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King of New York by King Cyst is a 42-minute odyssey about the limits of carnal adventure in New York City. And like all odysseys, this is a story whose songs weave together circuitous paths, dead-ends and social impasses. The humanism of its heroes and heroines is strained by their undying libidos. The music King Cyst has occasioned for telling is wily and surreal, seductive in the same way a painting with incorrect proportions might be, though its somber scenes cycle through like a slideshow of candid portraits.
Luka Usmiani is the principal storyteller on King of New York. Usmiani, who adopted the moniker King Cyst for madcap debut Real Pussy on Underwater Peoples in 2012, is a rueful vocalist with a baritone reminiscent of Kevin Ayers, and a guitar player of unlimited range. A love of the Canterbury greats has guided his by-now matured songwriting craft, and with good fortune Usmiani has assembled an outfit for King of New York skilled enough to play equal to that scene’s high standard of musicianship.
Joining Usmiani on King of New York are Al Carlson (alto sax, baritone sax and flute), Alex Craig (bass), Dorian DeAngelo (organs, electric piano and piano), and Sam Franklin (drums, percussion and loops). With these merited players the tangential turns of King of New York seem like paths better taken. Instrumental passages are deployed with the same sophistication and artful pleasure as Usmiani’s deadpan narratives, with Carlson’s horn melodies in particular carving out gleeful Gerry Rafferty-esque delights throughout.
Story-wise, the characters of King of New York are bound by biology to unquestioningly pursue the virtue of their quest – to have sex. Unfortunately they are at a loss about how to achieve this. Thus the narrator of opener “Rubbing Soul” mulls “Maybe I should start a rock-n-roll band?” He is not alone in thinking the idea will solve his troubles, but he is alone in most other ways that count. His Beatle hairdo and new stereo are meant to help.
These scenes on King of New York come to life as vividly as other classics from the New-York-at-night canon (VU’s Velvet Underground, Television’s Marquee Moon, and the debut Strokes album come to mind), but in a fitting update for modern-day New York, King Cyst takes this canon much less seriously. Striving instead for the puerile wit of hip-hop raconteurs or Brautigan’s most explicit short poems, Usmiani’s lyrics are refreshingly concrete, un-sentimental. It’s the New York of now not yore and it’s a point-of-view frankly sexual, sardonic and playful.
Aside from King of New York’s poeticizing of its perennial subjects – the hunt for love and the love of sex – it’s also King Cyst’s most spellbinding musical achievement so far. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Gary’s Electric by Al Carlson, the record’s nine tracks were cut live with very few overdubs so it retains the aleatory and spontaneous dynamics that set Usmiani’s tune-smithing in its own class. Much more than a “sophomore effort”, King of New York shows King Cyst’s second LP ranking at senior levels. In other words, its penmanship succeeds across all categories, achieving the high musical standards of yore in the New York of Now.
All The Best
Invocation of the Apricots
Pastis Électrique/ The Free Party
She Prefers Green
Successive Slidings of Pleasure
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