Arts and Entertainment

With its satisfyingly fat vinyl platters, audiophile-friendly downloads and imaginative catalogue of rediscovered gems (plus new recordings), LP specialist Gearbox is becoming one of the wonders of the age.

Album: Armstrong, Memory Takes My Hand – BBC Symphony Orchestra/Walker (Virgin Classics)

Portentous and banal, "Memory Takes My Hand" is the least interesting of the three works here. Not even Lucy Crowe can make Peter Arnott's lyrics intelligible at the tessitura chosen by Craig Armstrong, and the BBC SO treads water in a score that sounds as though Carl Orff had been reincarnated as an ambient composer.

Album: Matmos, Supreme Balloon (Matador)

This innovative duo of Björk accomplices returns to its core of pure electronic music here, eschewing the idiosyncratic sound sources of earlier works (amplified semen, anyone?) in favour of a battery of Moogs, Arps, Korgs and even Radio France's massive Coupigny modular synth, once used by the likes of Boulez and Stockhausen to sculpt musique concrète.

Album: Steve Reich, Daniel Variations (Nonesuch)

Propelled by darting vibes and dancing violins, Steve Reich’s four-movement memorial to the murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl interpolates apocalyptic dreams from the “Book of Daniel” with Pearl’s own words. Old Testament terror jars against the simplicity of what Pearl said to a friend when asked if he believed in an afterlife: “I don’t know... But I sure hope Gabriel likes my music.” It’s a powerful,thoughtful, loving piece but the voices of the Los Angeles Master Chorale are weak. Far superior is the London Sinfonietta’s performance: a work of classically Reichian dazzled ecstasy.

Klaus Dinger: Pioneer of the 'motorik' beat

In the Seventies heyday of German experimental rock – a once-maligned genre dubbed "Krautrock" – the musician Klaus Dinger pioneered a hypnotic, robotic style of drumming which became known as the "motorik" beat.

Album: The Grid, Doppelganger (Some Bizarre)

In the Old Rave era, long after Soft Cell had fallen apart, synth maestro Dave Ball formed the Grid with Richard Norris, and sold millions.

Album: The Teak Project, The Teak Project (First Hand)

Second-generation Indo-jazz fusions with Jonathan Mayer (son of Sixties pioneer John Mayer) on sitar, Justin Quinn on acoustic guitar and Neil Craig on tabla. What's so attractive about the seven original compositions is the relaxed approach of the players and the easy interplay of sitar and guitar. There's no genre-bending emphasis on raga-form or other geography-teacher stuff, and if the result is sweetly serene and melodic (closer to "Norwegian Wood" than Shakti) this only emphasises its appeal as superior ambient music, although the total absence of McLaughlin-style angstiness means we miss out on drama.

Album: Autechre, Quaristice (Warp)

Their ninth album finds the Autechre duo of Rob Brown and Sean Booth still searching vainly for structure and meaning among a largely impenetrable undergrowth of synthesized ticks and tones.

Album: Food

Molecular Gastronomy, Rune Grammofon

Album: Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation's Dark (New West)

It's been less celebrated than other, shinier trends in pop, but the last couple of years have seen a revival of the kind of storyteller-rock with which Bruce Springsteen once dominated American pop culture. Bands such as Richmond Fontaine and The Hold Steady have a wordy, narrative-based approach, combined with a dirty-realist worldview whose roots seem to lie in the downbeat nihilism of Nebraska, albeit given a healthy shot, in The Hold Steady's case, of youthful energy.

Album: The Orb


The Fall, The Cartoon Club, Croydon

The resurrection of Mark E Smith

Album: Brian Eno

Another Day on Earth, OPAL/HANNIBAL

Ensemble Modern/Asbury, Barbican, London

The Ensemble Modern's sold-out Steve Reich concert culminated in the British premiere of You Are (Variations), a work for six voices and 28 players.

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