Missy Mazzoli - Vespers for a New Dark Age
Coming from composer and performer Missy Mazzoli, Vespers For A New Dark Age reimagines the traditional vespers prayer service, exploring the intersection of our modern technological age with the archaic formality of religious services. Created in collaboration with Mazzoli's ensemble Victoire, Glenn Kotche (of Wilco), synth producer Lorna Dune and virtuosic vocalists Mellissa Hughes, Martha Cluver and Virginia Warnken (of Roomful of Teeth), the record has been called an an "immersive, apocalyptic beauty" by New York Magazine, and "genre-smahing" by PAPER Magazine. In addition, the New York Times praised it as "ravishing" while Textura said it "casts a powerful spell."
Over two years in the making, the record reimagines the traditional vespers prayer service and replaces the customary sacred verses with poems by Matthew Zapruder that contend with themes like technology, God and more. Mazzoli set out to create a more modern version of the vespers service, on her own terms, to explore the intersection of our modern technological age with the archaic formality of religious services. Vespers is meant to beg questions of its listeners -- What haunts us in this "new dark age"? What role does ritual play in our lives? Is there room for the supernatural in an increasingly technological world?
On Vespers, acoustic movements that feature timbres spanning the sonic spectrum -- from delicate violin runs and lush synth pads to soaring operatic vocals and pulsating percussion -- alternate with three purely electronic interludes, where Mazzoli combines her compositional skills with forward-thinking remixing and sampling techniques. These interludes, finessed by electronic producer Lorna Dune, are meant to capture the elements of the compositions that came before them on the record as well as hint at themes to come, solidifying the tracks into a singular, streamlined body of work. Vespers also includes "A Thousand Tongues, feat. Deidre Muro of Savior Adore (Lorna Dune Remix)", a re-imagining of a Mazzoli composition that was recently deemed "the most striking and uncanny music Victoire has ever made" by Pitchfork.
The group's eclectic instrumentation of strings, clarinet and synthesizers has been expanded to include a large pallet of electronic sounds and junk percussion, complemented by Kotche, whose massive drumset included three sets of crotales, glockenspiel, and a seemingly endless battery of cymbals. The vocalists often sing in quasi-baroque harmonies that glided over this landscape of percussion and synths, only to collapse into a haunting solo line.
Victoire is: Olivia De Prato (violin), Eileen Mack (clarinet), Lorna "Dune" Krier and Missy Mazzoli (keyboards, electronics), Eleonore Oppenheim (double bass), Mellissa Hughes (voice). Vespers was commissioned by Carnegie Hall and premiered there by Victoire, Glenn Kotche and Lorna Dune in February 2014.
Mazzoli drew on her experience writing operas, vocal and chamber music to create Vespers, while also expanding on the singular musical territory of Victoire's debut release Cathedral City, deemed one of 2010's best classical albums by NPR, The New Yorker and Time Out New York.
Press and News:
Chicago Reader: "Imaginative New York composer Missy Mazzoli positions this suite as modern liturgical music, but instead of devotional texts she uses poetry about technology by Matthew Zapruder. Her eclectic ensemble, Victoire, performs with warmth and precision, swerving between poppy tunefulness and madrigal-like splendor; it's driven by the powerful drumming of Glenn Kotche and fronted by regular vocalist Melissa Hughes and guests Martha Cluver and Virginia Warnken Kelsey (both of Roomful of Teeth).
NPR's First Listen: "Mazzoli's ensemble Victoire, cleverly orchestrated, provides settings both cinematic and intimate at once, while Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche adds evocative scrims of percussion and some thunderous pounding."
Textura: "casts a powerful spell...Mazzoli has fashioned an engrossing classical-electronic-vocal epic that sounds like the product of a much larger ensemble than the chamber-sized one it actually is."
Second Inversion: "...wonderfully otherworldly, borrowing the best aspects of liturgical choral music, avant-garde electronica, and new age, and tying them all together... a unique, vivid musical picture