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Wednesday, Mar 20 1996
Various Artists
(Red Hot)

What if Beat Generation artists had access to the sampling and collage technologies today's hip- and trip-hop jazzbos enjoy? Imagine On the Road as an interactive CD-ROM, "Howl" as a video clip, Charlie Parker with access to a sampler. The very nature of Beat art -- improvisation, repetition, collision of media -- is the force behind Offbeat, the seventh project from the Red Hot organization.

For 76 minutes, Offbeat offers looped eddies of rhythm and melody, swirling between EBN's drum-lesson-LP samples and Meat Beat Manifesto's audio collage, Amiri Baraka's activist poetry and Barry Adamson's swingy rap. Cuts dovetail with sonic interludes -- Skylab's whispered "Lullabye," Christian McBride's subversive bass solos -- and DJs Krush, Krazy, and Spooky all trade collaborative spotlights. With 26 tracks to choose from, it's hard to name the best one, but as of this minute Laika's exotic "Looking for the Jackalope" is my favorite, a trancey loopfest that's as lonely as it is lovely. DJ Spooky's "Temporarily Displaced," a phantasm of machine noise and distant rhythms, peppered with short samples from William Burroughs, gets a similar nod. Other roster names include David Byrne, Mark Eitzel, and My Bloody Valentine; the disc ends with Moby's chilling "Republican Party," a crowd of blue-blood voices laughing while a baby cries.

The third in a triptych of projects dissecting the Beat legacy, Offbeat follows a CD-ROM and an hour-long TV special, and contains (for those with a ROM drive) a short video by Kevin Kerslake. Donating 100 percent of its profits to AIDS-fighting organizations, Red Hot has given us more than just a benefit comp, more than an enhanced disc: Offbeat marks a 40-year-long loop, a celebration -- in this time of plague -- of the immortal power of art and music.

-- Colin Berry

Claudia Gomez
Tierradentro (Inland)

Conventional wisdom would deem this a Latin folk album, but with the diversity of ideas showcased, vocalist Claudia Gomez's Tierradentro is better suited for a Latin jazz cabaret than a romp through the rolling green Andean hills of her native Colombia.

Singing entirely in Spanish (with English translation in the liners), the Bay Area transplant stays true to her roots with traditional vehicles like "La Guayabita," "Aguacerito Llove," and her own "Recuerdos de Medellin," although producer John Santos of the Machete Ensemble is on hand to blend the many genres of Latin music in her original compositions. Gomez drops the occasional surprise, like the bolero "No Te Importe Saber (Don't Give It a Thought)," a Cuban classic by Rene Touzet that she caresses with a lovelorn passion that befits the winsome lyrics. Brazilian flavors permeate courtesy of keyboardist Marcos Silva, while guitar wiz Jeff Buenz brings Metheny-esque riffs that add a nice harmonic edge to Gomez's smoky alto. Introduced by a snazzy whistle, "Debi Llorar" is the best of the carioca-inspired pieces; the vocal mosaic "Soltaro," with its intriguing romp of counterpoints and accents, embraces the most progressive of a cappella concepts.

The result isn't jazz, or Latin American new song, but an unusual fusion that pinpoints Gomez as a talent to be reckoned with. A couple of years ago, she left the Bay Area, disillusioned with the scene; now she's finally arrived "inland."

-- Jesse "Chuy" Varela

The Brian Jones Town Massacre

The Brian Jones Town Massacre has soaked up the inherent weirdness of San Francisco and turned it into an ally. Behind a surging wall of guitars that is the band's trademark, Anton Newcombe and Matt Hollywood turn out jangly, reverberating tunes replete with Moog, Farfisa, horns, flute, and just about any other instrument that takes their fancy. BJTM doesn't craft three-minute tunes, more like five-minute experiments in what is possible. "Crushed" plays on a dubby bass line, while "That Girl Suicide" trips along with a guitar riff that would have made Sterling Morrison proud. Though the basic pop structure remains, BJTM hangs enough from it to ensure every moment holds discovery. Newcombe sings laconically, sounding just wasted enough; the guitar work is never lazy. On several tracks, notably "Everyone Says," he shares the vocal duties with Elise Dye and Paola Simmonds to haunting effect. As for the flaws of this debut disc, a CD can't capture the explosive dynamics of the group's live shows -- you can't see Joel Gion shaking his maracas wildly, leering from behind his shades, and plundering beer from the audience. Maybe if you ask nicely enough, BJTM will send him round for the afternoon to enhance your listening pleasure.

-- Amanda-Jane

Marta Sebestyen

Billed as singer Sebestyen's first album of songs not rooted in her native Hungary, Kismet finds her wandering throughout Eastern Europe and even vocalizing in English on "Leaving Derry Quay," an Irish air she adapted from County Galway recording artist Dolores Keane. According to the liner notes, "Hungary and Ireland both have strong folk traditions and strong revivalist movements." Of course, that point embodies a multitude of virtues and vices, because such revivals sometime result in a dressing up and a selling out of good roots.

Fans attracted to the unfamiliar scales and swaggering rhythms of traditional Hungarian music are advised to seek out Sebestyen's older albums for Hannibal and Koch and her upcoming show at Slim's with her longtime companions, Muzsikas. On Kismet, she mostly leaves Hungary behind, in the company of fellow Budapest traveler, producer, and ex-husband Nikola Parov, who brings with him a hectically varied and sometimes inappropriate battery of ethnic instruments, as well as the sort of bass, drum, and sequencer programming that are a sure warning sign that these musicians are headed toward the new adult-contemporary audience.

On this trip, anything goes. After dubious doses of Celtic pipes and Indian percussion in Bulgarian material, the top of the Tower of Babel is reached in "If I Were a Rose," which takes the listener through the musics of the Baskirians, the Hungarians, the Tartars, and the Cheremis (the first and last refer to autonomous Russian regions) without ever really getting a hit on any of them. Fortunately, there are a few moments worthy of Sebestyen's slightly honeyed, plaintive soprano. The Bosnian "Gold, Silver, or Love" is the best and loveliest of the tracks, and the least cluttered with Parov's cutesy instrumental breaks. But Kismet's compulsive eclecticism generally weakens any kind of memorable organic structure in the individual songs, and leaves you hoping that Sebestyen will somehow find her way back home.

Marta Sebestyen and Muzsikas play Thurs, March 21, at Slim's in S.F.; call 255-0333.

-- Jeff Kaliss

Sixteen Horsepower
Sackcloth 'n' Ashes

Things you might find in the closet of Sixteen Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edwards:

* The family Bible passed down from his Nazarene preacher grandfather, folded open to Daniel 9:3: "So I set my face to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications with fasting, sackcloth and ashes." The verse is repeated in the liner notes of the Denver trio's debut.

* Laudatory press clips: The scribes attempt to pin down the music but only come up with heavily hyphenated names like "country-goth-rock" and "country-punk-Cajun-hillbilly" and gratuitous allusions to roots music, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joy Division, Nick Cave, Hank Williams, and a countrified Echo & the Bunnymen.

* A dogeared copy of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying with Dewey Dell's "I believe in God, God. God, I believe in God" double-scored.

* Edwards' notes on 1920s and '30s mountain and Cajun musics, dug up at the public library.

* Instruments: A metal slide aching to find the steel strings of a vintage 1930 guitar; a turn-of-the-century bandoneon, a small-buttoned tango accordion; Kevin Soll's handcrafted flat-top bass; Jean Yves Tola's brushes and sticks, scarred from keeping time with snare rim clacks.

* Handwritten lyrics to "Black Soul Choir": "O I will forgive your wrongs/ Yes I am able/ An' for my own I feel great shame/ I would offer up a brick to the back of your head, boy/ If I were Cain."

* The battered stool Edwards mounted during his band's opening slots on tours with Shane McGowan, Innocence Mission, and Violent Femmes. From his throne, he rolls back his deep-socketed eyes and wails with spooky intensity.

* A burlap sack of A&M tchotchkes: wooden postcards, copper trinkets, and fliers scripted with Old West wanted-poster fonts. Publicity kits, written by record company hacks repeating the phrase "fire & brimstone" as many times as a one-page bio will allow.

* A future, as in the band's seven-record contract with A&M.
-- Jeff Stark

About The Author

Jeff Stark

About The Author

Colin Berry

About The Author

Jesse "Chuy" Varela

About The Author

Jeff Kaliss


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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
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