Pieces of East
Shadow Box

Laura Giammona, the lead singer of Pieces of East (formerly known as Shadow Box, which, not to be confusing, is also the name of the band’s debut CD), is a native Missoulian and a graduate of Sentinel High School. But after two years at UM she transferred to the University of Texas and, ever since, Austin has been kind to this native daughter. The band, which hinges on Giammona’s breathy Sarah McLaughlin-esque vocals, has been honored with many local awards over the years, including best world band two consecutive years at the Austin Music Awards.

Shadow Box is mostly a slow meditation with Giammona’s voice providing the mantra. The songs tread in midtempo instrumentation that occasionally highlights Anuj Timblo’s guitar, Abhinit Bhatt’s tabla, Will Kidd’s percussion and Pat Cieply’s bass, but only rarely does the band—or Giammona—seem to truly let loose. Not until mid-way through the album do they break out with the Indian-influenced instrumental “Lotus Ways,” which sets the table for the acoustic jam and layered harmonies in “Gulch” and “Dos Parejas.” This is when the band is most fun, and a little more of this freewheeling (sure to be a part of their live act) would be a welcome addition to future releases. (Skylar Browning)

Pieces of East plays the Top Hat Thursday, July 21, at 9 PM. Cover TBA.

Eric McFadden Trio
Joy of Suffering
Terminus Records

Eric McFadden is quite the chameleon. At times incarnating the sexy growl of Jimi Hendrix, at others the gravelly breathlessness of David Bowie, and at still others the edgy sass of Mike Ness, McFadden, a member of George Clinton’s P-Funk All-Stars, proves to be a powerful force.

Joy of Suffering, the newest album from the Eric McFadden Trio, is a mixture of influences gleaned from the big dogs with whom McFadden has played over the years, including Les Claypool and the Rev. Horton Heat. No doubt, McFadden is an amazing guitarist and his bandmates James Whiton (upright bass) and Paulo Baldi (drums) are adept. What’s disappointing is that there isn’t more on the album like “Miranda,” a cruel, boot-stompin’ love song with fiery bass plucking by Whiton and McFadden’s devilish mandolin. Or why not more songs like “The Ghost of St. Patrick,” an Irish drinking song at full throttle, or the carnival-esque tango of “Bury our Sins”?

The remaining songs are quite good, but in contrast to these spectacular tracks the others are disappointingly basic: generically soulful beats that induce auto-pilot head banging. The more experimental tunes drive the trio’s emotional arc, and prevent Joy of Suffering from being a mainstream misery. (Erika Fredrickson)

The Erik McFadden Trio hits The Other Side Wednesday, July 20, at 10 PM. $7 or $9 for 18-20.

Mama’s Cookin’
Let the Record Ride
Full Circle Productions

Mama’s Cookin’ hails from Gunnison, Colo., but its roots can be traced back to lead singer and guitarist Zebuel Early’s Memphis roots. The jam band’s latest jumps right into its lead’s kitchen with “The Call,” a moaning, hard-charging wail that invokes the vocals of Mississippi John Hurt behind bluesy rifts straight from the Black Crowes. “Get You Down,” a tumbling romp featuring Mike Adamo’s percussion, hits the same pure Delta Blues tones.

But don’t let the southern influences fool you—it’s just one third of the recipe. Another third is to be found in the world beats, a la The Motet, with long jams in “The Mission,” “Moribayassa/Dundunba” and “Funkani.” All are serious fun, well played, and will be cherished by local hippies looking to twirl.

The final third of the album is where the quartet strays from safe ground by funking things up. “Just Cruise” and “Spirit” incorporate heavy bass lines from Steven LaBella and keys from Todd Holway, with Early switching to an easy flowing rap. In the same vein, tracks like “Hollywood” follow the lead of Jamiroquai with spacey jazz sounds. It’s an extreme departure from the bluesy beginnings and international flare, but not unwelcome if you have a tolerance for varying—but well-performed and groove-inducing—styles. (Skylar Browning)

Mama’s Cookin’ plays The Other Side Thursday, July 14, at 10 PM. $5 or $7 for 18-20.

Polygon Cities

The new album from this experimental electronic group comprised of Robert Henke and Torsten Pröfrock would be the perfect soundtrack to an updated version of the science fiction film Blade Runner. The album’s dark, ambient drones, coupled with some intricately programmed breakbeats and minor-key melodies, conjure images of protagonist Rick Deckard driving around Los Angeles in 2021 looking for androids to “retire.” Perhaps this connection is due to the fact that many of the tracks are heavily drenched in reverb effects, giving the music an even darker and more spacious feel than on Monolake’s previous albums.

Polygon Cities’ greatest strength is that the group has crafted an album that works just as effectively in a club setting as for home listening. The rhythms are danceable and the melodies are catchy, but each song gradually mutates enough to avoid becoming stagnant.

Although the album doesn’t fully match the sonic complexity found in some of the group’s peers, such Richard Devine or Autechre, this album shows that Monolake is becoming more rhythmically complex (not to mention darker) with each ensuing album. Fans of electronic music with an experimental edge will want to check this out. (Ira Sather-Olson)

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