Malcolm Middleton And David Shrigley
Music And Words
Although it may not seem it at first, pairing Malcolm Middleton (sometime Arab Strap guitarist and Christmas No 1 contender with We’re All Going To Die) and David Shrigley (creator of dark-hearted cartoons which have infiltrated the mainstream as books and Christmas cards) isn’t such an odd couple arrangement.
Middleton has described the record as more of an artwork in its own right than an album which rewards regular, repeated listening, but on first impressions it’s a piece which is amusing and shocking all at once, with a musical backing that takes Middleton’s abilities in various genres off in many directions. That opening quote, from A Toast, precedes a bitter and foul-mouthed welcome from the jaded narrator to a warm electronic backing, while Monkeys is an unnerving acoustic tale of love between primates. Help is a cry for assistance amid hurtling 80s power rock and Touch My Face marries Krautrock with a sinister Sean Connery impression.
Gavin Mitchell is the actor who carries most of the words, his corpse at the first line of Caveman and his Ivor Cutler impersonation on The Tree standing out, while Scott Vermeire plays a whining American college boy on Houseguest, Bridget McCann bloodily subverts children’s fiction on Story Time and Shrigley himself is the voice of the extended erection joke, Sunday Morning. But beyond the swearing and brutality, a resounding sense of the absurdity of humanity’s regard for itself takes hold.
Download: Dear Brain, A Computer
Their claim to fame so far is being the first unsigned band to have a release stocked by famed indie record store Rough Trade, but there’s more than enough of interest in this debut album (a collection of their first three EPs) to suggest London trio The Drink are about more than just one lucky contact with a record buyer. Daniel Fordham and David Stewart’s music has a gruff, lo-fi feel, while Dearbhla Minogue’s voice is the resounding centrepiece: sweet, strong and swathed in reverb as it conjures memories of both Kirsty MacColl and hazy Californian rockers Warpaint. The combination leaves them sounding warmly personable and distinctively otherworldly. DP
Download: Microsleep, Haunted Place
The Winter Of 88
Without doubt the world’s first concept album about Edinburgh’s Portobello beach written by a songwriter who’s named himself for the strip of industrial estate-strewn road between the city and the seaside enclave, this third record by the alter-ego of Andrew Eaton-Lewis (formerly arts editor of this title) is a quietly majestic thing. There is No Authority That We Won’t Argue With is a muted piano, synth and horn-driven storm which rails at God in the face of grief. Elsewhere winter weather is variously used as metaphor for depression and despair (Don’t Let The Winter Freeze Your Heart) and political apathy (This Road Won’t Build Itself). As irresistible as a warm hearth on a snowy day, these songs do for Scotland’s east coast what the Blue Nile’s did for the city of Glasgow. DP
Download: There Is No Authority That We Won’t Argue With, This Road Won’t Build Itself
Gateway Music JFCD1304
This release from the Danish guitarist, who has recently played in the UK with Scottish favourites Django à la Créole, was recorded last year, but it missed the boat review-wise for last Christmas because it only fell into my mitts in May. It’s well worth checking out, however, since it’s a lovely addition to the Christmas jazz catalogue. It may be Fischer’s album, but it’s Christina von Bulow who has a leading role on most tracks, playing some beautiful, warm and lyrical alto sax, accompanied by the swinging trio of Fischer, bass and drums. Fischer’s inventive, eloquent playing is showcased on a medley of Disney ballads, notably a rare outing for Cinderella’s A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes, and a couple of traditional tunes. Alison Kerr
Download: I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Alan Kelly Gang
The Last Bell
Blackbox Music BBM007
Irish piano accordion star Alan Kelly launches his latest band line-up on this new album, with Scots fiddler Alasdair White joining US flute player and singer Steph Geremia and bouzouki maestro Manus Lunny at the core of his variably sized outfit. The music is based on Irish trad, but it also explores a wider Celtic world. That instrumental fluency stands out from the well-performed songs by Geremia (and one by Eddi Reader) in reels, jigs and even a setting of hop jig and gavotte rhythm. There’s also an interesting track of tunes that sit in 7/8 time, although the album remains generally very easy on the ears. Norman Chalmers
Download: Millhouse Reels
Romeo And Juliet, Cinderella: Suites For Two Pianos
Melodiya MEL CD 10 0220
At 50, the Russian Melodiya label has a well-deserved reputation for the quality of its archive recordings, many of which actually pre-date the company’s establishment as a union of independent Soviet producers. This recording is unusual in that it is not only a completely new recording, but also because it is music for which the company holds the original copyright, in this case Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet music for Romeo And Juliet and Cinderella. The Russian-French piano duo of Ludmila Berlinskaya and Arthur Ancelle demonstrate solid performing talent and expressiveness, particularly evident in Ancelle’s own transcription of Romeo And Juliet. Cinderella, transcribed by Mikhail Pletnev, makes no less pleasant listening. Considered as a sorbet to follow Christmas lunch, this is highly worthwhile. Alexander Bryce
Download: Romeo And Juliet, Gavotte
There’s nothing quite like experiencing a sampling genius at work. The technical and creative skill it takes to cut and paste together an entirely sampled song is up there with the most impressive feats in music. Australian producer Pogo composes from the sounds of Disney films; mash-up bands such as The Avalanches and The Go! Team have exploded the boundaries of hip-hop and dance. Edinburgh’s Guised, meanwhile, combines samples with original production. From chilled hip-hop to techno, it’s impossible to know what’s coming when he releases a new song. His most recent release, Glimmer, is upbeat, suited to late-night afterparties, while some of his earlier work is more dreamy and relaxed. An exciting artist at work.You can listen to Guised and his EP Glimmer at soundcloud.com/Guised1. Hamish Gibson