New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

A Brilliant, Subtly Satirical New Video From Kira Metcalf

Watch very closely in the first few seconds of Kira Metcalf‘s video for her new single Hoax for a visual clue that packs a knockout punch.

This is how dissidents in the old Soviet Union had to protest. Looks like we’ve come to that here in the US.

Metcalf actually wrote the cleverly lyrical kiss-off anthem eight years ago, but it’s taken on new resonance since the lockdown began. Videowise, the esthetic is pure early 90s Garbage, as Shirley Manson would have mugged for the camera. Musically, the song is closer to early PJ Harvey with even more of a vengeful wail

A Titanic, Imaginatively Orchestrated Salsa Swing Album From the Iconic Ruben Blades

What an inspiration it is to see the most fearlessly original paradigm-shifter of all the salsa dura pioneers of the 70s still pushing the envelope. Ruben Blades‘ new album Salswing with Roberto Delgado & Orquesta – streaming at Spotify – is aptly titled, a lavishly symphonic latin jazz project. Blades’ voice is a bit more wintry than it was forty years ago, but he tackles the material here – an imaginative mashup of jazz standards and salsa – with his usual soul and gravitas. Listen closely and you discover that he’s overdubbed his own coros. Hearing him hit those high notes on the second track reaffirms his indominable stature as leader of the old school – which in his case makes him just as much a leader of the new school.

Delgado’s Panamanian ensemble and his colorful, edgy charts make a good match. They open with Paula C, the lushness enhanced by the Venezuela Strings Recording Ensemble. Guest Eduardo Pineda’s Rhodes piano bubbles amid the brassy gusts, trumpeter Juan Carlos “Wichy” Lopez reaching for the stratosphere and nailing it.

Blades lands somewhere between Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. in a blazing, ebullient take of Pennies from Heaven, trombone soloist Xito Lovell cascading down out of a sunburst brass break. The textures and exchanges between the reeds and brass in the instrumental Mambo Gil have grit to match their majesty, alto saxophonist Jahaziel Arrocha taking a tantalizingly brief, spiraling solo.

Blades goes into nuanced crooner mode for Ya No Me Duele over the bandleader’s strolling bass pulse, Tom Kubis adding flourishes on alto sax amid the towering brass. The vocals on Watch What Happens are bordering on breathless, effectively driving home the song’s ironclad optimism over the sudden swells of the orchestra. Blades reaches for similar intensity, but with a more imploring feel in Cobarde and its intricate, understated polyrhythms.

Lopez’s balmy, straightforward trumpet solo flies over an elegant midtempo swing beat in Do I Hear Four?, the group’s counterpoint rising toward inferno levels. There’s a little more drama and mystery in Blades’ voice in Canto Niche, Juan Berna switching between piano and echoey Rhodes. The Way You Look Tonight is the closest thing to a coyly seductive, straight-up fifties Sinatra swing tune here,

Blades winds up the record with a couple of slinky barn-burners. Ricky Rodriguez’s low-key, tumbling piano and Alejandro “Chichisin” Castillo’s smoky baritone sax anchor the dynamically-shifting, colorful Contrabando, Raul Aparicio’s accordion popping in unexpectedly. Similarly, Tambó rises from a streetcorner intro from the percussion section to an insistent, driving oldschool salsa groove. A titanic achievement from a huge, semi-rotating ensemble that also includes percussionists Ademir Berrocal, Raul Rivera, Carlos Perez Bido, Jose Ramon Guerra and Luis Mitil; Francisco Delvecchio and Avenicio Nunez on trombones; Carlos Ubarte, Ivan Navarro and Luis Carlos Perez on saxes; Milton Salcedo, Dino Nugent, Ceferino Caban and Dario Boente on piano; Carlos Quiros on bass; Carlos Camacho on vibes; and Abraham Dubarron on guitar.

Empire de Mu Raise a Lost Continent to Explosive Heights

We know from the spread of animal species around the world, from Africa outward, that there were once vast expanses of land where there is only ocean now. Accounts vary widely as to why these land bridges disappeared. The most commonly accepted explanation is the plate tectonic theory. Others believe that these once-fertile land masses sank because the earth’s crust had not yet solidified enough to keep them above sea level. A much more sinister theory is that they were destroyed by aliens using a beam weapon from outer space: an ancient precursor to 5G.

Empire de Mu build on James Churchward’s von Daniken-like tales of the lost continent of Lemuria, or Mu, in their colorful, explosive new album Spiritual Demise, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s a wild mix of angst-fueled High Romantic classical melodies, snarling metal and mathrock beats.

They open with a somberly cinematic, cello-driven overture, frontwoman Arianne Fleury leading a choir of voices up to the crunchy, constantly shifting rhythms of the first song, Submersion. Drummer Tommy pummels his way through the maze as guitarist David Gagné and bassist Sami El Agha solidify into a menacing chromatic theme. Throughout the album, Fleury sings and roars in French, English and Spanish, no doubt drawing on an operatic background.

In the second track, Under the Black Sun, it’s Gagné’s turn to build a thorny thicket of minor-key riffage, capped off with a supersonic solo as Fleury shifts from arioso drama to a death metal rasp. Ouloum II is much the same but shorter. After that, Fleury ranges from the top of her formidable range to the grim lows at the bottom in Death Lotus, Gagné building a savage web of tremolo-picking and minor-key chromatics.

El Agha switches to buzuq for the haunting, tantalizingly short Egyptian-flavored instrumental Souk: he could have gone on for three times as long and nobody would be complaining. It’s a good segue into Ruins of Lemuria, Gagné constructing his most ornate, grimly symphonic melodic lattice.

From there they segue into the frantic Naacalls, rising from low-midrange roar to yet another sizzling series of Gagné solos. They close with Faithed Sorrow, a tragic, Romany-tinged coda.

These days, some believe that humanity is in many respects reliving the end of the Lemurian Age. According to this argument, the lockdowners plan to use 5G microwave weapon satellites to crush any remaining opposition to the needle of death, lockdown restrictions and surveillance, by frying entire populations who refuse to comply. That would explain why free countries like Nicaragua and Croatia, and the fourteen free US states, have been allowed to liberate themselves up to this point.