Render by Roomful of Teeth

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It’s impossible to describe this vocal octet’s repertoire without making them sound like they’re doing musical parlor tricks. They perform mostly newer works, with a preference for material that blends singing styles from around the world (classical music, throat singing, Bjorkish yelping, and an occasional Yoko Ono scream for good measure) that draws on all genres and eras of music.

It’s gorgeous, atmospheric music that brings out unexpected similarities between unrelated genres. Their first album in 2012 included group member Caroline Shaw’s “Partita for Eight Voices,” which ultimately won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for music.

OnRender, the centerpiece is Australian composer Wally Gunn’s “The Ascendant,” a hypnotic dirge that builds to an ecstatic climax. I also loved the dark melodies and acrobatic vocal leaps of Caleb Burhans’s "Beneath" and the appropriately titled “Vesper Sparrow” (yes, it sounds like sparrows) by Missy Mazzoli. (New Amsterdam Records)

About the Author

Phil Christman teaches English at the University of Michigan and attends St. Clare's Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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