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Alice Boman Brings Her Creepy Music to a Creepy Neighborhood

Alice Boman comes across as sort of a Nordic Julee Cruise, the Lynch girl at the bottom of the well. She’s got a new ep, her second, streaming at her Tumblr and a New York show coming up on Sept 14 at Baby’s All Right in Bed-Stuy sometime after 9, where catchy Seattle retro 60s psychedelic sunshine-pop band Tomten are opening the night at 8.

The new record’s first cut, simply titled What, sets the stage. There’s reverb on literally everything, lots of it – the piano, the ghostly vocals and the low-string guitar that hits on the beat, Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack style. All that reverb gives an orchestral lushness to what’s an otherwise very crystallized, simple tune.

“You know I need the darkness just as much as I need the light,” Boman intones as Over gets underway, funeral parlor organ swirling eerily over a simple, scratchy percussion track that sounds like an early 1970s drum machine. Burns is an airy, hypnotically minimalist piano-based lament, while Be Mine sets more of that funeral organ and electric piano over white-noise drum brushing and a similarly atmospheric, red-neon horn arrangement.

“Don’t know where I’m going, but I’m not alone,” Boman half-whispers on Lead Me, a diversion into folk noir. The last song on the ep is All Eyes on You, a portrait of longing and the most Julee Cruise-influenced song here. Boman also has a previous ep that’s even more lo-fi and minimalist. It’ll be interesting to see how much of this ambience Boman can replicate in a lo-fi ghetto space – this may take on the even more skeletal, minimalist feel of Boman’s debut ep.

An Ecstatic Gospel Rock Party in Williamsburg with Jesus on the Mainline

Monday night at 11:30 or so is Rev. Vince Anderson‘s weekly dance party at Union Pool. If you want to get your dirty, funky gospel groove on, there is no better place to do it. This past Monday night was an exception since Jesus on the Mainline played a raucous, careening show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg that was every bit as fun. Their roughly hourlong set cast them as sort of a cross between Anderson’s gritty jamband funk and the ecstatic, towering, anthemic New Orleans vibe of Brother Joscephus, with generous splashes of oldschool soul and occasional hints of circus rock. Fronted by charismatic trumpeter/conductor/singer Andrew Neesley, the band seems to draw on a rotating cast of A-list New York jazz talent. The obvious star of this particular sixteen-piece edition of the band was singer Mel Flannery, whose raw, powerful, brassy alto and stratospheric harmonies in tandem with Lauren Davidson (who was sitting in for Amanda Brecker) were nothing short of spine-tingling. Neesley may not embarrass himself on the mic, but Flannery’s otherworldly wail is transcendent: she got to take just one lead vocal all night and deserved them all.

When he wasn’t singing, or taking a tantalizingly brief, energetic trumpet solo, Neesley worked the dynamics up and down, pairing off soloists, signaling the band to drop out for a dip to just the keys and percussion, or the five-piece horn section, then leading everybody back up to a wild peak. Most of the songs went on for about ten minutes with plenty of time for solos. Guitarist Simon Kafka played slinky, in-the-pocket soul riffs, where Andrew Miramonti went for jaggedly dancing, explosive leads, thrashing as he played them. Keyboardist Pascal Le Beouf, who’s a distinguished jazz pianist in his own right, turned out to have sizzling, incisive chops on the organ as well. The most intense instrumental solo of the night came from tuneful, precise trombonist Natalie Cressman, while trumpeters Mike Gorham and Augie Haas got time in the spotlight along with trombonist Frank Cohen. The low end was bolstered by the twin pulse of bassist Tomek Miernowski and tuba player Mark McGinnis in tandem with Dave Scalia’s drums. In the quieter moments, percussionists Jake Goldbas and Austin Walker could be heard along with Tim Emmerick, who began the show’s first song with a bucolic banjo intro, later switching to acoustic guitar and singing harmonies as well.

While the tempos tended to sway and swing at a leisurely pace, the energy went up to redline with the first big rise from the horn section and stayed that way. Most of the songs were in major keys, eschewing the dark otheworldliness of some gospel music, especially the old stuff. And while the tunes often went straight to church, the lyrics didn’t. The catchiest song of the night was also the hardest-rocking number, with a gorgeous Le Boeuf organ solo and a more unhinged one from Miramonti. The show’s high point came courtesy of Flannery, whose sassy, indomitable low register was just as searingly powerful as her highest notes, fronting a gospel-soul number midway through the set and earned her the most applause of the evening. Neesley and Emmerick also teamed up for a rousing, slowly undulating tribute to getting so blitzed that the only option is to keep the bender going for another day, and that also resonated with the crowd. This music crosses a lot of boundaries, agewise, incomewise and otherwise, drawing a very diverse audience that represented Brooklyn a lot more, one suspects, than the typical crowds at this venue. The band doesn’t have any shows booked at the moment; watch this space.

The Blackfires Go Over the Edge and Back at Slake

By the time the Blackfires took the stage at their most recent New York show, almost two hours past the advertised start time at Slake – the recently expanded space a few blocks south of Madison Square Garden that for many years housed Downtime and then Albion – the overworked smoke machine had pretty much cleared out what was left of the crowd. And then in a second it was as if a flashmob had just arrived. With members from Russia, Spain, Uruguay, England and the US, the world’s arguably most multicultural metal band treated the audience to a volcanic, relentless assault seemingly tailor-made for Ozzfest or Donington. To get to witness this in such a relatively intimate room was a treat. They’ll be doing an even more intimate show at the Mercury on Sept 13 at 10:30; advance tix are $10 and highly recommended.

They got off to a good start with a stomping, stalking update on a classic Texas shuffle with expertly choreographed twin guitar riffage, possibly titled Walking Over You. But the next song built quickly to a florid chorus where frontman Andrey “Cheggi” Chegodaev’s campy falsetto started to sound more like an impersonator like Tammy Faye Starlite than an original artist – but then Gibson Les Paul player Anthony Mullin’s icepick bluesmetal riffage pulled the song away from self-parody. And it was after the next tune that a purist would have been asking himself (or herself), is this where somebody hits the singer with a pickle, and a meme is born? Mullin ended up having to come to the rescue a second time – and then, the band got serious, and stayed that way, and after a tantalizing hour onstage, were rewarded with screams for an encore – which they ended up not getting to play.

Getting to that point was a roller-coaster ride through the inferno. Mullin and Gibson SG player Hector Marin followed with a mashup of psycho Texas blues and Motorhead, Mullin using it as a launching pad for a long barrage of lighting volleys. How he managed to be so precise yet so unhinged was viscerally breathtaking to watch: Jack the Ripper with a guitar. And as the show went on, it turned out that Marin was every bit as fast and intense, with duck-and-cover stage moves to match. Bassist Grasebo Doe anchored the music with his growling lines, snapping at his strings to the point that it sounded like something was about to break, but nothing did. Drummer Joe Mitch held everything together with a surprising but effective, close-to-the-ground four-on-the-floor stomp.

From there the band swayed through an evilly lurid ba-BUMP noir cabaret tune spun through a warped metal prism, the kind of song that Kiss or Alice Cooper would take a shot at back in the 70s but never had the chops to play. Once again, Mullin delivered chills with his bone-shaking vibrato, winding it up with a nasty pickslide. Then he tuned down for a mean Johnny Winter-style slide guitar intro and waves of machinegunning riffage on another Texas shuffle..

Rocker Child, a vintage Judas Priest style anthem from the band’s Live from the Cutting Room album, hit a warp-speed interlude before the band reeled it back in. After a well-intentioned but pretty hopeless cover, the music threatened to drift back toward sludgy powerpop disguised as metal, but Mullin and Marin redeemed it with a furious duel that brought to mind Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith and Dave Murray at their mid-80s peak.

Bombay Rickey Put Out a Hauntingly Twangy, Exhilarating Debut Album

Brooklyn band Bombay Rickey‘s new album Cinefonia – streaming at Bandcamp - has got to be the best debut release of 2014, hands down. With twangy guitars, hypnotic grooves and frontwoman/accordionist Kamala Sankaram’s shattering five-octave vocals, the band blends surf music, psychedelic cumbias, Bollywood and southwestern gothic into a lusciously tuneful, darkly bristling mix. Bollywood is usually the root source lurking somewhere in each of the album’s ten surprise-packed, shapeshifting songs, but cumbia, spaghetti western soundtracks, and the Ventures in their border-rock moments are more-or-less constant reference points as well. Imagine a more south Asian-influenced Chicha Libre fronted by one of the most exhilarating voices in any style of music, a picture that becomes clearer considering that Sankaram got the inspiration for this project the night she teamed up with Chicha Libre for one-off Yma Sumac cover show. Bombay Rickey are venturing north from their Barbes home base to play a Manhattan album release show on Sept 8 at 8 PM at Joe’s Pub; advance tix are $12, which is the closest thing to a bargain as you’ll ever get at this shi-shi venue.

Sankaram’s voice could shatter a black hole, never mind glass. Much as she’s built a very versatile career (everybody from Philip Glass, to free jazz icon Anthony Braxton, to opera companies, keep her busy), this band seems to be a defiant attempt to resist all attempts at being pigeonholed. Then again, defiance is a familiar trait with her: when she’s not fronting other groups, she’s writing and performing her own politically transgressive operas.

Guitarist/keyboardist Drew Fleming is a connoisseur of 60s surf and psychedelic sounds.
Saxophonist/clarinetist Jeff Hudgins has a fondness for Mediterranean and Balkan tonalities; bassist Gil Smuskowitz shifts effortlessly between idioms, as do drummer Sam Merrick, percussionists Timothy Quigley and Brian Adler. The album opens with a Sumac tune, Taki Rari – it sounds like Los Mirlos‘ surf-cumbia classic Sonido Amazonico going down the Ganges. The interchange of accordion, strings, a sizzling sax solo and Sankaram’s electrifying shriek at the end are a visceral thrill, and do justice to the woman who sang it first.

Bombay 5-0, by Sankaram, transcends an awkward venture into takadimi drum language, Hudgins’ uneasy sax setting the stage for a big, dramatic, arioso vocal crescendo. Promontory Summit, a Fleming tune, explores dusky, hallucinatory desert rock vistas, bookended by balmy jazz-tinged ambience. The version of the Bollywood classic Dum Maro Dum (meaning “take another toke”) here is a lot more subtle and creepily suspenseful than either the boisterous, horn-fueled original or the many covers other bands have done over the years.

Pondicherry Surf Goddess, by Hudgins, starts out as an ambling shout-out to the Ventures, then winds its way through blistering newshchool Romany funk and art-rock. Another Hudgins tune, the somewhat menacing El Final Del Pachanga evokes Peruvian psychedelic legends Los Destellos, Hudgins’ sax intertwining with Sankaram’s supersonic vocal flights, Fleming following with a deliciously spiraling surf guitar solo.

Fleming sings the Johnny Horton-ish Coyote in the Land of the Dead, which sounds suspiciously like a parody. Likewise, Sankaram’s similarly deadpan rhumba-ish arrangement of a popular Mozart theme, which might have taken its cue from Chicha Libre covering Wagner. The high point among many on this album is a Sankaram composition, Pilgram, her wickedly precise, loopy accordion winding through a misterioso, lingering, surfy stroll with ominous bass and alto sax solos, the latter building to a spine-tingling coda. The album winds up with another darkly cinematic Sankaram number, Toco’s Last Stand, blending Balkan-flavored sax, dancing accordion and terse surf guitar underneath the singer’s unearthly wail. It’s a teens counterpart to the Ventures’ classic Besame Mucho Twist. This might not just be the best debut album of the year: it might be the best album of 2014, period.

The Clear Plastic Masks Return to Brooklyn With a Killer New Album

Nashville-based soul-punk band the Clear Plastic Masks have a wryly tuneful, guitarishly slashing new album, Being There – streaming here – and a couple of shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 9 PM on Sept 10 and 11. They’re opening for the similar White Denim; it’s a bill where the opener is bound to upstage the headliner. General admission is $20; there’s also a 9/12 show but it’s sold out. It’s a homecoming of sorts from CPM, who first came together in Brooklyn before heading south.

