Albums of the week: Bright Green Field, Trio Wanderer and Daddy's Home
New releases from Squid and St. Vincent
Bright Green Field
The English band Squid have been “tentatively” classed as “post-punk”, but their debut album is “far weirder than that label suggests”, said Isobel Lewis in The Independent. Between songs – and even within them – they “flit from up-tempo rhythms to slow, screaming despair”, and experimental, “often-uncanny noise”. This “shape-shifting, genre-defying” music can seem challenging. “But there are real rewards” for those who put in the time to “unravel this cacophony”.
Squid are part of a guitar-band scene that has loosely coalesced around The Windmill in south London, said Ludovic Hunter-Tilney in the FT. Shared attributes include volume, intensity, improvisation and serious musicianship. This impressive album brims “with ideas and energy”. “Squiggly guitars criss-cross in songs like hairline fractures”, alongside “tightly channelled rhythms” and “passages of madly jittery funk”. The vocals might be “overcooked” at times – there is some demented hollering – but “they are a challenge worth meeting”.
Complete Piano Trios, Quartet and Quintet – Trio Wanderer
This three-disc collection of Schumann’s chamber pieces is a “substantial feast”, said James McCarthy in Gramophone. Running at two-and-a-half hours, Trio Wanderer’s survey includes the three numbered piano trios, plus the set of four pieces for violin, cello and piano published as the Fantasiestücke, Op 88. In addition, there are Schumann’s two best-known chamber works, the Piano Quartet and Piano Quintet, in which the trio are joined by viola player Christophe Gaugué and violinist Catherine Montier. Fans of Trio Wanderer’s work should tuck in.
Their playing combines “exuberance with refinement”, and captures Schumann’s “playfulness” in a series of works that demand contrast and balance, said Andrew Clements in The Guardian. To my taste, they sometimes overdo the composer’s instructions regarding tempi. The opening of the quartet takes its sostenuto assai marking too literally, while the scherzo in the quintet “threatens to trip over its own feet”. But for the most part, this ensemble’s playing is “immaculate”.
Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) is a past master of reinvention, said El Hunt on NME. On her self-titled 2014 album, her chosen persona was a dystopian cult leader; on 2017’s Masseduction she was a latex-clad dominatrix. For her sixth album, she presents as a “bourbon-swigging rock star in a power suit and Hunter S. Thompson shades”, channelling 1970s funk and “dirty New York grit”. It suits her. This is the warmest St. Vincent record yet; cold precision has been traded in for “looser rock’n’roll sounds” and “arch humour”.
Its title, Daddy’s Home, is a nod to her father’s release from prison after a ten-year stretch for stock manipulation, said Alexis Petridis in The Guardian. And its sound is apparently an homage to his early-70s record collection. “The whole album is liberally dressed with a synthesised sitar sound that cropped up on dozens of the era’s soul singles” – and there are musical references to the likes of Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Donny Hathaway and Pink Floyd. The results are “heady and disturbing” – and “hugely impressive”.