Albums of the week: From John Coltrane to Gorillaz
A lost collection of unreleased work from late jazz veteran John Coltrane is among this week’s album highlights.
JOHN COLTRANE — BOTH DIRECTIONS AT ONCE: THE LOST ALBUM
A new Coltrane album? The prospect provokes reverence, but this has too much life in it to be a sacred relic.
The product of one 1963 session, this collection would be worthwhile for Untitled Original 11383 alone — an urbane 12-bar transfigured by Coltrane’s modal melody, his nightingale flourishes and the sheer freshness of this quartet’s chemistry. Jimmy Garrison’s (unusually, bowed) bass solo soon sees the other players shutting up entirely.
Though a couple of standards feel inessential, this collection is a welcome window on to a magisterial quartet and the liberality of its leader’s genius.
JIM JAMES — UNIFORM DISTORTION
My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James returns with his third solo album, Uniform Distortion, hot on the heels of his recent covers EP Tribute To 2.
The Kentucky native, who left Bluegrass behind and found his muse within the dirty garage rock of the late 1990s, has gone all-out in his latest album.
Uniform Distortion is an example of raw garage rock as you would hear it in the suburbs of a typical small American town. There is feedback and tonal changes.
Overall what James has created is a piece of work that questions modern life — is what we have now everything it is cracked up to be? This is at the forefront of the bouncy Out Of Time. No Secrets has more than a passing resemblance to Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, and the amused crack in his voice on Elvis Costello-eque Yes To Everything is just joyful.
A wonderful listen.
JOHNNY JEWEL — THEMES FOR TELEVISION
Themes For Television is partially ironic title for this extensive collection of previously unreleased music from the prolific Johnny Jewel.
Although they were not specifically commissioned for the TV show, his peculiar brand of quirky, atmospheric and faintly creepy electronica proved a perfect fit for last year’s revival of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
Windswept And Shadow, alternative versions of which appear here, will be particularly familiar to fans of that series as being a major part of its distinctive sonic landscape.
Although Ruth Radelet of The Chromatics provides vocals on the melancholy Saturday (Evening), most of the tracks are instrumentals with a distinctively 1980s, synthesiser-heavy sound. They range in mood from the brooding Red Curtains, to the hypnotic Infinity Room and the gentle, childlike Breathless.
All of the album’s 21 tracks are compelling. It would be no bad thing if one day all television shows sounded like this.
GORILLAZ — THE NOW NOW
If last year’s Humanz felt like a wild, star-studded house party, Gorillaz’ uncharacteristically swift follow-up The Now Now soundtracks the hard core who made it through to sunrise.
Gone (with the notable exceptions of Snoop Dogg and George Benson) are the head-turning cameos and frantic pace of the record’s predecessor, and in comes a mellower mix of mid-paced electronica, house, disco and funk. But surely the most notable difference is the return of Damon Albarn to front and central position throughout.
Few could argue that’s a bad thing, and while The Now Now lacks some of the outright bangers on Humanz, it certainly hangs together better as a collection of songs.
Closer Souk Eye is perhaps the highlight of the bunch — starting with a simple calypso beat and gentle guitar refrain and slowly building in to a burning, hulking ball of pop mass that makes it impossible not to hit repeat.
SONS OF BILL — OH GOD MA’AM
If you’re searching for the perfect soundtrack to a sedate drive down some motorway, look no further.
Named after band members James, Abe and Sam Wilson’s country musician and university professor father, this album is a fat slab of country rock that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel.
It gets off to a slightly stalled start with slow-burning, piano-driven opener Sweeter, Sadder Fade Away. Second track Firebird ‘85 sets the tone for the remainder of this record. Its shimmering, reverb-ladden lead guitar sounds like it could be crackling out of a truck’s radio sometime in the 1980s.
The band don’t change gear again until the final track, meaning the record feels very samey. Signal Fade offers a darker tone, with James Wilson’s southern drawl adopting a tormented quality in its foreboding verses.
While never offensive to the ears, Sons Of Bill often fail to arrest the listener’s attention on a journey that rarely diverts from the middle of the road.