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January to March 2020 – assorted London gigs – Holly Penfield at 100 Club (8th March) and with Ian Ritchie at the Fiddler’s Elbow (10th January); skewed surf, pop and acoustica with Kenny Process Team, Keith John Adams and The Happy Couple (13th January); Balkan/Gaelic folktronics with Arhai (18th January); plus Minute Taker’s ‘Wolf Hours’ in Manchester (24th January)

7 Jan

Holly PenfieldIf you missed Holly Penfield’s London launch gig for her ‘Tree Woman’ album back at Halloween last year – or if you attended and wanted to see it again – then she’s looping back on herself and staging another one at the 100 Club on 8th March. For those unfamiliar with her, here’s what I wrote (indeed, here’s what I recycled) last time.

“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 The whirling mirror-glass synths and saxophones of the old days have been replaced by a gritty post-Americana rock band (which growls, gnaws and struts through her songs like a Cash or Waits ensemble) while Holly herself has mostly forsaken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 & Ian Ritchie, 10th January 2019If you can’t wait until March, Holly and her multi-instrumentalist husband Ian Ritchie (the latter an ex-Deaf School member recently fresh off playing sax on the Roger Waters tour) will be playing another London gig this coming Friday, up at the Fiddler’s Elbow. This one will be an “experimental thirty-minute duo gig of originals with vintage ‘80s drum machine… interesting, quirky,and challenging!”

Although Holly and Ian are going out under their Cricklewood Cats moniker (under which they’ve previously released a few synth-jazz swing songs), theirs has been a long and varied partnership also encompassing cabaret, out-and-out jazz balladry, noisy rock diva songs and the bewitching sequencer-torch-pop of the ‘Parts Of My Privacy’ album. So you could expect takes on all of the above and more, including some of Holly’s newer songs. At the moment she’s on a serious creative upswing, and there’s rarely been a better time to see her than now.


 

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Kenny Process Team + Keith John Adams + The Happy Couple, 13th January 2020On the following Monday, the reunited and reinvigorated Kenny Process Team launch their own new album, ‘Travlin’ Light With… Kenny Process Team’. Actually, it’s an old one, recorded as a live session over twenty years ago with the band’s 1998 lineup but lost in the abstracted shuffle of the band’s history, which has seen members swap out, disappear, impale themselves on fences and even join Oasis.

Part avant-surf, part Afro-prog and compared in their time to both The Ventures and Captain Beefheart (while proggies will also find parallels with Television and The League of Gentlemen), there’s more on the Kenny Process back story here. In the present, with the addition of Rhodri Marsden as new guitarist (replacing the late Simon King) and thanks to his existing connections with Lost Crowns and Prescott, they’re further cementing their links with London’s current crop of art/prog/psych/cellularists.



 
Also playing is KPT labelmate Keith John Adams. Once Rhodri’s bandmate in zestful 1990s avant-skifflers Zuno Men, for twenty years now Keith has been a solo act coming at acoustic pop from a gently skewed angle, buffeting around friendly lyrical ideas like a sozzled housefly bumping against a lampshade and turning out understated little song-gems as he does so. His accidental forebears might include Robyn Hitchcock, Kevin Ayers; you might also pretend that he’d been dreamed up from some lazy Walthamstow afternoon when Leon Redbone shared a sofa with the young Bill Oddie.



 

Opening the evening is The Happy Couple, the languid instrumental duo formed by Kenny Process drummer Dave Ross and his life partner Judith Goodman, born out of two decades of inseparable love mingling with the inspiration of the Epping Forest woodscapes where they live. Judith plays a variety of open-tuned guitars, predominantly a Weissenborn acoustic slide guitar but also a 4-string tenor and a 3-string cigar box model (plus a mysterious “early English” example which suggests a rewriting of instrumental history). Leaving his drumkit behind, Dave plays a variety of mouth-held lamellophones: a classic American jaw harp, Indian morchangs in both brass and iron, a Norwegian Munnharpe and a mouth bow harp created in Devon. As for the music, it’s a relaxed evocation of companionship, glissando and boing and intersecting rhythms: or, as Judith comments, “it’s about the sounds that happen when we put our sounds together. We just create a world we want to be in.”



 
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Arhai, 18th January 2020

The following Saturday, British/Serbian electronic folk project Arhai slip into the little cellar at the Harrison to deliver their own electro-acoustic atmospheres. A two-decade-long project led by singer/composer Jovana Backovic, they were a traditional Serbian acoustic octet for their first ten years, gradually shifting into electric terrain before dissolving and allowing Jovana to form the current duo with British multi-instrumental specialist Adrian Lever (mediaeval dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, guitar, tambura, Bulgarian lute etc). Now they’re Balkan-cum-Gaelic, intertwining ancient and technological: or, as they put it “rethinking the archetypal modes of music performance in the context of modernity”. Which sometimes means they’re ultra-accessible and synth-quilty in the familiar Clannad model, and sometimes means that they’re off and racing like a cross between izvorna and a hyperspatial hip hop track.




 
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All of the above events will be in London: for the next one, you’ll need to head up to Manchester, where singer, songwriter and electronic pop creator Ben McGarvey, a.k.a. Minute Taker, is unveiling his multi-media performance ‘Wolf Hours’. Ben is no stranger to mixing theatre and music, having already presented a love-and-ghosts story on tour with ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ featuring animations from Ana Stefaniak. ‘Wolf Hours’ is an even more ambitious undertaking – “a unique performance combining mesmerising film with a dynamic live soundtrack. From forbidden love in the First World War, to the pain and rage of AIDS, to contemporary hedonism and heartbreak, ‘Wolf Hours’ explores the stories of gay men at different points in time through their dreams. This series of stunning new short films (directed by John Lochland, Joe Stringer, Kirk Sylvester, Raphaël Neal and Ben McGarvey) are accompanied throughout by Minute Taker performing an intimate musical and vocal score that both builds the atmosphere and pulls on the heartstrings. Visually explosive and emotionally thrilling, ‘Wolf Hours’ transports the audience through pleasure, grief, lust, joy and our collective historical imagination.”



 
In this interview with ‘Superbia’, Ben expounds on the approach he took when putting together ‘Wolf Hours’, which he describes as “jumbled-up memories, fears and fantasies.. It’s presented a bit like late night TV from back in the ’80s and ’90s (when anything queer was relegated to an after-midnight slot!) with different programmes and images emerging out of the static as you drift in and out of sleep… I also decided to include lots of archive footage in the show, which explores the way homosexuality has been portrayed in the media over the years… all of the stuff that finds its way into the subconscious minds of the characters as they lie awake at night, having an effect on how they view themselves and the gay community.” He’s hoping to take the show out on a broader tour much later this year, but for now this is all that you’re getting…

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Dates:

Holly Penfield & Ian Ritchie: The Cricklewood Cats
The Fiddler’s Elbow, 1 Malden Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3HS, England
Friday 10th January, 2020, 8.20pm
– no information links, just turn up…

Kenny Process Team + Keith John Adams + The Happy Couple
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Monday 13th January 2020, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Folk and Roots presents:
Arhai
The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England
Saturday 18th January 2020, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Minute Taker presents ‘Wolf Hours’
Hope Mill Theatre, 113 Pollard Street, Beswick, Manchester, M4 7JA, England
Friday 24th January 2020, 8:00pm
– information here and here

Holly Penfield
The 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street, Soho, London, W1D 1LL, England
Sunday 8th March 2020, time t.b.c.
– no information links yet
 

September-November 2019 – upcoming post-folk, electrop, electronica gigs – tAngerinecAt on tour across Britain (5th/7th/14th/20th September, 17th/18th/26th October, 16th November) with Flange Zoo, DIANE, Experimental Sonic Machines, Ed Dowie, La Rissa, Yorkshire vs. Essex, Factory Acts, Slow Knife, Harbingers Drum Crew, Tin Mole, Clusterfuck, Hallulugenia, SIN/RED, Hypnotique, Otis Jordan, Saint Bernadette and She Robot

2 Sep

“At three I learned what sex was; /at five – death; / at seven – fascism and violence; /at ten – poverty, labour and hunger…” – tAngerinecAt, I Don’t Want To Be A White Master

Despite best intentions, a lot of folktronica can come across as… well, a bit polite and prissy; as something made by a particular breed of tech-headed enthusiasts, scholars and longtime culture-vultures who wear their tidiness and their geekiness openly. Crinkling synths, and flowery linen, kitchen musings and country walks; deep culture filtered through a tiny screen. It’s not that this invalidates it, as such. Folk culture has been, and remains, a broad cauldronful, as fit for constant renewing as it is for drawing from – and upfront electronics have been part of the tools of the trade for three decades now. It’s just that, as subgenres, folktronica and electrofolk seem particularly prone to diluting message with medium, sacrificing bite for texture; in essence, getting so involved with clubfloor, chillout or culture lab that they lose touch with bones, bothy or battlefield.


 
Fortunately, none of this applies to Anglo-Ukrainian duo tAngerinecAt, who sweep through England, Scotland and Wales for assorted dates across the stretch of autumn this year. After ten years cruising through the underground (five of them under the name of Dark Patrick), androgynous singer/hurdy-gurdy player Eugene Purpurovsky and tin whistle/bagpipe-toting electronicist Paul Chilton are still a constantly creative, intelligent and contrary force. Calling them folktronic, or electrofolk, involves upending the term… or stripping it back to the starting point.

Not that tAngerinecAt wear the label with much comfort themselves. They buck at the “folktronica” tag and, as Paul asserts “we don’t associate ourselves as folk, ever, and there is a good reason for that. We don’t play folk music, we compose our own music – not always based on Western scales but that doesn’t make it folk and neither does our choice of instruments. We often get labelled as this, but it’s a stereotype we are trying to get away from. We are only folk in the broader sense that all music is folk. Also, there isn’t one folk festival that would put us on their lineup…”

Certainly compared to most acts under the name, they’re on another level of impact altogether. An embrace of industrial sound (small keyboards and boxes which shout like giants, plus the rippling scathe of take-no-prisoners effects pedals which they add to their armoury and feed their acoustic instrumentation through) gives them the sonic presence of a no-wave or heavy metal act. They dip into frowning Carpathian mountain culture and various wiry varieties of British heath music, but stir in doses of anarchism, industrial sound and swipes at patriarchal violence. At any given time, in addition to the swirling bare-bones rootsiness you can hear echoes of sounds as diverse as Edith Piaf; the electrogoth stadium boom of Depeche Mode or the targeted upsetter-rants of Crass; the skycracking maximalism of The Young Gods and the angry historical weight of Towering Inferno’s ‘Kaddish’. Bizarrely enough, they also manage to capture elements of both ends of Swans – the booming pallet-drag of the early industrial years, the droning neo-folk of the contemporary band.


 
Then there’s the queer aspect. It’s not brought to the forefront of the band’s publicity, but it ripples through the grain of what they do. Eugene was born Eva, and identified as such in the band’s earlier years; the current tAngerinecAt has a genderfluid air in terms of clothing, movement and expression; and between them Paul and (particularly) Eugene summon up a variety of unexpected vocal characterisations which jolt and yell through the songs, upsetting standard ideas about power structures, protest, sources of ideas and about who might actually be singing. That name, too, queerifys and neonises the concept of a wandering animal spirit as band mascot, inspiration and reflection. tAngerinecAt have already won over gender-studies conferences, folk audiences, experimental-loft huddlers and, strangely enough, prog audiences (who might have a reputation for stolidity, but know and appreciate a good use of musical colouring and form-busting when they encounter it).

Despite the uncompromising drama and starkness inherent in their music, tAngerinecAt exhibit a different aspect when they’re acting as promoters, having run their own Cute Owl evenings and tours for several years now. Maybe it comes from the flexibility of vision and the teamwork ethos which Eugene built up from years of theatre work, but Cute Owl is extraordinarily welcoming to a variety of different acts, approaches and mannerisms when it comes to bringing in gigmates and support acts. It seems that as long as you have a yen for electronics and are sincere in what you do, that you’re part of the family. Hence, a Cute Owl event can encompass calls for revolution, playtime events, glamour stances, inclusive-spirited DIY tinkering and frosted electropop introspection; and hence the pleasing, unexpected diversity of the upcoming tour.

The first of the two London dates, on 14th September, is a relatively straightforward headliner but with a performance art buildup. One of the two supports is a previous Cute Owl gig act called Diane (A Walk Through Twin Peaks), in which two musically omnivorous DJs (NikTheDeks from electrobeat punks LOFE, and Andy “Dumb Blonde” McKinna) put down their record crates in order to team up on electronics, devices and effects-laden double bass for a dream-jazz/cryptronic David Lynch tribute (the solo Nik track below might provide a clue or two). The other is “crypto-zoological” animal-masked performance troupe Flange Zoo. Persistently theatrical creators of dank, humming, psychedelic-radiophonic draggings (within which synths rub up against finger bells, zithers, stylophones, turntable tricks and portentous narratives), at the moment they’re concentrating on their Edgar Allen Poe project: a séance-cum-tribute twisted in on itself. Sonorous readings of Poe short stories swim in ponds of improvised electronic twitchings and meditational pings; ritual resurrections turn into mutual back-slapping sessions.

 
The second London date, on 26th October, is a five-act Cute Owl Festival night. Here, tAngerinecAt are joined by flexible and beloved indie/experimental-pop balladeer Ed Dowie (whose 2017 debut album, ‘The Uncle Sold’ involves “a continually evolving, dream-like journey around a non-specified city (and) paints a picture of a range of characters struggling for certainty in a metropolis beset by continually changing forces, be they political, personal or financial”); by Nottingham “eccentronica chansonneuse” Hypnotique (theremins, clarinet and songs about “the apocalypse, post-feminism, erotic narrative and the banality of everyday life”). Also playing is Peter Rollings’ none-more-DIY project in which he ringmasters a clunking song-riot via his own makeshift/make-do invented instruments, robots and other musical machines while dressed in striking homemade ceremonial horned helms, robes and halberds (as if Moondog had been dressed by Mr Maker).

In addition to Peter’s own ESM set, he’ll be sponsoring and guiding another set by ESM’s robot drummer Ernie, a spindly foil-wrapped automaton who plays like a nervous fork-lift truck attempting a Mexican wave and looks like a 1970s primary school project about Martians.

 
The tour’s opening date, in Leeds, features the ominous ’80s synthpop/post-punk revivalist chimes and buzzes of La Rissa, made by “two misfits… in a dim little attic in Leeds” (originator/singing half Larissa Drozd sounding like a Stevie Nicks avatar entirely blanked out by black lipstick) who surface to carry out “dark, spooky” shows wrapped in crepuscular video art.

Also on board, Yorkshire vs. Essex (named not after a north/south feud, but from the founders’ surnames) offer chugging guitars, bass and white-noise synth garlands interrupted by trombones and flutes, all providing rumpled bedding for Simon Yorkshire’s eccentric songspiels on subjects ranging from “fictional toymakers to Sheffield murderers”, as captured on the recent ‘Dismembered Tales’ album. Shades of Peter Blegvad or Tom Slatter as well as YvE’s cited inspiration list of “Robert Wyatt, Current 93, Scott Walker, Miles Davis, Nick Cave, The Residents, Bjork, Death Grips and Iannis Xenakis.”




 
In Manchester, more dark-toned synthpop nostalgia comes from Factory Acts (who sound like Nico fronting a late ‘80s electro-dance outfit). There’s also a prime example of erudite Manc gobbiness on show via Slow Knife’s spoken-word-over-jazzpop- indie scuffle. Initially sounding like The Fall stranded in New Orleans and trying to get in step with the local pimp walk, they finally come across like a sleeker take on short-lived ‘90s beat-dadaists Campag Velocet: Daniel Tasker’s beat-poet outpourings have a similar (though more focussed) effect as he enounces over a cavalcade of horns, double bass, and slack-skinned drums/slide guitar which call up echoes of Can, The The and Dr John while lapsing occasionally into shrieking interludes of tonal and textural anarchy.



 
In Bristol, live-looper Suzy Condrad – under her She Robot alias – pulls together glockenspiel tinkles, mbira, bottle clinks, live beatboxing, passing sounds and layered banks of girlpop doo-wop and then weaves them into the bones of pre-written fully-formed guitar songs. Consequently, the looping comes across as more of a kind of graduated scratch arrangement, honed to a high level. A lot of loop songs can sound wispy, or hung up on their own polyphony: but with Suzy’s work, the song is paramount without the embellishments feeling forced. She’s managed to hold onto that spun-spontaneously-out-of-the-air feeling of loopsong while allying it to a penetrating, literate lyrical sense which challenges with questions and sharp observations rather than getting lost in the atmospherics.

Also at Bristol is ruminative electro-balladeer Luca Macchi, a.k.a Hallelugenia, whose material seems to stem from late-night chillout tunes which take a firm left turn, eschewing delta-wave blandouts in favour of expanding, talkative thought-paths sung in chamois-soft tones across shifting, subtly disruptive harmonic changes.



 
Another two acts are lined up for the Cardiff show, the first being agit-minded techno-pop quintet Clusterfuck who (despite the uncompromising hardcore name) spin out a tuneful, smoothly quaking ravepop sound inspired by and birthed within the current free-festival scene, laced with raps and DJ moves, and frequently graced by guest contributors. The second is Saint Bernadette, the latest in a string of projects from cross-genre voyager Francesca Murphy, a mainstay of ebullient Cardiff female music collective Ladies Of Rage and a singer who’s taken in punk, prog, country, jazz-pop, blues, spoken word and hip hop along her way. There are no clues yet as to what form Saint Bernadette will be taking, but Francesca’s Soundcloud page provides mostly-acoustic singer-songwriter-y examples from her recent past as well as a chance to hear her rich, welcoming voice.


 

The final show, at Edinburgh, features celebratory drumcore industrialists Harbingers Drum Crew – an aggregation of twenty or more assorted drummers inspired by “dance music, drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep and industrial metal” and emerging as being somewhere between a taiko squad, a British marching band, a samba party and a crew of No-Wave warehouse threateners. Meanwhile, Jo Hill’s SIN/RED, brings the electronica-spectrum cycle of support acts back to something resembling tAngerinecAt themselves: it’s not a precise comparison, but Jo’s foreboding mixture of noir-ballad pop, synth drone and cloister-echo raises similar anticipatory hackles and hints at skin-terror, raw feeling and ancient stirrings.

 
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Full tour dates:

  • Lending Room @ The Library, 229 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3AP, England – Thursday 5th September 2019, 7.00pm (with La Rissa + Yorkshire vs Essex) – information here and here
  • Gullivers NQ, 109 Oldham Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1LW, England – Saturday 7th September 2019, 7.30pm (w/ Slow Knife + Tin Mole + Factory Acts + Otis Jordan) – information here, here and here
  • The Raven, 218 Tower Bridge Road, Bermondsey, London, SE1 2UP, England – Saturday 14th September 2019, 7.30pm (with DIANE + Flange Zoo) – information here and here
  • Equinox Festival 2019, Chalk Farm, Salters Lane, Wyham, Lincolnshire, DN36 5RS, England – Friday 20th September 2019, 12.00am – information here, here and here
  • The Thunderbolt, 124 Bath Road, Arnos Vale, Bristol, BS4 3ED, England – Thursday 17th October 2019, 7.30pm (with She, Robot + Hallulugenia) – information here and here
  • The Big Top, 11 Church Street, Cardiff, CF10 1BG, Wales – Friday 18th October 2019, 7.00pm (with Clusterfuck + Saint Bernadette) – information here and here
  • Cute Owl Festival @ The Courtyard Theatre, Bowling Green Walk, 40 Pitfield Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6EU, England – Saturday 26th October 2019, 6.00pm (with Ed Dowie + Hypnotique + Experimental Sonic Machines + Ernie) – information here and here
  • Cabaret Voltaire, 36 Blair Street, Old Town, Edinburgh, EH1 1QR, Scotland (with Harbingers Drum Crew + SIN/RED) – Saturday 16th November 2019, 7.00pm – information here and here

April/May 2019 – upcoming folk/experimental gigs – Sam Lee’s ‘Singing With Nightingales’ season

30 Mar

Details on the upcoming season of Sam Lee’s ‘Singing With Nightingales’ – slightly massaged press text follows…

'Singing With Nightingales', April/May 2019

“Join folk singer, song collector and nature lover Sam Lee in the forest, sit by the fireside and listen to intoxicating song, as some of the finest musicians in the land duet with the sweet sound of the nightingale. Immerse yourself in the folklore and ways of our native birds, savour the music of world-renowned guest artists from folk, classical, world music, and jazz arenas. Join us in a rare and thrilling journey as darkness falls upon the springtime woodlands of Kent, Sussex and Gloucestershire from 18th April to 26th May.

“Each year, for a few months from mid-April, a few thousand nightingales fly to the southern UK from Africa. They can be heard in just a small number of special locations, taking up songful residence after dusk. The territorial males serenade loyally each night for no more than six weeks among the blackthorn and forest margins, giving unbelievable privilege to those who know where to go. Inspired by infamous recordings of cellist Beatrice Harrison playing with nightingales as far back as 1924, Sam has been hosting reverent celebrations of this endangered bird each spring since 2014. These events have spanned multiple events at four different sites, a ‘Pick of The Year’ BBC Radio 4 documentary, a critically acclaimed adaptation for theatres and concert halls, and many broadcasts on BBC Radio 3.

“As well as the outdoor night shows, you can also enjoy the sound of the nightingales’ song in the comfort of concert halls across the UK from 14th April. After a hugely popular run in 2018, our ‘Singing With Nightingales: Live’ tour is back, bringing you diverse musicians in relaxed, low-lit settings improvising in collaboration with live birdsong via live broadcast feed from the countryside. Joining Sam on stage will be a duo (depending on the date) of either violin-playing jazz world/folk singer Alice Zawadzki plus kora-playing Senegalese Griot Kadialy Kouyate, or Welsh folk-singer/songwriter/harpist Georgia Ruth plus Bristolian post-jazz trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Pete Judge. In addition, an abridged version of ‘Singing With Nightingales: Live’ will feature at London’s South Bank as the late show in the ‘Absolute Bird’ concert (a night of classical music inspired by birdsong).


 
“Brand new for this year, we are launching a mini festival experience with the nightingales at Fingringhoe Wick , Essex, on 27th April. Hosted by Sam, the night will feature three performances from Irish 10-string drone fiddler Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh and from experimental songwriters and instrumentalists Serafina Steer and Cosmo Sheldrake, all joined in song with the nightingale.

We’re offering return travel from London for selected events; and we’re very happy to say that we have received some funding from Arts Council England which means we’re able to put a number of concessions tickets on sale for selected events. These are strictly for people on low income. We also have a number of concession tickets available for our Singing With Nightingales Festival event at Fingringhoe Wick nature reserve, Essex on April 27th.”

Other musicians involved in the open air concerts come from a variety of different genres. There are classical and jazz flautists (Paul Cheneour; and Marsyas Trio‘s Helen Vidovich) and assorted polygenre players (eclectic South African cellist Abel Selaocoe, post-classical/post-folk chamberist Kate St John, Globe Theatre music director Bill Barclay, multi-instrumental composer Christo Squier). There are singers from various strands of contemporary folk (Lisa Knapp, Furrow Collective’s Lucy Farrell, ESKA) and soul-jazz singer-cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson. There’s the choral work of vocal trio Blood Moon Project (featuring Heloise Tunstall Behrens, Tanya Auclair and Luisa Gerstein). There are also representatives of music from further afield (Zimbabwean singer/mbira master Chartwell Dutiro, travelling shakuhachi-ist Adrian Freedman, Afghan music specialists John Baily & Veronica Doubleday and Dublin vocalist Fergus “Faró” Cahillane, the latter known for Irish and Irish/Viking acappella folk work with Anúna and M’anam).


 
Update, 13th April – in the latest development, ‘Singing With Nightingales’ is linking up in London with the Extinction Rebellion movement, on 29th April, for a “peaceful sit down intervention” in central London, called ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square‘:

“In the midst of the heightened attention to climate change and environmental catastrophe we want to bring people together in celebration of the musical beauty of the natural world. Poets, musicians and nature lovers will join together to perform the most romantic rebellion.

“Written in 1939, the renowned ballad tells of the impossible moment when a now critically endangered nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) sings in Mayfair’s famous garden square. Nightingales have not been heard in Central London, let alone Mayfair, for several hundred years. However, through the magical power of people and technology this April 29th, XR, Sam Lee, The Nest Collective and a pop-up flash mob of nature enthusiasts, musicians and supporters will gather to rewild nightingale song back into Berkeley Square.

“Through synchronised streaming of the nightingale’s mesmeric yet seldom heard courtship song via mobile phones and mobile speakers, our pop-up action will fill the park and surrounding streets with the song of a creature nearing extinction on this island. The birdsong will be accompanied by offerings from musicians, singers, poets and anyone who wants to collaborate with the finest singer in the world. This central London rewilding action aims to bring poetic focus to the shocking demise of our own native species and give Londoners the opportunity to hear a once ubiquitous songbird, now near extinct in the UK, in its mythic notional home.”

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Full dates for everything:

Open-air shows at Green Farm Kent, Church Lane, Shadoxhurst, Kent, TN26 1LS, England

  • Friday 19th April 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Bill Barclay) – information here and here
  • Saturday 20th April 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Paul Cheneour) – information here and here
  • Sunday 21st April 2019 (featuring Sam Lee & Christo Squier) – information here and here
  • Friday 17th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Helen Vidovich) – information here and here
  • Saturday 18th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Abel Selaocoe) – information here and here
  • Sunday 19th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Blood Moon Project) – information here and here

Open-air shows at a secret location near Spithurst, Lewes, Sussex, BN8 5EF, England

  • Thursday 25th April 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh) – information here and here
  • Friday 26th April 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh) – information here and here
  • Friday 3rd May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Lisa Knapp) – information here and here
  • Saturday 4th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Kate St John) – information here and here
  • Sunday 5th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Ayanna Witter-Johnson) – information here and here
  • Monday 6th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Lucy Farrell) – information here and here
  • Saturday 25th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee + ESKA + John Baily & Veronica Doubleday) – information here and here
  • Sunday 26th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Fergus Cahillane) – information here and here

Open-air shows at Highnam Woods, Highnam, Gloucestershire, GL2 8AA, England

  • Thursday 9th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Pete Judge) – information here and here
  • Friday 10th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Chartwell Dutiro) – information here and here
  • Saturday 11th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Adrian Freedman) – information here and here

‘Singing With Nightingales: Live’ (indoor concerts)

  • Ropetackle Arts Centre, Little High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, BN43 5EG, England – Sunday 14th April 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Alice Zawadzki + Kadialy Kouyate) – information here and here
  • The Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AQ, England – Tuesday 23rd April 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Alice Zawadzki + Kadialy Kouyate) – information here and here
  • Warwick Arts Centre, University Road, Coventry, CV4 7AL, England – Wednesday 24th April 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Alice Zawadzki + Kadialy Kouyate) – information here and here
  • Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6EL, Tuesday 30th April 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Alice Zawadzki + Kadialy Kouyate) – information here and here
  • Wyeside Arts Centre, Castle Street, Builth Wells, LD2 3BN, Wales – Wednesday 8th May 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Pete Judge + Georgia Ruth) – information here and here
  • St Laurence’s Church, Church Street, Stroud, GL5 1JL, England – Wednesday 15th May 2019, … (featuring Sam Lee + Pete Judge + Georgia Ruth) – information here and here.
  • Gulbenkian Theatre, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NB, England – Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Pete Judge + Georgia Ruth) – information here and here
  • Junction II @ Cambridge Junction, Clifton Way, Cambridge, CB1 7GX, England – Thursday 23rd May 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Pete Judge + Georgia Ruth) – information here and here
  • ’Absolute Bird: Translating Nature’ Queen Elizabeth Hall @ Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 8XX, England – Friday 24th May 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee, Alice Zawadzki plus selected members of City of London Sinfonia) – information here and here.

Singing With Nightingales: Festival (with Sam Lee + Serafina Steer + Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh + Cosmo Sheldrake)
Visitor Centre @ Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve, South Green Road, Colchester, Essex, CO5 7DN, England
Saturday 27th April 2019, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Extinction Rebellion: ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’
Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, W1J, England
Monday 29th April 2019, 6.00pm
– information here
 

March/April 2019 – upcoming British experimental gigs – Sarah Angliss’ eerie Air Loom on tour in Britain (26th March to 8th April, various) – also featuring Noize Choir, Kate Arnold, Thomas Stone, Embla Quickbeam, Good News From The Future, Ben Gwilliam and Cath & Phil Tyler

23 Mar

The Air Loom project is on tour across England (with appearances in Scotland and Wales) during the end of March and early April.

