Title - 'Subterranean: New Design's on Bowie's Berlin'
Artist - Dylan Howe
Amazingly, Subterranean: New Design's on Bowie's Berlin is only Dylan Howe's first studio album in ten years! As the title informs us, it's made up of his arrangements of Bowie's influential music from his Berlin Trilogy and has been seven years in the making. And boy, does it sound like it! The craft, the energy, the love, the pride for this project that Howe has invested bleeds through on each and every one of the nine tracks.
Oh, and did I fail to mention that it also features some of the best musicians in England? I did, well, shame on me, for alongside Howe (drums/synths) are Ross Stanley (piano/synths), Brandon Allen and Julian Siegel (tenor saxophones), Mark Hodgson and Nick Pini (double bass), Adrian Utley (guitar) and special guest, the legendary Yes guitarist Steve Howe - his father - playing a Koto on the final track, 'Moss Garden.'
Howe, if you were still not aware, is a British drummer best known for leading his quintet and other jazz groups since 2002 and his tenures with Ian Dury and the Blockheads, his father and Wilko Johnson (he also played on the number one album, Going Back Home, with Roger Daltrey). He has also played with the likes of Nick Cave, Damon Albarn, Ray Davies, Paul McCartney, David Gilmour, Beth Gibbons, Gabrielle, Hugh Cornwell and Andy Sheppard amongst others.
Excitingly, what makes Subterranean: New Design's on Bowie's Berlin different from other modern Jazz albums is Howe's use of unusual material, to be quite frank. The inclusion of vintage, analogue synthesizer sounds, that could quite easily have been culled from Bowie's very own Low recording time period, just make this recording a pure delight to behold.
Some tracks, such as the growing, awakening title track, the upright bass of 'All Saints,' the trippy 'Art Decade,' 'Neuköln - Day,' the haunting 'Warszawa,' and the aforementioned 'Moss Garden' allow the backbone tempo to stay slow, trot alongside the original, so to speak. However, others such as 'Weeping Wall' and 'Neuköln - Night' are created with more tempo, some fairly bursting into disjointed, and yet perfectly structured improvisations of both bass and jazz.
In closing, for my money, to my ear, Howe's Subterranean: New Design's on Bowie's Berlin, together with his very own avant garde approach, allows that this album showcases a truly different feel, atmosphere than anything I've heard in a long, long time. Now, if this type of experimental, electronic music - that has come from Germany for decades now - was on vinyl, well, I'd be in record player heaven right about now. Ahhh, but a boy can dream, can't he?!