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Eddison Woods/Rothko (live at The Spitz)

24 March 2004

A bit like starting a notebook backwards, I rush in after taking a stupidly slow and expensive cab ride, barely in time to see the last beautiful few moments of Rothko. Theirs is a sound I can recognize from way down the stairs as I run up and through the doors. Frances Morgan‘s violin is good and loud tonight, like passioned crying — just as I feel a proper violin should be. It is not enough, these few minutes, and I am so sorry to have hit too much traffic. I wish they’d play again and just for me. Rothko’s music is always like this: lonely and dark and so soothingly gorgeous; very much like an unrequited night on one’s own. Others around me comment and I know I have missed out on an especially strong performance of Rothko’s most recent line up.

Now a craft appears in voices or the vocal arrangements. A strange girl (Julia Frodahl) in a most exquisite satin trimmed vintage white skirt plays a sad accordian but then sings boldly with such a voice which literally makes my toes curl. It is an animal bell. Savage and clear. This is a voice which is complete without but complemented by her lovely musical surrounding – cello, violin, guitar, bass, electric piano and drums. There is also a fairy like backing vocalist behind her, playing statues and shadows. The girl with the great skirt, shoes and even hosiery is music. For moments anyway, she plays her keyboard or her lovely old accordion while singing so naturally that one knows she has this music flowing in her instead of bothering with blood. And the music is quiet and slightly powerful.

It is melodic with a small pinch of funk behind the moodiness. Brooding? More like little story songs. Other people’s problems set to song and polished off into smooth vehicles to deliver us: finally this young woman’s voice, that young man’s drumming, this one’s sliding on guitar. “I didn’t have the heart to tell him the gold on the watches he stole was plated”. Either this is a captivating group or I am in a frame of mind to be captured. Have you heard a violin weep like a 1970s guitar rock ballad against a slow drum feature so that suddenly you question the whole style of what you were listening to? This is a grand arrangement of songs, so that not only does the skirt girl center, but every piece of this music is effective. Even between the songs the audience only whispers and sighs.

There is some show of the women sewing with the big guitar screeching and I feel I don’t really understand the sybolism. It’s diverting but I don’t get it. A little bit of spoken word in rounds. But what I really want is less of the equal showcasing and for her and them to all belt out in a fit of playing and singing without restraint. It is always like this with beautiful music. One longs for a climax which isn’t coming. There is still the tiny infusion of comedy. Recorded pig sounds kind of blend behind the lovely ghost girl soprano and the skirt girl’s truer than raw conjuction of vocal brilliance. No missing the symbolism there. Barely an extra guitar twang for Simon Raymonde in “Brookly Flowers” though this was the selling point in the gig blurbs. And in the end, it is still Her voice — climaxed or not. And it’s over just like that, leaving me a little wanting.

-Lilly Novak-

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