Experimental music

What would Tanner say?

On the train home from the Royal Festival Hall I learned of the death of Michael Tanner, who wrote this column from 1996 to 2014 and beyond. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment had been playing Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, and it’s not strictly true to say that the news made me wonder about his likely reaction to their performance, had he been able to hear it. But that’s only because, for anyone who came of age reading his criticism, asking ‘What would Michael say?’ is already a reflex – and will be for as long as we think or write about music. There was plenty to interrogate here, not

Expectations were met and then exceeded: Arooj Aftab, at Celtic Connections, reviewed

We gathered on a freezing Sunday night, inside a barrel-vaulted church designed in the 1890s by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, to witness a cresting wave. Vulture Prince, the third album by the Brooklyn-based Pakistani singer, composer and producer Arooj Aftab, was one of the most accomplished and interesting records of last year. A keening song of loss, dedicated to her late brother, Vulture Prince is almost impossible to pin down. It’s a flood plain of merging musical streams, a genre-phobic blend of jazz, minimalism, Sufi devotional music, acoustic textures and torch song. Sung almost entirely in Urdu, its beauty and import are immediate, its emotional pull universal. Following two Grammy nominations

One of the few genuine British visionaries at work today: Richard Dawson at the Barbican reviewed

How hard must it be to make music that sounds like no one else? And how unrewarding, often, as well? Music consumption has been refined by streaming services to encourage listeners towards songs that sound like ones you already like; pop songwriters, driven by those same algorithms, strive to write songs whose entire purpose is to deliver something familiar within the first 30 seconds. Richard Dawson, a partially sighted and portly Geordie with lank, greying hair, who walked on to the Barbican’s stage wearing a vintage Newcastle United tracksuit top and blinking as if he’d expected the room to be empty, makes music that sounds like no one else, even

Haunting and beautiful: Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus’s Songs of Yearning reviewed

Grade: A It has taken 33 years — during which time this decidedly strange Liverpool collective have put out only three albums and done virtually no interviews — for the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus to become sort of au courant. Which is perhaps why they have suddenly, in a wholly unforeseen bout of activity, put out two in the same week. The other is the limited edition Nocturnes. Given our current predicament, the simple iron church bell that tolls here and there on this album should be resonant enough. But musical fashion has swung around a little to this band, too. Whereas once they would have been filed