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Cue the Violins

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Maybe the string quartet Bond is just a guy thing. More than one of my female friends have accused me of liking this girl-group string quartet only for their looks.

Okay, it doesn’t hurt that they look like they could be, well, Bond girls during the Pierce Brosnan years. I envision first violin Haylie Ecker and violist Tania Davis as the good Bond girls, with second violin Eos and cellist Gay-Yee Westerhof as the bad Bond girls. Hummina hummina hummina.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, the question is, can they play? Their late 2002 release, Shine, fuses classical music with techno, trance, and world music, to generally good effect. The sound engineers go way overboard layering the electronica over the instruments, downplaying the women’s talents.

Good thing the electronics are as good as the strings. When they work together well, the result is sheer bliss. “Fuego” is pure giddiness and speed and panic, with each note blurred into the next in a rush of chaos. “Strange Paradise” began as Tony Bennett’s “Stranger in Paradise” and evolved into a trancy, smooth soundscape. And could anyone else could take Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and turn it into a stately imperial march, albeit one with a spring in its step?

Bond’s other strength is their forays into world music. The title track is an Indian-inspired mid-tempo piece, by turns discordant and slinky. “Gypsy Rhapsody” is a straight-forward dive into Romany music, while “Sahara” has and African tinge to it. And in my dreams, Ms. Ecker and I are twirling around a ballroom floor to the feisty, playful “Libertango”. Actually, a lot more happens in my dreams, but that’s all you’ll get to know about.

The rest of the tracks suffer from that overelectronicizing problem, and range from the mediocre (the annoyingly twangy “Big Love Adagio”) to the good-but-generic (“Ride” and “Space”). With Josh Groban and Charlotte Church making the “new classical” popular, Bond’s next album ought to back away from the electronica a bit. They’re excellent at classical and world music, and have a keen ear for reinterpreting classic rock and pop standards. It would be a shame for Bond to become just another group of engineered, soulless trance tarts. As things stand right now, Shine is more invigorating and liberating than the band’s first album, Born, but shows less of Born‘s technical proficiency on the strings, which is where the focus on this group ought to be.

Still well worth the full price of this CD.

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