I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical when I first saw this release by Alarm Will Sound. There have been tons of crossover releases (going both ways) in terms of classical artists remaking popular artists and vice-versa. William Orbit tackled the masters with his Pieces In A Modern Style while the work of Radiohead has been transcribed to both classical and solo piano pieces and The Balanescu Quartet got Possessed by Kraftwerk. It's been going on for decades, with everyone from the New York Philharmonic playing the Bee Gees to Apolyptica doing string quartet versions of Metallica songs.
On Acoustica, Alarm Will Sound obviously tackles the work of Mr. Richard D. James, and even for a big fan like myself (who can often be rather cynical), I have to admit that the young 22-piece group has pulled things off pretty darn well. In terms of arrangements and compositions, the group could have easily chosen another electronic artist that wasn't quite as challenging, but they've adapted thirteen tracks of Aphex Twin on this release and amazingly play them all acoustically (with the only exception being electric bass). The songs themselves are turned into pieces that breath with strings, brass, woodwinds and live percussionists, along with some vocals.
In addition to all of the above instrumentation, the group also raided toy stores and created homemade instruments in order to recreate some of the more unique sounds that Aphex Twin uses in his music. The result is something that is entirely true to the original, played with an almost astounding precision, yet is just human and different enough to sound original. Truth be told, I don't listen to Aphex Twin as much as I used to, but hearing these interpretations of his work made me start fishing out his releases again and hearing them in a slightly different light.
If you need proof that the group didn't stray from difficult pieces, they tackled both "Cock/Ver 10, "Omgyjya Switch 7," and "Mt. Saint Michel" from Drukqs (each have their own insane rhythm section, which the group tackles with 4 percussionists), as well as the hilariously playful "Logon Rock Witch" and the beautiful "4" (which might be one of my favorite Aphex Twin songs ever) from The Richard D. James. On the slower sides of things, the group recreates both "Blue Calx" and "Cliffs" (the title generally given to the track due to the liner notes picture) from Selected Ambient Works Volume 2.
There's a lot of other stuff to digest on the release, but the pedigree of Alarm Will Sound is high (their first release was an acclaimed performance of two Steve Reich pieces) and their reworkings of Aphex Twin will likely appeal to fans of Mr. James himself or classical music fans who are looking for something quite a bit different from the ordinary. The release concludes with two "remixes" of their interpretations, and unfortunately they sound by-the-numbers given the music that came before them (both opting for a fairly straightforward house feel). Even with the somewhat lackluster ending and silly title, Acoustica is still a pretty fun little listen.