Update: New Album Review and Two New Concert Reviews, Plus Photos

I’ve been stupid busy lately with shows. Thankfully I have a couple of weeks off until more great music rolls our way.

Here’s what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks:

Concert Review – White Denim, Maps and Atlases, Tiny Victories at Lincoln Theater, Raleigh, NC

Album Review – The Infamous Stringdusters, Silver Sky

Concert Review – Jimmy Herring Band & Victor Wooten Band, Carolina Theater, Durham, NC

Enjoy these shots from the shows!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Music Flows on St. Patricks Day at Raleigh’s Pour House Music Hall

At The Pour House Music Hall in Raleigh, Steve Mang embodies the phrase “he’s a regular”. The guy is second only to the employees when it comes to attendance, and he’s seen a ludicrous amount of music at the venue, so you know he won’t steer you wrong when vouching for music. “The Oatmeal Conspiracy is always good,” he said, heading into the venue for a St. Patrick’s Day triple-bill that featured them along with two more bands, Triple Wide and Waylandsphere.

Pearsall, Bryce, and Morton

Anyone that frequents the bar knows that those three names on a poster means one thing – a night of non-stop collaboration where three bands take on a group mindset. The difference on this night, though, was the deep, rich sound of two relatively new local bands turning the corner and heading toward bigger and better things. The Triple Wide foursome is coming up on two years together, and there’s been a pronounced increase in familiarity amongst the band since their inception. Their newfound confidence and tightness has greatly benefited every aspect of their music. The Oatmeal Conspiracy has been together for much longer, but recently unearthed an entirely new sound thanks to the addition of a full-time bassist. The two bands are playing better than they ever have right now, and the combination of the two groups on this holiday night only amplified that fact. Continue reading

Album Review: Garage a Trois – Power Patriot

The track “Purgatory,” which comes a little more than halfway through Garage a Trois’ Power Patriot, bears the mark of Marco Benevento. The core of the band – sax madman Skerik, thunderous drummer Stanton Moore, and vibraphone master Mike Dillon – have never shied away from heavy fuzz and boiling drums, and the addition of Benevento introduces another lover of noise to the mix. But that’s not what makes “Purgatory” so reminiscent of Benevento’s style – it’s the spacey, ambient twinkling that bookends the fuzzy noise.

Some may say that adding another composing, performing powder keg of virtuosity to this band’s already volatile mix is overdoing it, but Power Patriot proves otherwise. There is an astounding amount of music to be made from the combination of these musicians. Granted, Garage a Trois isn’t going to take over the world as long as Stanton Moore has Galactic going, but they’re more than deserving of attention from instrumental music lovers, and Power Patriot is a big lovin’ slice of dark-edged mysteryfunk (to cop a word from the band).

The mystery of their funk lies in the Zappa-like compositional feats and melodic workmanship that occurs every time these guys gather in a room. Also, there’s the matter of Skerik’s fascination with jarring effects and noise, Dillon’s barely-controlled genius behind the vibes, and Moore’s ability to manage any rhythmic need. With Benevento adding even more note-grinding insanity into the mix, Skerik is allowed to blast away at will, and within his bleating, distorted sax work lies the reason that Power Patriot works: it never gets too out of hand.

“Rescue Spreaders” is a bit of a jarring opener, but the album quickly gets into a groove. “Fragile” is as representative a track as these guys could have recorded, full of unthinkable melodic ideas and noisy outbursts that never overstay their welcome. “Dory’s Day Out” is driven by Dillon, and the song has the feel of Tortoise circa turn of the millennium: gliding melodies, dramatic tonal flourishes, and drums that nudge instead of push. “Electric Door Bell Machine” puts more weight behind Moore’s drums, showcasing the band’s endless dynamic range and letting some funk action enter into the proceedings.

The title track alone is worth seeking out. “Power Patriot” is a playful tune that lives up to its name with stomping sax-metal hooks and delightful interplay. Each track of this album impresses more than the previous, and by the time the monstrous closer “Computer Crimes” graces your speakers, you’ll be ready to go again.

Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Album Review: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe – Brother’s Keeper

Karl Denson spent more than a decade at the top of the jazz-funk-jam heap, and his band Tiny Universe became legendary for non-stop funk frenzies that tested the limits of time and space. On Brother’s Keeper, it’s clear that he’s trying for more sophistication, continuing to focus on his own vocal stylings while offering new songs with a touch of mass appeal. Denson’s craggy voice and the band’s stalwart wall of funk are intact, but his measured attempt to bring the music to a wider audience stops the party in its tracks. Unfortunately, there’s a stylistic tug-of-war that ensues on this album, and the conflict never resolves itself. On one side, there’s the immeasurable instrumental talent of Denson and his band, which includes longtime cohorts Chris Littlefield (trumpet), Ron Johnson (bass), and Brian Jordon (guitar). They’re allowed plenty of room, especially on the title track. But the song structure and slick production tug against the band’s desire to burn down the studio with fiery solos and hammering funk grooves, and some of the songs leave a lot to be desired lyrically (and I’m being nice there – I laughed out loud at some of the lyrics). Even the album cover seems like a less than graceful attempt to shoehorn Denson into the adult contempo/R&B market. With several numbers on the verge of R&B cheese and few memorable highlights, you might want to keep this album away from your ears.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10