Monday, 27 August 2012

reviews: metronomy, sycamore, chilly gonzales

Various Artists - Late Night Tales: Metronomy (****)

For the latest LNT mix, Metronomy’s Joseph Mount blends Southern hip-hop (Outkast) with avant-garde jazz (Chick Corea), ending up at Gallic alt-folk (Herman Dune) via nods to most that lies between. It’s a confident interpretation of the series’ brief, with curious bedfellows fluidly interlaced and locked into a twilight tempo. Even its more daring segueways sound apposite: for example, the breezy pop of the Alessi Brothers yielding freely to Autechre’s undulating, fractured rhythms, or the retro synths of Tonto’s Expanding Head Band gently washed away by a pedal-steel waltz (Pete Drake’s Forever).

For the obligatory cover version, Metronomy tackle Jean Michel Jarre’s Hypnose: understated and faithful, it slips smoothly into the mix’s folds, without overshadowing its lovingly selected surroundings. For the now-standard spoken word coda, meanwhile, Paul Morley concludes his Lost for Words piece – previously heard on the Trentemøller, MGMT and Belle and Sebastian compilations – with an enjoyably freewheeling verbosity.

Out 3rd September

                                                 Sycamore – Sycamore and Friends 

Sycamore - Sycamore and Friends (****)

Like the tree after which they are named, Sycamore’s branches extend far. Between them, core members Jer Reid, Stevie Jones and Shane Connolly have roots in El Hombre Trajeado, Issho Taiko Drummers and Tattie Toes, amongst others; the record’s guesting “friends”, meanwhile, include Bill Wells and The One Ensemble’s Daniel Padden. The six pieces that constitute their debut are subtly intoxicating – a rich mix of tricky melodies and heady textures that eschew straightforward structures.

Opener New Cold is an immediate standout: one of the few tracks to feature prominent vocals, it buffets wordless wails (from Connolly’s fellow Tattie Nerea Bello) with exotic and propulsive twin guitars. The closing A Sun – with its droning, groaning interlude – also deserves mention, building to a noisy finish forged from percussive rattles and string whines. Sporadic lulls elsewhere do nothing to diminish the record as a whole, raising hopes this union is an on-going project and not a one-off.

Out Now

                                              Chilly Gonzales – Solo Piano II

Chilly Gonzales - Solo Piano II (***)

From prankster rapper to electro-funk maestro, the artist formerly known as Jason Beck has long demonstrated a playfully flexible attitude towards genre. In the last two years alone, his iconoclasm has produced a chess movie and an orchestral hip-hop album, but of all his varied guises, it’s as a classically-trained pianist that he’s arguably most distinguished. Not only is 2004’s Solo Piano apparently his highest selling album to date, but he once beat Andrew WK in a head-to-head piano battle, and that guy can play. 

Solo Piano II presents another 14 compositions in the titular style, and as before, Gonzales elegantly undercuts his natural inclination towards showing-off. There are no tricks or twists to this Ronseal-titled collection, just neo-classical ivory tinkling of the highest calibre, as tracks like the classy Othello channel their composer’s prodigious talents into gracefully simple melodies, modestly but expertly reaffirming his 21st century Renaissance-man credentials.
 Out today

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