Windflowers (City Slang)
Looking both to the past and the future on Alien Arms, the opening track of Efterklang’s sixth LP, Casper Clausen reflects that “everything ends”. In the hands of another band, the ephemerality of existence would be cause for lamentation – but for Clausen and bandmates Mads Brauer and Rasmus Stolberg, it somehow becomes a source of consolation. Time and again on Windflowers, the Danes perform the high-wire trick of transforming lines that, on paper, would be dangerously trite – “Only love can find a way,” “Open this has fluctuated up your eyes and look outside” – into profound, moving, sincere sentiment. The album as a whole is an expression of fragile beauty and cautious optimism – a ray of light in dark days.
Hold Me Close When You Can, a spare piano ballad subtly augmented by both electronics and orchestral instrumentation, probably provides the most heart-stopping moments. But the out-and-proud pop of Living Other Lives and Åbent Sår, the latter of which is translated at the midway mark into pulsing euphorica by Swedish techno guru The Field, are notable for hinting at alternative futures well worth exploring.
words BEN WOOLHEAD
Montreal’s Radwan Moumneh has been using the Jerusalem In My Heart alias for 15 years or so, although my first encounter with him as a musician predates this: he played guitar in Cursed, a gnarly Canadian hardcore band. Releases such as Qalaq, the latest JIMH album, take a very different tack. Its 13 pieces combine abstract, sometimes challenging computer music and traditional Arabic instrumentation, but the whole is nothing if not forthright and powerful.
Though a nominally solo act, JIMH has always taken a collaborative approach, never more so than here. Moor Mother donates her 94th guest vocal of 2021 to Qalaq 3, part of a nine-segment suite whose length purports to reflect the depth of Moumneh’s anger at Lebanese politics and anti-Palestinian oppression. Elsewhere, Tim Hecker features on a delicious drone passage, Lucrecia Dalt spook-mumbles on the nocturnal Tanto and avant-rock drummer extraordinaire Greg Fox is spliced with treated female vocals on album opener Abyad Barraq.
words NOEL GARDNER
Seventeen Going Under (Polydor)
Intensely personal yet convincingly political, Seventeen Going Under sees Sam Fender honing his songwriting – capturing the sensation of optimism faced with decay, be that of your home town, relationships or faith in leaders.
The album’s defining moment and title track excels in humble arrangement and poignant poetry, as a saxophone gently accentuates the wounded yet hopeful tone. From the enraged dejection of Aye, to the melancholy affirmations of self-worth on Last To Make It Home, the brilliance of these songs is their relatability. Often, a sense of urgency rushes to the forefront as with the rush of strings on The Leveller or the exultant chorus of Getting Started.
As the record concludes with The Dying Light, this writer is left emotionally empathised with and enthused by the carefully crafted compositions. If Sam Fender’s success is anything to judge by, his unique sound and growth as an artist will inspire many more.
words ALEX SWIFT
Fire Draw Near (River Lea)
Ian Lynch, of Dublin folk band Lankum, has put together a beautiful collection of instrumental and unaccompanied singing in praise of his early childhood inspirations. The recordings span 60 years of traditional music-making in Ireland and contain everything from shantys to comedy turns. There are some studio recordings but most give the impression of being captured on the fly, in the moment – just for the craic – with noise from the locals in the bar seeping into the little bit of history that’s just been captured. The most exceptional voice is John Reilly Jr’s as he plays with the melody of The Jolly Tinker like a piper, full of slips and turns and as clear as a bell.
For anyone who, like Lynch, remembers sitting at the knee of their older relations, at the local or round the fire in the front room, hearing each take their turn at a tune or a poem, Fire Draw Near will rekindle those memories. For others, the image will be lit bright by the flames.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
Paura (Cam Sugar/Decca)
Paura is the Italian word for fear, and this compilation explores the scores from Italy’s eclectic horror movie repertoire: from label archives comes a lulling, liberating journey into a labyrinth of loneliness. The compilation, which features 11 previously unreleased tracks, delves into the many facets of 70s and 80s Italian horror flicks and their soundtracks, brought together as a succession of sequences as if it had been edited to score an original film.
There is something deeply disturbing about how sound and imagery having some level of cognitive dissonance between them can be the most perfect means of musical scores. Composers like Ennio Morricone, whose work on The Thing and The Exorcist 2 are my idea of true genius, are just the top of the iceberg on Paura.
This strain of sonic exploration influenced a generation of filmmakers – from Scorsese to Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino – and listening to this collection in its entirety I can understand why.
words BILLIE INGRAM SOFOKLEOUS
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