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Gideon (Italy)

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Price: £14.80

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lies And Lullabies, 5 May 2013
This review is from: Woman (Audio CD)
It arrives cloaked in enigma and ambiguity, yet you only need a couple of listens to be sure: come December, this will be among the best debut albums of the year.

A Canadian / Danish duo (Mike Milosh / Robert Braun), Rhye offer a gliding take on blue-eyed pop-soul with bossa nove, Bacharach and disco leanings. It will leave you deeply entranced and rather surprised.

"Woman" is impeccably produced and arranged, strings and brass stylishly embroidering glinting, mostly mid-tempo opal-smooth beats. Think the Chic-Steely Dan-Avalon Roxy Bermuda Triangle: are you ready to disappear in there?

Yet all of this would be (nearly) nothing if two further elements would not add an extra twist to the tale of this minimally sleeved record.

Firstly, the lyrics are not typical. Given the musical ingredients, you would expect some schmaltzy gibberish about how your baby is the sunshine of your life and so on and so forth. Not here: the lyrics are indeed about love and sez, but they deploy laconic, effective imagery to convey their transience, implicit disappointment and not so metaphorical cannibalistic nature. The wordanto "3 Days" andf unger" are apt examples of this; when coupled with their elegant backings, they produce an off-beat mix of chic-driven cruelty.

And soon it becomes clear: the whole album is about love's corruption and man's fall from it, a pessimistic parable that very much resemnles life itself. If it sounds too depressing, never mind; the music will soothe all of your hurt.

The music, of course, AND the voice. Mike Milosh is apparently the singer on this project, yet what you hear is so utterly Other that it seems impossible that the owner of this instrument should be burdened by a detail as trivial as gender. Anyway, the quavering iridescence of this voice becomes the perfect glue that holds the hazy obsession of the music together. It is compelling, addictive and really pure in its sense of decay. It is also the best new voice so far this year.

"Woman" is a round white pebble on the river bank of tour memory. Pick it up, caress it slowly; it will tell you lies and lullabies that you thought you had forgotten. From that moment on, they will stay with you forever.

Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £5.50

9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, 11 Mar 2013
This review is from: Exile (Audio CD)
They have stolen the word from our mouth.

Because when the disc stops, this is exactly how you will feel: exiled, estranged from a band that only three years ago held so much promise.

We had been warned, though; scowling first single Miracle did not bode well with its booming drums and squealing guitars, but now that the album is with us the tragic extent of the disaster is apparent: the production on Exile is completely wrong from start to finish, while the songs themselves are just pale ghosts of the ones that featured on Happiness.

In a bid to conquer America and Nepal Theo and Adam have taken the srylish electro-pop balladry of their fine debut and raped it via injections of U2-ish guitars, a choir of witches and turgid beats courtesy of Hephaestus himself.

The result? Overblown. Overproduced. Pompous. Vacuous. Needlessly over-the-top ditties full of lyrical cliches and post-adolescent baloney.

Simply put: this is not intelligent pop music. This is a crying shame and a complete letdown. You can only save yourself from Hurts now by turning your back abruptly on them.

Be brave and look ahead. There is a new David Bowie album out on the very same day.

Worst tracks: all of them, with special kitsch awards for Help, Someone To Die For, Blind, Cupid and Mercy.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 23, 2013 11:55 AM GMT

Arc of a Diver
Arc of a Diver
Price: £10.03

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Very Deluxe, 5 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Arc of a Diver (Audio CD)
We have not listened to this cd yet - as soon as we do, we will post a comment - but for the moment we would like to point out that there is a bad surprise in the booklet: one page was printed TWICE, so this means that some of the lyrics are missing (namely: the whole of "Second-Hand Woman", the final part of "Arc Of A Diver" and the beginning of "Slowdown Sundown").

Which is not very nice. And not very DELUXE, either.

October 7th Update

Thank God the remastering is good. This is a definite improvement on the previous, rickety cd version; the grooves are warm and well defined, while the general sonic spectrum reveals many unexpected keyboard parts, even if some of the upper range sounds are occasionally strained.

But what of the artistic value of this record? Thirty-two years on, "Arc" remains an engrossing listening experience. It is transatlantic, urban and bucolic at the same time, mixing as it does black and white musical styles to great effect.

The seven tracks have a lot to offer. "Night Train" could be described as Mr Winwood's "Trans-Europa Express", taut electro beats and a bluesy guitar sustaining a forceful, desoerate vocal. "Spanish Dancer" is pre-coital shuffling disco, a track that would not be out of place on Talking Heads' "Remain In Light". "Slowdon Sundown" and "Dust" are fine examples of dense, intricate balladry, where electronic and organic sounds create a delicious tension that also translates into the lyrics. "Arc Of A Diver", on the other hand, is a rocky groove Primal Scream forgot to write, while "Second-Hand Woman" and "While You See A Chance" flirt with jazzy disco-pop and proggy R'n'B with the greatest of ease.

The lyrics, written by Viv Stanshall and Will Jennings, are poetic and heartfelt and blend perfectly with the music which - it should be remembered - was entirely written, arranged and performed by Mr Winwood himself, with no help from Mr Ableton or Miss Autotune whatsoever.

Lastly, the cover art is marvellous. We actually bought "Arc" in the 80s because of it. We have never regretted adopting this "superficial" approach, as this is exactly the case where you can judge a record by its cover.

And so, booklet disaster notwithstanding, the diver is back. Close your eyes and let the groove flow.

P.S. Cd 2 contains three alternate takes and a BBC documentary. Not bad, but not ferociously essential.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 25, 2012 2:45 PM BST

We the Animals
We the Animals
by Justin Torres
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Brutal Thing, 15 Jun 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: We the Animals (Hardcover)
Get ready: this slim little book will drive an iron wedge into your soul.

Justin Torres's debut novel has already been highly praised by authors such as Michael Cunningham and Marilynne Robinson. With good reason; you will be gripped by it from page one, with no chance to escape.

The first "WTA" trait to strike is its language: taut, sharp, surgically precise, not a word or a punctuation mark wasted or out of place.

Then comes the srructure: Mr Torres's take on Bildungsroman develops in short, poignant tableaux that never fail to climax linguistically and emotionally. In lesser hands this book would have been five-hundred pages long, but the author makes a ferocious use of ellipsis here. And what is missing simply pierces even more when pitched against what you actually read on the page. If you need literary references think "The Hours" by Michael Cunningham mixed with Hubert Selby Jr's "Last Exit To Brooklyn". That is, violence and beauty strolling hand in hand.

And no, we are not going to say a word about the plot and the characters. They will be with you, vivid and heartbreaking, by the end of chapter one, leading the way into a world where each of your senses will be pummelled by the gasp of life.

Mr Torres has some bitter lessons to impart on the illusion of family life, love and sexuality. They all ring desperately, unavoidably true.

We can therefore only applaud this new master in American fiction. And hope for more of this beautiful brutal thing.

Hammershoi and Europe
Hammershoi and Europe
by Kasper Monrad
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Itself, 25 April 2012
This review is from: Hammershoi and Europe (Hardcover)
We had been looking for a book on Vilhelm Hammershøi for a very long time. Suddenly, here it is.

This is not only the catalogue to an exhibition taking place in Copenhagen until 20th May, this is also a complete analysis of the work of this unique Danish painter.

The book is lavishly illustrated and robustly bound, with some minor typos in the text. It contains a series of essays discussing Hammershøi's main themes (symbolism, absence, intimism) while connecting his oeuvre to Europe's artistic currents of the day (1864 - 1916). The result is an interesting blend of detailing and context research.

But then again, simply look at these paintings. If you love Jan Vermeer and Edward Hopper, you will definitely see a link here. All of these artists deal with life itself: absence, waiting, longing, silence, this is the stuff our days on earth are actually and ultimately made of.

Hammershøi's palette is not what you would call luxuriant, yet his greys, whites and blacks - with only hints of pale blue, red and yellow - often glint like the most precious of stones (and is Mr Rembrandt that far away?).

Hence, savour this book slowly. Page by page. You might even realize with a start that you stopped stroking those touchscreen devices you so fondly love.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2014 12:47 PM GMT

The Broken Man
The Broken Man
Price: £15.35

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Thoughts, 29 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Broken Man (Audio CD)
First thought: you look at the sleeve and booklet of "The Broken Man" and you cannot help wondering why they were printed in BLACK on a DARK BROWN background. They are UNREADABLE. Song titles, lyrics and liner notes are INVISIBLE even if they are included.

Second thought: bristolian Matt Elliott's new album is sublime. It could easily become this year's "Last Of The Country Gentlemen". As far as we are concerned it is already on our top five record chart of 2012, even though we do not know yet the other four discs that will join it there.

But, what is this "Broken Man" exactly? It is a tenderly desperate opus. Flamenco guitar, violin, piano (on track five) and an operatic, electronically treated choir all join in to form a crisp backing, over which Mr Elliott's voice - a warm, bittersweet instrument - softly glides to deliver his resignedly passionate words on broken love.

Rest assured: this music will slow-burn its way into your soul and it will take no prisoners. This is "Blue Monday" as sung by Nick Drake. This is Jean Genet wandering through the harbour fog, pining for his lovers. This is a man so crushed by life that there is no self-pity left. There is only truth, the one you learn via sheer loneliness of the heart.

Last thought: it is a crying shame that music of such value should be "adorned" by drab, shoddy artwork. We have therefore decided to give this album only three stars, just to punish not Mr Elliott, but those who produce sleeves and booklets with such lack of respect for artistry. When those kind souls at the Ici d'Ailleurs label release a new version of this cd, one with READABLE inserts, we shall be more than happy to amend our rating.

Meanwhile, we can only enjoy and seethe at the same time.

Price: £19.77

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Northeners, 14 Feb 2012
This review is from: Format (Audio CD)
Just think: how many bands do you know who can afford a quadruple album of essential B-sides?

"Format" arrives in a Mark Farrow-tastic box with thirty-eight tracks and a booklet where Jon Savage interviews Neil and Chris about the dark side of the single. Needless to say, they once again turn out to be The Wittiest Couple In Pop, no contest.

As for the music: this compilation holds together very well. even if it spans nearly two decades and various genres. We get disco, ballads, techno stomps, rocky bops and a wondrous cover in the form of "We're The Pet Shop Boys", the ultimate meta-pop song that was written by My Robot Friend and later sadly mauled by one R. Williams.

It does not end here: these songs also sparkle lyrically, brimming with a variety of themes that are presented with heartfelt, surgical precision. One simply cannot listen to the PSB without thinking of literature; E. M.Forster and Alan Hollinghurst, for instance, keep coming to mind. Mr Tennant's tone and narrative slant are up there, dispensing acute social commentary and poignant stories at every turn.

"Format" is therefore a further, pristine addition to the already glorious PSB canon.

These northeners really have a way with words and music. How do they do it?

This Mortal Coil
This Mortal Coil

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ivo's Dream, 28 Dec 2011
This review is from: This Mortal Coil (Audio CD)
It costs a small fortune, but it provides immense joy.

Ivo Watts-Russell finally reissues the whole output of This Mortal Coil, the 4AD covers project he masterminded between 1983 and 1992, during the label's 80s-defining halcyon days.

TMC comprised, at various stages, members of Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Pixies and Throwing Muses, as well as other non-4AD acts such as Shelleyan Orphan, Breathless and Cindytalk, to name but a few. It was an odd ensemble for the post-punk era, but an effective one.

The reissue comes in a glinting, Pallas Citroën-adorned brown box that contains four discs, three official albums plus a fourh cd that works as a singles compilaton and abode for stray, rare tracks.

The music is faultlessly remastered (not too loud, crisp and balanced), while the cds are housed in delicious gatefolds with booklet, inner sleeve and an extra soft plastic jacket that enables you to remove and replace the discs with extreme ease. Elegant and user-friendly, just what was needed.

But what of the artistic value of this "band"? Well, if "It'll End In Tears" (1984) is the aquatic classic that put them on the map, subsequent releases should not be underestimated. "Filigree And Shadow" (1986) expands the 60s / 70s palette of intimate songs adding a new rhythmical slant with martial beats and a white-funk sensibility (their cover of "Drugs" by Talking Heads). "Blood" (1991) is often neglected but equally fascinating; more downbeat, in parts it even predates the trip-hop trend by nearly a lustre, a clear sign that Ivo and friends were not sleeping on their well-deserved laurels.

This Mortal Coil thus emerge from this box as a timeless entity. They will conquer you slowly with that ebb and flow of songs and soundscapes, yet their power will turn out to be lasting. After nearly thirty years, they have certainly passed their litmus test.

Ivo's dream of art and song has now come full circle.

50 Words for Snow
50 Words for Snow
Price: £5.99

40 of 76 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Annus Horribilis, 25 Nov 2011
This review is from: 50 Words for Snow (Audio CD)
Alas, it cannot be denied: Kate Bush has been working very hard at destroying her artistic reputation this year.

In May she released one of the most useless albums ever in the form of "Director's Cut". We thought we would have at least five years to nurse our dashed expectations but no, this time she has turned into La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

Here comes the fatal blow. "50" is sixty-five minutes of new material that cause serious cencern about the state of her artistry.

After a few listens it is also clear that the debate about "The Red Shoes" being her bad album is officially over: "50" IS her worst record by a mile.

There are sadly several reasons for this:

1 - We have absolutely nothing against sparseness when it comes to arrangements in music. Yet the songs here are so minimal that they border on non-exsistence. Nothing happens for minutes on end bar some muffled mumblings and vapid piano playing. Is this songwriting? No, this is fake cocktail jazzyness, sticky with self-indulgence. Nothing on "50" could possibly be compared to any of her old songs, either lyrically or musically. This is a vast songwriterly desert.

2 - Promoting new talent is never wrong, yet in the case of Albert McIntosh a little caution would have been advisable. On the verses of "Snowflake" he sounds like David Tibet with a bad cold, while the soaring falsetto so highly praised in reviews and interviews proves frankly embarassing. Eggs should be definitely given time to hatch.

3 - Fortunately, there are more experienced vocalists than Bertie B. on this album. One of them is Sir Elton John, who duly booms his way through "Snowed In At Wheeler Street", thus completely annihilating an otherwise boring song. Duets can be double-edged weapons, particularly when dear old Reg is involved.

4 - Ah, and humor is good for your health, this is a simple and wise truth. Yet the title-track of this ill-fated disc is easily one of the silliest songs ever committed to tape. Ms Bush described the album as "more adult" music, but that "C'mon Joe" chorus is prime kindergarten stuff. Bertie probably loves it.

5 - As you can see there is much to ne faulted in "50", but there is a further thorn in this unwieldy bouquet: Ms Bush's voice has dramatically changed for the worse over the last six years. One could even venture to say that she has lost it, which makes this the final nail in the coffin of a work that is muted, impersonal and totally bereft of any real emotion.

This is indeed an Annus Horribilis. The year ends with the sound of a former great artist being slowly, but inexorably, buried in snow.

It is going to be an icy, chilly Christmas time.
Comment Comments (17) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 23, 2013 11:24 AM GMT

On The Water
On The Water
Price: £11.04

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Friends Unknown, 27 Oct 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: On The Water (Audio CD)
It does not happen very often, but it does. One day you meet someone, and it will only take a few words to know: the creature in front of you has been following a path similar to yours in life. You suddenly realize that you have a wealth of existence you could share with that person, and that the same thought is crossing his / her mind. It is a gift.

It can happen with music too, and more often. One day you hear a song caled "Before The Bridge" and you know: those slinky beats, the wailing synths and ascending melody, the warm tones of the singer's voice will leave no doubt. These are old friends you did not know.

"On The Water" is Future Islands' third album to date. Their previous effort, last year's "In Evening Air", was an extremely accomplished record and this follow-up is a punctual, effective confirmation of their talent as songwriters.

Not that this Baltimore trio did not have teachers of note: New Order, The Blue Nile, Tindersticks and Kraftwerk are all present and correct in their Dna, yet the way they manage to combine these influences is more than remarkable. It is passionate.

Besides, they do not sleep on their laurels. "On The Water" marks a shift towards a more organic sound (strings, acoustic guitars) and a general slowing down of tempos. There are actually only three fast tracks here, the rest being taken up by beautiful electro-ballads. One of the most compelling is certainly the six-minute plus "Where I Found You", a song that starts as an "Europa Endlos" tribute and slowly morphs into Blue Nile heaven. It is only one if the treats in store.

But, given the great music, what makes it all snap into place? It is of course Samuel T. Herring's voice, a flexible, sometimes naturally theatrical instrument (Morrissey + Antony?) that he puts to great use by singing lyrics of pristine, literary beauty. His main themes are the eternal Love and Loss ones, but in his hands they become detailed, honest and poignantly narrative. Thus Future Islands succeed in marrying their American soul with the European sounds they love and understand so well, creating a work that is mature, tender and true.

We are so grateful for this music, this devotion and warmth.

The cold season is setting in. You know where you can find them.

Key tracks: Before The Bridge, Where I Found You, Grease, Close To None
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 30, 2011 12:36 PM GMT

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