Songlines: Is it Americana? String quartet?

There are quite a few groups out there whose music has one foot in the chamber ensemble and one foot in the folk club.  The most impressive being the virtuosic Punch Brothers, whose delight in alarmingly unpredictable chord changes is one Ozere also share - as displayed on this album's track 'Moment'.  But it's interesting to hear how much Ozere, a Canadian string quartet, also have in common with the UK acts such as Spiro and Leveret in terms of ideas, riffs and arrangements.  Ozere is an ensemble that was initially formed by classically trained violinist Jessica Deutsch in order to flesh out her compositions.  They feature a mandolinist, cellist, bassist and vocalist, Emily Rockarts, although Deutsch also sings.  Her fiddle playing has a satisfyingly muscular tone to it throughout the album, which ranges across fiddle tunes, cleverly arranged singer-songwriter fare and nods to contemporary bluegrass.  'The Sun Ain't Down' is an atmospheric opener, conjuring up the felling of being out in the chilly countryside just before dusk.  'Anyplace' has an Eastern feel - sounding Greek or Balkan in influence - to its questing, menacing violin lines.  For me, the instrumentals work better than the songs, which sound a little easy-listening by comparison.  That said, the band's version of 'Wayfaring Stranger' is an imaginative recasting of the traditional tune as a melancholy, reflective jazz-tinged country number, led by Adrian Gross' poignant mandolin.

Matt Milton

Track to try: Anyplace