“Catching Mice,” off The Possum in the Driveway — Mark Mulcahy’s latest solo project, out now — starts with five thumps, a low note and a percussive hit in unison. But those five hits aren’t in the pristine vacuum of a studio. There’s ambient noise in the background, a whisper of air, like it was recorded outside. Maybe it’s just air moving through trees. Maybe it’s the sound of distant traffic. Whatever it is, it’s a signal. It’s music that’s out in the world, existing in time.
“How I Got Fat from Living Skinny,” from Sam Carlson’s first solo album — the self-titled S.G. Carlson — was born during one of the artist’s figuratively leaner times both personally and professionally.
It was written “during this one particularly terrible winter I had where I wound up living alone paying all of the bills, and I went completely broke exhausting my savings trying to afford oil,” Carlson said. “It was cold out, so I holed myself up in my house, ate cookies, and watched Parks and Rec for like a month.”
Last Thursday evening, an audience of about 50 gathered for an event at Lotta Studio in Westville. They had all asked for invitations a few weeks before, without knowing where they were supposed to go. They were all accepted. Just a couple days before, they were told to arrive at Lotta Studio between 7:30 and 8 p.m., and they did.
“I’m excited,” said musician Dylan McDonnell, who had come as an audience member, “because I have no idea what’s going to happen.” Neither did anyone else in the crowd.
“Country Boy,” the first song off Miracle Legion’s latest and probably last release, Annulment, starts with a single note from an electric guitar. It was recorded live in July 2016 at Codfish Hollow, a stage in Maquoketa, Ia., where Miracle Legion was on tour.
On the studio version of “Country Boy” — released in 1987 — that single note from the guitar is followed by a note from a harmonica and then a third note from a piano. Together they count off what the rhythm of the song would be. On the live 2016 recording, the only thing that follows that note for the rest of the measure is silence. The rhythm doesn’t need to be counted off anymore. It’s the guitarist, Ray Neal, who sets the pace, who decides how fast the song goes. Both band and longtime fans know where the beat is anyway.
(Opinion) The Decemberists gave a great show Saturday night at College Street Music Hall: tight, bouncy, and just the right length, like a yo-yo wielded by a master. I was a safe bet to love the show, since there is no band currently active — at least, no band currently very active — whose studio recordings I dig more. If you don’t know their sound, try to imagine The Jayhawks crossed with The Chieftains. Or, if that doesn’t work, Bob Mould fronting Oasis. Or just watch some clips on YouTube. Maybe then you can explain to me why I always think they are somehow Irish or British, even though they’re from Portland, Oregon.
Anyway, the show was great, yet I did not have a great time.
Standing at the front of a small music classroom, David Perry rested his clarinet in his palms, glanced to colleagues Yevgeny Yontov and Bora Kim, and then uttered a word that seemingly had nothing to with the scales behind him or instrumental terms scrawled on a nearby wall.
Acclaimed composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith stood in front of a whiteboard Sunday afternoon in a room above Firehouse 12’s studio. It was the middle of the first CREATE festival, a weekend-long celebration of Smith’s music that drew musicians to play with him from around the country and kept Firehouse 12’s performance space packed.
“I’m a minimalist,” Smith had said the night before, at the first of two weekend concerts. “I don’t do very much of nothing.”
Except, he said, make a little music. Ponder questions about the universe. Conduct scientific research. Attend imaginary meetings with foreign diplomats. The usual. He said it all with a healthy dose of humor, and the audience laughed. But there was seriousness behind those jokes. And on Sunday afternoon, Smith had only a marker in his hand, and he wasn’t playing; he was drawing shapes on the board, and talking. By doing so, he opened a door into his music, and music making, for everyone.
Wednesday night marked a commemoration at Cafe Nine of the anniversary of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s suicide on April 5, 1994. The Tet Offensive, New Haven’s rock ‘n’ roll string quartet, marked the occasion by performing Nirvana’s landmark 1991 album Nevermind almost in its entirety (only the hidden track was missing).
But the openers to the show, the Right-Offs, served up just as fitting a tribute by reminding the crowd of the power a rock trio — just a guitar, bass, and drums — could have when it got down to the business of making noise.