Ava Luna (No 1,709)

New York no wave-style dance music rewrites the punk-funk rulebook from A to Ze

Hometown: Brooklyn.

The lineup: Ethan Bassford (bass), Felicia Douglass (vocals), Julian Fader (drums), Carlos Hernandez (vocals, guitar), Becca Kauffman (vocals), Anna Sian (vocals, synthesizer), Nathan Tompkins (synthesizer).

The background: We're here writing about New York band Ava Luna because of one simple sentence that we read about them: "Stax meets Kraftwerk." It's not even particularly accurate, but it's so brilliantly evocative in its intimation of worlds-colliding and aesthetic opposites coming/clashing together that we couldn't resist investigating them. Actually, they're more Ze meets Pixies, but whatever: if the idea of angular, anxious, jittery, jangling funk appeals, where the machines are handled by wild, neurotic New Yorkers, then you'll love Ava Luna.

Reading on mobile? Click here to listen

Apparently, Ava Luna's mainman, Carlos Hernandez, is "the son of a New York soul DJ with noise credentials"; we keep hoping that he's keeping quiet the fact that his old man is Andy "Coati Mundi" Hernandez, Kid Creole's diminutive sidekick and the hyperactive character behind the all-time Ze salsa/rap classic, Que Pasa/Me No Pop I. Certainly, singer Felicia Douglass has come clean about her dad, and why wouldn't she? He is, after all, Jimmy Douglass, something of a legend in avant-R&B/punk-funk circles, having produced Justin Timberlake, Aaliyah, Timbaland, Gang of Four, etc. 

Anyway, the band call what they do "nervous soul", and as soon as Douglass Sr heard it - their spasmodic New York no wave rhythms and Hernandez's "eccentric, moi?" David Byrne-does-Prince uptight falsetto - his response was brutally direct. "You guys are onto something," he said, pointing towards Hernandez. "But you fucking suck. You need to get a different singer." Whatever his misgivings, he agreed to preside over Ava Luna's new album, Electric Balloon, with its softer, more sibilant coos from Becca Kauffman and Anna Sian offsetting the vocals of Hernandez, a man who suffers from severe sleep deprivation and sounds it. It's a very NYC type of dance album, in the tradition of everyone from James Chance to Dirty Projectors. There's a distinct dishevelled communal "mess-thetic" to the record, one that was recorded by the musicians all cramped together, based on a "one-take, fuck-ups, no overdubs" credo. It features needling, niggling guitars and skronking, squawking sax. Every so often the band alight upon a charming melodic phrase, at which point you will possibly start shouting at the Dansette: "Yes! Keep playing that bit! That's a tune right there!" before the players themselves get bored and head off to do more needling and skronking. They may not have a Stillness Is the Move in their repertoire, but they may well force you to Contort Yourself.

The buzz: "Angular piece of funk music… for anyone who isn't afraid to admit they love Trout Mask Replica."

The truth: They're a subtle discolation of the norm (slight return).
Most likely to: Worry about the government.

Least likely to: Know what boys like.

What to buy: Electric Balloon is released on March 10 by Western Vinyl.

File next to: Talking Heads, James Chance, Dirty Projectors, Rip Rig & Panic.

Links: avalunamusic.com.

Friday's new band: Jaako Eino Kalevi.

Contributor

Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
New band of the week: CaStLeS (No 132) – psychedelic, shimmery guitars
Welsh indie-pop trio channelling psych, baggy, west coast pop and krautrock

Paul Lester

12, Dec, 2016 @8:00 AM

Article image
New band of the day: London Grammar (No 1,497)

The sound of 'the new xx' is overwhelmingly polite …

Paul Lester

22, Apr, 2013 @5:14 PM

Article image
Jagwar Ma (No 1,444)

Sydney duo getting nostalgic for late-80s Madchester. Cue baggy dancing

Paul Lester

01, Feb, 2013 @9:00 AM

Article image
New band of the day - Plantman (No 1,419)

If the Velvet Underground were from the Home Counties and had never heard of heroin, they might sound something like this

Paul Lester

19, Dec, 2012 @5:21 PM

Article image
The Districts (No 5)

Pennsylvania four-piece who caused a sensation at SXSW with their rocked-up roots music

Paul Lester

16, May, 2014 @2:38 PM

Article image
New band of the day – No 1,242: Mafia Lights

These Guildford goodfellas make gently atmospheric electro-pop. It's an offer you can easily refuse …

Paul Lester

03, Apr, 2012 @3:18 PM

Article image
New band of the day - Sir Sly (No 1,434)

LA trio's synth ballads have the surging sadness of Coldplay and the catchiness of Maroon 5

Paul Lester

18, Jan, 2013 @3:25 PM

Article image
New band of the day – The Cold One Hundred (No 1,229)

It's not wrong to want to sound like the Smiths – especially if your imitation is no miserable lie

Paul Lester

15, Mar, 2012 @5:10 PM

New band of the day (Mikill Pane No 1,505)

London boy whose team-ups with everyone from Ed Sheeran to Graham Coxon could make him the next rap crossover

Paul Lester

02, May, 2013 @3:07 PM

Article image
New band of the day – No 1,105: New Look
This Canadian duo have fashioned one of the albums of the year

Paul Lester

14, Sep, 2011 @5:04 PM