Amirtha Kidambi & Matt Evans

Amirtha Kidambi “takes a holistic approach to singing, which can mean treating every element as unfixed: Words can be opened up, rendered nonspecific. Melody can be repeated and frozen and stuck in place. Markings of rhythm can become utterly abstract, freed from cadence.” (New York Times). Kidambi is the composer and bandleader of her quartet Elder Ones, with Matt Nelson, Max Jaffe and Nick Dunston and the leader of her vocal quartet Lines of Light, featuring Anaïs Maviel, Emilie Lesbros and Jean-Carla Rodea. Kidambi is also a regular collaborator of Lea Bertucci, in a voice and analog electronics duo, is a member of guitarist Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl, featured in various projects with composer and alto saxophonist Darius Jones, a longtime contributor of Charlie Looker’s early music inspired dark folk band Seaven Teares and a soloist in Pat Spadine’s analog percussion and light ensemble Ashcan Orchestra. She has collaborated and performed with New York luminaries in the experimental and creative music community including Tyshawn Sorey, Matana Roberts, Ingrid Laubrock, Maria Grand, Brandon Lopez, Daniel Carter, Sam Newsome, Trevor Dunn, Ava Mendoza, Matteo Liberatore and veteran improviser William Parker.

Her debut as a bandleader was met with critical acclaim. As Ben Ratliff wrote in the New York Times, “the aggressive and sublime first album by the band Elder Ones, Holy Science, is a kind of gauge for how strong and flexible the scene of young musicians in New York’s improvised and experimental music world can be. At the center of it are drones and phonemes. The group’s leader, the composer and singer Amirtha Kidambi, holds forth behind a harmonium, the small keyboard instrument with hand-pumped bellows; it’s commonly used in bhajan, the Indian devotional-singing tradition that was central to her musical experience while growing up in a South Indian family.” Kidambi formally trained in classical music, singing works by experimental composers including Robert Ashley and Luigi Nono, but the pull of free jazz and Alice Coltrane drew her toward a different path. The influence of both Alice and John Coltrane is especially apparent, as is her work with composer and saxophonist Darius Jones, and her study of Carnatic music. The group’s follow-up album From Untruth will be released in March 2019, on Northern Spy Records.

As a performer and improviser, Kidambi has premiered works by pioneering composers including AACM founder and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams’, premiering his Dialogue Social Roulette in 2013, Robert Ashley’s CRASH at the Whitney Biennial in 2013, Darius Jones’ The Oversoul Manual at Carnegie Hall in 2014, electronic composer Ben Vida’s work Slipping Control for voice and electronics with Tyondai Braxton at the Borderline Festival in Athens, Greece in 2014 and William Parker’s Soul of Light in 2017. Recent recordings include William Parker’s Voices Fall From the Sky (2018), the debut recording of Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl (2018) and Ingrid Laubrock’s Contemporary Chaos Practices (2018). Kidambi has toured nationally and internationally including performances at Carnegie Hall, Newport Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazzfest, Jazz Jantar in Poland and Music Unlimited in Austria. She was a Summer 2018 Artist-in-Residence at Bucareli 69 in Mexico City, where she performed with several local artists including Mexico’s premiere free improvisation collective Generacion Espontanea. Kidambi has been commissioned by the Jerome Foundation, receiving the Emerging Artist Commission in 2014 and Artist-in-Residence in 2018, through Roulette in Brooklyn. She was also a resident artist at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in New York State, where Elder Ones recorded Holy Science.

Amirtha earned an M.A. in Ethnomusicology from Columbia University, an M.M. in Voice and Musicology at CUNY Brooklyn College and a B..A. in Voice from Loyola Marymount University. She currently serves on the faculty for the New School, teaching music history courses and heading a large scale curriculum development project. She has also served on the faculty at Brooklyn College.

Matt Evans is a drummer and producer making acoustic and electronic music about the poetic interconnections between landscapes: internal, external, fictional, and virtual. Taking cues from millennial esoterica, natural phenomena, and science fiction, Matt uses drum-driven hypnotic soundscapes and improvisatory performances to embody imaginary ecosystems of surreal sonic worlds. In “New Topographics” (2020) and “Soft Science” (2022), vintage synth burbles, peculiar percussion skitters, and muddy foraged samples are enmeshed like critters in a sci-fi biome. Matt performs these tracks from the drum kit, with samplers and pedals, embodying the array of characters as a ritualistic representation of these futuristic landscapes. His approach creates a groovy psychedelic instrumental music that is “hyperreal and phantasmal” (Wire Magazine), “meticulous and expressive.” (New York Times), and “a form of chill complexity” (New York Times).

The poetics of Matt’s music are concerned with the interconnection and translation between landscape modalities, for example, how the resilience of a particular edible mushroom and their relationship to their environment can be studied [external landscape], anthropomorphized and mapped onto a person’s emotional experience [internal landscape], and later imagined within a fictional narrative and expressed through instrumental music [fictional landscape]. This translation through modalities can also be more literal than conceptual, for instance taking the sonic byproducts of communication systems (i.e. the sound of writing with a marker) and supposing them as a musical language that can be imitated or harmonized.

The sound sources Matt employs include drums, Casio keyboards, Moog synthesizers, traditional classical instruments, percussive accessories and found sounds, often manipulated through careful effects processing and electronic manipulation. His style is defined by a tendency towards minimalist characteristics, idiosyncratic rhythms, ambient and fourth-world nostalgia, and experimental production practices.

Matt has performed solo at acclaimed venues such as the Guggenheim, The Kitchen, and Roulette; held residencies at Antenna Cloud Farm, Pioneer Works, Exploring the Metropolis, and The Shell House; given talks at Wesleyan University and Dartmouth College; and released solo records with Whatever’s Clever and Moon Glyph (forthcoming). Matt has toured with projects Neti-Neti, Tigue, piano trio Bearthoven, Deerhoof, and others. He’s performed music by composers Lea Bertucci, Steve Reich, Sarah Hennies, Michael Gordon, Scott Wollschleger, and others. Past festival appearances have included Le Guess Who? in Utrecht, Netherlands, Big Ears in Tennessee, US, and the Summer Nostros Festival in Athens, Greece. He’s toured throughout the United States and Europe, including shows in Latvia, Poland, Germany, France, Belgium, the UK, Iceland and the Netherlands. Matt has released records with NNA, New Amsterdam, Whatever’s Clever, Cantaloupe, Perfect Wave, Thrill Jockey, Dinzu Artefacts, and Moon Glyph. Matt’s classical compositions tend toward the ambient and the poetic, where simple structural logics are impeded by indeterminate and incidental forms. Textural string and wind writing combine with ephemeral and otherworldly percussion and keyboard sounds in the production of effervescent clouds of subtle shifting harmony and rhythm. Experiments with expanded intonation and euclidian rhythms give these compositions an uncanny, hyperreal feeling that extends an overarching dreamy sentiment. These works often take optical phenomenon and theoretical physics as a point of departure — as calculated depictions of phenomenological anomalies.

Amirtha Kidambi will perform at the festival as part of the REMAIIN project, which examines the influence of the music of other continents on the European avant-garde. It is supported by the EU’s “Creative Europe” programme and the Ministry of Culture.