RECORDS NEW RELEASES

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Murder Ballads (Mute, CD/LP/tape, out Mon). Some records catch your ear or break your heart. This one ties a flex round your neck, fills your skull with bullets and plunges a penknife in your chest. Turning away from his recent introspective material, Nick Cave goes for the jugular with 10 tales from the crypt: all gothic gloom, with some pitch-black humour for added darkness. It's not often you see the word "Aaaaaaaaah!" on a lyric sheet. The Bad Seeds supply impeccable, uncluttered backing, abetted by a spooky P J Harvey on the spine-chillingly lovely "Henry Lee" and a saccharine Kylie Minogue on "Where the Wild Roses Grow". The only problem is that Cave hasn't twisted the repetitive formula of traditional folk ballads far enough. For all the ghoulish fun of the hammy Hammer horror, the stories aren't all that tense or shocking, and the subject matter isn't examined with much insight. Perfect for scaring small children on Hallowe'en, but I'm not sure that you'd want to listen to it more than a few times. If you do, you should be arrested. Nicholas Barber

Various Artists: Ocean of Sound (Virgin Ambient, double CD). The notion of companion albums to music books (David Toop's Ocean of Sound, Serpents Tail, pounds 10.99) is probably a dangerous one - heaven preserve us from the soundtrack to Nick Hornby's High Fidelity - but in this case it's a risk well worth taking. Toop's 148-minute trawl through the Ocean of Sound puts music where his mouth is to triumphant effect. From King Tubby to Erik Satie and back again via Sun Ra, the Beach Boys, a Buddhist ceremony and some howler monkeys, this is a listening odyssey that will leave no one unchanged. It is a mild but delightful irony that the music is so great and the connections made are so compelling that it is impossible to just let them wash over you - amid a feast of audacious segues, the one from The Velvet Underground's cacophonous "I Heard Her Call My Name" to the whoops and wails of a troop of bearded seals probably takes the cake. In flagrant contravention of all the laws of ambience, you have to listen really carefully. Ben Thompson

Teddy Edwards: Tango in Harlem (Verve Gitanes, CD). Completely swoonable back-to-basics trio set (with Christian McBride and Billy Higgins) by the undervalued veteran saxophonist, who helped define the sound of West Coast bop in the Forties. All the essential ingredients for a James Ellroy or Walter Mosely thriller soundtrack are here: cheesy Latin grooves on "Besame Mucho", a version of "The Nearness of You" so maudlin that it nearly drowns in its own tears, and, best of all, an unaccompanied bleat through Burt Bacharach's "Alfie" that is the essence of late-night, smoochy jazz noir. Phil Johnson

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