Rhythm & Views

Miss Murgatroid and Petra Haden

Violinist-vocalist Petra Haden (daughter of legendary jazz bassist Charlie) teams up with accordionist Miss Murgatroid (née Alicia Rose), and it turns out to be far from the dry, conservatory exercise you'd expect. This is cutting-edge stuff: symphonic lushness and dreamy, vocals not too distant from the soundscapes of Sigur Rós, balanced by a dangerous avant-garde lurch that will please fans of such composers as Tom Waits, Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson.

Both artists maintain busy solo recording careers, have played with several groups and collaborated separately with such artists as Bill Frisell, John Fahey, Victoria Williams, Negativland, the Twilight Singers and Boy Eats Drum Machine, among many others. This is their first album of new material together since Bella Neurox in 1999.

The harmony vocals--full of glittering facets that reveal more with each subsequent listening--are primarily wordless. At least until the third track, "Fade Away," that is. A personal relationship suffers from emotional dislocation as Haden sings, "Every time you are here, you're not here, so you fade away." According to press releases, mutual heartache fuels many of these compositions, and it's proven out in the recitation that accompanies "Something's Wrong."

Especially charming is the near-orchestral depth of "Baroque Lullaby" and "Sleeper," in which Haden builds rich cloud banks of strings, pushing melodies that recall the earliest chamber-pop experiments of Cat Stevens. Against this, Murgatroid's accordion sighs and moans like a magnificent, throaty pipe organ. Ears weary of the tropes of rock and pop will find new listening adventures here.

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