Aram Bajakian had spent the last couple of years touring with the late, great Lou Reed, but this guitarist’s own music had been taking a walk on the wild side well before that. Hell, I’m still reeling from Bajakian’s violently fun Kef album from three years ago, a brash blend of western experimental jazz-rock and music from the regions where Europe, Asia and North Africa meet. Having had the unreplaceable experience of jamming with Lou (and turning right around to tour with Diana Krall), he’s now set to unleash Kef‘s successor there were flowers also in hell on us, due out February 1.
Like Kef, leads a lean and nimble trio but the violin and acoustic bass have been replaced by drums (Jerome Jennings) and electric bass (Shazhad Ismaily). And the point of convergence this time includes the blues, but Bajakian is too global in his vision and too outside the norm to allow this to be a straight blues record. Blues provides a guiding light in his direction where he uses it as a source for inspiration, not a set of instructions.
Even where he’s making a tribute, to blues guitar giant Freddie King aka the “Texas Cannonball,” Bajakian doesn’t pay homage by copying King lick for lick; he references the man’s Lone Star State heritage by playing a hoedown in double time and attacks the blues with a punk zeitgeist. The blues is caressed, not attacked on “Sweet Blue Eues,” with equally devastating results. Bajakian’s SRV delivery gets dubbed over by another lead by him using a somewhat different approach. “Orbisonian” puts psychobilly and dark, avant-rock in the same blender, producing a cocktail of serious experimental music leavened by an Eastern European polka.
“Loutone” is perhaps more Black Sabbath than the Velvet Underground but as the title suggests, there’s great attention to tone and timbre than heavy metal acts are known for. “Rent Party” is a heavy haze sandwiched by gypsy party music, and “The Kids Don’t Want To Sleep” is doom metal given greater density by layering guitars.
Yet, alongside those crunchier numbers are moments of space and beauty, such as “Requiem For 5 Pointz,” “For Julia,” “Japanese Love Ballad” and “Medicaid Lullaby,” with the first two being spare performances by Bajakian alone.
All of the daring, gumption, wit and nervous energy found in Ismaily’s other band Ceramic Dog are all found in Aram Bajakian’s latest trio. As I and probably others have stated before, Bajakian is the next Marc Ribot, but most critically, he’s like Ribot in the sense that he’ll often do something that other guitarists wouldn’t even think about doing…sometimes even Ribot himself. That said, if you like Ribot, there’s no way you’re not going to love there were flowers also in hell.
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Here are upcoming tour dates and places for those of you in Europe:
Abraxas Tour February 6 – 16th 2014
NARODNI DOM MARIBOR
Turnhalle im PROGR10.02.2014 BOLZANO/Italy
Porgy & Bess Jazz & Music Club
Zentrum Zeitgenössischer Musik – Kunsthaus Nexus
Thursday, February 6, 2014 – Sunday, February 16, 2014