Part dark cabaret, jazz, Americana, pop, and classical, Huxley Vertical Cabaret Nouveau hearkens back to Kurt Weill, the Weimar Kabarett, Edith Piaf, French Chanson, and Tin Pan Alley while suggesting comparisons to current artists such as Tom Waits, The Dresden Dolls, and The Magnetic Fields.
Led by composer/arranger/performer Seth Bedford, the orchestra blends accordion, trumpet, piano and strings with Bedford's vocals into elegant and distinctive arrangements. Sometimes lush, sometimes savage, the sound is always fresh.
The full length premier by New York's Huxley Vertical Cabaret Nouveau is a precisely arranged collection of sparse and lovely songs.
Stumbling onto the Cabaret is like finding a that an ancient smokey club has been taken over by a circus troupe well versed in American jazz and French chanson. There's a raw (but not rough) feeling to the band, like they've been playing all night and you're just coming in a the very end. The bartender is already cleaning up, the tables without customers have the chairs up. Those with customers are split between those too wasted to leave and those too mesmerized by the band to tear themselves away. You can hear the end-of-the-night weariness and desperation in the voice Huxley Vertical (nee Seth Bedford), it's a palpable thing starting with the first track found here ("Early Chill").
Huxley may sing with the bitter/sweet soul of world-wearing circus clown but he writes with the skill of an accomplished pop composer: there are no shortage of hooks here. The songs are nicely assembled and the talented musicians play their way through them with confidence. By the end of this CD you're likely to forget that a band which features two violinists, trumpet, contrabass and accordion *isn't* the standard line up for a pop band.
Though Vertical leads he'd be going nowhere if the rest of the band weren't up to the challenge, but they are. The play together like an experienced miniature orchestra, they know when to flow together and when to let one of their own shine (I especially like the trumpet work by Bernard Modern/Adam Levine on "What I Got"). There is a general melancholy tempo that fits these chamber popsters, but the album is (thankfully) not uniform. Both "Pop Song" and "Missionary Man" are more urgent than the rest.
This album is well played and well written, and I look forward to the future work from Huxley and his Cabaret.