Thursday, 8 August 2013

reviews: Sarah Neufeld, Adrian Corker, Kill the Captains

                                                   Sarah Neufeld – Hero Brother

Sarah Neufeld - Hero Brother (****)

Best known as violinist in Arcade Fire but having also supplied her talents to Bell Orchestre and The Luyas, Sarah Neufeld’s debut solo album is a natural fit for the Constellation Records roster (home of Godspeed et al). Across Hero Brother’s ten compositions – each consisting almost exclusively of layered violin playing – her often avant-garde instrumentals prove nuanced and haunting, triggering unexpectedly intense emotional responses from a minimalist setup.

From the light, airy ‘ooohs’ that settle across They Live On’s dusty pizzicato repetitions to the gentle piano trickles offsetting Forcelessness’s piercing, descending refrain, Neufeld appears to instinctively know when to introduce another texture and when to leave well alone and let her bowing have the spotlight. Whether quivering and echoing on opener Tower, screeching and wailing through Dirt, or frenziedly skipping through Sprinter Fire, Neufeld revels in her instrument’s versatility, ensuring Hero Brother an appeal beyond its ostensible niche.

Out 19th August

                                                    Adrian Corker – Raise

Adrian Corker - Raise (***)

Flecked with crackles, creaks, taps and clicks, Raise is an evocative listen filled with enriching experimental asides – from the analogue tape manipulations of Unfold to the miasmic strings of Shifting Grains. With a background in soundtracks (including scores for most of director Antonia Bird’s features) Adrian Corker has past form crafting absorbing atmospherics, though without some kind of visual or narrative accompaniment, some of these compositions arguably want for a focal point; while every track contributes to the album’s meditative tone, some offer only minimal pleasures in and of themselves.

Amongst its languorous drift are enough moments of glittering, enigmatic brilliance to win considerable favour, including Circle Song – in which Corker is joined by members of Portico Quartet for a mournful, jazzy shuffle across a sparse percussive backdrop – and closing piano piece Interdependence, which ends things on just the right note of ambient beauty.

Out 19th August   
                                                           Kill the Captains – Sounds Mean

Kill the Captains - Sounds Mean (***)

Pleasingly difficult to pin down, Kill the Captains’ second album Sounds Mean skips around pigeonholes dextrously and with a discernible sense of humour. With darting melodies, wonky guitar lines and vocalist Leon Carter’s upfront croon, the Sheffield quartet veer from propulsive dance-punk (Disco Nazi) to chugging, rough-edged indie-rock (The Trial) to straight-up hushed balladry (The Taking Of) – each appealing in its own way, and together giving a good account of the band’s diverse interests.

Admittedly, once you grab hold of the slippery so-and-so and give it a proper gander, some of the introductory thrills subside somewhat, as a handful of tracks reveal their plodding side while occasionally clumsy lyrics start to grate on repeat exposure (in particular, Share the Load’s geopolitical sloganeering – a neat idea, awkwardly executed). Better to focus on the tracks of more unequivocal merit, with opener Umami proving especially enjoyable thanks to its quirk-filled midpoint breakdown.

Out 12th August

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