The increasingly present Invisible Familiars

The Invisible Familiars will play Quinn’s in Beacon on Friday, June 12.

The Brooklyn band Invisible Familiars is becoming a visible and familiar presence locally after a showcase at BSP in Kingston, a personally devastating set at Snug Harbor in New Paltz and now a return visit to Quinn’s in Beacon on Friday, June 12. Bandleader, songwriter and bassist Jared Samuel also plays in Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger with Sean Lennon. Samuel looks a little like Lennon and shares GOASTT’s taste for playful-but-not-entirely-tongue-in-cheek neo-psychedelia, goosed with a fair share of historically vague classic rock referentially. But Samuel’s take on this particular New York City acid-pop moment is so profoundly musical, harmonically advanced and refined that it evokes the offhand sophistication of bossa nova (and its psychedelic variant tropicalia) without ever sounding remotely Brazilian.

There are actually two Invisible Familiars to get to know: the one that made a difficult-and-stringent-but-richly-rewarding record, Disturbing Wildlife (2014, Other Music Recording Company), and the comparatively generous and user-friendly live band featuring Samuel and a couple of younger conservatory phenoms. Eastman School of Music-trained guitarist Noah Berman replaced the rock-beast guitarist Robbie Mangano. His jazz touch and his tight, tense voicings bring out a different dimension of Samuel’s songcraft. The Berklee-grad drummer and vocalist Jordyn Blakely’s hyperfine, acoustic/electro chamber-pop playing buoys and drives Samuel’s impossibly subtle songs with total ease and total precision.

Disturbing Wildlife is one of the most conceptually committed, tightly executed records that you will hear this year or any other. Produced by longtime Steely Dan sideman and composer/trumpeter Michael Leonhart, it features contributions from Samuel’s heavyweight pals such as Nels Cline, Jolie Holland and both halves of Cibo Matto. But Disturbing Wildlife is anything but a scene-party kind of record. Its core sounds are spare, dry and equal parts acoustic and abrasive electro; the interloping and accent sounds are confrontationally weird and ugly, the strata of the mixes often dark and gritty.

The songs and productions unfold wonders of musicality and lyrical development, but do so with a patience that is almost begrudging, almost sadistic. By the end of the psych ballad “Elaine Serene,” the squawking animal groove of “Bestial Western,” the exquisite laze-pop of “You & Yr. Arrow” and “Act One,” the irresistibly wily hooks of the title track…indeed by the end of practically every song on this remarkable record, you’ll experience a pure, transporting beauty powerful enough to make you forget the Spartan difficulties of getting there.

The language here is an urbanized Beatlesque, unmistakable in its reverence for the scant seven years of Beatles. But Samuel’s application of those tropes and materials is one of the most subtle, sublime and original since Elliott Smith’s, and absolutely at that level. The album closes with the beautiful reed-organ-powered parlor pop of “Cherry Blossom Two,” which strings along like a protracted preamble to “Honey Pie” that never reaches the crowdpleasing music-hall payoff; for, in the world of Invisible Familiars, the weirdness is the meat, not the gravy.


Invisible Familiars/Ruckzuck, Friday, June 12, 9 p.m., Quinn’s, 330 Main Street, Beacon; (845) 202-7447.



Share this article
Submit your comment

Please enter your name

Your name is required

Please enter a valid email address

An email address is required

Please enter your message

Hudson Valley Almanac Weekly © 2015 All Rights Reserved

An Ulster Publishing publication