Album reviews: Red Hot Chili Peppers | Kae Tempest | Jarv Is
With guitar god John Frusciante and producer Rick Rubin back on board, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been able to recapture the chemistry of their glory days, writes Fiona Shepherd
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Unlimited Love (Warner Records) ***
Kae Tempest: The Line Is A Curve (Fiction Records) ***
Jarv Is: This Is Going to Hurt Original Series Soundtrack (Rough Trade) ****
For their twelfth studio album, Red Hot Chili Peppers have got the gang back together – specifically, inviting their on-off guitar god John Frusciante back into the fold for the first time since their 2006 album Stadium Arcadium and returning to working with producer Rick Rubin, the bearded wizard who has performed his hands-off sorcery on their biggest selling albums from 1991 breakthrough Blood Sugar Sex Magik onwards.
Their decision to gently relieve Josh Klinghoffer and Danger Mouse of their respective duties appears to have paid prolific dividends. The band pared down 100 potential tracks to a mere 50 in the studio and have released a positively svelte 17 numbers, comprising over 70 minutes of music, which they have described as “the ride that is the sum of our lives”.
Unlimited Love arrives in its relaxed Californian cool just as spring has sprung, exhibiting an artistic equilibrium where all four members get to excel without dominating. Their muscle memory natural rapport is apparent on opening track Black Summer. You would never know that Frusciante had laid aside his guitar for the past ten years as he layers on some psychedelia-flavoured sounds inspired by his recent favoured listening to The Move and Syd Barrett.
Flea takes the lead on Here Ever After with a loud, fidgety bassline, while frontman Anthony Kiedis rides along in quasi-rap mode. He’s in word association gear on Aquatic Mouth Dance while Flea supplies the conversational bass runs and delivers a soft, beseeching vocal over gliding guitars on Not the One.
Supple bass and guitar interweave on It’s Only Natural, Frusciante tears it up like Pete Townsend on skyscraping Seventies power rocker The Great Apes and goes grungier on These Are the Ways, which also features an athletic drumfest from Chad Smith. There’s a nod to their Nineties musical predilections on the sinewy funk of Poster Child and the springy feelgood pop rock of Let ’Em Cry is gussied up with lithe bass, guitar solo and Bacharachian horns.
She’s a Lover doesn’t really deliver on the promise of its tantalising summer soul funk intro but, in the main, Unlimited Love captures the old chemistry and communicates an easy joy in playing.
The latest album by spoken word artist Kae Tempest isn’t quite hearts and flowers but its creator hopes The Line Is a Curve will prove to be a “less lonely listen” now that they have exorcised some old demons and feel able to emerge from behind the storytelling to produce a more personal set of lyrics.
The tracks still pack some of the old Tempest intensity but this collection is a more sociable affair. Production wingman Dan Carey builds the analogue synth soundscapes, ranging from electro ecstasy to elegant epics, while guest vocalists add their complementary thoughts. Fontaines DC frontman Grain Chatten sounds less guttural and more reflective than usual on I Saw Light, Lianne La Havas adds a silky soulful vocal to Tempest’s celebration of the conscientious grafters on No Prizes and Kevin Abstract from LA hip-hop band Brockhampton bathes in the positivity of More Pressure.
One of the joys of the BBC’s excellent adaptation of Adam Kay’s memoir This Is Going to Hurt has been the compassionate soundtrack supplied by Jarv Is, with much of it recorded live to playback. Just as the show is a fine tonal balance, ranging from mordant wit to slapstick disasters, quiet desperation to visceral tragedy, Jarvis Cocker and chums shift seamlessly from spectral, gauzy piano instrumentals to full orchestral chic to propulsive Krautrock clammer across this “love song to the NHS”.
Edward Nesbit: Sacred Choral Music (Delphian) ****
In its latest Delphian album, the mellifluous voices of The Choir of King’s College London focus exclusively on the music of Edward Nesbit, a young composition lecturer at the same university. It’s a comfortable but refreshing route for director Joseph Fort and his choristers to explore, Nesbit’s music enhancing his own early chorister experience of Anglican liturgy with contemporary leanings that free these traditional settings – Mass, Psalms, the Evening Canticles – from anything approaching the ordinary. In the Mass, for instance, a central organ interlude played by Joshua Simões, veers crazily between manic jazz and chordal Messiaen, a shot in the arm amid the velvety choral writing and soaring soprano solos of Ruby Hughes. The five Evening Psalms are individually expressive gems, including a gently animated Psalm 23, and The King’s Service canticles beautifully fluid. The Fanfares and Rounds for organ opens like a Kenneth Leighton tribute, much to its credit. Ken Walton
Fergus McCreadie: Forest Floor (Edition Records) *****
Award-winning pianist-composer Fergus McCreadie and his trio with double-bassist David Bowden and drummer Stephen Henderson go from strength to strength, manifesting McCreadie’s deftly organic infusion of Scots folk elements into highly articulate piano jazz. Their superb third album opens with the exhilaratingly headlong rush of Law Hill, before showcasing McCreadie’s penchant for a beguiling melody hook in The Unfurrowed Field, including a conversational bass solo and a joyous concluding drum spree and piano cascades. Gamelan-like keyboard chimes evoke the serenely drifting Morning Moon and there’s stillness, too, in the rolling murmurs that herald the wistful melody of the title track. White Water, meanwhile, swirls over a hypnotically repetitive bass line and hissing cymbals, while the closing Glade ushers us gently off in a Satie-esque meander. You can hear it all live when the trio launches Forest Floor at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, on 8 April. Jim Gilchrist
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