The Potomac Accord
"Silver Line on a Black Sea"
The Potomac Accord are playing the enigma game to the hilt. Their website has a bright and clever retro design, though you seldom get anything resembling a full bio. You know, the standard stuff you'd expect a group to peddle to you: names of the band, let's say, or background of those players. Instead, the group cites poetry or song lyrics, printed next to the image of an old reel-to-reel. Their new disc, too, just hints at what's inside, with some properly vague photography and an impressionistic essay.
And then you get to the song titles. Ordinarily, such lengthy titles would set my teeth to grinding, but with music this fantastic, a waiver's in order. The disc starts with the nine-minute-plus "are they careless those who leave," which is centered around a haunting piano riff from Andy Benn, who also adds guitar and vocals. As on all the cuts, he's joined by the remarkably tight rhythm section of drummer Jerry Green and bassist Chris Calvert, along with some mild bits of mystery the odd horn or other not-quite-discernable instrument, riding low in the mix.
Not content to just go the distance at that length, track two, "when i'm gone this will all be yours," summons up a powerful, jagged conclusion, well past the 11-minute mark. What's notable is that these tracks, and the remaining five, never seem to drag, instead inviting you, tugging you, into a compelling realm of sound.
This is easily an album to play from start to finish, an hour of blissful enjoyment well-spent. Such promise of what's to come ... lovely.
In the 1980s, bands like the Korgis and Ultra Vivid Scene made enticing lo-fi records like this one, involving buzzing and burbling keys, tinkly drum machines and swirly guitars, all topped with weary vocals, sung from deep within the pocket.
Cloister is: Mike Cook (drum machine, keyboard, moog, vocals); Garrett Fronabarger (guitar); and Dana Smith (guitar, vocals). Together, they create a pleasant sort of pop, though the vocals, it has to be said, sometimes are a bit strained. Sorry, but it's true. Past that (and when the vox are mixed a bit less prominently), the trio does make an engaging work out of this 10-track disc. Tracks like "Operator Malfunction," and "Rubbing the Curb," lay in a calm, mellow vein, while building on one steady hook. It's no knock to say that they tend to keep their sound uncluttered, though plenty of cool blips appear in the background.
Some bands give you the impression they can't carry off a sound live, but "Recorduroy" give the opposite, a fun record that'd probably also play well in the small club 'round the corner. Understated and coolly detached.
For info: email@example.com.
"the (mostly) complete recordings"
Here's a quirky release. We'll start with the fact that the group doesn't exist anymore. Reason enough to wonder how a review copy came this way.
Well, Jeff Lash, who played the vibes for this quartet of Washington University origin, was an early regular on the "Noisemakers" list, before traffic bumped into the thousands-per-day range. He was a quietly insistent promoter of jazz and ska shows on Wash U's radio station, KWUR. Occasionally, he'd toss out a few words about his band, which also included: Ben Looker, piano; Justin Dicenzo, bass; and David Taylor on drums.
Collected here are five tracks recorded in the studio, including the Lash original "Just the Three of Us," along with cuts by Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. The band rounds out the disc with a trio of tracks recorded live in April 2000, at the Wichita Jazz Festival. Included in those are two Wayne Shorter tunes, including a slick version of "Pinnochio."
The group disbanded due to "geographical differences." But Lash is offering to burn individual copies of the CD for anyone who'd be interested in hearing what this promising young group was up to a couple years back. See www.jefflash.com/insideout or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Oh, sure, I know what you're thinking: the Tangerine/Hungry Buddha/LO empire has supported The Commonspace with banners, so now the editors are raving about the fare at these joints. It's nothing more than plain, old logrolling! Well, if so, that'd just be the way of the publishing world, so keep your pants on. Fact is, this new lunch spot has an incredible vibe about it, one of the main things that'll keep people coming back for more. (By the way, our banner-barter rates are most pleasing, so do drop us a line and let us eat on your dime!) And it you haven't been to the Hungry Buddha yet, do consider a drop-in there soon. Really.
Over two visits on consecutive days, there were plenty of little things to like. For starters, the smart-ass list posted on a chalkboard, telling customers how to not look-and-act like dorks as they work their way down the ingredients line towards the checkout counter. The fresh vegetables, many in number, were a quick eye-catcher, too; you've got options, and the fare is very vegetarian friendly. Easy to like, too, was the Asian motif that runs throughout the place, never foolish, and often quite subtle, with several nice little touches evident near the checkout. As a room, this former Chinese take-out house has never looked better, with tables and chairs flush up against the long sidewalls.
The line moved slowly on day one, solely due to the crush of customers there on a Wednesday afternoon, just prior to 1 p.m. Though hunger was gnawing, it wasn't a bad thing, since it suggested that the neighborhood's caught on to a fine new option. The next day, the time spent from grabbing the bowl to getting the stir-fried end result amounted to only 10 minutes. Each day, a variety of people were taking in the place, from techno geeks from the local ad houses, to some curiously in-place soccer moms, to musicians. (Five different bands spotted in only two days!)
On a strip that's still more flash than substance, the Hungry Buddha's adding a touch of both, with a look that's easy on the eyes, music that'll grab you attention without demanding it and food that's fast, affordable and oh-so-good.
Blake Brokaw's got a winner with this one.
The Galaxy, Saturday, March 27
St. Louis bands can hold their own with groups from anywhere, and they can also bore like no one's business. Aside from the usual listserv nonsense, they're really no better or no worse than any collective of acts from elsewhere in the States. Some shine, many don't, most lie somewhere in between.
What's lacking, almost universally on the local scene, are the groups that attempt to move beyond the basics. Outside of setting up the amps, loading in and out, playing a show... maybe, the inspiration for a rejuvenated scene would come with a few bands taking the lead and simply DOING SOMETHING that's worth seeing and hearing. Enough griping about a lack of attendance and media support. Show some freakin' originality, people! Demand that people give a damn as to what you're doing by putting on an old-fashioned SHOW.
All of which is to say that Ulcer has moved from semi-active group to darkly-comic geniuses, though the masses haven't caught up with their artistic ambition. For this gig, the group trotted out their latest guise, Ulcer Inc. The band (guitarist Pat Malecek, drummer Jeff Herschel, bassist Karl Grable and vocalist Matt McInerney) pulled out all the stops, adding close to a dozen bit players in a show that centered around a general "storyline" of a harried office worker being beaten down by his surroundings, his co-workers and the big-bellied union boss.
Campy in all the right ways, the former (and in Grable's case, current) members of the Urge let the camp factor roll in with no concessions. This was meant to be over-the-top, the band's jackhammer, only mildly-melodic punk grinded as the backing noise, as reams of paper flew off-stage, compliments of the corporate lackeys. Not an environmentally-friendly show, the piece went down well, bouncers sweeping away piles of office paper, fans milling around in appreciation. This was the pacesetter for local shows. This was something special, indicative of Ulcer's "getting it." Here's to the next one.