Unselfconscious, Serene Beauty from Jody Redhage
This past week has been a great one for concerts. In terms of unselfconscious beauty, not to mention accessibility, cellist Jody Redhage’s album release show at Drom last night tops the list. The new record, Of Minutiae and Memory, just on New Amsterdam Records is a hypnotically gorgeous, thematic collection of electroacoustic works. Redhage played all but one of them, singing on several, with ample use of effects and backing tracks supplied by a laptop. Wil Smith’s Static Line, which appeared about midway through the set, was perfectly representative, cleverly setting a couple of drones just enough of a microtone apart to create an apprehensive effect, Redhage then sliding slowly up, then lower, then back up over it to raise the suspense factor.
Like the album, the rest of the show went deeper into dreamy, warmly lush atmospherics, although a close listen revealed innumerable layers of subtle shades that helped establish each piece’s individual personality: they transcend being pigeonholed as horizontal or minimalist. In places, some of the material reminded of Enya, or Sigur Ros, but any similarity ended when Redhage raised her voice. She sings with the round, bell-like clarity of a chorister, a voice that’s just as strong at the very top end as it is three or maybe even four octaves lower. She only went up that high a couple of times, but made those gently soaring ascents count. The album’s title track, by Paula Matthusen, set stately vocals atop gently shifting layers of electronics and processed cello, almost imperceptibly shifting to more intense textures from the cello as it wound up.
Joshua Penman’s aptly titled I Dreamed I Was Floating was next, Redhage’s brightly sustained lines an anchor amidst swirling, shimmering ambience. Missy Mazzoli’s warily mysterious A Thousand Tongues played shifting segments off rhythmically echoey, piano-like accents and another warmly hypnotic vocal passage. The Light by Which She May Have Ascended, by Ryan Brown, a slowly expanding and increasingly pensive round, had the most hypnotic quality of all the songs. Redhage closed the show with Derek Muro’s Did You See Me Walking, setting a Frank O’Hara poem to a tersely accented, wistful theme. What did it feel like to experience about an hour of all this? Absolutely relaxed and at peace, like after a full-body massage – or like taking a vicodin, but without the fuzziness. In a week of harrowing, intense, anguished sounds, this was a welcome respite.