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Some Takeaways and Tunes From Yesterday’s Defeat the Mandates Rally in LA

In early March 2020, if someone had told you that the crowd at a daylong outdoor concert in Los Angeles would have saved their wildest applause for the truckers, doctors and cops onstage, you would have figured that the music must have been pretty lame, right?

It wasn’t. But at yesterday’s Defeat the Mandates Rally at Grand Park in downtown LA, the rockstars were the dudes from the Freedom Convoy, the physicians from the Front Line Critical Care Coalition, and an energetic group of cops and firemen who’d been fired, or whose jobs were imperiled by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Covid shot orders.

What was most apparent was how much the crowd skewed female – and how mainstream, and LA-diverse they turned out to be as the Highwire‘s camera panned the park. Mama bear has been poked and she doesn’t want her kids in any genetic engineering experiment. One particular sign in the crowd spoke for everybody: “There’s a new variant spreading around the world, it’s called freedom and I hope you catch it.”

You may have heard about the ten bills currently on the table, in one place or another, in the California legislature. Word on the street is that they’ve been masterminded by State Senator Richard Pan, a shill for big pharma since he was first elected. He’s on the way out, so this last-gasp batch of Orwellian proposals runs the gamut from the codification and prosecution of thoughtcrime, to weaponizing law enforcement to carry out health department orders. The way that bill works, money earmarked for police gets diverted to the health gestapo if the cops stand down. Recipe for murder and mayhem? Hey, nobody’s taking the shot anymore, so Klaus the Louse and Bill Gates have to go to plan B.

And that’s not working either. The cracks in the oligarchs’ united front, which was never as united as many thought, are showing. And that’s in stark contrast to the energy and discipline of the left coast freedom movement. Amy Bohn, tireless leader of Parents For the Educational Rights of Kids, a.k.a. PERK, has been on the front lines of the fight and made an early appearance. Her group has all kinds of useful resources, including a concise guide to stopping this tarnish on the Golden State. “If you negotiate with tyranny, you’re not going to get anywhere,” she warned.

It was another tireless activist, bestselling author Naomi Wolf of Daily Clout, who drew the most thunderous roars of applause. If you’re open to the idea that these days, we may be getting some help in mysterious ways that we don’t quite yet understand, you should read her latest Substack – it will blow your mind. Expertly sussing out her audience, she spoke to the collective wrath of the mom contingent, relating how her crew are currently digging through the latest Pfizer document dump and have found all sorts of incriminating evidence of fraud.

Just as dynamic and perceptive a presence as Wolf was ten-year-old New York activist Jayla, who offered plenty of common sense in her moment in the spotlight: “How am I supposed to enjoy my childhood when I can’t go anywhere?” she asked. She thought it was equally implausible that kids shouldn’t be allowed to join the fight, considering that it’s their future which is most at stake. Echoing her later on were a very popular crew of LA-area high school kids who’d been booted from classrooms for random acts of self-preservation.

FLCCC doctors Richard Urso and Ryan Cole were the first to specifically call out the World Economic Forum, underscoring how what was widely considered conspiracy theory in 2020 is now accepted as gospel truth. Cole, always a sage presence, was especially amped: “I prefer dangerous freedom to peaceful slavery,” he enthused. He also was the first on the program to acknowledge openly that what Sage Hana calls “OG Covid” has been extinct since 2020. Dr. Robert Malone seconded that without actually speaking the forbidden word.

Filmmaker Mikki Willis proudly announced that his 2020 documentary Plandemic has become the most-watched film in the history of the internet (Plandemic 3 is coming on the Fourth of July, and in the meantime you can get a free audio download of his new book). Willis shared that his brother died of AZT poisoning in 1994, and three months later his mom died from the effects of chemotherapy. The second that Willis mentioned AZT pusherman Anthony Fauci, the crowd spontaneously burst into Dr. Paul Alexander’s, “Lock him up!” chant. The colorful, philosophical Alexander – who refused to take a multimillion dollar Pfizer deal to just shut up and go away – energized the troops with a characteristically uproarious appearance a little later on.

Journalist Lara Logan emceed the latter half of the bill and spoke eloquently to the impact of divide-and-conquer schemes. Dr. Bob Sears underscored how much “Our country has been discriminating against people of a certain medical persuasion for decades now.” He’s been fighting pharma-funded mandates and the marginalization of the vaxx-injured for a quarter of a century: one suspects there were others in the crowd with as much experience.

The most entertaining and utterly fearless of the several political candidates on the bill was Dr. Michael Huang, who as he tells it is the one remaining doctor in the state who writes medical exemptions to lockdown and jab orders. “I am the Chinese version of Del Bigtree,” the affable family physician boasted. Having successfully treated two thousand patients for Covid, then helping over a thousand school kids “come off face masks,” as he put it, he’s running for state Senate to represent the district situated around the park. He deserves our support.

Bigtree, whose weekly news program The Highwire now has three times the viewership of every nightly tv news show, was as much of a firebrand as he was at the January rally in Washington. “Senator Richard Pan wants to kill your children,” he asserted, “We will not recognize any leader again who will not stand for freedom.” Words of wisdom for any candidate running this fall. Ultimately, Bigtree said, the only thing in this moment that we have to fear is fear itself.

Attorney Leigh Dundas, longtime crusader against sex trafficking and leader of Freedom Fighter Nation, was also on fire. “Two years ago, on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento, I said we are on a bullet train to Auschwitz if we do not course correct. Well, we did not course correct.” She also asserted that “The Third Reich will not rise on my watch….the Third Reich wasn’t over when World War II ended. The Third Reich ended when we put the criminals on trial and then put them to death.”

There’s more to unpack and a lot of takeaways here – as historic a moment as this was, this blog doesn’t recommend spending eight straight hours in front of a screen even if you’re getting paid for it. The Highwire has archived the whole thing if you’re feeling ambitious.

Carina Powers, founder of Latinos For Medical Freedom reminded that in California alone, that demographic numbers almost sixteen million, most of them Mexican-American. It would be wise for the movement as a whole to reach out and embrace this population. Inflammatory rhetoric about border closures is not a way to win the support of millions of America’s most unselfconsciously patriotic people.

It was stunning to watch the elegant, articulate Dr. Christine Parks completely drop her guard for once: “It’s time to stop the fucking gaslighting and it’s time to stop the mandates!”

Best joke of the afternoon was from Kevin Sorbo, who deadpanned that “If you want to get rid of Covid, tell the Clintons that Covid has something on them.”

A close second came from actress Leigh-Allyn Baker, who via uplink explained that “I’m just your average, run-of-the-mill. everyday domestic terrorist…I mean mom.”

Oh yeah – there was intermittent music, most of it acoustic or semi-acoustic. Protest song maven Five Times August – whose hit Silent War topped the list of best songs of 2021 here – debuted a defiant, catchy, Tom Petty-esque new tune, Fight For You. And he got the crowd singing along to his bestselling hit Sad Little Man, a corrosive portrait of Fauci: “I released this song in November…in an ideal world it would be irrelevant by now.”

Former Mighty Mighty Bosstones frontman Dicky Barrett offered a message of unity, then turned the stage over to his guitarist bud Grant Ellman of roots reggae band Prezence, who delivered one of the night’s smartest, most aphoristic numbers. “We’re dying to get better,” was the chorus.

There were also low-key cameos by theatrical rap-rock band Sonic Universe and cinematic disco loopmusic violinist Dpak, as well as a couple of moments where it was obvious that rap duo Hi-Rez and Jimmy Levy were lipsynching. Dudes, you are perfectly competent at what you do, you don’t need that backing track. Just let it flow. By the way, Hi-Rez, that was ballsy of you to propose to your girlfriend onstage. The two of you won’t forget this day, ever.

There were many, many others on the bill. In the interest of brevity, too many to enumerate. Marines facing discharge over the Covid shots, heartwrenching survivors of Covid vaxx injury and ubiquitous Constitutional scholar and Arizona sheriff Dr. Richard Mack.among them.

And did anybody notice, toward the end of the night, how The Hill’s Kim Iversen was trying to play both sides of the issue? Changing jerseys, but leaving the old one on underneath just in case? In insisting that there were still good journalists in the corporate media, and that she always stuck to the facts, she never once enumerated what those facts were. Her closing ad-lib spoke volumes: “Party at my house! Just kidding. Don’t show up at my house!”

