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Lonely Motel: Music from Slide with Steven Mackey, eighth blackbird & Rinde Eckert

4 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 27, 2011
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Product Description

Lonely Motel is the world premiere recording of songs from the startlingly innovative music and theater work Slide, written for new-music sextet eighth blackbird, an ensemble of wind, string, piano, and percussion virtuosos. The group, with composer-electric guitarist Steven Mackey and singer, actor, and librettist Rinde Eckert, premiered the concert-length work at the 2009 Ojai Music Festival in Southern California, a mecca for cutting-edge music enthusiasts. The same forces perform on the new CD, which takes its title from the final song in the cycle.

Eckert plays the central character, Renard, a fictional research psychologist whose fiancée has abandoned him. The heartbroken Renard reminisces about an experiment he conducted using projections of photographic slides to explore the fallibility of human perception.

Lonely Motel's 11 songs are about 'self-delusion and, ultimately, the isolation created by the attachments we develop to our own fuzzy, personal views of reality,' eighth blackbird says. Musically, the songs contain subtle homages to Dowland, Mozart, Stravinsky, Piazzola, and The Beatles.

Review

54th Annual Grammy Award Winner, Best Small Ensemble Performance --National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: eighth blackbird
  • Conductor: Steven Mackey
  • Composer: Steven Mackey
  • Audio CD (September 27, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Cedille Records
  • ASIN: B005J59L9C
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,908 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Steve Mackay's new CD is a song cycle called `Lonely Motel' written for Eighth Blackbird, electric guitar (Mr. MacKay) and the singer, Rinde Eckert. It is a very engaging theater piece (is there such a thing as `downtown middlebrow'?) that follows the self-delusional unraveling of a love-lorn psychologist staying in a motel. In assuming this cycle is a shorter than the evening-length version, the full work most be equally as theatrical, having all the tantalizing buds of a full-fledged, new, American opera.

The text, by Mr. Eckert is tight, at once lyrical, harsh, humorous, popish, and structurally effective. He has a real gift of comic juxtaposition that Mackay is too keen to exploit.

Mackay's multi-dimensional talent relishes the challenge laid down by the text, seamlessly moving from one musical style to the next while never compromising his inner voice. Never has anyone gone from rock power trio to madrigal singing to intense post-minimalism to 18th C. contrapuntal writing, in such short a time with such convincing results (maybe Rush, but those were different styles). The formal underpinning of the text is often additive/subtractive minimalism, which heightens the sense of intense concentration leading to eventual, complete dislocation. There are moments of really inspired writing contrasted with long sections of beautiful lyricism, all of it deftly connected together.

Eighth Blackbird does an amazing job, especially with the very fast playing and unisons in some of the sections--note perfect. Special props to the great kit drumming by Mathew Duvall -his turn arounds to jazz /pop sensibilities then back to classical, are magical. Steve Mackay is no slouch on the guitar either, never once being left behind, and often leading the stunning Eighth Blackbird.
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Format: Audio CD
An intriguing collaborative work between composer-guitarist Steven Mackey and librettist-vocalist Rinde Eckert, which Mackey describes as a "dish by and for musical omnivores." "Lonley Motel" alludes to various styles and influences--prog rock, minimalism, Dowland--yet remains firmly in its own unique soundworld. Mackey's guitar is augmented and enhanced by the solid musicianship of eighth blackbird. Eckert does a nice job as a vocalist, holding his own in complex vocal parts, however he occasionally veers too close into musical theater territory for my taste. Nevertheless, Mackey and Eckert offer some compelling music. In the best possible sense, the phrase "downtown middlebrow," coined by the reviewer above, sums up the work perfectly.
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Format: Audio CD
If you're a fan of eighth blackbird, you wont' be disappointed with this new release. If you're not familiar with this outstanding contemporary music ensemble, Lonely Motel can serve as a good introduction to the group

Stephen Mackey based his work on a series of slides used for psychological testing. Subjects are shown various images and are asked to react to them. Mackey does the same thing musically, and just as with the test subjects, the answers are often deeply significant and often confused.

Sonically the work lands somewhere between modern Broadway (think: Rent) and contemporary classical music. Perhaps it's the addition of the composer on the electric guitar. Vocalist Rinde Eckert (who's also the librettist for the work) delivers his performance with more a Broadway belt than belle canto.

But that's fine, because in this composition, it all works. Lonely Motel is a series of 11 short vignettes, sometimes connected, sometimes not. They range from the sparse and mordant musical accents of "Slide of Dog" to the amazingly beautiful falsetto of "She Walks." My favorite movement is "Addiction" which effortlessly slides from a pointillistic arrhythmic opening to a wild renaissance dance.

This is the kind of composition that can appeal to both adventurous classical and rock music fans. If you like music with an edge, check into the "Lonely Motel." I think you'll enjoy your stay.
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