Notes on Beat Circus and Johnny A.
BEAT CIRCUS release their new Dreamland on January 29, and they’ve got a CD-release gig February 16 at the Middle East downstairs, where they’ll play — at most — a couple of its songs. The evening will instead feature tunes from Boy from Black Mountain, a disc that isn’t due till 2009. It’ll be the second installment of what bandleader/multi-instrumentalist Brian Carpenter explains is a “weird American Gothic trilogy, a cacophony of songs about children, dreams, fatherhood, revenge, redemption, and murder. Dreamland is the fantasy-epic part — it’s a composer’s record, and the instrumentation has a lot to do with a Brecht-Weill presentation. The second album is more personal, about my son and seeing childhood through his eyes.”
Produced by Martin Bisi (Swans, Dresden Dolls), Dreamland is a dark carnival ride, with song titles like “Death Fugue,” “Delirium Tremens,” and “Hell Gate.” Both giddy and horrific, it’s set amid a devastating fire at the Coney Island theme park of the same name in 1911. Recorded when Beat Circus were a 12-piece, it features the accordion of Alec K. Redfearn, who left the band — now an octet — after the disc was finished. Which has made it tricky for the band to play Dreamland live. Carpenter says he views the album primarily “as a headphones record. What the band’s doing now, live, comes out of a Southern Gothic tradition — with fiercely driven strings, upright bass, drums, brass, harmonica, guitar, and banjo. It’s more somber.” The Middle East gig, the last of an 11-date February tour, is with HUMANWINE, O’DEATH, and HALLELUJAH THE HILLS.
JOHNNY A. is starting post-production for a DVD recorded last summer at Scullers Jazz Club; he plans a late-spring release. . . . And MARTIN DOYLE has joined with DAVE BALERNA to book the Midway Café. “We’re a two-headed monster,” says Balerna. “There’s synergy here.”
: New England Music News
, Dresden Dolls, Martin Bisi, Brian Carpenter, More