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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.

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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.



 
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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 – 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…
 

July 2018 – two eclectic London music evenings – SOIF Soiree with Society Of Imaginary Friends, Jennifer Bliss Bennett, Dekay Ex, Stone Deep, Outre Dan Steele and William Summers (6th July); Rude Mechanicals with John Callaghan, Hypnotique and Rotten Bliss (13th July)

3 Jul

SOIF Soiree, 6th July 2018

The last Society Of Imaginary Friends Soiree for the summer is cartwheeling into view. I smashed two or three of their Beat-y burbles together to bring you this:

“Friday 6th July is our 21st Century Avant Garde Soiree at Karamel, N22. We have in store for you a magnificent exploration of 21st Century new and experimental music with incredible performers already lined up. The fabulous, supremely talented Jennifer Bliss Bennett will be performing master composer Martin Gaughan’s pieces for voice and bass viol: a must hear. There’ll be an appearance from the one-and-only Dekay Ex (queen of the underground urban music arena, virtuosic battle rapper superstar) with guest musician Gerard; and brand new dark intriguing soul music from Stone Deep.

“The multi-talented Darren and Isobel Hirst will be performing as the fascinating, spellbinding duo Outre Dan Steele, and the amazing William Summers (Circulus, Princes In The Tower, Mediaeaval Baebes and innumerable period/Baroque ensembles) will be performing 20th century recorder music. Plus us, the Society Of Imaginary Friends, and that’s just for starters. Delicious vegan food and unbelievably free entry.”

Society of Imaginary Friends presents:
21st Century Avant Garde Soiree: Society Of Imaginary Friends + Jennifer Bliss Bennett + Dekay Ex + Stone Deep + Outre Dan Steele + William Summers
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 6th July 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

A few examples of the evening’s entertainment:




 
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There’s no August Soiree (since the Society will be either on holiday or concentrating on their appearances at the Green Gathering festival in Chepstow), but there should be more of these evenings in the coming autumn.

However, you can make up for their upcoming London summer absence with an evening of music and video hosted by Cos Chapman’s Rude Mechanicals, and taking place in a onetime Dalston dance school turned into arty pub and hangout space…

Rude Mechanicals + John Callaghan + Hypnotique + Rotten Bliss, 13th july 2018

“The art-rock inspired Rude Mechanicals have been compared to Nick Cave, The Tiger Lillies, early Roxy Music and Can and described as post-punk, swamp blues and dark cabaret – altogether creating a music that was best be described by Tom Robinson (on BBC6) as “wild, wicked weirdness… a little bit Flying Lizards, a little bit Native Hipsters and a great deal like nothing you’ve heard before…” The evening will feature the premiere of MHG Music Videos’s animated video for Rude Mechanical’s ‘Paperwork’.”

Meanwhile, here’s something a little older…


 
“Originally hailing from Birmingham, John Callaghan is an unusual songwriter and performer of thoughtful and spiky electronica. His self-directed video for ‘I’m Not Comfortable Inside My Mind’ aired on MTV. His live performances are energetic and imaginative, and range from one-man auto-karaoke shows to specially-written dancefloor sets. Recent well-received shows have included London’s Spitz, Ginglik and Electrowerks, Cambridge’s Portland Arms, Crystal Palace Bowl and last year’s jaunt around Germany, including Berlin’s Club 103 and Bar 25 and Hamburg’s Golden Pudel. He is 173cm tall, weights 73kg and has a blood pressure of 110/60Hg.”


 
Hypnotique is a thereministe, electronic musician and auteur based in London whose lyrical subjects range from the apocalypse, post-feminism, erotic narrative and allotments. She’s performed solo shows at Edinburgh Fringe, worked with Gong and The Heliocentrics, toured the Amazon and annoyed Simon Cowell. She’ll be performing her live sound design for Georges Méliès 1902 film ‘Voyage de la Luna’ (‘Trip to the Moon’)…”
…which she’s previously and recently also done at a Colliding Lines film evening: find out more about that here.


 
“Described last year as “a thing of disquieting dark beauty rolling in through a ghostly fog on timeless ripples whose ebbing wash peels back the years to reveal a vintage crafted in archaic folk tongues” by Mark Barton of ‘The Sunday Experience‘ (and, by ‘The Wire’ as a writer of “coarse and beautifully heavy songs (betraying) hallmarks of folk, metal and classical without subscribing to any particular tribe”), Rotten Bliss is the violent, warm and weird visions of London based avant-garde electric cellist and vocalist Jasmine Pender. Equally inspired by the wild physicality of Jacqueline du Pre and the shrieking glory of a cello played through FX pedals, Rotten Bliss packs diverse influences into an elemental voyage of outer-limits FX-laden drones, weird folk and sound art, raging from tender a capella lyrical fantasies through to ecstatic nihilism.

“Jasmine performs regularly around London, also playing in 11th Hour Adventists (with Jowe Head, ex-Swell Maps) and False Echo (with Tim Bowen, ex-Chrome Hoof) and has toured England, France, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. Her debut album, ‘The Nightwatchman Sings’, was released in October 2017 on the Reverb Worship label.”

 
Also on hand for the inbetween bits are DJs Enri, Blue and MJ Ultra, and Rude Mechanicals are bribing any advance tickets buyers with the promise of a “free unique, special edition CD and badge”.

Rude Mechanicals present:
‘Paperwork!’ – featuring Rude Mechanicals + John Callaghan + Hypnotique + Rotten Bliss + DJ Enri + DJs Blue & MJ Ultra
Farr’s School Of Dancing, 17-19 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England
Friday 13th July 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

February 2018 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Kammer Klang featuring Jennifer Walshe and Distractfold Ensemble (6th February)

30 Jan

February’s Kammer Klang sees the Dalston performance evening marching ever further away from contemporary chamber music and embracing an ethos of outright sonic performance theatre. The works presented by Jennifer Walshe and Distractfold Ensemble next week use musicality as merely one available limb of expression – even if many of the tools used are musical.

Kammer Klang presents:
Kammer Klang: Jennifer Walshe + Distractfold Ensemble (playing Steven Kazuo Takasugi, Hanna Hartman and Barblina Meierhans)
Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL
Tuesday 6th February 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Kammer Klang, 6th February 2018Witty, shapeshifting Irish composer-performer Jennifer Walshe was once described as “the wild girl of Darmstadt” (by ‘Frankfurter Rundschau’) Often hiding, Residents-like, behind the mask of the fictional ‘Milker Corporation’, she’s delivered nearly two decades worth of intriguing, award-winning work, from near-conventional instrumental composition to way-out self-performed video theatre more reminiscent of a larkier, less traumatic version of Karen Finley.

Examinations and implementations of pop culture have been a persistent creative motif for her. While this can be an embarrassing stumbling block for many a composer hamfistedly trying to ginger up high culture or elevate street culture (most of whom bellyflop soundly into the discomfort zone) Jennifer displays a thorough grounding and innate understanding of how this things can tick. This is clearly displayed in her lightning-switch pop-song collage ‘G.L.O.R.I.’, while her Snapchat-based interactive ‘Thmotes’ project (with its now-you-see-them now-you-don’t exchange of text scores) was but one example of her keen understanding of both how new forms of media operate and how they develop their own operational cultures. Inspired in part by televisual opera experimenter Robert Ashley, she’s also written miniature operas ranging from relatively serious chamber pieces about women in boxing or 2010’s focus-shifting ‘The Geometry’ to trashy X-rated soap scenarios played out by whispering, shrieking, hissing Barbie dolls.

As an intercontinental voice improviser, Jennifer’s co-run witty stunts such as the United Telepathic Improvisation Front; and for the last eleven years she’s exercised and presented a dozen different and distinct alter egos as part of the ongoing Grúpat project (a Dublin art collective of fictional “Guinness Dadaists” in which Jennifer herself creates, becomes and enacts every single artist whether exploring music, films, photography, fashion, sculpture or any overlaps between the forms – personae include grotto-builder Violetta Mahon, filmmaker Freya Birre, sculptor-of-instruments Turf Boon, psychogeographic drag queen multidisciplinarian The Dowager Marchylove and partially-fingerless concert pianist Flor Hartigan). Running through all of this (alongside of the exceptional media savvy) is a riotous stream of Irish absurdism – it’s unsurprising to discover that Jennifer cites Flann O’Brien and the “Irish openness to subterfuge” as spurs to what she does.

Her Kammer Klang performance this time involves her 2016 composition ‘There Was A Visitor’ – of which the title may be a nod to Ashley’s ‘She Was A Visitor’, and which is mostly a compression/selection from another ongoing project of spoofing/serious fictionizing, ‘Historical Documents of the Irish Avant-Garde‘. In some ways a more historically-inclined cousin of Grúpat, ‘Historical Documents…’ is a made-up history of the Irish avant-garde, complete with its own foundation and voluminous archive of compositions, documents, academic articles and sundry ephemera. Jennifer apparently performs it within the context of “a Dadaist Halloween séance”, which she also describes as “a sort of mangled faith healer experience with optional audience engagement.”

(UPDATE, 5th February – for some reason, it seems that Jennifer’s now dropped her scheduled performance of ‘There Was A Visitor’ and replaced it with ‘Is It Cool To Try Hard Now?’, a 2016 composition “for voice, video, electronics and Artificial Intelligence”. There’s not much more information available on this one, other than that it was first premiered at the Jamjar Music Weekend in Belfast – it’s not even listed on the Milker site. If you can find out anything more about it, you’re a better, quicker browser than I am… what the hell, go along and be surprised…)

Manchester’s Distractfold Ensemble (curators of their hometown’s Cut & Splice Festival) will be presenting three pieces, including the evening’s Fresh Klang opener – a performance of Barblina Meierhans’ ‘May I Ask You Something?’. The latter is, in effect a semi-dysfunctional conversation for orchestra: an arrangement of inter-band mutters culminating in an eerie array of distracted frictional instrumental squeaks and a number of uncomfortable silences.


 
Of the other two Distractfold presentations, ‘Circling Blue’ is a 2010 tape piece by Swedish sound artist Hanna Hartman (for which Manifold members will be handling the sonic diffusion). Originally commissioned by Swedish radio for a themed programme on Nordic forests, it’s an electroacoustic work for the captured sounds of swirling winds and beating rain plus the recorded and stretched notes of soprano Ida Falk Winland.

The last presentation, ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing’ is a piece of music theatre for amplified quartet and tape playback: a segment of Japanese-American electro-acoustic composer Steven Kazuo Takasugi’s five-movement ‘Sideshow’ sequence. Inspired by the crueller, more exploitative aspects of Coney Island entertainment parks (and drawing its section titles from a set of bleak aphorisms by Karl Kraus, the mordant cultural gadfly and satirist of early 20th century Vienna), the piece is “a meditation on virtuosity, freak shows, entertainment, spectacle, business, and the sacrifices one makes to survive in the world”, in which the instrumentalist perform as if they were “characters in a sideshow. The saxophonist is the Sideshow Giant, having bellow-like lungs. The violist is a sword swallower, expert with a bow sword. The pianist is the Human Spider, having been born with eight hands. The percussionist is the Stuttering Midget and Sideshow Proprietor/Announcer. Each character of this quartet has his or her uncanny double, twin, imposter, accomplice, copycat, deformed clone.”

Strange taped sounds (worked up from Takasugi’s algorithmic processing from his extensive library of recontextualized sonics) plus intense individual performer silences and motions add to the uneasy, surreal and grotesque atmosphere. Reviewing a previous performance in 2017, Stephanie Jones of ‘Sounds Like Now’ observed that it “suggested that the audience (was) masterminding a highly uncomfortable human puppet show… (which) captivated and cradled the audience on thematic pivots such as humour/cruelty and freedom/torturous restraint, while the playback ensured that the performance itself blurred the lines between illusion and fact.”
 

October 2017 – upcoming London gigs – heavy art rock with Thumpermonkey, The Fierce & The Dead and Ham Legion; another Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree with Beth Jones, WondRwomN and others (both 6th October)

1 Oct

A couple of London choices for this Friday…

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Thumpermonkey + The Fierce & The Dead + Ham Legion, 6th October 2017

Chaos Theory Promotions presents:
The Facemelter: Thumpermonkey + The Fierce & The Dead + Ham Legion
The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, Camden Town, London, NW1 0AP, England
Friday 6th October 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

There’s still a few grab-’em-while-you-can tickets for this friendly clash between these three varied exemplars of British art rock. I keep posting odds and ends about them and always fear running out of something new to say, but here goes…

Described, this time out, as a “merry band of loony pronk heroes”, Thumpermonkey are better pegged as arch New Weird rockers, or as geeks-made-good. Bright, sharp, literate tale-tellers and brain-twisting scenarists, they roll out blistering tales and portraits of strange perspectives and stranger goings on festooned in kinked, scree-slipping riffs and grand declamatory vocals with an ever-present tinge of dark laughter. Unpicking the puzzlebox machinery of a typical Thumpermonkey song is a route to mingled glee and frustration, since singer, lyricist and concept director Michael Woodman packs in tight multi-dimensional digressions and inferences with the skill of a master.

This gig is a launch party for Thumpermonkey’s new EP ‘Electricity‘, inspired by “the luminous magnificence of human foolishness” and the story of “Victorian MP and visionary Lord James Badger… atomized by technology he hoped would transform the canals of the Euphrates, all because he followed the instructions of an angelic visitation.” The particular genius of Thumpermonkey is that they can unroll these kind of parodic slipstream plots without ever toppling into cute whimsy. If you’re looking for the missing link between Mastodon, Zappa, China Miéville, Van der Graaf Generator, Alejandro Jodorowsky and the harder end of the Mighty Boosh (and God knows that if you’re looking for something like that, you’re pretty specific), you’ll find it here. Clever bastards.


 

Currently riding along on the scaly back of their recent live album ‘Field Recordings’, The Fierce & The Dead are heading towards their seventh year as an imposing, boundary-squatting instrumental rock band, forcibly blending post-hardcore, instrumental prog, post-punk immediacy and experimental noise. Despite their music being sweetened by the inclusion of tuneful loop-guitar honeybear Matt Stevens in the lineup, they sport a brutal, angular, drawer-popping rifftastic sound which variously resembles Led Zeppelin and Black Flag simultaneously shaking down a post-rock band, a hotel kitchen getting a forcible mid-meal remodelling by Archaos, or a carhenge attempting to twerk along to highlife. Have a listen to Dancing Robots below for a dose of their live crunch and down-to-earth banter – or, if you prefer, there’s a free Bandcamp download sampler available.


 
Intermittently active Brightonian trio Ham Legion will open the show with a set of their cramped, restless heavy art-pop, matching the other two bands blurt-for-blurt and switch-for-switch.


 
* * * * * * * *

If all of the above is not for you – or if your Friday funds only stretch to a Tube journey and a drink – cabaret art-poppers Society of Imaginary Friends are putting on another free soiree in Wood Green (see passim). As ever, there’s a theme and a new bit of performance art jiggery-pokery from the Society themselves.

Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree, 6th October 2017

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:
Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree: “It’s Our Home County Amateur Dramatic Class Soiree” (featuring Society Of Imaginary Friends + Beth Jones + WondRwomN + Martin Wakefield + Cian Binchy + Lord Buckley + Ted Sawyer/Frank Frenzy DJ sets)
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 6th October 2017, 8.00pm – free event
information

“From Tring to Crawley, Amersham to Reigate, the dusky Downs resound to the sound of dramatis personae… for this is the time of preparation… the drawing-in of the nights can mean only one thing to these outcasts… Panto season is approaching.

“Our October Soiree is dedicated to London’s cultural refugees who dwell beyond the M25 where things are quite different… in a quiet cul-de-sac of the mind they float… there is no music other than ’80s power-synth ballads or Gary Numan… the Am Dram village hall is at the centre of the Home Counties mock-Tudor universe… As a mark of deep respect for this tradition, Society of Imaginary Friends will be performing the premiere of their ‘Home Counties’ song cycle featuring their cosy pub classic Please Put That Hammer Away and It’s My Home Counties Amateur Dramatic Class.”

Also on the bill is the usual swirl of other words and music – bluesy singer-songwriter Beth Jones ; poet/raconteurs Martin Wakefield and Cian Binchy, emerging Tottenham groove goddess WondRWomN with a cocktail of psychedelic soul, funk, rap and “grit pop”; and the “deranged and strange” Lord Buckley (presumably a tribute act to the hipsemantic beat standup from the 1950s, unless SOIF have mastered necromancy this year and brought us back the real thing). There’s also a double DJ helping from Ted Sawyer (Northern Soul) and Frank Frenzy (that 1980s power disco sound mentioned earlier) plus Karamel’s usual prizewinning vegan food (this time “reimagining the ’70s classics like prawn cocktail and Boeuf Bourguignon as a death free feast”).

See below for the Society’s poperatic tribute to social media, a harmonica-laden song about infidelity from Beth, and a couple of drum-and-‘bone-assisted joints from WondRwomN…


 

June 2017 – some of London’s more theatrical upcoming gigs – cartoon critters run amok with ‘Cat & Mouse’ (8th & 9th June); plague, trauma and rhythm with Grand Union Orchestra’s ‘Song of Contagion’ (13th-17th June); Debbie Wiseman and The Locrian Ensemble play music from ‘Wolf Hall’ (June 18th)

26 May

Three theatrical/televisual fusion gigs in London for the coming month…

* * * * * * * *

'Cat and Mouse', 8th/9th June 2017

1927 Theatre Company and Village Underground present:
‘Cat and Mouse’
Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3PQ, England
Thursday 8th + Friday 9th June 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“The world premiere of ‘Cat And Mouse’! A theatrical animation experience involving an animated cat and mouse and a band of dogs. Featuring the animations of Paul Bill Barritt (1927) with live music by Officer Pup (composer Laurence Owen and band), introducing Miss Lesley Ewen as The Law.

“You could say we’ve seen it all at VU, but in actual fact there are still plenty of firsts. This’ll be one of them: our debut in-house theatrical production. We’ve been waiting for just the right project to come along for some time, so when Paul said he wanted to do a theatrical animation experience with anthropomorphic animals, we knew we’d waited long enough.


 
“The cultural history of anthropomorphised animals is long and deep, as long and deep as the river of imagination itself. We see ourselves reflected back at ourselves within those furry beings. ‘Cat and Mouse’ is one such development. Taking its germ from the great peddler of anthropomorphised cat and mouse chaos Mr. George Herriman (creator of the ‘Krazy Kat’ stories which in turn inspired ‘Tom & Jerry’), it proceeds in a zigzag line through the gamut of human idiocy from art to war, from technology to industry, from civilisation to love all via the shenanigans of various humanimals mostly of the rodent/feline variety with some notably canine overseers holding court over the proceedings. Sticking within the traditions of artistic purveyance there will be visuals in the form of animations, sets and costume, there will be live music and there will be storytelling. A theatrical animation experience unlike anything seen before, alike to everything seen once upon a time, long ago . . .

“‘Cat and Mouse’ sets up the familiar dichotomy of good and evil, navigating the extremes of human idiocy from art to war, from technology to industry, from civilisation to love all rendered through the shenanigans of a rodent, a feline and the dogs of law. With a band performing the original score live, don’t expect to sit through this – witnessing Cat and Mouse will be like finding yourself inside a television set. “Made of old ‘toons and new tunes, it’s like an arthouse ‘Itchy and Scratchy’ where the action spills out into the audience,” says Paul. “Expect high-octane action, fun and frolics, extreme (cartoon) violence, moments of edification, sadomasochism, a face machine, skeletons, dogs, dancing, and more.”

“As we veer further towards duplicitous times of fake news and alternate facts, the idea that we can define what is purely good or evil becomes a tempting focus. Yet with cartoonish reality TV characters as world leaders, the notion that we’re all made up of these shades of good and evil becomes increasingly obscured. Predator and prey, good and evil, and our instincts to protect those that are vulnerable – ‘Cat and Mouse’ couldn’t be more timely.”


 
Here’s a more in-depth interview with Paul Barritt about the project, from ‘Run Riot‘…

* * * * * * * *

Grand Union Orchestra, 13th-17th June 2017

Grand Union Orchestra and Wilton’s Music Hall present:
Grand Union Orchestra: ‘Song Of Contagion’
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, E1 8JB, England
Tuesday 13th June to Saturday 17th June 2017, 7:30pm (2:30pm – schools matinee on 15th June, family show on 17th June including “meet the musicians” event)
– information here, here, here and here

“Ever wondered what would happen if you teamed up a distinguished scientist with internationally-acclaimed jazz and world musicians? The answer is ‘Song Of Contagion‘, the brainchild of composer Tony Haynes and epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani and featuring Grand Union Orchestra, which explores the mismatch between areas where diseases are suffered and those where the money is spent, bringing cold statistics vividly to life on stage.

“It begins in the East End, round the corner from Wilton’s, where cholera raged in Victorian times; eradicated in London by building the sewers, it continues rampant in Kolkata today. A moving series of songs tells the stories of combatants and civilians affected by shell-shock, for which treatment is still scarce. Exuberant dance rhythms describe how dengue and Zika spread unnoticed across Africa and the Caribbean until Zika hit the headlines, threatening to spoil the Rio Olympics. A big-band piece celebrates the activism that brought HIV/AIDS to public attention and an old music hall song dramatises the danger of heart disease posed by the junk food industry.

“‘Song Of Contagion’ features thirty of Grand Union’s finest musicians and singers from musical traditions worldwide, who add immense impact and authenticity to the performance – Indian musicians evoking Kolkata past and present; brilliant jazz soloists giving voice to the trauma of soldiers and refugees; highlife, merengue, soca and samba beats dramatising the spread of Zika.”



 

Thursday 15th June features a schools matinee and a free pre-evening show at 6.00pm in which Sam Johnson and students from Community Music describe their contribution to the project with audio illustrations. There’s also a free post-show discussion at 9.30pm on Friday 16th June in which Elizabeth Pisani talks about ‘Turning health statistics into music and song’. On Saturday 17th June (at 4:15pm) the extra event is ‘King Cholera and the Great Metropolis Walk‘ a two-hour tour with guide Sophie Campbell exploring cholera in London’s East End.

* * * * * * * *
Anton Lesser as Thomas More

Live at Zédel presents:
‘Wolf Hall live’
Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London W1F 7ED, England
Sunday 18th June 2017, 7.00pm
information

“Hilary Mantel’s award-winning novel ‘Wolf Hall’ was transformed into a riveting six-part drama by the BBC to huge acclaim in 2015. Accompanying Thomas Cromwell’s machinations and hushed conversations in shadowy palace corners was original music by Debbie Wiseman, performed by members of The Locrian Ensemble of London; the soundtrack CD reached no.1 in the classical charts.

“Debbie has over two hundred film and television soundtracks to her name including ‘Wilde’, ‘Wolf Hall’ and, more recently, ‘Dickensian’. Consisting of some of the country’s finest musicians, the Locrian Ensemble is at the very top of its game, delivering stunning performances which range from the blisteringly dramatic to the heart-rendingly mournful.

“Tonight, Debbie and the Ensemble perform selections from her acclaimed score, alongside extracts from ‘Wolf Hall’ and its first sequel ‘Bring Up The Bodies’ read by Anton Lesser (who played Thomas More in the BBC series). The concert roughly follows the narrative of the television series with Lesser’s intense readings setting the scene for a musical commentary. The most intense part of the concert must surely be the depiction of Anne Boleyn’s execution, as the impassioned readings leave the audience hanging on every word, with music that is gripping and moving in equal parts.”


 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree, 3rd March – guitars, sopranos, art-pop, poets etc

28 Feb

The third of the year’s Society of Imaginary Friends soirees takes place in north London on the first Friday in March – the usual cosy-glorious, thought-provoking mishmash of sundry singer-songwriters, poets, classical musicians and people with ideas, encouraged and topped off by the all-bases-covered chamber pop of the Society themselves.

SOIF Soiree, 3rd March 2017

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree: “A Breath Of Fresh Air” (featuring Society of Imaginary Friends + Anne Corrigan + David Skinner + Martin Wakefield + I Am Her + Duet Diana + Millie George
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 3rd March 2017, 8.00pm
– free event – information

Word from SOIF’s Alfie and Louise:

“People have said “my goodness, Soif Soirees are unpredictable,” “Soif Soirees are like nothing I have experienced before,” or even ‘Soif Soirees feature some of the most moving and talented performers in London,’ and that Soif Soirees are a ‘a breath of fresh air.’ So this is our theme for our March Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree. A breathe of fresh air… remember what that used to feel like? Sweet oxygen hitting your lungs?… Your body aching with gratitude for the relief of it?… Yes, that’s good old Soiree wholesomeness… brought to you by our sponser TOYFE inc (Turn Off your Fucking Engine).

“Like a breeze from the mountains, we have new work from the incredible Millie George (poet laureate of the new generation); Duet Diana (a.k.a. Katie Morel Orchard and Sarah Lenney with their gorgeous operatic duets); punk mistress I Am Her (a.k.a. Julie Riley); god of small things Martin Wakefield. David Skinner is coming all the way from Cork, Ireland to delight us with his velvety tones and virtuosic guitar playing; the extraordinary Anne Corrigan will be reciting her poetry and – like a glass full of magical Listerine – we have the Society Of Imaginary Friends, so breathe deep and tune in. Remember the Piccadilly line is now running twenty-four hours, and there will be incredible vegan food on sale by the master chefs Kathy and Roger. We hope to see you on Friday for fun and a breath of fresh air…”

There are a few tasters below. I’m sorry that I couldn’t find more.




 

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

30 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




 

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

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

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

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

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

Links there if you want them. Gotta dash…
 

November/December 2016 – upcoming music theatre – sounds from Billy Bottle & The Multiple’s ‘The Other Place’ and a rundown of the other shows in the All The Right Notes multi-media music theatre festival (15th November to 3rd December)

15 Nov

This just in – Lee Fletcher, touring soundwizard for Billy Bottle & The Multiple, just tipped me off about this Bandcamp montage he’s just made of their currently touring show ‘The Other Place’.

There should be a YouTube version shortly, which I’ll paste in when it’s available. Meanwhile, there’s more on the show in general here, and more on its current dates here.

* * * * * * * *

One of the ‘Other Place’ dates is in London this weekend – taking place at Camden People’s Theatre, as part of their ‘All The Right Notes’ “gig-theatre” festival exploring the interaction, interweaving and intersectionality of theatre and music on the fringes. While on the subject, I should post up a little more about the festival, since it’s starting today.

So here’s a rapid rundown of what’s on offer in ‘All The Right Notes’ between 15th November and 3rd December. Most of the text is stripped and compressed from the homepage (where there’s full dates, times and details if you want to pursue the shows in depth). I’ve added or rearranged a few things where necessary, including some personal impressions. Because performance artists aren’t the only people who can mash up texts… oh yeah… (postures)

Some of the shows are pretty much straight musical gigs, with the theatre inherent in the performance rather than explicitly mounted as part of the staging. Digifolk musicians and quixotic archivists The Memory Band (who, in their own words, “navigate a dream landscape of fading identity, dredging up forgotten histories from old maps” and “the ghost-lit back-roads of British traditional music where digital machinery and acoustic musicians congregate to make old music from the future”) offer a performance previewing their upcoming fifth album ‘A Fair Field’, which spans a world of folk word and song from the fourteenth-century narrative epic ‘Piers Plowman’ to the generation of unaccompanied English folk singers who passed in the mid-twentieth century to Northumbrian modernist poet Basil Bunting. It’s best to let them map out their own album description too – “the music was fed by stories of magical hares and the recollections of ballad sellers bearing placards at the great fairs of times past, the fields of which now lie buried beneath leisure centres, electricity substations and retail parks. It traces the connection between the headstone of a man killed in Norfolk by the sails of a windmill, the first observations of solar flares, incendiarism, council estates and an old man’s recollection of ploughing the land by starlight in another time.” Later in the season, Daniel Marcus Clark‘s ‘Between’ looks for “the story in every song and the song in every story” in a solo set delivered by beat-up old voice and a pair of guitars via a mood and method compared variously to Marc Ribot, Mississipi John Hurt and Vincent Price.



 
As you’d expect from a theatre space preoccupied with fringe activity and political art, there’s a strong representation of standalone and intersectional aspects within the broad church of contemporary dance music and the cultures which make it up, taking in hot and fluid topics of race, feminism, class, communality and chosen ways of self-expression. Accompanied by beatboxer/vocalists Kate & Nate (from Battersea Arts Centre’s Beatbox Academy), actor-writer Lauren Gauge will present her raw feminist comedy-with-music ‘The Unmarried’, a drama of raucous, brassy, party-friendly resistance to patriarchy, rhythmically underscored by a live mix of beat-boxing, ‘90s dance hits and old-school UK garage tunes – “gig theatre… theatre you can rave to.” Earlier in the season, reknowned London grime MC Flowdan will present a special performance of his lyrics (stripped from their soundsystem context and performed with voice alone under a spotlight), while the festival will close with musician-performer Will Dickie’s live-art DJ set ‘The Rave Space’ (a staged rave which explores the ideals and situation of unity through dance culture, and which overlaps the boundaries of dance party communion and theatre-space performance, although Will’s keeping schtum about precisely how this occurs…)


 
Several pieces operate within the publically settled, privately fragile area of contemporary early adulthood and its codes of faith,behaviour and expectations which end up being kicked around by our own doubts and insecurities and by the challenges and occasional perversities of our individual drives and experiences. Songwriter, actress and theatre maker Isobel Rogers performs her open-mic drama ‘Elsa’, about a woman working in a coffee shop while pursuing her dreams on the side. As she drifts in and out of the characters who come into the cafe, Elsa is confronted with different characters from both literature and reality and begins to lead the lives of Nina, Miranda, Lillian and Grace in her own head. Keeping a part of herself elsewhere through song, Elsa plays a trick on a world that keeps telling her how to “be”.

Heavier notes are provided by Rachel Mars and Alicia Jane Turner. The former (with musical support from singer-songwriter Louise Mothersole of Sh!t Theatre) performs her proudly spiky, witty work ‘Our Carnal Hearts’, “a gleeful, thrilling and murky celebration of envy, competitive spirits and all the times we fuck each other over… performed with a live surround-sound choral score, it is born from the suspect parentage of an ideological rally, a drunken sing-song and a seductive dream.” The latter uses her skills as composer, performance artist and multi-instrumentalist to present ‘Breathe (Everything Is Going To Be Okay)’ – “a full-body immersion of soaring strings and spiralling sound in a daringly vulnerable solo performance exploring the relationship between our bodies and minds… blending visceral live music with intimate confessions, Breathe is an unflinchingly honest dissection of our daily anxieties and fears.”

 
As you’ll guess from the above in particular, not everything in the festival is kid- or family-friendly, but there are some exceptions. Moths (performer/musician Joe White and theatre maker Tanya Stephenson, both of whom also work with perennial percussion-fest STOMP) present ‘Pale Phoebe’ – a performance mingling storytelling, clever lighting and projection effects and percussive, androgynous contemporary synth pop to tell the dreamlike story of an imagined journey to the moon. In ‘The Castle Builder’, punky, childlike, lo-fi electropopper Kid Carpet and actor-storyteller Vic Llewellyn join forces for a playful, uplifting show based around true tales of unlikely people who created extraordinary outsider art just for the pleasure of it. In the process, they ask questions about art, who it’s for and what mark it leaves on the world. In addition, each performance will feature a different maker, who at the end of the show will present the audience with something they build or create using the debris from the show and anything else they find scattered around the stage.



 
If you’re after more esoterically cerebral (or potentially baffling) performances, a couple of those are waiting in the wings. Perhaps coincidentally, both are two-handers featuring frenetically active male text’n’context shredders and reknowned female experimental violinists who blur the boundaries between being muses, partners and upsetters. In ‘Within The Context Of No Context’ Tim Parkinson and Angharad Davies explore the crossover between theatre-as-sound and sound-as-theatre via prepared-violin music drama interpretations of avant-garde compositions by Louis D’Heudieres, Stefan Thut, Alison Knowles, John Cage and others (with a title inspired by George S Trow’s influential essay about the decline of society in the new age). In ‘Seeping Through (CPT)’, regular collaborators Aisha Orazbayeva and Tim Etchells perform an intense, rolling two-hour improvisation in spontaneous fragments, with text and music treated as fluid forces in the same space, fading in and out of each other, breathing together, cutting and cancelling each other, creating a dynamic and always unstable landscape. Tim collages and constructs the show’s verbal content from diverse fragments of notebook scribbles, past performance text and works in progress, creating collisions, loops, and unexpected connections between different spoken materials; while Aisha plays vigorously deconstructed classical violin using extended technique, strange sounds, and “radically remixed and quoted” elements from the classical repertoire. (As an example, below is an earlier Etchells/Orazbayeva work: nearly six excruciating yet compelling minutes of the duo wringing as many disrupted nuances as possible from brief sentences and clauses recited over grinding string noise.)

 

Also on the festival bill are a pair of straight (well, relatively straight) musicals. “Misguided and aspirational” performance art group mingbeast present their “uplifting musical” ‘Awful Things Can Happen At Any Time’ (in which two barely-prepared pop wannabes struggle to get their act and songs together on a shared and battered iPad, jostling the business of dreaming about being in a band and actually becoming one).There’s a work-in-progress showing of Duckie star Boogaloo Stu’s ‘The Regeneration Game’, a comedy musical taking well-deserved sideswipes at the property racket currently turning scores of community pubs into community-detached luxury flats. See landlord and landlady Kev and Babs, from closure-threatened pub The Dog & Dumplings, plan to take on the big boys in a tale of “a boozer in decline, dodgy developers and dogging…”

A couple of pieces embark on voyages into the family and the circumstantial shocks and resolutions to be found within it. Armed with voice and electronic drumkit, poet-musician Antosh Wojcik performs his innovative, touching ‘Building A Voice-Percussion Gun To Kill Glitches In Memory’, in which he explores “the effects of dementia on speech, memory and motor skills. Assigning rhythms to family members, Antosh attempts to build a ‘voice-percussion gun’ to destroy inherited Alzheimer’s. Poems become beats become glitches in time in this poignant and mesmeric display of live drumming and spoken word.” Ziad Nagy’s ‘Too Human’ is “an interdisciplinary exploration into the chasms of family constellations, the fragmentary structures that make us who we are, and the insatiable desire to make things better. Through the disjointedness of live collage making, experimental music production, and confessional storytelling, Ziad lays bare what at first seems idiosyncratic and slowly transforms into the poetically ubiquitous.” (As you can see, I didn’t much feel like paraphrasing all that.)

Other events include a panel session discussing why live music and theatre are converging (featuring contemporary music theatre driver Patrick Eakin Young, journalist/editor Andrzej Lukowski of ‘Time Out‘ and ‘Drowned In Sound‘, and punk singer/theatre maker Racheal Clerke); and ‘Controlled Madness’, in which DJ, party promoter and acid house philosopher-celebrity Andy Blake engages in a late-night quasi-symposium (lit and soundtracked to conjure up a backstreet backroom atmosphere) with cultural commentators Ben Bashford and Joe Muggs, dealing on party culture and its role (questioned or otherwise) in contemporary society.

The ‘Big Bang’ evening features four work-in-progress shorts and excerpts – a love monologue from poet Ross Sutherland (compiled from actual outbursts he’s shouted at drum and bass DJs mid-set); ‘High Rise Estate Of Mind?’ (a tower-block, housing-crisis, class-and-character study in beatbox, rap and spoken word by Paul Cree and Conrad Murray of Beats & Elements); a scratch performance of sleepwalking, sleeptalking husband-and-wife dream drama by Lillian Henley and Tom Adams; and Nima Séne’s ‘I Belong’, in which Nima and her alter ego Beige Bitch explore the concept of belonging (nostalgia, deluding, seductive and political) via a melange of theatrical tricks, electronic sound, pop culture and autobiography.

 
Probably a good place to start (assuming that you can clear your evening) is tomorrow’s special night-after-opening night show ‘Note Form’. This features music-heavy excerpts from ‘Awful Things Can Happen At Any Time’, ‘High Rise Estate Of Mind?’ and She Goat’s ‘DoppelDänger’ (a “theatrical live-music gig of original music and unlikely cover songs with synth-pop, electronic textures and baroque harpsichord”); plus a standalone piece – ‘The Beginning Of The End Of The Heroic Child’, a “secular ecstatic ritual” by Nwando Ebizie‘s Afro-Anglo-Caribbean goddess persona Lady Vendredi which “transform(s) pain into beauty via the medium of discarded remnants of empty trash signifiers. Moving from the sea beneath the waters of the past through the fourth dimension and passing to a glimpse of a forgotten future. A rite for all of those who wish to take part in an inter-dimensional breakdown. A wild ride down a rabbit hole of splintering realities. Dogmas challenged, desires and dreams unravelled.” I think that pretty much covers everything – and so does this.
 

October 2016 – upcoming gigs – this weekend’s Wakizashi music festival in Bristol – two days of underground allsorts (22nd, 23rd)

19 Oct

Wakizashi Festival, Bristol, 22nd & 23rd October 2016There may still be tickets left for the “glut of experimental and cross-genre artists” descending on Bristol this weekend for the two-day, twenty-band Wakizashi music festival.

The shared brainchild of two Bristolian gig engines – PROBO Titans (who incubate and deliver bi-monthly rock, pop and experimental gigs) and Harry “Iceman” Furniss (restless jazz cornetter and leading fringeman within the Avon jazz underground), Wakizashi offers an exciting, intimate and intelligent spill of psychedelia, noise, post-punk, math rock, jazz strains, electronica and much more.

PROBO Titans & Harry Iceman Furniss present:
Wakizashi Festival:
– Get The Blessing + Hysterical Injury + Twin + Iyabe + Iceman Furniss Quartet + Human Bones + Charivari + Luui + Saltings (Saturday)
– Knifeworld + Edward Penfold + Evil Usses + Milon + Halftone + Drone Soul + Rafael Dornelles Trio + Uther Modes + Perverts (Sunday)
The Old Malt House, Little Ann Street, Bristol, BS2 9EB, England
Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd October 2016 – starts 1.00pm, Saturday
– information here and here

Harry Furniss makes the most of his own involvement by appearing with his Iceman Furniss Quartet. His flowing cornet leads punk-art jazz moves over dogged springy bass rhythms and shuddering No Wave electric-curtain guitar (care of Danny Le Guilcher from Dynamite Pussy Club, whose other career as a printmaker seems to have literally rubbed off on his playing).


 
Further jazz directions are provided by Saturday’s headliners Get The Blessing (founded sixteen years ago over a mutual appreciation of Ornette Coleman,) provide rumbling, doomy trip-hop-tinged jazz-rock. They boast a rhythm section of art-rock/trip-hop/drum & bass go-to-men Clive Deamer and Jim Barr (who between them have kept the pulse going for Portishead, Radiohead, Hawkwind, Peter Gabriel and Roni Size) plus saxophonist Jake McMurchie (of Michelson Morley) and trumpeter Pete Judge (Eyebrow and Three Cane Whale), with another Portisheader, Adrian Utley, sometimes guesting on guitar. Their music brings along some of the flash and flair of jazz pioneers, but also the sense of being trapped in a small room with a lumbering, powerful inscrutable beast – with an equal chance of being either impressed or squashed.


 
Post-punk bass/drums/voice duo Hysterical Injury have a toe in the improv scene and a touch of folk. Their recent press tagging as some kind of “better version of Savages” belies the hovering thoughtfulness and the gentle dignity in their music beyond the softly roiling industrial bass textures. Singing bassist Annie Gardiner has a way with the writing and delivery of a surreal, conceptually suggestive lyric which baffles and entrances.


 
There’s something similarly compelling about the voice of Sophie Dawes, who sings for Iyabe further down the bill. As it was with missing-in-action Delicate AWOL singer Caroline Ross, Annie and Sophie’s voices and words are clear, weightless and elusive – keeping you listening while you try to figure out the messages and hidden narratives floating past in slow streams of isolated moment and fleeting detail.

Regarding Iyabe – considering that they’re a five-piece, they sound remarkably skeletal. Soft pings, drum clicks, bass shadows. At their most expansive, they’re a pencil-sketch ghost of Seefeel’s dub-rock dreaminess: other tracks are a hypnotic rain-drip of slowly growing consciousness. Recent moves towards alliances with remixers, further fleshing out the band’s sound, may point the way forward: but, as with Hysterical Injury, there’s already plenty in place.


 
Two more of Saturday’s bands provide further dispatches from rock’s dissolving, dreamier side. The mystery brainchild of Christelle Atenstaedt, Twin’s drawn-out one-woman Gothpop offers a wealth of detail in its hypnotic overlaid folk drones and its reverberant, tangled-roots guitar chug, which seems to reference both Cranes and Sandy Denny. With electric cello adding occasional extra texture to a droning, crashing armoury of blood-stained guitar fuzz, Bath-based post-rockers Charivari have a sombre lysergic depth; plus a repertoire of zurna-like Mediterranean melodies to add to their gloaming-murmurs, their evenstar twinkles and their post-Mogwai cascades of noise.



