Album reviews: Africa Express | Toy | Patterns

Africa Express Presents: Maison Des Jeunes. Picture: Getty
Africa Express Presents: Maison Des Jeunes. Picture: Getty
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It might be a bit glib to call Damon Albarn the Paul Simon of the 21st century, but with the music of the African continent still largely unexplored by most Western artists, the work of both men has sought to engage on a deeper level with what’s actually happening there.

Africa Express - Maison Des Jeunes


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The difference is that, while Simon used his newly discovered sounds to create a work of Western rock music, this continuation of Albarn’s Africa Express project – which saw a train filled with musicians driven around the UK in 2012 – seeks to give the music a platform as close to its natural context as possible.

Named after the youth club in which it was recorded in the Malian capital of Bamako and coming just a few months after a period of violent civil unrest in the country, Maison Des Jeunes sees a raft of British artists – producers, in the main – drafted in to assist with the recording of local Malian musicians in their close-to-home environment. It makes for a refreshingly complete listen as an album, albeit one which is marked by an expansive range of eclectic styles.

Adama Koita’s Fantainfalla Toyi Bolo takes its performer’s textured vocal and summer funk and gives it a smooth R’n’B shine courtesy of producer Two Inch Punch, while Songhoy Blues’ Soubour takes the shape of raw, loose rock’n’roll thanks to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner. Ghostpoet and Doucoura meld trip-hop and Malian percussion on the stark Season Change, while Lobi Traore Band’s Deni Kelen Be Koko enjoys a joyous, rhythmic undercurrent reminiscent of house music, courtesy of Django Django’s David Maclean. Perhaps most surprising of all are Brian Eno’s production contributions to tracks by Yacouba Sissoko Band and Tiemoko Sogodogo, both instrumental and as pleasantly sonically unvarnished as it gets. David Pollock

Download this: Fantainfalla Toyi Bolo, Deni Kelen Be Koko

Toy - Join The Dots


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Even that name suggests Brighton quintet Toy know full well they’re guiding us on a pick-and-mix guided tour of music’s history with their second album. In particular, this heads down the kind of murky, fuzz-toned alleys familiar to fans of classic underground rock, from the churning krautrock majesty of Conductor to the swooning shoe-gaze of Endlessly and the soaring psychedelia of Frozen Atmosphere. These references chime with perfect authenticity when they hit their stride. For a band who are three-fifths composed of late overhyped also-rans Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, this represents the next stage of rehabilitation. DP

Download this: Conductor, Fall Out of Love

Patterns - Waking Lines


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It seems as though bands from Manchester no longer have to worry about sounding like A Manchester Band to get by. Certainly not Patterns (pictured), a dream-pop quartet who got together at Manchester University and have more in common with the legacy of My Bloody Valentine or Sigur Ros than they do with the Happy Mondays. Songs like Blood and Our Ego are an easy listen, filled with soaring vocals and guitars stretched out with ghostly reverb. Unlike those bands mentioned, however, there’s a definite pop heart here which perhaps detracts from the otherworldliness of the style.

Download this: This Haze, Broken Trains


The Radio Luxembourg Sessions - The 208 Rhythm Club – Volume 2

Vocalion CDNJT 5316

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The 208 Rhythm Club was a half-hour programme on Radio Luxembourg in the early 1960s featuring groups promoting new recordings they had made at the Lansdowne Studios, to be issued by EMI’s Columbia subsidiary. This CD comprises two terrific 1961 sessions recently unearthed and remastered – one by Al Fairweather and Sandy Brown’s All Stars and the other by Humphrey Lyttelton and his Band (featuring Tony Coe and Joe Temperley). Everyone is on top form; the Fairweather-Brown session is a typically uplifting affair, featuring such classic Brown tunes as Glories In The Evening, Harlem Fats and Bimbo, while the Lyttelton one boasts a couple of stunning Ellington numbers.

Download this: Portrait of Willie Best


Chris Stout and Finlay MacDonald - The Cauld Wind

Chris Stout Music CSMUSCD002

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Stout, the classy Fair Isle fiddler, with MacDonald, Glasgow’s dynamic bagpipe expert, are long set as a duo, and have performed together on many occasions – but this is their first recording. Marrying the acoustic sound of the fiddle with the Scots bellows-blown (therefore “cauld wind”) bagpipe, with the added touch of Ross Martin’s guitar, they storm through seven tracks, either from the pipe tradition or newly composed tunes by the performers themselves. Their drive and ferocity is audible, unforced and real, only letting up in the slower retreats and airs – and in the beautiful piobaireachd finale of Land Of Bens And Glens And Heroes.

Download this: Fionn’s


Georg Frideric Handel - Water Music

BIS 2027

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Standard thinking about the way in which Handel’s Water Music was first performed – on a journey by George I upriver from Whitehall to Chelsea and back – assumes a small party of musicians striving to make themselves heard. In fact, Handel employed around 50 musicians, travelling in a separate barge behind the royal one, amid a flotilla of other vessels, and the King’s request for repeat performances of the piece (three time out, three times back) suggests the monarch’s party, at least, could hear the music perfectly well. Manfred Huss and the Haydn Sinfonietta Wien perform on period instruments, using a new critical edition based on the oldest copy of Handel’s autograph dating from 1718, within a year of the work’s composition and performance. The result is fresh, lively, and thoroughly listenable.

Download this: Track 12, Hornpipe