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Five Points Crawl
North Mississippi rhythm & blues and fife & drum meet techno and punk rock in The Kropotkins' world, producing startling song and dance styles, exploring a parallel American popular music.
In 1991, Jonathan Kane and Dave Soldier discovered for themselves the fife-and-drum music of north Mississippi, and formed the Kropotkins, a band that introduced punk blues, using rickety banjo, bass drum, snare, and fiddle (Mark Feldman and later Charlie Burnham) and slide guitar (Dog). The Kropotkins feature singer Lorette Velvette from Memphis and formerly classic punk drummer, Mo Tucker (Georgia, USA) of the Velvet Underground, a part now filled by Samm Bennett (Tokyo) or Alex Greene (Memphis).
Their “postmodern pre-blues” (R. Christgau, Village Voice) produced two prior cult favorite CDs and the third promises to continue this habit.
Village Voice article about The Kropotkins
San Francisco East Bay Express review
All music review
The New Yorker
In 1994, inspired by the fife-and-drum blues of northern Mississippi and the bluegrass inventor Bill Monroe, the iconclastic downtown composer and scientist Dave Soldier fromed the Kropotkins, named after the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin. While the group is conentional by the standards of some of Soldier's other projects (he once created enroumous instruments for a group of Thai elephants to play), it can nonetheless seamlessly weave a Charles Ives cover into a set of soulful, if sometimes angular, country- or blues-tinged originals. Besides Soldier, who plays violin and banjo, the sextet includes the co-founder Jonathan Kane on snare drum, the Memphis-based singer Lorette Velvette, and the sweet-toned violinist and singer Charlie Burnham. For this performance they'll be celebrating the rlease of "Paradise Square", an engaging collection of new songs named for a vanished nineteenth-century park in lower Manhattan.
(pick of the week, Feb 8, 2010)
Village Voice Review
What kind of mad scientist cooked up the Kropotkins? It was a neurobiologist up at Columbia who goes by David Soldier. A conceptualist composer, Soldier is no stranger to the blues. The Soldier String Quartet used to do microtonal arrangements of Muddy Waters songs that were both decorous and ass-kicking. Taking the stage at Joe's Pub on Thursday, Kropotkins left decorous in the dust.
Nothing with drummer Moe Tucker, the thundergoddess behind the Velvet Underground, could be described as decorous. Her opening set of angry songs about working-class America (take that, Lou) rocks way too hard for the pretties at Joe's. In Kropotkins, Jonathan Kane joins her in an overdriven second line. Violinist Charles Burnham is a funky improviser who plays with Susie Ibarra. Soldier's banjo suggests that the high lonesome sound is an overtone series generated by the open strings of the Delta bottom. Kropotkins find common ground between the non-Western tunings and African beats of the old blues and the barbaric harmonies of early minimalism. Not for nothing is their new album entitled Five Points Crawl, after the notorious downtown ghetto of the last century. Soldier's is a blues of gentrification.
With all this formal innovation, it takes a while to realize that Kropotkins songs are real songs, originals by band members and poet James Tucker. And for a song you need what? A singer, that's right. A Memphis cohort of Alex Chilton, Lorette Velvette has been through enough traditions (rockabilly, punk, deep blues) for a lifetime. (Her three albums are anthologized on Rude Angel.) Velvette is pregnant and has checked her former trash-glam look; she might be a bit embarrassed to be singing umpteen numbers about screwing. Where Lucinda Williams's voice wins the listener in the strain—the barely hit notes, the uncertainty whether her breath will give out—Velvette wows with an iron determination to get through at all costs. Reality TV? This is reality music, man, and we need more of it. —David Krasnow
More about The Kropotkins
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