New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Picking Up the Pieces After Frankenstorm

Frankenstorm pretty much lived up to its name. Nuclear reactors around the area, at least as far as the official story is concerned, were unaffected, with two exceptions. One of the reactors at Indian Point, thirty miles north of Manhattan, was taken offline after a rise in outside water levels, and is presently being cooled according to regular protocol. Of more concern was the Oyster Creek plant in Lacey Township, NJ, just south of Red Bank, which went on alert for a day after cooling systems there failed the night of the storm. Full outside power was restored on Oct 31, and the alert was lifted: there doesn’t seem to be any persistent threat beyond the usual.

At present (afternoon of Nov 3), NYC bus service is back; much of subway service in Queens and Brooklyn has been restored, but the only train running between Manhattan and Brooklyn is the 4. Check the MTA site for the latest developments; there’s still no 3,7, B, C, E, G or Q train service and no trains between 34th Street and downtown Brooklyn other than the 4. Free shuttle buses continue to run uptown from Brooklyn along 3rd Ave. and 57th St. from the Fulton Mall in downtown Brooklyn, and southbound to Brooklyn along Lexington Ave. beginning at 57th St.  

As far as music is concerned, clubs are cancelling shows one day at a time rather than shutting down for an extended period; whether this is wishful thinking or a good omen remains to be seen. There are still areas in Manhattan south of 34th St. which do not have electric power.

If you’re feeling stir-crazy, best to check with the club or your favorite artist beforehand before wasting a trip. The latest NYC live music calendar is here; a comprehensive list of NYC venues is here.

New York Music Daily’s debut Sunday Salon at Zirzamin on November 4 at 5 PM is happening, followed by a performance by Lorraine Leckie and Her Demons at 7. Come on down if you’re in the neighborhood!

Magical Eastern European Sounds from Vasko Dukovski’s Amniotic Fluid

Vasko Dukovski is one of the world’s most highly sought-after clarinetists. He usually plays concert halls with orchestras and chamber ensembles. But the Macedonian-born reedman also has a passion for music from his native land, as well as Balkan and gypsy tunes. Earlier this year, he put out a deviously entertaining collection of droll folk-flavored themes under the name Amniotic Fluid, with eclectic percussionist Krume Stefanovski and powerhouse accordionist Jordan Kostov. It’s a pretty radical change from the classical and indie classical sounds that Dukovski is usually associated with, less of a display of sensational chops than imagination and wit.

The songs are a mix of moody vamps and less serious ones: the titles, like Sta-Me-Na and China Express Around the World, pretty much give them away. On the lighter side, there’s the carefree groove Svirci Iz Kavadarci (The Bulgarian in Honolulu), a sarcastic Jimmy Buffett lost-in-the-Balkans tune. There’s Salsa’s Journey, which takes a sassy ready-get-set-go riff and develops it into a psychedelic thicket of multitracked clarinet and accordion, capped off with a long, brightly sailing Dukovski solo. And Bace Don’t Kraj is no relation to the Cure: it’s a live trip-hop theme that builds to an allusive noir jazz atmosphere, Kostov blazing through a rapidfire staccato solo over an endless series of tricky rhythmic changes.

The cinematic Cabaret Bombay begins with foghorn clarinet and then morphs from a march into jazzy trip-hop, while Chobarium is more ambient and suspenseful. Vatashkata interchanges brooding gypsy-flavored interludes with a long, lively Macedonian dance. Slinky as it is, Sloga Sarajevo (Peace Sarajevo) has an inescapably apprehensive undercurrent. Muv Let- Melburnshka Tresenica mingles a series of rapidfire clusters with nimble, echoey vibraphone, while the trio turn the traditional Flying Bulgar into a jaunty tango.

But maybe in keeping with the intensity that defines Dukovski’s work, the two best songs on the album are its darkest. Veseliot Oktopod (Cheerful Octopus) starts out with a series of tongue-in-cheek, cartoonish motifs and then turns surprisingly plaintive: clearly, this octopus has issues. And the absolutely creepy, phantasmagorical carnival theme Be Careful Children packs more menace in its barely two minutes than most horror-movie soundtracks. All this goes to show what kind of magic can happen when you put three of the most original players in Eastern European music together and see what they come up with from basically just messing around.