‘Let Eng­land Shake’ is a gor­geous col­lec­tion that taps into some very un­likely sources for rock mu­sic — the rise, fall, and sta­sis of Bri­tain through the ages.

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -


Bach Par­ti­tas 3, 4 & 6

(Az­ica) The pi­anist Jeremy Denk made a tremen­dous im­pres­sion with Charles Ives’ Con­cord Sonata in a recital at Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val last sum­mer. Now he seems to be ev­ery­where. He re­leased a pow­er­ful yet po­etic record­ing of that work in Oc­to­ber on his own la­bel, Think Denk Me­dia, and now Az­ica Records has is­sued his ab­sorb­ing read­ing of Bach’s Third, Fourth, and Sixth Key­board Par­ti­tas. You may not love his Bach in­ter­pre­ta­tions, but you ought to hear them any­way. This is Bach viewed through the prism of what a piano can do, and when Denk is seated at the key­board a piano can do a great deal in­deed. Tone and ar­tic­u­la­tion rule the day here, both ren­dered with con­sum­mate shad­ing and con­trol when he is at his best. That best is to be found in the Third and Sixth Par­ti­tas, which hap­pen to be in mi­nor keys and re­spond most ef­fec­tively to the dra­matic slant of his ap­proach. In the Fourth, which is in­fused with sub­tle French style, he seems a tad pre­cious, in­clined to im­pose more on the score than it can com­fort­ably bear. But the mi­nor-key suites are bril­liantly con­ceived and sharply pol­ished, and the disc builds to a grip­ping ac­count of the Gigue of the Sixth Par­tita, in which Denk’s in­tel­lec­tual pos­ture seems per­fectly matched to Bach’s bizarre, fu­tur­is­tic coun­ter­point. — James M. Keller

MOG­WAI Hard­core Will Never Die, but You Will ( Sub Pop) One of the first things you no­tice about Mog­wai’s awe­somely ti­tled Hard­core Will Never Die, but

You Will is that the Scot­tish band re­ally knows how to use a stu­dio. This is an al­bum that’s meant to be played loud, and not just be­cause it rocks — and it most as­suredly rocks — but be­cause in­creased vol­ume re­veals deeper tex­tures. You’ll fre­quently find hid­den sounds and buried coun­ter­melodies that en­hance the over­all power of the com­po­si­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, the mu­sic oc­ca­sion­ally sounds dated. Some bits, like the elec­tric metronome and com­put­er­ized vo­cals in stand­out track “Mex­i­can Grand Prix,” sound like what the imag­ined fu­ture of mu­sic sounded like back in the late 1990s, rather than what mu­sic sounds like now. It’s worth not­ing that Mog­wai was at the fore­front of fu­tur­is­tic rock back then, and el­e­ments like the ma­jes­tic sway and stomp of “Rano Pano” will no doubt re­mind fans of — or in­tro­duce new lis­ten­ers to — the band’s great­ness. There are juicy cuts to be found on Hard­core, par­tic­u­larly those that pri­or­i­tize the rhythm sec­tion, but it all feels so fa­mil­iar that it’s hard not to wish the band had used its stu­dio prow­ess to show us some­thing new. — Robert B. Ker PJ HARVEY Let Eng­land Shake ( Is­land/ Def Jam) Recorded in a 19th-cen­tury clifftop church in Dorset, this new al­bum by PJ Harvey finds the hard-rock­ing chanteuse dig­ging deep into cen­turies of Eng­land’s his­tory. “God­dam’ Euro­peans/ Take me back to Eng­land/ And the grey, damp filth­i­ness of ages,” she sings in “The Last Liv­ing Rose.” This beau­ti­ful al­bum fuses clang­ing gui­tars and Amer­i­can 12-bar blues with a deep and po­etic sense of medieval Bri­tish his­tory in a way that hasn’t re­ally been done since Led Zep­pelin’s hey­day. Much of the lyric writ­ing is top-notch, and Harvey comes across as an in­die-rock Philip Larkin locked in a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with her mother coun­try. In the al­bum’s ti­tle track, she croons, “The West’s asleep / Let Eng­land shake/ Weighted down with silent dead.” While there’s a re­turn to the stripped-bare style of her 1993 clas­sic Rid of Me, Harvey also ex­per­i­ments with a sur­real pal­ette of world-mu­sic styles. Rus­sian folk-mu­sic stylings show up on “In the Dark Places,” while Ir­ish mil­i­tary bu­gle calls play over the an­gu­lar gui­tars on “The Glo­ri­ous Land.” On “Eng­land,” Harvey sam­ples the haunt­ing vo­cals of early-20th-cen­tury Iraqi singer Said El Kurdi. This is a gor­geous col­lec­tion that taps into some very un­likely sources for rock mu­sic — the rise, fall, and sta­sis of Bri­tain through the ages.

— Casey Sanchez

BEN­ITO GON­ZA­LEZ Cir­cles (Fur­ther­more) If you love your jazz piano à la McCoy Tyner, try this CD by a true dis­ci­ple. Ben­ito Gon­za­lez, born in Mara­caibo, Venezuela, grew up groov­ing on Chick Corea, Her­bie Han­cock, and Bud Pow­ell, but the Tyner in­flu­ence is crys­tal clear when you lis­ten to Cir­cles, his sec­ond disc. “Peo­ple talk about McCoy African­iz­ing the piano, mak­ing it a per­cus­sion in­stru­ment,” Gon­za­lez says, “and I feel very com­fort­able play­ing in that style. It feels very nat­u­ral.” The Cir­cles band is dy­na­mite. Drum­mer Jeff “Tain” Watts and bassist Chris­tian McBride keep the stew sim­mer­ing and pop­ping for Gon­za­lez and the al­bum’s ro­tat­ing horn play­ers. On the ex­hil­a­rat­ing ti­tle track, it’s Myron Walden on alto (at one point herald­ing in the heights with wild trills) and Ron Blake on tenor. On “Tau­rus,” tenor sax­o­phon­ist Azar Lawrence gets his chance, tak­ing turns fly­ing with the leader, who chan­nels Tyner with pound­ing block chords con­trast­ing with break­neck, arpeg­giate work in the right hand. “Elvin’s Sight” has Lawrence wax­ing Coltrane-ish with cas­cad­ing “sheets of sound.” With a few ex­cep­tions — “Let’s Talk About You and Me” is slightly more re­strained and lyri­cal, “Faces” a syn­thy in­ter­lude, and “Elise” a lovely song for Gon­za­lez’s daugh­ter — the re­main­der of the work here ( in­clud­ing an ar­range­ment of Tyner’s “Blues on the Cor­ner,” the only non-Gon­za­lez com­po­si­tion) con­tin­ues the ad­ven­ture be­gun at the top. — Paul Wei­de­man

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