Nearly a Concert Review: The Alloy Orchestra performing “Von Morgens bis Mitternacht” (5/25/2013)

On Saturday, I went to the Institute of Contemporary Art to see a screening of Karl Heinz Martin’s 1920 film, Von Morgens bis Mitternacht, with live music scored by the Alloy Orchestra. It is a German Expressionist film, and it is a gorgeous example of the style. I saw the Alloy Orchestra do an excellent job with Metropolis at the Somerville Theatre in 2011, so I was happy to see them do another film of the same genre. Actually, I used to be a bit of a film buff, and I always loved German Expressionism – so combining that with live music pretty much makes my night!

I have been to a number of concerts (both traditional and non-traditional presentations) at the ICA, but this was the first time I’d seen a film there. The room is certainly adequate for a film screening, but since they have to darken the room and curtain off all the windows, you lose a lot of what makes it such a special room – namely, the view of the harbor and the natural lighting coming through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

The Alloy Orchestra is known far and wide for their silent film scores, and they’ve performed music with a variety of films, from horror to slapstick. Von Morgens bis Mitternacht would probably fall under the genre of psychological horror – the plot (which I found a bit hard to follow in spots) was basically that a bank teller robbed the bank he worked for, and was subsequently plagued by fear and guilt everywhere he went while trying to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. The extreme stylization of the film set and special effects were my favorite part – everything is angular, stark, and strange, while having the rudimentary feel of a stage set rather than a film set. (I didn’t take any pictures for obvious reasons, and it’s difficult to even find stills on the internet, but here is one I found to give you an idea: click here. Note how the lamp, door and background detail look like they’ve been drawn in chalk!)

The music was all very well done, although most of the time I tended not to think about it too much as it was meant to be an accompaniment to the film and not something taking center stage. One touch I particularly enjoyed was that whenever the bank teller’s daughter (I think it was his daughter, anyway) was playing the piano, the Alloy Orchestra’s keyboard player would play loud and discordant random-sounding crashes of keys. It gave much darker and less-sane feel to the scene, which would have seemed a lot more homey if she’d been playing some lovely Chopin or Debussy piece.

I strongly recommend catching one of the Alloy Orchestra’s performances if they come to your town – not just for their music but for the interesting films they choose to score. I’ve seen them four times and I’ve loved every one! You can see their touring schedule here:

And you can see some samples of their work here:

Not a Concert Review: John Lurie at the Coolidge Corner Theatre (5/13/2013)

First, some music to listen to while you read:

A little background: I’ve never seen John Lurie performing live music, and I probably never will (sadly). When I heard he was coming to the Coolidge Corner movie theater to present some episodes of his television show, “Fishing with John,” I figured it was the closest I would ever get, and bought a ticket. “Fishing with John” was actually my first exposure to Lurie’s work. I watched the first episode at my brother’s house in 1999 or so, and later rented the rest of the episodes from the local video store (remember those?) and watched them with a friend. We loved it, and when I got a DVD player, I bought the DVDs with director’s commentary. I also saw him in a couple of films, and someone gave me a copy of his “Marvin Pontiac” album a year or two later.

Amazingly, at that point I had still never heard the Lounge Lizards – I didn’t get into jazz until a few years later. I have a few of their albums now, but I am by no means an expert on their work – I tend to be so focused on live music that I kind of forget about people who aren’t actively touring and making music (feel free to excoriate me in the comments!). But every time I hear them I think “DAMN, why don’t I have more of their albums – this is fantastic!”

Anyway, I showed up to the Coolidge Corner Theatre not really knowing what to expect. For the last ten years there have been a lot of odd things going on with (more…)

Concert Review: Colin Stetson, Sarah Neufeld (5/9/2013)

After work on Thursday, I headed down to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to see the sold-out Colin Stetson concert. It was being held in the relatively new Alfond Auditorium, where I haven’t been before – I think it is mainly used as a film screening room and not for concerts. It only seats about 150 audience members, which is less than half the size of the auditorium where they usually hold concerts. It was a nice, intimate space, and had a lot more personality and warmth than the other auditorium (which I’ve been known to describe as “the most personality-free space I’ve ever seen a concert in”).

Sarah Neufeld was the opening act, playing solo violin. Since I came straight from the office, I didn’t have any recording equipment with me, so I’ll give you a sample recorded by someone else:

I wasn’t exactly blown away by her performance at the MFA, but she played some nice stuff – and she got a great reaction from the crowd. Someone sitting behind me said “wow!” after almost every piece she played. (I think I am probably harder to impress since I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of truly world-class musicians lately… I hope I’m not getting jaded!) She did one duet with Colin Stetson, and that was pretty interesting – bass saxophone and violin aren’t the world’s most obvious instrumental duet, and I always like seeing something different.

Colin Stetson’s solo set definitely fell into that same “something different” category, and I just loved it! He brought both a bass saxophone and an alto saxophone, and even though (more…)

Concert Review: Ceramic Dog (Shahzad Ismaily, Marc Ribot, Ches Smith) (New York City, 5/5/2013)

On Sunday night, some friends and I caught the record release party for Ceramic Dog‘s new album “Your Turn” at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. I was excited enough to get in line around 6PM to ensure top quality seats, and we ended up at just about the best possible table in the front row. As you can see, it was a pretty good view:


I’ve always liked this venue, both for the room itself (sightlines, sound, etc.) and the consistently interesting and high-quality music they book. I wish they would open a branch here in Boston! (Le Poisson avec des Chaussettes Rouges?) I’m always happy to catch a show there. (more…)

What are you listening to lately?

I haven’t been to a concert in a week, so I’m taking the opportunity to enjoy some new (and old) music, and ask my readers what they’ve got in the… CD player? iPod? Phone? Spotify? I don’t even know anymore! But whatever you’re playing, I want to hear it – head down to the comments and let us know what’s been in your ears!

Last week I got two new CDs from Downtown Music Gallery: John Zorn’s The Mysteries and Jon Madof’s Zion80, both from Zorn’s record label, Tzadik. They’re very different, but I love them both!

The Mysteries is performed by Carol Emanuel, Kenny Wollesen, and Bill Frisell. Like the other Gnostic Preludes recordings, it’s very delicate and beautiful. Listening to it early last week was helping me calm down from a very hectic few weeks. Here’s a sample track:

The Zion80 album is enormously fun – late last week I was listening to it on repeat again and again. I think it would be a great introduction to jazz music for someone who never got into the genre, it’s something anyone could enjoy.

This week I’ve been spending a lot of time with the new Ceramic Dog album, “Your Turn.” The official release date was a few days ago, and I’ve been listening to it a lot to get amped up for the CD release concert on Sunday. It’s an especially great album for being righteously pissed off, but it’s just a great album in general. I liked their first album, but I think this one is a real step up.

Tomorrow I’m planning on spending some listening time with the Ghost Train Orchestra, to warm up my ears for their concert tomorrow night at the Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn. I’m really excited about this show, they put on fantastic performances and I don’t get a chance to see them very often. Tomorrow I’m expecting to hear some new music from their upcoming album, but for now I’m listening to their debut record, Hothouse Stomp:

So tell me – what have you been listening to lately? Any recent releases or new bands you just discovered? Let’s hear it!