New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: rare noise records

Uncategorizable, Deliciously Noisy Stuff from Slobber Pup

Power  trio Slobber Pup‘s new album Black Aces will clear a room fast. It’s not for people who like their music in concise, hummable, self-contained verses and choruses. This ensemble of downtown outsider-jazz types inhabits the deliciously abrasive netherland somewhere between noise-rock, postrock, metal and jazz. Their music is ugly, assaultive and long-winded, but in an intriguing way. On one hand, their album Black Aces sounds like one long jam where everybody’s soloing at once; on the other, everybody’s on the same page rhythmically, and they get out of each others’ way when a shift in the dynamics calls for it. The band’s secret weapon is frontman Jamie Saft’s organ, which swells and swirls and provides a stygian backdrop as well as a sometimes unexpectedly melodic center for banks of distorted synths, Balasz Pandi’s tumbling drums and Trevor Dunn’s growling, pitchblende bass, with noisy bluesmetal guitar that usually takes centerstage. Those hearing this for the first time might be surprised to discover that’s Joe Morris on guitar playing all those unhinged, bluesy leads: it’s quite a change from the resolute, defiantly atonal approach that defined his style for many years. Although he does revert to that style from place to place here as well.

The album is best appreciated as a whole. The practically half-hour opening “track,” Accuser, comes across as something akin to Deep Purple on speedy acid. Morris finally leaves the blues scale for some jagged noise, then veers between the two styles over the often jarring wash of liquid organ and buzzing, acidic synth, roaring, gritty bass and careening but steady drums. The organ hits a menacing tritone and leads the band into an inchoate horror movie theme about thirteen minutes in; later on, Dunn tries to take everybody in a Floydian, anthemic direction but eventually descends into the maelstrom around him. They go out sudddenly with a gentle cymbal hit. Some might find this self-indulgent to the extreme, but as a menacing, defiantly noisy mood piece, it’s hard to resist.

Morris uses a more metalish, sustained tone on Basalt, the bass trying to push it toward Slipknot territory, then everybody drops out, leaving Morris to linger by himself. His off-center, dancing single-note lines and creepy, unsteadily bending microtonal fretless guitar chords are the high point of the title track, while Suffrage, a slower, slinkier and heavier groove, features unexpectedly tuneful, bluesy organ juxtaposed with Morris’ gleeful Friday the 13th chord-chopping. The final segment, Taint of Satan maxes out the contrast between the dirgey rhythm and Morris’ frenetic axe-murderer attack on his strings. Slobber Pup are at Shapeshifter Lab on Dec 13 at around 10 for Rare Noise Records night; cover is $15.

Lush, Trippy, Hard-Hitting Atmospherics from Naked Truth

Naked Truth’s new album Ouroboros is one of those deliciously uncategorizable ones. Is it art-rock? Some of it, definitely. Is it film music? Could be. Jazz? Sure, why not? Psychedelia? Hell yeah, especially when they open it with a “trippy Pink Floyd kind of thing,” as drummer Pat Mastelotto puts it. He leads the instrumental project, along with bassist Lorenzo Feliciati and keyboardist Roy Powell, cornetist Graham Haynes ably replacing the estimable Cuong Vu who played on their first album

Lush atmospheric sheets of synthesized strings and dozens of other textures rise and fall, fading in and out of the mix, often giving the music a dub feel. Mastelotto plays with an animated Bill Bruford intensity, often on a kit and syndrums at the same time. As with the swoosh of the keyboards, it’s often hard to tell what’s live and what’s tumbling from the laptop, but that’s part of the psychedelic appeal. Meanwhile, Haynes wafts in and out of the mix with a terse, wary Miles Davis clarity, adding a brooding noir edge that sometimes has a powerfully humanizing effect on the mechanical chill behind him.

The opening “trippy Pink Floyd thing” fades up and down gracefully and winds up on a cinematic crescendo with all kinds of wisps and fizzles percolating through the mix. Dancing with the Demons of Reality, a tricky atmospheric theme, alludes to a stomping King Crimson art-rock vibe, which makes sense since Mastelotto has held the drum chair in that venerable band since the 90s. From there they segue into Garden Ghosts, a long, distantly menacing piece contrasting Haynes’ fugitive angst against the intricately murky thud behind him.

The bass woozes, and eventually rises to squeaks and squalls throughout the trip-hop thump of Orange, bubbly oscillating electric piano playing off the uncannily steady, calmly atmospheric backdrop. Then they pick up the pace, fast and heavy, with Right of Nightly Passage. It’s a highway theme of sorts: if Kraftwerk had drums, in fact anything other than synths, they might have sounded something like this. Yang Ming Has Passsed winds up and down with a slow, shivery sway and more of that richly mournful cornet; In a Dead End with Joe picks it up again, a heavy but trickily rhythmic riff-driven theme. The album ends with Neither I, which works its way from atmospheric dub reggae to a pensive neoromantic piano outro, with a cool piano/cornet interlude along the way. Whoever would have thought that a founding member of Mr. Mister could have come up with anything as richly enveloping and darkly kaleidoscopic as this?

Bob Belden’s Brilliant Portrayal of New York in the Here and Now

Transparent Heart, the new suite by saxophonist Bob Belden’s Animation project, is one of the most important and gripping albums in any style of music released this year, especially as far as New York is concerned. “This record is not a jazz record. In essence, the music is a reflection of the lingering tension since 9/11. It’s an honest look at Manhattan through music,” says Belden. And it’s a crushingly honest one at that. Belden rightly identifies 9/11 as the single central factor in the decline of New York dating from 2001. And he speaks from experience: he was about five blocks away from the World Trade Center when the planes hit. He dedicates the album to those murdered in the attack and to their survivors.

Belden is equally outraged by the Bush regime’s reign of terror that followed: “The intense buildup of the New York Police Department to the point of having one of the largest standing armies in the world, placing citizens under surveillance on the streest and in the subways – stop-and-frisk developed from this quasi-military policing initiative,” he reminds us. Nor is he happy with the ongoing displacement of the small businesses that have given New York so much of its individuality over the centuries, replaced by the generic blandness of fast food restaurants and national chain stores. He may not have made it to New York until 1979, but Belden is a New Yorker to the core.

The album defies categorization. Lush and picturesque in the style of late 70s film music, with jazz flourishes from Belden’s saxes and Pete Clagett’s trumpet, richly orchestrated with Roberto Verastegui’s electronic keyboards over the relentless pulse of electric bassist Jacob Smith and drummer Matt Young, it’s a film for the ears. It opens with Terra Incognito (a reference to late 70s/early 80s Central Park above 96th Street). Its uneasy cinematics shift over a determined trip-hop rhythm with Rhodes piano, tersely sailing sax and trumpet lines. Urbanoia – an examination of the pervasive sense of danger that despite gentrification has never abated in the city’s poorer neighborhoods – opens with desolate washes and electronic bleeps and a thicket of samples from tv a la Roger Waters and The Wall. As it builds over a tensely bubbling background, alienation-fueled trumpet and then Belden’s own agitated crescendo combine vividly to recall Bernard Herrmann’s Taxi Driver soundtrack..

Clagett’s trumpet also carries the hauntingly brief tone poem Cry in the Wind, inspired by the time Belden came to the rescue of a late-night stabbing victim. They follow that with the sweeping, majestic title track, driven by distantly lurid, epic washes of string synthesizer, plaintive horn lines and Young’s relentless yet terse drum volleys. If there’s any star of this album, it’s Young, with his sledgehammer attack on the kick drum: even when the music reaches a lull, he never lets the intensity diminish, and fuels the many crescendos here with a mighty force that somehow manages to be more matter-of-fact than dramatic.

Seven Towers begins with a tense, rubato series of bass pulses, revisits the brooding opening theme as Young subtly foreshadows what’s looming beyond the horizon: we all know what’s going to happen. Yet the band approaches it with a frantic precision that perfectly captures the events of that morning in downtown New York: after all, the towers had been bombed before, and had caught fire, and they didn’t collapse either time. Belden’s microtonal, desolate flute and then Verastegui’s surreal, darkly starry electric piano capture the horror and numbed shock afterward, Young’s drums finally veering toward pandemonium.

The militaristic response afterward is portayed via a return of the main theme, plaintive against a practically satirical, funkily fusionesque beat. Vanishment – inspired by how so many mom-and-pop stores downtown were shuttered for good in the wake of 9/11 – works variations on the theme with a steady yet practically weeping electric piano solo over a remoreseless drum vamp. The final track, Occupy!, at first maintains a disconsolate tone, then offers guarded hope via Belden’s spirited soprano sax, yet ultimately returns to an angry agitation and ends unresolved, perhaps a reminder that eternal vigilance is a price we can’t avoid paying. Many of the songs are streaming at Soundcloud (including Planetarium, a bonus track); the album is out now on the Rare Noise label.