Gary Numan is an alien of extraordinary ability. At least that’s what it says on his US immigration visa.
GARY NUMAN: SPLINTER (SONGS FROM A BROKEN MIND)
Mortal Records, £12.99
Rating: * * *
Over the years, he has certainly enjoyed/endured the privileges/prejudices that come with being a highly abled alien. He was the first artist to have a massive electronic pop hit in the UK with Tubeway Army’s Are Friends Electric?, the influence of which has loomed large over The Prodigy, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, and his music has been sampled for subsequent generations by Basement Jaxx, Sugababes and Armand Van Helden among others.
He has also gone through times when he couldn’t get arrested beyond his cult-like fanbase but has emerged in the past decade as a venerable synth pop veteran with a gothic appeal which pleases both the metal and the electronica constituencies and still exerts an influence at the heavier end of the current all-conquering dance market.
Numan is no fan of nostalgia, though he has toured his classic albums Telekon and The Pleasure Principle in recent years while he struggled with writer’s block brought on by a period of depression. This may be why he appears on the sleeve of his first new album in seven years looking like a haunted Victorian undertaker. Or maybe that is just his way of celebrating an album which places Gary Numan credibly at the heart of current electronica trends, including trace elements of dubstep and rave, without sacrificing his idiosyncracies.
Current single Love Hurt Bleed is a slab of confident industrial electro pop to get you moving, while the ominous judder and crunch of the opening I Am Dust and the storming Who Are You are a show of his musical muscularity. But much of the album broods in a darkened room. Here In The Black is one of a number of songs inspired by his depression. Numan whispers creepily while insistent cinematic strings collide with a more unsettling eddying refrain and choral, keening synth parts.
The Calling is a stealthy, atmospheric number, built round a glitchy pulse and eastern strings which feed into the following title track, where Numan’s limited emotional range contrasts with the catharsis of a sampled farsi singer.
Elsewhere, there is an effort to present his distinctive wailing vocals higher in the mix with less distortion. Consequently, he is never more exposed than on Lost, a simple pop ballad with a mild twist of angst.
THIS WEEK’S ALBUM RELEASES
Jonathan Wilson: Fanfare
Bella Union, £15.99
Star rating: * * * *
As the title suggests, this album trumpets the talents of performer/producer Jonathan Wilson. Based in LA’s Laurel Canyon, Wilson has invited some luminaries of the area’s original psych folk scene, including David Crosby, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne, to guest on this 80-minute epic, and has co-written parts of the album with their contemporary Roy Harper. But this is not some retro exercise. The opening title track alone – a sweeping seven-minute orchestral reverie – speaks to the ambition of a trip which takes in country rock, soft folky ambles, psych funk and baroque pop along its widescreen way.
Creeping Bent, web only
Star rating; * * * *
Glasgow’s Jazzateers split shortly after this album was first released on Rough Trade 30 years ago, with members going on to form Bourgie Bourgie and Hipsway. Unavailable on vinyl since then, this last hurrah from the Sound of Young Scotland has aged well.
The fried funk of Once More With Feeling points the way forward to the commercial Scotpop of the later 1980s, while the grungey distortion
on Nothing At All prefigures the
heady, hypnotic My Bloody
But, in common with all their Postcard Records peers, Jazzateers’ musical pillars were Bowie, Iggy and The Velvet Underground, from whom they raffishly plundered with balls and style in equal measure.
Wilde plays Liszt
Star rating; * * **
David Wilde isn’t afraid of Liszt. In every one of his performances here – from the manic intensity and bravado of the Mephisto Waltz No 1, the bold but gentle colourings of the Liebesträume nocturnes, and the expansive lyricism and drama of the Petrarch Sonnets, to the lugubrious tolling of Funérailles – Wilde delves deep into the tonal fabric of the music, quite brutally at times and just short of threatening the quality of tone, yet always with a sense of conviction and mastery that pulls you in.
TAITH RECORDS, £13.99
Star rating: * * * *
The last time I heard Welsh accordionist Jamie Smith, best known for his pan-Celtic band Mabon, he was in the trio, Barrule, flagging up the little-heard music of the Isle of Man. Here he crops up in another fine trio, Alaw, playing similarly under-appreciated but, as the title suggests, engagingly tuneful and beautifully interpreted material from Wales.
Smith joins Mabon colleague Oliver Wilson Dickson on fiddle and Dylan Fowler on guitar and mandocello and the three gel very nicely indeed. The first track engages right away, a limpid melody slipping into a 9/8 jig while a further jig pairing, Arglwydd Caernarfon and Jig Owen is reminiscent of Lowland Scots pipe music as it trots along easefully.
They can take tunes at a fair lick, but airs are sensitively handled, not least the brooding eloquence of Will and His Mother and a striking setting of Gwen Lliw’r Lili, Fowler chiming out the tune on guitar over stealthy pizzicato fiddle which goes on to
really sing it.
Cat’s Club: Lucky
Thick-Skinned Records, web only
Star rating: * * *
Cathie Rae occupies a key role as an administrator and enabler on the Scottish jazz scene, but this new band is a reminder that the singer first made her mark as a performer, both in her own right and with her sisters (not to mention brothers, father and step-mum – fair to say jazz is in her lineage).
She has added composer to that CV over the years, and features three of her own songs here, as well as one co-written with her dad, Ronnie Rae, and another by former collaborator Sandy Wright.
The set is rounded out with a couple of standards and a raunchy take on Oscar Brown’s Humdrum Blues. Guitarist Graeme Stephen makes some lovely contributions in a more mainstream context than usual, in an excellent band that also features Paul Harrison, Mario Caribe and Stu
The Rough Guide to Voodoo
Star rating: * * * *
My big surprise on first visiting the Brazilian city of Salvador was the flourishing Candomble sub-culture, in which Yoruba deities were syncretised with Christian ones to preside over the religious communities of which local citizens routinely formed part;
West-African “vodun” was transmuted into a most consoling and sustaining ethical framework.
This interesting compilation reflects the origins and history of this gravely misunderstood religious phenomenon, with tracks from West Africa balanced by music from Haiti, Havana, New Orleans, and Trinidad, as well as Brazil; performers include Maria Bethania, Toto Bissainthe, Bata Ketu, and several notable groups.