Such Ferocious Beauty

by Cowboy Junkies
(Cooking Vinyl, CD, LP, DL)

An album from the Cowboy Junkies always makes a red-letter day. Such Ferocious Beauty does not disappoint. Originating from Toronto, the Junkies – that is, the three Timmins siblings and bassist Alan Anton – are well known for their lo-fi aesthetic, a kind of alt country-and-western that reverberates with understated emotion. Such Ferocious Beauty offers this recognizable soundworld, but accentuated by an unstinting vision of loss and sadness.

Written in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s not surprising that there is a lockdown-intimacy to the album. This comes not from confinement as such but an awareness of those very ordinary human things: proximity and loss. ‘What I Lost’, the opening song, rages against the dementia experienced by the Timmins’ father. There is a heart-breaking savagery to the swing and chop of the music, the fuzz of the guitars, and a new edge to Margo Timmins’ voice. (Coincidentally, this Junkies’ song is released at the time of another extraordinary song about loss, Everything But The Girl’s ‘Lost’. Both jangle with a hard brilliance.)

Margo Timmins’ vocals on songs such as ‘Hard to Build. Easy to Break’, ‘Knives’ and ‘Blue Skies’ are supple and engulfing, taking her listeners to the heart of the matter. The Junkies themselves are an agile presence: big sound is utilized for ‘Shadows’ and ‘Throw a Match’, the latter song seeing Margo affect a Patti Smith sneer. An album borne out of the most intimate of life experiences, this is astonishing. As Timmins’ sings on ‘Mike Tyson’ and ‘Here it Comes’, the punches that life brings can be heavyweight and here are the Junkies teaching us how to roll them.

Louise Gray


by Faizal Mostrixx
(Glitterbeat, CD, LP, DL)

Straight out of Africa: Mutations is a slick, elegantly made album of Afro-electronica that plays host to the multiplicity of contemporary African dance genres. Faizal Mostrixx, a musician, producer and choreographer from Uganda, creates much of his music on the driving kadodi beats – short rhythmical motifs meant to induce trace states for young men about to undergo circumcision – but equally sounds from across his home continent. Guest artists include Giovanni Kiyingi, a virtuoso on numerous Ugandan instruments, Morena Leraba from Lesotho, and Kebenesh – a young singer who hails from Addis Ababa. Further sonic journeys are taken in the form of samples from ethnomusicological recordings featured on library records dating from the 1950s.

The result is a series of nine tracks that straddle different worlds and histories. ‘Back to Tanzania’, a perfect example of Mostrixx’s ability to appeal simultaneously to both a home-grown African electronica scene on the one hand and a more international clubland on the other, veers seamlessly from historical tribal chants to Kiyingi’s soundscapes and to slabs of dark synth that anchor its dancefloor action so effectively. Elegant percussive elements and rippling keyboard melodies – together, the hallmarks of South African amapiano house music – speed ‘Passing Through’ to its destination.

Mostrixx describes his methodology as Afrofuturism, albeit a very different take on an ever-widening genre. Mutations is not, as much Afrofuturism is, about other places, but rather an Africa very much here and now and ready to be heard.

Louise Gray