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Tag: psychedelia

In Memoriam: Tom Verlaine

Television guitarist and co-founder Tom Verlaine, whose distinctive style fused psychedelia, janglerock and in later years ambient music, died suddenly on January 28. He was 73.

Born Tom Miller, Verlaine took the name of one of the French poets whose work he discovered while in his teens. Alongside fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd, bassist Richard Hell and drummer Billy Ficca, Verlaine founded Television in New York in 1975. Although they were not a punk band, they were one of the first groups to have a regular residency at CBGB.

Television’s first two albums, 1977’s Marquee Moon, and Adventure, from a year later, achieved marginal commercial success but were enormously influential on subsequent, jangly guitar bands, from the Soft Boys, to the Larch. Marquee Moon is commonly cited as one of the greatest albums of all time.

In Television, Verlaine’s sinuous, melodic climbs and cascades contrasted with Lloyd’s harder-edged attack, often echoing the Grateful Dead’s two-guitar dichotomy. Where Lloyd would punch in with riffs and chords, Verlaine opted for melodic variations and rarely employed distortion, preferring a clean, ringing Fender guitar sound that drew on surf rock as much as Jerry Garcia and Lou Reed. Many of Television’s songs feature the two guitars exchanging roles and conversational ideas, a common jazz trope that was rare in rock bands of the era.

After the band’s breakup, Verlaine pursued a solo career and focused more on briefer, more pop-oriented songcraft. Verlaine also produced albums for two of the most important, twangy rock bands of the 80s, True West and the Room, as well as two Jeff Buckley cd’s.

Verlaine regrouped Television in 1992, primarily as an instrumental unit, with limited and highly sought-after live performances in the years that followed until he left the band for good in 2007.

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The Skull Practitioners Hit Queens With Their Most Savagely Tuneful Album in Tow

Nobody plays guitar with as much distinctively feral intensity as Jason Victor. He’ll hang a chord over the edge of a familiar resolution until it bleeds and screams to be pulled back from the abyss, or slash his way through the passing tones like a Sandinista chasing a World Bank operative through the sugarcane. He’s best known for his work as Steve Wynn‘s sparring partner in the Dream Syndicate as well as Wynn’s band the Miracle 3. But Victor is also a bandleader in his own right, and has slowly built an equally savage body of work as frontman of the Skull Practitioners. While you can hear elements of the Stooges, the Gun Club and maybe the Chrome Cranks in his music, there is no band who sound like them. Their new album Negative Stars is streaming at youtube. They’re opening the best twinbill of the year so far on Feb 4 at 8 PM, with Jon Spencer & the Hitmakers headlining at a new venue, TV Eye, at 1647 Weirfield St. between Wyckoff and Cypress in Ridgewood. Cover is $20; take the J/M to Myrtle-Wyckoff and walk about eight blocks.

The album’s first number is Dedication, Victor buzzing and growling over the loose-limbed attack of drummer Alex Baker while bassist Kenneth Levine booms lithely behind them. There’s a bridge that’s part Sonics Rendezvous Band, part Live Skull. All that in about five and half minutes.

Track two is Exit Wounds, a catchy, hard-riffing post-Stooges number propelled by Baker’s staggered stomp: when Levine takes a climb up the scale behind Victor’s acidically floating lines, it could be Radio Birdman. For that matter, so could LEAP, where Victor blends in a more 90s-flavored, acidic, Polvo-style edge.

Hypnotic fuzz guitar and a suspenseful, mutedly echoey syncopation kick off the album’s big epic, Intruder, a mashup of uneasy surf rock, the Dream Syndicate, and the Lords of the New Church (let Victor’s vocals sink in for a minute). “We start apart and we finish alone,” Victor snarls.

Levine gets his fuzz going in What Now, Victor bending his chords and firing off one of his signature, unhinged solos that ends in a flurry of machete-chops. He builds a loopy noir atmosphere and then an increasingly desperate, bittersweet drive as the band rise into a brisk new wave groove in the album’s lone instrumental, Fire Drill.

In the next track, Ventilation, the band work a warped, ominously galloping southwestern gothic take on the Dream Syndicate. The album’s final cut is Nelson D – a reference to former New York Governor, pathological racist and deep state operative Nelson Rockefeller, maybe? Victor howls and wails, building a volcanic interweave with a few finely sharpened, dueling layers over the rhythm section’s ineluctable drive toward chaos. Having picked Steve Ulrich’s eerie Music From This American Life as the frontrunner for best album of 2023, this one’s a contender too.

La Banda Chuska Put a Darkly Psychedelic New Spin on a Classic Cumbia Sound

La Banda Chuska played their first-ever gig on a Monday night in October, 2019 at a Brooklyn venue known for eclectic and unpredictable programming, One of the band members explained that their big influence was Los Belkings, one of the most surf-inspired of the great Peruvian psychedelic cumbia bands from the mid-to-late 1960s. These Brooklynites slunk and wafted their way through a handful of that band’s more ornate, psychedelic instrumentals, but they also played a bunch of originals that ranged from short and punchy to lush and cinematic. Calmly and intricately, these guys (and women) really slayed with a sound that’s hardly ever heard this far north: when were they going to play next?

We know what happened next. The good news is that the band survived the lockdown to release a debut ep at Bandcamp last spring. They’re playing second on one of those sprawling multi-band bills that Drom puts on every January as part of the annual booking agents’ convention. Whether that convention served any useful purpose before the lockdown is a useful question, but it always resulted in some great shows. This Jan 14, the group are hitting the stage there at around 8:30 PM, preceded by Greek surf band Habbina Habbina, who open the night at 7:30. Perennial party favorites Slavic Soul Party play their funky Balkan/hip-hop/Ellington mashups afterward at 9:30, then at around 10:30 Red Baraat’s fiery bhangra soul trumpeter Sonny Singh leads his band. After that, Mafer Bandola plays bouncy Venezuelan joropo llanero, around half past midnight Iranian violinist and bandleader Mehrnam Rastegari leads her group, with electroacoustic drummer Ravish Momin’s Sunken Cages doing their woomp-woomp dancefloor thing to close out the night. If you have the stamina for it, this could easily be the best concert lineup of 2023: general admission is $20.

The first song on the debut ep is Cumbia Chuska. Adele Fournet plays a pulsing, vaguely sinister progression on her organ, then a guitar – that’s either Sam Day Harmet or Felipe Wurst – comes in with an ominous spaghetti western riff over the undulating groove from bassist Abe Pollack and drummer Joel Mateo. Accordionist Erica Mancini floats in, then one of the guitarists hits his fuzz pedal. This is creepy fun!

Track two is Surf en CDMX, a catchy mashup of Ventures spacerock and uneasy Peruvian chicha with a deliciously clangy guitar interweave. The women in the band join voices in Arcoiris, which is not a bright rainbowy theme but a ghostly, airy, keyboard-driven undersea tableau that rises to a big guitar-driven peak and then a wry Fender Rhodes solo out.

From there they segue into Cine Olaya, where they do something predictable yet irresistibly fun with a slow, broodingly vampy chicha vamp. The final cut on the record is Playa Privada, a surreal mashup of the B-52s, Los Crema Paraiso and maybe the Police. We need more from this imaginative, original crew.

Drifty, Starry Sounds in Ridgewood on the Sixth of the Month

In Chinese astrology, each lunar year is assigned to one of a dozen animals. January 22, 2023 marks the first Year of the Hare since 2011. In a distant preview of what might be coming, Queens band Year of the Hare – who have an interesting, intricate sound that falls somewhere between spacerock, shoegaze and psychedelic folk – are playing on Dec 6 at 8:30 PM at Bar Freda in Ridgewood. Cover is $10.

Like innumerable New York bands, it’s been awhile since their last recording. But their most recent release, a self-titled 2018 ep streaming at Bandcamp, is intriguing. From what they have up there, it seems there may have been some turnover in the band, but that’s no surprise considering how much has happened since they released it.

The first track, In Faulkner Co. has a sparkling but enigmatic web of electric and acoustic guitars. Axemen Ian Milliken and Ryan Hopper blend voices with a similar freshness as the drums finally kick in – that’s either Matt Nelson or Zach Fisher behind the kit. The autotune interlude is an unwelcome interruption

Leon Johnson’s slide steel enhances the drifty dreampop ambience of the second track, Hunters. The most atmospheric yet also most energetic track here is Two Lights, with Johnson adding violin to the shimmery mix: guitarist Meera Jagroop is in there somewhere as well. Then the band wind up the album with its most delicate cut, Architrave. Given an engaged crowd and a decent sound system, this could be music to get lost in.

A Killer Twangy Guitar Triplebill in Bushwick on the 16th, Barring the Unforeseen

New York seems to be in the very early stages of a turnover in music venues. It’s completely balkanized at this point, but there are good things happening on the ground if you look hard enough. One excellent triplebill at an unexpected spot is coming up this Nov 16 at 8 PM. A couple of rewardingly unorthodox surf bands, the Zolephants and the bracingly Middle Eastern and Greek-flavored Byzan-tones open for guitar goddess Barbara Endes’ wickedly catchy janglerock band Girls on Grass at Wonderville, a bar and video arcade at 1186 Broadway in Bushwick. Take the J to Kosciuszko St.; it’s a pass-the-bucket situation.

The Zolephants are a side project for cinematic psychedelic Americana iconoclast Ben Lee a.k.a. Baby Copperhead. In this instrumental project, Nami Coffee’s mono bass synth bolsters Lee’s twangy, judiciously layered guitar multitracks over Bill Bowen’s drums. Their 2018 cassette release Islands of Neptune is still up at Bandcamp.

The opening number, Legend of the Black Snake starts out like late 70s Can and then goes fast forward a couple of decadea, in a Phantom Surfers direction before coming full circle on a much more disquited note. The second track, Speed Demon also echoes the Phantom Surfers: you could also call it a clangier take on the haphazard sound Man or Astroman were mining in the early 90s

Seven refers to the time signature. It’s funny and surf-insider-y AF. Track four, sarcastically titled Cheesy Intro, follows a familiar chord progression and then diverges into a long, rewardingly unpredictable sequence.

Truth or Consequences is a coy bolero-beat southwestern gothic theme. Fueled by a snappy bassline, Hey! Solid Citizen balances fuzzy, sailing synth and catchy guitar jangle. The closing number, Scratch starts out as if the band are going in a moody flamenco-surf direction, but they make quasi Egyptian reggae out of it instead.

Their somewhat more traditionalist 2016 debut ep is also up at Bandcamp as a free download. The first track, Bleeding Lungs is a brisk, skittish take on a loping desert rock theme. They open Behind the Fortress slowly and expansively before taking it into edgy hash-infused rembetiko rock.

Number 9 is the most psychedelic tune here, a loopy, trippily rhythmic tune underneath a wry Beatles-inspired samples pastiche. The trio electrify an old Greek gangster theme, Black Eyes, with some gritty tremolo-picking from Lee: it’s the band’s best song, at least among the Bandcamp tracks. They close the record with a goofy, skronky miniature.

Trippy, Texturally Luscious Oldschool Soul Jams From the Ghost Funk Orchestra

When the World Economic Forum and the Gates Foundation engineered the fascist takeover of New York in March of 2020, Ghost Funk Orchestra bandleader Seth Applebaum bunkered down, wrote and got a new album out of it. He began the project as a one-man band, more or less, but by the summer of 2019, when the group got a rave review here for a midtown Manhattan show, they’d grown into a beast of an oldschool instrumental soul band.

Their latest album A New Kind Of Love – streaming at Bandcamp – is their most psychedelic and eclectic yet. The instrumentation and production is totally classic 60s: reverb on the guitar and drums, snappy trebly bass, plus layers of organ or vintage electric piano and horns in places.

The first cut, Your Man’s No Good is an artful mashup of Isaac Hayes vintage soul sprawl, Menahan Street Band crime-soul and a little Hugh Masekela. Track two, Scatter comes across as dub Isaac Hayes: hypnotic, spare bass riffage, chicken-scratch guitar beneath lingering chords, a tantalizingly snarling Applebaum guitar solo and a trick ending.

The loopy, dubwise vibe continues in Prism, a twinkling Hollywood Hills boudoir soul jam. Quiet Places is actually anything but quiet, a swaying, brassy study in lo/hi contrasts, grim fuzztone versus starry gleam.

The album’s title track is a two-parter: Applebaum shifts between slow, slinky Quincy Jones soundtrack noir and dub-infused funk in the first, then closes the album with the second, a hazy early 60s summer-house theme with a gritty psych-soul coda.

Megan Mancini sings Why?, a hypnotically catchy slow jam, then sticks around for Blockhead, a steady, vampy groove where Applebaum flexes some judicious jazz chops in tandem with flutist Brian Plautz.

Baritone saxophonist Stephen Chen floats and bobs over the latin soul shuffle of bassist Jeremy Stoddard Carroll and drummer Mario Gutierrez in A Song For Pearl. Then the band go back to a drifting milieu with Bluebell, a pensively swaying love ballad with Mancini on mic again. The closest thing to straight-up psychedelic rock here is the Doorsy next-to-last track, Rooted. So far 2022 has been a relatively slow year for psychedelia in general, but this is one of the most enjoyably immersive records of the year.

A Solid Bargain Basement Rock Twinbill on the Lower East Tomorrow Night

Watching this city struggling to emerge from two years of a fascist lockdown and restrictions that devastated the arts and drove a substantial percentage of the population out of town has been eye-opening, to say the least. But there have been some positive developments lately. For one, we’re seeing a slow emergence of bands who were clearly good enough to be playing any dive in town in 2019, and weren’t – but they are now. Fault of venues who placed social media presence ahead of quality, most likely. Two of those bands – the eclectically catchy, occasionally 80s-tinged Sugar Pond and Stonesy jamband Hometown Unknown will be at the Delancey tomorrow night, Oct 8 at 7 PM; cover is $10.

It’s not an ideal segue, but both groups are worth checking out. Sugar Pond’s latest album, It Came From Sugar Pond, is up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. The first track, Missing the Point is an interesting take on a gritty late 90s Versus sound with a little 80s goth and a classic disco bassline from Andrew Megos. Frontman Nick Bernstein and his bandmate Jackson Cadenhead share guitar and drums duty on the record.

Track two, Mountain is a swirlier dreampop take on Tears for Fears. Artichoke is part catchy early 80s powerpop strut and part mid-80s Cure: “White room with a two-inch display, nothing there but nothing done today,” Bernstein reveals.

Die Wheel is a cheeky, very successful take on mid-60s Bacharach bossa pop with twinkling psychedelic touches. The last song is Let Me Squeem (Please Allow), a goofy folk-pop number.

The four guys in Hometown Unknown are first-class musicians. They love to jam; they love to emulate both the Stones and the Grateful Dead. They open their debut album – streaming at their music page – with a Stonesy rocker and then a beefed-up psychedelic funk tune with a sizzling guitar solo. Lester’s Lament, the third track, is a solid, tuneful take on Sticky Fingers-era Stones: it’s a bet the band play it tighter onstage than in this skittish home-studio recording.

Heavy Dreamer wouldn’t be out of place in the Blackberry Smoke tunebook, with a long jam at the end. The final song is a go-go soul shuffle.

The band also have a decent collection of Dead covers available as a free download. Here they’re shooting for what seems to be a peak-era mid-80s Dead vibe, as you can tell from the choice of songs. There’s a low-key, soul-tinged Althea, a Stones-ified Alabama Getaway, a thoughtfully vintage soul-style reinvention of Eyes of the World and a haphazard attempt at doing Going Down the Road Feeling Bad as a honkytonk tune.

Creepy Coincidences and a Mysterious Band From Kiev

In his indispensable News From Underground feed, Mark Crispin Miller recently shared a shocking video by Hugo from Hugo Talks (scroll down toward the bottom of the page), addressing what the blunt, plainspoken podcaster calls Mass Formation Colour Programming. The barrage of blue-and-yellow color schemes is a dead giveaway, particularly since it was rolled out during the earliest days of the plandemic, more than two years before the war in Ukraine.

Remember how propaganda graphics, both physical and online, were all rolled out in sync around the world in March 2020? Hugo focuses mostly on the British and European side, but the suspicious juxtaposition of blue and yellow also existed here in the US, as you can see on the NYC mobile lethal injection bus pictured toward the end of the 12-minute clip.

As we remember from George Orwell’s 1984, Oceania was always at war with Eurasia. The war in Ukraine, and how the lockdowners foreshadowed it with these psy-op visuals, is further evidence of how the plandemic was only part of a vastly more ambitious scheme to transform the world into a computer-surveilled feudal slave state.

What appears to be happening in Ukraine is an orchestrated conflict where NATO deliberately “provoked” the corrupt and murderous Putin regime, who responded in perfectly choreographed fashion. Remember, years before the color revolution in Ukraine, Putin was badgering for NATO membership for Russia.

Unfortunately, as has so often been the case throughout history, the people of Ukraine are being murdered and imperiled simply for the misfortune of having been born on fertile and strategically valuable terrain. Just as unfortunately, because the psy-op planners have largely pivoted, from the now-flatlined Covid injection scheme, to Ukraine, there’s been an anti-Ukraine backlash in certain circles in the freedom movement. And that’s something we have to resist.

New York Music Daily was launched in August of 2011. The first album ever reviewed on this page was a hauntingly beautiful Ukrainian choral suite dedicated to the victims of Chernobyl. Which makes sense, when you consider that this blog’s owner has Ukrainian heritage.

That same year, three years before civil war broke out there, Kiev band Night Surf released what appears to be their only album, a six-track collection of instrumentals titled Light. In an even creepier coincidence, the band share a name with a 1969 Stephen King short story about the aftermath of a virus that wipes out much of the world’s population.

Other than a Bandcamp page, where the album is still available as a free download, there’s nothing about the group online in English, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in Ukrainian either. The Bandcamp page doesn’t list the names of the three women, a guitarist, bassist and drummer. So far there’s been no reply to this blog’s attempt to contact them through Bandcamp.

It’s a fascinating record, a mini-suite of sorts. The first track, Bitter, is a swaying stoner boogie number with sunbaked wah-wah raga riffage over a bubbling bassline. The second song, Suffer could be the Cure playing a Savage Republic theme circa 1984, imbued with equal parts Joy Division resignation and trebly Messer Chups surf jangle.

The band pick up the pace with an icy bass/guitar intertwine in Keep Breathin’ – a prophetic song title if there ever was one. From there they take a brief detour into a southwestern gothic theme and then Used, a striding, artfully assembled web of multitracks. The final cut is a “reverse version” of Keep Breathin’ which offers further evidence of a Savage Republic influence (remember Exodus and Sudoxe?). Let’s hope this so-far nameless trio are still with us somewhere on the globe and still making music as intriguing as this.

Adam Rudolph Brings an Improvisational Army to Central Park on the 10th

Drummer Adam Rudolph takes the title for his new live album Resonant Bodies – streaming at Bandcamp – from the premise that the greater the space, the greater the resonance. He astutely observes that the principle applies as much to our minds as our physical location. Rudolph is bringing an especially mind-expanding version of his largescale improvisational ensemble the Go Organic Orchestra to an outdoor show at the Rumsey Playfield, south of the 72nd St. entrance on the east side of Central Park on Sept 10 at around 9. A pickup band of Moroccan trance and American jazz players who call themselves Gift of Gnawa open the night at 7 with a Don Cherry tribute, followed by what promises to be an especially massive set by many of the rotating cast in the Brooklyn Raga Massive, who push the envelope with traditional Indian sounds.

Rudolph’s new record, recorded in concert at Roulette in November 2015, reveals what was a completely new direction for him since it’s so guitar-centric. The eight-guitar frontline – Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, Joel Harrison, Jerome Harris, Miles Okazaki, Marco Cappelli, David Gilmore and Kenny Wessel – approaches Glenn Branca scope. Beyond Harrison’s occasional contributions on National steel guitar, Cappelli is the lone acoustic player here. Damon Banks plays bass, sparingly, with Harris contributing on the four strings as well. Rudolph – who also conducts the ensemble – goes behind the kit to rustle around on the final cut.

The esthetic here is more 70s spacerock: the gleefully psychedelic roman-candle reverb-tank pings echoing out into the nebula that opens the record is straight out of the Nektar playbook circa 1970 – or the Grateful Dead in deep, deep space mode, 1983. It’s pretty much impossible to tell who’s playing electric here. Cappelli engages one of the plugged-in crew in a wryly squiggly conversation early on; otherwise, there are echoes of everything from fleeting Eddie Van Halen grotesquerie, to Jim Campilongo noir, Taylor Levine avant-garde grit and Dave Tronzo slither as well as Branca cyclotron swirl.

The second interlude seems based on Caravan, stripped to its most skeletal frame. As the night goes on, delicate picking contrasts with vast, nebulous washes; eerie; lingering modalities give way to a brief southern-fried lapsteel break from Harris. Much of this seems a gentle tug-of-war between clean, uncluttered traditionalism and a disquieting atmosphere that borders on the dystopic. Little did Rudolph or anyone else realize how that dynamic would play out in the years to come.

The Dream Syndicate Return With a Haunting, Stomping Masterpiece

Much as the Dream Syndicate will always be best known for their volcanic jams, those unhinged duels wouldn’t mean much without frontman Steve Wynn‘s allusive, frequently menacing songs.

And just when it might have seemed that the Dream Syndicate had finally gone off on an odyssey to the far shores of jazz, they return with their most song-oriented album since their iconic 1982 release The Medicine Show. The resolutely shapeshifting jamband’s latest vinyl record, Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions – streaming at Bandcamp – is basically a light side followed by a dark side, with a trippy coda to bring it full circle.

Wynn’s songwriting is as novelistic, deviously allusive and counterintuitive as it has been ever since the band busted out forty years ago: is there anyone alive who has written more good songs? Hearing one catchy verse and chorus after another is a real mindfuck, in contrast to the slowly unwinding, symphonic AACM-rock epics on the band’s previous album, The Universe Inside, which was a rare bright light amid the relentless gloom of 2020.

The opening track, Where I’ll Stand has the classic Dream Syndicate backbeat sound, but with more of the dreampop swirl that Wynn has explored in recent years – and maybe a little Bowie in the mix too. The gist is “don’t bullshit me” – in more reflective, articulate terms.

Track two is Damian, a lithe 70s Tom Petty-style bounce that suddenly winds into one of Wynn’s signature series of unpredictable changes. His conspiratorial narrator seems to be telling his beaten-down bud that all omens aren’t necessarily grim. Lead guitarist Jason Victor fires off a tantalizingly sinuous guitar solo as it fades out.

“I’m a scrapyard and a barking dog, everything must go,” Wynn intones in Beyond Control, the band rising over drummer Dennis Duck’s brisk spacerock drive as keyboardist Chris Cacavas throws in a quirky mbira-like setting. Hearing Victor playing a skittish, staccato chorus-box pattern is a trip.

The Chronicles of You is a gorgeously vindictive, enveloping number glistening with layer after layer of guitars along with wafting horn harmonies from Marcus Tenney, who doubles on sax and trumpet. Wynn has been one of the great voices in rock noir for years, and this is prime: “Was it really scripted in the sky by your own private plane? Was it the undertaker’s arms that laid you down in the grave?” As usual, there are infinitely more questions here than answers.

Victor’s lapsteel and the horns resonate uneasily throughout Hard to Say Goodbye, a slowly strolling requiem for someone who couldn’t resist the lure of shiny objects that flicker. It comes across as pastoral Pink Floyd done Steve Wynn style, The band shift to a cyclotron take on the Jesus & Mary Chain in Every Time You Come Around, bassist Mark Walton rising to pierce the veil. “Tell me what you think is inappropriate, I’ll tell you why you’re wrong,” Wynn cryptically avers.

A searing Victor riff kicks off Trying to Get Over, a stampeding Wynn study in conman doublespeak. With Victor’s searing, careening lead lines, the song looks back to Wynn’s volcanic 90s work: say, the Melting in the Dark album.

Wynn’s rapidfire lyrics deliver a grimly aphoristic payoff in Lesson Number One, a withering portrait of someone slithering to move his own goalposts as damage control gets more complicated. It could also be a portrait of somebody recently scheduled for an exit from the NIAID – and could be the best song of the year.

The sarcasm remains at redline for My Lazy Mind, one of those tango-flavored struts that Wynn does so well. It wouldn’t be out of place in the Ward White catalog, all the way through the “curtain call from Frankenstein.” The album’s final cut is Straight Lines, a breathlessly charging garage rock number, the Seeds as played by mid-70s Can maybe. You’ll see this on the best albums of 2022 page here if we’re all still around..