UK born American singer-songwriter and multimedia artist Fredo Viola cites Shostakovitch, Britten and Belle and Sebastian as musical influences, but he seems as equally committed to his visual art as he is to creating a fusion of electronica and choral classical music.
Until the release of this, his debut album, Viola’s most public project has been an endlessly inventive website that gives more than a little insight into what to expect.
His online videos can be viewed in regular screen shape, hexagonal view, or circular aspect and rotated as the viewer wishes. The Turn web project reveals Viola creating six different vocal streams himself, which he then weaves together to create a classical chorus with occasional injections of scat. So far, so clever.
The album of the same name uses this trick to create lush multi-streamed melodies that Viola layers over sampled strings. The album is essentially classical, but without a real instrument in sight. While the approach produces a pleasant enough sound, the outcome is largely so much ear-wash. The music fills up the space where there would otherwise be silence, but as soon as the album is over the listener will be hard pushed to remember a single thing.
Those bits that do stick in the mind do so for the wrong reasons. Amid the smart updating of classical underscoring and undoubted technological artistry, the most memorable moment comes by dint of a musical similarity that means The Sad Song sounds in parts for all the world like Thom Yorke, Martin Grech, the guy from Aqualung and The Flaming Lips‘ Wayne Coyne doing a barbershop quartet version of a-ha‘s Take On Me. Other comedic moments arise all too often through the album with pretentious moments of choral scatting – and Ella Fitzgerald he ain’t.
The Turn is inoffensive enough, and bits of it would provide a solid movie soundtrack. But five minutes without its company and you’d be hard pushed to remember anything about it beyond it being terribly ever-so-clever and occasionally unintentionally funny.