Isabelle O’Connell’s Reservoir of Irish Music

Isabelle O’Connell
Diatribe Records CD

Born in Ireland and now based in New York, pianist Isabelle O’Connell has been an energetic advocate for living composers on both sides of the Atlantic. She also plays some mean Messiaen.

Her new CD Reservoir features works from the past two and a half decades by nine Irish composers. The results are not merely a dogmatic presentation of a particular national “school of composition.” On the contrary, O’Connell’s clearly quite willing to program a stylistically eclectic recital. And the Emerald Isle has a richly wide-ranging and imaginative group of composers from which to choose. But here, among their influences, many of the pieces evince a strong strain of minimalism.

The title track by Donnacha Dennehy, is a standout; its inexorable ostinati piling up into a cascades of brilliantly colored walls of sound. BIG, by Ian Wilson, also favors muscular swaths of repetition; but these are counterweighted with contrasting sections that echo the deft colorings of a Debussy Prelude. Jane O’Leary’s Forgotten Worlds explores a more ambient kind of minimalism, with a healthy dose of Far Eastern inflections.

Speaking of preludes, another of the disc’s highlights is the first of John Buckley’s Three Preludes. The Cloths of Heaven (inspired by the famous Yeats poem), inhabits a beautifully crafted Francophilic palette from later in the 20th century, recalling one of O’Connell’s favorites: the aforementioned Oliver Messiaen.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Walshe’s becher is built around snippet-length quotations (not sympathetic gestures) by everyone under the sun: Beethoven, the Doors, Bach, Debussy, etc. It’s a fun idea for a classically inspired mashup. With Along the Flaggy Shore by Philip Martin, O’Connell closes out the disc with an almost equally digressive, but far more demanding piece. It calls upon her to play crashing dissonant clusters, rapid-fire repeated notes and arpeggios, and contrasting passages of pensive delicacy.

Throughout this varied program, O’Connell plays with impressive power, clarity, and commitment.

Isabelle O'Connell


O’Connell will be performing Donnacha’s Reservoir again at her next NY solo show on Nov. 4th at the Music at First series in Brooklyn.

The rest of the program will be music by American composers: John Luther Adams, Bunita Marcus, and James Mobberley.

Paola on Q2

Our friends at Q2 are featuring the work of Paola Prestini today. the festivities include Prestini commenting on featured tracks at the top of every hour and this nifty live cut (available for download on the Q2 site):

and this video:

The Exploding Piano

The Exploding Piano
Kathleen Supové
Major Who Media

Kathleen Supové’s latest recording The Exploding Piano, is a collection of works by Randall Woolf, Missy Mazzoli, Anna Clyne, Michael Gatonska, and Dan Becker. While, thankfully, nothing blows up, the piano is subjected to a wide range of preparations, alterations, and dramatic exertions.

Supové is a dynamic performer, willing to try new and different things. Some of the pieces, like Mazzoli’s “Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos” and Becker’s “Revolution,” mix samplers and synths into the pianistic equation. Woolf’s “Sutra Sutra,” (live video below) combines jazzy inflections and spoken word components, skirting the edges of performance art and playing to the pianist’s charismatic onstage strengths. Clyne’s “On Track” instead focuses on inside the piano plucks and punctilious semitone clusters. For Gatonska’s “A Shaking of the Pumpkin,” the performer prepares the piano by placing a bass drum under the lid.

While this is a piano recital where the piano doesn’t necessarily often sound like a piano, The Exploding Piano is an intriguing display of fascinating sound worlds. Supové deserves kudos for fearlessly exploring the depths of these disparate works.

Kathryn Williams – The Quickening

Kathryn Williams
The Quickening
One Little Indian CD

English folk songstress Kathryn Williams has come a long way since her 1999 debut – a recording for which she was paid 80 bucks. Over the past decade, she’s released nine albus of ethereally arrange yet substantially composed songs. She’s also embraced the digital domain, selling digi-singles and full length recordings alike from her website.

Her latest CD, The Quickening is perhaps my favorite thus far. Songs like “Just a Feeling” and “50 White Lines” are gently evocative ballads, while “Just Leave” features a soaring vocal reminiscent of Neil Young’s early work. On most of The Quickening, Williams prefers crafting simmering numbers, moving mostly at mid tempo. But even in this refined pacing spectrum, one finds a supple shuffle like “Little Lessons” is available to nicely buoy the mood.

It’s still tough to keep up with Williams. Hot on the heels of this fetching debut for One Little Indian, she’s releasing a covers record for the imprint in October. Stay tuned.

Laurie Anderson talks about Homeland (video)

Composer, violinist, and performance/video artist Laurie Anderson has never been one to rest on her laurels. But Homeland, her latest project for Nonesuch takes her farther afield than she’s previously been.

Rather than staying at home to record, Anderson developed the album’s songs over a two year period of touring. And, for the first time, she’s involved her partner Lou Reed in a collaborative recording process (he receives a co-producer credit). The results sound recognizable as songs by Laurie Anderson; but the sonic formula has been tweaked – indeed, refreshed – by the risks taken and departures made during the recording process.

A recurring character is Fenway Bergamot, Anderson’s “male alter-ego,” who graces the album cover and performs on the recording.

Below are a couple of “making of” videos Nonesuch has posted to YouTube.

Missy plays the Midwest

Victoire, a Brooklyn based quintet of female alt-classical performers, is currently doing a mini tour in the Midwest to support the impending September release of their album Cathedral City on New Amsterdam. Matt Marks and Mellissa Hughes are taking their show on the road, performing selections from Matt’s opera Little Death Vol. 1.

Missy Mazzoli and company have been kind enough to allow us to share the title track from the LP on File Under ?’s Tumblr here. The track combines vocalizing courtesy of Missy with skittering glitchy percussion and a somewhat jazzy harmonic background. Kind of like Julee Cruise meets BoaC on Steely Dan’s patio, sharing drinks with Matmos

Missy Mazzoli tours the Midwest

Victoire with Matt Marks & Mellissa Hughes,Brian Harnetty, and The Wet Darlings
Sun., Aug. 8, 8pm, $10 adv./$12 door
583 E. Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43215

Mon., Aug. 9, 6:30pm, Free
The Dusk Variations Series
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park
N. Michigan Ave. & E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602

Victoire with Pantree Owl
Tues., Aug. 10, 8pm, $5, 18+
The Bishop
123 S. Walnut St.
Bloomington, IN 47404

Victoire with Matt Marks & Mellissa Hughes & Lord Scrummage,
Wed., Aug. 11, 8:30pm, $5, all ages
The Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID)
5141 Rosa Parks Blvd
Detroit, MI 48208