Yerba Buena Center for the Arts has been branching out this summer. There have been sports films, drag cabaret happy hours, and artists painting right on the walls. And there's music, too. New Frequencies is Yerba Buena's first summer music series. Shows in the series pair local and international musicians, and they've spanned an impressive range of styles: a garage band, a throat singer, an improvisational world music/jazz ensemble.
This week, Argentine star Juana Molina will join local cabaret storyteller Amy X Neuburg in Yerba Buena's Forum. Molina released her fifth album, Un Dia, earlier this year. It starts with a shout and a jaunty beat and then swoops between dreamy whispers and poppy chants. She's already toured in support of the album, so at the Yerba Buena show she'll play both new and old songs. Her earlier music is softer and slower, but still full of the lush textures she creates with her voice, acoustic guitar, and electronic loops.
Amy X Neuburg, from San Francisco, also uses electronic loops in her work, but her songs have sharper edges than Molina's. While Molina uses loops to create layered sounds, Neuburg is more interested in the story, using loops to build a narrative line instead of a musical spiral. She creates a backdrop with electronic drums and looped vocals then twists her voice from a cackling rumble to operatic heights. At Yerba Buena she's teaming up with the Cello ChiXtet, a trio of cellists who are regular Neuburg collaborators, to perform a song cycle about the New York subway. The ChiXtet bounces along while Neuburg's voice soars. When they come together, the cellos and the voice smooth out and blend with each other.
Some of the musicians in New Frequencies have actually been playing in the galleries, responding to specific paintings. This particular show will be in Yerba Buena's Forum instead. The Forum is known mostly for dance and theater, but New Frequencies curator Isabel Yrigoyen says she has plans for the series to grow each summer, expanding Yerba Buena's reputation as a venue for new and experimental music. With the variety of talent and styles she's pulled in for the inaugural season, it's an exciting prospect.
Juana Molina and Amy X Neuburg perform on August 22, 2009 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. For tickets and information, visit ybca.org.