Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Jay Cloidt/Amanda Moody – D’Arc: Woman on Fire

Like something of a hybrid of Rasputina, Diamanda Galas and This Mortal Coil, this is a timely, imaginative update on the Joan of Arc legend. Actress/chanteuse Amanda Moody’s stage show casts Joan as intercessor in the troubled life of Joanne, an agoraphobic whose daughter has just disappeared in an unnamed, wartorn foreign country. Somewhat obliquely, it’s a telling parable about violence and redemption or lack thereof. Esssentially, this cd, distributed by the esteemed Starkland label, is the soundtrack album, Jay Cloidt’s orchestration alternately haunting and atmospheric with layers of keyboards and a lush string section featuring Kronos Quartet cellist Joan Jeanrenaud. Moody’s voice is as dramatic as one would expect here, ranging literally from a whisper to a scream. 

The opening track, hypnotic with stark, plaintive strings, quietly and assuredly implores a young soldier to go home. Two poignantly atmospheric chamber pieces set the scene for the frantic, anguished, goth-tinged If I Leave the House, cellos ablaze as they reach a shrieking crescendo. After Prayers, macabre vocalese over ambient washes of sound, layers of strings and keys, there’s the stomping Born in Blood, like Siouxsie done ambitious, 80s performance-art style. The rather sarcastically gospel-tinged 10,000 Silver Doves recasts the Joan of Arc execution as a present-day murder. Miracles, a stark aria, sees the narrator sardonically and bitterly remembering her dead daughter as an infant. Surprisingly, the show ends not with a screaming crescendo but with the vivid wartime ballad Born for This. While Cloidt and Moody are best known for their work in the  avant garde, this album is as accessible as it is potently relevant.

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July 13, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: TriBeCaStan – Strange Cousin

An alternate title for this cd could be Around the World with 180 Instruments. This is definitely a strange album, also a very clever, entertaining and playful one, ostensibly showcasing the music of the tiny and fascinating nation of TriBeCaStan, landlocked by the Manhattan neighborhoods of Chinatown, SoHo and the Financial District. In one sense, this seems to be a vehicle for bandleaders John Kruth and Jeff Greene to air out what seems to be a museum’s worth of exotic and unusual instruments. Bolstered by a like-minded cast of adventurers including oud master Brahim Fribgane, gypsy jazz pioneer Matt Darriau and seashell virtuoso Steve Turre, they have a boisterously good-natured out-of-the-box sensibility much in the same vein as sprawling avant-gypsy/klezmer/reggae improvisers Hazmat Modine.

The first cut is Mopti, a Don Cherry tune redone as rustic, hundred-year-old one-chord oldtime blues. Tonko the Zookeeper maintains the rustic blues feel, featuring Kruth on the Moldavian kaval (recorder) and Greene on the dutar (a beautifully resonant Uzbek lute). The suite continues with Yusef’s Motif, a flute composition, Greene this time on the koncovka, a wooden tube of Slovakian origin used here for its otherworldy overtones.

Raphaella is a sad tango for mandolin, mandocello, six-string ukelele and guiro. The Flowers (That I Placed at My Ancerstor’s Grave Spontaneously Burst into Flame with Their Appreciation) waltzes along sadly with understatedly poignant clarinet from Darriau. Dancing Girls (of TriBeCaStan), another sad waltz credited as “traditional,” showcases yet another lute, the Middle Eastern rebab. TriBeCaStani Traffic Jam uses a whole swamp full of reed instruments  – the Chinese sheng, harmonica, krummhorn, Pakistani taxi horn and alto sax – to very vividly illustrate a street scene where nobody’s going anywhere.

Sunda Sunday is a hypnotic but not lazy vignette with Turre on shells and Greene playing both incisively minimalist steel drum and bowed tambur (a Turkish lute that resembles a banjo), followed by Lady Dez, a swinging, Balkan-inflected minor-key harmonica tune that sounds straight out of the Hazmat Modine catalog. The best song on the album is the striking Black Ice, Kruth’s kelhorn (a popular Renaissance-era wooden flute with a marvelous tremolo tone) floating darkly over Greene’s rustic nyckelharpa (a Norwegian autoharp of sorts with two sets of reverberating strings). Of the rest of the cd’s fifteen tracks, The Bottle Man takes bluegrass to Bulgaria; Otha’s Blues takes the delta to Indonesia; Princess Rahsaanica takes a soul song east to India, and there’s a gamelanesque Sonny Sharrock cover. And the title track, a blazing, blaring march sailing along on the wings of Kruth’s Andalusian shepherd flute with a Master Musicians of Jajouka feel. To say that there’s something for everybody here would be the understatement of the millennium. Suggestion to Kruth and co. – send out a few unlabeled CDRs to world music reviewers and the people who put out the Rough Guide compilations and see how many people you can dupe into believing that this is the real thing. Which in a sense it is, the triumphantly indigenous music of the fearlessly syncretic people of TriBeCaStan!

July 13, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rachelle Garniez Has a Hot New Vinyl Single Out

Produced by Jack White of the White Stripes, the new single from inscrutable panstylistic New York rock goddess Rachelle Garniez is titled My House of Peace. But it’s not particularly peaceful, a jaunty, ragtime-inflected piano melody that kicks off with a lush, gospel-lavored intro that apppeared on her most recent cd, Melusine Years – which happens to be Lucid Culture’s pick for best album of the year 2007. Garniez’ voice is bright, beautiful and in your face: “Nobody gets away with murder in the house of peace.” As usual, there are umpteen levels of meaning here that come through deliciously with repeated listening. Jack White is on drums here with Jack Lawrence on the bass, Garniez handling all the keys herself.

It’s out on one-sided 45 RPM black vinyl on Third Man Records. There’s also a limited-edition three-colored vinyl release of 100 copies available only through Third Man Records, 623 7th Avenue South in Nashville.

July 13, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/13/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Monday’s song is #380:

Steve WynnShades of Blue

Poignant careening intensity: leave it to Steve Wynn to invent that style. He says this song is about nostalgia, but it’s deeper than that. This is a requiem for lost time, particularly memorable for anyone lucky enough to have heard his old band the Dream Syndicate as they were coming up: the song nicks the opening hook from Tell Me When It’s Over, the first cut on the legendary 1981 Days of Wine and Roses album. From Here Come the Miracles, 2001. The link in the title above is a choice stripped-down duo version version from Philly, 2003.

July 13, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment