Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Will Butler, Hypercolor in Pittsburgh

But first, before I get to the titular subjects, I have to do a what-I've-been-up-to introduction, because it's been a handful. I'm not one of those bloggers who can give immediate updates at the drop of a hat.

Yesterday was the first Monday in a few weeks where I didn't have a story to work on or an interview to conduct. Or both, which I think might have been the case recently. Last week, I returned to Blurt after a long hiatus of writing for them. I reviewed the new album by Australia's Dick Diver which you can find here. It has yet to run, but I also interviewed Mark Stein, organist for Vanilla Fudge. With SXSW coming up this week, Blurt will probably go on hold for a spell. But as soon as I can say, "here comes the Fudge," I will let you know when that article drops.

Mr. Stein was a good egg too. Turns out the band is still loathe to talk about the sophomore slump LP The Beat Goes On, but like a trooper, he did anyhow. We also discussed the start of the band, as well as the making of their new album - yes, they're still at it - Spirit of '67.

Last week Arcade Fire's Will Butler played a sold-out show at Brillobox, which I believe I was the only person to preview in the local press.  Maybe it was clear it was going to sell out, so no hype was necessary. But, dang, was anyone curious what it was going to sound like?

Butler put on a good show, with a four-piece band of himself on guitar and keyboards, drummer, second keyboardist and back-up vocalist. His album (if you can call it that because it only has eight songs, most of them under four minutes apiece) Policy runs the gamut, stylistically, as did the show. "What I Want" had the power chord attack of the Buzzcocks while, one song later, "Anna" sounded like Suicide, with an unrelenting keyboard riff. The album had only been released two days prior, but the audience - which probably numbered in the high 100s, whatever the capacity is at Brillo' - seemed familiar enough with it and ate it up.

The UK newspaper The Guardian struck a deal with Butler a couple weeks ago where he wrote a song a day for five days, based on articles he read on their masthead. Results were then posted on Soundcloud. The idea might sound dubious, but the results are actually pretty strong. Among the ones he played at the show, "Madonna Won't Save You," is one of the most memorable, if nothing else for its opening line of "You can spend all day/ breaking hearts with a/ sledgehammer and a glass of milk." Weird lyrical non-sequiturs like that also show up on the album too and act as some of the more memorable aspects of the release.

Even though he might only have scant material available now, Butler and the crew weren't lacking for a set. They plowed from one song into another, with little time left for banter, though Butler gave a shout-out to former Pirate Andy Van Slyke later in the set. The back-up vocalist and keyboardist had some dance moves going later in the evening. The fact that they weren't quite synchronized added to the charm, making it seem more like the inspiration of the moment got them moving.

Two nights prior to that show, avant/prog-rock/noise/experimental jazz trio Hypercolor played at Howler's. They were touring behind a new self-titled release on Tzadik. Drummer Lukas Ligeti, guitarist Eyal Maoz and bassist James Ilgenfritz play music that gets heavy at times but never bombastic. Ligeti's drumming sounded especially propulsive early in the set, getting things off to a strong start. Maoz, who sits while playing, worked a bunch of pedals to keep the textures evolving, while Ilgenfritz used the six-string bass in a manner that you don't see very often. He jammed econo on it, to put it one way.

All three of these cats have numerous projects going on, so there was a plethora of CDs to peruse after the show. Ilgenfritz, who has released a solo-bass disc of Anthony Braxton compositions, had a disc that came out that day of an opera he wrote based on William S. Burroughs' The Ticket That Exploded. I also picked up a disc of a project called Colonic Youth, which includes drummer Kevin Shea on it.

Hypercolor's showkicks off a pretty intense six-week slew of jazz performances in Pittsburgh. To be self-serving for a moment, I'll only list one - Hearing Things, a trio of Matt Bauder/Vinnie Sperrazza/JP Schlegelmilch, who play something closer to '60s instrumental. They're playing at Howlers on Sunday, March 22 with my band, the Love Letters.

No comments: