Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Victrola and Redhooker at Galapagos, Brooklyn NY 12/12/08

A night of rich, lush instrumentals. To try to pigeonhole all-female quintet Victrola or the evening’s headliner, Redhooker as classical, or minimalist, or downtempo wouldn’t do justice to either group’s quietly adventurous sensibility, although each utilizes elements of all three. One comparison might be American composer Leo Sowerby, who sixty years ago moved effortlessly between pop, jazz and the organ music for which he’s best known. Or Astor Piazzolla, if only in spirit. Esthetically both units are far more Romantic than Modernist, unabashedly favoring melody and emotion over any intellectual contrivance.


With violin, clarinet, two keyboards and upright bass, Victrola (now known as Victoire) reminded somewhat of Sigur Ros transported to a vastly warmer climate, maybe the Mediterranean. The thoughtfulness and imagination of their set foreshadowed what was to come with Redhooker, which isn’t surprising considering that they credit that group as an influence. Keyboardist Missy Mazzoli’s compositions are generally plaintive and often circular, catchy motifs rising and falling out of the mix and then returning to claim their turf, sometimes triumphantly as with the first song of the set which built at the last second to a rousing, noisy ending. Their second piece worked the idea in reverse, violin and clarinet shifting from providing rhythm to atmospheric washes of sound. Their most melodically interesting piece moved along steadily on a jaunty 4/4 beat, with just enough drama over a single, repetitive, minimalist electric piano motif to remind of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. Their last song was an ensemble piece with a big crescendo, one of the keyboardists holding it aloft with a roaring, fiery pipe organ setting.


An ever-changing cast led by brilliantly terse electric guitarist/composer Stephen Griesgraber, Redhooker tonight also featured violin, viola and bass clarinet. As another pioneering guitarist (Chuck Berry) was known to do on occasion, Griesgraber is fond of piano voicings, a technique that works like a charm in this outfit. Their first piece began with the guitar playing a piano riff against pensive violin washes and plucked viola, stately, haunting and so hypnotic that it took extra concentration to figure out who was playing what. Their second song featured (new and as yet untitled, Griesgraber told the crowd) was slow, sparse and almost baroque with all the tradeoffs between guitar and strings. A long, trance-inducing, absolutely psychedelic noise jam followed, a melody finally emerging after several minutes with an insistent four-note phrase slowly pulsing, the strings continuing to flutter. Their fifth and final song without words was all rich, lush beauty, vividly pensive fingerpicked guitar shining through the mist of the strings as the bass clarinet played a casual, matter-of-fact bassline. The crowd wanted more but didn’t get it, which was too bad because Griesgraber’s melodies are terrifically suited for improvisation, and the crew he had with him seemed like they’d be more than up to the task of stretching out and taking them to all sorts of new and unexpected places.


Sandwiched between the two bands were Twi the Humble Feather, whose overlong set drew in listeners with their warmly strummed guitars, their pseudo-operatic vocals pushing back in the opposite direction with far greater force.

December 16, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, review | , , , , ,

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