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May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – new SIKE! psych-rock night in Holloway (featuring The Spanish Infanta, Dazy Crown, Eyre Llew and Niris, May 11th); dance/pop/jazz with Agar Agar and Lucien & The Kimono Orchestra plus Is Tropical DJ set (May 16th); a womantronic evening with electric:indigo, A’bear and Lisa Busby (May 18th)

4 May

SIKE, 11th May 2017

gigmit presents
SIKE! (featuring The Spanish Infanta + Dazy Crown + Eyre Llew + Niris)
Nambucca, 596 Holloway Road, Upper Holloway, London, N7 6LB, England
Thursday 11th May 2017, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

A new psychedelic rock night, launching at Nambucca in upper Holloway this month, attempts to capture the whole of the range within the genre. Good luck with that – Baba Yaga are still scooping up variations after years of plugging away at it.

That said, SIKE!’s debut night scintillates across a determined four-act psych spectrum from gritty backstreet hardness to sunkissed airiness. There’s the lysergic gutbucket garage sludge of The Spanish Infanta; the gentler post-punk-meets-West Coast-y songs of Dazy Crown, the soaring Icelandic-inspired raptures and wreckage of Nottingham’s Eyre Llew; and the Balearic chillout of instrumental duo Niris (a teaming of guitarist/multi-instrumentalists Nick Engel and Chris Hatwell which covers a broad range between uplit flamenco-inspired guitar duets, ambient sunrise electronica, and breezy dance songs). Examples below.






 
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Snap Crackle & Pop Live presents:
Agar Agar + Lucien & The Kimono Orchestra + Is Tropical (DJ set)
The Moth Club, Old Trades Hall, Valette Street, Hackney, London, E9 6NU, England
Tuesday 16th May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Agar Agar + Lucien & The Kimono Orchestra + Is Tropical DJ set, 16th May 2017Over in Hackney, the Snap Crackle & Pop label are running a Cracki Records night featuring a couple of French and Belgian acts who explore luminous, involved dance-and-groove styles (plus a DJ set from squat-party experimentalists turned international poptronicists Is Tropical).

The ’80s synth pop/acid disco hybrid of Agar Agar mixes resurrected old analogue tech with art school smarts and fluid contemporary sensibilities on identity and expression. Blending electro sunniness with the feeling of a haunt in the full noon brightness, there’s also (as with Elephant) an ineffable bruised melancholy creaming off the top. Their songview’s full of interesting propositions – from Prettiest Virgin’s dancefloor ballad of yearning, slightly predatory female longing (complete with suggestive, part-animated video clip of lost girl, naked dancers, dolphins and fleshy tunnelling) to the surreal night journey of I Am That Guy (with its burnishings of ominous analogue hornsynth, its intimations of housebreaking, and the profanity-laden, deracinated blues-growl of its cross-gender vocal).



 
Like Agar Agar, Lucien & The Kimono Orchestra draw on the 1980s (predominantly in their attempts to recapture impressions of French cinema and Japanese funk) but also look back towards the ’70s. Like Carl Hudson’s Moon Unit, they breathe new life into Lonnie Liston Smith cosmic jazz-funk, retool a handed-down Horace Silver vocabulary, and flood jazzy cascades and stabbing Wurlitzer syncopations through contemporary dance club sensibilities. On their vocal collaborations – such as Ship, with FM Laeti – they coast towards a Morcheeba cool. Left to their own devices, they’ll veer towards warm, skittish brain-grooves, occasionally like a slightly less oblique French take on Weather Report (or, as on Galaxies, like Brand X or the more fusionesque moments of Genesis).



 
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electric:indigo + A'bear + Lisa Busby, 18th May 2017

The Engine Room + Austrian Cultural Forum + The Wire presents:
electric:indigo + A’bear + Lisa Busby (DJ Set)
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 18th May 2017, 8.00pm
information

If you’re more interested in an evening of female musicians working way out in the left-field, IKLECTIK are offering the first British gig in twenty years for Austrian electro-polymath Susanne Kirchmayr – a.k.a. electric:indigo. Composer, DJ, producer and founder of female:pressure (the go-to directory for women in electronic music), on this occasion she’ll be performing “a unique version of her six-channel sound art piece ‘109.47 degrees’. The title of the ultra-wide hyper-stereo piece refers to “the ideal tetrahedral angle in foams as described in Plateau’s laws”. From a set of small acoustic particles ‘109.47 degrees’ creates complex sonic structures that “live on friction, cohesion and constant movement”…” Suzanne will also be being interviewed by ‘The Wire’s Emily Bick.


 
In support, “vocal/techno/experimental/rap/rainbow workout” artist Janine A’Bear will be performing a synths-and-voicewarp-and computers set of “electronic poetry” boasting “carefully constructed verse combined with themes of a cosmic nature.” That’s quite a lot of grab-quotes there. I’ve also grabbed a few examples of her work and laid them out here – shimmering, layered rivulets of synthesis at a post-techno pulse rate, there’s plenty in there, but if you want to explore her verse it sounds as if you’ll have to tease it out of the soundscaping with a wool-comb.

 
Working the DJ decks for the evening is musician, Goldsmiths music lecturer and Editions Of You head Lisa Busby; also known for her work with The Nomadic Female DJ Troupe, noise/improve/playback crew Rutger Hauser and electro-Dada duo Sleeps In Oysters (as well as a solo career as singer-composer exploring “the fringes of song… using domestic or outdated playback media as instruments, but also work(ing) in text-based score, installation and site specific performance…”). Come and listen to her uncrate her mind.

If you want to dig a little deeper, it’s worth noting that this concert is part of international sound art exhibition The Engine Room, running between 4th May and 1st June between IKLECTIK and the nearby Morley College.
 

July 2016 – upcoming London gigs – CV FREQS modular synth meet and performances at New River Studios (31st) featuring Colloid, Finlay Shakespeare, Gregg Wilson, Pouya Ehsaei, Phil Durrant’s Sowari Modular, Form Constants, the Deep Learning superblip and possibly Eden Grey

23 Jul

I shouldn’t let it bother me, but I was worried that the recent slew of clean acoustic nu-folk gigs which I’ve been covering were making this blog look a bit too cosy. It’s perversely comforting to find that the electronic ends of things can be just as cute.

Eden Grey presents:
CV FREQS London
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Sunday 31st July 2016, 2:00 pm to 11:00 pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information here, here and here

CV FREQS, 31st July 2016, LondonHosted by Eden Grey (a budding classical composer whose life changed when she fell in love with electro and dubstep), CV FREQS appears to be a globetrotting all-day modular synth meet. Since Eden’s move to London, it’s begun to base itself more in the city: the last one, back in May, was down on the south bank at IKLECTIK, while this month it’s pitching up in a different riverbank locale in the north. CV FREQS starts off by defining itself as covering “innovations in modular synthesis design, focusing on Eurorack format, custom synthesisers and embracing the DIY spirit” but rapidly gets excited and starts enthusing about being “a wonderfully cacophonous event focusing on the tools that are ideal for sound design and music creation.” and ends up frothing about “a carnival of soundwaves and control voltages”. As if it were a soundclash – or a picnic – attendees are invited to bring their own synths and speakers along.

Apparently, it would also be nice if you could bring a table. Never mind soundclashes. This is starting to sound like a church jumble sale in Hampshire, albeit one that’s about to go all sonic-bacchanalia.

At root, this is part encounter group and part informal trade show in which hardened or nascent electronicians can wander around, trying out and picking up those innocuous-looking, technoporn-titled hardware or software plugins which bring joy to a sound-masher’s heart (and a battery of warped noises to their woofers). This is where to get previews and demonstrations of convulsion generators, wavefolders, stargigglers, deflector shields, quantimators, proton gabblers, spectral devastators, squishmagogs and source-of-uncertainty modules plus all of the other gizmos that sound as if they’ve sprouted from a game of ‘Elite’ back in 1983 along with a starship cargo of Ceti rabbits and Baltah’sine Vacuum Krill. Yes, really – I only made a couple of those names up.

CV FREQS, London, 31st July 2016

Cheap geek-to-geek shots aside, CV FREQS is the kind of event which quietly – and effectively – changes a musician’s life. Wandering around in the crowds at the show there’ll be at least one nascent electronic musician about to finally finds the device, devices or piece of advice which unlock the doors to a new technique: the key to making them sound or work like themselves rather than a follower. Gaining the right implement, the right process, the right move – it’s probably more important than gaining a hero. That’s something to remember the next time I’m tempted to make a smutty joke about ring modulators.

As a bonus that’s far more than a simple sideshow, attendees have the chance to see a range of modular synth performers in action, beyond the straight demos. The range available might not compete with a festival in terms of numbers, but would easily match one in terms of sonic breadth. This is heightened by the fact that many of these players aren’t just end-users but genuine solder-and-code sonic innovators, building or programming the tools which they use.

Finlay Shakespeare from Future Sound Systems offers spacey zap-crackle-and-pop dancetronica, while Colloid (the performance alter-ego of Ginko Synthese’s Jan Willem Hagenbeek) pursues “an ongoing search for noises, clicks and evolving sounds… deep drones with uplifting arpeggios and cut up beats.” Jan doesn’t mention the squiggling, lapping clouds of avant-garde piano (perhaps because they don’t fit the twangy modular remit), but they’re a significant part of the puzzle as well. The rapid-fire music of Gregg Wilson is stimulating, cheeky and mischievous: a typical piece sounds like an argument between at least eight bits of blipping, boing-ing minimalism, and is likely to turn into a massed affectionate chiptune brawl-cum-pub singalong.


 

Dedicated improviser, software-synth guru and former Ticklish man Phil Durrant will be bringing along his Sowari Modular project for its debut live performance. A spinoff from his Trio Sowari (in which he usually plays with saxophonist Bertrand Denzler and percussion/device-fiddler Burkhard Beins), this setup sees Phil experiment with Sowari ideas alone with his synth. Also playing is Iran-born, London-based polydisciplinary artist Pouya Ehsaei, for whom music is one of a number of interlocking forms (among other qualification, he’s got a music doctorate for the University of York, a prime training ground for contemporary classical and experimental musicians). On 2014’s ’There’ – his first record under his own name – Pouya analysed and reflected both the ancient and recent history of his birth country by processing and pulverising samples of traditional Iranian music (including two Ahmad Shamloo prison poems) to tap into culture and repression, melancholia and rage. On this occasion, however, he’s more likely to be playing as his Seated Figure project – ambiguous analogue techno which juxtaposes an eerie mix of springiness, queasy pitch-and-key shifts, and a baleful solitary tone.


 

It’s not entirely clear who Deep Learning are, but the clues point towards a full or partial teamup of two trios – the Sydney-based electronic/noise/pop/“fantasy beat” band PVT (whose Richard Pike recently relocated to Britain), the London-based Hrím (singer Ösp Eldjárn, programmer/Brian Eno sidekick Cherif Hashizume, and singer/multi-instrumentalist Anil Sebastian of London Contemporary Voices and assorted Imogen Heap projects)- and Merkaba Macabre (a.ka. Steven McInerney, founder of the Hackney Film Festival and the Psyché Tropes experimental record label). The three tracks below will either point the way towards the collaboration, or completely misguide us.


 

Throughout the event, Newport audio-visualist duo Form Constants (Ginko‘s synth tinkerer and circuit-bender Aidan R. Taylor and video artist Kim Da Costa, who call themselves “a plethora of electrified grit for the senses”) will be using their self-built video synths to run “hypnotic light bands” around the venue. As for Eden Grey, there’s no evidence that she’s going to be actually performing at the party she’s throwing, but my guess is that she won’t be able to resist. Whether or not that’s true, here’s a taste of some of her recent work (in the techno vein, though she’s also been known to put a post-Wendy Carlos spin on Erik Satie).



 

REVIEW – Jimmy The Hideous Penguin: ‘Colours’ EP, 2013 (“a harbourful of soused and bobbing vinyl”)

29 Aug
Jimmy The Hideous Penguin: 'Colours'

Jimmy The Hideous Penguin: ‘Colours’

With a name like that, you expect an MC with a slew of stories. A brilliant, squat little microphone hassler compensating for his own lack of sleek, straightforward charm with a quacking, manic inventiveness and left-field imagination. You expect one story, at least.

Instead, Jimmy The Hideous Penguin is a turntablist; using that ludicrous name as a billboard to cover the heads-down, ’phones-on business of scratching, filtering and triggering. A member of DJ quartet Vince Mack Mahon (and one of the masterminds behind the Community Skratch turntable initiative) he’s from Galway. Appropriately, ‘Colours’ sounds like a sketch of Galway on a moderately bad day – soggy and drizzled-misted, but still bright and creative – but you can only stretch his hometown associations so far.

Ducking any of Galway’s high-culture Eire-isms (and, to be fair, many of Vince Mack Mahon’s hip-hop inspirations) Jimmy’s music instead listens eastwards towards Rhine-Ruhr electronica, while picking up occasional bits of English scruff on the needle. It also listens downwards (into well-travelled vinyl grooves) and inwards (through a radio dial set to a perpetually-displaced rural 1970s). Its electrophonic wanderings owe a fair bit to Kraftwerk, a little bit to BBC Radiophonics and quite a large bit to those early Jimmy Cauty-era Orb recordings. Adding a raw backbone of analogue synth-steps and thick, flittering drones to his eddies of turntable work, beat loops and found noises, Jimmy works up some interesting slop behind that cartoon billboard. Instead of those MC stories, you get scenery to make stories – an occasionally playful plunderphonic montage; a harbourful of soused and bobbing vinyl; a frown of uneasy concentration.

While there are some visitations from the drum-burrs and rhythmic grapples of drum and bass, dubstep and techno, Jimmy’s music prefers to wander off on its own. Moving along messier roads, it kicks up a little historic debris as it goes. Red, in particular, sounds like flotsam; washing up out of swells and reversals of wadded-up torch songs, old shellac albums part-drowned in the tide. Jimmy moves the music drunkenly around a European receiver, shuffling aural zones. First he’s playing frail electronic trumpets against twanging, nasal staccatos; then he’s manhandling a sneaking strand of funk drum, a hungry worm of double-time rattle accelerating it from within. Then he’s meandering through abandoned dockscapes at the back of a dark wind, and finally ends in a bend of misdirected psychedelic organ.

On much of the EP (in which one piece strays into another in jostling transitions), ’70s fantasy seems to be rubbing up against ’70s slump. When a stray Dalek shows up at the end of Green – grating out “they are approaching” – it sounds both menacing and surly. It even sounds impotent; like a grumpy gate-guard on the inside of a power-station picket line, slouched in its own little pocket of hate and with a tepid thermos of well-stewed tea clamped onto its sucker, watching strikers slouch into position for the start of a day of mutual glaring. The rest of the piece feels similarly boxed-in – a pained, brontosaurine lumber of panel-beating snare drum and warping sub-bass, weighed down by an oppressive dark-ambient echo and drifting off into a carbon-monoxide grind.

On the subject of ‘Doctor Who’, I could have sworn that I heard a far more obscure ’60s Whovian critter show up, too – ECCO, the incomprehensible computer from ‘The Ice Warriors‘ with the infuriating papery stutter which (even in 1967) made it sound like a remix victim. Presumably, Jimmy’s too young to remember this first-hand: if he’s not been crate-digging deeper into the Beeb’s sound library, maybe he’s been digging up and scratching someone else’s memories.

It’s equally likely that Jimmy’s stumbled across a bit of the Galway countryside that is forever 1978, or at least has a damp box of that year’s proggier vinyl dumped there. Quite early on during Blue’s multi-part sprawl, some of the more oceanic swirls from Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Equinoxe’ waft through the mix. Later on, Jimmy will varispeed a eerie floating snatch of psychedelic folk (reed-boned flutes and acoustic guitar, like a conjunction of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Ommadawn’, Popol Vuh and ‘The Wicker Man’) before trickling a clip of muffled Rakim-esque rap-and-chatter over twinkles of fairytale guitar lifted straight from Yes’ ‘Circus Of Heaven’.

At the start, however, Blue is lo-fi, dodgem-car techno with a bassline like someone clubbing moles with a car door It’ll make a shift into chugging steamtrain funk, some rare old-school DJ scratching (“wicky-wicky” and all) and the sort of downbeat synth stagger that groans “hangover” at you. Wobbling out from the layering, voices sing with so much gauziness that you can’t tell whether they’re Irish or Lebanese. Others mutter wanly and stagger around the kitchen, failing to fry some eggs. From the latter, one glum mumble of “bugger…” turns into a single-word mantra. It travels mournfully round and round the turntable like a dropped glob of peanut butter: part of the soused, engaging sloppiness that gives the EP its own distinctive flavour.

Jimmy The Hideous Penguin: ‘Colours’
CS² Recordings, CS²-009
CD/download EP
Released: 2nd July, 2013

Get it from:
CS² Recordings.

Jimmy The Hideous Penguin online:
Homepage Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Tumblr Bandcamp Last FM YouTube

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