Thursday, September 3, 2009

Amy X Neuburg’s latest: Singer + Three Cellists

Amy X Neuburg & the Cello Chixtet

The Secret Language of Subways

MinMax Music

As I mentioned last week in File Under?, WNYC’s Spinning on Air recently devoted an episode to singers accompanied by cello. In addition to a set by Jody Redhage’s new group Fire in July, the episode also devoted coverage to Amy X. Neuburg, a composer/singer/percussionist who’s partnered with three cellists on her latest recording The Secret Language of Subways.

Neuburg and the Cello Chixtet are a compelling ensemble. The arrangements make use of the full range of the cello, never feeling bottom heavy. Neuburg’s voice is a true crossover instrument, encompassing musical theater belting and soaring operatic high notes. The material is correspondingly diverse. “Closing Doors” recalls Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, with a layered vocal coda that recalls Freddie Mercury! “Someone Else’s Sleep” is a lovely alt-pop number, with dovetailing cellos and sumptuous support vocals. “Difficult” brings things closer to experimental terrain, mixing slashing cellos with patter song and drumstick percussion.

More “legit” sounding is “This Loud,” which makes use of both cello and vocal layering, set over jittery, propulsive rhythms. Primarily originals, the CD includes one memorable cover, “Back in NYC” from Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Here, both the Neuburg and the Chixtet are in fine fettle, mixing neoprog and classical signatures to create an effective and thematically unifying closer.

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