Posted by Charlee Redman on 11/24 at 11:38 AM
Wednesday night brought the sounds of experimental music to the community rooms of the Schlow Center Region Library. The free, all-ages show featured local band Evening Fires, Scottish singer-songwriter Ben Reynolds, and Pittsburgh-native Mike Tamburo.
Evening Fires is a five-piece band from the area that plays an amalgamation of psychedelic rock jams and Appalachian-inspired folk music, combining acoustic guitars with a violin, steel guitar, percussion, and theremin.
Their set consisted of one long song that built slowly on a foundation of warm, soft guitar parts and transformed into a full ethereal rock song. As the percussionist gradually introduced his full drum set, the music grew louder and took on the sound of a 70s-era rock jam – slightly spacey but fluid. The violin anchored the music effectively, providing a consistently smooth and balanced meta-melody to the music. Evening Fires sounds like a happy Explosions in the Sky, sliding between the genres of folk music and a more experimental and improvisational brand of music, integrating electronic effects and simple acoustic guitars.
Ben Reynolds continued the folk style of Evening Fires with his fingerstyle guitar playing, bringing subtle elements of the blues and country into his music. He seemed to be telling stories with his songs in the tradition of Bob Dylan or Paul Simon; his best was a subtly rollicking ballad about the ocean. His quick triplets in the treble strings gave him the air of a sailor, declaiming his song to the sea.
Reynolds also showed his talent for solo guitar pieces in a more classical style, making use of the full melodic capacity of his guitar. His final number, “Death Sings”, was a slightly bluesy take on the subject with a pleasantly alternating bass and just the right amount of dissonance.
After Reynolds displayed his ear for delicate melody and the rich sound of his guitar, modern day Renaissance man Mike Tamburo took the stage. Although jokingly referred to as the “wizard of the hammered dulcimer” by Reynolds and Evening Fires member (and the event’s organizer) Nathaniel Rasmussen, Tamburo lived up to the name.
He played a single piece, “Tenth Gate”, which lasted over twenty minutes. Tamburo’s extreme proficiency on the hammered dulcimer was evident – while beginning by savoring the sounds and relations of single, hovering notes, he later built up to a frenzy that saturated the small room with the instrument’s unique sound. The dulcimer is a little like bells, a little like harp, and slightly percussive, with low notes similar to those on a piano. The music was interesting, but could have benefited from being cut a few repetitive sections.
Experimental music isn’t often to be found in State College, but these artists created a refreshing hiatus from the norm. Hopefully the Schlow Library will be able to continue hosting local and independent musicians at the forefront of musical development.
Author: Charlee Redman
Bio: Charlee Redman is currently a sophomore studying English and French at Penn State. She enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, making ambient noise with the local band The Roaring Kittens, walking, and drinking lots of coffee. Although she likes many styles of music, some of her favorites are folk, indie, classical, and electronic. Her favorite bands at the moment are The National, Iron & Wine, Of Montreal, and Radiohead.
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