New albums by Enno Cheng and Philip Martin

The dreamy and spacey Recycling In The Universe is the perfect introduction to Taiwanese singer-songwriter Enno Cheng's new album Pluto, the follow-up to her previous record Neptune (2011).

It is a slice of electro-pop that is vast and intimate as she croons in her lightly husky voice: "Float, float gently, let go of space, time and language/Close my eyes, I've come to you without any defences."

Somehow, even a blackhole sounds innocuous: "Can't see inside this black-coloured hole, it will swallow up everything, everything/La la la la la la la la."

The other songs are easily approachable with their breezily melodic tunes, but the lyrics sometimes carry a sting.

She sings in English on the chorus for Golden Old Days: "Hey b******, you know this is how we work/No matter how, no matter how, you'll always be my love."

Our Pop Song, a collaboration with Hong Kong's Ellen Loo, appears to be a response to Recyling In The Universe at one point: "I've put down my edges and strengths, will you destroy me," Cheng sings.



    Enno Cheng

    B'in Music International

    4/5 stars

At the same time, she is not afraid of being seen as vulnerable. She is earnest and hopeful on Pride ("Trust me, although I'm as frightened as you, we can search for answers together").

Cheng charts an idiosyncratic and imaginative musical journey, one that honestly embraces the contradictions and fragility of life.

Boon Chan

Billy Mayerl (1902-1959) is an almost forgotten name in classical music, his legacy hanging on a few short piano pieces that fall under the category of "novelty piano" or "syncopation", such as Marigold and Honky Tonk. He was often known as the "English Gershwin" and had been entrusted by George Gershwin himself to give the British premiere of Rhapsody In Blue in 1925.



    Philip Martin, piano

    Somm Recordings 0124

    5/5 stars


    Somm Recordings 0149

    4.5/5 stars

These two discs give a good idea of Mayerl's casual and leisurely style of ragtime jazz, music of a bygone era that basks in infectious rhythms, delicious blues and occasional wicked harmonies.

The works are either stand-alone numbers, such as the wistful Evening Primrose, the busily virtuosic and onomatopoeic Railroad Rhythm, the Chopin-esque nocturne Shallow Waters and the toccata-like Robots (with the possible influence of Prokofiev), or come in suites of three to five pieces.

Volume One contains the Aquarium and Puppets Suites, while Volume Two accounts for Insect Oddities, The Big Top Suite and the faux-Orientalism of Three Japanese Pictures. Irish pianist Philip Martin, who has previously done sterling work with Louis Gottschalk's music, is a most stylish and idiomatic interpreter. In short, he has got that swing.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe