Having discovered Anonymous 4 via Christopher Tin’s “Calling All Dawns” album, I picked up the quartet’s latest album which is a kind of retrospective over their career taking segments from each of their previous albums.
To review “Four Centuries of Chant” is very difficult as the album is a completely fluid being. One song envelopes you into another and is done so in a way that transitions softly and almost without notice. What I can tell you however is how the experience is quite profound in a way and the vocal talents of these four ladies really touch something that is rarely touched upon.
The open trio of songs is taken from “An English Ladymass” and are 13th and 14th Century chants. They are sparse, elegant and humbling. There is a certain stillness to them almost Buddhist like, in a meditative state of being and just channelling positive energy out. A beautiful start the album.
The next trio is taken from “The Lily & The Lamb” and is a chant from medieval England. The three pieces continue to send you away to another world, particularly the rousing middle section where some higher vocal sections show some fantastic precision and execution by being both powerful and serenely angelic at the same time. Three chants for St. James from the Codex Calixtinus appear next from “Miracles of Sant’lago” and continue to ascend to audio heaven with some beautiful scales and pitch changes.
“Te Deum: Isten, tegad” from “A Star in the East” is from medieval Hungary but continues the same vein of vocal restraint while “Responsory: Spiritui sancto” from “11,000 Virgins” effortlessly spins a yarn of heavenly soars and magical calm sections.
As the album continues through the rest of its 20 tracks, you’ll have floated so far away from home you’ll almost forget you’re listening to four distinct voices travelling with you. The music never really deviates from the first track to the last and there is just one style of chant performed.
Anonymous 4 are fantastic. “Four Centuries of Chant” is perfect for the end of a busy day to relax, as a meditative album to drift off to or even as an album to feel at peace. There is something unique about the quartet’s voices that harmonize as one and therefore despite singing in an old tongue, they carry a message all of their own and you’ll be captivated until the last breath. Magical.