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Nico Muhly’s Mothertongue

You may have already heard composer Nico Muhly this year on All Is Well, Samamidon’s lovely reimaginings of immigrant folk songs. (If you haven’t, you should). Mothertongue, Muhly’s second album and first for Brassland (run by members of the National), is divided into three acts. First, Glassy Mothertongue features mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer delivering a litany of barely intelligible voices—the aural equivalent of that green Matrix coding. The Wonders suite sets passages from The Travels of Sir John Mandeville to melody, dismantling the tune as it proceeds. Amidon shows up on the Only Tune suite, relating a murderous tale against Muhly’s refractive backdrop. Sure, it’s highly conceptual, but there are enough odd sounds and strange textures to make it accessible even to those who don’t usually venture into composer territory.