A haunting musical wasteland

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A haunting musical wasteland

The music of the band Rachel’s floats between chamber music and indie rock. It’s a dark wasteland made haunting by a promise of something beautiful. Just what that something is depends on the listener’s imagination.
The origins of the musical collective date back to 1989, when guitarist and bassist Jason Noble met violinist and Juilliard alumnus Christian Fredericksen on a Baltimore trolley. Together, they composed a Christmas tape called “Rachel’s Halo,” then parted ways while Noble helped start Rodan, an indie group based in Louisville, Kentucky. When the two met musican Rachel Grimes, they gave her a copy of “Rachel’s Halo”; after all, she had the same name.
Soon, the three began collaborating, and in 1994 they decided to become a band. They released “Handwriting” in 1995 on Quarterstick Records. Composed by the three core members, “Handwriting” also featured musicans from the bands Shellac, Hula Hoop, The Coctails, Rodan and two national orchestras.
A Boston Phoenix review of a 1995 performance called the music “chamber music that’s too simple to appeal to real classical fans, indie without the rock, high-art for the lo-fi underground. (It’s akin to some of the Kronos Quartet’s more pop-oriented projects.)”
Several spellbinding albums later, the group has garnered a devoted fan base and will be performing in Korea at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Centennial Hall on the campus of Yonsei University.
The concert is titled “Music for Egon Schiele,” after an album re-released earlier this year. “Music for Egon Schiele,” initially released in 1996, was the group’s second album. It was the soundtrack to a dance performed in Chicago by the Itinerant Theater Guild, based on the life of Egon Schiele, an Austrian painter who was a young contemporary of Gustav Klimt.
Also in 1996, Rachel’s released “The Sea and the Bells,” which included a performance by a full orchestra. “Selenography,” released in 1999, employs drum machines and a custom-built “double manual” harpischord. “Systems/Layers,” released this month, includes noise samples from everyday life. Because it’s their only album that a trio could reproduce live, “Music for Egon Schiele” was chosen as the album to tour with. Eve Miller, who played cello on the album, will be here Tuesday instead of Noble.
Rachel’s is meticulous and improvisational. Some call them Debussy for the dark crowd, but as a band, they have the tautness of a Bach invention. The compositions are grand and sweeping, but intricate. It’s been eight years since the release of “Handwriting,” but “Systems/Layers” shows that the group’s musical rapport is still very strong.

Highlights from the evolution of Rachel’s

“Music for Egon Schiele”
1996, re-released earlier this year

Composed by Rachel Grimes and based on the life of a 19th-century expressionist painter. The album is largely in classical style, performed on the piano, viola and cello. Even with just the three instruments, the sounds are lush.


Born of a two-year collaboration with SITI, a theater ensemble based in New York. The album combines the classical, like “Arterial,” with vocals, like “Last Things Last,” and samples of everyday life. It’s more experimental than some of their work, but just as haunting.

“The Sea and the Bells”

Inspired by the book by Pablo Neruda, this dreamy album builds to a vision of a dark storm at sea. Includes sounds ranging from timpani and piano to rustling linen sheets, creating a more ambient atmosphere.


This seven-song recording features viola, piano, electric bass, guitar, strings, percussion and woodwinds in some unsettling jazz-like improvisations. With this album, the group used conventions of classical music to create something new.

by Joe Yong-hee

For more information, call (02) 575-0426. Tickets range from 30,000 won ($25) to 70,000 won.
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