CMJ, I’m already tired: QUILT, Light Asylum, and Class Actress (how do you feel about that Oxford comma!?)

 

Tuesday marked the first (official) night of New York’s CMJ music festival and I went to Public Assembly for a showcase of bands hosted by label Mexican Summer and WFMU and another showcase, happening at the same time, of bands from Car Park and Paw Tracks. I went with the sole intention of seeing my friends QUILT, who were recently mentioned on NPR as one of the bands not to miss this week and was totally blown away by them and quite a few others.

QUILT is a group of three wonderful people who I met in Boston while I was in college. They were mostly at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and I used to listen to the two original members sing in dusty, toxic basements during too-late evenings of partying at the Butcher Shoppe, a DIY venue/art commune/love-hut in Allston, MA. Their sound is so dreamy and ethereal and not at all overproduced. They’re most often singing in three-part harmony and I love that they use two electric guitars and no bass guitar, the music feels like it’s floating, always hovering just above the ground with no low notes to tie it down. They have really catchy guitar riffs that are pleasantly memorable and their beats are slow and sultry. Their straight tone style of singing, with no vibrato, is so perfect for their music and I love their pseudo-retro sound. I hesitate to say retro with no caveat, if the 60’s took a future pill, this is what you would get. This music is definitely going to be on my next airplane playlist, it just feels like flying.

Light Asylum is Bruno Coviello and Shannon Funchess doing things to sound that have never been done on this earth before. With a series of looping machines, synthesizers and Funchess’ unreal contralto voice, this is one of the best and craziest things I have ever seen. They are an unlikely couple; Coviello is thin, white, cute and dresses like a perfect grungy Brooklyn boy while Funchess is curvaceous, black, and wears an astounding array of leather outfits that I envy with every cent in my wallet. The music is synth pop with a gospel twist and, yet, it’s so much more. It is so lushly orchestrated, there’s no room for your brain to even think and the intensity and of the beats is totally overwhelming. While Coviello did not speak at all, Funchess was totally in it with us, the audience; she was talking to us, singing at us, dancing with us, loving us as much as we loved her.

Class Actress is Mark Richardson, Scott Rosenthal and Elizabeth Harper…a native of L.A.! Maybe that’s got something to do with why I like this so much? This is music for driving around L.A. all night long, as Harper even mentions in an interview with CMJ. Her voice is so high and effortless and I love the carefree quality of it juxtaposed with the rich synth sounds, deep drum beats and sometimes intense lyrics (I don’t mean the chorus to the song Weekend which goes, “So bring it on, bring on the weeekend.”) This music sounds like it’s been influenced by all the best pop from the 80s, Kate Bush, Depeche Mode, Madonna, you name it, and it all really comes together in a unique and wonderful way. It’s great music for a dance party, a rooftop hangout or a drive to the coast.

I, of course, have seen much more music than this the past two days but, I’m only writing up bands about which I’m super stoked. If there’s anything you think I should see in the next 3 days please, by all means, let me know!

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Endless Sounds: Jonathan Wood Vincent, Andrea Parkins, Beach Fossils, Anna Bolena at the MET and Pray for Polanski

The past few days have been truly incredible. I am coming down from quite the music high and I have to tell you all about it before CMJ starts tomorrow and a new week full of amazing music hits all over again. Unfortunately, I left my little Lumix at home this weekend so there isn’t any photographic evidence of my doings, but I promise I’ll show you all more photos this week.

On Thursday, I went to The Counting Room in Greenpoint (Williamsburg? The nebulous border between?) to hear Andrea Parkins and my friend Jonathan Wood Vincent. Andrea Parkins is a sound artist and pretty well-established in the “scene” here in New York. (I quickly learned upon my arrival here that there is a “scene” here for pretty much everything.) She has a fender-amplified accordion, a laptop, an upright bass player with his own laptop, and a plethora of noise-making objects; rolls of tape, bells, and odd bits and pieces. She holds these little objects to a microphone and manipulates them to elicit the mostly crackly of tape crackles, the shrillest ring of high, shrill bells as long, low tones ring from the upright bass. I couldn’t really tell you exactly what sounds were made or what “happened” during her performance because I was in a meditative state. The noise of my own overactive brain was completely dulled by the insanity of noise that is Andrea Parkins’ music and I, finally, felt that I could completely relax and empty my mind. The overwhelming wall of sound, with no structure or form, no beginning middle or end, completely enveloped me and allowed me to forget myself entirely. If you don’t have ADD like I do, this music is probably not for you. Listen here.

Jonathan Wood Vincent is a graduate of the Contemporary Improvisation program at the New England Conservatory and is a masterful player of innumerable instruments, but plays most often on the piano and the accordion. I have fully disclosed our existing friendship and, though I write about my friends a lot (there will be more of my friends later in this post,) it is only because I am lucky enough to be friends with some wonderfully talented people. Vincent’s performance this particular evening was, once again, entirely different from the past 3 times I have seen him play yet just as mesmerizing as before. He played the accordion and talked and sang in an endless flow of sensical and nonsensical music and speech that was as impressive as it was frightening. I watched as he put forth a torrent of thoughts, feelings and accordion sighs until, at the very end, he suddenly landed on a familiar chord and fell into a song I have heard him play before. I don’t know the name of the song but it is profoundly beautiful. Sparsely arranged, with just a few chords, Vincent sings “We all have a job, you do not like your job.” This music is haunting, funny, impressive and utterly unique. To write about it is nearly impossible. Listen here.

On Friday, I went to see Beach Fossils play in Williamsburg in a show put on by their label Captured Tracks. I have written about them here before and my previous statements still stand; I love this band. Their album sounds very different from their live show, but I really dig it so much. Their recorded music is languorous and I immediately feel the heat of the sun on my face and the sound of the waves, I always listen to this music when I’m homesick for L.A.. Strange, since Beach Fossils is, after all, a Brooklyn-based band. Their live show never fails to be a great time this show was a high-energy blast of crazy. I nailed an amazing spot, standing right behind a pile of Amps right next to the stage, and I could see the band, from just a few feet away, as well as the insanity of the underage, somewhat violent moshing crowd. The crowd was sweaty, berserk, and knowledgeable, singing along to pretty much every song and screaming at the most recognizable opening riffs for songs like “Sometimes” and “Youth.” Frontman (and friend, again) Dustin Payseur always delivers a solid and visibly stoked performance and when he put down his guitar, grabbed the mike and stood at the end of the stage, fervent concert-goers hugged him around the waist and shoulders and squeezed him tight, enveloping him in a giant, sweaty raucous love-hug.

THERE’S MORE. My life is awesome.

On Saturday, I went to the Metropolitan Opera to see a brand-new production of Anna Bolena, an opera written by Gaetano Donizetti in about 1830. You might be looking at the name of this opera and thinking to yourself that, “Hm, that sounds rather familiar….but, no, it can’t be.” Oh, yes, it can. This is a Bel Canto opera, in Italian, which tells the story of Anne Boleyn and Henry the VIII, which happened in 1534. There are a few goofy elements here. Many of the English names, like Smeaton, the young page boy, in love with Anne, or Seymour, as in Jane, who becomes Henry’s third wife as Anne waits to be beheaded, don’t totally translate into Italian and feel a little clunky amidst the beautiful Italian libretto. However, the story is so juicy and Anne Boleyn so tormented and mad that I quickly bought into the reality Donizetti presented.  The production was IMPECCABLE, truly. The perfect period costumes were created by Jenny Tiramani, a veteran of the Globe Theatre in London, whose lush velvets, rhinestones and pearls made every character look as wealthy as their real-life historical counterparts, a quality often lacking in underfunded stage productions (in my head, I kept seeing images of Showtime’s The Tudors, whose costumes were so costly and detailed, and Tiramani’s versions lived up to the standard set by the high-budget television drama.) Three of the lead cast members were Russian; Jane Seymour was played by Ekaterina Gubanova, Henry VIII by Ildar Abdrazakov and Anne Boleyn by……….ANNA NETREBKO! One of my all-time favorite Sopranos. She is stunningly beautiful, by any standard, of normal human proportions (not over 300 pounds or under 100) and is an incredibly dynamic and captivating actress, in addition to having a sublime voice. My only complaint is that, during the first act, Netrebko was not in top form. There were more than a few moments where her voice cracked as well as two very anti-climactic high C’s. However, act 2 dawned on what felt like a completely different day for Netrebko, who was suddenly the commanding and mad diva I know her to be, with impeccable vocal runs and shockingly loud and clean high C’s. I love her, so I can try to forgive her the first act, but it was a tad disappointing. The real standout for me in this cast, though, was Tamara Mumford, the mezzo-soprano playing Mark Smeaton. Her voice was so rich and deep and the specificity of her runs was surprising and wonderful, as though she were an oboe playing each individual note with perfect clarity. I can’t wait to hear more from her and it’s exciting to see such a talented American mezzo coming to the forefront of the opera community. The end of the opera was the most exciting part. We all know what happens, Boleyn is doomed from the beginning, but, in this version of the story, she goes mad as she awaits her fate in the Tower of London. In Opera, when one goes mad, one sings. The “mad scene” as it is fondly known in the bel canto style of opera, was stupendous;  Netrebko was delightfully nutty and her singing reached near-critical levels. The screaming that ensued at the end of her aria (yet only midway through the actual mad scene) was deafening. At the end of the Opera, as she accepts her fate, Netrebko lifted her hair off of her neck and turned to show us the back of her head as she walked off stage, singing. And, on the second story of the set, an executioner appeared, holding a sword as a red silk curtain plummeted from the top of the stage. And then the entire audience screamed as we rocketed to our feet, applauding.

After I walked forty blocks to recover from four hours of sitting at the Opera, I went back to Williamsburg to see my friends Pray for Polanski, who were visiting from Boston, play at Legion. I have been friends with these folks for quite a while now and I’ve always really liked their sound. It’s frenetic indie-billy punk music and it rocks. So hard. Front-people Aviv Rubenstein and Anne Warnock belted song after song, each one heart-breakingly, teeth-gnashingly, fist-pumpingly good. They had one of the tightest shows I’ve ever heard and Warnock’s high belt is so impressive, Amy Lee ain’t got nothin on this. Their songs are catchy without being invasive and Rubenstein’s shockingly honest lyrics give this hard music a welcome, soft edge. The feelings he expresses are relatable and wonderfully portrayed. “Silver Pewter Chain” describes an obsessive kind of love and Warnock puts all her baggage in the trunk of this one as she sings, “If you really loved me, you’d still be in bed ’cause I’m trying hard to memorize each hair on your head and I mark the perfect parts with an X until there’s nothing left.” Listen to their new album here.

Occupy Wall Street – March across the Brooklyn Bridge, October 2nd

This weekend saw the marching of thousands of people through NYC’s Financial District and onto the Brooklyn Bridge during a peaceful protest against the corruption of the financial system and the unequal distribution of wealth in this country in addition to the unfair sway that the wealthiest 1% of Americans have over the government and the economy.

I went, I shouted and I took photos and video and while this wasn’t expressly a musical event, there was a lot of music in the streets on Saturday.

Here are some photos of some of the signs from the protest at its beginning in Liberty Square and through to the Brooklyn Bridge, where the police allowed protesters to walk onto the roadway and then proceeded to arrest 700 people.

YOU ARE AT A MUSICAL CONCERT CONGRATULATIONS

Last night I biked from my home in a Southern part of Brooklyn to the Williamsburg Waterfront to see The Walkmen and Fleet Foxes play the final show of this outdoor summer festival. When I arrived, I barreled my way right to the front of the pit and thought it was unusual that people just cooly let me slide by until i was only 10 feet away from the stage. Upon closer examination of the crowd in my vicinity, I realized they were mostly sporting braces, colored hair and ….parent chaperones. It seems that the “cool” thing for people in their mid-20’s to do is hang around by the Brooklyn Brewery tent. As per usual, I missed the “if you’re cool, hang back” memo and I chilled with the teenagers all night. There were lots of hair colors,

Some people were sitting and eating Banh Mi while they waited for the show to start

The Walkmen were up first with a 45-minute or so set as the sun went down behind us.

Now, it’s probable that this just isn’t really my type of music but, my feeling was that most of their set was a bit uninspired. They looked slick and polished, which I really appreciate; they wore black suits, they were groomed, they looked sexy, just like an indie rock band should.

But I didn’t feel their music. The choruses were too repetitive with the musical motifs being too similar to each other and, overall, it just didn’t get me going. They mentioned that they were at the end of a 30-day tour with Fleet Foxes, so that could account for the lack of energy, however if you’re a musician today, that’s really a pretty standard way of life, you have to find some way to keep your fans excited to shell out $30+ to come and see you. There were some good moments, towards the end the music picked up and I finally felt like they were stoked to be there and the tempo of their songs picked up as well.

When Fleet Foxes came out, the screams from the highschoolers around me were actually a bit terrifying. I had to drop my camera (on a string around my neck, thank god) and plug my ears as a sixteen-year-old boy behind me shouted “FUCK YEAH” over and over again behind me. I feel like there are other phrases that denote excitement in a less abrasive way but, that’s just me. I was lucky to see FF once before three years ago at The Echo in Echo Park in Los Angeles and wow, was this a different experience. The Echo is a tiny little venue that feels a lot like someone’s parents’ garage. It was a really memorable show, they completely filled up the space with sound and I was mesmerized. Since I last saw this band, a few new members have been added and everyone has had a haircut and a shave.

Everything about this performance was wonderful. Their enthusiasm was communicated without being at all over the top and their energy drew the audience in. The projections on the screen behind them were understated and very beautiful, often focusing on geometric shapes with stars in the background. This band is my ideal when it comes to music. They have described themselves as “Baroque folk” and listening to the chord progressions, that’s absolutely true. There are moments in this music where J.S. Bach must be giggling to himself. The sounds are so lush and full, with everyone doing at least double duty; everyone plays at least one instrument and sings. I saw a flute, upright bass, saxophone, mandolin, piano, and lap steel and these were in addition to an upright piano, full drum kit, two electric guitars and an acoustic. With 5-6 people singing at any given time, I felt less like I was at a concert and more like I was at a religious gathering from the future, where we all worship triangles, apple trees and mountains.

J. Tillman, the drummer of Fleet Foxes and a solid solo musician with 7 albums to his name spoke the most throughout the evening, at one point asking us, “Did everyone have a nice brunch today? Everyone was eating fucking BRUNCH this morning! What a to do!” How true sir, New Yorkers do tend to take their weekend brunches very seriously. An astute observation. They played a very long set and when they came out for an Encore, lead singer Robin Pecknold grabbed a fresh mug of hot throat coat tea (a man after my own heart)

and played a new song for us, which I have for you here. If this is illegal, it will come down pretty fast, if it’s not, enjoy!

And afterwards, I turned around to face the East River and saw this

and I stumbled over to my bike and listened to Fleet Foxes on my iPod as I sang all the way home.

Back on the blog…

OK, so I know it’s been awhile and, really, things have been hectic here (“here” being “my life,”) but I apologize for the long and rather awkward silence. I have been attending some GREAT STUFF though, you guys would be jealous. Really.

As I head off to see the Walkmen and Fleet Foxes tonight at the Williamsburg Waterfront for the final concert of the season, I wanted to just catch you up on some of the awesome stuff I’ve seen lately (this will be fast.)

In L.A. I had the pleasure of attending FYF Fest with about 20,000 other SoCal residents. The festival was at Los Angeles Historic State Park in downtown LA and was referential towards Coachella with multiple tent venues set up, each one with a (somewhat) theme in terms of artists and lots of FABULOUS outfits, marijuana, dust, beers, tacos, port-a-potties and head-bobbing. I had a great tim, i should have taken pictures, I’m really really really sorry and I’ll never not take pictures again, and I got to see some bands I really love, including No Age, who were so rad, Cold War Kids, and Broken Social Scene. BSS covered Modest Mouse halfway through their set, which may have very little meaning to many people, but growing up in L.A. held so much power for me. My teenage years were spent mainly in someone else’s car (for a while in there I was too young to drive) listening to lots of classic and indie rock and Modest Mouse’s album “Good New for People Who Love Bad News” was definitely a staple of those times. Hearing that song again, while standing in a dusty pit with thousands of other people, as the moon rose above us and the sun set, surrounded by palm trees to the right and the towering skyscrapers of downtown to the left….magic.

I have also been going to see a lot of Free Jazz lately, and I feel like it’s the only time that my insane ADD brain is occupied just enough so that the rest of my logical, deep-thinking and calm brain can think deeply and meditate a little. GIVE ME NOISE OR GIVE ME DEATH. Ahem. Anyway, I have been going to an apartment on the Upper West Side for curated musical evenings lovingly known as “Papacookie” with some really wonderful people who inhabit this killer space. The apartment was decorated by the inhabitants’ grandparents and looks as though, once the multitude of tchotchkes had all found their respective places, they folded their arms, sat their asses down and refused to move for the next forty years. I’m going there again this week and I’ll take some pictures and show you all what I’m talkin about.

Are you jealous yet? I’ll leave you with this little gem while I go and blow dry my hair and try to figure out if there’s a super cool outfit i have that I can also bike in. The G train is garbage.

Hillstock! Porches, Gunfight!, Sports Bar and Ava Luna

Hillstock. A DIY three-day music festival in Brooklyn (mostly in Clinton Hill) that promises unknown bands, block parties and day-drinking galore. This is the third year of Hillstock’s reign and it showed: they were prepared with a street permit, a kiddie pool, food, drinks and two stages and I was able to spend my glorious Saturday sitting on the street, crouching in the dirt and waving smoke out of my face as I watched group after group. There was the usual mix of good music, great music and…not so great music, but the main point of this festival was to just HANG OUT, which I did most artfully, thank you very much. Below are four bands I liked and had never seen or heard before.

Porches EDIT

Thanks to David Collis for the fix!

Porches is 5 dudes, who sounded more like 10, from Pleasantville, NY fronted by Aaron Maine. Their 90’s style riffs are fun and catchy and the vocal lines are simple, melodic and repetitive. I wish I had known their music beforehand because these guys are the perfect material for an outdoor summer sing-a-long. There are a lot of great synthesizer moments in their recorded music and the texture is so thick you could try cutting it with a  plastic picnic knife, but best of luck to you. This music makes me nostalgic for Los Angeles summers spent driving to Malibu, Palm Springs and Leo Carillo, finally escaped from our parents. Read: it’s emotional and rich, without being over done on any one point. Porches is an ideal name for this band; this is music to listen to in the summer as you sit by the lake and watch “the boys” jump off of things. Their website is here and be sure to check out their song “Rib Cage,” a soaring anthem for a summer night.

Gunfight!

This is serious rock and roll, with some sugar and spice thrown in. A little ska here, some grunge there, a touch of folk and the occasional Phish-style jam session all puts me in the GREATEST MOOD OF ALL TIME. It’s like I’m back at Coachella;  joints being freely passed around, and beers out the wazoo, but all the perfectly tanned and artfully naked people in the latest line of ray-ban wayfarers are blissfully absent. Instead, it’s just us kids, 20-somethings with a free Saturday to sit and sway to the tunes. Singer Drew Mintz has an unbelievably high voice with a hint of Neil Young around the edges, but those high in the sky notes are purely his own. This is road trip music, truly. Lots of driving percussion and rolling bass lines just scream out, “go drive somewhere, NOW!” These guys are great onstage, they get the audience to clap, dance and participate and they are clearly stoked to be playing. Check out their myspace here and listen to the song “I would be your Man.”

Sports Bar

Sports Bar is 3 dudes from Richmond, VA doing whatever the fuck they want. No, really. Some songs are 30 seconds long, some are 4 minutes. Some have structure, with verses and a chorus, some are just rants. This is garage rock, but Mom and Dad left the kids alone a long time ago. We are their audience, completely captivated by people who truly don’t care about anything but music. The live sound is, at times sparse, then is filled in with seriously epic solo guitar riffs. They’re scruffy and unkempt, but as their set nears its end, the songs are more urgent and poignant. “Camo Face” is a huge hit with the crowd as they sing “I want to be the greatest hunter in the world” and we cheer, hoping that one day, it will happen. Their website is pretty uninformative, though this is expected, but some of their music is here and you can listen to “Camo Face” and another good song “Anisa, nah she don’t live here no more.”

Ava luna

This was, by far, the most interesting and unique band of the day and definitely my favorite. Ava Luna is Soul, with a serious update; there are fabulous synth lines a la MGMT, wonderful funky bass, violin riffs so rich that even Marvin Gaye would be jealous and the lead singer, a handsome, somewhat dorky-looking guy whose Bar Mitzvah may or may not have been in the recent past has a sexy and agile voice. There are three girls singing back up, but their job title falls short. Their harmonies are complex and they create an incredibly rich support system for lead singer Carlos Hernandez’s crooning. There’s even some rock and roll-style crunchy guitar riffs, which satisfies the need for a little edge in what can often be a saccharin genre of music. “Past the Barbary” is the standout of their live set with a fun dancy bass line, synth-pop melodies and great, singable lyrics and for the first time in the whole day of music, people are dancing! Grooving, jamming, grinding in broad daylight in the middle of the street, it’s impossible not to have a great time. Their presentation falls a little flat, they need to interact more with their willing and appreciative audience and maybe discuss their wardrobe a bit but, otherwise, there is nothing wrong with this band. They did their job exactly right; I went home and bought their album and EP and I feel a definite need to share this gem with everyone I know. If you do nothing else today, go to their website and check out the songs “Clips” and “Past the Barbary” and have yourself a great time.

Great Performances: Jonsi and Alex with The Latvian National Choir and The Hilliard Ensemble

On Monday night, I went to the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Columbus Circle to see the Hilliard Ensemble, the Latvian National choir and three members of Sigur Ros perform an evening of mostly new Icelandic music. The concert was part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, which commissioned three of the four pieces of the evening. The church is enormous and is full of hidden caverns on all sides, making the sound echo tremendously as it travels throughout the spaces. The lights were consistently dim throughout the evening, even as we were being seated, as though to try to stymie the buzz of excitement of the sold out audience. This barely worked; we were not able to quiet ourselves until all the lights truly went down and the Hilliard Ensemble took the stage.

The Hilliard Ensemble kicked off the evening with a medieval, a cappella choral piece by Busnoys entitled In hydraulis. A piece like this, so stark and harmonically weaving and strange, has the potential to be dull, but the Hilliard Ensemble’s power lies in their ability to draw the listener’s focus to certain vocal lines, clearly showing the arcs of the piece. The ease with which their voices blend, their consonants match and their harmonies intertwine is impeccable. These are men who breathe with each other in the most subtle and natural way. Listening to their voices echo off the vaulted ceilings and overflowing pews was magical. I maintain that we were supposed to have clapped after this piece and before the next one, but we were all in such a mystical trance that not even one hand touched another during that silence. The second piece they performed was by Kjartan Sveinsson, the guitarist, keyboard player and orchestral arranger for the band Sigur Ros and was entitled Cage a Swallow Can’t You but You Can’t Swallow a Cage. The text for these pieces were a series of five sonnets by Anne Carson inspired by Icelandic artist Roni Horn’s work. Having just seen Roni Horn’s huge exhibit at the ICA in Boston, I felt very lucky to have some background for these pieces. Horn draws inspiration from her cold, dark homeland and her work is meditative and cold, though not in an unfriendly or alienating way. The music echoed this stark, lonely feeling, in sharp contrast to Kjartan Sveinsson’s pieces later in the program. It was hard to follow distinct sections in the music as the winding, longing echoes of the voices of the Hilliard Ensemble transported me to some distanct, icy peninsula from which not even the creaking pews could pull me back. Sonnet II was perhaps the most beautiful and the words that struck me most as they careened around the corners and into the pews were, “After the snow, after the husbands/ can the swallow have wishes/ can she know the way/ her soul restless/ as a night in broad day/ what a strange feeling to fly so high/to fly very high/ into that big/ silence”

After an almost religious experience with the Hilliard Ensemble, the Latvian National choir took the stage to join the Wordless Music Orchestra. The following two pieces by Sveinsson have blended together in my mind, though I think this is not a bad thing. This concert was so moving and emotional that the mood created was maintained throughout the intermission. I felt as though I were underwater for the entire evening, submerged in ambient, floating sounds, deep blue light and electrified instruments. The Wordless Music Orchestra are, for the most part young. In fact, they mostly looked to be in their twenties and thirties and this alone was surprising. I am very used to feeling like the youngest person at the symphony and the entire evening, from the performers to the audience down to the sound engineers was an entirely mixed bag of ages. Credo closed the first half of the program and was an amalgamation of ideas from Sigur Ros’ traditionally ethereal music and the simple, yet brilliant, chord progressions of church music. The text for the piece was a series of Latin words for things in which Sveinsson believes, be they positive, negative, spiritual or corporeal. A soprano solo in the middle of the piece stands out as a memorable moment; her voice was pure and clear and rose above the choir and the orchestra in a way reminiscent of Barber’s Adagio for Strings arranged for a chorus.

The real gem of the evening was Selections from Riceboy Sleeps by Jonsi and Alex from Sigur Ros. The tracks were originally released last year as an album from the two artists without Sigur Ros. They focus on mainly on a combination of electronic sounds droning under a cycling motif of a major second played by acoustic stringed instruments. Whether or not that last sentence made any sense to you, the dramatic effect is similar to that of the Vorspiel of Das Rheingold by Wagner. The repetitive motion is never boring, but is, in fact, transcendent. While listening, I felt that I was swimming deeper and deeper underwater (the blue lights, fog and sound effects of electrified violins added greatly to this) to some magical, underwater fairy land. The material continued to hover in the same key and around the same five or so notes, however the clusters of notes sung by the choir and Jonsi’s unique, otherworldly falsetto voice combined to create an entirely spiritual experience. Listening to Riceboy Sleeps now, I find it to be a little less heart-rending without the added 80 or so people playing and singing the various parts, though its beauty is undeniable. Jonsi’s solo tour of the past year is, sadly, over but you can find much of this music floating around on the interwebs. Happy listening!