Extra-Curricular Listening pt. 7 - Devendra Banhart and Friends / by Liquid Music

By JP Merz and Patrick Marschke

As purveyors of contemporary chamber music with a growing and increasingly adventurous audience, we are wholeheartedly committed to the creation and cultivation of new and diverse types of music. An essential part of this process is providing bridges and context for new listeners to discover and appreciate what could sometimes be considered "challenging" music. Context that we will attempt (<—key word) to provide through our 'Extra-curricular Listening' blog series.

For each concert we will provide some extracurricular listening (or watching) and some rabbit holes for LM followers to excavate and discover their own exciting but perhaps obscure corner of the music world.

For this particular projectDevendra Banhart's Wind Grove Mind Alone, copresented with the Walker Art Center—rather than suggest related/tangential artists to check out, we thought that digging into the treasure trove of artists involved in this weekend’s shows would be exploration enough. Each artist is well deserving of their own LM show and we can’t wait to see how they coalesce onstage this weekend. In no particular order:

William Basinski is an experimental, ambient electronic musician with a classical music training based in New York and more recently California. His compositions primarily use a single, short tape loop, which repeats with infinite variations. Basinski intentionally selects tape loops that have no clear beginning or end. In this way the tape loop can act metaphor for timelessness, seeming to loop onto and into themselves. He is also interested exposing the materiality of this obsolete, analog technology. This can be heard in the Disintegration Loops, which documents the process of digitizing a tape loop over and over again, until the magnetic tape itself falls apart.

Lucky Dragons is the collaborative project of LA based artists Sarah Rara and Luke Fischbeck. Their work uses multiple mediums (music, performance, instrument design, installation, visual art) to investigate ideas about participation, dissent, perception, and attention. One notable example is their “make a baby” project, which is an instrument that responds to low voltage signals created by audience members making skin contact. The resulting composition is dependent on the participation and choices of the audience, creating an unique social ecology/dynamic within the performance space.

Harold Budd

LA-based composer and pianist, Harold Budd makes music that incorporates elements of drone music, free-jazz, minimalism and ambient music. Budd is an essential part of the West Coast minimalist movement, which had Cal Arts, where Budd started teaching in 1970, as one of it’s epicenters. He has collaborated with other luminaries such as Brian Eno, James Tenney, Jon Gibson, and many others. In the 1980 collaboration between Eno and Budd, Ambient 2: The Plateax of Mirror, Eno would set up a sonic landscape for Budd to perform on piano and electric piano. Budd’s tender, sparse, and lyrical playing moves freely between composition and improvisation and Eno’s addition of effects and textures clarifies the dreamy sound world of the album.

The Haunting voice of Singer/Songwriter Jessica Pratt is affiliated with the infamous “freak-folk” scene; familiar to Banhart followers - though her ‘freak’ might be a little softer around the edges than early Devendra. The rawness of her voice and the familiarity of her simple acoustic orchestrations easily lure the listener into a haze and it will be interesting to hear her delicate and ghostly vocals in a larger ensemble setting. Her work brings to mind the sinewy songwriting of Joni Mitchell and the distinct vocals Joanna Newsom. Check out her solo KEXP set here:

Liquid Music’s dear friend and collaborator Roberto Carlos Lange aka Helado Negro returns for the first time since his premiere of “Island Universe Story (Cuentos del Universo Solitario)” at the Ordway last year–and he has been busy since. He just put out a new limited edition vinyl of the work along with a new album earlier in the year. We wonder if he brought any tinsel to town this time :). “Young, Latin & Proud” is one of our favorites from Roberto’s recent work.

Rodrigo Amarante 

How to pin down Rodrigo Amarante? Whilst being a part of Los Hermanos, Orquestra Imperial, and Little Joy, Amarante is somehow able to work on his own material - sweet, multilingual, lullaby-esque songs that have a youthful joy and innocence. Check out Amarante’s recent NPR Tiny Desk Concert:


Performance artist Isabelle Albuquerque and musician/designer Jon Beasley make up the art-pop duo Hecuba and it is easy to hear how their various art practices seep into their musical project. It is dancey, quirky, and it can get pretty weird–just how we like it. Here is a video collaboration with MOCA filmed entirely on an iPhone 5:


Devendra Banhart

You all know him right? Why don’t you tell us YOUR favorite tracks in the comments below?

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