Brooklyn’s Xenia Rubinos is a talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose first LP, Magic Trix (stream it below), came out four years ago to a fair amount of acclaim. “She’s triumphed unambiguously: Magic Trix is a startling lightning bolt of a record,” raved Pitchfork. The big-voiced Rubinos (above, doing “Just Like I” for Audiotree TV) crafted her live show while touring in support of the album, thrilling audiences along the way with her take on rock, funk, jazz, hip-hop, Caribbean rhythms and electronics. And last spring, the energetic, engaging performer returned with her follow-up, Black Terry Cat (stream it below), again impressing the folks at Pitchfork: “Black Terry Cat is all about breaking beyond limitations. From mostly keys, drums and bass, Rubinos and her small cohort bring a funky fluidity to the bright splatters of her debut, and forge a level of inventiveness comparable to Esperanza Spalding’s recent epic, Emily’s D+Evolution.” And before she heads to Europe later this month, Rubinos plays The Bowery Ballroom on Thursday night. The Kominas and Starchild and the New Romantic open the show.
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Brooklyn’s Xenia Rubinos is a talented singer-songwriter and keyboardist whose first LP, Magic Trix (stream it below), came out three years ago to a fair amount of acclaim. “She’s triumphed unambiguously: Magic Trix is a startling lightning bolt of a record,” raved Pitchfork. The big-voiced Rubinos (above, doing “Just Like I”) crafted her live show while touring in support of the album, thrilling audiences along the way with her take on rock, funk, jazz, hip-hop, Caribbean rhythms and electronics. And this spring, the energetic, engaging performer returned with her follow-up, Black Terry Cat (stream it below), again impressing the folks at Pitchfork: “Black Terry Cat is all about breaking beyond limitations. From mostly keys, drums and bass, Rubinos and her small cohort bring a funky fluidity to the bright splatters of her debut, and forge a level of inventiveness comparable to Esperanza Spalding’s recent epic, Emily’s D+Evolution.” Before she heads to Europe in late October, Xenia Rubinos plays Mercury Lounge tomorrow night. Ela Minus opens.
Tags: Black Terry Cat, Emily’s D+Evolution, Esperanza Spalding, Live Music, Lower East Side, Magic Trix, Mercury Lounge, Music, New York City, Preview, Video, Xenia Rubinos
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The Landlady Holiday Spectacular – Mercury Lounge – December 8, 2014
I walked into Mercury Lounge last night to a festive holiday party already in progress. There were blinking lights, multiple trees and decorations throughout the room, a jar labeled FREE CANDY offered candy canes, and Santa Claus had just hopped off the stage to lead the room in “Silent Night.” Far be it from me to call Santa a liar, but the Landlady Holiday Spectacular would turn out to be anything but a silent night. In fact, with a makeshift second stage set up on the side of the room, there was almost no pause in the music for three-and-a-half hours, with brass bands big and small to indie-rock quartets to bluegrass trios, folk duos, large Afrobeat ensembles and almost anything else you could imagine. The sets were quick: two to four songs each, so if you didn’t like what you were hearing, you didn’t have to wait long, but that was rarely the case. It would take too long to even try to list the proceedings, probably about a dozen bands played in all, but there were Zula mixing Latin rhythms in an indie rock thing, the Westerlies adding Christmas songs to originals arranged for two trombones and a trumpet, the avant drum-and-guitar duo Star Rover expertly going post-post-rock, and Zongo Junction getting everyone boogieing down with their big, funky Afrobeat.
The audience constantly rotated between the front and the side, where little impromptu groups would spring up in between the more established ones, like when Rubblebucket’s Kal Traver joined the man of the hour, Adam Schatz, on a nice bluesy sax-and-vocals duet. Although the room was full, at times it felt like there were more musicians in the crowd than paying customers, a constant stream of saxophones and guitars fighting their way one of the stages. If this party were a movie, Schatz, who amazingly made the evening work while sitting in on sax with almost everyone, would’ve filled the director, producer and lead-actor roles. Still, by the time his band, Landlady, took the stage there was a risk that it would be anticlimactic after all that had already come. Not to worry, there wasn’t a chance of that happening. They opened with “Under the Yard,” off their new album, Upright Behavior, and raised the energy a few notches, mixing harmonies and offbeat rhythms with Schatz’s unique songwriting. The music was a groovy, progressive New Wave, a Talking Heads for the 21st century, with Schatz gesticulating lovingly at the front on keyboards. But even as he led Landlady through their repertoire—the title track and “Dying Day” were early set highlights—he was directing the show, prompting a horn section on the side stage to enter the fray at just the right moment.
Of course, with so many friends in the house, you had to expect even more collaborations, guests and permutations, and Schatz quickly ceded the stage to Jared Samuel (leading the band in a nice cover of George Harrison’s “Awaiting on You All”), Sam Cohen, Xenia Rubinos and Luke Temple. This highlight stretch turned Landlady into an expert house band primed for late-night talk shows, slipping between genres as easily as flipping through LPs at the record store. As if to punctuate the point, Landlady invited pretty much everyone onstage for a closing climactic one-two punch of covers by Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” and Funkadelic’s “I Got a Thing.” With horns, guitars, drums and what seemed like the whole room singing along, spectacular doesn’t even begin to describe the festivities. It should also be noted that the whole night was a benefit for the Bushwick School of Music, which provides music education to kids who wouldn’t otherwise receive it in school. It was a worthy cause, indeed. Guys like Adam Schatz just don’t appear beneath the Christmas tree, you know. —A Stein | @Neddyo
Tags: Adam Schatz, Bushwick School of Music, Funkadelic, George Harrison, Jared Samuel, Kal Traver, Landlady, Lou Reed, Luke Temple, Mercury Lounge, Review, Rubblebucket, Sam Cohen, Star Rover, Talking Heads, the Westerlies, Upright Behavior, Xenia Rubinos, Zongo Junction, Zula
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Xenia Rubinos – Mercury Lounge – March 11, 2014
Great music thrives on contradictions, when fast meets slow, loud meets quiet. This explains much of the power behind Xenia Rubinos, who delighted the late-night Tuesday crowd at Mercury Lounge. Matching smooth R&B pop with serrated melody, countering dancehall beats with wonderfully weird arrhythmic breakdowns, layering prerecorded samples with live playing, Rubinos was a walking contradiction … or, more accurately, a dancing contradiction. The set drew exclusively from last year’s acclaimed Magic Trix release, which is one of those not-quite-sure-how-to-pull-it-off-live albums. The answer was Rubinos singing and playing on keyboards, utilizing plenty of samples and digital effects while Marco Buccelli accompanied on drums, driving the beats and changes with machinelike precision.
The material was a perfect mind-and-body mix, driving the crowd to move along to the infectious rhythms and then subtly shifting the beats and the melodies. The result was a unique blend of modern-day dance pop and old school jazz fusion. “Cherry Tree” was a representative highlight, beginning with presampled keyboards and impossible drumming from Buccelli, the focus, as it was for much of the night, was on Rubinos’ voice. When she opened her mouth into a wide-open smile, the vocals seemed to just pour out with a sheer, overwhelming joy. The song then shifted to a middle-section syncopated breakdown that felt separate, but still the same, before winding its way back again.
Occasionally, the Bronx native sang in a peppy, conversant Spanish, like on “Pan y Café,” which sort of felt like a conversation overheard on the street set to an almost psychedelic melody. But “Hair Receding,” which seemed to combine all of her strengths into one tour de force piece, was my favorite of the night. Opening with long, dissonant organ chords, nearly free-form, Buccelli then fluttered some very funky drumming, the duo playing point-counterpoint. Eventually the two concepts overlapped as other bits of music were subtly introduced until it felt like four songs layered together, all while staying quite groovy. It was both simple and elegant and deliciously complicated all at once. But unlike most contradictions, you could dance to this one. —A. Stein
Brooklyn’s Xenia Rubinos is a talented singer-songwriter and keyboardist, and she teamed up with drummer Marco Buccelli on Magic Trix, (stream it below), which arrived last year to a fair amount of acclaim, charming even those noted grumps at Pitchfork: “She’s triumphed unambiguously: Magic Trix is a startling lightning bolt of a record.” The big-voiced Rubinos (above, doing “Hair Receding” for KEXP FM) is an energetic, engaging performer, and although she’s currently out on tour, Rubinos returns to New York City to play Mercury Lounge on 3/11. And she checked in from the road to answer Five Questions. (Rubinos also happens to do a pretty cool “Psycho Killers” cover.)
What music or song always makes you dance?
“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by the Police.
You’ve been on the road since releasing Magic Trix. But do you ever work on new material onstage, or does the new stuff stay private until it’s more polished?
Every once in a while I take something out of the shop and put it onstage to see how it runs and let it stay that way for a while to give it some air. I do often take songs back into the shop (new and old) when they need work. They’re alive and need tune-ups and attention.
Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
You are all things. It’s all in there all the time, so if you work toward it you can access what you need when you need it, but the control of all that is the hard part!
Living in Brooklyn, does playing Mercury Lounge have any special significance?
It feels good to go “into the city,” so to speak. Driving across the bridge and seeing Manhattan is never less breathtaking than the time before, and sometimes I remember what I used to see years ago when I was new to the city and felt like I wanted to eat the whole thing in one big bite—well, maybe I still do. Also always excited to be on a Bowery Presents show cause ya’ll have such funky taste!
As a touring musician, do you ever notice that your music is received differently on the road than it is at home?
For sure every place has its own energy and the people there have their -isms. New Yorkers can be generally quite hard to impress, and sometimes I really like that. —R. Zizmor