Olafur Arnalds, Sarah Neufeld | Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park | Experimental | Chicago Reader

Olafur Arnalds, Sarah Neufeld Recommended Member Picks Free All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Image

When: Thu., July 18, 6:30 p.m. 2013

A lot of people know Montreal violinist Sarah Neufeld for her manic playing in the Arcade Fire, but her forthcoming solo debut, Hero Brother (due from Constellation on August 20), sounds much more restrained and contemplative than her band. Recorded in Berlin with composer and pianist Nils Frahm, the stripped-down music summons the spirit of classic minimalism (particularly Steve Reich) and follows in the footsteps of Bela Bartok, Iva Bittova, and all the other composers who’ve translated eastern European folk music into classical modes (though Neufeld also gives it the immediacy and directness of pop). The insistent title track rides on a steady thump (either a stomping foot or an electronic beat) and the machinelike repetition of a single striated, sawing riff that waxes and wanes in ferocity, while “Dirt” unfolds in multiple episodes—sepulchral ambience, cyclical pulsing, richly textured droning. On a few pieces Neufeld uses her voice to wordlessly shadow her haunting playing, and Frahm adds harmonium and piano on a couple others; for the most part, though, the music consists of a lone violin shaping delicate miniatures of exquisite beauty and fragility. Neufeld’s ghostly songs wafting through the PA at Pritzker Pavilion ought to make this one of the most ethereal-sounding concerts of the summer. —Peter Margasak Olafur Arnalds headlines.

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