Posts Tagged ‘dub

04
Nov
11

Shpongle Live @ the Hammerstein Ballroom–New York, NY 10.28.11

Experiencing a rare Shpongle live ensemble performance at Camp Bisco X this past summer was a glorious moment in festival history for me. Therefore I knew an indoor headlining show in New York City for Halloween weekend would be another unforgettable night and a fantastic way to start my “Halloweekend.” Marking their 2nd U.S. appearance as a full band, Simon Posford, Raja Ram and company brought even more mind-bending sights, sounds and characters with them to the city that never sleeps. It was a special premature commemoration of a beloved holiday but more importantly, Posford’s date of birth.

Arriving late after 11pm to the Manhattan Center, the entrance was mobbed with people in kooky outfits and ghastly attire. After all it was “Shpongleween”, an appropriate title for this bizarre costume affair and a scene drawing curious gazes of passersby. We entered the ballroom to flamenco guitar, entrancing salsa rhythms and schizophrenic vocals of“Dorset Perception.” The first balcony section was a quintessential location: having the bar and bathroom in close proximity to your seats is always advantageous to the show experience, but not your wallet ($8 cranberry vodkas, you say? Sigh.) Anyways, nobody actually sat in their designated seats so the first balcony was practically a free for all. But that didn’t matter—most of the time everybody was joyously dancing or completely transfixed by the performance onstage.

The stage was a colorful concoction of costumes and acrobatic performers wearing feathers or garments lined with bright, neon shapes and patterns, donning tribal masks. A horned man paraded the stage on stilts. Singers Michele Adamson and Abigail Gorton wore vibrant wigs and glow-in-the-dark tights. Yup, we had reached our far-out destination: Shpongleland, a psychedelic dimension created from visions and adventures inspired by the drug induced hallucinations and experiences of Posford and Raja Ram, akin to a spiritual and ritualistic gathering.

One of the most anticipated songs of the night was “Nothing is Something Worth Doing.” Everybody’s attention was directed to the man dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow (not sure if it was Manu Delago) sitting front and center under a spotlight, playing the rich melodic introduction with a hang. The hypnotic buildup made this a climactic point of the show, the crowd spellbound by the profound music, harmoniously tangled up in bliss.

Then a striking guitar melody ascended from the mystics, conjuring the exotic tones of “When Shall I Be Free” right into “Stamen of the Shaman” off 2005’s Nothing Lasts…But Nothing is Lost. While the latter song was missing the organic sound of a live trumpet, the ballroom went bonkers and current Furthur drummer Joe Russo kept the crowd grooving with pulsating latin dub beats. The next batch of songs were from Shpongle’s latest release Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland. Adamson and Gorton lent their impressive vocal range to “No Turn Unstoned,” while celestial tones of the harp, violinist, cellist and flute added instrumental depth to this ambient piece. Next thing you know, a cryptic Indian chant and deep sitar timbre introduced, “I Am You.” Raja Ram spoke through a processor that fluctuated the pitch of his voice. Ominous violins and metallic synth arpeggios picked up the tempo and the cosmic fantasy unfolded into a dark, psy-trance journey. From there I did not expect them to go into the orchestral centered “Invisible Man In a Fluorescent Suit,” but it was a nice change of pace and wonderfully enchanting once it progressed.

Divine Moments of Truth” and “My Head Feels Like a Frisbee” were two strong closing choices, the former being a popular Shpongle tune that was heavily in rotation during Simon’s Shpongletron tour as well as at Camp Bisco. “My Head Feels Like a Frisbee” fuses so many styles of music, you simply cannot fight the urge to dance. Listening to Raja Ram’s flute part in the closing song was indeed a satisfying experience, but when they came out to perform the encore “Around the World in a Tea Daze,” all senses were stimulated by the vivacious flautist. Gorton and Adamson’s operatic vocals soared in unison over confetti and balloons dropped from the ceiling in celebration of Simon Posford’s birthday and Shpongleween.

Blending indigenous traditional music of Middle Eastern and Asian cultures with psychedelic, trance, dub and ambient styles is what makes Shpongle more sonically diverse than most acts in the world. Additionally the eccentric theatrics, lazer visuals and humorous antics of Raja Ram were essential factors for producing such a unique and fascinating show. This is a stimulating presentation that music lovers from all walks of life wouldn’t want to miss with its mysticism, majesty and moments of musical transcendence. Although the opportunity to catch them in the States is uncommon, I’m sure they’ll be back again after three successful appearances in 2011. And of course, Simon Posford in New York State means chaotic climate as indicated by the subsequent snow storm on Saturday and rain he brings to Camp Bisco every summer.

 5/5

19
Oct
11

EOTO @ Jillian’s in Albany – Thursday October 13th, 2011

String Cheese Incident’s live improvisational side project EOTO returned to Albany this past Thursday, redeeming themselves after a redundant and unimpressive set back in April when they opened for Bassnectar at the Washington Armory. Instead of catering to the “basshead” crowd like last time, their set at Jillian’s demonstrated the duo’s uncanny ability to create and execute multiple styles of dance music. While both are trained drummers and percussionists, Jason Hann sits behind the drum set as Michael Travis stands surrounded by samplers, keyboards, a guitar, and bass, focused on crafting melodic loops.

I only caught ten minutes of ELECTRONICAnonymous, EOTO’s opener. This DJ project of Jules Jenssen, the drummer of Higher Organix and more recently Indobox, warmed up the dance floor by playing dubstep and electro-house for the eager young crowd. After a short break, Hann and Travis came onstage and the main event of electronic music magic began.

Performing two sets for an approximate total of 3 hours, EOTO continuously explored various genres and thoroughly excited the audience at every turn, much to my delight (considering their previous wobble heavy sets from the Armory and The Big Up). They cohesively concocted one style of electronic music to the next with a nice balance of breakbeat, house, dubstep and techno. At an early point in their first set, EOTO went from an upbeat electro-house tune to a west coast hip-hop instrumental, very reminiscent of a Dr. Dre beat. From there, Travis plugged in an electric guitar and used a sitar setting, creating a very psychedelic, middle-eastern vibe as Hann laid down a mellow, dub beat. Glancing at the six flat screen TV’s displaying kaleidoscopic visuals made it an especially trippy show moment for me.

In addition to bass and guitar loops, EOTO threw in popular vocal samples over fun and quirky dubstep rhythms, including Salt N Peppa’s “Push It” and Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie.” Watching Hann switch tempos and drum styles, smoothly transitioning from fast aggressive patterns to slow, syncopated beats was also very entertaining. Basically he is the groove monster and Travis is the loop master.

It was incredibly enjoyable to witness EOTO’s charismatic musical prowess and energy onstage at Jillian’s. For two middle-aged men to appeal to young twenty-somethings nowadays is rare. After Thursday’s experience, it’s apparent Hann and Travis are tuned into what’s new and relevant in today’s electronic music scene, indicated by their diverse palette of styles and unique take on live improvisation. With a demanding fall tour schedule (playing 29 out of 31 dates in October) it’s remarkable how hard this aging yet rambunctious dance factory works, striving to captivate and move audiences from one city to the next. I hope EOTO continues to bring the same raw energy and variety that was present at Thursday’s show because it truly reminded me how talented and multifaceted they are as musicians.

Performing at Electric Forest Music Festival in Michigan

Rating: 4/5

08
Jan
10

Dub Side of the Moon

As I think I’ve alluded to in previous comments, I’m not big on cover bands or tribute albums, unless the band takes the original material and makes it their own, as opposed to simply playing someone else’s song note for note off the sheet music.  I have recently found an album that does the former – “Dub Side of the Moon” by the Easy Star All-Stars, a reggae group based in New York City.  As the title suggests, this is a reggae/dub version of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album.

The Floyd is my favorite band of all time, and I am always skeptical when bands cover their songs.  And I’m not a huge fan of reggae – most of it is a little slow and repetitive for my taste.  But “Dark Side” is a pretty mellow album as it is, and so the songs work fantastically as reggae/dub versions – “Dub Side” is a truly enjoyable album.  The Easy Star All-Stars added a few of their own touches, like instead of the cash register sound effects at the beginning of “Money,” we hear a bong being lit, ripped, and then a man coughing.  Several of the songs also feature some additional lyrics during the instrumental portions.  But some amount of the original recording is also retained in the songs, so it’s almost like some songs are remixes rather than brand new recordings…but this only adds to the charisma of the record.  In all, it’s a loving tribute to a landmark album, redone in a way that keeps the charm of the original but presents it in a new light.

The Easy Star All-Stars have also released two other cover albums which I am eager to try out – Radiohead’s “OK Computer” (released as “Radiodread”) and the Beatle’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” (released as “Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band”).  I’ll let you know the result.

“Dub Side of the Moon” gets 4.5 out of 5 stars!

04
Dec
09

Long Beach Dub All Stars – Right Back (1999)

It would seem that whenever I choose to work out in the gym  (which is quite rare these days) I’m always challenged with the issue about what I will listen to; usually it is a decision between Tool, Pantera, or some metal mix that seems appropriate.  Yet last night I decided to go past the normal flavor and explore the other 400 albums on my iPod.  I had forgotten about a lost gem of an album by the now defunct Long Beach All Stars entitled Right Back released in 1999.

With the death of  Sublime’s vocalist Brad Nowell in 1996 bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh decided to pursue other musical ventures thus founding The Long Beach Dub All Stars along with free form guest artists, a horn section, and a DJ.  The debut album Right Back was a refreshing sound that resonated with a culmination of reggae, hardcore, dub, and hiphop.  If you are a Sublime fan, this album is a nice continuation of where Sublime left off, minus the vocals of Nowell, it is consistent with the tempo’s and rhythm’s of the Sublime sound.

The beginning of the album starts off with Righteous Dub, a nice dub song to ease one into the album on a mellow but upbeat note.  Songs like Rosarito , My New Life, and Like a Dog resonate pure Sublime and provide some clarity that the bands unique sound did not die with Nowell.  The lead singer of the band Bad Brains (Hr) makes a cameo on the song New Sun and does a nice job adding a hardcore/reggae type funk and tempo to the album. 

Although I’m not the biggest fan of rap I have been drawn back several times to the song Kick Me Down which features a great beat and great vocals.  Perhaps that is why I like this album so much, the variety of different angles the album provides.  Most albums today, in my opinion, songs are often to repetative and monotonous in their style and sound, yes the album might be good, but the songs are begin to sound the same and that is where I begin to lose interest. 

Right Back is a fun album that seems to be an amalgum of styles that keeps the listener wondering what the next song will be, I like that.

Several albums followed after 1999’s Right Back, they are Wonders Of The World (2001), and Sunny Hours (2002).

Sadly, The Long Beach Dub All Stars broke up officially in 2002, but members continued until 2007 under the name Long Beach Shortbus.

The Long Beach All Stars album Right Back gets 4.5 out of 5 stars.




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