Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Intriguing Conversational Noise-Jazz Jams From PinkBrown

Guitarist Xander Naylor made an impact with his completely unhinged, ferocious work on Ben Syversen’s Cracked Vessel album last year. He’s also a tremendously interesting writer, in an individual style that spans jazz, rock, funk and plain old brutal noise. On the expansive ep by his trio PinkBrown, he’s joined by saxophonist Johan Andersson and drummer Max Jaffe for an intuitively conversational, fascinating mix of composition and improvisation. Which is which? Trying to figure that out is a lot of fun. There’s so much going on here, yet so little in places: shifting from full-bore assault to wispy minimalism, the band deliver the kind of performance that you can play along to as you listen. It’s all about interplay rather than simply trajectory: they’re playing as a unit, rather than everybody shooting from the three-point line.

The first track here, Octagon begins with washes of feedback over a stiff martial beat, joined by sireening sax, skronky pinging Daniel Ash reverb droplets and then some guitar torture as the drums loosen and slide into funk. The sax joins the melee and suddenly the melee is over, replaced by an austere, minimalist section kicked off by Naylor, sax and drums joining in gingerly. The sparse atmospherics expand, a spacious mysteriousness pervades until Naylor makes his way back with big, sunburnt, sustained chords and the most memorably tuneful passage here. They wind it down gracefully and quietly. That’s the first eleven minutes of the album.

Track two, According to Taste is all about conversations and loud/soft contrasts. They begin wry and chirpy until Naylor’s frets catch fire and then extinguish by themselves. A single, simple noir riff appears; austerely chiming minimalism grows almost imperceptibly to a brief skronk interlude, then back down again, skeletal and whispery. A stomping anthem in disguise grows out of it, drums being the secret weapon here. They go out with a quick machine-gun volley. The third cut, Undisembowled, is a blistering instrumental that wouldn’t be out of place in the King Crimson catalog circa 1976. Beginning as staggered, metal-toned riff-rock, Andersson jostles Naylor tentatively and then a brief battle ensues, spacy feedback reverb guitar against sostenuto sax. Then Naylor trades 21st century schizoid riffs with the drums, sax and guitar go off into separate corners and bludgeon something and then return in unison to go out with a triumphant funk/metal chorus. Count this as one of the more enjoyably captivating albums so far this year. PinkBrown play an in-store show at Downtown Music Gallery at 7 on May 15.

April 11, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: 18 at Union Pool, Brooklyn NY 8/24/07

The place used to be a pool dealership. Not real pools, but the glorified hot tubs you can see from the air out behind seemingly every single-family home in Queens as you land at LaGuardia. From the looks of it, total market saturation put an end to the original Union Pool. In the same lazy vein as Pete’s Candy Store and Arlene Grocery, when the new owners took over the spot, they kept the name. It was rockabilly central for awhile back in the 90s, the curb outside typically lined with life-size Hot Wheels vehicles, antique Fords and Hudsons from the 40s and 50s chopped and customized to the point where their book value was a tiny fraction of it would have been had the cars been restored or even left in their original junk condition. Now the place is more like Jersey central – or central Jersey. At least that’s how it was at the bar tonight, a bunch of fresh-faced yuppie puppies dancing awkwardly to hip-hop. But out back in the music building, it was like the old days, a decidedly mixed crowd: totally Williamsburg, 1997. We missed the tight, Stonesy cover band the Blue Mountain Dogs and janglerockers Swagg. Guitar/drums instrumental duo Cocaine & Abel were already into their set when we got there, playing what you might call sludgecore, slow, pounding drums and screeching, overtone-laden, nails-down-the-blackboard guitar. When they sped it up lickety-split to 200 BPM, it was just silly, but the downtempo stuff was pretty cool. As more than one audience member said in the courtyard outside, more people would have stuck around had they not been so excruciatingly loud. The room here isn’t tiny like Barbes – it has nice high ceilings and a little balcony in the back – but there’s absolutely no need to lug in a huge Marshall stack like Cocaine (or was it Abel) did. But maybe that’s the whole point of the band.

18 headlined, playing their cd release show, and brought a big crowd. The first thing you noticed about this band is that people were dancing, and in this part of town, that’s frowned upon, as if the Pentecostals had taken over. The next thing that was obvious is that most everybody was pretty drunk. Memo to club owners: this band brings a big drinking crowd. Union Pool just paid next month’s rent with what they made at the bar tonight. Another striking thing is how tight the band was: like a lot of classic punk bands, they’d finish a song and then jump right into another, often without even stopping. Bits and pieces of familiar tunes floated to the surface of their sonic tsunami: TV Eye, Should I Stay or Should I Go, Pretty Vacant, Blitzkrieg Bop. This Williamsburg quartet use the same basic riff-rock building blocks as a million other garage/punk bands before them but then smash them to pieces with uncommon ferocity and skill. 18 is a very democratic band: everybody sings, including the drummer (who happens to be their best singer). They also don’t take themselves seriously at all: “Drank so much I almost drowned,” the bass player deadpanned during his first number. In 18’s world, everything’s either a party or a joke and that’s perfectly ok because we need bands who A) bring the party with them and B) know the difference between telling a joke and being one.

Their best songs were a twisted portrait of a Hells Kitchen character, sung by the drummer; an amusing faux-country song about a “milk-fed girl from out of town” who really loves to eat, at everybody else’s expense, and a snide garage tune called Squaresville, which as the Telecaster player made clear at the end of the song was a Williamsburg reference. They played a long set: wham, wham, wham, one song after another with barely room in between for anyone in the band to even take a hit of beer. Like some of the other bands in our most recent review, they would have fit in perfectly at CBGB, 1981. That’s a compliment. We went to legendary, now vastly overpriced neighborhood greasepit Kellogg’s Diner around the corner afterward for onion rings. If that’s not rock n roll, you tell me what is.

August 26, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments