Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Iconoclast’s Noir Jazz Vibe is Unstoppable

This is what happens when you sleep on a great album – other people review it first. All About Jazz liked New York duo Iconoclast’s latest album Dirty Jazz; we love it. It unwinds like a good noir film score, which is unsurprising considering that noir has been their signature style pretty much since they played their first gig at CBGB. There’s a lot going on in this movie for the ears: gritty cityscapes, a menacing cast of characters, pretty much relentless suspense, occasional brutal violence and sudden shifts from one to the other. It’s picture-perfect, oldschool pre-gentrification New York. Julie Joslyn alternates between eerily crystalline alto sax lines and explosive violin cadenzas, while Leo Ciesa’s drums colors and shift the suspense as much as the sax does; he also adds moody piano and keyboards.

Several of the tableaux here are very brief, clocking in at less than two minutes, sometimes contrasting balmy sax with violent drums, other times more picturesque. The Regular, with his catchy 7/4 theme, is a real heavyweight; building off an eerie Sonic Youth-style drone, Animated Flesh might be a Frankenstein scenario, and Razoresque, a violin-metal vignette, is a fight to the bloody end. When Joslyn is at her most plaintive and poignant, these pieces pack the greatest punch, whether the on the spy theme You’re in Distress – where she overdubs a whole sax section – the deliciously tense, conversational Apres Vous, or the elegaic The Forbidden, driven by some decisive, Satie-esque piano from Ciesa. The most colorful of all of these is Black Jack, a mini-movie in itself featuring a deliciously dark, modal interlude from Joslyn that rises to a scream and finally a sprint through a chase scene. And Boiled Kneepads, a cinematic funk theme with psychedelic organ, could be an early 70s Herbie Hancock piece.

There’s also The Punishment Office with its menacingly psychedelic, shapeshifting, reverberating violin-metal ambience; the pretty, pensive One Oh One with its clave beat; the clever, cruelly sarcastic Accidental Touching and Mistaken Seduction, and the punk/no wave anthem I Am So Thirsty, where Joslyn’s unhinged, screaming vocals give voice to a tree in the global warming era. And that’s not even all of the album, one of the most viscerally gripping ones to come over the transom in recent months. Watch this space for upcoming NYC live dates.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Album of the Day 8/12/10

Every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time, all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #901:

The Lounge Lizards’ first album

Corrosive punk jazz from 1981. Bracingly assaultive for a few minutes, viscerally painful to listen to for much longer, especially at high volume, it’s the high moment in the history of the brief No Wave movement in New York. Other than a more-or-less steady beat and bassist Steve Piccolo walking a new scale with every measure, loud and growling, the tracks here don’t have much structure. Alto saxophonist John Lurie, his brother Evan on keys and the actually quite talented Anton Fier on drums blast away, with former DNA guitarist Arto Lindsay adding an ominous undercurrent of distorted, atonal chicken-scratch skronk. Other than the originals, there’s a warped version of Harlem Nocturne and even less recognizable ones of a couple of Monk tunes. Easy listening? Hardly, but great fun for fans of angry, noisy music. One suspects that the Luries were more talented than they let on here, especially considering how diversely melodic later incarnations of the Lizards would be. Many of their other albums are worth owning: the ROIR collection of live takes from 1979 through 1981 has a similar gritty savagery; their Live in Tokyo album, from 1986 mines a vastly more suave, somewhat noir vibe, albeit with an almost completely different cast of players. Out of print for years, the debut album is extremely hard to find – most recently, there was a torrent for several dozen Tzadik albums that doesn’t seem to be working anymore. If you find one let us know!

August 12, 2010 Posted by | jazz, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Soil & “Pimp” Sessions – Planet Pimp

Punk jazz in the spirit if not the style of the first Lounge Lizards album, a rabbit decked out in earrings and a lot of bling staring impassively from the cover of the new cd by Soil & “Pimp” Sessions. Basically, what this full-throttle collection by the Japanese inventors of what they call “death jazz” most resembles is a high-quality 80s fusion action film soundtrack. Jazz purists will find this hamhanded and monochromatic, but the band’s looking to reach a vastly wider audience. This is subversive stuff.

 

If nothing else, the group gets props for most bizarre band name of the year. Which one’s Soil, and which one’s “Pimp?” Or is soil a verb? And maybe pimp too? And why the parentheses? So as to discourage the yazuka from believing that real prostitution is involved and wanting a piece of the action? Whatever the case, it’s a lot of fun. Right from the cd’s first moments, it’s all drama with a big thunderstorm, Bach’s Toccata in D blasting through a cheap electronic organ patch…and then they’re off to a somewhat rough start with what sounds like a shredding Steve Vai guitar solo (could be a synth player – hard to tell – this band has a good keyboardist). Then things get interesting. It’s a very vivid, cinematic ride, and you can dance to it. A couple of piano-driven latin jazz numbers, what sounds like a big adventure movie theme, a couple of Keystone Kops chase sequences and a brief, barely 90-second Mingus homage whose energy threatens to rip off the roof. One of the latin numbers here is titled Sea of Tranquility, and it’s anything but. But there is a smooth, loungey trip-hop number that you can download for free. The whole cd is also available on itunes.

 

The group actually evolved out of the Japanese disco scene. When a group of promoters imaginatively began interspersing jazz amongst the dull, computerized thuds and blips, they discovered to their delight that audiences loved it. Beginning as the promoters’ house band, S&PS have become big stars in Japan. They’re not in it to wow the critics, they’re just here to bring the party and they do that massively well. For years, the major labels tried to sell computerized music to an American audience because it’s so ridiculously cheap to create, and met with utter failure. But an entire generation of Europeans and Latin Americans grew up, as Black Box Recorder acidly noted, to the sound of the synthesizer. They learned to dance to the beat of electronic drums. S&PS seem to want to change all that. A lot of people forget that not for years but for decades, jazz was the default style of dance and pop music throughout the western world and elsewhere as well. It might be wishful to think that could happen again, but if S&PS get their way, a lot of “celebrity djs” will find themselves unemployed.

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, Rant, review | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment