Friday · Baba Budan's
Combining Hammond B3-feuled Jazz Funk with groovy Rock rhythms and snyths that add an element of '70s Prog, New Wave, G-Funk and modern experimentalism, New York-based two-piece Tzar (not to be confused with L.A. Rock band Tsar) consists of two musicians who have played together for over 10 years. Keysman Michael Stark handles the B3 and synth décor. The Queens native has studied Jazz and spends much time with his trio, Wingnut, which has toured extensively in Europe and the U.S. Willie B handles the percussion and operates the bass (via pedals) for Tzar. Mr. B has worked with Neko Case, Warren Zanes and Punk cult hero Jayne County.
Stark and B have played together as the rhythm section for artists like Sally Timms and Johnny Dowd and their long-running musical relationship is evident on Tzar's self-titled, self-released six-song EP (available at tzarmusic.com). Besides the fact that it sounds like there has to be many more players on the recordings than just Stark and B, the most grabbing element of the all-instrumental disc is hearing the telepathic interlock apparent between the two players. You get a sense of spontaneity, as if these expressive compositions were cemented in rehearsal sessions by mere knowing glances.
"Don't Drink the Water" bobs on a Dance-club ready Funk grind, as Stark drops in B3 twinkles to give the track a future-meets-past vibe. "Dub Dirg" is perfectly titled as it meshes dubby rhythms into an expansive dirge, highlighted by Stark's atmospheric wash and B's bass work (I have to imagine playing Reggae drums and bass at the same time with your feet, no less -- is about as easy as juggling a family of highly irritable squirrels). Falling closest to "Jazz" on the CD is "When We Met," a slow-burn torch song that creeps and crawls atop a haunting melodic theme (this is one of the songs that seems suited for a vocalist).
Besides offering some solid music (and being on a very cool, eclectic bill), Tzar's local stop is worth checking out just to see how they pull off all of this glorious noise live. (Mike Breen)
ZELAZOWA WITH BASTION, SPINDLE AND SUDDENLY MONDAY
Sunday · The Poison Room
Hailing from the City of Brotherly Love, zelazowa is a study in contrasts and high-volume cliché-busting. Sporting two lead vocalists and a sound that combines the Grunge density of Nirvana, the AltRock roar of Smashing Pumpkins and the monolithic stoner Prog/Punk thump of Clutch, zelazowa proves that a Hard Rock band can be both crushingly intense from a musical perspective and airily subtle from the lyrical side of the equation.
The Philadelphia foursome assembled in 2000 when guitaring brothers Bryan and Kyle Weber fell in with rhythm section cousins Ian and Terry Sharkey, and between them, they envisioned a band that could blend the ponderous and poetic appeal of Prog, the visceral immediacy of Punk and the lacerating volume of Metal in a single sonic presentation. As if this wasn't enough to distinguish zelazowa from the pack, the band made the provocative decision to present their unique sound by way of guitarist Bryan Weber and bassist Ian Sharkey acting as dual lead singers.
For the first five years, zelazowa concentrated on making a name for themselves locally and regionally with a relentless gig ethic, which ultimately led to their 2005 debut disc Rest Easy, a release which has garnered the band a press kit chock full of glowing reviews. The subsequent two years have been intensely busy for zelazowa; the quartet recorded and released their four song EP Polymorph last year after a nine-month road stint of 200+ shows, and this year's tour schedule looks to be every bit as hectic.
In addition to another intense touring cycle, zelazowa will be the subject of an independent tour documentary titled What You Want Us to Be, We Can't Always Be, an examination of the life of an unsigned band on the road without a label safety net. Of all the Rock clichés that zelazowa demolishes, the one that most assuredly applies to them is that you have to see them live to appreciate the exquisite heaviness of it all. (Brian Baker)
ANTIBALAS WITH KRUDAS CUBENSI
Sunday · Southgate House
Nine years. 14 men. Even more instruments. One stage. That pretty much is a simple summation of the AfroBeat/Latin rhythm-inspired Antibalas. Hailing from Brooklyn, Antibalas' ties stretch from Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Europe. And while you may read the equation as a frenzied hullabaloo, hearing them, you realize these are carefully calculated performances allowing room for variable thought and improvisation.
Working with musician/producer/engineer/mix master John McEntire (Tortoise, Stereolab, Tom Ze), Antibalas captured the spontaneity of a live performance in exploring balance and tonality on their latest release, Security. Antibalas signed on with the unrelated Anti- Records (hit your Solomon Burke, Tom Waits, Xavier Rudd and Blackalicious albums for more on the label) for the release.
"We brought in an incomplete circle in the studio with John and together John allowed us to explore that side of recording," explains tenor sax man Stuart Bogie.
The underlying dynamic of the band has been there since day one. To hear Bogie talk about founder Martin Perna, you gain a good inclination of his extreme optimism.
"(Martin) is not interested in impossibilities; he's busy accomplishing things," Bogie says. "His latest mission is to reform our eating, not only what we eat but how much we spend and the places we patronize."
So when Perna's not on stage burning his baritone sax, he's cooking up eats in his mobile kitchen for the band and beyond.
Antibalas opens its Security show with "Beaten Metal," a funky beat blend with Afro-orchestration along side the literal rat-a-tat-tat metalisms. Then, on to the tic-tac-toe of "Filibuster XXX," crazed horn bursts bookend lyrical politics while Latin beats continue throughout, backing the Q&A rally "What is GOP?," "Gritty Old People," "Guilty of Perjury" and "Gas Oil Petroleum."
Drummer Chris Vatalaro wrote the horn choral in the unspoken narrative "I.C.E.," where trumpets play off each other and act as the forcers of organization. "I.C.E." presents contemplative Jazz with a "theme that is very straight with no inflection, like an angel, like nature, even-handed and without pity. But not everybody has the patience to listen to music," Bogie says. (Sara Beiting)