New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: radiohead

Carol Lipnik and Matt Kanelos Hold the Crowd Rapt in the East Village

Carol Lipnik might not just be the best singer in New York – she might be the best singer anywhere. That’s not as impossible as it might seem, considering Lipnik’s vast four-octave range, as strong in the depths as it is in the stratosphere. But there are dozens of women around the world who can hit the highs and the lows, hard: Lipnik distinguishes herself with soul, and passion, and her dark wit and mystical stage presence and subtle, subtext-drenched lyrics. Like Dory Previn – a possible, distant influence, maybe – she’s invented her own genre. It’s avant garde in the purest sense of the word, fearless and adventurous to the nth degree. But where much of the avant garde is harsh and forbidding, Lipnik’s songs draw equally on contemporary classical, Romantic art-song, the far side of opera, artsy psychedelia like Radiohead and first-rate tunesmiths like Richard Thompson – whom Lipnik has memorably covered in the past. And they draw you in. She has a Sunday night residency beginning March 8, a series of intimate duo performances with pianist Matt Kanelos at 7 PM at Pangea at 178 2nd Ave (11th/12th St.) Cover is $20; reservations to 212 995-0900 are a good idea since it’s a cozy space.

Her most recent show there drew heavily on songs from her shattering new album Almost Back to Normal, current frontrunner for 2015’s best release. The title track was one of the night’s highlights, Kanelos anchoring it with a terse, minimalist insistence as Lipnik took flight with its imploring mantra of a chorus. Lipnik is Coney Island born and bred, is drawn to water imagery and is troubled by oceanic crises, from hurricanes to exploding nuclear power plants. She didn’t reference either of those recent historical events directly, but her ocean is a turbulent one these days, more so than when she was building a strong back catalog of colorful, carnivalesque, ragtime and noir cabaret influenced material.

As the night went on, Kanelos’ elegantly tidal, hypnotic Philip Glass circles anchored Lipnik’s gentle, understated longing and angst. Among the new songs, Honeypot mashed up vintage Laura Nyro soul with anxious minimalism, a grinning, unselfconsciously sensual confection. Lipnik voiced the menacing voices of a stunned group of metaphorical birds in Crow’s Nest, then took the energy to the top of the mountain with the soaring, anthemic Sonadora Dreamer.

She brought back the menace a bit later with the cautionary tale The Things That Make You Grow and its biting chromatics, an attempt to create a sonic counterpart to a William Blake illuminated manuscript. A brooding setting of cult poetess Helen Adam’s alienated Farewell Stranger was done as a rippling blend of rugged Appalachian rusticity and fin-de-siecle Paris salon music. Another angst-fueled highlight was a new song by Kanelos, Lipnik channeling the sheer emotional depletion of a pacifist abandoned in a world torn by senselessness and war.

There were also a handful of covers: a minimalist art-rock take of Leonard Cohen’s The Gypsy’s Wife; an almost imperceptibly crescendoing, plaintively wounded cover of Harry Nilsson’s Life Line. and an absolutely hilarious and equally dazzling grand guignol cover of The Twist that was part Klaus Nomi and part Lux Interior. Joey Arias also made a cameo, bringing the house down with a catty, spot-on Billie Holiday evocation as Kanelos supplied a deadpan, bluesy backdrop. It was a long set: other originals spanned from echoes of plainchant to vaudeville to the baroque to theremin music. Lipnik and Kanelos really gave the crowd their money’s worth and then some. You’ll be hearing more about that amazing new album here a bit later on.

Two Killer Singles and Some Comic Relief

Parsing the torrents of singles and videos that have come over the transom here in search of the very best ones: you’ll see some here every day until the tank is finally empty. Today’s first gem is a ten-minute art-rock epic, Call It Whatever by London band Santa Semeli & the Monks. It starts out like it might be just another moody Radiohead wannabe number, but hang with it as it hits a punk-inspired noir cabaret peak. Lots of eclectic stuff on this same soundcloud page, from quirky postpunk to more ornate material like this.

Joanne Weaver’s Golden Earrings is a luridly Lynchian three-minute masterpiece, torchy Vega noir pop with unexpected sonic flourishes like an eerie guitar track running through a watery Leslie speaker (youtube).

And for some comic relief, what would you think of a reggae song by Oasis? The Jackals offer one possible answer (soundcloud).

Haunting, Uneasy Psychedelia from Matt Kanelos

Matt Kanelos is one of New York’s most sought-after pianists. He’s half of Carol Lipnik‘s haunting Ghosts in the Ocean project, plays with psychedelic Americana chanteuse Jenifer Jackson and Canadian gothic bandleader Lorraine Leckie as well as in sardonic jazz guitarist Jon Lundbom‘s band. Kanelos’ original songs are as smart and distinctive as the artists he shares the stage with. His new album Love Hello – streaming at Bandcamp – is a masterpiece of pensive, allusively lyrical psychedelia. To paraphrase one of his bandmates (guess which one!), it’s part hypnotic Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, part metrically tricky, artsy Radiohead and part Terry Riley in ultra-minimalist mode.

Kanelos alternates between keyboards and guitars on this album, with a core band of Kyle Sanna on guitar, Ben Gallina on bass and Conor Meehan on drums. The album’s starkly opening track Where the Seed Grows sets the stage, Kanelos’ spare, lustrous piano lingering over a simple, distantly uneasy acoustic guitar pulse. It’s arguably the album’s most haunting cut:

I know the mountain and the shore
I don’t go there anymore
They’re fighting a ground war
I heard the message in the drum
I know the places they come from
I hit the wind chime with my thumb
I thought that it would give me some
I’ll wait for the wind to come

The second track, Wonderland is a variation on the same melodic theme, a psychedelic nocturne with similarly marvelous, sparse piano, hints of Americana and a slow descent into grey-sky atmospherics. Video Town, another variation, evokes Radiohead’s Pyramid Song with its rhythmically tricky vamps, wary ambience and long, insistent crescendo as it winds up and then out.

And the Line could be the Church at their most low-key covering Neil Young, a dusky, airy Indian summer theme lit up by Sanna’s casually intense tremolo-picking. By contrast, Island Animals has an eerie, surreal, noisy Daydream Nation anxiousness, a reflection on aging and imminent doom that morphs into a slowly swaying paisley underground vamp and then back up. “The country wears a green disguise and you’re spinning on the earth alone, no filter to protect your eyes, animals a headstone,” Kanelos intones.

The Brink mingles layers and loops of keys into a terse, nebulous lament that segues into a brief, slowly marching solo piano take of the Charles Mingus composition Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love. Earth Man is a broodingly sarcastic apocalyptic reflection set to a slow, stately, uneasily swaying rhythm, Gallina artfully raising the intensity with judiciously placed chords behind Kanelos’ chiming electric piano, blippy layers of keys and a chorus of wordless vocals. Kanelos ends the album with its most skeletal track, North, a guardedly optimistic mood piece. The cd comes in a cool full-color package with surreal, thought-provoking photos by Kanelos and Marie Lewis, an apt visual counterpart to the music. In its quietly provocative way, it’s one of the best albums to come over the transom here so far this year.

These New Puritans Hold the Crowd Rapt at Bowery Ballroom

If you think that slow, pensive minimalist post-artrock can’t possibly be exciting, you’ve never seen These New Puritans in concert. Last night at Bowery Ballroom they filled the space despite the deluge outside and entertained a hushed, adoring crowd with an unexpectedly kinetic, meticulously orchestrated show. The set followed an artfully conceived, steady trajectory from stately unease to something just short of titanic, epic grandeur: what makes this band so consistently interesting and compelling is how they never go over the top, or, for that matter, never waste any notes. This seven-piece edition of the band followed frontman Jack Barnett’s uneasily shapeshifting, slow-to-midtempo, rhythmically emphatic compositions with a focus that was both precise and animated, and as the show went on, Barnett put down his five-string bass and got a chance to croon with a distant angst in much the same vein as Botanica’s Paul Wallfisch. That’s a hard line to walk without falling over into cliche, but Barnett pulled it off.

His band’s roughly hour-and-a-half set made the most sense as a long suite. Guest singer Elisa Rodrigues sang resonant, wary harmonies in tandem with the careful, methodically shifting lines from the trumpet and horn – on album, the band often relies on low-register reeds, so this instrumentation added an ambered lustre to the grey-sky sonics. Two keyboardists, a woman playing nimble, baroque-tinged lines on electric piano and a guy switching between electronic keys, a mixing desk, and drums on one number, intertwined alternately snaking and broodingly pulsing lines. Propelling the outfit with a terse, nuanced brilliance was drummer George Barnett. This is why drum machines suck: all of the parts he was playing could have been pre-recorded and crammed into somebody’s loop pedal. But watching him negotiate Fragment Two with one tricky, almost imperceptible rhythmic and dynamic shift after another, slowly adding or subtracting from the sound, was pure magic. With the split-second agility of a symphony orchestra timpanist and the flair of a stadium rock drummer, he stole the show.

After establishing a slow, marching ambience, sort of the sonic equivalent of a Cormac McCarthy postapocalyptic novel, the pianist led them into the hypnotic spirals of Organ Eternal, one of the highlights of the band’s latest album Field of Reeds, equal parts Terry Riley and Radiohead. An early interlude saw the band running variations on an otherworldly Ethiopiques riff – like Dead Can Dance playing Transglobal Underground at halfspeed – before picking up the pace with a tantalizingly allusive levantine dance that was more eerie cinematic theme than slinky Middle Eastern snakecharmer music. They wound up the show with a nocturnal, slowly crawling mood piece that sent the crowd back out into the rain humming it. These New Puritans are currently on US tour, with shows at Space in Evanston, IL on May 2, the Empty Bottle Chicago on May 3 and the Roxy in LA on May 5; if you happen to be around when they’re in town, and dark, artsy sounds are your thing, don’t miss them.

Olga Bell Brings Her Strange, Beguiling Russian Art-Rock to le Poisson Rouge

Krai is Russian for “border.” In Russia, there are seven krais, sort of the equivalent of counties in one of the US states. Those regions and their traditional music inspire the new album, simply titled Krai, by Moscow-born, Alaska-raised art-rocker Olga Bell. All but one of her songs here are completely through-composed, in other words, verses and choruses don’t repeat. The lyrics – in Russian – are a rapidfire mashup of ancient plainchant, folk tales and original, sometimes politically charged lyrics co-written by Bell and her mom, a former Soviet broadcaster. The music is rhythmically tricky art-rock, its indie classical flourishes interpolated amidst long, pensively vamping interludes driven by a kinetic rock rhythm section, with lingering, austere electric guitar, vibraphone, strings, woodwinds and Bell’s own intricately overdubbed six-part vocal harmonies. Bell’s often labyrinthine vocal arrangements employ a lot of close harmonies to enhance the otherworldliness, although she doesn’t use the microtones common to some Balkan and Russian music. Bell and her ensemble play the album release show for this one at 8 PM on April 28 at le Poisson Rouge; advance tix are $15 and highly recommended.

The opening track’s ominous art-rock intro quickly morphs into a Slavic chorale, then it moves back to offcenter cinematics, the vibraphone’s incisiveness contrasting with the opaqueness around it. Bell winds it up with a big crescendo of vocals and then a whoop. Where the first track swoops upward as it gets going, the second swoops downward, with the vocals, a jaw harp, steady bass and a practically mocking high cello line over a quavery, sustained drone that sounds like ebow guitar. Track three, Perm Krai (each title has a corresponding region) has a trickily rhythmic, shuffling trip-hop groove, something akin to Sigur Ros taking a stab at mathrock. The fourth cut, Stavropol Krai has Bell doing a call-and-response with her own multitracks, then the band lights up a spare, sparse theme with jaunty accents from flute and guitar. It ends with what appears to be a sarcastic military march.

Krasnoyarsk Krai, with its icy vibraphone flourishes, dense layers of vocals and organ, is the album’s creepiest track. Zabaikalsky Krai begins as a simililarly eerie bell melody and then works its way through an ominous synth interlude and then hints at a darkly leaping mathrock theme – it’s the album’s most ethereal song. With its weirdly processed keys and vocals, Khabarovsk Krai is the quirkiest, a Slavic dance dressed up as Radiohead.

The final track, Kamchatka Krai sounds like a Russian version of the Creatures, towering walls of vocals punctuated by big bass chords, pounding drums, screechy synth and the occasional swipe from the guitar or electric piano. Who is the audience for this? Maybe fans of Dirty Projectors, with whom Bell has worked extensively. Otherwise, fans of the stranger side of art-rock (and Bjork, and postrock, and mathrock, and accessible indie classical ensembles like Ymusic) will find a lot to sink their ears into here. It’s a long, strange trip.

These New Puritans Bring Their Brooding Art-Rock Themes to Bowery Ballroom

 

This blog didn’t exist when These New Puritans recorded their landmark debut, Beat Pyramid, in 2008. It was a big deal then, and the moody British art-rock band’s initial release remains one of the most indelibly original recordings of the past several years. Their latest album Field of Reeds is streaming at Spotify, and they’ve got a long-awaited NYC gig coming up on April 30 at 9 PM at Bowery Ballroom. Advance tickets are $20 and very highly recommended. If you like the idea of Radiohead but find the reality unapproachably cold and mechanical, you will find These New Puritans far more chillingly alive.

The latest album’s opening instrumental The Way That I Do gives you a good idea of their game plan. An icy, minimalistic piano dirge with disembodied vocals – Mum without the synthesizers – gives a way to a broodingly sustained orchestral arangement, then the piano comes back in and they take it out with emphatic trumpet against swirly upper-register organ. It could be a detective film theme, from the kind of movie where the sleuth solves the case and then moves on to the next grisly scene.

Fragment Two opens with frontman Jack Barnett’s simple circular piano theme juxtaposed against atmospheric strings and echoey backing vocals, like a more tuneful take on what the Blue Nile were doing in the late 80s. There’s a gothic aspect to these slowly unwinding, wounded melodies, as well as elements of trippy 90s chillout music, but drummer George Barnett maintains a counterintuitive pulse that livens the hypnotic layers of keys, strings and woodwinds.

A cinematic sweep develops methodically out of another minimamalist dirge in The Light in Your Name. It’s practically a tone poem, echoing Radiohead but rooted in a peat bog rather than drifting through deep space. The epic V (Island Song) opens with a similarly downcast, Smog-like ambience and then alternates between an insistent, piano-driven march and a slinkier, more trancey trip-hop groove. Spiral sets guest chanteuse Elisa Rodrigues’ creepily processed vocals against the bandleader’s wintry baritone over ominously shifting cumulo-nimbus washes of sound that eventually give way to a slow, elegant, baroque-inflected woodwind theme.

Organ Eternal balances Smog moroseness with a circular keyboard riff and lush orchestration that evokes composer Missy Mazzoli‘s art-rock band Victoire. Nothing Else, the album’s longest track, is also its most anthemic and cinematic: it figures that the central instrument would be a carefully modulated, resonant bass clarinet. Dream, sung airily by Rodrigues, could be Stereolab with vibraphone and orchestra in place of the synthesizers. The album ends with the title track, a Twin Peaks choir of men’s voices contrasting with dancing vibraphone and an anthemic vocal interlude. This is troubled and troubling but also unexpectedly comforting music, not what you typically hear at a Bowery Ballroom gig but perfect for the room’s enveloping sonics.

Break of Reality Bridge the Gap Between Indie Classical and Cinematic Art-Rock

 

Break of Reality occupy a kinetic, often cinematically original space in the center of the postrock spectrum, with the atmospherics of bands like itsnotyouitsme and Victoire off to one side and more rhythmically-fueled groups like Mogwai and My Education to the other. Break of Reality transcend the cello rock label, considering that their songwriting is closer to indie classical or the mathrock side of Radiohead than, say, the lustrously moody chamber pop of Serena Jost or the gothic menace of Rasputina. Saturday night the four-piece band treated a sold-out crowd at Subculture to an eclectic release show for their latest album, Ten, highlighting every facet of their shapeshifting compositions, from their chamber music roots to their current adventures at the fringes of indie rock.

While co-founder Patrick Laird delivered several of the night’s most breathtaking solos and cadenzas, his fellow cellists Laura Metcalf and Adrian Daurov got their share of moments to add creepy glissandos, rapidfire staccato passages, nimble pizzicato lines and the occasional austerely suspenseful interlude. Percussionist Ivan Trevino played judicious, terse, sometimes Middle Eastern-inflected grooves on djembe during the night’s first set before going behind the plexiglass shield to a full drum kit (and supplying piano on a couple of tracks as well) for the second part of the night. He emphasized the group’s dedication to jamming, in this particular instance more of a brave attempt to craft an anthem on the spot than it was about sharing ideas, or banter, or jousting in the way that your typical jamband, or jazz crew, will do onstage.

The quartet opened with hammering circular riffage which gave way to serpentine, intertwined countermelodies and then towering, pulsing crescendos that would make for memorable action film themes. A bit later they brought down the lights for a warmly inviting original arrangement of a Bach cello suite, each cellist getting to pass the baton to the next, the group maintaining a perfectly precise, old-world wide-angle vibrato. Laird wowed the crowd with a knottily tuneful, Appalachian-tinged solo piece written by Turtle Island String Quartet cellist Mark Sommer. After that, the group hit a peak with an anthem from the new album, Light the Fuse, which Laird explained was inspired by the populist response to current global unease. The highlight of the second, generally harder-rocking set, was another new song, Star, following a long trajectory upward to a triumphantly swaying, toweringly optimistic theme before receding back into deep-space lushness and then the hypnotic cross-string motives that opened it. They encored with an older number that blended resonant neoromantic melody with a challenging rhythmic drive, evoking the work of Lukas Ligeti. This perfectly capsulized the ensemble’s appeal: they’re clearly just as at home in the avant garde as they are on a rock stage. Their upcoming US tour kicks off with a free show at Jamfest in Victoria, Texas on April 19.

Trippy, Quirky Icelandic Rock from Mum

It’s tempting to say something like, “Oh, those crazy Icelanders, with their funny fractured English, one minute they’re all about weird sound effects, the next they’re doing all this somber gazing-at-the-ocean ambient stuff.” Obviously, that’s a stereotype and it’s true less often than not. But Icelandic band Mum’s new album Smilewound is a lot like that. The album title is as enigmatic as the music often is- is “wound” a noun or a verb? It could go either way, through the group’s icily trippy blend of quirky chamber pop and trip-hop.

Radiohead is the obvious influence, but where Radiohead uses electronics for the sake of menace, Mum sprinkle them throughout their songs with a grin. Some of these songs sound like Tom Tom Club with more modern toys; others evoke chamber pop bands like Edison Woods, but with more of a techy feel. “We’re all toothwheels in the mouth machine,” one of the women in the band announces in the first song, a trip-hop number anchored on the low end by bass synth, pizzicato strings dancing overhead. By contrast, Underwater Snow builds from simple, resonant, minimalist piano chords to a surreal blend of C&W balladry, trip-hop and chamber pop, with some droll, bubbly Baba O’Reilly synth thrown in toward the end.

When Girls Collide builds from a mechanical dancefloor thud to a more anthemic dreampop swirl; likewise, Slow Down juxtaposes lushness against minimalism, dreamy vocals against a steady trip-hop pulse. Candlestick starts out like a video game theme and then introduces a series of truly bizarre electronic percussion effects, like a 21st century Spike Jones. Then they bring hints of menace back with One Smile and its music-box theme. Then Eternity Is the Wait Between Breaths takes the music box theme and weird faux gamelan percussion in a more surrealistically comedic direction.

The Colorful Stabwound sounds like mid-80s Cure (the darker side of that band, anyway) taken ten years forward in time with coy female vocals. Sweet Impressions evokes Clare & the Reasons with its lively, whimsical tempo shifts and enigmatic lyrics: “screaming through a grassy meadow” ??? Likewise, Time to Scream and Shout isn’t exactly what the title suggests: it’s a lullaby (and possibly a reference to the disastrous Wall Street-engineered run on the nation’s currency back in 2008). The album ends with Whistle (with Kylie), more of a straight-up pop song than anything else here, with an attractively lush, baroque-tinged string outro. Sometimes funny, sometimes pensive and always psychedelic, the album gives your mind plenty of places to drift to.

Sybarite5 Reinvent Radiohead

The most radically successful Radiohead cover album until now was the Easy Star All-Stars’ 2006 release Radiodread, a dub reggae collection that mixed hits from the band’s early days through what might someday be considered their early zeros peak as paradigmatic art-rockers. If there’s any criticism of Radiohead that’s stood the test of time, it’s that their music is cold and mechanical: it doesn’t exactly swing. So making bouncy, frequently wry roots reggae out of it took care of that issue. String quintet Sybarite5 approach Radiohead’s music from the opposite direction, taking it dead seriously, and the result is just as memorable if completely different. The adventurous ensemble – violinists Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violist Angela Pickett, cellist Laura Metcalf and bassist Louis Levitt will  be playing songs from their new album Every Thing in Its Right Place on June 8 at 8 PM at Subculture on Bleecker St. just east of Lafayette; general admission is $25. The  album is streaming at the group’s Bandcamp page.

Some will say that Sybarite5’s instrumental versions are better than the originals. As much as the layers of electronic effects in Radiohead’s music can sound completely random, they’re meant to create a dissociative, disquieting effect. But they can be distracting. Sybarite5’s no-nonsense arrangements for the most part steer clear of that side of Radiohead, putting the melodies front and center and reaffirming just how strong they are. As you might expect from a classical ensemble, the songs draw primarily from Kid A forward. An especially lithe, dancing version of 15 Step opens this album, bringing new life to the song without losing any of the original’s haunting austerity, the sailing violin line reminding of something ELO’s Mik Kaminsky might have played 25 years previously.

The. title track adds an element of ominous foreshadowing missing from the original as it rises: it wouldn’t be out of place in the Philip Glass repertoire. Paranoid Android shifts from a lively bounce, to an agitated, cleverly arranged exchange of voices, to a plaintive baroque rondo and then up again. Videotape pulses tensely and quietly with subtle polyrhythic percussion tapped out on the bodies of the instruments. Likewise, the tongue-in-cheek intro to Weird Fishes mimics the original’s crackling intro; then shivery high strings do the same later on.

No Surprises gets reinvented as a gentle canon. Without Thom Yorke’s bratty vocals, the stark, claustrophic angst of Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box cuts through much more sharply. With subtle bends in a violin line and a little brittle vibrato on the cello, Pyramid Song gets a welcome subtlety missing from the original, raising the nocturnal ambience early on and then taking flight plaintively on the wings of the violins. 2 + 2 = 5 hints at a march and then hits a giant leap; the album winds up with a moody, Indian summer take of Motion Picture Soundtrack. Radiohead fans will love this – and it might well serve as an overdue introduction to Radiohead for some of the classical crowd as well.

The Mad Pride’s Free Downloads Are Amazing

The Mad Pride is an Australian band from Wollongong, New South Wales. Essentially, the Mad Pride IS songwriter Rowan Galagher, a one-man band playing virtually all the guitars as well as bass, drums, keys and banjo on the astounding 39 tracks on his Reverbnation page. The songs are so good that you can just pull up the page day after day, stream them and get lost in the brooding, moody intensity (if you’re at work, good luck getting anything done). Even better, you can download the equivalent of about four albums’ worth of this stuff for free.

Here’s a look at just the first half-dozen tracks on the page. Scapegoat is a swirly, creepy 6/8 anthem, psychedelic 60s gone noir cabaret with 80s goth production: watery guitars, icy keys and vintage Bowie-esque vocals. Track number two, Berserkergang sets quavery/whispery goth vocals over reverberating Radiohead-style electric piano (reverb is an important part of this guy’s music – he uses it masterfully). Out to Sea is basically Michael Hurley’s Werewolf redone as late 70s Bowie; the real stunner on the page is Malice, an absolutely evil chromatic piano anthem, like Blonde Redhead at the top of their creepy mid-90s game. The last track here is Fade Away, 70s folk-rock as Radiohead might do it. Fans of that band as well as Leonard Cohen, the Church, Nick Cave et al. should get to know this guy. With 39 tracks at this one site alone, he’s got an awful lot more than most bands have – and he does it all pretty much by himself.