ROCK THE BLOCK Preview: Colonizing The Cosmos

Colonizing The Cosmos
“Sonic production” is a term coined by music critics to describe music that capitalizes on our fascination with space. It conjures up all the vast mystery of the cosmos, of our yearning for answers, of our sense of otherworldliness, our desire to chase the final frontier, the excitement of new technology. It describes music that transgresses our worldly expectations, music as sleek and barren as the cold metal of a spaceship floor. And sometimes it just means lots of reverb and effects pedals. Whatever it is, don’t expect it from Colonizing The Cosmos. The local Pittsburgh band, who’s kicking off Rock The Block next week, released their first full length album earlier this year, called “The First Frontier.” Here’s a video a live studio performance of “Dear Citizen.” Despite the name and comparisons to The Flaming Lips, CTC makes music remarkably grounded in loyalty to folk instrumentation. Starting as a two-piece and growing to six (sometimes more), CTC sounds like a band of studio folk musicians: well mixed layers of guitars, banjos, a trumpet and backup singers. And the musicianship really shows in the video. It’s a welcome change of pace in folk, a compromise between trends of “me-first” production and lo-fi production. On "The First Frontier," each instrument fills its shoes modestly, yielding a well-rounded and satisfying sound. Vocally, CTC falls somewhere between The Shins and Eels, catchy but not without a hint of quirk. There’s something otherworldly about the album, but no single sound or style will step up and take credit. There’s a slyness to the production, irony in the catchiness, intelligence in the delivery. And yet, CTC is not “sonic.” They’re not trippy, or psychedelic, or freak folk (or my favorite, NASA-core). CTC makes honest folk music with a tinge of self aware irony, that music so seemingly audacious can be so anchored in a time-honored folk style. CTC has likely not yet hit their prime, but its a very strong start. Colonizing The Cosmos opens for Alejandro Escovedo at Rock The Block, September 18th in Bedford Square at 8pm. Tickets available at