Michelle Casillas worked as a sound engineer in the late 1990s and early 2000s at Tonic, the now-defunct home of New York's experimental music scene. On her second night she ran sound for Kim Gordon and later worked with Cecil Taylor, Marc Ribot and other cutting edge artists. As an artist, she sang on the scores of two films by Elliott Sharp. These days, Casillas can be found on stage playing keyboards for Jesse Malin and other local artists, but her main outlet is singing and performing in her own band, Ursa Minor. Ursa Minor's second album, Showface, was released in 2011.
At the Bowery Electric tonight, Ursa Minor showed noteworthy imagination. The set was grounded in Casillas' clever lyrics, soft melodies and fragile vocals. The songs often became suites, however, rock songs with subtle jazz dynamics that introduced odd time signatures, surprising bridges and experimental arrangements. Guitarist Tony Scherr injected warm, ethereal blasts for dramatic effect. Casillas and Scherr were joined tonight by bassist Jeff Hill and drummer Alex Wyatt. The songs featured skittering interplay between the four musicians. The four improvisers intriguingly blended singer-songwriter folk and experimental jazz with haunting indie rock for a thoroughly buoyant mix.
Visit Ursa Minor at www.ursaminor.info.