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Live Review: Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s Left Hand Sweeps D.C. Symphony Goers Onto Feet (2010.04.30)

Thibaudet is certainly the man for the job to enthrall and conductor Hans Graf contained the drama in excellent precision — without which we all might have drowned under the flood of French music: Debussy, contemporary composer Guillaume Connesson, and Ravel.

Guillaume Connesson peppers his work with influence from the more daring French greats that came after Debussy and Ravel, Messiaen and Dutilleux, blending them into an enveloping cinematic sweep of an orchestral whole. This work: The Shining One, draws inspiration from Abraham Merrit’s 1912 fantasy novel The Moon Pool.

If you read the novel, you’d know (like Connesson) that it begs to be music:

“Closer it drew and now there came to me sweet, insistent tinklings — like pizzicato on violins of glass, crystal clear; diamonds melting into sound.”

The tone color Connesson offers is 100% pure opaline glimmer. Was he successful? Yes, the audience got up to its feet.

But, did he describe accurately in music a creature of being without shape, who glides on the sea, up from the Earth’s core? Did he capture the essence of a created thing so evil it has become sweet, seductive and utterly elusive to those who try to study its mystery? Not quite. At no point did I get that thing I know Messrs. Messiaen and Dutilleux could have struck out for us: a kind of infernal joy or savoring horror.

A character observing “the Shining One” describes music “piercing the ears with a shower of tiny lances” that “made his heart beat jubilantly — and checked it dolorously.” In sum, he concludes: “So must Satan, newly fallen, still divine, have appeared.”

Thibaudet played it well, but he was no Satan in glory before me. I don’t think Connesson gave him or the orchestra quite enough. I hope I’m not out of line to suggest that he might have risked offense of ear to reap a greater reward from this material.

But perhaps he was only trying to be literary, and not literal. I will credit Connesson for not giving us a simple whitecap thrill of borrowings from Debussy and the watery stews of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand is an exceptional work, especially for a pianist like Thibaudet. His mastery of three pedals was fine, keeping notes ringing for doubling effects that made you swear he cheated with the right hand. His opening cadenza, after the call of an impressive contrabassoon, was daring, almost damning, with a tremendous thundering edge. His secret sauce is modulation. After a percussive snap and a lurch, he flowed along in rich, soft convulsions then back into rocket rhythms. There was some debate on who played it better Thibaudet this year or Chris O’Riley last year. If you heard ‘em, cast your vote below.

Now for the sweet stuff… The NSO delivered a Daphnis and Chloé suite that was as good as licking icing straight from the bowl. Graf’s lead was light. He conducted close to the body, made no extraneous movements, he’d just take a wider stance. The result? A gracious sunrise vaunted by piccolo. In short, we drank deep of a treat with no fat.

[Author’s Note: Next National Symphony must hear concerts: composer John Adams conducts. John Adams: Perspectives happens May 20-22. This week, he invites Leila Josefowicz to join him onstage for his Dharma at Big Sur. We won’t miss her!]

Video: Double Dagger – “No Allies”

DOUBLE DAGGER – “No Allies” from Matt Porterfield on Vimeo.

Today is the last day to leave a comment on our Masks review as part of the Double Dagger Does Europe contest.

The guys hopped across the pond yesterday, premiering the above video for “No Allies” on the site for influential British music illuminati, NME. The video was directed by local film luminary Matt Porterfield (Metal Gods, Putty Hill, Hamilton) and was shot in the venerable, now-retired first home of Charm City Art Space. CCAS moved up to bigger digs earlier this year in the form of the garage next door.

Contest: Double Dagger Does Europe

So I feel bad for leaving the site dormant for a bit while I get my act together. Therefore, I’ve arranged a little well-timed contest.

The local punk mavens in Double Dagger are kicking off a European tour next week. Also, our most frequently heard voice of Thrill Jockey, Paco Barba, is leaving the esteemed label. As a parting shot, he sent over 5 copies of the limited, hand-screenprinted 18″ x 25″ poster for Masks (pictured to the right) for us to give away.

Entry is simple: head over to my review of Masks, and leave a comment with your email. Preferably something interesting about the release, masks you wear, encouraging send-offs to DD for their tour, other DD-related anecdotes or miscellany. I’ll randomly pick 5 winners on May 12, when DD starts off their tour in Nottingham.

The only restriction is that the winner must be able to pick up the poster from downtown Baltimore. I’m too lazy/busy to ship.

If you are in Europe, be sure to check out one of the dates listed below:

Read the rest…

Album Review: Future Islands – In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey)

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MP3: Future Islands – Tin Man

This album is one of the most anticipated releases from a local artist in 2010. The anticipation is partly because, ever since their transplant here from North Carolina, Future Islands‘ rapturous live shows have caught on like wildfire, and partly because it serves as their debut on Baltimore fetishist label Thrill Jockey (who I hear may have signed yet another prominent Baltimore musician’s solo efforts). I am a bit ashamed to admit that I underestimated Future Islands. Frankly, I couldn’t have imagined they would deliver this strongly on an album. Until hearing their TJ 12″ EP and LP releases, I was convinced that Future Islands’ music was a gem that shone most brilliantly live, and lost the majority of its lustre in the studio.

Wave Like Home, put out on UK label Upset! the Rhythm, was characterized by a fair bit of mania, yet also (paradoxically) a uniformity of approach and tone. The parallels and comparisons to more prominent Wham City affiliates abounded. Synths were riding high and dominant in the mix, bass rumbled along turned to 11 (most often functioning as rhythmic propulsion), and Herring’s voice was unflinchingly raw and big. Though they surely traveled through many moods, they felt fleeting and devoid of any true weight. To my ears, their vision on that record was relatively less ambitious, aiming more to catalyze a dance party than anything else. In doing so I think that release was as close as Future Islands will get to channeling the electricity of their live shows onto a recording. However, with their closing track, they provided the best hint of future directions, delivering a standout ballad in “Little Dreamer.”

With In Evening Air, Future Islands seem to have had an epiphany. Read the rest…

Momentum

People often ask me how I do so many things at once. There are two answers to that question: 1) very carefully, and 2) sometimes I don’t. Right now, answer number 2 is in effect.

When life offers you some momentum, you run with it as fast and as far as you can. And that’s what science has done recently, offered me a glimmer of light. And for the next few weeks, I want, and need, to focus on chasing that down as hard as I humanly can. To facilitate that, the posting frequency here at Aural States will be going WAY down during that time (you’ve probably already noticed the trend from this week). There will still be the occasional post here or there, particularly from our venturesome contributors like Dave Carter and his Livewire column, as well as some of the other contributors. But you likely won’t hear a substantial peep from me (aside from a few things going on at our label division) until a few weeks down the road.

For those of you so inclined, you can check out what I’m up to in my other life here, or for the more scientifically inclined, get all the gory details here.

Livewire: Celebration @ The Patterson (2010.02.26)

Celebration Live

Photo: Valerie Paulsgrove
Words: David Carter

Celebration played a superb free show at The Patterson in February, courtesy of The Creative Alliance. I set out for this event early, or so I thought, until it became clear that the nearest parking space to this mobbed venue was a good mile away. So, I sadly missed their opening set, an acoustic percussion-centric jam in a densely crowded front gallery area. Happily, I did get the entirety of this electric set on the back stage. In keeping with Celebration’s insistence upon giving all of their music away for free lately, they have allowed us to hand this beauty over to you all in its entirety.

This is a fine representative Celebration set that rattles off many of the reasons why they draw such a massive local following (and create such miserable local traffic conditions). Cool, collected musical skill and raw intensity collide in a magical way, creating spiky contrasts that spin and swerve through the room. Their sound is defiant and stylized without ever coming off as stilted, never losing a grip on the groove factor. As usual, the visual cortex was not reglected, the stage dressed lavishly in white lace and murky colored light. Special thanks to photographer Valerie Paulsgrove for the image above, click through that picture for more of her fantastic stills from this session. These photos were originally featured on the excellent Bmore Musically Informed blog, another indispensible site tracking and nurturing the Baltimore music scene. Thanks for sharing!

Listen freely, and support Celebration back. They are subsidizing our (raging, problematic) music habits for miles around with these free shows, free tracks; unique goodness that we can’t ever get from anyone else.

Celebration
Live @ The Patterson
February 26, 2010
Baltimore MD, USA

Streaming player:

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MP3 links:

1. Pony (5:38)
2. Junky (5:30)
3. What’s This Magical (5:55)
4. Battles (6:18)
5. Honeysuckle Blue (6:01)
6. Great Pyramid (5:25)
7. Kilimanjaro (6:06)
8. I Will Not Fall (4:44)
9. Fly the Fly (4:18)
10. Heartbreak (7:39)
11. In This Land (5:25)

Total time: 1:03:05

ZIP links:

Entire set in mp3 format

Lineage:

AKG 414 mid/side pair -> Zoom h4n 48/24 -> Nuendo (stereo encoding, limiting) -> MP3

Recorded by:

David Carter (carteriffic@gmail.com)

Interview: The Oranges Band (w/ Roman Kuebler) [Part 2]

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MP3: The Oranges Band – Art Star from The Oranges Band Are Invisible (2008)

If you haven’t read part one, check it out. And celebrate The Oranges Band tonight at Comet Ping Pong or the Ottobar on Satuday.

Here’s part 2 of my interview with The Oranges Band’s lead singer, Roman Kuebler. A couple things of note: for our DC readers, the band will be bringing its anniversary celebration to Comet Ping Pong tonight. On the sadder side of things, City Paper recently reported that drummer Dave Voyles, who had been with the band since the start, has left for personal reasons. Lee Ashlin is taking his place behind the kit on tour.

This portion focuses more on the band’s three long players, the anniversary show (which I accidentally slipped up and called a reunion show, not my finest moment) and what lies ahead for the band.

AS: How do you look back on All Around, your first LP?

Read the rest…

Northern Exposure: Days 3-5 – Kitchener, ON / Traverse City, MI / Columbus, OH

Note: We apologize for the massive gap between updates.  We have learned that wireless internet is a rare and valuable commodity not readily available in all places.  Because we never knew just when we’d have access to internet next, we decided to hold off on posting our tour diary until we arrived back home.

Day #3 – Kitchener, Ontario (Continued)


Only in Canada

Danko Jones couldn’t make the Kitchener show, so we got the prime spot directly opening up for Clutch.  It was pretty nerve wracking the moments before we took the stage because this was a sold out show and pretty much everyone who was gonna be there had arrived at that point.  So I went and had myself a good, cleansing crying session and prepared to take the stage. Read the rest…

Album Review: Soft Cat – Wildspace (Waaga)

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MP3: Soft Cat – Silver Babies Sun

Soft Cat plays the Windup Space tonight with Secret Mountains, European Swans and Shaun David Gould. Doors at 8:30pm, Show at 9pm. $5 cover, 21+.

Soft Cat is a project with a remarkably mature sound given its relatively short existence.  Formed in 2009 by Neil Sanzgiri (Talking Tiger Mountain, Voot Cha Index), he wasted little time in recruiting a plethora of our city’s musicians to aid him in realizing a lush musical vision, including Andy Abelow and Bob Keal of Small Sur, and Adam Lempel and Brendan Sullivan of Weekends. So enthusiastic was he about his new-found home of Charm City (following a move from his native Texas) that he helped curated the huge weekend of like-minded music called Soft Fest at the aptly branded Soft House.

This darkened vision of folk presents dreamy, leaden layers that form a sound as mysterious as it is dense.  Sanzgiri’s vocals are often plaintive, wistful, full of yearning. His heavy-lidded style is perfectly suited to their hazy sound. The album also draws on remarkably varied instrumentation including flute, saxophone, banjo, violin and more, in addition to the standard drums and guitars layout.

Read the rest…

Live Review: Colin Currie, Hannu Lintu Take Finns To Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (2010. 04.09)

Conductor Hannu Lintu, borrowed by the BSO for the night from Finland’s Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, earned rave roars from the audience for his execution of Beethoven’s Seventh. But don’t let that fool you… this man makes the case for modern music.

It’s no accident then that he shared the night with Scottish percussionist Colin Currie. I saw Colin Currie play a tour de force solo show back in December ’06 – thanks to the Shriver Hall Concerts.  His arsenal of percussive equipment took up the entire breadth of stage at the Baltimore Museum of Art’s auditorium, and he raced up and down the full spectrum without tiring. And two encores!

This time, Currie indulged us with Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Incantations. This was another BSO co-commission. The opening movement strikes with intense immediacy, as if we’re in a play that’s started at the middle… after the king’s already been dethroned and before a new one takes over. The strings lend a chorale-like backdrop to Currie’s handiwork on the xylophone. At the work’s height — the Expressivo — Currie’s vibes created a crisp, almost geometric force laid over the messy, teeming world.

Racing back and forth from vibes to xylophone and back again backed, as in the open, by violins made one question who was the “skin” — the fluid melodic being — in this music and who the “skeleton” — an impression, which stands the whole idea of percussion in a piece on its head. After all, what is percussion in most symphonic works but underpinning and punctuation? The main punctuations here came with Currie’s quick, almost comedic strikes of the chimes.

Rautavaara certainly underutilized Currie’s skills here, despite composing at Currie’s request. The overall impression of the work, while engaging, never coalesced into something truly stratospheric — which I maintain is the necessary condition of calling something an “incantation.” I mean, it is about a shaman after all.

Back in the day, Jean Sibelius awarded Rautavaara a music scholarship, calling him: “the most promising Finn” on the scene. Now, Mr. Rautavaara is an advanced 81 years old and very much beloved by his countrymen. So it was perfectly just to compare the two Finns by an opener of Jean Sibelius’ famous Finlandia.

Read the rest…

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