Pop: ...And Other Album Releases

THE FALL The Marshall Suite AFRO CELT SOUND SYSTEM Volume 2: The Release DA DAMN PHREAK NOIZE PHUNK Electric Crate Digger NAS I Am...

Artful

DESPITE HAVING, by anybody's standards, a problematic year - domestic troubles, run-in with the NYPD, break-up of his band - Mark E Smith has managed to come up with the best Fall album in years. The Marshall Suite seethes with righteous indignation and restless imagination, whether the band are powering imperiously through the breakbeat Krautrock of "(Jung Nev's) Antidotes" or essaying an obscure rockabilly cover like "F'oldin' Money" (a welfare-state cousin to "Summertime Blues" which includes the great line "Well, I went to the social just to get a little pension"). As usual, Smith's rants and ramblings do their best to evade rational explication, and his vocals are sometimes heroically ignorant of the music's key or direction; but it's in that contrary tension between music and vocal presence that much of the band's unique power resides. Yet the most moving tracks here are those which cling most tenaciously to Smith's personal circumstances - the oddly tender "Birthday Song", and "On My Own". Sometimes, one's muse needs a little tribulation to kick it into life.

Realworld

THE FIRST Afro Celt Sound System album rather overplayed the basic idea of Irish/African crossover grooves, and while Volume 2: The Release focuses more on songs, it's still a fairly underwhelming experience, considering the resources Simon Emmerson and his multi-national band have at their disposal. There are, admittedly, some lovely pieces here: one features Sinead O'Connor and Iarla O'Lionaird duetting over a rolling, bass-heavy ambient drone; another threads James McNally's whistle and N'Faly Kouyate's kora delicately through gently interlocking rhythms. But several others sound like halfway houses between activity and authenticity. It's this fastidiousness about authenticity which holds them back: these blends don't stretch their parent styles enough, with no wildness or weirdness about the way they lock together. It's all very pleasant, but one suspects that, in trying not to tread on purist toes, Emmerson and his colleagues have turned the proud traditions of two continents into little more than muzak. Coming soon to a dinner-party near you.

!K7

GERMAN PRODUCTION duo Oliver Bondzio and Ramon Zenker are better known as Hardfloor, under which name they had an international hit with the 1992 acid-house anthem "Hardtrance Accperience". Their identity altered through a superhuman feat of bad spelling and pitiful sleeve design, they return here with a bout of Big Beat that kicks funky new life into the genre. Hugely propulsive, it's a three-decade alliance of dancefloor strategies, with contemporary drumbeats and squelchy acid house synths allied to judicious quotes from the likes of Allen Toussaint and Bill Withers. It's packed with character, not least because - contra techno purists - Bondzio and Zenker recognise the humanizing value of rhythm guitar: so much of the appeal of tracks such as "Blueberry View" and "Grand Royal" can be traced to those slick, sinuous wah-wah chops. The overall feel is of a latterday, virtual-state Fatback Band: there's a similar simplicity of purpose about their grooves, and unlike many of their colleagues, they waste no time in getting to the point, and staying there.

Columbia

IN A street-level artform such as hip hop, success invariably breeds jealousy and confusion, both starkly discernible on Nas's follow-up to his huge 1996 success It Was Written. That album's dynamic, documentary feel has atrophied here into the familiar dreary litany of drugs, bitches, guns and greed, soured by a rising tone of arrogant paranoia. No wonder that one track finds him complaining of being hated, when on another he deliberately snubs old friends. You'd think the examples of 2Pac and Biggie Smalls might induce a little humility, but you'd be mistaken. When he addresses the subject, Nas prefers to romanticise their deaths risibly - "would you return to us as the resurrection of Christ?" - and then trot out the usual cop-out about black youth having nothing but "hoop dreams and hood tournaments". There is no imaginative feat to compare with the previous album's gun autobiography "I Gave You Power"; instead, Nas now seeks character in apocalyptic blather - a sad demise for one of the few rappers who could balance ghetto crime dramas with a keen awareness of wider social issues.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas