Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Shenandoah and the Night Mix Intriguing Noir Styles

Dark pop/soul band Shenandoah and the Night’s frontwoman Shenandoah Ableman has one of those disconcertingly guileless indie rock voices. When she goes up high, she goes into falsetto rather than head voice, using the device effectively to add a creepy edge. Her band has a new four-song ep up at soundcloud that’s worth checking out if dark rock is your thing. The first track is a synth-pop number that intriguingly contrasts Ableman’s raw vocals with blippy keyboards and watery 80s chorus-box guitar. Ostensibly a traditional number, Dink’s Song is done here as David Lynch noir doo-wop with just the hint of eerie funeral parlor organ and an unexpectedly soulful, terse blues guitar solo from Sean Hutchinson toward the end. All the Beautiful Ladies seems to be an All the Pretty Horses shout-out,  a potent study in contrast, slowly brooding verse and swinging chorus, mariachiesque southwestern gothic with reverb-drenched guitar and Kenny Warren’s trumpet enhancing the spaghetti western vibe. Ableman sings the last song, a darkly swaying piano/organ tune, with a different backing unit: “These arms, these eyes will hold you when you come home” sounds more like a threat than a consolation. All this could be tremendously cool live. Shenandoah and the Night play the cd release show for this one at Spike Hill on May 28 at 9.

Advertisements

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/23/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #859:

The Damned – Mindless Directionless Energy

The All Music Guide said horrible things about this one: goes to show, who can you trust? We chose this over the rest of their catalog since it has so many inspired versions of some of their best and best-known songs. Recorded live at the Lyceum in London in 1981 and widely bootlegged, to the point where the band finally released it six years later, this captures the band hanging onto their punk sound even in the wake of their first dive into goth music, the Black Album. As befits a bootleg from that era, the sonics manage to be both boomy and trebly – midrange is mostly nonexistent – but the spontaneous intensity of the performances is irresistible. Frontman Dave Vanian sounds like he’s been drinking about his baby and the band are just loose enough to be dangerous, stampeding through the riff-rocking punk of I Fall and New Rose, a blistering hardcore version of Love Song, the wickedly catchy guitar-and-organ punk-pop of Smash It Up and I Just Can’t Be Happy Today, a feedback-infested blast through a medley of the MC5’s Looking At You and the Stooges’ 1970 and a murderously careening version of their most haunting if lyrically mystifying song, Plan 9 Channel 7. The only miss is a completely useless cover of the Sweet’s annoying Ballroom Blitz. Most of the Damned’s albums – from the almost equally trebly, garage-style stomp of their 1977 debut Damned Damned Damned through the goth-infused Strawberries, from 1982 – are worth investigating. Here’s a random torrent.

September 23, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

After Ten Years, Ninth House Finally Record Their Masterpiece

Long-running New York rockers Ninth House have been through as many incarnations as David Bowie or Madonna. Over the last decade, they’ve played ornate goth-tinged art-rock, straight-up punk, rockabilly, and even went through a brief jamband phase. Their new album 11 Cemetery & Western Classics finds them digging deep into frontman/bassist Mark Sinnis’ signature Nashville gothic songwriting style, and they’ve never sounded better: track for track, this is the best thing they’ve ever done. It’s a welcome return to the hard-hitting, stripped-down sound they first mined as a three-piece over ten years ago, with the added advantage of now having former Gotham Four frontman Keith Otten on guitar. He’s the best lead player you’ve never heard of, ripping through one intense, fire-and-brimstone solo after another, yet also just as likely to toss off a tongue-in-cheek rockabilly riff or poignant, plaintive washes of sound if a song calls for it, over the rumble and swing of Sinnis and drummer Francis Xavier.

They kick it off angry and bitter with Fifteen Miles to Hell’s Gate – “From New York City, the one that drags me into a hole,” Sinnis rages in between Otten’s alternately sparse and anguished leads. The relentless, doomed, pulsing Funeral for Your Mind features one of the most spine-tingling solos on any rock record this year; the fatalistic, tango-inflected Fallible Friend has a trumpet section that adds a spaghetti western feel, Otten’s savage, sardonic guitar a perfect complement to Sinnis’ cynical lyric. Otten’s countrypolitan guitar blends warmly with Susan Mitchell’s rustic, pastoral violin on the swinging Nashville gothic anthem The Room Filled Beyond Your Door, while When the Light Blinds and You Die takes a gospel melody and imbues it with suspenseful Steve Wynn-style psychedelic atmospherics.

A couple of tracks here date from the band’s landmark 2000 album Swim in the Silence. The Head on the Door-era Cure-style pop of Down Beneath is more swinging and carefree than the original, while Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me, a genuine classic the first time around, trades lush 80s ambience for a raw, wounded intensity.

The album also includes a couple of covers: Lost Highway owes more to the Psychedelic Furs than it does Hank Williams, Mitchell adding unexpected flair with her violin, while guest pianist Matt Dundas gives a honkytonk edge to the Social Distortion-style stomp of Johnny Cash’s Blue Train. The album ends on a high note – as high a note as a song this morbid can hit, anyway – with the chaotic, sprawling country ballad 100 Years from Now, Sinnis announcing that when his time is up, he wants to be buried with a bottle of whiskey. Ninth House play the cd release show for this one on Sept 24 at midnight at UC 87 Lounge, 87 Ludlow St. between Delancey and Broome with free admission before 11.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/7/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #875:

The Cure – Seventeen Seconds

The popular favorite, and deservedly so, is the quirkily charming Boys Don’t Cry; the goth crowd tends to gravitate toward Pornography, another splendid if completely different album. This is the missing link between the two. The cold gloom of its atmospherics foreshadowed the goth direction they’d take for the next few years, but there’s also a catchy pop sensibility that never falls over the edge into the cloying sound that would define the band’s other side, starting in 1986 with Head on the Door. This is their second album, from 1980, bassist Simon Gallup locking with drummer Lol Tolhurst for a tightly wound, propulsive beat (calling it a groove would be an overstatement) beneath Robert Smith’s icy jangle and affectless vocals. The title refers to how long the brain can maintain consciousness after the heart stops beating. A pensive, cinematic instrumental miniature sets the tone for each of the album sides; side one has the big hit Play for Today and a bit later on, the moody, furtive In Your House. Side two has the brooding, somewhat epic A Forest and At Night as well as M, arguably their best song, seemingly a reference to the serial killer role played so unforgettably by Peter Lorre in the Fritz Lang film. Here’s a random torrent.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 8/23/10

OK, we’re a day late with this, but we’re on vacation – who’s counting, anyway? This is sort of our luddite DIY version of a podcast. 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 (and you have headphones -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. Norden Bombsight – Help Desk

We don’t usually carry over a song from one week to another but this one’s a gem, a real #1. Noir art-rock with a cool, really professional David Lynch-style video.

2. Ninth House – Fallible Friend

Keith Otten’s evil, cynical guitar owns this song. Delicious Nashville gothic rock from their upcoming Cemetery & Western Classics album.

3. Julie Christmas – July 31st

Kinda creepy ballad that explodes into noir rock on the chorus.

4. The Jesus Taco – The Meek

Genuinely pretty, vividly lyrical acoustic ballad: “I had bruises on my brain so they put me on ice, the charity wards were swollen with sorrow but the nurses were nice, I wanted to kill so they put me on pills seven days a week.” Another good band from the Weak Records stable.

5. Brooklyn Rider – Debussy String Quartet, 2nd movement

Live on Soundcheck with John Schaefer, a fan favorite from their latest cd.

6. Rupa & the April Fishes – Une Americaine a Paris

Delicious gypsy jazz. They’re at Joe’s Pub on 9/1 and at Barbes on 9/3. Very cool lyrics if you speak French.

7. The Rebel Set – Heartbreak Waiting

Better than average surf/garage rock- like an all male Go Go’s. Thanks to the folks at Blurt for this one.

8. Bee vs. Moth – Pancake Factory

Beyond weird but very cool. Janglerock meets no wave with horns. Completely unique.

9. Hot Rize – Keep Your Lamp Trimmed & Burning

Country gospel, bluegrass style, live at Bonaroo. Coming to B.B. King’s in November.

10. Sebastian Tellier – Look

The song sucks but the video is hilarious – if your sense of humor extends to Simpsons-style fart jokes. C’mon, admit it, you love it.

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Small Beast, New York’s Edgiest Rock Night, Lives On

Monday night at the Delancey is still the most happening night of the week for rock music in New York. Small Beast founder and Botanica frontman Paul Wallfisch may have taken his act on the road to Dortmund, Germany for the next year, but the weekly series lives on. This must have been close to Beast #100 and it was characteristically fascinating. Black Fortress of Opium frontwoman Ajda the Turkish Queen opened. That band’s 2008 Martin Bisi-produced album is a highwater mark in recent dark rock, but hearing their singer play solo was a real revelation. Switching between mandolin and piano, she showed off a versatile, nuanced and even playful vocal style that with the band sometimes gets subsumed in the din of the guitars. On album, her song Ari is a slowly crescendoing, ferociously guitar-fueled epic; live, it was hypnotic and plaintive. As it turns out, it imagines the life of the son Nico had with 70s French actor Alain Delon. A new, ornate ballad featuring some unexpectedly nimble mandolin work followed an upward trajectory; another new one, Fata Morgana was lyrically charged, “shot down by a man with disillusion in his eyes,” she sang with a wounded understatement. A fragmentary piano sketch with a long, intense a-cappella passage was claustrophobic and intense, followed by a percussive, insistent requiem. Her band is back in the studio working with Bisi again, a collaboration that promises even better results a second time around.

Pete Galub followed with a clinic in great guitar solos. He’s reached the point where he ranks with Gilmour, Frisell, B.B., whoever you care to put in your guitar pantheon. Galub matches wit to intensity, surprise to adrenaline and does it over incredibly catchy changes. He’s a powerpop guy at heart, so there’s always a memorable tune playing underneath his rhythmically tricky, dynamically shifting solo excursions. Watching him with just his Telecaster running through a few off-the-shelf pedals, it was a chance to see those solos completely unadorned: you could imagine any backing you wanted and they’d still work, whether that might be the Undertones, Big Star or even ELO. He’s a maven of melodic rock, opening with a relatively obscure but typically tuneful Only Ones anthem, Woke Up Sticky, eventually running through a thoughtfully paced version of his 6/8 ballad Boy Gone Wrong (title track to his surprisingly quiet singer-songwriter album from a couple of years back), and two fiery, noirish, minor-key anthems, the second a bitter, metaphorically loaded kiss-off song. He wrapped up his set with a clever, somewhat tongue-in-cheek reworking of Steely Dan’s Every Major Dude Will Tell You.

Atmospheric, edgy guitar noir soundtrack guy Thomas Simon – whose new album Moncao is one of the year’s best – had booked the night and was next on the bill, but the trains were messed up so it was time to go. And he’s gotten plenty of ink here before.

August 18, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Whispering Tree Waits in the Shadows

Plaintive, moody and often downright haunting, the Whispering Tree’s new cd Go Call the Captain is a strong contender for best debut album of the year. Pianist/frontwoman Eleanor Kleiner’s wary, pensive, unadorned voice makes a potent vehicle for their gothic Americana songs. Many of them are in stately 6/8 time, spaciously and tersely arranged with keyboards, guitar and frequent orchestral flourishes. The title track starts out as a plaintive Applachian ballad but quickly grows to a towering art-rock anthem:

False prophets, liars and thieves rule the world…
Pull the veil down over our eyes
While we frantically follow behind
I’d rather be lost than led by the blind

And unlike a lot of the songs here, it ends on an upbeat note. “We can rule the world,” Kleiner asserts, if we overthrow these monsters. Claustrophobia pervades much of what’s here, both metaphorical and literal, on the fast, oldtimey swing shuffle So Many Things – which Kleiner would gladly toss out the window, to watch them smash on the street and destroy all the memories attached to them – and The Tallest, which laments being surrounded by “rooftops stretching as far as the eye can see.” The bitter ballad Las Vegas has Yoed Nir’s cello combining with Thad Debrock’s pedal steel and Elie Brangbour’s incisive guitar for a bracing, uneasy undercurrent, and maybe the most haunting honkytonk piano solo ever. “Those colored lights they hypnotize,” Kleiner warns.

The late-summer ominousness of Something Might Happen is visceral, crescendoing with a biting guitar solo. The angst reaches breaking point on Soon, the darkest and most intense track here, Kleiner going as high and distressed as she can, the band taking it down and then back up again with a searing, psychedelic interlude. There’s also a pensive, slow number spiced with Beth Meyers’ plaintive violin, a surprisingly jaunty mandolin tune and the apocalyptic closing track, Washed Ashore. Fans of the Handsome Family, Nick Cave, Liz Tormes and Mark Sinnis owe it to themselves to get to know the Whispering Tree.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments