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February 08, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-02-08

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The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Friday, February 8, 2008 - 5

The Arabesque Music Ensemble plays tonight at 8 p.m. at Rackham Auditorium.

These are pictures of a band that used to be popular. They are no longer popular.

Going back to the '90s

Popular '90s group
returns with a disc of
pop anthems and a few
DailyArts Writer
The members of Nada Surf are no
strangers to popularity. The New York
alternative rock band became the torch-
bearers for satirical
teenage angst in 1996 ***
with the release of their Nada Surf
first single, "Popu-
lar," off of their debut Lucky
effort High/Low. The Rough Trade
hit single propelled the
band to worldwide suc-
cess, allowing it to either self-release or
independently release their subsequent
albums. The band maintained it name
recognition through frequent tourifig
and stints on the soundtrack for "The
O.C." The trio's fifth studio album, Lucky,
continues the band's tradition of slowed-
down abrasive rock with an emotional

"See These Bones," a collaboration with
Death Cab's Ben Gibbard, is Lucky's first
single. It also happens to be arguably the
album's best track. The eerily breathytrack
is a haunting opener, standing in contrast
to the rest of the album's poppier taste. A
seemingly unlikely pick for the album's
starting point, the track is reminiscent of
the band's earlier, emotional cuts from
the previous decade. As the song's tension
reaches the threshold, Nada Surf frontman
Matthew Caws belts desperately, "Look
around, see these bones / What you are
now, we were once." Complimented by the
subtle unison of his bandmates's backing
vocals, the track sets the standard for the
album's remaining songs.
The record's subsequent tracks serve
as a forum for Nada Surf's diverse musi-
cal experimentation. While most fit the
familiar format of uninventive pop-rock,
the album refuses to be pigeonholed into
a single bland genre. Unwilling to explore
only one musical style, Lucky alternates
between top 40-friendly, sugary lullabies
("Weightless"), melodic pop anthems
("From Now On") and snappy, yet lus-
cious, beat-driven love songs ("Beautiful
Beat"). These tracks recall the band's ear-

lier pop-driven efforts, without branch-
ing out into different styles. Rather
than experimenting with inventive song
structures or exotic instrumentals, Nada
Surf falls back onto the musical formula
it knows best.
The band escapes this formula on "The
Fox," a wispy, atmospheric track that
sharply contrasts with the rest of the
album. While fitting into a traditional
song structure, the track experiments
with combinations of guitar chords and
violin strings. Over these distinct chords
and a mix of reverb, Caws croons, "We're
in a different war / With ourselves, and
some of you." Despite attempting a dif-
ferent approach, "The Fox" fails to create
the tension and momentum appropriate
for the song, and it ends all too shortly.
A seasoned Nada Surf fan will be
happy to see the band's return to simple
pop beats and select emotional cuts on
Lucky. Although there is no fault in fall-
ing back on past musical techniques, it's
disappointing that a decade-old band
fails to explore new styles and to tinker
with experimentation. Despite these
shortcomings, Lucky offers an adequate
listen for idie-pop lovers and late-'90s

Daily Arts Writer
With a collection of musicians from
seven different countries including
Morocco, Syria and Israel, one would
expect the Arabesque Music Ensemble
to be performing an eclectic blend of
culture and tradition. But, they're not
about reinventing the wheel, but rather
about preserving the
original. Arabesque
Tonight, Arabesque
takes the stage at Rack- Music
ham Auditorium to Ensemble
keep Arab history alive.
Performing music Tonight at
from the legendary 8 p.m.
Arab songstress Umm At Rackham
Kulthum, composed by Auditorium
three Egyptians, Ara- $20-$40
besque differs from
other ensembles in its commitment to
staying true to the original work.
However, their ambition was met with
difficulty since the original performers
committed the music to their memory
and were urged by Kulthum to "let their
hearts guide them." Because the music
was never notated on paper, and those
who worked with The Three Musketeers
- the name given to the three composers
- are no longer performing because of
old age, the live compositions were vir-
tually lost in the Arab world.
While Umm Kulthum has influenced
such pop icons as Bob Dylan, Nico, Bono
and Led Zeppelin, never before has a
group taken on the task of performing

her original work in its entirety.
"Everybody is trying to come up with
new ways to come up with this music,
but no one is tryingto recreate this music
the way that is was in the '20s , except
this ensemble," said Hicham Chami,
founder of Arabesque. The musicians
today attempt to stay as loyal to every
note and vowel as The Three Musketeers
intended. The group had to sit down and
listen to tapes of the music, rewind and
notate over and over again before they
could start to play music. What would
take two or three days to learn musi-
cally took two or three months because
of the process and accuracy they wanted
to ensure before attempting to recreate
these masterpieces.
"If that doesn't make you mad and
They influenced
Dylan, Nico and Led
angry," Chami paused. "It does makq
me mad and angry; it is one of the finest
pieces that this composer has ever cre-
ated and no one took the time to notate
Layering Middle Eastern instruments
like the qunan, buzuq and riqq with
Western instruments like the cello, flute
and yiola over a rich dialogue of vocals;
Arabesque builds a repertoire of hight
See ARAB, Page 8


* Longtime BSS
member drops
new solo album

DailyArts Writer
Combined, there are approx-
imately six million albums
released annually that can be
described as roots-rock, alt-
country or a Broken Social
Scene side project. Fitting
into all of
these catego-
ries, it's got
to be difficult ason C e
for Jason Here's to
Collett to Being Here
resist the Arts and Crafts
usual con-
ventions that
come with each: Too little devi-
ation from time-tested song
structures. Too much banjo.
Too many guest spots to retain
any sense of a solo album. On
Here's To Being Here, Collett's
fourth solo disc, he struggles
between the choices of easing
into simple, classic arrange-
ments or into less familiar ter-
Trimming the ensem-
ble from 2005's Idols of Exile,
Collett isn't able to depend on
the talent and cred that came
with the inclusion of fellow
Broken Social Scene mem-
bers like Emily Haines, Leslie
Feist and Brendan Canning.
Instead, Collett unfortunately
opts for the limited set-up of
guitar, bass and drums. The
touches of Idols of Exile that
elevated the otherwise lacklus-
ter aspects of Collett's rock are
still here, like the perpetually
growing crowd of voices and
strings on "We All Lose One

Another" and the bluesy guitar
solo amidst the dirge of horns
on "Parry Sound." In compari-
son, Here's To Being Here often
sounds thin and empty.
But these moments aren't
completely abandoned. With
tones reminiscent of fellow
Toronto-born rocker Neil
Young, Collett expands his use
of fuzzed-out, lazily played gui-
tar previously only hinted at
on Idols of Exile's "Tinsel and
Sawdust." On the piano-rock
of "Henry's Song," the harsh
strikes of one guitar interlock
with another's solo of equal
parts feedback, with Collett
stumblingaround the fretboard.

The look of a man who's tired of playing second fiddle.

This c
the N
the su
drop o
like "I
of Exi
start -

lose-enough approach to sound, but soon, handclaps and
even works beneath the buzzing guitar noise join the
w sound of "Through falsetto "whoo whop whoos."
Those are accompanied by a
dance beat, leading into dueling
,ow e organs and piano. In reality, the
you werenL song is by no means going to be
tting enough the party hit of '08, but in the
context of the album, falsetto
,nadian rock, cooing sounds close to daring
and a cause for celebration.
'ere's Jason Collett doesn't keep this level of
enthusiasm, though, as the lat-
ter half of the album turns the
volume down and the heart-
break up.
ight These Days," with The bounce of the first
stained, vibrato-heavy half of Here's To Being Here
distracting from the less- becomes a meandering mess
kable aspects. on tracks like "Waiting For The
tunately, not every single World." Sure, it's a nice way
f excitement from songs for the album to fade out, but
'llBringThe Sun,"offIdols it isn't anything more than an
le, is gone. "Out of Time" unexceptional acoustic gui-
't promise much fromn the tar campfire ballad. Even on
- it begins with the same "Somehow," Collett's down-
of hollow three-chord on-his-luck alt-country plea,

Aside from playing with
Broken Social Scene until
2005, Collett has released
several of his own albums:
2001 - Bitter Beauty
2003 - Motor Motel Love Songs
2005 - Idols of Exile
where a gang of vocal "oos"
supports Collett's shaky voice
and slide guitar, there is the
question four minutes in of
where the song's going. The
answer? Sadly, nowhere sur-
prising or interesting.
Here's To Being Here is ates-
tament to Collett's love of many
classic aspects of rock'n'roll
and country, and it's rewarding
when he is able to incorporate
them in novel ways. But when
he can't, all we're left with is
this enjoyable, but forgettable,

For a designer who spent the past three seasons focusing on avant-garde themes
centered on women's suffrage movements, dance and water, Victoria Bartlett
unexpectedly hit the runway at Fashion Week with the theme that gets down to
what fashion is really about: sculpture.
Bartlett's line, VPL, is deeply rooted in the sculptural. While you probably
wonDt see any of her pieces next to a Noguchi or a Mir6, Bartlett brings life to
sculpture by giving it a body. The fall line maps outthe contour ofthe body, playing
off the natural curves of the model who wears them. The fabrics and body interact
with each other, each illuminating the shape of the other.
Though a few of the looks come across as more conceptual than wearable, with
large coils of fabric draping around the model's neck or shoulder pads of what looks
like braided hair, the rest of the line is grounded by a system of conscious sculpt-
ing. Two-tone tights, banded tops and pants that puff at the thigh and hug the calf
accentuate the anatomy of the figure.
Dresses that swoop one color up over the hip, shirts that cinch the waist with
complimentary colors and jackets that smartly highlight the shoulders and cuffs,
all contribute to the sculptural aspect of this line. These details allow the viewer's
eye to travel comfortably across the outfit as a whole, bringing all the pieces of the
look together, permitting the fabrics to breathe and come to life.


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