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Thank you for the real music

Craig Fernandes | November 16, 2005

Where is music? It's all around you. In an age where music is used in every possible way, it is unfortunate that super produced, mass manufactured pop culture kitsch relegates musical art to 'product' status.

But, then again, assuming that music has lost, or has nothing other than commercial value, is a rather tepid way of looking at it. Pure musical art will never play victim to pop culture.

Every now and again, a few albums will make it more than apparent that musical art and expression has lost none of its ambition or genius. Here are three artists whose albums have taught me this over the last few weeks.  

Depeche Mode: Playing The Angel

Their penchant for the darker aspects of the human condition merged with synthesizer-based arrangements in the eighties have helped make Depeche Mode amongst the most successful electro-pop acts ever.

Over the last 25 years, they have amassed a cult following that has arguably never been let down by any of the band's last 10 studio albums.

On Playing The Angel, the band's first album in four years, Depeche Mode remains firmly rooted, both philosophically and conceptually.

With the album cover featuring the subtitle Pain and suffering in tempos, Playing The Angel is every bit as transcendental as its name suggests. Bold and innovative electronic escapades lend themselves perfectly as a backdrop to Depeche Mode's lair of darkness and optimism.

Other than being the first single of the album, the song Precious also serves as a gentle reminder of Depeche Mode's undying love for true musical expression.

Robert Plant And The Strange Sensation: Mighty Rearranger

Brilliant is the first word that comes to mind after your first hearing of Mighty Rearranger. Much to his credit, Robert Plant has done what most erstwhile rock stars can only do in their wildest dreams.

Among other things, he's taken a bunch of super progressive musicians who have played with the likes of trip hop outfits Massive Attack and Portishead and drum 'n' bass guru Roni Size to create a colourful mosaic of eclectic rock music.

What we have with The Mighty Rearranger is a scintillating experience that can be rated on par with Plant's lifetime of great work (even with Led Zeppelin).

It's an adventurous album, the type that makes you feel as though it was made by a group of musicians who were put into one room and told to go absolutely berserk.

Plant's vocal exuberance on the album is underlined by a band that has taken the time to explore the musical dynamism they contain. A strangely wonderful sensation it is.

Sigur Ros: Takk…

Listening to Sigur Ros, you could probably tell that they are from Iceland -- and the language has little to do with it. If you, like many of us, harbour the idea that Iceland is a volcano prone, out-of-the-way place that gets up to 24 hours of sunlight in a day in the summer, then here's one more reason to put Iceland on your mental map.

Takk… is the fourth album from Sigur Ros and for those of us not too well versed in Icelandic, the album falls into the 'make of it what you will' category.

This is not a bad thing at all because their ambient nature and surreal orchestral arrangements, interspersed with raging electronic and guitar juxtapositions, is all that you need to turn away from a world full of chaos and incoherence.

Just like the beauty of a desolate ice pond or a violent waterfall, the sheer beauty and magnificence of Takk… makes itself abundantly clear in its ability to take you places that you have been waiting to go to for ages.

It's all peace and quiet; and then it's alive with fist and fury and you are in the throes of tasting, feeling and smelling it. It's happy and it's sad, it's angry and calm, beautiful and ugly.

The band has been known to call it a rock 'n' roll record. But Takk... is much more than that. It's a thoroughly enchanting experience. Takk…(Thank you.)

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