Kronos Quartet

Nuevo

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It's sort of like comedian Eddie Murphy and his family of film alter egos called the Klumps -- even if you're not a fan of the Kronos Quartet, you can't help but be bowled over by the sheer quantity and quality of the impersonations they accomplish on their Nuevo album. The project sets itself the task of evoking Mexican music in all its awe-inspiring variety, so the quartet steps into the roles of mariachi band (on El sinaloense), symphony orchestra (in an arrangement of Revueltas' Sensemaya), son huasteco ensemble (El llorar), 1960s easy listening session band (on Esquivel's Mini Skirt of 1968), Mexican pop vocal soloist and accompanying strings (on several numbers), home electronics studio on Ariel Guzik's Plasmaht, as well as several less classifiable ones. Recorded Mexican street sounds and conversations are interspersed between and within pieces, a novel hip-hop-like effect, and the disc closes with a full-fledged dance remix by Plankton Man of the opening mariachi number in which several musical worlds wondrously seem to meet. The Kronos displays its usual knack for finding gifted collaborators here. The Mexican art rock group Café Tacuba makes an appearance, and a major unseen presence is the underrated Argentine-Israeli-American composer Osvaldo Golijov, who arranged the bulk of the music for string quartet and did a fabulous job of making the quartet sound neither grafted-on nor overbearing. There are certainly a lot of layers here, and time will tell whether they have much to reveal beyond postmodernism-on-your-sleeve coolness. In the meantime, this recording is a hell of a lot of fun -- Amazon UK calls it "foremost a party record," and when was the last time a classical disc got reviewed like that? Prepare to be amazed.

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