New York Music Daily

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Category: jam band

The Dream Syndicate Return With a Haunting, Stomping Masterpiece

Much as the Dream Syndicate will always be best known for their volcanic jams, those unhinged duels wouldn’t mean much without frontman Steve Wynn‘s allusive, frequently menacing songs.

And just when it might have seemed that the Dream Syndicate had finally gone off on an odyssey to the far shores of jazz, they return with their most song-oriented album since their iconic 1982 release The Medicine Show. The resolutely shapeshifting jamband’s latest vinyl record, Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions – streaming at Bandcamp – is basically a light side followed by a dark side, with a trippy coda to bring it full circle.

Wynn’s songwriting is as novelistic, deviously allusive and counterintuitive as it has been ever since the band busted out forty years ago: is there anyone alive who has written more good songs? Hearing one catchy verse and chorus after another is a real mindfuck, in contrast to the slowly unwinding, symphonic AACM-rock epics on the band’s previous album, The Universe Inside, which was a rare bright light amid the relentless gloom of 2020.

The opening track, Where I’ll Stand has the classic Dream Syndicate backbeat sound, but with more of the dreampop swirl that Wynn has explored in recent years – and maybe a little Bowie in the mix too. The gist is “don’t bullshit me” – in more reflective, articulate terms.

Track two is Damian, a lithe 70s Tom Petty-style bounce that suddenly winds into one of Wynn’s signature series of unpredictable changes. His conspiratorial narrator seems to be telling his beaten-down bud that all omens aren’t necessarily grim. Lead guitarist Jason Victor fires off a tantalizingly sinuous guitar solo as it fades out.

“I’m a scrapyard and a barking dog, everything must go,” Wynn intones in Beyond Control, the band rising over drummer Dennis Duck’s brisk spacerock drive as keyboardist Chris Cacavas throws in a quirky mbira-like setting. Hearing Victor playing a skittish, staccato chorus-box pattern is a trip.

The Chronicles of You is a gorgeously vindictive, enveloping number glistening with layer after layer of guitars along with wafting horn harmonies from Marcus Tenney, who doubles on sax and trumpet. Wynn has been one of the great voices in rock noir for years, and this is prime: “Was it really scripted in the sky by your own private plane? Was it the undertaker’s arms that laid you down in the grave?” As usual, there are infinitely more questions here than answers.

Victor’s lapsteel and the horns resonate uneasily throughout Hard to Say Goodbye, a slowly strolling requiem for someone who couldn’t resist the lure of shiny objects that flicker. It comes across as pastoral Pink Floyd done Steve Wynn style, The band shift to a cyclotron take on the Jesus & Mary Chain in Every Time You Come Around, bassist Mark Walton rising to pierce the veil. “Tell me what you think is inappropriate, I’ll tell you why you’re wrong,” Wynn cryptically avers.

A searing Victor riff kicks off Trying to Get Over, a stampeding Wynn study in conman doublespeak. With Victor’s searing, careening lead lines, the song looks back to Wynn’s volcanic 90s work: say, the Melting in the Dark album.

Wynn’s rapidfire lyrics deliver a grimly aphoristic payoff in Lesson Number One, a withering portrait of someone slithering to move his own goalposts as damage control gets more complicated. It could also be a portrait of somebody recently scheduled for an exit from the NIAID – and could be the best song of the year.

The sarcasm remains at redline for My Lazy Mind, one of those tango-flavored struts that Wynn does so well. It wouldn’t be out of place in the Ward White catalog, all the way through the “curtain call from Frankenstein.” The album’s final cut is Straight Lines, a breathlessly charging garage rock number, the Seeds as played by mid-70s Can maybe. You’ll see this on the best albums of 2022 page here if we’re all still around..

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.

Colorful Guitar Icon Jim Campilongo Continues His Rockwood Residency

It took a long time after the lockdown, but Jim Campilongo made it back to one of his oldest haunts, the Rockwood, where he’s played an on-and-off monthly residency, practically since the venue opened in 2005. Revered in guitar circles, Campilongo is not quite as well known as Bill Frisell, but the two have much in common beyond erudite and eclectic chops. Each player infuses jazz with Americana and a frequent noir sensibility. And each has his shtick: Frisell with his loop pedal, Campilongo using the neck of his Telecaster for a wammy bar effect by bending it ever so slightly. His next Rockwood gig is in the big room on August 29 at 7 PM; cover is $15.

Right before the lockdown, Campilongo was spending a lot of time in low-key, intricate duo situations. But one of this blog’s favorite Campilongo albums, Heaven Is Creepy, goes all the way back to 2006 and remains one of his most picturesque releases to date. An added element of creepiness is the tragic loss of bass player Tim Luntzel, who was stricken by Lou Gehrig’s Disease and died eight years later. Like a lot of musicians have been doing, Campilongo has discovered the utility of Bandcamp as a marketing tool and has put most of his albums up there, including this classic.

The first track is The Prettiest Girl in New York, a cheery lattice of bluegrass licks and coy harmonics over drummer Dan Rieser’s shuffle beat. Track two, Monkey in a Movie is a wry, slightly skronky strut with moments for the rhythm section to gnaw on the scenery.

There are two versions of the album’s first cover, Cry Me a River. The first is an instrumental. Campilongo’s surreal, slipsliding, lapsteel-flavored licks never quite coalesce out of an increasingly agitated, psychedelic thicket, shades of Dave Tronzo, until the very end. The second, with Norah Jones on vocals, is faster and more straightforwardly haunting, even if it isn’t on the same level as Erica Smith‘s shattering version with Dann Baker on guitar.

The album’s darkest and best track, Mr & Mrs Mouse veers all over the place, from Campilongo’s bracing wide-angle chords, to horror surf, to a cynically tiptoeing cha-cha that could be Big Lazy. Then the trio bring it down with the skeletal, brooding rainy day theme Because You Like Trombone.

Hamster Wheel (Slight Return) is a swampy trip-hop theme. Menace is less outright creepy than sardonically skronky, when Campilongo isn’t leading the trio scampering through Django Reinhardt’s shadow. The album’s chromatically snarling title track could just as easily be called Creepy Is Heaven: it’s the most enigmatically ominous, disquietingly strange tune here.

Nellie Bly, as Campilongo seems to see the prototypical investigative journalist, is a Beatles fan with a vintage country streak. The final cut on the album is Pepper, part lullaby, part suspense film theme. It says a lot about how much ground Campilongo can cover in under five minutes. There’s also a brief, aptly Victorian-flavored cover of Beautiful Dreamer with Martha Wainwright on vocals.

The Sun Ra Arkestra Make a Welcome Return to a Laid-Back Outdoor Williamsburg Space

As far back as the 90s, the Sun Ra Arkestra had become a fixture on the New York summer outdoor festival circuit. A Central Park twinbill with Sonic Youth earned the sprawlingly cinematic jazz ensemble a brand new audience with the indie rock crowd. In the years immediately leading up to the 2020 lockdown, they’d been scheduled to play a more intimate space than usual, the courtyard at Union Pool. As it turned out, it took a few cancellations and some rescheduling to get them there. That’s where they’ll be this August 28 at around 3 PM. Under ordinary circumstances, it would make sense to get there early. But the circumstances we face today are anything but ordinary, and in a city that by some estimates has lost a quarter of its population, there probably won’t be an overflow crowd (and if there is, you’ll be able to hear the missing link between P-Funk and the Art Ensemble of Chicago just fine from the sidewalk around the corner).

The Arkestra were DIY pioneers, releasing much of their legendarily voluminous output themselves. Today, most of those original recordings, along with limited-edition pressings on long-defunct European free jazz microlabels, command auction-level prices on the collector market. Serendipitously, the group have been digitizing and re-releasing select albums from throughout their career. The latest one to hit their regularly updated Bandcamp page is the 1983 recording The Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab In Egypt, a collaboration with the Cairo Jazz Band. It’s noteworthy for being a slinky, sometimes haphazard, utterly psychedelic collection of compositions by pioneering Egyptian jazz composer, percussionist and bandleader Salah Ragab.

The first track is Egypt Strut, a surreal mashup of a New Orleans second-line groove, a chromatic Middle Eastern-tinged theme and the blues. In Dawn, the second track, the groups combine to balance a blithe flute tune against galloping percussion, followed by a cantering, hypnotically circling theme echoing sounds from the southern end of the Sahara.

Ramadan begins with a muezzin-like call-and-response, then the ensemble flesh it out with darkly dramatic vocals, horns and tumbling drums followed by a biting solo from the bandleader – who went back to Saturn to stay in 1993 – and a spirited flute outro with a nod to Take Five.

Oriental Mood is the catchiest and hardest-hitting track here, with jajouka-like brass, animated sax solos and piano. The ten-minute Farewell Theme is a more robustly orchestral series of variations on that theme, and considering the length, about twice the fun. Throughout the album, Sun Ra switches between glimmering, echoey Fender Rhodes and organ, backed by punchy massed horns, and sailing and spiraling solos. How does all this sound compared to the group’s sound now? Much the same, if you leave out the distinctive Middle Eastern and North African references.

The last time this blog was in the house at a show by the Arkestra, it was at the Union Pool courtyard, over the Labor Day weekend in 2018. The crew onstage were a mix of veterans, some of whose time in the group went back to around the time of this album or before, along with some more recent additions. The yard was crowded but wasn’t completely sold out, and the group’s long, slowly crescendoing trajectories kept everyone on their feet.

Nikara Warren’s Black Wall Street Band Make a Trip to the Charlie Parker Festival

Vibraphonist Nikara Warren is iconic jazz pianist Kenny Barron‘s granddaughter. She and her Black Wall Street project are arguably the most cutting-edge attraction on opening night of this year’s Charlie Parker Festival at Marcus Garvey Park on August 27 at around 4 PM. Veteran postbop bassist Buster Willliams and his band, and trumpeter Terence Blanchard with the Turtle Island Quartet follow on the bill.

The Black Wall Street album – streaming at Bandcamp – is yet another project that would have been completed much earlier if not for the 2020 totalitarian takeover. The bandname doesn’t seem to reference the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma racist massacre.

On the first track, Heather Grey (BK gritty), Warren looks back to the slinky sounds of 70s Roy Ayers, but brassier and crunchier, her chugging solo handing off to a matching forward drive from her grandfather’s piano.

She moves to the mic for Run Ricky, a scampering, syncopated, cinematic hip-hop-jazz narrative about the murder of a innocent man. After a towering brass break. Warren’s vibes mingle with Corey Sanchez’s guitar as the storm rises from drummer David Frazier, Jr.’s drums.

Warren’s younger sister, soul singer Be.Be takes over the vocals on Mona Lisa, a darkly carnivalesque soul waltz that comes across as a more psychedelic take on Amy Winehouse. Warren builds a low-key, suspenseful solo before the horns burst into Womb Woes, tenor saxophonist Hailey Niswanger reaching an unhinged wail. Sanchez choose his spots against another brassy wall , Frazier tumbling elegantly on the way out.

Trumpeter Stephen “Khemestry” Fowler harmonizes and trades off warmly with Niswanger as the next number, Persistence shuffles along – but damn, those breaks for whistling will get your earbuds out in a hurry. At least Sanchez’s simmering, resonant solo will make you forget that. “The most righteous thing you can do is shake the table,” Warren intones at the end.

Barron returns to the piano for Thick Girls, an altered latin groove with Fowler channeling a lurid intensity out front, Barron’s prowling, stiletto solo contrasting with Parker McAllister’s tersely looming bass. They bring it down to a lingering duo from Warren’s vibes and Paul Wilson’s electric piano at the end.

The suspense-film intro to Ms. Mimi’s Fried Chicken is a false start: it’s a rapidfire DC-style go-go groove: Niswanger’s smoky, chromatic descent out of a blazing sunset is arguably the high point of the record. The group wind it up with an alternate, mistier take of Mona Lisa with Melanie JB Charles on vocals.

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.

An Enticing, Cutting-Edge Triplebill of New Middle Eastern Music at Bryant Park

This August 26 at 7 PM at Bryant Park there’s a “habibi festival” that transcends the term. This isn’t a concert of synthy Middle Eastern dance-pop. Instead, the artists on the bill blend jazz with sounds from across the Middle East and North Africa. Opening the night is Moroccan dancer Esraa Warda, whose group the Châab Lab specialize in raucous, percussion-driven acoustic chaabi performances. Next up is Palestinian-American kanun virtuoso Firas Zreik, followed by haunting French-Tunisian saxophonist Yacine Boulares’ Ajoyo trio.

You can get a sense of Warda’s celebratory sensibility at her video page. Boulares earned a rave review here for one of the best New York performances of 2018 when he debuted a riveting trio project with cellist Vincent Segal and drummer Nasheet Waits at one of the rooms at a big midtown venue which, tragically, was weaponized as a lethal injection site. Zreik’s axe is the rapturously rippling Egyptian ancestor of the Indian santoor and Jewish tsimbl, among other instruments. He has a whole page of videos, much of it new solo work.

The first, Refractions, starts out with a cascading, loopy riff with echoes of Erik Satie, then Zreik merges it artfully with a vampy second theme. In the second tune, Shams, he bookends a slinky, anthemic interlude with a sparser, hypnotically wistful melody. Likewise, he builds Zawraq from a spacious, brooding, watery theme to a swaying, plaintively bolero-tinged rhythm.

The overtones fly fast and furious in the tantalizingly allusive, final 2021 number, Rastiyya. There’s plenty among the earlier piece to keep you rapt, particularly the blazing, playfully flamenco-tinged Sentiments in Emptiness. If you ever wondered what extended technique looked like on the kanun, this is it! And if you ever wondered what Bach or flamenco jazz sounds like on the kanun, Zreik can do that too.

Zreik also has a Soundcloud page with four tracks, including a wildfire improvisation with quotes from a famous horror film score, and a duel with oudist Anan Makhoul.

Northern Noir Band the Sadies Leave Us With What Could Be The Best Album of 2022

Guitarist Dallas Good said that his band the Sadies‘ new album Colder Streams was the best record they’d ever made. They began recording it in 2019. Good and his bandmates had to sneak across provincial borders during the tyrannical Canadian lockdown to finally finish it in the summer of 2021. Too bad he didn’t live to see it. The lethal Covid injection killed him at 49 this past February.

The Sadies put out a ton of good albums, both under their own name as well as backing Neko Case. They started out in Americana, somewhere between Nashville gothic and punkgrass and by the time they wrapped up this one – streaming at Bandcamp – they’d gone in a more electric, psychedelic direction. Dallas Good was right: this is the Sadies best record. More than that, it’s a potent, metaphorically chilling historical document and arguably the best rock album of 2022.

The opening track, Stop and Start perfectly capsulizes the band’s sound in their final days: dense, reverb-drenched layers of jangle, clang, swirl and occasional scream from the Good brothers’ guitars over the precise, swinging groove of bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky. It may or may not be a lockdown parable – either way, it offers guarded hope for a new future:

The sickness comes like a rising sun
Now your war is done, what have you become?
Are you too far down to stop right now?
You can start right now
Stop and start right now

Is it a surprise that the next track – released as a single this past winter – would be titled Message to Belial? “The dark of all ages has come,” the band harmonize somberly over a spiky thicket of reverb guitar.in this parable of a less than sympathetic devil.

Dallas Good’s lingering, twangy lines resonate over his brother Travis’ layers of distantly Beatlesque acoustic rhythm in More Alone, an increasingly angst-fueled elegy for both people and places gone forever:

In this day and age
Rage has become all the rage
We choose to behave
Like wolves left to starve in a cage
We keep going in circles around around
Spinning faster and faster and faster
Go round in the end and then start back down again
Looking forward to another disaster

So Far For So Few is a bouncy mashup of bluegrass and Flamin’ Groovies janglerock, growing more psychedelic and enveloping on the wings of Dallas’ soaring lead lines.

Fueled by stark banjo and some intricate guitar flatpicking, All the Good – with the brothers’ mom and dad Margaret and Bruce Good on harmony vocals and autoharp, respectively – is a throwback to the band’s more acoustic late 90s sound.

Jon Spencer guests on fuzz guitar on No One’s Listening, a scorching update on ominous 60s Laurel Canyon psych-folk: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you anymore,” is the crushingly ironic key to the song. You Should Be Worried, a gorgeously resonant open-tuned front-porch folk tune, has even darker foreshadowing: “I’m not worried about you, you should be worried about me,” the band harmonize.

They go back to scampering reverb-plated garage-psych rock in Better Yet, with a tantalizingly blistering acoustic/electric guitar duel. Then they turbocharge the Nashville gothic with silvery sheets of reverb guitar in Cut Up High and Dry before taking a brief, surreal detour into dub.

They keep the scampering drive going through Ginger Moon, with what’s arguably Dallas’ most savage solo here. In an eerie stroke of fate, the final cut is titled End Credits, an intricately layered, Morricone-esque southwestern gothic instrumental. How tragic to see such a great band go out at the top of their game.

Savage Republic Return with a Smoldering New Album

Editor’s note: Guitarist, activist and constitutional law scholar Philip Drucker, a.k.a. Jackson Del Rey, died this past July 16 at 63. A founding member of iconic 80s bands Savage Republic and 17 Pygmies, he was an early supporter of and friend to this blog. Deepest condolences to his wife and bandmate Meg Maryatt.

On one hand, it’s amazing that Savage Republic would still be putting out music as relentlessly intense as they were when they released their feral, rumbling 1982 debut album, Tragic Figures. Admittedly, the group on their new vinyl record Meteora – streaming at Bandcamp – were not among the crew on that album, but both guitarists Thom Fuhrmann and Ethan Port date from the band’s mid-80s peak. Multi-instrumentalist Kerry Dowling and drummer Alan Waddington are more recent additions, continuing a four-decade tradition of pummeling, frequently menacing instrumentals that veer defiantly between postrock, gothic rock and dystopic soundscapes.

They open the album with Nothing at All, an icy stomp that sounds like a track from PiL’s Metal Box album, but with typical leadpipe Savage Republic percussion. This time out, the guitars maintain the chilly, digital reverb sheen, in contrast with the gritty bassline of the second track, Stingray, a catchy dreampop-tinged instrumental.

God and Guns is a slowly swirling, grimly cynical broadside directed at self-righteous hypocrites: “You worship a massive cock, you just follow the fascist plot.” Fragments of Link Wray, Dick Dale and maybe Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth blend together in Bizerte Rolls, a menacingly chugging surf-rock anthem.

The album’s title track is a more disquieting, messier take on what the Cure was doing circa Seventeen Seconds, while Unprecedented is a mashup of My Bloody Valentine cyclotron swirl and Crass abrasiveness.

The album’s best song, Boca del Vaca is an evilly glimmering throwback to the hypnotically pulsing, overtone-laced, Middle Eastern sound the band worked so memorably in the 80s. Then they go back to Siouxsie/Cure chorus-box territory in Newport ’86. They wind up the album with Ghost Light, shifting in and out of focus with the haphazardly percussive energy of the group’s early days. Who knew that Savage Republic would be around forty years after they started, making the kind of records that show up on best-albums lists at the end of the year!

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!