Over the last few years it has become fashionable to arrange pop songs for children’s choirs, and the practice has found its way on to a good number of TV adverts. Presumably the innocence appeals, and if the arrangement is good a totally new slant can be put on a familiar song.
Unfortunately, like many such trends, the practice has fallen into misuse, the arrangers setting their sights on ever more outlandish targets, either in a further attempt to make money or through increasing desperation to find something original.
Into this climate come Scala & Kolacny Brothers, who, it must be said, are among the original protagonists, so at least have claims to authenticity. Scala are a Belgian girls’ choir, with Stijn Kolacny the conductor and Steven Kolacny the arranger and accompanying pianist. Their version of Radiohead‘s Creep, included here in a live take, was used to trail The Social Network, and they already have previous in the songs of Garbage, Muse, and, er, the Divinyls. They certainly make an intriguing and unlikely addition to a label whose artists already include Felix Da Housecat and Reverend And The Makers.
The music itself, unfortunately, is not greatly inspiring. The arrangements are often beautifully realised, it has to be said, and the use of brushed electronics in Our Last Fight, one of Steven’s own songs, is nicely done and subtly moving.
Yet some of the flat pop arrangements invite contact between head and brick wall. Metallica‘s Nothing Else Matters is unremittingly grey – in one respect getting into the spirit of the song, but in another totally devoid of life. Kings Of Leon‘s Use Somebody suffers a similar fate, while Depeche Mode‘s I Feel You just sounds weird with its granitic piano.
The faster songs are a little more successful as a rule, and Solsbury Hill has some much-needed energy. It brings some warmth from the voices, too, which are cold in the extreme in the slower numbers. Champagne Supernova, for example, asks the question “where were you when we were getting high?” with almost no expression.
The originality of the Kolacny Brothers, then, should be applauded, but the signs here are that a previously original form of expression is losing its vitality.