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The Independent Culture

Aphex Twin: Richard D James Album (Warp, CD/LP/tape). Richard D James is Aphex Twin's real name, and while not exactly a Mike- Yarwood-style "and this is me" production, this 10-track, 33-minute jaunt through the mind of Cornwall's ambassador to outer space represents his most accessible and humanistic work to date. The effects of working with Philip Glass on last year's improbably jaunty "Donkey Rhubarb" EP have stayed with him, and the hyperactive shuffling beats and bewildering changes of direction that are the Twin's sonic stock-in-trade are now underpinned by delightful crystalline orchestrations. The intuitive sense of melody he's been striving so hard to suppress over the last few years has come to the fore too, and the result is the most magical pop record of the year: the year in question being AD 2001. Ben Thompson


Beethoven: Symphonies 4 & 6. Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Mackerras (EMI Eminence, CD only). Not more core-repertory Beethoven, you'll say to yourself as you pass this disc in your record store and decide that Charles Mackerras and the Liverpool Phil wouldn't be a combination to set hearts on fire even if the world needed another symphony cycle. Which it doesn't. But play the thing and you might just change your mind, because this coupling of the 4th and 6th Symphonies does more than just re-tread old ground. Mackerras - like Rattle and Harnoncourt - is a conductor who has absorbed the lessons of period performance and fed them back into a traditional orchestral context with astonishing results. The tone quality is fresh and clean; the tempi as exhilaratingly close to Beethoven's original markings as anyone dares in what has become a battlefield of instinct v scholarship; and the silk-en elegance of the playing should delight any ears that find the complete period workovers of Gardiner or Norrington a touch abrasive. If Rattle ever takes the CBSO into the studio for a Beethoven cycle it will probably claim the middle ground; but until then, Mackerras and the RLPO are a good buy with a lot to offer. Michael White


Mike Carr and the EnCee Five: Bebop from the East Coast (Birdland, CD only). Hardbop not from New York or New Orleans but from Newcastle, England, recorded between 1960 and 1962 and featuring brothers Mike and Ian Carr in a band that includes guitarist John McLaughlin and bassist Malcolm Cecil (later an early synthesiser pioneer with Tonto's Expanding Headband and Stevie Wonder). The spirit of Art Blakey is ever-present as the performances fizz and kick with great energy and soul; an excerpt from any of the tracks would have provided the perfect complement to an early episode of Our Friends in the North. Phil Johnson