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Subterranean - New Designs on Bowie's Berlin

4.9 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (7 July 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Motorik
  • ASIN: B00KOFWM0W
  • Other Editions: Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,564 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Product Description

A radical take on the instrumental cuts from David Bowie's 1977 albums Low and "Heroes" from drummer Dylan Howe, "A superb player, inspiring and invigorating" (The Guardian). It features saxophonists Julian Siegel and Brandon Allen, Adrian Utley from Portishead on guitar and Yes guitarist Steve Howe on koto.

'Subterranean' is Dylan Howe's first studio album in ten years. It's made up of his arrangements of Bowie's influential music from his Berlin Trilogy and has been seven years in the making. It features some of the best musicians in the UK. Alongside Dylan Howe (drums/synths) are Ross Stanley (piano/synths), Brandon Allen and Julian Siegel (tenor saxophones), Mark Hodgson and Nick Pini (double bass), Adrian Utley (guitar) and special guest, the legendary Yes guitarist Steve Howe playing koto.

Dylan Howe is a British drummer (born in 1969) best known for leading his quintet and other jazz groups since 2002 and his tenures with Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Steve Howe and Wilko Johnson (he played on the number one album, 'Going Back Home', with Roger Daltrey). He has also played with the likes of Nick Cave, Damon Albarn, Ray Davies, Paul McCartney, David Gilmour, Beth Gibbons, Gabrielle, Hugh Cornwell and Andy Sheppard amongst others.

Review

(4 stars) The results are gorgeously intimate, road tested and subtle, growing organically over the years...Howe doesn't meddle when he needn't: Warszawa's splendid theme sits unadorned, content in a stately tempo, yet magically it grows into a joyous little swinger, reflecting Howe's deep rooted reverence for Blue Note. --Jazzwise, (Andy Robson), July 2014

(4 stars) Majestic...Brooding, squalling electro-jazz with thick melodies billowing like romantic Zappa and top-flight jazzers sniffing and scuffling in musical corners only hinted at in Bowie's originals. --MOJO, (Chris Ingham), August 2014

(8/10 stars) Bowie and modal jazz don't make the most obvious of bedfellows, but this album makes a fine job of getting inside some of the Dame's lesser-known instrumentals and reanimating them from a jazz perspective. --Uncut, (John Lewis), August 2014

(4 stars) This is a breath of fresh air with a good deal of imagination involved all round. Ross Stanley's brittle pianism is just right in context and there is huge detail in the arrangements, lots of involving clearly denoted sections, cinematic tempo changes, a range of atmospheres, aided by creative use of studio technology...Among the best jazz albums so far this year. --Marlbank, (Stephen Graham), June 15, 2014

The results are quite superb...Subterranean will stand as the album that brings jazz and Bowie together - and does so in splendid style. --All About Jazz, (Bruce Lindsay), June 25, 2014

(4 stars) Subtle, cinematic venture...A warm tribute to Bowie, but a jazz album too, Subterranean offers plenty to fans from both constituencies. --The Guardian, (John Fordham), July 11, 2014

(4 stars) Succeeds in living up to the source material...subtle reinvention and imaginative twists. --The Independent On Sunday, (Phil Johnson), July 6, 2014

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
The first time I listened to the Second Side of Bowie's LP "Low" my mind was blown. It was the most beguiling and otherworldly music I'd ever heard. At the time, as a teenager, I'd become familiar with Bowie's preceeding glam-era material but still, I was quite unprepared for the haunting, ominous world that these sounds invoked. That was 20 years ago and since then I've returned to those four pieces ("Warszawa, Art Decade, Weeping Wall and Subterraneans) along with the CD bonus track "Some Are" (unfathomably left off the original vinyl release) on an almost weekly basis.

The mood was everything on those recordings. Bowie had made some incredibly astute decisions to achieve his stark vision. His choice of recording environment (Berlin), producer (Tony Visconti) and collaborators (Brian Eno's in particular) were all flawless, and together, created what I'd consider to be his masterpiece.

Obviously I'm not alone in admiring these recordings. Howe isn't the first artist to tackle these pieces. In 1992 the minimalist composer Philip Glass recorded "The Low Symphony" with an orchestra. However, whilst Glass was able to expand and explore the melodic themes and motifs of Bowie's work the all-important mood, the ominous, glacial aspect of what made the originals so essential, was to my mind, clearly missing.

In contrast Howe's success comes where he's been able to clinically dissect all those external components and factors. Primarily he's realised that "Low" isn't organic music. It's precise. It's geometric. Above all it's an intellectual exercise. It's here where Howe's genius lies. He's been able to seemlessly marry Bowie's alien soundscapes to the equally challenging arena of Coltrane era hard-bop/modal jazz.

Not that that's an obvious choice.
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I have a lot of cover versions / reworkings of Bowie material (its a subset of my massive Bowie collection). Bowie's work is so unique and self-contained that it's a difficult task to do something new with it which actually improves the original. Very few attempts to do so work very well. This one does. I'm taken aback, as I'm really not a jazz fan, but for some reason the marriage between Dylan Howe's jazz sensibilities and Bowie's original material works beautifully. Part of it, I suspect, is that Howe respects the original pieces, gently sculpting them in interesting new directions whilst staying within their essential framework, rather than attempting a wholesale rewrite or an overhaul of their mood. Instead he augments their mood - and there is something strangely fitting about Howe's jazz threading through Bowie's Berlin compositions, retaining their austere beauty whilst at times breathing into them a heightened sense of doomed decadence. Frankly, I'm still not quite sure why it works, but it does, and brilliantly. I'm also slightly in awe of the talent of the musicians here - even my non-muso ears can hear their sheer skill. The playing is absolutely flawless.

Highly, highly recommended - words that experience dictates I'd very rarely find myself writing about a reworking of any Bowie composition, but here are very much deserved.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
As with a couple of other reviewers I vividly remember the impact "Low", especially Side 2, made on me when it first came out, and have lived with it and "Heroes" since the mid-70s. I have also been intrigued by Philip Glass' orchestral takes on this era Bowie and Eno. So Dylan Howe's new interpretation was definitely of interest.

And it is worth a place at the table with both the originals and the Glass, remaining true to its source material while expanding it in different directions with intriguing textures and colours.

A bonus for me is the presence, albeit brief, of Dylan's dad and Adrian Uttley.
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By Bruce TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Sept. 2014
Format: Audio CD
Dylan Howe is now firmly established on the UK Jazz scene and the reason I bought this album is that he is playing this music in my local Jazz club in September; but his father's associations are more with rock and so maybe it's appropriate that his highest profile album so far, is a mixture of the two genres. That is, if you consider David Bowie's Berlin period to be part of rock music history and not the avant garde?

All the tunes here come from David Bowie and Brian Eno, aranged by Dylan Howe, with the most memorable tunes coming from the album "Low". These tunes are not obvious material for Jazz, as they are mostly slow and stately and to date are most known for being turned into a symphony by Philip Glass. However, it seems to work very well - the saxophones of Julian Siegel and Brandon Allen deliver the atmospheric themes, with the latter contributing improvised solos. On some tracks the tempo stays slow and truer to the original - but others burst out into fast improvisations with walking bass lines and elements of Jazz.

Bass, drums and piano all contribute solos as well as sax and musicianship is at a very high level. But what makes it different from other modern Jazz albums that take unusual material as a starting point, is the inclusion of vintage, analogue synthesiser sounds that could have come from the "Low" period in time. This really gives this album a different feel and the atmosphere of the type of experimental, electronic music that has come from Germany - Tangerine Dream, Can etc. as well as Bowie's original.

Overall this is a very interesting album and I think the most successful pieces are the slower ones, with subtle hints of improvisation and the excellent, acoustic rhythm section. The mix of electronic sounds and acoustic Jazz is what marks this out as unique and definitely worth a listen.
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