ALBUM REVIEW: “Hopscotch” produced by The Industry

by Maggie Molloy

The opera tradition as we know it has always been lavish and large-scale—but never quite this large.

In 2015, the 21st century experimental opera troupe The Industry produced Hopscotch: a modern-day immersive opera experience collaboratively created by a team of six composers, six librettists, and over 100 artists. Massive in scope, the opera performances took place not in your traditional opera house, but rather, across the grand and sparkling stage of Los Angeles, California.

Photo credit: Casey Kringlen

That’s right: Hopscotch was staged in 24 cars and countless locations across Los Angeles, crafting a singularly extraordinary experience that was equal parts road trip, architectural tour, immersive theatre, and avant-garde opera.

Audience members were carted around the city in a fleet of limousines that were divided into three distinct geographical routes—each route featured eight chapters (a mixture of car rides and visits to undisclosed sites) lasting approximately 10 minutes each.

Photo credit: Casey Kringlen

The only limitation? You had to be in Los Angeles to experience it.

Well this year, the Industry has alleviated that restriction with the release of Hopscotch as an album—or more precisely, a key-shaped USB stick that you can plug into your computer or car.

Inspired by Julio Cortazar’s novel Rayuela (Hopscotch), both the live performance and the recording invite the listener to experience the narrative in a non-chronological order, and with multiple singers forming a composite of each individual character’s identity. So, without further ado, let’s meet the characters.

Hopscotch tells the tale of Lucha, an L.A.-based puppeteer who meets and marries a motorcycle-riding scientist named Jameson. But like all great scientists, Jameson loses himself in his explorations of the esoteric. Distraught, Lucha hallucinates an encounter with Jameson in the underworld and attempts, without success, to bring him back to life.

The story borrows heavily from the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (which is symbolically significant in that this myth was the basis of the world’s earliest surviving opera)—but unlike Orpheus, Lucha overcomes her grief and finds love again with a fellow performer named Orlando.

Photo credit: Casey Kringlen

Oh, and one other major difference: in Hopscotch, the narrative is nonlinear. The story is presented in episodic chapters which highlight moments of Lucha’s life, each episode acting as its own point of entry to (or a port of departure from) the overarching narrative. In the live performances, this allowed each of the three geographical routes to tell the story in a different order—and as listeners to the recording, we’re invited to experience the opera in any order we choose. Included in the digital CD liner notes is a series of suggested playlists ordered by original performance route, by composer, by librettist, by storyline, and by musical development.

“Opera is about layering—music, image, text, experience,” said Yuval Sharon, Founder and Artistic Director of the Industry, and the creative mastermind behind Hopscotch. “And that’s where Hopscotch is most operatic: it’s a project with many layers that intersect each other, offering each audience member a highly personal experience, their own combination of elements unlike anyone else’s.”

Photo credit: Casey Kringlen

The music itself is also highly personal. Each moment in the characters’ lives was shaped by a different composer and librettist, performed by a different ensemble, and was created in response to a specific street or site on the route. The only restriction? Each episode had to be 10 minutes in length—allowing the composers to play with the perception of time inside that specific life moment.

The published recording alternates between live and studio recordings, and between brief excerpts and full scenes. But even beyond those more structural variances, the music itself is also extraordinarily eclectic. The two-hour work bounces from soaring arias to infectious theatre riffs, twinkling lullabies to industrial static, free jazz and improvisation to surrealist choral soundscapes, rainy day ballads to Latin American folk melodies.

Photo credit: Casey Kringlen

And yet, somewhere amidst the swirling anarchy of avant-garde sound art and Baroque opera vocal stylings, the music takes on a much grander purpose. As the Industry’s Music Director Marc Lowenstein describes:

“From evocations of experimental music to musical theater to improvisations to folk traditions to large scale quotations of Monteverdi to installation music, from the intimacy of a single performer in a car with you to the grandness of using the entire city as a stage—as the opera hopscotches through our city, so does the music, always on a road, evoking different scenes, cultures, and sounds. A thousand paths.”

In fact, the opera is an entire web of musical and theatrical threads which connect and intersect in ever-changing ways, subject to each listener’s own experience and interpretation. Conceptually, the project is complex enough to write an entire book on (and in fact, the digital liner notes are 52 pages long), but as you travel through the swirling sonic landscape, the meaning behind the music becomes quite clear:
By creating a vibrant mosaic of so many different sounds, styles, composers, and performers, Hopscotch reminds us that Lucha’s story is also our story—and that we are all subject to these same transcendental experiences of time, memory, and perception.

Photo credit: Dana Ross

In the end, all paths converge and the opera climaxes with a live recording from the Central Hub, a temporary space on the performance route where all the journeys were live-streamed to create a dizzying panorama of life in the city—an ecstatic vision of community in Los Angeles.

“The Central Hub is the possibility of simultaneity,” Yuval Sharon said. “A circle where there is no differentiation between past, present, and future. Separate neighborhoods become one fluid landscape. And the mysterious logic that escapes you from chapter to chapter becomes completely legible, supernaturally, when you can see them all happening at the same time. In a city so infamously without a center, I think creating aspirational centers is crucial.”

ALBUM REVIEW: The Edge of Forever featuring The Industry & wildUp

by Seth Tompkins
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The release of the recording of the chamber opera The Edge of Forever by Los Angeles-based experimental opera company The Industry and modern music collective wild Up is a triumph. However, it is difficult to succinctly encapsulate exactly why this complex release is so tremendously special; some (ok, maybe a lot of) background information is needed first.

The Edge of Forever is a piece that is intentionally bound to a specific time and a specific place. This recording documents a performance that occurred on December 21, 2012. You may remember that date as a moment when various sources predicted an apocalypse of one sort or another because of that date’s association with the ending of the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar. The Edge of Forever is associated with that moment as well; this piece was inspired by the end of the Mayan calendar. Its association with this specific moment in time led its creators to perform it in public only once. This piece will never be performed again; luckily, we have a recording! To be fair, however, the released recording of the piece does contain some post-performance studio addition, but they serve only to recreate the experience of the live performance.

In addition to being tightly bound to a specific moment in time, this piece was designed to be performed specifically in its chosen venue. That venue was Los Angeles’s Philosophical Research Society. This institution is dedicated to the study and preservation of wisdom traditions from around the globe and throughout time, operating without evangelical doctrine. The Edge of Forever was designed to be staged specifically in this space, using various spaces at the Society as the narrative unfolded.

It is also important to note the mission of the Philosophical Research Society, as its devotion to cross-cultural learning and the wisdom of disparate cultures hints at the themes of transcendence and unity that emerge from every element of this piece as it unfolds. All of the major elements of this piece, both obvious and obfuscated, serve these themes. The composer (Lewis Pesacov) and the librettist (Elizabeth Cline) deserve high praise for their success in fusing the elements of The Edge of Forever into a deep and unified whole.

Elizabeth Cline Headshot

Elizabeth Cline. Photo Credit: Suzy Poling.

Lewis Pesacov Headshot

Lewis Pesacov. Photo Credit: Michael Leviton

Before exploring this recording, it might be helpful for listeners to brush up on their ancient Mesoamerican theology. However, if that idea is not appealing, the liner notes explain things adequately. Basically, according to the mythological explanation given in the liner notes, a chosen sacrificial individual was prophesized to transcend the previous era of time (pre-December 21, 2012) and act as a bridge into the next era of time through the fulfillment of a great love. That individual is the main character of this opera, La’akan.

Interestingly, and very much in line with the temporal focus of this work, the performance begins in what the creators call the “third act” of the opera. The first two acts are written to have already happened, so the audience joins the action in progress as the third act begins. The liner notes provide a somewhat-detailed account of the story up to the start of the third act. The music of this piece in divided into the five scenes (five tracks) of Act III.

As the recording begins (joining the story in scene 1 of Act III), La’akan is in seclusion, waiting for his beloved, Etznab, to appear. When the lovers are united, the prophecy states that this era of time will end and the new one will begin. Scene 1 is a “procession of the scribes.” The scribes here are four sopranos singing wordless tones that have a distinct “early-music” flavor. Overall, though, it would be difficult to confuse this music with its antique counterpart, given the striking quavering of the voices. This ancient-sounding music gradually transforms into quite modern sounds that remind me of a hypothetical chamber version of Ligeti’s Requiem (1965). The scribes are on a pilgrimage to the caves where La’akan is in seclusion so that they may witness the transformation of one era of time into another. The music of scene 1 is completely a cappella.

Scene 2 is an entr’acte. Temple bowls, I believe, augmented by electronic drones begin this movement. Later, strings and winds enter as this instrumental movement builds to a stirring climax that is at once uplifting and foreboding. The music then fades to a light electronic drone and strings enter. A mournful cello solo continues this movement, supported chiefly by percussion and light backup strings. The movement finishes with meditative drumming that should put even the most resistant or confused listener in the right frame of mind to accept the cosmic and transcendent musical scenes to come.

Scene 3 is quite brief. In this recitative, La’akan sings for the first time, singing the first English words in the piece. As scene 3 blends into scene 4 (an aria), La’akan describes his seclusion. He has focused solely on love, and abandoned all other desires. The instrumental music that accompanies La’akan during scene 4 features the soprano sax and English horn prominently, along with percussion. The sounds made by these two woodwind instruments here strongly resemble the sounds of the Tibetan gyaling. As Scene 4 ends, string imitate these sounds and carry us into Scene 5.

Scene 5 closes the piece with a second aria. As the piece enters this new sonic space that will eventually leave the audience in a warm bath of cosmic joy, a lovely English horn and soprano sax duet sets the tone. The woodwind playing could scarcely be more different that the bristly sounds of Scene 4; this dichotomy highlights both the versatility of the players and the skill of Pesacov, who has managed to compose with admirable economy, using the full expressive range of the instruments.

As Scene 5 progresses, La’akan reveals that the time has come for him to unite with the beloved and usher in a new age. His beloved is neither seen nor heard, but through the music, her presence is clear. The vocals here are accompanied by the full ensemble, but the drum and bells feature prominently. As the piece ends, the music coalesces around a single pitch, fading out in a gesture that suggests an ultimate unity. This might not seem an obvious way to end a piece about a topic that was popularly associated with an apocalypse, but after taking in the narrative of this version of the story, it makes perfect sense.

Much of the music in Scene 5 is reminiscent of John Adams’s The Dharma at Big Sur. Both pieces are deeply spiritual, but approach spirituality from apparently opposite directions (mythology vs spiritual commune with nature). One particularly tantalizing possibility about the source of this similarity might be fact that Adams’s Dharma is also about an “edge,” although a much more concrete edge; the John Adams piece is about standing on the western edge of the American continent. Whatever the true source of their similarity, it is fascinating and pleasing that they end up in similar sonic spaces, but ultimately not surprising, given the orientation of The Edge of Forever toward multifaceted transcendence of apparently unrelated realms.

This overarching themes of unity and transcendence are everywhere in The Edge of Forever. First, it is inside the narrative: it is present in the element of the bridging of two eras of time, the more simple union of a lover with their beloved (who may or may not be supernatural), and the union of humanity with the cosmic through the timeless power of love. This last element of the narrative focuses on the power of love and unity to transcend the human time scale. In the words of the librettist, “one can find forever in each moment.”

These themes are also written into this piece through the composer’s use of the ratio at the heart of the Mayan calendar. The Mayan calendar in question here is built upon the ratio 13:20, and the complex interactions of those two numbers. The Maya were able to use this simple method of counting to understand time scales of cosmic proportions which otherwise would be outside the realm of human comprehension.

Pesacov uses these numbers and this ratio to generate most of the musical structures (both large and small) in the piece. Excitingly, however, the overall effect is not that of a piece created by the cold application of numerals, but rather a lovingly conceived narrative supported by tasteful and interesting instrumental writing. The successful coexistence of these two seemingly opposing motivations is evidence of the composer’s skill.

Here, too, then, is transcendence woven into this piece in two ways: the Mayan calendar itself suggesting the extension of the human mind into otherwise unreachable territory while the construction of musical structures using its elements unifies numbers and musical expression into a beautifully multifaceted whole.

Pesacov also manages to work a third iteration of unity and transcendence into this score with his ingenious orchestration. The ensemble here is relatively small, but it is packed with instruments that have association with religions from around the world, thus deepening this piece’s commitment to transcendence. From Tibet, there are singing bowls (I think), the replication of the sound of the gyaling by the soprano saxophone and the English horn, and the conch shell. The conch is also found in the religious traditions of Pacific island nations, India, East Asia, the Caribbean, and (poignantly, in the case of this piece) Mesoamerica. Other instruments in this piece are common to religious traditions too numerous to name; drumming, bells, and a cappella singing are firmly in this category. So, even the instrumentation itself contributes to the themes of unity and transcendence in The Edge of Forever.

When I encountered this piece initially, the interesting story and beautiful performances of the players and cast drew me in. Then, the more deeply I explored this piece and its backstory, the more layers of connection (transcendence) I found. This tells me that Pesacov and Cline really knew what they were doing. The result of their multifaceted success is that any listener can enjoy this release; you can listen for the intricate construction and efficient writing or you can just sit back and enjoy the beauty of the thing, or both! Whatever your motivation, I think it would be difficult for any listener to experience The Edge of Forever without feeling the love.

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ALBUM REVIEW: “you of all things” by Jodie Landau & wild Up

by Maggie Molloy

download (17)Most 23-year-old classical musicians are just beginning their careers: they’re fresh out of college, joining their first chamber groups or small-scale symphonies, maybe playing local concerts here and there, or preparing for grad school. But composer, vocalist, and percussionist Jodie Landau is not your typical 23-year-old.


download (35)He works with the acclaimed Los Angeles-based modern music collective, wild Up, as a performer, composer, and production manager. He’s toured and performed around the world, has collaborated with renowned classical and jazz groups alike, and recently even traveled to Iceland to collaborate on a concert and recording with Graduale Nobili (you know, the Icelandic choir that recorded and toured with Bjork for three years). As a solo performer, he sings while playing vibraphone and marimba.
Just consider that for a moment. How many vibraphonists or marimba players do you know? Probably not very many. And of them, how many sing while playing, compose their own music, collaborate with multimedia artists, and tour the world? Probably even fewer.

Did I mention Landau also recently released a new album with wild Up?

It’s called “you of all things,” and it features six vocal works by Landau, as well as works by Ellen Reid, Marc Lowenstein, and Andrew Tholl. In addition to composing over half of the works on the album, Landau also sings and plays vibraphone, crotales, bass drum, and piano on the recordings.

Of course, having an adventurous chamber orchestra to collaborate with certainly doesn’t hurt. Led by artistic director and conductor Christopher Rountree, wild Up is committed to creating visceral and thought-provoking musical happenings, transforming the concert space into a place without borders—a place filled with endless possibilities to connect and create with one another.download (16)

In short, it’s the perfect group to perform Landau’s music, which merges elements of classical chamber music, rock, and jazz with multidisciplinary art forms such as live performance, film, theatre, and dance. The album features performances by Landau with wild Up and background vocals by Graduale Nobili.

And it all begins with “an invitation.” A short and sweet introduction to the album, Landau’s vocals swell with sincerity above clarinet motives and Graduale Nobili’s softly shimmering vocal harmonies.

But their voices take on quite a different role in the piece that follows: Ellen Reid’s “Orlando & Tiresias.” The piece is a striking and surreal duet between Landau and the chorus, with dynamic and textural contrasts so dramatic that the piece is at times almost reminiscent of a rock opera.

Landau’s “the taste of the room” sounds like something of a dissonant watercolor painting: strings, woodwinds, and wordless vocals blend together and sway apart to create a mesmerizing sonic landscape.

Speaking of painting, Landau incorporates a stroke or two of tone-painting in the beginning of his sweet and sincere “a ballad – for you dear.” Delicate harp ornamentation compliments his delicate lyrics as he sings of love, where “we dream and wake in heaven.” But the sweetness is short-lived, and the song transforms entirely as he encounters (and then overcomes) the greatest tragedy: heartbreak.

Marc Lowenstein’s two-part “This” is the most rhythmically adventurous piece on the album, though Landau remains in calm control of his vocals above the unrelenting, ominously dark, and at times even chaotic bed of instrumental textures.

The work is followed by a similarly ethereal piece by Andrew Tholl: “Memory Draws the Map We Follow.” A ghostly choir of vocal melodies floats above airy strings and a grim, growling bassline, drawing a meandering map of otherworldly haunts.

The album comes to a close with three more compositions by Landau. The first, “as I wait for the lion,” is a simple, swelling, and poignant piece that pulls on the listener’s heart strings with each and every pluck of the sparkling harp, each and every knock of the delicately twinkling percussion behind Landau’s heartfelt voice.

Landau’s vocals takes on more of a pop music aesthetic in “stay going nowhere,” a piece which combines the unrelenting energy of a rock song with the intricate orchestration of a chamber work.

But he saves the best for last: the most charming piece on the album is “as we sway,” a lovely and lyrical ballad with Landau’s warm, gentle voice humming above a delicate pizzicato backdrop. By the end of the album, it’s clear that this is a young man who is feels his emotions deeply and viscerally—and who is ready to explore them through the full spectrum of musical expression.

Not bad for a 23-year-old.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Michael Gordon’s “Dystopia”

by Maggie Stapleton

Of all the modern late 20th and early 21st century repertoire out there, it can take a lot to stand out. Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordon’s Dystopia succeeds, particularly in two of the areas Second Inversion loves to focus on – rethinking the past and paying homage.

The title track is one of many collaborative projects between Michael Gordon and filmmaker Bill Morrison. They all encapsulate the aura of cities (Los Angeles as the focus here) and in all of these works the music is composed first and the film is conceptualized to fit the score. Bill’s video combines new and old footage from the streets of Los Angeles, as far back as some 1898 footage by Thomas Edison! Here’s an excerpt, courtesy of Cantaloupe Records:

Even without the film, Dystopia provides a “choose your own adventure” visual experience. I recommend you press play, close your eyes, and let the expansive color palette create a journey – whether it’s 90mph traffic ride through LA, a ride on a New York City subway, a motorcycle ride on winding mountain roads. The possibilities are endless.

It truly is a ride that is full speed ahead for eight and a half solid minutes, winds down for a few minutes, and revs back up, ebbing and flowing (like traffic and bumps in the road that slow us down. Flat tire? Overheated engine? We’ve all been there..) throughout the piece.

Gordon combines sounds and textures that offer freshness to the orchestral repertoire. He “explores the gray areas between harmony and dissonance,” which comes to me as enhanced, nuanced, and varied sounds for the orchestra. It’s the most exciting and engaging 30 minutes of music I’ve experienced in a long time.

Many composers pay tribute to those who have inspired or taught them. Gordon says, “Beethoven’s brutish and loud music has always inspired me… At the time it was written, it was probably the loudest music on the planet.” Rewriting Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was a commission from the Beethovenfest Bonn in 2006 and Gordon utilized one element from each of the original symphony: “From the first movement, I couldn’t resist working with the huge barbaric opening chords. From the second movement, I took the divine and other-worldly theme, adjusting it slightly so that when it ends, it is in a key one half-step higher. The theme continues to cycle around and slowly spirals up. From the third movement, I lifted the background accompaniment and brought it to the foreground. From the fourth movement I used the main theme.”

This homage to Beethoven is so curiously engaging. The retained elements are very apparent from the first chord, which is totally a “fooled ya!” moment as it meows down to dissonance. Throughout the entire piece, the push & pull and transformation of the themes and harmonies fight my ears to hear Beethoven’s original in Gordon’s re-write. It’s as if the notes were tossed up in the air with excellent care, floating and mingling with one another, crisscrossing to land in brand new worlds of musical excitement. I highly recommend this mind-bending piece for an eyebrow-raising, intriguing listening experience.

For a Michael Gordon bonus, I would be remiss without redirecting you to our in-studio performance by Bang on a Can All-Star, Ashley Gordon:

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CONCERT PREVIEW: Parnassus Project’s “Six Melodies”

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Seattle’s innovative chamber music collective Parnassus Project has been busy this summer performing on the Mostly Nordic Concert series, Occidental Park’s ArtSparks series, Kirkland Summer Fest, KING FM’s NW Focus Live and this Friday, August 15 at 8pm they’re performing a special program of American music on the Wayward Concert Series at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.  The repertoire spans 66 years of the late 20th and early 21st centuries and highlights both American composition masters and up-and-coming composers Cole Bratcher, based here in Seattle, and George Gianopoulos, based in Los Angeles.

A handful of the performers stopped by the KING FM studios last Friday night to preview the concert.  Here are their recordings of some Elliott Carter (Haeyoon Shin, cello; Brooks Tran piano):

 

and Philip Glass (Luke Fitzpatrick, Sol Im, violins; Clifton Antoine, viola; Emily Hu, cello):

The full program for Friday includes:

John CAGE: Six Melodies for violin and keyboard (1950)
Elliott CARTER: Sonata for cello and piano (1948)
Cole BRATCHER: “Child of a Broken Home” for solo flute (2014)
George N. GIANOPOULOS: Three Conversations for violin & cello Op. 16b (2008-2009/2012) // 24 Chorale Preludes for string quartet Op. 6b [selections] (2011)
Philip GLASS: String Quartet No. 5 (1991)

…performed by some top-notch local musicians – all of the aforementioned as well as flutist Daria Binkowski.  Invite your friends and go check it out!

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: GABRIEL KAHANE’S “THE AMBASSADOR”

by Jill Kimball

What springs to mind when you think of Los Angeles? Most will immediately think of sun, surf, and superficiality.

The city of nearly 4 million falls victim to a heck of a lot of stereotypes considering its size and diversity. But we native Californians (even Northerners who are, ahem, not always fond of our neighbors to the South) know LA is a lot more complicated than the rest of the world would have you believe.

The composer Gabriel Kahane spent the first two years of his life in Venice Beach, but he grew up primarily in Upstate New York and Northern California. It wasn’t until adulthood that he began to understand the rich history and complexity of his birthplace. His newest CD, “The Ambassador,” is a wonderful tribute to Los Angeles in all its beautiful and gritty glory. The album, released on Sony Masterworks, is a testament to Kahane’s versatility as a singer and songwriter. It provides proof (as if we needed it) that classical, indie and pop needn’t exist apart from each other. The whole album is available for streaming on Spotify below:

Part of the reason this album appeals to large cross-sections of people is that its producers included Matt Johnson of the band St. Vincent, Casey Foubert of Sufjan Stevens‘ band, and Rob Moose of Bon Iver–three people who have mastered the art of creating music that’s unusual yet likable. But another part is the unique structure of this album. Each of its 10 tracks takes place at a different Los Angeles address and contains words from a different person’s perspective. It’s as much a tribute to the city’s awe-inspiring and wildly varied architecture as it is to the colorful residents.

The Bradbury Building (Google Maps)

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It’s clear from this whole disc that Kahane has spent a lot of time in Central LA, near Griffith Park, Hollywood Boulevard and the recently revitalized downtown. One of the more famous locations Kahane features is the Bradbury building, a filming location for “Blade Runner,” “(500) Days of Summer” and numerous other movies. But there’s a less glamorous side to the building: it houses the Los Angeles Police Department’s Internal Affairs division and is nicknamed “the Oven” because officers attend their own disciplinary hearings here and often “get burned.” In “Bradbury,” Kahane juxtaposes mellow, delicate melodies with lyrics that paint dramatic cinematic pictures, and he occasionally builds musical tension to imply moments when these two elements are at odds with each other.

9127 S. Figueroa St., once the site of Empire Liquor Mart (Google Maps)

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The album’s central song is unquestionably “Empire Liquor Mart,” the site of a 1991 murder that shook South Los Angeles to its core. The words are from the perspective of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, who was shot fatally by the market’s owner. The resulting outrage is believed to have been a catalyst for the 1992 LA riots. In an intimate performance with delicate vocals and spare instrumentation, Kahane brilliantly and beautifully sheds light on the long and fraught history of race relations in one of America’s most diverse cities.

Union Station in Los Angeles. (Google Maps)

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“Is there defeat in a train to L.A./When Manifest Destiny brought us all this way?” Kahane asks in his song “Union Station.” Millions of people hopeful for a big break or a better life have come here, become disillusioned and left. To Kahane, the city’s main train station in “elegant decline” is a romantically tragic place to find yourself; if you’re leaving, it might mean you’ve given up on your dreams.

With the help of Kahane’s silky voice and spare instrumentation, the whole album effortlessly carries keen observations and clever commentary without ever seeming pretentious or overwrought. When the music does get fuller, it makes subtle nods to music of the past, whether it’s to film noir scores in “Veda”, a track inspired by the film “Mildred Pierce,” or to the era of Big Band and swing in “Musso & Frank,” a grill whose patrons once included movie stars and American authors.

As an added bonus, the album provides a fascinating trip through the city’s quirky collection of famous buildings, from Art Deco to Cubist to Spanish to just plain bizarre. From these songs I learned about the St. George Hotel, destroyed repeatedly by fire; the angular Lovell house that was an object of praise and then a target of ridicule; and the Ambassador Hotel, which faded from its former glory and ultimately closed after an assassination took place there.

And that is Kahane’s point: While Los Angeles is a city that represents all things mythical and aesthetic–the fame, the fortune–it is also extraordinarily vulnerable–to fickle taste, to natural disaster and to changing priorities.