On recordings, Cuchillo's Israel Marco creates seemingly herb-infused dreamscapes weaving found sounds into melodies that are mostly brooding, but occasionally profoundly comforting.
The band is from Barcelona, Spain, but Marco says he grew up a fan of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Their influences were entirely linguistic, though; they're the reason he writes most songs in English. Musically, Marco's work sounds more like experimental folk on the way to some Middle-Eastern Elephant 6 collective, but with Beach Boys harmonies. Throughout, he spreads a heavenly bazaar of guitar ideas and makes them seem deceptively easy.
Many of Marco's moods seem dark, though, and his more retro-stoner, psychedelic mesmerizing could put a concert-goer to sleep--so his dynamic, energizing set with drummer Daniel Dominguez in the Hotel Congress lobby was a happy surprise.
Building his songs on layered loops, Marco led the smallish crowd through most of Cuchillo's August release of the same name. He cut out the Middle Eastern-sounding drones and collapsed the recorded versions' extended intros and outros, quickening the pace and substantially increasing the intensity.
Also missing, though, were the deft accents and undercurrents of found sounds that evoke Marco's Barcelona home--seagulls calling; Mediterranean waves lapping gently or surging restlessly; the bustle and camaraderie of La Rambla; the background hum of a thousand Vespas.
For all the intricacy and imagination of his music, Marco could be an inaccessible egghead shoegazer, but his interactions with the audience were pure, unassuming charm. His English seemed flawless, but he asked permission to use Spanish, because he was still getting acclimated to the pace of the duo's 15-day, 13-show United States tour that culminates at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York.
Opener and former Parisian Naim Amor made it an international evening with his inventive, eclectic style that can at least occasionally invoke an American fantasy of a Parisian café. His avant-garde mélange included the João Gilberto-like "La Siesta," an invitation to ladies' choice if there ever was one, and his offbeat and remarkable cover of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix."