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The Mile End Ladies String Auxiliary, "From Cells of Roughest Air"

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This is the debut from a trio who could easily be considered the supergroup of strings for Montreal. Sophie Troudeau's name should be familiar to anybody who follows Godspeed You Black Emperor, Silver Mt. Zion, or Kiss Me Deadly; Genevieve Heistek's name is on Molasses, Hangedup, and Set Fire to Flames releases; and Beckie Foon has also worked in Silver Mt. Zion and Set Fire to Flames, as well as being one half of both Fifths of Seven and Esmerine.


Each of the four pieces were recorded in a different location with a different crew. The first, "Sequences of a Warm Front" is the longest, taking up just over a half of the 23 minute long release as a 12-minute epic string piece.  Recorded at the infamous Hotel2Tango in 2003/2004 It works in approximately three movements: a pleasant but droney intro builds for about three minutes before leading into a hurried frenzy. As it approaches the five minute mark, it's like listening to the score for Psycho, but they gradually stretch out their phrases one by one until the nine minute mark, where the trio are deftly playing with a sort of minor key modality Silver Mt. Zion and Set Fire to Flames fans will connect with.

The next three are much shorter but no less epic: "Low Pressure Phenomena," recorded in Montreal by Harris Newman is very attacking at first but in less than three minutes unravels into a gorgeous piece of multitextural beauty; "Thunderheads and Radar" is more avant-compositional, opening with Foon's cello, passing the baton to Heistek's viola, and coming back to a cello-driven piece with only the decorations of Troudeau's violin; and "Line Squall" ends the release with a punchy and upbeat but dissonant jam, which is also nice, but it almost reminds me what's missing.

This isn't chamber music for stuffy concert halls or aristocratic patios: it's string music for, lack of better term, the rock audience. However, four string-only pieces in a row isn't the easiest thing to sit through if the demands it makes on its listeners are that which command the attention of something like a rock performance. The music is well composed and and all the players are clearly quite dextrous but there's a hook missing somewhere. Perhaps these songs could use to be nestled into either a minimal various artist compilation or split release where somebody like Triple Burner could trade off with guitar and drum songs, all coming together in the end for some mutual moments of ecstasy.


Last Updated on Monday, 04 September 2006 11:01  


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