|Photo by: brooklynrider.com|
Key Tracks: “Seven Steps,” “Together Into This Unknowable Night”
Brooklyn Rider are often complimented with bringing classical music to the public eye by reinterpreting pieces from beloved composers as well as contributing their own new music to the genre. On their latest release Seven Steps, the string quartet expands outside of what is expected from classical music to deliver some of the most intricate and skillful new music in the genre.
The album begins with what is, so far, the first work composed solely by the four members of Brooklyn Rider. The title track is a surprisingly brisk 11 minutes that incorporates enough distinct transitions and has its own set of recurring themes. It feels like an abridged classical suite, packed with multiple movements in one song. The four players utilize many techniques in playing their instruments to give the song texture one wouldn’t expect from a string quartet. Alongside traditional bow use, Brooklyn Rider scratches and plucks the strings to create a feeling of unnerving tension, synchronizes their playing to imitate sirens with startling accuracy, and draws almost unnaturally deep and loud notes from the cello. The entire song sounds like it was performed by a much larger group and this shows how talented these musicians are.
“Together Into This Unknowable Night” is the next song, composed by Christopher Tignor. The song breaks the traditional string quartet format by incorporating percussion and some sampling. These elements are used tastefully and fit as a natural addition to the string quartet format. The electronic elements give this track an alien feel, and draw an almost antagonistic contrast to the familiar strings. In this song, Brooklyn Rider’s experimentation paid off. The electronic elements added are a successful attempt to blend modern and classical music.
One thing that must be commented on is the recording quality of Seven Steps. The songs on this record sound more alive than most, and it is possible that these songs weren’t edited at all in a studio. The quality is so high and unfiltered that the listener can almost hear the performers moving in the studio, picking the right notes hand by hand. It’s the type of album that sounds fantastic on headphones and should get a vinyl release to bring out even more of the quality.
The last half of the album is Brooklyn Rider’s interpretation of Beethoven’s "String Quartet No. 14 in C# minor, Op. 131". As with all their classical work, the group pays appropriate tribute to the source material without heavily modifying much. The high point of the piece is the seventh movement. Brooklyn Rider not only executes the song without flaw, but brings their own energy to the song and makes it their own.
If there’s anything negative to be said about “Seven Steps,” it’s that the new material overshadows the old. There aren’t many ways to reinvent classical standards, and for the most part Brooklyn Rider doesn’t do much to alter the Beethoven piece, and it is slightly less remarkable than the new material.
The first two tracks on the album are both worth listening to for fans of classical music new and old. Seven Steps shows how to pay tribute to the classics while creating pieces that may become just as influential in the future.
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