OOFJ concert will bring classic back

Emma Roszkowski

roszkows@grinnell.edu

Emily Roszkowski -

Photo by Takahiro Omura

Anyone who claims that classical music is irrelevant will change their tune after this weekend. This Saturday, Sept. 19, Los Angeles-based OOFJ and Minneapolis’ own Bae Tigre will visit Gardner Lounge. Both groups draw on classical influences to produce intricate orchestral-electric pop pieces that range in tone from haunted to dream-like.

OOFJ, short for “Orchestra of Jenno” is comprised of romantic and musical duo Jenno Bjørnkjær and Katherine Mills Rymer. OOFJ released their second album this past April, and the cinematically intense “Acute Feast” delivers a sensuous blend of echoing synths and strings, slowly building to dark crescendos under Rymer’s wails, ultimately proving that strings can be sexy.

The artists’ backgrounds are as unconventional as their music. Bjørnkjær, the duo’s Danish producer, grew up listening to classical music and trained as a jazz saxophonist. For his studies, he moved to New York where he ultimately dropped out of his academic program, took up composing movie scores and eventually met Rymer, a South African transplant and OOFJ’s vocalist, who was working as an actress at the time.

After listening to their music, it will come as no surprise that the score that brought Bjørnkjær and Rymer together accompanied Lars von Trier’s 2011 film “Melancholia,” a dramatic character study about emotionally coming to terms with an impending apocalypse, these two specialize in expansive, threateningly seductive soundscapes that terrorize and mesmerize at the same time. Although Halloween may be almost a month away, OOFJ promises an early dose of chills and thrills.

Bae Tigre frontwoman and music therapist Ranelle Johnson has her own take on classical music. She began performing classical piano and violin at a young age but expanded her musical horizons later in life. Like OOFJ, Johnson and her bandmates create music that is not easily defined as simply “classical,” “electronic,” “indie” or “pop.” Yet, unlike Bjørnkjær and Rymer, Bae Tigre’s music is characterized by a more lighthearted tone, less cinematic though just as riveting in its intermingling of the electronic and the symphonic. On the recently released album, “Perennial Bygones,” each song’s tone ranges from mellow to impassioned, slipping between dreamy and melancholy from verse to verse. Their soundscapes present themselves as indie-electronic jams, while proving symphonic in scope, and even managing to incorporate recognizable elements of hip hop.

OOFJ’s disturbingly silky crooning and Bae Tigre’s arresting harmonies nullify the debate of the place of strings and classical sensibility outside the symphony concert hall. Take this front-and-center chance to see classical become cool again.