Nico Muhly


BY Chris WhibbsPublished Jul 23, 2008

Far beyond just a string arranger in demand for bands like the National, Björk and Will Oldham, Nico Muhly is a highly accomplished composer with a degree from Julliard. Yet, Muhly’s compositions actually are more musical accompaniments to his thought experiments. On the four-part "Mothertongue,” he has mezzo-soprano Abigail Fisher sing her previous address, zip codes and other odd numbers then layers these in a glorious frenzy of synth and doom-heavy bass rumblings. The fourth part, "Monster,” captures this insanity at its peak perfectly. The most primal of Muhly’s compositions is the final three-part number, "The Only Tune,” which features Sam Amidon doing his folk thing. The first part, "The Two Sisters,” is far from a folk tune, as the morass of electronic layers and sheer noise makes us feel like Muhly is reaching for the past through the glut of future noise. Only on the final part do we get Amidon’s voice, crystal-clear and perfectly plaintive. This is a journey that’s both intriguing and highly original, but it does feel as if Muhly is reaching for the epic when, really, he does so much better with the simple.

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