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First Listen: Victoire, Missy Mazzoli's 'Cathedral City'

These days, chamber-music groups often move far beyond the traditional classical repertoire. From the Ebene Quartet's appropriation of jazz tunes to the Turtle Island Quartet's recent tribute to Jimi Hendrix, small ensembles are deftly side-stepping genre classification.

Brooklyn-based Missy Mazzoli and her ensemble Victoire fall solidly into this hard-to-define category with their debut album, Cathedral City. Though all of the members are classically trained, Mazzoli's music has been labeled chamber rock, indie classical, mimimalist, post-rock and even "pseudo-classical."

Cathedral City is complex and imaginative, hooking the listener right at the beginning with the slow, meditative keyboard introduction to "A Door Into the Dark." Mazzoli commands attention through every piece, tying the works together with close relationships in structure and sound. The eight tracks stand alone, but they flow organically into one another.

Mazzoli's music might come across as simplistic, and on one level it is: She uses manageable meters and sticks with basic harmonic building blocks. And if some of her techniques -- such as the use of spoken numbers in "India Whiskey" -- are reminiscent of Philip Glass, it's because she borrowed the instrumentation of his ensemble as a starting point for herself. It might be tempting to cast Cathedral City into the minimalist camp, but the album is too subtle to pigeonhole.

Just when Mazzoli's sound begins to seem predictable, she tosses in something that snares the imagination. The title track, for example, is based on an uncomplicated melody, with musicians playing in unison. But the listener is drawn in by airy vocal samples and a gentle electro-beat. As the music pulses on, the voices become more prominent, almost masking the fact that the musicians have begun playing a fugue.

Is Victoire's music post-rock, post-mimimalist or pseudo-post-pre-modernist indie-chamber-electronica? It doesn't particularly matter. It's just good music.

Cathedral City will stream here in its entirety until its release on Sept. 28. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.

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Ashalen Sims