wed 03/09/2014

New Music reviews, news & interviews

CD: Partisans - Swamp

Matthew Wright

The swamp, all grime and alligators, is not somewhere most jazz or rock fans will expect to spend much time, a soggy Glastonbury aside, and it’s a puzzling title for a work of reflective delicacy and sympathetic instrumental colouring. Partisans have now been playing together for 18 years, and this album, their fifth (a leisurely work-rate indicative mainly of how busy the players are elsewhere) is a sensitive tonal portrait and quiet trove of electronic loveliness. The sweetness of Robson’s...

theartsdesk in Budapest: Sziget to City

Tim Cumming

In Budapest, when your building turns a century old, you’re invited to be part of Budapest 100, a city-wide birthday celebration-cum-open-house invitation. It’s a direct way of experiencing the applied, lived-in artistry of the city, past and present. The absent friend’s apartment I’m writing this from was built in 1913, in Ferencváros, the city’s 9th District, in what was then a working-class area, home to the city’s biggest football team, and one of the flashpoints of the 1956 uprising...

CD: The Pierces - Creation

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Five albums down, and it seems that The Pierces are yet to stop dressing up their music in different, albeit recognisable, clothes. If 2011’s You...

Reissue CDs Weekly: The 13th Floor Elevators

Kieron Tyler

The 13th Floor Elevators: Live Evolution Lost“I lost control of my body. I looked up and Tommy and Roky were turning into wolves, hair and teeth. And...

Kate Bush, Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith

Russ Coffey

Ms Bush walked on in a black, tasselled tunic with the slight air of an aging hippy. Her feet were bare and her tousled hair was half tied-back. And...

Blondie’s New York and the Making of Parallel Lines, BBC Four

Kieron Tyler

Superficial tribute to one of pop’s great albums

CD: Dr John - Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch

Guy Oddy

New Orleans’ titan sits on his laurels in the company of Louis Armstrong

CD: Simian Mobile Disco - Whorl

Thomas H Green

Electronic duo take us on a spaced out - but dynamic - analogue adventure

CD: Andy Milne & Dapp Theory - Forward In All Directions

Matthew Wright

Engrossingly multi-faceted experimental pieces reveal an unexpected degree of lyrical charm

Reissue CDs Weekly: Popcorn Girls

Kieron Tyler

Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley opens a window on Belgium’s open-minded dance scene

CD: J Mascis - Tied to a Star

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Dinosaur Jr. man gets introspective on solo outing

CD: Basement Jaxx - Junto

Katherine McLaughlin

EDM maestros make a welcome but underwhelming return with their latest album

CD: Roni Size - Take Kontrol

Thomas H Green

Drum & bass don returns with an album whose quality improves as it progresses

CD: Royal Blood - Royal Blood

Guy Oddy

Muscular blues-rock debut from Brighton duo

Reissue CDs Weekly: Wire

Kieron Tyler

A still-challenging artefact from art-punk provocateurs

CD: James Yorkston - The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society

Joe Muggs

A soft delivery and deceptively conversational tone hide a powerful writer

theartsdesk in Helsinki: Flow Festival 2014

Kieron Tyler

Manic Street Preachers, Janelle Monáe and a past that’s always present at Finland’s memorable urban festival

CD: Anja McCloskey - Quincy Who Waits

Russ Coffey

One of the year’s prettiest albums from the quirky German-American

Neutral Milk Hotel, Forum

Jasper Rees

Long-lost indie prophets pop up to reward the faithful

CD: Mirel Wagner - When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Sparse compositions from Finnish songwriter's haunted pen

Sinéad O'Connor, Roundhouse

Tim Cumming

Songs from the new album hold their own against the back catalogue

theartsdesk at Wilderness Festival

Katie Colombus

A multi-sensory experience, celebrating wild behaviour outdoors as much as the arts

Morton Valence - Left

Thomas H Green

A banquet of exquisitely related misery from undersung London outfit

10 Questions for singer Laura Mvula

Russ Coffey

The critic's darling talks Birmingham, fame, books and why she's re-recorded her debut album

CD: Cats on Trees – Cats on Trees

Kieron Tyler

Anodyne French best-sellers attempt to export their success

Reissue CDs Weekly: Front Line – Sounds of Reality

Kieron Tyler

Exhumation of Richard Branson’s John Lydon-assisted Seventies reggae label

CD: The Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Blue-collar rockers channel heartbreak on fifth album

CD: Benjamin Taubkin - Al Qantara - The Bridge

Peter Culshaw

Unlikely fusion of Brazil and Morocco is surprisingly delicious

CD: Jerry Léonide - The Key

Matthew Wright

Mauritian pianist's debut release impresses with a cosmopolitan group of tunes

Footnote: a brief history of new music in Britain

New music has swung fruitfully between US and UK influences for half a century. The British charts began in 1952, initially populated by crooners and light jazz. American rock'n'roll livened things up, followed by British imitators such as Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard. However, it wasn't until The Beatles combined rock'n'roll's energy with folk melodies and Motown sweetness that British pop found a modern identity outside light entertainment. The Rolling Stones, amping up US blues, weren't far behind, with The Who and The Kinks also adding a unique Englishness. In the mid-Sixties the drugs hit - LSD sent pop looking for meaning. Pastoral psychedelia bloomed. Such utopianism couldn't last and prog rock alongside Led Zeppelin's steroid riffing defined the early Seventies. Those who wanted it less blokey turned to glam, from T Rex to androgynous alien David Bowie.

sex_pistolsA sea change arrived with punk and its totemic band, The Sex Pistols, a reaction to pop's blandness and much else. Punk encouraged inventiveness and imagination on the cheap but, while reggae made inroads, the most notable beneficiary was synth pop, The Human League et al. This, when combined with glam styling, produced the New Romantic scene and bands such as Duran Duran sold multi-millions and conquered the US.

By the mid-Eighties, despite U2's rise, the British charts were sterile until acid house/ rave culture kicked the doors down for electronica, launching acts such as the Chemical Brothers. The media, however, latched onto indie bands with big tunes and bigger mouths, notably Oasis and Blur – Britpop was born.

By the millennium, both scenes had fizzled, replaced by level-headed pop-rockers who abhorred ostentation in favour of homogenous emotionality. Coldplay were the biggest. Big news, however, lurked in underground UK hip hop where artists adapted styles such as grime, dubstep and drum & bass into new pop forms, creating breakout stars Dizzee Rascal and, more recently, Tinie Tempah. The Arts Desk's wide-ranging new music critics bring you overnight reviews of every kind of music, from pop to unusual world sounds, daily reviews of new releases and downloads, and unique in-depth interviews with celebrated musicians and DJs, plus the quickest ticket booking links. Our writers include Peter Culshaw, Joe Muggs, Howard Male, Thomas H Green, Graeme Thomson, Kieron Tyler, Russ Coffey, Bruce Dessau, David Cheal & Peter Quinn

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Gems TV, ITV

Ambiguous documentary on 'romancing the stones' - or, new ways to...

Proms Chamber Music 7: Benjamin Grosvenor/Prom 60: Driver, R...

Rainbow colours with a cooling shower or two in Proms showpiece time

The Guest

Dan Stevens swaps Downton for devilment, as a super-soldier on the run

DVD: Blue Ruin

An award-winning American indy that genuinely thrills

Return to Betjemanland, BBC Four

AN Wilson's highly condensed biodoc rattles along giddily but brillian...

Prom 59: Elektra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Bychkov

Second Strauss horror-opera of the Proms weekend fails to hit home

Time, Weather, Place: Folkestone Triennial 2014

Headless 'terror' chickens, a naff baroque beach hut, and digging...

CD: Partisans - Swamp

Veteran fusioneers blend their sounds with a delicacy that's more cele...

Before I Go To Sleep

This incredibly beautiful homegrown British thriller can't quite do th...

Prom 58: Salome, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Runnicles

Nina Stemme stuns in a giddying account of Strauss's incredible score