The two bands share influences – classic 60s soul, garage rock and psychedelia –  but CPM do all those styles consistently better. White Denim is one of those bands that will hit one out of the park once in awhile and as a result can be frustrating while you wait for them to pull it together: maybe they should take a listen to their tourmates’ latest release. In the spirit of 60s vinyl singles, CPM like short songs: most of everything here clocks in at around three minutes.

The opening track, In Case You Forgot winds haphazardly through an oldschool 60s soul tune, Matt Menold and Andrew Katz’s guitars bending and tremolopicking as the rhythm section – bassist Eddy DuQuesne and drummer Charlie Garmendia – veers all over the place, bringing to mind mid-80s post-Velvets bands like That Petrol Emotion. The second track, Outcast looks back to what the mid-60s Stones did with Bobby Womack, a period-perfect take on what enthusiastically ambitious British hippies could springboard from a vintage Memphis soul tune. The coy Baby Come On veers back and forth between a shimmery, summery soul ballad and anguished clusters of guitar: it brings to mind two late 90s/early zeros New York bands with an aptitude for classic soul, White Hassle and Douce Gimlet.

Pegasus in Glue wraps dancing Syd Barrett-influenced fuzztone garage psych around a woozy interlude kicked off with a droll Hendrix quote. The slowly swaying Aliens is a grimly funny number set to a slow, catchy gospel-rock tune: the creepy ending caps off the storyline perfectly. A parable about the lure and dangers of religion, maybe?

So Real kicks off as a stomping fuzztone strut, then the band makes half-baked Link Wray out of it, then picks it up again: again, Katz’s tongue-in-cheek, surrealist lyrics and deadpan cat-ate-the-canary vocals draw comparisons to White Hassle’s Marcellus Hall. Interestingly, the album’s best and darkest song, Dos Cobras turns out to be an instrumental, a mashup of Steve Wynn southwestern gothic, organ surf and the early Zombies.

Hungry Cup, a piano-and-vocal ballad, is the album’s weirdest moment, told from the point of view of a girl about to throw up her hands and give up on a guy who can’t pull his act together. It might be a very thinly veiled broadside directed at posers new to Notbrooklyn (i.e. gentrified white areas of formerly ethnically and economically diverse Brooklyn), a mashup of late 60s Stones, Vanilla Fudge and lo-fi swamp-rockers like Knoxville Girls. The album winds up with a couple of slow 6/8 numbers: When the Nightmare Comes, which sounds like the Libertines taking a stab at a Hendrix-style take on soul music, and Working Girl, which could be a shout-out to whores in general, to girls on the train during rush hour, or both. That’s one of this band’s strongest suits: you never really know where they’re coming from, and they have a lot of fun keeping you guessing.

Moody, Goth-Tinged Duo the Smoke Fairies Play a Rare Free Show in Williamsburg

British duo the Smoke Fairies set unpretentious vocals with low-key harmonies to attractive, tersely constructed, subtly orchestrated keyboard melodies with a typically shadowy, nocturnal ambience. A lot of Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire’s songs bring to mind Blonde Redhead at their most darkly shoegazy. The Smoke Fairies have a new self-titled album, their third, streaming at Spotify and a free, full-band show coming up on Sept 1 at Rough Trade in Williamsburg at 7 PM.

It’s a change of pace – is the heavy use of synths and piano this time around an attempt to replicate a mannered, campy Lana Del Rey faux-noir vibe? Happily, no. What most of these songs are is 90s-style trip-hop pop, very cleverly disguised and arranged. There’s more than a hint of classic 70s Britfolk in the vocals, and a nod to 80s goth-pop and darkwave in the background. The opening track, We’ve Seen Birds has the synth imitating a guitar tremolo – “Did you think we could exist like this?” the duo ask enigmatically. Eclipse Them All reaches toward a funeral parlor organ sound with the occasional lingering cry from the guitar – it’s a shot at seductively anthemic, Goldfrapp-style atmospherics.

Shadow Inversions works a more anthemically ghostly ambience, swirling over a simple, rising bassline with distorted, echoey guitars and drums. The slowly vamping Hope Is Religion builds to a hypnotic, Indian-flavored string ambience. Waiting for Something to Begin, a pulsing, angst-ridden escape anthem, blends distant Beatlisms into its nocturnal downtempo groove.

Your Own Silent Movie is another slow, angst-fueled anthem, sort of a mashup of 80s goth-pop and teens chamber pop, the dynamics rising and falling: “Each room of your house a drama you’ve been staging, but I will never let the curtains unfold,” the two insist.

Guest Andy Newmark’s tumbling, artsy drums raise the energy of Misty Versions above by-the-numbers folk noir, building to an icily seductive mix of crackling guitar noise and dreampop vocalese. Drinks and Dancing is hardly the bubbly pop song the title would suggest – instead, it’s a more hi-tech take on torchy, wounded Amanda Thorpe-style balladry. Likewise, Koto is not a Japanese folk song but a simple, tersely crescendoing two-chord trip-hop vamp.

Want It Forever takes an unexpected detour into garage rock, souped up with layers of keys and guitars. The Very Last Time ponders a torrid but impossible relationship that sounds like it was doomed from the start, set to what’s become an expectedly echoey, minor-key, hallucinatory backdrop. The album ends with the haunted, bitter, defeated Are You Crazy,opening as a regretful piano ballad and growing to a swaying, deep-space pulsar ambience. It’ll be interesting to see how much of all this orchestration and atmospheric hocus-pocus the band can replicate onstage.

Brown Sabbath Reinvents Some Iconic Metal Tracks

What could be more crazy than funky latin soul versions of Black Sabbath songs, right? Much as Sabbath are the prototypical stoner metal group, they could easily be the world’s least funky band. That’s where Brown Sabbath come in. The latest project from Texas band Brownout – a spinoff of latin rockers Grupo Fantasma – Brown Sabbath’s new album of reimagined Sabbath classics (streaming at youtube) is eye-opening, not a little iconoclastic, and fun as hell. They’ve got a Brooklyn Bowl show on Sept 5 at 9 PM. Cover is $15; you might want to get there a little early since this one might actually sell out.

The opening track, The Wizard, is the B-side of the album’s debut multicolor vinyl single. Kinda cool to open an album with a B-side rather than the A-side, isn’t it? At first, it’s surprisingly close to the original other than the clattering, machinegunning rhythm – that’s John Speice on drums and Sweet Lou on congas. Almost imperceptibly, they push it toward a lowrider groove with punchy horns – Gilbert Elorreaga on trumpet, Josh Levy on baritone sax and Mark Gonzales on trombone – the latter taking a surprisingly low-key solo.

The A-side, Hand of Doom features an ominously brittle lead vocal from the Black Angels‘ Alex Maas, and is the album’s longest song. Guitarists Adrian Quesada and Beto Martinez pair off crunch and wah – and some offhandedly delicious tremolopicking – over bassist Greg Gonzalez’s impressively purist, slightly trebly lines. Once again, the blasts from the horns and the clatter of the percussion are where the song strays from the original.

Iron Man gets reinvented as a whirling vortex of blaxploitation instrumental funk, a strong, anthemic groove that’s barely recognizable as Sabbath. N.I.B. gets a slinkier treatment, with fuzz bass and droll wah guitar, singer Alex Marrero channeling Lucifer as would-be loverman rather than doing an over-the-top Ozzy impression, Quesada employing some wry stoner effects rather than trying to out-multitrack Tony Iommi.

Believe it or not, the song that opens Sabbath’s debut album is actually creepier than the original: it’s all about dynamics and suspense, and leaving out the vocals doesn’t hurt. The outro is a hoot.

Into the Void starts out pretty straight-up, then also gets a blustery horn chart and that clip-clop sway – and an interlude straight out of Jethro Tull. The vocals aren’t missed here either. The album ends with a dreamy take of Planet Caravan, Marrero singing into the fan (or through a chorus pedal) just like Ozzy. The point of playing covers is not to reinvent the wheel but to put an individual spin on them, and that’s exactly what Brown Sabbath’s point seems to be. That, and to lift the psychedelic factor a few notches. Raise your forefinger and pinky to that.

Summer Memories: A Great, Obscure Show by SLV

SLV are one of the most entertaining bands in New York to watch. They’re all about textures, meaning that everybody in the band is constantly shifting from one thing to another. Frontwoman/multi-instrumentalist Sandra Lilia Velasquez’s other band, Pistolera, plays pretty straight-up jangly rock with a Mexican folk edge. This band is a lot more complicated. Velasquez writes very simple, catchy, direct themes, then builds them kaleidoscopically with an endlessly psychedelic stream of timbral shifts and exchanges between instruments over a hypnotic groove that sometimes rises with a completely unexpected explosiveness. Portishead and Stereolab seem to be strong influences, as is Sade (a singer Velasquez has grown to resemble, but with more bite and energy) and possibly artsy pop bands from the new wave era like ABC and Ultravox.

SLV played a big gig earlier this summer at South Street Seaport that was reputedly very well-attended (this blog wasn’t there). Hot on the heels of that one, they played another one at a small venue way uptown that was not. From the perspective of one of maybe two customers in the entire house, it was like getting a personal SLV show, and that was a lot of fun. Velasquez sang in both English and Spanish with her eyes closed, lost in the dreamy wash of textures floating over the groove – except when she was trading animated riffs with guitarist Mark Marshall, bassist/keyboardist Jordan Scannella and drummer Sean Dixon.

The show was more of a single, integral experience than a series of songs. Marshall kicked it off with with a hammering drum duel with Dixon before the bandleader took the song in a hazy, Sade-esque direction – her moody alto delivery has never been more expressive or enticing. They kept a similarly gauzy/jaunty dichotomy going through the next song, then Velasquez switched from guitar to keys for a number something akin to a funkier update on Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill. From there they made their way through an intricately rhythmic, swaying number that contrasted ambient atmospherics with Marshall’s incisive, stabbing lines.

The most intense number of the night was the most stripped-down one, History, Marshall playing its brooding Neil Young-esque changes as Velasquez intoned the lyrics – a caustic commentary on media duplicity – with a muted anger. Through a Pink Floyd-ish interlude with a spine-tingling, Gilmouresque Marshall guitar solo, an artsy 80s-tinged trip-hop number, and a Beatles/tango mashup with some deliciously icy vintage chorus-box guitar, the band kept up the endless series of elegant handoffs and exchanges. They closed with a jangly, biting version of Never Enough, the opening track on the band’s Meshell Ndgeocello-produced ep, sounding something like a trip-hop version of the old Golden Earring hit Twilight Zone. SLV are back in the studio now; keep your eyes posted for some of this new material to surface sooner than later.

Cellist Maya Beiser Reinvents Art-Rock and Metal Classics

There’s a little cello metal on Maya Beiser‘s new album Uncovered (streaming online), but most of it is art-rock. Beiser has made a name for herself in the classical and avant garde worlds; this time out, she plays gorgeously reinvented, sometimes ethereal, often otherworldly covers of well-known FM radio rock and blues songs. The new arrangements by Band on a Can All-Stars clarinetist Evan Ziporyn are magical, enabling Beiser to become a one-woman orchestra via lushly layered multitracks, occasionally backed by simple, emphatic bass and drums. She’s playing the album release show at le Poisson Rouge on Sept 4 at 7:30 PM; advance tix are $15 and worth it.

Other than a coy vocal come-on early in the album’s opening track, Led Zep’s Black Dog, the rest of the album is all instrumental. With the other Zep cover, Kashmir, it’s ironic that since Beiser goes easy on the bombast and heavy on the poignancy, the moody faux Egyptian bridge doesn’t carry the impact it does on the original. And where Beiser swoops and dives through Black Dog, she follows a steadily rocketing trajectory through the album’s heaviest number, Back in Black, up to a crescendo that’s just as funny if completely different from the AC/DC version.

There are also a trio of blues tunes. Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ at Midnight gets a hypnotically atmospheric, darkly otherworldly treatment. A remake of Muddy Waters’ Louisiana Blues is much the same but more rhythmic. And Beiser does Summertime as a dirgey, atmospheric waltz, using the Janis Joplin version as a stepping-off point.

But the real gems here are the art-rock songs. Beiser plays the famous series of chords that open Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing with an unexpected, striking fluidity instead of the punchiness you might expect; later on, she fires off a solo that brings to mind ELO’s Hugh McDowell. The high point of the album is the King Crimson classic Epitaph, a vividly elegaic take featuring Ziporyn’s bass clarinet doing a marvelous mellotron impersonation, Beiser substituting a long, loopy, ominously ambient outro in lieu of Michael Giles’ symphonic drumming on the original. Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here gets much the same treatment, but in reverse: atmospherics to open it, and then an artful cut-and-paste of the song’s central riffs in lieu of the slow segue into Shine on You Crazy Diamond. There’s also a Nirvana cover: Beiser and Ziporyn give it all they’ve got, but ultimately they’re stuck with a tune that never rises above peevishness. Beiser isn’t the first cellist to cover radio rock and metal: Rasputina did that on their covers album over a decade ago, and then there’s Apocalyptica, but this is even better.

People who like this album also ought to check out Sybarite5‘s similarly outside-the-box, playful album of Radiohead songs arranged for string quintet.

Hypnotic, High-Voltage Afrobeat Grooves from Afrolicious

More about that September 3, 8 PM show at Brooklyn Bowl mentioned here yesterday: Afrolicious are on a twinbill with Zongo Junction. If the idea of getting down on the dancefloor for three seriously sweaty hours is your thing, this is the place to be. Two bands, ten bucks.

Like Zongo Junction, Afrolicious has a new album, California Dreaming, streaming at Spotify. In a lot of ways, one band is the reverse image of the other: where Zongo Junction is all about mighty orchestration and expansive jams, Afrolicious keep things extremely tight and close to the ground, as you would probably expect from a somewhat smaller group. Where Zongo Junction’s psychedelic side plays up an intricate interweave between the instruments, especially the horns, Afrolicious is a lot more hypnotic and closer to the original Nigerian roots of Afrobeat. Afrolicious also blend elements of oldschool 70s disco and newschool dancefloor beats as well, drummer Paul Oliphant propelling a handful of numbers with the same kind of steady 2/4 thump you’d expect to find in techno…except that his groove is organic and doesn’t lose sight of the human element.

The album’s title track sets the stage, a seamlessly catchy, minor-key blend of funk, oldschool disco and Afrobeat, fueled by Wendel “Get Down” Rand’s dancing bass and the three-sax reed section of Kate Pittard, Aaron Liebowitz and Frank Mitchell. The second track, Revolution, pairs the optimistic vocals of frontman Freshislife with percussionists Baba Durum and Diamond over a steady, swinging funk vamp: “Everywhere I turn, I see revolution,” is their mantra. The cautionary tale Never Let No One mashes uo Fela and disco with terse horns and minor-key guitar from the axeman who calls himself “Pleasuremaker.” They follow that with Crazy, a brisk vintage disco number built out of a simple, incisive, bluesy guitar riff, making their way methodically up to a scurrying sax solo.

Pleasuretime is the first of the organic techno-influenced tunes, with elements of ska and dub reggae but more funky than either of those styles usually get. Pleasurepower follows a similar theme, followed by Thursday Right King Swing, which is almost a remix, but a live one, with more of that heavy dancefloor thud and spiraling electric piano, bringing in a Fela-esque arrangement so subtly that you don’t realize it until it hits you. The rest of the album comprises a couple of pretty straightforward Afrobeat jams, a reggae jam and one that’s more straight-up funk. Like all good party music, this works on a physical and metal level: free your ass and your mind will follow.

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