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April/June/July 2017 – upcoming classical gigs – William Howard’s ‘Love Music?’ project for piano – London showcase with Judith Weir (26th April); further shows in London (26th June) and Cheltenham (9th July)

13 Apr

William Howard writes “Throughout my professional career I have enjoyed working with composers and commissioning new works. While I was preparing to record my album of romantic love songs for piano, I started wondering what their contemporary equivalents might sound like. I thought many composers might not take to the idea of writing a piano ‘love song’, with its suggestions of a romantic genre, but almost every composer I approached reacted with great enthusiasm. Since love is a theme common to music across the world and across the centuries, I realised that a collection of twenty-first century piano love songs could provide a perfect introduction to the different musical languages of living composers, especially for listeners who come to new music somewhat reluctantly.”

This is the outcome.

Hoxton Hall/Spitalfields Music presents:
William Howard & Judith Weir: ‘Love Music?’
Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6SH, England
Wednesday 26th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

William Howard: 'Love Music', 26th April 2017“How do today’s composers write about love? Join pianist William Howard and composer Judith Weir, Master of the Queens Music, to explore a fascinating selection of new piano pieces expressing different aspects of love through different musical styles.

“William Howard will premiere works by Richard Reed Parry (from Arcade Fire), Joby Talbot (once of The Divine Comedy), Robert Saxton, David Knotts and leading Czech composer Pavel Zemek Novák, together with the winning pieces of his recent composing competition that attracted over five hundred entries from fifty-four countries.

“This is an informal evening with contributions from several composers. Questions and feedback from the audience will be welcome.”

Having selected the concert pieces, William’s just commented “they are all very different in character, mood and level of difficulty and offer a fascinating taster menu of different ways in which composers approach writing music of a very personal nature. ‘Camille’ by Joby Talbot is dedicated to his eight-month-old daughter, Robert Saxton’s ‘For Teresa’ is dedicated to his wife. Richard Reed Parry’s ‘Fast Cloud’ is a fantasy of swirling fast notes, Pavel Zemek Novák’s ‘Little Song of Love and Mercy is a spiritual reflection. The two winning pieces of my composing competition are also very contrasted. Chia-Ying Lin‘s ‘Chanson Perpétuelle’ describes “the kind of love which is everlasting and constantly renewed over time” in an imaginative sound world of crystalline textures, while Freddy Viner‘s ‘Herz an Herz’ is an unashamedly romantic piece evoking the spirit of Wagner. The concert will end with Cheryl Frances-Hoad‘s glorious tribute to Dusty Springfield.”

Programme (in no particular order):

David Knotts – Album Leaf
Chia-Ying Lin – Chanson Perpétuelle (winner, Over 25 category)
Pavel Zemek Novák – Little Song Of Love And Mercy
Richard Reed Parry – Fast Cloud
Robert Saxton – For Teresa
Joby Talbot – Camille
Frederick Viner – Herz an Herz (winner, Under 25 category)
Cheryl Frances-Hoad – Love Song For Dusty

It’s a pity that there doesn’t seem to be a chance of hearing the runner-up pieces (Simon Mawhinney’s ‘ Daniel Josiah is Sleeping ‘, Nathan James Dearden’s ‘love holds me captive again’, Samuel Cho Lik Heng’s ‘Arbophillia’ and Daniel Fardon’s ‘Saudade’) but perhaps they’ll surface at some point. Meanwhile, William has a couple of follow-up Love Songs concerts scheduled:

 
The new pieces act as a companion set to the works on William’s 2016 release ‘Sixteen Love Songs’ (on Orchid Classics).


 

December 2016 – upcoming gigs – ‘Staggerlee Wonders’ with Robert Mitchell, Debbie Sanders, Corey Mwamba, John Edwards, Elaine Michener, Mark Sanders and others (London, 8th); Trio Generations with Maggie Nichols/Lisa Ullén/Matilda Rolfsson (Cheltenham and London, 9th & 11th)

5 Dec

StaggerLee Wonders
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 8th December 2016, 8.00pm
– information here and here

'Staggerlee Wonders', 8th December 2016Billed as “an evening of radical poetry and prose fused with free improvised music”, this event’s title is taken from James Baldwin’s blazingly scornful, almost conversational poem – itself named for the black outlaw/hoodlum who flits and thunders through a set of conflicting American tales and songs, taking on the roles of murderer, proud badass, pimp and more.

In all cases, Stagger Lee’s become a byword and signifier for transgressive black resistance to cultural pressure and norms. A lengthy lope in a thickly jazzy, declamatory style, Baldwin’s version takes up the final, revolutionary Stagger Lee position, setting aside the thuggery, choosing instead to weigh up the protests, delusions and not-so-secret wickednesses of white hegemony in one Afro-American palm (seamed with exile, scepticism and righteous ire) before firing up his sardonic, acidic tongue to flay and spit the flesh right off their bones. It’s not clear whether Baldwin’s take will be performed as the evening’s centrepiece, or whether it simply serves as an inspiration; but it certainly sets the bar high, both artistically and politically.

Various performers, both black and white, are confirmed to attend. Hopefully, they’ll all rise to the explicit challenge. Reknowned for his weighty slowhand approach, jazz pianist Robert Mitchell has worked with Epiphany3, F-ire Collective and Panacea. Jazz/folktronicist Corey Mwamba plays small instruments, dulcimer and electronics across assorted projects but is best known for his highly dynamic, hammers-to-humming vibraphone playing and for the ongoing questioning spirit which he explores in both live music and academia (and any intersections he can make between the two). Voices come from restless, movement performer and polygenre singer Elaine Michener (recently seen at the Cockpit Theatre in a quartet with Alexander Hawkins) and from storytelling singer/composer Debbie Sanders (currently heading up Mina Minou Productions, previously embedded in proto-acid-jazz, trip-hop and British R&B via work with Skylab and Chapter & The Verse).

Bass and drums are provided by two stunning soloists who also happen to make up one of London music’s most formidable rhythm partnerships. Both double bass player John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders are capable of a breadth of sound and attack on their respective instruments, running across an orchestral breadth from whisper to hailstone attack (via conversation or monologue, from growling belligerence to kidding conversation or querying patter).

More people may be showing up to play, but that’s already a pretty thrilling loose sextet to work with and to choose from.

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Trio Generations is an intermittent name for a convocation of three top European improvisers, Maggie Nichols, Lisa Ullén and Matilda Rolfsson. Formed last year, they’re playing a couple of English shows to bookend the upcoming weekend. Outlines below, mostly from the Café Oto pages:

Trio Generations, 2016

Trio Generations, 2016

Maggie Nicols joined London’s legendary Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1968 as a free improvisation vocalist. She then became active running voice workshops with an involvement in local experimental theatre. She later joined the group Centipede, led by Keith and Julie Tippets and in 1977, with musician/composer Lindsay Cooper, formed the remarkable Feminist Improvising Group. She lives in Wales and continues performing and recording challenging and beautiful work, in music and theatre, either in collaborations with a range of artists (Irene Schweitzer, Joelle Leandre, Ken Hyder, Caroline Kraabel) as well as solo.

Matilda Rolfsson is a Swedish percussionist and free improviser, based in Trondheim, Norway. During the spring of 2015 she was temporarily based in London where she finished her masters in free improvisation and the relationship between improvised music and dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. During her London stay Matilda got the chance to meet and play with some of Londons most efficient improvisers: Phil Minton, Sylvia Hallett and London Improvisers Orchestra with Maggie Nichols. With her 20” vintage Gretsch bass drum, Tibetan bowls, gongs, bells and plastic isolations, sticks, fingers and brushes, Matilda explores the free improvisation and the instant compositions shaped in the moment: dynamics, orchestrations – structure and chaos. To make rules and break rules, always with the question: where’s the music going, and where’s the freedom?

“Pianist Lisa Ullén grew up in the northern part of Sweden, and is based in Stockholm. A versatile player with a singular musical vision, Lisa has repeatedly proven her ability to imprint her absolute sense for tonal texture on whatever musical context she appears in. Besides working as a soloist and leader of her own groups, Lisa has collaborated extensively with many well-known Swedish artists and dancers, and has also scored several dramatic productions. She’s also performed and recorded music by contemporary composers.”
 
To provide a sense of what might be coming, here’s the full half-hour set from their debut performance at IKLECTIK in 2015: a fractured, prolonged collective improvisation which swaps mood, pace and suggestions like a game of speed poker, with passing shreds of blues. Although Lisa and Matilda match her with lethally-aimed flinders of explosive, challenging percussion and piano, Maggie remains the centre of attention via a performance that’s as much stand-up comedy or theatre piece as it is free jazz. She produces not only the clucks, hisses, pants and operatics of free-voice improv but a bewildering spiky cavalcade of female voices and archetypes (hopeful chitterer, wise sly crone, mother in labour, put-upon wailer, deft gossiper) while including fleeting lyrics from jazz, blues or music hall and assorted Dada twists (including a phase which sounds like a demonic toothbrushing session).


 

This month’s Trio Generations dates:

  • Xposed Club @ Francis Close Hall, University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, England, Friday 9th December 2016, 8.00pm (with Chris Cundy) – information
  • Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Monday 11th December 2016, 8.00pminformation

At the Café Oto show, John Edwards will be joining in to make the group a quartet. While there’s no support act at Oto, at the Xposed Club Cheltenham reedsman/multi-instrumentalist Chris Cundy will be providing a solo slot on bass clarinet and saxophone. A tactile extended-technique player, Chris began as a self-taught Medway busker coming into his own under the combined influence of Eric Dolphy (on record) and Billy Childish (in the flesh and in the kitchen). Following a relocation to Cheltenham to pursue fine art, Chris has broadened his scope into a world of other collaborations in film, electronica, free improvisation and pop. He’s worked extensively with Fyfe Dangerfield (as part of the Guillemots horn section and as an integral member of Gannets), with Canadian freak-folkers Timbre Timbre and a succession of left-field singer-songwriters. His extended techniques (including multi-phonics, circular breathing and microtonality) have also led him into exploring the works of Cage and Cardew and those of contemporary avant-garde composers such as Thanos Chrysakis and Pete M Wyer, as well as producing a growing number of albums of his own work.


 

December 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Sephiroth’s Alex Roth, Alice Zawadzki and Shirley Smart head up the bill at a Play for Progress refugee charity show (2nd); an early December soiree from Society of Imaginary Friends with Her, Kirsten Morrison, Peter Shipman, Jed Demochowski and others (2nd); the first free seasonal family helping of cuddly pop, folk, punk, electronica, choirs and dancing from Daylight Music’s Fuzzy Feeling (School Of Noise, Hackney Secular Singers Choir, Laura J Martin, Enderby’s Room, Whoa Melodic, The Action Men and Spaceship Mark – 3rd)

1 Dec

The first of the seasonal gigs are crossing my radar. So far, rather than just being bloated blowouts, they’re embodying and communicating ideas of support, communality, resistance (in some respects), humour and what Arctic Circle call “that fuzzy feeling”.

This probably sounds as loose and woolly as the old jumper you’ve just dug out from the back of the drawer – but at a time when we’re ducking or getting enmired in Twitterstorms of hateful, sleety 2016 bile, a little of that doesn’t go amiss. Better to be a snowflake than a mean hacking cough, I reckon.

So here we go…

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Play For Progress present:
Play For Progress Fundraiser: Alex Roth/Alice Zawadzki/Shirley Smart + others
The Albany Pub, 240 Great Portland Street, Regent’s Park, London, W1W 5QU, England
Friday 2nd December 2016, 6.30pm
– information here and here

Play for Progress fundraiser, 2nd December 2016 The guitar playing and general musicality of polymathic composer/improviser Alex Roth has graced Blue Eyed Hawk, Otriad and, most, recently, experimental fusion guitar trio Future Currents (as well as the repertoire of assorted contemporary classical ensembles). The work of Alice Zawadzki covers a similar number of bases – jazz singing; classical violin; original songs; the exploration and interpretation of a bevy of inspirations including folk and folklore, poetry, the music of New Orleans and of Joni Mitchell. Improvising cellist Shirley Smart originally studied classical music in London and Paris before immersing herself in jazz and Middle Eastern music during a long cultural sojourn in Israel, soaking up the stew of Hebrew and Arabic roots music and Western art music which has informed her projects ever since ( Sound Of The Ground, Melange, Sawa Trio).

Sharing a common Sephardic Jewish heritage, all three musicians are regular collaborators within the ten-strong Sefiroth, a Sephardic Jewish electro-acoustic chamber ensemble. They’re getting together for a trio performance in Marylebone this Friday, playing a selection of Sephardic ballads as part of a fund-raiser supporting Play For Progress (a charity delivering therapeutic and educational music programmes to children who are victims of conflict and war).

Also promised for the Friday fundraiser bill are “saucy jazzers, the best dad band you’ve never heard, duelling violins with electronics, a Scottish trad/ceilidh band, and a sweet voice with a sultry harp.” I’m not sure who any of these other people are – the event’s being publicized as a concert which is about community rather than names. Assuming that the Sephirothers are setting the bar for quality, it’ll all be worth seeing. For an example of Sephiroth in full flow, see below.


 
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'We Don't Need This Fascist Groove Thangg', 2nd December 2016

I have *no idea* what this has to do with proceedings…

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:
‘We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang!’: Society of Imaginary Friends + Kirsten Morrison + Peter Shipman + Her + Jed Demochowski + Martin Wakefield + Nighmar Askouski + DJ Ontjdrew DJ set
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London N22 6UJ, England
Friday 2nd December 2016, 8:00pm
– free entry – information

On the same night as the Play For Progress event, Society Of Imaginary Friends are hosting another in their series of music and poetry soirees up in Wood Green at vegan restaurant Karamel, with their usual boho-insurrectionary feel, sounding off as if the revolution’s already happened, with an arts café on every corner and democracy becoming a constantly active roots-up ferment. The stage is set for an evening of poets, Bolan-ista power-pop transformationalists, members of Eclectic Opera, plus the Society’s own expansive art-pop-prog-chanson-etc. (Bring yer own hyphen.)

“We’re in a feisty festive mood, comrades. Ready to man the cortical barricades. Love is good, good, good! Let the bells toll our message across hill and dale… To help you celebrate the end of oppression we have the virtuosic, stratospheric soprano and Lene Lovich’s right hand girl Kirsten Morrison – she will be joined by the magnificent counter-tenor Peter Shipman. What is more, we are featuring the punk Goddess, Her (aka Julie D. Riley); singing his beautiful songs will be lead singer of the VIPs and now charted soloist, the extraordinary Jed Demochowski; performing his intensely gripping poetry, Martin Wakefield; Nighmar Ascousky has something of the night for us; and to groove into the burning night we have the one and only DJ Ontjdrew. Society Of Imaginary Friends will be doing what they do. Plus some surprise guests…”

For more about the Society, have a read of my preview for their last show here. As was the case then, I’m unable to get the full skinny on everyone involved, but here’s a clutch of videos and soundclips relating to the upcoming show (including one of Peter Shipman being upstaged by a dog…)





 
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That Fuzzy Feeling, Part 1, 3rd December 2016Featuring “seasonal surprises that are guaranteed to give you a Yuletide glow”, the last Daylight Music concerts for the year excel at being unashamedly cuddly and kid-friendly: not just the harbouring church atmosphere of the Union Chapel, but the laying on of hot chocolate, mince pies and face painting and “a guest appearance by a certain scarf-wearing snowman.” In parallel to all of this, though, there’s the usual thoughtful and intricate Daylight musical overlay, sneaking crafted contemporary folk and pop, classical music, accessible avant-garde experimentation and a little punk rock into the family proceedings.

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 241 – That Fuzzy Feeling Part 1: School Of Noise + HSS Choir + Laura J Martin + Enderby’s Room + Whoa Melodic + The Action Men + Spaceship Mark
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 3rd December 2016, 12:00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

Top position on the first of these (on Saturday 3rd) is taken by a School Of Noise showcase (the performance result of sound workshops encouraging young people and adults towards creativity and experimentation with noise and sound, in which both students “create music, conduct orchestras of food, build analogue synthesisers, record sounds to film, learn about acoustic ecology, and compose original experimental sound art.” The Daylight taste for alt.choral is covered by the Bethnal Green-based, mixed-ability punk-rock-loving Hackney Secular Singers Choir.



 
Laura J. Martin put in a Daylight appearance back in September, singing oblique state-of-the-nation folk songs from a personalised perspective of disconnection, blandification and gentrification; the potentially glum subject matter warmed up by her sweet manner, inquisitive multi-instrumental musical diversity and Liverpudlian outlook (an elliptical wit, plus a reluctance to take authority as given). With a debut single scheduled for early next year, indie-folk quartet Enderby’s Room marshal guitar, ukulele, banjo, omnichord, French horn, harmonium, accordion and double bass under three voices; juggling the hooded delicacy and mood mastery of Low-esque sadcore with the uplift, bubbling rhythms and storytelling impetus of British and American folk music. Here they are playing on board a rumbling steam train.

Whoa Melodic is Michael Wood, who previously played bass and piano and sang in Singing Adams before going on to solo alt.pop work as Michaelmas. Associated with the …. label, Michael’s also worked with The Leaf Library, the Hayman Kupa Band and last year’s ‘A Girl & A Gun’ James Bond tribute. The new work under the old name is an extension of ongoing ideas, and Michael half-promises to deliver some old Michaelmas favourites in his set.


 
The show’s rounded off by a performance by politi-comical Dada-masculine dance troupe Action Men and by an appearance by School of Noise sound collector, film maker and educator Mark Williamson, returning in his solo guise as Spaceship Mark (for which he travels out to sites of specific or conceptual interest in order to record on-the-spot improvised music – previous and ongoing choice sets have included abandoned Royal Observer Corps posts, traffic blackspots and the former Kelvedon Hatch nuclear bunker). He’s bringing a project called ‘Null’… and there the mystery begins.




 
More on the second Fuzzy Feeling show in due course…
 

December 2016 – more Bob Drake shows in London, Birmingham and Brighton (1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th) with Kavus Torabi, Bing Selfish, Kamura Obscura, The Nature Centre, Libbertine Vale and Kate Goes, and including a music/comedy festival orgy appearance via Depresstival….

30 Nov

I’m hopelessly out of the loop. Have just heard that the solo acoustic Bob Drake gig in London which I plugged a few posts ago isn’t just a one-off, but one of several, including a mini-festival.

  • IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England, Thursday 1st December 2016, 8.00pm (with Kavus Torabi + Kate Goes + Kamura Obscura) – information
  • The Dark Horse, 145 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 8JP, England, Friday 2nd December 2016, 8.00pm (with The Nature Centre + Libbertine Vale + Sir Real DJ set) – information
  • Depresstival @ The Others, 6-8 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, London, N16 5SA, England, Sunday 4th December 2016, 7.00pminformation
  • The Evening Star, 55-56 Surrey Street, Brighton, England, Tuesday 6th December 2016, 8.00pm (with Kavus Torabi and Bing Selfish) – information
  • The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England, Friday 9th December 2016, 7.00pm (with Kavus Torabi + Beetles) – information

Also on the 9th, Bob will be the special guest in what promises to be a good, chatty meeting of minds at Marina Organ’s ‘The Other Rock Show’, “playing some songs live and talking and who knows what.”

For those who scroll down rather than click over, here’s a repeat of what I wrote about Bob last time.

“Bob Drake’s last appearance in London (as far as I know) was a startling, affectionate and consensual stage invasion at the very start of a Knifeworld gig at Bush Hall. Clad in the surprisingly convincing snow-white bear suit he’s made famous from capering behind the drumkit at Thinking Plague gigs, he seized the mike and propelled what was already set to be a triumphant show up to a different level of vim and laughter.

“It’s in keeping with what the man does. A veteran of the more rattling, curious end of American prog (not only with the Plague but with 5uus, his own Cabinet of Curiosities and plenty more), Bob’s equipped with all of the production nous and polyinstrumental expertise to act as his own ensemble on record; but he balances his impressive technical skill with just the right dose of lo-fi get-it-done-now irreverence to hit that elusive sweet spot between prog precision and friendly spontaneity. In doing so, he not only gives himself space to indulge an affably friendly musicality but knocks down any of the strict confining fences which might restrict both his freedom and the warm buzz of his audience’s involvement. If something off-beat and of-the-moment isn’t happening at one of Bob’s gigs, then it’s something that’s missing: or to put it another way, if something isn’t going slightly wrong, then the gig’s not going right.

“This has nothing to do with prog spoofery, or comedy rock. It’s got more to do with Bob’s records and shows being intricate shaggy-dog (or perhaps shaggy-bear) stories in which the digressions on the journey, the ragged human edges and distractions, are more important than awe-inspiring structures or a revelatory destination. There’s plenty of nifty fingerwork – and plenty of irregular musical gems and twists that probably took more work and planning than he’s letting on – but what seems to matter the festooning of structure with invention… and with humour, the key to knowing that the moment is here and now, and knocks against expectation and time, and that a laugh isn’t necessarily a punchline, but the acknowledgement of an enthusiasm shared.

“There are plenty of little musical signposts to point the way to Bob – there’s Yes (he got into all of this through a fascination with Chris Squire’s high-stepping buzz-bomb basslines), Henry Cow (for deliberately imperfect noise, and for toppling eagerly over the edge of the comfort zone in search of adventure), Stateside folk and bluegrass (plus the baroque Americana of The Beach Boys), the swivelling dial of midwestern classic rock radio and the mix-and-match repertoire of the zillion bar bands he played in on the way up; and probably the shadow of Zappa. There are other islands in the soup which may be coincidental – the convoluted indie rock of Guided By Voices, the fact that some of his songs sound like a ragged Jellyfish, or as if he’s roughed up an English cabaret star in a trucker’s joint; the possibility that his time in Los Angeles engineering hip hop tracks may have reinforced his interest in cut’n’paste textures. Yet ultimately Bob is Bob; moment by moment; grabbing hold of what’s there, spinning out what comes. Here are a few examples, including a snippet of a Cabinet of Curiosities gig where the theatre of the furry absurd is in full effect.”




 

As detailed last time, Knifeworld‘s Kavus Torabi will be providing support at the Harrison show – and, it now seems, the Brighton show and the additional two London shows at IKLECTIK and The Others. He’ll be playing one of his solo sets; just him and his guitar. I’ve not caught any of these myself, but have heard that he sometimes plays not only Knifeworld songs or work-in-progress, but the occasional song by his old band The Monsoon Bassoon.

Also in support at IKLECTIK are “cutecore” girlband trio Kate Goes, whose avid and omnivorous listening habits include The Beach Boys, Pram, Cardiacs, The Monks, Julian Cope, Mistys Big Adventure, Broadcast and Faust, which might offer some clues as to how they sound (and if that doesn’t, this will) plus Kamura Obscura “a new performance trio fronted by Atsuko Kamura of Mizutama Shobodan (Polkadot Fire Brigade), Frank Chickens and Kazuko’s Karaoke Klub, featuring original material, electronics, viola, vocal experimentation, composition and improvisation with a strong anti-nuclear political message.” I’ve already blethered about the other Harrison support, avant-pop duo Beetles with Laila Woozeer and Tom O.C. Wilson, playing “intricate, skeletal pop songs influenced by Regina Spektor, Lennon and McCartney and Kurt Cobain.” Headlining the Brighton show is satirical pop megalomaniac, twisted crooner, radio dramatist and self-styled “Emperor of the World” Bing Selfish.

In Birmingham, support comes from local psych-pop band The Nature Centre, who play “pop music that has been adulterated by all sorts of strange, nice things… the kind of fololoppy pop that Syd Barrett might make if he headed up a harmony girl group under the influence.” Opening up the show is acapella alt-folk singer (and sometime Omnia Opera member) Libbertine Vale, fresh from work with Maddy Prior and Rose Kemp and bringing a set of “uncomfortable songs about death”: there’ll also be “suitably unconventional musical choices in between bands to intrigue and titillate”, courtesy of DJ Sir Real.

As for the gig at The Others, it’s one of their regular and reliably anarchic Depresstival events (“Music! Comedy! DIY! Antifolk! Noise! Active Nihilism! Free Improv! Live Physics (no one can deny that physics is happening)! Fanzines! Cake!”) and offers a wealth of acts. Since I’m rushing, I’m just going to resplurge their babbling Facebook press release. Besides Bob and Kavus, they’ve got No Cars (three seventeen-year-old girls and a raccoon – my favourite food/cellotape/interpretive dance-based punk band)… Susanna Catz (one of my favourite UK antifolk performers – think China Woman/PJ Harvey)… Michael Brunstrom, one of the most original performers around (i.e., “What If Noel Edmonds Were a Cello?”/”The Mystery of Fennel”/”River Impersonator”/”Hay Wain Beach Ball Dealer”)… Sam & Tom (bloody lovely, excellent double act)… Ben Socrates(really brilliant classical pianist – his Prokofiev is awesome)… Consignia (lower-middle-class funk/brutalism/libraries – excellent, award winning humans)… excellent poet/illustrator Jonathan Marley ClarkBob Slayer (who is rad, orchestrated an entire reading of the Chilcot report at Edinburgh Fringe)… free improv/free improve piano sermon guided by popular non-religious cult leader Alain Man…”

Bob’s also put out the call for other last-minute gigs if anyone wants to organise one, including what he calls a “pass-the-hat livingroom/garage/basement show”. He’s in Britain and available on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th December – basically, any day when he’s not already booked in to do a show. So if you fancy a spur-of-the-moment house concert from one of the leading lights of current avant-rock, you know what to do. Get in touch via his homepage or Facebook.

Links there if you want them. Gotta dash…
 

December 2016 – upcoming classical gigs – piano & violin duets from Emre Engin & Jennifer Hughes in London (1st); Psappha soloists play Stylianos Dimou, Reich, Maxwell Davies and more in Manchester (3nd), café gigs for Philharmonia Orchestra members in London (9th, 13th)

29 Nov

Four classical gigs for December…

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Emre Engin & Jennifer Hughes: ‘A Journey to the Musical Plateaus’
1901 Arts Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Thursday 1st December 2016, 6.30pm
information

With this 1901 Club chamber recital, violinist Emre Engin quietly caps the first phase of an exciting international career (which began with his studies at the Uludag University State Conservatory in Anatolia, Turkey, and has moved through the Royal College of Music in London and the Manhattan School of Music in New York to his current status as in-demand, prize-winning London-based soloist, trio leader and educator). As well as music by Bach, Prokofiev and Paganini, the concert includes the world premiere of Emre’s own first significant composition ‘A piece for violin and piano (in memoriam of an unborn child)’.

Emre is accompanied by another prize-winning musician – pianist Jennifer Hughes. A Park Lane Group Artist and cross-Europe performer specialising in duo accompaniment and piano songs, Jennifer (reknowned for her skill as a supportive musician) also coaches work at the Royal College of Music, Aldeburgh Young Musicians, New Virtuosi Mastercourse and Voksenåsen Summer Academy.


 
Programme:

Johann Sebastian Bach – Solo Sonata No.2 in A minor (incorporating the Fuga by Alfred Schnittke)
Emre Engin – A piece for violin and piano (in memoriam of an unborn child) (world premiere)
Nicolò Paganini – Caprice No.15
Sergei Prokofiev – Violin and Piano Sonata No.2 in D major, Op.94bis

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Psappha, 3rd December 2016

Curated Place/Moving Classics & Psappha present:
Psappha Soloists: ‘Metallics’
St Michael’s Church, 36-38 George Leigh Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 5DG, England
Saturday 3rd December 2016, 7.30pm
information

Several of the players from Manchester contemporary classical ensemble Psappha congregate in their hometown for a concert of current music. “Featuring emerging composers alongside established twentieth century greats the programme has been curated to showcase Psappha’s virtuoso musicians in an eclectic mix of music that – along with tape and electronics – explores the sonorities of each individual instrument. The centrepiece of this performance is the world première of Stylianos Dimou‘s ‘Metallics’, in which acoustic sounds undergo electronic transformation resulting in the assembly of sonic twins.”

Programme:

Steve Reich – Cello Counterpoint (for cello and multitrack tape)
Peter Maxwell Davies – Sonatina (for violin & cimbalom)
Helmut Lachenmann – Toccatina (for solo violin)
Jonathan Harvey – Tombeau de Messiaen (for piano and electronics)
Tom Harrold – Speechless Skies (for solo cello)
Nuria Bonet Filella – Pota (for cimbalom and electronics)
Charlotte Bray – Oneiroi (for solo piano)
Stylianos Dimou – Metallics (world première)

Performers:
Benjamin Powell (piano)
Tim Williams (cimbalom)
Benedict Holland (violin)
Jennifer Langridge (cello)

Below is a videoclip of an Psapphas renderings of one of the pieces on the bill, to give you an idea of how the concert will run. As for the Stylianos Dimou piece, here’s a soundclip of an earlier, recently-recorded ensemble piece which probably has little to do with the form and execution of ‘Metallics’ but which does provide a window on his “conception of structure as a fluid and sculpted entity that can be conceived as a byproduct of microscopic manipulation of the timbral and gestural dimensions of music” expressed via “blurred sonorities, harmonic fluidity and gestural formation.”



 

* * * * * * * *

Philharmonia Orchestra chamber players (photo © Marina Vidor)

Philharmonia Orchestra chamber players (photo © Marina Vidor)

Back down in London, various musicians from the Philharmonia Orchestra are playing a pair of evening/late-night shows at Brasserie Zédel. While the big January show’s already sold out, tickets are still available for a couple of smaller December shows featuring subdivisions of the orchestra.

The first of the two shows offers “a unique opportunity to hear members of the cello section in this late night show in an eclectic mix of music, imbued with virtuosity, soaring melodies and infectious dance rhythms”, featuring pieces by Mozart, Wagner, Nicolò Paganini and Astor Piazzola, as well as the lesser-known but compositionally prolific German cellist-composer Julius Klengel (who produced hundreds of etudes and solo works for the instrument during his late nineteenth/early twentieth-century lifetime). The concert will also feature a newer piece by Philharmonia-affiliated contemporary British composer Richard Birchall – ‘Viral’, a five-minute cello quartet.

In the second show, violinist Emily Davis, viola player Gijs Kramers and cellist Maria Zachariadou will perform Dmitry Sitkovetsky‘s string trio arrangement of Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’.

Live At Zédel presents:
Philharmonia Orchestra cello section
Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London W1F 7ED, England
Friday 9th December 2016, 10.00pm
information

Live At Zédel presents:
Members of the Philharmonia Orchestra
Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London W1F 7ED, England
Tuesday 13th December 2016, 7.00pm
information
 

November 2016 – upcoming London gigs – a dash through the weekend (26th, 27th) – various adventures in international folk music, experimental music, hip hop and underground rock via Tuesdays Post, Daylight Music, Laura Cannell, Nest Collective Baba Yaga’s Hut and others…

23 Nov

This week finds me ill, exhausted, busy and needing to catch up with things outside the blog – and hence unable to go into the usual detail. Consequently, the usual semi-coherent stammering of recommendations is being cut short. I’m just going to offer a few quick notes and pointers to my picks from this London weekend’s explosion of interesting concerts, and will let you catch up with them yourselves.

Daylight Music 240, 26th November 2016On Saturday, Laura Cannell‘s hosting her ‘Memory Mapping’ afternoon at Daylight Music, including an improvised duet between herself and fellow alt.violinist Angharad Davies, the coastline sound creations of former ‘Wire’ writer Jennifer Lucy Allan and what looks like a Charles Hayward piano piece which may or may not be a song cycle. I’ve already previewed that here a few weeks ago (complete with sounds and visions), so go back and have a look.

The Song Collectors Collective Gathering, 2016At the same time, an incredible wealth of acoustic, folk and international-indigenous music talent will be riding into east London for two twinned and overlapping Nest Collective events at the same impressive Dalston venue – St Mark Church, a grand Early English Gothic Revival pile sometimes described as “the East End’s cathedral”.

Beginning in the morning, the Song Collectors Collective Gathering celebrates and presents the people who conserve rare oral culture within their communities in Britain, Ireland and beyond; and explores ideas spinning off from that. This year it features (among others) storyteller Hugh Lupton, tireless folk archivists Doc Rowe and Paul Wilson, ethnomusicologists Angela Impey and Shzr Ee Tan, and ethnobotanist Sarah Edwards. Topics explored will include song collecting in South Sudan and Taiwan, Doc’s vast archive of unseen videos of Britain’s great traditional singers, political-musical activism on the internet, and “plant knowledge collected with the Songman”.

Starting up in the afternoon is Unamplifire – a jaw-dropping seven-hour assemblage of international folk talent which, at a better time, would warrant a whole post to itself. Traditional and curated music from England, Ireland, Eastern Europe and West Africa, Okinawa and Taiwan, both pure and cross-pollinated; with encompassed styles including griot, London psych-folk and deep-probing acoustic pop and instrumentation including kora, whistles, violins, acoustic guitars, electronics and – above all – the human voice in all of its diversity. For the full list of Unamplifire players, take a look at the details below.

Unamplifire lineup, 2016
 
Tuesdays Post, 26th November 2016Having successfully transferred from north-east London to west London, Tuesdays Post are staging another gig of electronic-slanted progressive/improvisational music on Saturday evening. This week, founder/regular Georgina Brett picks up her voiceloops to engage in a pair of superbly cluttered duets. One of these will be with Jono Podmore (the theremin, delay and ring modulator–wielding Metamono member and Kumo mastermind, who’s promising to bring along an extra selection of intriguing technological gizmos), and another with electro-acoustic instrument inventor Tom Fox (creator of the Springything, the Multi-Dronemachine and the Twitter-triggered Hummingbird). Tom will also be appearing as one-third of improvising experimental textural noise trio YOAF (the other two thirds being Jon Saunders and Tim Yates). Interactive visuals will be provided by Hanzo.

Dälek + Necro Deathmort, 26th November 2016Baba Yaga’s Hut (who haven’t featured in ‘Misfit City’ for a while, thanks to buggered-up mailing list problems) are also doing the honours with two interesting sounding gigs over the weekend. Each of them features what’s becoming a regular Baba Yaga format: an intriguing well-known underground import plus a home-grown Baba regular.

The first of these is an electro/beat fest with long-lived New Jersey hip-hoppers Dälek (whose dense, industrially-slanted noise-stew has annoyed purists and thrilled listeners since 1998) and edge-of-the-seat electronicists Necro Deathmort whose tangled fusion of doom metal, droning dystopian science-fiction synth noise and free-jazz echoes sees them flit like plague mosquitoes from genre to genre. The second is a free showcase for all-female Finnish trio Olimpia Splendid (whose Can-like psychedelic grooves, dogged dour-skew riffing and growly babydoll vocals have been gathering them plenty of attention over the last couple of years) and London pagan “aggrocultural punktronicist” trio Snapped Ankles (the ones who dress up in striking topiary costumes as wild woodwoses, swaying behind various customised instruments like giant hedge carvings while picking out noisy ritual rhythms and post-rural, post-industrial chanting).

Olimpia Splendid, 2016
 
All of this going on… and I’m too knackered to drag myself to any of it. The story of my year, really.

Addresses, links, times etc below.

The Nest Collective presents:
Song Collectors Collective Gathering 2016
St Mark Church Dalston, St Mark’s Rise/Colveston Crescent, Dalston, London, E8 2LJ, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 10.30am to 6pm
information

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 240: Laura Cannell presents “Memory Mapping”: Laura Cannell + Charles Hayward + Mythos Of Violins + Jennifer Lucy Allan
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

The Nest Collective presents:
Unamplifire 2
St Mark Church Dalston, St Mark’s Rise/Colveston Crescent, Dalston, London, E8 2LJ, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 4.00pm to 11.00pm
information

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Dälek + Necro Deathmort
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Tuesdays Post present:
YOAF + Jono Podmore + Tom Fox & Georgina Brett
The Muse Gallery, 269 Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove, London, W11 1LR, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Olimpia Splendid + Snapped Ankles
Birthdays, 33-35 Stoke Newington Road, Stoke Newington, London N16 8BJ
– free event (but sign up for tickets) – information here and here
 

November 2016 – upcoming London classical gigs – The Riot Ensemble play Mark Simpson/Jack Sheen/Tigran Mansurian premieres plus Morton Feldman, Mark Bowden and Anna Meredith for ‘The Viola in my Life’ (21st); Clara Rodríguez & TangOpera Duo’s ‘Great Latin American Composers’ featuring Antonio Estévez and Alberto Ginastera, plus Villa-Lobos, Cervantes and Ruiz (24th)

20 Nov

A very quick note on two upcoming shows:

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The Riot Ensemble presents:
The Riot Ensemble: ‘The Viola in my Life’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Monday 21st November 2016, 7.00pm
information

The Riot Ensemble's 'The Viola In My Life', 21st November 2016“Led by a core group of seven musicians, The Riot Ensemble programme a wide array of the new music from across the globe, connecting people to great contemporary music and collaborating with a prestigious roster of guest artists in musician-led and organised performances. One of the few emerging ensembles in the UK to regularly commission and perform music by international emerging composers, they present the young composers they commission alongside exciting and established music from Bach to Birtwistle.

“This performance – The Viola in my Life’ – features Riot’s new Artistic Board Member Stephen Upshaw, who programmed this concert alongside fellow rioters Sarah Mason & Claudia Maria Racovicean.”

Programme:

Mark Simpson – New Work for Solo Viola (world premiere)
Morton Feldman – The Viola in My Life 3 (for viola and piano)
Mark Bowden – Hoist (for solo percussion)
Jack Sheen – Each One Cancels Out the Last (for viola, piano and tape) (world premiere)
Anna Meredith – Flex (for solo percussion)
Tigran Mansurian – Duet (for viola and percussion) (UK premiere)

Performers:

Stephen Upshaw – viola
Sarah Mason – percussion
Claudia Maria Racovicean – piano

* * * * * * * *

Clara Rodriguez' 'Great Latin American Composers', 24th November 2016Iberian & Latin American Music Society presents:
Echoes Festival: Clara Rodríguez & Friends – ‘Great Latin American Composers’
Bolívar Hall, 54 Grafton Way, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 5DL, England
Thursday 24th November 2016, 7.30pm
information

“Venezuelan virtuoso pianist Clara Rodríguez joins forces with TangOpera Duo to mark the centenary of her compatriot, composer Antonio Estévez (1916-1988) with a concert showcasing his works for piano and voice as part of a vibrant programme of piano pieces by some of the giants of Latin American classical music, including the seminal Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera (Argentina) (1916-1983), who also celebrates his centenary this year.

“Antonio Estévez is one of the most important Venezuelan composers of the 20th century, known especially for his ‘Cantata criolla’ and ‘Mediodía en el llan’o, recorded by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in 2008. A leading light of the Parisian-Venezuelan avant garde, Estévez’s music stands out for its rare beauty and profound originality. In Clara Rodríguez, Estévez has a longstanding ambassador for his legacy – her successful campaign to establish his output on the ABRSM 2015-2016 exam syllabus saw his music performed by thousands of pianists in the UK.

Heard here alongside some of Latin America’s most famous composers, such as Villa-Lobos (Brazil) and Cervantes (Cuba), this event places Estévez firmly amongst the panoply of Latin America’s ‘great’ composers. If you are unfamiliar with his music, this programme will be a revelation.”

Programme:

Antonio Estévez – 17 Piezas infantiles
Antonio Estévez – Songs (Selection)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Bachianas brasileiras No. 4 (Selection)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Ciclo brasileiro (Selection)
Alberto Ginastera – Three Argentinean Dances
Alberto Ginastera – Dos canciones Op. 3
Ignacio Cervantes – Three Cuban Dances
Federico Ruiz – Encuentro de Antonio y Florentino

Performers:

Clara Rodríguez – piano
TangOpera Duo – soprano & piano
William Roberts – actor
Timothy Adès – translator-poet
 

November 2016 – upcoming gigs – 1816 (featuring Wenche Losnegård, Audun Ellingsen and Gregor Riddell) in Frome (19th); Woodpigeon, Cevanne & Crewdson, More Is More and Matt Stewart-Evans at Daylight Music in London (19th); The Nightjar and Ys in Bristol (20th)

18 Nov

An English sandwich view of the weekend, with two West Country acoustic events mingling jazz, folk and post-folk framing the usual mixed-genre Daylight Music show in London.

* * * * * * * *

Frome’s Cooper Hall has a tradition of St Cecilia’s Day concerts crossing cultures and musical genres, as well as a growing relationship with the Norwegian arts scene. This Saturday, they blend both aspects.

1816, 19th November 2016
St Cecilia’s Day Concert – The Norwegian Connection: 1816 (Wenche Losnegård &Audun Ellingsen)
Cooper Hall, Selwood Manor, Jacks Lane, Frome, BA11 3NL, England
Saturday 19th November 2016, 7.30pm
information

“1816 was the year without a summer. 1816 is also a collaboration – a new Norwegian alternative pop band consisting of two renowned and experienced jazz musicians.

“Wenche Losnegård is a singer, songwriter, arranger and conductor with a broad span of musical interests ranging from contemporary classical, improvisation and jazz. Educated at the Norwegian Music Academy and having received numerous awards including the state scholarship in 2010-11, she now sings in the Norwegian jazz-folk acapalla trio Eplemøya Songlag (with whom she has released two critically acclaimed albums). Audun Ellingsen is a versatile double bass player working within and beyond the boundaries of jazz. After studies at Leeds College of Music he moved back to Norway and established himself on the Norwegian scene, recording and performing with various acts such as Froy Aagre, Kenny Wheeler, Andy Sheppart and Nils Petter Molvaer: he has also released two critically acclaimed albums with his own compositions with the band Audun Automat.

“Some years ago Wenche and Auden met in the dim jazz clubs of Oslo and started experimenting with the instrumentation of a bass and vocal duo. “The Year Without a Summer” inspired the name, the sound and the lyrical universe of the project – a rich, dark-sounding breed of jazz-influenced chamber pop both stripped down and richly layered. Later cello and drums were added to the palette, the former provided by Gregor Riddell (the Solstice Quartet member and composer who’s collaborated with Radiohead and Björk and more recently been a part of BirdWorld, who played at this year’s Frome Festival) and the latter by Erik Nylander (Ola Kvernberg Trio, Kirsti Huke Quartet).

“Building on the band members’ broad musical background, the 1816 live performance is captivating experience: the band wishes to comfort and disturb, please and torment, expressing music with depth and quality that can reach wide, but at the same time, leave little room for audiences to feel indifferent.”

Released on the Scandinavian Record Label, Vilje, 1816’s first single ‘The Message’ is based on a reinterpretation of treasured Norwegian poet Inger Hagerup and came out on the 14th of October. I can’t embed it here, but you can listen to it on the 1816 Soundcloud page.

* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music 239, 19th November 2016Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 239: Woodpigeon, Cevanne & Crewdson + More Is More
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 19th November 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

Although original headliners Woolly Mammoth have had to pull out, the Daylight show goes on with indie pop collective Woodpigeon moving up to pole position. Centred around the songs of Mark Andrew Hamilton, they perform wise, liquid, breathy pop with tones of country and folk, rumbling with patience, pianos and perspective shifts. In Mark’s tunes and lyrics you can hear shades of the grit of Johnny Cash, the pointed, sighing regret of Boo Hewerdine, and the steel-cored romantic realism of Michael J. Sheehy – always ready to distil a single phrase from a cold, hard truth; always ready to chronicle the kind of love that will twist in your hands and bite you.


 
Cevanne & Crewsdon is a proudly eccentric/eccentronic partnership between Anglo-Armenian singer/harper/composer Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian and electronic musician/instrument builder and musician Hugh “Crewdson” Jones.
Mixing all kind of influences from Renaissance to Maqam to the strange sonorities she heard during a phase of childhood deafness, Cevanne’s got a diverse portfolio of commissions and projects, ranging from the London Symphony Orchestra’s Panufnik Scheme to a Celtic harp duo, radio drama, and work as resident composer at Handel House and 575 Wandsworth Road. In his Deptford home, Crewdson hotwires old acoustic instruments, video game controllers, toys and other found items into fascinating hybrid electro-acoustic noisemakers and sound manipulators, or designs experimental wearable instrumentation: when not at work on his own projects and recordings, he plays live with Matthew Herbert and Hello Skinny and has remixed for the likes of Brownswood, Four Tet, Accidental, Sunday Best and Ninja Tune.

Together (with shades of the working methods of Hugh Davies and of Fripp & Eno), Cevanne & Crewdson create their own extraordinary sonic world, spinning together folk and electronics using their voices, Cevanne’s harp and Crewdson’s invented electronic instruments (including the concertronica, the sonic bonnet and perhaps even the MIDI motorcycle handlebars)

 

More Is More are three accomplished young saxophonists and a percussionists, collating pop and jazz culture melodies and snippets, improvising grooves, and jamming them all for fun. The confluence of two great watery places – New Orleans, and Deptford. Simple as that. See below for one of their spontaneous original tunes, and for a crowd-pleasing live mashup (including bits of Toto and the ‘Star Wars’ cantina theme).



 
The usual in-between sets are handled, this week, by self-taught solo pianist Matt Stewart-Evans who releases post-modern romantic instrumentals on 1631 Recordings and hovers in the same soft, soundtrack-friendly zone as Brambles, Dustin O’Halloran, Nils Frahm and Max Richter.


 
* * * * * * * *

The Nest Collective/Ear Trumpet Music presents:
The Nightjar + Ys
The Wardrobe Theatre, The Old Market Assembly, 25 West Street, Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0DF, England
Sunday 20th November 2016, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

“For over ten years the Nest Collective has been London’s way to experiencing folk, world and new music, creating a community that seeks unique sonorous experiences in unusual spaces. This weekend, they’re delighted to present a magical, intimate, sit-down lo-fi post-folk gig with The Nightjar and Ys.

“Drawing influence from the lo-fi wooze of Grouper, the stark and poignant balladry of Diane Cluck and the deft compositions of Colleen, The Nightjar (Jez Anderson, Mo Kirby, Sarah Ricketts, and Pete Thomas) use close-harmonies, tight-interlocking guitars, deep bass and an intense lead vocal to paint fragile, haunting landscapes. Originally conceived as a close-harmony vocal trio, a collaboration with South London producer Kams brought them to the attention of Boiler Room’s Joe Muggs. The following viral Boiler Room debut brought 2015’s ‘The Nightjar’ EP plaudits from nearly seventy thousand underground music fans, as well as the accolade of airplay on Radio 3’s ‘Late Junction’.


 
“A successful crowd-funding campaign convinced them of the existence of an audience for their dream-like, ethereal songs of hope, loss and disaster. In the autumn of 2015, The Nightjar relocated to a farmhouse in rural Portugal to begin their first full-length offering. Due in February 2017, the album received early support from Mercury-nominee Sam Lee who subsequently booked them for Cambridge Folk Festival and Shambala. 2016 tours of France, Germany and the UK, saw audiences brought to a stand-still by the raw intensity of their performance, bringing them a reputation as a must-see live band.


 
“In support are Anglo-New Zealander folk trio Ys, who embroider intricate harmonies, dark melodies and glittering guitar and banjo into heart-beating folk. Beautiful and compelling, their songs carry as lightly as they feel deeply. Songwriter Holly Dove met English vocalist Katie Riddle on the Melbourne music scene in 2013 and the duo have been playing together ever since, enjoying New Zealand and Australian summer music festivals before heading northwards early last year.

“Recently joining forces with Bristolian folk musician and banjo player, Rosie Garrard, the trio have developed a deeper and more vibrant sound with three-part harmonies and banjo lilts. Drawing on traditional English and Celtic folk as influence, they unearth original material and traditional songs as you’ve never heard before. Ys will lead you down the garden path and move you deep and good.”


 

November/December 2016 – upcoming British gigs – William D. Drake plays Preston (with Paul Morricone and All Hail Hyena!), and London (18th November, 1st December); Bob Drake unveiled in London, helped by Kavus Torabi and The Beetles (9th December)

17 Nov

For Cardiacs fans (plus any interested fans of psychedelic folk, multi-mood cut-up pop and perhaps a touch of Rock In Opposition) even if the Spratleys Japs show I posted about earlier is sold out, there’s still room in the audience for when William D. Drake fits in a final couple of shows for 2016, and for when various Knifeworlders help American avant-rocker Bob Drake to touch down in London.

(Yes, two Drakes. A coincidence. It’s not actually family, but it’s sort of familial anyway…)

* * * * * * * *

I’ve written plenty about William D. Drake over the months and years, to the extent that I sometimes wonder whether I’ve written myself out. So instead, I’ll rummage through the immediate press kit clippings written by other people, which hail him as “one of the most gifted and diverse composers of the modern age”, “a master of both modern classical piano composition and of experimental popular music” and the possessor of “a unique and prodigious skill as a composer and arranger of complex, intelligent and eccentric musical psychedelia; creating a cornucopia of diverse melodic styles whilst playing a plethora of keyboards and synthesizers.”

William. D Drake on the Millennium BridgeThe same one-sheets heap praise on his music – “an homage to lost music of the past, whilst taking a very English approach to composition which touches on the work of Robert Wyatt and Peter Hammill”, “weaving layers of textured melody with rock undertones… journey(ing) through the surreal and psychedelic, telling curious tales with sideways humour” and “jerk(ing) wildly from the gloriously epic to the intimately prophetic.”

PR to die for, really: and yet none of it mentions the other main draw, which is the warmth. Many attempts to bridge rock, folk and classical builds on pomp and posturing which verges on the desperately anxious, as if in dread of some grand and booted critic rising up, kicking down a cardboard set, pointing at the cowering artist and bellowing “naked! Fraud!” Others (especially from the classical side) skate around the business of integration by ironing half of the ingredients flat before inserting them – an ostentatious patina of orchestral papier-mache; or stiff, ungenerous impressions of rock beat and noise (or communal folk storytelling) fed into an ensemble piece with looseness of rhythms and fervency of engagement extracted.

Bill, in contrast, approaches it all with a laugh: the music’s all manuscript on the same rough paper, to be shuffled and interpreted for pleasure, or a rough tasty stew cooked up from memory, free to be meddled with and added to. For all of the impressive content and heart, it keeps its amateur edge in the best possible way -the enthusiasm of putting a family puzzle together; of teaching your nephew a song you’ve found in a street market; of suddenly remembering something intricate, odd, charming and half-forgotten from your childhood, then tracking it down to the back of a cupboard and finding that not only does it still work, it fits in beautifully with something else you’re working on.

This also translates to the shows. At a Bill gig, it sometimes feels if everyone’s crammed cheerfully into a slightly messy Edwardian parlour, eating jam with a spoon. Or, according to those press sheets, you get “a feast of gorgeous instrumentation, masterful piano, ancient grinding hurdy-gurdy, harmonium, clarinet, guitar, drums… topped with growly vocals and angelic choral singing.” I can vouch for that too.

Meanwhile, here’s a range of Bill pieces (probably over-familiar to ‘Misfit City’ readers, but what the hell) – a waltzing live-in-the-studio session full-band jaunt, a larky official video full of theatrical gestures and in jokes, and last month’s seizing of the Union Chapel’s grand Willis organ for a song of shipwreck.




 

It looks as if the London gig will be just Bill plus band, but the Preston show features a couple of guest slots. Paul Morricone is best known for his work as the more prolific and dramatically brooding of the two songwriting brothers in Huddersfield rock dramatists The Scaramanga Six, who “lurch wildly from dark and lurid ballads to visceral punk tinged psychedelia.” In recent years, Paul has taken to occasional acoustic solo gigs in which he sings songs from the twenty-year-old Scaramanga back catalogue (with its tales of fools, brutes and people stuck in between the two) and sometimes tries out unreleased, unrecorded and work-in-progress songs for size. See below for a full forty-minute set from such a gig, as well as a growling stop-start hard-math-pop burst from the third act on the bill – Burnley band All Hail Hyena!, who promise “a selection of frenetic psych-pop frenzies, intersected with melodic brilliance, punctuated by attitude and melting into rapture. A seething mass of unpredictability which will leave your brain reeling like a fish on a hook.”



 

  • They Eat Culture @ The New Continental, South Meadow Lane, Preston, PR1 8JP, England, Friday 18th November 2016, 8.00pm (with Paul Morricone + All Hail Hyena!) – information here and here
  • The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England, Wednesday 1st December 2016, 7.30pm (no support)- information

* * * * * * * *

Bob Drake’s last appearance in London (as far as I know) was a startling, affectionate and consensual stage invasion at the very start of a Knifeworld gig at Bush Hall. Clad in the surprisingly convincing snow-white bear suit he’s made famous from capering behind the drumkit at Thinking Plague gigs, he seized the mike and propelled what was already set to be a triumphant show up to a different level of vim and laughter.

It’s in keeping with what the man does. A veteran of the more rattling, curious end of American prog (not only with the Plague but with 5uus, his own Cabinet of Curiosities and plenty more), Bob’s equipped with all of the production nous and polyinstrumental expertise to act as his own ensemble on record; but he balances his impressive technical skill with just the right dose of lo-fi get-it-done-now irreverence to hit that elusive sweet spot between prog precision and friendly spontaneity. In doing so, he not only gives himself space to indulge an affably friendly musicality but knocks down any of the strict confining fences which might restrict both his freedom and the warm buzz of his audience’s involvement. If something off-beat and of-the-moment isn’t happening at one of Bob’s gigs, then it’s something that’s missing: or to put it another way, if something isn’t going slightly wrong, then the gig’s not going right.

This has nothing to do with prog spoofery, or comedy rock. It’s got more to do with Bob’s records and shows being intricate shaggy-dog (or perhaps shaggy-bear) stories in which the digressions on the journey, the ragged human edges and distractions, are more important than awe-inspiring structures or a revelatory destination. There’s plenty of nifty fingerwork – and plenty of irregular musical gems and twists that probably took more work and planning than he’s letting on – but what seems to matter the festooning of structure with invention… and with humour, the key to knowing that the moment is here and now, and knocks against expectation and time, and that a laugh isn’t necessarily a punchline, but the acknowledgement of an enthusiasm shared.

There are plenty of little musical signposts to point the way to Bob – there’s Yes (he got into all of this through a fascination with Chris Squire’s high-stepping buzz-bomb basslines), Henry Cow (for deliberately imperfect noise, and for toppling eagerly over the edge of the comfort zone in search of adventure), Stateside folk and bluegrass (plus the baroque Americana of The Beach Boys), the swivelling dial of midwestern classic rock radio and the mix-and-match repertoire of the zillion bar bands he played in on the way up; and probably the shadow of Zappa. There are other islands in the soup which may be coincidental – the convoluted indie rock of Guided By Voices, the fact that some of his songs sound like a ragged Jellyfish, or as if he’s roughed up an English cabaret star in a trucker’s joint; the possibility that his time in Los Angeles engineering hip hop tracks may have reinforced his interest in cut’n’paste textures. Yet ultimately Bob is Bob; moment by moment; grabbing hold of what’s there, spinning out what comes. Here are a few examples, including a snippet of a Cabinet of Curiosities gig where the theatre of the furry absurd is in full effect.




 

For this particular show (presented with fondness by Knifeworld’s resident reed avant-gardist Chlöe Herington), you just get Bob and his acoustic guitar – skill, repertoire and atmosphere probably more than compensating for the lack of a full band. In support is Kavus Torabi, fresh off a Gong tour, also feeding his songs through an acoustic – plus the unknown but immediately intriguing quality of Beetles, featuring ever-restless London avant-garde popsters Laila Woozeer and Tom O.C. Wilson, and who play “intricate, skeletal pop songs influenced by Regina Spektor, Lennon and McCartney and Kurt Cobain.” All of this is happening in a little basement room in a Kings Cross bar, so if you want to get a place there before a hundred London freaks swoop, get a move on.

Chlöe Herington presents:
Bob Drake + Kavus Torabi + Beetles
The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England
Friday 9th December 2016, 7.00pm
information
 

November 2016 – upcoming gigs – Spratleys Japs recreated live in Brighton, co-starring Stephen Evens, Emily Jones and sundry Brighton psychedelic talent (19th November)

16 Nov

'Spratleys Japs Live', 19th November 2016Though it’s long sold out (Facebook and local word-of-mouth rendering any blog efforts unnecessary), I thought I’d tip the hat to Saturday’s Brighton revival-cum-recreation of the obscure and short-lived Spratleys Japs, the first full live outing that the project’s songs have ever had.

Nominally a band, one which first wormed its way out into the light back in 1999, Spratleys Japs were one of the more enigmatic branches of the Cardiacs family. Head Cardiac Tim Smith composed the cryptic bulk of it, played bass guitar and organ, and added scratchy vocals; his then-girlfriend Jo Spratley sang bright and artless (like an urchin sparrow) and dabbled in theremin and flugelhorn. Tone and shape was inspired by a gloriously malfunctioning Mellotron keyboard on loan from ‘Tron historian Andy Thompson – its antique tape-replay system disrupted; its brass and string sounds invaded and polluted by grand staggers, stammers and dark blarts.

The rest of the instrumental roles were filled by the Rev-Ups, a Mexican desert band transplanted across the Atlantic and camping out in the New Forest. Dibbling around in Spratleys history brings you more information, albeit in baffling crepuscular fashion. There are stories of cutlery-hoarding obsessives hunched over humming home-made electronics; of a dilapidated old valve-tech recording studio buried deep in the Hampshire woods (“a bit rotten and a bit covered in leaves and rats, and rats spiders… ‘Doctor Who’ stylee control room… wiring swung between olden telegraph poles…”); and of vocals recorded “at dusk, in the drizzle”, bounced off the surface of a stagnant pond.


 
All very interesting, but probably spurious. It’s true about the ailing ‘Tron (and some elements of the dank forest sessions story might even be based on reality) but Spratleys were, in all likelihood, a Jo and Tim duo project: something cooked up through Smith production wizardry and swathed with the usual Cardiacs thicket of playful disinformation and purposefully eccentric mythology. In the decade following the album release, there was occasional talk about taking Spratleys to the stage, none of which came to anything: Tim’s near-fatal stroke and heart attack in 2008 finally put paid even to the talk.

What was left was the music – one album, one single with extra scraps – and very interesting it was too, be it the twinkling, seething, termite’s-nets funk of Fanny, the nursery piano and Wagnerian choir of Sparrows or Tim whispering an endless meandering verse over a strummed bass in Oh. Half of Cardiacs’ songbook had always been weirdly Arcadian, yearning out and away from regimented urban suburbia into a half-imagined clotted English greenwood full of growing things. Spratleys suggests what might have happened if Cardiacs had escaped there only to find out that it was a swamp, vegetation, trash and identity alike inexorably decaying into fertile sludge.


 
The grand, precarious staircases of extended harmony are pure Smith: parkour chord progressions racing on to destination unknown, delighting in the unpredictable terrain underfoot. The glue and ingredients which surround them are different, or at the very least repurpose and re-examine previous Smithian influences. Looking back at it now, it resembles nothing so much as various Cardiacs urges bumping up against the make-do, repurpose-and-discover influence of Faust, recoiling a little dazed and reconsidering. Creatures rustle; flashes of crude bayou guitar and ’50s rock’n’roll lick set up home with spluttering electronics. Vinyl pops; lyrics torn from malfunctioning phrasebooks float and spin in the eddies; all of the vocals sound as if they’ve been transposed from worn vellum. Jo, too, leaves her mark on proceedings – tugging Tim’s obsessive tendencies into more abstract, wandering territories, her childlike voice and delivery a perfect foil for his.

Regards this weekend’s recreation, Jo is the only original Spratley left standing. Though he’s recovered sufficiently to recently disinter and prepare a long-shelved Sea Nymphs album for release, Tim is still a long, long, unlikely way from playing live again. The Rev-Ups have long since dispersed and disappeared (probably back into the realms of Tim’s imagination); and as for the crumbling Mellotron, Andy Thompson (the entirely entitled bastard) has long since callously repaired it without a thought to history. There have been efforts to keep the project in the family, one way or another: Jo’s son Jesse Cutts (of Heavy Lamb) is backing her on guitar, and remaining roles are filled by sundry Brighton multi-instrumentalists and Cardiacs sympathisers. In the bag for the band are Étienne Rodes of Clowwns, his brother Adrien Rodes (once of Rect.angle, now playing with Étienne in Brother Twain) and the frighteningly busy Damo Waters (drummer for Clowwns, ZOFFF, Brother Twain and Slug; organist for Crayola Lectern; sessioneer for Field Music, British Sea Power, Chris T-T and plenty of others; everything-ist for his own project Muddy Suzuki when he has a spare moment).

At the moment, it’s not yet clear whether all of this is going to be a one-off amplified and extended celebration; or whether it’s going to become part of that eagerly growing body of post-Cardiacs musical life, joining the massing bands and solo artists which throng the increasingly regular Tim Smith fundraisers. Meanwhile, some indication as to what’s coming on the night could be found here – a kind of dry run, as Jo and Heavy Lamb take a rockier, punkified crack at the Spratleys song Vine at last year’s Alphabet Business Convention.


 

‘Spratleys Japs Performed Live’ (featuring members of Spratleys Japs, Crayola Lectern, Clowwns, Brother Twain, Muddy Suzuki) + Stephen Evens + Emily Jones
The Green Door Store, 2-4 Trafalgar Arches, Lower Goods Yard, Brighton Train Station, Brighton BN1 4FQ, England
Saturday 19th November 2016, 7.30pm
– information here and here

In support are Stephen EvEns (the current solo project by thoughtfully-hangdog drummer and multi-instrumental songwriter Steve Gilchrist – that’s Jo playing the therapist in his video below) and Cornish psychedelic folkie Emily Jones, whose own work shows a (possibly accidental) affinity with the softer end of Smithiana both in its occasional odd-corner harmonies and changeability, and in its occasional fascination with small, obscurely significant things.



 
If you’re not discouraged by that “sold-old” sign, see links above for the tickets that might become available… or just show up on the door with some cash on the night and hope for the best. If the Green Door Store has windows, crane up against them; fog them with sorry breath; make the kind of forest-creature creeling noises which you’d suspect might be just out of earshot on the Spratleys Japs album. They might take pity on you, and let you in.


 

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