Zephyr Quartet’s ‘Epilogue’ creates hypnotic textures

Original article published on the CU Independent here.

Zephyr Quartet creates dynamic, mesmerizing textures, layering percussive tapping with lyrical melodies. In their newest album “Epilogue,” released March 13, the quartet showcases their inventive layerings and beautiful blend with 11 original tracks. 

Formed in 1999, Zephyr Quartet is one of Australia’s leading cross-genre string quartets. The group collaborates across artistic mediums, working with the Australian Dance Theater, Brink Productions and diverse musicians, such as the renowned Kronos Quartet. Music Australia has hailed them as “arguably Australia’s most lateral thinking and inventive ensemble.” Members include Belinda Gehlert, Emily Tulloch, Jason Thomas and Hilary Kleinig. 

The music is enigmatic. The quartet’s percussive sounds, which include bouncing pizzicato, tapping and slides, adds mystery to each track, evoking the aesthetic of an electronic or wind ensemble. Meanwhile, the upper instruments weave a simple, catchy tune above the background’s repetitive groove. 

In many ways “Epilogue” is a continuation of the Zephyr Quartet’s previous works. Their other albums, which include “Esque” (2007), “A Rain from the Shadows” (2013), “Resonance” (2015) and “Aspirations” (2018), also showcase their love of layering and minimalism paired with lyricism. But “Epilogue” feels like the quartet’s most experimental album. 

The opening track, “Great White Bird,” references the album’s cover artwork. Splashed across the cover, a bird bows its head, showing an intricate design of constellations, the sea, flowers, a clock and spirits. Like the multifaceted bird, “Great White Bird” explores several textures. It begins with delicate, blooming chords, then shooting star-like gestures melt across the background, transforming into ambient space and a pensive melody. 

The rest of the album continues to wander with poetic titles and matching hypnotic textures. Reading the tracklist, each title feels like a piece of art: “Femme fatale,” “Cockatoos,” “Ecstatic Moments,” “Blindfold Gift,” “Our Lovely Star,” “Mulysa,” “Time’s Timeless Art” and “Epilogue.” 

The pizzicato in “Blindfold Gift” sounds like peaceful water droplets. The unison plucking for the first two minutes seems definitive, until they launch into legato, bowed gestures, almost as if the droplets have turned into streams of rain. 

The last two tracks, “Time’s Timeless Art” and “Epilogue,” wind down the album with pensive, wandering melodies. Both tracks harken back to Zephyr Quartets earlier albums, especially “Esque” from 2007, which feel darker and more homogenous in texture, showing a traditional string quartet blend. The title track “Epilogue” feels like both an ending and a bittersweet return. 

Each song on “Epilogue” is a detailed, labyrinthine construction. The magic lies in how the Zephyr Quartet ties each disparate design together, both within each track and throughout the album as a whole. Pushing the limits of an over-saturated genre, they prove string quartet music is still vibrant, continually evolving and transforming.

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