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June 2018 – upcoming London pop gigs – electro-acoustic pop and world-folk with Gazel + Seaker at Birthdays (15th June)

13 Jun

Another quick, late-in-the-day signal boosting – this time for an interesting-sounding female double bill of experimental cross-cultural singer-songwriters, over in Dalston (inevitably)… so from here on in it’s the press release.

 
Piu Entertainment UK present:
Gazel + Seaker
Birthdays, 33-35 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston, London, N16 8BJ, England
Friday 15th June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“Turkish-rooted, London-based singer-songwriter Gazel‘s music is a blend of electronic pop with Middle Eastern folk and philosophical influences: a unique sound that gained nominations in the 15th Independent Music Awards with her debut EP, ‘Bone Key‘ (Best Pop EP, Best Electronic Song). She is a mesmeric live performer and multi-instrumentalist. Since 2017, Gazel has headlined shows at the Waiting Room, The Lexington and Borderline, as well as playing support shows at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and a sold-out Hammersmith Apollo.

“At Birthdays Gazel will play new music from her upcoming debut album ‘Gazel’s Book of Souls’, which she’s described as “a collection of songs that tell the story of a curious nomad girl abandoned in the desert, and the strange encounters she has with a cast of surreal characters as she embarks on a journey in search of her soul”. The production team behind it includes Shuta Shinoda (Hot Chip, Ghostpoet) and Haydn Bendall (Kate Bush, Massive Attack). For this show, she’ll introduce projected scenes from a musical she is developing based on the album, with the first in a series of animations developed by close collaborator Acid Lake.



 
“Having cut her teeth as a folk singer-songwriter, Seaker‘s sound has evolved to become ethereal, layered and sparkling. In a world that sits somewhere between Portishead and Sufjan Stevens, Seaker’s intimate songwriting is enveloped in expansive and atmospheric soundscapes. Lead by her unique and rare voice, Seaker’s songs cycle interminably between a sense of loss and hope. Shortly after the May 25th release of her new single, ‘Words’, Seaker will take to the Birthdays stage to bring audiences through soft and roaring, delicate lightness and raging inner fire.”


 

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 2018 – a London alt/art/psych/theatrical/poetic cabaret at Slapper’s Club, with Katharine Blake, Clifford Slapper, Kavus Torabi, Charlie Cawood, The Cesarians duo, My Name Is Swan, Danielle Imara, Jo Below, possibly Suri Sumatra and definitely Piers Atkinson’s hat parade (24th May)

17 May

Slapper's Club, 24th May 2018

Regardless of gentrification, Stoke Newington remains one of the best London places to look if you’re up for hippy-punk cabaret weirdness. This is not just due to the regular string of evening goings-on and shenanigans at The Others, but also because of the recent revival of Slapper’s Club at the Mascara Bar heading up to Stamford Hill. Curated as a joint effort between multi-skilled classical rebel-turned-sultry/scholarly Mediaeval Baebe/Miranda Sex Garden singer Katherine Blake and glam-socialist piano player/Speaker’s Corner veteran Clifford Slapper (possibly best known, despite a whirl of activity, for his work on Bowie songs), it’s a loose-bag celebration of artistic diversity… and it’s free.

For this end-of-May show, Clifford himself will be performing in two separate, sung duo sets performing “the classics”: one with Katherine, and the other with singing theatre/art/novel-writing polymath Danielle Imara (the former Nina Silvert). No-one involved has said what “the classics” are – could be anything from Purcell to Prince, Bolan to music-hall, Bowie to Wiemar, Flesh For Lulu. Could be some of Danielle and Katherine’s own songs. Here are three possibilities…



 
Mediaeval Baebes multi-instrumentalist Charlie Cawood will take a little time out from being London’s beloved jack-of-all-fingerboards, and will celebrate the success of his recent debut album ‘The Divine Element’ (a glorious fresh-fusion magic-carpet ride across half a globe’s worth of music) by pulling together various other heavy playing friends for a set of Indian sitar music. Not sure whether he’s playing the classic ragas, but in case he isn’t, here’s something suitably sitar-ful from ‘The Divine Element’. Alongside is something from Charlie’s Knifeworld bandmate Kavus Torabi, who’s adding this particular Mascara Bar evening as another stop on the meandering solo tour supporting his own recent solo debut (April’s dusky psych-folk EP ‘Solar Divination’, which perhaps drawing some influence from Kavus’ other lives in Gong, Cardiacs, Guapo and others, but not nearly as much as it draws from ominous imagined dusk rituals and mysterious old ghosts on the darker hippy trails).



 
Also on hand are a stripped-down acoustic version of the ferally witty Cesarians – just singer Charlie Finke and pianist Justine Armatage, treating us to a more intimate take on the band’s ambitious, expansive knife-dancing pop. Rounding off the main musical acts, Jo Below (probably accompanied by Claudette the concertina) will sit down, tell you stories, recite her poems and sing songs, and along the way “regale you sweetly with surprising lewdness”. There’ll probably be “tales of captains and nomads and loves of her not-so-sure life” and perhaps some traditional stuff, as well as accounts of winking etiquette for the Tube.

 
Hopefully able to make it on the night will be dancer and all-round burlesque-rian Suri Sumatra; while definitely on the performance roll is celebrity milliner Piers Atkinson with his alternative catwalk routine (“Salon Show: A Masc-Querade where our in-house superstars will treat you to an extraordinary hat parade accompanied by a live musical atrocity.”).



 
Capping the night’s gambit is poet Jan Noble performing ‘My Name Is Swan’, a poetic monologue that’s already done the rounds of various Swan pubs in London and elsewhere. “Drawing on Jan’s fifteen years experience teaching poetry and creative writing in prisons and on psychiatric wards, ‘My Name Is Swan’ describes a twenty-four hour journey across London. An odyssey of loss and belonging, lies and loyalty, ownership and neglect, Brexit and heartbreak, drugs and the suburbs, boredom, football violence, vandalism, happiness, isolation, addiction, rivers, shopping trolleys, love, hope and the metropolitan malaise… addressing the growing social and economic disparity of the modern city, it is most of all a beautifully evocative portrait of London, the struggles it presents and the solutions it offers.” The work’s also been filmed by Adam Carr with additional musical contributions by Samuel Kilcoyne and Takatsuna Mukai: I’m not sure whether we’re just getting Jan on his own, or whether we get bits of the film or music too, or whether we get all three.

 
Katharine Blake and Clifford Slapper present:
‘Slappers’ Club’
Mascara Bar, 72 Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington, London, N16 6XS, England
Thursday 24th May 2018, 7.30pm
– free entry – information here
 

May 2018 – two rare London showings for Chinese punks Birdstriking (20th & 22nd May) with Radar Men From The Moon, One Unique Signal and The Wolfhounds

16 May

I hate punk. No, scratch that. I hate what punk too often turns into – the institution of punk, the ossification of what ought to be immediate, the sense of discovery and an armful of bright options that stales and turns into an array of choking conservative forms; the way it all ages too quickly and turns into the faded favourite shirt you wear out of stubbornness.

It’s not supposed to be that way: it should always feel like a shot of energy into the moment, or a flare of wising up. I sometimes feel that it should only be a transient thing, but a transformative transient thing – a kind of liberating wind-tunnel which you hurtle through en route to finding who you are, so that you can be someone whom you’d never otherwise have had the imagination and purpose to become. Stretching out that moment, that process, somehow seems to stop the result. I get bored by most punk, energy or no energy. When it does get a grip on me, it’s when it drags me in to witness that firing of possibilities. I always wonder why, and how, it should last any longer.


 
Chinese punks Birdstriking have been together since 2009; some way off the sixteen active years of Fugazi, let alone the forty-two of UK Subs, but a span which, in terms of the early punk waves, would have practically rendered them elder statesmen. Despite this, they still sound as fresh as if they were in their first flush – a glorious, splintery, shimmery noise like an rotary engine made from flying gobbets of molten silver, topped with a stormtossed thrill of Sino-Anglo vocal. On their rare trips over here they’re the subject of documentaries, or are fêted in word-of-mouth samizdat as if they were princes from the East: their shows immediately garlanded as must-see events. It’s tempting, I guess, to treat them as something exotic – different from the Western malcontents we’re used to – and whenever you hear a thrilling echo of Chinese folk melody ringing through the smog of guitar bash or shaping a vocal line, it’s even more tempting to pursue that angle.

