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Rock Picks: BLK JKS, Lambchop, Efterklang, Yelle

Lambchop of Nashville: A majestic and dynamic countripolitan sound

FRIDAY, MARCH 6

BLK JKS at the Natural History Museum

There’s a lot of excitement surrounding Johannesburg’s BLK JKS of late, and for good reason. It’s not every day that a South African psych-rock band with impeccable looks and serious chops arrives on our shores, much less signs to an au courant indie label like Secretly Canadian and releases an EP produced by one of the space-rock mavens from Secret Machines. Singer Linda Buthelezi and guitarist Mpumi Mcata are childhood friends who taught themselves music on a dusty street corner in East Rand, the region where South Africa’s ill-fated gold rush began. While the discovery of BLK JKS’ music has a certain “eureka” quality to it — imagine Boyz II Men mashed up with Mars Volta and Black Uhuru — clearly it’s these two and their furious rhythm section who are aiming to claim new ground. The Mystery EP drops March 10, and BLK JKS’ appearance kicks off the Natural History Museum’s annual First Fridays series. (Chris Martins)

 

Pharoah Sanders at the Jazz Bakery

The man once known as Ferrell Sanders is one of the few remaining direct links to that mad period in the mid-’60s, when John Coltrane’s brain practically exploded with new ways of looking at jazz. Pharoah Sanders’ supple tenor-sax forays were a huge influence on Trane’s experiments with extended, contemplative, almost-spiritual mood pieces, and the two saxists’ twined solos expanded, and then destroyed, the boundaries between noise and melody. Following Coltrane’s death in 1967, Sanders began fronting his own groups and embarking on a musical journey that took him through free jazz, Afrobeat, R&B, hard bop and, less interestingly, mainstream jazz. Despite his various ups and downs, he’s usually remained adventurous and open-minded, particularly on 1994’s The Trance of Seven Colors (a collaboration with the Moroccan musician Maleem Mahmoud Ghania, which was produced by Bill Laswell) and 1996’s Message From Home, where he jammed with former Public Image Ltd. bassist Jah Wobble. It’s hard to believe that this legendary figure still doesn’t get enough respect, so here’s another chance to catch up to his whirlwind mind. Also Sat. (Falling James)

Also playing Friday:

JON BRION AND FRIENDS at Largo at the Coronet; THE KLEZMATICS at Royce Hall; ARMORED SAINT, DEATH ANGEL at the Key Club; THE BAD PLUS, BOOGALOO ASSASSINS at the Mint; KEVIN SAUNDERSON at Avalon; TOM JONES at Club Nokia; MOVING UNITS, ALL LEATHER, RUMSPRINGA at El Rey.

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 7

Lambchop, the Radar Bros. at Largo at the Coronet

The grand Nashville band Lambchop has delivered its majestically morbid (or morbidly majestic) brand of orchestral country music for nearly 20 years. Its founder, lead singer and songwriter, Kurt Wagner, is a dour dude who smokes like a fiend, grumbles and mumbles into the microphone like he’s hooked up to a respirator, while oceans of arrangements and floral curlicues swirl around him. From the start, the guy’s been a major bummer, lyrically. One of his first great songs, “Soaky in the Pooper,” was an internal monologue from the perspective of a guy dying on a bathroom floor (“Better call the super/as I grip the towel rack for strength”), and from there, he and Lambchop — which at its peak contained at least 13 players, but these days consists of a more manageable five — have crafted 10 full-lengths that meld the countripolitan sounds of Charlie Rich and the expansive, highly orchestrated soul music of the 1970s (the band does a great cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love”). At their best, as on the masterful Nixon (purportedly a concept album about the disgraced president) and the dueling albums from 2004, Aw C’mon and No You C’mon, Wagner’s gothic topics (equal parts funny, grumpy and mean-spirited) and rich instrumentation (lots of strings, horns and gentle guitar melodies) combine to create beauty. The band’s fantastic new album, Ohio (OH), is an energetic return after a couple relative snoozers. It’s rich, smart, witty and true. Highly recommended. (Randall Roberts)

 

Dick Dale at the Canyon

Guitarist Dick Dale almost single-handedly invented the surf-music genre — one of California’s most distinct indigenous art forms — back in the late 1950s, when he first started tearing it up at the old Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. He coated his sizzling single-note guitar licks in previously unheard-of amounts of reverb and juiced things up further with massive doses of volume and distortion — laying down the foundation for the rise of heavy metal. Dale is best known for the 1962 surf-instrumental classic “Miserlou,” which was popularized decades later in Pulp Fiction and given new life when it was sampled by Black Eyed Peas in 2005. Even at age 71, he’s still a wild man onstage, whether he’s battering his long-suffering guitar with drumsticks, vamping it up on trumpet or deflecting attention to his talented guitarist/teenage son Jimmy. The elder Dale has been a seemingly permanent fixture on the SoCal landscape, but his battle with a recurrence of cancer last year should serve as a reminder to not take his presence for granted. (Falling James)

Also playing Saturday:

M83, LA PHILHARMONIC at Walt Disney Concert Hall (see music feature); GRANT LEE PHILLPS at the Little Room at Largo; LES CLAYPOOL, SAUL WILLIAMS, THE MUTAYTOR, YARD DOGS ROAD SHOW at the Wiltern; MARCY PLAYGROUND at the Key Club; SLIPKNOT, COHEED & CAMBRIA, TRIVIUM at the Forum; PHAROAH SANDERS at the Jazz Bakery; MARCIA BALL at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex; THE UPPER CRUST at Spaceland; CARL COX at Avalon.

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 8

Michael Gira, Larkin Grimm at the Echoplex

The music that Michael Gira makes these days is nothing like the fearsome avalanches of sound he stirred up back in the ’80s, when the Swans’ experiments in terror and noise were even more intense than Sonic Youth’s early dissonant period. With the later Swans lineups and the subsequent Angels of Light, Gira went in a contrastingly mellow direction, revealing an unexpected melodicism in his somnolent acoustic songs. He’s had just as much impact in recent years as a producer (Akron/Family, Devendra Banhart) and as the founder of Young God Records, introducing the world to such eccentric performers as Larkin Grimm. Raised on a commune by a religious cult, Grimm attended Yale in between stints in Guatemala and Alaska, where she lived in a tent. Her new Young Gods CD, Parplar, was co-produced by Gira and blends her old-timey guitar plucking with arty atmospherics and bizarre lyrics, such as the strange childbirth anthem “Dominican Rum” and the warped folk tune “How to Catch a Lizard.” No matter how traditional her tunes may seem at first, once she adds her layers of fairylike vocal arrangements, they become mysteriously, untraceably exotic. (Falling James)

 

Michna, Lusine, Eliot Lipp, Tycho, Kate Simko and others at Jimmy’s Lounge

Though I never knew whether it was “Blinky,” “Pinky,” “Inky” or “Clyde,” the kid in me — who suffered horrendous bouts of PacMan Fever — was instantly drawn to a magazine advertisement featuring Detroit-based record label Ghostly International’s latest releases. The label’s young owner, Sam Valenti IV, had appropriated the silhouette of my arcade hero’s nemesis, and like a Kubrick doll sold at designer toy store Kidrobot, the once kitschy and nostalgic image was fetishized into a motif that is futuristic and monolithic. It’s not just retro images that are recontextualized by Valenti’s little label but genres, art movements and even entire cities, as well. What you think of techno, IDM, ragga-jungle, italo-disco, electro, instrumental hip-hop, indie rock, dream-pop and, finally, Detroit or Ann Arbor, Michigan, will all change after you familiarize yourself with its roster. The label that brought you Midwestern icons like Matthew Dear (and aliases) and Tadd Mullinix (and aliases) — and its Spectral Sound imprint — were building up just as record companies around them were dismantling, and now they’re celebrating 10 years of success with an all-day live party headlining their most ingenious producer yet, Michna (who plays the trombone from behind his turntables). If that doesn’t do it for you, a half-dozen others are on the bill (with “special guests”), all of whom are worth a listen. (Daniel Siwek)

Also playing Sunday:

CURUMIN, MONEY MARK, LOS PIRATA at Spaceland; THE HEAVYWEIGHTS OF SKACORE at the Knitting Factory.

Playing Monday:

WAIT.THINK.FAST, SUMMER DARLING, SHILOE, TWO GUNS at the Echo; NICO STAI, THE SHYS at Spaceland; MATT HOPPER, LESLIE & THE BADGERS, LOCATION LOCATION at the Mint; BINGES, KISSING TIGERS, PINK MOCHI at the Silverlake Lounge.

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 10

Efterklang, Peter Broderick at Spaceland

Efterklang’s Tripper, released on the band’s Rumraket label, is the latest of the veteran Danes’ near-excruciatingly lovely propositions on the lure of icy beauty. Offering sheer frozen slabs of ambient wintry wonderworld cloaked in sustained airy drones, tiny electronic crackles like the crunch of twigs ’neath the boots as one treks across the tundra, the tracks are accompanied by male and female vocal ululations and the steely pluck and sway of Icelandic string orchestra the Amina Ensemble. Efterklang offers tastefully picturesque electronics, signal processors and studio atmospherics to evoke the chilling call of the midnight sun; it’s this year’s best soundtrack with which to accompany a daydream Northern adventure. The band’s live crew includes opener Peter Broderick, a versatile and prolific musical Renaissance man (including collabs with Laura Gibson, Horse Feathers, Loch Lomond and Norfolk & Western), who’ll do bits of the stately acoustic-roots stuff culled from his several solo albums. (John Payne)

 

Foreign Born at the Echo

Foreign Born might as well have been in a foreign land this past year, as profiles go. It was back in 2007 that the L.A. quartet released On the Wing Now on the local Dim Mak, which wasn’t the best home for them. In May 2008, the band signed to Secretly Canadian and secretly recorded the follow-up, Person to Person, on which the quartet’s propensity for fashioning passionate anthems really takes wing. (You also might hear influences from the Foreign Borners’ interim projects, Fool’s Gold and Luke Top.) The new album won’t be released until June, but Matt Popieluch, Lewis Pesacov, Ariel Rechtshaid, Garrett Ray and gang — the ranks will swell to eight for this show — test-drive their new batch of finically arranged, percussion-heavy folk-rock in what promises to be catharsis by orchestra. Sleepy Sun and Larkin Grimm open. (Kevin Bronson)

 

The Pretenders at the Wiltern

The Pretenders’ latest CD, Break Up the Concrete (on film producer Steve Bing’s Shangri-La label), is not only their first release in six years, it’s their most consistently satisfying album since 1984’s Learning to Crawl. Chrissie Hynde sounds newly inspired, as if she’s in love again, chanting rapid-fire koans over a punked-out Bo Diddley beat on the thrilling “Boots of Chinese Plastic,” an instant classic that will no doubt appear on their next greatest-hits set. (Curiously, session man Jim Keltner played drums on the album, although founding member Martin Chambers still tours with the band.) Much has been made of Concrete’s occasional country and rockabilly flourishes, but if you remove the pedal-steel sparkles by Son Volt’s Eric Heywood, tracks like “Love’s a Mystery” are really no different from Hynde’s trademark romantic pure-pop songs. Much stranger is the deliberately non-retro way Heywood’s and James Walbourne’s shivering guitar phantasms create a weirdly loopy mood on the carnal reverie “Almost Perfect,” where a spellbound Hynde gushes to her boyfriend, “phobically suspicious/with an oversized schlong/unemployable, illegal/you’re a whole film by Don Siegel ... you’re the best part of Ohio.” The longtime British resident seems to be getting back in touch with her inner Ohio, having recently opened a vegan restaurant in her Akron hometown. The CD packaging even includes seed paper meant for planting in similar concrete jungles. (Falling James)

Also playing Tuesday:

AKRON/FAMILY at the Steve Allen Theater; CUT COPY, MATT & KIM, KNIGHTLIFE at the Henry Fonda Theater; NEIL HALSTEAD, ZACH GILL at Largo at the Coronet.

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11

John Digweed, Kazell at the Mayan

It’s been nearly three years since British DJ John Digweed has performed in Los Angeles. That’s a long time for someone who has seeded the local superclub scene with his progressive sound, and who has become a perennial New Year’s Eve headliner here. Dance music has come full circle since Digweed helped to put our city on the superclub map with his mix CD Global Underground: Los Angeles in 2001: That compilation explored twisted tribal rhythms and charged headfirst down dark, druggy alleys. While Diggers has since returned to more melodic techno (with the rest of the DJ world), the post-9/11 sounds of darkness have returned in this era of economic apocalypse (see DJ Hell). Will Diggers deliver the evil, angry energy we all crave? My money — what’s left of it — says yes. With reinforced sound and a club packed with true weeknight warriors, it’s a safe bet that this DJ’s DJ will return with a once-in-a-recession vibe. (Dennis Romero)

 

Guns N Bombs, Heartsrevolution, Beni, Acid Girls at the Echo

There’s a whole new generation of dance-music fans in Los Angeles — teenagers and 20-somethings who wouldn’t know a superstar DJ if they ran into one at the supermarket. These neon punks in emolike garb prefer beats wrapped in a garage-band aesthetic: fast, bombastic and irreverent. More than any other act, Guns N Bombs delivers the goods: guitarlike synth riffs, relentless pogo beats and post-disco loops that would put Daft Punk to shame. But the duo is among few local artists who put it down on turntables, as well as in the studio — with remixes on the Kitsuné label and an album forthcoming. Every shaggy-haired kid in L.A. with a MySpace page and a laptop is a nu electro DJ. But Guns N Bombs’ musicianship is a guiding light for a community set aglow by the merging fires of indie rock and DJ culture. Bask in its DJ set Wednesday as carmaker Scion gets its marketing on with a free party (and a free nu electro CD compilation) at the Echo. (R.S.V.P. required: www.scion.com/avrelease.) (Dennis Romero)

Also playing Wednesday:

AKRON/FAMILY at the Steve Allen Theater; RHONE OCCUPATION, FARAWAY PLACES at Silverlake Lounge (see music feature); CUT COPY, MATT & KIM, KNIGHTLIFE at the Henry Fonda Theater; KEITH JARRETT, GARY PEACOCK, JACK DEJOHNETTE at Royce Hall; SEMI PRECIOUS WEAPONS, KILLOLA, VON IVA at the Knitting Factory.

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 12

Yelle at El Rey

Despite finding fame with the very public ridiculing of a fellow musician’s manhood (MySpace hit “Short Dick Cuizi,” which cut Parisian rapper Cuizinier down to size), Yelle’s all about relentless Euro-electro charm. The dance world’s been thoroughly seduced by French acts of late (Daft Punk, Justice et al.), and here comes another one. Almost defiantly singing in her native tongue only ups Yelle’s coy joy as she wraps genuine melodies and nursery-rhyme refrains around squelchy/fuzzy Radio Shack synths and migraine-inducing megakicks. “Je Veux Te Voir” (the finalized version of “Short Dick Cuizi”) bounces all over Toni Basil’s “Mickey” with help from Human League, Ace of Base and flurried déjà views of Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance,” while “A Cause des Garçons” could be the analog-driven incidental music from some early-’80s movie, weaving fake-for-fake’s-sake beat-box cascades around textured stop/start science-project stabs. Yelle’s performance at the Music Box in November had even the bar-hugging +1 posers moving — you’re next. (Paul Rogers)

 

Raul Malo, Shelby Lynne at HOB

Nashville may have a well-deserved reputation as a bullshit factory, yet it has provided a training ground in recent years for some legitimate talent, performers who have somehow managed not only to emerge unscathed but also, once freed from Music Row’s lobotomizing influence, to rise to a level where unadulterated expression is the norm rather than the exception. The pairing of Raul Malo and Shelby Lynne is the best illustration of that all-too-rare process, and each singer brings a solid, individuated style beholden not to their dubious modern-country backgrounds but instead to a refreshingly personal aesthetic vision. With Malo’s big warm Orbisonian pipes and Lynne’s icy-hot Dusty Springfield–inspired delivery — each actively striving to expand upon those respective pop traditions — this combination is an almost synergistic affair, and both have developed convincing, effective updates that remain clearly recognizable as their own creations. No small feat that, and this face-off should result in a memorable earful. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Thursday:

AKRON/FAMILY at the Steve Allen Theater; DE LA SOUL at the Key Club; THE OH SEES at the Smell; CURSIVE at Spaceland; PLANTS & ANIMALS at the Echo; OR THE WHALE, WILLOUGHBY, FOUNDRY FIELD RECORDINGS at the Silverlake Lounge.


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