Lucid Culture


CD Review: Brooklyn Rider – Passport

Adventurous string quartet Brooklyn Rider have just released one of the year’s finest albums, Silent City (reviewed here recently), with brilliant Iranian composer/kamancheh (spike fiddle) player Kayhan Kalhor. In addition to that cd, this strikingly original, melodically rich and beautifully recorded collection showcases the group playing arrangements of dark Armenian folk songs as well as an original and two brief pieces by noted violist/composer Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin (also very recently reviewed here). It should resonate equally well with rock and world music audiences as well as classical fans: there’s literally something for everyone here.


The Armenian pieces are all brief, some to the point of being fragmentary. All but one of them are very dark. Vagharshabadi Dance kicks off the cd on a fast and somewhat furtive note. If the slow, sad, 6/8 Harvest Song is to be taken on face value, it’s a bitter harvest. It’s Cloudy is appropriately nebulous, punctuated by gentle pizzicato plucks. Festive Song isn’t exactly festive, although it’s upbeat, the cello walking a bassline as the strings weave a path overhead. Only on the aptly titled The Partridge does a sprightly arrangement manage to push the clouds away. 


Brooklesca, by violinist Colin Jacobsen begins frenetic over a tricky time signature, with a darkly anticipatory edge much in the same vein as the group’s work with Kalhor that blends a latin feel with the crescendoing intensity of their ventures into Persian territory. The percussion lets the strings get ambient without ever losing sight of the piece’s underlying tension. It winds up to the very end on a delirious Balkan note.


La Muerte Chiquita is an imaginatively intense, fast instrumental reworking of Café Tacuba’s hypnotic, wah-wah guitar-driven mariachi-rock hit. The cd wraps up with the two Ljova compositions, Plume ranging from dark and nocturnal to atmospheric, Crosstown a beautiful, heartfelt tango that goes absolutely pitch-black before a remarkable transformation into a spiritual. Brooklyn Rider’s next New York performance is Dec 10 at 7 PM at Barbes, a rare and marvelous opportunity to see this magically rustic, haunting and pioneering group in an intimate setting.

November 4, 2008 - Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , ,

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