Our critics review the week’s new albums
Rick Redbeard: No Selfish Heart
Chemikal Underground, £11.99
* * * *
THIS debut solo album from Rick Anthony, frontman of Glasgow’s fabulous Phantom Band, has been brewing quietly for the past eight years. Where the Phantom Band can barely contain their playful audacity, No Selfish Heart is a cosy repository for Anthony’s introspective side, as conveyed by his tender Scott Walkeresque croon on the minimal opening track, Clocks.
The entire album exudes a seductive yearning. Anthony’s poignant vocals are the star attraction, but are complemented by Angus Ramsay’s mournful violin, sonorous piano, glistening xylophone and the delicate backing cooing of his sister Jo, all applied at various points with great sensitivity.
Fionn Regan: The Bunkhouse Vol 1: Anchor Black Tattoo
bella union, £12.99
* * * *
JUST when you thought Fionn Regan couldn’t get any more naked, he releases this stark but satisfying album, recorded with just a four-track and microphone set-up in his own Bunkhouse Studio.
Regan thinks of it as an Irish punk album – the DIY approach certainly lends it that immediacy but, musically, it is a quiet, intimate affair, like a private concert with no getting away from the squeak of the guitar strings and the vulnerability of Regan’s fragile tenor. When so much contemporary pop music is about making a blaring, bludgeoning overture to the listener, it is gentle respite to spend these 25 short but bittersweet minutes in his beguiling company.
Veronica Falls: Waiting For Something To Happen
bella union, £13.99
* * * *
LONDON-BASED four-piece Veronica Falls, featuring ex-members of cult Glasgow band The Royal We, are among a new generation of groups who are sharing their love of The Velvet Underground’s more winsome moments via the slightly maligned medium of pure indie pop.
Fronted by Roxanne Clifford’s gently aching vocal, sometimes in harmonic call-and-response with James Hoare, their second album inhabits a world of innocent kicks and mild social anxiety set to a Mo Tucker beat. Thematically, they are caught in limbo between the adolescent reminiscing of Teenage and the emotional lassitude of So Tired, but their jangly, overtly melodic sound is forever young.
DUNCAN LYALL: INFINITE REFLECTIONS
red deer records, Web only
* * * * *
DEPENDING on your age, you may detect some distinct echoes of American minimalism, Penguin Cafe Orchestra or even Mike Oldfield in this engrossing instrumental sequence from ubiquitous folk bassist Duncan Lyall, premiered at last year’s Celtic Connections as a New Voices commission.
He enlists a sterling bunch of collaborators, including fellow-Treacherous Orchestra members Ali Hutton on pipes, Innes Watson on fiddle and guitar and Martin O’Neill on bodhran, as well as others including fiddler Patsy Reid, Angus Lyon on keyboard and accordion and drummer Alyn Cosker.
The piece emerges out of silence like a signal from deep space, its often hypnotically spinning themes coming and going, drifting and shimmering. Towards the end, in a section intriguingly titled The Beast, the drums suddenly break off for the pipes to flicker urgently over a string pulse before a serene reprise and an optimistic final resolution.
Ron Carter Golden Striker Trio: San Sebastian
in + out records, £12.99
* * *
NOTHING to do with Lionel Messi – the great bassist’s Golden Striker Trio is named after a composition by the MJQ’s John Lewis, a fine version of which concludes this set.
This stellar line-up, with pianist Mulgrew Miller and guitarist Russell Malone, first came together in 2003, and are captured here in concert at a jazz festival in San Sebastian in 2010. As you would expect from these players, their execution and interaction is subtle, intricate and finely-crafted, creative and thoughtfully arranged.
Their version of My Funny Valentine is masterly, and The Golden Striker provides an upbeat finale to a set slanted toward slower tempos. Carter’s Candle Light and Saudade and Luis Bonfa’s Samba de Orpheus complete the CD – a limited-edition deluxe version with an additional DVD is also available, and adds Oscar Pettiford’s Laverne Walk.
Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 21&22
Simax Classics, £13.99
* * * * *
Here’s something to whet the appetite for this Thursday’s Usher Hall appearance by the Norwegian pianist Christian Ihle Hadland. The repertoire (two Mozart concertos) and the Norwegian orchestra (the Oslo Philharmonic) are different, but Hadland’s incisively poetic pianism is a truly magnetic force in its own right.
The agile passagework that opens the C major Concerto (No.21) is ultra clean and superlatively precise; the famous Elvira Madigan slow movement is void of sentiment, and full of pulsating musical nuance. Hadland uses his own “in-the-style” cadenzas, but goes for the glacial quirkiness of Britten’s in the sturdier E flat Piano Concerto No.22.
Everything about his playing is fresh, surprising, gratifying and captivating. He’s been called the next Leif Ove Andsnes. I’m prepared to believe it.