Angela Sawyer – Chinatown – October 25

Angela Chinatown

I like when noise makes me feel mellow instead of insane. Angela just played a kazoo over what sounds like a humming engine, making you feel like your feeling the heater blowing at you in a car on a cold winter night. It’s nice the way she uses silly children’s toys with the electronics. It gives it a human touch. The music kind of slips gear. Instead of developing and gathering to a conclusion, the climax happens when things have completely fallen apart, leaving you with a question mark.

Guerilla Toss – Midway – October 18

G Toss Midway

They’re funky and smooth, with an international feel. What were they going to do without Simon, buck naked icon; or Ian, who held the ship together? They got Toby, the only one who really looks like a rock star, and Pat, on bass, understated and cool.

I love the steel drum sound Toby gets on his synth. Peter is as dominating as ever in his kit, but with a freer feel, that allows the others to knit together what they have better.

Which is better? Not a fair question. Shifting lineups have defined the band since its onset, so it’s the change itself that counts, not any individual change.

That said, the new group gives more pleasure in the moment, if it’s not the same provocative assault on the brain. It’s a sports car taken on the highway into overdrive, wheeling and weaving and having a good time.

Ursula, Show Me the Body – lasthaus – October 10

Ursula

Ursula

I never knew Sona was in a band. She plays drums with a guitarist, and it’s very goth. Dark, icy tones cascading over rocky rock. The drums have a jet engine force. The guitar is a slipstream.

Show Me the Body

Show Me the Body

This band’s whole mission is to show what you can do with a banjo in a power trio. The banjo sounds are strange, mad, electric. This is a type of avant punk. It stops and starts, jolts forward on sudden rhythms. The drums are rattling bones. The bass is the Indy 500.

Charlie – Deep Thoughts JP – September 25

Charlie

Charlie is a stranger. Who is he? Just another Boston band. What does that mean when you’ve discussed Bitches’ Brew with j. Geils guru Peter Wolf? They’re pretty good. Dan Hockstein, the guitarist, sounds like the guy from The Beastie Boys. It’s a trio, a power trio, and they have a clean, slightly dirty, casual feel. The mood is good. They’ve got waves of charisma and  charm. They’re cute.

Dinnersss – Deep Thoughts JP – September 15

Dinnersss

It’s Jimmy Hughes. He’s got a disco beat going. It’s heavy synth psych stuff. But it develops. Now it’s a romantic, sweeping landscape, but still with the beat. Then it grows into something almost like Bruce Springsteen – and next, an ice skating rink. It’s hypnotic. It has touches of German minimalist techno, the black and white checkerboard sonic walls. But the beat keeps going, with sexy women’s voices.

Then it gets auditorium loud. Ricocheting patterns, handfuls of stiff wire harmony. Ultimately it evolves into straight dance music. Just a heavy thudding beat with chiming choruses. Everybody’s dancing.

Endguys (Steve Norton & Matt Samolis) – Weirdo – September 15

Endguys

Endguys works with sound recordings the two artists have gathered on their travels, featuring a whirlybird from Matt’s chimney. Steve has a composed score for this. It is in proper English sentences, rather than musical notation, with queues and instructions.

Steve starts with bass clarinet, and it’s something straight out of Eric Dolphy’s “Hat and Beard”. Matt takes a flute solo as Steve puts his instrument down. It is gentle and jumpy. Steve squeaks on a sopranino sax, lightly punctuating Matt’s flute.

Now Steve strokes a toy xylophone, and some tiny pots and pans, evoking gamelon music. Then it’s the soprano sax proper, disciplined honks. These are dialogues reminiscent of classic AACM collaborations. The two go largely in tandem, as if they are following two parallel bike paths in the woods. Diatonic tones predominate. They are relaxed yet alert. Now Steve goes solo with the whirlybird. It is hypnotic. Growling spirals of sound, with neat harmonics, and budding, aggressive arpeggios. One thinks of Evan Parker’s solo soprano forays.

Matt takes over with watery tones, almost like a shakuhachi. Steve adds the warm notes of his bass clarinet, as the field recordings wash over them like waves. Again, this is peaceful music, with the right clusters and syncopation to keep it vital. It’s downright dreamy.

Sunburned Hand of The Man, Black Pus – NE Underground Music Festival – Somerville – September 5

Sunburned Hand

Sunburned Hand of The Man

Rob Thomas first started playing with Sunburned Hand under this name in 1997. It is an improv band, with long, searing synth solos. The energy drips down, coating you with a heavy cosmic haze. The various threads drift, and recombine in new ways. The sound becomes more linear as Rob picks up a bass and the guitar gets stronger. A woman recites collage poetry over an insidious, sinister beat. Things get heavy and sticky, a psychedelic caramel swirl on a stick. Sunburned Hand were at the vanguard of millenium modern rock. They still impress kids today with their timeless forays into other worlds.

Black Pus

Black Pus

I couldn’t get far enough into the mosh pit to see if this is just one guy. I hear wild siren synth sounds, but all I see is a drummer in a mask. The drums sound is a mad staple gun – an endless barrage of intensity, a post-revolutionary firing squad decimating the traitors. This is energy music that gives you a slap in the face.

New England Underground Music Festival – Somerville – September 5

Woody

Woody

She makes me think of Enya, but she’s dressed like a harlequin, like the harlequins of Picasso’s blue period. Her music sways and skips, waves and washes of electronic haze, with eerie, witchy voices. The music circles like a snowball, gathering haunting intensity. Sometimes the song seems frozen, an ice princess in the arctic ice. But she gives you a warm feeling, like an afternoon cocktail.

There is also tension in her music, as when she brings in echoing samples of sinister voices, and the beat gets loud and funky. This is her savage side, the one you see in her mammoth earrings, and her classic seventies’ blond shag. She sounds like a black soul singer when she gets going.

Jesus

Jesus Vio

Jesus is just a charmer, but he’s so good he’s like Richie Valens. “Who’s gonna be my babe?” he sings. He’s easy to please. Otherwise he’s the front man of Free Pizza, which is an intellectual punk band, so it’s nice to see this other, gentle side of him. “Buzz Buzz” is his last song, and it’s got a beat. “I’ll be your flower so you can pollinate,” it goes. He’s all about love.

Rick Rude

Rick Rude

Where so many young musicians rely on attitude, this band presents skill first, with soaring guitar harmonies that hum like a well greased machine: a Buick engine. Buick McCane… Yeah, they’ve got some T-Rex in them. Even a little southern rock, with the rambling country solos. The beat is always good. They’ve got a great drummer. Even the trombonist had some swing.

Social Ladder

Social Ladder

I knew Nick Neuburg first from his trio Dog Suicide a couple of years ago, before he graduated from NEC. He has an academic discipline in his music, but it’s psychedelic, too. It’s electronics, with galactic loops. Stretches of fine mineral dust flood the soundscape. Surreal bells peal in obscure cities. The music sort of drifts in clouds, going somewhere, but very slowly. It’s about the idiosyncrasies of the voyage.

Dave Gross Underground

Grizzler

Grizzler is Dave Gross’s all-free improv band. I haven’t covered it in about four years, when they played at The Floft, in South Boston. Since then Dave has got into heavy modern philosophy. It’s almost as if the sound of the music is only a part of the experience now, which involves a larger message of communion and experimentation. Dave is a hall of fame quality musician. It is always nice to get a taste of what he’s doing next.

Big Buck Hunter – Neverland – August 20

BIg Buck Hunter

 

Big Buck Hunter

What’s the point in being really good if no one ever heard of you? I’m at Neverland, and Big Buck Hunter is playing with six people watching them. They’ve got an eighties, early alternative feel, with pokes of punk and hardcore. Sometimes it’s three-chord rock, then the guitarist, Kurt Egghart, bends notes and does interesting things with the strings. Some of the songs have a pogo dance feel, others are quirky and heavy.

Now there are more people. They’re listening, but they’re staying still. Now one girl is swaying her shoulders and tapping her foot. The music gets brighter and more inviting, sharp flashes, like The Who. This number definitely has a sixties psych feel, with the bluesy spirals of chords that rise above themselves, taking the song into the ether.

The next song has a vague feel of the past, but it’s very original, rambling and rolling and rollicking. The drummer, Peter Crowley, whips his heads like a team of horses. The bassist, Molly Dee, with short hair and black sleeveless dress, keeps a playful, melodic set of pistons in action for the drive.

Their last number is slow, something like The Grateful Dead’s “The Other One”. A tug of a country feel on a a dark and strange theme. The darkness and strangeness take over, and it’s a wall of shoe-gazer haze.

Will Mayo – Washington Street Arts Center, Somerville – August 17

Mayo

 

Mayo’s stuff, on electronics, has the feel of oncoming traffic. Whether it’s an ice cream truck, or a fire engine, you don’t know, but slowly it fills up your ears, and you’re in a different place. It’s characterized by patterns, vaguely rhythmic, but glacially slow rhythms. You’re never sure what he’s doing in the moment; you just hear the phenomena. The tones are typically warm, like warm colors, with a bedrock of noise – fire over ash in a fireplace. This is static music. It really stays in one place, with the illusion of motion. Things build to crescendos, but then you’re in the same place again. It’s sort of the sonic equivalent of a camera increasing the focus of the zoom lens, so the piece has more volume as it develops, but it’s really the same whole that it was in the beginning. He raises questions of the nature of time. How do things progress and evolve around us? What is change? In a way, it’s like techno, with the patterns that build and intensify, then abate, so there’s the illusion of greater and greater magnitude, but it’s essentially vibrant repetition.