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August 15, 2006

A Prophecy years in the making

Liberation ProphecyApparently Jacob Duncan is a Randy Newman fan. We were talking about influences when he brought it up, and I must admit it threw me for a short loop. Not only am I not a fan of Mr. Newman, but I’m shocked that a guy who’s the brains behind a band like Liberation Prophecy — all wild and frenzied like some beat experiment but with the sensibility to evade self-caricature — is a fan of the guy who wrote “It’s Lonely at the Top” and “Louisiana 1927” (OK, that one’s pretty poignant).    So I listened to a little Randy Newman for reference. I see it, the influence, it’s definitely there in a few of the tunes on Liberation Prophecy’s brand-new full-length Last Exit Angel, which is pure gold by any standard. The album is poppy enough to appeal to even the most callow listener. But each one of the eight songs has enough singular depth to reveal itself in layers, over multiple listens, with a magic not often achieved by any other music than the more experimental, free-form camp of jazz.     Liberation Prophecy has been through three distinct incarnations since Duncan opened its proverbial doors in 1995. A quartet based in Louisville’s much-loved and missed Twice Told Coffeehouse on Bardstown Road, Duncan and the LP started honing the chops, trying to explore new musical ground. This is, of course, an incredible task that the vast majority of musicians — particularly those concerned with making good money playing music — do not concern themselves with. But Duncan, who says his love for jazz and Beat writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg gave his music a sense of adventure, was determined to get weird. Consider that his instrument is and always has been the alto saxophone, and the premonition of such a thing begins to fulfill itself.    The next manifestation of the Prophecy took shape in Denton, in northern Texas, where Duncan was studying on scholarship. This is also precisely where the whole story of Duncan and the Prophecy gets decidedly stranger, and where he crossed paths with Norah Jones, the renowned jazz singer and pianist whose debut, Come Away With Me, went absolutely huge. Both studied at the University of North Texas. Jones was the first LP singer, and her unmistakably sultry pipes would ultimately make it onto the current record, the subject — ostensibly — of this article.After college, Duncan took off for Europe, gigging around and taking in the culture, trying to travel with the spirit of the Beats filling his tank. He, like most who undertake this stuff, ran out of money and returned to the states, heeding — like Jones just had — the beck and call of New York City. He worked piffling jobs and played around, but ultimately tired of the scene — and having to work crappy jobs all the time to pay rent.Then came Alaska, playing on a cruise ship. It was good money, and several months at sea. It got weird, Duncan says. We’ll leave that there. So here he is, and here we are, all in Louisville, with a nine-piece band of dynamite and fine wine trying to share table space. I hate to use words like “fresh” when talking music, but this album — if nothing else — is incredibly inventive and new. Louisville has long had a strong jazz scene; if LP sticks around, a whole new family tree may take root. Dead ChildJesus. The first time or two I listened to the three-song advance of the forthcoming EP from Dead Child — a brand-new Louisville metal band made up of a group of absurdly talented and credentialed dudes you’ll probably recognize — I laughed with a mix of disbelief and a weird sense of envy. I thought about actual, legit metal for the first time in a long stretch. I played the sampler some more. Damn.  This music is the ’80s sense of metal, not the hair kind but in some ways the logical extension of those old metal T-shirts that hipsters wear to be ironic. But this music is neither silly nor ironic.It’s tightly packaged, super-heavy and brutal metal in the Iron Maiden sense, in the skull-dozing sense. The straightforward and unabashed delivery of actual heavy metal — capped by Dahm’s ethereal 1970s voice sliding over apocalyptic visions in his signature silk-smooth delivery — is a remarkable achievement in the modern day. Guitarists David Pajo and Michael McMahon offer all the right chops to make it metal but avoid cliché; bassist Todd Cook and drummer Tony Bailey remain one of the tightest rhythm sections in the city. This Saturday is the first Dead Child show (look left for details). There will be T-shirts, but an extremely limited amount, so go early and buy often. Lords and Pusher open, as well as a guest yet to be announced. Contact the writer at sgeorge@leoweekly.com