Theo Alexander: if My Bloody Valentine tried writing a piano ballad
“Haunting” is a lazy and inaccurate way to describe one’s sound, except when you’re talking about London composer Theo Alexander. Layers of piano echo on top of each other to create an ancient, claustrophobic sound that sounds eerie and beautiful – imagine if My Bloody Valentine tried writing a piano ballad. Alexander is currently based in Prague and has taken inspiration from the Charles Bridge and Kafka to heart and to excellent results. Haunting, indeed.
“‘Points of Decay’, is an album of deconstructed piano pieces that have been manipulated and re-spliced through a series of tape loops. Each piece makes use of a recording technique that runs a single recording through a seccession of different mediums, to achieve a heavily degraded sound that is unfamiliar to most piano recordings.
As each layer reveals or obscures another, textures are heard that would not otherwise be possible without the experimental studio techniques that drove production and writing respectively.
A major inspiration for album was the portrayal of memory in Samuel Beckett’s ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’.”
Mercury-nominated British soul singer Laura Mvula filmed her “Phenomenal Woman” music video in the colorful and historic Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town, South Africa. Mvula’s artistic direction in her outfits and dancing matches her adventurous, idiosyncratic take on the good but safe-ish retro-soul that made her debut, Sing to the Moon, a hit three years ago. As the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis writes in his review of The Dreaming Room, Mvula writes pop music as if she has no idea or interest in what pop is supposed to sound like. Instead, we have a song and video that is bold, aggressive, beautiful, and empowering.
Now that I’m over A Moon Shaped Pool, I can go back and listen to interesting Radiohead.
(I kid of course; All of Radiohead’s music takes a little time to grow on me. I hated The King Of Limbs on first listen and now I enjoy it. I liked A Moon Shaped Pool on first listen and I’ll grow to love it more.)
The opening reminds me of Phil Spector, but the Wall Of Sound starts dripping with reverb, tremolo, and sad British romance. More lively than The Jesus & Mary Chain, The House of Love was another forefront for European shoegaze that would later be perfected by My Bloody Valentine. Sometimes I prefer The House of Love’s balance of melody and noise. It’s busy but never overwhelming. You can get lost in the guitars, but you know that the song is about a girl and it’s somehow enduring how love songs will always be love songs regardless of presentation. Oh, Christine.
Anoushka Shankar has been playing the sitar since she was four years old when she began taking lessons her father, the late Ravi Shankar, who helped introduce the sitar to western popular culture through his association with the Beatles and his performance at Woodstock. Famous father aside, Anoushka has an establish career of her own and now performs sold-out shows all around the world, including places like Carnegie Hall, and she collaborates with several renowned musicians, including her half-sister Norah Jones. With her skill and diverse works, from collaborating with DJs and playing electronica and Spanish flamenco, many will claim that she is one of the best sitar players alive today.
Her latest album Home finds Shankar back to her roots in classical Indian sitar music. With no other major collaborators, Shankar is front and center performing in the style of her late father. Rather than being flashy, Shankar puts emphasis on several different ragas, melodic modes in Indian classical music, which will transport you back to India.
She tells NPR that the album, like much of Indian music, takes time to grow on the listener:
“This music is a slow burn, you know? If someone’s used to the average two-and-a-half-minute song on the radio, it can be hard to understand what’s going on, because at two and a half minutes we’re still just playing the first notes and establishing things,” she says. “Give it the time to open up and play, and then it sort of seeps under your skin, and it has a very profound impact as a result.”
Home is both a tribute to her father and a return to form for the still young sitar musician, and it is an excellent introduction to classical Indian music.