Kristin Slipp & Dov Manski: A Thousand Julys

What vocalist Kristin Slipp and keyboardist Dov Manski get up to on A Thousand Julys is a sin; at least that’s how traditionalists will view these unorthodox treatments of Tin Pan Alley chestnuts. Truth is, the two New England Conservatory grads are co-conspirators in a startlingly refreshing reexamination of these 12 classic tunes, boldly challenging the relative complacency of most previous interpretations.

Manski alternates between piano and Wurlitzer, jaggedly wandering with purposeful abstraction, his departures from the melody organically synced to Slipp’s vocal wayfaring. Slipp, favoring a combustive, atonal near-screech (rather reminiscent of Patty Waters, though far more judiciously navigated), is equally a force to be reckoned with; indeed, they are fully codependent explorers.

In the end, their outré approach to these timeworn tunes is quite straightforward. Both are simply paying rapt attention to each song’s emotional intent. Consider, for instance, their pixilated version of “You Go to My Head,” with Manski’s tinkling ice setting the scene for Slipp’s reeling besottedness. It is likely the most acute reading ever rendered. Likewise the barren wail of their “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” the careening self-deception of their “I Get Along Without You Very Well” and the collapsing carousel of their “Just One of Those Things.” Jerome Kern and Cole Porter would surely be aghast yet should actually be honored by such raw insight.