Let Us Now Listen To The Discographies Of Various Musicians

Mike K

Bonus Review: The String Quartet Tribute To A Perfect Circle

Vitamin String Quartet - The String Quartet Tribute To A Perfect Circle (2004)

This is again a tribute album by the Vitamin String Quartet, who also were responsible for The String Quartet To The Mars Volta. I guess I'm writing about these whenever there's one relevant to the band I'm covering here. Here the arrangements are just a little more complex than the Mars Volta one - there's violin, cello, stand up bass, and viola, as well as a couple of additional parts for acoustic guitar and woodwind. The latter two don't typically have much business in a "string quartet", but that Mars Volta album had a freakin' drum machine on it, so what the hell.

So far I think I kind of like these things: I wouldn't listen to one where I didn't know what most of the original songs sounded like, but it's interesting to see how things translate. I guess these tend to end up emphasizing the basic elements of a band, and if so A Perfect Circle are somewhat like TMV in that they kind of boil down to shifting time signatures and dramatic vocal melodies. It also points out a tendency for soft/loud dynamics, which is sort of odd because that's not something I particularly noticed in the original albums. Again, the arrangements can feel too thin, but there's a clear effort being made to stay close to the feel of the original songs, and many of the guitar riffs and vocal melodies do sound pretty cool arranged for strings.

Though there's no percussion let alone drum machines this time, there are again some interesting attempts to use similar textures to the original songs via studio effects: the most striking example of this is when reverb and flange effects get used to emulate the chaotic ending of "Blue". Some watery flange gets used in a few other tracks in what I guess is an attempt to imitate some of Billy Howerdel's guitar tones too.

While this otherwise consists entirely of Mer De Noms and Thirteenth Step material, there's also "Tan Gent", a song that was left off Thirteenth Step because it's lyrics about a British man's addiction to sun-bathing were consid- Okay, it's actually "Tangent", an original composition by the group's conductor that's supposed to be "in the style of" A Perfect Circle. Apparently some of these do include a token original composition, as what is probably a tool to get more royalties out of album sales. Regardless, they do kind of get the structure and feel of your average APC song down, and while it's not quite a highlight, it fits in well enough and has an oddly menacing plucked cello riff.

I didn't quite find this quite as interesting as the Mars Volta one - maybe it's because TMV's material forced them to get a bit more creative, maybe it's just an issue of novelty. Regardless, it is an interesting listen if you're familiar with the original material, if perhaps not a keeper.

Key Tracks: The Noose, Orestes, The Hollow