Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Brooklyn Art-Rockers Release a Maxi, Maxi New Single

The single is titled Flow. With a fast hypnotic 2/4 pulse, Brooklyn rockers My Pet Dragon’s new single sets a nocturnally exuberant lyric to a memorably uneasy chromatic melody, acoustic guitar over an insistent beat with judiciously swooping synthesized orchestration. For a band who don’t often evoke the 80s, it’s got a very mid 80s goth feel, although frontman Todd Michaelsen’s voice soars over the atmospherics with a casual joy that you’d never hear from, say, Clan of Xymox. This is the upbeat, pop side of MPD – live in concert, they give it a swirling majesty and gravitas to match the anthemic, often epic ferocity of their other material. An instrumental-only version of the song is also included, which works almost as well as the full-length track with vocals – you could even do karaoke to it (it would make a good workout – Michaelsen hits some high notes).

Since this is a maxi-single (a really ubermax one, actually an ep if you want to be precise about it), the B-side is an unrecognizable cover of Release, by an unmentionable 90s grunge band. For the sake of argument, this might as well be an original: it’s been reinvented as a slow, atmospheric 6/8 ballad that sounds kind of like a B-side by the Church, with new English-language lyrics – or at least in understandable English. And for those who like disco remixes, this one has not one but four, in various shades of electronicness (Karsh Kale is responsible for the first). All of this is available at MPD’s site. They’re playing the small room at the Rockwood on 11/20 at 11, as good a choice of a Saturday night show as you can find in town right now.

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November 9, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Belgian Organist Treats a Midtown Audience to Brilliant Obscurities

We recently mentioned scenes in New York which encourage and nurture musicians rather than exploiting them as many venues do. Another one of those scenes, slowly and steadily building a following over the past year or so, is the lunchtime concert series at half past noon at Central Synagogue on Lexington Ave. curated by organist Gail Archer (whose deliciously titled American Idyll compilation of works by American composers is a genuine classic). On the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, she brings in a series of first-rate international performers, established touring artists along with young organists making their first ventures into world-class venues such as this one. Today’s artist was Ignace Michiels, organist at Saint-Saviours Cathedral in Bruges, Belgium.

Like so many performers from overseas, Michiels brought a fascinating mix of unfamiliar material, which actually overshadowed the better-known pieces on the program. He opened with the emphatic, driving triplet volleys of Bach’s Chorale on Valet will ich der Geben (BWV 736), a rousing warmup followed by a warmly cantabile take of the Romanze from Josef Rheinberger’s Sonata No. 9, Op. 142. The pace picked up with the majestic call-and-response resolutions of Alexandre Guilmant’s Allegro con fuoco from his Sixth Sonata.

Then the reallly fascinating part began. In addition to founding the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, which he conducted, Belgian-American keyboardist Camil Van Hulse wrote several symphonic works. Michiels’ flights through the astringently Messiaenesque, upwardly winding branches of the scherzo from Van Hulse’s Symphonia Mystica were a revelation: if the rest of the piece is equally interesting, it’s a masterpiece waiting to be rediscovered. Likewise, Gaston Litaize’s Prelude et Danse Fuguee deserves to be better known, a menacing marionette dance that grows to a clash of titans – or the charge of an orc army, for Lord of the Rings fans. And Joseph Bonnet’s Elves grew from a playful game of hide-and-seek among the low flute stops to a flood of the little things. Michiels closed with Naji Hakim’s rigorously cerebral Ouverture Libanaise (which interestingly didn’t have any overt Middle Eastern tonalities), then a ragtime piece that could have been left off the bill, and finally the showstopper, the Allegro from 20th century Hungarian composer Frigyes Hidas’ Sonata for Organ, yet another too-obscure masterpiece packed with long, stormy full-bore crescendos and torrents that built to an unstoppable, volcanic coda. It was as much a display of speed and power as it was adventurous a choice to include in the program. The series here continues on the 23rd of this month.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Borromeo String Quartet Do Some Foreshadowing on the Upper West

A Boston institution (and once a New York one during their two-year Lincoln Center residency a while back), the Borromeo String Quartet played Webern, Bartok and Beethoven with a warm familiarity and a soulfulness last night at the upper west side’s Music Mondays series. They know this material, and they get it.

Anton Webern’s Langsam Satz was the opening piece and was delivered with late-summer lustre, heavy on the vibrato. It’s basically an increasingly complex series of permutations on a simple, memorable four-note riff, making its way around the ensemble as it gently shifted shape. The Tschaikovskian second movement featured strikingly boisterous pizzicato phrasing from violist Mai Motobuchi, after which the group brought it back down to a warm cantabile mood.

Bartok’s Sixth String Quartet made a sharp contrast, and received a marvelously subtle treatment. This one doesn’t have the outright wrath of much of the composer’s work but it’s full of satire and a pervasive unease that quickly makes itself utterly inescapable. If Sartre’s Huis Clos had a soundtrack, this could be it. Cellist Yeesun Kim plowed deeply into the resonant introduction and brought the rest of the ensemble along as they alternated ominous atmospherics and slightly furtive embellishments. Violinists Nicholas Kitchen and Kristopher Tong built a distant whirlwind on the second movement; the third, a twisted dance, had alarms going off, signaling the approach of what appears to be a satirical version of the kind of pretty nocturne exemplified by the Webern. A series of perfectly precise violin overtones signaled in the completely counterintuitive, calm ending: seventy years later, Bartok is still a car-length or two ahead of most composers.

They closed with Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 92. For the composer, it was something of a landmark, signaling the development of a wholly original sound, in the process shifting the paradigm away from the predictable call-and-response of Haydn that he’d emulated up to that point. It’s a clinic in tension between apprehensive, fiery, Vivaldiesque crescendos and smoothly swaying teutonic phrasing, darkly shadowed by its lower tonalities, and the quartet let those contrasts speak for themselves. In a way, it was the perfect piece to follow the first two because it synthesizes the emotional content explored by each: Bartok’s disquiet and Webern’s optimistic solidity. And like them, it ended warmly, in the style of a Bach cantata: a somewhat triumphant song without words that tacked an unexpectedly happy ending on after all foreshadowing to the contrary. With its brisk dynamic changes and fluid runs that border on the torrential, it’s not easy to play, but the Borromeos made it seem that way. The next Music Mondays concert at the dual-congregation church at 93rd and Broadway is December 13 featuring the Sospiro Winds plus violinist Miranda Cuckson and pianist Aaron Wunsch, playing music of Gyorgi Ligeti.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Ameranouche at 68 Jay St. Bar in Brooklyn

Much as a lot of New York clubs exploit musicians, there are other venues that actually support and nurture scenes: Barbes, with its global talent base; the Jalopy’s oldtime Americana roots crew; punk rock at ABC No Rio; jazz at Smalls. Count 68 Jay St. Bar in Dumbo on this short but crucial list. If Jan Bell (a poignant and potent Americana singer and tunesmith herself) has booked a band for one of the bar’s Wednesday and Saturday night shows, that’s a guarantee that the music will be good. Saturday night the attraction was New Hampshire gypsy jazz act Ameranouche. Make as many jokes about bands from the boondocks as you want, but Boston and Portland, Maine have been hit just as hard or even harder by the blight of gentrification as New York has, so maybe the Granite State talent that in years past would flee to those towns at the first opportunity is staying put now and making do with what they have.

When the trio first hit the stage, the bar was pretty empty: by the time they’d finished their first set, it was hopping, in both senses of the word. Bassist Xar Adelberg locked into a terse, fluid swing pulse that anchored the hypnotic staccato rhythm of guitarist Ryan Flaherty while lead guitarist Richard Sheppard spun off one spiraling shower of sparks after another. What differentiates this band from the scores of other Django Reinhardt devotees out there is their originality. They played Swing 69 early on and that did one pretty much straight up: for a lot of reasons, it doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room unless you make it punk, or reggae, or something vastly different than the original. After another Django number, the band went into their own catalog for a scurrying train-whistle tune: listening to what was essentially a two-chord jam, it was like being on a comfortable night express surrounded by friendly people drinking beer. The next song had an eerie tinge, with tritones; after that, they took the groove in a funk direction, Flaherty muting his strings just enough to produce a tinny tambourine-like timbre, an unexpectedly cool contrast with Sheppard’s lightning, incisive sixteenth-note runs. A slinkier shuffle, a bluesier number and then their fastest song of the night followed. As you would expect, Ameranouche tour frequently; if gypsy jazz is your thing – if you’re a fan of Stephane Wrembel, especially – they’re a band you need to know.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | concert, gypsy music, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 11/9/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #812:

Les Porte-Mentaux – Les Misérables

Best remembered for their mid-80s hit Elsa Fraulein, these French punk rockers (their name means “The Coat Hangers”) had half a minute of major label attention with this one stunningly good 1989 release whose ornate 80s chorus-box and big room production gives an artsy sheen to the raw punk fury underneath. Frontman/guitarist Michel Paul anchored his sarcastic anger in history, notably in the revolutionary anthem Les Partisans and the scorching version of the old folk song Ah Ça Ira (sort of the French equivalent of the Clash’s English Civil War). Pas l’Temps d’Rever (No Time for Dreaming) blasts along like early Stiff Little Fingers; the fake march Soldat Soldat evokes famous French rockers Telephone with its snarling antiwar stance. The balmy, Church-esque guitar atmospherics of Le Grand Bateau (The Ark) mask its apocalyptic undercurrent, but no amount of lavish production can bury the desperate punk fury of the wickedly anthemic title track: “Sous le pont du desespoir, les miserables et moi ce soir [“under Despair Bridge, the hopeless and me tonight]). There’s also the sarcastic Le Mome Poli (The Polite Kid), the singalong Cite Pigalle Sexe (dedicated to Paris’ now-gentrified former redlight district) and Etat de Siege (State of Siege) where Paul implores “Don’t get caught in the trap.” The tunes are so strong on this album that even if you don’t speak French, they’re enough to make you want to sing along. Michel Paul regrouped the band in the late 90s to cash in on the punk nostalgia movement before his tragic early death at age 44; a regrouped band continues to tour Europe, playing the hits. Here’s a random torrent.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment