Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 4 September 2020.
Bill Callahan is back with the Gold Record we always knew he had in him! Last summer, he returned from a silence of years — now, he’s raring to go with another new one already. The abiding humanity of latter-day Callahan is highlighted by dark plumes of caustic wit upending standards of our everyday life and the songs that celebrate it: the job, the wife, the TV, the neighbors. Bill slips easily into his characters, whether they’re easy people or not — and the cross-hatch of their light and shadow is unpredictably entertaining in the manner that belongs only one singer in this whole wide world: we’re still talking about Bill Callahan.
The sounds of Himalayan winds, sacred mantras and water rippling in the holy river Ganges, invite us to Peradam, the transcendent new album by Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith, with contributions from actor and singer-songwriter Charlotte Gainsbourg. Peradam takes as its entry point René Daumal’s early 1940s novel Mount Analogue: a Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing, in which the French writer, critic and poet mapped a metaphysical journey to “the ultimate symbolic mountain” in search of meaning. In it, Daumal introduced the idea of the “peradam”, a rare, crystalline stone – harbouring profound truths – that is only visible to seekers on a true spiritual path.
Buffalo & Detroit are America’s broken dream. They are once thriving cities, now known for frigid temperatures and violent crime. The cities were birthed in a different era, forged in fire, built of cold steel. It follows that the rawest hip-hop in recent memory has bled from these two regions. No two artists exemplify this hard truth more than legendary Detroit producer Apollo Brown and Buffalo’s maverick emcee Che’ Noir. The two artists came together to create a sound as natural as calm after the storm. The pair’s new album, As God Intended, drifts up and down city streets and offers a glimpse behind closed doors, telling the stories of gunshots, missing fathers, and playing the system.
JD Allen’s new release, Toys / Die Dreaming, is his 14th as a leader and builds on his already rich recorded legacy. His compositions exhibit his philosophy of providing short melodies as the basis of both solo and group improvisation; “Get in and get out,” as Allen likes to say. This gives his music a remarkable ever-transforming feel, as if the improvisation was actually part of the composition itself. To bring his music to life, Allen requires players of the utmost talent and creativity and he has certainly found them in bassist, Ian Kenselaar and drummer, Nic Cacioppo. “I found the bad boys of this generation, as far as I’m concerned,” says Allen, “guys who are not afraid to dip their toe in the avant-garde a little bit, and then turn around and play the tradition.” But tradition to Allen is a development, an unending arc of creativity which begins at the dawn of jazz and to which he is the latest contributor to the music’s evolution.
Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez is the most celebrated classical guitar work of the 20th century, music that conjures up the colour, sophistication and glories of eternal Spain. The founding father of Mexican music, Manuel Ponce, wrote his Concierto del sur for Segovia, and it is a work of vivid grandeur, Sevillian dances and melodic richness. To complete the programme, prize-winning international virtuoso Junhong Kuang plays a piece dedicated to him — Gerald Garcia’s China Sings! — a rhapsody inspired by two popular Chinese tunes.
Michael Rother, founding member of krautrock groups Neu! and Harmonia has returned to music after a 14-year hiatus. His brand new album is called Dreaming. Rother had a goldmine of ideas and sketches and has turned them into an album.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television