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July 2020 – singles & track reviews – Colin Edwin’s ‘First Point of Origin’ & ‘Second Point of Origin’; Bloom’s Taxonomy’s ‘Mount Bromo/United Nations Bicycle Parking’

31 Jul

Colin Edwin: 'First Point of Origin'

Colin Edwin: ‘First Point of Origin’

Driven by the realities of covid isolation and a shortage of live and external inspirations, a couple of new solo standalone pieces by Colin Edwin explore various aspects of fretless bass guitar, percussion programming and sound design. He’s calling them “limited elements” tracks: limited initially by time, place and opportunity and later by choices, although in themselves they’re rich-sounding enough to gainsay the name.

If the ear hints are correct, ‘First Point of Origin’ starts in a sort of shunting yard before heading off somewhere Can-nish, though Colin claims Neu! as a more accurate accidental reference point for a piece made via “heavy use of bass guitar fed through a delay pedal, drones courtesy of SuperEgo and Ebow, and driven by minimalistic “You must play monotonous!”-type rhythmic backing augmented by sliced and processed pieces of the underlying drone.” Either way, the drive forward ends up in a kind of enjoyably dour Krautrock disco space, some of Colin’s basslines wah-ed up into clavinet-style perks.


 

Colin Edwin: 'Second Point of Origin'

Colin Edwin: ‘Second Point of Origin’

If ‘Second Point of Origin’ has a key marker, it’s probably the relentless space rock throb of Hawkwind rather than Neu!. However, that’ll be a Hawkwind stripped down to delay-darkened dub bass and a menacing, grinding ambient purr. There’s also touch of the Blue Mondays to the building kick drum (not that trademark jammed-key stutter, more the build itself). As the track goes on, there’s more of a shift from bass sounds to drum sounds; not a replacement as such, but more an altering of priorities, a shift of emphasis.

Colin calls it “an exploration of inner space conceived whilst outer space was completely inaccessible.” There’s certainly something in that. Echoes bounce around a murky tank; the drone is like a searchlight illuminating nothing; the percussion passing though like a continually-altering blind signal. As the percussion and blocky pulses take over, the bass guitar itself is freed up to do lethargic, lazy marine arcs through the piece’s volume, a whale exercising slow-motion loops.


 

Bloom's Taxonomy: 'Mount Bromo/United Nations Bicycle Parking'

Bloom’s Taxonomy: ‘Mount Bromo/United Nations Bicycle Parking’

The abiding impression which Bloom’s Taxonomy‘s ‘Mount Bromo’ leaves is one of a serene, near ecstatic happiness. The forthcoming Bloom’s album is called ‘Foley Age’, suggesting a trip around field recordings and sound-creating objects. There’s certainly one in ‘Mount Bromo’ – an Indonesian gamelan, which provides the track with its playout sound (as an undoctored field recording, complete with conversation, children and engineer indiscretions); and also, via sampling, rings out the riff that cascades through the main section like a spiritual ice-cream truck.

The man behind Bloom’s Taxonomy, W.B Fraser, usually uses the project to explore urban desolation and science fiction pessimism. For this track, though, he seems to have embraced something more outrightly positive, bouncing it across a bed of unhurried breakbeats and a slow-tide swell of string synths.


 
‘United Nations Bicycle Parking’ is a little closer to standard Bloom’s practise. A little chillier and ambient in its electronica sway, its bass and beats virtually subliminal under its sky-buzz, its orchestrated sirens, its swerves of crowd-chatter. It has the pitch of a great city, one not defined by any imperial form but by the life that swirls through it, and by its optimism. At times this tune is up amongst the heights of the skyscrapers; at others, it’s dipping into the street markets. It sounds hopeful, it sounds accepting. It sounds as if Mr Fraser’s broadening his horizons in more ways than one.


 
Colin Edwin: ‘First Point of Origin’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
6th August 2020
Get it from: Bandcamp
Colin Edwin online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Tumblr Bandcamp Last FM Apple Music YouTube Deezer Spotify Instagram Amazon Music

Colin Edwin: ‘Second Point of Origin’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
31st July 2020
Get it from: Bandcamp
Colin Edwin online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Tumblr Bandcamp Last FM Apple Music YouTube Deezer Spotify Instagram Amazon Music

Bloom’s Taxonomy: ‘Mount Bromo/United Nations Bicycle Parking’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
31st July 2020
Get it from: download via Bandcamp or Amazon Music; stream via Soundcloud or Spotify
Bloom’s Taxonomy online:
Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp YouTube Instagram Amazon Music
 

February 2020 – single & track reviews – Gallery 47’s ‘I Wish I Was’; Wugo’s ‘Océan’; The Powdered Earth’s ‘Blossom’

28 Feb

Gallery 47: 'I Wish I Was'

Gallery 47: ‘I Wish I Was’

From the land of drifting day-jobs and lo-fi song nights, Nottingham’s Jack Peachey, a.k.a. Gallery 47, moves into his second decade of music. As ever, he sounds like a slacker Jon Anderson; one who never left the shared flats and scruffy bedrooms, nor left the airy space of ’60s pop: there’s the high birdy voice, the elevated melodies, the melancholia that only faintly tinges the carefree tunes (cloud shadow on a fine afternoon). His drowsy electric folk-pop is fragile without being brittle or vulnerable: he’s a blade of grass in the breeze, capable of bending in the unwelcome currents.

 
Look a bit deeper, though, and there’s existential horror, treated with a feather-light touch, belying the Andersonian falsetto with a touch of Elliott Smith. Even more, perhaps, a shade of Love’s ‘Forever Changes’, in which everything under the sun also has an ominous shadow. Launching from a tabla zing but immediately settling for drums which flap and billow like a pair of antique flares, ‘I Wish I Was’ shows Jack gently adrift in a world of options, finding in each of them a nearing ghost of entrapment. “Did you know you can search for conditions online? / Read a graph of relative norms and real lives? / How close or far you are from the day you’re gonna die?” The gentle disappointments mass, almost imperceptibly, into a pall, neither family nor travel a solution, with escape into a spliff the only temporary remedy. “See, the jail we’re going to has no get-out card at all…” Throughout, though, the shrug is a gentle-spirited one. Jack doesn’t rail or sulk about things, just gently regrets them and lets them slip over him.

Wugo: ‘Océan’

Wugo: ‘Océan’

‘I Wish I Was’ is about helplessness settling around you like the flapping wings of a friendly pterodactyl. ‘Océan’, the latest song from French bedroom-popster Wugo, is apparently about “a sea change in people, a hope of a collective conscience to set things right.” It’s in his native French, so I can’t quote him directly. Translated, though, it’s a sighed state-of-the-world lament for a literal and figurative sea that’s been polluted by human short-sightedness and greed.

Wugo’s not slow to lay the blame, but he’s not quick to stagnate in despair either, travelling backwards in memory to honour how things once were, hoping that things will be in a better state in future decades, gently dropping a simple ultimatum. To catch the feeling for how it is, bask in the music: powder-blue puffs of synth and wriggly electronic lines like a kite-tail in the sky. Chillout minus the complacency.


 

The Powdered Earth: 'Blossom'

The Powdered Earth: ‘Blossom’

With their third single (after the curtain-raising instrumental of ‘The Atlantic‘ and the illustrative folk testimony of ‘Hold Your Breath‘), The Powdered Earth feel as if they’ve found their centre with ‘Blossom’. Neither of them men in the first flush of youth, they’re well aware that not all lives end in crashes or operatics: that some longer lives will fade delicately instead, like old watercolours.

While instrumental half George Moorey provides misty piano, gently lagging guitar and a touch of synth cello, vocalist Shane Young comes to the fore with a gently narrated observation of an ageing widower’s rituals as he gathers tree and hedge flowers for his empty house; male and meticulous, understated but kindly. If you’re looking for it, there are parallels with Wugo’s chillout in the overlaying of memory with the present (“he chuckles into space / at her disapproving face / as he takes the crystal glassware from its ornamental case. / Along the window sills, / beside dispenser packs of pills, / are the fragrance bottles salvaged from the sale. / She would joke his perfume was brown ale…” ), plus the overlapping of times and promises altered. What’s different is the matter-of-factness about the protracted aftermath of someone’s death, its quietus and continuance: “he ties each sandwich bag / with a disused Christmas tag / and documents the scent with studious care. / Then he shuffles round the house / that he once shared with his spouse / and he fills up every piece of crystalware.”).


 
The spoken poetry is deliberately workmanlike, relying on its sober intimations rather than on over-flowering, and it’s all the more effective for that. Last time around, I mentioned Arab Strap as an unlikely comparison; if Moffat and Middleton stood as witnesses and recounters to dirty realism and damn well made you care about it, Moorey and Young could be said to be doing the same thing for a more genteel and understated strand of realism. You could picture the lyric being spelled out on a bereavement card, or a silver-surfer web meme, but that doesn’t take anything away from its understated compassion. “So precious quick the petals start to brown – / once more into the fields in dressing gown…” Logging the quiet and unspectacular dignity of carrying on. Someone needs to do it.

Gallery 47: ‘I Wish I Was’
Bad Production Records/AWAL (Kobalt)
Download/streaming single
Released:
28th February 2020
Get it from: download via Bandcamp or Amazon Music; stream via Soundcloud, Deezer, Apple Music, YouTube, Google Play or Spotify
Gallery 47 online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM Apple Music YouTube Vimeo Deezer Google Play Spotify Instagram Amazon Music

Wugo: ‘Océan’
Echo Orange (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
24th February 2020
Get it from: download from Amazon Music; stream via Deezer, YouTube, Spotify
Wugo online:
Facebook MySpace Soundcloud Apple Music YouTube Deezer Google Play Spotify Tidal Amazon Music

The Powdered Earth: ‘Blossom’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
28th February 2020
Get it from: now part of the ‘Singles’ EP on Bandcamp
The Powdered Earth online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Bandcamp YouTube Deezer Spotify Instagram Amazon Music
 

January 2020 – upcoming gigs – electronica, jazz and gamelan in Bristol and London – Byron Wallen plays Boards of Canada (17th, 18th January); Bersarin Quartett and LTO (21st January)

12 Jan

The last few tickets are selling out for the return of Byron Wallen’s audacious gamelan reinvention of Boards Of Canada’s ‘Music Has The Right To Children‘, playing in Bristol and London next weekend (following its London debut a couple of years ago). Quick repro of the blurb here:

“Having previously sold out two nights at London’s famous venue the Jazz Cafe, Byron Wallen comes to EartH, Hackney and Bristol’s Thekla for two incredible shows in January. His fantastic show pays homage to Boards of Canada’s seminal album ‘Music Has The Right To Children‘ working with his rarely used Gayan Gamelan Ensemble for a truly unique night.

Music Has The Right To Children‘ is the debut studio album by Scottish electronic duo Boards of Canada. It was released on 20 April 1998 in the United Kingdom by Warp and Skam Records and in the United States by Matador Records. The album stands as the Scottish duo’s magnum opus, made all the impressive by the fact that it was their debut record. An adult meditation on childhood, concerned with play, naïveté and nostalgia, all tinted with rosy pastoralism, the sensitivity of the compositions marry beautifully with Byron’s orchestration of the gamelan sound.”

The band is Byron Wallen (trumpet and conches), keyboard player Chris Jerome, bass player Paul Michael and drummer David Dyson, with the Gayan Gamelan Ensemble made up of Freddie Abel Parish (saron, trumpet), Wilf Diamond (gongs, trombone), James Wade-Sired (saron demung, peking, trombone), Thomas Morley (bonang barung, keyboards) and Tara Jerome (bonang panerus, keyboards). Here’s Byron talking about the project, and a snippet of last year’s Gayan Kraftwerk project.



 
* * * * * * * *

On a more purist electronica tip, there’s an evening of post-classical beat-and-synthery a few days later in London, when a couple of acts on the Denovali label come out and do their thing.

Bersarin Quartett + LFO, 21st January 2020

Thomas Bücker, a.k.a Bersarin Quartett has been at work for a decade now on an evolving body of music from the gushing, overwhelming haunted-rehearsal-room ambience of his debut album, the graceful space-capsule visions of the follow-up and the melancholic minimal sheen of the third effort. While Bersarin music has all of the soundtrackery smoothness of its genre, there’s a yearning side to this which cuts through the drawbacks of slickness. The project’s newest album, ‘Methoden Und Maschinen’, sometimes refines this and sometimes slips deeper into aspects of post-rock guitar gutturality and Tangerine Dream sequencer dreams.





 
In support, former Old Apparatus member LTO showcases his own new “Déjà Rêvé“ album focussing on an “abstracted sense of time and place” via busy floating piano patterns, room booms, vaporous keyboard pads and passing comment from cirrus guitars and mournfully reverberant brass hangings. It sounds as if the world of post-ery has gone so far round it’s colliding with early Mike Oldfield albums again. No bad thing.



 
* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Soundcrash presents:
Boards of Canada’s ‘Music Has The Right To Children‘ played by Byron Wallen’s Gayan Gamelan Ensemble

Bersarin Quartett + LTO
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Tuesday 21st January 2020, 5.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

November 2019 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Janushoved’s fifth anniversary party with Rosen & Spyddet, Internazionale, Yuri and others (1st November); Orlando Harrison goes Orwellian at the Horse Hospital with Tone Generator, Imperial Leather and David Rage (1st November); Paper Dollhouse, Daniel O’Sullivan, Flowers At Night and DJ King Knut at New River Studios (2nd November)

29 Oct

Janushoved 5 Year Anniversary, 1st November 2019Enigmatically romantic Copenhagen label Janushoved are throwing a fifth anniversary party in London at the start of November. Defining a Janushoved release isn’t a precise art – you can throw around the usual reductive tags like “dream pop”, “dance music” and “ambient”, but establishing a Janushoved sound and feel is more of a textural thing. Music released on the label stretches beyond the usual complacencies, suggesting at least one extra dimension. A Januhoved piece is more like enchantment heard around a grey door; intimate and intimatory, already huge yet incrementally growing, suggesting huge technicolour cloudscapes and bioluminescent pagodas.

Janushoved label curator Mikkel Valentin Dunkerley will be playing a strong role in the show. Unsurprising, since many Janushoved artists are him in some form or another, with or without assorted collaborators. Certainly he’s bringing the expansive, heroic ’80s electronic crownings of Rosen & Spyddet (also featuring mysterious sidekick P.E.) and will be returning for a second go onstage with the incandescent, sighing minimalism of his solo project Internazionale. His Shell Fantasy bandmate Susanne Mouritsen will also step up with the plaintive trance/found sound gush of her own work as Yuri. Various DJs should be playing but are yet to be announced: if nothing else, the three Janushovedians will probably be stepping up to the decks themselves and presenting various influences and inspirations.


 
* * * * * * * *

On the same evening, you’ve also got the opportunity to go to something much more abrasive, as the Horse Hospital plays host to an evening of assorted noise and audio mysteries. It’s centred around the ‘Tape 313‘ project by Orlando Harrison (who plays keyboards for Alabama 3 under the alias of “The Spirit”, has touched on work with Coil, Red Crayola, the Amal Gamal Ensemble, Dr Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses, Guapo, and The Daughters of God and who puts out strange semi-occult radiophonic collages of music, found speech and rants on Resonance 104.4 FM as ‘The Wrong Show’). Best to let the press release inform… or disinform:

 
Orlando Harrison, 1st November 2019“Reworkings of long thought lost audio tapes obtained on the premises of Senate House, ‘Tape 313’ interrogates two dissident voices, uncovering hidden meaning and deciphering coded messages.

“Stammheim Prison, 1975 — Gudrun Ensslin outlines the political position of the Red Army Faction, eighteen months before her alleged suicide, her voice a ghost in the machinery of the German state. The perpetual revolution of helicopter rotors over the prison house echo the grinding of the wheels of justice below, and the relentless rotation of the swastika at its heart.

“Trafalgar Square, 1956 — Nye Bevan delivers a speech attacking Sir Antony Eden’s Conservative government following the seizure of the Suez Canal. Twenty thousand people heard Bevan speak, after which a crowd marched on Downing Street. Harrison’s deconstructions transform Bevan’s words into air-borne weapons, soaring over the equestrian bronzes of Nelson’s Column, drowning out the death rattle of the British Empire.”

Contributing to the evening alongside Orlando are various people from around the Wannamarchi Club disorganisation (in their own words, “a multinational cabal centred around the labels Broken Britain Cassettes and NKT encompassing events, radio shows and visual art activities.”) Making assorted sounds and projecting visual are assorted industrialists and other noisemakers – S.P.K. visualiser and synth player Dominic Guerin in his Tone Generator persona; Imperial Leather (industrial tapesmiths setting growling toolwork against cutup echoes of rabble-rousing speeches – he/she/they seem to have a particular fascination with Brexit dyspepsia); and David Rage. It’s tricky to track down much of anything about what anybody’s doing, some of them may be working together and some of them might be employing a single-use-then-throw-away name for the evening; but here’s a bit of Orlando and a scrap of Leather.

 
* * * * * * * *

Orlando’s Dr Miasma colleague Daniel O’Sullivan has been pretty active recently, gigging his ‘Folly’ album and his Dream Lyon Ensemble around London and Europe. The night after Orlando’s gig, you’ll find him reviving his occasional, unorthodox performance piece ‘The Honourable Daines Barrington’ – trumpeted as “an ecstatic sound and movement ritual heralding the inner succession of the hypostasis and a channeling of musics from the vegetable kingdom… based on the cryptographic responses to the letters of eighteenth century parson-naturalist Gilbert White (but which he’s also revealed, in an M Magazine interview a couple of years ago), as being about “an atavistic vegetable man” and involving “a very, very awkward costume that’s very difficult to see and perform in.” Here’s just under a minute of him doing it in Moscow back in 2016…


 
Paper Dollhouse + Daniel O’Sullivan + Flowers At Night + DJ King Knut, 2nd November 2019
This Daines Barrington revival is part of a similarly unorthodox evening, centred on the release of ‘The Walled Garden’, the brand new album by Suffolk audio-visual experimental duo and “radioactive ambient pop” creators Paper Dollhouse. Daniel will be using the same garden-themed stage set which PD have assembled for this show, upon which they’re promising a “special, spectral, 3D performance” of “the follow up to 2018’s neon-lit ambient pop album ‘The Sky Looks Different Here’, and its sister release ‘All The Colours Align’, to form the final part of a triptych set across the plains of rural Suffolk and London. Inspired by surrounding nature, domestic routine, Maggi Payne and Henning Christiansen’s ‘The Executioner’, the release was recorded on a portable twenty-four track recorder and holds up a mirror to autumn the dawn and early hours, an exploration of synthesiser experiments, field recordings and snapshots of conversations that quietly define areas of personal growth, patience, curiosity, understanding and freedom… Where the group’s previous album explored an audio journey from the rain-soaked streets of East London out to the now fast eroding landscapes of Suffolk, The Walled Garden captures the after-hours ambience that falls across Astrud’s childhood surroundings within the ancient London borough of Southwark, an area with a rich but hidden music landscape home to the outer edges explorations of Coil and Derek Jarman. While field recordings from Nina’s studio in the rural yet equally meditative oceanside pepper the long-form synth transitions and blurred recollections of conversations and early morning reflections.”


 
Irish looper/layerer Juno Cheetal – a.k.a. Flowers At Night – will also be performing her own audio-visual set, droning away on vintage analogue and digital synthesizer, pulling in rural and urban field recordings, and adding live drums, vocal harmonisations and autoharp. The visual aspects are drawn from her Sherkin Island homeland, near Cork – possessor of a wide variety of spectacular shapings from woodlands to sea views.


 
The evening’s further expanded by Yorkshire sound collageist Lisa Lavery, who’ll be presenting her soundwork ‘The Valley’ (inspired by the changing social landscape and preoccupations of the Yorkshire Dales, it’s “made up of ‘sounds of the salon’ put through a harsh bleaching process… obsessed with the sheer number of salons in the valley and how that reflects the work opportunities available to women there and their existence as a safe space for women,” and realised with various salon accoutrements – hairdryers, clippers, hair foils and polystyrene wig heads. (Originally commissioned by the Calderdale branch of Yorkshire Sound Women Network – well worth checking out if you’re a sounds-and-noise girl of any age, and you want some active support – she’ll also be playing it as part of YSWN’s Hebden Bridge concert on 5th November.)

Finally, Soho radio show producer and haunted-beatsman King Knut (Knut Jonas Sellevold) will be offering up DJ sets containing “an instinctive, psychedelic mix of private press rarities, industrial electronic work, rock, unearthed 70s library music, Eastern-European folk, Algerian pop, jazz and hip hop” aiming for “a MoonDome garden ambience”


 
(UPDATE – it seems that Daniel O’Sullivan has in fact now cancelled, but everyone else is still playing…)

* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Janushoved presents:
Janushoved 5 Year Anniversary (featuring Rosen & Spyddet + Internazionale + Yuri + DJs t.b.c.)
The Glove That Fits, 179 Morning Lane, Hackney, London, E9 6LH, England
Friday 1st November 2019, 7.30pm
– information here

Broken Britain Cassettes & Wannamarchi.Club present:
Orlando Harrison: Tape 313 Launch
The Horse HospitalThe Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Friday 1st November 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Paper Dollhouse + Daniel O’Sullivan + Flowers At Night + DJ King Knut
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Saturday 2nd November 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here

October/November 2019 – upcoming London gigs – (mostly) female pop and poptronica and dance – Caroline Polachek (30th November); Kin Leonn and Geiste (1st November); Imogen Heap and Frou Frou (15th November); Kedr Livanskiy and Detalji (21st November), and Yeule at nearly all of these…

23 Oct

Some interesting technological pop shows (at various scales and predominantly female-driven) are arriving in London shortly.

First of all, Caroline Polachek is playing a small show at Hoxton Hall on 30th October. Though she spent her first musical decade as the leader of clever, multi-media-aware New York pop band Chairlift (best known for their Bruises single) she’s overlapped this with forays into ad hoc/lo-fi/female-fun supergrouping (the Girl Crisis cover band) and pastoral/theatrical electronica (from 2013 to 2015, as Ramona Lisa) as well as being the prime writer and arranger for (if we’re being honest, being the creator of) Beyoncé’s ‘No Angel’. Along the way, she’s established herself as a signally complete and disciplined performer, profoundly hands-on-involved with her own image and how it relates to her music, from designing her own choreography and makeup through to choosing all aspects of wardrobe and video presence.

It seems that in her mid-thirties – and after six years of releasing music on her own in various shapes and forms – Caroline’s starting to settle into the idea of a solo career. Her latest album – this year’s ‘Pang’ – is the first to emerge under her own name: a well-packed set of contemporary R&B/alt.pop with the same kind of expansive ear and mind for exploratory forms as peak works by Kate Bush, Jane Siberry or Björk (or, more recently, f.k.a. Twigs and Jenny Hval). Calling it some kind of solo revelation is over-simplifying; Caroline’s use of various pseudonyms for her one-woman projects always seems to have had more to do with creating useful self-eliding masks in which she can unselfconsciously explore different musical ideas. Like Björk, she’s also a frequent, restless and productive collaborator with others (most recently, with PC Music’s Danny Harle), and like Bjork similarly firm in that she’s ultimately the person in control and making the choices.

The ‘Pang’ singles so far, both musically and visually, show a talent and imagination at a comfortably full (and wide-ranging) stretch. Here are three of them in video form, showing off Caroline’s particular vision.




 
Playing support at Hoxton is Yeule – a persona project by visual artist and sometime synth builder Nat Ćmiel. A Singaporean-born nomad “obsessed with tinkering and discovery” and currently settled in London, she’s taken her talents for construction, reconstruction and textural explorations of the subconscious deep into her own music. The latter, merging a kind of transplanted Chinese pop with a slippery international EDM lucid drowse and sugary whispery vocals, sometimes makes her resemble an East Asian Julee Cruise settling, like a dreaming moth, into clubland’s sensuality and wilfully fluctuating identity space.

Certainly there’s plenty of surreal Lynchian lushness and reverie to her sound, complementing the smoke-and-mirror verbiage which she generates and which one has to stumble through while trying to get to the bottom of what makes her tick and flutter. Yuele characterises the main component of her work in terms both sensual and psychological (“(a) stifling psychological haze turned into perfume”) and adds, Sybilline, that “it’s difficult for my mind to stay in one place. I can go back to revisit the person I was in my dreams. I see them as multiple people. Sometimes they talk to me, but I’ve cut most of them off because they start screaming in my ear.” All of this inspires her ongoing fluid and successional approach to performance personae, which she continually tries to break down and move through in a series of metaphorical deaths and album tracks exploring the hinterland between death and rebirth, awareness and oblivion. The aforementioned Twigs might be a closer comparison than Cruise: there are similarities in the wispy softness of tone, the lightly assured stepping between different art forms, the moving body as creator’s canvas, the simultaneous exposure and walling off; the final definitions which slip through the fingers of any external searcher.



 
* * * * * * * *

Yeule is also playing two further London shows in November. The first is her own – a headliner down in the basement at Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston on 1st November, at which she’ll have a full chance to stretch out and take control of proceedings.

Ijn support is French-born Geiste, who creates her own dramatic, multi-instrumental pop: compelling undulator songs containing slow-burner stories. Also around is Yeule’s fellow Singaporean Kin Leonn, extending the warm, blipping, ambient/electronic instrumental side of the pillowy dream-pop he’s known for back home as a third of Midst. His debut solo album, ‘Commune’, deals with “longing, nostalgia, revelation, and other curious introspections… a dive into the subconscious and a documentation of the sensibilities encountered along the way.”



 
The second Yuele appearance during November is another support slot nearly three weeks later, over in Hackney Wick, supporting Moscow EDM-er Kedr Livanskiy at a Bloc night. A onetime Russian punk turned electronica explorer (and a member of Moscow’s Johns’ Kingdom collective), Kedr embodies a particular Russian spirit at the moment: the outward reach in collision or contradiction with its own bullish sense of identity. Her wavering vocals are distracted white dance-diva slipping into semi-operatic chant phrases: since it’s all sung in Russian, it all sounds strangely ritualistic and ancient to the ignorant or linguistically challenged (so that’ll be me and most of the rest of us, then). The music itself sometimes summons up some classic old London dance tropes of jungle and drum’n’bass; sometimes lonely analogue darkwave contortions and streetlight synth pads; sometimes international techno blurb and dubby keyboard clanks rebounding off blippy little traffic bleeps and horns.




 
Also supporting Kedr is Finnish techno diva Detalji (a.k.a. Krista Myllyviita), the night’s smoothest and most direct proposition. Making her UK live debut, she creates a mixture of cellar throb and of clear and arresting pop songs around a sleek IDM chassis, preoccupied with intimacy and detachment, with their overlap with sexuality, with the ups-and-downs of clublife friendships and power games and with the struggling state between urges and self-awareness. You can get suckered in by the cruising beats and the urgent electronic slither: afterwards, you may be nagged and haunted by the words that have slid across your eardrums, carried by the pulse and the needing.

 
* * * * * * * *

While looking into the Caroline Polachek date, I couldn’t help but notice how her recent single So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings has certain similarities with Imogen Heap’s similarly sweet’n’horny Goodbye and Go, from fifteen years ago. Most people probably know – and knew – the latter from last year’s slice’n’dice acquisition and remodelling by Ariana Grande. It’s all amicable, all supportive, all respectful – Immi and Ariana are mutual fans, share assorted tips and in all respects are the model of a supportive cross-generational female friendship. On top of that there’s still plenty of Heap sales, shows and activity (more of which in a moment).


 
Yet it still sometimes feels as if Immi herself has slipped through a crack of public awareness. A fully self-contained female writer, singer, producer and instrumentalist almost a generation before it became commonplace. Known, loved and worked with by other musicians from Ariana to Joshua Radin to Jeff Beck. A polymathic grafter with plenty of industry success over two decades plus a field of work covering theatre, film and classical concert hall as well as pop songs (that’s her score you’ll have heard in the Harry Potter play)… For all that, still in too many respects a cult artist, at least in her home country. I was trying to work out why this was, and whether it was in part the twists of image. While Immi was being overshadowed by fellow BRIT School graduates like Amy Winehouse, it can’t have been because her own songs lacked spirit or immediacy: anyone who thought that couldn’t have heard the suspended tech-apella heartache of her other best-known song, Hide And Seek (or can’t have caught up, later, with the deceptively dense lines of her mother’s-lullaby Tiny Human).



 
It’s probably more that, in a country that likes its imported and its homegrown pop divas to fit specific strands of celebrity (the light entertainment celeb sprung from national reality TV, the party provider, the own-brand corporation juggernaut selling scent and other beauty-myth trapping, the icon playing out huge-scale soapy stories in public, or a combination of all four), Immi has never really fitted the measures. There’s that lack of mystique, for which she’s happily substituted an affable beanpole strut combined with a chatty, cheery, Essex duchess-next-door poise. There’s that wild sense of dress-up that’s ultimately more about the laugh and the moment than it is about eight hours in wardrobe.

Then there’s the way in which, rather than stamping her name on perfumes and couture, she’s enthusiastically and publicly involved herself in ambitious, constructive and practical tech geekery which is all about shifting control into the hands of artists: investigating blockchain, developing and marketing ungimmicky wearable MIDI instruments and, more recently, putting together the cloud-based Mycelia Creative Passport (which streamlines a user’s digital credentials and payment channels, bringing the workings and remunerations of their career directly into their own hands). Finally, there’s the fully-integrated talent: as well as the dancing and fronting, the skills which guarantee that (Prince-like) she’s responsible for every single note, noise and shaping on her own records – and that its happening at a level which could challenge any other pop producer or instrumentalist, rather than simply being a make-do necessity.

In some respects, then, Imogen Heap symbolises a kind of drive, inquisitiveness and achievement which we don’t associate with (or encourage in) women enough – in or out of pop. A bright, squirrelling intelligence. I’ll admit that such things won’t necessarily smear much righteous mascara; it’s unlikely to fuel and enable some cathartic life-changing bawl’n’bitch right at the moment when you really need one. On the other hand, she won’t sell you crap and you don’t have to trail in her glory: you never have to be the friend who’s ultimately just another fucking minor courtier.

In short, beyond the songs and sounds there’s something about Imogen Heap that makes her seem more like an inclusive brilliant friend than an out-and-out pop goddess. Perhaps in some respects, that’s all for the better. I don’t know whether her model of self-sufficiency and practical enquiry has influenced the other, younger women mentioned here. I’d like to think that in some ways it has.


 
At any rate – Immi’s ongoing year-long Mycelia world tour touches down at the Roundhouse in London for one of its three British dates during November (the others are in Gateshead and Manchester). Thematically and practically, it links in with the ongoing Creative Passport project, using workshops and talks alongside the concerts to build a canny community of new tech-savvy users.

In addition, this particular tour sees Immi re-united with her old friend and fellow instrumental/production boffin Guy Sigworth, for the first time since their short-lived/one-off album and tour in the early 2000s as Frou Frou (in the meantime, Guy’s busied himself working with a bevy of other singers including Alanis Morrisette, Bebel Gilberto, assorted Sugababes and Chinese electropop chanteuse SingerSen). A new version of Frou Frou takes over part of each of Immi’s shows to resurrect old Guy-and-Immi collaborations. Here’s a live rendition of their old album-launcher Let Go from earlier in the tour, plus a rare of-its-time Frou Frou video from the old days.



 
* * * * * * * *

More on other upcoming November femmetronica soon…

Meanwhile, dates for now:

Parallel Lines presents:
Caroline Polachek + Yeule
Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6SH, England
Wednesday 30th October 2019, …pm
– information here, here and here

Parallel Lines presents:
Yeule + Kin Leonn + Geiste
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Friday 1st November 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

DHP Family presents:
Imogen Heap & Frou Frou
The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, London, NW1 8EH, England
Friday, 15th November 2019, 7.00pm

information here, here and here

Bloc presents:
Kedr Livanskiy + Detalji + Yeule
Bloc @ Autumn Street Studios, Unit 3, 39 Autumn Street, Hackney Wick, London, E3 2TT, England
Thursday 21st November 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

September 2018 – upcoming experimental electronica gigs in London – Pita plus Finlay Shakespeare and Nik Colk Void at Sutton House (7th & 8th September); Andrew Heath and Toby Marks at the Old Church (21st September)

31 Aug

A couple of interesting electronic music shows in historic buildings, coming up in various parts of Hackney during September…

* * * * * * * *

Pita (plus guests), 7th & 8th September 2018

Second-wave industrial/noise music star and extreme computer music pioneer Peter Rehberg (a.k.a. Pita) will be filling up the old Tudor space of the Great Chamber of Hackney’s Sutton House with sounds from his current modular analogue electronics work, on a double date postponed from May.

“Born in London, Rehberg has resided in Vienna for his adult life. It was here, in the early ’90s, that Rehberg harnessed aspects of noise, industrial, electro-acoustic and techno to develop a new approach to music. Whether constructing an album entirely from the recordings of a fridge, or harnessing the live electronic potential of laptops soon after they hit the market, Pita has always been at the forefront of contemporary radical music practice.

“Birthing the extreme computer music genre, scoring the works of controversial French theatre director Gisele Vienne, ongoing collaborations with Jim O’Rourke, Fennesz, Marcus Schmickler and Stephen O’Malley… all define Rehberg’s open ended approach to the creative act. As head of the influential Editions Mego family of labels, he has released albums by renowned artists like Fennesz, Heather Leigh, Klara Lewis, Kevin Drumm, Thomas Brinkmann, Florian Hecker, Bernard Parmegiani, Russell Haswell, KTL, Iannis Xenakis, Oren Ambarchi, Bill Orcutt, Mark Fell and many more.

“As Pita, Rehberg has produced over a dozen albums, covering an astonishing variety of experimental electronic styles. The ‘Get Out’/’Get Down’/’Get Off’ trilogy received broad international critical acclaim and helped define the radical underground experimental electronic scene of the 90’s. Pita has played numerous concerts all over the world including SONAR, ATP, CTM Berlin, MUTEK, Donaufestival, Le Guess Who?, Atonal etc. In 1999 he won the Prix Ars Electronica for Digital Musics & Sound Art.”

Pita’s most recent recorded offering is his 2016 album ‘Get In’, his first in twelve years and his first following a 2015 return to live work with a new modular setup. It’s a tremendously assured work, sometimes bullish, with none of the noncommittal airiness that often blights the EM and ambient genres.

Part of this is to do with scale – it’s a varied, huge-sounding record which sidesteps simple vulgar loudness for an impressive architectural dominance. Wherever Pita offers gently scintillating greenhouse meditations, they also happen to be the size of the Eden Project; his Galaxian blip-brainstorms, meanwhile, crack the game cabinet and head for great-hall pronouncements. With barely an obvious beat in sight, this is an urgently physical music which also puts the mind on sharp alert. There’s glitch and squelch; but there’s also grand romanticism which sternly punishes itself, and challenges the listener with passages of synthesized orchestral meditation penetrated by shrieks of solo noise and a frowning, compelled patina of distortion vandalism. This is exceptional stuff.


 
On each of his two Sutton House concerts, Pita will be joined by a guest musician.

On Friday 7th, it will be Finlay Shakespeare: analogue synth minder to the stars (via his work at the Moog Sound Lab) and also chief engineer and founder of Future Sound Systems, where he builds worryingly-named modular components including the Convulsion Generator, the Spectral Devastator and an updated version of Chris Carter’s Throbbing Gristle sound-processing unit, the Gristleizer (as used to unsettling effect throughout the original Gristle’s career).

Since last year, via his prolific series of ‘Housediet’ releases, Finlay has been creating his own passionate and evocative take on old-school experimental European synthpop, filled with flattened analogue blatters, skirling fanfares, cybernetic dance pulses and borderline-hysterical incantatory pop vocals.


 
On Saturday 8th, the guest will be Nik Colk Void. Twenty years ago (as Nikki Colk) she was running songblasts of pop-punk through dense effects-pedal work as frontwoman for Norwich experimental rockers KaitO. These days, she’s to be found as one-half of Factory Floor and one-third of post-Throbbing Gristle trio Carter Tutti Void.

Nik’s solo work leaves songcraft far behind in favour of wonderfully suggestive post-industrial sonic abstractions. Haunted factories, steam hisses and wheel-rim scrapes; neurotically-looped ventilation-duct eavesdroppings on unseen devices; or even something as simple as single-scratch passes (like bored, rolling marbles) paired with intermittent grain bag-rattles, like blank shamanic rituals played out on abandoned machine-shop benches.

 
I-D.A Projects & care in the community recordings present:
The New Arts & Music Programme at Sutton House: PITA
Sutton House, 2-4 Homerton High Street, Homerton, London, E9 6JQ, England
– Friday 7th September 2018, 7.30pm
(with Finlay Shakespeare) – information here and here
Saturday 8th September 2018, 7.30pm (with Nik Colk Void) – information here and here

* * * * * * * *

A fortnight later, and a mile or so northwest, Toby Marks and Andrew Heath are bringing a softer, spacier double bill of solo electronic music to London within the preserved Saxon confines of Stoke Newington’s Old Church. Full details below.


 
Andrew Heath + Toby Marks, 21st September 2018“A soundscape artist and composer, Andrew Heath creates quiet, ambient, lower-case music based around piano, electronics and field recordings, drawing inspiration from a simple piano motif, an electronic shimmer or a processed found sound. The work he produces blends piano, electronics and found sounds into a mix that on the surface sounds quite minimal and open, but on closer listening, contains detailed fragments, constantly shifting and changing place.

“Early collaborations using Fender Rhodes, piano and electronics with fellow musician, Felix Jay under the name Aqueous led to a partnership with the legendary Hans-Joachim Roedelius. Andrew went on to produce a number of video and site-specific, sound installations which re-introduced him to the technique of working with field recordings, often leaving in the sonic detritus that most would seek to eliminate as being “non-musical”.

“In performance, Andrew re-interprets his studio work weaving multiple layers of textural field recordings balanced with etherial whispers of electronic sound and half-glimpsed piano melodies. Recent performances have seen him add acoustic instruments to his palette – often bowed or e-bowed, but certainly not played conventionally. This is immersive, ambient music. It drifts. It constantly shifts as it charts new topographies, creating and following maps that are full of change.




 
Banco de Gaia’s Toby Marks will be exploring the gentler end of his catalogue, presenting ambient works old and new accompanied by live improvisation and manipulation. Ranging from cinematic grandeur through tender minimalism to otherworldly fantasies, this performance will take you to places of beauty rarely visited.



 
“Visuals will be provided by Patrick Dunn (currently touring with Tangerine Dream) who blends real world imagery and computer generated graphics to create a mesmerising, immersive world.”

Disco Gecko presents:
Andrew Heath + Toby Marks
The Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 9ES, England
Friday 21st September 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

July 2018 – upcoming London pop gigs – Pram at the Lexington (22nd July)

12 Jun

Expect a happy gathering of the original British post-rock tribes next month when this little gift to them starts up and starts whirring…

Pram, 22nd July 2018

Dictionary Pudding Promotions presents:
Pram
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Sunday 22nd July 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

“Dictionary Pudding are hugely proud to welcome the long-awaited return of Kings Heath legends Pram. With a new album out shortly on Domino Recording Company – these are very exciting times for Pram, one of the most uniquely enthralling underground artists of the last 30 years – their return in these troubling times is extremely welcome!

“Birmingham’s Pram craft fairytales from concrete reality. The second city’s spin cycle of perpetual renovation, from the slum clearances to its current cosmetic upgrade, is etched in Pram’s restless groove, an endearing and gently refusenik mix encircling early Rough Trade innovators The Raincoats, astro jazz, sci-fi soundtracks, creepy Victoriana, tropical analogue and tumbledown funk.

“To say Pram have always ploughed their own furrow is to underestimate the breadth and scale of their music. To listen to this record is to hear a group who have learned to play together whilst teaching each other a new language. The Moving Frontier is Pram at their most widescreen, they’ve created a mysterious and wonderful landscape that’s sky-wide open.”

Pram: 'Under The Blossom That Hangs On The Bough', 3rd June 2017

And here’s a slightly trimmed version of what I wrote for when they resurfaced quietly for their British comeback almost exactly a year ago, back in Birmingham with the park installation ‘Under the Blossom that Hangs on the Bough’…

“This isn’t quite the same Pram that charmed us and subverted pop for a surprisingly long stint in the ’90s and noughties across a string of albums which included ‘Dark Island’ and ‘Sargasso Sea’ and a sound that seemed to be part child’s murmur, part clinking post-kosmische stroll and part friendly haunted house. Most obviously, singer and lyricist Rosie Cuckston (she who used to mount her keyboard on an ironing board at concerts) is absent, having moved on into academia and a more direct form of the social activism which the band’s eclectic inclusiveness and tendency to take philosophical side roads only hinted. That said, the rest of the band’s original creative core (multi-instrumentalists Matt Eaton, Sam Owen and Max Simpson) are all present, having spent the interim years of Pram downtime working with wonky loops as Two Dogs, creating film and theatre sound and making sonic art out of books with the Sound Book Project.

“This also isn’t the first time that the post-Rosie Pram’s reappeared. Earlier in May they made an appearance at Imaginary Musics in Switzerland, playing a “music for Kopfkino” audio-visual set in a festival dedicated to “cinematic, recomposed and fictional musics”, and it seems as if losing Rosie’s quiet reflective voice and cocooned lyrics has shifted them further over into the areas suggested by Matt’s sound design and by Sam and Max’s live sound art. On-spec, it seems as if they’ve succeeded in becoming a kind of “post-band”, with a foot in their old live work, song-structures and performance coherence, but leaning towards something far more abstract and ego-free. ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’ sounds as if it will be something fascinating to be immersed in – an urban psychedelic afternoon stroll with the family, an aural refraction of Birmingham through leaves, greenery and company.”

Here’s a minute or so of the ‘…Blossom…’ project:


 
And here are some more moments of Pram past: rattle-pop, glows and musings…





 
Pram, 2012
 

June 2018 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Colliding Lines’ ‘Reanimation: Phantasmagoria’ film soundtracking night with Georges Kaplan Presents…, Hypnotique, Alexander Carson and Far Rainbow (6th June)

2 Jun

Despite their unfortunate no-show last month, cineastes and sonicnambulistic encouragers Colliding Lines bounce back with another evening of films and music, this time pairing the Edwardian fantasias of early French cinema with a variety of new accompaniments including Theremin-ery, object-scrabble, dry downtempo post-classical songcraft, Rhodes-and-sax jazz and screebling noise.

* * * * * * * *

 
Colliding Lines present:
‘Reanimation: Phantasmagoria’ – featuring Georges Kaplan Presents… + Hypnotique + Alexander Carson + Far Rainbow
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Wednesday 6th June 2018, 8.30pm
– information here and here

“This month we explore the phantasmagoria of 1900’s sci-fi and fantasy films – the magic of hand-tinted films, retro futurism and early special effects, scored live by four different artists.

Films:

• ‘Voyage de la Luna’ (‘Trip to the Moon’), 1902.
• ‘Le Royaume des Fées’ (‘The Kingdom of the Fairies’), 1903.
• ‘L’Album Merveilleux’ (‘Wonderful Album’), 1905.
• ‘Les Tulipes’ (‘The Tulips’), 1907.
• ‘La Grenouille’ (‘The Frog’), 1908
• ‘Le Spectre Rouge’ (‘The Red Spectre’), 1907.

“The programme features the work of film pioneers and stage magicians Georges Méliès and Segundo de Chomón, whose innovations in narrative and visual filmmaking are considered among some of the most influential in film history.

“We are excited to introduce the following soundtrack artists:

Georges Kaplan Presents… are a musical duo hailing from London’s gnarled and twisting streets, who in all things take their cue from their leader Georges Kaplan. A man of infinite mystery, very little is known about Georges’ true identity save for his love of a hot tempo and a predilection for strong bourbon. Forever on the run, with only his wits to keep him alive he always knows how to stay ahead of the game. A hustler? A master manipulator? A mere shadow? No one can say, although those who claim to know him best simply marvel at his impeccable taste and incalculable talent in outwitting any would-be detractors.

 
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. For this performance she collaborates with electronics and experimental legend Cos Chapman, founder of the Rude Mechanicals. His recent work has included a performance at Berlin Musitecfest and live sound design for dance-theatre in Taipei.

 
Alexander Carson is a neoclassical downtempo composer and songwriter based in London. Carson has previously spent the better part of seven years as the lead singer, and songwriter for genre-fluid quintet Wooden Arms. His debut single ‘Lovers’ was released on the 4th of May via Round Table Records.

 
Far Rainbow were formed in London in 2014 by Bobby Barry and Emily Barnett, two old friends from Brighton. Improvising using drums, electronics, and whatever random household objects they can extract a noise from, Far Rainbow approach their arsenal of intonarumori as if they were alien artefacts or ritual paraphernalia, operating according to recursive logics only partly comprehensible.”


 
Here are videoclip versions of the films being shown, with a variety of tintings and existing soundtracks (from classical to noise-rock and irritating French voiceovers…)







 

May 2017 – upcoming English gigs by or with Steve Lawson – Neil Murray masterclass + Steve’s Ley Lines trio in Kidderminster (May 2nd); Steve plays with Robert Logan (plus Surjit Sembi-Harding, Daniel Brooks and Dan Rogerson) in London (May 13th); Steve Lawson/Mike Outram/Emre Ramazanoglu trio in Birmingham (May 14th)

22 Apr

Ever-gregarious solo bassist Steve Lawson (who’s been having a pretty busy spring already, with his earlier Birmingham Bass Night and a couple of new albums ready to go) has put out news of three further upcoming live appearances in England as solo player and collaborator. Collectively, they run the familiar Lawson gamut of jazz, ambient fusion, electronica, work with singer-songwriters… and plenty of talking.

* * * * * * * *

First up is a combined gig, masterclass and interview (with Steve on the interviewer end of the mic…)

Neil Murray masterclass + Ley Lines, 2nd May 2017

“Kidderminster College presents a masterclass with bass legend Neil Murray! Neil’s career is woven into the history of British rock, including his time as bassist for Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore & Brian May. His influential style helped shape the evolution of hard rock from the jazz rock crossover of the 70s in bands like Colosseum II through to Whitesnake’s era-defining ‘1987’ global smash. Neil will talk with Steve Lawson about his career, demonstrate some of the lines that made him one of the most sought-after bassists in the country, and share advice from his life in music.

“The second half of the evening will be a performance by Ley Lines – Steve Lawson, Andy Edwards and Phi Yaan-Zek are the bass/drums/guitar teachers at Kidderminster College, and have released two critically acclaimed albums as a trio. This is their long-awaited live debut outside of the college, and promises to be an enthralling high energy set of improvised music crossing many styles and sounds!”


 
* * * * * * * *

The Waiting, 13th May 2017

Steve continues:

“May 13th at The Waiting, in Hounslow will be a solo gig and a collaboration with synth genius Robert Logan – Robert and I have been talking about collaborating for a long time. I’m a huge fan of his solo work, and am really looking forward to seeing what we come up with!”

For those of you who aren’t immediately familiar with Robert, he’s a pretty outstanding talent in electronic music. Like many in the field, he earns much of his living from drama or documentary soundtracks (the kind after which you squint eagerly at rapidly scrolling credits. keen to catch the name of whoever’s responsible for the arresting background sounds) but he’s also made a backroom wizard’s name for himself via beats and texture work for the likes of Brigitte Fontaine, Morcheeba’s Skye Edwards and in particular Grace Jones’s ‘Hurricane’, as well as collaborations with Steve Roach and Raf & O.

Four albums into a parallel solo career (which began with 2007’s ‘Cognessence’, recorded while he was still a teenager), Robert’s music displays a startling mastery of broad and exciting strands, going from dubstep, techno thud and ocean-pop ambience to twisted beats, atonal arpeggiations and dark ambience via experiments with banjo and pocket trumpet tracks; plus a magisterial atmospheric and heft of intent drawing from reconstructed classical music.


 
As regards the host event, The Waiting is a monthly gig at Maswell Park Church, boasting particularly full evening bills with a Christian slant (if not necessarily in terms of lyrical fervency, at least in terms of the faith and society which drives and shapes the musicians). On the 13th, in addition to Steve and Robert’s contributions, there will be appearances by Surjit Sembi Harding (frontman with Chiswick pop band Under Control, currently leading his own Surj project) and by Daniel Brooks, a onetime Robert Logan production client who divides his own work between quizzical electro-pop (exemplified by the ‘Toys’ track below), grand digital popscapes and electronic atmospheres. Both men are sometime worship leaders, bringing some of those skills to their pop fronting and songwriting voices; and while it’s true that Christian pop can sometimes be a refuge for simpering blandness, neither Surjit nor Daniel subscribe to this, both being several cuts above.



 
Surjit’s Under Control bandmate Daniel Rogerson will also be on hand for a solo guitar set, plus there’s a two-hour open mic session before the gig for anyone who wants to try their luck.

* * * * * * * *

Back to Steve for word on the final May show:

Steve Lawson/Mike Outram/Emre Ramazanoglu, 14th May 2017

“May 14th is a really special gig at Tower Of Song, with two of my favourite collaborators ever. Mike Outram (guitar) and Emre Ramazanoglu (drums) are true geniuses on their instruments – Mike and I recorded ‘Invenzioni’ back in 2010 but never played live. Emre and I met as part of a studio experimentation with Beardyman almost exactly a year ago. We played live in London last September and are really looking forward to playing again, and recording it properly for a live release.”

Here’s a trim of what I wrote last time the trio stepped out:

“Possessed of a boisterously convivial and adventurous set of guitar tones (as well as a spontaneous but eminently accessible creativity), Mike Outram is one of a number of contemporary electric guitarists who define themselves via the act of music rather than the reinforcement of genre. Although jazz enthusiasts will rightly admire him for his work with Nikki Iles, Tim Garland, Theo Travis’s Double Talk and Billy Bottle & The Multiple, Mike learns from and adds to whichever situation or artist he works with outside of jazz, be it soul pop with Carleen Anderson, latterday prog fusion with Steven Wilson or the classical/soundtrack work of composer Laura Rossi…. A committed solo performer since 2000, dedicated to presenting bass guitar as a standalone instrument, Steve has also been an enthusiastic and garrulous collaborator. His conversational fretless bass tones, Kaoss Pad rhythmic experiments and panoramic swathing loopscapes have meshed with a wide variety of partners from pianists, saxophonists, singers and drummers to electric kora players and a range of other amenable solo bassists. His own relaxed attitude to genre has resulted in a musical voice which strolls from place to place, touching on points from smooth-hipped jazz to art-rock, slick pop to noisy improv, dance electronica to ambient-aquatic sound painting, but never being tied down to any of them…. Emre Ramazanoglu, a multi-genre drummer, programmer, writer and producer… generally works (semi-invisibly) behind the scenes in the music industry, at the points where high-level musical chops, cunning production ideas and rapidly-evolving technology mesh with contemporary pop music production and bespoke event soundtracks. In between the demands of catwalk and chart, he fits in more esoteric, less overtly commercial work such as writing and shaping new records for reggae stalwarts Trojan, playing the Adrian Sherwood/remixological role on Martin France’s Spin Marvel jazztronica project, and co-running quirky sound design outfit Rattly’n’Raw.”

And here’s some of what they played on the night:



 
* * * * * * * *

Details on all three gigs below:

  • Neil Murray masterclass + Ley Lines – Worley’s @ The Swan, 56 High St, Stourport-On-Severn, DY13 8BX Tuesday 2nd May 2017, 7.00pm – free event – information
  • Steve Lawson + Surjit Sembi-Harding + Daniel Brooks + Robert Logan (& guests) + Dan Rogerson – The Waiting @ Maswell Park Church, corner of Heath Road and Inwood Road, Hounslow, London, TW3 1XN, England, Saturday 13th May 2017, 7.00pm (open mic from 5.00pm)information
  • Steve Lawson/Mike Outram/Emre Ramazanoglu – Tower of Song, 107 Pershore Road South, Kings Norton, Birmingham B30 3EL, England, Sunday 14th May 2017, 7.00pminformation

 

April 2017 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Emma-Jean Thackray + Pie Eye Collective + Sky Coloured (14th); Taeko Kunishima’s Iridescent Clouds (23rd); Jonny Gee Trio with Alex Garnett (24th)

7 Apr

Another London jazz and jazz-ish update for April. Minglings of jazz, pop, turntablism and glitchtronica in New Cross; Taeko Kunishima’s Anglo-Indo-Mediterranean-Japanese mixed-media ensemble taking flight in Lambeth; and Jonny Gee’s latest warm-toned jazz-and-curry evening in Archway.

* * * * * * * *

Rain Today presents:
Emma-Jean Thackray + Pie Eye Collective + Sky Coloured
The Amersham Arms, 388 New Cross Road, New Cross, London, SE14 6TY, England
Friday 14th April 2017, 7.00pm
information

Emma Jean Thackray, 2016

Emma-Jean Thackray, 2016

“London live music series Rain Today returns with a dazzling bill of some of south London’s most original groove-based artists.

Emma-Jean Thackray is an award winning composer, arranger, producer and instrumentalist, and a recent Red Bull Music Academy alumni. She has been described by RBMA as “one of the UK’s most exciting new jazz artists” and Rhythm Section has said that her recent ‘Walrus’ EP is “one of the most exciting and unique jazz records of 2016”. ‘Walrus’ now sits in the collections of some of the world’s best selectors: Bradley Zero, Sean P, Mr Scruff, Theo Parrish, Jeff Chairman Mao and more…



 
“Often seen manipulating the unseen sounds within Emma-Jean Thackray’s Walrus quintet and the London SoundPainting Orchestra founded by Diego Ghymers, composer-producer Pie Eye Collective presents a brand new solo live show of abstract improvisation, electronic dimensions, hypnotic textures and entrancing rhythms (in anticipation of the soon-to-come Pie Eye Collective debut EP, due to be released late 2017).


 
“New south-east London nine-piece Sky Coloured return to the Amersham (where they launched their debut LP ‘Starting Time’) to present a set of ‘symphonic alt-pop’. Described by AmericanaUK as ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning scored by Miles Davis’, they are a collective of brilliant musicians playing songs of outstanding craft and originality.”



 
* * * * * * * *

IKLECTIK Art Lab presents:
Taeko Kunishima: ‘Iridescent Clouds’
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Sunday 23rd April 2017, 8:00 pm
information

“Previously a long-term resident in London, pianist Taeko Kunishima is now moving between the UK and Japan, performing in both countries. With a background in both classical and jazz, she has toured the UK (with support from Jazz Services), and has four albums on the 33 Jazz label.

Taeko Kunishima - Iridescent Clouds, 23rd April 2016“Her trademark lyricism is all over the most recent of these; ‘Iridescent Clouds’, on which she has newly composed eight beautiful pieces in a mellow, melodic vein with occasional atmospheric twists, as her music shifts elegantly from melody to improvisation and back again. Her core group again features the ethereal, Zen-like tones of the Japanese shakuhachi flute, warm double bass, the zinging rhythms of the three-stringed Tsugaru shamisen and percussion from tablas, cahon and gongs.

“The album also conveys the listener to surprising locations thanks to Jeremy Hawkins’s subtle use of field recordings made in both Japan and the UK, from the spring call of the uguisu bird (a type of Japanese bush warbler) to the rustling of oak leaves in autumn. For instance, the track Iridescent Seashell provides a stunning duet between piano and uguisu, with additional splashes of colour from khene and Cretan double pipes.  

“Evan Parker has hailed the album’s “good clear concept… well interpreted by the musicians” and it was put forward by James Nadal of ‘ All About Jazz‘ as one of the best albums released in 2016. (“Acknowledged for her trademark lyricism, (she) reflects upon the wonders of nature on ‘Iridescent Clouds’, offering elegant improvised passages encased in a meditative concept.”)

For this concert, Taeko will be playing with the other contributors to the ‘Iridescent Clouds’ project: shakuhachi/flute player Clive Bell, double bass player Paul Moylan (She’Koyokh, Michael Garrick, Johns Dankworth and Etheridge), Indo-classical/reggae/electro-acoustic tabla player Camilo Tirado (Nitin Sawhney, James Holden, Lemn Sissay), and Hibiki Ichikawa (one of the world’s top-rank shamisen players and a prime representative of Japanese musical culture in London).

The video clip below was recorded at the Iridescent Clouds performance at Aberjazz 2016; the subsequent one’s been added from a previous project as an example of the films projected at some of Taeko’s concerts.



 
* * * * * * * *

Jazz @ The Sitara, 24th April 2017

Jonny Gee presents:
Jazz & Curry!: Alex Garnett + Jonny Gee Trio
The Sitara, 784 Holloway Road, Archway, London, N19 3JH, England
Monday 24th April 2017, 7.00pm
information

Lastly, here’s one of the low-profile, high-powered jazz gigs in north London led by Archway-based double bass whiz Jonny Gee. No frills, no gimmicks, no particularly grand concepts – just superbly-played music by several of the capital’s most skilled and flexible musicians, in one of the best of London’s Indian eateries (itself a longstanding jazz haunt).

If you’ve been following previous posts on Jonny you’ll know that he plays everything from baroque to bebop and then some, having worked with King Salsa, Antonio Forcione, Ravi Shankar and Cleo Laine as well as a host of orchestras and dance bands. You might also know that his drummer Andrea Trillo has played with both Herbie Hancock and Jerry Dammers (as well as with Don Weller, Dave O’Higgins, Jon Toussaint, Simon Purcell and Tim Richards). The trio’s pianist Dave Oliver plays with Mamas Gun, Sugar Kings and Marta Acosta as well as MD-ing for Lisa Stansfield.

On this particular occasion, Jonny’s also conjured up a guest slot from Alex Garnett, one of our best & wittiest saxophonists, (who) joins my trio for the evening… before running off to Ronnie Scott’s at 10:30pm sharp, where he runs the house band.” This gig only seats thirty people, and tickets are running out fast…
 

March 2017 – upcoming London experimental music gigs – Pefkin, Bell Lungs, Russell Walker and David CW Briggs on the 12th; Yoni Silver, Eden Grey and |V|I|O|L|E|N|C|E| at openJack on the 15th; Magnus Loom, Alex Douglas, Zoey Gunshot and Flying Saucer on the 16th

5 Mar

Sundry experimental music shows in London during mid-March:

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Pefkin + Bell Lungs + Russell Walker + David CW Briggs, 12th March 2017Pefkin + Bell Lungs + Russell Walker + David CW Briggs
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Sunday 12th March 2017, 7.00pm
information

Words from the organiser:

“Scotland comes to New River and it’s going to be a spooky psychedelic affair.

Pefkin is the alter ego of Gayle Brogan, one half of Glaswegian vintage synth duo Electroscope and ex-proprietor of the Boa Melody Bar mail order. She has been recording as Pefkin since 1999 and released albums on Morc, Wild Silence, Reverb Worship, Pseudoarcana etc. More recently she has been recording with the Kitchen Cynics‘ Alan Davidson, creating psych-folk hymnals inspired by a mutual love of folk songs and nature, and has been recording with United Bible Studies. On her own Gayle creates a dreamy rural psychedelia from looped vocals, guitar, analogue synth and violin. She is currently recording an album inspired by the recumbent stone circles of Aberdeenshire.


 
Bell Lungs (vocals/electric guitar/electric violin) is from Scotland and has previously performed in the USA, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, in curious locations such as an abandoned grain silo, a hydro-electric power station inside a mountain, the top deck of a double-decker bus and amidst the eerie, moving sculptures of Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre. She will be playing an immersive continuously-morphing set that will carry you from the Western Isles of Scotland to the rainforest and outer space.


 
“Support from Russell Walker of Pheromoans fame and Bomber Jackets infamy. He has also written a book. The book is great, very funny. I saw Russell play at Tatty Seaside Towns‘ most recent event in the famed ‘Naughty Corner’. Me and Barney Wakefield were trying to have a serious conversation but it was IMPOSSIBLE because of this set. He was reading some very funny, misanthropic, storioes/poetry about some ‘people’ either real or unreal. Scathing and mundane in equal measure which is the sign of a good cook. Great with kids. (His son is the spitting image of my nephew… I didn’t want to mention it at the time, ‘cuz that’s probably a strange thing for stranger to bring up on first meeting).


 
David CW Briggs will open the proceedings! Dave used to play in Unlabel band Cove and was playing solo under the moniker Hills Have Riffs for a while. He drinks a lot of tea and is great with kids.”


 
* * * * * * * *

openJack, 12th March 2017

Ellis Gardiner presents:
openJack – Yoni Silver + Eden Grey + |V|I|O|L|E|N|C|E| + guests
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Wednesday 15th March 2017, 7.30pm
information

Yoni Silver is a multi-instrumentalist (specialising in bass clarinet and electronics), composer, improvisor and performer. He plays in a number of projects, including the Hyperion Ensemble. This is Yoni’s first openJack appearance, but he’s back a few weeks later with his trio, Denis D’or.


 
Eden Grey‘s music is an experimental mix influenced by electro, dub, d’n’b, techno, drone, ambient and hip-hop. Her music took a major shift towards the collage-based methods of the historical avant-garde while earning her Masters’ degree in music technology and after she began building her modular synthesizer in 2013. Eden also hosts the CV FREQS meetups for the London Modular Synthesis Group.


 
|V|I|O|L|E|N|C|E| is a solo electronics project by Tim Cowlishaw, one of the people behind Walthamstow’s avant-music evening More News From Nowhere.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Magnus Loom, 16th March 2017Chlöe Herington presents:
Magnus Loom + Zoey Gunshot + Flying Saucer
The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England
Thursday 16th March 2017, 7.00pm
information

This is another of the leftfield gigs organised by reedswoman/noise-fiddler and curator Chlöe Herington (Chrome Hoof, Knifeworld, V A L V E, Half The Sky), and here’s what she has to say about it:

Magnus Loom wildly turns and tumbles through a cornucopia of brightly burning pitches and rhythms, howling and whispering, in his own world of avant-punk cabaret. According to his Facebook page, “Magnus Loom makes a noise, and lives in hope that one day others might enjoy it as much as he does.” It’s really good noise. I reckon you’ll enjoy his noise.



 
“The two support acts are both performing debut gigs. Zoey Gunshot is political noises and anti-folk; Flying Saucer is experimental noises, a bit Jonathan Richmond tinged with Bob Drake.“

 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Richard Barbieri and Grice’s brief English tour with Duncan Chave and Lisen Rylander Love (16th, 26th, 28th); plus ’80s synthpop heaven at Birmingham’s Seventh Wave Festival with Rusty Egan, Chris Payne, Test Dept. and more… (23rd-26th)

26 Feb

Richard Barbieri + Grice on tour, March 2017In mid-March, Richard Barbieri heads out on a five-date English tour supporting his new album ‘Planets & Persona’: on all but one of the dates he’ll be sharing the bill with art-pop singer-songwriter Grice.

Over a five-decade career as a keyboard player, Richard has exemplified a precise balance between pop and the avant-garde. Initially compared to both Brian Eno and Karlheinz Stockhausen, his work anticipated the likes of Aphex Twin and a host of shrouded twenty-first century electronica artists. Initially finding fame as the keyboard player in art-pop band Japan, his approach reached its first apogee in the chimes-and-sibilance atmospherics of their 1982 single Ghosts: unwilling to be restricted by the glamour-punk through which he’d entered music (yet unsuited to either roots playing or the formal technicalities of progressive rock) he’d concentrated instead on developing electrophonic timbre and immaculately-planned textural arrangements, allied to subtle pop tunefulness.

Richard went on to refine his techniques in the post-Japan realignment projects Rain Tree Crow and Jansen Barbieri Karn, to work with left-field instrumentalists and bands (including Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Percy Jones, No-Man and The Bays), and to become an experimental sonic foil for singer-songwriters (Steve Hogarth, Tim Bowness, his own wife Suzanne on ambient folk project Indigo Falls). For seventeen years he was a member of Porcupine Tree, helping to shape the texture of the band’s music as it shifted from psychedelic space rock through prog to metallic adult rock, while simultaneous honing his own skills with more conventional keyboard playing on organ, clavinet and Mellotron. Richard’s recent string of solo albums – including ‘Planets & Persona’ – marry his past experiences with further inspirations from contemporary dance, electronica and left-field progressives.


 

One of the singer-songwriters who’ve benefited from Richard’s textural input, Grice is a more recent art-rock emergent. London-born but now Devon-based, he began as an early ‘90s arty Britpopper with the bands Laugh Like A Madman and The Burning Martyrs before refining his work with the successor project hungersleep. Since 2012 he’s been a solo artist.The subsequent ‘Propeller’ and ‘Alexandrine’ albums – plus last year’s ‘Refractions’ EP – have explored Grice’s drive towards dramatic and emotive songcraft. Blending his ballad-singer openness and the feathered strength-and-vulnerability of his high, breathy voice with a wide range of acoustic and electronic ingredients (brass-band and acoustic guitar, Uillean pipes and violins, touchstyle instrumentation and electronic glitch) they’ve rewarded him with acclaim in art-pop and progressive rock circles, plus the opportunity to collaborate on his own terms with instrumental and production luminaries such as BJ Cole, Markus Reuter, Raphael Ravenscroft, Lee Fletcher, Hossam Ramzy and Steve Jansen.


 

Dates:

  • Vibraphonic Festival @ Exeter Phoenix, Bradninch Place, Gandy Street, Exeter, EX4 3LS, England, Thursday 16th March 2017, 8.00pminformation
  • Seventh Wave Festival of Electronic Music @ The Blue Orange Theatre, 118 Great Hampton Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B18 6AD, England, Sunday 26th March 2017, 1.30pminformation
  • Seventh Wave Festival of Electronic Music @ The Blue Orange Theatre, 118 Great Hampton Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B18 6AD, England, Sunday 26th March 2017, 6.30pminformation
  • Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6SH, England, Tuesday 28th March 2017, 7.00pminformation

On all dates, GRICE will be performing with his collaborator Duncan Chave, a Devon-based theatre composer and sound designer who (in addition to handling loops and programming) plays the Eigenharp, an intriguing breath/strip/finger-flex MIDI controller. In Exeter, they’ll also be joined by the rest of GRICE’s band (Jo Breban on drums, Al Swainger on bass and pedals).

In contrast, Richard Barbieri performs solo at Exeter, but at the Birmingham theatre shows and the London date will be performing with Swedish singer/saxophonist/electronics player Lisen Rylander Löve, formerly half of experimental pop/jazztronica duo Midaircondo and one of the major guest contributors to ‘Planets & Persona’.

* * * * * * * *

While I’m here, a little more on the other events in the Seventh Wave Festival in Birmingham (for more information on Exeter’s Vibraphonic event, go browsing, since they don’t seem to have put a website together this year…) Put together by the people behind the local electronica radio show of the same name, Seventh Wave Festival expands the show’s sideline of putting on electronica, synthpop, post-punk, Goth and New Wave music nights in Birmingham.

Seventh Wave Festival of Electronic Music 2, March 2017This particular concert series has a strong late-’70s/early-’80s focus, calling in some big names from the first synthpop wave. Visage mainstay and onetime ‘Blitz’ club DJ Rusty Egan will be performing material from his new album ‘Welcome to the Dancefloor’, as well as providing DJ slots and talks. Rusty’s ‘Fade to Grey’ co-writer Chris Payne (who also worked with Dramatis and Dead or Alive, as well as spending a decade in Gary Numan’s band) will be showing up with a brief resurrection of his early ‘80s post-Numan project Electronic Circus – for more on that, have a read of his recent interview with ‘The Electricity Club’. There’ll also be appearances by Richard Barbieri and by Human League/Heaven 17/British Electric Foundation’s Martyn Ware.

Although late ’80s dance-poppers Scarlet Fantastic (of ‘No Memory’ fame) have had to pull out, they’ve been replaced by Peter Coyle of the revived The Lotus Eaters; his fellow New Wavers Blue Zoo are also in place. At the more experimental end, two members of electro-experimentalists Test Dept (Graham Cunnington and Paul Jamrozy) will be on hand with “an electronic remix preview of upcoming Test Dept album material” complete with audio-visual mix.

Also contributing are representatives of newer takes on the electronic approach – Salford’s expansive Gnod collective, Ade Bordicott’s drone project Mutate, the vintage synthpop movie soundtrack-inspired Agents Of Evolution and Tony Adamo’s Ten:Ten project.

  • Test Dept:Redux (Graham Cunnington/Paul Jamrozy) + Gnod + Mutate – The Flapper, Cambian Wharf, Kingston Row, Ladywood, Birmingham, B1 2NU, England, Thursday 23rd March 2017, 7.00pminformation
  • Chris Payne’s Electronic Circus (Gary Numan/Visage) + DJ Rusty Egan + Peter Coyle (Lotus Eaters) + Ten:Ten – The Flapper, Cambian Wharf, Kingston Row, Ladywood, Birmingham, B1 2NU, England, Friday 24th March 2017, 7.00pminformation
  • A Morning with… Richard Barbieri – Birmingham and Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, City Centre Core, Birmingham B3 3BS, England, Saturday 25th March 2017, 9.00 aminformation
  • Electronic Music Conference (featuring Martyn Ware, Chris Payne, Richard Barbieri & Rusty Egan) – Birmingham and Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, City Centre Core, Birmingham B3 3BS, England, Saturday 25th March 2017, 12.00pminformation
  • Rusty Egan (with Chris Payne) + DJ Martyn Ware + Blue Zoo + Agents Of Evolution – The Flapper, Cambian Wharf, Kingston Row, Ladywood, Birmingham, B1 2NU, England, Saturday 25th March 2017, 7.00 pminformation
  • (see also the Birmingham Richard Barbieri/Grice dates above…)

 

September 2016 – upcoming London classical and classical fusion gigs – Kimiko Ishizaka’s completion of Bach’s Art of Fugue at St Johns Smith Square (23rd); Ayako Fujiki launches ‘brightwater’ at the 1901 Arts Club and St Olave’s Hart Street (28th & 29th)

15 Sep

Here’s a quick scoot around a pair of London classical gigs coming up this month from two very different Japanese pianists – one specialising in pure yet innovative interpretations of baroque masterpieces, the other using romantic keyboard works as a springboard towards her own neo-romantic classical-fusion compositions.

Once again, most of what I’ve got here is press-release turnover…

* * * * * * * *

Kimiko Ishizaka (photo © Philippe Ramaker)

Kimiko Ishizaka (photo © Philippe Ramaker)

Kimiko Ishizaka: ‘J.S. Bach: ‘Die Kunst der Fuge, BWV 1080′. Completed.’
St John’s Smith Square, Smith Square, Westminster, London, SW1P 3HA, England
Friday 23rd September 2016, 6.30pm
information

“A mesmerizing completion of one of the most challenging
keyboard works of all times. Confronting the ultimate tragedy of music history, German-Japanese pianist Kimiko Ishizaka, (renowned for her highly-praised, best-selling recordings of Bach), presents her completion of Bach’s unfinished masterpiece, ‘Die Kunst der Fuge’, BWV 1080.

“Upholding the musical logic of Bach, yet offering an expressive response, Kimiko’s approach was based on a thorough study of all preceding fugues, coupled with a conviction that Bach would have concluded with something powerful, dramatic, expressive and architecturally true to the existing musical structures. Premiered in March 2016 in Cologne, Germany, ‘Die Kunst der Fuge, komplett’ comes to the UK for the first time this September.


 
“Kimiko’s sound production is strongly influenced by her success as a competitive athlete and her exploration of the physical mechanisms that are responsible for creating any given sound on the piano. Never listening to other pianists’ recordings, Kimiko takes inspiration purely from her own imagination. Her history also involves recording Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ in 2012 as part of her Open Goldberg project – this was the first recording to be fan-funded, open source and completely free. Her 2015 release of ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’, also fan-funded, was a number-one best-selling commercial success and is regarded by some critics as their favorite recording of the work.”

* * * * * * * *

If you’d prefer something lighter, then there’s always the option of seeing Ayako Fujiki in a couple of shows right at the end of the month. There’s a clip of her below, in concert, performing one of her more fusion-based projects – admittedly, the New Age minimalism might not be everyone’s cup of tea (and yes, I do mean you, occasional reader who drops in sometimes because I also cover noise-rockers playing in various throat-cellars). But I’ve got to admit that I like the way Ayako simultaneously handles a concert grand, a cherry-red workstation and a backslung white keytar, all whilst resisting the urge to throw a set of glammy Rick Wakeman shapes.


 

Ayako’s upcoming London concerts showcase a more acoustic, neoclassical side to her music. While it might be touched and partially shaped – like much crossover work – by its composer’s work in advertising and incidental soundtracking (the associated video has the air of a fashion-shoot, with Ayako making much of both her personal beauty and her sense of poise and presentation), the music retains its own airy substance. In some respects, it’s similar to the neo-romantic Chopin-esque compositions which made David Lanz a New Age star in the 1980s (even as he steered well clear of that genre’s more insipid failings). More details on Ayako’s work and inspirations follow:

Ayako Fujiki @ 1901 Club, 28th September 2016“A virtuosic Japanese pianist born in Tokyo, and a concert performer from the age of seven, Ayako Fujiki was influenced by the riches of European culture and fell in love with the energy and diversity of Spanish classical music. She chose to move to the vibrant and eclectic city of Barcelona to study under renowned pianists such as Alicia de Larrocha (one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century, and also the first Spanish artist to win the UNESCO prize).

“Still based in Barcelona, Ayako continues to explore the duality between Japanese and Mediterranean heritage and culture. Combining her rigorous classical background with contemporary taste and technique, Ayako finds inspiration in romantic, world, minimal, electronic and even Japanese contemporary epic music.


 

“Having established herself as a leading classical concert performer on the Spanish music scene, and having released three albums interpreting work by other composers from Schubert to Debussy to Granados), Ayako’s current release ‘brightwater’ allows her to engage on a more personal creative level through the development of her own compositions. She has previously composed orchestrated pieces with piano and a variety of other instruments for films, advertising and documentaries, incorporating classical and electronic musical techniques.

Ayako Fujiki @ St Olaves Hart Street, 29th September 2016“‘brightwater’ comprises pieces written for solo piano, two pianos and piano trio. It was recorded in Barcelona with contributions from Cristian Chivu (violinist and concertmaster of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Barcelona y Nacional de Cataluña) and Cristoforo Pestalozzi (lead cellist in the Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu). The album propels the listener through a unique combination of cultures.

“Contributing to the established chronicle of musicians and composers taking inspiration from nature, the album offers Ayako’s reflections on the transience of landscapes, forests, rippling water and broken stones: capturing the beauty of eroded nature, she translates the slow but persistent effect of the natural elements on rocks and trees.”

The two London dates are as follows:

  • 1901 Arts Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England, Wednesday 28th September 2016, 5.00pm (album launch event)information
  • St. Olave Hart Street, St Olave’s Hart Street, 8 Hart Street, City of London, London, EC3R 7NB, England, Thursday 29th September 2016, 1:05pminformation

* * * * * * * *

Incidentally, and returning to the subject of keytars – if anyone’s interested in the idea of an eighteenth-century version, there’s one being played here…


 

September 2016 – upcoming gigs – Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Andrew Heath and Christopher Chaplin in Stroud (15th); Daylight Music returns to London with Michele Stodart, Alright Gandhi, Alev Lenz and Joli Blon (17th)

1 Sep

Towards the middle of the month, there are opportunities to see a German kosmische pioneer playing up in the quiets of Gloucestershire, and to catch the return of Daylight Music semi-acoustica to London. Read on…

* * * * * * * *

Hans-Joachim Roedelius

Stroud Valleys Artspace/Resound presents
Hans-Joachim Roedelius + Andrew Heath + Christopher Chaplin
The Brunel Goods Shed, Station Approach, Stroud, GL5 3AP
Thursday 15th September 2016, 8.00pm
– information here and here

“Resound presents a fantastic opportunity to see a true pioneer. Hans-Joachim Roedelius – the Godfather of Ambient – is a pioneer in the field of the exploitation of electrically generated tones, sounds and noises. One of the founders of contemporary popular electronic music, he was a key player at the birth of kosmische, Krautrock, synthpop and ambient music. Onetime collaborator Brian Eno describes him as “one of the true originals of modern music. His delicate and wistful compositions seem to come from some long and secret musical tradition – like the meditations of Sufi poets, or the haikus of Zen monks.”

Hans-Joachim Roedelius

Hans-Joachim Roedelius

Roedelius’ collaborations with Eno, Dieter Moebius, Michael Rother and many others (in groups such as Cluster, Harmonia, Geräusche and PlusMinus) are at least the equal of the more well-known innovations of German cohorts Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and Can. His forty-plus solo albums are just as radical in seeking an unlikely reconciliation with the past – cross-wiring Krautrock’s brutalist modernism with an earlier strain of Teutonic enquiry, melding weird improvised electronica with folk, jazz and classical sounds to often stunning effect.

Roedelius has also worked as nurse, physiotherapist, masseur, escort of the dying, writer, poet, photo-collage-artist, producer and curator.”

Playing at Stroud’s Goods Shed for the second time (the first was in 2012), Roedelius will be joined by two of his latterday collaborators.


 
Andrew Heath initially came to attention as half of the ’90s ambient keyboard duo Aqueous (who recorded 1997’s ‘Meeting The Magus‘ with Roedelius) in which he was the digitally-inclined partner of quixotic analogue player Felix Jay. Following Felix’s retirement, Andrew has continued various aspects of the Aqueous project in both visual and musical forms, seeking to “introduce both the listener and the viewer, to a sonic and visual hinterland… a dreamlike state that lies somewhere between sleeping and waking.”


 
Christopher Chaplin spent most of his early career as an actor (in keeping with his family heritage – he’s one of the sons of Charlie Chaplin). However, his personal artistic roots are as a pianist – having studied, as a young man, under Irène Dénéréaz in Vevey. In 2005, Christopher reorientated towards work as a composer and musician, working variously on theatre music and orchestral string pieces, but also with Viennese electronic musician Kava. In 2011, he was personally chosen by Roedelius to record and remix one of the latter’s live piano sets: the results led to further collaborations including the ‘King Of Hearts’ album in 2012 and further concerts played around the world. In October 2016, he releases his solo album debut, ‘Je suis le Ténébreux’.



 

* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music #232A couple of days later, in London, ‘Misfit City’ favourite Daylight Music starts up its autumn season of pop, acoustica, classical crossover and electrophonic treats, all packaged up for the Saturday lunchtime crowd.

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 232: Michele Stodart + Alright Gandhi + Alev Lenz + Joli Blon
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 17th September 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

What they’ve told us, so far, about the lineup…

Michele Stodart has taken temporary leave of The Magic Numbers to release her second solo album. Brushed with country and blues, her beautiful, intimate music will hold you close while breaking your heart.

Alright Gandhi came together in 2014, meeting and meshing during chaotic underground jam sessions in Berlin; rather than making experimental music, they claim they’re making music that likes to experiment.

Alev Lenz is a remarkable songwriter, composer and singer, whose music fuses filmic, world and classical influences. Her bittersweet voice and utterly personal lyrics combine with inspiring hooks that take you by surprise.

Joli Blon are a British Cajun band, who’ll have you tapping your toes with traditional Louisiana dance tunes.”


 

July 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Roger Goula at Foyles’ and Servant Jazz (20th, 28th); Dedalus Ensemble play the Machines of John White (20th)

18 Jul

Classical/electronica fusion composer Roger Goula will be performing at two London shows this month in order to promote his upcoming new album ‘Overview Effect’ – the first full-length release on the new Cognitive Shift record label (a joint venture between experimental pop label One Little Indian Records and commercial soundtrack music publishers Manners McDade).

Cognitive Shift & Foyles Bookshop present:
Roger Goula
The Auditorium @ Foyles, 107 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0DT, England
Wednesday 20th July 2016, 7.00pm
information

Cognitive Shift & Chaos Theory Promotions present:
Roger Goula
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 28th July 2016, 7.30pm
information


 

On both occasions, Roger will be performing material from both ‘Overview Effect’ (due in September) and from the preceding limited edition EP ‘Something About Silence’ (which came out in March and featured remixes by Christian Löffler and Phaeleh). ‘Overview Effect’ is inspired by “the psychological phenomenon experienced by astronauts when viewing Earth from a distance, allowing them to see the entire planet surrounded by the endless black void of space. This can cause a cognitive shift in the minds of the astronauts, giving them a completely new perspective on life, Earth and humanity.”

Here are soundclips of the original and remixed versions of Roger’s piece ‘Awe’, as featured on ‘Something About Silence’ – nearly nine minutes of grand minimalist adagio conflating the methodology of sophisticated dance electronica with the slow, sparse development and atmospherics of the post-Morton Feldman California school (as exemplified by the work of composers such as Jim Fox), the gradual looped layering of Gavin Bryars (on works like ‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’) and the holy minimalism of Henryk Górecki. Its growing arrangement steers simple modular elements towards a greater elegiac nature. Building upwards from sub-bass and clarinet and string harmonics, it adds strata of violas, then violins; developing a faster pulse and a skitter of electronic rhythm at the midpoint, with minimalist cross rhythms from the higher strings. The end sees a return of cone-rattling sub-bass, and a sudden jerk into silence as if waking.


 
It’s true that the latterday minimalist film scorer’s tricks are all in place; but those moving musical blocks are weighty, and the visual suggestions arresting and entirely in tune with the orbital view of the album concept. Placed back into the electronic dance world (remixed and transmogrified by classically-trained house/dubstep/electronica musician Phaelah) it becomes a stately, velvety downtempo effort; more mechanical; its squiggling monophonic crenellations stamped out as sequenced mirror-glints and chinking trance parts.


 
The Auditorium show is a full public event, while the Servant Jazz Quarters show is predominantly a music industry showcase (although there are twenty places available to the general public.

* * * * * * * *

On the subject of more mechanised forms of composition…

Dedalus Ensemble

‘The Machines Of John White’: Dedalus Ensemble + guests
Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Wednesday 20th July 2016, 8.00pm
information

John White had to wait until the mid-1960s to really make his name as a composer and conceptualist. Originally emerging in the late 1950s, with a powerful traditional-classical pedigree behind him, he was a student-turned-professor at the Royal College of Music he’d studied under Elizabeth Lutyens and Bernard Stevens and, from early childhood, had been on the end of a chain of person-to-person musical tutelage which he could trace back to Brahms. Already a fluent composer (and moonlighting as the conductor of various West End musicals) his growing involvement with the British avant-garde led to his development of “machines”. These were small and charming compositions based on various ordering systems (such as change-ringing patterns or numerical arrays), which, like industrial-age technology, performed considered and deliberately-limited functions.


 
While John’s described these works as “the result of a fully thought-out process rather than (something) subject to the changeabilities of inspiration” that doesn’t wholly capture their nature. Process-based they may be (a domestic English response to New York minimalism), but they also capture some of his personal qualities including the crucial leavening effects of his gentleness and humour (qualities which came in handy while sidestepping some of the more dour, Marxist/Maoist preoccupations of his avant-garde colleagues).


 

From the duets to the larger chamber works, there’s a sense of amiable workplace conversation to the White’s machines – like workmates managing to express both affection and connection despite their limited repertoire of gestures, tropes and local cliches; or like the chat of cartoon engines (it’s enjoyable to compare his compositions to the artful tootling of Vernon Elliott’s children’s TV scores.) Humour and irreverence certainly permeated pieces like “Drinking & Hooting Machine” (a text based score for musicians sipping from and blowing across bottles of “a favourite drink”, in which the potential for cheery drunken chaos increases depending on rehearsal time, length of cycle and opportunities for encore). John’s involvement with the Promenade Theatre Orchestra (the 1969 ensemble he formed with Hugh Shrapnel, Christopher Hobbs and Alex Hill) provided the opportunity to perform complex music on toy devices and outdated instruments, folding modernism back in on itself with Dada-ist irreverence and mischievous English whimsy while channelling serious intent through the fun.

“The PT Orchestra! The Orchestra YOU can afford for that extra special occasion! Restful reed-organs, tinkling toy pianos, soothing psalteries, suave swanee whistles, jolly jaw harps – NO noisy electronics! (Just the job for that lazy Sunday afternoon!) All musical material guaranteed thru-composed – NO hit-or-miss improvisation!” – Michael Nyman


 

Celebrating John’s eightieth birthday, Montpellier ensemble Dedalus Ensemble will be performing a selection of the machines at Café Oto. A collective in which every musician collaborates in the orchestration and interpretation, they specialise in flexible scores from across the United States and in European New Music from the 1960s to today. Noted champions of contemporary American experimental music, the Ensemble has premiered works by Tom Johnson, Christian Wolff, Alvin Lucier, Phill Niblock, Frederic Rzewski, James Tenney before French audiences.” (Here’s a clip of them performing James Saunders’ ‘things you must do, rather than must not do’ at the ‘Coïncidences – Music we’d Like to Hear’ festival at The Forge back in 2012.)


 

For what it’s worth, I’ve got my own John White memory. He once turned up at Alquimia’s Electronicage concert series at the Spitz in 1999, a time when I had no idea when he was. Young-old elderly, besuited, neat and tidy, he had the amiable, comfortable air of a specialist on a home visit. He was carrying a medium sized suitcase, which he opened up and laid out to reveal a set of little readymade devices. He wound them up, pressed their buttons, set them off, and watched benignly as they ticked, clonked and squeaked through a small machine work of their own; then closed up the suitcase, waved and departed – a genteel, dining-room carney. Here’s twenty further minutes covering his world and his history.



 

To close, here’s a clip of a John White piano sonata in performance. If anything in what I’ve written above suggests that he’s a playful charlatan who threw his original skills away for art-prankery, this will prove otherwise. One of the hundred-plus sonatas he’s written (in addition to many more pieces of music in many other fields) it’s an enthusiastically busy, tuneful and melodically sophisticated romp in which both his humour and his extensive musical ancestry are fully to the fore.


 

June-July 2016: two upcoming music-and-multimedia performances – Open Music Archive with Leafcutter John (London, 30th June) and Gawain Hewitt/Steve Lawson’s ‘Beneath the Waves’ (Birmingham, 3rd July)

25 Jun

Open Music Archive with Leafcutter John @ The Foundling Museum, 30th June 2016

Open Music Archive with Leafcutter John
The Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, St Pancras, London, WC1N 1AZ, England
Thursday 30th June 2016, 6.00pm
information

From the Museum’s press release, with tweaks:

“Join artists Eileen Simpson and Ben White, whose work is featured in our current exhibition ‘Found‘, for a mesmerising musical performance with electronic musician Leafcutter John.

“Eileen and Ben work at the intersection of art, music and information networks, seeking to challenge default mechanisms for the authorship, ownership and distribution of art. Their ongoing collaborative project Open Music Archive is an initiative to source, digitise and distribute out-of-copyright sound recordings (ranging from jazz and blues to folk and instrumental) and use these as a vehicle for collaborative projects exploring the material’s potential for reuse. The archive aims to distribute these recordings freely, form a site of exchange of knowledge and material, and be a vehicle for future collaborations and distributed projects.

“The artists found this long-forgotten vinyl in the personal collection of architect Luis Barragán, whilst on an artists’ residency in Mexico City, 2012. Treating it as a found object to be excavated, Simpson and White extracted and separated copyright-expired sounds from within the original recording, creating a public sonic inventory of thousands of samples. This has been pressed onto vinyl for inclusion in ‘Found’ and can be heard by visitors as they explore the exhibition. It has also been released into the public domain for re-use, as part of the Open Music Archive’s aim to initiate creative collaboration through the music of the past. You can hear it by clicking on the link below:


 
“For this event, Eileen and Ben will provide an audiovisual introduction to the archive, followed by a live Leafcutter John remix of Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman’s 1958 record ‘Music for Children’ – effectively, an exclusive live set assembled from samples of xylophones, glockenspiels, drum hits, crashing cymbals and fragments of children’s voices. The live performance will be recorded for future copyleft release.”

Some examples of a similar previous Leafcutter John/Sound Music Archive project follow:


“Regarding the ‘Found‘ exhibition in general, it’s the result of the Museum’s Foundling Fellow Cornelia Parker inviting sixty outstanding artists from a range of creative disciplines to respond to the theme of “found”, reflecting on the Museum’s heritage. Combining new and existing work with found objects kept for their significance, this major exhibition unfolds throughout the Museum, interacting with historic works in the Collection and with each other. Parker’s inspiration has in part been taken from the Museum’s eighteenth-century tokens – small objects left by mothers with their babies as a means of identification should they ever return to the Foundling Hospital to claim their child.

“Other artists participating in ‘Found’ include: Ron Arad RA, Phyllida Barlow RA, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Deacon RA, Tacita Dean RA, Jeremy Deller, Edmund de Waal, Brian Eno, Antony Gormley RA, Mona Hatoum, Thomas Heatherwick RA, Christian Marclay, Mike Nelson, Laure Prouvost, David Shrigley, Bob and Roberta Smith RA, Wolfgang Tillmans RA, Marina Warner, Gillian Wearing RA and Rachel Whiteread.”

'Untitled' by Rachel Whiteread, 2016 (for 'Found' exhibition at the Foundling Museum, London)

‘Untitled’ by Rachel Whiteread, 2016 (for ‘Found’ exhibition at the Foundling Museum, London)


 
* * * * * * * *

Further up country:

Gawain Hewitt/Steve Lawson @ mac birmingham, 3rd July 2016

Gawain Hewitt & Steve Lawson: ‘Beneath the Waves’
mac birmingham, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, B12 9QH, England
Sunday 3rd July 2016, 7.30pm
information

“Sound artist Gawain Hewitt presents a live improvisation combining water processed with live electronics and field recordings he has made of water in London, Norway and Bangladesh, three places where water – and ice – are at the very core of both their history and their future.

“Gawain will be performing for the first time with Birmingham resident, bassist/improvisor Steve Lawson, internationally renowned for his innovative use of processing and looping to create emotive, melodic soundscapes. This will be a unique performance showcasing two musicians exploring both the sonics of water and electronic/acoustic collaboration in real time.”

There’s not much more background information out there on ‘Beneath The Waves’ (it’s sounding as if it’s the kind of gig you really need to attend and discover). However, anyone who’s interested in music technology (and who liked the concept of the Mi.Mu. glove instruments used as part of the Whispers & Hurricanes gig earlier in the month) might be interested to hear that Gawain leads research and development for Drake Music, one of the Mi.Mu. project contributors.

As for Steve, longtime ‘Misfit City’ readers will recognise him as a frequently-appearing name: newer readers and those who don’t know about him can find plenty of posts here covering some of his polymathic, melodious and deeply textured musical work from the past decade-and-a-half.
 

June 2016 – upcoming London experimental gigs – spiritual improv with Firefly at IKLECTIK (8th); electronic research-pop with ALMA, worriedaboutsatan, and Chagall at Whispers & Hurricanes (9th)

4 Jun

Here are a pair of imminent shows showcasing various directions in experimentation (from spiritual politics and improvisation to pop soundscaping and music technology) at two of London’s most undersung but exciting current venues.

* * * * * * * *

Firefly, 8th June 2016

IKLECTIK Arts Lab presents:
Firefly
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Wednesday 8 June 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Firefly is an improvising project led by Barcelona-born singer Cristina Carrasco, whose past work includes jazz, rock, soul and bossa nova. For the past five years Cristina has been working in free improvisation and experimental sound (she’s a recent alumnus of Cleveland WatkissStardust People’s Choir project, and also studied with voice improvisers Víctor Turull and Inés Lolago) and aims to combine this work with her other career in community arts and education, working towards promoting “equality and social integration, prioritising the idea of music and its benefits as a main element to heal any kind of society.

Cristina describes ‘Firefly’ as “a tribute to the surrender of human capacity. When we connect with our inner sound we are part of the universal vibration, we are in the present moment opening new channels of communication and creating expression. So, welcome to a free improvisation and experimental sound trip, where our soul leads the musical journey.” For this Firefly evening, Cristina will be joined by composer and broadcaster Daniel James Ross (Roddart, Mega Trio, ‘Beethoven Was Wrong‘) on electronics, former Goldie collaborator Justina “J Eye” Curtis on piano, and the remarkable arts-and-culture polymath Ansuman Biswas on percussion.

No soundclips for this one – you’ll just have to guess and attend…

* * * * * * * *


Chaos Theory Promotions presents: present:
Whispers & Hurricanes: Alma + worriedaboutsatan + Chagall
New River Studios, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Thursday 9th June 2016, 7.30pm
more information

Whispers & Hurricanes, 9th June 2016“We take our night of weirdly wonderful new downtempo sounds to one of London’s best new artist community venues, New River Studios. This month sees artists blending electronic production, post-rock and brand new technology.

“Alternative post-rock/pop duo ALMA – a project from Codes In The Clouds members Pete Lambrou and Ciaran Morahan (the former also of Monsters Build Mean Robots) – deploy a loop station, multiple delay pedals, a piano and strings to create a slow-moving, high-flying soundscape of luscious gravitas. Their sound has grasped the heartstrings of many, and led to them recently completing an extremely successful UK tour with Nordic Giants as well as a slot at Mutations Festival alongside Lightning Bolt, Metz, John Talabot and Chelsea Wolfe. At this gig, they’ll be launching their new double A-side single The Lighthouse/While Nothing, featuring remixes by maybeshewill and Message To Bears.



 
worriedaboutsatan are a Manchester-based electronica band made up of Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller (also known for their other project Ghosting Season). They incorporate swirling ambient melancholia, skyscraping post-rock guitar atmospherics, dark house and pounding slo-mo techno. Since starting life as a bedroom project back in 2006, the band has always retained a strong DIY ethos, and pride themselves on being very much a live band, rather than just another electronic project with a laptop. They’ve so far shared stages on tours and supports with a diverse array of musicians, such as Ólafur Arnalds, Clark, Dälek, Apparat, Errors, Pantha du Prince, HEALTH, Vessels, and many more.


 
Chagall (Chagall van den Berg) is a multimedia vocalist, songwriter and producer from Amsterdam. Singing live, she creates and triggers her rich electronic production, vocal effects and visuals by moving, bending and swaying her mi.mu gloves – wearable “gestural” technology developed with a team including Imogen Heap). Having spent some time on Universal/EMI’s roster, Chagall decided to quit the major label life and now prefers to make her way through Europe’s independent and underground music scene. Her live performance is unlike anything you’ll have witnessed.”


 

September 2015 – upcoming London gigs – Darkroom gently mess with our minds at Hubbub Late Spectacular, Friday 4th September

3 Sep

Just quickly plugging this event, as I unintentionally left it off the early-September preview from Tuesday. While I was initially drawn to it by the musical involvement of textural loop duo )and longtime ‘Misfit City’ favourites) Darkroom, there’s plenty here to interest anyone with curiosity about the workings of the mind. It’s free, although the scheduled talks and some larger activities are ticketed (you’ll need to get tickets for those from the Wellcome Collection on the night, from 6.30pm onwards).

 

Hubbub Late Spectacular, 4th September 2015

Hubbub Late Spectacular @ The Hub, The Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK, Friday 4th September 2015, 7.00pm) – free entry

A night to explore rest… and its opposites. What does “rest” mean to you? Join the Hubbub team to investigate rest and its opposites: from daydreaming and doodling, to fidgeting and lullabies. Catch a talk on the latest discoveries about what your brain’s up to when you’re doing nothing, or experience a live stream of sound from around Heathrow airport. From a documentary about an ape retirement home, to a workshop where you can try out historical relaxation techniques, this is an evening that will transform how you understand rest.

Activities – hear contemporary lullabies and add to a collaborative collection; learn about mapping alertness and environment through self-tracking; experience variations of relaxation and cacophony with a brand new audio piece from radio collective In The Dark; put rest to the test as you investigate some of the methods used by scientists to measure rest and its opposites; join the debate on “what’s wrong with work?”

Talks – “Fantasy and Fiction” with social scientist Felicity Callard and poet James Wilkes; “Free Time and Mindwandering” with psychologists and authors Claudia Hammond and Charles Fernyhough; “Mapping Rest” with neuroscientist Daniel Margulies and anthropologist Josh Berson.

Some comments from Hubbub investigator Charles Ferneyhough (the whole blog post is here):

The research project in Hubbub is investigating topics such the relation between the shifting periodicities of ambient music and the changing rhythms of conscious experience, and how and in what contexts these can have restful and restorative effects. We plan to extend these investigations into studies of neural connectivity in the “resting state”: the dynamic, fearsomely complex and increasingly well-studied patterns of activation shown by a brain that is not performing any specific task. We are employing new methodologies for assessing these nuances of subjective experience (both for audience and performers) in a scientifically rigorous manner, as well as exploring implications for clinical interventions… Darkroom are interrupting a tour promoting their new album ‘The Rest is Noise’ to perform with me in a sequence of three extended sets at the Hubbub Late Spectacular. Come and hear the sounds of improvised ambient music, and get a chance to give your feedback on the psychological and emotional effects of listening to this kind of music.

…plus some from Darkroom themselves:

Darkroom will play three sets, with unpredictably different shades and contrasts. It’s a free event (apart from the drinks) at this spectacular venue, and there’s an opportunity to take part in the experiment, as well as take in other talks and exhibitions on the night, and meet some of the other investigators and our collaborators.

Reposted here is a Soundcloud recording of Darkroom and Charles Fernyhough collaborating on a half-hour long track recorded at The Hub earlier this year.


 

Full event details are here and here.

June 2015 – upcoming gigs – two more Darkroom gigs in London – Hubbub @ Wellcome Collection; Listening Club in Peckham

8 Jun

Having only just played at the last-for-now Tuesdays Post concert this past Sunday, loop duo Darkroom are performing at two more London gigs this month, both of them at typically interesting events.

Hubbub @ The Hub, The Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK, Thursday 11th June (time t.b.c.)

The Hubbub group (based at the Wellcome Trust) is a project with a brief to explore work, rest and play; past, present and future. The two members of Darkroom will be participating in a closed session, being “wired up and investigated” as part of the research. Details are still a little unclear (although I do know that the work will be live-streamed) so keep an eye on the Darkroom Twitter account. For an early taste of the project, here’s psychologist, writer and Hubbub investigator Charles Fernyhough guesting on a half-hour long Darkroom track, a late-night atmospheric piece recorded in The Hub earlier this year.

And on the upcoming Sunday, there’s this:

Listening Club @ The Peckham Pelican, 92 Peckham Road, London, SE15 5PY, UK – 4.00pm to 9.00pm – free entry

This is an events series in association with St John Sessions ( showcasing new experimental music. In addition to Darkroom, the gig also features sound artists Kostis Kilymis (from Thessaloniki via London), Franz Rosati (from Rome) and Memorial Bench (from London, I think). More chat about this over on Twitter.

June 2015 – upcoming gigs – tomorrow and this weekend in London and Watford – Chant Live! interactive gig; Silencio Sessions presents Surfing On Sinewaves; Daylight Music

4 Jun

Shortly after I posted news on voicelooper Georgina Brett’s Tuesdays Post concert on Sunday (which, incidentally, will be the last one for a while) she got in touch with news of two more gigs she’s playing tomorrow and on Saturday, so here’s the information on those (more or less in her own words).

Chant Live!, 5th June 2015

Chant Live! featuring Dave Barbarossa/Youth/Georgina Brett/Regina Martin/Dan Morrell/Jon Moss/Tom Nettlemouth/Jamie Grashion & very special guests, (Unit 5, Mirage Centre, First Way, Wembley, London, HA9 0J, Friday 5th June, 7.30pm)

The return of the legendary open source band! A showcase gig in a hidden private club venue in Wembley, ten minutes walk from Wembley Park tube – a bit of magic brought to the perimeter of the stadium itself. On stage will be myself, Dave Barbarossa (Adam & the Ants, Bow, Wow, Wow), Youth (Killing Joke, The Orb), Jon Moss (Culture Club) and Cosmic Trigger (Jamie Grashion and Tom Nettlemouth). There’s also pre gig talks about all things cosmic, the fractal universe and drumming with Gina Martin and the Queenswood Drummers. Great club sound system. An adventure!! Two drum kits, two bass guitars, djembe drum circle. Give voice, give hands, be the band: bring a drum or a shaker, percussion, chants, on-the-fly recordings, loops, mixes, mashes. Free event – for more info, call Guy on 07947 061257.

Silencio Sessions, 6th June 2015

Silencio Sessions, 6th June 2015

Silencio presents ‘Surfing On Sine Waves’ featuring Georgina Brett/Cos Chapman/James Conway/Tom Fox (LP Cafe, 173 The Parade, Watford, Hertfordshire WD17, Saturday 6th June, 6.30pm)

A night of looping, experimental and electronic improvised music.  As well as me there’s:

Cos Chapman, former oceanographer turned solo improvised electronics performer and member of both I Am Meat and Rude Mechanicals (there will be a fascinating video of how he creates his instruments from recycled materials).

James Conway, a Brighton based musician usually seen with electronic outfit Not These Tones: this time it’s an eclectic solo show on mixer, sampler and synth duties. No two performances by James are the same; it’s method in the moment, thrill in the risk.

Tom Fox, an experimental instrument builder who focuses on using reclaimed materials to create new and unique sounds and textures from common items, and will be presenting a film on his methods.

More info here – tickets £6.00 on the door.

Also just in, news on this weekend’s Daylight Music event…

Daylight Music 191: School of Noise + Sarah Angliss + Astra Forward (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN – Saturday 6th June, 12pm to 2pm)

School of Noise are a collective of artists who run workshops for children, enabling them to make their own weird and wonderful instruments and experiment with sound art. They’re appearing live on stage for the first time performing their own pieces of experimental and electronic music. The group, made up of children ages 7-13, met at the School of Noise workshops where they explored a variety of approaches to creating, sculpting and listening to sound. The project, started by London musician Dan Mayfield, has been influenced by the works of Brian Dennis who ran the Shoreditch Experimental Music School in the late 1960’s.

Sarah Angliss is an award winning composer and performer whose music reflects her fascination with European folklore, faded variety acts and long-forgotten machines. Sarah is known for her highly unusual stage set which mixes theremin, saw and ancient instruments with the ensemble of musical robots she’s designed and built to work with her on stage.

Astra Forward is a Brighton based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. A raw vocal talent, she combines acapella, synth organ drones, ethereal harmonies and alternate guitar tunings into her performances. As a singer and keyboardist in The Robot Heart and Diagrams, Astra has toured throughout Europe and the U.K, supporting the likes of Gomez, Ben Ottewell, Athlete and St. Vincent. At this concert, she will play a solo set of her intricate and beautifully vulnerable electronica.

Alex Hall/Elephant returns to create an improvised guitar soundscape in between acts this week.

Free entry, but donations are (as ever) encouraged.

June 2015 – upcoming London gigs – prog rock/math rock/post-hardcore @ The Facemelter; electro-pop/drum’n’brass/loops/experimental ambience @ Tuesdays Post; eclectic classical/experimental chamber music/kletzmer & Bulgarian voices @ The Forge

31 May

Some more early June gig previews for London – these would have been in the previous post if I’d picked up on them earlier.

Firstly, a Facemelter promotion (from the experimental rock/post-hardcore wing of the Chaos Theory organisation whose jazz gigs I’ve also enjoyed)…

Facemelter, 5th June 2015

Alright The Captain + Iran Iran + Porshyne @  The Facemelter (The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, Camden, London, NW1 0AP, Friday 5th June , 7.30pm

Three heroes of math rock, alternative and post-rock travel from different corners of the UK to unite and form this amazing lineup.

Derby-based trio Alright The Captain masterfully combine virtuosic instrumentalism with unabashed musical experimentation and have effortlessly established themselves as a sonic force to be reckoned with, thanks to their increasingly inimitable, uniquely imaginative brand of math-rock. Their sprawling and varied career has seen them sharing stages with post-rock luminaries including Mono, toe, 65daysofstatic, Pelican, Tera Melos, ASIWYFA, Maybeshewill, Adebisi Shank (RIP), This Will Destroy You, ZU and many more. Their new album ‘Contact Fix’ (which ‘Musical Mathematics’ describes as “div(ing)  in and out of math rock, prog and post rock – but, at its heart, it’s different”) has gone down a storm.

Iran Iran are another supremely talented bunch of musicians who stunned and impressed all who saw them at ArcTanGent last year. With insanely complex rhythms and thunderously heavy riffs, the four-piece from Bristol have evolved since their excellent first EP ‘Crystal Math’ and are packing a punch. They’ve played with Future Of The Left, Cleft, Alright The Captain, This Town Needs Guns, You Slut!, Alpha Male Tea Party, Death Pedals and many others. Fans of complex musical wizardry or heavy riffs will love their new EP ‘Milk Time For Spiders’.

Brightoners Porshyne dance between ambient intervals and melodic vocals to intensely intricate, fantastically crunchy  prog rock riffs. With just a few single releases and a session filmed by Small Pond Recordings, they already sold out their first headline show in Brighton. This is your chance to catch the band before their career takes off.

More info here and here, and tickets here (£5.00 advance, £7.00 on the door).

At the end of the same week, Georgina Brett’s Tuesdays Post event returns to Stoke Newington with another evening of ambient/progressive live music, including ‘Misfit City’ favourites Darkroom

event-20150607tuesdayspost

Minny Pops/Spaceheads/Darkroom/Georgina Brett & Hems @ Tuesdays Post, (The Others, 6 Manor Rd, London, N16 5SA, Friday 7th June, 7.00pm)

Formed by vocalist/band leader Wally van Middendorp in Amsterdam in 1978, Dutch electro pioneers Minny Pops took their name from a primitive Korg drum machine. The band released several singles and a debut album, Drastic Measures, Drastic Movement, on independent Dutch label Plurex before joining the legendary Manchester label Factory Records in 1980 (which resulted in them being produced by Martin Hannett, touring with both Joy Division and New Order, and becoming the first Dutch group to record a Peel Session). Singles including Dolphin’s Spurt, Secret Story and Time were followed by the acclaimed album ‘Sparks In A Dark Room’ in 1982. The band released two further albums (‘Poste Restante’ and ‘Fourth Floor’) before splitting in 1985. In 2012, the band reunited for a series of gigs in the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium and recorded a 7-inch single for Tim Burgess’ O Genesis label. After a pause to draw breath, 2014 has seen Minny Pops performing live once again.

Spaceheads are a cosmic duo of trumpet electronics and drums. Formed in 1990, they have developed a blend of electronics and sunshine fanfares over the course of ten albums, three EPs and much touring across Europe and the USA. Andy Diagram (also of James) plays trumpet with a mobile phone stuck to the top with a fish slice and Richard Harrison plays drums with big bendy metal sheets stuck to the top. They create live looped layers of brass driven by flurries of free flowing funky drums. Andy and Richard have achieved an intuition of what each is about to do next which makes their semi-improvised gigs a joy to behold. They release their first studio album in ten years – ‘A Short Ride On The Arrow of Time’ – this Autumn.

Darkroom – the UK-based duo of Michael Bearpark (guitars) and Andrew Ostler (synths)- expertly ride the line between luscious, old-school progressive rock and modern ambient electronics. At times reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream with hints of Fripp and Eno, they create clouds of sequenced synths, chewy grooves, and looped phrases to support a variety of acoustic and electric guitar melodies that twist and turn in surprising, occasionally aggressive, ways.

Hems Aka Henrique Matias will be playing live with Georgina Brett. Henrique is a multi-talented composer, programmer and DJ. He specialises in Multimedia programming (from internet things to Max/MSP and similars), although not all his live music and performances sounds like computer music (sometimes he takes his drum machines and crazy things out of the house). Georgina Brett’s music is created using her voice and effects pedals, creating instant choirs of sound, often in an hypnotic style. The point of this music is not only to captivate with extraordinary timing and melodic style but also to help the listener to relax in our ever-increasingly fast world.

Interactive visuals and multimedia projections are by Hanzo and Rucksack Cinema.

More information here – tickets £7.00 on the door.

By all accounts The Forge (in Camden Town) has spent the last few years becoming one of north London’s most interesting small venues for mixed music. I’ve yet to go there and see for myself: but in its full June calendar (also featuring funk, jazz, classical and Cuban music as well as assorted poetry) the following four concerts caught my interest:

Notus Winds & Eliza McCarthy (Wednesday 3nd June, 7.30pm)

Part of the classical monthly series Wednesdays at The Forge, this time featuring award-winning chamber ensemble Notus Winds and solo pianist Eliza McCarthy with a program of contemporary compositions (more information here). Tickets £10.00 to £12.00.

Programme:

Harrison Birtwistle – 5 Distances
György Ligeti – Ten Pieces
Arvo Pärt – Quintettino
Anders Hillborg – Six Pieces for Wind Quintet

Fenella Humphreys: Bach to the Future Part 1 (Tuesday 9th June, 7.30pm)

The first of three concerts presented by violinist Fenella Humphreys, featuring commissions of six new works by six of Britain’s leading composers to accompany Bach’s glorious 6 Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin. This first concert includes new works by Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Gordon Crosse alongside extraordinary music by Bach, Scott, Westhoff, Hindemith. Tickets £10.00 to £12.00.

Programme:

Cyril Scott – Bumble-Bees (1928)
Johann Paul von Westhoff – Suite no. 5 in D minor (1682)
Gordon Crosse – Orkney Dreaming (2014)
Fritz Kreisler – Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice op. 6 (1911)
Paul Hindemith – Sonata op. 31 no. 2 ‘Es ist so schönes Wetter draussen’ (1924)
Johann Sebastian Bach – Partita no. 3 in E major BWV 1006 (c. 1720)
Cheryl Frances-Hoad – Suite no. 1 (2014)
Eugene Ysaye – 2nd Sonata op. 27 (1923)

Reciprocity: a new work by Daniel Patrick Cohen (Wednesday 10th June, 7.00pm)

Reciprocity is a 28 minute work for voice, taped narration, eight celli, piano, and percussion. The piece was composed by Daniel Patrick Cohen from six poems by the late Darya Farha, a Canadian poet, therapist, filmmaker and clothing designer. Darya was an extraordinary woman whose sharp intelligence, dry wit, distaste for orthodoxies and boundless empathy fuelled restless journey through her unfinished life. Darya died of breast cancer in 2011 when she was 46, and Reciprocity was commissioned by her sister Juliana Farha, who lives in London. Reciprocity is not about cancer, however. Instead, its human and universal themes of joy, pleasure, fear and anger, along with its intriguing instrumentation are sure to engage a broad audience. You can read more on the project here, and here. Tickets £6.00.

She’Koyokh & Veda Slovena Bulgarian Choir (Thursday 11th June, 8.00pm)

In a unique collaboration, She’Koyokh & Veda Slovena Bulgarian Choir combine the fiery panache of klezmer and Balkan music with the timeless beauty of Bulgarian voices, weaving Jewish, Turkish and Balkan music into the rich tapestry of the Bulgarian choral tradition. Read She’Koyokh’s piece on their Veda Slovena collaboration here. Tickets £10.00 to £12.00.

(All events taking place at The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, London, NW1 7NL)

REVIEW – Dead Hippie Squadron: ‘Chilling Spree’ single, 2014 (“thumbing his nose at the chillout stations”)

24 May

Dead Hippie Squadron: 'Chilling Spree'

Dead Hippie Squadron: ‘Chilling Spree’

Skittering through electronic dance music like a grinning cartoon centipede, Julian Michal Zembrowski (a.k.a. Dead Hippie Squadron) has remained tongue-in-cheek so far. He’s dabbled with pranky plunderphonics (as in the George Bush Jr.-baiting Skull And Bones). He’s teased and celebrated dance culture’s mongrelised New Age aesthetics via tracks like Dubsteppenwolf and Interstellar Transhuman Psyche (and via 2013’s ‘Black Magic’ album, a skimming sample-heavy techno grimoire). Most of his artwork consists of spooky, crudely-Photoshopped snapshots of his dog; or of himself posing next to pet-food displays, wearing a kitten mask.

However much he pisses about with themes and imagery, his music has been seriously solid: a more successful mongrelisation. No matter how flighty or parodic their names might be, DHS tracks are filled with cunning, tickling complexity and multiple levels. Power-dive pitch-shifts, plenty of real instrumentation (including throaty ping-bass and glitched-up piano studies), an argumentative bricolage of vocal samples and Julian’s own mumbling lo-fi intrusions. Spliced references abound – a Club Dog take on the Bomb Squad, silly Zappa voices, minglings of Art Of Noise mischief with Meat Beat Manifesto drive, spooked ambient drift and IDM clatter.

Though it’s a good deal breezier than what’s gone before, Chilling Spree is as much of a witty DHS mash-up as ever. I’m guessing that Julian had his radio on and was both cocking his ear to and thumbing his nose at the chillout stations when this one rolled off his mind. Downtempo and smoothly textured, it shimmers around on ever-so-slightly theatrical accordion musings (like an airy Joe Zawinul jazz track at a long-ago summer festival) before rising up to a silvery, tinselly synth-pop crest. The drums sound mostly Lebanese: those jazzy, ahead-of-the-beat Stewart Copeland rattles, the furry rills. Humming in the background, Joe makes his best approximations of a Bollywood chorus.

A lot of those little citizen-of-the-world, coffee shop boxes seem to be being ticked… but the boxes are collapsing under the pen-strokes. That occasional blurting stutter of bass drum stupidity is straight out of electro; the tunefulness is cunningly crumpled. Meanwhile, we’re hearing part of an argument in the next apartment. “I want you to get mad,” burbles a man’s voice – aggressive in a slightly fruity way, and convinced of its own righteousness. “All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad.” Someone’s not really getting along with the chillout programme – there will be splintered knick-knacks soon. Over in his corner, Julian takes a long cool sip of a dark-amber drink with a complicated name and a couple of ditzy umbrellas, and treats himself to a long, low chuckle.

Dead Hippie Squadron: ‘Chilling Spree’
Dead Hippie Squadron (self-released, no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only single
Released: 30th April 2014

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May 1998 – album reviews – Blowpipe’s ‘Pendulum’ (“half given over to Blowpipe’s previous grace, half to a new and more aggressive club attack”)

18 May

Blowpipe: 'Pendulum'

Blowpipe: ‘Pendulum’

In jazz, things move on, and Blowpipe are no exception to this. Father-and-son brass-and-reed players Robin and Andrew Blick joined forces last year, making a mark for themselves last year at the point between hips and heads for their own spin on jazz-meets-clubland, sliding in alongside acid jazz with something a little more sophisticated and challenging.

The enthralling ‘First Circle‘ was the outcome: a rich and rewarding chill-out-and-expand intertwining of busily-bubbling electronica with old-school jazz conversation. Alongside guitarist Paul Reeson and the remarkable electronic sound-weaver Stephen Watkins, the Blicks set up a heartfelt and fertile union of jazz expression and latter-day dance-floor pulse, a tapestry of burbling intelligent techno, deft horn dialogue and fluent electro-acoustic textures. It was a joy to listen to, and its success has been recognised in one direction, at least.

‘Pendulum’ (a hot-on-the-heels follow up to ‘First Circle’) comes after Blowpipe’s deeper welcome into the ongoing club revolution – they’ve played on the new album by drum’n’bass pioneer Grooverider – and a big line-up shake-up. Whether burnt, inquisitive or disillusioned, the Blicks have opted to change the band’s instrumental chemistry. Blowpipe’s armoury of blowables (which already featured the Blicks’ trumpets, saxes, assorted horns and abused pipework) has been expanded by the addition of Nick Reynolds’ harmonica; they’ve also added a steady bass player in Tom Harrison; and there are frequent guest appearances (and stronger links to the jazz world) from saxophonist/flautist John Burgess of the Harry Beckett band and the Tom Bancroft Orchestra. But most crucially, both Reeson and Watkins are now out of the picture (apparently, halfway through recording). Consequently, while half of ‘Pendulum’ is given over to Blowpipe’s previous acoustic/ambient/electronica grace, the other half is shaped by a new and more aggressive club attack.

Of the old school stuff, Airport Woman is the most graceful: a mass of beat-free, blurring big spaces: back-and-forth cello loops, rainy-night muted trumpets, glows of soprano sax and a brief return from Paul Reeson. The Spell is Broken is wrapped in a backwards bassy ostinato (padded up by Tycho Andrews’ wah-guitar) like an orchestra in a North Sea fog, thick hazy air through which Andrew Blick’s trumpet clarion cuts like a lone lighthouse beam. Muting down and vague-ening in the heavy atmosphere, it gently illuminates (above the clanking guitar rhythm and the creak-crunching sonics).

However, this album’s signature is definitely made by the harder breed of Blowpipe pieces, by the post-Grooverider drum’n’bass influences. This could have been a good thing, given that music’s ferociously intelligent, toppy rhythmic attack: the bebop of the club scene. But in practice? Um… maybe not.

The main problem is a loss of that crucial Blowpipe balance. Neither of Stephen Watkins’ on/off successors (Patrick Mosley and Mike Servent) possess any of his subtlety, meaning that the detailed electronic textures of ‘Full Circle’ have been overturned in favour of synth washes and more blatant beats. And while the Blicks remain as eloquent as ever, Nick Reynolds’ harmonica virtuosity is of the tinny, bullying breed: a soulless Mark Feltham cop. Sometimes the new marriage is a happy one, as on Avanti’s drowsy harmonica patina and cloudy brass blankets, mixing it up with breakbeats, Harrison’s Bootsy bass, and Andrew’s cold trumpet motif. But when it’s at its worst, the Blicks seem sidelined within their own project, locked down in the cages of snare drum.

The analogue gut gurgles and video games blippery of Usurper work quite well, as Reynolds’ sharp harmonica riffs mingle with fluent fluttering sax and muted trumpet. But Unravel’s tight fast rattle and saurian bass quakes are overcome by the belting raucous harmonica and brass. Robin Blick’s soprano scribbles too frantically, Andrew’s echoed trumpet sounds busy and sour. The raw power of Scorched Earth’s distorted breakbeat and Harrison Wobble-y bassline can’t make up for the yammering, overbearing harmonica overkill: Reynolds blowing flatulently all over the Blicks’ bitty chips of sax and trumpet and Katherine Blake’s skidding tremolo violin. And School Disco (working title or what?) is just clodhopping: a flatfooted stomp which sounds like it was recorded in an underpass. John Burgess’ guesting flute fights to keep grace going against the dirty swathes of distorted harmonica.

When Reynolds is kept on a tighter leash, things work out much better. On the climactic Phoenix, for example, where Burgess’ bass clarinet and Andrew’s dawning trumpet lines repeatedly criss-cross each other over didgeridoo droning and Robin’s sax hangings. Or on Pendulum itself, which uses power without clumsiness. Rising off a big Bonham-y stomp with overdriven trumpet and giant floppy bass, Robin laces in some ascending saxes and curtains of brass. There’s a guest tenor scrawl from John Burgess: then, amid the whale-song trumpets, an incongruous Scott Walker sample pops up to breathe in bluer air. “The little clocks stop ticking now…” Everything does stop ticking. Everything kicks off again. Marvellously perverse, and a particular highlight on an album which sometimes fails to live up to Blowpipe’s initial promise, reminding us of how good they can be once they’re back in focus.

Blowpipe: ‘Pendulum’
Robot Records, ROB 001 (5019148617297)
CD-only album
Released:
15th May 1998
Get it from: (2020 update) Best obtained second-hand, or streamed.
Blowpipe online:
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Additional notes: Robin Blick now leads Blick Trio; Andrew Blick leads Gyratory System.
 

May 1997 – album reviews – State of Grace’s ‘Everyone Else’s Universe’ (“an oozing of tepid ambience”)

3 May

State Of Grace: 'Everyone Else's Universe'

State Of Grace: ‘Everyone Else’s Universe’

And this is 1997?

In the world of contemporary pop music, I thought ‑ hell, we all thought ‑ we had the equation worked out. Electronica = The Future. Trad Guitar Rock (Oasis + Kula Shaker + Cast + Ocean Colour Scene) = The Past. But State Of Grace, a Northampton electro‑ambient quartet now on their third album, are here to prove otherwise. It’s electronic, yes, but it’s also as retro and dated as Noel Gallagher’s Beatles pastiches.

Conspiracy is a six‑part concept track… or rather, it’s an obvious way to become immediately suspicious about an album just by looking at the track listing. (Six‑part concept tracks issue a subliminal message to me. That message is “run away!”). Part 1, Forest Fields Forever is horribly slick‑sounding trance, complete with weedy female vocal and obligatory ethnic voice sample. The parts seem often to be linked by ambient wind and water effects… oh no, sorry, that was Part 2. I dozed off for a moment. Part 3 (Single Spies) tries to be Dubstar, but with Sarah Simmond’s ultra‑forgettable voice and gibberish lyrics, plus powder‑puff electronics, it makes Dubstar sound like Nine Inch Nails. Part 4, Noel Street Blues, ups the tempo to a sleek techno and, by including the sampled combination of a warbling operatic diva, more generic‑ethnic wailing and an accordion, momentarily arouses some interest. But by this point I didn’t know which part I was listening to. It all continued in this insipid vein for a number of years, by which time I’d lost the will to live.

Perfect And Wild is more suffocatingly polite techno‑pop, with the joyful addition of a twee slide guitar. Still, as so often on this album, the awful lyrics offer a laugh. “And when love is calling / Like an open book” ‑ look, I’m sorry, but books don’t call; they’re inanimate objects! So innocuous and bland is this music that you could walk round supermarkets to its accompaniment.

Now where was I? I need a dozen eggs, some margarine, a packet of mini chicken kievs… oh, sorry. Right, then. Er, Sea‑Saw. Oh, mild trip‑hop. Sarah tries to sing with a lazy, underwater vibe, but only ends up sounding as disinterested as I am, like she’s about to drop off to sleep. And will somebody please alter that bloody drum machine pattern! Now! (If you think I’m losing patience, you’re right).


 
Be afraid. Be very afraid, for there are three versions of the track Hello on this album (they obviously place great faith in the song‑‑poor, deluded souls). This version, subtitled Fall Out The Lions (eh? Your guess is as good as mine…), is musically somewhat engaging: mournful violins and a rising/falling keyboard sequence over brushed electronic drums. But the words are more sixth-form gobbledegook: “In the silence / the colour is an island. / Fall out the lions, / take everybody with you.” What? Still, the chorus is one to join in on – “Is it so? Hello, hello. / Is it so? / Hello, hello.” Poetry, utter poetry.

Version two of Hello is a remix by Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto. To a clattering beat and a phased dub keyboard, plus Meat‑treated vocal, it all manages to sound at least vaguely contemporary, whilst hardly essential. Version three (gosh, you can have too much of a good thing, can’t you?) is an Aphex Twin‑style remix‑‑it dismisses all the elements of the original track save for a ghost of the vocals, and constructs a stomping bass‑heavy techno track. By now, it is so far from State Of Grace’s original that it hardly belongs to them at all. Consequently, it’s the best thing on the album.


 
Rose II begins and ends in an oozing of tepid ambience, but would potentially be an affecting minor‑chord‑laden melody if it hadn’t been subjected to another sheen of bland synthesizers and, worst of all, whining treated electronic guitar. By now, lost somewhere in a maddening nightmare, praying for this album to end, I suddenly sense a name appearing before me. M…? M…? M… M‑… M‑Mike Oldfield?! Jesus, it does ‑ it sounds like bleedin’ Mike Oldfield!! (Worse than that, Vaughan. It sounds like late ’80s Mike Oldfield, the stuff that not even Oldfield fans seem to have any more… ‑ PROG ED.)

State Of Grace are awfully, horribly dated. They are trying to be some sort of combination of modern ambient techno ‑ for which the music sounds simply too out‑of‑date‑‑and the pristine machine pop of, say, Propaganda… yet lacking that group’s excellent song constructions. The lyrics are abysmal, too. The hip new title State Of Grace would like to have conferred on them ‑ electronica ‑ is redundant. This is, being as kind as possible, what used to be known in the pop world as “electronic music”, which would firmly date it as being pre‑1987’s acid‑house revolution.

But let’s not be kind. Let’s be unkind. This is out‑of‑date, bad europop, bad trance, bad electro‑prog… get the idea?

I don’t want it in my universe.

(review by Vaughan Simons)

State Of Grace: ‘Everyone Else’s Universe’
3rd Stone Ltd., STONE 028CD (5023693002828)
CD‑only compilation album
Released: 28th April 1997

Get it from:
(2018 update) best obtained second-hand.

State Of Grace/Fatal Charm online:
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