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.