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.

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

Cordis’ Edgy NYC Debut Goes Over As Expected

It’s hard to believe it wasn’t until this past Thursday that pioneering cimbalom-led new music ensemble Cordis would finally make their New York City debut. Unsurprisingly, the crowd at le Poisson Rouge – young, edgy, and distinctly downtown – loved them. For those unfamiliar with the cimbalom, it’s sort of a larger santoor or qanun, i.e. a zither played with mallets. Frontman Richard Grimes took care to explain that it’s the national instrument of Hungary; he took considerably more relish in explaining that his is customized, with two humbucking guitar pickups that he runs through a vintage 1960s Vox tube amp. Sonically, sometimes it sounds like a piano, especially when he uses a sustain pedal; otherwise, it has the quick “ping” of a tack piano or qanun but with more resonance. It’s a subtle, rustically austere tone that mingled within keyboardist Brian O’Neill’s elegant piano arpeggios and organ swells alongside the plaintive tones of Jeremy Harman’s cello and a million percussion textures, from marimba to woodblocks to a full rock drumkit played with meticulous precision but also plenty of fire by Andrew Beall.

Much as their methodical, slow-to-midtempo material tends to embrace a warmly engaging minimalism, it can also be surprisingly anthemic, especially when the percussion is going full swing, perfectly exemplified by the suite Fifteen Minutes in Four Parts. They built the nonchalantly shapeshifting, intricately arranged piece from what was essentially a four-chord rock anthem anchored by a creepy Wurlitzer organ patch, through numerous dynamic and tempo shifts, to end on a wintry, nocturnal note: by then O’Neill had switched back to piano. They opened with a piece for cello, piano and drums that worked a dreamy/intense dichotomy before Grimes joined them for a rippling, dramatically rising and falling number lit up by some high-voltage, viola-like sustained lines from the cellist, who’d switched to a five-string model with a high “A” and an electric guitar headstock. This, along with a couple of other originals, brought to mind the Wharton Tiers Ensemble in particularly dreamy yet rumbling mode. Another subtly crescendoing original blended angst-fueled anthemicism in the same vein as the Jayhawks with an insistence much like a New York-based, minimalistic avant supergroup, Build.

Since there’s essentially no repertoire for this particular lineup other than the group’s own original material, they sometimes come up with new arrangements of works from an eclectic range of composers. They reinvented sections of Philip Glass’ Metamorphosis Suite, contrasting rippling piano arpeggios with stately sheets of sustain and a little later gave it a hypnotic, gamelanesque quality fueled by waves echoing from Beall’s marimba. Then they gave Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms – originally written for brass and voice – a Mingus-like bustle. At the end of the set, O’Neill picked up a bright red Gibson SG guitar and capped off the final piece with a vibrato-laden majesty: a snazzy stadium rock touch to send everybody home on a literally high note.

April 9, 2012 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment