Saturday, 21 May 2022

Steering Wheel Music 19


Pointless Beauty - Hearts Full of Grace, album review

Remember Musicians

This is a beautiful album, graced by rumination and reflection in its many serene sounds (though there is also sass and funk) which emanate from the ‘strange and unusual times’ of its playing and production as expressed by Al Swainger in his notes of February ‘22.


In its title, opener The Way Back articulates that hope for a return to some normalcy, the gentle flugel of Gary Alesbrook that begins the track merging into an energised synth by Swainger, both performing the musical pathway: piano – George Cooper – and bass join in a strut stepping along its route.


Flugel horn again picks up the spirit on second Sunship Travelling, echo and trills bouncing around within the acoustic guitar of Ant Law and running bass lines of Swainger, with Law extending the guitar work as the whole picks up a lively pace, Jon Clark on drums driving the ending.


Third Pause to Breathe plateaus the sound outwards, Cooper on synth, and other pervasive sounds adding an expansive soundscape (accentuated by the stereo mix). Alesbrook’s flugel has a ghostly presence within that ambience, and this is a perfect moment of the kind of atmospheric serenity I have mentioned.


Relentless follows, trumpet punching some funk with the bass, and electric guitar now plays over the melodic line. Next, The Shrug, slows to soothing, and echo rolls off the guitar chording and runs. Sass arrives in the appropriately named Stir Crazy – electronic Miles naturally springing to mind – and the relative fusion delights.


A haunting Hour of the Wolf at 56 seconds leads into the two closing tracks. Suffice to say – and needing to conclude beyond an itinerary of playing in each – these continue the excellence. As Swainger puts it, a number of tracks ‘present narrative fragments of my reaction to the 2020 pandemic but also echo feelings I’ve had for much of my life’, one of which is ‘navigating isolation’.


I can and can’t imagine what it has been like for musicians to have to endure the personal shutdown imposed by the pandemic, especially when playing and performing is all about both economic and social survival. That Al Swainger has composed, arranged and produced all the tracks on this album is testament to the strength of his navigation through tough times, and I’m sure the other musicians have borne their own in bringing such powerful empathetic playing to this collection.


Closer Remember the Sky is, as Swainger tells us, inspired by the poem Remember by Joy Harjo. This is a wonderful list poem that asks we remember our universal roots – the everything of who we are – and its poetic repetitions are an incantation to be as one, the ‘value of community’ as Swainger again puts it. George Cooper’s opening piano playing here graces the song’s melodic rumination, and when others join along there is once more a serene partnership at work which emanates the ‘invitation to be at peace’ at the heart of its composition. It is a fitting finale to an album that expresses the survival of being creative as a soothing and uplifting musical manifestation of this.


You can get it here. I recommend the cd for its artwork and information too, also in itself a palpable indication of revival.


Visit the Pointless Beauty website here.

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Steering Wheel Music 18


Three Fall - On a Walkabout, album review

Beyond Chili

Late to this – released in 2011 – there is nothing lost over time in its liveliness and interpretive spirit. Of the 11 tracks, 5 are by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Can’t Stop, Walkabout, Under the Bridge, Scar Tissue and By the Way) so if that’s all you are after be warned; however, my view is the whole makes for a broader showcase of the fine playing from


Lutz Streun / tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Til Schneider / trombone
Sebastian Winne / drums & percussion
Rap vocals on “Matter” by [[Promoe]]


I’ve never been a huge fan of the clarinet in any tone, but the bass of it here so often sets distinctive base patterns (that really wasn’t an intentional playing around) and the trombone is a perfect accompaniment, as on 6th track Ottostra├če. To put it better: the playing is great throughout this excellent album.


Under the Bridge is as pretty as you might expect it to be; similar for Scar Tissue – these two redolent of the Peppers’ melodic inclinations – but this latter livens up as it should.



Sunday, 15 May 2022

Steering Wheel Music 17


Jack White - Fear of the Dawn, album review


Fuzz noise and electrified fuzz noise and other fuzz. Played loud and listened to loud. Opening Taking Me Back takes me back to the beginnings of fuzz, though here the digital trajectories (or whatever they are) are fine enhancements. Is Fear of the Dawn Hawkwind and Motorhead conjoined? That's space riffing, I guess. Loads of wah-wah too, original and re-worked. The White Raven is something out of the 90s that I don't recognise but it is scouring in its continuance of noise. And then there's Hi-De-Ho: it reminds me of Zach Condon's Beirut, and then there are samples and other stuff I have had to read about, and I think its great playful noise. Next Eosophobia begins with pretty guitar work before breaking into noisy versions of this. I have been listening to this loud for a few plays and enjoying every time.

Eye Music 60


Paul Stanley's Soul Station - Then And Now, album review

The Soul Train…

…keeps on chugging by, though this one has been here in the station for a little while. Soul crooner Paul Stanley – yes, Kiss – really does, especially when letting off some falsetto steam. He has a backing soul orchestra/chorus that provides all the freight to deliver further substance to this soul journey. There are self-penned fine-enough numbers, but when you are conveying classics like Could It Be I’m Falling in Love, Ooo Baby Baby, Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me), Let’s Stay Together, The Tracks of My Tears and so on, the tracks are well laid already to assist – and with these, that backing support has the feel of history. Stanley isn’t trying to rework, and who in their right homage-leaning mind would? And the fact is a great song carries itself a long way. That said, I like the additionals to the wonderful You are Everything.