Map Search

0.1 km
Search

February 2021 Album Reviews

February 2021 Album Reviews
Album reviews

Jeremy Pelt: Griot – This Is Important! review – a jazz album for everyone

by John Fordham on 26th February 2021 at 9:00 am (High Note) Storytelling trumpeter Pelt boldly crosses genres and ages with agile contemporary bop, ballads and spoken word passages Jeremy Pelt, a trumpet virtuoso who could have dropped without blinking into classic 1960s Blue Note sessions cut years before he was born, has interlaced his familiar mix of agile contemporary bop and elegant ballads with spoken-word passages on African American jazz life, edited from his own interviews with musicians across the generations. Pelt’s inspiration here is the west African griots’ oral history tradition – but if he has invoked those ancient methods to inspire and inform musicians of colour in 21st-century America, this is nonetheless a jazz album for everyone. Pithy themes and punchy soloing are delivered by Pelt’s quintet, including sometime Robert Glasper bassist Vicente Archer, and fluent young Taiwanese vibraphonist Chien Chien Lu.Octogenarian bassist Paul West tells Pelt that, as a young man seeking guidance from his father, he was advised to “carry Christ wherever you are”. That devout phrase prompts a stately Pelt ballad that soon sheds solemnity as it shifts gears to genre-crossing swing. Underdog spotlights Pelt’s poise on the most devious post-bop rhythmic twists, while Don’t Dog the Source is waywardly Monk-like, driven by drummer Allan Mednard’s chatteringly arrhythmic accents. But the trumpeter’s storytelling powers as a soloist are at their fullest stretch on A Beautiful (Fucking) Lie – a deceptively breezy tune that gathers force, named after singer-songwriter René Marie’s acerbic quote about being taught American patriotism as an African American child raised under the south’s Jim Crow laws. Pelt might have edited his own voice out of his interviews a little more, but this is a bold jazz attempt at bridge-building in a fragmented age. Continue reading…

Architects: For Those That Wish to Exist review – a scream in the face of climate doom

by Rachel Aroesti on 26th February 2021 at 8:30 am (Epitaph)Cobweb-blasting singing, brain-invading melodies and skin-scouring riffs offer no relief from this wrestling match with impending disasterClimate crisis rock hasn’t exactly taken off in recent years. Mainstream music’s reliance on easily digestible emotional journeying grates awkwardly against the catharsis-vacuum that is the Earth’s current trajectory. Those who have tackled the topic have often taken circuitous routes – delegating to experts (the 1975 enlisted Greta Thunberg); shockingly reimagining the process as a triumph of malevolence (Anohni, Grimes) – but stalwart Brighton metallers Architects plump for a straightforward take on their ninth album, an hour-long wrestling match with impending doom and disaster.Yet no matter the framing device – histrionic hardcore, glitchy electronica, dreamy balladeering – the doom comes out on top. All the cobweb-blasting screaming, brain-invading melodies and skin-scouring riffs provide none of their customary release when juxtaposed with the needling, inescapable horror of the lyrics; the spiralling, math-rock style detailing elsewhere only heightens the tension. The only thing that lightens the load is the occasional burst of sixth-form-poetry melodrama (see: Black Lungs, Animals). Continue reading…

Elgar: Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata review – sheer beauty and subtle playing

by Andrew Clements on 25th February 2021 at 3:00 pm Renaud Capuçon/Stephen Hough/LSO/Simon Rattle (Warner Classics)Simon Rattle takes the concerto back to the 19th century and Renaud Capuçon’s partnership with Stephen Hough for the sonata is a meeting of equalsThe Violin Concerto is not only one of Elgar’s greatest achievements, but also one of the finest of all 20th-century violin concertos. But the orchestral opening of Renaud Capuçon’s account, as moulded by Simon Rattle, takes the concerto firmly back into the 19th century, and when the soloist eventually enters, the generous space he allows himself for his initial phrases suggests that he shares that view of the work, too.The recording was made in LSO St Luke’s, London, last September, and it’s the third studio version of the concerto that Rattle has conducted; Ida Haendel and Nigel Kennedy were the earlier soloists, both with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He certainly sees his role in the concerto as more interventionist than many conductors do, especially when compared with, say, Adrian Boult on Yehudi Menuhin’s celebrated second recording, or Vernon Handley on Kennedy’s earlier one, and that, it seems to me, is not always to the advantage of this performance.

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis: Carnage review – vivid visions of apocalypse and absolution

by Alexis Petridis on 25th February 2021 at 1:00 pm (Goliath Records Ltd)Cave’s rich writing and Ellis’s dense sounds form a reliably potent picture of locked-down end-times and the fantasy of redemptionNext month sees the British publication of Mark Mordue’s book Boy on Fire: The Young Nick Cave. It’s a fascinating read, both as an occult history of Australian punk – it’s hard not to like the sound of the Filth, a Sydney quartet whose audition for a major label involved their lead singer repeatedly head-butting a door – and a kind of rake’s progress. It details how a delightful-sounding boy from the country town of Warracknabeal gradually transformed into the horror that turned up in early 80s London fronting the Birthday Party, a band whose aura of violence and malevolence was so pervasive that, says one associate, even the British music press at first gave them a wide berth in the belief they were genuinely evil. Furthermore, the book’s protagonist, or someone who sounds remarkably like him, appears to turn up on the title track of Cave’s latest album, a stately drift of organ, strings and tremolo-heavy guitar topped off with lyrics that sound like tangled memories, first evoking a rural childhood – “a barefoot child” depicted watching the family’s chickens being dispatched – then a bookish, driven adolescence: “Sitting on a balcony reading Flannery O’Connor, with a pencil and a plan.” Related: Nick Cave’s inspiration: pictures and notes from his archive Continue reading…

Sal Dulu: Xompulse review – boom-bap dreamscapes

by Tara Joshi on 21st February 2021 at 3:00 pm (Duluoz)Jazz, ambient and soul harmonise in the Dublin-based producer’s gently daze-inducing debutDublin-based producer and instrumentalist Sal Dulu makes calm, expansive beats that swim with the cinematic possibilities of the night-time. Xompulse is his debut album, and comprises a subtly enticing collection of tracks that marry everything from boom-bap, classical, jazz, ambient, warm licks of soul samples and glossy shades of 90s downtempo. There’s more than an occasional nod to celestial, Porcelain-era Moby and lush Madlib stylings.Thematically, Dulu has said the record explores the liminal space between reality and dreams, with each of the 10 tracks serving as individual memories within this dreamscape. There is certainly a slow-burning, woozy quality that slips and slides gently from track to track, though slick features from rappers Fly Anakin, Koncept Jack$on and staHHr all cut through, lest things get too soporific (a couple more of these would have been welcome). Still, simple moments are rendered beautiful by Dulu’s arrangements: the quiet ebb and flow of the piano-led title track; the careening strings on Alien Boy 96; the soft sax on Just Like Sonnenalle Blues; the wobbling synth on I Kan. Twinkling and soothing, Xompulse is a pleasant reverie to sink into. Continue reading…

The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy review – Springsteen-isms welcome

by Phil Mongredien on 21st February 2021 at 1:00 pm (Positive Jams)The Brooklyn-based rockers add a splash of brass to their everyman stylings on this lyrical eighth albumGiven Craig Finn’s powerful depictions of the minor triumphs and tragedies of normal working Americans in his lyrics, dog-whistle Springsteen comparisons – “blue-collar rock”, say – have inevitably followed Brooklyn-based six-piece the Hold Steady and their take on the barroom-rock stylings of Sire-era Replacements over a near-20-year career. Their eighth album hardly goes out of its way to discourage them. If anything, it doubles down on E Street Band-isms, largely thanks to regular interventions from their newly acquired horn section, Stuart Bogie and Jordan McLean, both of whom are alumni of US Afrobeat collective Antibalas.The splashes of brass make for a good fit, though: recent single Family Farm is an engaging meditation on mental health, and includes a shoutout to a Van Halen ringtone, with an air of fist-punching euphoria. Unpleasant Breakfast benefits from an inspired change of gear. The quieter songs don’t always burn so brightly. Here, there can be a fine line between balladry and pedestrianism, but the listener is never far away from a killer lyric, such as “she had the aura of an angel, but she had a couple of problems/ I guess the big one is that she’s someone else’s wife” on opener The Feelers. Continue reading…

Ghetts: Conflict of Interest review – one giant leap for grime

by Kitty Empire on 21st February 2021 at 9:00 am (Warners)Cinematic in scope, movingly honest, with a phalanx of big-name guests, Justin Clarke’s major-label debut is a dazzling piece of storytellingYou don’t often find real strings and horns on a grime album. But these instruments mesh exceptionally well with the cut-and-thrust of UK hip-hop – more specifically, with the moving storytelling of 36-year-old Ghetts.Justin Clarke’s years in the shadows of his better-rewarded peers have ended with this terrific major-label debut, as he moves his story – and the genre – forwards. Conflict of Interest, his third studio release, has both cinematic scope and tear-jerking moments. Against innovative backdrops (often by producer TenBillion Dreams), Ghetts spits about familiar tropes: the superlative Skengman tells of tit-for-tat violence with innovation; No Mercy features icy, left-field production and new talent Pa Salieu. Other guests range from the game’s biggest beasts – Stormzy, Dave, Skepta, Giggs – to South African siren Moonchild Sanelly. Continue reading…

Enrico Pieranunzi and Bert Joris: Afterglow review – prepare to be charmed

by Dave Gelly on 20th February 2021 at 4:00 pm (Challenge)Italy’s top jazz pianist and one of Belgium’s leading trumpeters have nothing to prove on this effortlessly breezy set of originalsIn its quiet and unassertive way, this is a happy set by two highly accomplished, middle-aged musicians with nothing to prove. Pieranunzi gave up being a professor of music to become Italy’s best-known jazz pianist, while Joris is one of Belgium’s leading trumpeters. They composed all 11 of these tracks, either singly or together, and play with such easy grace that I’d defy anyone with an average ear for music not to be charmed. The mood varies from warm lyricism to a kind of breezy playfulness and each piece sounds like a complete and finished work, which is often not the case with music that includes improvisation.Quite a few of these tracks run for less than three minutes. One of them is What’s What, a spiky, half-humorous little nod to the bebop genre. On the other hand, there’s How Could We Forget, a lovely, melodious piece that unfurls itself elegantly over twice the space, with Joris playing the darker-toned flugelhorn. How they do it, how much is composition and how much inspiration of the moment, I can only guess. But it all hangs together quite brilliantly. Continue reading…

Lael Neale: Acquainted With Night review – music to feel absently blue to

by Jenessa Williams on 19th February 2021 at 9:00 am (Sub Pop)The folk-pop songwriter meanders between memory and fantasy on her concertedly quiet Sub Pop debutVirginia-raised, LA-based artist Lael Neale is keen to avoid fuss. To avoid the “arduous production” of early recording sessions, on her Sub Pop debut, she strips things back to minimal instrumentation and embraces the imperfections of a first take. Continue reading…

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings: All the Good Times review – lockdown covers of Dylan and Prine

by Jude Rogers on 19th February 2021 at 8:30 am (Acony Records)The pandemic hangs heavy in the long-term duo’s first album to share joint billing, and thrives when Welch leadsIncredibly, Gillian Welch once played bass in a college goth band. But after an epiphany hearing bluegrass duo the Stanley Brothers, her music and image have been steeped in a nostalgic strain of Americana, from her rough-hewn 1996 debut Revival to this collection of reel-to-reel-recorded covers with Dave Rawlings, her long-term musical partner. Initially released on a short run of CDs after their Nashville studio was destroyed by a tornado at the start of lockdown, this release is the first to bear both their names.All the Good Times is released on 5 March on Acony Records. Continue reading…

Mahler: Symphonies 1-10 review | Andrew Clements’s classical album of the week

by Andrew Clements on 18th February 2021 at 5:00 pm Berlin Philharmonic/Harding/Nelsons/ Dudamel/Nézet-Séguin/Petrenko/Rattle/ Haitink/Abbado(Berliner Philharmoniker, 10 CDs & 4 Blu-ray Discs, or download)This mammoth undertaking, of all of Mahler’s symphonies with different conductors over the last decade, brings variable musical resultsTen symphonies, eight conductors, but just one orchestra: there’s no doubt that the Berlin Philharmonic is the star of the show in this cycle of Mahler performances, taken from concerts given in the Berlin Philharmonie over the last 10 years. The earliest recordings – Claudio Abbado conducting the opening movement of the unfinished 10th Symphony on the exact centenary of Mahler’s death, and Simon Rattle’s performance of the Eighth – date from 2011; the most recent, the Sixth Symphony under their successor as chief conductor, Kirill Petrenko, comes from the beginning of last year. As usual with releases on the orchestra’s own label, alongside the audio recordings the lavishly packaged set also includes high-definition videos of all the performances. Continue reading…

SG Lewis: Times review – soaring, subtle disco for kitchen dancefloors

by Alexis Petridis on 18th February 2021 at 12:00 pm (EMI, PMR)Given the British producer’s skill for emotionally attuned nightclub elation, his debut shouldn’t suffer from the shutdown of its natural club habitat Recently, the various social media feeds of singer-songwriter-producer SG Lewis have offered up everything from tutorials on recording techniques to live streams during which Lewis displays his ability to down cans of lager in one. In between, comes evidence of Lewis’s obsession with disco, for which he has evidently fallen hard.There are glowing recommendations for Tim Lawrence’s magisterial book Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Culture 1970-79. There are videos of the British producer flicking through disco 12-inches in a secondhand record shop and clips of him interviewing Alex Rosner, the genial, pipe-smoking designer of the sound systems at legendary 70s NY clubs the Loft and the Gallery, whose voice appears over tinkling synth arpeggios on Times’s brief instrumental Rosner’s Interlude. And there are screenshots of messages from Nile Rogers, who makes an appearance on his single One More. Indeed, the original title of Lewis’s album was the Chic-derived Good Times, before the adjective was lopped off, presumably when it became apparent that calling an album Good Times would seem unnecessarily sarcastic given the current state of the world. Related: Sign up for the Sleeve Notes email: music news, bold reviews and unexpected extras Continue reading…

La Chica: La Loba review – a she-wolf’s ghostly grief

by Kate Hutchinson on 14th February 2021 at 3:00 pm (Zamora)The tragic death last year of the singer-songwriter’s brother informs every beat of this powerfully minimal EPThe seminal 1992 book by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves, has inspired many a witchy woman in pop, from Bat for Lashes and Florence Welch to Kelly Lee Owens. Its stories about recapturing your wildness have often provided solace in difficult times, which is certainly true of French-Venuezelan musician La Chica. The follow-up to her 2019 debut, Cambio, changed course after the death of her brother (pictured left on the album cover) last year.The EP’s seven short whirls of minimal piano grapple with grief, and eventually harness the energy of La Loba (the “she-wolf”) to pull La Chica (Sophie Fustec) through. Catchy songs these are not – La Chica is more interested in mood and layering her voice to ghostly effect, while an interlude nods to her love of Debussy. The title track, meanwhile, suggests a huge hip-hop production, stripped back: the ominous plink-plonk of the keys intertwines with the urgency of flamenco handclaps, her sing-speak akin to a trap rapper’s. It’s a great song, and one you long to hear the maximal version of. Still, the suggestion is there: that La Chica is the next otherworldly pop star, ready to take flight, broomstick and all. Continue reading…

Django Django: Glowing in the dark review – another masterclass in genre-blurring

by Phil Mongredien on 14th February 2021 at 1:00 pm (Because Music)The hooks may take a little longer to land, but the London-based four-piece continue to shape-shift with easeAs slippery to categorise as ever, Django Django’s fourth album is another masterclass in blurring genre boundaries in an unobtrusive but highly effective fashion. Once again, indie song structures are subtly enhanced with clever, deceptive rhythms, propulsive krautrock momentum and splashes of synths. And while the songs on Glowing in the Dark might be less immediate than those on 2018’s Marble Skies (particularly that record’s thrilling title track), the hooks are still there – they just take a few more listens to sink in.The excellent Headrush is a case in point, a sinuous intro underpinned by a mighty, Peter Hook-like bassline gives way to an unassuming verse that gradually picks up urgency but is no less powerful for never quite evolving into a chorus as such. Waking Up, with a breathy guest vocal from Charlotte Gainsbourg, glides past silkily. The World Will Turn, meanwhile, with its echoes of Nick Drake, finds them embracing more simple pleasures. Not everything comes off: the pedestrian Kick the Devil Out conjures up memories of the less remarkable end of the Madchester spectrum; and while the instrumental The Ark doesn’t lack for ideas, it does underwhelm. Continue reading…

Sia: Music review – so-so soundtrack to the controversial film

by Kitty Empire on 14th February 2021 at 9:00 am (Atlantic)The star-studded album from her film about autism should be safer ground for Sia, but even here there are pitfalls Pop singer Sia’s directorial film debut, Music, released online tomorrow, has been dogged by controversy for its depiction of autism, and by bewildered reviews, trying to reconcile the film’s fantasy musical interludes with its plot. Recorded music should be safer ground for this singer and writer of umpteen hits, joined here by a phalanx of famous friends: producer Jack Antonoff, co-writers Dua Lipa, Pink and David Guetta. But even on the album there are pitfalls.One bouncy, boosterish track, Together, comes from the film’s alternative reality, where a girl called Music, whose autism renders her non-verbal, can let her imagination run riot. Sia can make cheesy uplift quite palatable – witness her recent Christmas song Snowman. But the psychedelic wholesomeness feels like overkill, and her imagining of Music’s internal world, problematic. Continue reading…

Anansy Cissé: Anoura review – a heartfelt plea for Mali

by Neil Spencer on 13th February 2021 at 4:00 pm (Riverboat)Shaken after a run-in with armed thugs, this hypnotic guitarist returns with a reflective album steeped in his northern homelandIn 2018, Anansy Cissé and his group were en route to play a peace festival in his hometown of Diré, in the Timbuktu region of Mali, when they were stopped by an armed gang, held captive and their instruments smashed. Cissé, a gifted guitarist whose debut album, Mali Overdrive, had made waves, was devastated: what was the point of singing about love and peace, he wondered, in a war-torn country like his? Cissé retreated to his home studio to record artists from the country’s young hip-hop scene.His equilibrium has returned on Anoura, a gentle, reflective album that includes songs about education, poverty and righteous conduct, providing indirect commentary on Mali’s parlous political situation. Most of it is steeped in the traditions of his northern homeland, with female vocals gliding serenely across the hypnotic backdrop of Cissé’s guitar. A brace of tracks, Talka and Balkissa, also include the fiddle playing of Zoumana Tereta, providing an intricate, impatient counterpoint. Continue reading…

Classical home listening: English Music for Strings; David Matthews; Hansel and Gretel

by Fiona Maddocks on 13th February 2021 at 12:00 pm John Wilson and his crack Sinfonia of London irradiate works by Britten, Berkeley and Bliss, while Matthews and the BBC Philharmonic make waves• Forget any notions of wistful pastoral this title might suggest: English Music for Strings, performed by the Sinfonia of London, conducted by John Wilson (Chandos), is a collection of works from the 1930s, with a sharp, modernist energy to match. Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (1937), with its poise, angularity and gleam, receives a virtuosic performance from this ace ensemble. The influence of Britten spills lightly into Lennox Berkeley’s lovely Serenade for Strings (1938-39), a work that travels from vivacity to urgent sorrow. Continue reading…

Yiu: The World Was Once All Miracle; etc review | Andrew Clements’s classical release of the week

by Andrew Clements on 12th February 2021 at 3:27 pm Williams/Watts/BBCSO/Davis/Gardner/Robertson(Delphian)Three works by Raymond Yiu highlight his instinctive originality, in evocative instrumental writing that is part game, part travelogueThough it provides the overall title for this first album devoted to Raymond Yiu’s music, The World Was Once All Miracle is arguably the least convincing of these three orchestral scores. A song cycle to poems by Anthony Burgess, it was commissioned for the writer’s centenary in 2017, and first performed at the Manchester international festival that year. Though it certainly makes a more positive impression in this recording (taken from a later performance, conducted by Andrew Davis, with baritone Roderick Williams as the brilliantly articulate soloist) than it did at the premiere, the music still seems less personal and vital than the works flanking it, as though Yiu’s concern to register the wide range of Burgess’s talents had inhibited his own instinctive eclecticism. Continue reading…

Virginia Wing: Private Life review

by Rachel Aroesti on 12th February 2021 at 9:00 am (Fire Records)Singer Alice Merida Richards combines her calm sprechgesang with rage against millennial misogyny, offset by rich earwormy electronicsMost of punk’s sonic hallmarks calcified into cliche long ago, but if there’s one trope still able to induce the shock of the old, it’s the dissonant, direct, stubbornly wonky female vocals that animate the work of the Slits, the Raincoats and X-Ray Spex. On Manchester trio Virginia Wing’s fourth album, frontwoman Alice Merida Richards evokes their thrillingly relatable voices with her own – a jerky, unmediated sprechgesang that combines vacant disaffection with rumbling rage. Continue reading…

Pauline Anna Strom: Angel Tears in Sunlight review | John Lewis’s contemporary album of the month

by John Lewis on 12th February 2021 at 8:30 am (RVNG)Strom’s first album in 30 years – and last, following her death in December – is a quiet riot of digitally manipulated drones and noiseThe music of the San Francisco-based composer Pauline Anna Strom, who died just before Christmas, aged 74, might be described as new age – a mystical, trance-like synthesised babble that could conceivably accompany meditation sessions or yoga classes. But Strom was a cheerfully cantankerous figure who drew from more arcane Californian sources. Listen to the music that she released in the 1980s as Trans-Millenia Consort and you can hear traces of the blissful minimalism of Terry Riley; the wobbly electronica that Stephen Hill used to play on his Hearts of Space radio show; the electro-acoustic compositions of Joanna Brouk; even the hypnotic trance music that Alice Coltrane was making in her Santa Monica ashram. Continue reading…

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather