Friday, June 21, 2019

Live + On Record: Mark Lanegan Band, Simon Bonney, Hot Pink Satan, Precious Child, apbwas

In-between pondering the meaning of life and listening to digital podcasts (modern technology's free form “radio” and current zeitgeist) a limited number of musical events still made it onto the DaveCromwellWrites radar. While the challenge to avoid a subtle encroachment of “heard it all before” ennui increases as the days, months and years go by, a handful of artists continue to captivate and inspire. What follows, then are those very musicians who continue to impress with their own self-driven creativity, motivation and craft.

Embarking on a month long May tour in support of first single release “Stitch It Up” (and the coming in October, fourteen track full-length album “Somebody's Knocking”) Mark Lanegan and his band took over Brooklyn, NY venue Warsaw and treated the packed house to a 24 song set that drew equally from the last four solo albums.

For the uninitiated, Mark Lanegan is a storied singer-songwriter and rock musician who first came to notoriety in the mid-1980's as a forming member and lead singer of psychedelic grunge rock band Screaming Trees. At the outset of the 1990's he began releasing solo albums and has ten to his credit so far, with another one on the way. Additionally there have been numerous collaborations with bands and artists in-between, including Mad Season, Queens of the Stone Age, Greg Dulli and Isobel Campbell.

Kicking off the show with “Death's Head Tattoo” (the opening track from 2017's “Gargoyle” album) immediately establishes this rendition in a fully live rock band setting. While the original album cut emphasized an electronic pulse and prominent keyboards on the chorus, a richer balance of live instruments allowed for a more fluid feel. Lanegan's instantly recognizable sandpaper and leather baritone vibrato vocals remains as captivating as ever. While the “death's head” image in this regard may refer to a moral looseness (and the reason to “cry for you, baby”) the need to “pray for the last one standing” suggests a final showdown with “the devil you know.”

Listen to this short clip of it shot at this performance:

That was followed by another album opener, this time from 2012's “Blues Funeral” and it's lead single “Gravedigger's Song.” Once again the original track's use of studio sequencing and electronic effects gave way to a more musician-direct rendition supporting Lanegan's descriptive lyrical passages. While the edgy storytelling still remains (“with piranha teeth I've been dreaming of you”), a passage in French - “tout est noir, mon amour” (everything is black, my love) “tout est blanc” (everything is white) “je t’aime, mon amour” (I love you my dear) “comme j’aime la nuit” (as I like the night) puts a softer, more romantic twist on the underlying thundering progression.

Check out another clip of  this song, shot at this performance:

Going back to 2004's “Bubblegum” for “Hit The City” and then “Sister” (from “Gargoyle”) Mark and his solid band rolled out brand new track “Stitch It Up” as lead single and early taste off the forthcoming new album (as well as appropriate name for this leg of the tour).

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Along with this uptempo rocker comes an amusingly entertaining video directed by Joe Cardamone that features Donal Logue reprising his mid-1990's MTV character Jimmy The Cab Driver. Logue nails this hyper-active, overly-talkative personality while the passengers (most of them Mark Lanegan in different personalities) do their best to tolerate his verbal onslaught. While the video adds a hilarious side-story, the songs straight ahead chugging rocker questions why one would “stitch it up” with the discovery that the “knife's still inside.”

Check it out:

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Moving deeper into the set saw the artist dipping further into the "Gargoyle" album, playing inspired versions of "Nocture," "Emperor" and "Beehive."

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A series of numbers from "Blues Funeral" were played, including "Bleeding Muddy Water," "Ode to Sad Disco and "Gray Goes Black."

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Additional stand-out performances included The Twilight Singers cover "Deepest Shade," "Strange Religion," "One Hundred Days" (both from "Bubblegum"), "Riot in My House" and "Harborview Hospital" (both from "Blues Funeral").

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Digging down now into 2014's "Phantom Radio," Lanegan and his band concluded the pre-encore portion of the show with three from that album, "Harvest Home," "Floor of the Ocean," and "Death Trip to Tulsa."

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Treating the audience to five encore songs, they played "One Way Street" (from 2001's "Field Songs"), "Bombed" (off of "Bubblegum") , "Come To Me" (which appears on the 1989-2011 anthology "Has God Seem My Shadow?") , "The Killing Season" (from "Phantom Radio") before closing out with "Methamphetamine Blues" (off of "Bubblegum").

Ornate venue interiors.

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Tour bus and street views outside the venue.

Newly released second single “Playing Nero” from the forthcoming album is a contemplative rumination on troubling news. Despite the songs over four minute length, the lyrics begin immediately. “Can't believe what I'm hearing. Stone cold. Statuary blue. On the telephone.” A light percussive undercurrent begins as the story continues “can't believe what I'm feeling. Bone cold – after what you said. Blood written bold. Rasberry red. Up upon the rock – where an angel stood. With a rifle stock – underneath his foot. No matter anyway. I want her – on this stage today. Playing Nero. They said he would fall – and fall he did – before he had to crawl.”

An unexpected lush keyboard passage emerges filled with the kind of emotionally-charged melody one might expect to hear from a band like The Cure. “Can't believe how I'm reeling,” it continues. “Spinning top - all around my head. A dirty mock – ringing out the dead. Can't you make it stop? Remember what you said.” “Can't believe what I'm seeing – so sick. The tenement block – the crumbling bridge.”

The album is set for release on the 18th of October via Heavenly Recordings and is available to preorder HERE.

An Autumn UK/EU Tour has been scheduled and those dates are listed here.

Additional info can be found at his official website here.

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Supporting this leg of the tour was Australian singer/songwriter Simon Bonney.  Initially rising to fame with 1970's-90's (and briefly revived in 2012-13) band Crime and the City Solution (most notably for the Berlin+London collaboration period with Rowland S. Howard and Mick Harvey of the Birthday Party).  Touring in support of his newly released catalog retrospective (with three new tracks) "Past, Present, Future" - his songs are now more introspective, leaning closer to a rootsy folk and country sound.

Contributing essential vocals and wonderful violin work was noted Australian musician Bronwyn Adams (who is also Mr. Bonney's spouse).  Her lineage goes back to Crime and the City Solution as well, where she was the band's violinist during the Berlin lineup from '86-'91 and again during the 2012-13 period.

A particular highlight song is the title track from an unreleased 90's album “Eyes of Blue,” which is now included on the current release. With a bold and expressively strummed guitar progression leading the way, the artist sings poetic lines that reflect back on relationships lost. “Look for you – everyone I meet” and “white skin girl – wrapped in whiter sheets – the shape of your feet – watched you through the door – watched you weep . . . my Anna Bell Lee.” Without any percussion and powered predominately by guitar and vocals, the song bears similarities with Bob Dylan's loose-form troubadour style.

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Another show promising an enticing combination of high quality audio and edgy live visual presentation was the Hot Pink Satan, Precious Child and a place both wonderful and strange performance on May 23 at The Cobra Club in Brooklyn.

Already a true believer in all things apbwas, and somewhat familiar with the production work that Precious Child provided for the previously DCW reviewed Vancorvid (found here), the sheer enticement of Hot Pink Satan and their sensuously unrestrained live show was not to be missed this time around.

There's a lot more “hot pink” than anything really “satanic” in the songwriting and provocative live show of HPS. Formed by the seductive Clea Cutthroat and sonic maestro Jeremy Creamer (a/k/a allinaline), the duo strikes a perfect blend of industrial rhythms and sexually charged attitude.

Providing the musical blueprint for their wildly magnetic live show are a number of electrifying songs off of recent full-length release “Spells.”  Produced and Engineered by allinaline, the man knows his business and confessed to bringing "a ton of stuff" with him on tour.  Live bass guitar and vocals are always a plus.

3X Intro” immediately get's to this collective's essential theme with the repeated line “I Want the Lights Out, I Want U Sweaty n' Naked.” Consisting almost entirely of those lyrics alone, one other echoed sub-line of “get your ass on the floor” works it's way into the mix.

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Show U” expands on the band's mission statement, enhanced by a fuller instrumental barrage and industrial percussive clatter. Allinaline sings: “Welcome to our nightmare. It's always light there. We're always on the road 'cause there's no place to go.” They they start singing in tandem. “We go left right left” and “we're takin' shit over till we breathe our last breath. When the freaks come out at night, we'll show you how we roll – you're gonna lose control!

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A particularly fascinating aspect of their show is how lead vocalist (and overall performance artist) Clea/Mollie (we all have multiple names now it seems) does this twisted version of a Las Vegas style showgirl in the first half of the show.

Along with her well-honed and clearly defined movements, she wore a blonde wig and ringmaster jacket that was beautifully customized with a wide variety of pins, studs and chains.  The stage jacket is by Electric Catfish / Masha Vereschchenko, who's work can be found here.

Midway through the set a dramatic transformation occurs where Clea removes her wig and jacket (revealing nothing but a few strips of electrical tape on her body) before methodically adding layers of paint to her torso as the show progresses.

Although unaware of the other's existence until I mentioned it to her, there is a visual similarity to what Haley Dahl does with her band Sloppy Jane (who's live show this site covered here).

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Clea's flexibility is something to marvel at, as those splits clearly illustrate.

Back Bends and Ballyhoo

It only looks like blood

Nothing says quality percussive instrument like a severed arm (missing a finger).

Driven along by a busy mechanical percussive force and singular heartbeat-bass-pulse, “Squirt” comes delivered in the alternating male/female recitation that typifies this bands sound. Because when “I make that sound” you have to “push your body forward – and move it around.” Leading up to “that little voodoo – that you do.” It's a slithery dance-floor groove extolling what's needed for mutual sexual satisfaction. “You got to work – to set it off tonight. You got to work – until it hurts!

Wet Tights” initially rides along a singular high-pitched tone and abrasive fuzzy distortion before Clea begins her sultry story. “Drove up to the gig – somewhere in Madrid. Naked under fur – dancing for this DJ that I just wanna swerve.” Tandem vocals immediately commence with the hook lines “It was a hot lights, wet tights kind of a night – she got me moving.”

"Lord Beelzebub, we implore you"

The songs (and live show) get's more graphic and abrasive deeper into the set with “Hand” and “U.T.I” (“in a boy band with your teenage demands” and “I'll make you dream about me when you're playing with your . . .”) . Those contrast with more controlled tracks on the album like “Breathe” and title cut “Spells.”

Some times you just gotta crawl.

Beautiful body art on full display.

A few hours earlier, before the carnage.

Stay up to date with Hot Pink Satan via their official site here.

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Touring together with HPS for a number of shows at this point in their schedules was Los Angeles-based musician and conceptual artist Precious Child.  An accomplished singer, songwriter, producer and engineer, the medium of video imagery is also prominently on display throughout their live show.

Current (and fifth) album "HALLOW" shows Precious taking total control over every aspect of the work as all mixing, production and even the mastering were completed by the artist entirely. 

Emerging initially under a netted shroud in front of a screened backdrop created an additional mysterious element to this impressive audio and video presentation.

The current albums opening track “The End (Again)” is introduced by the sonic equivalent of mechanized railroad engines, firing up and then hurtling down the tracks. Brief (ominous) pauses lead into distorted, screamed vocals, bringing to mind the edgy contrasts that populates much of Trent Reznor's work with Nine Inch Nails. There is a solid guitar and bass undercurrent (with minimal percussion) allowing for a singular chime melody (of sorts) to float over top. While vocals serve more as another sound element, rather than any actual storytelling (they're much too distorted to make any lyrics out) their delivery conveys a sense of outrage.

Title track “HALLOW” blends a softer, sandpapery vocal with higher register enhancements that serve to create a ghostly sensation. A rising stringed instrumentation emerges over top of that, allowing for the music (and it's precisely defined melody lines) to share equal space as the songs primary focus. “I may be whole I may be hollow. I am the circle, I am hallow,” the artist declares.

Keyboard textures and associated singular melody lines introduce the haunting strains of “To Need a Filthy Biped.” The repeated mantra “any way at all” becomes the initially recognizable, returned to and repeated vocal hook. A distinctly different spoken-word segment is introduced midway however, portraying a form of psycho-analytical doubt. “I'm just a body and my flesh is my mind and my mind is my flesh” repeats with intensity, leading up to the song's title and meaning.

Throughout the night's performance a number of alternate hand-held lighting techniques were used to create moments of drama and intensity.

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Opening the night's festivities were the occult-inspired, electronic dj and live musical act a place both wonderful and strange.

Having attended (and covered) numerous shows of theirs in recent times, it always impresses how each individual performance is uniquely tailored to that evening's overall thematic mood.

In-between jet-setting across the continent engaging in his impressive dj work with ADVENTURE[s], Russ will step out front and provide vocals for this collective project.

The power of that is doubled with the multifaceted Laura (a/k/a Edith Pop) co-conspiring on vocals, effect triggers, guitar and now songwriting as well.

There is an instantly recognizable bond between the two artists that projects fully to audiences during their performance.

Laura's star appeal is unmistakable when taking her featured solo vocal moments.

However, the best elements of any band are when the combined forces come together and create something beyond what could be accomplished individually.

"For every action - there is a reaction."

Knob twists and dominatrix boots.

The sound and imagery of a dark future.

Hands joined in this combined singular vision.

And those (for a brief moment) wedging their way in-between.

Their forthcoming album "Matter + Desire" is set for an October 2019 release.

Previous features covering apbwas on this site can be found here, here, here and here.

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