Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Founded in 2009 by Brad Wells, Roomful of Teeth consists of eight classically-trained vocalists. During their annual residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the ensemble has studied Tuvan throat singing, belting and pop techniques, yodeling, Inuit throat singing and, in their summer 2012 residency, new techniques from Sardinia and Korea. Roomful of Teeth's debut album features seven composers who each incorporate the ensemble's polystylistic virtuosity in unique ways. From Rinde Eckert's neo-alpine yodel "Cesca's View" to Caleb Burhans's post-minimalist take on bel canto singing in "No", the album breathes fresh life into the a cappella landscape. One of this generation's most dynamic vocal talents, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, contributes two stunning compositions. Garbus's tunes find a range of world-inspired grooves, from African pygmy yodels, Inuit rhythmic pulsing, and Appalachian hymn tunes to bracing eastern European belting, all filtered through her powerful compositional voice. New Amsterdam co-directors Judd Greenstein, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and William Brittelle each contribute debut pieces highlighting Roomful's blazingly unique skill set.
American Record Guide, March / April 2013
Roomful of Teeth presents this performance program of all choral music. Sounds vary from typical words in Amid the Minotaurs by William Brittelle, and mathematical theorems in Caroline Shaw's 'Allemande', to vowel sounds in AEIOU by Judd Greenstein and tribal chanting in Quizassa and Ansa Ya by Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards.
Audio Mixer: Jesse Lewis.
Recording information: Dimenna Center, Cary Hall, New York, NY (11/18/2011-11/22/2011).
Roomful of Teeth is a New York-based a cappella octet, but if you think you have any idea what they sound like now that you're armed with that information, think again. It's been said that Roomful of Teeth straddles the boundary between classical music and pop, but more accurate would be to say that the group goes so far beyond existing conceptions of a cappella vocal music in both the classical and pop spheres as to make the terminology meaningless. This is one wild ride. The 13 compositions on the album are by a variety of contemporary composers, but rarely have composers been so subordinate to the capabilities of an individual group. Those capabilities begin with classical training and a mastery of virtuoso close-harmony singing, but they expand outward from there in a way that may seem limitless to those hearing Roomful of Teeth for the first time. The extra ingredient in most of the pieces is not classical extended technique but vocal devices borrowed from world music traditions, including Tuvan throat singing, Korean traditional music, pop belting, and more. The texts are mostly simple and incantatory, something resembling vocal exercises. They are there as a vehicle for Roomful of Teeth above all. Even those who might find this album on the extreme side will concede its absolute originality. In short, it's like nothing else you've ever heard. The engineering is nearly as original as the music, making creative use of distortion but not interfering with the basic immediacy of the singers' natural voices. ~ James Manheim
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