Tuesday, September 8, 2009
In 1993, Chilton and Stephens reformed Big Star with John Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies. Since then, they've toured intermittently and released a couple of albums that generally fall into the ho-hum, indifferent vein of Chilton's later oeuvre. In spite of this, their November 18th show at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, the group's first full performance in New York in nearly a decade, will likely be one of the best of the year; if recent YouTube videos are any indication, Chilton has retained his stage dynamism, while Auer and Stringfellow are sympathetic to the original records. Tickets (rather pricey at $35.00) are available here. Keep an Eye on the Sky, a box set featuring rarities and favorites, is out next Tuesday.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Tying together 70s underground disco faves Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, Gino Soccio, local upstarts In Flagranti, the early avant-dance revivalist Danny Wang, Todd Terry's epochal cover of Phreek's "Weekend", and the new Hercules single ("I Can't Wait", five minutes of truly sybaritic fun) into a cohesive whole, Sidetracked is an exhilarating mix -- so exhilarating that Butler's nuanced segues may keep you from hitting the dance floor altogether. An inveterate and relentless crate-digger, Butler's choices lend the anthology a gravitas far beyond the years of its compiler. While his three-minute deconstruction of "Weekend" (taken from the relatively rare "Retouched by the Hand of Todd" club mix, not the overplayed, hip-hop influenced radio edit) will probably not garner the DJ any new fans, the Buzzard and Ray Martinez cuts will surely bemuse the contemporary generation of banger-reared hipsters. The absence of "Grand Central Shuttle" is conspicuous, but as a subversive exercise and a party album, Sidetracked succeeds on all counts.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Nonetheless, the much-anticipated Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 is an incredibly risky gambit in the eclectic waters of 2009. Fifteen years removed from the hardcore era that the Clan will always be emblematic of, hip-hop is as fractured as rock was in 1975. Produced by the late J Dilla, album cut "10 Bricks" is a valiant -- and, I daresay, visionary -- repudiation of the Autotuned gloss that permeates the charts, the signpost to a new space that true believers have anxiously awaited. Fusing the klaxons and expropriated noise of Dilla's final recordings with clarion blaxploitation horns and strident lyrics that recall the gritty Nineties, Raekwon is back with a vengeance. Preview the track here.
A month from now, the Jersey City-based station will be coming to Brooklyn with the inaugural WFMU Fest. As the concert market bottoms out, seminal no wavers Teenage Jesus & the Jerks (featuring the inimitable Lydia Lunch) will be headlining the final concert on October 3rd. Esoterics will also delight in a rare performance on October 1st by Wumme's finest exports -- Faust. Coalescing around the same scene that included such Teutonic perennials as Kraftwerk, Neu!, Amon Duul II, Ash Ra Tempel, and Cluster, they were the first to cross over to an international audience; The Faust Tapes, reissued by the incipient, pre-jetliner Virgin Records, sold over 100,000 copies in Britain. Neophytes should check out Outside the Dream Syndicate, a collaboration with LaMonte Young associate/composer/filmmaker Tony Conrad; it is one of the first extant examples of interdisciplinary musical minimalism, presaging the fusion recordings of Peter Gordon, Arthur Russell, and Laurie Anderson by several years. Budget-conscious listeners may want to consider the $12 October 2nd show, featuring Allentown grunge revivalists (we're not kidding) Pissed Jeans.
For more info, click here.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Music Hall of Williamsburg (66 N. 6th St.)
$5 advance/$7 door
Following in the ribald, insouciant British folk-rock tradition of Roy Harper and Steeleye Span, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (who, I should add, are very American) have earned plaudits from the L.A. Times for their "big, open-hearted anthems". Sharpe (nee Alex Ebert of dance-punk lodestars Ima Robot) is known for baring his chest and feet onstage, but with stagecraft not a priority for many of today's groups, there's no need to begrudge him. The equally singular Preacher in the Knife borrow equally from Nick Cave and calypso, making this show one of the bargains of the month.
09/03: Brazilian Girls Sound System
The Bell House (149 7th St.)
The Brazilian Girls' polyglot lyrics and tropicalia-cum-Left Bank aesthetic have earned them celebrity fans (David Byrne) and a coveted spot on Verve Records; nevertheless, as critic Nitsuh Abebe astutely noted over three years ago, "They have fans, yes-- devoted ones-- but there's no coherent market for them to aim at. They have their swank global groove, but they're too arty to home in on worldbeat fans or VIP loungers. They make freethinking dance music, but their grooves are too earthy to count on the electronic crowd, and they're too upscale, too going-out-music, to count on rock geeks." With Brazilian Girls Sound System, bassist Jesse Murphy (who is also playing a solo set) and drummer Aaron Johnson are valiantly attempting to strip away the artiness with musicians from the John Scofield Band, the Saturday Night Live house band (weird enough)... and, most quizzically of all, Paul Ryder from the Happy Mondays (not the more logical -- and temperamental -- Shaun). Interesting, at the very least.
09/02: Titus Andronicus, The Smith Westerns, The So So Glos
Monster Island Basement (128 River St.)
Playing on a bill as perfectly complementary as coffee and pie, Titus Andronicus' avant-Springsteen theatrics culminated in The Airing of Grievances, one of last year's best rock albums. Meanwhile, Bay Ridge outcasts the So So Glos -- arguably better known for their role in the formation of the Market Hotel than any of the music they've produced -- are the long-prophesied American answer to The Clash, infusing indie with the timeless kind of despondent heart and soul that will leave you spinning Tourist/Terrorism over and over again. Meanwhile, Chicago's Smith Westerns bridge both approaches with garage-y fulminations on the usual adolescent frustrations.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Along with the Mann-Weil songwriting team, Greenwich-Barry were among Phil Spector's most prolific collaborators; the relatively simple structures of "Da Do Ron Ron" and "I Can Hear Music" -- coupled with Spector's agitprop productions -- played a key role in the crystallization of what the late feminist critic Ellen Willis described as "a counter-tradition in rock and roll that had much more in common with high art -- in particular avant-garde art -- than the ballyhooed art-rock syntheses." It is this tradition that has prospered and prevailed over time, and continues to inspire new generations of musicians to this day. With "Be My Baby" sounding almost as fresh today as it did in 1963, her songs will endure for years to come.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
With so much talent suffused into the rhythm section alone, it's easy to lose sight of guitarist Kyp Malone's distinctive contributions. Just as the initial success of Roxy Music hinged upon the underlying tension between Bryan Ferry's penchant for 40s anachronisms and the aforementioned Eno's space-age flair, it is Malone that brings an imperious hunger, an inimitable falsetto, and improvisatory glee to the synths and automatonic loops of Sitek and Adibimpe. Without Malone, the band would be something along the lines of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's artier, contraries cousins (think Dig! all over again); with him, their genre-bending panache will be secure for years to come.
After nine years, Malone is poised to step into the spotlight next month with the self-titled debut of his his much anticipated solo project, Rain Machine. Not wanting to be disingenuous and misrepresent what will surely be sui generis, I will say that the advance single "Give Blood" -- streaming here -- is an intensely soulful effort that manages to recall Outkast, Captain Beefheart, Alex Chilton at his most feral, and John Lee Hooker over the course of three minutes. With a tremulous blues guitar riff that may as well be anathema to his hipster constituency, Malone isn't playing around here -- and there's no doubt that Rain Machine may be one of the year's finest albums. Be sure to add this one to your iPod.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
While this NPR profile of the man is hardly revelatory, there is one interesting tidbit -- after years of summonses, increasing visibility and last-minute show changes, Todd P. is opening a "fully legit rock club" in the fall. No word on where the venue will be, but with the Knitting Factory finally completing their move across the East River in a couple weeks, expect much in the way of good local live music throughout the winter.
According to their MySpace, the group is releasing a re-recording of the latter track (titled "Love Dancing" after the original version of the song) featuring the vocal talents of Nomi and Xavier (and produced by local leftfield DJ Brennan Green) this fall. In the interim, you can catch them with Xavier at Williamsburg's Zebulon (258 Wythe Av.) tomorrow night at 10 PM. In addition to all of the usual suspects, it wouldn't be surprising if a special guest (such as Elodie Lauten, who occasionally gigs with the group) is among their ranks.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Saturday's concert -- marking the end of the 2009 Celebrate Brooklyn season -- was an exercise in contrasts. Young families frolicked with each other on the lawn; an aging Park Slope rocker and his Bay Ridge companion (the accent and her gushing admiration for Vesuvio's were the giveaways) downed Rocher chocolates by the box, demonstrating that the two rival nabes will indeed live in harmony someday; and yes, plenty of my not-so-impecunious peers were there, searching in vain for a party scene that never quite manifested amid the electronics and copious pot smoke. While the beat was crucial to Merriweather Post Pavillion's hits ("Brothersport" and "My Girls"), AC's roots in freak folk and the Beach Boys' psychedelic era have continually precluded them from indulging in anything close to a four-on-the-four rhythm, and Saturday's set maintained that contrarian tradition. While a select number of pop visionaries (Wilson, Perry, Eno, Russell) foresaw the dissipation of the beat into spatial luminescence, Animal Collective's rapid ascent into the collective unconsciousness has expedited this process overnight -- no small feat.
After a set of disco standards ("Make Me Believe in You", "Cymande") from XXXChange, veteran LA DJ Dam-Funk played an hour-plus set of 80s boogie and electro-funk, ranging from the predictable ("More Bounce to the Ounce") to his own self-produced tracks. Unlike most mixmasters, who seamlessly blend (or in the case of hip-hop DJs, jaggedly cut) between tracks, he saw it fit to speak over nearly every transition. This was beneficial in some instances (from the standpoint of a collector of those records, identifying them was a nice gesture), but the constant chat soon grew irksome.
And then it was time for the headliners. Opening with a reworked version of the hymnal "Grace" -- an unreleased curio and fan favorite -- Animal Collective seemed to be in perfect synchronicity with the audience. All of their recent material ("Summertime Clothes", "Guys Eyes", "Lion in a Coma", the abovementioned tracks) were performed in relatively faithful renditions that doubtless placated the new fans, but it was on their more esoteric material -- including a suite of "Fireworks" and "#1" from 2007's Strawberry Jam -- that the band truly shone. Much as the Dead's studio recordings were only springboards and loose templates for their live flights of fancy, Animal Collective indulge the live setting as an incubator of new ideas and spontaneous improvisation, a fearless stance in an era where so many artists merely "play the record", irrespective of genre.
By the time of "Lion in a Coma", a great time had been enjoyed at all. Kudos to Animal Collective and Celebrate Brooklyn for an amazing night of music.
In mid-September, Southpaw will be hosting the sixth annual Brooklyn Country Music Festival. A melange of new traditionalists and more idiosyncratic groups (ranging from the "whackabilly" of The Defibulators to the M Shanghai String Band), this celebration of the burgeoning local country scene never fails to entertain. If you can only attend one night, don't miss September 17th's triple whammy of The Defibulators, Sean Kershaw & the New Jack Ramblers (featured in a Village Voice piece on the scene last year), and Alana Amram (the daughter of David Amram).
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
As early as 1969, even a Bozo boor like Jim Morrison could definitively proclaim that “rock is dead” and foresee the rapid proliferation of what were then quaintly known as tape machines; within half a decade, “Autobahn” and “Love to Love You Baby” fulfilled the mandate of the lead Door’s prognostication with flying colors. The reactionary torrents of punk and some of its derivatives notwithstanding, contemporary pop is a process in enumerating upon those templates, arguably culminating in the spazzed-out bliss of pre-808s Kanye and the psych-funk furor of Ratatat and Black Moth Super Rainbow. Tellingly, when some of the working-class rapscallions of Britain’s housing estates took to more artistic inclinations in the early 00s, it was speed garage – a frantic variant of drum and bass – that served as the direct antecedent for their grimy experiments. While Dave Longstreth and Ezra Koeing are very talented individuals and seemingly genial guys, their relationship to Jerry Lee and Carl Perkins is tangential at best. Like Cleopatra and Funny Girl, the manifestos of the contemporary rock renaissance are aurally arresting but have no substance – nada, kids. Rock (irrespective of the divisive indie/corporate divide… you say bad, I say worse) has entered its Getz/Brubeck era of conscious obsolescence and avaricious omniscience. This is not to say that what Longstreth and company are doing is unlistenable (Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” will be a standard on par with “Ipanema” or “Take Five” in fifty years, just wait and see) or entirely duplicitous (they’re using rock instrumentation, after all), but it’s deserving of a new sobriquet.
Everything Goes Wrong is the title of one of filmmaker Seijun Suzuki’s better efforts, and if Japan’s answer to Russ Meyer ever deigned to strap on an electric guitar and write 36 minutes worth of three-chord rock and roll, it would probably sound something like this. Having moved from the postindustrial milieu of the Brooklyn DIY circuit to the Plasticine depths of Los Angeles myriad freeways, the Vivian Girls have managed to channel that city’s deleterious energy into something greater than the sum of its – or their – parts. From Ali Koehler’s jazzy (and utterly taut) drumming to Cassie Ramone’s assured (and almost decipherable) vocals, the Vivian Girls have lived up to the nihilistic promise of “Such a Joke” and “Where Do You Run To”. As the titles of “Tension”, “The End”, and the epic “Double Vision” (dig Ramone’s primitive, Neil Young-via-Kevin Shields fretwork), they’ve extended their lyrical purview to more transcendental and universal concerns in a way that would make Durrell and Nin furrow their eyebrows in despair. This is a hulking piece of licentious, incendiary riffage: an off-white nexus where the scene’s prevailing Ivy aridity meets Faulknerian ramshackle bombast in a dual to the death, with the latter camp ballasted by Kickball Katy’s William Calley bass.
Nearly three decades ago, The Minutemen, Husker Du, and – most lamentably of all – The Replacements descended into modest pedantry, unable to reconcile their baser concerns with the scepter of maturity. As the Vivian Girls have ably demonstrated, you can have your cake, eat it too, and somehow beat your more recondite peers to the finish line. As for this album’s relevancy to the future of rock and roll and pop music in general? As the great Paul Nelson once ruminated, it “defines it, expands it, explodes it. Burns it to the ground.”
Sunday, August 16, 2009
8/19: Islands, Das Racist, Radical Dads
The Bell House (149 7th St.)
Having toured with the likes of Beck, Islands frontman Nick Thorbun is a spiritual cousin of funk/folk/hip-hop eclectic, producing a prolific stream of albums over the past decade that fall under such unlikely rubrics as folk and progressive rock. A must-see.
8/23: Amy Ray, Toshi Reagon
The Bell House (149 7th St.)
Although they've been unfairly pigeonholed over the years as everyone's favorite socially conscious and openly lesbian folk-rock duo, the Indigo Girls have put out several pleasant records over the years. Performing songs from such solo efforts as Didn't It Feel Kinder (and maybe "Closer to Fine"), Amy Ray will renew -- or restore -- your faith in singer/songwriters.
After a deliriously smarmy comedy set from former Saturday Night Live writer (and Brooklyn resident) Leo Allen, Bed-Stuy's own Brooklyn Steppers dazzled the audience with a medley of popular songs and intricate drum solos. Although the audience seemed to initially treat the ensemble with an air of blaseness -- it's a marching band, after all -- the prodigiously talented Steppers (some musicians are still in grade school) transcended the usual drumline theatrics and the venue's poor acoustics. By the end of their twenty minute set, nearly every member of the crowd was hollering with rapturous glee, a testament to their burgeoning talents. If a local Lindsay Buckingham is looking to spruce up his arrangements, look no further.
With an arsenal heavily dependent "layered recordings, improvised loops, and percussion," fellow Bed-Stuyers High Places were ideal for this type of event -- their lilting music does not require immediate attention, but such focus hardly detracts from appreciating them. Vocalist Mary Pearson's funereal bassoon playing recalled the postminimal stylings of trombonist Peter Zummo and multi-instrumentalist Jon Gibson, while knob-turner Rob Barber seemed to be in awe of his surroundings, thanking the audience on several occassions and citing the Brooklyn Steppers as "the best openers they've ever had." While their twisted, amelodic sounds may not be for everyone, the group is well on their way to cementing their place on the vanguard of the Brooklyn scene.
Overall, It Came From Brooklyn was a testament to how far our borough has come as an arts mecca over the past decade. I -- and, quite likely, many others -- eagerly anticipate attending September's show.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Garnering his initial reputation (ballasted by a profile in Guitar World) as the pubescent guitarist with local jazz-funk trio Eternity, "the Brooklyn Flash" embraced the jazz orthodoxy in his early twenties, busking frequently in Union Square in various permutations with Telerant and a trio configuration that included pianist John Esposito and Jeff Siegel on drums. The few recordings of Rhames from this era, collected on a tribute album recorded with Ali (The Dynamic Duo Remember Trane and Bird) and a lone live album (Live from Soundscape) find him increasingly dependent upon the tenor saxophone and emulating Coltrane's late-period deconstructionism (the Trio's microtonal take on "I Got Rhythm" from Soundscape is a competent demonstration of this approach). In 1984, Rhames (credited as "Butch") contributed pedestrian guitar and keyboards to Positive Power by Steve Arrington's Hall of Fame, an obscure boogie-disco effort.
Rhames remains an elusive figure even in jazz circles, but a reappraisal seems to be on the horizon. An official website showcases scintillating rock fretwork from his Eternity days and highlights from the the mellifluous jazz recordings that eventually manifested, while an unreleased duo album with Telerant was recently released to favorable notices.
Ego considerations notwithstanding, it's difficult to ascertain why Rhames failed to attain even a modicum of success in the insular world of jazz. As an instrumentalist, his crossover appeal to pop audiences was limited at best; moreover, as an African-American gay man who refused to compromise with the duplicity of the music industry, he may have simply been too ahead of his time.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Ever so occasionally, however, the specious kind of pastiche that has been inculcated to us in overt and not-so-overt ways by the trepidatious postmodern hegemony over the past forty years can be successfully subverted -- witness the Astaire-meets-They Live By Night lunacy of Pierrot le fou -- and that is precisely what this Brooklyn-based trio does here. While the Curtis-on-helium vocals that permeate about half the tracks lend the proceedings an air of inveterate studiousness, other tracks (the mostly instrumental "Costume", "Shadows in Daylight") are suffused with decadent Teutonic-via-"Let's Go to Bed" synthesizers and loping drums that suggest a repudiation of the past. The arrythmic, distorted drum machines (one of those counterintuitive textural innovations rarely touched upon since Mtume's mid-70s stint with the Miles Davis) of "Night Shades" will mollify contemporary Brooklyn audiences, but it also hints at their far-reaching potential.
It is only inevitable that the Brooklyn scene will soon produce a Music from Big Pink or There's A Riot Goin' On for the disaffected masses of Generation Y, a musical conflagration of past and future that will lead to yet another paradigm shift in popular music. Silk Flowers is a taste of that looming change, and a subtle reminder that the best is yet to come.
Monday, August 10, 2009
After months of anticipation that built to a crescendo when the So So Glos announced a performance in their fall tour itinerary, it appears that local indie rock veterans Les Savy Fav are christening the new space on September 9th. One of the few groups anthologized on the seminal This Is Next Year: A Brooklyn-Based Compilation (2001) that are still active, "beardo" (as per his Pitchfork TV show) Tim Harrington's merry band of understated musicians are nothing less than a living history of local alternative music at this juncture. From the anarchic post-hardcore of early efforts like 3/5 to the dance-inflected art punk of 2007's Let's Stay Friends, they've always been ahead of the trends. Don't miss this.
Released five years after Takoma's greatest success (Kottke's debut, 6 and 12-String Guitar), this compilation was released with the consumer in mind; indeed, Kottke appears courtesy of Capitol Records. Listening to the bluesy "Cripple Creak" and "Red & White" today, it's difficult to fathom the guitarist's eventual retrenchment into Windham Hill somnambulance, although he probably was always the closest to Leon Redbone of the lot. Lang is even more of an anomaly, having eschewed music for a career as an animator throughout much of the 80s and 90s, and his playing is characterized by a certain hesitance here. While "St. Charles Shuffle" and "When Kings Come Home" are shamelessly derivative of Fahey and Kottke to the point where they come off as rote exercises, those strands converge into a highly individual style on the culminating "Thoth Song", a laconic melange of psychedelia, whitewashed folk, and traditional blues.
Although he never attained the relative commercial prominence of Kottke, Fahey -- a garrulous academic (he held a graduate degree in folklore studies from UCLA) and cult hero whose musical interests dovetailed more with the Velvet Underground than whatever the fellow adherents of Swami Satchidananda (his guru of circumstance) were listening to at the time -- emerges as the most commercially-oriented of the three on this release. "Revolt of the Dyke Brigade" is the guitarist at his effusive best, mixing front-porch bluesiness with caustic humor, but "On the Sunny Side of the Ocean" and "In Christ There is No East or West" constitute the dirgelike pap that necessitated the punk revolution. It's a marvel that Fahey couldn't carry a tune, or else these songs would have been indistinguishable from the products of the L.A. hit machine of the epoch. (Fahey would soon rebound with 1975's Old Fashioned Love, a bloozy collection of ragtime and jazzy pop that may be his best effort.)
All in all, John Fahey... is a satisfactory introduction to the American folk vanguard of the 1970s. Whether this is anybody's cup of tea amid the bravado of 2009 is anyone's guess, but the enduring popularity of Fahey amid younger listeners and Kottke's relentless touring schedule (he's playing the Hamptons soon) suggests that fingerpicking guitar is here to stay.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Prospect Park Bandshell
One of the most revered figures of the golden age of hip-hop, lifelong Brooklyn resident Big Daddy Kane -- best remembered for the seminal It's a Big Daddy Thing -- has exerted a tremendous influence on commercially-oriented MCs (Jay-Z was his protege in the early nineties) and the contemporary alternative scene. Along with Chuck D, Kane was one of the first rap lyricists to combine lyrical acuity with the braggadocio of the streets, providing an essential template for the Wu Tang collective and most New York MCs since 1990. Among the opening acts are Ghananian polymath Blitz the Ambassador (whose globe-trotting Stereotype was just released to favorable reviews) and hi-top fade revivalists the Retro Kidz, whose 1987 electro sound will doubtless thrill any fans of the era.
8/08: Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival: The Juan MacLean, Young Love, Designer Drugs, many others
The Old American Can Factory (232 3rd St.)
No, the line-up is not nearly as interesting as I had initially envisaged. But the Juan MacLean are a formidable live act, and DJs like Ayres and Roxy Cottontail will transport you back to the glory days of The Shank or Studio B. Young Love is a dubious choice, but their dearth of new material means that they've probably been cooking up some interesting tunes over the past few years. With 12 hours of dancing at a rate commensurate with those charged by the avaricious promoters of modern clubland, a deal is a deal.
08/15: Publicist, Ian Svenonious, Justin Miller, Jacques Renault, Lovefingers
Market Hotel (1142 Myrtle Av.)
Co-promoted by the venerable Todd P. and the fellows behind San Francisco's Donuts parties (they've hosted Lindstrom and techno innovator Juan Atkins in recent months), this off-kilter dance extravaganza features Washington post-hardcore veteran/indie impresario Ian Svenonius, disco revivalist Jacques Renault, and minimalist blogger/producer Lovefingers. If that isn't enough of an incentive, the cover includes free vegan baked goods.
08/08: Seasick Steve, The Woes, Pete Bernhard
Southpaw (125 5th Av.)
While he often looks like a disheveled and potentially deranged panhandler who frequents the R line, rest assured: Seasick Steve is much cooler than we could ever hope to be. Trained as a blues guitarist by K.C. Douglas (the writer of "Mercury Blues"), Steve (nee Steven Wold) has spent much of his life as an itinerant train-hopping hobo, busker, and migrant worker. That said, his music industry acquaintances are nothing short of stellar -- a pal of Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell on the folk circuit in the 60s, he produced Modest Mouse's debut album in the mid-nineties and befriended Kurt Cobain while living in Olympia in the late eighties. Properly discovered in his own right after moving to Norway in 2001, the bluesman -- and recent British sensation -- is best known for his diverse array of customized instruments, including the "Three-String Trance Wonder" (a hollowbody guitar with only three strings), a one-stringed diddley bow, and the "Mississippi Drum Machine" (a wooden box that he stomps on). Opening are The Woes, an Americana/country blues outfit quite compatible with Steve's ramshackle style.
08/15: Six Finger Satellite, Pterodactyl, Pop 1280
Southpaw (125 5th Av.)
More than the effete purists in Neutral Milk Hotel, Six Finger Satellite were the most influential indie rock band of the mid-to-late nineties. Embracing Eighties revivalism and the sounds of krautrock well before either became fashionable, their legacy ranges the gamut from James Murphy and John MacLean of DFA Records fame to the local noise rock scene. Openers Pterodactyl purvey a brand of spacey noise rock that is quite copacetic with the headliners' extreme sound.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
But I digress.
Occassionally, Marty's cadre of programmers will hit a homer so far out of the park that the increasing vicissitudes of life in the city become immediately worthwhile. This is exemplified by Caribbean Night -- the capstone concert of the Martin Luther King Concert Series at Wingate Field in Crown Heights on August 24th -- which, as part of a time-honored borough tradition, will feature the 74 year old (and thoroughly inimitable) Mighty Sparrow.
Although Harry Belafonte was anointed as the King of Calypso after his mammoth popular successes in the 1950s, the actor/singer/activist was naturally reticent to accept the title. Throughout the Caribbean, the Grenada-born Sparrow (who grew up in Trinidad and has spent considerable time in Queens) has defined the idiom for generations of fans. Blending effusive lyrics that touch upon social commentary and more ribald matters to beats and horn arrangements that presaged funk, the music of Sparrow (nee Slinger Francisco) was -- and is -- a hedonistic, intransigent antithesis to the catholic interpretations of Belefonte; in the process, he has embraced more contemporary styles such as soca. (Indeed, Sparrow last won the prestigious Carnival Road March music prize in 1984, well into his fifties.) Briefly signed to RCA at the behest of Belafonte in the late 50s, Sparrow's extemporizations -- evoking, according to Robert Christgau, "African roots, interracial revenge, interracial sex, male-female relations, and cannibalism" -- failed to resonate with a Middle America already bedraggled by the exotica of early rock and roll, and the calypsonian promptly retreated to Britain.
One of the more ardent champions of Sparrow's oeuvre was Van Dyke Parks, the diminutive songwriter best known for his collaborations with Brian Wilson and the 1968 commercial folly Song Cycle. Parks's follow-up to Song Cycle, the beguiling Discover America (1972) was a de facto tribute to the singer and his cohorts (including the irascible Lord Kitchener), with Parks covering the whimsical "Jack Palance". Their connection culminated in 1974's Hot and Sweet, a seldom-heard Sparrow album produced by Parks that stands as one of my most coveted albums. (Does anyone have a copy?)
Sparrow is opening for dancehall sensation Sean Paul, but it would be a disservice to your musical palette if you failed to experience him in the flesh. And as its a free show, why not?
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Initially scheduled as part of the free Pool Parties series at
After an opening act, the three headliners performed "round robin" style. For the uninitiated, this uniquely Baltimorian style of performance involves all acts performing on stage at once, switching after every song. It is certainly more egalitarian than the traditional mode of performance (a boon to the musicians), while the format inherently lends itself to a more varied type of show -- one where inter-band collusions are very common. In a highlight of the evening, Dan Deacon spontaneously dueted with Deerhunter's Bradford Cox (a truly genial soul who thanked audience members while waiting in the very long queue).
Lacking much of the usual histrionics, the Deacon songs were by far the weakest of the evening. On his last tour, the rotund Baltimorean was joined by an ensemble of live musicians who added a new level of panache to his frantic compositions. The Brooklyn Bowl set, on the contrary, skewed heavily towards note-by-note recreations of material from his latest album (Bromst); without the net of the backing band, Deacon was forced to attend to his array of clangorous machines instead of indulging in the crowd dancing that he prefers. No Age also yielded towards their album in their pro forma set, but the throng of dancers towards the front of the stage reminded skeptics that there is still room for odd gesticulations at rock and roll shows. Thank heavens.
It was Deerhunter that stole the show for me. Since seeing them well over a year ago, the permanently emaciated Cox (like Joey Ramone and Michael Phelps, he suffers from Marfan syndrome) has matured into a Morrisonian frontman, controlling the audience with a gravitas not seen all that often among today's diffident musicians. While Microcastle and Cryptograms were good albums, hearing those songs in their live iterations only reinforced their preeminence. Truly captivating stuff.
As the show concluded with a Dan Deacon light show and a two-way drone jam between No Age and Deerhunter, I smiled. It certainly wasn't the best show of the year, but all three acts had beat the odds with grace.
With a paucity of good summer songs this year (Pitbull's "Calle Ocho" was on the radio in March here in New York, while the apocalyptic, timorous "Voodoo City" by YACHT evoked visions of William Burroughs on the beach), Neon Indian have stepped improbably into the void with "Deadbeat Summer". Over a bed of detuned synthesizers and heavily processed lo-fi guitars, Palomo murmurs vacuous lyrics (a la Michael Stipe circa 1983) before concluding that "it's like a deadbeat summer". The bass and drums may lack the "momentum" discerned by Pitchfork's reviewer -- indeed, the beat is more comparable to a hip-hop or left field dub reggae production than anything by Gary Numan or the Human League -- but for those of us who have been looking to replace "Genius of Love" with a contemporary song on our summer mix CDs for some time now, this will certainly suffice.
Psychic Chasms, their first full length release (at 30 minutes, it's been alternatively described as an EP and an album... go figure), is due on October 13th. Until then, sate your taste for the new sound by downloading "Deadbeat Summer" for free at Prefix magazine's website.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Celebrate what would have been Andy Warhol's 81st (!) birthday at the Bell House with a phalanx of leading scenesters. Scheduled activities include a "make your own Brillo box" workshop, screen tests in the style of Warhol's mid-60s oeuvre (these will be posted on the Internet), and -- naturally -- covering the DJ booth in silver foil. About as fabulous as a sweaty August night can get.
08/06: Styles P, Metermaids, NSR, Soulico Crew
The eclectic Rock the Block Fest juxtaposes gangsta era veterans like Styles P and Freeway with a number of ascendant acts, including the Tel Aviv-based Soulico Crew. Those disenchanted with mainstream hip-hop's recent turn towards the dancefloor will likely enjoy the block rocking beats and erudite rhymes that will predominate here.
08/08: Jonathan Toubin's New York Night Train
Market Hotel (1142 Myrtle Av.)
Specializing in danceable soul records from the pre-disco era, Jonathan Toubin's esoteric take on dance music has earned him an avid following in the indie community, with over 600 people crowding into the low-capacity Market Hotel for one of his recent parties. (Toubin also presided over the bacchanalia at The Shank, an ill-fated Williamsburg after-hours club recently chronicled in the New York Press.) While Toubin will be spinning at his monthly Soul Clap & Dance Off at Glasslands earlier in the evening, this Todd P-sponsored after-hours "speakeasy" is bound to be the more exciting event for intrepid partiers.
08/04: Baseline (Pilar Baizan)
Issue Project Room (232 3rd St.)
$12 adv/$15 door
Beginning as a video artist, Basque musician Pilar Baizan began to drift into the realm of electronic noise with her Baseline project in the mid-2000s. According to the press release, "she starts working with glitches, field recordings, sounds of synthesis... she manipulates loops and sound fragments to make dense and heavy compositions. She often accompanies her shows with video, which are intended to provide more depth to the sound, an idea which comes from video-art." The concert is but a part of a greater program celebrating avant-garde Basque music, which will also include a lecture (“Sound Art in the Basque Country Today”) by Txema Agiriano and video excerpts from the MEM arts festival.