Our music critics give their verdict on this week’s album releases
One Little Indian, £11.99
Star rating: * * *
BJORK’S painstaking Biophilia album gets a second life with this curated compilation of some of the remixes she has commissioned over the past year from artists who intrigued her – Syrian singer Omar Souleyman, experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips, intense art rockers These New Puritans and Glasgow’s electro maestro Hudson Mohawke among others. There are some predictable responses, replete with minimal glitchy pulse, chorus-effect synths and dubstep quake which don’t depart radically from Bjork’s style. But Matthew Herbert’s reading of Mutual Core moves from peaceful dreams to nightmare and back, while Souleyman adds Arabic instrumentation, chanting keyboards and his own bluesy vocals to transform Crystalline and Thunderbolt.
Jah Wobble & Keith Levene: Yin & Yang
Cherry Red Records, £11.99
Star rating: * * *
BASS-WIELDING renaissance man Jah Wobble and his old PIL mucker Keith Levene have reunited with each other, if not with their former band, to produce this brooding collection of dark, dubby bass rumblings and ominous guitar distortion. The pair also put their distinctive stamp on other genres. The freewheeling rhythm’n’blues of Mississippi comes as a surprise, as does the hard-edged cover of George Harrison’s Within You Without You, while the elastic jazz fusion of Fluid is blessed with a soulful turn from Sean Corby on trumpet.
LSO Live, £9.99
Star rating: * * * * *
NWHAT do Fauré’s Requiem, the Bach Partita that ends with the famous “Ciaconna”, and the particular batch of Bach chorales featured on this recording have in common? They’re all in D minor, which gives this entire curiosity package a unity that is compelling. But there’s something much deeper at work, which the combined forces of vocal ensemble Tenebrae, the LSO Chamber Ensemble and LSO leader Gordan Nikolitch unfold to stunning effect. Nikolitch’s tasteful playing of the solo Partita movements is interspersed with sung chorales, those features coming unexpectedly together in the Ciaconna, where Tenebrae add the funereal chorale themes on which the violin music is based. And if that isn’t moving in itself, the uninterrupted D minor link with the Requiem is simply mindblowing.
Neon Quartet: Subjekt
Edition Records, £13.99
Star rating: * * * *
SAXOPHONIST Stan Sulzmann has been a significant presence in UK jazz for four decades, and his name is pretty much a guarantee of quality. Add in three of the best of the current generation of English jazz musicians, and you have a recipe for a very intriguing project. The quartet’s second album more than justifies that assumption, with Sulzmann’s sinewy, inventive saxophone work complemented by the contrasting improvisational gambits of vibraphonist Jim Hart and Kit Downes, featured on piano and Hammond organ. Drummer Tim Giles completes a highly empathic unit, and all four players work off of one another in complex and creative fashion, conjuring up an ensemble sound that is simultaneously elegant and exploratory, intricate and tough. A fine take on Monk’s Bye-Ya rounds out a probing set of original compositions by Sulzmann, Hart and Downes.
Duncan Chisholm: Africc
COPPERFISH RECORDS, £13.99
Star rating: * * * *
The much-anticipated third album in this peerless Highland fiddler’s Strathglass Trilogy ends his musical wanderings in the great glen of Affric. Many of these tunes are Chisholm’s own, often played with spirit, as in Running the Cross and Big Archie, threaded through with Jarlath Henderson’s nimble uilleann pipes.
It is, however, Chisholm’s heart-melting way with a warm-toned, lingering note that makes his playing so satisfying, as evinced here by airs such as the beautiful, traditional An Ribhinn Donn, or his sweet handling of the Phil Cunningham tune The House in Rose Valley (with Cunningham, who co-produced the album with Chisholm, contributing piano). The same can be said of the limpid Night in That Land, a Johnny Cunningham composition, with which Chisholm closes the album, following a reading in Gaelic of Neil Munro’s eloquent lines on the ancestral homelands which inspired the music.
Colombia: Sixto Silgado Paito & Los Gaiteros de Punta Brava
Ocora Radio France, £12.99
Star rating: * * * *
PUTTING on this CD for a preliminary listen before looking at the liner notes, I flipped through the tracks: the music was pleasant enough, but it all sounded pretty much the same.
Only when I began to read did it become clear that this music – brought to our ears thanks to the perennial curiosity of Ocora – represents a tradition which is very interesting indeed. It reflects a triple coming-together of ethnic groups, with its roots in the 16th-century Spanish city of Cartagena where Indians and black victims of the slave trade began to form resistance groups in the surrounding mountains. These groups became settled communities, with the Spanish colonialists separating the more assimilated mestizo (mixed heritage) groups from the blacks, who were kept at a further distance.
The tradition heard here derives from the black villages, where flute and drum ensembles were the norm, but a parallel tradition evolved in the mestizo villages – the two are now differentiated as “Indian gaita” and “black gaita” but together they form an integral part of Colombia’s cultural identity. A gaita is made from the heart of a cactus, and its head is made of a mixture of beeswax and charcoal and is sculpted into the shape of a turkey’s or duck’s rear-end. And here is another differentiation: the “female” gaita has five holes, while the “male” has only two, one of which is almost always stopped. Speaking of his male gaita, Paito says: “Everything is there.
The machero (male gaita player) who taught my father played with a single opening. All you ever need can come out of that.” Space doesn’t permit me to go into the equally colourful distinctions between different types of drum: suffice to say these lullabies and dances, each with its own regulated form, are gently entrancing.