Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Live + On Record: Peter Murphy, Cielo Oceano, UN.REAL, Excellent Skeleton

Once again a significant live happening closing out January serves as the opening salvo for February's DaveCromwellWrites extravaganza. An opportunity to catch one of our (newly re-energized) living legends (recovered from health issues) should never be missed, if at all possible. As far too many of our most influential musical heroes move on to the other side with unsettling frequency these days, a finite amount of chances remain to celebrate their work with them. Newer, still-emerging artists creating work that fascinates find their way into this month's feature as well.

Goth/Glam-rock legend Peter Murphy returned to New York City for a week-long residency of make-up shows at the East Village venue Le Poisson Rouge.

The air was charged with an additional level of excitement and sense of gratitude being able to witness these performances after Peter's heart attack scare from last August (when these shows were initially scheduled).

On this night of January 23, 2020, Peter and his band played the first night of his Tribute to David Bowie.

That excellent rock and roll band included “the two Mark(c)'s” that accompanied him on his extensive 93 shows “The Ruby Tour: 40 Years of Bauhaus”(many with David J on bass) Mark Gemini Thwaite (Guitar), Marc Slutsky (Drums), this time with Emilio Zef China (Bass/Violin).

The original plan was for Peter to do a month long residency in August that would mirror a similar completed series of shows in San Francisco.

Completing all but the final (and penultimate) four shows in that late summer month, these latest shows represented the fulfillment of that commitment once recuperated.

An additional member was included with the band this time around, adding a richness to the sound with keyboards and acoustic guitar.

The venue (Le) Poisson Rouge first opened in it's present configuration in the spring of 2008, founded by former classical music students David Handler and Justin Kantor.

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However this 158-160 Bleecker Street location (as one might suspect) has a rich historical backstory to it.

Located at the corner of Thompson and Bleecker Streets in Greenwich Village, the club was originally opened in 1958 by Art D'Lugoff calling the space “The Village Gate.”

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Much like the current venue, it's primary performance space is both the ground floor and basement. The original 1896 structure known at the time as Mills House No. 1 served as a flophouse for transient men.
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In its heyday, the Village Gate also included an upper-story performance space, known as the Top of the Gate.

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Throughout its 38 years, the Village Gate featured such musicians as John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, The Velvet Underground, Edgard Varèse and numerous others.

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Founder Art D'Lugoff  opened The Village Gate in 1958 and remained at the Bleecker and Thompson street location until it ultimately closed in 1996.

That rich history continues through to this day, with the current iteration having celebrated 10 years (and still going strong) in 2018.

Returning to the present (though ironically a show presented by a now historical goth-rock figure presenting the catalog from one of their musical influences referencing an even earlier period), Peter Murphy and his band delighted the audience with one classic Bowie song after the next.

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Opening the show with “Suffragette City” (from his star making breakthrough 5th album, 1972's “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”) immediately drove an already anticipating crowds intensity level right to “10.”

What's immediately noticeable is how comfortable Peter is with re-interpreting Bowie's voice. Multiple sources have stated there is probably no one else better suited to pay tribute to “the thin white duke” than the physically and artistically similar Mr. Murphy.

Moving next to the classic “Queen Bitch” (from his 4th studio album and 1st for RCA, 1971's “Hunky Dory”) Peter's rendition delivered the necessary level of camp called for, while drummer Marc Slutsky laid down an essential rock solid beat (which he would proceed to do all night).

Jumping ahead to the furthest recording he would go – the eighth studio album, 1974's "Diamond Dogs" and a rousing, sing-a-long (but they pretty much all were) “Rebel Rebel.”

Fun Fact: Bowie originally intended to merge the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell with his own glam-rock vision of a post-apocalyptic world. Initially wanted to make a theatrical production of Orwell's book, however the author's estate denied the rights. This explains why the Nineteen Eighty-Four theme was so noticeable throughout (especially on the second side).

Dipping back to sixth studio album (and first Bowie wrote and released after breaking through and becoming a star), 1973's "Alladin Sane" and a rousing version of "The Jean Genie."

Having been written and recorded during Bowie's first US tour in 1972, he described this first single from the album as "a smorgasbord of imagined Americana."  However, the song title is a pun on the name of French existentialist Jean Genet.

Returning to the Ziggy album, a near perfect rendition of "Moonage Daydream" was presented - of which can be gloriously re-experienced in the video below:

"All The Young Dudes" and "Starman" sing-along's followed that, with clip captures of those (and clips of every song up to that point)  accessible here.

Going once again to the Ziggy album (which would be the most referenced record of the set) an impassioned, intimate version of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" was played, with the below video representation capturing it perfectly:

Touching hands with an adoring audience, Peter and the band headed off for a quick pre-encore break.

Returning to the stage once more, the band launched into the song most everyone anticipated:  "Ziggy Stardust."   After all, Peter and his early 80's band Bauhaus (now doing big time reunion shows again) did a memorable cover of it in 1982.  For comparison's sake a rare live version of Bowie and his band turned up a few years ago showing how they played it live a full decade earlier in 1972.

Here's how it looked an sounded by Peter and the boys at this current show:

More Fun Facts:  The inspiration for Bowie's Ziggy character was originally based on leather clad rocker Vince Taylor who took too much LSD and went temporarily insane. Bowie once bumped into him outside a London tube station and Vince pulled out a map to show David where the spiders from Mars would land.

The final song of the night was truly inspired version of "Space Oddity" with Peter performing the entire lengthy, extremely moody piece lying on his back on the stage.  It made for a surreal experience and a fitting end to the nights performance.

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A superior quality rock and roll band.

Psychedelic "Blue Man Group" Friends In Attendance.

And catching a moment with the popular iconic image on bass drum head.

Special mention to guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite who not only handles all the lead guitar work with Peter like a pros pro, but has been doing for quite some time with other legendary bands like The Mission UK, The Wonder Stuff, Gary Numan and others.

Opening the show was New Orleans Drag Performance Art singer Vinsantos.  Previous work with David J (also a founding member of Bauhaus) and support on last year's “The Ruby Tour: 40 Years of Bauhaus” extended onto these shows.

The expected flamboyant performance of this artist gains credibility via introspective lyrics and playing their own keyboards.  Making yourself available to meet the audience afterwards is always a winning move.

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The seemingly boundless energy of Philadelphia-based creative force Tom Lugo re-emerges once more with the debut album from new collaborative project Cielo Oceano titled “The Space Has Always Reduced Me To Silence.” Partnering with like-minded guitarist and programmer Andres Lugo, astral atmospherics are blended together via keyboard and guitar textures while pulsing bass-lines and crisp piercing percussion provide sensory motion underneath.

With opening track “Hard to Breathe” clocking in at 6 minutes in length, there's plenty of room for beat-less spacial exploration. “Moth To A Flame” ambles along on floating waves that create an impression of unattainable longing. Deeper percussive elements and throbbing bass emerge on the title track where vocals are presented in that style William Reid used on those early Jesus and Mary Chain recordings. Over 7 and a half minutes of “Nada mas que decir” melds those droll JAMC vocals with the early drum machine sounds that seminal band admittedly nicked from bands like Suicide. Lugo + Lugo masterfully capture the vibe running through so much of “Barbed Wire Kisses” on this one.

Seasons”is a 4 minute atmospheric interlude that suggests the ambient work Brian Eno has spent his entire post-pop career exploring. “The possibility of only one answer” introduces a level of menace for the first time, conjuring up early Sisters Of Mercy vibes. “Woven” adds subtle effects to carefully enunciated vocals as a steady bass-line and guitar washes all contribute to an air of mystery. Clocking in as the longest track on the album, the nearly 8 minute “Distant Memories” place emphasis on deliberate vocal phrasing with introspective ambient interludes in-between. A bonus track of an earlier single release “Emptiness” is included, coming full circle with it's Jim Reid-like slow drawl vocalizing.

Find out more about Cielo Oceano (including how to acquire this record) here.

Previous features on this site that include Tom and/or his music can be found here, here, here and here.

For more information on Tom's entire Patetico Recordings music catalog, go here.

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There is an unmistakable floating quality to the new release ”Lovely one / Islands” by Puerto Rican gazey/dreampop ensemble Un.Real. While a distinct four chord melody is clearly audible (although passed through rather slowly) the sheering textural quality to those synth and guitar driven sounds emanates from mysterious places of wonder. Bass and drums soon enter the mix and the wall of atmospherics is then layered with additional soaring melody lines. Musicians Gardy Perez-Ruiz (guitars, synths) Hector Caolo (bass) and Eden Cruz (drums) are the trio responsible for much of these sonic forays. The final element arrives via sweet and gentle female vocals from Bernice Cruz (who also contributes synths), providing a next level of reverential beauty. There are certainly reasonable Cocteau Twins parallels here, not only via Robin Guthrie-like guitars and Liz Frazer vocal similarities, but even a distinctive Simon Raymonde-esque bass-guitar hook. A rising, hammering riff emerges at the two and a half minute mark lifting the entire proceedings to celestial heights. Three minutes of gentle guitar picking and soft synths create a sense of sitting by calm waters to close everything out here.

A previous feature on this site covering the music of these 3 Robots Records artists can be found here.

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Heavy psych-n'-gaze-rock is well represented on the latest track from Cardiff, Wales UK's Excellent Skeleton. At nearly 10 minutes in length, “Stop Waking The Sun” serves up epic proportions unleashed with unabashed sonic cataclysm.

Opening with a :45 second repeated title line vocal intro that soon floats behind guitar progression figures, the band kicks in with a heavy stoner rock groove. Everything from 60's psychedelia up through J Mascis-level doom-riffs permeates through a heavy fog atmosphere. With all that, there are elements of that Manc-Manchester feel on the verses, with it's long vowel vocal phrasing. At four minutes in, a momentary guitar chord driven ambient interlude sets up the big vocal hook that follows.

Sometimes I can feel – the sun washing through your face. Sometimes I can feel the death of the human race.”

The drums slash hard with dynamic cymbal crashes and the bass and guitar double down with that timeless drop-d groove that appeals to lovers of hard rock far and wide. At 7 minutes in a cosmic bubbling sonic element takes over, driving momentum upward to the stratosphere. As the dominant progression continues to unfold with bold guitar chords, throbbing bass and stomp-down drums, the rhythm section ultimately drops out for a final minute of pure aural mayhem.

Check out the sonic journey this track provides on the band's Soundcloud page here.

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