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    Newspeak – Sweet Light Crude

    February 22nd, 2011

    Newspeak - Sweet Light Crude

    Just like Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies, Newspeak strikes oil with Sweet Light Crude, a dark, chocolately album that could easily keep a whole nation full of chamber rock lovers well lubricated for a whole year–or at least until the Earth’s mantle is sucked dry. This short but sweet spout spews forth six spurts of liquid (solid) gold from six different composers. Oscar Bettison’s “B&E (With Aggravated Assault)” starts it off with a bang and attacks the listener with a round of lurching, dissonant chamber rock full of radical tempo changes that turns on a collectible penny. Stefan Weisman’s “I Would Prefer Not To” tacks a semi-lyrical, screeching ballad of mysterious understatement onto a tale of disobedience and protest. David T. Little’s “Sweet Light Crude” is a floating, melodic love song dedicated to petroleum, a substance we all take for granted, but can’t live without. Occasionally odd instrumental peels fly off this tasty banana.

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    Victoire – Cathedral City

    February 20th, 2011

    Victoire - Cathedral City

    Victoire is a chamber rock ensemble founded way back in 2008 by New York composer Missy Mazzoli. Possibly named after a small, dusty town in a Southern California desert, Cathedral City fills a huge, vaulted ceiling full of lilting, melodic chamber pop with tools like keyboards, melodica, toys, violin, keyboards, clarinet, double bass and electric bass. Ingredients sprinkled into this delicious sonic holy water include answering machine voices and electronic hiss, hovering and sawing violin, skittering percussion over mellow melodies, angelic singing, cut-up vocals, woozy melodies, keyboard pulsations, synth drones with violin outbursts, a furiously strummed reverb guitar climax, clicking rhythms, floaty melodies, simple repetitive singing, corroded skitters layered with a mechanical voice and lots more than you could shake a Bible at. Of particular note is track two, “I Am Coming For My Things,” a seriously beautiful floater which brandishes a bunch of billowing, buoyant minimalism. At the 1:35 mark, it completely explodes and soars upward into puffy white clouds surrounded by a soft, magenta sky–only to encounter a bit of threatening turbulence before gently gliding back to Earth. Victoire scores a victory in Cathedral City!

    Label: New Amsterdam Records Catalog Number: NWAM025 Format: CD Packaging: Digi-Pak Tracks: 8 Total Time: 45:27 Country: United States Released: 2010 More: Amazon, New Amsterdam Records, Official, YouTube

    Text ©2011 Arcane Candy

    Janus – I Am Not

    February 18th, 2011

    Janus - I Am Not

    I am not going to begin this review with the sentence, “I am not going to begin this review with the sentence.” Oops, I just did–twice. I am not even going to tell you who Janus is. Just kidding. Janus was a “Roman god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, endings and time, whose double-faced image peers into the past and future,” and who was recently reincarnated as a new music power (outage) trio consisting of Amanda Baker on flute, percussion and vocals; Beth Meyers on viola, banjo, percussion, and vocals; and Nuiko Wadden on harp and percussion. I am not sure if they formed in 2002 to foster new works for the flute, harp and viola trio, but that’s what a large, flightless, carnivorous bird of prehistory called Phororhacos just chirped into my ear. I am not going to try to describe Janus’ debut album, I Am Not, because it’s so indescribable, I am not able to. Just kidding. “i” kicks it all off with Nuiko a-pickin’ and a-grinnin’ on a melodic harp line while Amanda attacks her flute with a round of heavy breathing and the girls all take turns speaking variations on a theme of the album title, such as, “I am not bored,” “I am not stupid,” “I am not old,” “I am not short,” and “I am not nice.” I am not sure what it all means, but it doesn’t matter, because I am not a stickler for finding meaning in every little thing.

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    Sarah Kirkland Snider – Penelope

    February 14th, 2011

    Sarah Kirkland Snider - Penelope

    No, silly, this album is not about Penelope Pitstop from Wacky Races, so sit down and stop yelling, “Yay!” It does, however, tell a story about another Penelope whose “husband appears at her door after an absence of twenty years, suffering from brain damage. A veteran of an unnamed war, he doesn’t know who he is and she doesn’t know who he’s become. While they wait together for his return to himself, she reads him Homer’s Odyssey, and in the journey of that book, she finds a way into her former husband’s memory and the terror and trauma of war.” Sarah Kirkland Snider originally composed Penelope as a piece of musical theater for alto actor and string quartet, then she adapted it into a set of songs for a singer, sound design and a chamber orchestra consisting of violin, viola, cello, bass, harp and percussion, plus guests on electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, electric bass and percussion. What it all amounts to is 14 tracks of mega-mellow, melodic chamber pop with occasional subtle crackles and drones; and the lovely, unadorned singing of Shara Worden, which is often pleasantly devoid of vibrato. We’re talking elegant, melancholy and minimal music in which subtle pulsations dominate; then suddenly, screeching strings straight out of the Psycho shower scene jut out and cut into your eardrums, before beating it back to bed. So, if you like your ear snacks saccharine and sad, skip the pitstop, race on out and buy this CD, pronto.

    Label: New Amsterdam Records Catalog Number: NWAM023 Format: CD Packaging: Digi-Pak Tracks: 14 Total Time: 54:21 Country: United States Released: 2010 More: Amazon, MySpace, Official, YouTube

    Text ©2011 Arcane Candy

    Mark Applebaum – The Metaphysics of Notation

    February 8th, 2011

    Mark Applebaum - The Metaphysics of Notation

    Mark Applebaum’s The Metaphysics of Notation is a musical composition based on a purely graphic score with no written or verbal instructions. For a whole year, this document, which more closely resembles abstract art than traditional notation, hung on a series of panels and mobiles in the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, its quirky shapes inspiring 45 of Mark’s fellow composers and other players to improvise their little hearts out. Push “Play” on this DVD, and you’ll encounter musicians who play instruments not to form a song, but to play with space. And there’s plenty of that in the Cantor, which supplies a long natural reverb. A one-minute excerpt from each musician’s performance was masterfully edited together by Mark to form one long, flowing, 45-minute piece complete with a slide show of the players. (Unfortunately, these photos look kind of grey, as if they were uploaded straight out of a point-and-shoot camera and left as is. Someone should have elbowed Mark out of the way to boost the contrast and sharpen those pups!)

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    Iannis Xenakis at the REDCAT 2011

    February 3rd, 2011

    Claire Chenette performs Iannis Xenakis' Dmaathen (1976) at REDCAT.

    REDCAT (Walt Disney Concert Hall)
    Los Angeles, California
    January 28-30, 2011

    Friday, January 28, 2011

    Presented by the Center for Experiments in Art, Information and Technology, the first night of this three-day festival kicked off in a surprising manner with one of Xenakis’ pioneering and legendary electro-acoustic works, “Diamorphoses” (1957-58), which employed the sounds of jet planes, crashing railroad cars, Earthquake shocks, a tiny Greek bell, etc. to form very dense, dark clouds and giant, downwardly-circling sonic webs. It sounded very impressive in a multi-channel context, although, as I sat front and center, I was puzzled why the music only emanated from the speakers on the right side of the hall. Nevertheless, a wise choice to not include any kind of visuals made it much easier to concentrate on the sound.

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