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The Independent Culture
P J Harvey: To Bring You My Love (Island, CD/LP/tape). "Forsaken Heaven/cursed God above/lain with the devil/to bring you my love." Yes, it's Polly Harvey's lurrve album, and Barry White is safe in his job. She may have ditched the bassist and drummer who originally made up her band, and reports say she is cheerier than she used to be, but To Bring You My Love does not evince a new mood. It's a threatening, nightmarish creature: imagine Siouxsie and the Bad Seeds. (Bad Seed Mick Harvey, no relation, makes a guest appearance.) No longer reliant on power-trio attack, P J uses strings, organs, maracas and marimbas to broaden her range of textures within an overall minimalist feel: from the voodoo vibe of "I Think I'm a Mother" to the western dust of "C'mon Billy". The songwriting, however, is less distinctive. You're unlikely to hum her repetitive four-note riffs. Tunes aside, the atmosphere and anguish and Harvey's tempestuous voice make the record stand out from its peers. Nicholas Barber

Schumann: Scenes from Goethe's Faust. Berlin Philharmonic/Abbado (Sony, CD). The virtues and otherwise of this grand testament to German High Romanticism were laid before London audiences last autumn in a rare performance at the South Bank; and it was obvious then that nothing less than visionary commitment and outstanding soloists could do the music justice, let alone hold the necessary level of intensity across two hours' duration. Claudio Abbado's bench-mark reading here for Sony is nothing less. The orchestral sound is full and rich but never overstated; the roster of soloists features strong young voices like Bryn Terfel, Karita Mattila, Barbara Bonney, Susan Graham; and Abbado has a definite vision of the piece that compares favourably with the famous, old Aldeburgh Festival recording under Britten. To my ear it's the most impressive release of the year so far, and the most persuasive performance I've heard of a score that needs some advocacy. Michael White