Erik Friedlander, cello
Shoko Nagai, piano, accordion, electronics
Satoshi Takeishi, percussion
Rings is the latest album from Erik Friedlander, the NYC-based cellist and composer, featuring his band Black Phebe, with Friedlander on cello, pianist and accordionist Shoko Nagai and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. Rings comes at you from different angles: there are times when the band plays with seductive confidence, loneliness and insecurity. The unifying theme of the project are the cycles each piece follows. “Each piece has repetition built in. These cycles or rings are the building blocks of the project, sometimes long and sometimes as short as a few seconds,” says Friedlander.
Black Phebe is really several trios. Nagai’s charismatic performance on accordion and piano changes the feel of the group depending upon which instrument she’s playing. When she plays accordion the band is a world-music juggernaut playing virtuosic, mixed meter works (“Risky Business”) or sweet folk songs (“Small Things”). With Nagai on piano, the band is a piano trio (“Black Phebe,” “Fracture”) or a classical chamber group (“A Single Eye”).
At the heart of the album are Friedlander’s Rings; three pieces that use live looping as a compositional tool. On these pieces, we hear Friedlander create the composition as the trio improvises with him and around him. “The Rings are a new thing for me. I’ve never been a fan of looping as a compositional technique but I changed my mind when I tried it with this band. I create the ring as we improvise and the result is hypnotic and beautiful, but organic,” Friedlander says.
Nothing On Earth
Sultry and expansive Black Phoebe plays Friedlander’s music composed for the documentary Nothing On Earth, which follows photographer Murray Fredericks to the stark and dangerous landscape of the ice cap in Greenland. He finds himself alone in a landscape he's never been, in a place he doesn't understand, hoping this time he hasn't taken his quest too far.
“The director and I worked together to get the score just right and by the deadline we had a stunning solo cello score. The director went on to complete the process of getting the film to the theaters as I contemplated some of the musical ideas that were left on the cutting room floor. Somehow I felt the job was not yet complete. I brought Satoshi and Shoko into the studio and we set about recording some of the music that didn’t make it into the film. The chemistry between the musicians and the music we created in that session caused me to seriously about making the group a working band.”