Music Picks: Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, Donovan, Ana Tijoux, John Wicks
DONOVAN AT EL REY THEATRE
As the man who more or less introduced the Beatles, and hence the Western world, to transcendental meditation, archetypical flower-power folkie Donovan is perfectly suited to head a benefit for the David Lynch Foundation. The filmmaker's nonprofit aims to bring the yogi-perfected art of "diving within" to schoolchildren, hospitals and the homeless alike, in a greater effort to promote peace and productivity. Roughly four decades ago, Donovan made a name for himself by embodying both of those tenets in his music. From 1965 to 1970, he not only scored a handful of massive hits here and in his native U.K. — see "Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow," "Hurdy Gurdy Man," etc. — but did so while espousing the wide-eyed optimism of the hippie movement, though often cautioning against drug use. For this unique gig, he'll perform with his daughter Astrella Celeste (who's co-written many of his latter-day tunes) alongside members of Guns N' Roses, Sublime, the Like and Conan O'Brien's old band. Actor Mathew St. Patrick, from Six Feet Under, hosts. (Chris Martins)
HIGH PLACES AT THE ECHO
High Places vs. Mankind, the duo's second album for Thrill Jockey, has a wild album cover, which depicts some Cthulhu/Sigmund & the Sea Monsters kind of creature (perhaps made of seaweed, moss and nuclear-green guacamole). High Places take the form of a post-rock jug band — Mary Pearson's ethereal vocals, recorder and loop manipulation are rocked back and forth by Rob Barber's dubby bass and almost tribal percussion. Their music, even their name, are all about self-reflection and observations about love, loss and our relationship with nature, almost like the organic opposite of Kraftwerk's Die Mensch-Machine. On "Canada," Pearson sings, "I knew some things I do not know today ... Somehow I was older then," recalling the Dylan-penned Byrds hit "My Back Pages." In fact, much of the album's instrumentation may remind you of the Byrds' psychedelic Younger Than Yesterday as if it were produced by Brian Eno during the Ambient 4: On Land sessions. (Daniel Siwek)
Also playing Friday:
FATES WARNING at Avalon; LOVE GRENADES at Henry Fonda Theater; THE JINXES, THE MO-ODDS at Casey's Irish Pub; EARLY DOLPHIN, THE SPIRES, THE FRENCH SEMESTER at Echo Curio; STEEP CANYON RANGERS & STEVE MARTIN at Largo; NOEL PAUL STOOKEY at McCabe's; AFG MUST ROCK, KING CHEETAH, TELOMERE REPAIR at Mr. T's Bowl; BLOWFLY at the Redwood Bar & Grill; JEAN BEAUDIN at Silver Factory Studios; HOP FROG, AMPS FOR CHRIST at Synchronicity Space.
BASSEKOU KOUYATE & NGONI BA AT THE GETTY CENTER
There's so much great music coming out of the West African nation Mali, from the enchanting vocal interplay of the blind couple Amadou & Mariam in the south to the swirling, sizzling guitar trails sparked by the Saharan nomads Tinariwen in the north (and beyond). Mali is such a large country that it's a literal crossroads of many different languages and cultures. The ngoni whiz Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba come from the south and, like Amadou & Mariam, live in the capital city, Bamako. They take the traditional ngoni — a stringed instrument that's a distant relation to the banjo — and make it do wondrously fast, blurry and inventive things. At different times, Ngoni Ba's namesake instruments sound like banjos, yes, but also like harps, flamenco guitars, sitars, harpsichords and violins. For all of the music's spiritual affinity with blues and American roots, the nimbly plucked arrangement of the title track of Kouyate's new CD, I Speak Fula (on Sub Pop, of all labels), almost evokes traditional Japanese stringed music. The way the notes come flying out of the variously toned ngonis, in thick flurries of intricate patterns, is frequently dazzling, but the notes aren't just flashy. They flow seamlessly within the songs, insinuating themselves within the dreamy melodies of lead singer Amy Sacko (Kouyate's wife) rather than competing against them. Guest stars like Vieux Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate just add to the bewitching brew. Kouyate & Ngoni Ba hit the Getty tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tomorrow at 3 p.m., and end up at Amoeba Music on Sunday at 7 p.m. (Falling James)
RED SIMPSON AT VIVA CANTINA
Any discussion of California country music invariably centers on one topic, the Bakersfield Sound, and its two most high-profile pioneers, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. All too rarely does the name Red Simpson come up, but, considering that Owens recorded no less than 35 of Simpson's songs (and Hag himself cut a slew of 'em), it becomes clear that Simpson was a key force in that bangin' regional style. Simpson's mixture of simplicity and sensitivity as a writer is unrivaled, but he's also a drastically expressive vocalist, a superb, high-impact guitarist and a first-rate honky-tonk showman. Although best known for his string of late-'60s/early-'70s trucker-themed hits, Simpson remains a well-rounded and peerless auteur. Whether growling out skull-denting ravers like 1967's "Sam's Place" and his wry, recent masterpiece "Ethel's Corral," or delivering such wrenching ballads as "You Don't Have Very Far to Go" and "Party Girl," Simpson represents the authentic best of country music: sincere, expressive, painstakingly crafted and a hell of a lot of fun to watch. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Saturday:
STEPHEN STILLS at Grove of Anaheim; GOMEZ at El Rey Theatre; DEVIN SARNO & G.E. STINSON, JEAN BAUDIN at Bootleg Theater; AGRESSION at the Cobalt Cafe; BETH HART at the Echo, 7 p.m.; JOHN C. REILLY, GILLIAN WELCH & DAVE RAWLINGS, SARAH & SEAN WATKINS, THE LIVING SISTERS at Largo; THE RAVE UPS at Molly Malone's; JOE HAJEK, SIERRA LYNN at Pig 'N Whistle; THE WOOLLY BANDITS at the Press (Claremont); MIKE WATT & THE MISSINGMEN at the Redwood Bar & Grill; AZTLAN UNDERGROUND, LA BESTIA, SCOTT RODARTE at Salon de la Plaza; KINGSIZEMAYBE, SIMON STOKES at Taix.
MIA DOI TODD, MAURICIO TAKARA, THE REBEKAH RAFF HARP ENSEMBLE AT BOOTLEG THEATER
L.A. singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd has 14 years and nine albums of dulcet autumnal folk under her belt, not to mention collaborations with Dntel, Saul Williams and Lou Barlow's Folk Implosion. The cult of Todd is broad indeed — evidently including Michel Gondry, who directed the video for her new song "Open Your Heart" — but this night's openers deserve followings of their own. Mauricio Takara is a multi-instrumentalist from São Paulo who handles drums for the moody post-rock sextet Hurtmold, but his solo compositions are lush electronic works that weave samba, dance music, organic percussion and break beats into a Prefuse 73–like collage. He's worked with Can's Damo Suzuki and a number of Chicago post-rockers, and yet Takara's résumé pales next to that of Rebekah Raff. The locally based musician has at one point or another been the harpist du jour for Kanye West, Britney Spears, Ghostface Killah and OutKast, though her most recent recorded contributions have been to the Flying Lotus oeuvre. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Sunday:
GOMEZ at El Rey Theatre; DEAKIN at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts, 5 p.m.; TEARS FOR FEARS at the Wiltern; GROOVE ARMADA at Henry Fonda Theater; BASSEKOU KOUYATE & NGONI BA at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; ELECTRIC JELLYFISH, BLACK APPLES at Echo Curio; PAUL WALL, CHAMILLIONAIRE at House of Blues; CHAPEL OF THIEVES, TOY ATTICA at Que Sera.
JULIA HOLTER, NUDGE, MATTHEWDAVID AT SYNCHRONICITY SPACE
Julia Holter is the co-founder of Human Ear Music, the local label/audio institution that's aided in the rise of such artily inclined Eastsiders as Ariel Pink and Nite Jewel. Holter herself is a trained composer who applies her formal music knowledge to enjoyably experimental ends. Her oeuvre thus far is small but strong — an ever-shifting mix of baroque ideas, exotic pop, dingy keyboard sounds and airy vocals. Ambient band Nudge is a bit of a Kranky Records all-star outfit, revolving around L.A.'s Brian Foote but usually including Portland solo artists Valet and Strategy. Nudge's instrumental pieces hew more ghostly but include a great deal of live instrumentation, with dubby bass lines twining around fuzzy synth textures and unsourceable effects. Opener Matthewdavid lives music, working with both Dublab and Alpha Pup, running his own Leaving Records and co-hosting the Friday-night club Calling All Kids. He also makes tunes of his own using found sounds as the foundation for his adventures into the unknown. (Chris Martins)
JOHN WICKS AT GENGHIS COHEN
In the late 1970s, singer-guitarist John Wicks was one of the main men in the modish British pop band the Records, who are still fondly remembered for the incandescent hit "Starry Eyes." With its sunny, jingle-jangling guitars disguising bittersweet, poison-pen lyrics, "Starry Eyes" was a hook-filled power-pop classic on par with the Plimsouls' "A Million Miles Away," Eddie & the Hot Rods' "Do Anything You Wanna Do" and 20/20's "Yellow Pills." Now based in Los Angeles, Wicks often performs the old faves as John Wicks & the Records — in fact, they're scheduled in upcoming weeks at Molly Malone's (April 9) and Rusty's Surf Ranch (May 15) — but tonight he's breaking it down acoustically, accompanied only by guitarist Dennis Taylor. While they might get a bit starry-eyed at the end, Wicks and Taylor intend to preview new songs from an upcoming album. Wicks' material in recent years, as best documented on 2007's Rotate, encompasses orchestrated pop epics ("Whenever You're Near"), laid-back country folk ("Come on Round") and, of course, stellar power pop with those distinctively chiming guitars ("Rising Stars"). Speaking of stars, Wicks was joined by the Plimsouls' Peter Case and the Nerves' Paul Collins recently at a similar acoustic gig. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday:
MARVIN HAMLISCH at UCLA Freud Playhouse; KASHMIR, OLIVER FUTURE, ITALIAN JAPANESE at Bootleg Theater; THE FREQUENCY, LAST MAN STANDING, HORSE STORIES at the Echo; DAVID SCOTT STONE, THE FARADAY TRIPPERS, SLEEPWALKERS LOCAL at Echo Curio; POWERSOLO at the Redwood Bar & Grill; FRENCH MIAMI, SEASPIN, TWILIGHT SLEEP, FUTURE GHOST at Silverlake Lounge; MOONRATS at Spaceland; SERENA MANEESH at the Troubadour.
JANELLE MONÁE, BRUNO MARS AT THE VIPER ROOM
Backed by both Diddy and OutKast's Big Boi, Janelle Monáe has been threatening to break out since 2006, when she appeared on the soundtrack to OutKast's movie musical Idlewild. In 2007, she released an EP on Diddy's Bad Boy label, then followed it up the next year with a special-edition reissue that included a too-cutesy rendition of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." This May, she'll finally make her full-length debut with The ArchAndroid, which reportedly features collaborations with Big Boi, Saul Williams and Of Montreal, among others. "Tightrope," the album's lead single, is an up-tempo "Hey Ya!"–style rave-up with a bass line that's cooler than being cool. The singer's handlers are already mentioning Monáe alongside such future-funk luminaries as Sly Stone and Prince, and, though I can't endorse those comparisons — opening for Adele last summer at the Hollywood Bowl, she seemed woefully underequipped to move a crowd of nearly 20,000 — she's definitely one to watch. With Bruno Mars, who sings the hook on B.o.B.'s current Top 40 hit, "Nothin' on You." Also Wed. (Mikael Wood)
ANA TIJOUX AT LITTLE TEMPLE
The hip-hop MC Ana Tijoux was raised in France after her Chilean father went into exile to escape the terrors of Augusto Pinochet's regime. Her family eventually returned to Chile, and the young performer worked her way into the Santiago rap scene. Switching from French rhymes to Spanish, she fronted the hip-hop band Makiza for several years before branching out as a solo rapper. Since then, she's collaborated with Bajofondo and Control Machete and gained some mainstream attention when she appeared on Mexican alt-pop chanteuse Julieta Venegas' hit "Eres Para Mi." Tijoux's upcoming album, 1977 (named for the year of her birth), on Nacional Records is her homage to the early-'90s rap that inspired her, and a surreal look back at her childhood on two continents. Rather than being strident or full of narcissistic braggadocio, Tijoux is a more thoughtful, socially conscious rapper, backed by an intriguing blend of textures and beats, from the urgent, urban tension of "Sube" (which features an inspiring English rap by guest MC Invincible) and the dreamy electronica of "Crisis de un MC" to the jazzy, funky romanticism of the French-language "Oulala" and the spacey, glassily compelling soundscape "Humanidad." She's a rapper with a lot on her mind, and many ways of expressing it. Also at La Cita, Wed. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday:
RODRIGO Y GABRIELA at the Grammy Museum; SPRING SUMMER & PATRICK PARK at the Hotel Cafe; KREATOR, KATAKLYSM, EXILE, LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH at House of Blues; CURT SMITH & ZOE KEATING at Largo; THE NEUROTICS, SWORDS OF FATIMA at the Redwood Bar & Grill; MISCHKA, HONEYHONEY at the Roxy; SPACE WAVES, KASHMIR at Silverlake Lounge.
DEVENDRA BANHART & THE GROGS AT THE WILTERN
Soothsaying bearded rock star Devendra Banhart weaves a choicely malformed macramé of sound and imagery wherever his floppy sandals choose to tread. While the spider-fingered guitarist-singer's 2007 Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (XL) was a sprawling missive groping sprightly '30s music hall, burnished '60s-'70s folk-pop/epic heavy rock, sad-eyed sea chanteys and lovelorn lyricism en español, his recent What Will We Be (Reprise) is a mostly cheery-toned though deceptively offhanded set that zeros in on song craft among its ornate instrumental and vocal-harmony charms. Banhart's ambitious, aiming for something that's not mere eclecticism run amok; his California-ized psychedelia derives from an atypically intuitive gift for absorbing disparate patches of sonic antiquity to brew this enthralling stuff that, if you're paying attention, is unlike much of anything that's gone down before. The sheer bravery of his startlingly fruity vocal stylings — and majestic sartorial flair — ought to fling off any last perceived images of Banhart as a spearhead of ye moldy olde "freak folk" scene and herald his arrival as a great champion of genuinely new music. (John Payne)
THE LOW ANTHEM, TIMBER TIMBRE AT LARGO
The Low Anthem is still riding high on last year's breakout release Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, which landed the Rhode Island–based band on many year-end best-of lists and led to a recent Letterman appearance. Front man Ben Knox Miller and his multi-instrumental cohorts Jeff Prystowsky, Jocie Adams and Mat Davidson mine an old-timey country-folk sound that feels more timeless than time-bound. Utilizing a trunkload of instruments (from banjos to zithers), they craft music that sways between the earthy and the ethereal. Oh My God offers gently gorgeous gems like "To Ohio" and "Charlie Darwin" — songs that soar beautifully on Miller's fragile falsetto. But he can also growl out something grittier, as the bluesy foot-stomper "The Horizon Is a Beltway" and the Tom Waits cover "Home I'll Never Be" prove. Currently on its first headlining tour, the Low Anthem is a fast riser among the current Americana crop. Opening the shows is Timber Timbre (aka Canadian Taylor Kirk), whose stripped-down, bucolic blues delve into more haunted territory. Also at Bootleg Theater, Thurs., March 25. (Michael Berick)
Also playing Wednesday:
RAY DAVIES, THE 88 at Grove of Anaheim; ADMIRAL RADLEY, THE HENRY CLAY PEOPLE at Bootleg Theater; CKY, YEAR LONG DISASTER, WARNER DRIVE at the Canyon; CYMBALS EAT GUITARS, BEAR IN HEAVEN, FREELANCE WHALES at the Echo; BAD RELIGION at House of Blues; ANA TIJOUX at La Cita; WORLD'S GREATEST GHOSTS at Silverlake Lounge; JANELLE MONÁE at Viper Room.
RAY DAVIES, THE 88 AT THE CANYON
Is it just a Kinks-y coincidence that Ray Davies is performing at this club one night after a show by his nephew Daniel Davies' group Year Long Disaster (which recently released its excellent second album, the cryptically tangled hard-rock opus Black Magic: All Mysteries Revealed)? These days, such an accidental near-rendezvous is about as geographically and genetically close as Ray gets to playing with his long-estranged brother, Dave. Even with the Kinks still on hiatus, Ray has been typically busy in the past few years, giving his old classics a choral makeover on the 2009 album The Kinks Choral Collection. While the gimmick didn't always work, the vocal-heavy arrangements were sometimes quite moving, especially on "Days," "Waterloo Sunset" and a gorgeously austere a cappella reduction of "See My Friends." Davies even reunited with his ex-wife Chrissie Hynde — musically speaking — with a duet on a new song, "Postcards From London." This time around, he's touring without the chorus, performing with guitarist Bill Shanley in a set of recent solo songs and past obscurities. Local Kinks acolytes the 88 open, in what is doubtless the dream gig of their career. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
JAMIE CULLUM at Avalon; SHE & HIM, THE LIVING SISTERS at El Rey Theatre; SHOOTER JENNINGS at the Grammy Museum; DEAD MEADOW at Hollywood Forever Cemetery; JOHN MAYER, MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD at Staples Center; HELLRIDE at 14 Below; BARR BROTHERS, THE LOW ANTHEM, TIMBER TIMBRE at Bootleg Theater; BAD RELIGION at House of Blues; DOUBLE NAUGHT SPYCAR at Taix.
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