Album reviews: Clinic | Magnetic Man | Classical | Jazz | Folk | World
POP Clinic: Bubblegum Domino, £11.99 ****
AFTER more than a decade of ostensibly releasing the same spare, thrilling album over and over again, singular Merseybeat combo Clinic have chosen to change their tune from the menacing, urgent, claustrophobic, hypnotic, lo-fi psychedelic garage blueprint to a practically pastoral reverie of a record, albeit one still graced by Ade Blackburn's distinctive deadpan drone. Their languid summery sixth album Bubblegum positively loiters at 40 minutes in length but it's as cohesive yet idiosyncratic as anything in their back catalogue as they experiment with warm wah-wah effects and fuzzy guitar on the title track, hammer dulcimer on the mournful Another Way Of Giving and even – zounds! - an acoustic guitar on Linda.
Magnetic Man: Magnetic Man
Columbia, 10.99 ***
PREPARE for the Sound of the Future as handed down by dubstep oracle Artwork and his two young protgs Benga and Skream. Actually, Magnetic Man's much anticipated debut album doesn't quite pan out that way, opening with a chiming oriental instrumental, regressing through some 1990s drum'n'bass – Perfect Stranger could be this generation's Inner City Life, so derivative is it of Goldie's calling card – to the panoramic synth soundtracks of Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis. Magnetic Man is an album which aspires to life outside a dance subgenre and could indeed make it as far as the nation's coffee tables and dinner parties. But at least it's not more custom-made Radio 1 pap.
Steve Reich: Double Sextet & 2x5
Nonesuch, 12.99 ***
WITH Glasgow set to go crazy for minimalism this weekend thanks to the Minimal festival, here's a pleasant way to get into the mood, with two relatively new works by Steve Reich. Double Sextet, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner, is performed by its commissioning ensemble, eighth blackbird, and requires the group to play simultaneously against a recording of themselves. The effect is to colour Reich's tantalising rhythmic repetitions with luscious overtones and an exuberant energy. In many ways, 2x5 is much more of the same, except for a rock-styled instrumentation entirely suited to Bang on the Can, who premiered it last year in a Manchester velodrome. Nothing new from Reich, other than a consummate continuation of his chattering, highly distinctive style.
Loose Tubes: Dancing On Frith Street
Lost Marble, 12.99 ****
A BELATED blast from the anarchic big band, featuring previously unreleased live recordings from their final week of gigs at Ronnie Scott's in December 1990. Given this hugely influential band only made three albums that are now hard to find, this is a valuable addition, and the artwork echoes the typography and design of their eponymous 1985 debut. The music captures the irreverent energy and exuberance of their live work, and reflects the colourful mix of musical influences fermenting on the London jazz scene of the time, combining an (occasionally satirical) awareness of jazz traditions with South African influences on Django Bates' Yellow Hill, ska on Eddie Parker's Last Word, and hints of Weather Report on Bates' Godbucket, while Chris Batchelor's Village touches multiple bases. The sound recording is functional rather than state-of-the-art, but vividly captures a vibrant moment in British jazz. KENNY MATHIESON
Heidi Talbot: The Last Star
Navigator Records, 12.99 ***
THE Edinburgh-based Kildare songstress Heidi Talbot's delicately lilting tones provide an appealing if slightly uniform-sounding follow-up to her debut solo album, In Love + Light, of two years ago. She gives a poised account of the opening Willie Taylor, and can be charming, as in the beguiling waltz-time of Tell Me True, one of several she co-wrote with her partner, and the record's producer, multi-instrumentalist John McCusker. It's impeccably produced too, with guests such as Eddi Reader, Karine Polwart, Kris Drever and Boo Hewardine contributing tight and unobtrusive settings. There is, however, a certain insistent winsomeness to it all, in numbers such as the title track, which she shares with Reader, or even in relatively more up-tempo offerings such as Baker Street. Her rendering of the achingly wistful Bantry Girl's Lament is beautiful in anyone's book, but there were times when I would have welcomed a leavening of more muscular emotional power.JIM GILCHRIST
WCD, 12.99 ****
ON 2 DECEMBER, the musicians on this CD will be appearing at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, but their record is just out, and the tale it reflects is fascinating. This confluence of African and Cuban musicians had been scheduled to take place in 1996: led by the great guitarist Djelimady Tounkara, a group of top-rank Malian musicians were due to fly to Havana for an exploratory collaboration with some of Cuba's most brilliant singers and instrumentalists. But – for reasons which still remain hazy – they never took off. Desperate not to waste the expensive studio time he had booked, the British producer Nick Gold rummaged around for some other way of filling the gap, and thus was born Buena Vista Social Club, and the rest of the BVSC story is a fairy tale come true.
It was a disaster for Djelimady, but gradually he made his way into the European limelight through support from discerning critics plus his rock-solid talent, and here he is now, accompanied by kora-king Toumani Diabate, griot singer Kasse Mady Diabate, and balafon (wooden xylophone) virtuoso Lassana Diabate. The sessions from which this CD sprang took place in Madrid without any rehearsals, and the language and culture barriers between the Malians and their opposite numbers in guitarist Eliades Ochoa's Grupo Patria were considerable. But the results are stunning.
My favourite song is a countryside "guajira" called Al vaiven de mi carreta ("The swaying of my cart") – whose leisurely pace allows Eliades and Kassy Mady to take turns doing the vocals, creating a musical mix which reflects the crazy path by which the two countries' musics came to blend to together. Kasse spent the 1970s singing with a Malian band who had been sent to train in Cuba, and who found on returning home that their new government was insisting that they played "pure" Malian music: hence this beguiling melange. Djelimady's exuberant guitar riffs soar and swoop; the balafon dazzles.
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