Album reviews: Pink Floyd | Foo Fighters | JS Bach

Pink Floyd's David Gilmour (left) and Roger Waters on stage. Picture: Getty

Pink Floyd's David Gilmour (left) and Roger Waters on stage. Picture: Getty

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CAREFUL with that wax, Eugene.

Pink Floyd: The Endless River

Parlophone

***

Careful with that wax, Eugene. This “new” Pink Floyd double album, so eagerly pre-ordered on Amazon, has in fact been finessed from more than 20 hours of material recorded during the 1993 sessions for The Division Bell by surviving Floyd members Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason (inset with Roger Waters) along with their chosen producers, Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, Youth and longterm collaborator Andy Jackson. It is, effectively, a 52-minute instrumental outtakes album arranged into four suites, one for each side of the vinyl release.

The Endless River, titled in reference to lyrics from High Hopes and early Floyd single See Emily Play, is intended to pay tribute to their late keyboard player Rick Wright and his stately synths. Wright was known to be fond of the material cut from The Division Bell.

A mid-Nineties edit existed, colloquially known as The Big Spliff, and as The Endless River begins to flow, a certain mellow mood prevails – that panoramic, pacific sound which launched a thousand club chillout compilations, yet is instantly recognisable as Pink Floyd when dappled with outbursts of Dave 
Gilmour’s precise, keening guitar.

Side two is enlivened by Gilmour’s guitar effects darting around Nick Mason’s jazz-world rhythms and an unexpected fussy saxophone and clarinet duet on Anisina, while side three is the most fragmented, with sonorous lounge piano piece The Lost Art Of Conversation flowing straight into the knowingly titled easy listening jazz funk track On Noodle Street.

There are some further surprises/treats along the way – not least a fragment of funereal organ recorded in the late 1960s and titled Autumn 68 in reference to the Wright-penned Summer 68 from Atom Heart Mother – before the album climaxes with a final starburst of galactic mood music.

The only vocals are the sampled words of Stephen Hawking (on Talkin’ Hawkin’ – a demo title if ever there was one) and the closing Louder Than Words, with lyrics by Gilmour’s wife, Polly Samson, who offers her insider perspective on intra-band relationships: “we bitch and we fight, diss each other on sight, but this thing we do… it’s louder than words”.

It’s hardly Pink Floyd’s most incisive moment, more a sleepy valedictory tribute to a signature sound which, like the rest of the album, is best accepted as an unexpected bonus rather than another panning shot in the long milky fadeout of the Floyd.

POP

Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways

***

Columbia

After 20 years at the top of the commercial rock pile, Foo Fighters likely deserve the indulgence of the Sonic Highways project, recording a song apiece in celebrated studios in eight different US cities – all of them identifiable with a fertile music scene whose style the band dutifully filters through their trademark prism of punky melodic power rock. Quite what mundane grunge rocker In The Clear has to say about the rich musical history of New Orleans is unclear, but that’s probably why they also took a camera crew along for the ride, filming a glossy eight-part HBO TV series as an analytical counterpoint to such gleeful messing with grassroots traditions.

Sound of Yell: Brocken Spectre

Chemikal Underground

***

Following years of collaboration with the likes of Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert, guitarist Stevie Jones takes centre stage on this tranquil but dynamic instrumental album, yet surprisingly doesn’t make a starring feature of his acoustic fingerstyle playing, preferring instead to direct an ensemble including Belle & Sebastian guitarist Stevie Jackson on harmonica, Alasdair Roberts on hurdy gurdy and Trembling Bells’ Alex Neilson on fluid drumming. Stylistically, Brocken Spectre roams contentedly between the lo-fi indie jazz of Sated Eyrie, the post-rock rhythms of Caiman and whimsical strings reminiscent of Bill Wells, with individual tracks like self-contained mini-mood suites. FIONA SHEPHERD

CLASSICAL

JS Bach: Das wohltemper-
Ierte Klavier

****

Linn

Any new recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier – the entire two books of 48 preludes and fugues – would have to have something special to distinguish it from all those that have gone before. John Butt’s new solo release on Linn is certainly one that makes you sit up surprised and stimulated. The characterisation he applies to these pieces is mostly revelatory, positively stylish, and only occasionally a little questionable, such as the highly affected rubato of the very first C major prelude. But when it comes to the likes of his bright, fresh perspective on the C sharp minor Prelude and Fugue of Book 1, or the French-like flamboyance of the same key Prelude in Book 2, Butt’s infectious interpretations are as dazzling as they are intellectually challenging. He approaches this mammoth, multi-flavoured collection as if it were a box of heavenly delights. KEN WALTON

JAZZ

Euan Burton: Too Much Love

****

Whirlwind Recordings

The Scottish bassist and composer has worked in various pop and folk contexts (most recently in Mike Vass’s fine Neil Gunn project) as well as jazz, and brings that breadth to the music he has written for this quartet drawn from the Glasgow scene, featuring alto saxophonist Adam Jackson, pianist Tom Gibbs and the mighty Alyn Cosker on drums. There is often a folk-like simplicity to Burton’s pleasing melodies. This project feels conceived as a whole – the compositions seem subtly interrelated within a broader, rather elegiac theme, but still with ample variation in individual mood and tempo. Pyrotechnics and flashy soloing are not what this music is about, although the playing and improvising is never less than fluent and inventive. The band conclude a short launch tour with performances in Edinburgh and Glasgow in the coming week. KENNY MATHIESON

FOLK

ELINOR EVANS: KALEIDOSCOPE

***

OWN LABEL

A graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and a winner of the Clarsach Society’s Young Composer Award, harpist Elinor Evans’s debut album is a melodious clutch of mainly her own tunes, accompanied on occasion by fiddler Sally Simpson and bassist Charlie Stewart. The title track is a swirling melody with the harpist joined by Simpson’s fiddle, which comes to the fore in a traditional jig pairing of Price of a Pig and Lisnagun, which fairly skips along. Gently meditative airs include The Sleeping Child and the cyclical Breton inflections of A Single Kiss. The exuberant Kwela Ceilidh claims to blend Scottish and African rhythms but slopes along with a distinctly Latin exuberance, while Evans’s involvement in The Archive Project, in which young musicians produced music inspired by the School of Scottish Studies archives, has resulted in a lively jig, Herding the Sheep. While occasionally needing a little more inventive spark, this debut promises much for the future. JIM GILCHRIST

WORLD

Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako

****

Sterns Africa

This summer the Malian singer Salif Keita and a group of old friends did a tour in Britain, the point being to prove that they could still deliver superb music, and also to recall the apogee of their fame in the Seventies. This double CD also does the latter, and how. Between 1975 and 1977 the Ambassadeurs took their art to a high degree of sophistication, drawing on styles ranging from Spanish to Cuban to Mississippi blues; on these tracks Salif Keita’s charismatic sound soars over everything. MICHAEL CHURCH

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