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Double-Breasted -- Angst for the Mammaries

Despite the undeniable excellence of the Double-Breasted project and the clear intelligence of everybody involved, I was expecting substantial difficulty in translating the energy and charisma of the group's performances to disc. Strings are notoriously difficult to record, and I can easily imagine the astonished and bewildered look on the face of the studio engineer when Kristi Chmura hauled her enormous harp into the live room. But I guess it wasn't that way at all -- despite the ridiculous title, Angst for the Mammaries turns out to be a completely natural and entirely successful documentation of the sound and attitude of New Jersey's indie group of the moment. The interplay between Chmura's arch-seriousness and the riotous, hyperstylized approach of cellist Ardith Collins keeps the group far from the twin chamber-pop sandtraps of highbrow cliché and self-dramatizing schtick, and the seven-song EP is paced accordingly, with the two women alternating songs and lead performances, each framing and elaborating the efforts of her partner. I can't think of another area group with two writers and singers who complement each other so well.

Consequently, Angst for the Mammaries functions best when understood as a complete work rather than a collection of highlights, but hey, if it's highlights you're looking for, rest assured that you'll find some here. Personally, I'm most drawn to Collins's alternately loopy and outraged performances, delivered in a clipped, poised, vaguely aristocratic voice that is heavy on severe consonants and breathless imperiousness; "The Ketchup Song" and "Alto Cinco" are wide-eyed, uproarious, straddling satire and condemnation with assurance. Chmura's vision tends to be darker and more theatrical; still and crystalline, "Unresolved" carries a yearning that never becomes maudlin. On "Janus", the collection's closing track, the two singers raise their voices together to dazzling effect - simultaneously chastising and celebratory, gleeful and desperate, straining toward resolution and union. The Tori Amos crowd will inevitably go crazy for this.

Doubtless you are not part of the Tori Amos crowd (and who can blame you?), but you ought to pick up on it too. While much of local independent rock slowly strangles itself to death on its own conservatism, here is a group that manages to invert many of our most epidemic problems. Rather than bury their words beneath a patina of frequency-spectrum-saturating rhythm guitar, Double-Breasted bravely foregrounds their formidable and illuminating lyricism. In a state where so many singers both male and female do their level best to mimic the inflections of Eddie Vedder or Dave Matthews, Double-Breasted offers two unique and personal voices, recorded with clarity and care. Here, also, proceeding with good humor, irony, and logic despite the current fashion for poker-faced expressions of brain-dead sincerity, is a group with strikingly unusual arrangement concept -- a cultivated clearing in an enormous forest of indistinguishable pop-punk and emo bands. But perhaps most importantly, in a rock scene where female voices are rare to non-existent, Double-Breasted features two outspoken and articulate women, rupturing by their very presence the easy, endless homosocial flow of boy after boy in guitar band after guitar bands. It seems almost too manifest to say it, but I'll say it anyway: Collins and Chmura have supplied precisely what New Jersey independent music needs, and not a moment too soon. Here's hoping we can all recognize that. - Tris McCall


Double Breasted is a new sound for the rock genre. Who Will Love You? is their first full length album and it truly manifests and exhibits the creativity of all three members. Each one has an unmistakable talent and passion for their music. Josh Bicknell on percussion, Ardith Collins on the cello, and Kristy Chmura on the harp, make up what they have self proclaimed as “couture rock.”

The combination of these three voices creates an elegant, captivating, and almost haunting encounter with music. The resonating long notes on the cello combine with the melody and harmonies from the harp to produce an exquisite classical sound, meanwhile the vocal lines, and percussion have a more pop feel. When the two are merged on this album their music takes on new depth. Their sound is intriguing because of the unusual combination of instruments a close ear is easily pleased with its complexity while an easy listener can also enjoy the sheer beauty.

“Animals”is a brilliant track that opens with soft harp and soothing cello then progresses through a stunning harmonic chorus that includes all three of the band’s voices. As the melody picks up, the cello, harp, and vocals soar to new and exciting places then come full circle and close on more delicate tones. The entire album brings an appealing new face to rock and all the while satisfies every craving for remarkable musical talent.



Muzikreviews.com Staff- Marina Lane
- Marina Lane


High fashion and classical music both tend to appeal only to a certain segment of the population. Neither is universally accepted and, by their nature, they tend to be intimidating or confusing to many people. Steeped in these influences, double-breasted seek to fashionably blend their classical backgrounds with their love of a variety of other popular music styles. They are seemingly a paradox: an unusual group of classical musicians that can appeal to a wide range of audiences in a variety of settings

Formed at The College of New Jersey by harpist Kristy L. Chmura ’03, cellist Ardith Collins ’01, and drummer Josh Bicknell ’03, double-breasted describe themselves as “couture rock.” Yet, the band feels at home playing some of the state’s legendarily gritty rock clubs, such as Maxwell’s in Hoboken and The Court Tavern in New Brunswick, not to mention the TCNJ’s own famous venue, The Rat. Audiences, though initially perplexed by the sight of a harp and cello on stages usually inhabited by guitars and basses, have been very receptive to the group’s music.

As further proof of the group’s talent and versatility, double-breasted have performed twice at New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Initially, the band applied to perform at the 2008 Chase Sounds of the City Festival, but was denied. Within months, however, the festival’s co-producer contacted Chmura to have the group play at NJPAC’s Prelude Concert Series, wherein local artists perform in the venue’s lobby. In that setting, double-breasted performed as the prelude to The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra last December. The lobby, according to the band, was impressive, amazingly resonant, and visually stunning, and served as a great setting for the band’s sophisticated and stirring instrumentation and ethereal vocals.

In February, double-breasted were again asked to perform, this time for the national tour of Rent. Audience reaction tends to be similar no matter the venue: a mix of curiosity and excitement. At the rock clubs, the band’s quieter songs can be overwhelmed by the noise coming from the bar. However, at a venue such as NJPAC, the surroundings provide a quieter, more consistently attentive crowd.

The three band mates were each attracted to their instruments at an early age. Collins is from a musical family; her two grandmothers were musicians, as are her brother and sister. She began piano lessons at age 4 and, by third grade, had developed an intense interest in playing the violin. Collins’ mother, however, believed she would be more suited to play cello, which turned out to be true. From third grade to her senior year of high school, Collins performed in school and regional music ensembles, community orchestras and at her local church.

Chmura’s attraction to music happened at a similarly young age, while she was in Kindergarten singing in her church’s Cherub Choir. She continued singing at church and eventually became a cantor. When the church provided a harpist to accompany the choir on the piece, “Be Thou My Vision,” Chmura became inspired to learn harp. It took a few years to convince her parents, but by eighth grade, she began studying the harp with Merynda Adams, who had, coincidentally, been the inspiring harpist that had performed at Chmura’s church. Like most adolescents, Chmura initially struggled with where to go in life, and abandoned the harp after high school. Discovering she missed playing, she realized the harp and music were her passion and was accepted into the TCNJ’s Department of Music as first harp.

Listening and singing along to his parents’ record collection, which included The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Neil Young, Bicknell’s love and interest in music started early. He, too, began as a young singer and then discovered percussion in third grade.

The band believes TCNJ’s Department of Music enabled them to become well-rounded musicians, in terms of knowledge and confidence as players. Under the direction of music faculty, such as Philip Tate, Robert Parrish, and Michael Mendoza, the musicians enhanced their skills as musicians and performers.

When they aren’t entertaining audiences at clubs and coffeehouses, the three musicians hold down day jobs that incorporate their passion for music. Collins teaches general music and strings at a middle school in Rockaway Township. Chmura is a full-time freelance musician and is attending graduate school for Harp Performance at Montclair State University. Bicknell works as a product manager for a publisher of elementary and secondary music textbooks, where he is able to contribute to the support of quality music curriculums at the grammar school, middle school, and high school.

The band recently released its first full-length album, Who Will Love You? and plans to perform throughout the year at typically varying venues, working to expand their fan base.

- Nick D' Amore


Discography

We recently performed live on Philadelphia's Radio 104.5 FM, Live at 5 series; our studio performances have aired four times since then on the station's New New Music program. Video of this performance is also available for viewing on streettalkin.com and has been featured on www.radio1045.com on the front page of the station's site.
We also have been streamed on Blowupradio.com and played on Rutgers University's Radio station, WRSU.

Photos

Bio

The self-proclaimed couture rock group double-breasted consists of three unique members with three very distinct instruments Kristy Chmura (harp, vocals), Ardith Collins (cello, vocals), and Josh Bicknell (percussion, vocals). The three met while earning their Bachelors of Music at The College of New Jersey and soon embarked on a journey to marry their classical training with the pop/rock music that was also close to their hearts.

While Kristy initially dreamed of playing coffee houses, Ardith and Josh wanted to crash the independent music scene at traditional rock clubs. Ironically, many of double-breasted's songs are appropriate for both locations. All three members compose and sing, bringing a certain variety to their songs that is rarely found in current pop groups. "You Never Said Goodbye" is a heartfelt lament of a friend lost, without closure. It begins with the harp and cello in counterpoint beneath Kristy's vocal lament and ends in a frustrated rupture of emotion. In the softer ballad, "Clocks", Ardith expresses grief from the passing of time and friendships. Kristy's harp is the tolling bell, while the anguished cello sighs under a distraught chorus. "Lullabye" is one of double-breasted's quietest songs, featuring Josh's lead vocal over a harp ostinato and swelling cello lines.

On stage, double-breasted is not only a sight Kristy's beautiful 6-foot, 46 string harp and Ardith's striking flamed-back cello surround Josh's drum set they are also a synergy of musical power and beauty in harmony. The harp parts have been compared to a finger-picked lead guitar, but can also strike chords with the strength of a piano. The cello provides much of the low-end, but is also used as a lead instrument much like an electric guitar from a traditional rock group. The drums and percussion fill out the spectrum, providing a dynamic range and pulse to the music. Double-breasted have played the stages of NJ/NY rock venues such as Maxwell's, Arlene's Grocery, The Court Tavern, and The Cutting Room; more intimate acoustic venues such as The Goldhawk, Cafe Meow, and Here's to The Arts; and local music festivals, such as the Black River Music and Art Fest. They have also peformed as part of NJPAC's Prelude Concert Series for the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and the national tour of RENT at the prestigious New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ.

After a hiatus during 2003 - 2005, double-breasted reappeared in 2006, more creative than ever. They have been busy writing, performing, and recording new material. Their first full-length album, Who Will Love You? was released in late 2008 and is currently available for purchase.