Hot Tracks

Fans have complained - rightly - that Scottish rock trio Biffy Clyro have lost their edge, seven albums in.

The progressive rock that won them critical acclaim has been significantly dialled down in favour of commercial-friendly, forgettable rock songs.

Hard-hitting album opener Wolves Of Winter shows promise, hitting you like a punch in the face. But like in a drunken bar fight, the band's punches lose steam quickly as more are thrown. The album continues to drunkenly stumble through Small Wishes, with its inexplicable country twang, and softer, emotional numbers such as Medicine.

Frontman Simon Neil took the lead with songwriting on this album, chronicling his internal struggles with mental health issues faced during the past three years since releasing 2013's Opposites. Referring to those dark days on Animal Style, he sings: "I don't know who I can trust/I'm teetering on the edge." But the song's jaunty piano and ooh-ooh-ooh'ing sit oddly with the lyrics, sounding more like a Muse record than a Biffy Clyro one.



    Biffy Clyro

    14th Floor Records

    2.5/5 stars

The sweeping orchestral arrangements heard on their previous albums are absent on this record, perhaps in their attempt at a more raw sound, best displayed on On A Bang, the only track reminiscent of their prog-rock sound, complete with frenetic energy.

The unexpected use of 808 beats and handclaps on Rearrange is probably an homage to Harlem rapper ASAP Rocky, whom Biffy Clyro have cited as an influence. But the band would have done better to emulate Rocky's brash, braggadocio spirit instead.

Anjali Raguraman

The Russia-born, London-based pianist Yevgeny Sudbin made his big first splash in 2005 with a debut recording of keyboard sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) that garnered rave reviews.



    Yevgeny Sudbin, Piano

    BIS 2138

    5/5 stars

He comes full circle with a latest recording of 18 more sonatas by the Italian composer who lived in Madrid as the personal keyboard teacher of the Queen of Spain.

Most of his 555 or so sonatas were originally conceived for harpsichord, but Sudbin regards these as transcriptions when heard on the modern piano.

He takes great liberties in creating new sonorities and textures, by adding octaves, harmonies and, sometimes, altering the registers of certain voices. All this makes for a refreshingly different listen, even if purists may baulk at the excesses.

There are five sonatas in the key of D minor alone and all of these sparkle like multi-faceted gems.

The famous Pastoral (D.9) is taken at a brisk clip, while the Aria (K.32) benefits from harmonic augmentation at its repeat.

The little-known K.417 is a fugal study that J.S. Bach would have been proud of, while the virtuosic Guitar (K.141) revels in repetitive strumming and orchestral effects.

Chang Tou Liang

One might not expect such a glamorous cover design for a disc of music by 20th-century French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), but this recording is more about the Naughton twins - Christina and Michelle - who are the modern American counterpart of the celebrated Labeque sisters.



    Christina and Michelle Naughton, Two Pianos

    Warner Classics 0825646011360

    4.5/5 stars

The main work is Messiaen's Visions De L'Amen (1943), a massive seven-movement work that plays for almost 45 minutes, pondering the spiritual, terrestrial and celestial aspects of being from his devout Roman Catholic perspective.

Far from being too abstract, each movement reflects on a different act of joy - from massive chords representing the creation, the kinetic energy of stars and revolving planets, the excitable fluttering of angels and birdsong, all through to the ecstatic carillons of final consummation.

This love-in continues by way of a simple Bach chorale (from the cantata Actus Tragicus) to the three movements of American minimalist John Adams' Hallelujah Junction (1996), all also infectiously driven pieces.

One can scarcely find a better ambassador for these highly charged works than the Naughtons, who perform with sympathy, conviction and no little virtuosity.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Subscribe