Frisco Indie Eccentrics Downplay Recent Pervy Nightmares
Deerhoof in person play hot against cool to the hilt. Disjunctions, juxtapositions, alinearity, liberated dissonance, and other alienating devices are the San Francisco indie “it” quartet’s stock-in-trade, with just enough reference to the pop/rock mainstream to keep you guessing, if not thoroughly amused. John Dieterich and Chris Cohen are telepathically tethered guitar bookends on either side of drumming blur Greg Saunier and Deerhoof’s diminutive female burst of non-Western flavor, bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, around whose high, clear, affectless vocals the band’s instruments accrue like coarse barnacles on a baby’s unblemished bottom.
Onstage, minus the sweet-and-sour electronics heard on their records (and at prior gigs), Deerhoof oscillate between animal ferocity and all-too-human aloofness. If anything, they underplayed their beautiful and beguiling new Milk Man, a pervy concept album (inspired by Japanese artist Ken Kagami’s illustrations) about an unsafe-as-milk character—hooded, asexual, and “stabbed” by bananas and strawberries—who pied pipers innocent children away to his cloud castle. “How beautiful I play sounds/Boys and girls!/Here I come/Get you to escape night,” he sings via Satomi on the title track. A masterpiece of pop-skronk, the mix of classic rock and no-wave noise is as haunting and jubilant as four-plus minutes of semi-difficult music can get.
Indie stars, and therefore masters of accessible inaccessibility, Deerhoof offer little in the way of audience interaction. Satomi has a few understated dance moves, and a prop banana and strawberry appeared late in the evening. Their hard-rocking, 50-minute, no-encore set matched the brevity of their albums obsessed with love and biblical revelation, and their diffidence felt like a friendly warning against getting too close to their cold fire. They may echo Beefheart’s Magic Band (particularly during “Rainbow Silhouette of the Milky Rain,” a demanding instrumental), the Who, Fleetwood Mac, Sonic Youth, Thinking Fellers Union, and a trillion other bands you have and haven’t heard, but they’ve staked their turf at arm’s length from everyday rock pleasure. As Satomi sings in “The Eyebright Bugler,” which they didn’t perform, “Banging your head to your favorite song is very mechanical.” RICHARD GEHR
Brazilian-Bred, New York-Based Super-Trio Plays it Both Ways
Trio da Paz call their music “samba jazz,” and it fits, although the word order flips repeatedly during a typical set. This one, the first in a three-night run, was typically bold in its fusions—the songs crackling with percussive heat, the solos inseparable from their surrounding grooves. Opening with “Saudade de Bahia,” the same standard that leads their current Cafe (Malandro), the trio showcased their strengths forthwith. The root movement of Nilson Matta’s bass anchored the irresistibly breezy samba stirred up by Duduka Da Fonseca’s brushes as Romero Lubambo finger-picked chords, melody, and winning solo choruses on acoustic guitar. Although the trio is a collective, Lubambo is its de facto leader. In buoyancy, charisma, and caprice, he’s as much Django as João.
The rest of the set oscillated between poetic lyricism and high-flying acrobatics. Lubambo’s near-bossa rendering of Bach’s “Arioso” was radiant in its simplicity. But his own “Pro Flavio” generated so much bravura flash that he left his bandmates behind momentarily when he pushed the tempo during his solo. Tranquility returned for the music-box waltz “Luisa,” delivered almost without embellishment. And then the pendulum swung back to a “Take Five” recast in roiling 12/8 time and complete with bombastic drum solo.
The flirtation between Brazilian rhythm and jazz improvisation was consummated when Lubambo called up pianist Kenny Barron, who tapped Trio da Paz for his recent Canta Brasil. Barron brought a welcome clarity to his own “Sonia Braga,” the wistful theme of which sparked a Lubambo solo that was sprightly, even virtuosic, yet sensitive to the subtle contours of the tune.
The closer, Da Fonseca’s spirited “Paraty,” featured a predictable round-robin of choruses. But given the bristling extemporizations, it rarely felt predictable, fulfilling the promise of Trio da Paz’s samba jazz hybrid—which works best when it doesn’t choose sides. NATE CHINEN
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 27, 2004