, June 2011
Toby Twining has long held a reputation as one of the most original vocal composers of our time, melding harmonic vocal techniques borrowed from traditional cultures from around the globe with influences from the pop, jazz and classical worlds to create music that is as ethereal and moving as it is exotic and other worldly. Even so, this reshaping of the classic Orpheus in the Underworld theme affords Twining’s imagination full rein, and the results are nothing shy of masterful, voluptuous and inviting of repeated listening.
The 16-movement work is scored for five voices (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass) plus cello, but how these forces are blended and shaped is pure alchemy. “The String Room” for example combines traditional and whistling-toned harmonic vocal techniques to compliment and bathe in harmony Twining’s lyrical cello lines. The forces move through dramatic pivot points of harmony, always resolving back to something as lovely as it is refreshing to the ear.
By contrast the short “Triskaideka Chords” movement creates a sense of uneasy drama as the voices simultaneously pitch bend upward and downward, finding carefully crafted points of resolution and discord along the way. This is followed immediately by “The Book”—a more elaborate antidote to the prior clash. In it the soprano sings elongated, lyrical phrases largely unaccompanied, the tune unfolding almost as if carried by wistful breezes.
At times the music sounds as though it has been filtered through synthesizers. It has not. It is just the pure physics of sound, captured with a pristine clarity to match the extraordinary vocal dexterity and compositional originality of the forces brought together in this amazing recording.