“I am just a copy of a copy of a copy / everything I say has come before,” breathes Trent Reznor in a haunted murmur on Copy Of A, his words artificially repeated like the soft mechanical clunk of a printer and the racing electronic rhythm beneath reminiscent of generations of electronica from Kraftwerk to Underworld.
Nine Inch Nails: Hesitation Marks
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This album has been five years in the waiting, one year in the making and was withheld from fans while Reznor was focused on his other project, How to Destroy Angels. But Hesitation Marks is one of the year’s most satisfying releases, aligning itself with its creator’s previous body of work (eight albums in 24 years) while hardly ever sounding like a pale re-tread of old ground.
Reznor cycles through a roster of styles, from the unsettling digital oscillations of The Eater Of Dreams, through the blistering Gary Numan-at-a-rave horns attack of Came Back Haunted (“I am not who I used to be” sounding like an incantation for a rock star trying to rediscover his muse), to the sparse, glitchy electronics of Find My Way and the keening digital All Time Low.
In point of fact, Reznor’s career is much like a transatlantic equivalent of Numan’s. He was a pioneer of the commercially unfriendly industrial genre, whose bending of its signature elements to his intense force of personality has made him an arena-class artist. This record restates all that his fans love about him and then goes further, from the impersonal hip-hop shapes of Satellite to the emotionally-drained anthemics of Various Methods Of Escape and While I’m Still Here’s unexpected chillwave balladry. This is not what you expect from a major label artist these days, which makes it a very good thing.
Download this: Copy of A, While I’m Still Here
Glasvegas: Later… When The TV Turns To Static
Go Wow Records, £13.99
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“It’s crying on the edge of my bed, up in the attic,” runs the second half of the couplet started by the title track’s name, and right away we’ve entered territory in which James Allan is reinventing the concept of miserablism for the 21st century. If Glasvegas’ commercial stock has tumbled from the days of dark-edged stadium anthems like Daddy’s Gone, Allan has fortified his stock as an enduring writer of songs for those whose lives aren’t all sweetness and light. The funereal Neon Bedroom, Youngblood’s growling paean to leaving behind youth’s mistakes, and the understatement of (possible) referendum analogy Choices
re-emphasise the tone of a singular voice.
Download this: Youngblood, All I Want is My Baby
Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire: Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire
Middle Of Nowhere, £13.99
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The Glaswegian singer-songwriter’s decision to employ producer Danton Supple – the man behind the eminently commercial X&Y by Coldplay and Silence Is Easy by Starsailor – could be the one to push him on to the next level. Hart’s folksy, heart-swelling voice recalls Roy Orbison and Edwyn Collins on Ghost Of Love, High Hopes and the resonantly mournful In My Dreams I’m Always Losing, while Supple isn’t afraid to deploy the arena-strafing guitars on Days Are Numbered and Cold City Avalanche.
Download: Cold City Avalanche
Paul Kuhn: Swing 85
In + Out Records IOR CD 77070-2, £24.99
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Kuhn is a popular German singer and pianist known in Europe mostly as a performer in the “Schlager” style of pop music. However, his original ambition was to be a jazz musician – and since the late 1990s, he has notched up a string of jazz records. This box set, issued to mark his 85th birthday, comprises a DVD of a live performance with the Filmorchester Babelsberg, plus two CDs which reflect the range of artists with whom he’s recorded in recent years – from Till Bronner to Toots Thielemans. His piano playing is swinging and lyrical, the vocals have a strange charm, but none of this is what you might call essential jazz listening.
Download: As Time Goes By
Greentrax CDTRAX374, £12.99
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The band made its final appearance a decade ago, but it has been only a few months since founder member Peter Boond sadly passed away, and now a last CD sums up the group’s performance as it evolved through 30 odd years. Kicking off with the cheerful Royal Scots Polka from their first album, it mixes songs, singers, slow airs and powerhouse pipe-led instrumentals throughout the 15 tracks. Formed from the most ancient and also the most recent of Scotland’s traditional music, with the odd Irish (O Carolan) air, and a beautifully atmospheric Cantabrian Jig, this collection totally garners the passion, potential and promise that kept the band so vibrantly alive from its 1970s inception.
Download this: Jonnie Cope
Claude Debussy: Première Suite d’Orchestre, La Mer
Actes Sud ASM10, £15.99
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Acts of kindness can have both positive and negative effects: in the case of Claude Debussy, gifting the only manuscript copies of his Première Suite to painter friend Henry Lerolle ensured they were kept safe, but also meant that the work remained unplayed for more than century. Sold at auction by the Lerolle family in the 1950s, it wasn’t until 1996 that, after another sale, they were deposited for research and performance. This first-time recording, by French ensemble Les Siècles under François-Xavier Roth, reveals an early work by a composer regarded as “mischievous” and “unsteady” by his tutors that is a welcome addition to Debussy’s repertoire. Spirited and creative, it is clearly a young man’s work, but heralds things to come, such as the accompanying La Mer. ALEXANDER BRYCE
Download this: Track 1, Fête