MANHATTAN, NY—Pianos provides a perfect setup for up-and-coming bands with a cult following like Aunt Ange. An excellent sound system and an intimate environment lets fans welcome curious newcomers while still feeling cozily united. There’s joy, too, in being able to view the object of their enthusiasm raised up on an elevated New York City stage at the heart of the hip SoHo entertainment district.
This five-piece combo, 2004 brainchild of richly imaginative frontman, Patrick O’Brien, and guitarist Jack Kearney—whose association dates back a decade earlier—falls into the art-rock category. Dark and trippy—heavy on concepts of mystery and mortality—Aunt Ange draws on themes that tap into a childlike vision of Grimm fairy tales, set to rock, with elements of early twentieth century musical idiom, and accented with occasional rusty-sounding saxophone riffs.
The lyrics are cheerfully creepy. The rhythms are mainly syncopated, a device that adds an antiquated feel and that is identified nowadays as “steampunk.” In one song, “Pumpkins and Patches,” the rhythm suggests an anxious heartbeat. Every song seemed to flow on a hypnotic, captivating, almost irresistible cadence. Vocalist O’Brien churns out hallucinatory fairy tales of delirium and spook-house visions, often in an effective, theatrical whisper.
The title of the opening piece “King of the Damned,” whose main character is the Grim Reaper, tells a lot about the concepts being explored. Further examples were “Crucify the Blackbird,” “Butterflies” and “Vultures” among the titles of songs that followed.
In the closing piece, “Circles,” O’Brien alternates between a gravely carnival-barker’s cry and a gentle, eerily soothing voice. There is artwork to accompany the music. (See adjacent.)
This band appears to be headed for real recognition and bigger venues with its ingenious style, charming theatricality and musical/vocal virtuosity. Their album Olga Walks Away, can be found on Bandcamp, but be careful. Leave a light on when listening to it after dark.
Show date: July 25, 2016