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July 2018 – upcoming avant-pop gigs – Liam Singer in New York and Catskill with Sontag Shogun, Alexander Turnquist and Tim Mislock (12th, 13th July)

6 Jul

Liam Singer, 2018Bar his efforts in assembling a performance of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ under the Brooklyn Bridge last year, not enough has been heard from Liam Singer since he released his gorgeously limpid ‘Arc Iris’ album in 2013. In fact, he’s quit New York City and moved upstate to Catskill, where he’s now co-running HiLo – a combined cafe, bar, art gallery, and performance space. New responsibilities, however, haven’t stemmed his musical flow. Two imminent shows (one at HiLo and one in his old Brooklyn stomping grounds) mark this month’s release of his fifth album, ‘Finish Him‘, on Birdwatcher Records.

Centred on his piano and the sweet murmur of his voice, Liam’s previous records brought in strings, glass harmonicas and spectral studio reverb; the clink and clatter of gamelan and prepared instruments, Morton Feldman namedrops, and women’s voices shading into birdsong. They sketched out a sharply etched dreamworld which seemed to take place in and on the towns, roads and headlands of a permeable New England coastline – one in which ancient mythology and personal headspace interpenetrated, and danced their way up and down from the seabed to the constellations. Either that, or they evoked loft life in an idealised, slightly antiquated boho New York or upscale university town – Art Deco bannisters, rumpled stockings discarded by elusive free-spirited lovers; mannered speech, books on the Harlem Renaissance.

It was pop, but pop over which Steve Reich and the aforementioned Feldman presided as occasional guardian angels (as did Henry Cowell and Shaker music), amidst a papery flutter of old books and wallpaper witnessings, and of dust being blown off enthralling junk-shop discoveries. Longtime co-producer Scott Solter likes to link it to “Edward Gorey and the Brothers Quay“. The descriptions may sound precious, but the songs aren’t. No showboater, Liam is nonetheless one of those singers whose tones gently, subtly shift and refract between wonder, melancholy, wry self-deprecation and ecstacy: a caster of light upon things, rather than a hoarder or showcaser. The folding of literary and mythical references into his songs – and their subtly eclectic instrumentation – may bring him comparisons to Elliott Smith (especially in terms of the intimate delivery) and to Sufjan Stevens; but to me he’s a far more gentler character, bringing a human fragility and self-awareness to his steps in and out of a numinous music realm. A bit like an American William D. Drake, perhaps; though minus the occasional overt music-hall flourishes.


 
That said, ‘Finish Him’ (described as “a coming-out party”) sees Liam changing tack. Now he’s fully, publically embracing influences he’s previously only hinted at – predominantly colourful 1980s art pop “from a time when traces of the Baroque and avant-garde began to seep into the margins of the mainstream alongside the iconic synths, gated reverbs and big hair.” The science-fiction bacofoil-meets-CGI video, drum machine and layered synths of pilot single Test Tone determinedly sets out this new stall – like Wes Anderson simultaneously taking on ‘Tron’ or one of those Saturday afternoon space operas – and while new tracks like The Devil and I Want To See Sparks are less immediately brash, they’ve set aside some of the diaphanous sound of previously-on-Liam in favour of grander, brighter colourings, scrim-sweeps of noise, and bolder narratives about the struggle between selfishness and connection, the booting over of applecarts.



 
If there’s a new parallel, it’s the latterday work of Paddy McAloon – the revealing of extra bite and sharp points behind the musical meringue, the emergence of perspective and bone-deep feeling that comes with age and gravity taking more of a hold. The magic and mists are still there, just with a little more lightning.

Main support at both shows comes from Liam’s friends in the “lullanoise” project Sontag Shogun, who travel the world and bring back armfuls of noise and aural capturings of different places and times, only to re-knit them into ambiguous/meaningful post-minimalist mood pieces of piano and soundscape. Evoking or manufacturing memories filled with beauty and displacement, they produce music which is part hypnagogic tape, part four-dimensional postcard or souvenir.

For the Brooklyn show, the core Shogun trio (pianist Ian Temple, laptop/field recordings manipulator Jesse Perlstein and tapesman/oscillator operator/microphonist Jeremy Young) are “reformatting and outfitting” the band with a string quartet (thus forming the Sontag String Ensemble) and are playing “all new music, marrying improvisational and experimental sound with composed string arrangements by Ian.” For the Catskill show, they’re reverting to the trio format.



 
Each of the two shows will be bolstered by another instrumental set, each by a different guitarist/composer. In Brooklyn, it’s Alexander Turnquist, whose instrumental reflections on nature and philosophy blend virtuosic twelve-string acoustic fingerstyle with studio-based electronic noise aesthetics, producing a melodious state-shifting thunder of folk baroque/New Acoustic stringwork and reverberant processing which perhaps makes him the heart of an imaginary triangle between Michael Hedges, John Fahey and Jim O’Rourke.

Alexander’s counterpart at the Catskill show is Tim Mislock, whose use of simple electric figures and slow, ebbing ambient-country pulses… renders him more similar to Britain’s Rob Jackson or to a Nashville-saturated Robert Fripp, while also dipping into the lonesome romantic post-rock minimalism of Explosions In The Sky. His current album ‘Now Is The Last Best Time’ is “a heartfelt ode to (his) mother, who over the course of the past decade, has been the primary caregiver to her husband and Mislock’s stepfather; as he slowly fades into the ever-present silence of Alzheimer’s disease.” It’s a project encompassing love, regret, compassion and drift, and you can feel all of them in every note.


Dates:

  • Liam Singer + Sontag String Ensemble + Alexander Turnquist – Wonders Of Nature, 131 Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, New York 11249, USA, Thursday 12th July 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Liam Singer + Sontag Shogun + Tim Mislock – HiLo Catskill, 365 Main Street, Catskill, New York 12414, USA, Friday 13th July 2018, 8.00pm – information here

 

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

3 Jul

SOIF Soiree, 6th July 2018

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

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

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

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

A few examples of the evening’s entertainment:




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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, here’s something a little older…


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


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


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

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

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

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

July 2018 – upcoming rock gigs – A Sudden Burst of Colour, a-tota-so and Theo tear up The Facemelter (6th July); Heldon and Hirvikolari at Café Oto (14th July)

2 Jul

A quick boost for the heavy stuff at the Facemelter this week, and for an avant-rock return at Café Oto mid-month….

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The Facemelter: A Sudden Burst Of Colour + a-tota-so + Theo, 6th July 2018
“Hailing from Motherwell, Scotland, A Sudden Burst Of Colour captures fans of electronic, ambient, dance and rock music with their soundscapes and encapsulating songwriting. Their sound is bright, shimmering and generally uplifting. The instrumental quartet have four globally acclaimed EP releases under their belt, which is evidenced by features from ‘BBC Introducing’, ‘The Scotsman’, ‘Earmilk’ (USA), ‘Arctic Drones’ (Turkey), ‘Stereofox’ (Germany) and many more, so this is a good time to catch them before they break into the wider world. Their recent single ‘I Am The Storm’ was premiered on Daniel P. Carter’s BBC Radio 1 Rock Show and they’re currently in pre-production for their forthcoming album, which is due for release at the end of the year.”


 
Replacing Bristolian mathrockers Hoggs Bison (who, like Barringtone recently, have come down with a bad case of broken wrist) are “noisy math/grunge band a-tota-so (formed by members of Alright the Captain and Cheap Jazz), who we’ve been dying to put on for ages! In their short one-and-a-half-year existence, they’ve already toured the UK and Europe, shared the stage with Tera Melos, Tangled Hair, Alpha Male Tea Party, Chiyoda Ku, Memory of Elephants, VASA and many more, and played at ArcTanGent and StrangeForms Festival. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, the band recently recorded their debut album at Nice Weather For Airstrikes and Snug Recording Co. and are set to release it in September 2018.



 
“To open, there’s a rare appearance from soloist Theo (described as “an extraordinary maelstrom of soundscapes, loops, beats and power” by ‘Louder Than War), who creates layers of tight guitar melodies and riffs by looping them over and over again, before sitting down at his drum kit and smashing out some fantastic rhythms to them. The range of dynamics and changes he achieves, as well as his ability to make the entire piece a coherent tune from start to finish, is astonishing. We’ve seen him perform around the country, including at ArcTanGent and at our late night Facemelter with Poly-Math and EVILLOOKINGBIRD, so we’re glad to see him make a return.”


 
Chaos Theory Music Promotions presents:
The Facemelter: A Sudden Burst of Colour + a-tota-so + Theo
The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, Camden Town, London, NW1 0AP, England
Friday 6th July 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

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Heldon + Hirvikolari, 14th July 2018

The upcoming Heldon and Hirvikolari gig at Café Oto appears to be happily selling itself without my input, partially thanks to Heldon mainstay Richard Pinhas‘ reputation as “the French Robert Fripp”. If that’s a fair comparison (and Richard has readily acknowledged that “Fripp has always been my Hendrix”), he might not have King Crimson’s ability to fill larger theatres but he does seem to have a far less compromised reputation in avant-garde hubs like Oto – for one thing, you wouldn’t generally find Robert Fripp going head-to-head with members of The Boredoms. A former junior philosophy professor, he jumped the academic ship in 1974, inspired by his own comparisons between philosophers and rock stars (and by his own taste for science fiction) to form an electronic rock band with a trans-sonic bent. This was Heldon, one of the very first French bands to use synthesizers, and one which would subsequently fall under the spell of King Crimson, Fripp and Brian Eno and develop their own droning improvisatory rock forms.

While the band originally only lasted for the course of the 1970s, Heldon’s albums are currently being reissued by Bureau B: this year, an archive live album, ‘Live in Metz 77’, was released by Bam Balaam. All of which has prompted a return to live action by Richard under the Heldon name. This is their first London concert for literally decades: expect to see an excited anticipatory audience of prog/avant-rock fans of all ages.



 
Hirvikolari – modular synthesist Mike Bourne and processed-trumpet guy Sam Barton – are more often found being two-fifths of Teeth Of The Sea Last time round, I described them as follows: “while Teeth Of The Sea tend to play great stomping horror-slabs of musical architecture (a flying saucer spitting out rows and rows of heavily-armed tower blocks) Hirvikolari prefer to take the slow path and evolve themselves a great bolus of stewed electronic burble and resonating brass tracks. Ennio Morricone’s been cited as a comparison, as has the long tradition of counter-culture festival techno: both comparisons have some grounding.”

 
There’s about three handfuls-worth of tickets left: if you want to pluck them from the eager grip of Baba Yaga’s Hut, I’m sure they’d be all too willing to let you have your chance.

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Heldon + Hirvikolari
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Saturday 14th July 2018, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

July 2018 – upcoming London singer-songwriter gigs – Ana Silvera’s ‘Oracles’ at the South Bank (4th July) and Holly Penfield’s ‘Fragile Human Monster’ in Piccadilly (9th July)

1 Jul

Ana Silvera, 4th July 2018

‘Oracles’ – the BASCA-nominated song-cycle by Anglo-Portuguese singer-songwriterAna Silvera – already has a seven-year history. Created more or less in parallel with her debut album ‘The Aviary’ (and originally a choral piece for the NEC choir at the Roundhouse), it’s now returning this month, freshly re-arranged for Ana and small vocal/instrumental ensemble, for a full album release and the first of two 2018 live shows.

A response to the pain of intimate family bereavement, ‘Oracles’ “draws on folk tales and myths to chart a transformative journey from profound grief to tentative acceptance.” In some senses it’s a wide-spectrum take on adult pop without a trace of that genre’s unnecessary blandening: an as-it-happens assessment of the dramatic personal shifts in position following the loss of both loved ones and of the relationship one has with them while they’re alive.

What I’ve heard of it so far suggests a similar vivacity as her songs elsewhere on album or in her theatrical work – vividly characterised narratives of internal reflection and of landscapes both physical and emotional, mingling detailed, nakedly honest personal verbal imagery and an influx of Portuguese folk feel in a way which makes her sound a little like an Iberian Jane Siberry.


 
For the live performance, Ana’s six-piece band features her co-arranger – Listenpony curator and singing multi-instrumentalist Josephine Stephenson – plus a wealth of folk-jazz talent in the shape of the string trio of Jasper Høiby on double bass, Alice Zawadzki on vocals and violin, and Alice Purton on vocals and cello, plus Will Barry on piano and percussion.

The concert will feature “specially arranged new songs” for the first half and a full run through ‘Oracles’ for the second: the latter including a specially commissioned dance film by Royal Ballet/’Random Acts‘ director/dancer Kate Church and art director Alice Williamson.

Ana Silvera – ‘Oracles’
Purcell Room @ Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 8XX, England
Wednesday 4th July 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here


 
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Holly Penfield, 9th July 2018

From where she’s standing in her life right now, Holly Penfield can reach out in both directions to touch the passionate, large-lunged ingenue singer of her youth and the salty life-loving veteran she’s transforming into. Of course, she’s got a longer, bolder reach than most. Once tagged as “David Bowie meets Liza Minelli” by a surprised and wrongfooted Simon Cowell, she’s a classic torch-pop singer with a stunning voice who’s also both blessed and cursed with an upsetter’s drive. These days, as she rebounds from twenty years as a leading international cabarettier in order to return to her own songs, it’s more of a blessing.

Raised in San Francisco (and a veteran of the 1980s LA pop scene with the scars to prove it) Holly spent much of the ‘90s writing and performing the psychodramatic one-woman pop show ‘Fragile Human Monster’ in London and elsewhere. A show with such troubled and intense undercurrents that it eventually blew itself apart, it’s now spawned a return… but under very different circumstances. The whirling mirror-glass synths and saxophones of the old days have been replaced by a gritty post-Americana rock band (which growls, gnaws and struts through her songs like a Cash or Waits ensemble) while Holly herself has mostly forsaken standing behind a keyboard (except for when a grand piano ballad calls for that set of skills).


 
It’s funny, sad, uplifting and stirring all at once. Once the very embodiment of storm-tossed waif and precarious survivor, Holly’s now a wiser and much happier woman. She still absolutely owns the stage, though, helping herself to a big dollop of the jazz and blues flavourings which shaped her initial development, playing a dash of ukulele and engaging in some zestful shimmying (and some delightfully ludicrous party outfits, worn with wit and flair – it seems as if her recent steps away from cabaret involved at least one sly step back).


 
What hasn’t changed is the quality of her singing, and of her songs. While old FHM standards like Misfit, The Last Enemy, puddle-of-grief ballad Stay With Me, and slinking fingersnapper You Can’t Have The Beauty Without The Beast have shed skins and made the transition to the new show, Holly’s also been dipping into a trunk of neglected and mostly previously unheard work, including the tremendous state-of-the-world song Confessions (based around a lyrical hook she once dangled in front of an intrigued Joni Mitchell) and the vivacious Tree Woman (a more recent effort in which she vigorously embraces both her own ageing and the resilience that comes with it).

Holly Penfield’s Fragile Human Monster Show
Crazy Coqs @ Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London W1F 7ED, England
Monday 9th July 2018, 9.15pm
– information here


 

July/September 2018 – upcoming electronic gigs – Jim Thirlwell’s Xordox goes out in New York, London and Dublin with The The, Teeth of the Sea and Faten Kanaan (variously 2nd, 5th, 7th July and 17th September). Plus an awkward Foetus reminiscence from my past….

29 Jun

Jim Thirlwell, 2018

Jim Thirlwell (either that, or it’s Quentin Crisp’s dark twin…)

Long ago in 1988 (during my gawky teenaged years) I helpless, hopelessly, stupidly loved a girl. One of her responses was to play a trio of Foetus tracks at me an hour or two past midnight, in a room tinged with other people’s dope smoke – first Asbestos, then English Faggot and finally Hauss-On-Fah. I think she was trying to prove a point about her own wildess and non-conformity as compared with my teenaged uptightness: a point seasoned with an extra tint of sadism.

Filtered through unrequited sexual longing and sleep deprivation (plus some secondary stonedness) the music took on even more of a nightmarish aspect. First the screeching, ravening wall of post-Penderecki horror-strings; then a crawling, banging, hate-crime narrative rising to a lustfully murderous snarl; finally the compulsive dance track, enough to have you ricocheting round a warehouse in the dark before realising that you’re slam-dancing to a gonzo tale of racist murders, cocaine-fuelled gang-rape and of lighting out for the outlaw territories.

Given my increasing interest in out-there music, it was a kind of awakening for me, but at the time it was more a kind of uninvited acidic baptism. I’d never heard anything like it; certainly nothing so apparently malignant and evil. I could barely move from my chair. Overlaid on the music, in real time (like an extra overdub, or a cruel remix) was delighted, spiteful female laughter. I’d never managed to make her laugh so much by my own efforts – so there was me told. Perhaps, in a way, it was a slightly twisted message of friendship-but-no-further.

Anyway, it made for a pretty disorientating walk home at half-past-two in the morning. Hornsey Vale’s one of the more peaceful and genteel London neighbourhoods, but that night it felt like hastening through the Haddonfield of ‘Halloween’. Boing, boing, boing…


 
That was a long time ago. The girl’s grown up into a woman and moved to Hove, and we’re not even remotely in touch. I’ve no idea what she listens to now or what she thinks of it; or whether Foetus, for her, is just a memory of a few twisted tracks on a cousin’s long-lost compilation tape which happened to come in handy for baiting an unwanted suitor one bloody-minded teenage evening. As for me – I’ve learnt to appreciate transgressive art a little more, and am less likely to take dysfunctional nights and dysfunctional relationships so personally. I’ve also learnt about the background behind the noise; and have even flippantly bought the odd Foetus record myself, to tease a flatmate with.

Meanwhile, if Foetus’ boiling black humour and theatre of cruelty has lost a little of its edge for me, Jim Thirwell – the man behind it – hasn’t lost any of his. Back then he was already a cutting-edge industrial rock godfather. Now, he’s a long-established sonic progenitor for Nine Inch Nails, Gorilla Black and anyone else who’s picked up an orchestral sampler, a vicious horn section and a junkyard batter-beat with the aim of making mordantly joyous music for a world scripted by the darker angels of our nature.

Over the three decades since his music reduced me to nervy paralysis in Crouch End, Jim’s worked with Lydia Lunch, Electronicat, Nick Cave, Marc Almond and Cop Shoot Cop’s Jim Coleman; and he’s branched his extreme musical satire out across the slow crushing misanthropy journals of Wiseblood (his collaboration with’ Swans Roli Mosimann), the transfer of those flourishing post-Asbestos Foetus instrumentals to the Steroid Maximus project (where they can rant, jazz and gibber in full orchestra majesty without being pinned down by a song) and with SM’s freeform cousin Manorexia. At the height of his performance-art immersion, he wore fake personalities and conceptual skin-suits like all-over psychological scars (Clint Ruin, Frank Want) but since then he’s come to the party as just Jim – behind the music, a sweet kind guy in person and an unashamed music store geek who happens to be drawn to extreme subjects (and into reflecting Western society’s callousness and license for dysfunction back onto itself). For the past twenty years he’s also been part of New York City’s contemporary classical talent pool, writing for the likes of the Kronos Quartet and Bang On A Can, and has also soundtracked cartoon music for ‘The Venture Bros.’ and ‘Archer’ – two parallel endeavours which he takes equally seriously.

Jim’s latest project is Xordox, featuring a new instrumental direction to set alongside Steroid Maximus and Manorexia. Primarily synthesizer-based, it merges his existing electronic production expertise with extended use of the lateral thinker’s dream modular synths by Buchla and Serge. The results were unveiled last summer on the project’s debut album ‘Neospection’, revealing a Thirlwellisation of modular techno. While the hurtling disruptive Alto Velocidad is more remniscent of previous Thirlwell methodology, the only currently embeddable example of Xordox out there is the cosmo-Germanic rush of Diamond. See the video below (it tickles me how different the NASA CGI footage is from the cyberpunk/”Nazoviet”-inspired designs Jim used for the Foetus records).

 
Xordox have secured July and September support slots in Dublin and New York on the comeback tour for The The (with whom Jim was a collaborator and contributor, in particular on 1983’s ‘Soul Mining’). Also arranged are fairly short notice headline dates in New York and London for the first week of July (the latter hosted by top psych/noise curators Baba Yaga’s Hut. For the live sets, Jim’s being joined by an additional keyboard player (long-time collaborator Simon Hanes of Tredici Bacci) and will be playing in front of a visual backdrop by Swedish artist Sten Backman of Great Big Container.

 
At the headliner gigs, New York support comes from synth artist Faten Kanaan who’s “inspired by cinematic forms: from sweeping landscapes & quiet romances, to the patterned tension of 1970s film scores… focuses on bringing a human touch to electronic music.” Her Germanic romantic/horror textural blends are created by “live-looping them, sans sequencers or arpeggiators. In symbiosis with technology is an appreciation for the vulnerability of human limitations, imperfections, and simple gestures.” London support comes from roof-raising underground heroes Teeth Of The Sea who merge extended brass-laden psych-rock voyages with techno and rave methodology, updated for twenty-first century urban impulses.


 
Dates:

July 2018 – upcoming London classical gigs – the three nights of the Music We’d Like To Hear 2018 series, with The Mark Knoop Supergroup, Apartment House and others playing Catherine Lamb, Kevin Volans, Laura Steenberge, Martin Arnold, Hermann Meier, Johanna Beyer, Robert Ashley, Gyrid Nordal Kaldestad, Michael Parsons, Georgia Rodgers and Maya Verlaak (6th, 13th, 20th July)

26 Jun

Music We'd Like To Hear, 2018

Since 2005, annual London concert series Music We’d Like To Hear has been offering “three concerts on three Fridays” curated by composers John Lely and Tim Parkinson, and performed in a City of London church. The 2018 season begins on the first Friday of July.

* * * * * * * *

The first concert, on 6th July, features The Mark Knoop Supergroup (led by pianist Mark Knoop and featuring flautist Ilze Ikse, trumpeter Chloë Abbott, cellist Alice Purton and electronics specialist Newton Armstrong).

Catherine Lamb’s prismatic music is becoming better known in the UK. In this programme we present her 2010 piece ‘nodes, various’, an early work in her continuing exploration of the behaviour of frequencies throughout an open space.

“The remarkable work of Swiss composer Hermann Meier (1906–2002) has been gaining attention following a recent exhibition and symposium at the Hochschule der Künste, Bern. As far as we know, this may well be the first presentation of Meier’s direct and uncompromising music in the UK. Thanks to the assistance of Meier’s archivist Marc Kilchenmann, we present ‘Klavierstück 1968’ alongside a realisation of ‘Flecken’, a 1980 work of cluster fields and static blocks of sonic material for eight electronic sound sources.

“Perhaps best known as a composer of operas, Robert Ashley composed his flute concerto ‘Superior Seven For Barbara Held’ in 1988. After releasing a version with MIDI orchestra on New World Records, Ashley toured a live version. Thanks to the assistance of Mimi Johnson and Tom Hamilton, we have reassembled the score of this beguiling and mysterious work for this concert.”

Previously performed versions of three of the four pieces:




 
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The second concert, on 13th July, showcases four solo or duet works for which (in two cases) the composer is on hand to perform (and which, in all cases, are too recent or rare for me to be able to offer soundclips).

“We are very fortunate to be joined by Laura Steenberge from Los Angeles, who leads a performance of some of her ‘Byzantine Rites’, a rich ongoing collection of performance pieces for music and actions drawn from fascinations with myth and ritual.

“The second half of the concert features the UK premiere of ‘Music for Boxes’ by Norwegian composer Gyrid Nordal Kaldestad, an arresting sonic environment created in close collaboration with violinist Mira Benjamin.” (Gyrid herself will be performing the electronic half of the duet.)

“As a first interlude to these sets, keyboard players Francesca Fargion and Tim Parkinson give a rare performance of Kevin Volans’ ‘Matepe For Two Harpsichords’, a 1980 work which the South African composer has referred to as “invented folklore”, marrying African and European techniques and aesthetics.

“Our second interlude is an exquisite 1971 piano miniature performed by Francesca, ‘Variations’ by Michael Parsons, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year.”

* * * * * * * *

The third and final concert, on 20th July, features acclaimed New Music ensemble Apartment House playing four works for string quartet.

Johanna Beyer (1888–1944) is chiefly known today as the composer of one of the first electronic works, 1938’s ‘Music Of The Spheres’. She was one of the most colourful and individual voices of the early American avant-garde, yet long under-represented in concert programming. Recently, though, Beyer’s work has been enjoying a renaissance. This evening’s selection is ‘String Quartet No. 2’ from 1936.

Georgia Rodgers’ shimmering ‘Three Pieces For String Quartet’ is a 2015 work supported by the Sound and Music Embedded Scheme, and premiered by the Bozzini Quartet at Woodend Barn, Banchory, Scotland for their Composer’s Kitchen project.

“We are delighted to commission a brand new work from Maya Verlaak, curator of the Post Paradise concert series in Birmingham, which has exploded onto the scene in recent years with fascinating programmes of new sounds and voices.

“To end the 2018 series, there’s a performance of Canadian composer Martin Arnold’s 1997 reinvention of the string quartet – ‘Contact; Vault’. With its long, delirious melody and quiet intensity, this singular work will play us out as the sun sets on this summer’s selection of music we’d like to hear.”

Again, some previous performances…

 

* * * * * * * *

All concerts take place at St Mary-at-Hill, Lovat Lane, City of London, London EC3R 8EE, England.

Dates and links:

  • Music We’d Like To Hear 2018 I (featuring The Mark Knoop Supergroup) – Friday 6th July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Music We’d Like To Hear 2018 II (featuring Laura Steenberge, Gyrid Nordal Kaldestad, Mira Benjamin, Francesca Fargion and Tim Parkinson) – Friday 13th July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Music We’d Like To Hear 2018 III (featuring Apartment House) – Friday 20th July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here

 

June 2018 – upcoming experimental gigs – Darkroom in Letchworth (24th June) and at Ambience Chasers in London with Kieran Mahon (26th June)

17 Jun

Darkroom gigs have perhaps become a little rarer since bass clarinettist/modular synth master Andrew Ostler dismantled their shared Hertfordshire base by moving wholesale to Edinburgh (where he’s currently and happily troubling Auld Reekie’s experimental scene on his own).

That said, geography’s really the only working challenge that Darkroom currently face. The electronica duo are a tight, happy and assured unit who, for over twenty years, have continued a well-paced, well-knit career entirely under their own control; happy to lurk a hair’s breadth under the radar while wedding Os’ fluttering flexing rhythms, synth drones, thoughtful reed interjections and dancing timbral adjustments to Michael Bearpark’s powerfully brooding guitar (a sound and approach which blends a thorny, unsettled widescreen texturalism to the muscular, compelled melodic drive of a Neil Young, a David Torn or a David Gilmour). The results have been labelled as “a crossing point between avant-free jazz improvisation and Fripp/Eno-style ambient looping”, compared to Photek, Paul Schutze, Michael Brooks and supernovae, and described as “by turns beautiful and beautifully ugly… a very human music despite the inevitable technology that produces it.”

Darkroom, 24th June 2018The first of this month’s two gigs is back in their previous Letchworth home, in the Arts-and-Crafts-Movement embrace of the town’s reknowned Cloisters venue, as part of the Letchworth Festival. They’ll be part of a Cloisters afternoon of “amazing pieces of art work, live performances and (information) about the alternative history of Letchworth”. This is more interesting and less parochial than it sounds, given the town’s influential status as the world’s first self-sufficient garden city design as well as its links with Theosophy and British astronomy and its hordes of sinister black squirrels. There’s no info on who else is playing or exhibiting, nor what times Darkroom are scheduled to have sets in place, so either watch the webpages or just turn up in the early afternoon and let the Letchworth experience wash over you.

Darkroom + Kieran Mahon, 26th June 2018Darkroom will also be playing in London a couple of nights later, when they perform at Sonic Cathedral‘s Ambience Chaser electronic night on a bill with minimalist drone-loop-echo man Kieran Mahon. Keiron’s music (informed by hallucination, “acid-drenched dronescapes” and “time and space being ripped apart”) sometimes sounds like the stern ghost of a Highland bagpipe possessing a power sander and then imposing its will on a Tangerine Dream session. For all of the noisy loomings, drapes and abrasions, there’s a sturdy romantic grandeur to his textures and to his constructions: listening to him is never a chore. In addition there’ll be DJ sets from an actual Tangerine Dream-er (Ulrich Schnauss) and from Sonic Cathedral label head Nathaniel Cramp.

Dates:

  • Darkroom @ Letchworth Festival ‘Art, Music & Performance’ @ The Cloisters, Barrington Road, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, SG6 3TH, England, Sunday 24th June 2018 2.00pm onwards – free entry – information here
  • Darkroom + Kieran Mahon @ Ambience Chasers #16 – The Social, 5 Little Portland Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1W 7JD, England, Tuesday 26th June 2018, 7:00pm – free entry – information here and here






 

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