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Paul Haig – Kube (Rhythm of Life)

Four stars
Of all the paeans to the late Lou Reed in the last couple of weeks, one of the most touching was a poem by Paul Haig (http://www.paulhaig-rhythmoflife.com/post/65335307611/words-for-lou-reed), whose old band, the Reed/Velvet Underground/Chic-inspired Josef K, have proved so influential on the likes of Franz Ferdinand and others since their brief existence in the very early 1980s. To see such a private artist acknowledge a musical debt like this was surprising too.

Like Reed, beyond some mid-80s major label hiccups, Haig has done things on his own terms. Where it would have been easy to go down the revivalist route and reform Josef K, apart from a handful of live shows a couple of years ago, Haig has kept studiously out of view, ploughing his own wilfully individualistic and largely electronic furrow.

There won't be many aware that this fourteen-track collection of skewed, beat-based electro-melodrama released, as many that preceded it, on his own tellingly named label, is Haig's twelfth solo album. No matter, because this first release since 2009 is a forward-looking tome on a multitude of levels, and it's clear that Haig has been absorbing up to the minute cutting edge sounds alongside his classic influences.

This makes for a slightly schizoid mix of Bowiesque vocal heroism and cinematically styled instrumentals that moves between jaunty opener 'UW2B' straight on to spoken-word sampling dancefloor collage, 'Intro K,' the menacing fizz and burble of 'All of the Time' and the Acid House noir of 'Cool Pig.' 'Daemon' is an aspirational single in waiting, 'It's In' a machine-groove mantra and 'Red Rocks' a sax-punctuated cyber-age march. There are cut-up experiments and stabbing staccato guitar on 'Dialog,' synth-led systems music with fourth world propulsion on 'Four Dark Traps', while the melancholia of 'Reflected' is as existential as it gets, treated vocal and all.

'Midnattssol' seems to reference Four Tet by way of John Barry, 'Pack' is a Techno-headed monster full of foreboding a la Burial or Raime, the piano-led whispered vocal of 'Torn' implies some dimly-lit conspiracy, while the closing 'Shifter' lays down a funky guitar riff over assorted beats and skitters. Vocally and musically, then, 'Kube' is a subtly textured mood music suite that retains a warmth throughout even as it flits between light and shade.

The List, November 2013


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