Black Dog String Quartet Beams Broadly on A Thousand Times Brighter

By Deuce

Black Dog String Quartet’s accomplishment on its forthcoming Long Player, A Thousand Times Brighter, which drops on April 28, isn’t that the group put together a whole album that’s entirely acoustic. It’s not even that it managed to do so sans a piano, or any variation of guitar.

No, it’s that the foursome was able to do so well. In fact, Brighter succeeds so much that it borders on the transcendent in certain moments. There are passages in which the melding of these stringed instruments (including a pair of violins, a viola and a cello) defies sound, instead conjuring images, motion, and colors.

The most obvious example of this trait is found on “Summer Song”, an ode worthy of the summer solstice if ever there was one. The number starts with a lone, high pitched string with a prepossessing melody. It’s met, soon enough, with an assortment of the other instruments. Some are frenzied and fast, others are slow, and others cut geometric shapes and figures of sound into the music.

Granted, there’s a female singer with pleasing vocals spiraling words and notes atop this potent playing. But the amalgamation of texture, tone, and tempo of the different strings evokes saffron and orange sherbet hues, motioning rapidly towards, through, and beyond listeners, as distinct as the rays of the daystar.

“All The Pretty Horses” encapsulates much of this energy, yet funnels it into a decidedly distinct direction. Pensive, ponderous, and purpling in parts, it’s an emotionally moving rendition of a dark rainy night in the early days of spring. An aural disavowal of all that comes before it, this song features Naomi Kavka nonetheless fantasizing aloud about giving someone “apples and grapes/all the pretty horses”.

The composition of the music and lyrics for most of these tunes is attributed to John Kastelic, who also sings and plays the viola on this collection of cuts. He’s joined by Elyse Jacobson and Molly MacKinnon on the violins, and Doug Gorkoff, who handles supporting vocals and the cello.

The quartet flirts with jazz on “Dizzying View” when they’re joined by a walking upright bass that holds down the lows so the strings can soar above it. The music is so spellbinding on this affair it would be interesting to see how the foursome would fare without vocals. Regardless, any exposure to music this moving is appreciated, in whatever shape and forms it takes.

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