Review: You wonder how many successful classical-rock fusion bands there are (classical-rock as in classical music and rock, not Led Zeppelin sound-alikes) and you understand Melisma a little better. Which isn't to say that Melisma isn't successful or isn't rocking, just that you have to listen to their work in the right context. That context includes the emo that lurks just beneath each song, Choy's earnestly romantic lyrics betraying the man's inclination to melodrama and threatening to overcome the strong assembled musical talent. Melisma's success instead lies in its guitar and rhythm-oriented tempos and song structures grounded in rock and roll.
Fortunately, Choy doesn't press the emo throughout Melisma's music, and even the melodrama is well handled by Choy, Favin and Kim, who easily comprise the strongest string section in any local band. Cohesive and expansive, their tight interplay is indicative of the group's experience. In such a small group each member is important: Favin's cello adds texture to otherwise sparse arrangements while Choy's steady acoustic provides the fragile structures with platform and grounding. This allows amazing violinist Kim to provide evocative, emotional lead work essential to Melisma, effectively separating them from the majority of local bands. One of Melisma's biggest strengths is indeed that they are different, charting out somewhat unfamiliar musical ground.
Unfortunately, Melisma charted a little too far. It's true that Melisma's unique, string centric nature allows them a diversity of sound that is uncommon in most pop music (and the pleasingly simple Melisma is a pop band, what with Choy's romantic subject matter and the music's traditional acoustic grounding. However, talented as Melisma's musicians are, they are unable to make up for absent rhythm stalwarts, most notably drums. Even basic percussion would allow Melisma to branch out melodically. That isn't to say that a lack of percussion ruins Melisma, though that and its tenuously emo nature are weak points. Instead, they are merely the smaller problems within a talented and quality band, as Melisma's string section is unique from most local music, and in some cases simply better arranged.
Genre: Classical-rock fusion
Lynn Favin (Blair, senior): Cello and vocals
Cory Choy (NYU, Blair Graduate 03): Guitar, lead vocals
Lisa Kim (Stanford, Blair Graduate 03): Violin
Influences: Jimi Hendrix, Pachabel
History: Melisma's formation was a product of timeliness and familiarity, according to Favin. "We got together over the summer, 'vagabonding' on the docks in old town Alexandria, VA." Favin remarks, Choy and Kim having been together before in Balena. Melisma cut their teeth playing the docks. "We would go there once or twice a week in July/August to sit on a bench with an open guitar case and CDs for sale. There was a lot of competition, because artists are encouraged there," according to Favin.
Albums: On the Waterfront
Best Song: Badabada
Worst Song: Grace
Best thing about being in a band: "We had regulars that came to listen to us. We met a lot of interesting characters," Favin claims.
Worst thing about being in a band: "We're string players. Strings break constantly, (especially Lisa's) Cory and I had calluses that cut and bled. Cory broke dozens of picks," Favin remarks.
Reaction from another Blair musician: "They stole my Batman song. Cory's guitar is insane, is complemented well by Lynn's vocals, and her cello makes it awesomer." (Christian Brown, Funkier than Superman)
Quotable: "Behind a waterfall I call/And you wrote about it in your journal/That dream where you fall and call/...And I bounce/And this song's for you/...And it's happy." (Grace)
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