Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 29 January 2021.
Arlo Parks is poet/singer from London. In her words she spent most of school feeling like that black kid who couldn’t dance for shit, listening to too much emo music and crushing on some girl in her Spanish class. Her songs are confessional and tender, mainly inspired by Portishead and Earl Sweatshirt. Her new album is Collapsed in Sunbeams, and it’s out now.
Lia Ices’ new LP, Family Album, is a stunning collection of psychedelic-tinged Americana. Ices wrote the songs for it on the precipice of motherhood. On Family Album, Ices embraces collectivity and collaboration (the record’s title is apt in a multitude of ways). Part of that is allowing a higher level of collaboration than ever before, part is becoming a mother, part is Sonoma’s Edenic Moon Mountain, part is the Wild West freedom inherent in being Californian, part is an awareness of herself, and, most significantly, of growing ever more into that.
Synth-pop master Baio has released his third new full-length album Dead Hand Control via Glassnote Records. Littered with rich vocals and carefully crafted layers, BAIO continues to show off his musical repertoire. Recorded over 18 months at Damon Albarn’s 13 Studios in London, as well as Baio’s personal C+C Music Factory (founded with VW bandmate Chris Tomson in Los Angeles), Dead Hand Control takes its name from a rumored Soviet missile system designed to obliterate America (“Dead Hand”), and a legal strategy for attempting to control the beneficiaries of your will after you die (“Dead Hand Control”).
On Vertigo Days, the first album in seven years for The Notwist, one of Germany’s most iconic independent groups are alive to the possibilities of the moment. Their music has long been open-minded and exploratory, but from its engrossing structure, through its combination of melancholy pop, clangorous electronics, hypnotic Krautrock and driftwork ballads, to its international musical guests, Vertigo Days is both a new step for The Notwist, and a reminder of just how singular they’ve always been. Most importantly, the core trio of Markus and Micha Acher and Cico Beck are reaching out: as Markus reflects, “we wanted to question the concept of a band by adding other voices and ideas, other languages, and also question or blur the idea of national identity.”
The effects of the bebop revolution in jazz music are still being felt and explored. Of the half dozen true pioneers of the movement, pianist Bud Powell has remained somewhat in the shadows, although his work has become a major touchstone for true devotees of the music and a principal influence for most of jazz’s most explorative pianists. Powell’s brilliant original compositions are essential, infinitely listenable but also strangely tricky. Unlike Monk, Parker and Gillespie, the composer neglected to perform them much after their original recordings, so they never became a part of the jazz lingua franca. Pianist and historian Ethan Iverson provides a fantastic validation of Powell’s compositional genius on his new recording, Bud Powell In The 21st Century, a reworking of a number of Powell’s pieces for big band.
The Philadelphia Orchestra and their Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin are embarking on another project of Rachmaninoff’s works, presenting his three Symphonies and other orchestral works. The first album – Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 1 & Symphonic Dances – is out now. When Rachmaninoff’s 1st Symphony was premiered in 1897 by a badly prepared orchestra the performance turned out to be a disaster which obviously hurt the young composer deeply, not even 24 years old. Yet, later decades proved this early work to be absolutely worth a listen when performed by a first-class orchestra and conductor. This album will be followed by recordings of Symphony No. 2 and The Isle of the Death in 2022 and, commemorating the 150th anniversary of Rachmaninoff’s birthday in 2023, Symphony No. 3 and The Bells.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television