The Herald Magazine - - Arts MUSIC - KEITH BRUCE

Mon­sters Ex­ist ACP Record­ings

THERE is surely a wealth of sub­text to at least a few among the 16 com­po­si­tions on the new al­bum by Scot­land’s renowned movie score composer Craig Arm­strong. The ti­tles of the tunes in­trigue but re­main un­ex­plained, and while much of the mu­sic is as cin­e­matic as his record would lead you to ex­pect, there are also many mo­ments of in­ti­macy that sug­gest some melodies are deeply per­sonal in ori­gin. The in­gre­di­ents are, to fans of his ear­lier work, very fa­mil­iar: the man him­self to the fore on a Yamaha con­cert grand pi­ano and the mu­si­cians of the Scot­tish En­sem­ble on all but a few tracks. Arm­strong would prob­a­bly make no claims to vir­tu­os­ity on the key­board, and the string play­ers are not re­quired to pro­duce any­thing tech­ni­cally de­mand­ing ei­ther, although it is a mea­sure of their ac­com­plish­ment that ev­ery note of it sounds pre­cisely cor­rect in terms of colour and tim­bre. This mu­sic is chiefly about at­mos­phere, but there are tan­ta­lis­ing hints of nar­ra­tive too, which sug­gest the al­bum may re­veal fur­ther as­pects of it­self on longer ac­quain­tance, and in th­ese tech­nol­o­gy­drenched times its clar­ity of fo­cus on nat­u­ral acous­tic sounds is a pure de­light.

FROM the mod-re­vivalmeets-punk-rock of the Jam to the cafe soul of the Style Coun­cil and the psychedelia and rock-in­formed clas­si­cism of his solo ca­reer, Paul Weller has over­seen one of the most eclec­tic bod­ies of work in the mod­ern era. He is revered for a for­ward-look­ing ap­proach to mu­sic which is res­o­lutely an­chored in the past.

On his 14th solo al­bum, the Mod­fa­ther ap­pears to have en­tered a chap­ter of his ca­reer where, for once, he is look­ing back. This col­lec­tion of in­ti­mate, acous­tic-gui­tardriven songs, com­plete with lush or­ches­tra­tion, strikes a re­flec­tive tone both in lyrics and in­stru­men­ta­tion.

Weller’s time­less voice lends a com­fort­ing, warm qual­ity to dreamy songs such as Wishing Well and Books. The lat­ter is won­der­fully in­fused with sitar, in­dica­tive of Weller’s var­ied sonic pal­lette.

The song Bowie, mean­while, of­fers a trib­ute to the late singer as well as a wider mes­sage about loss and ac­cep­tance.

Mayfly starts life as a 12-bar blues shuf­fle be­fore sub­tle brass blows through an air of re­laxed con­tem­pla­tion that char­ac­terises this record as a whole.

Duan an fhog­a­r­raich and A chailinn donn are in­spired by the plight of refugees and Feum thu radh a-rithist? laments our in­abil­ity to learn the lessons of war, although as with Tha d’ ean­chainn alainn, with its un­der­ly­ing theme of com­ing to terms with autism, the in­stru­men­tal ar­range­ments and fine pro­duc­tion by Mhairi Hall bring an up­beat, even poppy mood. Fans of MacMillan’s tra­di­tional singing will find spe­cial sat­is­fac­tion in Craibh an teagh­laigh and Eun beag, where words and melodies lux­u­ri­ate in his mar­vel­lously ex­pres­sive de­liv­ery, and there are splen­did con­tri­bu­tions from Fraser Fi­field, on whis­tle and kaval, Anna-Wendy Steven­son (fid­dle and viola) and singer Rosa Ce­dron.

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