Rock and Reprise.net
There is music and then there is music and the Luminescent Orchestrii plays both and then some. Dipped in the traditions of every tribe known to man, they somehow come up with a concoction worthy of the best of the chefs on the Food Network (only with music, of course) and serve it to the world wholesale (meaning full-force). Were The Marx Brothers still making movies, they would hire the Luminescents. For obvious reasons.
Case in point: I was introduced to the group at a house concert in Eugene, Oregon, a small unassuming house it was, too, in a quiet part of town with tree-lined streets and cool evening summer breezes. They were already playing when I walked in through the back door. The front was locked, there being little enough room (Benjy's bass blocked it anyway). The sounds, intriguing from outside, became loud and immediate as I walked through the kitchen and into a partially full dining room, the rest taken up by a table and some cabinets of one type or another. Working my way through the crowd seated on folding chairs, I found a seat off to the left (the band's right) in an alcove which maybe served as a den of sorts, and there I sat. Well, not exactly sat, because as soon as the song the Luminescents were playing ended, they kicked into another and my legs twitched and my butt shifted and I hopped on the ride. Luminescent's Wild Ride, you might say. That ride lasted what could have been forever and they were manic, to be sure. Making it from the beginning to the end of each song had to be major effort: Sxip Shirey striking his resonator guitar with the force at times of a steel-drivin' man, Rima Fand and Sarah Alden (the fiddle twins) bowing those fiddles like there was no tomorrow, hips one big ball and socket as they rolled and twisted with arms flailing. One hoped there would be no violent crime because the forensics team would play hell to separate DNA from the cloud of epithelials and sprays of sweat emanating from the three of them.
And there was Benjy Fox Rosen, quietly standing to the side, or so you thought until after fifteen or twenty minutes, the mere fact that his left hand was not yet a useless claw after that much time gripping and sliding up and down the neck of the huge upright bass and his right one big callous seemed a minor miracle. One would have to have been the size of The Hulk to have done with that instrument what the others did with theirs and he probably would have if he were not merely human.
It was not perfect, but when you play for that long and with that much intensity, perfection is poor cousin to the moment. They were not only alive, but alive in that moment and for those who don't know what that means, a bucketful of condolences. You have barely lived.
They cossacked their way through a number of songs before intermission and returned to cossack their way through more. It was a performance more than worthy of the Hollywood version of the Russian Steppes, the twisting and dancing and pounding equal to any horde from any movie. And this, you aurally challenged louts, was acoustic. Amplification need not apply.
I picked up a copy of their second CD, Too Hot to Sleep, on the way out the door, slapped it in the player upon the return home and have never looked back. The barbed hook was set.
Recently, when word of a new album hit the street, I headed down to the CD Bank and set up my tent, yearning for that Lumi fix. The thirteen tracks of Too Hot to Sleep were my 'first one's free.' Had to scratch the itch. Needed more creativity in my music. Needed something. I was sweating, grabbing strangers by the lapels, strangers who thought Luminescent Orchestrii was some foreign language. No doubt they exited dialing Homeland Security. Crazy man on the loose. Well, crazy I might be, but better crazy than clueless.
You know how I felt when a copy of the new CD, Neptune's Daughter, fell into my hands? Vindicated! Thirteen more manic tracks with which to slake my addiction. And, yes, I said slake. From the first psych/ethnic drones of Moldavian, I slaked! And danced (okay, in my head, but that counts too) and smiled and then laughed. These guys are nuts! But creatively nuts. They jam! So they're not plugged in with psychedelic light show in the background. It's still jamming, dammit! Internationally flavored jamming, if you will.
And that's just the beginning. Get this. Strategically placed amongst these delectables are other absolute gems. Nasty Tasty is the new Sxip Shirey's step into the world of (gasp!) international hip hop! (Actually, the old Sxip Shirey would have done the same, given a chance) Rima Fand stretches the Zappa envelope with the rhythmic and sometimes dissonant Kombucha Monster and Sarah Alden morphs the traditional Romanian Pecto-Rubulii into something not altogether Romanian and not altogether Alden--- a magnificent mix. Even Benjy Fox Rosen gets in on the act, singing Moshe Halpern & Ben Yomen's Di Zun Vet Aruntergeyn in either German or Yiddish (to my untrained ear, they sound the same).
The new CD brings back that night in Eugene, possibly because they performed a few of these songs, but more because they created a world of manic sanity, live, and when I left, I felt alive. Luminescent Orchestrii, and I know I'm not the first thousand even to say this, play on the edge. I need to be out there myself now and again, just to keep things fresh. Thanks to Neptune's Daughter, I consider myself freshed. For now.