Parlour to Parlour, Episode 38: Lutra Lutra
I have been to the Make-Out Room in San Francisco so many times, it almost feels like it really is a living room. And just like in my own residential home, I like to know who’s there. Don’t you? This is essentially how we set the tone for this year’s season of Parlour to Parlour, the first to be held before a live audience and thirty-eighth overall.
Five of the seven ladies of Lutra Lutra were our very well coordinated guests (absent physically, but spiritually present, were Nicole Casanova and Lauren Klein). And by very well coordinated, I mean that they treated the interview with the same kind of one-mind approach that feeds their music. Even though some technical glitches at the venue, both audible and visible, led to a less-than-perfect document of the night, this did nothing to diminish the spirited energy emanating from these five ladies in both their interview and their musical performance.
Formed last year by EFFT leader Sarah Elena Palmer, Lutra Lutra essentially arose from a culture of experimental music fostered at Oakland’s Mills College. Sarah herself explains it much more clearly in the interview, and even at that, once you hear how in tune each of these ladies is with the collective musical vision they all share, the who/where/why/how becomes less important than the what.
The piece we chose to showcase here was perhaps the most compelling of Lutra Lutra’s set on that evening of January 20, 2013. The vocal parts are stacked slowly and deliberately, as each member weaves a vocal tapestry that evokes all manner of sources, from Mike Patton to Yoko Ono to dripping water to building anticipation to the whispers of strangers. Towards the end, they even evoke the polyphonic a cappella breakdown of Queen’s “The Prophet’s Song.”
Perhaps best of all is that, as avant garde and experimental and as out there as Lutra Lutra’s music can get, it’s the beautifully sonorous quality of each member’s voice that holds the whole concept together so tightly. It’s like hearing any of your five favorite primo-voiced pop princesses aiming for, and succeeding at, creating high art.