Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Bad Luck, Great Album

Bad Luck is free jazz at its best, the Seattle duo of Christopher Icasiano on drums and glockenspiel and Neil Welch on saxophones, bass clarinet and singing bowls, playing through what’s sometimes a maze of loops and effects. Their new album, simply titled Two, is a sprawling double-disc set. The first, titled Bats (as in completely batty, maybe?), is pure improvisation; the second, Josephine, an intriguing mix of compositions and inspired jamming. It’s amazing how interesting all this is, especially since much of the instrumentation is limited to just sax and drums. And as much as this often goes way out on a limb, it’s also very tight. When free jazz is good, it tends to be because of the interplay and chemistry between the musicians, and while that’s a factor here, this album is more about carrying out assigned roles. Typically, this means Welch as bad cop and Icasiano as the opposite, but not always.

Bats is assaultive right off the bat, with noxious blasts of tenor sax exhaust over endless machine-gun drum volleys. Culled from a marathon six-hour studio session, it seems to be a theme and variations, simple ones that bludgeon the listener – ugly as much of this is, it’s blissfully adrenalizing. And Icasiano isn’t merely playing rolls around the kit – he came into this with a plan. Midway through, he locks in with the sax (foreshadowing what’s to come on the second disc), then methodically bludgeons his way through Olympic leapfrogging sprints and a couple of lethal hailstorms. Meanwhile, Welch blares and blasts, often working octave motifs bar after anguished bar. Finally, on the sixth segment, he finds some peace, launching into a cheery blues riff that he runs over and over while Icasiano muffles his full-throttle enthusiasm. And then he goes for a full-bore surf rumble as Welch takes his time rising to meet the wave. The concluding track, playfully titled Lure, has Welch establishing something approximating a melody over Icasiano’s casually stampeding attack.

The suite on the second cd is a masterpiece of aggressively creepy noir jazz. If Josephine is to be taken at face value, she’s a complicated girl, going from lively to practically comatose to extremely agitated, generally when least expected. It opens with a ghostly, spacious, skeletal glockenspiel piece and then the menacing Friends or Foe. Welch sets the stage with a macabre sax loop, drums moving slowly upward with a murderous deliberateness, evil insistent foghorn sax eventually taking the foreground. The title track initially follows as a contrast, sparsely atmospheric sax lines woven together, expanding to a catchy, staggeringly funky hook, Icasiano picking up the rhythm and running with it. From there they go up, and down, and back again. It’s quite a ride.

The two lock together on the next cut with a jaunty bass clarinet hook, a haze of overtones lingering in the background. True North is all wariness and suspense, with a hint of a fanfare, a deliciously slow crescendo as the drums prowl their way in from the outskirts, only to be sent back out again as Welch goes rippling and thoughtful with a few screams and sputters. The cheeriest thing here is aptly titled Menagerie; they follow that with a somber piece simply titled Singing Bowl that builds to a dirge, then to absolute terror, the sax screaming into the abyss for help. The final cut, Architect revisits the Friend or Foe theme, juxtaposing morbid, stately rhythm against more of Welch’s anguished sax, finally winding down with an elegant, simple drum outro straight out of Joy Division. You like intense? Check out this album. It’s out now on adventurous Seattle label Table and Chairs Music.

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July 29, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweepingly Gorgeous Neo-Psychedelia from Beaulieu Porch

If you like psychedelic rock, you may already know about this: if not, you’re in for a treat. Beaulieu Porch’s debut single, The Colour 55 is lush, dreamy, mellotron-fueled psychedelic chamber pop created by Salisbury, UK one-man band Simon Berry. It’s everything that’s good about this style of music: crescendoing verse, catchy chorus, soaring string section, gracefully meandering lead guitar. Don’t walk away, Renee, go to the Peppermint Hill bandcamp page where you can get this practically six-minute gem on 7″ vinyl or as a download.

The B-side, Navy Blue, is just as good. Opening with wickedly catchy, distantly ominous acoustic guitar and echoey synth, it goes a little late-Beatlesque with some deliciously creepy funeral organ. In case you might be interested, the folks who put this out also released the Smiles and Frowns’ fantastic psychedelic debut album last year.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Mattson 2 Invent a New Genre: Their Own

If you like 80s music, jazz, and/or watery guitar with the occasional touch of twang and reverb, this is for you. The Mattson 2’s latest album Feeling Hands blends elements of 80s Britpop, classic jazz guitar and surf music into a coolly energetic instrumental rock style that’s uniquely their own. Guitarist/bassist Jared Mattson sometimes evokes the frenetic, jazzy virtuosity of Paul Cavanagh, of 80s cult heros The Room; drummer Jonathan Mattson shifts effortlessly from surf rumble to 80s bounce to more intricate, cerebral patterns.

The album opens with Pleasure Point, a twangy sci-fi instrumental that adds an 80s edge to classic Shadows-style surf. With its simple, catchy chorus-box guitar hooks, Black Rain wouldn’t be out of place on a New Order album circa 1985. Ode to Lou (Lou Donaldson, maybe?) matches blithe Wes Montgomery-ish guitar to David Boyce’s fluttery but balmy tenor sax. They take a spacious, almost rubato Bill Frisell style noir Americana theme and follow it with a clangy variation that goes in a jazzy mid-80s Britpop direction… with a 70s soul string chart!

Mexican Synth is not particularly Mexican: it’s more like George Benson goes to Manchester. Guest Ray Barbee delivers a long, absolutely sensational, casually savage guitar solo on Chi Nine, Jared Mattson’s furious righthand attack shadowing him. When the strings come in, it’s something of a relief from all the wild intensity. Give Inski’s (what’s up with these titles, huh?) vamps on the opening chords of the Police’s Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic: essentially, it’s a funk tune done in straight-up 4/4. There’s also the surf jazz number Obvious Crutch, judicious verse alternating with intense chorus, and Man from Anamnensis, opening with a minimalist, early 80s style new wave hook and builds from there, like the Mighty Lemon Drops gone to the Newport Festival. Fans of all the aforementioned artists ought to check this out. It’s out now from Galaxia.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 7/29/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #550:

Machito – Kenya

A landmark of latin big band jazz. Hard to believe, but this stuff was actually mainstream in 1957 when the album came out (one of Machito’s most popular albums was marketed as being recorded at the Catskills resort where he held an annual summer residency for years). On one hand, this doesn’t have the raw bite of his stuff from the 30s and 40s, but the songs and the charts are killer. All of these are originals save for percussionist Chano Pozo’s noir classic Tin Tin Deo. Lots of flavors here: the brisk, blazing guaguanco of Wild Jungle; the slinky, suspenseful Congo Mulence; the lush, majestic title track; the stop-and-start intenstiy of Oyeme; Holiday, with its surgically precise Cannonball Adderley solo; Cannonology, a sideways Charlie Parker tribute; the sinister-tinged Frenzy; proto-ska Conversation; bustling Minot Rama; hypnotically soulful Tururato, and Blues A La Machito, which is more Machito than blues. Here’s a random torrent via Hasta Luego Baby.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | jazz, latin music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment