Deap Vally: Sistrionix
Star rating: * * *
The artfully conceived primitivism of this debut album pushes some formulaic buttons, but is spiced with a sizeable serving of female empowerment (Gonna Make My Own Money), obsessive ardour (Your Love) and withering scorn (Lies) delivered with natural bluesy rock abandon by singer/guitarist Lindsey Troy. “If our mothers only knew the trouble that we get into,” she declares with alacrity on Bad For My Body.
Tom Odell: Long Way Down
Star rating: * *
Sussex songwriter Tom Odell was this year’s recipient of the Brits Critics Choice Award, a high profile leg-up which carries commercial expectations for this one man Mumfords on his debut album. Like far too many of his peers, Odell mistakes clamour for dynamics, pounding away at his piano, straining his whiny voice and even busting out the backing choir on Can’t Pretend in an effort to imbue his mundane songs with a veneer of drama. Long Way Down is the sound of a busker trying to shout down a bustling high street rather than a troubadour drawing us into his world.
Debussy, Ravel & Saint-Saëns
Star rating: * * * *
There’s no end of virtuosity and pianistic delight in this album of French music – largely Impressionist masterpieces by Debussy and Ravel – performed by the husband-wife duo Pascal and Ami Rogé. Some of the arrangements are by the composers – Debussy’s own vivid two-piano version of Prelude à l’aprés-midi d’un faune. Some are by the performers – a pungent two-piano version of La Mer. In Ravel’s case, the piano versions of Ma mère l’Oye and Rapsodie espagnole are original; and in terms of Debussy’s Fêtes, Ravel is the arranger. The Rogés perform all of them – and Saint-Saëns’ Scherzo – with a genuine feel for French warmth and fluidity.
Joe Locke: Lay Down My Heart
Motéma Music £13.99
Star rating: * * *
The subtitle on this latest offering from vibraphonist Joe Locke – “Blues & Ballads Vol 1” – both describes the contents and signals further instalments to come. His collection of standards, jazz tunes and a couple of his own compositions attempts to create a relaxed, blues-inflected feel, a chance to step aside from the daily stresses and strains. Locke aims squarely at direct communication (“no highbrow concept here,” he writes in his sleeve note, “just some songs pulled from a deep well”), but with no suggestion of dumbing down in musical terms – this is a top-drawer quartet. The vibes and piano combination, in which he is joined by long-time collaborator David Finck on bass and label-mates Ryan Cohan on piano and Jaimeo Brown on drums, inevitably evokes the Modern Jazz Quartet, but with their own contemporary take on blues sensibility.
Wingin’ It: For The Many
Wingin’ It Records
Sta rating: * * *
For the Many ranges expansively for inspiration from the heart of the Cairngorms (Glen Avon) to Mars (Mariner 9) but has at its heart music that Wingin’ It’s core duo of Adam Bulley and Chas Mackenzie wrote to commemorate the late piper Gordon Duncan.
Guitar-mandolin duo Bulley and Mackenzie (who also add wordless vocal chorusing) are augmented by such familiar names as Angus Lyon on electric piano, Alyn Cosker on drums and Ruaridh Campbell on fiddle while Salsa Celtica’s Toby Shippey contributes mute trumpet to the opening State of Mind.
Of the three pieces commemorating Duncan, Lament for Gordon rings out as a wistful air on mandolin while Raising the Bar develops into a rocked-up groove. Elsewhere, the music can be intimately reflective or reverberatingly spacey, not least in a tribute to the Mariner 9 Mars probe.
This is pleasingly atmospheric, at times near-ambient, music, though lacking in any particularly memorable tunes.
Houria Aichi: Renayate
Accords Croises £15.99
Star rating: * * * *
With this engaging CD, Houria Aichi pays homage to the great female singers of her native Algeria: Fadila Dziria, Cherifa, Zoulikha and seven more divas from the past. But unlike Edith Piaf in Paris or Amalia Rodrigues in Lisbon, these singers were not mega-popular. They mostly began their careers as immigrants in Paris, and their recordings were rare. But as Houria sings it – accompanied by oud,ney, piano and percussion – their music is intensely beguiling, and has its roots in the distant Andalusian past when North Africa and the Iberian peninsula were one political entity.