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March/April 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Piano Day fringes – Xenia Pestova’s Non-Piano evening (18th March); Sophie Hutchings, Arthur Lea, Xenia Pestova and others at Daylight Music (1st April)

13 Mar

“Why does the world need a Piano Day? For many reasons, but mostly, because it doesn’t hurt to celebrate the piano and everything around it: performers, composers, piano builders, tuners, movers and most important, the listener.”Nils Frahm, Piano Day founder)

This year, Piano Day is on the 29th of March. I did a pretty exhaustive guide to last year’s event – I doubt that I’ll go to the same lengths this year (if you’re interested, have a look at the official site), but here are a couple of upcoming concerts related both to that and to its tinkly little brother, World Toy Piano Day eleven days earlier on 18th March.

Xenia Pestova: Non-Piano, 18th March 2017
Xenia Pestova presents:
Xenia Pestova: Non-Piano
IKLECTIK Art Lab, ‘Old Paradise Yard’, 20 Carlisle Lane, Lambeth, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 18th March 2017, 8.30pm
information

“Pianist Xenia Pestova will play everything but the piano, presenting a wild mix of unconventional objects and sounds. The performance will include music by Helga Arias Parra for two aerospace engineers with prepared piano and live electronics, by Ed Bennett for the Indian harmonium and drones, by Christopher Fox for toy piano, Pierre Alexandre Tremblay for the ROLI Seaboard and fantastic world premieres from the participants of the first London Toy Piano Composition Workshop.”


 

Xenia is also one of the several pianists performing at the Daylight Music Piano Day concert at the start of April.

Daylight Music 251: Piano Day 2017
Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 251: Piano Day with Sophie Hutchings + Arthur Lea + Xenia Pestova + Lorenzo Masotto
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 1st April 2017, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

“For centuries, people have found joy in playing, and listening to, the piano. Nils Frahm thought this beloved instrument should be honoured, and launched Piano Day in 2015. Daylight Music will be joining in the worldwide celebrations with a special concert of piano delights — including performances from Sophie Hutchings, Arthur Lea, Xenia Pestova and Lorenzo Masotto. From John Cage interpreted on toy piano, to retro rhythm’n’blues and southern soul to post-classical reflection from the other side of the world.”





 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – selections from the Sheffield Classical Weekend (17th-19th)

6 Mar

There’s plenty going on at the three-day mid-March Sheffield Classical Weekend, with the city permeated with music including many old and new favourites. Among what’s on offer are two different performances of Arvo Pärt’s ‘Fratres’ (one by a wind band, one by a host of strings), two Dreams of China concerts covering formal Chinese classical compositions) and a host of choral shows (the classic monk’s-debauchery of Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’ via Schubert’s ‘Mirjam’s Siegesgesang’ and Brahms’ ‘Ziguenerlieder’, through to a variety of pops choirs.) Though I’d advise checking out the entire, pleasingly diverse programme, here are my own brief and subjective picks from it, if you’re interested.

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Oliver Coates & cellists: ‘Canticles of the Sky’ – Kelham Island Museum, Alma St, Sheffield, S3 8RY, England, Saturday 18th March 2017, 3:30pm & 5.00pminformation

“A UK premiere featuring star cellist Oliver Coates (Radiohead, ‘Under The Skin’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’). Olly and a host of cellists will surround the Kelham Island audience and lift you skyward with this ethereal and dreamy work from Pulitzer and Grammy-winning composer John Luther Adams. Also featuring extracts from J.S Bach’s Cello Suites.”

* * * * * * * *

Five Choirs: Sounds From Heaven – St Marie’s Cathedral, Norfolk Row, Sheffield S1 2JB, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 2:30pminformation

“Perched around the sides of the excellent acoustic space within the Cathedral Church of St Marie, five Sheffield chamber choirs – Abbeydale Singers, Sheffield Chamber Choir, Sterndale Singers, Sheffield Chorale and Viva Voce – will “create a swoonsome heart-lifting soundscape of song.” As well as old and new choral standbys by John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, Felix Mendelssohn and others, the concert will include the premiere of ‘Kraal’ a commission for five simultaneous choirs written by Jenny Jackson (a member of Sheffield’s own contemporary composer collective, Platform 4).”

* * * * * * * *

More music fostered by Platform 4 will be popping up a few times over the weekend. Flautist Rachel Shirley performs “a selection of colourful and inventive works for flute, piano, blown bottles and saxophone“; there’s an evening date at Yellow Arch Studios with players from Sheffield Music Academy, performing the collective’s own “imaginative cutting-edge compositions”. There’s a “mind-bending” collaboration with Opera On Location in which “stories are turned upside down and endings become beginnings in (a) selection of operatic palindromes, where the music is the same both backwards and forwards… featuring Paul Hindemith’s short opera ‘Hin Und Zurück’ (‘There And Back’), plus new bitesize and puzzling pieces…” Platform 4 also contribute the cello-and-electric keyboard piece ‘Upright Stance’ to be performed alongside Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto at Oliver Coates’ concert with Sheffield Music Hub Senior Schools.

  • Opera On Location with Platform 4 – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 8:30pminformation (contains strong and sexually explicit language – recommended for 18+)
  • Rachel Shirley: ‘Hooting & Drinking’ – Channing Hall @ Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, Saturday 18th March 2017, 3.30pminformation
  • Oliver Coates & Sheffield Music Hub Senior Schools: ‘From The Heart: Shostakovich’ – City Hall Ballroom @ Sheffield City Hall, Barkers Pool, Sheffield, S1 2JA, England, Sunday 19th March, 12:00pminformation
  • Platform 4 with Sheffield Music Academy – Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 6:30pminformation

* * * * * * * *

On the Friday and the Saturday, there are some thoughtfully programmed Sound Laboratory events centring on the music, ideas and influence of Pierre Boulez. Saturday sees a triple-banked set featuring pianists Beate Toyka and Matthew Odell, violinists Darragh Morgan and Lucy Phillips, clarinettist Sarah Watts and the University of Sheffield New Music Ensemble.

Each of these mini-concerts sets one of Boulez’s first three Piano Sonatas against another piece. ‘The Conflict And The Passion’ pitches ‘Piano Sonata No. 1’ against Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata in a study of thwarted passions. ‘Deconstruction & Digitalisation’ presents the classical deconstruction of ‘Piano Sonata No. 2’ and the electro-acoustic contrasts of ‘Anthemes II’. ‘Choice And Chance’ (the only one of the concerts to feature two Boulez compositions) offers ‘Piano Sonata No. 3’ and the clarinet-and-orchestra piece ‘Domaines’, contrasting a piece in which major options are available to the performer and one which is considerably more ordered and regimented.

The series opens on Friday with a special Boulez-inspired concert in which “the avant-garde becomes child’s play… primary school children from across the city explore the curious frontiers of contemporary electronic music and present the results of their musical experimentation.”

Sound Laboratory:

  • ‘Computer Music’ – Firth Hall @ University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 1:30pminformation
  • ‘The Conflict & The Passion’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 1:30pminformation
  • ‘Deconstruction & Digitalisation’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 3:30pminformation
  • ‘Choice and Chance’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 5:00pminformation

* * * * * * * *

Among the Chinese-inspired events is one in which Chinese and European chamber music merge as celebrated guzheng zither soloist Xia Jing teams up with The Fidelio Trio (Darragh Morgan on violin, Adi Tal on cello and Mary Dullea on piano). They’ll be presenting a concert of brand-new musical premieres – Gao Ping’s ‘Feng Zheng’ (‘Kite’), Jeroen Speak’s ‘Silk Dialogues 7’, Dylan Lardelli‘s ‘Shells’, and ‘Time Bends In The Rock’ by Sheffield-based composer Dorothy Ker.

Fidelio Trio & Xia Jing: ‘Global Soundtracks: Silk Dialogues’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 9:30pminformation

* * * * * * * *

In addition, there’s a variety of pop-up performances across the three days, featuring abbreviated sets by event headliners plus showings by small instrumental and vocal groups. It’s an open-minded spill moving out from classical forms to embrace folk, alt.chamber and other kinds of music.

One promising set of contributors are Manchester quintet Kabantu, who’ve thankfully dropped their previous name Project Jam Sandwich and who also “throw away the rulebook to bridge countries and cultures, creating an exuberant and joyful soundworld… vocal harmonies from South Africa coalesce with everything from Celtic reels and Brazilian samba to Balkan folk music and beyond.” Featuring violin, guitar, cello, double bass and percussion in addition to voices, they’re playing a pop-up show but also two separate consecutive-but-entirely-different sets at Yellow Arch Studios.

Classical by Night – Kabantu @ Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 6.30pm & 9:30pm – information here and here
 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Ramp Local show in New York on the 8th (Lily & Horn Horse, Macula Dog, Gavin Riley Smoke Machine, The Cradle); Whispers & Hurricanes show in London on the 9th (Danielle de Picciotto, Alexander Hacke, Jo Quail)

2 Mar

A little convocation of bands associated with Philadelphia’s Ramp Local label are playing at the Glove, an out-of-the-way Brooklyn performance theater and art shrine. (Apparently the Glove’s been set up by the same people responsible for the Grove performance space, and seems to be so in-the-moment that it’s impossible to find a formal address for it – you’ll either have to private-message their Facebook page, ask the right kind of friend, or get off at the MTA stop by Flushing Avenue and Broadway and take the chance that you’ll spot it.)

Lily and Horn Horse + Macula Dog + Gavin Reilly Smoke Machine + The Cradle, 8th March 2017

Ramp Local presents:
Lily & Horn Horse + Macula Dog + Gavin Reilly Smoke Machine + The Cradle
The Glove, (somewhere in) Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York City, NY 11221, USA
Wednesday 8th March 2017, 8.00pm
information

The gig’s a launch event for the debut album by Lily & Horn Horse, more on which below:

”Lily Konigsberg is a member of the experimental punk band Palberta, hailed by ‘Pitchfork’ for their “mercurial gestures, barking acidity, and off-the-cuff creativity” as well as for their taste for swapping or abandoning instruments midflow. Fellow multi-instrumentalist Matt Norman performs as Horn Horse. Together they formed a group called Lily & Horn Horse, who will release a collaborative cassette album – ‘Lily On Horn Horse’ – on March 3rd 2017 (on the heels of Palberta’s most recent album ‘Bye Bye Berta’), by way of Philly’s Ramp Local Records.

“With ‘Lily On Horn Horse’, Lily and Matt deliver a twenty-eight-track collaboration that synthesizes the eclectic musical talents of both multi-instrumentalists. Originally presented as a CD, the compilation was sold and packaged in origami during an August 2016 tour of the north-east USA. The album is more a snapshot of a creative time and place than concept-album. As Lily and Matt say “The release of Matt’s ‘Horn Horse‘ album featured Lily on most songs, most of which are included in y’own tape. Around the same time Lily was developing a mega set of karaoke music and instructed Matt to blow down some car horn charts which were eventually replaced by baritone horn parts and inserted into the recordings gently sleeping inside thine tape.”


 
“The record ends up a coherent pastiche of diverse tracks full of free jazz-inspired brass freak-outs, ethereal piano ballads, and synth arrangements skewed toward electronic composition. Lily’s siren-like voice calls from a perfume-cloud of disco-inspired grooves while Horn Horse’s vocals hit robotic and angular production. Tracks like Today and She Doesn’t Have A Good Brain bring to mind an Arthur Russell-like elevation of pop-music experimentation. In short, the record is a curated-tour through the frontiers of Lilly and Horn Horse’s creative landscape.”


 
The gig also offers three other acts. There’s discombobulated glitch-funk played with “inebriated, mule-like precision” from Macula Dog. There’s Big Neck Police‘s Paco Cathcart, performing with Palberta’s Ani Ivry-Block and The Gradients‘ Sammy Weissberg as The Cradle – woozy tenement indie-folk songs, a little like an accordion-and-double-bass equipped Mazzy Star at war with drum machines and bad aircon. Finally, there’s the goofy multi-media work of Gavin Riley Smoke Machine.



 
For me the most satisfying of the support acts is Gavin, who creates his own live-music take on a Choose Your Own Adventure paperback. He does this by gumming together a spitball of nerdy white-boy hip hop, blow-by-blow audience interaction and goofy pulp fiction/afternoon TV storytelling (a schoolkid caught up in a whirl of mutants, drug gangs, sinister teachers, the FBI and parents with mysterious pasts), topped off with some endearing homemade animation. In theory, it should fall flat on its face: instead, it can turn an audience of jaded hipsters back into eager, happy children.


 
* * * * * * *

Back in London, Chaos Theory’s airier spin-off Whispers & Hurricanes is back in business with a few old friends:

Hacke & De Picciotto + Jo Quail, 9th March 2017

Chaos Theory presents:
Whispers & Hurricanes: Hacke & De Picciotto, Jo Quail
Strongroom Bar, 120-124 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3SQ, England
Thursday 9th March 2017, 7.30pm
information

“The first Whispers & Hurricanes of the year sees the return of two legendary multimedia performers (whose entire life together is an ongoing work of art), as well as a prolific contemporary cellist and loop artist.

“German-American artist couple Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke are internationally known – she as the co-founder of the Love Parade, he a founding member of the band Einstürzende Neubauten – and both of them together members of Crime & The City Solution. Since 2010 they have been leading a nomadic life, touring the world with music and theatre projects, never staying still for too long. After two breathtaking shows for us at Cafe Oto and at Hackney Attic, this unconventional and versatile duo return to the UK with new additions to their show.

“Tonight they will perform music from their recently released and widely acclaimed album ‘Perseverantia’ – made up of instrumental sounds, a few spoken words by Danielle, throat singing by Alexander, purrs and squeaks of the hurdy-gurdy and autoharp, melancholic melodies of the violin, and bass and guitar hums.

“We will also have a first chance to hear new pieces that they are working on for their next album, comprised of recordings made in a huge cathedral in Austria, mixed with Mexican found sounds and desert drones. It will be intense.

 
Jo Quail is a visionary cellist who never ceases to push boundaries and her own limitations, with equally dramatic and contemplative compositions as well as with her use of loops and effects. Over the last seven years, her career has seen her release three full albums, a live DVD, several collaborative works, and many international tours, most recently with post-rock giants Caspian.

“Her music has captured the hearts of rock, classical, experimental, metal, post-rock, gothic and folk fans alike, and she is known for creating a unique experience with each performance.”


 

March to September 2017 – upcoming gigs – North Sea Radio Orchestra out and about in England and Wales (sometimes with Crayola Lectern or William D. Drake)

23 Feb

Having bowed, hummed and carolled their way back into action with last September’s ‘Dronne’ album, plus a few end-of-the-year gigs, art-pop-touched chamber ensemble North Sea Radio Orchestra are casting a garland of assorted luminous live dates across England and Wales this year – starting in March, and continuing through April, July and September.

In keeping with their liking for ecclesiastical reverb, which suits their churchy acousti-tech sound (described recently as “sitting in a special place somewhere between Neu! and Arvo Pärt”), most of these gigs are taking place in current or former places of worship, some converted into community centres or arts spaces or (in the case of the Cardiff show) into acoustic recording studios.


 

  • St Paul’s Church, 55b Chapel Road, Worthing, BN11 1EE, England, Saturday 11th March 2017, 1.30pm (with Crayola Lectern) – information here and here
  • Gresham Centre @ St Anne & St Agnes Church, Gresham Street, Barbican, London, EC2V 7BX, Friday April 28th 2017, 7.30pm (with William D. Drake) – information here and here
  • Assembly Rooms @ Frome Memorial Theatre, Christchurch Street West, Frome, BA11 1EB England, Sunday 9th July 2017 (part of the Frome Festival – further details t.b.c.)
  • Sacred Trinity Church, Chapel Street, Salford, M3 5DW, England, Saturday 15th July 2017, 4.30pm (with William D. Drake) – information here and here
  • Acapela Studio @ Capel Horeb, Heol Y Pentre, Pentyrch, Cardiff, CF15 9QD, Wales, Saturday 23rd September 2017, 7.30pm – information here, here and here

The Worthing show (a fundraiser for MIND) features a support slot for Chris Anderson’s rumpled, brass-dabbed domestic/psychedelic song project Crayola Lectern, while the London and Salford dates have William D. Drake in tow (playing a solo piano set, which may or may not focus on the kind of instrumental studies collected on his ‘Yews Paw’ album).



 

There’s another Drake solo show taking place mid-tour in Greenwich, London – another solo piano set (details below). For news of Bill’s concurrent song tour – much of it a two-hander with another singer-songwriter friend, Stephen EvEns – check back on my earlier blog post from the 15th.

William D Drake – The Prince Of Greenwich, 72 Royal Hill, Greenwich, London, SE10 8RT, England, Friday 17th March 2017time & further information t.b.c.
 

February/March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Bob Drake, William D. Drake, Stephen EvEns and friends scramble up and down Britain (19th February – 24th March, variously)

15 Feb

During February and March, three tours sprawl across the country from London to Preston to Tyneside, Brighton to Birmingham, Glasgow to Cardiff and points elsewhere.Occasionally they intermesh, like a trio of amiably warped combs. I’ve been trying to keep track of their plans for the last few weeks, but they keep getting excited and running off to snag in more dates and further musicians (both the like-minded and a set of relatively innocent bystanders.)

One of the three tourers is bear-suit-wearing avant-prog polymath Bob Drake, who enjoyed his one-man-one-guitar “Nameless” British tour last November so much that he’s immediately repeating it, bringing his continually morphing musical tales of strange beasts and weird events for another spin around the island. Another is Stephen Gilchrist: indie-rock journeyman who’s drummed behind Graham Coxon and The Scaramanga Six and led art-garage popsters stuffy/the fuses, but most recently has been trading as solo singer-songwriter Stephen EvEns, peddling a craftily embittered set of finely-honed art-pop songs in the Kinks tradition. The third is ‘Misfit City’ favourite William D. Drake – keyboard virtuoso, former Cardiac and (increasingly) the architect of a charming antiquarian pop styling which moves ever closer to a particular unity of classical, folk and the psychedelic.

Video samples below, followed by a slew of gig details and support act info/noises for the curious and for the unconvinced…




 
Stephen Evens’ Cardiff show on 19th February is probably the straightest show of the lot, with him sitting in the middle of an indie-slanted bill with hooky, cheekily-named Chester girlpop trio Peaness (“for fans of Belly, Letters To Cleo and indie pop songs about George Osbourne”) and Rhondda Valley emergents The Vega Bodegas (who provide a blessed fuzzy-pop escape for post-hardcore refugee and former Future Of The Left guitarist Jimmy Watkins).



 
At Bob Drake’s Harrison show on 24th February (which features a Stephen Evens support slot) there are a few more familiar names – Kavus Torabi brings another of his recent string of solo sets, belting out songs he wrote for Knifeworld and The Monsoon Bassoon on an acoustic guitar; and Arch Garrison play their delicate, summery mediaeval-tinged pop, full of pilgrimages, parenthood and psychogeography.



 

Heading up to Preston on 25th February, Bob’s playing on a bill with a gang of Fylde Coast kindred spirits: sunny, doo-wop skronker schizophonics Condor Moments, whom he helped record their 2007 debut album vigorous, bursting Burnley art-rockers All Hail Hyena, plus the dubious Bonanza Tungsten Ladies. (Allegedly, the last are a trio of stranded Preston-based Peruvian exchange students who move between sofa-surfing and eking out a precarious existence in a haunted train tunnel. I suspect lies, and probably treachery.)



 

Back down in Brighton on the 26th, Bob’s playing a pay-what-you-like show with support by T. House, frontman of ominous surreal post-punkers, Sweet Williams. T.’s songs are subtly alarming. I dare you not to put any money in the hat.


 
Bob’s Glasgow gig on 2nd March seems to have brought out support opportunities for half of the undersung freaks in an art-rock town’s artiest corners. Luminous Monsters bring us the gift of “ersatz fuzz-ragas and igneous doom from beyond the ragged veil of terror” (though I’d’ve settled for a badly-carved figurine.) Presenting themselves as “reptilian” Southside doom-droners, they’re a cut or two above the usual arrant sludge-mongering, since there’s more than a touch of flamenco to leaven the grinding distortions and the Mogwai cascades – presumably those are the “freeform ecstasies” and “ersatz arabesques” mentioned further down the parchment. (Aye, ftagn, caramba.) Herbert Powell claim to offer “twisted evil-doings of mental brainwrongs influenced by the likes of Captain Beefheart, This Heat and Aleister Crowley” ; Glasgow blog ‘Blues Bunny’ laconically tags them as “contrived angularity”, “Postcard guitar pop” and “the check-shirted sound of the street”. Come along and see who’s telling the truth – their Bandcamp page is a yawning void, but I did manage to locate a retina-frying live video.



 
Also on the Glasgow bill, faux-masculinist avant-rock bastards Bloke Music are rooted in other local heroes-of-obscurity such as Elastic Leg Party, Bo Deadly, Super Adventure Club and Gastric Band. They’ve just put out a debut EP packaged with a trowel, riddle their press-sheets with Homebase jargon, deliberately confuse DIY music with handyman work, and grunt out song titles like Mortise And Tenon or It’s Yer Ballcock’s Gone Hen. In person, they’re actually a lot feyer, lampshading nods to prog, contemporary classical and (allegedly) Michael McDonald while coughing up part-digested fragments of lounge jazz and ice-cream van. Singer Chris Flynn carols and quavers his way over his bandmates’ knotty guitar fletchings like an avant-pop Jimmy Scott (or rants like a Glaswegian fraternal twin of Joeyfat’s M. Edward Cole). The group’s flakey nerviness and hints of teatime haunted-house shows suggest dEUS or Pavement reworking a soundtrack for ‘Scooby Doo’, or Beefheart getting a gig with ‘The Munsters’. Should be promising, as long as they don’t drop a hammer and smash their own kneecaps.


 
In Birmingham on 3rd March, Bob reunites with two lightly lysergic sets of local gigmates from last year’s tour for a sweet spring shower of a show. Quizzical, pranky cutepop trio Kate Goes recall Victoria Wood heading up a girl gang with an ever-shifting nature (first West Coast beat-poppers; then The Slits; then The Ronettes, with a sideways dash into jaunty Cardiacs territory) but also the quirky sunshine folk-pop of The Bush The Tree & Me. The Nature Centre innocently cite Syd Barrett and “fololoppy pop” as pointers (you can add XTC and Cardiacs to the list, if they hadn’t been implied already), but underneath their sprightly, jouncing banjo/keyboard tunes the band are conducting little philosophical investigations both cute and serious (the comedy of telepathic entanglements on We Are All Friends Of The Master Brain, but a semi-occult tale of madness and misogyny on Amongst The Shielings).



 
Bob’s second London show – at The Others on 5th March – is his last tour date for now. It’s also a Depresstival date at which he’ll be joined by haughty, theatrical pop tyrant and multi-media demagogue Bing Selfish, plus a host of Others-friendly acts including cowpunk trio Lonesome Cowboys From Hell, the Sanshin Sisters, dada musical comedy trio Consignia, Takeru Brady, Birthday Bread Man, Laminate Everything and Alain Man. It’s tough to keep track of all of these people, but for now here’s two sides of the Bing…



 
Stephen EvEns and Bill Drake, however, continue a two-man waltz for four more gigs together. For Stephen’s London album launch gig on March 9th, they’re joined by various friends from Onamatopoeia Records. The Gasman’s DJ set will presumably provide a window into the thinking behind his odd hyperactive electronica, but voice-and-upright-piano duo Rolf & Sam are a bit of a mystery (or possibly a prank – all I know is that one of them is Stephen’s piano tuner). Barringtone are more of a known quality – driving art pop from former Clor-ster Barry Dobbin which flies the route between XTC’s Swindon and Neu’s Dusseldorf. I know that they’ve got enough material to play full sets. I’ve even heard that they’ve recorded some more of it. Please could someone ask them put it out, so that I’m no longer posting and reposting the same two songs from several years ago? Here’s one of them again…


 
Up under the Gateshead railway arches on 12th March, Stephen and Bill will be joined by another affectionate dramatist of the constrained and absurd – Tyneside urban folk veteran: songwriter and 12-string guitarist Nev Clay, who’s been toting his tragicomic songs of fumbled ambitions, criminal families and hard lines around the area for two decades. At their rather posher Leatherhead gig on the 22nd (look, a Victorian private school chapel!), they’re reunited with Arch Garrison. This should be tremendously genteel and cultured, with everyone’s cordial Englishness brought to a simmer. Stephen will probably feel obliged to lower the tone – and quite right too, since chapels are always improved by a public glower or two. Ask any Calvinist.


 
When Stephen plays Brighton on 23rd March, he’ll be minus Bill but topping a Club Stramonium bill featuring other three psych-tinged sets of performers – hedge-magick Cornish folkie Emily Jones, the dark whisper-pop project M U M M Y (featuring Bic Hayes and Jo Spratley), and what seems to be an unexpected reappearance of Jo’s Spratleys Japs revival (a Cardiacs spin-off who played three ecstatically-received comeback gigs on either side of the New Year, giving a new lease of life to a batch of undersung Tim Smith work). People who followed those shows at the time will note that this is pretty much a reshuffled version of the playing order at the first of the SJ Brighton shows, with the intriguing twist that Spratleys Japs themselves will be playing acoustically. (UPDATE, 1st March 2017 – sadly, this show appears to have been cancelled, but here’s a taste of what might have been, starting with one of Emily’s tracks…)




 
Finally, on 24th March, Stephen plays Oxford – minus Bill, but plus Ally Craig, his once-and-current bandmate in Bug Prentice (the Oxford avant-punk trio whose influences range from American hardcore to British psycheccentricity to arty ’50s jazz, and whose lineup’s rounded out by up-and-coming jazz bassist Ruth Goller).


 
There’s a smattering of other Bill or Stephen shows this spring, but I’ll cover those in the next few posts, since this one’s bursting at the seams.

Here’s the basic tour details:

  • Peaness + Stephen EvEns + The Vega Bodegas – Clwb Ifor Bach, 11 Womanby Street, CF10 1BR, Cardiff, Wales, Sunday 19th February 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • Bob Drake + Arch Garrison + Stephen EvEns + Kavus Torabi – The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England, Friday 24th February 2017, 7.00pminformation
  • Condor Moments + Bob Drake + All Hail Hyena + Bonanza Tungsten Ladies – The Ferret, 55 Fylde Road, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 2XQ, England, Saturday 25th February 2017, 8.00pminformation
  • Bob Drake + T House – The Caxton Arms, 36 North Gardens, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 3LB, England, Sunday 26th February 2017, 8.00pminformation (free event with collection on door)
  • Bob Drake + Bloke Music + Herbert Powell + Luminous Monsters – Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, 421 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, Scotland, Thursday 2nd March 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • Bob Drake + Kate Goes + The Nature Centre – ORT Cafe, 500-504 Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, B12 9AH, England, Friday 3rd March 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • Bob Drake + Bing Selfish + Lonesome Cowboys From Hell + Sanshin Sisters + Consignia + Takeru Brady + Birthday Bread Man + Laminate Everything + Alain Man + others – The Others, 6-8 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, London, N16 5SA, England , Sunday 5th March 2017, 7.00pminformation
  • Stephen EvEns (full band show) + Barrington + William D. Drake + Rolf & Sam + The Gasman (DJ set) – The Windmill, 22 Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, London, SW2 5BZ, England, Thursday 9th March 2017, 8.00pminformation
  • William D. Drake + Stephen EvEns – The Ferret, 55 Fylde Road, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 2XQ, England, Saturday 11th March 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • William D. Drake + Stephen EvEns – Prohibition Bar, Arch 3, Brandling Street, Gateshead, NE8 2BA, England, Sunday 12th March 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • William D. Drake + Stephen EvEns + Arch Garrison – Old Chapel @ St Johns School, Epsom Road, Leatherhead, KT22 8SP, England, Wednesday 22nd March 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • Stephen EvEns (full band show) + M U M M Y + Emily Jones + Tesla Girls DJs – The Green Door Store, 2-4 Trafalgar Arches, Lower Goods Yard, Brighton Train Station, Brighton BN1 4FQ, England, Thursday 23rd March 2017, 7:30pm – information here and here (CANCELLED)
  • Stephen EvEns + Ally Craig (Bug Prentice) – The Albion Beatnik Bookstore, 34 Walton Street, Oxford, OX2 6AA, England, Friday 24th March 2017, 7.45pm – more information t.b.c.

 

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

17 Nov

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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




 

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



 

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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




 

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

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

November 2016 – upcoming London jazz gigs – FuMar at Map Studio Café (17th); Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur + Daniel Herskedal Trio meet the BBC Concert Orchestra at the RFH (19th)

15 Nov

Two more London jazz gigs, from two very different generations of musician, in two very different venues…

* * * * * * * *

FuMar, 2016

FuMar
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Thursday 17th November 2016, 8.00pm
information

FuMar is a saxophone and piano duo based in Paris. Phil Furneaux and Krys Markowski have been friends for over forty years (meeting on their first day at Manchester University) and started playing together in 2010, using Skype and Ohmstudio for remote collaborations. After performing their first concerts in 2012, the duo released their debut album ‘Lanercost Sessions’ in 2015, followed by a tour of France. The FuMar repertoire is rooted in jazz (and, more recently, classical) but stays bluesy, funky and mellow with a constant dialogue between piano and sax. The band has the philosophy that “music is a transmission of emotion” and attempts to develop pieces that journey between melancholic and happy, comforting and unexpected, allowing the audience to experience a range of emotions during their concerts.

“FuMar’s second album, ‘The Lanercost Sessions 2’ (recorded, like its predecessor, in the fourteenth-century Priory at Lanercost in Cumbria) was released a few months ago, back in September.  FuMar use this venue due to its acoustic qualities, which make the notes played “hang in the air.” Moving on from the first all-covers set of the first ‘Lanercost Sessions’, this album is a mixture of FuMar’s own compositions and some interpretations of emotive classical tunes – Satie’s ‘Gymnopédie No 1’, Gabriel Fauré’s ‘Après un rêve’ – and a couple of Latin-American Cuban classics (Antonio Jobim’s Bach Meets Bossa and Mongo Santamaría’s Afro Blue). It also features the duo’s own free adaptation of Beethoven’s final string quartet (Op. 131), based on a study and extrapolation of the first eight bars extended into floating chordal improvisations.”



 
* * * * * * * *

As I type this up, guitarist Alex Roth’s London gig at IKLECTIK (with his Future Currents avant-guitar trio) is taking place. His bandmate in Blue Eyed Hawk, trumpeter-composer Laura Jurd – herself in the middle of a tour with her electric quartet Dinosaur – plays a date at the end of the week. As with the Future Currents gig, it’s part of the ten-day EFG London Jazz Festival, but this particular gig – at the Royal Festival Hall – is on a much larger scale (certainly ensemble-wise)…

EFG London Jazz Festival presents:
BBC Concert Orchestra/Keith Lockhart + Laura Jurd + Daniel Herskedal Trio
Royal Festival Hall @ Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 8XX, England
Saturday 19th November 2016, 4.30pm
– information here, here and here

“Formerly known as the Laura Jurd Quartet, a new band awakens from the jaws of extinction. They are Dinosaur and they join the BBC Concert Orchestra tonight to give you an evening of fiery sonic experimentation and abstraction.

Dinosaur, 2016

Dinosaur, 2016

“Trumpeter, composer, bandleader and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist Laura Jurd has a passion for “making things up” and today’s concert opens with her new “Work for orchestra & Dinosaur”, combining influences from both classical and jazz music.

“We also hear a new work by Norwegian Tuba player Daniel Herskedal who defies the conventions of his instrument. He pushes the boundaries both technically and sonically, creating spellbinding and mesmerising sounds. He’ll be performing with his trio (also featuring pianist Eyolf Dale and percussionist Gard Nilsen)

“Keith Lockhart conducts.”

Here’s footage of both acts, minus the orchestra…



 

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