“I Wanna Know (Part 1),” from Phat A$tronuat’s latest release, The Fifth Dimension, start with lush chords constructed from a mellow guitar and electronics. It’s a sound for floating in space — and that’s before the stacked, harmonized vocals glide in, a transmission from a satellite.
“I want to know / what’s important to you,” the voices croon. “I need to know, it is / the big things, the little words? / Tell me what is your truth? / So maybe I can see things clearer.”
Jazz heavyweights and artistic emissaries from Africa will mix with New Haven’s finest talent at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas this year. That’s just the way Chad Herzog, co-executive director of the festival and director of programming, wants it, as the festival continues to deal with a tighter state budget by sinking its roots deeper into the Elm City.
The first song of the soon-to-be-released album The Maya Demos Remastered, by Sketch tha Cataclysm begins rather prophetically. “I woke in a mist amidst mountains of nameless CD-Rs and philosophical writings, the previous evening still in the corners of my eyes.” If you are following along with the accompanying lyric booklet, you will have already read the introduction, where he explains that this current project is based on almost exactly that premise.
“Undertow,” the first single from Goodnight Blue Moon’s new album Dawning Dream, announces the evolution of the band’s sound right from the start. A hi-hat hisses for the drums to settle into the kind of rhythm Al Green might like. The bass throbs. “It’s been a long time coming / I’ve been working overtime,” the vocals croon. “The days keep passing by / See fireworks light the sky, so bright.” A violin lays down a runway for a lead guitar to take off with a sparse melody, while another rhythm guitar adds in the planks from an old Motown record.
“Nostalgia,” from Word Art Gallery, starts with a languidly funky beat, then a sample of swooping strings, horns calling out in response. It’s all evocative of something sweetly emotional. But New Haven-based MC Old Self has something a little more complicated in mind. He leads with humor first. “Illest rapper this side of my comb-over / International zone coaster, hold the door open,” he raps. Then comes references to Britney Spears, Lay-Z-Boys, Sammy Sosa. It’s nostalgia for pop culture. “I’m a grown person searching Earth’s surface,” he raps. Then the lyrics suddenly turn more serious, a nostalgia for youth that goes deeper than a Barcalounger.
“Living in the past ‘cause the present and future hurts,” he raps, and means it. But then follows it up with: “Like assembling Ikea furniture.”
Within seconds of taking the Cafe Nine stage Sunday night, Cynthia Sley of the Bush Tetras announced that her appearance in New Haven was overdue — by two decades.
“We have a story about New Haven,” she said. “We almost played here and didn’t get to. It was about 20 years ago.” For fans of the legendary post-punk band, which could trace its history back to 1979, it was worth the wait.
Before the show started last Friday night at the Space Ballroom in Hamden, Tom Connolly of the New Haven-based band Witch Hair was sitting at the newly refurbished front bar, talking about the night’s headliners, Acid Mothers Temple, visiting from Japan.
“Every time I see them I feel like they are holding my hand and lifting me up,” said Connolly, “like I’m on a journey.”
“As a Puerto Rican,” the newest tune written and performed by New Haven-based singer-songwriter Xavier Serrano, begins with bare and gentle guitar chords and lyrics that are also bare but not as gentle: “Here I am / In the same position I recall from a few years ago,” he sings. “Except for this time around / I don’t feel so bad for myself / There’s something awfully silent within me.”
The soul of the late great jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus hovered in Yale Law School’s auditorium Sunday. So did that of the late Stan Wheeler, watching over from an enlarged photo projected on a screen, as two generations of musicians kept their spirits alive.