Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 2/27/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #702:

Steve Nieve – Playboy

This is a hard one to find. Originally issued on vinyl in 1987 and out of print since not much later, Elvis Costello’s keyboardist’s second solo album is a characteristically droll, witty, sometimes hypnotic series of miniatures. Nieve likes to improvise silent film scores, and his originals here, including Pictures From A Confiscated Camera, A Walk In Monet’s Back Garden, the 9.4 Rag and Once Upon A Time In South America share a cinematic feel. He quotes liberally from Debussy, Morricone, Satie, Chopin and probably dozens of others, then covers the Specials’ Ghost Town with the same matter-of-fact, deadpan intensity as his genuinely moving version of Bowie’s Life on Mars. He finds the plaintiveness inside George Michael’s Careless Whisper and turns White Girl by X (dedicated to Exene’s dead sister Mirielle Cervenka) into a downcast mood piece. An extensive search didn’t turn up any torrents: we’d upload our own except that ours is the vinyl version. If we find a digital one, we’ll give you a link.

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February 27, 2011 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/20/10

Every day, for the next 39 days anyway, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s song is #39:

Elvis Costello – Big Tears

One of the greatest intros of all time: Costello kicks it off with a bass note and then a big majestic broken chord, Bruce Thomas’ bass soars in, way up the scale and then Steve Nieve’s Farfisa swoops down and anchors it – and then the Clash’s Mick Jones guests with a surprisingly apt, understatedly sympathetic guitar solo. One of Costello’s best lyrics, too, a shot of adrenaline for any embattled nonconformist. Originally released on Taking Liberties, 1981.

June 20, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Song of the Day 6/3/10

Working feverishly to add yet more updates to the June-July live music calendar – what looked at first to be a pretty lame summer has turned out to be pretty good! More news, more reviews coming soon: in the meantime, the best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s song is #56:

Elvis Costello – Oliver’s Army

Arguably the smartest, and most indelibly catchy, anti-imperialism song ever written: “And I would rather be anywhere else than here today.” Rumor has it that Steve Nieve wrote the melody. Best song on Armed Forces, 1979.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

CD Review: My Education – Sunrise

The Dirty Three meets Friends of Dean Martinez meets Brooklyn Rider meets My Bloody Valentine – that’s what the absolutely killer, hypnotic new album by cinematic, psychedelic Austin instrumentalists My Education sounds like. Just as Steve Nieve did with F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh and Chicha Libre have recently done with Chaplin films, My Education chose to compose a new soundtrack for Murnau’s Oscar-winning 1927 silent film Sunrise. Weaving elements of dreampop, art-rock and baroque music into lush, densely shimmering soundscapes, the album transcends any kind of label that might be conveniently stamped on a film soundtrack.

The opening track is a pretty, wistful circular fugue theme with strings, in the same vein as Brooklyn Rider’s recent work, or a louder Redhooker. The second segment, City Woman Theme offers a tip of the hat to Pink Floyd’s Breathe, building to a swirling, dense cloud of dreampop reverb guitar. With an ominous, David Lynchian feel, Lust layers strings and stately guitar accents over a slow swaying beat, swirling and blending hypnotically down to just a texturally beautiful thicket of acoustic guitars over drums. Then they bring it up again.

The tense tone poem Heave Oars has staccato guitar echoes winding their way through a wash of eerie noise. Howling overtones and finally the drums come pounding along, with a fierce martial riff straight out of something the Church might have done on Priest = Aura, a volcanic ocean of roaring guitars that finally fades away unexpectedly in the span of a few seconds. The next track, Peasant Dance alternates between a fast, rustic shuffle with vibraphone and viola, and majestic gypsy-flavored metal. The album wraps up with the apprehensive, tensely cloudy tone poem A Man Alone and then the title track, its theme baroquely working variations on a simple hook cleverly spiced with slide guitar, Scarlatti as played by Floyd circa Dark Side. It’s all absolutely hypnotic and psychedelic. The album is just out on Strange Attractors; the band will be on summer tour, with a full schedule of dates here.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | experimental music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 1/7/09

Technical difficulties abounding, yet every day, our Top 666 Songs of Alltime countdown gets one step closer #1. Thursday’s song is #203:

Elvis Costello – Black Sails in the Sunset

Graceful, haunting, understatedly vengeful, with some of pianist Steve Nieve’s finest work. “Do you make me sick, or was I just forcefed?” Originally released on the Tokyo Storm Warning ep in 1986, since then anthologized several times.

January 7, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch and Larkin Grimm at the Delancey, NYC 4/9/09

Steve Nieve had played Wednesday night for megabucks in the West Village. No disrespect to the master of menace from Elvis Costello’s band, but it’s a fair assumption that Botanica keyboardist/frontman Paul Wallfisch’s free show the following evening at his weekly Thursday salon/performance series Small Beast was every bit as good. Both artists shade their songs with a dark luminosity made even more striking when they leaven it with humor, sometimes subtly, sometimes completely over the top. Nieve’s fallback space is the Romantics; Wallfisch is more overtly Chopinesque, going for the eerie Balkan tonality when he has to drive a point home.

 

Last time out he did the Botanica song Someone Else Again and swung it. This time around it scurried, furtively, following by a pounding blues (a Marianne Faithfull cover, perhaps – he’s taken to mischievously covering other artists playing in the same time frame or thereabouts). Then he pulled out the Botanica classic Swimming in the Ocean at Night. Without Christian Bongers’ stately, sepulchral bassline, it was even more gleefully macabre and glimmering than the full-band version on the Botanica vs. the Truth Fish cd (look for that one on our Best Albums of the Decade list at the end of the year), especially when Wallfisch went all pointillistic and shimmery in place of the gently searing John Andrews tremolo-picking on the album. The rest of the set included the Little Annie noir cabaret collaboration Because You’re Gone, a menacing version of Stan Ridgway’s Town Called Fate, a French ballad and finally the quietly resigned anguish of Eleganza and Wines, Wallfisch coming out from behind the 88s as he usually does and giving the crowd a clinic in keeping 7/8 time. The temptation is to take this guy for granted because this is his Beast and he’s here every week. That would be a foolish mistake.

 

Believe everything good you’ve heard about Larkin Grimm. If the measure of a musician is how he or she holds up under duress, Grimm got a month’s worth, fighting relentlessly and finally winning out against an uncharacteristically tough sound mix, the yuppie puppies at the private party in the adjacent room and the impatient crowd of kids who’d found out about the free booze after midnight and packed the place, oblivious to the drama and intensity onstage. Backed only by a harmony vocalist who sang on a few songs, she started out with a single song on dulcimer before switching to acoustic guitar. Her playing is skeletal and minimalistic – it took her almost two long, eight-minute songs before she even changed chords – leaving 95% of the space in her music for vocals. She filled it to the brim, a hypnotically boiling cauldron of anguish, vengeance, insistence and sly wit. In four octaves worth of range, she was darkly austere, soaringly optimistic, savagely confrontational and wrenchingly poignant, often within the span of a single song. Diamanda Galas in her most recent incarnation is the obvious comparison, with all the operatic dramatics, but Grimm has even more nuance and subtlety. And she’s about half Galas’ age.

 

Inscrutable on her chair with her eyes closed, she made her way with what seemed complete effortlessness through a mantra-like chant, an atmospheric lullaby, finally raising the ante with an accusatory number that perhaps fit the bill more than she’d anticipated, telling the crowd she couldn’t hear a thing onstage. Not that anyone would have known. A bluesy, noirish number in the same open tuning she’d been using all night worked its way into exasperation: “Just to prove I still exist, ride that cyclone all night long.”

 

The crowd in front of the stage was riveted, but the party in the back wanted none of it, culminating when some drunken sorority girl began mocking Grimm’s upper-register flights. “This is a song where you can howl at the moon if you like,” retorted Grimm, “a song about killing people,” inspiring the front rows to do an energetic facsimile of her stratospheric vocalese. But the drunk girl wouldn’t shut up. Nor would the yammering drunk guys in line by the door, thirsty for a free shot or two of cachaca.

 

“This is for all you rich boys,” Grimm snarled and then wound up her set with the two best songs of the night, the first a mesmerizing, repetitive song that saw her take a split-second plunge from the heights down to the bottom of her register and land flawlessly, then her ghostly closing cut exploring where “your body is gone but your brain lives on.” Given how impossible it was to turn away from her at this show, one can only wonder what wonders she’s capable of when the monitors are working and she’s in front of a crowd that actually likes music.

 

By the way, Small Beast isn’t usually like this. It’s probably safe to assume that the tourists who brought their inimitable cluelessness to this particular night probably won’t be back – not when instead of being able to holler along to Journey and Taylor Swift, they have to put up with the likes of Paul Wallfisch and Larkin Grimm. 

April 11, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment