Even as far back as 1968, there were more bands on the scene than a person could effectively shake a wet noodle at. Naturally, many of them are best left unexamined in history’s voluminous dustbin, but there remains more than a few worthies that endure in flying under the radar. One such example is New York City’s curiously tweaked psychedelic-pop act Lothar and the Hand People. They hung around the fringes of the whole hippie thing and produced a pair of LPs that over the years have managed to acquire a small cult following, and the better of the two is their first one, Presenting…Lothar and the Hand People.
The story goes that Lothar and the Hand People formed in Denver in 1965. That city hasn’t exactly been portrayed as a rock Mecca of the period, and it apparently took all of a year for them to hightail it to the greener musical pastures of NYC. They consisted of Rusty Ford on bass, Kim King on guitar, Moog and Ampex tape decks, Paul Conley on keyboards, liner controller and Moog, Tom Flye on drums and percussion, and John Emelin on lead vocals.
Oh, and there was Lothar, their trusty Theremin, the responsibilities of which fell mainly onto Emelin’s shoulders, or more appropriately, the motions of his two hands. For those unfamiliar, the Theremin was an early electronic instrument patented in 1928 and named after its inventor. For decades the most celebrated use of Léon Theremin’s creation came through the very enjoyable recordings of Clara Rockmore, noted as an early virtuoso on the device. Additionally, it’s a musical instrument that’s distinguished for how it never gets touched by the player’s fingers as it emits its sonic atmospheres.
The Theremin soon became a touchstone in the scores of numerous films, the bulk of them sci-fi flicks from the mid-section of last century including the classics The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing (From Another World). Contrary to popular lore however, it’s not a part of Louis and Bebe Barron’s soundtrack to Forbidden Planet (they used oscillator circuits and a ring modulator for that one.)
“Dream Pop” is not a term that you get to use everyday. For me, the term began to take shape in the form of a beautiful stage setting, complete with subtle strands of lights laid across the stage floor at The Fillmore Silver Spring when the well loved band, Warpaint took the stage.
Beforehand however, the LA based Warpaint played host to New Zealand’s Liam Finn, the second opener of the night. Liam performed his experimental psych-rock for an enthusiastic crowd and led his band with tight rhythms, wild guitar fills, and sudden bursts of energy with his unexpected solos. The vocal harmonies were the big surprise of the night and could not have worked better with any other arrangements.
If you are not familiar with Liam Finn, he is the former frontman of the New Zealand band Betchadupa as well as the son of famed recording artist Neil Finn of Split Enz and Crowed House. Despite the completely different approaches to writing and performing music, both Liam and Neil Finn are both geniuses.
Halasan Bazar & Tara King th. are the modern Danish equivalent to Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. In fact, these two are serious devotees of the underappreciated ’60s duo and do their best to replicate the psychedelic, fringe country that Hazlewood made famous.
The bands whimsical folk-rock is offset by a wash of cinematic baroque pop, resulting in a strange and compelling take on the genre, best summed up as “interplanetary western.” Guitars shimmer and keyboards swirl and chime to form an atmosphere of giddy intoxication, while bass and drums provide a backbone of pulsating precision. In the foreground are the stoned, downtrodden vocals of Fredrick Rollum Eckoff and the seductive and nuanced tones of Béatrice Morel-Journel.
Together, they have perfected the off-the-cuff beauty of call and response beatnik poetry. Their voices tumble over the moody backdrops, complimenting each other’s unique delivery as Nancy and Lee did on their seminal recordings. The bands LP, entitled 8, was released earlier this month on Moon Glyph.
Sometimes I flabbergast myself. I think I know what I like and what I don’t like, only to find out I don’t know a damn thing about anything, least of all my likes and dislikes. Take KC and the Sunshine Band. I hated them with a passion for like 30 years and now I think they’re great. Or Elton John’s Caribou, which I liked for like 80 years only to realize just yesterday it only has two good songs on it, although to Captain Fantastic’s credit they’re two really great songs.
But occasionally I get it right the first time, as with Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” which I hated when it came out and still hate to this day. And the same goes for Television’s sophomore LP, 1978’s Adventure. People—as in every sentient human breathing air the year it came out—wrote Adventure off as a lackluster follow-up to the band’s 1977 debut, Marquee Moon. Everybody but me, that is. Because I had never heard of Marquee Moon. I didn’t even know it existed. Hell, I can’t even remember how or why I came to buy Adventure, because I had no clue as to who Television was and absolutely no inkling that they were an integral part of a musical revolution in progress at a ratty club in New York City called CBGBs.
But buy it I did, just as I bought Kill City without having ever heard the Stooges, which just goes to show you how isolating rural living was back in the days before the internet gave you access to all kinds of information, including who was who on the rock circuit. About all you got exposed to back in those days were hoof and mouth disease and square dancing, which is why I spent my teen years doing my level best to do as many drugs as I could get my greedy paws on, while trying to wrap my vehicle around a utility pole, which I finally accomplished on March 1, 1980. You’ve got to have goals, even in the boondocks, or life isn’t worth a damn.
Thursday afternoon, music fans have a chance to hear one of the city’s iconic performers in a beautiful, but underused setting. Young Audiences of Louisiana and NORDC are sponsoring the event in partnership with the Better Than Ezra Foundation as part of the national Lights On Afterschool celebration.
LeBlanc is a banjo player, guitarist, and singer who has been an important part of the New Orleans music scene for over 30 years. His style has evolved as he has matured. It encompasses a broad range of influences from free jazz to bebop and includes a modern approach to traditional jazz.
Young Audiences is working along with along with Better Than Ezra foundation to bring local awareness to the National Lights on Afterschool celebration. Lights On New Orleans is part of a national celebration that calls attention to the importance of afterschool programs for America’s children, families and communities.
With their album Furious Finite, Little Arrow take us on a journey from the eccentric to the soulful. They’re more than just another quirky folk band, and once you get past the rollocking folky fun that is “Medicine Moon,” the rest of the album presents a much more cerebral side. There are moments of ambience, languid soundscapes, and a band that paints a hazy, dreamlike picture with layers of beautiful melodic precision.
The Welsh band prove that there is substance underneath those quirky layers but they never lose their humour throughout. There’s something a little Blitzen Trapper meets Local Natives about these guys, blending their folk roots with something more cerebral.
Furious Finite will no doubt put a smile on your face and have you tapping along in no time. Little Arrow are a promising band and something tells us this is just the beginning.
The Pop Group stands as one of our persistently vital and truly prescient post-punk units. This week their slim discography increases by one full-length release, specifically a collection of alternate, live, and unreleased material titled Cabinet of Curiosities. Offered in multiple formats by the Freaks R Us label (as is the smoking 1980 comp We Are Time), it’s not the best destination for a newbie, though fans of the outfit will definitely want to investigate.
Every listener has their own barometer when approaching the intersection (some would say the minefield) of the musical and the political. The yardstick of this writer is to proceed with caution while keeping cynicism at arm’s distance, prudence being necessary because, simply through the laws of qualitative averages, most political music is to varying degrees subpar.
Just as important is to not succumb to the bugaboo of sarcastic pessimism. This can be problematic since the majority of the politico-musical discourse is devoted to the lofty yet weak efforts of pop/rock stars. This isn’t to suggest the status of these individuals somehow denies them the right to have a voice in such matters, but rather that a confluence of factors regularly softens or negates the message.
Beyond the basic need to walk it like one talks it, those earning a substantial living through music frequently either purposefully or sub-consciously finesse their messages to avoid alienating all but the most egregious members of the audience, this reasoning likely selfish (don’t want to turn off those buyers) but also conceivably and wrong-headedly intended to just reach as many people as possible. This is of course a generalization, but the result reliably finds the pleas and protestations of the pop/rock star becoming as ineffectual as those of punks in a suburban garage ranting about the obvious.
Sometimes it truly is an honor to see a great act in a very intimate, and personal setting. Thursday night at the Black Cat’s backstage proved to be one of those nights as indie-rock legend, J Mascis performed to a small audience lucky enough to have a ticket to his sold out appearance.
J Mascis needs no introduction. He could easily be labeled an indie-rock guitar god and the master-musician and guitar virtuoso behind indie pioneers, Dinosaur Jr., not discounting the incredible talents of Mr. Lou Barlow. Mascis has also been associated with acts like The Fog, Witch, and Deep Wound, and over the past 25 years Mascis has displayed his talents was a writer, performer, studio musician, and producer, and has even scored and has been featured on multiple soundtracks, notably 1992’s Gas Food Lodging.
Besides his work on his own material, Mascis has been involved with the countless projects of other musicians including Sonic Youth, the late, but intrepid GG Allin, The Hold Steady, Mike Watt, and Firehose.
Somewhere in the world there lies a perfect balance between pop and punk music. The Nearly Deads seem to have found this perfect mix and are taking it on the road to share it with the world, along with a splash of their own personalized zombie culture.
Two weeks into their current tour to support their recent album, Invisible Tonight, Nashville’s The Nearly Deads had a surprise stop in Washington, DC for a show at The Treehouse Lounge. It’s a real treat for me to get to see a band like The Nearly Deads at a smaller place like this one—it doesn’t get more intimate than watching a band perform their set five feet in front of you. You get to take in all the little nuances that you normally don’t get to experience on larger stages. Stuff like their whispers to each other in between songs as well as the breaths they take in-between vocal runs…really cool stuff, I love it.
With her bright, smooth voice and good looks, Theresa Jeane fronts this band with style and with ease. She certainly has all the necessary charisma and her amazing vocal range cut right to the top of the mix during Wednesday night’s performance. She has somewhat of this grungy-grit to her obviously trained voice that is really mesmerizing. As a band, The Nearly Deads fall comparatively somewhere in the realm of acts like The Distillers and Paramore, but with a fresh twist—a perfect mix of progressive pop and zombie-punk.
“I’ll be honest…I don’t even own a record player. I’ve been asking for one for Christmas for a few years now…”
“Years and years ago, everyone had a record player. Nowadays, not only are they hard to find, but they are kind of expensive for a starving artist like myself. I get most of my music on Spotify or iTunes. However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t want to experience music on vinyl. I say ‘experience’ because that’s truly what it is. Listening to a record start to finish on vinyl is something you take time to do, to truly savor the sounds and warmth of the tones. It’s on my agenda to one day have my own player. I actually only own one record personally, an Original Soundtrack recording from Singin’ in The Rain!
Not many people know this, but my background is in music theatre, opera, and classical music. Whenever I’m sifting through old records at McKay’s in Nashville, TN, I’m ALWAYS hoping for a Bernstein conducted piece. Or a Puccini opera. Or some rare original performance of a Stravinsky piece, like The Rite of Spring. There’s absolutely something amazing about hearing these classical performances on vinyl, because back then, they had no choice but to record them to vinyl. And every performance is different. So I love that McKay’s has tons of classical records. You NEVER know what you’re going to find. And there are some rare performances floating around out there.