Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 5/19/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #621:

Abdel Halim Hafez – Ala Aal El Shoaa On: Greatest Hits

The iconic Egyptian film music crooner is best known for his anguished, improvisational epics – throughout his almost thirty-year career, from the 50s to the late 70s, he never sang a song the same way twice. The pain in his voice may have had something to do with the fact that he was plagued by a chronic skin condition that eventually killed him at age 47. The fifteen tracks here range from something beyond epic – about 38 minutes of Zay El Hawa (Feels like Love) – to the remarkably brief, five-minute Al Toba. Most of these are iconic in the Arab world, including the Mohammed Abdel Wahab standard Ahwak (I Love You), Sawah (The Wanderer), Gana El Hawa (Love Came to Us), Ouloulu, and the title track, all set to lush, haunting orchestral arrangements. Like so many of his contemporaries, his recordings have been bootlegged to death; we’re suggesting this one because it represents his career well, and actually exists in digital form (many don’t). Here’s a random torrent.

Advertisements

May 18, 2011 Posted by | lists, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barbez Brings Paul Celan to Life in Midtown

Stark, often haunting, eclectic Brooklyn band Barbez have explored several different styles: Tom Waits-ish cabaret, Big Lazy-style noir soundtracks and most recently gypsy rock. The incarnation that played the Austrian Cultural Forum in midtown Thursday night is the most interesting yet. Along with the encores, the show brought to life the band’s the most recent Tzadik album Force of Light, a musical companion to a series of poems by Holocaust survivor Paul Celan. Celan wrote in German – his original language – and met with considerable criticism for it. His earlier work is graceful, meticulously constructed and haunted; his later poems are considerably gnomic. He asserted that language was a sanctuary of sorts for him, the only way to make sense of the horrors he’d witnessed, including the murder of his parents in a death camp. Celan committed suicide in 1970. This version of the band – leader Dan Kaufman on guitar and lapsteel, Peter Hess on clarinet and bass clarinet, Danny Tunick on vibraphone and marimba, Peter Lettre on bass, John Bollinger on drums, the Quavers‘ Catherine McRae on violin – played in mostly minor keys alongside Cassie Tunick’s matter-of-fact narration.

The first song, Shibboleth set the stage for what was to follow, a succinct, distantly klezmer-tinged, fingerpicked acoustic guitar theme that expanded with subtle variations: it made an apt soundtrack for the accompanying poem, an imagistic cautionary tale. Kaufman switched to Strat for the album’s title track – the accompanying poem is cynical, Sysyphian and death-obsessed, the instrumental slow, swaying and austere with a violin lead track in place of Pamelia Kurstin’s theremin on the studio version, Tunick’s vibes signaling a desperate stampede down to a troubled, repetitive outro. Aspen Trees, based on Celan’s dedication to his mother, was an understated dirge driven by clarinet and another strikingly terse, melodic central hook by Kaufman. Based on two late poems, Corner of Time maintained the plaintive atmosphere with a stately sway, everyone in the band adding off-kilter accents in turn.

Count the Almonds, an allusion to a popular ghetto snack, was the most overtly klezmer-inflected composition of the night, utilizing intricately tremoloing vibraphone passages to build crescendos to one final swell with the drums going full tilt, then down and out with surprising gentleness. Their take on The Black Forest was funky and enlivened with all kinds of dynamic shifts; Conversation in the Mountains – based on Celan’s only known prose piece, was a long, doomed cruise to nowhere. The last of the Celan pieces, Sky Beetle gave Hess a long runway to launch a gliding, hypnotic bass clarinet passage evocative of hypnotic avant-chamber ensemble Redhooker. They encored with a brightly apprehensive chase scene of sorts based on an ancient Roman Jewish melody, and a surfy, creepily phantasmagorical take on an Alfred Schnittke piece. The polyglot crowd in the auditorium wanted more despite the fact that after about an hour and a half onstage, the band had literally heated up the room.

May 18, 2011 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 5/18/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #622:

Public Image Ltd. – The Flowers of Romance

Just when it seemed that PiL couldn’t push the envelope any further, they came out with this bitter, astringent album that’s arguably even more cutting-edge than Second Edition. The melodies may seem Middle Eastern, but it’s actually inspired by the ancient Celtic music that John Lydon had been listening to around 1981. It’s also Martyn Atkins’ great shining moment: he fills the spaces between these eerie, ghostly, skeletal tunes and Lydon’s ominously wailing monotone with some of the most memorable rock drumming in decades. The intensity never lets up, from the claustrophobic, terrorized Four Enclosed Walls, Track 8 and Phenagen; the ridiculously catchy, anthemic yet completely avant-garde title track; the creepy, singsongey Under the House; the hypnotic instrumental Hymie’s Him; the snarling Banging the Door, antifascist anthem Go Back and elegaic Francis Massacre (about an IRA activist sentenced to life in Mountjoy Prison). This was also the group’s last adventure in experimental music: from there, they’d go through a funk phase, a generic stadium rock phase and end in the early 90s with something of a return to their punk roots. Here’s a random torrent.

May 18, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Devil Makes Three Play Cool Funny Oldtime Americana at Maxwell’s Tonight

Santa Cruz-based acoustic Americana hellraisers The Devil Makes Three play Maxwell’s tonight at nine. If you miss the Asylum Street Spankers, The Devil Makes Three are just as entertaining – and like the Spankers, they also happen to be an excellent band. The most recent album from guitarist Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist/tenor banjo player Cooper McBean came out a couple of years ago. It’s called Do Wrong, Right, and it’s something that should have been on our radar at the time but wasn’t. It’s not just bluegrass with funny, surreal lyrics – the band also plays country swing, blues and Nashville gothic and does that stuff period-perfect as well.

The album is sort of a cross between the Spankers and Mojo Nixon’s duo stuff with Jello Biafra. The opening track, All Hail is a genuine classic: as they see it, the world is populated with clueless shoppers all wasted on crack and antidepressants: “It ain’t a drug, goddamn it, I give it to my only son,” says the guy on the way to the office thorazine party. The amusing intro of Poison Trees gives no indication of the ominous, apocalyptic shuffle that follows. The title track is a bouncy, violin-fueled bluegrass tune; they follow that with Gracefully Facedown, a woozy swing shuffle like early Dan Hicks. It’s a tribute to anyone who subscribes to the idea that “drinking bottom shelf bourbon seems to work all right til closing time.” For Good Again cynically mythologizes the band’s roots living in squalor, paying the rent in illegal drugs and writing songs that someday they’d get paid to play. “Everybody who’s anybody at one time lived in somebody’s hallway,” they assert, and they’re probably right.

Their Working Man’s Blues isn’t the Merle Haggard standard – it’s a haunting tobacco sharecropper’s lament with blues harp that sounds like it was recorded on another planet, a feeling echoed on a biting version of Statesboro Blues. The Johnson Family is an eerie, carnivalesque gypsy waltz; Helping Yourself puts a devious Curtis Eller-style spin on oldtime country gospel, spiced with an unexpectedly searing slide guitar solo. A spot-on early 50s style honkytonk tune that does double duty as raised middle finger to the boss, Cheap Reward unexpectedly quotes Elvis Costello; there’s also the careening slide guitar shuffle Aces and Twos and the unexpectedly epic Car Wreck. Good album – where the hell were we when this came out? You can get it at the band’s site or pick one up at the show.

May 18, 2011 Posted by | blues music, country music, folk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment