Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Noisy Intense Quadruple Bill Friday at Death by Audio

It was weird seeing a good crowd bouncing and hollering and having a general good time at Death by Audio Friday night. Maybe the newest arrivals in New York are sick of the whole trendoid thing, of being afraid to show any kind of emotion or passion for fear of not fitting in. If that’s true, that’s great and it’s been a long time coming, at least in Williamsburg. Has this place ever had four bands this good in a single night? Probably not.

The Sediment Club opened. One faction here can’t figure out why on earth anyone would want to subject themselves to their hideous sonic assault. The other faction (guess which one) thinks they should be everybody’s favorite band. They take ugliness to the next level. Their guitarist unleashed a chilly, Albert Collins-toned torrent of sonic sludge, wailing up and down on his tremolo bar as his strings went further and further out of tune while another slightly less assaultive wash of sound oozed from the wobbly, deliberately out-of-tune Casio. Yet in a perverse way they’re a very melodic band, the melody being carried by the growly, trebly bass. And a lot of their stuff you can dance to: some of the grooves had a funk beat, a couple of the songs shifting to a perfectly straight-up, poker-faced disco rhythm. The lyrics, screamed by the guitarist, went for the same assaultive vibe as the guitar, especially on a couple of occasions when the songs went hardcore speed.

Nice Face were next. They took their time setting up. Just when the wait between bands started to become really annoying, one of their guitarists fired off what sounded like the riff to Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth by the Dead Boys, which proved to be a good omen. In their own way, they were just as original as the Sediment Club, if a lot more tuneful, at least in a traditional sense. The two-guitar band blends a growling, dirty LES glampunk sound with a lot of different elements, plus a swishy, stagy lyrical vibe that reaches for some kind of menace, their frontman rasping his vocals through a trebly megaphone effect. They worked their way into the set slowly, first with a hypnotic, Black Angels-style vamp, then brought the energy up with a mix of stomping neo-garage rock bolstered with melodic, anthemic 90s-style Britrock changes. As with the Sediment Club, the trebly bass gave the songs extra propulsive boost.

 Woman were next. The  joke is that the band is all guys. They brought the intensity up yet another notch or ten. Like a more rhythmically interesting version of Clinic, they match overtone-laden dreampop swirl to a ballistic noiserock attack, bassist out in front slamming out his riffs while their two guitarists went berserk. The lefthanded guy spun and dipped wildly, cutting loose maniacal webs of acidic noise; the righthanded guy worked more of a purist, Ron Asheton style riff-rock style. Some of the songs blasted along with a hypnotic, repetitive insistence, like the Thirteenth Floor Elevators with better amps; others built off menacing chromatic hooks, the guitars a screaming vortex overhead. Like the bands before them, they take classic ideas – in this case, the Stooges and My Bloody Valentine – and find new, original ways of making them sound fresh and exciting again. They could have played for twice as long as they did – barely 40 minutes – and the crowd still would have wanted more.

The K-Holes headlined. The guys in the band play scorching guitar and caveman Cramps drums – just a kick and a single cymbal. The females handle the bass, vocals, and warily circling alto sax that with a tinge of reverb added some unexpectedly delicious textures. A quick assessment of the gear they were using – what looked like a vintage Music Man guitar amp, Danelectro lyre bass and a huge old Ampeg bass cab – looked auspicious, and they delivered. Like a late 70s version of Destroy All Monsters on really good acid, they fused a rumbling, eerie Link Wray groove with punk and garage rock and just plain good insane squall. Their first song was a long one-chord jam, a launching pad for some serious guitar torturing that contrasted mightily with the sax’s mysterioso chromatics. A hardcore punk tune seemed to be a dis of Williamsburg trendoids: if any band has earned a right to do that, it’s these guys, although the guitarist assured the crowd that they were just being sardonic. The rest of the set blended fiery jangle and clang with an ominous, funereal bassy thud that on occasion picked up into a murderous gallop, the frontwoman sticking her mic into her mouth, Lux Interior style at one point as she screamed. They closed with a “slow jam” that seemed to be in some impossibly complicated time signature but then straightened out into straight-up 4/4 hostility. By the time their too-brief set was over, it was about two in the morning, pretty much everybody had stuck around and after four exhausting if frequently exhilarating hours, still wanted more.

December 13, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Mostly Other People Do the Killing at Cake Shop, NYC 1/21/09

A noise-rock band, the Sediment Club opened, abrasive, confrontational and very successfully so. There was no escaping the ugliness blasting from the Fender player’s big combo: even though much of what he played was random noise, often with a slide, he’d clearly spent some time finding out where the nastiest places on the fretboard are. And the more his guitar went out of tune, the uglier it sounded, a striking contrast with the catchy, skittish and frequently dark if rhythmically suspect basslines, and the dance beat from the drums. The vibe was totally early 80s new wave, the lyrics either yelled or spoken in a casually angry tone. One of the songs was an effectively corrosive cover of Life Sucks by Pere Ubu; the band seemed to have sympathy only for the “voodoo puppet” in another number. Easy listening, not, but give the band credit for imagination and the guts to get up onstage and assault the audience with this stuff. You could dance to it if you were angry enough.

 

 Self-described “terrorist be-bop” quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing followed with an all-too-brief set that was as flat-out hilarious as it was a showcase in devious intelligence. This space has on more than one occasion declared the Microscopic Septet to be the Spinal Tap of jazz; the time has come to refine that characterization. Last night Mostly Other People Do the Killing proved that they are definitely the Spinal Tap of improvisational jazz – they’d no doubt gladly leave the compositional stuff to anybody else. By the time they were done with their first number, they’d been through a fat, bass-driven dance groove, two swing passages, a space-warping bop breakdown and a section where trumpeter Peter Evans went into a long, extended low warble that mimicked the sound of a vaccuum cleaner. Like an overstimulated cat, the band’s arrangements hint at elegance but never go that far because there’s always another joke around the corner, another chance to lampoon a jazz cliche or take a playful riff on a trope from across the ages.

 

MOPDTK pull this off because they know what they’re doing is funny, and they know how to do it: in the spaces between or building up to the punch lines, their chops were savage. Bassist/bandleader Moppa Elliott impressed with his miminalist melodicism and soul-inflected, propulsive attack. Evans ripped through a series of ferociously fast, staccato blues phrases without losing a microquaver’s variance in tone – iron lungs, and a hardcore purist sensibility. Sax player Jon Irabagon, by contrast, played warm, introspective, legato melody over the bombardment going on behind him: on the set’s second number, he and Evans carried on a warmly animated barstool conversation while Elliott gritted his teeth and shoveled snow, his bow scraping every icy, growling texture and overtone he could evince from the bowels of the bass. 

 

They closed with a cover, a Neal Hefti number, said Elliott. It began with a drum solo, Kevin Shea all business, going straight for the crescendo. Then Evans and Irabagon lit into a four-note phrase, ostensibly taking it to the head, the crowd listening intently for what was probably going to be a big florid hook. But no. More drums. This time Shea threw a tantrum, all insistent and petulant on the and-three and the and-one, the tom-toms booming louder and louder. Then the melody returned. Were we going to get a song? No. More drums. Shea took it down to a fast 2/4 shuffle on the cymbal and hi-hat as if to build suspense, but that lasted about five seconds before he started in with the woozy splashes on the cymbals in all the completely wrong places. By now, everybody in the joint was laughing: this was a big, wet spitball aimed at every gratuitous, self-indulgent drum solo ever played. To say that it hit the spot would be an extreme understatement. It may have been one in the morning on the coldest night of the year, but the crowd howled for more: they didn’t want them to leave. But that was it. MOPDTK were nominated last year for a “best small combo” award from Downbeat, who would thoroughly impress and surprise everyone if they actually gave the award to the band. In their own twisted way, they’ve earned it.

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment