San Fermin, Luyas, Ryley Walker, Landmarks | Schubas | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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San Fermin, Luyas, Ryley Walker, Landmarks 18+ Early Warnings (Music) Recommended Sold Out (Music) Soundboard

When: Sat., Jan. 18, 9 p.m. 2014
Not long after graduating from Yale University with a degree in music composition in 2011, Ellis Ludwig-Leone retreated to the Canadian Rockies and wrote a 17-song suite, which ended up on the self-titled debut album by San Fermin, released in September by Downtown Records. In some ways he was working like a classical composer—as he wrote, he didn’t have an ensemble to play his music or even specific musicians in mind—but San Fermin is unmistakably a sophisticated pop-rock record, its operatic grandeur and contrapuntal complexity notwithstanding. Ludwig-Leone plays keyboards, but otherwise the elegantly melodic music is brought to life by a highly skilled cast he assembled—he used a full complement of brass, a string section (which includes acclaimed new-music folks such as Pulitzer-winning composer Caroline Shaw and Bon Iver collaborator Rob Moose), and male and female singers (Allen Tate and the duo of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, aka Lucius), who deliver lyrics intended to represent a dialogue between a man and a woman. At times the steeplechase vocal arrangements recall the Dirty Projectors, and the lush, corkscrewing orchestrations suggest Van Dyke Parks with his sensibilities updated for the present century. At first I had some trepidation about a classical composer writing elaborate pop-rock, but Ludwig-Leone’s ambition and execution erased it—this album is alternately ebullient and pensive, triumphant and sorrowful, and its dark back half, especially the harmonically ambiguous, exploratory “True Love, Asleep,” has kept me coming back. I don’t know how San Fermin’s eight-piece touring lineup pulls this off live, but I expect these songs could shine in almost any setting. This show is part of the Tomorrow Never Knows festival. —Peter Margasak The Luyas, Ryley Walker, and Landmarks open.



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