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Category: noir music

Singles For the Second Week of May: Mega-Laughs and Some Creepy Stuff

Been awhile since the last collection of singles on this page: with so much more happening around town these days, it’s been harder to keep an eye on the rest of the world. Today’s self-guided playlist has about 25 minutes worth of music and a ridiculously funny thread to wind this up. As always, click artist names for their webpages, click titles for audio or video. Suggestion: download the Brave browser to avoid the hassle of having to mute the ads in the youtube clips.

In what is fast becoming a time-honored tradition, let’s open with one of Media Bear‘s signature snarky plandemic-themed cover songs. This one, mRNA is one of the funniest of the bunch. It’s a remake of YMCA, the big 1970s disco hit by the Village People. “Hey man, if you do not comply, contact tracers they will be stopping by…you must learn how to kneel, comply with the Green New Deal.”

Thanks to John C.A. Manley, author of the novel Much Ado About Corona, for passing along Martin Kerr’s smart, funky, sharp chamber-folk hit Little Screen, probably the only song ever to rhyme “creative” with “sedative.”

You don’t need to read the news today, it’s mostly lies
If you wanna know you’re not alone,
Get your fingers off your phone,
Get up out of your comfort zone and improvise..

Chillantro, by Miranda & the Beat is a cool minor-key fuzztone surf b-side that the band bravely put out in the ugly depths of May 2020…and sank without a trace

Let’s slow it down but keep the Lynchian ambience going with Natalie Saint-Martin‘s 2nd Place. It’s minor-league Hannah vs the Many – an understudy’s lament set to a phantasmagorical piano waltz

Tantalos, by Kuhn Fu is eight creepy minutes of 21st century cinematic big band jazz built around an allusive, macabre guitar loop. Dig that pregnant pregnant pause at 3:20!

Former Turkuaz frontwoman Nicky Egan‘s This Life is twinkly, vampy oldschool 70s soul with clangy guitar and echoey minor-key Rhodes piano

Check out this very subtle anti-lockdown video for Belgian pop star Angèle‘s latest single, Libre. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just bimbo synthpop – watch the costume change after the second chorus. She’s sick of falling into “Les pièges de fous….libre libre, crois-moi ça va changer (“The lunatics’ traps – we’re free, we’re free, believe me this is gonna change.”)

Just for the record: this is a diehard anti-social media blog. Elon Musk is a creep, and Twitter is not a place you want to be found, ever, unless you want to be surveilled. That being said, here’s Eugyppius – one of the best Substackers out there – on the benefits of Zoom versus real-world academic conferences. The thread just gets funnier and funnier

A Strong, Dark Return From an Individualistic Northern English Band

The Inca Babies are not a cumbia band. They occupy a unique spot in the history of Manchester rock: their darkly kinetic sound was typically more closely attuned to American gutter blues than the gothic and industrial esthetics that surrounded them during their 80s heyday. Over the years, they’ve had some turnover among group members. The great news is that this latest edition, a power trio of guitarist Harry Stafford, bassist Vince Hunt and drummer Rob Haynes have put out a new album, Swamp Street Soul – streaming at Spotify – which finds them more eclectically inspired than ever, exploring all kinds of fresh territory.

They open with the title track, a slow, surrealistically crawling mashup of Lynchian dub and the Cramps, guest trumpeter Kevin Davy a one-man orchestra with his soaring, reverb-iced harmonies.

Track two, Walk in the Park is a horror surf strut fueled by Stafford’s repeaterbox guitar strobe. Hunt turns up the grit on his bass amp for Slingshot, a catchy, impressively funky apocalyptic reflection. They keep the slinky groove going for Dear English Journalists, a knowing chronicle of political blowback: this is what happens when populations are demonized, Stafford reminds as he hits his chorus pedal to let the chill in under the door.

“I think this is the last station before hell,” Stafford relates over scrambling, Stoogoid riffage in Crawling Garage Gasoline, one of the band’s older tunes. Bigger Than All of Us is a surprising detour into brisk, enveloping dreampop, followed by I’m Grounded, a cynical, ba-bump blues tune with roller rink organ from Stafford.

Haynes’ steady Atrocity Exhibition rolls propel the next track, Oh, the Angels How I Bless Them, up to a roaring funeral pyre on the chorus. Stafford anchors his gloomy crime rap with spiky Bauhaus chords in Windshield Gnat, Haynes adding icicle percussion in the background.

Davy’s trumpet returns, backward masked in Mine of Bones. a catchy, stalking noir blues. The trio wind up the album with a pounding dub version of the opening track. After all this band has been through, even before 2020, it’s impressive to see this version of the group still going strong.

A Darkly Memorable Duo Album by Saxophonist Thomas Giles and Pianist Liana Pailodze Harron

Under ordinary circumstances, an album titled Mysteries of the Macabre would be most likely to be found here during the annual, October-long Halloween celebration of all things dark and creepy. But these last several months have been all that. And it wouldn’t be fair to make you wait til this fall to hear saxophonist Thomas Giles and pianist Liana Pailodze Harron‘s album, streaming at Spotify. It’s a powerful and vivid reflection of our time.

Both artists dedicate themselves to popularizing the work of new and obscure artists: they make a good team. The album comprises four medium-length pieces, which are in general more haunting than outright macabre. The first work is Poeme for Saxophone and Piano, a partita by Asiya Korepanova. Giles enters on alto sax with just short of a shriek, then follows a steady, subtly dynamic series of allusively grim chromatic variations, employing a crystalline, oboe-like tone punctuated by foghorn trills. Harron doesn’t get to join the disquieted parade until the end. The obvious influence is Messiaen, a composer the duo will explore shortly.

They intertwine in a similarly somber, skeletal stroll in the next part, Harron fueling a turbulent drive and liquidly articulated cascades. Giles’ spacious, uneasily soaring minimalism finally lures Harron in to rise and fall, in an increasingly agitated theme. Korepanova may be best known as a pyrotechnic concert pianist, but this speaks mightily to her prowess as a composer.

Messiaen’s Theme et Variations is next, the two following a similarly determined if more muted path, Harron’s meticulous, icepick attack balanced by Giles’ floating legato, through the composer’s eerily chiming tonalities and an unexpectedly jaunty if enigmatic dance. Giles’ rise to a shivery, theremin-like timbre right before the piece winds down is breathtakng.

The two revel in the Gyorgi Ligeti piece from which the album takes its title, through initial poltergeist flickers, scrambling phantasmagoria, a dazzling display of circular breathing, from Giles, and some playful spoken word.

The concluding work is Jay Schwartz‘s Music for Saxophone and Piano. Giles parses spare, somber motives over just the hint of resonance from inside the piano, serving as an artful echo. From there Harron develops a bounding melody line as Giles’ tectonic sheets bend, weave and flurry. Rising and falling from a muted pavane to tense doppler sax and a grim quasi-boogie in the low lefthand, the musicians reach an ending that will take you by surprise. It’s a fitting conclusion to this darkly beguiling album.

Singles, Amusement and Inspiration for Mid-March

Today’s self-guided playlist is about a half hour of great songs, some snarky comedy and useful information. Click on artist names for their webpages, click on song titles or descriptions for audio/video.

Top of the list today is Austrian group the Mona Lisa Twins I Bought Myself a Politician, a venomously funny oldtimey-flavored swing parable of the plandemic. The video is great too. “Who would have thought I’d bring the whole world to its knees?” Thanks to Mark Crispin Miller – the other New York Music Daily – for passing this on.

Here’s a succinct, blockbuster two-minute clip by former BlackRock hedge fund manager Edward Dowd, whose analysis of insurance industry all-cause mortality data reveals how the Covid shot killed more young people in the second half of 2021 than were killed in ten years in the Vietnam War. Data like this is what’s going to crash Moderna’s stock value down to zero.

It would have been nice to be able to save this next video for the annual Halloween month celebration of all things creepy, but it can’t wait. This is the World Economic Forum‘s three-minute promo for their planned facial recognition tech-based Known Traveler Digital ID, scheduled to be rolled out in Canada and the Netherlands in 2023. It’s a platform for a Chinese communist-style social credit scheme. Forewarned is forearmed! Thanks to Unacceptable Dr. Jessica Rose, astute analyst of VAERS data, for passing this along

Here’s a beautiful off-the-cuff nine-minute video of the reliably poetic Dr. Paul Alexander – the Linton Kwesi Johnson of the freedom movement – with fearless native New Yorker Dr. Pierre Kory chatting with Laura Lynn at the Freedom Convoy encampment in Maryland after a productive and peaceful day.

Soul songstress Dee Ponder‘s latest single Poor Man has sparkly, expansive retro reverb guitar over a trip-hop beat, up to a surprising late-Beatles outro. “Who’s gonna listen to a poor man’s pain?” The final mantra is Freedom! Fun fact: she’s a former public defender from Rochester.

Paper Citizen‘s Heart on Fire juxtaposes quirky techy verse, catchy swirly chorus and an unselfconscious sense of humor from frontwoman/multi-instrumentalist Claire Gohst

Julia Gaeta‘s Weight of You is dense late 80s/early 90s goth as Siouxsie would have done it: uncluttered and merciless.

Deviously Evocative Noir Cinematics From Oan Kim & the Dirty Jazz

Multi-instrumentalist Oan Kim has just put out one of the most evocatively beguiling albums of recent months, under the name Oan Kim & the Dirty Jazz, streaming at youtube. He’s like a one-man Twin Peaks soundtrack, playing sax, keys, guitar and occasionally taking the mic, frequently abetted by drummer Edward Perraud and trumpeter Nicolas Folmer. It’s a dissociative, nonlinear film noir for the ears. The layers grow more surreal and psychedelic as the album goes on, but the juicy hooks remain. .

The opening track, Whispers, sets the stage, a brooding sax riff kicking off a spare, broodingly syncopated minor-key piano theme peppered with the occasional smoky curlicue. In whatever place characters go after the movie’s over, the protagonist in David Lynch’s Lost Highway is giving this a trace of a smile.

How agonizing is the second track, Agony​? Not at all. It’s a loopy swing tune, Kim reaching for what Little Jimmy Scott did with Angelo Badalamenti. Track three, simply titled Mambo, has smoky sax, slithery vibraphone and eerie synth oscillating in the background to enhance the menace.

With its slow sway and dubwise touches, the mood becomes more wryly carefree in Symphony for the Lost at Sea. Wong Kar Why is an improbable mashup of Orbisonesque noir Nashville pop and a spiraling sax-driven theme. Appropriately enough, the music in Fight Club veers in and out of focus, icy chorus-box guitar filtering through the layers of loops over a soca groove.

Likewise, dissociative layers shift through the frame in Fuzzy Landscape, coalescing into an unhurried sax solo. Kim’s sax flickers and flares over a distantly ominous, bolero-tinged guitar figure in the Interzone – an original, not a Joy Division cover. One of the album’s most disquietingly interesting tracks is The Judge. a no wave/surf rock mashup.

“As I fall down the stairs, people stare or hold my arms,” Kim relates in Smoking Gun, the loopiest and most hypnotic track. There’s even more sunny, circling calm in Thelonious, interrupted by a few jagged peaks: there doesn’t seem to be any Monk influence. Then Kim fleshes out the theme in the Quintet variation that follows. a long, steadily brightening sax solo at the center.

Funeral Waltz is closer to New Orleans soul than, say, a morose Belgian musette. There’s a lingering pall in The Lonesome Path. at least until Kim’s sax floats in and pushes the clouds away. He offers a final goodbye in a disjointed crooner tune that seems to offer a flicker of hope.

Smartly Concocted, Original Lynchian Themes From Daisy Glaze

Daisy Glaze put an interesting and surprisingly original spin on Lynchian pop songcraft. Fronted by guitarist Louis Epstein and bassist/chanteuse Alix Brown, this crew are experts at the Angelo Badalamenti school of tunesmithing. They start with the simplest ingredients and methodically add layers until they have a sonic velvet cake that comes in many colors other than blue. They like jangly guitars and variously textured keyboards, and blend them for both angst and playful surrealism on their new album, streaming at Spotify. They also have a visual side that more closely mirrors their film noir influences.

They set the scene for the rest of the album with Occasus, a wistfully vamping instrumental theme, Erik Tonnesen’s tersely multitracked keys mingling with the slow jangle. The first of the songs is Ray of Light, a mashup of Link Wray and 60s Vegas noir pop, Brown’s snappy hollowbody bass and Rex Detiger’s drums anchoring glistening orchestration from the synth, Tiago Rosa’s cello and Francisco Ramos’ violin,

Buffalo Thunder is a wacky attempt to dress up a very, very familiar garage rock riff in tailfins and chrome. Strangers in the Dark – boy, that’s a subtle one, huh? – sees the duo revisiting sassy Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra mid-60s ambience. Epstein’s sidewinding guitars behind the suspiciously deadpan vocals are absolutely luscious.

Eerily phosphorescent surf riffs linger and resonate over a noir bolero beat in Call Me Midnight. With its artfully arranged baroque architecture, the instrumental Ortus would be a standout track in the Morricone Youth scorebook.

The duo go for a harder-rocking take on the original Morricone’s southwestern gothic in Ghost of Elvis, with a cruelly cynical message: this dude is gone for good. Brown takes aim at a femme fatale over a snarky carnival organ tune in Mary Go Round. Statues of Villains owes a lot more to late 70s Wire – or bands who’ve ripped off late 70s Wire – right down to the flashes of grim chromatics.

The band close the record with How the City Was Lost, a swaying, flamenco-influenced anthem with layers of jangle and clang, swirling organ and guy/girl vocals. It’s like X doing a Julee Cruise song backed by Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks studio band. It could be just a grim dystopic scenario, or there could be more subtext concerning the horrific prospect of the death of cities in general as the World Economic Forum’s Orwellian surveillance looms in from over the Alps. Whatever the case, the level of craft in this album is pretty amazing. It’s been a super slow year for rock records, but this is one of the best of 2022 so far.

A Friendly Pitchblende Night Drive With Suss

New York instrumentalists Suss have carved out a unique niche playing big-sky nocturnes more evocative of the wide open spaces of the west than, say, Long Island City. That’s where the band are pictured on the cover of their very accurately titled latest album, Night Suite, streaming at Bandcamp. This time, they’ve switched out the locales of the mind conjured up in their previous work, and switched in an overnight trip on Highway 66 from Gallup, New Mexico to the desert town of Needles, California, just across the Colorado River.

As the convoy drift out of Gallup, casual flickers from reverb guitar, pedal steel and starry guitar pedalboard textures begin to creep through the shadowy calm. Flagstaff, Arizona turns out to be a patchwork of stillness punctuated by the occasional passing big rig, fluorescent-lit all-night diner or distant train whistle, or so it would seem.

Further into Arizona, there’s Ash Fork, the most expansive tableau here with its organlike high-lonesome washes of sound. If Pink Floyd were a Tucson band, they would have sounded like this. Guessing that’s Pat Irwin’s guitar flaring gently over Jonathan Gregg’s pedal steel and Gary Lieb’s gently keening synth.

Hints of southwestern gothic – that’s either Bob Holmes or Irwin on guitar – reverberate on the low end. static misting the mix when the convoy reaches Kingman. The distant ghost of a Lynchian ballad wafts in as the group pull gently into their final destination

Chris Farren’s Death Don’t Wait Soundtrack Salutes and Savages Decades of Movie Scores

Chris Farren‘s original soundtrack to the film Death Don’t Wait – streaming at Spotify – is a party in a box. It’s a loving homage to, and sometimes a parody of film music from the 60s and 70s. Farren has really done his homework. drawing on both Sean Connery and Roger Moore-era Bond themes, 60s detective flicks and maybe Manfred Hubler’s Vampyros Lesbos soundtrack, If this score is any indication, the movie is packed with action and suspense…and just as much snark. Farren pulled a great band together for this project: Jeff Rosenstock, Jimmy Montague on keys, Frankie Impastato on drums, and Mark Glick on cello, plus a horn section.

The main title song is a gorgeous update on mid-60s Henry Mancini Vegas noir, lit up top to bottom with Farren’s 12-string Rickenbacker and fuzztone guitars. “Life is just a dream we suffer through,” Laura Stevenson intones, tenderly, “It’s your turn to lose.”

The first of the instrumentals is Attacked By Dogs, a fast-paced, brassy, punchy chase scene that leaps from mid-60s Bond ambience to the teens, on the warpy wings of some weird synth patch. Red Wire Blue Wire is Shaft as George Clinton might have envisioned him about ten years after the fact.

Chris Farren Noir – that’s the title of the interlude – turns out to be a minor-key soul groove that wouldn’t be out of place in the Menahan Street Band repertoire. Helicopter Shuffle is the Peter Gunne theme on a diet, with a wry, icy Ventures reverb-ping guitar solo and a brass crescendo.

Crime Party is a straight-up surf tune with roller-rink organ and smoky baritone sax: it’s over in less than two minutes. Farren goes back to psychedelic funk for Cash Is Heavy and follows that with Car Chase! It’s ridiculously funny: more Peter Gunne, galloping baritone guitar, the works. Farren has outdone himself here.

To his credit, he doesn’t go for the obvious punchline in Night Walk, which is not as self-explanatory as it could be. If Francoise Hardy’s backing band did Bond themes, Here’s Your Disguise would be one of them, although Farren doesn’t limit himself to tinny vintage amps or bittersweet major/minor changes.

The two final tracks are Hot Pursuit and Cold Pursuit: the former would work fine in a good vintage Bollywood crime flick, while the latter, a morose waltz, is the most recognizably noir set piece here. If this isn’t the best album of the year so far, it’s definitely the funnest.

Melissa Errico Channels Her Inner Femme Fatale in Her New Film Noir Album

While singer Melissa Errico has always taken a lot of inspiration from film noir, she plunged deeply into the genre after the March, 2020 global coup d’etat. After a year and a half of watching movies, she was able to score enough studio time to record a vast seventeen-track collection of songs associated with noir cinema, Out Of The Dark: The Film Noir Project, streaming at Spotify. The music here is not particularly lurid: Errico comes from a theatrical background and is keenly aware that singing is acting, so a lot of these songs exist in the margins. Which, considering the genre, makes perfect sense. Even in the big aching crescendos, Errico doesn’t reach for anything more showy than a brittle vibrato.

Tedd Firth supplies flourishes at the piano, guitarist Bob Mann adds spare blues riffage and bassist Lorin Cohen keeps a sotto-voce presence behind Errico’s determined, inscrutable anti-heroine in the opening track, Angel Eyes.

Errico reaches for more towering angst over Firth’s glittery piano, David Mann adding misty sax in their take of With Every Breath I Take, drummer Eric Halvorson a ghostly presence with his brushes.

The band give Errico a slow, pillowy swing for her understated, Dinah Washington-inflected version of Written in the Stars , spiced with a wee-hours sax solo and Scott Wendholt’s spare trumpet.

Errico speaks for the tender but untrue over Firth’s lingering chords in their duo take of The Bad and the Beautiful. Haunted Heart (seriously, is there any other kind?) has the full rhythm section and a more tender, troubled vocal. She finally drops her guard in the descending cadences of Michel Legrand’s lusciously chromatic Amour, Amour, Joe Locke’s vibraphone harmonizing eerily with the piano.

Cellist Richard Locker is a whispery one-man string section in Silent Partner, Errico a forlorn accomplice in her own heartbreak. The album wouldn’t be complete without Farewell, My Lovely, or Laura: Errico gives the former a deadpan allure backed by Locke’s flickering vibes, while the latter gets a velvety bossa arrangement.

She sings Blame It On My Youth with a knowing gravitas, turning it into a wounded reminiscence. Checkin’ My Heart has a brassy cynicism and tinges of klezmer; a little later on, Errico has fun with a time-honored baseball metaphor or two in The Man That Got Away, one of the more expansive tracks here,

The album’s longest number, Detour Ahead has both distant foreboding and an epiphany, as well as some aptly nocturnal trumpet. The shortest one is a spare, tropical guitar-and-vocal version of Shadows and Light. True to the noir tradition, this album isn’t completely unproblematic: the material thins out toward the end, and Errico should have left the French-language material on the cutting room floor. A translator would have come in handy.

Gorgeous, Glimmering Noir Instrumentals From the Royal Arctic Institute

Best album title of the year so far goes to the Royal Arctic Institute, whose new cassette ep From Catnap to Coma is streaming at Spotify. Over the last few years, the New York instrumentalists have developed a distinctive sound that draws on film noir soundtracks, surf music, psychedelia and new wave. At a time when so much of the New York music scene has been scattered to places like Texas and Florida, it’s good to see these guys sticking around and putting out their best record so far.

The opening number, Fishing by Lanterns has a slow, Lynchian sway, the spare, twangy guitars of John Leon and Lynn Wright building a starry unease over David Motamed’s bass and Lyle Hysen’s evocative drumming while keyboardist Carl Baggaley fills out the nocturnal ambience.

Track two is Shore Leave on Pharagonesia, a hypnotically pulsing, backbeat theme that’s part Ventures spacerock nocturne, part drifting but propulsive Los Crema Paraiso highway theme. After that, First of the Eight rises from a carefree glimmer to a more driving intensity.

Ghosts of the Great Library, a big-sky tableau, is a clinic in how to get the most mileage out of simple, economical riffs: it wouldn’t be out of place in the Big Lazy catalog. The final cut is Anosmia Suite, referencing the medical term for loss of sense of smell. Motamed’s sliding chordal intro is a cool touch; from there, it builds to the album’s most hypnotic interlude.