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Rock Picks: GZA, the Ettes, A.A. Bondy, Mose Allison 

Also, the Kris Special, Jesse Sykes, Mamak Khadem and others

Wednesday, Jan 13 2010
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Friday/January/15

GZA at the Echoplex
As the members of the Wu-Tang Clan enter their 40s, that old line about old(er) dogs and new tricks seems less and less relevant. Take GZA, who got his start rapping at Brooklyn block parties in the mid-’80s. The crucial Wu Clansman released a bona fide classic in 1995, Liquid Swords, and followed it up with a series of solid albums and guest spots that consistently qualified his title within the crew as “The Genius,” a lyricist whose every couplet displays a serious mastery of street smarts and poetic device — exactly the kind of thing that makes for great crossover appeal. GZA has been smart enough not to change up his winning style, but he’s also proved his savvy in reaching out to his more rock-oriented fans — hipsters, specifically — not only performing Liquid Swords from beginning to end at Pitchfork’s 2007 festival, but collaborating with garage punks Black Lips last year. But the Genius in Echo Park? That’s both a surprise and a New Year’s gift. (Chris Martins)

JESCA HOOP AT THE HOTEL CAFÉ
Jesca Hoop’s 2007 full-length debut, Kismet, was a fairly astonishing achievement for a singer-guitarist who, at the time, was best known for being a former nanny to Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s children. Her songs were simply magical, with dense, arty imagery and heartbreakingly lovely melodies, and they were delivered with unusually sophisticated arrangements and dazzling vocal interplay. The former Angeleno now lives in Manchester, England, but she returns tonight for a solo set of tunes from her upcoming CD, Hunting My Dress. Even without the backing of a full band, Hoop nimbly plucks unusual chord progressions while seamlessly belting out her wonderful, “intelligent, tactile” vocals. At her local shows last year, she and her sympathetically intuitive backup singer Nicole Eva Emery previewed songs from Hunting My Dress, setting sail with an intricate weave of febrile harmonies. Their fluttering vocals on “Whispering Light” evoked Kate Bush, while the more austere maternal ode “Angel Mom” was quietly moving. Stranger still were songs like “Four Dreams,” where Hoop broke things down with elaborately funky art-blues riffs as she and Emery cooed merrily with madcap cuckoo-clock rejoinders. (Falling James)

click to flip through (3) PHIL WANDSCHER - Jesse Sykes
  • Phil Wandscher
  • Jesse Sykes
   
 

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Also playing Friday:

ABE VIGODA, ALPS OF NEW SOUTH WALES, DUNES at the Echo Curio; EVAN, CHRISTOPHER WRAY, CORY PHILLIPS at the Dakota Music Lounge; STATE RADIO at the Henry Fonda Theater; STEVE MORSE BAND, SARAH SPENCER & ANGELFIRE at the Canyon; PSYCHIC POWERS, EVAN VOYTAS at the Echo; RICHARD SHINDELL, ANTJE DUVEKOT at McCabe’s; IVAN NEVILLE’S DUMPSTAPHUNK, REBIRTH BRASS BAND, DJ QUICKIE MART at the Roxy; NIGHT HORSE, DUSTED ANGEL, NORMANDIE at Spaceland.

 

Saturday/January/16

A.A. Bondy at the Echo
Last couple of years, ex-Verbena tunesmith August Arthur Bondy has been out there fine-tuning a head-turning brand of American roots–type stuff. The follow-up to his wildly praised American Hearts album (re-released by Fat Possum in 2008), his recent When the Devil’s Loose (Fat Possum), has received similar critical nods for its warm, bluesy charms. The new album’s got a timelessness to it. Bondy pulls you in with tersely plaintive yarns of hard luck in the big, bad world, the predictability of loneliness and the faint promise of redemption. A truckful of subtle harmonic shifts colors his reverbed-piano-and-loose-funk-acoustic-guitar songs, and are a shrewd, shaded accompaniment to his understated voice. Bondy’s got intriguing new ways of telling dusty old tales. (Early show, 6 p.m. start time.) (John Payne)

Mamak Khadem at the Getty Center
The Getty Center opens its 13th season of music and dance with a performance by Persian vocalist Mamak Khadem. A classically trained singer of enormous range and nuance, the L.A.-based Khadem (formerly of the excellent Persian-contemporary band Axiom of Choice) brings innovation to a trance-inducing hybrid style that takes inspiration and formal cues from the “ecstatic” roots of Persian melodies and poems while incorporating a broad spectrum of traditional and modern vocal styles rooted throughout the Middle East, North Africa and India. This is evocative, imagination-spiking music, an opportunity to breathe the perfumed air of another time and place — a better one — right here in Los Angeles. Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (John Payne)

Papa, Slang Chickens at Bootleg Theater
Straight outta mellow, laid-back and dumb L.A. — only to be coldly chewed up in the remorseless reality machine called NYC — Papa have found a way to reconcile their inborn melodious eclecticism with a face-punching wham-bam that only slightly suggests the old, old punk rock it’ll invariably be lumped in with. (But that’d be the boundary-smashing punk art of Wire/PiL as opposed to the doctrinaire leather jackets ’n’ spiky hair of the Clash or whoever .) Anyway, Papa’ve got a few tracks where they’re exploring some freshly hummable kinds of noise, and their live set is reportedly a total sandblast. Then Slang Chickens are all over the place, and it doesn’t suck: Arty, countrified, hard-edged and pretty, musically, they seem to delight in dashing expectations with their banjo-and-lap-steel–laced rock & roll. Interesting new album out on the righteously named Psychedelic Judaism label. (John Payne)

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