Daniel Lentz and Group provides an answer to that age-old question: Is it live or is it Memorex?
Utilizing something called live multitrack recording, the ensemble proved both innovating and entertaining at a Santa Monica pop-music club called At My Place, Wednesday night.
Backed ably by a multi-keyboard/percussion assault right out of the Philip Glass school of cascading arpeggios, Jessica Lowe warbled, chirped and bayed at the moon, while a packed house munched salads, sipped drinks and--surprise!--listened. Meanwhile, composer Lentz, seated at the foot of the stage, captured Lowe's vocals on tape and promptly played them back, creating multiple layers of harmony.
This technique does restrict the musical tools at Lentz's disposal: Any modulation or a newly devised chord change becomes a no-no. In addition, the singer possesses only a colorless, unspectacular voice that is nowhere in the league of a Berberian or a La Barbara.
Yet the effect is often stunning, as in the dramatic "On the Leopard Altar." Lighting a candle for each of six brief songs, Lowe sang oddly spaced words and phrases that gained new meaning when layered on top of one another. With all six candles burning, Lowe stood in silence while the room echoed with her rich, combined harmonies.
The eerie candle-lighting was only one of several enticing visual elements. Not the least of those was Lowe herself, dressed in a black pants suit and perched primly on a pedestal for the opening "Time Flies," but garbed only in a revealing black body stocking for her concluding, wine-drenched solo, "La Tache '69."
In "La Tache," Lowe vocalized disjointed words, as in "Leopard Altar," while chug-a-lugging five glasses of premium wine--taking a mighty swallow, then gently drumming on each goblet for added sonic effect.
Suddenly, near the end, her performance stopped and she confessed losing her place. "I wonder why," an audience member joked.
Lowe and group also offered "the crack in the bell," commissioned by and premiered with the L.A. Philharmonic New Music Group recently. Thanks to the expert knob-twirling of Lentz and Nick Matonak, e. e. cummings' enigmatic words emerged clear as . . . a bell.