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Tag: jazz-rock

The NYChillharmonic Bring Their Mighty, Lush Sound to Gowanus

The NYChillharmonic are one of this city’s most massive-sounding, original, deliciously uncategorizable groups. They’re basically a rock band, but with a seventeen-piece big band jazz lineup including brass, reeds and a string section along with the usual rock instrumentation. You could also call them a jazz band playing rock, which is true at least in the sense that everybody in the group comes from a jazz background, and that their leader, singer/composer/multi-keyboardist Sara McDonald got her start in the New School’s jazz program. They connect the dots between My Brightest Diamond, Missy Mazzoli and Gil Evans, and they’re playing Littlefield tonight at around 11, with exuberant, New Orleans-tinged soul/gospel/jazz crew Sammy Miller and the Congregation opening at around 10. Cover is $10.

Their most recent show here was their Lincoln Center debut, back in December. They opened their set with a leaping, looping hook that quickly gave way to a mighty, stalking Vegas tango-tinged verse and then slunk toward reggae. The song eventually wound down to a blue-flame suspense. McDonald began the next number with a suspenseful, allusively minimalist Radiohead-inflected piano/vocal intro around one of those circling riffs she love so much, the band working their way into a brooding soul-tinged atmosphere, low brass rising ominously beneath lithely dancing orchestration.

They picked up the pace with a brisk staccato pulse, once again building the suspense as the lush, balmy sonics rose behind McDonald’s cool, nuanced, somewhat enigmatic delivery. The slinky ba-ba, BUMP minor-key groove of the achingly catchy number after that took the group back in a noir soul direction, echoes of both Amy Winehouse and Abbey Road-era Beatles mingling with majestic harmonies that spanned the entire sonic spectrum – and then a droll trick ending from the string section.

Rippling, rapidfire piano opened the next number, the orchestra rising to a blustery, uneasy intensity and then falling back to McDonald’s low-key, distantly soul-infused vocals over a groove that seemed to want to cut loose from trip-hop to a fullscale gallop and then finally went dancing. After that, the group mashed up misterioso Blonde Redhead nocturnalisms with a woozy hip-hop/stoner neosoul vibe, a punchy tenor sax solo giving way to twinkling starlit ambience, then McDonald took it up again. The group wound up the show with bittersweet, dynamically shifting update on artsy 60s Burt Bacharach pop and then a bone-jarring dancefloor stomp. Much as the atrium’s boomy sonics are hardly suited to a mighty ensemble like this, it was impossible not to be swept up in the expanse of sound.

Out in front of the band, Illinois transplant McDonald was in particularly gregarious mode. Her lyrics channel the kind of pervasive restlessness you would expect from someone in her twenties in this city in this decade: buildings keep coming down, neighborhoods keep getting wiped out and the hours keep getting longer just to pay the rent. She didn’t address any of those topics, but she might as well have.

Smart, Pensively Relevant, Cross-Pollinated Tunesmithing From Emilie Lesbros’ Alter Ego

French singer/multi-instrumentalist Emilie Lesbros inhabits a unique and compelling space at the intersection of jazz, indie classical and the avant garde. Take a listen to her woundedly elegant, eerily hypnotic reinvention of the old French protest song La Semaine Sanglante with the trio Single Room, with cellist Julia Kent and electric harpist Rafaelle Rinaudo. Lesbros also has an alter ego, Miss Elie Sorbsel, who writes bitingly contemplative songs that veer closer to rock, blues and soul music. She’ll be playing those songs from her new album Miss Elie Sorbsel Sings Emilie Lesbros (streaming at Bandcamp) on a pretty amazing triplebill this Thursday, March 12 at 9 PM at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 236 E 3rd St. with the guy who’s arguably the best and most relevant English-language lyricist on the planet, the Coup’s Boots Riley, plus vivid, improvisationally-inclined violinist/singer Sarah Bernstein. Cover is $10.

Lesbros plays guitar and sings in both English and French on the new album. Both the promise and danger of revolution are recurrent themes. The gloomy, noir blues-tinged opening track, Nothing At All has a slow, uneasy sway and a couple of long, achingly soaring vocal crescendos. “I am a dangerous woman, I can take my gun anywhere, anytime,” Lesbros (or is it Sorbsel? They sound a lot alike) sings on Les Marionnettistes, an edgy downtown soul-funk 99-percenter anthem driven by JJ Jungle’s terse bass and Hassan Hurd’s drums.

Cross the Bridge builds from a skeletal intro to a more insistent groove that’s part growly 80s postpunk and part guardedly optimistic soul ballad, with an aptly wary bass solo out. From there they segue into an intense, amped-up version of the Single Room song Don’t Lock Me Out, a careening, crescendoing power-to-the-people anthem. Speak Up mashes up hints of flamenco and early lo-fi PJ Harvey underneath Lesbros’ insistent, firebrand lyricism. The album winds up with High Higher, contrasting Lesbros’ flights to the upper registers against hypnotically stately bass chords. It’s an individualistic, relentlessly relevant bunch of songs, one of the best to come over the transom here this year.

The Cellar & Point Bring Their Intriguingly Kinetic Postrock Sounds to Glasslands

A project originated by guitarist Chris Botta and drummer Joe Branciforte, the Cellar & Point are sort of Claudia Quintet meets Sleepmakeswaves meets Wounded Buffalo Theory. Mantra Percussion‘s Joe Bergen plays vibraphone, immediately drawing the Claudia Quintet comparison, which is further fueled by the nimble string work of violinist Chistopher Otto and cellist Kevin McFarland, who comprise one-half of the adventurous Jack Quartet. Guitarist Terrence McManus and bassist Rufus Philpot round out the band. The backstory – Botta and Branciforte as teenage buds in New Jersey, hanging out and blasting Rage Against the Machine – makes sense in context. Their debut long-player, Ambit, is just out from the folks at Cuneiform, who have it up along with the rest of their vast catalog on bandcamp. The Cellar & Point are playing the album release show on a killer triplebill at Glasslands on Nov 19 starting around 9 with epically sweeping art-rock chorale the Knells and the alternately hypnotic and kinetic Empyrean Atlas. Cover is ten bucks; it’s not clear what the order of bands is but they’re all worth seeing.

The album’s opening track, 0852 is characteristic: tricky prog-rock metrics drive lush ambience with lingering vibraphone, slide guitar (and maybe ebow) and some artfully processsed pizzicato from the string section that adds almost banjo-like textures. Arc builds out of swirly atmospherics to a matter-of-fact march and then an animatedly cyclical dance with tinges of both west African folk music and King Crimson.

There are two Tabletops here, A and B. The first juxtaposes and mingles lingering vibes, stadium guitar bombast and lithely dancing strings. The second layers rainy-day vibes and strings with terse Andy Summers-ish guitar. There are also two White Cylinders: number one being a seemingly tongue-in-cheek mashup of brash jazz guitar, vividly prickly mystery movie textures and Reichian circularity, number two tracing a knottier, somewhat fusiony Olympic film theme of sorts.

If Ruminant is meant to illustrate an animal, it’s a minotaur stewing down in the labyrinth, awaiting an unsuspecting victim – one assumes that’s Bergen playing that gorgeously creepy piano in tandem with the eerily resonant guitars and stark strings. By contrast, Purple Octagon shuffles along with a more motorik take on what John Hollenbeck might have done with its vamping dynamic shifts – or the Alan Parsons Project with jazz chords. The somewhat dirgey, gamelan-tinged title track’s final mix is actually a recording of a playback of the song’s original studio mix made in an old rotunda in the Bronx in order to pick up vast amounts of natural reverb.

There are also a couple of reinvented pieces from the chamber music repertoire: a stately, wary Radiohead-like interpretation of an Anton Webern canon and a György Ligeti piano etude recast as a hypnotically pulsing nocturne. Is all this jazz? Not really. It’s not really rock, either. Indie classical, maybe? Sure, why not? Postrock? That too. Ultimately it boils down to what Duke Ellington said, that there are two kinds of music, the good kind, like this, and the other kind.

An Enticing Gutbucket Stand at the Stone and a Characteristically Edgy Album From Their Bandleader

Since the late 90s, Gutbucket have distinguished themselves as purveyors of moody, sardonic, cinematic instrumentals that combine jazz improvisation with noirish rock themes. You could call them a more jazz-inclined version of Barbez, and you wouldn’t be far off. If you miss the days when Tonic was still open and edgy sounds were an everyday thing on the Lower East Side, you’ll be psyched to know that Gutbucket are doing a stand at the Stone from Nov 18 through 23 with two sets nightly at 8 and 10 PM; cover is $10. As you would expect from pretty much everybody who plays there, the band are doing several interesting collaborations and are making a live album in the process. The most enticing set of all might be the early show on opening night when the music will have some added lushness via the strings of the Jack Quartet.

Frontman/guitarist Ty Citerman also has a wickedly fun, tuneful, genre-defying sort-of-solo Tzadik album, Bop Kabbalah, out with his Gutbucket bandmates Ken Thomson on bass clarinet, Adam D. Gold on drums plus Balkan trumpeter Ben Holmes. Although the themes draw on traditional Jewish music, jazz tropes and rock riffage take centerstage. The first track, The Cossack Who Smelt of Vodka (possible ommitted subtitle: what cossack doesn’t smell of vodka?) follows a tensely cinematic, noirish trajectory to a long outro where Citerman’s tensely insistent guitar pairs against Thomson’s calmness.

Conversation with Ghosts works a catchy minor-key theme punctuated by droll leaps and bounds up to a long Holmes solo, then the band reprises it but much more loudly and darkly. Snout moves from squirrelly free jazz into a brief Romany dance, then the band refract it into its moody individual pieces, transforming what under other circumstances would be a party anthem into a fullscale dirge.

The Synagogue Detective bookends a tongue-in-cheek cartoon narrative with alternately biting and goodnaturedly prowling solos from Citerman, Holmes and Thomson. Likewise, they liven the skronky march After All That Has Happened with squalling Steven Bernstein-esque flourishes. In lieu of hip-hop flavor, Talmudic Breakbeat has an unexpected lushness, neatly intertwining voices, some drolly shuffling rudiments from Gold and the album’s most snarling guitar solo.

The album’s most deliciously epic track, Exchanging Pleasantries with a Wall moves up from echoey spaciousness, through a disorienting, funereal groove that brings to mind low-key Sonic Youth as much as it does Bernstein’s arrangements of old Hasidic nigunim. The closing cut puts a clenched-teeth, crescendoing noir dub spin on a broodingly austere old prayer chant. Now where can you hear this treat online? Um…try Citerman’s soundcloud page and youtube channel for starters; otherwise, the Stone is where it’s at, next week.

Melanie DeBiasio Brings Her Haunting Jazz-Influenced Sonics to the Rockwood

Belgian chanteuse Melanie DeBiasio explains her music not as jazz but as influenced by it. Whatever genre she may fall into – torch song, soul, blues, indie classical or rock – it’s unquestionably noir. Go to DeBiasio’s bio at her webpage and see how gratuitously one writer managed to wrap up his review with a bit of dialogue from the classic film noir Ascenseur Pour L’Echaufaud…and the irony is that the reference actually isn’t gratuitous at all! DeBiasio has a second album, No Deal, streaming at Spotify and an album release show on Oct 1 at 8 PM at the big room at the Rockwood. The show is free but you have to rsvp to burexny@gmail.com.

DeBiasio straddles the line between brassy and brittle on the album’s achingly brief opening track, I Feel You against minimalist piano and swooshy cymbals, capping it off herself with a lingering bass flute solo. Singing in English with a bit of a Wallonian accent, she slinks into noir blues (in 11/4 time), dancing drums contrasting with ominously echoing Rhodes piano, on the album’s second track, The Flow.

DeBiasio’s stoic but wounded vocals on the album’s rainswept title track draw a straight line back to one of her big influences, Nina Simone, while the terse, pensive piano and outro atmospherics look back to Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright. Resonant piano and brushy drums build a Lynchian suspense on the instrumental With Love, followed by the swaying, syncopated noir blues Sweet Darling Pain, another vividly Nina Simone-influenced, hypnotic one-chord jam of sorts. Then DeBiasio does the same thing with I’m Gonna Leave You, a woozy electronic loop oscillating in the background. The album’s final, longest and most minimalist cut is With All My Love, eight-plus minutes of resignation and apprehension from DiBiasio against a brooding backdrop of spacious, distantly eerie drum rolls, piano and electronic atmospherics. Monochromatic? Absolutely: black and white and every shade of grey, like a good film noir.

Guitar Goddess Mary Halvorson Makes a Rock Record – Sort Of

The people who call themselves People – fiery jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson, irrepressible drummer Kevin Shea (of NYC’s funnest jazz group, Mostly Other People Do the Killing) and bassist Kyle Forester (from Crystal Stilts) have a new album titled 3xaWoman (The Misplaced Files) streaming at Telegraph Records’ site. It’s a riot, and it’s worth owning on vinyl, which is especially cool because it’s actually available in that format. The trio are playing what might or might not be the album release show at Death by Audio at 10 PM on July 2 if you’re in town.

Halvorson turns out to be an excellent singer, with a clear, balmy, attractive voice that contrasts with the snarl and menace of her guitar – any discussion of important guitarists in 2014 needs to have her front and center. Forester plays snaky, melodic lines along with Shea’s restless, tumbling, rumbling attack that sometimes provides comic relief against the guitar’s savage burn.

The album opens with a slow, moody, Twin Peaksian horn theme (that’s Peter Evans on trumpet, Sam Kulik on trombone and Dan Peck on tuba). The first of the funny numbers is called These Words Make Up the Lyrics of the Song, which quickly decays to a noisy improvisational interlude that becomes a very precisely choreographed exchange of ideas – and yet sounds completely random unless you listen closely. What’s So Woman About That Woman is a short, bristling hardcore tune, followed by A Song with Melody and Harmony and Words and Rhythm, which takes a brooding early 70s-style art-rock/Britfolk ballad and edges more menacingly toward noiserock. Lyrical jokes aside, just hearing Halvorson – one of the prime movers from Anthony Braxton’s avant garde circle – playing simple barre chords is funny all by itself.

The album’s most relevant song is the barely minute-long but cruelly spot-on Supersensible Hydrofracked Dystopia!!! The band follows that with a loopy oompah interlude, a snide acoustic parody of sorts and then Inoperable Intertrigo, a creepy, slowly marching blend of outsider jazz-inflected postrock and peak-era Sonic Youth.

Piles for Miles starts out suspiciously like a spoof of Bushwick meh-core indie pop and then works a dreampop/post-My Bloody Valentine vein. Another really short one, Psychic Recapitulation has some tasty, eerie guy-girl vocal harmonies. The Virtuous Relapse is one of the funniest numbers, with a punchline that’s too good to spoil. The Caveman Connection offers more dark punk rock humor, Halvorson’s calm vocals contrasting with a sludgy Melvins backdrop.

The funniest song here – and the funniest song of the year, bar none – is titled The Lyrics Are Simultaneously About How This Song Starts. Again, the jokes are too good to spoil – let’s just say that even if you don’t play music or write songs, it’s LMFAO good. The last song is an acoustic fragment that wouldn’t be out of place on Guided by Voices’ latest album. Who would have thought that such an unlikely lineup would end up having so much fun together, let alone make such a great record?

Sean Noonan Conjures Up More Menacing Magic

A pavee is an Irish Tinker, a member of the nomadic tribe who’ve spread culture, repair and reinvention across the Emerald Isle for centuries. Drummer Sean Noonan saw a connection between those travelers and what the band he’d pulled together for his latest album was doing during their lone rehearsal for it, so he was inspired to name Pavees Dance, his collection of darkly surrealistic, shapeshifting, highly improvised art-rock mini-epics, after them. The band also happens to be well-traveled: Aram Bajakian, Lou Reed’s last lead player, who might just be the most exciting guitarist in any style of music right now; bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, who famously did a long stint in free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman’s band; and Can co-founder Malcolm Mooney, who was largely responsible for making that band’s debut album Monster Movie so monstrous, on vocals. This feral, individualistic crew wil be playing the album release show on May 30 at around 9 at Bowery Electric. Advance tix are $10; the show looks like it’s going to be a wild one.

Noonan’s previous album A Gambler’s Hand blended indie classical, chamber metal and art-rock, a collaboration with a string quartet assembled from the ranks of rising star indie classical Cadillac Moon Ensemble and fiery string group Trio Tritticali. This one’s even more of a rock record, equal parts punk, psychedelia and downtown jazz. Much as there’s obviously a lot of improvisation going on, it’s tight and focused, with the same relentless menace, sometimes distant, sometimes in your face, that characterized Noonan’s last album.

The brief opening track sets the stage, Noonan’s clustering drums holding it all together as Bajakian veers from Arto Lindsay skronk, to warps, scrapes, squalls and scratches while Tacuma goes from judicious ornamentation to a steady walk and then back. Mooney’s nonchalantly haphazard vocals, part spoken word, part proto-punk, raise the unease factor to redline. Sometimes he repeats a mantra, other times veers all over the map, so it’s hard to tell what, other than madness, he’s carrying on about in his weatherbeaten rasp. Which in itself makes perfect sense with the music.

Tacuma’s bass builds to an ominous gallop on the mini-suite There’s Always the Night, which takes a dive into Beatlesque flamenco-tinged rock, shifts to pounding skronk and then terse punk-funk. Quick Pick begins as an acid funk theme and then goes into creepy late 70s King Crimson territory, then shades of both the Grateful Dead and reggae before Bajakian hits a reverb-drenched, wailing, trickily syncopated crescendo. Moonwalk begins as a low-key vintage soul ballad, Noonan picking it up to practically hardcore-style agitation, then Bajakian channels Ron Asheton with a wah circa 1969 – the way the band effortlessly and instantly shifts between idioms and eras here might sound awkward, but in their hands it’s the most natural thing in the world.

No Strings Attached is a showcase for Bajakian at his most elegant, evoking David Gilmour with his gleaming, resonant Brain Damage lines while Tacuma solos with a similarly purposeful, horn-inspired attack. The final track, Portrait of a Heartless Lover reverts to juxtaposing oldschool soul with acidic King Crimson art-rock – although Noonan is a vastly more nuanced and down-to-earth drummer than Bill Bruford. Bajakian’s vintage art-rock lead builds to the one point on the album where the center collapses into raw noise, Mooney leading them out with a darkly sardonic tale that’s either about a murder or at least a psychic one.

In addition to the album, there’s a companion book – also available as an e-book – featuring both the lyrics as well as Mooney’s original album art and plus poetry by Mooney, Marquita Pool-Eckert and Lowell Henry.

Uncategorizable, Deliciously Noisy Stuff from Slobber Pup

Power  trio Slobber Pup‘s new album Black Aces will clear a room fast. It’s not for people who like their music in concise, hummable, self-contained verses and choruses. This ensemble of downtown outsider-jazz types inhabits the deliciously abrasive netherland somewhere between noise-rock, postrock, metal and jazz. Their music is ugly, assaultive and long-winded, but in an intriguing way. On one hand, their album Black Aces sounds like one long jam where everybody’s soloing at once; on the other, everybody’s on the same page rhythmically, and they get out of each others’ way when a shift in the dynamics calls for it. The band’s secret weapon is frontman Jamie Saft’s organ, which swells and swirls and provides a stygian backdrop as well as a sometimes unexpectedly melodic center for banks of distorted synths, Balasz Pandi’s tumbling drums and Trevor Dunn’s growling, pitchblende bass, with noisy bluesmetal guitar that usually takes centerstage. Those hearing this for the first time might be surprised to discover that’s Joe Morris on guitar playing all those unhinged, bluesy leads: it’s quite a change from the resolute, defiantly atonal approach that defined his style for many years. Although he does revert to that style from place to place here as well.

The album is best appreciated as a whole. The practically half-hour opening “track,” Accuser, comes across as something akin to Deep Purple on speedy acid. Morris finally leaves the blues scale for some jagged noise, then veers between the two styles over the often jarring wash of liquid organ and buzzing, acidic synth, roaring, gritty bass and careening but steady drums. The organ hits a menacing tritone and leads the band into an inchoate horror movie theme about thirteen minutes in; later on, Dunn tries to take everybody in a Floydian, anthemic direction but eventually descends into the maelstrom around him. They go out sudddenly with a gentle cymbal hit. Some might find this self-indulgent to the extreme, but as a menacing, defiantly noisy mood piece, it’s hard to resist.

Morris uses a more metalish, sustained tone on Basalt, the bass trying to push it toward Slipknot territory, then everybody drops out, leaving Morris to linger by himself. His off-center, dancing single-note lines and creepy, unsteadily bending microtonal fretless guitar chords are the high point of the title track, while Suffrage, a slower, slinkier and heavier groove, features unexpectedly tuneful, bluesy organ juxtaposed with Morris’ gleeful Friday the 13th chord-chopping. The final segment, Taint of Satan maxes out the contrast between the dirgey rhythm and Morris’ frenetic axe-murderer attack on his strings. Slobber Pup are at Shapeshifter Lab on Dec 13 at around 10 for Rare Noise Records night; cover is $15.

An Auspicious Kickoff to Daphne Lee Martin’s Late Winter Tour

Midway through a rather ominous minor-key reggae song, Daphne Lee Martin’s keyboardist played most of a verse from Besame Mucho, using a glockenspiel setting to max out the menace. That was one of the high points of her show last night at the Way Station in Fort Greene, the unlikely setting for the first stop on her current tour which winds its way down to South by Southwest. Once word of her new album Moxie gets out, it’s not likely she’ll be playing places like the Way Station. She and her fantastic band Raise the Rent did most of that album, in sequence, with an exuberant expertise to match its eclectic style. Martin’s down-to-earth, uncluttered but finely nuanced alto voice might remind you of June Christy or Erica Smith, which makes sense since she and Smith were bandmates around the turn of the past century.

Martin and her five-piece band opened with Sweet & Low Down, a pulsing noir blues fueled by creepy funeral organ and then a fiery Strat solo from the lead guitarist that exploded in a frenzy of tremolo-picking as he went up the scale. The minor-key noir mood lingered through their second number, Whiskey & Sin, a luridly grim waltz, sort of a House of the Setting Sun: some girl in the crowd let out a scream timed perfectly to the end of the first verse as it reached a peak. Belly, a strutting vintage 70s-style soul groove, first fueled by echoey Rhodes piano and then woozily hilarious Dr. Dre-style synth, was next. Martin and band picked up the pace from there with the uneasily swinging House That Built Itself, lit up by some more bitingly bluesy lead guitar, then went scampering through Molotov with a torchy gypsy jazz-inflected intensity. Most of the night, Martin’s vocals were too low in the mix to reveal the level of detail that she typically brings to a song, but this one was a showcase for some unselfconsciously spine-tingling blue notes and melismas.

The next number, a duet with the keyboardist, had a planitive flamenco-rock feel, like the skeleton frame of an early Firewater song; then the bass and drums agilely transformed it into roots reggae in a split second. New London, Connecticut, where Martin and band have made their home for the last few years, has had a fertile music scene since the recently, tragically reduced Reducers first came up in the 80s: it’s good to see such a fantastic band representing that city on the road.

Wild Persian Art-Rock, Metal and Jazz from Salim Ghazi Saeedi

[repost from NY Music Daily’s sister blog Lucid Culture]

One important rising composer who’s doing genuinely visionary work in microtonal music, helping to integrate sounds from the Middle East into jazz and rock, is Tehran-based multi-instrumentalist Salim Ghazi Saeedi. His latest album namoWoman is an often otherworldly creation. It’s considerably more raw and roughhewn than, say, recent albums by David Fiuczynski and Hafez Modirzadeh, both artists to which he compares favorably. Aside from the fact that Saeedi plays all the instruments on the album – guitars, keys, basses and drums – what’s most amazing about it is how through-composed it is. Thematic variations recur frequently but always change shape, melodically and dynamically. It’s a dark, bracing, uneasy roller-coaster ride.

Saeedi’s main axe is the guitar, which he multitracks using two basic tones: a ringing, watery timbre that he typically uses to deliver plaintive, judiciously picked microtonal phrases and ringing sustained lines, along with a gritty, crunchy, distorted tone that often takes centerstage with a sneering, occasionally comedic flair. That tone, and its bombastic allusions and head-on assaults, poses the question of whether this is heavy metal, or jazz, or Persian art-rock. Ultimately, the answer is all of the above.

Saeedi’s unorthodox use of both piano and bass is also extremely clever. Saeedi leans heavily on the piano’s lowest keys, whether to anchor the music in a murky, overtone-spiced ambience, or for basslines. By contrast, Saeedi utilizes the bass’s entire sonic spectrum, frequently bowing eerily elegant viola melodies in the upper registers. A few of the tracks have trebly-toned, judiciously played electric bass along with the occasional electronic keyboard motif. All this contrasts with the savage, distorted guitar lines: whether or not that dichotomy is deliberate or not (two sides of the same coin, maybe, one profound and the other profane?), it’s inescapable.

Throughout the nine-part suite, Saeedi establishes individual voices within the arrangements, with all kinds of melodic interweaving and conversations: piano ripples respond to bass bubbles, cello-flavored lines hand off to the guitar, or to the drums. Without knowing it, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that guitar is Saeedi’s primary axe, considering how graceful, dexterous and propulsive his bass work is; his piano lines are terse, imaginative and serve an important part of the musical backbone. If there’s any criticism of this, it’s that Saeedi swings on the guitar and especially the bass but not the drums: a percussionist with a proficiency equal to Saeedi’s on those two instruments could have been useful here. Then again, percussionists capable of playing such eclectic compositions are hard to find anywhere, let alone in traditional Persian music.

Bluesy allusions give way to suspenseful not-quite-minor, not-exactly major Persian intervals; rhythms tend to be straight-up but not always, one interlude bouncing along on a tricky groove that would be perfectly at home in Macedonia or Greece. Pensive, moody guitar echoes until it’s bludgeoned out of the picture as the distorted roar takes over, and then recedes, a constant game of good cop vs. bad cop with an occasional exchange of roles. There’s simple, insistent staccato guitar riffage straight out of the Pantera playbook, and also spacious, distantly anguished David Gilmour-inflected phrasing. The High Romantic, the gothic, the gypsy and the jazz – think Cecil Taylor in extreme deep space mode – mingle and echo and at their most cohesive, haunt the hell out of you. Little flourishes like a jaunty melodica vamp, hints of surf rock and Mediterranean psychedelia lighten the darkness while enhancing the surrealism of it all. Who is the audience for this? Middle Eastern metalheads; fans of Persian music who need a jolt of energy, and any fan of loud, dark sounds laced with fearless humor. There is no one in the world who sounds anything like Salim Ghazi Saeedi: where he takes these ideas in the future promises to be a pretty wild place.