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The Union Tribune
San Diego

April 9, 2009


Earthly musical musings

By George Varga

The Fresh Sound Series at Sushi kicked off in January with a mind-bending standing-room-only duo concert by Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and his drummer brother, Alex. Fans of cutting-edge music can expect similar sonic adventure and excitement, albeit of a markedly different type, when the monthly downtown series continues Tuesday night with a performance by Bay Area vocal wizard Pamela Z and erstwhile San Diego bassist and electronics manipulator Lisle Ellis.

Operatically trained, Z uses an array of video footage and high-tech devices in her visually striking performances. These include a BodySynth, a MIDI-controlled outfit that enables her to manipulate sound through her onstage movements and gestures. By sampling and processing her voice live, she becomes a one-woman ensemble that sounds both inviting and otherworldly.

An experimental artist in the best sense, Z clearly puts much thought into her work while retaining a welcome sense of playfulness. She occupies a middle ground between Laurie Anderson, Meredith Monk and Diamanda Galas, without sounding like any of them.
Equally comfortable creating a brave new aural world, singing Puccini or reinventing “Wild Thing” in ways The Troggs never dreamed of, Z creates provocative music that invites active listening.

So, at his best, does Ellis. His latest album, last year's superb “Sucker Punch Requiem: An Homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat,” combines laptop-generated experimental electronic music with acoustic instrumentation and a variety of jazz styles, from post-bop to cutting-edge and points in between.

The opportunity to hear Z and Ellis on the same bill is a welcome one.

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updated 6/12/09 1:31 PM