Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Some Auspicious Debuts at le Poisson Rouge

“1982 never sounded so good,” says the tagline at the top of yMusic’s site – a reference to Pierre Boulez and IRCAM, maybe? The adventurous chamber unit – Q2/WQXR star Nadia Sirota on viola, Rob Moose on violin and occasionally guitar, CJ Camerieri on trumpet, Hideaki Aomori on clarinet and bass clarinet, Alex Sopp on flute, plus Clarice Jensen on cello this time around – held up impressively through a physically taxing, two-set performance at le Poisson Rouge Monday night, including the cd release show for Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Penelope.

Beautiful Mechanical, by Ryan Lott a.k.a. Son Lux was first on the bill, a series of playfully constructed, lockstep variations moving from a blippy, percussive introduction, to a brisk tongue-in-cheek fanfare and ending on a cheerily bubbly note. It wasn’t particularly deep, but then it obviously wasn’t meant to be. A possibly as-yet-untitled piece by Gabriel Kahane hinted suspensefully at Romanticism but never went there. The New York premiere of Proven Badlands was an eye-opener, revealing its composer Annie Clark as far more diverse than her pensive indie-pop songwriter alter ego St. Vincent. The ensemble clearly reveled in its intricate, interwoven textures as it built from thoughtful bucolicism to intriguing permutations on what was essentially an orchestrated soul riff, Isaac Hayes updated for a new century, martial flute eventually handing off to some big horn cadenzas. Sirota told the audience that the final piece before the intermission, Judd Greenstein’s Clearing, Dawn, Dance (another New York premiere) was going to be substantial, and she wasn’t kidding. A breakneck sprint through a series of interlocking circular, staccato phrases that spun off each other like a tightly packed fleet of carnival bumper cars gone berserk, it was a maze of echo effects all the way through to a lush, sostenuto string interlude that must have been a welcome break for the musicians before the race began again.

Kirkland Snider, along with Greenstein and William Brittelle, is part of new music avatars New Amsterdam Records’ brain trust. Her new suite, Penelope, began as an Odyssey-inspired theatre piece, a view of the Trojan War from the perspective on the home front. More anxious than overtly angst-laden, a disheartened, abandoned Penelope longs for her missing husband, wonders out loud if he’s still alive and vacillates between hope and hopelessness. As an antiwar statement, it’s subtly explosive. The forthcoming album is performed by SIGNAL, conducted by Brad Lubman. Here, Shara Worden, of My Brightest Diamond, joined the ensemble to sing Ellen McLaughlin’s lyrics and was a terrific choice, her finely honed, clear, round intonation matching the nuance of the group behind her. Musically, the suite is all about tension. Very little resolves, and the melodic terrain is limited and claustrophobic, to the point where it becomes clear that Penelope has an odyssey of her own to endure, if a somewhat more interior one, the question being whether or not she can keep herself together until her husband gets back. With the occasional light electronic drone or loop filtering into the mix from time to time, the group made their way matter-of-factly from circular insistence, to understatedly bitter martial passages, to a brief 6/8 art-rock ballad and then swirling atmospherics. A repetitive foghorn motif signals Odysseus’ final return home, but when he shows up, shellshocked and damaged (a Guantanamo parable, maybe?), Penelope has nothing left to look forward to but to tend to the needs of a cripple, reading him passages of his own story that go “forward and backward like the tide.” Much of this was very intense, and tensely performed: it seemed that it would never let up, and it really didn’t. And as a portrayal of one of the often overlooked consequences of war, it was spot-on. After over an hour of this, the roar of the applause at the end seemed as cathartic as it was genuine.

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October 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

CD Review: The Fast Sails – The Wayside

An auspicious debut by these smart, irrepressible, uneasy Angelenos. Frontwoman Simone Snaith (actor Shane West’s younger sister) has a soaring, disarmingly direct voice that imbues the songs with an irresistibly unselfconscious, quirky charm, like Kate Bush at her most accessible. The Fast Sails’ songs look back fondly on artsy, ornately glossy retro 80s pop while adding a grittier modern rock edge. Imagine St. Vincent but without the affectations, a happier Bat for Lashes (an oxymoron, but try it anyway), or Amy Allison if she’d gotten stuck in an 80s time warp and picked up a DX7 instead of a guitar. Back in the day they used to call a lot of what’s on this album “good top 40.”

Time, the swooshy, thoughtful opening track works a catchy four-chord hook and one of those “oh, oh” Gwen Stefani melismas. The Line is a pensively sweeping art-pop ballad, chorus shooting a poison arrow through the heart of a faithless lover. The strongest track here is Wayside, stark and resolute with mandolin way up in the mix, adding an Americana edge to a melody that’s otherwise pure London, 1983. It’s a snarling look at dealing with greedy club owners:

So we need fifty in a crowd or
We don’t get paid, we aren’t allowed oh
I’ll play the sidewalk for free for as long as I can
I promise to get up and sing

It makes a good left coast counterpart to Tom Warnick’s classic anthem 40 People. The final track here is The City, adding surprising edge and bite to a coy Missing Persons-style new wave pop song: Snaith is quick on the trigger with anyone who would necessarily pigeonhole her adopted hometown as shallow and superficial. A lot of good rock has come out of LA over the years: count the Fast Sails at the forefront of this era’s crop.

June 9, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment