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2 Foot Yard

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Album Review

Taking time off away from her work with Tin Hat, violinist Carla Kihlstedt offers her debut as a leader in a manner quite removed from her duties with the band she is associated with. She sings on nearly every one of these selections, and though her voice is quite pretty and balanced, it borders on the distressed or distraught. As with most Tzadik CDs, the unusual is the norm, but in the case of Kihlstedt, she's taken an unexpected turn in presenting music that is so internal, introspective, and insular that it may only appeal to the cognoscenti, not the general public at large. Think Laurie Anderson meets Shania Twain meets Isaac Stern, Stéphane Grappelli, or Mark Feldman. It's a curious blend of goth, pure country-pop, neo-classical, and string-based improvisation, with a taste of lightness here and there, but mostly dark. The sad tango of "Gone," serene and atmospheric "Last Resort," contradictory "Lovely Ugly," weary-sleepless to angst-ridden and raucous "Flinch," and self-effacing "History" set the tone. Not that there aren't mood variations, but the degree of variety depends on one's taste. She does a pop square dance to bluesy 7/8 to waltz tempo "Empty Cupboard," goes both slinky and wild with melodica and harmonica backdrop during "Peel" (the lyric is "peel me down"), and uses industrial sounds while contrasting the sour/sweet attitude on "No One Nicer." Kihlstedt's down-home identity comes through on the bluesy country instrumental "Tough Guy" and the alternative country tune "Fifty Miles," featuring a great bridge for her viola playing. There's also a tribute to beat poet Kenneth Patchen; a cop on "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" with the double-entendre title "Trampolina"; a hard rocker "Flash Flood"; and a space journey à la Sun Ra, "On Waking." A substantive exchange between her, cellist Marika Hughes, and drummer/percussionist Shahzad Ismaily takes place on the lone other instrumental, the ethereal "Far and Wee," though on the bulk of the recording they are partners, but not featured as much. In the booklet, Kihlstedt apologizes to her parents, as "The Mozart was very very long and got me bored." This restless attitude is quite evident in this quirky musical self-portrait, which would seem to be a one-shot. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Customer Reviews

strange and beautiful

I love, love, love this album! Carla is an amazing musician and arranger. There is such a variety of sounds and moods here and all of it completely unique but still connected to the others on the album creating a sort of disparate unity. oh gawd, now I sound like some pretentious Robert Christgau-like record reviewer desperate to show off my intellectual bona-fides. Okay, simply put; Carla rocks, even when she doesn't. Lovely melodies with hints of dissonance and Tom Waits style oddities thrown in; avant folk dada pop dance tunes; beautiful noise. That's what it boils down to; beautiful noise.


This album touches the fringes of many styles of music. Her playing is remarkable and her voice is on the verge of insanity. It is a devastatingly beautiful album. I listen to this album often and have turned many people on to Carla. This is the first album I heard her on and it definately won't be the last.


Genre: Classical

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Carla Kihlstedt is the violinist in the Tin Hat Trio and has also collaborated with a variety of avant-garde and jazz musicians. Kihlstedt majored in classical violin performance at the Oberlin Conservatory and went on to become a prominent performer in both classical and improvised music, playing with artists like John Zorn and Roscoe Mitchell and recording with Eugene Chadbourne, the Grassy Knoll, and Tom Waits. She also appeared on Phillip Glass's series Music at the Anthology, sings, collaborated...
Full Bio
2 Foot Yard, Carla Kihlstedt
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Customer Ratings