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.