This first album by the choir Mruta Mertsi was self-released in 2001. On it the ensemble covers a wide range of styles, sketching with each track the vision of conductor and composer André Pappathomas. The pieces were recorded in concert and rehearsal with acceptable means. The music blends elements of Gregorian chant, East-European folklore, avant-gardist microtonal explorations, and dark gothic atmospheres, with one of these aspects usually highlighted in each piece. Most tracks feature the choir (members unspecified as the lineup tends to change considerably in number and composition from one performance to the next), but a few include a soloist (usually Isabelle Rajotte), instruments (church organ, flute, cello, even a rock band), and/or a tape part of sound collages. The choir-only pieces are literally stunning, with "Ourme" and "Prière de l'Ourme" standing out with their disquieting but captivating layering of microtonalities. The two pieces on texts by playwright Antonin Artaud ("An Stir Taun" and "Krrémuffé") are also striking. The handful of Hungarian songs are arranged by Pappathomas in ways that obliterate their origins. Only "La Fuite," for solo voice and rock quartet (no choir here), sounds out of place, its vicious free-form energy shattering the mood established by what came before. Despite the fact that this is probably nothing more than a calling card and that, given proper studio time and resources, the ensemble could achieve more satisfying results, anyone with an interest in contemporary choirs needs to hear this, as the direction Mruta Mertsi takes is unheard of.
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