Album Reviews: Big Love: Hymnal

Via The Independent

By Andy Gill

Rated 4 out of 5

Away from the fluff and nonsense of celebrity-driven pop, true artists continue to work at whatever takes their fancy.

David Byrne has been busy this year, with a singing-robot installation at a Madrid gallery, the Playing the Building interactive artwork in New York, and the installation there of bicycle racks designed by him. He also made a couple of albums, the Eno collaboration Everything That Happens Will Happen Today followed by this collection of instrumental pieces mostly written for the second series of Big Love, the Mormon drama. Conceived as what he calls "fake Mormon hymns", they're used to create a sound-world appropriate to a sealed-off culture. It's unmistakably American: many pieces have the flavour of old pioneer hymns that have since accrued the fuller arrangements reflecting the society's progress towards gentility – a discreetly pompous palette combining brass band horns, palm court orchestra strings, and the vibes, ululations and repetitive manner of 20th-century minimalism. The strongest echo is of Sufjan Stevens. On tracks like "Exquisite Whiteness", Byrne employs tonal and timbral contrasts that bring out the complex flavour of historical progress. A wistful, oddly sinister experience.

Pick of the album: 'A Hill in Ontario County', 'The Breastplate of Righteousness', 'Exquisite Whiteness'

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