Reviewing a live performance of Subways, Joshua Kosman wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle :
“Neuburg's new song cycle teeters beguilingly on the boundary between pop and avant-garde performance art, and to hear it complete and in sequence is to marvel at the grace and elegance with which Neuburg walks that tightrope… As serious as the cycle's overall import is, there’s a vein of wit that does wonders for the music. And when that humor bursts into full flower, as in the superbly drawn mental befuddlement of Dada Exhibit or the exuberant black comedy of Hey, the impact is irresistible.”Amy describes The Secret Language of Subways as “a song cycle about the inane and perpetually unfinished businesses of love and war — and New York.” A stylistically versatile, classically trained singer/composer with a four-octave range, Amy is best known for performances with voice, electronic drums, and live looping in which she creates a chorus of layered voices and rhythms. Two years in the making, Subways consists of intricately composed, multiple layers of cellos topped by Amy’s distinctive and striking vocals; the songs range from intimate art-song ballads to electronics-based pop to Dadaist meanderings to lush symphonic arrangements. Sometimes the cellos are processed with electronic effects, other times heard in the expressive richness of their natural timbres. Neuburg explains:
“The idea for The Secret Life of Subways began in 2003 when I fell in love with the expressive voice-like quality, enormous pitch range, and dramatic look of the cello — I felt I had found a sort of instrumental kindred spirit to my own voice. I conceived most of these songs while sitting on the subway during a 3-year period when I lived part-time in New York — inspired by the rhythmic lull of the train, the fragmented meanderings of my thoughts, the dramas of recent world and personal events, and the deluge of sensory input that is New York itself. New York at that time presented such a vivid example of how life, love and art continue to move forward with full force, in spite of (or perhaps encouraged by) the fears and uncertainties of war.”The thirteen songs form a compelling dramatic arc, drawing the listener into a vivid, subterranean emotional journey. Starting from the hushed a cappella opening of One Lie, Subways makes local stops at urban paranoia (The Closing Doors, Body Parts), nocturnal reveries (the haunting-yet-catchy Someone Else’s Sleep), the surreal juxtapositions of street life (The Gooseneck, Difficult), self-preservation through self-presentation (the lilting, folkish Hey), and Amy’s stunning closer, the resigned, chorale-like Shrapnel.
As an encore, Neuburg offers her ingenious arrangement of Back in NYC from Genesis’s groundbreaking 1974 concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
The CD is released by Paul Dresher's MinMax Music label, which specializes in adventurous new vocal and music-theater works. Other MinMax CDs include Paul Dresher's Slow Fire, Steve Mackey's Ravenshead, and D'Arc: woman on fire from Jay Cloidt and Amanda Moody. All MinMax recordings are distributed by Starkland.
Amy X Neuburg has developed a unique career bridging the boundaries between classical, experimental and popular music. Her ‘avant-cabaret’ songs combine her interests in language, expressive use of music technology, and exploration of multiple genres using the many colors of her wide vocal range. She has performed at the Bang on a Can Marathon, Other Minds, and other festivals, universities, rock clubs, and concert halls throughout the U.S. and abroad. Commissions include works for Present Music, Santa Cruz New Music Works, Solstice, and others. As vocalist, Amy has been featured in contemporary operas and recordings including works by Robert Ashley, Culture Clash and Guillermo Galindo.
The Cello ChiXtet consists of Jessica Ivry, Elaine Kreston, and Elizabeth Vandervennet.
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And it can be downloaded at iTunes.