Victoire: Cathedral City
New Amsterdam Records

Brooklyn-based chamber quintet Victoire locates a satisfying midpoint between classical and popular musical forms on its mellifluous and melodic debut album Cathedral City. It can't be easy creating music that's eminently accessible and at the same time sophisticated and complex, but that's exactly what the band's founder and composer Missy Mazzoli has accomplished so convincingly on the forty-five-minute follow-up to the group's earlier EP A Door into the Dark. That Victoire is a classically-trained, all-female group (Mazzoli on keyboards, melodica, and toys accompanied by violinist Olivia De Prato, keyboardist Lorna Krier, clarinetist Eileen Mack, and bassist Eleonore Oppenheim) is secondary if not entirely incidental to the material itself, which integrates classical minimalism and electronic music into a seamless hybrid.

The album's eight pieces teem with pulsing keyboard, serpentine clarinet, and plaintive violin melodies. During “I Am Coming For My Things,” grainy voice samples bleed across an insistent blend of violin, clarinet, and double bass patterns before the full band floods in with a dense web of keyboards-saturated sound. In “The Diver,” a beautiful stately and melancholy arrangement brings electric piano, strings, and clarinet to the forefront, and then enhances it with a haunting vocal chant. Guests make their own respective presences felt too. The angelic vocalizing of Mellissa Hughes lightens the title piece's inherent melancholic tone while programmed beat patterns lend it a bouyant propulsion; though Mazzoli's compositional writing rarely suggests influences in any direct fashion, the title track might remind certain listeners of Steve Reich's vocal pieces (e.g., Tehillim ) in the way the Hughes' voice threads itself syncopatedly through the band's dense playing. During “Like a Miracle,” Florent Ghys' voice is manipulated so heavily it becomes a hyperactive stutter, whiule electric guitar strums by The National's Bryce Dessner adds a different flavour to the group's sound on “A Song for Mick Kelly,” with the harder edge of his playing countered by Hughes' delicate vocalizing. Cathedral City suggests that one could group Victoire with Mico Nonet, Slow Six, and Bang On A Can All-Stars as like-minded chamber ensembles intent on bridging classical and electronic forms, each in its own distinctive manner.

November 2010