The Tallest Man on Earth, who is also known by his real name, Kristian Matsson, has had quite a bit of downtime since his 2015 release, Dark Bird Is Home. But that time hasn’t been spent idle. Kristian has been releasing YouTube videos, called The Light In Demos, which he directs, produces and edits himself, from his hometown in Sweden or most recently in New York. These videos are comprised of covers, or demo versions of songs in various states of completion. The imagery and attention to detail is downright beautiful, and it’s refreshing to see the various facets of talents he possesses brought to the forefront. Kristian also found time to reunite with yMusic, a 6-piece chamber ensemble based in Brooklyn. The result of their first collaboration, a rework of “Rivers” was an obvious musical match made in heaven. This pairing, which also resulted in an EP, and inspired two live performances at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. Having last been in this space in to see Bon Iver, I knew this would be quite intimate and a performance not to be missed, so I decided to catch the second of the two performances.
About 8:45pm Kristian bounded out onstage, greeting fans and waving to people scattered around the room, while the members of yMusic, Rob Moose (violin/guitar), Nadia Sirota(viola), Gabriel Cabezas(cello), Hideaki Aomori(clarinet/sax), Alex Sopp(flute/vocals), and CJ Camerieri(trumpet/french horn), all took their places behind their sheet music. Shades of blue, turquoise, red and green lit the room at various points, adding to the surreal nature of the space. “There’s No Leaving Now” was the first song of the sprawling 21 song setlist, alternating between Tallest Man songs and yMusic’s own selections, such as “Eleven,” a Son Lux collaboration that was instantly my favorite the first time I had heard it.
The crowd was absolutely spellbound the entire time, singing along word for word with every new song. Hands were clasped tightly against chest, emotion bubbling just under the surface. Even when someone way in the back yelled out the inevitable “PLAY FREEBIRD” Kristian laughed off the heckler in his monotone voice, and effortlessly segued into a gorgeous cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” The arrangements of each song played just became more and more beautiful as the night wore on. At one point, flautist Alex Sopp provided captivating harmonies with Kristian on “Like The Wheel,” causing more than a few people around me to get a bit choked up with emotion.
Finishing the night with “The Dreamer” and “Wind and Walls,” no one in the room wanted the night to end. Kristian doesn’t play NY often so a treat as rare as this warranted the requests for “5 more songs!” With no plans to tour or release a new record this year, I am hoping for a few more one off shows like this, or even more hopeful for an appearance with yMusic at next year’s Eaux Claires festival. This collaboration is just too beautiful to confine inside the brick walls of Pioneer Works.
Article: Lesley Keller