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MAY ALBUMS | MUSIC REVIEW

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ALICE COLTRANE ***

Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop)

Worthwhile archival work from Luaka Bop, who serve up a selection of tracks from Alice Coltrane’s devotional music tapes of the 80s and 90s – which were only really available to members of her California Ashram. There’s plenty of swirling synth, eastern percussion and peppy devotional chanting. Perhaps too much. Om Shanti – which foregrounds Coltrane’s own voice, the harp led Er Ra and the stately synth dirge of Journey To Satchidananda are the standouts, primarily because they keep things simple. IP

Music Review

AT THE DRIVE-IN ***

in•ter a•li•a (Rise)

It’s risky when it comes to new material from At the Drive-In, sending transmissions for the first time in 17 years on in•ter a•li•a. Risks worth taking in the case of the angular riffs of Hostage Stamps and Call Broken Arrow, with drummer Tony Hajjar excelling on Incurably Innocent. Arguments on this being a disappointment would be a reflection on Relationship Of Command or the 17-year wait, rather than in•ter a•li•a being a bad album.

BLACK LIPS ****

Satan’s Graffiti Or God’s Art? (Vice)

Black Lips treat flower punk fans to a varied pallet of DIY alt-everything on this brilliantly titled album. Being produced by Sean Lennon and featuring guest vocals from Yoko Ono is probably the least remarkable thing about it. This rogues’ gallery of a collection pushes everything in your face – picture a Jim Morrison hung next to a Lou Reed exhibited on a boat in 90s Seattle. In answer, the devil gets the best tunes. JPD

BLONDIE ***
Pollinator (BMG)

Still boasting half of the original Parallel Lines lineup, Blondie’s 11th studio album in a little over 40 years has a fair bit going for it. The strong tunes certainly outnumber the weak and lead single Fun harks back to the disco-fuelled tuneage of their heyday, septuagenarian Debbie Harry still pulling off that trademark sneer. The album feels like it’s being recorded by a proper band again after recent collaborative outings fell somewhat short of the mark. BG

Music Review

BONNIE PRINCE BILLY ****

Best Troubador (Domino)

The influence of the late, great Merle Haggard on Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (and, ultimately, every other country, folk and roots musician) is boundless. On this album, which was conceived before Merle’s passing in 2016, Will Oldham pays beautiful homage to his musical hero. Recorded in Oldham’s home studio with the Bonafide United Musicians, Best Troubador comprises of 16 tracks from across Haggard’s career, rendered pretty faithfully to their original incarnations but sounding all the better for the addition of the Oldham twang. GT

CALAN ****

Solomon (Sain)

Fourth outing for this award-winning folk-pop band flying the Welsh flag with their mix of traditional yet modern sound with a rhythmic twist. They particularly shine on the lovely quieter songs (Hayes & Quinn’s}, Pe Cawn I Hon, The Rejected Maiden) and on the enchanting fairy tale single Apparition. Bilingual rap Kan is a wonderful surprise and really works fusing both worlds. The jigs are OK, with the most interesting parts being the change of pace halfway through. RLR

 

COLDCUT X ON-U SOUND ***

Outside The Echo Chamber (Ahead Of Our Time)

This album, Coldcut’s first full-length for over a decade, has some impressive pedigree. Recorded with Adrian Sherwood of British dub pioneers On-U Sound, and a cast of global greats including Lee Scratch Perry, Junior Reid and Roots Manuva, it’s a dose of positive electronic-dub-pop with some electro quirkiness. It appears that the UK sound system culture is still alive and kicking, and beneath the smooth groove there are some pertinent messages to be heard. GT

COTTON WOLF *****
Life in Analogue (Bubblewrap)

The easiest way to write an 80-word piece on this album would be to write “buy this amazing record” 20 times over. It’s a delight; what a Warp Records best-of would sound like if you had to condense 25 years of ambient electro down to 40 minutes. The instrumentals more than hold their own but the collaborations with the astonishing Alys Williams and Lois Rogers, on Lliwiau and Future Never respectively, provide the highlights on Cotton Wolf’s stunning debut. BG

DRAGONFORCE ****

Reaching Into Infinity (earMUSIC)

‘Speed metal’ is an apt label for a band that defies all labels. Their sixth studio album begins with a graceful musical intro, but don’t be fooled: from then on tracks take off at such a pace it’s hard to keep up. There are some pauses for thought with slower songs like Silence and The Edge Of The World but as usual it’s the screaming guitar numbers that stand out. Vocally and musically the boys are on form and doing what they do best. LN

ERASURE ****

World Be Gone (Mute)

The key to Vince Clarke and Andy Bell’s continuing success is that most of – if not all of their songs – start off as acoustic songs, with electronic beats and pieces added later, so the heart and soul of the song is never lost or buried. World Be Gone is Erasure’s moodiest album since Chorus. Nina Simone is quoted as saying “it’s the job of the artist to reflect the times,” and Erasure have done just that with World Be Gone. DN

FEIST ****

Pleasure (Polydor)

Six years after last album Metals, Feist returns with a gratifyingly simple record in which the Canadian pares back all but the essential elements. Not to suggest that Pleasure is without texture or dynamic range: the self-titled opener flips between twisted, stripped-down grunge and those softly delivered, breathy harmonies which have become something of a calling card.  Feist is an artist who long ago found her voice and by painting with a minimal palette, that voice is given ample opportunity to shine through. HR

Music Review

HO99O9 **

United States Of Horror (Toys Have Power)

Fresh off the hype train with backing from El-P and Killer Mike comes the latest subversive hip-hop group with numbers in their name instead of letters. With production from a multitude of different names across its 17 different tracks, the album is a mixed bag of ‘hardcore’, ‘industrial’ and ‘metal’. Were this the year 1997, Ho9909 would make an excellent nu-metal band. However, in the year 2017 they simply come across as genre-hopping cultural tourists. GM

Music Review

JANE WEAVER ****

Modern Kosmology (Fire)

H>A>K kicks off Weaver’s third LP with a driving Neu! rhythm, and analogue synths which burble into a tsunami of electronica and drumfills. There are echoes of Stereolab on the multitrack harmonies of Did You See Butterflies? and the swinging exotica of the title track with its “now I’m changing my world“ chorus. Slow Motion and The Lightning Back have the deft synthpop touch of Au Revoir Simone. Combining futurism with the bucolic, Weaver deserves to see her name written in the stars. CS

LOWRI EVANS & LEE MASON ****

A Little Bit Of Everything (Shimi)
Here’s a treat for fans of this great Welsh partnership. A Little Bit Of Everything brings together a variety of songs Evans and Mason have performed and recorded over the past 10 years. What this new release captures is the intimacy of Evans’ performances alongside the clarity of Mason’s excellent production work. The material moves seamlessly from Welsh language folk to gentle jazz, with Evans’ warm, delicate vocals beautifully complimented by Mason’s gentlemanly guitar work. JPD

MAC DEMARCO***

This Old Dog (Captured Tracks)

Amiable Canuck DeMarco is a laid-back Lennon for our times, and he’s learnt a few more tricks for his three minute slacker pop songs. Baby You’re Out is for indie kids steeped in Screamadelica and Dreams From Yesterday is a sunkissed one-note samba, with wonky keyboard. Lurve song For The First Time sees a fey 80s soft rock keyboard but is eclipsed by the classier One More Love Song. One Another espouses tolerance in relationships, culminating in a brief, polite solo and sleigh bells. CS

Music Review

MARK LANEGAN BAND ***

Gargoyle (Heavenly)

Written in collaboration with friend and musician Rob Marshall, and featuring frequent associates Josh Homme and Greg Dulli, the latest album by one-time Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan has the familiar swagger, moodiness and gravelly baritone that defines his output. Lyrically there’s a lot of darkness, but it’s not a brooding album. There’s a lot of synth action and a lot less guitar feedback on Gargoyle, which for me doesn’t add up to the gutwrenching impact of his other solo albums. GT

MAXIMO PARK **

Risk To Exist (Cooking Vinyl)

Maximo Park are no strangers to unlikely alliances (an improbable marriage to pioneering electronic label Warp ended in divorce after three albums), but the involvement of Low’s Mimi Parker on five tracks still comes as a surprise. However, not even her stellar vocal presence can rescue a record that too often strains towards a substandard impression of the whiteboy funk of Field Music and Metronomy and hamfistedly shoehorns in contemporary political references in a doomed bid to ensure continued relevance. BW

Music Review

PENGUIN CAFÉ ****

The Imperfect Sea (Erased Tapes)
This label’s catalogue is generally an attestation of quality and distinctive sounds leaning towards the ‘out there’. Penguin Café’s latest is a perfect fit; blending energetic rhythms, hypnotic melodies and intense ambience to create something pleasingly familiar (particularly to the jazz and folk crowd) and concurrently fresh. The album’s concept is finding beauty in the sum of the parts and all their inborn imperfections, and the layered acoustic instrument motifs following a typically ‘electronica’ routine yields some interesting results. CPI

SLACKK ***

A Little Light (R&S)

Instumental grime is as old as the genre itself, of course, but in the case of newer producers like Paul ‘Slackk’ Lynch, it’s not specifically created with MCs in mind. As such, A Little Light – his second album – relies on its own merits, and starts slowly, with a spate of unexciting keys’n’snares noodling. Things perk up bigtime with the bruising Desert Eagle, and a halfway house between Slackk’s meditative and dancefloor-troubling tendencies is found in tracks like Deluxe Night Edition. NG

THURSTON MOORE ****

Rock N Roll Consciousness (Caroline)

Sonic Youth were one of the most important bands of the 80s/90s and at the helm of that band was Thurston Moore. More indulgent and with dreamier melodies, than his previous work, Rock N Roll Consciousness is sonic excess, in its purest form. Collaborating these days with, amongst others, Deb Googe of My Bloody Valentine, you can definitely hear that particular influence, in these tracks. The term shoegaze springs to mind. Great album. CA

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