New York Music Daily

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Tag: lisa dowling bass

Lisa Dowling Holds the Crowd Spellbound with Kills to Kisses

Bassist Lisa Dowling‘s chops on the four strings are well respected throughout the far, adventurous reaches of indie classical, postrock and improvised music. What was most striking about her solo show last night at Spectrum was how dynamic and powerful a singer she is. With split-second timing and the help of her trusty loop pedal, she held the crowd rapt, building an eclectic set of both vocal numbers and instrumentals that drew on styles as diverse as art-rock, 90s trip-hop, acid jazz and horizontal music.

Much of the material was taken from her Kills to Kisses album Lullaby Apocalypse. While some of it brought to mind Bjork in a more somber moment, or Kate Bush (the lone artist Dowling covered during her set), Dowling has a distinctive, individual sound. There are other bassists who play loopmusic – notably Florent Ghys – but Dowling relies far less on electronics and uses her bow more. The result was as darkly hypnotic and enveloping as it was kinetic.

Throughout the set, Dowling employed all sorts of extended technique for whispery, keening harmonics, or sudden bursts or shrieks that she’d sometimes run mutedly through the pedal as a rhythmic device. As the loops circled around, she’d often manipulate the timbre or volume while adding additional harmonies or textures overhead. That intricate approach contrasted with the starkness and directness of her lowest-register melodies. Her vocals were similarly diverse, ranging from jazzy scatting, to moody and plaintive, to a full-gale wail. The one number that she shrugged off as her lone venture into dance-pop turned out to be a detour into elegant trip-hop, in the same vein as Mum or Eve Lesov‘s early work.

Dowling’s cover of the Kate Bush cult classic Babushka began as a spare, aptly Slavic folk-tinged dirge, eventually reaching towering, dramatic proportions, a platform for Dowling to air out her voice’s highest registers as she reached for the rafters. One of the strongest songs in the set was a new one, awash in tersely atmospheric, Julia Kent-ish gravitas. Reverberating deep-space echoes sat side by side with flitting, sepulchral textures. The concert came full circle at the end with a dreamily pulsing art-pop number. When there were lyrics, they tended to be clever and playful. Dowling is probably the only artist to ever use the latin pronoun “quo” twice in the same song without sounding pedantic. She’s at Cake Shop on August 1 at 10 PM; cover is $8.

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Downtown Luminaries and Secret Special Guests Play Richard Thompson and Graham Parker at the Mercury this Sunday

The classic album night was invented at the Bottom Line, the West 4th Street venue shuttered in 2004 after their landlord, New York University, raised their rent in order to kick them out for good since they owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent. At that point, the gay couple who owned the club were getting old but were stubbornly still booking has-beens from the venue’s glory days in the 70s, when Bruce Springsteen sold out a weeklong stand and Lou Reed recorded his Take No Prisoners album there. Attrition is a cruel thing, and it did the Bottom Line in.

Still, the club made the occasional halfhearted attempt to draw a crowd. The most successful, at least moneywise, were the classic album nights. It’s not clear who did the first album cover night there: it might have been New Jersey bar band leader Gary Myrick, or it might have been the crew who eventually morphed into the Loser’s Lounge contingent, whose preference for cheese and camp typically overwhelmed any lackadaisical attempt to do justice to the songs, such as they were, Either way, it was a cheap way to pack the club. Thirty people in the band, running on and offstage, everybody bringing a girlfriend or boyfriend, maybe even another friend or two? Multiply that by what was then a stiff twenty dollar cover…and no drink tickets for the band, since there were so many musicians. Pure gravy for the venue – especially since everyone except for the organizers were playing for free.

In the decade or so since the Bottom Line closed, there have been innumerable other classic album nights staged across this city. Some of the less crassly commercial ones have been transcendent: Mary Lee’s Corvette outdid Dylan with their live version of Blood on the Tracks the first time around, released it on album, then played it again live, twelve years later. System Noise, who morphed into Americana jamband the Sometime Boys, sold out venues all over town with their Ziggy Stardust cover nights. There’s a classic album twinbill coming up at 6 (six) PM on Sunday, March 22 at the Mercury that threatens to rival both of those, where an A-list of downtown NYC talent will be covering both Richard & Linda Thompson’s iconic Shoot Out the Lights album as well as Graham Parker’s new wave cult classic Squeezing Out Sparks.

What might be coolest about this is that this is the second time this crew will be doing Shoot Out the Lights. They played it last November at Tom Clark’s weekly Sunday night Treehouse Americana extravaganza at 2A, so if there were any bugs to work out, those should be history (the whole night was recorded and is up at youtube). Bass player Tom Shad gets credit with coming up with the idea; guitarist Rich Feridun is unbelievable as he channels Thompson’s tortured clusters and spirals. The rest of the band that night included Ward White and Erica Smith on vocals (just watch her wailing her way through Wall of Death, relishing every line); Dave Foster on guitar and vocals; Lizzie Edwards on harmonies; Charlie Roth on keys and Chris Schulz on drums. It’s not clear exactly who’s doing what this time around, but the cast has been expanded to include powerpop maven John Sharples, American Ambulance’s Pete Cenedella, star bassist Lisa Dowling, Matt Keating. and Tim Simmonds of Admiral Porkbrain, among others. Cover is ten bucks. And there will be special guests…but this blog is sworn to secrecy. Hint: some of them, um, might have played on the originals.