So Percussion are “outstanding”, “at the height of their powers” in Caroline Shaw’s ‘Narrow Sea’ song cycle on Nonesuch Records

23 March 2021

So Percussion’s album of works with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw has received international attention for the imaginative collaboration, rich and complex rhythms and textures, and inspired exploration of the American folk tradition, with BBC Music Magazine including it in their list of best classical albums released in 2021 so far, describing it as “imaginative and expressive”.

Narrow Sea is an intimate and poignant exploration of the themes of the wanderer and the refugee, with songs set from eighteenth-century hymns The Sacred Harp and performed with soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Gilbert Kalish. The album was released by Nonesuch Records in January 2021, and also features ‘Taxidermy’, which was written for So Percussion in 2012.

So Percussion and Caroline Shaw will perform Narrow Sea live online from May 7th-14th which can be accessed here.

Their second collaboration with Caroline Shaw, Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part, will be released on Nonesuch Records in June. The group worked with producer Jonathan Low who recently won a Grammy for his work on Taylor Swift’s album folklore, which Jason Treuting of So Percussion also appeared on. The first track, To The Sky, is now available to view on YouTube.

Full reviews of Narrow Sea can be read here:

“Imaginative and expressive works that glide effortlessly between genres... [the] exquisite disc showcases Shaw’s 2017 Narrow Sea, recorded by its outstanding original performers: Sō Percussion, soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Gilbert Kalish.” - BBC Music Magazine - 'The best classical albums released in 2021 so far'

“A distinctly American variation of retro-minimalism is Narrow Sea...which takes folksy, 19th-century Sacred Harp hymns and places them in a disorientating environment.” - John Lewis, The Guardian

“A melodic resetting of 19th century text The Sacred Harp, the five-suite title track embraces wayfaring folk, Dawn Upshaw's powerful voice surfing Sō Percussion’s textures... Stylistic boundaries are twisted further out of the shape on stand-alone oddity Taxidermy” - Mojo, ****

“a glorious combination of faith-filled vocal recordings, traditional modal harmonies and strange percussive and electronic textures” - Elizabeth Alker, BBC Radio 3 - Unclassified

“An enchanting recording” - Alex Burghoorn, De Volkskrant

“A superlative collaboration. A sonic and emotional journey that is fully immersive in its approach.” - BBC Radio Scotland - Classics Unwrapped 'Album of the Week'

“Shaw composed the five-part Narrow Sea in 2017 for Sō Percussion, a New York-based quartet that deploys a deep kit of rhythmic tools. With an array of drums, blocks, marimbas, vibraphones, and shakers alongside repurposed cans and ceramic bowls, they approximate the sounds of maritime bells, prayer chimes, busy machinery, heartbeats, and distant drones. Even flowerpots are fair game, bringing a pleasant, plunking timbre to the project. The music feels fascinated with approximating the shape-shifting capabilities of water—notes ebb and flow, coursing forward or gently trickling over one another...Even when Sō and Kalish slide into a near-mechanical whir in Narrow Sea’s second part, humanity prevails when the percussionists start to sing, too. Their voices swell upward as sanguine layers of hums, sounds that can only be made by bodies pumping with blood and oxygen.” - Pitchfork

“Simply breathtaking [and] works on every conceivable level…So Percussion has an immense arsenal at its disposal… Narrow Sea packs endlessly creative and deeply textured moments into the song cycle […] almost like the invention of a brand-new style…Disarming and intoxicating. So Percussion, Upshaw and Kalish [are] at the absolute height of their powers.” - PopMatters

View All

Next Article