Following his collaboration with Maher Shalal Hash Baz on 2009’s GOK, Bill Wells returned to Japan to record Lemondale, corralling an impressive array of musicians to breathe life into its eleven tracks. The unorthodox orchestra featured the inimitable Nikaido Kazumi, Saya and Ueno from Tenniscoats, and Tokyo-residing experimentalist Jim O’Rourke amongst its numbers, and the disparate members evidently gelled.
Lemondale is a sweet treat for the ears throughout, from Toon City’s opening jazz-strains – suggestive of Joe Hisaishi’s soundtrack work – to the delicate title track’s cooed refrain. The latter borrows chords from Procol Harum (or Bach, if you want to split hairs), while Mizo Tur is Windmills of My Mind in all but name, but while the echoes are blatant, such similarities are never detrimental. Lemondale’s thirty-four minutes are imbued with a gentle charm by turns wistful, romantic, bittersweet and playful, cementing Wells’ status as both gifted composer and well-connected bandleader.
Out 5th December
Butcher the Bar - For Each a Future Tethered (***)
For Each a Future Tethered does everything a second album should, evoking its predecessor’s blueprint whilst comfortably improving on it. On his follow-up to Sleep at Your Own Speed, Joel Nicholson has added busier instrumentation and even a guest star in the form of Seasick Steve (barely perceptible on X), without sacrificing the breezy atmosphere that marked out his debut as promising if imperfect.
There are, it must be said, limitations to Butcher the Bar’s sound: Nicholson has a knack for crafting instantly-pleasing melodies, but his work lacks the painful undertow of the likes of Elliot Smith (to whom Nicholson owes a definite debt of gratitude), and consequently risks blandness. But let’s focus on the positives, for there are many: Blood for the Breeze pairs haunting alt-folk with some of his best (and most bitter) lyrics, while tracks like Bobby and Sign Your Name generate a warmth that’s impossible to deny.
Out 5th December
M+A - things.yes (**)
The ‘M’ of ‘M+A’ is Michele Ducci, the ‘A’ is Alessondro Degli Angioli, but the ‘plus’ affixing them is less easy to identify; though a pleasant listen, their debut is hardly overflowing with positives. They’ve a simple set-up – M sings gobbledygook over the pair’s joint electro collages, which run from flute-swept opener Yeloww, through to ambient-ish closer Ly (with multiple genre detours along the way) – but the duo remain oddly un-engaging.
The clutter is one culprit, the air of pretension another: in their own words, they’re less a band, more ‘two people moving forward parallel to one another’. Of course, they could witter any old nonsense were the album itself sufficiently strong, but, save some not-inconsiderable exceptions (Bam’s piano-backed digital ballad; Liko Lene Lisa’s playful textures), it’s rather dull. They’re young and ambitious and will no doubt effloresce in future, but things.yes garners a reluctant but firm ‘no’.