Album reviews: Scott Walker – The Childhood Of A Leader, De La Soul – And The Anonymous Nobody, The Veils – Total Depravity, and more

Also Black Dylan, Kris Dane, and The Strumbellas

Andy Gill
Wednesday 24 August 2016 16:26

Scott Walker – The Childhood Of A Leader -– 3/5

Download this: Opening; The Meeting; Post Meeting

Based on a short-story by Jean-Paul Sartre about the making of a fascist, Brady Corbet’s film The Childhood Of A Leader has been given a suitably dark soundtrack by Scott Walker, full of grim portents. The mood is largely determined by the orchestral make-up of 46 strings and 16 horns: many of the tracks are brief fragments of incidental music, with small slivers of strings and low drones assailed by magisterial, brooding brass, but there’s a more satisfying shape about the longer pieces, notably the “Opening”. Here, chugging low-register strings are joined at an astringent discord by higher strings, with the foreboding melody creeping upon them, like ice forming on a lake as winter sets in. The result has a premonitory sweep evoking both destiny and danger.

De La Soul – And The Anonymous Nobody – 4/5

Download this: Royalty Capes; Pain; Drawn; Here In After

The best time to love somebody, claims Jill Scott on the opening “Genesis”, is when nobody cares about them – an apt observation for De La Soul’s return with this sparkling, multi-faceted comeback album. It’s a work which tries to simultaneously grasp history – “Property Of” offers reflections on their own pioneer status, while “Pain” broadens the discourse to discuss black struggle from “the back of the bus to the house at the top of the hill” – and forge a route to the future, through ambitious arrangements and intelligent, imaginative raps. A whole load of guests are along for the ride, including Snoop Dogg, Usher, 2Chainz, Damon Albarn and David Byrne, the most intriguing result of which is the inexplicably moving “Drawn”, featuring Little Dragon.

The Veils – Total Depravity – 3/5

Download this: Axolotl; A Bit On The Side; Iodine & Iron; House Of Spirits

The Gothic undertow which draws one into The Veils’ music is especially powerful on Total Depravity – partly due, one suspects, to the production involvement of Run The Jewels’ El-P, who adds his characteristic scarified surfaces and fractured beats to songs about truck drivers, crocodiles, popes and the “accidental amphibian” depicted in “Axolotl”. Singer Finn Andrews relishes the opportunity to build songs from “mutilated loops and sounds”, a modus operandi borne out by the itchy intrigue of “Axolotl”, “A Bit On The Side” and other tracks, while elsewhere what sounds like the twin otherworldly whines of lap steel and theremin lends ghostly lustre to “House Of Spirits”. Despite Andrews’ occasionally overwrought attempts to conjure up a mood of malevolent fate by channelling his inner Nick Cave, it’s an absorbing journey.

Black Dylan – Hey Stranger – 4/5

Download this: Hey Stranger; Don’t Wanna Be Alone; The One; Who Got My Back

The brilliantly named Black Dylan are a Danish duo combining the talents of local singing star Wafande and his longtime producer Nuplex, their preference for cool retro-soul signalled by their sartorial taste for slick suits with matching turtlenecks and fedoras. Hey Stranger is a smooth delight, with Wafande’s warm delivery riding imaginative arrangements which combine standard soul moves with intriguing elements like the cool winds adding elegance to the title-track’s invitation to “hop a plane and fly away”, or the twinkling celesta and perky little organ motif which pep up the funk groove “Don’t Wanna Be Alone”. It’s a slyly sophisticated sound, its jazz underpinnings most exposed in the loping double bass groove and neat guitar fills of “The One”; but never overweeningly so – throughout, there’s an understated charm about its laid-back precision that’s effortlessly winning.

Kris Dane – Rose Of Jericho – 3/5

Download this: Golden Rain; Sweet On You; Rose Of Jericho

Before he became a singer-songwriter, Kris Dane was drummer in an early version of Belgian indie-rockers dEUS, and their affinities for eclecticism and string-tinged melancholy persist on Rose Of Jericho. The title track, for instance, envelops pulsing keyboards, strings and backing vocals in a floaty ambience anchored by a programmed bass beat; while “Sweet On You” employs a hypnotic, mantra-like guitar and bass figure, which lends the repeated title hook a sinister edge of obsession. But it’s Dane’s fingerstyle guitar and vocals that determine the character of his songs, most winningly on “Golden Rain”, where his parched drawl admission that “Once I heard your name, nothing is quite the same, out in the golden rain” is caressed by gentle strings, cooing background vocals, and the tiniest wisp of wah-wah guitar.

The Strumbellas – Hope – 2/5

Download this: Spirits; We Don’t Know

Drawing plaudits and awards over the course of three albums since 2012, The Strumbellas have swiftly built a considerable following in America and their native Canada. The video for Hope’s lead-off track “Spirits” has already notched up 19 million views so far, and justifiably so, as it presents their feisty folk-rock charm at its most engaging. But as the album proceeds, the band’s strident Mumfordry becomes all too wearing, these songs patently designed more for festival singalong than introspective reflection. And there’s a troubling contradiction between some of the lines chanted like political slogans: how, for instance, does one square the claim that “Darkness is good, ’cos if we all die young, then we don’t get hurt” and the following song’s assertion that “We all know if there’s hope, then we’ll be okay”?

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