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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Spring/Summer Features: Courtship Ritual, Rohypnotise, Azar Swan + DeliMag Print Issue #34

With the summer months now upon us, these closing days of June provide occasion to highlight recent features I’ve written for The Deli Magazine. Included are a number of significant pieces published on the website, as well as those appearing in the Spring Print Issue (No. 34, Volume 2).



An unsettling sense of foreboding runs throughout “Wild Like Us,” the A-side single from Brooklyn's Courtship Ritual, who recently played their label GODMODE's show at the Northside Fest. Evoking the spirit of 90’s era 4AD artists like His Name Is Alive and their disquieting “Can’t Go Wrong Without You,” ominous overtones emerge from within the spaces surrounding the song's sparse arrangement. B-side “Biesenbach on the Beach (Klaus)” maintains a similar level of spaciousness, driven along a singular bassline and minimal slap percussion as vocals repeat the lines “grey fox grey – beach day.” Recorded by Colin Alexander and mastered by Joe Lambert, the tracks are available digitally worldwide and as a limited edition cassette on the GODMODE imprint.


Courtship Ritual on The Deli by Dave Cromwell

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“Fade to Grey” is an enticing chilled-out track being offered up for free by emerging dreampoppers Rohypnotise on their bandcamp page. A loose and jammy drum pattern rises up from the depths, with soft, dreamy vocals quickly entering the mix. The vocal phrasing and subsequent deliberate matched-stepped chord progression brings to mind the work that former Depreciation Guild and current Ice Choir creator Kurt Feldman does so well. There’s sophistication in the songwriting and recording here, with the initial pattern giving way to a much bigger centrally located hook. With plenty of movement throughout the track, little sonic surprises like tambourines and keyboad lines appear at surprisingly opportune moments.


Rohypnotise on The Deli by Dave Cromwell

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Elements of Kate Bush at her most adventurous emerge in the vocal stylings of Zorah Atash as she sings with her band Azar Swan on the hypnotic new single 'In My Mouth.' Its rhythmic pulse pushes forward with a teutonic minimalism that somehow manages to also swing in the process, positioning this track next to the output of Swedish electronic duo The Knife. The subject matter and overall sexual overtones is as primal as it gets, and the relatively new genre classification called "Witch House" may be as good a place as any for this emerging sound. The track has been released as a digital 7” on Pendu Sound Recordings and is well worth adding to your goth-dance playlist.




Azar Swan on The Deli by Dave Cromwell

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The Deli Magazine recently put out its Spring Print Issue (No. 34, Vol. 2), which features the Best of NYC Emerging Artists.  A number of Dave Cromwell features appeared within.


Lazyeyes are no strangers to this blog, as a number of their live shows have been covered here over the last year. Additional Deli Mag Features have served to keep attention deservedly on this promising dreampop band.

"Wait" wraps itself in a lush atmospheric bed, as butterfly high-hat percussion syncopates between dueling open note arpeggios and rising guitar melody lines. The vocals are impressionist colors against pastel blue and pink skies. Previous track "Nostalgia" is paced a bit quicker as more distinctly dominant guitar riffs drive to a delightful instrumental conclusion. Iconic 90's bands like Ride through present day jammers Diiv act as reference points, as they all share similarly appealing qualities.



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The musical vision of AndrĂ©s Pichardo becomes fully realized under the band name Grand Resort. A much anticipated debut EP, "Vanguard Dreams" was released this past September, garnering a wave of positive feedback. “Night Is Dark” features the kind of heart-tugging, bouncing along chord progression you could imagine playing as you fall in love with someone. Undistorted jangle-pop guitars weave through as the repeated refrain “take me away for a week” has you swooning for this perfect girl you’ve just met.



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Brooklyn based multimedia artist Christiana Key creates a captivating electronic, experimental musical vision under the name Delphic Oracle. “The Bodywood” traverses the same thumping tom toms and deep bass-synth doom of “Pornography” era Cure, while adding middle-eastern tinged vocals and belly dancer rhythms. In addition to classical training in violin, piano, and voice, one can expect dramatic costumes in the live show. Having recorded her first solo EP with Patrick Canaday of Gemini Stereo in Atlanta , GA , that imminent release is much anticipated.





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Chanteuse Anya Skidan followed up her debut album “Shine the Brightest” with a 3 song EP that presents an ambitiously eclectic side. Lead track “Indigo Child” builds off electric piano arpeggio chords while guitar atmospherics shimmer underneath. Channeling a sultry vocal delivery that bear similarity to the Tori Amos/Fiona Apple lexicon, an air of dreamy mystery is woven throughout. Conversely, “Content Blues” demonstrates traditional piano chops within an old time New Orleans style format.





Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Charli XCX - Live in New York City

Combining elements the best 80’s and 90’s pop has to offer with a modern street smart sensibility, British recording artist Charli XCX unleashes a veritable tour-de-force with her dazzling debut album “True Romance.” Impeccable songwriting and highest level sound quality make for a seamless and instantly likeable listening experience. Charli takes on the universal themes of broken relationships as well as the sheer joy of going out with someone you just love spending time with.


In addition to her recently completed support slot for like-minded friend Marina and The Diamonds as well as her own immediately following solo headline tour, Charli squeezed in some in-store appearances to meet and greet with her fans.


Appearning at Urban Outfitters in downtown Manhattan on Thursday, May 30, 2013 - an excited crowd of dedicated fans turned up to hear Charli perform a handful of songs from her debut CD, purchase a copy of True Romance and have the artist herself sign it for them.


You could feel the anticipation in the air as Charli hit the stage and launched into some of the most recognizable tracks from her album.


Her voice, style and image was everything you might have expected from an artist who initial imprint on the musicial landscape has created the waves it has so far.


The neon lighting from behind cast a brilliant glow over her, perfectly capturing the electricity felt throughout her audience.

Check out one of her performances on this day - the heartbreakingly powerful "Stay Away"






Although the crowd was packed in tightly, the more intimate setting was well suited for this less-amplified, slightly more stripped down performance.


What shone through was this artists relaxed yet professional approach, combined with a sincere and heartfelt delivery that displayed a clear affection for the songs she has written.

Following the performance, the audience eagery lined up for an opportunity to meet Charli and have their freshly purchased True Romance CD's signed.


The ample and open space in the store allowed her to move about freely as she greeted her fans.


Charli enjoyed more than a few laughs and grins with everyone there for her.


One writes the songs - the other writes about those songs.  And so the cycle continues.





One final photographic memento of the day - here with the super friendly and helpful staff.

*******

A mere 24 hours later it was time to do it all over again, as Charli XCX kicked off her solo tour with a performance at The Glasslands Gallery in Brooklyn.


Supporting Charli on this leg of the tour was a female fronted pop band called Little Daylight


I enjoyed their 80's influenced dance pop, and thought the singer attractive and stylish (though my female companion show attendee was not nearly as impressed).


Perhaps it was down to the mood and the moment, but I felt swept up by the sights (and sounds) this band had to offer.


They reminded me (at times) of Blondie at their most dance-oriented period - or even the 80's band Animotion.  As far as I was concerned, they served as a perfect warm-up for the main attraction.

For reference:




While waiting for the Headliner to come on, it was a bit of fun just looking around at the crowd and seeing the anticipation on everyone's faces.


As well as taking a snapshot of my friend Kristina's totally awesome tattoo.

Finally the moment had come, and Charli and band took to the stage under hushed lighting.


The blue lights of Glasslands created a mysterious backdrop for Charli's "lightsabre" lit mic stand.


For this full performance there were more keyboards and a complete drum set.


Initially she wore a floral print shirt over her trademark midriff top and plaid schoolgirl skirt.


The neon lit microphone stand created interesting visual effects and served as a capable prop for her to engaged with.


The band and overall sound was exceptional quality, and Charli's reputation for high-energy performances was proven accurate with each successive song.

Have a look and listen here:



The unbridled joy expressed in “Take My Hand” explodes with a plea to go out and enjoy the night. “Why you gotta to sleep? Don’t go to sleep – let’s go out” The hook that follows captures the spirit and vibe of classic 80’s dance tracks like Madonna ’s “ Holiday .” “Baby put your hands on my hands – dance with your lips on my lips.” You can hear the audience singing along with every word.



Basking in the glow




Impassioned vocals




Confident demeanor




Embracing everyone along for the ride



Early enough into the set, Charli lost the overshirt and dazzled the audience with one brilliant album track after another.

This one in particular had everyone singing along and bouncing up and down in celebration:



“You (Ha Ha Ha)  might possibly be the catchiest earworm you’ll ever get stuck in your head.  By writing lyrics for and singing over the electronic world-music instrumental track by Gold Panda, Charli managed to develop something already great into a complete, fully realized anthem.




An accomplished songwriter and performer.


A big sound is produced from keyboards, drums and voice.  The promise of added guitars in the future is an enticing prospect.


Moving to the music


Appealing to the crowd


Having full command of the room.


It's hard to imagine a rising artist of this calibre ever playing this size room again.  Surely the next level will be established, whenever she returns to New York.

Earlier in the month I conducted a telephone interview with Charli, and you can read the results of that (along with more song reviews) at this link here:


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Adventures in New Orleans – Memorial Day Weekend 2013

How does one accurately portray the allure and charm of a celebrated world class city like New Orleans after only one first-time visit? The years of history and volumes already written alone create a daunting and humbling task for anyone other than the most experienced. What follows here then is far from any attempt at a comprehensive overview, but simply one person’s photo blog of a whirlwind three-day holiday weekend in one of America’s greatest cities.


Arrving at Louis Armstrong International Airport, the jazz tradition this city is so well known for is prominently on display.


A relatively quick cab ride whips past well known locations like LSU Medical Center and the Superdome (home of the NFL's Saints - here shot from moving vehicle).


First stop - The Royal Barracks Guest House - not coincidentally located on Barrracks street (by Royal) in The French Quarter.


Directly across the street, and equally charming view.

And looking down the street.


A look inside - attractive and ornate.


The architecture is truly beautiful here, with one building after another presenting it's own unique structural qualities.


As we headed out on this Saturday night to check out some of the world famous music that is the centerpiece of this city’s culture, I asked the lovely Sissy Jean to snap a shot of me in front of some particularly appealing iron gatework. The desire to capture a moment and put yourself in it is difficult to resist – especially in a city as captivating as this one.


Strolling the streets of the French Quarter is a wonderful way to soak in the ambiance all around you.  As a coffee aficionado, I made note of all the places I wanted to stop in a some point during this sojourn.


Soon enough we were raging off to a good time club called The Rock'n'Bowl to catch Dave Ferrato and his Tchoupazine all star funk, R&B and blues band!





Serious musicians

Check 'em out:



After their killer set we went outside and met the nicest, chatty and friendly people.


We relaxed a bit, joked around and took a photo or two as well.

But like the best of party nights and the attempt to see and do as much as possible, we high-tailed it over to another venue to catch a very special event.

The big show this evening was a very special 30th Anniversary Celebration of Grammy winners the Rebirth Brass Band being held at Howlin Wolf.




The bands longevity and award winning status is a testament to the incredible high quality jazz and funk hybrid they play.


Opening the show was a duo combination I had yet to experience elsewhere.  While one member had the current DJ setup you see quite frequently (and it sounded like he had his own unique mixes, which were for the most part very good) - the other half of this duo was an electric violinist in the Jean Luc Ponty Jazz-Fusion mode.  What was even more surprising was how this bizarre combination actually worked!  They had the place jumpin' and the sound blended together very well.


Soon it was time for the evenings main event.


The large ensemble were working their way onto stage and getting everything set.


Hoping to experience one of the great New Orleans brass bands, it's hard to imagine doing any better than this.


In addition to their amazing sound, the band had a dedicated dancer on board (on the right there) who entertained the crowd with his high energy and moves!


He wore a dapper suit and hat, as well as a sash with the band's name on it - and waved around a huge feathered fan.


Dancin' man came out into the audience and the party revelers lapped it up.


Although a very diverse audience (much like the city itself) the partiers leaned towards the fratboy and bachelorette set - though there appeared to be plenty of locals there too.


The band played at a relentless pace and in this photo it almost seems like the member on the right there is reaching up and holding a magical orb in his hand.

Check out how they sound:


Performing "Big Chief" at their regular gig at The Maple Leaf Bar



Needing just a few temporary moments of a calmer environment, we headed just out and just up the street to a local establishment called the Corporation bar.  They had a great jukebox in there.


Heading back out and towards the Howlin Wolf, the Rebirth Brass Band was now out on the street in front, entertaining a large crowd.

One more clip from them, here performing on the wonderful
HBO dramatic series 'Treme



Find out more about them here:

http://www.rebirthbrassband.com/

At this point it was suggested I "needed" to experience the gauntlet that is Bourbon Street on a teeming Saturday night. 


It was as crowded and rowdy as anything I have ever experienced.  The closest that came to this previously was Saturday night on 6th street in Austin during SXSW.


However this seemed even more alcohol soaked (and puke splattered).  It was a hell of an experience, but I was glad to get through it unscathed.

*****

Sunday morning brought a refreshing sense of newness to the proceedings and the lure of a quality New Orleans breakfast.




Such fine appointments and details


Amazing Cappuccino


a lovely atmosphere


Sooo delicious


Newspaper headlines of the day


What is in the tiles outfront of Croissant D'or.
Remants of another time.


Seeing the sights and visiting recommended places


Ornate tilework

And more signage of past times

On a stroll, stopping at Pirates Alley

The great church in the square commemorates a previous visit by The Pope.

And on this day a Bishop was there.


We decided to go on a trolly car ride and see things outside of The French Quarter


First destination

The Creole Creamery.  Again, with signage remaining from days gone by.


Incredible flavors


The next stop, Three Brothers Lounge


Back on the trolley again


Street sign views


Neighborhoods just outside of the French Quarter


So many wonderful architectural details can be see.  I loved this banner plaque hanging from a spear or arrow.  It reminded me of the Lannister Lion sigil.

Strolling through the public spaces, we experienced many wonderful street musicians


and famous clubs on Frenchman street


 The decision was made to check out this great band The Palmetto Bug Stompers at club dba


Not only did the band swing, but the floor was filled with many elegant dance couples


The swirl of activity served to enchance an already great sound

Ghostly images merge with soundwaves


Soon it was time for dinner, and we would be dining at Emeril Lagasse's world famous restaurant NOLA


I loved this "autographed" carving knife


The meal.   Every bit as good as advertised.


The room.  Relaxed and inviting.


Back out on the street, we strolled past cafe's


As well as a pilgramage of sorts to St. Peter's Guest House - to pay respect to
Johnny Thunders final residence


The Inn on St. Peter's from across the street


The night's final image shows a full moon rising over the shadow of Jesus

*****

 Monday the 27th - Memorial Day


Starting the final day of this adventure off just right - with breakfast (and delicious coffee) at Cafe Beignet


The much recommended and very worth it Beignet


My buddy David Fransen who I got to know when he lived in Brooklyn enjoyed them as well.  David is born and raised in Louisiana - it was great catching up with him.


My breakfast.  Soooo good.


Out on the street - Croms and Frans




We caught a wonderful acapella group singing and I captured a bit of it.


Ornate rooms with lovely detail


And cool friends to hang with


Getting a Po Boy for the road.

If it isn't obvious by now, I would not hesitate recommending a trip to New Orleans to anyone considering it.

Just go - you'll be happy you did.

*******