New York Music Daily

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Tag: tim kuhl

Lorraine Leckie and Her Demons Open for Americana Rock Legends the Long Ryders at Bowery Ballroom

One of the year’s most highly anticipated twinbills is this coming Nov 10 at 9 PM, when eclectic songwriter Lorraine Leckie and Her smoldering Demons open for the Long Ryders, who pretty much invented Americana rock back in the 80s. They haven’t played New York in this century, or for that matter, toured the US in almost thirty years. Their four-cd career retrospective, Final Wild Songs – which includes a stampeding live set recorded in Europe – is just out this year. This concert features the classic late 80s Long Ryders lineup of Sid Griffin on guitar and vocals, Stephen McCarthy on guitar, Tom Stevens on bass and Greg Sowders on drums. $20 advance tix are still available as of today.

Leckie’s most recent fullscale New York show was a rare smalll-club gig back in June at Pangea, a momentary homecoming sandwiched between European and US tours. As much as this was more low-key than she typically is on a big stage, the set was no less fiery for being somewhat quieter and a lot more intimate. She and a scaled-down version of the Demons – Hugh Pool on lead guitar and Tim Kuhl on cajon and percussion – opened with a hushed, seethingly waltizng take of Little Miss X, a sarcastic portrait of a bimbo du jour. From there the band made their way through a stripped-down version of the T Rex-ish Rainbow and then the rousing anthem Paint the Towns, Pool’s tersely resonant lines channeling 60s Memphis soul.

Kuhl pushed the sardonic nocturne Happy City along with a trip-hop groove, Leckie switching from Telecaster to piano. “When I go, I leave a scar,” she intoned with an understated, gleeful menace in Come A-Dancing, then gave an airy vocalese intro to a wickedly catchy, slinky, minor-key new number, Shake Off the Devil, Kuhl again supplying a clickety-clack trip-hop rhythm.

Leckie is hard to categorize – one minute she’s wailing through Neil Young-style electric Americana rock, the next she’s using all sorts of strange guitar tunings and playing enigmatically minimalist art-rock. She put the spotlight on that side of her vast repertoire with the propulsively brisk Man Who Walks in the Rain, the acidic, hypnotic waltz Dangerous Friends, and Climb Ya Like a Mountain, a shout-out to the noted mountain climber Aleister Crowley. From there the band shifted gears with another new number, the anthemic vintage 70s Lou Reed-ish Under the Vampire Moon.

The high point of the night, volume and intensity-wise, was another open-tuned guitar number, It Ain’t the Blues, Leckie airing out her powerful low register with the aching “It ain’t the blues, it’s only YOUUUUUU!” chorus. She closed with a couple of snarkly macabre, carnivalesque piano tunes. And electrifying guest singer Carol Lipnik – whose popular 7 PM Sunday evening residency at Pangea is now in its second year – contributed plaintive takes of two Leckie tunes. The highlight was Bliss, with its poignantly misty portrait of an old couple gone irrepairably off the rails, reinvented as an a-cappella showstopper where which Liphik accompanied herself on spoons. She’d brought them from home, she explained after the show, wanting to make sure that she had cutlery in hand that she could play in the same key as the song’s melody.

Tim Kuhl’s St. Helena Build a Sound to Get Lost In at the Ace Hotel

Drummer Tim Kuhl‘s group St. Helena play some of the trippiest, most cinematic music of any band in New York. Current-day film composers from Angelo Badalamenti to Johann Johannsson seem to be an influence, as are minimalism, indie classical and jazz. The band are wrapping up their weekly February residency with a show at around 10 PM on February 28 in the comfortably spacious, lowlit lobby at the Ace Hotel (the old Breslin apartments building) at 20 W 29th St. just east of Broadway. There’s no cover, and there’s a laid-back bar just to the right of the elevators if you’d like a drink.

Their show this past Sunday was hypnotic, and enveloping, and absolutely entrancing in places. Kuhl is your typical elite drummer, with his fingers in a million pies – he’s also a jazz bandleader, when he’s not on tour with any number of rock bands, or playing a Manhattan residency as a member of folk noir crew Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons. This time out, Kuhl led the band from behind the kit, bolstered by Big Lazy’s Yuval Lion on syndrums, Jesske Hume on bass, Ryan Mackstaller on guitar and keys and Rick Parker on trombone, keys and mixer. There were also a couple of guest vocalists, one who did a surreallistically insistent spoken word cameo, working in tandem with the band to create a Lynchian newschool beat-jazz atmosphere.

What this band does live is what most other atmospheric acts would use electronics for – which is a big reason why they’re so interesting to watch. Midway through the set, Kuhl matched precision with raw power as he built a polar vortex of white noise with his cymbals, later employing a scrap heap worth of iron shakers for a creepy, ghostly effect. Rather than using a loop pedal, Hume took a tricky repetitive riff in 5/4 and played it slowly, over and over, with a precision to match the drums: no easy task.

The show followed a dynamic arc, slowly rising and then descending. Mackstaller built toward a twinkling fanfare with his echoey, minimalist lines as Kuhl slowly rolled out of a quasi-trip-hop groove toward a shuffling march beat. From there they worked a steady, slowly strolling 10/4 rhythm colored with warmly resonant, pastoral washes from Mackstaller’s guitar and looming, distantly ominous foghorn phrases from Parker’s trombone. Once again, Kuhl shifted meters so subtly that it wasn’t noticeable til it actually happened.

They picked things up with a dreampop-tinged postrock mood piece, again alluding to trip-hop but not quite going there. Then they brought things down with a surrealistically tremoloing sci-fi waltz of sorts before picking up the pace with what seemed to be a tongue-in-cheek, rhythmically shifting take on a New Orleans second-line bounce. Clanking prison-cell sonics contrasted with ghostly stairstepping bass amid the swirl as the show went on. They closed with a broodingly wistful, Lynchian theme and then a nebulously crescendoing motorik groove. No doubt there will be just as many trance-inducing flavors flickering in the shadows here this coming weekend.

Trippy Art-Rock Themes from Jazz Drummer Tim Kuhl

Although Tim Kuhl has made a name for himself as a drummer and composer in the New York jazz scene, he’s just as comfortable playing rock – he had a long run propelling popular bar band the Izzys with a swinging Charlie Watts kind of groove. His latest album St. Helena – streaming in its entirety at Bandcamp – brings him back to rock, but on a completely different tangent. This is oldschool 70s prog: tricky tempos, ornate keyb and guitar flourishes, high romantic melodicism and trippy sonics. As complicated as this is, it’s deceptively attractive and accessible: Kuhl owes more of a debt to indie classical composers like Missy Mazzoli than to any rock band. So it’s no surprise that Itsnotyouitsme’s Grey McMurray, one of the masters of loop music, is the main guitarist here.

It’s a seven-part suite, seemingly on a theme of transformation. After a long opening drone, the title cut kicks in: tricky rhythm, echoey/pensive guitar, increasingly elaborate orchestration with layers upon layers of melody. It’s surprisingly catchy, given how intricately it’s assembled, hits an agitated spacerock passage with Rick Parker’s shivery trombone front and center, then fades away elegantly.

Pandora’s Box is a cinematic piece: heraldic trombone contrasting with keyboardist Joshua Valleau’s creepy, tinny synth, the Minerva Lions’ Jared Samuel’s insistent bass pushing it as it falls apart, then coalesces again, Parker again delivering the deathblow with a chilling run down the scale, McMurray wailing up and down on his strings, way up the fretboard. Emperor Butterfly is sort of like Nektar’s Dream Nebula recast for a new century: a swirly, very pretty,very trippy theme that grows denser and more hypnotic, Missy Mazzoli style, pinging guitars contrasting with suspensefully pulsing bass. Dead Bell, an attractively neoromantic prog-rock theme that the band starts to mess with and deconstruct, ends all too soon in less than two minutes.

A psychedelic tone poem, Tales of Transformation loops a creepy music box riff underneath ominously lingering atmospherics, Valleau’s Wurlitzer or Parker’s trombone adding the occasional horror movie flutter, Kuhl ornamenting the ambience with delicate accents on his hardware. As jarringly atonal blasts of guitar noise filter in and then suddenly depart, it’s the closest thing to the improvisational jazz that the drummer has been exploring lately. And while it’s kind of amusing to hear Kuhl kick off the final track, Indigo Blue, with a straight-up, funky four-on-the-floor beat, it gets interesting fast, a sunny, summery theme suddenly torn and twisted, followed by a series of gorgeous blue-sky leads from Philip Sterk’s pedal steel.

Who is the audience for this? Fans of bands like Super Furry Animals and Explosions in the Sky…but also Nektar, and Pink Floyd, and Bill Frisell, and for what it’s worth, the whole tribe of hobbits, hard drives stuffed with thousands of Yes outtakes and primed for more. Tim Kuhl and band play the album release show for this one at Union Pool at 9 on Sept 12.