After months of soliciting guest blogs from friends, we finally have our first guest post! I am proud to host a review from Seated Ovation's girlfriend-in-residence Halie Morris, who writes about last Monday's Victoire concert in Chicago. Take it away, Halie:
This Monday the concert series Dusk Variations in Jay Pritzer Pavilion featured Victoire, an alluring new-ish pseudo-classical group promoted by New Amsterdam Records that combines violin and bass with clarinet, keyboards, and lo-fi electronics. Dedicated solely to playing the compositions of group keyboardist Missy Mazzoli, Victoire's outdoor performance complemented Chicago's sweltering summer heat with cool, undulating ripples of soft nostalgia-made-music. While I wasn't able to stay for the entire performance, the songs I heard flowed gently from one to the other, punctuated briefly by Mazzoli's explanations.
In "I am coming to get my things" Mazzoli bases her composition on an answering machine message in which a woman eerily intones the title phrase. The recording trails off at "things..." as if mid-declaration the woman suddenly lost her confidence, unable to commit fully to her statement. Without a program or direction as to the nature of the song, I found myself struck by the poignancy of the words, embarrassed at the thought that I was unintentionally eavesdropping on a private and painful message. But Mazzoli's music, while certainly not happy and carefree, explored all aspects of the message, churning around like a sea in which the occasional instrumental solo rode the crest of a wave. For a brief moment there was an upswing in tempo and feel, but it slid easily back into its original gyrating trance.
"Cathedral City," the title song from Victoire's upcoming first, full album, incorporated lo-fi recorded female choir in enchanting twists, singing, for the most part, a simple "ah" that later took on consonants, transforming into words or word-like syllables (I can't say for sure). While the voices added reverence and awe, presumably evoking the cathedrals indicated in the city, violin and clarinet duetted on contrapuntal melodic lines. The electronic beat forced the song to carry on, while in the violin crunchy dissonances gradually grew in agitation and pitch, threatening to overwhelm the clarinet's noodling ostinato. However, just as suddenly as the violin dissonances appeared, they stopped, and gentle forward motion resumed until the song gracefully petered out.
If, as Mazzoli indicates in an interview, her music is often intended to evoke and replicate nostalgia, Victoire's performance was true to her words. It was impossible for me to listen to "I am coming to get my things" without looking back at similar situations in my own life and "Cathedral City" couldn't help but draw me back to high school days, listening to the coolest band-with-a-cellist Jump Little Children and their similarly evocative and nostalgic song "Cathedrals."
Giving the band a break, Mazzoli performed a song at the piano accompanied by electronics, and the group also played "A Song for Arthur Russell" which began with soft bossa nova rhythms that captivated me with their anachronisms. Everything fell into place when Mazzoli announced that they would be performing a shortened version of her film score for Alice Guy Blanche, commissioned by the Whitney Museum. While she warned that some transitions and cuts might sound awkward, they really blended together quite well, much like how the sudden stop of dissonant violin chords in "Cathedral City" hardly upset my balance. It all made sense because, whether or not Victoire's performance intentionally evoked nostalgia, it always painted a lush landscape, filling in the crevices, detailing the shrubbery, and building the cathedrals that existed around and between principal characters, some of whom were absent for long stretches of time.
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