New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Month: March, 2012

Wave Sleep Wave Puts a New Spin on an Old Sound

If it’s absolutely necessary to pin a label on what Wave Sleep Wave does, you could call it dreampop. Reduced to its essentials, it’s a shimmering, glistening, swirling, jangly, misty vortex of guitar textures over steady drums. Frontman/guitarist Jerry Adler is a one-man orchestra, slowly and methodically building a web of textures, sometimes hypnotic, often symphonically ornate, like a late 80s British version of Jon Brion. Influence-wise, there are a million bands out there who ape the catchy, simple, major-key mid-80s sound that New Order and the Cure made so popular; here, Adler reverts back to a deeper, murkier 80s sound that also offers a nod to Wire and the Cocteau Twins. He first made a mark about ten years ago leading the Blam, the catchy but edgy indie pop band that should have been as popular as the Shins but wasn’t; a little later, he took a powerfully lyrical detour into Dylanesque acoustic rock with his Flugente project. What’s most impressive about this album is that it appears to be just guitars and drums, with no bass, yet the sonics have a gyroscopic balance. Drummer Yuval Lion – Adler’s cohort in the Blam – keeps things moving along tersely and briskly, for the most part. Fans of the dreampop canon from the Cocteau Twins, to Lush, to My Bloody Valentine, to more obscure bands like Downy Mildew, are going to love this record.

It’s best appreciated as an uninterrupted whole, considering that most of the tracks segue into each other. The opening cut, Rats starts out with edgy, percussive guitar accents against a wave of drone, then leaps into a swirling chorus, then back, with a characteristically juicy yet minimalist guitar solo midway through. Interestingly, while Adler is just as adept a wordsmith as a tunesmith, lyrics take a back seat to the guitars here. “We don’t know what’s wrong, we just know what’s right,” he intones, deadpan, on the second track, Laws, methodically crescendoing with echoes of Bauhaus and Pink Floyd as the guitar orchestra grows, and grows, and grows. Images of violence and discontent recur throughout the songs: it wouldn’t be a surprise to find out that this is a parable.

The hit single here is Hey…What, with its echoey guitar hook and dancefloor beat: “The pot is boiling with unbearable heat/The crowd turns violent and gets ready to blow/They’re tired of dancing with the devil they know,” Adler announces ominously as the song builds to a Railway Children-style chorus-box interlude with a seemingly endless wash of attractive, jazzy chords. Zip It artfully embellishes a catchy two-chord riff to a bell-like chorus and then echoey, choppy waves punctuated by buzzsaw lead lines, while Like Filings to Magnets is the most minimalist track here, juxtaposing a gentle, skeletal lead against a quietly oscillating drone. They evoke the artsy side of 17 Pygmies with the slowly swaying 1001 and then a sort of blend of Gang of Four and Cocteau Twins with Standard Fare, an apprehensive, allusive, nightmarish scenario. The album closes with Tongues, setting bloody imagery over a dark, offcenter backdrop that sounds like it might be playing at halfspeed, and then the anthemic How Low, which builds tension before finally resolving with a mighty “clang” on the chorus. As far as trippy, tuneful unease goes, albums don’t get much better than this. Wave Sleep Wave plays the album release show for this one at Bowery Electric on April 17 at 8 PM.


The Brixton Riot Hits One Out of the Park

The Brixton Riot are sort of an American counterpart to the Jam. Unlike the punk-era legends, their rhythms are more straight-ahead, four-on-the-floor, and the presence of two guitarists gives them a roaring, sometimes shimmering edge that the British band didn’t always have. And where the Jam looked to the Who and older American R&B bands for tunes, the Brixton Riot’s latest album Palace Amusements blends a Guided by Voices assault with catchy Big Star-influenced powerpop, sometimes veering into swirling dreampop or even toward the indie side of country. But otherwise the two bands have a lot in common, particularly a sharply literate lyrical vision. Frontman/guitarist Jerry Lardieri’s presence is strong but understated: much of the time this band lets the guitars do the talking. And that’s a great thing because they’re a blast; lead player Mark Wright adds some genuinely face-peeling intensity here. On top of all of this, the album is gorgeously produced: most bands these days can barely make it through a single verse before they loop it a couple of times and then call it done, but these guys fine-tune the sonic spectrum for ringing overtones, wailing bluesy lines, roaring punk rock grit and plenty of lush, attractive jangle and clang. Hardly anyone makes albums anymore that sound this good.

