New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Revisiting a Hypnotically Enveloping Psychedelic Gem From the Philistines

The Philistines’ 2016 album The Backbone of Night – streaming at Bandcamp – could be the lost classic the Brian Jonestown Massacre never released, a rapturous lysergic labyrinth of jangle and clang and roar and ripple half-obscuring frontwoman Kimmie Queen’s vocals.. Full disclosure: the record has been sitting on the hard drive here since it came out, in hopes the Kansas City band would play New York. If they have, it slipped under the radar here.

There’s a mix of clang, icy wash and ripple from Cody Wyoming and Rod Peal’s  guitars, Michelle Bacon’s bass  and Josh Mobley’s Rhodes piano in the ominously catchy opening track, Steep: “I had nothing left to show to show, just another day alone,” Queen intones.

1971 is a forest of psychedelic guitars over a 1-4-5 chord patttern: Rhode Island legends Plan 9 come to mind. The epically hypnotic Radiation Drive has a deftly shifting spacerock drift, part Brian Jonestown Massacre, part the Church, the mix rippling with multitracked rings and pings up to a sarcastic chorus. Is this a Fukushima reference?

A Twitch of the Death Nerve slashes into stoner riff-rock territory: with its layers and layers of keys and guitars, Plan 9 again come to mid. The band swirl around a tersesly clanging Rickenbacker guitar riff in the Beatlesque Accretion Disco, up to a spiky, Middle Eastern guitar solo midway through. It’s the album’s most delirious delicious track.

With its luridly multrtracked web of acoustic and electric guitars, the pouncing Arecibo is a dead ringer for brilliant/obscure New York art-rock legends Of Earth, A Heart Like Candy is an imaginative transformation of early 60s doo-wop pop into reverberating art-rock: it’s easy to imagine Blondie wanting to be this epic.

Stygia, awash in quasar guitar pulses and Steve Gardels’ tumbling drums, follows a delirious intertwine up to a sudden coda. The band wind up the album with Get Inside, an enveloping, Bowie-esque anthem built out of a simple two-chord vamp. If you buy the concept that psychedelics are as Halloween as Halloween gets, you can consider this today’s Halloween month installment.

Avalon Jazz Band Fuel the Revelry at Symphony Space

On one hand, it was mystifying to see a sold-out crowd sitting sedately through the first three songs of the Avalon Jazz Band’s sold-out show at Symphony Space Thursday night. On the other, it was validating to see the group earning appreciation as a first-class jazz act. Too few swing bands get props for their chops.

This show was the second in a weekly series here called Revelry. Musically speaking, it’s the most exciting thing to happen to the Upper West Side in a long, long time. There were never many venues in the neighborhood to begin with and there are even fewer now. So Symphony Space is really filling a need by booking all sorts of artists who’ve probably never played this far north.

This Thursday, Oct 25 at 8 PM the venue has Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, a polymath on oldtime blues guitar, banjo and piano who may be the single most talented musician in all of New York. Ticket buyers 30 and under get in for $20, which is ten bucks off the regular cover charge. The downstairs bar stays open during the show and afterward; last week, ushers were grinningly handing out wristbands which entitled concertgoers to 20% off at the bar. All this is a different kind of return to the venue’s glory days in the late zeros and earlier in this decade when they were booking a ton of global talent in addition to the usual classical and jazz acts.

Last week, it was a four-piece version of Avalon Jazz Band. They opened with a charming, chirpy, playfully conversational take of the old French standard Coquette, frontwoman Tatiana Eva-Marie shimmying and teasing cartoonish riffs – and an irresistibly droll bass solo – from her bandmates. By the night’s third number, people of all ages were beginning to leave their seats and heading down in front of the stage to cut a rug. The snazziest dance moves of the night came from a couple who looked to be in their seventies, clearly old pros at swing dancing.

After starting in Paris, the singer led her quartet to Romany territory – Tatiana is half French and half Romanian – then to New Orleans and finally brought the music full circle. Guitarist Vinny Raniolo aired out his vast bag of riffs, from punchy Django Reinhardt swing, to warily resonant Chicago blues, fleet postbop and some eerie, tremoloing Lynchian resonance capped off with tremolo-picking that was sometimes fluttery and sometimes an icepick attack.

Violinist Gabe Terracciano showed off similar chops, from jaunty Bob Wills-style western swing, to airy Stephane Grappelli-esque phrasing, lots of sabretoothed Romany riffs and stark blues as well. Bassist Wallace Stelzer was amped pleasantly high in the mix, serving as the band’s Secretary of Entertainment with his wry sense of humor, the occasional tongue-in-cheek quote and solos that echoed the guitar.

The songs in the set were just as diverse. They’d played this year’s New Orleans Jazz Festival, so that was still on their minds. The highlight of the set was a brooding, saturnine take of Hoagy Carmichael’s New Orleans, with new English lyrics by a Crescent City friend of Tatiana’s. Her original, There’s Always a Moon Over New Orleans made a brisk contrast, inspired by the fact that when the band were down there, they never got up until after the sun went down. They mined the repertoire of Charles Trenet and Charles Aznavour for wistfulness, then went scampering up Menilmontant toward the end of the set. Afterward the crowd filed out to the bar, just as Tatiana – who by the end of the set had drained most of a sizeable glass of whiskey – had been encouraging all night.