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January/February 2018 – The Ecstatic Music Festival in New York (part 1) with Kronos Quartet, Xenia Rubinos, Face The Music, Adam Schatz’s Civil Engineering and Bang On A Can (27th January, 5th February, 15th February)

15 Jan

Looking over to America, the Saturday after next sees the first date in New York City’s snappy, broad-based Ecstatic Music Festival.

Ecstatic Music Festival, 2018

“Starting on 27th January and running through 26th April 2018, the festival, hailed as “the alt-classical world’s main showcase” (‘The New York Times’), will feature collaborations from more than seventy-five composers and performers from different musical genres across the sonic spectrum, including Kronos Quartet, the Bang On A Can All-Stars, Margaret Leng Tan, Glasser, Xenia Rubinos, Mantra Percussion, Mahogany L. Browne, Carla Kihlstedt, Patrick Zimmerli, Ethan Iverson, Buke & Gase’s Arone Dyer, and many more. A collaboration between New Amsterdam Presents and Kaufman Music Center, the festival has nine collaborative one-night-only performances featuring world premieres, new arrangements and the exclusive opportunity to hear artists discuss their work.”

Here are some details for the first three shows (taken from the programme and tweaked/expanded where necessary), spread out from the end of January to the middle of February:

Xenia Rubinos & Adam Schatz's Civil Engineering, 27th January 2018

Xenia Rubinos can make social consciousness sensual,” says the ‘New York Times’. Her catchy yet exuberantly visceral songs meld weighty social issues with intimately personal ones and draw from a broad palette of influences ranging from Caribbean and jazz to indie rock, hip-hop and punk.


 
“Xenia will team up with Adam Schatz’s Civil Engineering, a high-energy, ten-member multi-dimensional big band led by the protean multi-instrumentalist Adam Schatz, “New York’s indie-rock Zelig” (‘New York Observer’) and Landlady frontman, to perform new arrangements of her songs, his songs, and composers they love, and to premiere new works written for the Ecstatic Music Festival.


 
“Regarding the project, Adam claims to be “chasing the spirits of Duke Ellington and Gene Wilder. I am trying to operate at a large scale that hits at the heart and can go anywhere at any time. Songs, improvisations, and adventures with a big band of impossibly talented people. This is Civil Engineering.” The band has included Alec Spiegelman, Ross Edwards, Brandon Seabrook (Seabrook Power Plant, Needle Driver), Ross Gallagher, Noah Garabedian (Big Butter And The Egg Men, Ravi Coltrane), Stephanie Richards, Curtis Hasselbring (The New Mellow Edwards, Decoupage, The Curha-chestra) and Patrick Breiner.

Kronos Quartet & Face The Music, 5th February 2018

“The adventurous, Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet – one of the most celebrated and influential ensembles of our time – joins NYC’s acclaimed youth new music ensemble (and Kaufman in-house orchestra) Face the Music to perform new works written for Kronos’ “Fifty for the Future”, a commissioning, education and legacy project showcasing contemporary approaches to the string quartet that features new works by some of today’s foremost composers.



 
The two ensembles will perform separately and together: there’s no details on the Kronos setlist yet, or on the combined programme, but Face the Music will be performing Yotam Haber‘s ‘From The Book’ and Kala Ramnath‘s ‘Amrit’.

Bang On A Can People's Commissioning Fund Concert, 15th February 2018

“Co-founded in 1987 by composers Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe, Bang On A Can has grown from a one-off concert band to a ceaselessly active, multi-bodied and internationally famous New Music ensemble, building a world in which powerful new musical ideas flow freely across all genres and borders. Set up in 1997, long before crowd-funding became the norm through Kickstarter and the like, Bang On A Can’s People’s Commissioning Fund has pooled contributions of all sizes from hundreds of friends and fans. Since its inception as a radical partnership between artists and audiences to commission works from adventurous composers, it has commissioned over fifty works of music for New York’s electric Bang on a Can All-Stars.

“This concert, compiling new commissions for 2018 and a few old favourites, is a New Sounds Live co-presentation: it will be hosted by WNYC’s John Schaefer and streamed live. There will be world premieres of pieces by George Lewis and Angélica Negrón, plus a new look at “historic” PCF-commissioned pieces by Pamela Z, Annea Lockwood, Lukas Ligeti and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore.”


 
All concerts are performed at Merkin Concert Hall @ Kaufman Music Center, 129 W 67th Street, Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York, NY 10023, USA. Dates and times below:

  • Xenia Rubinos & Adam Schatz’s Civil Engineering – Saturday 27th January 2018, 7:30pm – information here and here
  • Kronos Quartet & Face The Music – Monday 5th February 2018, 7:30pm – information here and here
  • Bang on a Can People’s Commissioning Fund Concert – Thursday 15th February 2018, 7:30pmhere and here

For those who might not have already followed up on the remaining six dates between March and April, I’ll stick up reminders closer to the time…
 

April 2017 – upcoming gigs – Billy Bottle & The Multiple bring ‘The Other Place’ to Exeter (2nd)

26 Mar

Pastoral jazzers and questioning songmakers Billy Bottle & The Multiple are bringing their show ‘The Other Place’ (a kind of Brexit-themed pilgrimage-cum-road movie, dealing with questions of connection, national moods and democracy) to Exeter at the beginning of April.

I wrote something extensive about the show’s roots and methods back in mid-2016, so you can read more about that here.

In other news, the band have launched a Pledgemusic crowdfunding campaign to fund the recording and release of the album version of the show – more on that here.

Billy Bottle & The Multiple: 'The Other Place'

‘The Other Place’ by Billy Bottle & The Multiple
The Barnfield Theatre, Barnfield Road, Exeter, Devon, EX1 1SN, England
Sunday 2nd April 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 


 

 

July 2016 – upcoming gigs – London jazz with Dave Storey Trio and Rob Barron Trio (28th); Laura Moody plays not-jazz at the Manchester Jazz Festival (28th); plus a plea to help save the flooded Arch1 venue in east London

26 Jul

Jazz Nursery, 28th July 2016At short notice, here’s some quick news of a London jazz gig:

Jazz Nursery presents:
Dave Storey Trio + Rob Barron Trio
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 28th July 2016, 7.30pm
– information

Pianist Rob Barron specializes in piano-led hard bop in the Wynton Kelly, Cedar Walton and George Shearing tradition. On this occasion, his trio is completed by double bass player Calum Gourlay and drummer Joshua Morrison: while I’ve not got anything by the trio which I can play you, here’s the showreel for Rob’s quartet (featuring himself and Joshua).


 

The other trio on the bill is headed by dynamic, constantly occupied London drummer Dave Storey, whose busy CV includes work with Ivo Neame, Chris Batchelor, Hannes Riepler and Mike Outram (plus, oddly enough, a stint with symphonic proggers The Enid). He leads the psychedelic-leaning woodwind player James Allsopp (Fraud, Golden Age of Steam) and the nimble young bass guitarist Conor Chaplin through a wide repertoire of jazz from ballads to driven up-tempo pieces, with an emphasis on “interaction, intensity and playfulness”. Here’s a clip of them running their way through Giant Steps.


 

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Last year I did a fairly exhaustive (and exhausting rundown) of the Manchester Jazz Festival. This year I didn’t (there wasn’t enough time available, and not enough people read the last post to make it worthwhile – this blog seems to work better if I’m writing about smaller events with less existing promotional push behind them). However, I thought I’d mention that a particular ‘Misfit City’ favourite is playing the festival early on Thursday afternoon.

Despite her deft improvising skills, Laura Moody‘s dynamic voice-and-cello songs don’t exactly count as jazz – they’re more of a bridge between folk music, 20th century classical technique and the complex, experimental baroque pop exemplified by other hugely talented women such as Joanna Newsom or Kate Bush. However, her inventiveness, musical excellence and sense of adventure make her a prime fit for the fringes of the festival: a sometimes vigorous, sometimes agonizingly soulful performer. Her MJF appearance is an hour-long set in the open air in the middle of town, which will at least give her the opportunity to shake the chamber out of her chamber pop. (For what it’s worth, Laura’s also playing at Wilderness Festival on Saturday 5th August, but unless you’ve already bought the package deal for that one, you’ll not get to see her, so pull a sickie and head into Manchester this week instead…)

Manchester Jazz Festival presents:
Laura Moody
Hobgoblin Festival Pavilion, Albert Square, Manchester, M2 5DB
Thursday 28th July 2016, 2.30pm
information



 

