Exposé Online banner

Gnu Quartet — Karma
(Artist First 8033954533500, 2014, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2014-06-22

Karma Cover art

Has the fad of symphonic versions of prog classics passed yet? I hope so. I suppose it's a no-brainer to take music that had big bombastic sounds and a heavy leaning toward pre-20th Century orchestral music and adapt it for actual orchestras to play. It's the kind of thing that comes with a built-in audience. But I always found it kind of tedious — if I want to hear Yes, I'll listen to Yes, and if I want to hear an orchestra, I'd rather listen to Bartók or Stravinsky. So what to make of a quartet of violin, viola, cello, and flute taking on Yes, Genesis, New Trolls, Pink Floyd, and Frank Zappa? Certainly there's potential — scaling down tunes to four single lines at a time leads to the opposite effect from scaling up to a full orchestra, potentially avoiding the pitfalls of pretentiousness. Gnu Quartet has a couple of other factors in their favor as well: the strings are not averse to the occasional use of effects devices; the percussive attack and mouth percussion of flautist Francesca Rapetti can really propel the tunes forward; and cellist Stefano Cabrera also gets very percussive on his instrument, sawing away on the eighth notes to provide a lot of energy. These factors and the sheer quality of the arrangements make Karma a real treat. Maybe I thought I could do without ever hearing "Roundabout" again, but this version hits the right balance of faithfulness and extrapolation. "Peaches en Regalia" is a pure joy, and a great choice to make sure they don't get mired in one stream of progressive rock history. "The Great Gig in the Sky" features wordless vocals, and is much more faithful to the original. "Hairless Heart" is quite lovely, and a welcome unexpected choice for a Genesis tune. But the real centerpiece to this short album is "Stereotaxis," an original piece by Cabrera that is actually much more interesting than their interpretations of others' music. It's an enjoyable excursion into the possibilities of modern chamber music, with some nods to Phillip Glass as well as the rock and pop streams. All around fun CD — you go, Gnu!


Filed under: New releases, 2014 releases

Related artist(s): Genesis, David Gilmour, Yes, Pink Floyd, New Trolls, Frank Zappa, Gnu Quartet, Roger Waters, Nick Mason

Latest news

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Nick Kizirnis - Into the Loud – If you ever wondered what's up in Dayton, Ohio, Nick Kizirnis may be able to offer some clues with his first solo release Into the Loud. A veteran of numerous other Dayton area bands (Cage,...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues