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June 2021 – single & track reviews – Gabriella Smith/Gabriel Cabezas’ ‘Lost Coast III’; Hot Mustard’s ‘Jerkwater Strut; Ada Moreau’s ‘My Shadow Halts’

7 Jun

Following up on last month’s twirling ‘Bard of a Wilderness’ single, Gabriella Smith and Gabriel Cabezas continue to bring voice, cello and found percussion items to bear on the theme of human responses to the wild spaces, and to the destruction wrought on Gabriella’s California home by last year’s wildfires. While building on the pattering jazz and classical extended-playing techniques which threaded through ‘Bard…’, ‘Lost Coast III’ also sidesteps the former’s barely-restrained murmur and its mingled mourning/accusatory wordings. Skipping across a triple-beat, it’s more of a fiery Latinized waltz heading out on an angry roadtrip – its rage barely constrained, its grief turned into a wild chattering momentum veering all over the tarmac.

This time, Gabriella ignores texts in favour of dance chanting and thermal-tossed multi-tracked vocalese. She plays against herself in what sounds like a wordless, impressionistic vocal ballet of fire-panicked neighbours chattering and arguing, sharing fears and concerns as they try to save themselves what they can. Mingling with this is a sense of boiling injustice, a fury at the fact that this is actually happening. Hands and bow beat on cello case and cans, while Gabriel’s rapid string melodies squeal, strum and chop against the rhythms (and the viola of Bedroom Community labelmate Nadia Sirota adds more midrange sinew).

Round about the halfway point, the piece erupts into a frantically hummed-and-sung chorale of overdubbed Gabriellas, the cello casting disaster drones across the voices. Towards the end, everything disintegrates into a tangled mass of cello frenzy, alarms and firebell rattles before soaring out into a finale which combines everything that’s gone before into a thrillingly twisted-up whole. The more times that you listen to this, the more it seems to reveal; as if it’s not just dealing with the impact of the 2020 fires but mining deeper into Californian history for a catalogue of misfortunes, oppressions, mismanagements and outright fuck-ups, giving voice to all of the indignations that came with them but which were brushed under the forest floor. Rousing stuff, in every sense.

The remaining two singles (this time around) are much more relaxed.

Mixing rare groove with early hip hop/boom bap, the debut Hot Mustard single ‘Jerkwater Strut’ is a bit of idealised, retro-fitted funky-sidewalk strolling. At the group’s core, Jack Powell and Nick Carusos create a Chic-ish dynamic of guitar and bass co-leadership, although the group’s rural South Carolina location (and Jack’s taste for softly melting wah-wah trickles and behind-the-beat pacing) locate it in a much lazier groove. Brooklyn’s Big Brass Beats horn duo (with their Antibalas and TV on the Radio connections) phatten it out, but with the outcome being more New Orleans and Memphis than it is Big Apple (though they do cite a little bit of Wu-Tang Clan as an addition to the mixture). I guess Charleston (a boat ride and a bump away from Hot Mustard’s Johns Island hangout) also gets a look in.

Wordless, thoughtful and quietly happy, ‘Jerkwater Strut’ is more urban than island. Yet, if so, it’s a window onto a different kind of city life in which the tourists are gone, the guests no longer need to be impressed, and an early evening can be spent on the stoop and the street at your own, relaxed pace.

We might be being softened up here, or we might be being let in on an open secret. I can’t really tell yet. That title (like a bit of ancient jazz-age mockery) and Jack’s Gilliam-esque animated video (full of fish, cryptids and marine mythology) are laden with clues which don’t ultimately lead anywhere. Eventually, it’s just sunshine, personal contentment, and the subliminal beat of the far-off city as a comfort, all subsumed into a relaxed neighbourhood vibe.

The third in a monthly progression of singles by Stockholm-based semi-ambient composer Ada Moreau, ‘My Shadow Halts’ leaves behind the gorgeous European fogginess of its predecessors. With that former chilly brume replaced by a more evanescent sonic misting, its descending temple-bell arpeggios, distant piano and even more distant mother-of-pearl synth-sheening lead it more into Asian temple haunts.

These days, there’s more of a risk involved in attempting this kind of thing. Even as ‘My Shadow Halts’ nods to the 1980s traveller’s-ambience of Harold Budd or Roedelius, it also risks summoning up the same kind of atmosphere as many a touristy New Age salute to Bhutan or Kyoto (narrowly skirting Chinoiserie and faux-Gamelan as it does so). Fortunately, despite sounds and intimations, Ada’s actual intentions are less to do with evoking place than in fixing a position of grace.

According to her, ‘My Shadow Halts’ is about “the subjective experience of time. When the light is just right, and everything seems to slow down to that moment, frozen in time. A sudden sense of a more elevated and peaceful reality. Your stress and aggression momentarily forgotten and left behind.”

With that in mind, listening reveals something better. By avoiding direct geographical or cultural tags, Ada allows the crass, picture-postcard aspects which can taint this kind of project – that collecting, spiritually acquisitive side of things – to gently drop away from the music. While still a little second-hand, the Asiatic touches become more like a thoughtful, mood-evoking temple print hung on the opposite wall, rather than a wholesale theft of scenery. As with Hot Mustard, I think Ada’s successfully blended her inspirations into something fresh enough to work. I’m also feeling that she’s narrowly dodged a genre bullet.

Gabriella Smith/Gabriel Cabezas: ‘Lost Coast III
Bedroom Community Records (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released: 7th June 2021

Get/stream it from:
Bandcamp, Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon Music

Gabriella Smith online:
Homepage, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon Music

Gabriel Cabezas online:
Homepage, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Spotify, Instagram, Amazon Music

   

Hot Mustard: ‘Jerkwater Strut’
Color Red (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released: 4th June 2021

Get/stream it from:
Color Red store, Bandcamp, Apple Music, Youtube, Spotify, Amazon Music

Hot Mustard online:
Homepage, Facebook, Bandcamp, Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, Amazon Music

 

Ada Moreau: ‘My Shadow Halts’
ART:ERY Music Group, ART:ERY20210307
Download/streaming single
Released: 4th June 2021

Get/stream it from:
Soundcloud, Apple Music, Youtube, Spotify, Tidal , Amazon Music, Qobuz

Ada Moreau online:
Homepage, Soundcloud, YouTube, Spotify, Tidal, Instagram, Amazon Music, Qobuz

May 2021 – single & track reviews – Craig Fortnam’s ‘Ark’; Gabriella Smith/Gabriel Cabezas’s ‘Bard of a Wasteland’; LEYA’s ‘ABBA/Mary’ (Christina Vantzou remix)

17 May

“If you are lonely, I’ll be lonely too. / Find yourself a wall and I’ll hang next to you. / It won’t be easier hanging there that way / but we can be a diptych for the light of day…”

Craig Fortnam has spent two decades building a distinct style, both with North Sea Radio Orchestra (leafy, nostalgia-toned English chamber music drawing ever closer to lucid, Canterbury-esque psychedelia) and with Arch Garrison (slimmed-down duo/trio songwriting with more upfront personal concerns and a ranging freedom). It’s not surprising that his first solo material (at least, the first released under his name alone) falls close in tone to both of his previous projects. It’s also still very much a family affair, with the Garrison’s James Larcombe contributing piano and a delicately shrunken raft of other NSRO members adding strings, reeds and vibraphone.

‘Ark’ (the title track of Craig’s forthcoming album) is still redolent with dark walled-garden curlicues of NSRO bassoon and cello, gently astringent viola, bumble-bee monosynth and twinkling glockenspiel; all of it pumping away like steam-workings under the naive strum of guitar and Craig’s unaffected Wyatt-ish drone of vocal. Impacted by his loves and losses in the past few years – not least the death of his mentor Tim Smith – it’s downbeat, uneasy and self-effacing in a particular English fashion (a way that still throbs and flows on beneath current aggressive Brexit blustering). As a song, it’s in part a retreat and an admission of fear in ominous times. Craig’s never looked as vulnerable as he does in the video, fumbling around his rehearsal room, gazing anxiously through thick glasses, gently contorted around his guitar or haltingly reassembling broken-down instruments.

However, it’s also a frail but faithful statement of empathy and loyalty in times of threat – a recognition that trust can be rebuilt in the face of despondency. An unexpected coda with a new hint of furrowed darkness suggests that Craig has swapped some of those NSRO green leaves for a bag of tougher, tarter limes; but he’s shored up the delicate song-line, made strengthening bulwarks to share. “Two by two, I’ll paint the people in” sings Craig, “with all my deepest longing.” The clouds may be fat and dark, the cliffs may be crumbling, lights may be going out in the little houses everywhere;  but community starts with two, and then another two.

When much of California went up in relentless wildfires last year, blotting out much of the Pacific seaboard in a broil of toxic brown smoke, it left scars – economic, geographical, psychic. Singer/composer Gabriella Smith might live mostly in Marseille these days, but her roots are thoroughly Californian, emotionally entwined with the hiking trails through forests and over rocks in the wild places, now little more than ash and scorching. Composed on the hoof as she paced helplessly in the Bay Area, unable to stop the despoilment from the raging fires, ‘Bard of a Wasteland’ is the first part of a fierce lament over the wrecking of her countryside.

Rage pushes at the roots of Gabriella’s soft conversational soprano, beginning to unweave its politeness, swooping through its steel-guitar pitching and murmurs. Meanwhile, her collaborator (the genre-flexing New York cellist Gabriel Cabezas) makes his cello sound like – and do – everything else. Jazz swoops and purring, fretless Mediterranean bass lines of the Mick Karn kind; quivering tremolo ornaments to the vocal melodies; staccato thumps and strums; subtle screeches of desert birdcall; reedy drones and a rainfall pattering of fingertip percussion.

All of this is layered into flexing rhythmical and methodic song-loops, perhaps owing something to Arthur Russell’s cello-beat, to African cycles and Italian tarantellas, in which Gabriel explores the rub and the push of instrumental voices while Gabriella digs into root causes of neglect and responsibility, of strip-mining the future and impoverishing the present. “You left us with fire / and we let it burn / You lined your pockets with the breath of your children,” she sings. “All you leave is a wasteland / And we’re fighting to breathe on.” As music, it’s pretty thrilling, it’s rhythm teasing your ankles and hips into dancing. As a story, it’s unresolved and inconclusive: as it has to be, as Gabriella starts to piece together her own emotions, to find out what her new place is, and where she sits on the chain of responsibility (if not the roster of blame).

“Lost time. / Another lick of the tide, / another loop in a line…. / Far enough from the slaughter, / close enough to the dam, / I lost the dream of a daughter / to be the bard of a wasteland.” It’s a reminder that protection of a landscape comes with sustaining one’s own awareness of and connection to it. Gabriella is performing the start of a war dance on hers, to remind those who failed their duties that this kind of failure matters.

On ‘ABBA/Mary’, ambient-classical composer and onetime Dead Texan Christina Vantzou effects a two-on-one remix of eerie New York post-classical rebels LEYA, whose threnodic conflations of violin, harp, unusual intervals and porously melancholic male-alto vocalising have enthralled various freak-pits, noise-dens, art-porn movies and other liminal performance spaces ever since they formed. The originals sound like weeping shroud-cloths peeled off the sleeping bodies of castrati. They’re disturbingly beautiful, their lyrics indistinct and parched, and they’re also deliciously unmoored from time, from strictness of gender, from tone-temperament. ‘ABBA‘ is a meeting of undulant string fades and detuned harp; ‘Mary‘ is more slanted towards traditional balladry and baroque continuo.

The Vantzou blending produces quite a different hybrid. Swimming in on a tide of fluting, falling vocal samples, its shifting spine is built from gentle alteration to ‘Mary’s harp continuo. Of the vocals, Marilu Donovan’s wispy backings are moved more upfront and given their moment in the spotlight; while Adam Marciewicz’s alto is further detached from its blurred storytelling role, now echoing protracted yearning syllables in distant corridors. Throughout, gentle background interruptions prod and nudge LEYA’s original building blocks as Vantzou mixes in computer blips, finger cymbals and insect chirps and the kind of electronic glissandi you’d expected to hear in vintage psychedelic science fiction.

Building assertively on LEYA’s taste for detuning, Vantzou also brings regular and unsettling shifts in pitching, progressing the music from chord to subtly dissonant chord. You’re never entirely sure where you’re being led, other than down a staircase in which the steps are each of different, treacherous sizes. There is no particular ending or straightforward resolution: the component fragments fray and ghost out together, the last sigh of a spectral tape.

Craig Fortnam: ‘Ark’
Onomatopoeia Records (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only single
Released:
14th May 2021

Get/stream it from:
Bandcamp (free download with album pre-order), Soundcloud, Amazon Music, Spotify, Shazam

Craig Fortnam online:
Facebook, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Vimeo, Spotify, Amazon Music, Shazam

Gabriella Smith/Gabriel Cabezas: ‘Bard of a Wasteland
Bedroom Community Records (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
14th May 2021

Get/stream it from:
Bandcamp, ‎Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon Music

Gabriella Smith online:
Homepage, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon Music

Gabriel Cabezas online:
Homepage, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Spotify, Instagram, Amazon Music

LEYA: ‘ABBA/Mary’ (Christina Vantzou remix)
NNA Tapes (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
17th May 2021

Get/stream it from:
Bandcamp, Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music

LEYA online:
Facebook, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music

Christina Vantzou online:
Homepage, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Vimeo, Deezer, Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music

May 2020 – single & track reviews – Heavy Lamb/Jesse Cutts’ ‘CONFINEMENT-release4’; Jack Hayter’s ‘Let’s Go Shopping’ (Sultans of Ping F.C cover); Billie Bottle sings ‘Ted Hughes – Wind: Upheaval Imminent’

11 May

Jesse Cutts/Heavy Lamb: 'CONFINEMENT​/​release4'

Jesse Cutts/Heavy Lamb: ‘CONFINEMENT​/​release4’

The fourth helping of Brighton psychedelia from the Confinement Tapes series is more Heavy Lamb, and more Jesse Cutts. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. As was the case last time, while Jesse isn’t the only Lamb player the line between what’s him and what’s Lamb is blurring into the inconsequential. Certainly ‘All Dust’ is an actual Heavy Lamb piece at least: revisited, re-arranged and re-seasoned by Jesse and the other remaining Lambkin (John Gee), with Jesse’s mum, frequent collaborator and core Confinementeer Jo Spratley back on lead vocals, as she was for last month’s take on Cardiacs’ ‘Odd Even’.

It’s tempting to suggest that they should make it a permanent arrangement: Jo sounds happier doing Lambwork than she does in any other project, and the song itself is a delightful complication, unpacking plentiful musical material from inside a sleek indie-pop/rock shell. Threes against fours, sudden teases of hot spaces; voice keeping inside the chords but finding any conceivable space to hop around inside there; Propelled by Jesse’s cunning, slippery bass the chords themselves obligingly fold over and flip into new spaces so as to give the melody more space to roam and loop back. The Cardiacs influence is strong, but so’s the love for any batch of raucous goodtime English sunshine-pop. The lyric’s as complicated, digressive and warm as the music; something about fragile hearts surviving on the tide, something about continual replenishment. So far, it’s peak Lamb: not just an ideal bridge between rock disco and broader music, but great fun in its own right.


 
As with ‘All Dust’, the two instrumental pieces also contained in the package are new recordings, all played in their entirety by Jesse; in contrast to some of the more archival odds and sods on Confinement Tapes releases, these were only put together this month. In ‘Gutter Pigeon’, wobbled piano encountered during a downpour switching into orchestrated chord clambering, a lazy little pavement circus. After a shimmery start, ‘Small Things’ compresses and unpacks an album’s worth of development in a single six-minute tune. Lovely. If there’s a prog tone to all of this, it’s in keeping with those leisurely Kent’n’Sussex prog tones from Canterbury, Herne Bay and all of the other Mellow-on-Seas these kind of sunny benevolent English meanders come from.



 
From up the Thames estuary (and following his life-blasted, gutter-country cover of ‘The Dark End of the Street’ at the end of last month), Jack Hayter continues his lockdown broadcasts with a visit to 1990s Irish indie. As he recounts, “in 2004 an American band provided the British with a national anthem… ‘Mr Brightside’. Back in 1992 an Irish band did the same thing with ‘Where’s Me Jumper’. In the time of Corona we’re not dancing in the disco bumper-to-bumper. Neither are we going out shopping much… so this is all a bit pants, really. Dunno why I did this.. and I played bum notes too.”


 
Yes, the bum notes are obvious (not least because Jack lampshades each one of them with a quirk and a chuckle), but his warmth, humour and charm – even via webcam – are so engaging that it’s all forgivable. More importantly, it’s what he brings to the song that matters more than a finger-slip or two. The original Sultans of Ping version of ‘Let’s Go Shopping’ – the product of young men imagining a contented, domestic afterlife for a reformed raver and pillhead – almost vanishes under the sweet conscious hokiness of its string arrangements and its honky-tonk drum click. Jack’s version (basic voice and guitar) gently trims off the hints of irony and any tongue-in-cheek trappings.

As I mentioned last time, few people have such a skill at uncovering the tender core of a song. Watching Jack’s treatment is like watching a great little bit of subtle pub theatre story unfold. In his hands, it’s no longer something simple and jolly, but something grown touching and tender. Love for one’s wife, a nostalgia for wilder times but no regrets of any kind; embracing grown-up responsibilities (and burdens) with a sunny chuckle – “you can push the trolley – and I’ll push the pram.” And then, after this cheerful jaunt, lazy and affectionate, the cloud comes: lockdown bleakness casting a shadow over Jack’s face for a moment as the world shrinks and chills, and even dull everyday pleasures become fraught with peril. “Let’s go shopping, / we can wish away our fears. / Let’s go shopping, / the shops are really… near.” Jack plays this cover down as some kind of throwaway. Nothing he ever does is really a throwaway.

Billie Bottle‘s life has been in flux for a while – the transition from “he” to “they” to “she”, the rearrangement of day-to-day living and bands and dressing and sundry ways of doing things. Still, Billie’s an unfailingly positive and proactive character (as shown in her series of songs with non-binary musician/activist Kimwei – the most recently-aired one being here) and most of the unsettledness had eased down just before the plague blew in this spring.

From indoors, she’s just revealed some multi-layered new work taking on and reflecting both her innate calm and musicality, and the impact of an unsettled world. For now, though it’s just a lyrics video, with Billie announcing “well me lovelies, it feels like the right time to share one of the projects that have been on the go here in Bottledom over seven weeks of UK lockdown. My auntie read me the Ted Hughes poem, ‘Wind’, down the phone and I was struck by its power and pertinence. It blew itself into a kind of song, ‘Wind: Upheaval Imminent’. May you also be filled with its gustiness!”

As a member of Mike Westbrook’s band, Billie’s an heiress to his chamber-jazz poetics as well as to the playful jazzy lilt of the Canterbury sound. Both were well in evidence on last year’s ‘Grazie Miller’ EP, and they’re just as clear on ‘Wind: Upheaval Imminent’, a Hughesian account of a storm which “wielded / blade-light, luminous black and emerald, / flexing like the lens of a mad eye.”). Initially it’s an interplay between Billie’s high androgynous tenor and a sketching, dabbing piano; with drums, subtle blocks of organ, a near-subliminal bass, and a few judiciously-placed sound effects and concrete-instrumental coloration making their way into the mix.


 
Mostly, though, it’s the words and the voice. Billie responds to a setting in much the same way that Robert Wyatt handles a cover, and her carefully-timed leaps from note to note (all with an underlying, broken-up sense of swing) recapture the poem’s sense of awe; its trepidation and exultation, its illustration of the way that fragility shades strength. (“The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace, / At any second to bang and vanish with a flap: / The wind flung a magpie away and a black- / back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house / rang like some fine green goblet in the note / that any second would shatter it.” ) She uses the sprung challenges of jazz – the rhythm eddies, the intrusion of unexpected harmonic currents – to dig into the hinted upheaval in Hughes’ words.

As with the poem, the music ends unresolved – “now deep / in chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip / our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought, / or each other. We watch the fire blazing, / and feel the roots of the house move, but sit on, / seeing the window tremble to come in, / hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.” Structurally brilliant, captivatingly emotive, and an excellent marriage of text and music, it’s one of the best things Billie has ever done in a persistently ripening career.

Heavy Lamb/Jesse Cutts: ‘CONFINEMENT-release4’
The Confinement Tapes, CONFINEMENT_release4
Download/streaming single
Released: 4th May 2020
Get it from:
free/pay-what-you-like download from Bandcamp
Heavy Lamb/Jesse Cutts online:
Facebook Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM

Jack Hayter: ‘Let’s Go Shopping’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Video-only single
Released: 10th May 2020
Get it from:
currently view-only on YouTube
Jack Hayter online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM YouTube Vimeo Deezer Spotify Amazon Music

Billie Bottle: ‘Ted Hughes – Wind: Upheaval Imminent’
self-released, no catalogue number or barcode
Video-only single
Released: 11th May 2020
Get it from:
currently view-only on YouTube
Billie Bottle online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Bandcamp Last FM YouTube Spotify Instagram Amazon Music
 

May 2020 – single & track reviews – MultiTraction Orchestra’s ‘Emerge Entangled’; Stuart Wilding’s ‘Spaces’ and ‘Horns’

5 May

Conceived during coronavirus lockdown, MultiTraction Orchestra is the latest brainchild of cross-disciplinary Sefiroth/Blue-Eyed Hawk guitarist Alex Roth (currently pursuing new avenues and familial roots in Kraków). It’s his way of fighting the entropy, fear and disassociation of the times: part-corralling/part-embracing a cluster of diverse yet sympathetic musicians, recruited via friendship and open-source callups on the web. ‘Emerge Entangled’ is the first result: twenty-seven players working from Alex’s initial two-and-a-half minute pass of treated, multi-layered minimalist guitarwork. If the video accompaniment (a graceful come-and-go conference call featuring most of the players) is anything to go by, Alex played the part of benign/mostly absent god for this recording. There are no solos, no aggressive chord comping. In the few shots in which they feature, his guitars and pedals sit by themselves in a system loop creating the drone with no further intervention. Instead, Alex acts as the invisible mind on faders, reshuffling the instrumental echoes and response which came back from his loop broadcast.

MultiTraction Orchestra: 'Emerge Entangled'

MultiTraction Orchestra: ‘Emerge Entangled’

It’s an eight-city affair; although the majority of musicians hail from Alex’s other base, London (including his percussionist brother and Sefiroth bandmate Simon, trombonists Kieran Stickle McLeod and Raphael Clarkson, Rosanna Ter-Berg on flute, Madwort reedsman Tom Ward on clarinet, drummer Jon Scott and effects-laden double bassist Dave Manington), the MultiTraction net spreads wide. Finnish cellist Teemu Mastovaara, from Turku, is probably the most northerly contributor; Mexico City saxophonist Asaph Sánchez the most southerly; and Texas-based glockenspieler and touch guitarist Cedric Theys the most westerly. (Muscovian tuba player Paul Tkachenko and Lebanon-based iPad manipulator Stephanie Merchak can battle out as to who’s holding it down for the east).

Instrumentally, although there’s a definite slanting towards deep strings, brass and rolling-cloud drones, there’s plenty of variety: from the vintage Baroque flute of Gdańsk’s Maja Miró to the Juno 6 colourings of London soundtracker Jon Opstad and the homemade Coptic lute of Exeter-based Ian Summers. Alex’s other brother, saxophonist Nick, features in the Dublin contingent alongside the accordion work of Kenneth Whelan and cello from Mary Barnecutt. Most of the remaining string players are dotted around England (with double bassist Huw V. Williams and James Banner in St Albans and Leeds respectively, and violinist Alex Harker in Huddersfield). There’s a knot of contributory electronica coming out of Birmingham from Andrew Woodhead and John Callaghan (with virtual synthesist Emile Bojesen chipping in from Winchester), and some final London contributions from jazz pianist/singer Joy Ellis and sometime Anna Calvi collaborator Mally Harpaz bringing in harmonium, timpani and xylophone.

Alex’s past and present work includes jazz, experimental noise, soulfully mournful Sephardic folk music and dance theatre; and while his guitar basework for ‘Emerge Entangled’ seems to recall the harmonic stillness and rippling, near-static anticipatory qualities of 1970s German experimental music such as Cluster (as well as Terry Riley or Fripp and Eno), plenty of these other ingredients swim into the final mix. I suspect that the entanglement Alex intends to evoke is quantum rather than snarl-up: a mutuality unhindered by distance. From its blind beginnings (no-one hearing any other musicians apart from Alex) what’s emerged from the experiment is something which sounds pre-composed; or, at the very least, spun from mutual sympathy.


 
There are definite sections. An overture in which increasingly wild and concerned trombone leads over building, hovering strings and accordion (gradually joined by burgeoning harmonium, filtered-in glockenspiel and percussion, dusk-flickers of bass clarinet, cello and synth) sounds like New Orleans funeral music hijacked by Godspeed! You Black Emperor; the first seepage of flood water through the wall. With a change in beat and emphasis, and the push of drums, the second section breaks free into something more ragged and complicated – a muted metal-fatigue trombone part protesting over synth drone and subterranean tuba growl, which in turn morphs into a double bass line. Various other parts make fleeting appearances (a transverse flute trill, Alex’s guitar loops bumped up against jazz drumkit rolls; a repeating, rising, scalar/microtonal passage on lute, like a Holy Land lament). Throughout, there’s a sense of apprehension, with something ominous lurking outside in the sky and the air and elements; the more melodic or prominent instruments an array of voices trying to make sense of it, their dialects, personalities, arguments and experiences different, but their querulous humanity following a common flow.

Via touches of piano, theme alternations come faster and faster. A third section foregrounds the tuba, moving in and out in deep largo passages while assorted electronics build up a bed of electrostutter underneath. During the latter, watch out in the video for benign eccentronica-cabaret jester John Callaghan, quietly drinking a mugful of tea as his laptop pulses and trembles out a gentle staccato blur. It’s not the most dramatic of contributions, but it feels like a significant one: the mundaneity and transcendent patience which must be accepted as part of lockdown life, an acknowledgement of “this too will pass”. For the fourth section, a tuba line passes seamlessly into a bass clarinet undulation with touches of silver flute; accelerations and rallentandos up and down. Initially some spacier free-jazz flotsam makes its presence felt – electronics and cosmic synth zaps, saxophonic key rattles, buzzes and puffs, fly-ins of cello and double bass. The later part, though, is more of a classical meditation: beatless and with most instruments at rest, predominantly given over to the dark romance of Teemu Mastovaara’s lengthy cello solo (apprehensive, heavy on the vibrato and harmonic string noise, part chamber meditation and part camel call). The finale takes the underlying tensions, squeezes them in one hand and disperses them. An open duet between Jo Ellis’ piano icicles and Asaph Sánchez’s classic tenor ballad saxophone, it becomes a trio with Jo’s glorious, wordless vocal part: hanging in the air somewhere between grief and peace. A moving, thrilling picture of the simultaneously confined and stretched worldspace we’re currently living in, and a small triumph of collaboration against the lockdown odds.

* * * * * * * *

Although ‘Emerge Entangled’ has a number of masterfully responsive drummers and percussionists in place already, it’s a shame that Cheltenham/Xposed Club improv mainstay Stuart Wilding isn’t one of them. His Ghost Mind quartet (three players plus a wide world picture woven in through field recording) have proved themselves to be one of the most interesting listen-and-incorporate bands of recent years. However, he’s continued to be busy with his own lockdown music. ‘Spaces’ and “Horns” are personal solo-duets – possibly single-take, in-situ recordings. Both created in the usual Xposed Club home of Francis Close Hall Chapel, they’re direct and in-the-moment enough that you can hear the click of the stop button. Stuart’s apparently playing piano mostly with one hand while rustling, tapping and upsetting percussion with the other. By the sound of it the main percussion element is probably his lap harp or a zither, being attacked for string noise and resonance.

Assuming that that’s the case, ‘Spaces’ pits grating, dragging stringflutter racket against the broken-up, mostly rhythmic midrange exploration of an unfailingly cheerful piano. Sometimes a struck or skidded note on the percussion prompts a direct echo on the piano. As the former becomes more of a frantic, swarming whirligig of tortured instrumentation (as so frequently with Stuart, recalling the frenetic and cheeky allsorts swirl of Jamie Muir with Derek Bailey and King Crimson), picking out these moments of congruence becomes ever more of a game: while in the latter half, the piano cuts free on whimsical, delighted little leaps of its own. About half the length of ‘Spaces’, ‘Horns’ begins with the percussion apparently chain-sawing the piano in half while the latter embarks on a rollicking one-handed attempt at a hunting tune. The piano wins out. I’m not sure what became of the fox.



 

MultiTraction Orchestra: ‘Emerge Entangled’
self-released, no catalogue number or barcode
Download/streaming track
Released: 1st May 2020
Get it from:
download from Bandcamp, Apple Music or Amazon; stream from Soundcloud, YouTube, Deezer, Google Play, Spotify and Apple Music.
MultiTraction Orchestra/Alex Roth online:
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Stuart Wilding: ‘Spaces’ & ‘Horns’
self-released, no catalogue number or barcode
Download/streaming tracks
Released: 5th May 2020
Get it from:
Bandcamp – ‘Spaces‘ and ‘Horns
Stuart Wilding online:
Facebook Bandcamp
 

January 2020 – single & track reviews – The Powdered Earth’s ‘Hold Your Breath’, Broads & Milly Hurst’s ‘Happisburgh’, Lifeboats’ ‘Hurt’

31 Jan

The Powdered Earth: 'Hold Your Breath'

The Powdered Earth: ‘Hold Your Breath’

After their gently atmospheric piano overture earlier in the month, it’s proper debut-single time for Gloucester’s The Powdered Earth: time to find out what they’re actually about. Their ethos is apparently one of writing “little fictions… bringing storytelling to the fore” with a backdrop of “minimalist, melodic melancholia”. With a spec like that, and the previous evidence, you’d expect something like a more genteel piano-based Arab Strap.

Well, not quite… or not yet. Initially, ‘Hold Your Breath’ goes for what seems to be a much bigger and non-fictional story – that of the struggle against deforestation in Brazil – but they tell it in an understated way. In Brazil itself, this tale would probably have come through first-hand, via rap consciência or funk carioca, or possibly as some kind of mournful retro-fado. In the United States, it would probably been plunked or punked out over a banjo as a raucous post-Seeger tale of injustice visited on the working man. From their quiet corner of England, The Powdered Earth tell it in their own soft and sober way, trying to stay true to their instinctive sound while letting the story tell itself.

It sounds like a minimalist piano lieder, sung by Shane Young in a small, precise, discreet voice. George Moorey’s bolstering of synths (squashed brass, mechanical choirs) is similarly small and discreet. The lyrics, too, have the simplicity and directness of a pared-down folk song: “there were many of them. / They were gathered near the wood. / We had only handmade tools / and the clothes in which we stood… The ruling party wielded / the means to terrify, / but evil only triumphs / when we good men stand by.”

Listening to this is an odd experience, since it’s both detached and authoritative. You’re pulled into the gaps in the arrangement, into the void where the anger should be raging, as The Powdered Earth clarify that this is an outrage that occurs over and over again. “Miners brought the mercury / that made the river bend,” Shane pronounces. “Bolsonaro’s loggers / will leave nothing to defend.” The title itself is never mentioned; an unspoken warning to be decoded once you move out from the local outrage and start considering it as a small sign of a bigger problem.


 

Broads & Milly Hurst: 'Happinsburgh'

Broads & Milly Hurst: ‘Happinsburgh’

Over on the other side of England, Norwich ambient ramblers Broads have teamed with kindred spirit Milly Hurst for an album of music inspired and partially built from field recordings made throughout the county of Norfolk. Named after a coastal village, ‘Happisburgh’ is a preview of that work; in itself, with its emphasis on widely-spaced reverberant piano, not too different from what The Powdered Earth are doing.

It’s wordless, though – their own sparse Debussian piano part backed up with a little glitch-static and a growing sweet, subliminal agreement of harmonium. The video is a sequence of slow pans across, and sustained shots of Happisburghian scenes: tumbled groyne stones on the sand, the red-banded lighthouse, blue-brown breakers under the wide Norfolk sky; a solitary cliff bench. The second part picks up speed with a rolling piano arpeggio, the sound of feet running through sand and gravel picked up, glitchified and looped. Towards the end, the footstep loop corrupts and stutters, becomes intermittent, vanishes.


 
Probing gently into location and inspiration, like an archaeologist with a fine brush, unlocks some of the messages. Like much of the Norfolk coast, Happisburgh is eroding, dropping fragment by fragment into the sea. It’s shored up by groynes and by its inhabitants’ reluctance to let it go; but has now been abandoned by government, its support withdrawn. It’s a vanishing village which also happens to be the oldest human settlement in Britain, with ancient flint tools in its earth strata, and with the earth’s oldest human footprints outside of Africa once discovered on its beach. Knowing this, the meanings of the sounds come into sombre and beautiful focus – the currents and tides in the shifting piano; the recorded footsteps, once clear as a bell, becoming obscured by time and processing, ultimately disintegrating out of the picture. Our history, even our deep history, vanishes in front of us.

Lifeboats: 'Hurt' (featuring Rena)

Lifeboats: ‘Hurt’ (featuring Rena)

While Lifeboats‘s ‘Hurt’ doesn’t share much musically with either ‘Happisburgh’ or ‘Hold Your Breath’ (being a piece of noisy post-shoegaze guitar pop) it does sort of fit in here by dint of a shared initial and a shared theme of loss, relinquishment and resistance. Lifeboats are a new teaming of Prod Pritchard (main songwriter for Oxfordshire bands Flow and Airstar, as well as being a right-hand man for Owen Paul) and Austrian singer-songwriter Rena (the latter listed as a guest on this single but, so far, very much part of the sound and craft).

‘Hurt’ bustles along on ahead-of-the-beat guitar thrums, not a million miles away from Ride, the Velvets or from Bowie’s “Heroes”. The last, in particular, serves as inspiration, since Rena’s vocal sings out a weathered but hopeful anthem of taking the blows but remaining resilient – “hurt is just a part of living / just like breathing. / We ache before we are – / and fate is beyond all reason; / and then, every season, / above what we control… / This life / we are born to live in, / and the darkness hiding / but the morning’s coming.” She imagines herself propelled, strengthened, along the airwaves, singing “though I’m cracked and shaking, / I will not be broken. / When life is taking its best shot, / say “is that really all you’ve got?” It’s a simple, solipsistic resistance compared to those implied or required in ‘Hold Your Breath’ and ‘Happisburgh’, but it’s there.

 
The Powdered Earth: ‘Hold Your Breath’
The Powdered Earth (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released: 31st January 2020

Get it from: now part of the ‘Singles’ EP on Bandcamp
The Powdered Earth online:
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Broads & Milly Hurst: ‘Happisburgh’
Humm Recordings, HUMM08 (no barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released: 31st January 2020

Get it from: download from Bandcamp or Amazon; stream from Deezer or Spotify
Broads online:
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Milly Hurst online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM YouTube Vimeo Spotify Instagram

Lifeboats: ‘Hurt (featuring Rena)’
Nub Music (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released: 31st January 2020

Get it from: download from Qobuz or Amazon Music; stream via Soundcloud or Spotify
Lifeboats online:
Soundcloud Spotify

 

January 2020 – single & track reviews – The Powdered Earth’s ‘The Atlantic’, Simen Lyngroth’s ‘Morning Light’, Marle Thompson’s ‘Expectations’

17 Jan

Three quieter tracks – let’s start soft and get louder…

A couple of decades ago, George Moorey was the multi-instrumental half of the criminally-unknown Gloucester duo Ghosting, who gifted us with a succession of gorgeous and breathy low-key pop singles and a couple of obscure albums before their singer-songwriter half Dan Pierce followed another calling and headed off to County Durham to become a vicar. Since then, George has sometimes resurfaced as a producer, or as a sporadic instrumental illustrator of Gloucester history.

Now, however, he’s re-teamed with singing drummer Shane Young (from late-era Ghosting) to form The Powdered Earth. New songs and stories are promised; but for their curtain-raiser, ‘The Atlantic’ George briefly and wordlessly steps out on his own, sketching out the musical terrain at the break of dawn before coming back to lead us into it properly.


 
What wells out of the speakers at us has many of George’s hallmark Ghosting touches. There’s his sparse but luminous sonic touch (here, it’s mostly carried by softly-couched piano echoed by distant fluting synth, and impelled by deep-rooted waves of drone-bass). There’s that intimated, yet subtly forensic, focus on emotional detail, drawing you in. Pull the ingredients apart and you’ve got a typical piece of soft-edged film soundtracking; but put them together the way George is doing it, and you end up with the prelude to a kind of musical novel, something closer to Peter Chilvers’ intermittent work with Tim Bowness. Unexplicit; eschewing clumsy points; providing clues and pointers to something which only gradually comes together and reveals itself. It’s over in two-and-a-half minutes, brought to a delicate halt in mid-pace. I’m already looking forward to whatever comes next.

More stories are supposed to be coming from Norwegian singer-songwriter Simen Lyngroth‘, whose debut album ‘Take All the Land’ was a set of autumnal reflections and hauntings on jealousy, insecurity and secret trepidations. ‘Morning Light’ is the first song in a forthcoming set which wraps into a fairytale: a sort of Scandinavian slice of magic-realism in which a young man searches for “the spark”.

 
Perhaps it’s just a more mythical and sensitive way of tackling the sophomore album jitters. Certainly, ‘Morning Light’ has all of the indications of being a palate cleanser. It’s as simple as can be. An acoustic guitar, a voice, a frail harmony; the outline of a hometown visit, a return to childhood haunts. A revisiting of old views and landscapes in order to recharge, but at all times carefully skirting stagnation. “It’s what I need. / Lazy walks around the park… / I need this morning light to call my own – / these few moments awake / before I’m breathing in water again.” Another frangible overture.

Dutch singer-songwriter Marle Thomson has already made a mark at home, and while ‘Expectations’ sees her slipping a little deeper into Anglo territories, it’s still an indicator of how accomplished she is already and how little she needs to change. Mellow beat-pop – with its slow hip-hop jams, its crafty drop-outs and its rare-groove echoes – has been an over-populated territory for the past few decades: and refreshing that is a delicate matter of not messing too much with the formula, but polishing and emphasising particular isolated aspects as you build it around your core of song. Marle does just that with ‘Expectations’.

It’s not a game-changer by any means, but that’s part of the point. ‘Expectations’ is about anxieties and FOMO; it’s about the way that it’s not just celebrities who feel compelled to live out their lives broadcasting images, but the way that all of us now do via timelines and digital shopfronts, instagramming and influencing, feeding a general hunger while breeding another helpless hunger all of our own. (“Expectations, like a nail into the wall / I need everything, everything, or nothing at all.”) In response to its theme, it’s musically relaxed, with flickers of both Erykah Badu and early-’80s Steve Winwood – its rhythm ticking along like an old grandfather clock, its guitar line springy like a hair-curl rather than a disco pulse; its synths little warm, edgeless wellings and air-puffs which just happen to be there at precisely the right time.

Marle’s voice is breezy, intimate, unshowy but effortless winding itself around the blue notes needed to emphasis regret (“On my own, off the beaten track, / I didn’t know, I didn’t know – / I fell right through the cracks”) and understated revelation. By song’s end, everything is filtered, resolved and successfully reset, for now: “just ‘cause I’m giving it up, doesn’t mean I give up, no.” Next step coming.


 
The Powdered Earth: ‘The Atlantic’
The Powdered Earth (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only single
Released: 11th January 2020

Get it from: Bandcamp
The Powdered Earth online:
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Simen Lyngroth: ‘Morning Light’
Apollon Records (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released: 17th January 2020

Get it from: Apollon Records (parent album)
Simen Lyngroth online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud YouTube

Marle Thomson: ‘Expectations’
BERT music (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released: 17th January 2020

Get it from: Apple Music, Soundcloud (stream only)
Marle Thompson online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM Apple Music YouTube Deezer Spotify <Instagram Amazon Music
 

January/February 2020 – showcases in London with Ragga Gröndal in Earls Court (19th January) and Velveteen Orkestra, Ben Eaton, Hattie Erawan and Matt Ryan in Soho (21st January); plus Blair Coron’s ‘On The Nature Of Things’ quiet evening in London and Glasgow (21st January, 7th February) with Zoë Bestel, Anin Rose, Tom Blankenberg, Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach

14 Jan

A set of upcoming showcases happening at opposite corners of the country.

 
Ragga Gröndal’s currently a little-known name over here. In Iceland, though, she’s a much bigger deal – hailed as one of the country’s most remarkable singers. Performing in both Icelandic and English, she spans folk, pop and classical elements: less of an upsetter and groundbreaker, perhaps, than most of the Icelandic musicians who make the crossing over to Britain, but as the expounder of a kind of refined pop purity that’s actually a broad umbrella for a rich blend of other musical aspects, she does well. Here’s the blurb:

“The sound of Ragga Gröndal’s music is warm, adventurous and modern, yet accessible for curious music-lovers. (She) has worked with the same musicians for a decade and together they have toured all over Europe and created many beautiful and unforgettable moments. The band consists of musicians who are all independent artists in their own right; Guðmundur Pétursson (guitar), her brother Haukur Gröndal (woodwind player) and Claudio Spieler (percussion)… Each and every concert becomes a unique journey between the musicians, the audience and the performance space.”

For this special one-off show in London on the 19th, Ragga’s just bringing Guðmundur Pétursson: a musician whose work stretches from pop to his own classical guitar concertos, he’s an ideal and flexible foil.



 
* * * * * * * *

There’s a Success Express quadruple bill at Zebranos in Soho on the 21st, part of a new fortnightly showcase scheme. It’s all free to get in, but you pay Soho prices for your drinks and they suggest you book ahead for a table if you want to get in and sit down.

The Velveteen Orkestra + Ben Easton + Hattie Erawan + Matt Ryan, 21st January 2020As leader of The Velveteen Orkestra, Dan Shears dresses his dramatic sky-high vocals and rockabilly guitar in a wagon circle of string trio, piano and drums; sometimes evoking the country pop of Del Shannon or Dion, sometimes a Russian tundra shimmer, sometimes Muse-ian histrionics. Seasoned Aussie guitarist-singer-songwriter Ben Eaton is as smooth and gritty and no-nonsense as a well-maintained backroad: he’s a constantly busy professional with weddings, corporate events and similar cover-fests under his belt along with the gigs stuffed with originals, but don’t let that put you off too much. He’s a witty performance livewire who’s more than capable of transcending any workaday made-to-measure gig as well as pulling off blues-funk shows of his own.



 

Two more singer-songwriters are on the bill. Hattie Erawan – until recently known as Hattie Marsh – is Norfolk-born, has mingled Thai and English heritage and a forbidding expression, and also has about five years of playing London acoustica mainstays like the Bedford and St Pancras Old Church. She’s got Joni Mitchell, Nirvana, and Sheila Chandra down as influences: the outcome is bare, clear modern songs with a hard electric edge, sung with a hint of storms and in a tone like a steel statue. Sessioneer/producer Matt Ryan is embarking, or perhaps reembarking, on a solo career. His lone available track, a demo for The Last Time, is a polished bit of white R’n’B: while it’s a tad conservative and stripped-back in its current state, emotionally it’s a good deal more convincing than much of what reaches the charts. Worth keeping an eye on.

 

* * * * * * * *

'On The Nature Of Things' - 21st January and 7th February 2020Although it does have a lower-income ticket option, another upcoming showcase – ‘On The Nature Of Things’ – isn’t free; but, to be fair, it’s less likely to cover its expenses with beer money and upmarket bar food. Its aims are to be “quiet… introspective… an intimate evening of music. Immerse yourself as we relish in the more subdued side of music for one night through folk song, piano music, ambience/electronic and some modern classical. It is a space to listen. Expect fairy lights, darkness, and music to make you sit in awe, cry or sleep.

“‘On The Nature Of Things’, which this event is named after, is the debut album by Glasgow based musician and composer Blair Coron, who shall be hosting this event and is currently touring the UK with it. His intention is to create enchanting atmospheres allows for the audience to listen to the performers and to set course for introspection and meditation.”

Blair’s own work blurs around classical and near-ambient ideas for piano, acoustic guitar and string ensemble. He describes the album as “a delicate exploration of the intricacy and fragility of life, nature and the surrounding world. It is love…mortality…the sublime…a personal mantra…every thing.” So far, on spec, typically New Age-y and easily consumable; but he also mixes in poetry, chamber chorale, mandolins, birdsong and folksongs and (somewhere) a Nintendo handheld games console. If you’re worried that his deliberate gentleness places him on the wrong side of tentative, don’t. The results are edgeless and delicate, deliberately softened and frangible; but they have their own dainty logic and an openness which is rare. Streets away from the guarded blandness of much of the post-classical wash.




 
He’s been doing these shows for about a year now (from Edinburgh to Yorkshire to Inverness and Manchester) and I’ve not heard about them before this; but there are currently two OTNOT shows happening soon, both featuring Blair and ukulele-folkster Zoë Bestel. If you read that last phrase and thought cutesy versions of old pop and indie hits, think again. Zoë’s of that small number of people who turn the uke into a kind of perpendicular harp, using it to underpin a gorgeous art-pop folk soprano and a series of bewitching small-place songs. The kind of song and delivery that kills casual chat and has a roomful of people rapt and focussed entirely on what they’re seeing and hearing.

 
The London show – on the same night as Success Express – also features a couple of German musicians. Pianist, composer and sound designer Tom Blankenberg (who runs the Convoi Studios in Düsseldorf) works in a similar post-classical vein to Blair, although a more austere one. In recent years, he became interested in writing for solo piano: the result was his debut album ‘Atermus’, released last year and containing thirteen tracks in which strangely tender romantic melodies are concealed in minimalist sparseness, as if Bill Evans were communing with Arvo Pärt. In contrast, Anin Rose creates gospel-infused piano pop – not at the brassy end of either, but at the silky reverberant intersection of both. On record, a subtle reverb skitters almost imperceptibly around her songs and harmonies chase the main vocal like kissing clouds: live, I’m guessing that she does it all by presence.

 
The Glasgow show – in early February – features a pair of Scottish folk musicians, Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach. A fiddler and pianist respectively, they’re rooted in tradition but immersed in present impression, “interested in making music filled with spontaneity, sensitivity and freedom. Inspiration comes from their pasts and surroundings, feeding music that’s rooted in tradition, whilst stretching it’s possibilities through improvisation and imagination.” Their latest release, last summer’s ‘Air Iomall’, was inspired by a trip around the currently uninhabited Shiant Isles off Scotland’s west coast, and their instrumental responses to the history that hangs around the places.


 
I’m hoping that Blair continues with these shows: they have a potential for some serious beauty. Previous evenings have included appearances by fellow Glaswegian post-chamber composer Richard Luke, piano improviser Carla Sayer and harpist Esther Smith; jazz/soul/gospel harmony duo Canter Semper; The Silver Reserve (a.k.a classical guitarist/looper Matthew Sturgess, who “plays delicate, sparse music (and) songs about out-of-body experiences, monogamy, small-town community Facebook pages and much more”; alt.folker Thomas Matthew Bower as Thomas & The Empty Orchestra; Jamie Rob’s post-everything project Poür Me, ambient song trio Luthia and drift band Neuro Trash; plus a further spray of diverse singer-songwriters in the shape of Simon Herron, Leanne Smith, Kate Dempsey, Mathilde Fongen, Hollie “Haes” Arnold, Leanne Body and Megan Dixon Hood. There’s a whole softened and glorious world opening up here.

* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Sunday Hive Sessions with Buzz Music Group presents:
Ragga Gröndal
The Troubadour, 263-267 Old Brompton Road, Earls Court, London, SW5 9JA, England
Sunday 19th January 2020, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Success Express Music presents:
The Velveteen Orkestra + Ben Eaton + Hattie Erawan + Matt Ryan
Zebrano Bars, 18 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 4DS, England
Tuesday 21st January 2020, 7.00pm
– free event – information here and here

‘On The Nature Of Things’:

  • SET (SET Dalston Lane), 27a Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England – Tuesday 21st January 2020, 7.00pm (Blair Coron + Anin Rose + Zoë Bestel + Tom Blankenberg) – information here, here and here
  • Old Trinity College, 35 Lynedoch Street, Glasgow, G3 6AA, Scotland – Friday 7th February 2020, 7.00pm (Blair Coron + Zoë Bestel + Charlie Grey & Joseph Peach ) – information here and here

 

January 2020 – various classical concerts in Britain – Manchester Collective’s ‘Ecstatic Dances’ tour with Poul Høxbro in Leeds, Glasgow, London and Manchester (15-19 January); Jamie Akers plays 19th century women guitar composers in London (16th January); Eos Ensemble play contemporary chamber quartets in London (24th January)

11 Jan


 
For their ‘Ecstatic Dances’ concert tour this month, Manchester Collective team up with Danish instrumentalist and storyteller Poul Høxbro in a programme of “Nordic myths, songs and dances; ones that bring a chill to the air” – esoterically-inclined repertoire works, new material and transformed folk songs from England, Scotland and Scandinavia. On this occasion, the Collective are coming out as an augmented quintet – string quartet plus electric bass guitar – with Poul, sometimes called “the great man of small instruments”, working from his armoury of flutes and percussion, including tabor, pipe and the quease-inducing rhythm bones (crafted from the ribs of a diseased, or possibly just deceased, Irish cow).


 
Amongst the folk songs “from some pretty dark places” which are scheduled for performance is the Norwegian ‘Fanitullen’, or ‘The Devil’s Tune’, apparently “conceived during a violent and bloody wedding in 1724 which the Devil himself attended.” Similarly mythical themes should be stirring in their performance of occult-minded composer Peter Warlock‘s ‘Capriol Suite’; while various excerpts from Thomas Adés‘ ‘Arcadiana’ “evoke various vanished or vanishing idylls” either aquatic or pastoral, plus an evocation of the tomb of Baroque storytelling painter Nicolas Poussin. There’ll also be new work, a world premiere from contemporary composer Paul Clark, most recently recognised for his New York project ‘Norma Jeane Baker of Troy‘ with Anne Carson, Renee Fleming and Ben Whishaw (a spoken-sung transfiguration of Euripedes’ ‘Helen of Troy’).

From the Collective: “While we were building the show, we had a moment when we realised that this combination of instruments has literally never been heard before. The set that we are presenting is all new – terrifyingly, ink-barely-dry new. Ancient music, brought vividly to life for 21st century ears… Full disclosure – ‘Ecstatic Dances’ feels scary for us. New work is always frightening, mostly because until you start making it, you never really know what you’re going to end up with. Fortunately, we’re not particularly fond of being comfortable.”

* * * * * * * *

'Twilight Lives: Surgery & Music for and by 19th Century Women', 16th January 2020

On 16th January, Scottish classical guitarist Jamie Akers will be setting up in London’s Old Operating Theatre as part of his ongoing project to stir up more interest in neglected nineteenth century female composers for the guitar (following his release of new performances of their music on 2018’s ‘Le Donne e la Chitarra’ album).

“ The early 19th century has been described as the first golden age of guitar music. A time from which, a treasury of music of great emotional depth and technical brilliance was bequeathed to posterity. Profound works, written by the great composers and virtuosos who populated the concert stages and publishing houses of the age, have been continuously in print and regularly performed for almost two hundred years. However, alongside the famous names and renowned masterpieces, some of the most original and exciting music of the era has fallen into obscurity.

“Languishing in libraries, ignored by performers and neglected by archivists, the loss of the repertoire of 19th century women guitar composers has caused an imbalance in our view of history, as well as a notable vacuum in our artistic heritage. The absence of these works from concerts and recordings has led to a mistaken belief that before the modern era, women composers were a rarity and women’s creative impulses were either suppressed or unformed.

“This concert is intended to remedy this misperception, giving voice to the forgotten outpourings of artistic sensibilities silenced by unforgiving prejudice. While classical music has traditionally been perceived as a male dominated affair, many women composers throughout its history have written unique and expressive works. From the mediaeval religious works of Hildegard von Bingen to the suffragette anthems of Ethel Smyth, the creative impulses of women composers have taken flight in spite of societal pressures and historical neglect.

“The composers featured in this concert, Athenais Paulian, Emilia Giuliani and Catharina Pratten were highly respected in their day. They were society figures, famed performers, teachers of royalty, whose works were widely disseminated and gained international acclaim. Given the recognition they received during their lifetimes, the subsequent neglect of their music highlights the ongoing struggle to achieve equality women composers face, an issue this concert aims to address.

“This is a rare opportunity to experience the breadth of expression, formal mastery and emotional heights that the music of these unjustly neglected composers achieved and which, despite our modern advances in equality, has yet to secure the respect and recognition it deserves.

“The music concert will be preceded by an introduction to and demonstration of how the old operating theatre was used from 1822 until 1862. The space where the music will pay was once the room where women in the 19th century went through surgery without anaesthesia nor antiseptics. Join us for this incredible experience!”

* * * * * * * *

 
On 24th January, London chamber group Eos Ensemble play IKLECTIK. The regular trio of the two founder members (composer/clarinettist Paul Evernden and violinist Angela Najaryan) plus regular pianist Thomas Ang are on this occasion expanded by the addition of cellist Corinna Boylan in a typical programme of mingled classical and obscure contemporary chamber music.

Eos Ensemble, 24th January 2020It includes Linda Catlin Smith’s ‘Among The Tarnished Stars’, a piece which the composer has described as “travers(ing) a variety of terrains, usually through the variation, or re-translation, or reconsideration of simple things, harmonies, melodies, intervals. I was especially interested in seeing what I could do with the various sound colours of these instruments, sometimes looking for blend, sometimes for independent pure lines. I am fascinated with small changes, subtle gradations and shadings. I like how these things contribute to something we might almost call ‘mood’.”

Also on offer is a performance of deep listening pioneer Pauline Oliveros’ ‘Tree/Peace’ (a seven-part set of listening/reacting sonic explorations which, via dynamics, articulations, phrasing, sectioning and styling, mimics the life cycle of a tree) and Philip Cashian’s ‘Caprichos’ (an uneasy set of pieces inspired by various grotesques by Goya which originally satirised 18th century Spanish society). The evening ends with Olivier Messiaen’s prisoner-of-war camp classic ‘Quatour Pour La Fin Du Temps’, with its mingled influences of birdsong and Biblical revelation.

Various previous versions below:



 
* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Manchester Collective with Poul Høxbro: ‘Ecstatic Dances’

  • The Crypt @ Leeds Town Hall, The Headrow, Leeds, Yorkshire, LS1 3AD, England – Wednesday 15th January 2020, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 100 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, G2 3DB, Scotland – Thursday 16th January 2020, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The CLF Art Café, Block A, Bussey Building, 133 Copeland Road, Peckham, London, SE15 3SN, England – Friday 17th January 2020, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • The Stoller Hall, Hunts Bank, Manchester, M3 1DA, England – Sunday 19th January 2020, 5.00pm – information here and here

Twilight Lives: Surgery & Music for and by 19th Century Women
The Old Operating Theatre Museum, 9a St Thomas St, Southwark, London, SE1 9RY, England
Thursday 16th January 2020, 6.15pm
– information here, here and here

IKLECTIK presents:
Eos Ensemble
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Friday 24th January 2020, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

November 2019 – upcoming classical concerts – Duncan Honeybourne premieres Richard Pantcheff in London (6th November); Scottish Ensemble’s ‘Elemental’ tour across Scotland with Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes (9th-13th November); Joby Burgess plays SOLO in London (13th November)

30 Oct

Duncan Honeybourne, 6th November 2019On 6th November, in London, Duncan Honeybourne – a longstanding specialist in British and Irish piano music – premieres Richard Pantcheff’s ‘Piano Sonata’ at the 1901 Club as part of the English Music Festival. Richard himself will be on hand to introduce the piece.

Duncan is also performing a couple of other British piano works – Frank Bridge’s ‘Piano Sonata’ (from the latter’s later post-tonal, post-impressionist compositional stage), and ‘Notturno’, by Bridge’s onetime pupil and champion Benjamin Britten (a competition piece which, rather than foregrounding performer virtuosity, challenges them to create and sustain an atmosphere involving ever-quieter dynamics). Richard Pantcheff was, in turn, Britten’s pupil – so there’s a chain of learning and of respect being explored here.

Versions of the Britten and Bridge pieces are below…



 
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Mid-month, the Scottish Ensemble embark on their four-date Elemental tour through Scotland, accompanied by Aidan O’Rourke (fiddler for striking post-folk trio Lau) and cross-disciplinary keyboard whiz Kit Downes plus guest violinist/director Simon Blendis (of London Mozart Players, Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa and Schubert Ensemble).

Scottish Ensemble: 'Elemental' tour - 9th to 13th November 2019

The program centres around a new O’Rourke/Downes co-composition ‘There is no beginning’ (written for harmonium, piano, fiddle and string orchestra) which “fuses the visceral energy and haunting beauty of Aidan’s traditional Celtic roots with wisps of jazz, folk, ambient and classical. Surrounding it will come a clutch of contemporary works that speak to us of all things elemental – space, silence, waves and air – intertwined with melodies which echo an ancient Scotland.

“The performance is inspired by Edwin Morgan’s 1984 poem ‘Slate’, generally accepted as a love letter to a politically- and environmentally-battered Scotland. Through music, alongside its two collaborators, Scottish Ensemble will explore themes of time, change and transformation, particularly in relation to our nation and our world; entities that, as with music, are subject to the constant processes of time. Sound will be used to conjure thoughts of the past, present and future of the land we all share – as well as creating a space to contemplate it.”

Several further string orchestra pieces flesh out the programme. Tansy Davies’ ‘The Beginning of the World’ was originally a 2013 BBC Proms piece and is “a variation on Sellinger’s Round, an Elizabethan theme”; David Fennessy’s 2016 work ‘Hirta Rounds’ is an unconducted piece for sixteen string player in small groups with “many different fluctuations in tempo occurring simultaneously”. From earlier on in the repertoire, there’s György Ligeti’s ‘Ramifications’ from 1968 (a “mistuned” experiment for twelve players in two groups, one of which is collectively tuned a quarter tone higher than standard pitch, and within which there are no stresses, meter or specific rhythm) and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s ‘Andante for Strings’ from 1931 (“a study in dissonant dynamics, with the overlapping of crescendos and diminuendos alone creating a sense of melody out of single pitches in each instrument.”)

Versions of the last two are below…



 

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Joby Burgess, 13th November 2019Having already made an impression this season at Daylight Music back in October, percussionist Joby Burgess is heading to Peckham’s CLF Art Café for the first in a new round of composer Alex Groves’ itinerant SOLO concerts.

As is the case with performers at all of these concerts, Joby will be playing a brand-new Groves piece (in this case ‘Curved Form (No. 18)’, one of an ongoing series) plus various other unspecified contemporary percussion pieces. There’s not much information on the latter, although there’ll definitely be some Morton Feldman and some Linda Buckley: possibly the latter’s ‘Dischordia’, played on the aluminium harp (as showcased above and below).

 
Meanwhile, there’s a Joby Q&A here, at the SOLO site, for a window into what makes him tick (and rustle, and rattle, etc.); and here are a few more Joby performances recycled from the Daylight post…



 
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Dates:

The English Music Festival presents:
Duncan Honeybourne performs Richard Pantcheff’s ‘Piano Sonata’ (première)
1901 Arts Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE
Wednesday 6th November 2019, 6.30pm
– information here, here and here

Scottish Ensemble’s ‘Elemental’ tour:

  • Aberdeen Music Hall, Union Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1QS, Scotland – Saturday 9th November 2019, 7:30 pm – information here, here and here
  • Caird Hall, City Square, Dundee, DD1 3BB, Scotland – Sunday 10th November 2019, 7:30 pm – information here, here and here
  • Galvanisers @ SWG3, 100 Eastvale Place, Glasgow, G3 8QG, Scotland – Tuesday 12th November 2019, 7:30 pm – information here, here and here
  • Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9SU, Scotland – Wednesday 13th November 2019, 7:30 pm – information here, here and here

SOLO presents:
SOLO 07: Jody Burgess
The CLF Art Café, Block A, Bussey Building, 133 Copeland Road, Peckham, London, SE15 3SN, England
Wednesday 13th November 2019, 8.00pm
– information here, here, here and here
 

November 2019 – Daylight Music 2019 autumn season continues – Bex Burch with Beanie Bhebhe and Tom Herbert, Çiğdem Aslan & Tahir Palalı, Maria Chiara Argirò & Jamie Leeming (2nd); New Music from Wales with Gareth Bonello, Toby Hay, Georgia Ruth, Accü and Richard James (9th); jazz strands with Nils Økland, Kaidi Akinnibi & Lorenz Okello-Osengor, Helena Kay & Sam Watts (16th) and with Jherek Bischoff, Robert Stillman & Anders Holst and Rosie Frater-Taylor (23rd); Matthew Bourne’s vocal showcase with Seaming To, Keeley Forsyth,Polly Gone Wrong, Andrew Plummer and Dorothy Lehane (30th)

27 Oct

Daylight Music 10, 2019

Moving into its final half, the Daylight Music autumn 2019 season reaches November with a selection of duo/trio encounters (both longstanding and spontaneous), October Daylight’s piano star Matthew Bourne returning to curate and direct his own positional/vocal-orientated event, and an afternoon of current Welsh music.

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Daylight Music 320, 2nd November 2019The first of the gigs, on 2nd November, involves a number of collaborations. The headlining ensemble is a trio put together by percussionist Bex Burch, a specialist in the gyil (or Ghanaian/Dagaare xylophone) and the bandleader for the Ghanaian minimalist/jazz/post-punk group Vula Viel. She’s picked “soulgaze” drummer Beanie Bhebhe (whose roster of colleagues and employers across dance, funk, indie and dream pop includes Rudimental, Bastille, Paloma Faith and Action Beat) and former Polar Bear bassist Tom Herbert.

Bex says “I wanted to curate a band to play together for the first time. Tom is a bassist I’ve known since watching Polar Bear as a teenager, and we will both be meeting Beanie for the first time on stage. I’m excited to play with two incredible voices in the U.K. scene. This will be a one-time performance: the music that comes through never to be heard again.”



 
Three Strings & Two Breaths is the duo of Çiğdem Aslan (voice and frame drums) and Tahir Palalı (Turkish kopuz and bağlama lutes). They focus on Alevi songs from Anatolia – mostly songs of love and mysticism from the fourteenth to the twentieth century.

“As a belief system, the Alevi path is based on love and respect for all people, attitudes, knowledge, sharing and science. Oral tradition is directly relevant… an important source of Alevi beliefs and thoughts are the mystical poems and musical ballads (deyisler, nefesler) that have been passed down from generation to generation, many of which have not been recorded in writing. Alevis believe that one must respect and have knowledge of nature, and the principles of love, tolerance and humanism are significant to Alevi philosophy.


 
“A meeting of kindred spirits, the music of pianist Maria Chiara Argirò and guitarist Jamie Leeming is a dialogue between two unique artists inspired by jazz, Latin, classical and folk music. At the heart of the duo is a vibrant sense of spontaneity, which embraces the myriad of colours, textures and sounds they create between them. Combined with free improvisation and an intuitive level of interplay, each performance is a one-off experience. They will be presenting music from the upcoming duo album entitled ‘Flow,’ which will be out in 2020.”


 
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The 9th November concert provides “a rare opportunity to hear new music inspired by the landscape and culture of Wales. Expect an afternoon of carefully crafted pieces that blur the boundaries between contemporary Wales and the otherworldly delights of Annwn.

“Based in Cardiff, Gareth Bonello is and has performed for over a decade under the stage name The Gentle Good. Known for his intricate guitar playing and captivating acoustic arrangements, Gareth was awarded the Welsh Music Prize in 2017 for his fourth album ‘Ruins/Adfeilion’. This concert sees him working in a new trio project with fingerstyle guitarist Toby Hay and singer/harpist Georgia Ruth.



 
“Toby writes beautifully evocative instrumentals that instantly transport the listener to the mountains and rivers of mid Wales. Twice nominated for the Welsh Music Prize, Toby has toured the UK and Ireland extensively over the last few years and has built a reputation as a captivating live performer. Georgia is a songwriter and musician from Aberystwyth in West Wales. A skilful harpist with a voice of silver, Georgia collaborated with the Manic Street Preachers on their ‘Futurology’ album and was awarded the Welsh Music Prize for her debut album ‘Week Of Pines’ in 2013.”



 

Also performing is “half-Dutch, half-Welsh singer-songwriter Angharad Van Rijswijk, a.k.a. Accü (who) has been involved in production since her teens and collaborated with writer and comedian Stewart Lee, Cornershop, and Richard James, as well as producing a collage radio series for the BBC. In her music, she brings together a love of production and a turbulent approach to song-writing – which earned her debut album ‘Echo The Red’ the title of ‘Welsh Album of The Year’ by Wales Arts Review. She will be joined at Union Chapel by long-time collaborator and exceptional Welsh songwriter Richard James (formerly of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci).”


 
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The next two Daylights are being done in collaboration with the EFG London Jazz Festival and present various Daylight-friendly spins on jazz and improvisation.

Daylight Music 322, 16th November 2019On the first of these two shows, Norwegian Hardanger fiddle player Nils Økland will be playing “instrumental melodies (which) will react and resonate with the chapel’s nineteenth-century space, taking us on a hushed, deep journey far beyond our resting place in the pews.” From Tomorrow’s Warriors, improvisers Kaidi Akinnibi (saxophone) and Lorenz Okello-Osengor (piano, keyboards) “constantly search for new inspiration, as can be seen in their recent collaboration with the Urdang dance company. They will for the first time incorporate the chapel’s Henry Willis Organ.”




 
Opening the show, saxophonist Helena Kay and pianist Sam Watts “marry their wildly eclectic backgrounds and influences and give us an opportunity to eavesdrop on a conversation between their two instruments.”



 
On the second show, Jherek Bischoff will be headlining: “a Los Angeles-based composer, arranger, producer, and multi-instrumental performer whose numerous collaborators include the likes of Kronos Quartet, David Byrne, Neil Gaiman, and Robert Wilson. Bischoff is currently composing music for two new theatre productions and scoring for film and television. His most recent album Cistern, released on the Leaf Label, contains a suite of string-drenched instrumentals.”

Daylight Music 323, 23rd November 2019

One of the latter, from a previous Daylight Music visit, is showcased below.


 
Also on the bill, the performance of saxophonist Robert Stillman and 12-string guitarist Anders Holst “will draw upon the chapel’s resonant acoustics as a platform for their own works alongside those of Ornette Coleman, John Fahey, and Moondog”. Rosie Frater-Taylor (singer-songwiter, jazz guitarist and ukuleleist) will provide lapping, warm, skilful songcraft to warm everyone up.




 
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Daylight Music 324, 30th November 2019Much is made of the Union Chapel’s terrific acoustics: pianist and improviser Matthew Bourne (relatively fresh from his recent Daylight collaboration with Keith Tippett) is intending to make full use of them on the 30th November when he presents his “voix outré” project of handpicked collaborators, stationing them at different points throughout the building (to present a concert that’s as much about sound spacing as the notes produced) while acting as both audience guide and artist accompanist.


 
Seaming To is a composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist who has performed and recorded with Robert Wyatt, Jean Claude Vannier, Punchdrunk, Leila, Leon Michener, Larry Goves, Snack Family and Matthew Bourne. She has studied opera at the Royal Northern College of Music and began her career as part of Manchester supergroup Homelife and Graham Massey’s Toolshed.


 
Keeley Forsyth is a composer, singer and actor from Oldham. Built upon sparse arrangements, her music is centred around a singular, emotionally raw and magnetic vocal delivery, by turns devastating and uplifting. The characters who populate her songs tell stories of the high and low tides; of freedom and entrapment, of hard won triumphs and the darker corners of domestic life.

 
Polly Gone Wrong is an all-female vocal trio singing original songs baked with folk, blues, elements of playful obscurity, and close harmonies. Sometimes they are accompanied by a saw, a bass, a drum, or even beatboxing; sometimes they’re just three female voices in harmony and unison.


 
Andrew Plummer is a vocalist, guitarist and composer-producer from Exeter, Devon. Plummer has been the creative force – composing, performing and touring nationally, producing nine albums under his own name, with his musical leviathan World Sanguine Report and with Snack Family (the avant-rock trio co-founded in 2011). He draws on a wealth of influences and pens music that reinterprets musical genre, loaded with visceral tales from the dark side of life, love and death.



 
“Poet Dorothy Lehane (the author of three poetry publications and a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Kent) will read selected sonnets from her latest publication, ‘Bettbehandlung’.”

 
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All gigs are at Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England, with a suggested donation of five pounds. Dates below:

  • Daylight Music 320: Bex Burch/Beanie Bhebhe/Tom Herbert Trio + Three Strings & Two Breaths + Jamie Leeming & Maria Chiara Argirò – Saturday 2nd November 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 321: Atsain Priddin: New Music from Wales (featuring Toby Hay + Georgia Ruth + Gareth Bonello + Accü) – Saturday 9th November 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 322: EFG London Jazz Festival (featuring Nils Økland + Kaidi Akinnibi & Lorenz Okello-Osengor + Helena Kay & Sam Watts) – Saturday 16th November 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 323: EFG London Jazz Festival (featuring Jherek Bischoff + Robert Stillman & Anders Holst + Rosie Frater-Taylor) – Saturday 23rd November 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 324: Matthew Bourne presents ‘voix outré’ (featuring Dorothy Lehane + Seaming To + Keeley Forsyth + Polly Gone Wrong + Andrew Plummer) – Saturday 30th November 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here

More on the last two DM gigs of the year will be posted up closer to December…
 

October/November 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs – ‘Venus, Women And The Guitar’ (27th October); Emily Howard curates ‘Ada Lovelace: Imagining The Analytical Engine’ (2nd November); Echo Collective present Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ’12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann’ plus Félicia Atkinson (3rd November)

21 Oct

‘Venus, Women and the Guitar’, 27th October 2019As part of London Guitar Festival 2019, the International Guitar Foundation presents ‘Venus, Women and the Guitar’ towards the end of October. A concert celebrating women’s relationship with the guitar, and featuring a wide roster of performers including many significant current female classical guitar players, it also showcases an entire programme of guitar compositions by women.

Of the two main composer contributors, Errollyn Wallen has written plenty of works for guitar over the past two decades as part of a career which includes seventeen operas, music for television and assorted works for chamber instrumentation and large-scale ensembles (as well as a musical willingness to explore both standard classical settings and experiments with tape, placement and other media, plus continual rearrangements of the ideas of how we think about music and its intersections with a broader, more diverse culture).

In addition to the IGF-repertoire Wallen pieces which are being played, she’s contributed two new commissions/premieres. The Housden-Tarlton Duo will be performing ‘Two Guitars’, while Tom KerstensG Plus Ensemble (a two-guitar, string quartet and percussion group, eschewing piano parts in favour of “the unique combination of the guitars’ quickly decaying plucked sounds, the sustained bowed string sound (and) a wide range of vibraphone, marimba and other percussion sounds”) will be performing ‘Road to Strathy Point’. As regards the repertoire pieces, Tom Kerstens returns later in the program to perform the solo Wallen piece ‘Canciones’ while up-and-coming classical guitarist Shannon Latoya Simon will perform a triptych of ‘Three Ships’, ‘Walking Me To Work’ and Night Passage’ (meanwhile, here are the Kerstens versions of a couple of these).



 
The other dominant composer of the evening, Laura Snowden, hasn’t been working for nearly as long but her career’s already moving from strength to strength. Also reknowned as an exceptional and versatile performer on guitar, she’s been described by ‘Classical Guitar Magazine’ as “linking guitar’s past, present and future” and will be performing her own solo piece ‘Anpao; L’étoile et la Rose’.


 
As regards her other pieces, the Mēla Guitar Quartet (Matthew Robinson, George Tarlton, Daniel Bovey, Jiva Housden) will play ‘My Clock Is Broken’ (which they premiered at the Purcell Room earlier in the year); VIDA Guitar Quartet (Mark Eden, Mark Ashford, Amanda Cook, Christopher Stell) will be joining up with concert saxophonist Amy Green to perform ‘Light Perpetuum’; and two VIDA members will be returning in their other configuration as the Eden Stell Guitar Duo to play ‘Damn everything but the circus!; The Snow Globe’.


 
The work of five other female composers will be performed as part of the concert. VIDA’s Amanda Cook will team with violinist Liz Cooney for Effy Efthymiou’s ‘Two Reflections’ of which “(the) elliptical movement and improvisatory feel are designed to create a seductive ambience – almost like being in a dream. The lilting phrases move easily from one time signature to the next, producing a free flow of sound and a subtle feeling of repose. Light interweaving melodies rotate with rough, percussive sonorities to evoke the whole spectrum of feelings that one might experience through reflection.”

Rather magically, Effy is half of a mutually supportive duo of composing twin sisters, along with Litha Efthymiou, and the two compose both together and apart. Litha, too, is represented in this concert. Her piece ‘States Of Ice: Diamond Dust’ (like ‘Two Reflections’, originally a 2012 IGF commission) will be performed by Johan Löfving. It’s “a poetic representation of the ice phenomenon “diamond dust”… its light, ponderous beginning exploits the guitar’s delicate timbral qualities, while the second, more aggressive section is quite percussive in texture, depicting the full gamut of elements that constitute this elusive state of ice.”

Johan will return with his Flauguissimo Duo partner, flautist Yu-Wei Hu, to play another previous IGF commission, Charlotte Bray’s ‘Here everything shines’ (apparently “largely inspired by Cesaria Evora’s ‘Petit Pays’, sung in Cape Verdean Portuguese. The title comes from the translation of the line ‘ki ca ta brilha’, an idea which resonates throughout. A gritty and impassioned fast section opens the piece, the non-stop flute/violin line dashing around being punctuated by stabbing chords on the guitar/piano. The intensity grows until a lush slow section takes over, the melody singing vibrantly over an arpeggiated figure. Similar material to the opening then returns in an extended version, with the piano taking on the fast energetic figure and violin interrupting. Expressive and very free, a quiet section follows. The pace slows and lines glimmer as if caught by rays of sun bouncing off the ocean. Abruptly, the opening material intervenes one final time, with the lively melodic line heard once again in the flute/violin part, the guitar/piano seemingly edging it on.”)

Opening the concert, G Plus Ensemble will be playing Anna Meredith’s ‘Spook (for string quartet, guitar and marimba); and finally, there’ll be another premiere. Kevin Daniel Cahill (G Plus Ensemble’s other guitarist, and a passionate musical emissary and fosterer in his own right) has commissioned and will be performing a Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade piece called ‘Wallflower’. Unlike the evening’s other pieces – resolutely acoustic – this one will feature electric guitar and electronic looping (perhaps capturing in its sonics Ninfea’s love for composing for “old, new, and damaged musical instruments.”)


 
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At Milton Court on 2nd November, as part of the Barbican’s ongoing Life Rewired season, composer Emily Howard will curate ‘Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine’, an afternoon which she devised as “an uncompromising musical tribute to a woman who united the worlds of 19th-century romanticism and cutting-edge science… thinker, computer pioneer and enchantress of numbers…”

The concert will combine words and music to offer a post-millennial perspective on the legacy and achievement of the woman often considered to be one of the world’s first computer programmers and a considerable Victorian mathematician, as well as someone who enthusiastically united the concepts of maths, music and poetry. The Britten Sinfonia and mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons will be performing various specially commissioned works of “scientifically inspired music by Howard and her contemporaries plus music created by artificial intelligence written in tribute to Lovelace.”

‘Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine’, 2nd November 2019

As well as a brand-new Howard world premiere (which I can’t find anything on, but which, under the circumstances, you can expect to be replete with involved and enthusiastic scientific or mathematical references, as much of her other work is), there’ll be a performance of her 2011 speech-song work ‘Ada Sketches’ (for mezzo, flute, clarinet and percussion, with a libretto by Laura Tunbridge in which Lovelace dreams of Babbage’s Difference Engine producing notes instead of numbers).

 
There will also be world premieres of new works by sound artist/composer Patricia Alessandrini, by composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki, and by Royal Northern College’s PRiSM Team directed by Emily Howard and on this occasion led by Robert Laidlow. There’s not much news or commentary on these either, yet; but you can expect further intersections of orchestral playing with contemporary technology, and with scientific motifs and themes.

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On 3rd November – also at Milton Court – Belgian ensemble Echo Collective will perform the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ‘12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann’.

Unfinished at the time of Jóhannsson’s death last year (although an earler or work-in-progress version does seem to have been performed at Conway Hall three years ago), and exploring “arts, politics and unity” and “the communal transfer of artistic ideas beyond borders”, this string quartet piece was inspired by four years of dialogue with Jóhannsson’s friend and German painter Thilo Heinzmann (a sensual minimalist who works with more reluctant materials than most such artists – including unbound pigment, absorbent cotton, styrofoam, fur and porcelain as well as bursts of feather, fossil or other found and planned-in objects – with the aim of expanding technique and of raising the textured work off the flat plane of the canvas to present its details in a more three-dimensional manner). Unusually for a Jóhannsson piece, it doesn’t incorporate electronics, drones or treated instruments; instead relying on the unadorned strings alone.

The work was finished by the Echo Collective under leaders Neil Leiter and Margaret Hermant. Reviewing their studio recording in ‘The Guardian’ last month, John Lewis noted that “the spartan setting often enhances the grave, stately beauty, particularly when Jóhannsson starts to invokes early music. ‘Shell’ resembles a Bach partita played in ultra-slow-motion; ‘Low’ sounds like a Gregorian chant transcribed for strings; ‘Lacrimoso’ is a heartbreaking, Vivaldi-like canon. There are a few moments where Jóhannsson hints at complexity – the baroque waltz ‘Danse’ sees him shifting time signatures to disconcerting effect – and it’s tempting, if a little depressing, to imagine how he might have developed and matured in this setting.”




 
Opening the concert will be French electro-acoustic musician Félicia Atkinson. Previously known as Je suis le petit chevalier, her own compositional voyage was originally rooted in sculpture and visual arts: it has built up from her quiet near-ambient early albums based around guitar and Rhodes electric piano to more detailed and demanding works involving (according to lastmusic.fm) “concrete music, ASMR voices, minimal electronics, field recordings, improvisation with guitar and piano, abstract distortions and infra basses, always held by a strong sense of musical harmony… The problematics of sound installation, multichannel diffusion, and performance are starting to play a key role in her musical practice.”

 
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Dates:

International Guitar Foundation & Kings Place present:
Errollyn Wallen & Laura Snowden (Venus, Women and the Guitar)
Hall Two @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Sunday 27th October 2019, 3.00pm
– information here and here

Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, 1 Milton Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 9BH, England
Saturday 2nd November 2019, 6.30pm
– information here and here

Echo Collective: 12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, 1 Milton Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 9BH, England
Sunday 3rd November 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

October 2019 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Retrophonica at the Brunel Museum (13th); Charles Hayward presents Sly & The Family Drone, V Ä L V Ē, Timestretch Alarmsong and Atatat (19th)

5 Oct

Retrophonica, 13th October 2019

Retrophonica is a new, very accessible multi-media performance project; currently focussed on the branching aerials, primal wooo and touch-me-not anticipations of theremin playing. It’s launching itself with an evening of two (identical) concerts in the yawning brick gullet of the Brunel Museum’s Grand Entrance Chamber (also known as the top of the southern Thames Tunnel shaft).

Celebrating the instrument’s centenary, these will be an “immersive evening of music for theremin and full orchestra”, while delving into the story of the instrument’s creator, Léon Theremin. From here, it sounds as if the concerts will be a cross between a pops-orchestra occasion, a slide-show history lesson writ large and a session of nostalgic avant-garde tinkering; all of it enclosed in that bleak, beautiful and magnificently functional Victorian civil-engineering maw.

As they say themselves,“prepare for an immersive audio-visual experience, complemented by cocktails, lightshow, and narration, featuring original and adapted music for theremin by Dmitri Shostakovich, Bohuslav Martinů, Miklós Rózsa, Les Baxter, Claude Debussy and John Williams, performed by Retrophonica with thereminist Charlie Draper, new arrangements and works by Alex Palmer, and bespoke narration from author Ken Hollings.”



 
You might already know Charlie from all manner of bookings, everywhere, for both theremin and ondes martenot: here’s an earlier mention. Alex has written and arranged extensively for theatre, film and concert hall, and looks as if he’ll be adding the sweeter edge to the evening. As for Ken, although I suspect that he’ll be operating on calmer terms tonight, he’s most likely to be the one to toss in a wild card or two. Having started work in the 1970s as a literary factual editor (how ominous such a description sounds now) he went on to an early-’80s spell as vocalist and cut-up’er in Manchester post-punk band Biting Tongues, followed by an expansion into essays, libretti and experimental fiction (all of which have dipped into and across other disciplines from Japanese films to twentieth-and-twenty-first century politics to data structures).

I’ve no idea who’s contributed the orchestra. As for the cocktails, there’s no further word on them; nor on how you might mix one called a Thames Tunnel.

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Just under a week later, downriver at Deptford, London art-rock/post-punk/improvisation godfather Charles Hayward will be putting together the second of this year’s “genre-fluid” Charles Hayward Presents concerts at the Albany, unfurling “new sounds from the underground and outsider scenes of London and beyond” and massing together elements of jazz/improv, art punk, noise, contemporary classical and electronic music.

Charles Hayward Presents..., 19th October 2019According to Charles himself, his own performance centrepiece will be the project-cum-band Timestretch Alarmsong… a sequence of tunes and sound snakes that I’ve put together with Tom Challenger (Dice Factory/Ma saxophonist), Yoni Silver (multi-instrumentalist with Hyperion Ensemble and many others), Roberto Sassi (Cardosanto/Anatrofobia/Snorkel guitarist), Nick Doyne-Ditmas (double bassist and Hayward collaborator in Monkey Puzzle Trio).

“It’s tightly rehearsed and goes through a wide range of attitudes and (more importantly) emotional energies. To my ears it’s super exciting and I feel like we’ve pushed at a few barriers and come up with something new that has melody, shape and grooves from light to super heavy/dark. There’s no clips available but we will be recording the project for future release. All the players are fantastic musicians and working on the project has been a study in joyful cooperation.”

In the absence of a collective clip, here’s a scatter of solo ones and examples of related projects:





 
Three other acts join in for the night. ‘Gentle Persuaders’, the latest album from contemporary drum/noise/saxophone ritualists Sly & The Family Drone – is intended as “the politest of bludgeonings”; its creators still merge Ayler-esque free jazz, industrial rock pummel, celebratory machine hiss and the loose-hanging exploratory feel of a bass-less duo. They also still give out drums at their concerts, inviting a congregation of noise.



 
Also back in the fray is V Ä L V Ē, with music that’s less workshop than workshed. Strongly DIY (featuring reed instruments, electronics, invented gizmos, bass guitar, concert harp and singing women), it’s the sound of a trio of highly trained musical minds phasing back into spontaneity and play. A sort of three-way attempt to become idiot savants via assorted glitchery and boink, semi-spontaneous nursery rhymes and tunelets and musical devices (built out of shelves, tobacco tins, old house bells and similar Branestawmery), but via a female pattern.


 
Finally, there’s Atatat – a solo project from Liverpool art-freak music mainstay J.C. Barbara (best known as drummer/ranter for aPAtT and Barberos, and here using a very Haywardian array of drums, contact mics, loops and vocals).


 
Designer Raimund Wong (whose work has adorned posters and releases by Total Refreshment Centre, Church Of Sound and Baba Yaga’s Hut, and who shares Charles’ interest in chance theory and the ingenuity forced on artists via DIY minimalism) will be DJ-ing.

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Dates:

Retrophonica
Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 4LF, England
Sunday 13th October 2019, 6.00pm & 8:30pm
– information here, here and here

Charles Hayward Presents… (featuring Sly & The Family Drone + VÄLVĒ + Timestretch Alarmsong + Atatat + DJ Raimund Wong)
The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, SE8 4AG London, United Kingdom
Saturday, 19 October 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

October 2019 – sundry classical and postclassical events – Carla Rees’ ‘Solo Flute Quartet: Music for Flute and Electronics’ tour of England and Northern Ireland (9th, 12th, 16th, 18th, 24th October); Xenia Pestova Bennett plays Luc Ferrari and Annea Lockwood in London (29th October)

3 Oct

Carla Rees: 'Solo Flute Quartet: Music for Flute and Electronics' tour, October 2019

Rarescale‘s Carla Rees is performing an October solo tour of England and Northern Ireland, playing music for various flutes (standard and Kingma Systems, alto and bass, baroque flute d’amour and piccolo) augmented by Kyma electronics.

Several compositions are being performed. The first, giving the evening its title, is Simon Emmerson’s ‘Solo Flute Quartet’ which employs extra-keyed Kingma System flutes (optimised for multi-phonics and quarter tone pitches) alongside live sampling and surround sound. Simon: “Following a recording session in the summer of 2017 the idea of using multiphonics as the generator of both harmony and melodic mode evolved rapidly and the piece was completed in January 2018 and performed a month later at City University. The four flutes (piccolo, concert flute, alto, bass) are played in varying rotations for the 16 short sections of the work. The live electronics freezes, spatialises, echoes and projects the live sound into labyrinths of colour on a surround sound system.”

The second piece (being performed at Coventry, London and Bristol) is ‘Islands’, by Carla’s regular Rarescale collaborator Scott Miller. According to Scott: “‘Islands’ is more about the river than the islands. The river is dynamic, in constant motion, many layered. It responds to the presence of objects – fish, birds, people, islands–and moves, transforms, and shapes these same objects. We can observe its passage and potential, and we can enter and navigate it. As a metaphor for the composition, the performer enters the river of processing and navigates it sonically, from island to island. The islands emerge from the river, made of the stuff that lies beneath the surface, providing unique environments that are a part of and separate from the river. The performer’s interactions with the river and the islands influence the environment immediately and downriver, which is really just a function of time, like in music. Islands can be understood as the confluence of many independent environments which unfold in generally predictable ways over the course of the composition.”

To represent this musically, Carla will be feeding her flute through ecosystemic programming within her Kyma system to create “a sonic environment modelled on a stretch of the Mississippi River.”


 
A third piece (being played at the Leicester, London and Belfast dates) is ‘tree flute’ by Karen Power, who has written a number of works in which specific recordings of environmental sounds inform and are played against live solo instruments. For ‘tree flute’, field recordings of wind moving through trees are paired with the baroque flute d’amour, an instrument which Karen finds “more vulnerable than its modern equivalent, which for me makes it more interesting. Each and every note has a unique character that is brought out when performer and instrument meet. The wooden and simple frame of the flute is the starting point and why I have paired it with the wind.”

Commenting further on the piece, Karen explains that “the field recordings are all sounds of wind moving through trees and the ground. They are not audible, but do surround us in every forest or park. They may not be audible, but they do adhere to their own time and pacing, which is governed not by man but by the weather. This pacing forms the basic structure of this piece. In the live performance the flautist is partially cut off from the aural score and only hears an individual private aural part, which guides her. The audience only hear the first ‘wind’ sound at 0’40’’ therefore the performer must prepare us for this. She will hear such sounds in her aural part ahead of us and so tries to add the missing context for us. This pull back and forth between the private aural part and the public aural score is a core component of this and other works, which I believe provides the perfect platform for true interpretation and active listening and responding to happen.”

The Belfast date also features Sungji Hong’s 2015 piece ‘Shine’, originally written for Carla and featuring a double performance by her (the live in-concert performance and an electronically treated recording of the same part for her to play against).


 
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Back in London, at the end of the month, inquisitive experimental pianist Xenia Pestova Bennett pops up at City University to play Luc Ferrari’s ‘36 Enfilades for piano and tape’ to celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of his birth.

Xenia Pestova Bennett: Luc Ferrari and Annea Lockwood, 29th October 2019

One of the pioneers of musique concrète (alongside his Groupe de Recherches Musicales colleagues Pierre Schaeffer and François-Bernard Mâche), Ferrari was known for his tape pieces observing and reproducing daily life and the flow of ideas. The ‘Enfilades’ (a rarely-performed duet between piano and reel-to-reel tape) are an example of this technique crossing over to link with more traditional performance, scored piano material played in time with assorted taped sonorities which alternate rapidly between the industrial and the musical, the eerie and the whimsical.

Some of the pieces last for no more than a handful of seconds. Xenia describes them as “witty, virtuosic miniatures… a whirlwind exploration of style, riven with quotations from other composers including Schumann and Brahms.” Ferrari himself noted “they start and they are already finished. Sometimes, they do not even start, do not have a beginning. Then, is it a suite? It is perhaps a theatre. Is this the old dream never to finish or that always to start again? And then, the ideas which pass so quickly and then the desire to take up the ideas already given and then the pleasure of transforming them as themes which come to give a rhythm to the travel. Then, finally, these small pieces, they make large one…”

French pianist and frequent Ferrari interpreter Michel Maurer has reinforced the idea that the entire piece is like a self-contained episode of musical theatre in which “the solo protagonist (is) a pianist playing the role of a musicologist who had discovered an anonymous manuscript”; also, that it is something like “a treasure hunt” in which both the score and the tape recording themselves contain written or spoken texts and clues from the “unknown” composer, and in which the performer (has) to question himself about the music he (is) playing.” Here’s Michel presenting his own performance of ‘Enfilades’ plus discussion.

 

Xenia will also be performing several small compositions from her repertoire of John Cage pieces, as well as two compositions by Annea Lockwood, who’s celebrating her own eightieth birthday at around the same time as the Ferrari ninetieth. While she’s gained the most attention for her conceptual “piano transplant” events (in which defunct pianos are removed from concert halls and music rooms and taken far away to meet various ritualistic but natural ends, such as immolation, immersion, or being planted into the ground like seeds), Annea is also the creator of a varied chamber music catalogue including piano compositions and tonescapes with multiple extended-technique string moves.

In this particular concert, Xenia will be playing Annea’s ‘Red Mesa’ (in which a minimal/apprehensive mood of tolling midrange notes, abrupt fanning chords, interior piano mutings and zither strums develops into a shifting and sketchy open-ended study, a stormy interlude of high drama and a fade into unresolved nothingness) and her pouncing, highly dynamic ‘RCSC’ (in which skeletal notes and silences play against strum-scurries, scratched harmonics, choked hammer mutes, slow dive-bombs and so forth).

To illustrate, before the event, here’s a Ricardo Descalzo performance of ‘RCSC’ and an Andrea Lodge performance of ‘Red Mesa’ as well as Xenia’s own performance of some Cage music on toy pianos (accompanied by her duo colleague Pascal Meyer).




 
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Dates:

Carla Rees: ‘Solo Flute Quartet: Music for Flute and Electronics’ tour dates:

  • Ellen Terry Building @ Coventry University, Jordan Well, Coventry, West Midlands, CV1 5RW, England – Wednesday 9th October 2019, 1.00pm – information here
  • IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England – Saturday 12th October 2019, 8.30pm – information here and here
  • PACE1 @ De Montfort University, Mill Lane, Leicester, LE2 7DR, England – Wednesday 16th October 2019, 7.00pm – information t.b.c.
  • Victoria Rooms, Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1SA, England – Friday 18th October 2019, 1.15pm – information here
  • Sonic Lab @ Sonic Arts Research Centre, 4 Cloreen Park, Belfast, BT9 5HN, Northern Ireland – Thursday 24th October 2019, 1.00pm – free event – information here

City University Concerts presents:
Xenia Pestova Bennett: Luc Ferrari and Annea Lockwood
City University Performance Space @ City University Social Sciences Building, 32-38 Whiskin Street, Finsbury, London, EC1R 0JD, England
Tuesday 29th October 2019, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

October 2019 – Daylight Music’s 2019 autumn season continues – Janek Schaefer, Joby Burgess and AVA (5th October); Keith Tippett & Matthew Bourne with Tania Chen & Steve Beresford (12th October); We Like We, Otto A Totland, Rauelsson and F.S.Blumm (19th October); Susumu Yokota remembered and reinvented by Isan, Seaming To and The Imperfect Orchestra (26th October)

25 Sep

Daylight Music 10, 2019

Following its folk-tinged September concerts, Daylight Music’s autumn 2019 season continues with four October concerts including a piano event, a reinvention of the music of Japanese ambient composer Susumu Yokota and a couple of sustained, themed but accessible dips into post-classical sound art.

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Daylight Music 316: Janek Schaefer + Joby Burgess + AVA – 5th October 2019“For ‘Space In This Place’ (on 5th October), get ready to really experience the chapel and engage with the space in new ways as it resonates and reverberates through the transmission of radios, the pounding of bass drums or the rumble in your belly of the chapel own in-built synthesizer – the Henry Willis organ.

“Sound artist, entertainer, and professor Janek Schaefer trained as an architect at the Royal College of Art, where he fell in love with exploring the relationship between sound, space and place. He has exhibited and performed in over thirty countries worldwide, from The Tate Modern to The Sydney Opera House, and has released thirty-four albums, including collaborations with Charlemagne Palestine, Philip Jeck, Robert Hampson, and Stephan Mathieu.

 
“Watching violinist Anna Phoebe and pianist Aisling Brouwer of AVA interact on stage is always a mesmerising experience – and it will be enhanced by the Chapel’s acoustics. Rooted in cinematic narratives, AVA’s music unfolds around the relationship between violin and piano, evoking emotional journeys that never conform to expectations and yet are instantly accessible. The duo has recently released their debut album, ‘Waves’, on One Little Indian Records.


 
“One of Britain’s most diverse percussionists, Joby Burgess can often be heard on major film and TV scores, notably leading the percussion on ‘Black Panther’, ‘The Darkest Hour’, ‘Paddington 2’, ‘Trolls’, ‘The Last Kingdom’ and ‘Taboo’. He was featured on the score to Alex Garland’s ‘Ex Machina’. His recent highlights include extensive tours with Peter Gabriel’s New Blood Orchestra, PUNKIT (an adventurous participatory project for massed percussion ensemble by Stephen Deazley), and ‘Pioneers of Percussion’, a solo recital programme featuring new work by Nicol Lizée, Linda Buckley and Rebecca Dale.

Joby will perform ‘Qilyaun’ (for solo bass drum & electronics) by John Luther Adams and ‘Can’t Sleep’ (for vibraphone & electronics) by Rebecca Dale.



 
“Joining the dots this week will be computer musician, digital choir boy, and algorithmic composer, Daniel James Ross (a PhD student and associate lecturer at Goldsmiths). Dan will be live-sampling the main performers and running the recordings through his brand new, custom-made, algorithmic composition machine, playing back whatever weirdness it produces whilst you eat your quiche.”

 
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The 12th October Daylight is a piano event presented in association with Sound UK and the Unpredictable Series concert series, criss-crossing British jazz, contemporary classical and spontaneous music:

 
“Witness two of Britain’s most adventurous jazz pianists join forces this October. A seminal figure in the evolution of UK jazz since the 1960s, Keith Tippett has forged his own ever-evolving sound as both composer and improviser. Thirty years his junior, Matthew Bourne has similarly explored the horizons of jazz and contemporary music, on both analogue synths and the acoustic piano. Inspired by Tippett’s suggestion to ‘do some playing together,’ in late 2016 this new and exciting musical partnership between two maverick pianists, a generation apart, is a meeting of like-minded but distinct individuals. Both are mesmerising live performers, famous for their idiosyncrasy, virtuosity, and non-conformity. Marking a key point in Tippett and Bourne’s simpatico relationship, which has spanned some twenty years already, they are finally joining forces to make new music together.



 
“Special guests this afternoon will be Steve Beresford and Tania Caroline Chen. Beresford has been a central figure in the British and international spontaneous music scenes for over forty years, freely improvising on the piano, electronics and other things with people like Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Han Bennink and John Zorn: he has an extensive discography as performer, arranger, free-improviser, composer and producer, and was awarded a Paul Hamlyn award for composers in 2012. Tania Caroline Chen is a pianist, sound artist and free improviser, who draws her inspiration from the New York, British and European schools of 20th century experimental composition: she has performed and recorded the works of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown and Cornelius Cardew as well as compositions by Andrew Poppy, Michael Parsons, Luc Ferrari, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Eric Satie and Alexander Scriabin.”

 
This event will also feature a duet performance from pianists Cameron Ward (a mainstay of north English jazz bands such as Racoon Dog Soup) and Glen Leach (an improviser who also plays hip hop with NixNorthWest and adds a jazz-fusion aspect to grime act Project Hilts).

 
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The Daylight on the 19th is “dedicated to sonic landscapes and instrumental explorations through electronic and piano music with Berlin based label Sonic Pieces, who also mark ten years since their first release.

 
We Like We – the duo of Katrine Grarup Elbo (violin) and Katinka Fogh Vindelev (voice) – perform a version of ‘Time is Local’, a work co-created by the ensemble and sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard. Originally this was a twelve-hour multichannel performance, based on a live installation in twelve different chambers of a museum. This afternoon’s performance will bring a version of this new project to the chapel, continuing their mission to express sound beyond the grid of genres.


 
“Minimalistic, melodic, visual, and calming, Otto A. Totland‘s music reflects both his early interest in computers, sequencers and synths and his subsequent departure from them to focus on piano composition. He has released two solo piano albums, ‘Pinô’ and ‘the Lost’, on Sonic Pieces. Otto is also a member of the duo Deaf Center with Erik K Skodvin.

 
“Known for his constant musical evolution, Rauelsson’s musical journey has transitioned from lo-fi, intimate compositions of delicate folk to a more contemplative, experimental, and dense sound. His latest release, ‘Mirall’, is an eclectic collection of compositions that celebrate electronic exploration while maintaining a focus on classical instrumentation. In addition to his main discography, Rauelsson has also released music for film, documentary and photographic projects.

 
“Frank Schültge is a German author, musician, and producer, working under the pseudonym F.S. Blumm. He has recorded many collaborations but is perhaps best known on Sonic Pieces for the album of unconditional spontaneity with Nils Frahm. Based in Berlin, Frank absorbs everything and takes it with him, weaving it into his instrumental portraits. “The man makes some damn charming music.” (‘Pitchfork’).”


 
This is another extended Daylight event, running on until 2.15pm.

* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music 319: Interpretations: The music of Susumu Yokota (featuring Isan + Seaming To + The Imperfect Orchestra) – 26th October 2019

The last of the October Daylights is a tribute to the late Susumu Yokota, curated by Lo Recordings“a suitably diverse and esoteric collection of musicians to perform compositions from his catalogue. This event also marks the release of ‘Cloud Hidden,’ an album of previously unreleased music by the producer.

“Antony Ryan and Robin Saville have been making music as Isan for over twenty years. Their music takes threads from early electronic experimentalism, blurry dream-pop, motorik rhythms and diverse modern modular sounds, weaving them into a confection which is entirely their own. Sweet but rarely without a melancholy edge, they have been described as making “difficult music easy to listen to”. Onstage, Isan fill the space with beautiful washes of noise and rhythm. They will be taking Yokota’s compositions as starting points and augmenting them with improvised beats, pulsing melodies and rippling loveliness.


 
Seaming To has been described as “the voice of the twenty-first century” (‘BBC Radio 1’), and an artist that is truly “avant-garde” (Robert Wyatt). Her experimental ethos and mastery across a variety of instruments has enabled her to collaborate with some of the most respected and radical artists of this decade, particularly in electronic, classical and experimental genres. Expect a uniquely engaging take on Yokota’s work.


 
The Imperfect Orchestra have been writing and performing since 2013. They specialise in working with amateur and non-musicians to produce live performance soundtracks for moving image and contemporary art events. For this commission, Imperfect Orchestra will be taking specific elements from the work of Susumu Yokota and developing it into an eclectic live performance that creates a narrative exploring some of the themes that were important to his life and his work, including sampling and resampling audio, found sounds and field recordings, and spirituality and electronica.


 
George Crowley is a saxophonist, clarinettist, composer and promoter based in London. As a performer he is active across a range of styles; whether infusing melodic through-composed writing with open, searching improv in his own Can Of Worms, channelling fiery avant-parade ghosts in Brass Mask, weaving through the polyrhythmic Ghanaian trance of Vula Viel or exploring more traditional repertoire, He can also be found playing with bands and musicians such as Melt Yourself Down, Yazz Ahmed, Red Snapper, the Olie Brice Quartet featuring Jeff Williams.”


 
* * * * * * * *

All gigs are at Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England, with a suggested donation of five pounds. Dates below:

  • Daylight Music 316: ‘Space In This Place’ (featuring Janek Schaefer + Joby Burgess + AVA) – Saturday 5th October 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 317: Keith Tippett & Matthew Bourne with Tania Chen & Steve Beresford – Saturday 12th October 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 318: ‘Time Is Local’ (featuring We Like We + Otto A Totland + Rauelsson + F.S. Blumm) – Saturday 19th October 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 319: ‘Interpretations: The Music Of Susumu Yokota’ (featuring Isan + Seaming To + The Imperfect Orchestra) – Saturday 26th October 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here

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

September 2019 – upcoming opera – Alex Mills’ ‘Dear Marie Stopes’ in London (21st September); Keith Burstein’s ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ on film in Brighton (24th September)

14 Sep

Alex Mills‘s forty-five minute chamber opera ‘Dear Marie Stopes’, originally performed last year as part of the Wellcome Collection’s Tête à Tête opera festival, gets another pair of performances this month at Kings Place. The original performance team (singers Alexa Mason, Jess Dandy and Feargal Mostyn-Williams, cellist Lucy Railton, viola da gamba player Liam Byrne) reunite with director Nina Brazier for a special new staging to suit the new venue.
Alex Mills' 'Dear Marie Stopes', 21st September 2019

Performed by soprano, alto and countertenor in “a mixture of solemn plainchant-style singing and delicate melismatic lines above a soundworld of drones and shifting harmonies on strings and electronics”, the opera is epistolary, built up by from thousands of open and emotional contemporary letters written to Marie Stopes following the 1918 publication of her book ‘Married Love’. The latter was one of the modern world’s first frank sex manuals and the forerunner of much of today’s open sexual culture (as well as a cornerstone of first-wave feminism with its insistence on sexual equality, the appropriate use of contraception and the understanding of female desire), and its impact was both profound and global.

 
There’s a ‘Planet Hugill’ feature on the opera here, written by Alex himself, in which he explores the context and method of the work:

“Each letter is a vivid snapshot into sex lives a century ago, full of unfiltered, raw emotion and moving personal stories, many of which resonate powerfully with life and society today. I felt that an operatic context would provide the perfect platform to explore and unpack the inherent drama and high emotion in the letters, and bring their fascinating content to a wider audience. There is no conventional, linear narrative. Instead, the libretto, by Jennifer Thorp, pieces together vignettes and extracts to form a tight dramatic structure, held together by the central figure of Marie Stopes herself.

“The three singers have their work cut out for them – taking on multiple roles and characters, sometimes within the same section, to show the very wide spectrum of opinions and attitudes to sex and birth control in 1918. The intention was to draw out the emotional content of the letters while being sensitive to the original context in which they were written – very private missives in a time of need.”

* * * * * * * *

For those who missed seeing Keith Burstein’s opera ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ while it was being performed at last year’s Grimeborn, there’s an opportunity to catch it again. Admittedly this will be on film – one particular evening of the run was recorded by Jason Harris of Piñata Studios, the footage has now been edited and subtitled, and the results are premiering at Brighton’s Verdict Jazz Club later this month, preceded by a short introductory talk by Keith himself.

Here’s what I wrote about ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ when previewing it last summer:

Fulham Opera's 'The Prometheus Revolution' - 7th/8th/10th August 2018Fulham Opera are premiering ‘The Prometheus Revolution’, the first new opera by composer/librettist Keith Burstein since his anti-War On Terror work ‘Manifest Destiny’. The latter blew up a pile of controversy at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe with its suicide bomb-vest scenes, its agit-prop metaphysics and its pungent criticism of Western motives, and eventually led to a wrangle over free speech and alleged promotion of terrorism at the Royal Courts of Justice.

‘…Prometheus…’ looks set to extend at least some of the ideas behind ‘Manifest Destiny’. Like the earlier piece, it’s a politically-heated metaphysical examination of where we are as a society, and what we might do about it, It’s set in an alternative present which closely mirrors our own, with democracy decaying into corrupt war-mongering authoritarianism and economic meltdown, with a peace movement “standing between tyranny and chaos, (although) they too are cleft by internal struggles.” Inspired by the 2012 Occupy Movement’s “99% versus the 1%” ideology, it’s billed as a “dark parable” of “star-crossed lovers, rebellion and revolution against the backdrop of a corrupt political class… shot through with pathos and ironic humour.” As with ‘Manifest Destiny’, you can also expect more of the vigorously tonal Burstein approach to music and tunes, with a post-Britten-and-Berg score additionally laced with the sounds of vaudeville, Broadway musicals and pop ballads.”

Arranged for solo piano (played by Ben Woodward) and presented in a minimal-stage manner by director Sophie Gilpin in one of the Arcola Theatre’s stripped-brick-box performance rooms, ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ was sung by Alex Haigh, Caroline Carragher, Robert Garland, Olivia Barry, Gerard Delrez,James Schouten, Christie Cook, Lucie Louvrier, Nick Dwyer, Luci Briginshaw, Ian Wilson-Pope, and James Bowers. At the time, the reception and reviews were mixed: Burstein’s always been a polarising artist, and you either buy into his passion for vividly revived tonalism, torrents of romantic futurist melody and illuminated left-wing metaphysics, or you don’t. Personally, I remember it as being an interesting fable: a contemporary political fantasy with a dash of both verismo and Verdi domestic drama crossing through.

Here’s the promotional video for the original production.


 
* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Alex Mills: ‘Dear Marie Stopes’
Hall Two @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Saturday 21st September 2019, 4.00pm & 7.30pm
– information here and here

Keith Burstein: ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ (film premiere)
The Verdict Jazz Club, 159 Edward Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 0JB, England
Tuesday 24th September 2019, 7.00pm
– information via email request to Anna Beketov @ Damson PR
 

September 2019 – the start of Daylight Music’s autumn season in London – The Memory Band, Far Rainbow and Ingrid Plum (21st September); Kathryn Williams’ Anthology extravaganza (28th September)

12 Sep

Daylight Music 10, 2019

My favourite London free-music event resumes shortly, following its summer holiday break – although simply calling Daylight Music “a free event” rather undersells it. Let’s call it an exercise in grace. Two hours of pay-what-you-like, mixed-genre music in a cavernous and spectacular London chapel, set up along the inclusive idea that listening and responding to music is a familial activity and that any gathering of people of any age is potentially familial… and a Bakeoffian idea that everything goes better with tea and cake. (That’s ‘Bake Off’ as in the British TV institution, by the way – not as in Bakeoff the unfairly-neglected radical-conservative Bulgarian philosopher…)

* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music 314: The Memory Band + Far Rainbow + Ingrid Plum – 21st September 2019

The first show of the autumn season is on 21st September and bridges traditional and contemporary folk with playful avant-garde soundmaking and folktronica:

“After an extended break from performing, acoustic folk band The Memory Band returns to Daylight Music in great style in time for our 10th Birthday year, with a vocal set featuring bandleader Stephen Cracknell along with the voices of Hannah Caughlin and Helene Bradley. Influenced by a wide variety of contemporary and traditional styles, they have produced five studio albums and numerous 7″ singles. This afternoon they will be performing a selection of songs old and new – this will not be a set of instrumental landscape music.


 
Far Rainbow is a London-based improvising duo comprised of sound artist Bobby Barry and drummer Emily Barnett. They create vast neo-psychedelic slabs of gradually developing sound and delight in using everyday household objects as part of their stage gear. You’ll never know what will appear on stage: bubble wrap, plastic bags, cellotape, hairbrush, shaver, electric toothbrush, various small motors, taped field recordings, pencil sharpener, egg slicer, or even a small portable vacuum cleaner.


 
Ingrid Plum is a Brighton-based vocalist combining folk music, contemporary classical music and sound art. Her work has been described by ‘The Guardian’ as being characterised by “gorgeously atmospheric vocal techniques woven around field recordings and electronics”, while ‘The Wire’ described her live shows as “succinct and nourishing… a luxuriant space between almost excessive precision and looser improvisation”. She has performed internationally, as well as having worked with Late Junction and BBC Radio 3.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music 315: Kathryn Williams Anthology with super special guests – 28th September 2019In the last week of September, Kathryn Williams comes to Daylight Music with an anniversary Anthology show. Due to the extra volume of music involved, this particular Daylight will be running for an extra quarter of an hour.

“It’s a delight to once again see Mercury Prize-nominated singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams, as she celebrates her twentieth anniversary with her fiery spirit and keen sense of adventure. To date, Williams has released fourteen studio albums and she has also written and arranged for a multitude of artists. Her latest release, a gorgeous twenty-CD boxset of her most loved songs, is painstakingly curated by Williams herself, and includes paintings by the artist, lyrics, stories and unheard demos.

On this special afternoon she will fill the chapel stage with likeminded souls; songwriters, singers, multi-instrumentalists, collaborators and friends from across her career. She will also welcome those she has more recently tutored and helped inspire at the Arvon creative writing retreat. As always with Daylight, this will be a curation like no other, a celebration in song through the heart and voice of Kathryn Williams.”

Kathryn’s guest performers will be Michele and Romeo Stodart (of The Magic Numbers), Chris Difford (of Squeeze), Neill MacColl (of The Bible, Liberty Horses, King L and stints in Eddi Reader’s band), Colin MacIntyre (better known as Mull Historical Society), David Ford and Polly Paulusma; with additional contributions from Lucy Duncans, Euan Allison, Stewart Robbie, Lindsey Strachan, Emma Carr Martin, Jess Tuthill, Emily Barden, Phil Langran, Andy Pearce and Anna Skelton.






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

  • Daylight Music 314: The Memory Band + Far Rainbow + Ingrid Plum – Saturday 21st September 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here
  • Daylight Music 315: Kathryn Williams Anthology with super special guests – Saturday 28th September 2019, 12.00pm – information here and here

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

June/July 2019 – upcoming London gigs – Jewdas’ summer shindig with Geoff Berner, Fran & Flora and Rokhl Merlot at Balabam (20th June); Sefiroth at JW3 (4th July)

17 Jun

A couple of vibrantly Jewish gigs coming up in London…

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I mostly know about Jewdas thanks to them apparently being among Jeremy Corbyn’s favourite Jewish organisations, and hence having been dragged in the wretched palaver over where and how much anti-semitism might be marring British politics. A determined “radical Jewish voice for the alternative diaspora”, they could probably have done without the blowback; or perhaps they take it as a badge of pride; but they’ll wear and weather it regardless.

In Britain and elsewhere, the internet’s rotting under the feculent, polluted weight of this particular debate, and I’m not going to wrangle the point here (I’ll leave that to the single-issue soapboxers who love it so much) but it would plainly be nonsense to suggest either that Jewdas might not be deeply rooted in Jewish culture, or that they’re not deeply proud of it. If you want to know more of what they’re about (and don’t mind Jonathan Sacks being twitted a bit) you can read about that here: alternatively, you could consider their summer party show at Balabam this week. It’s Jewish to the core – bright and lively, opinionated and warm; pugnacious in intellect and politics and personal engagement; sometimes superbly vulgar; and loaded with music that weaves itself into a shawl of pain, laughter, chatter and living.

They’re hoping to offer “the best in radical Yiddish music” (trigger warning for the humph-y: they tend to favour Yiddish over Hebrew) and it’s certainly going to be left-wing, and anarchic. Headliner Geoff Berner is a Jewish-Canadian punk-klezmernik; a singer, songwriter, accordionist and sometime novelist who prides himself on “dragging klezmer kicking and screaming back to the bars where it belongs. For the past fifteen years or so, he’s travelled the world, garnering a sizable, passionate following of odd, bookish people who like to drink. Clever and literate, Berner’s songs can make you want to weep, laugh, grind your teeth, or kick out a window – often all at the same time. His writing can be overtly political, overtly left wing, leaning towards anarchy, but free of easy slogans or cliches.“ I couldn’t talk him up any better than that, so here he is in action in concert and on video:




 

I’m better acquainted with one of the other acts on the bill – Fran & Flora – the once-seen, immediately-loved cello-and-violin duo of Francesca Ter-Berg and Flora Curzon, who’ve been bringing string duets from eastern European folk and improvisatory traditions to events like Marchland for a few years now, and who’ve now documented it on record with their debut album ‘Unfurl’. Presumably they’re providing the more serious and sober core to the evening, though I doubt that it’ll dominate if someone called Rokhl Merlot is also providing “Yiddish cabaret on an out-of-tune piano”. I suspect there’s a pseudonym involved and that it’s probably going to be riotously funny. As for DJs, there’s a “tuchas-shaking selection of klezmer, Jewish jazz, kosher blues and circumcised soul” from the Kosher Nostra DJs, who are presumably turning nasty gags about “Jewish mafias” on their heads before spitting them back. (Either that, or it’s a nod to the ghost of Bugsy Siegel.) I can’t track down anything on Mr or Ms. Merlot, but here’s a dose of the other two.

 
My own favourite Jewish joke? You didn’t ask for it, but it’s from within the community; and it’s about how if you leave a Jewish guy alone in a room for long enough, he’ll start arguing with himself. That’s how it ought to be, and I’m guessing that it’s something Jewdas are more than happy to embrace.

Postscript – I’ve just found out that Jewdas’ response to some wretched fascist pledging to take Stamford Hill (a strongly Jewish area of north-east London, and the place where my own mother worked in Jewish youth organisations on her first arrival in this country, fifty-odd years ago, as a concerned and wandering New Jersey Gentile) and to liberate it from “Jewification” was to stage a ‘Jewification’ party; and to then invite everyone, including Muslims and “everyone who has ever been threatened for being different, everyone who has ever been othered and made to feel like an outsider…. We did not let them pass before (at Cable Street), and we will stop them again – this time with furious dancing.” Now that’s just treasurable.

* * * * * * * *

If this all sounds a little raucous, there’s also an upcoming chance to catch the (frankly magical) contemporary British Sephardic ensemble Sefiroth out at JW3 at the start of July.

Built up from some of the best young British jazz and folk musicians from the Sephardic Jewish community (the rundown being the Roth brothers – Alex, Simon and Nick – plus Alice Zawadzki, Olesya Zdorovetska, Ruth Goller, Shirley Smart, Alex Bonney and Francesco Turrisi) the band rearranges and revives Jewish songs and melodies from fifteenth-century Iberia where Moorish, Balkan, North African and Mediterranean ideas merged with the music brought out of Israel. The repertoire’s a mingling of ancient love songs, children’s rhymes, dances, songstories and yearning airs; bringing to mind warm winds, scintillating desert nights, homesickness, melodies hummed and murmured in kitchens and tented marketplaces… the entire musical texture of a community.

Sefiroth play all of this beautifully. Over the last few years, I’ve spent several evenings sitting spellbound at their feet as they spun these tunes out of brass, percussion, shofars, Alice and Olesya’s vocals (capturing ache, nurture, memory and desire), Alex’s slips, swells and ebbs of gorgeously understated electric guitar, and barely-perceptible laptop sound mutations. You could, too.



 
* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Jewdas presents:
Geoff Berner + Fran & Flora + Rokhl Merlot + The Kosher Nostra DJs
Balabam, 58-60 High Road, Tottenham, London, N15 6JU, England
Saturday 22nd June 2019, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Sefiroth
JW3, 341-351 Finchley Road, West Hampstead, London, NW3 6ET, England
Thursday 4th July 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

June 2019 – assorted upcoming London gigs – Block4 and Lynda Beckett’s multi-media recorder concert (15th), Arch Garrison, Charles Bullen and Kavus Torabi play Clapham Library (15th); cellotronics-and-percussion improv with BirdWorld at Wigmore Hall (18th June); North Sea Radio Orchestra, John Greaves, Annie Barbazza and others reinvent Robert Wyatt in ‘Folly Bololey’ (27th)

11 Jun

Classical/experimental recorder quartet Block4 (featuring Emily Bannister, Lucy Carr, Katie Cowling and Rosie Land on a variety of instruments from bass to sopranino) are offering a mingled kids’ workshop and multi-media live concert – ‘The Art Of Sound’ – this coming Saturday down in Lewisham. Exploring links between music and visual art, the ‘Stargazing’ concert is a live collaboration with line artist Lynda Beckett, who’ll be creating spontaneous artwork (pursuing “sensual, the rhythmic and the non-binary” via line art in which “the glitch and the eternal return are welcome”) during the course of the show.

Block4 & Lynda Beckett: 'The Art of Sound' - 15th June 2019

While I’ve not got much info in terms of a programme, the music will be in keeping with Block4’s wide-spanning approach to genre, which in the past has mixed Renaissance and Baroque music with reinterpretations of Jimi Hendrix, “contemporary consort” ideas involving electronics, and more. It will include a new piece by Andrew Crossley, a composer whose inspirations include Zen Buddhism and a sheaf of hybrid forms of criticism (so expect something with plenty of silences and digressions, perhaps). Here’s an earlier electro-acoustic minimalist piece which Andrew wrote for sub-great bass recorder (travelling from borderline-subliminal low register to a resonant temple-horn call and back again), along with a couple of examples from Block4’s existing repertoire.

 

The workshop, taking place in the morning, ties in with the concept – allowing kids (from six-year-olds upwards) to “explore music performance, composition, drawing, and (to) creat(e) their own unique work of art to take home.” Best to book early for that one.

* * * * * * * *

Arch Garrison + Charles Bullen + Kavus Torabi, 15th June 2019The timing of the Block4 events also gives you time to slip across London (from the south-east to the south-west) on the same day, in order to take in one of the Lambeth Readers & Writers Festival gigs taking place in the atrium at Clapham Library. Back in April, they hosted the Peter Blegvad Quintet. This month, even as Craig Fortnam limbers up his North Sea Radio Orchestra for an upcoming Café Oto show, he and fellow NSRO-er James Larcombe slip on their guise as the Arch Garrison duo and head down Clapham-wards.

Arch Garrison take the implied baroque in folk baroque and draw it fully out into the light. Craig’s amplified gut-strung fingerstyle acoustic guitar playing has as much Spanish classical to it as it does bullish John Martyn counterpoint (though he’ll more readily cite African-Arabic inspirations like Ali Farka Touré), while James’ dextrous post-classical work on vintage-sounding monosynths makes joyously assured connections between chapel organ studies, progtronic flourishes and psychedelic sound webbings. The Garrison have sometimes been compared to Robyn Hitchcock and Nick Drake, and draw from Tim Smith’s eccentric, unlikely folk wellspring, but they don’t sound like anyone nearly as much as they sound like themselves. The songs, sung in Craig’s soft demotic Wyatt-esque sprawl, start with a lone walking man and travel downwards into conceptual strata of history, geography, familial relationships, art and ageing.



 
There will also be sidestepping solo support sets from Gong/Knifeworld expostulator Kavus Torabi (continuing to mine the unsettled psychedelic angst of his dark-sun guitar-and-harmonium solo EP ‘Solar Divination’ and a related upcoming solo album) and from Charles Bullen, one of the triumvirate behind Camberwell proto-punk experimentalists This Heat during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s (and, more recently, behind the band’s recently-retired latter-day reimagining This Is Not This Heat). I’ve no idea whether Charles will be singing; whether he’ll be playing along with guitar, viola, a mess of programmed samples or his clarinet: whether and how the music will connect to This Heat’s experimental jazz-prog collage polemics, the pocket-dub work he explored with Lifetones or the bright and mellow synth-rock sparkle of his Circadian Rhythms project; or even whether he’s going to be starting anew with a completely fresh slate. Anticipate anything.

* * * * * * * *

North Sea Radio Orchestra/John Greaves/Annie Barbazza, 27th June 2019

Returning to Craig Fortnam – and indeed, to Robert Wyatt – his North Sea Radio Orchestra concert is on 27th June. It’s the live British debut of the NSRO’s ‘Folly Bololey‘ project, which also incorporates Henry Cow bassist/art-rock chansonnier John Greaves and rising prog/art-ensemble singer Annie Barbazza.

North Sea Radio Orchestra/John Greaves/Annie Barbazza, 27th June 2019‘Folly Bololey’ has been around in one shape or form for half a decade, being played at arts concert and Rock In Opposition events in continental Europe, but has only just now crossed the Channel to be performed in Britain. Gently picking up, re-arranging and re-performing various Wyatt works (centring on a complete performance of the ‘Rock Bottom’ song cycle), it sets Wyatt’s flowing, unspooling songs of love, grief, plaintive nonsense and recovery against the pastoral raincloud tug of NSRO’s alt.crossover sensibilities. The results are an interesting blending of Wyatt’s mouth-music jazzing and his deliquescing, playfully vulnerable search for meaningfulness against NSRO’s own softly-yielding Anglo-pastoral formalism (which in turn echoes the open-to-all concert music of another Fortnam forebear, David Bedford).

With Craig acting as master of ceremonies on guitar and Farfisa organ, rounding out the ensemble are NSRO reed and cello regulars Nicky Baigent, Luke Crookes and Harry Escott plus Greaves band member Laurent Valero on strings and recorders and William D. Drake (the former Cardiacs keyboard wizard who turned into a touchingly surreal, avuncular chamber-folkster). Handling the tuned and untuned percussion are Gong drummer Cheb Nettles and vibraphonist Tommaso Franguelli (from Piacenza percussion group Tempus Fugit).


 
* * * * * * * *

On Tuesday 18th, cello/electronics/percussion duo BirdWorld are playing an informal set at the Wigmore Hall’s Bechstein Bar. (When I last touched on them here, they were playing the Frome Festival three years back – too long ago.)

BirdWorld, 18th June 2019

Migrating between twin home-bases of London and Oslo, BirdWorld are cellist/effects twiddler Gregor Riddell and drummer/percussionist Adam Teixeira. For a while, guitarist Alex Stuart was also in the picture; but it’s always been about the core duo, who met in Canada, discussed electronic/acoustic blendings and built from there. Aspects of improvisation, jazz, field recordings and cross-cultural music – plus experimental rock and classical and a battery of kalimbas – wing lightly in and out of their work, which has included film scoring and radio work; and (as of this year) their five-year-delayed debut EP ‘TING TAR TID’, released (in keeping with BirdWorld’s folkloric leanings) on the vernal equinox.


 
* * * * * * * *

All dates:

Block4 & Lynda Beckett: ‘The Art Of Sound’
St Mary the Virgin Parish Church, 346 Lewisham High Street, Lewisham, London, SE13 6LE, England
Saturday 15th June 2019 – children’s workshop 10.00am, concert 3.00pm
(concert free for under-18 year olds) – information here

Lambeth Readers & Writers Festival presents:
Arch Garrison + Charles Bullen + Kavus Torabi
Clapham Library, 91 Clapham High Street, Clapham, London, SW4 7DB, England
Saturday 15th June 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here

BirdWorld
Bechstein Bar @ Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 2BP, England
Tuesday 18th June 2019, 6.15pm
– information here and here

North Sea Radio Orchestra/John Greaves/Annie Barbazza play ‘Folly Bololey’ (Robert Wyatt’s ‘Rock Bottom’)
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Thursday 27th June 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

June 2019 – upcoming experimental/eclectic gigs – post-classical noise/audio-visualists Ariadne play New York and tour Europe (7th, 12th-28th various) with all manner of contributions from Carl Stone, Dasychira, Salaċ, Lazy Bones, Wolf Scarers, Julia Dyck, Anna Peaker, Ideal, Java Java Wetware, Sound Situation and Ariel Kalma

3 Jun

Long past the point when its cultural context receded into antiquity, mediaeval plainsong remains a ready grab for musicians seeking to bridge classical ideas with (in the broadest sense) pop ones. It’s easy to recall the Gregorian chants stapled to dance loops and succubus exotica pioneered by Enigma at the start of the ‘90s, in the wake of which waddled a million chillout chant albums: though to pick some more inspiring examples from past ‘Misfit City’ coverage, there’s also the post-plague requiem of Jocelyn Pook’s ‘Deluge’ and the acapella-versus-disintegrating-granular-noise of Soaring On Their Pinions.

Perhaps plainsong’s draw is in its sparseness, its directness – the way in which its emphasis on a soloist (or at least a monophonic group line) initially seems like a direct personal meditation or plea, a kind of ecclesiastic monastic blues. It could also be the way in which that sense of vulnerability mixes with a sense of ancient history (the early steps of Christianity, with the classical Hebrew and Greek temple music sources still evident, unobscured by the later agglutinating harmonies of the Renaissance). Or, to be a little more cynical, maybe it’s just that that same sparseness and built-in antique provenance has made it an easier cold sell to an audience in the age of recordings.


 
Ariadne could probably provide a better and more interesting explanation than I can. They’ve certainly got the background to enable them to understand it – electronicist/visual specialist Benjamin Forest and fellow electronicist and mezzo-soprano Christine Papania first formed an allegiance at the music school of the University of Indiana: and Christine also explores various strands of classical in her solo voiceloop project Lanx as well as singing for the Manhattan Chorale. Since around 2015, Ariadne have been investigating and altering plainsong and its relations in a succession of albums, EPs, concerts and installations.

Their 2015 album ‘Tsalal’ was based around Hebrew texts and was about plummeting into darkness, physical and psychological; the same year’s ‘Ex Tempore’ was a psalmic “dialogue between the physical and the ethereal in a languished and dense atmosphere.” Their newest work, ‘Stabat Mater’ is a “twenty-movement cycle of audio/visual ecstatic visions, heavily inspired by the visions of female Christian mystics Hildegard von Bingen and Teresa of Ávila.” The latters’ writings are rearranged and transmuted for the sung texts, with a third source coming via text from the surrealist poet Aase Berg.

Hildegard’s work, of course, has regularly blended in nicely with contemporary concerns of spirituality, pain and the female perspective: only last year her work was programmed in underground New York/London arthouse concerts by Daisy Press and Filthy Lucre, juxtaposed against Bowie, Byrne, Charlie Looker’s anguished hard-rock analyses of toxic masculinity and fascism, and the morbid queer romanticism of Claude Vivier… all of which I’m sure is just the tip of an associative iceberg. Hildegard’s ecstasies were paralleled by the rather more masochistic ones of Teresa (who also suffered a particularly grotesque fate-of-a-saint post-death postscript as her corpse was gradually disassembled and traded about by quarrelling groups of nuns, dukes, Popes and priests for open mercantile advantage).

As for Aase, still very much alive, she’s an often-bewildering overturner of expectations with a marked disdain for the “patriarchal… male sexuality” restrictions which she sees applying to standard chronology (“time passes and things have to happen and there has to be a narrative”). Her own work upends this in favour of polymathic siftings of “science, math, probability, string theory, etc.” in weird-fiction settings of post-environmental catastrophes and reconstructed worlds in which standard human perspectives are slipping away, being superseded or disintegrated by impassive, inevitable processes of change. Notably, Aase has also worked as a translator for the horror-struck, pessimistic fantasy texts of H.P. Lovecraft which, though they have an empurpled baroque verbosity which her texts avoid, often operate in similarly blasted philosophical territories.

