New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: dance music

Charanga America Provide Some Uplift in a Dark Time For Puerto Ricans

A full house was already on their feet and dancing as golden-age 60s and 70s charanga music played over the PA at Lincoln Center this past evening. Their monthly Friday night Vaya 63 dance party series at the atrium space just south of 63rd Street has become a New York institution and draws major players from across the decades. Charanga America, based in the Bronx since their beginnings in the late 60s, were the latest to get a multigenerational ocean of bodies slinking and twirling, a rare appearance by a band who still enjoy a big fan base.

In the devastation left behind by the hurricane, it’s certain that there were plenty of people in the crowd still uncertain about how their loved ones are doing. But as the scion of a five-decade Nuyorican music legacy, guiro player/singer George Maysonet, Jr. insisted, “Puerto Rico will rise again.” This time out he led the group – in this current incarination, a hefty ten-piece charanga – in place of his dad, the group’s founder, who was unavailable.

Where classic Cuban big band salsa music relies on brass, classic Nuyorican charangas typically feature violin and flute. This version of the group currently has two of the former and one of the latter: barely a couple of minutes into the first brightly vamping number and their bespectacled lead violinist was firing off a long, wildly shivery solo.

The flute took flight on the next groove as the rest of the the sharply dressed group – on elegantly tumbling piano, fat punchy bass, hypnotic congas and wryly emphatic timbales – ran a bubbly, upbeat 1-4-5 Afro-Cuban riff behind the trio of singers.

They waited until about a third way through the show before they broke out their signature 1978 hit,  Ayúdame San Antonio, steady clave from the woodblock contrasting with the lushness of the strings as the flute bobbed and weaved in between the call-and-response of the voices. A swaying mambo featured a biting, suspensefully syncopated, blues-infused Fernando Ramos piano solo.

As the night went on, the music grew more majestic and enveloping, a big cha-cha ballad followed by the funnest and funniest tune of the night, an irrepressible 99-percenter anthem capped off by a high-voltage violin solo. The only thing that could have possibly have made this more fun, in a distinctly New York way, would have been a big steaming plate of maduros straight from the pot – with a squeeze bottle of hot sauce. Charanga America don’t play live much anymore but if you get a chance like this…now you know what you don’t want to be missing.

And the free, frequent Thursday night, 7:30 PM concert series at the atrium continues this Sept 28 with hypnotic Niger duskcore guitarist/bandleader Mdou Moctar.

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The Jazzrausch Bigband Rock Lincoln Center in Their US Debut

“Who here has heard German techno big band jazz before? This is a first for me!” Lincoln Center impresario Meera Dugal grinned. “The second you hear this music, you’re going to want to get up and dance.”

Watching Munich’s Jazzrausch Bigband in their US debut last evening at Lincoln Center had the effect composer Leonhard Kuhn was shooting for: “rausch” means “drunk.” Standing behind his Macbook and bass synth, head bobbing like a turtle crossing the autobahn, he and his seventeen-piece outfit validated their reputation as one of the world’s most  distinctive and adrenalizing dance outfits.

What was shocking, and gloriously refreshing right from the first hammerhead beats of Marco Dufner’s kickdrum, was that this band swings. Which completely sets them apart from the machines and the would-be cyborgs who man them. At first the crowd didn’t know what to make of the band. “Why don’t you get up and party with us?” trombonist/bandleader Roman Sladek encouraged. Watching this massive outfit, the brass and reeds running the same motorik loop and then clever variations on it throughout their opening number, Moebius Strip was genuinely breathtaking: imagine the amount of practice that requires. Singers Patricia Roemer and guest Sara McDonald harmonized about being taken to the other side, Kuhn having fun mixing their vocals dubwise at the end.

Sladek also had the turtlehead thing going even when he was playing, through the relentlessly pulsing second number in lockstep with Kevin Welch’s piano and Maximilian Hirning’s bass. The Euclidean Trip Through Paintings by Escher (that’s the title) was a clinic in how to make odd meters not only look easy, but to get America kids to dance to them, propelled by an endless bass loop and peaking midway through with guitarist Heinrich Wulff’s steady, echoey pace down the runway to a final liftoff.

Welch took over the mic as the brass swelled and faded behind him, the band’s two tenor saxophonists taking kinetic tag-team solos, followed eventually by a gruff, wildly applauded baritone sax solo from Florian Leuschner that elevated the song above the level of generic 70s disco. By now the crowd had gotten over their shyness and were out on the floor.

Kuhn’s blippy electro beats, Sladek’s tight blasts and Jutta Keess’ similarly forceful low-register tuba propelled Jesus Christ Version 2.0: trumpeter Angela Avetisyan’s purist bluesy phrasing and blazing postbop trills in this context were a trip, to say the least. As the song unwound, alto saxophonist Daniel Klingl took an animated turn centerstage, Roemer’s disembodied vocals hovering as the rhythm section pedaled themselves to a big crescendo…and then shifted gears when the two singers pulled the harmonies together again.

Uneasy echo effects between the two singers, big brass swells, an elephantine bass solo and finally a welcome detour into Afrobeat were next on the bill. If the epic, surprisingly subtly shapeshifting Dancing Wittgenstein –  not as bizarre a concept as some might think – is to be believed, the philosopher liked polyrhythms and minor-key vamps. McDonald bookended it with deadpan readings about – this is a paraphrase – how to achieve genuine lucidity. The group closed with the gargantuan Punkt und Linie zur Flaeche (Point and Line to the Area), Avetisyan channeling a high-voltage ghost with her airy phrases over the endless thump-thump, flitting voices from throughout the group filtering into the mix to max out the psychedelic impact.

If this is the future of EDM, it’s this band’s ODM that’s going to replace it – that’s a big O for Organic. The Jazzrausch Bigband make their Brooklyn debut at the Good Room in Greenpoint with McDonald’s similarly epic, more eclectic NYChillharmonic. on Sept 6 at 8PMish; cover is $10. The two groups are also at the Sheen Center on Bleecker just off Bowery at 7:30 on Sept 8 with a dadrock band for twice that. 

Rajasthani Caravan Bring Their Ecstatic Punjabi Party Spectacle to This Year’s Cutting-Edge Drive East Festival

As the lights went down for Rajasthani Cavavan’s wild, ecstatic performance at this year’s Drive East Festival at Dixon Place last night, the sound of bagpipes filtered in from outside. Was there a Scottish theatre piece going on in an adjacent room? As it turned out, no. Dressed in a traditional North Indian outfit and a bright red-and-green-patterned turban, Taga Ram Bheel walked in playing surreal, austere close harmonies on a wooden double-reed instrument, the murali. For about twenty seconds, it was exotic sonic bliss. Then he calmly turned around and walked out.

The audience laughed nervously. Was this it? Meanwhile, a sharp sword and what looked like a giant candleholder sat in the middle of the floor. What kind of mayhem had there been in the night’s previous dance perrformance…or was about to happen?

Group leader Katrina Ji answered that question about half an hour into the spectacle. Backed by the four-piece Ustad Arba Music Group alternating between several high and low register percussion instruments plus drony twin flutes and harmonium, she put the sword between her teeth – blade side out –  and crowned herself with the metal object. And then slowly, in one seamless motion,  slunk to the floor on her stomach and grabbed her ankles from behind. And then wiggled her eyebrows at the crowd.

That magical murali finally made a second appearance much later in the show, during a catchy, swaying, bouncy traditional dance number. Concerts earlier in the week at this vast annual showcase for classical sounds from across the Hindustani subcontinent  were about transcendence and emotional intensity: this was a party. Percussionists, Imamddin and Firoze Khan made that clear right from the start with a droll, irresistibly funny rhythmic conversation between clickety-clack castanets and boomy dholak double-headed drum. Harmonium player Jalal Khan drew the crowd in with his rapidfire lefthand phrases and expansive, dynamic vocal range, finally hitting some high notes at the end that you wouldn’t expect a dramatic, powerful baritone to be able to reach. His colleague in the dholak was his shout man on the vocals  – if you buy that hip-hop reference – holding down the lows, the two indulging in a lot of jousting.

The group peppered the mix of swaying, bouncy songs from both northern India and Pakistan with a balmy love ballad and a big dramatic anthem. Most of the lyrics illustrated a series of amusing battle-of-the-sexes scenarios. The lilting tunes had an irrepressible cheer: the Punjab, at least as these guys depict it, is a party place. The only thing that felt strange was to be sitting and swaying rather than being out on a dancefloor.

Meanwhile, Ji went through several costume changes, including one with a series of bells down her left leg, and played jaunty, tinkling melodies on them with a couple of bells slung around her wrists. Midway through the set, the group explained how they’d convinced the American-born Ji – a longtime devotee of Rajasthani music – to enlist them as her backing band. Since then the group has become more of a collaborative effort.

For the final part of the performance, they brought up Pakisani crooner Junaid Younus for what he said was the first collaboration between a star of Coke Studio (the Pakistani counterpart to Soul Train) and a Rajasthani group. Despite having never performed together, they sparred and traded riffs through a mix of languages and styles ranging from Punjabi Indian to Pakistani qawwali and finally wound up the night with an ecstatic singalong: even the non-Punjabi speakers got involved after Younus egged them on.

The Drive East Festival comes to a close today, August 27, with a marathon series of music and dance performances starting this afternoon at 2 PM with the riveting, lavish sounds of the only Indian carnatic choir in this hemisphere, the Navatman Music Collective; $20 tix are still available as of this hour. There are also two ambitious, stylistically cross-pollinated performances afterward for those who know something about or take an interest in Indian dance traditions. And Rajasthani Caravan’s next stop on their current tour is tonight at 7:45 PM at the Philadelphia Ganesh Festival at Baratiya Temple, 1612 County Line Road in Chalfont, Pennsylvania; admission is free with a wristband, so get there early.

Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta Join New York’s Best Psychedelic Tropicalia Bill this August 31

New York’s best psychedelic cumbia show of the year so far is happening this August 31 at the Bell House at 10 PM, where Chicago’s Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta and Austin’s Money Chicha are playing a twinbill. Advance tix are a ridiculously good $12 and still available at the venue as of today. It’s not clear who’s playing first, but that doesn’t matter because both bands are reputedly amazing live.

Money Chicha’s wildly trippy debut album got a feverish thumbs-up here recently. Dos Santos’ latest album, Fonografic –  streaming at Spotify – is a party in a box.  The opening cut, playfully titled Epilogue, begins as a boomy, dub-inflected, staggered waltz fueled by woozy low-register wah guitar, then the twangy chicha melody comes in and gets spun through a funhouse mirror of effects. All of a sudden, Alex Chavez’s blippy organ hits a brisk, minor-key cumbia shuffle!

The tropicalia funk of El Puerto de Animas echoes their tourmates’ heavy cumbia sound, Daniel Villarreal-Carrillo’s drums and Jaime Garza’s bass building to a dizzying, polyrhythmic slink, the twin wah guitars of Chavez and Nathan Karagianis echoing in the mix, Peter Vale’s congas anchoring the otherworldly groove. By contrast, Cafeteando! puts a brass-spiced update on vampy, salsa-influenced late 60s/early 70s jungle cumbia, in the same vein as Juaneco Y Su Combo.

The bittersweet exchange of wah-wah and guitar clang in Santa Clara will remind chicha purists of Los Destellos at their most expansive, classic early 70s best, with a long jaunty trombone solo that takes the song into psychedelic salsa territory. Then the ominously galloping Camino Infernal/Phantom Weight mashes up spaghetti western, surf rock, chicha and Led Zep. 

The band save the best and most straightforward chicha track, Red, for last. Built around a gleefully creepy organ riff, it could be a vintage Los Mirlos number, at least until the band make psychedelic Chicano Batman soul out of it. If a wild, brain-altering dance party is your thing, get your ass to the Bell House on the last day of the month.

An Ecstatic North American Debut By Colombian Legend Emilsen Pacheco with Bulla En El Barrio at Lincoln Center

In his North American debut at Lincoln Center last night, legendary Colombian bullerengue bandleader Emilsen Pacheco – the guy who wrote the Ibuprofen Fandango  brought his relentlessly energetic personality and wry sense of humor to a sold-out audience of expats from his native Colombia along with many cognoscenti from the New York music scene (Innov Gnawa’s Samir LanGus and saxophonist Aakash Mittal were both spotted in the crowd). Backed by Bulla En El Barrio, New York’s only bullerengue group, Pacheco validated the herculean effort it took to get him here. Lincoln Center impresario Viviana Benitez explained that a grant from APAP and a Colombian record label, among others, were involved.

It was definitely a painkilling show. The men and women of the group took turns twirling in front of the band over hypnotic, echoing handmade drums (tambor alegre and tambor llamador) and handclaps, and quickly got the audience involved. Isn’t it funny how in this age of corporate hail-mary passes at monopolizing live music, it’s the most interactive, ancient styles that always draw the biggest audience response?

Bullerengue is the oldest African style of music in Colombia. Like its distant cousin gnawa, it’s a hypnotically pulsing call-and-response style with origins in sub-Saharan Africa. At this show, that meant an ever-increasing choir responding to Pacheco’s vocal riffs, demands, implorations and exaltations – and eventually, his masterful, hard-hitting beats on the drums. After he’d highfived the crowd on the way in, he held down the left side of the stage, swaying and half-crouching, decked out in a colorful print shirt and straw hat. It was a deliriously inspired collaboration, party music reflecting transcendence over the rigors of coastal working-class life and through centuries before, on another continent.

“I’m the guy for you,” was the message Pacheco used to get the party started. As the show built steam, the rhythms shifted through brisk triplets to a trance-inducing four-on-the-floor, to trickier polyrhythms from the group’s percussionists. Love, seduction, drinking and the precarious state of Colombian coastal family life were common themes: Pacheco and the group seem to love all of them equally.

Eventually, Bulla En El Barrio leader Carolina Oliveros  – a protege of Pacheco during her time in Colombia – took over the mic and led the choir, which by now seemed to be half the audience. Once Pacheco had taken a seat behind the drums, it seemed that the giant wave of swaying bodies in front of the stage knew all the words by heart – and they responded just as feverishly to Oliveros’ originals. She explained that Pacheco is one of the few remaining keepers of the bullerengue flame – this was “A dream come true,” she said, thanking Benitez for believing in the craziness of staging a show like this in New York in 2017.

If you missed this party, Pacheco and the band are at C’Mon Everybody this Saturday, August 26 at 9ish; cover is $12. Then they’re at Barbes at around 9:30 PM on the 28th and on the 29th they’ll be at Terrazza 7 in Queens at 8 for $20. 

A Sneak Peek at One of the Year’s Most Enticing Big Band Shows

It used to be that an artist never got a Lincoln Center gig until they were well established. That’s changed. These days, if you want to catch some of the world’s most exciting up-and-coming acts, Lincoln Center is the place to be. This August 31 at 7:30 PM the mighty, cinematic and wildly danceable Jazzrausch Bigband make their Lincoln Center debut at the atrium space on Broadway just north of 62nd Street. The show is free, so whether you want a seat or a spot on the dancefloor, getting there on time is always a good idea.

Some mystery surrounds this largescale German ensemble. There isn’t much about them on the web other than a Soundcloud page and a youtube channel, which is surprising, considering how individualistic, cutting-edge and irrepressibly fun they are. Like the NYChillharmonic – whose leader, Sara McDonald, has also sung with them – their instrumentation follows the standard big band jazz model. Stylistically, they’re all over the map.

A listen to four tracks from their forthcoming album reveals influences that range from current-day big band jazz to EDM, autobahn krautrock, indie classical and disco. The result is an organic dancefloor thud like a much more ornate Dawn of Midi or Moon Hooch. Much as these recordings are extremely tight, the band have a reputation for explosive live shows, with roots that trace all the way back to the raucous European anarchist street bands of the late 1800s.

The first album track that mysteriously made its way into the inbox here is the aptly titled Moebius Strip. Loopy, pinpoint syncopation from the reeds -Daniel Klingl, Raphael Huber, Moritz Stahl and Florian Leuschner – leads to a suspenseful pulse fueled by the low brass, and then they’re off onto a whoomp-whoomp groove. “It’s a weird strip,” intones soul-infused chanteuse Patricia Roemer; at the center, before the strutting crescendo peaks out, there’s a jaunty alto sax solo.

The ten-minute epic Punkt und Linie zur Flaeche (Point and Line to the Area) has a relentless motorik drive, cinematic flashes and flickers from throughout the orchestra and a deadpan hip-hop lyric. Moody muted trumpet and dancing saxes punctuate the mist as the band build a towering disco inferno: is that white noise from Kevin Welch’s synth, or the whole group breathing through their horns?

The Euclidean Trip Through Paintings by Escher brings back the loopy syncopation, with a playfully bouncy melody that could be a fully grown Snarky Puppy, trumpet shifting the theme into uneasier territory until they turn on a dime with a little New Orleans flair. The last of the tracks, Trust in Me, is another epic and the most traditionally jazz-oriented number. When’s the last time you heard a disco song that combined flavors like Henrich Wulff’s lingering Pink Floyd guitar,Marco Dufner’s sparkling chicha-flavored drums and stern faux hi-de-ho brass from trumpeters Angela Avetisyan and Julius Braun, trombonists Roman Sladek, and Carsten Fuss and tuba player Jutta Keess?

A History of Bollywood Music and Dance In Colorful 3-D Gets an Epic World Premiere at Lincoln Center

If you think it might be daunting to pull together a band who can competently reinvent seventy years worth of film themes by dozens of different composers, try choreographing every one of those songs for an ensemble comprising eighteen dancers. Heena Patel and Rushi Vakil pulled off that epic feat last night at Lincoln Center Out of Doors with the world premiere of their multimedia extravaganza Bollywood Boulevard. A lively and insightful capsule history of Indian cinema as well as a revealing immersion in cinematic cross-pollination and playful mass movement, the performance drew a similarly vast audience of New Yorkers, many of whom knew the songs and sang along lustily.

For those who didn’t know the words, or the source material, or the vernacular, it was still a lot of fun. The band was fantastic, bringing a dynamically shifting rock edge to a wildly eclectic mix of themes, from a couple of baroque-tinged songs from the 1940s, to the mighty, angst-fueled ballads of the golden age of Bollywood in the 50s and 60s, to the funk and disco of the 70s and 80s and finally the surreal mashups of the last three decades.

Raj Kapoor’s 1950s epics and adventure star Amitabh Bachchan’s 70s vehicles featured heavily in the mix as the band kept a steady beat, from ancient carnatic themes interspersed within Gabriel Faure-esque Romanticism, to even more towering Romantic heights, gritty funk, irresistibly cantering bhangra and finally hints of the Middle East, sung with raw gusto by one the guys. The crowd was also finally treated to a couple of verses of Dum Maro Dum, the iconic pot-smoking anthem: remember, marijuana is an Indian herb.

It was particularly fascinating to see singer Rini Raghavan – whose own music with her band Rini is as picturesque as anything on this bill, and rocks a lot harder – bring a gentle melismatic nuance and a striking upper register to much of the quieter material. Playing violin with similar subtlety and plaintiveness, she was as much of a lead soloist as anyone in the group.

It was just as much fun to watch Harshitha Krishnan tackle many of the more kinetic numbers in her majestic, wounded wail. Keyboardist Rohan Prebhudesai spun volleys of microtones, stately orchestral washes and spare piano lines with equal aplomb over the nimble acoustic and electric fretwork of guitarist Niranjan Nayar and bassist Achal Murthy, backed by drummer Varun Das and percussionist Sanjoy Karmakar. Baritone singers Krishna Sridharan and Neel Nadkarni took alternately droll and intense turns in the spotlight as well.

All the while, a pantheon of South Asian deities or facsimiles thereof twirled and pranced and lept and glided across the stage. It wa a nonstop procession of fire maidens, and archers, and warriors…and starcrossed lovers, as the narrative continued into the 90s and beyond. Historical sagas, mythological epics, crime dramas, buddy movies and an endless succession of chick flicks were represented among dozens of Bollywood historical landmarks flashing on the screen above the stage. Personalities and characters from over the decades were gamely represented in a constantly changing series of costumes, with goodnaturedly split-seoond timing, by a cast including but not limited to Aaliya Islam, Aria Dandawate, Avinaash Gabbeta, Geatali Tampy, Manav Gulati, Minal Mehta, Panav Kadakia, Poonam Desai, Proma Khosla, Rhea Gosh, Rohit Gajare, Rohit Thakre, Sean Kulsum, Barkha, Bhumit, Bindi and Pranav Patel.

Lincoln Center Out of Doors ocntinues tonight, August 4 at 7:30 PM with violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson leading a chamber orchestra through lavish new arrangements of J Dilla hip-hop tunes out back in Damrosch Park.

Rev. Vince Anderson: Brooklyn’s Wildest, Most Relevant Monday Night Institution

The 2016 Presidential election really lit a fire under Rev. Vince Anderson. That was a dreaded wakeup call for just about everyone, but it really pushed the bushy-bearded, wild-haired keyboardist and jamband leader to new levels of intensity. “Get off that magic rectangle,” he admonished the crowd more than once a couple of weeks ago at his ongoing Monday night residency at Union Pool. “Just turn around, look at your neighbor and introduce yourself,” he cajoled.

That moment turned out to be infinitely less awkward that it would have been in a house of worship. A vacationing Georgia couple were wide-eyed; they admitted not having the slightest idea of what they’d just wandered into. “He’s a New York institution,” explained the tired but obviously reinvigorated black-clad man next to them.

In the years since Anderson first started playing his first weekly residency at the old Avenue B Social Club in the East Village, he’s switched out any kind of overtly Christian message for a community-centered, populist philosophy that he’s really concretized and brought to the stage since last year’s November surprise. And while gospel music is still the foundation of what he plays with his raucous, semi-rotating backing band the Love Choir, these days his sound is more funk and soul-oriented. The songs go on for ten minutes or more, with all kinds of dynamics, ferocious and stampeding, then hushed.

There was a time when he’d always open the show with Get Out of My Way, the pummeling first cut on his 2002 album The 13th Apostle: the studio version is a mashup of Gogol Bordello, Tom Waits and oldschool gospel. These days, Anderson plays the song closer to lickety-split Billy Preston funk…but he also likes to bring it down to a lusciously glimmering classical piano interlude. This guy can literally play anything.

Over the past couple of months, he’s also opened with a rapt, quiet take of the gospel standard Precious Lord, Take My Hand, and with Ready for the Light, a relatively new number that’s sort of symphonic James Brown. His best song lately, which he’s been playing at pretty much every show, is a new version of his slow but mighty gospel anthem I Don’t Think Jesus Would Have Done It That Way. Anderson wrote that one in response to the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq, but the new version is even more incendiary. Anderson takes potshots at Trump and the swamp cabinet and Steve Bannon in particular: it ends with everybody that Trump hates – immigrants, gays, women and, hell, pretty much all of us – having a barbecue on the White House lawn.

Watching the audience react is fascinating – and sad. Much as this is one of the rare Williamsburg events that draws both a local black and latino crowd as well as the young Republicans hell-bent on taking over the neighborhood, the former contingent here is a lot smaller than it used to be. And the song doesn’t get the enthusiastic reaction you might think it would: there’s a lot of polite silence, and a little clapping, mostly from the women – there are always a handful of Hillary supporters. Obviously, the young Republicans come here to to dance, not to be confronted by any reality that would threaten their rich parents’ dominance in the political sphere, never mind their real estate bubble profits.

But the crowd be damned – the music is fantastic. The first couple of shows in May were on the lacklustre side since the band had a sub guitarist who obviously didn’t really get the music. On the third and next-to-last Mondays in May, regular axeman Jaleel Bunton was back with his psychedelic bluesmetal/funk attack and the energy suddenly went back through the roof.

The second Monday in June, Bunton was absent again, but in his place was the brilliant Binky Griptite, the late, great Sharon Jones’ lead guitarist, who brought his elegant, virtuosic, low-key Hendrix-inspired lines to the mix and as usual elevated everybody in the band. The week after that was Moist Paula Henderson’s birthday, so Anderson gave her a feature in an old audience favorite, the nocturnal waltz New Orleans, 4 AM. His longtime baritone saxophonist, musical sparring partner and “ex-wife,” as he’s called her for the better part of two decades, responded with her usual blend of irony, humor and irrepressible fun. The group had a great drummer that night, too – it was the bartender!

They had their usual guy behind the kit, Torbitt Schwartz, back the week after, for a little extra slink alongside most of the regular band, which also comprises bassist Jeremy Willms and trombonist Dave Smith.

Rev. Vince Anderson’s Union Pool residency continues this Monday, July 31 at around 10:30 PM. And Henderson’s weekly residency with Binky Griptite continues on Wednesdays in  August at around 8 at Threes Brewing, 113 Franklin St. at Kent Ave in Greenpoint.

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?

Quincy Vidal Bring the Real Brooklyn to Lincoln Center

“One of my favorite bands in New York City,” Lincoln Center’s Viviana Benitez said succinctly, introducing Quincy Vidal’s rambunctious debut there last night . Then she let the Brooklyn hip-hop band’s lyrics speak for themselves.

“When we first got this gig, the first question I asked was, do they know who they booked?” co-leader and rapper Le’Asha Julius grinned. “Do they know the shit we talk about?” Obviously yes: this isn’t your grandfather’s Lincoln Center anymore and hasn’t been for awhile.

Backed by a tight, woozily funky four-piece band: Telecaster, multi-keys, bass and drums – Julius and her lyrical conspirator Caleb “CE” Eberhardt traded verses and spun rapidfire, intricately packed rhymes that ranged from unselfconsciously funny, tonguetwisting battle-of-the-sexes scenarios, to slit-eyed boudoir jams, to some dead-serious, spot-on social commentary.

The duo wrote their first album on Quincy Street in Fort Greene, and Julius grew up on Quincy Street in Washington, DC. The real Quincy Vidal – a college classmate – was in the house, and naturally he got a big shout. And  as much as the funny joints went over the best with the crowd – who rushed in just as the band took the stage – the most resonant material was the most relevant stuff. One of the night’s high points was also the night’s most complicated number, which Eberhardt opened with a thinly veiled reference to the Akai Gurley killing. From there, he went after the young Republican invasion of Brooklyn, hard, while pondering whether it’s possible to walk the line between making a living off these “suckers” and keeping it real.

Toward the end of the group’s hourlong set, the two went more deeply and exasperatedly into that same theme with Tired as Shit, which raises the question of how selling your soul to the white devil just to pay the rent can undermine your artistic career.

The rest of the night was less intense, but the craftsmanship of the lyrics didn’t let up. Eberhardt packs a whole lot of syllables into his rhymes – imagine Bone Thugs if they had something to say. Julius is more straight-ahead: one of her most defiantly funny numbers, she said, she wrote when she was twelve, and that one had a vintage Monie Love charm.

Their first  joint was a guy-meets-girl scenario “for the lovers in the room,” a lot funkier than your typical boudoir jam, the keyboardist having fun doing the Roger vocoder thing with his vocals. Eberhardt freestyled one of the verses of Feeling’ Like, a funny, innuendo-packed sex tune from their first full-length album Chi’ren. and Julius wouldn’t let him get away with the “tingle between your thighs” reference. They segued from there into a conscious shout-along, followed by a rapidfire party bounce number and then Homegrown, an amped-up stoner boudoir neosoul groove that got funky in a split-second.

The night’s funniest song was for the smokers, Zapp & Roger mashed up with the Lost Boyz  – “You’re only talking when you’re high,” was the refrain early on. “I should have stopped three drinks ago, should have left that shit alone,” Eberhardt added as the story gained momentum – or lost it, depending on your perspective. The duo don’t take themselves seriously at all, and their band is strong, reinforced by the gritty bluesmetal guitar solo that ended this one.

The next concert at the Lincoln Center atrium space on Broadway just north of 62nd Street is this Thursday, July 27 at 7:30 PM with kinetic, fearlessly populist oldtime Americana songwriter and banjoist Kaia Kater. The show is free; get there early if you’re going.