Wednesday, February 10, 2010

One Night at Cameo

…And I try to find myself, as casually as the vast region of anti-impulse power in my brain cares to allow, on the damp concrete that glitters with embedded gold dust, soaking slightly in the imagined moisture of the meta-space above an Indian basement in the rainy season. The power to simultaneously Be in that place and in Brooklyn is wielded with ease and casual expertise by one of the best psychedelic bands in the world. Powers like those I attribute to yogis and Tantra masters as described by early-20th-century pulp classics that I’ve never read. They can pierce the veil of matter. They can read my mind. The band is three people, mostly women: Prince Rama of Ayodya, the conduit to higher.

…And outside, Spirit Family Reunion is bringing together a broadening network of my acquaintances. They are dressed, Appalachia in hi-tops, with the hi-tops hidden by work boots, chins hidden by beards and fiddles, young men who walked out of 1910 trying to be five years older and carrying on with the music from on the mountain. It’s superb. It ain’t bluegrass cause they ain’t Nashville cats. They don’t shred, and they ain’t got no shed. They howl at the fuckin’ moon with the same stark-raving sanity coy-dogs’ll get ter doin’ when you put the cat out. Let’s you know you’re the lonely one in the equation. The cat’s a take-of-itself. The coy-dogs'll take care o' th' cat. Where was I? Catterwalling. And the Reunion is damn good at it. The bar doesn’t applaud, they literally sing out in harmony because the band seems to include space for that in their repertoir. They have pretty girls sashaying and kicking by the bar, like ‘twer gay Pairee.

…And parting a curtain made of heavy rubber flaps, I hear the Jesus Lizard fronted by a saucy minx, which makes the regular Jesus Lizard sound positively pedestrian. The woman is Denise Barbarita, her band is called the Morning Papers, and they mean it. There is very little fucking around going on. They’ve got robust professionalism and practical tastes, which lets them to play big notes and big chords with authority that begins and ends in Barbarita’s voice. It seems mostly to be regular rock music, but the odder numbers are both fascinating and moving. She concludes her set with “I Don’t Like You,” a song about a frank discussion that leaves the narrator in a state of emotional break down, described by this “regular rock” band with the mangling of their instruments and the throwing of broken glass at the audience. This turns me around. Then the narrator picks her herself up and continues to tell her object to politely fuck off.

…And on to the stage, from the ceiling of the dapper gray cube that contains the Cameo Gallery, is the steady motion of colored light on paper or thread, which looks like rain and draws the eye right down the performance and nothing else.

Prince Rama plays music that has a lot in common with bands commonly found in Williamsburg. They make it using synthesizers, generally three to four layers of saw-tooth-wave-based pads, occasionally a guitar, repetitive, tribal, eminently danceable drums, and a small choir. The emphasis of their songs is the sensation of the textural blend, rather than the transition and resolution between harmonies as guided by melody in support of poetry. Prince Rama’s voice arrives from a thousand ago, reverberating between the crust of the earth and the ozone layer, the words rarely, and then barely, distinguishable from the infinitude of their counterparts. It’s music made behind itself, where the supporting roles take center stage. Prince Rama is not the shaman taking the peyote and thereafter distributing wisdom to the tribe. Prince Rama is the peyote itself. The presentation is flawed only in that Prince Rama is a band, and this is a performance with pauses between songs and decisions about what to play next. This music would be better suited to a primal rave where thousands of people copulated with the thin air surrounding thousands of others. I wish that it would never stop.

Prince Rama has a particular brilliance in that they make music derived from the same post-modern post-guitar urge that is common in Williamsburg, but are unique in that they aren't at all ironic. They seem to be inspired by all the music they've ever heard instead of vaguely reacting against it. They play with textures more than songs because they love texture, not because the song is a dying form. So many bands in Brooklyn are impatient to see the old tropes die, like lovers who hate goodbyes so they never say "I love you." Prince Rama is the pulse that quickens when lovers say "I want to see you again."

I love it so. This band now resides in Brooklyn and is gigging regularly. Go see them now!

Denise Barbarita gave me a copy of her first record because she is fucking awesome. I want to tell everyone about this woman, who plays a mean guitar, has an un-Hollywood body and must, I imagine, drink whiskey. It’s an attractive looking CD, and sounds crisp and full; the mix, which is the third thing that caught my attention, is impeccable and tasteful, and notable because Denise is the one what done it. She also recorded and produced it. And wrote it. The first thing I noticed is the spacey and slightly discordant ringing of synthetic bells that open the record and smooth over into the kind of motion one feels lying on one’s back in the ocean: it’s almost a drone, because the inertia of one’s body breaks up the momentum of the peaks and valleys in the oceans waves. The effect is the product of an orchestra of guitars and voices, the envelopes of which open immediately and eventually respectively. …And then the track switches over and the guitars get heavy. Denise seems to have absorbed all the rock music in NYC over the last fifteen years and fed it piece by piece into a hopper. In “Hush Hush” she takes the post-ska of early No Doubt and time-warps to last summer in a break-down that anticipates the Dirty Projectors. “Hold On” is noise rock, but made a producer who knows how to use an SSL 4000+ G-Series console, and not by punks. It grows by leaps and bounds and grows on me, but this style works better live, when the sound works on me physically. At its height it's an exhibit of what Denise does best on the record, which is the transition between dense arrangements, which are generally more successful on the acoustic guitar-driven numbers that comprise two-thirds of the disc. Therefore my favorite part of the album is the final untitled track, which is neither a rocker nor a sensitive acoustic menagerie, but a chant built around close-order harmonies, which resemble those used by the Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Choir, and their reverberation through actual, virtual, and solid spaces. Catch the live show and you’ll get weirder songs and more heft. I like it!

...And there are five, maybe seven people in the room. I'm a foot off the ground and falling and I land on a blind man's toes. I think about Cara, Nick Cave (the performance artist who makes sound suits, not the singer/songwriter/author/screenwriter), and those Alvin Ailey posters in the subway as I dance, wishing that I had the space to myself and also that Prince Rama had a capacity crowd. I dance and think of those kids flailing at Fugazi shows in "Instrument." I dance and try to take deep breaths from the cool air close to the ground. I dance. I dance. I dance. Thank you Prince Rama. I'll see you again.


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