I believe I first heard Kevin Volans's (homepage) String Quartet No. 2 - 'Hunting: Gathering' in the mid-1990s on a Kronos Quartet CD. While I can not say this was immediately one of my favorite pieces, I will say that sounds from and sections of the 2nd String Quartet have stayed with me - coming to mind at seemingly random times over the years without any conscious effort on my part.
Kevin Volans is a South African composer who studied in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Germany (including studies with the legendary Karlheinz Stockhausen). Hunting: Gathering draws on African source material to create a unique soundscape. In Hunting: Gathering there is not a single moment or section that will overwhelm you - the joy is in the continual sense of journey. The two recording that I have of this work have quite different interpretations - to me it feels like the Kronos Quartet maximizes the lyricism and makes the work more widely accessible, while the Balanescu Quartet interpretation sounds more alien, stilted and perhaps more distant from traditional Western classical music.
It was only this year that I sought out any additional works by Volans - and String Quartet No. 3 was a great find. The work is titled The Songlines after a book of the same name by Bruce Chatwin about a trip to Australia to research Aboriginal Song. It was written as a prelude to the opera The Man with Footsoles of Wind. While Hunting: Gathering seems like a single movement this quartet has quite a few distinct sections, styles and sounds - but like Hunting: Gathering the ideas seem unique and brilliant.
Rating: 4 of 5 (I think you will enjoy either of the recordings mentioned) First Listen Date: Mid 1990s Amazon - Kronos Quartet - Hunting: Gathering Amazon - Balanascu Quartet - String Quartets 2 & 3