New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: metal rock

You Can Lead a Bushwick Crowd to Water But…

The Man in the Long Black Coat turns through the entryway and enters the Bushwick bar. Other than a few gaggles of gentrifiers, it’s pretty empty. The walls are festooned with leftwing slogans, but the beer prices don’t match the decor. Nor should they, really. This is all for show, the man decides. It’s a Kafka short story, The Department of Protests. You see the bureaucrat, you sign up to rally about your favorite issue: the weather, catcalls, cruelty to pet marmosets. Anything you want, really, unless that might impede the steady flow of income upward from the working class to the gentrifiers’ parents.

This bar has a reputation for things starting late. Nublu late. Which explains why nothing’s happening yet. The man decides to take a walk around the neighborhood, a dubious choice considering that it’s nine in the evening. On his way out, he almost bumps head-on into a friend, who’s carrying her axe. They greet each other; he swings the door wide so that she can make her way in. “See ya in a bit,” he says brightly.

He’s lying. He has no intention of coming back til showtime. When he reaches the corner, he decides to take a left on Irving for once. Walking toward Myrtle, he stops in at a couple of delis to see if they have his favorite beer. But they don’t carry it.

The Man in the Long Black Coat doesn’t even like beer. But it’s cheaper than anything available at the yuppie wine stores – which at this hour are still open, even if nobody’s in there. Just as well, he thinks. The sidewalks may be deserted at this hour, but the cops always put undercovers out in front of the luxury condos.

Past the park, a guy with a backpack approaches from behind. Suddenly he’s a little too close for comfort. The man weighs the possibility of danger, pulls to the right, then with a quick backward glance takes his phone out of his pocket.  He puts it to his ear. “What?” he asks sharply.

There’s nobody at the other end. But that doesn’t matter. “I’m on Irving and, um, Hart Street,” the man says with a hint of aggravation. He prepares for plan B.

But there’s no need. The guy with the backpack – a blue-collar kid in cheap work boots, jeans and a vinyl winter coat – passes on the left. The man puts his phone back as the kid shuffles along.

As he gets closer to Myrtle, the man brightens as he passes a couple of lowlit Ecuadorian delis. Brightly colored bags of snacks, tropical fruit soda and dried chiles are visible from outside. The man considers going in – he’s running out of hot pepper at home – but decides it would look weird if he brought a bag of groceries into the bar. Out here the new arrivals don’t shop anywhere but Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, or from the expensive Korean delis.

He turns around when he hits Myrtle, retracing his steps, one eye over his shoulder. Luxury condos, undercover cops or not, this is still a dangerous neighborhood. But none of the delis have his first choice of beer – and by now he could use one.

Returning to the bar, his timing turns out to be perfect. The roughly eighteen members of Funkrust Brass Band file from the back room to the front: first the reeds, then brass, then the drummers. They all wear black costumes. The horn players’ valves are all lit up in white like little Christmas trees. Their frontwoman has a bullhorn and leads the band in a chant as the horns pump out a catchy march. They have a theme song! Slowly, one by one, they march back to the inner room.

Several of the customers from the front follow them in, mystified. If they’ve ever seen a street band before, they’ve never been this close. And this group is very theatrical. In formation like a phalanx of soldiers, they crouch, and leap, and strike poses. One of their trumpet players climbs way up by the PA system, balances precariously on something extruding and plays a mean solo. For a moment, the crowd is into it.

For a band who don’t tour much or even play out a lot, they’re very tight. Just as impressive, the man thinks, is that half of their members are women. Even by punk rock standards, that’s noteworthy.  Although they use a lot of minor keys, their songs are closer to punk than Balkan music – and they’re catchy.

The man finds himself nodding along as the trombones blaze and snort and the drums rumble. “Why are we alone?” the group sing in unison throughout one of the quieter vamps. Out of biological necessity, the man wants to tell them. If we were telepathic, it would kill us. If we could feel everyone’s pain, we’d be dead in a nanosecond. But he doesn’t say anything.

The novelty wears off, the crowd starts to filter out and two catchy, thumping numbers later, the band is done. Though what they play is obviously dance music – or at least you can march to it – nobody dances. Afterward, their singer mingles with what’s left of the crowd, handing out buttons and taking emails. The kids seems receptive – that’s a good sign, the man thinks.

Greek Judas play afterward and pretty much completely clear the room. The man finds this amusing, considering that they packed Hank’s the last time they played the place. But this is Bushwick, and the newcomers obviously have no use for loud heavy metal versions of Middle Eastern flavored crime rhymes from the 1930s Greek gangster underworld.

From the first few notes of the first song, it’s clear that singer Quince Marcum – who sings in Greek even if he doesn’t speak it – is way too low in the mix. Afterward, he turns up – and so do his bandmates. Wade Ripka eventually switches from guitar to lapsteel for extra marauding resonance while Strat player Adam Good plays gritty chromatics and some oud voicings – which makes sense considering he’s also an oudist. A mask hangs from the back of Marcum’s head; Good wears a Batman-style mask. Bassist Nick Cudahy plays simple, hypnotic intervals on a big, beautiful Gibson Firebird model and sports a deer mask. Drummer Chris Stromquist is also some equine creature, and makes it look easy as he follows the songs’ tricky meters. He should be the group’s Minotaur – he knows this labyrinth by heart.

Marcum gamely explains a few of the narratives – a guy lusting after a cute Romany girl in the adjacent public bath; two smalltime crooks planning on resuming their music careers once they get out of jail; and a crack whore on the streets of Athens in the 1920s. But there’s hardly anyone there to explain them to. The band soldier on, determined to have some fun even if nobody else is there to share it with them. That’s ok, the man thinks. This isn’t their turf anyway. Or mine either. After their last song, he exits without a word.

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Revisiting a Heavy Psych Milestone by Electric Citizen

Today’s Halloween album is Higher Time by Electric Citizen, streaming at Bandcamp. One of the few female-fronted heavy psych bands, the Cincinnati group’s 2016 second album is the band’s best and heaviest so far.

It opens with the uneasy gallop of the gloomy, regret-infused opening track, Crux, Andrew Higley’a organ doubling Ross Dolan’s distorted guitar lines, up to a bluesy guitar solo on the way out. If Tony Iommi had stuck with Jethro Tull through Aqualung and had convinced Ian Anderson to take a backseat to a charismatic woman, Devil’s in the Passing Time might have been the result. Likewise, if Blondie and Sabbath had a bastard child, it would be Evil – the Electric Citizen song, that is.

Frontwoman Laura Dolan’s Ozzy-on-oxy vocals float over the galloping fuzztone blast in Ghost up to a a couple of fryolator organ breaks. Likewise, her achingly bluesy bends elevate Golden Mean above the legions of well-intentioned but derivatively riffing Sabbath imitators. The album’s title track blends swirl and crunch through a punishing attack that disintegrates to an echoey haze; a bittersweet guitar solo reignites everything.

Heavy blues riffage fuels Misery Keeper, which the band takes on a doublespeed sprint midway through before drummer Nate Wagner gets some bludgeoning tradeoffs going with the guitar. The band’s frontwoman gets philosophical over the crashing, slow hammering chords of Natural Law: everything is a dialectic, up to the careening chaos of the twin-tracked guitar solo out.

Social Phobia throws a savage riff or two back in the direction of a classic from Sabbath’s first album, anchored by Randy Proctor’s fat, distorted bass; it’s also the point where the guitar finally cuts loose with some supersonic blasts. The album’s final cut is Two Hearted Woman: imagine the early MC5 with a woman out front. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if metal bands would give up the cartoonish pigsnorting for the kind of vocals that Laura Dolan does here? Wouldn’t it be cool if other guitarists took a cue from this band, made their solos count for something and didn’t waste notes?

A Killer Album from Melodic Metal Band The Lords of Black

Are Trans-Siberian Orchestra a Halloween band? How about Iron Maiden? If you answered yes to both questions, you need to crank the Lords of Black‘s album, simply titled II – streaming at Spotify – at least once this month. If either of those first two groups are your thing, you will probably find yourself blasting this many times. Although there’s plenty here that’s definitely Halloweenish, taken as a whole it comes across as a requiem, more sadness and resignation than venom amidst the bursts and blasts.

While the band’s obvious influence, from Ronnie Romero’s grand guignol vocals, to the machinegunning guitar multitracks of Tony Hernando, is classic mid-80s Maiden, there’s also plenty of bluster and cumulo-nimbus ambience from the synthesized orchestration. Javi Garcia’s ammering bass riffage over Andy C’s bludgeoning drums complete the picture. The cemetery graphics on the album cover give pretty much everything away. And the album’s opening instrumental interlude, Malevolently Beautiful, with its towering twin-guitar attack, makes a solid launching pad for the pummeling first song, Merciless.

The band launches into the fiery anthem Only One Life Away with a tricky icepick rhythm, then the guitars intertwine like martyrs burning at the stake before one spirals away toward Eddie Van Halen territory later on – Hernando isn’t necessarily subtle, but he’s mightily impactful. By contrast, Everything You’re Not opens with unexpectedly pop-oriented piano before the guitars kick in and the storm begins to rage.

New World’s Coming has Exorcist Theme-like piano tinkling evilly behind the guitar crush: call this overhype, but when the volleys of eight-notes kick in, it hits you: this could be a great Maiden track from, say, Powerslave. The band oscillates in and quickly hits a staggering gallop with Cry No More, a toweringly elegaic shout-out to “broken heroes that can’t take it anymore.” Tears I Will Be keeps the drama going full tilt with more of a straight-up, volleying drive, some serious chromatic menace and Adrian Smith-like sprints down the fretboard (and a real Spinal Tap moment on the first chorus – it’s hilarious, and probably not intentional).

The band pulls back, but just a little bit, with Insane, a midtempo minor-key burner. Live By the Lie, Die By the Truth kicks off as what would have been the most likely track to get radio airplay if this was 1985, but by midway through, the savage volleys of tremolo-picking make it the album’s heaviest cut.

Ghost of You is the album’s most epic track: baroque acoustic guitar and toxic atmospherics mingle with a grimly wary dirge, shades of Maiden’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The Art of Illusion Part III: The Wasteland makes a good segue: it’s the ghost riders really soaring through the smoky skies, with some tasty phaser effects. The final cut is the defiantly heroic Shadows of War: assaultive as this band is, war is the last thing they want, as Romero’s Brian Johnson-like scream at the end makes more than clear.

Everyone in the group plays with searing chops. Throughout the album, the production has a magnificence drenched in icy digital reverb: the bass really kicks in when Garcia slams out chords as a chorus reaches combustion point, and the drums are tastefully back in the mix, vinyl record style. As melodic metal goes in 2016, it’s hard to imagine anything more fun than this.

Slow Season Bring Their Wickedly Psychedelic Stoner Metal to Bushwick on the Fifth

Listening to Slow Season‘s deliciously psychedelic 2012 debut – newly remastered for vinyl just this year and streaming at Bandcamp – it’s fun to see how the band has evolved. Even back then, they were heavy – that’s the title of the first song they ever recorded. It’s a boogie, and it’s pretty simple, just a one-chord verse and then a chorus that’s closer to, say, the dark garage rock of the Black Angels than the bludgeoning stoner metal they’re mining these days. But they wind up the song in a flurry of jazz chords. An omen, or just the way it came out? They’re headlining a killer bill at the Acheron on June 5 at around 11; fellow stoners Sun Voyager, who go in a more garagey, early 70s Stooges/Sonics Rendezvous Band direction, hit at around 10. Cover is an absurdly cheap $7.

As for the rest of the record –  a new one is due out this year – it’s a trip. DayGlo Sunrise builds to a snarling interweave of multitracked David Kent wah guitar leads over frontman Daniel Rice’s simple minor-key blues riff. There’s – gasp – acoustic guitar and organ on the dynamically rich, surprisingly Beatlesque Evil Words. Drummer Cody Tarbell – one of the most consistently interesting players in all of rock – anchors the slinky, jangling guitars of Deep Forest with a distant, stygian rumble, and then swings the hell out of it when the band turns it into a boogie.

With its lattice of mandolins and between-Scylla-and-Charybdis metaphors, Ruah looks back to acoustic Zep, while the riff-rocking Coco a Gogo has to be the most unlikely place you’d ever expect to hear an expert Brian Setzer-style rockabilly solo. Bassist Hayden Doyel plays with a gritty, vintage 60s tone beneath the deep, bluesy jangle and clang of No Bridge Rag, which has the feel of what Jimmy Page was doing in the Yardbirds’ final incarnation. The last track is the bone-bleached fuzztone-and-wah epic Bars & Bars.“The flames keep calling,” Rice intones a couple of times at the very end – ain’t that the truth. Come out to the ‘Shweck on the fifth to see how much heavier the band has grown since then.

Beninghove’s Hangmen and Big Lazy in Brooklyn: Noir Music Heaven

Considering that we’re only in March, it’s hardly safe to say that the twinbill coming up this Monday the 14th at around 9 at Manhattan Inn, with Beninghove’s Hangmen and Big Lazy, is the best one of the year. The April 15, 10 PM doublebill of Desert Flower and Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons, at Sidewalk, of all places, looks awfully good. And there will be others. But as far as dark and blackly amusing sounds are concerned, it doesn’t get any better than Monday’s lineup in Greenpoint.

Big Lazy’s set last Friday night at Barbes was surprisingly quirky. Gallows humor, and funny quotes from other songs are familiar tropes for the noir cinematic trio, but frontman/guitarist Steve Ulrich was having an especially good time with them: Mission Impossible, My Funny Valentine, Caravan – which Ulrich has covered murderously well in the past – and a whole bunch of others. And a trio of creepy cover tunes: Girl, by the Beatles, a stabbing version of an Astor Piazzolla tango and an absolutely lurid take of John Barry’s You Only Live Twice, with a savagely tremolo-picked solo midway through.

It was kind of a weird night, if a good one. The crowd wasn’t the usual mobscene that this band draws. Out front at the bar, it looked like the prom bus from Jersey or somewhere in Alabama had just disembarked. Scarier than Big Lazy’s originals – even Park Slope isn’t safe from yuppie puppy zombie apocalypse anymore. But in back, people were dancing in an oasis of reverb guitar and pitchblende basslines.

This Monday’s opening act, Beninghove’s Hangmen work the same turf: raindrenched wee hours crime jazz tableaux and more overtly humorous interludes. Like Ulrich, frontman/multi-saxophonist Bryan Beninghove gets a lot of film work, so his instrumentals can shift shape from, say, blithe to brutal in a split second and the segue doesn’t seem the least bit jarring. Case in point: the title track to their deliciously creepy upcoming album, Pineapples & Ashtrays.

And they’re more of a jamband than Big Lazy. While a lot of their material can be grim, and ghoulish, and sometimes downright morose, they can also be hilarious. The best example is Zohove, their instrumental album of Led Zep covers, streaming at Spotify.. Zep’s music can be awfully funny by itself, and Beninghove’s reimaginings are even funnier.

On the opening track, Kashmir, Rick Parker’s elephantine trombone snorts and Beninghove’s spectacularly swirling soprano sax lines over the stomp behind it elevate it to Vesuvius heights. Heavy new wave rhythm from drummer Kevin Shea (of another even funnier band, Mostly Other People Do the Killing) and bassist Ezra Gale (of dub reggae crew Super Hi-Fi, who are also hardly strangers to funny songs) might be the last thing you might expect to work in a cover of Misty Mountain Hop, but it does. And the guitar is trippy behond belief: Eyal Maoz’s droll Spinal Tap bends over Dane Johnson’s Jabba the Hut Space Lounge electro-breakdown.

What Is and What Never Should Be is a droll mashup of quotes:You Can’t Just Get What You Want, ad infinitum. Likewise, the album’s title track, a sort of a greatest-riffs collection, cleverly disassembled in the same vein as what you find in how-to books like “Play Guitar in the Style of Tony Iommi.”

The group’s version of Immigrant Song substitutes Bennghove’s sax and Parker’s trombone for Robert Plant’s bleat – and it’s priceless. A shivery twin guitar solo decays toward the noir the band’s known for, over dancing bass to match Beninghove’s bluesy tenor spirals

It’s amazing how they reinvent D’yer Maker as uneasy, metrically tricky noir ska, and then an Afrobeat epic, And the Specials quote at the end is LMFAO too. The album ends with a slinking, incendiary take of When the Levee Breaks fueled by blue-flame slide guitar worthy of Jimmy Page himself. It’s the one place on the album where the band actually seems to take the material seriously, and it might be the best track of all. Get this and get a roomful of Zep fans laughing their collective asses off. Beninghove’s Hangmen usually play at least one Zep cover at most of their shows, so we’re likely to get some of this buffoonery Monday night in Brooklyn.

Greek Judas Bring Their Ferociously Psychedelic Middle Eastern-Flavored Metal Back to Barbes

There’s so much going on in this city that even with the ongoing gentrification-driven brain drain depleting the talent base, there’s more good music than a single blog could conceivably cover. Which creates a triage situation. Doesn’t it make the most sense to cast as wide a net as possible rather than focusing on one scene, which in this city, these days, is probably more of a micro-scene anyway? On the other hand, some bands are so much fun that you want to see them again. For example, this blog caught Greek Judas’ first-ever show at Barbes last year, which was so interesting, and so much different from anything else in town right now. Their next gig is back at Barbes at 10 PM on February 25.

The prospect of seeing the group – who do artsy metal covers of obscure, Middle Eastern-flavored gangster songs from the 1920s and 1930s Greek underground – on Lemmy’s birthday (RIP) was impossible to resist, especially since it was an early afterwork show. That made it easy to run to the G train afterward before the line went dead and hightail it over to Williamsburg to grab a couple of drinks at Duff’s. And then head up to Grand Victory, where Karla Rose & the Thorns finally hit the stage just a little before midnight, then rampaged through a murderously intense set featuring a couple of tunes by the Misfits and Buzzcocks in addition to Rose’s own misterioso minor-key noir narratives.

Greek Judas’ show that evening, as you would expect, was a lot tighter than their debut back in August. The group have been mining the crime rhymes and drugrunning anthems popular among Greek Cypriot refugees of a hundred years ago for awhile, first doing them pretty straight-up under the name Que Vlo-Ve (whose Bandcamp page has an intriguing handful of free downloads). But electrifying the songs (Judas – get it?) seemed inevitable. Guitarist Wade Ripka now switches back and forth between his six-sring and a lapsteel, which he runs through a Fender tube amp with the reverb way up for a ferocious blast of sound. His six-string counterpart Adam Good draws on his chops as A-list Middle Eastern oudist: at this show, the two traded searing, chromatically slashing minor-key verses and ended up stomping all over the end of each others’ phrases to seal the deal.

At both this show and their most recent one at the end of last month at Barbes, frontman Quince Marcum ran his vocals through the board clean without any effects rather than using the trippy, pitch-twisting pedalboard he brought the first time out. He played horn on one of the final numbers, singing in Greek in a strong, resonant baritone. From the perspective of a non-Greek speaker, it’s impossible to get what they do on more than a musical level, but Marcum offers helpful translations and has an unselfconscious passion for the songs. Crack whores, hash smugglers, henpecked husbands, busted beggars trying to outwit the cops, gangsters in jail plotting their next move (let’s get our ouds and jam!) all make appearances. The band’s usual choice of closing number sounds like the Bad Brains.

It’s hard to figure what kind of ceiling any band in town has these days: there’s more money to be made from the road than there is here, that’s for sure. But at the very least, on an artistic level anyway, Greek Judas are on the way up. If only for the cred of being able to saying you were there when it happened, if dark and assaultive sounds are your thing, now’s the time to catch them.

An Intimate Show with Art-Rock Guitar Legend Martin Barre

by David Koral

I used to hold onto my concert ticket stubs, when such things existed. But if the nosebleed-red cardstock from the 1979 Jethro Tull show at Madison Square Garden is still around, it’s likely at the bottom of a landfill, keeping Staten Island warm. I couldn’t help thinking back to it prior to the show last Saturday night, when I overheard some longtime fan lament how it wasn’t right that Martin Barre, who had played large venues in the past, should now appear on such a small stage at the Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side. But back then, as I recall, from an elevation of a mile or so, Martin Barre and his bandmates appeared more or less as stick figures.

Not the case in this ground-floor space, however. On the contrary, it was a great opportunity to see Jethro Tull’s longtime guitarist up close and personal. Taking the stage promptly at seven, he struck the graceful warm-up pose one might expect from a seasoned club performer: with his left arm extended outward, like a ballerina or a Greek statue, he touched a toe to the digital tuner on the floor, and he was ready to rock.

And were those really the opening notes to “To Cry You a Song” I heard? Yes, I do think so. In Dan Crisp, Martin Barre has found a clear-voiced front man with a strong stage manner and well-honed guitar chops, who effortlessly harmonized the lead line on his drool-worthy black Les Paul Custom. Dan was given the first solo, but in no time, Martin was working the neck of his gray Paul Reed Smith, shredding faster than any metalhead I’ve ever seen while anticipating new chord positions and adeptly rolling back the volume to restore dynamics. Watching his fingers like a hawk, I couldn’t help but wonder what gauge of strings he uses; with every subtle touch they bent and quivered, producing sweet squalls through the Marshall cab backed against the wall.

The band continued the momentum with “Minstrel in the Gallery,” but simmered down with the title cut of Barre’s new solo album, Back to Steel. Ably backed by the pulsing bass of Alan Thompson and the steady beat of George Lindsay, the intricate guitar interplay between Martin and his foil recalled Dokken and the mid-’90s progressive metal band Extreme.

Experimenting in the same vein, they covered “Eleanor Rigby,” combining light arpeggios and Spanish guitar figures to re-imagine the refrain from the Beatles’ psychedelic classic. “The English are people of so few words,” Martin said as an introduction, explaining the major difference between “bollocks” (rubbish) and “amazingly bollocks” (the Beatles, in his opinion). It’s a distinction worth bearing in mind, to avoid winding up in a fistfight.

“I take out the bits of songs I don’t like and leave in the ones I do,” he said, revealing a keen sense of humor and setting the stage for what would be the climax of the show. What parts does he like? “Only the guitar solo.” With that, the band launched into a taut rendition of the “Poet and the Painter” section of “Thick as a Brick,” and smoothly transitioned to the “Childhood Heroes” passage.

“We’re just another cover band,” Martin said, introducing tunes by Warren Haynes and Porcupine Tree, before picking up his mandolin for an adaptation of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” that strangely recalled Songs from the Wood. In a black T-shirt and jeans, he looked so much younger and leaner than those very woolen country squires on the cover of Heavy Horses or Bursting Out.

The show concluded with tasty versions of old favorites such as “Teacher” and a bluesy version of “New Day Yesterday.” At the beginning of the show, Martin’s ax was polished so bright you could see your face in it, but rock ’n’ roll does involve sweat, and by the end, great big bullets were rolling off his forehead and onto the flaming maple top.

So, finally, all of us middle-aged teenagers stomped hard and cheered real loud. And guess what happened? He decided to come back out to do an encore, “Locomotive Breath,” with chukka-chukka so delicious it was worth the price of admission, and proving once and for all that flute solos are not necessary for honest rock ’n’ roll.

Planta Bring Their Powerful, Epic, Psychedelic Art-Rock to the West Village This Saturday Night

When as formidable a musician as Desert Flower lead guitarist Migue Mendez says that someone else’s band is better than his own, you have to wonder how amazing that band has to be. On one hand, Mendez was being modest, considering what a volcanic (if sadly abbreviated) set Desert Flower put on a couple of Saturday ago in the wee hours of a Sunday morning at Sidewalk. On the other, the band they followed, Planta, brought a stadium-worthy majesty and titanic sweep rarely seen in such a small venue. Watching the five-piece Queens art-rockers shift through all sorts of permutations, and grooves, and tunes with an epic intensity was like getting to see Pink Floyd in a small club. The show was that good. They’re playing the Bitter End, of all places, at 9:30 PM on December 5, which ought to be even better since that place has a better PA than Sidewalk’s. As a bonus, Bombrasstico, who mash up brass band funk with dancehall reggae and Afrobeat, follow later on the bill around 11:30.

Planta’s debut album, Unwind, is streaming at their music page. A siirening ebow guitar drone underpins the pulsing, minimalist, syncopated title track. Like much of the material here, it echoes the moody post-new wave anthems of legendary Mexican rockers Caifanes. That’s All I Want sways along with a distant, cumbulo-nimbus soundtrack-rock ominousness, then picks up with jangle and slide guitar over bassist Jean-Paul Le Du’s catchy groove; like Radiohead but with more balls. Lazy hints that it’s going in either a happy-go-lucky Vampire Weekend direction, or into folk-rock, but instead goes back toward broodingly catchy Caifanes territory, lead guitarist Marcelo Dominguez first echoing Jerry Garcia in “on” mode, then going into dark, lingering Saul Hernandez territory.

Exiliado has a lush, wounded art-rock sweep, like a blend of Radiohead and Nektar at their most deep-space intense. The twin gutars of Dominguez and frontman Ricardo Ponce mingle and blend with a resonant Pink Floyd grandeur throughout the bitterly pensive Don’t Know You. The final cut is Todo Es un Sueno, slowly taking shape over Le Du’s elegant slides and pulses. As majestic as these songs are on record, they’re even more immense live. This band desreves a stage as big as their sound; right now, you’re lucky enough to be able to catch them when they’re still playing small venues.

Desert Flower Bring Their Smoldering, Intense Heavy Psychedelia to the East Village Saturday Night

On Sundays starting at around 11 in the morning, there’s a flea market at Paperbox in Bushwick. Along with the antiques and tchotchkes and book stalls and used vinyl, there’s street fair food out back, and if you’re of age there are drinks at the bar. A lot of people go here for daydrinking ($3 drafts until 2 PM, yikes!), or to bring the kids and see some live music, because they have bands here. And some of them are fantastic: psychedelic cumbia group Consumata Sonidera treated the crowd to a sizzling show here a couple of weeks ago. The highlight of this past week was a tightly ferocious set by heavy psychedelic band Desert Flower. Although they mash up some very famliiar styles, most of them from the 70s, they’re one of the most individualistic bands in town: there is no other group in New York who sound remotely like them.

One of the keys to their sound is the contrast between the two guitarists. Migue Mendez plays a Gibson SG through a Fender amp with the reverb turned up most of the time, delivering creepily echoing, deep-space quasar leads, menacingly shivery flurries of reverb riffage and sunbaked stoner blues lines. Paola Luna plays a Telecaster, varying her attack from gritty, terse, blues-based riff-rock, to a menacing, sustained minor-key clang. Bassist Seba Fernandez and drummer Alfio Casale cluster and churn as they propel the songs’ generally slow-to-midtempo grooves. Out in front of the band, singer Bela Zap Art sways slowly, eyes closed, completely lost in the music as the waves slowly rise and then break behind her. Much as she has a bluesy wail to match Heart’s Ann Wilson, there’s an elegance and nuance in that powerfullly modulated alto of hers, with touches of cabaret and nuevo tango. Considering that musicians tend to be night creatures, Desert Flower ought to be even more careeningly powerful when they play Sidewalk this Saturday night, November 14 at midnight

The Paperbox show opened with a flurry of drums and growling, trebly bass, Fernandez playing off to the side of the stage as the briskly ominous stomp built steam, part early Siouxsie, part early 90s NYC gutter blues, part punk, Mendez building to an all-too-brief, searing solo toward the end. And a listen back to the recording reveals something that was anything but obvious at the moment: the song doesn’t have any chord changes!

The band likes to segue between songs, and they did that right off the bat, Mendez and Luna flinging dark fragments of melody against each other before the rhythm section came back in, Luna’s sepulchral upper-register shrieks capping off Mendez’s heavy blues lines and mighty, majestic slide playing.  Zap Art bent her notes with a surreal, lysergic ominousness as the song built slowly to a peak.

The most epic song of the set was Traveler, a slow, haunting 6/8 noir blues dirge written by a composer friend from Buenos Aires. After that, they went back to the riff-rock with a moodily shuffling new number, Zap Art bringing to mind blue-eyed soul belters like Genya Ravan when she hit the impassioned, blues-drenched chorus. The band’s most intense original was another marauding 6/8 minor-key anthem: “Falling down from the grey skies,” Zap Art wailed again and again over the twin guitars’ sharkteeth attack.  The sarcastic march that followed, like the Dead Kennedys taking a detour into circus rock, was every bit as potent. They wound up the show with a tight, furious cover of Moonage Daydream that looked back to the live pyrotechnics of the Mick Ronson-era version of Bowie’s band.

And the opening act was good too. It would have been fun to have seen more than the last handful of songs by noisy, intense power trio Slow Suck. Frontwoman/guitarist Kiki Sabater has an individualistically dirty but melodic sound that brings to mind early Bauhaus as well as what Courtney Love was doing on the first Hole album, i.e. before she went completely off the rails. Sabater’s songs don’t follow any kind of predictable verse/chorus pattern, and the rhythm section behind her negotiated those tricky transitions between slow and sinister and screaming punk rock with an impressive elegance, particularly the bassist, whose thoughtful hammer-ons and slinky melodies darkened an already vivid, gloomy ambience. Sabater’s unselfconsciously anguished wail drove it all home.

Blackout, Slow Season and Mondo Drag Join Forces for NYC’s Best Triplebill So Far This Year

This has been a great year for doublebills, but the hottest triplebill this blog has witnessed this year happened on the hottest day of the year so far, this past Saturday the 18th at St. Vitus. Blackout opened. They do one thing and one thing very well: slow, doomy, pounding anthems. The Melvins seem to be an obvious influence, but where that band goes for sneering humor, Blackout go into the abyss. Bassist Justin Sherrell ripped crushing, stygian chords from his downtuned J-bass while frontman/guitarist Christian Gordy launched steady, precise, chromatic mortarbomb hits from his Gibson, with an appreciative nod to Tony Iommi, but not in a blatantly derivative way. For such a heavy band, drummer Taryn Waldman is a refreshing change, staying low to the ground, coloring the slow, stalking dirges with smoky cymbal washes instead of the expected brontosaurus thud. And just when it seemed that this band is all about relentless gloom, they’d pick up the pace, doublespeed or triplespeed toward hardcore territory, both Gordy and Sherrell bellowing over the maelstrom. As with the next two bands on the bill, it would have been fun to hear them play twice as long as the barely thirty-five minutes they got onstage.

Slow Season‘s rhythm also went in an unexpected direction, 180 degrees from Blackout. Their unhinged stoner attack looks back to 70s proto-metal, which usually doesn’t have the crushing olympic impact that drummer Cody Tarbell brought to their blistering set. As searing as the guitars of frontman Daniel Rice and David Kent were, it was Tarbell who stole the show with his nimble yet bunkerbuster-scale assault, closing the set with a flurry that matched brute force to completely unexpected elegance. Meanwhile, Hayden Doyel’s blue-smoke, nimbly bluesy basslines and eye-popping octaves enhanced the purist NoCal skunkweed vibe. They opened with a boogie groove that went unexpectedly halfspeed, driven by twin guitar riffage hellbent on setting cities on flame with rock & roll.

Boogies were a major part of the rest of their tantalizingly brief set, like a northern Molly Hatchet taken back in time ten years, and with a snakier rhythm section. Kent’s acidic wah riffs, hazily menacing fuzztone bluesmetal lines and the occasional haphazard Hendrix reference reinforced the 1969-73 ambience: the only difference was that this crowd was vaping rather than smoking up – for the most part, anyway. Kent hit one false ending with a nails-down-the-blackboard slide that was one of the night’s highest points, kicking off the next number by himself, taking his time as he built to an aching, screaming peak before a smirky ba-bump groove kicked in. They wound up with an epic that galloped and swayed through his best and most relentlessly searing solo.

Mondo Drag made a towering, epic, majestic headliner. It was like seeing Atomheart Mother-era Floyd and Nektar on the same bill – although it was Slow Season who blasted through the night’s lone wry quote from the David Gilmour riffbook. Mondo Drag’s signature sound loops a hypnotic, vamping groove, with endlessly shifting, richly dynamic segments from frontman John Gamino’s organ and keys along with the guitars of Nolan Girard and Jake Sheley. The band’s new rhythm section is killer and maybe even an improvement over the old one, who were pretty damn good: bassist Andrew O’Neil played meticulously circular, catchy hooks pretty much nonstop while drummer Ventura Garcia channeled a period-perfect, muted 1975 stoner gallop across a surreal, sometimes menacing landscape.

One dynamic that the group worked for a towering, dynamic intensity was Gamino’s smoky, gothic chords grounding the music a la Richard Wright while the guitars played aching, searing, angst-fueled sheets overhead, taking on the Gilmour role. Other songs were fueled by punchy, galloping Nektar-style triplets. That band’s influence – the hard-charging crescendos of Remember the Future, the distantly crushing elegaic quality of It’s All Over and the swaying steamroller attack of Journey to the Center of the Eye – made itself apparent everywhere. Creepily twinkling night-sky Fender Rhodes interludes, tersely biting Arabic-tinged guitar-and-organ passages and endless vamps punctuated by mournfully airy guitar atmospherics and some neat call-and-response between guitars and keys were just part of the picture. As the show went on, an atmosphere of slightly restrained panic and subdued horror underpinned everything. as tempos and metrics shifted, the bass circling like a vulture. At the end of the set, Gamino’s vocals finally took on a somber, resigned, apocalyptic quality. All this justified risking death by dehydration: just try powerwalking through the Greenpoint ghetto all the way back from Clay Street to the L at Bedford, weighted down with a heavy toolbag and workboots in 110 degree heat, and see how you hold up.