Monday, February 26, 2018

Features: Dahl Haus, Death By Piano, Veda Rays, Steve Shiffman + The Land Of No, Meviu§, Schlomi Bagdadi

February's mild weather has made attending live shows a much easier endeavor so far this winter. While memory can recall near sub zero temperatures in recent years past, the current warmer climate in the early weeks of this month has afforded a more willing desire to go out and experience it all in real time.

The very first weekend, Saturday February 3rd presented an opportunity to drop in on casually cool Brooklyn venue Our Wicked Lady to catch a live set from the always dazzling Dahl Haus.

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Led by young wunderkind Blaise Dahl, guitar slinging partner Daniel Kasshu fills out the sonic spectrum with his swirling electrified style.

Presenting a glamorous visual imagery, the duo rocks hard with a programmed-beats and guitar-centric sound, enhancing Blaise's stentorian vocals.

Soon shedding her hot pink faux fur, Blaise takes off on momentary dance, while Daniel slashes on his "Lee Ranaldo/Sonic Youth-style" guitar.

The well-written, finely-honed songs are delivered in a dramatic fashion, showcasing it's central figures substantial performance abilities.

For her part, Blaise strikes an appealing balance of youthful energy and experienced stagecraft.

Bathed in blue light

Our Wicked Lady's neon backdrop adds a visual enhancement to the imagery.

As previously implied, Daniel explained that his guitar was modified from an inexpensive model picked up on his world travels and contained elements of homage to the multitude guitars Sonic Youth used at their shows.

Blaise drives her own six string tones through a select array of FX pedals, all attached to her instantly recognizable emerald green pedal board.

All of that serves as the basis for her finely-honed songs and the easy professional way they are delivered.

Choosing to put down her guitar for a number of songs at this particular performance allowed for intimate star vocalist moments.

Secure in his position as a permanent "dahl," Daniel delivered his own road-experienced guitar work with the ease that comes from having played the numerous shows he has.

Time for one more dance as the music plays on.

While anticipation continues to grow for the complete debut EP “Welcome To The Dahl Haus,” you can preview it all through the above "Tease" Sampler.

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Additionally, the single “First Mistake (The Mind F*uck Song)” was initially made available back in September, and can still be gotten as a free download when you join Dahl Haus’ email list on their website:

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Another track, Helium has just recently emerged and can now be acquired here:

Chatting pre-show with Blaise

Previous features on this site about Dahl Haus can be found here: 

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Hitting the stage just before Dahl Haus was another appealing duo (and pleasant new discovery) Death By Piano

Fronted by singer and keyboardist Kalen Lister partnering with guitarist, producer and beat creator Greywolf, their show combined moody electronics with intimate, emotive vocals.

Opening the show with an instrumental titled "Darkwave" (which could easily serve as a single word description of their sound) they played their truly off-beat cover of Dolly Parton's 1973 hit "Jolene."

According to Parton, "Jolene" is the song most recorded by other artists of all the songs she has written.   To their credit, DBP put their own unique spin on it, with Listler's phrasing and tone far closer to Kate Bush than the Tennessee country queen.

Kalen stepped out front to sing solo at one point during the set, allowing for further sonic exploration through her sweet and powerful voice.

The band went beyond material on their latest recording, with new songs "Driftwood" and "Sirens" performed at this show.

Piano and pitch-shifted “reconstructive filter” vocal sampling enhance their EP title track “Countdown.” With tandem vocals from both members, impressive lyrical hook “please – please (sung -plee – eee – heese) don't turn the lights out - give me space to shake off the in crowd.” captures a blue-eyed soul vibe that permeated much of 80's synth pop.

“Torches” makes use of open space with minimalist percussion, providing both vocalists ample opportunity to express themselves.  While there may be an “industry strategy” in using autotune on vocals (might fit a certain commercial purpose?) it seems so unnecessary most of the time.   “Benders” is a quality song that could easily stand on its own without it.  The slow, moody groove of “Caves” accentuates Kalen's sweet falsetto solo vocals, before Greywolf's voice arrivis for his own parts. They ultimately weave together over meticulously crafted electronic percussion.

Catch Death By Piano at their next show on March 10 at King Killer Studio in Brooklyn

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Three days later saw the first night of Veda Rays month long Tuesday night residency at Brooklyn venue Sunnyvale get underway.

Having released their first new music since 2014 this past September, the Brooklyn-based art rock ensemble (now a full quintet) have been hard at work.

They put out a five song EP titled "Shadow Side" in November, as well as a second video for the song “False Coloured Eyes.”

In that video the band is shown playing via a four way split screen, while lead vocalist Jim Stark delivers his dramatic lyrical recitation through full screen edits.  The track itself hearkens back to the darker side of 80's electronic music, where synths and guitars merge with ominous vocals.

Digging deeper into this newer material, "Panic Shifts" drives off of Jason Gates hard-charging drumming, white guitar and bass deliver (respectively) melodic notes and bottom end pulse.  Jim's vocal tone, phrasing and dramatic lyrical delivery share a close affinity with Peter Murphy's gothic-rock style.

Other tracks from the EP were played, like “The Upsidedown Tree,” which benefits from keyboardist Maria Joanna Bohemia's xylophone notes on the melody line.  Once again, quick-paced drum patterns drive the progression forward through a steady floor tom beat.  The lyricial hook “say a word and it's understood, swing your heavy stars from the upsidedown tree” is poetic and mysterious.

A deliberate, measured pace serves as the tempo for EP closer “Mon Mari.”  Celestial keyboards provide the primary backdrop for Jim's impassioned vocals that declare “no way - to describe – how the light has left and gone out of our eyes.”  How being in a “lucid dreams, nothing seems real to me anymore.”  The combination of precise tom tom drum placement and keyboard melody lines in that final section exhibits a sophisticated level of songwriting.

The band continues to offer this wonderful EP for free when you sign up for the mailing list at their site here.

Check out their video for "False Coloured Eyes" here:

Social Media Commitment

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Continuing a busy week of must attend live shows, Saturday the 10th saw the reemergence of long-time friends Steve Shiffman and the Land of No at lower east side basement rock club Berlin.

Steve and his band have returned in a big way with a brand new, just recently released album "Double Life."

For this celebratory return to the live stage, the band played the new album in it's entirety.

Launching right in to the acoustic guitar driven album opener "Things Are Clear This Morning," the instantly recognizable Shiffman voice explains how he “had a veil lifted over my eyes.”

Lead guitarist (album engineer and co-mixer) dAve Hollinghurst adds a humming, atmospheric pulse to the track, moving it beyond traditional folk song trappings.

While the guitar chord strumming may at times recall George Harrison's “My Sweet Lord” (or even subconsciously “He's So Fine”), Shiffman's “ooooh ooooh's” evoke a near-religious quality of their own.

The country-tinged vibe of current video single release “We're A Mess” opens with the lyrics “strung out in a hotel room on stuff.”  It's soon revealed “that's a lie – but at least that's what it feels like.”

Even though “we're a mess,” apparently that's not as bad as it sounds as the next line states “don't get me wrong – it's the best.”  Adding to the country feel is guest vocalist Martha Hornthal, who reprises her recorded duet role here at the live show.

The tradition of country duets like when Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra sang about "Jackson " are still very much alive.

“Far Out Theory Time” continues the introspective, acoustic guitar accompanied theme. “I have this theory” declares the vocalist, before he begins checking off a number of topics in question.  That ultimately leads to an overall signature hook question - “do you think I could be right?”

It's not until the fourth track that the full band is unleashed on “Can't Look You In The Eye.”  With all four principal band members given equal songwriting credit, this is where you really notice the rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Kent Heine and drummer Dan Mintzer. The final three minute jam out is a rising-in-energy drums, bass and guitar tour-de-force.

The repeated title line of “Sunspot On My Mind” embeds like a trippy mantra that is ultimately rescused by its twangy western-meet-Raveonettes central instrumental break.  The slow burn buildup of “It's Got Nothing To Do With You” continues to rise until reaching a magnificent, majestic and downright beautiful end-out.

“Mojo Back” takes a tip from the free jazz era, where drummers frequently let loose in segments, showing off their skill and individual flair. That's exactly what Dan Mintzer contributes here, striking the perfect balance between legendary jazz great Gene Krupa's snare work and celebrated rock drummer Keith Moon's toms.

Inviting another guest vocalist to the stage, Melissa (Mrs.) Shiffman echoed her contributions to the recorded version of the odd looping composition “From A Perch, In Red.”  The live environment tends to smooth out rougher edges on recordings, taking this particular tracks looped, trashcan sounding percussion and making it more palatable. Another “mantra-like” chanter, the lyric “don't be so critical, the effect would be quite minimal” is repeated more than a few times for (one would assume) an attempted subliminal effect.

The album's title track “Double Life” strikes a more universal appeal with it's Nirvana-like (in Cobain's mellower, acoustic moments) introspection.  More relatable lyrics like “all this life is fleeting” and “they say you become your face – but what if you see two of them?” indicate profound soul searching.

Inviting original band member (and album graphic layout designer) Alec Ferrell on stage, they proceed to play a number of SSATLON classic songs.

"Here Comes the Cigarette Girl"

"Blackness In My Soul"

"One Of You Is Lying"

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There's a ubiquitous synchronicity in revisiting events occurring at the exact same time as previous years without actually planning on it.

This transpired while attending Daniel Kasshu's Ghostcat Valentine's Ball at Mercury Lounge on February 14th.   A year earlier Daniel and his loose coalition of stylistically like-minded musicians put on a combined V-day/B-day/Goth Prom (meticulously recapped on this site via that link).

Having reworked and retooled his band now into a trio, the addition of live drumming (along with electronic enhancements) with second guitar made for a bigger, more lively sound.

Dramatic visual styling always seems to be the order of the day, with this night's extended tendrils billowing down like Daenerys Targaryen.

As one might expect a year later and with personnel changes, the music Mevius is currently making has gone further into a futuristic cyber-dream world.

“Ghost of a Memory” combines digitally driven, hyper-active percussion with deep-twang guitar lines, creating otherworldly sonics underneath Daniel's emotive vocals.

Other compositions like “Sketchbook” take the retro sound of 80's gothic bands like The Cure and drag it into the 21st century by adding hip-hop styled vocal cadences.

“Clear Plastic” is rooted in rock music centered around driving bass guitar, electronic percussion and aggressive power guitar chords. The vocal delivery falls into that half-sung/half-spoken alternately whispery style that Trent Reznor is frequently fond of.

There's plenty of creative use of backing tracks that draw from ambient single keyboard notes, unintelligible distant voices with a frequent undercurrent of impossibly quick 16 and 32nd note hissing-snake-like high-hat cymbal ticks.

This years version of Mevius works like a fuller band, especially here in the live environment.

Although creatively it is still very much Daniel's personal vision and driving force on the currently available recordings.

However, combining mood enhancing visual projections with live percussion and two guitars has lifted the show to another level.

A live drummers skill now often requires the ability to play along with laptop generated bass patterns as well as other percussive enhancements.  When you have to look (and listen) hard attempting to determine the difference between the two, you know they are doing a good job.

Daniel drove his own fair share of electronic noise via a pedal array that pushed sound envelopes in a variety of ways.

You can listen to a number of Mevius recorded tracks on their Soundcloud here.

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Special mention to the DJ's who have dubbed themselves The Angels for playing a steady stream of perfectly appropriate music between the bands performances.   Affectionately dubbing them the "Two Broke Girls" (whom they reminded me of) they both confessed to not really knowing the show - but admitted that it DID accurately describe their present financial situation.

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Just before Mevius played, a dark and mysterious act going by the improbable name Schlomi Bagdadi performed.

Having spotted a witchy, goth-bride moving about in the room earlier, her appearance on stage for this presentation suddenly made more sense.

This central figure is Laura Hajek, who performs in a few different mediums - as an actress, as Edith Pop and as a vocalist in another occult-electro-goth collective a place both wonderful and strange.

For this project she is partnered with percussionist and creative collaborator Jordan Richardson.

Once again, a delicate balance of live instruments and sound augmenting backing tracks filled the room throughout their set.

With a trusty PBR within easy reach, Laura and Jordan displayed a worthy level of competence on their respective instruments.

Understanding that the most entertaining rock shows are as much a visual experience as well, the poppy-style "c'mon, let's go" boots garnered their own special attention.

Eventually shedding the red valentine's day tribute veil (with princess crown),  red-white+pink Hawaiian lei-style neck wear could be spotted on both members.

The clever use of a portable electronic theremin was used at points throughout the set, creating the expected otherworldly atmosphere that device can't help but create.

Furthermore, the fusion of shadowy lighting and imaginative projections behind the artists heightened a dream-like setting.

The Theremin tells me what to do

Teeth by my side

Roll up for the mystery tour

Deep into the set, Laura conducted the enveloping sound via a series of back bends.

With the teeth providing a necessary role in this sequence.

Kneel before the projection.

Ghostly images take hold.

The eyeball is upon you.

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A sacrifice to the spirits.

And back up again.

The band has one song available at present, which can be heard and acquired here.  It's offbeat yet percussive with distortion-altered vocals. They promise more in the coming year.

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Promised throughout the night was a midnight raffle for 2 Mystery Ghostcat Valentine's Baskets.

A number of appropriately attired "raffle monitors" climbed on to the stage to ensure the fairest possible drawing.

When all was said and done - love emerged as the true winner here.

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