Baltimore band Natural Velvet can certainly navigate the more jagged and austere reaches of post-punk, but even the most abrasive songs on the band's 2017 Mirror To Make You feel cathartic and lush. Bassist Corynne Ostermann's lead vocals deftly tie together the band's menace and tenderness. On album opener "It's All Mine," Ostermann growls and cackles over guitarists Kim Te and Spike Arreaga's frenzied noise-rock scrawls. Tracks like "Crowning" restrain the band's furious energy, just a bit, to let Ostermann and drummer Greg Hatem build up atmosphere and suspense. The album closes with "Emblemata," which balances dissonance and beautiful.
It's interesting to hear how a bunch of different influences converge in Natural Velvet's music, and in ways that vary from song to song—Joy Division and Siouxsie And The Banshees are pretty obvious ones, there's certainly a bit of DC post-hardcore, and there's a place in my heart for any band that covers Lungfish. But the band's songwriting and stormy dynamics stand on their own, and Natural Velvet conjure up a distinctive, intoxicating blend of romance and fiery filth. They share the bill here with Madison garage-punk thrashers Fire Heads and with Heather The Jerk, the charming solo outfit of The Hussy and Proud Parents drummer/vocalist Heather Sawyer. —Scott Gordon