Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Annabouboula’s Immortal Water is Potent Stuff

“Annabouboula” translates roughly from the Greek as “cacaphony,” or in common usage, “brouhaha.” Immortal water is a powerful liquor. So does Annabouboula’s new album sound like a drunken brouhaha? Not really. But it’s definitely a party. The trio of multi-instrumentalists George Sempepos, Chris Lawrence, and chanteuse Anna Paidoussi date back to 1986 when they were signed to Virgin Records and quickly established themselves as one of the era’s most interesting, esoteric bands. They went dormant in the early 90s just as the world-funk sound they’d pioneered began to gain traction. Fast forward to 2010 and a new album: this one sounds sort of like the Middle Eastern version of Chicha Libre, surfy, wryly clever and psychedelic, with Greek lyrics sung powerfully and often hauntingly by Paidoussi.

The opening track, Hello Sailor, is a tour de force: a slinky, haunting levantine vamp contrasting with gently sensual vocals, layers and layers of lead guitar, eerily pointillistic qanun and swooshy string synthesizer. Lilly (The Scandalous Girl) sets the riff from the Smiths’ How Soon Is Now to a Bo Diddley beat, resulting in what sounds like Nancy Sinatra gone to the Mediterranean. There are two versions of the title track: the Brooklyn mix, matching bristling guitar to clubby synthesizer and synth bass textures, and the funkier Smyrna mix. Come Sit on My Sofa, with its Middle Eastern snakecharmer chromatics and acoustic guitar slashing through some oud voicings, evokes Sempepos’ brilliant/obscure Mediterranean surf band the Byzan-Tones.

The most straightforward rock song here is May Day: underneath the 80s textures, there’s a wickedly catchy surf tune threatening to rise up and drench everything in its path. What Do You Care Where I’m From takes a hypnotic turn into dub reggae; The Boat from Turkey slyly blends 80s guitar and synthesized organ textures into a deliciously weird psychedelic web. There’s also the Cretan Hop, which with its bagpipe guitar riffage sounds like Big Country in Greek, the stately, understatedly ominous If You See the Mountains Burning, and a playful, silly introduction to Greek rhythms for western audiences. Oh yeah, did we mention that this is an eclectic band? In lieu of a new album from Chicha Libre, this one will do just fine: look for it on our Best Albums of 2010 list in about a week.

Advertisements

December 14, 2010 Posted by | funk music, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Amy Bezunartea Dishes on Restaurants and Bars

If you’ve followed this space at all, you’ve probably noticed that we very seldom cover singer-songwriters. There’s a reason for that. Your typical singer-songwriter plays one song over and over again. The melody, the beat or the lyrics may change, but it basically goes something like this: “I’m mad at you because you don’t pay attention to me.” And did you ever wonder why most folkie clubs have such an annoyingly uptight vibe? Because they’re filled with people who actually relate to songs like that. What those people don’t realize is that if they all got together and united, other people would pay attention to them. But they’re too narcissistic to do that.

In the far left corner of that field, or more likely behind the bar, is Brooklyn songwriter Amy Bezunartea. Although her music is typically gentle, acoustic-based and lyrically-driven, it doesn’t fit the typical singer-songwriter mold: if you have to put a label on her, acoustic rocker makes the most sense. Her new album Restaurants and Bars is just out on Jennifer O’Connor’s Kiam Records label and it’s excellent. Beautifully and warmly produced, Bezunartea’s unselfconsciously attractive, high soprano vocals shimmer with layers of harmonies that are often otherworldly. Her simple, tersely crystallized lyrics reflect the urban milieu of someone who’s supported herself working in the restaurants and bars of the title – and in the title track, she cynically wonders why no relationship that ever began in a place like that ever lasts. “But I long to believe you, I long to believe, too,” she affirms. Hope eludes the characters in her songs: maintaining faith in themselves is an everyday struggle. “I’m resigned to the turning of tables and waiting in line,” she sings on the album’s fastest, hardest-rocking track, I Lie Awake At Night (But That’s All Right). And on Doubles, a plaintive workingwoman’s ballad, she laments a loved one’s fading dreams:

Some girls they glow in darkness
But by our standards that’s not much
Some girls they’d like to win
But instead they’ll serve you lunch

The theme recurs just as vividly on the plaintive piano piece Mostly I’m Just Scared: “Mostly it’s the part of me that isn’t that I’m trying to get back,” the worn-down protagonist insists. The Light, starkly fingerpicked with a disarmingly beautiful mandolin break, longs for lost hope, “Many places to hide, further away away every time.” And the album’s concluding track, a live take of a strikingly jaunty oldtimey-flavored banjo tune, paints a similarly bleak picture: “People die younger and younger it seems, guys like you and girls like me…I hold you tight like a rope in the sky.”

There are more hopeful moments here as well. With its dreamy harmonies and harmonica atmospherics, Amy’s Spring Tune is striking and bittersweet:

Green leaves on your treelined streets
Fill me with such relief
Gather all the dark in me
And cast it off officially
Darkness in the afternoon
Holds the lights that filled this room
There are no brighter visions
No good conditions
Make the best of the decisions…

Bridges works both as a cityscape, and a metaphor for finding some kind of emotional footing. And the album’s opening track, All the Things We Were Supposed to Be, a shadowy, reverb-tinged solo piano piece, quietly and matter-of-factly dismisses the pressures of trying to conform to someone else’s standards: “Just brush them aside, each and everyone…not to compete is such a relief.” Words of wisdom from someone who’s been there: it’s one of many subtle gems here.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 12/14/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #777:

The Goats – Tricks of the Shade

Long out of print, this golden-age 1993 hip hop classic is a mix of songs and politically charged skits that remain as relevant now as they were in the age of Bush I’s first gulf war. Frontman Oatie Kato and his cohorts Madd (a.k.a. “the M-A-the-double-D”, a.k.a. Maxx), and Swayzack wander through a twisted, surreal carnival featuring attractions like Columbus’ Boat Ride, Noriega’s Coke Stand, Indian activist Leonard Peltier in a cage, Rovie Wade the Sword Swallower (“Hey Rovie, that’s not a sword, that’s a coat hanger”), the Drive By Bumper Cars and at the end, the ominous Uncle Scam’s Shooting Gallery. Along the way, they skewer Reaganomics and Fox TV (the viciously satirical TV Cops), smoke a lot of herb (the big hit Got Kinda High), and then dig in against the fascists with Not Not Bad and then Burn the Flag. Their follow-up album, No Goats No Glory, had another sizeable hit, Wake and Bake, plenty of pot references, but no more politics. And that was that. But we still have this classic. Here’s a random torrent.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment