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August 2012

July 2012

Agalloch Played Music Hall of Williamsburg

by Sean MurrayIMG_6993

I'm a relative newcomer to the world of black metal, but a diehard fan of other metallic varieties, whether it be stoner, doom, prog, or post/instrumental. What impressed me most about Portland's Agalloch, who played Music Hall in Williamsburg last Thursday, was their ability to plumb so many of these other subgenres and graft them organically onto their own post-black metal, owing a heavy debt to Scandinavia.  The majority of their efforts seem to work like classical or prog-rock pieces, stretching out over substantial chunks of time and segueing between suites of varying intensity and dynamics.

A decade-and-a-half into their career, the band had plenty of material to draw on, pulling epics from across their discography and pleasing an appreciative, packed house. The set-piece for the evening was their latest EP, Faustian Echoes: a 20-minute, two-part tune inspired by Goethe’s classic tragedy. 

My one quibble with the show is actually not with the band, but with what is a standard ingredient of black metal: namely, its waspy, trebly, satanic vocals (not to be confused with the Cookie Monster grumble). That said, singer John Haugm does not restrict himself to this conformist styling, and does incorporate actual...well, singing.  

Generally speaking, the band’s music had me in its grips.  I knew I was a convert when I packed the camera away and lost myself in the throng of metal revelers who were mouthing along to every lyric. After this show, I can easily see Agalloch’s albums taking up residence next to my stacks of King Crimson, Mastodon, and Neurosis.  Agolloch, music hall of williamsburgMore pics on the photo page.


Sigur Rós Plays Celebrate Brooklyn Tonight

Sigur Rós kicked off their first live tour in four years Sunday night at the Mann Center in Philadelphia, in support of their new release, Valtari. Tonight, the band - which has reportedly grown to 11 members - comes to the Prospect Park Bandshell: a benefit show for Celebrate Brooklyn that's been sold out for months. If you're not one of the lucky few with a ticket, the good folks from NPR Music will be streaming the concert live online, starting at 8:30. Or, just make like I do and set up a picnic outside the baggie. 

Set lists from the Philly shows below. Watch the video above for an idea of what to expect tonight. 

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Mostly Mozart Festival 2012

Mostly Mozart 2012The summer is flying by, but there are still festivals of all stripes taking place throughout the month of August. Case in point: the 46th annual Mostly Mozart Festival, which kicks off tonight at Avery Fisher Hall with the Festival Orchestra playing an all-Mozart program under Louis Langrée, who is celebrating his 10th year as music director. Included on the program is Mozart's 20th piano concerto performed by Nelson Freire, who just played it with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood on Friday

For those who may have missed it, I wrote the Playbill preview for this year's Mostly Mozart, which explored several of the themes threaded throughout the four-week festival. One of the main themes is birds: from the Janet Cardiff/George Burress sound installation “The Murder of Crows” at the Park Avenue Armory (August 3 – September 9), to bird-inspired music such as Jonathan Harvey’s "Bird Concerto with Pianosong," and Olivier Messiaen’s "Oiseaux Exotiques." There will even be four afternoon bird walks in Central Park, led by Peter Joost of the Audubon Society.

“I think it would be fantastic to take a bird walk, and then go to a concert,” Festival Director Jane Moss told me, “to somehow have those two experiences linked in your brain, even if there isn’t a direct musical connection. Mostly Mozart, after all, is a summer festival, and Central Park is a neighbor of Lincoln Center’s.” 

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Bang on a Can Summer Marathon 2012

mass moca, bang on a can marathon, 7/28/12
Along with all of the other musical happenings in the Berkshires this past weekend, Bang on a Can wrapped up their 11th annual Summer Music Festival at Mass MoCA on Saturday with a Marathon concert in the museum's Hunter Center. Modeled after NYC's Bang on a Can Marathon, which celebrated it's 25th anniversary this year, "Banglewood," as it's affectionately known, gives some 3-dozen fellows a chance to show off some of what they've learned over three weeks working with some of the biggest musicians and composers on the new music scene - including, of course, David, Julia, and Michael. It's been a fertile breeding ground for many of today's most active composer/musicians, many of whom have gone to produce their own live events. 

I used to drive up to North Adams for the marathon every year, but this past Saturday was my first trip back since 2008, when Terry Riley mesmerized the audience with an extended improvisation from his raga roots. (Afterwards, I shared a Sam Adams with Riley and his wife at the Mohawk, where we talked about everything from Hurricane Mama to the postal route he ran while living in Paris.)

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