Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Ear Heart Music Gets Off to a Flying Start at Roulette

A lot of musicians end up becoming impresarios, at least part-time. Violinist Gil Morgenstern’s Reflections Series is one of the most obviously successful; pianist Alexandra Joan’s eclectic Kaleidoscope Series at WMP Concert Hall is also on the rise. Amelia Lukas, whose axe is the flute, started her series, Ear Heart Music, at the Tank. She’s moved it to Roulettte this year, with a formidable schedule of some of the creme de la creme of the indie classical world including Flexible Music and Cadillac Moon Ensemble. Last week’s opening party was a party in every sense of the word, with Build headlining.

Bandleader/violinist Matthew McBane is a gifted tunesmith. Much of the time he puts those hooks front and center and builds them cinematically (NPR uses the ensemble’s music a lot). Other times, he caches them in more complex architecture. This particular show higlighted both, alternating a brisk, biting early spring ambience with droll, deadpan humor. Bassist Ben Campbell and Universal Thump drummer Adam D. Gold – one of this era’s masters of dynamics – provided a deftly jaunty swing for the evening’s opening number, followed by a subtly orchestrated, slowly crescendoing piece with McBane and cellist Andrea Lee swooping against Mike Cassedy’s terse piano. McBane explained that the next composition would be more “mathematical,” and it was, with a richly snaky, intertwined counterpoint, once again rising to an insistent pulse.

McBane kicked off the next one with a wry pizzicato motif which quickly turned into a tongue-in-cheek chamber-rock parody of glitch-hop, or chillwave, or whatever the effete, trendoid flavor du jour is. From there Cassedy led them into the night’s darkest and most grpping piece, shifting from a moody, minimalist Satie-esque atmosphere to a more and more aggressively pounding crescendo where Gold backed off a little. He’d been feeling the room all night: did he think he might be playing too loud for the big auditorium? No – his kick drum was scooching across the stage. So Campbell calmly put down his bass, went over to the kit, adjusted it and then held it until the series of wallops was over. The group ended with a long, hypnotic piece that moved from warmly hypnotic to astringently atonal, All Tomorrow’s Parties as Julia Wolfe might have done it.

To open the evening, Dither Quartet guitarist James Moore played resonator alongside Redshift violinist Andie Springer for a brief series of relatively short works including a grippingly hypnotic, slowly sirening Paula Matthusen tone poem and a dancing, Appalachian-tinged Lainie Fefferman composition that eventually landed in more pensive terrain. As they played, artist Kevork Mourad drew a jagged, somewhat menacing series of tableaux that were projected behind the stage.

And it wasn’t all just music, either. There was a raffle, an afterparty, some pretty good New York State wine, and free food courtesy of a handful of boutique manufacturers of candy, syrups, jelly and pickles. The pickle people, in particular, provided a decent half-sour and some first-class, smoky pickled okra. But the stars of the show, foodwise, turned out to be best known for their music. Yarn/Wire – who’re playing here on Dec 18 – brought some homemade tomatilllo salsa that delivered an irresistibly lingering jalapeno/garlic burn. The next Ear Heart Music extravaganza at Roulette is on Oct 9 at 8 PM with Red Light Ensemble pairing off works by Satie, Cage and Grisey, among others, to accompany Melies silent films.

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October 1, 2012 Posted by | avant garde music, concert, experimental music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Build’s New Album Defies Categorization

Genre-defying instrumental quintet Build’s new album, simply titled Place, is an entertaining, meticulously conceived series of thematically connected instrumentals. Throughout the album, there’s a sense that violinist/bandleader Matt McBane has taken pizzicato violin melodies and fleshed them out for piano, bass, drums and string section. Much of this is brisk and cheery, with tricky rhythms and playful, quirky tunes that veer from insistent minimalism to hints of jazz. The cd case photos – Central Park on a late autumn afternoon – make a good match with the music. Yet despite the spring-loaded bounce of most of the pieces, there’s an undercurrent of unease which, when it comes front and center, provides some genuinely chilling moments which are by far the most memorable here. Along with McBane on violin, the group includes Andrea Lee on cello, Ben Campbell on bass, Michael Cassedy on piano and Adam D. Gold (also of lush, anthemic art-rockers the Universal Thump) on drums and percussion.

The opening cut, Behavior Patterns, sets the tone, piano hammering out a hypnotic pedal figure with pizzicato strings over it. Essentially, it’s a circular African theme broken up into its individual components, bass nimbly weaving through the understatedly percussive attack. The striking rhythms continue through the second cut, Dissolve, a minimalistic string arrangement delivering a motoric beat that winds up with a long, hypnotic, repetitive outro. The closest thing to a pop song here is Ride, bass playing artfully off a simple piano figure, strings kicking in with its catchy, crescendoing chorus, eventually building to a sweeping crescendo that winds out gracefully at the end.

The big epic here is Swelter. Divided as a triptych on the album, it’s more elaborate than that, despite the minimalism of the melodies. Part one features arrhythmic piano against suspenseful staccato strings, a terse cello solo and then piano leading it up and out animatedly; part two is vividly brooding and cinematic, a slow piano dirge broken up intermittently by almost off-key violin and ominous cello passages. The concluding segment introduces the jazziest interlude here and then reintroduces the theme of the album’s opening track, but more bustling and animatedly. They follow that with the sirening horror-movie sonics of Cleave, the eerie oscillation of the strings rising until they push the other instruments completely out of the picture.

The following track, Anchor matches the playful to the pensive, an interchange of glockenspiel, cello, bass and violin voices morphing into a blippy, blithe call-and-response that quickly takes a downturn as the string textures shift and the piano lands everywhere but on the beat. The album closes with Maintain, an catchy overture driven by emphatic staccato strings that hint at a big crescendo but in fact do just the opposite. For that matter, very little turns out as anticipated here: that’s only one of the joys of this somewhat quietly, matter-of-factly fascinating, uncategorizable gem of an album.

May 3, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment