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Tag: chicha libre

The Best Brooklyn Venue of 2017

Every year for ten years now, this blog’s predecessor has picked two New York venues as the best in their respective boroughs, Manhattan and Brooklyn. It’s time for this blog to take over that responsibility.

For those of you who follow concert coverage here, it won’t come as any surprise that the pick for best Brooklyn venue this year goes to Barbes.

On one hand, that this modest Park Slope boîte has been able to stay in business for fifteen years during the longest downward spiral that this city’s arts scene has ever experienced validates the argument that if you give people good music, people will come.

Hang at the bar long enough and you may meet locals who, when they were growing up, probably never listened to anything edgier than Bonnie Raitt. Yet they’re nuts about Slavic Soul Party. And have seen the band dozens of times – simply because Barbes’ management thought that giving a weekly residency to an oompahing brass band who love hip-hop as much as Serbian music would be a moneymaking venture. On a Tuesday night, no less.

And they were right!

For years, the Barbes house band, Chicha Libre – who probably deserve more credit than any other group for making cumbia the world’s default party music – packed the house on what otherwise would have been a dead Monday night. Had they played Saturday nights like every other band in the world wants to do, they could have succeeded at a venue ten times the size of Barbes. But this was a win-win situation. The bar made Saturday night money, the band did well, and the weekly residency eliminated the need for a rehearsal space.

Stephane Wrembel, the paradigm-shifting Romany jazz guitarist, has been playing there pretty much every week, practically from day one. He has a gig somewhere else in town, or out of town, most every other night. New Yorkers have more chances to see this guy than we do pretty much anyone else. And yet, if you don’t show up early enough, you won’t be able to get into the room to see him.

On a Sunday night.

A few weeks ago there was a klezmer band in the back, and it was impossible to get in to see them, too. This was at four on a lazy weekend afternoon.

Practically every night of the week, there is an act here worth seeing. The scene is global; cross-pollination is the name of the game. Bollywood cumbia; creepy surf art-rock; film noir dance music; Afrobeat psychedelia; Peruvian parlor pop, and one of the original and most popular mashups in the history of American music: latin jazz. If Barbes has found success in pushing the envelope, why don’t other venues do the same thing?

Obviously, a lot of them haven’t been around as long and are under considerably more pressure to pay the rent. In their circumstances, the hope of being able to weather a couple of down nights if an act doesn’t pull the expected crowd is a luxury they can’t afford. The opposite is true too: many of the new neighborhood clubs are vanity projects funded by rich out-of-state parents who want to give Junior something to keep him busy and off dope until his trust fund kicks in. And the trend at larger venues is to hand over booking to number-crunching poindexters who won’t work with any artist who doesn’t have the requisite social numbers – which are all fake, by the way.

Still, you have to wonder. What Olivier Conan and Vincent Douglas are doing at Barbes is nothing new. Bill Graham did that at the Fillmores, east and west. Hilly Kristal did it at CBGB. You’d think that somebody, somewhere in this city beyond the elite echelon of Barbes, the Jalopy, Drom and Lincoln Center would see the value in niche programming – if only to eliminate the agony of having to suffer through one lame Muse or Beyonce wannabe after another.

Sure, there’s the magical Owl in Crown Heights. But as far as pretty-much-nightly music is concerned, that’s it. Barbes has at least another five years left in their comfortable former laundromat space at the corner of Ninth Street and Sixth Avenue. It’s a scene every bit as historic as what was happening at Birdland in 1957, or at CB’s and in the vacant lots of the South Bronx twenty years later. And it’s yours if you want it.

Tomorrow, this blog’s pick for best Manhattan venue.

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Psychedelic Peruvian Legends Los Wemblers Make a Historic Appearance in Red Hook on the 16th

A landmark event in New York music history is happening this Oct 16 at 9 PM at the Pioneer Arts Center in Red Hook, where the brain trust of Brooklyn hotspot Barbes have booked an extremely rare US show by Peruvian psychedelic cumbia legends Los Wemblers de Iquitos. Powerhouse singer Carolina Oliveros’ trippy tropicalia band Combo Chimbita – who mash up cumbia, salsa, chamame and a whole bunch of other south of the border styles – open the night. Cover is $25.

Even on their home turf, Los Wemblers had pretty much dropped out of sight until the past few years. It’s probably safe to say that if Olivier Conan and Vincent Douglas hadn’t started Chicha Libre, who brought the wild, surreal psychedelic cumbias of the 1960s and 70s out of the Amazonian jungle for the first time, staging this concert anywhere outside of a Peruvian expat community would have been absurd. But thanks in large part to their band – and Barbes Records’ two Roots of Chicha historical compilations – this trippy, intoxicatingly danceable music isn’t an obscure niche genre anymore. Maybe, as Conan once boasted, cumbia really is going to take over the world.

This family band of six guys from an isolated Amazonian oil boomtown, most of them in their sixties and seventies, played a wildly vigorous recent show that kept a mix of sweaty kids and curious oldsters on their feet for the better part of three hours. As one of the night’s emcees emphasized, Los Wemblers distinguish themselves from their innumerable countrymen who from the late 60s into the 80s mashed up American surf music, psychedelic rock, indigenous folk themes, sounds from Cuba to Argentina and pretty much all points in between.  But where so many of those bands went soft when synthesizers got popular, Los Wemblers sound exactly like they did in their hometown of Iquitos in 1969 – except louder.

The band’s patriarch, guitarist Salomon Sanchez sadly didn’t live to see the band’s resurgence, but his five sons did and now comprise most of the group. The star of the night was guitarist Alberto Sanchez, who played most of two long sets with his eyes closed, the trace of a smile on his face as his fast fingers fueled a magically clanging, twangy, undulating tropical time machine.

Behind him, the band’s two percussionists laid down a slinky, irresistible groove that boomed and rattled off the space’s bare walls to the point that there was an oscillation between the clave click of the woodblock and the thump of the congas, which raised the psychedelic factor several notches. Together they ran through a surreal mashup of snaky cumbia, sprightly Pervuian folk themes, twangy surf tunes, a couple of strikingly stark, minor-key, Cuban-tinged numbers, and many of their hits, segueing into one after another with hardly a single break.

The best one of the night was Sonido Amazonico, which they played twice. The first time around, they did the haunting, phantasmagorical “national anthem of chicha” as a sprawling ten-minute jam, a creepy cocktail of Satie-esque passing tones, like a warped tarantella to counter the effects of a lysergic spider bite. The second time around they hit it harder and more directly, like the original vinyl single, the guitarist capping off his solo with a sizzling, spiraling flight upward, then hitting his wah pedal and leaving it wide open, a murky pool of sound mingling with the echoey, cantering beats. What frontman/percussionist Jair Sanchez left no doubt about was that it was their song to mess with, notwithstanding that Lima band Los Mirlos‘ version was the bigger hit, and that Chicha Libre’s cover is what pretty much jumpstarted the Brooklyn cumbia cult.

Another hit the crowd got to twice was the careening, aptly gritty La Danza Del Petrolero – and happily, unlike the popular Los Mirlos cover, the guitar was in tune this time. The rest of the set was a fascinating look at how psychedelic cumbias are just as diverse as American psychedelic rock. Without blinking an eye, the band made their way expertly through a couple of bright, cheery vamps that more than hinted at Veracruz folk tunes, eventually hit a brooding, Cuban-flavored number, made cumbia out of a stately, dramatic tango anthem, sped up, slowed down and took a couple of frantically pulsing detours toward merengue.

One of the night’s best numbers was also the most ornate and ominously elegant – but no less danceable. Devious references to the Ventures, Duke Ellington and the Richard Strauss theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey bubbled to the surface. By the time the old guys finally called it quits, it was almost midnight. Fresh off their first ever European tour, they’re reputedly every bit as incendiary as they were this time out. The Pioneer Works show ought to be at the top of the bucket list of every New Yorker who’s into psychedelic sounds.

Austin’s Best Band Comes to Brooklyn’s Best Venue This Saturday Night

Is Money Chicha’s album Echo en Mexico the heaviest cumbia ever made? Decide for yourself – it’s streaming at Soundcloud.  Just listen, for example, to the string-torturing axe-murderer guitar solo at the end of their version of Juaneco Y Su Combo’s classic, wordless elegy for a plane crash,  Lamento En La Selva, which opens the album. If psychedelic music, the magically trebly, trippy sounds of 1970s Peru, or the idea of dancing your ass off are your thing, get that ass down to Barbes this Saturday night, July 30 at 10 PM where this Austin band – a Grupo Fantasma spinoff – are headlining. A near-capacity crowd crammed into the place last night to see Locobeach – another spinoff of a famous band, in this case cumbia icons Chicha Libre – and they were playing mostly covers. So you’d better get there early.

What’s coolest about this band is how they cycle through just about every kind of psychedelic cumbia ever made: the brisk vamps of Juaneco’s cumbia selvetica; the allusive menace of Lima bands like Los Mirlos; the eclectic sparkle of Los Destellos and the outside-the-box surrealism of Chicha Libre, probably the band they ultimately resemble the most.

The album’s  second track, Level One Sound’s Quieren Efectos, has everything you could want from a classic cumbia jam: catchy minor-key tune, woozy wah guitar, a slinky groove, bright rat-tail organ riffs, trippy dub echoes and a suspenseful timbale beat that threatens to break completely loose but never does.

The title cut shuffles along briskly toward the graveyard, awash in reverb, haunted roller-rink organ and evil flangey guitar. The majestic, metallic guitar solo midway through reminds that the core of this band also play in Black Sabbath reinventors Brownout. Then they completely flip the script with the playful, cartoonish Animalitos: tiny elephants made from sweet crunchy dough = gourmet stoner munchies, no?

Cosa Verde, built around a simple, emphatic riff, looks back to the harder-rocking, classic Lima bands of the late 60s and early 70s like Los Diablo Rojos: the warpy tremoloing guitars really nail that era’s tinny studio sonics, beefed up with fat current-era low end and an unexpectedly dark bridge.

Cumbia Familiar is a very thinly disguised remake of a famous island tv theme first surfed out by the Ventures; this one has all kinds of spacy dub touches wafting through the mix. The album’s best track, Chicha Negra is also is darkest, simmering and swooshing with evil chromatics, serpentine organ and warptone guitar. Its mirror image is the Chicha Libre classic Papageno Electrico, a picture that completes itself when the organ joins the guitar duel at the end.

Yo No Soy Turku is a mashup of the blippy Mediterranean psychedelia of bands like Annabouboula and the macabre Turkish surf rock of Beninghove’s Hangmen. Likewise, the tricky, constantly shifting metrics and horror movie organ of 3 Balls continue the sinister tangent through a strange, dubby outro.

Cumbia Del Tamborcito is the album’s most dubwise and epic track, veering from a staggering intro, back and forth through gritty guitar-fueled intensity and lushly enveloping, nebulously smoky sonics. The final cut is La Cordillera, a deliciously doomy flamenco-metal song in cumbia disguise. Is the coolest album of the last several months or what?

Brooklyn’s Best Music Venue Is in Trouble

Barbes is fifteen years old this month. Since 2003, the little Park Slope boîte has been home to the most fearlessly adventurous global sounds from across the borough and around the world. To give you an idea of what kind of magic takes place here night after night, multi-instrumentalist Chi-Chi Glass played here a couple of nights ago and aired out a brand-new Peruvian piano ballad with lyrics by Maya Angelou, as well as part of an Albeniz piano sonata and a series of haunting Andean-tinged art-songs with rapturously ethereal harmonies by Judith Berkson and accordion from La Rubias Del Norte’s Alyssa Lamb.

A couple of nights before, psycho mambo band Gato Loco blasted through a set of percussively stalking noir themes with frequent detours into Ethio-jazz. And the Saturday before that, the band in the back room was Les Chauds Lapins, who unveiled a bunch of lush new classically-infused string arrangements to bolster the droll, surrealistic French swing they’ve made a name for themselves with, mostly here. There is nowhere else in New York, maybe in the world, where you can hear such diversely entertaining talent – and unless the venue can come up with seventy grand, there  may not be one anywhere.

They’ve raised a little more than half of that via Indiegogo with a month to go. There are all sorts of awesome musical perks for contributing. Characteristically, the amount you can donate on the page peaks out at $1000. These guys are populist to the core, and probably assume that nobody has more than that to spare.

But this blog believes in angels. That’s a matter of personal experience. Having sustained a wave of computer meltdowns over the years, and having been rescued every time by a global support system, it seems more than reasonable to believe that there might be someone out there who’s experienced a degree of personal success and would take pride in rescuing a venue in a time of dire need. You can talk to owners Olivier Conan and Vincent Douglas – the brain trust of legendary psychedelic cumbia band Chicha Libre here.

Another way to help is to treat yourself to a night of some of Barbes’ stable of amazing bands, who are playing a benefit concert on June 9 at Drom featuring mystical Moroccan trance-dance band Innov Gnawa, allstar brass pickup group Fanfare Barbès, (with members of Red Baraat, Slavic Soul Party and Banda de los Muertos), elegantly  menacing film noir instrumental icons Big Lazy, Colombian folk reinventors Bulla en el Barrio and torrential Bahian drum orchestra Maracatu NY, Who’s playing when is still being figured out, but everybody on this bill is worth seeing. Advance tix are a bargain at $20; the show starts at 7 PM and goes into the wee hours. It might be the single best concert of the year.

To lose Barbes would be a devastating blow to the arts in New York, but also would be personally devastating as well. In case you haven’t already figured it out, Barbes is New York Music Daily’s local – notwithstanding the fact that this blog isn’t based in Park Slope.

Sure, if Barbes closes, some of the younger and most popular acts can find gigs elsewhere. But there’s definitely no other place in New York that would provide a home where trumpeter Ben Holmes and accordionist Patrick Farrell could workshop their wickedly creepy Conqueror Worm Suite…or where resonator guitarist Mamie Minch could collaborate with film noir soundtrack maven Steve Ulrich…or where klezmer clarinet wizard Michael Winograd could pull together a band and figure out how he’s going to record all the amazing material he’s written over the past year.

Or where a rustic Greek rembetiko band called Que Vlo-ve could morph into one of this city’s mightiest and most menacing heavy psych bands, Greek Judas. Or where bands like Balkan brass funksters Slavic Soul Party, or western swingers Brain Cloud, or Romany guitar jazz reinventor Stephane Wrembel could play weekly residencies on off nights that would become legendary in Brooklyn history. In an era where spaces that support the arts are being displaced right and left by yuppie greed and status-grubbing, we need Barbes like never before. Hit their Indiegogo page,  tell your rich friends if you have any, and see you at Drom on June 9. 

Tredici Bacci Air-Kiss a Classic Italian Cinematic Sound

Among the innumerable great bands to emerge from the Barbes scene in Brooklyn, nobody’s riding more of a wave of popularity right now than Tredici Bacci. As Chicha Libre did with Peruvian psychedelic cumbias from the 60s and 70s, and Les Sans Culottes have done with 60s French ye-ye pop, Tredici Bacci play their own inimitable, original songs inspired by Italian film music from forty and fifty years ago. Their debut full-length album, Amore Per Tutti, isn’t officially out yet and consequently not yet streaming at their Bandcamp page. They’re playing the album release show on Nov 12 at the Park Church Co-op, 129 Russell St. just off Nassau Ave. in Greenpoint at 8 PM. Cover is $15; it’s an all-ages show. The closest train is the G to Nassau Ave.

The album’s opening track, Columbo sets the stage, a skittishly strutting Bacharach-ish theme with horns, frontman Simon Hanes’ reverb guitar over keening roller-rink organ..The women in the group supply jaunty vocalese as it winds out. Likwewise, Ca C’est Cantare (some of the titles here are all over the map linguistically) is a dead ringer for 60s Bacharach bossa, spiced with blippy trumpet, balmy sax and strings, and more ba-ba vocals.

Modern Man rises from spare accordion and wordless vocals to a stern, hefty theme straight out of the Gato Loco songbook…then guest crooner Ryan Power follows a blithely waltzing tangent that sounds suspiciously like the kind of satire that Avi Fox-Rosen has so much fun with. The inevitable Morricone spaghetti western theme, Avante, is a great approximation: trebly bass, twangy guitar and the requisite mariachi trumpet over a galloping beat. The only giveaway that it actually isn’t Morricone is the vocals: instead, it could pass for Bombay Rickey minus that band’s swinging groove.

Swedish Tease turns out to be about as Nordic as a meatball hero, an almost frantic, scampering romp lit up with bluesy organ, surf drums, mosquito guitar and a wryly noisy interlude midway through. Ruth Garbus‘ airily dancing, unpretentiously jazz-inflected vocals match the joyously tricky metrics of Slusher. Elysian Fields frontwoman Jennifer Charles lends her blue velvet allure to Drowned, which alternates between bloodcurdling Lynchian tremolo-guitar sonics and a contrastingly lighthearted bossa tune.

Give Him the Gun features JG Thirlwell (who has a characteristically ambitious, lavish new album of his own just out) on vocals, an update on 70s Nino Rota disco. Souvenir de Beaucoup d’Amor is an unlikely successful mashup of Dark Side-era Pink Floyd, tarantella pop and oldschool organ soul – un peu bizarro, nyet? Vincenzo Vasi supplies lounge-lizard vocals to Nessun Dorma, a swaying chamber pop remake of an old operatic theme. Otherwise, the only real miss among the otherwise infinitely clever eleven tracks here is Vendetta Del Toro, a decent Morricone impression ruined by stupefyingly lame, off-key vocals. They’re so bad that it raises the question of who might have been serviced to get such an embarrassing effort – or, more accurately, lack of effort – in the can.

Bewitchingly Slinky, Darkly Psychedelic Cumbia from Bareto

For those of us who equate minor keys with excitement and passion rather than sadness, slinky Peruvian psychedelic cumbia band Bareto’s fantastic album El Impredecible is streaming at Spotify. And while they don’t seem to be hitting New York soon, they have a US tour coming up.

Like their northern counterparts Chicha Libre – who are a big reason why cumbia became the world’s default party music – Bareto reference the classic, surfy sounds of the late 60s and 70s while adding their own distinctive, equally psychedelic touches. The album’s opening track, La Voz Del Sinchi has the feel of a Los Destellos classic, but with more of a late 70s feel, lead guitarist Joaquín Mariátegui playing his eerily chromatic chords with a shivery, icy chorus-box tone. The album’s second track, La Pantalla (The Screen) has one of the funniest videos made this century: for anyone who’s come home trashed at 4 AM and clicked through to Univision, or Telemundo, or Venevision, this parody will have you laughing til your face hurts. Lead singer Mauricio Mesones’ deadpan vocal downplays its caustic commentary on moronic south-of-the-border tv. If you think that American networks are retarded, go a little further south. The creepy carnival organ drives it home.

The title track takes a sardonically bouncy detour toward shuffling Veracruz folk, with a lingering psychedelic edge. Likewise, Mariátegui’s No Es Para Mi (It’s Not for Me) has a sunny tropical feel, in this case a wah guitar-fueled shout out to Os Mutantes-style bossa-pop. Then the band completely flips the script with the snaky, deliciously carnivalesque La Negra y el Fantasma (The Girl and the Ghost), also by Mariátegui. The interweave of the spare but resonant reverb guitars – that’s Rolo Gallardo on the other one – along with Miguel Ginocchio’s accordion and funeral organ, over the percussion and drums of Jorge Olazo and Sergio Sarria, is intoxicatingly tasty.

The southwestern gothic dub-flavored Bombo Baile takes awhile to get going, then the guitar starts shooting off sparks, a surreal, mind-warping mashup of vintage C&W and Los Destellos’ six-string legend Enrique Delgado. Similarly, the ominous, lingering Viejita Guarachera goes in a dub direction, referencing the Specials’ ska-noir classic, Ghost Town over Jorge Giraldo’s classic roots reggae bass.

Mamá Motelo, by Gallardo, pushes the trippy swirl along, its surf guitar multitracks evoking classic Lima chicha acts like Los Mirlos and Los Diablos Rojos. Susana Baca guests on vocals on the uneasily atmospheric El Loco, an extremely unlikely but unexpectedly successful mashup of traditional festejo folk and the Church’s late 80s spacerock. La Semilla (The Seed) has a twinkling, nocturnal Hawaiian vibe, while the album’s closing cut, País de las Maravillas (Miracle Land) has the loping groove and trebly guitar textures of a classic Los Destellos hit. Bands like this just make you want to forget about American rock and head for the mountains and the jungle where chicha was first fermented.

Speaking of psychedelic cumbia, it’s worth sending out a special shout to Consumata Sonidera, who literally stopped traffic at their show uptown at 125th St. and the highway a couple of weeks ago. When they took the little stage at the park on the river, there was hardly anyone there. By the time they left, almost down to the second that the rain started, cars had pulled over along with bike riders and seemingly half the people making their walk home, not expecting to hear anything like this fun, eclectic, trippy low-key set with just guitar, bass, percussion and frontman Bruno Navarro’s diamond-cutting alto sax.

Xixa Find Themselves in the Middle of the Year’s Best Lineup of Music on the 16th at Drom

Xixa are a Giant Sand spinoff. Formerly known as Chicha Dust, their name is as coyly entertaining as the psychedelic cumbias they play. But Giant Sand’s Gabriel Sullivan and Brian Lopez don’t just imitate the gloriously trebly sounds of Peru in the 70s, or pretty much anywhere south of the border in this decade: they’ve got an individual, sometimes harder-rocking, very 80s-inspired sound. Their debut vinyl ep Shift and Shadow is streaming at rockpaperscissors and out from Barbes Records.

They’re playing what’s most likely the best multiple-band lineup anywhere in New York this year – who knows, maybe anywhere at Drom on January 16, starting at 7:30 PM for a measly $10. Check out this lineup: Moroccan trance grooves with Samir Langus, psychedelic, surfy, vallenato-influenced art-rock groovemeisters Los Crema Paraiso, the even more psychedelic cumbia/salsa jammers Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta; the magically haunting, soaring all-female Mariachi Flor de Toloache ; Xixa; then the darkly Middle Eastern flavored Nubian sounds of Alsarah & the Nubatones , rustic Haitian/Dominican cumbia/vallenato group Buyepongo and the newschool Ethiopiques-inspired dancefloor intensity of Debo Band sometime in the wee hours around 1 AM. For those in Park Slope, Buyepongo and then Xixa are also at Union Hall on 1/17 at 8 for $10

The ep’s title track welds Lynchian tremolo guitar and slithery minor-key organ to a peppy stadium rock chorus: you can practically see the sea of lighters rising as the sun goes down on Bonaroo or somewhere similar. The cover of the Meat Puppets’ Plateau – famously redone by Nirvana – looks not to grunge but to both the 80s goth-pop of bands like the Damned and Echo & the Bunnymen, as well as Peruvian jungle-rock legends like Juaneco y Su Combo. With its echoey timbale groove and serpentine organ, Cumbia del Platero brings to mind ornately orchestrated late-period Chicha Libre. The final cut, Dead Man slowly winds its way out of the synthy, chorus-box-guitar 80s toward a newschool cumbia slink.

A full-length album is scheduled for later in the year; fans of dusky, distantly ominous, trippy sounds should check this stuff out. And for those new to the genre, chicha is both a Peruvian malt beverage – sort of the Andean equivalent of Olde English or Colt .45 – and a slang adjective that translates roughly as “ghetto.” It’s also a style of psychedelic cumbia that first peaked in popularity in the 70s but was brought to the US by Chicha Libre and…you know the rest.

Greek Judas: New York’s Best New Psychedelic Band

Greek Judas made their debut last night at Barbes. They’re amazing. Comprising most of the members of Greek rembetiko revivalists Que Vlo-Ve, they’ve reached the inevitable point where it made sense to completely and explosively electrify the colorful, gritty repertoire from the 1920s and 30s underground that they’ve mined up to this point. Wade Ripka alternated between roaring, poinpoint-precise, menacingly chromatic electric guitar leads and and searing lapsteel lines, joined by a masked rhythm guitarist who doubled on tenor sax on one of the later numbers. Slavic Soul Party drummer Chris Stromquist nimbly led the group through the songs’ relentlessly tricky changes with stomp and aplomb while bassist Nick Cudahy was the picture of cool, chilling in the back, delivering the same kind of effortless psychedelic groove that he did for so long in the late, great Chicha Libre. Toward the end of the set, frontman Quince Marcum picked up his horn and joined with the sax player for some intricate twin leads on what sounded like a brass band mashup of Macedonian folk and Led Zep.

Was Marcum running his resonant baritone vocals through a phaser? Yesssssss! And a whole bunch of other trippy, creepy patches too! When not singing in Greek, he had a lot of fun explaining the gist of the songs. This stuff is wild. A seafaring anthem celebrated smuggling untaxed cigarettes and Iranian hash. In their jail cell, couple of magges conspire about what they’re going to do once they get out: “Restring my bouzouki for me, babe, I’m coming home,” one announces, more or less. A couple of rude guys drool over a Romany girl, while another complains that his icy girlfriend has driven him into the monastery, metaphorically at least. And one of the later numbers reminded that crack whores existed in Greece in 1927 – and that crack was just as wack then as it is now. The band wound up their roughly 45-minute set with a pounding one-chord stomp that sounded like the Bad Brains playing Greek music. A screaming guitar band playing hardcore punk rock at Barbes? Damn straight. If you’re in the neighborhood and you like artsy metal or psychedelia, you’d be crazy to miss the band’s second-ever show when they play here on August 27 at 8 PM.

Ripka’s chromatically bristling spirals and leaps over Stromquist’s stately beat on the night’s opening number brought to mind killer Greek surf band the Byzan-tones. The band went for careening metal majesty on the night’s sescond number, resonant guitar snarl over an unexpectedly straight-up, hypnotic, boomy beat on the one after that. On the following tune, Ripka’s aching twang rang out over Stomquist’s tense, tight 7/8 beat as Marcum’s vocals swirled and echoed. The best song of the night was also the most Middle Eastern-influenced, a titanic blast of sabertoothed leads from Ripka’s guitar over the swaying roar of the rest of the band. This group’s ceiling is practically unlimited. First gig ever, there was a good crowd at Barbes, and that following will grow. St. Vitus seems inevitable; after that, Donington here we come!. Wait til the metal crowd discovers these guys: they’ll be able to make a living on their road til they’re in their eighties if they feeling like cranking it up like they did last night.

Los Crema Paraiso Bring Their Trippy, Cinematic Tropicalia to Barbes Again

Los Crema Paraiso are a psychedelic tropical power trio, a supergroup of sorts. If you can excuse the dadrock reference, they’re sort of the Blind Faith of equatorial latin rock. Los Amigos Invisibles‘ José Luis Pardo plays guitar and keys; Álvaro Benavides of superstar percussionist Pedrito Martinez‘s group plays bass, with polymath percussionist Neil Ochoa, late of Chicha Libre, who springboarded much of the current explosion of trippy pan-American sounds. Named for a favorite Caracas ice cream spot, they’ve got a new album, De Pelicula, inspired by Venezuelan film from over the years, streaming at Bandcamp.  They’ve also got a show at 8 PM on August 12 at their home base in New York – where else? – Barbes.

The album’s opening instrumental, Un Disip en Nueva Yol, sets the stage for what’s in store, a mashup of Rage Against the Machine grit, dreamy surf rock and a little psychedelic cumbia, set to Ochoa’s nimbly scampering triplet rhythm. From there, it’s a suite: if there’s one album released this year that really works on a cohesive, thematic level, this is it. Aterciopelados frontwoman Andrea Echeverri sings a rapidfire neo-folklore take of El Curruchá over the rapidfire flurries of guest cuatro player Jorge Glem of the C4 Trio. From there, Pardo leads the band with his echoey, watery, lingering multitracks over a lively string section, through a balmy, aptly cinematic instrumental: Theme from a Summer Place in the Amazon?

Rocco Tarpeyo adds wry reggaeton flavor to Varón Domado, a spiky, Veracruz folk-tinged number. Más, a bossa-psych cover from the late 60s, pairs surrealistically blippy organ against terse Os Mutantes-style guitar. To Zing with Your Girlfriend (Paradise Cream) keeps the acid-lounge sonics going, awash in droll dubwise tinges and balmy layers of keys, up to a joyous guitar-fueled peak. Juan Rivas sings the album’s best and edgiest track, Tanto Que La Quise, a bossa-psych/chicha/Gainsbourg mashup that’s a dead ringer for Chicha Libre (and is that Chicha Libre’s Josh Camp on keening, trebly, wah-wah Hohner Electrovox synth? Sure sounds like it).

The tongue-in-cheek Cucaracha En Baile de Gallinas is the most vividly trippy track here, Benavides taking a woozy wah-wah solo before Pardo brings in a vintage Juaneco vibe. The album winds up with a similarly surreal cover of the Santo & Johnny surf classic Sleepwalk, Pardo’s cheery slide guitar taking it over the top. There are two misses here that fall into the “garbage in, garbage out” category: as hard as the band tries to psychedelicize them, there’s no redeeming a couple of cheesy 80s radio hits, one that you probably know from the supermarket and the other from Goth Night (does Goth Night still exist, or has it been superseded by Emo Night – or http://www.s&m.com?).

It was good to catch a sliver of the band’s set this past July 3, a night when the trains were so screwed up that the only option getting home from the (ridiculously pathetic) fireworks at Coney Island required a stop at Barbes to chill out and derail the evening’s mounting frustrations. Live, the band are a lot louder and more driving than they typically are on record. Pardo was in a particularly hard-rocking if swirly mood that night, using a lot of loops and pitch-shifting effects through several long, early Santana-esque interludes.

Litvakus Bring Their Rare, Deliriously Fun, Decades-Old Dance Tunes to the Upper West

On one hand, Litvakus’ latest album is kick-ass party music with lyrics – mostly in Yiddish – like “May you always have whiskey to fill your glasses.” On the other hand, it’s nothing short of amazing how frontman/clarinetist Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch’s band has rescued obscure songs hidden away, in some cases for more than a century, in dusty vaults that enterprising music students were very strongly discouraged from prowling around in. But Slepovitch doesn’t give up easily. Back in his native Belarus, his first band, Minsker Kapelye played their first-ever show across the street from KGB headquarters. And they got away with it. Litvakus’ new album Raysn may come across with a distinct, regional sound, but they have the fearless heart and soul of the Clash.

They’re playing Tuesday night, Feb 10 at 7:30 PM as part of one of New York’s most reliably exciting concert series in the basement of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 30 W 68th St (Broadway/Columbus) where drummer Aaron Alexander puts on more-or-less weekly shows featuring the creme de la creme of Jewish music from around the globe: in the klezmer world, a gig here means you’ve arrived. Concertgoers have more than one option: if you just want a quick shot of adrenaline before you head home, you can see the show for $15. For musicians, there’s a pre-concert music class at 5:30, followed by a long jam session afterward, and all of that’s $35. And maybe there’s a nosh, or a drink, who knows – it’s a lively, multi-generational, quintessentially New York scene.

The album – streaming at Bandcamp – takes its name from the old Yiddish term for what is now Belarus, for centuries a multicultural melting pot that resulted in some unique cross-pollination. Slepovitch has collected songs with both Jewish and Belorussian origins as well as a couple of boisterous originals, one of which he wrote in an inspired moment on the Q train.

The album opens with its most otherworldly track, a droning yet kinetic instrumental featuring Slepovitch on the svirel, the Belorussian counterpart to the English shawm. From there the group – Craig Judelman on violin, Taylor Bergren-Crisman on bass, Josh Camp on accordion and Sam Weisenberg on standup drum – weave their way into a swaying, minor-key, chromatically charged dance. The segue between the next two songs, Judelman handing off elegantly to Slepovitch, is so seamless that it’s impossible to tell where one ends and the next begins unless you listen closely. They keep the bouncing, bustling drive going with a fond look back at a little country town where people really like to party.

Bergren-Crisman bows his bass furiously as the next medley, a couple of pulsing traditional Belorussian dances, gets underway and then subtly segues into the Middle Eastern-tinged freygish scale, equivalent to the Arabic hijaz mode. Then Slepovitch brings it down with an ancient, plaintive, lovelorn waltz, his clarinet stark against the dark washes of bass and accordion and Judelman’s poignant doublestops. From there the band picks it up again, Slepovitch’s clarinet bobbing and weaving with an unselfconscious joy through an original that fits perfectly with the traditional romp – based on a rare 1934 Soviet recording – that follows. The clarinetist dryly describes the slow, gorgeous original waltz after that as being in the tradition of music designed for listening at weddings…or on the subway.

There’s also a wry, hair-raising tale employing lyrics from a 1922 epic poem by Moyshe Kulbak, reinvented as a lively reel; a trio of circle dances rescued from the archives; a rivetingly Middle Eastern flavored mini-suite; a rare Belorussian version of an ancient Hasidic a-cappella nigun; a dirge, a drinking song and a rousing. surrealistic tribute to a pretty Jewish girl who also happens to be the best-loved bartender in town. The more things change, right? If you like minor keys, infectious dance grooves and eerie passing tones, you’ll love this album. The cd also comes with extensive liner notes which provide all kinds of interesting historical background, very useful for western listeners and music bloggers too!