Concert Imaginaire — Fortune's Wheel
(Sublunar Society no#, 2017, DL)
Concert Imaginaire — Passionate Isolation
(Sublunar Society no#, 2017, DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2018-09-29
This interesting and eclectic group has been escaping my attention for many years, in spite of sharing my home town. Musical director David Hahn started Concert Imaginaire in 2011 as an acoustic/electric chamber ensemble featuring his own guitar playing along with a core consisting of Leslie Shank (violin), Evan Robertson (bass), Becca Baggenstoss (percussion), and Lewis Thompson (piano). They are joined by others as needed, including dancers for live performances. Their music ranges pretty widely, from abstract sound collages to delicate chamber music to quirky art-rock. These two releases both came out in 2017, with Fortune’s Wheel in June and Passionate Isolation in December.
Fortune’s Wheel starts with a brief “IntrOverture” featuring sampled voices and some electronic noises, then dives into the title track, a moody piece featuring a lovely melody on violin and wordless voice backed by arpeggios on piano and guitar. The next track ventures into real RIO territory, with an insistent bass line, a jagged melody played by violin and guitar, and dissonant stabs on synthesizer. With “Massacre of Suns,” we get the first lyrics on the album, on a short track arranged with a synth drone and tinkling percussion. The track “I Hate Being White” is the album’s main misstep, a warped, funky art-pop tune that would have been at home in the early 80s. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work, and not just because it doesn’t fit in stylistically with the rest of the tracks. Other tracks revisit RIO styles, including some free improvisation with violin and electronics. “Like You Thought…” reminds me a bit of The Science Group, with esoteric lyrics set to a challenging melody and insistent, dissonant backing. All in all, it’s a promising debut, if a bit disjointed, with a distinctive sound and some excellent instrumental work. Leslie Shank’s violin is especially impressive, and the general lack of a conventional drum kit cements the unconventionality.
Passionate Isolation sounds like a much more mature and focussed band. After another “IntrOverture,” this one featuring snippets of the previous album, they dive into “Sand Dune,” which has a bit of the vibe of a Kurt Weill song filtered through a dark RIO lens. The three-part title suite is one of the best statements of the band’s identity, a modern chamber piece for piano, violin, bass, guitar, and percussion. The gnarly, angular melodies should please devotees of both Béla Bartók and King Crimson, and fans of Univers Zero and Present will be right at home. “Tautologies” introduces a new sound — a flute playing a challenging part backed by electronic noises, later joined by piano (I’m tempted to say “pianos” because it sounds like more than two hands are involved) and then other keyboards. Later, there’s an odd diversion mashing up “Ave Maria” with party noisemakers and squeaky toys, which provides a break from the seriousness. On the whole, Passionate Isolation is quieter and more moody, with the most intense music placed in the first half, but is a more satisfying listen than the first album. Both of these recordings provide evidence that RIO is alive and well in the Northwest, and I’m looking forward to hearing where this group goes next.
Related artist(s): Concert Imaginaire
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more