Mark­ing their 20th an­niver­sary, the Drop­kick Mur­phys’ new al­bum fea­tures 11 folk-fu­elled bel­ters.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - by James Belfield

From Drop­kick Mur­phys, Brian Eno, Alargo and Letherette

The dan­ger of be­ing en­tan­gled in the streams and down­loads of new mu­sic is that a snob­bish­ness emerges whereby only nov­elty and cre­ativ­ity drive rat­ings and scores.

But most lis­ten­ers’ playlists are made up mainly of a back cat­a­logue of ­tried-and-tested sin­gles and al­bums, with hardy peren­ni­als by U2, Abba or AC/DC rub­bing shoul­ders with pop-chart fod­der from the Swifts, Biebers and Ade­les … and ­sounda­like choirs of their wannabes.

Add to that the loud and proud, beer-fu­elled chants of Celtic punk – pos­si­bly the ­un­coolest sound in today’s R&B-ob­sessed elec­tro, synth-washed world. And yet for any­one with a Pogues, Ma­hones, Drop­kick Mur­phys or Blood or Whiskey track hid­den in their col­lec­tion, there’s noth­ing quite as sat­is­fy­ing as a rip-roar­ing rebel yell backed by a stir­ring gui­tar growl and an all-to­gether-now cho­rus.

The Drop­kick Mur­phys have marked their 20th an­niver­sary with a ninth full-lengther that pow­ers through 11 joy­ous folk-fu­elled bel­ters in just a shade over 30 min­utes. The Bos­to­ni­ans’ pipes, fid­dles and drones in 11 Short Sto­ries of Pain & Glory are all very fa­mil­iar, but in tracks such as The Lone­some Boat­man, Blood, First Class Loser and I Had a Hat, they have the sort of high-hu­moured stomps guar­an­teed to turn any ceilidh into a mosh.

There’s even room for a few so­cial and po­lit­i­cal mes­sages in the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ing-themed 4-15-13 and a ­glo­ri­ous, snarling ver­sion of You’ll Never Walk Alone – sung in sup­port of Bos­ton’s opi­oid ad­dicts – that ri­vals Liver­pool fans at An­field for sheer pas­sion.

Nov­elty and cre­ativ­ity be damned – en­joy the fu­ri­ous, fren­zied fun. 11 SHORT STO­RIES OF PAIN & GLORY, Drop­kick Mur­phys (Born & Bred)

At the other end of the scale, Brian Eno, the high priest of am­bi­ent mu­sic, re­leased his med­i­ta­tion on un­cer­tainty on ­Jan­uary 1. Re­flec­tions marked the start of an end­lessly al­go­rithm-adapted piece of haunt­ing, drift­ing, som­nam­bu­lant mu­sic, of which the 54-minute CD re­lease is sim­ply a snap­shot. The eter­nally looped app ver­sion of Re­flec­tions is even pro­grammed to re­flect the time of day in which the lis­tener is hear­ing it, rais­ing ­ten­sions be­tween the idea of con­trol, ­ran­dom­ness, rep­e­ti­tion and progress.

While last year’s The Ship saw Eno pulled be­tween no­tions of pop and avant-garde, Re­flec­tions is a re­turn to pure, ex­per­i­men­tal and ar­tis­ti­cally cre­ative am­bi­ence.

If you want 2017 to be un­pre­dictable but gen­tle, here’s your sound­track. RE­FLEC­TIONS, Brian Eno (Bor­der)

Also in the am­bi­ent field – but ­some­how far more em­bed­ded in the past – are Mu­sic and Au­dio ­In­sti­tute of New Zealand tu­tors Alan Brown and Kings­ley Mel­huish in their jazz duo ­Alargo’s first out­ing, Cen­tral Plateau. Al­though Eno’s ­ex­per­i­men­ta­tion uses si­lence and still­ness to push ­bound­aries, Alargo’s horns, conch shells and South Amer­i­can quena cre­ate ­his­tor­i­cal and fa­mil­iar bound­aries around the spa­ces de­fined by elec­tronic loops and ­lap­ping washes of synths. The re­sult wa­vers be­tween com­fort­ingly an­cient and un­nerv­ingly mod­ern. CEN­TRAL PLATEAU, Alargo (Pa­cific Echoes)

By cut­ting up and re­con­fig­ur­ing choice cuts from 80s dance and R&B tracks, then scrunch­ing the re­sults through gritty sam­plers, Wolver­hamp­ton duo Letherette have cre­ated a smoky, late-night-subter­ranean-club feel to their sec­ond full-lengther, Last Night on the Planet. Book­end­ing the al­bum with two hip-hop tracks shows the breadth of their tal­ents – but it’s the wrecked-rave ­pound­ing basslines and mashed clas­sic house of Bad Sign, Dog Brush and Fru­ga­loo that get the dance mus­cles twitch­ing. LAST NIGHT ON THE PLANET, Letherette (Bor­der)

Al Barr of the Drop­kick Mur­phys: guar­an­teed to turn any ceilidh into a mosh.

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