New York Music Daily

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Tag: stoner music

Eight-String Guitarist Charlie Hunter Brings His Irrepressibly Fun Band to the Rockwood

Guitarists who don’t waste notes are a rare breed. They’re even rarer in the world of jambands and summer tours, which is where Charlie Hunter made his mark. As you would expect from a guy who tacked on a couple of extra strings to bolster the low end of his six-string model, groove is his thing. In doing so, he invented his own style of music, equal parts jazz, reggae, funk and vintage soul. And he can be hilarious. His latest excellent, characteristically eclectic album Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched is streaming at Spotify. Hunter and his fantastic quartet have a two-night stand coming up on March 8 and 9 at 8:30 PM at the third stage at the Rockwood; cover is $15. The last time this blog was in the house there, they weren’t enforcing that annoying drink minimum, a good thing since Hunter’s crowd is more likely to smoke than get wasted on the Rockwood’s expensive drinks.

The album opens with the title track, a slow, comfortable swing blues with a characteristically wry, bubbling Curtis Fowlkes trombone solo; then cornetist Kirk Knuffke signals that all may not be so cool after all. Drummer Bobby Previte’s emphatic, tersely swinging slow triplet groove anchors the second track, Looks Like Someone Got Ahead of Schedule on Their Medication, which opens with an amusingly woozy voicings from Fowlkes and Knuffke, then takes a detour to New Orleans before the meds kick in again.

Staccato horns add spice to Leave Him Lay, a mid-80s Grateful Dead style blues fueled by Previte’s swinging, almost disco drive and Hunter’s spiky, Bob Weir-ish chords. We Don’t Want Nobody Nobody Sent is an uneasily swaying midtempo noir theme, like Big Lazy with horns and  a long, purposefully crescendoing blues solo from the bandleader. Then Hunter gets even more retro with Big Bill’s Blues, ostensibly a Big Bill Broonzy homage. beginning starkly and then shifting into jubilant Crescent City territory with some artful counterpoint from the horns.

The darkly simmering soul theme Latin for Travelers is a vehicle for a contrastingly bright solo from Knuffke and then Fowlkes, dipping down to just the horns and then back for extra dynamic punch. No Money No Honey is as hard as the funk gets here, although it’s more of a swing tune: everybody in the band, especially Previte, is having a ball with this one.

Who Put You Behind the Wheel opens as a spaciously tiptoeing, Asian-tinged excursion, then morphs into reggae, with a trick ending. The looseness and freeness of Wish I Was Already Paid and On My Way Home mask its relentlessly dark, distantly klezmer-tinged undercurrent . The album winds up with the jaunty, dixieland-ish second-line march The Guys Get Shirts. This works on every level, as first-rate jazz, blues and psychedelia.

The Searing, Psychedelic Space Merchants Headline an Eclectic Show for a Good Cause in Park Slope

With their edgy guitar riffage, ominous organ and tight rhythmic assault, the Space Merchants are sort of the missing link between the Stooges and X, with frequent detours into stoner riff-rock and long, hypnotic, vortical jams in the same vein as the Brian Jonestown Massacre or Black Angels. They’re headlining a benefit for Planned Parenthood on March 4 at 10:30 PM at Union Hall; first-rate honkytonk songwriter Cliff Westfall opens the night at 8:30, followed by Tatters and Rags, who veer between plaintive Jayhawks Americana, honkytonk and cowpunk. Cover is $10.

The last time this blog and the Space Merchants were in the same place, it was in early November at St. Vitus. They opened with a low-key, purposeful stoner 70s riff-rocker that they suddenly took doublespeed, with a hypnotically pounding jam, like the Black Angels at their ballsiest.

Their second number had a fast backbeat from drummer Carter Logan, uneasy close harmonies from guitarist Michael Guggino and keyboardist Ani Monteleone; it was as if John Doe and Exene teamed up with the Stooges right at the point where Iggy went AWOL and checked into rehab. Guggino’s biting bluesmetal interspersed with bassist Aileen Brophy’s catchy, serpentine riffs against Monteleone’s tornado-on-the-horizon organ.

The next song was the reverse image of that, opening with a stomping swing that Guggino took halfspeed with a simmering, slide-fueled southern vibe. The band brought back the X harmonies on the song afterward, a stomping, swaying anthem, part Paperback Writer Beatles, part Deep Purple, Guggino playing through a repeaterbox patch, then hitting his wah pedal for a long raga solo as the organ rose to a flood warning behind him. Monteleone took over lead vocals as the song lurched toward heavy MC5 territory,Guggino veering between unhinged blues, wry hammer-ons and some murderous tremolo-picking.

From there they mashed up Steppenwolf and early Destroy All Monsters, hit a brief bass-and-drums interlude and segued into a burning, swaying midtempo song akin to Sonics Rendezvous Band covering one of the more cowpunk-flavored tunes on X’s Wild Gift album. They took it out with shimmering sheets of feedback.

The night’s last song brought to mind the Stooges’ Johanna with a woman out in front of the band; then they took it in a macabre Blue Oyster Cult direction. All night long, Guggino had been generating some of the most delicious low-midrange sounds heard at any rock show in town: was he splitting his signal between a Fender Twin and an ancient, unidentifiable, vintage sandstone-colored amp behind him? It was impossible to tell – St. Vitus always has great sound, anyway. The Union Hall show should be even more intense since the basement room there is a lot smaller.

A Soaring Blend of Psychedelic and Powerpop Rarities from the Jigsaw Seen

Since the late 80s, Los Angeles band the Jigsaw Seen have maintained a devoted following as one of the world’s most lyrically clever, playful retro psychedelic and powerpop acts. Frontman Dennis Davison’s songcraft draws on a half-century worth of catchy hooks, singalong choruses, devious and often ferociously literate wordplay and every glistening, sparkly texture ever used in 1960s British rock. Their latest album, streaming at Spotify, is titled For the Discriminating Completist. It’s a B-sides and rarities collection, akin to those great Oasis eps from the 90s. The difference is that the Jigsaw Seen’s full-length albums are as consistently excellent as their obscurities.

This album is also unusual in that it contains not one but four covers. The opening track, The Best Is Yet to Come is reinvented as Cheap Trick stripping It’s All Over Baby Blue to its inner powerpop gem. Like most of the tracks here, the snide 1999 single Celebrity Interview features the current edition of the band, founding member Jonathan Lea’s big, Badfinger-esque guitars on the chorus over the taut rhythm section of bassist Tom Currier and drummer Teddy Freese.

One of the best tracks here is We Women, a a punk anthem in Bollywood disguise that might not be quite as feminist as it seems:

We are your mothers and if you behave
We’ll give you every little thing you crave…
We’ll bend your gender left and right…
We wallow in your misery….
We’re very much like you
Although we can show all that you feel

The BeeGees’ priceless Melody Fair comes across as a Dukes of Stratosphear-style parody, maybe the only song written about stealing riffs – in this case an endless sequence from the Beatles. The version of Baby Elephant Walk is also pretty hilarious, recast as a mashup of Badfinger and Booker T. The version of Arthur Lee’s Luci Baines is a 60s soul ballad via Lou Reed in the same vein as Karla Rose‘s The Living End. Then there’s the wry faux Merseybeat of Jim Is the Devil – a broadside directed at 80s televangelist Jim Bakker – lit up with a tongue-in-cheek neo-baroque exchange of Rickenbacker licks.

The lone new track here, Have a Wonderful Day – an aphoristic apocalypse anthem –  might be the best of the bunch, with a coy piano/mellotron interlude  and a big guitar break straight out of the Tobin Sprout playbook.

When You’re Pretty is the album’s most opaque and subtly biting number, followed by the big, Beatlesque backbeat anthem Whore Kiss. With its pummeling volleys of drums, incendiary chromatics, Indian influences and dynamic shifts, My Name Is Tom is the album’s most psychedelic track. The final cut is the majestically swaying powerpop tune Another Predictable Song,  full of subtle playful guitar and bass japes.

The Jigsaw Seen will be coming back to New York in March; in the meantime, Davison is currently on tour with his brand-new duo project Witchfinder Witch with folk noir songwriter Lorraine Leckie. The final stop is tomorrow night, Jan 25 at 9 PM at Maxwell’s in Hoboken on a killer triplebill. Former Aquanettas frontwoman Debby Schwartz, with her soaring, rapturous voice, blends enigmatic dreampop and psychedelic Britfolk sounds and opens the show at 8. Twisted Blondie cover band the Pretty Babies, fronted by the fearless, funniest woman in rock, Tammy Faye Starlite, headline at 10. Cover is $10.

A Wild Night in Bushwick Thursday in Anticipation of This Year’s Golden Fest

Of all the accolades Ray Manzarek received, he was most proud of how Rolling Stone described his organ playing as “Balkan funeral music.” Manzarek was also proud of his heritage, and if he was still alive, no doubt he’d be a fan of Choban Elektrik. The Brooklyn band – Jordan Shapiro on organ, Jesse Kotansky on violin, Dave Johnson on bass and Phil Kester on drums – take folk music from across the Balkans and make psychedelic rock epics out of it. Sometimes they sound like the Doors, sometimes they bring to mind the Stranglers when the rhythms are more straight-up and Shapiro goes off on one of his long, spiraling tangents. They aren’t playing this weekend’s Golden Fest – New York’s single funnest musical weekend of the year – but they are in the middle of an amazing four-band pre-Golden Fest lineup this Thursday, Jan 12 at Sunnyvale in Bushwick. Cover is $12, music starts at 7 with the feral, intricate lickety-split, rare Polesian klezmer dances and grooves of Litvakus, then  Choban Elektrik, then epic, original, intense Raya Brass Band, with Greek Judas;, who play psychedelic metal versions of classic underground 1920s and 1930s Greek hash smoking music, headlining

Choban Elektrik earned a rave review here last year for a twinbill they played with Greek Judas at Barbes back in April. The group played an even more adrenalizing show show there three months later that didn’t get a writeup here – overkill, you know – but did earn a spot on the Best Shows of 2016 page. Here’s what happened.

A bubbly, syncopated minor-key vamp slowly coalesced and then Shapiro hit his smoky, eerily tremoloing organ patch, pouncing his way through a brooding chromatic theme. Eventually, Kotansky took it skyward as Shapiro’s organ smoldered and pulsed. They followed that with the night’s first vocal number, a minor-key mashup of tango and surf rock with a long, majestically rising organ solo that Shapiro finally took spiraling down, then punched in some noisy, staccato washes like an unhinged Jimmy Smith.

Shapiro’s arrangement of the next tune was packed with shivery melismas and trills, wildfire clarinet lines transposed to funeral organ, echoed by Kotansky’s lightning volleys of triplets when he took a solo. Then he took the song down to the lowest, most austere place on his fingerboard. They took it out with a whirlwind doublespeed outro.

Kester suppplied a dancing rimshot beat as the bouncy next number got underway, the organ dancing overhead, Kotansky keeping the danse macabre going as Shapiro hit his wah pedal for some mean funk. They hit a staggered groove after that, Shapiro turning the roto way up to max out the menace and intensity of the tune’s Middle Eastern-tinged chromatics, adding an echoey dead-astronaut-adrift-in-space electric piano solo midway through. Kotansky’s solo was almost as macabre and veered toward bluesy metal. Then the band flipped the script with a joyously driving, syncopated anthem, both the folksiest and most ELP-inflected number of the night. They followed with one of their really epic numbers, sort of a mashup of Duke Ellington’s Caravan, the Doors’ Light My Fire and a bouncy Serbian theme. That was just the first set – and probably a close approximation of what you can expect Thursday night in Bushwick.

And the most recent moment that this blog and Greek Judas could be found in the same room was a few weeks ago on a cold Monday night at LIC Bar. Why on earth would someone not from Long Island City make the trip out there in bitter December wind, late on a work night – on an injured limb, no less – to a little Irish pub to see a loud metal band run through what was was basically a live rehearsal?

If you’re hanging out just over the Pulaski Bridge, a couple of stops away on the G, why the hell not? On one hand, the show was as experimental and sloppy as you would expect from a rehearsal, but by the third song in, the Monday Night Football crowd at the bar was drawn in by the group’s animal masks and macabre riffage, had their phones out and were gramming away. All that attention apparently earned Greek Judas a return engagement on another Monday night later this month. But what the bar really ought to give them is an early Saturday night slot during the warmer months when the back courtyard is open and the place is packed.

Innov Gnawa Pack the House in the East Village With Their Intoxicating, Ancient Dance Grooves

Friday night, Ilhan Ersahin’s swanky Nublu 151 club was packed with a crowd of dancers representing just about every ethnic background and language spoken in New York. They’d come to get down to Innov Gnawa, who sing Muslim devotional chants in Arabic and Bambara over grooves which are as sophisticated as they are ancient. Gnawa is commonly used throughout Morocco as part of a healing ritual, and is unsurpassed as dance music. Its roots go back centuries before Islam.

Bandleader Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafer opened by pounding out an indomitable, insistent beat on the big bass drum slung around his neck, summoning his choir of percussionists: Samir Langus, Amino Belyamani, Said Bourhana, Nawfal Atiq and guest Ahmed Habibi. Then the seven-piece group launched into the first hypnotically shapeshifting number of the evening, the mesmerizing clickety-clack of the chorus’ cast-metal qraqab castanets balanced with the fat low end booming from Ben Jaafer’s three-string sintir lute – it’s the godfather of this era’s funk bass. His tersely bluesy riffs lept, and pounced, and bounced off the walls as the qraqab players suddenly shifted to doublespeed and then back, drawing a chorus of whoops from the women in the crowd. In the far right corner, Ahmed Jeriouda boosted the low end with his circling beats on a cajon.

For awhile it was a lot of fun trying to figure out what the rhythm was: there were a couple of grooves in 6/8, maybe another couple in 12/8, a couple of triplet beats that brought to mind Malian desert music, and some straight-up 4/4 shuffles. Polyrhythms were everywhere, whether in the call-and-response between leader and chorus, between the sintir and the qraqabs, or in an implied beat left for the dancers to fill out themselves.

Ben Jaafer passed the sintir to his protege Langus to open the second set, a rare occurrence in this kind of music. Traditionally, a master doesn’t share the stage with an apprentice, but Langus held up his end seamlessly with a similarly slinky, kinetic drive. Then he went back into the chorus. The night’s most intense and gripping interlude might have been when Ben Jaafer left the world of gnawa for a bit to sing a hammadcha number, his voice taking on added grit and enigmatic growl as the melody introduced some similarly uneasy Middle Eastern microtones.

It was both a mecca and medina of the mind: visions of olives, and pomegranates, and harissa wafting in on a balmy Mediterranean breeze. Up on the balcony behind the stage, a silhouetted, undulating couple put on a sexy shadowplay. Back by the door, a couple of fratboys jumped around randomly, testament to this music’s ability to grab just about anybody. A little further to the front, a nightcrawler still nursing a nasty injury to the lower extremities joined the dancers, glad to be pain-free for the duration of the set. There definitely is something to this music’s curative power.

Innov Gnawa have a couple of enticing shows coming up. Jan 7 they’re at Drom at around 10 on a ridiculously good multiple-act bill starting at 7 PM with all-female pan-latin group Ladama,  otherworldly Tuvan throat-singing ensemble Alash, legendary Ethiopiques jazz artist Girma Beyene with psychedelic Ethiopian groove orchestra Feedel Band, haunting Puerto Rican bolero revivalists  Miramar, latin rockers the Battle of Santiago, African dance-rappers Janka Nabay, and Afrobeat band Underground System. Cover is a measly ten bucks. Then on Jan 21 Innov Gnawa are at C’Mon Everybody in Crown Heights with the Pogues of populist Veracruz folk music, Radio Jarocho.

How Do You Say Jethro Tull in Czech?

What an encouraging omen that in 2016, a band would be unafraid to record a hauntingly vivid, 70s-style art-rock suite. One that vividly echoes Jethro Tull, no less.

Jethro Tull.

Say it slowly. Jethro. Tull.

If you’re stoned, you’re already laughing. But stop. In this blog’s five-year history, the most popular review here is a writeup of a show by that band’s founder. So today’s front page news should be the second most popular piece ever, right?Psychedelic art-folk band Jull Dajen earn that distinction, evoking Tull in the best possible ways, and without the Stonehenge vibe that earned them Spinal Tap immortality. The Prague-based group’s new album Salamander is streaming at Soundcloud.

The opening diptych pairs a jaunty seafaring waltz theme of sorts with a bouncier one in 4/4, with a psychedelic wah violin solo by the band’s not-so-secret weapon, Pavel Cingl, at the center. The title track is a surreal Slavic take on Tull with a crystalline yet inscrutable vocal in perfect English by Bara Malkova anchored by slinky, sliding bass from Czech punk legend Jaroslav Kestra Kestranek.

In a Circle bookends a purposeful, propulsive minor-key dance theme with bandleader/acoustic guitarist Petr Stambersky’s pensive fingerpicking alongside Dusan Navarik’s similarly thoughtful flute. They hand off to Cingl, who raises the morose energy a little before the dance kicks in.

Unfortuantely I Haven’t Met You Yet goes a moodily bouncing psychedelic Britfolk direction. There’s a hint that the gnomes will go frolicking at the end – whether or not they do is worth sticking around to find out.Old Indian Man is a sad, hypnotic take on what could be a Native American theme, although it sounds closer to Shonen Knife with more expressive vocals. Cingl hits his wah pedal and channels a century of deep blues as it winds out.

Forgotten Tull gives Navarik a chance to channel his inner secondhand Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Meanwhile, the rhythm section gets  a chance to have devious fun with 70s disco (Kestranek’s lines are hilarious), and Cingl to offer a snide response via his wah pedal. For Anoushka Shankar reprises the opening theme as a moody fugue and then pouncing 70s art-rock, an eclectic elegy for her paradigm-shifting dad who like this band never met an idiom he could resist appropriating and adding his original voice to.

Malkova sings Starless – an allusion to the classic King Crimson dirge, maybe? – with a haunted resignation in contrast to the band’s slowly crescendoing dynamics and a lively, combative conversation between Cingl and Navarik. Greedy Pigs – Hungry Sharks is a funny juxtaposition between bouncy and sinister. There’s a final, closing benediction, a variation on the Scottish seaside theme that opens the album, Cingl”s psycho blues and Frantisek Tomasek’s terse, purposeful accordion signaling that all here ends well. Dare you to give this a spin even if Jethro Tull is no more than a signifier of wretched 70s excess to you.

Radio Moscow’s Live in California – Best Heavy Psych Album of the Year

Do you love Jimi Hendrix? Heavy psychedelic power trio Radio Moscow, San Diego’s best export since Karla Rose, are the closest approximation for those of us who missed the 60s.

Guitarist Parker Griggs echoes Hendrix in the purest sense possible, faster than you can say “Frank Marino.” Hendrix was a noisy player, and so is this guy. He takes a whole bunch of ideas springboarded by Jimi – playing off a root note a full step below the octave; letting a phrase bleed out in a pool of hammer-ons, leaving the natural reverb all the way up, and doing all sorts of deviously trippy things with feedback – without being blatantly derivative. The band’s titanic new double gatefold album, Live in California, is streaming at youtube. As heavy psych sounds go, there’s nothing that’s been releasd in 2016 that can touch this.

Radio Moscow also distinguish themselves with a surprisingly nimble rhythm section. Where other metal bands plod, bassist Andrew Meier and drummer Paul Marrone swing, hard. The album’s opening track, I Don’t Know echoes Hendrix but with three times the amp firepower and tighter rhythm – where Jimi would stretch his strings to the point where he needed his wammy bar to stay in tune with himself, Griggs works a savagely tremoloing lefthand on the fretboard: somewhere Jimmy Page is drooling with envy. The song’s trick ending on the way out adds a cool touch.

Death of a Clown – an original, not the vaudevillian Kinks classic – opens with lightning upper-register clusters and unhinged solar flare riffs, a galloping Purple Haze of a psych funk tune. The guitar trills at the end are precise, but not so much that Griggs can’t fly completely off the handle when the time comes. Broke Down takes a turn toward vintage Sabbath, echoed by Marrone’s trailing lines, up to a lysergically fried doublespeed wah boogie.

I Don’t Need Anybody kicks off as a turbocharged Train Kept A-Rollin’ shuffle, Griggs’ acid blues anchored by trebly, distorted fuzz bass that eventually mingles with the guitar’s low strings. 250 Miles Brain Cycles, a blues, comes across as a joint homage to Hendrix’ Machine Gun and Meddle-era David Gilmour, then hits a sick boogie peak with divebombing Are You Experienced sonics. The flurry of crazed blues about 6:45 in is worth the cost of the album alone.

Before It Burns has catchy Foxy Lady riffage matched to a heavy Nektar drive – the screaming sheets of guitar sound like the acid is really kicking in hard here. Then Griggs backs off into Middle Eastern territory for a bit, over a Caravan bassline. The trip continues through rises and falls, an echoey, suspenseful interlude over growly bass as the drums tumble around a little back, up to a screaming peak and a sudden, cold ending. It leaves you breathless.

The Escape sounds like the James Gang as Hendrix might have done it, with those crazed accents at the end of the riff. City Lights is punctuated by searing fuzztone leads. Griggs really cuts loose with the leaps, screaming harmonics, divebomb effects and a nasty tremolo on Chance of Fate, one of the best and wildest tracks here. Then the band takes a detour into slowly swaying acid blues with The Deep Blue Sea.

The hard-charging, vamping These Days is one of the catchiest tracks in the set, taking the energy back up to redline, even when the band goes halfspeed during a break that gives Griggs a launching pad for some of his most pyrotechnic bluesmetal work. Thee follow the scampering boogie Rancho Tahoma Airport with the album’s most epically psychedelic track, No Good Woman, rising and falling with Griggs’ most echoey, deep-space work here. The trio close out the show tersely and emphatically with the hammering, funk-tinged riffage of So Alone.

What are the best chemicals for experiencing this album? Good acid or mushrooms, obviously; good weed too. For purposes of coming up with evocative descriptions of the tracks, an evening of black russians did the trick. As the fifth of vodka got closer and closer to empty, the trajectory of the album matched the mood – these guys definitely programmed this show, and this album, to be a party.

More Creepy, Psychedelic Soundtrack Magic from Morricone Youth

You’re going to be hearing a lot of Morricone Youth in the next year, and not just here. Prolific guitarist/composer Devon E. Levins’ ominously psychedelic film soundtrack outfit are off to a good start with their planned marathon fifteen-album cycle of original film scores they’ve performed live over the past five years. The latest in the series is the music for Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 silent The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the oldest animated feature still in existence. As with the previous release, this one’s available on limited-edition vinyl as well as digital formats. Most of it’s up at the band’s youtube channel (tracks aren’t in sequential order, but there’s a heavenly feast of noir sound here).

The title theme scatters hints of Middle Eastern modes in Dan Kessler’s dramatic funeral organ, Levins’ steely tremolo-picking finally hitting a slasher peak over altered cha-cha drums, pouncing along on a tricky 5/4 beat. Conrad Harris’ koto-like, reverbtoned pizzicato violin and Ayo Awosika’s inscrutable vocalese spice the Asian psychedelica of Chinese Emperor; then Levins takes it further into Vampiros Lesbos territory with his sunbaked, distorto lines.

Harris channels vintage Bollywood in tandem with Levins’ guitar sitar in Peri Banu. Changing Modes drummer Timur Yusef adds all sorts of eerie, jungly textures to open Maestro in Baghdad, as he frequently does throughout the album, while Kessler’s organ keens in tandem with Levins’ terse, distantly menacing Andalucian lines.

Fraser Campbell’s tenor sax channels a classic Addis Ababa riff as the elegant Maidens gets underway: Mulatu Astatke might have done something like this if John Carpenter had hired him for a horror soundtrack forty years ago. Sorcerer, the final cut, takes a completely unexpected turn into blippy Afrobeat. For a band that seems hell-bent on dumping release after release of collector vinyl onto the market, they maintain an amazingly high level of consistency: this is every bit as fun and arguably even more eclectic than the band’s just-released score to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

Cocooning on Multiple Levels

If there’s ever been a time for soothing, enveloping sounds in New York, this is it. Two shows this week gave audiences a good idea of what’s available in an month where pretty much everybody’s women friends are afraid of losing their reproductive rights, everybody’s Mexican friends are worried about being lynched, and everybody’s up in arms about where they’re going to live after 1/19/17.

Virtuoso violist Ljova explained that he was new to loopmusic, so he cautioned the crowd at Barbes Tuesday night that they should take what they hear with a grain of salt. Then he launched into a characteristically ambitious solo soundscape that echoed the rigor of his Moscow conservatory training, his wide-ranging eclecticism as one of this era’s great film composers, as well as the wry humor and irony that pervade his work across the board. His setup was pretty simple, mirroring the directness of his melodies: his signature, custom-made six-string “famiola” running through delay, loop and volume pedals. It was interesting to watch him think on his feet: when he hit on a riff he liked, he ran with it. There were also a few times when he’d hit on one he didn’t think worth keeping, scowled a little and then moved on.

Then the great Syrian-born clarinetist Kinan Azmeh joined the festivities. While his music can be kinetic – he leads a fantastic jazz group, his City Band – it more frequently tends to be on the serious side, often extremely poignant. The early part of the duo’s calm, methodically shifting improvisation echoed the eerie washes of Azmeh’s upcoming album with the similarly brilliant Turkish guitarist and soundscaper Erdem Helvacioglu. But Ljova was in a restless mood, and began to pull away, and Azmeh stayed in sync with some judiciously spaced, bubbly phrases in contrast to his more usual brooding resonance. At the end of the set, the two joined in an enigmatically lilting, minor-key waltz by the violist. The two have played together many times, although this was their first joint improvisation. Azmeh plays his song cycle Songs for Days to Come, featuring the work of Syrian poets in exile, tomorrow night, Nov 19 at 8 PM at Symphony Space with pianist Lenore Smith, soprano Dima Orsho and cellist Kinan Abou-Afach. $25 tix are still available as of today. Ljova stays busy on the road: his next gig as a bandleader is with his vibrantly cinematic Kontraband string ensemble on Dec 3 at 7:30 PM PM at the San Fernando Cathedral, 115 W Main Plaza in San Antonio, TX, reservations to (210) 464-1534 are required.

The soundscapes played last night at Spectrum by guitarist Martin Bisi, multi-instrumentalist Thursday Fernworthy and ambient music artist Robert Pepper were more  lushly enveloping, a dense, misty, slowly swirling vortex. Seated within an audience with closed eyes and slowly bobbing heads, just about everybody reclined in a comfy armchair, it felt weird to rise up and actually watch the musicians at work rather than  drifting off in a surrealistic tequila buzz. Although the overall sound was contiguous, a single river fed by a kaleidoscope of streams, there was a lot of interplay and camaraderie among the three. There were distinct segments where each musician essentially got to lead the trio, whether that meant Pepper intoning into what looked like a mini-digeridoo, or Fernworthy sending keening violin overtones spiraling through her mixers, or Bisi doing the same with an emphatically minimalist riff or gentle chordal wash. Meanwhile, trippy projections played on a screen behind them, the best being a slow walk into the woods, Blair Witch style. Likewise, about two-thirds of the way through their roughly forty-minute improvisation, the three laced their ultraviolet backdrop with bracing close harmonies, jarring rhythmic hits and lower, more distinctly ominous drones.

Pepper books and plays the regular Ambient Chaos series at Spectrum, typically on the third Thursday of the month starting at around 9 in the welcoming, comfortable second-floor Ludlow Street space. Bisi and Fernworthy – someone whom Facebook does not believe is an actual person, notwithstanding the evidence of her performance here – have been known to do live atmospherics at Bisi’s legendary Gowanus digs, BC Studios on Sunday evenings. It’s not a public venue per se, but if you know them or care to keep in touch, you may be able to get an invite.

Ambient Comfort and Distant Disquiet from Martin Bisi and Genevieve Kammel Morris

For those whose passion is diving as deep as possible into hypnotically swirly, psychedelically atmospheric sounds, there’s a tantalizing show coming up on Nov 17 at 11 PM at Spectrum when guitarist Martin Bisi joins forces with multi-keyboardist Genevieve Kammel Morris and Ambient Chaos impresario Robert Pepper. Bisi is best known as a purveyor of menacingly melodic art-rock (and for producing famous people like Swans, and Herbie Hancock, and Sonic Youth, and the Dresden Dolls, among many others). But he’s just as interesting when he jams: either way, there’s always a tune percolating through the mix somewhere.

This past evening at his legendary Gowanus digs, BC Studios – which deserve to be turned into a museum and landmarked – Bisi put down his guitar and mixed live with his usual psychedelic flair while Kammel Morris and Gabe Raines spun slowly oscillating, subtly shifting shades from banks of both analog and digital synths, plus flute, cymbals, a series of mixers and what sounded like an Indian veena but turned out to be an electric violin. The result was comforting and womb-like, an immensely satisfying experience considering the shock and horror of the past week. But the performance also had an edge.

It was akin to a goth chick falling asleep in your arms: soft skin, sharp shoulderblades underneath. Silky black hair that smells of acrylic and clove cigarettes. The acrid petrochemicals of her shiny black lipstick linger on your tongue. Her sleep is troubled, her breathing shallow and uneven. Once in awhile she mumbles something like “The music is reversible, turn back.” You reach to stroke her arm and the steel of one of her rings slices your wrist. There’s no pain, but you’re bleeding. Do you stop the blood? No, you let it drip onto the futon. She’s a goth chick. She’d like that.

Speaking in musical terms, uneasy close harmonies pulsed against a comfortable octave drone and then receded into the ether as the work went on. Astringently metallic timbres rose and fell while a comfortable sostenuto loomed and keened underneath. There were a few instances where the acoustic instruments could be heard for what they were before being spun out into space and then refracted in what seemed like dozens of concentric spheres.

A violin riff signaled a change, and then the goth chick morphed into Galadriel in a Barbarella outfit while warm, belltone chords rang out from one of the synths and a comet tail of attractive, baroque-tinged major-key melody began to emerge, winding down to a gentle wash of organ tones. The audience stretched out on the studio carpeting in a smoke-machine haze as prismatic visuals rose from the floor, fading from red to green to an aurora borealis and then back, many of the spectators choosing to view all this through dollar-store 3-D glasses supplied by the hosts. There’s no guarantee that there’ll be candles, or a smoke machine for that matter, at Spectrum, or that the performance will have much in common with this beyond enveloping bliss underscored with distanct menace. Either way, it will put you in some sort of trance.

What about the goth chick?

You know the deal. Right?

She disappeared. That’s what goth chicks do.