New York Music Daily

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Tag: migue mendez

New York’s Best Heavy Psych Band Play a Rare Intimate Show at Pete’s This Saturday Night

The idea of New York’s best acid rock band in the cozy, comfortable confines of Pete’s Candy Store this Saturday night at 10:30 PM is just plain sick. Are Desert Flower going to play an acoustic set? Or are they going to rip the roof off the room like they did at Sidewalk one Friday night in the spring of 2016, when they opened for one of Lorraine Leckie’s quasi-rehearsals in between Bowery Ballroom gigs?

Maybe it was the OMFG moment right before that show when it looked like lead guitarist Migue Mendez’s pedalboard had suddenly died. But even if he hadn’t managed to bring it back to life, the show would have gone on – and on, and on, relentlessly, wave after wave of sonic assault. Classic psychedelic intricacy and interplay and world-class chops, punk rock volume. It was like being transported back to an imaginary Isle of Wight in 1972, right on top of the stage and the crushing banks of Marshall stacks.

As loud as the guitars were that night, frontwoman Bela Zap Art would not be denied. She can sing tango and blues with the world’s best, but this gig is where she gets to cut loose and let that otherworldly, crystalline wail rise to the rafters. Belting to the top of her register, she channeled righteous rage and distantly horror-stricken angst back-to-back with an uneasy allure, at the very edge of terror. LSD is scary stuff. Obviously, it’s not clear if anyone in the band is experienced that way – and nobody onstage was tripping, But that’s what gave this music its initial surreal jolt of microcurrent back in the 60s.

And Desert Flower’s music was sublime. Like a lot of bands with roots south of the border, they like minor keys. In a particularly strange stroke of irony, the best song of the night was Traveler, Mendez’s ominously lingering phrases and furtive pull-offs opening it over Paola Luna’s stately, carefully articulated broken chords. Bassist Seba Fernandez, playing through the house amp, didn’t have his usual crackle, so he stuck with looming ambience. Drummer Alfio Casale was the one guy in the band who treated this like the small-room gig that it was: he knew he didn’t have to hit hard to fill the space. As the majestic 6/8 anthem peaked out, Zap Art’s voice went with it, solace to anyone on what seemed to be a trip that would never end.

The fury of the rest of the set was something that room has probably never seen, at least since the days of popular punkmetal band the Larval Organs there about fifteen years ago. The blast and syncopated crash of Sube, with Zap Art’s enigmatic “going down on the grey skies” chorus was matched by the carnivalesque strut of Warrior. On that one, the band brought up a guest trombonist who put the bell of his horn around one of the vocal mics and then blew feral snorts, a psycho hippo’s death song. It will be worth the trip – in every sense of the word – to see what Desert Flower are going to to do in an even more intimate and far more sonically welcoming space this December 23.

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Desert Flower’s Menacing Heavy Psychedelic Debut: One of 2016’s Best Albums

Desert Flower are one of the half-dozen best bands in New York right now. The heavy psychedelic quintet spice their wickedly tight, menacingly careening, darkly individualistic sound with punk, stoner blues, 70s boogie and echoes of gothic rock. They’re also notable for being one of the few psychedelic bands out there fronted by a woman, powerful bluesy wailer/keyboardist Bela Zap Art. What Jefferson Airplane were to San Francisco, 1967 or what Siouxsie & the Banshees were to London, 1985, Desert Flower are to New York in 2016. Their debut ep – streaming at Soundcloud – instantly vaults them into contention for putting out the best album of the year. Right now they’re back in the studio – watch this space for future NYC dates.

Much as Zap Art has Ann Wilson power and intensity, the studio setting here gives her a chance to project far more subtlety than she typically gets a chance to do out in front of the marauding twin-guitar attack of Migue Mendez and Paola Luna. Likewise, bassist Seba Fernandez and drummer Alfio Casale get to show off dynamics that sometimes don’t make it into their high-voltage live show.

The first track, Darketa opens with a wash of guitar sitar before Fernandez’s slinky bassline kicks in and the band sways along, Mendez’s lysergic echoes ringing out against Luna’s gritty attack, Zap Art rising from a wounded, guarded intensity, to trippy lows that she runs through a phaser. As the song builds toward a pulsing peak and Fernandez’s catchy bass hook pans the speakers behind Mendez’s searing lead, it suddenly becomes clear that it’s just a one-chord jam!

Longest Way is a brisk mashup of downstroke postpunk and classic Motor City rock: “Let me take you to the secret place, where nobody can see your face,” Zap Art intones enigmatically. The majestic, haunting Sube sways along over an uneasily pouncing 6/8 groove, an orchestra of guitars channeling ornate Nektar-ish art-rock and MBV dreampop, “Going down on the grey skies,” Zap Art belts ominously.

Tango follows a creepily pulsing southwestern gothic trajectory, fueled by Mendez’s slide guitar and Luna’s lingering, brooding lines. The catchiest of the originals here, Warrior stomps along over an incisive, sarcastically faux-martial groove, with tongue-in-cheek trombone and some tasty, purist blues playing from Mendez.

The centerpiece of the record is Traveler, a towering 6/8 anthem by a friend in Buenos Aires. Zap Art plays macabre washes of sound on her organ as Mendez alternates between fat, vibrato-laden lines and a menacing growl, Luna anchoring it with her murky, watery broken chords. Look for this on the best albums of the year page in December if we make it that far.

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.