Kronos Quartet, Kimmo Pohjonen (accordion and voice), Samuli Kosminen (string and accordion samples, programming)
rec. 2007, Avatar Studios, NYC
ONDINE ODE 1185-2 [51.49]
This is the sort of release that would have been ground-breaking several decades ago but now feels slightly uninspired and old-hat. The tracks have all been composed by Kimmo Pohjonen and Samuli Kosminen. The composers join the Kronos Quartet, known for their quirky and boundary-breaking music-making, for the performances, as well as being involved in the “mixing”, along with Valgeir Sigurðsson.
The disc starts with a wash of electronic sound before the instruments come in with slightly film-like music. Throughout the disc we hear strong influences, at various times, of Spanish, Moorish, Indian and French music; the latter with the use of the accordion. There are upbeat dance-like sections with percussion, hints of flamenco, and undertones of techno and trance. Sometimes - as in Plasma - vocal accompaniment adds to the mixture - Kimmo Pohjonen providing this. At other times we have electronic bleeps or sounds as if of static. The minimalist-style music is, naturally, very repetitive and soon begins to wear - at least on the ears of this listener.
Nor did the performances of the Kronos Quartet - for whom I usually have great admiration - impress. There is no change in tone, colour or dynamics, no unity in the performances in terms of vibrato, bow pressure, fingering, and so on. One fears that the artists are simply relying on the electronic manipulation to “finish” the sound, thus resulting in “lazy” playing.
A further, major, problem with the disc is that there are no proper notes at all - only an open-up-able photograph of the sea, the names of those involved in the recording / mixing / engineering process, and a long list of thanks. My feeling on this is rather that if you’re not going to provide notes, then the music needs to speak for itself; which it unfortunately absolutely does not do in this case. There are no clues whatsoever as to any rhyme or reason for the music.
In summary: there is nothing especially offensive about this disc. The music is perfectly pleasant, but it is not particularly innovative, gripping, inspirational, beautiful or startling.
Perfectly pleasant but not particularly innovative, gripping, inspirational, beautiful or startling.