New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: tuatara

Hard-Hitting, Edgy, Tuneful Postrock Band Sunwatchers Opens for Smog’s Bill Callahan in South Williamsburg

Sunwatchers play hard-charging, psychedelic postrock instrumentals with Middle Eastern, Balkan and occasional African touches. Their sound blends the searing guitar and electric phin of Jim McHugh with Jeff Tobias’ atmospheric, resonant alto sax over the driving rhythm section of bassist Peter Kerlin and drummer Jason Robira. They’ve got a new, self-titled full-length album (sort of streaming online if you connect the dots – follow the individual links below) out from Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer’s Castle Face label, and they’re opening a kind of weird twinbill at Baby’s All Right starting the night of June 26, which happens to be sold out. As of today the two following shows, at 9 PM on the 27th and 28th, with Smog’s Bill Callahan headlining, are not. Cover is $25. On one hand, as loud, and catchy, and adrenalizing as these guys can be, putting Callahan – Mr. Mist – on after them is anticlimactic. On the other hand, it’s good to see a deserving band get to play to a captive audience. ***UPDATE – all three nights are sold out.

The suite – much of which has been released previously on cassette a couple of years ago – opens with Herd of Creeps, a pounding series of variations on a wickedly catchy minor-key hook, sax and guitar blasting together as a toxic swirl builds in the background over a punk stomp. It reminds of the kind of long, ska-flavored jams Tuatara would take back around the turn of the century. They vary it with more complex guitar on the second track, For Sonny (a Rollins dedication? It isn’t as far as out as the jazz sax icon could go with it) and then hit a hardcore drive as the guitar buzzes and oscillates and the sax swirls on track three, White Woman.

Eusubius moves toward the looseness of free jazz, but Robira’s decisive, spacious hits hold it together as the guitar flutters and bursts into flame and the sax does the same, but more warmly and low-key. It’s like an electric wacko jazz take on circular, spiky yet balmy West African kora music. The band goes back to the original theme for the most epic cut, Ape Phases, sort of a cross between the insistent aggression the album opens with, and the more varied second part. They finally hit a peak in a machete-thicket of tremolo-picked guitar and frenetically melismatic sax.

Moroner shifts from a (relatively, for these guys) easygoing, ultraviolet-lit Velvets/Black Angels style jam toward more haphazardly intense territory. Likewise, the final cut, Moonchanges rises out of spiky blues guitar phrasing over atmospherics, to a steady, surprisingly four-on-the-floor drive with amiable sax/guitar interplay.There are some good special guests here – Dave Harrington on guitar and keys, Hubble’s Ben Greenberg on guitar, Cory Bracken on vibraphone, Dave Kadden on keys and Jonah Rapino on fiddle, but it’s not apparent where any of these guys are exactly within the squall. Bite the bullet, go to the Baby’s All Right show and find out for yourself.

Tribecastan’s New Songs from the Old Country: Their Trippiest, Best Album

Tribecastan’s fourth album New Songs from the Old Country is their best, most focused, and darkest release, one of this year’s most amazingly eclectic and trippy collections. The whole thing is streaming at the group’s Bandcamp page. Their 2009 debut Strange Cousin introduced them as a kitchen-sink band doing genre-smashing instrumental mashups of styles from the Mediterranean to the East Indies and all points in betweeen, employing a museum’s worth of exotic stringed and wind insturments. Their 2010 release Five Star Cave moved a little closer to jazz, while 2012’s New Deli went more in a rock direction. So this is a return to their roots, spread as far across the globe as they are, like a giant magic mushroom. As usual, the band’s brain trust, John Kruth and Jeff Greene take their pick of the choicest, most obscure insturments: mandocello, octave mandolin, yayli tambor, African raft zither, baglamas, charango: the list goes on and on.

Thre’s an awful lot to like here: sixteen tracks in all. The opening number, Bwiti is a dead ringer for Tuatara with its hypnotic clip-clop percusssion and spiky lutes, a catchy blues tune with Asian tinges and a lively horn chart with Claire Daly’s baritone sax anchoring Matt Darriau’s alto. Auto Rickshaw layers a thicket of lutes over Ray Peterson’s slinky bassline and Kenny Margolis’ swirly organ, with a break for sitar and a droll jawharp boinging underneath. Their version of Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1 nicks the Chicha Libre arrangement right down to the bolero rhythm, a wood flute replacing Josh Camp’s Electrovox; still, it’s a great song.

Dance of the Terrible Bear is a characteristically surreal mashup of Balkan brass, dixieland and bluegrass. Corned Beef and Sake does the same with an Irish reel, hi-de-ho jump blues and atmospheric Japanese folk. Communist Modern, fueled by Margolis’ sardonic keyboards and a lushly cinematic arrangement, is a dead ringer for surf rock legends Laika & the Cosmonauts.

Night Train to the Ukraine builds from a suspenseful, drony intro to a darkly scampering, chillingly chromatic woodwind tune. Gordana’s Dream brings back the Tuatara vibe with its gamelanesque, anxiously pointillistic ambience. Saloniki Reb marches along with a haunting Turkish melody played first on baglama (is that a baglama or another artifact from the museum?) and then clarinet, then suddenly the sun comes out and the tune picks up. The band stays on the Balkan track with the lively, pulsing, deviously catchy Road to Koprivnica

Adrian’s Leap is another mashup, this one blending bluegrass, the Balkans and the blues with a bit of an Indonesian tinge and a starkly searing solo on a fiddle of some kind. The Blue Sky of Your Eyes sets a bluegrass baglama tune to a bhangra beat, with bluesy harmonica. Natal Spring takes a bolero to the plains of South Africa, while.Kepaci Rain, the most hypnotic tune here, pairs off Gordana Evacic’s cimbalom against jaw harp and wood flute. Blame It on the Moon is not the jazz standard but a moodily strolling bolero with a lush blend of mandolin, lutes and horns. The final cut, Persian Nightingale, opens as a hypnotically clanging dirge and rises to majestically swirling heights  Among similarly inclined global jambands, only Hazmat Modine compare to these guys. Tribecastan play the album release show for this one this Fri, Sept 27 at 7:15 at Drom; advance tix are just $10.

Hypnotic, Danceable Global Grooves from Tom Teasley

Whether he realizes it or not, multi-instrumentalist Tom Teasley’s latest album All the World’s a Stage is sort of the worldbeat counterpart to Augustus Pablo’s reggae classic By the Banks of the River Nile. As with that album, Teasley’s main melody instrument here is the melodica, which floats and flurries over a hypnotic thicket of percussion, all of which he plays himself. The result is a collection of exotic grooves which often recall Peter Buck’s popular late 90s gamelan-rock band Tuatara. All this works equally well as trance music or dance music, enhanced by the fact that these typically long, expansive tracks are basically just one-chord jams. Then again, that could be said about a lot of music from Iraq (where Teasley has toured extensively in recent years) and India, both cultures that Teasley draws heavily from here.

The album takes awhile to get going, but once it’s off the ground, it stays aloft. One especially prominent instrument is the African balafon, a lower-pitched prototype for the marimba and vibraphone, which sometimes plays a catchy bassline, sometimes carrying the melody by itself amidst a web of – are you ready? – frame drum, goblet drum, Irish bodhran, tambourine, cajon, Korg Wavedrum, Roland Handsonic and several of Teasley’s own inventions including the Aquasonic (a bowed instrument set in water), the Didgi-Harp (a spring-loaded shaker tube) and the Mallet Kat, a synthesizer designed to deliver the pinging sounds of the marimba, kalimba and koto. If you hear high, resonant, violin-like tones, that’s probably the Aquasonic; where the Didgi-Harp appears in this kaleidoscopic maze isn’t clear; the Mallet Kat makes its most powerful appearance on the album’s best track, Rise Up, which Teasley uses to deliver a biting, cimbalom-tinged solo against crescendoing melodic flourishes which evoke both flamenco and classic Egyptian dance music.

The album’s second track contrasts the keening Aquasonic and edgy melodica against a boomy backdrop, a device that Teasley uses memorably throughout the album. The third cut works a dubwise vibe, the drums tuned to provide a hypnotic bassline. Next, he alternates short, punchy melodica riffs with long spirals over a densely orchestrated shuffle beat, followed by the album’s most gamelanesque interlude.

From there Teasley explores Balkan modalities, revisits the south seas with a hypnotic yet jaunty flute tune, closing the album with a stately, cinematic Japanese-flavored theme. Who is the audience for this? Lots of people: dance music fans, stoners and fans of esoteric sounds from the aforementioned Tuatara to the Middle East and beyond.