Thelonious Monk


FOUND in a skip, there is nothing trashy about this newly-discovered live recording of seminal jazz pianist Thelonious Monk accompanied by his quartet at a show in Copenhagen in 1963.

The listener is transported back in time to a table in a dimly-lit, smoky jazz bar as they're treated to the explorative playing of saxophonist Charlie Rouse, the wispy cymbal and crashing snare of Frankie Dunlop, the wandering bass of John Ore and, of course, Monk's unique improvisations on the piano. Die-hard jazz fans will notice there are no unheard compositions, with most of the five tracks also featured on the studio album Monk's Dream, including the title track, a jazz standard.

Yet what this is, is a brilliantly restored snapshot of history. The occasional ripple of applause after a solo is a reminder that this was recorded live and makes you marvel at the musicianship, which finds the right note between unpredictability and being overly busy.

Andrew Arthur



IT is probably fair to say that British trio alt-J's third studio album, Relaxer, failed to hit the heights of the two majestic efforts that preceded it. So what better way to give Relaxer a shot of adrenaline, a year or so after it was first released, than to put out a "reimagined" and remixed version of said record?

The result, Reduxer, is an odd hybrid of math-rock and hip-hop, styles that complement each other here like melted-down advent calendar chocolate and a reformed meat product from the supermarket reduced aisle. At times it is almost unlistenable. In fact it's hard to imagine fans enjoying much about this record - too niche for the mainstream, too weird for hardcore. Less alt-J, more Ctrl+Alt+Del.

A nice idea, but, sadly, it is perhaps one vanity project too far for this innovative trio.

Ryan Hooper

Rod Stewart

Blood Red Roses***

ROD STEWART has had many guises: 60s Mod hero, folksy songwriter, singer in the greatest rock'n'roll band of the 70s, a figure of excess in spandex and leopard-skin print, and now one that he really does wears well, an unlikely national treasure. Blood Red Roses is the third in a series of albums where Stewart has gone back to his songwriting roots.

There is a lot of filler here (Rest Of My Life manages to sound more S Club than Motown), but whilst Look In Her Eyes starts off sounding like the intro to a corporate conference, a mix of Stewart's charm and Mariachi left me warming to it. Unlike the insipid, phoned-in blandness of his American Songbook series, Stewart has clearly made some effort here. His writing works well on Farewell, a song dedicated as much to a departed friend as it is to their friendship in 1960s London. Rod is the master of interpreting other songs and his fierce take on Muddy Waters' Rollin' and Tumblin' is the standout track here.

Colm McCrory

Exploded View


ON their second full-length album Berlin based alternative electronica trio Exploded View have been able to capture the eerie, foreboding atmosphere of another great record that was made in the German capital, Low by David Bowie. Bowie would probably have enjoyed the UFO theremin on the track Gone Tomorrow. The song also features a weird high-pitched signal sound which brings to mind the echoing radar of a submarine submerged in icy waters.

Exploded View's sound on Obey is comparable to a darker version of Jefferson Airplane, with lyricist and vocalist Annika Henderson's haunting yet soothing voice also recalling her countrywoman and former Velvet Underground collaborator Nico.

The album is awash with creepy weird synths and dreamy acoustic guitars. Recent single Dark Stains ups the tempo with its crashing beats that might be enjoyed by fans of Radiohead singer Thom Yorke's side electronica projects.

Andrew Arthur

Agar Agar

The Dog And The Future***

IF you've an appetite for electronic music that appears to have taken inspiration from old video games of the 1980s, but with a bit of added je ne sais quoi, then this is the album for you.

French electronic pop duo Agar Agar, made up of Clara Cappagli and Armand Bultheel, are releasing their debut record, which can best be described as unfamiliar but whimsical with pared-back yet skilled, and sometimes ethereal, production. It's quite the feat in 2018 to produce a collection that is quite unlike anything you've heard before, but this Paris-based art school student pair have managed it. The Dog And The Future is all synth beats, psych-folk and Cappagli's wonderfully haunting yet low-key vocals. And there's plenty of humour too. On Sorry About The Carpet, she sings the remarkably mundane but relatable lyric: "There's a hole in my sock, but I can live with it."

While some of the tracks blend together a bit, especially if this isn't a genre you're used to, there are some real high moments. Fangs Out has a bit more, excuse the pun, bite to it, with its pacey, 90s-esque dance beat, while Gigi is elegant, as are the epic-sounding tracks Duke and Requiem. These latter two are where Agar Agar really shine, and perhaps the sound they should focus on going forward.

Lucy Mapstone