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Marshall Yarbrough

MARSHALL YARBROUGH is a writer, translator, and musician. He lives in New York City.

In Conversation

WILL EPSTEIN with Marshall Yarbrough

Will Epstein’s music doesn’t fit neatly inside any genre. Performing solo as High Water, as a trio with Bladerunner, and alongside frequent collaborators Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington, Epstein draws on a diverse array of influences, from John Coltrane and John Zorn on the one hand to contemporary hip-hop production and Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music on the other.

Weirdness, New and Old

In July of 1968, Vashti Bunyan and Robert Lewis set out on a journey. They travelled in an old Gypsy van pulled by a horse named Bess, their ultimate destination a proposed artist colony on three remote Scottish islands newly purchased by their friend Donovan, the Scottish singer of “Mellow Yellow” fame.

Further Out of Time

Listening to the Calgary band Women is an uneasy experience. The band has released two albums, a self-titled debut in 2008 and last year’s Public Strain, both of which are marked by an atmosphere of sustained tension.

Translation As Erasure In Leonard Cohen's Songs From A Room

To describe Cohen’s approach to Songs from a Room as minimalistic doesn’t quite capture its atmosphere. The word that better expresses the record’s denuded landscape feel is erasure.

“WE TALK REAL FUNNY DOWN HERE”
Randy Newman’s “Birmingham” as Ironic Southern Anthem

I have an aunt who lives in Birmingham, and though I don’t think she’d care for Randy Newman’s other work—certainly not his recent salvo, “I’m Dreaming of a White President”—she does like “Birmingham,” a pleasant tune from his 1974 album Good Old Boys.

Electronic Engagement

The mutable ensemble Zs, together with Mivos Quartet, played a difficult, dissonant show at ISSUE Project Room in late March.

DEERHUNTER’S LONG DRIVE:
Suburban Roots and the Path to a New Record, Monomania

I’m drinking Tecate in a room on the 11th floor of the Ace Hotel. It’s early April, and I’m here to interview the band Deerhunter. There are about a dozen of us writers here, along with two publicists and a few others—friends of the band, I guess.

TIME-BASED PERFORMANCE: A Decade of Issue Project Room

ISSUE artistic director Lawrence Kumpf, and musician C. Spencer Yeh, sat down recently with the Rail’s assistant music editor Marshall Yarbrough.

A SOCIAL ORGANIZATION
A Decade of ISSUE Project Room

ISSUE Project Room is currently celebrating its 10-year anniversary with 10 Years Alive on the Infinite Plane, a festival taking place from August 31 through October 26. Lawrence Kumpf—the festival’s curator and ISSUE’s artistic director—and musician C. Spencer Yeh sat down recently with Marshall Yarbrough, the Rail’s assistant music editor. Here is the second part of their conversation.

JHEREK BISCHOFF
Composed at St. Ann's Warehouse

Jherek Bischoff’s two-night stand at St. Ann’s Warehouse in January was an intimate showcase for his eclectic brand of orchestral pop.

Highly Selective Listings

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the month of April in New York City.

ROMANO DROM

Romano Drom’s performance at Roulette on February 22nd, part of the World Music Institute’s World to Brooklyn series, was remarkable not only for the group’s virtuosic playing, but also for the casual atmosphere the organizers were able to create.

Highly Selective Listings

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the months of December and January in New York City.

The Code from Beneath Drives the Lines

Bill Seaman and John Supko celebrated the release of their new album s_traits with an event on October 29 at Pioneer Works in Red Hook. The evening’s performance paired four musicians from Wet Ink Ensemble with bearings_traits, an improvising software program designed by Supko, and visuals of generative images programmed by Seaman.

White Hills

The clock on stage showed a prompt 7:02 as White Hills opened their set on a wet but—finally—somewhat warm Tuesday night in Manhattan. Guitarist Dave W. stood stage right, holding back initially as bassist Ego Sensation, stage left, laid out a simple phrase descending step-wise over a sparse drumbeat.

All Music Fans Everywhere

When the news broke in October that Condé Nast had bought Pitchfork, I was out of the country. If there were think pieces, I missed them.

Read the Label

Look on the spine of a CD or record sleeve and you’ll see a combination of letters and numbers. The letters refer to the record label: some labels get creative, like indie stalwart Matador, whose code reads “OLE”; others simply drop vowels.

Art of Darkness: Wrekmeister Harmonies

Horror, darkness, despair, violence—these are not themes you tend to find in much of contemporary music . . . here there is nothing extraordinary—from a generic or musical standpoint—about a band tackling such themes. Here, what makes Robinson’s project extraordinary is simply the depth and thoughtfulness with which he does so.

Not Even Preaching: NYFOS: Protest, February 27, Merkin Concert Hall

In Dave Van Ronk’s The Mayor of MacDougal Street, the singer offers this reflection on the subject of “political music”: “My feeling was that nobody has ever been convinced that they were wrong about anything by listening to a song, so when you are writing a political song, you are preaching to the choir.

Highly Selective Listings

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the month of May in New York City.

Highly Selective Listings

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the month of June in New York City.

Highly Selective Listings

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the summer in New York City.

Highly Selective Listings

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the month of September in New York City.

Highly Selective Listings

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the month of October in New York City.

Highly Selective Listings

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the month of October in New York City.

Highly Selective Listings

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the month of February in New York City.

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the month of March in New York City.

Informative, Delightful, A Little Depressing

The book is published by Bloomsbury Academic, which also publishes the 33 1/3 series. As the introduction explains, the idea for How to Write About Music began with a workshop called “Writing Rock” taught by co-editor Marc Woodworth. Co-editor Ally-Jane Grossan—who took Woodworth’s class as a college sophomore—is the editor of the 33 1/3 series, and many of the primary sources are excerpts from 33 1/3 books. (It bears mentioning that Rail music editor George Grella is an upcoming 33 1/3 author.)

Five Pieces at the Kitchen
Exploring the Space Between 1 and 0

The stage was set up with four guitars, four amps, and sixteen small speakers.

FALL MUSIC SCENE
New Venues New York

In the past few years a number of new venues have popped up in and around New York, run by musicians and curators who understand the pivotal fact that it matters where and how you hear music, that spaces matter for a performing art.

Sparse Melody and High-Class Noise: Phil Kline with Jim Jarmusch

On a Wednesday evening in early April, Roulette hosted a concert from composer Phil Kline, featuring a range of pieces from the past decade. The evening was divided into two parts, the first half presenting a set of compact, haunting art songs, the latter an extended wave of drawn-out guitar noise. Kline's many projects include the worldwide Christmas phenomenon Unsilent Night, and like a greatest hits album by a still-active band, the Roulette show seemed only to offer a small slice of the composer's work—a small slice, but enough to recommend the rest.

Ambient Alienation and Structured Freedom

To watch NYMPH perform is to witness a group of individuals dissolve into a disheveled, fur-clad mass of primal urgency.

DOWNTOWN INTERNATIONAL
Suoni Per Il Popolo, Part 1

Now in its 14th year, the Suoni Per Il Popolo festival in Montreal, Canada is unmatched in its eclecticism, presenting an exciting mix of rock, jazz, electronic, folk, contemporary classical, and experimental music.

Three Best Repetitions of 2014

Most of the music I listened to in 2014 fits into one of two categories. There was the music I heard only once, whether at a show, listening on the radio, or following a link on the Internet, and of which I kept only the memory.

A CONCERT, WITH FOOTNOTES
GABRIEL KAHANE, The Ambassador

Gabriel Kahane’s song cycle/musical theater/pop concert hybrid The Ambassador premiered locally in December at BAM.

Winter Jazzfest

COLOR AND GROOVE:
Winter Jazzfest 2016

Arriving at (le) poisson rouge a half-hour after doors for the opening night of the Winter Jazzfest, I sat in the bar area watching the venue fill up and waiting for feeling to return to my fingertips. Next to me, a pair of young Chinese women with Xs on their hands and braces on their teeth, across the room a British couple with a whole bottle of wine—so an international crowd, both sober and festive. There was the familiar opening-night buzz in the air that made my pre-show impatience more bearable.

Cutting Ties with Cut Worms

Earlier this year, I was having dinner with a musician friend of mine. We got to talking about music, what we’d been listening to recently, etc., and my friend confessed that as of late he hadn’t really been listening to anything.

When Worlds Don’t Collide

The poet, translator, and editor Robert Pinsky was the U.S. Poet Laureate for three years. Ben Allison plays upright bass, recently debuted at Carnegie Hall, and is perhaps best known for composing the theme song for NPR’s On the Media. The two of them got together with guitarist Steve Cardenas and percussionist Rogério Boccato on a Tuesday evening in early May at Hunter College for a performance of what they called PoemJazz.

Trans-Europe Exotic

Future Days, David Stubbs’s excellent Krautrock compendium, confronts readers in the U.S. with two distinctly foreign qualities.

The Amateur Sound: nonkeen

Society doesn’t have much respect for amateurs. With the possible—problematic—exception of college athletes, our general attitude is that, if you’re not making a living off something, you’re not really doing it.

MUSIC AS A VOLATILE ART FORM: Terry Allen Reissued

For a while now I’ve had a theory about a select group of artists who were making music in the 1960s and ’70s. These are musicians who seem related to their time only obliquely: they may have been marked by it, but they were not of it.

Winter Jazzfest

Optimism, Restraint, and Repetition

One of the perils of a winter festival is its overlap with cold and flu season. A music critic is trained to be receptive, but sometimes the things you pick up are the wrong kind of infectious.

Undiscovered Lands

Ava Luna’s Services EP, from 2009, opens with the off-kilter drums of “Clips.” Drumsticks rap against the rim of the snare as Carlos Hernandez sings the opening bars. Soon Hernandez is joined by backup singers in a pretty three-part harmony, and the synth rolls a few major chords.

CODED FOR TRANSPARENCY
Tristan Perich’s Parallels

Whether or not you can get past the florid language, Kundera’s point is to question music’s place in the noise-filled modern world. Of course, the same noise of modernity that Kundera laments has inspired countless composers, who have sought to make of it a music for their own time.

The End (of the Year) Justifies the Means: Best of 2016

The past few years I’ve had to write one of these “year’s best” columns, the Rail has had some compelling angle on the concept that allowed me to push past my initial misgivings, some Poundian premise to “make it new” that let me forget I was engaged in an arbitrary enterprise. Since we’ve scrapped the high-concept approach this year, I’ve told myself that what I need to do is simply embrace the artificiality of the thing.

I Thought That We Were Winning: In Remembrance of Leonard Cohen

Near the end of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus is explaining to his friend Cranly that he is leaving the Catholic church. Cranly asks if he intends to become a Protestant. Dedalus responds, “What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?”

MATA April 20, 2014
Neue Vocalsolisten American Premieres

Neue Vocalsolisten’s Easter matinée performance featured eight works presented in the U.S. for the first time.

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The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2019

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