With a name as, um, loaded as Loadbang, you just know you're in for something different from the musicians who perform under that moniker.
The make-up of the New York-based ensemble is unusual enough -- voice, bass clarinet, trumpet and trombone. The group has inspired an unusual repertoire to match.
The performances were polished and dynamic, with very impressive playing from clarinetist Carlos Cordeiro, trumpeter Andy Kozar and trombonist William Lang. Although Jeffrey Gavett's baritone sounded lightweight and not always fully supported, the singer's technical precision counted for much.
First up on the concert was something called "A Baby Bigger Grows Than Up Was, Vol. 1: A to Breathing."
If the program had been printed as a test, asking the audience to match the composer with the title of the work, I think I would have gotten this one right. It's exactly the sort of thing you would expect from Baltimore's David Smooke, who puts the cutting in cutting edge (or is it the off in off-beat?).
The cool, colorful piece calls on the singer to intone a series of words beginning with 'a' and ending with 'breathing,' repeating each many times in staccato bursts, while the wind players outline harmonic ideas in jagged, overlapping patterns. Loadbang delivered Smooke's music with subtle flair.
"20 Maj" ("May 20th"), by Swedish-born Adrian Knight, exerts a steady pull, with its slowly unfolding, quasi-minimalist/Arvo-Part chords outlined by the instruments against hummed notes from the baritone. Bit by bit, the pitches descend, leading to a comforting, lyrical close. Again, there was much to admire in the clarity and nuance of the performance.
American composer Andy Akiho reveals a wide range of ideas and adventures in "Six Haikus." The wildest is a jazzy solo one for the bass clarinet that exploits the instrument to the max. Cordeiro handled it all with aplomb.
I was especially drawn to the second Haiku, with its shades of Steve Reich in the harmonic and rhythmic motion and its clever introduction of percussion instruments that gradually take over the piece. By the end, it sounds like four intricate mechanical clocks striving to achieve some deep, inner synchronism. Loadbang's performance proved exhilarating.