Press Round-Up: Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society’s Brooklyn Babylon

Brooklyn-based composer-bandleader Darcy James Argue and his innovative 18-piece big band Secret Society released their highly anticipated sophomore album, Brooklyn BabylonApril 30th on New Amsterdam Records, and the album has already been receiving a significant amount of praise from multiple press outlets.

Downbeat Magazine recently named the album an Editor’s Pick for May 2013, stating that “Argue refuses to be easily boxed and defined, except by one word: amazing.” The New York Times called Argue’s vision for the big band “vital and absorbing” and the Los Angeles Times called it “remarkable.” The album has also been featured on eMusic and in The Boston Globe. In addition, Argue recently participated in an interview with Studio 360 to discuss the release.

Brooklyn Babylon was conceived in collaboration with Croatian-born visual artist Danijel Zezelj, whose narrative inspired Argue’s mash-up of musical styles. Zezelj’s artwork places the action in a larger-than-life, mythic Brooklyn, where past, present, and future coexist. Plans are afoot to construct an immense tower — the tallest in the world — right in the heart of the city. Lev Bezdomni, a master carpenter, finds himself torn between his personal ambition and his allegiance to the community when he is commissioned to build the carousel that will crown it.

Premiered to wide acclaim at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in 2011, Brooklyn Babylon is a long-form, structurally-integrated work combining Zezelj’s animation and live painting with Argue’s music. But like great stage works, such as Stravinksy’s Petrushka or Debussy’s Jeux, the composition works powerfully on its own.

The 53-minute work shows Argue taking a novelistic approach to long-form composition: a prologue, eight chapters separated by brief interludes, and an epilogue. The album opens with the actual sounds of Brooklyn — a sonic collage of recordings of the borough captured on Argue’s portable digital recorder. The ensemble gradually comes into focus and introduces the Prologue, from which every subsequent musical theme in Brooklyn Babylon derives. Argue reconfigures these themes using a broad array of techniques, inflected by contemporary indie rock, classical music, and jazz, particularly from the often maligned 1970s: the earthy avant-garde of Dewey Redman and Lester Bowie; the intricate large-ensemble sounds of Thad Jones and Don Ellis; and the sophisticatedpopulism of Donald Byrd and Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. Waltzes, marches and — naturally — fairground carousels also fold into the mix.

For more info on the album, click HERE.