Avenge past wrongs like Thor…
This is the sound of the wind
In the rocks
As he strides the fields
Of the North
Or the demons with their sirens
Calling in the caves
Or the smoke from the cauldrons
Of dark psychedelic chocolate
Faun and a Pan Flute (Atlanta)
High drama tension wires on brass, strings, and marimba. This has a jazzy feel, with good dynamics, and varied. Mysterious at times, with modal touches, it can leap back into symphonic band territory – just for a spell, then into the austere realm of European free, or classic fusion.
Touchstones seem many, though nothing conspicuous enough to make you think “this sounds like…” It’s kept in a good mix, with abrupt but smooth changes, and tight interplay.
Magicicada evokes the sounds of electrical storms rather than cicadas on a summer night. The lineup is deceptive. Guitar and cello plus singer and drums, but what you hear is a wall of noise. It’s scary and creepy. Stiff growls, intermittent and jolting, swatches of sandpaper synthesizer. Is there development? It travels like a tornado, busting up whatever structure evolves in the meantime.
Rhythms start to develop as the set progresses. They are like stuff dragged by large vehicles on the street. Then they get spacey. Wind blowing through hallways of empty mansions. Ends with a bang and a whimper.
G Toss has cleaned up their act. Their music is sparkling where it used to be muddy. Peter drives the band with heavy funk from his drums. Kassie is as happy as a schoolgirl on the playground, bouncing up and down when she sings. The rhythms shoot up like fireworks, brushing up again each other, pushing each other out of the way. Their songs have real melodies now, though they’re obstacle courses, like they used to be. They were always an eclectic band, with heavy no wave precedents, but their elements are purer now, and effusive.
The band’s art has always been to cover their L7 music school tracks with punk attitude, but there’s a oneness to them now. I would call them psych punk. They can push dreamy, hot colored chords out of their axes, but always with a jagged edge. They’re not students anymore.
Lovely Little Girls (Chicago)
Contortionist , no wave style music, with dirty, funky horns, and stop start action. Energized, inspired traffic jam. They can get operatic, or wax classic musical, like West Side Story. Different dimensions at work here, say, the rolling, hard hitting drums that back the arch, theatrical singing on one song, with structured, syncopated guitar patterns. The horns border on jazz, with charcoal harmonies, but this is effect, as they support the vocals, which are central, and are more lush and even.
This is curvy music, stretching from seventies’ disco classic Chic’s “Le Freak”, to nineties alt hoppers Luscious Jackson. “Who’s a bad bitch?” they say, to twisty, Eastern sounding beats. Then more talk “about our pussies.” Theses are raunchy bitches, “Bang my pussy, bang my pussy, bam!” Almost too much to take, but it’s good.
They’re a cross between Joy Division and Talking Heads. Eerie, metallic guitar monotones, awkward, jerky syncopation. The singer, Cory, forays into the crowd, right into me, as I’m typing. The kids wave and roll, to the shocks of rhythm. These guys can take you through the seventies punk clubs, grainy, black and white snapshots of CBGBs and The Rat. Then they go for avant noise, dusting a dissonant chord over an insistent drum beat. They’re good sound explorers, too, with fire alarm psychedelic tone spirals.
Take Out Order
Andy Brown, aka Bazooka Joe, aka Charlie Brown, aka DJ Mental, takes it easy tonight with his Skimask replica, Take Out Order. With his sideways baseball cap, he looks like a cross between Method Man and ODB. The music is wild, with titles like “Creature Double Feature”, about meeting your mate. Andy’s got a reptilian roar which is repulsive at first, but grows on you like the sticky tongue of a chameleon, with which he consumes his audience, which he has in the palm of his hand, like a superstar.
Intellectual punk, a la Television, Richard Hell. Very good… Even shirtless.
Bibles are corporations, which are people. Dave droning on and on, why can’t he just play sax? I’m so bored. I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Something about comas. Now he wants to spend money on a funeral.
Then they play, and of course, it’s sublime. Dave’s hoarse, airy nothings, Steve’s golden alto egg noodles. As Dave again waxes on death. Now it’s peaceful, echoing caves by the sea. Long held cicada note. Fluttering like a hummingbird. As the birds course through the rocks and hills of the park.
IAN is a woman led trio, with good, slow, soft heavy rhythms, punch and pop, soaring melodies. They’ve got touches of ginger and cider vinegar. Waves of warm island water. Traces of heavy metal stomp. They have the start stop motion of a sports car going through traffic. They can get grand and sonorous, anthemic and arena-like, but this is low key power pop at root.
Classic finger picking, Leo Kottke style. Takes the train through country hills. Slow locomotion motion. Then, light and happy, bouncing a child on his knee. Grand, mystical chords. Light and down home. Very good drama and tension. Balance of dark and dreamy, a country daydream.
Cracker Man holy cosmic vibes.
Pancho Kidd & Wes Buckley
Pancho plays by the trees in the breeze on the hill. It’s a pastoral scene, and the music is mellow and romantic. Pancho gets deep into the heads of strange characters, and you laugh and cry. You can tell his love for Neil Young. The songs roll along like peaceful meadows, but with an undertow of darkness. Songs about narcissists, cancer patients, hopeless victims of hopeless love. His rhythms, as he stands with guitar in hand, are lanky, lithe, and graceful, a tall oak thrown by wind.
Keith Fullerton Whitman
Pleasant buzz to start. Bats in the evening are speaking through stars. It’s just wild electronic whizz bang scream, starting low, getting louder. Organ tones in a church. Plastic horns blown by children at a parade. Now, prog tones squirreling in. A grand, sonorous wall. Dramatic progression of dark intervals. Noise, destruction and bomb blasts. Kettle drum beats, and shifting tides of synesthetic color. Glacial reflections on the ice. The sound tucked into the urban neighborhood, under the trees, by a baseball field.
They have the love and flow of nature. The music has tones of medieval psych folk but it is softer, with Mia singing, whom some have compared to Baez, but she is more mellifluous. Andy’s woodwinds are interspersed with cymbal strokes, with which Mia braids her guitar. You feel one with this music. When Mia bows her banjo, it is like Indian Carnatic music.
Mark Alban Lotz brightened my Sunday morning. With a cultured Dutch daffiness, he explores zoological and anthropological motifs on his Solo Flutes. His name checks are on target, and funky: Rahsaan, Makeba, even Coltrane (“Whole Steps”?). He’s a cool European in so many ways, but he wraps his heart round the world. He uses everything from piccolo to PVC contrabass flute, and he gets maximum out of range and dynamics, evoking village natives, or deep sea whales. So many solo records can be austere, or just plain pretty. Lotz fleshes out his work, with harmonics, and sometimes voice, for a one man trio. It’s sweet, deep, and humorous.
Everyone’s dancing like they’re lifting caskets at a New Orleans funeral. This is a 20-piece marching band, which just bumped into me, so I grabbed the soft arm of a young woman. It was nice. The girls dance like swans, arching their necks. The last night at a The Warehouse, kids as usual slouching in the bunks against the wall. There’s a retro shade over the light in front of the stage. The band tears mad zigzags across college band music. But this is the kind of band music that would make the kids in the crowd dance on the field.
Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth
Somewhere between Lady Gaga and Ron Jeremy lies Danny Cruz. He can sing national anthems or heavy metal anthems. In a band tonight with Nick Williams and Loren Burke on guitars, Frank Hurricaine and Coco Schachtl on drums, and guest John on toy accordion, he rides above the sounds like a surfer in the waves, a vulnerable humor in his voice, spry sprightly look on his bespectacled eyes. He’s Ron Jeremy, just listen to the song.
The Flaming Dragons can favor theory over practice, and the liberal ethos of outsider music, but when they catch a groove, they’re as grand as The Grateful Dead.
Solo side project from LSDV, just sound, strips and electronic panels. The sound is spacey and hypnotic. Flashes and clouds, echo of cartoon lightning. This is the television set I entered at three, in 1967. This is music of lush, romantic forests. Leafy paths that lead to inner city streets where they play the heavy funk.
Lex creates fortress of sound. His atmosphere is serene, with a touch of the ominous. There is something monk-like about it, singing prayers in the abbey. Then the noise rings in, eerie. Cosmic ice floes. Prurient caress. As the shadows of the storm subside.
When modernism hit the West early last century, everything was about industrial invention. Innovation has always been central to music, but as guitarist Joe Morris says, there is very little true innovation. Sometimes, as in Yoko Miwa’s case, it is cloaked in a reverence for the past that makes it seem buried in the past. But this is precisely Yoko’s innovation, that she continually mines the past, finding jewels in the jazz tradition she polishes with her Asian sensibility. She swings so well you could mistake her for Monk or Bill Evans or Horace Silver, but an invisible mist envelops it, as in a Japanese landscape, where the trees and mountains are grand, and the people are small.
In Yoko’s case, great jazz heroes are grand, and she is just their chambermaid at times, not because she is meek, but because her veneration is so total. Yoko restores the ecology of great jazz, when so many are simply trying to build a better mousetrap.
She plays The Beatles’ “For No One”, and it makes me cry. It is so invested in intricate classical music niceties, it is only when she gets to the chorus, past the song’s halfway mark, that I recognize it. Then it’s off to the delicate section of the suite from The White Album’s “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, which belies the arch, ironic cruelty of the song. She takes it to an entirely different place, where the natural elements of her soul converge and dissipate.
Will Slater & Scott Goulding
Yoko has a consistently recognizable style, but this can be deceptive, as she can shift gear abruptly and radically within on song, and with such subtlety and grace you don’t know what hit you.
Gracie Ellen is elegant in maroon cardigan, hair up in a bun. They open with a bouncy, sinister number, the first on their recent album. It goes into high gear, and people start dancing. Mariam Saleh is more mysterious, dark, with a black top. Gracie has a hypnotic guitar style, which reminds me of Bernard Sumner of New Order. Funny, for all that Fat Creeps is a kind of candy punk group, they have these traces of Britpop. Next number chugs like a subway train. Then it gets poppy like The Lemonheads. This is simple music, but it is intricate, with quick but seamless transitions from motif to motif. The vocal harmonies are eerie and ethereal. Serene landscapes are strafed with shot. What about the guy dancing with no shirt? He’s up onstage. Part of the band, I guess; very British like the stuff Happy Mondays used to do.
Interesting accord between guitar and bass. Mariam’s bass is very lively. Sparse, but with peppery surprises which shift Gracie’s guitar lines in slightly different directions. Or is that an illusion? Makes it more fascinating. Now it’s like something out of Tommy, with the spacey fuzz guitar and angelic harmonies. Wild Live at Leeds freakout. So theses girls get into heavy rock and psychedelia too.
Frank starts with some lovely fingerpicking, after some gritty rap, which he continues after the sequence. You never know where you’re going to go with these narratives, so it’s scary, even though they’re funny. Ivor Cutler comes mind, with his Scottish song /story stuff. But Hurricaine’s from the South, so this is much more wild. Now he’s talking about a Mennonite thrift store. It’s absolutely nuts. Chi-Raq, things are really tripping there now. Spiritual angel dust. Light picking the while. “That’s what this next song’s about” – he says that every time, and the song’s invariably about something completely different. “We’re going to make love under that holy moon”… Moses Lake Blues. “O that water flows in a strange design, and so does your life.”
Last tune, precisely 6:16, the number of the beast… Thinkin’ ’bout that waterfall coming down the hill – the music rolls and swirls, grand. His hair tosses wildly as he strums brutally hard, and he wails. He’s just like a whirling dervish, except he’s sitting down. He’s as holy as a Sufi.