Ensemble Signal’s Cantaloupe recording Shelter, a collaboration between David Lang, Julia Wolfe, and Michael Gordon, has been creating a great deal of hubbub throughout the classical music world. Small wonder – the creators are three of the biggest names in the downtown scene, synonymous with the Bang on a Can All Stars and with myriad other projects to their name. Ensemble Signal has proven their mastery of a wide swath of repertoire. One need only look at their discography, which readily attests to their versatility, from their recent Lachenmann disc on Mode (another stunner of a recording) to 2011′s live from LPR CD Glassworks (Orange Mountain).
But, in addition to the fulsome creativity of a triumvirate of Downtown leaders and crackerjack instrumental playing, there’s another very important ingredient that makes Shelter such a potent project: the singing. Sure, at first glance one might think that a cohort of three sopranos is not the most overwhelming vocal cast to assemble: but the sopranos in question are another formidable team. Mellissa Hughes, Martha Cluver, and Caroline Shaw (winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music) sing splendidly here. Together the trio create a sumptuous blend. They thread sinuous lines in seamless counterpoint, and know exactly when to lean into tangy dissonant collisions that occasionally burst like ripples to the surface of the music. Recommended.