2014, Music

Uncovered (2014) by Maya Beiser

I heard part of her cover of “Lithium” courtesy of Cover Me and thought “Wow” and so I decided I had to get this record without another thought. I had never heard of Beiser and had no idea what I was in for. I had high expectations because the part of “Lithium” I heard was one of the weirdest parts of the record.

Beiser uses overdubbing and effects to turn her cello into not only a rock instrument but a “guitar orchestra” type of instrument. This isn’t quite as groundbreaking an idea as the liner notes seem to suggest – isn’t just Apocalyptica-style covers performed by one person? – but the embracing of effects certainly leads to some un-cello like sounds. She also sometimes adds drums and bass to the equation, which only sometimes works but, to me, feels like a bit of a cop out. The challenge for playing rock music on a solo cello (even with overdubs) would be how to handle the lack of drums, but when drums are on some of the record, some of the songs are left sounding an awful lot like instrumental rock band covers of these songs, albeit only by low-end instruments.

I really don’t like her version of “Black Dog” – well, specifically the opening, where she speaks Plant’s lyrics – but fortunately that’s the weakest track on here. The remaining covers are decent enough and are occasionally pretty great. My issue overall is that the best parts are usually mere moments, in songs otherwise not that far off the style of cover performed by Apocalyptica (where they try to replicate the song, albeit on cello).

This is reasonably enjoyable and the selection of songs is diverse enough that you’re impressed, but there’s not enough transformation here for me. For example, I have heard a far more transformative “classical” version of “Little Wing” which the version here pales in comparison to.

Still, it’s nice to listen to, I just would prefer only cello (no drums, no bass) and more interesting arrangements. I’ll probably put it on in the background at some point.


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