Robert Glasper

Covered
Blue Note

With the tracklist of Robert Glasper’s new album containing covers of the likes of Radiohead, Joni Mitchell and Kendrick Lamar, it seems fitting that he names the late American jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller as a big influence, a man whose composition style The New York Times said was “difficult to peg; like his piano playing, a bit of everything”.

Glasper opens proceedings with a brief explanation of the album to the small crowd gathered at Capitol Studios, calmly moving into a version of ‘I Don’t Care’. Piano lines weave in and out, merging into Radiohead’s ‘Reckoner’ and Joni Mitchell’s ‘Barangrill’. It’s a moment of calm soon interrupted by the 13 minutes of chaos aptly named ‘In Case You Forgot’.

The past year has brought African-American deaths at the hands of police to the forefront of media coverage worldwide. Glasper attempts to acknowledge and confront this injustice - he calls it “social reality” - through audio recordings and skits towards the end of the album. His version of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘I’m Dying of Thirst’ features Glasper’s six-year-old son and peers reading out the names of African-Americans who’ve fallen victim to police shootings. Touches like this are reminiscent of the conscious hip hop that Glasper has produced so well in the past with the likes of Mos Def.

With bands like Bad Bad Not Good doing such a good job of reinterpreting hip hop instrumentals as jazz standards, it’s easy to forget about the likes of Robert Glasper. But with a return to his earlier format of the acoustic jazz trio and a live studio recording it’s hard to ignore him - even harder when he’s on as great form as this.

George Springthorpe

Myth of A Life

Erinyes
Self released

Slashing a hole in musical tranquillity with a searing blade, up to the bloodied hilt through the emblem of peace and quiet that once flagged its colours before we pressed the almighty play button, Myth of a Life surf into action on a wave of what was once a Children of Bodom iconic whip, now a staple part of all modern, in-your-face thrashings. Once more, echoes of previous legends reverberate in the melodic guitar work and the sheer determined aggression of Pissing Razors is evident in their style.

The key to making decent metal is that it has to ensnare you in its fury and drag you through its tantrum of dissonance to musical culture with each track, and Erinyes does this by simply not stopping. Every bar is saturated with aggressive, forthcoming and musically enticing energy. It doesn’t put you off. It’s not unsightly. It’s epic and enchanting.

Skills are apparent. No music like this can be of any resounding quality without the push of experience. The well-scripted thinking of a student of the guitar is essential when making exciting and rageful music that works. Every one of the four tracks that make this neat little EP is just enough to show us the business and prepare us for something new. It moves well, and original riffs and melodies continue to sweep the rumbling holler along, framing the cursing and challenging vocal.

Erinyes is not for those who like to drink lemonade with a book, unless they want a moment to escape from that scenario. Intense music doesn’t always do its job. It can become nonsensical and violent, but for me Erinyes teeters well on the positive side of that line. Remaining skillful and with a flow that suits the pace, I enjoyed this snappy record.

Rowan Blair Colver

Vennart

The Demon Joke
Superball Music

You may not know Mike Vennart's name, but I'll bet you've heard him play, if only in his role as touring second guitarist for those stadium Scots, Biffy Clyro. If you do know him, then it's probably as the frontman for Oceansize, who - if you'll forgive the hyperbole of an unrepentant die-hard fan - were one of the most underappreciated critical darlings of British guitar music in the noughties, the King Crimson of the 21st Century prog revival. Oceansize split back in 2010, with the line-up decamping to other acts or fiddling about with various side-projects, but a Vennart solo album always somehow seemed inevitable. Hope does funny things to middle-aged men.

The easy way into The Demon Joke is to compare it to Oceansize, albeit at the risk of an eye-roll from the perennially spiky Vennart. But the sonic continuity is hard to ignore, what with ex-Oceansizers Steve Durose and Gambler both contributing. Vennart's song-writing strategies are pretty distinct to start with, and having the harmonic core of his old band to hand has allowed that style to mature further.

The songs here are still intricate, but not so fussy, more focussed. Oceansize always sounded like a band pulling in seven different directions at once - it was what made them so good, if you ask me - but The Demon Joke is more purposeful and more playful, neater and tighter and lighter. There's also plentiful evidence of the persistent influence of oddball prog-pop legends Cardiacs, but this is no tribute record. From the epic synth pomp of opener ‘255’ to the tongue-in-cheek stadium swagger of ‘Duke Fame’, every track shows off an experienced songwriter and sorely underrated singer stretching his wings - and long may he fly.

Paul Graham Raven

Werkha

Colours of a Red Brick Raft
Tru Thoughts

Variety is the spice of life, and this is clearly something that Manchester’s electronic music extraordinaire Werkha lives by, adding all manner of spiciness across his debut album, Colours of a Red Brick Raft.

Based in the afrobeat/downtempo/soul hybrid familiar to fans of Bonobo - perhaps unsurprisingly, given they have toured together - Werkha collects a myriad of influences that make this album very hard to pin to a single genre. At times, comparison could be drawn to the bass-heavy future house of XXYYXX, the abstract tones of Jon Hopkins and the pop-laced electro glory of Caribou, but these are fleeting references. Werkha really is his own beast.

Instrumental tracks like ‘Flinch/Quiver’ and ‘Houses of Saffron’ showcase Werkha’s inventive production style, and the blend of live instruments alongside electronic sounds throughout means that the experience never becomes stale. Employing two talented, soulful female singers across four of the tracks (Bryony Jarman-Pinto and Alex Rita), Werkha shows that his music is equally suited to interplay with the voice as it is to stand alone, and it is impossible to decide which approach is preferable.

The vibe of the album veers from chilled and jazzy (‘City Shuffle’), to melancholic and reflective (‘Border Kite’), to straight-up floor-filling dance (‘Dim the Light’). These seemingly disparate atmospheres are so beautifully woven together and share such a cohesive underlying warmth that the album hangs together as a supreme body of work, and one that should help Werkha to stand out above the crowd.

Richard Spencer