Gary Chang / Turtle Island String Quartet

A Shock to the System

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As would be expected from the off-kilter movie A Shock to the System, it has an off-kilter soundtrack. Written by Gary Chang and performed by Chang and the Turtle Island String Quartet, this is something more than the usual slasher score; Chang has taken the opposite tack, developing a subtly atonal, low-key theme for the entire score. There are no screeching violins or pulsing synthesizers to artificially drive the action along, no bangs over the noggin to get the point across. Instead, there is the odd bowed string instrument here and there, or the odd bell-like, careful Synclavier tones. For the most part, the score is a matter of atmosphere and hints, pizzicato violin and viola laid over a pleasant, slightly wonky, plucked cello, a brittleness overlaying a rounded humor. The music itself is less jazz than modern classical, taking some of its cues from Erik Satie, though far less obviously than might be expected. The members of the Turtle Island String Quartet are excellent performers and have an obvious understanding of the bent humor involved in the score; Chang's own keyboard additions are unobtrusive and interesting. The recording is good and for the most part clean, but has been put through the currently popular process of recording digitally, mixing to an analog unit, and then providing a digital master. In this case, rather than warming up the sound, the process has introduced a certain amount of analog hiss. While not too much of a problem under normal circumstances, it's extremely noticeable on headphones.

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