Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Blues in Space

Cellist Rubin Kodheli is a busy sideman in the New York scene, perhaps best known as a member of lush, hauntingly atmospheric art-rockers Edison Woods. He’s also a composer, and considering how gracefully he leaps from genre to genre as an ensemble player, it’s no surprise that his own band Blues in Space spans many different styles as well.

There are five songs on this captivating ep (it’s up on itunes), a mix of clever, playful and frequently ferocious instrumentals. Three of them have a crunchy metal edge in the same vein as Apocalyptica or Rasputina in a particularly enraged moment; others are quieter. Under the layers and layers of cello, soaring, grinding, roaring or wailing through an army’s worth of digital effects, there’s also Justin Sabaj’s tasteful, incisive guitar and Garrett Brown’s percussion, from a pounding metal thump to judicious tribal beats.

The first track, Like a Tree is full of evocative soundtrack-style vistas, swaying and ornate with an eerie, stark cello passage about halfway through before returning to its earlier atmospherics. As its title would imply, Apocalypse is straight-up thrash metal – it’s a showcase for Kodheli’s virtuosic ability to transpose metal guitar voicings to the cello. This particular apocalypse is pretty much done with destroying the world by about halfway through, eventually fading out with an evil oscillation.

With its blithe, pizzicatto stroll, Happy Minor evokes another genre-bending New York string ensemble, Ljova and the Kontraband. The self-explanatory Rage is a wild, crunchy metal number, its darkest segments interestingly played with clean tone without any of the crazy electronic effects. The last cut, The Greatest swirls around atmospherically for a couple of minutes before exploding with more sizzling metal riffs. Throughout the songs, Kodheli shows off an impressive restraint, a welcome change from the self-indulgence in most metal. He’s more interested in hooks, and in developing a mood. There are definitely plenty of indie films in development who would get good mileage out of the stuff here. Blues in Space play le Poisson Rouge on August 19 at 11ish with special guest Eleanor Norton of Divahn on cello.

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August 11, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 6/1/09

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 Jazz Funeral – Goodnight (Is How I Say Goodbye)

Gentrification and greed as metaphor for the end of a relationship in this fiery janglerock masterpiece – the political as very personal. They’re at Ace of Clubs on 6/6 at 8.

 

2. Edison Woods – Praises & Scrutiny

The latest single from the forthcoming Wishbook Singles cd by the world’s best 6/8 band, lush and haunting as usual

 

3. Tessa Souter – You Don’t Have to Believe

Dark jazz siren with eerie Middle Eastern and flamenco tinges. She’s at 55 Bar at 6 on 6/12.  

 

4. Marni Rice – Priere

Noir accordionist/chanteuse. Haunting, with a string quartet. She’s at Small Beast at the Delancey on 6/25 around 10.

 

5. Black Sea Hotel – Dimjaninka

Haunting hypnotic Bulgarian folk tune arranged for four voices by Brooklyn’s own Bulgarian vocal choir. They’re at Union Pool at 9 on 6/4

 

6. Jo Williamson – Sheepish

Tuneful bittersweet and soulful, like Cat Power without the vocal pretensions.

 

7. Veveritse Brass Band – Samirov Cocek

Typically blistering Balkan madness. They’re at Union Pool on 6/4

 

8. Barbara Dennerlein with Emily RemlerStormy Monday

Scroll down to the middle of the page for this amazing clip from German tv, 1986. Dennerlein – maybe the greatest organist of our time – is her usual amazing self but it’s the late Emily Remler’s offhandedly savage yet obviously opiated solo that makes it.

 

9. Mattison – Yver

Beautiful electric piano triphop tune, Greta Gertler meets Bee & Flower. They’re at Duck Duck, 161 Montrose btw Graham & Humboldt at 5 PM on 6/7 for Bushwick open studios.

 

10. The Courtesy Tier – Set Things Right

Blistering, noisy bluespunk from this guitar/drums duo. They’re at the Rockwood on 6/4 and the Delancey on 6/6

June 2, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 3/2/09

Here’s this week’s hit parade! This is how we do every Tuesday: 

 

1. Jay Bennett – I’ll Decorate My Love

Opening salvo on the former Wilco multi-instrumentalist’s bitter, brooding new solo cd (available for free download here).

2. Edison Woods – Wind Song

A new one from the lush, atmospheric, often haunting chamber-rock group — minimalist, stark, haunting, with especially nice vocals from composer Julia Frodahl. Eventually this will be a part of a marvelous album called the Wishbook Singles.

3. Marissa Nadler – Mexican Summer

Ethereal noir shoegaze song from the haunting Boston chanteuse. She’s at Joe’s Pub on 3/4 at 9:30

4. Thalia Zedek – Hell Is In Hello

Another sweet intense guitar maelstrom from the former Come frontwoman.

5. The New Familiars – The Storm

Hypnotic delta blues gone grasscore – wild stuff. They’re at Public Assembly on 3/14.

6. The Mess Around – Drunken Words

“Bullshit I can’t? Bullshit, I care?” Whatever. Play this as loud as you can without going deaf or, if you’re at work, without getting fired. They’re at the Charleston on 3/20.

7. The Brooklyn What – Sunbeam Sunscreen

It wouldn’t be a Top Ten without a Brooklyn What song, would it. This is a tasty live version. They’re at Don Pedro’s on 3/5 at 10.

8. The Bombers – One Foot in the Grave

Sonic Youth meets Ted Leo.

9. Elextra – Afro Punk

Spooky surf dub en Espanol. They’re at Ace of Clubs on 3/11

10. Wet Coma – Song About Revenge

AC/DC parody, predictable but funny. They’re also at Ace of Clubs on 3/18 at 8.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch, Barmaljova and the Georges Brassens Translation Project at the Delancey, NYC 2/12/09

Ever notice how every blogger wants to be a promoter? Ohmyrockness has been doing it and now the other trendoid sites are getting into the act. We went into this ass-backwards, from booking shows to blogging. Every now and then somebody (usually a really good, struggling musician looking to build a following) will ask, why don’t you start booking shows again? Answer: with what Paul Wallfisch is doing with his weekly Thursday show at the Delancey, Small Beast, anything we did would be redundant. This is the place to be: it didn’t take the cognoscenti long to discover it. If you want to find out what’s really going on in New York music, if you wonder where the really good stuff that’s totally ignored by all the indie rock blogs is, make a weekly date with the Delancey on Thursday nights.

 

Wallfisch opened the evening as he always does, solo on piano. We’ve given the guy a lot of ink here lately – suffice it to say that European fans of his band Botanica are in for a treat. And New York fans who’re thinking twice about shelling out $100 for tickets and drinks for Steve Nieve at City Winery should check out Wallfisch here for free – one’s as good as the other, and the vibe is similar, dark all the way around, even on the more lighthearted songs. This time around, as has become usual, he played a lot of new material with a few songs from the Botanica catalog mixed in. Then he invited his frequent co-conspirator Little Annie along with haunting Edison Woods frontwoman Julia Frodahl up to provide vocals on a couple of of Annie’s big audience hits, the eerie Diamonds Made of Glass and the sardonic yet wistfully funny party survivor’s anthem The Other Side of Heartache, Frodahl’s richly melancholy soprano blending gorgeously with Annie’s smoky contralto. Wallfisch and Frodahl ended the set on a typically adventurous, rousingly successful note with a torchy Nina Simone blues that the two had never played together before.

 

Barmaljova, the duo of Romashka frontwoman Inna Barmash and violist Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin was next. The two are a couple, so their chemistry onstage made sense. Ljova played the entire set on his custom-made “familiola,” a six-stringed hybrid of violin and viola with a low F one note lower below a guitar’s low E. Expertly using its dynamic range, Zhurbin made an afterthought of the idea of having any more musicians behind them. Barmash said after the show that with the crowd filling the corridor between the stage and the bar that she felt the need to hold back a little, which gave her the chance to work the margins and the spaces between the notes, and she did that marvelously. She’s not just one of the most powerfully affecting singers in New York, she’s world-class, as she proved with songs in Russian, and Yiddish. The duo are partial to minor keys and laments, yet they made the atmosphere triumphant rather than downtrodden, even on the casually furious revenge ballad Koyl (Yiddish for “bullet,” as in “that a bullet would find you,” from their cd with their group the Kontraband).

 

Pierre de Gaillande, frontman of the Snow and Melomane, has started yet another new band, the Georges Brassens Translation Project, who played an upbeat yet haunting set of gypsy and noir cabaret French ballads featuring Gaillande’s English translations of the iconic French songwriter’s frequently corrosive, sometimes sexually charged lyrics. With the slinky sway of the guitar, the acoustic rhythm section and Gaillande’s deadpan delivery, this is a sexy band. Brassens is well-loved by boomer-era Francophones but went largely ignored – he wasn’t sufficiently “branche” i.e. cool enough – until a recent revival (if you read French, check out this intriguing article from france-amerique). Gaillande, one of this generation’s finest lyricists himself, has been unapologetic about how he’s updated some of Brassens’ colloquialisms, most apparent in the caustic May/December romance parody Don Juan. I Made Myself Small (Je Me Suis Fait Tout Petit) was another triumph: “I make myself small in front of the dolly who calls her mommy whenever she’s touched,” Gaillande explained. Their version of The Pornographer revealed the title character as anything but: he just has a purist’s sensibilities. Which were effortlessly abundant throughout over an hour onstage. Watch this space for upcoming shows. Botanica make a return to NYC after a European tour at Joe’s Pub at 7 PM on March 21; Ljova and the Kontraband play March 8 at Barbes at 8ish. And this week’s Small Beast show, Feb 19 starting at 9ish features Wallfisch and Little Annie along with Serena Jost and Dan Machlin’s new project, in addition to subversive author Cintra Wilson.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 2/9/09

Here’s this week’s hit parade. All of the links here lead to the individual song except for #9 which you’ll have to see live since the band hasn’t recorded it yet. But it was so good we had to include it anyway.

 

1. The Brooklyn What – We Are the Only Ones

Yet another smash from the Brooklyn What’s sprawling, multistylistic, funny and furious debut cd. This one’s absolutely right for the here and now: a call to the cool kids to overthrow everything that’s keeping everybody down and start something new. What’s this make, six #1 hits from the album, by our reckoning? If this was 1978, that would be the case. They’re at Red Star on 2/20 at 11.

 

2. Botanica – Who You Are

Absolutely gorgeous, majestic, wickedly sardonic art-rock anthem from this era’s greatest art-rock band. They’re at Joe’s Pub on 3/21 at 7, early, after getting back from a whirlwind European tour.

 

3. Edison Woods – Finding the Lions

Warm, reassuring, hypnotic art-rock ballad with gorgeous harmonies from one of New York’s most unique and captivating groups, equal part classical and rock. They’re at Galapagos on 2/19.

 

4. King Khan & the Shrines – Live Fast Die Strong

This band is completely insane but they’re a lot of fun. Bizarre, completely over-the-top funny garage rock, like Emmett Kelly sharing the stage with Jesse Bates’ Flying Guitars, recorded live at a record store. 

 

5. Pearl & the Beard – Vessel

Disquieting, dark, slow and artsy with melodica, cello and guitar. They’re at Union Hall on 2/18.

 

6. The JD Allen Trio – iD

Is it id or ID or…? Typical of this guy. He makes you think. From his latest, magnificent jazz trio album I Am I Am (reviewed here recently), this is as catchy as it is haunting.

 

7. The Latin Giants of Jazz – Trip to Mamboland

This is serious oldschool stuff, essentially what’s left of Tito Puente’s band playing a sizzling, upbeat salsa gem that sounds like something Machito could have done but with better production values.

 

8. The Dirt Luck Outlaws – Whiskey Song

Punkabilly, cowpunk, country punk, whatever you call it, it’s a lot of fun. This is one of those songs that every band is tempted to write and it’s a good thing these guys did. 

 

9. The Disclaimers – The Damage Is Done

Typical Disclaimers song: killer tune, killer hooks, sardonically brooding lyric and a gorgeously jangly two-guitar tune by rhythm player Dylan Keeler.

 

10. Jerry Teel & the Big City Stompers– Sugarbaby

Hypnotic Howlin Wolf style blues as done by one of the legends of Lower East Side noir glam rock. It always brings down the house when they play it live. They’re at the Mercury on 2/20.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Edison Woods – The Wishbook Singles [so far]

The marvelous New York chamber-rock band Edison Woods is releasing a new single every month. There are four of them so far and they are without exception exquisite. Edison Woods’ modus operandi is taking simple, catchy melodies and embellishing them with rich, atmospheric orchestration and beautiful harmonies from the keyboard duo of Julia Frodahl and Johanna Cranitch. Their miminalist approach is most striking in that they typically break chords up into arpeggios, utilizing the spaces between as an integral part of the arrangement as well.

 

The first of the singles, the Gardener is ambient and almost rubato with its gentle vocals and pensive, deliberate melody, methodically building while seemingly random melodic fragments twinkle in the background. Finding the Lions has a warm reassurance, a theme that recurs throughout their work. It’s a slow, calm, hopeful number in the band’s favorite time signature, 6/8, with some nice call-and-response with the organ: “Gonna find the parade, gonna wear those colors, gonna marry the lion…If I can’t hide from myself, they can’t hide from me, one day I’ll find the parade.”

 

Dance Me to the End of the World is another one in 6/8, a slow, sweet lullaby, essentially a soul song with the chords broken up into their separate components. There’s a warmly glimmering piano solo with just a hint of disquiet. The latest of the singles is Dear Heaven, a haunting consolation:

 

 

I can only imagine your mornings here

Do you hear my prayers?

Did I offer you flowers?

 

 

Frodahl inquires, concerned. The songs builds into a strikingly intense chorus with incisive, distorted guitar, up to the hushed harmonies of the refrain, “Sad, sad, sad.” There’s also a devious trick ending with the clarinet. This makes great late-night listening: headphones are very highly recommended. All the songs are available at itunes or at the band’s own site. Edison Woods play Galapagos on Feb 19.

February 6, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Little Annie and Paul Wallfisch at Santos Party House, NYC 11/6/08

Smoky-voiced noir cabaret chanteuse Little Annie Bandez has been riding the wave of a long, long-awaited career resurgence lately, with a couple of resoundingly successful European tours in the last year or so. Last night’s show at Santos Party House was a revelation. She’s never sung better or written better and maybe never looked better either. Some artists need to grow into themselves and it seems that Annie –  despite all protestations to the contrary – has found her holy grail at last. “This week was going to be either a celebration or a funeral,” she remarked. “Paul and I just did this really sad New York album and now…”she was at a loss for words. There’s never been an election that’s lifted the spirits of so many Americans, maybe ever, and Annie was trying to figure out how to deal with it. Predictably, she dedicated a song to Obama, “Even though I never dated him.”

 

Annie’s been a figure on the New York music scene, sometimes a bit player, sometimes a star, dating from the late 70s Mudd Club no wave scene. Discovered by noted reggae producer Adrian Sherwood in the mid-80s, the “dub diva” put out a series of now-collectible eps, all the while battling a small army of personal demons. In recent years she’s made her stories of life on the fringes into a marvelous source of stage banter, wearing the persona of a survivor, battlescarred yet with her sense of humor intact. Tiny and sepulchral as she emerged under the low lights, she and pianist Paul Wallfisch opened with a rivetingly dark version of Private Dancer that was pure punk in intensity if not volume. Wallfisch – this generation’s greatest rock keyboardist and frontman of the New York noir band Botanica– added characteristic touches of menace, but only when the song called for them. “You can’t look in their faces,” Annie sang, reaching down for the darkest, most gravelly timbre she could find. This isn’t just a singer-and-her-accompanist act: there’s a great deal of interplay and call-and-response between the two. Typically, Wallfisch would echo a phrase, but often counterintuitively, subtly twisting or even wrenching the emotion from the lyric. 

 

They followed that with a somewhat uncharacteristically upbeat take on It Was a Very Good Year before running through a set of originals. The first chronicled the life and unexpected demise of a legendary party animal. The Other Side of Heartache was arguably the high point of the set, a bitter, knowing yet defiantly witty reflection on addiction and bad behavior. As the song wound down, Annie launched into a long spoken-word outro: maybe I’ve acted badly, but so what, she asked. Do we have to have a meeting and another meeting and another meeting?

 

A couple of times she broke the fourth wall, stopping the song when she’d broken character to the point where she couldn’t return. “Paul, do I amuse you as much as I amuse myself?” she laughed. “Even more,” Wallfisch replied. The rest of the show alternated between riverting intensity and devious fun. If You Go Away (the Anglicized version of the Edith Piaf classic) and a shockingly transformed cover of the U2 schlockfest I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For fell into the former camp. The duo also did a silly beach vacation number where they “shake their Bootsy Collins in the sand.” Wallfisch threw in a brief run down the scale, and Annie recognized it at once. “That’s Scheherezade. But in the wrong scale!” The two then digressed into a brief but hilarious interlude about music theory. “There are three scales,” Annie riffed, “Major, minor and…foreign.”

 

The encore was Yesterday When I Was Young, which in its original version is a requiem for a cad. Annie’s made it her own, and a theme song of sorts, by transforming into a requiem for lost time. She’s a la recherche de temps perdu just like the rest of us, only perhaps more so and that’s what makes her version so wrenchingly beautiful, fist balled tightly to her cheek as she half-whispered, half-choked her way through the lyric, her trademark deer-in-the-headlights stare fixed probably on a spot on the back wall. But she sings to you, to your dead dreams, unrequited loves, missed opportunities and most of all to the hope that all might not be lost after all. It is pure, it is completely without artifice, and so heartfelt that sometimes the song brings her to tears by the time she’s done. This time she held them back. When the song was over, the audience – most of them obviously fans – didn’t know to react, silent for several seconds after Wallfisch touched its last two gentle notes.

 

Artsy, ambient chamber-rock septet Edison Woods opened the night on an equally magical note. With tastefully minimal sax, cello, keyboards and layers of vocal harmonies from their two frontwomen coloring their slow, atmospheric songs, their sonic web was as hypnotic as it was seamless. The best song of their too-brief set was a vivid number in 6/8 possibly titled Dance to the End of the World, an apt way to capsulize their sound.

 

By the way, Little Annie is also an extraordinary painter, blending colorfully playful, Frida Kahlo-influenced psychedelics with pre-Renaissance European religious iconography and a gritty urban sensibility. While generally more optimistic than her music, her visual art has a similar gleefully impish wit. 

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment