The Loneliest Monk-Hiding Places 7″

When I think about great musical duos, specifically boy-girl duos of the last decade, I’m usually prone to point out danceable tracks by Matt and Kim, or bluesy riffs from Jack and Meg White. Rarely, if ever, do I refer anyone to a cello and drum duo. Obviously there’s more than just cello and drums to The Loneliest Monk, but those are the basics. How they stretch those basics across multiple universes of music is quite extraordinary.

I was given this single a while back, and knowing that the release party was not until this week, I’ve been listening to it in shifts. Sometimes a few times in a row, other times just once and then not again for a few days. I consistently find something new in both “Hiding Places” and “He Is The Bad One.” Though the two members come from wildly different backgrounds, they seem to be on exactly the same page when it comes to the music they’re trying to create.

Michelle Morales is a classically trained cellist who has performed with the likes of Kanye West and the Foo Fighters. She came to Chicago to earn her Master’s in Cello Performance at DePaul, and met drummer Miles Benjamin at a bar. They became romantically involved, which provides some of the passion in their music. The two seem to be able to anticipate what the other is thinking, and the result is a beautiful, rich collection of sounds

The a-side of this single release, “Hiding Places,” reminds me a lot of The Joy Formidable. There are tons of effects and swirling guitars coming from every direction. It sounds like a puzzle, really. There are so many things going on in the track that you have to listen a few times to get them all. Morales’ voice is pushed way out front during the vocal snippets. The instrumentation is so expressive, they could almost just put out a instrumental record and it would be completely engrossing.

As is often the case with singles, I find the b-side far more interesting. “He Is The Bad One” is sung by Miles Benjamin (with support from Morales), and sounds like a mix of Radiohead and the Kronos Quartet. The cello work here is, I suppose, what you would expect of a master cellist. Some of my favorite cello work is in film scores, and if you’re a fan of soundtracks to movies like Requiem For A Dream or In The Mood For Love, then you’ll love this song. As far as classical instruments go, the cello has long been my favorite string, and this song uses it to great effect.

At about 11 minutes, this single is longer than some EP’s, and more telling about the band releasing it. It’s a shame that the band is having the release party at Reggie’s this Friday (July 8th), because I won’t be able to attend. If you’re free and looking for something different, head out and check them out. I’ve heard from people that have seen them, as well as a band that played with them, that The Loneliest Monk live show is epic. If the single is any indication, I’d have to agree.

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