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Tag: strawbs band

Goddess Releases One of the Year’s Best and Most Hauntingly Psychedelic Albums

Goddess are one of New York’s most phantasmagorical, individualistic bands. There is no other group in town who sound remotely like them. Part creepy 60s psychedelic act, part folk noir, part underground theatre troupe, they create a magically eerie ambience, whether live or on record. It was a treat to be able to catch their most recent performance at a private party in south Brooklyn: the album release show for their fantastic new one, Paradise, streaming at Bandcamp. Maybe it was the low lights over a leafy back courtyard – or maybe it was Ember Schrag‘s dangerous gin punch-  but as it went on, the show built an electrically suspenseful ambience, like being invited to a wiccan ceremony or some kind of sacrifice, a real-life Stonehenge hidden away just up the block from Fourth Avenue.

Andy Newman’s lushly enveloping multi-keys are one of the keys to the band’s sound. The other is Tamalyn Miller’s one-string violin, which she built herself. With no training as a violinist, she created her own otherworldly style, sometimes trancelike, other times savage and menacing. Singer Fran Pado maxes out both the band’s surrealistic, theatrical side and also the creepiness factor. Bassist/keyboardist Bob Maynard and polymath guitar sorcerer Bob Bannister complete the picture.

The album’s opening track, Leave Here builds a gorgeously enveloping web of acoustic guitars, the women adding their eerie vocal harmonies, rising to a hauntingly bracing interlude, the stark overtones of the violin contrasting with the gently suspenseful lattice behind it. Death by Owls, a mini-suite, juxtaposes an uneasy lullaby theme with pulsing, warily echoey vocals and then a psych-folk march that looks back to vintage King Crimson or the Strawbs at their most psychedelic. Begins sets soaring, stately, gorgeous vocal harmonies over what could be a horror-film piano theme. By now, it’s clear there’s a narrative of sorts, if a rather opaque one: “Like a finger in the palm, like the death of remorse,” the women intone.

Ponies, a slow folk-rock piano theme, switches from a Brothers Grimm-style tale of mass drowning to a balmy, nocturnal Peter Zummo trombone solo. The band builds contrastingly ethereal vocals and droll electronic keys throughout the anthemic, late Beatlesque Belladonna Honey. Grey Skull works a disquieting dichotomy between ethereal, mellotron-like art-rock orchestration and stark, spare strings, Prado’s mysterious vocals soaring calmly overhead.

Married opens with the mantra “this is not a dream,” those richly soaring vocals over spare, baroque-tinged classical guitar, Miller providing a menacing, multitracked outro. The album winds up with the majestically elegaic title track, an escape anthem fueled by organ and violin, Pado’s gently alluring vocals joined by a choir of voices: a shot of hope breaking through the gloom that’s been gathering all the way to this point. What is this all about? It’s not clear. What is clear is that this is an album you have to spend some time with, and get lost in. Its closest relative is Judy Henske and Jerry Yester”s 1969 cult classic Farewell Aldebaran; someday this too may be just as prized by collectors of magical esoterica.

The outdoor show featured another, similarly phantasmagorical suite, this one a sinister, tragicomic tale of a witch who hypnotizes and then moves in with a hapless New Jersey family, who must then use what little strength they have left to break free of the spell. No spoilers here! And for the icing on the cake, Schrag played a set afterward with her full band, Bannister doing double duty on lead guitar, with Debby Schwartz playing lusciously slippery slides and chords on bass and Gary Foster behind the drum kit, matching Bannister’s edgy nuance. Highlights of the set were not one but two Macbeth-themed new ones. What’s become more and more intriguing, watching Schrag’s repertoire grow over the past several months, is how she takes fire-and-brimstone biblical imagery and turns it back on itself, a savagely articulate critique set to similarly biting, incisive psychedelic rock. Speaking of which, she’s playing Hifi Bar (the old Brownies) at 8 PM on July 2. Watch this space for upcoming Goddess gigs – with their theatrical, multimedia bent, they like to make their events special and for that reason haven’t been playing live a lot lately.

The 30 Best New York Concerts of 2012

Of all the end-of-the-year lists here, this is the most fun to put together. It’s the most individual – everybody’s got a different one.  Last year’s list had 26 shows; this year’s was impossible to whittle down to less than 30. What was frustrating was looking back and realizing how many other great shows there were. Erica Smith, Rebecca Turner, Love Camp 7 and Pinataland all on the same bill at the Parkside? The club didn’t list it on their calendar. Neil Young in Central Park? Completely spaced out on that one. Pierre de Gaillande’s Georges Brassens translation project, Les Chauds Lapins and Raya Brass Band at that place in Tribeca in January? That night conflicted with Winter Jazzfest. The Brooklyn What at Littlefield, Rachelle Garniez at Barbes, Ward White and Abby Travis at Rock Shop, Spanglish Fly at SOB’s…all of those conflicted with having a life. But it was still a great year, arguably better than 2011.

Of all the multiple-act bills, the longest marathon, and arguably most exhilarating show of the year was Maqamfest on January 6 at Alwan for the Arts downtown with slinky Egyptian film music revivalists Zikrayat, haunting vintage Greek rembetiko oud band Maeandros, torchy Syrian chanteuse Gaida, rustic Iraqi classicists Safaafir, deviously intense Palestinian buzuq funk band Shusmo and then a crazy Middle Eastern jam with the brilliant Alwan All-Stars. Maqamfest 2013 promises to be just as good.

Rather than trying to rank the rest of these shows, they’re listed chronologically:

Walter Ego at Otto’s, 1/28/12 – the witty, brilliantly lyrical multi- instrumentalist/songwriter, minus his usual theatrical shtick, instead running through one clever, pun-infused, catchy song after another.

Eva Salina at the Ukrainian National Home, 3/31/12 – this was the debut performance of brilliant Balkan chanteuse Eva Salina Primack’s new band with Frank London on trumpet and Patrick Farrell on accordion. She swayed, lost in the music and sang her heart out in a bunch of different languages over the haunting pulse behind her.

Closing night at Lakeside Lounge, 4/30/12 with co-owner Eric Ambel’s Roscoe Trio, Lenny Kaye from Patti Smith’s band, Mary Lee Kortes, Boo Reiners from Demolition String Band, Charlene McPherson from Spanking Charlene and many others giving the legendary East Village rock venue a mighty sendoff.

Little Annie, Paul Wallfisch and David J at the Delancey, 5/7/12 – the smoky, sureallistically hilarious noir cabaret chanteuse, Botanica’s brilliant keyboardist playing three sets, and the legendary Bauhaus bassist/songwriter/playwright at the top of their brooding noir game.

Ben Von Wildenhaus at Zebulon, 5/14/12 – at one of his final shows before leaving town, the noir guitarist played solo through a loop pedal and turned the club into a set from Twin Peaks.

LJ Murphy & the Accomplices at Otto’s,  6/16/12 – backed by the ferocious piano of Patrick McLellan, Tommy Hochscheid’s classic Stax/Volt guitar attack and a swinging rhythm section, the NYC noir rock legend careened through a politically-charged set of songs from his reportedly phenomenal forthcoming 2013 album.

Black Sea Hotel in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, 6/17/12 – the trio of Willa Roberts, Corinna Snyder and Sarah Small sang their own otherworldly, hypnotic a-cappella arrangements of surreal Bulgarian folk songs from across the centuries, their voices hauntingly echoing in the cavernous space of an old synagogue.

Veveritse Brass Band at Barbes, 6/28/12 – over the absolutely psychedelic, bubbly pulse of the trubas, this ten-piece Balkan jam band burned and roared and turned the club’s back room into a cauldron of menacing chromatics and minor keys.

Kotorino at Joe’s Pub, 6/29/12 – transcending a series of snafus with the sound system, the lush, artsy chamber-steampunk band evoked other countries and other centuries throughout a set that was as jaunty and fun as it was haunting.

Aaron Blount of Knife in the Water with Jack Martin from Dimestore Dance Band at Zirzamin, 7/9/12  – although the two hadn’t rehearsed, Martin evoked the ghost of Django Reinhardt against the reverb cloud swirling from Blount’s guitar amp, through a mix of moody, gloomy southwestern gothic songs.

Magges at Athens Square Park in Astoria, 7/10/12 – the Greek psychedelic rockers played a long show of spiky, often haunting songs spiced with Susan Mitchell’s soaring electric violin and Kyriakos Metaxas’ sizzling electric bouzouki – it seemed that the whole neighborhood stuck around for most of it. Too bad there wasn’t any ouzo.

Neko Case out back of the World Financial Center, 7/12/12 – the stage monitors weren’t working, which messed up opening act Charles Bradley’s set, but Case, Kelly Hogan and the rest of the band didn’t let it phase them, switching up their set list and playing a raw, intense set of noir Americana.

Niyaz at Drom, 7/22/12 – a  long, mesmerizing cd release show by the artsy Canadian-Persian dance/trance ensemble, frontwoman Azam Ali slowly and elegantly raising the energy from suspenseful to ecstatic as it went on.

Dimestore Dance Band at Zirzamin, 7/23/12 – since reviving this group, guitarist Jack Martin has become even more powerful, more offhandedly savage and intense than he was when he was leading them back in the mid-zeros when this witty yet plaintive gypsy/ragtime/jazz band was one of the finest acts in the Tonic scene. This show was a welcome return.

The Secret Trio, Ilhan Ersahin and Selda Bagcan at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, 7/28/12 – the annual “Turkish Woodstock” began with short sets of haunting classical instrumentals, psychedelic jazz and then the American debut of the legendary psychedelic rock firebrand and freedom fighter whose pro-democracy activism landed her in jail at one point.

Bettye LaVette at Madison Square Park, 8/8/12 – the charismatic underground soul legend took songs from acts as diverse as George Jones, Paul McCartney and Sinead O’Connor and made them wrenchingly her own, a portrait of endless struggle followed finally by transcendence.

Bombay Rickey at Barbes, 8/11/12 – jaunty, jangly, surfy , psychedelic Bollywood rock fun, with guitar, accordion and frontwoman Kamala Sankaram’s amazing operatic vocals.

Daniel Kahn & the  Painted Bird at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, 8/12/12 – grim, politically spot-on, lyrically brilliant klezmer-rock songwriting from the Berlin-based bandleader backed by an inspired New York pickup group.

Ulrich Ziegler at Barbes, 8/17/12 – of all the single-band shows, this was the year’s most intense, over an hour of eerie. reverb-driven noir cinematic instrumentals from genius guitarist Stephen Ulrich and his inspired colleague Itamar Ziegler, celebrating the release of the album rated best of 2012 here.

The Byzan-Tones at Zebulon, 8/22/12 – the recently resurrected Greek psychedelic surf rockers traded in the electric oud for Steve Antonakos’ lead guitar, and the result sent the haunting, Middle Eastern-fueled energy through the roof.

J O’Brien and Beninghove’s Hangmen at Zirzamin, 9/10/12 – a fascinatingly lyrical, characteristically witty set, solo on twelve-string guitar, by the former Dog Show frontman followed by New York’s best noir soundtrack jazz band at their most intense and psychedelic.

The Strawbs at B.B. King’s, 9/11/12 – it’s amazing how almost 45 years after the psychedelic/Britfolk/art-rock band began, they still sound strong, their lyrical anthems still resonant even in a stripped-down acoustic trio setting.

Sam Llanas at Zirzamin, 9/11/12 – rushing downtown to catch a solo show by the former BoDeans frontman paid off with a riveting, haunting set of brooding, austerely nocturnal songs, especially when J O’Brien joined him on bass.

Sex Mob at the World Financial Center, 9/27/12 – the downtown jazz legends got the atrium echoing with a hypnotic, absolutely menacing set of classic Nino Rota film themes – and they didn’t even play the Godfather.

Julia Haltigan at 11th St. Bar, 10/2/12 – the eclectic southwestern gothic/Americana/soul siren and songwriter at the top of her torchy, sultry, intense game, backed by a brilliant, jazzy band.

M Shanghai String Band‘s cd release show at the Jalopy, 10/5/12 – an hour of cameos from too many New York Americana luminaries to name, followed by two long sets from the massive oldschool string band, moving energetically from bluegrass, to Appalachian, to sea chanteys, gypsy sounds and Britfolk, sometimes fiery and intense, sometimes hilarious.

Theo Bleckmann backed by ACME, crooning Phil Kline song cycles at BAM, 10/25/12 – this was the premiere of Kline’s lushly enveloping chamber-rock arrangements of his acerbically hilarious Rumsfeld Songs, his eclectic Vietnam-themed Zippo Songs and his brand-new, luridly haunting new Sinatra-inspired cycle, Out Cold.

The Arturo O’Farrill Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra at Symphony Space, 11/2/12 – in the wake of the hurricane, O’Farrill decided to put on a couple of free concerts to lift peoples’ spirits. This was the first and better of the two nights, the brilliant latin big band pianist joined by special guests including Anat Cohen, Sex Mob’s Steven Bernstein, Rafi Malkiel and Larry Harlow, playing long, broodingly intense, towering themes, many of them based on classic Jewish melodies.

Katie Elevitch at Zirzamin, 12/16/12  – goes to show that you can’t really count the year’s best concerts until the year’s almost over. Backed by her fantastic four-piece band, the haunting, intense rock siren improvised lyrics, roared, whispered and seduced the crowd in the plush space with her voice and her achingly soul-inspired songwriting.

The Strawbs Still Shine at B.B. King’s

Four songs into their set Tuesday night at B.B. King’s, Strawbs frontman David Cousins brought out the heavy artillery. Bassist Chas Cronk held down a tensely swaying pulse and added an extra layer of ominous ambience with his footpedals as Cousins and lead player David Lambert built a richly overcast, menacing backdrop with their acoustic guitars. Cousins had explained that the song, New World – the centerpiece of the band’s iconic 1972 album Grave New World – was inspired by the Bloody Sunday massacre in Ireland earlier that year. This time out, he dedicated it to the victims of 9/11, which had special resonance since this was the eleventh anniversary of that particular massacre. And he held nothing back. When he hit the second chorus, his face twisted into a venomous grimace. “May you rot, MAY YOU ROT, in your grave new world!” he snarled, evoking as much outraged horror as murderously vengeful intent. In a year full of amazing concert moments in this city, it was arguably the most intense. From beginning to end, this veteran group put to shame bands a third their age with the majesty of their arrangements, the craftsmanship of their tunes and their lyrics, which remain as socially relevant as they were decades ago.

The band’s vocal harmonies at this stage of their career are tighter and soar higher than anything Crosby, Stills and Nash ever did, their guitar chops are still tight, and so is their songwriting. Even in his youth, Cousins always had the voice of a man in his fifties; in the forty years since Grave New World, it’s barely changed, and it suits him even better than it did then. He’s grown into himself.

In the years that have passed since the band was playing stadiums, the songs have aged just as well. Their tunesmithing seems even more remarkable in this era of samples and machine-tooled melodies. They began their mostly acoustic trio show with their very first single, the wryly aphoristic, Jethro Tull-like Man Who Called Himself Jesus, following with the even more telling, metaphorically-charged, gorgeously harmony-driven Weary Song, from their 1970 Dragonfly album. A similarly lush, wistful new song from a forthcoming album due out early next year paid homage to Sandy Denny, their singer who abruptly left for Fairport Convention after recording a Strawbs album in Denmark that didn’t see a release until over twenty years later.

After the fireworks of Grave New World, they took a slow, psychedelic detour through Oh How She Changed, another 1968 track that made use of the alternate guitar tunings from ancient British folk music that have served this band so well over the decades. Cousins returned to righteous rage with the epic The Hangman and the Papist, a track that seemed somewhat obvious when it came out in 1971 but has taken on greater significance in this age of renewed religious hatred. Then he reached to his side for an electric dulcimer and launched into a rousing, well-applauded verison of Benedictus, the big, Byrdsy FM radio hit from Grave New World with inscrutable lyrics taken from the Chinese Book of the Dead.

From there they went into an unexpectedly fiery version of the art-rock mini-suite Ghosts, Cousins taking a tastily bluesy, incisive solo over the insistent jangle of the guitars. Likewise, a raw, unapologetically High Romantic version of the Autumn Suite – a song that Cousins said had become a soundtrack to hundreds of weddings since the band released it on the Hero and Heroine album in 1974 – redeemed it from the overproduction of the studio version. Volume-wise, the high point of the evening was Cold Steel, a richly anthemic 2004 kiss-off anthem sung vigorously by Lambert, Cousins’ biting banjo work adding an extra edge to the overtones ringing from Cronk’s twelve-string guitar. The nostalgic You and I When We Were Young and a hypnotic take on an unexpected 1975 ballad, Shine On Silver Sun, came toward the end of the set. The trio closed and then encored with a couple of British folk standards, coming full circle with the music that has inspired them from the very beginning.

David Cousins of the Strawbs: At His Artistic Peak

Legendary British band the Strawbs, long admired as much for their pensive folk-rock as well as their more ornate, artsy rock anthems and incisive social commentary, play B.B. King’s on Tuesday, September 11 at around 9. David Cousins, the band’s engaging, articulate main songwriter and frontman, generously took some time in between concerts on this year’s East Coast tour to shed some light on what he and the band have been up to lately:

New York Music Daily: For a band that’s been around over 40 years and through all sorts of lineups, who’s playing this time out?

David Cousins: This is the three-piece acoustic band, part of the lineup from 1974! Myself, David Lambert on guitar and Chaz Cronk on bass and foot pedals.

NYMD: You’ve been through all sorts of stylistic changes as well as band members. First you were the Strawberry Hill Gang, playing American bluegrass and folk music, then you backed Sandy Denny on her first album. You did the Britfolk thing on From the Witchwood, went into psychedelic art-rock for a few albums, then got louder and more electric later in the 70s before revisiting the acoustic stuff in the 80s. Could you say that there a “classic Strawbs” era, or a favorite period in the band for you?

DC: It’s right now. We’ve come round to it now after all we’ve learned, with all the changes in the band, all the different lineups. Now we’re down to an acoustic version again. We’ve amalgamated all those various inspirations, so I have to say this is my favorite time in the band. After all, the songs tell stories – and people love the lyrics, and people actually hear the lyrics for a change rather than being overpowered by the band…

NYMD: Then would you say, after playing big stadiums back in the 70s, making a live album at the Royal Albert Hall, that you’ve finally now just reached the peak of your career?

DC: In terms of audience size, no, but in terms of music, it’s quite unusual – we get standing ovations, halfway through the show! And some of these songs we play are very delicate. But the subject matter seems to get people excited.

NYMD: You have David Lambert on lead guitar – he’s a loud, fiery, intense player, it must be quite a change to have him on acoustic instead of electric…

DC: He’s still like that now! He was a very powerful guitarist, still is. But we do it on acoustic guitars and it’s no less forceful.

NYMD: And you have Chaz Cronk, the band’s longtime bassist…

DC: Chaz is using foot pedals. The way the pedals are configured, they’re attached to a synthesizer, so for example, on New World [the classic centerpiece of what might be the band’s greatest album, 1972’s ornate, grimly apocalyptic Grave New World], he can play the original mellotron figure. It adds a new dimension to the band. It’s the same principle as a concert organ. While he’s playing bass, or 12-string guitar, he’s also playing with his feet at the same time…a huge noise coming out, and there’s no trickery in it, no tapes in the back!

NYMD: You don’t miss having a drummer?

DC: Drummers are too bloody loud! They’re the curse of mankind [grins].

NYMD: So what does the crowd this Tuesday at B.B. King’s have to look forward to? Old stuff? New stuff?

DC: Don’t worry, you’ll get the “classics” – New World, the full version of the Autumn Suite that by the way we don’t miss the strings or the drums on…very obscure material from early on to start the show as well…

NYMD: You’ve earned a reputation for all kinds of surprises in concert: you never play a song remotely the same way two nights in a row…

DC: I’d get bored sick if I did that!

NYMD: Did you ever have any idea that in 2012 you’d still be doing this, or be so well-received after all these years?

DC: I never expected it in a million years! Some of the songs we’re playing now are 40 years old. We’re developing a new audience as we go – we find them coming to the next show, and the one after that…

NYMD: Speaking of crowds, what are the crowds like these days? Older folks, hobbits, or are the kids making you their latest rediscovery?

DC: By and large, it is an older crowd, sometimes parents brings in their kids – generations following it through. But we played in Vienna, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC on the first night of the tour and a young couple wandered in; the young girl was no older than 22. After the show, I went to the bar and got a glass of wine to wind down and her boyfriend came up and he said, “Do you mind if I say hello?

And I said fine, and we got to chatting, and he said, “My girlfriend and I had no idea of who you were, and what you do, but we were completely mesmerized by it.” And later his girlfriend came over and she said, “My boyfriend and I had no idea of who you were, but I found that the most interesting thing I’ve seen in years.” And then there was an older couple that had gotten married to the Autumn Suite. The woman came over and gave me a peck on the cheek, and I gave her a peck on the cheek, and I found out they’d been married for 22 years. So I guess I must have done something right. It makes all this worthwhile for me.

NYMD: How has the recent shakeup in the music business affected you? You remember, a concert would be like an advertisement for an album: you’d go to the show, and then you’d want to pick up the album afterward. Now it’s just the opposite: the album is an ad for the live show, which is where musicians make their money now. How have things worked out for you?

DC: Obviously, I don’t do it for the money, but I still get an enormous amount of pleasure out of it. I think our music comes from the heart and soul. The lyrics are written very personally, played on proper instruments, piano and guitar, and the words are at the center – the melody line is extended to accommodate the words. Nowadays, songs are written on computers. They do one word, one verse, one chorus, they cut and paste it, it’s so mechanical and formulaic! There’s no heart and soul in it. You listen to these dance records, I can’t imagine these bands out there in 40 years communicating anything….

NYMD: I don’t either. But you’re living proof that there’s an audience for intelligent music – if anybody’s alive 40 years from now, I can tell you that some people will be listening to the Strawbs!

DC: [laughs] I hope so!

NYMD: Even though anyone can go online and get a free download of any album you’ve ever released, you’re still moving merch, keeping your heads above water and so forth?

DC: We’re still selling records. We’ve sold a hundred thousand records over the last ten years. That’s ten thousand records a year. We have a new album coming out at the end of October – a reissue of Deadlines [an artsy pop effort from 1978 which was a big British hit] with all kinds of alternate versions and new essays, liner notes that I’ve written. We’ll have a new one out in February with totally different songs from what we play onstage now. Put it this way, we’re selling sufficient quantities to keep a business going.

The Strawbs hit the stage at B.B. King’s at around 9 PM on September 11 at B.B. King’s; $25 advance tickets are still available as of today.

Vagabond Swing Brings Their Wild Live Show to NYC

Sunday night Lafayette, Louisiana’s Vagabond Swing gave the crowd at Rockwood Music Hall something to remember for months, blasting through what had to be the wildest, most ferocious show this normally sedate venue (“Classy,” a band member called it) might have ever hosted. “This is the smallest stage we’ve played in years,” admitted their trumpeter, but that’s what happens when bands who play to huge crowds on the road hit this city the first time around. And yet as much as they threatened to completely blow out the PA system, they felt the room, pushing it as far as it would go without being completely over-the-top. The group incorporates elements of Gogol Bordello at their most psychedelic, the Strawbs, Zappa, World Inferno, Tom Waits and Aunt Ange and yet sounds nothing like any of those acts. Their drummer also fronts the band, leaping from behind the kit out into the audience on several occasions, backed by trumpet plus two guitars, electric mandolin, bass and drums, the trumpeter and a couple of the guitarists doubling on creepy funeral organ.

Their shapeshifting songs went on for what seemed 20 minutes at a clip. To call them psychedelic gypsy punk isn’t off the mark but it doesn’t do justice to how crazily eclectic and intense they are. Their first number kicked off with a blistering Keystone Kops intro that morphed into a pensive waltz, then a swaying cabaret vamp and then back to the chase scene which didn’t take long to go completely awry with noisy guitar and trumpet solos. The second featured two slinky bass solos, two macabre organ interludes, a slowly careening waltz that reminded of the heavier stuff on Abbey Road and then a pensive folk-rock interlude with the trumpet soaring uneasily overhead. From there they went into brooding minor-key reggae and came out of that with machine-gun drums into morbidly swirling Carnival of Souls atmospherics. And then the trumpeter led them into a brief, bracing Ethiopian-flavored passage that turned menacingly Macedonian in a split-second and went doublespeed with a vengeance. Is there any style of music this band can’t play?

Wait, there’s more: a punked-out tango with an especially sweet trumpet solo; a twistedly bluesy merry-go-round waltz and a screaming Cab Calloway hi-de-ho number on acid. Vocals are part of the picture, but those didn’t come through clearly considering how fast and furious the band was playing. It didn’t matter. This was the kind of show that gives you enough adrenaline to sprint from the club, cut across two lines of traffic on Allen Street in the pouring rain and then dive down into the subway out of the storm, all in the span of about fifteen seconds. That’s not to suggest that you should do that, only to illustrate how exhilarating it felt to witness something this explosive at midnight on a Sunday.

Artful Psychedelic Tunesmithing from Jeff Beam

Jeff Beam hails from Maine. He plays bass in the Milkman’s Union. He also does his own psychedelic pop with an expanse of ideas that literally covers the entire psychedelic genre. He’s playing Pete’s Candy Store on April 14 at 10 PM. And he has an album, Be Your Own Mirror, streaming at his Bandcamp site. As you would imagine, it’s trippy and sometimes pretty dark. The coolest thing about it is how he takes all these old ideas from the 60s and mashes them up: there’s Kinks, and Floyd, and Procol Harum, and the Strawbs side by side and it all makes sense. The only thing missing is the big-room studio production, although to his credit, Beam’s endless layers of overdubs are a good facsimile. What’s most impressive is that like Elliott Smith – an artist who bears some resemblance – Beam plays almost everything here himself except for some drums, horns and strings (yup – the album’s got ’em).

The first track, Whispering Poison in His Ear evokes the folkie side of Roger Waters circa Obscured by Clouds, with a nice, stinging, tremoloing guitar solo wavering over and under a central note. Hospital Patience is a darkly tiptoeing minor-key late 60s Britfolk tune that builds to an epic majesty with a tasty, fat Robin Trower-ish solo. A two-part instrumental follows that, with mellotron, fuzztone guitar, tempo shifts, an eerie pregnant pause, and then takes on a funky edge.

The strongest cut here is Now. How Beam builds it from a slinky, brooding minor-key blues into an ornate Beatlesque anthem is a clinic in good songwriting. Lyrics don’t seem to be a major part of all this; this one’s the least opaque of all the songs. “I’m going underground…give me a quiet town, all these people chasing me around,” Beam muses.

The rest of the album includes riffy T-Rex style glamrock, an instrumental that looks back to early Genesis, a catchy Kinks-ish pop tune and a warped take on a Penny Lane riff that wouldn’t be out of place in Elliott Smith’s last work. Best thing about this is that’s free – or you can throw some bucks at his bandcamp site if you want. Download it here.