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June 2018 – the first of the year’s Woodburner world-acoustica sessions at Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens – Faith Mussa and Jally Kebba Susso (5th June); Blue Lab Beats, The Dylema Collective and DemiMa (12th June); K.O.G, Bamako Overground and Eckoes (19th June); Meadowlark, Only Girl and Amy & The Calamities (26th June)

1 Jun

Adding to the long list of London things I’ve previously missed…

For five years, acoustic music promoters Woodburner have been regularly hosting a summertime session in the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. Each year they strive to “(capture) the essence of a weekend rural festival in the centre of Dalston… The phenomenal surrounds of the garden combine with delicious pizzas from David Latto, and a supreme and ever-evolving roster of acts, to create a magical atmosphere which brings people together in a friendly and welcoming space. It’s a community of music-lovers, summer-lovers and life-lovers, brought together to celebrate the warm months in a carefree and supportive atmosphere, with a compelling live soundtrack.”


 
This happens every Tuesday evening between June and September – here’s details on the June shows. All blurb is from Woodburner and the artists themselves; all inevitable judicious and finicky edits are mine. If you sometimes tire of the art-rock cubbyholes, peculiar modern classical or experimental sounds covered in here, or just find the entire damn blog too white (I feel that way sometimes myself), some of these gigs might appeal to you a little more.

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“The 5th June launch show features Malawian superstar Faith Mussa, and London-based kora master Jally Kebba Susso.

Faith Mussa is an Afro-soul singer, songwriter and guitarist, currently Malawi’s first and only “electronic one-man band” combining traditional African vibes with modern sounds. He is an energetic music performer and excellent music writer who has performed at some of the world most respected festivals, earned several awards (including the prestigious Malawi Special Achievers Award in the UK) worked with a variety of charity initiatives and is currently an ambassador for Oxfam and music writer for Girl Effect Malawi. His second album is set to be released early this year, and will contain music recorded from all over the world with some of the best talent he has collaborated with along the way.


 
“Gambian kora master Jally Kebba Susso expands on West African griot musical tradition, whether solo or with his band Manding Sabu. Jally comes from a very long line of Manding griots from the Gambia. He started playing the kora, the emblematic instrument of the griots at the age of seven, learning its delicate flowing intricacies from his father and older brothers. By the age of thirteen, Susso was touring Europe with a number of Gambian stars including Baatou Askan Wi, Maslabii and his sister Sambou Susso’s group. Over recent years Susso has been experimenting with blends of traditional griot music mixing hip hop, jazz, blues and now funk.”


 
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“The 12th June concert features London-based production duo Blue Lab Beats, love-jazz sensation The Dylema Collective and spoken word songstress DemiMa.

Blue Lab Beats is the brainchild of NK-OK and Mr D.M, who met at the WAC weekend arts club in Belsize Park and began making music in the now Infamous Blue Lab Studios. Many production rooms that produce a lot of good music historically are tiny – Motown in Detroit was one, Sun Studios was another such studio and Blue Lab boasts a shortage of space that would leave scratch marks on many an elbow. Still the music is hot – and that’s what counts. It’s the musical mishmash of Mr DM’s instrumental wizardry and a whole lotta NK-OK bottom end and programming knowhow (from a production journey which started with grime) that gives Blue Lab Beats the edge and takes it out of straight jazz format, whilst paying full respect to the art form (with influences including Mad Lib, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Knxwledge, J. Dilla, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson and A Tribe Called Quest).

Blue Lab Beats are now the engine room behind many of the freshest new acts (Age Of Luna, Ruby Francis, Louis VI) and also remixers for Jodie Abacus, Dua Lipa, Rag’n’Bone man to name a few. Their production style is raw but also sophisticated – musical but not introvert. Their recent ‘Blue Skies’ EP intro video caught the attention of ‘Dazed and Confused’ and has been clocking up views ever since. They’re currently in the process of making their own album.


 
“Sweet spoken neo-soul. Dope-ass funk. Multi-sensory killa jazz. The kinda music that makes your brain and booty dance. This is the infectious blend of groove, swag and often disarming fragility that confronts you as The Dylema Collective oozes their way through their young yet hypnotic set. Drawing on a smorgasbord of musical influences (inevitable, considering the diverse backgrounds of its members) you find Russian classicism and Nigerian Afrobeat meeting Latin-American rhythms and old-school soul, all woven into London’s contemporary jazz sound. The inspiring, empowering poetry that flows from Dylema’s lips and effortlessly between these poly-rhythms and sounds makes for an overall magnetic experience: one full of trembling crescendos, tingling intimacy and simpering sexuality.”


 

(Um… “simpering”? Anyway…)

“Demi “DemiMa” Mseleku is an Anglo-Zulu word and sound artist from south-west London – a singer, songwriter and poet – who creates soulful multi-sensorial performances to provoke conscious dialogue. Inspired by themes of identity, spirituality, social dynamics, divine femininity and Afrofuturism, DemiMa’s passion for improvisation enables her to freely channel sounds as a canvas for her poetry.She is the co-creator of A L C H E M Y (a monthly event honouring the art of word, sound, soul).


 
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“The 19th June concert features spoken word dynamo K.O.G, Afro-folk from Bamako Overground, and electronic songstress Eckoes.

“Born in Ghana, resident in Sheffield, K.O.G. (Kweku of Ghana) is a prolific writer and virtuosic performer, comfortable across a wide range of styles from house and Afrobeats to Afro-funk, dancehall and jungle, electrifying live audiences with his wildly energetic stage presence. Though known for his incredible vocal performances, K.O.G is also a talented arranger and percussionist, from balafon and djembe to his trademark dinner tray!

“As well as being the frontman for much-loved eight-piece Afro-funk outfit K.O.G & The Zongo Brigade, Kweku is the front man for the new Onipa project (with Nubiyan Twist MD Tom Excell) and is working on collaborations with Afriquoi, Congo Natty, Umoja, iZem, Jus Now and The Busy Twist. On the night, he will be joined by Tom Excell himself for a very special duo performance.


 
“Born in the inspired mind of London’s own Malian rhythm buff Hans Sutton, Bamako Overground have been busy forging a new sound. The trio are irresistibly seduced by the music of West Africa, blending its influences overtly and covertly with their own carefully-selected flavours to settle into mystical dance grooves and desert blues. Deep and soulful rhythms meet soaring melodies, while smooth three-part vocal harmonies spin allegories in Bamanakan and English to complete a brew that’s compelling and utterly unique. Hans plays his distinctive hybrid drum kit (which has previously brought Mandé styles to artists such as Nick Mulvey and Cocos Lovers), while at his flanks are the sparkling guitar of Yaaba Funk co-founder Tobias Sturmer and the hypnotic, heavy bass of folk maestro and Woodburner impresario Theo Bard.


 
“British musician Eckoes merges cutting-edge textures with soulful hooks to entice you into her sublime and unmistakeable sonic world. Possessed of a voice that will “make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up” (according to BBC Radio) she’s one of the most intriguing and emotive new outpourings to emerge from the London circuit. Naturally, tastemakers’ praise has come in thick and fast from BBC 6 Music, Clash Magazine, Q, Wonderland, BBC Introducing, Indie Shuffle, Afropunk, and the MOBO Awards amongst others. A prolific songwriter outside of her solo project, she has penned songs for many other artists, hitting #13 in the UK Club Charts last summer with Deeper (a track she co wrote and featured on, produced by Le Visiteur). At the helm of her project she stands, a six-foot statuesque weaver of hypnotic sounds taking the industry by storm.


 
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“The 26th June show features “viral songwriters” Meadowlark, rising star Only Girl, and blues champions Amy & The Calamities.

“Delicate, emotional, yet current and powerful songs, delivered beautifully from the minds of two extraordinary musicians, Meadowlark are nothing short of incredible. Their debut single ‘Eyes Wide’ in 2015 was added to BBC Radio 1’s Introducing playlist, XFM’s evening playlist and featured on Hype Machine’s Top 20. This led to sessions on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio 2 show, playing Glastonbury’s Introducing stage as well as the Alt Escape, the MAMA festival in Paris, and Dot to Dot. The song also appeared on episodes of ‘Vampire Diaries’ and ‘Made in Chelsea’.

“In 2016 Meadowlark were embraced into the UK touring circuit to support the release of their second EP ‘Paraffin’ and the incredibly well received most recent single Headlights. Their summer Bushstock performance in 2016 received a glowing review from ‘Popped Music’ who said “their vocals never ever miss a note and you could hear a pin drop.” The band’s debut album was released this year through Believe Records and their recent tour across the UK sold incredibly well, with sellouts in Bristol and London.


 
Only Girl is the pseudonym of Ellen Murphy, a soulful young artist emerging from the DIY music scene of south-east London. To date she has released several independent singles, gaining widespread support across BBC Introducing, Spotify, BBC Radio 1 and 2, BBC6 Music and online tastemakers including ‘The Fader’, ‘Notion’, ‘Clash’, ‘Mahogany’ and Red Bull Music.
The past eighteen months have seen her feature on releases with Zero 7, Kultur, Kitty Cash’s ‘Love The Free’ mixtape, her debut performance on UK TV on ‘The Nightly Show’ (ITV), and playing sold-out headline shows in London at the Courtyard Theatre and The Borderline.

“Her debut EP ‘Bittersweet’ (produced by long term collaborator Henry Binns of Zero 7) was released in early April – a swirl of soulful R&B harmonies with heart-aching lyrics set over a warm bed of rich organ sounds and bassy beats. She’s currently working on new music for release later on in the year.



 
Amy & The Calamities is the vehicle for Amy Wawn, a musician and singer-songwriter from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. As a solo performer, Amy’s style ranges from lively foot-stomping folk rhythms to the dirty-delicious sounds of delta blues on the slide guitar, accompanied by a dark, brooding vocal range, lilting melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Amy studied piano from a young age, and began learning guitar and violin in her teens. After being accepted to the University of Cape Town for a music degree, she decided to take a break from classical training and instead studied a degree in languages and translation whilst focusing more on the guitar and songwriting. She began performing in her hometown of Bulawayo after a brief stint of travelling on her own and working her way around Europe in 2014.

“Over the last three years, Amy has performed at several major festivals and events around Zimbabwe and is now living and performing full time as a solo artist in Camden Town, London. She released her debut EP ‘The Suspects’ in February 2018, in collaboration with exquisitely talented violinist, Georgina Leach.”


 
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All events are at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, 13 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England. Dates below:

  • Faith Mussa + Jally Kebba Susso, Tuesday 5th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Blue Lab Beats + The Dylema Collective + DemiMa, Tuesday 12th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • K.O.G + Bamako Overground + Eckoes, Tuesday 19th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Meadowlark + Only Girl + Amy Wawn, Tuesday 26th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here

 

June 2018 – upcoming London folk, world and storytelling gigs – Nest Collective’s Campfire Club shows – Seckou Keita (1st June); Gwyneth Herbert and Noemie Ducimetiere (15th June); The Embers Collective and Dizraeli/James Riley double event (21st June); London Contemporary Voices (22nd June); Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith with Sophie Janna (29th June)

23 May

Last month, I said that June would see “a couple more” of Nest Collective’s unamplified outdoor folk gigs. Instead, there’s going to be a cavalcade – six in the space of four weeks, including one double event on the 21st, itself part of a cluster of three later in the month.

See below for a quick roundup of their early summer recipe – including Senegalese griot, storytelling, chamber jazz (well, presumably not “chamber” anymore), folk-rap, country, Gothic blues and pop chorale in addition to folk flavours from the British Isles, continental Europe and the United States. They’re taking place in London’s children’s playgrounds, open spaces and artist’s studio yards: as with many of the Nest Collective gigs, some of the locations are hidden and secret with the locations only given to ticketholders, so plan ahead.

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Campfire Club: Seckou Keita
(secret location), Bow, London, England
Friday 1st June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

“How to describe Seckou Keita? Griot, praise singer, composer, djembe master, virtuoso, Kora player, pioneer? The answer is ‘yes’ to all of those. Seckou Keita is a true master of his instrument, a childhood prodigy, born of a line of griots and kings (Keita is the royal lineage, and not traditionally a griot name). Cissokho, his mother’s family name, gave life to his talent. His family includes Solo Cissokho, Seckou’s uncle, who introduced him to the International stage in 1996.

“The intense rhythm of Seckou’s working life has been driven by the desirability of his musical talents and his ability to get along with all kinds of different people. He toured with the Sierra Leonean musician, Francis Fuster, one time sidekick to Paul Simon, Miriam Makeba and Manu Dibango, and with Baka Beyond, whose founders Martin Cradick and Su Hart had befriended Seckou in Ziguinchor a few years before. The pair helped to produce his first solo kora album, ‘Baiyo’ (Orphan), which was released in 2000 (and subsequently renamed ‘Mali’ by the record label Arc Music).”


 
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Campfire Club: Gwyneth Herbert + Noemie Ducimetiere
Spitalfields City Farm, Buxton Street, Shoreditch, London, E1 5AR, England
Friday 15th June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Gwyneth Herbert is a strikingly original performer, award-winning composer and lyricist and versatile musical adventurer who continues to redefine and challenge expectations. Drawing on influences from the worlds of jazz, folk, contemporary classical music and storytelling, she has worked in collaboration with writers, musicians, directors, choreographers, visual artists, academics, clowns and young people to create a huge canon of genre- defying interdisciplinary work, as well as touring nationally and internationally with her band and releasing six critically albums to date on major, independent and self-owned labels.

“2018 sees the launch of Gwyneth’s ambitious and hugely anticipated seventh album and live show, ‘Letters I Haven’t Written’, songs from which she recently previewed in session for BBC Radio 2 and live from the Edinburgh Festival on BBC Radio 3. Gwyneth describes the project as “a musical, narrative and visual journey exploring the lost art of letter writing. Through blots of heartbreak, strokes of curiosity and scribbles of whimsy, ‘Letters…’ unearths the emotional complexities of putting pen to paper, and, in a climate of status updates and limited characters, seeks to find a more meaningful dialogue with the world”.

“A singer, composer and instrumentalist currently based in London UK, Noemie Ducimetiere is best known for her wide range of musical styles and her work with nine-piece band Gentle Mystics. With the Mystics currently on a recording hiatus, she is taking to the stage with her solo explorations of folk, rock and what some have called gothic blues. Noemie is a self-taught musician with an experimental approach, who found her mentors in her diverse influences: mid-century French cabaret, American blues, traditional Eastern folk and desert rock… today her live set-up comprises of an electric guitar and an expanse of blinking effects pedals.”



 
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Campfire Club: The Embers Collective
(secret location), Brockley, London, SE4, England
Thursday 21st June 2018, 7:00pm
– information here, here and here

The Embers Collective is a London based storytelling and live music collective formed by three friends; a writer, an actor and a musician who wanted to put on events with a focus on community, and driven by a passion for the art of sharing stories. Their events bring audiences together through the exploration of myths and folklore from all over the world. Each of their stories is accompanied by a live, professional multi-instrumentalist whose soundscapes take listeners on a journey. They welcome you to their warm embrace.”



 
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Campfire Club: Dizraeli + James Riley
Kindred Studios, 18 Saltram Crescent, West Kilburn, London, W9 3HW, England
Thursday 21st June 2018, 7:00pm
– information here, here and here

Dizraeli is a rapper, multi-instrumentalist and sometime singer taking hiphop to new terrains. His exploration has taken him to unexpected places: he composed the soundtrack for a new parallel-worlds comedy on E4 (Tripped); he toured France with producer and turntablist DJ DownLow; he spent a week in the refugee camp at Calais, giving workshops and listening to the migrants there. At the start of 2016, he travelled to Senegal to study West African music with an albino master, and in a remote fishing village covered in dust and music, he finished six new songs. Carrying these pieces home to London in his head, he decided to record them in a completely new way. Instead of shutting himself in a vibeless, carpeted studio where the impulse of the songs would be lost, he would invite an audience of close friends to the basement of a cafe, play live for those friends and record what he played – no editing; no studio tricks: in the words of one of the tracks: “Through the lens to the substance”.

“Born of a transatlantic relationship, James Riley grew up in South East London listening to the folk and soul sound of 70s America and wrote his first melody at the age of four. His first guitar, acquired at the age of nine, became the tool for surviving the tumult of a nowhere place, and helped James find somewhere he felt he belonged. In his early twenties, he took off, alone once again, hitchhiking and busking through Europe from Amsterdam to Istanbul, writing songs along the way. Back in the UK, these songs became a band, but eventually James had to shed another skin, and disembarked in Nashville, Tennessee. Here he found his producer and they set about making the album which had travelled with him to his maternal homeland, where it could finally get free.”



 
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Campfire Club: London Contemporary Voices
Glengall Wharf Garden, 64 Glengall Road, Peckham, London, SE15 6NF, England
Friday 22nd June 2018, 7:00pm
– information here, here and here

London Contemporary Voices specialises in work with established bands, including gigs, recordings and festivals. We also perform at private and corporate events, and host our own largescale concerts. They have worked with overfifty artists, including Sam Smith, James Bay, Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), Joss Stone, Elbow, Alt-J, Basement Jaxx, Imogen Heap, Laura Mvula, Charlotte Church, Kate Nash, Alison Moyet, Kim Wilde, Nitin Sawhney, Ella Eyre, Little Mix, The Vamps, Public Service Broadcasting, Andreya Triana, Nicole Scherzinger, Andy Burrows and many more!”


 
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Campfire Club: Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith + Sophie Janna
Spitalfields City Farm, Buxton Street, Shoreditch, London, E1 5AR, England
Friday 29th June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith are one of the finest duos to have emerged onto the British folk and acoustic scene in recent years. Their combination of outstanding vocal work, sensitive instrumentation, and a powerful social conscience has brought them widespread critical acclaim. The songs themselves are always given centre stage but they are brought to life with stunning musical arrangements and vocals. There is an integrity that shines through their performances and a common thread of political struggle, resistance, and justice. Their critically acclaimed second album ‘Night Hours’ was released in December 2016 on Fellside Recordings. Described as “exhilaratingly diverse and full of impeccably crafted songs”, it has cemented the duo’s reputation as two of the most exciting musicians and social commentators on the scene.

Sophie Janna sings dark songs from eras past as if they were written yesterday. The person who guesses the correct number of deaths and broken hearts at the end of a gig will get a reward. Sophie accompanies herself on guitar, thumb piano, bodhrán or on nothing at all.”



 

May 2018 – upcoming gigs – world folk through various filters with Brona McVittie, Marcus Corbett and Sebastian Reynolds in Oxford (16th May); Jack Miguel and Sam Mumford’s rap-folk exploration of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath with ‘A Murder Of Crows’ in London (18th May)

11 May

Marcus Corbett + Brona McVittie + Sebastian Reynolds, 16th May 2018Here’s another prompt for me to pay more regular attention to what’s going on at the Daylight Music shows in London – British folk guitarist Marcus Corbett is playing there this month, and next Wednesday (alongside Brona McVittie, whose own Daylight performance I missed back in March due to looking elsewhere), they’re both playing at a separate event in Oxford.

It’s easy to miss or forget the pointers at concerts which might lead you somewhere interesting – and I only picked up information on this Oxford event – billed as “a night of Thai electronica, Indian classical meets British folk and pastoral Celtic folk through a kosmiche filter” – by accident. Meanwhile, here’s a bit more on Marcus and Brona…

Marcus Corbett is an Anglo-Indian singer and guitarist spending his time between the English West Country and Pune in India: likewise, his guitar playing draws on Western-shaped ideas of folk and blues, but also on the world and tones of Indian classical music. His most recent recording is 2013’s ‘Strung Deep’, which also calls upon the talents of bansuri flute player Milind Date, violinist Sanjay Upadhye and tabla players Ntin Gaikwad and Sharanappa Guttaragi. It’s this record, amongst others, that he’ll be playing from for this concert, for which he’s rejoined by Ntin Gaikwad. (Both Marcus and Ntin are currently on a wider tour together, which you can find out more about here.)



 
Brona McVittie is an Irish harpist, singer and electronic musician from County Down, perhaps best known for fronting/plucking for acclaimed London-Irish trad outfit The London Lasses and for adding the Early Music influences to the Orla Wren-affiliated neo-impressionist project littlebow. During the noughties, she played in folk duos Footnote and The Balance and Footnote duos, followed by a spell leading experimental folktronica band Forestbrook. More recently, her occasional experimental folk-pop work as Queen Of Corkbots has displayed a sprightly humour in electro-acoustic arrangements as well as a love of reviving and gently reinventing old folk songs, carols and not-so-innocent children’s ditties in a web of electronic blips, Mellotronic flutes, pattering synth percussion and other delicate ornamentation.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this comes the new work under her own name which she’s gathered up into her formal solo debut album, ‘We Are The Wildlife’. Voice, harp, flute and strings combine with careful well-honed electronic arrangements for what’s described as “a psycho-geographic journey through a collection of traditional folk ballads and original compositions inspired as much by the geometries of London’s urban fringes as by the sonic phenomena within the great rural landscapes of Mourne.”

For this performance, Brona will be accompanied by friend, collaborator and American émigré Myles Cochran on slide guitar; himself an established solo artist in the more psychedelic, atmospheric end of UK Americana. Here’s the title track from ‘We Are The Wildlife’, plus the album’s version of Irish traditional song Molly Brannigan.



 
The third act at the concert is Oxford musician and PinDrop promoter Sebastian Reynolds. Possibly solo, or possibly accompanied by his Solo Ensemble (also featuring keyboard player Jody Prewett, cellist Anne Müller and violinist Alex Stolze), he’ll be performing excerpts from his Mahajanaka Dance Drama project score (released on a Bandcamp EP last month). The music itself is founded on sampled loops taken from recordings of a piphat (high Thai classical) session undertaken by Thai pop ensemble the Krajidrid Band, which Sebastian has continued to build on.

The Mahajanaka story tells a tale from Buddhist mythology concerning a shipwrecked prince who survives alone at sea until the goddess of the ocean comes to his rescue. Here’s both Sebastian’s original version and a shimmering, urgent live treatment from the Solo Collective; plus a video documentary about the research into, and making of, the source music.


 
TMD Media and PinDrop present:
Marcus Corbett + Brona McVittie + Sebastian Reynolds
Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 1BP, England
Wednesday 16th May 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 
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A Murder Of Crows, 18th May 2018Back in London, at Poplar Union, there’s a coming together of spoken word, poetry, rap and experimental folk for Mental Health Awareness Week, as poet/rapper Jack Miguel collaborates with exploratory post-folk musician Sam Mumford in ‘A Murder Of Crows’, a multimedia response to ‘Crow‘, Ted Hughes’ collection of poems dealing with his own “demons” following the suicide of his wife and fellow poet Sylvia Plath. All proceeds will go towards supporting the Campaign Against Living Miserably, an award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide (the single biggest killer of men under the age of forty-five in Britain) with additional donations encouraged on the door. This is a work-in-progress, so expect – even savour – a few rough edges, which might be part of the point.

Well established as a guitarist, singer, composer and sound artist, Sam makes a kind of deconstructed and rebuilt electro-acoustic folk music which draws equal comparisons to Bob Dylan, Joan Armatrading, Aphex Twin and Venetian Snares. While electronic sound techniques and collagery (taken from Sam’s love of dub, techno, drum and bass and electronica) lean in to both the mix and the toolbox, shaping and impling, Sam’s work is rooted in fingerpicking and voice, resulting in an unmoored new folk music which carries its roots with it as sleepwalking instinct, leaving him free to explore the here and now, whether addressing personal concerns or broader contemporary matters.

In this he’s well matched by Jack, whose own previous work has encompassed sound design, sculpture and moving image. The first poet and rapper to attend the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, he’s gone on (as “Jakaboski”) to become a writer and performer with psychedelic hip hop group Strangelove (and release his own solo debut, the ‘Mount Strive’ EP, in 2014). He also also exibits his own art installations, and works as a diverse arts educator with a particular specialisation in damaged but nurturable psyches (working in hospitals, pupil referral units and secure psychiatric units).

The latter, in particular, has led to work like Jack’s collaborative installation and performance study ‘The Turning of the Leaves’, a meditation on the First World War, masculinity and intergenerational trauma (drawing on the aforementioned Hughes, Carl Jung and Kendrick Lamar, and dealing directly with “the challenges facing men today amidst inherited narratives of power, violence and invulnerability.”) It will be interesting – and important – to see how this interest in toxic and tortured masculinity feeds into Jack and Sam’s examination of Hughes: well known, even beyond his poetry, as a man’s man and an alpha male; and whose treatment of Plath (including his co-opting of her posthumous legacy) has come under increasing challenge and outright attack in recent years (a further darkening of the story).
 



 
Also engaged with the project are two special guests – performance poet and theatre maker Cecilia Knapp and cellist-composer Natasha Zielanzinski (who specialises in contemporary repertoire, early music, free improvisation and folk music and whose performance history spans Sadlers Wells, Kanye West, the Royal Court Theatre and Kate Tempest). More special guests may be announced closer to concert time, although there’s only a week to go…

Jack Miguel & Sam Mumford present:
‘A Murder of Crows’
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Friday 18th May 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

April/May 2018 – some more immersive London gigs of various kinds – brain voyages with You Cry Wolf, Joe Corbin and Bokoyono (23rd April); righteous resistance with ‘Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement’ (6th May)

19 Apr

Concerts which go a little deeper… a trip to the heart of the illuminated brain in Brixton and a remounting of past dissent in Poplar, both of which you’re invited to soak yourselves in.

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You Cry WolfMath-rock usually constructs and communicates meaning from the abstraction of numbers, even though it’s generally played to non-mathematical people. Ducking underneath song forms, it communicates less through stories, textures and timbres than through its attempts to mine the ecstatic human response to pattern-building. For Brighton math-rock trio You Cry Wolf this clearly isn’t enough. From the start, they’ve not followed the usual mathy practise of turning their back on vocals and words, with guitarist Owain Arthur delivering a near-continuous murmur of cryptically anxious lyric over the bare-bone instrumental notes.

Building from their earlier, more straightforward mathwork (and from their occasional taste for plaintively en-mathening mainstream pop such as Coldplay’s Trouble), You Cry Wolf have broadened out into their own brand of rock theatre projects – ingenious and immersive low-budget affairs in which projected film, sound, venue decoration and even live scent have become integral to the work; a sort of DIY 4D cinema. Their quarter-hour piece ‘A Fresh Start (for Peter Russo)’ (which toured around various fringe festivals in 2015) delved into the psyche and day-to-day experiences of an obsessive, alcoholic middle-aged gardener.

On spec, it sounds like an earnest ‘70s-to-‘80s collision between a lost piece of melancholic English prog and a stern German art cinema – or perhaps a glummer, hushed take on a Mars Volta extravaganza. The proggy theatrical elements were increased by the fact that the band played inside a pod of angled sheets, obscured from view by projected filmwork (from video artist and onetime Polar Bear collaborator Jacek Zmarz) and bolstered by wafts of floral scent as they tried to induce their audiences into following the story through Peter’s eyes and senses: sharing his day-to-day impressions and actions, coming to understand his personal search for meaning and a possible redemption.


 
From the accounts I’ve heard, it was quite an experience, moving from the earthbound and mundane to the magical. Here’s what ‘The Line Of Best Fit’ made of it during its home stint in Brighton, and see above for a video clip of the film and music content, (though it’s evidently a pale shadow of the mirrored and scented storytelling environment which the band summoned into being for each performance.

Transcendence was the climax and key to the ‘Fresh Start’ show; heartened by the success of ‘A Fresh Start’, You Cry Wolf expanded to a related but even larger conceit for 2017’s ‘Only God’ (which ran to a couple of shows in Brighton and south London in June last year and now makes a return to Brixton as the centrepiece of a three-hour concert tagged as “a new fantasy to lose yourself inside”).

You Cry Wolf + Guests
Upstairs at the Ritzy, Brixton Oval, Brixton, London, SW2 1JG London, England
Monday 23rd April 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here

In many respects, it sounds like a souped-up twenty-first century take on those 1960s psychedelic gigs which attempted to induce altered states with oil-slide projections and the flickering low-tech visual pulses of dreamachines. With ‘Only God’, the band are attempting to stage “a lurid dream-world, a hallucination comprised of fragments of a waking-life reordered into dreamy irreality… a vivid journey inside the dreaming mind.” As with ‘Fresh Start’, the live band setup is augmented by a custom-designed set (this time devised by club installation specialists Moonstone), video projections (specifically commissioned from Cargo Collective artist Agathe Barré) and scene-setting aromas.

According to the band “the concert marks an exploration of the significance of dreams and their effectiveness as tools for introspective self-discovery. As we are prone to futilely create meaning from our dreams, so too is the audience encouraged to create their own conclusions from the fragments of the story provided in its performance. Making use of pithy and surreal lyrics, sensational abstract imagery and fresh emotive rock-music, You Cry Wolf invite the audience to take centre-stage as they are transported inside the narrative, to see through the eyes and into the soul of the sleeping protagonist. There is no stage, no spot light; You Cry Wolf have created a window into their music and inside their protagonists’ fictions, where human experience and narrative supersede traditional performance convention, where concept and character-construction form the all-consuming conditions for this music-based escapade to unfold.”

In support – and perhaps at least partially integrated into the bigger idea – are Bokoyono (an “instrumental psych/desert/surf-rock band, ready to rip you a new one”) and modern electric blues guitarist Joe Corbin (on this occasion armed with “a set specially prepared to rip open the doors of perception until all inhibitions disappear and your mind is malleable for the moulding!” Moonstone member Cal Lewis (also of and loft-party specialists Solis and Palooza) pulls double duty by taking over the DJ slot, which is intended to be as immersive as the rest of the evening…


 
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From psychedelic innerspace to direct action and a spot of tea… a change of tone.

Over at Poplar Union in early May, there’s what appears to be an insurrection boutique. Deptford’s Black Smock Band (“South London’s premier gay socialist folk band”) are collaborating with Bethnal Green’s Daedalus Theatre Company to revive a spot of English radicalism and invite you to participate.

'Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile  Incitement', 6th May 2018

“The Black Smock Band and Daedalus Theatre Company have worked with Tower Hamlets residents and students from the Applied Performance course at Queen Mary University to create a truly unique, local gig-theatre performance, teaming up with a seventeenth-century rebel to uncover England’s history of protest and ask what it all means today. Expect a song, a dance and perhaps the start of the revolution! They also invite you share your thoughts on East London life over a cup of tea at their pre-show tea party, along with a spot of placard-making and protest-song writing too, if you fancy.

“Part of a long-term project to explore past and present stories of protest and dissent, this performance has been made with a special focus on current and historical protest and dissent in Tower Hamlets. It was developed at Ovalhouse in South London through a series of scratch performances leading to a commission to create a full production for Brixton City festival. The project is an ever-changing, locality-responsive piece of gig-theatre using historical texts and songs alongside new material, using gatherings over tea with local people to inform each new version of the performance.”

The piece is inspired by Gerrard Winstanley, an oft-obscured figure from English history. As one of the founders of the Diggers movement, he led the squatting and constructive reclamation of enclosed private land during that seventeenth century period in which England teetered between the traditions of monarchy and the possibilities of communitarianism. Viewed back through the lens of a twenty-first century London (one being gradually consumed by the kind of landgrabs and land-banking which insidiously push out and exclude its long-term occupants), he and some of his arguments have gained a new resonance and timeliness.

Expect current issues to seep into the story, primarily the erasure of working-class home neighbourhoods and the displacement of their communities by gentrified developments (the transformation of the Heygate Estate into the gentrified Elephant Park, the looming threat of a similar outcome via the Haringey Development Vehicle, and – for Poplar residents – three decades’ worth of the marginalisation of poorer householders and tenants by the glittering elite massing of the Dockland developments).

Travelling around with band, actors and crew is The Mobile Incitement Unit – “a portable installation by artist Andy Bannister containing everything needed to stage a performance, run participation workshops and, of course, foment revolt”. Art is a hand grenade, but sometimes it’s a tea urn.

All going well, the piece should tour nationally in 2019 – for the moment, you can be a part of it here in London, or get more involved by inviting them over to your neighbourhood via the page here.

Black Smock Band & Daedalus Theatre Company present:
‘Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement’
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Sunday 6th May 2018, 1.00 pm-2.30pm (tea party), 3.00pm (performance)
– information here and here

Here’s a video explaining some more about the project (and offering a peek at the M.I.U.)…


 

March 2018 – upcoming London gigs of various kinds – folk-jazz and loop-tinted songcraft from Gabriela Eva and Yasmyn Hendrix (20th March); post-blues and wakeful dream-pop from Cavey and Moon Panda (26th March)

16 Mar

Woodburner presents:
Gabriela Eva + Yasmyn Hendrix
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Tuesday 20th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here


 
On video, Gabriela Eva is a colourful explosion of appropriated and deftly spun images. In many respects she’s a tourist, but the kind who pulls off her acquisitive magpie business to perfection – a keen eye for the fabric she can repurpose, the hairstyle she can adapt, the body-paint or tattoo that can be repositioned. A globetrotter and a photographer’s darling even before she dropped her debut EP last month, she’s a natural at the subtly chameleonic star act; the dance of other people’s veils illuminated, assimilated and penetrated by her own charisma.

Gabriela Eva + Yazmyn Hendrix, 20th March 2018I’m hoping that this translates well to the stage once Gabriela’s tucked under the stairs at Servant Jazz Quarters – belatedly launching that selfsame EP, trapped behind her guitar without access to the self-edit suite, the quick-change boudoir screen and the magical boxes for makeup and jewels. That’s when it’ll either all fall apart or show its core roots. She doesn’t lack courage: previously part of Colchester duo Passive Passengers, she’s busked alone, braved the stage at Ronnie Scott’s and she’s certainly thrown her meme-anchors down (while “future organic” could mean bloody anything from cottage-industry world-changers to rich hippies with busy self-aggrandising Snapchat accounts, “driven, dyslexic, dreadlocked” is as good a packed’n’loaded personal tag as I’ve heard recently).

As for the music, there’s skipping rhythmic and harmonic footwork from jazz, some rhythmic echoes from hip hop, some party looseness from the breezier end of soul and R&B. You can trace your fingers through Gabriela’s songs and tease out strands from clear forebears – Erykah Badu, Astrid Gilberto, Van Morrison, Minnie Riperton (for her part, she claims Nina Simone, Little Dragon, Alanis Morrisette and Incubus) – yet her prime musical descent (probably through accidental parallels) seems to be Eva Abraham, the acoustic London jazzfolksoul luminary who, despite having boiled up cauldron after cauldron of superb transfigured rootsiness for twenty years now, seems doomed to remain a perpetual (though beloved) secret.

Setting aside the quick visual fix of a memorable video, though, that’s not a bad place to be, musically. Close your eyes and you’re still left with Gabriela’s rolling carpet of songcraft: just picking three, there’s her conversational, hip-hop storytelling cover of Estelle and Kanye’s American Boy, the airborne soul-jazz of Sailing Over The City and the twinkling Rise Up (heading that first EP – a light-touch groove salute to advance-and-reclaim, flickering through a clutch of delicate psychedelic changes and nodding to the short-lived but renewable hopes of the Arab spring).




 
In support is Yazmyn Hendrix, whom I last saw four-and-a-half years ago providing guest-vocal accompaniment to What?! (a long-dispersed jazz-rock trio). Nowaday’s she’s still most visible for further collaborations (with Euro-soul act Retrospective For Love and with jazz-rapper Mrisi) plus a smattering of Soundcloud cover versions (including Laura Mvula’s Green Gardens, John Legend’s All Of Me, Adele’s Chasing Pavements and Massive Attack’s Teardrop). By herself – armed with a microphone, a loop station, and assorted live percussion and beatboxing – she creates layered a capella choirs and vocal ensembles out of herself: either simple classic sounding pop songs, the cover versions mentioned above, or assorted vocalese experiments.


 
So far there’s not much direct evidence of the harnessed synaesthesia which Yazmyn claims shapes her music-making (and which means that she “associates each song, each word and each instrument with colours and textures”). Let’s assume that the full breakthrough in that direction is still working its way through development and caution, and that one day she’ll be giving us her own ear-boggling parallel to ‘Medúlla’ or ‘Starsailor’ or Todd Rundgren’s ‘A Capella’. Given her tunes-over-weirdness tastes, I’m guessing that we can rule out a head-to-head with Mike Patton in more tangled territory. For now, she stands as a capable one-woman Manhattan Transfer (or a sleepier, slowed-paced Grace McLean) for contemporary pop songs; and that’ll do in the short run.



 
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Cavey + Moon Panda, 26th March 2018

Decave Discovers presents:
Cavey + Moon Panda
The Waiting Room, 175 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoek Newington, London, N16 0LH, England
Monday 26th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Young post-blues singer-guitarist Luke Cave – a.k.a. Cavey – is already known as half of stoner-fuzz rock duo Rad Frü. He’s already engaging in some solo wing-stretching, parking the Zep-happy Rad in favour of collaborating with Blaenavon bassist/producer Frank Wright, laying down songs with junior Wrecking Crews full of heavy-duty young session dudes. Not far out of his teens, it’s as if he’s trying to echo Robert Plant’s career development, while simultaneously crushing it down from fifty years to a mere decade.

Perhaps that’s a bit glib of me, as well as overstating the classic rock thing. Similarly, I’m not sure if he’s the same Luke Cave as the one who sprang (literally) from Nick Cave’s loins back in 1991, but even if he is, there’s not much trace of Cave the Elder here. Cavey himself cites Jim O’Rourke, T-Bone Walker, Hamilton Leithauser and Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen as influences; and in his light-touch songs I can also hear a dash of Gomez. Here’s a live performance of his recent Living Room Parade single, plus the studio take of its predecessor Day And Night.



 
Born in Boston but currently London-based (and sporting members coming in from Denmark, Sweden and Scotland), dream pop band Moon Panda will inevitably always ring Californian, not least because of the sheer sun-kissed San Diegan beauty of frontwoman Maddy Myers. A blonde, delicately-freckled photographer’s dream on honeyslide vocals and soft dots of bass guitar, she probably finds this kind of objectivifying attention a damn nuisance. For one thing, it distracts from the thoughtful, intricate details of the songs she writes: just as there was always more to Stevie Nicks than posturing and chiffon, there’s more to Maddy than blank-canvas prettiness or swoony lashes.

Let’s be honest – most dream pop bands think it’s enough to deliver blank blocks of navel-gazing noise and dirty snowplough billows: retrodden, remasticated sub-Lushness. Moon Panda don’t. Their songs are constantly, carefully changing beasts: encapsulated within their yearning melodies and taffy-stretched hooks, they have finely honed choral a capella parts, strange and revelatory key changes, sudden pauses and unorthodox shifts of time and dynamic. As with Gustav Moltke’s carefully-placed, only-there-when-you-need-them tidal smooshes of guitar, Maddy’s keen awareness of structure – of spectral drama, of just how softly and subtly you can make a jump-cut work – has a tendency to shatter the mood from within with a hard-hook shift in rhythm and intensity.



 
The lyrics too, eschew the cough-syrup blankness and drunken, dissolved sensual dazes of the genre; in effect, avoiding its copouts. Instead, Moon Panda are dream pop on the verge of waking up, or of piecing together the dreamwork. Shades of vulnerability, disquiet and suspicion run through these words: I’m still processing them, in the way that one works over the puzzling gristle of a dream, but I’m suspecting that these are songs for the gaslit, the fearful, the unwittingly immured: that they’re the etchings of the beginnings of an escape kit. Their videos, too, have an awareness to them – the disassociative motion, fall and sleep-roll of severed doll parts, ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Todd Haynes’ ‘Superstar’ and its Barbie-puppet retelling of the Karen Carpenter story; the road trip photography with its trapped, continuous-loop feel; Maddy’s own blank-faced ballet moves in which limbs stretch or a back twitches into restless determination.

It’s a shame that ‘Twin Peaks’ appears to be over and done now, and that Moon Panda are a year or two behind its production curve. In some respects they’d have made an ideal Roadhouse band. On the other hand, perhaps I’ve missed the point. Perhaps they wouldn’t have fitted the bill: not quite suited to the seamless and ominous cool, nor enigmatic enough for us to project our hungers, our apprehensions and confusions onto. From here, Moon Panda seem more like a measured curious hand rippling the waters or testing the surface of the mirror, fingertips uncovering and assessing what would otherwise been smoothed away. A band and a songwriter to keep a woken eye on, I think.
 

March 2018 – upcoming gigs – Echo Trails and Djanan Turan in London (10th March); Echo Trails, Ingrid Plum, Kyriakides and Polbrone soundtrack old Russian animations for Colliding LDN in London (8th March); Antigen night in Ipswich with MacGillivray, Sealionwoman and Polly Preacher (16th March)

6 Mar

Echo Trails + Djanan Turan, 8th March 2018

Echo Trails + Djanan Turan
The Betsey Trotwood, 56 Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, London, EC1R 3BL, England
Saturday 10th March 2018, 7.30pm
information

This month, the roiling, thrilling, mostly-acoustic post-folk band Echo Trails resurface for a Clerkenwell gig in the vaults of the Betsey Trotwood. If you missed them a month ago (at the Magic Garden), here’s what I said about them back then:

“Selling Echo Trails as being some kind of hopeful mashup of “epic groove and post-rock” is a massive undersell. Just because they’ve got a little Godspeed string thunder in them on occasion (and know a thing or two about old-school jazz’n’R&B propulsion) doesn’t mean that they’re one of those bands that milk the juice out of other genres and feed it into papery approximations.

“A well-honed acoustic band is like a set of unhindered precision muscles, able to flex rhythms on the fly and dance in unexpected curves, and this is just such a band. Fronted by Dimitra Tzanakaki (a ballsy, smouldering Greek blend of Beth Gibbons, Tori Amos and Bette Midler) they’re a supple alliance of guitar, voluble double bass, viola and drumkit, the song undercarriage slipping easily from Mediterranean folk to psychobilly to a salsa set-to or to shedbashing Led Zeppelin thrills. Since their arrival in 2014 they’ve phased out keyboard and phased in pedalwork, enriching texture even as the instrumentation shrank: hence the post-rock tag, but there’s Schönberg, Piaf, Korn, Temper Trap, bebop and Hidden Orchestra tucked into their bag of influences along with Godspeed.”




 
In support is Turkish singer turned Egg collaborator and London bandleader Djanan Turan, who specializes in light, chatty near-acoustic party pop with a timeless perpetually-youthful feel. Into the pot – along with her own warm and garrulous vocal – go Turkish beats, cabaret pop, mellow synth riffs, raga, woody spiralling clarinet lines and slithering Romani/Med-jazz guitar (the latter courtesy of Funkshy’s Fatih Ebrem).

Djanan’s also known for organising one of London’s female artist platforms (the Anatolian/Middle-Eastern-flavoured Hura Nights). In keeping with this, her own songs always sound and feel as if she’s invited you back into her kitchen to keep you abreast of developments and to talk a friendly blue streak about whatever’s crossing her mind – world peace, personal disagreements and reconciliations, the position of women, youth recalled and put into deeper perspective. Despite the hints at New Age positivity (I suspect that that kitchen has a couple of crystals hanging in the window), underneath that loquacious flow is an accomplished songwriter with her dancing feet firmly in touch with the ground. There may be gush involved, but it’s never flippant.



 
* * * * * * * *

A few days earlier, Echo Trails are making another London appearance at New River Studios as part of a film evening. As well as closing the show with a full set of their own songs, they’re one of four artists/bands performing live soundtracks to existing silent films. More below…

Colliding LDN, 10th March 2018Colliding Lines present:
‘Colliding LDN: Reanimation’
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Thursday 8th March 2018, 8.30pm
– information here and here

Live cross-disciplinary art promoters Colliding Lines begin “a new, bi-monthly night of live art, sound and vision, presenting experimental collaborations and post-label projects from select performers. ‘Reanimation’ (is) a live re-scoring of mostly Soviet-era cartoons and surrealist animations by four different artists).”

The programme features two shorts by veteran Russian animator Andrei Khrjanovsky (1968’s anti-bureaucratic musical fable ‘The Glass Harmonica‘ and 1972’s ‘The Butterfly‘), as well as alternative 1968 tellings of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid (‘Rusalochka‘ by Ivan Aksenchuk) and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (the National Institute of Mental Health’s polemical ‘Curious Alice‘, which took a somewhat counter-productive slap at the early ‘70s drug culture by making it look even more fascinating to children).

 
In addition to Echo Trails, live soundtracking will be performed by extended-voice improviser and soundshaper Ingrid Plum (who blends and savages her own glorious clear vocals with sound processing and field recordings, and stirs in influences from neo-classical and from Scottish and Nordic folk music) and by two different sets of electro-acoustic music-making brothers. In-demand collaborators for film, dance and installation work, Kyriakides (Reuben and Jacob, to their mother) build “expansive, enveloping soundworlds” from live instruments, field recordings and found objects across a wide spectrum of musical and stylistic options. Electro-acoustic fraternal drone duo Polbrone are an alternate workframe for Andrea and Simone Salvatici of Glasgow avant-folk minimalists Clorinde, who in this project loop and gradually destroy their own sonic textures (and on this occasion will be aided by improvising cellist Derek Yau).


 
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A little later on, inspired East Anglian “marginal musician” label Antigen are running a concert over in Ipswich…

MacGillivray + Sealionwoman + Polly Preacher, 16th March 2018

Antigen Records present:
MacGillivray + Sealionwoman + Polly Preacher
The Smokehouse, South Street Studios, 6 South Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3NU, England
Friday 16th March 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here

When she’s out and about playing music, writing or committing performance art, Kirsten Norrie goes by her ancestral Scottish name MacGillivray, pulling her matrilineal Highland heritage over her head like a mask. With many wannabe artists, this kind of method ends up as no more than an affectation: people short on colour, scraping at the bottom of the pot of history in a vain attempt to garner the last scraps of savour. With Kirsten, it’s different: if it’s a mask, it’s the kind that renders everyday matters and habits transparent, allowing her to express deeper and stranger ideas and fancies fervently. What emerges is startling. MacGillivray it is, then.

Discovering her is a little like being startled by a slow-motion jack-in-the-box: she’s already got eight albums behind her, a couple of soundtracks and poetry collections, and a collaborator roster which bags a list of left-field folk musicians of all strands and odd definitions, including The Fall (yes, folk, really), The Pogues’ Jem Finer, Dead Rat Orchestra, Trembling Bells and Current 93. Her performance art involves powerful weird rituals – furiously smoking cigars in Sigmund Freud’s garden; conflating mediaeval stocks and death metal; eating chandelier glass in an abandoned shopping centre; carrying a dead sheep on a pilgrimage.

As a musician (both recorder and performer), she’s similarly unnerving: experimenting with loudness and quietness via folk drones, piano, savagely distorted electric autoharp and vocal wails, but refusing to hide behind them. Slender, still and intense, she rules a stage, dragging up distressed ghosts and the aftermath of harsh laws and bare beliefs. On this occasion, she’ll be performing tracks from her forthcoming mini-album, ‘Watermarked in Flame’.




 
Like Kirsten, Colchester’s Ashleagh Claire Hurren immerses herself in a performance persona, although Polly Preacher‘s “wonky folk troubadour” act is a good deal more comfortable than MacGillivray’s harsher hauntology. That said, the original tag makes her sound a lot kookier than she is. You don’t get cute acoustic numbers about spice racks, paintings and milky heartbreaks. Instead you get a crepuscular, witty electric folk with a homemade feel and a few echoes of lo-fi indie rock. There are a few shades of Kristen Hersh, perhaps even a little Lupen Crook, but for the most part a Polly Preacher song follows its own pattern: cryptic feints into storytelling where the supernatural rubs shoulders with grit, and in which haunted cutlery drawers and fairy tales cross imperceptibly over into stories of how to navigate a female life… or at least how to begin the journey and begin mapping the hazards.

 
Sealionwoman slightly buck this gig’s tonal trend of “folk meets New Weird Britain”, being much more of a dark-dusk monochromed blues-and-jazz basement affair, albeit filtered through loops, noise and the canny restrictions of being an unorthodox duo. The bare bones and wizard’s brew of Tye McGivern’s effects-laden double bass steps in and out of the shadows with subtle changes of raiment, sometimes clean-limbed and sometimes masked; Kitty Whitelaw ‘s vocals stretch from distracted torch singer to ghostly and mischievous jazz acrobat, running deft arabesques around the shape of the song.

Bar occasional gig notifications, I’ve not encountered Sealionwoman much since getting very absorbed in a live performance of theirs in a Hackney shopwindow back in 2013. My negligence, not theirs. Go back and have a look at that review: I’ve just done so myself, and it captures the compelling sinewy distractions of their live presence, the transformative implications of their name and their thousand-shades-of-black-white-and-grey better than anything I could come up with right now.



 

February 2018 – upcoming London gigs (folk, jazz, soul, and eclectic acoustica) – Ian Beetlestone & the Drowning Rats (10th February); Matsudisho and Alice Phelps (18th February); plus Tell Tale Tusk (12th February), Alice Zawadski’s cello-heavy Valentine Show (14th February) and Kabantu’s album launch (8th February)

5 Feb

Even more than the Magic Garden (as covered a few posts back), Camden’s Green Note serves as a London folk-boutique par excellence. Most evenings, its small café space wedges in the cream of roots acts, the care they take over choice, presentation and atmosphere often justifying the priceyness of an evening out. You get what you pay for.

Here are a few things on offer there during early February:

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Ian Beetlestone & The Drowning Rats, 10th February 2018

Ian Beetlestone & The Drowning Rats
The Basement Bar @ The Green Note, 106 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AN, England ·
Saturday 10th February 2018, 8:00pm
– information here, here and here

Plenty of charming elements and conversational topics converge in Ian Beetlestone. He’s a Yorkshireman-turned-Londoner, a pop and chanson connoisseur, a gay man and a cabbie. Several of these come together in his lively, engaging cabbie’s blog; even more of them combine in the fact that for the last couple of years Ian’s driven the capital’s first (and, to date, only) rainbow-coloured taxi (for what it’s worth, it’s becoming a much-loved city ornament both inside and outside of Pride, and he gets more stick from fellow cabbies over the Transport for London logo than he does for the LGBT+ associations).

As for the musicality, that flourishes in his all-singing acoustic trio The Drowning Rats, who offer “(a) unique combination of ratty jazz, drowned pop, magic, mystery, darkness and light to the capricious twin deities of love and song with ever pleading, hopeful eyes.” Having started up in Leeds about a decade and a half ago (and survived a subsequent re-potting in London), they’ve been the players of regular gigs in Soho (until recently, at the Blue Posts) and their home turf of Kings Cross (at the Star of Kings) as well as the Green Note.


 
With Ian’s florid piano backed by Dom Coles’ drumkit and Tom Fry’s double bass (and with occasional visitations from beery horns and assorted vocal foils), they deliver songs bursting with melody, harmony and joie de vivre; nodding to Brel and barrelhouse, Tom Waits and Paul Weller, Nina Simone and the Shangri-Las; suffused with wry reflection, wit and camaraderie. Ian rolls them out in a joyful soul growl – honey, gravel, fur and phlegm, with the hint of a romantic tenor under the wear and tear. It’s a little Tom Waits, but it’s rather more Dr John (if instead of immersing himself in the Big Easy, he’d taken a ship up the Thames estuary to found a bayoux in a London canal basin).

If you’re specifically after queerness, you’ll find it in the subtle and rosy sexual glow which illuminates many of the songs like fireside warmth, and also in the elastic inclusive community etched out in hints and amongst the broader scope of Ian’s songwriting. Inclusivity’s the word, in fact: there’s little details and easter eggs sown throughout the songs if you want to pick them up and decode them, but in general it’s all woven together with subtlety and open-heartedness. You can walk through their door and enjoy epic magic-realist power ballads about the A40, jaunts around the concerns, compromises and evasions of friendships, sly ballads which put the boot into Soho gentrification, and cheerfully apocalyptic accounts of mornings-after… all without worrying that you need to belong to any particular club. Although, in the extremely cosy confines of the Green Note’s basement bar, you’ll soon feel as if you do belong to one.



 
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Matshidiso + Alice Phelps
The Green Note, 106 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AN, England
Sunday 18th February 2018, 8:30pm
– information here, here and here

Matshidiso, 2017
I’m not sure just how hard you have to work, just how much you have to do, blossom and branch out before you burst the “secret” side of “well-kept secret” wide open. I would have thought that Matshidiso would have reached that point a long time ago.

Music flows through pretty much everything she lives and does, stemming from the cosmopolitan stew of her upbringing (a native Londoner with Jamaican and Sotho heritage, a classical piano trainee with a parallel love of soul, hip-hop and the cream of 1970s singer-songwriters) and blossoming into her realisation of herself as do-it-all artist – on-call pianist and singer, producer/writer/arranger for herself and for others. Sometimes a band leader, always a constant communicator, Matshidiso has led creative workshops; run song sessions across the internet from her own front room and played venues from the Southbank Centre to South Africa. All this and she’s also a qualified and multilingual international human rights barrister (with experience fighting sex trafficking rings in Ethiopia); a spokesperson for activism around positive African and female identity; a visiting music therapist at the Royal Marsden; a rehabilitating coach and encourager for young male offenders at various prisons; and a onetime relief worker in Haiti.

All of which would be gems on anyone’s resume (and which suggests someone who’s already learned and given back more than most of us will in an entire lifetime) but as a musician, the final proof has to be in the songs Matshidiso sings. Traditional they might be, but she’s learnt well from the craft of forebears such as Roberta Flack, Laura Nyro and Lauryn Hill, creating harmonically rich keyboard-driven work drawing from songwriter soul, gospel and pop through which she roams with self-awareness and generous interest in other people’s efforts and struggles.


 
Maybe Matshidiso’s relatively low profile is because of the fact that, despite being the best part of a decade into her career, she’s yet to record a debut album, or even that many releases. There’s been a smattering of very occasional singles; there’s been a 2012 EP of nursery rhymes reconfigured for adults (an idea that fits neatly into of what ‘The Guardian’s called her whimsical yet solicitous approach, and one that’s far more successful than its spec would suggest). In many artists this would seem to be a flaw – a shortage of the hunger, the self-assertion, the pushy pride which is needed to succeed.

I’d suggest the opposite – that Matshidiso’s artistic presence is one that’s absolutely caught up in the moment, too much so to have prioritised lumping her output down into artefacts or commodities. Her work is live, whether it’s in the concerts in which she improvises made-up-on-the-spot stories from the personal accounts of audience members, or the connection she makes with prisoners, the lost, the under-represented as part of work which goes beyond being an entertainer and engages itself with re-weaving music (with all of its connecting and healing qualities) back into the fabric of everyday life.



 

Opening the show is Leeds-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alice Phelps (who, with her full band, was delighting Daylight Music earlier in the weekend). Harpist, guitarist, pianist, violinist and rich grainy singer, Alice spins blues into folk, Irish, Chinese and otherworldly elements to create original songs and a full-bodied chamber pop. On this occasion, she’s on her own; but she’ll be back at the Green Note next month with a full ensemble of strings, harp and choir. For now, enjoy her songs in their simpler format.



 

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A few more familiar faces are showing up at the Green Note at around the same time. On 12th February, contemporary female folk ensemble Tell Tale Tusk, who work “spellbinding (and award-winning) vocal harmonies…around melodious instrumentals to reimagine folktales old and give light to folktales new” bring their harmonies and humour back to Camden Town for an evening of old and new songs. On 14th February, Alice Zawadzki – whose name has been scattered around these pages for her voice and/or violin work alone or with Sefiroth, Jamie Safir and others – presents a Valentine’s Day Special of known and unknown songs, covers and originals (assisted by dual cello improvisers Alice Purton and Shirley Smart). Or – if you fancy a different venue and a different blend of polycultural acoustica – then on 8th February Manchester world quintet Kabantu are launching their debut album down at Rich Mix in Shoreditch. Plentiful…




 

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I Quite Like Gigs

Music Reviews, music thoughts and musical wonderings

Make Weird Music

Because 4 chords aren't enough

A jumped-up pantry boy

Same as it ever was

PROOF POSITIVE

A new semi-regular gig in London

We need no swords

Static and debris. Skronk and wail. This is music?

:::::::::::: Ekho :::::::::::: Women in Sonic Art

Celebrating the Work of Women within Sonic Art: an expanding archive promoting equality in the sonic field

Ned Raggett Ponders It All

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Headphone Commute

honest words on honest music

Yeah I Know It Sucks

an absurdist review blog

Pop Lifer

Waiting for the gift of sound and vision

Archived Music Press

Scans from the Melody Maker and N.M.E. circa 1987-1996

The Weirdest Band in the World

A search for the world's weirdest music, in handy blog form

OLD SCHOOL RECORD REVIEW

Where You Are Always Wrong

Fragile or Possibly Extinct

Life Outside the Womb

a closer listen

a home for instrumental and experimental music

Bird is the Worm

New Jazz: We Search. We Recommend. You Listen.

Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

eyesplinters

Just another WordPress.com site

FormerConformer

Striving for Difference

musicmusingsandsuch

The title says it all, I guess!

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