FAME Review: Real Vocal String Quartet - Four Little Sisters
Real Vocal String Quartet - Four Little Sisters

Four Little Sisters

Real Vocal String Quartet

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Irene Sazer was one of the original members of the Turtle Island String Quartet, but she's erected a new wrinkle in the old gig in her new incarnation within the Real Vocal String Quartet, a deviation that'll interest her old alma mater and then some. I mean, Christ, ya can't possibly ace a group that numbered Mads Tolling and Darol Anger among its erstwhile august roster and still features incredible co-founder David Balakrishnan, but you sure as hell can give 'em reason to pause in their tracks, and that's what Four Little Sisters establishes. For one, there's an enticing sense of playfulness ranging right alongside the classical, avant-garde, folkways, and jazz sensibilities, nor does the band lack for cleverness or subtlety…and, hey, it's all wimmens!

There are abundant intimations of the Kronos Quartet and of Joan Jeanrenaud's solo work in Sisters among many flavors, as the Quartet confines itself to no set parameters, wandering all over the map in search of just the right nuances. I suppose one could say there are tinges of Laurie Anderson here, and there are, but Sazer & Co. transcend the facilisms that dominate Anderson's work, who really just folds the rock vocabulary into itself for her "avant-gardery". The Real Vocaleers understand that one must attenuate ordinary consciousness, something La Laurie only half-plays to, in order to pull the curtain aside. Keep in mind that the term refers to the 'forward guard' or 'cutting edge', and thus you'll locate elements of Stockhausen, Carter, Giger, Kurtag, Kremer, Penderecki, Blomdahl, and others in this ensemble's vocabulary.

But you'll likewise hear Irish reel, Persian echoes, Appalachian down-homery, prog-ish rock (It's a Beautiful Day, Esperanto, Joe O'Donnell, that kind of thing) and very generous slices of classical, neo-classical, and meta-classical improvisation set off by multi-layered vocal rondos, refrains, ritardondo, and relish. Once you put this disc on, not a whole lot of people are going to know what to make of it—Elephant Dreams, for instance, sounds like really cool sprightly travelogue accompaniment for the Irish back country as penned by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, with leprechauns and the rest of the wee folk cavorting in verdant meadows—but, if you've chosen your company well, they'll be quite intrigued. And so will you.

Track List:

  • Machine (Regina Spektor)
  • Homage to Oumon (Irene Sazer)
  • Elephant Dreams (Alisda Rose)
  • Copo Vazio (Gilberto Gil)
  • Allons a Lafayette (traditional)
  • Sweet Honey Bee (Duke Pearosn)
  • Falling Polka (Roger Tallroth)
  • Durang's Hornpipe (Hoffmaster)
  • Knotty Pine (Byrne / Longstreth)
  • Grand Mamou Waltz (traditional)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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