New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: Maria Eisen sax

Underground System Bring Their Trippy Afrobeat and Dancefloor Sounds to Two Hometown Gigs

Underground System are one of New York’s funnest party bands. They blend original Afrobeat jams with hard funk and psychedelia along with tinges of tropical and Mediterranean sounds. Charismatic frontwoman Domenica Fossati adds flute and percussion to the mix, and her allusive lyrics often tackle important sociopolitical issues. The band’s debut full-length album What Are You is streaming at Bandcamp; They’re at Bric Arts on March 7 at 8 PM, opening for mesmerizing Palestinian hip-hop/dancehall reggae/habibi pop band 47soul; advance tix are $15 and available at the front desk for those who want to avoid service charges. Underground System are also at C’Mon Everybody on March 22 at 11 for five bucks less.

The album’s opening number, Three’s a Charm has a loping goove, Peter Matson building contrasting layers of gritty guitar and sleek synth over a loopy, punchy backdrop supplied by drummer Yoshio Kobayashi and bassist Jonathan Granoff. They follow a brief, swirly flute-and-synth intro into Go, a hypnotic escape anthem for the dancefloor

As she does in many of her songs, Fossati codeswitches between Spanish and English in the sarcastic, confrontational Rent Party, Maria Eisen tossing in some extra spice with her baritone sax over a catchy, psychedelically looping bass riff,. The album’s title track has more pillowy ambience over a stabbing Afrobeat drive, Eisen adding a sailing, echoey solo overhead.

They keep a hypnotic disco pulse going throughout Just a Place, an organic take on EDM with loopy chicken-scratch guitar and allusions to the disorienting, displacing effects of gentrification. Fossati  swittches to Italian for over a looped Afrobeat bass riff in the brief Sebben (La Lega), followed by State of Mind, a return to the gritty/slick dichotomy of the album’s opening number

If New Order had a thing for Afrobeat back in the early 80s, they would have written something  like What’s It Gonna Take. The album’s final track is Nmani, a surreal mashup of synthy laptop pop and what sounds like Congolese mbira music. If you’re in the mood for psychedelic sounds that also move your feet, or party music that entertains your brain, this is your jam.

The New York Fowl Harmonic Bring Their Snide Punk Take on Music From All Over the Map to Hank’s

Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between low-register reed maven Stefan Zeniuk’s Gato Loco and the New York Fowl Harmonic. Both could be called punk mambo bands. Where Gato Loco are more orchestral – their magnum opus so far is a careening, mammoth reinvention of the Verdi Requiem – the Fowl Harmonic are more punk, and have a snide, surreal, psychedelic side in the same vein as a lot of the bands from the old Freddy’s Bar scene before that venue was forced to relocate to Park Slope.

Late last month the Fowl Harmonic headlined a searing twinbill at Hank’s, after a volcanic set by one of New York’s most surrealistically intense heavy psychedelic bands, Greek Judas. That’s where Zeniuk’s crew will be on Nov 20 at around 10, followed by the similarly punk, more Balkan-inspired Stumblebum Brass Band. Cover is $10.

A lot of the material at the September Hank’s show was drawn from the Fowl Harmonic’s one and only release so far, Rubber Poultry, streaming at Bandcamp. They don’t mess around letting you know what they’re all about with the first cut, B.F.D. – it’s a Celtic punk tune whose title stands for Big Fucking…you guess the rest. Obvious, sure, but it’s fun

Frontman Brer Brian’s guitar squalls along with Zeniuk’s baritone sax and Maria Eisen’s tenor over the elephantine sway from bassist Peter Maness and drummer Ray Belli in the album’s second track, White Walls, which could be a cynical commentary on gentrification, or about insanity – or both.

Boobies, a cumbia that lumbers more than it slinks, is is another reeeeeeeal subtle one. Eisen takes over the mic on Manhole, a punk soul tune that could be the Brooklyn What with horns and a woman out front.

The band really kicked up a storm at the September gig with Dustmites, a pretty gruesome lati ska tune with a sizzling coversation between all the horns, Zeniuk and trumpeter Jackie Coleman leading the charge. Eisen takes over vocals again on New Chief, a garage-punk number.

Hair’s On Fire is the most psycho and psychedelic of all the tracks here – if memory serves right, they really jammed this one out at the show as well. A menacing, vampy horror surf-tinged instrumental set to a frantic racewalking bassline, Ultimate Opening is the closest thing to Gato Loco here. They close the record with Cafe Bustelo, a haphazard, punchy blast of salsa punk.

Skatalites Classics From a Fiery Horn Band at Barbes on the 26th

Pangari & the Socialites are probably at the top of the pool of New York bands most likely to change their name. They’re a bunch of up-and-coming jazz types playing ska…just like the Skatalites were doing fifty-plus years ago. While this roughly ten-piece ensemble isn’t mashing up calypso, jazz and early 60s American soul music and inventing a brand new style like Lloyd Knibb, Don Drummond and the rest of that iconic Jamaican crew, they do justice to the group’s classics and also some obscurities. And just like the Skatalites would do in concert, they really stretch the songs out. Their next gig is at Barbes on April 26 at 8 PM.

They played Barbes back in January. Bandleader/bassist Ari Folman-Cohen kicked off the uneasy, minor-key opening number in tandem with the pianist, trumpets punching in and out in tight harmony as the trombones loomed overhead. Since these songs are mostly instrumentals, most of them pretty famous – at least in the ska demimonde – the group didn’t bother with intros, just launched into one jaunty skank after another, usually with a tasty one-drop flurry on the turnaround..

The band tackled the songs more expansively as the set went on, keeping things short and sweet in the beginning. Solos were generously and evenly distributed among the band. One jaggedly edgy alto sax ended with a menacing chromatic run down the scale; another built achingly intense ambience with a series of long, sputtering blue notes. Elegantly resonant trombone backed away as frenetically shivery trumpet and then a spine-tingling, Balkan-tinged alto solo took centerstage.

The pianist added latin flair; the guitarist went for 60s-style psychedelic soul. The most ambitious soloist was baritone sax player Maria Eisen, whether grounding a lush, airy chart with smoky, rapidfire, bluesy lines, or spiraling to the top of her register with an irrepressibly hard-edged attack. Midway through the show, they brought up a singer and took a turn into balmy rocksteady – Turn Your Lamp Down Low, and Jackie Edwards’ Tears Like Rain – before picking up the pace again.

After the show, one of the band members took the singer aside. “You know, if you learn all of this stuff, somebody is going to offer you a gig someday, and that’ll be money,” he confided. Words of wisdom, As long as there are high school kids just getting a taste of punk rock and everything related to it, a ska gig will always be a good one.