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December 2007
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February 2008

January 2008

One More Reason to Hate LA...

Grizzlybear_piano_2 Out of jealousy, that is...

"Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear co-headlines with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in an awe-inspiring yet intimate evening of sensory immersion. The first half features the orchestra playing selections hand-picked by Grizzly Bear and the LA Phil, reflecting classical music's influence on the band's sound. Grizzly Bear's full set follows, showcasing their dreamy melodies, adventurous instrumentation and seductive vocal harmonies."

The show, just recently announced, comes on the heels of LA-native Daniel Rossen's performance in Concrete Frequency's Songs of the City concert of singer/songwriters.

Damnit, why can't we be that cool?


P1280002Acoustic instruments are having their moment in the indie scene, and for good reason: they can go fast and slow, soft and loud, harsh and pretty - all in an instant.  Best of all are string quartets, which, in the right room, provide all the texture and amplification you could possibly want, without wires.

Case in point: last night, Barbes hosted the first-ever show by Osso: a young  quartet best known for backing Sufjan Stevens and My Brightest Diamond. I've seen my fair share of chamber groups in that back small room, mostly as part of the ongoing Sunday night Barbes Classical series. But, this had a totally different vibe: open, inviting, self-effacing, completely at ease. It was as if I'd walkP1280005ed into improv night by mistake. 

Osso played music they ususally perform with Stevens, inspired by various years of the zodiac. Most of it was tonal, but they smartly muffed it up with some grating effects. "Year of the Snake" was full of glissandos that cellist Maria Bella Jeffers turned into the sound of a record scratching. "Year of the Ox" had lead violinist Rob Moose playing a fast and pretty theme, with dissonant shreiks and growls surfacing like feedback underneath. "Year of the Tiger" jumped around with trills and arpeggios, requiring violist Marla Hansen to play at breakneck speed. "Year of the Boar" sounded Glass-like, with violinist Olivier Manchon playing the wrong side of the bridge over a repeating theme.

P1280006The Osso members all have mutliple side projects going: Moose performs duo arrangements of Bach partitas in Bach Reformed (He plays guitar) and Manchon composes and plays in the Miniature Chamber Orchestra . Both will be back at Barbes, performing back-to-back on 2/11 and 2/25. Oh, yeah, and they play rock, too.

Stochastic Hit Parade

Round_logo01If you like your music kind of out there - and come on, who doesn't? - tune in right now to 91.1 FM for Bethany Ryker's Stochastic Hit Parade, which airs every Sunday night on WFMU from 9p-12a. Think: Stockhausen, Xenakis, Theo Bleckmann and a whole boatload of transcendent ear candy neither you nor I have ever heard of before. Bethany has also been known to indulge in aleatory on-air experiments: a few weeks ago, she solicited live audio samples from her listeners - everything from electric can openers to TV white noise - which she then combined into a five minute collage and played on-air. Personally, I can't think of a weirder, more wonderful way to end the weekend.

Visual Music

Dsc03338I didn't really know much about Japanese rock outfit Cornelius before going to see them Webster Hall last night, other than they performed the closing concert at LA's Concrete Frequency festival two weeks ago and that they were named after the character in Planet of the Apes. Good enough for me.

Dsc03339Opening was the Benevento/Russo Duo, who Ronen turned me onto six months ago. Together, Marco Benevento (Moog and other electronics) and Joe Russo (drums) use repeating themes, changing tempos, and complex harmonies that build to ecstatic climaxes. To me, it sounded like an electronic version of Bruckner: check their title track from debute release "Play Pause Stop"

Download 01_play_pause_stop.mp3

Dsc03384Cornelius' stage show was obviously built for the YouTube generation. Called "Sensuous Synchronized Show," bandleader Keigo Oyamada has worked with a team of designers and engineers to develop a full multimedia presentation, mixing lights with a digital video that includes everything from computer generated images, to old Warner Brothers cartoons. Impressively, the entire scheme is in sync with the performance: Oyamada says it's not meant to simply augment the performance, but becomes another instrument within it." Dsc03397_2

At first, the music was plodding and oversimplistic, and I began to think the images were more crutch than complement (much as I thought they were at Michael Gordon's Dystopia a couple of weeks ago.) But, about a half-hour in, the band let it rip in "Gum", and the whole stage became a hailstorm of images and speed guitar. The packed house of normally reserved indie kids went berserk.

Dsc03500The band went back and forth between thrashing and sedate numbers, mixing keyboards, Theremin, electronic effects, guitars played with bows, and a whole array of chimes and bells. They ended up playing for a full 100 minutes - and then got called back for a 20 minute encore, for which they had a whole additional light/video show. Just good bubblegum fun, with maybe a social message or two thrown in a la Murakami. I can't even imagine what this show must have been like in Disney Hall; I won't even dream of seeing it in one of our stuckup music temples. Thank God for Bowery Presents.

More pics:

Benevento/Russo DuoDsc03366 Dsc03340_2