In Review

Albums of the week: Promises | Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi | New Long Leg

New releases from Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the LSO; Lise Davidsen; and Dry Cleaning

1

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the LSO

Promises 

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the LSO - Promises 

Five years in the making, Promises is a stunning fusion of classical, jazz and ambient electronica, involving a remarkable set of collaborators, said Ludovic Hunter-Tilney in the FT. Floating Points is the recording name of the acclaimed British composer and producer Sam Shepherd. Pharoah Sanders is the American saxophonist who, with John Coltrane, pioneered “spiritual jazz”. The third component is a 29-strong string section from the London Symphony Orchestra. 

Over nine seamless movements lasting 46 minutes in total, they have created an immersive and richly detailed work, said Kitty Empire in The Observer. Promises combines “highly sophisticated” cosmic psychedelia with jazz saxophone interventions, weird drones and rustles, and electronic birdsong, as “the mood swings from succour to awe and back again many times”. Halfway through, the LSO strings arrive “adding depth and weight”. Promises is an “extraordinary” work, which deserves “excellent speakers and a soft couch to catch the swooning listener”.

2

Lise Davidsen (LPO/Sir Mark Elder) 

Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi 

Lise Davidsen (LPO/Sir Mark Elder) - Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi 

It is six years since Lise Davidsen won Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition in London, said Richard Fairman in the FT. At the time, she caused such a stir because she was already, aged 28, so “fully formed as a singer, a Wagnerian-in-waiting who had helmet and spear already within her grasp”. On the Norwegian soprano’s second recital disc for Decca, recorded with the London Philharmonic, Wagner’s five Wesendonck Lieder are certainly a highlight: beautifully recorded, rewarding and radiant. 

Davidsen’s soprano has “a brighter gleam and greater expansiveness than that of any other singer to have emerged onto the opera scene in the last decade”, said Erica Jeal in The Observer. Her singing is “vibrant and utterly focused”, whether hitting the “glorious” high notes in Wagner’s Schmerzen, or catching the “pregnant, humid stillness” of Im Treibhaus. Beethoven’s big aria for Leonore is superbly done – with “great work” from the LPO’s horns – as are the aria from Cherubini’s Medea and Desdemona’s prayer from Verdi’s Otello

3

Dry Cleaning

New Long Leg 

Dry Cleaning - New Long Leg 

The debut album from Dry Cleaning – an arty quartet from Brighton – is “an engrossingly energetic fusion of the mundane, the surreal and the downright bizarre”, said Neil McCormick in The Daily Telegraph. The “intense and exciting” instrumentals meld taut post-punk influences (Gang of Four, Joy Division) with melodic indie rock ones (The Smiths, The Strokes). However, the lyrical content seems to be drawn from fragments of overheard everyday conversations, as if created “via some William S. Burroughs-style cut-up machine”. The result is “monologue rock” that veers “between banality and psychosis” – and is delivered by frontwoman Florence Shaw in tones of “exquisite boredom”. 

In the fluid instrumentation there are echoes of Public Image Ltd and – in the build-and-release of tension – Sonic Youth, said Phil Mongredien in The Observer. But taken in combination with Shaw’s distinctive delivery (“more sprech than gesang”), this exciting new band’s sound “is as singular as it is dazzling”. 

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