New York Music Daily

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Tag: desert flower band

New York’s Best Heavy Psych Band Play a Rare Intimate Show at Pete’s This Saturday Night

The idea of New York’s best acid rock band in the cozy, comfortable confines of Pete’s Candy Store this Saturday night at 10:30 PM is just plain sick. Are Desert Flower going to play an acoustic set? Or are they going to rip the roof off the room like they did at Sidewalk one Friday night in the spring of 2016, when they opened for one of Lorraine Leckie’s quasi-rehearsals in between Bowery Ballroom gigs?

Maybe it was the OMFG moment right before that show when it looked like lead guitarist Migue Mendez’s pedalboard had suddenly died. But even if he hadn’t managed to bring it back to life, the show would have gone on – and on, and on, relentlessly, wave after wave of sonic assault. Classic psychedelic intricacy and interplay and world-class chops, punk rock volume. It was like being transported back to an imaginary Isle of Wight in 1972, right on top of the stage and the crushing banks of Marshall stacks.

As loud as the guitars were that night, frontwoman Bela Zap Art would not be denied. She can sing tango and blues with the world’s best, but this gig is where she gets to cut loose and let that otherworldly, crystalline wail rise to the rafters. Belting to the top of her register, she channeled righteous rage and distantly horror-stricken angst back-to-back with an uneasy allure, at the very edge of terror. LSD is scary stuff. Obviously, it’s not clear if anyone in the band is experienced that way – and nobody onstage was tripping, But that’s what gave this music its initial surreal jolt of microcurrent back in the 60s.

And Desert Flower’s music was sublime. Like a lot of bands with roots south of the border, they like minor keys. In a particularly strange stroke of irony, the best song of the night was Traveler, Mendez’s ominously lingering phrases and furtive pull-offs opening it over Paola Luna’s stately, carefully articulated broken chords. Bassist Seba Fernandez, playing through the house amp, didn’t have his usual crackle, so he stuck with looming ambience. Drummer Alfio Casale was the one guy in the band who treated this like the small-room gig that it was: he knew he didn’t have to hit hard to fill the space. As the majestic 6/8 anthem peaked out, Zap Art’s voice went with it, solace to anyone on what seemed to be a trip that would never end.

The fury of the rest of the set was something that room has probably never seen, at least since the days of popular punkmetal band the Larval Organs there about fifteen years ago. The blast and syncopated crash of Sube, with Zap Art’s enigmatic “going down on the grey skies” chorus was matched by the carnivalesque strut of Warrior. On that one, the band brought up a guest trombonist who put the bell of his horn around one of the vocal mics and then blew feral snorts, a psycho hippo’s death song. It will be worth the trip – in every sense of the word – to see what Desert Flower are going to to do in an even more intimate and far more sonically welcoming space this December 23.

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Desert Flower’s Menacing Heavy Psychedelic Debut: One of 2016’s Best Albums

Desert Flower are one of the half-dozen best bands in New York right now. The heavy psychedelic quintet spice their wickedly tight, menacingly careening, darkly individualistic sound with punk, stoner blues, 70s boogie and echoes of gothic rock. They’re also notable for being one of the few psychedelic bands out there fronted by a woman, powerful bluesy wailer/keyboardist Bela Zap Art. What Jefferson Airplane were to San Francisco, 1967 or what Siouxsie & the Banshees were to London, 1985, Desert Flower are to New York in 2016. Their debut ep – streaming at Soundcloud – instantly vaults them into contention for putting out the best album of the year. Right now they’re back in the studio – watch this space for future NYC dates.

Much as Zap Art has Ann Wilson power and intensity, the studio setting here gives her a chance to project far more subtlety than she typically gets a chance to do out in front of the marauding twin-guitar attack of Migue Mendez and Paola Luna. Likewise, bassist Seba Fernandez and drummer Alfio Casale get to show off dynamics that sometimes don’t make it into their high-voltage live show.

The first track, Darketa opens with a wash of guitar sitar before Fernandez’s slinky bassline kicks in and the band sways along, Mendez’s lysergic echoes ringing out against Luna’s gritty attack, Zap Art rising from a wounded, guarded intensity, to trippy lows that she runs through a phaser. As the song builds toward a pulsing peak and Fernandez’s catchy bass hook pans the speakers behind Mendez’s searing lead, it suddenly becomes clear that it’s just a one-chord jam!

Longest Way is a brisk mashup of downstroke postpunk and classic Motor City rock: “Let me take you to the secret place, where nobody can see your face,” Zap Art intones enigmatically. The majestic, haunting Sube sways along over an uneasily pouncing 6/8 groove, an orchestra of guitars channeling ornate Nektar-ish art-rock and MBV dreampop, “Going down on the grey skies,” Zap Art belts ominously.

Tango follows a creepily pulsing southwestern gothic trajectory, fueled by Mendez’s slide guitar and Luna’s lingering, brooding lines. The catchiest of the originals here, Warrior stomps along over an incisive, sarcastically faux-martial groove, with tongue-in-cheek trombone and some tasty, purist blues playing from Mendez.

The centerpiece of the record is Traveler, a towering 6/8 anthem by a friend in Buenos Aires. Zap Art plays macabre washes of sound on her organ as Mendez alternates between fat, vibrato-laden lines and a menacing growl, Luna anchoring it with her murky, watery broken chords. Look for this on the best albums of the year page in December if we make it that far.

Piano Powerhouse Jack Spann Puts Out a Mysterious, Kinetic Debut Album

Jack Spann is one of New York’s most in-demand keyboardists. He’s not related to Otis Spann, but from the way he plays blues, you’d think he might be. He has Carnegie Hall-class chops and can do stride piano and ragtime as well as anyone in town. But as popular a sideman as Spann is – he collaborated with David Bowie and has been playing with noir icon LJ Murphy lately – he’s also a solo artist in his own right. His own material spans from parlor pop, to creepy Americana, to labyrinthine art-rock with a theatrical flair. His debut solo album,Time, Time, Time, Time, Time is due out momentarily, with a release show on what has turned out to be a great night of music on April 15 at Sidewalk, of all places. Spann opens the night at 8, followed eventually at 10 by an even darker art-rock group, the careening, twin guitar-driven Desert Flower, and then at 11 Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons with their blend of snarling Americana, psychedelia and misterioso folk noir..

On the album, the fun really starts with the third track. Spann – who plays most of the instruments, including bass, drums and guitars in addition to multiple keyboards – kicks it off with a slinky Rhodes riff over an organ swell…and then builds a stompingly optimistic vintage 70s soul anthem. Stern synthesized strings open the dramatic, gospel-tinged title track, a brooding contemplation of the ravages of time; Spann’s precise, pointillistic riffage brings to mind Tony Banks’ work with Genesis during their early 70s peak with Peter Gabriel. Producer Gary Tanin enhances those majestic sonics with his own multi-keyboard contributions.

“Is it fear or loyalty that keeps you in its sway?” Spann asks early in the angst-fueled, minor-key waltz after that. The next number, Disappearing Girl traces the ominous tale of an abduction, over a tensely scampering, cinematic pulse spiced with tricky organ and accordion flourishes. With its surreal, trippy lyrics and rapidfire baroque-rock piano and organ, My Dinosaur echoes current-day keyboard-driven psychedelic bands like Fever the Ghost.

Molly Mastrangelo duets on Games, a swaying, syncopated folk-rock number and a return to the missing-woman scenario. Spann’s foreboding bass joins in tandem with the organ as Everybody Here’s Stained gets underway; it’s sort of a more gospel-infused take on classic Genesis. The album winds up with the pouncing, Joe Jackson-inflected parlor pop of Breakdown, an explosive coda to the mysteries that have been percolating up to this point.

Beninghove’s Hangmen and Big Lazy in Brooklyn: Noir Music Heaven

Considering that we’re only in March, it’s hardly safe to say that the twinbill coming up this Monday the 14th at around 9 at Manhattan Inn, with Beninghove’s Hangmen and Big Lazy, is the best one of the year. The April 15, 10 PM doublebill of Desert Flower and Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons, at Sidewalk, of all places, looks awfully good. And there will be others. But as far as dark and blackly amusing sounds are concerned, it doesn’t get any better than Monday’s lineup in Greenpoint.

Big Lazy’s set last Friday night at Barbes was surprisingly quirky. Gallows humor, and funny quotes from other songs are familiar tropes for the noir cinematic trio, but frontman/guitarist Steve Ulrich was having an especially good time with them: Mission Impossible, My Funny Valentine, Caravan – which Ulrich has covered murderously well in the past – and a whole bunch of others. And a trio of creepy cover tunes: Girl, by the Beatles, a stabbing version of an Astor Piazzolla tango and an absolutely lurid take of John Barry’s You Only Live Twice, with a savagely tremolo-picked solo midway through.

It was kind of a weird night, if a good one. The crowd wasn’t the usual mobscene that this band draws. Out front at the bar, it looked like the prom bus from Jersey or somewhere in Alabama had just disembarked. Scarier than Big Lazy’s originals – even Park Slope isn’t safe from yuppie puppy zombie apocalypse anymore. But in back, people were dancing in an oasis of reverb guitar and pitchblende basslines.

This Monday’s opening act, Beninghove’s Hangmen work the same turf: raindrenched wee hours crime jazz tableaux and more overtly humorous interludes. Like Ulrich, frontman/multi-saxophonist Bryan Beninghove gets a lot of film work, so his instrumentals can shift shape from, say, blithe to brutal in a split second and the segue doesn’t seem the least bit jarring. Case in point: the title track to their deliciously creepy upcoming album, Pineapples & Ashtrays.

And they’re more of a jamband than Big Lazy. While a lot of their material can be grim, and ghoulish, and sometimes downright morose, they can also be hilarious. The best example is Zohove, their instrumental album of Led Zep covers, streaming at Spotify.. Zep’s music can be awfully funny by itself, and Beninghove’s reimaginings are even funnier.

On the opening track, Kashmir, Rick Parker’s elephantine trombone snorts and Beninghove’s spectacularly swirling soprano sax lines over the stomp behind it elevate it to Vesuvius heights. Heavy new wave rhythm from drummer Kevin Shea (of another even funnier band, Mostly Other People Do the Killing) and bassist Ezra Gale (of dub reggae crew Super Hi-Fi, who are also hardly strangers to funny songs) might be the last thing you might expect to work in a cover of Misty Mountain Hop, but it does. And the guitar is trippy behond belief: Eyal Maoz’s droll Spinal Tap bends over Dane Johnson’s Jabba the Hut Space Lounge electro-breakdown.

What Is and What Never Should Be is a droll mashup of quotes:You Can’t Just Get What You Want, ad infinitum. Likewise, the album’s title track, a sort of a greatest-riffs collection, cleverly disassembled in the same vein as what you find in how-to books like “Play Guitar in the Style of Tony Iommi.”

The group’s version of Immigrant Song substitutes Bennghove’s sax and Parker’s trombone for Robert Plant’s bleat – and it’s priceless. A shivery twin guitar solo decays toward the noir the band’s known for, over dancing bass to match Beninghove’s bluesy tenor spirals

It’s amazing how they reinvent D’yer Maker as uneasy, metrically tricky noir ska, and then an Afrobeat epic, And the Specials quote at the end is LMFAO too. The album ends with a slinking, incendiary take of When the Levee Breaks fueled by blue-flame slide guitar worthy of Jimmy Page himself. It’s the one place on the album where the band actually seems to take the material seriously, and it might be the best track of all. Get this and get a roomful of Zep fans laughing their collective asses off. Beninghove’s Hangmen usually play at least one Zep cover at most of their shows, so we’re likely to get some of this buffoonery Monday night in Brooklyn.

Planta Bring Their Powerful, Epic, Psychedelic Art-Rock to the West Village This Saturday Night

When as formidable a musician as Desert Flower lead guitarist Migue Mendez says that someone else’s band is better than his own, you have to wonder how amazing that band has to be. On one hand, Mendez was being modest, considering what a volcanic (if sadly abbreviated) set Desert Flower put on a couple of Saturday ago in the wee hours of a Sunday morning at Sidewalk. On the other, the band they followed, Planta, brought a stadium-worthy majesty and titanic sweep rarely seen in such a small venue. Watching the five-piece Queens art-rockers shift through all sorts of permutations, and grooves, and tunes with an epic intensity was like getting to see Pink Floyd in a small club. The show was that good. They’re playing the Bitter End, of all places, at 9:30 PM on December 5, which ought to be even better since that place has a better PA than Sidewalk’s. As a bonus, Bombrasstico, who mash up brass band funk with dancehall reggae and Afrobeat, follow later on the bill around 11:30.

Planta’s debut album, Unwind, is streaming at their music page. A siirening ebow guitar drone underpins the pulsing, minimalist, syncopated title track. Like much of the material here, it echoes the moody post-new wave anthems of legendary Mexican rockers Caifanes. That’s All I Want sways along with a distant, cumbulo-nimbus soundtrack-rock ominousness, then picks up with jangle and slide guitar over bassist Jean-Paul Le Du’s catchy groove; like Radiohead but with more balls. Lazy hints that it’s going in either a happy-go-lucky Vampire Weekend direction, or into folk-rock, but instead goes back toward broodingly catchy Caifanes territory, lead guitarist Marcelo Dominguez first echoing Jerry Garcia in “on” mode, then going into dark, lingering Saul Hernandez territory.

Exiliado has a lush, wounded art-rock sweep, like a blend of Radiohead and Nektar at their most deep-space intense. The twin gutars of Dominguez and frontman Ricardo Ponce mingle and blend with a resonant Pink Floyd grandeur throughout the bitterly pensive Don’t Know You. The final cut is Todo Es un Sueno, slowly taking shape over Le Du’s elegant slides and pulses. As majestic as these songs are on record, they’re even more immense live. This band desreves a stage as big as their sound; right now, you’re lucky enough to be able to catch them when they’re still playing small venues.

Desert Flower Bring Their Smoldering, Intense Heavy Psychedelia to the East Village Saturday Night

On Sundays starting at around 11 in the morning, there’s a flea market at Paperbox in Bushwick. Along with the antiques and tchotchkes and book stalls and used vinyl, there’s street fair food out back, and if you’re of age there are drinks at the bar. A lot of people go here for daydrinking ($3 drafts until 2 PM, yikes!), or to bring the kids and see some live music, because they have bands here. And some of them are fantastic: psychedelic cumbia group Consumata Sonidera treated the crowd to a sizzling show here a couple of weeks ago. The highlight of this past week was a tightly ferocious set by heavy psychedelic band Desert Flower. Although they mash up some very famliiar styles, most of them from the 70s, they’re one of the most individualistic bands in town: there is no other group in New York who sound remotely like them.

One of the keys to their sound is the contrast between the two guitarists. Migue Mendez plays a Gibson SG through a Fender amp with the reverb turned up most of the time, delivering creepily echoing, deep-space quasar leads, menacingly shivery flurries of reverb riffage and sunbaked stoner blues lines. Paola Luna plays a Telecaster, varying her attack from gritty, terse, blues-based riff-rock, to a menacing, sustained minor-key clang. Bassist Seba Fernandez and drummer Alfio Casale cluster and churn as they propel the songs’ generally slow-to-midtempo grooves. Out in front of the band, singer Bela Zap Art sways slowly, eyes closed, completely lost in the music as the waves slowly rise and then break behind her. Much as she has a bluesy wail to match Heart’s Ann Wilson, there’s an elegance and nuance in that powerfullly modulated alto of hers, with touches of cabaret and nuevo tango. Considering that musicians tend to be night creatures, Desert Flower ought to be even more careeningly powerful when they play Sidewalk this Saturday night, November 14 at midnight

The Paperbox show opened with a flurry of drums and growling, trebly bass, Fernandez playing off to the side of the stage as the briskly ominous stomp built steam, part early Siouxsie, part early 90s NYC gutter blues, part punk, Mendez building to an all-too-brief, searing solo toward the end. And a listen back to the recording reveals something that was anything but obvious at the moment: the song doesn’t have any chord changes!

The band likes to segue between songs, and they did that right off the bat, Mendez and Luna flinging dark fragments of melody against each other before the rhythm section came back in, Luna’s sepulchral upper-register shrieks capping off Mendez’s heavy blues lines and mighty, majestic slide playing.  Zap Art bent her notes with a surreal, lysergic ominousness as the song built slowly to a peak.

The most epic song of the set was Traveler, a slow, haunting 6/8 noir blues dirge written by a composer friend from Buenos Aires. After that, they went back to the riff-rock with a moodily shuffling new number, Zap Art bringing to mind blue-eyed soul belters like Genya Ravan when she hit the impassioned, blues-drenched chorus. The band’s most intense original was another marauding 6/8 minor-key anthem: “Falling down from the grey skies,” Zap Art wailed again and again over the twin guitars’ sharkteeth attack.  The sarcastic march that followed, like the Dead Kennedys taking a detour into circus rock, was every bit as potent. They wound up the show with a tight, furious cover of Moonage Daydream that looked back to the live pyrotechnics of the Mick Ronson-era version of Bowie’s band.

And the opening act was good too. It would have been fun to have seen more than the last handful of songs by noisy, intense power trio Slow Suck. Frontwoman/guitarist Kiki Sabater has an individualistically dirty but melodic sound that brings to mind early Bauhaus as well as what Courtney Love was doing on the first Hole album, i.e. before she went completely off the rails. Sabater’s songs don’t follow any kind of predictable verse/chorus pattern, and the rhythm section behind her negotiated those tricky transitions between slow and sinister and screaming punk rock with an impressive elegance, particularly the bassist, whose thoughtful hammer-ons and slinky melodies darkened an already vivid, gloomy ambience. Sabater’s unselfconsciously anguished wail drove it all home.