Wednesday, 25 September 2013

reviews: RM Hubbert, The Grand Gestures, Islet

                                                   RM Hubbert – Breaks & Bone 

 RM Hubbert - Breaks & Bone (****)

Stripping arrangements back to one man and a guitar again (after the broader, guest-filled canvas of Thirteen Lost & Found), Breaks & Bone firmly underscores RM Hubbert’s technical genius. On Bolt, percussive throbs underpin a flitting guitar line and poignant, almost-whispered vocals, while on tracks like Dec 11 his dancing strings maintain both elaborate melody and the rattling bass beneath – a layering that belies their single-take, single-player creation.

But it’s not just his guitar skills that continue to amaze. Perhaps it’s the presence of self-sung lyrics, imprinting his abstractly expressive playing with more tangible sentiments (“If life’s a happy song then we’re tone deaf”; “sometimes it’s just too late to expect forgiveness for half-imagined slights”), but Breaks & Bone is Hubby’s most emotionally affecting record yet, with songs like Feedback Loops heart-breaking in their sincerity. Though inspired by letting go, Breaks & Bone is an album to clasp on to tightly.

Out Monday

                                                   The Grand Gestures – Second

The Grand Gestures - Second (***)

For his second collection as The Grand Gestures, Spare Snare’s Jan Burnett invites faces old and new to supply vocals for diverse compositions. Returning figures include Jill O’Sullivan – responsible for the last album’s standout Deer in a Cross Hair, and again opening proceedings with a deliciously moody offering – and Sanjeev Kohli, who injects a waggish irreverence in the form of grotesque spoken-word piece The Spree of Brian May (as in killing, not shopping).

Elsewhere, first-time Gesturers include RM Hubbert (soul-searching over industrial electro-pop on Regret Is a Dish Best Served Cold) and Pauline Alexander (a serene presence on A Whisper of Sayonara), both helping distinguish Second from its predecessor. But while it’s the guests who are name-checked on the sleeve, it’s Burnett who warrants the most acknowledgement and praise, for taking a motely grab bag of sounds and contributors and crafting something genuinely fresh and – somewhat against the odds – cohesive.
Out 7th October

                                                 Islet – Released by the Movement

Islet - Released by the Movement (****)

Musical misfits Islet would like to take you on a journey. The places you pass along the way may well feel familiar – woozy psych, groove-led post-punk, even slight shades of post-rock – but the destination is distinctly fresh, as genres are gleefully scrambled and reconstituted with a keen spirit of adventure. Often sonically murky but never short on ideas, Released by the Movement shares with acts like Deerhoof or Animal Collective a careful equilibrium between experimentation and approachability.

Opener Triangulation Station supplies a representative 101 of the Welsh quartet’s outside-the-box interests, starting out as some kind of tropical-tinted, falsetto-sung spiritual and getting only more idiosyncratic as it progresses. At the other end of the scale, Carlos is Islet at their most conventional – though with a sound that touches upon The Cramps, The Rapture and the midnight incantations of a haunted monastery, the epithet is very much relative.

Out 7th October

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