If their previous album Postcards From A Young Man was their “one last shot at mass communication”, then presumably Rewind The Film is the Manic Street Preachers liberated from commercial concerns and afforded the luxury of pleasing themselves as they enter what they have modestly dubbed “the last great phase of the Manic Street Preachers”.
MANIC STREET PREACHERS: REWIND THE FILM
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This possible endgame manifests as two albums which the trio worked on simultaneously.
Futurology, to be released next year, is the spiky, Krautrock-influenced electric album which the band have likened to a fortysomething version of their 1994 release The Holy Bible, while Rewind The Film is a largely acoustic, introspective affair.
Singer James Dean Bradfield, below, has been quick to caution that this is not “Campfire Street Preachers”. Unlike the Mumfords-inspired blah folk pop infestation of the charts, the Manics make intelligent use of folk influences, from Cate Le Bon’s and Lucy Rose’s fragrant vocal contributions to the slightly unearthly Krautfolk blend on (I Miss the) Tokyo Skyline and Manorbier. These more esoteric moments contrast with a couple of full-blooded productions such as the belligerently upbeat single Show Me The Wonder and the rousing Anthem For A Lost Cause, which only really represent the rest of the album in their fluent use of horns.
The title track is an elegant and powerful gem hewn from prog folk guitar, swooning strings and guest vocalist Richard Hawley’s creamy croon, all subtlety in contrast to Bradfield’s lusty bellow. As Holy As The Soil (That Buries Your Skin), featuring bassist Nicky Wire on vocals, is a love song to lost ones, his old sparring partner Richey Edwards especially, with a straightforward, heart-on-sleeve lyric – “I love you so, won’t you please come home” – while they dig deep on the mighty 3 Ways To See Despair, a three-minute epic inspired by the death of Stuart Adamson.
Rewind The Film may begin on a note of weary resignation – “time to surrender, time to move on” – but it ends by kicking over the statues. 30-Year War is the Manics in eloquent attack mode, censuring the long arm of Margaret Thatcher through the miners’ strike and Hillsborough to the present day with its “endless parade of old Etonian scum… I ask you again what is to be done?” Like veteran campaigners on the verge of retirement, but with no obvious capable successors, the Manics have stepped up to the plate once again. They love it.
KATIE MELUA: KETEVAN
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Six albums and ten years into her civilised pop career, Katie Melua is still releasing music redolent of a wet afternoon spent sitting in a window seat contemplating the raindrops on the pane while nibbling delicately on a toasted muffin. But that’s OK, rock’n’roll’s not for everyone. This self-titled album – Ketevan is her Georgian birth name – is as far from arduous as it is from exciting, though Melua does flirt politely with jazz and blues respectively on Love Is A Silent Thief and Shiver And Shake and primly delivers a hint of posh naughtiness on Chase Me.
ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ROOTS: WISE UP GHOST
BLUE NOTE, £15.99
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Elvis Costello has described this album as simply what happened when his sound was married to that of respected Philly hip-hop crew the Roots. There’s no arguing with that. The melodies are clearly Costello’s – simultaneously unexpected and familiar – and the Roots’ brooding yet funky backing makes exquisite use of their enviable brass section and some luscious string arrangements. Cinco Minutos Con Vos, a sultry duet with La Marisoul of LA band La Santa Cecilia, has the integrity of Ry Cooder’s best collaborative work, while the title track is the kind of brewing storm that Curtis Mayfield or Gil Scott Heron, had they still been with us, would have been proud to put their names to.
Kakujo Iwasa and Kakuryu Saito: Tsuruta School
This music is both rare and rarefied, and it’s remarkable that a record company should dare to release it – but Ocora are now almost the last serious ethnomusicological label still functioning. You might think that a human voice with the sparest accompaniment on a five-string lute would not hold the listener’s attention for over an hour, but it does, with these two singers in decorous alternation – a tribute to the power of the Japanese Satsuma Biwa tradition, which goes back to the 16th century. It’s all epic battles and heroic farewells.
SONS OF KEMET: BURN
NAIM JAZZ RECORDS, £13.99
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Sons of Kemet push the boundaries of genre convention on the UK jazz scene using saxophone, tuba and two drummers. The saxophonist, Shabaka Hutchings, is also the band’s composer, on this debut recording at least, having written everything other than their off-the-wall cover of Rivers of Babylon. He is joined by Oren Marshall on tuba, and the formidable twin drum attack of Seb Rochford and Tom Skinner (guitarist Dave Okumu is added as a guest on a couple of tracks). The music references a kaleidoscope of influences, from African, Caribbean and Eastern sources to free jazz and contemporary dance. The clangorous, rhythm-driven results are sometimes squally but often lyrical, always powerful and at times as incendiary as the title implies.
ROSS AINSLIE: WIDE OPEN
GREAT WHITE RECORDS, web only
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Ross Ainslie is one of the younger generation of Scottish pipers, well known for his collaborations with Irish piper Jarlath Henderson, Salsa Celtica, the Treacherous Orchestra and much else. This album is as eclectic sounding as one might expect, with Ainslie’s fluid playing on Highland and Border pipes and whistles, as well as cittern and mandolin, accompanied by the likes of Ali Hutton on guitars, Duncan Lyon on double bass, Angus Lyon on accordion and James Mackintosh on drums. I find the drumming a bit weighty at times in contrast to the lithe nature of the music. There’s plenty of colour and excitement, however, as in the Rum set, which opens with a dramatic drift of strings and accordion, while Not Again has a hypnotic, Shooglenifty-esque string drive. In contrast, a haunting, Breton-style air opens Clans while in The Otter’s Pocket, a nimble pipe reel sounds over the rattle of Gyan Singh’s tabla.
Maximiliano Martin & Julian Milford: Brahms CLARINET Sonatas & Gade Fantasy Pieces
CHAMPS HILL RECORDS, £11.99
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Brahms’ music for clarinet came late in his life, thanks to the influence of Richard Mühlfeld, a clarinettist notable for the sensitivity and expressive range of his playing. It takes such qualities to do justice to the delicate shades, the deliciously protracted melodies, even the surging energy of the two sonatas, as Scottish Chamber Orchestra principal clarinet, Maximiliano Martin, demonstrates in this new recording with pianist Julian Milford. The F minor Sonata is ripe with liquid, effortless phrasing, Martin digging deep into its inner warmth without eschewing the joyousness of the finale. Niels Gade’s Fantasy Pieces offer a moment of innocent tunefulness before the all-consuming drama of Brahms’ E flat Sonata. Martin and Milford are a fully compatible double act.