I first heard of Amy from Tim Thompson, a member of the electro-music.com forums, via email. He said, "Great/catchy/accessible/deep composition, stunning vocals, terrific use of technology (but all serving the music). A 1-woman show, complex compositions are constructed completely live (she loops/layers her voice and plays/triggers things with drum pads)." Tim is sometimes prone to understatement.
Amy X Neuburg is a classically trained vocalist (Oberlin Conservatory), a composer, an electronic musician, a poet, and an entertainer. Her music covers a tremendous range of styles, from medieval religious chant through Kurt Weil cabaret singing, pop, rock, avant garde, sound text poetry, opera, African tribal singing, and electronic ambient. Her music is very experimental, but always under total control. The result is, like Tim said, accessible. She is satirical, profound, humorous and sexy too. Oh yes, Amy's voice is magnificent, a full-range masterfully controlled musical instrument.
During the performance, she took questions from the audience. This was a very nice touch I appreciate especially, since so many contemporary musicians seem to totally ignore their audiences, acting aloof and mysterious. One of the questions was something like, "what musical influences are important to you?" She seemed thrown by the question, and finally said it would take too long to get through that one. I speculate here, but I'd bet Laurie Anderson and Robert Ashley would be in the included in her long answer. She was also asked, "where did you get your glasses?" This one got a much more definitive answer. And, of course, there was the inevitable question, "what kind of equipment do you use?"
Generally, I don't like loopers, and I've been known to make some pretty caustic remarks on the subject. Too often, loopers are serve as musical crutches or gimmicks. They can make the music very repetitive; boring in fact. Not so here. Amy uses the looper in the most skillful and artistic manner I've yet seen. Her loops are all created live, in real time. She uses the device to create textures and harmonies, often quite complex and always interesting, to support her virtuoso singing and poetry. But she rarely lets the loops run long enough for the music to become predictable. The looper parameters are changed frequently. The artistic effect is that of composed music, complex and structured, stylistically unified but not predictable.
Amy's performance was not without technical problems. Whenever she hit a glitch between pieces, she would comment to the audience and fool around with the equipment until she either got it fixed or skipped that piece and moved on to the next one. The manner in which she dealt with the flakey equipment was very charming. She commented that someone once said that they liked best the pieces with which she was having technical problems because it "made her seem more human". Amy miffed, "Oh, I didn't realize that my being human was ever a question."
I think just about everyone would like Amy's performance. She should be playing for huge houses, not just a small venue of about 70 like the Roulette. She deserves to be at Carnagie Hall. The kids should see and hear her on MTV.
If you are a musician and you haven't heard her music yet, then make that a priority; you have something worthwhile and important to learn about. If you ever get a chance to see her perform, go.
Amy X Neuburg makes her home in Oakland, California. You can visit her web site here: http://www.isproductions.com/amy
Photographs by Rob Thomas and Yolanda Accinelli