New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: pink floyd cover

A Bittersweet Triptych For a Grim Day

On one level, the Ukulele Scramble‘s new cover of the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd classic See Emily Play is characteristically hilarious. The duo – Robin Hoffman and Richard Perlmutter – have interpolated the main theme from J.S. Bach’s First Goldberg Variation into the song, taking their inspiration from Rick Wright’s piano breaks on the original, which were recorded at a slower tempo and then sped up in the final mix for an approximation of baroque ambience.

All the same, this is one sad song! Emily seems happy at first…but wait til the sun goes down. Hoffman’s understated poignancy on the mic packs a lot more emotional wallop than Barrett did with the 1967 single.

Don’t watch the video for Delanila‘s It’s Been Awhile Since I Went Outside unless you can handle feeling heartbroken. The singer made it on her phone, walking in the rain through an absolutely deserted Soho and Tribeca. Lower Manhattan is truly dead in this one – cold drizzle or not, did you ever expect to see the sidewalks on Broadway south of Houston competely empty, in the middle of the day?

The song itself doesn’t specifically reference the lockdown instead, Delanila’s pillowy noir-tinged ballad seems to be a snide commentary on the atomizing effects of social media (a bête noire for her – this isn’t her only critique of it).

And if you never guessed that the Rolling Stones would still be making records in 2020, let alone something worth hearing, guess again! If you haven’t heard the brand-new Living in a Ghost Town, give it a spin: it’s like their 1978 disco hit Miss You, but heavier and creepier.

Psychedelic Rock Icon With Inspired Band Picks Up Gloriously Where He Left Off

What can a person do at night in a place that suddenly became the City That Always Sleeps?

You could pick up your instrument, or sit down at it, and write something.

If you gravitate toward big, ornate sounds, you could tune in to the New York Philharmonic’s live webcast.

Or you could watch James Tonkin‘s new concert film Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets: Live at the Roadhouse. It hasn’t hit VOD yet, but the audio is streaming at Spotify. This isn’t just your ordinary Pink Floyd cover band: “There’s so many thousands, all playing the same four albums,” guitarist Gary Kemp smirks. “The first thing that will be really telling will be to see how they change their setlists as a result of us doing this!”

What differentiates these guys from the wannabes is that they play exclusively pre-Dark Side material from the Syd Barrett and early David Gilmour eras. They also managed to convince Floyd’s iconic drummer to join them. After a few well-received shows, they had this frequently glorious concert immortalized, at a venue where the Barrett edition of the band were the first group to play.

To open the show, Telecaster player Kemp picks hard on his low E string, second Tele player Lee Harris launches into the evil, chromatic descending riff of the instrumental Interstellar Overdrive, then bassist Guy Pratt – playing a snappy Rickenbacker – joins the song along with organist Dom Beken and the bandleader…and they’re off. In general, throughout the concert, the music has a tighter, somewhat lighter-fingered pulse than the reckless abandon of the Syd Barrett era. The songs also tend to be more ornate, but in a lot of ways the additional layers raise the psychedelic factor. Who wants to hear a band play something exactly as it was recorded, anyway?

Jim Parsons’ classic rock-doc production is purist: lots of fretboard close-ups, panning the stage and then back. The sound mix is tastefully oldschool as well. To his infinite credit, the bandleader is toward the back, just as he was throughout Pink Floyd’s tenure: he’s always been a guy to let the sound out of his kit instead of trying to bang something into it. And what a big kit it is. One of his bandmates remarks that even in his seventies, Mason’s vigor is “terrifying.” Maybe his subtlety has something to do with that.

Tellingly, it takes two guitarists to replicate what both Barrett and Gilmour did, with plenty of noise and echo, closer to the former’s style than the latter’s anguished, Hendrix-inspired existential screams. Likewise, Beken has a Rick Wright-sized array of textures at his disposal, orchestrating the music with more of an overtly trippy ripple and twinkle than just the vast deep-space textures the late, great Pink Floyd keyboardist constructed so expertly.

The group segue into Astronomy Domine after the night’s opening jagged surrealism: this song is a little more bluesy than the original, but practically just as crazed in places, the bass obviously higher than that instrument typically was recorded in 1967 when Roger Waters played it. Lucifer Sam and Arnold Layne seem a little fast. and rotely digital; yet that same approach improves Fearless, underscoring that otherwise gentle pastoral pop tune’s druggy narrative.

The woozy instrumentals Obscured by Clouds and When You’re In seem odd choices, little more than a platform for Kemp’s simple slide work. As does Vegetable Man, considering what happened to Barrett. In that context, the “why can’t we reach the sun” refrain in Remember a Day has special poignancy, a cautionary tale to the extreme.

While Kemp stays on key more than Waters did singing If, the gloomily sunbaked madness anthem, Waters’ acid-damaged vocals are stil missed. As are the horns and orchestra of Atom Heart Mother – at least we get about seven minutes of the majestic main theme, emphasis on the macabre.

The proto-metal of The Nile Song holds up well (and foreshadows a famous Johnny Rotten lyric). The alien-encounter anthem Let There Be More Light has an almost gleefully grim intensity; likewise, the bulked-up version of the rarely played Gilmour narrative Childhood’s End is more richly dark.

The show’s centerpiece, the menacingly raga-influenced Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun, has a literally breathtaking vastness, Mason having a wryly good time with his huge gongs and then his mallets on the toms. The band pick up the pace with the hauntingly bittersweet See Emily Play, romp through Barrett’s mid 60s Carnaby Street pop tune Bike, then hammer their way through One of These Days, Waters’ strobe-lit repeaterbox instrumental from the Meddle album.

Fueled by Beken’s funereal chromatics and enveloping, smoky echoes, the band go way down the rabbit hole with A Saucerful of Secrets and end the show triumphantly with Point Me At the Sky. The film also contains a few snippets of live footage from the Barrett years plus a bit of context from individual band members. Who would have thought that in 2020, anyone would attempt, let alone succeed in revisiting these classic sounds?

You Mean That Really Wasn’t Pink Floyd at B.B King’s Last Night?

If B.B. King’s wasn’t sold out last night, it was close to capacity. The crowd was multi-generational: there were at least two tables with grandparents, parents and grandchildren. Dads with college-age daughters were everywhere, and there was a lot of Spanish being spoken: south of the US-Mexico border, art-rock never went into eclipse. Many of those concertgoers spent part of the set with their eyes closed, which made sense. Without watching the band onstage, it was as if Pink Floyd was up there. That good.

Since the 80s, the Machine have made a living on the road playing the complete Pink Floyd catalog. They are revered among musicians. Many of their peers had come out on one of the few truly cold nights of this young “winter” for inspiration and to be swept away by a chillingly spot-on recreation of the towering angst, epic grandeur and improvisational flair of the world’s most iconic art-rock band. The Machine opened with the complete Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pt. 1. More than three hours later, they ended with the complete second part, plus a long jam midway through where the individual members got to color the music with their own erudite personalities and irrepressible deadpan humor. Like everything else they did, it was in keeping with the spirit of Pink Floyd, subtle and distinctively British. All this from a bunch of native New Yorkers.

Forget having the perfect, unmistakeable collection of vintage keyboard patches and guitar effects: to effectively recreate Pink Floyd takes fearsome chops., which this band has coming out their pores. In deference to the brilliance of David Gilmour, the Machine had two guitarists – frontman Joe Pascarell, and Ryan Ball, who doubled on pedal steel – taking turns with the lead and rhythm parts, channeling sepulchral vibrato, lightning blues and trippy intensity. It was good to hear bassist Adam Minkoff up in the mix, playing Roger Waters’ terse, purposeful lines with a little more treble than Waters typically used, and usually with a pick, as Waters typically did. Drummer Tahrah Cohen perfectly captured Nick Mason’s stately grace, subtle swing and playful counterintuitivity with the occasional well-placed cymbal splash or funereal tom-tom flurry on an elaborate, oversize kit. Scott Chasolen negotatiated Richard Wright’s lavish keyboard orchestration with split-second precision and made it look easy. Surprisingly, the band relied on him as the prime mover during the jams, as much or even more than the guitars. His animated, good-naturedly spiraling phrases brought to mind Genesis’ Tony Banks more than they did Wright.

After the richly lingering opening number, Pascarell tackled the evening’s lone “deep album cut,” Fat Old Sun – from the Atomheart Mother record – running his Strat through an acoustic patch, Ball on pedal steel, Chasolen channeling Richard Wright at his most austerely spiritual with spacious gospel piano licks. They followed with album-precise versions of Breathe and Time, establishing that the band had the essential organ and guitar tones, Ball using the steel to recreate Gilmour’s anguished slide guitar riffage. What was clear by now was how much this band plays up Pink Floyd’s psychedelic side – and notwithstanding how many hundreds of times they’ve played these songs onstage, how much fun this band has after all this years. “It’s good to smoke a bone beside the fire,” Pascarell intoned at the end of Time, resulting in a wave of raised joints, one-hitters and vape thingys down front.

Early in a matter-of-fact, aptly brooding, low-key take of Mother, Pascarell turned the mic over to the audience. “Mother do you think they’re going to break?…” got the appropriately ballsy response, nobody missing a beat. Later during the second set, he and the rest of the band teased the crowd with a succession of riffs: what was it going to be, Careful With That Axe, Eugene, or Astronomy Domine? It turned out to be a searing yet comfortably relaxed Lucifer Sam.

As hard-driven as much of the material was – a snarling Not Now John, complete with “Fuck all that” chorus, and blistering takes of Comfortably Numb and Run Like Hell – the high point was a hypnotically pulsing, enveloping, potently crescendoing full-length version of Dogs. Otherwise, this was the classic rock radio set. Chasolen’s warpy synth solo on Money was a vast improvement on the awful sax solo on the original, and his washes of white noise on Hey You just as unexpectedly welcome. The band’s choice of riding a slow build through most of side one of The Wall up to big radio hit – where they reveled in the song’s inner funk – was a revelation. There was also a take of Wish You Were Here with a long twelve-string acoustic intro and audience singalong. Pink Floyd may be history, but that doesn’t stop a new generation of alienated kids from discovering them, and being transformed by them, every year. It’s a good thing that we have the Machine to keep that vast body of work alive onstage. And they have a similarly vast archive.org page, where you can treat yourself to enough concert material to keep you in more-or-less new Floyd for literally weeks.

Lily Frost Brings Her Catchy, Edgy, Eclectic Chamber Pop to NYC

Canadian art-rock/chamber pop songwriter Lily Frost comes to Zirzamin for an early show at 7 PM on Feb 27, which promises to be a treat in that club’s intimate, sonically immaculate Blue Velvet space. She’s got a new album out, Do What You Love, which blends her eclectic purist pop intelligence with nonchalantly alluring vocals and the lyrical wit that flows through her work. Frost got her start in the oldtimey movement in the 90s – her band the Colorifics were sort of the Canadian Squirrel Nut Zuppers. After that she took a turn into retro Americana and has since branched out into darker, more ornate sounds with both jazz and classical tinges. An excellent career retrospective of sorts, with songs from most of her albums, is streaming at her Soundcloud page.

Frost has a disarming directness and bite that often contrasts with her tunes’ lively charm, in full effect on the album’s opening track, Background Radio, with its quirky surrealism, tricky tempo and upbeat ba-ba chamber-pop hooks. The second track, I’m on Fire, reaches back pensively toward oldtimey swing, sort of a cross between Jodi Shaw and Rachelle Garniez. The bouncy, mandolin-spiced title track reminds of another first-class Canadienne, Michal the Girl. Frost follows that with the understatedly snarling Grenade, a terse, noir cabaret-flavored kiss-off note.

Poetry – as in “you used to write me poetry” – sounds like ELO doing Sam Cooke over a trip-hop beat. Frost then takes a brightly pulsing turn toward early 60s Nashville pop with No Promises and its twangy Chris Isaak guitar, then follows it with the catchy but restless Long Sweet Ride and its coy Phil Spector allusions.

Opening with just a steady electric guitar strum and vocals, It Shines is the most nebulous of the tracks here and works a distant ominousness that rises even higher with the creepy gothic trip-hop of Stand. Frost reverts to jaunty mode to close the album with a cover of Pink Floyd’s St. Tropez that’s so breezy it’s funny: she absolutely nails Roger Waters’ brightly beachy sarcasm with an irrepressible grin that he only could have dreamed of. That Frost would have both the chops and the wit to do something like this speaks volumes about where she’s been, where she’s capable of going and how much fun she has doing it.