ELLIOT Gleave, aka average rapper-turned-mediocre singer Example, has made his name on the back of the ubiquitous rave pop explosion of the past few years (thank you, Calvin Harris, for that) and some energetic, committed and galvanising live shows.
Example: Live Life Living
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But now he has tired of prevailing dancefloor trends, gone cold turkey on the “featuring” collaborations (while retaining some of the rapping) and instead derived inspiration for his fifth album from the dance music sub-genres which dominated the 1990s, referencing everything from euphoric house music to the big beat sounds of Fatboy Slim and The Chemical Brothers.
Live Life Living is intended as a summer soundtrack celebrating the untrammelled party culture of the days when the indie and clubbing tribes came together and the likes of Orbital and Underworld ruled the festivals, but it falls some way short of the inherent musicality of those all-conquering dance duos.
Instead, there is a disconnect between subject matter and execution. Gleave adopts his best Gallagher delivery on Next Year, a meat-and-potatoes opening gambit which even Kasabian might reject as too stodgy, in an attempt to convey the buzz of a big weekend get-together.
Only Human and Ten Million People address the implicit acceptance and unity of the rave, the latter lifting its hookline “shut us down and we’ll move to another town” from a documentary about the early rave scene.
Tellingly, the entire album sounds like the work of someone who has studied the era rather than felt it first-hand, grafting on piano house breakdowns and the like rather than bottling the natural euphoric feel of the music.
Matters improve once the functional house tracks inspired by his girlfriend are out of the way. Former single All The Wrong Places taps into the hectic techno of acid ravers
Altern-8 and the tunes get harder in the home straight. Take Me As I Am emulates the industrial techno of The Prodigy, while At Night contrasts a ravey top line with a tougher techno underbelly.
By this point, Gleave is comfortable enough in his mission to pull out the pan pipes – the quintessential musical accessory on many a 90s chillout compilation – on Longest Goodbye, a baggy shuffle of a track penned in tribute to a late friend. Credit to Example for changing his tune – but Klaxons channel this era far more intuitively on their new album.
Peter Frampton: Hummingbird In A Box
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The veteran guitar god returns with a brief but satisfying dispatch of material composed for a collaboration with the Cincinnati Ballet. Hummingbird In A Box also works as a showreel for Frampton’s omnivorous musical style. In half an hour he covers the waterfront from mellow, burnished blues to rhythmic jazzy picking, from a hefty blues rock instrumental to a brooding apocalyptic rocker.
As the mood swings again, from heartfelt George Harrison-esque ballad Heart To My Chest to a light, playful acoustic blues shuffle called Norman Wisdom, Frampton’s careworn voice – underappreciated even by the man himself – provides the emotional glue.
Strand Of Oaks: Heal
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This latest release from Philadelphia songwriter Tim Showalter was born of personal and artistic crisis and it shows in the instinctive, cathartic outpouring of style and substance. Garagey opener Goshen 97 references his upbringing in Goshen, Indiana, with guest J Mascis putting his stamp on the guitar sound, but Showalter takes the wheel from here for an unfettered ride through melodic power rock territory with an electronic thrust and towering drumming. He lets it all hang out on Mirage Year, but also applies a touch of The Black Keys’ sleek glam blues on For Me. A potential life-saver of an album, and not just for Showalter.
Prokofiev Violin Sonatas & Five Melodies
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There is something deeply disturbing, and at the same time uplifting, in the violin music of Sergei Prokofiev. Such extremes are encapsulated in this captivating recording of both Violin Sonatas and the Five Melodies by Russian pianist Alina Ibragimova and Scots pianist Steven Osborne. Their reading of the F minor Violin Sonata combines angst-ridden weight with vigorous spirit and blissful moments of timeless beauty.
The Five Melodies offer a deliciously poetic and nuanced transition to the brighter skies of the Sonata No 2, a work transcribed from the Flute Sonata, which this duo present with radiant self-assurance.
Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar: The Call
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The Call is an impressively seasoned-sounding second album from the Cheshire duo who have won both Young and Horizon categories in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards over the past couple of years. Russell sings with melodious clarity and a maturity that belies his years, as exemplified by his rendition of Royal Comrade, finely accompanied by backing vocals from Algar and Elly Lucas, or the social indictment of Mick Ryan’s The Workhouse. Other resonant contemporary material includes James Keelaghan’s poignant Cold Missouri Waters.
The accompaniments on guitar, bouzouki, fiddle and concertina frame the songs with unobtrusive craft and Algar’s fiddle is at its best on the airs Absent Friends and Miss Rowan Davies. Scots musician Jeana Leslie contributes piano to the epic Rose in June. Replete with drama and religious fervour, it is recounted by Russell with riveting articulacy and feeling.
Kevin MacKenzie and Steve Hamilton: Midnight Without You
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Laundry Room Music
Guitarist Kevin MacKenzie’s long-standing fascination with jazz’s rich tradition of guitar and piano duets is combined with a love of the songs of The Blue Nile in this project from two of Scotland’s leading jazz musicians. MacKenzie’s thoughtful instrumental arrangements of Paul Buchanan’s subtly crafted creations prove highly conducive to the process, retaining the authentic feel of the originals while opening out to inventive expansion from both players. The guitarist has chosen four songs from The Blue Nile’s second album, Hats, and two each from their debut, Walk Across The Rooftops, and the later unofficial compilation, Birthday Cards and Silent Music. Producer Calum Malcolm provides a direct link with the band, while the duo setting and their measured approach emphasises the elegance and intimacy in the music.
Music of the Santal Tribe: Field recordings by Deben Bhattacharya
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With most of the ethnographic record labels having given up the ghost, it’s very encouraging that ARC Music should be moving into the business of field recordings. Deben Bhattacharya documented the music and dance of the Santal tribe – dwelling in the forested areas of India’s West Bengal – in the mid-20th century, and the tracks on this CD are the result. Since they had no written alphabet, music and dance were the means by which they preserved their culture; the songs here include laments and religious chants, and dances for harvesting.