 
Begun as a solo project by Andrew Cooke (inspired by ancient ghost stories and the concept of the English eerie), Saltings has evolved into a three-piece drone collective. Andrew (plus string players Liz Muir and Caitlin Callahan) gradually unveil an occult soundtrack full of marine and maritime references, maybe as much inspired by Andrew’s origins in the port of Dublin as by the current trio’s Bristol harbouring. Sampler-moulded sounds (noise-grates, hull-knocks, whistles, water-throbs and motors) are enfolded with double bass and cello parts – whispered, minimal elegies for the undetermined; or baleful shadings; or queasy, discombobulated, John Adams-styled loops both shaken and slurred.



 
The sole hip hop representative on the bill, Luui, rolls out complex, constantly unfolding raps over seductively silky, time-flexed instrumental samples: slurred, narcotic Rhodes piano doodles, bits of glowing solo jazz guitar smeared into something blunted and sinister. Arced out in short, enveloping doses – most of his tracks are over and done in a couple of minutes – it’s both intimate and claustrophobic: a growing autumnal darkness, a slowly moiling confusion.


 
As Luui harmonises with himself (in subtle dischords), his flow folds over and over onto itself like piling lava, journeying from memories of childhood cheeriness into an increasing broody adult disaffection, shot with regrets, spiked with quick vicious jabs of obscenities and flashes of temper. As with the best, most unsettling confessional rap, you get a crooked window onto Luui’s unresolved world, see him wrestle with his conscience and his instincts and, though you see a little too much of him for comfort, for a while you’re matching breath with him too.


 
Initially known for upbeat Lou Reed drawls larded with guitar fuzz, Human Bones now seem to be moving towards a languorous cardboard-box take on Americana. Multi-instrumental looper Steve Strong, meanwhile, has set himself up as a one-man trip hop/math rock band, in which much of the emphasis seeming to be on the drum rhythm. See below for his Godspeedian live take on a grim, violent found story of road anarchy, in which his hopeful, orderly and dreamy guitar introduction gives way (under the growing brutality of the tale on tape) to the controlled heat of a drum beat through which he seems to be trying to slough off the increasing horror.




 

* * * * * * * *

It’s an odd festival indeed in which Knifeworld (Sunday’s headliners) are virtually the straightest act on the bill. That this is the case says plenty about Wakizashi, but it also says something about where Knifeworld are at the moment. Currently cruising on self-created, sunny psychedelic uplands, the London octet are enjoying a period of relative bliss and (for now) a more familial creative approach, as Kavus Torabi starts to share more of the writing with the crew of expert instrumental heads who make up his band. But if Knifeworld are the closest that the festival comes to pop, it’s still a zestfully spiked pop – brazen and crenellated, filled with monkey panache, their tunes still running exuberantly out of the ears with loopy spirals of melody and unexpected double-backs. If Henry Cow had woken up one morning and decided to steal a march on The Flaming Lips, they couldn’t have done much better than this.


 
More lysergic hints string through the day via the sleepy, lo-fi acidic pop of Edward Penfold, whose songs and instrumentals halo the everyday with a softly vibrating warmth. Sometimes they hint at a might-have-been Syd Barrett; one who ducked the madness and fled away to a healing West Coast hideaway, sending missives back to Cambridge in a rested, sprawling hand; faint blue ink on pale blue paper. On the other side of the coin are The Evil Usses – a deconstructive, fiercely humorous No Wave jazz-rock quartet, who share some of Knifeworld’s brassy exuberance but take it over the escarpment and down into a stomping, seven-league-booted Beefheart country.


As with Saturday, two fringe full-jazz groups will be taking the stage. Led by saxophonist Dino Christodoulou, Milon are a mostly acoustic quartet, edging into something more speaker-warping via Neil Smith’s electric guitar and Pasquale Votino’s judiciously over-amplified double bass: Eager Legs sounds like Charles Mingus being pursued down a stuck groove by a bounding ball of Sharrock/McLaughlin electric guitar grit, with Dino keeping one hand on the wheel by some riffling, ruffling Coltrane-ish sax lines. While the Rafael Dornelles Trio might have Brazilian roots, don’t expect samba or even Tropicália: electric guitar, bass and drums are aiming for somewhere far more heatedly lyrical and direct. Tunes like Slave’s Escape and Indigenous Mass grab you straight from the title and power off in muscular, quick-sprung directions, with a fierce and formidable vigour (plus a buccaneering hint of the knife).



 
Saltings’ double bass player Caitlin Callahan returns as one-quarter of part-improvising, part-compositional, female quartet Halftone, alongside two similarly-inclined Bristolians (violinist Yvonna Magda, flautist Tina Hitchens) and a London ally (cellist Hannah Marshall). Formed earlier this year, the foursome play an unsettling, absently beautiful post-classical music evoking wind in the trees, unresolved conversations and difficulties around corners.


 
Drone Soul boast about their “sheer bleak nihilism” and stake a claim to the abrasive post-punk heritage of The Pop Group. At least part of that’s true – the post-punk bit, anyway – but I’d bat away the nihilistic posturings. This music might be on the dark and cavernous side, but it’s illuminated with a vivid energy which belies the band’s collective grizzliness. If they’re bringing you news of falling buildings or collapsing people, they’re doing it with an exuberant dark snarl. Think of Iggy Pop in-yer-face, think Suicide’s assault-by-sine-wave; and also give a little credit to a lost Bristol band, Lupine Howl, whose gonzo millenial motorik finds a fresh echo here.


 
Rhodri Karim – the Welsh-Arabian heart of Uther Modes – used to be a mournful pop scientist, making his name with sepulchural computer-pop songs which bobbed gently at the juncture of philosophy, physics and bedsit soul. More recently he’s swapped this for a new kind of songcraft, strapping up a bass guitar and pulling in other musicians. Now he reels out shifting part-sombre part-jazzy mutters, winding slate-grey but sensual vocals around echoing guitar curlicues; like a fresh breed of post-rock which refuses to stagnate and instead flexes its muscles and goes haring around the park.


 
While he can sometimes be found paddling around in the warm, shallow pools of downtempo electronica, Traces will shake the drips off his feet once he’s warmed up enough. His studio recordings are fine, but it’s his live improvisations that show him at full strength. They’re heart-warmingly intimate and cheery stretches of pick-you-up synthery – like an enthusiastic half-drunken 2am conversation between Max Tundra and Guy Sigsworth, following which they track down Jean-Michel Jarre, drag him away from his pyramids and lasers and force him back into a kitchen full of analogue keyboards. From tabletop synth noodles to Pong blip and cheekily squirting techno, a cunning wonkiness prevails without diminishing the music’s straightforward ambition. Traces sometimes labels it “devotional”, and I’m not entirely sure that he’s joking.


 
Finally, there’s the fall-apart electronic gagpunk of Perverts, with their squalling songs about angry muppets and guilty onanists; their one-finger clickstab of synth drums; their beady-eyed sampler-shreddings of lachrymose film music. I guess that they’re there to remind musicians and punters alike not to take it all too seriously. It’s just that they’re staring me out a little too intently. On record, at least, Perverts deliver their spoofs and squibs with a crazed and chilly eye: a brattier Residents with a crappier laptop; a young digital Punch waiting to knock everything down.


 

October 2016 – upcoming London gigs (Independent Country, She Makes War and Zoot Lynam at Daylight Music on the 1st; the debut London shows for Flock Of Dimes on the 4th) – plus Simon Reynolds’ glam tome launch events in Sheffield, London and Manchester (4th to 6th)

24 Sep

At the start of October, the Daylight Music autumn season continues with a splash of country, a clash of cymbal, and just a dash of kohl…

* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music 234

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 234: Independent Country + She Makes War + Zoot Lynam
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 1st October 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

Blurbs by Daylight Music, with interjections by me…

Independent Country are a six-piece band who play country versions of classic indie hits from the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s. Hear your favourite shoegazing tunes reimagined with pedal steel, lush three-part harmonies and fiddle.” Sounds as if someone’s taking the Mojave 3 idea and yanking it to the logical ludicrous extreme. Their debut album’s called ‘TrailerParkLife’… Well, at least it’s not another sodding rockgrass band; and Independent Country’s version of an old Jesus and Mary Chain tune (originally from the latter’s oft-slated, synth-pop-slanted ‘Automatic’), pulls off the neat trick of sounding as if it’s the original, rather than the cover. Either they’ve genuinely discovered Jim Reid’s inner roadhouse man, or they’re just really good at putting new blue-denim flesh on pallid British songbones.


 
She Makes War is the gloom-pop solo project of multi-instrumentalist, visual artist and all-round polymath Laura Kidd…” whom ‘Misfit City’s covered before, back at the start of August when she did a runaround British tour with Carina Round. Back then I made a few appreciative noises about Laura’s one-woman cottage-industry explorations: dark, brooding song topics sheathed in driven, melodic alt-(but-not-too-alt).rock, and self-directed videos which make the most of her Goth-next-door/folkie looks and still presence. Here’s one of the latter – a semi-animated video for her song Paper Thin, shot in New York and Boston with a comradely guest appearance from Belly’s Tanya Donnelly.


 
Zoot Lynam doesn’t just march to the beat of a different drum; he plays a different drum altogether: Zoot’s instrument of choice is the handpan (or “hang”), which is essentially a sci-fi spaceship of a percussion instrument. This is the first time a handpan’s been played at Daylight Music, so come and see it in action!” Web information on Zoot is a little thin on the ground – frankly, there’s not much more to that homepage than a bold stare and a waxed moustache – but it seems that he started to make his name back in the 1990s as an actor via work in various British theatres and voiceover performances in cartoons (I must have heard him thousands of times while my son watched ‘The Willows in Winter’).

I’m guessing that his move into music ties in with his theatre work, since I’ve tracked down odds and ends about live scoring and workshops, and because he comes to his gigs with a reputation as a raconteur. All of the evidence suggests that he’s one of those perpetually youthful, puckish characters existing on the dividing line between theatre and other arts: a stage polymath with a little bit of the mystic or magician to him. It’s a little early in the season, but here he is with something Christmassy on the handpans (to be honest, it’s all that I could find…)

 
* * * * * * * *

promo-2016-flockofdimes

Only a few posts ago, I was writing about Jane Siberry and was musing on other, next-generation musicians who seem to be following the trail Jane beat for a female art pop perspective back in the 1980s (some of whom, apparently guided by a mutual sense of community and affinity, are playing support slots on her ongoing British tour). It seems that I missed another one out.

Tickets are still available for the debut London shows for Flock Of Dimes (the solo project from Wye Oak frontwoman and guitarist Jenn Wasner) in early October. She’ll be playing a lunchtime instore show at Rough Trade East, followed by a full evening show up the road at the Hackney in Victoria. Flock Of Dimes has been developing for the last four years alongside Jenn’s decade-long body of work with Wye Oak (and her occasional ventures into dance pop as half of Dungeonesse. It’s taken until now, however, for Jenn to release a full Dimes album (something which perhaps coincides with her departure last year from her longtime Baltimore home to resettle in Durham, North Carolina). That album, ‘If You See Me, Say Yes’, was released yesterday on Partisan Records, and has been trailed in recent months by a pair of singles, Semaphore and Everything Is Happening Today.

Jenn has described her vision for the former single as the “struggle to communicate with each other, over distances literal and figurative, great and small,” and worked with film directors Michael Patrick O’Leary and Ashley North Compton to create a striking animated video for the song. According to Ashley and Patrick, all involved “wanted to present the tension of reaching out and not being able to touch. Fleeting communication with an outside world, felt but not seen, and Jenn’s interaction with her own double, create a hallucinatory sense of limbo. It creates a solitary confinement, wherein no matter how partnered or joined we find ourselves, those selves, our own best and worst companions, are all we have.”



 

Fantasies of isolation aside, the current form of Flock Of Dimes sounds liberating and upbeat, with less of the noisy indie mumble of Wye Oak. The project brings her pop melancholy into focus. Wye Oak might have become a poppier proposition in the last few years – 2011’s Spiral single definitely had a touch of the funk – but even Spiral left Jenn echoing in the distance like a mermaid dream, while the same year’s Civilian had more of an indie mumble. In contrast (and maybe on account of Jenn’s earlier dry runs at R&B with Dungeonesse), Semaphore is percolating electronic commercial art-pop in a 1986 Jane Siberry/Peter Gabriel vein, with a dash of country and bursts of beefy funk-roll bassline: qualities shared by Everything Is Happening Today, even if the latter has a more contemporary-sounding, speaker-busting alt.rock distortion halo wrapped around the chorus.

As you’ll gather from the names I’m dropping here, Dimes also has 1980s art pop written all over it – the stadium-scale reverb in which the guitars float and jostle like belfry runaways; the slick electronic technology which sounds as if it’s on the verge of cracking and hatching into a giant ungainly chick; and most of all the sense of an empowered, expressive perspective using all of this sonic trickery to blow open the windows and release the songs. I hate to sound as if I’m trying to ring a band’s death-knell (and I suspect that Jenn’s personal loyalties inform, inspire and justify her musical work as much as anything else) but on record, at least, Flock Of Dimes suggests ways forward for Jenn which Wye Oak simply doesn’t.

  • Rough Trade East, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, London, E1 6QL, England, Tuesday 4th October 2016, 12:45pminformation
  • The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England, Tuesday 4th October 2016, 7.30pminformation

Flock Of Dimes: 'If You See Me' (promotional flyer)

* * * * * * * *

Simon Reynolds: 'Shock And Awe'

Simon Reynolds: ‘Shock And Awe’

Finally, legendary music writer Simon Reynolds – the man who defined post-rock and re-canonised post-punk, and has striven to contextualise and illuminate every ingredient in contemporary pop (from the most challenging Afro-American sub-bass growl’n’gurgle to the flossiest bit of floating white vanity-froth) has most recently been focussing on glam rock.

He’ll be launching his new book ‘Shock And Awe: Glam Rock & Its Legacy‘ via a short English book tour in early October. Dates and summary below:

“In ‘Shock And Awe…’, Simon Reynolds explores this most decadent of genres on both sides of the Atlantic. Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, The Sweet, Gary Glitter, New York Dolls, Sparks, Slade, Suzi Quatro, Cockney Rebel, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Mott The Hoople — all are represented here. Reynolds charts the retro-future sounds, outrageous styles and gender-fluid sexual politics that came to define the first half of the seventies and brings it right up to date with a final chapter on glam in hip hop, Lady Gaga, and the aftershocks of David Bowie’s death.”

All events will also feature a glam rock film screening: there’s no information on what’s playing at Sheffield, but for Manchester it’ll be Ringo Starr’s 1972 T-Rex rockumentary ‘Born To Boogie’ and for London it’ll be a “special curated series” of glam rock videos.

Again, there’s no mention of a sparring partner at Sheffield: but in Manchester Simon will be talking with a fellow ‘Melody Maker’ polymath (journalist, curator, pop historian, film director and St Etienne member Bob Stanley) and in London with ‘Guardian’ pop music critic Alexis Petridis from ‘The Guardian’. Simon Price (a Reynolds friend and contemporary who knows more than a little about the glamour chase and how to spin a polemic on it) will be joining in at London with a guest DJ set.
 

July 2016 – a pair of one-day English festivals on the 16th (EppyFest 5 in Stroud, The Whole World Window in Preston)

13 Jul

This Saturday sees a couple of interesting pocket festivals taking place in the west and north-west of England – there’s still a chance for last-minute tickets or walk-ups for each of them.

The fifth in the series of EppyFests is happening this Saturday in Stroud, Gloucestershire. As with the previous four, it’s the brainchild of Stroud-based psychologist and music enthusiast Ian Fairholm and is a spinoff of his well-respected Epileptic Gibbon music podcast, whose remit rambles enthusiastically across “prog rock, art rock, post rock, prog metal, jazz rock, folk rock, math rock, downtempo, chill-out, ambient electronica, IDM, chamber pop, folktronica, psychedelia , neo-classical , film and TV soundtracks and experimental/avant garde music”.

EppyFest is an attempt at translating the podcast’s flavour into live music and live socializing. A well-run, self-starting pocket occasion (complete with its own T-shirts and integral dinner options) its previous events have featured ferocious British post-prog (Thumpermonkey, The Fierce & The Dead, Trojan Horse), latter prog/jazz-rock/jam acts (Sanguine Hum, Schnauzer, Henry Fool, Unto Us, Flutatious and Andy Pickford) and (in the case of Stackridge and The Korgis), a 70s prog outfit and a band of Britpop precursors sharing a last hurrah in the same body. Also in the mix has been loop guitar (Matt Stevens), classical/world chamber-fusion (Firefly Burning) and folk performers with extra ingredients stretching from neo-Celticana to chalkhill psychedelia, European electronica or Balkan jazz (Sheelanagig, I Am Your Autopilot, Tinker’s Cuss, Arch Garrison). As you might expect from a thoughtful curator married to an accomplished female musician, Eppyfest has also featured a healthy proportion of women players including bandleaders and solo artists (such as Becky Rose, Candythief and She Makes War).

Assuming that you’re not already committed to attending the Felix M-B gig down the road on the same day, EppyFest 5 looks set to carry on the tradition in fine form. (I’m jealous. I wouldn’t mind running something like that myself. It’s time to start thinking about empire, or benevolent despotry…)

The Epileptic Gibbon Podcast presents:
‘EppyFest 5’: William D. Drake + Judy Dyble & Her Band of Perfect Strangers + Marvyn B. Naylor + Darkroom (with Elif Yalvac) + Tom Slatter + Sirkis/Bialas International Quartet
Lansdown Hall, Lansdown, Stroud, GL5 1BB, England
Saturday 16th July 2016 , 4.00pm to 11.00pm
information & tickets

Eppyfest 5, 2016

Over the years, I’ve said plenty about this year’s EppyFest headliner William D. Drake over the years, and will probably say more. Woody-throated singer and former Cardiac; the organic keyboard wizard who turns television sets into organs; the man you might find if you went looking for the place where baroque pop meets Punch-and-Judy professor. Bill’s songs suggest a parallel English music: one in which antique pop songs on crackling wax cylinders mingle seamless with both Henry Purcell and Frank Zappa.

In his mid-fifties, and with the release of his fifth album ‘Revere Reach’, Bill’s reached a crucial point in his career, in which the jolly avuncular eccentricities of his earlier work have finally given way to the blossoming kernel of beauty within his compositions. He’s probably far too rounded a person and songwriter to entirely give into it, though. Expect the full range of glorious pastoralism and bouncy humour from a full chamber pop band including members of Stars In Battledress and North Sea Radio Orchestra.

 

I’ve also said plenty about Darkroom , the textural electro-morphic partnership of sometime No-Man/Samuel Smiles/Henry Fool guitarist Michael Bearpark and loop/synth/woodwind/patch-man Andrew Ostler. Over two decades Darkroom have delivered a massively underrated body of work straddling gigantic cosmic soundscapes like deliquescing Hubble images, intricate cerebral dance rhythms, broodingly beautiful guitar tones and (recently) cryptic bass clarinet and flute strands, touching upon influences as diverse as OMD, Autechre, Robert Fripp, Neil Young, Delia Derbyshire, Can and Bennie Maupin.

For this concert their polyglot electronica is augmented by a special guest, Turkish electronic guitarist Hazal Elif Yalvaç an Istanbul-based composer, musician and linguist. We’ll have to see whether Elif’s work (much of it glitching, grumbling guitartronic abstractions) brings out Darkroom’s more abstract instincts; or whether Os and Michael’s knack for direct expressiveness brings out that proggier aspect which Elif’s threatening to reveal in her forthcoming Light Curve project.


Show opener Tom Slatter also shows up in ‘Misfit City’ quite often. He’s a Victorian town-crier with a guitar and a slew of fantastical tales about monsters of air, land and sea, strange goings on in laboratories, haunted gentlemen and master criminals loose on the railways. On record he’s a multi-instrumental steampunk proggie, building himself instrumental Rube Goldberg machines (and occasionally collaborating with one). Live, he’s mostly unplugged and solo, letting his charm make up for the shortfall in instrumentation. One day he will build himself a bicycle-powered, bat-winged portable orchestrion out of old tuba piping and traction engine spares, to allow him to merge both situations. It will probably go off course and fly him somewhere horrible.

One of the prime strengths of jazz players is that they can come from anywhere in the world, meet each other for the first time and immediately speak a common improvising language of immediate flexibility. The four musicians who make up the Sirkis/Bialas International QuartetAsaf Sirkis (drums, Israeli, Londoner), Sylwia Bialas (voice, Polish, currently a Londoner but only recently a Würzburg resident), Kevin Glasgow (bass guitar, a Scottish Londoner via Ireland, but Invernessian rather than actual Glaswegian, replacing an Englishman who originally reached the band via Australia, Scotland and the United States) and Frank Harrison (keyboards, English, surprising lack of other complications) – make more of their scattered nature than most.

With all of that in mind, you’d expect a riotous mix of cultures, making hay out of clashes. What you actually get is aquamarine almost-acoustic jazz, cupped and propelled by Asaf’s winds-of-the-forest percussion subtleties, sung in Polish or vocalese, sheathed in softness and in smoothly-flowing instrumental gestures. The lightness of touch and the Northern hemisphere reserve hearken towards both Pacific Northwestern new age and ECM atmospherics; the light-as-a-feather scatting, twirling Rhodes piano and lissom six-string electric bass suggests a hushed Kurpie version of Flora Purim’s time with Return to Forever.

While the pure, piping soprano tones of co-headliner Judy Dyble might distract you from her full story, they do tie her firmly to the 1960s folk revival. It’s a true tie, as well – teenage friendships with Ashley Hutchings and Richard Thompson led her to spend a year as the singer for the original lineup of Fairport Convention. This auspicious start was followed by a brief, obscure stint in King Crimson prelude band Giles, Giles & Fripp, a more celebrated year as half of much-touted psychedelic folk duo Trader Horne; and finally a handful of gigs in the company of Canterbury characters Lol Coxhill, Steve Miller and Phil Miller.

A gentle, often reticent character, Judy’s musicality wasn’t enough to keep her comfortably engaged with the bruising demands of the music business; and in 1973, after six years of flitting nervously in and out of the spotlight, she retired from music into a quiet life of family and library work while still barely into her twenties. Perhaps it wasn’t as mysterious or dramatic a withdrawal as that of peers such as Anne Briggs or Vashti Bunyan, but it was enough to reduce her reputation to a shadow for all except those who dug up her handful of recordings in search of half-forgotten treasure and found something that didn’t deserve to be overshadowed.

Bar a couple of flitting, fitful Fairport reengagements at Cropredy in the early ‘80s, little was heard from Judy for three decades until – widowed and empty-nested – she was inveigled back into recording by Astralasia’s Mike Swordfish in 2002. Since then she’s pursued a quiet but exploratory revival of her musicality, working in fields fromfolk-rock to trancetronica and experimental art pop, and with collaborators including Dodson & Fogg, Tim Bowness, Sand Snowman, Joxfield Projex, Fuxa and Thee Faction. Her regular home, however, is with her Perfect Strangers ensemble (mostly drawn from co-writer Alistair Murphy’s Cromerzone project) with whom she’ll be performing at EppyFest. Throughout all of this, Judy’s signature tone has remained intact – the folk sweetness, the subliminal hint at hesitancy and tremble which betrays the nerviness and unsurety which has both interrupted her career and given her work its humanity and honesty. As she heads towards her seventies, both tone and temperament have become allied to a longer perspective of value, loss and change – something which, strengthened and deepened by time, she’s grown into and fleshed out with natural experience.

Completing the bill is another, even less well-known hidden treasure. Winchester singer-songwriter Marvyn B. Naylor has been delivering music for twelve underappreciated years now. His mixture of intricate, allusive psychedelic pop songs and pulsating 12-string guitar folk instrumentals tip nods to and shake hands with inspirations including the early David Bowie, Edward Elgar, the Beatles, Joyce Kilmer, Frank Sinatra, Francisco Tarrega and Guy de Maupassant: but he’s a whole meal in himself.


 

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There’s just one former Cardiac on the bill at EppyFest. Technically speaking – unless it’s true that Kavus Torabi is DJ-ing – there are no former Cardiacs at The Whole World Window, which takes place on the same day as EppyFest but five counties up (in Lancashire). In spite of this the bill, spread across two stages, is suffused with Cardiacs enthusiasm. Unsurprising, since it’s the latest in a series of benefits for the band’s stroke-felled leader Tim Smith.

Greg Braysford presents:
‘The Whole World Window – A Benefit for Tim Smith’: Britney + All Hail Hyena + 7Shades + The Scaramanga Six + Sweet Deals On Surgery + Sterbus + Trojan Horse + Adam Shaw + The Jackpot Golden Boys + Sean Keefe + Ahsa + others tbc (or fibbed about)
The New Continental, South Meadow Lane, Preston PR1 8JP, England
Saturday 16th July 2016, 2.00pm
– information here – tickets here and here

The Whole World Window, 2016Bellowing Scots Britney are as garish and hardcore as a fairground teddy-grabber covered in backstreet tattoos. They’re given to one-and-a-half-minute bursts of earsplitting rock numbers plastered with crumpled ice-cream-van melodies. The latter trait, something of a Cardiacs stock-in-trade, tinkles through several of the other bands on the bill – be they outright disciples 7Shades (who lovingly pillage the ornate Cardiacs style wholesale) or pyjama-clad Burley power-pop trio All Hail Hyena (who sound like Bo Diddley rocking an birthday-cake castle).


Something more grandiose is offered by Huddersfield rock bullies The Scaramanga Six. They’ve devoted twenty-one years and enormous musical flair to hammering out poperatic tunes and bursts of garage gonzo, providing tragicomic insight into the flawed and unsettled ethics of everyday men (all carried out with assured baroque brutality and gallows humour). Self-styled “noisy prog rock bastards” Trojan Horse might not be returning to EppyFest this year, but they are bringing their omnivorous Salfordian rock cocktail to Preston: a catalogue of work which plunges into swaggering ‘70’s funk, belting avant-garage moments, broad-spectrum Beatles-pop and audacious psychogeographic experiments. Power-poppers Sweet Deals On Surgery lean towards the punkier side, bucketing towards the end of a song as if it were a race, but distractedly bursting into different versions halfway. For God’s sake, keep them off the Haribos…



All the way from Italy, Sterbus (Smith/Fripp/Zappa obsessive and noblest-Roman-of-them-all) will be coming to either yomp through some of his triple-jointed proggy power pop or to play leafy psychedelic summer-lounge acoustica (which may or may not include some of his takes on Cardiacs, Spratleys Japs and other limbs of Smithiana). If he doesn’t hold up the acoustic end, rest assured that Ivan Campo frontman Adam Shaw will, as he brings along his light-touch, thoughtful folk pop for us to unravel.


The rest of the bill’s made up of bands which predominantly reflect the humour (if not necessarily the horse-laughs and art-punk prankery) of the Cardiacs world. Silly-goodtime pop culture obsessives The Jackpot Golden Boys throw assorted metal, pop and funk chops at things from TV theme tunes to geek topics and hope that a few of them stay embedded. Militant hat wearer, slide guitarist, Strumstick player, comedy yarner and genre-mash novelist Sean Keefe – brings along his own version of honky-tonk Americana.



 
The (known) lineup is completed by acapella singer Asha Hewitt (seen below performing with Gummo Cleyre and Alex Dickinson as Yorkshire Latin pop band Solana). Asha might be the last kind of musician you’d expect to see getting up at a Smith benefit gig; but her presence is proof positive that the happy skewed tastes of the Cardiacs audience let in all kinds of light. Once they’ve stopped cheerfully bawling for their mashed-up chord sequences, that is…


 

July 2016 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Horse Improvised Music Club improvisations from small groups including Adam Bohman Text Quartet (5th); Hominid Sounds electronic night with Mark Dicker, Guncleaner, Johnny Broke and others (7th)

2 Jul

A couple of London experimental gigs for the coming week, briefly explored:

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Horse Improvised Music Club, 5th July 2016

The Horse Improvised Music Club presents:
Noel Taylor/Asaf Fleischmann/Ulf Mengersten + Adam Bohman Text Quartet + Antonio Cunzo/Joe Wright/David Stockard/Tony Hardie-Bick
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Tuesday 5th July 2016, 8.00 pm
information

Three small-group performances from the South Bank London improvisers’ hub; following, in part, their tradition of putting well-known improvisers together with lesser-known ones.

The opening act is a scratch quartet of rising Aberdonian jazz saxophonist Joe Wright and Carrickfergus-based percussionist David Stockard with pianist Antonio Cunzo and Chapman Stick player Tony Hardie-Bick. (While it always gives me a lift to see a Stick pop up anywhere in music, since I’ve always loved its clipped-but-singing polyphonic tones, Tony also seems to have the most interesting backstory within the quartet. From being Sham 69’s keyboard player during the late ‘80s, he’s moved from backing up other people’s punk polemics to spending most of his time as a software instrument developer, coaxing new levels of performance interaction out of touchscreens and wearable tech. As a performer, he’s been known to drag his protesting Stick flex-first across gallery floors, an art-punk flourish which I guess is a change from the cloud of warm jazzy reverence which usually surrounds the instrument.)

 
Veteran London acoustic-noise’n’objects performer Adam Bohman takes the middle slot with his Adam Bohman Text Quartet, completed by Adrian Northover, Sue Lynch and Hutch Demouilpied. While Adrian and Sue are usually saxophonists (working together in David Petts’ Remote Viewers and Hogcallin’) and Hutch is a trumpeter and sound designer, it looks as if everyone’s working with voice this time.

There’s not much information on this other than that it’s a text piece, but some guidelines might come from Adam’s work on “talking tapes” during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s – lo-fi audio collages which ranged from spontaneous dictaphone observations (Adam discovering and illustrating the ordinary and mundane anew, in slurred Dada-esque tones) to ludicrous cartoon vocal pieces. The ‘Music and Words’ collation of these odds-and-sodes was described as a laugh-out-loud avant garde album and later releases were even funnier, pushing into prank-and-sketch territories like a splicing of Bob Cobbing with a one-man Pete’n’Dud. Have a listen to When A Man (in which a trio of growling Adams parody both bozo masculinity and thunder-throat action-film trailers, like a squad of querulous Daleks bloated on bright orange corn snacks), or White Sauce Without For Those Who Don’t (Adam’s cutup account of a single Christmas, chopped across with assorted literary, musical and familial distractions).


It is, of course, thirty years on from all of this, so you might get something far more sombre. Since the Quartet are performing something called “the Robin’s Nest Revisited Vocal Quartet”, I wouldn’t bet on it..

The last act of the evening are a trio connected to large-scale improvising institutions in two European capitals. Longstanding improv clarinettist Noel Taylor (Splatter, London Improvisers Orchestra, plenty more) will be playing with Ulf Mengersten (a double bass mainstay of Berlin Improvisers Orchestra) and pianist Asaf Fleischmann.

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Hominid Sounds evening, 7th July 2016

Hominid Sounds presents:
Mark Dicker + Guncleaner + Johnny Broke + tbc
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Thursday 7th July 2016, 8:00 pm
– information here and here

To celebrate the release of Mark Dicker‘s new tape ‘Frog Eggs’, London experimental label Hominid Sounds are putting on “a night of clangs and bangs.” There’s a gradually expanding bill for this, featuring various electronic noisemakers and beat-glowerers from the more unruly edge of London electronica. Mark himself (the man “responsible for the noise behind (the recently deceased) Palehorse is headlining, bringing “supersonic modular-synth slow jams” (for a little more on Mark and how he thinks, there’s a ‘Quietus’ interview here). So far, he’s being supported by “clanging, banging techno noise project” Guncleaner (featuring two members of secretive, elusive London heavy math-rockers Nitkowski) and by “improvised, analogue-synth acid techno” act Johnny Broke (initially a solo project by Shitwife‘s Wayne Adams, which now seems to have expanded and welcomed one half of north London noiseniks Death Pedals). More performers to be confirmed…

I’ve not got much information or workable noises for this concert. For starters, I only bounce around on the outside of this particular musical scene (like a stray static spit in the mix); It also seems clear that it’s a lineup of sound-artists in deliberate flux and change, demonstrating very different faces to their usual output; and even by noise music’s usual enclosed standards, information on this show seems to be insiders-only. So you’ll need to just attend and take a chance on what it might be like.

I did succeed, however, in pulling up a little recent Johnny Broke-ism and a Dicker track from early last year, so here they are:



 

July 2016 – upcoming and ongoing gigs – some pickings from the Frome Festival, west of England (1st-10th)

2 Jul

While I missed the chance to plug the Sin Eater Festival a few weeks ago, I’m just about in time for the modest fireworks which herald the Frome Festival in Wiltshire.

I’m too late to plug the opening party (in which Frome’s own electro-poppers Sweet Machine shared a bill with psychedelic synth-cabarettier, rock biographer and all-round performance character Alan Clayson); I don’t have much to say about the festival’s big-draw act Reef (currently enjoying a new revival of their original ‘90s revival of 70s blues-rock); and I feel sorry that the free gig by “ukular fusion” band The Mother Ukers doesn’t involve furious Mahavishnukulele jazz shredding (instead of being a variation on banjo-happy rockgrass covers). But there’s plenty more on offer, so here are a few other things picked out from the billing.

It’s by no means everything on offer (the festival’s full of visual art, talks and theatre; there’s plenty more jazz and classical; and there’s a show by Billy Bragg which will probably take care of itself) but these represent the bits-between-the-bits which are closest to ‘Misfit City’s natural constituency (if such a thing exists).

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The Magical Folk Garden @ The Archangel, 1 King Street, Frome, BA11 1BH, England
Tuesday 5th-Friday 8th July 2016, 7.30pm each night
– information: Tuesday 5th / Wednesday 6th / Thursday 7th / Friday 8th

At the upstairs room at the Archangel pub, The Magical Folk Garden continues to turn itself into an annual institution with a series of cushion-strewn/standing-room-only unplugged gigs, creating a “euphonious forest of folk and contemporary acoustic music from some of the UK’s finest talents.” It’s all pretty well-scrubbed and tasteful – there’s nothing to scare the horses here. That said, a few of the performers might own horses, and some might whisper them; while a few might go all ‘Poldark’ and ride off on one, bareback and bare-chested, a honey-coloured guitar bouncing up and down on the withers (it all probably depends on the state of the booze and the pollen count).

The Tuesday show features two Bath acts – lit-pop cello-and-guitar duo The Bookshop Band and romantic solo-balladeer Tom Corneill – plus the sunny pure-pop/psychedelic fizz of Trowbridge’s The Pigeons.


The Wednesday show has a band-backed performance from Frome’s Al O’Kane (a gravel-and-honey country-blues-folker who, with his mix of rolling American roots guitar and British mysticism, can come across as a one-man ‘Led Zeppelin III’). Also playing are Alex Taylor (bouncy, jazz-and-funk-tinged, broadening his sound and filling out his pockets with pedals and loops) and young songwriter Emma Shoosmith, whose output has ranged from thoughtful folkified Taylor Swift covers to the lilting ska-tinted song shown below.




 

The Thursday show has a chamber-folk air. Bookshop Band multi-instrumentalist Beth Porter returns with her own augmented-string quartet band The Availables and her own clutch of intricate literary songs. Also on board are the strings, percussion rustles and detailed guitar of Rivers Of England (fronted by Rob Spaulding) who, although they take on some pretty familiar modern folk tropes, land them in an interesting marginal territory in which the early-’70s John Martyn and the early-’80s Julian Cope sit down to exchange lines and tips. The bill’s completed by the lost-boy charm of Avebury singer-songwriter (and Nick Harper protégé) George Wilding with his warm, abstracted songs of distraction and heartbreak (simultaneously soothing and haunting).




 

The Friday folk-final involves wayward Bristol-and-Bath folk septet The Cedar. Beth Porter makes her third Magical Folk Garden appearance of the week as the band’s cellist, alongside five other musicians. Playing a variety of instruments and implements (from guitar, glockenspiel, viola, organ and ukulele to calculator, screwdriver, musical and tri-square) they weave Neil Gay’s slightly distracted songs into a musical fabric that’s sometimes Belle-&-Sebastian communal, sometimes music-school precise, and sometimes as frayed as a scrap-basket oddment.

The rest of the evening gently mixes Western with Western. Accompanying herself on guitar, baritone ukulele, harmonium or shruti box, Bradford-on-Avon’s Jess Vincent delivers a set of original country-folk songs with a sound and demeanour that’s seen her compared to both Iris DeMent and Kate Bush. Evening openers Ali George and Ruby Brown do their own take on Gram-and-Emmylou duets, filtered through Ali’s trunkful of original English folk/clawhammer guitar songs.




 

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The town’s Rook Lane Chapel arts centre is hosting plenty of events. These two in particular caught my ear:

Snowapple
Rook Lane Chapel, Bath Street, Frome, BA11 1DN, England
Thursday 7th July 2016, 7:30pm
information

Snowapple is an outstanding female harmony trio from Amsterdam who draw on folk, classical and chanson influences, in unique, charming and beautiful arrangements of original songs. Having sold out the Granary for the last two years, Snowapple have earned a reputation all over Europe and the US, and this year appear in the perfect setting of Rook Lane Arts.”

Praying For The Rain
Rook Lane Chapel, Bath Street, Frome, BA11 1DN, England
Friday 8th July 2016, 8.00pm
information

From the blurb: “Known for their dynamic and compelling live performances, Praying For The Rain blend contemporary folk, Celtic and world music with irresistible rhythms, memorable melodies, beautifully crafted vocals and inspired musicianship. Their music brings to mind a modern blend of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Robert Plant, to Fleet Foxes and the Dave Matthews Band, creating a truly uplifting experience. Following last year’s sell out concert, Praying for the Rain return to Rook Lane for Frome Festival 2016. Expect an exhilarating night of high energy, movement and wonderfully engaging songs.“

I’m sure I remember Praying For The Rain from when I was a regular at Martyn Swain’s wonderful Dreamhouse acoustic nights, a refuge of warm bohemian chic and unplugged music alongside the Splash Club in scuzzy mid-’90s Kings Cross. These were the same shows at which I was delighted by up-close performances from Marcy Detroit, Simons Warner and Whitaker and many more… there’s a little bit about Dreamhouse here, since someone’s been writing a crowdfunded book about the Splash years (and you can still pitch in to help it). Dreamhouse was the kind of night where you could expect table candles and belly dancing interludes most weeks; but during their own slot, Praying For The Rain completely overflowed the little Water Rats stage with finger-cymbals, accordions, cellos, cirrus-band harmonies and what seemed like about ten people on whispering percussion, temporarily transforming the place to a full-on New Age folk temple.

Although they seem rather more bluesy and straightforward-rootsy than I remember through the gauzes of memory, it’s good to see that they’ve lasted the twenty-year distance and garnered themselves a new up-to-date list of comparisons.


 
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Over at the Granary, there’s a semi-unplugged triple bill and a visit from a ‘Misfit City’ favourite.

Three Is The Magic Number presents:
Three Corners + Molly Ross + Gum Girl
The Granary @ The George Hotel, 4 Market Place, Frome, BA11 1AF, England
Friday 8th July 2016, 8.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like

Regular Frome-and-Wiltshire unplugged night Acoustic Plus takes on a new identity for this three-act bill of “original songs, haunting vocals, mesmeric music” celebrating a diversity of approach via three different acts. Molly Ross offers fledgling piano pop touches on folk and R&B; Three Corners (with their roots in 1980s new-wavers The Impossible Dreamers, and featuring ex-Dreamers Nick Waterhouse and Caroline Radcliffe) play sparse, questing songs around more of a loose blues-and-jazz-informed tip; but the one I find most interesting is the dreamy beat’n’texture pop of Gum Girl.




 
Arch Garrison
The Granary @ The George Hotel, 4 Market Place, Frome, BA11 1AF, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.00pm
– information http://cheeseandgrain.ticketsolve.com/shows/873554307

As Arch Garrison, North Sea Radio Orchestra mastermind Craig Fortnam and Stars In Battledress‘ James Larcombe explore gentle, intricate psychedelic folk: partly gentle clean chapel tones, partly kosmische textures, partly chalk-ridge geomancy. A duo of Craig’s nylon-strung acoustic guitar and James’ assorted keyboards (organ, monosynth, harmonium and piano), their two albums’ worth of songs have enabled Craig to bring the smaller and more personal songs he writes to life, when they don’t fit the grander feel of NSRO. Their ‘Will Be A Pilgrim‘ album was one of my favourites of 2014 – an unexpected gem of small voice and thinking space. Support comes from local favourites Dexter’s Extra Breakfast, playing Dave Clark’s soft-petalled and “Weltschmerzian” songs of middle-aged reflection.

 

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John D Revelator
The Griffin, 25 Milk Street, Frome, BA11 3DB, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.00pm
– free event

At the Griffin, John D Revelator will be bringing along their dark-tinged acoustic swamp-pop for a free show. Even if there’s not actually such a thing as the “Somerset Levels delta”, they’ll lie to their last tooth and their last busted guitar string trying to persuade you that it does exist.


 

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Towards the end of the festival, the second of Frome’s two substantial concert halls is offering two very different performances on the same day. One is a post-lunchtime concert of vividly Catalonian Spanish classical music from the twentieth century; the other is an evening show of polymusical fusion from an all-star collective trio.

Elena Riu & Clara Sanabras: ’A Taste Of Spain’
Cooper Hall @ Selwood Manor, Jacks Lane, Frome, BA11 3NL, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 1.00pm
information

Pianist Elena Riu and singing multi-instrumentalist Clara Sanabras (the latter on voice, harp, oud, charango and guitar) perform selections from the ‘Songs & Dances’ of Catalan impressionist/miniaturist composer Federico Mompou and the ‘Spanish Dances’ of his compatriot Enrique Granados, interspersed with Clara’s performances of the original Catalan folk songs on which Mompou drew.

Birdworld
Cooper Hall @ Selwood Manor, Jacks Lane, Frome, BA11 3NL, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.30pm
– information http://cheeseandgrain.ticketsolve.com/shows/873554308

“Birdworld is made up of musicians Adam Teixeira (drums/percussion), Gregor Riddell (cello/electronics); and Alex Stuart (guitar). The project came about when Gregor and Adam met during self-directed Banff Creative Residencies where they discovered a shared interest in blending electronic and acoustic sounds. Since Adam moved to the UK in 2014 they have continued to develop BirdWorld, adding Alex along the way. Combining their artistic voices as both instrumentalists and composers, the trio will showcase each members original compositions arranged specifically for this unique musical exchange. Creating a unified sound that blends the inspirations of modern jazz, world music, contemporary classical, rock and electronic music in a rare concert setting.”

Here’s a video of the original two-piece in action, to give you two-thirds of an idea of what might be on offer.

 

June 2016 – upcoming London gigs – four for Saturday 18th (Glass, Matthew Bourne, Darren Morris, and The Leaf Library at Daylight Music; Tanya Tagaq soundtracks ‘Nanook of the North’ at the Forge; Rock Candy Girlz & Malcolm Bruce at MAP Studio Café; the Pussywarmers at Wilton’s)

16 Jun

An interesting London Saturday is coming up, with music ranging from shattering electronic jazz to faintly worrying lounge music and psychedelic pop; pipe organ explorations to Inuit vocalese; transfigured electropop to sing-alongs and drone-strumentals… with the odd dancing gorilla and shocking pink hairpiece showing up too.

More below…

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Daylight Music 228, 18th June 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 228 (‘Electric Dreams’): Glass + Matthew Bourne + Darren Morris + The Leaf Library
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 18th June 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation – £5.00) – information

“Daylight Music goes electronic this week with three superb acts.

“Rising pop duo Glass are set for big things in 2016. Their spectacularly roaring body of work and captivating live shows have seen them hotly tipped as ‘ones to watch’ by The Maccabees, Huw Stephens and Tom Robinson. Jessica Winter’s haunting, enunciated vocals and Scott Rimington’s other-worldly guitar break-outs meet to create a language all of its own, underpinned with pummeling grooves, meticulous synth lines and addictive ear-worm hooks. Today they’ll be playing an acoustic set.

“With a reputation as a fearlessly unpredictable pianist and composer, multi-award-winning musician Matthew Bourne is a passionate explorer of sound, possessed of a burning desire to make music on anything old, broken or infirm. Renowned for his intensely personal and sometimes confrontational solo work, his uncanny ability to balance delicacy and virtuosity – while establishing a close affinity with his audience – have become hallmarks of his concert performances. He has his fingerprints on a huge number of projects, having worked with artists as diverse as John Zorn, Annette Peacock, Nils Frahm, Nostalgia 77, Broadway Project, and Amon Tobin.

In the last year, Matthew set up a studio in his rural West Yorkshire home in order to capture the spontaneous moments of inspiration his concerts have become famed for. With a nod to the pioneering work of Annette Peacock and Paul Bley, he has turned his considerable talents to the world of analogue synthesisers; arming himself with an arsenal of vintage electronics, tape delays and a creaky harmonium alongside his trusty piano and cello, and preparing for a period of intense and varied activity in his own name after many years of collaboration. Growing from improvised live performances, new compositions have taken shape in the studio as Bourne explored and moulded the vast sonic possibilities of voltage-controlled oscillators.

“The seed for this project was planted when Matthew acquired an uncooperative 1982 Memorymoog, having it painstakingly modified and upgraded by Rudi Linhard in Germany. Created without the use of computers or sequencers, ‘moogmemory’ is the first album to be recorded using only the Lintronics Advanced Memorymoog. This process also served as a pathway to another of his current projects, ‘Radioland: Radio-Activity Revisited’, a visceral live audio/visual experience created to mark the 40th anniversary of Kraftwerk’s seminal Radio-Activity album. In collaboration with electronic composer Franck Vigroux and installation artist Antoine Schmitt, ‘Radioland…’ sees him pushing his work with synthesisers into uncompromising new territory, as earth-shattering bass frequencies are contrasted with moments of eerie near-silence.

“The intriguing Darren Morris worked as a producer and musician for twenty years (with the likes of David Holmes, Tim Goldsworthy, Ashley Beedle) and he’s currently touring with former Beta Band-er Steve Mason. He’s been performing live as a professional musician for over fifteen years, playing keyboards, synths, and bass with a variety of artists including Gabrielle, Sugardaddy (side project of Groove Armada’s Tom Findlay), and Robin Hitchcock. He has a background in improvisation, working alongside many well-respected and influential players on the London improv scene such as Veryan Weston, Hugh Metcalfe, Sibyl Madrigal, Lol Coxhill, Gail Brand, Jon Edwards and Mark Sanders. Today, Darren will be playing the Chapel’s glorious 125-year old Henry Willis organ.”

Just noting that Darren isn’t a stranger to this particular instrument… Here’s the outcome of one of his previous encounters, plus an explanation:


 

“(This) started out as a ninety-minute improvisation, performed on the amazing organ that lives in the Union Chapel Islington. I was just zoning into the instrument and the building it breathes in, traveling through various pockets of 20th century western concert music, modal ’50s jazz, glimpses of Sun Ra, Terry Riley, daydreaming of space and psychedelic films here and there. The recording wasn’t anything special but it was easy to get sucked back in on listening back. I haven’t been able to leave it alone. For a few weeks I’ve been chipping away at it, adding a sort of electronic orchestra of synthesizers and string machines. I hope this album can make you believe it was all there at that moment, being recorded and witnessed. Maybe I’ll get this space orchestra together one day and return to the Union Chapel for a rather extraordinary gig. Hope you can be there!”

Back to the press release:

“There’ll also be improvised electronics from The Leaf Library, whose drone-pop love songs are particular Daylight favourites. If that wasn’t enough watch out for a special appearance by The Action Men who will bring their EU-topian roboto dance vision to our stage.”



 

* * * * * * * *

Tanya Tagaq @ The Forge, 18th June 2016

Tigmus and The Nest Collective present:
Tanya Tagaq in concert with ‘Nanook of the North’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Saturday 18th June 2016, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“Award-winning Inuit vocalist Tanya Tagaq, known for her intense, evocative style based on traditional throat singing, performs a live accompaniment to Robert Flaherty’s controversial 1922 silent film Nanook of the North. Joined by percussionist Jean Martin and violinist Jesse Zubot, Tagaq reclaims the film’s images of life in an early twentieth-century Inuit community in Northern Quebec. This is not an experimental performance to be missed.

“Commissioned by the Toronto Film Festival, Tagaq’s work with Nanook began with a sonic exploration of the film’s imagery. With her own sense of the sounds of places shown in the film, she transforms its images, adding feeling and depth to what is a complex mix of poignant representations and racially charged clichés. The film, one of the world’s first major works of non-fiction filmmaking, is rife with contradictions. Flaherty lived and worked with Inuit communities for many years, and yet he included staged scenes of buffoonery and feigned Inuit ignorance of modern technology and accoutrements.”

Tanya’s own comments on the project:

“Everyone will take what they want from it. I have no intention of spoon feeding people what they need to know. Yet, hopefully, via coaxing and innuendo and emotion, I can elevate people’s consciousness of Inuit culture, and of culture in general. I can take a small bite out of the underground racism against Inuit and Aboriginal people. I have faith that if people are educated about what’s actually happening, and if people believe, it can be fixed. But you have to acknowledge the bad to sprout the good.”

* * * * * * * *

MAP Live Lounge, 18th June 2016Rock Candy Management present:
MAP Live Lounge: Rock Candy Girlz + Malcolm Bruce
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Saturday 18th June 2016, 7.30pm

Saturday Live Lounge at MAP Café is a regular night of eclectic live music. It’s hosted by Rock Candy Girlz, a three-piece West London band featuring members of ‘90s charting band Amazulu who do “quirky interpretations of classic songs” in a lively glammed-up fashion. I’m usually left cold by this kind of Scissor Sisters thing – the crowd-pleasing cover versions, the high-camp glow, the pink wigs etc (although I’m a secret slut for dressing up) – but the Girlz’ wit and roguery win me over. Here they are doing a Kylie Minogue cover. Underneath that is a trailer for the first Live Lounge, sans glad rags, which shows that some people aren’t remotely slowed, subdued or suppressed by middle age. Good on them. If I could muster half of this kind of charisma, people would be falling over themselves to read the blog.


Their special guest this week is multi-instrumentalist and classic rock scion Malcolm Bruce, son of Cream’s Jack Bruce and grafter in a number of different musical zones (rock, jazz-rock, folk) since his mid-teens. It’s hard not to talk about Malcolm without reference to his dad, since Malcolm’s musicality reveals some of the genetic and cultural debt he owes to Jack. They share a similar singing voice (a forceful high-rise tenor which ranges from pugnacious to yearning), and Malcolm paid some of his dues as the guitarist in Jack’s band. Also, he can – and sometimes does – work some of the same musical seams that his father did.

However, Malcolm’s Soundcloud page reveals him as a softer, more intimate songwriter and interpreter than Jack was – touched by a more lucent strand of Celtic romanticism (as with Brian Kennedy, Van Morrison, Paul Buchanan), annealed by a touch of the sensibilities of another great ’60s white rhythm-and-blues star (Steve Winwood) and counterbalanced with judicious dashes of technical smarts and abilities (an accomplished acoustic folk guitarist, he’s also a lyrical, Satriani-esque electric hard rock player with arena sensibilities). Here are a couple of tracks from an EP he’s putting together for a Pledge Music crowdfunder goodie, as an enticement to help record his forthcoming album. One’s a straight folk lovesong, another’s a version of Purcell’s ‘Dido’s Lament’.



 

Regarding the latter, it’s tough to go up against some of the existing pop versions which this beautiful tune has spawned over the years (including grand, soaring counter-tenor renditions from Klaus Nomi and Jeff Buckley, and the heart-melting voice-and-piano folk version Barbara Dickson and Troy Donockley performed on ‘Full Circle’) but Malcolm approaches his own arrangement with pluck and honesty. It’s also a tricky task to switch between baroque lute elegance and full-blooded pomp rock – let alone fold a brand new anti-war song into the second half – without resulting in a hamfisted mess. Yet somehow Malcolm manages to pull it off and cover all of the necessary bases.

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Babel Festival of Literature & Translation presents:
The Pussywarmers
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, E1 8JB, England
Saturday 18th June 2016, 9.00pm
information

This in from Wilton’s:

The Pussywarmers bring you a lively mixture of music from the dope’n’glory jazz era of the mid-1920s. With horns, upright bass banjo and many more acoustic instruments, they have a wild and dusty character… plus trumpets. Cosmically bound to their Hungarian ladyfriend Réka, spasmodically accompanied on their travels by unpredictable trumpeters, The Pussywarmers – originally from the Mediterranean district of Switzerland – have spread their credo all over the continent. Indeed, audiences of all ages have fallen under their spell – a charming and obscure concoction of melodies that stubbornly eludes all attempts at a definition but which is leaving ever more gig-goers indefinably warmhearted.”

This doesn’t actually cover the half of it. What it doesn’t mention is this band’s teasing, wayward unknowability; their honey-sliding psychedelic atmospheres (like a half-cut Mamas & The Papas if they’d been woozily rebounding from the Haight); their playful lack of embarrassment and their apparent attachment to the Dada of their hometown. All of this can be seen in the video for their song ‘Young Men Living’, which blends Freud, Godard and Melanie Klein into three minutes and forty-three second of messy-play picnic.

If you’d prefer something less psychosexual, the video for Sunrise sees the band dancing blankly across Swiss hilltops in colour-bleached film stock; which, to a Brit, is going to look like a teasing ’70s memory from childhood forays onto BBC2. (Then again, if you’re not wanting something psychosexual, perhaps you shouldn’t be checking out a group called The Pussywarmers…)

The band is appearing as part of the tenth Babel Festival of Literature & Translation, described as “(a) unique border-crossing event (with) its own special brand of linguistic hospitality… a celebration of voices, rhythms, linguistic diversity, creolisation and hybridisation.” Usually based in Switzerland, it’s celebrating its decennial in London and at Wilton’s instead, bringing a day of “readings from writers and translators spanning China, Mexico, Poland, Bosnia, Switzerland and the USA.” . Full info on the whole event is here if you fancy making a fuller day of it.
 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs – three peeks into Durham’s Empty Shop – As Ondas,Year Of Birds and mystery guests (14th); Heir and Rebekah Fitch (15th); Captain Chaos, Chrissy Barnacle and Mama Lips (20th)

12 Jun

Being a Londoner might well give a person readier access to a wider day-to-day world than someone in a smaller British town (and you can read the same for anyone in a world city anywhere), but it also allows that person to become ignorant in the finer closer details, closed off from the simple knowledge that people in quieter places still come up with, or strive towards, interesting things. Part of what I’m doing with myself this year is actively trying to shed some of those blinkers, looking around outside the slew of London gigs I post about to find out what’s going on elsewhere.

Despite hearing about a longstanding enmity between “town” and “gown” in the city, I hadn’t made the necessary connections between Durham, economic poverty, commercial collapse and underground culture; probably because I’ve only previously swept through the town on the East Coast Main Line en route to Newcastle or Edinburgh, admiring the cathedral and the university castle from the insulation of the viaduct. (Like I told you. Londoner. Just plain ignorant.) If at some point I’d got my complacent arse down to street level and asked around, I might have found out more. Behind the mediaeval heritage prettiness and pleasant prospects there are indeed the same kind of economic problems which worm through the country as a whole and gnaw the north-east in particular. There are businesses failing and boarding up, and people becoming reduced to relying on food banks; there’s a sense of community which might dissolve under hunger and the decay of opportunity and moribundity; there are people whose lives might just peter out into a broke greyness; and none of this can be solved simply by proximity to a couple of World Heritage sites.

This is where the Empty Shop organization have come in during the last decade, making a local attempt to address the problems. They’re non-profit, aiming to make enough money to sustain a lively local arts culture and provide the platform for it to thrive. They also aim to make a thrifty, practical use of existing facilities instead of splurging on showcase showoff developments: their concerts, theatre and film shows, exhibitions and other events are housed in buildings which have fallen silent or empty, thereby ensuring that those places don’t fall into decay or become a town centre like a strip of dead teeth. Their gig calendar, too, is littered with events which raise collections for food banks: benefit shows which don’t sell themselves as such, since benefits don’t have to be special events but can be living, breathing regular exchanges of community resources, part of the fabric of being connected.

I’ve got three of this week’s upcoming Empty House gigs listed below – a punky sandwich with a surprisingly plush pop middle. I’m sure they’ll be the first of many which I’ll be flagging up in the future. For what it’s worth, both of the Equestrian Collective shows (the punkier ones, with perhaps a broader DIY communitarian ethic to suit) are food-bank all-age events.

* * * * * * * *

Equestrian Collective presents:
As Ondas + Year Of Birds + t.b.c.
Empty Shop HQ, 35c Framwellgate Bridge, Durham, DH1 4SJ, England
Tuesday 14th June 2016, 7:30 pm
– more information here and here

As Ondas/Year Of Birds, 14th June 2016As Ondas‘ press release is essentially just a mass of pop-culture fibs, which tells me that they don’t take a complicated reputation seriously and that they’ve got one eye on the possibility of jamming themselves into evenings of campery and frills. Buried in the waffle is the phrase “no-wave-surf, trilingual indie band”, which will do, although it doesn’t convey their touch of fun. They’ve got a little lava-lamp shimmy as well as clean punky lines and a surfboard twang; they’re bouncy and lounge-y in the same way that Os Mutantes were, with an elusive, mercurial intelligence in their approach.


 

Middlesbrough punks Year Of Birds make a few fibbing pop claims of their own (they wrote a third of the songs on Gabrielle’s ‘Rise’… yeah, hmmm…), Instead I can hear bits of West Coast pop, German motorik and a broader psychedelia in their short-order songs. There’s the cyclic two-chord pulse of early Teardrop Explodes for instance (albeit a Teardrops who gave their work a couple of extra spins in a dirty cement mixer) and there’s Syd Barrett – or Robyn Hitchcock – in their precise English diction behind their frontman’s faraway, heavy-lidded baritone and its megaphone distortions. On top of that, they sometimes slip into a discoloured version of that chromium early-Neu! chug and have fluctuating taste for cosmic synth twitters. While none of that makes them Gong-family caperers or dedicated autobahnauts there’s no way that they could hold a bored English punk anomie for more than a few seconds without cracking an eye-twinkle. Their cover of Donna Summers’ I Feel Love (delivered in what’s best described as an ecstatic tannoy monotone) is a small piece of smogged-up Yorkshire wit and Space Dusted joy.


 

There’s another band on, apparently. There’s no word on who they are. There are rumblings about them having invented fuzzy-felt. If that’s a clue, it belongs to a story or a joke which I’m not in on. Sorry. Show up and see for yourselves.

* * * * * * * *

Heir/Rebecca Fitch, @ Empty Shop, Durham. 15th June 2016

Empty Shop presents:
Heir + Rebekah Fitch
Empty Shop HQ, 35c Framwellgate Bridge, Durham, DH1 4SJ, England
Wednesday 15th June 2016, 7.30 pm
information

How long have Heir been hiding in Leeds, and where did they find a place to hide and do their growing up so secretly? Their debut EP’s only been out since March, their debut single’s barely a year old; but it seems as if they’ve arrived fully matured.

Heir are one of those enviable pure pop bands that covers virtually all bases. Accomplished sophisti-pop recombiners, they’re universal enough to hit Radio 2 playlists, to soundtrack summer picnics and sell bucketloads of records in supermarkets, but they’re still tuneful and dynamic enough to disarm and win over sharper tastes. There’s plenty of quiet-storm emotiveness in those finely-crafted, deceptively simple songs; clever feather-soft steals of space and atmosphere from trip-hop; and there are lessons well-learned from upper-drawer pop-soul, with hints of both Smokey Robinson or Commodores. Best of all are the gorgeous fraternal bursts of bell-like man-harmonies which back up and refract Tom Hammond’s sweet-and-sore lead vocal, right when they’re needed. (Think the Finn Brothers, or Francis Dunnery; but always bring it back to that soul source, of men stretching and basking in the sweet spot between church and itch.)


 

Sure, enough, the support slots and the BBC Radio plays are already coming their way. Of course, it could all go horribly wrong. Heir might follow a substantial path along the past lines of Elbow (the band whom they most resemble in their gusty Northern blueness) or Deacon Blue. On the other hand we could be seeing them at an early peak before rapid success and co-opting buffs or Barlowises that clear edge and talent; drives it down into frictionless sleekness, into something transient to lube the gaps between acts on ‘The X-Factor’. They might end up putting out no more than a couple of albums before going their separate ways, following many a fine performer in slipping invisibly behind the scenes to write toplines for anonymous r&b stars.

Right now, though, Heir are honed and treasurable. This will be an intimate acoustic show (fine with me, as long as they cheat and keep the Rhodes switched on) and at this point you can still get close enough and persuasive enough to reassure them that they should never swap the joy of singing to people for the staleness of singing to a demographic. Or, if you’re aiming to be a bitter old git, you could go in order to stockpile memories of that time you saw Heir when they still really had it.


 

Taking the support slot, Rebekah Finch (originally established in Belfast, but developing in Durham) offers her own pop songs. Though she cites Lana Del Rey and Florence + The Machine as influences, both her Hosanna single and various demos suggest a talent that’s both more slippery and more direct, pitched as it is between airy flights of positivity and the quick jabs of doubts and home truths. Well, that often worked pretty well for Stevie Nicks, whose mixture of tenderness and steely force Rebekah seems to be leaning towards; and whose gravel-and-honey tones she sometimes echoes amidst the dabs of soul and gospel. Promising.



 

* * * * * * * *

Equestrian Collective presents:
Captain Chaos + Chrissy Barnacle + Mama Lips
Empty Shop HQ, 35c Framwellgate Bridge, Durham, DH1 4SJ, England
Monday 20th June 2016, 7:30 pm
– more information here and here

Captain Chaos/Chrissy Barnacle/Mama Lips, 20th June 2016On the second of the two Equestrian nights, Captain Chaos –a.k.a Plan It X records boss Chris Clavin – headlines. A folk-punk legend, he’s played in more bands than it’s fruitful to list and his particular talent has outlasted all of them.

As he always does, he’s hauled a battered acoustic guitar, a hatful of gawk and a bag of witty, off-kilter songs all the way from his Indiana home and over state lines and seas, to touch down somewhere where he knows he’ll have an audience to share and play with. His songs are shaggy dog tales, or carefully honed stand-up routines in melody and verse with little zingers at the end, or comically gonzoid rearrangements of personal quirks. You’ll laugh at him and with him; you’ll want to buy him bar snacks; you’ll want him to come back.


 

Glasgow “song weaver” Chrissy Barnacle is still young enough to be showing plenty of influences – in particular Bob Dylan in the propulsive clawhammer fingerpicking and the densely worded lyrical shambles, and early Joanna Newsom in both the efflorescent femininity of her tumbling trains of thought and that yawp in her voice. But give her some more time – starting with some of your own. From what I can hear, she’s still a talent in development; taking a little longer to shake off her first roots, a bud who’s pushing hard to emerge in full.

What’s emerged already, though, already impressive. I just think that there’s going to be a moment in which all of those influences finally come into alignment, something clicks into place and they become integrated rather than transparent. That moment might even be this coming Monday. I guess that I’ll have to keep checking in.



 

Durham’s own Mama Lips sometimes went under the name of Andrew and mostly writes comics; but she also pens and performs upfront, supportive anti-folk songs for the queer of all kinds and especially the transgendered (as well as for those who empathise with them). Her brand new “Fairy Godmother’ EP is about “surviving in our identities, and our fairy godmothers who take care of us,” and she clearly doesn’t give a fuck about anyone who might sneer at her failure to prioritise bitchiness, snark and irony, since there are more urgent things to concentrate on first. Apparently she has other, raunchier songs in the bag, and if we’re good she’ll teach us about the hanky code. (I was impatient, so I cheated…)



 

* * * * * * * *

As I said, I’m sure that I’m going to be looking up more Empty House Durham gigs in the future, but there’s enough here already to make me wish that I’d gotten off that train earlier.
 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs in London and elsewhere – Boy and a Balloon, Russell Swallow and Jack Hayter at Daylight Music (4th June); Weird Dreams briefly drifting around England (7th-10th June); Tricity Vogue in residence at Wilton’s (also 7th-10th June)

2 Jun

Some more imminent shows, mostly of slightly skewed varieties of pop.

* * * * * * * *

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 226: Boy and a Balloon + Russell Swallow + Jack Hayter
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 4th June 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like event (suggested donation: £5.00) – more information

Daylight Music 226, 4th June 2016Subtitled “Inside/Out”, this particular Daylight Music session is a showcase for some of the long-running concert series’ regulars. As they put it:

“Under the moniker Boy And A Balloon, Alex Hall is a Hampshire born singer-songwriter. A London busker, and once a session guitar player (touring extensively for Motown legends Martha Reeves & The Vandellas) he now creates skewed indie music – reviving songwriting styles from the glory days, and fusing it with contemporary and chamber acoustic instruments.

“Dismantling the idea of cleanness, Alex accompanies his delicate vocals on his mainstay guitar (a bashed up three-quarter-size nylon-string version played through a StreetCube amplifier) to create glitchy and humanly imperfect timbre. Merged with a simplistic songwriting style to underpin and iron the creases out of the music, Boy And A Balloon attempts to create a new brand of idiosyncratic pop songs. It is a true and purposeful statement and philosophy that songwriting will shine through roughness. Taking major influence from musical icons from all his troubadour heroes of the ’40’s right up to the ’70s, Boy And A Balloon is about the innocent and inevitable loss of something human, precious and innocent – so apparent in today’s fast paced and overwhelming technological world.

“Calling on the classic grooves of James Bay, the storytelling of Tracey Chapman, and the gorgeous ambience of Howling, Russell Swallow‘s sound is brooding, confessional, indie. His songs and stories are driven by sensual imagery & sticky melodies, powered by rich tenor vocals, synths and driven guitars.

“Previously of the mighty Hefner (as well as Spongefinger and Dollboy), multi-instrumentalist Jack Hayter‘s beautiful, heartbroken music is full of folk-tinged dissonant woe. He’s a self-styled ‘singer and writer of no-tune showtunes’ and a ‘rotten-gutted, scorched-throated pedal steel machine’: a unique songwriter given time and freedom to blur the lines between the trad. folk of his influences and the London anxieties of his past with dirty fuzz, biting wit and of course, ‘the universal language of a drunkard’.”

(Jack usually appears at Daylight Music on acoustic guitar and voice: elsewhere on this blog there’s a detailed review of one such occasion.)

* * * * * * * *

When they emerged in London about five years ago, Weird Dreams perpetuated the well-worn image and substance of a literary indie band in a classic four-man mould. They jangled their guitars; they drew on ‘60s-tinted Beach Boys and girl-group inspired pop; then, citing a fascination with the underbelly cinema of David Lynch, they subverted that pop with dark and bitter lyrics about loss, misunderstanding and cruelties. To seal the deal, it emerged that they’d first been formed after a chance conversation in a retro clothes shop. Their debut album, ‘Choreography’, seemed tailor-made to appeal to the Edwyn Collins, Smiths and Belle & Sebastian fans. After that, it all seems to have gone wrong, though possibly wrong in the right kind of way. Dark hints at a four years of “loss, derealisation and the constructing of a new identity” suggests that the band hit multiple meltdowns.

Whatever happened, it’s seen the Weird Dreams base shifted from north-east London to Paris, left singer and songwriter Doran Edwards as the only remaining member, and altered the band’s sound from concise, short-story guitar power pop into something looser and more textured; more in keeping with their name; more electronic, decidedly psychedelic and definitely hypnagogic. Though you can still hear the skeletal outline of their previous musical identity, Weird Dreams’ current way of working cites unsettling photojournalism and avant-garde electronic composing as influences – alongside the grand synthtronic filmscapes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and the DIY radiophonic pop mistings of Broadcast. It sometimes sounds as if Doran might have kept in touch with his inner Lynch, but also turned up a little heat under his inner Splet.


 

Doran’s new approach also allows him to unhook from pithy storytelling and dip into a questing, introverted fantasy. One of the new songs, Calm, explores autogenic therapy – or to put it another way, the consciously-willed emptying-out of stress, body part by body part, suggesting a simultaneous emptying out of soul and identity, even as the music itself travels through phases of mood-shift from disassociation to rapture and rhythm. Another song, Heaven’s Hounds, revisits memories of 1980s synth pop and wraps them in a swathe of trickling dream pop guitar arpeggios and sampler gusts (the results echoing both the narcosis swoon of My Bloody Valentine and the unearthed-technology-meets-folk-reinventions of Eyeless In Gaza).


 

Performing as a Doran-fronted five-piece, the reinvented band are playing the following venues this month:

* * * * * * * *

Tricity Vogue (photo by James Millar)

Tricity Vogue (photo by James Millar)

If you’d prefer something a little more vivid and straightforward to fill your week, or just someone with dirtier jokes – in fact, if you happen to be in London and fancy a homburg-hatted cross between the dear-departed Victoria Wood and the still-very-much-in-yer-face Amanda Palmer, with a couple of twists of Lorraine Bowen and Marie Lloyd – then you could check out Tricity Vogue instead. The ukulele-toting queen of “thinking women’s burlesque cabaret” (and part-time tongue-in-cheek gender warrior) has an upcoming bar residency at London’s Wilton Music Hall which coincides or clashes with the Weird Dreams tour. You can expect her to deliver her own blues or jazz-inflected numbers about vampires or drunken penguins, list-songs about lady pirates and paeans to espresso coffee (which, naturally, accelerate into a distracted frenzy); and she’s a dab hand at nicking and recycling tunes (turning My Favourite Things into My Drag Queen Wet Dream’, or repurposing the ‘Doctor Who’ theme for a song about mundane parallel universes).

Tricity’s take on music hall proves that it’s an art form which, like Wilton’s itself, might need a careful patch-up, brush-up and infusion of new talent occasionally, but which doesn’t need that much refurbishment and alteration to remain fun. Plus, while she’s more than happy to deliver some snags along with the fluff. Alongside the kitschy daftness and double-entendres there are surprising delicate songs about lost origami, a sense of humour which ranges from cute to gallows (sometimes hitting both ends simultaneously, as in Pet Assassinator) and a set of ribald, pointed memoirs from an chequered love-life.

Wilton’s Music Hall presents:
Tricity Vogue
Cocktail Bar @ Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, E1 8JB, England
Tuesday 7th June to Friday 10th June, 9.00pm
more information




 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs – picking through BBC Music Day

29 May

BBC Music Day

The annual BBC Music Day comes up this year and this week on Friday 3rd June. It’s a generally beneficial nation-building exercise in typical BBC style, informed by magazine-style news, middle-range tastes and light entertainment. Much of what’s on is comfortably communal – plenty of light music choirs, familiar regional touches of brass and pipes.

In all fairness, there’s plenty here to like. There’s a scheme organising gentle live shows in hospitals throughout Scotland and England. There’s a focussing on church bell ringings around the country which is free of gimmick and simply lets the art speak for itself (emphasising both its national status and its localism). There’s the ‘Take It To The Bridge‘ programme, during which the nation’s bridges will be briefly overrun by symbolic musical meetings, community choirs, time-travelling orchestras and local songwriters.

Twelfth Doctor with guitar

Sadly not joining in with any time-travelling orchestras…(© BBC 2015)

There’s also a strong sense of that other nation – the one which the BBC still encourages in the face of rumbling political dissatisfaction, manipulation and discomfort. It might be a non-partisan wash of generic English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish decency which doesn’t offer much to scare the horses, doesn’t break a sweat breaking new ground, and doesn’t ultimately provide much event-by-event challenge; but it should still be applauded for at least trying to encourage common ground and (at a time when art is being squeezed out of schools) a culture of engagement with music. For the full programme – and for British readers who want to find out exactly what’s going on in their region – check the links above.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been sifting through the programme with my jaundiced, picky eye and selecting out what I feel are some of the more unusual or rewarding events dotted around the comfy musical quilt (more or less in order of occurrence), starting in the middle of another festival in Hay-on-Wye…

BBC Radio 3 Live/Hay Festival presents:
Hay Festival Guitar Jam with Morgan Szymanski
Friends Café @ Hay Festival Site, Dairy Meadows, Brecon Road, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5PJ, Wales
Friday 3rd June 2016, 9.30am

BBC Music Day - Get Playing!“Prior to his Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert (a collaboration with the Cremona String Quartet at 1.00pm, and already sold out) classical guitar ace Morgan Szymanski will be inviting amateur guitarists to join him for a morning guitar jam. Help create and perform a brand new piece for a hundred guitarists to be featured in the concert. Morgan will lead you through the process, whatever your level, from beginner to advanced. The event includes a special master class from Nitin Sawhney on playing the guitar.”

Unlike the walk-up nature of most of the other events listed here, a Hay Festival ticket is required for this one.

In Cambridge…

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire presents:
English Pocket Opera vs. Imperial & K.I.N.E.T.I.K
Silver Street Bridge, Silver Street, Cambridge, CB24 5LF, England
Friday 3rd June 2016, 11.30am

English Pocket Opera will be performing on a punt through the waterways of Cambridge. As they approach Silver Street bridge the opera will be joined by a local ‘BBC Introducing’ hip-hop duo Imperial & K.I.N.E.T.I.K, on top of the bridge. Hip-hop and opera will merge to create a brand new sound.”

Christ, this one could be a car-crash in multiple senses. I mean, it’s hard enough to handle a Cambridge punt at the best of time – it’s an unhappy marriage of Newton and Zen – let alone try to synchronise it with anything else. Still, given the sunny, positive and playful nature of both sets of musicians involved (don’t expect a collision of ‘Wozzeck’ and Kanye), let’s give them the benefit of the doubt… and just to put it into perspective, I‘m an appalling puntsman and these guys know their music.



 

In Nottingham…

Afro Therapy, 3rd June 2016Can’t Stop Won’t Stop presents:
Afro Therapy: featuring Jourdan Pierre Blair + Ella Knight + Early Bird + Garton + D Dot + others tbc
Rough Trade Nottingham, 5 Broad Street, Nottingham, NG1 3AJ
Friday 3rd June 2016, 7.00pm

“Live music and DJs will be putting music of black origin in the spotlight. Unsigned and independent artists Ella Knight, beat maker Early Bird, and MCs Garton, D-Dot and Jourdan Pierre Blair (the last better known as Jah Digga) will represent a range of R’n’B and hip hop styles with a British stamp on global music. This free event is open to people over the age of 14.”

I’ve got to say that – for all of the community ethos being trumpeted elsewhere – this show is probably the most proactively street-level event on a day which needs to be about everyone in the country, not just people who like choirs and crumpets. (I’m not trying to bitch here; I just… noticed.) Here’s a run of video and soundclips for most of those involved.





 

Sheffield also deserves credit for working outside the comfy box…

A Law Unto Ourselves, 3rd June 2016

Yellow Arch Studios present:
A Law Unto Ourselves: The Eccentronic Research Council (featuring Maxine Peake) + The Death Rays of Ardilla + Sieben + The Third Half
Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England
Friday 3rd June 2016, 7.30pm
– free event – more information

This is probably the most experimental event of the lot: an opportunistic but rewarding live spotlight on Sheffield’s unique independent music scene. There should have been more events like this dotted up and down the country – not necessarily with an experimental pop thrill, but emphasizing local current indigenous music which could only have happened in particular towns and at this particular time. All respect is due to Sheffield musicians, to the Yellow Arch venue and to curator Sophie Toes for taking the trouble to spot this challenge and rise to it.

Probably the biggest draw for A Law Unto Ourselves are the headliners – The Eccentronic Research Council, barbed and crafty exponents of their own scenic and sample-heavy “library/soundtrack, experimental, folkloric/non-populist pop”. They’ll be accompanied by their own established muse and mouthpiece – Maxine Peake (actress, declaimer, proud overturner of complacent applecarts) – and are the most questioning act across Music Day, bringing a touch of dissent, argument and the British radical tradition into its general cosiness. In support are spaced-out and (literally) brotherly garage-rock duo The Death Rays of Ardilla, Sieben (a.k.a. beater, plucker, tickler and layerer of voice and violin Matt Howden) and The Third Half (a duo who combine and alternate harp, celeste, guitar and voice in “twenty-first century neo-pastoral rare groove”).

ERC


There will also be DJ sets from representatives of some of Sheffield’s other interesting underground or experimental bands – spooky lysergic-child-song folksters Antique Doll, progtronicians I Monster, psychedelic country-and-western band The Cuckoo Clocks – plus one from Sophie Toes herself. There’s limited capacity for this show, so early arrival is recommended to avoid disappointment.

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In Bristol…

Charles Hazlewood and the British Paraorchestra
Colston Hall, Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5AR, England
Friday 3rd June 2016, 8.00pm

“After the success of last year, the ground-breaking British Paraorchestra, the world’s first professional ensemble of disabled musicians, return to Colston Hall to perform for BBC Music Day. The group is headed up by Charles Hazlewood, a genuine pioneer and innovator in the world of classical music. In a unique show, the Paraorchestra will be joined on-stage by performers from Extraordinary Bodies, the professional integrated circus company and partnership between Cirque Bijou and Diverse City. The combined effect of The British Paraorchestra and Extraordinary Bodies playing ‘In C’ by composer Terry Riley, promises to be cathartic and uplifting. The aural equivalent to climbing inside a giant lava lamp.”

On spec, this may sound like a case of worthiness over content – but while it’s true that (despite the Riley) the Paraorchestra plays its fair share of light-ent pop transcriptions to sugar the pill, albeit in its own way – it’s also worth noting that the ensemble isn’t just about the state of bodies. The Paraorchestra also explodes a lot of ideas about how an orchestra might work, in terms of instrumentation and approach: likewise, Extraordinary Bodies has plenty of challenges and delight to offer. See below:

 

…and finally…

Shaun the Sheep

Aardman Animation/Colston Hall/Bristol Museums present:
Shaun the Sheep’s Vegetable Orchestra
Studio 2, The M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN, England / Colston Hall, Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5AR, England
Friday 3rd June 2016
Workshops and rehearsals at Studio 2: 10.15am, 11.15am & 12.15pm (tel: 0117 352 6600 for details)
Veg Orchestra Finale! featuring Shaun the Sheep and his Vegetable Orchestra at Colston Hall: 1.40pm

“In celebration of BBC Music Day and Aardman’s 40th anniversary, children are invited to join Shaun the Sheep and become part of his Vegetable Orchestra for a live performance at Colston Hall. (There will also be an Aardman birthday singalong and cake presentation.) There will also be pre-performance workshops at M Shed to decorate your veg instruments and learn how to play your part, all set to the ‘Shaun The Sheep’ theme tune. Workshops presented by Farmer characters & Shaun himself, it’s ‘flock ‘n’ roll’ for all ages and all set on Mossy Bottom Farm!”

Sorry. For a variety of reasons (parenthood, humour, a taste for experimentalism and a love of everything Aardman-esque) I just couldn’t bloody resist that last one… and it turns out that the foremost practitioners of the vegetable orchestral art are as cheerfully experimental and conceptual as anything else I tend to feature in here…


 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – two types of British folk tour: Michael Chapman and Moulettes, plus a menagerie of support acts (United Sound of Joy, Richard Moss, Marcus Bonfanti, The Brackish, The Horse Loom, Dirty Old Folkers, Colour Trap)

19 Apr

Two British tours start this week, reflecting – in their way – very different aspects of British folk music.

Recently celebrated by ‘Mojo’, Michael Chapman isn’t just one of the sturdiest and most independent of the singer-songwriters coming out of the homegrown British folk revival of the 1960s: he’s also one of the last acoustic guitar masters standing from the generation which included Bert Jansch, Davy Graham and John Renbourne (all of whom are now gone). His playing reveals a fascination with Southern blues, folk, slide and ragtime jazz styles (all of which he’s mastered), while his pursuit of sound and setting has drawn him towards drones, delay, and loop effects (all of which he’s used as an adjunct to his unadorned playing, rather than as a replacement or distraction). As a singer and songwriter, there are parallels with J.J. Cale; and, rightly or wrongly, I can also hear echoes or anticipations of fellow Cale devotee Mark Knopfler in there, in terms of the husk, the fingerpicking clarity and the unprecious observational skills. (For what it’s worth, the two are connected by time in Leeds and both shared, however fleetingly, original Dire Straits drummer Pick Withers, whose jazz-influenced drummer kept the band both grounded and textured in the days before stadiums and weariness).

Here’s the press release for the upcoming tour:

“2016 marks noted guitarist & songwriter Michael Chapman’s 75th birthday and fifty years since he went on the road professionally in 1966. To coincide with the celebrations, Michael’s new instrumental album, ‘Fish’ has just been released on US imprint Tompkins Square & is already gathering much praise. To mark this important milestone in his life and career Michael Chapman tours in the UK as part of a stripped-back trio also featuring two longstanding allies – pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole (whose association with Chapman goes back a long, long way to the early 1970s) and Sarah Smout on cello (Chapman’s favourite musical instrument, which many fans will recall featured strongly on his classic 1970 album ‘Fully Qualified Survivor’.). The trio will be playing material from Michael’s incredible five-decade performing history as well as some new and experimental music.”




 

Dates are as follows:

A diverse set of interesting support acts are showing up at points during the tour, reflecting both the breadth of Michael’s musical references and the way in which venue promoters feel that they can successfully fit others around him on a bill. At Blackburn, the evening will be opened by Richard Moss: Lancashire singer-songwriter, fingerstyle guitarist, mandolin player and member of Anglo-Malaysian guitar duo Squirrels In Space, Irish music band Drop The Floor and the Union Street Country Dance & Ceilidh Band. At the Sinderhope show, support comes from hardcore punk escapee turned folk-baroque guitarist Steve Malley, otherwise known as The Horse Loom.



 

At the first gig of the tour (up in Hull), it’s Bristolian post-punk/psych/jazz band The Brackish who sound like an artfully spilled bookshelf of three decades worth of vinyl. Their muscly, slightly boggled tone mixes in urban blues, Ventures-tinged surf tunes, Frank Zappa air-sculptures and a few of Captain Beefheart’s broader brushstrokes (plus a tooth-in-the wind guitar edge which recalls the rawest work of Adrian Belew, at his analogue-screaming decennial point midway between Zappa and King Crimson).


 

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Although they’re also a product of the British folk tradition, Moulettes come from a different angle – one which is more fanciful and playful, in which authenticity is less the Holy Grail and more of a switchable ingredient. Like Rose Kemp, their take on folk draws on heavier sounds and on nearly fifty years of extraordinary, fanciful rock music. A Moulettes song comes at you like a dose of multi-instrumental chamber prog, adding cello, bassoon and autoharp to the guitars, bass and drums and the triple-decker lead vocals. Their storytelling itch, sense of mischief and enjoyment of each other’s company just glows out of both of these video clips below:



 

Dates are as follows:

  • The Brook, 466 Portswood Rd, Southampton, SO17 3SD, England, Thursday 21st April 2016
  • The Cellar, Frewin Court, Oxford, OX1 3HZ, England, Friday 22nd April 2016
  • Islington Assembly Hall, Upper Street, London, N1 2UD, England, Saturday 23rd April 2016, 7.00pm (with United Sounds Of Joy)
  • Exchange, 72-73 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EJ, England, Sunday 24th April 2016
  • The Apex, 1 Charter Square, Bury Saint Edmunds, IP33 3FD, England, Tuesday 26th April 2016
  • The Dark Horse, Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 8JP, England, Wednesday 27th April 2016, 7.00pm (with Marcus Bonfanti + The Dirty Old Folkers)more information
  • The Musician, 42 Crafton St West, Leicester, LE1 2DE, England, Thursday 28th April 2016
  • The Mash House, Hastie’s Close, 37 Guthrie Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JQ, Scotland, Friday 29th April 2016 (with Colour Trap)more information
  • The Duchess, Stonebow House, The Stonebow, York, YO1 7NP, England, Tuesday 3rd May 2016 (support tbc) – more information
  • The Greystones, Greystones Road, Sheffield, S11 7BS, England, Wednesday 4th May 2016
  • Band On The Wall, 25 Swan Street, The Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 5JZ, England, Thursday 5th May 2016 (support t.b.c.) – more information
  • The Convent, Convent Lane, Stroud, GL5 5HS, England, Friday 6th May 2016more information
  • The Tolmen Centre, Fore Street, Constantine, near Falmouth, TR11 5AA, England, Saturday 7th May 2016, 7.30pmmore information

As with Michael Chapman, the support slot arrangements fan out over a diverse range of styles: in fact, even more diverse than the Chapman tour. The London gig features United Sounds Of Joy, the slow-burn sensual pop-noir duo reuniting Michael J. Sheehy and Alex Vald (who, during the 1990s, alternately spat savage vindictive rock filth or crooned a creased and seedy London romanticism with Dream City Film Club).



 

At Birmingham, support comes from straightahead London blues guitarist Marcus Bonfanti and from wisecracking locals The Dirty Old Folkers (who describe themselves as “a Viz comic, being narrated by the Pogues” and deliver a raucous, sometimes smutty set which might be good-time but which still draws heavily on bad times and working-class resilience).



 

In Edinburgh, Moulettes are joined by local trad-indie rockers Colour Trap, who look back to golden-age British rock and Britpop scenes of the ‘60s and ‘90s.

 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – three for London – expanded hip hop tag with Beardyman’s Dream Team Sessions (with Bellatrix + Disraeli + LeeN + DJ JFB + Rob Lewis + Emre Ramazanoglu + Ben Sarfas); Poly-Math, Theo & evillookingbird play Chaos Theory’s late-night math-rock Facemelter; a LUME jazz evening with the Dave Kane Quartet and a Corey Mwamba/Cath Roberts/Olie Brice trio at the Vortex.

30 Mar

Three more interesting-looking early April London shows for the coming weekend, from improvisatory hip hop to assorted math rock to jazz. There should still be tickets (or, in the case of the Facemelter gig, free spaces) left for all of these. I’m in a hurry again, so the following is all promoter blurb… and if you’re quick on the Saturday, you could even catch most of the first two.

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Beardyman Dream Team Sessions, 2nd April 2016

Beardyman & Soundcrash present:
Beardyman: The Dream Team Sessions (featuring Beardyman + Bellatrix + Disraeli + LeeN + DJ JFB + Rob Lewis + Emre Ramazanoglu + Ben Sarfas)
Electric Brixton, Town Hall Parade, SW2 1RJ London, United Kingdom
Saturday 2nd April 2016, 7.00pm
more information

“Improvisation. Telepathy. Imagination. Beatboxing. One album. One hour.

Soundcrash are extremely happy to announce that the prodigiously talented Beardyman will be taking to the stage at Electric Brixton along with a mind-blowing ‘dream team’ consisting of some of the finest freestyle MCs and improvisatory talents the world has to offer. This team of extraordinary individuals will be using a mixture of telepathic communication and improvisatory prowess to create a brand new album right in front of the lucky audiences eyes, inspired by that same audience’s dreamt-up song titles.


 
Beardyman has made a name for himself for being one of the most multi-talented musicians on the face of the planet. One minute he’s winning the UK Beatbox competition, twice, next he’s winning best MC at Breakspoll, and then he’s playing a sold-out run of solo comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. As if he didn’t already have enough strings to his beat bow Beardyman outgrew the restrictions of the human mouth and stepped into the world of live looping using Kaoss pads to take his music into the rapturous world of live production.

Beardyman currently performs using the self-designed Beardytron, the world’s most advanced live music production system. This device allows him to improvise studio quality, cutting edge music in realtime. Using the Beardytron has led Beardyman to recently collaborating with Herbie Hancock and led him onto the collaborative path that has ended up with the formation of the ‘Dream Team’.


 
In this brand new show Beardyman will be combining his own improvisatory prowess with some of the leading talents in the UK’s improvisatory scene. Female World Beatbox Championship winner Bellatrix will be bringing her vocal and bass talents to the mix as well as her old band leader Dizraeli on freestyle vocals. Rob Lewis will be providing tantalising string parts on the cello whilst Emre Ramazanoglu shows us how he drummed on the last Michael Jackson record amongst many others.


 
One of the world’s leading freestyle MCs, LeeN, will also be spitting lyrics; whilst 3 times UK DMC champion JFB takes to the decks along with additional strings and saxophone from Ben Sarfas.”


 
(As a further indication of what’s on offer, here’s a previous full-length Dream Team Sessions show, from the Jazz Café…)


 

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Poly-Math + Theo + evillookingbird @ The Facemelter, 2nd April 2016

Chaos Theory presents:
The Facemelter: Poly-Math + Theo + evillookingbird
The Old Blue Last, 38 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3ES, England
Saturday 2 April 2016, 10.30pm
– free event – more information

“It’s a no-brainer really – a late-night, free entry math-rock party.

Brighton band Poly-Math are an absolute belter of a trio, who have mastered walking the line between complex polyrhythmic math rock and head-noddingly bouncy riffs. In only few short years, they’ve independently amassed a huge following across Europe’s prog and math rock scenes with the release of a few blindingly good early singles, hugely anticipated debut EP ‘Reptiles’, and some carefully chosen gigs, including an early slot at the first ever ArcTanGent, where we discovered them by accident. With new mini-album ‘Melencolia‘ coming out soon via Superstar Destroyer Records, we can expect some new sounds from the Brighton trio.


 
Theo is a one-man riff factory, known for setting up in the middle of the audience, laying down incredible math rock guitar riffs and looping them on top of each other, before sitting down at his drum kit and banging out some incredible rhythms. The fact that he manages to do this, create extraordinary dynamic changes, crescendos and down-tempo sections, while never letting the pace slack too much, explains why his name has rippled across the underground math rock scene all over Europe.


 
evillookingbird are an instrumental project from Belgium, who combine classical music, post-rock, noise and psych, to end up sounding a bit like Mogwai, Chopin and Battles are all fighting over the keys. This may be their first trip out of their home country, but evillookingbird are no stranger to familiar names in the European math rock scene, having supported the likes of Alright The Captain, Bear Makes Ninja, Mannheim, Hibagon, Celestial Wolves and more, as well as having been asked to perform at one of Europe’s biggest street festivals Gentse Feesten. They’ll be heading into the studio to record some new material, which we’ll get to hear at the show, but check out their EP ‘Labyrinth’ for now.


 
Afterwards Chaos Theory curator Kunal will DJ post-hardcore and math rock riffs, and Chaos Theory photographer Magda will DJ classic rock, power ballads, and anything you’ll love dancing to after a few beers at 3am.”

* * * * * * * *

LUME presents:
Dave Kane Quartet + Corey Mwamba/Cath Roberts/Olie Brice
The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, Dalston, London, N16 8AZ, England
Sunday 3rd April 2016, 7.30pm
– more information here and here

Dave Kane, 2016“The Dave Kane Quartet – Dave Kane (double bass), James Allsopp (saxophones and clarinet), Alex Bonney (trumpet) and Joost Hendrickx (drums) – will be playing music from their forthcoming album, to be released on Two Rivers Records later this year.

Dave says ‘This music is my own personal reflection and dedication to the jazz lineage, all of the music that I have listened to and the music that has influenced me the most. Each track on the record is a dedication to a composer/person that has influenced me greatly throughout my career. There are tracks dedicated to the following people: Charles Mingus, John Zorn, Hamid Drake, Eric Dolphy and Henry Threadgill. For me “the jazz lineage” means the records that are in my collection… my own personal lineage to the tradition, and my resulting music as a composer influenced and shaped by the music. Most people think of the jazz tradition as jazz standards, etc. This is not what I do, or what I am interested in. I have always listened to more adventurous composers & musicians who always pushed the music forward. This is what I have achieved with my new record. Although this music is still on the contemporary/avant garde side of jazz… I would say it is some of the most accessible music I have ever written.’


 
The improvising trio of Corey Mwamba (vibraphone), Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone) and Olie Brice (double bass) first played together in 2014, bringing together three musicians active on the UK jazz and improvised music scene. Olie Brice leads his own quartet as well as playing in numerous other collaborations including a trio with Toby Delius and Mark Sanders; BABs with Alex Bonney and James Allsopp; Nick Malcolm Quartet; Loz Speyer’s Inner Space Music; and Alex Ward Quintet/Sextet. Cath Roberts leads two groups playing her compositions, Sloth Racket and Quadraceratops, as well as writing and improvising new music with guitarist Anton Hunter as Ripsaw Catfish. She is a member of the Madwort Sax Quartet, Anton Hunter’s Article XI, the eight-piece improvising saxophone group Saxoctopus and the collaborative quartet Word Of Moth. Corey Mwamba leads his own trio, Yana, and is involved in a variety of other groups including Sonsale; duos with Rachel Musson, Orphy Robinson and Robert Mitchell; Martin Archer’s large ensemble Engine Room Favourites; and Nat Birchall’s quintet. He is recognised as a highly creative improviser and composer working across a wide range of jazz and contemporary music, as well as a programmer of forward-looking music in his home city of Derby.”

* * * * * * * *

More shortly on the upcoming Gnod weekender – or on anything else that flits across my radar.
 

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – London murk and sarcasm – an industry-baiting evening of 30-second songs by the Pocket Gods and mystery buddies; plus noise rock from Arabrot, Shitwife and Godzilla Black at Corsica Studios

15 Mar

Two London gigs for Thursday…

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Pocket Gods @ Zigfrid von Underbelly, 17th March 2016

The Pocket Gods (’30 Second Song Set’) + tbc
Zigfrid von Underbelly, 11 Hoxton Square, Hoxton, London, N1 6NU, England
Thursday 17th March 2016, 7.00pm
– free event – more information

Here’s the chirp – ”London lo-fi indie popsters The Pocket Gods play a free St Patrick’s Day gig in Hoxton, London to promote their groundbreaking album ‘100×30’ – which features one hundred songs, all of which are thirty seconds long and some of which will be featured. Free entry and some great support bands!“

Sweet, isn’t it?

Here’s the rest of the story.

‘100×30’ was released last December. It’s a sharp, timely yet self-mocking broadside aimed at the music industry as a whole, and also at the amorphous greed’n’gratification culture that’s gulping down what remains of it. Masterminding this collection of half-minute jabs are The Pocket Gods – shabby knowing masters of multiple styles, mix’n’matching shreds of chart pop, punk, synth-blurb, soggy psych and outright pisstakes (including Blur, and Dappy from N-Dubz). Sometimes they sound like a back-bedroom Zappa Band operating on cheapjack equipment from a small-town branch of Argos, and sometimes like a more eclectic Half Man Half Biscuit aiming more of their jokes at the towers of power.

Threaded through the whole album is a sense of indignation at the implosion of music as a workable career (“my royalty statement is a thing of wonder, and keeps me in a state of permanent hunger”) and the dismissal of artists who can no longer be counted as fresh and malleable meat. One lyric points out, with sardonic but righteous indignation, “I can write songs about anything, because I’ve lived a little longer”; and there’s quite a bit of moping about the prospect of a future which involves little more than making unwanted music on a laptop. Across the tracks, the subject matter paints a scathing, resolutely unimpressed picture of vulgarity and short-termisms. Songs attack the rent hikes which force music venue closures; lampoon the encroachment of multinational corporate interests into independent business (the entwinement of Orchard and Sony takes a pounding, which – since Orchard is releasing the album – is a particularly fanged move); and pour sarcasm onto side topics like the sorry parade of boss-pleasing reality-TV contestants, the cluelessness of A&R men and the ludicrous table prices at the Brits (apparent sideshows which point towards the bigger problem). The Gods even slag off laptop music and mount a harpsichord-driven assault on the memory of Steve Jobs. So much for the individual being independently empowered by technology.

With the proven flexibility of the Pocket Gods, it’s tempting to assume that the brace of performers elsewhere on the album are just pseudonyms. Not a bit of it. Some – including oddball pop mutterer Michael Panasuk and fuzz-guitar flourisher Brian Heywood – appear to be rogue film, television and library music composers. Two more are former chart stars (Owen Paul and Mungo Jerry’s Ray Dorset, each damn near unrecognisable).Some veer towards cabaret (the semi-genteel, character-vocalled acoustipop of The Low Countries) or sarky contrarian Scottish dolour (Bill Aitken). Others even sound like glossy successes in waiting, including power-popper Katy Thorn, gobby R&B-er Tricey R, immaculate faux-Californian rockers Dead Crow Road, countrified Elvis-alike Osborne Jones, twinkling white-boy hip hoppers Foxgrease and full-bore electropop drama queens Hands Of Industry. The burnished countrified chart-pop of Heywood Moore even sounds as if it could make a killing in the American Bible Belt (sweeping out of the same CCM radio playlists as the likes of Lexi Elisha – not bad for a band that’s actually from Dunstable). None of this seems to stop any of them from joining in. Some of them may be taking a long-delayed, heartfelt chomp at the hand that feeds so grudgingly, or refuses to feed at all; or which they see starving others, from audience to artist, both fiscally and spiritually.

Despite all of this justifiable resentment, it could all turn precious and self-righteous were it not for the jabs of anti-pomposity which the Gods and their friends turn in on themselves (the musician-skewering of ‘Small Town Musos’ and ‘Mac Book Ho’ made me laugh out loud, as did a song about the natural progression from ambitious Radio 1 listener to experienced Radio 2 couch-fogey). There are also the other moments – the flip side to the flipness – in which the half-minute song limit becomes a lesson in how much can be achieved in a short time. John Rowland’s plunderphonics and piano instrumentals; upROAR’s quick echo-laden harp passage, Orb collaborator Another Fine Day’s gorgeous burst of echo-soused kalimba; or when writer and narrator Michael Hingston (who’s already spent two tracks guesting with the Pocket Gods, bidding goodbye to the swelling ranks of closed-down London music venues in a hardbitten wise-barfly drawl) gently blows thirty seconds of tentative, unaccompanied saxophone.

Finally, there’s the persistent realist-absurdist wit of The Pocket Gods themselves – party hosts, project backbone and the only act formally confirmed as performing at the Hoxton gig on Thursday (yes, I was going to get back to that…) Come along to see who else makes it. Meanwhile, you can play through the whole album below; and even buy it (if you feel that that won’t somehow spoil either the joke or the protest).

 

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Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Arabrot + Shitwife + Godzilla Black
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Thursday 17th March 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Arabrot + Shitwife +Godzilla Black @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 17th March 2016Norwegian noise-rockers Arabrot have spent a decade and a half feeding classical, Biblical, existential and surreal tropes through a grand and gothic avant-rock mangle. As you can imagine from this, both their gigs and records have had an immediate raw-lifed, raw-liver feel to them, despite what ‘The Quietus’ describes as the band’s “velveteen grace”. More recently, group leader Kjetil Nernes spent two years recovering from throat cancer, during which he’s fought off and defeated encroaching death not just via hospital treatment and homestay but by hurling himself back into Arabrot recording and touring. Having admitted that the experience was “as close to real physical and psychological hell as you can go”, Kjetil has spun his reactions into Arabrot’s latest album, ‘The Gospel’, which is suffused with spectres of death, illness and his own defiance.

Shitwife have possibly the most discouraging band name in history – an evil grunt of a handle, a surly trucker’s growl of a monicker. We last encountered them in the listings for a Christmas gig, in which they were described as an “astonishingly brutal drums/laptop/electronics juggernaut fusing rave, death metal, noise and post-hardcore.” As far as I know, they’ve had no reason to mess with that formula in the intervening three months. Here’s a clip of them in action at a different gig last September (just a short walk away from ‘Misfit City’ HQ, not that I knew it) plus a more recent video showing laptop/keyscruncher Wayne Adams engaged in a painting session (and looking far sweeter than he ought to, given that his other band’s called Ladyscraper).


As I’ve said before, Godzilla Black seem to have made themselves into London noise-rock favourites while not actually having much to do with noise-rock at all. Most of the latter’s in the brawling muscle which they apply to their John-Barry-writes-for-Ruins-or-King-Crimson tunes; and in the garnish of hiss and fry lying on top of that muscle, adding a pitch and pinch of disintegration to their drums-and-horns pimp-roll. Otherwise what I’m hearing is spy-movie glamour all the way, albeit gone slightly weird: extra panicky descends and clangings, sax stranglebursts and sampler squeals. Brand new single ‘First Class Flesh’ sounds as if its about some kind of disassociative disorder: singer John McKenzie boggling, all glazed and juicy, about body parts but not actually about bodies (ending up neither sexy nor creepy, but away in a skewed and disfocussed branch-off of both).


 

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More March gig previews shortly…
 

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – Cornish music celebrated via Daylight Music’s ‘Kernow In The Chapel’ (with Colin Leggo, The Wreckers Singers and Hanterhir)

4 Mar

Perhaps it’s down to living in a more-or-less successfully multicultural city, or perhaps my own bi-cultural roots (which, in spite of being mostly Anglo do at least span an ocean, a revolution and two different ways of pronouncing “tomato”), but I’ve always been suspicious of nationalism. To me it’s reductive and harsh: a way of simplifying and pruning identity, of promoting exclusion and narrow interests. Set against this is the fact that providing space for the voicing of different, even dissonant cultural identities makes for a wider, more inclusive broader culture. Music can be one of the easiest ways of doing this (although it can also be one of the first cultural tokens to be hijacked) and as part of the process of keeping myself interested and this blog more interesting, I’m trying to pick up on some of the more specifically nation-oriented music events that show up in London. (having covered Korean and Balinese-tinged events in the past), even if they might shade into more complicated or compromised political areas.

Despite my vague and wooly reticence above, I’m happy to say that the first of the two such events this month is as cute as chips (in keeping with the benevolent air surrounding Daylight Music, who are hosting it). This Saturday sees a performance of unrivalled Cornwall-ality as various people either from, or with roots in, or possessing some musical sympathy with the most westerly end of the British mainland show up to the usual Daylight corner of north London…

Kernow In The Chapel, 5th March 2016

Daylight Music presents:
Daylight Music 218 – Kernow In The Chapel: A Cornish Celebration (with Colin Leggo + The Wreckers Singers + Hanterhir + others t.b.c.
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 5th March 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like event (suggested donation – £5.00) – more information

“Saturday 5th March is St. Piran’s Day – Kernow (Cornwall)’s national day. To celebrate, we’re bringing a taste of Cornish culture, music, comedy and food to Daylight with ‘Kernow In The Chapel’, a sister event to the long-running Kernow In The City – London St.Piran’s celebration. There will be songs and comedy from Colin Leggo; a traditional Cornish ‘shout’ with songs in English and Kernewek (the Cornish language) from The Wreckers Singers; and Redruth-based Cornish-language psych-rockers Hanterhir playing an acoustic set. There will also be poetry, a soundscape of Cornwall sounds, proper pasties and a Cornish ‘cakey tea’. Tis gonna be ansum!”

Here are some ideas of what you’re going to get:




 

Sadly, the planned performance of Cornish classical music to round out the show has had to be abandoned due to musicians becoming unavailable, although some of the scheduled pieces may have been moved into the choral performance. Speaking of which, I can’t find a homepage or any embeddable audio/visual material for The Wreckers Singers. I suspect that they’re an illegal flashmob choir who issue forth from the Cornish underground whenever there’s a chance of enticing an audience over to a concert. They probably use some kind of sonic beacon, drawing hapless punters in with their roistering close-harmonies. (Oh, I don’t know. If you know who they are, send me a link, but don’t risk your life in doing so…)

* * * * * * * *

The second of this month’s events is a little more challenging. More on that shortly. It might have made for a more interesting juxtaposition with the Cornish event, but time is tight right now…

July/August 2015 – upcoming London gigs for 3rd July (Shiver/The Fierce & The Dead/Alex’s Hand in Camden, and The Spiders of Destiny in Deptford); Tim Bowness tours in August; a release date for Levitation’s ‘Meanwhile Gardens’

30 Jun

More art-rock roars coming up…

Facemelter, 3rd July 2015

Shiver, The Fierce And The Dead, Alex’s Hand @ The Facemelter (The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, Camden, London, NW1 0AP, UK, Friday 3rd July, 7.30pm – £8.00/£6.00)

A night of insane math rock, prog, jazzcore and experimental riffs from some of Europe’s finest.

Shiver are the latest group from Acoustic Ladyland and TrioVD guitarist and producer Chris Sharkey. The trio have been challenging audiences perceptions of music for just over a year, sitting as comfortably at EFG London Jazz Festival as they have when headlining the PX3 stage at ArcTanGent Festival. Stretching the span of instrumentation and the imagination, this trio flits between solid, head-nodding riffs, ambient spaces and frantic electronic cacophony. Tonight they will be playing new material from their recently released third album.

The Fierce & The Dead are a hugely respected and critically acclaimed noisy pronk four-piece from London. Their precise musicianship and schizophrenic, immensely complex, yet catchy music has earned them headline slots all over the UK. Featuring internationally renowned guitarist, loop artist, blogger and all-round independent music guru Matt Stevens, TFATD have shared the stage with bands including PHILM, Knifeworld, Thumpermonkey, Anathema, Cleft and Lost in the Riots. Tonight they will premiere unheard material from their upcoming EP.

Formed in Seattle a few short years ago, experimental four-piece  Alex’s Hand subsequently relocated to Berlin and have been wreaking havoc on Europe’s DIY noise, post-punk and garage ever since. They’ve shared the stage with MoRkObOt, which must have been a bizarre evening. As at home on stage as they are playing avant garde installations (such as 24 hour festival Avant Garden) in a punk squat in Berlin, this will be their first venture to the UK.

More details here, and tickets available here.

I should put in a particular word for Alex’s Hand here, having watched them grow and sprawl over the past few years along a meandering but inspiring path from arch art-pop parodists to noisy song-brawlers and most recently to a kind of spontaneous noise-prog ensemble. There are a few ‘Misfit City’ reviews of their earlier material – one for ‘Madame Psychosis‘ and one for ‘This Cat Is A Genius‘. Although I’ve not covered Shiver yet, I do also have reviews of early Fierce & The Dead material (here and here), as well as a look at the band’s Matt Stevens playing a solo slot.

******

If you’d rather spend a free evening with Uncle Frank, The Spiders of Destiny are playing another London gig of Zappa music on the same day. As ever, expect some of London’s most accomplished art-rockers to work their way back and forth through the Zappa catalogue. The Deptford venue they’re playing this time has plenty of history, whether under its current name, its old monicker of The Oxford Arms or any other title it’s enjoyed over several hundred years. If you don’t spot Frank’s ghost leaning on the sound desk and having an appreciative smoke, you could try looking out for the ghosts of Dire Straits or Christopher Marlowe instead… Up-to-date details here or here, with two-as-yet unnamed bands to be added to the bill.

The Spiders of Destiny (The Birds Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street, London, SE8 4RZ, Friday 3rd July 2015 – 7.30pm, free)

The Spiders of Destiny play Zappa, The Birds Nest, July 5th 2015

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Tim Bowness live flyer, August 2015Looking further ahead, Tim Bowness is out on a very brief tour in August, playing a handful of dates in England and Poland to promote his imminent album ‘Stupid Things That Mean The World’ as mentioned last month. His band features his usual cohorts of Andrew Booker (drums – also of Sanguine Hum), Michael Bearpark (guitar – Darkroom, Henry Fool), Stephen Bennett (keyboards – Henry Fool) and the more recent recruit Colin Edwin (bass guitar – Porcupine Tree).

The Lousiana, Wapping Road, Bathurst Terrace, Bristol, BS1 6UA, UK, Tuesday 25th August, 7.00pm – tickets here and here.

The Boston Music Room, 178 Junction Road, London, N19 5QQ, UK, Wednesday 26th August, 7.00pm – £17.00 – tickets here and here.

Ino Rock Festival, Theatre Letni, Inoclaw, Poland, Saturday 29th August – 35.94 euros – tickets here (other acts at the festival are Fish, Motorpsycho, State Urge and Millenium).

Playing support at the Bristol and London gigs will be Improvizone, the flexible live-ambient improvising collective led by Bowness band drummer Andrew Booker. The rest of the Improvizone lineup looks as if it will be drawn from the current Bowness band (Michael Bearpark is a frequent Improvizoner) so perhaps you should expect the same band playing in two very different configurations. Up-to-date news will be here.

*****

Levitation: 'Meanwhile Gardens' (2015 issue)

Levitation: ‘Meanwhile Gardens’ (2015 issue)

Another follow-up from last month – there’s now a release date from Flashback Records for the lost Levitation album ‘Meanwhile Gardens’. Mark Burgess of Flashback posted the following on the Facebook fan page for the band’s lost recordings yesterday:

There is at last a provisional release date for ‘Meanwhile Gardens’. 23rd October 2015! Pre-orders will be available in due course from the Bandcamp site and elsewhere. The album is now with the pressing plant, but the lead time on the vinyl is long (pressing plants are straining under the pressure of so much vinyl at the moment, hence the provisional nature of the release date). You should all give yourselves a pat on the back and raise a toast to this group because without this page it might never have happened. Thank you all for your enthusiastic support!

Levitation, circa 1992

April 2013 – mini-album reviews – Alex’s Hand’s ‘This Cat is a Genius (A B-Sides Compilation)’ (“mostly tarry, and it sticks to things”)

17 Apr
Alex's Hand: 'This Cat Is A Genius'

Alex’s Hand: ‘This Cat Is A Genius’

Sometimes barrel scrapings are as much part of the meal as anything else from the barrel. In the brewing industry, that’s how you get sludgy yeast spreads like Marmite. Yum. Or not.

Meanwhile… we’ve met Alex’s Hand before. They’re yomping Seattle-ites from the scruffiest, carney-est end of American Gothic; something like a junior Primus, Zappa and Residents rolled into one, abruptly zombified, and crammed into the fustiest old suit in Abraham Lincoln’s trunk of hand-me-downs. This EP of B-sides (so they call them – they’ve only ever put out one EP) certainly seems like barrel scrapings. It’s mostly tarry, and it sticks to things. It’s shapeless, it’s distinctly umami, and you might not like it.

That, of course, is the point. Alex’s Hand tend to revel in everything they do, both their moments of genuine artistry and their dumbest chunks of musical blubber. ‘This Cat Is A Genius’ is a pre-release teaser of off-cuts from their debut album (‘Albatross Around The Neck’). It shows off (if that’s the right word) their sludgier leanings; their most precipitous rants; their Melvins side. It sounds as if while the goofy fuckers were messing around in rehearsal, some vicious bastard poisoned their coffee – but they enjoyed it so much that they sent out for more and left the tape running.

What the band’s actually doing is dealing with the departure of Slurrp, their ontime lead guitarist and horn-razzler. Drummer Nic Barnes and bass-bothering microphone pest Kellen Mills drop their stage-names, pick up the pieces and tumble onwards; various buddies help Kellen out with the guitar parts; but it’s clearly been a blow. You can all but hear Alex’s Hand bouncing off the ropes. However, they’re not ones to miss out on a dark chortle, even at their own expense. Nor are they scared of turning a setback into a challenge. If they have to have a period of floundering, they’re damn well going to get something out of it, even if they have to milk it ’til it bleeds. Rolling away from a relatively tight rock stance towards something doomier (or at least more rubbery), they’re taking the opportunity to map the underside of their development as they go.

One of the last two tracks from Slurrp’s last stand – ConserveNow! – is six-and-a-half near-atonal minutes of Melvins-style strain: a lurch-along instrumental of fuzzed grunge bass and wobbly guitar, like a sick freight train careening along a lost stretch of railway. The other, Ants, is a collapsing shack-load of wreckage-guitar and free-form word association. While Slurrp sifts through sluggish, raging clumps of feedback in the background, Kellen’s schizophrenic basslines jump and ebb between laid-back mooch and irritated attack. He also mutters beady-eyed, half-cut stuff into your ear – mostly about giants and UFOs, although at one point he does complain “words are stale, empty – they lack a certain sensuality.” Much of the ‘This Cat Is A Genius’ shares this playful pissed-off stance – a complaining laughter; clever-dumb; slumming in drunken despondency and enjoying a grump. Kellen plays the role of educated-and-unravelling to the hilt, offering flashes of self-mockery through the filter of booze vapours and the pinch of bad shoes.

Dear Me’s clench of lumbering punk disgruntlement mingles King Crimson feedback skitters with a collapsing, anti-play perversity. Inside itself, the song’s at war – halfway through, Kellen grabs a guitar and launches doggedly down a different tunnel and into a different tune. On the headache blunder of Train, he’s scouting for empty bars in order to avoid conversation, moping about insincerity like a touchy teenager: “wish I was happy listening to people with nothing to say. / Lying assholes with so much money / really are dead inside – / they pick my brains as they lie.” Longtime ally Ben Reece (of Step Daddy) drops in again to add wracked, protesting electric guitar and some needling ‘Marquee Moon’ edge as Kellen’s drunken soliloquy heads ever further downhill and then kinks back up shit creek, screaming about “blackest diamonds” and falling into the sea.

While the odd glancing zinger falls out of this kind of lyrical mess, Kellen’s verbal squalls and cracked mumbling are generally just another bit of colour. What he says is less important than how he says it; or just how the words hit the wall. Impression (featuring another temporary guitarist, Shadough Williams) sounds like a lobotomized David Byrne tripping over Black Sabbath. Nic drums on bottles while the music flinches between runaway bursts of samba and foot-dragging sludge-metal. Kellen dismisses another waster in smudges of sardonic detail: “he smokes his cigarettes, douses them with side-effects… / Stand to deliver, his parents used to say – / started out rich and pissed it all away.”

On Penticide, the band paddle around in a splatter of sprained, detuned instruments – piano, melodicas, glockenspiels – while Kellen’s rambling narration casts a cockeyed look downtown. Scribbling a vicious political cartoon of a “crack-whore free-market” full of hapless fools pushing “shit-stained zombie shopping carts”, he also rips himself and his peers ragged. “Welcome to the half-baked bistro… / conspiracy countdown coffee-shop collective,” he husks, before tagging himself as “a dying maverick with a bad attitude… / like Merce Cunningham took a shit in a wine glass.” Mocking his trashed, anti-heroic slide from high culture to garbage, the band break into sarcastic applause.

Confounding all this sarcasm, the final moments come close to delicacy. Sad Little Skeletons is slender, thoughtful and melancholy; initially, it’s not much more than distant birdsong and overheard chat, accompanied by lonely bass melody and shavings of rhythm guitar. For once, Kellen sings gently, setting aside the drunken howls and the scatter-shot smartarsery. Clarity renders his conclusions even bleaker. “Thoughts will come / then fly away. / These emotions are so thick, / like this life just makes me sick. / These piddly little humans, driving their cars / on the freeway… / Sad little skeletons; broken, but don’t realize they’re lost.” The rise towards a tangled noisy fanfare and the drowning of the words in yell and distortion initially comes as a relief. Then you go back and listen to it again, hearing the weary breathing and the tiredness that smacks of reality.

Part-broken, smeared, and devilled by little gouts of waspishness, this isn’t the easiest collection of songs and slurs to get along with. But there’s plenty to scoop out anyway, especially if you like hearing the wilful awkwardness of a band who enjoy stretching themselves out of shape and balance, and who can fit that in with the big boots and barfly lunges. If you enjoy feeling as if you’ve been dipped in an uncomfortable goo, that’s a bonus.

Alex’s Hand: ‘This Cat Is A Genius’
Alex’s Hand (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only mini-album
Released: 15th April 2013

Get it from:
Bandcamp.

Alex’s Hand online:
Facebook Twitter Bandcamp LastFM

February 2011 – album reviews – The Chewers’ ‘Every Drop Disorganized’ (“a couple of junk dogs”)

12 Feb
The Chewers: 'Every Drop Disorganized'

The Chewers: ‘Every Drop Disorganized’

The Chewers thrust their faces, suddenly, out of the forest. They notice your startled expression, but they just cross their eyes at you. They’re not here to entertain you, let alone impress you. They’re sniffing around music, a couple of junk dogs, seeing what they can make of it. There will be bumps and boings: there will be scraps of sudden, enthusiastic remembering. There will be sudden interjections. There will be rather a lot of hammering.

The Chewers are Travis Caffrey and Michael Sadler, a pair of self-confessed West Virginian freaks. Most of what they do involves rudimentary guitar lines which complain like old suspension springs; drums thumped with a bastardized ritual technique; frowning stump-handed bass playing which is too big for the room but too inert to leave it. They sing, after a fashion – usually in a menacing deadpan creak, sometimes in a gruff lobotomized roar. Melodies are torn off, like unwanted paint: they strip everything down to a trapped and surly chug, then filter it through the sound of collapse. Sometimes they leave an electric organ broiling in the corner, add a layer of picked-out piano, or torment a fiddle with skeleton plucks or sawing skids.

These are the kind of tunes that could make a musician forget how to play. Their goofy, deadpan primitivism sounds like drunken mechanics banging rocks together in a Flintstones cartoon; or a couple of bears who’ve set upon and eaten a guy in a one-man-band outfit, then start fumbling at the crumpled instruments to try and get that interesting noise back. We’ve been here before, of course, with The Residents – and a musky, oppressive Residents reek hangs all over The Chewers’ faux-artless art music. At a root level, both bands work with the same kind of sub-technique – deliberately clumsy, deliberately short-sighted, attempting to sneak up on an idiot-savant approach from behind.

Much of The Chewers’ debut album ‘Every Drop Disorganized’ seems to follows a freak-show blueprint. Stirring a greasy canful of satire and nihilism, Travis and Michael are self-confessed cartographers of tiny personal hells. While what can be discerned of their settings, characters and stylings are unmistakeably American, they’re often fairly timeless. They present stark three-line drawings of insanities and self-inflicted rages, or of situations slewing into enmity or a crude revenge. Their Americana is absurd and brutal, part Faulkner and part ‘Gummo’ – the kind of storyscape in which thick-set dungaree’d inbreds drag their own coffins around on leg-chains and where frowning men, preoccupied with guzzling and paranoia, squat guard outside collapsing shacks, broken-down trailers and mouldering gambrel houses.

In fact (as with The Residents), what The Chewers do behind their Muppet voices and smeary, tarry-black humour is less elaborate and even more savage. With American Gothic, there’s some state of aspiration to fall from and some perverse pleasure in the decay. The Chewers, though, deal with lives apparently blunted by ignorance, obsession, violence and inertia from the start. You’re a brute; or a chump; or the target of someone else’s shills and exploitations – and you’re stuck with it. The misanthropic ranting of Human Scum is couched in brown-dwarf rock-and-roll, compressed to a broken stumble of sour fuzz guitar, splattered twang and thunder-drum. “Get your slime out of this house,” one Chewer growls on Get Out Of Town, while half a blues riff tussles with fragments of Dobro slide. “You left many things behind. / None of them was a friend.”

The Chewers clearly enjoy their grim and guttural journey. During breaks in dragging around those hope-coffins, they indulge in short instrumentals, deliberate guitar bungles and instinctual blobs of pick-up-and-play sound-art. The Scooby Doo caveman vocals and berimbau twanging on Who Ra makes that Residents debt even more explicit (it could easily sit alongside the faked rituals and pop-culture gags on ‘Eskimo’). Don’t Go In The Tent offers three minutes of machine pulse, bat-wing bellows-chords and drill-whistles. The Day The Circus Came To Town fools around with Autotune-whooping, kazoos and fiddle scrawls. The Chewers bring an exultation to this part of the work, delighting in the clash of noises.

Much of the music thumbs its nose at American aspiration while revelling in American orneriness and the palpable debris of American life. This makes absolute sense – the other key Chewers influences are those utterly American musicians and songwriters who stick like bones in the throat of their culture. The three Swamp Drag pieces bear the stamp (or stomp) of Tom Waits hobo-music pieces with their wounded marching drum, their dinosaur gronks and busted-suspension riffage, their broken-off stub of tune and the lost, frothing narrator winding his way inwards. Butterknife – with its deadpan sprechstimme and its indistinct, twisting story of marital discontent, murder and kitchen utensils – owes plenty to Frank Zappa .

Two other songs have a fairly explicit Captain Beefheart tang. The evangelism parody of Savior Pill crumbles like ripe old cheese as it lurches along on jazz cymbals and gnarled-up blues: although the lyrics, using the language of oldtime radio hucksters, are more Zappa. “Shouldn’t you have some relief? Call to see if you qualify… / Legs are restless, souls in strife. / Side effects include everlasting life. / Call in ten minutes and you’ll see the light. / Benefits are many, side effects are few – we’ll even throw in a Second Coming.” Beyond its guitar boings and grits-pan clunks, Fire on the Hill stumbles into trek poetry, painting the simple beauty of the outdoors in disconnected swipes and flashes while entwining it with the occult. “Trouble is following me through the long grass… / Voices beside me as I sit near the flames – the horses make noises, they drop through the dark… / Laughing is loud, / the crickets are chirping. / The sky is a dome.”

On the whole, though, Chewers songs are populated by fuck-ups. Convicts stuff their faces; some people fall down wells (where they wait, somewhat indifferently, for rescue), while others wander permanently off the trail. Damaged men sit alone in rooms, propelled into puzzling hallucinations by ringing telephones. The ambitious aren’t spared either. With the grinding punk-slurry riff and monotone delivery of Hollywood Car, Travis and Michael caustically lay waste to dreams of celebrity, reducing them to empty greed. “Rotten soul don’t get old… / Pledge yourself like all the others. / Step over your mom – skin is glossy like a magazine cover… / Smile through your teeth and ignore the poor. / You got your foot in the door. / You’ve had fifteen and you want some more… / Hollywood isn’t a workplace rat-race – / it’s a high-speed chase. / Cut off your nose to spite your face.”

Perhaps where all of this fails a little is in the way The Chewers allow their absurdism thicken into cynicism. Never really presenting their blundering song-characters as anything other than grim entertainment or easy meat, they don’t leave them the option of dignity. There’s rarely any of punk’s indignation; and not even much of Zappa’s frustrated disdain. On Specimen, they play a crude kazoo-laden cha-cha-cha and deliver a one-way story about a man becoming a test animal in a destructive medical experiment. On the strummed, limping lollop of Charlie Chum, they show even less sympathy for their hapless protagonist. “You should have seen this coming” they grunt, as they drawing a muddled, menacing picture of a man who first deceives and then overreaches himself; who “chews his words like cows chew cud… / believes every word he speaks.” Falling foul of the predators, he eventually pays the price – “Charlie Chum has got two hands – / one swats flies, one deals cards. / Deck is cut, game draws blood, / sharks tear Charlie Chum apart.” Travis and Michael, at least, seem to think he had it coming. Despite the murky flourishes, this never rises above the level of chump cartoon, and that’s a shame.

But perhaps I’m being unfair. Even at the very least ,the album’s cartoon-noir tone is enjoyable once you’ve attuned yourself to its sinister creep; and one track – an acapella ode to the joy of pancakes – offers some relief. As The Chewers sing, hiccup, belch and gargle their way through a gamut of American musical trademarks (a blues-grind, some close-harmony doo-wop, a prison song, a Spike Jones fusillade of comedy noises) they also recite a series of cheerfully dumb Bubba-isms in a thoughtful Jimmy Dean drawl. “Life without pancakes is hell on earth, / and I don’t mind my massive girth… / The only difference between beast and man / is – an animal can’t make a cake in a pan… / When they find me bloated in the gutter, / they can cover my coffin in syrup and butter.”

Though they top it off with a particularly dopey and violent twist (“The only way I’ll have my fill / is when they make one good enough to kill,”) it’s somehow an affectionate moment: one in which they embrace their all-American idiot as well as laugh at him. At The Chewers’ jokiest moment it all comes together – the stubbornness and rebelliousness that’s as much a part of Americana as is romance or beauty; the love of homemade noise and of squeezing music out from the pips; the thick’n’tasty bozo parade.

The Chewers: ‘Every Drop Disorganized’
The Chewers (self-released, no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only album
Released: 6th February 2011

Buy it from:
The Chewers homepage.

The Chewers online:
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