New music round-up (for w/e 27 May 2022)

Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 27 May 2022.

Visionary South African pianist, composer, and healer Nduduzo Makhathini has released In the Spirit of Ntu, his milestone tenth studio album. This is his second album to be released on Blue Note Records in partnership with Universal Music Group Africa following Modes of Communication, and the very first release on the newly formed imprint Blue Note Africa. Makhathini condenses the thematic, sonic, and conceptual notions explored over his catalogue into a layered yet accessible 10-track album on In the Spirit of Ntu. “I really felt this need to summarize everything I’ve done this far and put it into ‘some’ context,” he says. A central figure of the country’s vibrant jazz scene, Makhathini assembled a band consisting of some of South Africa’s most exciting young musicians including saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane, trumpeter Robin Fassie Kock, vibraphonist Dylan Tabisher, bassist Stephen de Souza, percussionist Gontse Makhene, and drummer Dane Paris, as well as special guests including vocalists Omagugu and Anna Widauer, and American saxophonist Jaleel Shaw.


The dance floor as devotional is a trope as old as the club itself. But, with her new album, Jesus Was An Alien, Perel subverts the stakes of our collective communion: Who are our arms raised to? Who are we seeking salvation from? “Jesus Was An Alien is a discourse about whether Jesus was an actual alien,” she explains, “but also a social debate about what is and implies religion today.” She offers up her provocative second record – her first on Kompakt – as a soundtrack for the listener’s own journey through the intricacies and ironies of modern belief.


Biff Bang Pow! were formed by Alan McGee around the same time he founded Creation Records in 1983. Having evolved out of post-punk band The Laughing Apple, which he’d started in 1980 with friend Andrew Innes, Biff Bang Pow! made seven albums and a handful of singles – many of which were indie hits – before they finally dissolved in 1992. To many fans of Creation Records, Biff Bang Pow! were the label’s best-kept secret, fusing ‘60s psychedelia and power pop with beautiful, haunting melodies. Their early sound seemed to reinvent The Jam circa 1980, with a pop art approach reminiscent of the ‘60s band from whom their took their name, The Creation (who recorded the song ‘Biff Bang Pow!’). A Better Life – Complete Creations 1984-1991 boasts the entire recorded output of Biff Bang Pow! with the bonus of everything issued by The Laughing Apple.


The Czech Philharmonic and its Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov present a new recording of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, laying the foundation of a complete Mahler symphonies cycle to appear on Pentatone Records. It will be the label’s first ever full Mahler cycle, and the Czech Philharmonic’s first survey of this extraordinary symphonic opus since their recording under Václav Neumann between 1976 and 1982. Although chiefly active in Vienna during the heyday of his career, Mahler was born in what is now the Czech Republic, and through this recording project, he returns to his native soil. For conductor Semyon Bychkov, Mahler’s symphonies are all about expressing the polyphony of life, and recording these works is the fulfilment of a life-long fascination. This cycle deliberately starts with the most popular and frequently-played Fourth, famous for its macabre scherzo, soothing slow movement and heavenly finale, sung by soprano Chen Reiss.


Montreal band Stars have released From Capelton Hill — their ninth album and the first new music from the group in five years — via Last Gang Records/MNRK. Musically, From Capelton Hill feels like walking into their familiar teenage bedroom. Campbell says it cuts to the band’s founding principles: it is brimming with gothic, dazzling ‘80s and ‘90s Britpop arrangements, but rendered with intimacy and warmth rather than with cold, digital remove. A wealth of horn and string arrangements unfold across the record in true Stars fashion, dreamy and macabre. From Capelton Hill is ultimately about a group of people who have spent more than 20 years together, and who have now started to face the awful, necessary calculus each human eventually must do: when will all of this end?


Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band are back with their newly anticipated studio album Dear Scott. This is Michael’s first studio album since Adios Señor Pussycat which was released in 2017.


My Story, The Buraku Story is a new feature-length documentary film that explores the discrimination against a group of people – commonly called “the burakumin” – who were classed into lowly groups and segregated from the rest of Japanese society. This discrimination is not by race or ethnicity, but rather by place of residence and bloodline, and has existed for centuries – albeit very rarely acknowledged or discussed in Japan. When director Yusaku Mitsuwaka imagined the exemplary score for such a culturally sensitive and significant subject, he idealised MONO to help tell this story through their legendarily cinematic music. Following their recent experiments with electronic textures infused into their trademark dynamic rock compositions, My Story, The Buraku Story finds MONO at their most understated and elegiac. The songs that make up My Story, The Buraku Story are largely built around piano, strings, synths, and choral vocal loops. As one might expect from MONO, the arrangements are masterworks of understated execution with oversized emotional resonance. By far MONO’s most delicate album, it is a fitting document of the band’s first-ever full-length film soundtrack.


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