Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Very Ethel and very good!

I receive a lot of music each week. Yesterday was no different, and I was quite happy to get the latest from the string quartet Ethel, called Heavy. It will be released next Tuesday, April 24th in all the major outlets. I think you should check it out - whether you love or hate chamber music, and even if modern, living music isn't your thing.
When I opened the envelope, I thought, did they make a 45rpm record?! The packaging is large, about the size of the older lp, but no, it is unique, with a full length cd enclosed from Innova Recordings. Listening, I wondered, do composers write pieces that sound like Ethel, or does Ethel find music that sounds like their style? Don Byron's Second String Quartet is classic Ethel - mesmerizing, lyrical and hip. Motor-rhythms and crunchy sounds delight in this fun "Four Thoughts on Marvin Gaye."
Heavy - Innova 820
John Halle and John King provide modern sounds with electronics, drones and amazing ensemble from Ethel. Two of the Bang on a Can founders, Julia Wolf and David Lang are well represented with "Early That Summer" and "Wed" - surely to be taken up as other quartets hear these delightful readings.
Kenji Bunch joins Ethel as violist for "String Circle" - and it stands as a real charmer on the disc, again, asking "Does it sound this way because of Ethel, or was it chosen and sounds Ethel-y?" "Round"ing out Heavy is Marcelo Zarvos' "Rounds" - someone to look for in new music, it has a light sound and touch that could go far!
Whether you are an "Ethelhead" or just want something to make you smile, Heavy should be on your iPad or other listening device - it is on mine, and won't be leaving anytime soon!
- John Clare, host in the afternoons & of Classical Spotlight

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