Ear to Mind Review "Of Minutiae and Memory"

Ear to Mind Review of album "OF MINUTIAE AND MEMORY"
by Alex Segura

While my experience in the world of New Music is certainly limited, I can always rely on my own, caveman­like logic – you know, the “I don’t know a lot, but I know what I like" routine? That’s me. At least when it comes to New Music. Cellist Jody Redhage’s new album, of minutiae and memory falls into that category.

Kicking off with Joshua Penman’s haunting yet equally warm “I Dreamed I Was Floating," the collection of songs deftly segues into the more sample­heavy “Paint Box," by Anna Clyne. Redhage holds her own on the track and avoids the pitfalls that often come with too much window dressing. Instead, the samples propel the musical narrative, and create a track that lingers with you well into the next song. The piece’s eerie build­up around the four­minute mark is both disturbing and hard to ignore, and bears repeating.

The more somber title track by Paula Matthusen follows and provides a respite, echoing feelings both religious and conspiratorial. The vocals hover on the edge of recognition, melding with the song’s instrumentation to create a cavernous and frigid feeling.
“Static Line" allows this to carry over, as if taking the listener on an extended journey to an unknown landscape. Composer Wil Smith’s piece spotlights Redhage’s cello with precision and makes for a surprising, but very appealing centerpiece to the album. Subtle in how it creeps into your brain, but evocative.

As if realizing the stark nature of the previous two tracks, Redhage takes a more surrealist spin with composer Mizzy Mazzoli’s “A Thousand Tongues," utilizing the words of poet Stephen Crane and splashing them with a myriad of electronic textures. The result doesn’t overpower Redhage, but instead makes for arguably the most compelling track on the album.

All the pieces come together on “The Light by Which She May Have Ascended," which seems to serve as the unofficial apex to the album, allowing Redhage to take point as four cellos rise up together to form a picture not unlike the one composer Ryan Brown details in the liner notes for the album: a lively playground in San Francisco, with children’s voices filling up the sound space.

Composer Stefan Weisman’s “Everywhere Feathers" – a “cutting room floor" piece from his opera Darkling – inadvertently becomes the coda to the entire album, as the aria proves to be a manifestation of some of the strongest aspects of the previous tracks. Evoking visions of the sea and a sense of impending loneliness, “Everywhere Feathers" brings the song cycle to a pensive and saddening close, with the sedate “Did You See Me Walking?" by Derek Muro serving as the album’s epilogue.

Fluid, emotive but not needlessly so and full of the kind of details and nuance that bear repeat listens, Jody Redhage has created an album that is memorable and highly accessible, even to a New Music newbie like myself.