Anna & Elizabeth, Friday, Feb. 9, 8 p.m.; 71 E. Yale Ave., Denver, swallowhillmusic.org.
mithsonian Folkways may not be commonly associated with experimental music, but given the fact that the nonprofit label has made available some 60,000 tracks collected over a period of 70 years, it’s not surprising to find avant-garde pioneers John Cage, David Tudor and Henry Cowell represented alongside folk legends like Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Pete Seeger. Next month, Folkways will be adding one more entry to both categories with the release of the uniquely talented duo Anna & Elizabeth’s label debut, The Invisible Comes to Us
. Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt, who respectively hail from Virginia and Kentucky, have been together for six years and two albums, while growing increasingly adept at combining traditional acoustic instruments like banjo and harmonium with contemporary electronic sounds. And while a mutual appreciation for sparse Appalachian mountain music is still evident in most of their work, one need only listen to their recent vinyl single “Hop High” to hear a more expansive style that builds upon a foundation of chamber instruments, synthesizer and melodic percussion to achieve a sound that will equally appeal to fans of Laurie Anderson, Gillian Welch, Steve Reich and Balinese gamelan ensembles. In addition to the duo’s achingly sublime harmonies and occasionally eerie songwriting, the new album will also feature guest musicians that include Dirty Three’s Jim White on drums and avant-garde composer Susan Alcorn on prepared pedal-steel. Their live performances, meanwhile, are visually enhanced by “crankies,” a 19th-century artform that employs hand-cranked, lamp-lit scrolls on painted fabric to depict the subject matter of their songs and stories. Think of it as folk-art in a postmodern age that’s all the better for it.