mon 26/09/2016

New Music reviews, news & interviews

Tubular Brass play Tubular Bells, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Graham Rickson

Sandy Smith’s brass band transcription of Tubular Bells is an improbable triumph. He draws heavily on composer David Bedford’s 1970s orchestral arrangement, along with Mike Oldfield’s two recorded versions. Musically the work holds up very well. But the original 1973 LP sounds distinctly murky in places: this was a live performance in which every strand was audible.These musicians ably demonstrate just how different a brass band sounds to an orchestral brass section: cornets, euphoniums and...

CD: Gruff Rhys - Set Fire to the Stars

Barney Harsent

Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys is a quietly prolific talent. Every few years or so, there’ll be another album, complete with the kind of thought-through concept that gives lift to his literate and expressive story songs and colours them with context.“Literate” is word very much at the centre of his latest project, a soundtrack to the 2014 film Set Fire to the Stars, which details Dylan Thomas’s time in New York in the 1950s. Recorded around the same time as Rhys’s wonderfully...

Reissue CDs Weekly: John Foxx

Kieron Tyler

In 1985, John Foxx released In Mysterious Ways: his fourth solo album since leaving Ultravox in 1979. In 1980, he had charted with “Underpass”, his...

CD: Van Morrison - Keep Me Singing

Matthew Wright

“In time, you’ll be mine,” sings Van Morrison in the opening song to his first new collection in four years. That line sets the tone for a warm bath...

David Gilmour, Royal Albert Hall

Russ Coffey

A single guitar note rang out over smouldering synth-chords. It was bent up a tone and then wavered in the air before gracefully falling. And so...

CD: Pixies – Head Carrier

Guy Oddy

Black Francis’s mob gets back into their stride with gusto

Björk, Royal Albert Hall

Joe Muggs

Can the Icelander's voice and chamber ensemble fill the Albert Hall?

CD: John Prine - For Better, Or Worse

Jasper Rees

An almanack of historical pleasures from the country songbook

CD: Billy Bragg & Joe Henry - Shine a Light

Thomas H Green

Brit-American duo cross a continent digging into folk music's railroad mythology

10 Questions for Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac

Ralph Moore

The peacemaker of Fleetwood Mac on Mirage, Maui and missing the buzz

CD: Marillion - FEAR

Russ Coffey

Progressive past masters sing the post-Brexit blues

Reissue CDs Weekly: Chess Records Soul, Little Richard

Kieron Tyler

Proof that a Fifties pedigree was no barrier to making the best in Sixties soul

Sinne Eeg / Cathrine Legardh, Pizza Express Jazz Club

Matthew Wright

Complementary programme of high vocal style and folkloric Scandinavian charm

CD: Vangelis – Rosetta

Barney Harsent

The synth legend heads off on a mission to outer space

Modulus Quartet, Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe

David Nice

From the human to the cosmic, new works for strings in an atmospheric setting

CD: Warpaint - Heads Up

Joe Muggs

Going back to go forwards with the LA quartet

CD: Yello - Toy

Thomas H Green

Swiss electro-pop perennials mellowing nicely with age

10 Questions for Singer Fantastic Negrito

Matthew Wright

Californian nu-bluesman on honouring Robert Johnson, disdaining genre and being offensive

CD: Madeleine Peyroux - Secular Hymns

Mark Kidel

Melancholy collection of jazz and blues covers

CD: Deap Vally - Femejism

Thomas H Green

Second album from LA's scuzz-blues rock duo proves their first was no flash-in-the-pan

Reissue CDs Weekly: Tamam Shud

Kieron Tyler

The Australian freak-rock album ‘Evolution’ gets another day in the sun

CD: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

Guy Oddy

Funereal blues that do, in the end, suggest the possibility of redemption

Barenaked Ladies, Roundhouse

Markie Robson-Scott

The quirky Canadians are back on track, with an Eighties surprise guest

CD: Jóhann Jóhannsson - Orphée

Kieron Tyler

Powerful non-soundtrack suite which restates the Icelandic composer’s identity

10 Questions for Pianist Morten Schantz

Matthew Wright

Danish jazz-fusion pianist on how to blaze a trail after JazzKamikaze

CD: Hifi Sean - Ft.

Joe Muggs

Can an underground all star cast make a house album into something more?

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years

James Woodall

Is there anything new to say about the Beatles? Amazingly, yes. Plus there's ravishingly restored footage from Shea Stadium

CD: Pictish Trail - Future Echoes

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Purveyor of the finest space-age disco-wonk-pop returns

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Beach Boys

Kieron Tyler

Fan-only only package of Brian Wilson and co’s complete pre-Capitol tapes

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 10,000 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

Ed Vaizey: 'We must invest more in the arts'

The long-serving former culture minister calls on the UK goverment to incre...

Stravinsky: Myths and Rituals 4, Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH

Three Greek-inspired masterpieces in perfect equilibrium

First Person: The Juilliard Experiment

Introducing an intimate film of a painter working with music, premiered at...

Tubular Brass play Tubular Bells, Howard Assembly Room, Leed...

Mike Oldfield's '70s classic. Performed live. With extra trombone...

James Acaster, Touring

Beautifully crafted show of offbeat observations

CD: Gruff Rhys - Set Fire to the Stars

The Super Furries frontman releases a soundtrack that stands tall and on it...

First Person: Steven Isserlis on Schumann's advice to t...

The cellist and writer on a new book annotating a great composer's wis...

Reissue CDs Weekly: John Foxx

Lavish package devoted to the three ‘Cathedral Oceans’ albums

Lammermuir Festival 2016, East Lothian

Biggest and boldest event yet for Scotland's early autumn musical harv...

CD: Van Morrison - Keep Me Singing

First new work for four years is beautiful but nostalgic