Stimulus: Vienna Teng and Alex Wong – The Moment Always Vanishing
One of the things I like least about live albums is the amount of talking (often preplanned) that often obstructs the music. Unless the band is Kiss and the speaker is Paul Stanley – whose stage banter is so over the top that bootleggers have constructed entire albums devoted to it – listeners are probably going to hit fast forward and resent the artist. Anticipating this, Vienna Teng and Alex Wong made a smart decision and placed their many such (seemingly unplanned) conversations on separate tracks, allowing listeners to get right to the action. And in one of their speaking tracks, the group tries to wail like Paul Stanley, so points there as well.
Accompanied by a cellist in certain tracks, pianist Vienna Teng and multi-instrumentalist Alex Wong play a set of gorgeous melancholy. The sound quality on these tracks is so great that, were it not for the applause and those bits of conversation, The Moment Always Vanishing could almost pass for a studio album. Songs like “Antebellum” and “Blue Caravan” are every bit as wrenching as they are in their original forms, while a few songs break with Teng’s established formula and go further. Showing the range of the performance, “The Last Snowfall” becomes a pristine work of heavy loops and production tricks, whereas “Grandmother Song” turns into a charging blast of bluegrass which gets the audience howling. The presence of Radiohead’s “Idioteque” at album’s end is a well done bonus.
More live albums should be like this. The combination of skill and personality shown on The Moment Always Vanishing sets it in a class far above most bands’ stale victory laps. With Vienna Teng stepping away from music for the time being, this serves as a magnificent stopping point.
The Vienna Teng Trio will play Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival on Sunday, September 5th. To read my interview with Vienna Teng and Alex Wong, go here.
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