Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Mission: On Mars Mesmerizes the Gantries

Tuesday night at Gantry Plaza Park in Long Island City, Mission: On Mars transcended the crushing heat, playing a set that was as innovative as it was absolutely psychedelic, outlasting the sunset blazing down on the crowd gathered at the waterfront. Essentially, what they played could be described as live drum ‘n bass improvisations on classical Indian themes. Bandleader Neel Murgai plays sitar, which in this group serves as a sort of rhythm guitar instead of a prominent lead instrument (although he did take a handful of brief, tersely jangling solos). Alongside him was a terrific electric guitarist, a bassist who artfully managed to embellish the band’s extended one-chord vamps, propelled by a funky drummer. Several of their methodically, hypnotically swaying instrumentalists featured incisive solos by a guest mandolinist. Singer Kristin Hoffmann also joined them on a few numbers, belting with a sometimes bluesy intensity that contrasted strikingly with the more pensive, nuanced delivery she typically uses on her own material. Like Man or Astroman, they kicked off several of the numbers with tinny, prerecorded samples from what sounded like old sci-fi films, establishing the otherworldly vibe that would last the entire evening

Because of the presence of the sitar, the band rarely if ever change keys, which gives their jams an even more hypnotic feel. Some of them had a straight-up, slinky, trip-hop beat; others shifted between more tricky time signatures, a couple of them starting out funky and then morphing into a smoother, more sustained ambience, or vice versa. The guitarist moved from a jangle to a joyous roar on his thoughtfully paced solos, while the bass played very cool, minimalist passing tones against the central key. The best song of the night was one of the vocal numbers, Hoffmann wailing over an ominous, percussive, artsy new wave rock vamp that could have been a Siouxsie and the Banshees song circa 1983. Some of the lyrics were in English, some weren’t – as is the case at most outdoor shows like these, the vocals tended to get lost when the band picked up steam. Which wouldn’t have been the case if they’d been working the dance floor inside a club. There’s no band in town who sound remotely like these guys.

Advertisements

August 19, 2010 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.