Cotton Candy at the Plough & Stars and Ludovico’s “From Britain”

[The preview for this review is here.]

Had a good time at The In Out and Cotton Candy show at the Plough and Stars last Friday. I was correct in my surmise that M wanted to go because CC is on TeenBeat Records. And actually CC is apparently comprised of the TeenBeat man himself, Mark Robinson, along with TeenBeat mainstay Evelyn Hurley. Dug up this interview with Robinson from 2002ish which is right around the time he relocated to the Boston area.

There’s a discouraging paucity of info online about the duo Cotton Candy itself, though, which makes me suspect they either haven’t been around that long or are more of a throw-together sort of team-up (or both). They’re not even listed as a group on ye olde TeenBeat Records website, but live they gave a very good impression. Their all-too-short setlist alternated between laid-back but catchy songs with the duo sharing guitar duties, and TV and radio jingles rendered a capella (plus a completely random recreation of David Bowie’s guest appearance on season 2 of the British Extras). There was a pervading sense of fun and whimsy that penetrated my usual Bostonian veneer of jadedness and came off as utterly charming and winning.

So much so that I sprung the 5 bucks for the 3-track EP and was likewise not disappointed. On disc the unique charm of the duo doesn’t come across quite so clearly, and the connection to Robinson’s other work (e.g. Flin Flon and his solo recordings), with their shared spare guitar, sparse texture, and easy vocal delivery, becomes more evident. But the songs (“Invisible Kisses”, “A Sentimental Song” (which is on TeenBeat’s MySpace page), and the clear forefront in my affections, “Fantastic and Spectacular”) for the most part successfully navigate the fine line between too twee and perfectly easy quirkiness. The latter song was memorable from their live set, as was the song they closed with but apparently haven’t yet recorded entitled something like “Free Love on the Freeway”. Here’s hoping that they record a new EP soon, particularly in time for their New Year’s performance The Middle East Upstairs. M and I will definitely be in attendance. The info on the website is:

    Thu 1/1/09
    4th Annual Indie Pop New Year’s Day Night with One Happy Island, Cotton Candy (Mark Robinson & Evelyn Hurley), The Smittens, Cathy Cathodic – 18+ $9 NOTE doors at 8:30pm

The In Out, who was headlining, was also enjoyable. Live they came across much better than the recorded tracks I’d heard, with a more varied sound. Nothing too unusual, but a solid performance and an enjoyable set. Had never been to the P&S for a show, but it was nice and intimate, and although there wasn’t much of an audience those who were there seemed to be having a good time.

Last Sunday was the Ludovico Ensemble‘s “From Great Britain”. To recap the program:

    Cantata X by Jonathan Harvey
    Nenia: The Death of Orpheus by Harrison Birtwistle
    Dark Mother by Andy Vores
    (Featuring Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist Julianne Lee)

First off, I have to say the programming was well thought out and came off well. The first and third works were based on myths, and the second work had a fantastical, mystical element that complemented them well. Also, the first two works featured soprano and three clarinets, which added to the unity of the program. Those two works, both from the 70’s, felt a bit dated, but the performance still felt worthwhile, helped in large part by the soprano, Aliana de la Guardia. De la Guardia’s focus, control, expressiveness, not to mention beautiful singing, continues to impress, and her commitment to the music drew the audience completely in (particularly in some of the Birtwistle which at times would just sound laughably quaint otherwise). The clarinets did not often contribute a particularly clear texture to those two works, but the scoring isn’t particularly helpful in that regard.

The Vores work, Dark Mother, from 1999, was a heavily programmatic piano trio recounting the myth of Persephone from her mother, Demeter’s, perspective. The score feels fresh, and the performance was for the most convincing, although I question their choice to retune before the final movement which I found disruptive. (Mp3s of the performance by Triple Helix can be found here.)

All in all, though, the concert was a good length, and this is a group that is clearly providing Boston with worthwhile new music experiences. Their next performances are Boston Conservatory Student Works in January, followed by Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments and Feldman’s Crippled Symmetry in February.

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One response to “Cotton Candy at the Plough & Stars and Ludovico’s “From Britain”

  1. Pingback: The Smittens and Cotton Candy at The Middle East « Nine Dots Boston: Boston Arts Outside The Box

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