Roomful of Teeth
ROOMFUL OF TEETH
The sophomore album from the GRAMMY Award-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, Render has been praised as encompassing "bounteous diversity and ingenuity" (Tiny Mix Tapes) and as "a veritable embarrassment of vocal riches" (Textura). Building on the group's widely acclaimed first album, which won the 2014 GRAMMY for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance and included Caroline Shaw's Pulitzer Prize-winning Partita for 8 Voices, Render delights and surprises.
The album features compositions from Missy Mazzoli, William Brittelle, Wally Gunn, Brad Wells, Caleb Burhans, and Eric Dudley, and has received a 2016 GRAMMY nomination for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.
The new collection of works is consistently, unstintingly gorgeous, inviting listeners into an unimaginably varied sound world, all while showcasing Roomful of Teeth's trademark virtuosity. Render could be considered a companion to the group's first record - it features the same singers, engineer, cover artist, and some of the same composers as the first, and it includes a remarkable multi-movement work spread across the album - but this second record is very much in a class of its own.
Render features The Ascendant, a three-part composition from Australian composer Wally Gunn and poet Maria Zajkowski. The stunning work unfolds in a patient, incessant groove, elegantly straddling the boundary between contemporary classical music and indie rock. Fans of the a cappella ensemble might do a double take upon first hearing the spare percussion part (performed by Jason Treuting of So Percussion) that accompanies the singers' hockets and thick harmonies.
Missy Mazzoli's elegiac Vesper Sparrow, which the composer calls an "eclectic amalgamation of imaginary birdsong and my own interpretation of Sardinian overtone singing," is the first track on the album and the perfect entrée into the sublime world of Render. While Gunn's piece explores new territory for the ensemble, the album also features works by Roomful of Teeth alums William Brittelle and Caleb Burhans. Brittelle's High Done No Why To dances between absurdity and sincerity, while Burhans' Beneath masterfully traverses the full breadth of the ensemble's vocal range (which spans over four octaves).
Ensemble member Eric Dudley's Suonare / To Sound floats in an aether that seems impossible, effortlessly blending English and Italian texts through cascading, seductive soprano melodies. Ensemble director Brad Wells turns in two compositions for the album: the layered and kinetic Otherwise and the quietly spellbinding title track, which music journal I Care If You Listen called "objectively and subjectively gorgeous" - a description that captures the indistinct form of beauty on display throughout the album.
Roomful of Teeth's debut album was nominated in three categories for the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards, including Best Engineer for Classical Album, Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, and Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Caroline Shaw's Partita for 8 Voices. The album subsequently received a GRAMMY for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance. The New York Times called it "sensually stunning." Included on many Best of 2012 lists, topping the classical charts on iTunes and Amazon, even breaking into the top 10 on the Billboard charts, the album was deemed "fiercely beautiful and bravely, utterly exposed" (NPR); Pitchfork predicted "it will send an unnameable thrill down your spine"; and Textura declared, "The group re-writes the vocal rulebook."
In April 2013, ensemble member Caroline Shaw received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for Partita, the four movements of which appear on Roomful of Teeth's debut album. An iTunes exclusive EP of Partita was subsequently released and ranked no. 1 on the iTunes Classical charts.