Zodiac Games

Gemini 4 is the team-up of Hugo Race and Michelangelo Russo, and for their debut release in this particular manifestation they’ve made Gemini 4 (GUSSTAFF RECORDS GRAM1901) – an electronica / techno-lite album with plenty of cosmic synths, with a vague Zodiac theme. Australian musician and producer Race comes to us from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, but he’s worked with Russo before as Hugo Race and True Spirit, under which guise they made a string of albums for Normal Records and Glitterhouse Records since 1987. I never heard them and don’t expect to be investigating further on the basis of this mediocre release. It’s competently played and well-produced, but it’s effectively an easy-listening disco album. The “zodiac” theme isn’t massively original – it has been a staple of novelty records ever since Rod McKuen murmured his way through Written In The Stars in 1960. To be fair, Gemini 4 don’t overstate this subtext, and it remains sufficiently vague with its outer-space voyage allusions. Guest players Julitha Ryan (from Australian art-rock combo Silver Ray) and the technician Andrew Hehir add contributions to this lush but empty confection. (22/01/2019)

Building Instrument are a Norwegian trio, mainly a vehicle for the vocal talents of Mari Kvien Brunvoll of Molde. We noted their 2014 debut album but I think we missed their 2016 follow-up. Mangelen Min (HUBRO HUBROCD2608) contains 12 more examples of their craft, sung and played by Mari with assist from Åsmund Weltzien on synths and electronics with drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde. Mari Kvien Brunvoll has grown into a festival favourite over the years, occupying some unique niche that appeals to lovers of folk and jazz, she has a way of winning over audiences, and has been nominated for a Grammy not long after release of her solo LP for Jazzland Recordings. I can see how these folk-inflected songs with their lush-electronica settings would prove popular, and there’s evidently a lot of heartfelt (or heart-warming) sentiment; I also greatly respect her decision not to sing in English, and I think her chosen tongue is a local dialect. (10/01/2019)