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Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Price: £9.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Allelujah! indeed., 19 Oct. 2012
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I've loved GYBE since they had their exclamation mark at the end instead of the middle (no, me neither) and this was a real surprise, their first new album in ten years, released somewhat under the radar in October 2012. I'd heard this on a pre-release stream but that does not adequately prepare you for the CD which sounds huge. It's great to have them back. Apparently some of the tracks have been road tested under other names, so the band is well on top of it's material here. The bit on Mladic which on the streaming sounded a bit like Hawkwind here sounds more middle eastern and really massive. Surprisingly heavy. The two shorter tracks are more drone and trance like. We Drift Like Worried Fire is more like godspeed of old - classic. You can read a lot about the political import of what the band does, but this is, as always, instrumental music, which you can interpret or not; an attitude comes across which is sorely needed in a conforming music world. In doing so it is the music which rises above all else. As a rare press interview in the Guardian had it: "Do people like me just take you too seriously?" "Probably." Allelujah! indeed.


The Mothership Returns
The Mothership Returns
Price: £14.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Renaissance?, 8 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: The Mothership Returns (Audio CD)
This is a fine live recording of a magnificent band. Most material will be familiar (or over familiar - some new tunes would be good) to existing RTF fans although they are varied from the originals, and with 'Renaissance' a Jean-Luc Ponty tune (from The Rite of Strings CD - Ponty/Clarke/Di Meola) for good measure. For others this forms a good starting point to explore RTF.
The sound is splendid and the band has a warmer, fuller sound than the on the 70s LP recordings (and the recently issued anthology of original 70s material was way over-compressed). Jean-Luc Ponty's violin is an especially welcome addition - on first appearance this could be taken for a synth but it is soon a formidable force and becomes more compelling with every listen, a reminder of the Mahavishnu Orchestra in fact, and one of my reasons to buy this set. Frank Gambale on guitars here is a refreshing change too.
While there are solos here they within the music, not the grandstanding indulgence tendencies (Clarke) on the live 2008 RTF reunion dvd (good as that is, with the Al Di Meola line up as per many RTF LPs). Solos make far more sense as part of a performance - on this set you can hear them again without wincing.
The digipack is neat, folding to the old style double CD size. The dvd here also has two performances (in 5.1 surround) and you could only wish for more, though again Clarke tends to over solo in my view. Yes he's brilliant but context is all.
I presume this is a document of the 2011 tour but the lengthy booklet fails to give any recording details like where? when? one show or a selection job? and in fact does little else either, being more of an illustrated thank you list. No excuse for that.


ORO - Opus Alter
ORO - Opus Alter
Price: £11.03

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ... whoaaah! again, 21 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: ORO - Opus Alter (Audio CD)
Perhaps inevitably, the long awaited part 2 of Oro, Opus Alter, is initially a bit of an anticlimax. It is more of the same, massive and relentless if a more 'basic' outing, and without the addictive little repetitive melody hook which permeated part 1, Opus Primum, or seemingly any equivalent: more towards spaced riffage with trademark 'alien' noise textures.
Obviously as part 2 is less familiar than part 1 it will take time for the 2 parts to be heard as a whole - this perhaps questions the wisdom of such delayed 2 part releases - why not put a double CD out straight off?
However, this CD alone still has the power to curdle the brain in a most satisfactory manner; this is a band on top of its game - heavy beyond credibility, dense and complex within a simple formula, and worthy of repeated listening - so just get the two CDs together (or, who knows it may appear as a double at some point) and go where they send you. Just don't plan on doing much for a while afterwards...


Crippled Symmetry: At June in Buffalo
Crippled Symmetry: At June in Buffalo
Price: £24.69

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pure magic, 25 Aug. 2012
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This is an amazing performance cumulatively casting a magical spell over the near 90 minute duration. The excellent recording captures the acoustic of the venue which adds an extra ambience to the shimmering bliss of the music. Unfortunately the same quality also applies to the audience - and coughs, sneezes and shuffling do break the spell somewhat; perhaps the irritation (hence only 4 stars) will subside in time... the magic is certainly strong.


Brandenburg Concertos & Orchestra Suites
Brandenburg Concertos & Orchestra Suites
Offered by Classical Connoisseur
Price: £37.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, precise recording, 22 Aug. 2012
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I got this for the Brandenburgs to eventually replace a venerable Philamusica of London double cassette version - which was very good and held up against technological advances surprisingly well. However the time came - and there's a plethora of choice, even in SACD (and why not?). So why this one?
Firstly it's a well regarded recording among the many available. Secondly it's an SACD surround version. Thirdly it has the orchestral suites as well. Fourthly the price is reasonable for 3 SACDs. So far what's not to like?
I am very pleased with the discs (they do come in LP-like paper sleeves in a box with a full booklet in the standard set of languages, rather than card sleeves which would perhaps be preferable - a minor quibble). The sound is splendid, the surround sound the 'traditional' front of house presentation but with great clarity and presence. The playing is fine - as you would hope to expect - and the orchestral suites, previously unknown to me, a valuable addition and useful comparison with the familiar Brandenburgs - these have been released previously and would easily slip under the radar but deserve an equal hearing. The fulsome (if sometimes academic) booklet explains all the stylistic differences to enable better understanding of the music. But above all it is a joy to listen to.


W Lawes: Consorts to the Organ
W Lawes: Consorts to the Organ
Price: £13.25

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, 11 Aug. 2012
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Phantasm is a great ensemble and this is a remarkable disc. Hitherto unfamiliar with William Lawes I found this a persuasive introduction. The copious "notes for the perplexed" in the booklet explain things very clearly, if somewhat perplexingly for a non musician; however you get the idea Lawes was a bit "out there" for his time (the notes are also on the Linn website). The sound is splendid - especially in surround which has such a real presence you almost expect players to appear before you. As for the playing - well could you ask for more? Remarkable. Anyone with an interest in music of this period should hear this. The word "Phantasmic" should be coined to mean just how good this is.


Birtwistle: Complete String Quartets
Birtwistle: Complete String Quartets
Price: £13.63

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic, 28 July 2012
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The sound quality on this disc is stunning as is the Arditti's playing. The clarity, precision and and sheer presence make this unforgettable. It will take longer for the music itself to reveal itself (to me anyway) but as it is, a few months into listening, it has a magnetic effect - it absorbs your whole attention. Both works were composed for the Arditti Quartet and it is moot perhaps as to whether the composer's experience or the increasing mastery of the Quartet spur the other to greater achievement. Superb.


Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead
Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead
Price: £12.10

4.0 out of 5 stars This review is a wildebeest, 26 July 2012
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Or "bewilderbeest" as he would have it. And he would have it it seems - this appears to be partly a catalogue of how. Being always himself, this honest, humorous, desperately uncommercial musical rant should be no surprise to the initiated Stanshall enthusiast but perhaps is not a starting point for those unfamiliar. A welcome reissue of an album too easily missed at the time - I missed it - but I did see the Bonzos in 1969 to my everlasting joy.
This 2012 reissue of MOUA from 1974 is apparently Stanshall family-friendly royalty-wise unlike the earlier 2010 issue which is berated as sloppy in the cover hereof - despite this one's various typos... hey ho. How they compare I've no idea but no one seemed to moan about the sound of the earlier "unauthorised" reissue. This one is fine, even without the LP side 2 masters which went off in a taxi at the time...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 23, 2013 10:19 PM BST


Adams: Harmonielehre; Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Adams: Harmonielehre; Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Price: £19.07

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite a ride!, 15 July 2012
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I've been meaning to try a John Adams piece for a while so when this new version of Harmonielehre came out, and on SACD, I gave it a whirl; particularly as a BBC review said it was "as near a great work as makes no difference". And very good it is too. The surround sound is fulsome although as with much classical music balanced to the front as per concert hall which I always feel to be a missed opportunity, especially with modern music. While new to the work it seems strangely familiar in parts but only in brief fragments before it swirls elsewhere and you lose it; Adams apparently alluded to the work perhaps being a parody - and certainly the last part suggests Steve Reich - but overall it is strongly itself. As another, and perhaps not wholly original, musician, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) has it in a lyric: "it could be a joke, could be a statement"...
To my ears the additional 'short ride' piece could easily be a fourth part of the major work here; still what do I know?
As an introduction to Adams I have found it intriguing so far - but if surround sound is not your thing there are earlier and cheaper versions of the 1985 work which, again according to the BBC review, are "not displaced" by this version.


Leyfdu Ljosinu
Leyfdu Ljosinu
Price: £24.63

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sailing, not sinking, 14 July 2012
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This review is from: Leyfdu Ljosinu (Audio CD)
Leyfdu Ljosinu follows the wonderful 'Without sinking' album by this Icelandic cellist which since it came out in 2009 has become a solid favourite of mine. Hildur Gudnadottir displays a sensibility of sound texture and structure which becomes absorbing given time; obviously she is a fine instrumentalist as well. The recording quality is excellent. It is contemplative music you can be lost in - but do not read that as bland, new age etc. This is as close to thoughtful, emotional, contemporary classical as you can get without danger of it being the remote austere academic exercise contemporary classical can often be. It has a soul. There is multi layering of her cello and subtle electronics woven in here with ethereal vocals (used as instrumentation); the piece builds (or perhaps floats) to a climax from virtually nothing and whereas I initially thought this could go further, reflection shows her musical judgement to be spot on. A piece destined to be listened to over and over, all the while finding more to listen for. Stunning.
It should find appreciation from those who enjoy a variety of similarly soulful musical journeying - whether that be by Arvo Part or Ufomammut - don't be hidebound by musical genres!


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