SXSW showcase reviews
Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., March 20, 2009
Central Presbyterian Church, Wednesday, March 18
If falling asleep in church is a bad thing, Chicago viola player Anni Rossi took just a tiny bit of the guilt out of the offense. With just a drummer backing her, the 23-year-old bowed, plucked, and strummed her instrument, making the songs from her Steve Albini-produced 4AD debut, Rockwell, sound more like lullabies than sonic booms. Rossi's voice is certainly arresting, both sharp and crooked at once, but the lack of volume and dynamic also siphoned the set's potential. As much as she was in control of her instrument, she sounded spare on the altar, and her vocals had a hard time traveling, which is a shame, because she's a great storyteller on disc. A cover of Ace of Base's "Living in Danger" was certainly transformed with quirky reverence, but most of the set felt like the reading before communion, not the sermon that gets you out of your pew. Rockwell, like Rossi's 2008 EP, Afton, has fleeting moments of frantic, head-scratching momentum and ominously catchy folk flow, marking Rossi as a rare talent à la Joanna Newsom. Live in a church, however, she needed to pull out a bit more of the Laurie Anderson that's bubbling underneath.