Saturday, December 09, 2006

Blogging is Light

Work has once again utterly dominated my life this week, thus I have nothing of pith or moment to write about. Actually, one bit of celeb gossip, T and I had breakfast at The Breakfast Club, a newly opened cafe in Soho prior to going to work. As we dined in came Keira Knightly and entourage. I suspect she had a tiny pastry for breakfast rather than the enormous fry-up that graced my plate. So I had a brush with fame over a latte.

Since it's resolutely now December, it's probably time for all the retrospective fun and games to begin. So I'll kick off with the albums that were new to me in 2006 that I liked best. In no particular order then:

Simple Kid's second album, the imaginatively titled "2" sees more of the guitar/banjo/sampling/drum-beats music of the equally brilliantly titled "1" of a couple of years ago. Akin to an Irish version of Beck, without the Scientology, SK's songs feel more homely and about a life that I recognise living whilst maintining a sense of humour about the whole thing. A very lovely record, it feels intimate yet never maudlin or lachrymose.

Circulus' second album is a more polished affair than "Lick on the Tip of an Envelope" but the ingredients of medieval revivalism mixed with 70s prog rock remain. There are few albums on which songs about faeries feature Moogs paired with a shawm, but here that is the norm. Brilliantly whimsical and wilfully eccentric, Circulus are a band whose philiosphy I find it easy to endorse and music I find it impossible not to smile whilst listening to.

Occupying similar territory to Kate Bush or Bjork, Bat for Lashes leader, Natasha Kahn, adds an ethereal vocal quality to these densely layered songs of love and loss. The waters run deep here, the multi-intrumental skills of the other 4 members of the group provide rich texture on every track. Their collection of obscure vintage musical instruments is put to good use creating broad sweeping landscapes of sound over which Kahn's voice can soar. The best debut of the year for my money.

At the other end of the age range, these two veterans of The Pentangle and The Incredible String Band, John Renbourn and Robin Williamson combine on this live album to form what they tentatively call The Impenetrable String Tangle a delicious pun that's indicative of the humour they bring along with the magical history of British folk music. Both master musicians, they work together to weave a beautiful spell which I was fortunate to see live myself earlier in the year. Two master craftsmen at their best.

Sounding as if they come from Eastern Europe A Hawk and a Hacksaw in fact hail from Mexico. Frenetic rhythms and bizarre musical arrangements on this epoymously titled album make this a challenging but very rewarding listen.

I was fortunate enough to see this at The Proms this year, and knew nothing of it beforehand. Very very beautiful. Nuff said.

Max Richter has done a lot of work with The Future Sound of London and much of their slightly ambient aesthetic is on show here. It's a classical album featuring a string quartet and piano accompanied by music concrete and occasional pieces of voice over. A very haunting album, it's best appreciated in moments alone.

Ralph Vaughan Williams' bawdy take on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is deeply and profoundly English and I love it for that. I was taken to see this at the ENO this year and was very grateful for the opportunity. It's seldomly performed which is shame as it's a fabulous piece of light opera.

"Unknown Terrirtory" is a recent album by Dick Dale, the king of Surf Guitar. Age has not dimmed his ability nor his ferocious energy as evinced by this high-octane album. Very like AC/DC in his single-minded devotion to a certain style and tempo you know exactly what you're going to get with a Dick Dale record and this one does not disappoint. If you have to get something done, or you feel your energy levels flagging, this is the album for you.


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