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MUSIC Album reviews

Kevin Bryan, Simon Duff and Mik Sabiers review latest releases from Joe Edwards, John Law’s Congregation, Sleaford Mods, The Revillos, Camo & Krooked, Tangerine Dream, Charli XCX, The Danberrys and Sparks

Joe Edwards
Keep On Running
(Tiny Mountain Records)

THE sleepy Wiltshire backwater of Devizes may at first glance seem like a rather unlikely breeding ground for top-notch musical talent.

But gifted young singer-songwriter Joe Edwards has  emerged from this historic West Country location as one of Britain’s finest purveyors of peerless acoustic roots music.

This eclectic character paid his dues performing BB King and Jimi Hendrix covers in local bars before embracing the subtle charms of the singer-songwriter genre.

Keep On Running is his delightfully warm and intimate debut set, recorded in Nashville in close collaboration with award-winning producer Steve Dawson.

The finished product captures some of the beguiling musings on life, love and human sorrow which Edwards found the time to pen during some of the quieter moments on this multi-talented musician’s recent European jaunt as drummer with Australian folk-rock band The Wishing Well.

Kevin Bryan

John Law’s Congregation
(Ubuntu Music)

PIANIST and jazz composer John Law’s career has seen him strike a balance between mastering the discipline of being both a classical pianist and an accomplished composer.

His Congregation is a quartet of musicians led by himself on piano and electronics, James Mainwaring on saxophones and guitar, Ashley John Long on double bass and Billy Wier on drums.

The album kicks off in up-tempo mood with The Kiss, with an irresistible and breezy Steve Reich/ Philip Glass-inspired riff intro giving way to a vibrant original pulsing piano and saxophone exchange.

Off-centre, soft-toned arpeggio electric guitar takes centre stage on And Them, while Scandinavian Lullaby pulls the listener into sombre atmospheric territory, complete with rolling tuneful toms to the fore, followed by highly melodic and romantic drifting sax.

Towards the end of the album, experimental composition is to the fore, demonstrating an ambitious palette of sonic textures.

Simon Duff

All That Glue
Sleaford Mods
All That Glue
(Rough Trade)

SELF-STYLED “best band in the land,” Nottingham’s Sleaford Mods have been kicking up a storm for the best part of a decade.

All That Glue, the duo’s latest offering, is a double-disc dose of obscure tracks, B-sides, rarities, live favourites and more.

And what an offering it is. Mixing minimalist beats, looped guitar riffs and expletive-rich vocals it’s a 22-track insight into modern Britain.

Whether bemoaning zombies wasting their life on Tweet Tweet Tweet or a telling response to signing-on in Jobseeker, the anger is notable, the commentary cutting and the post-punk musical backing almost pitch perfect.

Despite some slower tracks with less bite towards the end this is a visceral, vital, vitriolic and valid electro-punk precis of modern Britain.

Don’t just put it in your collection, play it, shout about it and, above all, share it. It’s music for the masses, challenging the elite. Listen up.

Mik Sabiers

The Revillos
(Cherry Red)

THE sad demise of Scotland’s finest punk-pop exponents The Rezillos in 1978 prompted vocalists Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds to continue operations with a slightly altered band name for contractual reasons.

They retained the same infectious blend of new-wave energy and kitsch charm that had made their earlier exploits so appealing to a whole generation of record-buyers more than four decades ago.  

This invigorating new six-CD retrospective from reissue specialists Cherry Red brings together the two albums that Fife and Reynolds captured for posterity during their creative heyday in the early ’80s, along with assorted non-album singles, radio sessions and later live and studio recordings.

The finished product is as close to the definitive Revillos anthology as anyone could reasonably expect and serves up  a delightful quirky exercise in musical nostalgia into the bargain.


Camo & Krooked
Red Bull Symphonic
(Hospital Records)

HOSPITAL Records has been at the cutting edge of drum and bass for over 20 years and, while the formula of a fast tempo has stayed in place, the “architecture” has moved on.

The structure remains but radical reinterpretations, combined with new foundations and bright furnishings, abound in what seems an endless flow of contemporary ideas.

One of the current scenes leading exponents are the Austrian duo Camo & Krooked who, in what was they say was the biggest challenge of their career, in February this year collaborated with the composer Christian Kolonovits to mix electronic music with symphonic sounds and perform live with a 74-piece orchestra at Vienna’s Wiener Konzerthaus.

The end result is a sonic palette of glacial dynamics, with highlights the epic cinematic drama of Ember and Atlas, a delicate piano motif closing proceedings.     


Tangerine Dream
Recurring Dreams

THIS album of reworked Tangerine Dream classics proves that the band remain at the cutting edge of ambient ambition and audacity.

Recurring Dreams features the current line-up of Thorsten Quaeschning on synths —  named by the late original founder Edgar Froese as the director of the band’s legacy —  Ulrich Schnauss on synths and violinist Hoshiko Yamane.

The album provides a new and crisp production of a number of seminal classics from the band’s considerable and influential back catalogue, with synth-drenched dreamscapes, full of modern drama and a strong sense of space.

Refreshingly avoiding cinematic cliché, Froese’s sonic ambition has been taken to new heights with a sense of purpose maintained throughout.

Highlights include the techno-trance drama of Monolight and the slower-paced reflective atmospherics on Los Santos City Map.

Tangerine Dream’s adventure remains a thrilling journey.  


Charli XCX
how I’m feeling now

FEEL like lockdown has been going on forever? Life on hold too long? Wondering what to do while stuck in limbo?

That’s the genesis of Charli XCX’s latest album which was written, recorded and now released all while in isolation.

Some six weeks ago, Cambridge-born but California-based Charli XCX announced this new project live to fans on Zoom.

Based on their suggestions and input she’s written and recorded 11 new tracks.

The result is an unconventional response to life in quarantine.

From the electronic glitch-beats of pink diamonds that batter you into submission, to the 1980s emotional synth feel of enemy and the rave-like banger visions, this is modern electropop put through the mixer.

It is notable that the strongest tracks aren’t even the singles — detonate, for one, is delightful.

This is an experimental and risk-taking response to an unprecedented situation. Charli truly throws off the chains of lockdown, showing that opportunities exist and are there to be seized.


The Danberrys
(Singular Recordings)

THIS is the third full-length album from Nashville-based Americana duo The Danberrys and a more compelling introduction to the couple’s highly spiritual sound would be difficult to imagine.

Husband and wife Dorothy Daniel and Ben DeBerry were once high-school sweethearts and, although their relationship may have gone through a few understandable ups and downs since those far-off teenage days, the natural empathy which exists between the two performers still  informs the deeply atmospheric narratives which have become the Tennessee duo’s trademark, prompting comparisons with illustrious musical forebears such as  country legends The Carter Family along the way.

Shine marks a distinct musical progression from its bluegrass-dominated predecessors, with The River Is Wide, The Mountain and the life-affirming title track emerging as three of the most accomplished creations here.

A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip

A SLOW song about the speed of light, a paean to a lawnmower and a chorus of God’s children singing a sweary but beautiful anthem on environmental catastrophe — it can only be a new Sparks album.

This is the 24th release by brothers Ron and Russell Mael and, whether tackling mental health in I’m Toast to show tune par excellence Onomato Pia, it’s stuffed full of idiosyncratic art-pop tracks with arch lyrics.

Lawnmower is uplifting in its comedic touch, the cutting iPhone imagines Adam wanting a word with an otherwise occupied Eve on her mobile, while a swooping Left Out In The Cold adds jaunty guitar to the band’s signature synth sound.

It ends with Please Don’t Fuck Up My World, that not so radio-friendly call to arms on climate change, and what a finish. It sums up an album that takes you on a delightful twisted tour into the warped wonder of this duo’s minds.


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