Mimi Goese and Ben Neill come from different musical worlds. Through the ’80s, Goese led Hugo Largo, a coveted New York art-rock band that helped shape the horizon of dream pop on two albums for Brian Eno’s short-lived Opal label. She later collaborated with Moby. Neill, meanwhile, was an instrumental tinkerer exploring the fertile intersection of jazz, electronic, and modern classical music. In the late ’80s, while Hugo Largo was a staple of the New York scene, Neill was working with electronic instrument pioneer Robert Moog to build an early iteration of the mutantrumpet, a hybrid electro-acoustic instrument that allows the player to switch between multiple bells and create onboard loops and arpeggios.

But just after the start of this century, they began collaborating on Persephone, a multimedia piece for the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave festival. The songs swept from hovering dreamscapes full of synthesizers and smoldering songs upward, into grand beauties where Goese’s voice swept in graceful arcs above orchestral power. Neill’s trumpet—sometimes bright and direct, sometimes nested and warped—laced through it all, the thread holding Goese’s voice fast to the sounds around it. Summoning Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins, and the 21st-century dreams of acts like M83 and My Brightest Diamond, the songs (and their subsequent album) were magnetic.

In the years since Persephone, Goese and Neill have been exploring he musical and poetic qualities of mathematics and science through collaborations with chaos mathematician Ralph Abraham and the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries. The new songs combine the interplay of Goese’s captivating vocals and the electroacoustic explorations of Neill’s self-designed mutantrumpet with sounds created from fractal mathematics and Hudson River environmental data. The reflective, sometimes surreal lyrics find poetry in numbers over glitchy beats, deep sub bass, and ambient textures.

Bio by Big Ears Festival