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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/31/11

Getting closer to where we should be, every day, as our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album was #517:

Iron Maiden – Live After Death

“Scream for me Long Beach!” Bruce Dickinson howls again and again. By the time the standard bearers of the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM for short) made this double vinyl monstrosity in 1985, they were a well-oiled machine in the midst of a tour that would take them around the world more than once in over a year. It’s basically their greatest hits live done by the classic lineup with the two-guitar attack of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, with the unsurpassed, nimble rhythm section of bass god Steve Harris and Nicko McBain on drums. Every facet of the band is represented: the pounding, punkish Aces High, Die with Your Boots On, Running Free and 22 Acacia Ave.; the artsy, classically-flavored epics Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Powerslave and Phantom of the Opera (no relation to the musical); and catchy, anthemic classics including Run to the Hills, 2 Minutes to Midnight and of course The Number of the Beast. Tuneful, melodic and intelligent, this band transcends any metal stereotype. Don’t confuse these guys with another great British band called Iron Maiden, a proto-metal group from the late 60s/early 70s. Here’s a random torrent.

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September 1, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pitom Shreds With Ominous Majesty

Guitarist Yoshie Fruchter’s band Pitom’s new instrumental album Blasphemy and Other Serious Crimes, just out on Tzadik, blends Israeli stoner metal with surf music, gothic rock and ancient Hasidic ngunim. Ostensibly a reflection on Yom Kippur, if there’s anything to atone for here, it should be for not making the album longer – and it is a long one to begin with. Here bassist Shanir Blumenkranz (also of Pharaoh’s Daughter) serves as their Lemmy, propelling much of this with a roaring chordal attack, alongside Jeremy Brown on violin and Kevin Zubek on drums. Fruchter has an individual and impressively tasteful style for a genre where florid is the norm: he roars, squalls and skronks but also cuts his chords up into juicy pieces that he offers up like a lion tamer determined to get the best out of the beast. The melodies bristle and wail, charged with eerie chromatics and Middle Eastern tonalities along with the metal riffage and slowly careening psychedelic licks.

The first song is a flamenco-tinged stomp with guitar that ranges from theremin-ish to Dick Dale-ish, set to a pounding Nine Inch Nails beat. After that, they deliver a sludgy bulldozer waltz driven by distorted bass chords and an apprehensive violin solo, Fruchter screaming in wildly to ambush Brown’s stately lines. The third track is a Maidenesque, chromatic gallop with scrapy violin/guitar textures and a watery, dambuster Leslie speaker guitar solo. With slyly growling twin guitars over a gritty bass groove, the fourth track builds to a genuinely anguished crescendo, Blumenkranz wailing with a dirty, distorted tone over Fruchter’s clanging, echoey, menacing chordal fragments.

Motorhead goes to a Jewish wedding and dances in 14/4 through a pungent cloud of guitar/violin smoke on the fifth cut; the sixth is a creepy, low-key spiderwalk. The seventh starts out with a gorgeously plaintive klezmer melody that grows menacing, then hits a grand guignol interlude straight out of early Queen, then back to the menace again. Track eight amps the rustic, wounded beauty higher, with a slow Peter Gunn-style interlude and variations. On the next cut, a frantic Balkan chase scene collapses and gets all Sonic Youth before reassembling and scurrying off again – and then they hit a noisy bridge with an early 70s style bluesmetal solo peeking out from behind the gnashing and thrashing. They close with another klezmer melody, this one done as 80s psychedelic rock a la the the Raybeats or Slickee Boys, and the majestic concluding cut featuring alternatingly intense guitar and violin solos over the murk beneath. Fans of intelligent, artsy metal bands from Junius to Iron Maiden will love this stuff. Pitom play the cd release show for this one at Rock Shop in Gowanus on Monday May 2 at 9 or so with the excellent, eclectic Gutbucket opening at 8. The bands are also bringing food for everybody.

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poobah’s Classic 1972 Stoner-Metal Debut Is Back in Print

In 1972, Poobah, a high school rock band from Youngstown, Ohio recorded Let Me In, a fuzzed-out stoner metal album that became a cult classic: copies of the original vinyl go for hundreds of dollars on the collector market. Little did teenage guitarist Jim Gustafson, bassist Phil Jones and drummer Glenn Wiseman know that they’d created a psychedelic, proto-metal masterpiece. Originally reissued in 1994 on a small, now defunct label, Ripple Music’s newly remastered re-release contains the original album’s seven tracks as well as twelve bonus cuts featuring additional band members (ten of the songs included on a limited-edition double gatefold black-and-white vinyl album). The obvious influence is Black Sabbath, right down to the catchy simplicity of the hooks, the way they’ll hang on a single chord for minutes on end, the heavy echo on the vocals, the fat midrange tone of the bass and Wiseman’s busy but absolutely brilliant drumming. Gustafson’s sunbaked, bluesy playing is shockingly terse, especially for this kind of music. As long and convoluted as some of these songs are, he doesn’t waste notes, tossing off one brief, incisive riff after another with a heavylidded leer.

The band’s signature song, Mr. Destroyer motors along on an unstoppable midtempo groove, Gustafson’s doubletracked solo phasing back and forth between channels, and a conga break with screams echoing in the background: Spinal Tap central! It’s quite a contrast with what follows it, the surprisingly gentle, folk-tinged ballad Enjoy What You Have, Wiseman’s amazing drums picking it up little by little. The slow ba-bump boogie Live to Work is a workingman’s anthem: “You know I can’t stand this hell.” Bowleen, the eeriest number here, has a Syd Barrett feel, the sample at the end providing an irresistibly funny answer to the question of what it’s about. The fifth track, Rock n Roll is unhinged Chuck Berry rock as Uriah Heep might have done it, except with better drums; the title cut is a 7-11 parking lot riff-rocker with a long In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida drum solo – all that’s missing is the crowd noise! – and a gleeful solo guitar break.

Most of the bonus tracks are strong as well. Make a Man Outta You, one of the few here that was previously issued, layers one delicious, reverb-drenched sheet of wild tremolo-picking on top of another. A one-chord stoner jam, Upside Down Highway has Gustafson’s guitar echoing around a catchy, circling bass riff, finally delivering a long, wild, Tony Iommi-style wah solo. The closest thing to Sabbath here is the hilarious Walk of the Bug: “When you’re asleep in your bed you’ll feel his legs on your head.” The bass walks on your face, the guitar injects the venom and it’s over. There’s also a couple of tasty bluesmetal instrumentals, a late MC5 style metal-pop number manufactured specifically for a car radio audience, and a lone attempt to weld funk to a blotto metal groove. The whole thing ranks with Flower Marching Band, the original Iron Maiden and Sir Lord Baltimore as one of the classics of early metal. And if you like these guys, you might want to check out their labelmates and early 70s contemporaries the JPT Scare Band, a Kansas City outfit who split their time between skin-peeling acid-metal and a more commercial Allman Bros.-style sound.

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Top Ten Songs of the Week 7/26/10

OK, we’re a little behind with this but we have not been idle: new NYC concert calendar coming August 1, the 1000 best albums of all time, not to mention 72 albums and two concerts to review. At least. In the meantime here’s this week’s version of what Billboard should be paying attention to: we try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone, sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. If you don’t like one of these, you can always go on to the next one. Every link here will take you to the song. As always, the #1 song of the week is guaranteed a spot on this year’s best 100 songs list at the end of December.

1. The Larch – Sub-Orbital Getaway

A masterpiece of catchy paisley underground rock dressed up in a skinny tie and striped suit. From the Brooklyn band’s best album, the brand-new Larix Americana.

2. Devi – When It Comes Down

The psychedelic rockers are giving away this live showstopper as a free download. Doesn’t get any more generous than this!

3. People You Know – Glamour in the Hearts of Many

Go Gos soundalike from the fun, quirky Toronto trio.

4. Wormburner – The Interstate

Long, literate highway epic: it’s all about escape. What you’d expect from a good band from New Jersey (they tore up Hipster Demolition Night this month).

5. The Fumes – Cuddle Up the Devil

Not the Queens ska-rock crew but an Australian band very good at hypnotic pounding Mississippi hill country blues a la RL Burnside or Will Scott. They’re at the Rockwood 8/26-27

6. The Alpha Rays – Guide to Androids

Ziggy-era Bowie epic warped into an early 80s artpop vein from these lyrical London rockers.

7. Fela Original Cast – Water No Get Enemy

A Fela classic redone brilliantly, from the Broadway show soundtrack – then again, it’s what you’d expect from Antibalas.

8. Iron Maiden – God of Darkness

This is the first Iron Maiden – bluesy British metal from 1969!

9. Darker My Love – Dear Author

Faux psychedelic Beatles – funny in a Dukes of Stratosphear vein. Free download.

10. Megan McCullough Li – Blood in the Water

Solo harp and vocals – creepy!

July 29, 2010 Posted by | blues music, lists, Music, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Hsu-nami at the Passport to Taiwan Festival, Union Square, NYC 5/24/09

At times it seemed as if the Hsu-Nami were deliberately trying to injure themselves, ripping through a brief, barely forty-minute but physically exhausting set of artsy, spectacularly intelligent, virtuosic heavy metal instrumentals blending blinding blues, ornate Iron Maiden inflections and traditional Chinese melodies played by the band’s sensational frontman Jack Hsu on an amplified erhu (the traditional Chinese violin). Hsu didn’t let the the hundred-degree heat and crushing humidity phase him, flailing and throwing himself across the terrace at the park’s southwest corner as if possessed by demons. He didn’t even take off his vest. Hsu frequently transposes lead guitar voicings to his instrument, showing off a dizzyingly virtuosic command of an army of stylistic devices: slides, bent notes, lightning-fast 32nd-note clusters, blues runs, classical motifs and of course his signature permutations of the traditional Chinese scale. Guitarist Brent Bergholm’s pedalboard wasn’t working, so he went straight through his amp with tons of natural distortion. Tony Aichele, on the other side of what would have been the stage if there’d been one there, added a similarly ferocious blend of lead guitar precision and recklessness. Too bad the keyboardist was so low in the mix – but sometimes that’s what you get at an outdoor show. At the very least the band drowned out the nasty alarms undoubtedly blasting in the distance every time an M9 bus would open its doors, a couple of blocks away; at best, even taking into account the makeshift acoustics on what was by far the nastiest day of the year, this was one of 2009’s best NYC shows so far.

They opened with an especially aggressive version of Snake Skin Shuffle, featuring a ferocious bluesy solo by Bergholm. The next song segued from a predictably amusing, sarcastically metalized version of the Godfather Theme, Hsu mocking the melody against stately piano, then morphing into what sounded like Iron Maiden playing a dramatic Chinese opera theme lit up by a twin solo by the two guitarists. The title track from their new cd 4 Noble Truths began slow, deliberate, and soulful, building to a galloping stomp with Aichele and Hsu playfully doubling each others’ lightning-fast lines, then an interlude with keys that wouldn’t have been out of place on an early Genesis record. The most intense song of the show was the intially eerie, ominous Entering the Mandala, Hsu blasting through two twin solos –  one with each guitarist – as the suite reached whirlwind proportions. While what this band plays, for lack of a better word, is metal, they stay away from cliches, on this one finally giving into temptation and ending it with a deliciously flailing, crashing outro that could have gone on for twice as long as it did and the crowd would have loved it just as much. They closed the set with a new song, the strikingly pretty, pastoral triptych Passport to Taiwan, dedicating it to the festival where they’ve played for three years straight now, Bergholm adding some artful southern rock touches that actually managed to work. If you miss the days of aggressive, loud bands that don’t have the slightest resemblance to Pearl Jam or Nickelback, you ought to check these guys out. The Hsu-Nami are like Chinese hot sauce – no matter how intense it gets, you still keep wanting more and more.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Concert Review: System Noise at Iridium, NYC 5/2/09

Arguably their best show to date. System Noise is the kind of band you see and you can’t believe they’re not famous (as in headlining stadiums, anyway – they’re not exactly unknown in the New York underground). They’re even good-looking, as shallow as it is to admit, platinum-haired frontwoman Sarah Mucho spiky, sarcastic and amusing as always until she’d launch into a song and then it was all chills. In a long set that ran almost an hour and a half – the first in a new series of Saturday night rock shows at Iridium – they alternated between catchy, edgily danceable funk-rock and the scorchingly dark, noisy yet melodic guitar-fueled style intimated by their name.

Two minutes into their hook-driven, Talking Heads-inflected opener, Shitkickers, Mucho put everyone on notice that this would not be a sedate show: “I say, fuck it, we don’t have to take this shit!” They followed with an even catchier, far darker tune, Hair and Nails, that would set the tone for pretty much the rest of the night, a savagely offhand dismissal of shallowness, Mucho musing what would make her a “better woman,” the hair and nails of the title both something to accessorize and the only two parts of the body that keep growing after death. Another new one set a wicked, funky chromatic progression over a hip-hop beat, Mucho working her range for every sultry inflection in her arsenal.

Eventually popular cabaret crooner/pianist Michael Isaacs joined them onstage for a particularly glammy Elton John-style take on Lady Stardust by Bowie, then remained at the keys, his punchy rhythm giving the guitarist a chance to stretch out and wail through many of the wild lead lines on their albums that, with only one guitarist, they can’t incorporate into their live show. Another cover, Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4 turned into a guitar firestorm, morphing at the end from a spot-on version of the solo out on the recording into a screaming, overtone-laden upper-register noisefest.

As usual, the big crowd-pleaser was the towering, epic anthem Daydreaming with its whispery intro, and long, eventually completely unhinged crescendo, a showcase for the wild wail Mucho developed on the cabaret circuit (where she still plays: she’s doing a show with Isaacs at Don’t Tell Mama on May 19). They encored with a particularly macabre, savagely redemptive version of the Carrie-inspired art-rock anthem Prom Night and then a blistering version of the fast, Iron Maiden-ish Good Enough to Eat, which their new bass player hadn’t had a chance to rehearse but tackled gamely and acquitted himself impressively. He’s a keeper – where their most recent bassist would get all garish and wanky if you gave him a second’s time in the spotlight, this guy is pure competence, smooth, in the pocket and tasteful. System Noise is back at their usual haunt the Delancey on June 16.

May 6, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 11/26/08

The top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Wednesday’s is #608:

Iron Maiden – Only the Good Die Young

Uncharacteristically terse (four-minute), snarling, absolutely macabre reverb-guitar anthem galloping along on one of the band’s mightiest sledgehammer hooks. Sure, the vox may be totally Dungeons and Dragons, but the tune and especially the end of the song are scrumptious. At all the usual mp3 sites. Because the original’s sonics are so delicious, it’s worth seeking out the 1988 album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, available cheap at pretty much any used vinyl place

November 26, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 10/19/08

Counting them down from #666 all the way to the best one ever. The whole list, with a new song added every day, is at the top of the page. Today’s song is #646:

Iron Maiden – Powerslave

Arguably their greatest shining moment. Anyone who thinks all heavy metal is stupid needs to hear this haunting, chromatically-fueled, Middle Eastern-tinged epic. When bassist/bandleader Steve Harris rises from the ashes to introduce the bridge with a terse, stately hook and then twin lead guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray take over, the effect is intense. Nicely macabre, completely over-the-top ending too. All the file-sharing sites have several available: the studio version with all the overdubs (probably the smallest file since most of what’s out there is live) is the best.

October 19, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , | Leave a comment