Gregson plays Gabriel Prokofiev (CD preview)

Out on 2/13 in the UK (and everywhere else on 3/6/12), “Jerk Driver” is the lead off single from Gabriel Prokofiev’s Cello Multitracks, a CD that is his latest genre-bending release for the Nonclassical imprint. It features cellist Peter Gregson, a noteworthy genre bender in his own right, playing all nine cello parts, creating a swath of overdubbed strings that is then subjected to remixes by Paul Miller (DJ Spooky), musician/producer MaJiKer, and composer Marcas Lancaster. Check out a sample embedded below.

As Jerry Bowles points out on the homepage, Gregson and Prokofiev will be presenting the piece at Joe’s Pub in New York on 2/10. More US events are listed below: some of them include Prokofiev’s concert music; others, his work as a DJ!

Gabriel Prokofiev + Peter Gregson – Jerk Driver (preview) by Nonclassical

Nonclassical US tour
9th February: Gabriel Prokofiev Bass Drum Concerto (World premiere) w/ Princeton Symphony – Richardson Auditorium, Princeton, NJ
10th February: Peter Gregson & Todd Reynolds (+ Gabriel Prokofiev DJ sets) – Joe’s Pub, NYC
11th February: Peter Gregson w/ Joby Burgess ( + Gabriel Prokofiev DJ sets) – Terrace Club, Princeton, NJ
15th February: Peter Gregson w/ DJ Madhatter, Joby Burgess ( + Gabriel Prokofiev DJ sets) – MOCT, Wilwaukee, WI
16th February: Peter Gregson w/ Joby Burgess ( + Gabriel Prokofiev DJ sets) – Brink Lounge, Madison, WI
18th February: Peter Gregson w/ Joby Burgess ( + Gabriel Prokofiev DJ sets) – Chicago, IL (Venue TBC)
21st February: Gabriel Prokofiev Bass Drum Concerto w/ Chicago Composers Orchestra – Ruth Page Theater, Chicago,IL

Brassland Celebrates 10 year Anniversary with a month of downloads!

Nico Muhly. Photo: Samantha West

It’s hard to believe, but one of the primary forces that fostered the “Indie Classical” phenomenon of the aughts is celebrating its tenth birthday. The Brassland imprint, which curates artists such as the National, Clogs, Doveman, and Nico Muhly, is celebrating their anniversary by sharing music: a different free download of a song from their catalog every weekday throughout November.

Thanks to the kind folks at Brassland, below we share a stream of tomorrow’s pick: Nico Muhly’s “Skip Town,” a bonus cut from his Mothertongue CD.

Be sure to visit the label’s “song a day” giveaway site or their Facebook page to collect all the goodies (schedule below).

INTRODUCTION WEEK

Tu 1 Clogs — Lantern
We 2 Buke & Gass — Riposte
Th 3 The National “High Beams”
Demo (unreleased)
Fri 4 Nico Muhly “Skip Town” (iTunes bonus track) Mothertongue
DEEP CUTS WEEK
Mo 7 Baby Dayliner — High Heart & Low Estate
Tu 8 Pela — All in Time EP
We 9 Doveman “.…” > “Sunrise” (medley)
With My Left Hand I Raise
the Dead
Th 10 Erik Friedlander — Maldoror
Fr 11 Devastations — S/T (Devastations)
RARE + UNRELEASED WEEK
Mo 14 Bryce Dessner “Rose of Lincoln”
The Lincoln Shuffle (web
exclusive)
Tu 15 Baby Dayliner “When I Look Into Your Eyes” Demo (unreleased)
We 16 Doveman
“Honey” > “Only Love Can Break
Your Heart” (medley)
Live Session (unreleased)
Th 17 Clogs “Elevenses”
Live Session (unreleased)
Fri 18
Jujulele (Bryce & Aaron
Dessner side project) “Satie” Demo (unreleased)
GREATEST HITS WEEK
Mo 21 The National — S/T (The National)
Tu 22 Baby Dayliner — Critics Pass Away
We 23 Devastations — Coal
Th 24
Clogs (featuring Shara
Worden) —
The Creatures in the
Garden of Lady Walton
Fr 25
Doveman (featuring
Nico Muhly) — The Conformist
NEW BAND WEEK
Mo 28 Jherek Bischoff
“Secret of the Machines”
(Instrumental) TBA
Tu 29 This is the Kit “Spinney”
We 30 People Get Ready “Uncanny”

Nico Muhly: “Skip Town” by Brassland

Peter Gabriel: New Blood (CD Review)

Peter Gabriel
New Blood
EMI

Peter Gabriel has recently turned his attention to covering songs by other artists. He now returns to his own body of work, reinterpreting earlier material with a 46-piece classical ensemble, dubbed the New Blood Orchestra and conducted by Ben Foster.

For some pop stars and rockers, the later career symphonic album is a black eye in an otherwise distinguished discography. But throughout his career, Gabriel has strived to create music with an epic sweep and richly hued soundscape, and his recordings have long incorporated a diverse palette of instruments to enflesh the material. Thus, adding the symphonic treatment to many of his songs is an apt, indeed well nigh inevitable, next step in their evolution. John Metcalfe has collaborated with Gabriel in the past, and his arrangements never jar with the spirit of the originals. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean that they treat the original recordings as holy writ either. In fact, New Blood is often at its best when songs are deconstructed a bit to reveal new facets. “In Your Eyes” is given a spirited string introduction which then serves as an accompaniment figure, replacing the syncopated drumbeat one heard on its So iteration; imparting a post-minimalist vibe to the song.

I’ve long thought of “San Jacinto” as a late prog epic that yearned to be a symphonic tone poem: and so it is here. Meanwhile, “Solisbury Hill” has its guitar riffs taken over with jaunty flair by strings, remaining an effervescent popsong with, in typical fashion for Gabriel, a far more weighty and autobiographical backstory submerged in the lyrics.

Even more “groove-oriented” songs like “Digging in the Dirt” are dealt with deftly by Metcalfe, with ricocheting lines between brass and winds giving toes ample opportunity to tap. Perhaps only “Downside Up” strikes one as a bit too familiarly adorned with patterns from symphonic rock albums past. Of course, effective arrangements mean little if a singer isn’t up to the task of tackling the songs. A few of the keys of songs have been lowered in deference to the intervening decades, but Gabriel is still in fine voice: an expressive interpreter with excellent control of his instrument.

While one eagerly awaits the next serving of brand new material from Peter Gabriel, New Blood is no mere stopgap, but an interesting recasting of his catalog that’s well worth exploring.

yMusic: “Beautiful Mechanical” (CD Review)




yMusic

Beautiful Mechanical

New Amsterdam Records CD

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.


My Brightest Diamond & yMusic | A Take Away Show | Part 01 from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

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.


Bartok meets Banjo on new CD!

Jake Schepps
An Evening in the Village: the Music of Béla Bartók
Fine Mighty CD or digital via Bandcamp


Banjoist Jake Schepps crosses over into classical music on his latest release An Evening in the Village (out this week via Fine Mighty). Joined by a group of crackerjack country music performers, he explores the repertoire of Twentieth Century Hungarian composer Béla Bartók (1881-1945). While at first glance this might seem like a curious cross-pollination, on further inspection bluegrass and Bartók share a number of affinities. Both are use traditional folk music as source material, both value syncopation and other rhythmic surprises, and both employ a pitch language that favors scales that depart from unadorned major and minor to instead explore other patterns.
In addition, one can readily see a kinship between the Eastern European  folk bands that performed the material that inspired Bartók and, apart from the banjo, the composition of a bluegrass ensemble. But Schepps does a fine job of performing this music convincingly on the instrument, and he ably leads his collaborators through the various metric shifts and dissonant surprises that populate Bartók’s scores. This is not adulterated Bartók; it’s the real deal, just re-orchestrated. That said, the CD’s musical equilibrium is equally supported by the spirit of bluegrass.
Schepp is performing music from the CD in Brooklyn on Monday.

An Evening in the Village with Jake Schepps
Monday, October 10, 2011
Barbés
376 9th St

Brooklyn, NY

See map: Google Maps



An Evening in the Village CD Release Tour!
www.barbesbrooklyn.com





released 04 October 2011
Musicians:
Jake Schepps: banjo
Ryan Drickey: violin
Matt Flinner: mandolin
Grant Gordy: guitar
Ross Martin: guitar
Ben Sollee: cello
Greg Garrison: bass
Ian Hutchison: bass
Eric Thorin: bass

All music by Béla Bartók, ASCAP except
Cousin Sally Brown: traditional, arr: by Jake Schepps, BMI

Produced by Jayme Stone
with Jake Schepps and Matt Flinner

Re: ECM beautifully re-imagines (CD Review)

Ricardo Villalobos
Max Loderbauer
Re: ECM

ECM Records 2211

Using jazz as source material for electronica/remixing is nothing new. In addition to hip hop samples by crate-digging DJs, and several one off collaborative projects, labels have gotten aboard and opened their archives. Blue Note has released several remix albums while, for their Blue Series, Thirsty Ear frequently pairs electronica artists with avant jazzers. The former releases more or less ause jazz recordings as fodder for sampling/remixing, albeit iconic fodder. The latter are often engaging and collaborative in nature.

Re:ECM takes what I would consider to be still a third approach to jazz recorded sources. Drawing upon ECM Records’ capacious vaults of treasures, it unleashes two of today’s abundantly creative electronic musicians, Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer. Given wide latitude in their selection of material, the duo draw upon sessions by several fine jazz musicians on ECM’s roster, such as John Abercrombie, Stefano Bollani, and Paul Motian. The ECM New Series is also represented by contemporary classical composers Arvo Pärt and Alexander Knaifel.

The resulting two disc set of tracks is not made in the spirit of remixing choice ECM tracks in toto; nor is it meant to be a sample-fest that spotlights the artists rather than their sources. Instead, Villalobos and Loderbauer treat the recordings as compositional material: to be reworked and developed. Their approach is respectful; their manipulations made deftly and without the heavy-handedness one finds on some of the Blue Note remixes. Most striking here is the microscopic lens brought to details from the sources: breathy wind attacks, string noises on a harp, gently percussive articulations from a jazz drum kit. Indeed, some of Re: ECM’s best moments are accomplished via “addition by subtraction.”

While the artists themselves weren’t playing live for Villalobos and Loderbauer, there is a third presence on these recordings that bridges the gap between creators and recreators. Producer and ECM label head Manfred Eicher supervised the mastering of Re:ECM. Given his association with the source recordings the first time around, his involvement lends an air of authenticity to the proceedings. One can hear his presence as well. In virtually every respect, this sounds like an ECM disc: production values, sound world, ambience, and creative aesthetic.

Too many crossover projects end up feeling like a fish out of water. On the contrary, Re: ECM is the real deal. Here’s an idea: next time around, get Villalobos and Loderbauer into the studio with some ECM recordings artists. The possibilities are tantalizing!

Interview with Mimi Goese and Ben Neill

Songs for Persephone: Mimi Goese & Ben Neill

Take a seductive voiced art-pop singer and a post-jazz/alt-classical trumpeter. Add fragments of nineteenth century classical melodies, electronics elicited by a “mutantrumpet” controller. Then add influences ranging from ancient Greek mythology to the Hudson River Valley. What you have are the intricate yet intimate sounds on an evocatively beautiful new CD: Songs for Persephone.

 

The Persephone legend is one of the oldest in Greek mythology, with many variants that provide twists and turns to the narrative and subtext of the story.  In the myth, Persephone, daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter, is kidnapped by Hades, god of the underworld. During her absence, vegetation is unable to grow in the world; fields fall fallow and crops cannot be harvested.

 

To break this horrible time of famine, the gods come to an understanding with Hades. Persephone is eventually freed, but on the condition that, if she has eaten anything while in Hades’ realm, she must return to his kingdom for a certain length of time. Thus, each year she must remain in the underworld one month for each pomegranate seed that she has consumed. This serves to rationalize, in mythic terms, the change of seasons, times of decay and renewal, shifts in light and weather; even the autumn foliage and the falling of the leaves.

 

Vocalist Mimi Goese and trumpeter Ben Neill have updated the Persephone story, while retaining its iconic essence, on their new recording Songs for Persephone (out now on Ramseur Records). As one can see from the pomegranate on the cover, (a visual designed by Goese), the duo is mindful of the legendary Persephone’s history; but they are not hung up on providing a linear narrative.

In a recent phone conversation, Goese, who wrote the album’s lyrics, said, “The artwork that I did for the cover, featuring the pomegranate, is one acknowledgement of the myth of Persephone. And there are other images that I found in the lyrics. But we were interested in using what was evocative about Persephone to create our own story. That’s sort of how the myth evolved too – one storyteller picks up the thread from another down through the years.”

 

They started work on this music some five years ago, but originally presented it as part of a theatrical production by the multimedia company Ridge Theater, starring Julia Stiles. In 2010, it was produced at Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of the Next Wave Festival.

 

The theatrical presentation and the mythological story behind it are only two strands in a disparate web of influences that resonate with Songs for Persephone. Both Goese and Neill make their home in the Hudson River Valley. Both for its stunning natural surroundings and its history as a home for artists of all sorts, the valley is rich with reference points. Neill feels that these are subtly imparted to the music.

 

In a recent phone conversation, he said, “I found myself particularly interested in the Hudson River School of painters. These Nineteenth Century artists depicted the local landscape and the changing of season with a dimensionality and symbolism that seemed to have an affinity with what Mimi and I were after in Songs for Persephone.”

 

For Neill and Goese, these extra-musical influences – artwork, nature, and theater – are an important part of the music’s genesis. But the polystylistic nature of their music making adds still another layer to the proceedings.

 

Goese says, “I started in dance and theater and later moved to performance art. Singing came along later. But I don’t have the musical background or training that Ben has – I’m self taught.”

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oG1XgKytxd0[/youtube]

She doth protest too much. Goese’s voice provided the steely, dramatic center to the work of late eighties band Hugo Largo. One part art rock and another dream pop, the group incorporated bold theatricality and ethereal experimentation, releasing two memorable full lengths, Arms Akimbo and Mettle, and the Drums EP, an alt-pop connoisseur’s delight. She’s also collaborated on several occasions with Moby and, under the moniker Mimi (no last name) released Soak, a solo album on David Bryne’s Luaka Bop label.

 

Goese is a powerful singer, but Songs of Persephone brings out the lyricism her voice also possesses. Cooing high notes and supple overdubbed harmonies are juxtaposed with the more muscular turns of phrase. Experience plays a role in Goese’s tremendous performances on the disc. But she also credits the musical creations of her collaborator Neill with spurring on her inspiration.

 

“Ben has been a terrific person with whom to work,” Goese says. “He’s inventive and willing to try new things. From the moment we first performed together, at a concert nearly a decade ago, I’ve felt an artistic kinship with him.”

 

One can readily hear why Neill’s music would be an engaging foil for Goese. His background as a producer, and his years of work designing the mutantrumpet, have encouraged Neill’s ear toward imaginative soundscapes. His 2009 album Night Science (Thirsty Ear) is an example of Neill’s nu-jazz arrangements and soloing at their very best.

 

On the current CD, Neill’s playing remains impressive; but his arranging and collaborative skills come to the fore. There are intricate textures to found, on which Neill’s trumpet and electronics are abetted by strings, bass, and drums, but it’s the melodies, floating memorably past, one after the other, that are most impressive here. Some of the melodic lines he crafts are imitative of the voice in their own right: it’s no accident that some of the most inspired music-making on Songs for Persephone are when Goese and Neill create duets out of intricately intertwined single lines.

 

Neill says, “The classical materials that I used as the basis of the compositions on Songs for Persephone were melodies from the Nineteenth century: from opera and symphonic music. Many of them were from relatively the same era in which the Hudson Valley painters worked. I found it fascinating to juxtapose these two genres that were in operation more or less at the same time.”

 

He continues, “I’d describe the material as fragments of melodies: small excerpts rather than recognizable themes. None of them are treated in such a way that most listeners will be able to say, ‘Hey that’s Berlioz,’ or ‘That sounds like Schumann.’ They were meant to be a starting point from which I would develop the music: it’s not a pastiche.”

 

At 7:30 PM on September 27th, Goese and Neill will be having an album release party at the Cooper Square Hotel, part of Joe’s Pub’s Summer Salon series.  Goese says, “It’s an interesting space – we’ll have glass windows behind us, which is unusual as compared with a more conventional stage. But it’s fun performing in non-standard venues. It allows you to try different things and to bring different elements into the mix in terms of theatricality, lighting, and the way that you play off of each other. I’m excited to see how Persephone changes as we take it into various performing spaces.”

 

-Composer Christian Carey is Senior Editor at Sequenza 21 and a regular contributor to Signal to Noise and Musical America. He teaches music in the Department of Fine Arts at Rider University (Lawrenceville, New Jersey).

The Apple doesn’t fall far from the Timber

Tonight at 7 PM at the Apple Store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Mantra Percussion performs Michael Gordon’s Timber, a work for six percussionists playing 2″x4″s. The event celebrates Cantaloupe’s release of a CD of Slagwerk den Haag’s performance of Timber (which I reviewed yesterday on File Under ?).
Don’t you love the one pound wooden box they’ve packaged the CD in? Don’t you love saying Slagwerk den Haag three times fast?

Below is a video with more information about the piece, including interviews with performers and the composer. If you’re in NYC and want to beat the heat, check out an iPad, and hear six percussionists knock wood, amble on over to Apple tonight.