In Review

Albums of the week: Djourou, Symphony No. 10, For Those I Love

New releases from Ballaké Sissoko, Mahler, and For Those I Love

1

Ballaké Sissoko

Djourou 

Ballaké Sissoko - Djourou 

“It says much for Malian music that two of its greatest players, the kora masters Ballaké Sissoko and Toumani Diabaté, are among its most determined innovators,” said Neil Spencer in The Observer. Together, the pair (who are cousins) have won global recognition for their instrument – the hypnotic 21-string west African harp – partly via cross-cultural collaborations. Diabaté’s next release, with the London Symphony Orchestra, is imminent. But first there’s this “engaging” collection from Sissoko. His guests include cellist Vincent Ségal, with whom he has already made “two sublime albums”, and who joins clarinettist Patrick Messina for a “sprightly take” on Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique

Other guests include Salif Keita and the Gambian kora player Sona Jobarteh, a “rare woman in a very male profession”, said David Honigmann in the FT. There are also contributions from the French experimental singer Camille, the cellist Clément Petit, the Malian-born French rapper Oxmo Puccino and the “prog-chansonnier” Arthur Teboul. All told, Djourou is a five-star triumph.

2

Mahler

Symphony No. 10 (cond: Osmo Vänskä) 

Mahler - Symphony No. 10 (cond: Osmo Vänskä) 

There have been seven serious attempts to “complete” the symphony that Gustav Mahler left unfinished at his death in 1911, said Andrew Clements in The Guardian. The most established is the version pieced together between 1960 and 1976 by musicologist Deryck Cooke (aided by three other composers). As part of his superb Mahler cycle with the Minnesota Orchestra, conductor Osmo Vänskä has now recorded that score, and it ranks “as one of the finest Mahler Tenths on disc”. The approach is “stoic”, tempi are slow, and the sheer attention to detail and “unswerving sense of symphonic coherence and continuity” make it “overwhelming”. 

In the Covid-age, this pre-pandemic recording offers a “bittersweet reminder of the sonic fireworks that only huge orchestras can provide”, said Geoff Brown in The Times. Given the work’s “jolting moods, textural clarity is crucial” – and Vänskä’s account has a “sharp attack that takes the breath away”. Once heard, Mahler’s Tenth is “impossible to forget; I feel the same about this performance”.

3

For Those I Love

For Those I Love 

For Those I Love - For Those I Love 

This remarkable debut album from the Dublin-based producer and songwriter David Balfe (recording as For Those I Love) blends dance music beats with spoken-word poetry to offer a “visceral and focused study of grief, guilt, rage and hope”, said Roisin O’Connor in The Independent. Balfe began work on the record in 2018, following the suicide of his musical collaborator and best friend since childhood, Paul Curran. In his grief, Balfe wrote 76 songs – cut down to just nine on this album. The result is a “staggering” exploration of platonic love between men. His every word lands “with precision and depth, not one wasted”. 

Balfe’s astonishing tapestry even includes clips of voicenotes from friends on WhatsApp – including from his late friend – and sounds that draw on memories of driving around at night with mixtapes of The Streets, Burial and Mount Kimbie, said Andrew Trendell on NME. His album “conjures up all the emotions of an illegal rave”, while managing to be both love letter and archive – and “a testament to the people who’ll always have your back”. 

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