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Black Mountain+the Black Angels

Canadian psych-rockers Black Mountain have a doom-y choogle that sounds like it descended from the Appalachians. Their latest CD, Wilderness Heart, expands on the classic-rock love-in they started on 2008’s In the Future, but with bigger guitar hooks, more synths, and more male/female vocal trade-offs. Austin’s Black Angels vibe on ’60s garage rock with swanky, sneaky, high-steppin’ moves reserved for film noir action scenes. Fans of the Raveonnettes and Crystal Stilts will likely have the right shades and black turtle-neck sweaters for the scene.

Wed., Nov. 3, 8 p.m., 2010

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ROCK AQUATIC

The band is Built to Spill—let’s hope the venue isn’t. Tonight, the long-standing indie-rock totems float down the Hudson River aboard the Temptress—the flagship vessel of the Rocks Off Concert Cruise. The Northwest legends are partially responsible for our strummy, beardy, imperfect-from-now-on indie-rock universe; thank yous are due from everyone from precious poppers Band of Horses up to the muscular rawkers in Black Mountain. Over seven records, BTS has remained a reliable place, where earnest meets wry and where pop meets psyched-out jamming. Their latest, There Is No Enemy, is certainly no exception, packed wall to wall with twang, shimmer, and slouch. When they come through town, they usually hit up places like Music Hall of Williamsburg or Webster Hall, so it’s a rare treat to catch them in a relatively intimate 500-capacity venue—let alone one that floats! Bonus: Frontman Doug Martsch will be DJing the whole night, too (warning: dude likes MGMT).

Thu., Sept. 2, 7 p.m., 2010

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Black Mountain

Canadian psych-rockers Black Mountain may be best known for their Black Sabbath-like choogle, the folky rootsy-ness that sounds descended from the Appalachians. Catchy guitar hooks still meet up with those velvety male/female vocals, but their latest, Wilderness Heart, digs deeper into the classic rook love-in started on 2008’s In The Future, this time with sleeker production mojo’d by two dudes who’ve worked with Spoon, LCD Soundsystem, and Boris. With the War On Drugs.

Mon., Aug. 30, 9 p.m., 2010

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Drink Up Buttercup+Blood Warrior+Beat Circus

Boston’s Beat Circus and Long Island’s Blood Warrior (featuring O’Death’s Greg Jamie) together almost make this an American Gothic theme evening. Beat Circus recently released Boy From Black Mountain, the second part of an AG trilogy characterized by lithe acoustic instruments and songwriter Brian Carpenter’s voodoo baritone vox. Philadelphia’s Drink Up Buttercup will break the spell with their bashing Beatles-y pop. With Larkin Grimm.

Thu., Nov. 12, 8 p.m., 2009

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Pink Mountaintops

Pink Mountaintops is a chance for Black Mountain leader Stephen McBean to explore areas of crunchy wildness that fall out of his beloved Velvets/Sabbath-circa-1970 axis. Third album Outside Love has the Phil Spector feel that Jesus And Mary Chain only hinted at, and the Neil Young past that Echo And The Bunnymen certainly could have used. With Quest for Fire, Family Band, and Bone Gunn.

Sat., June 6, 8:30 p.m., 2009

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Black Mountain’s In the Future

Black Mountain frontman Stephen McBean is decidedly un-epic: He obscures his jawline with a beard, his shoulders with slumping sweaters. He would probably share his drugs with you. To see him—or better, to have heard the trance-rock grooves and unhurried choruses of BM’s eponymous debut— you’d be right to question whether an album of monstrous, ambitious space metal best fits the Vancouver quintet’s strengths—especially considering the possibility, given the band’s affinity for stoned jams, that “In the Future” refers to, like, next Wednesday.

No worries: From its opening moments, Future assumes that title’s pomp, bursting with chrome riffing and dipping heartily into lite-cosmos keyboards. It is triumphant and bellowing. And silly. Co-vocalist Amber Webber must’ve traded her floral print and tambourine for a shamanic staff and Batman mask, so stormy and dramatic is her caterwauling. McBean remains a propulsive guitarist and winkingly portentous frontman, sprinkling in tribute and camp: For the second time in two albums (he cagily chirped “no satisfaction” on the debut), McBean nips Mick during an obvious Stones homage, this time noting “Sticky fingers/You want more” during “Wild Wind.”

The band seems to have abandoned writing songs in favor of constructing moments, as if the whole of the 16 minutes that comprise “Bright Light” exists just to supply its wailing coda, or “Tyrants” drags on for eight just to frame some wily guitar licks in extended dirges. Too quick and severe on the brakes, Black Mountain stunt their own grandiosity in the name of dynamics or patience. Amid the opium spires of “Wucan” and “Angels,” McBean and Webber still flaunt their enrapturing ability to totally fuck up the distinctions between faith and sex—”Oh no you don’t/Ever wanna get someplace where you cannot believe . . . Yeah we can come together”—but Future too often proves compartmentalized and unwieldy.

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Fine Whine

Tori Amos once recalled that fellow musician Al Stewart (the man behind the ’70s hit “Year of the Cat”) once gave her a valuable piece of advice: “Burgundy’s for sex, Bordeaux’s for intellect.” A fairly handy (if slightly sleazy) way of choosing your tipple. Me, I can never remember which wines I like, and usually end up arriving at friends’ apartments bearing bottles with names like Werewolf. But a recent trip to Vin Rouge (629 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn), a new South Slope wine bar, helped to allay some of the intimidation involved in choosing the right quaff. “Do you like it?” seems to be the guiding principle.

Opened a few months ago by a partner in the Has Bean Coffee spot across the street, Vin Rouge lies on a rather forlorn stretch of Fifth Avenue where it crosses Prospect. The place felt familiar at first—the handsome, dark-wood bar, the exposed-brick walls, and the strains of Sinatra on the stereo added up to what a New Orleans native called “French Quarter authentic.” At one table, a couple of jazz musicians talked shop, even throwing the word cat around in the hep sense. It was nearly too much when the Chairman of the Board began a loungey version of “Mrs. Robinson,” so the bartender laughed and switched it off in favor of the original, which led into a mix of the Beatles, Bollywood, and a certain red-haired piano-pounder.

The menu’s casual and silly descriptions of the 25 wines available by the glass—from “This 100-percent Pinot Noir rocks” to a Sicilian option declared “Superba!”—would’ve been much more charming had the staff been more helpful; they seemed unable to provide much guidance beyond a sort of general enthusiasm. Unfortunately, there were far too many misfires to justify prices in the $8-to-$12 range. The Petite Syrah ($10 a glass) and a bottle of Petite Verdad ($39) stood out, while other options were wan and uninteresting by comparison. Bottled beers like Duvel, Anchor Steam, and Smutty Nose ($5–$7) are also on hand, but seem kind of beside the point.

The menu includes a few bites for nibbling on. The meat-and-cheese platter ($10) was decent enough, and a plate of Ritz crackers with cheddar and a garlicky grape jelly ($5) was satisfying, like the afternoon snack your mom used to make. In the end, though, nothing at Vin Rouge stood out enough to make it worth a return trip. The remote location is incongruous with the prices; the place feels confused, as if unsure who exactly it’s trying to entice. Both the sexy and the intellectual will find it wanting.


OTHER BROOKLYN SPOTS FOR BUDDING WINOS

Black Mountain Wine House

The proprietors wisely chose a place off Carroll Gardens’ heavily trafficked main drag for this newish spot, going instead for something quieter. Whitewashed walls are lined with shelves bearing wine bottles, and the room is filled with tables and chairs of the intentionally mismatched variety. Branch out from a boring old Merlot with a Greek white or Moroccan red (both $6.50) and grab a bite from the short but smartly conceived menu of salads, cheeses, sandwiches, and the like ($4–$10).
415 Union Street, 718-395-2614


D.O.C. Wine Bar

Offering a quality array of moderately priced Italian wines, Williamsburg’s D.O.C. relaxes guests with its laid-back, intimate atmosphere. The bar’s pastoral décor, including a wooden picnic table, fits well with the Sardinian fare (traditionally eaten by shepherds) of flatbread, cheeses, and porks. A smart place for a third date.
83 North 7th Street, 718-963-1925Stonehome Wine Bar

This Fort Greene spot offers 140 varieties, but plan on ordering a bottle—only 30 of those selections can be bought by the glass. Nibble on meats and cheeses while mellow music wafts in the background. 87 Lafayette Avenue, 718-624 9443

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Ladies Night at Black Mountain Wine House

The viral spread of Smith Street bars and restaurants over the past few years has been quick and relentless. It would seem to include at least one establishment for every taste—be it unassuming Irish pub, skeevy dive, sports bar, or posh lounge. Apparently, though, the female segment of the population has been neglected, and the owners of
Black Mountain Wine House ( 415 Union Street, Brooklyn) have shrewdly recognized that niche. On a recent night, the space—which opened a little over a month ago—was filled with women (alone, in pairs, as well as in larger groups-), with a few token guys scattered about for decoration. Personal challenge: Avoid any Sex and the City references for the next 300 words.

The proprietors have wisely chosen a spot off the neighborhood’s heavily trafficked main drag, going instead for something quieter, with the illusion of an undiscovered oasis. Whitewashed walls are lined with shelves bearing wine bottles, and the room is filled with tables and chairs of the intentionally mismatched variety.

The placid surroundings belie what the place is really like. During a Monday-night visit, the chatter grew increasingly animated as people kept pouring in. At the bar, two girlfriends discussed their embarrassment at being adult fans of the Harry Potter series: “It’s like joining a cult!” one exclaimed. The owner introduced himself as Jimmy and seemed to spend as much time chatting up the customers as he did overseeing the diminutive kitchen area. Not that anyone minded—some of the patrons fairly basked in his flirtatious attention. Luckily, the bartender was able to patiently help the uninitiated through the wine list. Starting out with the wine recommendations from the manager, Shane, we tried a Greek white and Moroccan red (both $6.50) while looking over the short but smartly conceived menu of salads, cheeses, sandwiches, and the like ($4 to $10). While the focus is squarely on the vino, there is a small rotating selection of beers like Chimay, Duvel, Bass, and Delirium Tremens ($5 to $15). One night, a server in an “Ithaca Is Gorges” T-shirt was so pumped about a special cider from his hometown that we had to try it. It was everything we always want in cider but can never find—dry, the faintest bit sweet, and strong as shit. Ask about it.

After eating, we moved to one of the coveted outdoor seating spots in the front. Outside, we came across something that seemed strange: two dudes in this sea of ladies. They had fled the oppressive rules of another nearby outdoor watering hole that had denied them the chance to light up. They sat knocking back bottles of Blue Point ($5), complaining about some asshole they had to work with, and happily puffing away. With the odds stacked so heavily female-to-male in their favor, it was unlikely they’d be talking about work for too long.

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Are Campfire Droners Nimble Enough to Evade Craftsmanship?

Weird album of the week is Black Mountain’s self-titled debut. I’d call it “psych-drone-sludge” except it’s more tuneful and lively than those words imply. For instance, you could label the Velvets or the Doors “psych-drone-sludge” but that wouldn’t communicate how they shaped their swamp into rhythm and song. Black Mountain aren’t of Velvets-Doors quality, but they’ve got at least one very good track, “No Hits,” which starts with what sounds like electronica played on regular instruments, drums and percussion doing the interplay-of-metronomical-pulses thing while a sax deliberately squawks outside its range to produce hums and buzzes and faux feedback. The boy singer has a Neil Young quaver, the girl singer a Melanie quaver; they do harmonies that stick like peanut butter, and the thing just keeps building in intensity. The lyrics fall between evocative and evasive: The guy sings “Lemme holler against the rock star dream” without giving any reason why. And oddly enough “Heart of Snow,” the song that follows, has a chord pattern not dissimilar to Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” (For those of you off on your own mountain, “Since U Been Gone” is the Top 40 airplay leader so far in 2005, and it’s great.) “Heart of Snow” follows its own diffuse muse, however—wounded dove rather than I’m so movin’ on—which costs it both poppiness and force, though it’s interesting for how the Melanie girl goes goth spiritual (that is, makes goth sounds without mouthing goth sentiments, and adds a touch of the gospel choir). Other tracks range from punky campfire sing-alongs to wouldn’t it be fun to write our own version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

Although “No Hits” has tight harmonies, on other tracks the two vocalists sing slightly out of sync with one another, which is how they create the campfire feel. This has a congenial effect (as if to say, “Come sing with us”), even when the accompaniment is a doomy metal riff or a dark drone. Overall, Black Mountain prowl the borderland between “tight” and “loose,” though not yet with the excitement of tight-loose predecessors like the Airplane and Stooges (“Bicycle Man” on their Druganaut EP cops the rhythm from “No Fun”). Probably what’s at issue for this band isn’t the lure of stardom—they’re touring with Coldplay this summer, which is a peculiar strategy for avoiding fame—but the lure of songcraft, whether that’s within their reach and whether it would enrich or impoverish their sludge.


Black Mountain play Bowery Ballroom August 5.

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Gizzi’s Lyrical Sublime: A Word Is Worth a Thousand Pictures

How come all the best thoughts/are images? How come all the best images/are uncanny?” Peter Gizzi asks in “Revival,” an elegy for beat maudit Gregory Corso, and they’re not rhetorical questions. Gizzi’s gift for shorthand sublimity could defib Rilke: The leadoff sequence “A History of the Lyric” catalogs grand impersonal archaisms from “the white curled backs/of snapshots tucked in a frame/eyes of the dead” to a “burning ship. Buckling dam” to an opening door geometrically realized as “a trapezoid in deep gold light.”

Lush description and soulful wariness are default settings for the editor of o-blek, the journal that in the ’80s and early ’90s declined to patrol aesthetic borders as it charted the progress of the language poets and their predecessors from the New York School and Black Mountain groups. Like half of American poets born after 1940, Gizzi is compared to John Ashbery, the baffling rich uncle of American poetry. While Gizzi’s earlier, more high-toned and fragmented books bear the comparison out, his third book tends in an altogether original direction, one that moves away from spiritual longing and vocabulary mix-and-matching toward a public and personal statement that you don’t just overhear, you drop what you’re doing to listen. The end of “To Be Written in No Other Country” is a bitter example: “When and whenever past Saturdays/of adolescents in faded Kodak/enter the discourse of politicians/know you are not alone and your scrapbook/will be enough in talk of resolutions/and what you plan to do this weekend/to the garage and the porch.”

Even at his most intense reliance on images, Gizzi telegraphs huge interpersonal dramas, as when he notes that a landscape of intense beauty “more sparkling than sun on brick” gives him the warning of “October’s crossing-guard orange,” or when he captures the all-or-nothing gamble of soldiers on the front lines in what, at first glance, looks like lecture notes: “an avant-garde/a backward glance.”