Music Picks: Ornette Coleman, Gary Numan, Natacha Atlas
ISOBEL CAMPBELL & MARK LANEGAN AT EL REY THEATRE
Former Belle & Sebastian cellist Isobel Campbell and Screaming Trees leader Mark Lanegan have worked together on a series of memorable albums in the past four years, blending his foghorn vocals with her baroque pop arrangements to often-entrancing effect. The new CD Hawk is billed as a Campbell-Lanegan collaboration, but it's really more of a Campbell solo album in which she did all the producing and arranging and most of the songwriting, apart from two Townes Van Zandt covers. That's not to say Lanegan isn't a strong presence, crooning with a whiskey-burnished voice on spectrally funereal ballads like "We Die and See Beauty Reign." The doom-ridden duo are masters of dreamy mournfulness, but they pick up their heels and rock it up on "Get Behind Me." Other highlights: the orchestral pop epic "Come Undone" and the rootsy blues tangle of Van Zandt's "Snake Song," which unwinds and slithers with dusty banjos and acoustic guitars and is suffused with the incandescent glow sparked by the contrast between Campbell's airy melodicism and Lanegan's dark murmuring. (Falling James)
MOVING UNITS, RAINBOW ARABIA AT THE TROUBADOUR
Back in the heyday of the dance-punk movement — when reception of the Rapture was, well, rapturous and !!!'s every movement was greeted with an exclamatory gush — a promising local outfit with a clever name emerged: Moving Units. An eponymous 2002 EP debut displayed a reverence for Gang of Four's angularity and a healthy respect for ESG's deep understanding of groove, but the band got lost in the tide of similarly minded acts that would be forced to evolve or face the fizzle. You'd be forgiven for not knowing that Moving Units chose the former: Their sophomore album, Hexes for Exes, didn't land until 2007, but it was more synth-y and electronic than 2003's Dangerous Dreams. Due to a label switch, it made a small splash, but the fellas have been back in the studio. This is a prime opportunity not only to experience the new and (twice) improved Moving Units, but also to revisit a time when people actually danced at L.A. shows. (Chris Martins)
CLAUDE VONSTROKE AT AVALON
With a name like Claude VonStroke, you can't take yourself too seriously. And so the Bay Area DJ from Detroit has taken on the role of club land's court jester, churning out irreverently groovy tracks like "Deep Throat" and "Who's Afraid of Detroit" while also helming America's most dangerous electronic–dance music label, Dirtybird. Except the VonStroke business is sober business. In a dance-music game that has all but gone overseas to places like Berlin and Barcelona, VonStroke is one of the few Americans (alongside Dubfire, Deadmau5 and Kaskade) taken seriously on the global DJ stage. "I don't hate L.A.," he also told us about his botched stint here. "I just think I went about it the wrong way. I had some really hellish jobs working for Ari Gold types, but it was also extremely valuable to me. It is where I learned that marketing and crazy ideas matter a lot and that the music isn't enough sometimes." (Dennis Romero)
Also playing Friday: STONE TEMPLE PILOTS at Nokia Theatre; THE HENRY CLAY PEOPLE'S ROCK AND ROLL CIRCUS at the Echoplex; KATE NASH at the Music Box; BLUE JUNGLE at the Smell; SAINT MOTEL, NICO VEGA at the Roxy; HAUSCHKA at Hotel Café; TEEPEE RECORDS SHOWCASE at Spaceland; ZACHARIAS CONDUCTS BEETHOVEN, MOZART at Disney Concerrt Hall.
HARD HAUNTED MANSION AT THE SHRINE EXPO HALL
The Shrine is no stranger to massive events. It was home to the Academy Awards several times (1947-48, between 1987 and 2001), in 1984 it was the location of Michael Jackson's notorious hair fire and, sure, the old building has even hosted a few raves in its time. But the USC-adjacent auditorium has never partied like this. The two-night Hard Haunted Mansion gala has become a Southern California dance-music tradition. Although this is its third year at the location, beat-based music has gotten incalculably heavier in the past 12 months, as the deep bass of dubstep has enthralled even old-timers like Underworld, who headline on night two alongside an international cast, including German house destroyer Boys Noize, Scottish electro-popper Calvin Harris and L.A.'s own beat-scene king Flying Lotus (to name a few). Night one is no less inspired, featuring Italian dance crew Bloody Beetroots, U.K. dubstep fiend Rusko, French house experimentalist Mr. Oizo and many, many others. (Chris Martins)
NINJA TUNES XX ANNIVERSARY NIGHT AT THE ECHO AND ECHOPLEX
When Matt Black and Jonathan Moore founded the Ninja Tune label in 1990, there was hardly such a thing as "down-tempo." It forged the genre and willed the kind of instrumental mind-trip hip-hop that seemed to come straight from the duo's imagination. Soon the likes of the Herbaliser, DJ Vadim and Up Bustle & Out were producing spaced-out break beats for the newly minted "side rooms" that housed club land's outcasts. Ninja Tune provided pulsing, post-dub echo chambers for the new psychedelia that correlated with the rise of Humboldt County superweed. More important, however, the label was a forum for Black and Moore's NASA-like instincts. Whether it was putting out a track from the Beastie Boys, pushing the boundaries of dubstep or revisiting drum & bass, Ninja Tune reflected — and still does — the 10-years-ahead vision of the pair. Twenty years on, the world has finally come around to its beginnings. Sure, Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West and Usher are a long way from DJ Food, but the b-boys in the Ninja Tune stable embraced zeros and ones first. And so, the label is celebrating two decades of blunted beats with the release of Ninja Tune XX, a keeper of a two-disc set. It's a real head trip, but we recommend getting out the black hoodie and stepping to the stable's top artists in person Saturday at the Echoplex. (Dennis Romero)
OF MONTREAL, JANELLE MONÁE AT THE PALLADIUM
Of Montreal mastermind Kevin Barnes did a good deal of work on the band's new False Priest in L.A. with producer Jon Brion. He brings it back with a Palladium gig guaranteed to be as long on outré spectacle as Lady Gaga's Monster Ball tour. Following a handful of increasingly funk-flirting efforts, False Priest marks the completion of Of Montreal's unlikely transformation from a twee indie-pop group into a freaky avant-R&B act. In synthed-up, falsetto-laden jams like "Hydra Fancies" and "Like a Tourist," Barnes taps into the same sex-positive energy that drove Prince to make Dirty Mind. Expect to see the mental made physical here. Opener Janelle Monáe released her exhaustingly ambitious future-soul full-length The ArchAndroid earlier this year; she also appears on False Priest, which suggests we might be in for an onstage collab. (Mikael Wood)
WHITE DENIM AT EL REY THEATRE
From the depths of Texas comes White Denim, a band that laughs in the face of categorization, with new, self-released album Last Days of Summer. In three years, these guys have defied genre and expectations by putting out four albums that all sound completely different from each other. Fluctuating from soul to psych to garage rock to country and back again, these three friends are sure to have something for everyone. Don't like what's playing? No worries, wait five minutes and it'll change. A lot. With Portugal the Man. (Molly Bergen)
Also playing Saturday: THE NEGRO PROBLEM at the Getty (see Music feature); PELICAN, GOATSNAKE, NAILS at the Troubadour; ZACHARIAS CONDUCTS BEETHOVEN, MOZART at Disney Concert Hall.
DJ SHADOW AT HOUSE OF BLUES
DJ Shadow has done one thing and done it incredibly well. In 1996, living amidst the vibrant Bay Area turntablist scene, he gave instrumental hip-hop its wings with a true classic of the form, his debut album, Endtroducing. Though the record was constructed entirely of samples, it was (oddly) not derivative in the least — noirish, highly musical of its own accord. But he's made only two proper albums since: 2002's Private Press, which was still great but didn't do much to differentiate itself; and 2006's The Outsider, which was a mostly unfortunate dip into rap collabs revolving around the hyphy movement. But Shadow's got tricks up his sleeve in the live arena, where the nuisance of clearing samples hasn't yet ruined the fun. This tour finds the legendary producer performing from within his Shadowsphere, a gigantic ball that serves as both command center for his bass-loving beat excursions and a 360-degree screen lit up with elemental and electronic imagery. (Chris Martins)
VERY BE CAREFUL AT EL CID
At first glance, the local collective Very Be Careful might appear to be a traditional cumbía band, pumping up Colombian-style vallenato tunes with accordion and clattering percussion. They also like to mix in tropical rhythms and Latin funk for a distinctive sound that's usually upbeat and up-tempo — a celebratory mélange that's meant for nonstop dancing. And yet, for all of their respect for tradition and roots, they also crank things up with a frenetic punklike energy and experimentation that make their music vital and unpredictable. In the past, such adventurousness has attracted the participation of such stellar worthies as the Beastie Boys' Money Mark, who produced Very Be Careful's 1998 album El Niño, and the group has transcended the boundaries of genre by performing with disparate but simpatico performers like the late Joe Strummer and Gogol Bordello. They have a new CD, Escape Room, a typically lively assortment of festive workouts like "La Furgoneta." The Careful Ones have a busy Halloween, performing tonight at El Cid following a midafternoon jaunt down to Long Beach's Museum of Latin American Art. (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday: HARD HAUNTED MANSION at the Shrine Expo Hall; MOSES CAMPBELL, BROKEN WATER, MORGAN AND THE ORGAN DONORS, WHITMAN at the Smell; DECREPIT BIRTH at the Whisky a Go Go; JOE PUG at the Echo; ZACHARIAS CONDUCTS BEETHOVEN, MOZART at Disney Concert Hall.
DEERHUNTER, HIGH PLACES AT THE MUSIC BOX
Deerhunter could have been another Animal Collective, bright and psychedelic. They could have been the Strokes part deux, disaffected and jangly. They could have been the new Sonic Youth, unapologetically noisy and too cool for school. They could have been an ambient act, lost in the ether. But instead of being any one of these things, Bradford Cox and co. became their own band by being all of them at once — an indie-rock revue that somehow always avoids becoming a mere tribute act or devolving into incoherent mush. Deerhunter's latest, Halcyon Digest, is calmer than 2008's downright incredible double album, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont., but it's still that perfect mix of art-damaged rock and slackerly pop. L.A.'s own High Places is a little easier to pin down, though fascinating in its own right. The honeyed vocals of Mary Pearson coast over the dubby dance-rock concocted with Rob Barker. Their new album, High Places vs. Mankind, is a pretty, atmospheric and often poppy work that deserves some good headphones time. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Monday: APPLES IN STEREO, FOL CHEN at the Echoplex; LAURA VEIRS, LESLIE & THE BADGERS at the Troubadour; DIRT DRESS at Spaceland.
WAYNE HORVITZ/GRAVITAS QUARTET AT REDCAT
Composer-pianist–electronic musician Wayne Horvitz purveys a progressive, modernist aesthetic that smears and then erases genre lines in accessible ways. His range is broad and deep, from the steaming fusion-funk of his Zony Mash combo to the avant-jazz-rock of Pigpen, or his earlier work in the New York downtown scene alongside John Zorn, Fred Frith, Bill Frisell and Bobby Previte, and collaborations with his acclaimed composer wife, Robin Holcombe. Among his more recent critically praised projects is his improvised-composition chamber ensemble Gravitas Quartet, which unites the new music, jazz and contemporary-classical worlds in extraordinarily evocative atmospheres probing the inner/outer reaches of sound, structure, time and counter-time. On acoustic piano Horvitz is a master of painterly dynamics and head-turning harmonies, rather rare traits shared by his highly accomplished quartet partners: cellist Peggy Lee, bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck and trumpeter Ron Miles. (John Payne)
KRISTIAN HOFFMAN AT M BAR
The multitalented Hoffman has been everyone's secret weapon since the No Wave era, where he led the Mumps, added verve to Lydia Lunch and served under troubled sax maniac James Chance/James White. He also composed songs for iconic oddity Klaus Nomi, was a collaborator of cult performers like Ann Magnuson and Russell Mael of Sparks and, more recently, was partly responsible for the overt cabaret-ing of Great Gay Hope Rufus Wainwright. From Nomi to Pee-wee Herman and El Vez, if it's a skewed take on pop and it's happened in the last 30 years, chances are the cosmopolitan and bicoastal Hoffman had a hand in it. Now it's his turn to shine, with a long-in-the-works album called (what else) Fop. If you're into cult legends, go see their cult legend. (Gustavo Turner)
Also playing Tuesday: THE NEGRO PROBLEM at the Echoplex (see Music feature); WHITE DENIM at Spaceland; CATTLE DECAPITATION at the Whisky a Go Go; TWO DOOR CINEMA, GENERATIONALS at the Music Box; INGRID MICHELSON, THE GUGGENHEIM GROTTO at the Troubadour.
GARY NUMAN AT EL REY THEATRE
After a few beers, Gary Numan's 1980 performance of "Down in the Park" in the film Urgh! A Music War is achingly funny, his onstage "module" lurching around the Tron-ish set like a drunken bumper car while his voice conjures KITT on karaoke night. But ol' Gazza never cracks a smile, and that remains a great allure of his lonesome android persona: However kitschy the concepts, he holds his nerve and delivers with a steely, revenge-of-the-nerds pride. Though he was a '70s synth pioneer, these wacky waveform generators were still not sufficiently futuristic for Numan, so he mutated their signals further with guitar effects pedals. This technique and a voice with all the human warmth of an ATM machine formed the signature of his 1979 international breakthrough album, The Pleasure Principle (and its ubiquitous hit "Cars"), which Numan will be performing in its entirety at El Rey. Also Thurs. (Paul Rogers)
SNOOP DOGG, MIKE EPPS AT THE GIBSON AMPHITHEATRE
It doesn't take an old-school partisan to conclude that Snoop Dogg has had his studio efforts on cruise control for a minute now: Excepting the wonderful "Gangsta Luv," which owes the majority of its wonderfulness to the Dream and Tricky Stewart (who wrote and produced it), last year's humdrum Malice N Wonderland sounded like it was cobbled together during time-outs at his sons' football games. Yet as fans who caught this summer's Rock the Bells festival know, Snoop is on something of a hot streak at the moment when it comes to his live performances. This joint show with comedian Mike Epps should showcase his ability to entertain a crowd even if his recent songs don't. Snoop recently told Vibe that Imagine That! (as he and Epps are billing the concert) is right for "your girl, your kids, your mama, grandma, everybody." Family night, y'all! (Mikael Wood)
ORNETTE COLEMAN AT UCLA ROYCE HALL
Free jazz is what you might call it, or you could make reference to his own "harmolodic" as a way of describing what the giant, Ornette Coleman, hath wrought on the world of music and the shape of sounds to come. It's a big story; he'd tell you that himself, but you might have to pay him a million bucks. In short, since the late 1950s, when he sort of crept up on the New York jazz scene with his legendary engagement at the Five Spot, he's been offering a new kind of jazz, which didn't play by the old bebop rules, didn't swing like it was supposed to, didn't do much except challenge with every note the way everyone heard and conceived of tone and rhythm in harmony/disharmony. It was like listening to a magic carpet, somehow. He made a lot of enemies, eventually gained a cult, then practically a religion. Ornette Coleman was and is a revolutionary, he changed everything, and you've got to hear his utterly idiosyncratic genius son Denardo Coleman on drums: He's doing the same thing for the tubs, and it is insane. They've got Tony Falanga on bass and other special guests helping out tonight, too. Do not miss this — you'll regret it if you do. (John Payne)
PAUL WELLER AT THE WILTERN
Every couple of years I join a small legion of fellow 40-something expats to pay homage to Britain's "Modfather" — ex–Jam/Style Council mainman Paul Weller — on his L.A. tour stops. The atmosphere normally gets heavy with boozy, bonding nostalgia for our beloved Jam (a mod-punk hit machine that disbanded in 1982), but this time around Weller has revved up his here-and-now relevance with his 10th studio album, Wake Up the Nation. It's his bravest, broadest solo creation since 1995's Stanley Road, marrying his sometimes labored soul-rock fancies to his former bands' brevity and the eccentric stylistic indulgences of an artist with little to prove. The oft-serious Weller has been chillin' out a little of late, too (even inviting former Jam-mate Bruce Foxton onstage with him in London), so this might be a prime time to revisit this reinvigorated, rough-hewn icon. (Paul Rogers)
NATACHA ATLAS AT CONGA ROOM
Daughter of an Arabic father and an English mother, singer-composer Natacha Atlas grew up in a Moroccan neighborhood in the suburbs of Brussels. She's been rightly hailed for a mostly daring, exploratory series of Western and Middle Eastern hybrid musics that have traipsed across the electronic-world-dance spectrum to reach a full flowering on 2008's celebrated acoustic orchestral album Ana Hina (World Village). The understated charms of her recent Mounqaliba (Six Degrees) were achieved with guests, including pianist Zoe Rahman, a 20-piece Turkish ensemble and a chamber orchestra integrating Western and Arabic styles. Mounqaliba ("a state of reversal" in classical Arabic) is loaded with moody and moving original songs and intriguing instrumental interludes, the majority of which were co-written with Atlas' musical partner, Samy Bishai. There's a lot of real credibility to what Atlas does — and that includes an exquisite rendering of Nick Drake's "The Riverman." (John Payne)
MARNIE STERN AT THE ECHO
The New York City singer-guitarist Marnie Stern is a one-woman force of nature. She would be impressive just for her dazzling guitar technique, in which she casts out blurry flurries of intricate solos that are often layered with loops of heavy sound effects. But she's more than just a flashy guitar hero, writing interesting, multidimensional art-prog-punk songs that are distinguished by dense arrangements and crazed vocals. Stern ramps up the intensity even further with playfully subversive lyrics on her new self-titled CD (Kill Rock Stars), such as the sarcastic tune "Female Guitar Players Are the New Black" and the enigmatic track "Transparency Is the New Mystery." Each song seems to be composed of about 10 different parts, all crammed into elaborate structures that are alternately delightful and eerie. Unlike other guitarists, her florid flourishes are actually necessary and crucial to driving the fantastic song arrangements forward. Don't just take our word for it: No less an authority than Henry Rollins recently praised Stern's mind-blowing talents in his L.A. Weekly column. (Falling James)
ELTON JOHN & LEON RUSSELL AT THE HOLLYWOOD PALLADIUM
Here are a couple of old pianists sitting around and playing the blues, a seemingly unremarkable event — except that one of them is among the world's biggest pop stars. In recent years, Elton John has been more of a Las Vegas tourist attraction than a creatively vital musician, but his new album, The Union — a collaboration with legendary Oklahoma country-blues-rock patriarch Leon Russell — finally sees the Pinball Wizard challenged by someone who's a creative equal instead of a hired gun. Russell has had a long career that's even more storied than John's celebrated past, having worked as a Phil Spector studio musician and backing everyone from the Rolling Stones and Jerry Lee Lewis to George Harrison and Frank Sinatra. Surrounded by impressive guest stars, Sir Elton seems to be on his best behavior, digging deeper than usual and eschewing his typical ephemeral pop glitz for earthier songwriting. Working with Russell was no doubt a major kick in the ass, as the silver-haired Oklahoman lends so much gravity and down-home soul to the proceedings. The Union has some fine moments, especially when John essays new ideas with Russell on songs like "A Dream Come True." Don't shoot the piano players, as the saying goes. This time around, they really are doing the best they can. (Falling James)
Also playing Wednesday: GLASSER, TEEN INC. at the Troubadour; INGRID MICHELSON, THE GUGGENHEIM GROTTO at the Music Box; PAPERCRANES at Bordello; VOXHAUL BROADCAST at Spaceland; STEPHEN BROWER & THE SILENT MAJORITY at Silverlake Lounge.
LE SWITCH, MISSISSIPPI MAN, BIG WHUP! AT SPACELAND
Celebrating their sophomore album release, Le Switch have put together quite the record-release party. The lineup has a little bit of everything you'd want in a local show. You've got your twee pop darlings Big Whup!, whose candy-covered melodies are sure to warm the coldest of hearts. You've got your crunchy traditional country-rockers Mississippi Man to get the bar songs going. You've got the '60s-inspired, alien-abducted weirdos the Shirley Rolls to fire up the imagination. And for the main event you've got Le Switch's perky polished pop songs, coated in the tormented, husky vocals of Aaron Kyle. For only seven bucks? Not a bad night out. (Molly Bergen)
Also playing Thursday: GARY NUMAN at El Rey; FREDDIE GIBBS at Key Club; PHYSICAL FORMS, FIGURINE, CONTEMPORARY CASUALS, XBXRX at the Smell; NELLIE MCKAY at the Roxy; DRAKE at Gibson Amphitheater; GOLDFINGER at House of Blues; STARFUCKER at Detroit Bar; WALTER MEEGO at the Echo; GHOSTLAND OBSERVATORY at Club Nokia; HONEYCHILD at Space 15 Twenty.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.