The latest offering from Plasma Canvas kicks off with a slow burn. “Hymn,” the opening track on the Fort Collins quartet’s new album DUSK, is a quiet introduction to what turns out to be a very loud record. “I feel like I’m inside a dream, alone with your memory,” vocalist and guitarist Adrienne Rae Ash sings in the opening shot of what she calls the band’s “revenge album.”
Revenge albums are typically about former partners, or even parents, but DUSK is about the pain of having your dreams — specifically the momentum of a young buzz band’s career — crushed, or at least halted, by a global pandemic.
“There’s a lot of those themes [on DUSK] about catastrophe and just the worst parts of being a person, and how you just have to carry on,” Ash says. “You might not be stronger. I don’t necessarily believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Sometimes it just gives you trauma, and makes you weird at parties. You have to deal with it, and this record is kind of about that.”
DUSK is Plasma Canvas’ second full-length album, and it was produced by punk icon Bill Stevenson — co-founder of foundational pop-punk act The Descendents and one-time drummer for Black Flag — at his legendary Blasting Room Studios in Fort Collins. Ash is from outside St. Louis in western Missouri, and she says being a trans, autistic musician from “kind of a redneck, pretty working-class area” made running off to Denver in 2015 a necessity to survive. But making DUSK with Stevenson, and Grammy-nominated engineer Andrew Berlin, has transported the artist from survival mode to revenge mode.
“It’s definitely a record that I’m afraid for people to hear, and that’s good. I think that if you’re an artist and you’re not kinda cringing just a little bit at being a little too vulnerable with the world, it’s not a big enough risk,” she says. “It’s like, ‘I survived a pandemic, and now you get what you get, motherfucker. I want revenge.’”
‘Blood and guts on a canvas’
Plasma Canvas signed with independent punk label SideOneDummy Records as the COVID-19 pandemic was approaching, but that excitement — and a tour Ash says was in the works with pop-punk linchpins Less Than Jake and Lagwagon — was squashed by the woe of lockdown.
“[I was] so close to everything I dreamed of since I was 12 years old picking up my guitar the first time,” she says. “It really sucks to see everything fall apart right in front of you. I made [DUSK] and I survived, and that’s enough for me.”
There’s something of this resilience in the churning melodic punk of “Blistered World” — “It’s a blistered world,” Ash sings. “But I won’t let it kill me.” And the winding path that led to this assurance began right here on the Front Range.
Ash found community at Seventh Circle Music Collective in Denver immediately after arriving from the St. Louis area, and Plasma Canvas’ album-release shows for DUSK will kick off there Friday, Feb. 17. Ash says the upcoming gigs are a chance to unleash a lot of pent-up energy while carving a space for connection.
“I’ve been told that our shows feel like a community, like everyone’s there because they don’t belong anywhere else,” she says. “I want to make music for the people standing in the back of the room, the people that didn’t come there with anybody else, because they don’t know anybody.”
Ash can scream with the best young singers in punk and hardcore, with a huge guitar sound to match, but a few elegant, poignant tracks on DUSK — like “Soft” and the title track — prove she’s not beholden to any one register. Part of that holistic approach to Plasma Canvas, which defies genres even within one album, is that Ash isn’t out to do anything but express herself.
“This is my story. That’s the whole point,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s profound or anything, but it’s honest. It started as a way to remove the filter between me and the world — just blood and guts on a canvas.”
ON THE BILL: Plasma Canvas with Cheap Perfume, SPELLS and wiff. 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, Seventh Circle Music Collective, 2935 W. Seventh Ave., Denver. Tickets here. | Plasma Canvas with Attack on Venus, Caustic Soda and Animal Future. 8 p.m. Saturday, March 4, Aggie Theatre, 204 S. College Ave., Fort Collins. Tickets here.