Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Little Annie and Paul Wallfisch – Genderful

Little Annie AKA Annie Bandez embodies the definition of a cult artist. She’s been called “the white Eartha Kitt” and she does highly sought-after, colorfully trippy Frida Kahlo-influenced paintings. Something of a legend in New York’s underground music scene, she’s best known as a torchy noir cabaret singer whose smoky contralto and hilariously free-associative live shows have earned her an avid worldwide following, notably in Europe. She’s been making records since the 80s when she collaborated with everyone from famous dub producer Adrian Sherwood to ambient goth band This Mortal Coil. There’s nobody in the world better at September songs than Little Annie. This cd, her second collaboration with Botanica’s extraordinary keyboardist Paul Wallfisch is infused with characteristically dadaesque wit and a rich lyricism, and more luxuriant than her stage show. The duo used their the studio time to create a considerably lush, chamber-pop ambience, judiciously adding strings and brass in places along with frequently otherworldly layers of keyboards. It’s the best album of Annie’s shapeshifting career, and one of the best of this year.

The offhand classic here is Cutesy Bootsies, a savagely satirical anti-trendoid broadside set to a jaunty ragtime tune:

We do not read the papers because they are depressing
And they’re full of words we do not understand …
We’re not so much as boring, more like bland
And when we’re not spending money we’re running off to yoga

Talking loudly on our cellphones making plans…
Don’t hate us because we’re stunning, just because we’ve got you running
And your homes will now be ours to renovate
And it’s like it never happened, no tears will be shedding
As you’re quietly evicted to your fate

We’ll take Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island
Oh what the hell we’ll take Brooklyn too…
We squeal because we’re witty and we’re conquering your city
And we shake our Bootsy Collins in the sand

The elegaic feel rises to a crescendo on several of the songs, even as they’re imbued with a very dark humor. Set to a Wallfisch trip-hop guitar groove, Billy Martin Requiem eulogizes a better New York time and place where the Yankees won even as the Bronx burned, the boys partied along the Chelsea Piers like it would never end, and a star like Sylvester could be discovered riding the subway in his feathers and boa. Echoing with eerie Omnichord synthesizer, Tomorrow Will Be riffs on what we have to look forward to, whether it be t-cells going through the roof…or permanent summer, with no shade. The most intense of all of these, Because You’re Gone pulses with understated anguish on waves of austere strings, trumpet entering mournfully on the last verse. And the stately, soul-infused Carried Away memorializes someone who reached for the bottle instead of the stars.

The rest of the album is often devastatingly funny. Zexy Zen Zage, a live showstopper, comments on new age charlatanism (Annie can spot one a mile away – she’s also a minister). In the Bar Womb is all torchy wee-hours ambience through a bemused cabernet squint. And The God Song thanks a higher power for being “Teddy Pendergrass on a Friday night!” The cd is already out in Europe; the duo celebrate its US release at the Big Small Beast at the Angel Orensanz Foundation on Norfolk St. on the LES this Friday, May 21 – the show starts at 6:30 with an hour of free beer beginning at 7; Annie and Paul will probably hit the stage at around eight. But you should show up for the whole night.

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May 19, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Jay Cloidt/Amanda Moody – D’Arc: Woman on Fire

Like something of a hybrid of Rasputina, Diamanda Galas and This Mortal Coil, this is a timely, imaginative update on the Joan of Arc legend. Actress/chanteuse Amanda Moody’s stage show casts Joan as intercessor in the troubled life of Joanne, an agoraphobic whose daughter has just disappeared in an unnamed, wartorn foreign country. Somewhat obliquely, it’s a telling parable about violence and redemption or lack thereof. Esssentially, this cd, distributed by the esteemed Starkland label, is the soundtrack album, Jay Cloidt’s orchestration alternately haunting and atmospheric with layers of keyboards and a lush string section featuring Kronos Quartet cellist Joan Jeanrenaud. Moody’s voice is as dramatic as one would expect here, ranging literally from a whisper to a scream. 

The opening track, hypnotic with stark, plaintive strings, quietly and assuredly implores a young soldier to go home. Two poignantly atmospheric chamber pieces set the scene for the frantic, anguished, goth-tinged If I Leave the House, cellos ablaze as they reach a shrieking crescendo. After Prayers, macabre vocalese over ambient washes of sound, layers of strings and keys, there’s the stomping Born in Blood, like Siouxsie done ambitious, 80s performance-art style. The rather sarcastically gospel-tinged 10,000 Silver Doves recasts the Joan of Arc execution as a present-day murder. Miracles, a stark aria, sees the narrator sardonically and bitterly remembering her dead daughter as an infant. Surprisingly, the show ends not with a screaming crescendo but with the vivid wartime ballad Born for This. While Cloidt and Moody are best known for their work in the  avant garde, this album is as accessible as it is potently relevant.

July 13, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment