Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Carol Lipnik’s M.O.T.H. Brings up the Lights

Gorgeously orchestrated, warm and often sultry, shapeshifting chanteuse Carol Lipnik’s latest album M.O.T.H. (meaning Matters of the Heart) is an unexpected treat from someone who’s made her name as a purveyor of brilliantly surreal, carnivalesque songs. As you would expect, those songs frequently create an atmosphere of menace; here, that menace still looms in places, but from a considerable distance. Love or hope are always portrayed as part of a dialectic with pain on the other end, especially on a handful of settings of Rumi poems. Behind Lipnik, this version of Spookarama includes her longtime collaborator, dark jazz piano genius Dred Scott (who also contributes other keys, bass, drums and guitar on one track) along with Jacob Lawson on violin, Tim Luntzel on bass and Jim Campilongo guesting on guitar on one track.

It opens on a bouncy, playfully seductive note with Firefly: “In my dream world, you’re my temple.” It goes from playful to dark and back again and then ends cold. With its dark tango pulse, Undine Unwitted is characteristically surreal – “When I was a mermaid, I tried to pull you underwater, but you became the water” – and grows to a lush grandeur. The following track, told from the point of view of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, offers a perspective that’s genuinely poignant rather than camp, an outsider anthem if there ever was one and a showcase for the upper registers of Lipnik’s breathtaking four-octave range.

With the first of the Rumi lyrics, Poison Flower sets uneasily psychedelic layers of vocals over a wary violin waltz, a vivid portrayal of temptation and desire. The long, psychedelic title track alternates hypnotic ambience with a big, stomping, hard-rocking chorus; the following Rumi-themed number sways with echoes of 60s psychedelic folk-rock. Based on a Laura Gilpin poem, The Two Headed Calf presents another sympathetic view of a freak: he may be facing imminent death and then possibly several posthumous lifetimes in a museum, but for now he’s looking at the stars, and he sees twice as many as we do. Michael Hurley’s Werewolf (famously covered by Cat Power) sticks closer to the original, done with a menacing sway and some deliciously noir, twangy Campilongo guitar. Spirits Be Kind to Me, written by Tom Ward, is darkly bouncing and stagy: Lipnik keeps the drama understated, making it more of an invocation than a plea. The album winds up on a gracefully majestic note with Love Dogs, based on yet another Rumi poem: “Your pure sadness that longs for love is the secret cup.” Count this among the most stunning releases of 2011. Lipnik plays a weeklong stand at PS 122 from April 15 through the 22nd with another extraordinary singer, John Kelly: their new collaboration explores the visions of a critically injured trapeze artist who in order to escape his pain imagines himself entering the world of Caravaggio’s paintings.

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March 15, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Carol Lipnik – Cloud Girl

Every now and then something comes over the transom here that slipped under the radar when it first came out – or in the case of this album, predated this blog. This is one of the best of those – the cd cover image of the rails of the Cyclone rollercoaster with its “REMAIN SEATED” sign overhead is apt. Celebrated for her alternately soaring and piercing four-octave range, Carol Lipnik is also a uniquely gifted songwriter with a frequently sinister, otherwise amusingly carnivalesque edge. Lately she’s been pursuing what appears to be developing into an extraordinary collaboration with singer John Kelly (John Kelly and Carol Lipnik on the same stage – just think about the possibilities that conjures for a minute). For the uninitiated, this is Lipnik’s most recent album and comprises much of what she plays live. It’s a good an introduction to this indelibly New York, Coney Island born-and-bred artist.

The cd opens with Tom Ward’s noir cabaret waltz Freak House Blues, a playfully lurid tale bouncing along with horror-movie organ from keyboardist Dred Scott – a first-rate jazz composer in his own right – and violin by Jacob Lawson. The second cut, Lipnik’s own Falling/Floating mines the same kind of creepy noir pop vein that DollHouse or occasionally Blonde Redhead would pursue back about ten years ago.

Last Dance ( a co-write with Jane LeCroy) flirts with madness:  “I can’t forget the last dance, because I’m dancing it still.” By contrast, another Lipnik original, Traveling is a lushly beautiful and sensually atmospheric. Then it’s back to the macabre with another waltz, Where Are You Going, examining the relationship between conformity and cannibalism as Lawson’s staccato violin screeches along on the beat. Atmospheric and echoey, the menace of Crushed is understated and effectively so: “Do you want me to stand on my knees for you?” Lipnik asks – but it’s obvious that she’s not offering. “I’ll be back, but I’ll be changed,” she warns on the soaring, crescendoing Mermaid Blues. Morir Sonando (a Spanish pun – it’s an orange milkshake) is a big bolero, pretty boisterous for a tribute to the delights of dreaming and sleep. The cd winds up with the haunting, hypnotic, somewhat Radiohead-inflected title track. For those who can’t get enough after all this, Lipnik’s just back from Yaddo and working on a new one. Carol Lipnik plays the Howl Festival, 8 PM on Sept 15 at the 45 Bleecker St. Theatre in the West Village.

August 21, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment