Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Eyal Maoz’s Edom – Hope and Destruction

Raise your fist. Now extend your index finger and pinky. This album rocks. The second album by Eyal Maoz’s Edom, just out on Tzadik, is a nonchalantly dark blend of pounding instrumental metal and surf music with brooding Middle Eastern flourishes. The obvious comparison is Texas cult instrumentalists Intodown, with a slightly more ornate, noisy sensibility. In this power quartet, multi-faceted guitarist/composer Maoz is backed by keyboardist Brian Marsella (of Cyro Baptista‘s band and the fascinating melodic jazz ensemble the Flail) along with a plodding rhythm section. From the first few bars of the first song, it becomes clear that these guys really don’t have a clue about surf music. But that’s cool. That’s what gives them an original sound. The Yardbirds didn’t have a clue about blues either, and nobody can say that they didn’t rock.

As you would expect from a bunch of guys with a jazz background, they vary the tempos and dynamics. Maoz sets down eerie, often anguished layers of noise and feedback over simple, catchy chromatic vamps. Marsella utilizes several keyboard patches: quavery Vox organ, smooth Hammond and seemingly every bleep and bloop stored within the memory of whatever he’s playing (a Nord Electro seems a good guess). Most of the craziest noise passages are his, although, predictably, the most beautifully lyrical moments – particularly the Vox solo on the fifth track – are his as well.

The best song on the cd is Shell, a terse, catchy, macabre number that sounds like the Coffin Daggers gone to the Golan Heights, especially menacing as the organ doubles Maoz’ sinister guitar line. The best single solo is by bassist and producer Shanir Ezra Blumankranz, on the same song – it’s long and bluesy and deliciously terse and you don’t want it to end. Beyond the chromatic metal vibe of most of the other tracks, there’s also one that nicks a familiar hook by the Cure before going all hypnotic with a two-chord vamp, a bizarre attempt at a bubblegum surf song and a big, cinematic track simply titled Two with a noise breakdown evocatively colored with Maoz’ hammerlike attack. It’s nothing if not original and probably sounds terrific live. Shesh shesh shesh (that’s 666 in Hebrew).

September 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Joris Teepe Big Band – We Take No Prisoners

The album title may be a boast, but this is adrenalizing stuff. The Joris Teepe Big Band came about when the Dutch-American bassist found himself commissioned to write for the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra. Word got out, and he was invited to do a guest spot with the Bucharest Radio Big Band. Scaling down the orchestral arrangements to fit a seventeen-piece big band, he discovered he had something and this is the result. As befits a large ensemble, the compositions are long, ablaze with light, color and energy. Smooth jazz, it’s not. Teepe’s greatest strength is an ear for a hook: as complex and ornate as many of his charts are, he knows that hooks are simple and direct. With considerable exuberance, the group shoots straight for the mark and hits it every time.

The fast swing number that opens the album, Flight 643 begins with an almost dixieland flourish and keeps going, sax driving a Coltrane-esque descending progression into a big blazing crescendo and variations, ruminative piano against incisive bass and drums back up into the big arrangement. The title track opens with a scurrying rhythm, piano climbing and establishing an ambitious mood into one of those characteristic big hooks that works itself into another, even louder descending riff, and then an intriguingly shifting series of permutations. Even more ambitious, Peace on Earth has the orchestra echoing two guitar passages: warmly lyrical wah-wah in the opening section swirled around by the reeds, later the horns maintaining the intensity of a fiery, distorted guitar interlude, passing it off to Peter Brainin on sax who brings it all the way up.

Interestingly, the best song on the album is the quietest. With its lush, Gil Evans-style chart, Almost Lucky is strikingly slow and atmospheric, working up a big, towering four-note classical phrase. Finally, Teepe takes a solo mid-song and instead of cutting loose, he makes every judicious, careful note count, returning behind the curtain nonchalantly as the horns swell. The most retro track here is It Is Peculiar, with its catchy, bluesy swing and an ebullient trumpet solo from John Eckert. The cd wraps up with the big swinging Basie-esque epic, The Princess and the Monster, a clever narrative as well as a showcase for some sailing Don Braden sax work and later Jon Davis’ vividly lyrical piano. Teepe plays frequently in town: watch this space.

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

Concert Review: Ian Roure and Liza Garelik and the Larch at Parkside Lounge, NYC 9/4/09

Ian Roure and Liza Garelik are the guitarist and keyboardist in the Larch. They’re also the lead guitarist and frontwoman of Liza & the WonderWheels. His songs are catchy and witty – at the top of his game, he sounds like a ballsier Elvis Costello. Her songs are more riff-oriented but also often hypnotic and psychedelic: her band likes to stretch out. Friday night, most likely because the WonderWheels’ first-rate rhythm section wasn’t available, the two opened the night as a duo playing that band’s songs. Roure and Garelik are a couple, soon to be married and the chemistry extends to the music as well, the two sharing a passion for quirky new wave era pop as well as psychedelia. Those who play together don’t always stay together but a look at how these two play off each other is an auspicious reminder that this particular union is a good one. Their chemistry onstage was electric but playful, the fun the two were having translating viscerally to the crowd. Even with just the two voices and guitars, the tunes were tight and swinging and Roure’s lead guitar was pure magic, alternating between carefree, precise accents and a few of the wild, Richard Lloyd-inflected runs he’s known for. This time out he held back just the right amount so as not to overwhelm the songs. Garelik took advantage of the space to add her best glam-goddess vocals, soaring or cajoling with a devious wink and a triumphant grin. The set included both crowd-pleasers like the anthemic Meet the Animal and Midnight Lightning as well as some excellent new material, including the best song of the night, a long, uncharacteristically haunting, anthemic minor-key masterpiece possibly titled Go Up. It wouldn’t be out of place in the Penelope Houston catalog.

Then they brought up the Larch’s rhythm section and did a fiery set of Roure’s songs, a real thrill ride with all the guitar solos. Like so many New York bands, the Larch are far better known in Europe than they are here: they tour regularly and have some high-profile licensing deals there. Which makes sense, considering that Roure’s wryly cosmopolitan lyricism was honed growing up in the UK – although you’d think that in an ostensibly cosmopolitan town like New York, there’d be more of a place for them. The crowd, many of them A-list musicians themselves, was very into it as Roure led the crew through the tongue-in-cheek genetic engineering cautionary tale Return of the Chimera (which has an equally tongue-in-cheek video), the amusingly caustic Celebrity Gawker and a cleverly sardonic new one, Return of the Long Tail, an anthem for the current depression. Garelik added crystalline harmonies and quirky 80s organ as the rhythm section bounced along, bassist Ross Bonnadonna doing his own impressive version of a vigorously melodic Bruce Thomas style. Then Roure would hit the chorus box or the wah-wah pedal and take the songs to another galaxy.

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

Song of the Day 9/6/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Sunday’s song is #325:

Amy RigbyCynically Yours

This is the unpredictable, compelling multistylistic songwriter at her best, an uproariously funny but savagely insightful faux Brill Building pop song about selling out, relationship-wise. “You don’t suck, so I’m cynically yours.” From the Sugar Tree cd, 2000. The link in the title above is the full track at last.fm.

September 6, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment