Archive | May, 2019

June 2019 – upcoming London opera – National Opera Studio’s ‘Voices Of Now’ (7th, 8th) and the premiere of Robert Hugill’s ‘The Gardeners’ at Conway Hall (18th)

31 May

Passing on some opera news…

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This coming Friday, National Opera Studio brings their ‘Voices Of Now’ to London for a couple of days (playing the old gay Bloomsbury theatre haunt The Drill Hall – now RADA Studios – which certainly saw plenty of operatics of one kind or another during its previous life).

'Voices of Now: Scenes From Contemporary Operas' - 7th & 8th June 2019

“Directed by award-winning director Michael McCarthy (Artistic Director, Music Theatre Wales), ‘Voices Of Now’ celebrates scenes from contemporary opera written in English. This programme will showcase 21st century operas, with scenes from works by John Adams, Judith Weir, George Benjamin, Philip Glass, Emma Ruth-Richards, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Stuart MacRae and Unsuk Chin, and hark back to one of contemporary opera’s pioneers with an extract from Michael Tippett’s King Priam. Featuring our four talented Young Artist répétiteurs at the piano, the scenes will be conducted by NOS Head of Music, Mark Shanahan.

The opera excerpts are from:

“On Friday 7th June at 6.15pm there will be a pre-performance talk with Michael McCarthy as well as some of the composers and publishers behind the contemporary opera scenes. Discussing both the creative process behind the works and how this is translated onto the stage, this exclusive talk will be hosted by NOS Director of Artist Development, David Sulkin. Tickets for the talk cost £5.00; however they are free to members of the Friends of the National Opera Studio.”

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On 18th June, composer Robert Hugill presents the world premiere of his new opera ‘The Gardeners’ at London’s humanist/ethical fortress Conway Hall.

Robert Hugill: 'The Gardeners' - 18th June 2019

“Following the stunning productions of ‘The Genesis Of Frankenstein’, ‘When A Man Knows’ and ‘Garrett’, one of the UK’s most distinguished composers, Robert Hugill, presents the world premiere of his latest chamber opera ‘The Gardeners’. With a libretto by Otradek Records and ‘Notes Upon Notes‘ editor Joanna Wyld, this enduring modern opera sees tensions rise between three generations of the same family who look after war graves in a politically divided region.

“Inspired by a newspaper article about a family of gardeners tending war graves in the Middle East, the opera is set within a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, amongst the family which maintains the gardens in the cemetery, and it deals with issues of remembrance, tolerance, and brotherhood. The graves belong to the Dead, who once invaded the land in which they lie. Tensions rise between three generations of the same family who look after war graves in a politically divided region. The Dead communicate with the Old Gardener, to the bewilderment of his family, who cannot hear them. The Gardener works with his father, trying to keep the peace, whereas his son, the Angry Young Man, resents the Dead and is on the cusp of being radicalised. His Mother and Grandmother try to resolve the divisions within their family.

“After the Gardener discovers that the graves have been vandalised, and suspects his son may be the culprit, the conflict between the Angry Young Man and his family escalates, culminating in the Old Gardener collapsing and dying. Filled with remorse, the Angry Young Man reflects on his actions. As he does so, he starts to hear the voices which had spoken to his grandfather: the voices of the Dead.”

“The way the family maintain the gardens in the cemetery against difficult odds, and with graves of a variety of different religions, provides a metaphor for the current tensions in the Middle East; and in Joanna’s libretto the garden provides a further metaphor for the easing of tension and the creation of harmony and brotherhood.”

“This concert performance features Julian Debreuil (Wingate Foundation Award winner), Peter Brathwaite (English National Opera 2017 / 2018), Magid El-Bushra (Orchestre de Radio France), Flora Mcintosh (Anne Zeigler Award winner) and Georgia Mae Bishop (Opera Holland Park young artist 2019); with an instrumental quintet ensemble (harpist Oliver Wass, violinist Charlotte Amherst, viola player May Dolan, cellist Sophie Haynes and clarinettist Anthony Friend) conducted by the Artistic Director of the London English Song Festival William Vann.”

‘The Gardeners’ has a dedicated website and a Facebook page with further background and developing news. Joanna Wyld has also written in ‘The Cross-Eyed Pianist‘ about the construction of the libretto. Here’s a clip from Robert’s previous opera ‘When A Man Knows’.

 
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Dates:

National Opera Studio presents:
‘Voices of Now: Scenes From Contemporary Operas’
RADA Studios, 16 Chenies Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1E 7EX, England
Friday 7th June 2019, 7.30pm / Saturday 8th June 2019, 3.00pm & 7.30pm
Pre-concert talk: Friday 7th June 2019, 6.15pm

– information here and here

Conway Hall Sunday Concerts presents:
‘The Gardeners’
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, England
Tuesday 18th June 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here
 

June 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs – Echo Ensemble’s Love Classical contribution (4th) and ‘The Ancient Tomorrow’ (27th); ‘Mixture: New Music For Organ and Electronics’ at Union Chapel (10th); Marsyas Trio’s ‘Trios For Our Time’ (12th, with workshop on the 2nd)

29 May

Two June concerts from the Echo Ensemble chamber orchestra showcase new works by their director and conductor Noah Max. Barely twenty, Noah’s already a frighteningly accomplished artistic polymath – a conductor, cellist, chorister, New Music advocate and musical entrepreneur who’s also nurturing successful side careers as a painter, poet and filmmaker. As a composer, he’s already lined up a stack of diverse works, performed not only by Echo but by the Ebor Singers, the Marryat Players, the Barbican Piano Trio and Duo d’Oro. (All this, and still no website…) As for the ensemble, they’re a mere couple of years old, but are already making significant ripples in the British classical community and being hailed for their power and imaginative focus.

Echo Ensemble @ 'Love Classical', 4th June 2019

The first of the two concerts is part of the Albert Hall’s ‘Love Classical’ season, tucked away in the Elgar Room: it also features Mozart’s ‘Symphony No. 29’ and Taneyev’s ‘Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 30’. The Max piece is the world premiere of his complete suite ‘Immolation Dances’ which, as he recalls, “began life a year ago as a ballet which wound together tales such as Icarus and the myth of the Phoenix. The writing process has burned away all but the fiery core of the piece, a white-hot suite of warped dances which explore my fascination with heat and light, resonance, pain and healing. Although its narrative has become more abstract, I hope the piece remains a blazing, emotionally charged inferno, all the more intense for its brevity.”

Echo Ensemble: 'The Ancient Tomorrow', 27th June 2019

The second – ‘The Ancient Tomorrow’, at St Gabriels Pimlico – presents “a programme spanning from Edvard Grieg’s vision of 1600s Norway to the world premiere of a major new work for string orchestra… via neglected French composer André Jolivet’s neoclassical firecracker of a flute concerto.” The Grieg work is ‘Aus Holbergs Zeit’; the Jolivet is his “spontaneous and symmetrical” 1949 ‘Concerto for Flute and Strings’ which they’ll be playing with guest flautist Frederico Paixão (interesting, too, to note the polymathic interests Jolivet and Max share). The new string orchestra piece (another world premiere) is the Max one, ‘The Chakras’, for which information is thin on the ground: check later for the Echo Ensemble’s Facebook page, which seems to be Noah’s main outlet for comments and updates.

A couple of Noah Max’s previous orchestral pieces are on show below…



 
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Marsyas Trio (featuring flautist Helen Vidovich, cellist Val Welbanks and, since late 2017, pianist Olga Stezhko) continue their mission to encourage and perform new repertoire with a concert at the 1901 Club entirely dedicated to premieres, courtesy of various members of the London Composers’ Forum.

Marsyas Trio: 'Trios For Our TImes', 12th June 2019

On the programme are Peter Openshaw ‘Caput redivivum’; ‘Drift’ (by former Fin De Siecle frontwoman and current soundtrack composer Isa Suarez); Illumination Chamber Choir leader Miriam Mackie‘s ‘Same Place’; Alan Taylor‘s ‘Muted & Changing Voices’; Michael Regan‘s ‘In The Shadows’, Alan Hilton‘s ‘Trio’ and Elizabeth Sharma‘s ‘Songs Of The Night’. I’ve not been able to find much in the way of summaries for any of these, but you might be able to find out a little more if you wangled your way into the pre-concert LCF workshop at Goldsmith’s on 2nd June (free to students and LCF members).

In addition, below are some previous examples of work from most of the composers involved, including what sounds like a synthesized demo of the Hilton piece (plus a little of the Marsyas Trio in action a few years ago, with soprano Jessica Summers at the much-missed Forge in Camden).


 
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'Mixture: New Music For Organ and Electronics', 10th June 2019On the subject of Goldsmiths, several of their postgraduate music students (alongside others from Guildhall School of Music & Drama and from the University of Cambridge) will be debuting compositions at a Union Chapel concert on the 10th.

‘Mixture: New Music For Organ and Electronics’ is the capstone concert in a six-month series in which current compositional and performance technology is being brought into play with the chapel’s reknowned Henry Willis pipe organ. For such a grand undertaking, this is a surprisingly undersung event (which I’m going to latch onto as my excuse for not having followed the whole series). The Goldsmiths contingent are Robert Murray Jamieson, Maeve Moayedi, Elisabeth Salverda, Rachel Gibson and Elizabeth Hill-Laurence: that leaves one place apiece for Cambridge and Guildhall, but it’s not clear who those last two composers are. Still, at a ticket price of only £3.50, it’s probably worth dropping by on spec just to find out.

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Dates:

London Composers’ Forum Workshop with Marsyas Trio for ‘Trios For Our Time’
Room 163, Richard Hoggart Building @ Goldsmiths (University of London), Lewisham Way, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW, England
Sunday 2nd June 2019, 12.30pm and 4.30pm
– information here and here

Echo Ensemble @ Love Classical
Elgar Room @ Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, Knightsbridge, London, SW7 2AP, England
Tuesday 4th June 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here

‘Mixture: New Music For Organ and Electronics’
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Monday 10th June 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

London Composers Forum presents:
Marsyas Trio: ‘Trios For Our Time’
1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Wednesday 12th June 2019, 6.30pm
– information here and here

Echo Ensemble: ‘The Ancient Tomorrow’
St Gabriel’s Pimlico, Warwick Square, Pimlico, London, SW1V 2AD, England
Thursday 27th June 2019, 8.00pm
– information here and here
 

June 2019 – the start of Daylight Music’s summer season in London – The Slowest Lift, Laura Jurd & Chris Batchelor, ORE and Jim Bishop (1st June); Jam Tarts Choir, Independent Country and Sarah Gonputh (8th June); ‘From Call To Choir’ with Dominic Stichbury, Ben See, Esmeralda Conde Ruiz, Archie and a clutch of chorals (15th June), Piney Gir, She Choir and Oly Ralfe (22nd June); Xenia Pestova Bennett, Ligeti Quartet, Snowpoet, Muted Summer Landscape and the magnetic resonator piano (29th June)

28 May

Daylight Music 10, 2019

Currently in the process of celebrating a remarkable ten years of bringing cuddly/eclectic pay-what-you-can family music events to London (or, more accurately, of encouraging inspiring music to happen with the minimum of cynical compromises while ensuring that there’s a family-friendly space for it to happen in), Daylight Music is back for another season of Saturday lunchtime gigs with all manner of different people playing.

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The summer season launch gig, on 1st June, focusses on experimental brass-themed acts:

Daylight Music 307: The Slowest Lift + Laura Jurd & Chris Batchelor + ORE - 1st June 2019

“West Yorkshire’s The Slowest Lift (Sophie Cooper and Julian Bradley), present a new chapter in the long-running tradition of radical English music duos. Cooper (an accomplished solo performer and collaborator) and Bradley (from frequent VHF delinquents Vibracathedral Orchestra) play a kind of gentle post-industrial psychedelia, a ghostly tapestry of earthen whirring, phantasmal resonances, sheets of textured skree and touching, hazy vocals. The songs are a blend of straightforward performance and eccentric bricolage, with rude electronic interjections sitting comfortably alongside delicate guitar and keyboard melodies.



 
Laura Jurd and Chris Batchelor will perform as a duo. Laura is a London-based, award-winning trumpet player and composer, currently a BBC New Generation Artist for 2015-2017: an active improviser playing regularly in the UK and more recently in Europe, she specialises in writing for hand-picked musicians in her own projects and ensembles. Her band Dinosaur has performed throughout the UK and Europe. Chris is an innovative and creative trumpet player and composer based in London: as well as leading several projects, including the avant-trad band Pigfoot, he is also featured as a sensitive and versatile soloist in many highly regarded groups on the European jazz scene, and is a prominent soloist and composer in the re-formed Loose Tubes.



 
ORE is the drone/doom brass sound of tuba player Sam Underwood and baritone horn/trombone player Beck Baker. The pair create weighty dronescapes that evolve at a glacial pace. ORE’s sound rewards the patient listener as their dissonant tones rub together; enhanced by the use of two custom-built resonant gong speakers. The audience slowly becomes awash with the sound of ORE.


 
“We’re happy to announce that Jim Bishop will return to play the chapel’s own Gothic synth – the Henry Willis organ, joining the dots between the other main performers. Jim came to Daylight as part of all-male 60’s dance troupe The Action Men, who have returned a couple of times since. He plays in Ancient Egyptian instrumental group The Mirage Men, The Band Who Fell To Earth (who play Bowie in the style of Booker T. and The MGs) and The Fay Hallam Group, alongside another Daylight performer, Andy Lewis.”

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The ‘Come As You Are’ concert on 8th June sees the series dive into comfy covers again…

 
“Daylight Music goes to the indie disco in its own inimitable fashion with the Jam Tarts Choir and Independent Country, who will be teaming up for an unforgettable rendition of the Nirvana song of the event title, and expect a surprise or two on the Chapel’s organ…

“Independent Country, a six-piece band from Birmingham, play your favourite indie hits in a country music style. Here are songs originally by the Happy Mondays, the Smiths, Blur, Jesus and Mary Chain, Pulp and Oasis as you’ve never heard them before.


 
“Now into their fifteenth barnstorming year, Brighton’s Jam Tarts are an indie choral collective who perform unique and shimmering arrangements of post-punk, electro, Britpop and artrock classics. Four (or five or even eight) part harmonies, sixty pairs of mighty lungs and six degrees of celebration. Think choirs aren’t your cup of tea? You’ve never heard your favourite songs quite like this before…Their set is likely to include big choral versions of songs by Ezra Furman, The Stone Roses, Tom Waits, Jesus and Mary Chain and Arcade Fire. Hungover commuters on the 8.18 from Brighton can expect the train to be packed with singing Tarts, complete with trumpeters and cellist!


 
“Indie and alternative music was the natural choice for the choir after director and musical arranger Li Mills bribed John Peel with chocolate to help write her music degree finals thesis on punk, obliterating her early teenage record collection of Dire Straits and Phil Collins albums. Praise be to the late Mr Peel, or Jam Tarts might be singing Another Day in Paradise arranged for sixty voices…

Sarah Gonputh is a London-based keyboard player for Green Seagull, Manuela, Twink and The Lysergics. She has a special love for vintage organs such as the Vox Jaguar, Vox Continental, Farfisa Compact, The Philacorda and the Hammond Organ. Her keyboard-playing heroes include: Ray Mazareck of The Doors, Steve Winwood and Garth Hudson of The Band. Having performed several times at past Daylight Music events with Green Seagull, Manuela and playing piano for the “in-between” bits last year for The Left Outsiders, this will be Sarah’s Union Chapel Organ playing debut, pumping out some indie hits.”

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Choral ideas are developed further the following week with the ‘Call To Choir’ event, including a chance for you to join in…

Daylight Music 309: 'From Call To Choir' with Dominic Stichbury & Ben See with Esmeralda Conde Ruiz + Archie (plus members of Chaps Choir, Bellow Fellows, Electric Belles and the Grandmother project) - 15th June 2019

“What happens when the call of one voice captures the imagination of others? Starting with one singer and finishing with hundreds, this edition of Daylight Music will see numbers of voices grow to fill every corner of the Union Chapel.

Dominic Stichbury (Chaps Choir, Bellow Fellows) and Ben See (La La La Records) are exploring the themes of expansion, commonalty and togetherness through the human voice; and are gathering singers together to celebrate its infectious power. The performance will include an eclectic mix of singers and songs, including new material written especially for the event, featuring female folk/jazz vocal quartet Archie, Ben See, Esmeralda Conde Ruiz and the GrandMother project, Chaps Choir, Bellow Fellows and Brixton-based “all girl, all awesome” close-harmony choir Electric Belles.

“Would you like to join the biggest ever choir to sing at Daylight Music? All welcome. No choir/performing experience is required, just fill in the online form, turn up for the preparation sessions (on Friday 14th) and take part in the final event. You will learn some short songs in harmony by ear and prepare to sing them with hundreds of other voices in the wonderful acoustics of the chapel.”



 
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More choral covers blend with pianos, pop and psychedelia on the 22nd when Piney Gir gets her hands on the reins…

Daylight Music 310: Piney Gir's 'Midsummer Madness' with She Choir + Oly Ralfe - 22nd June 2019

“Piney Gir’s perfect pop music is dipped in sunshine, so she was an obvious choice to curate a special event inspired by the Summer Solstice as part of our 10th Year celebration. She wants you to get playful, be creative, and come along for summertime inspiration and maybe even do a little white witchy spell with her in honour of The Longest Day.

“Originally hailing from Kansas, but having lived in London for many years, Piney is a prolific and prodigious musician. She has been touring with Gaz Coombes around the UK, Europe and America and is also one of Gaz’s backing singers. She has recently been singing with Noel Gallagher and Danny Goffey, and supported Ride on tour around the UK just before Christmas. She’s gearing up to release her seventh album, ‘You Are Here’, which is a celebration of analogue gear with a sound that nods back to when music was on the cusp of change, just before synth pop and just after punk rock.


 
“Her allies on this afternoon will be London women’s SHE Choir who sing their technicolour version of songs from Destiny’s Child to Fleetwood Mac.

Oly Ralfe (Ralfe Band) will present music from his debut solo instrumental piano album. Sitting somewhere between the oscillating patterns of Philip Glass and the reflectiveness of Gavin Bryars, the album ‘Notes From Another Sea’ sounds like music for a film that has yet to be made.


 
“Finally, Piney presents a special acoustic set from Premium Leisure (a.k.a. Chris Barker) who has honed his own sound: a mix of experimental guitars and undulating rhythms reminiscent of late ’60s English psychedelic rock with a bit of early Tame Impala or White Denim thrown in.”


 
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The last of June’s gigs is a typically Daylight fusion of accessible classical and experimental ideas…

Daylight Music 311: 'Magnetic String Resonance' with Xenia Pestova Bennett + Ligeti Quartet + Snowpoet + Muted Summer Landscape - 29th June 2019

“What if you could play a note on the piano and have it last forever? Pianist, composer and improviser Xenia Pestova Bennett will curate a special afternoon featuring the Magnetic Resonator Piano, an exciting new instrument designed by the radical inventor Andrew McPherson. A grand piano will be completely transformed into a stunning acoustic cyborg with electromagnets suspended above the strings, allowing for control of minute details of shimmering resonance and gorgeous sustained tones. (Click here for an article on the instrument, from ‘Keyboard Perspectives’, and here for a ‘World Piano News’ article on its use in the soundtrack for last year’s film ‘Christopher Robin’…)


 
“Also performing will be string ensemble Ligeti Quartet who, since their formation in 2010, have established a reputation for breaking new ground through innovative programming and championing of today’s most exciting composers and artists.


 
“Completing this afternoon line-up, Xenia presents Snowpoet‘s debut at Daylight. The London-based band, led by “mesmerising” vocalist Lauren Kinsella and bassist Chris Hyson, have released two critically acclaimed albums to date, with the most recent being ‘Thought You Knew’ on Edition Records. Blending sweet hook-laden vocal lines with warm and lush arrangements, the music is infectious, delicate and tasteful.


 
“Joining the dots this week between the other artists is something a little bit special. We’re pleased to welcome Muted Summer Landscape, an audio/visual collaboration between electronic music composer Brian Robinson and visual artist Steve Lee who transform and shape their audio/visual field recordings, melodies and rhythms into delicate electronic portraits that often reflect the natural environments that surround them. Inspired by the simple and complex patterns that present themselves when manipulating source material, msl create immersive narratives that evoke emotions, stimulate imagination and provoke thought. Taking into account the architectural surroundings and the nature of this event, Brian will deliver a solo performance of live ambient/spectral transformations based on material taken from MSL’s forthcoming audio/visual release, expected later this summer.”


 
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All gigs are at the usual place – Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England – with a suggested donation of five pounds (as ever, an absolute bargain). Dates below:

  • Daylight Music 307: The Slowest Lift + Laura Jurd & Chris Batchelor + ORE – Saturday 1st June 2019, 12:00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 308: ‘Come As You Are’ with Jam Tarts Choir + Independent Country – Saturday 8th June 2019, 12:00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 309: ‘From Call To Choir’ with Dominic Stichbury & Ben See with Esmeralda Conde Ruiz + Archie (plus members of Chaps Choir, Bellow Fellows, Electric Belles and the Grandmother project) – Saturday 15th June 2019, 12:00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 310: Piney Gir’s ‘Midsummer Madness’ with She Choir + Oly Ralfe – Saturday 22nd June 2019, 12:00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 311: ‘Magnetic String Resonance’ with Xenia Pestova Bennett + Ligeti Quartet + Snowpoet + Muted Summer Landscape – Saturday 29th June 2019, 12:00pm – information here and here

Details on July’s Daylight concerts to follow in due course…
 

May/June 2019 – upcoming pop/rock gigs – VLMV and Thomas Stone (30th May); Daniel O’Sullivan and Tega Mendes (4th June); The Cesarians and The Silver Field (6th June), Thumpermonkey, Lost Crowns and Kavus Torabi (31st May)

27 May

VLMV + Thomas Stone, 30th May 2019

Purveyors of a limpid and extroverted dream pop, Pete Lambrou and Ciaran Morahan previously operated as ALMA. Now, since the advent of a certain “BBC-Sound-of-2018-nominated green-haired Finnish pop star, they’re known as VLMV. Apparently it’s pronounced much the same way, but murmured through hushed lips, presumably to sneak it past the lawyers (just because your lips are compressed, it doesn’t mean that you can’t thumb your nose at the same time).

At the tail-end of a European tour, VLMV are playing a London show at the Rosemary Branch Theatre. A former music hall (currently slanted towards hosting comedy and improv), within its recent history it’s frequently been the home of passionate gay drama, or of chansons – so, loosely speaking, there’s some kindred resonance with VLMV’s epicene falsetto romances; the kind of resonance you might not get at the Water Rats or the Underworld.

To be fair, you need theatres for this kind of music. No matter how many slo-mo/light-show pianos, loops and strings they pile under Pete’s voice, this is blushing drama-pop at root. If you’re taking in one of the Tim Bowness gigs this coming fortnight but suspect it still might not entirely slake your appetite for stricken empathetic romance, maybe you should give these guys a try too.



 

In support, Thomas Stone also serves as a signifier and reminder of VLMV’s experimentalist sympathies. An increasing presence on the London avant-instrumental scene (in which he won NonClassical Records’ Battle Of The Bands in 2015), he creates strong but delicate slow-reveal improvisations for contrabassoon, loop pedals, backup samples and (occasionally) bass guitar; tapping into the grace of classical chamber music and threnodic jazz, and stirring in noise, incidental distortion and other dysfidelities.



 
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Westking Music & Performing Arts, who are putting on next Wednesday’s ‘Overlaps‘ concert, are bookending it with a couple of other gigs as part of their Summer Series (which also includes performance showcases for various graduates).

On 4th June, it’s Daniel O’Sullivan supported by Westking alumna Tega Mendes.

Daniel O'Sullivan + Tega Mendes, 4th June 2019

It’s easy enough to own a varied music collection; to shuffle quickly and smoothly between folk music, noise, synthtronica, experimental psychedelia, arthouse sound design, prog, proto-punk, pseudo-Zeuhl and the rest. It’s quite another to work, as a creative musician, across all of these: inevitably some purist will call you out as a fraud or a daytripper. Daniel, however, has made a name for himself as one of the few people who can apparently flit and slide between the scenes without being stalled by suspicion or rejection. Formidable multi-instrumental skills help, as does his apparent willingness to be a utility man as often as a leader. Over two decades, he’s piled up a pyramid of projects – his own Mothlife and Miasma & the Carousel of Headless Horses; duo work with Miracle or Grumbling Fur; a stint effectively directing Guapo; contributions to live and studio work with Ulver, Sunn O))) and This Is Not This Heat; plus sound installations and soundtracks in the fine art and cinema worlds. During the course of this, no-one’s fingered him as an interloper; no-one seems to have frozen him out. It’s a rare talent to be so ubiquitous, so flexible – or so insidious.



 
Daniel’s most recent album, ‘Folly’, is the second one he’s released under his own name, pursuing something more intimate and personal. Written around the death of a friend and the birth of a son, it sees him continuing to tack away from the experimental rock he made his reputation with in favour of hushed, rich-textured chamber folk, burnished like a picture window by the warm depth of Thighpaulsandra’s production. Still ,a psychedelic perspective follows in its wake, like a contrail of blossom; easily found in the swirl of instrumentation and in the way that Daniel dips in and (more often) out of straightforwardness like a flying fish, offering transient reveals and kaleidoscopic digressions. Live, he’ll be performing solo and won’t be able to dodge behind the arrangements, but will be inviting up a couple of special guests to play along.

There’s some tie-in between Daniel’s work and Tega’s; they currently share a taste for a dreamy sheathing of instrumentation, but rather than chamber folk Tega follows on from the quiet storm soul-pop currently exemplified (in Britain, at least) by Lianne La Havas and Laura Mvula, and previously in the States by Roberta Flack and Minnie Riperton. On record, she displays a knack for deepening re-harmonisations of established songs; live, she works on a nourishing and playful full-band exploration of the assorted moods and genres that she touches on. It’s still early days for her, with not much more than a handful of Soundcloud songs to show yet, but even with her musicality still on a slow stir there’s a lot of promise here.

 
On 6th of June, The Cesarians are supported by The Silver Field.

The Cesarians + The Silver Field, 6th June 2019The musical love-child of onetime trash-rocker Charlie Finke (who sang sleaze with Penthouse in the mid-90s) and Justine Armatage (formerly pianist, composer and violinist with ill-fated ’90s theatrical indie types Gretchen Hofner), The Cesarians are virtually ambassadors for the hope of “older, wiser, sexier and funnier”. A loose troupe centred around houseboat life on the River Lea, they encompass showband horns, cabaret, puckish and sometimes self-deprecating wit, via enormous pop hooks which sweep glam, art-punk, chanson and singalong onto the table. They somehow manage to be down-to-earth while still being splendidly glamorous, by dint of turning their lives into theatre: following their songwriting inquisitiveness wherever it leads them and inviting you along.

For today’s crop of twentysomething band players, The Cesarians could (and should) be like anarchically cool uncles and aunts – the kind that zoom in and out of the family on their own orbits, winking as they swing past; cheerfully using inappropriate language and carrying handfuls of intrigue. They’re people whom you feel you could learn from: learn how to be naughty and to be wise; how to smoke and to make mistakes, but also how to become yourself. For us older dogs closer to their age, they’re more about an irrepressible spark persistently pushing up; there’s something luminous about them, as if they’d thrived on misspent youths and come through it all broader and happier as people. For what it’s worth, I get bored by musicians who embrace or act out too much debauchery, but occasionally I meet some whose mental vividness transcends the partying, and when I do I can’t stop talking to them; and generally, they turn out to be a lot like The Cesarians.

The songs? Well, the songs sound a bit like this…



 
The rural post-folk compositions for The Silver Field start off in Coral Rose’s bedroom. A digital delay inherited from her musician father serves as the cauldron for her own multi-instrumental inventiveness on a cupboardful of instruments, within which guitar, harmonica, mandolin, small drums and harmonium make room for cello, double bass, bagpipe chanter and electronics, plus loops captured on a rackety antique reel-to-reel tape recorder bought for a quid at a car boot sale. Assisted on occasion by Vanishing Twin’s Cathy Lucas and by Kiran Bhatt of Red River Dialect, It’s a kind of rough-edged chamber-folk shunting yard, in which plangent instrumental melodies are nudged by noise interference and spatial effects woven in from smartphone field recordings.

Live, Coral calls in more instrumentalist friends (Kiran again, plus Rachel Horwood from Bamboo and Trash Kit, Rachel Margetts from Yr Lovely Dead Moon) to help her recreate and reconsider her work: not absolute reproductions of what’s on record, but pickings-up and hand-ons, the instrumentation and looping shuffled under the requirements of necessity and community and of keeping the music as a living thing. Her debut album ‘Rooms’, meanwhile, comes complete with its own sonic metaphor of growing up, moving on and moving out; of both dispensing of childhood homes and coming to terms with departing from them.



 
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Closing off May, there’s a triple-threat art-rock show from Thumpermonkeyc, Lost Crowns and Kavus Torabi – all of whom I’ve already written about so frequently in here that I’m constantly, increasingly in danger of repeating myself. So I’m going to pre-empt myself by collaging some of the things I’ve already said into a new mashup, for the benefit of any of you who might be new readers or just new to any of these people…

Thumpermonkey + Lost Crowns + Kavus Torabi, 31st May 2019Thumpermonkey – “mordant, tricksy brilliance… the missing link between Mastodon and China Miéville (or perhaps between Peter Hammill and Neal Stephenson)… One of Britain’s most ambitious rock bands, deftly striding and shifting between different musical kernels from prog, dark pop or experimental metal to a kind of science-fiction cabaret, languidly licking up and stirring in any intriguing nugget or story fragment they birth or encounter… A latterday Thumpermonkey song’s more like a contemporary classical song: protracted, a lyric-driven musical wandering from thought to thought, but always with that solid rock foundation, that return to purpose… Michael Woodman’s voice (is) pure theatrical cordon bleu hambone, from the bottom of its ominous deep-tenor declamations to the top of its horror-struck falsetto…

“The music, meanwhile, is an ever-flexing full-spectrum crunch and hush, full of stalking shapes and hovering convoluted melodies… Unpacking their decade-plus back catalogue of recordings is like getting trapped in one of those clever-dick contemporary polymath novels written about everything and anything, stitched together with a little magic and mystique – they’ve sung about computer games, Nigerian fraudsters, Mexican acid westerns and strange diseases and made it sound as if it were all part of the same complex semi-submerged story… Game-playing geeks for sure, and clearly ones who are proud of their astonishingly broad armoury of sly references, veiled jokes and fantastical imagery; but also geeks who revel in their absolute mastery of those most un-geeky of rock qualities – muscle and poise… The particular genius of Thumpermonkey is that they can unroll these kind of parodic slipstream plots without ever toppling into cute whimsy.”


 
Lost Crowns – “a barrage of word-dense songs overflowing with full-on prismatic structures and outright rock drive, as if Lewis Carroll and Flann O’Brien had called on the massed forces of Henry Cow to help them hijack Battles… A vortex of influences funnel around (Lost Crowns leader) Richard Larcombe, 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…

“If he is icing his work with gags, it’s partially because something so musically demanding needs a little judicious sugaring… Imagine a cocktail which didn’t dilute as you built it up, but instead made all of its ingredients stronger, brighter and brasher… 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.”


 
Kavus Torabi – ” (His) dusky psych-folk EP ‘Solar Divination’…. perhaps draw(s) some influence from (his) other lives in Gong, Cardiacs, Guapo and others, but not nearly as much as it draws from ominous imagined dusk rituals and mysterious old ghosts on the darker hippy trails… A darker, more agrarian take on his psychedelic homeground, this time it’s drumless, bassless, hornless – rinsed clear of the capering squirrel energy he’s shown for twenty-odd years, in order to reveal muted, angsty bones… (It’s) 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…. Mostly based around slow, smoky-lunged harmonium stretches and sparse flotsam drags of guitar chording, this is a more foreboding turn of song, haunted by deaths, loss and disintegrations… (It’s a) sullen, trepidatious, post-nova ember-glow… trawling through shimmering webs of harmonium, effected drones and knell-clangs of acoustic guitar, exploring a forbidding hinterland of vulnerability and permeable spirit-space… the gravel-grain in Kavus’ voice welling up from deeper, ghostlier territories than before.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Dates:

VLMV & Nice Weather For Airstrikes present:
VLMV + Thomas Stone
The Rosemary Branch Theatre, 2 Shepperton Road, De Beauvoir Town, London, N1 3DT, England
Thursday 30th May 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Thumpermonkey + Lost Crowns + Kavus Torabi
The Victoria, 186 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 4QH, England
Friday 31st May 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Daniel O’Sullivan (& special guests) + Tega Mendes
Westminster Kingsway College, 211 Gray’s Inn Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8RA, England
Tuesday 4th June 2019, 6.30pm
– information here

The Cesarians + The Silver Field
Westminster Kingsway College, 211 Gray’s Inn Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8RA, England
Thursday 6th June 2019, 6.30pm
– information here
 

May/June 2019 – upcoming experimental gigs – ‘Towards A Progressive Magic” at the Horse Hospital with Amy Hale and Hawthonn (30th May); ‘Overlaps’ #2 with Kay Grant, Keith Moliné, Jasmine Pender, Tim Hodgkinson, Frank Byng and Chlöe Herington (5th June); the Sonic Electronics Festival at IKLECTIK (30th May to 2nd June)

26 May

At a time when our politics are tangibly darkening with currents of bigotry and nationalism and vicious, exclusionary stories, you might consider that looking at fascism within magic is a frivolous exercise.

Anthropologist Dr. Amy Hale (Atlanta, US) would disagree with you. She’s delivering the spoken-word part of an upcoming “night of magical resistance” at the Horse Hospital (London’s home of esoterica, underground cinema, public magick and wild frocks) for which the musical aspect’s being provided by Leeds-based Hawthonn, made up of “dual star daemons” Layla and Phil Legard, who specialise in “twenty-first century moon musick… underground spectralism meets edgeland herbalism…”

'Towards A Progressive Magic': Amy Hale + Hawthonn, 30th May 2019

This isn’t necessarily a new thing. Plenty of the frowning white-nativist movements in Europe and the States force parasitic roots into ideas about submerged culture, or ideas of a purity predating Christianity, liberalism and rationalism, into which disappointed or indignant people drift in the hope of finding and defining themselves. If you’ve dabbled in Nordic revivalism, for example, you may well have brushed up against it: racism smudging the runes. Similarly, some sonic pagans have always pushed back (having always associated their own musical explorations with a live-and-let-live freedom or a rejection of the controlling homegenisations of fascism), and even more of them are pushing back now.

Amy’s lecture, ‘Is A Progressive Magick Even Possible?’, examines what happens when “as the world takes an awkward lurch towards right wing authoritarianism, underground and fringe cultures, organisations and scenes are becoming increasingly attuned to the attempts by radical right wing groups to infiltrate and coerce their members… Modern occult practice, for many, relies on structures, ideas, values, and aesthetics that are inherently linked to conservative and reactionary thought. Examples of this are the valorisation of tradition, the idea of an initiated spiritual elite and the notion of a highly-ordered Neoplatonic universe, where everything is in its right place – including people and cultures.

“These conservative traits create opportunities for activists to use the social mechanisms of occult subcultures – for example festivals and conferences, book publishing, the music and fashion industries – to promote radical political and cultural agendas without people even noticing that it has happened. Tonight’s presentations discuss how, and why, contemporary magical cultures have become attractive territories for recruitment and expansion by far right organisations… I will discuss how ideas of tradition and “nature” are exploited, and how the discourses of “free speech” are deployed to create and justify platforms for radical, intolerant politics in an occult milieu… We will also learn to recognise such entryism in action, and how to stop it.”

As for Hawthonn, this is their first London appearance; their first live musical ritual within the M25; and their first chance to present their particular stance to the capital. Delving (in the tradition of Coil) into post-industrial esoteric drones and vocalisations, their work has so far embraced edgeland/feminist associations on ‘Red Goddess’ and implied erotic ritualisations on ‘The Well Head’, with more associations and purposes evolving. I don’t know what they’ll be coming up with on this occasion; but I’m assuming that it’s going to pull on their increasing conviction that ritual needs to engage (if not necessarily with materialism) with the fabric of daily practical necessities and practical history.




 
To quote them – “as esotericists we often believe that we have stepped beyond ‘mere politics’ – that our minds are turned to a higher world, which has little relation to the mundane – despite, paradoxically, believing that our magical actions influence the phenomenal world. Yet many contemporary scholars of esotericism and religion analyse the currents of occultism, paganism and the New Age as socially constructed phenomena: elaborate mythic structures enforcing certain norms, beliefs and practices, while justifying themselves through appeals to authority, lineage and experience, even science and rationality. Such historiographic or sociological approaches have been accused by many practitioners of base reductionism, undermining the authority of their particular traditions.

“Yet, what if practitioners of esotericism were to accept – or at least entertain for a moment – a constructivist, rather than transcendentalist, paradigm? We posit that such an acceptance can lead to another form of practice, which acknowledges the way in which esotericism is inseparable from the historical, social and economic fabric of our lives and which – rather than denying the viscerality of ritual and experience – uses them as tools to question the traditions and assumptions of the esoteric worldview, leading to a fluid and reflexive ‘critical magick’.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Drifting through Kings Cross – away from the cosy confines of the Harrison and back to its spiritual home at Westminster Kingsway College – and still driven by joint organisers Chlöe Herington (V A L V E, Knifeworld, Lindsay Cooper Songbook, Hirvikolari) and Keith Moliné (Pere Ubu, Prescott), the Overlaps “six musicians on the spot” concert series continues to burnish its particular niche. Improvising, but outside of the usual free-jazz grammar; perhaps owing something to art rock, but tearing one end wide open. Assimilating injections of the wilder shaggier side of experimental pop. Tag-teaming, but with a little friendly risk; part-prepared, but mostly of the moment.

'Overlaps 2', 5th June 2019

In addition to Chlöe’s avant-rock reeds and home-made noiseboxes and Keith’s startling bricolage guitarwork, the debut Overlaps evening back in January also featured jazz/art-rock-toned drum-and-bass artist Farz and fringe-pop experimenter/spoken-word persona shifter Merlin Nova; plus another British art rock guitar mainstay in Chloe’s Knifeworld bandmate Kavus Torabi and creative sideslip drumming from Keith’s Prescott bandmate Frank Byng (also of Snorkel and This Is Not This Heat). Chlöe, Keith and Frank are all back for round two, with the remaining three players coming in from other assorted corners of noisework, avant-garde and New Classical – often simultaneously.

While performing her dramatic, noisy electric cello soundscapes, Jasmine Pender usually goes under the alias of Rotten Bliss, sousing her sound in effects and singing along with a terrifying gorgeousness: storm-strings and surreal marine tales. For Overlaps, though, she’s performing under her own name. Perhaps it’s in solidarity with the other, unmasked performers not hiding behind their project names or band tags; or perhaps it means she’s going to be trying something a little different. You’ll need to turn up and see.


 
Originally coming up through the New York downtown arts, in her time Kay Grant has sung pop, jazz, rock, choral classical and opera (and built the ranges for each). She still touches on several of them today – most notably the jazz, with her own vocalise-based Kay Grant All-four and song duo Living Standards, and via guestings with the more standards-slanted Cyril Bass Quartet and Big Swing Big Band. But when she gives herself full improvisatory range her voice is an untethered exploratory device – coasting, feinting and arcing with the full subliminal structural knowledge of her training, but completely free to embrace a scattering palate of noise, tones and intimations.


 
Tim Hodgkinson, of course, is best known for his 1970s work as a founder and consistent member of Henry Cow: foundational art-rock radicalism within which he and his bandmates pursued a continuous course of questioning, dissonance, learning and overturning. Since then (usually armed with reed instruments, tapes, lap steel guitar and keyboards), he’s maintained a core Cow method: exploring, playing and composing via a cerebral and committed musicality which initially challenges and overwhelms his own technical skills but constantly forces him to advance. He’s equally likely to be found at work in art-house shows worldwide or in ferociously experimental British pub gigs, stretching his skills between improvised blowings, committed collaging or the conduction of post-classical chamber music which sounds like the skitterings of unruly ghost feet pursuing an unfinished argument.

Again, I’ve little idea of what he’ll be doing – it could be solo clarinet, it could be something with tapes and counterpoint, it could be something which bridges his interest in shamanic music and cultural anthropology.




 
* * * * * * * *

Sonic Electronic Festival, 30th May to 2nd June 2019There’s also time to mention (in brief) the concerts and chat around the sprawling Sonic Electronics Festival coming up at IKLECTIK and straddling late May and early June. Fascinated by coding and by digital evolution, the event’s as much academic as it is instinctive and will contain far too many ideas, implications and theory to be easily abridged and listed here. So this is a quick sketch of what’s lined up rather than a definitive description.

On 31st May, the evening concert is a London live AV performance incorporating toys/scrabbles/tapeloops collective Morphogenesis (bolstered by audio sculptor John Wall and electro-acoustic/noise performer Mark Durgan), the electronic-junk-assisted dronescapes of raxil4, woodwinder-turned-synth minimalist Bernhard Living and masked audio-visual circuit-building ritualists Isn’tses (the last of whom will also be running a Fort processor building workshop on the morning of Saturday 1st June). The Saturday evening is a pass-it-on event of international live audiovisual performance with VJ and visual/sonics encoder Chris Speed, videomapping performance artists Blanca Regina, extended vocal/multimedia performer Alessandra Eramo and feminine-industrial explorers Slow Slow Loris

The show on the evening of 2nd June involves the 4.1 Soundsystem. Here you can hear and watch a teaming of sound foleyist Rebecca Glover and the squelchy Fritha Jenkins (who’s inspired by shorelines of sand and mud);
spacial-stereo sound artist Bioni Samp (whose work and subject matter is informed by his own beekeeping and by concerns about bee extinction); the “theogynous” industrial/classical polyphonic vocals of Vera Bremerton; “grainyl”-ist Tony James Morton (who takes the cut’n’plunder techniques of hip hop DJs and feeds them through the alterations of granular synthesis); and the deep-listening drones of Johannes de Silentio (a.k.a. Lucius Works Here, a.k.a. Barcelonan sound art DJ Shak Benavides).

If you want to immerse yourself in theory, debate and other verbals, you’ll be wanting to go along to the event launch on the evening of 30th May. Here, there will be talks from Lucia Farinati, Nina Power and Giles Greenaway (about the intersections, overlaps and interferences of audiovisual technology with philosophy and live culture, and about process patterns taken from living creatures). There’ll also be a live AV performance of experimental electromagnetic power noise from Laura Netz, using hand-built technology.

* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Strange Attractor presents:
‘Towards a Progressive Magic’ (featuring Dr. Amy Hale + Hawthonn)
The Horse Hospital, The Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Thursday 30th May 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Sonic Electronics Festival: Digital Arts & Analogue Devices
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 30th May 2019 to Sunday 2nd June 2019, various times
– information here, here, here, here, here and here

Westking Music and Performing Arts presents:
‘Overlaps’ #2: Kay Grant + Keith Moliné + Jasmine Pender + Tim Hodgkinson + Frank Byng + Chlöe Herington
Westminster Kingsway College, 211 Gray’s Inn Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8RA, England
Wednesday 5th June 2019, 6.30pm
– information here
 

May 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs – Jon Paul Mayse’s ‘Faith & Memory: New Works For Strings’ (31st May)

25 May

Jon Paul Mayse: 'Faith & Memory: New Works For Strings', 31st May 2019On 31st May, there’ll be an evening of works for strings by London-based American composer Jon Paul Mayse. As the concert title (‘Faith & Memory: New Works For Strings’) suggests, it’ll be an interesting mixture of religiosity and scientific enquiry: an unusual juxtaposition, and rare in its determination to pay equal concern to both.

Producing music that’s “spacious, colorful, and often quiet, almost to the point of silence”, Jon’s already known for his interest in “memory, gesture, perception, and the expressive potentials of virtuosity” and for his interest in the crossing of disciplines, forms and modes of working. Back home in Philadelphia, he’s been an advocate and champion of various electro-acoustic and multi-media musical formats across concert halls and classical dance space as well as within opera, partly through founding the city’s Live/Wire Opera Company and its related Ensemble; he’s also written a piece for bassoon in which the player triggers and controls the stage lighting, and is looking into developing an ambisonic choral piece. But even when the technology’s not present and he’s working with traditional and purely acoustic orchestral instruments, the preoccupation with sophisticated psychological processes continues, Some of his pieces, such as the recorder trio ‘Assembly’, plays around with compositional deconstruction and reconstruction like a Lego champion; and as his website notes, he’s investigated “style and imitation in ‘Tapas’ (for cello and bassoon), color and sound in ‘Color Studies’ (for cello and percussion quartet), and faith in ‘Seven Last Words’ (for solo cello), ‘Psalm for Cello and Choir’, and his ‘String Trio’…”

Entirely acoustic, this particular London concert seems to be paring down Jon’s concerns to a manageable few, beginning with two of the aforementioned “works of matters of faith”. In the tradition of Bach and James Macmillan (in terms of cultural continuity, if not necessarily musical approach), the cello solo ‘Seven Last Words’ explores the final utterances of Christ at Golgotha. “The first movement reflect upon Christ’s physical suffering, the punishments and beatings laid upon him. The middle movement is a duet between a normal, minor elegy and a calming countermelody entirely in harmonics, depicting Mary at the foot of the cross being consoled by Christ. The final movement reflects upon the spiritual isolation Christ would have felt under the weight of the world’s sins, shown in violent cries and outbursts answered by only silence.”

Jon also explains that the preceding ‘String Trio’ is “a study of biblical Light and Darkness. Darkness is portrayed by scratch tones, extreme dynamics, and fast, nervous figurations, while Light is portrayed by harmonics, longer tones, and a rising melody, which is taken from my setting of the end of the Easter Exultet:(“May this flame, be found still burning, By the morning star, the one morning star…”). At the outset, the Light theme emerges out of scratch tones, which then crescendo into a series of alternations between hammered and harmonic chords. After a number of episodes, the piece ends with a meditation on the baptism of Christ, in which all the instruments play short harmonic notes and the Light theme appears in the viola (the Son), then cello (the Father), the violin (Descending Dove).”.

Here’s a previous performance:


 
The final piece – a premiere – is Jon’s ‘String Quartet’, which “explores memory, sonically and personally” and draws on both Beethoven and post-Impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard for inspiration. It’s a further extrapolation of Jon’s earlier piece ”Three Errors in Recall’, which he notes “maps memory recall errors to bow technique (I know, sexy).” Here’s what the source piece sounded like…

 
Jon Paul Mayse: ‘Faith & Memory: New Works For Strings’
Rudolf Steiner House, 35 Park Road, Marylebone, London, NW1 6XT, England
Friday 31st May 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

May/June/July 2019 – upcoming pop/rock gigs – Tim Bowness out and about in England, Netherlands, Poland and Germany (26th & 31st May, 2nd to 4th June, 7th June, 20th July) – also featuring Anneke van Giersbergen, Hey Jester, Bernhard Wöstheinrich, Imogen Bebb, IQ’s Andy Edwards, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets and others…

23 May


  
Working off the back of his recent ‘Flowers At The Scene’ album, Tim Bowness will shortly set out on a live lope around Europe for the summer months.

During the decade-long lull in his No-Man activity, Tim’s bloom of solo albums have all been half-hidden treasures. They belong to a current, mysterious class of brilliantly-crafted labour-of-love pop records – the ones which make decent chart performances (in a chart which no longer obeys the simple rules of earlier generations) but which remain strangely invisible, apparently known only to cult audiences. They’re part of a kind of parallel-universe pop culture, only distinguished from our own by luck and chance.

When he was singing sweetly over dance beats for mid-’90s No-Man (a mixture of blush and bleak, stark and swoon), I was creating stubborn little write-ups dragging their art pop over into the prog rock court, armed with some of my suspicions and certainties regarding their eclectic musical appetites, their taste for a bit of well-spoken Anglo grandeur, their cinematic sensibilities. Gradually, over a couple of decades, I was proved right. Tim (like his No-Man partner Steven Wilson) now commands considerably proggy audiences; in Tim’s case, he also generously stewards art-rock megaboutique Burning Shed (something which gives him the additional blending of goodwill and cachet that helps attract silvering art-rock aristocrats like Peter Hammill, Kevin Godley or Ian Anderson into guesting on his records). All of this culminated in the epic kitchen-sink-Ziggy multitrack saga of ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’, in which Tim revisited the imprints of his ‘70s heroes and spikily reinvented them as an embittered, failing dreamshadow self.

Still, call me wayward or a backtracker, but for a while I’ve been wishing that there was less outright prog in the picture. Coincidentally, Tim seems to agree, as ‘Flowers At The Scene’ tempers and bounces away from the progginess of recent years, possessing a delicacy of musical touch to match his lyrical subtlety. At times it’s a missing link between several of his old touchstones (The Smiths, Kate Bush) while at others it flirts with the fan-dance flutters and delay guitars of ’80s art pop, indulges the odd florid arena-rock burst, or touches on glacial latterday synthpop. It’s also a possible curtain-raiser to more No-Man activity. Steven Wilson, always a friendly presence or passing mix wizard on previous Tim albums, quietly shared the full production chair and an open No-Man credit on this one. The songs, too – while recognisably Bownessian in their portraits of make-do-and-mend, subtly cultivated angst and discreet English agonies – have a lapping No-Man urgency to them, the exquisite solipsistic portraits and summaries refitted with a pulsing pop drive.



 
In keeping with the spotty, sporadic live patterns of cult artisty and cottage-industry songsmith, Tim’s tour is less of a tour than a series of temporary outbreaks – a couple of one-off shows at odd-matched English venues, two more in Poland, a festival appearance in the Netherlands, a raid on Berlin. His band continues to exemplify that stylistic spread I mentioned earlier. They’re a collection of friends with sympathies dotted across various British movements – current bassman John Jowitt represents a strand of classy neoprog veterans; regular drummer Andrew Booker flies the flag for the clean-cut clever bastards; a pair of multidisciplinarians (guitarist Michael Bearpark and violinist Steve Bingham) pull the ensemble towards the flexible art rock yearnings which are Tim’s genuine home, and to refresh things, Brian Hulse (Tim and Michael’s companion in recently revived ‘80s Manchester art-pop trio Plenty, and a major co-writer on ‘Flowers…’) is now covering keyboards, laptop and second guitar.

OK, I’m a malcontent. It still feels as if it would be be good, at this stage, to see Tim elsewhere, in a different less cosy, less ‘Prog’ magazine context – wrangling over stage space with spikier arty acts like Rufus Wainwright or St Vincent; Eyeless In Gaza or John Greaves; even Momus. He’d fit in – different moves and intimations might flex within the live show; the tart angst and great-battles-in-small-spaces tone underlying his songs could be seen better for what they are. But we have what we have. He’s appreciated. He has, at least, this home; and he’s making generous use of it in both senses, with several of the upcoming shows (bar the Bowness-only Poland gigs) providing support acts interesting to proggies and non-proggies alike.


 
For the London gig at Dingwalls, there are slots for Ms Amy Birks and Nick Beggs. A ‘Prog Magazine’ chart-topper last year in the female vocalist stakes (and having already made an upcoming name for herself as frontwoman for chamber-prog/classical projects Beatrix Players and Birks&Kroon), Amy is now fitting in space for a solo career, some of which will get an early preview at this show. Refreshingly free of diva blather and of irksome vocal histrionics (both on and offstage), she’s shaping up as a prime exponent for that thoughtful breed of songs pulled up immaculately from source; cool, clear material polished to a classical drawing-room sheen which only increases its impact.

Nick, meanwhile, was initially infamous as the hair-beaded beanpole bassist for Kajagoogoo during the early 1980s. He’s long since been unmasked as a serious and dedicated muso with a vibrant musicality and the requisite interesting arty quirks to put the right kind of distance between himself and the workaday session cat. Having spent his post-Kaja time travelling through Iona and Ellis Beggs & Howard (scoring a hit with the latter via slo-funk effervescer Big Bubbles No Troubles‘) he’s more recently been playing backup in the live bands for John Paul Jones and Steven Wilson, and fronting mildly dystopian prog-poppers Mute Gods. For this concert, he’ll be playing a solo set on Chapman Stick – an instrument on which he’s one of the prime British performers.



 
With John Jowitt in the Bowness band lineup, the Worcester show marks a fleeting IQ rhythm section reunion: IQ’s onetime drummer Andy Edwards is joining in for a couple of songs and is, in addition, the mentor behind the two support acts. The assured young Brummie power trio Hey Jester offer contorting, slightly grunge-y but always theatrical prog-pop something in the vein of Muse – or, to pick another budding band, Tonochrome. Imogen Bebb (better known as one of the British synthpop community’s superfan commentators via her Sound Of The Crowd blog plus her writing for ‘The Electricity Club‘ and various Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark sites) finally unleashes a musical project of her own. I can’t scrape up many details on this, but you might expect something rooted in her love for OMD. Alternatively, it might well be a live outing for her singer-songwriter project Music For Your Tape Recorder, which slipped a few tracks out onto Bandcamp last year: promising, shapeshifting piano or guitar ballads, like a nascent Tori Amos or Rickie Lee Jones coming up through British indie-folk.



  
The Netherlands gig is a double-headliner, shared with Anneke van Giersbergen. Another assured no-fuss singer (with a clean, bell-clear voice that can soar across grand pop, arena rock and experimental metal with equal facility), Anneke came up via Dutch doom metal act turned alt-rockers The Gathering (whom she fronted for twelve years between 1995 and 2007). She’s since forged a solo path, as well as being a frequent performer in ongoing rock opera project Ayreon and an equally frequent collaborator with Devin Townsend as guest vocalist, as well as fronting her own prog-metal project VUUR. It’s a little like getting Peter Hammill or David Sylvian to split a show with Nancy Wilson; but Tim’s already got form for gracious stage-sharing with female singers whom you might have thought didn’t fit his precise, rail-thin aesthetic, having already done so with iamthemorning’s Marjana Semkina a few years ago.


  
If you were hoping for something a little less prog’n’hearty – and a lot less rock – as a support act, you’d be better off getting yourself over to Germany for the Berlin gig, where the opening performer is Bernhard Wöstheinrich. Formerly a collaborator with Tim in ongoing avant-electric trio centrozoon, Bernhard’s primarily a visual artist. However, he’s been transposing that way of thinking onto keyboard and programming styles which (over more than twenty years) have been fearlessly and frankly swaying and transmuting between instrumental synthpop, a kind of foregrounded ambient method, faux-tribal rattlings, fierce dance barrages and what’s best described as a kind of pushy shape-building (like a restlessly, rapidly built pop-up city sprouting out of electronic pilings). Here’s a selection…




  
In late July, Tim and co. are back in Germany for the Night of the Prog festival in Loreley. In this case they don’t get to call the shots on who they play with, or how, being fourth on the bill for a day of Europrog (headlined by Nick Mason’s revival of psych-era Pink Floyd via Saucerful of Secrets, and also featuring Overhead, the interesting world/electro-tinged Lazuli, Czech instrumental sphere rock band Fors, Afro/classical-touched Canadians Karcius and the live debut of Thomas Thielen’s “T” project). That said, it does give them option of wheedling away some new fans from the more restless strands of a more traditionally proggy audience…








  
* * * * * * * * *

Tim Bowness dates:

  • Worcester Arts Workshop, 21 Sansome Street, Worcester, WR1 1UH, England – Sunday 26th May 2019, 7.00pm (with Hey Jester + Imogen Bebb + Andy Edwards) – information here and here
  • CreativeColors Stage @ Cultuurpodium Boerdiij, Amerikaweg 145, 2717 AV Zoetermeer, The Netherlands – Friday 31st May 2019, 7.30pm (co-headline show with Anneke van Giersbergen) – information here, here and here
  • Klub Firlej, ulica Grabiszyńska 56, 53-504 Wrocław, Woj. Dolnośląskie, Poland – Sunday 2nd June 2019, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Club Progresja, Fort Wola 22, 01-258 Warsawa, Poland – Monday 3rd June 2019, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Prachtwerk, Ganghoferstrasse 2, Neukoln, 12043 Berlin, Germany – Tuesday 4th June 2019, 7.30pm (with Bernhard Wöstheinrich) – information here, here and here
  • Dingwalls, 11 Middle Yard, Camden Lock, London, NW1 8AB, England – Friday 7th June 2019, 7.00pm (with Ms Amy Birks + Nick Beggs) – information here and here
  • Night Of The Prog Festival @ Freilichtbühne Loreley, St. Goarshausen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany – Saturday 20th July 2019, show begins 12.00pm (with Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets + Lazuli + Karcius + T + Overhead + Fors) – information here and here

  

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