Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch and And the Wiremen at the Delancey, NYC 2/5/09

“I started doing this so I could see all my favorite bands play,” Small Beast impresario and Botanica bandleader Paul Wallfisch admitted to the assembled multitude. For regular readers of this space, the weekly Thursday Small Beast shows at the Delancey have within the span of only a few weeks become the most exciting musical event in New York, a throwback to the days when Tonic was still open and booking edgy, late-night shows. Wallfisch also started a club in Paris back in the day, which is still open and thriving: consider that an omen.


Even though Wallfisch runs the show – running himself ragged, it seems, on the prowl for cables, or duct tape, or whatever might hold the candles to the top of his piano so their light can be dispersed via the disco ball above – he doesn’t shortchange the audience, this time around playing more or less solo for an entire hour. Menace may be his usual stock in trade, but tonight the piano was in, um, roadhouse tuning. So he ran with it, delivering a set of mostly warm, thoughtful, major-key gospel and blues-tinged material, much of it obscure or unreleased. The gentle Botanica ballad This Perfect Spot was augmented with the playful faux-orchestrated tonalities of an Omnichord; And Then I Met her, another ballad, lacked only the Omnichord. He debuted a new number fueled by menacingly insistent, chordal piano; a bit later, the trumpeter from the evening’s headline act, And the Wiremen joined him on a song.


Pete Simonelli from the LA group the Enablers was next, doing a spoken-word set over buzzsaw guitar loops, Wallfisch, adding the occasional incisive upper-register tonality. The set evoked what it might have been like to have seen the Stooges’ legendary stage debut, Iggy and the rest of the guys slinging electric drills since they didn’t have any songs (they got a record deal out of it). You may be able to eventually hear this set and Wallfisch’s as well since a French radio station was there to record them.  


With two guitars, keyboards, upright bass and trumpet, And the Wiremen (don’t bother googling to find where they got the name) closed the evening with a gorgeous, reverb-drenched set that mixed a couple of pretty standard indie rock songs in with a bunch of haunting, southwestern gothic compositions. Their first number held hypnotically on a single chord til its anthemic chorus kicked in, with an ominous, tremolo wail from the lead guitar. Frontman Lynn Wright has played with a million other good bands, including Rev. Vince Anderson, Bee & Flower and Cordero. In this unit, he’s taken on the role of bandleader and minimalist, darkly terse rhythm guitarist. Their brooding, pensive songs occasionally building to unbridled rage, they’re the kind of band that would be headlining Tonic on a Saturday night if a greedy landlord hadn’t put the club out of business.


The second song of the set was a beautifully eerie, bluesy southwestern gothic dirge, “sleeping while the world goes by,” trumpet floating over the ominous clang of the guitars, then building to a tastefully minimalist guitar solo. A couple of later numbers featured some spooky, pointillistic tremolo-picking. Wallfisch joined them on a slinky noir cabaret number and didn’t waste any time turning in the best solo of the night, a matter-of-factly macabre, flamenco-inflected descending progression that ended the song with particularly dark intensity. Such is the state of things on Thursday nights at the Delancey now: if your taste runs to adventurousness and darkness, there is no better place to be. Watch this space for upcoming shows by And the Wiremen; Botanica play Joe’s Pub, early, 7 PM on March 21.

February 6, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Edison Woods – The Wishbook Singles [so far]

The marvelous New York chamber-rock band Edison Woods is releasing a new single every month. There are four of them so far and they are without exception exquisite. Edison Woods’ modus operandi is taking simple, catchy melodies and embellishing them with rich, atmospheric orchestration and beautiful harmonies from the keyboard duo of Julia Frodahl and Johanna Cranitch. Their miminalist approach is most striking in that they typically break chords up into arpeggios, utilizing the spaces between as an integral part of the arrangement as well.


The first of the singles, the Gardener is ambient and almost rubato with its gentle vocals and pensive, deliberate melody, methodically building while seemingly random melodic fragments twinkle in the background. Finding the Lions has a warm reassurance, a theme that recurs throughout their work. It’s a slow, calm, hopeful number in the band’s favorite time signature, 6/8, with some nice call-and-response with the organ: “Gonna find the parade, gonna wear those colors, gonna marry the lion…If I can’t hide from myself, they can’t hide from me, one day I’ll find the parade.”


Dance Me to the End of the World is another one in 6/8, a slow, sweet lullaby, essentially a soul song with the chords broken up into their separate components. There’s a warmly glimmering piano solo with just a hint of disquiet. The latest of the singles is Dear Heaven, a haunting consolation:



I can only imagine your mornings here

Do you hear my prayers?

Did I offer you flowers?



Frodahl inquires, concerned. The songs builds into a strikingly intense chorus with incisive, distorted guitar, up to the hushed harmonies of the refrain, “Sad, sad, sad.” There’s also a devious trick ending with the clarinet. This makes great late-night listening: headphones are very highly recommended. All the songs are available at itunes or at the band’s own site. Edison Woods play Galapagos on Feb 19.

February 6, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Sospiro Winds at Trinity Church, NYC 2/5/09

Billing themselves as “an exciting new force on the chamber music scene,” the Sospiro Winds worked their way through a demanding program that would make a believer out of pretty much any cynic who might consider such a claim to be a complete oxymoron. The quartet, including oboeist James Austin Smith, Kelli Kathman on flute, Romie de Guise-Langlois on clarinet and Adrian Morejon on bassoon, played with a rigorous virtuosity matched with a boisterous irreverence. This was a totally 20th century bill. “The 20th century was for wind players what the rest of history was for string or piano players,” Smith related – true for western orchestral music, although if you were a Berber, a gypsy or a Jew in a prior era and you played a wind instrument you were BMOC. They opened with a rearrangement of an interestingly baroque-tinged Stravinsky pastorale originally written simply for soprano and piano. Then the fireworks began, with the four movements of Jean Francaix’ Divertissement for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon (Kathman sat this one out). Showing considerable verve, the trio onstage moved dexterously from the circular melody that opens the suite, through a bouncy dance featuring the oboe, a stately, matter-of-fact elegy and then an energetically fluttery, almost ragtime-tinged scherzo with a neat trick ending. This and the other Francaix piece on the bill, a rather celebratory wind quartet, worked ambitious, 20th century tonalities within a very classical architectural style with call-and-response and other familiar devices.


The quartet then reassembled for Jacques Ibert’s Two Movements, pairing a playful, cavorting excursion with an even more humorous second part, almost a mockery of Romanticisn. Kathman and Morejon’s take on Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Braslieras #3 for Flute and Bassoon were an interesting if ultimately predictable blend of pre-baroque devices and bright, colorful tropicalia.  The real showstopper was Eugene Bozza’s Three Pieces of Night Music. The opening nocturne was more of a requiem for the day that just ended, moving ominously along on dark, low arpeggios from the bassoon. The second part, a party scene, evoked Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, de Guise-Langlois remarked, and she was right. The piece closed with a strikingly restless dream sequence, more troubled sleep than any kind of peaceful end to a turbulent day. Watch this space for upcoming New York performances: the group’s next show is April 18 in Greenwood, Virginia (280 Ortman Road, near Charlottesville, 434-361-2660) as part of the Casa Maria Concert Series. In the meantime, since Trinity archives their concerts, you can watch the complete performance here.

February 6, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/6/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Friday’s is #537:

Blue Oyster Cult – Joan Crawford

Surreal, bizarrely comedic art-rock masterpiece about what happens when Joan Crawford rises from the grave: ornate classical piano intro, all kinds of weird effects (“Christina! Mother’s home!”) and a killer bassline by lead guitarist Buck Dharma. From the 1981 lp Fire of Unknown Origin, typically found in the dollar bins wherever vinyl is sold; also available wherever there are mp3s.

February 6, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment