Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: The Sick Debut Album by Woman

There are four people in Woman and they’re all guys. It’s not known what if anything the band name connotes, but it’s definitely not girly. Woman play dark, confrontational, in-your-face noise-rock that sounds straight out of the Lower East Side, 1993. What sets it apart from its antecedents is how tuneful it is. All of the songs here have layers and layers of guitar, howling, screaming, roaring, veering wildly in and out of focus, but the parts all manage to be in the right place at the right time. Since this band is actually very tight, the out-of-control freakouts become all the more intense. This album is like a splatter film that’s at least half suspense: there’s lots of gore, but they save it for when they need it. And then you get buckets. The tunes are always front and center when necessary; ditto the unrestrained savagery. Heavy drums and equally heavy, distorted bass add a shot of molten lead to an already unsteady vehicle.

There are eight tracks on the album to annoy your neighbors with in the wee hours. The first, When The Wheel’s Red layers a firestorm of metallic noise behind a simple catchy warped blues tune, like the Chrome Cranks as done by Sonic Youth circa Daydream Nation with some death metal dude on vocals. Track two, Gaol In My Heart is a stomping dirge, very Honeymoon Killers with a little Syd Barrett thrown in – the band pulses and sputters and finally the flames emerge from within the stinky smoke cloud, then it goes into a circular Doors-ish motif that they run over and over behind the squall. The Perfect Night captures swaying neo-boogie blues through the warped prism of a cheap whiskey bottle and ends cold as if they had to cut something off, or the tape ran out

The fourth cut, E-A-T-D-N-A picks up the pace with some unhinged chord-chopping and a wicked hook at the end of the verse that sounds a lot like the late great Live Skull (it figures: indie legend Martin Bisi engineered the album, maxing out the menace in his signature style). Like the previous cut, it stops dead in its tracks. After that, Phosphorescent Glow welds a catchy garage rock hook to ugly Melvins stomp and some charbroiled Ron Asheton licks. The most accessible song on the cd, Fall Into The Fall motors along on a catchy, mean chromatic hook with a Silver Rocket vibe, saving most of the guitar torture for the end. Heavy Water is aptly titled, like early Sabbath with a feedback fixation. The cd ends with the sarcastically titled torturefest Icy Drone, which reminds a lot of Live Skull’s classic cover of the Curtis Mayfield hit Pusherman. Damn, there hasn’t been a band this twistedly good around here in a long, long time. Could somebody please get their labelmates the Chrome Cranks together again for another tour and put them on the road with these guys. Woops…with this Woman. As a special bonus, Bang Records has pressed a limited edition run of 500 vinyl albums in addition to the cd.

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September 3, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Smoothe Moose Summer 09 Mixtape

We’re a little – ok, a lot – behind the eightball with this one, considering that adventurous, innovative Tortoise-esque Brooklyn dub/jazz/new music collective Smoothe Moose are celebrating the release of their latest mixtape (one assumes the Fall 09 edition) tonight at Public Assembly. But this is worth checking out A) because it’s free and B) because their unique blend of chillout instrumentals and jazz-inflected dub is a lot of fun. And also because it’s a cover album that doesn’t suck. It opens with an instrumental of Chopped & Screwed, the T-Pain song, woozy and dubwise. Sax creeps in along with some cello, both of which get expansive and playful. This is about as far from T-Pain as Grover Washington Jr. or Mad Professor – both of who it resembles – and it makes a good psychedelic groove. Timbaland would approve.

The second track reworks Electric Feel by MGMT as fuzzy dub after a rote first verse, synthy layers oscillating into and out of the mix. And as an added bonus it doesn’t have the original’s awful, pretentious off-key vocals. Track three, Bam Bam Bam is the Sister Nancy dancehall hit, tastily beefed up and hypnotic with fluttery sax, pinging guitar and then some stark cello. It’s the closest thing to classic dub here  – at least before the sax goes nuts – and it would be the best except for the last track, a dub instro version of Sabbath’s War Pigs. Circuits bubbling like they’re about to short and start a fire, fuzz bass nimbly nailing Tony Iommi’s guitar hooks, it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious. What a pleasant surprise –  a group that utilizes electronics that don’t suck the soul out of the music. Technology doesn’t always have to be the enemy. Download the individual tracks or the whole thing here for free here – and if you’re around tonight and in the mood to feed your brain, go see Smoothe Moose at Public Assembly at 9.

September 3, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Quartet Offensive – Carnivore

We need more jazz like this: counterintuitive, surprising, innovative and tuneful as hell. Although capable of a gem like the long lyrical ballad Jelly, the album’s next-to-last track, Quartet Offensive also like their noise. On this new cd, the Baltimore jazz group prove equally adept at an MC5-style amalgam of gritty riff-rock and free jazz, as well as intermingling plenty of effectively haphazard improvisation within the strikingly terse, melodic architecture of their compositions. Much of this compares favorably with the excellent, melodic Boston free jazz outfit Gypsy Schaeffer. John Dierker gets a surprising amount of range out of his bass clarinet, adding unexpected textures in tandem with Eric Trudel’s tenor sax. Matt Frazao‘s often heavily processsed guitar also adds a wealth of shades and frequencies over the often astonishingly minimalist, subtle groove of the rhythm section, Adam Hopkins on bass and Nathan Ellman-Bell on drums. Headphone music, most definitely.

The big riff-rockers are the opening and closing tracks here. The first works a raunchy funk-metal riff down into a guitar-and-horns freakout in the same vein as King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man, then winds its way back up. The last cut moves deftly from riff-rock to swing, sax and guitar effects bubbling like acid on cinderblock in midsummer until the insistent pulse of the horns brings the track back into focus. The single best track might be the langorous yet fascinating dirge Heavy-Light. An off-kilter conversation between Dierker and Trudel opens it, guitar entering mysteriously over the horns’ repetitive insistence, sax eventually rising overhead. Then a sunbaked guitar solo that morphs into a rippling firestorm as the effects pedals seem to gleefully fry themselves. Meanwhile, the rhythm section maintains the pace of a tortoise. But it’s a funky tortoise: he just moves at about a third of the speed that we do.

Or, the best song here might be the tongue-in-cheek narrative The Sheep Ate the Flowers, kicking off with a staccato guitar riff that works itself into a maelstrom of noise into guitar feedback that fades down until it’s mostly inaudible, then up to a hypnotic, circular, guitar-driven fusionesque vamp. Or it could be the self-explanatory O.D., kicking off with yet more staccato guitar echoed restlessly by the horns, followed by what sounds like a playful rip of the chorus from Steely Dan’s Josie – in 13. Sax and then guitar solos grow increasingly unhinged, to the point where at the end of Frazao’s crazed trip to the emergency room, the horns have to take over and comp and keep the restraints tightly knotted. There’s also a evocatively pensive ballad titled Gooodbye, Cavendish and the straight-up groove Yo Banana Boy with its thoughtful Wes Montgomery-inflected guitar and shapeshifting harmonies between the horns. The liner notes indicate that this album was recorded with help from the Peabody Office of Career Development and the Maryland State Arts Council: money well spent. One can only wonder how many other excellent groups like this are kicking around towns like “Ballmer.” Quartet Offensive’s next gig is a free show on September 12 at 9 PM at Windup Space, 12 W North Ave. in Baltimore with Brooklyn group Afuche.

September 3, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 9/3/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Thursday’s song is #328:

Procol Harum – As Strong As Samson

An unusually caustic world-is-going-to-hell commentary by lyricist Keith Reid (who didn’t play in the legendary British art-rock band but went to all their shows) set to a wrenchingly beautiful organ melody. The studio track from the 1974 Exotic Birds and Fruit album (above) is fine, but the best version is on their Live on the BBC cd, a 1974 recording finally issued in 1999. Frontman Gary Brooker continues to lead a considerably more heavy metal version of the band.

September 3, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment