The adventurous and renowned vocal octet Roomful of Teeth released their debut self-titled album Roomful of Teeth in October 2012.
From the neo-alpine yodel on Rinde Eckert’s “Cesca’s View” to Caleb Burhans’s stirring post-minimalist take on bel canto singing in “No”, the album breathes fresh life into the a cappella landscape. One of this generation’s most dynamic vocal talents, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, contributes two electrifying songs that explore a range of world-inspired grooves. African pygmy yodels, Inuit rhythmic pulsing, Appalachian hymn tunes, and bracing Eastern European belting all filter through Garbus’s powerful compositional voice. For her Pulitzer Prize-winning four-part composition Partita for 8 Voices, Caroline Shaw uses her insider vantage as a Roomful of Teeth vocalist to create a sonically exquisite and emotionally charged journey through the ensemble’s soundworld.
New Amsterdam co-directors William Brittelle, Judd Greenstein, and Sarah Kirkland Snider contribute as well: Brittelle’s daring “Amid the Minotaurs” pushes and pulls before opening into a heart-stopping soprano solo; Snider’s otherworldly “The Orchard” intertwines haunting vocals with the text of poet Nathaniel Bellows; and Greenstein’s three pieces explore the group’s polyphony at its most lively, tender, and affecting. Altogether, the album is a 13-piece showcase of this adventurous ensemble’s staggering range, resulting in an entirely unforgettable listening experience.
The album received a significant amount of press coverage, with Jayson Greene of Pitchfork acclaiming it as “exhilarating,” stating that “it will send an unnameable thrill down your spine,” while also being named an eMusic Pick by John Schaefer, awarding the album 5 stars and praise for it’s “richly-textured sound that uses a seemingly endless palette of vocal techniques.” In addition, John Schaefer named composer Caroline Shaw’s Passacaglia, which is included on the album, as one of his 10 Favorite Songs of 2012 for Soundcheck WYNC. The album was also featured on NPR’s Deceptive Cadence and featured as album of the week on WQXR’s Q2.
Additionally, Roomful of Teeth member and New Amsterdam composer Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices, which is featured on the album, was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Music. The Pulitzer jury praised Shaw’s composition as “a highly polished and inventive a cappella work uniquely embracing speech, whispers, sighs, murmurs, wordless melodies and novel vocal effects.”
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