New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: instrumental music

Noir Cinematics, Briefly Interrupted, by Ludovico Einaudi at the Town Hall

Last night at the Town Hall looked like date night. Lots of couples, on the older side, which was logical since Ludovico Einaudi was playing. The Italian composer/keyboardist’s cinematic new album In a Time Lapse is a dark but lullingly hypnotic, minimalistic orchestral suite inspired by the nature writing of Henry David Thoreau. Playing piano, Einaudi and his excellent twelve-piece ensemble – a string section with a couple of members who doubled on acoustic guitar, bass or percussion, plus two percussionists, a second keyboardist who frequently added boomy, almost subsonic bass via a syndrum patch, and an onstage mixing engineer whom Einaudi credits as being part of the band – brought the album to life with unexpected vigor and an often haunting intensity.

The concert began with the slow, reverberating beat of a gong, the house lights all the way down, the stage in darkness except for the lights on the music stands, the string section opening with a slow, pulsing, nocturnal theme. About two hours later, the show ended with a delirious audience clapalong on what could be termed a minimalist art-rock dancefloor vamp. This was definitely not foreshadowed, either by the latest album, or by anything that preceded it on the bill – but the crowd responded with a lusty standing ovation.

The show followed a slow upward trajectory interrupted by two unexpectedly fiery, clenched-teeth interludes, the orchestra going full steam and absolutely explosive on the second one. Einaudi’s brilliance is in how he shifts moods, sometimes drastically, with very subtle melodic changes. The influence of Philip Glass was evident from the first notes; Angelo Badalamenti’s David Lynch soundtracks also came to mind. Einaudi’s orchestration is packed with neat textural touches like having one of the percussionists harmonize with the piano using a mbira, or by rubbing the inside of a steel pan for a lingering, keening sustain. From moody, dusky late summer apprehension – the date night part of the show, which went on for quite a while – the strings finally rose with an agitatedly shivery isnistence. From there they backed away while Einaudi took his time working back into the shadows, the orchestra again rising with a vintage ELO swirl as one of the cellists added wispy overtones run through a reverb patch for extra ghostliness. This would recur to even more potently eerie effect late rin the show. For his part, Einaudi rigs his piano with several reverb effects, from an fast echo similar to what U2′s The Edge uses on his guitar, to a subtle tremolo, to a practically never-ending sustain.

From there Einaudi went into a solo interlude and latched onto a theme that reminded of [what is that awful, cloying 1986 album by the Cure that all the indie bands rip off?], and wouldn’t let it go. Was he setting up a contrast? Actually, yes, but there wasn’t enough substance in the tune – a simple, seemingly random series of rigthhand variations around a central note – to make anything interesting out of it. He finally let it go, and the music rose mightily, to an anthemic romp that evoked breezy mid-70s ELO and then a theme that reminded a lot of the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony. By this point, it was a rock show. Pretty cool, considering how raptly and carefully the group had been playing for most of the night. Einaudi brought back the menace with a rippling, chromatically spiky vamp that he finally took over the top with a gleeful glissando: gotcha! Einaudi’s current US tour continues, winding up in San Francisco in early June, then he’s on the road in Europe this summer.

House of Waters Bring Their Gorgeous Psychedelic Textures to the Rockwood

House of Waters are one of New York’s most interesting and unique bands. Part funky jamband, part Afrobeat and part pan-Asian, there is no other group in the world who sound remotely like them. In a casually expert way, frontman Max ZT is the Hendrix of the hammered dulcimer, an instrument on which he is a former American national champion. Yet while American folk music informs his songwriting, his rippling, hypnotic, warmly psychedelic instrumentals draw on styles from around the globe. As one would assume from a disciple of Shivkumar Sharma, India’s greatest master of the santoor – an ancestor of the hammered dulcimer – he’s taking his instrument to places it’s never gone before. The lush, dreamy quality of many of these songs disguises the fact that there are only three instruments in the band: the dulcimer, Moto Fukushima’s eight-string bass and Luke Notary’s cajon. They’re playing the small room at the Rockwood at 11 PM on May 17; if global sounds with a psychedelic edge are your thing, you’ll love this band.

Their album is titled Revolution: their kind of revolution is a good-natured, upbeat one. It’s a generous fifteen-track mix, the resonant ring of the dulcimer blending with the undulating bass and a thicket of percussion. Sometimes the dulcimer and bass double each others’ lines; other times they play off each other, or trade places, dulcimer anchoring a trancey groove as the bass sails overhead. There’s often a layer of dirt in the tone of the bass, and Fukushima uses all eight strings, especially if he takes a rapidfire guitar lead. Sometimes the beats are straight-up, other times they’re more tricky. That it’s often hard to tell who’s playing what speaks to the intricacy of the arrangements and the chemistry in the band.

A couple of the numbers work variations around a central tone as in indie rock, one of them rising to a big, insistent, anthemic stadium-rock crescendo, the other going into unexpectedly moody, ominous territory. Another track has a swaying triplet rhythm and a warm Mediterranean feel. Sound of Impermanence works around spiraling upper-register licks on the highest strings of the bass, while Sabula rises to a majestic, spacious atmosphere, Max ZT choosing his spots. The album’s most energetic cut, Agnolim, has the dulcimer machinegunning over a nonchalantly catchy, low-key groove – and then the bass goodnaturedly takes over. The closing track, Ball in Cage sets spacious Asian riffs over interwoven loops in both the lows and the highs from the bass. There’s also a terse rainy-day theme and a brief interlude that sounds like a resonator guitar solo but clearly isn’t.

Another Brilliant Noir Instrumental Album from Beninghove’s Hangmen

Bandleader Bryan Beninghove is a jazz saxophonist with a busy schedule around the New York area, and writes a lot for film and tv. He has a distinctive, individual voice on the soprano sax; he also plays tenor, and melodica as well. Back in 2011, he and his band Beninghove’s Hangmen put out a richly creepy, eclectically cinematic debut album of noir theme music which was one of that year’s best. They’ve got a new one, Rattlesnake Chopper just out, streaming at their Bandcamp page, and it’s every bit as murderously intense. They’re playing the album release show this Friday, May 17 at Nublu at 10 PM.

The Hangmen’s lineup this time out is pretty much the same: guitarists and John Zorn alums Eyal Maoz and Dane Johnson, trombonist Rick Parker (of similarly dark Bartok jazz project Little Worlds and a million other bands), Shawn Baltazor on drums, and Kellen Harrison on bass (dub maven and Super Hi-Fi leader Ezra Gale takes over on bass for the show).

Where the debut album was more of a jazz record, this one is horror surf rock along with a couple of lively departures into gypsy jazz (Beninghove also plays that style of music in the memorably named Jersey City group Manouche Bag) and noiserock. The darker material here brings to mind another great New York band, the Coffin Daggers; Maoz’ presence here adds a Middle Eastern edge similar to his own high-voltage instrumental rock band, Edom. The title track, which opens the album, could be the Hells’ Angels’ theme, a slowly marauding, minor-key biker rock groove with lurid neon horn harmonies, an absolutely sick Maoz solo followed by…a theremin solo. Hangmen’s Manouche has a jaunty swing, Beninghove’s carefree melodica and tenor sax contrasting with Parker’s brooding trombone and Johnson’s surreallistically warped Jeff Lynne guitar. One of Beninghove’s best songs, Surf n’ Turk works a menacing Anatolian guitar riff that everyone who plays an instrument will be trying to figure out: it’s absurdly catchy, but it’s tricky and it’s the darkest thing here.

Choro Clock D’Lite begins as aa bubbly soca theme, adds a weird undercurrent with Johnson’s outer-space EFX, then heads to New Orleans. The album’s other horror surf masterpiece, Surfin’ Satie builds variations on a macabre, reverb-drenched chromatic theme, a shivery tenor sax solo handing off to a jagged guitar duel. The final track, Powerstine, slows things down to a sludgy Macedonian-flavored grind and then picks up, gypsy-tinged soprano sax leading the way. Best album of 2013? One of them, no question.

A Gateway Drug to the Surreal World of Chicha Music

Most people north of Peru still have no idea who Los Destellos are. Credit Chicha Libre, New York’s funnest live band and America’s finest chicha group, for opening the floodgates for a generation worth of trippy, echoey, clangy Peruvian psychedelic rock by bands who from the late 60s through the early 80s played a surreal blend of surf music and rhythms from across Latin America. With their two Roots of Chicha compilations, Chicha Libre’s label Barbes Records were the first to release anything by Los Destellos outside of their native Peru. Los Destellos were the first to use the term chicha (a corn beverage that’s essentially the Peruvian equivalent of malt liquor; its slang meaning is “ghetto”) to describe their music. In that genre, they are what the Ventures are to American surf music, generally acknowledged as its finest and most prolific practitioners.

On the brand-new Rough Guide to Latin Psychedelia compilation, they appear once on the first disc and get an entire bonus disc devoted to them. While what’s here may not be definitive – for example, there’s only one track, the woozy fuzztone bossa groove Onsta La Yerbita, from their stunningly ornate 1971 classic Constelacion album – it’s still off the hook. El Boogaloo Del Perro morphs unexpectedly from a latin soul vamp into balmy Hugh Masekela territory and just as unexpectedly back again. Volando Con Los Destellos reinvents Oye Como Va as a blazing fuzztone jam, a showcase for lead guitarist Enrique Delgado to show off the chops that made him an icon in his native country. They take Flash & the Dynamics’ broodingly shuffling Guajira Sicodelica (which also appears on the compilation) and remake it as Byrdsy twelve-string rock, Delgado having fun with his echo pedal and a handful of stolen Ventures licks. Recycling that same Byrds hook for all it’s worth, Boogaloo De Los Destellos proves for all time how much the California band’s sound would have been enhanced by timbales. Among the rest of the thirteen Destellos tracks here, Noche de Garua has a Lullaby of the Leaves feel; La Cumbia Del Sol works a lo-fi take on early Santana; Soy Un Campesino rocks out a Peruvian folk tune; while the rest have a spiky, wickedly catchy, reverb-toned drive and intensity. Considering how tinny so much of chicha music sounds, the remastered sound quality is tremendously good. The rest of the compilation concentrates on soul grooves fused with many different south-of-the-border sounds, from the obvious (Joe Cuba) to the deliciously unexpected (Los Pakines’ stoner anthem Tomalo O Dejalo).

Chicha Libre are also represented, by an unexpected choice, keyboardist Josh Camp’s Number 17, a tribute to Fermat primes. The whole thing is streaming at World Music Network, a place you can get just as lost as at youtube except that there are no annoying commercials. Let the main page for the Rough Guides send you down the rabbit hole – if esoterica is your thing, you can check in any time you like and basically never leave. Salsa Dura NYC? Check. Music of the Sahara? Doublecheck. Desert blues, Russian gypsy music, the list goes on and on.

Big Lazy Returns with a Vengeance

With a big echoing crash and then a swipe of toxically reverb-drenched guitar, Big Lazy were back like they’d never left. If memory serves right, the world’s darkest noir instrumental band’s last gig had been a record release show in June of 2007 at Luna Lounge in what would soon afterward become the Knitting Factory space. It was the loss of a drummer (Tamir Muskat leaving to join Gogol Bordello and then lead Balkan Beat Box) that did them in. In the wake of the breakup, guitarist Steve Ulrich composed for film and tv, and joined forces with Pink Noise’s Itamar Ziegler, with whom he eventually put out the best album of 2012, the luridly menacing if prosaically titled Ulrich Ziegler. Friday the 12th at Barbes, the back room was packed, a mix of neighborhood folks along with what’s left of the band’s cult following from when they were a regular weekend attraction at Tonic.

Second and third versions of bands are usually pale imitations, but this lineup might be Big Lazy’s best ever  – and they had the brilliant Willie Martinez, the band’s original drummer, guesting on bongos on several songs. The new guys seemed to be jumping out of their shoes to be playing Ulrich’s material. Who knew that drummer Yuval Lion (another Pink Noise alum) could swing as hard as he did? And it figures that Ulrich would have to go outside the rock world, in this case, to the Greenwich Village Orchestra, for their first-chair bassist Andew Hall. Amped as high in the mix as Ulrich’s guitars, Hall anchored the songs in a murky yet precise pulse, adding an occasionally wrathful, pitchblende wash when he played with a bow. Meanwhile, Lion was having a ball with his hardware, pinging and rattling away when he wasn’t swinging a country backbeat or a nonchalant funk groove.

In practically two hours onstage, the band began with the brand-new Bernard Herrmann-style 6/8 blues Swampesque and ended with a typically out-of-breath, desperate Princess Nicotine. In between, they played mostly new material: Ulrich may not have been doing many shows lately, but he’s hardly been idle. Don’t Cross Myrtle blended monster movie improvabilly and purposeful Mingus swing, Lion riding the traps. Lunch Lady chugged along, shedding jagged chromatic sparks, followed by the Lynchian highway anthem Minor Problem, Ulrich’s lapsteel swerving eerily like Eraserhead behind the wheel.

Another new grey-sky highway theme, The Low Way unwound apprehensively, paving the way for a murderously spacious take of Skinless Boneless, a standout track from the band’s second album. Ulrich never stops reinventing his songs – no disrespect to Bill Frisell or Marc Ribot, but there is no more intense guitarist in the world right now. Martinez came up to join them and underscore the murderous tiptoe insistence of Gone, from the band’s third album, and then the rapidfire chase scene Just Plain Scared. The highlight of the second set was Uneasy Street, a morose classic from the band’s first album, Hall unleashing a river of ultraviolet ambience when Ulrich let his lurid, tremoloing lines fade out and handed over the melody. Big Lazy are at the Gutter bowling alley in Williamsburg on May 3 at atound 10 with Sexmob’s Steven Bernstein guesting on trumpet: if dark sounds are your thing, this is a show not to miss

Moody, Lynchian Instrumentals from Ludovico Einaudi

Italian pianist/composer Ludovico Einaudi has a beautifully Lynchian new album, In a Time Lapse, just out and a North American tour in the works. The music is Lynchian in the sense that it builds a series of frequently apprehensive movements out of terse variations on a simple four-note theme, just as Angelo Badalamenti did with the Twin Peaks soundtrack. The shadow of Philip Glass also towers over this album; his 1995 suite In the Summer House springs to mind. And in its more brooding moments, Einaudi reminds of Erik Satie. Einaudi likes a lot of reverb on his piano, to the extent that he generously credits the recording engineer as part of the ensemble. Elegant, sometimes sweeping strings and surprisingly hard-hitting percussion are provided in places by Orchestra I Virtuosi Italiani .

After a pensive, balmy string introduction, Einaudi wastes no time going deep into the noir with the sweepingly orchestrated, creepily surreal, hypnotic central theme, setting a suspenseful tone that persist throughout the rest of the album. While the rest of the suite is seldom this dark, there’s a recurring disquiet throughout the series of hypnotic, artfully ornamented piano preludes. Einaudi plays gracefully and gently; he lets his ideas linger and build suspense, or resonate with a nocturnal, late-summer calm.

A moody hypnotically baroque-tinged waltz brings back the strings, building to a stormy insistence. Einaudi follows a pulsing, Glass-like circular piece with an increasingly haunting interlude, lush strings over a repetitive four-note piano riff. Spaciously airy piano variations give way to more Glass-like circularity and then build to a minimalistically pulsing variations over almost subsonic electronics. The unease rises as the variations move along, electronic loops and then strings carrying the recurrent underlying theme to a rather elegaic payoff at the end. Who is the audience for this? The Sequenza 21 crowd, obviously; fans of Badalamenti, Glass, film music, and the noir pantheon. It sounds best with the lights out.

Ronald Reagan Lives On As a Parody

Ronald Reagan, Boston’s premier 80′s pop saxophone duo aim to revitalize America’s economy by promoting large tax cuts and a revival of 80s pop music. Their sidemen went on strike, violating a band regulation prohibiting critical players from striking. Ronald Reagan stated that if the musicians ‘did not return to work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs, and will be terminated.’ They are seeking non-union musicians in anticipation of a 2011 tour to Grenada.” That was a couple of years ago. It’s not known if this particular Ronald Reagan is still alive, but their album lives on, most of it still streamable at myspace. And it’s a hoot. The trick is how to write about it without giving away the jokes, because they’re that good.

Ronald Reagan is/was Alec Spiegelman - who plays with a whole bunch of great bands including gypsy/klezmer powerhouse Klezwoods and Miss Tess’   jaunty oldtime Americana group – and Kelly Roberge, from Quartet of Happiness, who are sort of an equally funny, satirical Boston counterpart to New York’s Mostly Other People Do the Killing.

Has anyone ever really listened to Wham’s hit Take On Me all the way through and actually paid attention? These guys have. What they do to it is cruel, because in trying to make art out of it they reveal how absolutely artless it is. Garbage in, double the garbage out. Cindy Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun also has vocals for extra ouch! factor, but what’s coolest about it is that these guys are great players, and they try, and try, and try to make this stuff interesting, snaking around and punching on the beat and doing everything a jazz musician possibly can do to redeem it. And that’s where the fun is.

Likewise, We Built This City, by Jefferson Starship (or were they simply Starship by 1985?) has some vocals too. One funny thing about this version is that in between cloying choruses, these guys actually succeed in conjuring up a catchy soca groove that doesn’t sound anything like the original.

Michael Jackson’s Beat It has been parodied forever (Weird Al Yankovic’s Eat It, with Rick Derringer totally whipping Eddie Van Halen’s ass when it comes to the guitar solo, is a favorite). This particular spoof is tight and yet completely over-the-top (hint – backing vocals). They end the album with a popular choice of worst song ever written, Total Eclipse of the Heart, which among other things turns out to have a less-than-secret connection to Cindy Lauper.

If you have a friend who’s addicted to cornball songs from the 80s, introduce them to this album, if only for spite. Likewise, if you work in retail or in a medical office and are forced to have the easy-listening station playing over the PA instead of Spotify, or your phone, or a boombox (food for thought), this will validate your suffering. And make you smile. And if you’re old enough to remember this stuff when it first came out, you will really bust a gut. Break this out at a party sometime and watch everybody crack up.

Oh yeah – if you’ve made it this far, a little research reveals that Take On Me wasn’t by Wham. That was George Michael’s 80s band. Take On Me was by a Scandinavian group called A-Ha who must have thought that if Abba could have gotten away with all the fractured English in their hits from the 70s, these guys could do the same thing in the 80s. And they were right!

Helen Money Brings Her Dark Cello Sonics to Brooklyn

Uncategorizably eclectic, dark, intense cellist Helen Money‘s new third album, Arriving Angels has arrived. She’s playing St. Vitus in Greenpoint on March 22 at around 10 PM, the highlight of an otherwise skronky experimental metal bill which includes Cleric and Behold the Arktopus. Cover is a reasonable $10.

Although Helen Money a.k.a. Alison Chesley got her start in indie rock, and has created string arrangements for bands as heavy as Anthrax and as lightweight as Broken Social Scene, her solo work is her strongest. Armed with her pedalboard, she builds relentlessly menacing instrumentals, often using guitar voicings, equal parts cello metal, avant garde minimalism and gothic rock. Despite her ferocious chops, she doesn’t waste notes, favoring slower tempos, tricky meters, and the stygian depths of the sonic spectrum. This new album features multitracked solo pieces along with several cuts featuring Jason Roeder from Neurosis and Sleep on drums. It’s intensely gloomy, nebulously majestic stuff, recorded with a gleeful menace by Steve Albini.

The opening track, Rift, sets the stage. Using her loop ledal, she works her way out of a slowly oscillating drone punctuated by minimalist fuzztone hits and a handful of darkly resonant chords, the effects veering from murky to crunchy. Then an ominous chromatic riff pushes them out of the picture, then Money brings them back and mixes everything together into a pool of pitchblende sonics. The second track, Upsetter, works up a simple Tony Iommi-ish chromatic riff and variations, again with a mix of pulsing low-register sludge, crunchy assault and suspenseful atmospherics.

On the third track, Beautiful Friends, Money goes down so low you can hear the buzz and flutter of the strings – then the drums come in, a cavalcade of dead monks tumbling down the catacomb steps. Radio Recorders sets repeaterbox licks over hypnotically spiraling drums, then goes all echoey, austere ambience alternating with simple, murderous blows to the head. Midwestern Nights Dream, a brief, matter-of-fact interlude is unexpectedly bright, followed by the title track, juxtaposing atmospheric pulses and drones with bludgeoning chromatic riffage. The album winds up with a catchy, hypnotic, dirgey diptych that grows to an echoey, macabre surrealism. Who is the audience for this? Besides fans of metal and indie classical, anyone who gravitates toward dark, low-register music that’s hypnotic and encircling one minute and viscerally abrasive the next.

Hee Hawk Bring Their Tuneful, Noirishly Jazzy Sounds to NYC

[repost from NY Music Daily's sister blog Lucid Culture. When the two blogs spun off from each other and divided up the content, they got all the jazz. Sometimes they throw something tasty back this way]

Massachusetts group Hee Hawk are a prime example of darkly tuneful new instrumental music that begins with jazz and springboards all over the place from there. They’re making an auspicious stop in New York for two shows, the first on 3/19 at around 10 at Two Moon Art House & Cafe, 315 4th Ave. in Sunset Park and the next day, 3/20 at 9 PM at the Parkside. They’ve got a richly melodic new album out which is streaming at their Bandcamp page.

Bandleader Adam Lipsky’s compositions embrace Americana as well as gypsy and film music, often going off into absolutely lurid noir territory. That mood is enhanced on the album by the simple fact that the piano he’s playing is just a hair out of tune: when he rides the pedal, murky saloon piano overtones rise like smoke from the ground.

The first track, Cover That Man (Basketball) is one deadly game of hoops, late 50s cool Miles through the prism of Angelo Badalamenti, shifting from a slowly lingering noir sway to swing and back again with a tinge of dusky Ethiopian spice, Lipsky’s tersely resonant gleam punctuated by the occasional menacing guitar chord from Niko Ewing. Wake is what you might get from Bill Frisell scoring a Roman Polanski film, a dirge taken in a rustic direction by Nina Violet’s viola in tandem with Ewing’s dobro, Lipsky channeling Ran Blake in gospel mode, Mike Marcinowski’s boomy drums building the mournful mood in tandem with Steve Tully’s elegaic tenor sax.

With its slow Fever sway, brushed drums and smoky tenor, Dress Hips is lo-fi David Lynch, a torchy minimalist blues, Mary Lou Williams gone to the liquor store instead of Sunday services. The band’s signature track evokes Beninghove’s Hangmen with its bouncy blend of gypsy jazz, noir soundtrack bite and irrepressible oldtimey swing. through an unexpectedly ominous breakdown to its forceful conclusion. Likewise, the catchy song without words Singing Partner, Violet refusing to accede to any country cliches, Tully’s bright soprano sax fueling its tempo changes. The longest and most stunning of all of the tracks is Emerald, an increasingly shivery, creepy bolero, Lipsky’s otherworldly piano handing off to Violet’s mournful lines before Tully adds an unexpected optimism on baritone sax before the shadows overwhelm it. Whether you want to call this jazz, film music, oldtimey music or all of the above and more, it’s one of the best albums of recent months.

Fernando Otero’s New Album: Best of 2013?

Argentinian-born pianist/composer Fernando Otero won the Latin Grammy in the classical category in 2010 for his album Vital. That was a darkly beautiful record, but his new one, Romance, is even better. It’s a series of themes and variations in the style of a classical sonata, artfully split between instruments, interchanging between time signatures, interwoven like a secret code. Inspired by Argentine writer and clarinetist Julio Cortázar’s novel Hopscotch, it invites the listener to decide on a “modular” sequence of tracks, perhaps a wry nod to the reality of how listeners work in the iphone era. Taken in sequence, this is a harrowing ride that ends unresolved; however, if one plays the tracks in reverse order – or uses the austerely balletesque opening track as a conclusion – the grimness lifts considerably.

As he did with Vital, Otero works subtle mood shifts, but a haunted sensibility that’s often downright macabre lingers throughout the eleven tracks here. Otero plays with a murky elegance on all of them (in contrast to his often brutal attack on the keys, live in concert), yet the piano is not always the central instrument here. The ensemble behind him rises to the challenge of blending jazz-tinged neoromantic themes with new and classic tango within an overall ambience that defines the concept of noir. This is music raging, sometimes simmering, sometimes dancing, sometimes shivering against the dying of the light. This is a great album, a classic album, an achievement that ranks with the greatest work of Chopin, or Miles Davis, or Piazzolla, all of whom it resembles to some extent. It’s probably the best album of the year in any style of music. Otero reasserts himself as one of this era’s most important, compelling composers, and he covers a lot of ground. Otero and his ensemble are playing the cd release show tomorrow night, March 2 at the 92YTribeca at 9 PM. You have been warned.

A ghost-girl choir of Josefina Scaglione, Kristin Norderval and Dana Hanchard takes centerstage in the album’s most haunting moments. There’s a chilling, Satie-esque theme introduced by the piano that the strings pick up later on, and then the choir. Where will it end up? That’s the worrisome part. Otero works the entire spectrum of each instrument’s range, counterintuitively: the lows from Ljova Zhurbin’s viola, the highs from Adam Fisher’s cello, bassist Pablo Aslan switching in a split second from an elegant pulse to mournful bowed lines. Ivan Barenboim also switches between plaintive clarinet and brooding bass clarinet, running the gamut from jaunty optimism to sheer despair. Nicolas Danielson’s violin remains the one constant alongside the piano, a cynical dialectic of sorts.

Dreamy Tschaikovskian melodicism jostles against creepy, morose chromatics, agitated Mingus urban bustle, rapidfire two-handed Schumannesque stampedes with a surreal Twin Peaks glimmer and Shostakovian anguish. Stern classical scales quash any distant, tentative hope echoing from the choir; tiptoeing strings hand off to plaintive clarinet over resonant deadpool piano that rises only to an elegaic gleam. Again, you have been warned: watch for this on the best albums of 2013 page here at the end of the year, if we get that far.


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