Killing Joke: Absolute Dissent Spinefarm, £13.99 ***
THE mercurial gang, led by Loki-like frontman Jaz Coleman, is back together for the 13th Killing Joke album, including super-producer Youth on bass. But while they hit the ground running and barely let up the brutal momentum for a second, Absolute Dissent is lacking in dynamics as the fearsome quartet thunder along for an hour, the sonic scenery blurring in their slipstream. Some variety comes in the form of the glam metal End Game, the lumbering, dubby Ghosts On Ladbroke Grove and The Raven King, a tender (by their standards) tribute to their late bassist Paul Raven but, having once written the industrial rock rulebook, Killing Joke can surely turn out this sort of grungey nihilism in their tea break.
Tricky: Mixed Race
Domino, 11.99 ***
TRICKY submits entirely to his mongrel musical nature on Mixed Race, adding elements of chain-gang blues, stealthy jazz, rockabilly, North African gypsy music, a music box playing My Way and a lo-fi rendition of Girl From Ipanema to his familiar hip-hop, rock and reggae tendencies to create his most diverse album to date. As usual, he is a little too understated for his own good on a number of tracks, including Really Real, the non-entity that is his collaboration with Bobby Gillespie. He makes out better with the itchy electro funk signature of his co-writers Daft Punk on Kingston Logic, while the Peter Gunn-referencing Murder Weapon is his most commercial gambit in a while. FIONA SHEPHERD
Instruments from the Rodger Mirrey Collection
Delphian, 11.99 *****
JOHN Kitchen's longstanding relationship with Delphian Records has resulted in a fascinating ongoing discovery of the endless range of historic keyboard instruments housed in Edinburgh University. Five years ago, 22 such instruments were added when Rodger and Lynne Murrey gifted their private collection as a complement to the existing Russell Collection. Kitchen reveals their amazing diversity and quality in a programme that ranges from William Byrd on a 16th-century Venetian harpsichord, to three of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words on a 1793 Broadwood pianoforte. In between are the "toybox" delights of Dutch Renaissance dances on a Flemish triple-fretted clavichord, and some fruity Haydn on an early-19th-century Kuhlbrs pianoforte. Great pictures in the sleeve notes, too. KENNETH WALTON
The Bad Plus: Never Stop
Do The Math Records, 13.99 ***
WHAT, no covers? The Bad Plus are famous for their off-the-wall re-workings of unlikely material, but this is their first album to dispense with that convention in favour of a full set of original compositions. The band's trademark sound remains in place, though, and it would take no more than a bar or two of drummer Dave King's opening tune, The Radio Tower Has A Beating Heart, to identify the source of the music. Pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Reid Anderson also weigh in with new compositions, ranging from Anderson's drifting, elegiac People Like You to the off-kilter dissonances of King's My Friend Metatron and Iverson's enigmatic Bill Hickman At Home. A sparse, live-in-the-studio sound recording emphasises the earthy robustness and empathy of the trio a decade into their ongoing musical adventure.
Sgoil chiil na gidhealtachd: The Rugby Goalie ***
Own label, 12.99
THE energetically creative National Centre for Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton High School celebrates its first decade with its tenth annual recording, once again displaying a penchant for daft titles. As report cards go, this double CD is one well worth taking home, showing this unique institution to be a hotbed of music-making, as numerous permutations of its pupils, some as junior as S3, go through their paces. There is some fine singing here, with, on this occasion, the traditional material coming over more naturally than the contemporary, particularly in some mellifluously swinging waulking songs. Instrumentally, too, there is some assured piping, fiddling and harping, as well as some energetic ensemble playing. Bearing in mind the ages and experience of the performers, ten years on, the Sgoil Chiil sounds in fine fettle. JIM GILCHRIST
Ana Moura: Leva-me aos fados
World Village, 13.99 ***
Joana Amendoeira: A flor da pele
Chant du Monde, 12.99 *****
ANA Moura's face has a hint of the wolfish young Mick Jagger, so it's appropriate that Jagger should have chosen her as his duet partner for his song No Expectations at a Lisbon rock concert three years ago. She's a Portuguese TV star with a large following, and this new CD has already gone platinum in her homeland. There are moments when I wonder how deep her devotion to fado is, as her voice assumes the huskiness of a heavily-miked pop singer, and the music loses that tightness of construction which is the essence of fado. She has a good voice, but her artistry is limited: after a while, this CD palls.
As it happens, Joana Amendoiera has just released an album which strikingly points up the difference between going-through-the-motions fado and the real thing. Amendoeira's art is wonderfully subtle, as befits a singer who has been blooded at Lisbon's Clube de Fado, which showcases all the budding fado stars for an audience of connoisseurs.
Each song has its own character, and each phrase is exquisitely shaped: several of the lyrics are newly written for her, but they all draw from the well of inspiration that has nourished fado since its inception a century and a half ago. Professors in Portugal vie to win fado performances of their poems, but the trick is to keep it simple, direct, and coming from the heart: "I planted a carnation by my window to give to my love, and I created spring round that flower…"; "On the back of a sleeping piece of paper, a pencil scratched open my feelings, and laid bare my dream…" The accompaniments – on that time-honoured fado trio of Portuguese guitar, Spanish guitar, and bass – are commensurately beautiful: listen, and let it take you where it will.