Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review – Devi at Mercury Lounge, NYC 3/22/09

It’s hard to think of another band quite like Devi, blending the cleverness and intricacy of a good jam band with the catchiness of vintage powerpop, the awareness and relevance of punk and the occasional smirking metal flourish. The Hoboken, New Jersey power trio have been riding a wave of buzz in the wake of their popular new cd Get Free, and this show found them edging ever closer to the wild, psychedelic jam band inside them, threatening to break out of its shell at any second. As much as this was a song set, there were plenty of opportunities for everybody in the band to cut loose or play off each other and they used all of them. Fighting gamely through a seemingly endless parade of technical glitches, they’d brought a couple of special guests, adventurous keyboardist Rob Clores and also Carmen Sclafani, frontman of Grand Funk-style NJ 70s revivalists Wiser Time to sing harmonies. For significant portions of the show, neither were audible, which was too bad because when Clores was up enough in the mix to be heard, he was always adding something interesting, whether atmospheric washes of synth, ominous organ or tastefully funky Rhodes piano.

 

They opened with the catchy, upbeat rocker Another Day, then immediately launched into the concert favorite When It Comes Down. It’s a brooding, pensive number that practically screams out to be stretched out, and this time the group went out on a limb, frontwoman/guitarist Debra tossing out echoey waves of blues against Klores’ sheets of melody, finally bringing it down to just the rhythm section, all minimalist and mysterious before the guitar kicked in with a wild, psychedelic 70s feel. And then they were back off and running.

 

The group’s new bassist caught the vibe and channeled it perfectly, trading off the occasional lick with the guitar or leading the charge as the drums built to yet another crescendo. Not to be denied, the band ran through a particularly elegaic version of the slow, anthemic title track from the new cd, a charging version of the powerpop hit All That I Need and then a characteristically haunting version of the 9/11 remembrance Welcome to the Boneyard featuring a soaring, haunting lead vocal, the band taking it down to just drums and keys as the last verse came around.

 

Opening act NYC Smoke revealed a fondness for nonsequiturs as well as cheesy 80s albums by the Replacements and the Cure.

March 26, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: The Skye Steele Quintet – Late Bloomer

A strange, sometimes unearthly and utterly beautiful album by innovative violinist/composer Skye Steele and his superb backing unit, guitar, reeds and rhythm section. Like a lot of the current New York vanguard, Steele’s compositions blur the line between jazz, world music and classical. Call it Barbes music – cutting-edge New York listeners will get the reference. Much of it is atmospheric, often stark and rustic but imbued equally with a playful, surrealist wit. Clarinetist Harel Shachal (who also leads also the excellent Orientalist ensemble Anistar) kicks off the cd’s opening cut, a plaintive version of the old Scottish folk song Black Is the Color with a gentle, cool breeze, the rest of the band entering leisurely. Drummer Satoshi Takeishi adds the subtlest of shades with his cymbals beneath Steele’s rainy-afternoon washes. They follow that with the funky Monkey See, a hypnotic riff for Steele that serves as a chassis for Steele’s contrasting ambience.  Evelynn, a big ballad, builds to a powerful, whirling crescendo of strings. Shine begins stark and choppy before lighting up with a warm, soulful Shachal solo where Steele joins him and then they pass the baton back and forth; Echo Park continues in the same vein, but more upbeat.

 

The title of the bizarrely named Pepperoni Pizza is a simple rhythic reference: it shares the number of beats in the song’s opening riff, and it’s definitely a party til the middle section, guitar carrying the rhythm as it gets all quiet. And then everybody’s off and running again, popping funk bass and sheets of violin leading the charge. Similarly, Rubber Ducky riffs on a playground rhyme, hints at a syncopated Irish reel and then goes straight for the jugular before winding up with a bizarre singalong.

 

Freedom Impressionism is, appropriately enough, an inspired free improvisation riffing on Coltrane and one of the Satie Gymnopedies. The cover of Scarborough Fair takes the stately old tune on the thrill ride of its life, highlighted by a big foghorn Shachal solo.There’s also the circular Afropop-inflected Years Later with its wistful ending, the pensive The Fall and the cd’s fiery, late 70s Jean-Luc Ponty-esque concluding cut, Pretty Girls. Taken as a whole, the album makes for great late-night ipod listening. The group are very captivating, often haunting live. Skye Steele has LA, Mexico and London dates coming up, watch this space for NYC shows.

March 26, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/26/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Thursday’s song is #489:

System Noise – Daydreaming

Our pick for best song of 2006, it began as an exercise in dynamics, the band exploring what might happen if they wrote a song that started quiet, got loud and then quiet again. This slow, towering, magnificently macabre anthem is the result, Sarah Mucho’s anguished yet brutally self-aware voice soaring over a maelstrom of guitars: “Loneliness is all I have tonight.” From a forthcoming cd; bootlegs abound, including the 2008 video above.

March 26, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment