Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Carol Lipnik’s M.O.T.H. Brings up the Lights

Gorgeously orchestrated, warm and often sultry, shapeshifting chanteuse Carol Lipnik’s latest album M.O.T.H. (meaning Matters of the Heart) is an unexpected treat from someone who’s made her name as a purveyor of brilliantly surreal, carnivalesque songs. As you would expect, those songs frequently create an atmosphere of menace; here, that menace still looms in places, but from a considerable distance. Love or hope are always portrayed as part of a dialectic with pain on the other end, especially on a handful of settings of Rumi poems. Behind Lipnik, this version of Spookarama includes her longtime collaborator, dark jazz piano genius Dred Scott (who also contributes other keys, bass, drums and guitar on one track) along with Jacob Lawson on violin, Tim Luntzel on bass and Jim Campilongo guesting on guitar on one track.

It opens on a bouncy, playfully seductive note with Firefly: “In my dream world, you’re my temple.” It goes from playful to dark and back again and then ends cold. With its dark tango pulse, Undine Unwitted is characteristically surreal – “When I was a mermaid, I tried to pull you underwater, but you became the water” – and grows to a lush grandeur. The following track, told from the point of view of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, offers a perspective that’s genuinely poignant rather than camp, an outsider anthem if there ever was one and a showcase for the upper registers of Lipnik’s breathtaking four-octave range.

With the first of the Rumi lyrics, Poison Flower sets uneasily psychedelic layers of vocals over a wary violin waltz, a vivid portrayal of temptation and desire. The long, psychedelic title track alternates hypnotic ambience with a big, stomping, hard-rocking chorus; the following Rumi-themed number sways with echoes of 60s psychedelic folk-rock. Based on a Laura Gilpin poem, The Two Headed Calf presents another sympathetic view of a freak: he may be facing imminent death and then possibly several posthumous lifetimes in a museum, but for now he’s looking at the stars, and he sees twice as many as we do. Michael Hurley’s Werewolf (famously covered by Cat Power) sticks closer to the original, done with a menacing sway and some deliciously noir, twangy Campilongo guitar. Spirits Be Kind to Me, written by Tom Ward, is darkly bouncing and stagy: Lipnik keeps the drama understated, making it more of an invocation than a plea. The album winds up on a gracefully majestic note with Love Dogs, based on yet another Rumi poem: “Your pure sadness that longs for love is the secret cup.” Count this among the most stunning releases of 2011. Lipnik plays a weeklong stand at PS 122 from April 15 through the 22nd with another extraordinary singer, John Kelly: their new collaboration explores the visions of a critically injured trapeze artist who in order to escape his pain imagines himself entering the world of Caravaggio’s paintings.

March 15, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Carol Lipnik and Spookarama at the Delancey, NYC 4/2/09

Yet another good reason why the weekly Small Beast Thursday shows at the Delancey are the musical event of the week: a chance to see both Paul Wallfisch of Botanica and Dred Scott play back-to-back. It’s hard to imagine a more fascinating piano doublebill (in this case particularly apt, since the Small Beast in question here is the club’s 88-key spinet that somehow survives week to week). Since Wallfisch hosts the salon/concert series and also serves as the opening act, he gets a lot of ink here. Suffice it to say that he was in typically provocative, darkly incisive mode. He’s taken to covering a new song by another major artist also playing on the same night every time out. This time, in tribute to Marianne Faithfull (playing for megabucks in the West Village), he did It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue in addition to plenty of his own stuff including the fiery, politically charged How which this time around became an audience-participation number. Wallfisch does not acknowledge any fourth wall: attend this show and you are always in danger of becoming part of it, an especially enticing prospect for those who enjoy living dangerously.

 

Next on the bill was Carol Lipnik, the extraordinary and unique noir chanteuse who hasn’t played out in awhile. We covered her exquisitely beautiful but sonically disastrous show at the Spiegeltent downtown last fall. As it turned out, a member of last night’s audience was also in the vicinity that October night and had equally bitter memories of watching another performer, in her case John Kelly, being drowned out by the woomp-woomp-woomp blasting from the adjacent tent where the women onstage were undulating and taking off their clothes. But nothing like that happened last night (as far as anyone could see – if anybody was disrobing, they’d found a private place). Her voice awash in eerie reverb, Lipnik seemingly went into a trance, turning the loud, chatty crowd at the bar silent and riveted.

 

Backed by just her longtime keyboardist Scott (who also leads a spectacularly good jazz trio), she delivered a mix of both darkly familiar and new material, by turns phantasmagorical, carnivalesque, gleefully macabre and irresistibly compelling. With her red hair swaying behind her and the hint of a devious grin, Lipnik does not exactly look the part of someone who delights in mining the darkness, but that’s her home turf. She started out low, ominous and strong, at the bottom of her range with Scott playing a hypnotic, minimalist melody on a little synth organ he’d brought along. On the Tom Waits-ish Freak House Blues, she lept several octaves, seemingly to the top of her formidable four-octave range in a split-second as Scott played macabre major-on-minor behind her. When she sang “Take my life, please, take my will” as The Last Dance with You rose to a crescendo, it was impossible to look away. A couple of times – particularly on the darkest song of the night, the brand-new, literally morbid Cuckoo Bird – the two bedeviled the audience by stopping cold, mid-phrase. They also took the Michael Hurley cult classic Werewolf (also covered brilliantly by Sarah Mucho) and redid it as a swinging singalong before closing with a hypnotic, soulful retelling of the Rumi poem Don’t Go. Lipnik’s next show is at the Rockwood on Tues Apr 28 with Scott at 11, followed by Scott and his trio at midnight. 

 

Not to overstate the issue, but this is typical of what happens on Thursday nights at the Delancey. Next week’s show features another chanteuse, Larkin Grimm, whom Wallfisch insists is the next great voice to come along. Come out and find out for yourself. Or miss it at your peril.

April 3, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment