CD/DL Skipstone SKPST023
Rings is the latest album from Erik Friedlander, the NYC-based cellist and composer, featuring his band Black Phebe, with Friedlander on cello, pianist and accordionist Shoko Nagai and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. Rings comes at you from different angles: there are times when the band plays with seductive confidence, loneliness and insecurity. The unifying theme of the project are the cycles each piece follows. “Each piece has repetition built in. These cycles or rings are the building blocks of the project, sometimes long and sometimes as short as a few seconds,” says Friedlander.
Black Phebe is really several trios. Nagai’s charismatic performance on accordion and piano changes the feel of the group depending upon which instrument she’s playing. When she plays accordion the band is a worldmusic juggernaut playing virtuosic, mixed meter works (“Risky Business”) or sweet folk songs (“Small Things”). With Nagai on piano, the band is a piano trio (“Black Phebe,” “Fracture”) or a classical chamber group (“A Single Eye”).
At the heart of the album are Friedlander’s Rings; three pieces that use live looping as a compositional tool. On these pieces, we hear Friedlander create the composition as the trio improvises with him and around him. “The Rings are a new thing for me. I’ve never been a fan of looping as a compositional technique but I changed my mind when I tried it with this band. I create the ring as we improvise and the result is hypnotic and beautiful, but organic,” Friedlander says.