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Tag: surf rock

NYC Surf Rock Favorites Bring Their Clang and Twang to the South Slope Tomorrow Night

When you think about it, surf rock has been retro for almost as long as swing jazz. And every year, a new generation of kids discovers the catchy, danceable, reverb-drenched sound which these days is made mostly by bands who live nowhere near the water.

One group that does live near the water, or close to it, anyway, is the Supertones. Dating back to the mid-90s, they’re one of the longest-running bands in New York. A lot of surf artists, from legends like Dick Dale to Los Straitjackets and the Coffin Daggers, bring their sensational chops and supersonic tremolo-picking to wow the crowd. The Supertones do the opposite: Bandleader and Telecaster player Tim Sullivan writes lingering, spacious themes that border on the minimalist, with a sound that looks back to the early 60s and the golden age of the Ventures and Shadows.

Everything they play sounds familiar, yet hard to place, maybe because Sullivan is awfully good at taking classic surf hits and tweaking them just enough to call them his own. The group’s late-90s residency at the old Luna Lounge on Ludlow Street is legendary. There’s been some turnover in the group over the years (the original rhythm section left and eventually became Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars), but the Supertones didn’t drown in the lockdown and have emerged with a gig at 9 PM tomorrow night, June 25 at Freddy’s. A couple of cover bands, Band of Others and then Link Wray cover crew the WrayCyclers play after; it’s a pass-the-bucket situation.

There are as many tracks on the Supertones’ Reverbnation page as Heinz has flavors. At about two minutes a clip, that’s two hours of jangle and twang. Skip the first track, Paradise Point Pt. 1 which is a red herring with that fakeout organ intro. Instead, roll with The Last Ride, a twangy Bakersfield-style tune with rolling surf drums. There’s close harmonies off a low string in Avanti, a gently twangy blend of loping desert rock and low-key Ventures in El Rollo, and Ali Baba, a very, very close cousin to Misirlou with a few goofy moments thrown in to distance it from the original.

I Surf in Black is a prime example of how the group typically do a slow, vaguely melancholy ballad. They pick up the pace in Dora Lives. a tightly galloping number, while Morbious is a reminder that cheap Casio organ tunes were not the band’s strong suit. Likewise, it’s a mystery why there’s such a sloppy version of Moon Shot here. That sets you up for three different takes of All For a Few Perfect Waves. After that, there’s still over an hour of music to keep you fresh and icy for whatever you’re doing after you get offline. If you get as far as the deliciously bittersweet Bushwacked, you will be richly rewarded.

The last time anyone from this blog was in the house at a Supertones show, it was at Otto’s – where else, right? – to kick off what turned out to be an amazing 2018 Labor Day weekend. That Friday night, the group did more slinking than pummeling through a set much like the Reverbnation page. Truth in advertising – and don’t hate on them because they use an old platform. It’s only fitting for a band that plays old music.

Singles For the Second Week of May: Mega-Laughs and Some Creepy Stuff

Been awhile since the last collection of singles on this page: with so much more happening around town these days, it’s been harder to keep an eye on the rest of the world. Today’s self-guided playlist has about 25 minutes worth of music and a ridiculously funny thread to wind this up. As always, click artist names for their webpages, click titles for audio or video. Suggestion: download the Brave browser to avoid the hassle of having to mute the ads in the youtube clips.

In what is fast becoming a time-honored tradition, let’s open with one of Media Bear‘s signature snarky plandemic-themed cover songs. This one, mRNA is one of the funniest of the bunch. It’s a remake of YMCA, the big 1970s disco hit by the Village People. “Hey man, if you do not comply, contact tracers they will be stopping by…you must learn how to kneel, comply with the Green New Deal.”

Thanks to John C.A. Manley, author of the novel Much Ado About Corona, for passing along Martin Kerr’s smart, funky, sharp chamber-folk hit Little Screen, probably the only song ever to rhyme “creative” with “sedative.”

You don’t need to read the news today, it’s mostly lies
If you wanna know you’re not alone,
Get your fingers off your phone,
Get up out of your comfort zone and improvise..

Chillantro, by Miranda & the Beat is a cool minor-key fuzztone surf b-side that the band bravely put out in the ugly depths of May 2020…and sank without a trace

Let’s slow it down but keep the Lynchian ambience going with Natalie Saint-Martin‘s 2nd Place. It’s minor-league Hannah vs the Many – an understudy’s lament set to a phantasmagorical piano waltz

Tantalos, by Kuhn Fu is eight creepy minutes of 21st century cinematic big band jazz built around an allusive, macabre guitar loop. Dig that pregnant pregnant pause at 3:20!

Former Turkuaz frontwoman Nicky Egan‘s This Life is twinkly, vampy oldschool 70s soul with clangy guitar and echoey minor-key Rhodes piano

Check out this very subtle anti-lockdown video for Belgian pop star Angèle‘s latest single, Libre. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just bimbo synthpop – watch the costume change after the second chorus. She’s sick of falling into “Les pièges de fous….libre libre, crois-moi ça va changer (“The lunatics’ traps – we’re free, we’re free, believe me this is gonna change.”)

Just for the record: this is a diehard anti-social media blog. Elon Musk is a creep, and Twitter is not a place you want to be found, ever, unless you want to be surveilled. That being said, here’s Eugyppius – one of the best Substackers out there – on the benefits of Zoom versus real-world academic conferences. The thread just gets funnier and funnier

Singles For May: Pure Bliss, Pure Snark and Pure Evil

It took more than twice as long to pull together the May concert calendar as it did for April: now we just have to keep that momentum going. This calls for continued vigilance, but also celebration! Click on titles or descriptions for video, click on artist or author names for their individual pages.

Before it gets stale, here’s the happiest song of the year: unidentified airline steward sings eleven seconds of pure joy. Thanks to the irreplaceable Celia Farber for passing this along.

The next clip is one that the Biden regime’s new minister of truth never wanted to get out. So here it is! Two minutes fifteen seconds of Nina Jankowicz on camera singing an occasionally obscene version of I Wanna Be Rich, Famous and Powerful, back in 2015 when it seems she had her sights on being a cabaret star. You can’t make this shit up. Thanks to the fearless Dr. Paul Alexander for the link.

Unacceptable Dr. Jessica Rose and Twitter user TexasLindsay have created a couple of succinct, cynically amusing, very short videos which connect the Covid shot rollout with increases in mortality. If you know somebody who’s on the fence about the issue and has a sense of humor, try the best acoustic surf song video ever (this is the Israeli version).

The second video compares the graphs from the data in Spain, set to Paco de Lucia’s flamenco guitar.

Someone, by Anna of the North is not the kind of song you usually see on this page: autotuned faux-80s new wave isn’t this blog’s thing. Rising star Sage Hana turned the song into a meme during the “something in the water” controversy – which is far from over, by the way

Let’s bring this full circle with about seven minutes of Dr. Pam Popper, from her mostly-daily short podcast. She put this out right after the Federal judicial takedown of the CDC muzzle rule on public transit: the gist of it is that this is also far, far from over. And she isn’t just blowing off steam: the founder of Make Americans Free Again has some solutions.

Revisiting One of the World’s Most Intriguing Guitarists in an Intimate Space

For more than two decades, guitarist Jim Campilongo has carved out a distinctive, erudite, energetic niche somewhere between jazz, surf rock and film noir music. For almost as long, he’s had an on-and-off residency at the various Rockwood rooms. In 2017, he finally got around to making a live album there with his long-running trio of Chris Morrissey on bass and Josh Dion on drums. That album is still streaming at Bandcamp, and Campilongo has returned to his old haunt. His next appearance there is April 25 at 7 PM in the big room; cover is $15

Obviously, considering how Campilongo’s music continues to evolve, a listen to the live record isn’t necessarily a good idea what his live show is about these days. His most recent album is even more intimate, an intricate, sometimes spare duo record with fellow six-stringer and Morricone fan Luca Bendedetti. It’s full of surprises: their quarterspeed version of Chopin’s Minute Waltz is a hoot. Much as Campilongo’s studio material is all worth hearing – his 2006 album Heaven Is Creepy is this blog’s favorite – live is where he excels most.

Is that a vintage repeaterbox he’s using on the intro to the live record’s first song, I’m Helen Keller and You’re a Waffle Iron? Maybe. It comes across as a more restless, ornamented take on Big Lazy noir skronk. The way he builds up to a scorching, circling series of sus chords is a clinic in tunesmithing – or creating a melody out of thin air.

The second number, Big Bill is a squiggly strut, Dion kicking up the dust as Morrissey shadows the bandleader and eventually gets his amp burning with a long, emphatic series of chords. Imagine Mary Halvorson playing a John Zorn noir surf tune and you wouldn’t be far off.

Dion sings the spare, sophisticated, angst-fueled blues ballad Here I Am, Campilongo defying gravity on the long ladder upwards. In what’s titled the “Jimi Jam,” he detunes his Telecaster, indulges in some of his signature neck-bending, fires off a handful of foghorn slide riffs and keening harmonics among his gritty chords. There are no distinguishable Hendrix licks.

Nels Cline guests on the album’s big epic, Cock and Bull Story, adding incisive Middle Eastern riffs and noisy haze against Campilongo’s biting, chromatic theme, the rhythm section keeping a tense pulse. The duel that follows, Cline first trailing and then engaging with the bandleader’s unhinged vintage Velvets squall is blissfully adrenalizing.

There are echoes of styles as different as Jerry Garcia spacescapes and Tal Farlow Americana swing in Sal’s Waltz, a more-or-less rubato tableau with Morrissey and Dion hanging on the fringes.

Cline returns for There You Are, a wistfully wafting theme that foreshadows where Campilongo would go with Benedetti almost five years later. The final number is Jim’s Blues, a loosely expansive launching pad for erudite Chicago and western swing-influenced clusters, a searing, machete coda and even a little Link Wray. Campilongo has so many ideas up his sleeve that it’s always a wild guess where he’s going to go next.

Chris Farren’s Death Don’t Wait Soundtrack Salutes and Savages Decades of Movie Scores

Chris Farren‘s original soundtrack to the film Death Don’t Wait – streaming at Spotify – is a party in a box. It’s a loving homage to, and sometimes a parody of film music from the 60s and 70s. Farren has really done his homework. drawing on both Sean Connery and Roger Moore-era Bond themes, 60s detective flicks and maybe Manfred Hubler’s Vampyros Lesbos soundtrack, If this score is any indication, the movie is packed with action and suspense…and just as much snark. Farren pulled a great band together for this project: Jeff Rosenstock, Jimmy Montague on keys, Frankie Impastato on drums, and Mark Glick on cello, plus a horn section.

The main title song is a gorgeous update on mid-60s Henry Mancini Vegas noir, lit up top to bottom with Farren’s 12-string Rickenbacker and fuzztone guitars. “Life is just a dream we suffer through,” Laura Stevenson intones, tenderly, “It’s your turn to lose.”

The first of the instrumentals is Attacked By Dogs, a fast-paced, brassy, punchy chase scene that leaps from mid-60s Bond ambience to the teens, on the warpy wings of some weird synth patch. Red Wire Blue Wire is Shaft as George Clinton might have envisioned him about ten years after the fact.

Chris Farren Noir – that’s the title of the interlude – turns out to be a minor-key soul groove that wouldn’t be out of place in the Menahan Street Band repertoire. Helicopter Shuffle is the Peter Gunne theme on a diet, with a wry, icy Ventures reverb-ping guitar solo and a brass crescendo.

Crime Party is a straight-up surf tune with roller-rink organ and smoky baritone sax: it’s over in less than two minutes. Farren goes back to psychedelic funk for Cash Is Heavy and follows that with Car Chase! It’s ridiculously funny: more Peter Gunne, galloping baritone guitar, the works. Farren has outdone himself here.

To his credit, he doesn’t go for the obvious punchline in Night Walk, which is not as self-explanatory as it could be. If Francoise Hardy’s backing band did Bond themes, Here’s Your Disguise would be one of them, although Farren doesn’t limit himself to tinny vintage amps or bittersweet major/minor changes.

The two final tracks are Hot Pursuit and Cold Pursuit: the former would work fine in a good vintage Bollywood crime flick, while the latter, a morose waltz, is the most recognizably noir set piece here. If this isn’t the best album of the year so far, it’s definitely the funnest.

Gorgeous, Glimmering Noir Instrumentals From the Royal Arctic Institute

Best album title of the year so far goes to the Royal Arctic Institute, whose new cassette ep From Catnap to Coma is streaming at Spotify. Over the last few years, the New York instrumentalists have developed a distinctive sound that draws on film noir soundtracks, surf music, psychedelia and new wave. At a time when so much of the New York music scene has been scattered to places like Texas and Florida, it’s good to see these guys sticking around and putting out their best record so far.

The opening number, Fishing by Lanterns has a slow, Lynchian sway, the spare, twangy guitars of John Leon and Lynn Wright building a starry unease over David Motamed’s bass and Lyle Hysen’s evocative drumming while keyboardist Carl Baggaley fills out the nocturnal ambience.

Track two is Shore Leave on Pharagonesia, a hypnotically pulsing, backbeat theme that’s part Ventures spacerock nocturne, part drifting but propulsive Los Crema Paraiso highway theme. After that, First of the Eight rises from a carefree glimmer to a more driving intensity.

Ghosts of the Great Library, a big-sky tableau, is a clinic in how to get the most mileage out of simple, economical riffs: it wouldn’t be out of place in the Big Lazy catalog. The final cut is Anosmia Suite, referencing the medical term for loss of sense of smell. Motamed’s sliding chordal intro is a cool touch; from there, it builds to the album’s most hypnotic interlude.

Play For Today 9/7/21

Been awhile since there’s been a playlist on this page, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of entertaining singles floating around. Here’s a fun and informative self-guided mix: the links in the song titles will take you to each one.

The Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout are best known for their latin soul jams, but they’re a lot more eclectic than their name implies. The most electrifying song on their live album is Sheba, an Ethiopiques-tinged surf song

Louisiana rocker Rod Gator‘s Wanna Go for a Ride is the Clash’s version of Brand New Cadillac, as the Legendary Shack Shakers might have done it, darker and grittier with a guitar solo to match

Acoustic Syndicate‘s cover of the Grateful Dead classic Bertha has a tightness and a snarl that the original band sometimes let slip away. “Test me test me test me test me, why don’t you arrest me?” What a theme the lockdown era!

It makes a good segue with one you probably know, RC the Rapper‘s Just Say No, one of the big boombox hits from this summer’s protests here in the US. “It isn’t a theory if it keeps coming true.”

The smooth reggae grooves of Micah Lee’s No Lockdowns keep the inspiration flowing (thanks to the fearless folks at Texans For Vaccine Choice for this one).

The breathing metaphors and carefree sounds of children laughing on the playground in Alma’s Sips of Oxygen are a much subtler kind of commentary: “Someone in the doorway, hope they’re not afraid of them.”

Marianne Dissard and Raphael Mann’s delicate chamber pop duet reinvention of Townes Van Zandt’s If I Needed You is the great lost track from Nico’s Chelsea Girl album….with a woman who can hit the notes on the mic.

Let’s end this with something equally artful and poignant: Danny Wilkerson‘s Endless Haze, the best and least Beatlesque song on the new reissue of his very Fab Four-influenced 2018 solo debut album. The stark haggardness of the Boston Symphony Strings back his playfully lyrical but wounded chronicle of losing a battle with the bottle.

Irresistibly Fun Retro Cinematic Themes From Sven Wunder

Sven Wunder, like the soul/funk icon whose name he’s appropriated, is pretty much a one-man band. His specialty is balmy, cinematic instrumental themes with a psychedelic, late 60s/early 70s European feel. One good comparison is Manfred Hubler’s Vampyros Lesbos soundtrack in a particularly calm or pastoral moment. Among current bands, Tredici Bacci are another. This second Wunder’s playful, entertaining new album Natura Morta is streaming at Bandcamp.

Tinkly piano and fluttering flute breeze into the album’s opening track, En Plein Air before the strings go sweeping over a lithe, bouncy beat spiced with chiming keys. Is that an electric harpsichord? Is that real brass or the artificial kind?

More of those brassy patches alternate with brittle, trebly vintage clavinova, echoey Rhodes and sinuous hollowbody bass in Impasto. Prussian Blue begins with a cheery piano cascade and rustling flute but quickly becomes a strutting motorik surf rock theme. Surf popcorn? Popcorn surf?

The album’s title track is hardly the dirge the title implies: it comes across as a sort of orchestrated 70s soul take on Bob Marley’s Waiting in Vain. Wunder subtly edges the beat in Panorama into a 6/8 sway with 12-string acoustic guitar, wafting strings and winds, and vintage keyboard textures.

He goes back to vampy, lushly orchestrated early 70s soul with Alla Prima, those layers of 12-string guitar sparkling overhead. The sparkle continues in Umber, which has a somewhat more uneasy, pensive edge. Barocco, Ma Non Troppo is a funny little number: it’s a canon of sorts, but with shuffling syncopation and a funky Rhodes interlude

Wry low-register clavinova contrasts with the sweep of the strings in Memento Mori: the message seems to be, let’s party while we can. Pentimento is the album’s most hypnotic track, sheets of strings and winds shifting through the mix over growly, clustering bass. Wunder reprises the title track at the end with slip-key piano that’s just a hair out of tune. Somewhere there’s an arthouse movie director or two who need this guy.

Discovering Japan Without Graham Parker

The coolest thing about the new Rough Guide to the Best Japanese Music You’ve Never Heard compilation- streaming at Spotify – is that some Okinawan acts are represented. Okinawa is to Japan what Ireland is to the British isles; more rugged but also in a lot of respects more passionate and earthy, in terms of music at least. While this compilation was not assembled by anyone with Japanese heritage, it’s a very entertaining playlist and a decent introduction to the esoteric, surreal side of Japanese music. Most of these tracks are upbeat, many of them infused with sardonic humor. Obviously, Japan also has deep roots in innumerable other styles, notably noiserock and jazz improvisation, neither of which are represented here.

Utsumi Eika, with Munekiyo Hiroshi & Sui-i-test Sound kick off the playlist with Don-Don Bushi, a slinky mashup of traditional pentatonic min-yo folk music and cabaret, played with a jazz rhythm section but also bamboo flute and shamisen. It’s a wonderful night for a Tokyo moondance.

Yan, by Boomdigi Otemo is a tongue-in-cheek hip-hop/mim-yo mashup. Aragehonzi work a surreal blend of Tunisian rai, min-yo folk and rap in Detarame Kagura. Tsukudanaka Sanpachi follow with Eh! Eh? Eh!? Janaika, ska-punk with a pennywhistle.

Shigeri Kitsu do the same in Tokyo No Your, except with reggae and a steel pan in lieu of the pennywhistle; it’s over too soon.

The trippy, hypnotic, organ-and-tonkori-driven Okinawan psych-folk of Oki Dub Ainu Band‘s Suma Mukar is a real find and a triumph of sleuthing for the playlisters here.

The one-chord jams keep coming with Amamiaynu’s otherworldly, rustic Kyuramun Rimse. Okinawan sanshin player Kanako Horiuchi and Malian kora player Falaye Sakho contribute the vamping, spiky, cross-pollinated Hana Umui/Yaboyae. Rikki’s Kuro Usagi Haneta is an even more surreal, waltzing mashup of min-yo and twangy Americana.

Emiko and Kirisute Gomen reinvent a 60s Japanese tv theme as the cheery if skittish surf-rock hit Shoten. Chanteuse Lucy – of Lazygunsbrisky – is represented by the expansive, determined shuffle Hiyamikachibushi, with its a lively web of stringed instruments and a wickedly catchy new wave hook: if radio played this stuff, it would be the single.

Okinawan acoustic surf-punk legends the Surf Champlers’ previously unreleased version of Misirlou is as surreal and adrenalizing as you would expect, complete with haphazard shansin tremolo-picking. With its stately sway and guy/girl vocals, Tetsuhiro Daiku’s Kuroshima Kuduchi is both the most rustic and hypnotic number here.

Hantabaru, by Aragaki Mutsumi Naakunii is the album’s starkest recording, although the insistence of the vocals and shansin has plenty of drama…and stormy samples from the seaside.

Shamisen player Etsuko Takezawa contributes an elegantly spacious, rainy-day solo diptych, Ano Hi e no Michinori. The playlist winds up with avant garde act Cockroach Eater’s trippy, circling vocal/flute/vibraphone theme Saboten no Wakusei.

And here is where the Rough Guide playlisters may be thinking further ahead than many of us realize. Sure, digital music as a saleable item tanked years ago. But if you think that Spotify is going to last forever, whether as a free or on-demand service, you’re living in a dream world.

Japanese culture, happily, seems to be in a stronger position to survive than many others, at least in the short term, as the needle of death takes its toll. So far, Japan has largely resisted it. But word to the wise: if there’s a recording that means a lot to you, from any style of music on the planet, it’s worth owning in some kind of hard-copy form. Get it while supplies last.

Disturbios Recall a Darker, More Dangerous, More Diverse New York Rock Scene

Disturbios play darkly cinematic surf rock, like a more stripped-down Morricone Youth with cynical hip-hop tinges. You might expect that from a couple of veterans of the seedier side of New York rock. Guitarist Matt Verta-Ray has been kicking around the reverb tank since his days with Speedball Baby back in the 90s, joined by Rocio Verta-Ray on what sounds like a vintage Vox Continental organ. Their debut album is streaming at Bandcamp.

The album’s brief opening track, Rough Rider starts out as hip-hop and then goes twinkling around the roller rink with Rocio’s swirly organ and Matt’s spare reverb guitar. The monster hit here is Surf Gnossienne, a slow surf remake of Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1, an iconic piece from the creepy-classical canon. They seem to be using a certain Brooklyn band’s cumbia version as a prototype, right down to the flickers of the castanets.

“I never shook babies, I never beat no ladies,” Rocio insists, but everything else was pretty much up for grabs as she tells it in Jesus I Was Evil – right down to that funny Rick James quote. Matt builds a wasp-in-a-jar scenario in the next track, Starr, a broodingly rippling noir soul theme.

They launch into a snarling mashup of Sticky Fingers-era Stones shuffle and, say, the Flamin’ Groovies in Little Bird Got Swallowed. After the hypnotic, macabre cumbia vamp See-Thru Rhonda, the duo go back to vintage soul-surf for Summer Loves.

Rocio’s deadpan vocals in the stomping electric take of Jimmy Reed’s Big Boss Man are pretty priceless. The two hit a slinky latin soul groove in I Love You and close the album with Dear Boy, a skewed take on early 60s girl-group pop. New York used to be full of bands who played all these sounds. Good thing somebody’s keeping this stuff alive.