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Lastly, here’s me taking a moment to sidestep away from plugging gigs so that I can forward a plea on behalf of the kind of place that puts them on. A great venue, or even just a good one, isn’t necessarily the making of a town or a neighbourhood, but they make profound contributions to the fabric of a place: the sense that there’s life there instead of just grind and torpor (or, in “nicer” neighbourhoods, just a vacuous gentility). There are plenty of potential threats to places like this, many of them stemming from the fact that many of them don’t fit developers’ idea of an economic footprint (and gentrification/profiteering doesn’t only crush arts venues – see the recent righteous ‘Organ’ blast about the predatory-rent-rise-backed eviction of repair shops from the London Fields railway arches) but sometimes it’s just damn bad luck and unfriendly weather.

promo-arch1flooddamage

Arch1, a beacon of arts endeavour and local involvement in the unloved and sidelined London district of Canning Town, fell victim to the latter last month. Thankfully the venue is down rather than out – and here’s someone running a crowdfunder to help it get back up:

“Arch1 is one of the few small independent arts venues left in London and for eight years it has been nurturing new talent in music, comedy, film and theatre. We were saddened to hear that on the 22nd June this year the club was decimated by the floods, forcing this cherished venue to close its doors and depriving London of this champion of independence.

A crowdfunder campaign has been set up to raise the £20,000 needed to completely refurbish and refit Arch1. Please support new talent in the arts by contributing to this appeal, and help save one of London’s most unique and irreplaceable venues. For more information and how to donate, please click here.”

(Update, later in the day)

Ah. Um.

The bad news…

I’m late in picking up on and posting this. The crowdfunder closed on Friday last week. Embarrassing for me, but…

The good news…

They made the funding target. The venue’s been saved. Well, that’s a sparkle in the darkness.
 

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.


 

* * * * * * * *

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.”



 

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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.”

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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 – new British classical premieres – Keith Burstein’s cello sonata in London (with added Dvořàk and Schubert); and chamber works by Luke Bedford, Zoë Martlew, Richard Baker, John Woolrich in Birmingham (plus Judith Weir and Howard Skempton revivals)

28 May

Here’s a preview of the debuts of some new current-classical British pieces, all surfacing in June.

In the middle of the month, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group will be presenting the most recent fruits of their crowdfunded Sound Investment scheme (aimed to encourage enthusiasts to “get closer to the creation of new music… and support some of the world’s leading living composers,” – if you’re interested in joining in, check out the investment page here). Previously – at the start of the month – outlier composer and onetime new-classical rebel Keith Burstein will present his new cello concerto in one of London’s excellent but out-of-the-way music churches (situated as it is up near the Hoover Building, on the city’s north-west escape route and one which, as it happens, points the way to Birmingham).

* * * * * * * *

Music at St Mary’s Perivale presents:
The Lipatti Piano Quartet + Corinne Morris/Keith Burstein/Viv McLean
St Mary’s Perivale, Perivale Lane, Perivale, London, UB6 8SS, England
Wednesday 1st June 2016, 7.30 pm
– free event (with retiring collection) – more information

Programme:

Keith Burstein : ‘Wiosna’ (sonata for cello & piano) (world premiere)
Franz Schubert : Sonata in A minor D821 ‘Arpeggione’ (for cello & piano)
Franz Schubert – Adagio and Rondo Concertante D487 (for piano, violin, viola & cello)
Antonín Dvořàk – Piano Quartet in E flat Op. 87 (for piano, violin, viola & cello)

Performers:

The Lipatti Piano Quartet
Corinne Morris (cello)
Keith Burstein (piano)
Viv McLean (piano)

During his 1990s emergence as a composer, Keith Burstein warred publically, bitterly and theatrically with a stern post-serial/post-Boulez British classical music establishment over his own fervent, frequently-politicized championing of “the rehabilitation of melody to the heart of music, and of tonal harmony, which enables the expressive power of dissonance.“ At the time, he was sidelined and ostracised. Now, with a multitude of British composers happily handling melodic expressiveness in parallel with modernist complexities, those battles seem to belong to a harsher, more rigid era: one concerned more with conflicts of manners, of theory and of hierarchy than with actual musicality. Perhaps in consequence, the image of Burstein-the-heretic may gradually be giving way to that of Burstein-the-unfortunate-herald, but in the meantime Keith has continued to work his own continuing tonalist seam (regardless of scorn or praise) through oratorios and political/metaphysical opera, choral and chamber pieces, and song cycles.

Corinne Morris, 2013 (photographer unknown)

Corinne Morris, 2013 (photographer unknown)

In recent years Keith has applied his limpid, deceptively intricate compositional approach to works and situations relating to his own Eastern European and Baltic Jewish heritage (an Ashkenazy-approved symphony premiered by the Kaunas City Symphony; a string trio inspired by a Lithuanian odyssey). His latest work, the cello sonata ‘Wiosna’ , is named for the Polish word for “spring” – which he finds “much more beautiful than our stark monosyllable” – and its three movements are named after the three months of that season, Marzac (March), Kwiecien (April) and Maj (May). ‘Wiosna’ was written for Corinne Morris (the ex-Opera National de Paris cellist turned acclaimed soloist, who’s currently following up her 2013 debut album ‘Macedonian Sessions’ with a new one with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, due in 2017). She’ll be performing the piece with Keith himself as piano accompanist.

Filling out the bill will be three familiar Romantic staples. Schubert’s ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata (originally written for a pairing of piano and the bowed, long-since fallen-from-favour arpeggione guitar) will be performed in its more usual cello-and-piano arrangement, with Corrine Morris accompanied this time by award-winning young pianist and frequent St Mary’s performer Viv McLean. The Lipatti Piano Quartet – Gamal Khamis (piano), Amy Tress (violin), Felicity Matthews (viola) and Auriol Evans (cello) – will be completing the evening, performing two further key Romantic chamber works: Schubert’s ‘Adagio and Rondo Concertante’ and Dvořàk’s ‘Piano Quartet in E flat’.

* * * * * * * *

BCMG - Remembering the Future

CBSO presents:
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group: ‘Remembering the Future’
CBSO Centre, Berkley Street, Birmingham, B1 2LF, England
Sunday 12th June 2016, 7.30pm
more information

Programme:

Judith Weir: Blue-Green Hill
Luke Bedford: In Black Bright Ink (world premiere)
Richard Baker: new work (world premiere)
Howard Skempton: Field Notes
John Woolrich: Swan Song (world premiere)
Zoë Martlew: Broad St. Burlesque (world premiere)

For this one, I’ll just quote BCMG’s press release, as follows:

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group has increasingly explored the contemporary chamber repertoire in recent seasons, and we extend that journey with no less than four new works from composers with strong BCMG connections. It was our Artist-in-Association John Woolrich who originally encouraged BCMG to commission smaller-scale pieces, and as a composer of such deft chamber works as In the Mirrors of Asleep, which we have performed many times, asking John to write one of these was an obvious choice (BCMG’s, not his!).

Zoë Martlew is primarily known as a performer, playing cello with BCMG on a number of occasions. She is also a talented emerging composer, and this seems the ideal time for her first BCMG commission. Luke Bedford returned to the UK last year from a period in Berlin – an experience that has influenced his music in subtly interesting ways. Richard Baker’s output includes a string of miniature works, finely crafted and always a delight for the ear. His new commission will be a more extended chamber piece featuring oboist/fellow composer Melinda Maxwell.

“Completing the programme are Judith Weir’s ‘Blue-Green Hill’ (an elaboration of a folk-inspired miniature first written for BCMG’s tour of India in 2002), and a revival of Howard Skempton’s ‘Field Notes’ (a hit of our 2014/15 season).

“There will be a free pre-concert talk open to all ticket holders from 6.30-7pm with Stephen Newbould (Artistic Director of BCMG), Richard Baker, Zoë Martlew, Luke Bedford and John Woolrich.“
 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – London jazz (imminent gigs for Bright Moments Trio with Graham Clark and for Madwort Sax Quartet; plus a crowdfunder for a LUME festival in June).

14 Apr

Two imminent London jazz gigs which might be of interest…

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Bright Moments Trio with Graham Clark, 15th April 2016

Jazz at The Richmond presents:
Bright Moments Trio with Graham Clark
The Richmond Arms, 1 Orchardson Street, Lisson Grove, London, NW8 8NG, England
Friday 15th April 2016, 8.00pm
more information

A low-key concert of “originals and standards” from the Bright Moments Trio (who are Jonathan Cohen on keyboards and vocals, Dave Fowler on drums and Francois Moreau on double bass. At this gig, they’re augmented by Graham Clark on violin.

All of which sounds bland – just another earnest listing at another jazz pub – unless you’re looking into the pedigree of the people involved. With Dave’s involvement with assorted Flimflam acts (such as free-yak London improv favourites Ya Basta!), a near-thirty-year journey for Francois across the New Wave of British Heavy Metal en route to blues and jazz, and Jonathan’s own tireless and enthrallingly broad body of work across multiple genres and instrumentation, theatre and conceptual songwriting (including, for the jazz purists, work with Alec Dankworth and Christine Tobin.) As for Graham – while he mostly presents as an obliging Buxton-based jazz violinist these days, his history takes in a stint with Gong and a long history of hook-ups with fervid Manchester improvisers and London players. Come along to this one: I think that you’ll be surprised.

* * * * * * * *

Madwort Sax Quartet, 2016

LUME presents:
Madwort Saxophone Quartet
Hundred Years Gallery, 13 Pearson Street, Hoxton, London, E2 8JD, England
Saturday 16th April 2016, 7.30pm
more information

Blurb compiled from various sources:

“We’re very happy to welcome the Madwort Sax Quartet – Tom Ward (alto saxophone/compositions); Chris Williams (alto/soprano saxophone); Andy Woolf (tenor sax); Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone) – to Hundred Years Gallery for an exciting event in the group’s life: the recording of their debut album. Yes indeed, this gig will be expertly captured by the technical wizardry of Alex Bonney for a future release. Having played a sold-out gig at Manchester Jazz Festival in the summer – ably assisted at the last minute by LUME’s own Dee Byrne – the quartet are now back on home turf for this special performance.

The band explores irregular grooves and unusual harmonies inspired by mathematics and numerology, framed by the intuitive expressionism of free improvisation. This is a challenging line-up that allows for beautifully blended harmonies, intricate polyrhythms and abrasive dissonances. Inspirations include the movement of the planet earth through space, Steve Coleman, pioneering saxophone quartet Rova, Tim Berne, and transcriptions of bird song. The group also explores contemporary techniques such as complex time signatures and metric modulations without the presence of a dedicated drummer or percussionist, and harmony without a chordal instrument. All of the members bring their own individual, contrasting voices to the saxophone: Andy’s warm-toned, mellifluous tenor; Chris’s assertive, energetic alto (familiar to fans of Led Bib); Tom’s lyrical, passionate but more reserved alto; and Cath’s fluid, assured baritone. When required, though, the ensemble manages to blend beautifully into a homogenous whole that belies these contrasts.”

Here’s a gig recording for you:


 

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While on the subject of LUME gigs, they’ve just put out a call for crowdfunding for their planned end-of-June London festival:

LUME Festival, 26th June 2016

“We’re rounding off our 2015/16 season of gigs with the first ever LUME Festival. On Sunday 26th June we’re taking over IKLECTIK Art Lab near Waterloo for a one-day celebration of all things LUME: original and improvised music from the UK and beyond, friendly vibes and good times. To make it happen we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign – and we need your support.

After three days of intensive listening and discussion, we’ve put together a day of fresh, cutting-edge new music that your ears won’t be able to get enough of. We had a tough time narrowing it down, but the final lineup is as follows:

  • Ant Traditions (Manchester)
  • Musson/Kjær/Marshall (London)
  • Little Church (Birmingham)
  • Hot Beef Three (Leeds)
  • Blueblut (Austria)
  • Anton Hunter‘s Article XI (Manchester)

Our core programme of LUME gigs this year is supported by Arts Council England, and there will be part of this funding left for the festival. There’s enough to put on about three bands and have a nice evening. But after all the amazing music we’ve listened to, that’s not quite enough for us. We want to do more – and this is where you come in. With your help, we can put on everyone in the list above and pack the day full of music. We’ve also invited Gina Southgate to come and capture the day on canvas, and Alex Fiennes to record the performances!

To make this happen we need to hit a Kickstarter target of £3500, all of which will go towards artist fees and travel expenses. Help us get there by treating yourself to a plethora of exciting rewards including early bird festival tickets and exclusive LUME Festival merchandise: posters, stickers and even limited edition LUME Festival t-shirts. Make sure you’ve got your fix of new original/improvised music sorted for the next twelve months by becoming a LUME member for 2016/17. Join LUME founders Cath and Dee on a special trip to the London Aquarium as an homage to our power animal, the anglerfish. Or for those of you who seek a more exclusive, one-off experience: commission leading avant-jazz quartet and LUME house band Word Of Moth to compose a tune in your honour, perform it at the festival and record it for inclusion on their forthcoming debut album. Yes, that’s a thing that could actually happen. Join us. Let’s do this!”

If you’re interested, here’s the link, and I’ve tracked down a couple of soundclips here.



 

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