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Jherek Bischoff's Blogger profile characterizes both his favorite books and music with one word: dramatic. That quality, if not melodramatic, certainly seems to characterize much of the collaborative work that has packed his CV to date: Parenthetical Girls, Xiu Xiu, Evangelista, Craig Wedren, People Get Ready, Soko, The Dead Science (which he co-founded) and many more have had the benefit of Bischoff's talents as a player, producer, composer and arranger. He's one of those people that might up until now be referred to as a "secret weapon".
But if it wasn't already, the secret is out now, with the release of Composed, a record that calls upon many of Bischoff's talented friends--including David Byrne, Carla Bozulich, Nels Cline, Dawn McCarthy, Zac Pennington, Craig Wedren, Mirah Zeitlyn, Greg Saunier and the great Caetano Veloso--to lend their voices and more, on eight stunning left-field chamber pop collaborations. And what's more, it's as DIY as an orchestral record could possibly be: Bischoff wrote all the songs on ukulele, then arranged them for orchestra, and produced, engineered and mastered the record on his own. Of the way he made the record, Bischoff recenlty told an interviewer:
"This record was recorded with one microphone, an Mbox and a laptop. I recorded each individual musician of the "orchestra" in their very own living rooms. I then layered each instrument (sometimes one violinist playing one part twenty times for instance) until it was the size of a huge orchestra. I spent the summer bike riding from house to house recording each musician. I then took a road trip and recorded all of the singers except Caetano and David."
And you'd swear in places that this was done in a concert hall, with at least a 20-piece ensemble. So remember that, the next time you want to start a sentence with "I can't..." It's one gorgeous, swooping track after another on Composed: fluttering flutes, plucked strings and Veloso's voice on "The Secret of the Machines"; Wilco's Cline playing on the lush, smoky declaration of devotion "Blossom"; the sprite-like Mirah on the glockenspiel-tinged waltz "The Nest"; the tropical swells of "Eyes", featuring Byrne; and the ever-arch Pennington, bringing his tremulous wickedness to a driving track, on "Young & Lovely".
Lovely it is, the whole thing. Bischoff has performed songs from Composed at two rather rarified events in New York already this year, the Ecstatic Music Festival, and the Dessners' Crossing Brooklyn Ferry fest at BAM. He'll be back with Kickstarter sensation Amanda Palmer, and we hope to get some time with him then. In the meantime, do yourself and discover one of the more remarkable records yo'll hear this year: Composed from Jherek Bischoff.