There's a good chance you haven't heard of Ensemble Economique, the solo project of Brian Pyle, but that name is internationally renowned in certain alt. music circles. Pyle has half a dozen EE albums out on small but prestigious European and American labels (and many more by Starving Weirdos, his duo with Merrick McKinlau). Pyle took SW to Europe last year, did a solo French tour earlier this year and is about to embark on another. "I start in Paris next week then go to Spain, back to France, then Belgium, Amsterdam, Italy, on to Russia," he noted, calling from his home/studio in Manila. "But first I play Arcata, Thursday night at Jambalaya."
Pyle's nom de band actually came from "Los Ensemble Economique," a radio show he's been hosting on KHSU for a decade, playing what he calls "freeform underground music," an apt description of his own sound.
He says, "Ensemble Economique has taken some pretty wild turns. My debut record for Digitalis [At the Foot of Nameless Roads] was really raw and left-field, kind of Japanese-bent, dark, intense, distorted music with sparse drums and free form guitar prog workouts." It was the beginning of something he calls "soundtracky" experimentation. "Morricone-esque" is how he describes his Standing Still, Facing Forward record, with its "serious orchestrations with timpani and big brass sounds, cellos." Another disc, Psychical, could serve as a soundtrack of some Spanish vampire flick. His latest, Crossing the Path By Torchlight, is a gorgeous set of ambient sound-sculptures with whispering synths and voices and complex rhythms.
He sees the latest EE tracks (found on SoundCloud) as another step forward: "I'm still using the concepts of sound sculpting, but more in a dark synth-pop singer mode with lyrics and song structures, exploring that direction -- but I should say, that's ‘pop' in a very loose, open-ended use of the word." That's the EE sound you'll hear Thursday at the Jambalaya where he'll be joined by local alt. alt. faves Creepy Marbles, Dr. Fox Meat and associates. Be prepared to be amazed.
Bellingham-based drummer/vocalist Jordan Rain, aka Yogoman from Planet Yog, returns for two Yogoman Burning Band shows at Humboldt Brews, a double dose of bass-heavy, horn-laden party music with ska/reggae influences. Being a family-friendly band (Jordan's dad is the bass player), YBB digs all ages shows, so, after a gig for grownups at HumBrews Friday night, YBB returns Saturday at noon to play for kids, parents, etc. (The Fickle Hill Billies rock HumBrews that night.)
Saturday marks the third anniversary of the opening of Eureka nightclub Nocturnum, and it's celebrating with Heavyweight Dub Champion. While Noc is known for dubstep (Trevor Kelly and Rinsed Krew womp the next Womp Womp Wednesday), HDC is not a dubstep band -- think "sonic shamanistic alchemy" with roots in old school dub, hip hop and electronica. Resurrector is at the controls joined by co-conspirators Sasha Rose and Dakini Star from Goddess Alchemy and Dr. Israel, "pushing out the next phase in their mission to prepare the world for the coming of The Last Champion."
Arcata Playhouse concludes its version of March Madness Thursday with a pair of mad creative songwriters, Dan Bern and John Ludington. Bern is in the Guthrie/Dylan/Springsteen tradition, a storyteller who spins tales in song (he's a novelist too). But he also has a fine-tuned sense of humor, as evidenced by the material he wrote for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, the faux Johnny Cash biopic starring John C Reilly. You may have seen Mr. Ludington playing bass for Absynth Quintet, but that won't really prepare you for the surreal, twisted folk songs he's crafted on his latest disc, Finn.
Coming up next Tuesday at the Playhouse, another songwriter, Anais Mitchell, this one from Vermont and in the post-folk, bordering-on-indie-rock zone. Local sweetheart Lyndsey Battle opens.
The Redwood Jazz Alliance tries something different with Friday's show at the Graves Museum: a jazz vocalist. San Francisco-based Kitty Margolis is what the RJA folks term "a musician's singer" with great tone and phrasing, and flashes of Ella and the like in her scat singing. Nice. She's coming with her usual pianist, Murray Low, bassist John Schifflett and her friend Allison Miller on drums. Warning: come early, as this will likely be SRO.
RJA had Miller's band Boom Tic Boom last October for a truly great show. Allison is here for the weekend and will play a show Sunday at the Arcata Playhouse with her Brooklyn-based band, Honey Ear Trio, with Erik Lawrence on sax and flute, Rene Hart on bass and electronics (looping) with extra added very special* guest Jenny Scheinman* on violin, who, incidentally, is in Boom Tic Boom and is once again a local.
Tribute du jour: The ultimate Grateful Dead cover band Dark Star Orchestra, known for dead-on recreations of entire GD setlists, is fresh from a European tour, back on the bus and headed for the Arcata Theater Lounge for a mind-bending show on Tuesday, April 3, an evening of hippie nostalgia.
Meanwhile, same Tuesday, across town at Humboldt Brews, it's 21st century psychedelia from Rubblebucket. Now based in Brooklyn, the octet's roots lie in the musical union of vocalist/saxophonist Kalmia Traver and trumpet player/band leader Alex Toth, who met while studying music at U-Vermont. After a stint with the reggae band John Brown's Body, they started exploring the outer edges of indie rock with their own band, drawing influences from all over the map -- everything from Bjork to Flaming Lips and African music -- to create a sound that does not really fit into any predefined genre. For an advance taste point your browser to www.rubblebucket.com and you'll find your screen filled with a vid from the band's new DVD/CD Live from Chicago. Awesome.
Conscious reggae? Stop by the Jambalaya Saturday where Abja and Danny I from the Virgin Islands hold court backed by The Lions of Kush. DJ Livingearth of Dancing Buddha Sound opens. On Wednesday, the Jam has the legendary Mykal Rose from Black Uhuru backed by Reggae Angels.
Looking for some blues? The Uptown Kings play Friday night at Bear River Casino. The band first came together at Jambalaya jams but has moved beyond that to become the tightest blues outfit in town with bassist Dale Cash out front on vocals, guitarist Andy Widman slipping in tasty licks, Ron Perry wailing on harp, and the latest addition, Bill Moehnke on drums. Good stuff.
Then there's Ron Hacker and The Hacksaws, house band at the S.F. North Beach blues joint called The Saloon, who head out on a rare road trip including a Saturday stop at that infamous blues roadhouse the Riverwood Inn.
Got a call from Stars Tuesday morning: Chris Colland from Eureka Garbage Co. was checking to see if we'd heard about the Placebo show Friday at the Ink Annex. (We had not.) "We're playing with Chain and the Gang," said Chris. "That's the guy from The Makeup, a big-shot '90s band. The other band is Bitch Doctor, which is Jesse's little brother Joel's band. The whole thing is early, 6-10, because of the cranky guy who lives across the street at the towing yard." The big brother "Jesse" Chris mentions is his Stars coworker Jesse Pearson (formerly of The Buffy Swayze) who fronts Radios in Caves with John and Jaquinn (ex-The Great Salvation) and Kris Swan (also in EKA Garbage). RiC brings what Jesse calls "that damaged Eureka sound" to the Alibi Saturday night with PDX rockers Radiation City, a band with some unique merch. In the course of creating some new tracks, the guys destroyed an old piano (and videotaped the process a la Burn to Shine). The piano's keys were then attached to USB sticks holding all the music from the RC EP Cool Nightmare, just the thing for the post-CD generation.