OUR music critics give their verdict on the latest CD releases
Micachu & The Shapes: Never
ROUGH TRADE, £11.99*
MICA Levi’s brief but impressive CV includes a collaboration with the London Sinfonietta using homemade instruments, and her current role as artist-in-residence at London’s Southbank Centre. Not for her the Calvin Harris remix. Her second album release as Micachu & the Shapes is not dissimilar to Martin Creed’s recent scrappy but intriguing offering. Never is pithy, inventive and instinctive although its quickfire succession of brief, lo-fi tracks leaves a fragmentary impression. Still, there are hooks to hang on to along the way, such as the insistent industrial buzzing of Low Dogg or the hectic, exhilarating garage pummel of Nowhere.
Passion Pit: Gossamer
THE sound and bearing of this second Passion Pit album is so giddy and irrepressible that it’s hard to credit that mainman Michael Angelakos wrestled with writer’s block while producing such seemingly effortless electro pop ecstasy.
Gossamer is as sugar-spun as its title, layering on perky synthesizer refrains and reedy, chipmunk vocals. But though it sounds unashamedly synthetic, the melodies are irresistible and the self-recriminating angst runs deep. Love Is Greed presents a furrowed brow lyric with the effervescent innocence of The Osmonds or Alessi Brothers, while the trilling analogue arpeggios of Where We Belong give way to a relatively organic torch ballad. This is bubblegum which doesn’t lose its flavour.
Kelly Hogan: I Like To Keep Myself In Pain
ATLANTA-born singer and sometime Neko Case bandmate Kelly Hogan has one of the most instantly appealing country voices I’ve heard in some time, combining natural warmth with soulful grit. There are plenty of her contemporaries who feel the same way, with the likes of M Ward, Robyn Hitchcock, Andrew Bird and The Handsome Family queuing up to provide songs for her latest album, and Stax legend Booker T Jones providing his usual class on keys. The material is never less than palatable, though some songs don’t do justice to her voice, and Hogan is better served when exercising her softer tones on the sultry easy listening of Daddy’s Little Girl or getting stuck into the blues of Pass On By.
Mike Stern: All Over The Place
HEADS UP, £12.99
American guitarist Mike Stern has covered a lot of stylistic ground since emerging to wide notice with Miles Davis in the early 1980s, and fans will be well used to the kind of diversity evident on this latest outing. Aided and abetted by a range of stellar guests –including no fewer than eight different bass players as well as trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Bob Malach – Stern moves easily from blistering hard bop to jazz funk, elegant ballads to the colourful African-tinged Cameroon. His own playing on both electric and acoustic guitars is straight out of the top drawer, and his guests deliver with equal conviction. The stand-out tracks for me are Blues for Al and OCD, with a fabulous quintet featuring Garrett, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Al Foster, but there isn’t a weak offering on a consistently impressive disc.
Halton Quartet: Based On True Events
THIS is intriguing, busy, sometimes densely textured music. The Haltons emerged after fiddle and accordion duo Ruaridh Campbell and Angus Lyon, much acclaimed for their debut duo album 18 Months Later met up with Wingin’ It mandolin and guitar partnership Adam Bulley and Chas MacKenzie on a boat named the Halton during the 2007 Orkney Folk festival.
Influences range from Astor Piazzola to a cheeky Stevie Wonder reference, but they set their own stamp on things right away with the introductory Washington Square Park, with its darting fiddle and punchy chording, while the two-part Triger, commemorating a departed friend, progresses from melancholy guitar opening into to a transcendentally exuberant climax.
Elsewhere, the swirling strings of the closing Then and Now are ushered along by guests bassist James Lindsay and drummer Iain Sandilands, with MacKenzie’s electric guitar biting through the mix: engaging music from a modern string-and-reed quartet.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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