PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Real Vocal String Quartet: Real Vocal String Quartet

The musicians often seem more concerned with the opulence of the sound and the texture of the music than in other matters.


Real Vocal String Quartet

Real Vocal String Quartet

Label: Flower Note
US Release Date: 2010-02-09
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

There is classical string music, and there is vocal folk chanting. Put them both together and what have you got? Well, this isn’t chocolate and peanut butter. The results aren’t as consistently tasty. But the outcome is interesting, and often the songs on the Real Vocal String Quartet’s debut record succeed at being more than just an experimental "what if we put these sounds together?" record. Sometimes, the foursome sound great.

That said, music, like food, is mostly a matter of taste. Some people like weird chocolate combinations. The gourmet food shop in my neighborhood carries candy bars that bring together chocolate with both bacon and whiskey. These confections aren’t for me. I like the ingredients separately, but find the mixtures unappealing. I understand that other people love them, though. Similarly, for me, this fusion of classical strings and folk-based vocals, two elements that sound great on their own, can be less pleasing together than they are by themselves.

The four flavors, um, classically trained players in the quartet each have their own talents. For example, Irene Sazer’s violin solo at the beginning of “Fonte Abandonada-Passatempo” will break your heart as she makes the strings cry with passion. But the Real Vocal String Quartet is more of a collective than a collection of individual maestros (Sazer, violin and vocals; Alisa Rose, violin and vocals; Dina Maccabee, viola and vocals; Jessica Ivry, cello and vocals). On tracks like “Green Bean Stand” and “Talking String Talking Drum”, the music doesn’t really breathe much as the songs come off as an accumulation of sounds. There are parts on both of these songs where the four musicians really seem to get together and create special something, but alas this doesn’t seem to last.

The more conventional folk sounding tracks, like “Darling”, seem like inferior folk because the lyrics come off as just an excuse for the ornate accompaniment. Folk singers from previous eras (think of Judy Collins/Joshua Rifkin) have done this before and done it much better. More contemporary masters, like the String Sisters, simply vocalize and play folk melodies in more compelling ways.

The best tracks, like “Wide” and “Kothbiro”, are among those with the briskest tempos. The fast paces allow the individual instrumentalists to weave their lines in and out of each others' playing. And when the vocals enter in, the voices delightfully accent the material. The quartet sound like they are having fun, and this is infectious. When the music slows down, like on “Farewell to Spring”, the performances too often seem self-consciously serious. The results can be dreary listening.

But this criticism is clearly unfair. The musicians often seem more concerned with the opulence of the sound and the texture of the music than in other matters. This works on tunes like “Place for Me” and “Chorale”, which are sonically rich. The two short improvisatory jams, “Now 1” and “Now II”, reveal that Real Vocal String Quartet is willing to take risks. This is a positive step and suggests that the band will only improve as they play together and let loose more.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.