Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Shivering in the Moon: After 36 Years, Mark Fry Makes Another Album

Mark Fry is the latest British folkie on the comeback trail. His new cd, Shooting the Moon is only his second recording. Thirty-six years have come and gone since RCA Italy released his only other album, Dreaming with Alice in 1972. Out of print for decades (although recently reissued on cd by Sunbeam), it’s a strange yet compelling blend of British folk and psychedelia, perhaps a British counterpart to Judy Henske and Jerry Yester’s utterly bizarre yet sometimes entrancing Farewell Aldebaran. In the years that passed, Fry never abandoned music, though his public performances became very infrequent while he pursued what would become a far more successful career as a painter, with several solo exibitions in the UK over the past few years.

This album, while hardly a follow-up, reveals that Fry hasn’t lost his utterly unique and somewhat disquieting vision. This album has a striking and also somewhat baffling resemblance to David J’s solo work, musically at least, right down to the darkly attractive, major-key chordal work, vocal phrasing, guitar tunings and sparse arrangements typical of the Bauhaus bassist’s quieter, more stark, late 80s/early 90s songs. But one can only wonder if the two even know each other exist. In any event, they’d make a great double bill! Fry’s acoustic guitar and casually bright vocals are backed in places by tasteful pedal steel, piano, violin and occasionally a rhythm section: it’s all very pretty and best when it takes on a nocturnal feel, which is often. The songwriting here is saturnine and somewhat woozy from time to time, precisely what one would expect from someone who lived through the sixties (insert amnesiac punchline here). The album’s opening track, Under the Milky Way (NOT the Church’s 1988 cocaine anthem) has the narrator perplexed, thinking the sky’s about to fall on him. As it turns out, it’s only the clouds messing around. One can only wonder what prompted that observation (definitely not cocaine). The same rings true for many of the other songs, like the following track, Big Silver Jet:

It’s slipping through my fingers
Like the rays of the sunset
It’s slipping through my radar
Like a big silver jet

As with the rest of the instruments, Fry’s fingerstyle acoustic and electric guitar work is understated but fluid, particularly the warm, lushly overdubbed You Make It Easy. But on the rest of the album, there’s a chill in the air, regrets over not having done one thing or another, and a pervasive sense of unease everywhere. “You’re like a box of chocolates that melts in the sun,” Fry wryly tells a lover.

The album’s most memorable – and concluding – cut, the brief, upbeat, gently swaying title track, is set in a junkyard, its residents raising a quiet racket by the light of the moon:

You can hear them dancing like soldiers
To their lost parade
Dancing to the junkyard serenade
We’re all shooting the moon tonight

But if you’re not paying attention, it sounds like Fry is singing “we’re all shivering in the moon tonight,” which probably isn’t intentional but perfectly capsulizes what he’s done here. For fans of eerie singer-songwriters everywhere, from Nick Drake to the aforementioned David J or even Syd Barrett.

March 28, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oud-Off II 2008!!!

Don’t let an oud scare you. Ouds don’t bite. Actually, they do – they sink their fangs into anything they play, with gusto. An oud is a Middle Eastern bass lute, one of the most beautiful and haunting instruments ever invented, as ubiquitous in Arab music as the guitar is in rock. They’re typically tuned in any number of maqams, the eerie, microtonal modal scales used in Arab music. Last night at Barbes an absolutely packed house was treated to rare solo performances by two superb Palestinian-American oud players.

Solo oud is as rare as solo guitar. It’s usually the lead instrument in the same type of configuration as a rock band, with frequently more than one percussionist, violin, maybe accordion and vocals. But the best oud players are worth seeing all by themselves, as Zafer Tawil and Georges Ziadeh proved tonight. Tawil opened with a quietly crescendoing, ruminative, pastoral Moroccan piece evocative of Hamza El Din’s cult classic The Water Wheel. He followed with another pretty tune, this one from Turkey, utilizing a hammer-on technique frequently used in country guitar playing. The next number, a gorgeously dark, slinky, dance tune built over a catchy descending progression screamed out for a band to follow along with Tawil’s perfect timing and dynamics as the dance rose to a crescendo and then suddenly shifted before building ecstatically once again. The final works he played were less intense but no less captivating.

Unfortunately, prior commitments necessitated a departure early in Georges Ziadeh’s solo performance: his absolutely brilliant take on a long, hauntingly complex seven-minute Turkish overture made it very difficult to leave. The two performers were scheduled to play together at the end of the show, but, sadly, there were places to go and things to do. This performance was put together by the Brooklyn Arts Council, who, unbeknownst to us have been presenting numerous free shows as part of their annual Brooklyn Maqam Arab Music Festival throughout this past month. This year’s festival winds up with a two-hour free performance of music from throughout the Arab world at Alwan for the Arts, 16 Beaver St., 4th Floor in the Financial District at 9 tomorrow night, March 29 and concludes with a 1:30 PM interfaith show at the Brooklyn Public Library main branch at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn on Sunday the 30th, featuring choral and instrumental works from Christian, Jewish and Muslim texts.

March 28, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, New York City, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment