Huntley Miller had no idea what he was getting into last year when he took the time to thank a blogger for showcasing one of his tracks.
"My first album, 'Natura Morta,' had just come out," the bassist-turned-laptopper explained via a shaky cordless connection from just outside his St. Paul home. "All I knew was that this guy's name was Ronen Givoney and that he'd said some really complimentary things about my music. When he e-mailed back saying, 'You should come to New York and play at this thing I'm doing,' I thought, 'Why not?'"
Givoney's "thing" turned out to be Wordless Music, the widely lauded, wildly successful concert series dedicated to exploring common ground between classical musicians and their counterparts in indie rock, postrock and electronic music. Already part of a select group that includes Sigur Ros, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, Andrew Bird and Explosions in the Sky, Miller -- who records and performs as Cepia -- becomes the first artist to play both the series' New York and Minneapolis branches when he joins Fog founder Andrew Broder and classical percussionist Owen Weaver at the Southern Theater tonight.
"At first, I was crazy nervous at the New York show," said Miller, who shared a bill with British electronic experimentalist Max Richter and pianist Assaff Weisman. "It was at the Good-Shepherd Faith Church on the Upper West Side -- a huge, beautiful space. And it was sold out. I'm playing on this little table in a room that's completely dark except for the lights on some string players' music stands, and all I can think is all these people, looking in one direction ... and it's at me. But it turned out great."
Trading his bass rig for a Macintosh is Miller's smartest career move to date. A little more than a year after his first solo performance, the former student of jazz virtuoso Anthony Cox and veteran of live drum 'n' bass outfits Suki Takahashi and Poor Line Condition signed with Detroit-based prestige electronica label Ghostly International. By the time "Natura Morta" dropped, Ghostly's light-heavyweight punch and internationalist savvy pretty much guaranteed the album's elegant chamber funk would fall on the right ears -- including Givoney's.
But that's old hat. Miller's new material (all from a new, as-yet-untitled album tentatively scheduled for release next spring) marries "Natura Morta's" emphasis on rich melodic counterpoint and rhythmic nuance with the textural explorations first broached on 2005's vinyl-only "Dowry" EP, also on Ghostly. While variety remains essential to the musical omnivore's M.O. (he freely admits to crying the first time he heard Donny Hathaway's cover of "You've Got a Friend"), the new stuff skews harder, faster and longer ... but no less accessible.
Regardless, he's not taking any chances with the audience's attention span -- partially classical bill or no. Visualist-around-town and Dosh videographer Randy Kramer is on board to man the Southern's projector while Miller performs.
"All I know is that he's working exclusively with State Fair footage," Miller said, adding mischievously: "We might just get a single, 35-minute closeup of corn-dog sticks in a Dumpster."