THIS WEEK’S NEW ALBUMS REVIEWED | FEATURE
The Nightmare Of Being (Century Media)
The guttural snarl that is a trademark of death metal will often hit you like a slap around the ears. Not so on The Nightmare Of Being, and At The Gates [pictured, top – credit Ester Segarra], the pioneering Swedish five-piece, may have another success on their hands with their seventh album.
Opening number Spectre Of Extinction begins with an instrumental section, which acts as an introduction to what is to come. Lyrics are dark and philosophic; music hard, heavy, melodious and dramatic. Tracks like The Fall Into Time sound like the score of an epic dystopian movie, but this, as with many other tracks, undergoes several stylistic changes before ending up back where it began.
Frontman Tomas Lindberg’s voice adds another layer of interest to the songs and without his ‘unclean’ vocals this would simply be another prog-rock record, albeit a very impressive one. There is a lot of beauty here amongst the darkness – and because the music isn’t dominated by the vocal, this album is easy to digest.
words LYNDA NASH
Utopian Ashes (Sony)
Utopian Ashes is a curious one – a breakup album that’s not autobiographical, written and performed by a man and woman who’ve never been together. Gillespie and Beth have gone deep into past experiences, real-life disappointments and fictional fantasy to bring forth an emotionally engaging and musically surprising record.
The opening and closing tracks are perhaps the least satisfying: maybe bookending this collection of soul-infused Americana arrangements was a challenge. In between are seven songs that deal in hard truths (Your Heart Will Always Be Broken) and the inevitable untangling of lives when love is lost (Remember We Were Lovers). The backing mainly comes from Gillespie’s regular Primal Scream bandmates, whose intimate groove lifts the content out of its maudlin depths. Which is good, as some lines in Living A Lie are actually hard to listen to – a Dear John that doesn’t pull any punches.
A great pairing, with Gillespie’s male bravado well offset by Beth’s more artistic delivery. An album for anyone with a history of heartache; I’m just glad the singers are, reportedly, happy at home…
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
The track titles read like a concept album: The Lighthouse On The Horizon, Arriving At Ellis Island, The Beaches Of Lesbos. Daniel Herskedal takes the listener on an undulating voyage from the Norwegian coast where Harbour was recorded to the Greek island of legend in the closing track.
Mostly, the waters are calm with Herskedal’s unique tuba and bass trumpet playing lapping at the waves of piano and percussion that complete this intimate three-piece. The standout tracks – mainly by virtue of differing from the standard, ECM-like, gentle jazz that ebbs and flows throughout the album – are infused with modal scales and latin ostinatos that really show off Eyolf Dale’s expressive piano playing.
Helge Andreas Norbakken provides percussive pulses that range from offbeat funk to freeform expression, but it is Herskedal’s playing that is most surprising. In his hands, the tuba sounds like the musical lovechild of the tenor sax and fretless bass. In fact, it is Jaco that Herskedal’s playing style evokes: high, harmonic-like sounds squeezed out of the bass tuba, then thundering low notes and smooth middling melodies.
The overdubbing (all from within the ensemble) might not be to everyone’s taste, but to hear Herskedal duet with both of Dale’s independent hands is well worth it. A beautiful blend of musicality and sonic storytelling that steers a true course through new, uncharted, waters.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
The Holy Family (Rocket)
Rocket have made a name for themselves as purveyors of psych, but this release is out there even by their own standards. The debut from an outfit skippered by David J. Smith and featuring his Guapo bandmates Kavus Torabi and Emmett Elvin, plus Torabi’s Utopia Strong colleague Michael J. York, is a double album (of course). It’s Smith’s attempt at “a musical interpretation of a very trippy and psychedelic murder mystery tale, or otherworldly dream/hallucination” (of course). It was recorded “at an old house in the country well stocked with the requisite fine wines and jazz cigarettes” (of course). Its centrepiece is the 12-minute Inner Edge Of Outer Mind (of course).
Music should move you, and this moves me – to bewilderment and profound disorientation. Set adrift on a strange, swirling soup of sounds and half-heard voices, I’m all at sea, grasping for anything remotely solid to use as a life raft: the acid-fried folk guitar of Inward Turning Suns, the riff that temporarily anchors Stones To Water, A New Euphoria’s refreshing regularity, the soothing kosmische of St Anthony’s Fire, the funk bass and vigorous hi-hat work that make closer Chasm Second Part sound like a 70s cop show theme.
What is alienating for some will be immersive for others, but, try as I might (listening sleep deprived in the early hours of the morning), my doors of perception remain bolted shut. One for the heads, in every sense.
words BEN WOOLHEAD
Trujillo, Perú 1971-1974 (Analog Africa)
Compilations by Analog Africa are as much about the legend as they are about the tunes, and this one is no exception. Cumbia has had a resurgence in recent years, popularised by the likes of Will ‘Quantic’ Holland, and this one features Peruvian cumbia and guaracha, graced by the electric criollo guitar lines of Manzanita (which translates as ‘little apple’).
Manzanita’s rise to prominence came in the wake of a 1968 regime change, which saw musical imports by the likes of Cream and Hendrix halted in favour of a homegrown music scene which flourished, while still coloured by elements of psychedelia. Some cumbia can stray a little too close to cha-cha cabaret or wedding band style, but Manzanita keeps these tunes, many of them culled from two LPs made in 1973 and ‘74, interesting.
Shambar is the pick, its Link Wray rumble and brass giving way to some nimble guitar lines which Mark Speer of Khruangbin would be chuffed with. There’s plenty more expressive playing on La Mazamorrita, with its chanted vocal refrain, and La Caihuita sees the guitar dancing along the top of an organ line. La Buenita’s high tempo and grainy recording is enlivened by the spirited male and female duet; Un Sabado Por La Noche is a tropical cousin to Booker T’s Green Onions and some spunky electronics, gritty guitar and lusty hollers make Catita worthy of repeat.
words CHRIS SEAL
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