Your browser does not support our new site design, so some things might not display or function properly.
We suggest upgrading to Google Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer 9+ for the optimal experience.

Bonner Jazzchor

Bottle This Moment (2013)

4.0

May 13, 2014

Tuning / Blend 4.0
Energy / Intensity 4.3
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 3.7
Sound / Production 4.0
Repeat Listenability 4.0
Tracks
1 Raindrops 4.7
2 Kein schöner Land 4.0
3 Galaxies 4.7
4 Mad world 4.0
5 I'm all over it 3.3
6 Make you feel my love 3.3
7 Die Gedanken sind frei 3.7
8 Shake it out 3.3
9 Give us a little love 5.0
10 Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär/Kommt ein Vogel geflogen 4.0

Recorded 2012 – 2013
Total time: 36:45, 10 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Raindrops 5
2 Kein schöner Land 5
3 Galaxies 5
4 Mad world 4
5 I'm all over it 3
6 Make you feel my love 4
7 Die Gedanken sind frei 4
8 Shake it out 3
9 Give us a little love 5
10 Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär/Kommt ein Vogel geflogen 4

If you're in an a cappella rut, the refreshing and positively jubilant music from Bonner Jazzchor might be your cure, and this release may be your new Happy Place. From the creatively textured opening of Raindrops to its final tranquil ending work, Bottle This Moment is thoughtfully and passionately performed from a world-class ensemble. 

If you're an a cappella fan unfamiliar with Bonner Jazzchor, everything about Bottle This Moment will feel novel to you, like an actual one-of-a-kind genre. There's the sheer size of the choir (over thirty voices), yet they're still singing contemporary layered a cappella arrangements with numerous moving inner lines and production shaping from the studio. And then, largely due to the group size, there's the extreme volume changes and intensities on display, all while maintaining an acute sensitivity toward balance as to not rock their big boat too hard. Add in plenty of unique localized stylings from a group with lots of big solo voices and vocal attitude, and it's pretty wild that it comes together with such grace and control. I'm particularly drawn to the lushness and spirited delivery of traditional Kein schöner Land, a very special piece with lasting value.

I do feel the artificial production sheen that sometimes crops up to paint over these pieces is a little much, at times a touch alien-sounding against the natural skill and vibe of the choir. It certainly gives familiar songs an altered color. Take Mad world, which is converted into some kind of buzzy drone that's a little spooky in feel, a mood which you can tell the singers are aiding by deliberately sitting so heavily on their pitches. But all the same, when that amazing final soloist pops in at the end and just shuts the place down, I feel like everything that happened before him involved too much fiddling, and the cuts could be more seamless (2:25). I imagine crafting the final mixes presented its own unique challenges here, with different pros working from different sides of the globe, and again, this is a whole bonafide choir here to tighten up and put in the best light. 

But, you'll like Bottle This Moment. I know you will, because there's just so much variety and talent and joy. 

 


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Raindrops 4
2 Kein schöner Land 4
3 Galaxies 5
4 Mad world 3
5 I'm all over it 3
6 Make you feel my love 3
7 Die Gedanken sind frei 4
8 Shake it out 3
9 Give us a little love 5
10 Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär/Kommt ein Vogel geflogen 4

Bonner Jazzchor is a large German choir — over thirty singers are pictured on the group's web site. Bonner Jazzchor's album Bottle This Moment is reminiscent of the Slovenian ensemble Perpetuum Jazzile: pop/jazz songs covered with a big vocal sound.

Three songs stand out in particular here, and they are the traditional German songs: Kein schöner Land and Die Gedanken sind frei both have gorgeous dynamics within some of the phrases. The album's final piece is a mash-up of two children's songs, Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär and Kommt ein Vogel geflogen, and Bonner Jazzchor melds them so seamlessly that the track doesn't sound like two distinct songs. 

A few of the English language tracks stand out: Give us a little love is outstanding, from the breathy, expressive percussion down to the haunting arrangement — there's so much intensity here, the group is obviously feeling this. Galaxies has a similar expressiveness, just with a sweeter, more innocent intensity.

The group's sound has pros and cons. On the one hand, a big ensemble taking on pop songs certainly gives them a new spin: standard Florence + the Machine covers are abundant in a cappella, so hearing Shake it out in Bonner Jazzchor's style gives the song something fresh. But there are some timing issues with this version, where singers within a voice part come in just the slightest bit apart. The mostly-unison arrangement of Make you feel my love has a rich, full sound, but it's also a simpler approach, which isn't as interesting to listen to multiple times. And Mad world sounds ever-so-slightly flat, as if the singers are aiming for the bottom side of the note — it's haunting, creepy, and just a little unsettling.

Overall, Bonner Jazzchor offers a different presentation from the "contemporary pop a cappella" sound that's all over US collegiate campuses. There are some pieces here that are gorgeous, interesting, and unusual, but Bottle This Moment is not without a few uneven moments as well.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Raindrops 5
2 Kein schöner Land 3
3 Galaxies 4
4 Mad world 5
5 I'm all over it 4
6 Make you feel my love 3
7 Die Gedanken sind frei 3
8 Shake it out 4
9 Give us a little love 5
10 Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär/Kommt ein Vogel geflogen 4

It is an increasingly disappointing fact of life for the avid a cappella listener that a decreasing volume of vocal music exhibits life, breath, and energy. Luckily, there is a small but hopefully growing movement of a cappella choirs or ensembles, mostly in Europe, which remind us of the human elements which make vocal music the purest and most accessible instrumentation. Bottle This Moment by the German ensemble Bonner Jazzchor is a delightful breath of fresh air with some wonderful moments that serve as just such a reminder.

For those who have not had the pleasure of singing with a vocal ensemble larger than the standard twelve-fifteen member collegiate a cappella group, I can assure you the challenges which arise with tuning and blend only multiply exponentially as the number of members on each part doubles or triples. Since this was clearly an album recorded more like a choir, that is with lots of people singing at the same time rather than the modern technique of one or a few simultaneously, this is the first time since I've joined RARB that I can really, truly assess the "Tuning/Blend" category as the phrases are intended in the traditional sense. Bonner Jazzchor does a commendable job with both. The syllables are largely uniform, and the harmonies line up as they should, naturally with overtones rather than being dragged to a grid in a computer program. There are a few tenuous moments with pitch, a few cutoffs that don't quite line up, but the tuning and blend are both really quite good overall.

Also by virtue of the size advantage, the music consistently has a nice, rich full tone. Mixed expertly by Bill Hare, the colors are bright and warm but never stale. When the group chooses to use percussion, it is complementary and effective without being distracting. Arrangements are generally good (Galaxies), occasionally brilliant (RaindropsMad world, Give us a little love), and most exhibit a true sense of shape and contour.

As with most albums, there are a few songs which aren't particularly original or exciting (Make you feel my love, Kein schöner Land), but overall Bottle This Moment is a nice collection which lives and breathes as vocal music was meant to do. Listeners who enjoy choral music or jazz choirs should definitely pick up this album; everyone else should at the very least check out the sinuous Mad world and haunting Give us a little love.

More Reviews

Advertisement

How To Get Your Work Reviewed

To have your album (2 or more tracks) reviewed by RARB, please email us with your name, group name and album title. You will receive a response with information on how to register your album in our system.

To have your digital single reviewed by RARB, please fill out our online singles registration form.

×

Ordering Information

This album is available through Acappellazone and the group's online store.

×