Afiara String Quartet / Skratch Bastid

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Ever since the groundbreaking fusion experiments of the Kronos Quartet, the string quartet has perhaps unexpectedly emerged as a primary proving ground for the fusion of classical and contemporary popular styles in general, and classical and hip-hop in particular. This entry in the genre comes from Canada, and in a way it shows how far the fusion has come: it may be the genre's first set of variations on a compositional theme. Four young composers plus a single electronic artist, Skratch Bastid, are represented, and each quartet consists of a similar movement configuration: there are two (or in one case, three) movements for the string quartet alone, a "remix" in which Skratch Bastid manipulates the material of the quartet to that point, and finally a "response" in which the composer adds new counterpoints to the remix for the string quartet. The idea gets major points for being novel, and one hopes to see other artists on both sides of the divide take it up. Here, it is Kevin Lau's String Quartet No. 3 that stands out, with the initial quartet parts themselves incorporating popular influences (including that of metal), and the remix, "Skratch My Bach," picking up on a Bach minuet fragment. It's both more diverse and more closely knitted together than the other pieces, but the entire project is enjoyable and fresh. Recommended for any listener with a degree of speculative frame of mind.

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