Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Bryan and the Aardvarks: The Ultimate Deep-Space Band

It’s impossible to think of a more apt choice of players to evoke an awestruck deep-space glimmer than vibraphonist Chris Dingman, pianist Fabian Almazan and singer Camila Meza. Back them with the elegantly propulsive drums of Joe Nero and bassist-bandleader Bryan Copeland, and you have most of the crew on Bryan and the Aardvarks’ majestic, mighty new album Sounds from the Deep Field, streaming at Bandcamp. Saxophonist Dayna Stephens adds various shades with his EWI (electronic wind instrument) textures. They’re playing the album release show on April 27 at the Jazz Gallery, with sets at 7:30 and 9:30 PM. Cover is $22.

Over the past few years, the band have made a name for themselves with their bittersweetly gorgeous epics, and this album, inspired by Hubble Telescope images from the furthest reaches of space, is no exception. The opening number, Supernova is much less explosive than the title implies: it’s an expansive, almost imperceptibly crescendoing epic set to a steady, dancing midtempo 4/4 groove, Almazan’s purposeful ripples mingling with subtle wafts from the EWI and Meza’s wordless vocals, setting the stage for Dingman’s raptly glistening coda. Meza doesn’t play guitar on this album: that’s Jesse Lewis’ subtle but rich and constantly shifting textures.

Dingman and Almazan build and then drop back from a hypnotic, pointillistic, uneasily modal interweave as the rhythm of Eagle Nebula circles and circles, subtly fleshed out with Meza’s meteor-shower clarity and the occasional wry wisp from Stephens. Subtle syncopations give the distantly brooding Tiny Skull Sized Kingdom hints of trip-hop, Meza calmly setting the stage for an unexpectedly growling, increasingly ferocious Lewis guitar solo

Echoes of Chopin, a contemporaneous American Protestant hymnal and John Lennon as well echo throughout Soon I’ll Be Leaving This World. Almazan’s gently insistent, stern chords build to a trick turnaround, then Nero and Dingman finally come sweeping in and the lights go up. By the time the warpy electonic effects kick in, it’s obvious that this is not a death trip – at least not yet.

Meza’s tender, poignant vocals rise as the swaying waves of The Sky Turned to Grey build toward Radiohead angst. It’s the first of two numbers here with lyrics and the album’s most straight-ahead rock song, fueled by Lewis’ red-sky guitar solo. By contrast, Nero’s lighthanded, tricky metrics add to the surrealism of Strange New Planet,  a disarmingly humorous mashup of Claudia Quintet and Weather Report.

Interestingly, Bright Shimmering Lights isn’t a vehicle for either Dingman or Almazan: it’s a resonant Pat Metheny-ish skyscape that grows more amusing as the timbres cross the line into P-Funk territory. It segues into LV 426, a miniature that recalls Paula Henderson’s recent, irresistibly funny adventures in electronics.

Meza’s balmy, wistful vocals waft through Magnetic Fields, the closest thing to a traditional jazz ballad here, lit up by a lingering Dingman solo. Nero’s dancing traps, Dingman’s shivery shimmers and Almazan’s twinkle mingle with Lewis’ pensive sustain and Almazan’s rapidfire, motorik electric piano in To Gaze Out the Cupola Module. the album’s closing cut.

The next time we launch a deep-space capsule, we should send along a copy of this album. If anybody out there finds it and figures out what it is, and how to play it, and can perceive the sonics, it could be a soundtrack for their own mysterious voyage through the depths.

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April 18, 2017 Posted by | classical music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christopher O’Riley and Matt Haimovitz Connect the Unexpected

If you listen to NPR or watch PBS, this is old news, so here’s to all of you who’ve made the switch from the small screen to an even smaller one and might not have noticed that pianist Christopher O’Riley and adventurous cello virtuoso Matt Haimovitz have a new album out. It’s titled Shuffle. Play. Listen., and they’ll be touring it next year, with a stop at Manhattan’s Highline Ballroom on Jan 22. Pianist O’Riley, host of the NPR/PBS program From the Top, is no stranger to making neoromantic instrumental albums out of rock and pop songs: this double cd makes three in a row. It’s a lively and often exquisitely good duo performance, simply the best thing O’Riley’s ever put his hands on.

To succeed with a music show, you ought to know something about connections, which is what the first cd is all about. Who knew how much Bernard Herrmann’s classic soundtrack to the equally classic Hitchcock film Vertigo had in common with works by Stravinsky, Janacek or Martinu? This guy, obviously. To make those commonalities crystal-clear, imaginatively potent new arrangements of parts of the Herrmann score are interwoven between the other pieces, a concept that might seem preposterous but works brilliantly. Haimovitz gets most if not all of the juiciest parts, perhaps logically since Herrmann’s score was heavy on the strings, and also because O’Riley has the good sense to stay within himself. His playing is distinguished by smartly thought-out dynamics, pacing and elegantly terse embellishments rather than pyrotechnics.

The first cd opens on a deliciously macabre note with Prelude from the Vertigo Suite, done here as a creepy waltz with artful, unexpected cello/piano overlays. The duo follow that with Leos Janacek’s Fairy Tale, which follows a similar trajectory: after the minimalistic first movement (with some striking, Kayhan Kalhor-style echo effects from Haimovitz), it grows more wary and winds up with an understated menace. The nightmare scene from Vertigo follows, impressively understated with its agitated cello flurries. Martinu’s Variations on a Slavic Folk Song makes an unexpected but rock-solid segue, growing from stark to forceful, with a suspenseful edge very similar to Herrmann’s.

They segue back to the Vertigo Suite for the hypnotic Carlotta’s Portrait, then take a detour for a new arrangement of Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, its highlights being the sad waltz that precedes the dynamically-charged, surprisingly quiet Aria and then the Tarantella, which pushes the limits of how far and how fast O’Riley can go. The Scotty Tracks Madeline scene from the film gorgeously juxtaposes longing with blitheness and a rapt upper-register duo between Haimovitz – who can get tones out of his cello that no one else can – and O’Riley. From there, a spirited take on Piazzolla’s Grand Tango – with each instrumentalist assigned to cover a little of the ground that Piazzolla’s bandoneon did on the original – is spot-on. The disc concludes with the thinly disguised, mournful minuet that serves as the film’s love theme.

The second cd reverts to the random vibe of O’Riley’s two other classical-rock piano albums, with generally good results. There’s a marvelously successful instrumental version of Radiohead’s Pyramid Song, right down to the cello winkingly spinning off a fade or a psychedelic riff straight off the record as O’Reilly rubatos the piano with just the right touch of suspenseful anticipation. And that band’s Weird Fishes/Arpeggi gets a graceful, circular indie classical treatment, focusing on its subtle counterpoint, as does the almost unrecognizable version of A Perfect Circle’s Three Libras. A couple of Cocteau Twins tunes reach for a slightly less hypnotic atmosphere than the originals, while two Blonde Redhead tunes – Misery Is a Butterfly and Melody – run richly memorable hooks over and over for an approach that builds toward grand guignol. There are also two John McLaughlin compositions here – Dance of Maya, whose austere acidicism doesn’t stop it from matching up well with Herrmann as it morphs into a bitterly bluesy minor-key romp, and A Lotus in the Back Seat, done as Ravel might have orchestrated it.

Another Cocteau Twins track, the lightweight Heaven or Las Vegas, isn’t as well-suited to this kind of serioso treatment as the other tracks are, and the derivative faux-baroquisms of the first movement of the Stravinsky make for two minutes of what-are-we-doing-here. And as far as the two Arcade Fire covers here are concerned, the two players take an energetic stab at elevating them to Herrmann-ish grandeur, but ultimately, garbage in, garbage out: Arcade Fire is a boring band. But those are only small complaints about an otherwise mammothly successful effort. O’Riley also has a very cool, gospel-flavored free download available, Time of My Time inspired by Kris Saknussemm’s recent novel Reverend America.

December 15, 2011 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jazz for Radiohead Fans

What if there was such a thing as warm Radiohead? Or would that defeat the whole point of Radiohead’s music? To what degree is it necessary to rely on coldly slick digital production and mechanical arrangements to communicate a feeling of disconnection and alienation? What if a group managed to recreate the apprehensive, trippy ambience of Radiohead using real instruments instead of computers and electronic effects?

There are two answers to that question. The first you probably know because it goes back a few years – to the Radiodread album by the Easy Star All-Stars. But that band’s roots reggae cover versions are a parody. Those spoofs are as amusing as they are because roots reggae is such a viscerally warm style, 180 degrees from the source material. Then there’s the new Watershed album by eclectic Japanese jazz pianist Satoko Fujii’s Min-Yoh Ensemble. Min-yoh is Japanese folk music; the album is an attempt to explore themes from that tradition. By whatever quirk of fate, or clever design (Fujii can be devious, and is encyclopedically diverse), this album doesn’t sound particularly Asian.

What it sounds most like is Radiohead, beginning with its somber piano introduction, evoking the first seconds of Kid A and moving on from there. That track, aptly titled The Thaw, eventually reaches a distant bustle, with Natsuki Tamura’s trumpet, Andrea Parkins’ accordion and Curtis Hasselbring’s trombone all emoting restlessly, separate and alone. The band pair off in twos in the sonic equivalent of split-screen cinematography on the next track, Whitewater, Parkins hypnotically holding to a Beatlesque hook. Where Radiohead use loops, this group will run a circular theme over and over, sometimes with the trumpet, other times with the piano as the other instruments scurry and diverge. The third track has the trumpet holding it down with a brooding riff very similar to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here as the other players go their separate ways, somewhat furtively. The fourth runs a loop until it literally explodes – it doesn’t take long – and then the individual pieces rise and squall over an elegantly murky backdrop. Wary atmospherics grow lively and then subside. The final cut alternates swirls of creepy vocalese with trumpet: it would be a fantastic choice as horror film music as the plot closes in on the killing scene. Of course, evoking Radiohead to any extent at all may not have been part of the plan here: sometimes great ideas are invented more or less simultaneously. Whatever the case, Radiohead fans ought to check this out: the similarities are remarkable.

Fujii also has two other more specifically jazz-oriented albums also out on her terrific little Libra label: the exuberant, boisterously funny and even more cinematic Eto, with her Orchestra New York big band; and Kaze, a a somewhat stark, sometimes abrasive, like-minded collaboration with French trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins.

October 13, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mast’s New Album Wild Poppies Is Unselfconsciously Intense

New York rock duo the Mast’s latest album Wild Poppies blends elements of minimalism, dark 80s rock, goth and trip-hop into a pensive, completely original sound. Frontwoman/multi-instrumentalist Haale writes darkly psychedelic, briskly rhythmic rock songs, backed by one-man percussion orchestra Matt Kilmer. In her previous work, Haale has explored classical Iranian melodies as well scorching, hypnotic, frequently exhilarating Jimi Hendrix-inspired jams. This time, while she pulls back on the volume, the songs are often just as intense and eclectic.

The album’s title track sets a bracingly catchy progression over rolling, rippling percussion and a characteristically surreal, imagistic lyric. The second cut, the sardonically titled Trump, is something of a dreampop take on Joy Division, or like early 90s Lush but with a more gritty, earthy vibe. Most of these songs use a lot of nature imagery: this one’s the most intense. “Oh some pockets run so deep, the rest are struggling for a piece of a fast-turning pie…the waters while we sleep are being bought up by a thief with paper bills for eyes,” Haale sings apprehensively.

EOA [End of Anxiety] shuffles eerily and minimalistically, like an analog version of Radiohead, its mantra-like hook shifting between major and minor modes. My All is hypnotic, minimalist trip-hop with a majestic post-Velvets processional pulse; Prize, a warped, syncopated one-chord boogie, winds down plaintively and hauntingly on the chorus. With its repetitive central riff and insistent 80s-style bass, The Lake builds to a potent crescendo with guitars slamming over a whirlwind of beats. Setting lush, ethereal vocals over yet another catchy, simple guitar riff and a stately shuffle beat (sounds like an oxymoron, but Kilmer pulls it off elegantly), Definitions wouldn’t be out of place on a Randi Russo album from about five years ago.

Hummingbird picks up the pace with fuzz bass and the vocals fading in and out, dreampop style, Kilmer rattling and then hitting some swirling cymbal crashes early on. Lucid Dream, a minimalist, moody early 90s style anthem, builds to a big, intense, anthemic outro. Carefully and tersely crafted, the album grows on you and carries even more of an impact with repeated listening: count this as one of 2011’s best. The whole thing is streaming at the band’s site. The Mast are great live: they’re at Bar 4 in Park Slope at 9 on 7/28.

July 22, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Empty Space Orchestra Rock The Amps, Not the Mic

From Bend, Oregon comes Empty Space Orchestra: part spacy post-rock, part shapeshifting, Mars Volta inspired math-rock, with a frequently dramatic, cinematic edge and an unexpected sense of humor. Fun may not be something you equate with the Mars Volta, but it’s definitely part of the blueprint for Empty Space Orchestra. The songs on their new, self-titled, all-instrumental album often have a mocking, satirical bite that’s completely out of character in this genre. How cool is it to finally find a proggy-sounding band that doesn’t take itself seriously?

The ornateness of the arrangements attests to the band’s classical background. Guitarist Shane Thomas and bassist Patrick Pearsall are riffmeisters, often working in tandem. Keyboardist Keith O’Dell brings the drama with stately classical flourishes; multi-instrumentalist Graham Jacobs (reeds and keys) seems to be in charge of atmospherics. Drummer Lindsey Elias propels the behemoth with a power and precision worthy of Bill Bruford. The most comedic song here is Get Some, a stomping faux-Vegas stripper theme that opens with a cheesy faux-brass keyboard patch and then brings in creepy yet funky funeral organ. Eventually, the guitar takes over, with a metal edge, sax alternating between robotic and robust. The rest of it is a characteristic mix of wit and wrath: a silly synth solo followed by a tersely dramatic, emphatic guitar solo that eventually smolders and bursts into flame as the whole band heats up.

The single best song here might be Tiger Puss, a slowly stomping, hypnotic tableau that hints at dub, with some truly bizarre, slurpy noises in the background. Up with ringing reverb guitar, it goes warpspeed a la the Bad Brains for a bit and then hits a pounding metal interlude. From there it slowly grinds to a halt, switching from sarcasm to genuine plaintiveness as it winds out. El Viento builds slowly to a psychedelic southwestern gothic melody and without warning morphs into a bright, wide-eyed adventure theme (in 10/4 time for those of you who like to count), that finally starts coming apart at the seams as the guitar hisses and sputters. And Intergalactic Battle Cruiser offers an update on the Ventures for the 21st century, with twin riffage from bass and guitar and a vividly intense, tremolo-picked guitar solo while the drums manage to simultaneously blend pure insanity and perfect precision.

There are a couple of short ones here that are also a lot of fun. Tennessee Red offes less than two minutes of searing, chromatic metal, with a potently simple slide guitar solo; The Hangar is an Allen Lanier-style piano interlude that grows epic for a second before gracefully returning home. The rest of the album mixes the comical with the cerebral. Exit Strategy sounds like Rush as done by Queen, with a chorus by Loverboy. The opening track, Brainjar, moves artfully from 80s style adventure movie calisthenics to an ominous Peter Hook bass figure and then back again; the closing track does the same but with a Beatlesque interlude. There’s a lot going on here and it’s a lot of fun.

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: My Pet Dragon at the Cameo Gallery, Brooklyn NY 2/8/10

My Pet Dragon opened their February residency at the Cameo Gallery with a fiery yet trance-inducing show including a considerable amount of new material. From their first few notes, they went for sweeping, epic grandeur, part 90s British anthem band, part shoegaze and whichever way they turned, completely psychedelic. Frontman/guitarist Todd Michaelsen’s voice functions as an instrument in the band rather than a distinct lead vocal over instrumentation. He’s got a range that would make Thom Yorke jealous, and uses the entirety of that range with an unselfconscious intensity. Harmony vocalist/dancer Reena Shah would judiciously pick her spots to echo or play off Michaelsen’s soaring wail when she wasn’t moving around her corner of the stage with a grace that was as trance-inducing as the music. Lead guitarist Anthony Rizzo layered precise, reverberating raindrops of melody when he wasn’t making a sonic Jackson Pollock behind the atmospheric washes and roars of Michaelsen’s guitar. Several of the songs would riff off a hypnotic two-chord vamp until the chorus would sail in, bright and catchy, sweeping the clouds away.

They opened with an insistent, creepy, Radiohead-inflected new one, Michaelsen running the lyric “with a minute to go,” over and over, mantra-like. There’s a remarkable social awareness to their lyrics, which really came to the forefront on New Nation, a hopeful post-apocalyptic duet between Michaelsen and Shah. Another new one, Yellow Brick Road was a study in unease, Rizzo bringing just a hint of a bluesy tinge to the pensiveness underlying the song’s sturdy, anthemic theme. A couple of other recent tunes swung and swayed, buoyed by bassist Mario Padron, taking advantage of the opportunity to emerge from his usual insistent pulse with some potently incisive runs up the scale as the verses would turn around. Another more recent one added subtle shades and shadows to a four-chord hook that wouldn’t be out of place in the Brian Jonestown Massacre catalog. Their last song – one of three brand-new ones they debuted tonight – became a mesmerizing, swirling echo chamber with the two guitars roaring full blast, the two singers rising wordlessly out of the morass, part exaltation and part scream.

The opening band were like a good ipod mix of b-sides – they have excellent taste. The end of their set included a Nashville gothic ballad, a ska-rock number like early No Doubt but with an edge, a song that sounded like Wire and another like Blur (or like bands who’ve ripped off those two groups, whose sound these guys were now recycling). My Pet Dragon are back here on the 15th and then the 27th at 10.

February 9, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

CD Review: Whitetree – Cloudland

Hans ‘n Franz electrokraut cachet notwithstanding (the two brother menbers of the new-music trio Whitetree are in German ambient electronic group To Rococo Rot), this is the kind of album you can give your parents for background music. After, of course, burning the tracks to your ipod. Don’t let the awkward, sudden fades in and out that comprise its first fifteen seconds give you the impression that the cd is defective, or that it will sound like that the rest of the way through. Ambient and atmospheric, more warmly melodic than icily minimalist, this collaboration between contemporary composer/pianist Ludovico Einaudi and the aforementioned Lippok brothers is a suite of ten pleasantly accessible soundscapes. While inspired by and named after a characteristically bizarre place of repose in Amos Tutuola’s legendary magic-realist novel The Palm-Wine Drinkard, there’s nothing remotely African about it. Most of the cuts here are spaciously cinematic piano instrumentals, segueing from one into another, motifs recurring, rising and falling, occasionally augmented by drums and electronics which are for the most part consigned to the background. The Radiohead influence is everywhere. 

The cd’s opening track Slow Ocean builds with sparse piano chords over an echoey background, backward-masked tapes kicking in eventually. The tableau becomes more complex with reverberating synthesizer echoes, drum machine and a repetitive piano hook that morphs into a dancefloor instrumental, shades of New Order. Other Nature is poignantly Satie-esque; the next track, Koepenik, takes a rock ballad piano hook and runs it over and over again as the volume comes up. With its pretty piano arpeggios over a drum machine and echoey loops, Mercury Sands takes the ambience down with a graceful fade. The following cut, Light on Light fades up darkly, Einaudi’s phrasing artfully echoing itself as the suspense builds, again with an Erik Satie feel. The biggest production here is titled Tangerine, opening with a sustained synth organ patch cleverly manipulated to resemble an electric guitar. Then the piano and drums take over, climbing to a majestic crescendo with cymbals crashing, then back down the slope. Derek’s Garden reverts to a plaintive, after-the-rain minimalism, piano backed by distant echoes – rocks falling? Gunshots?

The irony here is that while the association with the dubious world of electronic music will probably be the album’s strongest selling point, this effort would have been far stronger without any electronics at all. Einaudi’s piano and Ronald Lippok’s drums, freed from the shackles of the drum machine, could take a chance on a swing and a nuance that this recording only hints at. You might even be able to call it jazz. Whitetree are at le Poisson Rouge on June 2.

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Wendy & Lisa – White Flags of Winter Chimneys

An unexpected treat. The duo’s first new studio effort in ten years finds them taking the quantum leap they’d always hinted they might have in them. Most of the new album White Flags of Winter Chimneys is moody, atmospheric, often dreampop-inflected anthems that give more than a nod and a wink to the Cure, layers of watery guitar and keys floating over slow hypnotic beats. With the 80s revival now seemingly a permanent part of the culture, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman picked an auspicious time to release this.

 

The cd’s big, opening ballad, Balloon moves along resolutely on a variation of the big hook from Floyd’s Us and Them, matched to a ghostly choir of pensive vocals. Invisible, a ridiculously catchy, guitar-fueled rocker would be the big radio hit if anyone still listened to commercial hit radio: “The sun is gone, I made it disappear…Invisible, I will never be,” Melvoin sings defiantly. There are also a couple of overtly Radiohead-influenced numbers here, the somewhat minimalist Ever After and the album’s closing Sweet Suite, which is totally Kid A, building to a very big and very Thom Yorke crescendo complete with a shape-shifting rhythm and layers of echoey guitar.

 

Salt & Cherries is a playful come-on: “It’s a beautiful day to come over and play with you in the dark.” The pretty, downtempo pop Red Bike cleverly nicks one of the ancillary guitar licks from Stairway to Heaven. With its sparse guitar and vocals, You and I has the feel of a great long-lost track by the Lindsey Buckingham-era Fleetwood Mac if that band had had any self-awareness, with particularly beautiful vocals: “Darkness is only home for the night, and you and I are running out of time.”

 

Of all the bonus tracks currently available with this via the band’s site, only a 1992 demo, The Dream hints at anything substantial. With Lush defunct, Siouxsie and the Cure having become nostalgia acts, this will inevitably find its way into every goth night and onto every retro 80s-ist’s ipod. Good for them.

March 9, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

CD Review: The Republic Tigers – Keep Color

Don’t let first appearances spoil the Republic Tigers’ debut cd for you. Sure, the Kansas City band could use a stylist and at first listen it seems they may be simply the latest to mine the early Radiohead/Coldplay, post-U2 ballad format. Not so. And just when you’re about to throw in the towel and call their lyrics high school stoner poetry, they throw a great line at you like “Don’t think I’ll tell you ‘bout the secret to victory…Remain who you are, and it will remain a mystery.” That’s from Give Arm to Its Socket, a quietly determined and quite sympathetic account of a terrorist with explosive in his pocket. That’s a characteristic touch here: the Republic Tigers are not a complacent band. They won’t go gladly into any kind of good night.

 

The production is terse, reverberating echoes of simple, single-note synth and electric piano with jangly guitar in the background, drums too high in the mix as with every major label release since…well, since Nirvana. The cd opens with Buildings and Mountains, a stoic reflection on the future with rather beautiful vocal harmonies on the chorus, hypnotic synthesizer runs waterfalling in the background. That vibe continues on Feelin’ the Future, after a number that nicks a very familiar Radiohead lick. The next cut continues the sardonic Britrock anthem feel: “Marching into the syncopated cold/It’s orchestrated to play til we give up and just grow old.”

 

There’s an impressively self-aware sensibility here. The casually desperate Fight Song leaves no doubt where the band stands on abiding by the status quo:

 

Everybody’s frightened

By the radically enlightened

And they say to jump

Still you reply

How high?

 

Not everything here is up to that level – and where did that goofy number about air guitar come from (looking for a product placement guys???). But ipod this and get drawn in by the understated lushness of the tunes and a refusenik sensibility that in the end is impossible to refuse. This band – which started out as simply a collaboration between two guys in the studio – is about to kick off a Midwest tour starting Nov 15, 9ish at the Hi Dive in Denver, $12 at the door. Watch this space for New York dates; a Bowery Ballroom show is likely.

 

November 4, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment