For his hour-long song cycle, Steven Mackey’s protagonist is a “lovelorn psychologist”; 200 years ago, this sensitive soul would have been a poet. He’s holed up in a seedy motel, remembering, grieving, and mentally unraveling. Lonely Motel, in its emotional acuity and structural unity, evokes the great vocal cycles of Schubert and Mahler—high praise indeed. The lyrics are by the leading-edge writer/composer/performer/director Rinde Eckert who is the singer here, astoundingly versatile in his execution, at times venturing into a crooning falsetto to suggest a countertenor performing John Dowland. (Other “homages” specifically acknowledged by Mackey include Mozart, Stravinsky, Piazzola, and the Beatles.) The contributions of the six members of Eighth Blackbird, a preeminent exponent of adventuresome chamber music, adds immeasurably to the total effect. As examples, listen to the extraordinary combination of cello and Mackey’s electric guitar in “She walks as if...” or the watery sonorities of “Depending”, a movement that also features a memorable off-kilter hard-rock riff. Sonics, courtesy of producer David Frost with engineers Tom Lazurus and Bill Maylone, are pristine and immediate, the aural esthetic of a good pop recording. Every word that’s spoken or sung is completely intelligible.