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Music reviews: Kimbra, Keith Jarrett, Christa Ludwig, the Gloaming and more



Before you get too excited, no, pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Gary Pea..



Before you get too excited, no, pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette have not reunited. This double album is just another glittering gem from deep in the ECM vaults, released just on 20 years after it was recorded live. In fact this was the first concert that Jarrett gave in the wake of his two-year lay-off due to chronic fatigue syndrome. It was preceded by some trial rehearsals – the first and last in the acclaimed trio's history! – at his home to see if he was up to it. Even so, Jarrett didn't know for sure that he would not collapse mid-gig, and therefore settled on what he considered to be a safe repertoire. I defy anyone to pick that this was a pianist and band that had just had a two-year hiatus. If anything the sense of risk that must have been suspended in the air seems to have created its own sparks, not to mention the threesome's sheer joy and abandon of doing it again. Highlights include a tender Old Folks that unrolls like a bolt of silk, a super-groovy Doxy, and an Autumn Leaves that they stretch into something distinctly and thrillingly omni-seasonal. JOHN SHAND

PSYCH ROCK A Place to Bury Strangers

PINNED (Dead Oceans)


Few things remind one of the swift passing of time like realising that it is already a decade since New York noise-makers A Place to Bury Strangers broke through with their ear-splitting debut. While their sound has evolved (helped along on this fifth record by new drummer, ex-Le Butcherettes player Lia Braswell, who adds a lighter touch to the darkness), there's also an attitude of if it's not broke, why fix it? It is the subtle changes that push the sound: opener Never Coming Back sees singer Oliver Ackermann allow his voice to rise above the pulsating, post-punk mix, and Braswell's harmonies are a brilliant new aspect. Likewise, their alternating verses on the surprisingly instantly accessible There's Only One of Us adds a new colour and lessens the relentless bleakness the band has been prone to deliver. Fans will relish in the ferocious noise on tracks like Look Me in the Eye, and while APTBS on record never quite reach the memorable heights of their live shows, here they focus more on a cleaner sound and dynamics, instead of trying to live up to their reputation as the loudest band in the Big Apple. BRONWYN THOMPSON

IRISH The Gloaming

LIVE AT THE NCH (Real World/Planet)


A fine mist seems to descend right from the opening moments of The Booley House, so delicate and wistful is Martin Hayes' fiddle, and immediately you sense that the Gloaming's third album (recorded live in Dublin's National Concert Hall) is going to sustain the wonder and peculiar magic of their first two. The six tracks are stretched in the way that they like to do live (as we learned in Australia in 2014), and transported to places beyond the scope of the original tune. While all five members play their part in this, it is Thomas Bartlett's piano harmonies that so often envelop a melody from Hayes' fiddle or Caoimhin O Raghallaigh's hardanger d'amore, and shift it subtly in mood, until it is like looking at an image through lightly frosted glass. He does the same behind Iarla O Lionaird's mesmeric singing, too, with the song Cucanandy taking a fork in the road so that improbable harmonies suddenly surround the elfin air, as if haunting it. And then, like power held in reserve, there is Dennis Cahill's acoustic guitar, which can be phenomenally propulsive (The Sailor's Bonnet), while still remaining largely obscured in the mists of those melodies. JOHN SHAND

CLASSICAL Christa Ludwig



Few singers were as exquisite across such a variety of styles and roles as the great German mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig, whose 90th birthday this 12-CD set celebrates. She was equally at home with Bach, Wagner or Schubert; singing oratorio, the most dramatic opera roles or the most intimate lieder. I always cherished her Mahler – both intense and tender – which is well represented here: Kindertotenlieder, Ruckert Lieder and Das Lied von der Erde with Karajan, plus a ravishing Urlicht (Symphony No 2) with Bernstein. Besides a plethora of celebrated Wagner and Puccini, there is consummate Pergolesi, Mozart, Handel, Schumann, Richard Strauss (with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in the most perfect Rosenkavalier), Bartok and Bernstein, a ravishing Brahms Alto Rhapsody with Bohm, and a rare female Winterreise. The great critic John Steane said the only mezzo to compare in the triple roles of lieder singer, opera star and general musician was Janet Baker: exalted company. Serious and dramatic roles were her forte, but she had the full soprano range and sang many parts. The excellent liner notes include interviews about her favourite conductors. BARNEY ZWARTZ

COUNTRY ROCK Josh T. Pearson



He's shaved off the mad-prophet beard, but Josh T. Pearson's inherent wildness is resistant to any razor. The Texan son of a Pentecostal preacher shone brightly for a short time with Lift To Experience, a cult band that offset their feverishly evangelical lyrics with a feedback-laden sound on their sole album, 2001's The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. The Straight Hits! is only Pearson's second solo record since then and, hardly belaboured, it was written in three days and recorded in three more. Pearson set himself rules, from using the word "straight" in the song titles to limiting himself to 16 lines or less. Ironically, the restrictions have freed him up. On Straight To The Top! he channels the scuzzy country-punk of The Gun Club and Green On Red; on Straight Laced Come Undone he somehow sounds both tender and horny as he croons "let me help you with your dress off, then we'll start to get it on". His Texas twang is in full effect: you can almost see the arched eyebrow, raised in sync with the curled lip. That can come across as hammy, however, even as Pearson sticks his newly-shaven chin out. BARRY DIVOLA

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So, we guess this means Beyonce and Jay-Z are OK then

The first couple of pop music took the world by surprise by dropping their first album together last..

The first couple of pop music took the world by surprise by dropping their first album together last weekend. As you'd expect, it's a statement.

There is arguably no couple better at controlling their own press than Beyonce and Jay-Z. When a video surfaced in 2014 showing Bey's younger sister Solange attacking her brother-in-law in an elevator, rumours of a strained marriage proliferated.

Rather than battle the tabloids, the spouses used the gossip to fuel the creation of two critically beloved, commercially successful records: Beyonce's Lemonade and Jay-Z's 4:44. And, in them, they offered just as many details about their private lives as they chose.

Beyonce and Jay-Z on stage in France for the 2014 On the Run tour.

Photo: Rob Hoffman

Now the couple have continued their domination of pop music, surprising the world last Saturday by releasing their joint album Everything Is Love, which is something of a sequel to those two solo records. Though they have collaborated for at least 15 years, this marks their first joint album, which they dropped under the name The Carters.

The record is a victory lap from a couple who have mined their relationship for universal truths and then presented them as art. It's a fierce love letter to success, to family, to blackness – but, most of all, to each other.

Artwork for the album Everything is Love by The Carters, aka Beyonce and Jay-Z.

Photo: Karl Quinn


Lyrically, it primarily focuses on two aspects of the Carters' lives: their marriage and their success. (more…)

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Rachel Griffiths: female characters are finally getting real on screen

Almost a year into the #MeToo era, Rachel Griffiths believes the likes of Mystery Road, Wentworth, P..

Almost a year into the #MeToo era, Rachel Griffiths believes the likes of Mystery Road, Wentworth, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Top of the Lake show that female characters are finally coming of age on Australian screens.

In a spirited speech at the launch of a new state government scheme to support more women directors in television, the actor-turned-director said it was exciting to see female characters move beyond "the typical tropes of 'likable, f—able, adorable'" to "more complex depictions of female experience" recently.

Happy to see "more complex depictions of female experience": Rachel Griffiths (left) with Leah Purcell at the launch of #SheDirects.

Photo: Louie Douvis

While she acknowledged there were male directors who created fresh and compelling women characters, Griffiths said the "male gaze" often reduced them to colouring the characters of their male counterparts.

"[They are created to] make him hot, make him authentic, make him empathetic, make him fatherly, make him conflicted, make him grieve," she said. "In the male gaze, we are so often not the gatekeepers; we're not the ferryman. Sometimes the mentor but usually only ironically, like Judi Dench's M…

"Under-written and under-observed, brought into our sexual awareness precociously and prepubescent in order to accommodate the male libido.


"Often in television we're used by lazy writers and producers who can think of nothing more interesting this week than 'let's have her have sex with X' or 'discover she's a lesbian – for an episode'."

Griffiths, who is about to begin editing the Melbourne Cup drama Ride Like A Girl after finishing the shoot, endorsed Hollywood star Sandra Bullock's recent comment that it was time for women to "stop being polite" about gender equality. (more…)

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Rachel Maddow breaks down on air over Trump immigration policy

US television host Rachel Maddow has broken down on live air as she delivered the latest development..

US television host Rachel Maddow has broken down on live air as she delivered the latest developments in the Trump administration's controversial "zero tolerance" immigration policy.

Maddow, who hosts her own show on MSNBC, was reading from a breaking news release from the Associated Press that revealed government officials have been sending babies and toddlers to what are being called "tender age" shelters in the US.

The youngsters are some of the 2,300 children who have been forcibly separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border since the White House announced a zero-tolerance policy on migrant families in May.

"The AP has just broken some new news," Maddow started.

"Um, this has just come out from the Associated Press, this is incredible. Trump administration have been sending babies and other young children – oh, hold on," she said, her voice breaking.


Maddow attempted to get through the breaking news piece one more time before moving the show over to a guest. "To at least three – three tender age shelters in South Texas. Lawyers and medical providers… I think I'm going to have to hand this off. Sorry."

Maddow took to Twitter shortly after the segment aired to say sorry to her viewers. "Again, I apologise for losing it there for a moment," she wrote. "Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile."

She also tweeted out what she had been trying to say in her live read, writing out what was presented in the AP story. "Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the "tender age" shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis…" she wrote.

"Decades after the nations child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is standing up new institutions to hold Central American toddlers that the government separated from their parents." (more…)

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