Bklyn Sounds: Best New Brooklyn Music + Live Music Choices 10/1-7
September albums from Alma, Black Meteoric Star, Burnt Sugar, musclecars and Robert AA Lowe // Shows from Speaker Music, Zoh Amba Trio, Brooklyn Book Festival, Sullivan Fortner & more
Welcome to Bklyn Sounds’ monthly round-up of some excellent new long-playing (and extended play) collections of music from Brooklyn artists. (Admittedly, definition of “Brooklyn artist” may vary.)
musclecars, Shelter (Building It still) - Over the past few years, Craig Handfield and Brandon Weems (aka musclecars) have been among the most dependable musicking squads in Brooklyn. Their Coloring Lessons parties have been joyous-music heaven, their label of the same name has been responsible for two of the best locally produced dance records of the past year, and they are consistently deep dope DJs, wherever the gig (even making dancefloors we’d rather not return to, fun for the night). This EP of dreamy yet forceful house music adds to the good works. The center-piece, title-track with Brandon Markell Holmes’ vocal balancing lewd magnetism, sensual kink and emotional tension, comes in two flavors: a great original, and a massive remix courtesy of NYC’s favorite Chicago deep house legend, Ron Trent. From a Dada Strain perspective though, the stand-out is “We Go Home Together,” a melancholy, uptempo-kick ride with trumpet, piano and echo. Late-night classic.
Black Meteoric Star, NYC Beat Boxx - Over the course of the 2000s, synthesizer genius Rayna Russom has done an enormous amount of great work for the city’s sound-arts community — the DFA and LCD Soundsystem sh*t is only the best known. Since 2008, Black Meteoric Star, the guise under which she began making warm artful techno and house tracks, has been like a safe harbor for her creative thinking — intertwining personal, political, and social histories, with the dancefloor never far from mind. NYC Beat Boxx continues this path, taking guidance from vinyl beat compilations of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s fair to call this music “raw rhythm,” still steps away from what many would consider finished songs. But (and this is where Russom has alway been an incredible artist) in her hands the programming is a trancedelic drum-machine symphony. For those who know...4 sure.
Alma, Mosaic - Caution! If you can’t handle harmonized voices that revel in theatricality and acapella trio-style narration, don’t click through. (Enough listeners fit this category that the trigger-warning seems essential.) But if such vocalizations don’t pose a problem, and you love herky-jerky pop music about New York City, this debut album from a trio of young women who combine an affection for melody, musical and rhythmic tangents, and sonic storytelling, with a desire to use such elements to document their history in this sometimes-sacred, sometimes-maddening city…. Boy, are you in for a treat. Their multi-instrumental skills and composing dexterity betray Alba Torremocha, Lillie R. McDonough and Melissa K. Carter as not your average DIY indie band. The ambition to make big music is imbued in pretty much every song here; yet there’s also a celebration of oddball sonics and tunefulness that transcends the serious musicianship. It’s unadulterated, smarty-pants musical fun.
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Candyman - Rob Lowe is another one of those veteran Brooklyn-based musicians/composers whose very presence adds a gravity and a belief to the whole arts-community ecosystem. Most listeners may not know the name, but others have been tuned to his music for nearly three decades, as its evolved from post-hardcore and math-rock, through experimental electronic and improv collaborations, to almost ambient compositions that one can experience in art-spaces and, increasingly, in films. To my mind’s eye, this soundtrack of the recently released horror film Candyman, is Lowe’s highest profile work yet — a gorgeous, unsettling gathering of cellos, strings-like keys, modular synthesizers and foreboding moods. Lots of short bits rather than long unfolding pieces, with beauty hidden behind every corner.
Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, Angels Over Oakanda - Another of the city’s great live-music pleasures, the arkestral collective Burnt Sugar’s gigs often bring a personalized big-electric-band spin on catalogs by the likes of Sun Ra, Bowie and Prince, among others. Never as cover versions, but as living mosaics that make familiar pieces flow effortlessly into/out of the grand tributary of Great Black Music. (The group’s guitarist/lead conductioneer Greg Tate, a famed critics who also studied under the great Butch Morris, calls their style, “never playing anything the same way once.”) Such are the polyrhythmic, bass-heavy twists at the heart of Angels Over Oakanda, which moves effortlessly from jazz-funk fantasia that evokes electric Miles, to an extended dancehall-dub by way of water music, mingling fusion flutes with wordless choruses. If you are a student of Black music, none of these grooves and ideas will be wholly unfamiliar, only endlessly mutating and never ending. Just like their source.
LIVE CHOICES 10/1 - 10/7
The Sound Room at Public Records in Gowanus, is finally getting fully back up to speed in October — with Brooklyn community DJs, as well as dance, electronic and spiritual music artists forming an integral part of its programming. Friday’s (10/1) early-evening Make Techno Black Again bill is exactly the kind of show the space needs - heady unapologetic and uncompromised, “ancient to the future” machine music. A live studio performance by DeForrest Brown Jr. (aka Speaker Music) that will also feature spoken-word analysis of the sound. The evening will also include sets from Bookworms and JWords. (233 Butler, 7:30p, $20)
Ron Like Hell is one-half of the great Wrecked NYC, once cheekily described as “a party for discerning gentlemen (and their friends) who like the boom,” a scene-defining gay-first techno jam. On his own, Ron is less single-minded with how hard the beats are, regularly veering into the disco and smoother house spaces, always on-tasteful-point. Late Saturday (10/2) afternoon, Ron is taking over the intimate confines (and rooftop) of IRL for a “sunset” dance party with Stanislas, one-half of Parisian duo Abajour, whom I haven’t heard of, but...again...trust the selector. (80 Franklin, 5p, $20)
My first experience with young tenor saxophonist Zoh Amba took place in late July, when her tone took over too-fee bars of the star-studded, Vision Festival-ending jam that paid hommage to the late great Milford Graves. She blew the sh*t out of that horn, and I want more. Saturday (10/2) night the Tennessee transplant is joined by a massive rhythm section of William Parker and Chad Taylor at Shapeshifter Lab in Gowanus. Zero doubts that it’s gonna levitate. (18 Whitwell Place, 7p, $25)
And if you wanna hear and experience musclecars’ new music in action, you get a chance this Saturday (10/2) at a packed, all-local-crews bill at Good Room. Craig and Brandon will be tag-teaming with Barbie and Paul (aka Team Love Injection in one room, while the other will be held down by Justin Strauss and Max Pask (aka Each Other). Great adult disco-house fun! (98 Meserole, 10p, $15)
This weekend is the Brooklyn Book Festival, which always has an excellent panel or talk with authors who write about music, or with musicians themselves, and this year is no different. Noon on Sunday (10/3) will feature WNET’s Jenna Flanagan in conversation with Talib Kweli, talking about growing up in Brooklyn, and about working at Nkiru Books (now Nkiru Center for Education and Culture), one of the oldest and oldest operating Black-owned bookstores in the borough. (Columbus Park, Noon, Free)
Contemporary History Opera Alert! Monday (10/4) Brooklyn Public Library will present short excerpts of A Marvelous Order, a highly anticipated forthcoming opera about the struggle for New York’s soul between urban developer Robert Moses and folk anti-development hero, Jane Jacobs. The opera’s libretto was written by US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. Monday’s performance will feature Megan Schubert as Jane Jacobs, Tomás Cruz in a variety of male roles, accompanied by NOW Ensemble. (Grand Army Plaza, 8p, FREE)
Compared to much of the other “jazz” sh*t I push here, pianist Sullivan Fortner is a relative dyed in the wool traditionalist. New Orleans-born and -bred, formal jazz studies, a long-time spot playing keys with the late Roy Hargrove. The sets Fortner performs are filled with standards, or compositions that draw on them, always with a rhythmic spring in their step. Though recently, in the presence of old Oberlin classmates Kassa Overall and Theo Croker, and with vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, he’s been drawn to odder, cut-up, experimental moments. His solo gig Wednesday (10/6) at Soapbox Gallery is an opportunity to hear a excellent pianist sure of one corner of his artistry, but maybe searching for something else. (636 Dean, 8p, $25)
Big double-bill energy on Thursday (10/7) at Bell House. As guitarist Marc Ribot’s avant-blues, jazz-skronk trio Ceramic Dog (with Shahzad Ismaily on bass and keys, and drummer Ches Smith) has kept progressing over the last decade, it has increasingly embraced a politicized, contrarian vocal stance that many of its peers have ignored. I dunno if they think of themselves as punk, but they sure sound it (especially on this year’s excellent LP Hope). The instrumental trio Messthetics on the other hand are pretty unapologetically post-harcore, their rhythm section having previously been Fugazi’s. I could see these folks all playing together, and giving the world a meaningful middle finger in the process. (149 7th St., 8p, $20adv/$25)