T2 Trainspotting: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack ****
Mark Eitzel: Hey Mr Ferryman ****
Ed Dowie: The Uncle Sold ***
Like the much anticipated film, the soundtrack album for T2 Trainspotting has big shoes to fill and great expectations to meet. The original soundtrack was judiciously curated, making iconic use of Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life and creating a rave anthem in Underworld’s Born Slippy. It set the benchmark for cool and adventurous movie soundtracks, as well as capturing the hedonism of the mid-90s.
Twenty years on, we live in more diffuse musical times, with a mainstream scene which prefers to take the path of least artistic resistance. But the Trainspotting team have stuck to their winning formula, mixing diverse oldies (The Clash, Queen, Frankie’s Relax, Run DMC vs Jason Nevin’s still turbo-charged It’s Like That) with modern movers and shakers in such a way that the results don’t feel formulaic.
As with the trailer, there are deliberate, playful echoes of the original film. Blondie featured tangentially in the original soundtrack thanks to a cover but are here in their own right with the epic Dreaming. Lust For Life appears again in a tooled-up industrial remix by The Prodigy which is considerably less potent than the original. Underworld’s distended Slow Slippy does what it says on the tin, and there’s a sombre yet soothing new track brooding away under Ewen Bremner’s heartbreaking recitation of Eventually But (Spud’s Letter to Gail).
Happily, the new guns all acquit themselves well. There’s a snarling but tuneful slab of electro garage by DJ/producer High Contrast, Wolf Alice’s sultry indie number Silk has already accompanied the trailer and the agreeably demented Fat White Family channel the spirit of PIL and Giorgio Moroder on their woozy
funk jam The Whitest Boy On The Beach.
But even their sterling efforts pale in comparison with the shrewd star billing of Edinburgh’s homegrown hip-hop heroes Young Fathers, who contribute a trio of distinctive tracks to the mixtape. The irresistible electro fidget Get Up and the needling organ hook of Rain Or Shine are itches you have to scratch and you can just imagine Renton getting a drug buzz off the similarly hectic yet economical new track Only God Knows.
Cult troubadour Mark Eitzel is something of a US Elvis Costello, a little more internalised in his writing but with the same ability to capture raw heartache and deploy droll humour – so much so that it seems he must have won the brilliant song title In My Role as Professional Singer and Ham in a toss-up. Hey Mr Ferryman, his tenth solo album, is a winter warmer compared to his usual bleak though beautiful bouts of emotional agonising.
Producer Bernard Butler has woven a cosy comfort blanket of sound, providing the luminous, brooding guitar parts and sighing string arrangements. Eitzel, meanwhile, presents as even more of a crooner than before. The Cohenesque sparsity of the acoustic guitar backing on Nothing and Everything throws the soft warmth of his vocal into relief, while the smooth blues ballad of Just Because fits snugly into this cohesive collection.
London-based lo-fi synth pop singer songwriter Ed Dowie is the latest signing to Eigg-based Lost Map Records, but their worlds collide sympathetically on The Uncle Sold, a delicate, fairly sombre suite of songs inspired by the drifting, dream-like urban environment of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Unconsoled and shot through with the whimsy of Syd Barratt, the fragility of Robert Wyatt and the bittersweet observations of the baritone bard Stephin Merritt in a way which burrows beguilingly under the skin.
Schnittke: Leonard Elsenbrouch and Petr Limonov ****
Alfred Schnittke was a fascinating individual, applying what he called a “polystylistic” approach to composition. Thus the pseudo-Baroqueness of Musica Nostalgica that freely embarks on modernist detours only to frizzle out in a haze of harmonic fog. It’s the title track on this affectionate tribute to Schnittke by cellist Leonard Elshenbroich and pianist Petr Limonov, which explores different aspects of the composer’s music, from the brilliant attitudinal extremes of the Sonata No 1 (with its blazing whirlwind of a scherzo, played with venomous energy) and the charm of Suite in the Old Style, to the elegiac timelessness of the Madrigal In Memoriam Oleg Kagan. The disc ends with Elsenbroich’s own Shards of Alfred Schnittke, a consummately written reflection on the composer, which draws themes from Schnittke, weaving them through this elegiac score with effortless craft, and more than a hint of gilt-edged nostalgia.
Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau ****
This double CD showcases an unlikely-sounding partnership between two acknowledged masters in their fields. Whether solo, fronting the Punch brothers or collaborating with Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile is a virtuoso mandolinist schooled in bluegrass but as happy playing Bach partitas; Mehldau is a hugely influential jazz pianist, also with a proclivity for Bach. Here, however, they appear to thoroughly enjoy themselves with strictly non-classical repertoire. They open the recording with The Old Shade Tree, Mehldau keying gently over slapping strings before things open up for Thile’s high-pitched, glissading holler. Cascading exchanges between keyboard and mandolin erupt from Tallahassee Junction, while a brooding cover of the Rawlings-Welch song Scarlet Town sees further sparky interplay. Other songs include a winsome account of Joni Mitchell’s Marcie, and a wonderful treatment of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.