"There is a lot of music out there that we have only begun to explore," Keith Reas said Thursday night at an engrossing concert of music by composers who settled in the New World in the wake of Spanish explorers. Cordelion, Reas's new eight-member vocal ensemble, and La Rocinante, a baroque instrument group directed by Christof Richter, performed centuries-old musical fare -- some rarely heard today -- at St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill.
One of 17 concerts in the Washington Early Music Festival, the program featured works from the Hispanic baroque and earlier, mostly written by colonial Spanish emigres for use in the cathedrals and other churches springing up in Central and South America.
Cordelion re-created the rather austere Old World counterpoint of several unaccompanied liturgical settings enlivened by a New World buoyancy. The group's sprightly "Missa Ego Flos Campi," by Mexican composer Juan Gutierrez de Padilla, at times suggested the throbbing, syncopated rhythms of dance with phrases tossed back and forth in double-choir fashion. Some occasionally missed entrances and vocal textures that were more soloistic than fused detracted from the performance. More colorful elements pervaded the program's second half, especially in two "battle scenes" laced with melodic strains. A Peruvian sample (depicting the Virgin Mary marching to war) was marked with aggressive sallies of choral sound and abrupt, charging bows. La Rocinante gave a superb account of Andrea Falconieri's appealing "Passacalle." The festival ends tomorrow, with all remaining concerts to be performed at St. Mark's.
-- Cecelia Porter
Gang Gang Dance
Halfway through the decade, the underground still turns its adventurous ears toward Brooklyn. For the past five years, the New York borough has launched a consistent, captivating and sometimes controversial wave of post-millennial avant-pop via groups like Animal Collective, Black Dice, Double Leopards and Excepter.
Gang Gang Dance is the latest troupe of Brooklynites worthy of the hype. The quartet conjures a majestic blend of Jamaican dub, Bollywood soundtrack fare, Javanese gamelan and New Age airiness, all set to an equally diverse catalogue of palpitating "world-music" rhythms.
Skipping Washington on a national tour to push its latest album, "God's Money," the quartet gave a sumptuous performance Thursday at the Ottobar in Baltimore. Drummer Tim Dewitt slapped out a hypnotic beat as keyboardist Brian DeGraw added layers of stylized synth textures. Despite the unconventional approach, their strength as a rhythm section was no surprise: Both men earned their stripes in the late '90s with Washington-based no-wave revivalists the Crainium.
Gang Gang Dance guitarist Josh Diamond and singer Liz Bougatsos made much more atmospheric contributions, the former wheedling vaporous guitar licks out of his instrument, the latter offering a fluttery lilt that brought to mind Kate Bush, Bjork and the chirpiest of "Pokemon" characters. Bobbing onstage in a shredded Oakland Raiders T-shirt, Bougatsos delivered her vocals with a tender smile, her eyes clamped shut as if she were in a trance.
Gang Gang Dance exploited the tight-loose dichotomy of their oeuvre, flanking beautifully actualized songs such as "God's Money IV" or "Glory in Itself (Part One)" against free-for-all noise drones or dubbed-out vocal meanderings. At times the musicians seemed to lose their way on purpose, if only to feel the joy of finding themselves in the rhythm again.
-- Chris Richards