Music

yMusic: Balance Problems

Highly accomplished and in-demand, classical collective yMusic host a range of notable peers on their second album.


yMusic

Balance Problems

Label: New Amsterdam
US Release Date: 2014-09-30
UK Release Date: 2014-09-30
Amazon
iTunes

It might take a bit more time before consensus determines if the (relatively) recently coined term ‘indie classical’ -- a blanket that covers a blurry crossover where young star composers (Nico Muhly, Owen Pallett) and artists from the rock milieu who have branched into classical forms (Jonny Greenwood, Sufjan Stevens) both dwell -- will stick around longer than the usual labels of convenience. In theory, there may in fact be a kind of music that sits equidistant between that of Bach and Built to Spill, but unlike the peculiar hybrid form the term might suggest, in practice it approaches the ‘indie’ part more by way of aesthetic signifiers than by sound and structure (while the ‘classical’ part is, of course, apparent).

The preponderance of evidence does show indie classical to be on a pronounced upswing, but it is worth noting some of those who have bridged this gap before. Think chamber music ensemble Rachel’s, who ceased releasing studio recordings not too many years before the first members of yMusic broached the idea of playing together while hanging out after a show by the National at Brooklyn’s BAM Opera House. Rachel’s were indie by scene, a refined branch on the Louisville, Kentucky post rock tree, whereas yMusic are perhaps more indie by association. Key differences aside (Rachel Grimes’ piano was always at the fore, and their music swam more in minimalism and melancholy), but they both use(d) not-too-dissimilar means to reach audiences of their peers whose record collections aren’t exactly brimming over with Brahms.

A recent interview with yMusic in the Boston Globe noted that the group’s name stems from the six members – violinist Rob Moose, trumpeter C.J. Camerieri, violist Nadia Sirota, cellist Clarice Jensen, flutist Alex Sopp, and clarinetist Hideaki Aomori – all being part of Generation Y, and it is tempting to see an aspect of generational outreach at work. Or, at least, some of the same shrewd marketing spirit that has driven hip-hop hits to be all about the guest list on any given track. Individually or in various configurations, the six of them have played with practically everyone, and as yMusic has collaborated with artists such as St. Vincent and My Brightest Diamond on Beautiful Mechanical, their first album, while Balance Problems brings in the aforementioned Muhly and Stevens, and a shortlist of other current leading young composers like Andrew Norman and Timo Andres. They are not exactly working with Lorde yet, but Son Lux, who produced Balance Problems, recently did, so perhaps that’s not too far off.

The music that the collective creates is thankfully less intimidating than their curriculum vitaes. The album’s eight pieces all succeed in similar measures, give or take a degree. Each collaborator’s signature is visible on their respective tracks, but their presence never feels outsized in its place among the rest of the record. The sequencing also keeps an eye on, yes, balance, with the longer, more challenging tracks typically followed by calmer, but no less engaging, pieces. Among those, “The Bear and the Squirrel”, which yMusic and composer/cellist Jeremy Turner have performed at venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House, stands out for its restraint, as its foggy muted trumpet line drifts over a moss bed of strings, the whole of it tranquilly inhaling and exhaling, peaking in the middle with a brief mournful swell.

Muhly’s title track, Andrew Norman’s two-part “Music in Circles”, and Timo Andres’ “Safe Travels” will likely be the passages of Balance Problems that placate more dedicated classical fans, being the most outwardly ambitious. Indeed, the swirling, spiking peaks of “Music in Circles (Part 2)” pack enough fireworks to light up any climactic film scene the song could be set to soundtrack. Similarly, the penultimate “Everness”, featuring Marc Dancigers of the NOW Ensemble, awes with its descending figures that leap across a tense staccato surface, before a stretching thread of violin joins it to a more winding second half. A calming coda, Sufjan Stevens’ “The Human Plague” succeeds in finally putting all of the players’ instruments, heretofore restlessly bouncing off one another, in sync, via a gated effect across the entire track. Were “The Human Plague” placed at the start of Balance Problems it might have proved an equally fitting path in to the record, putting at ease those more at home on the ‘indie’ side of the spectrum, but it makes a fine way out all the same.

8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image