New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: laika cosmonauts

Jaro Milko & the Cubalkanics Blow Up in Your Face

Jaro Milko & the Cubalkanics’ new album Cigarros Explosivos – streaming at Bandcamp – sounds kind of like a Balkan version of Chicha Libre. Yeah, that good. The Firewater lead guitarist proves to be as original and interesting playing Peruvian surf music as his Brooklyn counterparts, who jumpstarted the whole chicha revival. It reaffirms how the cumbia revolution has taken over the entire globe – or at least established a base pretty much everywhere. This seems to be as much of a deviously tongue-in-cheek homage to classsic Peruvian sounds as it is a mix of killer original chicha grooves. Another band this brings to mind, for its surreal sense of humor and frequently cinematic sensibility, is Finnish surf legends Laika & the Cosmonauts.

The opening track, Cumbia Griega sets the stage, taking a classic Los Mirlos bassline and then coming together around a spiky Enrique Delgado-style hammer-on guitar riff from Milko, who plays an army’s worth of guitars here. After Eric Gilson’s organ and Eric Gut’s drums come in, it sounds like Chicha Libre in noir mode, part creepy surf, part Peruvian psychedelica.

El Topo could be an early Los Straitjackets number- the band turns up the distortion and adds the hint of a New Orleans shuffle beat. Over a dark reggae groove, All the Past ponders what’s left for a culture after “money’s here for joy in the world of desire” and pushes everything else out of the picture…more or less. Cumbia #5, which happens to be the fourth track, builds a dubwise tropical atmosphere and then shifts to blippy southern Balkan-flavored electric guitar jazz.

Miseria adds swing, hints of flamenco and ominous organ to a classic psychedelic cumbia vamp. The album’s longest track, Summer in January builds a wry, wistful seaside tableau. Where Chicha Libre bring in a French influence, these guys do the same with the Balkans, with a similar wit and erudition – and in this case, Milko’s elegant twelve-string guitar lines.

A brisk Balkan tango with some sizzling tremolo-picked guitar, Belly’s Bounce sounds like Laika & the Cosmonauts with horns, Milko’s frenetic lead lines contrasting with Lukas Briggen’s suave trombone. El Perro evokes Peruvian psychedelic legends Los Destellos working a LA lowrider groove, but more aggressively, while Herido blends Del Shannon noir with a creepy bolero: it’s arguably the album’s strongest track.

Danza Mentirosa keeps the creepy vibe going, a dubwise crime jazz theme that evokes Big Lazy with an organ. Cumbia Orientale is not a cumbia but an ominously marching Vegas tango, while Nah Neh Nah introduces a surfed-up ye-ye pop theme, Milko first playing a little Django and then a whole lot of Django: the guy’s an amazing guitarist. The album winds up with the surreal, cynical, rhythmically dizzying, disquieting Music Rum & Cha Cha Cha. Until Chicha Libre makes another album, this is the best recent mix of south-of-border psychedelics you’ll find anywhere.

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Thanks for the Memories, Lakeside Lounge

Lakeside Lounge has been sold and will be closing at the end of April. After just over fifteen years in business, the bar that defined oldschool East Village cool will be replaced by a gentrifier whiskey joint, no doubt with $19 artisanal cocktails and hedge fund nebbishes trying to pick up on sorostitutes when their boyfriends are puking in the bathroom – or out of it.

Lakeside opened in 1996 [thanks for the correction, everybody] in the space just north of the former Life Cafe on Ave. B north of 10th Street in the single-story building between tenements that had previously housed a Jamaican fried chicken takeout restaurant. It was an instant hit. Owners Jim Marshall (a.k.a. The Hound, an astute and encyclopedic blues and soul-ologist with a great blog) and Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (of the Del-Lords, and eventually lead guitarist in Steve Earle’s band) had a game plan: create a space that nurtures artists rather than exploiting them as so many venues do. And they stuck to that plan. Before long, Lakeside had become a mecca for good music. For several years, there was literally a good band here just about every night with the exception of the few holidays when the bar was closed. Artists far too popular for the back room would play here just for the fun of it: Earle, Rudy Ray Moore, Graham Parker, John Sinclair, the Sadies, Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby all had gigs here, some of them more than once. Dee Dee Ramone hung out here and eventually did a book signing on the little stage in the back, with people lined up around the block. Steve Wynn had a weekly residency here for a bit (which was amazing). The place helped launch the careers of countless Americana-ish acts including Laura Cantrell, Amy Allison, Mary Lee’s Corvette, Megan Reilly, Tom Clark & the High Action Boys, Tammy Faye Starlite and Spanking Charlene and sustained countless others through good times and bad. And as much as most of the bands played some kind of twangy rock, booking here was actually very eclectic: chanteuses Erica Smith and Jenifer Jackson, indie pop mastermind Ward White, punk rockers Ff and several surf bands from Laika & the Cosmonauts to the Sea Devils all played here.

As the toxic waves of gentrification pushed deeper into the East Village, Lakeside never changed. You could still get a $3 Pabst, or a very stiff well drink for twice that. Their half-price happy hour lasted til 8 PM. The jukebox was expensive (two plays for a buck) but was loaded with obscure R&B, blues and country treasures from the 40s through the 60s. Countless bands used their black-and-white photo booth for album cover shots. Their bar staff had personalities: rather than constantly texting or checking their Facebook pages, they’d talk to you. And they’d become your friends if you hung out and got to know them. Some were sweet, some had a mean streak, but it seemed that there was a rule that to work at Lakeside, you had to be smart, and you had to be cool.

But times changed. To a generation of pampered, status-grubbing white invaders from the suburbs, Lakeside made no sense. The place wasn’t kitschy because its owners were genuinely committed to it, and to the musicians who played there. It had no status appeal because it was cheap, dingy and roughhewn, and Ambel refused to book trendy bands. Had they renovated, put in sconces and ash-blonde paneling, laid some tile on the concrete floor, kicked out the bands and brought in “celebrity DJ’s” and started serving $19 artisanal cocktails, they might have survived. But that would have been suicide. It wouldn’t have been Lakeside anymore.

There won’t be any closing party, but the bands on the club calendar will be playing their scheduled shows. Ambel plays the final show at 9 on the 30th. Before then, stop in and say goodbye to a quintessential New York treasure.