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Friends of Dean Martinez - Live at Club 2

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Artist: Friends of Dean Martinez

Album: Live at Club 2

Label: Aero

Review date: Oct. 15, 2005

This 2001 live set from Munich, Germany captures Friends of Dean Martinez well along on the arc of their journey from dark and dreamy southwestern desert lounge combo to their current form as purveyors of textured, Cinemascope rock. As in the bandís earliest work, the plangent, overdriven, and soaring steel guitar melodies of Bill Elm are at the center of things. But the other two thirds of the trio heard here (the band has shifted personnel a bit over the years) are not slighted, either by the song arrangements or the visceral, in-your-face mix: Guitarist Mike Sempleís moody tremolo throbs and tube-distorted nocturnal jazz chords are crucial to the structure of the noir-ish minor key standards and originals in the groupís repertoire; drummer Dave Lachance is by turns crisp and coloristic in his approach, edgy and propulsive when the music requires him to be. The tightly-focused, melodic, surf /spy/ spaghetti western feel of these pieces Ė most of them reprised from earlier releases by the band Ė gives way consistently to eerie, streaked pre-dawn horizons of noise and chaos: itís as if the musicians are reveling in the sound of broken-down amps and instruments, surrendering to the crackle and hum of antiquated circuitry, inventing new sounds while neon lights hiss and sputter outside the lounge at closing time.

Strangely enough, the unheralded, uncredited bonus disc slipped into the packaging is even more interesting. Itís another live performance from Germany, this time from 2004, and here the band is looser, louder, more expansive. There are spooky organ textures added , and Elmís steel guitar sounds even bigger, more hollow with reverb and echo; guitarist Semple piles on the flange and distortion, sounding at times like a surf-and twang-afflicted Pete Cosey. The separate melodies fit together in a suite-like flow, with the occasional jump cut for dramatic effect.

Taken together, the two discs in this package make for a fascinating exploration of the heretofore unknown place where, say, Sonny Sharrock, Santo and Johnny, and film director David Lynch might find expressive common ground.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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