T VALBums I-

I Michael Hyman: String Quartets 14 (Argo) The

: three string quartets

collected on this disc are very different in character from each other. but all are among the most powerful and

fully-realised works in

Michael Nyman’s now considerable oeuvre. None. however. adopts conventional string quartet structures.

The Quartet No I was commissioned by the Arditti Quartet in 1985. it draws on a typically Nyman-csque ploy.

, playingoffthematic

material borrowed from the 17th-century English

é composerJohnBull against fragments from

; Schoenberg‘sSecond

: String Quartet. but infused

with the composer‘s wholly personal musical language.

Quartet No 2 had its origins in a dance piece for lndian dancer Shobana Jeyasingh. and incorporates the discipline and complexity of Indian rhythms with what Nyman calls his ‘doggedly European sensibility". Quartet No 3 grew from his choral work Out of The Ruins. and makes extensive use of Romanian musical sources. All three are superbly performed by the innovative Balanescu Quartet. Highly recommended. (Kenny Mathieson)

I Test Dept: Pax Britannica (Jungle) The subject matter of this rather self-consciously dubbed oratorio— imperialism.

; specifically English-

speaking— will be familiar to anyone with a passing interest in Test Dept. but the heavily orchestrated Pax Britannica is as much

I the Scottish Chamber

Orchestra‘s show as it is theirs.

Woven into some dramatic arrangements and splendid percussion are texts taken from such diverse sources as Kipling. Blake. Millwall F.C. and. inevitably. Margaret Thatcher. Pax may seem overpowering now that

leadership has slipped : from the semi-mythical j figure ofthe Iron Ladyto

the Grey Man. but the ideology that sparked it into life still dominates the country. As accomplished as this album is. it‘s not Test Dept’s last word on the subject. (Alastair



36The List l4—27June 1991


The Word And The Flesh (World Service) New York’s Band Of Susans love the hardware that enables them to make the air around them tingle and distort, and show their gratitude by giving their record sleeves over to photos of guitars. 0n the inner bag of ‘The Word And The Flesh’ they’ve also showcased a clearly much-loved amplifier. Fallout from the implosion of Blast First, a label they once shared uneasily with Sonic Youth, Band Of Susans are now on theirthird LP, although this is, basically, music to be heard live. With three guitars making dense curtains of tones and overtones, a mere stereo

doesn’t do it justice. Fears that what sounded daring in

1987 will new sound routine are quickly

dispelled. The simplicity and familiarity of their structures is

I surprising considering that members

. have worked with John Cage and


Chatham, and, although the vocals are mixed way down like an afterthought,

these sound like good, compelling rock

tunes with an impact that hardcore

would struggle to match not New York loft dilettantism. Mainman Robert Poss

has the secret: ‘We use a certain amount of consonance where other bands use dissonance.‘ And they use it

f to a bewitching degree. (Alastair a Mabbott)


The Promise (Siren)

Carol Decker— now there’s a fiery spirit. Shrewsbury bred, all russet mane and rockin‘ leather minis. the gal

exudes, well, erm, Carol

Deckerishness. Or is it contradictions? In an ongoing attempt to re-enact the unlikely mega-success of1987‘s risibie ‘Heart And Soul‘ and pleasantly whistleable ‘China In Your Hand’, T‘Pau‘s predictably adeptthird album displays their by-now standard trick: mixing finger-pointing vitriol with a chart-wary AOR smoothness. They’re still tripping the soft-rock fantastic, whether it be on metal ballads such as the wispy Heart-like ‘Hold On To Love‘ or heavy metal air-punchers like the

rather excellent ‘Walk On Air’ (better than ‘China In Your Hand‘ any day). A band approaching their sell-by date, perhaps? Not really, but they could do with sorting out who they‘re aiming to please—pop kids, poseurs, or metal-muthaluckers it long-term benefits are to be gained from their obviously capable songwriting department. So, what’s itto be then, Carol? Pre-Raphaelite Voguist, Metal Queen. or Michaela Strachan? Two of the three need ironing out and please don‘t plump for the last option. 0n the airbrushed album sleeve, a leather‘n‘studs clad Decker's sucking her powdered cheeks so farin that I‘m surprised they aren’t hanging out of her

bum. Now there'safierce

contradiction. (Paul W. Hullah)

Band of Susans


Superstition (Polydor)

Once upon a time, The Banshees relegated their most experimental work to B-sides of singles, but since 1988's Peepshow album, and the arrival of keyboard player Martin McCarrick and guitarist Jon Klein, such tracks have been turning up as singles in their own right. Superstition confirms to anyone willing to listen that even with their tenth studio album The Banshees show no signs of fatigue or inspirational sterility.

Superstition is their most experimental album since 1982’s A Kiss In The Dreamhouse and their most coherent since 1981 's JuJu. Songs like

‘Cry’ and ‘SilverWatertalls’ chart fairly

familiar Bansheesterritory, but sit

snugly beside the synthesised, almost

Euro-dance of ‘Fear Of The Unknown‘

5 and the breathtaking pure pop of ‘SilIy Thing’. The quartet of slower songs, all

i l

keyboard effects and subtlety, are perhaps the album's strongest points. ‘Little Sister’ throbs with longing and a controlled powerthe band have rarely captured before. Stephen Hague’s production, more used to the synth pop of Erasure, is a revelation, highlighting the multi-layered textures without losing any of the innate energy. Superstition just goes to show that, whatever critics may say, even thirteen years after ‘Hong Kong Garden‘, The Banshees’ creative juices are still flowing as freely as ever. (James Haliburton)


Slouxsie Sioux