New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: loop music

Catchy Space-Pop From Violinist Alicia Enstrom

The instrumentals on violinist Alicia Enstrom’s lushly atmospheric new loopmusic album Monsters – streaming at youtube – are also part of a larger concerto. There are vocal numbers on the record as well: it’s just Enstrom (whose name is an anagram of “monster”), her voice, fiddle and loop pedal.

She opens the record with the slowly swaying title track, a catchy, vampy trip-hop tune with coy cartoon-monster flourishes. Half Moon starts out with spiky, echoey pizzicato, balanced by sweeping ambience: it could be Bjork at her most symphonic. Goodnight Nebraska – a shout-out to Enstrom’s home state – is the album’s most Lynchian track, a flamenco-tinged melody awash in reverb and slowly shifting tectonics.

The terse, Bach-like arpeggios in Big Idea make it the album’s most classically-influenced moment. Enstrom winds it up with Lies, a trip-hop song with more than a hint of circus rock, which comes as no surprise since Enstrom’s big gig so far has been with a famous acrobatic troupe. Fans of dark catchy pop with orchestral flourishes – think Amanda Palmer – ought to check her out.

A Killer Noisy-But-Tuneful Triplebill at Glasslands

Tuesday night’s show at Glasslands was as good as the segues were weird. You might not guess that a free jazz freakout followed by artfully if haphazardly assembled, psychedelically tinged soul music and then an explosive female-fronted rock band would make any sense together, but it all did. Was Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier going to break his sticks, shatter a cymbal or puncture a drumhead with his axe-murderer attack on the kit? After his barely half-hour set with the trio Short Nerve ended with a final wallop, it seemed that he’d gotten two out of three, at least. Marimbist William Mcyntire played good cop to Saunier’s relentless, Weasel Walter-ish assault, with lingering, resonant lines and rippling neoromantic cascades, while guitarist Ofir Ganon hung back with a spacious, often eerily echoey approach that brought to mind 60s avant garde great Gabor Szabo. That was the trio’s game plan early on, in an explosive, nonstop performance that rose and fell in waves, building to a couple of crazed cyclotron crescendos.

Adam Schatz of Landlady followed with a nimbly executed set of loopmusic soul that drew deeply on classic blues and soul music from the 50s through the 70s. Schatz began with a surreal, dizzying pastiche of dark blues motives and then played a handful of originals that evoked both Bill Withers and Al Green in places. Schatz’s gritty, expressive voice brought to mind the former more than the latter as he shifted from tenor sax to keyboards with the kind of split-second choreography you need if you’re going to construct a song out of loops, live onstage without a net, and make it work. He ended his roughly half an hour onstage by going out into the crowd with his sax to lead them in an animated singalong of P-Funk’s I Got a Thing.

Eula headlined. They’re an amazing band, plain and simple, with an intense, instantly recognizable sound, part postpunk, part noiserock, punctuating their jaggedly catchy themes with hard-hitting, hypnotic interludes that you could call postrock. The trio of frontwoman/guitarist Alyse Lamb, bassist Jeff Maleri and drummer Stephen Reader took the stage joined by guitarist Chris Mulligan – who played terse, incisive licks against Lamb’s searing, sinister chords – along with clarinetist Jason Shelton, whose washes of sound added a distantly flickering ambience. From the dusky, hypnotically galloping, qawwali-esque groove of their opener, Noose, they established a menacing ambience  that seldom relented. Why is it that so many lefty guitarists – Hendrix, Otis Rush, Randi Russo and Lamb herself – have such individualistic styles? She was inspiring to watch, leaping from flurries of abrasive noise, to ringing downstroke punk, the occasional dreampop swirl and on one of the set’s later numbers, an achingly unresolved yet wickedly catchy series of acidic chords that Thurston Moore would have been proud to come up with. While the band’s songs were short, seldom clocking in at more than a couple of minutes apiece, Lamb varied her attack and her dynamics as she explored every dark corner of the fretboard.

When she talked to the crowd, she was friendly and vivacious, but when she went to the mic there was venom in her voice and in an instant she’d reestalished a disquieting mood. The special guests stuck around for the second song, Your Beat, an even more hypnotic, one-chord minor key tune followed by the funky, Gang of Four-inflected Things, one of many new songs in the tantalizingly brief set. They brought back the qawwali sonics and raised them to a hardcore stomp on the next song, Aplomb, following with I Collapse, with its swaying groove and biting, vintage 80s Sonic Youth/Live Skull hooks. On the night’s last, savagely brief tune, Meadows, Lamb didn’t even bother playing chords or a melody, hitting her open strings and punctuating the wash of sound with rhythmic shrieks of feedback from her overdriven amp. It’s a simple trick, one you’d think someone else would have used before, and it was an apt way to close the show and sum up what this band’s about.

Deep Noir with Ben Von Wildenhaus

Ben Von Wildenhaus, connoisseur of noir guitar, played Zebulon last night. It was a show worthy of Jim Campilongo, or Duke Levine, or Marc Ribot, all guitarists that Von Wildenhaus resembles. But while he pulls ideas from the depths of a seemingly bottomless pit of every lurid trick in the cinematic guitar playbook, his style is completely original. His website sardonically mentions from time to time that he plays “with a professional band;” last night that professional band was the usual effects (delay and a swollen river of reverb) plus a couple of loop pedals and what looked like a shortwave radio that he’d dial for drones, or for weirdly keening Dr. Dre-style pitches. Slowly building from a forlorn, forsakenly spacious wee-hours theme, from that point Von Wildenhaus would usually lay down a simple two or four-note bassline and then take his time filling in the blanks.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the show was that he didn’t simply add layers of melody until the loop was complete, as Jon Brion will do – there always seemed to be all kinds of improvisation going on. Once in awhile he’d take what seemed a split-second pause to pedal in or simply play a couple bars of a new riff after he’d had enough of the old one. He’d get the twangy effect of a tremolo bar by bending the neck of his Gibson SG ever so slightly, Campilongo style; when he wailed up and down on the strings, it wasn’t for a savage chord-chopping effect but for a flurry or a smear of chromatic morbidness. For the most part, he hung around the lowest, most resonant notes on the guitar, places where so many players fear to tread. This was the slow, Lynchian, angst-ridden set, populated with haunted spaghetti western vistas, rain-drenched cityscapes and sepulchral mariachi overtones in lieu of manic depressive, Mingus-esque chase scenes. Von Wildenhaus found the noir lurking at the surface of a popular Ethiopian riff that a million funk bands have appropriated but never take anywhere near that level of menace, took his time with a morose Middle Eastern passage that lurched apprehensively into a biting, stop-time tango in 7/8 and then an even murkier, echoey theme that sounded like 9/4 or could have been considerably more complicated. The unexpected acidity of one particular gypsy-infused turnaround echoed another darkly individualistic player, Jack Martin of the Dimestore Dance Band, who were scheduled to headline as a two-piece.

What’s more is that Von Wildenhaus got the crowd to shut up. While there were a lot of fans in the house, some obviously weren’t, including one particular ditz who went on and on about how her BBFFF-du-jour’s unsteady chair was “finicky” – she couldn’t come up with the right word, but, you know, what-evvvv. That those people stayed more or less silenced until the end bears witness to the haunting power of the music. What about Dimestore? For the 99%, everyone’s a slave to the trains and it was getting late. Looking forward to the next one, guys, hopefully with the full band.