New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: afrobeat

MAKU Soundsystem Bring Their Darkly Delirious Global Sounds Back to Lincoln Center

The secret to MAKU Soundsystem‘s latest album, the aptly titled Mezcla – streaming at Spotify – is Felipe Quiroz’s  tremoloing, funereal organ. There are thousands of bubbly, terminally cheery, dancey acts out there aping sub-equatorial sounds from both hemispheres. But MAKU Soundsystem have an element of danger, and a ubiquitous if understated populist political sensibility. For example, with the album’s opening track, Agua, the band takes a generic soukous guitar riff and layers suspenseful horn swells and slinky, creepy psychedelic rock organ over a scrambling beat. The point of frontwoman Liliana Conde’s lyrics is that water goes wherever it can, and that our own quest for global unity ought to be just as fluid, and, ultimately, successful. The group are bringing their conscious dance party to the Lincoln Center Atrium on Sept 22 at 7:30 PM, and judging from the crowds they’ve brought to Lincoln Center in the past, you should get there early if you’re going.

The album’s second cut, Thank You Thank You isn’t your ordinary psychedelic cumbia. As it clatters along, the band blend elements of Afrobeat, soukous and ancient African call-and-response into the psychedelic swirl. Let It Go is even trippier – while Camilo Rodriguez’s guitar runs a terse minor-key cumbia hook, the polyrhythms from the horns and a growing army of percussion build in both channels. There isn’t a mathrock band alive who could have so much fun with an interweave of so many different beats at once.

The tangent that Positivo takes is easier to follow – it’s phantasmagorical, it’s part cumbia, part reggae, part chamame and follows a hypnotic, swaying groove: 11/4 time was never so easy to swing your hips to. Then they straighten it out, with a deliciously incisive, smoky organ solo before the brass takes it up to a mighty peak. La Inevitable – implying that you can’t resist dancing to this stuff – is a lot more hypnotic, Rodriguez’s wah-wah guitar just as much a percussion instrument as the rest of the rattle and thump as the group rises to a fiery Ethiopian-inspired crescendo.

The band follows La Hatiana, the most straight-up psychedelic cumbia here, with the album’s most straight-up Afrobeat number, What Do You Wish For. The best track here is Happy Hour, a phantasmagorical cumbia that’s the missing link between Los Destellos and Antibalas. The album winds up with another stunner, De Barrio, a moody mashup of psychedelic cumbia, dub and a sad neoromantic waltz, pure solace for gutter stargazers. To paraphrase George Clinton, liberation isn’t a trickle-down effect.

Sometimes You Can’t Catch a Break, Sometimes You Can

The man in the long black coat stood alone, or so he thought, over the kitchen table, chomping on a plate of spicy Russian beet salad. He took a pull from a plastic cup of beaujolais nouveau. This year’s wasn’t anything special, nothing like the 2003, for that matter not even up to the level of 2008, at least this particular bottle. But enough of it still did the trick, just as it did in better years. In the living room, a pretty young mother played a Bach cello sonata, calmly and comfortably, to the small crowd of guests who remained at that late hour: her parents, a yoga girl and her dreadlocked white boyfriend, a petite, bookish brunette from Park Slope and her intense-faced, solidly built, bearded companion.

In the kitchen, the man in the long black coat turned around to see the woman’s reedy, bespectacled ten-year-old son staring at him. “Come here, there’s something I want to show you,” the boy urged him, the hint of a smile at the corners of his thin lips. He was small for his age, especially in profile against the fat, freckled, autistic girl who lingered in the doorway behind him.

The man in the long black coat took another pull from the cup and followed the children into an adjacent bedroom. Paint chips fell from the far wall, behind a leather reclining chair, a dartboard overhead. “Sit down,” encouraged the boy. “Everybody I do this to likes it.’

The man in the long black coat sat down slowly and leaned back. His head was driven further into the headrest when struck from behind, in the center of his forehead, with a sharp object. The man in the long black coat gasped and was just starting to pull himself out of the chair when struck a second time. This time the boy drew blood: for someone his size, he was strong, and on a mission to inflict pain. In the corner, the autistic girl began howling with laughter. The man in the long black coat pulled himself to his feet, but not in time to avoid being hit again, a glancing blow to the side of the head. That, too, drew blood.

Jarred from a red wine haze, the man in the long black coat moved out of the bedroom quickly, not looking back. The girl in the corner was still laughing, and by now the boy was giggling as well. The man in the long black coat saw a bathroom to his right and closed the door behind him. Droplets of blood trickled down the worn but now adrenalized face in the mirror. He reached for a piece of toilet paper, then thought better of it and pulled a napkin from his coat pocket. Gingerly, he blotted at his wounds.

He walked out into the hallway. The mother’s parents were there, glanced up and said nothing. The mother, behind them, did the same. No reaction, no offer of a band-aid, peroxide, even a simple “Are you ok?”

The man in the long black coat walked past them, toward the door, then stepped out into the cold Brighton Beach air. It was best to be out of this house of no empathy. Was this a ritual from the old country? A game to initiate outsiders? What would happen if he returned? Would he be skewered, eaten with beets and horseradish? Questions best left unanswered. He looked up, blinking the blood from his eyes as a B train rumbled into the station overhead.

The following night, the man in the long black coat reached the exit at the top of the stairs to the IRT local train at Broadway and 66th, the affectingly bittersweet, minor-key strains of what could have been an old Ukrainian Jewish song but was probably an original drifting from a couple of blocks south. Carefully, he adjusted the old black Mets hat over the wounds under the bandage.

A crowd of Jews were gathered in front of a Christmas tree near the point of the park where Columbus and Broadway cross at 63rd. The band onstage in front of them was fantastic: Alicia Svigals out front on violin, Patrick Farrell on accordion, Aaron Alexander on drums. The man in the long black coat didn’t recognize the bass player. Was this a comfortably typical New York moment or a subtle bit of subversion? What does it say about how far we’ve come that such a sight could be subversive in a city that at least on the surface seems to embrace so many cultures?

The man in the long black coat paused. This music was beautiful, and soul-stirring, a moment of comfort and warmth on an early winter night. But that’s not what he was there for. Halfheartedly, he moved ahead, south and west. Inside the Lincoln Center atrium space, with its desk for cheap day-of-show tickets and sandwich stand emanating smells of burnt cheese and sandwich meat, Fela cover band Chop & Quench were amassed onstage, ready to launch into a slinking, galloping set of Nigerian stoner dance grooves from the 1970s. An altogether different vibe from what was being played outside, notwithstanding that Afrobeat and Ukrainian Jewish music share a defiance and resilience.

Chop & Quench were the pit band for the Broadway musical Fela, arguably the most relevant production to appear on the Great White Way. The man in the long black coat was aware of this, but this show was all about the music. He leaned against the atrium wall, watching frontman Sahr Ngaujah, who starred as the Nigerian agitator bandleader in the theatrical run, spun and pounced across the stage, a trio of brightly skirted women to his right undulating along with the grooves spinning from Tim Allen’s bass and Greg Gonzalez’s drums. Guitarists Ricardo Quinones and Bryan Vargas clinked and jangled and mingled, trumpeter Jeff Pierce and tenor saxophonist Morgan Price taking the occasional long crescendo upward with a rapidfire solo.

Although the long rectangular room was pretty full, there weren’t many people dancing. After awhile, it was as if the band was playing a single, long song. After about forty minutes, they finally hit a snarling minor-key riff and launched into Water No Get Enemy, an aptly relevant number for this era. That was enough for the man in the long black coat, who exited back onto Broadway. Were the Jewish bands still playing? Yes!

Onstage now were trumpeter Frank London, accordionist Lorin Sklamberg and pianist Uri Caine, two thirds of the original New York punk klezmer band, the Klezmatics. “We may be in Manhattan, but this show is all about Brooklyn,” London grinned, explaining how much of their repertoire they’d discovered hanging with a Hasidic crowd there. Together they followed the rises and falls of a set of dances, a stately, cantorially-flavored hymn for peace and finally a droll, jazzed-up version of the dreydl song – it was Hanukkah season, after all. Violist Ljova Zhurbin came up onstage and added an acerbic edge for a couple of numbers; London encouraged him to stay for more, but he obviously had other places to be.

The man in the long black coat spotted Zhurbin’s wife, the great Yiddish singer Inna Barmash, in the audience. She smiled and waved; the man in the long black coat waved back. He looked up at the big evergreen behind the stage, festooned with ornaments, then at the lights twinkling down the avenue. In the austere washes of the accordion, London’s balmy trumpet and Caine’s careful, focused, sometimes darkly bluesy phrases, it was easy to call this home, good to be alone in the crowd.

The Sway Machinery Release Their Richly Psychedelic New Album on a Killer Multi-Band Bill at the Knitting Factory

You might think that a song titled You Will Love No One But Me would be a creepy tale about a stalker. As the title track to the Sway Machinery’s new ep – streaming at Soundcloud – it’s a characteristically eclectic, warmly tuneful mashup of reggae, Afrobeat and psychedelia, frontman Jeremiah Lockwood’s enigmatic, deliciously jangly guitar solo at the center. Like most bands in this century, the Sway Machinery have recorded sporadically, if memorably: their previous album Purity and Danger, from earlier in the year, is a sparkling, psychedelic masterpiece, and this one picks up where that one left off. They’re playing smack in the middle of one of this year’s most enticing and eclectic bills on December 16 at around 9 at the Knitting Factory: country blues guitarist/songwriter Jon LaDeau opens at around 7, followed by funky psychedelic Ethiopiques band Nikhil P. Yerawadekar and Low Mentality, the Sway Machinery and then the People’s Champs, who lately have taken a hard turn from funk into Afrobeat at its most psychedelic. Advance tix at the box offfice, open on show nights, are a bargan at $10.

Beyond the title cut, the Sway Machinery ep’s other tracks are just as choice. Kith & Kin bubbles and dances on the wings of Matt Bauder’s sax and Jordan McLean’s trumpet up to Lockwood’s eerie, lingering minor-key twelve-string phrases, an uncanny approximation of a Middle Eastern kanun that works like a charm in the context of this Ethiopiques-tinged tune. Can’t Help But Stare veers from hints of garage rock, to reverb-drenched dub reggae over the steady pulse of bassist Yerawadekar and drummer John Bollinger, up to an almost stadium-rock grandeur.

This Kiss Blooms But Once a Year is the most straightforward and hard-hitting song here, Lockwood’s biting guitar and expressively melismatic baritone welded to a groove that’s part ominously foreshadowed Ethiopiques and part Marquee Moon-era Television. The final cut, My Beloved, is the most unselfconsciously gorgeous, a brass-spiced, simmeringly guitar-fueled, pouncing update on an ancient cantorial theme. As is typical with this band, there are allusions and frequently less oblique references to the Hasidic music that Lockwood came up in – his grandfather, Jacob Konigsberg, was legendary as a choir leader and soloist in that demimonde, and remains a profound influence in the group’s work as well as the guitarist’s many solo and theatrical projects.

A Tight, Straight-Ahead, Funky New Album and a Rough Trade Show by Dancefloor Groovemeisters Emefe

Emefe distinguish themselves in many ways, one of them being that they are one of the few drummer-led bands around. Miles Arntzen – son of individualistically brilliant trumpeter/composer/singer Leif Arntzen – propels this Afrobeat-inspired dancefloor groove crew from behind the kit. Tenor saxophonist Jas Walton’s site describes the group’s mission as being “to fight the inner authorities that we put on ourselves” – as George Clinton said, free your ass and your mind will follow. Their forthcoming second album – which isn’t out yet, although there are a couple of tracks up at Bandcamp – updates mid-80s, funky Talking Heads for the 21st century. It’s a lot more terse, focused and less jam-oriented than their previous material, although that probably won’t have much to do with how much this group likes to cut loose onstage. They’re playing Rough Trade on April 2 at 11 PM; general admission is $12.

The new album kicks off with a flourish of a flute intro and then Jake Pinto’s surreal blend of watery synth tones joins the guitars as Doug Berns anchors it with his terse, biting, kinetic bass: the mantra is “don’t fall for it.” It’s part funk, part oldschool disco and it’s awfully catchy.

One of the guitarists – Deen Anbar and Michael Harlen – takes over in the tonebending department on Come Back to Me, which adds a little hip-hop touch to Talking Heads funk. Likewise, Same Thing takes a Burning Down the House drive and adds a little anthemic Celtic flavor. Sun Spat takes a circular indie classical horn riff – Walton in tandem with trumpter Michael Fatum, trombonist Raymond Mason and baritone saxophonist Zach Mayer – and then brings the band in to meet them in a blaze of intricately orchestrated harmonies that they very artfully shift in a funkier direction before an unexpected detour into dub.

Summer is as close to oldschool 70s funk as the band gets on the album, Walton’s sax sailing over dirty guitars and a tight dancefloor strut until Fatum blasts in and blows up the spot. And then the band follows with a long, anthemically explosive outro. After that, a jazzily determined vocal-and-percussion interlude leads into more beefed-up Talking Heads funk with Free to Scream: “You could scream any time of day/Be prepared for anything in your way” is its cautionary message. It’s the album’s most angst-driven and best song.

40 Watt, a dynamically shapeshifting instrumental with more pyrotechnic Fatum trumpet, builds to a joyous shout-out to the soul-funk classic The Horse as it winds out. The final cut, Dream Your Life Away brings to mind MTV-era Peter Gabriel. What use is this music? It’s like espresso in a can. It’ll revitalize you on the way home from work or school, and if you have enough space in your place for people to dance, throw this puppy on the next time you have a party and crank it.

The Brighton Beat Bring Their Psychedelic, Danceable Grooves to Gowanus

How brave is it for a band to open an album with a nine-minute song? If you play Afrobeat, that’s like putting the hit single first. Fela would vamp on the same groove for half an hour, live or in the studio, no problem. So explosive Boston-based Afrobeat jamband the Brighton Beat‘s new album, Off We Go, kicks off relatively tersely. The whole thing is streaming at Bandcamp – and if you want a cd, they’re only eight bucks. The band play the album release show in the mellow, comfortable Gowanus confines of Shapeshifter Lab on March 5 at 7 PM; cover is $10. And much as the venue is a jazz club, more or less, nobody’s going to stop you if you feel like dancing.

Because that’s what the Brighton Beat’s music is all about – that, and working a trippy groove with lots of solos. So it’s head music and body music too, in fact, the band’s most psychedelic effort to date. They take their time launching into that first nine-minute cut, the album’s title track. A lithe, skeletal guitar intro from Mark Cocheo and Greg Schettino builds to a stormy brass peak and then the band kicks into cruise control mode, with Jon Bean’s tenor sax taking a long climb skyward before the guitars turn up the heat again.

Drummer/bandleader Sammy Wags and conguero Patrick Dalton open the second track, Green Monster, as they do several of the cuts here. Is this a Red Sox rally theme? Hmmm…maybe. There’s plenty of livewire energy in Zach Kamins’ blippy keys and the mighty horn section of multi-reedman Mark Zaleski (who takes a blazing solo along with one of the guitarists), trombonist/trumpeter Freddy Gonzalez, trumpeter Francesco Fratini and baritone saxophonist Gabe Yonkler.

Hit the Bricks mashes up vintage Booker T soul-funk with Pink Floyd and a tiptoeing Afrobeat pulse driven by bassist Ryan Hinchey, a searing Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2-style guitar solo at its center. Fortune Teller, an original rather than the old Elvis song, artfully disperses a massive horn arrangement, with a warm, sophisticated 70s soul-funk vibe and cloudbusting trombone and tenor sax solos. Then they take the theme and make balmy, trombone-fueled dub reggae out of it.

Stand with the Herd is a two-parter, the first a vehicle for Kamins’ carbonated Rhodes piano ripples, the second a dubby nocturne with spot-on Gonzalez and Yonkler solos and an awesome afterburner twin-guitar solo out. Red Orange, another nine-minute monster, blends ska, stark Ethiopiques and Afrobeat, with all kinds of up-and-down dynamic shifts and some wry P-Funk keys. With its web of animated, conversational horns, Orange Sunshine is the most retro, Fela-inspired of all the tracks here. The album ends up with its strangest and strongest number, Summer Lullaby, which is about as far from Afrobeat as you can get: it’s a slowburning guitar-fueled sway straight out of the Shine On You Crazy Diamond school of eerie studio jams, and might be a hint of where this band is going in the future.

The Brighton Beat put out more albums than most bands, many of them recorded live and available as name-your-price downloads. The most recent one is Live at the Bean Runner, from about a year ago, and it’s something you should get if you like this kind of stuff.

The Sway Machinery Release Another Fiery, Eclectic, Psychedelic Masterpiece

The Sway Machinery are one of the real feel-good stories of the New York rock scene. They’ve come a long, long way since their days in the early zeros, when as one esteemed New York guitarist put it, they were sort of the “cantorial AC/DC.” There’s no band in the world who sound remotely like them. Mashing up hypnotic Saharan duskcore, biting postpunk, Afrobeat, funk and ancient Hasidic ngunim with a searing, guitar-fueled undercurrent, they’re one of the most individualistic and consistently exciting groups to emerge from this city in this century. They’ve got a new album, Purity and Danger, due out next week (hence no streaming link, although three of the tracks are up at soundcloud) and an album release show on March 1 at 6 (yes, six) PM at Baby’s All Right. Cover is $10, which is dirt cheap for that venue.

The big difference with this album is that it’s something of a return to their hard-rocking roots. Bass saxophonist Colin Stetson has been switched out for Antibalas‘ guitar-bass team of Tim Allen and Nikhil Yerawadekar, who provide a bouncy contrast for frontman Jeremiah Lockwood’s tersely searing reverbtoned guitar riffs. The album opens with the brisk, punchy Afrobeat-tinged instrumental title track, Lockwood’s chords blasting in the right channel, Allen playing lithe jangle in the left against the bright harmonies of trumpeter Jordan McLean and saxophonist Matt Bauder over a groove that’s equally catchy and hypnotic.

Rachamana D’Onay mashes up Middle Eastern rock, reggae and Ethiopiques into a surreallistically dancing stew. Revive the Dead has an irrepressible drive that’s part Sly Stone, part pensive 70s European art-rock, with a long jam that’s a study in tasty guitar contrasts, and a soulful trumpet solo out. My Dead Lover’s Wedding circles and careens around a rhythm that’s part 70s stoner art-rock, part camelwalking assouf desert rock.

On Magein Avos, Lockwood makes a bouncy, trickily rhythmic anthem out of its otherworldly, rustic cantorial theme, drummer John Bollinger pushing it with a restless, hard-hitting pulse. The band does Longa, another number based on an ancient traditional theme, as marauding Middle Eastern surf: imagine Eyal Maoz out in front of Budos Band. Then Lockwood returns to a lingering, resonantly psychedelic groove with Al Tashlicheini, a launching pad for his soaring, impassioned baritone vocals.

Od Hapaam is a mashup of joyous oldschool soul, blazing Ethiopiques and searing, suspensefully cinematic stadium rock, Lockwood’s rumbling solo leaving a long trail of sparks in its wake. My Angel’s House skirts funk, desert rock and rhythmically shapeshifting art-rock without hitting any of those style head-on, although Lockwood’s sputtering guitar here wouldn’t be out of place in a Bombino song. The album winds up with Rozo D’Shabbos, by the great Russian-American cantor Pierre Pinchik, reinvented as a vigorously crescendoing anthem that rises out of a hypnotic Afrobeat vamp. Knowing the band, they’ll probably jam the hell out of these songs live.

Spanglish Fly Keep the Party Going at Barbes

Although what Spanglish Fly play is ostensibly boogaloo music, what they do isn’t retro at all. Basically, they come across as jazz guys playing a distinctively edgy 21st century update on classic psychedelic latin soul from the 60s. And there’s a little early Afrobeat – think Hugh Masekela – in there too, along with umpteen breaks for flurrying, postbop jazz horn solos, or momentary explosions from the timbales or the congas. You could make a case that they’re a cross between the Bronx Horns and Sharon Jones‘ backing band the Dap-Kings. When Chicha Libre (another individualistic, smartly improvisational band putting a new spin on an old sound, in their case Peruvian psychedelic cumbias) went on hiatus, Spanglish Fly were the first to take over that band’s long-running Monday night residency at Barbes. And they did a good job picking up the slack for an impossibly good act to follow. The first night of the residency, back in December, and then their show there this past Monday were full of surprises and top-shelf playing. They give party music a good name.

Trumpeter/bandleader Jonathan Goldman directed the band – who seem to be a semi-rotating cast of characters -with split-second precision when he wasn’t kicking in with the rest of the horns on a punchy chorus, or spiraling out into the stratosphere with a solo. At the December show, they were joined midway through by singer Mariella Gonzalez, who led them through several originals with a coyly enticing delivery, singing in both English and Spanish. This past Monday, they had a fashionably dressed dreadlocked guy singing a couple of tunes including a snazzily reworked, salsafied version of I Heard It Through the Grapevine. The bass in this band has always been fat but it was especially fat on Monday: as much as there was going on in the rest of the band, just the catchy hooks looming in from the bass amp were enough to keep your head bobbing. One of the standout tracks both nights was Pensamiento (Think), a big showstopper with a salsa dura break midway through and a hard-hitting, irresistible chorus. December’s set was more stripped-down, with plenty of tumbling, incisive piano work. This week’s set was more of a showcase for the fire and drive of the four-piece horn section and the band’s intricate arrangements, which owe more to jazz than to either salsa or retro soul. Their next Barbes show is Feb 16 at 9 PM, and remember, Monday is professional night. All the amateurs will be at home asleep.

Hypnotic, High-Voltage Afrobeat Grooves from Afrolicious

More about that September 3, 8 PM show at Brooklyn Bowl mentioned here yesterday: Afrolicious are on a twinbill with Zongo Junction. If the idea of getting down on the dancefloor for three seriously sweaty hours is your thing, this is the place to be. Two bands, ten bucks.

Like Zongo Junction, Afrolicious has a new album, California Dreaming, streaming at Spotify. In a lot of ways, one band is the reverse image of the other: where Zongo Junction is all about mighty orchestration and expansive jams, Afrolicious keep things extremely tight and close to the ground, as you would probably expect from a somewhat smaller group. Where Zongo Junction’s psychedelic side plays up an intricate interweave between the instruments, especially the horns, Afrolicious is a lot more hypnotic and closer to the original Nigerian roots of Afrobeat. Afrolicious also blend elements of oldschool 70s disco and newschool dancefloor beats as well, drummer Paul Oliphant propelling a handful of numbers with the same kind of steady 2/4 thump you’d expect to find in techno…except that his groove is organic and doesn’t lose sight of the human element.

The album’s title track sets the stage, a seamlessly catchy, minor-key blend of funk, oldschool disco and Afrobeat, fueled by Wendel “Get Down” Rand’s dancing bass and the three-sax reed section of Kate Pittard, Aaron Liebowitz and Frank Mitchell. The second track, Revolution, pairs the optimistic vocals of frontman Freshislife with percussionists Baba Durum and Diamond over a steady, swinging funk vamp: “Everywhere I turn, I see revolution,” is their mantra. The cautionary tale Never Let No One mashes uo Fela and disco with terse horns and minor-key guitar from the axeman who calls himself “Pleasuremaker.” They follow that with Crazy, a brisk vintage disco number built out of a simple, incisive, bluesy guitar riff, making their way methodically up to a scurrying sax solo.

Pleasuretime is the first of the organic techno-influenced tunes, with elements of ska and dub reggae but more funky than either of those styles usually get. Pleasurepower follows a similar theme, followed by Thursday Right King Swing, which is almost a remix, but a live one, with more of that heavy dancefloor thud and spiraling electric piano, bringing in a Fela-esque arrangement so subtly that you don’t realize it until it hits you. The rest of the album comprises a couple of pretty straightforward Afrobeat jams, a reggae jam and one that’s more straight-up funk. Like all good party music, this works on a physical and metal level: free your ass and your mind will follow.

Zongo Junction Bring Their Mighty Psychedelic Afrobeat Grooves to Brooklyn Bowl

Considering the economics of being a musician in 2014, it’s almost astonishing how a ten-piece band like Zongo Junction could make a living. Yet they do it, constantly touring, bringing their psychedelic Afrobeat grooves to midsize venues everywhere. And there’s an audience for it: people love what they do. Is Vampire Weekend responsible? Maybe, but Zongo Junction’s shapeshifting grooves are vastly more interesting, and adrenalizing, and danceable than anything that other band ever dreamed of. Zongo Junction have a new album, No Discount, streaming at Spotify and a show coming up at Brooklyn Bowl on September 3 at 8 PM with the similarly energetic, more disco-inclined Afrolicious. Which means that if you want to party your ass off, that’s the place to be. Cover is $10 and given the size of the place, there’s probably no need to worry about getting a ticket in advance.

The album’s opening track, The Van That Got Away starts out with a tricky, skittish intro fueled by Jordan Hyde’s guitar, then Ross Edwards’ keys hint at a woozy P-Funk ambience before the horns come in with a tight, carpetbombing arrangement. Then all of a sudden they hit a dub interlude, the last thing you’d ever expect. Jonah Parzen-Johnson’s blippy baritone sax leads then out as the ambient layers shift behind him over the scurrying bass and drums of David Lizmi and bandleader Charles Ferguson.

Longtooth is more of a straight-up funk tune with a synth hook that sounds almost like a vocoder, a big, dramatic brass arrangement – that’s Aaron Rockers on that long, impressively judicious trumpet solo, with Kevin Moehringer on tombone and Matt Nelson on tenor sax. Invented History starts out as a ramshackle brass-band romp, hits a nebulously noisy interlude and segues into the bubbly title track. Pointillistic organ and guitar hooks intertwine and build to a big psychedelic soul crescendo, then the horns carry it, building a dizzying thicket of polyrhythms.

The hypnotically pulsing, cleverly intertwining 21 Suspects in Madina sets a balmy tenor sax solo over an echoey drums-and-EFX dub interlude and then picks up steam. A loopy atmospheric interlude sets up the album’s longest track, National Zoo – awash in lush, shifting sheets, it works a mighty anthemic groove down to a long, trippy noir segment and then back: it’s the darkest and most psychedelic track here. Tunnel Bar juxtaposes mid-80s Talking Heads with Afrobeat: it’s both the album’s most cinematic and avant garde number. They end it with a nebulous, enigmatic atmospheric horn outro

So that’s the play-by-play. You’re probably not going to be keeping score, just reacting on a visceral level on the dancefloor.

Ester Rada Plays One of This Summer’s Most Interesting Shows at Madison Square Park

What’s the likelihood that an Ethiopian-born Israeli singer would have internalized oldschool American soul, funk and jazz to the point where she could pass for a star in any of those styles from the 60s or 70s? Ester Rada is exactly that. Her concert earlier this summer at Madison Square Park with her brilliant Israeli band revealed her every bit as adept at her native Ethiopiques as well as a whole bunch of western idioms. After an intro medley from Rada’s dynamic six-piece group –  three-piece horn section, lead guitar, keys, bass and drums – spanning from Ethiopian to American funk, she launched into a wryly catchy ba-BUMP soul tune punctuated by tersely growling baritone sax and ringing guitar riffs. Throughout the set, Rada sang in perfect English in a resonant, measured, dynamic alto, rising and falling with a constant sense of suspense.

She followed with a slinky, moodily vamping, minor-key Bill Withers-tinged anthem that picked up steam ominously as it went along. The band took the next tune from Afrobeat to pulsing roots reggae in seconds flat and then very subtly brought it back to middle ground between a summery, rootsy groove and a frenetic 1970s-style Nigerian club theme. The tenor sax player gave a briskly strolling Ethiopiques number a long, lithely spiraling, apprehensively dancing, Middle Eastern-flavored intro before Rada picked it up with an indomitable, nonchalantly insistent Amharic vocal. Mysterious cinematic, bass-driven pedalpoint gave way to a wickedly catchy, backbeat-driven anthem that hit an unexpected and wickedly fiery Ethiopiques crescendo at the end.

Rada reinvented Nina Simone’s Four Women as a brooding tune that moved uneasily between clave funk and a soaringly dancing African bounce that went doublespeed as it wound up. She paired off dramatic vocals with blippy Baba O’Reilly keys on the Afrobeat number that followed – there was a psychedelic aspect to a lot of the show, and this was the peak. The concert followed a familiar trajectory of call-and-response with the crowd, band intros, expansively funky jamming and a return to oldschool soul and otherworldly Ethiopian riffage at the end.

Let’s hope for another NYC engagement from Rada sooner than later, notwithstanding all the troubles in Israel. The next Madison Square Park concert is tonight at 7 PM featuring one of New York’s most energizing jambands, charismatic singer Arleigh Kincheloe and her group Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds.