RECOMMENDED CD OF THE YEAR (SO FAR)
PETER SCULTHORPE Earth Cry, Piano Concerto, etc. Naxos 8.557382 www.naxos.com
William Barton – didgeridoo, Tamara Anna Cislowska – piano, New Zealand SO cond. James Judd
What an ear-opener this one is. Full of soaring emotion, it’s a record I’d recommend to anyone as a brilliant jumping off point in the exploration of Contemporary Classical Music.
The first piece Earth Cry is what I suppose would normally be called a tone poem the subject of which is contained in the title– and very moving it is too. The mood is dramatically enhanced by the use of didgeridoo which has the extraordinary feel of a heavy metal guitar with wah-wah & feedback overlaying the melodious romantic themes of the orchestra.
Memento Mori reflects the history of Easter Island with its mysterious stone heads and acts as a metaphor for what could happen to our entire species. The use of orchestration and plainchant in the form of a lament reminded me very much of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony and induced the same state of hopeless melancholia.
Despite his claim that his Piano Concerto is a life affirming piece, it is based on some of the composer’s early brushes with mortality and one feels one’s heart rent by the emotions expressed herein. It is written very much in the mid-20thCentury European tradition (very bleak black-and-white landscapes full of strife) but there’s an unusual Far Eastern feel that gives it an edge over some of the more run-of-the-mill works of that ilk. In fact, luke-warm as I usually am about piano music, I would say stunning would not be too strong a description of this composition.
From Oceania is a short sonic landscape piece full of high drama, oriental drumming and loud crashing cymbals – wonderful.
Finally we have Kakadu, the Sculthorpe equivalent of A Short Ride in a Fast Machine. In fact it’s a slightly elongated trip in a time machine, journeying from the Coastal Plain of Northern Australia, through desert lands into the mountain ranges. We explore the world and the disappearing 50,000 year- old culture of the gagadju people of that region We experience the excitement, the sadness and the determined resilience of their shrinking universe in . It’s alternately exhilarating and frighteningly depressing in equal quantities, but leaves one sensing an epic story of a people’s struggle which has been a knife’s edge so many times yet survived through all those millennia.
Wow! What a CD! Quite the most exciting thing I’ve heard for some long time. It’s a stunning triumph of masterful production. I note that Naxos are clearly able to assemble this quality of composition and performance to put out a disc of such astounding distinction at the budget price they charge. I must wonder , then, how the established giants of the industry can be forever bleating about low profit margins and threats to the future of music while charging the extortionate prices they do for what is, compared to this, often second rate product. There’s just no excuse!
Support this label – they deserve to be the market leaders of the future. The very near future - if not now!
TURNING GREEN Firsty Pea
Another gem from this upcoming 4-piece gang of punky jazz-funk power popsters. This, their 1st EP (geddit?), contains 3 new tracks that I’ve had the pleasure of hearing performed live on a couple of occasions. It opens with ‘Flavour’ a jazzy bopper Billy Preston would be proud of in which all the instruments get the chance to strut their funky stuff. ‘Walking Away’ is an excursion into a jagged land previously inhabited by the likes of Phil Minton & Mike Westbrook in Solid Gold Cadillac days, or perhaps Jack Bruce or Joe Cocker at their most angular. The last track, ‘Alien’ is almost a psychedelic/nu-metal crossover anthem which is the type of thing that brings the house down at the close of a spectacular stage performance leaving the rabid audience yearning for more. Which is exactly how this EP record affects me – it leaves me longing to hear their next album.
SHAMELESS Outta My Face 1 track single
The character in this song inhabits the sort of laddish neighbourhood & culture that The Streets waxes so lyrical about. It’s a defiant unpleasant nihilistic anthem once espoused by a so-called blank generation of the 70s claiming the right to do exactly as it pleases regardless of the consequences and is not particularly encouraging about the prospects for times to come. On the other hand the quality of the performance is excellent, the song grooves along wonderfully and the depressing picture drawn is explicit. A great little record – hopefully it’s a taster for great things to come.