Continuing the collaboration with violist/arranger Dematteis from the 3 Arms album, Etude has Bowes and company plunging into the sometimes tricky realms of reinterpretation of past songs in a classical vein. Given how the majority of '90s projects involving such reworkings were little more than money-making scams by hard-up orchestras with no input from the original artists (thus such pointless releases as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra redoing the songs of Led Zeppelin), it's refreshing to see the actual band in question doing the work this time around with a clear goal in mind. While Bowes is the writer or co-writer of everything on the album, if anything Dematteis is the star here, performing just about everything in concert with singer Julia Waller. His arrangements are on the level of stripped-down quartets rather than full bombast, an extremely elegant and welcome touch where others might have tried for a full-on assault. Bowes contributes some percussion and arranging, while otherwise overseeing the work in general. Those familiar with the originals -- taken from various periods of the band's previous existence -- will find the reworkings quite intriguing, to say the least, while those who are encountering the band for the first time will be likely to take the album at face value. While the effect isn't as stunning as the continuing series of releases by In the Nursery, undoubted kings of the industrial/classical crossover genre, more than once a serene beauty is the result. "Dreamsleep" is one particular winner, Waller's high vocals and the compact chamber-music arrangement combining perfectly over 6½ minutes. Other fine moments include "Into the Waves," with a brisk violin/viola combination set against Waller's distant, echoed singing, and "I Am." Credit the band with a sense of humor as well -- opening number "Tune Up..." is an orchestra doing just that.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett