NYC’s downtown trio The Icebergs’ debut album, Eldorado, lies somewhere between the stripped down urgency of The Violent Femmes and the unsettling sex appeal of Portishead. Front woman and principle songwriter, Jane LeCroy, has a talent for adapting classical poetry into her free associated punk songs, and a history of writing erotica to pay the bills. Occasionally refined, but more often nearly unhinged, LeCroy’s understated delivery heaves and hovers over the tension of her seasoned rhythm section. All manic beats and pizzicato cello freakouts, her band weaves in and out of jazz waltzes and reggae inspired punk jams, stained greyish blue with weed smoke and poetic rambling.
Eldorado emerges as the product from a collective of veteran musicians and poets who’ve been smoldering in the city through its changes over the last 20 years. The record brings some elements straight from the 90’s; mixing riot grrrl, free jazz, and spoken word to arrive at what would have once been described as a solid alt-rock album. But that was an era when poets were having hits on college radio (a la King Missile) and ubiquitous top 40 singles were being produced by Soul Coughing and Suzanne Vega. The Beat troubadour pose remains relevant via the lasting influence of Patti Smith, Gil Scott-Heron, and Leonard Cohen – but a more contemporary voice like Saul Williams seemed to extricate himself from the spoken word scene as quickly as he helped popularize the slam poetry style. It’s not that poetry is dead, it’s just that its prominence in current popular and underground music outside of hip-hop has seriously dwindled. Jane LeCroy is not concerned with what’s currently popular – and with just drums and cello backing up LeCroy’s words and songs, The Icebergs are super economic, focused on motion and pop structure to propel the narrative forward.
The cellist, Tom Abbs, is a multi-instrumentalist with classical training and a well-documented career in the world of improvisational music, both on and off the bandstand. In the Icebergs, he wields the cello like a metal ax, and shreds lead melodies and backing bass lines that would make a teenager’s heart flutter. His melodic sensibilities run baroque, but his resume reads like a reference book on out music, sharing credits with Roscoe Mitchel, Charles Gayle, and Andrew Lamb for starters. He currently plays sousaphone in Hungry March Band, where he met David Rogers-Berry, who joined Abbs’ and LeCroy’s long-standing collaboration to drive the project in a more rock oriented direction.
Rogers-Berry has performed over 1000 concerts on three continents as part of a handful of ensembles, most notably the morbid Americana weirdos, o’death, whom he founded in 2003. DRB has been making records on his own for a few years now; he took on the role of producer for Eldorado, and his obsession with strict song forms helped the band draw out the hooks in the material. He also brought in friend and mentor, Caleb Mulkerin, to mix the record. Mixing is usually a subtle and transparent art form – but on this record the mixing engineer became the fourth member of the band, filling out the songs with ambience but also adding sounds and parts, helping the band make a more complete statement. Mulkerin made waves as the guitarist and visionary of underground art-rock group, Cerberus Shoal, for a decade around the turn of the millennium. He continues to command the attention of a dedicated cult following with his wife, Colleen Kinsella, as Big Blood, the Portland, ME, based garage-folk duo.
And the star of the show, Jane LeCroy, is a radical home-birthing mother of three. She serves the poetry gods by day, surfing the subway lines from one borough to the next, teaching kids creative writing, and publishing their work. By night, she writes porn under a pseudonym, or you might find her seducing patrons as a feature character in The Poetry Brothel. LeCroy has a multitude of credits to her name including the feminist poetry collective, Sister Spit; 90’s major label punk outfit, Vitapup; and currently Kid Lucky‘s a capella hip-hop orchestra, Nu-Voices. Some of her work is in the Smithsonian, and you can find her DNA in the Library of Congress, where her hair binds one of her poetry books collected by the institution.
The Icebergs are :
Jane LeCroy: New York based poet, singer and performance artist, home-birthing mother of 3, teacher, atheist, vegetarian, televisionless, hedonist, exemplifies the alphabet at its best. Jane LeCroy has collaborated, performed and toured with: the SF based all women’s poetry troupe, Sister Spit; the 1990’s emo-core band, Vitapup; Kid Lucky’s a capella hip-hop orchestra, Nu Voices; and critically acclaimed musicians, such as: Madigan Shive, Animal Prufrock, David Last, Bradford Reed, Chad Taylor, Carol Lipnik, Kid Lucky, Taylor McFerrin, Napoleon Maddox, Erik Lawrence and Reggie Workman.
Tom Abbs: studied Jazz performance and composition at the New School in the early 90’s. Tom has contributed to over 40 albums on bass, tuba, cello and other assorted instruments, including colaboration with Roscoe Mitchel, Charles Gayle, and Andrew Lamb, amongst many others, and is a current member of the Hungry March Band.
David Rogers-Berry is a record producer and drummer for various NYC-based bands; most notably gothic-Americana band, o’death, and the street-brass collective, Hungry March Band. He’s performed over a thousand concerts on 3 continents and recorded 5 full-length studio albums with o’death as well as other recording projects including his own composition under the pseudonym, ClawMan.