Vocal angels Anonymous 4 have their 18th album on the way. Entitled “The Cherry Tree”, it contains a collection of medieval English carols and Anglo-American songs that are inspired by the Cherry Tree Carol. The album is the first in four years to contain all new material and so its a must have for all vocal ensemble enthusiasts. Also as a side note, on the notes I was given regarding the release, there appears to be another release entitled “Secret Voices” already in the pipleline for 2011! Watch this space!
Well November was a bit of a wash out for new posts due to my house move, but that didn’t stop November being the fifth busiest month of all time for hits! It was primarily down to one lady, Lisa Gerrard, who’s new album more than tripled the hits of the second placed artist. We’ll be reviewing all three new releases of Lisa’s this month.
01) Lisa Gerrard (2 months)
02) Tori Amos (^)
03) Brendan Perry (^)
04) Christopher Tin (v)
05) Hiroki Kikuta (^)
06) Imogen Heap (v)
07) Akira Yamaoka (RE)
08) Sarah Slean (RE)
09) Anonymous 4 (v)
10) Utada (RE)
01) .detuned (PS3)
02) Battle Tanks (PS3)
03) Numblast (PS3)
04) Shatter (PS3)
05) GripShaft (PS3)
October saw HPM have three distinct leaders in the race for top spot and despite only being a listen-to-the-samples post, Lisa Gerrard topped the bill for October while we all wait in anticipation for “The Black Opal”. Christoper Tin and Winifred Phillips followed closely behind with their interviews and reviews while Anonymous 4 was quickly catching all three at the end of the month. The top 10 are listed below:
01) Lisa Gerrard (^)
02) Christopher Tin (v)
03) Winifred Phillips (RE)
04) Anonymous 4 (NE)
05) Brendan Perry (-)
06) Imogen Heap (v)
07) Tori Amos (RE)
08) Hiroki Kikuta (v)
09) OverClocked Remix (v)
10) Yasunori Mitsuda (RE)
01) Battle Tanks (PS3)
02) Shatter (PS3)
03) .detuned (PS3)
04) Trash Panic (PS3)
05) Numblast (PS3)
After reviewing their excellent new compilation album, HPM managed to get five minutes with the fab quartet in between tour dates. Here’s what they had to say…
Why are you called Anonymous 4? You all have such beautiful voices, it must be hard to stay Anonymous!
It was a musical joke, a rather esoteric one! Anonymous 4 is a designation by a modern musicologist for one of many treatises about music and musicians that were written in the Middle Ages, all of them unsigned. This particular treatise describes music from around 1200 in Paris, and names composers who wrote (but also didn’t sign or take credit for) some of the most brilliant vocal music of the day.
When going through hymns to choose to be recorded and arranged for yourselves, how do you pick which hymns to do?
We do concept concerts and concept albums. Each of our programs comes from a certain time and place, like 13th-century France, or 15th-century England. Sometimes, a program is drawn from a certain musical manuscript (Montpellier Codex). Other times, it’s based on a certain personality (the Virgin Mary, St. James) so we choose music with texts focused on that person. And yet at other times, a program follows a certain liturgy or service (e.g. a Mass or Vespers service) which requires certain types of pieces to follow a specific order.
Each of these ways of organizing a concert or a recording guides and limits our choices of pieces to include – and that’s a good thing, as there’s so much great music to choose from! Within those limits, we still sing through lots of relevant music, looking for fabulous pieces and seeking a balance between continuity and variety in musical style and texture.
Do any of you have any particular favourites from your compilation CD “Four Centuries of Chant” or favourite hymns in particular?
Every time we work up music for a new recording, the music for that recording becomes our favorite music. And the pieces we chose to include on the Four Centuries of Chant compilation are some of the most-loved works from all of that favorite music. So it’s very hard to choose one piece in this compilation over another. But one of the hymns that we do love to sing as a magical way to end a show is our English version of “Ave Maris Stella” (track 2), an incredibly beautiful hymn to the Virgin Mary that dates back at least to the 9th century. And one of the most deeply moving pieces, with incredible intertwining of text and melody, is the English lament of Mary, “Stabat iuxta Christi crucem” (track 5).
How are all your lovely pet’s doing? Do they come with you on tour?
Oh, don’t we wish they would! Nora, the piano-playing cat, made her first TV appearance this afternoon. She seems to be starting her own touring career! So why should all our wonderful kitties (and one dog) not come along…
How do you find going on tour? Do you find your music hits a more emotional place when performed live?
We find that it works both ways. So many people who come to our concerts tell us afterward that they have been transported as we’ve sung our seemingly otherworldly music. But we have also had wonderful reports of our recorded music being used to usher in new life, to accompany people out of this life, and to ease and enhance the healing process after injury or during treatment for illness.
Where else chant-wise would you like to explore next?
We’ve just premiered Secret Voices, a new program of music from the 13th-century Spanish Las Huelgas Codex. We’re really enjoying the diverse styles we’re able to explore in this manuscript, including varying types of 2-part, 3-part, and 4-part polyphony, and some very beautiful chant. We’ll be recording Secret Voices in November, for future release on the harmonia mundi label.
We thank Anonymous 4 for their time and we recommend you see them on tour!
Anonymous 4, who did vocal work for Christopher Tin’s latest album on the track “Caoineadh” have announced their latest tour. The vocal ensemble’s tour dates are listed on their website. We will be reviewing their latest compilation CD “Four Centuries of Chant” shortly.
Christopher Tin, well known VGM artist (“Baba Yetu” from Civ IV) and musical talent returns with his first solo album “Calling All Dawns” and its a cracker of a concept that you normally don’t come across unless you go into the alternative music world.
“Calling All Dawns” has 12 tracks in 12 languages and goes through a day cycle of day, night and dawn. The clever part which you might not notice is that each movement of songs flows straight into each other and when the final song finishes it actually serenades you straight into the opening track again if you play it on a loop. There’s a lot of hidden intricate details for you to discover with this album, but let’s get to the tracks!
“Baba Yetu” is a song any Civ IV fan will already be aware of although it’s been rerecorded and re-jigged. The Soweto Gospel Choir are simply magical with their tonal qualities and the way they can explode into joyous rapture only to give you a soft understated finale which really sets the mood for a new day. Coupled with the world music and track workings from Christopher Tin who builds the track up only to break it down gently again, for me personally its one of best examples of world music to have been made in years. Think Lion King and then some…
“Mado Kara Mieru” is adapted from haiku’s of the four seasons and is sung in Japanese. There is a certain richness to the string arrangements which is present throughout the whole album. There is something very familiar with the track that reminds me of what the film soundtrack of “Shawshank Redemption” would sound like Haiku’ed in Japanese! I love the grandness in this track, Christopher spares nothing for what is a track that almost has an impending doom to it.
“Doa Zai Dan Ye” is a delicate Mandarin piece that is as lyrical as it is operatic. Remember those British Airways ads? It has a similar feeling but with all the regal ladyship of the traditional Orient and holds a lot of graceful fragility to it. Jia Ruhan’s voice sounds so serene with Chris’ multitracking too.
“Se E Pra Vir Que Venha” is Portuguese and has a free flowing gallop to it. Christopher has a way of capturing different languages and their religious texts in a musical soundscape and although all the tracks are orchestrated each one has its own style and space.
“Rassemblons-Nous” is the French song and the first with a male lead and electronic percussion backing up the orchestra. This song features a lot of deep brass sounds and therefore reminds me a bit of Bjork’s “Selma Song’s” album. It’s very dramatic and filmic as it continues to its huge climax and with it ends the Day time section with a bang. Here you can really hear the 200 musicians put to their use with Tin’s magical scores.
Night time starts with “Lux Aeterna” which is of course Latin. This track is led by the harp and signals a pace change. Woodwind instruments float gracefully like night birds setting out for flight and this track which is largely instrumental really sweeps you off to another world. It also reminds me of “American Beauty” but I have no idea why!
“Caoineadh” harks back to old Irish language for a subtle string and vocal track that is almost like a eulogy for the day just gone. It’s downbeat and funeralesque in its tone even though the words talk of nobility. The string sections are particularly emotive in this track.
“Hymn Do Trojcy Swietej” is Polish and just like all the tracks, the words are from some kind of religious text of sorts. This track however is the most church styled track on the album. It almost sounds like you’re inside a huge Cathedral with atmosphere by the bucket load.
Dawn starts off with te Hebrew track “Hayom Kadosh” which sounds like something Lisa Gerrard would release with her otherworldly sound. The track is very short but packs its punch from the outset. It has a certain joy to it too and leads almost unnoticed into “Hamsafar” which is in Farsi and is in a similar vein – joyous and full of spirit and uplifting energy. I challenge you not to lift a smile for these types of songs.
“Sukla-Krsne” sung in Sanskrit is very much like waking up to a new sun rise. The warmth that comes through the speakers on these tracks is due to Christopher’s inspired decision to transfer the tracks from digital tapes to analogue tapes. It really pays off in the dawn section of tracks.
The closing track (or if you loop it the last of the dawn tracks before the day is back upon us again) is the Maori track “Kia Hora Te Marino” which is a traditional Maori blessing and its the perfect way to start a new day. The song is grand, the Maori chants and choirs go hand in hand and the world seems anew again and full of hope.
Quite frankly Christopher Tin’s album is a masterpiece. Every track is of such a high calibre and standard and there is so much unconditional love in each one for the cycle of life that you can’t help yourself but join the ride and the day through. It’s the first album for a while that works better played as an entirity than as individual tracks and the concept is both refreshing and fulfilled. Put simply “Calling All Dawns” is not just the best world music album of 2009, it’s one of the best world music albums of the decade. Pure and absolute musical hedonism.