Twin Peaks Music from Dimestore Dance Band at Zirzamin

by delarue

Back in the mid-zeros, Dimestore Dance Band were one of the two or three best bands in the scene centered around Tonic, the late, lamented Lower East Side hotspot for improvised music. When Tonic closed in 2006, Dimestore – guitarist Jack Martin, bassist Jude Webre and drummer Scott Jarvis – pretty much closed their doors as well. Since then, Martin and Webre have played together sporadically as a duo. Last night at Zirzamin, the two had a new drummer, who stepped in tersely and smartly, and in a lot of ways they sounded better than ever. The music’s curves are smoother, its rough edges more jagged, and Martin’s guitar playing just gets darker and more intense. They’ve never been more noir, or more fascinating to watch.

Martin, unlike a lot of other virtuoso guitarslingers, is not a chameleonic player. Steeped in gypsy jazz, country blues and ragtime, there’s often a jaunty lilt to his playing, but it’s impossible to imagine the former lead axeman of popular swamp rockers Knoxville Girls playing anything blithely all the way through. His sound is distinctive, full of irascible slides, brightly hopeful bent notes and eerie, ringing chromatics: rich with irony, sometimes exasperation, bitterness or outright anguish, but with an irrepressible joie de vivre peeking defiantly from behind the clouds. It’s the personification of noir: Twin Peaks music with a sprightly swing bounce.

Their opening tune set the tone for about half of what they played, a matter-of-factly swinging number loaded with biting chromatics that gave it a pervasive sense of unease, Webre’s tensely stalking bassline underscoring that. Martin made his way methodically into an unexpectedly unhinged, atonal interlude that he suddenly backed away from, as Webre kept a steady pace through the danger zone. The most haunting song of the night was a slow, slinky, smoky, chromatic theme that built from morose allusiveness to a furtively steady prowl, Martin again backing away to let Webre’s moody resolve hold the course, the swirls of the cymbals upping the ante as the song wound out. Then they flipped the script with an unexpectedly upbeat groove that added all kinds of spiny bits to a playful, peekaboo vintage soul/funk melody. From there they went into wryly shuffling western swing as Django might have done it, then back to the noir with a mysterious southwestern gothic bolero over a sinister garage rock bassline. Martin spiraled, brooding and sparse over it, Webre’s ominously tiptoeing bassline signaling a series of even more ominous spaghetti western chords from Martin, working up to a tricky false ending and then back to the suspenseful wee-hours desert chill. It would have made a standout track on a vintage-era Friends of Dean Martinez album.

They brought back the devious swing with the most gypsyish tune of the night, warped Django building to a coy fanfare on the turnaround, then did another bolero with a bit of skronk and latin soul, Martin adding his signature passing tones and chromatics to darken it unexpectedly: the clouds sweeping in over Andalucia. From there the cinematics grew more spare, Webre playing tense octaves over stately cymbal crashes as Martin skirted the melody, then finally brought it back with a gypsyish unresolve. Their final two numbers were a sultry, slow gypsy groove that turned creepy and cinematic, Martin picking up with an unrestrained menace as it wound up, and then a briskly devious blend of gypsy jazz and garage rock, Martin hinting at the end that they’d make yet another hairpin turn into glistening greyscale shadows…but the show was over. Dimestore Dance Band’s next show is at Zebulon at 9 PM on August 2 with another first-rate noir guitarist, Ben Von Wildenhaus and his band, who are playing their farewell New York show.