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Tag: friends of dean martinez

Hypnotically Intense, Resonant Psychedelic Instrumental Themes From the Mute Duo

If Big Lazy‘s creepy big-sky tableaux, the southwestern gothic vistas of the Friends of Dean Martinez or peak-era, late 80s Sonic Youth are your thing, you’ll love the Mute Duo. With just pedal steel and drums, their slowly unfolding, tectonically shifting soundscapes are as suspenseful as they are psychedelic. Their album Lapse in Passage is streaming at Bandcamp.

There’s enough reverb on Sam Wagster’s pedal steel here to drive a truck through, maxing out the icily overdriven resonance. A lingering menace slowly builds over airy drones as Derived From Retinas, the first track, coalesces out of spare, reverb-drenched phrases, Skyler Rowe’s drums and the spacious upward swoops from the steel hinting that the clouds will break. They don’t, and the rhythm never completely comes together, even as the duo make a grim modal anthem out of it.

A metallic mist of overtones rises as the one-chord tableau Past Musculature Plains gathers momentum: it could be the great lost atmospheric track from Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation.

Canopy Bells, a minimalist mini-suite, gets a summery, hazy introduction, wind chimes gently rattling in the breeze before the drums begin prowling. The frenetic, roaring crescendo comes as a jolt;

The brief ambient interlude A Timbre Profile leads into the album’s most epic track, Overland Line, which could be the skeleton frame of an early PiL instrumental played with a slide. This time it’s the drums which hold this together as Wagster leaves plenty of distance between his phrases. Echoey loops mingle through a long crescendo;  Rowe’s decisive cymbal whacks kick off the coda.

Dallas in the Dog Days has sheets of steel floating over a similarly reverb-iced, moodily pastoral, slightly out-of-tune piano track. With its simple variations on a drone finally gathering into a flock of busy wings, Redwinged Blackbirds comes across as a minimalist take on early 70s instrumental Pink Floyd. The album winds up with Last Greys, the drums pulling its anthemic, loopy phrases further outside. This is a great lights-out, late night listen.

Disquieting, Enveloping, Psychedelically Layered Sonics From Lord Buffalo

What was this haunting, savagely layered one-chord epic with a weird, possibly Pacific Island title doing on the hard drive here? Turns out that it’s Raziel, the seven-minute opening track on Austin band Lord Buffalo‘s latest album Tohu Wa Bohu, streaming at Bandcamp. They like slow, menacing themes; they don’t change chords much but they make them interesting.

That particular song is the missing link between the Friends of Dean Martinez’s southwesern gothic and Mogwai’s grim, cold concrete council estate tableaux. Through D.J. Pruitt and G.J. Heilman’s layers of guitars over the slow, steady beat, the heathaze is impenetrable, and frontman Pruitt makes that clear. But he holds out hope, dodging shards of reverb as they filter through the mix.

The band pick up the pace, building to a steady stroll with Wild Hunt, which has two chords, smoky sax, Brockett Hamilton’s piano and a Nick Cave influence along with the guitar torture. Troubled music for troubled times.

“This is the night, she don’t need nothing at all,” Pruitt intones, cold and deadpan, as the third track, Halle Berry gets underway, jagged quasi-funk guitars over a murky slink. Very early 90s New York gutter blues, a slower take on the Chrome Cranks maybe.

Dog Head comes across as a strung-out blues take on Joy Division’s The Eternal. “Be careful, you don’t know this song,” Pruitt warns as Patrick Patterson’s violin joins the guitars and the cloud congeals to toxic density. The title track is a slow, loopy mashup of jagged 70s no wave and early Dream Syndicate.

Cicadas cry, vehicles break down and night looms in all too soon in Kenosis, a mashup of understated Oxygen Ponies menace and sunbaked My Education atmospherics leavened with tinkly vibraphone and piano. The band open Heart of the Snake as a venomous take on an early 60s summer-house theme, then bring in creepy layers of organ and guitars: Alec K. Redfearn‘s work comes to mind. They segue from there into the loopy, careening Llano Estacado to wrap up the album in a ball of flame. You might ask why, in a time where we need to focus on shutting down the tech Nazis who keep flipping the script behind the lockdown, that it makes any sense at all to listen to something this amorphous and escapist. Hey, we all could use a break right about now.

Haunting Film Noir and Desert Rock Themes from Reverend Screaming Fingers

Reverend Screaming Fingers’ cinematic, surfy instrumental themes don’t often scream, but boy do they resonate. And there are no doubt films in development screaming out for these songs. The guitarist (real name: Lucio Menegon) layers colorful multitracks over a steady, low-key rhythm section for a mix of creepy noir themes, spaghetti western tunes and midtempo surf rock. The Desert Years, his new third volume in his series of Music for Driving and Film, is streaming at Bandcamp. Big Lazy’s highly anticipated new album isn’t out yet, but until then, this twangy, dusky masterpiece will do just fine. It’s a lock for one of the best albums of 2019.

Here Menegon is supported by a rotating rhythm section: Wally Ingram on drums, with Danny Frankel, Damian Lester, Kip Powell and Janie Cowan sharing bass duties.The opening track, No Destination starts out with a fleeting, insistent new wave guitar riff but quickly slinks into the shadows with a southwestern gothic ambience capped off midway through with a little Tex-Mex. Then the bandleader completely lfips the script with the tender, oldtimey country ballad Chapparal Kiss, with low-key mandolin over a graceful 6/8 sway.

Dream of the Desperado comes across as a mashup of rapt Japanese temple music mingled with slow-burn Black Lodge guitar that finally coalesces as a creepy slide guitar blues: it would be a solid track on any Big Lazy album. Monsoon Gully has snarling, distorted, serpentine guitar leads set to a gently tumbling cha-cha beat: Beninghove’s Hangmen are a good point of comparison.

Spare, spaciously fingerpicked guitar figures mingle above a backdrop of rain and tree frog samples throughout Funereal. Speaking of funereal, the organ beneath the loping, savagely crescendoing desert theme Dance of the Dust adds immensely to the ominous ambience.

Delicate tremolo-picking beneath lingering reverbtoned riffs raises the suspense in Yuma Interlude, up to a tantalizing exchange of riffs in both channels, then back down again. Lost Alien Highway slowly builds into a simmering roadhouse blues. Almost Home is a lively blend of Buck Owens twang and roller-rink organ theme. The final cut is Rattler Ranch, an upbeat, catchy, woodsy groove for guitar and bass.

Mitra Sumara Keyboardist Jim Duffy Puts Out a Wickedly Catchy, Cleverly Fun Instrumental Album

Jim Duffy is one of New York’s most irrepressibly entertaining and individualistic keyboardists. He had a longtime gig with Americana rockers Martin’s Folly; these days he plays organ in the wildly psychedelic Mitra Sumara, who specialize in covers of classic/obscure Iranian art-funk hits from the 60s and 70s. But he’s also a distinguished songwriter in his own right. His third and latest instrumental album, ominously titled Pale Afternoon, is streaming at Spotify (there are also a bunch of tracks at soundcloud and youtube for those of you who can’t stop multitasking long enough to jump on that fader and ride it down to zero when the ads pop up).

The album opens with Boulevard Six, a dead ringer for a late 60s/early 70s Herbie Hancock movie theme in rambunctious 6/4 time, guitarist Lance Doss contributing a blue-flame solo. The way Duffy’s oscillating Wurlitzer electric piano riff fades into the terse resonance of trombonist Sam Kulik and baritone saxophonist Claire Daly is just insanely cool, like something Brian Jones would have overdubbed on Their Satanic Majesties Request.

Figurine is sort of a variation on the previous tune, a bittersweetly twinkling late-night stroll lowlit by Kevin Kendrick’s vibraphone. If Bryan & the Aardvarks had been a rock band, they would have sounded like this. Once again, Doss fires off a solo, this time channeling late 60s Mike Bloomfield.

The album’s title track turns out to be a slow, summery groove until Doss drifts into sunbaked, stately art-rock, pushing the song toward 70s Procol Harum territory. Duffy’s Fillmore Theme turns out to be a breezy, swinging number, part Bacharach bossa, part Free Design psych-pop, Duffy multitracking his rippling, upper-register Wurly along with lush, fluid organ.

Keep Keeping On is a soul waltz as Booker T might have done one circa 1967, or Quincy Jones might have on the In the Heat of the Night soundtrack, Paul Page’s bass bubbling over the washes of drummer Dennis Diken’s cymbals. The elegant Wurly clusters in Reverse Image are so close to the melody of Figurine that it begs a momentary switch between the two tracks, to see if Duffy is pulling something clever like doing that song backwards. As it turns out, no – they’re just both incredibly catchy, this one close to a goodnatured Big Lazy highway panorama without the exit into David Lynch territory.

Mission Creep is the album’s best and darkest track, Doss’ simmering lapsteel bringing to mind the Friends of Dean Martinez‘s Bill Elm doing something from Dark Side of the Moon. Then with Tenerife, the band return to a sunny Bacharachian backbeat spiced with Doss’ wry soul-jazz lines.

Duffy follows the gently allusive ballad We’ll Never Know (nice theremin impersonation there, dude) with Spurare Il Rospo (The Spitting Toad), a briskly tropical motorik theme that’s a dead ringer for Los Crema Paraiso. The album winds up with Evening Birds, an iconoclastic spin on a hallowed, funereal Floyd tune. Crank this at your next party and get the entire room dancing – ok, everything but that last song.

Fun and inspiring fact: Duffy is one of the few musicians to shift from being a first-rate bassist to an A-list keyboardist. And then put out one of the ten best albums of 2016, more or less.

Sandcatchers Play a Magical Mix of Psychedelia, the Middle East and Pastoral Jazz

Guitarist Yoshie Fruchter has been involved with a ton of great projects, from John Zorn’s Abraxas to Frank London’s big band, but his most intriguing one may be his own. Fruchter plays oud in Sandcatchers, who could be described as a Middle Eastern pastoral Americana jamband. Their hypnotic, intricately intertwining, psychedelic instrumental mini-epics are unlike anything else in New York. The only group they bear any resemblance to, and that’s because of Myk Freedman’s resonant lapsteel, is the much louder if similarly psychedelic metal band Greek Judas (who have a gig coming up at Barbes on August 25 at 10). Sandcatchers have a weekly residency at Cheryl’s Restaurant, 236 Underhill Ave. in Ft. Greene on Wednesdays starting at around 8, which is where they’ll be tomorrow, August 17. There’s no cover charge; the closest train is actually the 2/3 to Brooklyn Museum.

Their show at Barbes a week ago was packed with all sorts of fun. They opened with a spiky, misterioso oud intro over drummer Yonadav Halevy’s misty cymbals and washes of pedal steel. From there they hit an understatedly somber minor-key groove with some wry tradeoffs between the oud and Michael Bates’ bass, with a trick ending and then a moodily scampering outro lit up with lonesome trainwhistle steel. After that they did what could have been a Macedonian highway theme, Fruchter’s purposefully strolling oud over vast, deep-sky atmospherics.

The next number was a slow, summery theme that slowly and deliberately moved into the shadows, much in the same vein as Big Lazy‘s big-sky cinematic mood pieces, with an enigmatically tiptoeing bass solo over sotto-voce clip-clop percussion. Halevy had brought a dinner bell, which he used for chuckles on more than one occasion.

The sternly pulsing chromatic anthem after that, with its blasts of steel and then a searing solo, was the closest thing they played to Greek Judas’ rembetiko metal. After that, Bates hinted at a classic Geezer Butler riff throughout a long bass intro that kicked off a slowly majestic, swaying Middle Eastern number, again shifting dramatically but seamlessly to the Great Midwest and then back with a big crescendo. With the steel going full blast over Fruchter’s elegant, purposeful oud, they were like a Middle Eastern Friends of Dean Martinez.

Halevy had tuned his kit like a series of goblet drums, ramping up the boomy, mysterious ambience to introduce the number after that, a mashup of blazing southern rock and what could have been a Greek hill country dance. After that they contrasted with a gentle, backbeat-driven nocturne. Then they got a little funky, winding up their set with their most eclectically expansive tune. These and many other flavors may appear in the mix tomorrow night.

Surreal, Eclectic, Psychedelic Steel Guitar Instrumentals from Raphael McGregor

Raphael McGregor plays steel guitar, both the six and eight-string kinds, and there is no one else who sounds like him. Some of the instrumentals on his new album Fretless have a dusky, hallucinatory southwestern gothic feel, but he’s a lot more diverse than that, venturing as far afield as Greek-flavored psychedelic rock, southern-fried Allman Brothers sonics, klezmer and jazz. His supporting cast here has the same kind of outside-the-box imagination: Nick Russo on guitar, Jason Sypher on bass, Oran Etkin on alto sax and clarinet and Vinnie Sperazza on drums. McGregor likes very long songs – a couple here clock in at over ten minutes – and also very short songs, like the brief nocturnal interludes that open and close the album. Some of them you could call post-rock – Austin instrumental crew My Education come to mind – while others literally run the gamut. If you like dark psychedelic music, this is for you: the whole thing is streaming at McGregor’s Bandcamp page. He and the band are playing the album release show on Sat Feb 16 at 10 at Spike Hill.

The first of the long songs is TVM, the closest thing here to My Education – or Friends of Dean Martinez on steroids. Catchy, terse bass and Sperazza’s brilliantly nonchalant yet colorful brushwork keep the groove going, Russo growing more agitated against the warm swells of McGregor’s steel and then going completely unhinged. Etkin’s alto follows much more calmly; the song eventually winds out with an edgy three-way conversation and then a long, rising drum solo as the other instruments go in the opposite direction.

Southern Border works its way stealthfully from a ghostly desert theme to a  biting klezmer clarinet interlude that McGregor and Russo eventually ambush from both sides, then shift to a dark, intense, psychedelic Greek surf rock interlude that reminds a lot of the Byzan-Tones. By contrast, McGregor builds the long, hypnotic Lapocalypse methodically into a thousand-layer cake of loops, some ethereal, some savage, evoking the great British steel guitar virtuoso BJ Cole. A big-sky soundscape, Orangerie also works a slow groove, but with a distantly gypsyish flavor: pretty as it is, with Etkin’s carefree clarinet, there’s an inescapable undercurrent of unease. The last of the big numbers is Staircase, juxtaposing Dickie Betts-style southern boogie with more of that deliciously mysterious Mediterranean surf rock. Then the band takes it in a funky direction with nimble bass and circling sax and finally goes out on a joyously jazzy note.

Another Gorgeous, Lushly Orchestrated, Psychedelic Album from My Education

NYMD’s sister blog Lucid Culture called four-guitar Austin postrock instrumentalists My Education “The Dirty Three meets Friends of Dean Martinez meets Brooklyn Rider meets My Bloody Valentine,” which makes sense. Their music takes you away to a different and much better universe, where angst is confronted and then transcended, where pain rises and is then swept away on the wings of what sounds like a million guitars. Lush, ornate, hypnotic and psychedelic to the extreme, their new album A Drink for All My Friends blends Dirty Three pensiveness and FODM desert ambience with elegantly austere touches of Brooklyn Rider strings, then stirs it ferociously with a MBV dreampop swirl.

This album opens on an unexpectedly quiet note, guest Sarah Norris’ vibraphone mingling with James Alexandre’s viola for a hypnotic circularity that brings to mind Missy Mazzoli’s chamber rock band Victoire. Then the guitars enter one by one on the second track, For All My Friends, an army of roaring riffage that finally rises to a titanic wall of frantic tremolo-picking, reaching a Pink Floyd majesty as the bass bubbles over the top of the sonic cauldron and ends unexpectedly raw and jaggedly: what a ride this is!

The practically ten-minute, cinematic Mr. 1986 builds out of a pretty, acoustic chamber-pop theme into an elegaic anthem, both nebulous and forcefully direct, Henna Chou’s terse piano finally taking centertstage and then quickly receding against the guitar orchestra. Built around a distantly menacing, echoey heart monitor motif, Black Box richly blends twinkly Rhodes piano with all the guitars into a slow, crepuscular freeway theme speckled with weird samples of television or radio dialogue,

Robot-Hohlenbewoner rides a funky, more animated motorik groove: if U2 wrote good songs, they would sound like this. The ten-minute Happy Village takes its time to eventually clarify that this particular village isn’t so happy at all: it’s the Velvets as John Cale might have dreamed of orchestrating them circa 1967, plus mid-70s Floyd angst, hynotic Black Angels murk and an unexpected nod to new wave on the way out. The album ends with the arena-rock spoof Homunculus, like Big Lazy’s Starchild but more amusingly crass. My Education are huge in Europe, which is where they are right now, on tour: a band this good deserves just as avid a following on their own side of the pond. Count this among the most lushly enjoyable albums of the year in any style of music.

Twin Peaks Music from Dimestore Dance Band at Zirzamin

Back in the mid-zeros, Dimestore Dance Band were one of the two or three best bands in the scene centered around Tonic, the late, lamented Lower East Side hotspot for improvised music. When Tonic closed in 2006, Dimestore – guitarist Jack Martin, bassist Jude Webre and drummer Scott Jarvis – pretty much closed their doors as well. Since then, Martin and Webre have played together sporadically as a duo. Last night at Zirzamin, the two had a new drummer, who stepped in tersely and smartly, and in a lot of ways they sounded better than ever. The music’s curves are smoother, its rough edges more jagged, and Martin’s guitar playing just gets darker and more intense. They’ve never been more noir, or more fascinating to watch.

Martin, unlike a lot of other virtuoso guitarslingers, is not a chameleonic player. Steeped in gypsy jazz, country blues and ragtime, there’s often a jaunty lilt to his playing, but it’s impossible to imagine the former lead axeman of popular swamp rockers Knoxville Girls playing anything blithely all the way through. His sound is distinctive, full of irascible slides, brightly hopeful bent notes and eerie, ringing chromatics: rich with irony, sometimes exasperation, bitterness or outright anguish, but with an irrepressible joie de vivre peeking defiantly from behind the clouds. It’s the personification of noir: Twin Peaks music with a sprightly swing bounce.

Their opening tune set the tone for about half of what they played, a matter-of-factly swinging number loaded with biting chromatics that gave it a pervasive sense of unease, Webre’s tensely stalking bassline underscoring that. Martin made his way methodically into an unexpectedly unhinged, atonal interlude that he suddenly backed away from, as Webre kept a steady pace through the danger zone. The most haunting song of the night was a slow, slinky, smoky, chromatic theme that built from morose allusiveness to a furtively steady prowl, Martin again backing away to let Webre’s moody resolve hold the course, the swirls of the cymbals upping the ante as the song wound out. Then they flipped the script with an unexpectedly upbeat groove that added all kinds of spiny bits to a playful, peekaboo vintage soul/funk melody. From there they went into wryly shuffling western swing as Django might have done it, then back to the noir with a mysterious southwestern gothic bolero over a sinister garage rock bassline. Martin spiraled, brooding and sparse over it, Webre’s ominously tiptoeing bassline signaling a series of even more ominous spaghetti western chords from Martin, working up to a tricky false ending and then back to the suspenseful wee-hours desert chill. It would have made a standout track on a vintage-era Friends of Dean Martinez album.

They brought back the devious swing with the most gypsyish tune of the night, warped Django building to a coy fanfare on the turnaround, then did another bolero with a bit of skronk and latin soul, Martin adding his signature passing tones and chromatics to darken it unexpectedly: the clouds sweeping in over Andalucia. From there the cinematics grew more spare, Webre playing tense octaves over stately cymbal crashes as Martin skirted the melody, then finally brought it back with a gypsyish unresolve. Their final two numbers were a sultry, slow gypsy groove that turned creepy and cinematic, Martin picking up with an unrestrained menace as it wound up, and then a briskly devious blend of gypsy jazz and garage rock, Martin hinting at the end that they’d make yet another hairpin turn into glistening greyscale shadows…but the show was over. Dimestore Dance Band’s next show is at Zebulon at 9 PM on August 2 with another first-rate noir guitarist, Ben Von Wildenhaus and his band, who are playing their farewell New York show.

Catching Up on Some Good Southwestern Gothic

Too much good music, too little time. Lubbock, Texas band the Thrift Store Cowboys’ album Light Fighter came out last fall: if you’ve been paying attention to the recently resuscitated alt-country scene, you probably already know that. This is for those who might have slept on it a year ago: it’s worth your time. A lot of this is like peak-era Wilco circa Summerteeth but with more balls and less drawl – frontman Daniel Fluitt sometimes lets his syllables run overtime like that band did, but he doesn’t overdo it. And he’s a better songwriter. That which is not Wilcoish is the best stuff here, rich with ghostly imagery, aching violin, steel guitar and desert ambience like the best southwestern gothic: which makes sense, since the album was recorded at Craig Schumacher’s legendary Wavelab studio, home to Steve Wynn and Friends of Dean Martinez, Giant Sand and the rest of those great spaghetti western-tinged bands that sprang up in the tumbleweeds back in the late 80s and 90s.

In fact, those seem to be two distinct and separate sides to this band: you could make two solid, separate playlists out of the album, one of them scary and one of them more straight-up alt-country. The latter would include the title track which leans closer to Son Volt, actually, but with a hypnotic, circular 6/8 vamp. The album’s second track sounds like Wilco if they’d gone into the desert and never come back, while Regardless and Ghost Guys take the Summerteeth formula and add snappy bass and shimmery steel guitar. Rosemary mixes in out-of-focus, guitar-fueled noise and a little Morricone-style guitar. And You Can’t See the Light puts a historical spin on a familiar-sounding country-rock ballad theme, in this case the bitter tale of a seminarian imprisoned and later executed during the Spanish Civil War.

But the scary playlist is the really amazing one here: the band could release this as an ep and they’d have a genuine classic. The menacing, chromatically-charged banjo shuffle 7’s and 9’s sounds like Botanica if they’d gone into the desert and never come back. The best song here, Scary Weeds, is written by and sung with gentle apprehension by violinist Amanda Shires. A paranoid 6/8 ballad about a couple on the run, it reminds of the Walkabouts, with Shires’ vividly ominous violin and low, urgent, unaffectedly chilling vocals. The surreal, dizzyingly evocative Morning Weekend begins with menacing sunrise desert ambience and morphs into a big backbeat anthem; Nothing, a sad 6/8 ballad about Buffalo soldiers dying of thirst in the desert after being led astray by clever Comanches defending their land, is a dialogue between one of the dead soldiers and his widow at home, who also ends up emptyhanded. You have to listen closely but it’s worth it. And Shires contributes another creepy, 6/8 tune, Lean into the Sway, an allusive, brooding ballad that could be a prequel to her other one here. The Thrift Store Cowboys made a swing through New York last year behind this album; let’s hope there’s another one down the line.