New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: Stephen Masucci

Ella Atlas’ Debut Album Builds Hauntingly Cinematic Twin Peaks Ambience

Stephen Masucci is best known for his film music and for his lead guitar in one of the most haunting, Lynchian New York bands ever, the Lost Patrol. Since that group ground to a halt a couple of years ago, he’s been busy with a new, similarly dark, cinematic project, Ella Atlas, with compellingly enigmatic, eclectic singer/multi-instrumentalist Tarrah Maria. The duo’s deliciously reverb-drenched new album The Road to Now is streaming at Bandcamp.

It opens with the catchy, distantly shimmering When the Gods Are Fading, swirly late 70s ELO through a surreal new wave prism peppered with references to wars and death. Masucci’s icy clang fuels the slowly swaying Red Kingdom, Tarrah Maria’s vocals lush with a similarly chilly allure.

Likewise, Hotel You begins with blue velvet tremolo guitar chords but quickly hits a brisk new wave take on a roadhouse rock groove, Tarrah Maria’s voice taking on a hint of a country twang in a luridly aphoristic tale of conflagration and escape. The slower. even more plush Waking Up has a spacerock sweep, the frontwoman’s voice bringing to mind Karla Rose at her most subtly torchy and dynamic.

Meteor shower atmospherics build to a propulsive chorus in Horses on the Run. Breaking Ice comes across as a noir surf-influenced take on the kind of angst-fueled retro new wave the New Collisions mined so memorably around the turn of the past decade.

Something to Be Desired is part hearbroken Nashville gothic pop, part Cocteau Twins, Tarrah Maria turning in her most ominously pillowy vocals here. The duo make an enveloping anthem out of an On Broadway vamp in Blindful & Bliss, then build strutting, turbulent, red-neon ambience in Can’t Go Back.

“I know that this will end, but I’m addicted to the view,” Tarrah Maria intones in Leave Me in Blue, the most darkly lingering, epically sweeping track here. The album winds up with Skin & Bones, rising out and then back to spare, rainy-day melancholy. As with the Lost Patrol, a persistent unease and distant sense of dread pervades these nocturnes: they’re songs for our time. Arguably the best debut album of 2017 so far.

The Lost Patrol Haunts Otto’s

The Lost Patrol headlined this month’s Saturday night surf rock shindig at Otto’s. Part of the set was sort of a mashup of the Cocteau Twins and the Ventures in their most deep-space moments, other times they were the ultimate Lynchian noir Nashville band. On record, their frontwoman Mollie Israel gives the songs an otherworldly allure; on stage, she is the ultimate Lynch girl. Watching her was surreal: between songs, she was unexpectedly down-to-earth, bantering with the crowd, but when the songs began she went into character and never left, a lithely electric, black-clad presence whose charisma was visceral. Having seen both Neko Case and Eilen Jewell recently, Israel is just as compelling, maybe more so, doomed and dangerous yet strangely vulnerable.

The band took a long time to set up: if they’d wanted to be pretentious, they could have called their set “electroacoustic,” the singer and her two guitarists playing to a backing track with bass, drums and occasional keyboards. This didn’t bode well, but they transcended the challenge of having to perform without any useful interaction from whoever had originally played the stuff in the can (it was probably them). They did their earlier material first, some of which reminded of the Church back around the time of the Blurred Crusade album, then one song sounding like Rebel Rebel slowed down and moved forward into the 4AD Records era. Lead guitarist Stephen Masucci’s casually expert, minutely nuanced blend of elegant reverb lines, crescendoing tremolo-picking and eerily resounding, bending chords blended with twelve-string acoustic guitarist Michael Williams’ lustrous jangle, which unfortunately was too low in the mix. But this was Otto’s, where the sound is going to be hit-and-miss and at least Israel’s voice was audible.

All Tomorrow’s Promises blended ethereal dreampop resonance into a sad but purposeful anthem, again much like the Church. Spinning, the first track on the band’s excellent new album, Driven, had the a catchy, bracing, late-winter jangle that reminded of Liza & the WonderWheels. Israel’s best vocals of the night might have been her wordless ones on the late-night highway theme There & Back. She said that her favorite song on the new album is See You in Hell, which takes a familiar dark garage rock riff and uses it in all kinds of original and interesting ways. And then she sang the hell out of it, bright and clear as a bell but irreparably wounded at the same time. They encored with a brightly surreal, gently reverberating cover of the haunting Ginny Millay country ballad Jukebox on the Moon, winding up the night on a perfectly Lynchian note, sad and completely alone, perfectly capsulizing what this band is all about. This show was an increasingly rare treat: although their songs are regularly featured in film and on tv, they don’t play around or tour as much as they used to. Catch them next at Bowery Electric on Sept 12.

Gorgeous Noir Janglerock and Dreampop From the Lost Patrol

The Lost Patrol have been around in one form or another since the late 90s. They started out as a cinematic soundtrack project, then became a surf band more or less and about five years ago morphed into a deliciously noir janglerock band, sort of the missing link between the Church and the Cocteau Twins. The addition of frontwoman/guitarist Mollie Israel pretty much brought them to their peak as a recording and touring band. In an era when supposedly nobody makes albums anymore, this band has ten (10) to their credit plus numerous singles and contributions to anthologies. Their latest one, Driven, with its lushly clanging unease and swirl, is streaming at the group’s Bandcamp page. They’re headlining Otto’s – a venue far too small for a band this good – at around midnight on Saturday, August 3 on one of Unsteady Freddie’s surf rock nights with purist Connecticut instrumentalists the Clams playing at 10 followed at 11 by powerhouse original reverb rockers Strange But Surf.

The album’s first track, Spinning sets the stage for much of what’s to come, an anthemic janglerock tune straight out of the Church circa The Blurred Crusade. With its lingering guitars and sweeping synth, All Tomorrow’s Promises sets Israel’s dreamy vocals against guitarist Stephen Masucci’s tersely echoey resonance, a spot-on evocation of the Church’s Peter Koppes. Chance of Rain is a morbidly gorgeous, twangy 60s garage tune lowlit by Israel’s brooding, elegaic vocals: “A chance of rain/Still remains/You tried in vain/To wash away/All the days you left behind.”

Israel takes the sultry menace just short of over the top with Little Black Kitten, a slow, slinky, simmering noir organ/janglerock groove. See You in Hell builds off a familiar old garage rock riff: where other bands would take it straight to cliche central, this crew sways it gently and lushly and makes it all the more ominous. The echoey, anxious, tonebending sway of Burn Me Down brings back memories of the late, great late 90s/early zeros New York rockers DollHouse.

There & Back shuffles along on a dark surf groove, followed by the moody dreampop ballad Tell Me. Invincible looks back to the early 80s for its apprehensive new wave swirl, followed by Just Go, an abrupt but impressive detour into torchy saloon jazz featuring Rob Schwimmer’s jaunty ragtime-fueled piano. The two most Lynchian songs here wind up the album: the propulsive noir 60s pop hit In Too Deep and then the towering, angst-fueled Disguise. One of the half-dozen best albums of 2013, by this reckoning: you’ll see it on the final list at the end of year here if we make it that far.