Your local big art museum, which if it isn't attached to the Dream Whip theory of art some museums essay (in which Dali daymares stand cheek-by-jowl with Grandma Moses rural miniatures and other imponderables far less ponderable), most probably has an American Wing. That's where they put the Basquiats, the Koonseses, the Warhols, and so forth.
New American Wing, a witty trio who are worthy of their name and its attendant irony, paste together differing musical bits and build delightful little examples of box reconstruction and rethinking. You know, the box everybody seems to want to think outside of.
Cellist Erica Sattin, guitarist Dan Raimi, and trumpet player Jacob Varmus will set up a grave-faced bossa nova with some wintry Northern European underpinnings ("The Hare"), follow on its heels a buzzsaw, Monklike humoresque for all voices ("x"), and cleanse the aural palate thereafter with a trance ballad of sorts that is not without its own humor or pathos ("Third Man"). Sometimes there's both at once.
No mood is held for so long that it becomes oppressive or hackneyed (listen for Raimi's folky strumming under Sattin's dour bowing while Varmus lays out in "Over and Over"). As soon as you're used to one motif or one attitude, another follows on just as thoughtful or arresting.
A cover of Carl Testa's "Line Drawing #18" gets as concentrated a reading from Raimi as Marc Ribot has been known to do for John Zorn's klezmer-for-Schostakovich-fans chamber Masada project, and Varmus's clouds of muted trumpet lend a sweetness to the cello-swathed "Toxic." Which isn't.
In fact, New American Wing are mixing musical imperatives ably in a way only Dave Willey's Hamster Theatre has been doing (oh, yes, Montreal's favorite sons Miriodor have as well--they're just a lot more electric about it). And although you will be able to shriek, as my fifteen-year-old son did while I was playing this repeatedly, "It's not loud enough. I can still hear myself think!" well, why would we like to avoid that at all costs? I believe you'll be able to reply with some spunk, "Exactly the point."
Get this. Lovely Eric Carle-like cover of a winged centipede (hence the irony) by Lizzie Taylor.
by Ken Egbert
Back to: August 2005 Vol. 15 No. 4 Table of Contents