New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Category: indie rock

Deliciously Gloomy, Heavy Epics From Brume

Brume is French for “fog.” How nebulous is their album Rabbits, streaming at Bandcamp? Not particularly. The San Francisco power trio like epic dirges and relentlessly gloomy themes, shifting from distantly devastated minimalism to a grimly majestic roar. Frontwoman/bassist Susie McMullan channels every dark emotion from pensive melancholy to raw rage to full-throttle desperation while Jordan Perkins-Lewis’ drums push the band ominously behind her

The first track, Despondence begins slow and desolate with a spare exchange of echoey guitar figures from axeman Jamie McCathie. There’s absolutely nothing about this sad girl-down-the-well tableau that hints at the deliciously familiar, doomy chromatics the band will finally hit a couple minutes later. This could be a gem of a track from the time Randi Russo was leading a scorching band rather than painting fulltime.

The second track, Scurry does anything but that: it’s almost as epic and more enveloping. Hypnotically quavery cello and macabre piano mingle as Blue Jay gets underway; it’s the most plaintive, classically flavored track here.

Lingering deep-space guitar over staggering drums introduce the eleven-minute Lament: it could be the great lost track from Siouxie & the Banshees’ Join Hands album. The final cut is the only slightly less vast Autocrat’s Foot. “Carry your bones to the throne, prop up the king who rules in misery,” McMullan intones over desolately rumbling Joy Division ambience, then the crush of the guitar and bass raise the horror. One of the most interesting and individualistic albums of recent months.

Righteous Rage and Smoky Atmospherics with Algiers at Rough Trade

Algiers played a tantalizingly brief, barely half-hour set at Rough Trade on Wednesday night. This blog characterized their 2015 debut album as “revolutionary postrock soul.” These days, industrial gothic gospel is a better description. Their smoky, swirly yet rhythmically pummeling sound is more Sisters of Mercy, less Terminator soundtrack now.

Frontman/keyboardist Franklin James Fisher sings powerfully in the studio; he is amazing live, and even more dynamically diverse. On the band’s opening number, Void – the final cut on their just-released vinyl record, There Is No Year – he had a gleefully brittle Jello Biafra quaver in his voice. That song came across as a Dead Kennedys homage, right down to the ominous chromatics and drummer Matt Tong’s 2/4 hardcore thump. It seems to be the key to the record, with its relentless theme of escape.

Aside from a leaner sound, what was most obvious was how much of the music was in the mixer: guitar, bass, keys, backing vocals…other than Fisher’s electric piano, and his own mixer too, was anything actually being played live? Guitarist Lee Tesche put down his axe for a sax on the second number, but if that was miked at all, it got lost in the grim, grey-sky sonics. Although he did reach for his tremolo bar for Lynchian twang for the intro to a song a little later, and his icily minimalist, Robert Smith-style riffs afterward cut through the mix as well.

Fisher channeled angst-fueled Levi Stubbs passion throughout Unoccupied, a darkly techy update on classic, minor-key Motown: an allusive breakup narrative, it seemed to be the only number in the set that wasn’t political. “Run around, run away from you, America, while it burns in the streets,” Fisher belted as Dispossession, another new track, took shape over his own stark, insistent gospel piano chords. “Here they comes from the ashes of ashes, so immune to defeat,” he cautioned – but there was also defiance and hope in his imploring crescendos and flood metaphors. Which seems to be his ultimate message: with their bankster economy and surveillance, the enemy is always encroaching. But we’ve got the numbers.

Algiers will be back on April 9 at St. Vitus, a great spot for them.

Snag Sharkmuffin’s Twisted Anne Boleyn T-Shirt While You Can

As you can tell from all the snazzy graphics and fancy multimedia just oozing from every corner of this page in eyeball-rotating Technicolor, this blog is really into fashion.

OK, #sarcasm.

But every once in awhile a band comes up with a merch item that’s too good to resist. All-female trio Sharkmuffin – who play a haphazardly individualistic, reverbtoned blend of punk, surf rock and psychedelia – have a new band t-shirt to die for. It’s Anne Boleyn playing bass.

The print on the shirt is a medieval portrait of Anne Boleyn playing delicately with a pick. Her hands are tiny; the neck is thin (just like hers, ha). She’s not playing any recognizable chord, or for that matter, with any recognizable technique: must be that weird lute tuning she’s used to (reputedly, she played that instrument competently). $15 plus shipping, or pick one up at a show.

Sharkmuffin are at the Broadway in Bushwick on Jan 11 at around 10. Explosive, theatrical, phantasmagorical indie/metal band A Deer A Horse open the night at 9; cover is $12. Sharkmuffin are also at Our Wicked Lady on the 19th at 10:30 by themselves, for two bucks less.

Best New York Concert of the Year

The best New York concert of 2019 was Rose Thomas Bannister‘s wedding. In case you think it’s elitist to choose a private event over something everybody in town theoretically could have gone to…you could have been there too if you happened to wander into Union Pool the night of September 29. “You thought you were coming to a wedding!” the protean, psychedelic Great Plains gothic lit-rock songwriter beamed. “I gave you a music festival!”

Super Yamba Band headlined. By that time, plenty of people had come out to the bar, with no idea that two of this era’s most formidable musical minds had just tied the knot. And soon there were plenty of random strangers getting down to slinky Afrobeat in the back room with all the wedding guests.

It’s probably safe to say that Super Yamba’s set was a mashup of their mid-July 2018 show on an old shipping pier by the water on the Upper West Side, and their gig at Barbes this past March. If there’s any band in town worth seeing more than once, it’s these guys. The pier show seemed to be louder and heavier on the horns, the keyboardist doing double duty on both, while the Barbes gig had more dynamics, instruments leaving and then rejoining the mix, Both shows were heavy on the minor-key, sometimes distantly, sometimes closely Ethiopian-tinged jams. Impassioned frontman Leon Ligan-Majek a.k.a. Kaleta did a long stint in Fela’s band toward the end, so he learned from the guy who invented Afrobeat. Cantering, undulating rhythms, sharply sparkly electric piano, looming organ and spicy, emphatic horns and brass filtered through the mix, sometimes for minutes on end, sometimes shifting quickly to a faster tempo or back the other way.

Super Yamba Band’s next gig is at 9 PM on Dec 14 at Bar Chord for the tip jar. For those who can’t make it to deep Brooklyn, they’re playing Symphony Space on Dec 19 at 7:30, where you can get in for $20 if you’re thirty and under.

The rest of the wedding was a mix of searing jams and savagely brilliant tunesmithing. The wildest jam was when Bannister’s virtuoso bagipiper dad Tom Campbell came up to the stage and joined 75 Dollar Bill for a hypnotic yet searing duel with guitarist Che Chen. It was as if the freedom fighters in Tinariwen had flown to Scotland for a predawn raid to liberate a Trump property.

Bannister has never sung more powerfully, or with more triumphant intensity. Which made sense in that marrying guitar polymath Bob Bannister was the crowning stroke in a career that began when she escaped from a Christian supremacist environment, driving off in a little car with her secret collection of forbidden secular cassettes. In that context, the sudden, wary martial flurry in the opening number, Ambition, made sense on every possible level: a word of warning, but also a vengeful, martial riff. Whichever motivation you might ascribe to the slowly crescendoing anthem – a portrait of greed, or revenge – it worked.

Working on only two rehearsals, drummer Rob Smith colored the music with his subtle brushwork and cymbals while the groom wove restlessly articulated webs of notes, from saturnine Richard Thompson-esque leads to lingering jangle and clang, austere blues, warmly soulful Beatlesque lines and even a little wry Tex-Mex. When bride and groom calmly matched voices in the stately, understated, Macbeth-inspired Lady M – “Your children will be kings” – there was no mistaking how much of a victory had been snatched from the jaws of defeat.

The rest of the set was a mix of the hypnotic and the ferocious. The Real Penelope, a mashup of Revolver Beatles psychedelia and Britfolk, was wistful yet guardedly optimistic, the future Mrs. Bannister realizing that she’d found the lead guitarist of her dreams. Same Name Blues, which she rarely plays live, had a seethingly sardonic edge, as did the most relevant song of the night, Heaven Is a Wall, a shapeshifting fable about border walls packed with the cynically appropriated Old Testament imagery that she loves to use to drive a point home. And Iowa, with its simple yet eerie Midwestern imagery and coda that fell away abruptly at the end, seemed to synopsize her flight from repression, knowing that there would be possibly apocalyptic consequences, both personally and globally,

After that, most of the band reconvened as PG Six, frontman/guitarist Pat Gubler a steely, dapperly suited presence out front. Debby Schwartz, fresh off a sizzling set with the Bannisters, was even more of a whirlwind, firing off incisive chords, raga riffs working around an open string and sinuous, soaring leads that gave the band a third lead player. Gubler’s resonant, darkly opaque chords and tersely circling lines rang out as Bannister’s leads slashed and wailed around them, sometimes bringing to mind Jerry Garcia in “on” mode, at other times veering closer to unhinged Sonic Youth territory. His bride eventually came up to sing harmonies, one of the great Brooklyn musical power couples reveling in making it official.

Yet Another Wildly Diverse Album From the Brilliantly Psychedelic, Lyrical Sometime Boys

The Sometime Boys are a rarity in the world of psychedelic music: a lyrically-driven band fronted by a charismatic woman with a shattering, powerful wail. Guitarist/singer Sarah Mucho cut her teeth in the cabaret world, winning prestigious MAC awards….when she wasn’t belting over loud guitars as an underage kid out front of the funky, enigmatic Noxes Pond, a popular act at the peak of what was an incredibly fertile Lower East Side rock scene back in the early zeros. Noxes Pond morphed into volcanically epic art-rock band System Noise, one of the best New York groups of the past decade or so, then Mucho and lead guitarist Kurt Leege went in a more acoustic, Americana-flavored direction with the Sometime Boys.

They earned the #1 song of the year here back in 2014 for their hauntingly crescendoing, gospel-fueled anthem The Great Escape. Their new album The Perfect Home – streaming at Bandcamp – is a mind-warpingly diverse collection of originals and covers. There aren’t many other bands capable of making the stretch between a country-flavored take of the Supersuckers’ deadpan, cynical Barricade and a similarly wry hard-funk cover of the Talking Heads’ Houses in Motion.

The other covers are a similarly mixed bag. Mucho’s angst-fueled, blues-drenched delivery over guest Mara Rosenbloom’s organ and the slinky rhythm section of bassist Pete O’Connell and drummer Jay Cowit takes the old Allman Brothers southern stoner standard Whipping Post to unexpected levels of intensity, Likewise, Pink Floyd’s Fearless has a bounce missing from the art-folk original on the Meddle album, along with a balmy, wise, nuanced vocal from Mucho and a starry, swirly jam at the end. And their slinky, gospel-influenced take of Tom Waits’ Way Down in the Hole is a clinic in erudite, purist blues playing.

But the album’s best songs are the originals. Unnatural Disasters has careening, Stonesy stadium rock over a bubbly groove and a characteristically sardonic but determined lyric from Mucho. The group are at their most dizzyingly eclectic on the European hit single Architect Love Letter, blending elements of bluegrass, soukous, honkytonk and an enveloping, dreampop-flavored outro.

Leege’s mournful washes of slide guitar, Rosenbloom’s pointillistic electric piano and Mucho’s brooding, gospel-tinged vocals mingle over a nimble bluegrass shuffle beat in Painted Bones. And the defiance and hard-won triumph in Mucho’s voice in the feminist anthem Women of the World – a snarling mashup of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Poi Dog Pondering, maybe – is a visceral thrill. Good to see one of New York’s most original, distinctive bands still going strong. They’re just back from European tour; watch this space for upcoming hometown shows.

The Plaster Cramp Bring Their Distant Menace to a Halloween Eve Bushwick Gig

Today’s Halloween installment is the Plaster Cramp’s debut album – streaming at Bandcamp – which came out back in 2016. The band’s cynical surrealism looks back to the downtown postpunk scene of the early 80s, with occasional tinges of psychedelia and latin music. They like sprawling Velvets vamps with jagged guitar spilling over the edges; the darkness in the songs’ lyrics is allusive, and it draws you in. They’re playing Alphaville on Oct 30 at 10 PM; cover is $11.

The album opens with The Ghost of Great Jones. Aside from a little Daniel Ash-style string-torturing from guitarist/frontman John Frazier, there isn’t anything particularly dark about this slinky, Talking Heads-ish one-chord jam.

In the Stacks is a throwback to the Velvets’ first album, complete with the hammering piano, just a hair out of tune. Dracula is a phony bossa tune that coalesces out of atonal weirdness, multitracked vocals half-buried in the mix.

A dancing bassline propels Pinball Safari, a latin-flavored funk tune. The group go back to vintage Velvets stomp for Change It, “While the moon above weeps above the drying poplar trees,”Frazier speaks, calmly. “Do you like what you see?”

The group mash up Talking Heads and the Velvets in Impatient Knives, then bring the lights down with the album’s best and most implicitly grisly song, Apartment 23. It sounds like a more fleet-footed Botanica:

His car sat on the wrong side of the streeet
The phone just rang and rang in apartment 23
Nobody expects to discover anything
He had hidden himself
An ordinary man, no next of kin
No one to notice…
Lost in a city of pinstripes and grey suits
How they go together holy jesus

Cherry Dark is the Plaster Cramp’s What Goes On, a catchy, tastily twisted 4 AM Lower East Side scenario. The guardedly optimistic Fingers Crossed sounds like the Velvets playing New Order: the anachronism is actually very funny. The album closes with the starry nocturne Downstream, a dead ringer for vintage Brian Jonestown Massacre. The group have been playing more frequently over the last few months, a good sign, even if very few of the venues they’ve been at do anything to promote the bands who play there.

Revisiting a Deliciously Dark, Psychedelic Album from Sugar Candy Mountain

Today’s Halloween month installment is Sugar Candy Mountain‘s deliciously lurid, cinematic, tropically psychedelic album 666 – streaming at Bandcamp – which came over the transom here in 2016 and promptly vanished down that black hole better known as the hard drive. So, it’s long overdue. Sorry, folks – what a fun record!

Frontwoman/guitarist Ash Reiter has a misty voice with just a hint of enticement, infusing the opening track, Windows, with gently torchy allure over a samba-tinged, minor-key retro 60s groove with a long, undulating, reverb-drenched solo. A brief, similarly dark tropical interlude with Will Halsey’s tumbling drums at the centetr leads into the album’s title track, a midtempo, simmering, surf-tinged theme: the sarcasm in Reiter’s airy, half-spoken vocals is irresistible.

Rippling, watery guitars and Jason Quever’s multitracked synth permeate the next track, Being: imagine a quirky existentialist along the lines of the Icebergs’ Jane LeCroy fronting a lo-fi, trippy indie project like Extra Classic. The album’s longest cut, Atlas is a surreal mashup of oldschool soul, glossy new wave and late Beatles, but somehow the band make it all work.

Thomas Edler’s precise, snappy bass opens Eye on You, a jaunty soul tune with starry guitars and organ. “Regrets and wasted time have wasted you,” Reiter and Halsey intone in Time, a pulsing Rubber Soul-esque anthem. They follow that with Tired, a moody Laurel Canyon psychedelic soul strut with icy analog chorus box guitar.

Snorting reverb riffs contrast with summery organ in the Brazilian-tinged Who I Am; the album ends with Summer of Our Discontent, which perfectly sums up what this band is all about. No matter how sunny some of these tracks are on the surface, there’s always an undercurrent.

Cutting-Edge, Diverse Sonics and a Williamsburg Album Release Gig From the Dither Guitar Quartet

The big news about the Dither Guitar Quartet is that Gyan Riley is in the band. He’s the rare scion of a famous western musical legacy (son of iconic minimalist composer Terry Riley) who’s an individualistic artist in his own right. On the ensemble’s new album Potential Differences – streaming at Bandcamp – he makes a good fit with returning members Taylor Levine, Joshua Lopes and James Moore. This is the band’s most accessible record to date: fans of psychedelic rock and metal who can handle strange and often troubling tonalies should check it out. Dither are playing the release show at the Frost Theatre at 17 Frost St. in Williamsburg on Oct 27 on a bill that starts at 2 in the afternoon and continues into the night. It’s not clear who’s playing when, but there are a bunch of interesting, individualistic acts on the bill including but not limited to singer Alicia Hall Moran and the Mivos Quartet, sort of a reprise of the New Music Bake Sales in Fort Greene and then Roulette a few years back.

The album’s first track is The Garden of Cyrus, by Eve Beglarian, a 1985 piece pulsing with steady, emphatic echo chords, the group quickly adding polyrhythms that shift in and out of the mix. The variety of timbres, the mix of familiar and odder harmonies and the reverb in the room give it a Sonic Youth vibe.

Riley’s The Tar of Gyu is a strangely shifting blend of buzzy volume-knob swells, delicate toy piano-like phrasing and hardbop. The gently ringing harmonics and rising chromatic menace of Paula Matthusen‘s But Because Without This provide considerable contrast.

The album’s centerpiece, the four-part Ones, by Jascha Narveson, offers comic relief. The opening segment, The Wah One, is a playfully hypnotic mashup of the intros from the Theme From Shaft and Pink Floyd’s One of These Days. Then there’s the distortedly circling The Driving One, The Warped One with its down-and-up tuning-peg goofiness and finally the clock-chime harmonics of The Floaty One.

The group shift from gritty late 70s Robert Fripp-style riffage to eerie spacerock bubbles, austere resonance, wry hints of Eddie Van Halen and back in Lopes’ Mi-Go. Moore’s Mannequin is a desolate, morosely howling soundscape. Candy, by Ted Hearne, takes awhile to get going but eventually develops coy humor and incisively paired harmonies between the guitars.

Renegade, a Levine composition, sets growling, increasingly dissociative menace and shred over a piledriver beat. The quartet wind up the album with James Tenney’s 1967 dronescsape Swell Piece. Many different flavors; this group rock harder than just about anyone in the avant garde.

A Killer Last Minute Bill at Union Pool This Thursday

Once in awhile a great concert springs up out of nowhere. Tomorrow night, August 22 at Union Pool there’s a great triplebill starting at 7 PM with wickedly catchy, jangly psychedelic rockers Girls on Grass followed by a kinda whiny Americana act, then intriguingly 80s-influenced rockers Shadow Year and finally the more punkish, post-Velvets Dares. It’s $10 cash at the door.

Shadow Year’s new album Hush Hush Panic is up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. They really nail that chilly late 80s dreampop sound: sometimes bracing, sometimes shoegazy. The album’s opening track, Convoy, is a duet between guitarists Scout Gillett and TV, her airiness and longing versus the television man’s calm, acidic dreampop dreampop chords over a catchy, simple bassline. The second track, PDA, draws a straight line back to Joy Division’s Still album: its steady minimalism is sort of a mashup of, say, The Only Mistake and Dead Souls, but with guy/girl vocals out front.

The two vocalists revisit the doomed relationship dynamic in Easy Mac, over a simple Bernard Sumner guitar lead contrasting with hypnotically clanging, steady guitar chords. Rene would be a genuinely wistful 60s pop ballad if the band used real chords instead of faking their way through; it’s a lazy approximation. They hit a shiny, icy chorus-box guitar pulse straight out of early Lush in the next track, Chud, Gillettr’s vocals bringing to mind the Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser in a particularly hazy moment. Then there’s a sardonic lonely-vampire interlude from TV; it’s both funny and poignant.

Ted Jamison’s crisp bassline along with Gillett’s keening synth in the intro to Joel Tudor don’t offer any hint of the roar that’s coming: it’s sort of the missing link between Joy Division and the Go-Go’s, a crazy blend that somehow manages to work. They close the album with the lingering Soft Note, its waftingly comfortable jangle bringing to mind the Church in their most dreampop moments. On one hand, Shadow Year are recycling a lot of old riffs; on the other, they really know their source material, and they’re creating something completely new and different out of those ideas.

Summer Cannibals Bring Their Catchy, Hard-Hitting, Fearlessly Political Sound to Bushwick

Summer Cannibals could be described as Sleater-Kinney in reverse. Where the iconic “riot gir[insert the letter R over and over again, as desired]l” band pulled their jagged, unhinged sound onto the rails enough to coalesce into some catchy tunes, Summer Cannibals take simple lead guitar hooks, buzzy chords and dangle them over the edge of the cliff. And they’re a lot more political. Plus, frontwoman/guitarist Jessica Boudreaux is a stronger singer than anyone in Sleater-Kinney ever was. The new Summer Cannibals album Can’t Tell Me No is streaming at Bandcamp (and available on both vinyl and cassette, yay). They’re playing Elsewhere on August 17 at 9 PM; cover is $12. Because of the L-pocalypse, you’ll do best to make a leisurely 20-minute walk to the J at Koszciusco St. after the show rather than taking your chances on hourlong-plus waits on the L train. If you’re heading back to south Brooklyn, be aware that if you have an unlimited-ride subway card, you can get off at Hewes St. and then catch the G at Broadway, which is only about three blocks away.

The opening cut, False Anthem, sets the stage. Guitarist Cassi Blum’s burning chords anchor Boudreaux’s simple, slashing hooks; “It’s so easy to hate them, the goddamn government,” she insists, bassist Ethan Butman and drummer Devon Shirley holding down a tight punk pulse.

The album’s title cut has a rumbling groove and gritty chorus that bring to mind pioneering funk-punks the Bush Tetras: “I am not your, I am not your bitch,” is the big refrain.

“What if I can’t behave, what if I can’t change?” is Boudreaux’s sarcastic chorus in Behave, a midtempo number in the same vien as the Throwing Muses at their most focused. Like I Used To is a kiss-off anthem with an early 80s edge, its simple, crescendoing hooks cutting through a wall of distortion. The similarly dismissive Innocent Man has slipsliding New Order bass and dreampop twinkle, followed by the album’s longest track, One of Many, an individualist’s anthem.

Butman’s catchy bassline propels the alienated, gloomily kinetic Staring at the Sun. “I could sing about murder and joke about too,” Boudreaux reminds in Start Breaking, a snide portrait of the kind of Bushwick trust fund kid who pays lip service to all the limousine liberal memes but probably votes Republican.

The band blend dreampop with a big stadium-rock chorus and more than a little 80s New Order in Hesitation, then sway their way through the album’s most potently anthemic, snarling anthem, Spin, with brooding chord changes straight ouf of the Castle Black playbook. The record’s final cut is Into Gold, an unexpectedly successful detour into vampy, reverbtoned Twin Peaks balladry. Strong tunesmithing, edgy guitars, political relevance: what else more could a rock band in 2019 possibly deliver?