CD reviews: Albert Hammond Jr, Omar Souleyman, Asian Dub Foundation and Sleaford Mods
Hammond, guitarist of The Strokes, has produced a third solo album more taught and focused than his previous releases, writes Mark Peters
Ever since releasing their staggering debut in 2001, The Strokes have struggled to match the wild charismatic style of the iconic Is This It, always wavering frustratingly too close to "meh" in comparison. While frontman and chief songwriter Julian Casablancas has explored a more experimental synth-punk-pop direction with his sideline ventures, guitarist Albert Hammond Jnr's solo recordings have sounded like rough melodic blueprints from his day job. Inspired by renowned astronomer Carl Sagan's commentary on the famed "pale blue dot" photo of earth, Momentary Masters is Hammond Jr's third solo album, the follow up to 2008's ¿Cómo Te Llama? and the first since he embraced sobriety five years ago. Immediately it feels warmer, taut and more focused than a mere collection of Strokes B-sides, (although Losing Touch is a weak Kings of Leon rip-off), lead single Born Slippy is breezy, joyous pop (and thankfully not a cover of the Underworld hit). The spiky guitars and driving bass still honour his old band ( Drunched in Crumbs, Side Boob) but while he becomes more comfortable with his new singular identity, Momentary Masters adds some brighter fine detail to Hammond Jnr's previous broad strokes.
Albert Hammond Jnr Momentary Masters (Vagrant Records)
When an album has production duties credited to such renowned giants of electronic dance music as Four Tet, Gilles Peterson and Modeselektor, you'd hardly expect the music's creator to be a Syrian wedding singer. Omar Souleyman is just that, and Bahdeni Nami is only his second proper studio album in a 20-year career, if you discount the hundreds of live recordings he has released from his day job. If you're not familiar with dabke and traditional Middle Eastern music, it would be easy to write off Souleyman as simply riding a wave of trendy muso friends and novelty success, especially when Modeselektor call him "the coolest man on the planet". Recorded in Istanbul with wails of encouragement from his favourite poet, Ahmad Alsamer, this is a fun, high-energy album mixing a synth groove with electric saz and Souleyman's unique style of traditional folk and musings on love. Kieran "Four Tet" Hebden adds layers of subtle textures to the frenetic rhythms on the eight-minute title track, a remix of which by Dutch house/techno producer Legowelt closes the album.
Omar Souleyman Bahdeni Nami (Monkeytown Records)
Recorded and mixed in a mere six days, More Signal More Noise, the fifth album from Asian Dub Foundation, sees the mighty leftfield-rebel-ragga-rockers return with a new sense of life and powerful intent. Produced by the legendary Adrian Sherwood and originally released in Japan in 2013 under another name, the re-recorded More Signal More Noise unites "radical creativity with a raw primitivism" and continues ADF's incendiary mix of punk, bhangra and hip hop that lit up the British music scene in the mid-1990s. The band now have a new recruit on board, a flautist if you will, and opening stomper Zig Zag Nation kicks things off with a furious stream of political rhyming ("a zig zag nation is better than straight lines") over a racing drum'n'bass beat, squealing guitars and a little zen-like flute. It's followed by the head bopping title track and the Eastern industrial instrumental Hovering, demonstrating they still have plenty of fire left in their bellies. Elsewhere, there's plenty more freewheeling flute, propulsive grooves and samples of Syrian poetry, making it one of ADF's finest albums to date.
Asian Dub Foundation More Signal More Noise (ADF Communications)
Even after appearing on recent albums by Leftfield and The Prodigy, Jason Williamson, exasperated frontman of the Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods, still has plenty to say and a truckload of aggression to get off his chest. Three albums in and the vitriol is still flowing freely for Williamson, his gruff embittered rhymes abounding with football terrace profanity and countless jibes at all who get in his way.
A cross between The Jam, Mark E. Smith and The Streets, Key Markets isn't a great departure from the Mods' previous two albums. Over Andrew Fearn's primitive post-punk beats Williamson is still rallying for the working class and fighting against capitalism, celebrity culture and contemporary Britain. But here Fearn's claustrophobic drums and grimy bass lines drive the gritty stream-of-consciousness wordplay into almost sing-along songs ( No One's Bothered, Bronx in a Six), while Williamson's honest ranting continues to be laugh-out-loud funny, the acerbic humour only highlighting the intelligent observations behind the social and political slaggings. Probably best to leave the last word to the wonderfully gobby street poet: "It's a classic. F*** 'em."
Sleaford Mods Key Markets (Harbinger Sound)