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February 19, 2021

Louis Pattison Tindersticks – Distractions

Explaining how Tindersticks’ 13th studio album came together, frontman Stuart Staples is adamant: Distractions isn’t to be considered a lockdown album. Yes, naturally the events of the last 12 months have had a bearing on how this new collection of songs was born. But the groundwork for the record was laid way back in a burst of writing in February 2020, when the idea of an international pandemic might still have seemed a fanciful proposition. The recording, meanwhile, was completed last September at Staples’ own Le Chien Chanceux studio in Limousin, France, with the full Tindersticks band present for a brief window before the shutters clanged back down once more.

Staples no doubt felt the need to point this out because Distractions feels like a step change for Tindersticks, a record that disposes with many of the old methods, and ushers in a few new ones. The group’s last album, 2019’s No Treasure But Hope, was a sensuous and sumptuously orchestrated outing that found Staples – an incorrigible romantic, albeit one with a long pessimistic streak – creeping towards some sort of contentment. Distractions, on the other hand, sounds rather different. Lean and stripped back of instrumentation, possessed of a prickly temperament and – by Tindersticks’ rather lugubrious standards – a fire burning in its belly, it proves that even this rather venerable band still have the capacity to surprise.

For a taste of this, look no further than the opening track. It clocks in at a remarkable 11 minutes in length, but “Man Alone (Can’t Stop The Fadin’)” is a lean and urgent thing, characterised by stripped-back electronics and a simmering, coiled-spring tension. Staples’ nervy vocal brings to mind the manic ululations of Suicide’s Alan Vega, and every now and then, as his voice falls out of narrative and slips into chant (“Can’t stop the fadin’/Can’t stop the fadin’…”) it is suddenly interrupted by a sonic intrusion: a cacophony of car horns, or a burst of torrential rain. Equally sparse is the following “I Imagine You”, which finds Staples lost in a reverie of remembrance, his husky whisper swaddled by the lilting tones of David Coulter’s musical saw.

Tindersticks have long been recognised for their bold cover versions, and Distractions’ mid-section is given over to three audacious reinterpretations. Staples is joined by regular collaborator Gina Baker for a cover of Neil Young’s “A Man Needs A Maid”, the lonely sentiments of the original transmuted into a sleek electronic torch song with shades of Angelo Badalamenti. A take on Dory Previn’s “Lady With The Braid”, meanwhile, feels more playful. Previn’s original is a seduction monologue that grows in desperation with every passing line, and Staples warmly embraces both the song’s tragedy and its levity: “Would you care to stay ’til sunrise/It’s completely your decision/It’s just the night cuts through me like a knife…” Finally, a grooving, dub-tinged reworking of Television Personalities’ “You’ll Have To Scream Louder” marks a rare burst of political rage for the band, pointedly drawing lines between the iniquities of the post-punk age, and our current moment. “I’ve got no respect for/People in power/They make their decisions/From their ivory towers,” seethes Staples.

But Distractions saves its most moving moments ’til last. Tindersticks were regular performers at Le Bataclan, the Paris theatre which became the site of a terrorist attack in 2015. “Tue-Moi” is a tribute to the venue and those who died there. Staples sings it in French, backed only by Dan MacKinna’s Rachmaninoff-inspired piano, and the result is deeply moving, imbued with noble sadness and a glimmer of rage. Finally, there is “The Bough Bends”. The album’s closing track, it adopts a gentle pace, its soft drum machine adorned by Boulter’s twinkling Mellotron and Neil Fraser’s softly rugged guitar. Lyrically, it has the feeling of a summation or a weighing of the past, Staples shifting between husky croon and spoken word as he dwells on past romances, missed opportunities, and the smile of a loved one. The song ends, as it begins, with the twitter of bird song, although such is the sense of heavy emotional weather that it lingers a little after the album draws to a close.

This deep into a band’s career, you rather come to expect familiar moves – the soundtrack work, the theatre shows, the occasional new albums that further deepen and build on those early themes. In many ways, Distractions is an enigma. In years to come, we may look back on this record as transitional, or a product of its times. But to hear a band of this vintage still listening – and responding – to their instincts is a joy in itself.

Distractions by tindersticks

The post Tindersticks – Distractions appeared first on UNCUT.

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Norient Film Festival 10th Anniversary

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Emily Bick presents Adventures In Sound And Music

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Check out the stories and inspirations from myself and Fin DAC for our upcoming collaboration…

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John Lewis Cuba: Music And Revolution – Experiments in Latin Music 1975-85, Vol 1

Cuba is the island that taught America how to dance. For much of the 20th century it provided the United States (and, by extension, the Western world) with every key dance craze: the mambo, the rumba, the cha-cha-cha, the charanga, the bugalu. When jazz moved into the concert halls it was the Afro-Cuban influence that kept bebop on the dancefloor. And, throughout the 1940s and ’50s Havana was where American hedonists went to party.

But then came Fidel, and Che, and the 1959 revolution, and the Bay Of Pigs invasion, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. And that cultural dialogue between Cuba and the US came to a halt. Cuba carried on in isolation, besieged by US sanctions, no longer visited by jazz royalty, no longer the playground of American playboys and gangsters. Its most famous musicians – singer Celia Cruz, bassist Cachao, percussionist Mongo Santamaria – defected to the States, never to return. Cuban music was rebadged as “salsa”, and its biggest stars were now in Miami and New York.

For many, 1959 is where Cuba’s music history ends, a narrative perpetuated by Ry Cooder’s celebration of pre-revolutionary music, Buena Vista Social Club. The real story is, of course, rather more complex, and explored by Cuba: Music And Revolution, compiled by DJ Gilles Peterson and Soul Jazz Records founder Stuart Baker (it accompanies a lavish hardback book of the same name).

It shows us how, from the 1960s onwards, Cuban music continued under the watchful eye of the Communist Party. The island’s formidable musical conservatoires specialised in Western classical music (something also encouraged by Cuba’s communist allies), creating thousands of highly trained Cuban musicians. But what could they play? Cuba’s nightclubs, tainted by association with the pre-revolutionary leader Batista, were closed; dance music was regarded as suspiciously decadent; rock’n’roll and US R&B were banned as cultural weapons of Yankee imperialism; and even the term “jazz” had to be renamed “música moderna”. “We wanted to play bebop,” said trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, from the legendary Cuban band Irakere, “but we were told that our drummer couldn’t even use cymbals, because they sounded too jazzy. We eventually used congas and cowbells instead. It helped us to come up with something new and creative.”

The two remarkable tracks from Irakere that bookend this compilation bear this out, placing fiery Afro-Cuban hand percussion under fearsome Brecker Brothers-style jazz-rock horn arrangements and distorted Fender Rhodes solos. Irakere’s rambunctious Latin jazz has been winning Grammys for 40 years and they’ve long been regulars at Ronnie Scott’s and on the European jazz festival circuit, but they’re one of only two bands on this compilation we might be familiar with. The other is Los Van Van, a funky charanga group founded in 1969, who mix descarga piano with percussive strings and florid horn solos – like a baroque version of a Philly disco band.

This compilation uncovers many other gems. Some are pre-revolutionary artists whose careers were given a funky reboot in the 1980s, like the sprightly son montuno band Conjunto Rumbavana, or the all-female vocal trio Las D’Aida (featuring Buena Vista Social Club star Omara Portuondo, here in a surprisingly proggy setting). There are three tracks from Grupo Monumental, all spiky horns, squeaky Farfisa organs and sly invocations of American funk. There is Los 5 U 4, a quartet featuring three blind members who are as close to an Anglo-American band as you’ll find here, performing a slow-burning Latin-rock ballad that climaxes in a heavily distorted guitar frenzy. There are two pieces of hypnotically funky prog from Los Reyes 73, featuring swirls of organ, wah-wah guitar and angular horn riffs.

Best of all are the tracks by Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC, led by the cosmopolitan classical guitarist and composer Leo Brouwer. Commissioned by the fêted film director Alfredo Guevara to provide movie soundtracks, they had the cultural clout to be a bit more avant-garde than other Cuban acts.

You’ll hear unusual time signatures, heavy-duty psychedelic organ solos, FX-laden guitars and touches of atonalism: imagine an Afro-Cuban blaxploitation soundtrack played by an incarnation of Soft Machine who just happen to have sensational Latin-jazz chops. This adventurous spirit is shared by the band’s sidekicks who also feature on this compilation, like the bassist Eduardo Ramos or the remarkable pianist Emiliano Salvador.

One can only hope that this LP will be accompanied by other Soul Jazz releases delving deeper into these discoveries. It’d be great to hear more by the Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC, and also more by the hippie-ish “nueva trova” singers who often recorded with them, like Pablo Milanes (also a gifted scat vocalist) and Silvio Rodriguez. They were effectively state-sanctioned protest singers who managed to smuggle slyly subversive messages onto records controlled by a brutal police state. It’s effectively what every track on this compilation does musically.

The post Cuba: Music And Revolution – Experiments in Latin Music 1975-85, Vol 1 appeared first on UNCUT.

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Donald Macleod finds connections between Mozart’s operas and the composer’s own life

Born in 1756, the theatre was a life-long passion for Mozart. Starting at the tender age of just 11, in the space of 22 years he produced an astonishing 24 theatrical works. His destiny was to follow in his father’s footsteps, as a court musician. Instead, by 1781, after a disagreement over his frequent absences from court, Mozart parted ways with his employer, the Elector of Cologne. He left Salzburg and servitude behind, to set himself up in Vienna, a thriving centre for music. The following year he triumphed with his comic singspiel, Die Entführung aus dem Serail. The succession of works that followed include many of the mainstays of operatic repertory, among them The Magic Flute, which was completed in the year of his death, at the age of 35 in 1791.

This week Donald Macleod finds connecting points between the characters Mozart created for the stage and the composer’s own experiences in life. He examines how Mozart struggled to be a dutiful son, and how he tackles honour and duty in Idomeneo, Lucio Silla and Mitridate. The ideas of enlightenment that influenced Mozart’s own views find expression in the balance of power he depicts between servants and the ruling classes in The Marriage of Figaro. The composer’s thorny path to marriage with Constanze also finds him examining the complexities of love in Die Enführung aus dem Serail and Così fan tutte. Donald ends with Mozart’s masterly representation of temptation and evil, as characterised by the ultimate bad boy Don Giovanni and the scheming and manipulative Queen of the Night.

Music Featured:

Overture to Le nozze di Figaro
Le nozze di Figaro, Act 1: Cinque, dieci …. Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino
La finta giardiniera, Act 1: Appena mi vedon
Così fan tutte, Act 1: Scene 3 (excerpt)
Don Giovanni , Act 1: Notte e giorno faticar
Don Giovanni, Act 1: Ah! Chi mi dice mai…Madamina, il catalogo è questo
Don Giovanni, Act 1: Champagne Aria
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Act 2: Martern aller Arten
Le nozze di Figaro, Act 2: Esci ormai, garzon malnato …Signore! Cos’è quell’stupore?
Le nozze di Figaro, Act 3: Hai già vinto la causa….. Vedró, mentr’io sospiro
Don Giovanni, Act 1: Finale, Riposate, vezzose ragazze
La clemenza di Tito, Act 1: Parto, parto
Die Zauberflöte, Act 1: Bei mannern, weiche Liebe fühlen
Idomeneo, Act 1: Estinto e Idomeneo ….tutte nel cor vi sento ..Pieta! Numi pieta!
Così fan tutte, Act 1: Finale, Ah che tutta in un momento … Dammi un bacio
Le nozze di Figaro, Act 2: Porgi Amor
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Act 2: Wenn der Freude Tränen fliessen … Ach Belmonte! ach mein Leben!
Don Giovanni, Act 1: O sai che l’onore
Lucio Silla, Overture
Lucio Silla, Act 1: Dall sponda tenebrosa; E tollerare io posso; Il desio di vendetta
Mitridate, Rè di Ponto, Act 2: Lungi da te, mio bene
La Clemenza di Tito, Act 1: Come ti piaci imponi
La Clemenza di Tito, Act 2: Deh per questo istante solo; Ove s’intese mai più contumace; Se all’impero, amici Dei
Die Zauberflöte, Act 2:Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Act 1: Solche hergelauf’ne Laffen
Le nozze di Figaro, Act 1: La Vendetta… via, resti servita
Idomeneo, Act 3: Ha vinto amore …. d’Oreste, d’Aiace
Die Zauberflöte, Act 1: Finale, Wie stark ist nicht dein zauberton …Es lebe Sarastro! Sarastro soll leben
Don Giovanni, Act 2: Finale II, Già mensa è preparata … Ah dov’è il perfido?

Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Johannah Smith for BBC Wales

For full track listings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) https://ift.tt/3ubuKBr

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: https://ift.tt/2vwHS8q

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CAS My Classic Album: The Kooks on ‘Inside In/Inside Out’

The Kooks’ Luke Prichard and Hugh Harris join Classic Album Sundays’ Tina Edwards to celebrate 15 years of their debut album ‘Inside In/Inside Out’.

This will be streamed live on Sunday 21st February at 8pm GMT on our Facebook and YouTube channels. It will be available on-demand thereafter. 

‘My Classic Album’ is a series of free-to-view artist interview streams created with support from the Arts Council England Cultural Recovery Fund. Future interviews will feature artists such as Emma-Jean Thackray, Mark Leckie, Steven Wilson and many more.

Join our monthly Album Club, Classic Album Pub Quiz, Safe & Sound Hi-Fi webinar and receive rewards here.

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Rob Hughes Pete Townshend looks back at The Who in 1967: “I don’t think I was angry”

The new issue of Uncut – in shops now or available to buy online here, with free P&P for the UK – features a massive 12-page interview with Pete Townshend about the past, present and future of The Who. Up for discussion first of all is a major reissue of 1967’s The Who Sell Out, which brings back memories of home recording, hanging out with Bowie, Brian Jones and Small Faces, and trying to engage “true musical anarchist” Keith Moon…

Aside from various new projects, there are always Who anniversaries to deal with. How do you reconcile those two aspects of your life?
I cash in on my past! I live off it. If I tour with Roger I make a bit of money, but I don’t do it because I love it, I do it because it keeps interest in the past. It leads us to a new audience sometimes. For me, the past is something I’m very, very proud of. I’m amazed at how much I achieved in the first five or six years of The Who’s career. At the same time, I’m not amazed or surprised that I eventually ran out of steam. I think it was very difficult when Keith Moon died and when Kit Lambert, who was my friend and mentor and manager, died, which was all in the late ’70s and early ’80s. But I look back and just feel very lucky to have a catalogue that people are still interested in.

How do you view The Who Sell Out now?
The Who didn’t make that many records, when you compare us to bands like Metallica or even fucking Primal Scream, who’ve got dozens of albums. I think it was partly because I was the main writer, but we were also touring so much. I know that’s true of a lot of artists, but the way that I write is not with the band. I tend to write at home, which The Who Sell Out is a good testament to, because it’s got all the demos on and you can see how I gathered material.

Tell us a bit about the 1967 version of Pete Townshend…
I was still growing. A lot of people that talk to me about smashing guitars, for example, will say, “Oh, you must’ve been an angry young man.” Then I give them my art-school thing [the concept of auto-destructive art] and they go, “What a load of bollocks!” I don’t think I was angry. I had a lovely girlfriend [Karen Astley], good friends from art college and I had my own social circle, a very supportive bunch. So I felt OK about myself. I had an early friendship with a couple of other artists that I really liked. David Bowie was starting to emerge around that time and he was a real friend. The Stones were friends of mine. In ’67, I was still seeing a lot of Brian Jones and hanging out with him.

And the Small Faces, too?
Oh, yeah. Ronnie Lane and I used to spend huge amounts of time together. He was my best friend. He’d moved to Twickenham two months after I’d moved there, and we used to see each other twice a week if we weren’t on tour. We’d play together, record demos together. He was a really extraordinary guy. He was a bit like Neil Young, in that he had his own space that he was going to occupy, musically, and never deviated from it. I was close to the other Small Faces, too. I knew Stevie [Marriott] very well and would go down to his cottage in Essex. I used to try to fucking save him, because I thought he was going to die. He was in bad shape. But I knew Mac [Ian McLagan] and the guy that played keyboards and guitar for the band [Jimmy Winston] before Ian came in. I was close to Kenney [Jones] as well. I’d go along to their recording sessions, which were in Olympic Studios, down the road from where I was living in Twickenham. I used to love the way they worked in the studio; it was all about having a laugh. Later, when the Faces came together with Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart, hanging out with them was the best place to be on the planet. Being in The Who was fucking grim by comparison. I don’t know what it says about those years, but I don’t think Roger could’ve been having a very nice time, although he had some beautiful girlfriends. Apart from that, I think he was sort of a permanent outcast. It must have been horrible for him.

Was it difficult to keep everyone in the band interested?
I didn’t see John or Roger as problematic. I saw Keith as problematic. I thought he was really going to go off sideways. He was such a fucking huge fan of Jan & Dean and early Beach Boys. It was all he listened to – that and The Goons. So a song like “Call Me Lightning” has that feel to the backing vocals. “Silver Stingray” was another one I wrote around that time that was a bit Jan & Dean.

Did you keep Keith onside because you were worried that he might quit The Who?
I was just trying to get him fucking engaged, involved in the music of the band. Keith was a true musical anarchist. He was still living at home in Wembley with his mum and dad. When we went to pick him up in the van, the windows would be open and he’d be playing The Beach Boys… yet we were an R&B band.

You can read much more from Pete Townshend in the April 2021 issue of Uncut, in shops now or available to buy direct from us here with no delivery charge to the UK.

The post Pete Townshend looks back at The Who in 1967: “I don’t think I was angry” appeared first on UNCUT.

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Sam Richards Reggae toaster U-Roy has died, aged 78

Reggae vocalist and DJ U-Roy has died in Jamaica, aged 78. No cause of death has been disclosed.

Born Ewart Beckford in Kingston, U-Roy rose to prominence in the late 1960s with King Tubby’s Hometown Hi-Fi soundsystem. He became known as “the originator” for ‘toasting’ over dub versions of records, a style that proved influential on the development of both reggae and of hip-hop in New York.

His 1975 album Dread In A Babylon was picked up by Virgin Records, winning him a cult audience in the UK.

In later years, U-Roy worked regularly with British reggae producer Mad Professor. His final album – produced by Youth with guest appearances from Mick Jones and Ziggy Marley – is due for release later this year.

“A very sad moment of transition for the man who inspired [my label] Ariwa,” wrote Mad Professor on Twitter. “Without him, there would be no Ariwa. From I was 15 when I heard Version Galore I wanted to work with U-Roy.”

UB40’s Ali Campbell said: “A true inspiration pathing the way for many generations and creating a sound that will live forever!”

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The post Reggae toaster U-Roy has died, aged 78 appeared first on UNCUT.

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