Oracle Hysterical, Cactus Tractor, Wayfaring | Hideout | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Oracle Hysterical

Nick Lorden

Oracle Hysterical, Cactus Tractor, Wayfaring 

When: Thu., July 14, 9 p.m. 2016
Price: $8
Music often takes inspiration from classic literature, but the remarkable ensemble Oracle Hysterical make it their raison d’etre, transforming stories into tightly mapped musical journeys. Vocalist Majel Connery, bassist and viola da gamba player Doug Balliett, bassoonist Brad Balliett, and guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist Elliot Cole are all trained and rooted in classical music, yet while they draw on that rich tradition in terms of arrangements, orchestrations, and technique, everything I’ve heard transcends any single style. They’re not afraid to embrace sophisticated bits of pop and contemporary production, as on “100 Tongues,” the opening piece from the suite Hecuba, which is loosely based on the Euripides play of the same name. The work features gripping slice-and-dice postproduction, with Connery’s crystalline voice chopped into percussive phonemes amid chattering acoustic guitar zigzags and stuttering drums (when the group played the piece in Chicago a while back they worked with the Chicago Composers Orchestra). But most of the time they simply blend ideas from across time and land into elegant tunes where serpentine melodies are cradled and cajoled by exquisite arrangements. Thus far the group have written pieces based on works by Suetonius, Melville, Auden, an Afghan folk story, and the Brothers Grimm, but it’s Passionate Pilgrim, based on a series of poems attributed to “W. Shakespeare,” that will be the first effort to get a commercial release when it drops in December on Vision Into Art. For tonight’s performance the group will preview the recent The Sea: Tales of Lapham (a commission from the great Boston vocal ensemble A Far Cry), which draws its stories from a sea-themed issue of the literary journal Lapham’s Quarterly. They’ll be enhanced by percussionist Peter Ferry, cellist Kyra Saltman, violinist Ellen McSweeney, and violist Brianne Lugo. Opening are Cactus Tractor and Wayfaring (the duo of clarinetist James Falzone and bassist Katie Ernst).
— Peter Margasak

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