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Category: dance music

Sizzling Afrobeat and Gospel at One of the Year’s Best Twinbills to Kick Off September

One of the best twinbills of the year is happening this Sept 1 at 7 PM at an unlikely spot, Baby’s All Right on the south side of Williamsburg, where psychedelic Afrobeat band Super Yamba share a bill with the rousingly soulful Harlem Gospel Travelers. The venue has reopened and the bands’ publicist advises that there are no restrictions; cover is $15 for what promises to be an awesome dance party. The venue webpage isn’t clear on who’s playing first, but it doesn’t matter because both acts are worth sticking around for.

Super Yamba have been one of the best party bands in town for several years. Kaleta, their frontman brings a deep background to the music after getting his start in Nigeria as a sideman with King Sunny Ade and then Fela Kuti in the late 70s.

Super Yamba’s most recent album Medaho came out in 2019 and is streaming at Soundcloud. The title means “big brother,” but in a good way. It’s a shout-out from Kaleta to his older brother, who is tragically no longer with us but was responsible for introducing the bandleader to Afrobeat.

The album is best appreciated as a cohesive whole, ideally with everybody on their feet. Throughout the playlist, organ swirls and blips tightly over strutting bass and drums. The opening number, Gogo Rock has a long, sinuous wah-wah solo from the bandleader. Track two, Mr. Diva has bitingly catchy minor-key brass riffage that Kaleta artfully picks up with his guitar as the song winds along, and a grittily insistent vocal: there’s no mistaking this for a dis!

Briskly stepping rhythms circle through Hungry Man, Angry Man as the organ keens and chirps overhead. The album’s title track is an edgy, practically punk jam with deep-space wah guitar and a clattering, circular groove. The band work a tastily quadrangulated, understated call-and-response from bass, to guitar, to organ and then horns in the next track, Goyitò

The rhythms get trickier in Jibiti, then the band kick into the Super Yamba Theme, pulsing along on the album’s catchiest bassline and stabbing horn interplay. It’s also the album’s most hypnotic interlude.

Adjotò is a big concert favorite and the most intense, careening number here. The band take the album out in a blaze of brass and staccato distorted guitar in La Gueule (Afro-French insult: “shut up”).

This blog has been in the house at several Super Yamba shows, in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The most recent one was a private event in Williamsburg in the fall of 2019; whether playing for the public or just the cognoscenti, they jam like crazy.

Jace Maxwell Releases the Most Cynically Entertaining Protest Song Album Since March of 2020

This album was written during the fake Covid 19 pandemic. It is a protest against all the abuse I and many others suffered for our choice not to be injected with an experimental drug. The album is a thank you to all those brave people who said NO,” says songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jace Maxwell. Being Australian, he’s especially brave, considering how brutal lockdown restrictions there have been. Here in New York, a court threw down the unelected Governor’s unconstitutional concentration camp regulations. Australia started sending their citizens to concentration camps in 2020.

Maxwell’s eclectic tunesmithing chops match his bravery as he covers a wide range of styles, from 80s gothic rock, to bleakly cinematic soundscapes and metal. And beyond the sheer catchiness of the songs, the album is a cruelly vivid, sometimes savagely funny chronicle of the plandemic. Song after song, Maxwell refuses to comply.

The most amusing number on the record – which Maxwell has generously made available as a name-your-price download at Bandcamp – is Tony Says (Follow the Science), a parody of Faucism set to goofy, squiggly new wave synthpop.

Otherwise, the individual tracks typically focus on a specific aspect of the plandemic, from the initial lockstep reaction to the Wuhan bioweapon, to the fullscale assault on human rights, to the lethal injection rollout. Maxwell peppers his songs with sardonic samples, from Biden’s feeble “pandemic of the unvaccinated” recitation, to Pfizer ingredients and more. There’s as much history here as there are hooks.

Maxwell builds the album’s rainswept overture, The Fall of the Rebel Angels around a spoken-word passage about EcoHealth Alliance conspirator Peter Daszak‘s bizarrely pedantic attempt to cast the famous Brueghel painting as a portent of zoonotic viral spread.

The sarcasm immediately rises to redline over an icy New Order clang in Turning the Lights Down, an offhandedly chilling portrait of tyranny reaching a slow boil.

“Cover your face and check on your neighbor,” Maxwell instructs over a slinky death disco groove in You’ve Got the Fear: the lyrical jokes are too good to spoil.

He evokes a plaintively drifting mid-90s Church spacerock ambience in Please Leave, a distantly harrowing hospital protocol murder tableau. Then he hits his distortion pedal for Run for Your Life (Cytokine Storm), a grittily industrial-tinged faux-authoritarian stomp.

As the slowly swaying indictment What the Hell Andy? unfolds, Maxwell revisits the sad affair where the courageous Dr. Tess Lawrie called bullshit on how the lure of Gates Foundation money derailed a crucial ivermectin research study.

Safe and Effective is a menacing, dystopic motorik instrumental, with a break that speaks to the effectiveness of propaganda, rather than rushjob genetic modifications. The next track, IgG4 is a succinct explanation of the mechanism of “mortal antigenic sin,” as Dr. Paul Alexander calls it. Maxwell goes back to heavier and even more troubling science in Superantigen, a later interlude.

The sarcasm rises to critical mass again in Damage Control, a menacing, strutting mashup of Gang of Four and early 80s XTC. These Are the Days is not a Natalie Merchant cover but a guardedly hopeful, Bowie-esque minor-key wake-up call.

Maxwell shifts back and forth between regretful late 70s Bowie and Rammstein, maybe, in Blame and Lies, a telling and ultimately heartbreaking chronicle of the lethal injection campaign’s mounting toll. The album’s final cut, The Left Has Become the Right is not a political broadside but a bitter reflection on how meaningless party affiliations became when we’re all being deplatformed and depersoned. “Would you please close the Overton Window, I’m getting quite a chill,” Maxwell sneers.

As an indelible musical portrait of a grim time and place, this ranks with the Dead Kennedys’ Frankenchrist and Phil Ochs’ Rehearsals for Retirement. Get this album, if only for the sake of validation. It’s one of the best rock releases of 2022.

The Zoo Berries Bring Their Slinky, Imaginative Funk and Soul Grooves to Long Island City

Have you noticed how suspiciously much the word “lab” is trending, not just when connected with things that escape or are released from labs, but in everything from rehearsal studios, to bands, to music venues? Especially the places with free shows? What’s that all about?

One of those venues, surprise surprise, is a new one, Culture Lab in Long Island City. Even so, there have been a ton of good acts playing on the back of the flatbed trailer in the parking lot there this summer. One of them is the Zoo Berries, who are there on August 26 at 8 PM.

Back in 2018, their bandleader and bassist Ayal Tsubery – also of sizzling Balkan band Tipsy Oxcart – sent over some files. Since everybody in the band had plenty of other projects going on, this group didn’t play that many shows, so those files just sat, and sat, and sat on the hard drive here. But the band’s lone studio release is good!. If imaginative soul and funk sounds are your thing, give it a spin at Bandcamp.

The first number is Back In Time, which the band build from a spare intro, to an easygoing slow jam, then guitarist Nadav Peled (also of ferocious Ethiopiques band Anbessa Orchestra) takes a machinegunning solo, and the energy goes through the roof. Soprano saxophonist Hailey Niswanger’s solo after that is just about as incendiary.

The second track is Brother, a warmly swaying 6/8 oldschool soul groove, Niswanger harmonizing exuberantly with tenor player Arnan Raz before the two diverge and go blasting through the stratosphere as pianist Daniel Meron and drummer Peter Kronrief kick in harder. They follow the same trajectory in Final Decision, an update on a classic, slinky Booker T sound, Peled’s icepick guitar anchoring the groove to where Meron unexpectedly takes it into hard-hitting jazz.

He pulls back to a moody ripple in Shir LeShabbat, a traditional Jewish melody: finally, the bandleader takes a serpentine solo, climbing and then taking the long way down from the top of the fretboard with his nimble hammer-on riffs. The final tune is Acceptance, a real change of pace with its rainy-day intro. But then spoken-word artist Kéren Or Tayar gets on the mic, and Niswanger plays gentle, sustained lines and a few curlicues, and the sun bursts from behind the clouds.

Underground System Bring Their Playful Jams to a Dance Party on the Hudson

Over the last few years, Underground System have built a reputation as a ferocious party band. Singer/flutist Domenica Fossati is every bit as tirelessly entertaining to watch dancing out in front of the band as she is on the mic. The group are bringing their distinctive, psychedelic mix of Afrobeat, hard funk and other eclectic dancefloor sounds to an outdoor show on August 12 at 7 PM at Pier 45 on the water in Chelsea. Take West 10th St. to the river.

The band’s latest vinyl album is an ep, Into the Fire, streaming at Bandcamp. The title track is a coy mashup of early 80s tech-funk – think Midnight Starr or Jah Wobble’s collaborations with Holger Czukay – with harder chicken-scratch guitar textures and spicy horns as the jam goes on. Fossati finally goes spiraling upward into the Milky Way with her flute.

Track two, He Said She Said, is harder-edged, fueled by guitarist Peter Matson and drummer Yoshio Kobayashi. Singing in Spanish, Fossati needles a dude who’s just a party-pooper: like the first track, there’s a very 80s feel to this. After that, the band get swirly and ethereal but keep the groove going just as steady in Desnuda. The ep also includes interestingly organic-flavored remixes of the first and last songs. If you have the space at your place or on your rooftop to throw a dance party this summer, this will keep everybody on their feet.

The Budos Band Bring Their Undulating Menace Back Home to Staten Island

Most bands tend to mellow out as they get older, but Staten Island’s Budos Band went in the opposite direction. They started out playing a psychedelic blend of Afrobeat with frequent Ethiopiques tinges and then brought a macabre Black Sabbath influence into the mix. They’re got a free outdoor concert coming up on August 4 at 7 PM on their home turf at Corporal Thompson Park, which is close to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. If you’re not a Shaolin resident, be aware that it’s a good half-hour on foot: hang a right, for starters, after you exit the ferry terminal.

Their latest album Long in the Tooth, arguably their most concise, catchiest release yet, came out during the dead of the 2020 lockdown and is streaming at Bandcamp. This time out the ghosts seem to be dancing in the courtyards of haunted castles on the Ethiopian coast rather than in gloomy Albion. The group open with the title track, guitarist Tom Brenneck building an ominous surf tune way down at the bottom as organist Mike Deller’s keening Farfisa lines float overhead, baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel the smoke peeling off the fire from Andrew Greene’s trumpet.

Track two, Sixth Hammer perfectly capsulizes the direction the band’s taken in the last few years: menacingly looping Sabbath chromatics over a cantering Ethiopian rhythm fueled by the funereal funk of the percussion section: Brian Profilio on drums, John Carbonella Jr. on congas, Rob Lombardo on bongos and Dame Rodriguez on everything else.

They slink their way through the tantalizingly brief Snake Hawk, which could be Beninghove’s Hangmen playing Mulatu Astatke. Then bassist Daniel Foder spaces out his boomy chords to punctuate Dusterado, a slower, organ-fueled oldschool noir soul groove.

The horns take over with otherworldly Ethiopian chromatic riffage over a go-go flavored pulse in Silver Stallion. Haunted Sea could be what an Ethiopian horn band might have done with a dark Dick Dale theme a half-century ago. Then the band shift from dark vintage soul to a brassy Afrobeat blaze in The Wrangler.

Brenneck – who sticks with a vintage, gritty tube-amp reverb sound here for the most part – kicks off Gun Metal Grey with his distortion turned up to breaking point, the horns swooping in with a brooding resonance. To what extent is there bullshit in the next track, Mierda De Toro? The joke seems to be the resemblance to a famous surf song, reinvented as a cantering groove built around a catchy descending bassline.

The most straightforwardly trad Ethiopian themes here are Budonian Knight and the closing cut, Renegade, Deller’s funeral-parlor organ and Brenneck’s icepick wah guitar building to a surreal dubwise break and then back. How great is it to have these amazing, darkly individualistic instrumentalists playing live shows again!

Wild Balkan Brass Icons Slavic Soul Party Stage a Queens Blowout

How cool is it when you find out you were in the crowd when one of your favorite bands was making a a live album? This blog was in the house on August 20, 2019 when Brooklyn’s best-loved Balkan brass band, Slavic Soul Party recorded a handful of tunes which appear on their latest concert record, streaming at Bandcamp.

What was the show like? Blurry. That was one wild night. If you missed it – or the mostly-weekly Tuesday night series in Park Slope that they played for the better part of sixteen years before the 2020 lockdown – you can hear them outdoors on August 2 at 7 PM at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City. You can take the 7 to Vernon-Jackson, walk to 48th Ave. and take it straight to the river, or take the G to 21st/Van Alst, take 45th Ave. as far toward the water as you can and then make a left.

Back in 2016, Slavic Soul Party put out a deviously erudite Balkan brass remake of Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite, and the opening number, Amad opens this record. Accordionist Peter Stan provides an intro to this version, from March of the following year, launching a suspenseful river of sound, then torrents of chromatics, then the brass kick in over the clip-clip beat of Matt Moran’s bubanj. Tapan drummer Chris Stromquist keeps a slinky groove going on as the horns pulse closer and closer to New Orleans.

Nizo’s Merak, from one of the band’s last pre-lockdown shows there in November, 2019, begins as one of the Balkan/hip-hop mashups they made a name for themselves with and shifts into bracing, chromatic Serbian territory on the wings of a trumpet solo. For a band who had so many members who play in other projects, it’s remarkable how little the lineup has changed over the years. That’s John Carlson and Kenny Warren on trumpets, Peter Hess on sax, Tim Vaughn and Adam Dotson on trombones and Kenny Bentley on tuba.

Considering how much of a party the Tuesday night residency was, the split-second precision of the horns on this July, 2018 version of Balada is pretty amazing, Stan’s liquid accordion lines holding it together. Same with the rapidfire minor-key brass flurries over the subtle side-step rhythm in Romano Pravo, from the March 2017 gig. The tantalizingly brief accordion-and-drums breakdown was always a big audience hit, and this is a prime example.

Truth is one of their rarer, slower, more balmy numbers, Stan methodically working his way from choosing his spots to his usual supersonic pirouettes. The next number, 323 is a showcase for the band’s funkier side. The three tunes from the August 20, 2019 show – Romski Merak, Sing Sing Čoček, and Missy Sa-sa – appear here as an increasingly delirious, roughly seventeen-minute suite that covers pretty much all the bases. Steve Duffy plays tuba here as the band fire off biting doublestops, enigmatic whole-note solos, and a couple of hailstorm drum breaks.

After a brief rat-a-tat “Latino Band Medley,” the band close with FYC, a feast of disquieting Eastern European tonalities with a couple of careening trumpet and trombone solos recorded in July of 2018.

Since these are field recordings that the band released as merch during the time that disgraced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo had criminalized live music in New York, the sound is on the trebly side, although there surprisingly isn’t a lot of audience noise. At the Queens show, you won’t be able to hear any of the “amazing music that Quince puts on at the end of the night” at the Park Slope gigs, as the group mention on the Bandcamp page. But all New Yorkers will be able to see the show since the bar was weaponized to discriminate against patrons who didn’t take the lethal Covid injection.

Elegantly Exhilarating Klezmer Band Mames Babegenush Make a Welcome Return to Manhattan

Danish klezmer band Mames Babegenush made New York music history a couple of years ago for being part of what appears to have been the final installment of Golden Fest, the annual mega-concert of Balkan and Balkan-adjacent music that ran uninterrupted for more than three decades and was arguably the most exhilarating annual New York music event. The previous weekend, the band had played a marathon series of shows, from the Lower East Side to Curry Hill, chronicled in part here after a wild night at the Carlton Arms Hotel.

For those who can’t get enough of bracing minor keys and sizzling solos, Mames Babegenush are on the road for their “COVID Can’t Keep Klezmer Down” tour, with a gig at Drom on July 20 at 8 PM; you can get in for $20 in advance. And an advance listen to two new tunes the band have recently recorded proves this irrepressible bunch of party animal virtuosos are no worse for the layoff during the global totalitarian takeover. The first song, Elvermose Cocek reminds how much fun they can have with tunes from outside the klezmer demimonce, in this case a pouncing Balkan dance with a gorgeous, soaring solo from clarinetist Emil Goldschmidt.

The second is Night Flight, a gorgeous nocturne which their drummer Morten Aero opens with a mysterious cimbalom solo before bassist Andreas Mollerhoj introduces a tiptoeing pulse, setting the stage for a deep-sky solo from flugelhorn player Bo Rande. That’s the loud and soft of what you can expect from a band whose nine-album output of originals and imaginative takes on klezmer classics includes one titled Klezmer Killed the Radio Star.

Yotoco Bring Their Psychedelic Tropical Dance Jams to an Outdoor Show in Queens

Psychedelic tropicalia band Yotoco got their start as “the bastard child of Umoja Orchestra, Bio Ritmo, and Cumbiagra,” as the onetime Brooklyn hotspot where they kept crowds of sweaty people dancing put it a few years ago. The venue misspelled “Bio Ritmo,” but that’s easy to forgive. Or at least it was, back in the day when the club was a neighborhood institution, and not a weapon promoting a lethal injection campaign. The good news is that the band survived the lockdown and have returned with a somewhat more acoustic lineup, and a show this July 17 at 7 PM outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City

Although they take their name from a town in Colombia, they draw on sounds from musical cultures as disparate as Peru and Puerto Rico. They got their start by electrifying old Colombian folk themes, and by 2018, when this blog caught them for the last time at their former Brooklyn stomping ground, they had grown into a searing, ecstatic jamband. That show was heavy on careening, guitar-driven psychedelic cumbias.

There’s plenty of Yotoco on the web, reflecting how much ground they cover: whatever the case, you can dance to pretty much everything. For example, there’s La Melodia, a slinky tropical psychedelic number: lingering guitar with the reverb full on, a thicket of percussion and hypnotic, pulsing, syncopated bass. La Burrita, on the other hand, is a brisk, straight-up gangsta 1960s style accordion-fueled Colombian cumbia. And Brooklynense – the title track to their 2018 album – falls in the middle of those two.

They also have a Soundcloud page, which is just as eclectic. The first tune, 7 Mares is a tightly clustering lowrider latin funk jam, followed by La Brujita, which is more cheery and funny, with oldschool call-and-response vocals. And La Sabroseria is just as spicy as you would hope: frontwoman Natalia Perez channels a nocturnal cool while the band add trippy dubwise touches behind her.

Brilliant Bassist Yula Beeri Brings Her Upbeat New Duo Project to Long Island City

Yula Beeri played bass in wildly influential circus rock band World Inferno. That group met a tragic demise with the death of their frontman Jack Terricloth, murdered by the Covid shot just over a year ago. However, Beeri has always stayed busy with other groups, from the sizzling, slinky Israeli-tinged Nanuchka, to a rotating cast of characters she calls Yula & the Extended Family. Her latest project is Y&I with drummer Isaac Gardner. Their debut album Holy Vol. 1 is streaming at Spotify. They’re playing outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City on July 16 at 5 PM.

It was a lot of fun watching the two working up this material over the course of a series of shows at LIC Bar at the top of the street in the months before the 2020 lockdown. There aren’t many bassist-fronted bands, let alone singers who can play Beeri’s serpentine, melodic lines at the same time. Throughout her shows there, she’d sometimes play along to a loop pedal, sometimes adding layers live and building a song on top of them while Gardner played low-key funk, and shuffles, and dancefloor beats behind her.

The new album is a lot more lighthearted and techy than Beeri’s harder-rocking earlier work. The first track, Cub sets the stage with its tricky tempo, woozy processed layers of vocals and flurrying drums. The duo follow with Slip & Slide, a cheery, aptly slithery trip-hop tune with dub echoes, some icy raga guitar licks and a lickety-split ska outro

Gate (as in “finish gate”) has playfully syncopated layers of vocals over a muted, galloping beat where Beeri’s guitar and bass tracks pick up with her signature chromatic edge. The duo go back to trip-hop with a more minimalist, loopy, skronky Goldfrapp/Garbage edge in the next track, Wire.

Beeri hits her chilly vintage chorus pedal for an icy strobe in the album’s title track, Gardner rattling the traps vintage one-drop style at the end of a phrase. The last song is This House, Beeri’s disembodied sci-fi vocal multitracks and a sly hip-hop interlude over Gardner’s loose-limbed swing beat. There’s plenty of room in the parking lot in Queens to dance to this.

The Attacca Quartet Play Outdoors This Month. and Stagedive Into Punk Classical

Quick: name the New York string quartet who’ve played for a larger live audience than any of their peers. Obviously, that’s kind of a trick question since those groups typically all share a circuit of intimate spaces best suited to that repertoire.

Some of you might be surprised to find out that the answer to that question is the Attacca Quartet, who were invited by Jeff Lynne to open for the Electric Light Orchestra at that group’s Manhattan appearances during the mid-teens. What may have endeared them to him is their dedication to material far outside of standard repertoire, as well as their fondness for unorthodox venues.

One unorthodox space they’re playing this month is Madison Square Park, where they’re holding down a three-week Wednesday evening residency starting on July 13 at 6 PM and continuing with shows on the 20th and 27th. While they tackle a vast range of material from 21st century works, to art-rock with songwriter Becca Stevens, all the way back to Renaissance composers like John Dowland, they also have a punk side. And a punk classical album, Real Life, streaming at Spotify. It’s possible they may air some of that one out in the park.

The album’s shtick is string quartet arrangements of EDM themes. They’re simple and repetitive and obviously weren’t originally conceived for any kind of close listening, let alone much of a shelf life. To call their insistent riffs and endless whoomp-whoomp rhythms minimalist would be giving them too much credit – and the quartet seem to get that. This is closer to the early Kronos Quartet at their cheekiest, or Rasputina, than it is to, say, the fluffy orchestral versions of RZA or J Dilla themes that have been staged in recent years.

Cellist Andrew Yee seems to relish the chance to dig in hard on the low end, whether with his bow or his fingers. Violinists Amy Schroeder and Domenic Salerni and violist Nathan Schram are most likely playing their parts straight through rather than simply looping them. There is also a percussive component, which seems to be electroacoustic: it’s not clear who’s on the drums.

The quartet have the most fun when they’re ornamenting the sound with saucy glissandos, pizzicato flickers, mimicking the sound of a backward-masking pedal, or building hazy ambience before the whoomp-whoomp kicks in. There’s a drifting, summery interlude which looks back to 70s disco, as well as moments of sheer chaos and a woozy, wallowing tableau. This is a gimmicky record, but it’s fair to say that these versions will outlast the source material. And you can do the punk rock dance to most of it.