RECORDS / New Releases

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Vaughan Williams: Concertos for Oboe,

Violin, Piano, Tuba, etc, LSO / Bryden Thomson (Chandos, CD only). A two-disc compilation of orchestral scores originally recorded in the late Eighties. Although you might find old favourites like The Lark Ascending light on texture, and lacking the golden luminosity the music pleads for, there's a refinement in the playing of the LSO that unburdens lesser-known works like the Piano Concerto (soloist Howard Shelley) of a lot of stodge and makes a strong case for their return to the repertory. For good measure, the set includes a seductive performance of the English Romantic classic for chorus and orchestra Toward the Unknown Region that opens out to an exhilarating climax in the final section. Vaughan Williams at his seer-like best. Michael White

Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works II (Warp, CD/LP/tape). How much further out can ambient house go before it turns into Rick Wakeman, with classical pretensions and medieval costumes, and people start laughing? All the way to Pluto, to judge by this triple set of frigid strangeness from Cornwall's techno wunderkind. Never interested in conventional pop instruments (he builds his own synthesisers) or structure (his 'songs' are other-worldly instrumentals), Aphex Twin has now unhitched his music from all reference points, except maybe electronic composers such as Glass and Stockhausen. There are photographed textures instead of song titles, skeletal motifs instead of dance beats, and tendrils of beautiful sound, swaying, mutating, and bewildering. It's like a soundtrack to a yet-to-be-imagined sci-fi film; and great to do the washing-up to in the meantime.

Andy Beckett