September 25, 2015
The Casady sisters are one of the quirkiest teamings in... what? Rock, folk, hip-hop, reggae, electronica, performance art? All of these, and more, are present in their wildly gambolling songs, discernible as trace elements, but none fully emerging as what could be deemed an overbearing style. Sierra and Bianca are somewhat akin to an imagined avant music hall act, who are trying to escape from ill-advised opera leanings into a b-girl fantasy, shambolic wordy rap-poems stemming from a fetish for dressing up, eternally childlike in their mischievous antics. The songs sound like CocoRosie look: disguised under wig-overloads, messy make-up, arcane symbolic flashes and cluttered dreamscape clobber. Clowns are the principal wardrobe inspiration, right now, with both Casadys clad in baggy overalls, with brightly-fuzzed thatches, gradually unzipped and partially removed for added gyration potential.
The performing unit remains stable, with a minimalist set-up that still facilitates a spreadable sound. The sisters contribute keyboard, percussion and guitar parts, when they're not cavorting stage-front. Beatboxer Tez filled the looming Webster Hall with raspberry basslines, but also has skills in the multiple-layered mimicry of a turntable, spluttering out high, low and medium frequencies simultaneously. Aside from being a major part of the band sound, Tez also stepped out to offer his own mini-set of solo acrobatics, decisively winning over the crowd.
Meanwhile, another keyboardist maintained the spinal structure alongside Sierra, freeing her up to prowl around the stage. Her operatic training is still evident, but she keeps the shrill trilling in check, subverted towards more covert ends, as a remarkable contrast with Bianca's less tutored, fricative emissions, which arrive more from rap and dancehall reggae. The newer material sounded more ethereal in character, inhabiting a folksier plane when compared to some of their earlier electro-rap-reggae tipovers. Space was left in between the variegated elements, but there were still frequent opportunities for skipping, bounding and madcap gesticulations. To conclude, the lights brightened slowly, revealing opening act A Tribe Called Red, joining in at their banks of equipment.It was a substantial set, where gusto of delivery was sustained, the Casadys appearing genuinely enthusiastic in their audience (and interpersonal) communications.
September 26, 2015
The Dastan Ensemble are one of the globe's chief proponents of Iranian music, with a particular mission to tour the world, spreading the Persian style. Their evening at Roulette had a long queue forming well before showtime, with the ground floor being close to capacity, the balcony quite well populated as well. The first set was arguably the most essential, as it featured singer Mahdieh Mohammad-Khani, who has recently been appearing regularly with the Dastan crew. The poems of Forough Farrokhzad were set to the music of Hamid Motebassem. Mohammad-Khani enunciated very softly, and with great subtlety, one of the highlights being a vocal and kamancheh (spike fiddle) duet. The line-up also included tar and barbat (long and short-necked lutes), The second set was devoted to instrumental music, as if the concentrated speciality of the first half could lead to the release required for extended pieces to flow on their improvisatory stream. Percussionist Pejman Hadadi was an informative and communicative bridge to the crowd, his impressively extensive spread of skins allowed to dominate more as the pieces became more wayward and unrestrained by the demands of the more formal first half.
September 27, 2015
Since your scribe's last report from Trans-Pecos, this Ridegewood, Queens joint has developed much further, with a new bar and a frontal café, picking up greater momentum as a result. This climactic edition of their September Sunday afternoon outdoor season featured one of no wave's (and subsequently avant Brasilian) finest artists, singer/guitarist Arto Lindsay. The previous week was headlined by James Chance & The Contortions, those other principal movers from that same late-1970s NYC scene.
Lindsay was preceded by the all-seated Zs, a Brooklyn trio fronted by saxophonist Sam Hillmer, with guitarist Patrick Higgins and drummer Greg Fox, sculpting repetitive echo-twang structures, with blasting tenor pedal warpings, drums cycling in detailed, slowly-altering patterns. It was a form of surf minimalism, Fox adopting jazz language within a more linear rock form, scattering elaborate skin-thwipping details. Ultimately, this was a more tuneful, rock incarnation of free jazz, soaked in variegated effects.