Cinders and My Education
Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., April 12, 2002
CindersLive in the Chapel
My Education5 Popes Golden Arm Trio isn't the only classical crossover group in Austin. In fact, with regular gigs at such unlikely dives as Cafe Marakesh, Beerland, and the Hideout, the mostly extemporaneous string trio Cinders has clearly wrestled the "DIY classical" mantle from Graham Reynolds' ever-expanding operation. On their debut long player Live in the Chapel, Cinders brings an elegant, romantic-classical air that would sound right at home in a pristine concert hall. Yet Cinders shuns the typical play-by-rote classical modus operandi for a spontaneous approach. Kirk Laktas (piano), Travis Weller (violin), and James Alexander (viola) improvise beautifully, having flexed their creative muscles in a number of exploratory projects (E.C.F.A., Ultrasound, Imbroglio String Quartet). Realizing that it's harder to stay together than to fall apart, the local trio follows a warm, emotive trajectory, flaunting abrupt shrill squeaks or sustained dissonance just often enough to keep the listener on their toes. Like Austin's better-known string ensemble Tosca, Cinders operates both alone and as part of a larger group. Unlike Tosca, the trio are also components of one of the louder rock bands in town, instrumental buildup artists My Education. On their pleasant surprise of a debut 5 Popes, My Education slowly and gorgeously amass giant tapestries of sound, with Laktas' piano and Alexander and Weller's strings there to fill in the gaps and weave imaginative timbres into the mix. On "Deep Cut," Alexander and Weller's amped-up instruments have a major hand in the musical outcome. Yet My Education would still be in danger of being a one-trick pony if Laktas' piano wasn't there to beautify the album's gentle moments, making them something more substantial than a mere break between the recurring plunges into the deep river of sound. Two memorable debuts with three things in common.