Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Ringing For The Begin Again" - Elfin Saddle

A record I bought at the Northside festival, RINGING FOR THE BEGIN AGAIN has been sneaking up on me slowly, from a long way away. I had noticed it briefly, catching glimpses during truncated listening sessions and on random playlists. Now directly behind me, over me, I feel its presence; I feel folky and Siberian. I have been listening to the record all day, enjoying its mix of Japanese and English lyrics, allowing it to interrupt and do a dance around everything else I have been up to, transported to the lush, verdured world that Elfin Saddle creates. The trio were my dark horse band at the Northside Festival, playing some crazy slot - first opening band for Sunset Rubdown or something similar. I was impressed enough to tote a 12 inch record around for the rest of the night, but it's a difficult record to review. Both members of the band are artists in many respects, and I can sense an exploration in the music, something similar to the visual art they both create. I can hear influences without HEARING the influences. The folk instrumentation, sound arrangements, and beautiful calling vocals are all great, but whatever the extra thing is - the honest artful gumption - that's what gets my toes tapping. I think this is a beautiful, positive record, the accomplishments of which are impressive and enjoyable.

Check out the art of Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie (the band). And also watch this video of their performance from Northside 2009. This is my favorite track from the record.

"Sakura" by Elfin Saddle download mp3 (with permission)

Buy Elfin Saddle records!!

The cover art is done by the band. Of course!!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lázaro Valiente in Brooklyn

Lázaro Valiente in Brooklyn 2009
Friday night I found myself in Brooklyn. It turned out that I had to sneak back into the City for this and that, of course I did not have my video camera with me. I don't think I have ever regretted it so much! After an always excellent nosh at The Flying Cow, we took the short stroll to Zebulon.

A Kronenbourg or two in, as I was familiarizing myself with the space, I became extremely curious about the music. Tables of props and instruments were spilling from the tiny stage; I wasn't even sure that what we were about to see was going to be music. Here is a list of a few items of note to get across what I mean: a hairdryer hanging inverted from a mic stand, a demonic drumming bear toy, the digital 1990's alarm clock we all hate for its mundane and thoughtless beep beep beep, clearly mic'd up. Everything indicated a band, so when Mauricio Pastrana hit the stage alone and began the opening drum solo, I continued to wait for others to join in. The evening went on like this. I never really figured out what was happening, even at the end of the night when the "band" did indeed join in. They appeared to be people from the crowd who just volunteered. "I really need a band for this one. Does anyone want to play anything? Are there any drummers here?" etc. Being in Brooklyn, it was a strangely tight impromptu.

Lázaro Valiente at Zebulon 2009
The music itself, whether coming through two cell phones apparently calling each other, amidst the humming hair-dryer-pendulum, or being played completely in reverse at the conclusion, always has this comforting acoustic guitar and voice that seem to emerge from the radio noises and dreamy xylophone. It's like struggling with the radio dial, trying to find that pretty little crackling song that is barely coming through, while you drive across some scorched uninhabitable stretch. It's hard to characterize, but it's enjoyable to allow the extreme shifts to seed one another. The hated alarm clock has become one of my favorite sounds - at the right time it brings such a sweet sense of order and rhythm.

Lázaro Valiente CD NYC Mix Needless to say, I grabbed one of three records that he had left, and I have been listening to it heavily on the long drive up to Maine. I think one should definitely get his/her hands on one, but it strikes me as much more a companion to the whole LV experience, analogous to the sing-a-long melodies that underlie the music itself. A record without a show seems aborted, and vice versa. Apart from the disc, I received in the packaging some Mexican candy and a Batman figurine who seems to have been poured from a dented mold. The superhero aura seems much less majestic when the hero's collagen appears to be failing - or perhaps he is out for his last adventure. Only having a few discs ready seems forgivable, when the artist hand stitches each case, which I found when I opened the netting that kept the whole bundle in congress.

The Times likened LV to the "Mexican cousin of Devendra Banhart," which I can see after really listening to the record. I personally have never seen a Devandra Banhart show, so I am unqualified to comment, but I would be surprised if any live show is comparable to this. He only has only more NYC show: he will be scoring a film at CINEMA 16, which takes place at The Bell House in Gowanus on August 9th. I am really looking forward to that.

Lázaro Valiente CD NYC Mix
"Alfombran El Día" by Lázaro Valiente download mp3 (with permission)
Buy Lázaro Valiente Records!!
Download a free EP!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Little Brite" by Sleep Whale

Sleep Whale (mom)

My girlfriend just walked in. "Is that Sleep Whale?" she asked, flicking a look at the radio. That particular question always seems to come from a smiling face. It's somehow more telling than exposition, which I feel to be my duty, however unprepared I may be. Instrumental music can be in any language, and it can be about anything. It is not information you are privy to, unless you take the constraints of the title and confine your imagination to that. Firstly, how boring. And also, we have to keep in mind WHY the artist chooses this to be the case - something cynicism and ignorance often prevents.

Little Brite by Sleep WhaleLITTLE BRITE should be the first thing you hear when you get up in the morning, all the way through. It's only about 25 minutes of music, but listen to the whole thing while you perform your morning ritual. See if you don't instantly find yourself to be part of a performance, no matter how square. See if you don't think positively about potential situations, or if you have creative impulses or your own, see if you don't feel something new added to them. If you don't, then several things may be true about you: a particular type of blanket hatred might be preventing you from enjoying yourself, a suicidal depression might be the reason your life is nearing its conclusion (Beware!), you might be literally dead already. In any case, I will mourn for you; I will also wonder what you are doing reading this blog - go and quit your job! With their new release on Western Vinyl, you have to believe Sleep Whale are soon to be adorning the background ubiquitously. Setting their musical sights the way they do, I can't wait to see how the nagging practicalities of the music biz affect them. Will they tour? Will they play at NuBlu in NYC with Opsvik and Jennings? That would be a show!

"Josh Likes Me" by Sleep Whale download mp3 (with permission)

Buy Sleep Whale's Records!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Christine" - Magic and Fur

Magic and Fur
I am a little bit uneasy about an official hiatus from the blog during my holiday, so I have resolved to dip into my review stack, which has climbed to a unstable height. I realize a lot of these bands and records are not as new as they once were, but this sort of situation is a perfect time to explore the unknown.

Magic and Fur are from Bradford, as far as I can tell. For those of you unfamiliar, this is a very nasty place in the North of England, near Leeds. Apart from Emily Bronte and the guy who opened my favorite pub in Houston, TX (The Red Lion), Magic and Fur are only the third good thing the town can boast (unless you count the birth of England's last hangman). In May, they released a single called "Christine" as part of the Too Pure Singles Club. If you have ever said "Holy crap I miss the days of Rough Trade and The Veils," then I think I have some good news for you.

"Christine" is a great love song that's catchy and that grows in my estimations the more I listen. Love songs aren't exactly rife at the moment; one isn't tripping over them. Magic & Fur have allowed me to indulge my insatiable brit-pop appetite without having to go way back in the stacks. It is too soon to call them "retro" - perhaps it is a re-birth. Add to that the fact that the tracks on MySpace that are unreleased are just as great, and you have cause to cheer. "Us" sounds like it could be a lost Go-Betweens record, while "Endgame" shows a competent downshift into a more solemn gear. All of it is tip-top, and the gents from the band have been working on even more tracks, which they are about to give away via their various on-line locales. Be sure to grab "Do Not Toll The Bell" (below) a little bit early.

The Too Pure Singles Club deserves a bit of press as well. It's basically a monthly unreleased 7 inch single from a different great unsigned band delivered right to your door for only 40 GBP per year! Finally, someone has the balls to taste-make again. We have all heard subscription schemes are gonna save all the folks in the Record Biz. I personally couldn't care less about them - let us just save the taste-makers! I am gonna join it as soon as payday comes, because it is only 45 GBP if you live outside the UK! That's half what I paid for my copy of the mega-deluxe IN RAINBOWS with 12 inch vinyl, cd, dvd, and a sample of Thom Yorke's peeled skin from his 2007 Benidorm holiday. If you are a friend of mine, then get ready to receive this for your birthday.

