The third annual Ecstatic Music Festival is back in swing over at Merkin Concert Hall, with Judd Greenstein once again presenting collaborations between composers from the new-music world with musicians from the electronic and indie-pop ecosystem. It's an idea that, in the best sense, no longer feels radical or out-of-bounds, but a natural complement to our shuffle-mode sound world.
One of the composers who grabbed me by the throat during last year's EMF was Daniel Wohl, whose smoldering electroacoustic music combines field recordings and deep bass drones with shimmering strings and percussion. Last night, Wohl returned, collaborating with electro-indie stars-du-jour Laurel Halo and Julia Holter on a series of compositions and arrangements alongside Wohl's new music band, TRANSIT (David Friend, piano; Joe Bergen, percussion; Evelyn Farny, cello; Andie Springer, violin; and Sara Budde, clarinet).
With Wohl seated next to Halo and Holter at a long table crammed with laptops, wires, and synths, the combined ensemble created a dark, haunting soundscape that was simultaneously soothing and sinister. Halo and Holter sang sporadically throughout, their transporting voices fuzzed out with an abundance of reverb. The music moved at a glacial pace, with recordings of voices and indeterminate machines contributing to the gnawing sense that we'd stumbled into someone else's disturbed dream.
The Ecstatic Music Festival continues through March 21, with upcoming collaborations featuring Arnold Dreyblatt with Megafaun, Steven Mackey and Rinde Eckert with the JACK Quartet, and Simone Dinnerstein with Tift Merritt. Details on the EMF webpage.