Archive | May, 2018

June 2018 – upcoming London rock gigs – gloriously complex experimental rock evenings – The Mantis Opera, Barringtone and New Born Animal (8th June); Lost Crowns with Sharron Fortnam and Kavus Torabi (June 14th)

27 May

Several of London’s more convoluted art-rock genii are emerging from the woodwork to play live in the early part of June, accompanied by assorted fellow travellers and burlesque pop sympathisers. Read on…

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The Mantis Opera + Barringtone + New Born Animal, 8th June 2018

If you’ve wondering what a band might sound like if it fused Henry Cow, Battles and early Scritti Politti, you’re in luck… and, to be honest, probably pretty marginal. Come over here and sit next to me.

Stemming from solo work by guitarist, singer and electronics meddler Allister Kellaway, The Mantis Opera now delivers his stirring, challenging constructions via a full electro-experimental synth-rock band, voicing a collection of “avant-garde grumbles” via a multiplicity of synth sounds and colliding pop tones. If this sounds inaccessible and snooty, it isn’t. It’s just that the tunes arrive in complicated cascading splinters, many parts urging in parallel towards an out-of-sight coda, while a dreamily precise atmosphere prevails: avant-prog keeping watch from under a dream-pop veil.

The pieces themselves display an ambitious, orchestral thinking – Reykjavik, for example, is less a guitar clang with lofty ambitions and more of a cerebral/visceral string quartet piece transposed for rock band. Allister’s winding, philosophical lyrics, meanwhile, are very reminiscent of Henry Cow and of Rock in Opposition preoccupations, dissecting as they do themes of resistance, logic, language and compliance with the air of a man trying to bring intellectual rigour to the pub, grabbing at the misty answers before the closing bell rings.



 
Assuming that recent reports of a broken-wristed drummer haven’t entirely torpedoed their availability, Barringtone should be in support, continuing their live drive towards the release of their debut album on Onamatopoeia this summer. Released songs have been sparse over the past few years; but enjoy this new-ish brainy little post-power-pop conundrum, exhibiting Barry Dobbins’ own ambitions as he moves up from the band’s previous wry, ornamented motorik drive into much more castellated, conversational proggy territories while keeping their knuckly XTC-inspired edge intact.


 
Seven-piece big-pop band New Born Animal complete the lineup at this Friends Serene gig. Headed by singer/songwriter/arranger Thomas Armstrong, they’re a sonorous wall-of-drunken-sound effort who sound like Blur (during their music-hall period) dragging the Walker Brothers into a dressing-room tipple too far. If so, they also sound like the stage before it all turns nasty: slightly discombobulated singalongs where self-consciousness is just rags in the breeze, the emotional valves have been opened up and everyone in the room is temporarily your lifelong friend. If this in turn sounds sloppy, then I’d suggest that there’s a lot of craft going into something which sags and collapses so gloriously and visibly, but which never disintegrates. There’s longing, wonder and helpless laughter all brimming at the back of this.


 

On top of this, the whole evening’s free if you turn up soon enough…

Friends Serene presents:
The Mantis Opera + Barringtone + New Born Animal
The Shacklewell Arms, 71 Shacklewell Lane, Shacklewell, London, E8 2EB, England
Friday 8th June 2018, 7.30pm
– free entry – information here and here

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Lost Crowns + Kavus Torabi, 14th June 2018

The following week, Richard Larcombe’s Lost Crowns spearhead “an evening of songs with a lot going on in them”. In many respects, it’s a re-run of their triumphant London debut at the same venue back in January. No Prescott this time, sadly (though their instrumental ping-pong twitch would have been welcome), but Kavus Torabi is back with a guitar, a hand-pumped harmonium and more songs from his ongoing solo project. Launched the other month with the ‘Solar Divination’ EP, this might be a holiday from the jewelled and roaring intricacies of his main gig with Knifeworld, but it’s certainly not an escape from the psychedelic shadows which nightwing their way through the band’s apparently celebratory rainbow arcs. For this isolated, darker, more grinding work, Kavus strips the flash-bangs away and leaves us with the droning echoes: the meditative bruises, fears and queries, many of which nonetheless contain their own seeds of determination and a kind of celebratory acceptance.


 
As for the headliners, last time I anticipated Lost Crowns as likely to be (deep breath) “a rich, unfolding master-craftsman’s confection… complex, artfully-meandering songs built from delightfully byzantine chords and arpeggios that cycle through ever-evolving patterns like palace clockwork; accompanied by rich, lazy clouds of hilarious, hyper-literate, wonderfully arcane lyrics; all sealed by an arch, out-of-time English manner which (in tone and timbre) falls into a never-was neverworld between Richard Sinclair, Stephen Fry, Noel Coward and a posh, Devonian Frank Zappa.”

A tall order (even it was based on what Richard’s delivered in previous projects), but I wasn’t disappointed. With Lost Crowns, Richard’s created the most dynamic and surprising music of his career.

As before, the rest of the band’s lineup is a cross-section of London art-rock luminaries: Charlie Cawood, Nicola Baigent, Rhodri Marsden, Josh Perl, drummer “Keepsie”. Certainly the influence of Richard’s brother and usual collaborator James is missed (his genial, warm, embroidering effect on Richard’s work is underrated) but his absence allows both Richard and the band to stretch out in different directions – fiercer, more crammed, sometimes brutal in their complication.

A vortex of influences funnel around Richard, including Chicago math, witty Daevid Allen psych rampage, contemporary classical music and skipping, tuneful folk singalongs. Shaped by his particular persona and thought processes – as well as his innate Englishness – it all emerges as a kind of prog, but one in which the fat and the posturing has all been burned off by the nerves and the detail, and in which his dry, melodious wit winds around the work playing mirror-tricks, theatrical feints, and the conspiratorial winks of a master boulevardier. As much at home playfully slagging off the precious venerations of synaesthesia as they are with nine-minute epics with titles like Housemaid’s Knee, Lost Crowns are a delightful self-assembling puzzle.

Frustratingly, with Richard still keeping everything close to his chest (outside of Lost Crowns’ welcoming gig environment), I’ve got nothing to show you. No embedded songs, no videos, nothing but those words and these words. Richard’s likely to keep everything culty, so the best way that you can find out whether I’m just lying through garlands here is to go to the gig yourself.

Originally this was to be a double-header with Lost Crowns’ other friends and allies, the revived psychedelic-acoustic band Lake Of Puppies (re-teaming North Sea Radio Orchestra’s Craig and Sharron Fortnam with William D. Drake, in order to build on the bouncing life-pop they cheerfully hawked around London together in the late ‘90s). Sadly, the Puppies have had to pull out of the show following Bill’s collision with pianist’s RSI in early May. Instead, Lost Crowns will play an extended set with Sharron woven into it as a special guest; while Kavus will be stretching out his own set, covering the remaining time that’s not taken up with snooker-ace-turned-avant-rock-uncle Steve Davis on DJ duty.

Lost Crowns (with special guest Sharron Fortnam) + Kavus Torabi + DJ Steve Davis
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 14th June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and
here
 

June 2018 – upcoming London gigs – David McAlmont’s ‘girl.boy.child’ investigations of LBQT+ lives in British historic houses (2nd June)

27 May

Now this looks interesting – the last handful of tickets for this…

David McAlmont: ‘girl.boy.child’, 2nd June 2018

“Renowned singer-songwriter and historian David McAlmont delves into the closets of the historic houses of the National Trust, to explore LGBTQ histories and their contemporary significance and create a new series of site-specific performances.

“Commissioned by Professor Richard Sandell (researcher and museum practitioner at The University of Leicester) along with the National Trust, the performances are the culmination of research during the National Trust’s 2017 national public programme ‘Prejudice and Pride‘, and will shine a light on many of the houses’ LGBTQ heritage.”

The first of these is at London’s Sutton House, the tucked-away Tudor gem in the middle of Hackney that’s also recently been hosting gigs by Charles Hayward, William D. Drake and others… and that’s all the ready info available. Hmm. Should do better, press people. Other evidence, mostly gathered up from the various ‘Prejudice and Pride’ pages, suggests that the show’s based on three houses – Anglesey’s Plas Newydd, Dorset’s Kingston Lacy and Kent’s Smallhythe Place – and “the extraordinary lives” of five of those house’s past residents (Kingston Lacy’s William John Bankes, Plas Newydd’s Henry Cyril Paget and the Smallhythe lesbian ménage à trois of Edith Craig, Christopher St John and Tony Atwood). All of the stories have their share of flamboyance, sadness and determination.

Known as “the dancing marquess”, St John was a Victorian nobleman (both Earl of Uxbridge and Marquess of Anglesey) with an incandescent halo of queerness: he obsessively sank his own time and his family money into a vibrant full-life theatricality which included converting part of Plas Newydd to a showcase auditorium for his own starring roles, and which extended to his own ambiguous, highly feminised and narcissistic persona. Several heady years of leading his own theatre company round Europe in the early 1900s while neglecting an unconsummated, ill-advised marriage led to debts, divorce and an early death (although one in which he died surrounded by affection).

Living in an earlier and even less tolerant age, Bankes had to flee both Kingston Lacy and England in 1841 after being caught in the act in Green Park with a royal guardsman. Facing prosecution and a possible death sentence, he went into exile in Europe, continuing his life as explorer, Egyptologist and adventurer and amassing a huge art collection (which he sent back to Kingston Lacy, only able to visit it himself under stealth).

Craig, St John and Atwood were more fortunate – lesbians living without the threat of prosecution, they lived and worked as part of an active and productive network of playwrights, theatre people, socialists and suffragettes which also encompassed Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst. That said, their lives were not without challenge: their assumed male names, their triple union, family umbrage at their sexuality and Craig’s failed attempt at a heterosexual marriage all led to various frictions.

'girl.boy.child.' - the subjects...

Certainly there’s opportunities here for storytelling, the recreation of theatrical and period music, the fierce fellow-feeling and staunchness which comes with performative queer history, and perhaps original songs. I’m not sure exactly how it will all be passed through the McAlmont filter, but his own qualities, preoccupations and expressiveness promise what ought to be a fascinating evening.

Originally coming to notice in the mid-’90s (with the short-lived but stunning Thieves) as a dazzling singer and performer fusing classic soul with glittering gay fabulosity, David seemed set to become a LBTQ+ icon, acting out, singing out and openly discussing the exhilaration, contradictions and questions of the gay experience through his own incandescent prism. In the event, he did become one, but in a lower-key way. Despite the highs (his Top Ten pop hit ‘Yes’ with Bernard Butler, plus some superb work with Thieves, Michael Nyman, David Arnold and latterly Fingersnap and Hi-Fi Sean), caprice, prejudice and the often awkward uniqueness of his outlook means that he led a more fitful singing career. Still revered for his gorgeous and epicene voice, he’s most often found reinterpreting Prince, Bassey, Gershwin or Billie Holiday songs at the head of excellent jazz bands. Meanwhile, his mid-career digression into work as an art historian (“taken to stock up the inspiration reserves… they will never be lacking again”) has deepened his overall perspective and led to new work like this.

'girl.boy.child.' preview photo by @LawrenceRoots

‘girl.boy.child.’ preview photo by @LawrenceRoots

The National Trust presents:
David McAlmont: ‘girl.boy.child’
Sutton House, 2-4 Homerton High Street, Homerton, London, E9 6JQ, England
Saturday 2nd June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

While we’re mulling over the possibilities for the upcoming show, there are some existing peachy McAlmont moments below:





 

June 2018 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Neil Luck & ARCO plus Oliver Coates/Eliza McCarthy/Tom McKinney performing Laurie Spiegel, Neil Luck and Alexia Sloane at Kammer Klang (5th June); Anyanna Witter-Johnson, Cecilia Bignall, Beth Higham-Edwards, Gabriella Swallow and others play Midori Komachi, Zoë Martlew, Freya Waley-Cohen, Charlotte Harding and others at Nonclassical EP launch (6th June); Jenni Roditi & The Improvisers’ Choir at Club Inégales (7th June)

26 May

Kammer Klang, 5th June 2018The first full week of June sees a three-in-a-row set of London gigs combining the contemporary classical and the outright experimental.

The Kammer Klang season bridging 2017 and 2018 now comes to its summer close with a double ensemble show featuring the unconventional trio of Oliver Coates (cello), Eliza McCarthy (piano) and Tom McKinney (banjo), and Neil Luck‘s ARCO quartet (Neil on voice and objects, joined by fellow composer/squib-box founder/ vocalist Adam de la Cour, violinist Chihiro Ono and viola player Benedict Taylor).

The Coates/McCarthy/McKinney trio will be playing chamber music by American composer Laurie Spiegel, who divides her time between professional programming and automation and writing the original music which the other two activities both inform and fund. Along with Suzanne Ciani, she’s a precursor of many latterday women immersed in and shaping music tech, such as Holly Herndon.

Once a leading light of the New York New Music scene, Laurie distanced herself from it just as it hit its public heyday in the early ’80s, having come to believe that it had sacrificed artistic integrity in favour of pumping out a readily consumable project. Since then, working for or in collaboration with various giant American communication technology firm, she’s followed her own interactive/algorithmic-inspired path primarily on electronic instruments, ranging from the Buchla synthesizer to early software synths or samplers. Among other things, she’s the conceiver and programmer of Music Mouse, mid-’80s compositional software with a “built-in knowledge of chord and scale convention and stylistic constraints” in order to encourage those who use it to think about other musical factors.

Despite Laurie’s usual focus on electronic sound production and methodology (plus its expansion into visual components), she began her musical life very much as an acoustic player – self-taught on mandolin, banjo and guitar, later moving on to lute – and has continued to write for traditional acoustic instruments either solo or in groups, and it’s this area of her work that gets an airing at this particular Kammer Klang. Seems it’s difficult to dig up examples of her acoustic work on Youtube, so instead here’s a quick, rare clip of her playing guitar followed by the New Music USA documentary from four years ago which it’s taken from, investigating Laurie’s work in broader terms (including the concept of her as a “grassroots technologist”).



 
Accompanied by a video work by Anders Bigum with Neil Luck, ARCO will be performing the British premiere of Neil’s new work ‘Live Guy Dead Guy’. One of Neil’s fields, loosely speaking, is musical theatre, but not of the ‘Oklahoma!’ or ‘Hamilton’ side. Rather, it’s peculiar, sometimes comical or unsettling interactions between live musicians and noisemakers, performance artists and (sometimes) whoever happens to be present in the venue at the time. One of his previous pieces, ‘Submission (Rear Naked Choke)’, is scored for “guitarist and stagehand”, while his choral work ‘PA’ features a standard choir plus speaker but also “optional audience participation”.

‘Live Guy Dead Guy’ has been described as “a batty display of his thoughts around digital identity and avatars.” Here’s a baffling clip from his earlier, similarly-themed lo-budget experimental work ‘Perfect Geek’, in which “a prodigal son returns home from Silicon Valley to visit his traditional Danish parents… he’s brought his fiancé with him; a digital avatar he’s programmed himself. Using a sort of reverse motion-capture/bad-puppet performance technique the scene classical contemporary post-digital fears via jarringly conspicuous non-digital means.”


 
The opening Fresh Klang item will be a solo cello performance (by Oliver Coates) of ‘Gate, gate’ by emerging synaesthetic British composer Alexia Sloane, whose inspirations are “nature, philosophy and psychology. She also enjoys exploring the setting of texts from a wide range of cultures and languages. Her method of composing involves very strongly imagining the pitches she wishes to be played or sung both melodically and harmonically away from any instrument. She writes the pitches down in Braille music and then dictates them to an amanuensis. The use and effect of silence in music fascinate her, perhaps as a result of her love of Buddhism.”

Here’s her earlier ensemble piece ‘Colour’ from the 2016 Aldeburgh Young Musicians apprentice weekend.


 

Kammer Klang presents:
Oliver Coates/Eliza McCarthy/Tom McKinney play Laurie Spiegel + Neil Luck/ARCO + Oliver Coates plays Alexia Sloane
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 5th June 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

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The following night, there’s a launch concert for Nonclassical‘s new EP release – ‘Outside The Lines – Vol. 2’.

Nonclassical, 6th June 2018“The ‘Outside The Lines’ series showcases new and emerging artists, bringing interesting, boundary-pushing music to the fore, and spanning the breadth of the new classical music scene in London and beyond. Curated by radio DJ, tastemaker and all-round musical adventurer Nick Luscombe, the EP celebrates the diverse breadth of new classical music being created in scenes in London and beyond.

“A selection of artists from the EP will perform live, alongside sets by Nonclassical DJs. There’s a new work by Midori Komachi for violin and field recordings, plus a new composition by Zoë Martlew for cello and tape performed by Cecilia Bignall – both of which will be performed live, alongside other artists and sets by Nonclassical DJs.

“Also featuring contributions from singing cellist Anyanna Witter-Johnson, percussionist Beth Higham-Edwards, cellist Gabriella Swallow, and composers Freya Waley-Cohen and Charlotte Harding, the release is available for streaming and download from 8th June. It’s an EP full of artists that are bending the rules and finding their voice – artists that aren’t afraid to colour outside the lines. Enter the secret bookcase at the back of The Victoria in Dalston to join us for the launch party.”

There’s not much more information on the EP just yet, so here are some previous pieces and performances by some of the associated composers and performers:




 
Nonclassical presents:
Outside the Lines #2 EP Launch: Anyanna Witter-Johnson + Cecilia Bignall + Beth Higham-Edwards + Gabriella Swallow etc. (playing Midori Komachi, Zoë Martlew, Freya Waley-Cohen, Charlotte Harding etc.)
The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England
Wednesday 6th June 2018, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

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…and the evening after that, Club Inégales continues its Song Of Songs sequence (I’m a bit disappointed that I’ve missed the existence of the preceding ones…)

Club Inégales, 7th May 2018

“…Drawing inspiration from Middle Eastern and Asian poets such as Rumi and Khalil Gibran, and that exceptionally sensual chapter in the Bible ‘The Song of Solomon’, our house band and talented guests will be celebrating music and poetry that expresses love and devotion, in both human and mystical ways.

“In the fourth of five shows, we are very lucky to be showcasing the talents of Jenni Roditi‘s The Improvisers’ Choir, who recently won the Non-Classical Battle of the Bands Competition. They are truly impressive, and we can’t wait for them take us on spontaneous journeys of vocal invention from our Euston HQ.

“As always, our ever-adventurous house band Notes Inégales will be on hand to help bring both artists’ exciting sonic explorations to life. As always, there’ll be delicious food from Taste of India available on the day, and free WiFi.”

 
Club Inégales presents:
Jenni Roditi & The Improvisers’ Choir
Club Inégales, 180 North Gower Street, Euston, London, NW1 2NB, England
Thursday 7th June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

June 2018 – more Daylight Music sessions in London – Pieter Nooten, Moon Gangs and Blasio Kavuma (2nd June); She Makes War, Garance & The Mitochondries and Chaouche (16th June); Sans Soucis Experience, Alisha Sufit and Malin Andersson (23rd June); Henning Fuchs, Takeo Toyama and Kate Ellis (30th June)

26 May

With the cake-crumbs and echoes just settling on the last of Daylight Music’s May shows, it’s time to look forward to their June ones – a treasure-trove of contemporary folk, pop, drones, chamber music, mambo, samplescapes, chanson, and classical and soul fusions. Dip deep.

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Daylight Music 283: 283: Pieter Nooten + Moon Gangs + Blasio Kavuma, 2nd June 2018“The 2nd June show features Pieter Nooten, Moon Gangs and Blasio Kavuma.

Pieter Nooten is a Dutch musician and composer best known for his work with the legendary Clan Of Xymox. Over the course of his varied career in music, he has produced numerous dance, ambient and avant garde records. He will perform songs from his long-awaited new album ‘Stem’.


 
Moon Gangs is the solo project of BEAK>’s keyboardist William Young. His music mixes analogue synth loops with foreboding, cinematic drones, heavily influenced by teenage years spent playing Commodore 64 games and listening to film scores like ‘Terminator’.

 
Blasio Kavuma is a London-based composer, arranger and curator. He has recently completed a collaboration with visual artist Gina Southgate involving live visual responses to his music, and he currently has a residency with dance company Wayward Thread. Drawing from a range of musical traditions, his music is full of rhythmic vitality and stylistic versatility, and is committed to championing forward-thinking music that is accessible to a wide audience.

 
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Daylight Music 284: She Makes War + Garance & The Mitochondries + Chaouche, 16th June 2018

“The 16th June show features She Makes War, Garance & The Mitochondries and Chaouche.

“Making a welcome return to Daylight Music, She Makes War (a.k.a. multi-instrumentalist, producer and visual artist Laura Kidd, blending urgent indie rock with melancholy torch songs) previews new material from her fourth album, which is due for release in September 2018.


 
Garance & The Mitochondries pairs Garance Louis (an extrovert, eccentric composer, singer and accordionist) with a band who mix Venezuelan mambo and psychedelic folk with the melancholy softness of post-musette songwriting. The result is a fresh, new way of interpreting the tradition of French chanson. Garance has busked her way across the world, travelling through New Orleans, Brazil, Portugal and Italy with her accordion in hand, and her adventures are documented in her songs.


 
“The music of Bristol-based singer/musician/producer Chaouche has been described as “heartbreaking and spine tingling hymns” by ‘Wonderland’ magazine. Her delicate piano playing features prominently and is bolstered by balanced production of her own massed vocals, programmed drums, sub-bass, cello, violin and an obsession with reverb and delay.

 
* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music 285: Sans Soucis Experience + Alisha Sufit + Malin Andersson, 23rd June 2018“The 23rd June show features Sans Soucis Experience, Alisha Sufit and Malin Andersson.

Sans Soucis Experience is a fusion soul collective of musicians based in London. Coming from different countries and meeting in the heart of Europe, they bring together a shared love for their own folk music, blending Central African and European influences and border interests in hip-hop, jazz and soul for this acoustic performance.


 
Alisha Sufit was the singer/songwriter with the pioneering British psychedelic folk band Magic Carpet, who released an album of the same name in 1972 on the Mushroom label. The album is now highly sought after. British guitarist Davey Graham wrote “her voice, full of love, soars and swoops, her lyrics full of keen observation and tender comment.” Alisha also sang and recorded with Amorphous Androgynous, and has recorded four solo albums.

 
“Swedish singer-songwriter Malin Andersson grew up close to nature, and her songs reflect the sound of the wilderness and honest Scandinavian simplicity. Her style of gentle fingerpicking guitar playing, mixed with contemplative lyrics and evocative melodies, has gained considerable support outside her homeland.


 
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Daylight Music 286: Henning Fuchs + Takeo Toyama + Kate Ellis, 30th June 2018

“The final June show, on the 29th, features Henning Fuchs, Takeo Toyama and Kate Ellis.

“Film composer Henning Fuchs will perform ‘A New Beginning’, a performance that combines live music and live sampling together with sound artist Patrick Muller and visual artist Sven Mücke. This bewitching performance celebrates silence and stillness of the mind. Silence is never solely the end. It is also always the beginning of something new. This idea is reflected throughout the composition.

 
“Discordant harmonies and fast-changing beats are the trademark of the sound variations of pianist Takeo Toyama. His innovative digital compositions for analogue instruments have attracted considerable attention. After recording five full-length albums, he has now started to arrange tracks for various artists, TV shows and animations. He is also in great demand as a composer for modern dance choreographies.


 
“Cellist Kate Ellis is dedicated to the performance and exploration of all things with the shiny label of new music. Kate is the Artistic Director of Crash Ensemble, and a member of the Taquin Experiments, Yurodny and Fovea Hex.”


 
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As usual, all gigs are at Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England and are free, though it’s good form to donate a fiver on the way in or out. Dates below:

  • Daylight Music 283: Pieter Nooten + Moon Gangs + Blasio Kavuma, Saturday 2nd June 2018, 12:00pminformation
  • Daylight Music 284: She Makes War + Garance & The Mitochondries + Chaouche, Saturday 16th June 2018, 12:00pminformation
  • Daylight Music 285: Sans Soucis Experience + Alisha Sufit + Malin Andersson, Saturday 23rd June 2018, 12:00pminformation
  • Daylight Music 286: Henning Fuchs + Takeo Toyama + Kate Ellis, Saturday 30th June 2018, 12:00pminformation

 

May/June 2018 – upcoming London rock and pop gigs – Great Dad play with Svetlana Smith and Couples (25th May) and with Socket and Italia 90 (1st June); Black Midi play with Preoccupations at Village Underground (5th June), with Omni at the Lexington (11th June) and launch their debut single at the Windmill with Jerskin Fendrix, GG Skips, The Guest and Legpuppy (12th June)

24 May

Right now I’m keeping an eye on a couple of very different south London dark-horse acts, seeing which sparks fly up and around them as they carve their spaces underground. Each is distinct – Great Dad play genderfluid experimental pop full of sampler collaging, flustered hummingbird guitars, voice-processing and a mixture of yawing, caught-in-the-flux perspective and fractured ecstatic/paranoid/semi-carnal song narratives; Black MIDI play a sometimes stony, sometimes yammery mashup of experimental rock positionings, post-hardcore slams, and neo-No Wave adjustments. Each has a peculiar ability to pull in listeners and attendees from their comfort zones. Each is keeping busy.



 

Great Dad play tomorrow night as part of a Bethnal Green college band gig, bringing their Goldsmith’s College inspirations to a show “spawned from the creative minds of UCL’s hottest young talents”. I know more about them than I do about any of the others – I can’t tell you much about Svetlana Smith apart from the fact that they’re a “neurotic synthpop duo” preoccupied with Russia and with pernicious beauty, and short of any clips or online sounds which I can use to illustrate that; Couples are theoretically easier to pin down, being a funky, fully-formed act allegedly aiming for a post-punk/grunge feeling but fronted by a classic blues-rock voice, actually ending up a little like Editors about to mutate into Stealer’s Wheel, if that makes any sense.

 
The following week, Great Dad play a much punkier free gig at the recently reopened Vinyl Deptford. Billmates Italia 90’s songs alternate between dank, irritable, menacing railway-arch noise or angry jet-propelled purpose; underpinned, in each case, by a glowering thrumming drone like an overhead bombing raid. They could have stepped straight out of 1979 and the winter of discontent – theirs is a classic butch-punk snarl of angry, disenfranchised boredom from the land of the have-nots, their lyrics minimal, their sound just a touch of Joy Division live loom. They’re just one constructive spat away from toppling into a broader politics; for now, though, they’re stuck on the edge, threshing out their frustration. Female-fronted firecrackers Socket don’t worry about anything like that, specialising in a hell-for-leather guitar pelt with capacious Lust for Life drumming and barely controlled chant-yelling.



 

Dates:

  • Quick Spin: Svetlana Smith + Great Dad + Couples – Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, 42-46 Pollard Row, Bethnal Green, London, E2 6NB, England, Friday 25th May 2018, 8.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Double Dare w/ Socket + Great Dad + Italia 90 – Vinyl Deptford, 4 Tanner’s Hill, Deptford, London, SE8 4PJ, England
    Friday 1st June 2018, 8.00pm
    – free event (suggested donation: £3.00) – information here

* * * * * * * *

Celebrating a year of existence (during which they’ve played with all and sundry and an insouciant swagger, and effectively created their own no-rules scene), Black Midi play three shows in the first fortnight of June. The first is probably the highest profile one – a Village Underground show supporting fiercely-honed Canadian neo-post-punkers Preoccupations, currently touring their tersely-titled new album ‘New Material’. The second is another support slot, this time a Bad Vibrations gig in which they’re supporting Atlanta post-punkers Omni, another post-punk crew who play raised-eyebrow songs with taut riffs continually re-articulating their shape and moving onto new ones: arrangements like card-tricks executed within 4/4 time.





 
The third gig is Black Midi’s own combined formal first birthday party/single release party, down at the Windmill with a clutch of Windmill friends in attendance as they unveil their vinyl debut with the Bm Bm Bm” seven inch. Last time I covered Jerskin Fendrix, I tagged him as “a smart operator with a wise, knowing line in media-savvy one-man synth pop, who uses Autotune like a dance of the seven veils, and who knows how to make use of lo-fi bedsit trappings without being trapped by them”; and since he’s happily using the quote, I guess he’s not felt the need to change his ways. Similarly, I’ve recently described The Guest as a “Casio cave-techno specialist and parody-hipster narrator… like a meetup between adolescent versions of Jarvis Cocker and Julian Cope, Momus and Klark Kent in a school computer room, all up for smartarse bloopy experiments with primitive synth programs and hijacked games consoles” while “haunted electronicist” GG Skips showed up at a DIY Space gig last month.

Entirely new to me are electro/art-punk collective Legpuppy, who create dance-friendly clean-limbed European electropop with a dark, sarcastic cutting edge, sifting through the narcissism of social media quirks and memes and processing them into chilly, sarcastic songs with titles like Selfie Stick Narcissistic Prick, or Running Through A Field Of Wheat. It could be spiteful, but there’s a moral core to it, with the band training their sights on the kind of solipsistic ineptness that unglues the world.

Dates:

  • Preoccupations + Black Midi – Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3PQ, England, Tuesday 5th June 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Omni + Black Midi – The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England, Monday 11th June 2018, 8.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Sonic Bm5: black midi + Jerskin Fendrix + GG Skips + Legpuppy – The Windmill, 22 Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, London, SW2 5BZ, England, Tuesday 12th June 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here

Brixton sounds:


 

June 2018 – upcoming chamber-fusion and Rock In Opposition gigs in London – North Sea Radio Orchestra (2nd June); Lindsey Cooper Songbook with The Watts, John Greaves and Chlöe Herington (16th June)

24 May

North Sea Radio Orchestra, 2nd June 2018

North Sea Radio Orchestra are bringing their chamber-fusion sound to south London as part of the Lambeth Readers & Writers Festival. They’re a leafy and lambent confection of strings, reeds, nylon-strong guitar, boutique post-Stereolab keyboards and softened brass, fronted by the heartfelt disparate vocals of husband and wife team Sharron and Craig Fortnam (one a clarion carol, the other a papery whisper-croon).

Given the Festival’s context, they might pull out a few of the pieces with which they initially made their name a decade-and-a-half ago – garlanded, illuminated settings of Thomas Hardy, William Blake and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Either way, come for an evening which merges English country-garden airiness with German experimental rock boffinry and Zappa-styled tuned-percussion tinkles. Regular gigmate and sometime NSRO contributor William D. Drake was scheduled for a support slot, but since an injury put him out of action for the summer, he’s had to pull out. There may or may not be a suitable replacement.




 
Lambeth Readers & Writers Festival presents:
North Sea Radio Orchestra
Clapham Library, Mary Seacole Centre, 91 Clapham High Street, Clapham, London, SW4 7DB, England
Saturday 2nd June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

* * * * * * * *

Lindsay Cooper Songbook, 16th June 2018

There’s a tenuous but true link between NSRO and Yumi Hara’s Half The Sky project. On top of the existing ties of friendship, they’re both mostly-acoustic chamber music projects with prominent bassoon and an electric experimental rock component; both focus predominantly on a single composer; both lean (implicitly or explicitly) towards the ‘70s Canterbury scene and sound.

However, where NSRO has a core of sweetness Half The Sky is decidedly umami. Set up to curate, recreate and perform the work of the late Lindsay Cooper (and specialising in the repertoire she put out for the groups Henry Cow, News From Babel and Music for Films) theirs is a knottier, more querying sound: a winding road full of debate and pointings, animated but affectionate.

There have been shifts in the band recently. While Yumi continues on keyboards and lever harp alongside co-founder/former Cow drummer Chris Cutler, and singer Dagmar Krause was added as the primary vocalist for last year’s European dates, the band now features John Greaves on bass and keyboards and Tim Hodgkinson on reeds and lap steel, bringing its ex-Cow member count up to four (with Chlöe Herington still on hand to add more assorted reeds). They’ve kept the fifty-fifty male/female player ratio which reflected their original title, but have now taken up the more sober, less whimsical name of Lindsay Cooper Songbook. This will be the debut of the new crew, but here’s video of various previous lineups of the band in action in London and Japan…



 
The evening also features three support sets drawn from the ensemble. Making their British debut, The Watts unites Yumi Hara with Tim Hodgkinson and Chris Cutler in a post-Cow trio. John Greaves adds a solo performance of his own songs on voice and piano, and Chlöe Herington (following the development of her VALVE project into a collective female trio which, in some respects, echoes Lindsay’s work with FIG) will be returning to her own solo roots with music for bassoon and electronics. If there are any gaps left, staunch ‘Organ’-ista Marina Organ will be filling them with her DJ set, drawing on the horde of fringe-rock and experimental records she plays on her Resonance FM show.

Lindsay Cooper Songbook + The Watts + John Greaves + Chlöe Herington + DJ Marina Organ
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Saturday 16th June 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

There’ll be a second chance to catch them this summer – at the Zappanale in Bad Doberan Germany on 21st July. For those who missed my Lindsay summary last time, here’s a trimmed version:

“Long before the knot of current pop-culture wrangling over women’s control over the music they make, (Lindsay) was plugging away in her own corner, striving (and ultimately succeeding) for much the same thing in the often arid and unforgiving spaces of British art rock, improv and jazz… Pinning down the nature of a woman’s work in art – or women’s work in general – is not always an easy thing, nor even desirable. Even the most positive intentions can produce more restrictive categories, more unwanted boxings and demands to conform.

“In the case of Lindsay, whose career always foregrounded honest effort and end product over personality showboating, and which was tinted by doubt and determination, it’s probably best to concentrate mostly on the mind behind the music: to listen to the querying voice coming through. Operating over a set of times in which both contemporaries and colleagues had a tendency towards answers and stances, stated in both bald pronouncements and modernist-baroque ornamentations, she opted to bring a more questioning tone which nonetheless carried some of its possible answers in both action and presentation.

“Hers was a polymathic but purer musicality: an instrumental voice which voyaged alongside others’ often harsher pronouncements, détournements and doctrines and drew from them while never being subject to them, and which always kept a gentler, more accommodating side open to allow growing space and to consistently rebuild… She was responsible for most of the piled jazzy grandeur of the second side (of Henry Cow’s ‘Western Culture’) finding previously unexplored links between the music of New York, Canterbury and Switzerland)…

“In the late ’70s Lindsay had already formed the witty, subversive Feminist Improvising Group, or FIG (which) not only enabled previously sidelined female voices onto the improv scene but deliberately upturned expectations as to what such a scene could achieve. FIG were spontaneous, mutually supportive and – just as importantly – funny. With a strong and personal rooting in lesbian, class-based and feminist activism (plus parallel feelings of sidelining and denial on the part of others) but a suspicion of dogma, they expressed frustration and political challenge by drawing on a collective sense of the absurd and of the sympathetic… Men carped, frowned and cold-shouldered; women laughed, argued and sometimes welcomed; the group members continually challenged their own sense of self and role; but the work itself sounds joyously unshackled – something I would have loved to have been around to see…

“Post-Cow and FIG, Lindsay ran her own Film Music Orchestra to create and record arthouse soundtracks (often working in cinematic cahoots with Sally Potter). She rejoined Chris Cutler for the 1980s post-Marxist art-song project News From Babel (in which) Chris’ social and political musings would make a happier marriage with the pop-cabaret end of Lindsay’s music. She also contributed to the counter-cultural jazz colours of various Mike Westbrook and John Wolf Brennan bands, played with Pere Ubu ranter David Thomas, worked in theatre and (in the ’90s) composed a more formal chamber music which nonetheless retained the edge and inquiring spirit of her work in avant-rock and political art. She’d collaborate with Potter again for the Cold War song cycle ‘Oh, Moscow’ in the late ’80s, to which Chris Cutler also contributed. If encroaching multiple sclerosis (which had privately dogged her throughout her post-Cow career) hadn’t dragged her into early retirement in the late ’90s, there would have been more.

“(Lindsay Cooper Songbook) provide a welcome re-introduction to Lindsay’s work, performed by committed people whose sympathy with Lindsay Cooper’s music is absolute. However, they should also be viewed as a window onto the wider career of a quietly remarkable woman whose death in 2013 forced a premature coda onto the work of a mind whose personal humility had been more than balanced by its nimbleness, thoughtful and flexibility. Come along to these concerts and hear some of that mindwork and heartwork come alive again.”
 

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