Neil Gaiman & FourPlay String Quartet – ‘Signs Of Life’ [Review]

Crossing artforms is always risky business when you’re so notable in your selected field, but sometimes, an artist delves headfirst into somewhat unfamiliar territory and releases something amazing. This is that time.

Neil Gaiman’s writings are known throughout the world and have such a widespread fan base that I was wary of his latest offering ‘Signs Of Life’, a collaboration with Australia’s own FourPlay String Quartet. But I was pleasantly surprised. From spoken word, to free-flowing poetic brilliance, accompanied with beautiful lyrical sirens, this is a release that will probe your cerebral cortex and leave you wanting more.

Gaiman’s spoken word is soothing, and gorgeous in its structure. Taking his thoughts and writings from paper to audio is so well executed it leaves you guessing if he could ever do any wrong in releasing any form of art into this world.

FourPlay String Quartet brings an air of haunting, well structured, and at times, emotional gravity to Gaiman’s words. This is well demonstrated in the track ‘Credo’, an ode to an individual’s own ideas, opinions and thoughts. Fantastically written and dramatically composed. This then flows into the instrumental ‘Neverwhere’, which demonstrates the bravado that Cellist Peter Hollo can execute with his instrument.

‘Bloody Sunrise’ feels like it could be used very easily in the screen adaptation of one of Gaiman’s novels. Lara Goodridge has an amazing voice that is as gentle as her skills as a violinist. With Gaiman lending backup vocals on this track, the two harmonize like a duet that have spent a lifetime perfecting their artform. Truly a masterful track in every sense.

‘The Problem With Saints’ has a comedic, yet historic feel of the story of Joan of Arc and I loved every part of it. It has a great toe tapping rhythm that the string quartet achieves quite well and both Gaiman and Goodridge’s vocals mesh perfectly with the instrumentals. Following with ‘In Transit’, a 6 minute composition that delves into the philosophical realm. This was my stand out for the album.  Spectacular.

‘Signs Of A Life’ and ‘Oceanic’ close off the album and the perfection of these compositions are breathtaking. As violins and cello weave their magic, building to a crescendo, Gaiman lends his prose to the former with amazing intricacy, leaving the listener with nothing but admiration and wonderment. The latter has a non lyrical accompaniment from Goodridge with choir and the peak is messy, distorted and gives all the boldness that is needed to display what this band of artists set out to achieve.

If you are looking for music to probe the mind, relax the body and touch the soul, then I implore you to give this album your full attention. It deserves nothing less.

Neil Gaiman & FourPlay String Quartet – ‘Signs Of Life‘ is out now