Paraorchestra with Brett Anderson & Charles Hazlewood: Death Songbook review – a vivid time capsule

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A belated release from this pandemic-era collaboration between Suede’s Brett Anderson and conductor Charles Hazlewood’s orchestra deserves a wider audience. Paraorchestra is the first ensemble to feature disabled and non-disabled players, using assistive technology alongside a mix of electronic and acoustic instruments. It was Hazlewood’s plan to create a concert of cover songs about death or loss, with Anderson invited on board to front and help curate the project. Recorded over two performances in Wales in 2021-22, some songs owe their presence on the slate, cynics may cavil, thanks to their composer (B. Anderson) rather than any lyrical content.

Yet Anderson is often in finest voice on the material he knows best, such as Suede’s The Next Life or his own little-known solo track Unsung, rather than trying to freight drama into the blank stillness of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence that it really doesn’t need. Elsewhere, the orchestra’s take on Mercury Rev’s Holes is a clear standout, likewise a grand rearrangement of Echo & the Bunnymen’s The Killing Moon, while slight Suede B-side He’s Dead builds to a stunning crescendo that completely transports the song. It’s exactly what this sort of album should deliver.


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