Sean Noonan Conjures Up More Menacing Magic

by delarue

A pavee is an Irish Tinker, a member of the nomadic tribe who’ve spread culture, repair and reinvention across the Emerald Isle for centuries. Drummer Sean Noonan saw a connection between those travelers and what the band he’d pulled together for his latest album was doing during their lone rehearsal for it, so he was inspired to name Pavees Dance, his collection of darkly surrealistic, shapeshifting, highly improvised art-rock mini-epics, after them. The band also happens to be well-traveled: Aram Bajakian, Lou Reed’s last lead player, who might just be the most exciting guitarist in any style of music right now; bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, who famously did a long stint in free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman’s band; and Can co-founder Malcolm Mooney, who was largely responsible for making that band’s debut album Monster Movie so monstrous, on vocals. This feral, individualistic crew wil be playing the album release show on May 30 at around 9 at Bowery Electric. Advance tix are $10; the show looks like it’s going to be a wild one.

Noonan’s previous album A Gambler’s Hand blended indie classical, chamber metal and art-rock, a collaboration with a string quartet assembled from the ranks of rising star indie classical Cadillac Moon Ensemble and fiery string group Trio Tritticali. This one’s even more of a rock record, equal parts punk, psychedelia and downtown jazz. Much as there’s obviously a lot of improvisation going on, it’s tight and focused, with the same relentless menace, sometimes distant, sometimes in your face, that characterized Noonan’s last album.

The brief opening track sets the stage, Noonan’s clustering drums holding it all together as Bajakian veers from Arto Lindsay skronk, to warps, scrapes, squalls and scratches while Tacuma goes from judicious ornamentation to a steady walk and then back. Mooney’s nonchalantly haphazard vocals, part spoken word, part proto-punk, raise the unease factor to redline. Sometimes he repeats a mantra, other times veers all over the map, so it’s hard to tell what, other than madness, he’s carrying on about in his weatherbeaten rasp. Which in itself makes perfect sense with the music.

Tacuma’s bass builds to an ominous gallop on the mini-suite There’s Always the Night, which takes a dive into Beatlesque flamenco-tinged rock, shifts to pounding skronk and then terse punk-funk. Quick Pick begins as an acid funk theme and then goes into creepy late 70s King Crimson territory, then shades of both the Grateful Dead and reggae before Bajakian hits a reverb-drenched, wailing, trickily syncopated crescendo. Moonwalk begins as a low-key vintage soul ballad, Noonan picking it up to practically hardcore-style agitation, then Bajakian channels Ron Asheton with a wah circa 1969 – the way the band effortlessly and instantly shifts between idioms and eras here might sound awkward, but in their hands it’s the most natural thing in the world.

No Strings Attached is a showcase for Bajakian at his most elegant, evoking David Gilmour with his gleaming, resonant Brain Damage lines while Tacuma solos with a similarly purposeful, horn-inspired attack. The final track, Portrait of a Heartless Lover reverts to juxtaposing oldschool soul with acidic King Crimson art-rock – although Noonan is a vastly more nuanced and down-to-earth drummer than Bill Bruford. Bajakian’s vintage art-rock lead builds to the one point on the album where the center collapses into raw noise, Mooney leading them out with a darkly sardonic tale that’s either about a murder or at least a psychic one.

In addition to the album, there’s a companion book – also available as an e-book – featuring both the lyrics as well as Mooney’s original album art and plus poetry by Mooney, Marquita Pool-Eckert and Lowell Henry.