 
While I’m sure that Ariadne too are paying plenty of attention to all of this, text is secondary to what they’re putting it through sonically. While experimenting with eerie pitchshifting, reverberation and sound chopping, their earlier work backgrounded it in favour of the traditional purity of Christine’s voice. Now they’re bolder, more assured and disruptive: while delivering perverse auto-destructive lyrics like “put my fist through my mouth and pull the roots out of the ground”, Christine’s voice retains its classical beauty but also negotiates its way through a far more confrontational path of distortions, subversions, doppelganger mockings and simple sequences of compline giving ways to gorgeous vomitations like a hopelessly poisoned Kate Bush. The electronically-generated sound, too, keeps its previous haunted/spinning chapterhouse atmosphere while rearing up like a briar thicket destroying a pathway, with distressing organic splatters, acidic treble rills, liquid-sword shatterwhooshes and nightmare distortion-belfry sounds breaking things up; plus vocal capture/turns like the obscene Pachucho squelch that chokes through Burning Sphere.

Like the last-act works of Scott Walker, though, ‘Stabat Mater’ manages to be disturbing and ear-opening without relying on shock-schlock. It hints at and flickeringly reveals dysfunction, confusion and horror without quashing or sneering at the beauty, structure or aspiration of the source materials. Benjamin’s video work, too, makes mesmerically beautiful optical scapes out of disruption, data corruption, trippy fetish hints and perspective explosions.

 
An upcoming Ariadne tour takes ‘Staber Mater’ around selected spots in America and Europe – as well as assorted arts centres, venues include an avant-garde-sympathetic bar at home in New York; an accommodating church crypt in Bristol with a patience for the heretical; a preserved grand Tudor chamber in London; and the marine guts of a permanently harbour-bound Hamburg merchant ship.

That New York hometown concert is taking place at metal/experimental hangout bar Saint Vitus, accompanied by Ideal and Dasychira (with records spun by DJ Clone). Dasychira is a platform for some brilliantly inventive experimental dance music from transplanted, intriguingly alienated South African sound artist Adrian Martens. Adrian explores and celebrates his own psychological vulnerability and resilience via industrial detonations and scatters of mbira chops, alarming darkwave pop interjections and bursts of monastic chorale. Scurrying underneath are thematic undertows of insect regeneration, building new lives from nothing. He debuted with 2017’s ‘Immolated’ EP, while last year saw the ‘Razor Leaf’ single and the ‘Haptics’ EP consolidate his work. The gig’s worth attending for his sake alone. As to whom Ideal are, I’m less sure. I’m assuming that they’re not these German New Wavers from 1982, but within the ever-refreshing and surprising Brooklyn ferment, I probably shouldn’t assume anything.



 
In Bristol, there’ll be slots featuring a pair of duos from the town’s Avon Terror Corps underground label, whose artists draw their loose inspirations and guidelines from“”medieval visions of the future, breakcore, ‘Westworld’ (the original film), industrial, the psychogeography of Castlemead, the legacy of shoegaze, the legend of Goram and Vincent, the total destruction of “deconstructed club”…” Both are best judged by their contributions to the ‘Avon Is Dead’ compilation, which amasses sundry ATC cloud uploads from 2018.

Salaċ – bewildering, serious-playful aural occultists – create long-spooling jump-cut soundscape ceremonials, the outcome of their “sculpting séances of sound with tape machines.” These are aggressive dirtbass rumbles, spasms of object-rolling across metal sheets, complaining recitations of disassociation, punctuated by watertank booms, data-screech waterfalls and a certain amount of dry psycho-geographist’s humour (as in fucked-up cheesy drum machine beats they occasionally summon up and put through the soiling chamber). So far, it’s best to judge Bokeh Edwards and Jade Hybou, a.k.a. “esoterrorists” Java Java Wetware by their track Even Cowgirls Get The Blues – a fragmentary aural story via a dreamy harmonica-assisted trudge through ruined domes and shattered glass, set further off-kilter by lapping folk soprano vocals and ending with secretive whispers and a handful of reverb-muffled gunshots.



 
In Manchester, support acts include obscure local psych/alt.folker and “veteran astral wanderer” Lazy Bones. Whether solo meanderer or journeying band, he/they have been at it for at least a decade and a half, coming up with “gentle melodies hid(ing) strange shadows, hidden yearnings and the promise of the transcendental” with a “whimsical ’70s edge” following the lysergic thicketry of Cope, Barrett and Jansch: some of it may be found on this cobwebbed MySpace site, if you can find your way in. Working in a similar vein (but easier to track down) is the bouzouki-driven power pop and stoner beat of The Peace Pipers, enthusiastic ’60s hippy-punk throwbacks with a taste for dressing up and dancing down the garden paths of The Move, early Pink Floyd and Dave Mason. The evening’s real wildcard is sometime ILL member Sadie Noble, a.k.a. Nummo Twin: generator of woody, baffling dream pop and abstracted yet covertly clever chucking-mud-at-the-wall collages of glitchy electronics, woodworking noises, and half-heard vocal mumbles.





 
The Todmorden show features raffishly arty tenor sax duo Wolf Scarers (Simon Prince and Keith Jafrate) and thrumming audio-visualizer Anna Peaker. With printmaking, DJing and gig promotion as part of her activity alongside the sound and graphics designer (and with an eye on branching out into dressmaking and ceramics.) Anna is an impressive DIY/do-anything character. Across her artwork she takes inspiration from Yorkshire weaving mills, witchcraft, old record sleeves and film posters; from ancient pathways and the millennia-spanning architectural layers of her base in Leeds. By itself, her music is skirling Yorkshire-Germanic variations on assorted psychedelic-chapel organ drones, billowing in and out of focus and sometimes including autoharp and field recordings – for the full effect, though, it’s tied into the cascade of her live visuals.

With Wolf Scarers, Simon and Keith blow a free-brewed stewing of various ingredients and inspirations from the multiple genres each has played individually (and sidestepping the temptations to baffle the acoustic tones any further with computer processing). The results range from “gentle meditations that almost become chamber music across to full-blown shout-ups in the true tenor sax tradition, via, possibly, messed-up marching band funk and deconstructed jazz strut.” Larger Wolfscaring lineups are rolled out when the music necessitates, but on this occasion it’ll be the core duo at work.


 
In Berlin, Ariadne are slotting in at the bottom of a mixed bill in the Kiezsalon series run by Michael Rosen. At the top is American sampling-and-computer-music pioneer Carl Stone, whose 1970s loops and repurposing of library records drew a kind of academic-based parallel to hip hop’s turntablism, and who’s subsequently kept pace with technological collaging possibilities while maintaining an accessible sense of found/captured/manipulated melody, plus a continually expanding taste for incorporating suggestions and content from other cultures’ music (in particular Asian cultures) and a disarmingly bonkers vocal quality. In the middle is French wind instrumentalist/synthesist Ariel Kalma, who’s been dwelling on the borderlines of process music, Paris experimentalism, New Age and electrophonic minimalism since the mid-‘70s.



 
Over at Prague’s Punctum venue, the first of two listed support acts is the acousmatic Sound Situation trio: domestic New Music exponents with electronicist Michal Rataj (electronics), Jan Trojan (more electronics, plate-bashing) and Ivan Boreš (prepared guitar) Veterans of academic music and live improv, as definition they spit out a host of word associations as definition: “sound design, freshly baked bottle in the fridge, movie soundtracks, radio art, pieces of sheet metal, flamenco, sirens, spectral transformations, Kvok!, teaching at the university… Ostrava new music days, abandoned sea beach, Contempuls, Noise Assault Agency Budweiss, BERG Orchestra, Gride”.

 
Unpick and reassemble that little lot if you wish; but note that Punctum have spent far less time expounding on who second Prague support Julia Dyck might be. To be frank, they’ve spent no time at all on it so far… but evidence points towards it being this woman. If so, you can expect to see or hear anything pulled from a bewildering, inspiring rack of potential directions and from a mind seething with forma drawn from feminist/queer/gender theory, from technological awareness and from Julia’s formidable polymathic curiosity about the world. It might be radiophonics, or synth minimalism, or voice-and-fx constructions, or ambient noise; it might be ideas drawing from her time as radio producer, writer and broadcast media artiste; or general conceptual experiments like the miked-up fruit-and-body performance she recorded for a batch of film festivals earlier in the year.

There are a few tasters below – the krautrock-in-the-frying-pan of Passenger, the ambient goo of Changes Made – but there’s too much to Julia to summarise in a paragraph or two or a handful of audio clips. Even briefly looking into what she does is like cracking an eggshell and finding an expansive, challenging pocket universe within, which then maps inexorably back onto your own and changes it behind your back.

 
* * * * * * * *

Full tour dates and details are still being assembled, but here are the ones I know about so far:

 

  • Saint Vitus Bar, 1120 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York City, NY 11222, USA – Friday 7th June 2019 (with Ideal and Dasychira) – information here, here, here and here
  • Blah Blah, via Po 21, 10124 Torino, Italy – Wednesday 12th June 2019, 8.00pm – information here
  • Le Brin de Zinc, 3 ZA Route de la Peysse, Chambery, 73000 Barberaz, France – Thursday 13th June 2019, 8.30pm – information here
  • St Paul’s Church Southville, 2 Southville Road (junction with Coronation Road), Bristol, BS3 1DG, England – Saturday 15th June 2019, 7.00pm (with Salaċ + Java Java Wetware) – information here and here
  • The Golden Lion, Fielden Square, Todmorden, OL14 6LZ, England – Sunday 16th June 2019, 7.30pm (with Wolf Scarers + Anna Peaker) – information here
  • The Peer Hat, 14-16 Faraday Street, Manchester, M1 1BE, England – 17th June 2019, 7.30pm (with Lazy Bones + The Peace Pipers + Nummo Twin) – information here
  • Sutton House, 2-4 Homerton High Street, Homerton, London, E9 6JQ, England – Tuesday 18th June 2019, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Muziekcentrum Kinky Star, Vlasmarkt 9, 9000 Ghent, Belgium – Wednesday 19th June 2019, 8.00pm – information here
  • MS Stubnitz, HafenCity, Kirchenpauerkai 26, Umfahrung Versmannstraße, Baakenhafen/Baakenhöft, 20457 Hamburg, Germany – Friday 21st June 2019, 8.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Komplex, Zietenstr. 32, 09130 Chemnitz, Germany – 22nd June 2019, 8.00pm – information here
  • Punctum, Krásova 27, Žižkov, 13000 Prague, Czech Republic – Sunday 23rd June 2019, 7.00pm (with Michal Rataj/Ivan Boreš/Jan Trojan + Julia Dyck) – information here and here
  • Wolskie Centrum Cultury, Wolskie Centrum Kultury, ul. Obozowa 85, 01-425 Warszawa, Poland – Monday 24th June 2019, 8.00pm – information here
  • Kiezsalon, Greifswalder Strasse 23a, 10407 Berlin, Germany – Wednesday 26th June 2019, 8.00pm (with Carl Stone + Ariel Kalma) – information here and here
  • Macao, Viale Molise 68, 20137 Milan, Italy – 28th June 2019, time t.b.c.

 

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

31 May

Passing on some opera news…

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

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

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

The opera excerpts are from:

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Dates:

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

– information here and here

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

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

29 May

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dates:

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 May

Daylight Music 10, 2019

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

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

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

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



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



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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

27 May

VLMV + Thomas Stone, 30th May 2019

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

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

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



 

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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


 
Lost Crowns – “a barrage of word-dense songs overflowing with full-on prismatic structures and outright rock drive, as if Lewis Carroll and Flann O’Brien had called on the massed forces of Henry Cow to help them hijack Battles… A vortex of influences funnel around (Lost Crowns leader) Richard Larcombe, including Chicago math, witty Daevid Allen psych rampage, contemporary classical music and skipping, tuneful folk singalongs. Shaped by his particular persona and thought processes – as well as his innate Englishness – it all emerges as a kind of prog, but one in which the fat and the posturing has all been burned off by the nerves and the detail, and in which his dry, melodious wit winds around the work playing mirror-tricks, theatrical feints, and the conspiratorial winks of a master boulevardier…

“If he is icing his work with gags, it’s partially because something so musically demanding needs a little judicious sugaring… Imagine a cocktail which didn’t dilute as you built it up, but instead made all of its ingredients stronger, brighter and brasher… A rich, unfolding master-craftsman’s confection… complex, artfully-meandering songs built from delightfully byzantine chords and arpeggios that cycle through ever-evolving patterns like palace clockwork; accompanied by rich, lazy clouds of hilarious, hyper-literate, wonderfully arcane lyrics; all sealed by an arch, out-of-time English manner which (in tone and timbre) falls into a never-was neverworld between Richard Sinclair, Stephen Fry, Noel Coward and a posh, Devonian Frank Zappa.”


 
Kavus Torabi – ” (His) dusky psych-folk EP ‘Solar Divination’…. perhaps draw(s) some influence from (his) other lives in Gong, Cardiacs, Guapo and others, but not nearly as much as it draws from ominous imagined dusk rituals and mysterious old ghosts on the darker hippy trails… A darker, more agrarian take on his psychedelic homeground, this time it’s drumless, bassless, hornless – rinsed clear of the capering squirrel energy he’s shown for twenty-odd years, in order to reveal muted, angsty bones… (It’s) a holiday from the jewelled and roaring intricacies of his main gig with Knifeworld, but it’s certainly not an escape from the psychedelic shadows which nightwing their way through the band’s apparently celebratory rainbow arcs.

“For this isolated, darker, more grinding work, Kavus strips the flash-bangs away and leaves us with the droning echoes: the meditative bruises, fears and queries, many of which nonetheless contain their own seeds of determination and a kind of celebratory acceptance…. Mostly based around slow, smoky-lunged harmonium stretches and sparse flotsam drags of guitar chording, this is a more foreboding turn of song, haunted by deaths, loss and disintegrations… (It’s a) sullen, trepidatious, post-nova ember-glow… trawling through shimmering webs of harmonium, effected drones and knell-clangs of acoustic guitar, exploring a forbidding hinterland of vulnerability and permeable spirit-space… the gravel-grain in Kavus’ voice welling up from deeper, ghostlier territories than before.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Dates:

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

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

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

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

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

25 May

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

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

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

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

Here’s a previous performance:


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

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

May 2019 – upcoming experimental gigs – Maryanne Amacher Focus in London featuring Ensemble Contrechamps, Ensemble Zwischentöne, Bill Dietz and Amy Cimini (30th & 31st)

17 May

The last Kammer Klang concert of the current season is slipping its usual moorings, forsaking its usual London home at Café Oto in favour of the ICA, and staging a reconstruction (and UK premiere) of ‘GLIA’, Maryanne Amacher’s work for seven instruments and electronics.

Maryanne Amacher at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, 30th-31st May 2019

As a fully-formed artist slipping into the realms of avant-garde composition, Amacher was best known for installation work and psychoacoustic ideas… although that’s a little dry and reductive. She was interested in exploring the ways in which humans perceive sound (including ways in which a listener can be subtly deceived by its manipulation and displacement), and in particular the perceptions induced by sounds generated within the ear. She’d use particular high-frequency sounds, volumes and sonic displacements to excite unusual tonal responses within the physical structure of the inner ears of her listeners; in effect, she benevolently transformed them into part of the sonic ensemble (or, perhaps more accurately, into instruments who could perceive themselves being played).

This from the archives at the ZKM (Center for Art and Media) in Karlsruhe:

“The work bearing the title ‘GLIA’ (named after the glial cells in the brain that control the transmission of stimuli between the synapses) was performed once in the Berlin multimedia centre TESLA. This first exhibition was (still) instructed and supervised by Amacher herself in collaboration with the former director of Ensemble Zwischentöne, Peter Ablinger, as well as with current director Bill Dietz.

“In ‘GLIA’, Amacher imagines the audience as a kind of glial cell representing the interface between the electronic and acoustic-instrumental elements of the work. In a narrower sense, she imagined the “otoacoustic emissions” (the sounds within the ear radiating once again from the electronic devices and instruments as if “by magic”) emerging in the audience’s ears as precisely this “neural interface”. This corresponds to the same approach Amacher had previously intended with her piece for the Kronos Quartet in the 1990s which was never performed (and probably never completed). In fact, the material for this string quartet had been partly newly arranged for ‘GLIA’. After the Berlin premier, Amacher returned to Kingston, New York, and took home with her all the material for the performance of this work. In 2009, the Zwischentöne ensemble invited Amacher to return to Berlin to further develop ‘GLIA’. Unexpectedly, Amacher tragically died shortly before this planned reencounter.”

‘GLIA’ has been performed at least twice since then (with Zwischentöne performing it twice in 2012, at ZKM and at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof-Museum für Gegenwart), but this will be the British premiere; with members of Zwischentöne joining another Swiss New Music ensemble, Ensemble Contrechamps and with Bill Dietz returning to direct. The performance will be preceded by ‘Ghost Written Scenarios & Unnamed Sensibilities’, a discussion between Bill and Amy Cimini, the contemporary music performer and academic historian Amy Cimini whose book ‘Listening in the Future Tense’ “examines the use of biological and ecological sound sources in late 20th century experimental music circles.”

It’s no coincidence that this subject overlaps with Amacher’s work: Amy was a friend and collaborator, as well as being part of the ongoing Supreme Connections collective which reengages with Amacher’s legacy and her back catalogue of music and ideas. Amy’s also a defender against over-casual summings-up of her friend’s intentions and achievements: “(Listeners are) like: ‘O.K., I totally get what this music is about — it’s about this crazy inner-ear sensation, she understood that intuitively, end of story. And that’s not the story, actually.” OK… I stand corrected…)

The concert and discussion will be preceded the previous day with a screening of Charles Atlas’ ‘Torse’ documentary from 1977 – a multiple-camera study of the choreography of Merce Cunningham’s ‘Torse’ dance piece, performed to Amacher’s composition Remainder (1976). As with the performance of ‘GLIA’, there’ll be a pre-screening conversation between Bill Dietz and Amy Cimini.

* * * * * * * *

Kammer Klang/Ensemble Contrechamps/Institute of Contemporary Arts presents:
‘Maryanne Amacher at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, 30th-31st May 2019’

  • Screening of ‘Torse’ (plus pre-screening conversation between Bill Dietz and Amy Cimini) – Thursday 30th May 2019, 6.30pm
  • ‘Ghost Written Scenarios & Unnamed Sensibilities’ (Bill Dietz and Amy Cimini in conversation) – Friday 31st May 2019, 7.00pm
  • Maryanne Amacher Focus (featuring Ensemble Contrechamps, members of Ensemble Zwischentöne and Bill Dietz) – Friday 31st May 2019, 8.00pm

All events at Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, St James’s, London, SW1Y 5AH, England.

More/ongoing information here, here and here