Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Art Review: Leonardo Drew, A.D. Peters et al. at the Brenda Taylor Gallery, NYC

You have all of two short weeks – through February 16 – to rush over to Chelsea to the Brenda Taylor Gallery, 511 W 25th St. between 10th and 11th Sts., gallery #401 on the fourth floor, to catch some of the most astonishing art on display in New York right now. In the side room there are several boldly playful, colorful, somewhat tongue-in-cheek paintings by Kathleen Kucka, acrylic appliqué on acrylic. Although many of the accent colors here are pastels, Kucka’s clever cut-and-paste gives them an amusing, guilt-free edge.

But the stars of the show are in the main room where you’ll find A.D. Peters’ new work Iron Ridge: Sunsplash, which is oil and ferric oxide (translation: rust) on a sheet of iron. It’s absolutely brilliant, a reverse image of sorts, of light seen through a thicket of trees. Only the light is painted: the woods reside in the untouched iron. The painting’s focal point, where the light is greatest, is obscured by a tree trunk. It’s a stunningly imaginative, somewhat dark work and is surprisingly inexpensive for something of such imagination and quality. Kudos to the gallery for spotting it.

The piece de resistance here is Leonardo Drew’s Number 74, dating from 1999. Drew’s specialty is gargantuan, wall- and floorsize installations assembled from found objects, something akin to the toy town Bob Geldof constructed out of bits and pieces of sledgehammered appliances in the film The Wall, taken to its logical extreme. Drew’s work is deliberately unsettling, often grotesque. This piece is particularly visceral, practically nauseating: it packs a knockout punch. It is impossible to turn away from. Within its huge, approximately eight by ten foot frame, there are several hundred square wood boxes, each seemingly in various states of decay (Drew’s use of sawdust here, mixed with other debris, is spectacularly effective). Across the top are plastered what appear to be used mop heads (or something equally Blair Witch), along with a couple dozen stuffed toys in various states of decomposition. All of the toys’ faces are either turned away from the viewer, or have been deliberately effaced. Childhood has hardly ever been this brutally or dismissively portrayed: to call this piece iconoclastic is a gross understatement. A work this powerful is too important to reside in the hands of a private collector (although one has to wonder who would actually have the fortitude to come home at night and be greeted by this on the adjacent wall). Whatever price the gallery is charging is not too much for a world-class museum to afford. MOMA, are you listening?

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January 31, 2008 Posted by | Art, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Bellman Barker – Anise Anisette

This album bounces. A lot. Washington, DC retro popsters Bellman Barker love their 60s British Top of the Pops hits and really have a way with big catchy hooks and harmonies. If you like the Kinks, Beatles, or the Move before they started morphing into ELO, get this album. It starts out with Charles Kil, a bouncy Kinks-ish song with a catchy ba-ba-ba chorus and an old analog synthesizer in places. The guitars go nuts, then they bring it down to just the vocals on the last verse, then the guitars get all big again. The next cut Molly Maroon is driven by fast piano chordal work: it sounds a lot like something the Jayhawks could have done during their Sound of Lies period.  In Their Defense is the closest thing on the cd to the Move, and it’s great, with its rattling drums and clanging, sixtiesish guitar arpeggios sounding like they’re running through an old Vox amp, just at the point where they break up into distortion. Nice big drum pileup on the highway at the end. I Do I Do reverts to sound of Molly Maroon with a lot of piano harmonizing with the guitar. The album’s final track is a surprisingly quiet little fragment. This is a wonderfully catchy, throwback album, an auspicious debut that ought to get the band plenty of college radio airplay. If they sound anything like this live, they’re definitely worth seeing.

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

CD Review: Little Pink – Gladly Would We Anchor

Washington, DC band Little Pink’s third and best album effectively blends both British and American folk-rock traditions while managing to sound completely original. Richard & Linda Thompson is the influence that jumps out at you, blended with the resigned yet raging sensibility of Rosanne Cash’s recent work. Frontwoman Mary Battiata sings in a troubled, world-weary, haunting voice, appropriate for someone who covered the war in Bosnia as a journalist in the 1990s. Her lyrics remind of Sandy Denny, replete with images from nature and pastoral scenes, often painting a starkly evocative picture. Her melodies are terse, catchy and lend themselves to all sorts of commercial purposes: Lifetime TV dramas, NPR themes and – gasp – commercial radio. If this album had been released in 1976, Fleetwood Mac would have found themselves on a dead run to catch up. That’s a compliment. It is mind-boggling that this band is not huge right now.

With fifteen tracks, this is a long and richly rewarding album. “We took half our lives to find ourselves here,” Battiata relates casually in the opening track, the simple, ridiculously catchy country/folk song Like a Wheel. Charm Offensive, a bouncy blues, is spiced with baritone sax; Battiata does a nice, recurrent vocal jump on the chorus. With Battiata’s gently lilting chorus, Trance is Fleetwood Mac gone to Nashville. Ten Feet High, with its slowly stomping beat and layers of screaming guitar from lead player Philip Stevenson, is an obvious homage to the Richard & Linda Thompson classic Shoot Out the Lights. There’s more backbeat-driven folk-rock on China Sea, sounding like one of the good cuts on Sunnyvista. Stars Burn Out is a big crunchy guitar-driven rocker that could be a solid track from Mary Lee’s Corvette’s last album. Wind and Water is a quietly haunting, very Sandy Denny-ish traditionally styled number, seemingly about refugees adrift on the ocean.

The Britfolk continues with the fast, minor-key English reel Orange Moon and then the wickedly catchy John the Cat, with an absolutely killer chorus and more impressive vocal leaps and bounds from Battiata. Beggar’s Bowl is a slowly swinging political parable that crescendos gently into Battiata’s excellent acoustic guitar solo. The Brokenhearted is an accusation, building with amazing subtlety, the drums creeping up to the chorus marvelously as the song’s central hook kicks in: “You’re not brokenhearted.” The album ends on a riveting note with Battiata’s best song, the offhandedly creepy Magic Years, which sounds like a sentimental look back at an idyllic childhood, until you listen closely:

We carved our names
Up all the trees
We counted stars
Til we believed
On the edge of our beds, holding hands
Holding our breath

Absolutely brilliant. If Americana, British folk or just plain good, lyrically-driven songwriting is your thing, get this album.

January 31, 2008 Posted by | country music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments