New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Tag: surf rock

A Killer Twangy Guitar Triplebill in Bushwick on the 16th, Barring the Unforeseen

New York seems to be in the very early stages of a turnover in music venues. It’s completely balkanized at this point, but there are good things happening on the ground if you look hard enough. One excellent triplebill at an unexpected spot is coming up this Nov 16 at 8 PM. A couple of rewardingly unorthodox surf bands, the Zolephants and the bracingly Middle Eastern and Greek-flavored Byzan-tones open for guitar goddess Barbara Endes’ wickedly catchy janglerock band Girls on Grass at Wonderville, a bar and video arcade at 1186 Broadway in Bushwick. Take the J to Kosciuszko St.; it’s a pass-the-bucket situation.

The Zolephants are a side project for cinematic psychedelic Americana iconoclast Ben Lee a.k.a. Baby Copperhead. In this instrumental project, Nami Coffee’s mono bass synth bolsters Lee’s twangy, judiciously layered guitar multitracks over Bill Bowen’s drums. Their 2018 cassette release Islands of Neptune is still up at Bandcamp.

The opening number, Legend of the Black Snake starts out like late 70s Can and then goes fast forward a couple of decadea, in a Phantom Surfers direction before coming full circle on a much more disquited note. The second track, Speed Demon also echoes the Phantom Surfers: you could also call it a clangier take on the haphazard sound Man or Astroman were mining in the early 90s

Seven refers to the time signature. It’s funny and surf-insider-y AF. Track four, sarcastically titled Cheesy Intro, follows a familiar chord progression and then diverges into a long, rewardingly unpredictable sequence.

Truth or Consequences is a coy bolero-beat southwestern gothic theme. Fueled by a snappy bassline, Hey! Solid Citizen balances fuzzy, sailing synth and catchy guitar jangle. The closing number, Scratch starts out as if the band are going in a moody flamenco-surf direction, but they make quasi Egyptian reggae out of it instead.

Their somewhat more traditionalist 2016 debut ep is also up at Bandcamp as a free download. The first track, Bleeding Lungs is a brisk, skittish take on a loping desert rock theme. They open Behind the Fortress slowly and expansively before taking it into edgy hash-infused rembetiko rock.

Number 9 is the most psychedelic tune here, a loopy, trippily rhythmic tune underneath a wry Beatles-inspired samples pastiche. The trio electrify an old Greek gangster theme, Black Eyes, with some gritty tremolo-picking from Lee: it’s the band’s best song, at least among the Bandcamp tracks. They close the record with a goofy, skronky miniature.

Advertisement

Get Your Reverb Fix This Saturday Night at Otto’s With the Surf Junkies

One of the most telling signs of how the plandemic turned New York into a second-rate artistic hub is how venues are reacting. Take Smalls jazz club, for example. For decades, they had two acts a night plus the midnight jam session. These days, the headline artist is also responsible for the jam, and where a monthly gig there used to be reserved for an elite few, bandleaders are playing two or three shows a month there now.

That paradigm works all the way down the line to Otto’s, where the monthly surf rock show used to feature as many as five acts. This month’s installment there on Nov 5 has only three. The night starts at 8 with a mystery band who call themselves Drip 2.0 and could go either way, but the groups afterward are excellent.

Headliners the TarantinosNYC, who play at 11-ish, have been around since the zeros and have evolved into a surprisingly sleek, cinematic outfit that match their name. The Surf Junkies, who play in between at around 9, just put out a debut short album, streaming at Bandcamp,

The Washington, DC quartet of guitarists Max Gonzo and Larry Atom, bassist El Kabong and drummer Vic Vegas obviously do not take themselves seriously, as befits a surf band, but their original songs are dope.

They build the opening track, The Tube, from a funky strut to a big anthemic payoff that wouldn’t be out of place in the Ronnie Earl tunebook.

The band blend subtle latin influences into the tightly wound Barrel Pounder and close the record with Surfer’s Lament, awash in spare, enigmatic, wide-angle chords over a slow clave beat.

Every surf band plays Tequila, but….do you have to record the damn thing? At least this version has more slashing guitar work than most groups give it. It’ll be interesting to see what else they have up their sleeves this Saturday night. Word to the wise: if you don’t know the club, they have an ID scanner and use it on everybody. Like, everybody: if you’re 90 and on a walker, expect to be carded. Bring your passport since ID scanners don’t work on passports, and this is no time to be leaving a trail of electronic crumbs that could wind up on a social credit score.

Darkly Propulsive, Unpredictably Cinematic Instrumentals From Under the Reefs Orchestra

One of the most enjoyably uncategorizable albums of the year is Sakurajima, the latest release from the Belgian group Under the Reefs Orchestra. The trio of guitarist Clément Nourry, saxophonist Marti Melia and drummer Jakob Warmenbol blend elements of suspense film music, horror surf, crime jazz, postrock and shadowy instrumental rock from Morphine to the Dirty Three. John Zorn’s surfier adventures also seem to be an influence.

Melia’s baritone sax alternates between melody and punchy basslines. The opening track on the album – streaming at Bandcamp – is Heliodrome. It comes across as the missing link between Friends of Dean Martinez (or Big Lazy in a slide-driven moment) and Morphine, with a careening slide guitar solo and then a propulsively smoky one from the baritone. The group join forces in an increasingly savage ride to the end.

The album’s second song, Ants, is a moody, syncopatedly vampy quasi-surf tune with a crescendo that goes from droll, to feral, to unexpectedly skronky. The trio build the album’s title track out of a steady, gloomy, Morphine-like theme to a hypnotically pulsing backdrop for Nourry’s flaring psychedelic wah-wah work and squirrelly surf riffage.

Galapagos is a cheeky, metrically tricky tropical tune with a sinister undercurrent, Nourry shifting between balmy slide and jaggedly rhythmic lines, with an elegantly baroque-tinged counterpoint as the song winds out.

How invasive is Kudzu? This is a killer plant! Warmenbol provides a suspensefully tumbling drive for a dark vamp that dissolves into dissociative psychedelia before the band get back to furtive business.

The band take a dubwise, catchy strut up to a shrieking peak in MIR and follow with the album’s big epic, Soleil Trompeur, melancholy sax wafting over spare guitar jangle. Deep down, it’s a soul ballad, with a long build to a payoff that’s too good to give away.

They close with Mendoza, an Ethiopian-tinged take on Morphine. Every single song on this record is full of surprises: this band seldom go in the direction you expect. One of the most intriguing and original albums of 2022

Creepy Coincidences and a Mysterious Band From Kiev

In his indispensable News From Underground feed, Mark Crispin Miller recently shared a shocking video by Hugo from Hugo Talks (scroll down toward the bottom of the page), addressing what the blunt, plainspoken podcaster calls Mass Formation Colour Programming. The barrage of blue-and-yellow color schemes is a dead giveaway, particularly since it was rolled out during the earliest days of the plandemic, more than two years before the war in Ukraine.

Remember how propaganda graphics, both physical and online, were all rolled out in sync around the world in March 2020? Hugo focuses mostly on the British and European side, but the suspicious juxtaposition of blue and yellow also existed here in the US, as you can see on the NYC mobile lethal injection bus pictured toward the end of the 12-minute clip.

As we remember from George Orwell’s 1984, Oceania was always at war with Eurasia. The war in Ukraine, and how the lockdowners foreshadowed it with these psy-op visuals, is further evidence of how the plandemic was only part of a vastly more ambitious scheme to transform the world into a computer-surveilled feudal slave state.

What appears to be happening in Ukraine is an orchestrated conflict where NATO deliberately “provoked” the corrupt and murderous Putin regime, who responded in perfectly choreographed fashion. Remember, years before the color revolution in Ukraine, Putin was badgering for NATO membership for Russia.

Unfortunately, as has so often been the case throughout history, the people of Ukraine are being murdered and imperiled simply for the misfortune of having been born on fertile and strategically valuable terrain. Just as unfortunately, because the psy-op planners have largely pivoted, from the now-flatlined Covid injection scheme, to Ukraine, there’s been an anti-Ukraine backlash in certain circles in the freedom movement. And that’s something we have to resist.

New York Music Daily was launched in August of 2011. The first album ever reviewed on this page was a hauntingly beautiful Ukrainian choral suite dedicated to the victims of Chernobyl. Which makes sense, when you consider that this blog’s owner has Ukrainian heritage.

That same year, three years before civil war broke out there, Kiev band Night Surf released what appears to be their only album, a six-track collection of instrumentals titled Light. In an even creepier coincidence, the band share a name with a 1969 Stephen King short story about the aftermath of a virus that wipes out much of the world’s population.

Other than a Bandcamp page, where the album is still available as a free download, there’s nothing about the group online in English, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in Ukrainian either. The Bandcamp page doesn’t list the names of the three women, a guitarist, bassist and drummer. So far there’s been no reply to this blog’s attempt to contact them through Bandcamp.

It’s a fascinating record, a mini-suite of sorts. The first track, Bitter, is a swaying stoner boogie number with sunbaked wah-wah raga riffage over a bubbling bassline. The second song, Suffer could be the Cure playing a Savage Republic theme circa 1984, imbued with equal parts Joy Division resignation and trebly Messer Chups surf jangle.

The band pick up the pace with an icy bass/guitar intertwine in Keep Breathin’ – a prophetic song title if there ever was one. From there they take a brief detour into a southwestern gothic theme and then Used, a striding, artfully assembled web of multitracks. The final cut is a “reverse version” of Keep Breathin’ which offers further evidence of a Savage Republic influence (remember Exodus and Sudoxe?). Let’s hope this so-far nameless trio are still with us somewhere on the globe and still making music as intriguing as this.

A Venomous Horror Surf Show to Kick Off Halloween Month in the East Village

New York started falling off the radar for touring rock bands a long time ago, before this blog even existed. But once in awhile one of the really great ones comes to town, and that’s happening this Saturday night, Oct 1 when one of the world’s great horror surf groups, Beware the Danger of a Ghost Scorpion headlines at Otto’s at 11 PM. In case you haven’t spent much time in the East Village lately, bring your passport. The club was an early participant in the World Economic Forum digital ID scheme, and they use an ID scanner mercilessly. Digital scanners don’t work on passports…yet.

These sepulchral Scorpions’ latest album is a searing concert recording from The Worthern in Lowell, Massachusetts on July 28, 2017 and up at their Bandcamp page as a name-your-price download.

They open the show with the grimy, surprisingly bluesy twin guitar attack of Boris Frankenstein’s Nightmare, complete with trick ending. Then they hit their signature chromatic menace with Caught Dead – it isn’t long before one of the guitarists, who go by goofy stage names, starts shedding toxic sparks of tremolo-picking.

They ease their way into Texas Blood Money with a drifting, muted psychedelic interlude before they hit the song’s grim trail-riding theme. They mash up some Led Zep-style riffage around an evil snaky surf theme in Straight to Darkness, then blast their way through I’m Shy, which is anything but and has some tantalizing twin lead riffage.

As Hot As Hell, with its luscious web of chords and intricate counterpoint, is the best song in the set and underscores the level of craft in these guys’ songs: never mind the horror film shtick. The set’s next number, Red River Tombstone Hustle is sort of a syncopated pseudo-redneck Munsters Theme.

The masked foursome careen further off the rails in She’s Howlin’ over one of the snappier basslines in the set, with a twistedly sarcastic blues breakdown toward the end. They go back to a pretty unhinged noir bolero chordal intertwine in Planet Slime and follow with Haintmaker, a catchy pastiche of minor-key blues riffs awash in reverb and a little feedback. They close the show with a pretty desperately charging take of the the title track from their killer debut ep, The Legend of Goatman’s Bridge. Grab this macabre gem while you can.

A Lurid, Simmering New Single From Satirist and Journalist Sage Hana

Sage Hana is arguably the best example of the explosion of first-class satire and investigative journalism that exploded across the web in response to the 2020 plandemic. More than anything, she’s hilarious. Her Boeing-24 parable is probably the most savagely funny piece she’s written – and she’s written many.

Not much is known about the inscrutable, pseudonymous Sage. She comes out of a film and tv background (she knows her acting and screenwriting…and crossfit training). Her Substack page, in its early days, was mostly focused on media criticism. But over the last six months, she’s become one of the most important and wide-ranging voices covering the ongoing global genocide. A couple of high-profile boosts from Mark Crispin Miller and Margaret Anna Alice helped vault this self-styled “guppy” with a devastating, deadpan sense of humor into a role she probably never anticipated, and she’s run with it.

You may have seen some of her slyly edited videos on the singles pages here over the last few months. And now she has a band…sort of. A few days ago she released the debut video for the surf noir single A Pox on Your Horse (Paste), by “Dendrite & the Prions.” The joke is too good to spoil – just watch it.

A Rare Surf Rock Triplebill in Williamsburg on the 18th

Beyond the occasional show in the little back room at Otto’s or Freddy’s, there hasn’t been much surf rock in New York since before the 2020 totalitarian takeover. For anyone who misses the days when people in this city had the chance to bounce around to fast, catchy rock instrumentals with reverb guitar and rolling drums, there’s a rare triplebill happening on August 18 at 8 PM at a new outdoor Williamsburg venue, the Sovereign at 173 Morgan Ave. Like a lot of places in town, they’ve been slow to catch the #cashalways wave and in the early going have embraced the weird dollars-and-cents online ticketing fad. Which most likely translates to twenty bucks at the door if you want to see the Jagaloons, Wiped Out and then headliners Messer Chups.

The openers play a mix of originals and classic covers which range from early 60s surf hits to spaghetti western themes. A live set at Otto’s in the spring of 2018 revealed them as a lot tighter than what they have up at Bandcamp: knowing that they made it through the lockdown intact is a good sign just by itself. The headliners are a Russian counterpart to Man or Astroman, except that they have a regular bass player: their cartoonish take on horror surf can get annoyingly kitschy. The biggest attraction on the bill is the in-between band, who have an ep and a bunch of singles up at Bandcamp.

The first one, Waves of Panic, is a great start, a chromatic, Greek-flavored cousin to Misirlou with a little organ mingled in with the guitars. The flip side is No Surfing in the East River, a go-go theme. Those washed up on shore and pretty much went back out to sea in the lost summer of 2020.

Fast forward three months later to when the band put out the aptly titled Bummer Vacation, where they switch on a dime between horror surf and reggae. The band stayed busy and in January of last year put out their first ep, Sweet Almond Eyes, which opens with a doo-wop vocal number, followed by the punchy Shark Attack and then One More Before Dark, an ominously twangy tune with a little Tex-Mex flavor.

Last June, they released another single, Dude, That Was Gnarly, a tasty blend of tremolo-picking and icy reverb-tank pings backed by a pretty sizzling cover of Walk, Don’t Run. The band’s most recent release is the single Reverbology, which makes a good segue and has what sounds like a theremin on it. The b-side (do digital releases have b-sides?) is wryly titled Mellow Out and is the strongest, most darkly unpredictable song they’ve recorded so far.

The Monomatics Ride the Waves Into the East Village This Saturday Night

Practically ever since Otto’s Shrunken Head took over the former Barmacy space, they’ve had surf music there. Tiki bars have come and gone in this city and at this point Otto’s seems to be the only one left – if this long, narrow former home to an independent pharmacy even qualifies as a tiki bar.

The big issue with Otto’s is that the weekend door guy has an ID scanner and employs it mercilessly, even on the elderly (you might be surprised to see how many of the elderly frequent Otto’s). Bring your passport, since scanners don’t work on passports. Now more than ever, we need to be careful not to leave any kind of electronic trail of where we go, what we buy and who we hang with.

The latest surf show there is this Saturday night, starting at 8 with an act called the Reverb Kings. They may or may not be a cover band like the headliners, the Wraycyclers, who play Link Wray tunes. The middle act, the Monomatics – an up-and-coming, mostly-instrumental Brooklyn trio – are the most intriguing. They’ve got two promising short albums up at Bandcamp, released just before the 2020 lockdown.

The better of the two is the Last Night ep, which came out in December of 2019. Guitarist Donn Denniston chooses his spots, playing with a vintage tube amp sound – reverb and cheap distortion – in the opening number, Race Towards Death, a horror surf tune.

The band slip out of an early 60s-style R&B theme into a loping desert rock groove in the second track, Lost Woman (for Devra). Denniston sticks with running catchy riffage in the brief Focus on Sanity, followed by Alan Vega, a shout-out to the late Suicide frontman, everybody in the band off in his own individual time zone more or less.

The band wind up the ep with Rough Pass, built around a series of tritones; Strychnine, a punk song with no relation to the Cramps tune; and Pearl’s Dance, a decent stab at a noir stripper theme. If surf rock is your thing, this could be your chance to get to know these guys before they bust out of triple-A for the majors.

The Budos Band Bring Their Undulating Menace Back Home to Staten Island

Most bands tend to mellow out as they get older, but Staten Island’s Budos Band went in the opposite direction. They started out playing a psychedelic blend of Afrobeat with frequent Ethiopiques tinges and then brought a macabre Black Sabbath influence into the mix. They’re got a free outdoor concert coming up on August 4 at 7 PM on their home turf at Corporal Thompson Park, which is close to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. If you’re not a Shaolin resident, be aware that it’s a good half-hour on foot: hang a right, for starters, after you exit the ferry terminal.

Their latest album Long in the Tooth, arguably their most concise, catchiest release yet, came out during the dead of the 2020 lockdown and is streaming at Bandcamp. This time out the ghosts seem to be dancing in the courtyards of haunted castles on the Ethiopian coast rather than in gloomy Albion. The group open with the title track, guitarist Tom Brenneck building an ominous surf tune way down at the bottom as organist Mike Deller’s keening Farfisa lines float overhead, baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel the smoke peeling off the fire from Andrew Greene’s trumpet.

Track two, Sixth Hammer perfectly capsulizes the direction the band’s taken in the last few years: menacingly looping Sabbath chromatics over a cantering Ethiopian rhythm fueled by the funereal funk of the percussion section: Brian Profilio on drums, John Carbonella Jr. on congas, Rob Lombardo on bongos and Dame Rodriguez on everything else.

They slink their way through the tantalizingly brief Snake Hawk, which could be Beninghove’s Hangmen playing Mulatu Astatke. Then bassist Daniel Foder spaces out his boomy chords to punctuate Dusterado, a slower, organ-fueled oldschool noir soul groove.

The horns take over with otherworldly Ethiopian chromatic riffage over a go-go flavored pulse in Silver Stallion. Haunted Sea could be what an Ethiopian horn band might have done with a dark Dick Dale theme a half-century ago. Then the band shift from dark vintage soul to a brassy Afrobeat blaze in The Wrangler.

Brenneck – who sticks with a vintage, gritty tube-amp reverb sound here for the most part – kicks off Gun Metal Grey with his distortion turned up to breaking point, the horns swooping in with a brooding resonance. To what extent is there bullshit in the next track, Mierda De Toro? The joke seems to be the resemblance to a famous surf song, reinvented as a cantering groove built around a catchy descending bassline.

The most straightforwardly trad Ethiopian themes here are Budonian Knight and the closing cut, Renegade, Deller’s funeral-parlor organ and Brenneck’s icepick wah guitar building to a surreal dubwise break and then back. How great is it to have these amazing, darkly individualistic instrumentalists playing live shows again!

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.