Little Dark Age
Ten years after their debut album Oracular Spectacular produced seminal hits such as Electric Feel, Kids and Time To Pretend, MGMT have stopped messing around and returned to what people loved about them in the first place - synth-pop wrapped in a haze of quirky psychedelia.
Much of the subject matter explored in their fourth album since 2007 is satirical.
For instance, TSLAMP, or Time Spent Looking At My Phone, is an ode to smartphone addiction with lyrics such as "I'm wondering where the hours went, as I'm losing consciousness/My sullen face is all aglow, time spent looking at my phone" over a robotic vocoder voice, straight out of the Daft Punk playbook.
Then there is album opener, She Works Out Too Much, with its funky pop synthesizer chords and even a saxophone solo. It explores the tiresome world of dating apps: "But I'm constantly swiping it, tapping/It's not that relaxing, I need a new routine."
Social criticism has not sounded this blissed-out and psychedelic since the 1970s.
It all points to the Connecticut band clearly having fun again, like on the straight-out-of-the-1980s track Me And Michael, with its soaring vocals and even the requisite 1980s "woah-oh-oh" over the chorus.
MGMT's return to form is a welcome one, so here's hoping they stay in this addictive electro-pop lane.
20TH CENTURY CLASSICS
SHOSTAKOVICH: VIOLIN SONATA OP.134/24 PRELUDES OP.34
Sergei Dogadin, Violin
Nikolai Tokarev, Piano
The young Russian violinist Sergei Dogadin, first prize winner of the recently concluded Singapore International Violin Competition, had made several recordings before his Singapore triumph. Just issued is this 2016 recording of violin music by the great Soviet-era Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).
Shostakovich wrote only one violin sonata, a late work from 1968 when he was in ill health. Opening with a dark mood that was typical of the composer in his old age, it closes with a passacaglia of unremitting bleakness. In between is a savage scherzo of lacerating abrasiveness that does little to lighten the ambience.
Dogadin and compatriot pianist Nikolai Tokarev are faithful advocates and excellent in their execution. Still, they do not quite match the intensity in the definitive Melodiya recording by its dedicatee David Oistrakh with Sviatoslav Richter on piano.
Evoking a different mood are violin transcriptions of Shostakovich's youthful 24 Preludes Op.34 (1932-1933) for piano, which are short, varied and often laced with sardonic humour. Violinist Dmitri Tsyganov, a member of the Beethoven Quartet, had transcribed 19 of these, leaving the set tantalisingly incomplete. It was left for contemporary Russian composer Lera Auerbach to fill in the blanks.
Dogadin and Tokarev capture the music's schizophrenic shifts and multifarious nuances in rather enjoyable performances.
Chang Tou Liang