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Highlights: Requiem For A Tower, Children
It was obvious that this group were going to be successful. Why? If you look a few years back you will find the answer in the embodiment of a string-quartet named Bond. They were an enormously successful classical crossover act, one of the few that sold extremely well in America. They were exactly as Escala are now: a sexy, leggy, string-quartet that punched out popular tunes on their custom made string instruments with a multi-techno layered production. Other bands came and went whilst Bond were still active (interestingly, Wild was one of them, two members of which are now in Escala) but Bond truly had the market. Bond, however, quit whilst they were ahead and left the music scene long before the public were ready for them to do so (though they very recently started to become active again with a new member).
So the string-quartet has been a gap just waiting to be filled up over the past few years, and what better way to fill it than with a group that are an exact replica of Bond and burst into the scene in one of the biggest promotional shows in the UK? Yes, Escala had success served to them on a plate but are they any good?
In classic Simon Cowell style who can only emulate and not innovate, he has simply reproduced the tried and tested formula that Bond produced. The tracklisting is desperately unoriginal with the typical crossover material such as 'Kashmir', 'Palladio' and 'Sarabande', which offer nothing new (apart from the fact that Slash is heard jamming on his guitar). Whilst many arrangements are quite uninspired, Robert Miles's 'Children' is well executed as is the instantly recognisable 'Requiem For A Tower'. The shame is that you may feel you are playing the soundtrack to Britain's Got Talent as some of the songs has been used relentlessly on the show. It rather taints the material.
There are only two respectable classical standards on here, 'Chi Mai' and 'Adagio For Strings' (you can include Handel's 'Sarabande' if you like, though the piece is easily manipulated for techno influences), and thankfully, they are treated with respect in their production (only a mild drum machine). Sadly their actual performance of 'Adagio For Strings' seems a bit static and I didn't lose myself in it as I have with other renditions, although there is a beautiful build up towards the end.
For listeners of Bond, Vanessa-Mae and Lucia Micarelli this has all been done before. If this band really wants to replace Bond, the best thing to do is to record different songs from them. It's common sense. No Bond fan wants to hear these songs again - they already have them. The good thing about Escala is that Bond's later albums were immersed in computer wizardry and the strings could barely be heard, this is not the case with Escala; they are never drowned out by drum machines. Even so, I hope for a little bit more originality from their next album.
1. Requiem For A Tower
3. Kashmir (ft. Slash)
4. Finding Beauty
6. Live and Let Die
7. Chi Mai
8. Feeling Good
10. Clubbed To Death
11. Adagio For Strings
n.b. You may have seen this review before as I previously published this review on Amazon.co.uk, and on my old blog.