The Fiery Furnaces played without a break Friday night at the Black Cat, collaging its repertoire into a continuous suite and, in the process, stretching the boundaries of song as we know it. The New York quartet's latest album, "Blueberry Boat," includes several eight-minute songs, and its performance expanded those experiments into a single 45-minute piece. Only the encore, which ran about four minutes, resembled a conventional song.
Mention the word "suite" in a rock context and most people will think of bombastic '70s British bands such as Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. But there's little of those groups' Bach- or Mussorgsky-quoting in the Furnaces' sound, which is assembled from bluesy vamps, folkie melodies and classic-rock riffs.
Matt Friedberger, who switched between guitar and keyboards, clearly ran the show, sometimes issuing audible instructions to singer Eleanor Friedberger, his sister. Yet the band's improvisations were not instrumentally oriented. Instead, the Friedbergers recombined (and sometimes repeated) vocal-driven passages from free-associative tunes such as "Don't Dance Her Down" and "My Dog Was Lost but Now He's Found." The individual parts were simple, but the whole was driving, complex and dynamically unpredictable.
Inouk, which opened the evening, also blends rock and folk elements, though it does so in songs that are more conventional in length (if not structure).
As is often the case with bands that include three guitarists, Inouk sometimes flirted with chaos. Still, songs such as "Elected" came together nicely, and the lyrical guitar passages were engaging.
-- Mark Jenkins