Dylan Howe – Subterranean: New Designs on David Bowie’s Berlin ★★★★

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Motorik MR1004

Dylan Howe (d), Brandon Allen, Julian Siegel (ts), Ross Stanley (p, synths), Mark Hodgson (b) with Adrian Utley (g), Steve Howe (koto) and Nick Pini (b). Rec. date not stated

As well as being ‘a funky little bastard’, according to his old mentor Ian Dury, Howe has proved a persistent little bugger by getting this splendid recording out against all the financial odds. He’s used a Kickstarter campaign, raising a community of backers to fund the project. It’s taken time – Howe’s been performing versions of this re-imagination of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy for some seven years – but the results are gorgeously intimate, road tested and subtle, growing organically over the years.

At times the band are haunting and spacey, as on ‘Art Decade’, yet can morph seamlessly into Stanley’s lyrical piano without drawing breath. Howe doesn’t meddle when he needn’t: ‘Warszawa’’s splendid theme sits unadorned, content in a stately tempo, yet magically it grows into a joyous little swinger, reflecting Howe’s deep rooted reverence for Blue Note. And then it draws itself up to its full height with a Coltranesque tenor break, Stanley again outstanding as the shackles are thrown off. Zawinul, with his bop and middle European roots, is the missing link here (the subtle use of synths echoes the master too), but this is Howe’s project for which he deserves huge credit. What, we wonder, does The Thin White Duke make of it?

– Andy Robson

Listen to the album below