New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: bauhaus band

A Psychedelic Vortex from Thomas Simon

“WARNING: All songs are extended jams,” the cd sleeve page of guitarist Thomas Simon‘s new album Vortex cautions the listener. Simon’s extensive body of work spans the worlds of film music as well as artsy rock. A track from the debut album by his band Musiciens Sans Frontieres was a winner at the 2011 Toronto Marijuana Music Awards, which explains a lot. But as digressive as Simon can be, his music can be amazingly catchy. This album is a clinic in implied melody: you will walk away humming tunes that Simon is only sort of playing, leaving plenty of space for your mind to fill in the missing notes. The photo on the cd case shows Simon’s guitar rig spread out around the spot on the floor where he’d be standing, the expanse of equipment including but not limited to reverb and distortion pedals, a wah, laptop and set of reissue Moog pedals. Simon’s endlessly circling loops and washes of textures filtering through the sonic picture are bolstered by Frank Saitta’s drums and Lior Shulman’s percussion plus drum samples from the Escola de Olodum and “various Salvadoran street jams.”

The first track, Haze, opens with an eerie chromatic riff that alludes to Simon’s work on his previous solo album Moncao (ranked among the ten best albums of 2010 at this blog’s predecessor). Lingering waves of guitar over a slowly pulsing drum loop and menacing fragments of lyrics complete the picture and set the scene for the rest of the album. The Truth sounds like Lee “Scratch” Perry doing art-rock, guitar and melodica conversing over a hypnotic clickety-clack rhythm. The version of the third track here, In the Middle of Nowhere, on the Moncao album has an echoey Syd Barrett menace; here, it’s considerably stripped down, in the same vein as Pink Floyd’s One of These Days. The funky, echoey Dub the Toad segues into Don’t Worry, which is closer to the anthemic rock of Musiciens Sans Frontieres.

Strange Love alternates between an echoey Bela Lugosi’s Dead ambience and a mechanical dancefloor thud, followed by the nebulous washes of the aptly titled Secret Winds of Sound. Altered Planet, the most cohesive track on the Moncao album, is reinvented here as a snarling, guitar-fueled trip-hop tune that grows more swirling and vertiginous. Dead Hero works a galloping Run Like Hell groove with layers and layers of lingering, sustained, ringing, echoing guitar: it’s both the most trance-inducing and hardest-rocking track here. The album ends with Condor Jam, growing gingerly from a muted drum loop to a growling, jangly swirl, up and down through a darkly biting theme. Fans of all the aforementioned bands as well as the artsy side of stoner rock will eat this up: spin this at night, alone on the floor, in the right mood, with headphones on and you’ll be in good position to figure out what it’s all about.

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Fun Post-Velvets Stuff from the False Alarms

Today’s free download is the debut album by the False Alarms. If Darklands-era Jesus & Mary Chain is your thing, this is for you: the Brooklyn band use that album as their template, right down to the murky sonics and offcenter bent-note guitar leads. What differentiates the False Alarms from the rest of that crowded field is their energy and sense of humor. This is one of those bands whose ideas are better than their execution – tightness is not their strong suit. But having the ideas is the important thing. Just about anybody can build up chops on an instrument if they practice enough, having good songs is a whole different story.

Six of those here. Nothing of the Sea nicks the hook from Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead and takes it to Darklands. When She’s Able is more of a post-Velvets stomp, and it’s funny; this girl is a real mess. Johnny Suicide takes Jim Carroll’s People Who Died and adds Dead Boys snarl and roar, while White Flowers goes back to the J&MC, with lyrics so completely dissociative they’re a hoot. The reverb-drenched Don’t Mind Feeling Bad has the same vibe but no drums; the closing cut, Formality Blues is the funniest, has no bass and would have made for a good stoner jam if they’d decided to make it any longer than about a minute 45 seconds. “Why you have to be so fucking lame?” asks the frontman. Bands like this usually A) don’t last more than an album, B) typically disperse their members into even better bands…or morph into one. Get this one now while it’s online.

Unhinged Hungarian No Wave Noir Surf Jazz

The danger in writing about an album that came out almost a year ago is that the band might not still exist. Dorota hail from Budapest: their album is a brain-warping, assaultive mix of surf rock, no wave funk and free jazz, often with a creepy noir edge. With shimmery reverb and chorus-box guitar contrasting with menacingly growling, melodic bass and a drummer who smartly chooses the spots where he gets ugly, it’s a time trip back to around 1980. If this band had been around then, they’d be worshipped for being an influence on Sonic Youth, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and god knows who else. It’s feral, fearlessly noisy, adrenalizing stuff; while there were plenty of bands who prowled around the jagged outskirts of new wave back in the day, no one sounds quite like Dorota. The album cover gives it away more or less: a rough woodcut showing a warrior, naked except for the antlers on his head, skewering a rifle-toting soldier.

They introduce their menace quietly, just steady, scraping bass over a vocal loop. The second track is sort of a twisted Besame Mucho Twist, a staggering one-chord surf jam that cruelly refuses to find any kind of resolution except in horror tonalities. A brief no wave funk interlude is followed by a sick, skronky funk tune in 7/8 time that they take down to an atmospheric interlude before bringing it back. The way these instrumentals shift shape, switch tempos abruptly and then return to something approximating coherence is the jazz element here. The best two songs are the most noirish: the first a swaying mix of surf and dark new wave built around a brooding bolero guitar hook, the second a cinematic, ten-minute southwestern gothic epic that alternates a slow, twangy, desolate desert guitar theme with ghostly, quiet interludes where shadowy flickers of sound twitch their way from the amps to the cymbals.

The best of the funky songs blends paint-peeling atonalities and junkie blues guitar over the snarl of the bass, the guitar’s watery tone and horror-film motifs echoing John McGeoch of Siouxsie & the Banshees. The funniest one is basically a one-chord jam that slowly and matter-of-factly speeds up to a whirlpool of dreampop guitar over the roar and clatter of the rhythm section. Another of the funkier tracks evokes Robert Fripp’s abrasive King Crimson stuff; the strangest of the short interludes here features bagpipes over a distant guitar din. The band brings back the bolero allusions on a song that sounds like a cross between Bauhaus and the Raybeats, and ends the album with a warped big sky theme, Bill Frisell on an acid O.D.

Does Dorota still exist? YESSSSS. Even if this is the last album they ever put out (happily, from the looks of it, there may be many more),  it’s a classic of its kind. Download it at their site and then hit their Soundcloud page where there’s even more delicious pandemonium!