Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/18/10

Every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #895:

Lush – Split

Their sound defined the end of an era. Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson wrote dark, richly melodic rock songs with layers of watery, chorus-box guitar and ethereal vocals. This is their third album, from 1994, and it’s their best, a blend of every style they did so well: Kiss Chase, with its tricky time signature and murky, chilly Siouxsie guitar; the punk stomp of Blackout; the buzzy goth pop of Hypocrite and The Invisible Man; the Cure-inflected, bassy sway of Lovelife; the somber Joy Division tones of Desire Lines, Undertow and Never-Never; the straight-up dreampop of Lit Up and Starlust and the understatedly elegaic When I Die. The press tagged them as sort of the Go-Go’s of dreampop, and went nuts over their first album, which actually isn’t all that great: after a couple of songs, they all sound the same. But Spooky, their second album, from 1992, is very worth getting to know, as is their final one, Lovelife, from 1996, which although it went more in a punk-pop direction also varied their sonic palette considerably, allowing both more aggressive guitar and an unexpected sense of humor to creep in. The band broke up shortly thereafter in the wake of drummer Chris Acland’s suicide. Here’s a torrent for all of them.

August 18, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Walking Hellos’ Debut Album is Delicious

The Walking Hellos’ new album Because I Wanted to Know is unpredictable, counterintuitive, tuneful fun. It’s a blast of rosemary cayenne popcorn flavor from down the hall. It makes you ravenously hungry. This band would have been huge in 1989. With their clear, sweet, sometimes chirpy, sometimes hypnotically atmospheric harmonies, the all-female, four-piece Brooklyn band reminds a lot of Lush, with the guitar-fueled, insistent intensity of the Throwing Muses and some growling, snapping Slits rhythm as well. Accordionist/banjoist Myla Goldberg (novelist and author of Bee Season, which earned her a song dedicated to her by the Decemberists), guitarist and occasional Pauline Oliveros collaborator Val Opielski, bassist Rose Thomson and drummer Heather Wagner shift unexpectedly and joyously from one style from another with an understated aplomb.

The album’s opening track, Botched contrasts woozy, out-of-focus slide guitar on the verse with an eerie, crescendoing chorus with goth tinges. The second cut, Little Boys is even creepier and explodes in sudden fireball of distorted guitar. The title track grows from a lot sparsely populated by hypnotic, reverberating guitar textures to an orchard of vocals and accordion – and a neat little bridge with some sort of wind instrument. “”I know how to do this, I know how to disappear, I’ve been on this job a thousand years,” Goldberg relates mysteriously.

Undertow 1 and Winter Remedy are cleverly arranged, dreampop-flavored numbers that contrast shimmery harmonies with Thomson’s marvelously trebly, gear-grinding, melodic Jean-Jacques Brunel-ish basslines. Lane 5 – unquestionably the coolest song ever set in a swimming pool – starts gentle and summery and goes out with a long yet terse distorted guitar solo. The album winds up with a percussively hypnotic, wickedly catchy, blazing dreampop rocker, an echoey instrumental fragment, the early Lush soundalike The Unloved and a dub-hop instrumental, Lane 5 After Hours. Wow. It’s been awhile since a band has packed so much fun into forty minutes or so. Look for this one on our upcoming Best Albums of 2010 list in December.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dither Quartet Mess with Your Mind

File this under psychedelia. If you’re a fan of the dirtier, more ominous textures an electric guitar can create, an entire ocean of them, the Dither guitar quartet’s new album is for you. This is one of those albums that sounds like it was an awful lot of fun to make, in places moreso than it is to listen to. Incorporating elements of noise-rock, dreampop, guitar jazz, classical and the avant-garde, Dither’s dense, hypnotic, overtone-laden instrumentals are imaginative, clever, sometimes subtly funny, other times flat-out assaultive. The influence of Elliott Sharp (who wrote the album liner notes) is everywhere, as is that of Steve Reich. But this isn’t mere layers of drones: with five different composers (including Dither’s own Joshua Lopes) represented, there’s a wide diversity among the tracks here. From the first few seconds, it’s clear that trying to figure out which of the group’s members – Lopes, Taylor Levine, David Linaburg and James Moore – is playing what is a lost cause, but there’s a consistent dedication to thinking out of the box and just simply having fun.

The opening track, Lainie Fefferman’s Tongue of Torns, is a pretty standard Steve Reich-ish “let’s all play the same A chord for an hour and a half” except that this one has a surprise, a shock to the system about three quarters of the way through. And they do it again, and again. Pantagruel, written by Lopes, is the most overtly jazz-oriented work here, serpentine ascending progresssions intertwined through off-key, tone-warping patches that eventually crash, burn and then fade out a la A Day in the Life. Lisa R. Coons’ suite Cross-Sections is a showcase for the group’s exuberant command of every guitar texture ever invented, weaving hypnotically through skronk, atmospherics, muted plucking, a long siren passage, raptly still atmospherics and good old-fashioned noise. The showstopper here (they played this at Bang on a Can last year) is Eric KM Clark’s ExPAT, written for “as many guitarists as possible.” It’s a hearing-deprivation piece, each guitarist sonically isolated from the rest of the group, wearing headphones blasting white noise so as to throw their timing off. Yet the group is not so easily distracted! Ominous and intense, it’s a pulsing, echoing choir of hell’s bells, very evocative of Louis Andriessen at his most insistently abrasive. And yet, its shifts are extremely subtle, drifting apart but then coming together before another slight divergence.

Dither plays the cd release show on June 12 at the Invisible Dog Art Center, 51 Bergen St. in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn on a ridiculously inviting bill, a mini-Bang on a Can marathon of sorts with Redhooker, Kathleen Supové and Nick Didkovsky, Elliott Sharp, Matthew Welch, the Deprivation Orchestra of NY, Loud Objects, Mantra Percussion and Florent Ghys, which for a $6 cover turns out to be less than a dollar a band.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | experimental music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 5/6/10

Working feverishly on getting the May-June concert calendar  here up to snuff – have you noticed what a kick-ass summer we New Yorkers have to look forward to? Other stuff coming soon, in the meantime, the best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s song is #84:

The Church – The Disillusionist

Centerpiece of the iconic 1992 Priest = Aura album, it’s a macabrely metaphorical examination of the charismatic appeal of fascism, surreal Kinks-style vaudeville rock through the misty, reverb-spotted prism of dreampop. “They say that he’s famous from the waist down, but the top half of his body is a corpse.”

May 5, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/2/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Tuesday’s song is #149:

The Church – Dome

With a band name and a title like this, until they build a search engine more powerful than google it’ll be impossible to find this song in any kind of stand-alone format – you’ll have to download it as part of the band’s iconic 1992 Priest = Aura album. It’s frontman Steve Kilbey at his most apocalyptically visionary: no matter how high you build the wall, eventually the marauders outside will find a way over it. The Church are on acoustic US tour this spring, click here for dates.

March 2, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 8/24/09

We do this every Tuesday. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Every link here except for #1 will take you to each individual song.

1. The Oxygen Ponies – Finger Trigger

Big scorching venomous rock anthem written at the nadir of the Bush regime. From their amazing new Randi Russo-designed cd Harmony Handgrenade

2. Sad Little Stars – I’m Going to Paris

Hilarious deadpan anti-trendoid broadside

3. Zebu – You Can’t Polish Shit

Noise rock. Self-explanatory. They’re at Mehanata on Aug 29 with the Brooklyn What and Escarioka.

4. Edward Rogers – You Haven’t Been Where I’ve Been

The expat Manchester rock crooner live at the NME awards doing the ELO thing – title track to his latest excellent album.

5. Basia Bulat – Snakes & Ladders

Orchestrated piano/orchestra ballad by this usually lo-fi Canadian songstress. Is this an anomaly? She’s at the Bell House on 10/7 at 8:30.

6. The French Exit – 3 & 12

We’re just going to hit you over the head again and again until everybody realizes what an amazing band these New York noir rockers are. They’re at Local 269 on 9/17 at 8.

7. Escarioka – Algun Dia Llegara

Every single song the Brooklyn What have ever played has probably been included in this list this year at some point, but we haven’t yet done the same with rock/ska en Espanol hellraisers Escarioka, who are also on the bill on 8/29 at Mehanata. This is a surprisingly gentle number but they’ll no doubt rip it to shreds live.

8. Her Vanished Grace – Sirens

They call what they play “power dreampop” which isn’t a bad way to describe it. They’re at Trash on 9/16 at 9:30.

9. The Anabolics – Je Ne Sais Quoi

Wicked garage punk. They’re at Union Pool on 10 on 9/4.

10. Rebecca Turner – Tough Crowd

Ridiculously catchy Americana rock song from the gorgeous-voiced chanteuse. She’s at Banjo Jim’s on 9/2 at 8.

August 25, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Church – Untitled #23

When it comes to music, the inevitable “who’s the greatest” question is an exercise in futility. Beatles or Stones, who cares? They’re both good. So are the Church. An equally strong case could be made that the legendary Australian art-rockers – now in their 29th year – are the greatest rock band of all time. Combining the jangly Rickenbacker guitar clang of the Byrds, the epic grandeur of Pink Floyd, the surreal weirdness of early 70s Bowie and a savagely visionary lyricism akin to Elvis Costello, the Church have released almost three dozen albums (the title of this one was chosen at random) and virtually all of them are worth owning. That’s a staggering achievement, and it surpasses both the Beatles’ and the Stones’ output. Think about that for a moment.

Their latest album, Untitled #23 is typical: enigmatic yet often crushingly straightforward, anthemic yet terse, swirling and psychedelic yet extremely hard-hitting in places. It’s also frontman Steve Kilbey‘s best lyrical effort since the band’s brilliant 1998 “comeback” album Hologram of Baal. Musically, the guitars come at you in waves, in layers, pulsing, roaring, clanging, tinkling, whooshing, each holding down its own peculiar spot in a dizzyingly vast sonic mosaic. It is often extraordinarily beautiful, often disquieting, even disorienting: headphones were made for albums like this. It’s probably the most dreampop-inflected cd the band has ever made, yet at the same time the tersest thing they’ve done this decade. Where does it rank in the pantheon of Church records? With the last three, certainly (the most recent being the towering, artsy Uninvited Like the Clouds, from 2007); otherwise, somewhere a notch below the power and majesty of 1991’s Priest = Aura or 1986’s Heyday, but both of those albums are acknowledged classics, simply two of the best ever.

Cobalt Blue, the opening track, is a masterpiece of guitar orchestration, echoey and otherworldly. The second track, a big rocker built on a catchy descending progression, is an obvious holdover from the days of the Bush regime: “Night comes down with all its implications, something pressing against your face,” Kilbey intones (he’s never sung better than he does here), “with the desert’s burning Bush.” Track three, Pangaea has a playfully vicious sarcasm and a soaring bassline that might belong to either Kilbey or guitarist Marty Willson-Piper – both excel on a four-string.

Happenstance is bitter and brooding:

When the hopeless nights of love have gone
And the spirits are still in the trees
And they’re running back to Albion
I should take some chance
Given Happenstance

On Angel Street paints a bleak tableau against a minimalistic, Stereolab-inflected backdrop, building to a towering, anthemic crescendo. With its catchy post-Velvets melody and surreal lyrics, Sunken Sun could pass for a standout track by the Oxygen Ponies. The most powerful song on the album, Anchorage, has an unleashed fury, Kilbey’s icy imagery possibly a mea culpa for a dissolute life (he’s been disarmingly frank about his own) or the caustic dismissal of someone else’s. The two concluding cuts share a warmly atmospheric vibe. What else is there to say: another masterpiece by maybe the greatest band of all time, and a solid contender for best album of 2009.

August 16, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Top Ten Songs of the Week 5/25/09

We do this every week. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Every link here will take you to each individual song.

 

1. The New Collisions – Beautiful and Numb

80s new wave updated with a savagely smart edge for the end of the zeros, a slap at GenY complacency. From their excellent new ep. Boston fans can see their cd release show on at TT Bear’s on 5/29.

 

2. Matthew Grimm & the Red Smear – Ayn Rand Sucks

Did you know the dead right-wing fag hag has her own facebook page? LOL taken to a new level.  “She’s just another Nazi skank.”

 

3. Barbez – Strange

Sounds just like Bee & Flower – slow dirge, quiet then loud again, with a big organ crescendo. They’re at le Poisson Rouge in August.

 

4. Laura MacLean – Prescription for Pain

Blue eyed soul siren leading a janglerock band – a particularly relevant update on Mother’s Little Helper for the zeros. She’s at Banjo Jim’s on 6/14 at 8.

 

5. Freylekh Jamboree – Kojak Cecek

Balkan brass from Japan – as ghetto as you could possibly be! As good as another excellent rousing version by the Stagger Back Brass Band.

 

6. The A Team – Girlfriend Like Big Papi

Funny funk song. Does this mean she’s suddenly lost her stroke…or that her wrist is still bothering her?  

 

7. School of Seven Bells – Cabal

Like the first Lush album – female-fronted dreampop with a hypnotic Indian edge. They’re at Bowery Ballroom on 6/12.  

 

8. Satoko Kajita – Summertime

Sanshin (3-stringed Okinawan lute) player. Lyrics in Japanese and English. Who says minimalists can’t swing!

 

9. Extra Golden – Thank You Very Quickly

Brisk guitar-driven Kenyan-American psychedelic dance-pop

 

10. Cady Wire – Crown Vic

Gothic Americana nocturne – slow, atmospheric, genuinely haunting.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 5/18/09

We do this every week. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Every link here will take you to each individual song.

 

1. McGinty & White – Rewrite

Bitter, brutal and clever but not too clever by half, this collaboration between lyrical songwriter/crooner Ward White and cult fave keyboardist Joe McGinty puts a vicious spin on classic 60s psychedelic chamber pop. They’re doing the cd release show for their new one at Bowery Electric on 5/21 at 11.

 

2. Benny Profane – Skateboard to Oblivion

For anyone who wonders what happened after the late, great British band the Room broke up in 1985, singer Dave Jackson and bassist Becky Stringer started this noisier, more jangly, slightly Nashville gothic unit with similarly edgy, potent lyrics.

 

3. The Dead Cowboys – Dear John

Continuing the saga – an important part of the secret history of rock – when Benny Profane broke up, Jackson and Stringer went Nashville gothic all the way with this act, happily still active in the UK.

 

4. Grand Atlantic – She’s a Dreamer

Vintage Oasis is alive and well…in Australia! You like anthemic? You’ll love this.

 

5. Naissim Jalal – Horia

Parisian-Syrian ney flute virtuoso. This is a beautifully pensive instrumental.

 

6. Buffalo – The Grange

Beating O’Death at their own game.

 

7. The Mummies – Mummies Theme

Sinister lo-fi garage rock. They’re on the Maxwell’s/Southpaw shuttle in June but all three shows are sold out…awww.

 

8. Hope Diamond – Costume Drama

Nice catchy dreampop, Cocteau Twins without the valium.

 

9. The Hsu-Nami – Rising of the Sun ’09

OMG, a ferocious metal instrumental band led by a virtuoso erhu (Chinese fiddle) player doing Taiwanese-inflected stomps. They’re at the Passport 2 Taiwan festival at Union Square at 2 PM on 5/24.

 

10. The Ramblin Dogs – You Let Me Down

Blues band. Albert King, Stevie Ray, Freddie King, you can hear all those influences but no Clapton. Sweet. They’re at Kenny’s Castaways on 6/17.

May 19, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment