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Tag: cello music

Another Magical, Otherworldly Night Staged by @tignortronics

Last week’s triumphant reprise of the initial show at Littlefield staged by composer/violinist/impresario Christopher Tignor, a.k.a. @tignortronics was magical. Sometimes lush and dreamy, other times stark and apprehensive or majestically enveloping, often within the span of a few minutes, Tignor and the two other acts on the bill, cellist Julia Kent and guitarist Sarah Lipstate a.k.a. Noveller put their own distinctly individualistic marks on minimalism and atmospheric postrock. There was some stadium rock, too, the best kind – the kind without lyrics. And much as the three composer-performers were coming from the same place, none of them were the least constrained by any kind of genre.

Kent and Lipstate built their sweeping vistas out of loops, artfully orchestrating them with split-second choreography and elegant riffage, both sometimes employing a drum loop or something rhythmic stashed away in a pedal or on a laptop (Lipstate had two of those, and seemed to be mixing the whole thing on her phone). Tignor didn’t rely on loops, instead fleshing out his almost imperceptibly shapeshifting variations with an octave pedal that added both cello-like orchestration and washes of low-register ambience that anchored his terse, unselfconsciously plaintive motives.

Kent opened her all-too-brief set with apprehensive, steady washes that built to an aching march before fading out quickly. Between songs, the crowd was  rapt: although there were pauses in between, the music came across as a suite. An anxious upward slash gave way to a hypnotic downward march and lush, misty ambience; a little later, she worked a moody, arpeggiated hook that would have made a good horror movie theme into more anthemic territory that approached Led Zep or Rasputina, no surprise since she was a founding member of that band (no, not Led Zep). Slithery harmonics slashed through a fog and then grew more stormy, then Kent took a sad fragment and built it into a staggered, wounded melody. She could have played for twice as long and no one would have said as much as a whisper.

Tignor flavored his judicious, sometimes cell-like themes with deft washes of white noise and his own slightly syncopated beat, which he played on kick drum for emphatic contrast with his occasionally morose, poignant violin phrases. A long triptych moved slowly upward into hypnotic, anthemic cinematics, then back and forth and finally brightened, with a surprisingly believable, unexpectedly sunny trajectory that of course Tignor had to end enigmatically. A slow, spacious canon of sorts echoed the baroque, more melodically than tempo-wise, its wary pastoral shades following a similarly slow, stately upward tangent. He played a dreamy nocturne with a tuning fork rather than a bow for extra shimmer and echoey lustre and wound up his set with another restless if judiciously paced partita.

Where Kent and Tignor kept the crowd on edge, Lipstate rocked the house. She began with a robust Scottish-tinged theme that she took unexpectedly from anthemic terrain into looming atmospherics. A rather macabre loop hinting at grand guignol became the centerpiece of the big, anthemic second number, long ambient tones shifting overhead.
She followed a broodingly circling, more minimalist piece with an increasingly ominous anthem that more than hinted at David Gilmour at his most lushly concise, then a postrock number that could have been Australian psych-rock legends the Church covering Mogwai, but with even more lustre and sheen. She lept to a peak and stayed there with a resounding, triumphant unease as the show wound out, through an ominous, cumulo-nimbus vortex and then a long, dramatically echoing drone-based vamp that brought the concert full circle. Tignor promises to stage another concert every bit as good as this one this coming spring; watch this space.

Maya Beiser Brings Her Classy Cello Metal to Bleecker Street

If a venue where Led Zeppelin or AC/DC were playing had a squeaky front door, would anyone have noticed? Wednesday night at the Poisson Rouge, cellist Maya Beiser played songs by both Zep and AC/DC from her cleverly inventive new album, Uncovered, while the downstairs front door creaked and screeched on its hinges throughout what appeared to be a sold-out show. At first that worked as a creepy horror-movie effect, underscoring Beiser’s alternately sultry and bluesily plantive version of Zep’s Black Dog and then an acerbically lingering, Janis Joplin-influenced instrumental cover of Gershwin’s Summertime. But by the middle of the set, people in the crowd were rolling their eyes, Beiser putting her hands over her ears in exasperation, and at that point it was hard to resist the urge to run up the stairs to the deli next door for a can of WD-40. If such a thing exists in the Poisson Rouge supply closet, no one working there saw fit to break it out.

Despite the presence of this unexpected fourth band member – along with Gyan Riley on bass and Matt Kilmer on drums – Beiser nimbly built a lush, often haunting intensity that pretty much didn’t waver even as she worked the dynamics up and down. Further complicating matters was that since her cello on the album is multitracked and processed to the nth degree, she and the band were playing along with a series of prerecorded tracks from it, leaving zero room for error or deviation from the script. But they pulled it off, the rhythm section playing heavy metal as elegantly as heavy metal can possibly be as Beiser – decked out in a tight gothic outfit that fit the music perfectly – swung through a sepulchrally mesmerizing version of Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ at Midnight, arranged by Evan Ziporyn, as were the other numbers.

A mid-set diversion into the indie classical Beiser has made a name for herself met with mixed results. A new Glenn Kotche piece was more of a study in rhythmic horizontality than melody, and grew interminable: it would have been gone over better at, say, the Bang on a Can Marathon. But a David Lang tune employing Lou Reed’s lyrics from Heroin – sung in pitch-perfect Nico-esque by Beiser, if you can imagine such a thing – was a treat, and truer to the title of the song than the original. And the trio brought to life another premiere, David T. Little’s Hellhound – a vivid illustration of the Robert Johnson myth – with a diabolical franticness.

Beiser did Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here as a partita that grew more pastiche-like: here, especially, it was hard to distinguish what was being played and what was in the can without watching Beiser’s fingers. Kilmer’s spot-on Mitch Mitchell impersonation in places throughout Hendrix’s Little Wing contrasted with Beiser’s bittersweet approach, while the whole band took on the encores, a grinning, no-holds-barred attack on Back in Black and then a raucous stomp through Kashmir, with an unbridled ferocity. On album, Beiser reinvents these songs for the most part as art-rock, but this show was heavier on the metal. Raise your forefinger and pinky to that.

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.

Unselfconscious, Serene Beauty from Jody Redhage

This past week has been a great one for concerts. In terms of unselfconscious beauty, not to mention accessibility, cellist Jody Redhage’s album release show at Drom last night tops the list. The new record, Of Minutiae and Memory, just on New Amsterdam Records is a hypnotically gorgeous, thematic collection of electroacoustic works. Redhage played all but one of them, singing on several, with ample use of effects and backing tracks supplied by a laptop. Wil Smith’s Static Line, which appeared about midway through the set, was perfectly representative, cleverly setting a couple of drones just enough of a microtone apart to create an apprehensive effect, Redhage then sliding slowly up, then lower, then back up over it to raise the suspense factor.

Like the album, the rest of the show went deeper into dreamy, warmly lush atmospherics, although a close listen revealed innumerable layers of subtle shades that helped establish each piece’s individual personality: they transcend being pigeonholed as horizontal or minimalist. In places, some of the material reminded of Enya, or Sigur Ros, but any similarity ended when Redhage raised her voice. She sings with the round, bell-like clarity of a chorister, a voice that’s just as strong at the very top end as it is three or maybe even four octaves lower. She only went up that high a couple of times, but made those gently soaring ascents count. The album’s title track, by Paula Matthusen, set stately vocals atop gently shifting layers of electronics and processed cello, almost imperceptibly shifting to more intense textures from the cello as it wound up.

Joshua Penman’s aptly titled I Dreamed I Was Floating was next, Redhage’s brightly sustained lines an anchor amidst swirling, shimmering ambience. Missy Mazzoli’s warily mysterious A Thousand Tongues played shifting segments off rhythmically echoey, piano-like accents and another warmly hypnotic vocal passage. The Light by Which She May Have Ascended, by Ryan Brown, a slowly expanding and increasingly pensive round, had the most hypnotic quality of all the songs. Redhage closed the show with Derek Muro’s Did You See Me Walking, setting a Frank O’Hara poem to a tersely accented, wistful theme. What did it feel like to experience about an hour of all this? Absolutely relaxed and at peace, like after a full-body massage – or like taking a vicodin, but without the fuzziness. In a week of harrowing, intense, anguished sounds, this was a welcome respite.