Mikel Rouse unveils Gravity Radio at Galapagos

Mikel full ensemble

Mikel Rouse, the Saint Louis-born composer who lives and works in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen,  probably is best-known for his multi-media operas, particularly his trilogy of Failing Kansas (1995), Dennis Cleveland (1996) and The End of Cinematics (2005). So it was a bit of a surprise to get a first peek at the songs for his latest show Gravity Radio, in a stripped-down concert format at Galapagos Art Space in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn on Oct. 23. (Sorry it took so long to post this!) It was a special CD release party that turned into a well-mannered, deeply affecting chamber-rock concert.

Mikel Rouse

Mikel Rouse

The CD is officially released this Tuesday, while the full-blown Gravity Radio show will go on tour starting in January, hitting New York at a yet-undetermined date.

The songs that make up Gravity Radio are interspersed with dialogue (read at Galapagos and on the CD by TONY nominated/OBIE Award winning actress Veanne Cox) ripped from the news of the day, touching on topics like Afghanistan, the tanking economy and such. (When the full-blown show hits the road, these news dispatches will be altered and updated with the news of the day).

The material has a topical feel, like all of Mikel’s work that I’m familiar with. But each number is shaped more conventionally like a song — which creates a different feel, more of a song cycle than a through-composed work.

Gravity Radio is crammed full of memorable tunes, the most memorable of which is “Wait for Me,” a jaunty tune that on the surface is a devilish seduction song. The CD is chock full of tunes that the audience could easily leave the room humming. That’s marked contrast to the songs from Mikel’s ambitious operas, which although I loved them, were not nearly a full of discrete songs, but were more through-composed pieces. That’s not to say that Gravity Radio won’t take on a different aspect once it’s fully staged, but the songs themselves are essentially in their final form.

Mikel presented the new material in an intimate setting, with members of his band and string players from ACME seated in a line onstage, with no set decoration or videos. When the piece is fully staged next year, you can rest assured that it will involve many more people (in the pit and onstage) and will include videos and other multimedia features.

“Perhaps it is an attempt to recapture or update my first memory of radio in the late 1960s – Motown and British rock fading in from a faraway Chicago station as the local news faded out on my transistor radio, which I put between my head and the pillow late at night,” Mikel says of  Gravity Radio‘s concept.

For more information about Mikel and tour dates and locations for Gravity Radio, visit his web site by clicking here.

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