Monday 2 July 2012

Pentatonix - PTX, Vol. 1

UK audience's may not be familiar with the American acapella group Pentatonix, the winners of (now sadly cancelled) X-Factor style US choir competition The Sing Off (series three).  But fans of acapella across the globe should take note.  The group was set up by Scott, Mitch and Kirsty - high school friends - who were later joined by Avi (bass) and Kevin (beatboxing).  'PTX, Vol.1' marks the group's first EP and the first stage in their battle to spread acapella music to the mainstream.

Cleverly, the group takes current pop songs and totally re-imagines them in their own style. 'PTX, Vol.1' begins with Nicki Minaj's Starships and ends with We Are Young by Fun. The originals may be incredibly annoying, but these new versions are exquisite - filled with tight harmonies, impressive riffing and plenty of vocal bells and whistles. Their cover of Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know, at the centre of the EP, is Pentatonix at their finest - an arrangement that retains the emotional intensity of the original but with a
novel twist.

Sadly, this EP doesn't have the same variety of material as the group presented on The Sing Off (admittedly consisting of themed rounds). As well as recent tracks like OMG, Love Lockdown and a Britney medley, the group tackled classics like Janis Joplin's Piece of My Heart and Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles. Here, the fivesome stick stoically to their modern, dubstep-tinged pop. Bravely, the EP does contains two original songs amongst the covers - The Baddest Girl and Show You How To Love - but the latter especially has a very typical dancehall sound (albeit in acapella form). On the other hand, Aha!, originally by Imogen Heap, cleverly transforms her quirky production, with all its varied instrumentation, into pure vocal effects. Hopefully future volumes will continue in this vein and contain more variety.

That said, the group could sing the alphabet on repeat and it would sound incredible. The three lead vocalists are totally in sync with one another, slick harmonies and voices that blend together as one - integral to any choir. It's the rhythm section that contains the real power though. You'll be amazed that Kevin is beatboxing and not "cheating" with live drums. Then there's Avi's resonant, sumptuous tones - equally suited to melody and womping dubstep bass lines.

The song choices of their debut effort may not always bring out the best in the group, but this is contemporary acapella singing at its finest. What was once a niche genre is almost single-handedly being spread to the masses. Impressive.


Listen: 'PTX, Vol. 1' is available now. You can also download a free version of Love Lockdown by signing up to the group's mailing list.

Watch: All. Over. YouTube.