Archive for September, 2022

Martha Zed’s debut – Cat Song

Posted: September 21, 2022 by Kat Meow in Alternative, Indie, Martha Zed, Rock

First off, let’s start with the fact that Martha Zed is an absolutely bangin’ grunge rock name.  It’s earnest but still has that rock and roll purr, much like “Cat Song,” Zed’s debut tune.  This track is ice cream and hot fudge alt-rock, a classic slacker rhythm with cutie pie vocals.  The wailing guitar at the end is the cherry on top.  This song is dedicated to the greatest love story ever told – a human and their sweetie baby murder floof.  It’s all love, and this love is one you’ll want to gobble up over and over.  Check it out.

Martha Zed BandcampMartha Zed InstagramMartha Zed Website

Danish duo Moon Panda have brought their bonus-only track “Submarine” to streaming.  This woozy trip-hop tune was previously only available as a bonus track on Moon Panda’s celebrated March debut, What on Earth.  The vocals hiss a whispery singing of the fates, and then the melody hits that beautiful coasting-through-existence motif that comes on so well for this genre.  Maddy Myers’ tone transforms lyrics about riding the city streets into something spacious and otherworldly.  

Moon Panda just played stateside at the emerging Same Same But Different Festival in Southern California.  Here’s hoping they catch on with more USian music fans, those of us who like to lay back in darkened lounges with sounds that make the spirit glide through the plane. Great tune for those who like Zero 7 or Massive Attack.

Moon Panda InstagramMoon Panda BandcampMoon Panda Website

T F D – Total Fucking Darkness

Posted: September 14, 2022 by Kat Meow in Electronic, Pop, Total Fucking Darkness

You could say hello to the world, or you could say “BLEEP BLOOP ASSHOLES IT’S TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS.”  The TFD’s self-titled debut single is 80s synthpop brimming with delicious irony.  It sneers with dark sarcasm and yet earnestly hopeful lyrics… when you get past the calls for death… for things that should die (like fascism).  This is quite a broad mission statement, but the track is tight. Well, Total Fucking Darkness, you’ve gotten my attention.  Lights out!

TFD BandcampTFD SoundcloudTFD Instagram

It’s Sunday night.  The rest of New York Shiddy is curling up to watch either football, House of the Dragon, or for more creative potatoes, both at once.  But underneath the scaffolding, amidst perpetually dirty streets and fresh graffiti tags, the family was gathering.  The almighty Fishbone were coming to the conclusion of their small “Fly in the Buttermilk” tour, a familiar term for old Fishbone heads.  Flies in the buttermilk are out of bounds.  They defy limitations and expectations.  As the band says on their Facebook, to be a fly in the buttermilk is “a badge of honor as a band of color in a stereotypical music genre.  Too black for white radio, too rock for black radio.”   It takes guts to be the odd ones out, no matter how radical nor earnest nor unbounded, which draws radical earnest unbounded fans.  Fishbone brought along pop punk outfit Action/Adventure, a band of fellow flies out of Chicago making music only white suburban kids are supposed to make (if you answer to the machine).  Together they made some beautiful noise down at the independent bastion Le Poisson Rouge.

Action/Adventure started the night off with some really solid tunes.  While pop punk isn’t my flavor of tea necessarily, this fivesome rocked pretty good.  Their drummer can put out some beastly clamor.  They sound like they’d be at home on alt-rock radio.  For all of my memories of fakery from pop punk bands two decades ago, these guys had none – they were, frankly, adorable, and mock the ye olde concept of poser-ism in their music and their own brand of hot sauce, Poser Poison.  Even though these guys are clearly playing a genre they love, but aren’t “supposed” to love, they vocally stood firm in their convictions that people can do whatever the hell they want regardless of the continents in their blood.  That’s as punk as it gets.  

Then came Fishbone.  What is there to say about your sixth Fishbone show?  “Sunless Saturday,” “Everyday Sunshine,” “Ma and Pa,” “Servitude,” the classics roll off the tongue.  There were old punks who were-there-when, some from the Chili Peppers tour era, which impressed Angelo and Norwood.  There was new blood too.  I spotted a couple kids in their twenties, and even one youngin’ out well past his bedtime, finding his joy in the morass of whirling bodies.  Go get ‘em, kid.  

Of course there was a pit.  A Fishbone pit is a high impact high velocity hug-a-thon for the seasoned rock kid.  One older pro in a pork pie hat started the surf, and before I knew it, I was holding up Angelo’s thigh while he sweat-dripped Sunshine on our faces.  I took a pit edge position, playing defense for a photographer and trying to keep sturdy against the onslaught.  Of course there were moments the pit took me off my feet, but there was no fear, because this Fishbone pit felt less like elbows and shoulders and more like jumping the waves at the beach.  I must have wrapped my arms around dozens of fellow meatbags, and they around me.  A sea of flies, wing in wing.

It was gorgeous and I am exhausted.  Here are some other thoughts, in no particular order:

  • More women than I have noticed before
  • Sweat
  • HORNS ON HORNS ON HORNS ON HORNS ON HORNS
  • Dr. Madd Vibe laying down poetry
  • Norwood in tie-dye still looking good
  • Happy Birthday Norwood with special guests 
  • Dirty Walt’s very dirty microphone
  • Chris Dowd being a ham 
  • A series of almost comically larger and larger saxophones 
  • Angelo Moore’s delicious asscrack
  • I hope Angelo saw my Thumpasaurus shirt because that would be a mind-blower lineup
  • John Steward keeping rhythms tight
  • Mark Phillips with the shred
  • I don’t know who I took that picture with but I love you too
  • The bartender was cool as hell
  • Family of strangers
  • Fishbone being now and forever red hot

Fishbone Instagram  ★  FishboneLive.org

Action/Adventure Instagram  ★  Action/Adventure Bandcamp

A Summer Among Sparks

Posted: September 7, 2022 by Kat Meow in Experimental, Los Angeles, Pop, Sparks
Gorgeous

Sparks!  Sparks, the ever-morphing pop duo of Ron and Russell Mael, has seen enormous resurgence.  I am of that resurgence.  The Edgar Wright documentary The Sparks Brothers is a relatable primer for these obscure titans, and a well done doc in its own right thanks to its combination of warm storytelling and slightly warped animations.  It was meant to invite in curious millennial music kids like myself who have been hearing Sparks on the periphery of our attention for years.  From the jump you can see why they are icons.  It’s like they’ve always been there, but the nostalgia machine hasn’t been feeding them back to us like they have been Bowie and Freddy.  Perhaps it’s because you couldn’t sell Sparks as nostalgia if you tried.  They aren’t of an era because they are of all eras.  I also think images of Ron Mael’s unnerving yet seductive face unlocked a core memory for me, like big sis had MTV on while I was playing Legos and it branded his mustache onto my unconscious.

But I really found Sparks through FFS, their 2015 collaboration with Franz Ferdinand.  I had maybe a couple weeks to vaguely research them before they played a packed house at Terminal 5, excited by what little I managed to learn.  The show was unreal.  I mean these old-ass dudes were full of pure energy.  And Ron’s face!  I remember his intense concentration looking like fury, until he stepped up from his keyboard and finally delivered some tall and skinny dance work of his own.  I fell in love, but I kept putting them off – their catalog was too daunting to start, and time moved on.  

Fortunately The Sparks Brothers acts as a guide to different eras in their sound, while also highlighting key songs that best exemplify different eras of their music.  So I went further on the journey this summer with the film’s guidance.  So far, I can boast repeated listens to Kimono My House, Introducing Sparks, No1 in Heaven, Terminal Jive, Angst in My Pants, Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins, Lil’ Beethoven, and Exotic Creatures of the Deep.  I also returned to FFS.  Here are some songs that exemplify what I love about Sparks that didn’t get the Edgar Wright treatment in the film.

Equator (Kimono My House – 1974) – The struggle of a protagonist whose lover said she’d meet him at the equator.  It’s desperate and at times exhausting.  Russell keeps his bluesy falsetto so far up in the stratosphere it becomes breathless.  Each repetition gets more panicked, and the backing femme vocals sound like they’re mocking him.  Poor sap.  Unbelievable piano rock.

Goofing Off (Introducing Sparks – 1977) – Fuck being in fashion.  Sparks put out an ode to the wonders of the weekend in a rock and roll klezmer tune.  Klezmer.  Twenty-plus years before Gogol Bordello made it cool. After a blistering guitar solo, the song comes to a triumphant close.  Are they even Jewish?  Who cares.  

My Other Voice (No.1 In Heaven – 1979) – This song could mean anything.  Maybe it’s Ron referring to Russell in a loving tribute to the power Russell gives his lyrics.  Or maybe it could be a metaphor for someone’s emergent new self: “you’re so independent but that’s gonna change real soon/with my other voice I can destroy this room.”  Either way, the simple beat and heavenly synth atmosphere make this one a triumph of the Giorgio Moroder era of Sparks.

Young Girls (Terminal Jive – 1980) – This one messed me up, because on the first listen it was a really sweet bubblegum song with gentle vocals, until the lyrics set in, and dear god.  Yeah, it’s just like that Oingo Boingo song.  But whereas Danny Elfman merely liked offending people, Ron was often performing a social criticism.  He traveled in the same scenes as all the other 70s rockers – many of whom were shacked up with children – was anyone else in the machinery of pop questioning it?

Instant Weight Loss (Angst In My Pants – 1982) – I hear this as a great-uncle to Cut Copy’s first album, Bright Like Neon Love.  The drums have this delicious skip in its rhythm, this kind of double-tap *howdoyado* that gives it a little hip along with its breezy keys.  In typical form, the lyrics tell of a man who is willing to pull some wild Christian Bale weight loss/gain antics over a woman.  

Serving Face

Nicotina (Angst In My Pants – 1982) – A dramatic post-punk opera song about a sentient cigarette meeting her horrifying fate.  ‘Nuff said.

I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car (Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins – 1994) – The inner monologue of a simp being barked at by his desire. Russell’s fay spoken-word shines against the dark 90s techno as he reflects on being someone’s dirty little secret. What old-Hollywood power player inspired this?

Suburban Homeboy (Lil’ Beethoven – 2002) – Ron and Russ have never once in their life given a fuck.  This sprightly pop track is anything but “homeboy” as it comes from the perspective of every upper-class WASP that ever wore a du-rag.  Omnomnom, archetype schadenfreude.

I’ve Never Been High (Exotic Creatures of the Deep – 2008) – Sparks is illustrated as a band that didn’t spend their yesteryears nose-deep in powder.  But rather than being haughty, this tune is wistful, even regretful, of never having been damaged enough to publicly circle the toilet because of addiction.  It ends with a wry poke at how it might have garnered them more public attention: “then I’ll be something, then I’ll be something/look there’s a camera, smile and say cheese.”  After all, self-destruction sells records and builds legacies.  Isn’t that screwed up?

Police Encounters (FFS – 2015) – Written as FFS alongside Franz Ferdinand, this one is just fun fun fun.  But the references to elder cultural figures feels so out of place.  Albie and Pinter plays?  Feeling like P.T. Barnum?  It occurs to me that this song might be a period piece, with a character regretting leaving Harlem because he’s being pursued by cops.  It makes me think Ron’s voice stepped into the mind of someone brown or black who ventured too far south of 125th street while trying to get a little culture.  You can marinate over the setting and the protagonist’s thirst for dangerous women while the “bomp bomp diggy diggy” becomes your inner rhythm.

Iconic
Manic Moondays

Berlin composer Rettward von Doernberg has an impressively long list of accomplishments on his website.  I listened to this dude’s EP at first wondering why the tracks were like thirteen seconds long.  It sounded like all the panorama of a Disney scene without any Disney obnoxiousness.  Rettward’s tones are tinkling and pretty and easily conjure a flowery cottage with sprightly animals and not a hint of sarcasm.  I’m like, “This is sweet.  But what am I missing?”  And then the “duh” moment happened. This EP is his score to a short animated film called Manic Moondays!  And I was listening to it moment by curious moment. This little toon was animated by Martin Schiffter and made the rounds at festivals and on TV. 

Nighttime. Dogs emerge to howl at a changing moon.  Gravitational hijinks ensue.  The sparse animation is sweet minimalist sci-fi, aided by von Doernberg’s scoring.  It got some honest chuckles.  Show it to young-ins who want to know why the moon looks different every night.  Check the notes on his page if you’re interested in the technical side of how scores are adapted for different forms of viewing.

rettward.com

Where the fuck is it?  I’m toiling around the streets, knowing I am vaguely close because of the shift in quality of graffiti.  A guy as equally confused as I am is spying the environs on this corner of Wyckoff and Weirfeld, looking for a music venue.  He spots it first.  The name Trans-Pecos is outlined in some kind of black tape on a facade of cheap wired government glass NYC uses to build public buildings, causing this little gem to stay hidden from passers-by.  But inside, this venue’s booth-lined dance floor glistens with refracted starlight and neon. Tonight, I am again following the paths of Logan Kane and Nicole McCabe further into jazz, along with sound artist Claire Dickson, and punk/jazz outfit CGI Jesus.  

The show eases in with a sophistication.  Brooklyn-based Claire Dickson uses her vocals and a keyboard setup to layer her sound.  There may have been different songs, but the layperson couldn’t tell because her set was continuous and uninterrupted by applause.  From there, she selects a sparse palate of tones, bells, and ethereal vocals and lets them waver and warp naturally, aided by gentle nudges from her toolkit.  She conveys this existential kind of thing that fills up the room.  There’s a mindful smallness you feel when listening to tones like this, like listening to silence at night.  What do you call that, tinnitus of the sublime?  It takes away all of the petty pressures of being human.  And I think, I pay my therapist $20 a week to relax my mind when I could do it at a $12 show.  If you have ever spent a night in bed with Tangerine Dream, it’s worth spending an evening at the venue to wash your face with these kinds of waves. I never have before.

I started chatting up Confused Guy from earlier, spreading the gospel of music I love.  He was tempted to clap for Dickson, but it would have interrupted the tone and he wanted to be respectful.  Still, he seems floored.  He’s the type that sees what’s playing and goes out mostly blind, a sense of adventure that I can appreciate, having flown solo at most shows as of late.  Suddenly his tone shifts.  He’s needy, looking for a party, but I am not a party.  I become uncomfortable, firstly because I had thought I might end the night with a new show-hopping bud, and secondly because I am reminded of what I have read about jazz scenes and chemical self-destruction.  There’s that mortality that permeates the topic of jazz.  He’s gone before CGI Jesus, and I wonder if he enjoyed the music beyond what was necessary to score.  It feels grim.

Next was Dolphin Hyperspace, the LA-based duo being joined by drummer Daniel Rossi.  They started with fat whomper “Buster Boy,” setting the pace for the set.  The audience was awash in bouncing bodies, including mine.  Kane bounces, his red-capped head bopping in full bass face euphoria.  McCabe had the bounce too, though she was limited by proximity of her horn to the mic, and I wonder what she would do if she could clip one on somehow.  But she was still enough that I could check out her dope tats when I wasn’t looking at her fingers gliding on the sax. I see the way they watch each other and take turns ripping it as the drummer whips out sick *kssssh kssssh* beats.  At one point (I think it was Lizard Sisterz?) the combination of electronics and instruments sound like Fingathing with new ingredients, and I am in heaven.  “You fucking murdered me,” I shout, because my mania is on 11 and I don’t know how to make more words than that.  With a cavewoman’s cadence I ask “that was jazz?”  “Well, hyperjazz.” McCabe answers, vaguely undecided.  It’s too late to change. The word ricochets off the walls of my mind, lighting it up like a pinball machine.  hyperjazz .  

Google yields little but this word is so coooool

The final act was CGI Jesus, a group led by bassist and composer Kevin Eichenberger.  Their bandcamp suggests a combination of “trash jazz” and “chamber punk,” which are also new favorite word combinations that I have never encountered before.  There were drums, guitar, and trumpet on deck for the night, although I couldn’t tell you who was “in” the band and who was “with” the band.  Jazz doesn’t seem to have these kinds of clear demarcations, which makes me wonder if seeing shows and all of these different individual instrumentalists is kind of like trying all the flavor/topping/sprinkle combinations at Rita’s Italian Ices.  You’ll never really get through ‘em all.  CGI Jesus leaves me with a prog aftertaste, but they had so many different types of sounds and emotions going on.  Sometimes you’re grooving, sometimes it’s angsty, sometimes it’s discordant, and sometimes it’s yearning.  Sometimes it was mournful, like when Eichenberger dedicated a tune to trumpeter jaimie branch, who recently departed – she was my age and build – untimely.  There’s that shadow again.  This was probably her community.

In hindsight it was all emotional whiplash, but that’s what makes it experimental.  You don’t get on a rollercoaster for a smooth ride. 

On the way out, the venue is playing a cover of King Crimson’s Schizoid Man.  I have seen them live twice, once with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin on the bill, too.  How much jazz have I heard in their music, unaware?  Or in Jones’s?  It’s funny, my notion of jazz used to be so plain, singular.  But you have to go beyond the portal to really see what’s up.  There is nothing really plain about it.

Claire Dickson BandcampClaire Dickson Website

Dolphin Hyperspace BandcampDolphin Hyperspace Instagram

CGI Jesus BandcampCGI Jesus Instagram