Album reviews: JLS | Twin Shadow | Classical | Jazz | Folk | World
POP JLS: OUTTA THIS WORLD EPIC, £12.99 **
THE Club is Alive, the first single from this second album by the X-Factor's 2008 runners-up, was propelled to No 1 earlier this summer by a lyric which incongruously riffs on Julie Andrews, but that's about as inventive as it gets here. Otherwise this is a functional collection of second division commercial house tracks like the Calvin Harris-alike Eyes Wide Shut, big-room R&B clones such as Work and saccharine radio-fodder ballads in Better for You and Love at War. It'll doubtless be momentarily huge but, typically of such offerings, the guy on the Auto-Tune desk deserves the heftiest share of the profits.
TWIN SHADOW: FORGET
4AD, 11.99 ****
THIS debut album, the work of New York-based producer and vocalist George Lewis Jr, is rich in callbacks to the electronic pop sound of the 1980s. There's a luxurious warmth to Lewis Jr's strangely northern English vocal and a consistency to his production which makes for a measured and satisfying listen.
At times the record really does soar, for example as When We're Dancing adopts the skinny-microphone sway of Let's Dance-era Bowie, Slow recalls an unholy cross between Morrissey and ABC, and For Now revels in Latin rhythms and a dreamy disco gloss which could have come from Nile Rodgers' own mixing desk. The lo-fi Prince has surely arrived.
Ravel: Daphnis et Chlo/ Bolro/Pavane pour une infante dfunte
LSO Live, 8.99 ****
THERE'S nothing like a large dollop of Ravel to heat up a cold winter's night, and this new LSO Live release has it in spades. The main work – the ravishing ballet Daphnis et Chlo – gets the full wistful treatment from conductor Valery Gergiev, who allows every golden moment to emerge with delicious piquancy and crystalline clarity. A few minor blips in solo passages are passing niggles, but in combination with the delicate Pavane pour une infante dfunte and the irrepressible Bolro, Gergiev and the LSO (and the London Symphony Chorus) serve up a steaming dish. KENNETH WALTON
Cassandra Wilson: Silver Pony
Blue Note Records, 12.99 ****
UNUSUALLY for a singer's record, Cassandra Wilson doesn't hog the spotlight here – there is a real feel of group interaction with her regular quintet.
The disc was partly recorded live in Europe and partly in a New Orleans studio, and a lot of the singer's trademarks are here, including favouring the deep register of her voice, singing softly over scurrying percussion, and shaping the repertoire into her own unique configurations. Songs include the jazz standard Lover Come Back To Me, two classic blues in St James Infirmary and Charley Patton's Pony Blues, and Lennon & McCartney's Blackbird.
The title track is a brief 30-second improvisation, but the substantial new material is found in the combination of A Night In Seville and Silver Moon, both credited to the singer and band as co-composers. Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and singer/pianist John Legend make guest appearances. KENNY MATHIESON
MATHEU WATSON: MATHEU WATSON
SEER RECORDS, 12.99 ****
HAVING honed his skills accompanying the likes of piping ace Fred Morrison, Matheu Watson, a product of the Fis Rois hotbed of youthful music-making, has pulled off a barnstormer of a debut album, personally playing all manner of strings, including fiddle, guitars, banjo, mandolin and bouzouki.
He also recruits some first rate fellow instrumentalists in the form of piper Ali Hutton, Irish button accordionist Sean g Graham, bodhran ace Martin O'Neill and others.
Mainly consisting of his own material, this is a joyfully bustling but uncluttered and tightly controlled-sounding celebration of ensemble work – particularly when all these fiercely fretting strings are joined by Hutton's light and limber piping, as in the musical acrobatics of the Picnic set.
There are some Continental incursions, such as the inexorable advance of the Breton-accented The Doctor's Daughter, and also moments of stillness, as in the languidly hanging resonance of the guitar air Glencalvie. JIM GILCHRIST
Huun Huur Tu: Ancestors Call
World Village, 13.99 ****
"MY HERD roaming on the hill – is it there? Are you words joking or serious, my love? I don't understand." This group may now be global superstars, but the way they open their new CD couldn't be more sweetly authentic. The soloist delivers a simple melody while the rest of the group provide a soft drone – it's a couple of minutes before we get a hint of the throat-singing which is their trademark sound. The second track plunges us into their infectiously warm instrumentalism – low plucked sounds plus a drum – while the throat-singing drops an octave.
Some of the songs – for example The Orphan's Lament – have a gorgeous backing of smoothly-bowed strings. The rhythms are all horseback stuff – trotting, cantering, galloping – as befits the land which inspires this music, once the Soviet republic of Tuva, now the Tuva Republic within the Russian Federation and still the home of nomads for whom mountains, rivers, and trees all have their own spirits, and who all mystically "sing". The many varieties of throat music they produce allow them to evoke everything that animates their surroundings.
We hear a lot about "trance" music, but Huun Huur Tu's really is that thing. What's particularly nice about their career is the way they have not immured themselves in the traditions of their past, even though their star singer learned his art while sitting on the back of his grandfather's horse and feeling the vibrations of his singing pass through his body.
They have drawn in Western chamber-players to lay a Philip Glass-style carpet of sound below their chants, and they have investigated the potential of electronica while in no way letting that submerge their own sound. The ancestral music is being remade, but it's still superbly itself. MICHAEL CHURCH
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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