If, Bwana, the member-shuffling electroacoustic ensemble led by Chester’s Al Margolis, was last covered here in October 2008, via a review of Favorite Encores (Pogus Productions), a split release with composer Noah Creshevsky. The following year saw the release of the project’s similarly daring 31 on New York’s GD Stereo imprint. And now, with Assemble.Age!, those on the hunt for weird sounds should again prick up their ears, as the new disc finds Margolis’s sonically surprising adventures continuing just as intrepidly as before.
Margolis is a musician who straddles the rock and experimental worlds: When he’s not clicking away at the programs and processors that collate and mash up the samples used for his If, Bwana guise, he plays bass for long-running art-punks the Styrenes, a band rooted in the same 1970s Northeast Ohio avant scene that birthed Pere Ubu and Devo. Like If, Bwana’s last outing, Assemble. Age! draws on the leader’s ties to Kingston’s forward-thinking Deep Listening Institute to once more feature the voice of DLI artist Lisa Barnard Kelley. The extended centerpiece “Death to the 8 Notes” is a dark tour de force, interweaving Kelly’s sinister snickers and unsettling narrative (“I was cut in half at the waist”) and Margolis’s samples with Monique Buzzarté’s swelling trombone, Jacqueline Martell’s creepy flute, and Tom Hamilton’s squelching synth. But perhaps most revelatory is the all-vocal “DTTO Lisa,” in which Kelly’s rambling spoken and wordless improvisations are chopped up and reworked into a nine-minute kinetic epic. www.mutablemusic.com
Tal National will perform at the Falcon in Marlboro on April 3 at 7pm (donation requested; (845) 236-7970; Liveatthefalcon.com); the Half Moon in Hudson on April 4 at 8pm ($10; (518) 828-1562; Thehalfmoonhudson.com); the Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts, on April 9 at 7pm ($10, $13; (413) 586-8686; Beta.iheg.com); and the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy on April 12 at 7pm ($10; (518) 272-2390; Mediasanctuary.org).
Why and how dare she devote an entire album to songs by Laura Nyro when we can just listen to the originals on Spotify? I'll tell you why. Because Christine Spero fully inhabits these songs, uncovers hidden nuances, and with her stunning ensemble—including drummer Peter O'Brien, bassist Scott Petito, saxophonist Elliot Spero, and Christine's own magic hands on the ivories.
With its open-air format, where attendees picnic in the parks and watch the stars emerge during performances, and its $5 youth tickets, the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice is the perfect place to share with children a love of music and theater, in a variety of styles.