Hot Tracks

Taiwanese group Da Mouth zoom in on an era of feel-good grooves on their fifth studio album, Back To The Future.



    Da Mouth

    Universal Music

    3 stars

The retro dance of Funky That Girl features singer-host Pauline Lan and is already an ear-worm hit with its synth riffs.

Even the lyrics are retro with a reference to tapes no less: "Love is not less a cassette that can be rewound, wreck it and you can't start over."

Add a disco-ball and bellbottomed pants and the picture is complete. It is easily the most inspired thing here.

The rest of the album coasts along on a similar mix of dance beats, synth lines and rap, circling around one another the way men and women dance around each other - pleasant enough if somewhat forgettable.

But as Super Unclear makes clear: "It's absolutely reasonable to pursue happiness, no need to ask if it's permissible, don't think too much, whether it's appropriate or not."

Shut up and dance is pretty much the message here.

Boon Chan

Jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater's latest album is a tribute to, and celebration of, New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago.

  • JAZZ


    Dee Dee Bridgewater, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra


    4 stars

Recorded in the Esplanade Studios which is located in the Treme neighbourhood, the album finds Bridgewater in fine, playful form as she rips through a programme of new tunes and old standards that draw directly from the city's rich musical heritage.

There are the early Nawlins classics such as Saint James Infirmary, its familiar marching band rhythms given a sassy strut by Bridgewater's easy, masterful improvisatory remake of the lyrics; the percussive drive of Big Chief, powered by banjo and Bridgewater's scatting; and Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans), treated with tender melancholy by Bridgewater atop a sleek loungey vibe by the orchestra.

Then there are the standout tracks where Bridgewater is in her diva element.

On New Orleans, she scats with ferocious clarity, mimicking a trumpet with uncanny accuracy, while you can practically see her dancing through the neighbourhood in Treme Song/Do Whatcha Wanna.

Whether it is the hymnal quiet of Come Sunday or the African heartbeat of Congo Square, this is definitely all Bridgewater's show as she puts her stamp on New Orleans music.

A big, fat Nawlins musical feast.

Ong Sor Fern

How does British pianist-composer Stephen Hough's Cello Sonata figure in this new album of Romantic cello sonatas? Interestingly, it is scored for cello and piano left hand and carries the Beethovenian subtitle Les Adieux (The Farewell).



    Steven Isserlis, Cello

    Stephen Hough, Piano

    Hyperion 68079

    5 stars

A single-movement work playing for 20 minutes, it is a darkly introspective work that distils the fraught and melancholic emotions of Romanticism through a tonal musical language that is as approachable as Shostakovich, Ravel and Faure.

Perhaps expressing regret, sorrow and parting, it receives a heartfelt performance from British cellist Steven Isserlis and the composer himself as pianist.

The work sits comfortably between two rather different and not so often heard Romantic sonatas. Edvard Grieg's Cello Sonata In G minor Op. 36 was the closest thing he wrote to a cello concerto and includes familiar themes to be found in his earlier Piano Concerto and Sigurd Josalfar incidental music.

Another instance of musical deja vu, Mendelssohn's Second Cello Sonata In D major Op. 38 is typical of his ebullience and tunefulness, a good example of the early Romantic style. The juxtapositions on this album make total sense and the high musicianship displayed by both performers is to be savoured.

Chang Tou Liang

Is it blasphemous to state that "emperor's new clothes" is the reason every new work by American composer Philip Glass is greeted with nothing but adulation?



    Gidon Kremer, Violin Kremerata Baltica Deutsche

    Grammophon 4794817

    3 stars

In his Second Violin Concerto (2010), also known as The American Four Seasons, he rehashes just about every cliche he has worked to death in earlier works, including his First Violin Concerto (1987).

The Seasons are in eight parts, with a Bachian solo preceding each movement proper. As expected, the limited musical material is built upon tonal triads and repeated endlessly to pad up its 40-plus minutes. So what else is new?

Georgian composer Giya Kancheli's Ex Contrario (2006) for violin, cello, keyboard, bass guitar and strings is minimalist in a different way. Its static pace, long stretches of pianissimo and gaping silences are drawn out to an almost interminable half-hour.

As brief fillers, Arvo Part's cheerful Estonian Lullaby features the Girls Choir from the Vilnius Choir School, while Shigeru Umebayashi's Yumeji's Theme from the film In The Mood For Love is sentimental and soothing movie music with a popular twist.

Superstar Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer and his string band give slick and polished performances in the demonstration class, but that is the very least one would expect for the premium-priced outlay involved.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2015, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe