Maya Beiser: Uncovered

review beiser x1 cong

Beiser has been called a “cello goddess” “the queen of contemporary cello” (New Yorker and San Francisco Chronicle respectively) but she grew up on a kibbutz listening to rock. She says music is either good or bad and nothing more, so she’s taken her instrument of choice, the cello, to make an album of rock covers.

We often wonder what classical composers would do if they were alive today: Mozart would be Prince, fact. Wagner would be in a death metal band. Chopin could be in Radiohead. This album kind of goes down that route: this is a classical instrument playing rock, loud. She recorded and re-recorded the cello, so she gives it lots of texture and covers vocals and guitar breaks, as well as rhythm guitar. (She does have some electric bass and drums in places).

She’s gan the bundle recording it, so the listener has to, too: opener is Led Zep’s Black Dog (yes, she’s that ambitious) and it works best when played loud. Then comes Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ At Midnight, a good choice to follow Zep, and Hendrix’s Little Wing, with a surprisingly effective guitar solo. The early songs are not simply constructed tunes to begin with, and it’s only by Floyd’s Wish You Were Here that she gets to a tune that’s even remotely verse-chorus, verse-chorus, so she makes it seven minutes long and opening with ambient cello feedback. It’s a bit Steve Hillage.

Without going into every song, some work better than others: Led Zep (she also does Kashmir) lends itself well to this, as does Acker Dacker’s Back In Black, while the weakest song is possibly Nirvana’s Lithium, which needs Cobain’s messiness to make it come alive. Still, a surprisingly good album.

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