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The Iditarod, Fursaxa

Spend any time among local musicians and/or performing artists in the Capital Region and you’ll hear the complaint that the area’s shortage of venues is keeping us from artistic preeminence—and, historically speaking, there’s something to that point. Now, the good news is that in recent months, a handful of smaller, forward-looking (and forward-booking) spaces have cropped up; the bad news is that these are often fragile, sadly temporary niches (the recently departed Miss Mary’s Art Space is a case in point). On Sunday, one such space, 51 3rd Street in Troy (which already has gained some notoriety for an adventurous window display, as well as a film screening or two and the odd performance artist) is hosting a show that should be more than tempting enough to get you out across the river and into a budding venue, thereby sparking your undying devotion and unwavering support.

Praised poetically by rock-critic guru Byron Coley as a “magnificent gauze of lost-commune-folk-smoke-damage,” the New England-based Iditarod ply a hushed, lush, richly textured blend of lo-fi psychedelia and British Isles folk à la the Incredible String Band or Pentangle. Comparisons to Robyn Hitchcock and Donovan are also frequently thrown into the mix, suggesting in the end an atmosphere redolent of incense and folky flights of fancy.

Working a similar vein is Fursaxa, the solo project of Tara Burke, formerly of Un. Burke pairs mesmerizing (as in Otto Mesmer) vocals with the mournful drone of the chord organ, the accordion or the guitar, “turning folk into lo-fi, and then into sheer psych and back again,” according to the Philadelphia Weekly’s Joey Sweeney.

The Capital Region gamely chips in, offering up a handful of its own genre-bending, mind-expanding lo-fi troubadour types to round out the bill: The Kamikaze Hearts’ Troy Pohl will team up with the Stars of Rock’s Brent Gorton for a performance of—if we had to guess—stylistic diversity, convincing emotionality and a liberal dose of wise-assery; and, finally, sonic adventurer Jason Martin will chart the outer regions of pop for your pleasure.

The Iditarod and Fursaxa will share the stage at 51 3rd Street (51 3rd St., Troy—duh) on Sunday (April 27) beginning at 8 PM. Also on the bill: Troy Pohl, Karen Codd, Brent Gorton and Jason Martin. Tickets are $5. For more information, call 281-3206.

A Closer Walk

Here are some numbers. By various accounts, the number of people worldwide who were newly infected with HIV last year totaled 5 million. Of these, 3.5 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of people worldwide who were living with HIV/AIDS last year was 42 million. There were also, worldwide, 3.1 million deaths from this pandemic, often described as the worst in human history.

The total number of AIDS deaths, from the beginning of the scourge through the end of 2002, is around 22 million. Of these, 4 million were children under 15.

Academy Award-nominated director Robert Bilheimer—who is based in upstate New York, near Rochester—has made a documentary that both addresses the almost unimaginable scope of this plague and puts a human face on it. A Closer Walk takes audiences around the world, from Kansas City to Haiti, from Ukraine to Uganda, in an attempt to capture the broad spectrum of the AIDS crisis. Patients, caregivers, government officials, scientists, economists and human-rights activists are interviewed. The political and personal are brought together with immediacy, for maximum impact.

It’s the kind of film in which the star cameos—Kofi Annan, the Dalai Lama, Bono—are secondary to the subject. The fact that folks like these participated, however, illustrates the importance of the project. (It’s narrated by Will Smith and Glenn Close.)

A Closer Walk will be presented at the Spectrum 8 Theatres (290 Delaware Ave., Albany) tomorrow (Friday, April 25) through next Thursday (May 1) as part of the Spectrum’s spring documentary film series. Call 449-8995 for ticket and showtime information.

L’Ensemble

L’Ensemble will present a mix of the familiar and the lesser-known in the final concert of their season, Bows Across the Water. This is perfectly in character for the adventurous chamber group, who consistently conceive programs both compelling and intriguing. Who else would organize a concert of works around the songs of Bertolt Brecht, as L’Ensemble did this year, offering the beguiling melodies of Kurt Weill side-by-side with the thornier compositions of Hanns Eisler?

For the familiar, there is Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major. Often recorded and performed, Schumann’s chamber pieces are well-loved staples of the literature. It’s easy to hear why: Romantic and passionate, Schumann’s piano works are arguably his most compelling. Less known, however, are the other two works on the program.

Ottorino Respighi’s The Pines of Rome and The Fountains of Rome are celebrated; his Sonata in B Minor for Violin and Piano, composed around the same time, is rarely performed. Romantic where his larger orchestral works are impressionistic, the sonata demands both nuance and virtuosity. Charles Martin Loeffler’s Four Songs for Voice, Viola and Piano is set to texts by Baudelaire and Verlaine, and is, according to L’Ensemble’s own description, “mournful, eerie and . . . macabre.” The latter will feature guest violist Irene Breslaw, of the New York Philharmonic.

L’Ensemble will present Bows Across the Water in the Swyer Theater at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) this Sunday (April 27) at 3 PM. WHMT-FM host Mary Fairchild will lead a preconcert discussion at 2:15 PM. Tickets are $20. For reservations and information, call 473-1845.


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