Club d'Elf — Live at Club Helsinki
(Face Pelt 5003, 2017, 2CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2017-02-27
Club d’Elf is a Boston area band that’s been around more than a decade, though this is the first time I’ve encountered them. The band is built around bassist Mike Rivard and drummer Dean Johnson, and they’ve always worked with a variety of guests hailing from all around the world, with special emphasis on Morocco. This live release covers two sets played on November 16, 2012 at Club Helsinki in Hudson, New York, and the core duo is augmented by John Medeski (keyboards), Brahim Fribgane (oud, voice, percussion), Duke Levine (guitar), Mister Rourke (samples, turntables), and Thomas Workman (flute on two tracks). In addition to bass guitar, Rivard spends a lot of time on sintir, a Moroccan instrument in the bass range that has a punchy, earthy tone. The set draws music from a variety of sources, from traditional Gnawa and Berber music to vintage reggae and originals by various of the musicians. Throughout, the ruling factors are groove, flash, and mood. Medeski gets quite a few opportunities to shine, wielding his arsenal of vintage keyboards quite effectively, whether it’s a funky clavinet, a spooky Mellotron, a blazing Hammond organ, or pianos electric and acoustic. (The Mellotron solo on “Berber Song” is a high point, and represents a very uncharacteristic use of the old prog workhorse that’s about as far from cliché as you can get.) Levine’s guitar work provides a rootsy American spice to the music, though he navigates the tonality well even when it’s not blues-based. Fribgane provides a lot of the highlights with his dextrous oud and intricate vocals. DJ Mister Rourke provides some interesting samples peppered here and there, including speaking voices, snips of music, and who knows what else wrapped into the grooves. The overall aesthetic is Allman Brothers style jamming done with differing rhythmic bases, so listeners who insist on concisely structured tunes will be disappointed. Most tracks stretch over the ten minute mark, though for anyone not in a hurry, there are many rewards for listening. That being said, the total length is over two hours, and is a bit overwhelming for a single sitting. Too much of a good thing, but great to have for a few tracks when you’re in the mood for a hot multicultural groove.
Glenn Branca RIP – Experimental guitarist and composer Glenn Branca has died at the age of 69. He was known for compositions featuring large ensembles of guitars, and for the use of feedback. He founded his band Theoretical Girls in the mid-70s as an art-punk answer to what he saw as the increasing commercialization of punk music. His compositions were highly influential, with such figures as David Bowie, Thurston Moore, and John Lurie among his fans. » Read more
OBEY Convention XI Set for May 24-28 in Halifax – As the 2018 festival season rapidly approaches, we’d like you to be aware of a real treasure of diverse and creative music that’s going to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next month. The OBEY Convention is on its 11th outing, and features a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-industrial noise to experimental takes on Classical Chinese music, from chamber jazz to doom metal, from ambient soundscapes to Canadian First Nations drumming, you’d be hard pressed to find a festival with more variety in sound anywhere in the world. » Read more
Close to the Rain Festival in Bergen Announces Lineup – Now in its second year, the Close to the Rain Festival of progressive music is scheduled to take place in Bergen, Norway, on June 7 - 9. They've got an amazing slate of bands lined up, including such powerhouses as Anekdoten, Major Parkinson, Arabs in Aspic, Tusmørke, and many more. » Read more
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington and Oregon. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more