Andy Gill

Andy Gill is The Independent's Music Critic.

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Album review: Midlake, Antiphon (Bella Union)

Album of the Week: Mystery men find renewed courage in a crisis

Album review: Howe Gelb, The Coincidentalist (New West)

After last year's overblown Tucson: A Country Rock Opera, it's a relief to find Howe Gelb back in windblown, speculative territory. The Coincidentalist is a set of relaxed songs in stylings ranging from the Monk-ish piano of "Instigated Chimes" to the lilting, Cohen-esque "Left of Center" and the indefinable "Unforgivable". With M Ward on guitar, Giant Sand's Thøger Tetens Lund on string bass, and Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley on brushed drums, the atmosphere is akin to a shabby cabaret, to which KT Tunstall and a sweet-voiced Bonnie "Prince" Billy add a touch of elegance in the duets "The 3 Deaths of Lucky" and "Vortexas" respectively, the latter an engaging foray into Gelb's enigmatic desert consciousness.

Download: Vortexas; Left of Center; The 3 Deaths of Lucky; Unforgivable

Album review: Kronos Quartet/Bryce Dessner, Aheym (Anti-)

The National guitarist Bryce Dessner was first commissioned by The Kronos Quartet to write something for a 2009 Brooklyn festival. "Aheym" – Yiddish for "Homeward" – was the result, a piece celebrating his immigrant grandparents' settling in the borough decades earlier. Opening with urgent triplets, it settles into an elegant braiding of interlaced lines that push the music forward in waves. The commission led to the three other pieces here. "Tenebre" is also informed by Dessner's roots in the New York contemporary tradition, its interlinking phrases giving way to string and vocal drones. The breezy "Tour Eiffel" adds piano to the string and vocal textures, while "Little Blue Something" emulates the resonant timbre of viola da gamba players.

Download: Aheym; Tenebre; Little Blue Something; Tour Eiffel

Album review: Tinie Tempah, Demonstration (Parlophone)

Given Tinie Tempah's wish-list of collaborators for his second album – from Drake, Adele and Chris Martin to James Blake and Lykke Li – the line-up of Dizzee, Labrinth and a trio of Naughty Boy production duets with Emeli Sandé, Paloma Faith and Laura Mvula seems less intriguing. But there are enough decent moments to call Demonstration a success, not least the Diplo-produced "Trampoline", with its cavernous sub-bass and liquid-synth motif, and the brutal Dizzee duet "Mosh Pit". Lyrically, the album balances precariously between laddish celebrations of promiscuity and the sensitive claims of "Heroes", a belated realisation of the corruptions of success, which finds Tinie wondering, "What am I doing sitting next to two MPs?".

Download: Trampoline; Mosh Pit; Witch Doctor; Heroes

Album review: James Arthur, James Arthur (Syco)

Despite the huge success of "Impossible", James Arthur was sufficiently discomfited by his success, according to recent reports, to have considered suicide. Although, pop being a cynical business, it's hard not to commend the promotional value thus attached to "Suicide", a song about romantic disruption. The opener, "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You", is a decent showcase for his burly-voiced brand of R&B pop – but elsewhere, Arthur grossly overdoes the emotional groaning that passes for vocal expression in the album's more overwrought corners.

Download: You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You; Get Down; Lie Down

Album review: Julian Anderson, Orchestral Works (LPO)

The metaphysical, transcendent element of Julian Anderson's work is clear in these pieces recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. "The Crazed Moon" is infused with an extraordinary sense of wonder, almost subliminal trumpets giving way to the moan of cellos, before harp, chimes, woodwind and strings delve into turbulent territory. The premiere recording of the five-part suite "Fantasias" likewise grows from a complex fanfare of trumpets into a thrilling, crammed piece, with abrupt, jarring changes of direction and emphasis. The premiere recording of "The Discovery of Heaven" is more palliative, the three sections moving from the heavenly to a more earthly urban bustle of staccato horns and darting strings.

Download: The Discovery of Heaven; The Crazed Moon; Fantasia 2; Fantasia 3

Album review: The Carducci Quartet, Gordon Jones, Raskatov: Monk's Music (Louth Contemporary Music Society)

Unlike The Hilliard Ensemble's recent Prayers and Praise, in Monk's Music the vocal and instrumental elements of Alexander Raskatov's music are separated, with Hilliard bassman Gordon Jones intoning seven texts by the Russian monk/saint Starets Silouan as introductions to the instrumental evocations. It imposes a suitably pious atmosphere for the Carducci Quartet's arrangements to exist within. The seven sections reflect the emotions of the texts: yearning in "Adagio", where the pulsing cello ostinatos underpin wispy arabesques; then pained and imploring in "Adagio affetuoso", before achieving the soothing peace of "Adagio molto".

Download: Adagio; Adagio recitando; Adagio affetuoso; Adagio molto

Album review: Boy George, This Is What I Do (Very Me)

This Is What I Do may have a bearded Boy George on the cover, but that's the most shocking thing about it, the music reverting from the tacky electro of his noughties releases to the soft soul, funk and reggae with which he forged his reputation. It's a good move: George hasn't been as enjoyable in ages. "King of Everything" showcases the smoky texture of his voice, while "Bigger Than War" profits from an atmosphere that's part gospel, part Grace Jones. Elsewhere, the Toots-like "Nice & Slow" is the most appealing of a tranche of engaging reggae numbers.

Download: King of Everything; Bigger Than War; Nice & Slow; My God

Album review: Anne-Sophie Mutter, Dvorák (Deutsche Grammophon)

Anne-Sophie Mutter's first Dvorák programme features three shorter pieces accompanying a bravura performance of the Violin Concerto in A Minor whose opening “Allegro ma non troppo” illustrates the strengths of her technique and approach. The dramatic opening alternates bursts of declamatory orchestration with solo flourishes of thrilling intensity and fiery gypsy spirit, Mutter's piercing vibrato lending a will-o'-the-wisp quality to the passage, as notes seem to hang, trembling, in the air. Of the supporting pieces, “Mazurek” dances along dizzily, as in a dreamlike fantasia, while “Humoresque” is treated in initially tentative but increasingly impassioned manner, as if a memory captured on the very cusp of wistfulness.

Download: Violin Concerto in A Minor; Humoresque; Mazurek

Album review: Woody Guthrie, American Radical Patriot (Rounder)

Album of the Week: How the dust-bowl refugee became bound for glory

Day In a Page

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