Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Boro 6 Music Festival Coming to Montclair, NJ June 18-21

One ongoing problem here (we have many) is that being so immersed in the New York scene, it’s awfully easy to forget that there are plenty of other vital music scenes all over the country. Case in point: Montclair, New Jersey, home not to any one particular style but the focal point for a large, diverse handful of smart, impressively competent bands. The upcoming Boro 6 Music Festival runs June 18-21, with lots of bands on the bill. The McMickle Bros. serve up vaguely Neil Young-inflected clang and twang with unusual verve, at the top of their game sounding a little like the Dream Syndicate. The three women and two guys in Bern & the Brights deliver stark, passionate shoegaze-inflected minor-key anthems, while the two guys in Tip Canary offer funny, laid-back raps over lazy guitar funk grooves. Deivito play rousing acoustic Latin music fused with Mexican folk that actually sounds more like ancient Dominican bachata than anything else

Highlights of day one are the Defending Champions, who play tasty third-wave ska with clinky guitars, a horn section and a sense of humor, and gentle but funny cello/guitar indie pop band Waking Lights. Day two features New York gypsy-Japanese party band Kagero as well as the Frozen Gentlemen, who play funny, tongue-in-cheek early 80s new wave and ska-flavored pop. On the third day, there’ll be the scruffy, moody, restless indie trio the All New Cheap Moves along with blue-eyed soul/funk siren Stephanie White & the Philth Harmonic. Day four has a killer lineup with the Porchistas’ fun, country-inflected powerpop, the McMickle Bros., Bern & the Brights and Stu Klinger’s excellent Pogues cover band Streams of Whiskey. The final night includes the brilliant New York Americana chanteuse Julia Haltigan and her killer band the Hooligans along with the tuneful, anthemic, funky rock of Copesetic and perhaps the best act of the entire festival, the One & Nines who are an amazing time machine, playing the kind of slightly psychedelic late 60s soul that Smokey Robinson and the rest of the A-list were doing right before Woodstock. The entire festival calendar is here.

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May 12, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

CD Review: The Cool Devices

Particularly appropriate that this would come over the transom a couple of days after seeing the Chrome Cranks at Santos Party House: the debut seven-track album by Chicago band the Cool Devices shares a no-holds-barred, roaring ferocity and a smart, riff-oriented post-Stooges vibe with the recently reunited LES New York legends. This effort has more of an authentic Detroit feel than most of the innumerable Stooges imitators out there, frontman Jason Frederick assailing the mic with relentless, snotty energy. The whole thing has a live-in-the-studio feel, well-rehearsed but with a spontaneity that’s hard to get just doing the songs track by track.  Right off the bad, they take it to redline with (This Is Not A) White World, muted guitar chords sputtering with natural distortion with more than a bit of an early Jon Spencer Blues Explosion feel. Some fiery tremolo picking kicks off the second track, Fatso, snarling riff-rock with trebly Farfisa or what sounds like it by Casey Meehan of Jitney (another good band recently reviewed here). 

Once I Became One Of Those is careening and atonal in the Chrome Cranks vein, practically death metal but with swing instead of stomp. Come Get Me has the guitar punching a single chord over and over again as Frederick rails and the organ kicks in at the end of the verse, an effects pedal left oscillating wildly at the end. The absolutely evil, chromatically-charged The Line Starts Here staggers along with growly Stranglers bass over some tricky time changes. The big, obvious hit is Primitive, dark second-generation minor-key garage rock also evocative of the Stranglers with that oldschool organ swirling as the chorus hits a peak. The album winds up with Someone Stop Them, running a1-3-4 riff over and over again like a less sludgy Thee Hypnotics as the organ distorts, then hands over the reins to the guitar which eventually goes apeshit while Frederick screams the tortured mantra of a title. A Guantanamo parable? 

Another triumph for upstart Chicago label Rock Proper, who in a remarkable spirit of generosity make their albums available for free download: get the whole thing here. If this is any indication, they ought to be a great live band: Chicago fans ought to go see them at their cd release show on May 28 at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont.

May 12, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: A Company of Voices – Conspirare in Concert

For a new group, coming straight out of the chute with a great album can be as much curse as blessing. For better or worse, it’s Austin, Texas-based choral group Conspirare’s cross to bear. Both their debut, Requiem, as well as their 2007 follow-up, Threshold of Night, an adventurous collections of works by British composer Tarik O’Regan, share a subtle and frequently not so subtle brilliance, pushing the boundaries of where vocal music can go. Conspirare’s pioneering director Craig Hella Johnson’s claim to fame is his collages, as he calls them, intricately polyrhythmic arrangements of two or more choral works simultaneously. One literally exhilarating example here on the new cd (also available as a dvd) blends segments of an Appalachian folk tune with Motown, a Roy Orbison hit, medieval plainsong and Broadway. Anyone who might think choral music can’t be psychedelic ought to hear this. Since recording a choir utilizes pretty much the same techniques in the studio and in concert, calling this a live album is somewhat beside the point. And in contrast to the often haunting, starkly beautiful sound of the ensemble’s previous release, this frequently has the feel of a PBS special…maybe because it was recorded for one.

Conspirare particularly excels at spirituals and soul music. They also ably explore both country – notably Dolly Parton’s Light of a Clear Blue Morning – and contemporary gospel with a surprising majesty and depth. To their infinite credit, the performances generally transcend the more commercial material here, for example, finding the inner poignance in an otherwise forgettable Annie Lennox top 40 hit. Yet unsurprisingly, it’s the edgiest material here – Eliza Gylkison’s stoic Requiem, the title track from their first album; an excerpt from Triptych by Tarik O’Regan, and an often spine-tingling take of Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei that spring the latch, voices and arrangements soaring free of a Pandora’s box of schlock (Johnson should leave writing power ballads to those who sing them – with their bands, that is, not with this unit).

Yet the sheer craft and unabashed joyousness of the group raises even the most lightweight material here above the level of a tune-out – although Lucid Culture’s resident jazz critic walked by the front desk when this was playing, scrunched up her face and announced that “This sounds like what my mom would listen to around Christmastime when she’s baking cookies.” Well, at low volume, maybe: all the voices here turned up to ten will rock your stove. And it’s reason enough to look forward to Conspirare’s next album, hopefully making a fullscale return to their paradigm-shifting roots.

May 12, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 5/11/09

We do this every week. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Every link here will take you to the song.

 

1. McGinty & White – Knees

Savagely lyrical kiss-off anthem from the duo’s excellent debut cd, possibly the only song ever written that fondly (sort of) eulogizes CB’s Gallery. Gotta love that Love Is the Drug outro. They’re at Bowery Electric on 5/21 at 11.

 

2. Overlord – The Daily Oblivion

Better than the New Pornographers – plus they have Kerry Kennedy in the band!

 

3. David Bridie – Going Out with the Enemy

Smart Aussie rock songwriter – this one sounds a bit like Midnight Oil.

 

4. Sr. Misterio – El Comienzo

Mexican surf rock is the best!

 

5. Stuffed Cupcake – Better at Rejection

“NJ’s premier dessert punk band.” Here’s an even funnier acoustic version.

 

6. Bern & the Brights – May in New York

22 degrees? Vigil at Union Square? When was this? Good song, though, dark and propulsive.

 

7. Tip Canary – Tough to Find One (Broke A$S Game)

Funny hip-hop-funk tune about dating a rich bitch

 

9. Waking Lights – Ice Cream & Vicodin

Enjoy, just don’t choke!

 

10. The Frozen Gentlemen – Peen

Deadpan retro 80s new wave. Is this about what it seems to be about?

May 12, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment