New York Music Daily

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Tag: film music

Revisiting One of the World’s Most Intriguing Guitarists in an Intimate Space

For more than two decades, guitarist Jim Campilongo has carved out a distinctive, erudite, energetic niche somewhere between jazz, surf rock and film noir music. For almost as long, he’s had an on-and-off residency at the various Rockwood rooms. In 2017, he finally got around to making a live album there with his long-running trio of Chris Morrissey on bass and Josh Dion on drums. That album is still streaming at Bandcamp, and Campilongo has returned to his old haunt. His next appearance there is April 25 at 7 PM in the big room; cover is $15

Obviously, considering how Campilongo’s music continues to evolve, a listen to the live record isn’t necessarily a good idea what his live show is about these days. His most recent album is even more intimate, an intricate, sometimes spare duo record with fellow six-stringer and Morricone fan Luca Bendedetti. It’s full of surprises: their quarterspeed version of Chopin’s Minute Waltz is a hoot. Much as Campilongo’s studio material is all worth hearing – his 2006 album Heaven Is Creepy is this blog’s favorite – live is where he excels most.

Is that a vintage repeaterbox he’s using on the intro to the live record’s first song, I’m Helen Keller and You’re a Waffle Iron? Maybe. It comes across as a more restless, ornamented take on Big Lazy noir skronk. The way he builds up to a scorching, circling series of sus chords is a clinic in tunesmithing – or creating a melody out of thin air.

The second number, Big Bill is a squiggly strut, Dion kicking up the dust as Morrissey shadows the bandleader and eventually gets his amp burning with a long, emphatic series of chords. Imagine Mary Halvorson playing a John Zorn noir surf tune and you wouldn’t be far off.

Dion sings the spare, sophisticated, angst-fueled blues ballad Here I Am, Campilongo defying gravity on the long ladder upwards. In what’s titled the “Jimi Jam,” he detunes his Telecaster, indulges in some of his signature neck-bending, fires off a handful of foghorn slide riffs and keening harmonics among his gritty chords. There are no distinguishable Hendrix licks.

Nels Cline guests on the album’s big epic, Cock and Bull Story, adding incisive Middle Eastern riffs and noisy haze against Campilongo’s biting, chromatic theme, the rhythm section keeping a tense pulse. The duel that follows, Cline first trailing and then engaging with the bandleader’s unhinged vintage Velvets squall is blissfully adrenalizing.

There are echoes of styles as different as Jerry Garcia spacescapes and Tal Farlow Americana swing in Sal’s Waltz, a more-or-less rubato tableau with Morrissey and Dion hanging on the fringes.

Cline returns for There You Are, a wistfully wafting theme that foreshadows where Campilongo would go with Benedetti almost five years later. The final number is Jim’s Blues, a loosely expansive launching pad for erudite Chicago and western swing-influenced clusters, a searing, machete coda and even a little Link Wray. Campilongo has so many ideas up his sleeve that it’s always a wild guess where he’s going to go next.

Lots of Laughs and Surprising Subtlety in the Righteous Gemstones Season Two Score

What could be more ripe for musical satire than an over-the-top comedy series about a dynasty of hypocritical televangelists? On one hand, the soundtrack to season two of The Righteous Gemstones – streaming at Spotify – gives the cast the chance to chew some musical scenery. Composer Joseph Stephens distinguishes himself by taking a deep dive into a vast number of musical styles – cheesy autotune corporate pop, soca, powerpop, Stonesy rock and various Nashville sounds from across the decades – infusing much of it with ersatz gospel touches. On one hand, this is The Sound of the Sinners by the Clash, on steroids. On the other, it’s surprisingly subtle, to the point where some of what is obviously a spoof becomes such a spot-on evocation of one Christian subgenre or another that it could pass for the real thing.

The album is as vast as the Gemstones’ shady financial empire: a grand total of fifty tracks, most of them under the two-minute mark. The first part comprises a series of songs delivered in fluent southern accents by cast members including Joe Jonas, Jennifer Nettles, Edi Patterson, Danny McBride and Adam Devine. After that is a long series of instrumental set pieces ranging from tense horror-film interludes, moments of southwestern gothic menace and grittily pulsing synthesized action sequences – it’s funny how the country influence completely disappears in favor of deftly orchestrated suspense. When the churchbells ring, it is not for a rousing hallelujah but a grim amen.

The best song is Some Broken Hearts Never Mend, an absolutely perfect parody of fluffy, orchestrated 1970s Nashville country-pop where McBride, Patterson and Devine take very diverse vocal parts. It wouldn’t be out of place on Ween’s classic 12 Golden Country Greats album. Children appear as an obvious but long overdue punchline, more than once. Christmas music gets a well-deserved crucifixion. There’s a song-length homoerotic joke, later echoed in a lurid stripper instrumental snippet titled Manscaping. By contrast, track forty-three, Memphis Confrontation is a gem of a mashup of stark oldtime gospel and macabre cinematics. It’s rare that a composer gets called on to deliver as many good laughs as shivers, and Stephens rises to the challenge.

Some Killer Rare and Unreleased Sonic Youth Rescued From the Archives

Other than field recordings, is there anything left in the Sonic Youth vault worth hearing that hasn’t already been released? As it turns out. yes, and some of it is prime! It’s a bit of a shock that several of the tracks on the new album In/Out/In – streaming at Bandcamp – haven’t surfaced until now. These rare and previously unreleased cuts date from the final decade of the most influential rock band of the past forty years.

One-chord jams, or close facsimiles, predominate here. In the case of one song, In & Out, a very late-period outtake, it’s amusing to watch SY turn into Yo La Tengo, a band they influenced so profoundly. Over Steve Shelley’s surprisingly muted, galloping rhythm, the guitarists assemble starry, chiming accents amid a warm drone laced with occasional flickers of feedback and Kim Gordon’s breathy, allusive, wordless vocals.

The opening instrumental is a false start: it could be your band, or anyone else’s, hesitatingly jamming out a two-chord Velvets vamp. Social Static, the theme from the Chris Habib/Spencer Tunick film, is a steady, one-note musique concrète mood piece that collapses into loops of feedback, oscillations, pulsing noise and R2D2 in hara-kiri mode: SY at their most industrially ugly but also subtly funny. No spoilers.

Machine, an outtake from The Eternal sessions, is a rare gem: a steady, midtempo stomp bristling with the band’s often-imitated-but-never-duplicated, dissociative close harmonies and layers of gritty textures that grow more assaultive. Why was this left off the album? Space considerations?

Out & In, an epic instrumental workout from 2000 is the real standout here. There’s a wry allusion to the moment The Wonder segues into Hyperstation (arguably the high point of the Daydream Nation album), with signature off-center Thurston Moore raga riffage, and just enough microtonality and clouds of overtones to let the ghosts in under the door. Everything falls away to buzz-and-clang midway through, then they start over with a squall that’s absolutely evil. The band take it out with a stampeding over-the-shoulder nod to Captain Beefheart. This is a must-own for fans and a surprisingly good overview for beginners.

Deviously Evocative Noir Cinematics From Oan Kim & the Dirty Jazz

Multi-instrumentalist Oan Kim has just put out one of the most evocatively beguiling albums of recent months, under the name Oan Kim & the Dirty Jazz, streaming at youtube. He’s like a one-man Twin Peaks soundtrack, playing sax, keys, guitar and occasionally taking the mic, frequently abetted by drummer Edward Perraud and trumpeter Nicolas Folmer. It’s a dissociative, nonlinear film noir for the ears. The layers grow more surreal and psychedelic as the album goes on, but the juicy hooks remain. .

The opening track, Whispers, sets the stage, a brooding sax riff kicking off a spare, broodingly syncopated minor-key piano theme peppered with the occasional smoky curlicue. In whatever place characters go after the movie’s over, the protagonist in David Lynch’s Lost Highway is giving this a trace of a smile.

How agonizing is the second track, Agony​? Not at all. It’s a loopy swing tune, Kim reaching for what Little Jimmy Scott did with Angelo Badalamenti. Track three, simply titled Mambo, has smoky sax, slithery vibraphone and eerie synth oscillating in the background to enhance the menace.

With its slow sway and dubwise touches, the mood becomes more wryly carefree in Symphony for the Lost at Sea. Wong Kar Why is an improbable mashup of Orbisonesque noir Nashville pop and a spiraling sax-driven theme. Appropriately enough, the music in Fight Club veers in and out of focus, icy chorus-box guitar filtering through the layers of loops over a soca groove.

Likewise, dissociative layers shift through the frame in Fuzzy Landscape, coalescing into an unhurried sax solo. Kim’s sax flickers and flares over a distantly ominous, bolero-tinged guitar figure in the Interzone – an original, not a Joy Division cover. One of the album’s most disquietingly interesting tracks is The Judge. a no wave/surf rock mashup.

“As I fall down the stairs, people stare or hold my arms,” Kim relates in Smoking Gun, the loopiest and most hypnotic track. There’s even more sunny, circling calm in Thelonious, interrupted by a few jagged peaks: there doesn’t seem to be any Monk influence. Then Kim fleshes out the theme in the Quintet variation that follows. a long, steadily brightening sax solo at the center.

Funeral Waltz is closer to New Orleans soul than, say, a morose Belgian musette. There’s a lingering pall in The Lonesome Path. at least until Kim’s sax floats in and pushes the clouds away. He offers a final goodbye in a disjointed crooner tune that seems to offer a flicker of hope.

A Relentlessly Suspenseful, Immersive Soundtrack From Ronit Kirchman

Ronit Kirchman’s soundtrack to seasons two through four of the detective series The Sinner – streaming at Spotify – is tantalizingly allusive. Her chilly digital analogues to sweeping orchestration are assembled in and around a series of suites, a welcome change from the minutely fragmented playlist sequences that plague so many other recent soundtrack albums. Much of this could be considered ambient music.

Rhythms, such as they exist, tend to be on the unforgiving, mechanical side. Moments of reflective melancholy filter into Kirchman’s slowly and methodically spiraling kaleidoscope of sound. The opening diptych, Two Deaths Suite rises to a shivery, wildfire thicket of strings. Horizontal tone poems have never been so interesting. The second part is more techy, a study in contrasts and echo phrases.

Gently twinkling keys morph into a mechanical loop and give way to wafting down-the-drainpipe sonics and then a distantly wistful quasi-orchestral theme. Drifts, oscillations and motorik rhythms recede for unexpectedly droll, bubbly fishtank-scapes. There’s an airy simulation of what could be Asian temple ambience and instances of simple plucked violin accents warped into play-dough shapes. Throughout the score, chances that’s Kirchman overdubbing herself into a one-woman string section.

Just when it seems that the Lonely Traveler Suite is going to coalesce into a sweeping symphonic crescendo, the subway to dystopia approaches from far down the tunnel. Whirlybird is not a helicopter portrait but a subtly shifting, circular string piece in a Caroline Shaw vein. When an actual helicopter seems to enter the picture, it comes as a complete surprise.

Here, Midnight in Greenpoint seems far closer to desolate post-2020 nightmare than its previous bar-crawl bustle. As the album reaches the end, the immersiveness and tension rise considerably: it’s hard to think of a better advertisement for the show.

Smartly Concocted, Original Lynchian Themes From Daisy Glaze

Daisy Glaze put an interesting and surprisingly original spin on Lynchian pop songcraft. Fronted by guitarist Louis Epstein and bassist/chanteuse Alix Brown, this crew are experts at the Angelo Badalamenti school of tunesmithing. They start with the simplest ingredients and methodically add layers until they have a sonic velvet cake that comes in many colors other than blue. They like jangly guitars and variously textured keyboards, and blend them for both angst and playful surrealism on their new album, streaming at Spotify. They also have a visual side that more closely mirrors their film noir influences.

They set the scene for the rest of the album with Occasus, a wistfully vamping instrumental theme, Erik Tonnesen’s tersely multitracked keys mingling with the slow jangle. The first of the songs is Ray of Light, a mashup of Link Wray and 60s Vegas noir pop, Brown’s snappy hollowbody bass and Rex Detiger’s drums anchoring glistening orchestration from the synth, Tiago Rosa’s cello and Francisco Ramos’ violin,

Buffalo Thunder is a wacky attempt to dress up a very, very familiar garage rock riff in tailfins and chrome. Strangers in the Dark – boy, that’s a subtle one, huh? – sees the duo revisiting sassy Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra mid-60s ambience. Epstein’s sidewinding guitars behind the suspiciously deadpan vocals are absolutely luscious.

Eerily phosphorescent surf riffs linger and resonate over a noir bolero beat in Call Me Midnight. With its artfully arranged baroque architecture, the instrumental Ortus would be a standout track in the Morricone Youth scorebook.

The duo go for a harder-rocking take on the original Morricone’s southwestern gothic in Ghost of Elvis, with a cruelly cynical message: this dude is gone for good. Brown takes aim at a femme fatale over a snarky carnival organ tune in Mary Go Round. Statues of Villains owes a lot more to late 70s Wire – or bands who’ve ripped off late 70s Wire – right down to the flashes of grim chromatics.

The band close the record with How the City Was Lost, a swaying, flamenco-influenced anthem with layers of jangle and clang, swirling organ and guy/girl vocals. It’s like X doing a Julee Cruise song backed by Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks studio band. It could be just a grim dystopic scenario, or there could be more subtext concerning the horrific prospect of the death of cities in general as the World Economic Forum’s Orwellian surveillance looms in from over the Alps. Whatever the case, the level of craft in this album is pretty amazing. It’s been a super slow year for rock records, but this is one of the best of 2022 so far.

A Friendly Pitchblende Night Drive With Suss

New York instrumentalists Suss have carved out a unique niche playing big-sky nocturnes more evocative of the wide open spaces of the west than, say, Long Island City. That’s where the band are pictured on the cover of their very accurately titled latest album, Night Suite, streaming at Bandcamp. This time, they’ve switched out the locales of the mind conjured up in their previous work, and switched in an overnight trip on Highway 66 from Gallup, New Mexico to the desert town of Needles, California, just across the Colorado River.

As the convoy drift out of Gallup, casual flickers from reverb guitar, pedal steel and starry guitar pedalboard textures begin to creep through the shadowy calm. Flagstaff, Arizona turns out to be a patchwork of stillness punctuated by the occasional passing big rig, fluorescent-lit all-night diner or distant train whistle, or so it would seem.

Further into Arizona, there’s Ash Fork, the most expansive tableau here with its organlike high-lonesome washes of sound. If Pink Floyd were a Tucson band, they would have sounded like this. Guessing that’s Pat Irwin’s guitar flaring gently over Jonathan Gregg’s pedal steel and Gary Lieb’s gently keening synth.

Hints of southwestern gothic – that’s either Bob Holmes or Irwin on guitar – reverberate on the low end. static misting the mix when the convoy reaches Kingman. The distant ghost of a Lynchian ballad wafts in as the group pull gently into their final destination

Chris Farren’s Death Don’t Wait Soundtrack Salutes and Savages Decades of Movie Scores

Chris Farren‘s original soundtrack to the film Death Don’t Wait – streaming at Spotify – is a party in a box. It’s a loving homage to, and sometimes a parody of film music from the 60s and 70s. Farren has really done his homework. drawing on both Sean Connery and Roger Moore-era Bond themes, 60s detective flicks and maybe Manfred Hubler’s Vampyros Lesbos soundtrack, If this score is any indication, the movie is packed with action and suspense…and just as much snark. Farren pulled a great band together for this project: Jeff Rosenstock, Jimmy Montague on keys, Frankie Impastato on drums, and Mark Glick on cello, plus a horn section.

The main title song is a gorgeous update on mid-60s Henry Mancini Vegas noir, lit up top to bottom with Farren’s 12-string Rickenbacker and fuzztone guitars. “Life is just a dream we suffer through,” Laura Stevenson intones, tenderly, “It’s your turn to lose.”

The first of the instrumentals is Attacked By Dogs, a fast-paced, brassy, punchy chase scene that leaps from mid-60s Bond ambience to the teens, on the warpy wings of some weird synth patch. Red Wire Blue Wire is Shaft as George Clinton might have envisioned him about ten years after the fact.

Chris Farren Noir – that’s the title of the interlude – turns out to be a minor-key soul groove that wouldn’t be out of place in the Menahan Street Band repertoire. Helicopter Shuffle is the Peter Gunne theme on a diet, with a wry, icy Ventures reverb-ping guitar solo and a brass crescendo.

Crime Party is a straight-up surf tune with roller-rink organ and smoky baritone sax: it’s over in less than two minutes. Farren goes back to psychedelic funk for Cash Is Heavy and follows that with Car Chase! It’s ridiculously funny: more Peter Gunne, galloping baritone guitar, the works. Farren has outdone himself here.

To his credit, he doesn’t go for the obvious punchline in Night Walk, which is not as self-explanatory as it could be. If Francoise Hardy’s backing band did Bond themes, Here’s Your Disguise would be one of them, although Farren doesn’t limit himself to tinny vintage amps or bittersweet major/minor changes.

The two final tracks are Hot Pursuit and Cold Pursuit: the former would work fine in a good vintage Bollywood crime flick, while the latter, a morose waltz, is the most recognizably noir set piece here. If this isn’t the best album of the year so far, it’s definitely the funnest.

Gorgeous, Glimmering Noir Instrumentals From the Royal Arctic Institute

Best album title of the year so far goes to the Royal Arctic Institute, whose new cassette ep From Catnap to Coma is streaming at Spotify. Over the last few years, the New York instrumentalists have developed a distinctive sound that draws on film noir soundtracks, surf music, psychedelia and new wave. At a time when so much of the New York music scene has been scattered to places like Texas and Florida, it’s good to see these guys sticking around and putting out their best record so far.

The opening number, Fishing by Lanterns has a slow, Lynchian sway, the spare, twangy guitars of John Leon and Lynn Wright building a starry unease over David Motamed’s bass and Lyle Hysen’s evocative drumming while keyboardist Carl Baggaley fills out the nocturnal ambience.

Track two is Shore Leave on Pharagonesia, a hypnotically pulsing, backbeat theme that’s part Ventures spacerock nocturne, part drifting but propulsive Los Crema Paraiso highway theme. After that, First of the Eight rises from a carefree glimmer to a more driving intensity.

Ghosts of the Great Library, a big-sky tableau, is a clinic in how to get the most mileage out of simple, economical riffs: it wouldn’t be out of place in the Big Lazy catalog. The final cut is Anosmia Suite, referencing the medical term for loss of sense of smell. Motamed’s sliding chordal intro is a cool touch; from there, it builds to the album’s most hypnotic interlude.

Invitingly Nocturnal Minimalist Sounds From Enona

Atmospheric Brooklyn instrumental duo Enona‘s debut album from last year was the result of a productive collaboration that began with trading files over the web. Auspiciously, they were able to defy the odds and made their second one, Broken – streaming at Bandcamp – in the friendlier confines of a real studio. And as you would hope, there’s more of an immediacy to the music. While it can be downright Lynchian in places, it’s also more warmly optimistic. Kind of like February 2022, huh?

The opening cut, Rekindle sounds like a more organic Julee Cruise backing track, Ron Tucker’s spare, starrily nostalgic piano eventually joined by Arun Antonyraj’s atmospheric washes of guitar and guest Marwan Kanafani’s even more minimalistic Rhodes

Tucker builds a dissociatively psychedelic web of stalactite piano motives over a gentle hailstorm of tremolo-picked guitar in the album’s second track,  Recollections. Track three, Unspoken has a sparse lead piano line over brassy sustain from the guitar that falls away to an unexpected starkness.

Lament, a solo piano piece, is less plaintive than simply a study in dichotomies. The duo revisit a wistful nocturnal ambience in the conclusion, Broke. It’s a good rainy-day late-night listen.