… An imaginary friend
KOTKOT was formed in New York City’s Lower East Side in 2003 by drummer Amir Ziv along with fellow ‘downtown’ icons Marc Ribot (Tom Waits/Alison Krauss/Elton John) on electric guitar, Cyro Baptista (Herbie Hancock, Yo-Yo Ma, Sting) on percussion and vocals, and Shahzad Ismaily (Laurie Anderson/John Zorn) on electric bass.
Amir Ziv – drums
Marc Ribot – guitar
Cyro Baptista – percussion & vocals
Shahzad Ismaily – bass
Previously released exclusively in Japan, System Dialing Records is proud to announce the US release of KOTKOT Alive At Tonic – an album representing the hey-day of experimental improvised live music in NYC at the club that was known as Tonic.
Recorded in 2003 and 2004
"A blast of surf guitar, punctuated with crisp snare cracks, is soon engulfed by swirling sound effects, frenetic drumming and a distorted guitar attack, revealing sonic swashbucklers with a mission. "
A blast of surf guitar, punctuated with crisp snare cracks, is soon engulfed by swirling sound effects, frenetic drumming and a distorted guitar attack, revealing sonic swashbucklers with a mission. Drummer Amir Ziv’s KOTKOT includes percussionist Cyro Baptista, guitarist Marc Ribot and electric bassist Shahzad Ismaily, all players with intertwined histories. Alive at Tonic culls spontaneous compositions from two shows at the lamented New York club (and one track from Ziv’s pad) that evince the excitement of experimentation in live performance.
The opening salvo is followed by the subdued guitar and throbbing bass of “Won’t U Be My Porcupine,” boasting Baptista’s echoed vocalizations and a classic Ribot angular run, leading to a pounding percussion duet. The guitarist’s clean jazz sound counters the up-tempo rimshots and Jew’s harp opening of “My Dentist in Hawaii.” Later, he creates sustained tones washed in delay, an idea that he tests further on “Let There Be Light” and “Told You So,” reminiscent of sounds from his Scelsi Morning CD (Tzadik, 2003).
Ziv and Baptista also flirt with patterns they played together in their group Beat the Donkey, under the guitar washes of “Dentist” and the rollicking opening of “Told,” though with modulated tempos and accents. A “drum ‘n’ bass” veteran, Ismaily provides a pulsing presence with sound smears rather than articulated notes filling the bottom end. The re-contextualization of motifs shows their malleability and applicability in disparate situations.
After an amorphous introduction, a galloping drum/percussion groove develops on the sprawling “Mono Dream,” as Ribot slowly teases a melodic phrase, settling into and using it as a platform for wilder extrapolations. At 76-plus minutes, Alive at Tonic is a healthy portion, and some forays meander. It’s a small quibble, easily erased by the insistent rhythm, ardent guitar slashes and funk touches of “Bring Them to Their Knees,” a sonic maelstrom as denouement.
Track Listing: Were in Hell; Won’t U Be My Porcupine; My Dentist in Hawaii; Let There Be Light; Told You So; Mono Dream; Mute; Makanda; Bring Them to Their Knees.
Personnel: Amir Ziv: drums; Marc Ribot: guitar; Cyro Baptista: percussion, vocals; Shahzad Ismaily: bass.
By SEAN PATRICK FITZELL
"There is nothing superfluous about this disc, it is consistently engaging throughout."
Featuring Amir Ziv on drums, Marc Ribot on guitar, Cyro Baptista on percussion & vocals and Shahzad Ismaily on bass. This amazing quartet was recorded live at Tonic in November of 2003 and May of 2004. Israeli powerhouse drummer, Amir Ziv, used to live in LA, studied with Kenwood Denard, has a crazy drum n’ bass band called Droid and was a member of Cyro Baptista’s Beat the Donkey. Amir was knocked by Marc Ribot’s guitar playing on a Lounge Lizards disc that he heard and decided he had to work with Mr. Ribot. It took nearly a decade for Amir & Marc to play together with Beat the Donkey. Percussion wizard Cyro Baptista continues to blow minds playing with everyone from John Zorn to Derek Bailey to Cassandra Wilson. Bassist & multi-instrumental hero, Shahzad Ismaily also is in demand and seemingly everywhere playing Ribot’s colossal power trio Ceramic Dog as well as with Carla Kihlstedt in Two Foot Yard and Doveman.
Starting with “Let’s Surf-We’re in Hell,” the band erupts right from the gitgo. It sounds like surf/metal with its tongue firmly in cheek. Too much and that’s just the first track! I dig the way that Marc and Shahzad play a series of tight lines against/with one another. Amir does a great job of setting up different grooves or structures for each piece. “Won’t U Be My Porcupine” has a twisted reggae/funk groove with subtle jazz/punk wah-wah guitar from Ribot, Shahzad’s dub bass and both Cyro & Amir’s swirling percussion with selective effects used like echo or delay. Cyro is all over this disc adding his magic to each piece without playing constantly since Amir is a great drummer on his own and is often the center of the rhythmic cyclone. On “My Dentist in Hawaii”, the quartet jams, yet remains focused, creating dark, twisted moods with some astonishing guitar work from Ribot. What is extraordinary about this quartet is that each member is an integral part of their sound and direction. At first, I thought that 74+ minutes might be a bit too long, but there is nothing superfluous about this disc, it is consistently engaging throughout. And they cover a great deal of ground: rock, jazz, jamband, space-music, noise, dub, ethnic sounds, etc. This disc seems to capture the spirit of a set at Tonic in all of its glory.
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