Singles for the (Almost) Ides of March

This blog predicted that 2022 would be way better than 2021. The global totalitarians’ ongoing death throes have been ugly – Justin Trudeau building a shitlist and seizing citizens’ bank accounts for wrongthink seems to be a prototype. But the blowback has been fierce, and reason for real optimism. No wonder the narrative has suddenly been shifted from hygiene theatre to the latest circus of two corrupt-AF ex-Soviet kleptocrats duking it out, with no thought to the colossal toll on their respective nations’ populations.

Another reason for optimism is that more and more musicians are stepping back into the ring. Today we celebrate that with a short, roughly twenty-five minute self-guided playlist. Click on artist names for their webpages, click on song titles for audio.

Americana songwriter Kaitlin ButtsBlood comes across as a very subtle protest song disguised as a fierce kiss-off ballad, set to a simmering oldschool country backdrop with some tasty resonator guitar. “My name dragged through the mud, and godawful things swept under the rug.” Relatable, huh?

Dr. Jordan Peterson may be known as one of the most insightful researchers and analysts in the reality space, but as it turns out he’s also a songwriter! His latest anthem, Wake Up is an aptly creepy, Floydian art-rock tune with a shifting cast of vocalists.

Lowly Weep, by UK songstress Darkher, is a heavier art-rock take on the mystical gothic sound that New York’s own Kristin Hoffmann was exploring back in the late zeros and teens. Don’t let the awkward title put you off.

Here’s Good Before, by another moody songwriter, Maria BC, rainy-day jangle-and-clang spacerock. All is not so safe in her hotel womb.

Let’s wind up the playlist on a positive note. Rapper Bryson Gray‘s No Mask No Vax – featuring his bud Forgiato Blow – is a singalong Pitbull-style banger. Gray is a man of many lyrical styles and as rugged as individualists get, as he makes clear in Controlled, a hilarious, golden age-style dis at everyone who hates on him. “Big Pharma must be lobbying rappers.” Thanks to fearless investigative journalist and incorrigible listmaker Sharyl Attkisson for the tipoff.

Today’s last song is an oldie, from 2016. How did Debris, by Neia Jane, pop up on the radar here earlier this week? It was on autoplay after a completely unrelated Soundcloud clip. Imagine Guided by Voices at their majestic, multitracked peak, but with a woman out front

Singles For Today: Laughs, Raised Middle Fingers and Moody Mystery

More protest songs, epic darkness and riotously vindicating laughs at the end, Click on the artist name for their webpages, click on song titles for audio.

Rap artist Lukas Lion‘s biggest hit is 1984, which was censored by youtube, so you know he has to be good. He’s brilliant, actually.

Fear is their greatest tool.
Fear can turn the brightest minds to fools
Televise endless lies, keep people terrified
That’s the way they maintain their rule.
Fear is the prison that they want us all to live in
And ever since the beginning this has been their only mission….
A real pandemic doesn’t need advertising…

One good song deserves another, so he came up with 1984 Part 2 (scroll to the bottom of the page after Margaret Anna Alice’s eloquent and meticulously referenced takedown of Kathy Hochul’s fascist end run around the New York State legislature).

The Ministry of Truth has taken over.
There’s a reason that they chose Corona.
Corona means crown, work it out man
It’s all symbolism from the beginning they told ya.
A virus of the mind, infecting your thoughts.
But enough is enough. Now we’re saying no more.
The emergence of apartheid, creating segregation
That’s the road that they’re paving.
Cuz if you’re not jabbed then it’s you that they’re blaming.
It’s you that is dangerous. Mass manipulation.
Coercing you to get penetrated.
What’s the difference between that and a rapist?

Lion’s latest release is The Great Puppet Show, a circus rock hip-hop parable: “Our magical screens will make you believe anything that we please.”

Irish folk-rock songwriter Dantom a.k.a. Daniel Thomas Dyer has a couple of spot-on, sarcastic protest songs from his album Root of the Root up at Odysee. The funnier one is Talking Covid Attack Blues (aka Sleeptalking Blues), a full-band Subterranean Homesick Blues for the twenties,  with pricelessly amusing backup vocals:

Spread the facts from the BBC, most trusted source in the world to me we should al live i fear
PCR, they say it’s the best, gold standard, 40 cycles…
Been on Facebook most of the time, we need more censorship there I say

He’s one of the few to make the connection between 9/11 and the plandemic in a solo acoustic tune, Breathe. Thanks to Mark Crispin Miller for passing these two along

On the more expansive side, Darkher’s new single Where the Devil Waits has stately ominous High Romantic angst rising over a cello drone and spare acoustic guitar

The big epic on this list is the new single by New Zealand band Die! Die! Die!, This Is Not an Island Anymore, rising from a drony intro punctuated by percussive blasts. It sounds like peak-era Sonic Youth with Kim Gordon out front, but much noisier and postrock-y

Let’s end this with a good vindictive joke. This isn’t a music video: it’s what tyrants look like once the mob outside the castle has busted down the gate. Here’s Boston Mayor Michelle Wu going into full panic mode once she realizes that her Twitter chat is not turning out the way she planned. The people have spoken!

Samson: The Funniest Rapper on Whatever Platform

Samson’s latest single, A Quick Word is beyond hilarious – and beyond brilliant. Hang in there for the first thirty seconds, in case you think it’s just a random doctrinaire Christian rap. In fact, it sounds so doctrinaire that it could be a parody – and it is, but not a parody of what you might think. The jokes are too good to give away. Hint: it’s about a religion that’s been established in violation of the US Constitution (thanks to Mark Crispin Miller – whose daily New From Underground feed is giving New York Music Daily some serious competition – for passing this along).

Look up Samson and you’ll see search results like “tiktok rapper.” He bounces from platform to platform, including some of the evil ones that this blog doesn’t use. It’s a shock that he hasn’t been booted from his youtube channel – guessing that they’re making too much money from the ads. But you don’t have to go to fascist censored youtube to find him.

Samson is working class to the core, and he’s pissed. Check out 46=13, his examination of runaway inflation. That one’s snide and funny, but The Sixth Sense – which opens with a clip of Kamala Harris equating the January 6 Capitol trespassing incident to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor – is even more venomously amusing. “There are compilation videos of you inciting this shit,” he reminds her.

A quick search turned up a couple of funny older videos. Birthday Bash is about ruling-class condescension via plandemic restrictions, in the context of the media tempest in a teaspoon over the Obama 60th birthday party. And this tiktok clip from what looks like the summer of 2020 proves that Samson already had his eye on the ball back then, even if he wasn’t referencing the VAERS database like he does now. Youtube says he gets hundreds of thousands of hits per video, but that’s probably underestimated by a factor of ten or more. Just like VAERS.

Play For Today 9/7/21

Been awhile since there’s been a playlist on this page, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of entertaining singles floating around. Here’s a fun and informative self-guided mix: the links in the song titles will take you to each one.

The Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout are best known for their latin soul jams, but they’re a lot more eclectic than their name implies. The most electrifying song on their live album is Sheba, an Ethiopiques-tinged surf song

Louisiana rocker Rod Gator‘s Wanna Go for a Ride is the Clash’s version of Brand New Cadillac, as the Legendary Shack Shakers might have done it, darker and grittier with a guitar solo to match

Acoustic Syndicate‘s cover of the Grateful Dead classic Bertha has a tightness and a snarl that the original band sometimes let slip away. “Test me test me test me test me, why don’t you arrest me?” What a theme the lockdown era!

It makes a good segue with one you probably know, RC the Rapper‘s Just Say No, one of the big boombox hits from this summer’s protests here in the US. “It isn’t a theory if it keeps coming true.”

The smooth reggae grooves of Micah Lee’s No Lockdowns keep the inspiration flowing (thanks to the fearless folks at Texans For Vaccine Choice for this one).

The breathing metaphors and carefree sounds of children laughing on the playground in Alma’s Sips of Oxygen are a much subtler kind of commentary: “Someone in the doorway, hope they’re not afraid of them.”

Marianne Dissard and Raphael Mann’s delicate chamber pop duet reinvention of Townes Van Zandt’s If I Needed You is the great lost track from Nico’s Chelsea Girl album….with a woman who can hit the notes on the mic.

Let’s end this with something equally artful and poignant: Danny Wilkerson‘s Endless Haze, the best and least Beatlesque song on the new reissue of his very Fab Four-influenced 2018 solo debut album. The stark haggardness of the Boston Symphony Strings back his playfully lyrical but wounded chronicle of losing a battle with the bottle.

A Surreal French Moment From When Romany Punk Still Ruled the World

American bands are notorious for cultural appropriation, but it works both ways. So often, when acts outside the US emulate American styles, the result can be surreal to the extreme. French band Push Up’s sardonic, minor-key Balkan and Romany-influenced blend of punk rock and hip-hop wasn’t particularly extreme, but it was definitely surreal. You could call them Gogol Bordello lite. Their album The Day After came out in 2015 and is still streaming at Spotify.

It opens with Turn It Off, which is basically a one-chord jam about mass media brainwashing – prophetic,huh? The group bring in some brooding changes in Kiss From the Devil, a not-so-subtly metaphorical look at the perils of selling out.

They work a growly mashup of hard funk, lush 70s soul and hip-hop in I Try and follow with the moodily reggae-tinged Talking to You. Check Your Back is much the same, but with snakecharmer flute and more of a hip-hop edge. The Same – as in “I prefer not to be the same” – has soul organ, while You Never Got a Smile is a starrily organic, Eastern European attempt at American corporate urban pop.

Will You Make It has a psychedelic blend of keys, flute and acoustic guitar. The oldschool soul jam Quincy’s Interlude introduces the album’s lithely funky title track. The album’s most epic number, Pushaz is one of its strangest but also catchiest: imagine Gogol Bordello, Queen and Serge Gainsbourg all together in the studio, taking a stab at 70s soul music.

The rest of the songs on the album are pretty dubby: the Steel Pulse-tinged reggae tune A Dreamer, and a couple of versions of earlier tracks, the first of which is unlistenable at high volume because of the whistling. A snapshot of a world where Romany punk still ruled pretty much wherever there was a party..

Discovering Japan Without Graham Parker

The coolest thing about the new Rough Guide to the Best Japanese Music You’ve Never Heard compilation- streaming at Spotify – is that some Okinawan acts are represented. Okinawa is to Japan what Ireland is to the British isles; more rugged but also in a lot of respects more passionate and earthy, in terms of music at least. While this compilation was not assembled by anyone with Japanese heritage, it’s a very entertaining playlist and a decent introduction to the esoteric, surreal side of Japanese music. Most of these tracks are upbeat, many of them infused with sardonic humor. Obviously, Japan also has deep roots in innumerable other styles, notably noiserock and jazz improvisation, neither of which are represented here.

Utsumi Eika, with Munekiyo Hiroshi & Sui-i-test Sound kick off the playlist with Don-Don Bushi, a slinky mashup of traditional pentatonic min-yo folk music and cabaret, played with a jazz rhythm section but also bamboo flute and shamisen. It’s a wonderful night for a Tokyo moondance.

Yan, by Boomdigi Otemo is a tongue-in-cheek hip-hop/mim-yo mashup. Aragehonzi work a surreal blend of Tunisian rai, min-yo folk and rap in Detarame Kagura. Tsukudanaka Sanpachi follow with Eh! Eh? Eh!? Janaika, ska-punk with a pennywhistle.

Shigeri Kitsu do the same in Tokyo No Your, except with reggae and a steel pan in lieu of the pennywhistle; it’s over too soon.

The trippy, hypnotic, organ-and-tonkori-driven Okinawan psych-folk of Oki Dub Ainu Band‘s Suma Mukar is a real find and a triumph of sleuthing for the playlisters here.

The one-chord jams keep coming with Amamiaynu’s otherworldly, rustic Kyuramun Rimse. Okinawan sanshin player Kanako Horiuchi and Malian kora player Falaye Sakho contribute the vamping, spiky, cross-pollinated Hana Umui/Yaboyae. Rikki’s Kuro Usagi Haneta is an even more surreal, waltzing mashup of min-yo and twangy Americana.

Emiko and Kirisute Gomen reinvent a 60s Japanese tv theme as the cheery if skittish surf-rock hit Shoten. Chanteuse Lucy – of Lazygunsbrisky – is represented by the expansive, determined shuffle Hiyamikachibushi, with its a lively web of stringed instruments and a wickedly catchy new wave hook: if radio played this stuff, it would be the single.

Okinawan acoustic surf-punk legends the Surf Champlers’ previously unreleased version of Misirlou is as surreal and adrenalizing as you would expect, complete with haphazard shansin tremolo-picking. With its stately sway and guy/girl vocals, Tetsuhiro Daiku’s Kuroshima Kuduchi is both the most rustic and hypnotic number here.

Hantabaru, by Aragaki Mutsumi Naakunii is the album’s starkest recording, although the insistence of the vocals and shansin has plenty of drama…and stormy samples from the seaside.

Shamisen player Etsuko Takezawa contributes an elegantly spacious, rainy-day solo diptych, Ano Hi e no Michinori. The playlist winds up with avant garde act Cockroach Eater’s trippy, circling vocal/flute/vibraphone theme Saboten no Wakusei.

And here is where the Rough Guide playlisters may be thinking further ahead than many of us realize. Sure, digital music as a saleable item tanked years ago. But if you think that Spotify is going to last forever, whether as a free or on-demand service, you’re living in a dream world.

Japanese culture, happily, seems to be in a stronger position to survive than many others, at least in the short term, as the needle of death takes its toll. So far, Japan has largely resisted it. But word to the wise: if there’s a recording that means a lot to you, from any style of music on the planet, it’s worth owning in some kind of hard-copy form. Get it while supplies last.

In Memoriam: DMX

Charismatic hip-hop star Earl Simmons, best known to the world as DMX and one of the great lyricists of rap’s golden age in the late 1980s and 90s, died today after having been given the needle of death about ten days ago. He was 50.

While many rappers are creatures of the studio, DMX was devoted to performing live. His made both a live album and DVD, and he remains one of the alltime leading rap artists in terms of total concert appearances. Those weren’t just cameos, either: in his classic, gruff delivery, DMX would deliver a full set of crime rhymes, battle numbers, darkly cinematic portraits of inner city survival and the occasional sex joint. He was widely considered as a foundational artist of the east coast hardcore movement.

According to a statement by family members, DMX took the lethal injection in order to facilitate returning to live performance in New York State, which has not yet been liberated from dictator Andrew Cuomo’s fascist restrictions on free assembly. DMX joins baseball Hall of Famer Henry Aaron and champion boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler as victims of the needle of death.

White supremacists have been using people of color as guinea pigs for human experimentation for years: the Tuskegee Experiment is just the tip of the iceberg. If black lives truly matter, it’s time to stop this latest experiment in genetic modification before it becomes a holocaust.

Ensemble Mik Nawooj Mash Up Cutting-Edge HIp-Hop With Classical Drama

There’s been more of a connection between classical music and rap than a lot of people realize. RZA is an imaginative keyboardist and may have played as much as he sampled on all those classic Wu-Tang Clan joints. Bushwick Bill is a big opera fan and did a loosely conceptual album based on it. And Yasiin Bey has been working with orchestras for more than a decade. Ensemble Mik Nawooj‘s album Death Become Life – streaming at Bandcamp – continues in that cutting-edge vein.

Bandleader/pianist JooWan Kim comes from the classical side: he had an epiphany when he first heard NWA’s Straight Outta Compton. On this album, MC Sandman fronts the group as they swirl and leap around, in a mix of original music and variations on well-known classical themes. The music here is closer to Bushwick Bill’s bombast than RZA’s looming, bellicose ambience, enhanced by the dramatic presence of soprano Anne Hepburn Smith. And the beats – all of them live and organic – are on the fast side, pushing Sandman to the peak of his lyrical skills.

Doesn’t it kill you when you hear a riff and you can’t place it? Is that Dvorak that the piano and then the strings echo on the title track? Meanwhile, Sandman’s torrential lyrics build a futuristic scenario and contemplate the possibility of reincarnation, through an unexpected, suspenseful lull on the bridge. It’s the first part of a trilogy: this is definitely as ambitious as any classical-rap hybrid ever devised.

There’s dramatic menace in the chromatics, string cascades, emphatic piano, tense calm and uneasy gusts in May Good Conquer Evil, Sandman firing off a long list of evils but also ways to beat them. That familiar piano riff and variations return in the suite’s conclusion, May Death Become Life, a swaying, understatedly operatic piece: big up to Kim for doing this live instead of sampling the piano intro from ELO’s Evil Woman.

With a mix of the baroque and brooding, cinematic lustre, Everything Ends relates the sudden loss of a dear friend. The band follow that with a low-key, sweeping instrumental aptly titled Hymn: is that a reference to the BeeGees’ How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

The optimistic Everything Returns to One is the closest thing to a catchy, vintage 90s hip-hop joint here. The heroic, anthemically pulsing orchestration of Who Would Be Born takes centerstage over Sandman’s tersely provocative lyricism.

The album winds up with three energetically reflective numbers based on classical works. Mozart on Joy is a clever mix of famous riffs, Sandman cutting loose with one of his most sharply ironic lyrics here. Beethoven on Struggle fuses variations on the Coriolan Overture and other big hits, a majestic salute to the world’s rugged individualists. The album’s coda is Bach on Transcendence, with a deliciously new orchestration of the Toccata in D: it’s as funny and formidable as the composer ever could have imagined. The group turning in this inspired performance includes both original and new members:  Joyce Lee on flute; Liam Boisset on oboe; Davis Hampton on clarinet; Jamael Smith on bassoon; Craig James Hansen on horn; violinists Philip Brezina, Clare Armenante and Laura Keller; violist Ivo Bokulić; cellist Evan Kahn; bassist Michel Taddei and drummer Lyman Jerome Alexander II.

There’s also a matching series of videos scheduled. And Ensemble Mik Nawooj are a great live act: in their New York debut four years ago, they transcended a hideous sound mix at a ramshackle Manhattan space to deliver an irresistibly fun set. As the world slowly returns to normal, it might be overly optimistic to expect to be able to see them in their native Oakland. But people are flocking to free states like Texas and Florida for live music; maybe the band can hit the road this summer.

Frank London and Adeena Karasick’s Darkly Gorgeous New Album Salutes a Feminist Archetype

“You are bringing in the big guns, opening the sluicegates with your hyperdramatic extra sex, a swishy riff, pithy swift grifters…like a feisty zeitgeist, a forever Riviera,” poet Adeena Karasick freestyles, saluting her title character in one of the early tracks on the new album Salome: Woman of Valor, her new collaboration with iconic trumpeter Frank London., streaming at his music page. It’s a psychedelic, globally-inspired, feminist reclamation of the Salome archetype, recasting her as a fearless, indomitable, multi-faceted persona rather than uber-slut. Typically, Karasick’s intricate, wickedly playful, erudite solo spoken world interludes are spaced in between the individual songs here.

The enticement builds over an echoey wash from Shai Bachar’s electric piano, Deep Singh’s tabla and London’s lyrically pensive trumpet in the album’s first musical number, Song of Salome. As it goes on, London channels more of the acerbic, chromatic edge and meticulous melismas that have characterized his sound as one of this era’s great klezmer and Balkan brass players.

Playing with a mute, he introduces a bracing, suspenseful Ethiopian theme over a chilly, techy haze in Garden of Eros, Karasick celebrating the pleasures of the flesh amid the “cinders of avarice.” London shifts to a hypnotic mashup of Ethiopiques, qawwali and Romany psychedelia in Drown Me, exchanging terse, soulful trumpet riffs with a swirly synth as the tabla holds down the groove.

Dance of Desire has a darkly slinky trip-hop ambience, Karasick deviously referencing a half century or more worth of lyrics, from Wilson Pickett to Leonard Cohen as London’s trumpet teases the listener. Bind Me has a gorgeously brooding, contrapuntal Hasidic melody and a metaphorically loaded lyric: this Salome doesn’t like being restrained.

To introduce Johnny, Karasick sends a shout out to Jean Genet and other bad-boy figures before London’s balmy trumpet and tersely circling, uneasy piano enter the picture. Martyrology, a grisly chronicle of Jewish mystics tortured and murdered over the years, makes a chilling contrast, followed by a haunting, Middle Eastern and Indian-tinged interlude from London that brings to mind Ibrahim Maalouf.

London returns to an anthemic mix of murky Ethiopiques and woozy psychedelia in Yes I Will Yes Say Yes. He shifts to the Middle Eastern freygish mode for the undulating Dance of the Seven Veils, part klezmer, part Palestinian shamstep, featuring an imploring vocal cameo by Manu Narayan . The group return to dusky, forlorn Ethiopian ambience to wind up the record with Kiss Thy Myth. Look for this one on the best albums of 2020 list here, scheduled for the end of the year.