Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Iconoclast’s Noir Jazz Vibe is Unstoppable

This is what happens when you sleep on a great album – other people review it first. All About Jazz liked New York duo Iconoclast’s latest album Dirty Jazz; we love it. It unwinds like a good noir film score, which is unsurprising considering that noir has been their signature style pretty much since they played their first gig at CBGB. There’s a lot going on in this movie for the ears: gritty cityscapes, a menacing cast of characters, pretty much relentless suspense, occasional brutal violence and sudden shifts from one to the other. It’s picture-perfect, oldschool pre-gentrification New York. Julie Joslyn alternates between eerily crystalline alto sax lines and explosive violin cadenzas, while Leo Ciesa’s drums colors and shift the suspense as much as the sax does; he also adds moody piano and keyboards.

Several of the tableaux here are very brief, clocking in at less than two minutes, sometimes contrasting balmy sax with violent drums, other times more picturesque. The Regular, with his catchy 7/4 theme, is a real heavyweight; building off an eerie Sonic Youth-style drone, Animated Flesh might be a Frankenstein scenario, and Razoresque, a violin-metal vignette, is a fight to the bloody end. When Joslyn is at her most plaintive and poignant, these pieces pack the greatest punch, whether the on the spy theme You’re in Distress – where she overdubs a whole sax section – the deliciously tense, conversational Apres Vous, or the elegaic The Forbidden, driven by some decisive, Satie-esque piano from Ciesa. The most colorful of all of these is Black Jack, a mini-movie in itself featuring a deliciously dark, modal interlude from Joslyn that rises to a scream and finally a sprint through a chase scene. And Boiled Kneepads, a cinematic funk theme with psychedelic organ, could be an early 70s Herbie Hancock piece.

There’s also The Punishment Office with its menacingly psychedelic, shapeshifting, reverberating violin-metal ambience; the pretty, pensive One Oh One with its clave beat; the clever, cruelly sarcastic Accidental Touching and Mistaken Seduction, and the punk/no wave anthem I Am So Thirsty, where Joslyn’s unhinged, screaming vocals give voice to a tree in the global warming era. And that’s not even all of the album, one of the most viscerally gripping ones to come over the transom in recent months. Watch this space for upcoming NYC live dates.

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March 14, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Album of the Day 3/14/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #687:

Merle Travis – Guitar Rags and a Too Fast Past

Hope it’s ok with you if we stick with great guitar for a second day in a row. A titan of Americana roots music, Merle Travis was one of the great country guitarists whose signature picking style has influenced most C&W players ever since. As imaginative at western swing as he was at bluegrass, he was a star from the mid-40s when he was doing anti-Nazi comedy songs under an assumed name, to the 60s. This massive 5-cd set, first issued on vinyl in the mid-70s in Europe, contains 145 tracks in all and includes most of his iconic songs: the bitter coal miners’ antems Sixteen Tons and Dark as a Dungeon, along with more lighthearted stuff from folk songs like John Henry and Nine Pound Hammer, to Hoagy Carmichael’s Lazy River, Bob Wills’ Steel Guitar Rag, and novelty numbers like Divorce Me C.O.D. CD #5 is mostly a waste, but the whole thing still has more than ten dozen cool songs. Essential stuff for guitar players and country music fans. Here’s a random torrent via lokaldensayo. Also worth checking out: Travis’s recently unearthed 1966 concert up at Wolfgang’s Vault.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | country music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hypnotic Textures from Teletextile

Brooklyn band Teletextile’s latest ep, Reflector, makes a good segue with Damian Quinones (just reviewed here), although it draws on completely different influences, in this case late 80s dreampop and 90s trip-hop. Frontwoman/keyboardist/harpist Pamela Martinez writes simple, memorable hooks that slowly build into big anthems, backed by Caitlin Gray on bass and guitars, Luke Schnieders on drums and a posse of special guests. As a singer, Martinez is just as interesting when she’s quiet and pensive as when she belts – and she saves the volume for when she really needs it. The album’s first song, I Don’t Know How to Act Here sets the stage for everything that follows it, a dreamy intro morphing into quirky trip-hop with disquieting, bell-like keyboards and a big anthemic guitar crescendo. “Endless, endless, endless,” is the uneasy closing mantra.

What If I sets atmospheric vocals over tricky insectile percussion with layers of keys and guitars that come in waves, slowly up, and then suddenly back down: the song winds out with a wary vocal line over hypnotic ooh-ahs. John, a big rock ballad in disguise, slowly brings in big ringing reverb guitar chords and a long dreampop/shoegaze interlude before going out as quietly as it came in. The last song, What if You, a companion piece to What If I, is the loudest track here, lush and majestic like the Church or the Cure, right down to the bass playing the lead line, whether with a fuzztone or with a watery chorus-box effect. It’s good headphone music; like Quinones, it’s proof that accessible rock doesn’t necessarily have to be stupid.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Damian Quinones’ Happy Accidents – Purist Rock Fun

For over a decade Damian Quinones has been simmering just under the radar writing tuneful, fun, smart psychedelic rock songs in somewhat of the same vein as the Zombies. His new ep Happy Accidents explores his edgier, harder-rocking side, sort of like a lo-fi version of Love Camp 7. This album took shape as Quinones began demoing songs in his home studio and then must have realized that what he had – with some welcome contributions from a brass section – was perfectly fine for public consumption. Here he plays guitars, bass, percussion and keys, along with Greg Richardson on bass, Brian Baker and Geoffrey Hull on trumpets, Eric Fraser on bansuri flute and Patrick McIntyre and Seth Johnson on drums.

The opening cut, Arecibo, is a catchy backbeat pop song with bracing doubletracked lead guitar. Tesla’s Love Machine is deliciously arranged mid-70s-style rock with psychedelic touches. Quinones is tremendously good at arrangements and fun, imaginative riffs: blippy white noise oscillating into and out of the mix and sunbaked sustained lead guitar lines that get switched out for bright slide guitar on the last verse.

Annabelle, a casually shuffling, thoughtfully psychedelic folk-pop tune with balmy, period-perfect 1960s horn fills, picks up with a sway at the end. Life in the Dog House paints a picture of a guy who doesn’t sweat the small stuff, in fact much of anything. “My last payday they say we’re moving the plant to the south of Japan,” he announces; later on he’s “dodging swings from a rolling pin” swung by his wife, but he doesn’t give up. Daddy Legs, a full band track, slinks along on a hypnotic latin groove with tasty horns and electric piano, Gregorio Hernandez’ trombone prowling around suspensefully. Five songs, five bucks at Quinones’ site, worth every penny for fans of catchy, purist rock songwriting. Watch this space for upcoming NYC shows.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment