Life, death and cos­mic jazz

The Guardian - G2 - - Reviews Music - John Lewis

Jóhann Jóhanns­son was prov­ing him­self to be Hol­ly­wood’s most fas­ci­nat­ing and ef­fec­tive sound­track writer when he died this year, aged only 48. There have al­ready been three very dif­fer­ent posthu­mous sound­track re­leases. Mary Mag­da­lene is a re­spect­ful, stately score, writ­ten with Hil­dur Guð­nadót­tir; The Mercy is more stri­dent and more highly tex­tured; while his sound­track to Panos Cos­matos’s psy­che­delic hor­ror movie Mandy is per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing. It’s a piece of dark or­ches­tral gothic that harks back to the post-punk and elec­tron­ica world from which Jóhanns­son emerged.

His death came in a year when many pi­o­neers of con­tem­po­rary mu­sic were mak­ing su­perb, ground­break­ing al­bums as se­nior ci­ti­zens. Lon­nie

Hol­ley’s MITH saw the 68-year-old Afro­fu­tur­ist forg­ing links be­tween plan­ta­tion chants and space-age elec­tron­ica. Land­fall saw Lau­rie An­der­son, aged 71, nar­rat­ing the ef­fects of Hur­ri­cane Sandy in her quizzi­cal, med­i­ta­tive voice, while the Kronos Quar­tet’s shiv­ery, omi­nous string ar­range­ments brought her night­mar­ish vi­sions to life. Lis­ten­ing to Pic­tures saw sound sculp­tor

Jon Has­sell still push­ing at mu­si­cal bound­aries at the age of 81, bury­ing his FX-laden trum­pet un­der lay­ers of African drums, dis­torted choirs and am­bi­ent drones.

Mean­while the new al­bum by the 70-year-old Ukrainian-born pi­anist Lubomyr Mel­nyk, Fallen Trees, is filled with what he calls “con­tin­u­ous mu­sic” – his rat­tling, rolling, RSI-in­duc­ing pi­ano arpeg­gios, which sound like a high-speed typ­ist rat­tling through the same sen­tence over and over again.

Mel­nyk’s la­bel­mate Nils Frahm sold out huge are­nas glob­ally this year, while his LP All Melody saw him weld­ing string sec­tions, glitchy elec­tronic burps and fil­tered disco beats to his muted pi­ano so­los. Some of the most in­ter­est­ing mu­sic this year ex­plored sim­i­lar fu­sions. Bris­tol out­fit Me­sadorm are fronted by Blythe Pepino, and their LP Hetero­gaster saw her soul­ful elec­tronic and pi­ano-led minia­tures given grand and ethe­real or­ches­tra­tions by a band fea­tur­ing cel­list Jo Sil­ver­ston, drum­mer Daisy Palmer and pro­ducer Aaron Zahl. A sim­i­larly spooky or­ches­tral fu­sion came from Min­neapo­lis quin­tet Poliça, fronted by singer Channy Leaneagh. Their al­bum Mu­sic for the Long Emer­gency saw them col­lab­o­rate with Berlin-based cham­ber orches­tra Stargaze, whose icy, shiv­ery strings added emo­tional heft.

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