Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, Rome (EMI)
There cannot be many people around with a musical mind as open as Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton, the New York-born producer and erstwhile London resident who first came to the news pages’ attention with The Grey Album, a deeply illicit melding of The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album. Since then, he has co-written and produced – among many other things – a rap underground classic (The Mouse and the Mask), a worldwide pop smash (Gorillaz’ Demon Days), a sizzling nu soul classic (Gnarls Barkley’s St Elsewhere, including ‘Crazy’), a hidden fringe pop pearl (The Shortwave Set) and a couple of glorious blues rock excursions (The Black Keys). Now, he has teamed up with the Italian composer Daniele Luppi, who was responsible for the string arrangements on the Gnarls Barkley debut. For several years, each October, the two met in Rome’s Forum Studio where Ennio Morricone used to work, and recorded a series of hommage pieces to the great composer of the Once Upon a Time In the West soundtrack. In fact, the duo worked with Morricone’s old musicians, including whistling maestro Alessandro Alessandroni and the soprano Edda Dell’Orso. Back in Los Angeles, more excellent vocals were added by Jack White and Norah Jones.The resulting album is a gorgeously atmospheric collection of terrific songs whose impact reaches well beyond the usual limits of a mere tribute.
Karl Culley, The Owl (Triumphant Sound)
Karl Culley is a singer- songwriter from Yorkshire, now residing in Krakow (for love), and this is his second album. The first, Bundle of Nerves, is something of a hidden treasure, combining a subtle acoustic-guitar style reminiscent of Michael Chapman with a keen ear for spooky atmospherics. The Owl is a simpler work only in that it’s barer, with fewer extra instrumental touches. The lyrics are as arresting as ever, the singing more assured than before. The great ‘Never Desert a Dying Horse’ sounds positively Tim Buckleyan.
Africa Hitech, 93 Million Miles (Warp)
Mark Pritchard (Global Communication, Reload, Harmonic 33) and Steve White (Spacek) have in various guises pushed the boundaries of electronica for many years. This collaboration is among their most daring, fusing all sorts of rhythmic patterns and sounds gleaned from various corners of Africa, Kingston, Chicago and London. Particularly memorable are ‘Spirit’ and ‘Light the Way’, where dubstep and Africa link arms in intense rhythmic clatter – and yet, thanks to a few soulful vocal lines, the effect is one of meditational calm and warm optimism.
Art Brut, Brilliant! Tragic! (Cooking Vinyl)
The main delight with an Eddie Argos record has always been in the lyrics. Check this for a scalpel-sharp dissection of jealousy: ‘You’re walking around like love’s young dream/He dresses like he came free with the NME/How can you bear to hold his hand?’ This, the fourth Art Brut album, is, like the last, produced by the band’s biggest fan, Frank Black, aka Black Francis. The rock is muscular in a way not dissimilar to Black’s own recent outings, Argos’s sing-talking delivery has acquired a few more tricks, and the guitar roars like a bad one.
Narasirato, Tangio Tumas (Smash Corporation)
If ever there was proof needed that it was possible to rock out to euphoria-inducing effect with a handful of pan flutes, voices and a few pots to hit, this is it. Narasirato are a ten-strong pan-flute orchestra from the Solomon Islands, headed by the wonderfully named Donation Manu’asi. This mini-album – available at mini-cost – was recorded partly in their village, Oterama and partly live at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. The melodies are carried by a dense mesh of fluting sounds driven along by some intense drumming and exuberant singing. Gloriously uplifting.