Music Picks: As Blood Runs Black, Kelly Hogan, Regina Spektor
PHOTO BY BENOIT PEVERELLIAmadou & Mariam: See Thursday.
For the first decade of their existence, progressive black-metal outfit Agalloch rarely left their Pacific Northwest surroundings. Luckily for Southern California fans, their growing cult following in the wake of 2010's Marrow of the Spirit has lured the group out of their cocoon. Agalloch have built this following by effortlessly infusing a black-metal blueprint with progressive and folk elements that add layers of ethereal atmosphere to their sound. Band leader John Haughm's vocals alternate between demonic death cries and soothing whispers that at times lure the listener into a false sense of security. Agalloch's brand of metal would be a fitting soundtrack to a movie scene where the protagonist slowly approaches an abandoned cabin in the middle of the forest, not knowing what lurks behind the doors and windows when he gets there. —Jason Roche
The city of Cleveland cracked open last year and out came Gap Dream, which is a guy named Gabe with a computer and a guitar and a set of songs just glowing with psychedelic brilliance. Maybe you remember the last guy who outta-nowhered with something this good — they call him King Tuff, and turns out he's a big fan of Gap Dream. So are big things waiting for Gabe in the future? Probably, but there are deep and heavy things going on right now, with music that floats forth from the same haze that harbored Spacemen 3 — especially when they were taking drugs to make music to take drugs to — and Brian Jonestown Massacre and the 13th Floor Elevators and anybody who ever wished they could lower an amp down a cistern just to hear it reverb-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b. Yes, there should be a few more b's in there, but you can guess how this sounds already. —Chris Ziegler
LEVITT PAVILION, MACARTHUR PARK
Bomba Estéreo draw upon traditional styles of music like cumbia and champeta, but the Colombian quintet is too musically restless to be strict revivalists. Instead, band leader Simón Mejía pumps up their folkloric influences with hip-hop grooves and thumping electronics, ending up with a dense thicket of sound, which the group describes as "electro tropical." Liliana Saumet nimbly spits out dizzyingly fast wordplay in raps like "Fuego," but she also shows a more tuneful persona in such tracks as "Aguasala," from the band's 2008 album, Estalla (which was rereleased in the United States in 2009 with a new title, Blow Up). Mejía unveils more sonic sorcery on Bomba Estéreo's 2011 EP, Ponte Bomb, which features several juiced-up remixes of "Fuego" and other songs, further revealing the different ways he can manipulate the shape of fire. —Falling James
MARTINA MCBRIDE at Pacific Amphitheatre; SUPER ESTRELLA at Staples Center; WE ARE DEFIANCE, US, FROM OUTSIDE at Cobalt Café; LOSTPROPHETS at the Roxy.
Power of the Riff
Now in its third year, Southern Lord's Power of the Riff festival continues to serve a buffet of heavy music for L.A. to gorge on. If angry, hardcore punk is what you are craving, Keith Morris and the OFF! Crew have you covered. If you prefer your brand of heavy caked with blood and guts, goregrind pioneers Repulsion have your back. If you want something that will compel you to punch every motherfucker in the pit, pissed-off powerviolence greats Despise You likely will be out there punching you back. If hazy, metallic, Pink Floyd–ish jams are what you need to get through the day, local boys Ancestors will do you proud. And at the end of the day, when you are stuffed with different breeds of heavy fighting it out in your stomach, the low-end rumble of drone legends Sunn O))) will assist you in the emptying of your bowels. —Jason Roche
Duran Duran, the iconic boy band–looking group who are anything but, just released their third live album, A Diamond in the Mind: Duran Duran Live in Concert 2011. Recorded at MEN Arena in Manchester, England, last December, the multiple-format release cherry-picks from more than three decades of music. While classic favorites such as "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Rio" and "A View to a Kill" are included, Diamond heavily features the Mark Ronson–produced All You Need Is Now. With Duran Duran retaining the majority of their fans from the start, as expected, songs from the first half of the '80s are met with a more emotional response. Forgive them for leaving out "Save a Prayer," especially since the remaining four-fifths of the group look like they are still in a boy-turned-men band. —Lily Moayeri
Red Hot Chili Peppers
On Aug. 14, Red Hot Chili Peppers are set to release the first in a series of nine (!) 7-inch singles containing outtakes from last year's I'm With You. Given the album's relatively lukewarm reception, it's an unexpected strategy: "Didn't bother to check out our best? Well, here's the rest!" That said, we're kind of eager to hear the outtakes: To our ears, I'm With You sounded leaner and funkier than the Chili Peppers have since Californication; perhaps those qualities are in even greater supply in the stuff not meant for the radio. The funk should definitely flow during the band's two-night stand at Staples Center, where they'll be joined by percussionist Mauro Refosco, who also plays in Thom Yorke's body-rocking Atoms for Peace. With Thundercat. Also Sunday, with Off! —Mikael Wood
HAPPY HOLLOWS at the Satellite; LIZA MINNELLI at Hollywood Bowl; THE PROMISE RING at Avalon; SUEDEHEAD at Glass House.
If you've seen alt-country diva Neko Case perform during the past decade, you've probably also heard her longtime backup singer Kelly Hogan, who keeps the audience (and Case) cracking up with her fearlessly irreverent onstage patter. Case is an amazing singer, but so is Hogan, with a rich, soulful voice that alternates between powerful belting and melodically crystalline intimacy. The Atlanta native isn't exactly new at this, having fronted cabaret-jazz-punk outfit the Jody Grind before releasing several underrated solo albums. After years of making everyone else sound good, Hogan finally steps back into the spotlight with her Anti- Records debut, I Like to Keep Myself in Pain, where she's backed by all-stars like Booker T. Jones while crooning tunes written especially for her (and that velvety voice) by such stellar pals as Andrew Bird, M. Ward, Vic Chesnutt and The Mekons' Jon Langford. —Falling James
GEOGRAPHER at Levitt Pavilion, MacArthur Park; TENNIS at the El Rey Theatre.
As Blood Runs Black
WHISKY A GO GO
A band like L.A.'s As Blood Runs Black, which lists more than 25 members in its nine-year history (and whose sole original member, drummer Hector "Lech" De Santiago, even took a couple of years off), becomes more about a sonic ethic than the expression of a specific group of musicians. ABRB's long-overdue sophomore album, last year's Instinct, is a beautifully articulate and accomplished deathcore manifesto, with actual intelligible lyrics (from the disconcertingly Barack Obama–like Sonik Garcia), twin busy-bee guitars that put melody before muscle, genre-requisite clicky kick drums, and bass you can both feel and hear. As much a brand as a band, As Blood Runs Black are frighteningly precise proof that an inspired and enduring vision (presumably De Santiago's) can transcend those executing it. —Paul Rogers
In the year 2000, a group of schlubs from the California meth- and cow-town of Modesto released the perfect record to ring in the new millennium. It was called The Sophtware Slump, and its sun-dappled, spacey, sad-faced robot-pop seemed to capture so much about that epic moment in time: the irreparable melding of electronics and instruments, the stymied frustration of the modern male, the disappointment that followed all of that aughts anticipation and, of course, our deep-seated fears of what'll happen when the androids develop feelings. While songs like "Jed the Humanoid" are executed with a degree of cheek, Jason Lytle's delicate, damaged coo makes every emotion hit home. But after two more terse and beautiful albums, the band's own issues got in the way and Grandaddy called it quits in 2006. This is only their fourth show since, so make sure to party like it's ... —Chris Martins
Composer-arranger Ross Wright plays the role of Elvis Schoenberg in the Orchestre Surreal, a part big band, part theater, part comedy troupe with its tongue planted firmly in musical cheek. Vocalists including Angela Carole Brown come from jazz, opera, stage, pop and rock backgrounds. The orchestra's instrumentalists are an A-list of Hollywood studio players costumed as everything from a dominatrix to a tree, while the vocalists include characters named The Fabulous Miss Thing, Dangerous Dan and Headless Jason. Typhoon's menu, which includes crickets and scorpions, is a complement to Elvis Schoenberg's Frank Zappa–meets–Spike Jones approach to everything musical. —Tom Meek
MICHAEL KIWANUKA at the Troubadour; THE KILLS, BLACK BANANAS at Mayan Theatre.
"The piano is not firewood yet," Regina Spektor warns on her most recent album, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, using all her tricks of persuasion to exhort a sick friend to get out of a hospital bed. Elsewhere, on the grand pop ballad "Ballad of a Politician," the Russian native insists that life needs to be lived fully in the present: "Shake what your mama gave you/You know that it won't last." On the single "All the Rowboats," Spektor's empathy even extends to seemingly inanimate but sentient objects, such as paintings hidden from view in public museums ("masterpieces serving maximum sentences") and lonely musical instruments ("God, I pity the violins/In glass coffins they keep coughing/They've forgotten how to sing"). All of this whimsy is buttressed by a deft array of settings, ranging from the spare piano confessional "How" and the breezy folk tune "Jessica" to such glam-pop opuses as "Small Town Moon" and "Patron Saint." —Falling James
Back in business following a lengthy stretch of activity with various side projects, New York's premier Afrobeat ensemble hits Los Angeles a week after the release of its new self-titled studio disc. It's a characteristically groove-centric effort with two tracks longer than eight minutes in length and none less than six; "The Ratcatcher," in particular, packs a crazy amount of bounce to the ounce. Yet the soulful, tune-streaked Antibalas also show off fresh flavors these dudes have picked up over the five years since 2007's Security, in freelance gigs with the likes of TV on the Radio and Amy Winehouse, as well as in the work several members did on the popular Broadway musical Fela! Also Wednesday at the Fox Theater in Pomona, where they'll open — somewhat weirdly — for the Alabama Shakes. —Mikael Wood
FRANZ FERDINAND at Glass House; KISS, MÖTLEY CRÜE at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre; PARAMORE at Fox Theater (Pomona); DEAD CAN DANCE at Gibson Amphitheatre.
Somewhere between Sun Ra and Jonathan Richman are Lavender Diamond, who are a band, yes, but not the kind of band that just plays music. Instead, as Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, "At the core of each person ... is a band of unwavering light," and THAT is the kind of band we've got here — pure, wild and as alive as people can be. After their Imagine Our Love LP in 2007, they did veer off into other projects. But together again now are Steve, Ron, Jeffrey and Becky Stark, who once danced before a line of LAPD riot cops in canary-colored cotillion dresses and who sing like somebody from Vol. 2 of the still-mystical Anthology of American Folk Music. These are songs that will help you see in the dark. —Chris Ziegler
He came to prominence in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, becoming a household name when his bold and beautiful trumpet sound was linked to Denzel Washington's face in Spike Lee's 1990 film Mo' Better Blues. Lee has tapped Blanchard to compose the scores for all his films since, garnering countless accolades and placing him at the forefront of this generation's influential jazz artists. His soundtrack skills have translated well to his small ensemble, where his solo projects are always brilliantly orchestrated with uncanny thematic vision. Also, they kick some serious ass. In the tradition of the Jazz Messengers, Blanchard has rotated prodigious young musicians in and out of his bands, often jump-starting their careers, much as Blakey did for him. His current crop includes standouts Fabian Almazan (piano) and Justin Brown (drums). —Gary Fukushima
Peter Murphy, Ours
Last year's Ninth found Peter Murphy in an unusually upbeat mood. It's a mostly optimistic, rather opulent rock record, with only Murphy's suggestive and slightly sinister over-enunciation reminiscent of his minimalist Bauhaus days. A longtime Turkey-residing Sufi, the 50-something Murphy's signature mystique seems more firsthand and focused these days and, despite Ninth's at times considerable bombast, he still implies as much as he lays bare. The addition of the similarly goth-tagged Oursessentially — a full-band vehicle for Jimmy Gnecco's vocal acrobatics — to this bill (part of the opening night of the three-day, multivenue Sunset Strip Music Festival) should have the black-clad and pasty-faced dropping from their inverted perches in swarms. In truth, Gnecco is more Jeff Buckley than Joy Division, producing thoughtful, falsetto-flecked, post-U2 pop. —Paul Rogers
Amadou & Mariam
SANTA MONICA PIER
You won't find music any more enchanting than the songs conjured by Amadou & Mariam, whose work layers traditional African and blues styles with a uniquely exotic blend of shimmering vocals and shape-shifting guitars. The blind Malian couple's mid-'80s cassette albums eventually attracted the attention of French world-music superstar Manu Chao, who produced their mesmerizing 2008 album, Dimanche à Bamako, as well as Theophilus London and members of TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Scissor Sisters, who collaborated on Amadou & Mariam's latest album, Folila. The new CD is a busy crossroads of influences, genres and even languages, yet the duo's trademark slinky-dreamy idylls, such as "Mogo" and "Metemya," fit surprisingly well alongside Western-style pop tracks like "C'est Pas Facile Pour les Aigles." —Falling James
Dudamel conducts Copland and Ginastera
Three great composers representing the Americas, under the baton of the eminently qualified Gustavo Dudamel. Venezuelan composer Juan Carlos Nunez's Toccata No. 1 is a wide-screen work of sumptuous orchestral color and grand vistas you want to ride into for a thrilling slice of adventure. Argentina's Alberto Ginastera's Piano Concerto No. 1 darkens the palette, traversing emotional terrain shifts via stark chordal densities and rocky rhythmic assaults in a mysterious piece suggesting, what, craggy mountaintops? Skyscrapers jabbing at the sun? Looming social upheaval? (All and none of the above, no doubt.) North America's Aaron Copland wrote his 1944 Symphony No. 3 in the Mexican village of Tepotzlan, which might have freed the composer to further melt down his modernist-neoclassic-jazz-folk hybrid into something even more distinctly American, i.e., brazenly unbeholden to anything that came before. —John Payne
COLD SPECKS, RT & THE 44s at the Echo; THE ENTRANCE BAND at the Satellite.
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