Today we have the pleasure of introducing you to a fine San Jose-based experimental artist named Cellista. On Friday, her new ‘Transfigurations’ album will be released. In fact, we bring you the premiere of ‘Confessions’, which features vocals by Rykarda Parasol, who tends to be vocally compared to Nico, Marianne Faithful and PJ Harvey.
Not long ago this groundbreaking experimental cellist and multidisciplinary artist Cellista presents ‘Look Homeward, Angel’, a cutting edge genre-bending track featuring the lyrics and rhymes of hip hop artist DEM ONE (a.k.a. Demone Carter) and beautiful soprano vocals by Melissa Wimbish. As a stage poem, ‘Transfigurations’ is a multi-media work that includes dance, poetry, original classical compositions, noise and sound textures.
It’s a very clever thing when the attitude we have come to associated with punk music reveals itself in the most unexpected place and and even cooler if it’s done in a tasteful and eye-opening way… this is exactly what avant artist Cellist has achieved. In her stage appearance, her appearance is even more striking than Rasputina – who has become famous for exactly this. In her approach to the arts, her approach is all-embracing, combining dance, costume, music and film. Genre wise – she is smashing it. In rank with some of the best punk artists, Cellista is known for combining an eclectic mix of genres. On her new album along, cello combines with hip hop, spoken word, ambient and dystopian music to pseudo-classical. Tearing up the rule book of how much is made and how it should sound, she is entering new territory and dragging a core of ground-breaking artists with her. This IS punk.
Cellista loves to perform in unconventional spaces, and her devotion to collaborating with artists across media and genres disrupts the world of the classical performing arts. Cellista traverses the walls between disciplines and the borders between spectator and audience. She etches out her own niche through her performances of captivating theatrical recitals by interweaving film, text, and dance. Her work is deeply rooted in her musicological studies of Olivier Messiaen and the French Surrealists.
Cellista’s sound brims with a dissidence informed by her classical foundation and her want to tear that very foundation apart. It explores the sounds of her immediate community through sound collages and music curated to augment that community. Similarly, it explores the meeting point of musical borders and gives testimony to the fragile ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay Area that sits alongside the rest of the world in an increasingly vulgar epoch.
“In 2017, Transfigurations began growing out of a avant-garde performance art piece I wrote, composed, and directed called ‘Wants’. It was meant to be a response to Trump and the rapid gentrification of the Bay, and address the tragedy of the Ghost Ship fire. Wants became a 20-minute film that my regular filmmaker Jennifer Gigantino shot and edited. The ruptures feature sounds from the Internet Archive and there are lots of historical recordings and found sounds, most originating from the Bay area,” explains Cellista.
‘Transfigurations’ is a response to the world we inhabit. It is meant to allow us all, singularly and as a community, to see the ruptures that punctuate our place in the present – The ache of the Ghostship that points to greater ruptures interwoven like veins; the call to resist the deadening of our world by institutions and false power, and the violence of gentrification and displacement. Above all, for Cellista, it is a way of seeing and sharing an awareness of her own impact within this shared place.
Engineered by longtime collaborator Maryam Qudus and Grammy-winner Nahuel Bronzini, ‘Transfigurations’ features original compositions and arrangements by Cellista and also involves Bay area composers Peter Colclasure, Nick Vasallo and Be’eri Moalem with his piano quintet Tzeva Adom. The album also features the original poetry of Aubrey Ferreira, narrated by DEM ONE. The movements are composed and curated in a suite-like manner with genres ranging from thrash metal, noise, hip-hop and classical music. This album is bound to appeal to fans of Kronos Quartet, Robert Ashley, Merzbow, Rasputina and Zoe Keating.
As an experimental cellist, performance artist and artistic director of the interdisciplinary performing arts group Juxtapositions, Cellista is known for her collaborations with artists across various media, as well as her self-produced stage poems (live performances staged in unconventional spaces that incorporate elements of music, theater, improvisation and visual art across a range of genres including pop, hip-hop, classical and more).
Cellista has worked with Grammy-nominated artist Tanya Donelly, producer John Vanderslice, Troyboi, Don McLean, Casey Crescenzo, Van Dyke Parks, and Pam the Funkstress. She recently joined soprano Carla Canales for Hear Her Song, a project that promotes women’s voices through original compositions by female composers. Under the musical direction of Kurt Crowley (Broadway’s Hamilton), her playing was praised.
On Friday, May 31, ‘Transfigurations’ is out both digitally and on CD, which comes with a full-length book and download code, is available both at her live shows and via Bandcamp at https://cellista.bandcamp.com/album/transfigurations-2.
Lyrics by Cellista and Rykarda Parasol [BMI].
Performed by: Cellista–Cello
Recorded at Chez Cellista Studios in San Jose, CA by Cellista.
Re-recorded and mixed at Anno Domini and Best Studios by Maryam Qudus.
Additional mixing by Nahuel Bronzini at Studio Burgundio
June 23 Los Angeles – Infinite Noise Outrageous Loud Festival at Coaxial, solo noise set
July 18-Aug 25 San Jose, CA – performing in City Light Theater’s production of ‘Cabaret’
Also enjoy the video for ‘Look Homeward, Angel’, the first single off this album: