Victoire — Image via

Victoire, Glasser & Noveller

Walker Art Center & Liquid Music Series

Over three seasons, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series has explored a wide variety of intersections and convergences between classical, popular, and experimental music. Saturday’s season-closing concert, copresented by the Walker Art Center, neatly summed up this approach with performances by three artists loosely representing these three strands: composer Missy Mazzoli’s contemporary classical ensemble Victoire, singer-producer Cameron Mesirow’s synthpop project Glasser, and electric guitarist and filmmaker Sarah Lipstate’s project Noveller. What all three shared in common was a proclivity for densely layered and dreamily uneasy sounds.

Noveller — Image via sarahlipstate.comFirst up was Noveller, who opened the concert with a piece in collaboration with Victoire before launching into a solo set. Lipstate’s music is constructed primarily from the sounds of her plucked and bowed guitar, which she feeds into an array of looping and effects pedals to build elaborate soundscapes. The pieces she played Saturday night were mostly based on wistful melodic cells and billowing ambience, with occasional forays into harsher noise that left me wanting a bit more of the latter. An integral part of her performance was the series of abstract films that accompanied the pieces, the colors and shapes dancing along with the music.

After Noveller’s set came what was for me the highlight of the evening, Victoire’s performance of a number of Mazzoli’s pieces. Most were drawn from her 2014 song cycle Vespers for a New Dark Age, a setting of poems by Matthew Zapruder. Among their other strengths, these pieces represent one of the more successful efforts I’ve heard to integrate acoustic and electronic sounds in the context of classical composition. The music was rich and dramatic, with soprano Mellissa Hughes’s assertive vocals hovering over the top. Lipstate joined the group to play bowed guitar on one piece, and all of the pieces were accompanied by film clips that appeared to be sourced from such recently obsolete technologies as video tape and the cathode ray tube.

Glasser — Image via an intermission, the remainder of the concert was turned over to Glasser. Somewhat surprisingly, Mesirow chose, for the first two-thirds of her set, to sing over entirely prerecorded tracks. Granted, her music, with its layered rhythms and complex assemblages of synthesized sound, might have been difficult to recreate on stage, and her singing was engaging, but the setup couldn’t help being a little reminiscent of a karaoke session. In any case, toward the end of her set, Mesirow was joined by the members of Victoire in some of their own arrangements of her songs, giving the music more of the live-performance feeling that was missing earlier.

All told, Saturday’s concert proved to be another well-thought-out juxtaposition, in the emerging Liquid Music tradition, of artists whose music had more in common than their genre identities might suggest. I admit to some disappointment that we didn’t get to hear all three play together, but there was plenty that was worth hearing in their mostly-separate sets, and most likely many audience members who came as fans of one artist or another walked away with some new interests.

Victoire photo by Jessica Mazzoli
Noveller photo by Alexis Fleisig
Glasser photo by Jonathan Turner

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Eric Prindle

administers Bad Entertainment. He is also an attorney who leads a team of legal marketing copywriters at FindLaw. He is not Eric Prindle, the mixed martial arts fighter.