Martin Brody: Beasts (CD Review)

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Beasts

Music by Martin Brody

Collage New Music, David Hoose, conductor

Albany Records CD Troy 1595

On the Albany CD Beasts, Collage New Music, directed by David Hoose, presents three vocal chamber works by  Wellesley College professor Martin Brody. In his liner notes, Brody says that each of the pieces provide, “imaginative identification with something or someone outside one’s self as a catalyst of self-transformation.”

In the title work, featuring laser beam accuracy from soprano Elizabeth Keusch, the focus is on animals: the spider, the octopus, deer, mice, and a werewolf. Millenium Sightings uses the apocalyptic writings of 12 century monk Joachim of Fiore as its starting point, interweaving these with works by Abraham Abulafia and Miraji. Accompanied by bell-like timbres, mezzo soprano Janice Felty sings these angularly melismatic settings with strong declamation and a refined sense of tonal shadings. The Tree of Life shows Brody at his most expansive, combining texts by Ovid, James Merrill, John Ashbery, Richard Wilbur, and Robert Lowell. Mezzo soprano Pamela Dellal displays an impressive lower register, superb dynamic control, and unflagging stamina in these demanding settings. Throughout, Collage and Hoose are estimable accompanists, providing space for the vocal line while exploring the various interesting textures Brody has provided for them.

One quibble, for the publishers, not for Brody: many didn’t not allow reprints of their texts in the liner notes booklet. It would seem that this would serve both poets and composers by showing off their collaboration. One wishes publishers wouldn’t be so parsimonious with permissions.

Dan Trueman: “Nostalgic Synchronic”

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Nostalgic Synchronic

Music by Dan Trueman

Performed by Adam Sliwinski, bitKlavier

New Amsterdam CD/DL

Nostalgic Synchronic, 8 etudes by Dan Trueman for bitKlavier, a “prepared digital piano,” are the program for Adam Sliwinski’s solo debut. Sliwinski’s regular gig is with So Percussion, but he makes a persuasive advocate here, dealing with the busy, microtonally altered material wrought by Trueman with facility and rhythmic incisiveness.

The recording is out now via New Amsterdam. One can download Trueman’s bitKlavier software on the project’s website.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: “CKCMP (SILICON Rework)”

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Check out this “rework” (not remix, mind you) by SILICON of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s song “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone.” It is off of a 7″ coming out on 4/1 via Jagjaguwar. The band is launching an extensive tour (dates below).

UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA TOUR DATES (new dates in BOLD)
Jan. 28 – Vancouver, BC @ The Rickshaw Theatre * [tickets] – SOLD OUT
Jan. 29 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune * [tickets] – SOLD OUT
Jan. 30 – Portland, OR @ Revolution Hall * [tickets] – SOLD OUT
Feb. 1 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore * [tickets] – SOLD OUT
Feb. 2 – Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory * [tickets]
Feb. 3 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre * [tickets] – SOLD OUT
Feb. 5 – El Paso, TX @ Lowbrow Palace * [tickets]
Feb. 6 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger * [tickets]
Feb. 7 – Austin, TX @ Emo’s * [tickets]
Feb. 8 – Houston, TX @ Numbers * [tickets]
Feb. 9 – Dallas, TX @ Trees * [tickets]
Feb. 11 – New Orleans, LA @ Republic New Orleans * [tickets]
Feb. 12 – Birmingham, AL @ Saturn * [tickets]
Feb. 13 – Nashville, TN @ Exit In * [tickets]
Feb. 14 – Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel* [tickets]
Feb. 16 – Richmond, VA @ The National * [tickets]
Feb. 17 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club * [tickets]
Feb. 18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer * [tickets]
Feb. 19 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza * [tickets]
Feb. 20 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza * [tickets]
Apr. 13 – Visalia, CA @ The Cellar Door & [tickets]
Apr. 14 – Santa Barbara, CA @ SOhO Music Club & [tickets]
Apr. 16 – Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival [tickets]
Apr. 21 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up Tavern [tickets]
Apr. 23 – Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival [tickets]
Apr. 28 – Sao Paulo, BR @ Beco 203 [tickets]
Apr. 29 – Buenos Aires, AR @ Niceto Club [tickets]
Apr. 30 – Santiago, CL @ Sala Omnium
May 7 – Fort Collins, CO @ Aggie Theatre # [tickets]
May 8 – Lincoln, NE @ Vega [tickets] #
May 9 – Des Moines, IA @ Wooly’s # [tickets]
May 10 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall [tickets] #
May 12 – Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck # [tickets]
May 13 – Memphis, TN @ 1884 [tickets] #
May 15 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Festival [tickets]
May 17 – Columbus, OH @ Skullys Music Diner [tickets] #
May 18 – Grand Rapids, MI @ The Pyramid Scheme [tickets] #
May 19 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre [tickets] #
May 20 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium (Dempseys Upstairs) # [tickets]
May 21 – Winnipeg, MB @ WECC [tickets] #
May 23 – Saskatoon, SK @ Amigos Cantina [tickets] #
May 24 – Edmonton, AB @ The Starlite Room [tickets] #
May 25 – Calgary, AB @ Commonwealth [tickets] #
May 27 – George, WA @ Sasquatch Festival [tickets]
May 29 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling [tickets]
June 17-19 – Aarhus, Denmark @ Northside Festival [tickets]
June 17-19 – Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands @ Best Kept Secret [tickets]
July 1 – Vilanova l La Geltru, Spain @ Vida Festival [tickets]
July 3 – Werchter, Belgium @ Rock Werchter [tickets]
Sept. 2 – Berkeley, CA @ Greek Theatre – UC Berkeley w/ Tame Impala [tickets]
Sept 3 – Berkeley, CA @ The Greek Theatre w/ Tame Impala

* w/ Lower Dens supporting
# w/ Whitney
& w/ Vinyl Williams

Brian Harnetty on Dust-to-Digital (CD Review)

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Rawhead & Bloody Bones

Brian Harnetty

Dust-to-Digital 2xCD DTD-50

 

For label Dust-to-Digital’s fiftieth release, they tap composer Brian Harnetty, an artist known for blending vintage spoken word and field recordings with his own music. Rawhead and Bloody Bones features 1940s accounts by young people of scary stories. The contrast between Harnetty’s music, which references both traditional Appalachian styles and contemporary folktronica, and the recounting of often grisly tales in children’s voices, is at times startling. But there’s a very effective haloing of the voices by the music that provides a layer of remove, reminding us that these are “ghost stories” in many senses of the word.

A second disc of instrumentals brings the essentials of Harnerty’s creations to the surface, consisting of gentle electronics, vibraphone and chimes, solo banjo and viola lines, and sustained chords from saxophone and trumpet. Two very different sides of the same coin, Rawhead and Bloody Bones is the better for the inclusion of both CDs.

Aquarius Sings Arvo Pärt

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Magnificent Magnificat

Arvo Pärt

Aquarius chamber choir, conducted by Marc Michael De Smet

Jade Music

 

This collection of choral music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt celebrates his eightieth birthday. It is programmed to emphasize his interpretations of Marian texts such as the Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, and O Antiphons, all of which are central to his choral output. It also includes an excerpt from the totemic Kanon Pokajanen, his largest choral work, as well as shorter excerpts such as The Deer’s Cry and I am the True Vine. (The latter is particularly beautifully performed.)

Aquarius, a group of twenty-four voices, seems “right-sized” for these works, with enough voices to provide the requisite heft and majesty where necessary while still being able to create diaphanous pianissimo passages elsewhere. Conductor Marc Michael De Smet does an exquisite job of shaping phrases, balancing chords, and, a very important consideration in the performance of Pärt, pacing the proceedings. I will be on the lookout for their complete recording of Kanon Pokajanen.

 

 

R. Andrew Lee Plays Paul A. Epstein (CD Review)

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Paul A. Epstein Piano Music

R. Andrew Lee, piano

Irritable Hedgehog CD/DL

 

Prior to this recording, composer Paul A. Epstein was not a name known to me. There are so many vital creators out there that one must continue to search for them. Thankfully, R. Andrew Lee has recorded this disc for Irritable Hedgehog. It presents eight of Epstein’s compositions for solo piano: a delightfully diverse and stimulating collection.

In Will Robin’s excellently annotated liner notes, he points out that Epstein doesn’t fall neatly into the minimalist category. His interest in Sol LeWitt, Philip Glass, and Tom Johnson notwithstanding, there are processes afoot in Epstein’s music that share an affinity with modernism. Thus, we hear motoric passages brushing up against piles of dissonance and non-tonal canons. Some processes of pitch and rhythmic manipulation demonstrate an awareness of serial approaches: Robin quotes post-minimalist composer and author Kyle Gann, who likens Epstein to “the Milton Babbitt of minimalism.”

Lee performs this challenging music nimbly, with extraordinary verve and impressive rhythmic accuracy. The pianist has steadily expanded his reach to include many composers from seemingly all corners of experimental music. While one savors this recording, it is also exciting to contemplate what Lee will come up with next.