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Bond - Explosive: The Best of Bond Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 June 2005


Explosive: the Best of Bond
format: DualDisc
label: Decca
release year: 2005
performance: 6
sound: 6
reviewed by: Dan Macintosh

Image Even if you think you’ve already heard and seen everything, the group Bond is quite possibly like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. (Mis)judging this CD by its booklet cover, which is populated by four provocatively clad ladies with perfectly airbrushed hair, you might initially assume that this is yet one more Destiny’s Child-like R&B girl group. But Eos Chater and Haylie Ecker play violin, Gay-Hee Westerhoff bows a cello, and Tanya Davis works the viola. It's a classical string quartet! and nope, there’s not a vocalist in the bunch. The group records for Decca, and its name is listed with that label’s other crossover artists on the company’s website. But if Bond is truly crossing over, one has to wonder just where they’re crossing from. That’s because it’s difficult to find any evidence of classical roots in the first place. But wherever Bond is going, it’s certainly headed for uncharted territory.

Tonci Huljic composed many of this CD’s 12 tracks, but few sound at all classical. Instead, these tunes sometimes come off like modern dance music grooves (remember back when all those old disco songs had strings?), and on other occasions, these arrangements behave like world music exercises. Perhaps a better classification for Bond is New Age – even though that’s probably an outdated stylistic label by now.

The group does incorporate a few classical elements, even though these hints of roots sound more like “Hooked on Classics” nods than anything else. Nevertheless, Vilvaldi’s work is grafted into “Viva!” and Tchaikovsky is rearranged for “Sugarplum.” And for a little modern classical music, which is really what a lot of jazz in fact is, the quartet has a go at Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” too.

This two-sided disc also has a DVD side, which repeats the album in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and 48-khz/16-bit PCM stereo. There are also three videos, for “Explosive,” “Fuego” and “Victory,” which look more like modeling sessions than musical performances. About the only thing memorable about “Fuego” is how it includes scenes of bullfighting. In other words, these visuals don’t exactly stick with you for long.

With this said, however, being young and beautiful ain’t necessarily a bad thing. For example, Nickel Creek is a youthful group operating in the tradition-heaped bluegrass field, yet it receives a whole lot of respect for its music despite the tender ages of its members. But Bond just compromises artistically far too much. The world is probably not yet ready for such sexy classical musicians. Secondly, this group waters down its natural musical beauty way too much. All the upfront percussion nearly drowns out whatever worthy string work may be hidden within this collection of busy mixes. So if they’re truly skilled musicians, it’s awfully hard to tell that here.

The biggest problem with Bond is how it’s not nearly bonded enough to classical traditions.

Although this CD is on a classical music label, it is not at all suited for your stereo’s classical settings. Instead, a track like “Victory” comes off bombastically with boosted bass, and has an electric guitar part right up front in the mix. There is also a 4/4 beat running through it, as well as with many other tracks. And unlike most classical pieces, there are very few dynamics applied to this music. For instance, most symphonies alternate between quiet and loud sections, yet these tracks start out at one fairly fixed volume and rhythm and then just stay that way through to the end. These four women are probably talented, wonderful players. But since they’re playing simplistic pop melodies, instead of other more complicated compositions, it’s hard to truly know what they can do. The sound of this disc is pristine, but it is ultimately a shine wasted on paint-by-numbers instrumentals.

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