"Timbre" is the self-given name of a vocal group led by American expatriate Lauren Newton. They have been together since 1988 and have performed literally all over the globe. Combining medieval polyphony, plainchant, improvisation, spontaneous composition, and asymmetrical approaches to both timbre and harmony, this group has literally re-written the book on vocal invention in new music. Newton is only the one of the four with any background in "jazz" singing per se as she embraces standards as a part of her canon. The rest come from either classical school of voice or from theater and improvisation (Muetter). There are 19 compositions here, all of which were recorded live, direct to digital audiotape without overdubbing or additional mixing except for the master. The element of meld here is the key to comprehending but not enjoying Timbre's most astonishing recording -- it's so musical, it can be enjoyed without any understanding of what is taking place mechanically. The overtone singing, which comes from the Tuvans is not replicated here so much as hinted at. The work is structured as one large piece with very brief intervals of silence in between these "miniatures." There are percussion instruments employed in a few places, but, overall, the voices are more than enough to create an atmosphere that is ethereal, yet solidly "there." There are few acrobatics, few flights of fancy among the individuals, as it is clearly the group effort; it's trust and empathy that allows for these works to happen so spontaneously and change on a dime. If you purchase only one "new music" vocal recording, let it be this one. Gorgeous, harrowing, and hauntingly beautiful.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek