Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

See-I’s New Album Puts a Trippy Spin on Roots Reggae

See-I is the roots reggae project of two musicians, Arthur and Archie Steele (who go by Rootz and Zeebo, respectively), masterminds of a Washington, DC reggae scene. On their debut album, they’re joined by a diverse cast of musicians from Chuck Brown’s band along with others who’ve toured with them backing Thievery Corporation. Their debut release is a clever, entertaining party mix, a smooth digital production that blends an early 90s Jamaican feel (boomy bass and synthesized brass) with neoretro psychedelic elements: wah-wah, vintage organ patches and every noodly keyboard texture available. Which comes as no surprise, considering that Rob Myers of hilariously entertaining psychedelic chillout instrumentalists Thunderball is involved with the production.

The slinky, midtempo opening cut Dangerous sets the stage for what’s to come, with plenty of dub tinges. They follow that with Haterz 24/7, vintage Buju Banton-style dancehall patois over a fluid roots groove. Dub Revolution is driven by a catchy minor-key bass hook as squiggly synth and creepy, upper register electric piano textures filter in and out of the mix. They segue out of it into Soul Hit Man, transforming the groove into a jaunty bounce with a retro 70s soul vibe. Talking About the Peace shifts back to an oldschool 90s dancehall flavor, while Homegrown 2011 is funk/reggae with some unexpected bluesmetal guitar. Blow Up is the most hypnotic, dubwise track here, with some creepily bizarre electric sitar.

The most upbeat cut here, How We Do, features a ton of wah textures beneath the deadpan dancehall chatter. It deserves its own dub version – and it segues into one, yeah mon! Soul Universe is a sleepy stoner soul vamp with a George Clinton-esque rap; they close the album with a couple of woozy trip-hop vamps and what seems like an obligatory nod to hip-hop. To fully appreciate this album, something better than an ipod is required, preferably a system that can handle all the bass here. Mi a seh it a good ting!

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July 17, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, reggae music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

George Clinton in Broad Daylight – Meh

There is a subtext to many of the concert reviews here, especially during the summer. Maybe you’ve noticed it. Maybe not. If not – YOU SHOULD SEE THEM WHILE YOU CAN. On one side, there are the budget slashers, eager to shut down your local library branch or concert series (or city hospital, or firehouse – that’s a story for another time). On the other, there are the private foundations (funded by right-wing extremists) eager to insinuate themselves into a local park by sponsoring a few shows for a few months, maybe taking over park maintenance and then all of a sudden banning all but the handful of yuppies (or the corporations they work for) who’ve become “sponsors.” Folks, we have to stand up to this. Do we want Central Park to become Halliburton Park? Or Bernie Madoff Park? Or Goldman Sachs Park, off-limits all weekend long because they’re using it to celebrate the top salesmen for their latest arcane, worthless real estate derivative? We have to fight that. And in the meantime, we ought to see what is actually happening in our public spaces – which, incidentally, we pay for, with our taxes.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music sponsors the weekly Thursday noontime concerts at Metrotech Park in downtown Brooklyn. Whether they’re immune to corporate pressure or not is up in the air. Once in awhile they have a great concert here, a really amazing one. Booker T & the MG’s with Sharon Jones, which we were lucky to catch the first year we started this blog; many years previously, before BAM got involved, the late Lucky Dube played a stunningly intense, powerful set of roots reggae here. There have also been numerous African performers here – Malian guitar genius Vieux Farka Toure, who shredded the surroundings into dust last year, for example. But for every good show here, there are ten Ke$ha or Erykah Badu wannabes. Corporate influence, or just bad taste? Who knows.

George Clinton played here Thursday. This guy is major: he invented symphonic stoner funk. Maybe for that reason, the emcee who introduces the acts here was more stoned than usual. On one hand, it hurts to be critical of somebody who roots for the expansion team-quality Mets, year after year (let’s hope they trade Reyes AND Wright for prospects) – on the other, the guy gets on the mic and sounds like he’s just done about a dozen bong hits. Clinton’s band came on and warmed up slowly: Gotta Get Over the Hump, knowmsayn? On one hand, Clinton’s shows have always been as much about the performers behind him as they have been about him (talk about a team player, huh?!?) . On the other hand, he gets overshadowed by the 15-foot papier-mache monster, the undulating huddle of girls, the horde of backup singers and for that matter, his own band. Intentional? Maybe yes!

So this particular cast had a bassist who looked like Bootsy and played excellently and intensely but wasn’t, along with a fiery trumpeter, a drummer who played wearing a raincoat and then gladly turned the drum throne over to someone who wasn’t, and a guitarist who had assimilated Eddie Hazel’s sunburst assault and added more of an ambient, sustained edge – what a delicious thing to hear, the guy absolutely kicked ass, no idiotic heavy metal scales or cliches.

But Clinton was up before he should have been. He just didn’t do much. He had some pseudo-vocoder stage patter ready go to; the other 90% of the time, his back was to the audience, seemingly waiting til he had to come back out of the wings. Another member of the band introduced him since he wasn’t wearing his signature aqua hair extensions. When the band did Flashlight, it was a treat: yet you have to wonder, how many of the people here first heard the da-da-da-da-DEE, da-da-ah riff as a hip-hop sample rather than as a Funkadelic song? They did Atomic Dog a little later, with the bass furiously blasting out that gorgeous hook, then took their time through a ponderous, suspenseless Mothership Connection. When one of the backup singers took over the mic to do a decent if not overwhelming blues so as to give the almost 70-year-old Clinton a breather, it was time to get back to the office anyway before the boss might notice. The verdict: Clinton is a certified genius, but not in broad daylight. The reverse is probably true as well.

June 5, 2011 Posted by | concert, funk music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, reggae music, review, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 2/28/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #701:

Parliament – Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome

Big record labels always wanted to eliminate musicians from the equation. By 1978, as disco gained traction, they were doing it with drum loops and primitive samples, and musicians were worried sick. Into the battle stepped George Clinton with this ferocious, deliriously danceable broadside aimed at the music industry and clueless listeners, personified by Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk (i.e. “devoid of funk”). Among other things, this clueless idiot can’t dance, despite the presence of some of the era’s best funk musicians – Clinton, Bernie Worrell, Eddie Hazel and Bootsy Collins. The album’s two big hits, Bop Gun and Flash Light, with its ridiculously catchy Bernie Worrell synth bass hook, have been sampled in a gazillion hip-hop songs. There’s also the caustic, sarcastic Wizard of Finance, the anti-consumerist cautionary tale Placebo Syndrome and the mesmerizing ten-minute title track. Thirty years later, the winner of this battle couldn’t be more clear. Here’s a random torrent.

February 28, 2011 Posted by | funk music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 11/27/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #794:

Funkadelic – America Eats Its Young

Here’s a band that pretty much everybody agrees on. But the two most popular “best-of” music lists up here in the cloud already grabbed One Nation Under a Groove and Maggot Brain. So what’s left? Pretty much everything P-Funk ever did. Here’s one you might not have thought about for awhile. This characteristically sprawling, eclectic, amusing, and frequently scathing 1972 double lp might be George Clinton’s most rock-oriented album, stone cold proof that these guys were just as good a rock act as a funk band. This is the core of the early group: the brilliant and underrated Tyrone Lampkin on drums, Bootsy on bass, Eddie Hazel on guitar and Bernie Worrell on swirling, gothic-tinged organ putting his New England Conservatory degree to good use. A lot of this takes Sly Stone-style funk to the next level: the fast antiwar/antiviolence shuffle You Hit the Nail on the Head; the artsy, orchestrated eco-anthem If You Don’t Like the Effects, Don’t Produce the Cause; and the vicious, bouncy antidrug anthem Loose Booty. I Call My Baby Pussycat is epic and funny; the title track is even more so, a slow stoner soul vamp with a message, an orgasmic girl vocalese intro, and a faux Isaac Hayes rap by Clinton: “Who is this bitch?” The pensive ballad Miss Lucifer’s Love predates Radiohead by 35 years; Bootsy gets down and dirty with an oldschool R&B feel on Philmore. Biological Speculation offhandedly makes the case that if we don’t pull our act together, nature just might do it for us – without us. And it’s got a pedal steel solo?!? The album closes with a politically charged gospel number, the guys in the choir trading verses with the girls. Here’s a random torrent.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | funk music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 11/8/10

We’re getting better at this. Our weekly Kasey Kasem-inspired luddite DIY version of a podcast is supposed to happen on Tuesdays; last week we didn’t get to it til Friday, so at this rate we’ll be back on schedule by December! Every week, we try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone: sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. We’ve designed this as something you can do on your lunch break if you work at a computer (or if you can listen on your iphone at work: your boss won’t approve of a lot of this stuff). If you don’t like one of these songs, you can always go on to the next one: every link here will take you to each individual song. As always, the #1 song here will appear on our Best Songs of 2010 list at the end of the year.

1. Elvis Costello – One Bell Rings

From his sensational new album National Ransom, this chillingly allusive account of a torture victim draws on the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes as inspiration.

2. LJ Murphy – Fearful Town

One of New York’s greatest chroniclers takes on the gentrification era, live with the superb New Orleans pianist Willie Davis. This one topped the charts here in 2007 so we can’t put it up at #1 again…that would be cheating.

3. The Newton Gang – Westbound

JD Duarte’s soulful Texas baritone delivers this pedal steel-driven country escape anthem: live, they really rock the hell out of it. They’re at the Brooklyn County Fair at the Jalopy on 11/13 at 10.

4. The New Collisions – Dying Alone

This is the video for their offhandedly chilling new powerpop smash from their new album The Optimist. “God knows you hate the quiet, when you’re dying, dying alone.”

5. The Gomorran Social Aid & Pleasure Club – The Great Flood

Noir cabaret by a brass band with a scary girl singer. They’re at the Jalopy on 11/18.

6. Ljova Zhurbin & Clifton Hyde – Theme from The Girl and Her Trust

A new theme for the DW Griffith silent film, live in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Ave. Tunnel.

7. Los Crema Paraiso – Shine on You Crazy Diablo

Venezuelan tinged Floyd cover – for real.

8. Shara Worden with Signal – The Lotus Eaters

The frontwoman of My Brightest Diamond singing one of the highlights of Sarah Kirkland Snider’s new song cycle Penelope.

9. Wayman Tisdale – Let’s Ride

The late NBA star doing some serious funk, featuring George Clinton – this is the cartoon video.

10. Witches in Bikinis – All Hallows Eve

Not the surf punk original but a disco remix, even more over the top and just as funny

November 11, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, blues music, classical music, country music, funk music, lists, Music, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment