Deep tones resonate, growing in intensity as the volume builds, like a thunderstorm on the horizon. Synthesizer and guitar step in, and a ghostly voice weaves a melody over the ripple of sound.
This is Tatanka, a genre-blending Front Range band that mixes chunky reggae beats with ethereal keyboard strokes to get crowds alternately swaying like wind-blown trees and bouncing to a jungle-inspired, thump-and-pulse rhythm.
"It's a really unique blend of a bunch of different backgrounds and styles coming together," said Nate Adams, lead guitarist. "(It's) definitely reggae-based; some people call it dubtronic - a bit of an electronic touch to the reggae, with dancehall and funk."
Tatanka grew out of the Denver music scene, with Ian Gastl on vocals and rhythm guitar, Mike Caine on drums and Andrew Maloney on bass, keys and synthesizer. Dillon local Adams joined up last summer after the band returned from a national tour, completing the quartet.
"I'd been playing in some side projects with some of the members before I joined, mostly with (Maloney)," Adams said. "I got introduced to the rest of the band, and it went really well from there."
Named after the Sioux word for bison, Tatanka transforms that earthy image into a sort of organic warmth, softening the edges of electronica and even throwing in the occasional sample from nature.
"We just released a brand new EP at the end of January called 'Cloudless Thunder,'" Adams said. "It's a Native American term. ... 'Cloudless thunder' was a buffalo stampede in the distance. We like to say that you'll definitely hear us before you see us - a loud, thunderous noise, like a bison stampede."
Tatanka is in the middle of a four-show tour, playing with the Expendables in Boulder on Sunday and Aspen on Monday and then traveling to Breckenridge for a solo show at three20south Tuesday. The tour will close in Denver on Thursday with a double bill featuring Stick Figure, another nationally touring reggae band.
"We like to play mountain shows a lot; it's a really good crowd every time, a really receptive audience," Adams said. "Always a lot of energy and excitement."
Take Tatanka for a test drive on the band's MySpace page before Tuesday's free show in Breck.
"It's a fresh take on the classic reggae rhythms, something that no one else is playing right now in the music scene," Adams said. "Our goal is to have everyone in the room moving and dancing and having a good time."