Steve Nieve is likely an unknown quantity to anyone other than Elvis Costello fans. Still, for those who have followed this endlessly entertaining collaboration back to its late-1970s roots, ToGetHer provides the welcome addition of a new song to the canon.
Costello and Nieve get together for “Tender Moment (Kairos),” a swirl of emotion that’s jolted by a series of perfectly off-kilter narrative twists. Nieve’s ruminative piano encircles a particularly moving turn on the double bass by Benoit de Segonzac that mimics the song’s touching romantic uncertainty. Costello also wrote the lyrics for the Sting-sung Nieve original “You Lie Sweetly.”
But the real magic comes from Nieve’s work here with life partner Muriel Teodori, with whom the keyboardist memorably paired on the 2007 opera Welcome to the Voice. Writing and producing ToGetHer as a air-tight creative unit, they mix expected art pop sounds with experimental elements, classical and French flourishes (they live in Paris), and the perhaps expected all-star cast of friends.
Twice, they hook up with Glenn Tilbrook, echoing and expanding on their collaboration for Squeeze’s 1991 effort Play: “Nostalgia No. 2 (I Do Not Miss You At All),” which has whispers of off-kilter word play of very early Pink Floyd; and “Summer Song (Espionage),” which really could not be any different: An approachable, shimmeringly love-struck pop confection.
“You Lie Sweetly,” a portent-filled song of detachment, gives Sting a chance to work in the kind of straight-forward, singer-songwriterly manner that would have served his too-theatrical new solo album in good stead. “Halloween (Bonfire Night),” which again finds Nieve working within a confidential space alongside de Segonzac, features Ron Sexsmith exploring in a delicate autumnal reminiscence.
ToGetHer — due October 8, 2013 via 429 Records — also features Robert Wyatt and Teodori on the stoic French-sung “La Plus Jolie Langue,” Laurie Anderson on the dreamlike “Vertigo,” two tracks with Joe Sumner (who is Sting’s son), and visits from Vanessa Paradis, Harper Simon (Paul’s son) and Alain Chamfort, among others. Sting and Wyatt both worked with Nieve and Teodori on Welcome to the Voice.