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March CD Review

Kat LariosBathos in Aqua
(Safety Clyde Records)

From seemingly out of nowhere weirdo acoustic singer-songwriter Kat Larios materializes on the local musical landscape fully formed; a Romilar-voiced, gifted, and wickedly surreal lyricist for whom even the term “unique” doesn’t quite suffice. Actually, Larios is from Kingston and gestated as the front woman of defunct unit Concrete Wave, rather than beneath a bed shared by Nico and Antony Hegarty, as her slo-mo folk croak suggests—well, kind of suggests, at least. In truth Bathos in Aqua, her beguiling debut and the first release on upstate indie Safety Clyde, is damn hard to describe, always a good sign when it comes to music. But here goes, anyway…

Though she also plays organ and accordion and there’s a handful of unobtrusive guests on board—including Mercury Rev’s Grasshopper on guitar and clarinet and Lou Reed/R.E.M. ancillary Jane Scarpantoni on cello—the sound of Bathos in Aqua is mainly just Larios with only her guitar or ukulele for company. And yet somehow from the perch of her stool Larios weaves a mysterious, slowly swirling whirlpool spell, dragging you down, down, ever deeper down, into her gray-hued, world-watching anonymous cave. A creeped-out reading of “Misirlou” puts a heretofore unheard downer-psych spin on the oft-covered Greek traditional, but it’s really Larios’s sour, wounded warbling on “Gangrene” (“Gangrene / aquamarine / skeletal melting unforeseen, sardines / Vaccine / needle sheen / every day is Halloween, ceasing”) and other originals that’s the irresistible, dark force at work here. The freak folk revolution has a new date with destiny, and her name is Kat Larios.—Peter Aaron

Kat Larios will play at Muddy Cup/Inquiring Minds in Saugerties on March 14. www.myspace.com/katlarios


The Jill Stevenson BandEP
(Independent)

Listening to Brooklyn-based Jill Stevenson’s new EP is not unlike chewing on a piece of ginger whilst eating sushi. It’s light, pleasant, and leaves one wanting to enjoy a bit more.

Stevenson’s voice—somehow powerful and delicate at the same time—is the first thing that jumps out, particularly on the middle track, “Six Weeks.” Stevenson—who also plays piano and guitar—has a white hot back-up band for this all-too-brief outing: Billy Masters (guitar), Daniel A. Weiss (keyboards, piano, vocals), Mike Visceglia (bass) and Doug Yowell (drums) lend the music a subtlety other musicians might not pick up on so naturally. The organ-fueled “Sugar Sweet” is the collection’s most impressive track, the sound of a summer night on a porch or front stoop, while the rolling drums, acoustic guitar and piano on “Ain’t Enough” feels tailor-made for the love scene in a movie you secretly love.—Crispin Kott

www.jillstevenson.com


The Westport Sunrise Sessions2
(Diablo Dulce Records)

It isn’t often a band’s origins can offer some insight into their sound. But the fateful journey into Westport, New York by some friends led to a rural three-day songwriting marathon that kicked up the dust still heard on the appropriately-titled 2, the band’s second full-length release. Further sessions in a Brooklyn loft added the grit of the city to the mix, and the sound of the Westport Sunrise Sessions was born. The album’s profile on CD Baby mentions as kindred spirits Giant Sand, Wilco, and—rather curiously—the Flaming Lips. Certainly the former two make a whole lot of sense, as there’s an indie alt-country vibe running through the 11 tracks found on 2.

“Barcelona,” written in the wake of a tour of Spain, is impossibly jaunty, segueing smoothly into the reggae-infused strut of “The Barn’s on Fire.” Stylistically, the band is all over the map, taking on genre after genre to pleasing effect. “One By One” is what Madchester might have sounded like had it been based in Chapel Hill, while “No Condition” is a mid-tempo atmospheric tune with glorious harmonies straight from the Beach Boys.—Crispin Kott

www.myspace.com/thewestportsunrisesessions


Kidz Town RockKidz Town Rock
(independent)

With the grotesque popularity of the Bratz Dolls, it’s hard not to be suspicious of anything aimed at children that replaces the letter ‘s’ with the letter ‘z’. Yet somehow Kidz Town Rock manages to rise above the choppy foam with an album of educational songs emphasizing social skills. Written and recorded by Tyler and Vesa Byrnes, the associated website features testimonials from social workers, clinical psychologists and experts with the Children’s Annex: a school for students who have autism spectrum disorders. An unspecified portion of the proceeds from the sale of the album will be donated to benefit children with autism.

But even with that very serious mission, the music manages to be the sort of fun all sorts of kids can enjoy. In fact I played it for my 7-year old daughter Madeline, and she was hooked. “I like everything about it,” she said. “I’d put it on my iPod.” Positive messages like “I Want to Be a Role Model” and “Say Thank You” are delivered through raucous rock and roll, the kind one could imagine a room full of children singing and dancing along to. And what more could anyone want from a children’s album?—Cripisin Kott

www.kidztownrock.com


Wet PaintEmergency Broad Cast Child Line
(Sophia Olivia Willow Productions)

Free jazz is quite possibly one of music’s most expansive genres, taking in almost anything that would make purists scratch their heads in wonder. Such is the music of Wet Paint, a curious blend of style and substance that feels from track to track like a film you’d hope to find on the far end of the darkest shelf in your local video store.

Their website lists a roster of 27 musicians, though just six perform on their most recent album. Daniel Carter, who plays saxophone, trumpet, flute and clarinet, gets top billing, though Doug Elliot is also near the top of the bill. Elliot’s contributions to the first two songs is strictly as a percussionist, his primal vocal not arriving until the shimmering “Knighty Knight,” a tune which would undoubtedly inspire vivid dreams if used in that manner. In fact, Elliot’s vocals throughout are most often instrumental, coming with no discernible words, but winding through the music like smoke. “Aquamarine” hangs delicately in the air like a lost Slowdive opus, while “Chasm” is frenetic and unnerving and terrific.

Don’t let their rather pedestrian name fool you—Wet Paint is quite a bit more unusual and interesting than one might imagine.—Crispin Kott

www.wetpaint.net



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