August 2016 – upcoming gigs – odds and ends – Dennis bring North-Eastern mining-town pop to London (19th); noisy psychedelic rackets cooked up by Three Dimensional Tanx in Lancaster (20th) and by the Rocket Recordings All Dayer in London (20th – with Teeth of the Sea, Gum Takes Tooth, Necro Deathmort, Housewives, Anthroprophh, H.U.M, Kuro, Coldnose)

17 Aug

I’m not even going to pretend that there’s a connecting thread within this post – it’s just a roundup of Friday and Saturday gigs while I try to fit some more updates into what’s going to be a busy August outside of the blog.

It seems that my rant about ersatz brass bands and the appropriation of Northern British folk forms earlier in the month has borne some fruit, or at least generated some kind of knock-on effect. I’ve just been emailed about Dennis, an eight-piece “folk pit-pop & colliery brass band” from Hetton-le-Hole in the minelands of County Durham, who claim heirdom to “a working class cultural heritage and community spirit.” and who are playing a free gig in London on Friday. In many ways they’re a sugared-tea version of ascerbic ‘80s Hullensians The Housemartins – a soul-touched ‘60s guitar pop, with the soul horn section transmogrified into the distinctively mournful, dusty sound of a pit head brass ensemble.

While some of that comparison’s on point – they’ve certainly got the tunes, and spring even more directly from the culture, with even the guitarists learning pit brass back in primary school prior to an apprenticeship in indie – Dennis do lack the Housemartins’ explicit political bite. There’s little of the gadfly lyrical attacks, or an equivalent to Paul Heaton’s upfront socialism and targeting of privilege and exploitation. Instead, much of their ethos is expressed via their visual identity. Artwork and videos are festooned with mining and trade union banners and footage of workers’ marches, while some clips make use of elderly retirees in mining town social clubs (notably, the latter are invited to join in with the singing, instead of being treated either as craggy scenery or as crushing embarrassments).


 
Outwardly, Dennis seem to deal in softer topics – more personal, adolescent or universal, or more diffuse folky sing-alongs – but a quick closer look reveals an undercurrent of glowingly nostalgic communalism (the band are veterans of fundraisers and community support events), and lyrics which hanker back, obliquely, to community spirit and mutual help. Perhaps more will be revealed on their debut album ‘Open Your Eyes’, due at the start of September when they’ll be playing on home turf at Northumberland’s Coquetfest.

Dennis, and Sapien Records Ltd. present:
Dennis
Mau Mau Bar, 265 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 1LR, England
Friday 19th August 2016, 7.00pm
– free event – information


 

* * * * * * * *

Over in the North-West, Lancaster psych-punk five piece Three Dimensional Tanx are playing a hometown gig on Saturday. With Stooges, Can and Velvet Underground comparisons in the bag, they’re following a pretty clear lineage: personally, I’m also hearing Question Mark and the Mysterians plus the garage rock end of the Sy Barrett Floyd; while other songs beat relentlessly at the forehead like Suicide or embark on long, stewed musical journeys.


 
What I like about this band is the dogged way in which they conduct themselves, and the way in which they seem to have colonised this particular Lancaster pub – circling around in its schedule like a persistently returning comet and playing several sets each time, as if pushing themselves through an arts lab. Turning the show into a five-decker lysergic sandwich, North-Western vinyl archivist Sie Norfolk (Sunstone Records/Psych Fest) will take slots before and after the band as well as during a break between sets, playing a “psychedelic dance party” from his record collection. If they’re going to continue to make this thing a regular event, I hope that they succeed in turning it into a psychedelic node, feeding more mindstretcher bands into and through Lancaster and beyond.


 

Three Dimensional Tanx + DJ Sie Norfolk
The Golden Lion, 33 Moor Lane, Lancaster, LA1 1QD, England
Saturday 20th August 2016, 9.00pm
information
 

* * * * * * * *

Staying in choppy psychedelic waters, the Rocket Recordings label has an eight-band concert back down in London, hosted (inevitably) by those persistent stewards of noise at Baba Yaga’s Hut. Many of the names are familiar – certainly to the dedicated noisies who follow the Hut and swing hard with ‘The Quietus’ – but for those who might not know them so well, here’s a quick primer.

As Baba Yaga favourites, Teeth Of The Sea keep popping up in here: a craggy yet celebratory electro-psychedelic throb from a full-band rock lineup embracing techno, polytextured brass, analogue synthwarp, tough corners of metal, and dance imperatives that span Chicago clubs and mud-sodden English field parties. Meanwhile, Necro Deathmort were among the electro-industrialists running rampant at at Cafe Oto last October: an all-out banger project which swings like a macabre wrecking ball across the borders of hard techno, blootered industrial electronica and doom metal. This year’s album ‘The Capsule’ takes a step into the scuzzy pack-ice of dark ambience: glowering, and majestically dour.



 

An explicitly magickal Anglo-French-Swiss trio of Mark Wagner, Heloise Zamzam and Olmo Uiutna, the spiritually/psi-ritually-inclined H.U.M. played at April’s Gnod Weekender. Back then I described them as a “psychic cross-cultural art coven”, creating consciousness-expanding installation-cum-ritual sound performances via chants, drones and drums, with both the music and Mark’s improvised narratives drawing on cybernetics, the occult, sound visualisations, and ancient alchemical ideas. They also like Rimbaud, Artaud, Colombian shamans and the Gallic pop of Francois Hardy, which makes for one hell of an art-sprawl.


 

Both Housewives and Anthroprophh showed up in ‘Misfit City’ only the other day, as participants in the current Sax Ruins/Massicot tours – the former an amelodic No Wave-inspired noise quartet, the latter a trio led by a sludge-guitar hero balancing “fifty years of psychedelic culture and esoteric art” on his shoulders.



 

That leaves Gum Takes Tooth, Kuro and Coldnose. Two of these, at least, are two-person teamings. Gum Takes Tooth are drummer Thomas Fuglesang and singer/synth-player/electronoise generator Jussi Brightmore, who pursue a rhythmic communion with their audiences inspired by psychedelic rituals and sound-system block parties (their recent single, Bone Weapon, sounds like a choral mass conducted inside a floor polisher). Kuro is a new project uniting bass guitarist Gareth Turner (an Anthroprophh contributor and half of Big Naturals) with French amplified violinist Agathe Max (a classical music escapee who’s been making improvised sonic textural music for two decades). As for who Coldnose are, nobody seems to know. Perhaps they’re just an idea to fill up the poster. Perhaps they’ll simply coalesce on the day.



 
Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Rocket Recordings All Dayer (featuring Teeth Of The Sea + Gum Takes Tooth + Necro Deathmort + Housewives + Anthroprophh + H.U.M + Kuro + Coldnose)
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Saturday 20th August 2016
information

There’ll also be barbeques and beer, the latter an Intergalactic Pale Ale devised by Rocket label people in collaboration with London hopsmasters Brewage à Trois. Yep, there’s a signature beer for psych-happy London heads now…
 

August 2016 – upcoming British tours – Sax Ruins & Barberos (16th-21st) overlap Massicot (18th-27th); with Housewives, a.P.A.t.t., That Fucking Tank, Big Naturals & Anthroprophh, Guttersnipe, Rattle, Negative Midas Touch, Soft Walls and The Furious Sleep all putting in appearances.

14 Aug

I was only intending this post and the last one to be brief… I was going to quickly cover the upcoming Kiran Leonard tour and a couple of avant-prog dates in Yorkshire and London, but looking deeper into the latter meant that a whole lot of other dates and bands came springing out at me, as if I’d hit a tripwire.

Such are the ways of digging around for live previews for ‘Misfit City’ without a map or all of the details… I often come back with information on artists and venues I’ve never heard of before. (It’s exhilarating, and an education in itself, but it plays hell with my schedule.)

Anyway…

* * * * * * * *


 

Following their last UK visit (in October last year), Sax Ruins return for another go. The most active current version of the Ruins project (an ever-altering minimal-maximal mash-up of jazz, prog and avant-rock ideas centred, for three decades, around Japanese drummer and vocalist Tatsuya Yoshida) Sax Ruins features Tatsuya alongside Ryorchestra saxophone improviser Ryoko Ono in a spilling, furious, brassy power duo augmented by a battery of effects pedals, covering all bases from skronk to Rock In Opposition and big-band jazz across written and improvised material of baffling complexity.

The London show also features a set by what’s billed as “Ruins” – this is most probably a “Ruins-alone” drums-and-tapes set by Tatsuya rather than a spontaneous revival of the band’s original bass-and-drums lineup (unless a secret call’s gone out for ambitious London bass guitarists to step up and cover).
 

 

Tour dates in full:

  • Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Tuesday 16th August 2016, 8.00pm (with Ruins + Barberos) – information
  • Exchange, 72-73 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EJ, England, Wednesday 17th August 2016, 7.30pm (with Barberos + Big Naturals & Anthroprophh) – information
  • Delius Arts & Cultural Centre, 29 Great Horton Road, Bradford, BD7 1AA, England, Thursday 18th August 2016, 7.00pm (with Barberos + a.P.A.t.T. + That Fucking Tank) – information here and here
  • The Car Park Space, 45-51 Duke Street, Liverpool, L1 5AP, England, Friday 19th August 2016, time t.b.c. (with Barberos) – information
  • Doune The Rabbit Hole Festival, Cardross Estate, Port of Menteith, Doune, FK8 3JY , Scotland, Saturday 20th August 2016 (with Barberos)
  • Islington Mill Arts Centre, James Street, Salford, M3 5HW, England, Sunday 21st August 2016, 5.00pm (with Barberos + a.P.A.t.T. + Massicot) – information

Along the tour, Sax Ruins are embracing and encouraging a set of post-Ruins bands. Support on all dates comes from Barberos – drumtronic electro-noise experimentalists from Liverpool. Live (and they’re very much a live concern), they resemble a trio convocation of nuclear power station workers and fetish gimps. A pair of kit drummers, swathed in or vacformed into latex bodysuits and full-head masks, batter away in parallel like wrestling brain hemispheres. A single begoggled head-nodding keyboard player exploits a baffling range of electronic organ sounds. Any or all of them can suddenly burst into cloth-muffled shouting. The sound varies from full-clog percussive noise-traps (the kind that’ll have you wondering whether the band’s deliberately using the wrong definition of “jam”), through to passing plateaux of psychedelic reflection and still points of droning, delicate hush.
 

 
In Bristol, both bands are joined by Big Naturals & Anthroprophh – a two-plus-one alliance featuring the noise-rock duo team of bass/electronic warper Gareth Turner and motorik-attack drummer Jesse Webb (Big Naturals) and rogue psychedelic sludge player Paul Allen from longstanding Bristolian psych-stoners The Heads. While it’s ostensibly Paul who travels under the Anthroprophh solo moniker, it’s increasingly unclear where the boundary lies between Anthroprophh and the partner duo, or whether there’s a boundary at all. Best to treat all three as a collective entity delivering a frowning fuzzed wall of experimental psychedelia: a ritual of heavy bricking.
 

 
Chipping in at Bradford and Salford (though, oddly enough, not at the Car Park show) are a.P.A.t.T., the deft and enigmatic gang of Liverpudlians who deliver a rolling multi-media extravaganza best described as “serious pranking”, and who skip around multiple musical styles in a boiling froth of play. Via their loose collective membership, they have family connections with a host of other Liverpool bands (including Barberos) but no-one ever seems to have sat down and laid out who’s who behind the pseudonyms and lab coats, the puffs of suspect facial hair and the occasional maskwork. Perhaps refraining to pin them down and pull them apart counts as a mark of respect.

Similarly, it’s difficult to summarise or bottle a.P.A.t.T. via anything that’s definitely representative, although tagging them as a Scouse spin on the methodology of The Residents is perhaps as good as anything. However, if you take a quick delve into the plinketting synth-pop minimalism and jazz operatics of Give My Regards To Bold St (with its playful am-dram video of everyday banality set against urban terrorism), their atmosphere/installation piece Seachimes or the Devo-esque Yes… That’s Positive (the last of which displays the punchy musicianship behind the art-school stunts) you might get an idea of how they work.
 



 
Also playing at the Bradford show are deafeningly loud drumkit-and-baritone-guitar duo That Fucking Tank, whose abrasive DIY noise rock has quaked venues from Yorkshire to China for nearly a decade and a half now. As with plenty of contemporary bass-end-plus-drums rock twosomes, you can track down a bit of Ruinous DNA in their work (alongside that of Nomeansno and Lightning Bolt), though they seem to be as much inspired by the nodding insouciant momentum of electronic dance as they do by any Rock In Opposition or post-hardcore ideas.
 

 

* * * * * * * *


 
At the Salford show, the Sax Ruins tour collides with (and briefly joins forces with) a different one by Genevan art-punks Massicot. Named after an electric paper cutter, the latter are a loose and twitchy four-woman array of scratch and propulsion. They pump out charming sophisti-primitive rhythmic instrumentals in which slice-happy guitar and lunging sproings of toy bass are decorated by squeaky violin and barky vocals, all of it bouncing atop a mattress of intricate drumming which apparently prides itself on a blend of “Krautrock and tropicalia”. All of the members draw on shared backgrounds of fine-art schooling and years of instinctive, untutored pre-Massicot bandwork (which, in drummer Colline Grosjean, has resulted in the creation of at least one accidental virtuoso).

Massicot’s music relies on maintaining and capturing the open-minded approach of the original improvisations which generate it, avoiding polish or emblandening; as a result, it keeps its instinctive, childlike sense of motion and immediacy. This kind of restless work – fizzing in a fug of assertive, iconoclastic female spontaneity – always gets the Slits and Raincoats names chucked at it, as well as that of No Wave: Massicot, however, pull off the trick or the triumph of making it sound like a fresh oblique discovery. For the curious, their first two albums – plus a demo – are available for free/pay-what-you-like at their Bandcamp site.
 

 

Here are the Massicot dates:

 

 
As with Sax Ruins, Massicot will be trailed and complemented by fellow travellers of one kind or another up and down the land. At London, Brighton, Exeter and Cambridge, the support comes from powerful, broody London four-piece Housewives. Noise-rock favourites since their formation in 2013, playing dissonant tectonic music with a future-chaos tinge on home-made guitars, the band mingle their rumbling No-Wave/no certainties approach and surging, forbidding dynamics with an adaptive and pragmatic artistic practicality, making drawbacks and serendipity a strong part of the process.

For instance, when their 2015 recording sessions at a remote country farm in France ran into trouble, Housewives salvaged them with a site-specific ingenuity entirely in tune with their musical ethos. With interference from the farm’s electric fence preventing proper recording of electric guitars and basses, the band postponed those particular tasks for another time and place and switched instead to working with the farm’s fabric rather than against it – making spontaneous field recordings; generating feedback models of the farm architecture by looping its ambient sounds; interacting with agricultural machinery by layering found items for percussion or playing reverberant drumkit parts from inside silage tanks. (The end results, with the guitars added from later and elsewhere, can be heard on their 2015 album ‘Work’. All this and a hint of Samuel Beckett, too.)
 


 
 
At Cambridge, there’ll be extra support from windstripped local post-punk ranters The Furious Sleep and at Brighton from Soft Walls, the psychedelic echo-pop/“Krauty bedroom noise” solo project by Cold Pumas/Faux Discx man Dan Reeves (which played at this year’s Lewes Psychedelic Festival).
 


 
In Leeds, Massicot will be joined by two bands. The only one that’s actually confirmed right now are mysterious local noiseniks Guttersnipe, who seem to have blown up (in all senses) this year. Consisting of cuddly, pseudonymously-frenzied couple Xyloxopa Violaxia and Bdallophytum Oxylepis, they’re a desperate lash-together of fragmenting volcanic drums, edge-of-unbearable guitar, flaying-knife electronics and blind, screeching, ranting vocals. In interviews, they talk up a cheery storm about black-metal fandom and deconstructive anti-technique. In action, they sound like a violent and querulous nervous breakdown, being bounced to pieces down an endless set of spiral staircases.
 

 
At Nottingham, two gigmates have been confirmed. Rattle are a warm, post-punkified union of double drum-set and conversational, exploring anti-pop vocal from Kogumaza‘s Katharine Eira Brown and Fists‘ Theresa Wrigley, whose air of distracted discovery belies their strategic percussive planning. (Read more details on both that and the Rattle mindset here.) Also on board is the writhing, sibilant, whispering one-woman power-electronics concern Negative Midas Touch, completing a lineup which renders the Notts gig an all-female experimentation zone.
 


 

August 2016 – upcoming British tours – Kiran Leonard & Secret Admirer (22nd-27th), joined variously by Early Ghost, Sweet Williams, Felka and DUDS.

13 Aug

Wildly experimental Oldham songwriter and multi-instrumental pop wizard Kiran Leonard (who comes across on record as a latterday Todd Rundgren, but who shows more of his affinity with loose-limbed avant-garde noise rock when playing live) is out on another English mini-tour towards the end of the month.


As before, Kiran’s taking out his freeform power-pop quartet of himself, Dave Rowe, Dan Bridgwood Hill and Andrew Cheetham, but he also seems to be expanding his touring circus of Manchester music, as burbled below…

“Boy am I excited for this… If that wasn’t enough to make me grin like a fool from ear to ear, we’ll be joined by Manchester’s finest Nick Ainsworth, almost known as Secret Admirer! accompanied by some sort of incomprehensible supergroup (“the stunning Cheeseman” logging two sets a night behind the kit, Edwin Stevens aka Irma Vep on bass I think, Aldous RH on keys, the legendary Jon Collin on guitar!? what!?! and that’s not all ! Sweet Williams w/ us in Brighton ! Early Ghost w/ us in LDN! DUDS w/ us in Manchester! Mint jamz wall to wall woooowwwwww. Alright? So come and see!”

Full tour dates:

  • The Louisiana, Wapping Road, Bathurst Terrace, Bristol, BS1 6UA, England, Monday 22nd August 2016, 7.30pm (with Secret Admirer) – information
  • Patterns, 10 Marine Parade, Brighton, BN2 1TL, England, Tuesday 23rd August 2016, 7.30pm (with Secret Admirer + Sweet Williams) – information
  • The 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street, Soho, London, W1D 1LL, England, Wednesday 24th August 2016, 7.30pm (with Secret Admirer + Early Ghost) – information
  • The Deaf Institute, 135 Grosvenor Street, Manchester, M1 7HE, England, Friday 25th August 2016, 7.00pm (with Secret Admirer + DUDS) – information
  • The Trades Club, Holme Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8EE, England, Sunday 27th August 2016, 8.00pm (with Secret Admirer + Felka) – information

I’ve dredged up some of the usual support band aural evidence below –
the faux-West-Coast post-punk surfings of DUDS (complete with bobbing reminders of Syd Barrett and Link Wray), a little of Sweet Williams’ deep-blues/dream pop hybrid (from their upcoming new album in September), a delightful twangy chunk of Early Ghost’s grand and well-made pop, and a shot of the bewildered/bewildering world of Secret Admirer.





 

Possibly due to late scheduling, Kiran hasn’t mentioned Felka, the striking young Keighley-based folk duo who are joining in at the Hebden Bridge show. Here are a couple of videos of Felka’s Rose and Tanisha at work, showing off their sharp-witted folk storytelling with its dips into country, blues, and even Elizabethan catches.



 

August 2016 – upcoming gigs – London goes prog-happy at the Lexington – The Gift + We Are Kin + Tiger Moth Tales’ Macmillan fundraiser (7th); the David Cross Band with David Jackson and Richard Palmer-James (9th)

5 Aug

I think I’ve previously described the Boston Music Room – one of my own local venues – as London’s current home of prog. If so, the Lexington, down in the hinterlands between Kings Cross and Angel, is making a good showing as a second home. Two imminent shows reinforce that reputation, making next week a good one for London’s prog village.

* * * * * * * *

The Gift/We Are Kin/Tiger Moth Tales @ The Lexington, 7th August 2016

Resonance, in association with Prog Magazine and Orange Amplification present
The Gift + We Are Kin + Tiger Moth Tales
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Sunday 7th August 2016, 6.30pm
– information here and here

The name that’s missing from the promoters’ line-up above is Bad Elephant Music: London’s ever-industrious cottage label for various types of prog, and home for two of the acts on the bill. In some respects, this is a shuffled and re-run of a similar gig back in February, in which The Gift’s mix of symph/prog/folk grandeur plus flashy AOR (and We Are Kin’s exploration of art rock shapes and northern English socialism) lined up with a pair of one-man bands in the shape of steampunk balladeer Tom Slatter and troubadour rocker jh. Now The Gift are back, and so are We Are Kin, with only the choice of one-man-band changed. Here’s the official blurb from the Elephant:

The Gift, fresh from their triumphant performance at An Evening Of Bad Elephant Music, will be headlining the event, bringing their own particular brand of symphonic progressive rock on stage. The band is currently working on the followup to 2014’s ‘Land of Shadows’, and may well be previewing a song or two here.


 
“Making the journey down to ‘that London’ all the way from Manchester, We Are Kin will be playing a selection of songs from their new album, ‘The Waiting Room’, as well as from their acclaimed debut, ‘Pandora’. Their twin vocal lineup wowed the audience at Abel Ganz’s Christmas party last year, and is sure to be a highlight of this event.


 
Tiger Moth Tales is the brainchild of Pete Jones, who will be performing solo for this event. His live shows have been widely acclaimed for their virtuosity, emotion and huge sense of fun. Pete’s two album releases ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Storytellers Part One’ will both be represented in his performance, and he may well throw in one or two cover versions of the prog classics!”



 

Just one final note – the gig’s a fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Trust, emphasising a community that’s broader than just the prog one.

* * * * * * * *

David Cross Band @ The Lexington, 9th August 2016

The David Cross Band (with special guest David Jackson) + Richard Palmer-James
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Tuesday 9th August 2016, 7:30 pm
– information here and here

Despite nearly five decades in music, David Cross is still best known for his contributions to three albums at the start of his career. During a two-year early-‘70s stint with King Crimson (incorporating ‘Starless And Bible Black’, ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic’ and ‘Red’) David added “delicacy, and wood” to what some consider to be the band’s finest incarnation – part proto-punk-Mahavishu Orchestra, part stately electric-classical chamber group, and part droning/clattering/blaring building site. In its relatively brief and always restless lifespan, this particular Crimson lineup lay athwart the path of progressive rock, heavy metal and European improvisation like a splinter-ridden sleeper across the tracks: innovative, stern and ornery.

David’s amplified violin was a key part of the band’s powerful Euronoise, bringing in evocative melodies and moods which varied between Roma scurries, fall-of-Rome dramatics, foggy drones and angry squeals. As was the case with many of the departures from Crimson, David’s was passionate, painful and galling: progressively swamped by the band’s incremental climb towards avant-rock brutality, he was eventually forced out by its bruising, bristling volume and the implacable battering of its rhythm section. It took a few decades for him to salvage a more cordial relationship with Crimson leader Robert Fripp: nonetheless, the reconciliation has led to a return to the large extended Crimson family including guest spots and latterday Soundscape duets as well as recent electric chamber music with Crim-connected composer Andrew Keeling.)

Immediately after Crimson, though, David had to follow a different winding path of his own. From mid-‘70s work with trans-Manche psych/prog/fusioneers Clearlight (and experiments with big-band improv whilst leading the sadly undocumented Ascend) he went on to a long learning process during which, by his own admission, he failed at jazz. On the other hand, he successfully honed an affinity with alternative improvisation and with other forms. Theatre, in particular, proved to be a natural home, with David working up on stage and behind the scenes as well as in the pit band or composer’s slot. Theatricality also bled through into his other musical work. A trio he formed with keyboard player Sheila Maloney and saxophonist Pete McPhail took to the arts centres to perform musical interpretations of Samuel Beckett plays, while from the turn of the 1980s David was carrying out interdisciplinary performances with dancers, painters and the like (something he’s continued up until the present day).

After a decade away, a return to fusion and avant-rock in the late 1980s saw David becoming a keystone of Geoff Serle’s Radius band; an interesting, if airlessly pastoral, British answer to Material’s electro-funk. He was also a quarter of one-shot project Low Flying Aircraft, in which he joined forces with Crimson-orbit jazz pianist Keith Tippett, drummer Dan Maurer and budding teenaged guitar whiz Jim Juhn in a leaf-storm of nervy electroacoustic frenzy and scattered early sampler sputters. (For my money, it’s probably his most interesting post-Crimson bandwork to date.). He’s stayed busy ever since – this year, for instance, saw the release of violin-and-electronica duo album with Sean Quinn of Tiny Magnetic Pets, plus a live album from Japanese dates in which he guested with Crimson spinoff trio Stick Men.


 

All of this suggests the work of a musician whose reputation should be broader and better respected. It’s probably only the taint of grand prog – and of the “wrong kind” of fusion – which keeps him from it. In experimental rock (or, more accurately, in the media commentary which covers it, particularly on the British side) there still seem to be very clear, if dubious and snobbish, rules about who’s allowed credibility, and why. It’s not easy to escape from those fencings; and without this side of his history, David might have had his due.


 

For better or for worse, David’s most enduring project has been his own David Cross Band. Anchored since the mid-’90s by cohorts and co-composers Mick Paul (bass) and Paul Clark (guitars), it displays his electric violin – by turns stately, romantic, gnarled or locustlike – coursing fluently over a grandiose, detailed bed of prog pomp, deep metal, and flaring jazz-rock gestures. This year, however, the band’s taken an intriguing and strategic left-turn. With their latest album ‘Sign Of The Crow’ barely out of the gate, they’ve unexpectedly replaced keyboard player Alex Hall with veteran avant-prog sax hero David Jackson, once of Van Der Graaf Generator.

David Jackson in full 1970s effect (photographer unknown)

David Jackson in full 1970s effect (photographer unknown)

Musically adventurous and visually iconic, Jackson spent his Van Der Graaf years festooned with multiple instruments, blowing double-horn brass sections through brain-buggering electronics and being described as “a Third Reich bus conductor”. Since then, he’s spent much of his time working on the gesture-to-MIDI Soundbeam electronic project (bringing out the musicality of disabled children) while sometimes venturing out for gigs on the strength of his experimental rock reputation. Since crossing paths with David Cross at one such gig in Verona years ago, Jackson has been one of his frequent improvisation partners, making him an overdue natural fit for something like this. Regarding their chemistry, here’s a lengthy fly-on-the-wall video of the two of them playing (alongside Yumi Hara and Tony Lowe) at a release show for the Cross/Fripp ‘Starless Starlight’ album of Crimson-inspired Soundscape duets. Covering the show from rehearsal to performance, it hints at some of what the Cross/Jackson duo might be bringing to bear on the band shows; something which might well be transformational, pulling the band up and out of its shiny prog-metal box and perhaps delivering David Cross some of the broader respect he deserves.


 

The new Cross Band lineup, completed by Space Cowboys singer Jinian Wilde and by poly-disciplinary drummer Craig Blundell (who displays a heartening taste for post-dubstep playing when people let him off the prog leash), made their live debut in Wolverhampton last month. While no videos have emerged from this, there have been enthusiastic reports; and as King Crimson tours as a grand septet with a long-denied, fervently-delivered battery of archived ’70s classics, the Cross band are studding their own set with live deliveries of 21st Century Schizoid Man and Starless.

The London gig’s also intriguing in that it features a rare-as-rocking-horse-shit British solo slot from Richard Palmer-James. Originally the embattled first guitarist and wordsmith for Supertramp (a long time before they hit big at the American breakfast bar), Richard was the long-distance lyricist for King Crimson during David’s tenure and has subsequently carried out the same favour for twenty years of various Cross bands. Based in Bavaria for forty-odd years, he’s spent most of it embedded in production and writing work for German pop: since the turn of the century, however, he’s revived his original love for playing blues and country guitar. Most likely it will be this side of him that we’ll see at the Lexington on Tuesday. Still, who knows what the sense of occasion might bring out?
 

August/September/December 2016 – music dramas in London and Edinburgh: Héloïse Werner & Jonathan Woolgar’s ‘Scenes From The End’ (10th to 27th August variously, plus more in December) and Zoe Lewis’ ‘Britten in Brooklyn’ (31st August-17th September)

4 Aug

Some news on a couple of pieces of music drama showing in London and Edinburgh this month – one a fully-fledged conceptual solo piece (involving original contemporary classical compositions and diverse performance techniques), the other a more conventional theatrical play themed around the wartime exile of Benjamin Britten.

Here’s a little more information about each of them (combed, shaped and styled in a hurry, from the press releases).

* * * * * * * *

Héloïse Werner's 'Scenes From The End'

‘Scenes from the End’ is a tour-de-force showcase for Héloïse Werner – soprano, sometime cellist and member of (amongst others) contemporary classical ensemble The Hermes Experiment, vocal ensemble Shards and original folk bands The Coach House Company and The Amazing Devil.

“Héloïse’s increasing interest in the dramatic potential of the unaccompanied voice has led her to experiment with a wide range of more contemporary techniques. ‘Scenes from the End’ is a fully staged, physical drama that combines classical and operatic vocal techniques, as well as improvisation, acting and body percussion. In it, Héloïse aims to confront the audience with the uncomfortable themes of death and grief, challenging them to reevaluate their own attitudes towards these difficult issues.

‘Scenes from the End’ is a collaboration with young composer Jonathan Woolgar (a previous award-winner of the BBC Proms Young Composers’ Competition) and with director Emily Burns. Using a colourful array of vocal and theatrical means, the show paints historic, comic and tragic pictures of “the end”, from the heat-death of the universe to the end of an individual life. This is virtuoso music theatre on a scale that is both cosmic and intimate.”

‘Scenes From The End’ is being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with a couple of preview performances in London a week and a half beforehand. There’ll be a further run of London performances in December.

Camden Fringe Festival @ Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, London NW1 2PY, England
Wednesday 10th August 2016 & Thursday 11th August 2016, 7.15pm
information

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Lime Studio @ Greenside (Nicholson Square), 25 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9BX, Scotland
Monday 22nd August 2016 to Saturday 27th August 2016 1.55pm
information

Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower St, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9NP
Tuesday 6th December 2016 to Saturday 10th December 2016, 7.30pm (plus one 3pm performance on the 10th)
– no information online yet

Although Héloïse is someone I’d like to catch up with for a chat at some point, for the moment I’d better point you in the direction of this recent interview she’s done (freshly published today!) with the LaLaLa Records vocal music homepage, covering ‘Scenes From The End’ and several of her other projects.

* * * * * * * *

'Britten In Brooklyn'

“Based on true events, the world premiere of Zoe Lewis‘s passionate and thought-provoking play Britten In Brooklyn takes place in the beautiful and unique setting of Wilton’s Music Hall. Starring Sadie Frost and directed by Oli Rose, it plays for a strictly limited season of 21 performances.

“New York City, 1940. A dilapidated house in Brooklyn Heights. The bohemian lifestyle of Benjamin Britten, WH Auden, Carson McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee in the artistic community at 7 Middagh Street starts to unravel as World War II becomes a brutal reality. Exiled in America for his beliefs and a national disgrace, Benjamin Britten must decide which way his conflicted political ideals lie but the constant parties, doomed affairs and John Dunne, the mysterious stranger, provide an easy distraction.”

‘Britten in Brooklyn’
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, E1 8JB, England
Wednesday 31st August 2016 to Saturday 17th September 2016, 7.30pm (plus 2.30pm matinee performance on Wednesdays and Saturdays)
information
 

August 2016 – upcoming gigs – Carina Round’s “Deranged to Divine” British tour with She Makes War (3rd-11th); Money play Borderless in London (3rd)

1 Aug

This week sees the start of a short British tour featuring two of the most inventive and self-propelled women in alternative rock.

Of the two, headliner Carina Round is inevitably the best known. A self-starter at seventeen, she’d made her first album by 2001 when she was twenty-two. The subsequent fifteen years have seen her carve out her own space as a persistently creative stylistic reinventor in a way that’s somewhere between Beck and Madonna, but with a gutsier and murkier undertow than either. Her songs often explore dark flashes of mind and temperament alongside wrenching declarations of desire and entanglement, which in turn have led to assorted comparisons to PJ Harvey which might have done as much harm as good.

In truth, Carina is her own woman, guiding each transformation and collaboration, and shopping from producer to producer in search of the right noise and effect for each stage. Her profile and image haven’t exactly been hurt by her additional work in recent years – helping Tool’s Maynard James Keenan to write and tour his raunchy electro-rock project Puscifer project, and exploring alt.country with the Early Winters supergroup. Five albums and various EPs into her own work has given her enough of a hoard of her own material to spread out in this year’s ‘Deranged to Divine’ compilation: touring and promoting it gives her and us the opportunity to take stock and chew it all over.


 

Many of the same inspirations which drive Carina also seem to drive Laura Kidd, the woman behind She Makes War. There’s a similar determination to explore and to control her work, a similar attraction to dark and brooding material with a driving alt.rock motor. If anything, Laura’s determination runs faster and harder – gaining even more control over her work by her continued cottage-industry approach (mastering as many instruments as she can in order to make the music, self-releasing her albums, directing her own videos) and gaining the admiration of the likes of Belly’s Tanya Donnelly and Levellers’ Mark Chadwick (both of whom show up on her latest record, ‘Direction Of Travel’) as well as Portishead/Radiohead drummer Clive Deamer. But I’m not trying to set these tourmates up against each other: it’s enough to be able to celebrate this solid and worthwhile pairing, and to catch what looks like a powerful no-apologies show.


 

Tour dates:

* * * * * * * *

Money, 3rd August 2016

In London, the Borderless concert series at Battersea Arts Centre continues with sadcore kings Money. In a few short years, this band have become the darlings of Britain’s wasted, romantic, beautiful people… or at least of people who wallow in fourth-generation Rimbaud and Bukowski paperbacks and flirt with the transgressive but well-worn glamours of wastrel addiction. That said, they’ve calmed down since their grand beginnings in Manchester, when they were bards of any given counterculture. Back then they were a tense four-man alliance, staging gigs which moved from celestial installations to caged cells and with Jamie Lee, their hard-drinking human-hangnail of a frontman, regularly stripping naked (as he also did on the sleeve art for their debut single – his arms straining to raise a rifle above his head, his penis spilling below, like a demented hillbilly patriarch in a final fit).

If this makes Money sound like another round of trash-kings, I’m giving you the wrong impression. Although their songs do stumble along the hinterlands of addiction and self-harm, and are frequently soaked by loss and squalor, they’re neither a straight confessional band nor a dirty-laundry act. Even when their songs toy with penny-dreadful Burroughs names such as A Cocaine Christmas And An Alcoholic’s New Year, much of the squalor is happening offstage. As both life-liver and songwriter, Jamie’s very much in the Mark Eitzel mode – a man steeped in art and literacy and perverse to a fault; too bright, skeptical and doubting to ever find a comfortable compromise. He’s simultaneously consumed by self-deprecation but blazing with bullish talent and the ruthless desire to perfect and broadcast his art. The nakedness (mostly retired by now) is simply a flag of intent, a signifier of honesty.


 

A Money song is usually a mixture of the skeletal and the uncontainable, couched in warm and surprisingly delicate musicality. While the band’s second album, ‘Suicide Songs’, has added extra trappings – choral parts, string sections, Indian dilruba drones – usually there’s just a starveling, swaying acoustic guitar strum or a paper-thin, stumbling piano part allied to Jamie’s edge-of-the-ladder voice: raw and gawkily romantic, explosively frail. What’s remained consistent is the band’s alcoholic lucidity and welling, rumpled romanticism.

I’ve mentioned Eitzel and Burroughs, but there are also echoes of Jacques Brel, of the declamatory cries of Mike Scott with the early Waterboys; of Daniel Johnston’s fall-apart songs; of Anthony Reynolds’ bohemian booze bleakness or Fyfe Dangerfield’s crane-fly sprawl. Also somewhere in the mix are Irish balladry (whether via pure routes or Shane McGowan’s backstreets), the post-Cure Gothic romance of Arcade Fire; of The Blue Nile’s blend of crooner romance with hints at terrible emotional damage. Like the latter’s Paul Buchanan, Jamie sometimes seems to be trying to sing songs of love and faith against an encroaching, dissolving darkness. Unlike Buchanan, he doesn’t deliberately wring through the inadequate rags of pop clichés, desperate to squeeze out the juice of real inarticulate feelings; instead he sifts through detailed layers of metaphor, memory and bleak reality to create a fragmented composite of how life is in the dark corners which he frequents.


 

The Borderless gig features “special guests” who, a few days before the event, still haven’t been formally confirmed. It’s tempting to think that Money will fill this ominous gap by trawling up some terrifying fellow spirits at the last minute, via chance encounters at a random pub…. but let’s wait and see.

GOAT Music and Battersea Arts Centre present:
Borderless: Money + tbc
Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, Battersea, London, SW11 5TN, England
Wednesday 3rd August 2016, 8.00pm
information


 

August 2016 – upcoming gigs – three-date British tour of saz balladry by Aşıq Nargile (plus choral fizz, oddrock and pedal steel strangeness from Tut Vu Vu, Muldoon’s Picnic and Heather Leigh – 2nd-4th); Hackney Colliery Band & Bring Your Own Brass kick off Borderless in London (2nd)

30 Jul

In between appearances at the WOMAD and Supernormal festivals, Georgian saz player and singer Aşıq Nargile is embarking on a three-date British microtour in August, calling in at points in Scotland, Yorkshire and London.

Aşıq Nargile

In case you’re looking at the picture and thinking (lazily) “another girl folk singer”, it’s worth noting that “Aşıq” is an honorific, not a forename. It denotes a particular type of traditional Georgian bard, multilingual and mobile, who travels through the country’s diverse regions as vessels for music, news, concepts and culture both old and new. (A little like a Caucasian version of a West African griot, although perhaps without the satirical upsetter elements).

Originally from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, Nargile Mehtiyeva has carried the cosmopolitan traditions of her home town with her, but has chosen to base herself in the southern Borcali region. For the moment, she’s the only female aşıq at work there. A trilingual singer and player of the saz lute since her mid-teens, she’s now both a teacher of the traditional forms and (via the Sayat Nova initiative) an ambassador for Georgian culture. Her concerts involve interlocking musicality and literacy – a “vocal recital of epic folk poetry (in) Azerbaijani, Georgian, and Russian… by turns ecstatic and deeply expressive… interspersed with bursts of virtuosic, highly ornamented saz.” in the shape of “moving laments or upbeat folk dances.” For those who don’t speak any of those languages, the shows are still musically sensual experiences – propulsive and silvery cascades of wiry stringwork, accompanied by a vocal like an elastic lassoo and the stately assurance of someone backed up by a couple of thousand years of heritage.


 
Tour dates are as follows:

  • The Old Hairdressers, 23 Renfield Lane, Glasgow G2 6PH, Scotland, Tuesday 2nd August 2016, 7.30pm (supported by Tut Vu Vu + Muldoon’s Picnic) – information
  • Delius Arts & Cultural Centre, 29 Great Horton Road, Bradford, BD7 1AA, England, Wednesday 3rd August 2016…. (+ support act t.b.c.) – information here and here
  • The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England, Thursday 4th August 2016, 7.30pm (with Heather Leigh) – information

While the Bradford gig is solo, the Glasgow show sees Nargile playing as part of a splendidly adventurous and diverse triple bill alongside two very different Glaswegian groups who have next to nothing in common bar their musicality.

Despite their cosy and informal appearance, a name that comes from drunken Irish misadventure, a repertoire reaching from “the sublime to the ridiculous” and their emphasis on fun and friendship in singing, acapella group Muldoon’s Picnic unites a number of very dedicated and talented Glasgow-based singer and scholars. Its six or seven regular members (not least in-house arranger Katy L. Cooper) have already made their mark in a brace of other vocal ensembles – Trembling Bells spin-off Crying Lion, Glasgow Madrigirls, The Four Hoarse Men, Voicebeat, Voicemale, Sang Scule, and “barbershop-prog” group Honey & The Herbs – plus more church, chapel, cathedral, workplace and community choirs than you could shake a stave at. As for that repertoire, it embraces gospel, shanties, Scots ballads, English carols, Afro-American spirituals, sacred harp songs, Victorian parlour music and music hall songs and assorted pieces cast up and circulated by the world music movement. Where other choral groups dabble, this one delves. The songs are sung not just in English but in other tongues of the British Isles (Scots Gaelic, Cornish, Manx and Welsh) and further afield: Breton, southern African Sotho, Ugandan Luganda and eastern European languages (Bulgarian, Croatian and Georgian – in the latter’s polyphonic music, they touch base with Nargile.)


 

The third act on the Glasgow bill, Tut Vu Vu, play their dark-browed and looming electrophonic instrumentals in a cloud of disinformation. When someone compares them to Anaïs Nin and David Lynch and they claim that it’s all a misunderstanding; someone else mentions musique concrète and they respond with askance, amused looks. When given the chances to set things straight, they deliver misleading mission statements filled with science fiction technogabble about phased plasma and hydrogen sulphide. What’s demonstrably true is that they’re an alliance of Glasgow art-punks who’ve already been around a decade’s cycle of experimental groups – Iban Perez in The Sparkling Shadazz, Rags & Feathers and A Rhythmtic) Raydale Dower, Matthew Black and Jamie Bolland in rattling theatricalists Uncle John & Whitelock.

Expect something of an oblique and inscrutable wall between the quartet’s current work and their previous brainy trash-lungings. A band apparently in search of a new dialect (while drawing on assorted shredded utterances from Krautrock, Beefheart, ‘90s rave or ‘80s arsequake) a typical TVV track can be a bizarre collage of muffled falsetto wails and feedback drones, of layered tribal toms and analogue-synth bass-farts, of approaching-horns guitar shapes; all of which is cunningly and immediately sculpted for maximum enigmatic impact, rather than being tossed out of the speakers for someone else to sweep up.




 

In London, Nargile is playing a double header gig with Heather Leigh. One of the most unconventional pedal steel guitarists in contemporary music, Heather belies her traditional country music heritage (a West Virginia birth, a descent from coal miners) and instead reinvents both her instrument and her voice as a conduit for strange and ghostly improvisations. Aided by cruel amplifier tones and strange, skittering, instinctive hand techniques, her compositions emerge like spectral possessions of strings, pedals, larynx and language. Often touching on themes of trauma, abuse and hidden, subjective experience, Heather’s eerie and disturbing work has already led her to collaborations with Peter Brötzmann, Jandek, Thurston Moore and plenty of others since her emergence in the 1990s.




 
* * * * * * * *

August also sees the start of Borderless, a delightfully rambling live music series at Battersea Arts Centre running roughly parallel to the Olympic Games in Rio. Run in collaboration with GOAT Music (set up last year by former Roundhouse music bosses David Gaydon and Lou Birkett) it aim to showcase “the UK’s best homegrown talent and unique artists from around the globe, in the intimate and beautiful setting of the Council Chamber… Borderless will provide an alternative cross-cultural celebration. Samba to tropical beats, dance to Afrobeat legends, skank to reggae and let the new generation of jazz take you to another place. Break down the borders and shuffle your feet to global rhythms to hear the biggest tunes from all over the planet. We’ll also provide a platform for the freshest artists and exciting talent currently taking the UK by storm. Hear the artists sound tracking the underground scene, dominating the airwaves and paving the way for the alternative UK music scene.”

Glad to hear it. Bring it on. What do you have?

GOAT Music and Battersea Arts Centre present:
Borderless: Hackney Colliery Band + Bring Your Own Brass
Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, Battersea, London, SW11 5TN, England
Tuesday 2nd August 2016, 8.00pm
information

Hearing about Hackney Colliery Band initially caught me between hackles and chuckles. For a moment, I thought it was about taking the piss out of a great and still-living industrial British art form while cynically attempting to replace it. After all, when there are still genuine colliery bands maintaining the tradition across old mining heartlands from Tyneside to Derbyshire, Shropshire to Leicestershire and the Rhondda Valley (and dotted across the Yorkshire pitscape from Grimethorpe to Dinnington, Frickley to Queensbury) why would you want to substitute them with a slick London parody? On the other hand, my sense of the absurd soon kicked in – since Hackney’s been sprouting all kinds of cartoonish artisan features for the past decade (from craft beer to boutique muffins and shoes), why not an ersatz coal mine?

As it happens, HCB have got little to do with any of this. The name’s a little dab of post-modern British showbiz and the band (excellent, by the way) don’t stick to the grand dignity and mournfulness of colliery music, being more of an omnivorous brass beast immersed in and rejigging a variety of horn-party traditions from jazz, r&b, funk and others, including New Orleans tunes from both fun and funerals. Much the same can be said of the support act, Bring Your Own Brass – a band who, as “up-and-coming brass hip-hop ripsnorters”, have been known to parp out a Rakim cover or two. If this makes them sounds like a novelty act, they aren’t. Sound and vision reveal them to be well-scrubbed, well-studied white disciples of a wide span of styles, clambering over Afrobeat, rap, funk and marching-band ideas with head-bopping panache.

Recently, both bands seem to have cornered the market in boutique festivals and showbiz event (between them they’ve got Olympic Games and Brit/Mercury award appearances under their belts, as well as shows at Ally Pally, with slots at Wilderness, Stow and Meatopia to come later in August for BYOB and a hefty European tour for HCB). HCB’s previous set at the MOBO awards suggests that they can impress at a formal roots level as well, unless it was a case of contacts trumping authenticity. Just as long as bands like these aren’t crowding out bands like Kokoroko; although BYOB’s teamup with Bristolian rapper and slam poet Solomon O.B (see below) suggests that, as far as fellow musicians are concerned, there aren’t any practical or philosophical problems.



 

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