The title track, Signal to Noise, is an instant insight into how they work. The title is a snide metaphor for current pop music, “a hollow sound across the nation, signal to noise ratio.” It starts out with an insistent staccato riff, a bit like Wire, then morphs into something like a cross between GBV at their most lucid and Ted Leo at his least self-absorbed. The second track, Hard to See the Sun explores suburban anomie: “Keeping to yourself ’cause you love a mystery, deleting all the ghosts from your family history – it’s fine, it won’t change,” Lardieri observes sarcastically. There’s a series of big, shimmery dreampop swells, some nice terse slide guitar licks and then an offhandedly savage Mark Wright solo that goes chord-chopping and then sidewinding evilly into the last chorus. Wright is dangerous player, the rare lead guitarist you want to hear more from.

Canvas Shoes is just plain hilarious. With their silly accents and the music they’re compelled to make in order to conform to their peer group, the pampered children of Bushwick and Wicker Park make easy targets. But this is priceless: “Hey pretty boy, you know who you are, in your sister’s clothes, with your father’s guitar,” and it only gets better from there. The flip side of that equation is reflected in the scorching Motown rocker Our Cover’s Been Blown, an anxious and probably autobiographical look at a band staring at what looks more and more like a dead end, with “an easy road back to the commuter crawl,” as Lardieri bleakly puts it. They go back to only slightly less mean and sarcastic with Hipster Turns 30, a spot-on commentary for those on the wrong side of that number whose “accounts are overdrawn, no more rent checks from mom,” who’re finally trading in any claim to coolness in order to become their parents all over again.

Pinwheel stomps from a steady intro from bassist Steve Hass and drummer Matt Horutz to a catchy, Reducers-flavored pub rock tune, with more tremolo-picked menace from Wright, while Strange Matter sends out a snarling thank-you to the Jam’s Strange Town. But the closest thing to the Jam here is actually Ocean Avenue, punchy verse giving way to roaring chorus as Lardieri tells the bitter tale of a rocker who sees his neighborhood being destroyed by gentrification along with his dreams of not having to “turn all the amps down.”

The raging yet furtive Keep It a Secret takes a backbeat country tune and disguises it as punk, like Twin Turbine might have done ten years ago: it makes a good anthem for the era of Occupy sites. The bitter It’s Been Too Long goes deeper into a chronicle of a band reaching crisis point, with what by now is an expectedly cynical outlook:

Please spare me the speech, let’s get on with the rot
And count all the breaks that we never got
Let’s stop talking trash, let’s make a new start
Are we breaking new ground or just breaking apart?

The album ends with Losing Streak, one of the great baseball songs in the history of rock – trying to figure out if it’s pure fiction or a thinly veiled account of an actual blue-chip hitting prospect who’s going bust is maddening. When the band throws in a droll Wilco quote toward the end, that’s the only relief in sight. Like a lot of New Jersey bands, the Brixton Riot has been making Maxwell’s their home lately for live shows when they’re not playing in Manhattan; watch this space for upcoming dates.

Love Camp VII – Their Brilliant Swan Song?

If this is the last Love Camp 7 album – and it might be – the long-running New York psychedelic rockers went out on a high note. Aside from a brief set by two longtime members – frontman/guitarist Dann Baker and bassist Bruce Hathaway – at a Manhattan bar last year, and an upcoming cd release show by the three surviving bandmates (guitarist Steve Antonakos joining Baker and Hathaway) at the Parkside this Saturday, this looks like the end for one of the most unpredictably brilliant rock acts to ever come out of this town. Despite the tragic and unexpected 2010 death of drummer Dave Campbell – whose nimble, shapeshifting, jazz- and Brazilian-influenced rhythms in many ways defined this band – they have a brilliant album to show for some of their last studio sessions. Titled Love Camp VII, it features the full band playing fourteen songs (including a secret track), all using Beatles albums as their titles.

While there are plenty of wry and lovingly pilfered riffs here, this isn’t a Beatles parody. Nor is it a homage in the strict sense of the word: when the Fab Four first make an actual appearance, it’s after the band has broken up, a rather cruel look back on what John, Paul, George and Ringo’s solo careers should have been (ok, Ringo gets a pass) but weren’t. Rather, this album is sort of a history of the Beatles era, that band somewhere in the picture, usually in the background. Which makes sense, given Baker’s fondness for historical themes (particularly on the group’s fifth and arguably best album, 2007’s Sometimes Always Never).

For all the stylistic and tempo changes here, this is basically a janglerock record with numerous breaks for psychedelic mayhem. Meet the Beatles opens the album, taking a brightly jangly Merseybeat melody and twisting the rhythm, with a big choir of voices, a fragment of baroque guitar, and a rolling, tumbling Campbell solo all together in the middle, one right after the other. That’s Love Camp 7 in a nutshell. The Beatles’ Second Album is cast as a shuffling, harmony-driven reminiscence by a kid whose time in a dysfunctional family is soothed by that particular soundtrack. Arguably the funniest track here, A Hard Day’s Night subtly observes how the Beatles changed everybody’s lives, in this case the members of the Byrds (back when Jim McGuinn was in the band – the lyrics are priceless). It’s the most Spinal Tap moment here, in a comedic sense at least.

Beatles ’65 evokes the Hollies with its bracing major/minor changes, then shifts suddently from cheery Merseybeat to an ornately artsy anthem and then back again. Beatles VI completely switches gears, an unexpectedly grinding, proto-metal heavy R&B number, like the Pretty Things circa 1968, that cynically celebrates the “media saturation” that the Beatles spearheaded. With its layers of ironically blithe harmonies, Help imagines what Lennon might have done without Yoko, George without Krishna, Paul if he hadn’t stolen ideas from Denny Laine, and Ringo….”help me understand how he ended up so much the same.” It’s a beautiful ballad, something that Roy Wood could have written: reputedly Erica Smith (who’s opening the Saturday show at 8:30) has a version of this song in the can that’s even better.

Rubber Soul starts out as a look back at Love Camp 7’s trickily rhythmic, often dissonant earlier work and then rises to a roaring art-rock crescendo complete with horns, while Revolver cleverly recasts a summer pool party as portent of radical times to come. Ironically, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has more in common musically with earlier Beatles sounds, although at this point marijuana finally makes an appearance: “The moon will soon be manned; brave new world’s at hand,” Baker observes, not without apprehension. A somewhat radically reconstructed skiffle tune, Magical Mystery Tour explores Baker’s first encounter with the album – in a Sav-On department store at the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles.

The Beatles is the second proto-metal track here and also only the second to (briefly) chronicle the band, in this case what seems to be their eventual demise. The most musically diverse track here, Let It Be juxtaposes hardcore punk with a coldly sarcastic pop melody and a blatant I Am the Walrus quote. The saddest track (and ostensibly the final one) is Abbey Road, gently quoting the introduction to the Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry and later the Youngbloods’ Come Together as the 70s creep in, “Lying in their beds, a fearful throbbing in their heads, wishing they were dead; nobody cares.” The mystery track, The Beatles’ Story, is a perfect match of pensive yet optimistically jangly, Arthur Lee-esque pop that ends the album on a less than optimistic note: arguably, being able to live vicariously through the Beatles is a lot more fun than actually being one.

Beninghove’s Hangmen Get Noir at Spike Hill

Last year Beninghove’s Hangmen put out an amazing debut album of menacing noir jazz pieces, creepy Lynchian waltzes and macabre surf rock songs. Sunday night at Spike Hill they played a set of virtually all new material that was just as intense, and a lot more diverse. To those who know the band, it might come as a shock that they either would or could pull off a blissfully bouncy calypso jazz song, alto saxophonist Bryan Beninghove and trombonist Rick Parker meandering without a care in the world, until at the end it became clear that Parker had his tongue planted firmly in cheek. But it pays to be eclectic, if you get a lot of film work as Beninghove does.

The rest of the set was as lusciously creepy as their album, driven as much by the guitars as the horns, Ryan Mackstaller (of Little Worlds) handling most of the the eerily unhinged clanging surf lines while Eyal Maoz played a surprisingly low-key but smoldering mix of Middle Eastern and flamenco-tinged phrases. Elephantine blasts from Beninghove and Parker kicked off a furtive surf shuffle early in the set, Maox and Johnson trading increasingly agitated tremolo-picked lines that Johnson eventually picked up with a howling, chromatic intensity, Beninghove following with screams followed by agile downward swirls. Then he put down his sax for a melodica for a swinging two-chord vamp that sounded just a little too happy to be true, and sure enough that was the case when Parker brought in a some mournfully quavery ambience that Beninghove picked up energetically, this time on soprano sax, Parker’s low lurking menace contrasting with Maoz’ R2D2 blips and bleeps.

The album track they played was Roadhouse, a luridly stomping Twin Peaks nocturne featuring a searing noiserock duel between the guitars that finally dwindled to a brief interlude hinting at dub before the horns joined forces with some wry Peggy Lee allusions. Beninghove agilely led the group through a rhythmically tricky, tango-tinged surf tune, something akin to Booker T meeting Bernard Herrmann at the beach at night, with some haphazardly evil leads by Johnson and then Maoz as the horns swooped and dove. The rest of the set included a skronky Marc Ribot-style noir blues, ominously gritty guitar pitted against sultry, smoky sax, and a wild, klezmer-fueled number introduced by a long, chill-inducing Maoz intro that had the feel of a Middle Eastern oud jam. If you’re in New York and noir music is your thing, get out and see them now: they’ve been playing out a lot lately.

Meet MesAyah

MesAyah is a hip-hop artist from Norway. He seems to have learned English from hip-hop, which actually isn’t a bad thing, hip-hop being a lot more intelligent than, say, what’s on tv. His spelling is kind of unique also – but the insights this guy has? WOW.

He’s currently doing a 365 challenge, a new rhyme every day and a lot of them are totally kick-ass: hip-hop fans should bookmark his page and check back frequently. For example, the March 22 rhyme about kids rotting their brains with celebrity worship, or the March 11 joint about Starbucks in Norway: spot-on and funny as hell (you’ll have to click the link above and scroll down to the middle of the page). This self-styled “Nas meets Peter Gabriel” is the real deal, as aware as he is amusing, covering topics as diverse as the European Community taking over sovereignty from Norwegian citizens, to the plight of a poor cucumber destined for a salad (or maybe a pickle jar – it’s too bizarre and funny, you’ll have to read it for yourself and decide). For those who might be interested, he has four albums albums out. The most recent one is Paradise of Paradigms, from last year; the best title is 2007’s Mindgames for the Braindead.

Going Up with Otis

What can you say about a funk band – the songs are catchy, they have a good groove, you can dance to it, some of the licks would make good hip-hop samples, right? What makes Brooklyn soul/funk band Otis any different? Arrangements, neat songwriting touches and unpredictability: they switch from one era to another in a split-second and make it seem totally natural, their solos aren’t long, but they make them count within some of the most entertaining, sometimes psychedelic charts this side of Steely Dan. Their influences are strictly oldschool, spanning from the 60s to the 80s. They’ve got three albums out: the one you should immediately download without wasting one more second, if your wifi is screaming and you love classic funk and soul, is their free Live at Rockwood Music Hall album at their Bandcamp site (where they have their two studio albums streaming as well). This one is the best way to get to know them because it doesn’t have all the studio overdubs or the big brass section, but what it says is their songs are so strong that they stand up with just basic guitar, keys, bass and drums. And although the sound quality isn’t pristine – it sounds like somebody recorded it on a good-quality phone, with a group of chatty girls just close enough to be annoying – it’s a gateway drug to the rest of their stuff.

Their most recent album Music Elevator (Otis – get it?) is their best. They particularly excel at oldschool 60s soul grooves. You’re Makin’ Love Easy (another free download) blends a warm Memphis vibe with 70s funk, a summery Willie Mitchell-style horn chart, David Lowenthal’s slinky bass, and Steve Cropper-esque guitar for the same kind of vibe that Robert Cray was working about ten years ago. The attractively blues-tinged Sophia adds some carefree Beatlesque touches as well as a nice contrast between Justin Etheredge’s biting, echoey Rhodes piano and Craig Schoenbaum’s jangly guitar. And the big funk/soul anthem Creeping is packed with cool psychedelic touches like a weirdly oscillating drone that literally creeps in when the lyrics get worrisome, and a little bit later a mysterioso Riders on the Storm electric piano interlude.

With its spacy bluesfunk guitar and bubbly Rhodes piano, Every Story takes a lavish, lush early 70s Stylistics-style ballad and reinvents the genre. A New Addiction, with its neat intermingling of Sylvester Onyejiaka’s tenor sax, Dominick Magnotta’s drum breaks, soulful bluesrock guitar and swooshy organ, could be a Bill Withers tune, while the sarcastic kiss-off anthem Stuck could be the Crusaders around 1976. The fast, funky shuffle Automatic People, with its conscious lyrics and catchy, rising hook, brings to mind vintage Curtis Mayfield, while the swinging funk-pop of How It Is reminds of Steely Dan. The rest of the album alternates between harder-edged dancefloor funk like the wry, socially aware Other Man and a four-minute tune called Bump that the band could have made twice as long – and probably does in concert – and more mellow stuff like Gone Away, with its laid-back, latin-flavored Grover Washington-style groove fueled by Gerard O’Shea’s breezy alto sax. If oldschool funk and soul are your thing, get to know these guys, they’re a lot of fun.

Sunday with the GVO

Sunday the Greenwich Village Orchestra, led by guest conductor Farkhad Khudyev, put on a characteristically majestic, sweeping, intuitive performance of a couple of concert standards as well as a late addition to the bill that turned out to be the piece de resistance. Khudyev isn’t a flamboyant conductor: he seems to be part of the music, swaying as if lost in it but responding to its nuances with split-second timing, breaking the trance whenever necessary – which happened a lot. Born of Azeri heritage, his affinity for a fellow composer from the Caucasus, Aram Kachaturian, is no secret, so it made sense that the orchestra opened with the Sabre Dance. “The chase scene!” said one onlooker. “Keystone Kops,” remarked another. It was a little of both, and more, but it wasn’t camp either: this was a pinpoint, precise take, a whirling dervish of a spectacle with more than a little sense of unease.

That came to the forefront in Kachaturian’s Violin Concerto, GVO concertmaster Robert Hayden tackling its spiraling swirls and incisive, insistent passages with a raw, bracing tone and a dynamic attack that spanned pretty much the entire spectrum. Anxiety gave way to pure apprehension and then suspensefully lush atmospherics as the piece moved into the morose, dirgelike second movement, punctuated intensely by staccato, stalking bass. Khudyev brought out the tango allusions lurking just beneath the surface (tangos were a big thing throughout much of the eastern bloc at the time this was written), to the brightly anxious minuet that closes it.

The grand finale was Brahms’ Symphony No. 3. Like a beautiful woman, it has a fan base but also an element that loves to hate on it for that same beauty. But it’s not shallow: that beauty is wistful and bittersweet, which has kept it in circulation all these years. Its motifs have percolated throughout Hollywood, and tv, and commercials and NPR themes to the point where everybody knows it, if not always by name. How does an orchestra make this big, beautiful old warhorse fresh without subsuming that central beauty in something the composer didn’t want? Can and should an orchestra attempt anything like that in the first place? To an extent, this ensemble did, with rewarding results. The first movement was billowy and lush as expected: stripped to its essentials (buried deep, deep beneath the swells of the strings), it’s a courtly dance, stately but not regal, Teutonic but not mechanical. Khudyev gave the sweeping, swoony nocturnal second movement extra altitude by bringing it down very, very quietly in places to add an element of contrast: as with the Kachaturian, his attention to detail was striking. The orchestra gave the wounded third movement an arioso grandeur that stopped just thisshort of camp and then let the juxtaposition of triumphant swells and candlelit glimmer speak for itself the rest of the way. Epic, lush and ultimately optimistic, it was a triumph in every sense of the word.

The Greenwich Village Orchestra’s next concert is on May 20 at 3 PM, with guest conductor Yaniv Segal (of the equally eclectic, thrilling Chelsea Symphony) leading a performance of Shosakovich’s Symphony No. 9 followed by the GVO’s own Barbara Yahr conducting Tschaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.

Sharon Goldman Owns the Stage in Brooklyn

Saturday night at the friendly downstairs First Acoustics Coffeehouse in downtown Brooklyn, songwriter Sharon Goldman played a casually brilliant show backed by a nimble rhythm section of Niko Dann on cajon and cymbals and a smart, terse bassist who alternated judiciously between melodic grooves and wary bowed melody lines. Goldman opened the show ambitiously, a-cappella, with Time Is an Airplane, a jazzy pop tune from her latest album Sleepless Lullaby, stripped down to its country roots. Poised but not slick, she’s a sophisticated singer, shifting subtly between emotions, sometimes in the same song. In her all-too-brief set opening for Sloan Wainwright, she varied her approach as the concert went on, several times reaching up for full-throated high notes that sent overtones shimmering through the PA system, a powerful and hair-raising effect that’s probably the last thing you would expect from someone in the folk-pop world.

Goldman has a new ep out as a free download, and she played two-thirds of it. Sun is a recurrent image in her writing, but it’s often elusive and sometimes even sinister. As usual, she let the images do the talking with Pocket Full of Sun, a backbeat country song whose pensiveness eventually gave way to a quiet triumph. By contrast, she delivered Tuesday Morning Sun, a 9/11 memoir from a distance, with understated dread, letting its final minor chord ring out on her guitar at the end.

Goldman is also a great wit, and she let her hair down with a somewhat cruelly sardonic look at a high school reunion, a series of increasingly amusing riffs on how the years have been unkind to “all my friends, replaced by aliens: older aliens!” Again, she let the images speak for themselves. These days it seems that one cable channel or another is always doing some kind of school reunion show: this song would make a perfect theme. She followed with a biting version of what might be her best song, Suburban Sunshine, a pulsing garage rock number that looks back in anger at an adolescence where the sunshine is “heavier than rain,” and where ultimately there’s no choice left but to get out. She closed with the disarmingly complex Short Brown Hair, a Snow White/Rose Red dichotomy that manages to be cute and funny but just as poignant, a vivid recollection of childhood sibling rivalry which ends with the sweet taste of revenge, in this case a bite of stolen jellybeans.

Wainwright was next. What can be said about her that hasn’t been said already? Lovely voice, with a strong but nuanced command of gospel and soul as well as folk music; understated and sympathetic accompaniment; attractively accessible melodies, and a complete absence of anything resembling subtext, paradox or intrigue. Honest beyond reproach, in the world she comes from, everything is exactly as it seems. By the way, this venue is a wonderful alternative to the uptight, nickel-and-dime approach that most folkie venues take: the staff are warm and friendly, there are many options for seating, and neighborhood folk have brought all kinds of treats, baked and otherwise, in case  you’re hungry or thirsty.

Today’s Free Download

Today’s free download comes from Stillwater, Oklahoma’s Gray Field Recordings. They’ve got a couple of irresistibly creepy tunes up at their soundcloud site, from their latest album Nature Desires Nature, which is out as a limited-edition pressing from Reverb Worship. Is this goth music? Film music? Indie classical? Ambient soundscapes? It’s a little of all of the above, it’s totally original and a lot of it is absolutely haunting. The first song, Willow Wally, is an Elizabethan gothic tone poem of sorts, the group’s frontwoman R. Loftiss’ quietly insistent vocals juxtaposed against a low, ominous drone with icy sheets of strings that eventually join forces with the drone and then swirl their way out. The other is Scared of Wolves, a menacingly theatrical, surreal spoken-word duet between predator and prey, ghostly snippets of sound (backward masking?) flitting through the mix over brooding cello, swirling layers of vocals and a lushly orchestrated crescendo. There are other tracks streaming at the site as well which are equally intense. “To Epimetheus. Love, Pandora,” says the album dedication – well put. Download them here.

Small Beast Lives!

As recently as a couple of years ago, Small Beast was the weekly New York rock event. Then founder/impresario and Botanica frontman Paul Wallfisch absconded to Germany, leaving the series in the hands of a rotating cast of characters and the Beast began to get even smaller. The 88-key spinet piano which spawned the series’ name is now gone from the upstairs stage at the Delancey, but the shows continue just about every week, and once in a while the glory days of 2009 rear their head as a pleasant reminder that the gentrifiers have not completely taken over this town and edgy rock music in New York isn’t quite dead yet. Monday was one of those nights. Thomas Simon was one of the earlier acts, playing solo on electric guitar with his usual labyrinth of effects pedals spanning the stage. This guy has more pedals than most orchestras have people, the result being that he often sounds like an orchestra, endless loops, waves and washes of sound reverberating through the mix. Kinetic and sometimes frenetic as he lunged and stabbed at his effects, firing off shuddering blasts of noise, eerily reverberating Syd Barrett-esque chords or gleefully macabre lead runs, he was a little more rock and a little less ambient this time than usual (he’s got a new album out with a full band behind him, which may explain a lot). In just under an hour onstage he managed to evoke Bauhaus, Pink Floyd, the Church, My Bloody Valentine and Philip Glass, sometimes within seconds of each other. It’s rare that a solo performer can be this interesting to watch.

Bee and Flower were next, playing a mix of crowd favorites and songs from their long-awaited third album, Suspension, due out next month. They’ve been one of New York’s (and sometimes Berlin’s) best bands for a dozen years, beginning with their long-running residency at Pete’s Candy Store back in the days when Interpol would open for them. Frontwoman/bassist Dana Schechter gets all kinds of props for her sizzling four-string chops and her work as a film composer, but she’s also a hell of a singer, and she never sang better than she did Monday night (through the haphazard Small Beast PA system, at that). She crooned, pondered, held out hope and then slowly let it down, going up the scale to a wide-open, wounded wail once, but she made it count. They opened with I Know Your Name, the first track on their 2004 debut album, its stately, steady pensiveness giving way to outright menace as the chorus kicked in. And they paid no mind to the chatty crowd, taking their time with the gently hypnotic, pastoral guitar/violin interplay on the outro. A couple of the newer songs were more upbeat with a dark new wave rock vibe; guitarist Lynn Wright got some delicious opportunities to clang and twang and even tremolo-pick his way through a particularly dark, ominous 6/8 anthem and made the most of them. A slow, pained, elegaic ballad (also in 6/8, a tempo Schechter loves) began with surgically precise, pizzicato violin, rose with reverberating tremolo guitar and ended with a swell of swooshy funeral organ; another new one kicked off as a tango and turned into a ridiculously catchy new wave anthem when they got to the chorus.

Earlier in the show, there was endless comedy in the form of spraytanned, overstuffed girls stuffed into tacky dollar-store dresses, tottering drunkenly down from the roof to the bathrooms in what must have been excruciating high heels. Apparently there was a launch party up there for some reality tv show. Goes to show how far that side of the “entertainment” business has fallen: where were they having their big launch shindig? At some swanky velvet-roped joint in the meatpacking district? Nope, at the grungy ole Delancey. Schechter found the parade of heels and saggy cleavage very amusing: “Where I come from, they’re called drag queens.”