Now here’s something you don’t come across every day: a cycle of nine original and traditional Russian texts, arrayed as a west-to-east travelogue through obscure regions of the sprawling Russian nation, set to music for an ensemble of cello, electric guitar, bass, percussion, electronics and a six-part vocal ensemble — actually, one voice six times over, and covering the spectrum from high soprano to (with electronic assistance) deep bass. And oh by the way, the singer is also the composer, a multi-talented musician born in Russia, raised in Alaska, educated at the New England Conservatory and currently based in (where else?) Brooklyn.
That, in a nutshell, is Olga Bell‘s “Край” (“Krai”), its title translated in the booklet as “edge, brink, border, frontier, hinterland.” It’s music from the edge, all right, kind of a cross of Björk and “Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares,” with perhaps a nod toward Sufjan Stevens’s odd-metered chamber pop and the female vocal backing of the intriguing Brooklyn-based group Dirty Projectors, of which Ms. Bell is currently keyboardist and vocalist.
But heck, it’s no fun reading descriptions of such wild music if you can’t hear it. So check it out or buy a copy (high-quality download, CD or vinyl), and get to know another of the unique young female musicians who may, if you’ll permit them, convince even the most classically-oriented among you that much, perhaps most, of today’s most creative new sounds are coming not from classical, but from the edges, brinks, borders, frontiers and hinterlands of music.