Room 5 Lounge Los Angeles, CA
The Players: Naama Kates, vocals, piano; Cyrus Melchor, MPC, guitar; Steuart Liebig, bass; Emiliano Almeida, drums.
Material: Naama Kates is self-described as alternative pop and indie jazz. Several of her songs, like “Wait until Bright” and “Hurricane,” seem to fall in the new age and electronica category, reminiscent of some of the more romantic songs by Radiohead. Then there are songs like the punkier “Windows,” which has something of a Frank Zappa “Valley Girl” spirit with cheeky lyrics: “God this place is funny/And it’s spiritually poor/Skies are always sunny/And the girls are always whores.” Although not indicative of the band’s overall sound, the song is a fun break in the set. The piano numbers by Kates often feature minor tones on songs like “The Unexamined Life.” However, “Happy Homes” has a Natalie Cole “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” feel.
Musicianship: Liebig introduces both beautiful six string bass melodies and spunky rhythms. Almeida seems to limit himself to high-hat work with sparse cymbal for perfect dreamy transitions and moody fadeouts. Overall the MPC beats overwhelm the presence of the drums, but on the song “Chime” Melchor incorporates a cool melodica-like effect that adds to the mood and proves to be an essential riff. Melchor’s finest contribution is his sweet Johnny Marr style guitar tone.
Performance: The band began the show late due to a variety of mishaps, from tripping over cables to adaptor issues. With apologies for flubs and a hot mix, they recovered as the set progressed.
Throughout the evening, Kates switched between playing piano and performing vocals only. Her presentation, with distinct dance moves, bordered on farcical but proved to be consistent. This style is a perfect fit for “Windows” where Kates chooses an almost baby talk delivery. She can just as easily change up the mood of her music with breathy vocals that have a bit of a Chrissie Hynde sustain.
Summary: An arresting songwriter, Naama Kates’ lyrics are a standout, demonstrating an uncommon ability to craft strong visuals. “Waves” conjures up romantic imagery of graveyards, vampires and necromancers with an equally haunting final verse: “Just give us a chance to see if we can stand cold Balkan winter graves/Some rad Crimean raves/500 years of waves.” The music for the song has an Eastern Europe flair as does the title track of Kates’ latest album Souled. Kates is an artist whose material is diverse and original. – Brooke Trout