Entries by Steve Smith

In Review: Quantum Natives

I’ve wondered occasionally whether the position of arts critic – self-appointed or otherwise – should be subject to term limits. The thought occurred to me most recently while attending… no, while immersed in Grace Nexus, the simultaneously bewitching and bewildering presentation mounted at Issue Project Room on April 15 by Quantum Natives: either a British digital-media collective or “an abstruse net-label run by two art school-educated Londoners,” according to Resident Advisor. Maybe both.


Midori Takada, Kelly Moran, Sarah Hennies, Olivier Alary, Gov’t Mule, Ecstatic Vision, Allan Holdsworth (RIP), and other striking sounds heard lately at Night After Night HQ.

Early Audition: Bearthoven, Trios

Formed in 2013, Bearthoven has built up an estimable repertoire of fresh pieces for an instrumentation that’s canonical among jazz circles, but uncommon within the concert-music world. Listen to an exclusive stream of a Fjóla Evans piece on Bearthoven’s debut album, ‘Trios,’ courtesy of Cantaloupe Music.

Album Review: PRISM Quartet, Color Theory

The four members of PRISM Quartet have been singleminded in their pursuit of new sonic and stylistic frontiers for their mutual instrument of choice, the saxophone. Alongside strictly four-part inventions, PRISM has engaged in eye- and ear-opening collaborations with other artists and ensembles. Disparate though all these projects might be, what they all share in common is an enviable combination of integrity, individuality, and instant appeal.

In Review: R. Andrew Lee and Sophia Subbayya Vastek

Change appears to be coming, in some form or another, to Spectrum, the intimate Ludlow Street performance space that over the last five or so seasons has provided a home base for fascinating musical voyages spanning an unusually broad range of styles.… Perhaps because of that hovering uncertainty, a pair of recent recitals by the pianists R. Andrew Lee and Sophia Subbayya Vastek seemed brushed with a sense of anticipatory valediction.

Sarah Cahill: What I Learned As a Music Critic, and Why It Still Matters

Dave’s Coffee Shop on Broadway in Oakland was always the destination for me to meet a deadline. I started going there soon after becoming the classical music critic for the East Bay Express, an alternative weekly, in 1985. After a concert, I would take the bus to Dave’s, open all night, and sit at the counter and order fried eggs and corned beef hash – the kind that comes in a perfect oval patty, and looks and tastes like dog food – and endless refills of coffee. I would sit there and write out the whole review by hand, and then take it home and type it up on my ancient Royal typewriter. It could be five pages or eight pages – however long was necessary to go into great detail and depth.

A time for change.

Springtime is here, and with it comes the implementation of the first major changes in this journal since we launched last October. We’ve worked hard during the first six months of producing The Log to establish a place and a precedent for vivid conversations with and among artists, strong and pertinent essays on topics of broad interest, timely news, and constructive criticism.