Bedroom Community

Press Reviews for Mothertongue

I thought that Nico Muhly’s first album Speaks Volumes was a lovely, possibly too intellectual, album. Gorgeously composed, there were parts of it that felt like they were going right over my head. This can happen a lot in this age of “contemporary classical” music coming from labels such Type, Miasmah, and Bedroom Community. However, Bedroom Community has a history of releasing particularly off-kilter juxtapositions of sound. I’ve written at length about the Valgeir Sigurðsson and Ben Frost, two titanically impressive bolts of creativity. Muhly’s second album, Mothertongue appears to be the third part of that album trilogy to me, a strong statement for this fairly new record label. And the reason why I feel this way is that Muhly has injected a beautiful rough warmth to this complex new album. Hinted at in the title, this is an album about voice and how it can be used as an instrument, but not in a Medulla type of way. The cut-up, repeating, layered voices here are used as an instrument along with strings, keys, electronics, percussion, not instead of them. The synergy is remarkable. The opening 4 part “Mothertongue” features Abigail Fischer, a classical mezzo-soprano, having her voice utilized like few other singers of her background. The repeated phrases serve as movements and motifs throughout the piece, twisting, turning, and behaving like a violin or trombone would. Helgi Hrafn Jónsson sings and plays trombone on the next suite of music to a haunting effect. The elegant and antique structure of this suite is simply beautiful, full of fragile piano and formal harpischord. However, the true masterpiece of this album is without a doubt the final suite, “The Only Tune,” featuring label-mate Sam Amidon contributing voice, banjo & guitar to Nico Muhly’s bed of electronic and symphonic noise constructions. There is a wonderful murkiness to this set of music which conjures, to me, a lone man on the porch of a run-down shack, surrounding by the sounds of a swamp alive with wildlife, lamenting the tale of two sisters and their tragic fate. It’s eerie, devastating, and lingers with you long after it fades into silence. The use of feedback Muhly employs here is an interesting device coming from a classical composer of his pedigree. The different elements teeter and brush up against each other to create majestic tension for the entire duration of it’s epic 3 parts. A highly recommended and astoundingly creative sophomore album.

Keith Pishnery

Word - Like a Scientist (June 6th 2008)

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Discography

Drones
Released on 12 November 2012
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I Drink The Air Before Me
Released on 6 September 2010
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Mothertongue
Released on 25 May 2008
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Speaks Volumes
Released on 25 November 2006
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On the web

  • Find out more on Nico Muhly’s website
  • Check out Nico Muhly’s page on Facebook
  • Follow Nico Muhly on Twitter

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