“THE DAMNED, it's a Cuckoo's Nest-like production with a rock 'n' roll edge.”
- Time Out New York
“Small Beast on Life Support: One of the Year’s Best Rock Shows:
Headliner Thomas Simon gets a lot of film work, so it’s no surprise that
his shows have an enveloping, cinematic quality.
Simon pulls you in with a swirling vortex of a million guitar, keyboard
and percussion textures. More than just a one-man band, he was a one-man
orchestra, shifting from slowly swaying, blacklit soundscapes aloft on
endlessly oscillating sonic ebbtides, to several vocal tunes. One stomped
along on a memorably savage series of distorted chords straight out of the
Dead Boys or Sham 69 catalog. Other times, he’d introduce a hypnotic beat
and then build it methodically, with layers of guitar that roared,
clanged, howled and blended into each other, sometimes gracefully winding
down to where the whole thing started. If there’s ever another Alien
movie, this is the guy who should get to do the score.”
-by Delarue, NEW YORK MUSIC DAILY, August 2011
Thomas Simon Brings His Kaleidoscopic, Psychedelic Sounds to the Gershwin Hotel (January 13th, 2011)
Thursday night Thomas Simon brought his swirling, psychedelic, cinematic
sounds to the lowlit stage at the Gershwin Hotel. What he really needs for his live show is a big stadium and a bank of smoke machines. Although most of his compositions segued from one into the other, this was as close to a set of separate, clearly defined songs as Simon has done lately.
Typically, he'll lay down a series of simple, catchy guitar loops, or a
hypnotic drone and then add layers on top of it, sometimes going on for
half an hour or more. It's virtually impossible to tell how much of this
is actually composed, and how much he's making up on the spot, but either
way, it's hypnotic and often mesmerizing.
Backed only by a terrific percussionist who ran his djembe through a
series of trance-inducing echo effects, Simon opened with Up Against the
Wall, the centerpiece from most recent album Moncao (ranked in the top
twenty on our Best Albums of 2010 list).
Building with stately, ominous guitar fragments that evoked peak-era Syd
Barrett, it grew to a percussive gallop. "Stop this bloody war," Simon
whispered at one point: his lyrics have an improvisatory feel that seems
to follow the mood of the music, or vice versa. Toward the end, they took
the song down to an echoey thicket of fingertapping on the djembe before
picking it up again: "There's no more time," Simon intoned against the
distant, desolate grandeur of the atmospherics behind him. Although there
were only two musicians onstage, they sounded like an entire guitar
Much of the rest of the set evoked Bauhaus at their peak in the mid-80s,
simple ascending progressions on the guitar, or brief series of chords
that finally took on the shape of a distinct verse/chorus pattern on the
evening's last song. At one point, the djembe player - who was using a
wireless mic - took an extended walk through the audience, one of the
concertgoers responding with some wildly ecstatic dance moves, adding some
unexpected but welcome drama. Occasionally, Thomas would augment the
ringing, reverb-drenched overtones with some rapidfire lead guitar
flourishes that moved rapidly through the mix. A trip-hop beat slowly made
its way into a couple of later songs before oscillating out with a
rapidfire "whoosh;" on one occasion, the djembe was processed to the point
of sounding almost like a wood flute. Ringing tritones dominated torward
the end. "It's dark down here," Thomas announced at one point with a
half-snarled, half-spoken murmur, which pretty much summed up the night.
LUCID CULTURE, NYC
CD Review: Thomas Simon - Monção
May 27, 2010
Haunting and hypnotic, Thomas Simon's new album is a suite of eerie,
mostly instrumental soundscapes evoking both Syd Barrett and David
Gilmour-era Pink Floyd as well as Bauhaus and, when the ghostly melody
begins to take a recognizable shape, Australian psychedelic legends the
Church. Incorporating elements of minimalism, sci-fi and horror film
scores as well as goth music and oldschool art-rock, it's an ominous treat
for the ears. Over a murky wash of drones, Thomas' guitar rings, clangs
and occasionally roars, moving in and through and then out of a swirling
sonic whirlpool, frequently churning with both live and looped percussion.
The reliably brilliant Dave Eggar adds layers of cello in the same vein: a
flourish here and there and tantalizing snatches of melody that inevitably
give way to dark atmospherics.
The title track is much like what Pink Floyd was going for on One of These
Days - a staggered, swaying drumbeat, a series of low drones swooping and
out of the mix and a forest of minimalist reverb guitar accents. Simon
will pull off a hammer-on quickly, or add a silvery flash of vibrato a la
David Gilmour - and then send the lick whirling over and over again into
the abyss. The second movement, In the Middle of Nowhere, sets a distantly
nightmarish scene - a tritone echoes in the background, fading up and back
down as the guitar moves ominously and modally around the tonic - and then
the cello leads the drums in, and the headless horsemen are off with a
gallop. They bring it down to that macabre tritone hook, then bring it up,
then back down again for over fifteen minutes.
The third movement works a simple descending hook over a trip-hop loop,
sparse piano over washes of guitar noise. Up Against the Wall is a maze of
backward masking and disembodied textures, sort of a synthesis of tracks
one and three. They take it down and then out with stately yet raw guitar.
The closest thing to a coherent song here, Altered Planet evokes the
Church with its washes of cello and guitar: "Where we going, we need
somewhere to hide" becomes "Where are you going, there's nowhere to hide,"
sirens appearing and then fading out before the guitar finally takes it up
in a blaze of distortion. Somewhere there is an epic, dystopic film that
needs this for its score. Maybe it hasn't been made yet. Simon's sonic
palette is actually far more diverse than this album might indicate - his
live shows can be very lively. Thomas Simon plays Small Beast upstairs at
the Delancey on June 14 at around 9.
LUCID CULTURE, NYC
Concert Review: Thomas Simon at the Delancey, NYC 7/13/09 July 14, 2009
Viennese expat Thomas Simon closed the night on a frequently mesmerizing
note with a long, practically seamless, improvisational set, something
akin to Bauhaus doing a sidelong Abbey Road-style suite, fragments of
songs segueing into each other while he and his extraordinarily good
djembe player (Alex Alexander) dug a murky sonic pit that swirled deeper
and darker as the night went on with layers and layers of loops
reverberating and pulsing throughout the mix. Simon's guitar playing is
very Daniel Ash - like the Bauhaus guitarist, he really has a handle how
to build eerie tonalities using open strings. Frequently he'd start a
segue with a single low, resonant bass note just as David J did on Bela
Lugosi's Dead. Simon moved to piano for a couple of interludes, using the
same chordal voicings he'd been playing on the guitar for an intriguing
textural contrast. At the end, they picked up the pace with an insistent,
percussively hypnotic rhythm, then they took the drums completely out of
the mix and Simon took all the effects off his guitar, letting the
melody's ominous, Syd Barrett-esque inflections speak for itself.
Thomas Simon, musician without frontiers
How globalization can be anti-globalist
Thomas Simon - producer, film maker, musician and composer - toured the U.S., Canada,
(and beyond)... and here he is now with his "Thomas Simon Musiciens sans Frontieres"
formula playing in the Bucharest club Utopia. Would I offend any Americans if I said you
can tell miles away he's not American? He's Austrian but he moved to New York,
probably so that he and his French named band would have some place to take off into the
world from. Either way, the band is a great indie rock traveler since they came to perform in
front of the "Utopian" audience from Bucharest. On stage, Jillie Simon is the feminine
voice that counterbalances Thomas Simon's rough vocals. I think she usually wears white
and she is always almost painfully sensual since most of the reviews describe her as being
"the light in the dark atmosphere" of the band's music. She has a delicate voice that seems
to penetrate dramatically more than musically - like Melanie's voice did, if anyone still
remembers her. The band is more than just a geographical wanderer, they also stroll
through different musical territories - critics mention the Dead Can Dance tribalism, the
Nine Inch Nails twilight, Moby's funk, etc. This means that, as their French name
discloses, they are diligently tearing down frontiers; only that which they globalize is not
commercial waste. So how could I then associate them with the unappealing concept of
globalism? Is it possible that we are dealing, aside from the antiglobalist movement, with
MUSIC WITHOUT FRONTIERS.
This evening the Roland Garros club
is hosting the concert of American band
Thomas Simon Musiciens Sans Frontieres (MSF).
This is the first performance of a New York
cult band in Romania.
In search of traditional music
The Thomas Simon MSF concert takes place tonight in Roland Garros at 9pm. The
presence of the New York band in Cluj is due mostly to the guys from KUMM. Leaning
on the side of the piano in the Insomnia cafe Thomas and Jillie reveal details about their
music, the jobs that help them support themselves and their artists outside the stage, about
Romania and the internet. They're anxious to play and especially to capture some of the
essence of Romanian music. "The name of our band says a lot about us. Our music has
three components: the experience we had with the "Love Alien" formula, the ambient style
and something entirely new to which we added traditional music from India, Nepal or
Brazil. I'm very anxious to learn more about your music…" said Thomas. They found
Romania to be civilized ever since they crossed the border. "The guards at customs were
nice and we crossed the border quickly and without the drastic controls that we were
expecting", said Jillie. They were impressed by the architecture in Cluj and the nice people,
especially the youth.
Artists with several jobs
"We still can't live off music alone. Just living in New York involves huge expenses"
Thomas confesses. Therefore they have to juggle their work as musicians with bartending
in clubs or driving trucks for art shows. Jillie is also an actress and recently she lent her
voice to an animation series, while the other members of the band are "borrowed" by other
bands or involved in side projects. "We are not trying to create hit songs, we only play
what we feel and we are happy to see people of all ages coming to our shows", Thomas
adds. "Back home kids download one or two tracks from the internet and then they buy the
album. You can't expect them to spend money on something they know nothing about..."
he adds about the positive influence of the internet. Playing for the Cluj audience tonight are
Jillie Simon (vocals), Thomas Simon (guitar, vocals, sound experiments), Johnny Pisano
(bass) and Rodney Ledbetter (drums). The band will also play in Bucharest on Friday and
in Buzau, performing at the TopT festival, on Saturday.
[Photo: The CBGB spirit will animate the Roland Garros club in Cluj Napoca this evening]
The Thomas Simon MSF concert marks the first event by a New York cult band in
Romania, bringing with it something of the old CBGB spirit, a New York club famous
around the world. The club closed its doors in 2006 after more than three decades of
activity; the closing was sealed with a Patti Smith concert. However, the "feel" of the place
is being kept alive by the music of those who performed there, from the Ramones to Lou
Reed, Patti Smith, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth or Thomas Simon.
MUSIC WITHOUT FRONTIERS.
An alternative to Bregovic
Tuesday, while part of the people in Cluj Napoca were attending the Goran
Bregovic concert, alternative rock lovers gathered in Roland Garros where
the New York band Thomas Simon Musiciens Sans Frontieres (photo)
concert took place. The band's powerful recital started around 10pm and it
lasted until midnight when the audience called them back on stage for an
encore. For the audience this was an opportunity to sense the difference
between Romanian and American bands and Thomas Simon's sound was
exceptional. Stage presence was also at the highest level as singer Jillie
Simon has worked in television and is also an actress. Her acting experience
was clearly visible and she is for the most part responsible for the great
show that Thomas Simon Musiciens Sans Frontieres had to offer.
MUSIC WITHOUT FRONTIERS.
Thomas Simon plays music without borders
GOTH & GRUNGE AT THE GRABOVSKI
Thursday May 18th, experimental-rock musician, Thomas Simon will perform with his band at the Grabovski for
the first time. The Vienna born New York Multi Media Artist has reached a lot of acclaim with his experimental
progressive fusing of Goth and Grunge. By creating a sensitive web of space and rhythm, Simon leads his
listeners, with a noir-ish style, through the myriad of his musical works. Trent Reznor was a definite inspiration.
MUSIC WITHOUT FRONTIERS.
Frontiers Are Falling Down!
Cluj started "tearing down" the frontiers between musicians. Proof of this is tonight's
concert in Roland Garros where New York based rock band Thomas Simon Musiciens
sans Frontieres takes the stage. The artists are now on tour promoting their latest album,
"Their music is very energetic and diverse, and also very interesting because of the
singer's cool stage presence."
- Andras Kovacs from KUMM about Thomas Simon Musiciens sans Frontieres
LOVE THAT FUSION: Their band is like a fusion of Screaming Trees and Sophie B Hawkins. They have a slightly
grungy psychedelic sound, and Jill Margolis has a sensuous stage presence and breathy vocals that seem to owe a bit to
performance art. It's an intriguing and original sound that is often riveting."
"THE DAMNED, a rock musical featuring Thomas Simon has made this town take notice. Clever, moving performances
have made this show a huge success and a hot ticket not to miss. "
CMJ New Music Report - JACKPOT!
- FUTURES -
TakePat Benatar, cross her with Souxie Souix, dress her in a thrift shop burial gown, and the result might look and
sound something like Jill Margolis, Love Alien's resident goth/goddess. Margolis has been garnering rave reviews ( and
probably more than her share of stalkers) as front-person for this busy NYC combo. The band itself musically quotes
everyone from Echo & the Bunnymen to Love & Rockets, filtering it all through a Bauhausian psychedelic vibe. The
electric buzz of the band's sound, combined with Margolis's cooing, forms a spiraling blend of solid... musical ideas.
Margolis's voice would sound right at home at the bottom of some trip-hop groove or even (if produced properly) in the
Top 40 dance-pop arena. Together, these two disparate elements - band and vocalist - combine to create a sound all
their own; call it trip -grunge or maybe, grunge-hop. Whatever the label... if this wiry ensemble can capitalize on their
own strengths, they might just escape the gravitational pull of New York's dark underbelly and explode into the limelight."
- Greg Correo