2Cellos / Luka Sulic / Stjepan Hauser

2Cellos

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Following in the footsteps of Justin Bieber and Soulja Boy, Croatian cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, aka 2Cellos, were discovered through YouTube, after six million people viewed their classical cover version of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." Now with a major-label deal under their belt, the classically trained musicians face the tough prospect of translating what could be seen a one-trick pony novelty into a full-length album. It's a task made even more difficult considering that, unlike violinist David Garrett's forays into classical rock, which add layers of orchestral production on top of his virtuoso skills, the two 24-year-olds' self-titled debut doesn't feature any other instruments. Luckily, the pair's masterful talents, which seem to produce sounds from a cello that otherwise wouldn't seem possible, more than make up for the lack of background support. Indeed, other than the deliberately sparse reworkings of Johnny Cash's rendition of "Hurt" and second Jackson interpretation "Human Nature," its 12 tracks very rarely feel as stripped-back as one might expect, as the duo replicates the twanging guitar hook from Dick Dale's Pulp Fiction theme "Misirlou," the crunching riffs of Nirvana's grunge classic "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and the lilting piano chords of Muse's "The Resistance," using a combination of plucking, bowing, and frantic strumming. While the bombastic treatments of "Smooth Criminal" and Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" have received all the attention, the whole concept is just as effective on the slower numbers, as they turn Sting's flamenco-tinged "Fragile" into a mournful Gypsy folk ballad and transform U2's "With Or Without You" into a poignant instrumental suitable for a soundtrack to a Jane Austen adaptation. The ambitious project only really falters on the one track, which on paper seems best suited to their craft, with their adaptation of "Viva la Vida" sounding surprisingly flat when compared to Coldplay's already string-soaked original. But 2Cellos is far from the classical karaoke affair one might have anticipated, as Sulic and Hauser have created an inventive first offering, with unique and innovative arrangements, that deserves to transcend their YouTube beginnings.

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