Home Featured Sculpture Beck, Nina Nesbitt, Bert Jansch, Oliver Tank, Various Artists’, The Crooked Fiddle...

Beck, Nina Nesbitt, Bert Jansch, Oliver Tank, Various Artists’, The Crooked Fiddle Band


Breakup albums are pop music’s bread and butter and Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt is doubling down on her moment. Following the end of her highly publicised on-again, off-again relationship with Ed Sheeran, Nesbitt bares her heart (Love Letter) and meditates on singledom (Somebody Special), while self-flagellating for letting her guard down. “Used to be vulnerable/Used to be dumb/I used to give it all,” she bemoans on Colder. But in this deluxe repackaging of her record, Nesbitt delivers each song acoustically, eschewing the synths, ’90s R&B and rich production she relied on with her original offering in February. It’s a welcome call-back to the folk debut album that propelled her into stardom. Four new songs open the proceedings, including a hauntingly sombre cover of Britney Spears’ Toxic, an irreverent nod to her haters (Black & Blue) and a slow-burning sliver of iridescent pop with Still Waiting to Start. While she has one foot in her folk past and another in a more mainstream future, it is clear Nesbitt is trying to please her fans, both old and new. Her duality pays off in a spectacular way but it’s time for the next moment, this time without Sheeran. KISH LAL


Various Artists

WE LIKE IKE (Triangle 7/Planet) ★★★½

The late Ike Isaacs’ supple interweaving of beautifully voiced chords and melodic lines laden with a pensive longing made him beloved by such guitar giants as Jim Hall and George Benson. Because the Rangoon-born Isaacs, who became pre-eminent in British jazz before moving to Australia, would have turned 100 on December 1, the acclaimed pianist/composer Mark Isaacs (Ike’s nephew) and producer Roger Frankham compiled this album of tributes. Inevitably the quality among over 20 artists varies, but among many highlights Martin Taylor sparkles on a solo reading of Ike’s After Hours, as does the man himself on his own Starlight. The repertoire mostly consists of Ike-associated standards, with Carl Orr restoring some of the deep mystery to Round Midnight that’s too often airbrushed away, and Esmond Selwyn sprinkling magic over a gossamer reading of Stardust. Emulating Ike is not the game in hand, and a double-tracked Andy Brotherton’s grittier playing stands out on his own Acai Skies, while the fondly remembered Mark Isaacs Resurgence Band (featuring James Muller) broadens the horizons on Bagatelle. An all-star band launches the album at Foundry 616 on December 2. JOHN SHAND



HYPERSPACE (Capitol) ★★★★

Beck fans of the last five years rejoice: Hyperspace combines the dance sensibility of Colours (2017) with the cloudy ambience of Morning Phase (2014) – but it’s grittier and more experimental than either. The short, ambient intro Hyperlife foreshadows the hook of the title track: a tumbling vocal line that descends through a nebulous soundscape. So do we then expect the sharp bluegrass twang of Saw Lightning at track three? Certainly not, but the slide guitar and wailing harmonica are masterfully incorporated into what turns out to be a savvy, rap-infused groove. The dream-pop See Through picks its way delicately through deep insecurities: “I feel so ugly when you see through me”. True to form, Beck’s lyrics are tinged with irony and loneliness, his voice sounding unearthly amongst the starry synths that float and twinkle throughout the album. He could be a solitary spaceman as he sings: “In the stratosphere/There is nowhere to go from here/Be back home another year” (Stratosphere). In fact, it’s hard to shake the feeling that, had David Bowie’s Major Tom turned his hand to song-writing in space, he would have penned an album just like this. JESSIE CUNNIFFE


Bert Jansch


From the 1965 instrumental Finches right up to his late-period masterpiece Black Swan (2006), the late Bert Jansch held an ornithological fascination that made its way into his music with typical gentleness and poesy. On Avocet, released in 1979 when Jansch was 35, and with the flush of his extraordinary early career firmly behind him, he devoted an entire album to the lives of birds, in partnership with multi-instrumentalist Martin Jenkins and long-time collaborator, bassist Danny Thompson. The album’s 18-minute title track (based on the traditional The Cuckoo) is a true wonder: one of the most beautiful folk instrumentals ever committed to tape, with Jansch’s signature bass-string-driven guitar lines toing and froing against Jenkins’ improvisations on violin and flute. The Scottish guitarist turns electric on the similarly inventive Bittern, and then rekindles the spark of his and Thompson’s former band Pentangle on the jazzier Kingfisher. To mark 40 years, this release features three recently discovered live recordings from an Italian tour and extensive liner notes by Thompson: a suitable tribute to an often-overlooked album by an artist whose brilliance remains much missed. BARNABY SMITH


The Crooked Fiddle Band


It could count as assault and battery were it happening to any other part of the body than the eardrums. Then, just when you’re considering laying charges, they lull you into forgiveness with a swooning melody such as could only be conceived by the most angelic of pacifists. And so continues the fun dichotomy that is the Crooked Fiddle Band. Their scary side is all about taking Eastern European-inspired melodic ideas and imagining what might have happened had the likes of Iggy and the Stooges strayed into this neck of the musical woods with a stack of 100-watt Marshalls. Then, as the energy, ferocity, dissonance, double-time stampedes and wound-out distortion of acoustic instruments are collectively inclining you to duck for cover, they pull the old one-two trick again, and Jess Randal, for instance, plays a fiddle melody so gorgeous as instantly fools you into believing that what went before can’t really have been that brutal. After all, how much damage can a fiddle, acoustic guitar (Gordon Wallace), double bass (Mark Stevens) and drum kit (Joe Gould) do? Find out in the flesh at Katoomba’s Baroque Room (November 30) and Sydney’s Landsdowne (December 1). JOHN SHAND


Oliver Tank

THE OCEAN FADES INTO THE SKY (olivertankmusic.bandcamp.com) ★★★★

Affinity with the past can sometimes lead to an immaculate transformation, but what’s less considered by those on a spiritual reawakening is the trigger point. There’s beauty in the struggle or journey, and to pass over this transitional period with disregard or indifference seems counterproductive. Oliver Tank’s third album pays homage to those caught in a repetitive cycle of dissatisfaction, by firing off therapeutic, stunning, bite-sized deep cuts, the track-list feeling like material accumulated over a number of years, which continuously begs the question: why was it ever kept from the public at all? Mountain$ employs lush soundscapes and Tank’s signature reverb-heavy timbre, while frequent collaborator Fawn Myers reappears on Just My Type for a duet over washed-out synthesizers dripping in psychedelia. Sub-bass hits harder than ever on the latter part of Rewind, the track interlaced with high-pitched, buzz-saw synths that help compliment a gorgeous chord progression against lightly distorted electric guitar. The Ocean Fades into the Sky is exactly as it sounds: sometimes it’s hard to see what’s on the horizon, but belief in getting there will pay dividends in the end. BENJAMIN POTTER

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