I’ve recently discovered the brilliant, brilliant composer and cellist Okkyung Lee. It is always a terrific and terrifying experience, reaffirming that there are endless numbers of incredible musicians, musicians who you (read: I–but probably you too) would love if you only knew they existed, and each with lush, exciting back-catalogs: infinite music. There’s simply not enough time… But, at the end of the day, at least I can say that I did finally find Noisy Love Songs (released by John Zorn’s label Tzadik in 2011).
An easy comparison here is with fellow cellist, neo-classical composer, experimentalist (and Forest Gospel fave) Aaron Martin. However, while Martin has perfected sad-gorgeous melodies and sparse-but-effective sound samples, electronic flourishes, Lee’s work takes on a more animalistic, almost feral quality. There’s a move into more contemporary, improvised territory with Lee (perhaps they’re not so comparable after all). The album’s beautiful by nature of the cello, but that doesn’t stop Lee from pushing the boundaries of her instrument and the musical territory we’ve come to expect from it.
Noisy Love Songs is certainly verging well into avant garde territory, but Lee manages experimentalism that doesn’t all-together abandon what is obviously a high level of classical/compositional training. The album skips back and forth between “love songs” content, simply, to stretch and heighten one’s back fur to those bent on obliterating everything into a primal, beastly huff. It’s a very dynamic record and, I must say, Lee has me totally smitten. Brilliant, brilliant work.
Okkyung Lee – One Hundred Years Old Rain (The Same River Twice) (Right click/Save as)
Okkyung Lee – Roundabout
Get this album here.
Okkyung Lee performing live with Thurston Moore and Ikue Mori at Sessions at Santa’s, Santos Party House, on Apr 8 2009. Prepare yourself to have your mind blown for 26 minutes:
Okkyung Lee performing solo. Filmed by Helen Petts in London on 10th May 2009: