Hot Tracks

Wolfmother is very much the Andrew Stockdale show - the vocalist and lead guitarist seems to be the only remaining original member in the revolving-door line-up of the band.

For the Australian band's fourth album, he takes this responsibility role even further, reportedly writing all the songs and performing all the vocal, guitar and bass parts.

Their influences are heavily borrowed, but it is refreshing to hear power chords, high falsetto vocals and fuzzy guitars on an entire album. With all that vintage metal influence running through Wolfmother's sound, it is impossible not to pin certain songs on the 10-song album to specific rock music predecessors.

The title track Victorious and the album closer Eye Of The Beholder are faithful throwbacks to 1970s hard-rock predecessors such as Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath. Gypsy Caravan is a prime slice of psychedelic stoner rock ("Won't you take me to the, to the gypsy caravan? We can live together, where the ocean meets the sand"), complete with a distorted, groovy bassline.

Those are the only standouts in an album that sometimes loses momentum, particularly on slower and more introspective (read: more insipid) tracks such as Best Of A Bad Situation and Pretty Peggy.

  • HARD ROCK

  • VICTORIOUS

    Wolfmother

    UMe

    3/5 stars

The album misses the magic of what made Wolfmother so irresistible in the first place - the wild, unfettered energy that was found in their first, self-titled LP in 2005, with standout tracks Woman and White Unicorn. It was music that threatened to explode the amps and send revellers into a frenzy.

Nonetheless, they remain one of the best new-generation rock bands to emerge in the past decade.

Anjali Raguraman


Guitarist Bill Frisell's latest album delves into the soundtrack songbook with mixed results. His trio line-up, which includes bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston, is joined by violist Eyvind Kang and singer Petra Haden.

  • JAZZ

  • WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR

    Bill Frisell

    Okeh

    3/5 stars

The album starts out promisingly enough, with Kang's strings lending a pleasant Celtic lilt to the familiar strains of To Kill A Mockingbird's soundtrack. Haden's unremarkable soprano vocals on a stripped-down You Only Live Twice fails to lift an indifferent Bond song. At least the original, sung by Nancy Sinatra, was boosted by overwrought strings that gave it pop operatic bombast.

Things take a strange turn next, on a perky arrangement of Psycho's infamous theme melody. At least this idiosyncratic take has the benefit of bending a familiar tune in an aural equivalent of the funhouse mirror effect.

The rest of the tracks prove equally rocky, ricocheting from pop muzak (The Shadow Of Your Smile) and country twang (Bonanza) to Disney sweet (title track) and dramatic dash (The Godfather).

While Frisell's guitar work is reliably engaging, even thoughtfully adventurous on some tracks, the same unfortunately cannot be said of the myriad arrangements, some of which teeter dangerously close to camp cliche.

This is one for the Frisell completists.

Ong Sor Fern


Chinese New Year music, you either love it or loathe it, especially when it comes blaring out through supermarket loudspeakers.

  • ASIAN CLASSICS

  • MUSIC OF SPRING

    Singapore Chinese Orchestra/ Yeh Tsung

    SCO Recordings

    4/5 stars

This 51-minute anthology from the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, conducted by its music director Yeh Tsung, is rather special because it includes perennial favourites and provides a Singaporean twist.

Popular hits such as Li Huan Zhi's Spring Festival Overture and Peng Xiu Wen's Zhen Yue Yuan Xiao (Lantern Festival) are the ubiquitous rousers that set the mood. Tan Dun's Shi Ban Yao Gao is percussive, martial and ceremonial, employing the voices of the orchestra's men.

Two movements from Gu Guan Ren's Singapore Glimpses, Niu Che Shui (Kreta Ayer) and Jie Ri (Festival), sound unexpectedly exotic. Jie Ri employs Chinese, Malay and Indian themes and might even be mistaken for something out of Central Asia.

Lin Wei Hua's Gong Xi Fa Cai delights in reedy bird calls from the suona, but the campiest number is Law Wai Lun's He Xin Nian medley.

His transcription unabashedly relives the outlandish sounds of a 1960s Geylang cabaret in songs such as Chai Shen Dao and Ying Chun Hua and has the inevitable Gong Xi Gong Xi dressed up as a sultry tango.

Chang Tou Liang


A symphony by Gustav Mahler hardly qualifies as an obscure classic, but arrangements of his symphonies for piano are still rarities. These were transcribed mostly for study as well as home entertainment by skilled amateurs.

  • OBSCURE CLASSICS

  • MAHLER SYMPHONY NO. 2 "RESURRECTION": ARRANGEMENT FOR 4 HANDS BY BRUNO WALTER

    Nakazawa & Athavale (Piano)

    Naxos 8.573350

    4/5 stars

    ARRANGEMENT FOR 8 HANDS BY HEINRICH VON BOCKLET

    Cutting, Turner, Emmerson & Kelly (2 Pianos)

    Melba 301144

    4.5/5 stars

Here are two world-premiere recordings for piano of Mahler's Second Symphony, called the Resurrection Symphony because its choral finale makes use of Klopstock's poem Die Auferstehung (The Resurrection) as the culmination of a journey from death to redemption.

This is a five-movement work, opening with a funeral march and pondering life's vagaries before an apocalyptic but ultimately victorious ending. Voices are dispensed with, but the musical architecture and narrative still captivate.

Mahler disciple and conductor Bruno Walter's piano-duet version offers the bare bones, but does not skimp on the harmonic subtleties or dynamic pacing of the original. Heinrich von Bocklet's edition for two pianos provides a fuller sound and more details. It is a wonder how the four performers could coordinate their resources as skilfully as they do.

The Walter recording is slightly swifter, clocking in at just over 76 minutes. Both are worth experiencing, if only to take a break from the orchestra's excesses.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe