After releasing a couple fairly obscure albums, the Freight Elevator Quartet made a fairly high-profile re-debut a little over a year ago on their collaboration with DJ Spooky on the File Under Futurism release. At the time, I hadn't heard of them at all and it seemed like the group wasn't much more than a traditional string quartet adding lush sounds to Spooky's beat potpourri, but it's now obvious that they're much more than that. In fact, although there are still the addition of strings on most tracks within Becoming Transparent, it explores some of the same terrain that their above work did (while branching off in new directions entirely as well.
The disc starts out with an amazing track called "Transparent" that shows the group in fine form, combining glitch with ambient and stringed instruments with samples of ghostly choruses and all kinds of liquidy atmospheric washes. They continue in sort of the same direction with the next track "So Fragile," yet build on things ever so slightly with a little bit more of a beat and female vocals that are still pretty much undecipherable, but less ethereal than on the previous track. It's haunting and pretty, and combined with the first track on the disc make for quite an album opening.
From there, the group gets a bit more down and dirty, tearing things up with a rumbling jungle rhythm on "Downtime Is Becoming Less Of An Option" and a couple deconstructed hip-hop beats in tracks like "Transform/Disappear" and "Ping." They even go the more traditional song route on a couple tracks with true vocals, and they work in sort of a hit-or-miss way. "Svengali" is sort of a dark trip-hop track with plenty of layered strings and dark beats that doesn't sound too far off from Andrea Parker while "Exasperation" couples some lighter drum and bass with vocals that sound like they came from an old Jesus Jones track and just don't quite work as well.
Overall, the album is pretty darn good, though, and shows that the group is really getting a hold on their combination of electronic and classical sounds. On repeated listens, the vocal tracks don't stand up quite as well as the others, but the 13 tracks and well over an hour of music is very sonically diverse and makes me interested in seeking out their more obscure first two releases. The cellos and string instruments definitely add another beautiful sonic layer to their compositions and if you find yourself wishing their was just a bit more of a human touch in your electronic music, this might be the group to check out.