It’s truly music without barriers and one of the most breathtaking musical experiences in contemporary music. I don’t know what genius is but Kalmuk will do until a decent definition comes along. -Jazzwise.
UNIKO features the Grammy winning Kronos Quartet together with a Finnish duo, accordion adventurer Kimmo Pohjonen and sampling guru Samuli Kosminen. Produced by Iceland's Valgeir Sigurosson, known for his collaboration with Bjork, this album was recorded at Avatar Studios in NYC. UNIKO was commissioned by Kronos in 2003 and premiered live at the Helsinki Festival in 2004. It has subsequently drawn sellout audiences in Moscow, Molde (Norway), and New York at the 2007 BAM NEXT WAVE Festival. UNIKO is highlighted by Pohjonen's electrified and MIDI-fied accordion with Kosminen's electronic percussion devices which reproduce his own accordion samples and his samples of Kronos' instruments. These samples, together with live strings and electric accordion plus effects and manipulations create a new, multi-dimensional sound world.
Uniko is like an ocean tide coming in. Big wawes of sounds build in complexity, animation and sometimes sheet frenzy.The New York Times
This may be the single most powerful piece of music that the Kronos Quartet has ever recorded, and perhaps that Terry Riley has ever written. This is because Requiem for Adam is so personal, so direct, and experiential. Requiem for Adam was written after the death of Kronos violinist David Harrignton's son. He died, in 1995, at the age of 16, from an aneurysm in his coronary artery. Riley, who is very close to the Harringtons and has a son the same age, has delved deep into the experience of death and resurrection, or, at the very least, transmutation. Requiem for Adam is written in three parts, or movements. The first, "Ascending the Heaven Ladder," is based on a four-note pattern that re-harmonizes itself as it moves up the scale. There are many variations and series based on each of these notes and their changing harmonics, and finally a 5/4 dance as it moves to the highest point on the strings. The drone-like effect is stunning when the listener realizes that the drone is changing shape too, ascending the scale, moving ever upward and taking part in the transmutation of harmony.
During the rehearsals for the string quartet version of "White Man Sleeps," a strong artistic bond developed between the work's performers, the renowned Kronos Quartet, and its composer, Kevin Volans. This led Kronos to commission a second-string quartet from Volans, especially written for the musicians. Like "White Man Sleeps," it is a stunning piece of music, recommended to every world music lover who wants to cross the bridge to contemporary, modern music. The work comes in three movements, each one with a different character. Most remarkably are the Ethiopian influences in the beginning bars of the first movement (compare this motive with the vocal style of the distinguished Ethiopian singer Aster Aweke) and the joyous Southern African dance-like motive featuring after the more contemplative opening of the second movement. The slightly melancholic song-like structure of the short third movement draws the work to a close.
This disc is supposed to hurt. Just look at the program: it starts with Crumb's Black Angels for electric string quartet, a work that is the aural equivalent of Coppola's Apocalypse Now, and ends with Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8, a work that is either the aural equivalent of a monument to the victims of war and fascism written in the ruins of Dresden or the musical equivalent of a suicide note written before the composer joined the Communist Party. With the spooky and evocative performances of Thomas Tallis Spem in Alium, Istvan Marta's Doom. A Sigh, and Charles Ives' There They Are!, this disc is so painful it could be the soundtrack for an unmade Kubrick movie. The question is, is this disc supposed to hurt so much? The Kronos Quartet is a harsh and aggressive ensemble with an angular approach to rhythm and structure and an overwhelming need to assert its individual and collective identity.
For this Elektra/Nonesuch release, the Kronos Quartet interprets Witold Lutoslawski's 1964 String Quartet, an uncommonly difficult piece since the four musicians are commanded to play their parts ad lib, as if they were alone. Lutoslawski was influenced by the random procedures of John Cage, but he also wished to maintain dramatic structure, so string quartet includes rigidity in time measures. The balance between freedom and structure provides for a surprisingly appealing recording.
Some people would quickly run away from the music of someone who claims to admire the music of Berg, Crumb, and Cage. Franguiz Ali-Zadeh admires all of those composers and uses similar techniques in her composition, but she also finds inspiration in the music of her native Azerbaijan. With all of this, she creates especially evocative, picturesque works that invite listening more than once. Oasis, the opening work on this disc of her music featuring the Kronos Quartet, begins extremely quietly with water droplets, and then the quartet enters with desolate harmonics, depicting the desolation of the desert. Later in the piece, voices of those taking refuge in the oasis are heard. Ali-Zadeh's music is full of sounds beyond that of the traditionally played instruments of the string quartet and the piano, sounds that enhance and become part of the music. Sometimes it is techniques such as pizzicato, harmonics, col legno, or preparing or playing the strings of the piano; other times it is added instruments, as in Mugam Sayagi, or recorded sound, as in Oasis.