineer/producer Ben Vehorn who has recorded Drummer, Royal Bangs, the Black Swans and others at his Tangerine Studios.

Traditional power trios (think Jimi Hendrix Experience, Blue Cheer or even Nirvana) tend to belong to the guitarists, who often fill in the extra musical space provided by being the only chord instrument with flashy fills and pyrotechnics. But in Ultrasphinx, its Cummins’ wild yet always exact drumming that pushes the often complex grooves shifts and provides much of the fireworks.

The album’s opening two-fer of Bark At and the punky The Moon (get it?) set the tone for the record with the apparently spider-armed Cummins pushing each songs’ syncopated stops, rhythmic shifts, starts and turnarounds. Dennis’ effect-heavy guitar playing leans more on texture and melody than riffs as he picks out delicate arpeggios on The Moon.

Fans of Dennis’ previous bands Party of Helicopters and The Man I Fell In Love With will recognize Dennis’ unusual and seemingly untethered vocal melodies that float alongside the sometimes abrasive music.

The band’s way with musical math equations fills the up-tempo X Is the Nth Loneliest Number, with a start-stop riff, a snaking melodic bass line from Rogers and Dennis singing relatively softly about “starry eyes.” Likewise, the action-packed instrumental Movies About Horses Are Stupid contains a Jesus Lizard-like throb, a groovy ascending riff, dramatic pauses and punches and swirly bits all in just under two minutes.

The tempo slows down a bit for the stomping Left Objects which recounts ’90s indie rock and Dennis’ floating melody and catchy chorus. On the acoustic Garden Slugs I, Dennis gets all sensitive. Stoned Hearts could be the album’s single, a throwback bit of indie rock with another catchy vocal melody and a swirling middle section that should make old-school Sonic Youth fans smile.

Ultrasphinx should appeal to rock lovers who don’t require a singer-focused verse-chorus-verse song format to get into the meaty grooves. The band’s loose yet tight sound, deceptively catchy melodies and interesting twists and turns should give adventurous indie rock listeners plenty to enjoy.

To preview the entire album go to http://ultrasphinx.bandcamp.com.

Ultrasphinx will perform at the Grog Shop on Sunday night, opening for Columbus hard rock riffmeisters Lo-Pan along with other opening acts.

The official CD release shows for Ultrasphinx will take place on April 26 at the Stone Tavern with MURDEREDMAN and on May 20 at Annabell’s in Highland Square with Relaxer.

Summer concerts

The summer concert calendar is filling fast and new shows seem to be announced almost daily. In case you missed them, here are a few of the recently announced shows folks in Northeast Ohio will have an opportunity to see and hear in the next few months and whose tickets went on sale recently.

Following their contentious induction into the rock hall, Kiss will return to the area along with Def Leppard on Aug. 26 at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls.

Also recently added to the summer slate is country stars Little Big Town along with Sam Hunt and Chris Stapleton who will perform at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica in Cleveland on July 12.

On June 7, the Hard Rock Rocksino at Northfield Park will welcome the surviving members of the Monkees — Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz and the seldom seen Michael Nesmith — to its intimate stage.

Classic rock fans should save their pennies for the just announced Rod Stewart and Santana joint tour that will stop at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Aug. 17. Both artists will have new material to perform alongside their numerous classics. Tickets for the show go on sale March 31.

To purchase tickets for all the aforementioned shows, call Ticketmaster at 800-349-5800 or point your inter Google machine to www.ticketmaster.com for more information.

History months

Summit County Juvenile Court is observing black and women’s history months (February and March, respectively) this year by displaying a banner celebrating the famed Howard Street corridor and Ruby Nash Garnett, better known as lead singer of R&B Hall of Fame inductees Ruby & the Romantics.

At 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nash Garnett will view the banner and meet Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio in the first floor lobby of the William P. Kannel Juvenile Court Center in Akron.

Past banners have featured women such as Sojourner Truth who gave her famous “And Ain’t I A Woman” speech in downtown Akron and Akron’s Rita Dove, U.S. poet laureate among others.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.

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