It’s also tempting to try to cast them as rebels against the suffocating monocultural paternalism of the latterday Chinese state, but that’s not easy to make stick. Having had their debut record banned due to a single, fairly unspecifically political song, Birdstriking have shrugged their shoulders, said a few things about anger being for people’s younger days, and are now opting for more innocent-sounding themes – sports enthusiasm, the thrill of personal energy, the mixed soothings and pain of family. You could, if you squinted, cast them as apologists for a kind of positive Chinese conformism. I’m guessing that that’s not true either. I suspect that a kind of subtlety is at work amongst the noise – discussions in the timbre of arguments, and in the implications of personal joy within a collective . They want to keep on doing what they do, to become something more. It’s not in the rhetoric, it’s in the sound.


 
Regardless, in each of the two London gigs they’re playing over the coming week, Birdstriking will be interfacing with a different Western counter-cultural mindset. At the Sebright show (where they’ll be at the bottom of the bill), the tone’s definitely leaning towards the psychedelic, the noise-surfy and the shaggy rebel-academic. Gnod-affiliated Dutch avant-garde music collective Radar Men From The Moon will be deconstructing psychedelia and acid house: part of the group curating the Eindhoven Psych Lab, they’re currently touring and touting ‘Subversive II’ (the last in a triple-run of themed albums). London psychedelic droners One Unique Signal (who also moonlight as the instrumental backing for The Telescopes) will also be joining in, continuing their sixteen-year voyage into noisy minimalist repetition with added layered impulses from space rock, post-rock and kosmische.


 
At the Windmill – where Birdstriking are headlining – expect a dip into the more stripped, loquacious end of post-punk smarts, since they’re being supported by The Wolfhounds. Post-punk veterans from the mid-’80s, currently thirteen years into a resurrection, the Wolfhounds are now grizzled smartarses in their early fifties. Smart enough to embrace their middle-agedness without succumbing to it (meaning that they’re in a place where they can sing about self-parody rather than just becoming one), they’re also armed with a lean, laser-guided wit and a deceptively sophisticated perspective. Although they’d hate the comparison, they’re proof positive of that old bastard P.J O’Rourke’s adage about age and guile beating youth, innocence and a bad haircut.


 
If The Wolfhounds are garage rock, theirs is an omnivorous man-cave of a garage. It’ll be rammed with books and time-tested music, and inside it they’ve honed a pitch-perfect blend of sarcasm and hidden sincerity, and a way of loading their snarling guitar chassis with bursts of soul, a capella political folk and digressions into the digital sound palette which frontman David Callahan mastered during his interim years with Moonshake. Though the songs on their current album ‘Untied Kingdom’ (one of 2016’s finest, sharpest records at the punkier end – perhaps a ‘Sandanista!’ without the sprawl) echo, and probably intentionally, Brecht, Blake and Shelley they’re never pompous or swotty. An equal template, at least in terms of directed smarts, are the wise, rowdy Mekons, whose own forty-one year career evolution is an example of how punk doesn’t have to tumble into the pickling jar; proof positive, as The Wolfhounds continue to prove, that those punky impulses don’t have to turn into flab and complacency.


 
One more thing – in case you thought the psychedelic-noise side of things had been left behind at the Sebright Arms, the interim DJ sets at the Windmill come from Sterling “Rosco” Rothwell, the onetime Spacemen 3 and Darkside drummer who’s sometimes resurfaced as himself (for 2004’s The Psychedelic Ubik) or as a guest performer with various acts from Sky Saxon to Geraint Watkins and Martin Belmont.

Dates:

  • Radar Men From The Moon + One Unique Signal + Birdstriking, The Sebright Arms, 33-35 Coate Street, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9AG, England, Sunday 20th May 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Birdstriking + The Wolfhounds + DJ Rosco, The Windmill, 22 Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, London, SW2 5BZ, England, Tuesday 22nd May 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here

 

April/May 2018 – some more immersive London gigs of various kinds – brain voyages with You Cry Wolf, Joe Corbin and Bokoyono (23rd April); righteous resistance with ‘Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement’ (6th May)

19 Apr

Concerts which go a little deeper… a trip to the heart of the illuminated brain in Brixton and a remounting of past dissent in Poplar, both of which you’re invited to soak yourselves in.

* * * * * * * *

You Cry WolfMath-rock usually constructs and communicates meaning from the abstraction of numbers, even though it’s generally played to non-mathematical people. Ducking underneath song forms, it communicates less through stories, textures and timbres than through its attempts to mine the ecstatic human response to pattern-building. For Brighton math-rock trio You Cry Wolf this clearly isn’t enough. From the start, they’ve not followed the usual mathy practise of turning their back on vocals and words, with guitarist Owain Arthur delivering a near-continuous murmur of cryptically anxious lyric over the bare-bone instrumental notes.

Building from their earlier, more straightforward mathwork (and from their occasional taste for plaintively en-mathening mainstream pop such as Coldplay’s Trouble), You Cry Wolf have broadened out into their own brand of rock theatre projects – ingenious and immersive low-budget affairs in which projected film, sound, venue decoration and even live scent have become integral to the work; a sort of DIY 4D cinema. Their quarter-hour piece ‘A Fresh Start (for Peter Russo)’ (which toured around various fringe festivals in 2015) delved into the psyche and day-to-day experiences of an obsessive, alcoholic middle-aged gardener.

On spec, it sounds like an earnest ‘70s-to-‘80s collision between a lost piece of melancholic English prog and a stern German art cinema – or perhaps a glummer, hushed take on a Mars Volta extravaganza. The proggy theatrical elements were increased by the fact that the band played inside a pod of angled sheets, obscured from view by projected filmwork (from video artist and onetime Polar Bear collaborator Jacek Zmarz) and bolstered by wafts of floral scent as they tried to induce their audiences into following the story through Peter’s eyes and senses: sharing his day-to-day impressions and actions, coming to understand his personal search for meaning and a possible redemption.


 
From the accounts I’ve heard, it was quite an experience, moving from the earthbound and mundane to the magical. Here’s what ‘The Line Of Best Fit’ made of it during its home stint in Brighton, and see above for a video clip of the film and music content, (though it’s evidently a pale shadow of the mirrored and scented storytelling environment which the band summoned into being for each performance.

Transcendence was the climax and key to the ‘Fresh Start’ show; heartened by the success of ‘A Fresh Start’, You Cry Wolf expanded to a related but even larger conceit for 2017’s ‘Only God’ (which ran to a couple of shows in Brighton and south London in June last year and now makes a return to Brixton as the centrepiece of a three-hour concert tagged as “a new fantasy to lose yourself inside”).

You Cry Wolf + Guests
Upstairs at the Ritzy, Brixton Oval, Brixton, London, SW2 1JG London, England
Monday 23rd April 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here

In many respects, it sounds like a souped-up twenty-first century take on those 1960s psychedelic gigs which attempted to induce altered states with oil-slide projections and the flickering low-tech visual pulses of dreamachines. With ‘Only God’, the band are attempting to stage “a lurid dream-world, a hallucination comprised of fragments of a waking-life reordered into dreamy irreality… a vivid journey inside the dreaming mind.” As with ‘Fresh Start’, the live band setup is augmented by a custom-designed set (this time devised by club installation specialists Moonstone), video projections (specifically commissioned from Cargo Collective artist Agathe Barré) and scene-setting aromas.

According to the band “the concert marks an exploration of the significance of dreams and their effectiveness as tools for introspective self-discovery. As we are prone to futilely create meaning from our dreams, so too is the audience encouraged to create their own conclusions from the fragments of the story provided in its performance. Making use of pithy and surreal lyrics, sensational abstract imagery and fresh emotive rock-music, You Cry Wolf invite the audience to take centre-stage as they are transported inside the narrative, to see through the eyes and into the soul of the sleeping protagonist. There is no stage, no spot light; You Cry Wolf have created a window into their music and inside their protagonists’ fictions, where human experience and narrative supersede traditional performance convention, where concept and character-construction form the all-consuming conditions for this music-based escapade to unfold.”

In support – and perhaps at least partially integrated into the bigger idea – are Bokoyono (an “instrumental psych/desert/surf-rock band, ready to rip you a new one”) and modern electric blues guitarist Joe Corbin (on this occasion armed with “a set specially prepared to rip open the doors of perception until all inhibitions disappear and your mind is malleable for the moulding!” Moonstone member Cal Lewis (also of and loft-party specialists Solis and Palooza) pulls double duty by taking over the DJ slot, which is intended to be as immersive as the rest of the evening…


 
* * * * * * * *

From psychedelic innerspace to direct action and a spot of tea… a change of tone.

Over at Poplar Union in early May, there’s what appears to be an insurrection boutique. Deptford’s Black Smock Band (“South London’s premier gay socialist folk band”) are collaborating with Bethnal Green’s Daedalus Theatre Company to revive a spot of English radicalism and invite you to participate.

'Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile  Incitement', 6th May 2018

“The Black Smock Band and Daedalus Theatre Company have worked with Tower Hamlets residents and students from the Applied Performance course at Queen Mary University to create a truly unique, local gig-theatre performance, teaming up with a seventeenth-century rebel to uncover England’s history of protest and ask what it all means today. Expect a song, a dance and perhaps the start of the revolution! They also invite you share your thoughts on East London life over a cup of tea at their pre-show tea party, along with a spot of placard-making and protest-song writing too, if you fancy.

“Part of a long-term project to explore past and present stories of protest and dissent, this performance has been made with a special focus on current and historical protest and dissent in Tower Hamlets. It was developed at Ovalhouse in South London through a series of scratch performances leading to a commission to create a full production for Brixton City festival. The project is an ever-changing, locality-responsive piece of gig-theatre using historical texts and songs alongside new material, using gatherings over tea with local people to inform each new version of the performance.”

The piece is inspired by Gerrard Winstanley, an oft-obscured figure from English history. As one of the founders of the Diggers movement, he led the squatting and constructive reclamation of enclosed private land during that seventeenth century period in which England teetered between the traditions of monarchy and the possibilities of communitarianism. Viewed back through the lens of a twenty-first century London (one being gradually consumed by the kind of landgrabs and land-banking which insidiously push out and exclude its long-term occupants), he and some of his arguments have gained a new resonance and timeliness.

Expect current issues to seep into the story, primarily the erasure of working-class home neighbourhoods and the displacement of their communities by gentrified developments (the transformation of the Heygate Estate into the gentrified Elephant Park, the looming threat of a similar outcome via the Haringey Development Vehicle, and – for Poplar residents – three decades’ worth of the marginalisation of poorer householders and tenants by the glittering elite massing of the Dockland developments).

Travelling around with band, actors and crew is The Mobile Incitement Unit – “a portable installation by artist Andy Bannister containing everything needed to stage a performance, run participation workshops and, of course, foment revolt”. Art is a hand grenade, but sometimes it’s a tea urn.

All going well, the piece should tour nationally in 2019 – for the moment, you can be a part of it here in London, or get more involved by inviting them over to your neighbourhood via the page here.

Black Smock Band & Daedalus Theatre Company present:
‘Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement’
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Sunday 6th May 2018, 1.00 pm-2.30pm (tea party), 3.00pm (performance)
– information here and here

Here’s a video explaining some more about the project (and offering a peek at the M.I.U.)…


 

March 2018 – upcoming experimental music gigs in London – “dreams and shadows” music and film evening at Corpora Aliena #2 with Liz Helman, Bernhard Living/Marinesca Marinesca, Christine Webster and Olga Federova/Yannick Franck’s Outlaw Compound (24th March)

19 Mar

Corpora Aliena #2, 24th March 2018

Bernhard Living presents:
‘Corpora Aliena 2’: Liz Helman + Bernhard Living + Christine Webster + Olga Fedorova/Outlaw Compound
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 24th March 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

The second evening in wind-multi-instrumentalist-turned-digital-composer/curator Bernhard Living’s ‘Corpora Aliena’ evenings at IKLECTIK (I missed the first one) continues to present artists who work across a wide range of creative disciplines (in this case, composers who are also filmmakers) while simultaneously keeping up a fair gender balance. Evening no. 2 is “a concert of analogue and digital experimental music performances based on the theme of dreams and shadows… composers who produce subdued sound textures and thoughtful sonic meditations.”

Bernhard is a onetime contemporary classical flute virtuoso with a foot in the British improv scene: from the ’60s onwards he performed Boulez, Stockhausen, Berio, Cage and Varèse, and worked with Cornelius Cardew, Hugh Davies, Barry Guy, Mike Westbrook and Linder Sterling’s Ludus. His work from the ’90s onwards has been minimal, electronic and concentrates predominantly on sound colour and sonic textures. That said, he claims inspiration from a vast range of American, European and Russian influences (including jazz, Soviet avant-garde visual arts and techno, the last of which he’s attempted to reinvent as an “evolved non-dance form… one that exists within a different cultural context and along a different time continuum.”

The evening features screenings of two works in which Bernhard collaborates with Russian artist and photographer Marinesca Marinesca (who herself cites a different range of inspirations including Hitchcock, Murnau and Tarkovsky plus “the gothic, the works of Dutch masters, the gentle poetry of Goethe and the dark stories of Edgar Allan Poe”, has a mood inclination towards the “classical subtle world” and who appears in her own work as using a “graceful, autistic androgyne” alter ego character. Marinesca also displays a readiness to draw directly from her own dreams, something she appears to share with Bernhard. Their ten-minute ‘Untitled Dream (Homage to Erik Satie)’, with music by Bernhard and images by Marinesca, is based on two separate dreams, each experienced by the two artists separately on the same night. They’ll also be debuting another new 2018 work called ‘The Metaphysics of Colour’. For some pointers towards what to expect, here’s their earlier minimal mood-and-motion piece ‘Dream Door’.


 
Self-taught London composer and video artist Liz Helman will be presenting tracks from her recently released album ‘Daylight Dreaming‘, which continues her place-sensitive delving into music based on field recordings and her aim of “following the thread of the sound to its ultimate destination, which she likes to think of as sonic alchemy.” She’ll also show three of the short experimental films she made in London between 2007 and 2014, visually exploring “notions of dislocation, memory and displacement”: two from 2014 (‘Light [Drone]’, which uses the processed sound of a Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp, and ‘Peripheral’) and 2013’s one-minuter, ‘Imprint’.

 
The methods of the Paris-based ambisonic electro-acoustic composer Christine Webster have been influenced by cinema and literature narratives, by the concert possibilities of multiplayer game and virtual reality networks and most recently by the modular synthesis revival. She’ll be mixing between improvised abstractions as well as create live remixes of some of the sound elements from her recent organic/meditative album ‘Iceberg the Drift‘, released earlier this year on Sublunar Society. Christine will also be showing her twenty-six minute 2012 audio-visual piece ‘Fukushima Days’ – a collaboration with Super 8/Rutt Etra video artist Kantoh featuring manipulated footage from the Japanese nuclear disaster, and aiming for “a dark and oppressive feeling, but not without a sense of tragic beauty… a clear support to Fukushima’s endless victims, a warning about the worldwide permanent nuclear threat we have to cope with.”

 
Bernhard will also be screening new material by Russian digital artist Olga Fedorova, including her ‘Outlaw Compound’ project made in collaboration with multifaceted Belgian vocal/electronic musician Yannick Franck (Raum, Orphan Swords, Idiosyncrasia and Y.E.R.M.O.) and inspired by tiki culture, exotica, magick and other manifestations of modern escapist tendencies… the fascination of the industrialised world for a widely fantasised state of primitive innocence that it perceived as a lost paradise.” The first Outlaw Compound album ‘New Primitive‘ was recently released on ZamZamRec.


 

March/April/May 2018 – upcoming Manchester classical-plus gigs from Psappha Ensemble – Boulez, Berio, Takemitsu and a new Tom Harrold piece (22nd March); jazz/rock/punk/street music crossovers with Anna Clyne, Steven Mackey, Fausto Romitelli and special collaborator Mike Walker (20th April); art-gallery interactions with Judd Greenstein, David Fennessy, Michael Gandolfi and others (17th May)

15 Mar

News on spring concerts by Manchester modern classical ensemble Psappha (one of the more gracefully eclectic groups of their kind). Summary (and slightly tweaked press release mashups) follow…

“In a concert conducted by the dynamic young British conductor Jamie Phillips and featuring the young British mezzo-soprano Jessica Gillingwater, Psappha perform a new work from rising-star composer Tom Harrold alongside Pierre Boulez‘s ‘Le Marteau sans maître’, Luciano Berio‘s ‘Naturale’ and Tōru Takemitsu‘s ‘Towards the Sea’.

“Meaning ‘The Hammer Without a Master’, Boulez’ iconic work is a classic of the twentieth century whose sonority and sense of time and direction were profoundly influenced by music from Asia and Africa: named after a text by surrealist poet René Char, it features mezzo-soprano with six instrumentalists in the unusual combination of alto flute, viola, guitar, vibraphone, xylorimba, and percussion. Berio’s ‘Naturale’ pairs live musicians with recordings of Sicilian street vendors highlighting the contrast between flowing folk melodies and the raw, natural voice of the street singer. Takemitsu’s ‘Towards the Sea’ recalls the ebb and flow of the ocean and was commissioned by the Greenpeace Foundation for their Save the Whale campaign.

“Tom Harrold’s new work ‘Dark Dance’ (supported by the Fidelio Charitable Trust) has been commissioned by Psappha to complement the Boulez. Psappha’s Artistic Director Tim Williams says “Tom has more than risen to the challenge… his piece is exhilarating and full of rhythmic energy across its eight-minute span”, while Tom himself adds “this is perhaps one of the most unusual pieces I have ever written. I’ve really taken the opportunity to experiment. It’s been a cleansing and enlightening experience for me and I’m enormously grateful to Psappha for commissioning me to write the piece.”

Here are two previous examples of Tom’s work to provide some pointers: his chamber ensemble piece ‘Bone Meal’ and his bass-trombone-and-tape duet ‘Hard Hit’, both of which demonstrate the lively, dancing wit of his writing and sensibilities.

 

Psappha will continue their ‘Demystifying New Music’ initiative by screening Barrie Gavin’s 2005 biographical film ‘Pierre Boulez: Living in the Present’ prior to the concert: ticketholders can turn up to this free event at 6.00pm.

In April, Psappha will stage ‘A Wonderful Day’, exploring the connections between jazz, rock, classical and street music, and teaming up with conductor Stephen Barlow and with “the best jazz guitarist this side of the Atlantic” – Salford’s own Mike Walker. Mike (plus his reeds-playing cohort Iain Dixon and drummer Mike Smith) will play alongside Psappha on the premiere of a new Walker ensemble composition ‘Autonomy’, which “combines classical music with the improvisation and rhythmic drive of jazz”. Mike Walker also returns as the soloist on Steven Mackey’s classical/rock fusion piece ‘Deal’, while Psappha play alone for the late Fausto Romitelli’s palindromic work ‘Amok Koma’ (which draws inspiration from German punk rock).

The event as a whole is named after the Anna Clyne piece which completes the programme, in which a small ensemble play a hushed, affectionate supportive structure to the integrated tape of the songs and conversation of a Chicago street musician “whose natural, slow voice conveys a sense of both joy and struggle” (and which, much like the fragment of tramp-sung hymn in Gavin Bryar’s ‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’, gives the work its emotional core and its sense of small, fragile, hopeful humanity persevering against a largely indifferent world).

Here’s the previous Psappha-commissioned Walker orchestral piece ‘Ropes’ (featuring the ensemble’s “22 strings” in collaboration with his jazz quintet); plus other recordings of the Romitelli and Clyne pieces.




 
For May’s ‘Here and Now’ event, the audience is invited to “take a tour of the Whitworth art gallery through music and art. Promoted by music therapist Rachel Swanick as part of the ‘Here and Now’ wellbeing project this is a unique event where visual art and music sit side by side, sparking your imagination and enticing you to look again, with new eyes… Psappha invites you on a musical adventure through the gallery, stopping off along the way to experience each new work performed live by world-class musicians.

“Played alongside Joshua Frankel’s award-winning film, Judd Greenstein’s ‘Plan of the City’ imagines the architecture of New York blasting off into outer space and resettling on Mars! David Fennessy’s ‘5 Hofer Photographs’ takes inspiration from Evelyn Hofer’s eclectic photos of 1960s Dublin which will be projected as part of the performance, and Michael Gandolfi’s ‘History of the World in Seven Acts’ prompts the viewer/listener to experience the natural ebb and flow between colourful geometric animation and music.”

In addition, four new pieces inspired by items in the Whitworth Collection are being contributed by “young, upcoming composers”David John Roche (a duo piece), Dani Howard, Will Frampton and Bethan Morgan-Williams. Information on these is still scanty, but here are samples of previous compositions by the four (two of them performed by Psappha):


 
Full dates:

  • ‘Boulez – Le Marteau sans maître’ – Hallé St Peter’s, 40 Blossom Street, Manchester, M4 6BF, England, Thursday 22nd March 2018, 7:30pm – information here and here
  • ‘A Wonderful Day’ – The Stoller Hall, Chetham’s School Of Music, Long Millgate, Manchester, M3 1DA, England, Friday 20th April 2018, 7:30pm – information here and here
  • ‘Here And Now’ – The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER, Thursday May 17th 2018, 6:30pm – information here and here

 

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