Like anyone who listens to all sorts of music in search of various forms of aural stimuli, certain records hit me in different ways and in different places, while others punch the same buttons even if they exist in practically parallel galaxies. Recent examples? Well, there's Stillupsteypa's Car Dirty with Jam on the Street and Ivo Perelman's Cama De Terra. The former is by an exceedingly out-there bunch of Icelanders who make a kind of unholy racket that you can call music only in the loosest sense of the word; the latter is a wailing, soaring collaboration between a Brazilian tenor saxophonist (Perelman) and two avant-jazz provocateurs (pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist William Parker). One is very challenging musically and aesthetically, the other is just a bunch of damn noise. But listening to both of them one recent evening revealed something unexpected: Each pounded my ears with similar force, establishing a kinship that fans of either artist may doubt actually exists.
I had a similar experience not too long ago involving the debut single by the local band Frosty, released a couple of weeks back on the Menlo Park label out of New York City. I had been listening all that morning to the late, great bluesman Howlin' Wolf -- the raw stuff from the early Fifties he recorded in Memphis at Sun Studio (the recordings that prompted Sun honcho Sam Phillips, the man who cut them, to remark, "This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies"). Moving on later to a stack of new singles I'd been meaning to get to for far too long, and after spinning some desultory sides by the Mono Men and an Austin punk band called the Teen Titans, Frosty's "Drive-Thru Lover" came at me like a Skil saw buzzing toward my cranium. It's a scuzzed-up blues stomp with a garage-rock hook and rattling, slopbucket drums. Producer Tom Smith (To Live and Shave in L.A.) eq'ed the thing so hot that the needle practically jumps from the grooves, the distortion lending a manic, creepy edge to the singer's vocals and the fast-food/sex metaphor in the lyrics.
I don't know exactly what I heard in the song that moved my brain back to Wolf, but something sure did. The flip side, a tribute to the joys of getting bombed produced by Harry Pussy's Bill Orcutt, underlined the blues influence, with a crawling, dirgelike tempo and even trashier fidelity. The third cut isn't really even a song: "Coach" (presented here in a "Radio Shack Remix") sounds more like a punk song beamed down from some outer-space radio station, the hammering riff struggling unsuccessfully to penetrate the dense wall of static.
I've never seen 'em live, but on the basis of the single I'd say Frosty operates in a virtually exclusive realm of the indie-rock universe: Along with like minds in the Motards, the Oblivians, and Chrome Cranks, Frosty rocks to the verities of Sixties-punk obscurists and booze-soaked bluesmen, but puts a stamp on those verities that is wholly unique. It's a sound that is only marginally connected to Howlin' Wolf's, but the soul that lurks beneath its fuzzy exterior is most assuredly related.
If you can't find Frosty's revelatory slab at local stores, drop a line and a few bucks to Menlo Park Recordings, P.O. Box 1652, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276-1652. Or say hi to Frosty at 320 W. 25th St. #3, Miami Beach, FL 33140, c/o Lance.
A week after its opening, Miami Beach nightclub Stella Blue hosts its first national act on Friday, December 6, with an 11:00 p.m. performance by Louisiana swamp rocker Terrance Simien. To be honest, I've never been that moved by Simien's albums. Like a lot of zydeco artists, he has had a hard time capturing the fire of his music in the sterile environs of the studio. Live, though, the guy's an absolute monster, squeezing the bejesus out of his accordion while his sextet, the Mallet Playboys, whips up a fiery blend that's steeped in the musical traditions of southern Louisiana but loose enough to incorporate rock, soul, blues, and even a little reggae.
Tickets for the show are $12; Stella Blue is located at 1661 Meridian Ave. in Miami Beach. Call 532-4788 for more info.
Something called the South Florida Entertainment Resource is now on the Web at www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/8636. The site -- created by Steve Apple, a Miami-based video editor -- includes info on upcoming arts and music happenings in the area, as well as links to the myriad artists who tour down in these parts and the locals who play here all the time. "I'm not in the promotion business," says Apple. "I just wanted to help support the people who play here."
Apple is also going to be hosting a radio show on WAXY-AM (790) beginning December 14, dubbed The Crescent City Music Hour. The show -- devoted, obviously, to New Orleans music -- will air Saturdays at 11:00 p.m.
-- By John Floyd
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.