Thursday, July 28, 2005

Jafaar: Middle Eastern Jazz Fusion"

This is sort of a follow-on to last week's post about Project Mastana. Jafaar is another multicultural fusion group, this one based in mostly Middle Eastern traditions blended with jazz and funk. After extended travel in the Middle East, bassist Troy Cole returned to the Triangle in 2002 and pulled together the initial incarnation of Jaafar ("forgiveness"). The lineup fluctuates, but generally include bass, keyboards, drumset, oud, and doumbek. In addition to regular local performances, they have played at festivals in Egypt, India, and Poland.

Their web site (the design of which is a load of pants) has a ton of music to explore, but let me highlight a few things, and then you can go digging.

MP3: "Ana Melkik (percussion solo)" (this is what a doumbek sounds like!)
MP3: "Wherever You Are" (slow and quiet -- more jazz evident in this track)
MP3: "Heya Heya"

If you're liking this, buy stuff here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Polvo: noisy 1990s art rock

My musical drug dealer, eMusic, has recently been getting in a wonderful selection of the Merge Records back catalog. Based here in Durham, Merge was founded by Superchunk's Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance back in 1989. They've come a long way from cassette and 7" vinyl releases from local bands -- recent Merge records include music-blog beloved Arcade Fire and Spoon, as well as one of my recurring favorites, the Rosebuds.

But the older stuff is exciting to me, since I now have an affordable way to explore some of the records that got Chapel Hill dubbed the "new Seattle" back in the mid-1990s. There are some that I know to a degree, but not well enough -- all that Superchunk, for one, and Portastatic for another. But I'm also looking forward to checking out Polvo, which I know mostly by name. (If only Archers of Loaf were on eMusic, they'd have the classic package of 1990s Triangle rock...)

Since I haven't heard much yet, I'll swipe the intro to Polvo's All Music profile to explain why I'm interested:
One of the most popular and accomplished bands in the arty, noisy indie rock offshoot dubbed math rock, Polvo touched on many of the style's hallmarks: dissonant, intricately layered guitars that often employed alternate tunings; odd, off-kilter rhythms; an emphasis on dense sonic texture; and unorthodox song structures that, nonetheless, were often unconventionally melodic. Additionally, their music had a pronounced Eastern feel that came not only from the Indian and Middle Eastern-style drones in their compositions, but actual Asian instruments as well; that helped set them apart from other post-Sonic Youth/Slint guitar experimentalists.
The band drifted apart after recording four albums, some members moving to New York and Boston, and split following their 1997 release, Shapes. (They moved to Touch and Go records after a while, so only their earlier albums are on eMusic.)

Here's a song from a 1994 EP, right in the middle of Polvo's run. It's a fuzzy, dissonant ball of energy that has me eager to hear more.

MP3: "Tragic Carpet Ride"
(from Celebrate the New Dark Age, Merge 1994. Buy it here or download here.)

Friday, July 22, 2005

New dB's song! (!!!)

As I've mentioned previously, the dB's are back together and shopping around for a deal for their recently-recorded album. Fortunately for those of us eagerly waiting to hear the new music, they've put a track up on their web site. Written by Peter Holsapple, it's pretty much what you'd expect from the dB's -- an elegant little pop song with a little jangle and just a touch of twang.

They have a few live shows lined up in Chicago and New Jersey. Hopefully it won't be long before they grace the Triangle with a performance. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on their tour schedule and album news. In the meantime, buy old stuff here.

MP3: "World to Cry"


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Project Mastana: Indian/Jazz/Rock fusion

Let's get multi-cultural! Project Mastana starts with a base of Indian popular music melded with western rock, and throws in a wide range of percussion (including African and Middle Eastern) plus some jazz influence for good measure. The sample below is pretty compelling, and very danceable. It's only two minutes long, but sounds like it could easily go on for ten minutes.

I'd love to hear more -- there's no evidence that the group has any recordings available, but hopefully they'll put something more up on their web site soon. If you're in New York, you can see them at the Grassroots Festival of Music tomorrow and Saturday.

MP3: "Yeh Mera Dil (This, my Heart)"

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Stratocruiser: crunchy guitar-pop

This is another post based off e-mail contact from a band. Somehow when I wrote about the power-pop festival Sparklefest back in April, I overlooked[1] Chapel Hill's Stratocruiser, but the guys were kind enough to point me in the direction of their new single[2], and I'm glad they did. It's crunchy guitar-pop with a 60s flavor that seems to draw a lot of comparisons to Cheap Trick. (They don't seem to mind that; see the Cheap Trick cover below.)

The main guys in Stratocruiser are Mike Nicholson (who's the organizer of Sparklefest) and Clay Howard. Howard joined the band for their second full-length release, Suburban Contemporary. Nicholson brought Howard on board to improve the vocals -- as he told the Independent, "I've sung in punk bands, but when pitch or melody is important, I'm not the guy" -- but they've formed a strong partnership. The album is rounded out by various other musicians, including an appearance by Tres Chicas' Lynn Blakey, and was produced by Robbie Rist (who in a previous life was cousin Oliver on the Brady Bunch -- no joke!)

Their schedule's fairly light this summer, but they have a couple of shows in Greensboro and Winston-Salem at the end of July. See the details here.

MP3: "Smell of Success"
(from Smell of Success 7" single, SevenFoot Entertainment 2005. Buy it here.)
MP3: "Copyshop Girl"
(on Suburban Contemporary, Zip Records 2004, [though maybe not this exact version]. Buy it here.)
MP3: "Come On, Come On" (Cheap Trick cover)
(from Copyshop Girl CD single, New Atlas Records 2004. Buy it here.)

BONUS (If you like this sort of thing):
Drummer Matt Brown recently joined Stratocruiser. He also plays with Oak Room favorite Two Dollar Pistols (who have let their web site domain lapse and get claimed by a porn site -- oops!). Here's a drum solo courtesy of Saluda Cymbals, which Brown endorses.
MP3: Matt Brown drum solo

[1] Actually, I recognize the graphics, so I must have looked at them. I suspect their MP3 links weren't working, so I moved on. There's still a busted link to their "website exclusive single" -- d'oh!
[2] I see that Dodge wrote about them as well, right about the time that I heard from them, so I don't feel as special, but I'll live...


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Howdy Neighbors!

Through e-mail and a comment to this post, my attention has been drawn to Durham punk band Blackstrap. About as much as any band I've seen, they maximize what the Internet can do for them: their web site is in large part a blog, they have plenty of music to sample, they don't fool around with Flash or other fussy tech tricks that make it hard to find and link to stuff on their site. In true DIY style, they even have a useful section with advice for other bands about using the web.

Formed in 2002 out of a dissatisfaction with the political climate, the band recorded an EP, Media Slut, in 2004 and promptly broke up -- the release party was also their farewell gig. They're at least provisionally back together, having played just last month with Gerty.

As for the music (can't forget that), the NC Punk web site describes Blackstrap as "sexpunk oldcore". Less cryptically, their sound is described here as having "a early-80s Slash Records sort of twang to it, and gets compared to a lot of the noisier, aggressivly charged bands of that era. " Give them a listen.

MP3: "Walking Into Walls"
MP3: "Ice Age"
(from Media Slut, 307 Knox Records 2004).

MP3: "Everybody's Doin' It"
(live on WXDU, 18 May 2003)

Friday, July 01, 2005

Audiofile NC Style

Salon's Audiofile music blog* has had a bit of Triangle flavor this week:

--Nice praise for the Rosebuds' latest EP/album The Rosebuds Unwind.
MP3: "You Better Get Ready"
(from The Rosebuds Unwind, Merge 2005. Buy or download.)

--Then this summer playlist features two Triangle bands (Gerty and Jett Rink) plus one from Asheville (Piedmont Charisma).

Here's another Rosebuds song from a while back:
MP3: "Governor's Daughter"
(From Compulation Volume One, Pox World Empire 2003. Buy.)

Look for the Rosebuds on tour with Teenage Fanclub this summer, and their new album Birds Make Good Neighbors out in September.

While I'm pointing elsewhere, Music For Robots has another track from the stellar Caitlin Cary/Thad Cockrell duets album Begonias.

*Oh, sit through the ad. It's not that bad.