For the finale of their residency concert series at the L.A. County Museum of Art on Wednesday, the California EAR Unit came onstage in a state of fashion anarchy, each player decidedly uncoordinated with the next. Yet, somehow, the polychromatic array meshed into a happy, irreverent whole.
Ditto the evening's music, which included ideas from several different stylistic and attitudinal camps. Chugging rock energy propels Cathie Travers' "Bent Funk," which opened the concert with a riff-fueled blast (though not played with quite enough mechanistic precision for maximal effect).
Closing on a conceptual note, Joshua Fried's strangely fascinating "Headset Sextet" found the musicians strapped into headphones and fed unscripted sounds, which they then attempted to imitate. The result: a wild sonic ride, of approximate if passionate execution.
Thoughtful tubaist-composer Bill Roper, a too rarely heard local wonder, joined cellist Erica Duke-Kirkpatrick and Arthur Jarvinen on guitarron for Roper's improvisation-heavy, vaguely melancholic "My Mother's Mother."
The most substantial sounds came from world premieres by noted local composers, both with active links to the EAR Unit. Donald Crockett's "Whistling in the Dark" is a fine Unit showpiece, in which blithe vitality keeps bumping into brooding anxiety. It celebrates the group's iridescent textural palette while giving the players a lot of rhythmic gumption to play with, which they did, expertly.
Stephen "Lucky" Mosko's "Bow-Vine Song," for all the seeming irony of its title, is an austerely beautiful work dedicated to violinist Robin Lorentz. She masterfully handled its elliptical tapestry of colors and gestures, arranged like coolly balanced elements in an elaborate mobile. Another fine show, another fine season.