FourPlay – Now To The Future

FourPlay’s latest album Now To The Future is glorious. Possibly Australia’s only indie rock band string quartet, they fly in the face of the often-held belief that classical music and rock can never sit side by side. Two violas, a violin and a cello, sometimes combined with the hypnotic vocals of Lara Goodridge, merge to create a sumptuous sonic feast.

Inspired by outfits such as the Kronos and Brodsky quartets, and with parallels to the skilled thrust of Phillip Glass’ music, FourPlay present original material as well as a selection of anarchic covers. The use of two violas bulks out the sound while still allowing the execution of three and four-note chords, giving the band a rich vigour outside the scope of many other string ensembles.

Having previously covered work by Jeff Buckley, Depeche Mode and the Beastie Boys, the album opens with a striking interpretation of Radiohead’s ‘2+2=5’. Other covers include Miles Davis’ ‘All Blues’, with its syrupy strains that soar with movement and feeling, and The Strokes’ ‘Reptilia’, a wild and propulsive track with a loaded sound that belies the all-acoustic instrumentation. The Arthur Hamilton jazz classic ‘Cry Me A River’ is buttressed by the honeyed romanticism of Goodridge’s vocals.

The original material on Now To The Future is equally as impressive. On ‘Trust’ Goodridge’s sweet but seductive vocal stylings are juxtaposed with animated staccato compositions that surge and abate with carefully exercised control. The beautiful partnership between Goodridge’s voice and the dramatic string constructions is also exemplified on ‘Evolve or Decay’. ‘The Hunter’ is simply haunting – with ghostly legato harmonies artfully draped over a bed of foreboding siren-like instrumentation. The epic ‘Bollyrock’ possesses a distinctive Indian flavour with string work that is moody and percussive, at times even cacophonous. Indeed, these original tracks span many genres, from rock, jazz and blues to gypsy and klezmer.

Ultimately FourPlay offer a tantalising fusion of rock sensibilities with the finely cultivated skill of classically trained musicians. They are abundantly creative and true collaborators, having traded their talents with bands such as George, The Whitlams, Gerling and the Screaming Jets. Their fourth offering is a wonderful achievement.