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Tag: Clear Plastic Masks

Breanna Barbara Brings Her Haunting, Intense, Enveloping Psychedelic Blues to Berlin

Blues guitarist/songwriter Breanna Barbara’s debut album Mirage Dreams – due out this Friday, and soon to be streaming at Bandcamp – blends the otherwordly, hypnotic tumbles and rolls of Mississippi hill country icons R.L. Burnside and T-Model Ford with the raw desperation of early 90s gutter rock bands like the Chrome Cranks and the lysergic menace of the 13th Floor Elevators. As relentlessly dark as her music is, there’s actually a happy backstory to how the album came to be. It’s a triumph of good ears and a throwback to an earlier era when there was much more of a music industry.

Back in 2014, she recorded a bunch of songs on her phone and slapped them up on Bandcamp. Then she sent those files to Andrija Tokic, who produced both the Alabama Shakes and Hurray for the Riff Raff. Tokic, being a purist, was taken by the raw intensity of Breanna Barbara’s music, and decided to make an oldfashioned, big-room studio album with her. They assembled a crack Nashville band including most of Clear Plastic Masks (Matt Menold on lead guitar and organ, Charles Garmendia on drums, and Eduardo DuQuesne on bass), plus Ben Trimble of Fly Golden Eagle on keys; Jon Etes on upright bass, pedal steel and keys, and David Grant sharing drum duties, The result is one of the most stunningly, darkly individualistic releases of 2016. Breanna Barbara is playing the album release show at around 10 PM on July 22 at Berlin, under 2A.

The album’s careening opening track is Sailin’, Sailin’, its chilling Requiem for a Dream-influenced imagery awash in a sea of guitars and garage-rock organ. And then it’s suddenly over. Who Are You, a defiant individualist’s anthem, is your classic one-chord jam, lit up with DuQuesne’s high-register bass riffs and more of that creepy organ in the background. The Race has an echoey ominousness to match Breanna Barbara’s airy, wary vocals and the lyrics’ grim undercurrent: it reminds of the Bright Smoke in their earliest, bluesiest moments. Menold’s creepy chromatic multitracks complete the picture.

She lets her vocals cut loose on the slowly marauding, dynamically shifting, metaphorically-charged Nothin’ But Your Lovin’, bringing to mind Molly Ruth’s most recent electric work. The band builds a delicious Carnival of Souls ambience with boomy drums, a web of tremolo guitars and phantasmagorical keys in Baby Where You Are. The story draws on a funny incident where Breanna Barbara lent her phone to a stranger who needed to get in touch with his girlfriend – as it turned out, he’d been just been sprung from jail after getting caught jumping a subway turnstile..

The album’s title track is also its most psychedelic, the bandleader’s hypnotically tremolo-picked Telecaster contrasting with her howling vocals. She follows that with the album’s lone cover, reinventing Melanie’s Some Say (I Got Devil) with equal parts gothic menace and punk fury. By contrast, the spare, lingering I’m All Right – the oldest original on the album – brings to mind something from the first Hole album reduced to lowest terms.

The sardonic Jessie Mae Hemphill-influenced Where’s My Baby has an epic, trippy sweep, the whole band – bass, drums, organ and a tsunami of guitars – all on overdrive. The vengefully crescendoing Go Back blends all sorts of cool reverb and icy vintage chorus-box guitar textures. The album’s most harrowing number, Daddy Dear, rises and falls in waves of spare reverb guitar and deep-space elecric piano, tracing the grim trajectory of a deadly drug overdose. The final cut is the stark, death-obsessed Wood Demon. Whether you consider this psychedelia or blues – and it’s both – it’s one of the best albums of the year. And this band is amazing live – their opening set at this past Saturday’s festival at Pier 97 over on the west side raised the bar impossibly high for the rest of the night.

The Clear Plastic Masks Return to Brooklyn With a Killer New Album

Nashville-based soul-punk band the Clear Plastic Masks have a wryly tuneful, guitarishly slashing new album, Being There – streaming here – and a couple of shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 9 PM on Sept 10 and 11. They’re opening for the similar White Denim; it’s a bill where the opener is bound to upstage the headliner. General admission is $20; there’s also a 9/12 show but it’s sold out. It’s a homecoming of sorts from CPM, who first came together in Brooklyn before heading south.

The two bands share influences – classic 60s soul, garage rock and psychedelia –  but CPM do all those styles consistently better. White Denim is one of those bands that will hit one out of the park once in awhile and as a result can be frustrating while you wait for them to pull it together: maybe they should take a listen to their tourmates’ latest release. In the spirit of 60s vinyl singles, CPM like short songs: most of everything here clocks in at around three minutes.

The opening track, In Case You Forgot winds haphazardly through an oldschool 60s soul tune, Matt Menold and Andrew Katz’s guitars bending and tremolopicking as the rhythm section – bassist Eddy DuQuesne and drummer Charlie Garmendia – veers all over the place, bringing to mind mid-80s post-Velvets bands like That Petrol Emotion. The second track, Outcast looks back to what the mid-60s Stones did with Bobby Womack, a period-perfect take on what enthusiastically ambitious British hippies could springboard from a vintage Memphis soul tune. The coy Baby Come On veers back and forth between a shimmery, summery soul ballad and anguished clusters of guitar: it brings to mind two late 90s/early zeros New York bands with an aptitude for classic soul, White Hassle and Douce Gimlet.

Pegasus in Glue wraps dancing Syd Barrett-influenced fuzztone garage psych around a woozy interlude kicked off with a droll Hendrix quote. The slowly swaying Aliens is a grimly funny number set to a slow, catchy gospel-rock tune: the creepy ending caps off the storyline perfectly. A parable about the lure and dangers of religion, maybe?

So Real kicks off as a stomping fuzztone strut, then the band makes half-baked Link Wray out of it, then picks it up again: again, Katz’s tongue-in-cheek, surrealist lyrics and deadpan cat-ate-the-canary vocals draw comparisons to White Hassle’s Marcellus Hall. Interestingly, the album’s best and darkest song, Dos Cobras turns out to be an instrumental, a mashup of Steve Wynn southwestern gothic, organ surf and the early Zombies.

Hungry Cup, a piano-and-vocal ballad, is the album’s weirdest moment, told from the point of view of a girl about to throw up her hands and give up on a guy who can’t pull his act together. It might be a very thinly veiled broadside directed at posers new to Notbrooklyn (i.e. gentrified white areas of formerly ethnically and economically diverse Brooklyn), a mashup of late 60s Stones, Vanilla Fudge and lo-fi swamp-rockers like Knoxville Girls. The album winds up with a couple of slow 6/8 numbers: When the Nightmare Comes, which sounds like the Libertines taking a stab at a Hendrix-style take on soul music, and Working Girl, which could be a shout-out to whores in general, to girls on the train during rush hour, or both. That’s one of this band’s strongest suits: you never really know where they’re coming from, and they have a lot of fun keeping you guessing.