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Rising Producer Klein Makes Music For The Drama

In a scene from the 1999 Nigerian Yoruba language film Saworoide, the greedy Chief Lapite thanks a soldier named Lagata for restoring his crown and grants him one wish in gratitude. Instead of responding gracefully, the equally corrupt Lagata throws down the gauntlet in front of the assembled honored guests. “Fellow country men, just look at the deplorable state of our nation!” Lagata yells, before demanding control of the government. Cue melodramatic strings and pew-pew laser gun noises as Lagata’s crew shoots up the dinner party and stages a coup.

Klein, a Nigerian-English singer and producer from Hammersmith, West London who spent time in Nigeria growing up, uses samples from this scene on the first track of her EP, Lagata, released in September. Saworoide is one of her favorite movies, and she relishes its over-the-top dramatics and brash declarations. “That film is ridiculous,” she says over a Skype call from her home in London. “Every movement, every touch, every ritual, everything about the film is so dramatic and elaborate. Almost out of this world.” Lagata is named after her favorite character, the crooked army man who tries to wrest control of a corrupt kingdom.

In conversation, Klein is effusive, using exaggerated voices and silly noises as she answers questions. Her songs, on the other hand, are distorted, droning sound collages, ominous and foreboding, layered with gospel-inspired vocals and jagged beats. Klein says she doesn’t consider her work truly “dark”, just dramatic; she is as inspired by Carly Rae Jepsen as she is by the Pentecostal sermons she grew up with. And opera, too: “I’m really into Pavarotti, all his live performances are just so insane,” she says. “I’m really into musicals, the dramatics of that.”

In February of this year, Klein released an LP, Only, mostly atmospheric tracks whose vocals sometimes sound like incantations. She felt that on Lagata, she needed to up the drama, so she turned to opera, though it’s not an obvious touchpoint for these warped songs. Working on the song “With U”, she described knowing she’d hit a sweet spot: “Halfway through [recording] it, I [thought] Pavarotti would be like, ‘I’m proud of you, Klein.’ Everyone else, all my peers, would be like, ‘That’s weird.’” she bursts out laughing.

Though Klein began playing music when her mom bought her a keyboard at age 14, she says that as recently as two months ago, making music for a living seemed impossibly out of reach. “I’ve never seen a singer that looks like me,” she says. “When you don’t see any representation, your parents don’t see representation, so they don’t think [you can do it].” It took watching a mediocre awards show on BBC 3 to motivate her into give performing a shot. “I was watching that… and I was like, this is mad, I can do this!” She cracks up, remembering her naivete. “I couldn’t,” she admits. “[After that] I spent a lot of free time teaching myself how to play piano. I remember watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on loop, trying to [recreate] the score.”

Klein began recording music and playing at pubs around London, where the regulars drinking mostly ignored her. But one of these dead-end gigs led to a chance encounter with a promoter, who set up a show at The Old Blue Last, the Vice Media-owned London pub. Since then, Klein’s profile has risen, and a month ago she finally quit her day job at a “horrible temp agency”. Last weekend, she played the Boiler Room Weekender in the Poconos, opening for Dev Hynes. Tonight, she performs her first-ever New York City gig at the Brooklyn arts space Pioneer Works, and on Wednesday, she’ll play at Trans-Pecos in Queens, with a lineup that features some of the most exciting performers working today, including the dark electronica of New York artist Hiro Kone and the Hynes-approved alt-R&B of Amsterdam’s Bea1991.

“I’ve never expected anything from my music,” Klein says. “When you’re making something that’s completely for yourself, that’s different and original, it will take longer [for people to appreciate it], but it’s so much better. If anyone else likes it, it’s almost like a bonus.” Now that singular focus on her vision has paid off, as the world starts to take notice.

Klein is thrilled and shocked by this recognition, but her ambitions go far beyond performing at hip outer-borough New York venues. She says her wildest dream is to perform in a musical, “just for one or two nights.” Her top choice? Phantom of the Opera, of course.

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Nels Cline

NYC-via-Cali guitar-wielding godhead Nels Cline is one tireless, globe-hopping maestro. Consider this: Just in the last year, the punk-jazz noise-monger has performed his six-string magic with Cibo Matto and Wilco, dueled with young gun Julian Lage on guitar-duo record Room, and, with the Nels Cline Singers, given an ax-shredding clinic on Macroscope. Tonight, Cline’s DIY free-improv roots will be in full-throttle gear as he converges with the hall-of-famers of Brooklyn’s avant-jazz scene for interstellar fret-pounding and skronk-heavy freakouts.

Thu., Dec. 18, 7 p.m., 2014

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Christy & Emily+Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone+Ember Shrag+Meaner Pencil

Local ascending label and ultimate tastemakers Northern Spy own both cred to die for and a knack for booking shows of the highest order, and tonight is no exception. A world-class summit of avant-everything pioneers from across the Brooklyn DIY landscape kicks off with the ghostly opera-punk of cellist/voice theoretician Meaner Pencil before giving way to twangy folkstress Ember Schreg, whose most recent platter, The Sewing Room gorgeously intersects rustic finger-picking with an angelic croon, suggesting the rural nature of her band-mate, P.G. Six. Guitarist/viola magicians Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone represent the royal experimental-jazz guard while engrossing electro-popheads Christy & Emily will trance minds with poptones galore. COHAN

Wed., Oct. 8, 8 p.m., 2014

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Geryon

Not only do experi-metallers Charlie Looker (of Zs, Extra Life, Seaven Teares and Period) and Andrew Hock (formerly of Castavet) inflict their drum machine-bashing, melodic avant-metal torture all over the Brooklyn DIY underground pantheon as Psalm Zero, the terrorizing twosome have managed to meld their damaged aesthetics and blackened leanings to cook up an erstwhile concert series they’ve dubbed Chaos Bodies. This evening, ultimate savage crew Geryon — featuring metal titans Nicholas McMaster and Lev Weinstein of Krallice — will unleash the bleakest of apocalyptic death metal in its epically crushing form. Geryon — as evidenced by its intricate, ear-bleeding debut released last year — is ready to assume the void left by Hock’s recently disbanded Castavet. Prepare to die.

Thu., Oct. 2, 8 p.m., 2014

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Lydia Lunch Retrovirus

Lydia Lunch, the glorious jet black haired-flowing, sex-dripping raspy-voiced, red lipstick-smeared, hot-as-fuck punk/no wave/noise/spoken word goddess, eternally reigning royal Queen of the sonic brutarians and undying treasure to the world at large, has been delighting and terrorizing throngs the last several years backed by her sick, ass-tight gang of NYC-based iconoclastic thugs, Retrovirus. Ridiculously legendary and quintessentially “New York,” the delicious Lunch summoned fellow brutarians, Flying Luttenbachers’ Weasel Walter, Tim Dahl of Child Abuse and Sonic Youth/Pussy Galore pummeler Bob Bert to help her burn it clean with a career-spanning live show. And that they do. In the hot-assed summer sun, Lunch and her goons will take on cuts from Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, 8-Eyed Spy, 13.13 and Shotgun Wedding. Faces will surely be ripped.

Thu., July 3, 5 p.m., 2014

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Plankton Wat+Rhyton

Former Eternal Tapestry member Dewey Mahood’s one-man Plankton Wat act delivers bucolic John Fahey-esque ruminations on acoustic guitar, eventually culminating in languidly pulsing post-Frippertronics. Inspired by No Neck Blues Band member Dave Shuford’s research, local trio Rhyton (which also includes Jimy SeiTang and Spencer Herbst) play heady instrumental improv-rock with a Middle Eastern tinge. Also: Sugarm,
 Moodswan.

Thu., May 8, 8 p.m., 2014

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D. Charles Speer

Dave Charles Shuford, a/k/a twang slinger D. Charles Speer, Rhyton’s psych-jamming pilot is a Brooklyn mainstay, mastering myriad alien genres from country to psychedelia to experimental, noisified freak-outs. But in Shuford’s stylistically vast oeuvre, it’s under his D. Charles Speer moniker that he spins rustic magic. On the just-released and superb Doubled Exposure, Speer furiously brings alt-country back from the proverbial dead, offering the most catchy of hard-edged backwoods porch hooks and twang and saloon-ready piano tickles and stabs, sublimely capped by his breezy rumblings. It’s the perfect barroom soundtrack for swigging moonshine.

Thu., March 6, 8 p.m., 2014

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Dva

The beatific Czech male-female duo Dva (“two”), who perform lovely pop-folk songs in imaginary languages, are probably best known for providing the soundtrack to the Amanita Design video game Botanicula. They hearken back to avant-synth outfits like the Residents or Der Plan on their excellent 2013 album Nipomo, layering the found sounds of birds, ping-pong, and mushroom foraging over their tunes.

Thu., Jan. 9, 8 p.m., 2014

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Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band

On last year’s iridescent Solar Motel, Forsyth’s double-guitar army welded the punky street jive of Television’s Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine to the monolithic yawp of Neil Young and Frank Sampedro. It’s a sun zoom spark of a band with radioactive impulses. Heaven’s Gate punk out with confidence in tunes like “Jesus Hair” and “Weakness Worms.”

Thu., Dec. 19, 9 p.m., 2013

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Bee Mask+Mark Verbose

Knotty synthesizer odysseys aren’t everyone’s idea of a crazy good time, but after ten years of superlative parties, the Bunker knows what its audience wants. Limited to 150 attendees, this New Year’s Eve mini-bash will feature the thought-provoking psychedelia of Philadelphian sound artist Bee Mask as well as Midwest rave pioneer Mark Verbos playing a set of acid house entirely on analog hardware, alongside Bunker founder and resident Bryan Kasenic. Overall, it’s an inspired lineup of vanguard electronic music for a NYE party in New York.

Tue., Dec. 31, 10 p.m., 2013