Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch at the Delancey, NYC 10/23/08

“There is sometimes a band called Botanica,” the group’s frontman/keyboardist Paul Wallfisch told the motley crowd gathered around the improvised stage upstairs at the Delancey Thursday night. This was CMJ week, and as usual this year’s Colossal Musical Joke had turned some of most unlikely spots into impromptu venues. Apparently the stage downstairs was taken, so Wallfisch had to make do with an alcove across from the bar. Botanica’s story is typical of many of New York’s best bands: popular in Europe but apparently unable to get a record deal here (no great loss, given the state of the industry: the band undoubtedly does better without than with). Apparently, Wallfisch’s mates couldn’t make it for this show, so he stepped up and did it himself with some soulful assistance from Jeff Pierce – playing beautifully retro, buoyantly swinging muted trumpet throughout the too-brief, barely 40-minute set – and Bee & Flower frontwoman/composer Dana Schechter, who supplied characteristically fluid, warmly melodic basslines during the second half of the show. Wallfisch opened with a stately new song with a contemplative, bluesy, somewhat Tom Waits feel, alternating between ambient, gospelish organ and piano, occasionally stomping out a few chords on the toy piano he’d brought along possibly for some comic relief.


Then he and Pierce tackled the opening cut from Botanica’s most recent US release, Berlin Hi-Fi, the hauntingly regretful Eleganza and Wines. Not content to let the crowd merely observe, Wallfisch made a loop of the song’s beautifully restrained piano hook, then climbed on top of the bar and led the crowd in a clap-along in 7/8 time. And then he added a counter-rhythm. Sophisticated stuff for a rock crowd, but they were game. The rest of the show was a clinic in darkly terse keyboard artistry. Much of Botanica’s work has an unleashed menace, and this raised its head in places, but Wallfisch was more in a noir cabaret mood. He did a rustic new one in waltz time which he sang in French, then Three Women, its melody evoking the Strawbs’ classic apocalypse anthem New World, then a suspensefully quiet version of the creepy Shira and Sofia (see the band’s myspace page). He closed the set with the big Botanica crowd-pleaser How, bouncing along on the pulse from Schechter’s bass, tossing off a sardonic Riders on the Storm-style run down the scale toward the end. The crowd wanted more but there wasn’t time. Watch this space for future NYC shows by Botanica; Wallfisch plays piano with the incomparable, darkly torchy September song chanteuse Little Annie at Santo’s Party House on Nov 6 at 9.

October 25, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art Review: Shimon Okshteyn at the Stefan Stux Gallery, NYC

Okshteyn never fails to provoke, and in a less obvious way than you might think, in this narcotic-and-guilty-pleasure themed exhibit open through December 6. You should see it: everybody else will, and they’ll be talking about it. This is the one with the cocaine. In order to get to the cocaine, you have to make your way past the masturbating man. It’s not a pretty sight, an all-white, remarkably true-to-life, life-size sculpture of a potbellied middleaged man pleasuring himself. There’s absolutely nothing sensual about it: the look on his face is grotesque, even diabolical. It’s what Dick Cheney might look like if he found himself without a pretty boy to penetrate him.


The cocaine is inside to the right. It’s a remarkably 3-D image imposed on a mirrored surface, the perfect medium for whatever else could be chopped up and plopped onto it. It’s also hardly an incitement to do drugs. Cut to scale (pun intended), the lines aren’t that big, not much longer than the razor (stamped “U.S.A.”) used to cut them, the mirror where they’re laid out smudged by amateurs who couldn’t wait to get their greasy fingers on it for a cheap freeze. There’s maybe a gram, probably less, to the left of the razor. It’s paradigmatic for the rest of the show.


Is this Bret Easton Ellis art, a shallow, celebrity-addled celebration of decadence? Hardly. In a literary sense, it’s more like J. G. Ballard, as in Crash, finding all the twistedness and none of the fun in all the most likely places. The common theme is mirrored: there’s always somewhere to see yourself in these works. Okshteyn places every image here on a mirrored surface. The ashtray looks like it hasn’t been washed in ages, and you can see yourself if you look closely. The heroin is in a mirrored spoon, the works scattered around it. And everything looks disgustingly dirty.


Arguably the most striking of all the works here is a multimedia installation featuring the same torso sculpture as the naked masturbator in the front room, this time with the head of a pig turned sharply to the left as if to deliberately avoid the wallsize image of the roast meat directly in front of him.


The funniest image here is stuck way in the back. It’s a basket of cream puffs, black and white on the canvas, their filling oozing onto the floor via painted blown glass taking on stalagmite shapes as it pools where it lands. It’s welcome comic relief by contrast with the twisted theme of the rest of the show. Obviously, this is museum material: one can only wonder who would want to greet his or her guests with the masturbating man who greets the guests at this show. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome for the one thousandth time to the 21st century. The Stefan Stux Gallery is at 530 W 25th St., ground floor, in the middle of the block, with probably a lot of people there. Through December 6. 

October 25, 2008 Posted by | Art, Reviews | Leave a comment