Tag Archives: Kraftwerk

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The Bad Plus Sound Right at Home at Rough Trade NYC

November 22nd, 2016

The Bad Plus – Rough Trade NYC – November 21, 2016

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Over the course of their 15-plus-year career, the Bad Plus have played in nearly every conceivable New York City venue: the Village Vanguard and the Jazz Standard, sure, but also The Bowery Ballroom and Prospect Park Bandshell among many others. So, although you don’t often see a grand piano, let alone many jazz trios, at Rough Trade NYC, it’s not surprising that the Bad Plus eventually were slotted to play there. Coming off their recent album, It’s Hard, consisting entirely of cover songs, many of them from the contemporary rock and pop canon, seemed like a good time to start. Their two-set show on Monday night stood on four tentpoles from the new LP—four covers that showed the range and creativity that would shine through in any setting.

The Bad Plus take a cover song like a blank sheet of paper and start making cuts into it to create an elaborate, unique snowflake. For one group to adequately cover music as varied as Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” Barry Manliow’s “Mandy,” Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” would be very impressive. For a piano trio playing a rock club to do it, all the more amazing, each song recognizable only in its base parts, the group otherwise tearing at each composition’s fabric, finding patterns and beauty where it didn’t seem to exist in the original, often to stunning effect. But if the covers were paper snowflakes, the original Bad Plus material was some sort of four-dimensional origami, intricately folded artworks, dynamic and shape-shifting. The opening “Prehensile Dream” was a subtle slow build, pianist Ethan Iverson repeating a beautiful riff until quiet became loud and pretty became intense, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King providing an awe-inspiring crescendo.

The highlight of the first set came with the closing “Seven Minute Mind,” complicated rhythms hidden beneath an undeniably funky bass riff that may have required basic calculus to follow completely. “Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass and the Bears Off Your Ass” was rollicking blues that revealed multiple parenthetical diversions, eventually giving way to a great tangential bass-and-drum solo. Each song had its own unique feel and sound, all tied together with the band’s wit, talent and strong emotional core. The respectful but enthusiastic crowd was treated to one more cover for the encore, Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” which, under the eager scissors of the Bad Plus, became a thrilling exercise in rhythmic experimentation. For one night at least, for the Bad Plus and the roomful of fans, Rough Trade NYC felt just like home. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

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Cold Cave Channels the Cure

February 5th, 2010

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Cold Cave – Mercury Lounge – February 4, 2010

It’s hard to even imagine what it would have been like to see the Cure perform in a club the size of Mercury Lounge in the early ’80s. You can’t just chalk it up to pure nostalgia—there’s definitely a reason their sound still resonates through any number of music subsets today. Cold Cave, a band whose name actually describes it perfectly, is one of the direct descendants of that sound. Legend has it the band formed when Wesley Eisold left a successful Boston punk band and started messing around with thrift-store Casio keyboards alongside friends Caralee McElroy, of Xiu Xiu, and Dominick Fernow, of experimental noise band Prurient. Their first 7″ single, “Painted Nails,” was released on Fernow’s Hospital Productions label and has brought about something of a resurgence of Cold Wave minimalist synth that traces its roots directly back to Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle and, of course, the original post-punks, Joy Division.

An emaciated Eisold barely moved behind a massive Moog voyager, but he worked up a sweat singing in his slight crooning baritone, with an ingrained punk burst of nihilistic vocals, hands clasped behind his back, looking scarily close to Mr. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” himself. Eisold barely mumbled “thanks” before going into the next pounding inhuman beat from Cold Cave’s debut, Love Comes Close. McElroy played off Eisold’s darkness with her own heavily echoed melodic delivery on songs like “Life Magazine” and providing a back-and-forth harmony on “The Tree’s Grew Emotions and Died,” sort of like an industrial Goth version of the Human League.

The three members of Cold Cave, all dressed in black, use their impressive display of technology, minus the nostalgia, thanks to Fernow, whose sheer massive solo catalog of sound manipulation takes each arrangement to a place other New Wave throwback acts just can’t follow. (Simply playing with every piece of an analog synth keyboard is no substitution for knowing which sounds you want to hear and actually willing them out of the circuits.) The music stays perpetually focused on the icy, emotionless sound, straddling a line between undanceable and undeniably catchy. And all of it comes from three keyboards, just like on Trans-Europe Express. The entire New Wave ’80s wished they sounded this good. —Jason Dean