By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 28, 2008 3:07PM
Wunderkind composer Nico Muhly was the focus of a rather glowing New Yorker article a few months ago. Muhly was portrayed as a new kind of classicist; he is deeply respectful of traditionalism while still being completely open to experimentation with familiar form while still providing familiar musical touchstones to anchor the listener. His compositions have been performed by choirs, orchestras, and chamber ensembles; in concert halls, small theaters, and MTV2; nd to top it all off he's even provided orchestration for Björk. Yeah, we guess you could call him a classical composer.
His second CD, the recently released Mothertongue, consists of three multi-part movements, and they somewhat stray from the more traditional sounds on his debut, and they work to varying effect. The first movement bears the imprint of Muhly's one time mentor Philip Glass, layering manipulated female vocals over a minimalist bed of tones. It must be said that upon first hearing it we were hard pressed to differentiate it from anything Laurie Anderson has done in the last, oh, 20 years. That said, it's ultimately successful if you allow yourself to become submerged in it's slow sonic journey ending in the semi-dissonant final segment.
The following two movements, "Wonders" and "The Only One," are far more traditional and evokes early choral and folk compositions. These do a better job of differentiating Muhly and distinguishing his vision as being singular and distanced from his contemporaries. By taking familiar pieces of song structures and then scattering them amongst slowly growing layers of banjos, trombones, accordions, and a variety of other found sounds interspersed to great effect, Muhly succeeds in creating wildly original pieces that are still completely accessible to all listeners.
Muhly is touring behind the album and we admit we're wildly curious to see what incarnation he brings to the stage? Will it merely be a laptop arranger, or will we see live instrumentation performing a number of selections from across his so far brief but prolific career, or will we be treated to something completely new and unexpected? The only way to find out the answer to that question is to see him tonight at The Lakeshore Theater where he will be appearing with Doveman, and Sam Amidon.
Nico Muhly performs tonight, Thursday August 28, at The Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N Broadway, $15, all ages
Photo from muhly's MySpace page by Samantha West