Silent Movies (Pi)
Ribot's recent solo show at An die Musik was a stunning display of virtuosity, imagination, and ingenuity. Though he's primarily known as an A-list sideman for the likes of Tom Waits and Robert Plant, the guitarist showed he's a force to be reckoned with on his own. From delicate acoustic numbers to the roar of the rumbling John Cage pieces he played for an encore, Ribot mixed intellectual vigor and passionate physicality to the crowd's utter delight. Much of that memorable evening was comprised of material from Ribot's new disc, Silent Movies, and the CD proves to be a similarly rewarding experience. Its evocative tunes play like mini-soundtracks to imagined films, and don't be surprised if "Bateau," "Natalia In Eb Major," and "Delancey Waltz" trigger reveries and daydreams that slow to a delicious crawl.
Baltimore Choral Arts
Christmas at America's First Cathedral (Gothic)
Christmas with Choral Arts has become a local tradition, and this live CD/DVD—recorded last year at the Basilica—proves that holiday events can successfully mix old favorites with an increasingly diverse repertoire. Here, music director/conductor Tom Hall does an admirable job balancing the two, as the chorus performs chestnuts such as "I Saw Three Ships" and Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" alongside contemporary works by Dave Brubeck, Rosephanye Powell, and James Lee III. The group, strong as ever, rises to the occasion and elevates much of the new material to the realm of essential listening, which is quite an accomplishment considering the expectations of familiarity that frame most holiday concerts. A bonus DVD includes commentary from Hall and a few readings, along with a half dozen musical selections.
Down There (Paw Tracks)
The first solo disc from Animal Collective's Avey Tare finds the Baltimore native exploring elastic soundscapes that echo his band's ambitious work. Over the course of nine tracks, voices float through the murky mix, like fragments of a sun-splashed Beach Boys tune that's been rocketed to the dark side of the moon and beamed back to Earth. It percolates in the atmosphere during reentry, before making a quiet splash in some distant swamp and sinking. It's deep down there, and Animal Collective fans, in particular, will enjoy being immersed in such mesmerizing music.