Last night, Sharon Van Etten played the song “Serpents” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (video below), debuting a new band featuring a guest appearance by Aaron Dessner (the National). The song is from Van Etten’s forthcoming 3rd LP, Tramp, which is slated for release on 2/7/12 via Jagjaguwar. It’s also been released as a single b/w non-album track “Mike McDermott.”
The performance featured a more amplified sound palette than her previous work, adding tinges of indie rock to Van Etten’s alt-folk style, with the songwriter inhabiting a bolder demeanor fronting the proceedings. Add the key ingredient of stardom’s formula – a memorable lead-off single like “Serpents” – andTramp appears poised to be Van Etten’s breakout release. Congratulations on a very successful network TV debut!
Time Out New York’s Steve Smith is sparing with the 5-star CD reviews, but he gave his highest score to Drawn Only Once, Due East’s New Amsterdam release. It features two beguiling multimedia works by John Supko, which feature video, electronics, Due East (Erin Lesser, flute and Greg Beyer, percussion), as well as a number of other instrumentalists and vocalists. These various elements are overlaid in a busy patchwork quilt, sometimes contemplative, at others dizzying: but it’s always a beguiling sound world. Despite the sometimes dense colloquy of events found on Drawn Only Once, the release will likely draw listeners back to fathom its depths in successive hearings.
Lesser and Beyer live in Wisconsin and Illinois, respectively. But on Monday night, they’re bringing Supko’s music to Galapagos Art Space, which will be bathed in the glow of video and the envelopment of surround sound.
Sharing the bill with them is another New Amsterdam artist – Gregory Spears – whose newly released Requiem is his debut CD. This is another disc that’s spent a lot of time in the short stack near my favorite listening spot, ready to be pressed into service for repeated hearings.
Spears combines early music instruments and singers with a 21st century aesthetic sensibility in a contemplation of mortality that eschews both dogmatism and morbidity. Although it’s a far more ambient motivated work than the Fauré Requiem, Spears’ essay in the genre shares a comforting and cautiously affirming demeanor with its predecessor, as well as a sensuousness of sound and intriguing modality that is most fetching.
Doors open at 7:00 and the show starts at 8.
Galapagos Art Space is located at 16 Main St, Dumbo, Brooklyn.
Call 718/222-8500 for more information.
Last month at Columbia University’s Italian Academy, I was formidably impressed by an evening of madrigals old and new performed by the vocal ensemble Ekmeles. One of the revelations of the evening began with an idea ofensemble director Jeff Gavett. He thought that the madrigals of Carlo Gesualdo might benefit from Nichola Vicentino’s 31-tone equal tempered scale, most famously employed in the tuning of an instrument of his design, the archicembalo.
While, as Gavett admitted in the concert’s program notes, there is not direct evidence that they were ever performed this way in the presence of Gesualdo, there is some documentary evidence that Vicentino’s writings and an archicembalo were available to the composer. But here, the proof was in the singing. Gesualdo’s music sounds glorious in 31-TET. Indeed some of its idiosyncratic cross-relations and chordal voicings glisten: equally, wonderfully, strange, but somehow refocused.
Ekmeles contains several youngish singers with winsome voices: Gavett, soprano Mary Mackenzie, and countertenor Eric Brenner are notable standouts. Their interpretative maturity and skill in preparing the challenging works on the program bely the freshness of Ekmeles’ sound. The group also brought in a “ringer of ringers” for the second act. New music superstar soprano Lucy Shelton joined Ekmeles for a spirited rendition of Elliott Carter’s late Ashbery setting Mad Regales.
The program also featured several deconstructions of the madrigal aesthetic. Peter Ablinger’s Studien der Natur,in which sounds of nature and commerce alike are recreated using only voices, was a rather charming one-upping of Josquin’s El Grillo. Johannes Schöllhorn and Carl Bettendorf took the madrigal into postmodern, often craggy, territory. Martin Iddon’s hamadryads required the group to play water-filled glasses and employ headsets to grok its very expanded Pythagorean tuning, notated down to 100ths of a cent! Incredibly challenging to perform. But then, Ekmeles revels to be challenged.
This Thursday, composer Randy Gibson’s work will be in full force on the Music at First series. The concert features the world premiere of Gibson’s Circular Trance Surrounding the Second Pillar with The Highest Seventh Primal Cirrus, The Utmost Fundamental, and The Ekmeles Ending from Apparitions of The Four Pillars (fit that title on a postcard!), a concert length work in just intonation for sine wave drones and seven voices. Also on the bill is a set from Canadian harpsichordist Katelyn Clark.
- Performance details
Date: Friday, November 18th 2011
City: Brooklyn, NY
Venue: First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn
Address: 124 Henry Street
Sets & Lights
Brooklynite alt electronica duo Xeno & Oaklander certainly channel eighties New Wave references points in their arrangements: loops, programmed beats, reverberant vocals, and the like. But their latest long-player isn’t merely derivative; it transmutes these signatures into something far less celebratory than their first incarnation. Indeed, the reiterations can seem positively icy, like drops of sleet on a road replete with hairpin turns.
As one can see from the video below, themes of isolation and uneasiness are incorporated into X&O’s lyrics and pacing. Thus, Set & Lights recalls dark wave too, except its tempi are too quick. Better instead to think of it as the relentless energy of a dance club unleashed upon a solitary dancer: attempting to break them free from isolated reverie.
X&O’s European Tour
Oct. 31st UK, London @ Brixton Windmill
Nov. 1st Paris, France @ La Mécanique Ondulatoire
Nov. 2nd Paris, France @ La Mécanique Ondulatoire(Martial Canterel)
Nov. 3rd Lyon, France @ Le Sonic
Nov. 4th Antwerp, Belgium @ De Kleine Hedonist
Nov. 5th Chemnitz, Germany @ Subway to Peter
Nov. 7th Esslingen (near Stuttgart), Germany @ Komma
Nov. 8th Vienna, Austria @ Morrisson Club
Nov. 11th St. Gallen (near Zurich), Switzerland @ Palace
Nov. 12th Mirano (near Venice), Italy @ Moon Club
Nov. 14th Prague, Czech Republic @ Cover Place
Nov. 15th Cologne, Germany @ Blue Shell
Nov. 16th Kosice, Slovakia @ Refresh Festival
Nov. 17th Berlin, Germany @ King Kong Club
Nov. 19th Moscow, Russia @ Artplay/Waveform Party
Ever since the inception of the New Amsterdam imprint, we’ve been talking about the “indie classical” phenomenon: The genre cross pollination between contemporary classical artists informed by indie rock and indie rockstars who are interested in concert music. While there have been a number of significant releases on New Am and other labels, Beautiful Mechanical the debut release of yMusic, may be the most synergistic example of this fertile crossover domain’s musicking yet.
yMusic is a Brooklyn based sextet of classically trained yet versatile musicians (personnel: violinist Rob Moose, trumpeter CJ Camerieri, cellist Clarice Jensen, vlutist Alex Sopp, clarinetist Hideaki Aomori, and violist Nadia Sirota). All of them have performed conventional concert repertoire, more avant-garde material, and their fair share of pop gigs and recording sessions. As such, they’re an ideal collective to collaborate with both classically trained composers and indie musicians.
The contributors have similarly eclectic backgrounds. Son Lux, who composed the title track, is also a classically trained composer. But his motoric, electronica-inspired take on chamber music in the title track sizzles with chart-topping energy. And while it asks a lot of the musicians, it never puts them in the position of playing something unidiomatic. Annie Clark (better known in pop circles as St. Vincent) spread her wings for the first time in a chamber music context, but the results are most compelling; her composition “Proven Badlands” is one of the standouts on the album. It ranges in sentiment from pastoral Americana in a Copland-esque vein to jazzy brass riffs to post-minimal ostinatos: yet all of these styles cohere in a fascinating postmodern collage with considerable momentum.
Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) not only works with yMusic on Beautiful Mechanical, contributing two cuts to the album; she also employs them on All Things Will Unwind her latest record for Asthmatic Kitty. We’ll be talking more about that record in another post, but you can check out a video below of one of Worden’s “indie art songs” that she performed with yMusic at last year’s Ecstatic Music Festival. Here, her instrumental compositions exude a fetching conflation of gentle whimsy and supple lyricism.
Gabriel Kahane’s “Song” does indeed lead with melody, which begins in conjunct fashion but gradually becomes more questing and wide ranging. Trumpet and winds are ultimately given long-breathed and intricately shaped lines that channel something of Les Six’s enigmatic use of an extended triadic vocabulary. Sophisticated stuff that belies Kahane’s succinct title.
Two of New Am’s mainstays, Judd Greenstein and Sarah Kirkland Snider, each contribute a work as well. Greenstein’s “Clearing, Dawn, Dance” is lithe, airy, and fleet-footed; it’s played with mercurial grace by yMusic. Snider’s “Daughter of the Waves” likewise takes a delicate, almost Impressionist approach, with ebullient cascades of sound along the way.
Few albums with such a diverse array of participants can boast uniformly high quality. But Beautiful Mechanical is the exception: a case in which many cooks leaven and thicken the broth. It looks to be one of contemporary classical’s noteworthy recordings of 2011.
Tonight at Roulette in Brooklyn, two free jazz icons appear on the Interpretations series. Drummer Andrew Cyrille is joined by guitarist Elliott Sharp and electronics artist Richard Teitelbaum. Meanwhile, saxophonist Joe McPhee’s Trio X, which includes Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen, performs the long form piece Eroc Tinu. A tribute to Cecil Taylor, the work will also feature special guests Steve Dalachinsky, Hilliard Greene, and Roy Campbell.
Joe McPhee Trio X: EROC TINU
Andrew Cyrille, Elliott Sharp, & Richard Teitelbaum
Thursday October 13, 2011
8PM at Roulette, in Downtown Brooklyn!
509 Atlantic Ave (corner of Atlantic and 3rd Ave)
Purchase tickets online at Roulette.org and enter to win one of two copies of Trio X’s new 5-CD set “Live On Tour 2008″ on CIMP Records!
Nov 10: Ralph Samuelson & Yoko Hiraoka // Jin Hi Kim, Samir Chatterjee & Thomas Buckner
Dec 15, 16: Wadada Leo Smith 70th Birthday Celebration
For more information on Roulette Brooklyn:
509 Atlantic Ave (corner of Atlantic and 3rd Aves in downtown Brooklyn)
2, 3, 4, 5, C, G, D, M, N, R, B & Q trains and the LIRR
General admission: $15 / $10 Roulette Members, Students, Seniors
Tickets can be purchased online: www.roulette.org
Too Many Concerts and Cloning is Still Illegal!
October in New York is becoming an embarrassment of riches in the new music world. So many wonderful concerts to hear in town! But the plethora of notable events can be a source of frustration too: sometimes you wish you could be in two places at once. (I have a sneaking suspicion that Steve Smith has figured out a way to do this!) So, while we won’t get to review everything, there’s nothing saying we can’t preview as many events as possible! What follows are some, but rest assured not all, of the excellent upcoming goings on.
- Starting Wednesday evening (Oct. 5) running through October 8 at Roulette is one of the biggest festivals celebrating the music of Anthony Braxton yet seen in the United States. It includes performances by the Tricentric Orchestra, the US debut of the Diamond Curtain Wall Trio – Anthony Braxton (reeds, electronics), Taylor Ho Bynum (brass), and Mary Halvorson (guitar) – and two world premieres. The first, Pine Top Arial Music, is an interdisciplinary work integrating music and dance. The second, which is the culmination of the festival, is a concert reading of Acts One and Two of Trillium E, Braxton’s first opera. Those who can’t make the festival, or who want ample Braxton at home as well as live, can enjoy two new recordings of his music. The first is a freebie: a Braxton sampler featuring a diverse array of pieces (including an excerpt of the opera) that’s available for download via the Tricentric Foundation. The second is a recording of Trillium E in its entirety, available from Tricentric on October 11 as a download or 4 CD set.
- On October 6, Ekmeles, everybody’s favorite New York group of experimentally inclined youngster vocalists, shares a triple bill with Ireland’s Ergodos and Holland’s Ascoli Ensemble at Issue Project Room’s new 110 Livingstone location (details here). Ekmeles will perform Pascal Dusapin’s Two Walking, two short pieces by James Tenney, and two US premieres. The first, Madrigali a Dio by Johannes Schöllhorn, incorporates singing, spoken word, and even boisterous shouts in a vocal work that explores counterpoints between pitched and un-pitched vocalizations. Peter Ablinger’s Studien nach der Natur explores a plethora of sounds from the natural world as well as manmade noises: mosquitoes, quartz watches, the Autobahn, smoking, electric hums – all replicated by the human voice. Mr. Ablinger was kind enough to allow us to share a small score excerpt below.
- Also on Thursday, October 6 (drat it to Hades!) is the premiere of the Five Borough Songbook at Galapagos. Twenty composers were asked by Five Boroughs Music Festival to each contribute a single work to this project. Participants include Daron Hagen, Tom Cipullo, Lisa Bielawa, and other heavyweights in the songwriting biz.
- On October 8 at 7 PM at the Tenri Cultural Institute (ticket info here), the Mimesis Ensemble is doing a program of “Young Voices,” featuring three youngish composers who specialize in vocal music. It’s a program that’s a bit more traditional in approach than is, say, Ekmeles’ wont, but it presents some noteworthy repertoire. Thomas Adès’ Three Eliot Landscapes and Gabriel Kahane’s current events inflected Craigslistlieder are featured alongside several works by Mohammed Fairouz.
- On October 9 at 7:30 PM, Sequenza 21′s own Armando Bayolo will make his Carnegie Hall debut (as the kids say, whoot!). Armando’s Lullabies, a newly commissioned work, will be premiered at Weill Recital Hall by Trio Montage (more information here).
- Just around the corner is the ACO’s SONiC festival, Ekmeles’ concert on 10/21 at Columbia (a humdinger of a program!), Bridge Records’ Anniversary Concert at NYPL, and, yes, the Sequenza 21/MNMP Concert at the newly revivified Joe’s Pub on 10/25. But those previews will have to wait for another post! In the meantime, there are pieces to compose, papers to grade, and both my wife’s and my birthdays this weekend. October is the month that keeps on giving: it’s good to be busy, right?
The newly revived Roulette (on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn) is the site for a premiere this coming Friday (details here). Guitarist-composer Joel Harrison’s Still Point – Turning World (a veiled reference to a line from “Burnt Norton,” one T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets) is a polyglot work for diverse forces. In addition to Harrison’s jazz quartet, it also features the Talujon Percussion Quartet, and Anupam Shobhakar, who plays the sarode, an Indian stringed instrument.
Still Point… requires its performers to be in a flexible collaboration, reveling in polystylism. “Crossover” is a term that’s overused and sometimes misused these days. All too often the results of less cohesive collaborations find the musicians from multiple styles working at crossed purposes or, worse, musicians from different traditions uneasily try on each others’ chops for size.
One doesn’t get this sense from Harrison’s creative activities. Instead he seeks likeminded musicians who are interested in creating a sophisticated synthesis of different genres, based on mutual support, respect, and plenty of listening to one another.
He says, “I’m willing to bet that in ten years time, many more musicians will be comfortable playing both jazz and classical, and performing music from many traditions.”
Harrison’s ensembles aim to be pathfinders in this regard. Come to Roulette on Friday and witness these musical frontiersmen!
This week the Kronos Quartet brings their evening length medition on 9/11 to BAM’s Next Wave Festival. The piece was first done in 2005, but its performances on September 21-24 are the New York premiere of the work.
With repertoire ranging from Michael Gordon’s Sad Park to Osvaldo Golijov’s Darkness 9/11 to an arrangement of Einstürzende Neubauten’s Armenia, it promises to be a musically diverse and adventurous program.
Kronos Quartet: Awakening
Part of the 2011 Next Wave Festival
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Sep 21—24, 2011 at 7:30pm
Ticket info here