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June 28 2012

Martin Creed: Love to You – review

(Moshi Moshi)

Better known as the artist-provocateur responsible for winning the 2001 Turner Prize for lights going on and off in an empty room, Martin Creed's musical forays are much beloved of the Cribs and Franz Ferdinand, and you can hear why. The Glaswegian employs similar frenetic, jagged guitars, although the way his ramshackle pop teeters on the edge of chaos is more reminiscent of the very early Mekons. Creed's songwriting avoids conventional structures but emerges with quirky tunes, over which he ponders life's daily grind with titles such as What's The Point of It? and Die. The title track is beautifully wistful, and I Can't Move finds him layering vowels, like a painting done with sound. Such minor gems alternate with more provocative short statements. The deliberately irritating Fuck Off is like being harangued by a drunk, and will surely be responsible for one or two scratched heads and grumblings of "Is this art?"

Rating: 3/5


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August 25 2011

Bill Frisell: Sign of Life: Music for the 858 Quartet – review

(Fontana)

Guitarist Bill Frisell formed this occasional group in 2002 to produce music inspired by eight Gerhard Richter abstract paintings entitled 858-1 to 858-8, which were eventually packaged as the 2005 CD Richter 858. Though hints of Frisell's famous country-jazz impressionism and waltzing momentum were present, this was music far closer to the cool ambiguities of the paintings themselves. The lineup included guitar, violin, viola and cello, so they were, in effect, an electric guitar-led string quartet, and played with an idiosyncratic, folksy, contemporary-classical solemnity. This is the group's first recording since, and though that atmosphere remains, it's infused with rootsier references and more explicit warmth. These 17 short pieces sometimes sound like wistful, eerie country music, at times with Celtic inflections. Frisell hardly solos, and mostly restricts himself to shimmering, pinging and warped chord sounds within the loose, collective slow-whirl. But the pieces (all Frisell originals) are absorbingly different, from the softly ringing, classical-sounding Wonderland, through Mother Daughter, with its low guitar throb, to the breezy chamber hoedown of Suitcase in My Head and the lyrical romantic blues of A Friend of Mine. It's yet another testament to Frisell's versatility.

Rating: 4/5


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December 02 2010

Tim Whitehead: Colour Beginnings – review

(HomeMade)

You don't need to know that UK saxophonist Tim Whitehead has been a fan of Turner's paintings since he found himself crying in front of one many years back. Nor that injury in 2006 gave him the time to ponder a musical tribute to the painter. Nor even that this project made him the first musician to be an artist in residence at Tate Britain. No, Whitehead's music always stands on its own feet. His bands are consistently fine examples of attractively song-rooted composing and cutting-edge postbop improv, and his collaborations with Liam Noble inspire some of the gifted pianist's most memorable recorded playing. But the triggers here are transcribed from Whitehead's original solo improvisations recorded while viewing Turner's work – particularly the painter's fastest and most intuitive sketches and watercolours. Some of the music unfolds in twisting, long-lined themes, some in softly exhaled solo-sax reveries; there are skittish dancing melodies and speculative group conversations that suggest Wayne Shorter's musings. Noble often echoes Whitehead or plays in unison – and, like all the performers, he plays as deeply inside these pieces as if he were as personally involved as their originator.

Rating: 4/5


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