(Table of the Elements)
Helen Money is Alison Chesley.
On her latest solo recording In Tune,
the experimental cellist based in Chicago
– current ‘it city’ for creative musicians – leaves no room for doubt that
she’s come to rock. Yes, cello is the only instrument on the recording. But the
days of locking particular instruments into, or out of, single genres of music
are over. Rock and roll is a state of mind.
Whatever the equivalent of a
‘bebop nazi’ would be in the classical music world (baroque nazi?), Chesley is
the opposite. She subjects her cello to all manner of effects pedals and studio
manipulations, the most overt being traditional distortion. The title track’s
main riff would fit perfectly into a head banger Metallica song. And her cover
of “Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing” by punk heroes The Minutemen
has a Hendrix/Van Halen whammy bar dive bomb moment that would make either
guitar god proud.
But in common with the best
heavy metal or rock and roll, there’s always more going on than just pure
volume or rattle. Chesley has fine technique and a modernist sense of harmony,
rhythm, and form. She seems equally influenced by minimalist composer Steve
Reich on the one hand, and rock ‘n roll on the other. This may be why she
brings to mind long form post-rock bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor or
Silver Mt. Zion. While not as epically ambitious, Chesley seems to be coming
from a similar attitude.
Chesley says of In Tune, “I ended up in some pretty dark
places but that’s what interests me and the cello expresses those emotions so
well.” True enough. While some of In Tune comes close to self-indulgent melodrama, Chesley always stops short of actually
arriving there. And though she intends to take you (and herself) to some dark
places, In Tune’s cover art of
origami peace cranes made out of dollar bills show that Helen Money is really
just shining her lovelight.
Tracks: “In Tune,” “Sagrada” JOHN DWORKIN