Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Raptly Watching Redhooker at Littlefield

“Usually our music is described as brooding, and dark, and melancholic,” Redhooker frontman/guitarist Stephen Griesgraber told the hushed crowd at Littlefield late in their show Saturday night. “This one’s not,” he grinned, and led the atmospheric avant-chamber group into a long, carefree, bucolic, absolutely gorgeous instrumental that he said was about fish. Fluid ripples flying from his fingers as he picked, he eventually ceded the distantly bluegrass-tinged melody to new keyboardist Derek Muro and his Fender Rhodes, the violins of Andie Springer and Maxim Moston managing to be simultaneously animated and hypnotic. It perfectly capsulized the mood they’d set early on and maintained throughout their set. Their latest album Vespers is aptly titled, a still, ambient series of nocturnes. Onstage this time around they took them to a land of midnight sun, imbuing them with a quiet joy.

What’s even better is that the band has started improvising live, with tremendously captivating results. Everyone was using his or her effects pedals, Griesgraber experimenting with drones, loops and sheets of feedback which he’d use to ease the compositions in to the point where a violin or two, or Muro’s organ, would add a texture or a single complementary note or phrase, pedaling or sustaining it depending on what the rest of the band was doing. Bedside, a trance-inducing rondo, got a stretched-out treatment which emphasized both its baroque roots and cinematic sweep. The sheer volume of the songs was one transformative aspect, the band digging in a little for a wider dynamic spectrum than on the album, Griesgraber reaching for a little extra oomph as the strings would swell, Peter Hess’ bass clarinet weaving in and out of the melody when he wasn’t anchoring it with a low drone or a contrapuntal bassline of sorts. At one point, the whole group had their pedals going, Hess tapping on the body of his instrument, adding yet another level of reverberating, pointillistic rhythm while Springer tossed off some sparks with some judicious pizzicato phrasing. Much of what they play could be characterized as horizontal or minimalist, but horizontality doesn’t often offer the opportunity for this kind of interplay or just plain fun. The crowd was rapt all the way through. It would have been interesting to stick around for headliner Kelli Rudick, who was schedule to hit at around eleven, but the threat of a midnight domino effect on the trains (you never know with the MTA – trains on the way there, ostensibly completely FUBAR, were fine) was reason to err on the side of caution instead of further adventure. And Redhooker would have been a hard act to follow in any case.

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September 27, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Redhooker – Vespers

In terms of lush nocturnal beauty, this album tops the charts for 2010, end of story. Beguiling instrumental ensemble Redhooker defy categorization, incorporating elements of chamber music, ambient soundscapes, psychedelic rock and avant genres like minimalism and horizontal music, but whichever label you slap them with the result is the same, hypnotic and dreamlike. Where Brian Eno did ambient music for airports, this is ambient music for empty rooms in abandoned buildings, intimate yet impenetrably mysterious. There’s an almost magical symmetry to the compositions here, yet constantly an element of surprise. Essentially, this is a theme and variations interrupted by two long jams – which perhaps not ironically are the most captivating parts of the album. Guitarist/composer Stephen Griesgraber alternates between atmospheric washes of sound, simple but effective lead lines and gently insistent fingerpicking while the violins of Andie Springer and Maxim Moston trade harmonies and textures, with Peter Hess’ bass clarinet often carrying the lead counterintuitively in the lowest registers.

The opening track, Standing Still establishes a circular theme that weaves among the instruments like a lazy dragonfly in the bulrushes. The line goes straight back to Haydn if you follow it through the clouds. The aptly titled Bedside is a swaying minimalist lullaby with distant baroque echoes, a study in textural contrasts, guitar or bass clarinet playing stately melody versus the sweep of the violins. The first improvisation, Presence and Reflection begins ghostly, gently ominous with whispering waves of guitar noise, a draft-through-the-door atmosphere with distant echoes of (but not by) Pink Floyd. And then it’s a lullaby again, going out on a gentle, late afternoon tide.

Things get as lively as they’re going to here on the next cut, Friction, interwoven with subtly colliding textures and building to a tricky dance that wouldn’t be out of place in the Turtle Island String Quartet oeuvre. And then night falls again with the second jam, like Pink Floyd’s On the Run but quarterspeed – you could call it On the Crawl. In over fifteen minutes, starkly glimmering, Gilmouresque guitar rings out in the distance over dense waves of noise, the violins and then the bass clarinet eventually making a welcome, deftly terse return to paint in pieces of melody that slowly make shape out of shadow . The album ends with a rondo, each instrument working a judiciously studied piece of the original theme, ending with bass clarinet looming in from behind the strings like a sleepy caretaker who’s gotten to know the ghosts in this place by now. It takes a special kind of album to be this quiet and still keep the listener captivated, not to mention awake. This is that album.

February 24, 2010 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment