Archive | July, 2016

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.




 
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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.



 

July 2016 – video premiere – North Sea Radio Orchestra’s cover of Robert Wyatt’s ‘The British Road ‘

27 Jul

It’s nice to have a ‘Misfit City’ premiere once in a while. This is the brand new video clip for The British Road, North Sea Radio Orchestra‘s cover version of a Robert Wyatt song. It’s from NSRO’s new album ‘Dronne’ which is coming out on the band’s own label The Household Mark on 9th September. The song itself will be out as a download single on August 5th: the video’s another genius pocket production by Chaos Engineers.


 

Singalong time:

Those foreigners are at it again
When will they learn to fight like our men?
There’s nothing new under the mirror
And it’s time for one more bedtime story
Get beauty sleep for morning glory
How can I rise if you don’t fall?

Robert Wyatt originally recorded The British Road for his 1985 album ‘Old Rottenhat’: it’s also on the ‘Mid Eighties’ compilation. It’s part of a set of songs composed in “a conscious attempt to make un-misusable music” which was done in the face of covertly (or nakedly) aggressive right-wing politics appropriating or co-opting songs for cheerleading or for broadcast padding. The song itself is a typically cryptic Wyatt threading of oblique satire and Dada-jazz playfulness over a friendly, ever-so-slightly plaintive melody, taking glancing swipes at petty nationalism and irritable torpor as it rolls along. (If you’re weary of all of the recent Brexit sabre-rattling and bottlecough, it’s a real restorative.)

North Sea Radio Orchestra: 'Dronne'

North Sea Radio Orchestra: ‘Dronne’

The NSRO take on The British Road immediately bears their own stamp. Elements are blended in from early English airs to Germanic-electronic organ haze; there are dewdrop metallophones and passionate bird-flight string parts; there’s budding pastoralism charged with bursts of motoric minimalism; and there’s a kernelled heart in Craig and Sharron Fortnam’s softened everyperson vocals, ever-so-slightly shaded by a touch of Wyatt Cockney. It originally stems from a 2014 concert night performance of Wyatt’s music for the Nuits de Fourviere Festival in Lyon, which Craig was invited to direct and arrange. As well as producing both this and other NSRO arrangements of assorted Wyattisms, the event had a profound effect on Craig’s approach to the rest of ‘Dronne’:

“Being the composer and producer has led to me having total control over all aspects of making NSRO records. This way of working is, of course, a double-edged sword, as spontaneity and inspiration can be lost under all that control. Robert Wyatt seems to tread the line between the two with great skill, incorporating lots of elements of chance into his albums. Re-working his songs while trying to maintain freedom within the arrangements has been a great inspiration while making ‘Dronne’. This record features lots of improvising which I have edited and manipulated; certain accidents within have been left intact – these elements of chance are a real antidote to the necessary microscoping and control-freakery needed to create NSRO records.”

If you’re interested, French experimentalist Pascal Maupeu recorded another version of this song six years ago, under his Mop Meuchiine alias – part grinding industrial underpass music, part Krautrock ice-cream van, part rough-edged chamber ensemble (while still finding space for a banjo). Here it is.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on ‘Dronne’, you can pre-order it now from Rough Trade, Piccadilly Records, iTunes and Amazon.

For more ‘Misfit City’ coverage on North Sea Radio Orchestra and its related bands (including some very early NSRO work indeed), click here.
 

July 2016 – upcoming gigs – London jazz with Dave Storey Trio and Rob Barron Trio (28th); Laura Moody plays not-jazz at the Manchester Jazz Festival (28th); plus a plea to help save the flooded Arch1 venue in east London

26 Jul

Jazz Nursery, 28th July 2016At short notice, here’s some quick news of a London jazz gig:

Jazz Nursery presents:
Dave Storey Trio + Rob Barron Trio
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 28th July 2016, 7.30pm
– information

Pianist Rob Barron specializes in piano-led hard bop in the Wynton Kelly, Cedar Walton and George Shearing tradition. On this occasion, his trio is completed by double bass player Calum Gourlay and drummer Joshua Morrison: while I’ve not got anything by the trio which I can play you, here’s the showreel for Rob’s quartet (featuring himself and Joshua).


 

The other trio on the bill is headed by dynamic, constantly occupied London drummer Dave Storey, whose busy CV includes work with Ivo Neame, Chris Batchelor, Hannes Riepler and Mike Outram (plus, oddly enough, a stint with symphonic proggers The Enid). He leads the psychedelic-leaning woodwind player James Allsopp (Fraud, Golden Age of Steam) and the nimble young bass guitarist Conor Chaplin through a wide repertoire of jazz from ballads to driven up-tempo pieces, with an emphasis on “interaction, intensity and playfulness”. Here’s a clip of them running their way through Giant Steps.


 

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Last year I did a fairly exhaustive (and exhausting rundown) of the Manchester Jazz Festival. This year I didn’t (there wasn’t enough time available, and not enough people read the last post to make it worthwhile – this blog seems to work better if I’m writing about smaller events with less existing promotional push behind them). However, I thought I’d mention that a particular ‘Misfit City’ favourite is playing the festival early on Thursday afternoon.

Despite her deft improvising skills, Laura Moody‘s dynamic voice-and-cello songs don’t exactly count as jazz – they’re more of a bridge between folk music, 20th century classical technique and the complex, experimental baroque pop exemplified by other hugely talented women such as Joanna Newsom or Kate Bush. However, her inventiveness, musical excellence and sense of adventure make her a prime fit for the fringes of the festival: a sometimes vigorous, sometimes agonizingly soulful performer. Her MJF appearance is an hour-long set in the open air in the middle of town, which will at least give her the opportunity to shake the chamber out of her chamber pop. (For what it’s worth, Laura’s also playing at Wilderness Festival on Saturday 5th August, but unless you’ve already bought the package deal for that one, you’ll not get to see her, so pull a sickie and head into Manchester this week instead…)

Manchester Jazz Festival presents:
Laura Moody
Hobgoblin Festival Pavilion, Albert Square, Manchester, M2 5DB
Thursday 28th July 2016, 2.30pm
information



 

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Lastly, here’s me taking a moment to sidestep away from plugging gigs so that I can forward a plea on behalf of the kind of place that puts them on. A great venue, or even just a good one, isn’t necessarily the making of a town or a neighbourhood, but they make profound contributions to the fabric of a place: the sense that there’s life there instead of just grind and torpor (or, in “nicer” neighbourhoods, just a vacuous gentility). There are plenty of potential threats to places like this, many of them stemming from the fact that many of them don’t fit developers’ idea of an economic footprint (and gentrification/profiteering doesn’t only crush arts venues – see the recent righteous ‘Organ’ blast about the predatory-rent-rise-backed eviction of repair shops from the London Fields railway arches) but sometimes it’s just damn bad luck and unfriendly weather.

promo-arch1flooddamage

Arch1, a beacon of arts endeavour and local involvement in the unloved and sidelined London district of Canning Town, fell victim to the latter last month. Thankfully the venue is down rather than out – and here’s someone running a crowdfunder to help it get back up:

“Arch1 is one of the few small independent arts venues left in London and for eight years it has been nurturing new talent in music, comedy, film and theatre. We were saddened to hear that on the 22nd June this year the club was decimated by the floods, forcing this cherished venue to close its doors and depriving London of this champion of independence.

A crowdfunder campaign has been set up to raise the £20,000 needed to completely refurbish and refit Arch1. Please support new talent in the arts by contributing to this appeal, and help save one of London’s most unique and irreplaceable venues. For more information and how to donate, please click here.”

(Update, later in the day)

Ah. Um.

The bad news…

I’m late in picking up on and posting this. The crowdfunder closed on Friday last week. Embarrassing for me, but…

The good news…

They made the funding target. The venue’s been saved. Well, that’s a sparkle in the darkness.
 

July 2016 – Music from the Jungle, Calais – playing, speaking, earning

25 Jul

Notwithstanding my preview of that Refuweegee concert in Glasgow some time ago, I don’t do enough in contributing to the coverage of the ongoing refugee diaspora. So for now I thought I’d share this story from ‘Folk Radio UK’ about an initiative to cover and offer a platform for those among the refugees who happen to be musicians (not least in offering them the chance to earn money while in transit).

Calais Field Music is a project I recently came across which was set up by Dublin based Isolda Heavey to help the refugees in the ‘Jungle’ camp at Calais. To date they have released five albums via Bandcamp which features field recordings of musicians from the camp – each covering a different region. In each she reveals…

via Introducing: Calais Field Music — Folk Radio UK – click to read more…

July 2016 – upcoming London gigs – CV FREQS modular synth meet and performances at New River Studios (31st) featuring Colloid, Finlay Shakespeare, Gregg Wilson, Pouya Ehsaei, Phil Durrant’s Sowari Modular, Form Constants, the Deep Learning superblip and possibly Eden Grey

23 Jul

I shouldn’t let it bother me, but I was worried that the recent slew of clean acoustic nu-folk gigs which I’ve been covering were making this blog look a bit too cosy. It’s perversely comforting to find that the electronic ends of things can be just as cute.

Eden Grey presents:
CV FREQS London
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Sunday 31st July 2016, 2:00 pm to 11:00 pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information here, here and here

CV FREQS, 31st July 2016, LondonHosted by Eden Grey (a budding classical composer whose life changed when she fell in love with electro and dubstep), CV FREQS appears to be a globetrotting all-day modular synth meet. Since Eden’s move to London, it’s begun to base itself more in the city: the last one, back in May, was down on the south bank at IKLECTIK, while this month it’s pitching up in a different riverbank locale in the north. CV FREQS starts off by defining itself as covering “innovations in modular synthesis design, focusing on Eurorack format, custom synthesisers and embracing the DIY spirit” but rapidly gets excited and starts enthusing about being “a wonderfully cacophonous event focusing on the tools that are ideal for sound design and music creation.” and ends up frothing about “a carnival of soundwaves and control voltages”. As if it were a soundclash – or a picnic – attendees are invited to bring their own synths and speakers along.

Apparently, it would also be nice if you could bring a table. Never mind soundclashes. This is starting to sound like a church jumble sale in Hampshire, albeit one that’s about to go all sonic-bacchanalia.

At root, this is part encounter group and part informal trade show in which hardened or nascent electronicians can wander around, trying out and picking up those innocuous-looking, technoporn-titled hardware or software plugins which bring joy to a sound-masher’s heart (and a battery of warped noises to their woofers). This is where to get previews and demonstrations of convulsion generators, wavefolders, stargigglers, deflector shields, quantimators, proton gabblers, spectral devastators, squishmagogs and source-of-uncertainty modules plus all of the other gizmos that sound as if they’ve sprouted from a game of ‘Elite’ back in 1983 along with a starship cargo of Ceti rabbits and Baltah’sine Vacuum Krill. Yes, really – I only made a couple of those names up.

CV FREQS, London, 31st July 2016

Cheap geek-to-geek shots aside, CV FREQS is the kind of event which quietly – and effectively – changes a musician’s life. Wandering around in the crowds at the show there’ll be at least one nascent electronic musician about to finally finds the device, devices or piece of advice which unlock the doors to a new technique: the key to making them sound or work like themselves rather than a follower. Gaining the right implement, the right process, the right move – it’s probably more important than gaining a hero. That’s something to remember the next time I’m tempted to make a smutty joke about ring modulators.

As a bonus that’s far more than a simple sideshow, attendees have the chance to see a range of modular synth performers in action, beyond the straight demos. The range available might not compete with a festival in terms of numbers, but would easily match one in terms of sonic breadth. This is heightened by the fact that many of these players aren’t just end-users but genuine solder-and-code sonic innovators, building or programming the tools which they use.

Finlay Shakespeare from Future Sound Systems offers spacey zap-crackle-and-pop dancetronica, while Colloid (the performance alter-ego of Ginko Synthese’s Jan Willem Hagenbeek) pursues “an ongoing search for noises, clicks and evolving sounds… deep drones with uplifting arpeggios and cut up beats.” Jan doesn’t mention the squiggling, lapping clouds of avant-garde piano (perhaps because they don’t fit the twangy modular remit), but they’re a significant part of the puzzle as well. The rapid-fire music of Gregg Wilson is stimulating, cheeky and mischievous: a typical piece sounds like an argument between at least eight bits of blipping, boing-ing minimalism, and is likely to turn into a massed affectionate chiptune brawl-cum-pub singalong.


 

Dedicated improviser, software-synth guru and former Ticklish man Phil Durrant will be bringing along his Sowari Modular project for its debut live performance. A spinoff from his Trio Sowari (in which he usually plays with saxophonist Bertrand Denzler and percussion/device-fiddler Burkhard Beins), this setup sees Phil experiment with Sowari ideas alone with his synth. Also playing is Iran-born, London-based polydisciplinary artist Pouya Ehsaei, for whom music is one of a number of interlocking forms (among other qualification, he’s got a music doctorate for the University of York, a prime training ground for contemporary classical and experimental musicians). On 2014’s ’There’ – his first record under his own name – Pouya analysed and reflected both the ancient and recent history of his birth country by processing and pulverising samples of traditional Iranian music (including two Ahmad Shamloo prison poems) to tap into culture and repression, melancholia and rage. On this occasion, however, he’s more likely to be playing as his Seated Figure project – ambiguous analogue techno which juxtaposes an eerie mix of springiness, queasy pitch-and-key shifts, and a baleful solitary tone.


 

It’s not entirely clear who Deep Learning are, but the clues point towards a full or partial teamup of two trios – the Sydney-based electronic/noise/pop/“fantasy beat” band PVT (whose Richard Pike recently relocated to Britain), the London-based Hrím (singer Ösp Eldjárn, programmer/Brian Eno sidekick Cherif Hashizume, and singer/multi-instrumentalist Anil Sebastian of London Contemporary Voices and assorted Imogen Heap projects)- and Merkaba Macabre (a.ka. Steven McInerney, founder of the Hackney Film Festival and the Psyché Tropes experimental record label). The three tracks below will either point the way towards the collaboration, or completely misguide us.


 

Throughout the event, Newport audio-visualist duo Form Constants (Ginko‘s synth tinkerer and circuit-bender Aidan R. Taylor and video artist Kim Da Costa, who call themselves “a plethora of electrified grit for the senses”) will be using their self-built video synths to run “hypnotic light bands” around the venue. As for Eden Grey, there’s no evidence that she’s going to be actually performing at the party she’s throwing, but my guess is that she won’t be able to resist. Whether or not that’s true, here’s a taste of some of her recent work (in the techno vein, though she’s also been known to put a post-Wendy Carlos spin on Erik Satie).



 

July 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Ant Law, Cassie Kinoshi and Zoe Rahman play Jazz in the Round (25th); Countermeasure’s spectacular a capella (31st); a two-day run for Pasek & Paul’s ‘Edges’ song cycle (30th & 31st)

21 Jul

Popping up at the end of the month…

Cockpit Productions present:
Jazz In The Round: Ant Law Trio + Cassie Kinoshi’s Seed + Zoe Rahman
The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, Lisson Grove, London, NW8 8EH, England
Monday 25th July 2016, 7.00pm
information

I’ve just caught up with The Cockpit Theatre’s regular monthly jazz extravaganza (which is pretty good going on my part, since it’s only been happening for four-and-a-half years already…) This month, the 2016 summer season concludes with a triple bill of London jazz acts, plus the usual warm-up DJ set from Jazz FM’s Jez Nelson and Chris Philips (‘Somethin’ Else’, ‘The Blueprint’, ‘Chris’ Starpoint Radio’). As ever, the audience is positioned around the band in a thrust-stage setting, allowing a different sonic perspective and sense of involvement.

A member of Tim Garland’s all-star Lighthouse quartet, guitarist Ant Law uses bop jazz, folk-rock and Carnatic music as part of his musical palette (which also includes modern jazz, heavy metal and M-Base-inspired rhythmatism). A onetime Edinburgh University physics graduate and Berklee College alumni, he also works with Paul Riley and Trio HLK (with Richards Kass and Harold), with “proggish” fusion quartet Project DSB, plays as a regular sideman with Camille O’Sullivan and leads his own quintet. On this occasion, he’s performing with his trio – completed by drummer Asaf Sirkis and bass player Matt Ridley – delivering fluid rapid compositions in a constant state of teasing upheaval.


 

Led by alto saxophonist and Tomorrow’s Warrior Cassie Kinoshi, Seed are a ten-piece band combining jazz with inner-city London, West African and Caribbean influenced grooves. The stellar line-up of some of London’s most up-and-coming young jazz musicians also features Miguel Gorodi and Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpets), Joe Bristow (trombone), Theon Cross (tuba), Chelsea Carmichael (tenor sax), Joe Armon-Jones (piano), Oscar Laurence (guitar), Rio Kai (bass) and Patrick Boyle (drums). An alumnus of all-female TW band Nérija, Cassie is a diverse, inquisitive composer whose own music takes inspirations from jazz and black cultural history but also delves into lighthearted chiptunes, classical chamber music inspired by subjects as diverse as Chaucer and Tetris, and sombre electronic soundscapes.


 
British/Bengali pianist and composer Zoe Rahman creates music formed by her mixed heritage, her initial training as a classical musician, and her very broad musical taste, with her love for contemporary jazz as the binding agent. On this occasion, she’ll be playing solo.


 

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Countermeasure: 14 Characters A Cappella
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Sunday 31st July 2016, 2.00pm
information

Fourteen-piece Canadian vocal troupe Countermeasure make a visit to London at the month’s end, as part of their European tour. I could mine the press release for details on the prizes they’ve won and the other groups they’ve collaborated with; but the truth is that, when talking about vocal groups, somehow that mass of information always seems to mean less. Maybe one’s just impatient to be seduced by the voices… so here they are, delivering a multilayered take on Cole Porter’s I Got You Under My Skin; working in tricks and tips from close-harmony, contemporary R&B, jazz vocalese and broken beats.

* * * * * * * *

Back at the Cockpit, there’s a production of Pasek & Paul’s ‘Edges’. …

CC Productions present:
‘Edges: A Song Cycle Following Coming-Of-Age Questions’
The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, Lisson Grove, London, NW8 8EH, England
Saturday 30th July 2016, 7.30pm
Sunday 31st July 2016, 5.00pm

information

Part theatre musical and part song cycle, ‘Edges’ was originally written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul while they were still students at the University of Michigan, many years before they were conquering Broadway with ‘Dogfight’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’ and ‘A Christmas Story’ and being hailed as the heirs to Rodgers and Hammerstein. The piece has been described as “a witty and honest look at the choices we make and what happens when we are on the edge of our lives. Covering such issues as love, commitment, identity and meaning, ‘Edges’ follows four adults escaping expectations and their complicated relationships.”

This production of the show features musical actors Adam Bailey, Peter Cumins, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort. Here’s a clip featuring a montage of songs and moments from a previous production at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, New York State.


 

July 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Roger Goula at Foyles’ and Servant Jazz (20th, 28th); Dedalus Ensemble play the Machines of John White (20th)

18 Jul

Classical/electronica fusion composer Roger Goula will be performing at two London shows this month in order to promote his upcoming new album ‘Overview Effect’ – the first full-length release on the new Cognitive Shift record label (a joint venture between experimental pop label One Little Indian Records and commercial soundtrack music publishers Manners McDade).

Cognitive Shift & Foyles Bookshop present:
Roger Goula
The Auditorium @ Foyles, 107 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0DT, England
Wednesday 20th July 2016, 7.00pm
information

Cognitive Shift & Chaos Theory Promotions present:
Roger Goula
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 28th July 2016, 7.30pm
information


 

On both occasions, Roger will be performing material from both ‘Overview Effect’ (due in September) and from the preceding limited edition EP ‘Something About Silence’ (which came out in March and featured remixes by Christian Löffler and Phaeleh). ‘Overview Effect’ is inspired by “the psychological phenomenon experienced by astronauts when viewing Earth from a distance, allowing them to see the entire planet surrounded by the endless black void of space. This can cause a cognitive shift in the minds of the astronauts, giving them a completely new perspective on life, Earth and humanity.”

Here are soundclips of the original and remixed versions of Roger’s piece ‘Awe’, as featured on ‘Something About Silence’ – nearly nine minutes of grand minimalist adagio conflating the methodology of sophisticated dance electronica with the slow, sparse development and atmospherics of the post-Morton Feldman California school (as exemplified by the work of composers such as Jim Fox), the gradual looped layering of Gavin Bryars (on works like ‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’) and the holy minimalism of Henryk Górecki. Its growing arrangement steers simple modular elements towards a greater elegiac nature. Building upwards from sub-bass and clarinet and string harmonics, it adds strata of violas, then violins; developing a faster pulse and a skitter of electronic rhythm at the midpoint, with minimalist cross rhythms from the higher strings. The end sees a return of cone-rattling sub-bass, and a sudden jerk into silence as if waking.


 
It’s true that the latterday minimalist film scorer’s tricks are all in place; but those moving musical blocks are weighty, and the visual suggestions arresting and entirely in tune with the orbital view of the album concept. Placed back into the electronic dance world (remixed and transmogrified by classically-trained house/dubstep/electronica musician Phaelah) it becomes a stately, velvety downtempo effort; more mechanical; its squiggling monophonic crenellations stamped out as sequenced mirror-glints and chinking trance parts.


 
The Auditorium show is a full public event, while the Servant Jazz Quarters show is predominantly a music industry showcase (although there are twenty places available to the general public.

* * * * * * * *

On the subject of more mechanised forms of composition…

Dedalus Ensemble

‘The Machines Of John White’: Dedalus Ensemble + guests
Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Wednesday 20th July 2016, 8.00pm
information

John White had to wait until the mid-1960s to really make his name as a composer and conceptualist. Originally emerging in the late 1950s, with a powerful traditional-classical pedigree behind him, he was a student-turned-professor at the Royal College of Music he’d studied under Elizabeth Lutyens and Bernard Stevens and, from early childhood, had been on the end of a chain of person-to-person musical tutelage which he could trace back to Brahms. Already a fluent composer (and moonlighting as the conductor of various West End musicals) his growing involvement with the British avant-garde led to his development of “machines”. These were small and charming compositions based on various ordering systems (such as change-ringing patterns or numerical arrays), which, like industrial-age technology, performed considered and deliberately-limited functions.


 
While John’s described these works as “the result of a fully thought-out process rather than (something) subject to the changeabilities of inspiration” that doesn’t wholly capture their nature. Process-based they may be (a domestic English response to New York minimalism), but they also capture some of his personal qualities including the crucial leavening effects of his gentleness and humour (qualities which came in handy while sidestepping some of the more dour, Marxist/Maoist preoccupations of his avant-garde colleagues).


 

From the duets to the larger chamber works, there’s a sense of amiable workplace conversation to the White’s machines – like workmates managing to express both affection and connection despite their limited repertoire of gestures, tropes and local cliches; or like the chat of cartoon engines (it’s enjoyable to compare his compositions to the artful tootling of Vernon Elliott’s children’s TV scores.) Humour and irreverence certainly permeated pieces like “Drinking & Hooting Machine” (a text based score for musicians sipping from and blowing across bottles of “a favourite drink”, in which the potential for cheery drunken chaos increases depending on rehearsal time, length of cycle and opportunities for encore). John’s involvement with the Promenade Theatre Orchestra (the 1969 ensemble he formed with Hugh Shrapnel, Christopher Hobbs and Alex Hill) provided the opportunity to perform complex music on toy devices and outdated instruments, folding modernism back in on itself with Dada-ist irreverence and mischievous English whimsy while channelling serious intent through the fun.

“The PT Orchestra! The Orchestra YOU can afford for that extra special occasion! Restful reed-organs, tinkling toy pianos, soothing psalteries, suave swanee whistles, jolly jaw harps – NO noisy electronics! (Just the job for that lazy Sunday afternoon!) All musical material guaranteed thru-composed – NO hit-or-miss improvisation!” – Michael Nyman


 

Celebrating John’s eightieth birthday, Montpellier ensemble Dedalus Ensemble will be performing a selection of the machines at Café Oto. A collective in which every musician collaborates in the orchestration and interpretation, they specialise in flexible scores from across the United States and in European New Music from the 1960s to today. Noted champions of contemporary American experimental music, the Ensemble has premiered works by Tom Johnson, Christian Wolff, Alvin Lucier, Phill Niblock, Frederic Rzewski, James Tenney before French audiences.” (Here’s a clip of them performing James Saunders’ ‘things you must do, rather than must not do’ at the ‘Coïncidences – Music we’d Like to Hear’ festival at The Forge back in 2012.)


 

For what it’s worth, I’ve got my own John White memory. He once turned up at Alquimia’s Electronicage concert series at the Spitz in 1999, a time when I had no idea when he was. Young-old elderly, besuited, neat and tidy, he had the amiable, comfortable air of a specialist on a home visit. He was carrying a medium sized suitcase, which he opened up and laid out to reveal a set of little readymade devices. He wound them up, pressed their buttons, set them off, and watched benignly as they ticked, clonked and squeaked through a small machine work of their own; then closed up the suitcase, waved and departed – a genteel, dining-room carney. Here’s twenty further minutes covering his world and his history.



 

To close, here’s a clip of a John White piano sonata in performance. If anything in what I’ve written above suggests that he’s a playful charlatan who threw his original skills away for art-prankery, this will prove otherwise. One of the hundred-plus sonatas he’s written (in addition to many more pieces of music in many other fields) it’s an enthusiastically busy, tuneful and melodically sophisticated romp in which both his humour and his extensive musical ancestry are fully to the fore.


 

July 2016 – upcoming London gigs – The Fidelio Trio play Beethoven, Dvořák and Schoenberg and talk to us (19th)

17 Jul

A very quick post regarding an upcoming free London show from the Fidelio Trio – sadly, they’re not playing any of the original repertoire which they’ve commissioned over the years, but if you’re interested in hearing them take on music from the established canon from classical to Romantic through to the brink of chromatic modernism, and if you’re interesting in getting a formal chance to conversing with the kind of small ensemble which does invite commissions, this might suit you.

Rhinegold LIVE presents:
The Fidelio Trio
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, London
Tuesday 19th July 2016, 6:15 pm
– free event – information here and here

“The ‘virtuosic Fidelio Trio’ (Sunday Times) are Darragh Morgan, violin, Adi Tal, cello and Mary Dullea, piano. Shortlisted for the 2016 Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards – one of the highest recognitions for live classical music-making in the UK – they perform diverse repertoire internationally, broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 3, RTÉ Lyric FM, WNYC, NPR and in 2010 were featured in a Sky Arts documentary.

Champions of classical and contemporary alike (and with a string of new commissions to their name), this recital will explore some of the trio’s favourite repertoire. Join us and experience the on-stage chemistry which caught the attention of this year’s RPS Ensemble Award jury.

The evening starts with a drinks reception at 6.15pm, with the concert starting at 7.00pm. The concert is followed by an informal Q&A which will be conducted by Kimon Daltas, editor of Classical Music magazine.”

Programme:

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Trio in D major Op. 70 No. 1 ‘Ghost’ – I. Allegro vivace e con brio
Antonín Dvořák: Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor Op. 90 ‘Dumky’ – I. Lento maestoso – Allegro quasi doppio movimento
Arnold Schoenberg (arr. Eduard Steuermann): Verklärte Nacht

If you’re interested in hearing how the trio take on brand new repertoire, here are some clips of them in action, presenting debut live premieres of John Buckley’s 2014 ‘Piano Trio’ (from 2014) and Scott Wilson’s ‘Head Neck Chest Four Five Six Thing’ (from March this year).



 

July 2016 – upcoming London gigs – improvisation running rampant at the Classwar Karaoke mini-festival (16th & 17th)

14 Jul

Classwar Karaoke mini-festival, Greenwich, 16th-17th July 2016

Minesweeper Collective presents:
Classwar Karaoke Mini Festival
A secret location in Greenwich, London, England
Saturday 16 & Sunday 17th July 2016, time t.b.c.
information

Experimental music and short-film label Classwar Karaoke celebrates its eighth year of existence and collective-based “unambiguous meritocracy” by assembling a host of improvisers and audio-visualisers for the third in its series of underground mini-festivals. The event will be embedded somewhere deep in the London Borough of Greenwich along with the laser-limned meridian line, the maritime history and the stand-up comedy. We’re told we can “expect such things as improv, free jazz, avant-rock, jokes, theatre, noise, audio-visuals, absurdism, spoken word.”

The first of the two days features a sixteen-strong lineup of Murmurists, the project which coalesces around the work – if not precisely the leadership – of Anthony Donovan (composer, musician, poet, filmmaker and Classwar Karaoke  founder). Murmurists date back to 1991 and use varied lineups to realize Anthony’s compositions in live situations. Over the years, these have moved from being small and predominantly improvisational line-ups to becoming larger and more meticulously-directed ensembles which employ graphic scores and timing instructions to deliver Anthony’s written material. Latterday Murmurist ensembles – both on and off record – use speech, narrative and foley work (spontaneous live sound effects) as key components alongside the musical ones; while live performances employ film projections and dance.

On this occasion, Murmurists are as follows:

  • Anthony Donovan (on voice, bass and film work)
  • dancer-vocalists Rebecca Bogue, Carolyn Roy and Jane Munro
  • foley performers/vocalists Annie Dee (Destroyevsky) and Michael Clough
  • percussionists/vocalists/electronics operators Lawrence Casserley (a frequent Evan Parker/Bob Cobbing collaborator) and David Cunliffe (Spidey Agutter, Igor’s Roomy Labcoat and Coffin Boffin)
  • Geoff Leigh on flute/soprano sax/voice (best known as an early Henry Cow member, but also for Ex-Wise-Heads, The Artaud Beats, Black Sheep, and many others)
  • Mark Browne on soprano sax/percussion/ voice (a three-and-a-half-decade veteran of multiple projects and collaborations including Cockpit Improvised Music, Conspiracy, The Fanatics Of Disaster and The Fastidious Amateurs Of Grief)
  • K.T.Reeder on trombone and voice
  • Martin Archer on bass clarinet/recorder/voice
  • Tim Drage (a.k.a. Cementimental) on electronics
  • Black Howler and Union Furnace duo Anthony and Rosie Osborne (saxophone/keyboards/voice)
  • percussionist/vocalist Walt Shaw

The large Murmurist group will be supported by small-group improv work from various Murmurists members – lineups to be drawn from a hat.


 
* * * * * * * *

The second day of the festival, July 17th, features a wider lineup of individual projects.

  • Lewisham-based improvising trio LOFE describe themselves thus, in lapping wordplay: “driving beats, driven words. jewel carriageway chords. It’s got that biodynamic, organic whole grain texture and that lively lambic yeasty rhythm. It hits 260°C, when it’s baking.” The man who’s probably guilty of scribbling that account is their performance-poet/fractal-rapper vocalist Zolan Quobble (a Deptford Urban Free Festival founder who’s also voiced One True Dog, Rabbidog and Dodmen). Other involved parties are bass guitarist Elwell (a multi-instrumentalist whom at various times has played with Brain of Morbius, Bert Shaft Orchestra, One True Dog, Foul Geese and South East London Music Collective) and one-man keyboard-and-Ableton orchestra NikTheDeks (see also NakeDBeatZ Radio, Furby-Core, Gabber-Karaoke and others)
  • Warrior Squares is a Hastings-based free improvising electronic/acoustic four piece comprising Geoff Leigh (flute, sax, voice, electronics) James Weaver (electronics, guitar), Paul Gardner (iPad, percussion) and Nick Weekes (bass, sticks, found items).

  • Adam Bohman improvises sounds from “stuff we ignore – toast racks, clothes pegs, styrofoam, upholstery springs, you name it” as well as making tape collages (read some more about him here).

  • Harmergeddon is the duo of audio-visual performance artists Nathan and Fae Harmer, who since 2010 have been creating performance material from mongrelised data sources, physical oddments and information detritus (mangled VHS cassettes, bar code check outs, etc), crossing it over from one format to another. They build instruments and performances from “the unwanted, unheard and unseen… rebuilt from the ground up with whatever comes to hand” and present “sound pieces and visuals improvised as a feedback loop between gesture and combined consciousness.” A Harmergeddon performance is usually a collation of profound industrial drones, haunting sounds, voice snatches and found-object noises with lights which interact with signal sources or body movements, plus abstractions on TV screens. (See below.)

  • Jeffersubstanshall Helicopter is most probably another version of whoever’s behind Oblivian Substanshall, the anti-novelist/performance poet/absurdist contributor to various Klasswar and Deptford events of the past. With those pseudonymic hat-tilts to both the Bonzo Dog Band and West Coast psychedelia, expect some late-‘60s-inspired counterculture/cut-up lunacy. Here’s something of what he did under the original moniker:

  • Phil Durrant & Kev Hopper will provide a duo performance from two very different and complementary masters of a musical continuum stretching from avant-garde to pop and dance. A classical music graduate who plays violin, synth, electronics and (increasingly) state-of-the-art software instruments, Phil has been composing, improvising and performing since 1977 over a career that’s spanned over sixty albums, almost as many collaborations and probably thousands of improvised gigs. His work has included being the third leg of an influential trio with John Butcher and John Russell, sundry ensembles (including Secret Measures, Quatuor Accorde, Lunge, Beinhaltung, Assumed Possibilities and the international electronic orchestra Mimeo), 1990s house/breakbeat work with Fabio, Grooverider and Shut Up And Dance, and exploits into dance-theatre music, site-specific installations and sound design. Kev first came to attention as the fretless bassist whose rubberband playing style anchored early ‘90s popsurdists Stump. Subsequent adventures have involved various avant-garde improviser lineups, albums of musical saw playing, and most recent the delightful improv-rock quartet Prescott. He and Phil previously played together in ’90s improvising quartet Ticklish.


     

July 2016 – a pair of one-day English festivals on the 16th (EppyFest 5 in Stroud, The Whole World Window in Preston)

13 Jul

This Saturday sees a couple of interesting pocket festivals taking place in the west and north-west of England – there’s still a chance for last-minute tickets or walk-ups for each of them.

The fifth in the series of EppyFests is happening this Saturday in Stroud, Gloucestershire. As with the previous four, it’s the brainchild of Stroud-based psychologist and music enthusiast Ian Fairholm and is a spinoff of his well-respected Epileptic Gibbon music podcast, whose remit rambles enthusiastically across “prog rock, art rock, post rock, prog metal, jazz rock, folk rock, math rock, downtempo, chill-out, ambient electronica, IDM, chamber pop, folktronica, psychedelia , neo-classical , film and TV soundtracks and experimental/avant garde music”.

EppyFest is an attempt at translating the podcast’s flavour into live music and live socializing. A well-run, self-starting pocket occasion (complete with its own T-shirts and integral dinner options) its previous events have featured ferocious British post-prog (Thumpermonkey, The Fierce & The Dead, Trojan Horse), latter prog/jazz-rock/jam acts (Sanguine Hum, Schnauzer, Henry Fool, Unto Us, Flutatious and Andy Pickford) and (in the case of Stackridge and The Korgis), a 70s prog outfit and a band of Britpop precursors sharing a last hurrah in the same body. Also in the mix has been loop guitar (Matt Stevens), classical/world chamber-fusion (Firefly Burning) and folk performers with extra ingredients stretching from neo-Celticana to chalkhill psychedelia, European electronica or Balkan jazz (Sheelanagig, I Am Your Autopilot, Tinker’s Cuss, Arch Garrison). As you might expect from a thoughtful curator married to an accomplished female musician, Eppyfest has also featured a healthy proportion of women players including bandleaders and solo artists (such as Becky Rose, Candythief and She Makes War).

Assuming that you’re not already committed to attending the Felix M-B gig down the road on the same day, EppyFest 5 looks set to carry on the tradition in fine form. (I’m jealous. I wouldn’t mind running something like that myself. It’s time to start thinking about empire, or benevolent despotry…)

The Epileptic Gibbon Podcast presents:
‘EppyFest 5’: William D. Drake + Judy Dyble & Her Band of Perfect Strangers + Marvyn B. Naylor + Darkroom (with Elif Yalvac) + Tom Slatter + Sirkis/Bialas International Quartet
Lansdown Hall, Lansdown, Stroud, GL5 1BB, England
Saturday 16th July 2016 , 4.00pm to 11.00pm
information & tickets

Eppyfest 5, 2016

Over the years, I’ve said plenty about this year’s EppyFest headliner William D. Drake over the years, and will probably say more. Woody-throated singer and former Cardiac; the organic keyboard wizard who turns television sets into organs; the man you might find if you went looking for the place where baroque pop meets Punch-and-Judy professor. Bill’s songs suggest a parallel English music: one in which antique pop songs on crackling wax cylinders mingle seamless with both Henry Purcell and Frank Zappa.

In his mid-fifties, and with the release of his fifth album ‘Revere Reach’, Bill’s reached a crucial point in his career, in which the jolly avuncular eccentricities of his earlier work have finally given way to the blossoming kernel of beauty within his compositions. He’s probably far too rounded a person and songwriter to entirely give into it, though. Expect the full range of glorious pastoralism and bouncy humour from a full chamber pop band including members of Stars In Battledress and North Sea Radio Orchestra.

 

I’ve also said plenty about Darkroom , the textural electro-morphic partnership of sometime No-Man/Samuel Smiles/Henry Fool guitarist Michael Bearpark and loop/synth/woodwind/patch-man Andrew Ostler. Over two decades Darkroom have delivered a massively underrated body of work straddling gigantic cosmic soundscapes like deliquescing Hubble images, intricate cerebral dance rhythms, broodingly beautiful guitar tones and (recently) cryptic bass clarinet and flute strands, touching upon influences as diverse as OMD, Autechre, Robert Fripp, Neil Young, Delia Derbyshire, Can and Bennie Maupin.

For this concert their polyglot electronica is augmented by a special guest, Turkish electronic guitarist Hazal Elif Yalvaç an Istanbul-based composer, musician and linguist. We’ll have to see whether Elif’s work (much of it glitching, grumbling guitartronic abstractions) brings out Darkroom’s more abstract instincts; or whether Os and Michael’s knack for direct expressiveness brings out that proggier aspect which Elif’s threatening to reveal in her forthcoming Light Curve project.


Show opener Tom Slatter also shows up in ‘Misfit City’ quite often. He’s a Victorian town-crier with a guitar and a slew of fantastical tales about monsters of air, land and sea, strange goings on in laboratories, haunted gentlemen and master criminals loose on the railways. On record he’s a multi-instrumental steampunk proggie, building himself instrumental Rube Goldberg machines (and occasionally collaborating with one). Live, he’s mostly unplugged and solo, letting his charm make up for the shortfall in instrumentation. One day he will build himself a bicycle-powered, bat-winged portable orchestrion out of old tuba piping and traction engine spares, to allow him to merge both situations. It will probably go off course and fly him somewhere horrible.

One of the prime strengths of jazz players is that they can come from anywhere in the world, meet each other for the first time and immediately speak a common improvising language of immediate flexibility. The four musicians who make up the Sirkis/Bialas International QuartetAsaf Sirkis (drums, Israeli, Londoner), Sylwia Bialas (voice, Polish, currently a Londoner but only recently a Würzburg resident), Kevin Glasgow (bass guitar, a Scottish Londoner via Ireland, but Invernessian rather than actual Glaswegian, replacing an Englishman who originally reached the band via Australia, Scotland and the United States) and Frank Harrison (keyboards, English, surprising lack of other complications) – make more of their scattered nature than most.

With all of that in mind, you’d expect a riotous mix of cultures, making hay out of clashes. What you actually get is aquamarine almost-acoustic jazz, cupped and propelled by Asaf’s winds-of-the-forest percussion subtleties, sung in Polish or vocalese, sheathed in softness and in smoothly-flowing instrumental gestures. The lightness of touch and the Northern hemisphere reserve hearken towards both Pacific Northwestern new age and ECM atmospherics; the light-as-a-feather scatting, twirling Rhodes piano and lissom six-string electric bass suggests a hushed Kurpie version of Flora Purim’s time with Return to Forever.

While the pure, piping soprano tones of co-headliner Judy Dyble might distract you from her full story, they do tie her firmly to the 1960s folk revival. It’s a true tie, as well – teenage friendships with Ashley Hutchings and Richard Thompson led her to spend a year as the singer for the original lineup of Fairport Convention. This auspicious start was followed by a brief, obscure stint in King Crimson prelude band Giles, Giles & Fripp, a more celebrated year as half of much-touted psychedelic folk duo Trader Horne; and finally a handful of gigs in the company of Canterbury characters Lol Coxhill, Steve Miller and Phil Miller.

A gentle, often reticent character, Judy’s musicality wasn’t enough to keep her comfortably engaged with the bruising demands of the music business; and in 1973, after six years of flitting nervously in and out of the spotlight, she retired from music into a quiet life of family and library work while still barely into her twenties. Perhaps it wasn’t as mysterious or dramatic a withdrawal as that of peers such as Anne Briggs or Vashti Bunyan, but it was enough to reduce her reputation to a shadow for all except those who dug up her handful of recordings in search of half-forgotten treasure and found something that didn’t deserve to be overshadowed.

Bar a couple of flitting, fitful Fairport reengagements at Cropredy in the early ‘80s, little was heard from Judy for three decades until – widowed and empty-nested – she was inveigled back into recording by Astralasia’s Mike Swordfish in 2002. Since then she’s pursued a quiet but exploratory revival of her musicality, working in fields fromfolk-rock to trancetronica and experimental art pop, and with collaborators including Dodson & Fogg, Tim Bowness, Sand Snowman, Joxfield Projex, Fuxa and Thee Faction. Her regular home, however, is with her Perfect Strangers ensemble (mostly drawn from co-writer Alistair Murphy’s Cromerzone project) with whom she’ll be performing at EppyFest. Throughout all of this, Judy’s signature tone has remained intact – the folk sweetness, the subliminal hint at hesitancy and tremble which betrays the nerviness and unsurety which has both interrupted her career and given her work its humanity and honesty. As she heads towards her seventies, both tone and temperament have become allied to a longer perspective of value, loss and change – something which, strengthened and deepened by time, she’s grown into and fleshed out with natural experience.

Completing the bill is another, even less well-known hidden treasure. Winchester singer-songwriter Marvyn B. Naylor has been delivering music for twelve underappreciated years now. His mixture of intricate, allusive psychedelic pop songs and pulsating 12-string guitar folk instrumentals tip nods to and shake hands with inspirations including the early David Bowie, Edward Elgar, the Beatles, Joyce Kilmer, Frank Sinatra, Francisco Tarrega and Guy de Maupassant: but he’s a whole meal in himself.


 

* * * * * * * *

There’s just one former Cardiac on the bill at EppyFest. Technically speaking – unless it’s true that Kavus Torabi is DJ-ing – there are no former Cardiacs at The Whole World Window, which takes place on the same day as EppyFest but five counties up (in Lancashire). In spite of this the bill, spread across two stages, is suffused with Cardiacs enthusiasm. Unsurprising, since it’s the latest in a series of benefits for the band’s stroke-felled leader Tim Smith.

Greg Braysford presents:
‘The Whole World Window – A Benefit for Tim Smith’: Britney + All Hail Hyena + 7Shades + The Scaramanga Six + Sweet Deals On Surgery + Sterbus + Trojan Horse + Adam Shaw + The Jackpot Golden Boys + Sean Keefe + Ahsa + others tbc (or fibbed about)
The New Continental, South Meadow Lane, Preston PR1 8JP, England
Saturday 16th July 2016, 2.00pm
– information here – tickets here and here

The Whole World Window, 2016Bellowing Scots Britney are as garish and hardcore as a fairground teddy-grabber covered in backstreet tattoos. They’re given to one-and-a-half-minute bursts of earsplitting rock numbers plastered with crumpled ice-cream-van melodies. The latter trait, something of a Cardiacs stock-in-trade, tinkles through several of the other bands on the bill – be they outright disciples 7Shades (who lovingly pillage the ornate Cardiacs style wholesale) or pyjama-clad Burley power-pop trio All Hail Hyena (who sound like Bo Diddley rocking an birthday-cake castle).


Something more grandiose is offered by Huddersfield rock bullies The Scaramanga Six. They’ve devoted twenty-one years and enormous musical flair to hammering out poperatic tunes and bursts of garage gonzo, providing tragicomic insight into the flawed and unsettled ethics of everyday men (all carried out with assured baroque brutality and gallows humour). Self-styled “noisy prog rock bastards” Trojan Horse might not be returning to EppyFest this year, but they are bringing their omnivorous Salfordian rock cocktail to Preston: a catalogue of work which plunges into swaggering ‘70’s funk, belting avant-garage moments, broad-spectrum Beatles-pop and audacious psychogeographic experiments. Power-poppers Sweet Deals On Surgery lean towards the punkier side, bucketing towards the end of a song as if it were a race, but distractedly bursting into different versions halfway. For God’s sake, keep them off the Haribos…



All the way from Italy, Sterbus (Smith/Fripp/Zappa obsessive and noblest-Roman-of-them-all) will be coming to either yomp through some of his triple-jointed proggy power pop or to play leafy psychedelic summer-lounge acoustica (which may or may not include some of his takes on Cardiacs, Spratleys Japs and other limbs of Smithiana). If he doesn’t hold up the acoustic end, rest assured that Ivan Campo frontman Adam Shaw will, as he brings along his light-touch, thoughtful folk pop for us to unravel.


The rest of the bill’s made up of bands which predominantly reflect the humour (if not necessarily the horse-laughs and art-punk prankery) of the Cardiacs world. Silly-goodtime pop culture obsessives The Jackpot Golden Boys throw assorted metal, pop and funk chops at things from TV theme tunes to geek topics and hope that a few of them stay embedded. Militant hat wearer, slide guitarist, Strumstick player, comedy yarner and genre-mash novelist Sean Keefe – brings along his own version of honky-tonk Americana.



 
The (known) lineup is completed by acapella singer Asha Hewitt (seen below performing with Gummo Cleyre and Alex Dickinson as Yorkshire Latin pop band Solana). Asha might be the last kind of musician you’d expect to see getting up at a Smith benefit gig; but her presence is proof positive that the happy skewed tastes of the Cardiacs audience let in all kinds of light. Once they’ve stopped cheerfully bawling for their mashed-up chord sequences, that is…


 

July 2016 – upcoming London gigs – A.R. Kane + Plastic Flowers’ dream pop evening (13th), Jausmė with Nicole Collarbone and Sian Magill in Battersea (13th); Cecil Sharp Choir’s Appalachian evening (14th)

11 Jul

…And in the middle of the week it’s about dream pop, folk music and the margin in between…

* * * * * * * *

Our Friends Eclectic presents:
A.R. Kane + Plastic Flowers
The Good Ship, 289 Kilburn High Road, Kilburn, London, NW6 7JR, England
Wednesday 13th June 2016, 8.00pm
information

This Wednesday, resurrected dream pop pioneers A.R. Kane play one of only two small, indoors British gigs while they ride the wave of worldwide summer festivals. This little London show is the guaranteed best opportunity to see them for the foreseeable future, especially if you missed their Manchester gig at the Soup Kitchen back in May (an event which, I’ll admit, I myself was too disorganised to even flag up) and especially since ’Kane leader Rudy Tambala has been enthusiastic about his preference for “a small crowd loving it, getting it” (as opposed to a fieldful of musical floating voters).

The original A.R.Kane were many things before those things became more commonplace – Afropean art-culture swaggerers, dissolvers of rock and pop’s hierarchical structures, sound-melters in whom dancefloor politics met punk threshing, electronic upsetters who played equally with roots and the bewilderingly synthetic. Rudy formed the band in 1986 with his childhood friend Alex Ayuli – two east London black kids with family roots in west or south-east Africa; a pair of eclectic clubgoers and self-confessed cocky chancers with broad listening habits, enough gab to make their brainwaves sound seductive (notably, Alex’s day job was in advertising), and a post-post-punk whim for running with ideas rather than technique. The idea of A.R. Kane was conceived as a backfiring party boast that Rudy and Alex felt obliged to follow up. Citing Cocteau Twins, the Velvet Underground, Miles Davis and Joni Mitchell as a range of influences might have been a handful of arty clichés then – it would certainly become so later. For two men who approached music as something envisaged rather than something played, however, it was a recipe for building a project from the ground up.

A.R. Kane’s work is often cited as pop reinvention. In fact, it’s more of a sprawl of jouissance – anti-formalism, a dab of abstract expressionism, and a joy in capturing moments on the fly. All of this should have been in the air when (early on in the journey) they joined forces with experimental dance duo Colourbox for the M|A|R|R|S sessions, leading to a number one hit via the British house classic ‘Pump Up The Volume’. As it happened, an experience that should have felt like a triumph of creative opportunity ended up as a bruising, short-lived encounter with hit factory frenzy, mutual intransigence and a blizzard of copyright litigation. These days Rudy dismisses ‘Pump Up The Volume’ as straight cultural theft from black and gay American club culture, but keeps a soft spot for the flipside – ‘Anitina’ (a confection of careening, planing guitar feedback and joyous narcotic pop vocal over hammering Colourbox industrial drums).

It’s this track that exemplifies ‘Kanework, rather than the pulsing plunderphonics of ‘Pump Up The Volume’. When Rudy and Alex played pop, it sounded like toy music or a process of on-the-spot discoveries. Nurtured along the way by the production suss of Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie and Gentle Giant’s Ray Shulman (with the latter’s post-prog bass often adding a subtle touch of spine and structure to the core cavortings), A.R. Kane seemed to achieve their aims by recreating music from around its edges rather than heading up through the centre. Paradoxically, they deracinated while remembering exactly where the roots were grounded, as if rock music was a complicated hairstyle which they were ripping the pins out of, sending them rattling onto the floor.

Sometimes they’d sound like what would happen if someone had had the gall to strip all of the blues out of Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone From The Sun’, leaving just the cosmic frizz, fragmentary whippling stringwork and mind-opening vocal fragments; like a disembodied, chromatically-dappled sci-fi Afro. Ecstatic hollers might chase sleepy narratives over chamber strings. Gnarly Guthrie-esque guitar noise, hell-gate heartbooms and refracting-knife feedback would bob around dashes of funk and house (which Alex and Rudy were onto long before the Madchester boom). From Jamaica, they gleaned dub-echo bursts of clipped piano or high snare. From American psychedelia, they drew jelly-baby lyrics that bobbed around dancing synth basslines (as if ‘60s acid casualties were making healing pilgrimages to New York electro clubs). From the underground currents of their hometown, they took their conceptual irreverence, their underlying cheek and their mix-and-match mercantilism. (It’s also where they gained their hard-knocks guile and ingenuity, that second-or third generation immigrant pluck that Western city racism forces back onto even the smartest of its homeboys).

Despite all of this sonic ensorcelment, on the early albums you could (if you wanted to) cock your head, peek underneath the noise and find a couple of guys who could barely play or sing; who were keeping it all afloat via acts of will, wit and weather. Most of the time, you’d wink back at them, then return to the bliss and forget the slender mechanisms holding it together. However, by the time of their sun-kissed swansong album, ‘New Clear Child’, A.R. Kane had skilled up and drifted towards a more coherent pop music. Apparently inspired by Alex’s move to California, the later songs meandered up to both Love and Talk Talk via West Coast funk, with daisy petals matted into their nappy hair. As was only appropriate for a band driven by an elusive and amorphous ingenuity, the more A.R. Kane solidified, the more they dissolved. Alex went solo; Rudy teamed up with his sister Maggie (an occasional ‘Kane backing singer) in Sufi and for twenty-odd years, that was that.

As is often the case, the band were finally tempted back into action via the nostalgia engine which fuels pop festivals. Last year Rudy was coaxed into weaving A.R. Kane back into existence, although he had to do it without his erstwhile partner (apparently busy with his own perspective on dream pop, Alex Ayuli opted to sit this one out). 2015’s ambitious Alex-free septet has now been trimmed to the core trio of Rudy and Maggie Tambala plus new cohort Andy Taylor; a mess of three guitars, three voices, computers and synths. While they originally billed themselves as “#A.R.Kane”, with Rudy optimistically explaining that “should Alex come out-to-play, we can easily drop the ‘#’..”, they’ve subsequently dropped the hashtag anyway, along with the distinctions and (it seems) the hope that Ayuli’s said no, gave no reasons refusal wouldn’t be permanent.

The flipside of this disappointment is that the band’s new lease of life has inspired and toughened them into a more committed playing unit fired up by contact with both fans and heirs. Back in the ‘80s, few bands used A.R. Kane’s methodology and thinking. Nowadays you could pull together a huge, snaking, intercontinental conga line of the fuckers. One of them’s playing at the Good Ship alongside Rudy and co. – Plastic Flowers, the London-based dream pop project of Thessaloniki-born George Samaras, whose grand skeletal lushness (bare-bones drumbox echo, threaded vocal and towering ripcurls of melodic guitar noise) is an almost pure mainlining of the ‘Kane lineage.


 
Now a revitalized Rudy is talking, with giddy enthusiasm, about future recordings and about the new material he apparently brought to the Soup Kitchen gig the other month. (I’ve checked for reviews of that, but found nothing unless it’s been reduced to telegrammatic burbles on Facebook – being off-‘book at the moment, I wouldn’t know). We’ll have to see how his intentions pan out. With planned American coastal tours cancelled (due to date and commitment clashes rather than lack of interest), there are still a couple of showings at the Siren and Half Die festivals in Italy later in the month; and then back home for On Blackheath in September. After that, the future’s both blank and open – which, in a way, is where A.R. Kane came in in the first place.

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If vindicated dream pop discombobulation doesn’t float your boat for Wednesday, then perhaps you’d prefer a free event at Battersea’s delightful acoustic playground on the same night…

Jausmė (with Nicole Collarbone) + Sian Magill
The Magic Garden, 231 Battersea Park Road, Battersea, London, SW11 4LG, England
Wednesday 13th July 2016, 9:00 pm
– free event – information

Transplanted Lithuanian singer-songwriter Jausmė – Vilnius-born, but Milton-Keynes-based – will be performing a set of her own material accompanying herself on the kanklės (a twenty-nine string Lithuanian zither with a sparkling sound) and aided by Liverpudlian cross-disciplinary cellist Nicole Collarbone (whose myriad projects and collaborations include the Neil Campbell Collective and folk ensemble Sonnenberg).

Jausmė describes her work as “urban etherealism”. Translated, this seems to mean a half-invented, half-archaeological folk music (like a less grandiose, less Gothic, closer-to-the-source Dead Can Dance), and one in which the focus is shifted thirteen hundred miles northwest to the Baltic states; it also means that Jausmė listens to, and can slip into, the work of sub-bass, garage and techno producers. On this occasion, though, it’s all wood and no electronics, and the roots are northern. For evidence of what Jausmė and Nicole can do together (and of Jausmė’s skills on her own), see below.



 
In support is another no-less-impressive Milton Keynesian, Sian Magill, who honed her subtly immersive, highly literary folk songs at venues both there and at Oxford, where she studied English Literature at degree level. If the latter suggests someone whose work’s likely to wear its intelligence as clever English hauteur, think again. Sian’s songs draw on more distant traditions, coming across as a more Irish-toned echo of the dense, individual American song-tales of someone like Dayna Kurtz, although she sounds less likely to venture to bars on the wrong side of the tracks, or to lean quite so much into the urban blues. Instead, Sian makes her own way into a story through a quiet and continuous flow of detailed observation and consideration, atop a busy, depth-inducing weave of fingerpicked guitar (see below).


 

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Appalachian 100: Cecil Sharp House Choir (with Alice Cade + Pete Cooper + Ed Hicks)
Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent’s Park Road, London, NW1 7AY, England
Thursday 14th July 2016, 7.30pm
information

If you missed the Cecil Sharp Choir at the Union Chapel last Saturday (singing songs for a Daylight Music marine afternoon), they’re back on home turf at Cecil Sharp House for another show on Thursday. This time, they’re celebrating the centenary of musicologist Sharp’s first folk-song-collecting visit to the Appalachian Mountains of America, a region replete with influences from sixteenth-century England and from the tough feuding culture of the Scottish Borders, as well as (at least in the Ozark region) a great line in dirty stories.

I don’t know whether any cheerful smut is going to be reeled out at the concert (in song or in asides), but the choir are promising “a selection of glorious a capella harmony arrangements of traditional songs, including some collected in the Mountains”, in new arrangements by leader Sally Davies. Three special guests will be adding to the show- flatfoot dancer Alice Cade, fiddle master Pete Cooper and multi-instrumentalist Ed Hicks (banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, Anglo concertina and voice).



 

July 2016 – upcoming nu-folk gigs in England – Felix M-B on tour with Lorkin O’Reilly and Lewis Barfoot (July 10th to 17th); plus a note on Sylva Kay

9 Jul

Some notes previewing a Tigmus acoustic tour passing through England this coming week…

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Still only eighteen, Derby singer-songwriter Felix Mackenzie-Barrow – better known as Felix M-B – is already tipped as a future star of acoustic rock, and it’s not difficult to see why. The Jeff Buckley comparisons have come flocking, as they always do for good-looking young-white-male hopes with an acoustic guitar and a way with a commanding falsetto when they need it.

For me, though, the comparisons are a little off beam. Felix is by no means enslaved to the wail; not another in the line of anxious high-tenor clones aiming for its flaming hoops. If he has to be Jeffified, let it be for his boiling post-Page rhythm guitar with its flint-and-harps tone; for the way he can dance that guitar, like an elegant fencer, around some of the shifting, bullish meters within his songs. As a singer, he’s slightly – and thankfully – short of that assertive, archangelic (and to me, sometimes cold) Buckley edge. Under its smooth edges, it’s warmer and less elevated, closer at times to the incantatory yearnings and yelps of a Mike Scott or Van Morrison, or (whenever a little country seeps in) to Gram Parsons; or to a less pickled take on Chris Thompson of The Bathers. Whenever Felix wraps his melodic threads in a rippling transported melisma, he’s also much more reminiscent of Tim Buckley than of his gilded son.

As for the songs, so far they’re remarkably mature – involved, ruminative and harmonically adventurous explorations of love, connection and conscience rather than the gawky narcissistic three-chord blasts you’d expect from a teenage early starter. As of yet, it’s unclear where this surprising depth comes from. Perhaps it’s self-demurral at play, but Felix’s backstory doesn’t seem much more than “nice boy learns piano for many years, picks up guitar in mid-teens and two years later makes a record”. Perhaps he’s just one of those diffident, delightful natural songwriters, able to pick up on stories and ideas from elsewhere and magically transform them without letting himself get in the way.

Perhaps the answer lies in other background textures. Felix grew up with parents who ran the self-sufficient mobile theatre company Oddsocks (who used to tour Britain on the back of a transforming, swiss-army-knife of a cart which doubled as transport and ever-morphing play set), while he himself is a thoughtfully precocious alumnus of Derby Youth Theatre. It might be this that’s made him such a canny transmuter of tradition and style; such a promising inhabiter of diverse stories.


Felix’s current Tigmus-boosted tour dates are as follows:

As noted above, Felix is teaming up with other young songwriters en route – so here’s some more about them.

22 year old Lorkin O’Reilly released his debut EP, ‘After The Thaw’, last year. Nominally Scottish, with a youth spent on one side or the other of the Borders (with rangings into the Highlands plus a stint down in Brighton), he’s now made a home and a marriage in Poughkeepsie, New York State.

It’s difficult not to notice how Lorkin’s peripatetic shifting life (partly brought on by an unsettled and shifting adolescence) has fed into his music, which is partly inspired by that of John Martyn (another songwriter divided between Scotland and England to traumatic effect and artistic impact). His song Alba explores his ambivalence about the recent deepening schism between the two countries: he describes and delivers it more as an abstract “storm warning” than a rallying call or hand-wringing tract. Nick Drake, Phil Cook, American country-blues and British folk also inform his work, in which his softly mesmeric voice and lone guitar move through slow, Scottish moodclouds at a slithering, sliding pace, sometimes gently gilded by slide and resonator.



 
Despite her own Irish/English background, there don’t appear to be similar complexities in the work of Lewis Barfoot. On spec and on evidence, her debut EP ‘Catch Me’ is singer-songwriter fare pitched at an assured soft and wholesome level – not bland as such, but undeniably comfortable in itself. She works with an uncomplicated loveliness of sound that’s smoothly crafted, waxed and finished, and which follows an unruffled mood (lightly decorated by its Irish roots and, on one occasion by some throw-rug drapings of Maori choir). As edgeless as a high-street cafe-latte, it also makes the ideal soundtrack to one. There’s an underlying murmur of stability in these songs, whether they’re dealing with love or landscape,


 
A little more delving reveals that Lewis is more substantial than these songs suggests. A busy polymath, she’s self-propelled and organised enough to have her own “summer of Sundays” tour dovetailing into this one. Before going solo three years ago, she was a member of Gaelic a cappella quintet Rún; and like Felix, she’s also got a theatrical background, maintaining a parallel career as an actress on film, television and fringe theatre (using the latter to fertilise her theatrical writing and conceptualising). With all of this behind her, it seems a shame that what she’s currently offering is lovely but cosy acoustic-evening entertainment with a high-boutique gloss to it: certainly these initial songs lack the playful wit and sense of enquiry which goes into her original stage work.


 
For now, go along for the sleek craft and gently-cupped warmth, and hope that more of Lewis unfolds into her music over time. Here are her remaining summer dates beyond this tour:

  • The Horniman Museum, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ, England, Sunday 10th July 2016, 12.00 pm (noontime show, following which she’ll sprint to Bristol to catch up with Felix and Lorkin for the evening gig)
  • The Bicycle Shop, 17 St Benedicts Street, Norwich, NR2 4PE, England, Sunday 17th July 2016
  • The Blue Man, 8 Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3WA, England, Sunday 24th July 2016

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It was a shame to see that Silva Kay has had to pull out of the tour… but it would also be a shame to waste what I wrote about her before she dropped off the billing.

A singer, guitarist, looper and occasional drummer, Sylva has been creating songs since childhood, growing up as she did in the bosom of an artistic family (and being encouraged by writers, photographer and crafters of all stripes). A self-taught self-producer and a youthful veteran of several bands on both sides of the Atlantic and on both coasts of America (including Ra Ra Rabbit, IC and American City), she performs songs which touch on the territories of Joanna Newsom, Ash Ra Tempel, Dayna Kurtz and the dream-permeable moods of My Bloody Valentine. Often performing while surrounded by an arc of miscellaneous percussion, pedals, sound sources and electronics, her music remains centred around her voice and guitar, changing the moods and patterns within its dreamy folktronic format, using cunning loop-pedal work to establish a folk chorale of spontaneous backing vocals and to shift back and forth into trance-like psychedelic moods, moments of skipping indie-pop and stretches of acoustic soul/r’n’b grooves.

Unusually for a latterday loop musician, there’s plenty of space in the performance. The looped parts sound as if they’ve been thought out architecturally on the fly; a semi-spontaneous foundation on which Silva can mount wandering explorations of situations, reflections and reaction. Within the space of a single song, she can sound both independent and love-lorn, interiorised and reaching out, mysterious and readable.

The good news is that, like Lewis, Sylva is determinedly self-propelled, touring out in monthly ripples from her Oxford base: so despite her having withdrawn from this tour, it won’t be too long before there’s an opportunity to see her again.


 

July 2016 – upcoming gigs in London and Sunderland – end-of-the-season for Daylight Music with Cecil Sharp House Choir, Lisa Knapp, Hermes Experiment, David Julyan and John Potter (9th); the live-soundtracked premiere of Somme-and-Mackem documentary ‘Asunder’ with Field Music, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Warm Digits and The Cornshed Sisters (10th)

6 Jul

This weekend, in London, mostly-unplugged afternoon Daylight Music will bow out for the summer with a distinctly maritime-toned concert – and one which features another choir as the headlining act. I’ve been tempted to give Daylight’s organisers a bit of stick for their interest in choirs this season, but it makes no more sense than ribbing them for liking performers with acoustic guitars. While, for me, the scratch-choir-does-pop-hits musical meme gets too cosy too quickly, Daylight has done its level best to vary the choral diet, with this week’s headliners delving back into deeper folk roots (and the other acts on the bill ranging out across nautical atmospheres and underwater imaginings).

At the other end of the country, in Sunderland, film-makers have teamed up with art-rockers, bleepers, folk singers and community consciousness to create a picture of the First World War’s impact on a thriving north-eastern community. Keeping true to their inspirations, they’re premiering their work there. We Southerners will have to wait, and quite rightly too.

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Daylight Music 231

Daylight Music 231 – Cecil Sharp House Choir + Lisa Knapp + The Hermes Experiment + David Julyan & John Potter
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

“Known for its unique, spirited and moving a cappella renditions of traditional songs from the British Isles (and occasionally beyond), Cecil Sharp House Choir is one to catch. Helmed by inspirational choir leader, Sally Davies (and open to any confident singer able to hold a tune, learn by ear and be keen to perform), the choir performs regularly at Cecil Sharp House and at a host of other venues and events including the Southbank Centre, the Roundhouse, the House of Commons and the Oslo Musikkfest.

“Singer and fiddle player Lisa Knapp burst onto the scene in 2007 with her much lauded debut album ‘Wild & Undaunted’, which contained refreshing interpretations of traditional folk songs peppered with highly distinctive original pieces. Numerous appearances across BBC Radio and BBC4’s Christmas TV folk song extravaganza followed, as well as a performance tribute to the late Lal Waterson for BBC Electric Proms. Further recordings (made in collaboration with her musician/producer husband Gerry Diver) have included the EP ‘Hunt The Hare – A Branch of May’ and 2013’s ‘Hidden Seam’ album. Lisa’s BBC work continued with Radio 4’s acclaimed ‘Shipping Songs‘ in 2015 (musing on the extraordinary sounds from far-off places on the Shipping Forecast), and it’s this which should inform her July Daylight appearance, which features a duo performance with Gerry Diver and a song sung with the Cecil Sharp House Choir.

“Park Lane Group Young Artists 2015/16 and winners of Nonclassical’s Battle of the Bands 2014, The Hermes Experiment is a contemporary classical music quartet comprising harpist Anne Denholm, clarinettist Oliver Pashley, soprano Héloïse Werner and double bass player Marianne Schofield. Their performance style has been hailed as “meticulously nuanced, witty and chic” by The Times, while The Evening Standard has acclaimed their “whole new expressive world.” Capitalising on their deliberately idiosyncratic combination of instruments, the ensemble regularly commissions new works, as well as creating their own innovative arrangements and venturing into live free improvisation. So far, the ensemble has commissioned thirty-one different composers at various stages of their careers. The ensemble also strives to create a platform for cross-disciplinary collaboration and they recently created a ‘musical exhibition’ with photographer Thurstan Redding. Future plans include a residency at Aldeburgh Music in September 2016 developing a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale with director Nina Brazier and composer Kim Ashton.

“The Hermes Experiment’s Daylight performance this weekend will be a marine-themed set first performed in 2014 (and recently revived at a Park Lane Music Group concert at St John’s Smith Square earlier in the year), at which they performed Giles Swayne‘s ‘Chansons dévotes and poissonneuses (Devout and Fishy Songs)’, a setting of three piscatorial poems by French Symbolist Georges Fourest. Whether they’ve got time for some of the other songs for the St Johns set – Kate Honey‘s ‘Predator Fish’, Freya Waley-Cohen‘s ‘Oyster’, Josephine Stephenson‘s ‘tanka’ – remains to be seen.

“As the fourth act, David Julyan (a film composer best known for his collaborations with Christopher Nolan on Memento’ and ‘The Prestige’, as well as for horror movie ‘The Descent‘) will be teaming up with John Potter (of ambient project The Music Of What Happens) in order to create a live sea soundscape.”

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Field Music/The Royal Northern Sinfonia/Warm Digits + The Cornshed Sisters
‘Asunder’ – film premiere with live score
Sunderland Empire Theatre, High Street West, Sunderland, SR1 3EX, England
Sunday 10th July 2016, 2.30pm and 7.30pm
information

“Northumbrian art poppers Field Music (with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and electronic duo Warm Digits) are set to perform a newly commissioned live score to accompany ‘Asunder’, a film telling the tale of the North East’s involvement in the Battle of the Somme (one of the most horrific battles in World War One) through largely unknown personal experiences. The collaboration marks the Battle’s centenary. Royal Northern Sinfonia will be conducted by Hugh Brunt, Artistic Director of the London Contemporary Orchestra (and Radiohead collaborator). Sunderland folk quartet The Cornshed Sisters will also perform an a cappella rendition of traditional Wearside folk tune The Rigs of Sunderland Fair.

 

“‘Asunder’ brings together the stories and images of the past with music from the present to tell a poignant and relevant story of what happened to a typical British town during the First World War, with virtually all of the its men abroad fighting and all of its women and children left behind. The North East was in the front line, thanks to its shipyards and munitions factories.
Through the stories of half a dozen people from Tyneside and Wearside, ‘Asunder’ uncovers just what life was like on the home front – with bombs falling on Britain for the first time, conscientious objectors sentenced to death, and women working as doctors, tram conductors and footballers, some of them (God forbid) wearing trousers.

“The story begins in the pre-war Edwardian golden era when cricket, football and rugby boomed, and aeroplanes and cars pointed to a bright new future – only for this progress to be horrifically reversed through the early years of the war. This culminated on 1st July 1916 in the Battle of the Somme, when British, French and German forces began one of the most traumatic battles in military history. Over the course of just four months, more than one million soldiers were captured, wounded or killed in the Battle, a confrontation of unimaginable horror.

“The story is told through a beautiful film carefully crafted by documentarist Esther Johnson using archive and newly filmed footage, and narrated by Kate Adie (with Alun Armstrong as the voice of the ‘Sunderland Daily Echo & Shipping Gazette’). 

“‘Asunder’ will premiere at the Sunderland Empire on 10th July before touring at selected venues around the country (dates to be confirmed).

“Field Music’s David Brewis says of the commission:

“The chance to write something completely new and play it with an orchestra doesn’t come around very often. And as we heard about the plans for the film, the idea of telling a more complete story about our home town and how the war affected it was very appealing. There’s nothing quite like hearing a full orchestra right in front of you and if we get it right, then the balance between what you see and hear on screen and what you see and hear from the musicians should be spectacular. One of the other things which intrigued Peter (Brewis) especially about this project was our love of the orchestral music from that period. Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ premiered in 1913, Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ in 1912. Bela Bartok and Maurice Ravel were composing, as was Claude Debussy, so it was a time of huge change in harmony and composition and we’ve dipped into that period for inspiration a lot.”

“Writer and ‘Asunder’ creative director Bob Stanley comments:

“For me, ‘Asunder’ is an opportunity to work with a group I’ve admired from afar for years, Field Music, and one of my favourite documentary makers, Esther Johnson, as well as a group I only discovered last year but are one of the most thrilling electronic acts in the country, Warm Digits. The premiere will be a truly unique event – the combination of a live score to a new film featuring some incredible archive footage and fascinating local stories, along with the other events going on inside and outside the Empire should be a really memorable day, and I hope one that people will be talking about for years to come. I want everyone who sees it to take pride in the region’s unique history and to feel they can help to build its future.”

 

July 2016 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Horse Improvised Music Club improvisations from small groups including Adam Bohman Text Quartet (5th); Hominid Sounds electronic night with Mark Dicker, Guncleaner, Johnny Broke and others (7th)

2 Jul

A couple of London experimental gigs for the coming week, briefly explored:

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Horse Improvised Music Club, 5th July 2016

The Horse Improvised Music Club presents:
Noel Taylor/Asaf Fleischmann/Ulf Mengersten + Adam Bohman Text Quartet + Antonio Cunzo/Joe Wright/David Stockard/Tony Hardie-Bick
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Tuesday 5th July 2016, 8.00 pm
information

Three small-group performances from the South Bank London improvisers’ hub; following, in part, their tradition of putting well-known improvisers together with lesser-known ones.

The opening act is a scratch quartet of rising Aberdonian jazz saxophonist Joe Wright and Carrickfergus-based percussionist David Stockard with pianist Antonio Cunzo and Chapman Stick player Tony Hardie-Bick. (While it always gives me a lift to see a Stick pop up anywhere in music, since I’ve always loved its clipped-but-singing polyphonic tones, Tony also seems to have the most interesting backstory within the quartet. From being Sham 69’s keyboard player during the late ‘80s, he’s moved from backing up other people’s punk polemics to spending most of his time as a software instrument developer, coaxing new levels of performance interaction out of touchscreens and wearable tech. As a performer, he’s been known to drag his protesting Stick flex-first across gallery floors, an art-punk flourish which I guess is a change from the cloud of warm jazzy reverence which usually surrounds the instrument.)

 
Veteran London acoustic-noise’n’objects performer Adam Bohman takes the middle slot with his Adam Bohman Text Quartet, completed by Adrian Northover, Sue Lynch and Hutch Demouilpied. While Adrian and Sue are usually saxophonists (working together in David Petts’ Remote Viewers and Hogcallin’) and Hutch is a trumpeter and sound designer, it looks as if everyone’s working with voice this time.

There’s not much information on this other than that it’s a text piece, but some guidelines might come from Adam’s work on “talking tapes” during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s – lo-fi audio collages which ranged from spontaneous dictaphone observations (Adam discovering and illustrating the ordinary and mundane anew, in slurred Dada-esque tones) to ludicrous cartoon vocal pieces. The ‘Music and Words’ collation of these odds-and-sodes was described as a laugh-out-loud avant garde album and later releases were even funnier, pushing into prank-and-sketch territories like a splicing of Bob Cobbing with a one-man Pete’n’Dud. Have a listen to When A Man (in which a trio of growling Adams parody both bozo masculinity and thunder-throat action-film trailers, like a squad of querulous Daleks bloated on bright orange corn snacks), or White Sauce Without For Those Who Don’t (Adam’s cutup account of a single Christmas, chopped across with assorted literary, musical and familial distractions).


It is, of course, thirty years on from all of this, so you might get something far more sombre. Since the Quartet are performing something called “the Robin’s Nest Revisited Vocal Quartet”, I wouldn’t bet on it..

The last act of the evening are a trio connected to large-scale improvising institutions in two European capitals. Longstanding improv clarinettist Noel Taylor (Splatter, London Improvisers Orchestra, plenty more) will be playing with Ulf Mengersten (a double bass mainstay of Berlin Improvisers Orchestra) and pianist Asaf Fleischmann.

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Hominid Sounds evening, 7th July 2016

Hominid Sounds presents:
Mark Dicker + Guncleaner + Johnny Broke + tbc
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Thursday 7th July 2016, 8:00 pm
– information here and here

To celebrate the release of Mark Dicker‘s new tape ‘Frog Eggs’, London experimental label Hominid Sounds are putting on “a night of clangs and bangs.” There’s a gradually expanding bill for this, featuring various electronic noisemakers and beat-glowerers from the more unruly edge of London electronica. Mark himself (the man “responsible for the noise behind (the recently deceased) Palehorse is headlining, bringing “supersonic modular-synth slow jams” (for a little more on Mark and how he thinks, there’s a ‘Quietus’ interview here). So far, he’s being supported by “clanging, banging techno noise project” Guncleaner (featuring two members of secretive, elusive London heavy math-rockers Nitkowski) and by “improvised, analogue-synth acid techno” act Johnny Broke (initially a solo project by Shitwife‘s Wayne Adams, which now seems to have expanded and welcomed one half of north London noiseniks Death Pedals). More performers to be confirmed…

I’ve not got much information or workable noises for this concert. For starters, I only bounce around on the outside of this particular musical scene (like a stray static spit in the mix); It also seems clear that it’s a lineup of sound-artists in deliberate flux and change, demonstrating very different faces to their usual output; and even by noise music’s usual enclosed standards, information on this show seems to be insiders-only. So you’ll need to just attend and take a chance on what it might be like.

I did succeed, however, in pulling up a little recent Johnny Broke-ism and a Dicker track from early last year, so here they are:



 

July 2016 – upcoming and ongoing gigs – some pickings from the Frome Festival, west of England (1st-10th)

2 Jul

While I missed the chance to plug the Sin Eater Festival a few weeks ago, I’m just about in time for the modest fireworks which herald the Frome Festival in Wiltshire.

I’m too late to plug the opening party (in which Frome’s own electro-poppers Sweet Machine shared a bill with psychedelic synth-cabarettier, rock biographer and all-round performance character Alan Clayson); I don’t have much to say about the festival’s big-draw act Reef (currently enjoying a new revival of their original ‘90s revival of 70s blues-rock); and I feel sorry that the free gig by “ukular fusion” band The Mother Ukers doesn’t involve furious Mahavishnukulele jazz shredding (instead of being a variation on banjo-happy rockgrass covers). But there’s plenty more on offer, so here are a few other things picked out from the billing.

It’s by no means everything on offer (the festival’s full of visual art, talks and theatre; there’s plenty more jazz and classical; and there’s a show by Billy Bragg which will probably take care of itself) but these represent the bits-between-the-bits which are closest to ‘Misfit City’s natural constituency (if such a thing exists).

* * * * * * * *

The Magical Folk Garden @ The Archangel, 1 King Street, Frome, BA11 1BH, England
Tuesday 5th-Friday 8th July 2016, 7.30pm each night
– information: Tuesday 5th / Wednesday 6th / Thursday 7th / Friday 8th

At the upstairs room at the Archangel pub, The Magical Folk Garden continues to turn itself into an annual institution with a series of cushion-strewn/standing-room-only unplugged gigs, creating a “euphonious forest of folk and contemporary acoustic music from some of the UK’s finest talents.” It’s all pretty well-scrubbed and tasteful – there’s nothing to scare the horses here. That said, a few of the performers might own horses, and some might whisper them; while a few might go all ‘Poldark’ and ride off on one, bareback and bare-chested, a honey-coloured guitar bouncing up and down on the withers (it all probably depends on the state of the booze and the pollen count).

The Tuesday show features two Bath acts – lit-pop cello-and-guitar duo The Bookshop Band and romantic solo-balladeer Tom Corneill – plus the sunny pure-pop/psychedelic fizz of Trowbridge’s The Pigeons.


The Wednesday show has a band-backed performance from Frome’s Al O’Kane (a gravel-and-honey country-blues-folker who, with his mix of rolling American roots guitar and British mysticism, can come across as a one-man ‘Led Zeppelin III’). Also playing are Alex Taylor (bouncy, jazz-and-funk-tinged, broadening his sound and filling out his pockets with pedals and loops) and young songwriter Emma Shoosmith, whose output has ranged from thoughtful folkified Taylor Swift covers to the lilting ska-tinted song shown below.




 

The Thursday show has a chamber-folk air. Bookshop Band multi-instrumentalist Beth Porter returns with her own augmented-string quartet band The Availables and her own clutch of intricate literary songs. Also on board are the strings, percussion rustles and detailed guitar of Rivers Of England (fronted by Rob Spaulding) who, although they take on some pretty familiar modern folk tropes, land them in an interesting marginal territory in which the early-’70s John Martyn and the early-’80s Julian Cope sit down to exchange lines and tips. The bill’s completed by the lost-boy charm of Avebury singer-songwriter (and Nick Harper protégé) George Wilding with his warm, abstracted songs of distraction and heartbreak (simultaneously soothing and haunting).




 

The Friday folk-final involves wayward Bristol-and-Bath folk septet The Cedar. Beth Porter makes her third Magical Folk Garden appearance of the week as the band’s cellist, alongside five other musicians. Playing a variety of instruments and implements (from guitar, glockenspiel, viola, organ and ukulele to calculator, screwdriver, musical and tri-square) they weave Neil Gay’s slightly distracted songs into a musical fabric that’s sometimes Belle-&-Sebastian communal, sometimes music-school precise, and sometimes as frayed as a scrap-basket oddment.

The rest of the evening gently mixes Western with Western. Accompanying herself on guitar, baritone ukulele, harmonium or shruti box, Bradford-on-Avon’s Jess Vincent delivers a set of original country-folk songs with a sound and demeanour that’s seen her compared to both Iris DeMent and Kate Bush. Evening openers Ali George and Ruby Brown do their own take on Gram-and-Emmylou duets, filtered through Ali’s trunkful of original English folk/clawhammer guitar songs.




 

* * * * * * * *

The town’s Rook Lane Chapel arts centre is hosting plenty of events. These two in particular caught my ear:

Snowapple
Rook Lane Chapel, Bath Street, Frome, BA11 1DN, England
Thursday 7th July 2016, 7:30pm
information

Snowapple is an outstanding female harmony trio from Amsterdam who draw on folk, classical and chanson influences, in unique, charming and beautiful arrangements of original songs. Having sold out the Granary for the last two years, Snowapple have earned a reputation all over Europe and the US, and this year appear in the perfect setting of Rook Lane Arts.”

Praying For The Rain
Rook Lane Chapel, Bath Street, Frome, BA11 1DN, England
Friday 8th July 2016, 8.00pm
information

From the blurb: “Known for their dynamic and compelling live performances, Praying For The Rain blend contemporary folk, Celtic and world music with irresistible rhythms, memorable melodies, beautifully crafted vocals and inspired musicianship. Their music brings to mind a modern blend of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Robert Plant, to Fleet Foxes and the Dave Matthews Band, creating a truly uplifting experience. Following last year’s sell out concert, Praying for the Rain return to Rook Lane for Frome Festival 2016. Expect an exhilarating night of high energy, movement and wonderfully engaging songs.“

I’m sure I remember Praying For The Rain from when I was a regular at Martyn Swain’s wonderful Dreamhouse acoustic nights, a refuge of warm bohemian chic and unplugged music alongside the Splash Club in scuzzy mid-’90s Kings Cross. These were the same shows at which I was delighted by up-close performances from Marcy Detroit, Simons Warner and Whitaker and many more… there’s a little bit about Dreamhouse here, since someone’s been writing a crowdfunded book about the Splash years (and you can still pitch in to help it). Dreamhouse was the kind of night where you could expect table candles and belly dancing interludes most weeks; but during their own slot, Praying For The Rain completely overflowed the little Water Rats stage with finger-cymbals, accordions, cellos, cirrus-band harmonies and what seemed like about ten people on whispering percussion, temporarily transforming the place to a full-on New Age folk temple.

Although they seem rather more bluesy and straightforward-rootsy than I remember through the gauzes of memory, it’s good to see that they’ve lasted the twenty-year distance and garnered themselves a new up-to-date list of comparisons.


 
* * * * * * * *

Over at the Granary, there’s a semi-unplugged triple bill and a visit from a ‘Misfit City’ favourite.

Three Is The Magic Number presents:
Three Corners + Molly Ross + Gum Girl
The Granary @ The George Hotel, 4 Market Place, Frome, BA11 1AF, England
Friday 8th July 2016, 8.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like

Regular Frome-and-Wiltshire unplugged night Acoustic Plus takes on a new identity for this three-act bill of “original songs, haunting vocals, mesmeric music” celebrating a diversity of approach via three different acts. Molly Ross offers fledgling piano pop touches on folk and R&B; Three Corners (with their roots in 1980s new-wavers The Impossible Dreamers, and featuring ex-Dreamers Nick Waterhouse and Caroline Radcliffe) play sparse, questing songs around more of a loose blues-and-jazz-informed tip; but the one I find most interesting is the dreamy beat’n’texture pop of Gum Girl.




 
Arch Garrison
The Granary @ The George Hotel, 4 Market Place, Frome, BA11 1AF, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.00pm
– information http://cheeseandgrain.ticketsolve.com/shows/873554307

As Arch Garrison, North Sea Radio Orchestra mastermind Craig Fortnam and Stars In Battledress‘ James Larcombe explore gentle, intricate psychedelic folk: partly gentle clean chapel tones, partly kosmische textures, partly chalk-ridge geomancy. A duo of Craig’s nylon-strung acoustic guitar and James’ assorted keyboards (organ, monosynth, harmonium and piano), their two albums’ worth of songs have enabled Craig to bring the smaller and more personal songs he writes to life, when they don’t fit the grander feel of NSRO. Their ‘Will Be A Pilgrim‘ album was one of my favourites of 2014 – an unexpected gem of small voice and thinking space. Support comes from local favourites Dexter’s Extra Breakfast, playing Dave Clark’s soft-petalled and “Weltschmerzian” songs of middle-aged reflection.

 

* * * * * * * *

John D Revelator
The Griffin, 25 Milk Street, Frome, BA11 3DB, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.00pm
– free event

At the Griffin, John D Revelator will be bringing along their dark-tinged acoustic swamp-pop for a free show. Even if there’s not actually such a thing as the “Somerset Levels delta”, they’ll lie to their last tooth and their last busted guitar string trying to persuade you that it does exist.


 

* * * * * * * *

Towards the end of the festival, the second of Frome’s two substantial concert halls is offering two very different performances on the same day. One is a post-lunchtime concert of vividly Catalonian Spanish classical music from the twentieth century; the other is an evening show of polymusical fusion from an all-star collective trio.

Elena Riu & Clara Sanabras: ’A Taste Of Spain’
Cooper Hall @ Selwood Manor, Jacks Lane, Frome, BA11 3NL, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 1.00pm
information

Pianist Elena Riu and singing multi-instrumentalist Clara Sanabras (the latter on voice, harp, oud, charango and guitar) perform selections from the ‘Songs & Dances’ of Catalan impressionist/miniaturist composer Federico Mompou and the ‘Spanish Dances’ of his compatriot Enrique Granados, interspersed with Clara’s performances of the original Catalan folk songs on which Mompou drew.

Birdworld
Cooper Hall @ Selwood Manor, Jacks Lane, Frome, BA11 3NL, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.30pm
– information http://cheeseandgrain.ticketsolve.com/shows/873554308

“Birdworld is made up of musicians Adam Teixeira (drums/percussion), Gregor Riddell (cello/electronics); and Alex Stuart (guitar). The project came about when Gregor and Adam met during self-directed Banff Creative Residencies where they discovered a shared interest in blending electronic and acoustic sounds. Since Adam moved to the UK in 2014 they have continued to develop BirdWorld, adding Alex along the way. Combining their artistic voices as both instrumentalists and composers, the trio will showcase each members original compositions arranged specifically for this unique musical exchange. Creating a unified sound that blends the inspirations of modern jazz, world music, contemporary classical, rock and electronic music in a rare concert setting.”

Here’s a video of the original two-piece in action, to give you two-thirds of an idea of what might be on offer.

 

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