New York Music Daily

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Tag: dreampop

Rich Girls Bring Their Enigmatically Catchy, Allusive Sound to Bowery Electric

You either have to be sarcastic, and afraid of nothing, or just plain clueless to call your band Rich Girls these days. Is this New York group a bunch of snobby, entitled Lana Del Rey wannabes – or are they punk, or hip-hop? As it turns out, none of the above. Frontwoman Luisa Black’’s cool, inscrutable vocals and enigmatic, offhanded lyrical metaphors float over a reverbtoned guitar backdrop that’s part new wave and part dreampop. Black’s latest project is a lot more dynamic than her old group, San Francisco dark garage band the Blacks. The new  debut ep Love Is the Dealer is streaming at Bandcamp; the band has a show at Bowery Electric on March 7 at 9:30 PM. Cover is $8

The opening number, New Bag has a hypnotic, insistent, echoey downstroke guitar drive set to a 2/4 new wave pulse: Wire and New Order are the obvious comparisons.

Loaded is the album’s best cut, a steady, twinkling, reverby, noir-tinged number, 60s Orbison pop updated for the teens. Early Sharon Van Etten and Holly Miranda sounded a lot like this; the band follows a steady trajectory upward to an enveloping dreampop vortex

Open Water is a more propulsive take on the post-New Order sound of the ep’s first song..It seems to be about taking a plunge, and the consequences afterward.

Grip has a catchy middle-period Jesus & Mary Chain growl and a far more dynamic singer than that band had. The ep’s final cut is Black Night, an allusive waltz. “White light, head in your hands, you’re alive again,” Black intones “Alive, alive, back from the dead…hold the feeling and not repeat until we run.” Like most of the other songs here, it builds toward a deep-space shimmer not unlike what the Church was doing 25 years ago. If the band does all this onstage, it could be something to get lost in.

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Ellen Siberian Tiger Bring Their Smartly Lyrical, Eclectically Artsy Rock to Fort Greene

Philadelphia band Ellen Siberian Tiger play an enigmatic blend of dreampop, growly early Pixies-style anthems, and more delicate Americana and chamber pop-oriented material, all of it with an uneasy psychedelic tinge. Most of the songs on their album I Can’t Help It – up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download – contain elements of all of those styles.They’ve got a gig at 10:15 PM (that’s what the calendar says) on Nov 29 at the Way Station in Ft. Greene. The venue, with its yappy gentrifier bar crowd and lousy sound, isn’t the most hospitable place to see a band, but since so many people are out of town this weekend, this might be the time to do it.

The album’s opening, title track risese from an elegant web of acoustic guitar fingerpicking to a swirly, crashing, electric dreampop chorus, a mashup of Linda Draper and the Cocteau Twins, maybe, with vocals closer to the former than the latter.

“I begin to end,” frontwoman/guitarist Ellen Tiberio-Shultz intones in her cool, clear voice in Sylvia, as the song rises from a swirly/jangly dichotomy crashing, anthemic heights. With the emphatic violins of Catherine Joy Parke and Drew Percy, I Smelled the Rain is a catchy mashup of newgrass and chamber pop:

You’ve got a heart like Cinderella but a curfew that you keep
Your love goes home at midnight but I’m losing sleep
But you have no glass slipper, no test for you to take
Even if the shoe did fit how long til it breaks

Likewise, Asleep in the River takes a brooding folk noir theme and takes it toward electric Jefferson Airplane territory, lit up with drummer John Cox’s hailstorm cymbal work: it brings to mind New York’s similarly eclectic Sometime Boys. “It only takes so many words to tell the truth and half as many to tell a lie,” Tiberio-Shultz reminds acidically. “Run to the river, throw me in, see if I float.”

Cuttlefish shifts back and forth between tempos,  Cox’s spiky banjo juxaposed against lush strings. Mrs. Pontellier is a blaze of haphazard cowpunk with a joyously fun Collin Dennen bass solo midway through, while Pine Needles comes acrosss as a blend of Surrealistic Pillow-era psych-folk and unsettled Little Silver jangle. When We Grow Up has dancing pizzicato violin to light up its moodily hypnotic Randi Russo-esque ambience and segues into the album’s final, most ornately psychedelic cut, Lion Hearted, rising out of deep-space ambience toward Radiohead majesty. This album is like an artichoke, with many tasty layers and also spines that will grab you if you stop paying attention for a second.

An Exhilarating Paisley Underground Instrumental Album from Dave Miller

Guitarslinger Dave Miller plays adrenalizing, catchy instrumental rock informed by Americana, soul music, pastoral jazz, noiserock and postrock. There’s nobody out there who sounds remotely like him. He’s so good that you might actually want to go to the small room at the Rockwood at midnight, where he’ll be on April 3, or to Greeenpoint, where he’ll be at Manhattan Inn at 10 on April 6. He’s got a sensational new album, Old Door Phantoms, which hasn’t officially hit yet, although there are a couple of tracks up at Bandcamp and some tantalizing live stuff at his youtube channel.

It opens with a roar and a clang with Found Towns, a swaying, stomping, burning paisley underground instrumental, like a song from True West’s second album minus the lyrics. As it goes on, there’s a push and pull and eventually a fullscale battle between guitar tracks, much as Russ Tolman and Stephen McCarthy would do thirty years ago. Eventually Ben Boye’s electric piano joins the melee, then they decay in a haze of reverb exhaust and Quin Kirchner’s tumbling drums. It’s a hell of a way to kick thing off.

Bison Disciple works a warmly familiar 70s Americana rock riff into a more swinging soul groove anchored by Boye’s electic piano. If the Band hadn’t been a bunch of stoned Canadian hippies, had some real balls and took some real chances, they might have sounded something like this. As it goes on, it gives Miller a chance to bellyflop into classic 60s/70s Westside Chicago blues. The Things I Don’t Know shifts into drifty mellotron-fueled, twinkling spacerock, part Nektar, part early Built to Spill, the ghost of Jerry Garcia looking on approvingly. Last Call makes an abrupt move into insistent 80s noiserock, then hits a stomping Motown-inflected pulse from Matt Ulery’s bass, blending the two with a wry edge as the keys go spiraling up into a bubbly nitrous web.

Animsm blends slow, slinky Bill Frisell pastorals with a little Hendrix and a tinge of evil Steve Ulrich/Big Lazy noir – in fact, as it builds steam and then subsides, it could be a less lithe Big Lazy. Wry allusions to the Cure, Hendrix and the Ventures pop up as For Too Much Longer gets going and then it hits a sprinting, bittersweet highway groove, then edges toward enigmatic dreampop before skittering back toward the surf. With its mammoth cinematic sweep and good cheer, it sounds like a more explosive American take on Los Crema Paraiso.

Miller keeps the epic intensity going with the towering 6/8 paisley underground sway of Tree Worship, sort of a mashup of 1984-era Dream Syndicate and MC5 freakout.The album winds up wih a noisy, snarky cover of the surf classic Telstar, with a crash landing ending that puts the original to shame. What a breath of fresh air this is. Let’s put Miller on a triplebill with Girls on Grass and the new Dream Syndicate and make paisley underground the sound that all the cool kids listen to just like they did thirty years ago. This one’s one of 2016’s best with a bullet.

Object Collection Stages a Deliciously Noisy, Messy. Provocative Piece at LaMaMa

Longtime LaMaMa impresario Nicky Paraiso reminded last night’s sold-out crowd at Object Collection’s latest experimental opera, Cheap & Easy October, that the experience would be what used to be called “total theatre” back in the 80s – a description that really nailed it. With a tight, often scorchingly intense four-piece band playing behind a ratty knitted curtain of sorts and cast members scampering, leaping and chasing each other around the stage, it’s more of a concert with a cast acting out a dadaesque video of sorts than it is anything else. And what a show it is. As immersive and pummeling as composer Travis Just’s score is, it’s far less abrasive than it is enveloping: you are drawn into the heart of the cyclotron, violently thrust out or, surprisingly, cast gently into a starlit reverie. Earplugs will be handed out, hut you don’t really need them. The run at LaMaMa is coming to a close, with final performances tonight, October 17 and then tomorrow at 10 PM; tix are $18/$13 stud/srs.

The band shifts abruptly but strangely elegantly through dreampop, post-hardcore and Mogwai-esque nightmarescapes, with acidic mid-80s Sonic Youth close harmonies, furious percussive interludes that recall taiko drumming, moments of what seem to be free improvisation, and echoes of the cumulo-nimbus swirl of guitarist Taylor Levine’s quartet Dither. Violinist Andie Springer uses a lot of extended technique and nails-down-the-blackboard harmonics; she also plays bass. Explosive drummer Owen Weaver doubles on Telecaster, while keyboardist Aaron Meicht also adds the occasional trumpet flourish or joins the stomp on a couple of floor toms.

The text – drawn from Soviet revolutionary histories by Leon Trotsky and John Reed as well as conversations between writer/director Kara Feely and cast member Fulya Peker (whose butoh background informs the simmering menace she channels throughout the show) veers from lickety-split spoken word to a bizarre, falsettoey singsong. Sardonic symbolism is everywhere: there’s a zombie apocalypse subplot, a telephone gets abused, and swordplay abounds. The rest of the cast – Deborah Wallace, Daniel Allen Nelson, Tavish Miller and Avi Glickstein – take on multiple roles, some of them living, some of them presumably dead.

There’s some toying with poststructuralist japes, springboarding off the premise that if you control the conversation, you control the situation. “Do you think a revolution of words can be as profound as an actual revolution?” one of the cast poses in one of the performance’s less chaotic moments. Much of the iconography in the set is sarcastic and ultimately portends a lot of very gloomy endings: as Feely and Just see it, revolutions tend to disappoint.

No less august a personality than Robert Ashley gave this group’s work the thumbs-up. For those who need their ideas packaged neatly and cohesively, this isn’t going to work. And it raises fewer questions than it intimates – which by itself is reason to see this provocative piece, one more nuanced than its sonic cauldron might initially suggest.

Singles for 12/18

These things accumulate like dust bunnies around here. Imagine if dust bunnies could talk. What would they say?

Birmingham, Alabama trio Wray’s Bad Heart is Jesus & Mary Chain x Lost Patrol with a little dreampop swirl mixed in with the postpunk growl and the reverb-iced surf catchiness (via youtube).

Black Light White Light’s Running sounds like peak-era 90s Wilco doing paisley underground, with an echoey Rickenbacker jangle, a little glam and a LONG stoner outro (via last.fm – don’t worry, this is their free page, you don’t have to pay to hear it).

Tori Vasquez will bring you back into focus with the uneasy southwestern gothic folk of Wear You Thin (youtube). And here’s Pale Green Stars doing Lesson 27 (via Reverbnation): slide guitar swamp rock straight out of the Gun Club songbook circa 1985, an unrepentant reflection on a stoner past complete with a sweetly sarcastic verse from a famous hymn.

A Catchy, Pensive, Compelling New Album and a Cake Shop Show from the Aquanettas’ Debby Schwartz

Debby Schwartz is one of the most distinctive, compelling singers in rock, with a coolly expressive alto voice that can be sultry one moment and then quirky and funny the next: Dawn Oberg comes to mind. Back in the 90s, Schwartz fronted cult favorite powerpop band the Aquanettas. Since then, she’s pursued a solo career. She’s got an excellent new album, Garden of My Own (streaming at Bandcamp), with an all-star cast of players and an album release show coming up on Sept 24 at 10 PM at Cake Shop. Cover is a reasonable $8.

The album’s dostamtly George Harrrison-tinged opening track, Hummingbird, comtemplates bitterness and regret, Kate Gentile and Claudia Chopek’s stark violins paired agianst Schwartz’ own elegant fingerpicking. “You’ve learned to play on the tolerance of those too kind to call you on the fact you’ve overturned, go if you want to you, know you’ve beeen found out if you get burned,” Schwartz warns.

The second track, Ambivalent, is much the same, elegant electric guitar accents intermingled with the acoustic – Bob Bannister. Pat Gubler and James Mastro play the electrics here, with Peter Stewart on bass. Dreaming New York City in the Middle of LA is a classic example of East Coast angst coming unraveled on the other side of the continent, set to a gorgeous paisley underground backdrop, twang and jangle and resonant washes from the electrics contrasting with Schwartz’s spiky acoustic. “The roaches on my kitchen wall hang flaccid and serene while my neighbors ram their door through with a car,” Schwartz bemoans, “Please get me out of here.”

London brings back a lingering rainy-day atmosphere: “Something vile has been haunting me for days now…flashing eyes and words that burned into your ears, did you cry?” Schwartz broods. Arise has a moody gravitas not unlike the Church, a band the Aquanettas once toured with, in folk-rock mode: on the last verse, we get funereal drums from Robert Dennis.

The album’s drollest track is the ambling Satan You Brought Me Down. The album’s longest track, Bulldozer, is also its most hypnotic: Schwartz might be addressing the evils of gentrification here. To Become Somebody keeps the hypnotic atmosphere going, Gabler’s hurdy-gurdy adding a distinct Scottish folk flavor. The next track, My Hope comes across a more soaring second part of that song.

That’s What Johnny Told Me on the Train balances a bouncy pop melody against more of that 4AD, rainswept open-tuned guitar ambience. The album ends with the bittersweetly anthemic Sitting in a Garden of My Own. Schwartz also has an ep out recently comprising several of these tracks along with the lushly luscious folk noir anthem Hills of Violent Green, a showcase for some literally breathtaking, swooping upper-register vocals.

Moody, Goth-Tinged Duo the Smoke Fairies Play a Rare Free Show in Williamsburg

British duo the Smoke Fairies set unpretentious vocals with low-key harmonies to attractive, tersely constructed, subtly orchestrated keyboard melodies with a typically shadowy, nocturnal ambience. A lot of Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire’s songs bring to mind Blonde Redhead at their most darkly shoegazy. The Smoke Fairies have a new self-titled album, their third, streaming at Spotify and a free, full-band show coming up on Sept 1 at Rough Trade in Williamsburg at 7 PM.

It’s a change of pace – is the heavy use of synths and piano this time around an attempt to replicate a mannered, campy Lana Del Rey faux-noir vibe? Happily, no. What most of these songs are is 90s-style trip-hop pop, very cleverly disguised and arranged. There’s more than a hint of classic 70s Britfolk in the vocals, and a nod to 80s goth-pop and darkwave in the background. The opening track, We’ve Seen Birds has the synth imitating a guitar tremolo – “Did you think we could exist like this?” the duo ask enigmatically. Eclipse Them All reaches toward a funeral parlor organ sound with the occasional lingering cry from the guitar – it’s a shot at seductively anthemic, Goldfrapp-style atmospherics.

Shadow Inversions works a more anthemically ghostly ambience, swirling over a simple, rising bassline with distorted, echoey guitars and drums. The slowly vamping Hope Is Religion builds to a hypnotic, Indian-flavored string ambience. Waiting for Something to Begin, a pulsing, angst-ridden escape anthem, blends distant Beatlisms into its nocturnal downtempo groove.

Your Own Silent Movie is another slow, angst-fueled anthem, sort of a mashup of 80s goth-pop and teens chamber pop, the dynamics rising and falling: “Each room of your house a drama you’ve been staging, but I will never let the curtains unfold,” the two insist.

Guest Andy Newmark’s tumbling, artsy drums raise the energy of Misty Versions above by-the-numbers folk noir, building to an icily seductive mix of crackling guitar noise and dreampop vocalese. Drinks and Dancing is hardly the bubbly pop song the title would suggest – instead, it’s a more hi-tech take on torchy, wounded Amanda Thorpe-style balladry. Likewise, Koto is not a Japanese folk song but a simple, tersely crescendoing two-chord trip-hop vamp.

Want It Forever takes an unexpected detour into garage rock, souped up with layers of keys and guitars. The Very Last Time ponders a torrid but impossible relationship that sounds like it was doomed from the start, set to what’s become an expectedly echoey, minor-key, hallucinatory backdrop. The album ends with the haunted, bitter, defeated Are You Crazy,opening as a regretful piano ballad and growing to a swaying, deep-space pulsar ambience. It’ll be interesting to see how much of all this orchestration and atmospheric hocus-pocus the band can replicate onstage.

Moody, Morose Rainy Day Atmospherics from Belle Mare

Do Brooklyn duo Belle Mare bring to mind the beauty of the ocean? Not really, but their music is definitely watery. Their album The Boat of the Fragile Mind – streaming at Bandcamp – is a good rainy-day listen, part jangly rock, part dreampop and part pensive acoustic tunesmithing. Some of this brings to mind Linda Draper and her recordings with Kramer during her psychedelic period in the early zeros; others remind of Marissa Nadler, or sound like demos (remember those?) for some 80s 4AD band. Frontwoman Amelia Bushell sings with a muted, often wounded, occasionally utterly defeated nonchalance over guitarist Thomas Servidone’s web of shifting atmospheric sheets and reverb-drenched acoustic strumming, with swirling electric guitar lines and echoey keyboards flowing through the mix.

While the album has a nebulously linked theme of angst and abandonment, the point of the music seems to be more about setting a mood than tracing a narrative. Bushell varies her delivery from a subdued, stoic alto to soaring highs where she cuts loose with angst and sometimes echoes of sheer terror. Servidone is a one-man guitar orchestra: he puts a ton of reverb on everything, from the gentle acoustic chords that underpin pretty much all of the album’s eight tracks, to fluid washes of dreampop and the ever-present, dub-inflected, often sepulchral sonic bits and pieces that waft throughout the songs.

The opening track, Charade, is a more noir take on Phil Spector-ish pop, through the watery lens of dreampop. The Once Happy Heart builds from atmospherics and brooding contemplation to a big vocal crescendo over chiming keys – “I give myself over to hideous sights,” Bushell muses. The title cut, a diptych of sorts, ponders how “we hoped that we might make it out alive,” building to an unexpectedly anthemic outro with distant, ominously boomy drums. After that, Bushell shoots for an oldschool 70s soul ambience on All This time, a feel she maintains on the next track, Deep in Your Dark.

The duo wrap the jaunty if perturbed folk-rock of The City in a gauzy disguise with layers of fluttering vocalese and pinging electric piano. “If it’s all right I’d like to find a suitable time to let out my reheased lines, hope they don’t scare you,” Bushell intones on the next track, guitar and disembodied voices adding an especially ghostly edge in the background. The album ends with its most experimental track, So Long.

This album came out over a year ago. So what took this blog so long to get to it? Bad recordkeeping, plain and simple. If the sky overhead looks ominous, kick back and drift away with this…if you dare.

Action Beat & G.W. Sok – Not for the Faint of Heart or the Hung Over

A Remarkable Machine, the new collaboration between British noiserockers Action Beat and G.W. Sok – frontman of legendary Dutch postpunks the Ex – is the rare album that’s so intense that you can only listen to it once all the way through without taking a break. Some people will take one a lot earlier. It’ll clear a room in less than a minute. That’s why it’s so awesome.

Throughout the album’s ten tracks, the band works a surrealistically assaultive, paint-peeling formula. All the guitars have a ton of icy reverb on them, one of them more watery and menacing, the others typically more jagged, or muted, or percussive, cleverly separated between stereo channels in the style of 60s psychedelia. The changes eschew both major and minor chords, landing uneasily between the two, often with eerie close harmonies rubbing up against each other and shedding off otherworldly sparks.

There are also multiple drummers in the band: the songs typically start out with a single drum track and add more as they go on. The bass is trebly and often gets subsumed in the current of poisonously fluid guitars, or the stampeding drums. And what the hell Sok is talking about is never clear. His snidely articulated, mostly-spoken lyrics rise and then sink into the murky mess behind them – the effect only raises the menace. You have to be in the mood for this, and if you are, it’s transcendent. Otherwise it’ll give you a headache.

The centerpiece seems to be a Kafkaesque account of a tortuous execution machine, a theme that works perfectly with the mix of sawing, stabbing, frantically pinwheeling guitars. The opening track, Spoonfeed Hell, builds its wash of Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth tremolopicking until the guitarists are completely out of gas, and that’s where it ends. Noisy scratches alternate with echoey clangs and firebombing flares throughout Judgment Letter, while bent-note wails, hints of funk and allusions to Public Image Ltd.’s Second Edition dominate Heap of Clay. Dig the Hole gets a catchy Silver Rocket riff that the band takes into screechy staccato territory.

Reverb-drenched squalls, elephantine snorts and a brief hardcore interlude alternate in the aptly tilted Pork Butcher’s Knife; likewise, the low-key Disappearing Man disappears quickly. Loops rise to a scream and then disintegrate into unhinged free jazz on Great Unfinished, while Citizen K recalls both vintage Sonic Youth as well as the Jesus & Mary Chain’s earliest experiments in noise. The album ends with its longest and ironically most accessible track, One Another – after forty minutes of fingers-down-the-blackboard shrieks and wails, one of the guitars hits a real, live major chord and the band moves uneasily into a facsimile of a stadium rock anthem. It seems to be sarcastic, of course. To say that this is the best album or most whatever album of the year is beside the point: it’s in a class by itself and will probably someday be regarded as a classic, at least by the people who can stand to listen to it for more than a few minutes at a time.

Now where can you hear this twisted masterpiece? Nowhere, yet, although Sok has plenty of other stuff up at his Bandcamp page, plus there are some live tracks at youtube.

 

Lingering, Catchy Retro 80s Psychedelia from Annie Girl & the Flight

Before you consider San Francisco psychedelic new wave band Annie Girl & the Flight‘s new ep, Pilot Electric, hit their video page for The Devil, an incendiary, explosive, Thalia Zedek-esque mini-epic with a long, completely unhinged solo by lead guitarist Josh Pollock. That’s considerably more raw and feral than the stuff on the album (which is on Spotify, although mysteriously a Google search doesn’t reveal that), and it’s hard to think of anything more enticing to bring people out to see them live. They’re coming through town for a couple of shows, on May 21 at 9:30 at Shea Stadium in Bushwick and then early the next evening, May 22 at 6 PM at the small room at the Rockwood.

Their frontwoman sings in a dreamy, sometimes cooing high soprano over a lush backdrop with shimmery cymbals and lingering layers of guitar with a little wry wah action on the album’s tersely catchy first track, Fire Escape. When it picks up, the dreampop ambience remains.

The second track, The Forge vamps out a midtempo, nonchalantly swaying, hypnotic hook straight ouf of the Cure circa 17 Seconds; as the layers of guitar mingle and soar, they might distract you from the fact that it’s a one-chord jam all the way through. The title cut is similar, a little slower, alternating between resonant jangle and gritty wind-turbine washes as the rhythm steadies itself. With its blend of clang and swirl, the final cut, Summit evokes an early psychedelic ballad by the Church as it shifts between suspense and majesty. It’s a prime example of this band’s fondness for building a towering atmosphere around a very simple, memorable hook.