The rise and fall of mining in Wales gets the PSB treatment, while Jah Wobble is still the ace of bass
Public Service Broadcasting: Every Valley PIAS ***
Peter Perrett: How the West Was Won Domino ***
Jah Wobble & the Invaders of the Heart: The Usual Suspects 3Ms Music ****
The Primevals: Dislocation Triple Wide ****
London band Public Service Broadcasting have been one of the lesser sung but pleasantly surprising success stories of the last few years, capturing the imagination with their astute sampling of public information audio-visuals over atmospheric Krautrock-inspired instrumentals.
Their Race for Space show, built around archive NASA films, was the hit of the recent Edinburgh International Science Festival but now they return to earth quite emphatically, turning their attention to the rise and fall of the Welsh mining industry on Every Valley.
This local story with global resonance was recorded in the former miners’ institute in Ebbw Vale and features interview material from erstwhile miners, a smattering of colliery brass and male voice choirs. But PSB don’t lay the cultural references or implicit warnings from history on too thick.
Each track presents a snapshot of a different facet of mining society. The opening title track builds to a shimmering orchestral fanfare as the sampled dulcet tones of Richard Burton outline the perceived nobility of the profession to the young boys of South Wales, while the cut-glass tones of post-war broadcasters document the perils of the trade over the foreboding soundtrack of The Pit.
Singing voices are threaded through the spoken word snippets. Camera Obscura frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell adds some songbird texture to the steady motorik momentum of Progress. Turn No More is rocker with muffled vocals from Manic Street Preachers’ frontman James Dean Bradfield, who grew up through the miners’ strike.
They Gave Me A Lamp concerns the political awakening of the miners’ wives, while Mother of the Village is a thoughtful, aching post-mortem. It’s sadly too easy to apply the benefit of hindsight to the over-optimistic predictions of career opportunities in People Will Always Need Coal, arguably the most poignant moment on this empathetic album.
London new wavers The Only Ones will always have a place on the indie disco dancefloor with their classic Another Girl, Another Planet. Apart from the occasional reunion gig, frontman Peter Perrett has been resting his characteristic drawl for the past 20 years, but now he has mustered his sons Jamie and Peter Jr to record this debut solo album. How the West Was Won is typically low-slung, lo-fi, spontaneous rock’n’roll which doesn’t care what you make of it. One minute Perrett is crushing lustfully on Kim Kardashian, the next he is sounding pathetically lovelorn on C Voyeurger.
Ace bassist Jah Wobble is a self-educated maestro. He uses this latest iteration of his Invaders of the Heart band to revisit and retool his back pages on The Usual Suspects, which includes a space dub rendition of Public Image, a scurrying electro jazz take on Socialist and acid funk wigout Fodderstompf from his PIL days, plus suitably cinematic covers of the Midnight Cowboy and Get Carter themes and a version of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain which takes a deconstructed approach to its signature bass solo.
The latest album from The Primevals will come as no surprise to followers of this veteran Glasgow garage outfit. Dislocation is dedicated to the late Radio Scotland producer Stewart Cruickshank, who would have loved its effectively marshalled blend of righteous, revved-up rhythm’n’blues and snake-hipped garage punk. Elsewhere, they mine the soulful blues on Let It Happen – and you’ve got to love a track called East Campbell Street Breakdown.
From Vienna: London Conchord Ensemble Champs Hill Records ****
Of the two lovely CDs on this double Viennese disc, the second stands out as something special. The music is more recent, from Johan Strauss II to Schoenberg and Berg, and the playing by various combinations of the London Conchord Ensemble is at its most inspired.
There’s radiance and lustre in Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No 1, hotly passionate with a momentum that overrides the encroaching dissonant style; true Brahmsian warmth in Zemlinsky’s D minor Trio for clarinet, (the SCO’s Maximiliano Martin), cello and piano; glowing mystique in the Adagio from Berg’s Chamber Concerto, stratospherically so in the closing moments; and some Viennese crinoline to finish up with in Strauss’ Emperor Waltz. The two Mozart Quintets and Clarinet Trio on the first disc are loving, languid and leisurely, but with every one of them in the key of E flat major, an eventual sense of tonal weariness sets in.
Tommy Smith: Embodying the Light Spartacus Records *****
Subtitled “A Dedication to John Coltrane”, this album sees the renowned Scots tenor saxophonist salute the jazz giant who first inspired him, marking the 50th anniversaries of his own birth and Coltrane’s death.
From the first notes of the opener, Smith’s own Transformation, his sax establishes a magisterial tone and a dynamic entirely appropriate. The rest of his new quartet – pianist Pete Johnstone, bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer Sebastiaan de Krom – match him for drive and responsiveness. Smith’s title track bounces along, and among Coltrane classics there’s sublime drift to Dear Lord and Naima, while the quartet make Resolution from A Love Supreme electrifyingly their own with sax and piano ranging fiercely. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, meanwhile, is an ensemble triumph. Far removed from slavish recreation, this elegant homage is an outstanding achievement in its own right.