David Lynch is one of those rare artists whose vision is so distinctive that it has spawned an eponymous adjective.
David Lynch: The Big Dream
Sunday Best, £13.99
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The “Lynchian” style of film-making is characterised by weird narratives, unsettling juxtapositions, claustrophobic atmosphere and distorted soundtracks.
You might describe his music in the same terms. Not so much the music in his films, which is often lush, classic and elegant, according to composer Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting style. But Lynch hasn’t made a film since 2006, shifting his focus instead to the more solitary pursuits of art and home recording, and his budding solo work bears only scant resemblance to the music of Chris Isaak, Julee Cruise or any of those vintage bubblegum pop confections which Lynch deploys in the most disturbing contexts.
A more focused and song-driven follow-up to his 2011 debut album Crazy Clown Time there are moments in The Big Dream when you might want to wake up from its woozy, disorientating distortions of everyday environments but this collection of prowling monologues, warped with reverb and other effects, coheres to Lynch’s description of “modern blues”. This manifests itself in the sonorous trip-hop stealth of the title track, the off-kilter Tom Waits-a-like lope of Star Dream Girl, the rock’n’roll reverb of 1950s-influenced ballad Cold Wind Blowin’, the plangent psych country song Are You Sure and also in his bleak, brooding rendition of Bob Dylan’s wretched Depression tragedy The Ballad Of Hollis Brown where lines such as “your empty pockets tell you you ain’t got no friend” resonate right through this present recession.
Lynch’s high-pitched, nasal voice is the defining instrument throughout. It is manipulated to a comical degree on the otherwise straightforward Sun Can’t Be Seen No More, but he makes an affecting, pleading job of the psychedelic indie torch song The Line It Curves and sounds downright creepy as the narrator of Say It, lingering malevolently with stalker intent.
Even if you can acclimatise to his strangulated whine, however, it is still a relief to hear guest vocalist Lykke Li’s pure, plaintive pipes on the wistful bonus track I’m Waiting Here, like coming up for air after a stifling, though intriguing experience.
MAYER HAWTHORNE: WHERE DOES THIS DOOR GO
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Once the novelty of preppy-white-guy-sings-like-a-black-dude wears off, where does that leave LA-based soul man Mayer Hawthorne on his third album? Clearly chasing the same market as Justin Timberlake, who has declared himself a fan. At times, Where Does This Door Go is too slick for its own good in its appropriation of bygone styles from smooth 1980s soul to 1990s G-funk, but the likes of immaculately produced current single Her Favourite Song and Wine Glass Woman should hit the spot for fans of the Pharrell/Daft Punk hook-up. The title track and closing lighter-waver All Better suggest a natural affinity for 1970s MOR balladry that is easy to fall for.
LAKI MERA: TURN ALL MEMORY INTO WHITE NOISE
JUST MUSIC, £11.99
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The title of Laki Mera’s second album is lifted from a line in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and used with the author’s blessing. Like Atwood, this Glasgow trio create their own convincing, absorbing, and atmospheric world with, it seems, not a care for fashion, setting Laura Donnelly’s light, fragrant voice against a range of backdrops, from the sparkling chime of dulcitone and playful strings on Red Streak-Cut Sky to the more sinister martial beats and industrial pulses of Come Alone, from undulating piano on Seraphine to the Vangelis synthscapes of In the Tunnel.
THE CHOIR OF GONVILLE AND CAIUS COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE: DEUTSCHE MOTETTE
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If there’s such a thing as fulsome German ecstasy, then it is encapsulated in the title track of this new Delphian disc celebrating German Romantic choral music stretching from Schubert to Richard Strauss. The joint choirs inhabit the thick-spun harmonies and soaring melismas of Strauss’s Deutsche Motette with utter belief. The lesser emotional opulence of works by Schubert, Brahms, Rheinberger and Cornelius balance the listening load, and there’s particular charm in the delicate, fortepiano-accompanied Gott is mein Hirt.
CHRIS WOOD: NONE THE WISER
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What happens when one of England’s premier singer-songwriters starts gigging with Hamish Stewart of the Average White Band? He records his latest album using an old Epiphone electric guitar, accompanied by grainy tones of Hammond organ, as well as bass, piano and occasional flugelhorn.
A pithy and compassionate commentator on social iniquity, Wood turns his trenchant, if here morose-sounding, muse on the evils of the age, as in the title track, which bounces along in almost country-ish style. Others, such as A Whole Life Lived or the baleful collision between mid-life angst and recession, Thou Shalt, maintain a brooding tone, as opposed to the fine, lyrical indignation of, say, his Trespasser album.
He delivers William Blake’s Jerusalem as a world-weary questioning rather than as an anthem, and brings tenderness to John Clare’s heartbreaking I Am, while the guarded optimism of The Wolfless Years fades into a gurgle of Hammond that would do Procol Harum proud.
REUBEN FOWLER: BETWEEN SHADOWS
EDITION RECORDS, £15.99
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A very ambitious debut from the young British trumpeter, who won the Kenny Wheeler Music Prize last year. Fowler is heard on trumpet and flugelhorn with a big band playing his intricately wrought compositions, while the trumpet associations extend to having Guy Barker on board as conductor and Tom Harrell as a guest soloist, alongside saxophonist Stan Sulzmann and vibist Jim Hart. Fowler’s writing and arranging is subtle and attractive, with palpable echoes of the large ensemble approach associated with Kenny Wheeler and Gil Evans. The centrepiece of the disc is the five-part Between Shadows, which skilfully incorporates an arrangement of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. In addition to the guests already mentioned, the ensemble features many of Fowler’s contemporaries at the Royal Academy of Music, including saxophonist Joe Wright, a former Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year.
THE ROUGH GUIDE TO AFRICAN MUSIC FOR CHILDREN
ROUGH GUIDES, £9.99
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If there’s one thing which Rough Guides do superbly well, it’s drawing together strands from a wide variety of sources to create a lovely tissue of words and music. If you don’t listen to your parents is the title of one of songs from the Congo; in Brotherhood Vieux, Farka Toure sings about the importance of mutual help. We get gentle drumming and call-and-response from many different countries, and typically charming numbers from the Malagasy maestro Lala Njava and that imperishable blind husband-and-wife duo Amadou et Mariam. The bonus CD is by the Italian-Somali singer Saba.