Thursday, October 29, 2009

Le Loup at The Echo (10/28/09)

I'd been looking forward to this show for a long time, ever since last April (2008) to be exact. That was the first time Le Loup played L.A. and I was a new fan who was thrilled by the energy and quirky creativity Sam Simkoff and his band displayed.

The songs off the first album were mighty strange and yet hypnotically enticing. Not unlike Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear, it seems Sam Simkoff first recorded his material all by himself and the need for a band came later, and like Grizzly Bear, he surrounded himself with equally gifted musicians, forming a collaborate effort.

That show was also at The Echo and I think there were seven members of the band then. But however many, it was a celebration of music and tribal beats and dancing. Sam is one of the best dancer/singers I've seen. And when four or so members of the band circle around the second drum set (up front) and bang away, well, it just goes right through you.

The band was quiet for over a year while they worked on their second album, Family, which was released September 22, and what a revelation that was. The band, whose current lineup includes Christian Ervin, Michael Ferguson, Robert Sahm and Jim Thomson, has congealed and is now writing songs that are tightly structured gems with an astonishing array of influences and lyrics that are intelligent and thought-provoking . Nothing, it seems, is off limits.

The first song, "Saddle Mountain" starts off like a Gregorian chant and moves into the rhythm and pattern of Renaissance dance music. Unbelievable. Layering on drums and a variety of percussion, the whole thing suddenly makes you want to dance.

Another song, "Morning Song" begins like a Muslim call to prayer and segues into an African tribal chant, or a jug band, but always the top priority is melody and these song stick in your head like they won't let go. Sometimes the vocal choir effects remind me of Grizzly Bear or even Fleet Foxes, but then banjo picking or a tribal beat starts up and they're in a territory all their own. The music is nothing if not unpredictable, constantly keeping you guessing. I think it's brilliant songwriting.

The whole interior of The Echo just melted away the minute they began as they played many of the best songs from Family and a couple of the most amazing songs from the first CD, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly like "Outside of This Car, the End of the World" and "We Are Gods! We Are Wolves!".

Apart from Sam's vocals occasionally not being loud enough, generally the sound was excellent, especially on the vocal patterns and harmonies when everybody was singing. Using pre-recorded samples for some of the more complex numbers made the band seem larger than they are.

A modest crowd was, nonetheless hugely enthusiastic and demanded an encore, which I was grateful for. I could have listened to them for three hours.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

his Orchestra at the Light FM Residency

On Monday, October 19, 2009, I headed on over to Spaceland, not only to see Light FM and to pick up their new CD, Let There Be Light FM, but to see his Orchestra (at right). I happened on this band much the same way as I discovered Division Day, and in the very same venue. Walking into Spaceland to see the headliner a couple of years ago, I ran into Division Day midway through their set and was immediately transfixed by the gorgeous sound emanating from the stage and the hook-laden inspiration of their writing.

I snapped up the CD, Beartrap Island then and there and it became one of my favorites of the year. I only saw part of their set, but became obsessed with trying to see them again, yet as the weeks turned into months, I was foiled time and again by competing concerts. I have since seen them many times. Same thing with his Orchestra.

I went to see The Wooden Birds on May 28th, this year, and walked into the last three or four songs by h.O. and was flabbergasted by the music. I remember looking around to see if anyone else was noticing and saw Spaceland full of people staring, mouths agape, at the band on stage.

I recall the spectacular harmony vocals and the furious sawing away of three band members on violins. It was sublime and electrifying. I picked up their CD Field Guide To the Wilds, and upon first listening, decided this was one of the best bands I've heard. For so young a group, they play and perform with a passion and joy and solid professionalism most groups can only hope to emulate.

This would be only my second exposure to the band live, and now I not only knew the music, but every single lyric. Douglas took the stage alone, to begin with a simple acoustic folk song, but before long was joined by Whitney at the keyboard who sang harmonies. A guy dancing in front climbed on stage and donned a guitar, another climbed up on stage and sat at the drums and gradually his Orchestra took shape on stage.

The first song was unfamiliar, but every bit as good as all their other compositions. Which is to say excellent. Every song lifted me higher and my opinion of the band rose accordingly. they sang "Black Coffin", "Hybernation" and my favorite, "Interesting End of the Day" from the CD, among a selection of early material I'd never heard. But it was the finale of "Since I" that was so powerful and theatrically extravagant that set my heart soaring. I can't believe how perfect this band sounds. his Orchestra are just one of life's special things.

I'll talk about Light FM's wonderful set when I review their new CD, Let There Be Light FM at Radio Free Silver Lake next Tuesday.


Friday, October 16, 2009

In A Reflective Mood

Sorry to neglect my Feed Your Head fans, but this year is accelerating at such a rapid pace, I'm struggling to keep up. Never in the wildest dreams of my youth could I have imagined that, approaching 60, I would be having the time of my life, and that it would involve rock and roll.

Caught up in this whirlwind of a current music scene that is so vibrant and inspiring, discovering how much I love writing has been a revelation and had given me more fulfillment than, perhaps, anything else I've ever done.

Music always had a powerful hold over me. I'm told by family that I was rocking back and forth, hour after hour, to the same record, over and over, by the age of three, and by four, I was consciously amassing favorite records. But, never having the confidence, or believing I had any talent to pursue music, I tried and failed at various instruments, though whenever we visited a house with a piano, I would go right for it. We had a piano in our house until I was about 14, but I couldn't get the hang of piano lessons, so I taught myself to play my favorite songs by ear. (I'm sure in a most perfunctory way). I never entertained the notion of a life's pursuit of music and thus, I gravitated to the visual arts, where I have made a home for myself to this day.

But I remained a constant music listener, constant in that it filled nearly every waking hour of my existence well into my thirties, with current music recceeding further and further into the background during the 1980's. I blame it on Reagan. Music just lost it's relevance for me and I lost interest. From 1990 to 2005 I probably heard all of 6 different new rock songs in that span and didn't look any further.

Since I fell down this rock and roll rabbit hole on August 1, 2005, (I remember the moment), of course, I have been educated by people, and, indeed there were pockets of greatness here and there in the bleak landscape. But distribution was so fucked up back then by the major labels and corporations that indie music was hard for an ordinary person to find. Or purposely squelched.

What's happening now seems so different than anything that's gone before, partly because nobody knows where it's going, or even how long this creative energy level can be maintained by so many talented artists at the same time. But the controls are off, and the boundaries have been knocked down, and there's a spirit of cooperation that bodes well for the future. It's why I've become a believer in the theory that, as far as rock and roll is concerned, the best is not in the past, but in the future. When I discovered this, after observing for about a year, I became determined to be a part of it, to try to contribute something. So I started blogging.

Tonight I begin a run of five show in five days (if I can hold out), from Darker My Love tonight at Echoplex, to Grizzly Bear (below) on Tuesday at the Palladium. I'll keep you posted.

Just heard that Avi Buffalo have signed with Sub Pop Records. Congratulations on a well deserved placemant to my friends, Avi, Sheridan, Rebecca and Arin.