Listening Post: Brian Eno/Minor Victories/Lens Jekman/Flo Morrissey & Matthew E White
The Sunday Star-Times weekly wrap of new music.
It's almost impossible to describe how significant Brian Eno's latest album Reflection is to music and art. It's groundbreaking in so many ways. The genesis of it appears to lie in his 1975 album Discreet Music, which was generative sound with no apparent duration, even though it had a start and finish. With Reflection, Eno has taken the idea of ambience as a contemplative or active backdrop to our daily lives to a different level. At just over 53 minutes in length it is reminiscent of his single track album Thursday Afternoon . It's non intrusive yet actively engaging, impersonal and yet thought provoking and is designed to be harmonically sympathetic to one's inner and outer worlds. It is the downloadable app though that is the artistic masterstroke. It constantly changes tone and tempo to correspond with the time of day in any part of the world and create an infinity of possibilities through an algorithm that constantly varies and evolves. Reflection is both artistically and literally an album of a lifetime.
Minor Victories (Orchestral Variations)
Minor Victories, the collaborative venture by Mogwai's Stuart Brathwaite, Slowdrive's Rachel Goswell and The Editors' Justin Lockley and his brother James, have scored a major victory on the instrumental version of their self-titled album. Given the background of each musician that doesn't surprise but what does is the elegance and almost Steve Reichian rhythmic simplicity of Give Up The Ghost and the deliberate piano melodies of tracks such as Scattered Ashes, High Hopes and Cogs, where gentle orchestrations drift in and out or build in tension to create an invisible soundtrack for the cinema of imagination.
Life Will See You Now
He's a sucker for heartbreak, is Lens Jekman. The oh-so-hip Swedish singer/songwriter's latest is another collection focused on the ups and - mostly - downs of relationships. Despite the often mopey subject matter and Jekman's dry voice, Life Will See You Now is deceptively poppy. Its bouncy basslines are accompanied by disco beats, calypso boogies and all sorts of offbeat instruments: there are even, as on annoyingly infectious lead single What's That Perfume That You Wear?, steel drums. It's all very Euro-chic, heart-on-sleeve stuff, with long and winding songs full of imagery and minute detail. Yet sometimes, for all its cleverness, Jekman's thorough lyricism can get a little much. Do we really care that his ex-girlfriend loved sandalwood and lemon ginger? And what's this about 3-D modelling a back tumour? (Yes, this does come up). Jekman conjures up images of a stereotypical young Scandinavian hostel-goer: philosophical, guitar-toting and earnest, but a bit of a pain in the ass after a little while. An acquired taste.
Flo Morrissey & Matthew E White
Gentle Woman, Ruby Man
When British songwriter Flo Morrissey decided on a career in music at an early age she rued the possibility of meeting "many like-minded people, like I might have if I'd gone to university". Well, after a debut album and several singles, she has found a sympathetic music collaborator in Richmond, Virginia native Matthew E White,whose own 2012 debut album was described by Uncut magazine as "one of the great albums of modern Americana". That they bonded over a mutual love of Lee Hazelwood is no surprise given that Gentle Woman, Ruby Man in it's selection of covers has that oddball mainstream pop quirkiness that the former favoured and is perfectly showcased on their quirky deadpan treatment of the Bee Gees' Grease through to Roy Ayers Everybody Loves The Sunshine. It takes a while to get used to the jagged forcefulness of Morrissey's vocals which are like nettle to White's soft burr but on George Harrison's spiritual chant Govindam, they find a connection that's both earthy and ethereal.
- Sunday Star Times