Recently, local Americana queen Terri Binion has been playing more shows, which is a blessing by unanimous local sentiment. But there's nothing quite like the full-force presence of seeing her playing out with the gust of her first new album in 14 years (March 18, Will's Pub).
Chiefly through Porches, a project that's garnered good taste-maker hype, New York musician Aaron Maine is making a name as a modern and stylistically open-ended singer-songwriter-producer. Impressive as the hype is, however, little of that guarantees it'll sound like much live, especially for a guy so accustomed to working alone. (The recording of his new album on Domino Records, Pool, occurred within the constraints of his Manhattan apartment.) But Porches' Orlando debut (March 13, Backbooth) settled it. This act, for all its caprice and electronics, is a for-real stage band. As much of a bedroom creator as he can be, Maine had the sense to come in concert with a full five-piece band, a good one that lent his music live legitimacy without losing any of its clarity and crispness.
Tracing his chameleon ways, the set was an evocative pastiche that slinked in and out of soft '80s pastels, sleek sophisti-pop contours, slow-jamming R&B grooves, chill dance beats and contemporary indie electronic. How easily he and his band navigate these motley waters, and even more, how Maine's airily emotive singing manages to make it all cohesive, is a wonder.
But the biggest revelation here is the live cogency this group packs. Much warmer and more present than Maine's sometimes detached nocturnal introspection on tape, their live sound was alive in a way that his recordings often aren't. And it resulted in one of those rare concerts that makes me now hear the new album with more soul and depth.
When leading local avant-garde musician and UCF music professor Thad Anderson performed the first concert of the proud and consistently ground-breaking In-Between Series (Gallery at Avalon Island) last year, it was with a corps of drummers and a rhythmic concept. His latest In-Between performance (March 14), by contrast, was a solo one, but with a much grander socio-urban concept.
Inspired by the recent city soundtrack projects in Indianapolis curated by his friend Michael Kaufmann (a civic arts mover who also, notably, helmed the Asthmatic Kitty record label for 10 years), In-Between Series founder-curator Pat Greene pitched Anderson an idea for the latest installment of Greene's Transit Interpretation Project (TrIP). The result is Northbound, an intriguing, idea-rich composition and performance suite based on Orlando's nascent foray into mass transit, SunRail.
Anderson rode the entire stretch of the commuter train, recorded audio of the journey on an omnidirectional mic and used it to map a sonic odyssey. Structurally, he used the discrete legs of the trip to define and demarcate the compositional movements, with a television screen portraying the corresponding physical place of any given moment. Though the field recording maintained its real-time roll without pause, Anderson played only when the train was moving to underscore the motion of the premise.
The ambient social noise captured on the train – the work's very foundation – was thankfully well-populated by children, who lent the recordings most of their reality and personality. Atop that beautifully ephemeral skeleton was the body of some processed audio and minimal musical playback. But the clear heart of the performance was Anderson's live improvisational playing, which progressed from the atmospherism of bow-stroked bells to dream-weaving mallet work to tense drumming and back.
Though there are plans to eventually make a digital album of Northbound, this captivating exposition was its live debut. And between the layers and interplay of sound and concept, this latest Anderson tapestry was a rich work of place, movement and multi-dimensionality.
Our mass transit efforts are still undergoing the sometimes embarrassing growing pains of an upward-rising midsize city trying to catch up with itself (try staying clear of the railroad tracks, people). But projects like this are big-city art, and cosmopolitan credit goes to people like Thad Anderson and Pat Greene for leading the way forward.