Breathtaking and magical, the Turtle Island String Quartet present a piece of art that sends a pleasing and haunting rush though the listener’s bloodstream. Opening up with the title track, “Spider Dreams” takes one on a fateful journey to musical bliss, opening up the listener to a variety of intriguing emotions. Whoever dares to take such an adventurous ride with the quartet will be richly rewarded. “Texas Tarantella” bursts with flavor and textures which only the most brilliant quartet groups can deliver. Atmospherically, the record continues to flow nicely from beginning to end, with nice stretches of ambience and radiant merriment along with bouts of horror and jaw-dropping passion. “Vassar Goes to Harvard” introduces a catchy bluegrass feel with perky tempos and witty percussion statements.
The soundscapes are lush, beautiful, and at times hypnotic. Good for reading and perfect for just listening, soaking, and absorbing the emotional messages that reside. Though it initially sounds like a deep, haunting record with soaring string parts and viola and sax mixed in, the listener can hurriedly become accustomed to its robustness and natural flair. “Marwa in the Pines” is delivered with refreshing charisma and grace, in effect unleashing the perfect feel for a country hoedown.
In technicality, these instrumentals are classical by birth, but seem to transform into the flavorful roots of bluegrass and blues. The compositions are not striking by far, but the added dimension of a quartet of such talent and the gift of guest musicians under the direction of producers Darol Anger, David Balakrishnan, and Willa Rabinovitch give the final product vitality and enthusiasm.
The final two pieces are dubbed “Movement I” and “Movement II,” featuring a guest on saxophone and piano. From the start, the pieces are nowhere near pleasant or appeasing to the ear, done perfectly to drive one’s mind to distraction. This abstract free jazz form is meant rather to explore an entire palate range of musical tastes, possibly to see how the music magically ends up. At first guess this was created spontaneously on the spot. The quartet provides much of the music on this album for further reflection and contemplation. A grand achievement of mixing classical, blues, and bluegrass in an honest setting.
– Shawn M. Haney, allmusic.com