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Guitarist, singer-songwriter and artists’ rights activist Marc Ribot and his Ceramic Dog – bassist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer-percussionist Ches Smith, consider their fifth studio album Connection as the best they have ever done. As always with Ribot, he writes a series of eclectic and eccentric songs like no one else that serves as a vessel for his singular stream-of-consciousness songwriting. This unapologetically audacious collection of songs pushes the “long-brewing tension between traditional pop songcraft and avant-garde improvisational music to the breaking point, bridging their customary genre-agnostic approach with elements of glam boogie, minimalist disco, psychedelic boogaloo, garage-punk-against-the-machine agitprop, and so much more”.

Connection begins with the loose, lo-fi title song, inspired by a sculpture of the six-year-old daughter of Ismaily, Anika, a kind of house made by sticking toothpicks into Halloween candies (pictured as the cover artwork). This odd-shaped, fragile structure is translated to a song about the “fragility of our contemporary attempts at human connection, the shadow hanging over our post-everything ‘homes’”, and informed by the scuzz-fueled history of Lower East Side noise rock from the Velvet Underground to White Hassle. The following, post-apocalyptic “Subsidiary” deepens the restless vibe and intensifies the garage-punk-against-the-machine agitprop vision.

But then Ceramic Dog changes causes with the anthemic manifesto «Soldiers in the Army of Love», with its addictive groove. The song has a very clear message that all people – and not only men, or white men – are equal, borrowing the title from the pacifist civil rights movement’s ‘We Are Soldiers In the Army’, and evoking the slogan of the very first Gay Pride march: An army of lovers can never lose. This psychedelic vibe continues with the groove-infected «Ecstasy» and its blunt message, ornamented by Anthony Coleman’s slinky Farfisa and longtime friend and associate Sid Straw’s sensual vocals.

Sax hero James Brandon Lewis joins Ceramic Dog for two intense and energetic, free jazz pieces «Swan» and «Heart attack», with the unstoppable and unhinged ranting of Ribot, including in Italian, but between these pieces, Ceramic Dog stretches its muscles with the minimalist disco beat of «No Name».  Then, Ceramic Dog harnesses their free-blowing, punk energy for a one-of-a-kind deconstruction of Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz’s standard «That’s Entertainment», winking at both the post-punk and post-Cultural Revolution iterations of the Gang of Four. The digital version of Connection offers two bonus pieces, the heavy bluesy “Order of Protection” and the Latin-infected celebration of «Crumbia».

This unique and visionary creative journey of Ribot and Ceramic Dog is clearly fueled by what Ribot calls «several bolts of creative lightning».

Eyal Hareuveni 

Marc Ribot (guitars, tres, dobro, bass, vocals), Shahzad Ismaily (bass, electronics, vocals), Ches Smith (drums, percussion, electronics, vocals), Syd Straw (vocals), Anthony Coleman (Farfisa), James Brandon Lewis (saxophone), Greg Lewis (Hammond B3 organ), Oscar Noriega (clarinet), Peter Sachon (cello)

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