We review the best new music releases
Meursault: Something for the Weakened
Song, By Toad, £13.99 ****
AS if the masterful punnery of the title wasn’t enough reason to buy it, rest assured that this album represents another of Edinburgh’s finest musicians riding the crest of a significant wave of inspiration. From the folky mandolin strum of opener Thumb, its uncertain mantra of “we will not be weakened anymore” in contradiction to the fragility of the music, to the tear-streaked lament of Lament For a Teenage Millionaire and the slowed-down anthemics of Hole, like Idlewild wading through a debilitating sadness, singer and songwriter Neil Pennycook has created a record of overwhelming, hopeful tenderness.
Gun: Break the Silence
*** “YOU know they got a brand new sound, and they’re kickin’ it all over this town,” hollers Dante Gizzi amid this, Glasgow bunch Gun’s first studio album since 1997.
He is in no way talking about his own band, who sound as if they’ve been beamed straight in from the heady days of 1986, but that’s not a criticism. Through the strident opener Butcher Man, the breakneck 14 Stations and the mournful balladry of How Many Roads, Gizzi, his guitarist brother Jools and the rest of the band provide a slick approximation of Thin Lizzy’s good-time rock‘n’roll and Guns N’ Roses’ sandpaper-voiced arena fillers.
The Moulettes: The Bear’s Revenge
Balling The Jack Records, £11.99
A MODERN folk group with a rich and varied history as session players, the Moulettes’ original line-up included Ted Dwane and Rob Skipper, later of Mumford & Sons and Camden indie-rockers the Holloways, respectively.
The current incarnation leans heavily towards the style of the former, though, as this second album – co-recorded by Dwane – delves into European gypsy folk on Revenge of the Bear, Unthanks-style acoustic balladry on Songbird and a hint of Sandy Denny on the mournful, low-key Half-Remembered Song. There’s also an appearance by Liz Green on the closing Blood and Thunder, setting off a collection which is proficient, if a little more trad than many contemporaries.
Le Vent Du Nord: Tromper Le Temps
Borealis Records, £12.99
THE seventh album from the widely popular Québécois band finds no sign of them flagging in this, their tenth year. The title translates as “cheating time” and they certainly give tempo a run for its money, delivering contemporary and traditional material with infectious zest, accompanied by fiddle, guitar, accordion and hurdy-gurdy.
The opening Lettre à Durham sets the tone, a gentle melodic prelude giving way to those relentlessly clogging feet and driving guitar as the pace hots up behind Nicolas Boulerice’s urgent vocals.
There is some lusty call-and-response singing in numbers such as the stomping environmental protest of Le Diable et le Fermier and Le Cœur de ma Mère (a version of the French poem which inspired Hamish Henderson’s Ballad of the Speaking Heart), as well as zesty instrumentals such as the Jew’s harp buzz of Le Winnebago and the jaunty reel Manteau d’Hiver.
John Surman: Saltash Bells
ECM Records, £12.99
SOLO recording projects are studded throughout the English saxophonist’s voluminous output, but it is the best part of two decades since the last one, and this is a very welcome addition.
While Surman is the only musician involved, he performs on plenty of instruments: six horns (soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones, and alto, bass and contrabass clarinet), a bit of harmonica, and of course, the synthesiser which allows him to create richly textured, atmospheric settings for the wind instruments.
It is a context guaranteed to bring out the most lyrical melodic vein of his music, and this is no exception. His folk-inflected, often multi-tracked horn lines, inspired once again by memories of his native Devon, flow in elegant and beguiling fashion on every composition, and nowhere more effectively than in the two longest and most intricate creations - Sailing Westwards, and the evocative title track. KENNY MATHIESON
Keyvan Chemirani: Melos
Accords croises, £13.99
THE map on the cover of this CD makes its intention plain: this will be a voyage of musical discovery around the whole coast of the Mediterranean. And as its Iranian-extracted (but French-trained) leader, the percussionist Keyvan Chemirani makes clear at the outset, it’s not going to be the musical equivalent of merely adding a bit more olive oil here and there.
His Rythme de la parole albums have long blazed a trail though the Middle-Eastern musical landscape, and this time he has chosen excellent companions: the singer Dorsaf Hamdani, the guitarist Juan Carmona, the saz and lauta-player Periklis Papapetropoulos, the Moroccan qanun-player Mohamed Rochdi Mfarredj, and that brilliant ethnomusicological trio from Thessaloniki, the En Chordais ensemble.
And with Chemirami’s original themes bolstering an already rich array of influences, they have cooked this whole thing up in Djerba. After a musically polyglot overture, they get down to business with a song of exile marrying the experience of women in Greece and Tunisia whose husbands have set sail for the New World: as Dorsaf Hamdani sings it in her deep contralto – led by solo oud accompaniment – this has a restrained plangency.
Then she and Carmona mingle their sounds – Tunisian and flamenco – in a bewitching sequence of lullabies. Next comes an improvisation led by Chemirani which brings in percussion, violins, and qanun, followed by a homage to the Tangiers group Ibn Arabi in which the traditional Sufi benediction – “La illa illahi Allah” (There is no god but God) – is set to a 12-beat flamenco rhythm, with gently hypnotic effect. The baton of benediction is then passed to Armenia, and then in turn to Turkey, Tunisia, and Greece again, before climaxing with a triumphantly international pot pourri infused with Rajasthan’s answer to American jazz’s scat. Bravo. MICHAEL CHURCH
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