New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Category: stoner music

Early Moods Deliver a Macabre Heavy Psychedelic Masterpiece

Early Moods play high-voltage, dynamically unpredictable heavy psychedelia and doom metal. Early Sabbath is the obvious and pervasive influence, but frontman/keyboardist Alberto Alcaraz has his own sound and isn’t trying to ape Ozzy. Their debut full-length “mystery color” vinyl album, one of the best of 2022, is streaming at Bandcamp.

One thing that elevates this album above so many other groups gathered around the glyph in the shadow of Sabbath is the nimbleness of the rhythm section. Another is the relentlessly ominous riffs and big anthems that come thisclose to careening over the edge, but somehow the band hold the songs to the rails.

On the album’s opening track, Return to Salem’s Gate, they shift back and forth from edgy fuzztone chromatics to a smoldering Fender Twin burn, drummer Chris Flores’ machinegunning salvos capping off the big peaks, with an edge-of-the-abyss wah-wah solo from lead guitarist Oscar Hernandez.

The Sabbath influence bubbles to the murky surface in the second cut, Live to Suffer, from the menacing first verse, to the doublespeed interlude with Hernandez’s tantalizingly shivery lead lines.

Alcaraz opens the band’s signature song with distantly drifting unease from his synth, Hernandez levitating from funereal belltones through a series of increasingly agitated variations  to a full-bore stomp in tandem with bassist Elix Felciano.

Defy Thy Name starts out gritty and briskly hypnotic: a tensely pounding halfspeed interlude leads to a bone-chilling, acid-flamenco dance of death, the high point of the record. From there they segue up into Memento Mori, a mini-dirge straight out of the first minute of Sabbaths’ first album and then work the gloomy implied melody in Last Rites for all it’s worth. Hernandez could go on at the end for ten times as long as he does and it wouldn’t be boring.

They hit a gallop in Curse the Light, but it’s a restrained one, Hernandez letting his grim, fuzzy notes linger in the toxic air. The band slow down a bit with a skewed take on a classic Arabic mode in Damnation, with a wry reference to an iconic busker tune and a famous Geezer Butler riff.

They close the record with Funeral Macabre, the most phantasmagorical and 60s-inspired track here, from a leering, carnivalesque theme through a long, gonzo, woozy Hernandez solo out. Doom metal purists who appreciate the classics, from Sabbath through Candlemass, St. Vitus and Radio Moscow, will love this record.

Advertisement

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.

Klezmer Music For a Chinatown Street Fair and the Horror Show in Canada

One of New York’s most unusual and enjoyable street festivals is happening today in Chinatown. That neighborhood doesn’t have many, because pretty much every day is a street fair down there. This one is on Eldridge between Division and Canal, outside the Eldridge Street Synagogue. The music starts at noon with iconic klezmer trumpeter  Frank London‘s Klezmer Brass All Stars, followed by the  Klezmographers with violinist Eleonore Biezunski and tsimbl player Pete Rushefsky, and then flutist Chen Tao and his Melody of the Dragon  Chinese traditional ensemble playing lively, verdant pentatonic folk songs. This blog was in the house (or more accurately. under the eaves across the street) to catch their set here four years ago and it was a lot of fun.

The Klezmographers, who specialize in obscure Ukrainian klezmer repertoire, are also fun. The last time anyone from this blog was at one of Rushefsky’s shows, it was at a gig at the now-discontinued Friday night concert series at the American Folk Art Museum back in 2014. Memory is a little hazy on whether it was an actual Klezmographers gig, or Rushefsky with his flutist wife: that night turned out to be a pretty wild one.

Rushefsky put out a handful of records back in the zeros with his Ternkova Ensemble. The most recent album he appears on is Toronto group KlezFactor‘s new Songs From a Pandemic Winter, streaming at Bandcamp.

The first song is Mardi Gras Fever Dream, with Mike Anklewicz’s soaring tenor sax, Jarek Dabrowski’s chicken-scratch guitar, Paul Georgiou’s clip-clop hand drum and Ali Berkok’s roller-rink organ fueling a playfully surreal mashup of Balkan cumbia, New Orleans second-line jazz and Eastern European Jewish folk music.

Rushefsky’s somberly rippling tsimbl opens Lake Michigan Klezmer Fantasy, Anklewicz switching to clarinet alongside Kousha Nakhaei’s violin for this wistful theme: Canadians have had an awful lot to mourn lately. Third Wave Lockdown opens with a twisted sample of Fidel Jr. reading from his World Economic Forum handler Chrystia Freedland’s script. Then Graham Smith’s snappy bass kicks in, Anklewicz launches into a peppy clarinet tune, and Jarek Dabrowski channels David Gilmour at his most majestic. Just like the truckers, these guys aren’t going to let fascism get them down!

Nakhaei plays what sounds like a stark chinese erhu in the polyrhythmic Winter’s Groove, as the band shift from cumbia to a bit of what sounds like a bulgar dance, to dub reggae. Singer Melanie Gall brings somberness but also a soaring, hopeful vibe to a final waltz, Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym, a spare, vivid arrangement of a chilling parable of exile and improbable escape. In 2022, this song couldn’t be more relevant. May we all fare better than that withered tree in the Yiddish lyrics.

El Perro Bite Into a Classic Acid Rock Sound

Radio Moscow‘s Parker Griggs is one of a rare crop of guitarists who’s figured out a way to use Jimi Hendrix as a stepping-off point without sounding like a pale imitation. This summer Griggs is touring with a new band, El Perro, whose debut album Hair of El Perro is just out on limited edition multicolored vinyl and streaming at Spotify.

It’s an interesting new direction, a little closer to funk or heavy latin soul than Radio Moscow’s Hendrix-baked heavy psych. The lineup here includes former Radio Moscow drummer Lonnie Blanton, bassist Shawn Davis, guitarist Jaron Yancey and percussionist Tawny Harrington.

With the album’s first track, The Mould, the band work their way up from a skeletal, nimble intro to fuzzy, heavy wah heavy riffs: nothing fancy, just straight-up catchy early-70s acid funk before Griggs goes flying off the hinges.

Track two, No Harm, is closer to the group Griggs made a name for himself with: Band of Gypsys with some killer Niagara Falls barrel-rolls from Blanton and searing, speaker-panning guitar leads. Imagine early Santana with twin leads, minus the organ, and you get Take Me Away: this is one of those great songs that you don’t realize is just a one-chord jam until it’s almost over.

Griggs and Yancey ride the wah pedals, across the speakers and back throughout track three, the instrumental K. Mt. Is that a real keyboard or just a guitar patch bringing back the vintage Santana vibe in the fourth tune, Breaking Free? Hard to tell.

They hit a dirty, refreshingly noisy 70s acid rock strut in Crazy Legs and follow it with Sitar Song. which sounds like one of those ridiculous effect-fixated rare singles you find on the Brown Acid compilations.

Volume knobs, rattletrap drums and then pure supersonic venom all figure in Black Days, the delicious twelve-minute epic that winds up the record: the dip to a squiggly bass-and-drums interlude sets up a memorable duel on the way out. There’s also a bonus track, O’Grace – with riffage like these guys have, who needs chord changes?

After an insanely slow start to the year, we are starting to be deluged with new rock records and this is one of the best and most psychedelic of the bunch. El Perro’s next unrestricted show is June 7 at around 10 at Growlers, 1911 Poplar Ave. in Memphis, Tennessee; cover is $15. Hometown heavy psych band Dirty Streets headline and make a great segue.

Slashing Twin-Guitar Intensity on Jane Lee Hooker’s New Album

Jane Lee Hooker play a snarling, distinctive mix of gutter blues, retro soul music, psychedelia and 70s acid rock. Their latest album Rollin’ – streaming at Spotify – is their most ambitious, soul-oriented and strongest release yet.

They open with Lucky. a heavy soul anthem. Frontwoman Dana Athens’ raw, impassioned vocals ring out in between stomps from the guitars of Tracy Hightop and Tina T-Bone Gorin. As bassist Hail Mary Zadroga and drummer Lightnin’ Ron Salvo lay down a lithe, incisive 6/8 groove, the two guitarists diverge into separate channels, flinging bits of blues at each other and an exchange of solos from simmering to savage.

That slashing, conversational dynamic recurs memorably throughout the rest of the record. Athens punches in on both piano and organ on the second track, Drive, a seething retro 60s-style soul tune. They follow a twisting trajectory in Jericho, from a brisk anthem down to a lull, only to explode out at the end.

The band bring a restless, relentless energy to a well-worn gospel-tinged soul jamband sound in Weary Bones: if only the thousands of other groups who play this kind of stuff could steer clear of cliches as well as this crew do.

They hit a roaring, catchy early 80s-style powerpop drive in All Good Things, then slow down a little for the organ soul tune Mercy Mercy Mercy, a vehicle for Athens’ powerful pipes. Then the band’s two guitarslingers switch out their electrics for an acoustic and a National steel model in White Gold, a delta blues stomp.

The rampaging boogie Runaway Train comes across as a more jagged, female-fronted take on peak-era 70s Blue Oyster Cult. They close the album with Mean Town Blues, a deliciously unhinged, stampeding gutter blues tune with the album’s longest guitar duel.

Jane Lee Hooker are on European tour right now. Their next restriction-free show is on June 7 at 8 PM at Samlingsstuen, Andresens Købmandsgård 4 in Kerteminde, Denmark; cover is 250 kr.

Ayumi Ishito Brings an Adventurous, Outside-the-Box Trio to Chinatown

Even in communities that support the arts, jazz musicians often get pushed to the fringes. The last two years’ insanity in New York has exponentially increased that marginalization for artists in general. Tenor saxophonist Ayumi Ishito has been one of the more resourceful players in town: she was one of the first to resume performing during the brief window of opportunity in the summer of 2021, and she’s maintained a steady schedule in recent months playing a lot of out-of-the-way venues as restrictions have been dropped. Her next gig dovetails with both her adventurous improvisational sensibility and her most recent album as a leader. She’s opening a twinbill on April 26 at 6:30 PM at Downtown Music Gallery with soundscaper Damien Olson and Nebula and the Velvet Queen on theremin. They’re followed by a second trio with Aaron Edgcomb on percussion, Priya Carlberg on vocals and David Leon on sax. It’s a pass-the-bucket situation.

Ayumi Ishito & the Spacemen Vol. 1 is streaming at Bandcamp. It’s her most experimentally ambitious release to date, a mix of trippy electroacoustic pieces featuring Theo Woodward on keys and vocals, Nebula and the Velvet Queen on theremin. Jake Strauss doubling on guitar and bass and Steven Bartashev on drums.

Squiggles quickly give way to a collective shimmer and fragmentary acoustic and electric guitar riffs as the first number, Looking Through Ice drifts along, Woodward adding Indian inflections with his vocalese. Beyond the guitar and vocals, it’s hard to distinguish the rest of the instruments – Ishito using her pedalboard here – until Strauss introduces a gently swaying, Grateful Dead-like theme and Bartashev picks up the clave with his echoey tumbles.

Shifting sheets, dopplers and warpy textures drift through the mix in the second track, Hum Infinite. Strauss finds a center and builds around it, on bass; Ishito’s wry, dry bursts evoke a EWI. The group slowly reach toward an organ soul tune, then back away as Ishito emerges acerbically from behind the liquid crystal sheen.

Track three, Misspoke is irresistibly funny, Ishito and Woodward chewing the scenery, impersonating instruments real and imagined. Strauss’ blippy bass and Bartashev’s tightly staggered drumming propel Folly to the Fullest to tongue-in-cheek hints of a boudoir soul tune, Ishito floating overhead,

Night Chant is an entertaining contrast in starry, woozy electronic textures and goofy wah-wah phrasing from Ishito: stoner electro-jazz as fully concretized as it gets. The final cut, Constellation Ceiling, is a launching pad for Ishito’s most amusing indulgences with the wah,, eventually coalescing into a bit of a triumphant strut, We need more unserious improvisational music like this.

Slomo Sapiens Bring Their Ominous Heavy Psych and Metal Attack to Brooklyn

Philadelphia power trio Slomo Sapiens play a no-nonsense blend of stoner boogie, doom metal and heavy psychedelia. Their latest limited edition cassette, Slomos Volume 1 is streaming at Bandcamp. They’re bringing their disquieting intensity to a Bushwick gig on April 24 at around 9 PM at Our Wicked Lady. There’s a techy opening act and then a couple of similar acts afterward: none of them are worth seeing. The venue’s webpage says cover is $13.60: it’s probably safe to say that the door person is unlikely to be making change with dimes and nickels, so bring fourteen bucks if you’re going. Things are getting weirder and weirder everywhere we look!

The first track on the album is Sandpounder, a catchy bumpa-bumpa-bumpa fuzztone stoner boogie tune. Frontwoman/guitarist Ceallaigh Corbishley brings surprising angst and nuance to the second track, There’s Nothing More Evil in This World Than Time, shifting from bassist Greg Geiger and drummer Jon Pritchard’s ominous gallop to a toxically swirling ambience and then back.

Slurry hammer-ons, dystopic vocoder sonics and macabre chromatics fuel the next tune, Spook the Prince, up to a dizzying, dissociative rhythmic interweave. Salem is a surreal mashup of twangy surf rock, sludgy slowcore grit and skin-peeling wah-wah riffage. They wind up the cassette (pun intended) with Chi, an echoey sound collage with some tantalizing twin guitar leads half-buried in the mix.

Yet Another Tab of Treats on the Latest Brown Acid Compilation

Every year, in celebration of 4/20, the warped brain trust behind the Brown Acid vinyl compilations release a new volume in the series. The initial concept focused on resurrecting rare heavy psych and proto-metal singles from the late 60s and early 70s. As the years went on, the project grew into a quasi-solstice celebration, twice a year, and began to encompass heavy funk as well as the occasional thrashy, garagey R&B or protest song, which makes sense considering that a lot of this music dates from the Vietnam War era. The brand-new fourteenth volume – streaming at Bandcamp – is a characteristically wide-ranging and entertaining celebration of stoner excess. For whatever reason, this one is somewhat more pop-oriented: Nuggets on Thai stick.

The first track is Fever Games, by Harrisburg, Pennsylvania band the Legends. Stoner boogie gives way to heavy funk in this 1969 Hendrix homage with a devious Little Wing quote – not the one you think – and Iron Butterfly drums.

Detroit duo Mijal & White’s 1974 B-side is a throwback to early heavy British pop bands like the Herd: some excellent extrovert drum work here. The real rediscovered gem on this playlist is Texas band Liquid Blue’s 1969 obscurity Henry Can’t Drive (why can’t he get behind the wheel? Guess).. Lead guitarist Ted Hawley would go on to become an important figure in Texas blues: his slithery multitracks here are exquisite.

The San Francisco Trolley Company were actually a Michigan band, represented by their fierce 1970 original, Signs. With the group’s cheap amps spewing dust-bunny overtones, it stands up strongly alongside the heavier Detroit acts of the era like SRC.

The contribution from West Virginia garage rock project Blue Creed is pretty generic. One of the most obscure but tightest and catchiest tunes here is Play It Cool, Transfer’s slyly shuffling, slightly surfy 1974 shout-out to stoners on the DL. Even less is known about Appletree, whose cowbell-driven single You’re Not The Only Girl (I’m Out To Get) is built around some tightly scrambling lead guitar work.

There’s an interesting blend of Beatles and Hendrix in I’m Tired, by Chicago collar-county area band Cox’s Army. The last song is the Columbus, Ohio crate-digger favorite Raven’s 1975 mostly one-chord jam Raven Mad Blues, a prime example of the extreme hippie self-indulgence the Brown Acid records sometimes descend into. Punk rock was born as an antidote to monstrosities like this – although as a comedic coda to this latest installment, it’s pretty priceless. May there be many more.

Some Killer Rare and Unreleased Sonic Youth Rescued From the Archives

Other than field recordings, is there anything left in the Sonic Youth vault worth hearing that hasn’t already been released? As it turns out. yes, and some of it is prime! It’s a bit of a shock that several of the tracks on the new album In/Out/In – streaming at Bandcamp – haven’t surfaced until now. These rare and previously unreleased cuts date from the final decade of the most influential rock band of the past forty years.

One-chord jams, or close facsimiles, predominate here. In the case of one song, In & Out, a very late-period outtake, it’s amusing to watch SY turn into Yo La Tengo, a band they influenced so profoundly. Over Steve Shelley’s surprisingly muted, galloping rhythm, the guitarists assemble starry, chiming accents amid a warm drone laced with occasional flickers of feedback and Kim Gordon’s breathy, allusive, wordless vocals.

The opening instrumental is a false start: it could be your band, or anyone else’s, hesitatingly jamming out a two-chord Velvets vamp. Social Static, the theme from the Chris Habib/Spencer Tunick film, is a steady, one-note musique concrète mood piece that collapses into loops of feedback, oscillations, pulsing noise and R2D2 in hara-kiri mode: SY at their most industrially ugly but also subtly funny. No spoilers.

Machine, an outtake from The Eternal sessions, is a rare gem: a steady, midtempo stomp bristling with the band’s often-imitated-but-never-duplicated, dissociative close harmonies and layers of gritty textures that grow more assaultive. Why was this left off the album? Space considerations?

Out & In, an epic instrumental workout from 2000 is the real standout here. There’s a wry allusion to the moment The Wonder segues into Hyperstation (arguably the high point of the Daydream Nation album), with signature off-center Thurston Moore raga riffage, and just enough microtonality and clouds of overtones to let the ghosts in under the door. Everything falls away to buzz-and-clang midway through, then they start over with a squall that’s absolutely evil. The band take it out with a stampeding over-the-shoulder nod to Captain Beefheart. This is a must-own for fans and a surprisingly good overview for beginners.

The Spy From Cairo Keeps Making Deliciously Serpentine Middle Eastern Dub Sounds

For more than a decade, one-man band Moreno “Zeb” Visini has been making wildly psychedelic dubwise Middle Eastern dance music under the name The Spy From Cairo. Oud and saz lute are his main axes, but he’s also adept at keyboards, guitar, bass and drums. As usual, he plays everything with expertise and a wry sense of humor on his new vinyl record Animamundi, streaming at Bandcamp.

He was able to record the album in his home country of Italy despite the fascist restrictions which are still in place there, since he does all the music himself with a little transcontinental input from talented vocalists on the web. The central message is freedom. If there are bouncy castles at the rallies in Rome, this is the kind of stuff that freedom fighters (and their kids) could re-energize with. There are a ton of flavors on this record, all held together by lusciously chromatic maqams.

He gets off to a strong start with the title track. a brisk Egyptian reggae tune built around a catchy, scampering, biting oud lead track. Daf frame drum booms in the background, “Information of creation is stored in our DNA,” a rasta explains in the voiceover at the end. No doubt!

Asssembled around a catchy chromatic riff, Beautiful Baraka, featuring Adil Smaali is a chaabi-reggae-rap mashup with a couple of keyboards trading off in a wry call-and-response. Black Sea comes across as a trebly dub plate with wah-wah oud. Visini balances another slithery, catchy oud riff against microtonal roller-rink organ in Cosmic Pasha, then takes a deep plunge into Middle Eastern cumbia in Criminal, with Mambe Rodriguez taking a coy turn on vocals.

Divination has a more enigmatic Balkan-flavored tune, but Visini works anthemic string synth riffs into it. He goes back to a brisk cumbia groove, adding layers of cifteli lute and a scrambling oud solo in Extraterrestre, featuring Andalucian vocalist Carmen Estevez. Hamsa Shuffle has lusciously microtonal violin and a blippy, hypnotic cumbia sway, while Mizmirized has otherworldly zurna oboe and a swaying rai beat.

Visini ripples and pings his way through Qanun in Dub, a reggae tune and one of the most unselfconsciously gorgeous tracks on the record. Seeds of Culture is a loopy Indian-flavored song with snakecharmer ney flute over a rai rhythm and an unexpectedly bristling oud outro (is there such a word as “oudtro?”). The final cut, Ya Wuldani features guests Fatou Gozlan & Duo Darbar and is arguably the most psychedelic, dubwise number. It’s awfully early in the year to be talking about the best albums of 2022, but this is one of them.