Picture this: You’re the producer, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter for a musically eclectic indie-rock band with a very respectable following. Things are going well. Then – just like that – your heart stops working right. A viral disease causes your heart to inflame and your life is on the line. You have to undergo two open heart surgeries.
This is exactly what happened to Chad Clark, front-man of the Washington, D.C.-based band Beauty Pill in 2007. Once he recovered, Clark picked up where he left off but also moved into new musical directions with electronica due in part to his inability to hold a guitar in the immediate aftermath of his surgeries.
Beauty Pill formed in 2001 and since then several members have come and gone. The current line-up is Basla Andolun, Jean Cook, Drew Doucette, Devin Ocampo and Clark. They’ve also changed labels after parting ways with Dischord Records last year, The band is now part of the Butterscotch Records family who will be releasing some expanded re-issues along with new material.
The band’s latest album, released in April, is called “Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are” and it’s their first album in 10 years. “Near Miss Stories,” at just under six minutes long, is the one song on the record that addresses what happened to Clark. “Stethoscope on my chest, he says we better do this fast. One of these beats of your heart is gonna be the last. The surgeon once practiced on a blood orange in an art class,” sings Clark against a trippy backbeat. Later on, the words “I’m so lucky” are repeated several times.
Listen to “Near Miss Stories:”
What’s particularly interesting is that it was recorded in 2011, essentially in public. The Artisphere Black Box theatre in Arlington, Virginia, had the band transform the space into a recording studio with one caveat – the public was allowed to watch the recording from behind a glass pane that overlooked the space. This meant that for 12 hours a day, anyone could stroll in to see and hear what has happening.
This went on for two weeks and the end result is the “Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are” album. Another track on the record is “Dog With Rabbit In Mouth Unharmed.” It’s a texturized dream of a song with Jean Cook’s haunting, but clear, vocals. If the song was a voyage, it would be to the far reaches of outer space or the unexplored depths of the ocean.
This is an album that’s all about textures, electronic beats, far-out percussion and an overall sound that refuses to be pigeon-holed. “Drapetomania” is fierce, “Ann The Word” is hypnotizing, “Steven and Tiwonge” is kind of funky and “Ain’t A Jury In The World Gon Convict You Baby” is as politically charged as they come. And that’s only half the songs. The entire record is worthy if you’re willing to go down the Beauty Pill rabbit hole.
Beauty Pill. 8 p.m. Friday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $15 in advance, $20 day of show. onelongfellowsquare.com
FEW NAMES GET gypsy jazz fans more wound up than that of guitarist Django Reinhardt. Although he’s been gone for more than 50 years, his spirit is as vibrant as ever and being celebrated this weekend in Kittery by way of a two-day festival featuring regional and national acts. Friday night features Mes Amis and The Koran Agan Quartet and Saturday night’s acts are Ameranouche and The Rhythm Future Quartet. Both nights include post-show jam sessions. Here’s the skinny on these bands. Mes Amis features the Bangor-based guitarist, vocalist and composer Steve Lynnworth. They plan a blend of gypsy, Latin and American jazz standards along with Lynnworth originals. The Koran Agan Quartet is out of Manhattan and guitarist Agan has performed at festivals in Montreal to Atlanta among other spots. Ameranouche is a New Hampshire-based trio play a style of music they refer to as “gypsy flamenco swing” and are Newport Jazz Festival veterans. The Rhythm Future Quartet includes violinist and Django by the Sea co-founder and curator Jason Anick and guitarist Olli Soikkeli. All of these acts are the real deal. The last time I saw Anick perform, he was part of the string section at TD Garden in Boston. For the Stevie Wonder show. I’ll just leave it there.
Django by the Sea Gypsy Jazz Festival. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Dance Hall, 7 Walker St., Kittery, $25 for one-day pass, $40 for two-day pass. thedancehallkittery.org