Rock (October 2018)

A Matter Of Time
Mr Bongo Records MRBCD176

In a world overcrowded with wannabe Ed Sheeran clones, it's always a delight to be reminded that there are still artists capable of surprising even jaded rock critics like me. Protoje is one such, with his stimulating blend of cosmic reggae, laid-back toasting and beautifully integrated electronic orchestration. His voice is sublimely chilled and his tunes, if not overflowing with melody, are always redeemed by ingenious hooks that are hard to resist after a couple of listens. Lyrically too, he's always on the ball with sparky socio-political observations that also work as exquisite pop music. He's been around since 2005, but despite acclaim, hasn't yet broken through to the mainstream. Maybe his time is now. JBk


Tom Bailey
Science Fiction
Mikrokosmos Records MIKROKC 001

Much as I enjoyed their globally successful '80s singles, I always felt that The Thompson Twins never quite achieved their full creative potential. Now, 27 years on, after a lengthy sojourn in the wildernesses of electronic music and world-fusion, Bailey has returned to writing pop songs. Thankfully, it feels as if he's never been away. These ten tracks of sparkly electro-pop, recorded mostly on his laptop, are as engaging as anything he did in his old band, and I'd say they're also less contrived. Bailey seems more comfortable as a solo artist than he ever did as a Twin and the only criticism I could level is that it's all mid-paced and a tad too relaxed. JBk


Jack Carty And Gus Gardiner
Hospital Hill
It's Dinner Records GLWCD07

I was sorely tempted when I first heard this album's opening track, 'Facing South', to file it under twee acoustic singer-songwriter tosh but, happily, I kept listening. Much acclaimed in his homeland (Australia), Carty is a more substantial songwriter and performer than that first track suggests. Instrumentally, the album consists of Carty's tastefully-plucked acoustic guitar plus a string quartet, whose cellist, Gus Gardiner, also co-produced and mixed all of the tracks. Carty's carefully wrought songs blossom in this delicate context. If the intimacy of a small ensemble that seems to be playing in your front room sounds appealing, then this is for you. JBk


C Diab
Exit Rumination
Injazero Records INJA008

This is one for long days of bright sunlight and distant heat haze. Diab's biography describes him as a 'Canadian trumpeter, tape manipulator and bowed guitarist', which sounds frighteningly avant-garde and potentially jazzy but his shimmering, slowly evolving music is much more reminiscent of the best of Brian Eno's ambient pieces. He creates huge, almost static, soundscapes which are given form by minimalist bass patterns and soaring guitar lines. Much of it sounds as if it might have been recorded live in a cathedral with an improbably long decay time. Possibly best enjoyed with your eyes shut while listening on a good pair of headphones in the garden. JBk