New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: mark marshall guitar

Summer Memories: A Great, Obscure Show by SLV

SLV are one of the most entertaining bands in New York to watch. They’re all about textures, meaning that everybody in the band is constantly shifting from one thing to another. Frontwoman/multi-instrumentalist Sandra Lilia Velasquez’s other band, Pistolera, plays pretty straight-up jangly rock with a Mexican folk edge. This band is a lot more complicated. Velasquez writes very simple, catchy, direct themes, then builds them kaleidoscopically with an endlessly psychedelic stream of timbral shifts and exchanges between instruments over a hypnotic groove that sometimes rises with a completely unexpected explosiveness. Portishead and Stereolab seem to be strong influences, as is Sade (a singer Velasquez has grown to resemble, but with more bite and energy) and possibly artsy pop bands from the new wave era like ABC and Ultravox.

SLV played a big gig earlier this summer at South Street Seaport that was reputedly very well-attended (this blog wasn’t there). Hot on the heels of that one, they played another one at a small venue way uptown that was not. From the perspective of one of maybe two customers in the entire house, it was like getting a personal SLV show, and that was a lot of fun. Velasquez sang in both English and Spanish with her eyes closed, lost in the dreamy wash of textures floating over the groove – except when she was trading animated riffs with guitarist Mark Marshall, bassist/keyboardist Jordan Scannella and drummer Sean Dixon.

The show was more of a single, integral experience than a series of songs. Marshall kicked it off with with a hammering drum duel with Dixon before the bandleader took the song in a hazy, Sade-esque direction – her moody alto delivery has never been more expressive or enticing. They kept a similarly gauzy/jaunty dichotomy going through the next song, then Velasquez switched from guitar to keys for a number something akin to a funkier update on Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill. From there they made their way through an intricately rhythmic, swaying number that contrasted ambient atmospherics with Marshall’s incisive, stabbing lines.

The most intense number of the night was the most stripped-down one, History, Marshall playing its brooding Neil Young-esque changes as Velasquez intoned the lyrics – a caustic commentary on media duplicity – with a muted anger. Through a Pink Floyd-ish interlude with a spine-tingling, Gilmouresque Marshall guitar solo, an artsy 80s-tinged trip-hop number, and a Beatles/tango mashup with some deliciously icy vintage chorus-box guitar, the band kept up the endless series of elegant handoffs and exchanges. They closed with a jangly, biting version of Never Enough, the opening track on the band’s Meshell Ndgeocello-produced ep, sounding something like a trip-hop version of the old Golden Earring hit Twilight Zone. SLV are back in the studio now; keep your eyes posted for some of this new material to surface sooner than later.

Maracatu New York Reinvents a Mighty Brazilian Dance Groove

Long ago and far away in distant lands (and here as well), music was less spectacle than participatory event. If there was a band in your village, you were probably in it, playing, singing, dancing, or banging on something. Maracatu is all about banging on things – in Brazil, it’s not uncommon to see a hundred drummers in the band. Nation Beat drummer Scott Kettner may not have introduced this high-energy sound to New York, but over the past decade he’s became the city’s foremost advocate for it. His latest ensemble, Maracatu New York plays a slightly smaller-scale but no less intense version of the real thing, updated with a tuneful wit in the same vein as what Chicha Libre has done with classic 1970s Peruvian surf rock. Maracatu New York’s next concert is the release show for their debut album, Baque de Brooklyn at Littlefield on July 26 at around 9. As a special treat, the show also marks the North American debut of legendary Brazilian troupe Maracatu Nacao Encanto da Alegria, who’ve been keeping the mammoth, pummeling yet hypnotic sound alive for over a hundred years. Maracatu New York is also at Lincoln Center Out of Doors on August 2 at around 7 with another major Brazilian ensemble, Maracatu Nacao Estrela Brilhante.

On the new album, a series of drumline vamps are interspersed between songs. Fueled by multiple bass drums, they’re very hypnotic. That aspect is explained by the simple fact that as with western drumline charts, with a hundred or more players in the group, everybody’s got to be on the same page. The funniest song here is a maracatu cover of Led Zeppelin’s Over the Hills and Far Away, Liliana Araujo doing a LMAO-funny Robert Plant impression. The best song is Caboclo Big Chief, one of several Kettner originals, a twangy instrumental fueled by Mark Marshall’s twelve-string guitar: it sounds like chicha with a beefier bottom end. Marshall also contributes layers of slide guitar and a chicha flavor to Carlinhos Pandiero de Oro’s Vou Doom.

The opening track has a carefree Mexican folk feel, with buoyant vocals from Araujo and Fabiana Masili and a balmy yet propulsive Brian Drye trombone solo. The second,  from the repertoire of Maracatu Nacao Leao Coroado sounds like a cross between Ethiopian and Balkan brass music, with trickier rhythm. One of the later numbers has tinges of New Orleans music, something Kettner knows a little something about. As the album goes on, Kettner leads the group into a wry Brazilian take on fife-and-drum music and then adds hip-hop flavor to his shout-out to the Gowanus. Speaking of hip-hop, these beats scream out to be sampled, and with the bass drums going full steam, they’re plenty phat.