New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: jethro tull

Towering, Hypnotic, Psychedelic Korean Postrock Majesty from Black String at Lincoln Center

Korean postrock band Black String’s show at Lincoln Center last night seemed much more terse and minimalist than their feral set last year at Flushing Town Hall. Yet while the songs this time out seemed more focused and stripped-down, the music was no less psychedelic. There, bandleader Yoon Jeong Heo was all over the place on her geomungo bass zither, delivering every texture and timbre that can possibly be plucked – with a stick! – from that magical instrument. Here, she was more percussive, and in that sense, hypnotic, and the band followed suit.

At that Queens gig, guitarist Jean Oh let loose majestic, David Gilmour-esque flares and got lowdown with some gritty Marc Ribot skronk. Here, he played mostly big, icy, resonant block chords, adding contrasting delicate flavor via flickering electronics. Last night, it seemed more than ever that multi-reedman Aram Lee has become the group’s lead instrumentalist, switching between wood flutes of various sizes, running endless variations on simple pentatonic riffs, often with a bluesy majesty. Drummer Min Wang Hwang made the tricky time signatures and metric shifts look easy, whether adding marionettish cymbal accents, fullscale stomp on a couple of floor toms, or with the thump of his janggu barrel drum.

The enveloping, persistent unease brought to mind the insistent, grey grimness of Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor at their most focused…or Jethro Tull playing a Glenn Branca symphony (that’s where the flute comes in). To max out the psychedelic factor, the band rode the sonic rollercoaster, often bringing the music down to a simple pairing of instruments: there seemed to be fewer moments when everyone was charging along in unison.

At one point, Heo marvelled that the ancient Korean folk themes which the group use as a stepping-off point seem absolutely avant garde today. She could just as easily have said no wave. Black String’s most hammeringly emphatic instrumentals would have been perfectly at home in the early 80s downtown scene.

The most poignant moment of the night was a gently imploring prayer of sorts wafting up from Lee’s flute: here as elsewhere, the electronics (when they were working) added subtle echo or sustain effects. The most explosive interlude was a ferocious geomungo-drum duel: it was astonishing to witness Heo snapping off so many volleys of notes against a single, pulsing low pedal tone.

They closed the set on an insistent, triumphant note with Song of the Sea, a mini-suite of ancient fishermen’s songs that Hwang delivered in his powerful pansori baritone, modulated with a wide-angle, Little Jimmy Scott-style vibrato.

What’s become most clear after seeing this band in two very different spaces – each with an excellent sound system – is that they need better gear. The guitar rig Oh was using delivered a cold, trebly, flat, transistor amp sound that died away too soon. And Heo needs some custom pickups for her geomungo. She was out of breath at the end of several numbers, yet there were too many places where her riffs got lost in the mix. A performer so mesmerizing to watch deserves to be heard.

The next free show at the atrium space at Lincoln Center on Broadway just north of 62nd St. is their more-or-less monthly salsa dance party. This time the featured band is oldschool Cuban-flavored charanga Son Sublime. Showtime is 7:30; the earlier you get there, the better the chances of getting in.

Jamband Legends Leftover Salmon Reinvent Themselves at a Rare Small-Club Gig

What’s the likelihood of being able to see Leftover Salmon at the smallest venue the legendary jamband has probably ever played? It happened last night at Bowery Electric, a spot where you’d hardly expect to see these summer festival vets. For what it’s worth, this wasn’t the crew who made a name for themselves as jamgrass pioneers. Sure, many of the songs started out with a scampering bluegrass groove and then went further and further outside, but this new version of the group is more psychedelic than ever. Their brand-new album is aptly titled Something Higher, working an epically vamping, stylistically puddle-jumping blueprint that the Grateful Dead refined at their majestic, early 80s peak. Yet this version of Leftover Salmon are also a lot tighter than the Dead ever were.

The addition of keyboardist Erik Deutsch has completely transformed the band. He started out playing ragtime and honkytonk-influenced piano. By the time the set was over, he’d spun through lowdown clavinova funk, dub reggae, majestic art-rock synth vistas, swirly Doorsy organ interludes and a couple of wryly hobbity detours that wouldn’t have been out of place in early 70s Jethro Tull.

No matter what style they’re using as a lauching pad, this band has always been about the jam, and this show was a clinic. The trippiest, most adrenalizing tradeoffs were between Deutsch and Andy Thorn’s banjitar, which he was running through a delay pedal for a stunningly spot-on approximation of a steel pan. While Thorn’s rapidfire frailing fueled the most Appalachian-flavored moments, he was just as much a force throughout the show’s most ambitious, artsy points.

Bushy-bearded group partriarch and guitarist Vince Herman waited til the end of the set, during the cheery gospel-flavored singalong Let In a Little Light, before he fired off a series of breathtakingly effortless volleys of bluegrass flatpicking. Likewise, six-string bassist Greg Garrison hung back in the pocket for the most part, taking over lead vocals on the night’s two most vintage soul-oriented numbers. As it turns out, the band’s strongest singer is drummer Alwyn Robinson, who took over the mic on one low-key number and also harmonized with founding member/mandolinist Drew Emmitt (whose searing, tantalizingly brief Strat leads had every bit as much voltage as his endlessly machinegunning mando runs).

A Brooklyn violinist joined the group a few songs in and contributed bouncy bluegrass as well as more uneasy textures. The night’s most surreal song was House of Cards, a sticky tarpit of dub fueled by Deutsch’s tersely warpy, oscillating leads. The most exhilarating was Astral Traveler, which with its towering, gale-force chorus would have been a standout Bob Weir number in any 80s Dead second-setlist – it was easy to imagine that band taking a flying leap into it from, say, Saint of Circumstance as the show peaked out.

The new album’s title track was a launching pad for slashing Emmitt riffage and tight solos all around. The band opened both Foreign Fields and Game of Thorns as broodingly spiky, serpentine bluegrass and sailed into the clouds from there. And Burdened Heart was no less potent for being downbeat, the group eventually vamping out a long interlude midway through, Emmitt and Deutsch pawing the seeds and stems to uncover the sweetest, most pungent buds. Leftover Salmon’s endless tour continues; the next stop is this May 10 at 8 PM at the Boathouse, 11800 Merchants Walk in Newport News, Virginia; cover is $20.

Twistedly Hilarious Big Band Fun with Ed Palermo’s Reinventions of Psychedelic Rock Classics

If you had the chops to rearrange the Move’s Open Up Said the World at the Door as blustery, quasi big band jazz, would you? Ed Palermo did. That he would know the song at all is impressive. It’s not even the best track on the legendary British band’s worst album. But it’s a twistedly delicious treat, part boogie blues and part Stravinsky. What does the Ed Palermo Big Band’s version sound like?

Bob Quaranta plays a very subtly altered version of Jeff Lynne’s introductory piano hook and then the band makes a scampering, brassy swing shuffle out of it, trumpeter Ronnie Buttacavoli true to the spirit of Lynne’s unhinged road-to-nowhere guitar solo on the original. It perfectly capsulizes the appeal of Palermo’s latest album, a 21 (twenty-one) track monstrosity titled The Great Un-American Songbook Volumes 1 & 2 – streaming at Cuneiform Records – which does pretty much the same thing with a bunch of reinvented 60s and 70s psychedelic and art-rock songs, most of them on the obscure side. The band are airing them out this May 8 at 8:30 PM at Iridium; cover is $25, which is cheap for this midtown tourist trap.

The Beatles are represented by five tracks. The best and funniest is Eleanor Rigby, which quotes back and forth from a famous and very aptly chosen classical piece. Heavy low brass beefs up Good Morning, while Katie Jacoby’s vioiln adds biting blues rusticity to an otherwise droll, Esquivel-esque chart for a diptych of Don’t Bother Me and I Wanna Be Your Man, with detours into Miles Davis and then a big roadhouse-blues break. And extra brass and reeds add a Penny Lane brightness to the album’s benedictory concluding cut, Goodnight, which has an ending way too hilarious to give away.

The rest of the songs are much lesser-known but just about as amusing. Obviously, it helps if you know the source material. The lone Stones cut here is We Love You, redone to the point of unrecognizability as a mighty, red-neon Vegas noir theme, with a sly dig at Nicky Hopkins and a LMAO Beatles quote. Speaking of Hopkins, the intro to the almost fourteen-minute take of Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder – a Quicksilver Messenger Service epic – will leave you in stitches.

Most of the songs segue into each other. Jacoby’s plaintive lines take centerstage again in Jeff Beck’s Definitely Maybe, leading up to a more ebulliently sailing clarinet solo and then back, in the process finding the song’s moody inner soul. Another Beck number, Diamond Dust benefits from the 15-piece band’s balmiest chart here and a starlit Quaranta piano solo.

King Crimson’s Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part Two is the album’s second-most epic track, with a stark yet symphonic sweep that’s arguably better than the original, punctuated by a moody Bill Straub tenor sax solo over  Bruce McDaniel’s clustering guitar. Palermo and crew also improve on another King Crimson tune, 21st Century Schizoid Man, transforming sludgy mathrock into jaunty swing, lit up by a long Clifford Lyons alto sax solo and Paul Adamy’s pirouetting bass.

Send Your Son to Die, by Jethro Tull predecessors Blodwyn Pig, evokes Tower of Power at their heftiest. Likewise, Tull’s Beggar’s Farm gets redone as a latin number and a vehicle for a long flute solo. Ted Kooshian’s tiptoeing baroque organ adds an element of cynical fun to America, by Keith Emerson’s original band the Nice – although the quote from that dorky 90s band at the end should have been left on the cutting room floor. There’s also an Emerson, Lake and Palmer number here, Bitches Crystal, muting that band’s bombast in favor of swing and an unexpected slink punctuated by a Barbara Cifelli baritone sax solo.

That Palermo would cover Procol Harum’s toweringly elegaic Wreck of the Hesperus rather than, say, Whiter Shade of Pale, speaks to the depth and counterintuitivity of this album: the song itself hews very close to the original. Similarly but on a completely different tip, Fire, the novelty hit by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, is funniest for its over-the-top vocals

The lone current-day (sort of) band included here is Radiohead. Palermo’s take of The Tourist takes the song back in time thirty years, productionwise and transforms it into a lush haunter, fortuitously without mimicking Thom Yorke’s whine.

There are also a couple of duds here. Cream’s As You Said comes across as Spyro Gyra on steroids, and the short version of Traffic’s The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys sounds like a Bleecker Street cover band that wandered into Winter Jazzfest. Still, for a grand total of 21 tracks, the band’s batting average is more than 900. A characteristically robust, joyously entertaining accomplishment for the group, which also includes trombonists Matt Ingman, Michael Boschen and Charley Gordon, trumpeter John Bailey, sax players Phil Chester and Ben Kono,

An Intimate Show with Art-Rock Guitar Legend Martin Barre

by David Koral

I used to hold onto my concert ticket stubs, when such things existed. But if the nosebleed-red cardstock from the 1979 Jethro Tull show at Madison Square Garden is still around, it’s likely at the bottom of a landfill, keeping Staten Island warm. I couldn’t help thinking back to it prior to the show last Saturday night, when I overheard some longtime fan lament how it wasn’t right that Martin Barre, who had played large venues in the past, should now appear on such a small stage at the Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side. But back then, as I recall, from an elevation of a mile or so, Martin Barre and his bandmates appeared more or less as stick figures.

Not the case in this ground-floor space, however. On the contrary, it was a great opportunity to see Jethro Tull’s longtime guitarist up close and personal. Taking the stage promptly at seven, he struck the graceful warm-up pose one might expect from a seasoned club performer: with his left arm extended outward, like a ballerina or a Greek statue, he touched a toe to the digital tuner on the floor, and he was ready to rock.

And were those really the opening notes to “To Cry You a Song” I heard? Yes, I do think so. In Dan Crisp, Martin Barre has found a clear-voiced front man with a strong stage manner and well-honed guitar chops, who effortlessly harmonized the lead line on his drool-worthy black Les Paul Custom. Dan was given the first solo, but in no time, Martin was working the neck of his gray Paul Reed Smith, shredding faster than any metalhead I’ve ever seen while anticipating new chord positions and adeptly rolling back the volume to restore dynamics. Watching his fingers like a hawk, I couldn’t help but wonder what gauge of strings he uses; with every subtle touch they bent and quivered, producing sweet squalls through the Marshall cab backed against the wall.

The band continued the momentum with “Minstrel in the Gallery,” but simmered down with the title cut of Barre’s new solo album, Back to Steel. Ably backed by the pulsing bass of Alan Thompson and the steady beat of George Lindsay, the intricate guitar interplay between Martin and his foil recalled Dokken and the mid-’90s progressive metal band Extreme.

Experimenting in the same vein, they covered “Eleanor Rigby,” combining light arpeggios and Spanish guitar figures to re-imagine the refrain from the Beatles’ psychedelic classic. “The English are people of so few words,” Martin said as an introduction, explaining the major difference between “bollocks” (rubbish) and “amazingly bollocks” (the Beatles, in his opinion). It’s a distinction worth bearing in mind, to avoid winding up in a fistfight.

“I take out the bits of songs I don’t like and leave in the ones I do,” he said, revealing a keen sense of humor and setting the stage for what would be the climax of the show. What parts does he like? “Only the guitar solo.” With that, the band launched into a taut rendition of the “Poet and the Painter” section of “Thick as a Brick,” and smoothly transitioned to the “Childhood Heroes” passage.

“We’re just another cover band,” Martin said, introducing tunes by Warren Haynes and Porcupine Tree, before picking up his mandolin for an adaptation of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” that strangely recalled Songs from the Wood. In a black T-shirt and jeans, he looked so much younger and leaner than those very woolen country squires on the cover of Heavy Horses or Bursting Out.

The show concluded with tasty versions of old favorites such as “Teacher” and a bluesy version of “New Day Yesterday.” At the beginning of the show, Martin’s ax was polished so bright you could see your face in it, but rock ’n’ roll does involve sweat, and by the end, great big bullets were rolling off his forehead and onto the flaming maple top.

So, finally, all of us middle-aged teenagers stomped hard and cheered real loud. And guess what happened? He decided to come back out to do an encore, “Locomotive Breath,” with chukka-chukka so delicious it was worth the price of admission, and proving once and for all that flute solos are not necessary for honest rock ’n’ roll.

State-of-the-Art Heavy Psychedelic Band Mondo Drag Bring Their Stoner Stomp to St. Vitus

Oakland psychedelic band Mondo Drag’s second album – streaming at Bandcamp – is amazingly retro, yet completely in the here and now. As far as stoner art-rock goes, this stuff is state-of-the-art. It opens with a song titled Zephyr, which fades up with a galloping pulse, vocals back in the mix, John Gamino’s smoky Hammond organ front and center over the careening rhythm section of Zack Anderson’s trebly bass and drummer Cory Berry’s muted stampede. They wind it up with a guitar solo in tandem with the organ that wouldn’t be out of place on an classic Nektar album…or something from early 70s Jethro Tull. Everything about this – the production, the smoky vibe, the nonchalant expertise of the playing, is straight out of 1974 in the best possible way. Their current US tour brings them to St. Vitus in Greenpoint on July 18 on a killer triplebill with swirly post-Sabbath psych-metal band Electric Citizen and heavier, more boogie-driven Fresno stoners Slow Season. Doors are at 8; general admission is $12.

The album’s second song is titled Crystal Visions Open Eyes – guitarists Nolan Girard and Jake Sheley give it a murky, drony intro before the band hits an altered motorik groove, then that smoky organ hits in tandem with Anderson’s soaring bass – it could be the great lost track from Nektar’s Down to Earth. Shivery, aching wah guitar over a funky beat takes it down to an elegant acoustic interlude straight out of the Moody Blues.

The Dawn, with its twin organ-and-guitar riffage, is more straight up – until it goes on a doublespeed rampage, part Allman Brothers, part Nektar. Plumajilla is a swaying Santana-esque vamp, with twin guitars fading into the ozone, snakecharmer flute, a big, long crescendo and then a mysterious interlude like Iron Maiden at their artsiest that goes into gently ornate early Genesis territory. How much art-rock richness can one band possibly mine in a single song?

The most original track here is Shifting Sands, a mashup of Tangerine Dream and maybe early U2 – at least before the guitars get all crunchy. The stately slide guitar and organ intro to the instrumental epic Pillars of the Sky is as good as any Richard Wright/David Gilmour collaboration – Atomheart Mother, for example – and then brings to mind the gorgeously bittersweet spacerock of Nektar’s It’s All Over. The album’s final cut is Snakeskin, taking a hypnotic Brian Jonestown Massacre pulse back in time a few decades.

Anderson and Berry have since moved on to Swedish band Blues Pills, replaced by Andrew O’Neil and Ventura Garcia, who’ll be on this tour. Those are large shoes to fill, but you’d expect a band as brilliant as this to bring in guys who can fill them.

The White Kites Aren’t Missing Anything, Psychedelically Speaking

Imagine if Ian Anderson had a thing for psychedelic pop music instead of heavy blues. That’s what Warsaw-based band the White Kites evoke. Pawel Betley’s pretty much omnipresent flute in tandem with Jakub Lenarczyk’s keyboards gives their album Missing a period-perfect 1968 feel. If the idea of a mashup of the Pretty Things and early Jethro Tull doesn’t scare you off, you’ll love this band. Their sound is retro in every possible way: they absolutely nail their vintage melodic tropes, keyboard and amp settings. Much as this album is all about catchy hooks, there’s a trippy undercurrent that sometimes takes everything in its tow, then eventually lets some familiar, comforting structure bubble to the surface once again. There’s also a meandering lyrical theme on the subject of absence, which may or may not carry some symbolic weight: it’s hard to tell. The whole thing is streaming at their Bandcamp page.

The centerpiece of the album’s carnivalesque opening track, predictably titled Arrival, is a menacingly swirling funeral organ solo. There are also echoes of Brazilian-tinged American pop from the 60s as well as British glamrock from five years later, or Jacco Gardner in particularly amped-up mode. Track two, The Foreigner morphs from jazzy chamber pop to slithery, jangly art-rock in a Nektar vein. Stowaway Sylvie, a twisted, metaphorically-loaded seafaring tale, brings back that awesome funeral organ: “Reading the stars won’t help me know where we are,” frontman Sean Palmer laments.

Percival Buck has a sarcastic, satirical Ray Davies vaudeville pop flavor; then the song picks up with an anthemic Abbey Road vibe. Much as it may be derivative to the extreme, Beyond the Furthest Star is irresistibly fun. Mellotrons! Circus imagery! Oscillating synths, twinkling neoromantic piano, you name a stoner art-rock device, they manage to cram it in here. By contrast, Should You Wait is more sprightly and pop-oriented, with guy/girl vocals: “Though dawn is anew, my dose shall be complete,” the guy asserts.

Turtle’s Back seems to capture the moment when that dose is complete beyond any doubt: an atmospherically crescendoing keyboard-versus-keyboard interlude and watery Leslie speaker guitar help complete the picture where “we’ll be leaving soon, but not from the room.” When Will May Return is where the trip gets dicey, pensive folk-rock giving way to glam and then a soaring, orchestrated grandeur underscoring what seems like a variation on the Persephone myth – or maybe an eco-disaster parable. Clown King is where the Tull comparisons really come in, a sarcastic anthem told from the point of view of a selfish tyrant, lit up with twin flutes, baroque keys and then an unexpectedly balmy interlude. The title track is an apprehensive piano waltz: “Paper saviors get burned, and your ship is no ark,” Palmer warns bitterly. The album ends up with Farewell, tremoloing organ and bluesy lead guitar evoking a period-perfect early 70s backdrop for a brooding contemplation of the ravages of time. Snobs may turn up their noses at this, saying that it’s all been done before – and it has, but never quite this way. And for real fans of classic 60s psychedelia, this is a feast.

Dinosaurs Still Roam the Earth, Less Dangerous But Still Interesting

“The crowd’s pretty undead,” a grey-ponytailed guy marveled to his friend, alluding to the surprising diversity, agewise, genderwise (lots of older couples out on a date) and even ethnicwise, in the audience at the Beacon Theatre Friday night. “Would you like a Werther’s Original?” a friendly dude in a plaid shirt asked the pale black-clad guy next to him, a total stranger, who was making a halfhearted attempt to conceal that he was recording the concert. Behind them, a trio of Dallas Cowboys fans were bemoaning their team’s fortunes in thick Long Island accents. These are a small sample of the Jethro Tull fans who packed the venue to see bandleader Ian Anderson and his latest cast of minstrels play Tull’s 1972 stoner classic Thick As a Brick all the way through for the first time ever on a New York stage.

Although billed as an Anderson concert, the members of his band had all previously done time in later editions of Tull over the years. Of course, there are plenty of people who think that Anderson’s name actually is Jethro Tull, and in a sense they’re pretty much right. And as much as that band has been the butt of innumerable jokes, there never was another group who ever delivered anything like Tull’s psychedelic, bitingly lyrical blend of Scottish folk and heavy metal. Thick As a Brick – which the band delivered in its entirety along with a full-length performance of Anderson’s 2012 follow-up album – was the band’s most psychedelic and rhythmically tricky effort. While it only bears a passing resemblance to bands like Yes, it remains one of the holy grails of prog rock.

What did it sound like this time out, after all these years? Pretty much like it did back then, like Procol Harum on mushrooms. The star of this show was keyboardist John O’Hara, who nailed original keyboardist John Evan’s rapidfire organ and synth licks note for note, in addition to supplying electric piano, harpsichord, and frequent accordion during the second half of the show. Orginal Tull guitarist Martin Barre long ago abandoned his hard-blues edge for a florid metal attack, so new guitarist Florian Opahle’s garish Gary Moore tremoloing and divebomb effects didn’t come as much of a surprise. Bassist David Goodier played intricately, often in tandem with O’Hara while drummer Scott Hammond handled the suite’s tricky tempos with an evenhanded, understated approach. Anderson sounded 70 back when he recorded the album, and sounds closer to 90 now: this year’s American tour is still young, but he’s already blown out his voice. But he had singer Ryan O’Donnell to do the higher, more challenging vocal parts. And Anderson played guitar (a tiny acoustic Taylor travel model) and flute with the vigor of a man a third his age (he’s pushing 70), dashing across the stage and doing the one-legged flute dance which became his signature forty-plus years ago.

As far as the original album is concerned, the band really put their hearts into it. Maybe one of the reasons why it sounded so fresh, and so close to the bizarre catchiness of the original, is because only Anderson had ever played it live before, and hadn’t at all in the past forty-one years. His spiky, circular, dancing guitar interludes and O’Hara’s smoky Hammond organ menace were spot-on, as were the virtually all the original keyboard voicings. That the group’s drummer played it as close to his vest as he did only enhanced the dynamics; only Opahle made it sound particularly post-1972.

And the follow-up was good too. If Anderson focus-grouped this like he notoriously did in the mid-80s for Jethro Tull’s big comeback/reinvention as a straight-up metal band, the latest focus group gave good advice. This follow-up suite posits several different scenarios for what might have become of Gerald Bostock, the alienated child prodigy/poet credited with the lyrics to the original TAAB. This time out, Anderson has backed off a little on the tricky tempos and jigging in favor of a somewhat more four-on-the-floor musical approach (think Tull’s underrated 1983 Broadsword & the Beast album) and vastly more attention to the lyrics. If anything, Anderson’s caustic worldview is more relevant now than it was then. And the music matched: a vaudevillian sendup of clergy extorting from New Depression-era parishioners; a deceptively dark yet rhythmically lively account of a gay guy fallen prey to the temptations of pretty much whatever tempts; a sardonically lush predator banker’s tale; and a sweepingly haunting narrative from the point of view of a mercenary fighting (presumably for the Bush regime) in Afghanistan. Although it wasn’t a central theme, there is an antiwar stance to the original TAAB: it’s good to see its creator still very much in touch with the world around him.

They encored with a surprisingly fresh, longscale version of Locomotive Breath, stretched out with lots of piano from O’Hara. There was also a self-effacing video component that sometimes drew a few chuckles and was otherwise pretty beside the point; a public service announcement about prostate cancer awareness (no joke) involving a couple of audience members, which might have been more scripted than it was supposed to seem; and an obscene gesture involving Anderson’s flute which was even more obscene than usual, by Tull concert standards. While tickets for this show were obscene in their own pricy way, any fan of Tull, or artsy rock in general, won’t be disappointed by this tour. Considering how many others from the dinosaur-rock era are still out there, phoning it in, that’s all the more impressive.

Strange and Compelling Russian Rock Sounds from Auktyon

Here’s an album you won’t find much about in English: long-running Leningrad art-rockers Auktyon have a new one, their first studio effort in a dozen years, titled Yula (“top,” in English, i.e. the thing that spins). This is music for people who think that not only is Gogol Bordello NOT weird but not weird enough, who need something considerably more esoteric in order to reach exotica nirvana – or exotica overkill. The surreal irony (real irony, not sarcasm, which so many people have come to confuse with irony) of the Russian lyrics will be lost on most English-speaking listeners, but the music is smart, consistently surprising and utterly defies categorization. This band seems to be influenced as much by Russian folk and European jazz as rock, which may be a function of the instrumentation: sax, clarinet, trumpet, trombone and violin along with guitars, keys, bass and drums. Guitar polymath Marc Ribot elevates several of these tracks with his inimitable blend of noir menace and surrealistic noisy attack.

The opening track sets the tone, a brooding, minor-key acoustic guitar melody with smoky sax accents that builds to a big, anthemic electric crescendo reminiscent of famous pre-Glasnost Russian rockers Aquarium, or the band that influenced them the most, Jethro Tull. The second cut, Homba nicks the bassline from the old surf rock classic Diamond Head and adds Hava Nagila guitar allusions overhead; a bass clarinet loop anchors sketchy atmospherics overhead. Oh yeah, this stuff is very psychedelic.

Three short, roughly three-minute songs follow. Meteli (Snowstorms) is pulsing backbeat pop with swirly organ and whispery vocals. Shiski slowly comes together out of a rather random, free jazz-influenced intro with flute, pizzicato violin and acoustic guitars and quickly turns into a catchy pop song in disguise. Polden (Noon) is the brightest of the three, a minor-key gypsy rock song with some tasty clarinet and violin that the band runs through a phaser effect.

The weirdest track here is Priroda (Nature), a bizarre blend of Russian folk and Afrobeat, followed by the equally weird, new wave style Kozhanyi (Leather), which sounds like Wire trying their hand at late 70s fusion. You might think that’s yucky – it’s actually pretty amusing. The most potently memorable song here is Mimo (By), a darkly anthemic art-rock anthem in 7/8 time that goes out with a long psychedelic interlude, mingling layer upon layer of echoey guitar textures with off-kilter keys. There’s also a blippy Macedonian-flavored gypsy fusion groove with all kinds of deftly overlapping riffage from the entire horn section; Karandashi i Palochki (Crayons and Sticks), which blends Afrobeat with noisy stadium rock moves and then a warmly hypnotic, atmospheric interlude, and finally,  the wryly scurrying, apprehensively crescendoing title track. This is probably the darkest thing Auktyon has put out to date. Known for their unpredictable, high-energy, theatrical live shows, they’re playing the album release at le Poisson Rouge on June 20 and then on June 24 they’ll be at Joe’s Pub.