In Review

Albums of the week: Isles, Plaisirs illuminés, Drunk Tank Pink

New releases from Bicep, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Shame

Bicep Isles

With the release of Isles, Bicep have pulled off a remarkable feat by making a banging dance album that works in the age of (enforced) home listening.

Plaisirs illuminés is a showcase for the “dazzling virtuosity” of Patricia Kopatchinskaja - and the “remarkable” Camerata Bern. 

And an intense record by south London five-piece Shame is a “massive leap on” from their debut album.

1

Bicep

Isles 

Bicep Isles

Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson, the Northern Irish “bloggers-turned-DJs-turned-producers” who record as Bicep, have pulled off a remarkable feat, said Alexis Petridis in The Guardian. They’ve made a banging dance album that works in the age of (enforced) home listening. Isles is not a retro-sounding collection, but in its scope and ambition it recalls “blockbusting crossover dance albums” of the mid-1990s from the likes of Leftfield, Underworld, Orbital and The Chemical Brothers. The melodies are “lush or wistfully melancholic”, but the beats are tough and driving. It is exactly what’s needed for the “ultimate living-room rave”. 

The two schoolfriends, now based in east London, are one of dance’s biggest acts, said David Smyth in the London Evening Standard. This compelling collection shows why. Sounds are layered in “absorbing style – melancholy, not euphoric, but still brimming with restless energy”. One day we’ll hear these songs as they should be experienced – on a packed dancefloor – but “this will do very nicely for now”. 

2

Patricia Kopatchinskaja

Plaisirs illuminés

Patricia Kopatchinskaja: Plaisirs illuminés

This latest album featuring the “bare-footed violin maverick” Patricia Kopatchinskaja is named after a “perplexing” Dalí painting featuring rectangular boxes, eggs, a bleeding knife and 34 bearded cyclists, said Geoff Brown in The Times. Thankfully, what is on it – 20th and 21st century music with a folk twist – is “much easier to grasp”. There’s Sándor Veress’s Musica concertante; the 1966 Concerto for Strings by Alberto Ginastera; and Les Plaisirs illuminés itself, a Dalí-derived double concerto by Francisco Coll. It’s a “rewarding” programme, and “just the kind of fare to get maximum voltage” from Kopatchinskaja and the Camerata Bern chamber orchestra. 

The disc is a showcase for Kopatchinskaja’s “dazzling virtuosity”, said Andrew Clements in The Guardian – and the “remarkable” Camerata Bern. The Veress and the Ginastera are performed with “remarkable finesse”. And in the Coll, Kopatchinskaja and cello soloist Sol Gabetta make a fine partnership, pushing each other on to higher levels of brilliance.

3

Shame

Drunk Tank Pink 

Shame: Drunk Tank Pink 

The past year has been “rough on most of us”, said Will Hodgkinson in The Times – but “spare a thought for those up-and-coming bands who should be having the time of their lives”. The south London five-piece Shame were still at school when they wrote the songs on their acclaimed 2018 debut Songs of Praise. By 2020, two years of solid touring had made them summer festival headliners-to-be; and then the pandemic brought it all screeching to a halt. Still, when gigs become possible again, this “superb” second album will stand them in great stead. It’s a belter, which brings to mind the atmospheric rock produced by the likes of Talking Heads, Television and Echo and the Bunnymen. 

It’s an intense record, with lyrics dominated by themes of chaos and uncertainty, said Rhian Daly on NME. And for Shame, it’s also a “massive leap on” from their debut: more ambitious and more accomplished. Drunk Tank Pink confirms their status “as one of the most exciting bands at the forefront of British music. Long may they reign there.”

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