Lucid Culture


CD Review: Katie Elevitch – Kindling for the Fire

Burning with primal power and raging intensity, New York rock siren Katie Elevitch’s second cd is astonishingly good, one of the best that’s come over the transom this year. Recorded mostly live in a now-demolished historic house overlooking the Hudson River in upstate New York (they stuck the bass amp in the bathroom), this is a dark, fiercely intense, thematic collection, echoing both Elevitch’s anguish over the loss of her father as well as resignation to the fact that the house would ultimately be gone as well. Elevitch’s voice ranges from a sultry alto to a fearless, completely unleashed, sometimes completely unhinged wail. While her stepping-off point is classic soul music, the songs here range from Siouxsie Sioux spooky to raw PJ Harvey-esque stomp to slashing Patti Smith strange. In the cd’s quieter moments, the band’s interplay sometimes borders on the telepathic, Tim Vaill’s stately drum work echoing the somber, quiet boom of bassist Jonathan Maron (who also stars in the excellent funk band Groove Collective) while lead guitarist Riley McMahon adds every conceivable shade of macabre. Perhaps this is the result of playing together as a unit for a few years, not to mention that Elevitch chose to record them live rather than overdubbing each individually.  


The cd kicks off auspiciously with the concert favorite Corner of Love and Fear, a long, slowly pulsing, crescendoing minor-key anthem that goes doublespeed to the bridge, totally Siouxsie. The intensity is relentless. Before the big crescendo on the bridge, Elevitch bares her soul, “Half empty and half full…I can’t convince you if it’s beautiful.” The song builds, wailing for escape “from the concrete street…I’ll be waiting on the corner of love and fear.” The slinky, soul-inflected Katamaran Riding builds from an ominous intro, something akin to Ninth House as covered by Alice Lee, capped by a marvelously noisy, skronky McMahon guitar solo. Starting Gate, by contrast, is a delicately beautiful yet searing tale of abandonment. “Did you really think that I’d wait forever, like waiting was my only endeavor?” accuses Elevitch, as her band echoes the sentiment in a soaring gospel choir of voices. 


The cd’s title track is an improvisation not unlike Patti Smith in her more inspired, raging moments (think Land or even the intro to Rock & Roll Nigger), starting with a sinister low-register chord sliding up the bass, macabre piano tinkling in the distance. “Kindling for the fire,” Elevitch whispers, and it’s bloodcurdling. McMahon turns in his finest work on the cd here, echoing Lenny Kaye’s noisy vulture-wings on Radio Ethopia. The next track, I Never Win is a study in contrast, quiet matter-of-fact verse exploding into a fiery chorus much in the same vein as early PJ Harvey. Its title used as a mantra for maximum effect, Hurt People is another concert favorite, again with a big crescendo from a slow 6/8 verse into a pummeling, hypnotic dance. The cd ends on a hopeful note with The Inside Room, its narrator possibly worn out from all that exertion and finally ready to deal face to face with the world again. The effect of all this is visceral: don’t put this cd on if you feel like winding down. You won’t. Put it on headphones and turn it up loud (in an impressive stroke of generosity, it’s now streaming on her website). As you would expect, Elevitch and her band are sensationally good live and love to jam out their best songs. They start a monthlong Friday night residency at Banjo Jim’s at 9 PM beginning on Nov 14. 

November 11, 2008 - Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , ,


  1. I agree, Katie is awesome and I’ve been lucky enough to see her last few shows. Amazing performer and very viby band. Can’t wait to get the CD, I’ve been listening to the new songs live and they are rocking.

    Comment by Benoir | November 14, 2008 | Reply

  2. Go Riley. Go Riley. Go Riley.

    Comment by Anon | November 14, 2008 | Reply

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