Photo courtesy Orchestra Enigmatic.
Radiohead: In Rainbows
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
I am going to be honest with you – I do not know Radiohead’s music, save a few songs including “Creep,” which holds special meaning to me. So, when I read that a newish congregation of musicians known as Orchestra Enigmatic was planning to cover Radiohead’s seventh album In Rainbows, I was a little intrigued and did some recognizance prior to the performance. I set out to get to know the writing and singing styles of the members of Radiohead: Colin and Johnny Greenwood, Ed O’ Brien, Phil Selway, and Thom Yorke. While I didn’t listen to all of the discography of this talented group of musicians, I did discover the reasons why they have had success and failures. More times than not there is definite thinking outside of the box, while other times the songs are repetitive and themes difficult to find and or describe.
So, what did Orchestra Enigmatic, composed of 22 musicians and its conductor, Joe Dunn, do with this particular album? They rewrote it. While incorporating many original aspects of the songs the composers within and without of the group explored new realms of how the songs could be expanded.
Let us begin with the first track, “15 Step.” Arranged by bassoonist Jackie Belcher and featuring Tyler Dippold as soloist the piece is certainly indicative of the Radiohead sound: ethereal and scattered with subtle rhythm and solid guitar. As quite a few of Radiohead songs are sung in a falsetto tone, Mr. Dippold did the same with “15 Step,” which had a Led Zeppelin vibe to it.
“Bodysnatchers,” arranged by Orchestra Enigmatic’s Artistic Director Jody Hurt was nice. While I found that there was often a problem with volume balance, and the energy was a little lacking when passages were repetitive, there were still some beautiful sounds coming from the lower strings.
Conductor Joe Dunn put his spin on “Nude” and it proved to be quite lovely. Allowing for the winds to shine brilliantly with structured and melodic layers was a great call, however, the brass would become a little overbearing at times, but were quickly reined in.
Erich Stem’s version of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” had a lot of wonderful musical attributes going for it. Using the synthesizer to simulate a harp and a lovely cello solo, there were times that I thought I was listening to a cross between Pink Floyd and Saint-Saëns. There was a passage toward the end that almost left me a little nervous, where it seemed that chordal structure was thrown out the window, but soon a tonic appeared and a nice resolve was found.
David Neville’s arrangement of “All I Need” was a surprising look into how a person who is a serious percussionist can write a lovely melody. The same was true with Joe Dunn’s interpretation of “Faust Arp”.
The Orchestra played the LP version of “Reckoner,” and it was some of the best playing of the evening to that point. I was impressed. Layered chords within the piano combined with fantastic rhythm guitar and drum. Tyler Dippold knocked it out of the park with his falsetto. You know the orchestra is in the moment when Joe Dunn just sits on the conductor’s stool and lets the musicians pretty much do their thing. The controlled pianissimo at the very end had the audience laying in wait for the finale.
Erich Stem’s “House of Cards” was entertaining and sounded like a mix between contemporary opera composer John Adams and the Eurythmics.
“Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” arranged by Travis Carlisle, was a tour-de-force for percussionist Meg Samples, who maintained static and syncopated rhythms with panache and flair. As the song featured percussion and strings it was different from the rest of the evening and featured lovely virtuosity.
The final song of the evening was “Videotape,” arranged by Tyler Dippold. Having a Romantic era influence, the piece seemed to rely on the voice looper that Tyler had used throughout the evening.
I am truly excited to have a group such as Orchestra Enigmatic that is ready, willing, and able to push the envelope and produce music that thinks, looks, and feels different. Artistry is not stagnant and I can see Orchestra Enigmatic becoming a voice for blossoming composers and musicians to hone and deliver their craft.
Radiohead: In Rainbows
May 3, 2017
Louisville, KY 40205
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.