By BRUCE DENNILL
Night Natives: Night Natives 6.5
Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra Of Venezuela, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel: Mahler 7 7
Billy Talent: Hits 6
Duck Sauce: Quack 6
Denholm Harding and Dale Orchard are experienced campaigners, both current and past members of various influential South African bands. Aided in the love context by guitarist Anton Stella, singer-bassist Orchard and backing vocalist-drummer Harding combine in Night Natives to create a sound that incorporates parts of the sounds of their other projects – from Just Jinjer to Plush – and adds a touch of extra aggression to the bass, guitars and overall sound. Opener A Little Less Comfort is a great introduction to that combination, shuddering into compelling pop-rock via a speaker-straining intro. In terms of style, this is not music that suggests a certain geographical location, being well-written pop-rock that’s mainstream enough to appeal to European and American audiences and gritty enough to play alongside offerings from grunge or hard rock artists. Checked Out, Vacant And Feeling Blue adds pace to take on the pop-punk of Panic! At The Disco or similar. Under All Of This is the opposite, slow and thoughtful, underpinned by a slightly ominous bass pall. A solid debut from some top-notch players.
Gustav Mahler’s Sixth and Eighth Symphonies are generally regarded as significant triumphs, while his Seventh is relegated to relative ignominy. On the evidence of this full-blooded interpretation by Mahler expert Gustavo Dudumel – he is working through recording all of the composer’s symphonies – this makes no sense at all. The work is often described as dark and brooding, hence the “Nachtmusik” tag on the second and fourth movements. But that’s an odd observation – the second movement particularly has some near-frothy moments. There is great range throughout the piece, and throughout each movement – to the extent that it is strange that none of it has been used as the basis for a major ballet (as has been the case with Mahler’s Third Symphony). Indeed, so expansive is this composition that it would serve just as well as the driving force behind the climactic scene in a blockbuster action film. The Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra are a brilliant unit, and the production quality is superb. An excellent package.
A greatest hits collection that was a marker rather than the announcement of a band split or a retirement, Hits doesn’t have the personality of an album or the punch of similar collections from more mainstream artists. Billy Talent fans won’t need it – in the digital age, nobody is going to buy a 14-track collection for two new songs (Kingdom Of Zod and Chasing The Sun). The material from the Billy Talent II album is the easiest to recognise and the best aged, with Devil In A Midnight Mass, Red Flag, Fallen Leaves and Surrender all as powerful as they were on release in 2006. While the band could never be accused of playing bubblegum pop, there is certainly a move from the compact heaviness of the early songs (Try Honesty) to the Fastball-esque pop-rock of Stand Up And Run. Of the new material, the quieter Chasing The Sun is the superior option, a power ballad in the tradition of Green Day.
DJ duo Armand Van Helden and A-Trak, each big stars in their own rights, have combined for a project, Duck Sauce that’s, by virtue of the novelty value involved, distinct from their solo outputs. It’s all very light-hearted, from the irreverent cover art to the cheesy narration between some of the tunes, where the word “duck” is substituted into several well-known quotes a la a high-school drama skit. The music is similarly unsophisticated (by design). Charlie Chazz & Rappin Ralph recalls Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, and there are similar Eighties touches to many of the other tracks. This is no bad thing, as it makes the music party-friendly – not terribly conducive to chin-stroking contemplation, but easy to get up and dance to. Radio Stereo, the disco-tinged Anyway, Ring Me (echoes of Bony M’s Daddy Cool) first single NRG, and Barbra Streisand – the musical opposite of that singer’s ouvre – are all good options to fill a dance floor.