"First it was brusque, then eerie and sly. Julia Holter and the Spektral Quartet shared the Ecstatic Music Festival concert on Wednesday night at Merkin Concert Hall in a program that lingered in the cloudy zone where contemporary composition meets the pop song. In its sources and allusions, the concert took for granted the broad-spectrum musical erudition of current composers: hip-hop, medieval motets, Broadway, Impressionism, dubstep.
Playing on its own, Spektral — a string quartet from Chicago — brought one piece, Liza White’s “Zin zin zin zin,” that got its title and its rhythmic thrust from a rap by Mos Def, and another, by Chris Fisher-Lochhead, that radically rearranged a moody electronic lament by James Blake, “I Never Learnt to Share,” along with Stravinsky’s “Concertino” from 1920. There was also Dave Reminick’s “Oh My God, I’ll Never Get Home,” which had the quartet singing a poem by Russell Edson about a man falling to pieces as he walks, with heaving music to match.
Each piece was introduced, with an explanation, by a quartet member; the violinist Clara Lyon smiled as she praised the “weird things happening” in “Concertino.” The pieces had a shared palette: dissonant and clenched, with fleeting moments of delicacy giving way to more tension. The quartet played attentively, poised or just harsh enough, savoring the suspense; none of the new pieces overstayed. They were confident miniatures, rich in implications."
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