Say hello to my first obsession of 2020: "King of Thumbs," a selection from Reality Rounds, a new album by the composer and vocalist Alex Dowling. I find this realization of a cybernetic vocal consort – created by four singers individually equipped with AutoTune and other effects, and synthesizer accompaniment – completely mesmerizing.
In this specific cut, for instance, I listen again and again just to hear the piquant frisson in the note that Emma O'Halloran sings/produces at 0:37, which makes me shiver every time I hear it. The entire album is flush with moments like that.
Apart from Dowling and O'Halloran – who both were trained in Princeton University's graduate composition program, and who recently announced their engagement (congratulations!) – the group includes two more singing composers, Chris Douthitt and Annika Socolofsky, plus Pascal Le Boeuf on the keyboard. The performances are beautiful, and the production does them justice.
The disc arrives January 31 on the Carrier label, and you can pre-order it now on Bandcamp. To further whet your appetite, you can find three video clips of live performances by varying iterations of this group on YouTube: here, here, and here.