New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: Shahzad Ismaily

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog Use Lockdown Time to Make One of the Year’s Best Albums

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog’s new album What I Did on My Long Vacation – streaming at Bandcamp – is the rare album recorded in isolation during the lockdown that actually sounds like the band are all playing together. But that wasn’t how it was made. Guitarist Ribot, bassist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith each took turns laying down their tracks in Ismaily’s studio since for one reason or another they couldn’t pull the trio together at the same time. Testament to their long camaraderie, they got not only this funny, cynical, deliciously textured album out of it; they’ll be releasing a full vinyl record (yessssssss!) with material from these sessions in 2021. They’re playing the album release show at 8 PM on Oct 23 on the roof of St. Ann’s Warehouse, Beatles style, the band playing down to the crowd on the street below.

The first track is We Crashed In Norway, a sketchy, vamping, sardonic quasi-disco theme that harks back to Ribot’s similarly wry Young Philadelphians cover band project. Beer is just plain awesome – the suspiciously snide skronk/punk/funk second number, that is, forget about the (presumably) fizzy stuff that too many of us have been abusing since March 16.

With Ismaily’s loopy bassline and Ribot’s jaggedly spare multitracks, Who Was That Masked Man reminds of  classic Metal Box-era Public Image Ltd. Dog Death Opus 27 is a lot shorter and just as loopy, with a sarcastic turnaround.

The most sarcastically savage track here is Hippies Are Not Nice Anymore, a pretty straight-up punk rock tune tracing the sordid trail of the boomers to the point where “corporate was the theme of the week” – imagine the Dead Kennedys with a careening Velvets jam at the end. To close the album, the trio channel the Dream Syndicate – Ribot playing both the Steve Wynn and Jason Victor roles – in the buzzy, psychedelic, atmospherically careening The Dead Have Come to Stay with Me.

Considering the horrific toll the lockdown has taken on bands all around the world, it’s heartwarming to these these downtown punk-jazz legends still at the top of their game, undeterred.

Allusive, Intense Psychedelia and an Unexpected Atlantic Avenue Gig From Gold Dime

Gold Dime’s latest album My House – streaming at Bandcamp – is a deliciously haphazard quantum leap for a band that started out as a side project for guitarist/singer Andrya Ambro (half of messy, well-known avant rock duo Talk Normal). It’s vastly darker and more psychedelic than anything she’s ever done. Having a new lineup that now includes guitarist John Bohannon (whose ambient project Ancient Ocean is 180 degrees from this) and Ian Douglas-Moore on bass probably has something to do with that. They’re playing avant garde central, Roulette – which very rarely has rock bands – on Feb 21 at around 9. Frequent Marc Ribot collaborator and genius multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily opens the night at 8; advance tix are $18 and available for cash at the box office on shownights as well as online.

The album’s opening track, Hindsight comes across as a vampy, more kinetic, noisy take on Brian Jonestown Massacre. The similarly noisy title track looks back to hypnotically dubby, no-wave tinged Slits – or a more organic Shellac.

With its thundering drum buildup and evil, tremolo-picked web of reverb guitar, La Isla de Vaso could be 80s noiserock legends Live Skull backing an enigmatic spoken word track. ABC Wendy has lo-fi, pulsing wave motion and walls of feedback: think vintage late 80s Sonic Youth with a competent bass player.

Douglas-Moore’s spare chords hardly hint at the enveloping, menacing gallop the group’s going to hit with Boomerang. Peggy is built around a swoopy noise-guitar loop: it seems somebody’s in trouble here, not that Ambro is going to bring any of her surreal, fragmented narratives here into clear focus. It’s the one point on the album where, unless you’re high, you could stop the track midway through and not miss anything.

Revolution is a pissed-off call to action awash in a morass of guitars and agitatingly pummeling drums: “Wait a minute, I smell burning,” Ambro cautions. A distantly blazing sax solo adds allusive Indian flavor; if Patti Smith was recording Radio Ethiopia at this minute, it might sound something like this.

The album closes with Goose, briskly strummed bass chords anchoring a disjointed dialogue between Ambro and one of the guys in the band.

Colin Stetson Hauntingly Reinvents an Iconic Eulogy For the Victims of Genocide

What’s more Halloweenish than the arguably most evil event in human history? Friday night at the World Financial Center, saxophonist Colin Stetson led a twelve-piece jazz orchestra through his inventive, intensely immersive original arrangement of Henryk Gorecki’s third Symphony, better known as the “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.” The Polish composer dedicated it to victims of the Holocaust and World War II; the 1992 recording by the London Sinfonietta with soprano Dawn Upshaw remains one of the very last classical recordings to sell a million copies worldwide.

Stetson pointedly remarked before the show that he’d remained true Gorecki’s original melodies, beyond extending or sustaining certain climactic passages, “Amplified for these times.” That ominousness rang especially true right from the start. The main themes are a solemn processional and a round of sorts, both of which rose to several mighty crescendos that were far louder than anything Gorecki ever could have imagined.

Spinning his axes – first a rumbling contrabass clarinet, then his signature bass sax and finally an alto – through a pedalboard along with his looming vocalese, Stetson anchored the dense sonic cloud. Bolstering the low end on multi-saxes and clarinets were Matt Bauder (of darkly brilliant, psychedelic surf rockers Hearing Things) and Dan Bennett, along with cellist Rebecca Foon and synth players Justin Walter and Shahzad Ismaily. Violinists Amanda Lo and Caleb Burhans were charged with Gorecki’s most ethereal tonalities, while guitarists Grey Mcmurray and Ryan Ferreira got a serious workout, tirelessly chopping at their strings with endless volleys of tremolo-picking. It’s amazing that everybody got through this without breaking strings.

The addition of Greg Fox on drums resulted in an unexpected, sometimes Shostakovian satirical feel, adding a twisted faux-vaudevillian edge to a section of the second movement. Stetson’s sister Megan ably took charge of the Upshaw role with her dramatic but nuanced arioso vocal stylings. After the smoke had risen and fallen and risen again across the battlefield, the air finally cleared, an apt return to the stillness and meditative quality of the original score, matching the guarded optimism of the ending as much as the group had channeled the grief and muted anguish of the rest of the work. One suspects the composer – who toiled under a repressive Iron Curtain regime for much of his life – would have approved.

You’ll be able to hear this when the performance airs on John Schaefer’s New Sounds Live on WNYC, most likely early in November.

Darkly Intense Instrumentals from Lou Reed’s Last Great Lead Guitarist

Aram Bajakian was the last great lead guitarist in Lou Reed’s band. Since then, he’s shifted gears and gone on to play with Diana Krall. He’s also as strong and eclectic a composer as his background would suggest: a couple of years ago, he put out a fascinating trio album with with violinist Tom Swafford and bassist Shanir Blumenkranz that reimagined a series of old Armenian folk tunes. Bajakian’s new one, There Were Flowers Also in Hell (a William Carlos Williams quote), goes in a considerably different direction. It’s a feral, deliciously abrasive instrumental rock album, more informed by the blues than it is actually bluesy (although Bajakian is a strong and thoughtful blues player). This one again finds Bajakian leading a power trio, with Shahzad Ismaily on bass and Jerome Jennings on drums. It’s streaming at Bajakian’s Bandcamp page.

Bajakian nimbly weaves his way through many, many styles; he tends to work a concise, direct dirty/clean dichotomy. Ismaily is one of those rare players who listens in 360 degrees and improves everything he touches. As he does in Marc Ribot’s band, he excels at the dark, gritty stuff. Likewise, Jennings is an omnipresent, brooding. ready-to-pounce force at the low end. Much as everybody, especially the bandleader, can get completely unhinged, nobody wastes notes: for such a noisy record, it’s surprisingly focused.

The opening track is Texas Cannonball, which begins as lickety-split cowpunk and then gets all sludged out. One of Bajakian’s signature traits is that he can get just as wild and dirty (the crazed volleys of tremolopicking about two minutes in are only a hint as to how ferocious this album is going to get) as he can be expressive and lyrical. LouTone builds a clenched-teeth, apprehensively buzzing theme driven by Jennings’ leapfrogging, tumbling syncopation. Requiem for 5 Points, a somberly elegaic, minimalist piece, sets Bajakian’s lingering washes of sound over Ismaily’s stately, brooding, spacious lines.

Orbisonian, ablaze with a thicket of multitracked guitars, sounds like Big Lazy covering the Dead Kennedys, a contrast with the tender oldschool soul ballad, Sweet Blue Eyes, that follows it. Rent Party kicks off with a bouncy funk riff into a minor-key tune that’s part newschool Romany rock, surf music and Otis Rush blues – then they hit a long, surreal, muddy interlude reminiscent of 80s noiserock legends Live Skull as the bass growls to the surface. Bajakian then brings it down again with Medicaid Lullaby, a long, hypnotic tone poem that slowly develops a moody Middle Eastern-tinged theme.

Labor on 57th alternates between a hammering, anthemic, Darcy James Argue-like riff and noir surf. Japanese Love Ballad is a ghostly, spiky solo piece in the Asian scale that sounds like Bajakian is playing a resonator guitar with the strings muted. He picks things up again with the sardonic The Kids Don’t Want to Sleep, its growly, slowly simmering nocturnal groove bedeviled by flitting noise: all this pestering is driving dad nuts! The album winds up with For Julia, a spaciously pensive solo guitar sketch. Bajakian has made a lot of great music in recent years but this is some of his most interesting and adrenalizing – it’s one of the best instrumental rock records of recent years, hands down.