Tonight, Album arrived in New York City. My feelings as I sat awaiting in Joe's Pub were a mix of paternalistic pride -- knowing that my enthusiastic coverage of the group in TONY (here and here) had played some small role in their being booked for the Celebrate México Now! festival -- and blind-date nervous anticipation, given that I'd never seen the band perform, and that the live recordings available on their website (in the Xtras section) conveyed the group's energy, but weren't of sufficient fidelity to do justice to the ingenuity of the arrangements on their studio recordings.
That sense of connectedness probably disallows me from rendering my opinion as dispassionate criticism. This once, I can live with that: I wanted Album to do well.
The players hit the stage armed with vintage implements -- a boxy Moog synthesizer, a taped-up keytar, a double-necked guitar-bass, a shimmering blue pawn-shop guitar. (My always-welcome companion, NewMusicBox managing editor Molly Sheridan, suggested that it was as if they'd found their fathers' old tools in the attic.) After a slowish start, Album hit its stride with its third and fourth tunes, "La Mas Rapida y Mas Rockera de Todos los Tiempos" and "Moog Esta Muerto; Yo Vi el Documental," and built momentum from that point onward. Augmented by an energetic Los Angeles-based sampler player and rapper whose name I unfortunately didn't catch, the group did full justice to the intricate miniatures from its second release, Microbricolages, frequently offering them in two- or three-at-a-time gulps via tight segues.
"Cowboy" and "62" (both from the band's ingenious debut disc, Eureka Sön) were high points, as was the addictive "Es Facil" from the more recent release. Audience participation grew throughout the set, and a tightly packed four-song encore was well deserved. All told, the show confirmed my high opinion of this young group from Monterrey. I just wish there had been more press on hand... still, based on this showing, I can't imagine that Album won't be back before long.
The following band, Guadalajara's sophisticated, seductive Sweet Electra, fared less well -- not because the group's sleek internationalist "acid-cabaret" music lacked interest, but because it would have benefitted immeasurably from the presence of a sweaty crowd in a packed disco. Ironically, the people who might have interacted most viscerally with the group's music were probably those who were queued outside in the spotty rain, waiting for that time of the night in which the show ends and Joe's Pub transforms into a clubby hang. The group plays again at Galapagos on Sunday night; that seems like an even less likely fit, but I haven't been out to Williamsburg in a while, so what do I know?
Gustav Holst - The Planets; Colin Matthews - Pluto, the Renewer; Kaija Saariaho - Asteroid 4179: Toutalis; Matthias Pintscher - Towards Osiris; Mark-Anthony Turnage - Ceres; Brett Dean - Komarov's Fall - Berlin Philharmonic / Simon Rattle (EMI Classics)
Julian Anderson - Khorovod*; The Stations of the Sun; The Crazed Moon; Alhambra Fantasy*; Diptych - BBC Symphony Orchestra*, London Sinfonietta / Oliver Knussen (Ondine)
Napalm Death - Smear Campaign (Century Media; due Sept. 19)
Giacomo Puccini - Turandot - Birgit Nilsson, Renata Tebaldi, Jussi Bjoerling, Rome Opera Orchestra and Chorus / Erich Leinsdorf (RCA Living Stereo)
Isis + Aereogramme - In the Fishtank 14 (Konkurrent; due Oct. 10)
John Coltrane - Stellar Regions (Impulse!)