Articles by Will Pinfold
The formerly folkedelic Japanese band Kikagaku Moyo follow up their surprisingly conventional retro garage/psych album House In The Tall Grass with an EP which is more a snapshot of former glories than a bold new direction – but the potential for growth and greatness is there.
With their debut album, ‘Loyal To The Nightsky’, Armenian-American trio Highland introduce themselves as a major new name in the US black metal scene. A perfectly realised collection of songs, the album encapsulates a certain classic, hard-edged black metal style; but is it too much of a good thing? An enviable problem if so.
Rachael Yamagata’s fourth solo album, Tightrope Walker, is a wise, comforting and very grown-up album. Perhaps too grown-up; featuring members of Yo La Tengo and The Roots, its musical credentials are impeccable and its emotional themes are skilfully realised – but its mature appeal may be a little too mainstream for some tastes.
Anvil Strykez takes the listener on a neon-lit synthwave journey into the kind of sinister metropolis that once seemed like the grim future that awaited us all. The album isn’t purely an exercise in nostalgia; but its perfectly realised universe may appeal most strongly to those who have felt its appeal before.
Beyond the headlines surrounding the 90s black metal scene is the music itself and Sauron’s 1995 demo, ‘The Baltic Fog’, exemplifies the triumph of feel over technique that in the end is the genre’s most enduring feature.
With Piano Textures 4, minimalist composer Bruno Sanfilippo has created a work of understated beauty that is anything but cold and academic. His gently arresting music soothes and heals, making the familiar feel strange and the strange comfortingly familiar.
The first and apparently only album by Morton Valence spin-off Black Angel Drifter is a gritty, cinematic and soulful gothic spaghetti western delight; perfectly realised, it’s also a richly-flavoured dish and perhaps it’s for the best that it’s restricted to this one serving.
Esmé Patterson’s third album, We Were Wild lacks the imaginative flair of its conceptual predecessor Woman To Woman – but it more than makes up for it in feeling and sheer songwriting skill. Lots of people may be getting this for Christmas.
Double album with a book, or a book with two CDs; either way, Kristin Hersh’s Wyatt At The Coyote Palace is an involving, heartbreaking and immersive work of art that brings the listener close – sometimes uncomfortably close – to the artist herself. At once wise, witty and anguished, it’s an extraordinary achievement by a singer and songwriter at the top of her game. By Will Pinfold
After a decade-long hiatus, Australian thrash legend Peter Hobbs returns with only the third Angel of Death album since 1987. Metal may continue to evolve, but for better or worse Hobbs’ vision remains as intensely single-minded as ever; which is good news for his fans. – By Will Pinfold
Like Hamlet’s ‘sheeted dead’ in the Roman streets, Buenos Aires-based experimental cello/bass/piano trio Eriza squeak and gibber on their debut album Arde, out now on Pan Y Rosas Discos. But it’s a noise that bites deeply into the consciousness – if you’re in the mood for it. By Will Pinfold
Field recordist and musician Kate Carr’s ‘I Had Myself A Nuclear Spring’ is a peculiar album caught somewhere in the crossroads between sound and music, nature and industry. It’s a listening experience which gains vastly in richness when heard in the context of its recording. Probably not for everyone. BY Will Pinfold
British composer Lauren Redhead’s new album Ijereja challenges the listener, but also calls into question the role of the composer herself. It’s a fascinating, multifaceted work which doesn’t give up its secrets easily. By Will Pinfold
Bath White, the latest EP from 50FOOTWAVE, the power trio fronted by indie legend Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses fame) is an explosive, unpredictable and gripping collection of angular and sometimes abrasive songs. A perfect distillation of feral energy, intuitive musicianship and passionate but never obvious songwriting, Bath White isn’t always an easy listen but it remains vital where more superficial ‘punk rock’ thrills but quickly palls. By Will Pinfold
Ukrainian composer Egor Grushin’s new album Once embodies virtues that have rarely been needed more than they are now. Logical, elegant, humane and harmonious, it’s a perfectly balanced, modern-yet-timeless collection of compositions for piano and string quartet which is as cerebrally satisfying as it is emotionally involving. By Will Pinfold
With his new mini-album Upstepping, cellist Oliver Coates consolidates his position as an innovative experimentalist and sound artist with a collection of tunes that use the instrument for both melody, percussion and sheer noise. Ultimately though, it’s his incisive compositional skill that makes this album of mostly dance-oriented tracks so satisfying. By Will Pinfold
Cate Le Bon’s Crab Day is a strange haunted doll’s house of an album; tackling her elusive subjects with a disarmingly childlike apparent directness, the album feels both alien and familiar, intimate and yet distant. While a little uneven, its moments of emotional significance outweigh the more twee elements and even at its least essential it reiterates just what an expressive singer Cate Le Bon has become. By Will Pinfold
Cellist Christopher Bell’s Rust is an album of rough, richly atmospheric songs with a vibrant, archaic feel. More of a showcase for his songwriting skills than a virtuoso display of experimental cello techniques, it’s a collection of songs with an organic, bluesy charm; but its reference points are sometimes a bit too obvious. By Will Pinfold
Vourca/Fahy is an extraordinary work of folk archaeology; less a collection of traditional tunes than a recreation of ancient ritual music, using both archaic instrumentation and modern technology. It’s not pretty, or even necessarily likeable, but French-Swiss trio La Tène have made a work of undeniable power and baleful majesty. By Will Pinfold
On Richard J. Birkin’s new album, Vigils, the composer and multi-instrumentalist reveals himself once again as a writer of music which balances beautiful surface lightness with real emotional depth. A haunting, haunted record, its atmosphere of mysterious familiarity is at once comforting and lonely. It’s really nice. By Will Pinfold
Egor Grushin’s Dominicano is a breath of fresh air; the Ukrainian composer/pianist’s debut album is a collection of charming, elegant and moving classical pieces for piano and strings with a direct and timeless appeal which transcends fashion and avoids sentimentality. Wonderfully wordless, it is the perfect antidote to so much of the text/context/subtext-laden music of the twenty-first century. By Will Pinfold