Here's the video for "Christine:"

"Do Not Toll The Bell" by Magic & Fur download mp3 (with permission)

Buy Magic and Fur's Records!!
Join the Too Pure Singles Club!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rosanne Cash in Norfolk, CT

Rosanne Cash live at infinity hall Norfolk CT
I am officially on holiday from The City for a few months, which means I will be increasingly out of touch in Upstate New York, and then even more out of touch in Europe. When I get back, it will be time for the CMJ Music Marathon, and the first anniversary of this blog. *fist pumps* I will be taking my camera with me to Europe to catch as many shows there as I can, but while upstate, I am sans shows or cell phone reception. I did however find myself in Norfolk, CT last night, where they have this very pristine Victorian music hall, called INFINITY HALL. A mate of ours had some extra tickets to Rosanne Cash, and I was very hungry for some live music. Cash played an intimate set accompanied only by her partner, John Leventhal (pictured below supporting his Iron Pigs), and it was blissful to see The Man In Black's little girl charm and serenade a large crowd in a small town very near the center of nowhere.

John Leventhal backstage in Norfolk, CT
The set comprised material from her latest release "Black Cadillac" as well as some beautiful classic country songs from her next project "The List." "Black Cadillac" is a solid folk record, with a really interesting production layer on it that makes it more dynamic than most modern folk records. Cash herself is a beautiful vocalist, as you can imagine, but I was particularly taken with her vocal performance live and her personal touch added to some of those classic covers. I particularly loved “Sea of Heartbreak” which is a duet w/ Bruce Springsteen on the upcoming record.

I have to admit I was probably the only person in town who knew nothing about Rosanne Cash, so you readers must excuse my "revelatory" tone. The story of "The List" puts a young Rosanne, just 18, on tour with her father. When asked about a number of what Johnny deemed "essential" songs, Rosanne's shrugs prompted him to hand write "100 essential AMERICAN songs" on a piece of paper. Having kept this homework assignment for some 30+ years, it seems Cash plans to release recordings of a dozen or so sometime in October of this year. It expect it will be a keeper.

Buy Rosanne Cash's Records!!
Buy Tickets to see the Iron Pigs!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Terre, Sidiki, and Pablo Maybe

terre roche and sidiki conde at the living room in new york
Last Monday, bright and early, the Living Room was hosting Terre, Sidiki, and Pablo Maybe as part of a month-long residency (something unique to the Living Room). Granted 7pm on a Monday is tough to get to for some, but I find Mondays to be the most pleasant night on the LES, completely free of imports. The show itself is a lovely mix of Sidiki's Guinean tunes with Terre's obviously more western influence. The result is a really solid and beautiful repertoire, both catchy, rythmic and at times quite complex in song structure (New York, Pakistan).

As it is Monday tonight, they will be on at 7pm. See if you can get out to see them; It is a unique LES experience, and if you see Pablo there on the Banjo, consider yourself lucky. The band name is somewhat literal. Terre is obviously of The Roches and Sidiki Conde is a fascinating guy, paralyzed from the waist down at at 13 or so, he became a dancer (re-choreographing all dances to be performed on the hands). He plays all traditional African instruments that you nearly never see (the bolong) and writes sweet melodies about the rain and the farmer's toil (in Guinean). I believe he is the artist in residence somewhere in Brooklyn, doing untold work with children etc. One of the best and sweetest human beings around from what I can tell. When wielding a bolong, he's all the more endearing.

* Unfortunately, apart from a live NPR recording, there is nothing to post in terms of sample tracks. These guys are just too new. Here are links to Terre's and Sidiki's music individually - Buy Terre Roche Records!! / Buy Sidiki Conde Records!!