Headed up by electro-acoustic composer and inventor Sarah Angliss, the project also features soprano vocalist Sarah Gabriel and Ensemble Bash percussionist Stephen Hiscock; but the vision is entirely an Angliss one: one of “phantasmagoria” and “electrical mysticism” which can incorporate“robotic carillons, telephonic counterpoint and a new instrument made from the salvaged parts of a Welsh chapel organ.” A former folk-club performer, Sarah is steeped and classically trained in the music of the baroque and Renaissance eras, and spends much of her time constructing and delivering music for theatre and for live film soundtracks. She’s also part of a generation of composer-performers who re-examine the archaic and antique from both a present-day perspective and a feeling of questing connection.


 
This kind of thing doesn’t always work out (folktronica’s a fine idea but often gets reduced to the cliché of just playing folk music on synths), but Sarah’s approach is a fresh one – folding the process over with technological visions which themselves are deliberately selected for their own innate antiquity in order to explore “resonances between English folklore and early notions of sound and machines.” Possessing traditional Early Music instrumental skills (on recorder and ancestral keyboards), she mates them with contemporary jiggery-pokery: the latter covering the kind of twentieth-century technology now acquiring a museum patina (theremins, analogue telephones, radiophonic devices) and more virtual twenty-first century tech such as current custom MAX patches and apps.


 
Backed up by Stephen and by Sarah G, the Air Loom tour and album features Sarah performing on a mixture of recorders, electronics, theremin and the clavisimbalum (a “sonorous, fourteenth-century Latvian cousin of the harpsichord” – in this case one that’s been connected to custom synth processing). The other things to mention are the eerie, enchanting robotic instruments which she conceives, designs and then brings on tour to operate, building them out of bits of abandoned acoustic instruments and sundry homely/associative objects. Some are more anthropomorphic and animatronic – a drum-playing 1960s shop mannequin; a handbag playing triple duty as a heart and a drumbox; a theremin-playing doll called Clara; a disembodied ventriloquist’s-dummy head operating as a spycam; a robot crow. Others present more clearly as machines, such as the automated, radiation-sensitive, hyperspeed bell carillion built with technologist Dan Stowell which was the centrepiece of her previous ‘Ealing Feeder’ album and the “wheezing, robotic Shruti box” that’s the centrepiece of ‘Air Loom’.



 
The resulting music is enthralling and a little displaced. Rumbles, chimes and airs adding up to hauntology-in-the-machine stuff; all of it in line with Sarah’s desire to create work which captures the “disquieting and uncanny” and “the crackle of the galvanic on the telephone wire.” While there isn’t currently any grabbable Air Loom work online for me to show you, here’s something a little similar – Sarah in the grand baroque Hawksmoor space of St Anne’s Limehouse two years ago, performing her ‘Ealing Feeder’ piece A Wren In The Cathedral along with Stephen Hiscock, Colin Utley and her animatronics. Echoes of the unearthly, the mundane and the dignified run through the performance: summonings, weaving, the patience of listening, the trances of spaces.


 
As you’d expect, a tour like this draws in interesting supports.

In Brighton and in London, Kate Arnold from Fear Of The Forest will open the Air Loom shows with a solo hammer-dulcimer-and-voice set of the kind with which she’s been tremendously busy over the past year (see passim). Looping full-range contrabassoonist and sound-triggerer Thomas Stone supports at Bristol, providing his usual slow-evolve sonic immersion from reed tones, beat and hiss.



 
At the Yorkshire art-nexus of Todmorden, Air Loom are joined by a couple of field-recording and sound collage artists – Embla Quickbeam (who opts for a naturalistic approach, overlaying and engraining recordings of places with homemade sonics) and Ben Gwilliam, who prefers to affect and manipulate similar recordings via open tape reels, magnets and a mingling of technical performance art with a kind of deconstructive electrophonic storytelling which can vary from absolute obliqueness to narrative snagging. This time he’s working with “super 8 projectors, ice and homemade electronics in an attempt to amplify the space between microphone and medium.”

 
At Newcastle, support comes from local avant-garde vocal performance collective Noize Choir, who wield an extended human-voice approach “free of the traditional restraints of typical choral settings, language or musical notation” in which singing, breathing, coughing, wailing, humming or any other vocal excursion has equal merit. They also investigate and reflect on the venues which they perform at via “phenomenological explorations (or) imaginings of our geological past” while pegging themselves firmly to a very North-East England post-industrial perspective in which science, landscape and culture merge. On this particular evening everyone’s performing in an award-winning conversion of a former carpet warehouse, now housing an independent cinema company first based on the quayside and then in a squatted abandoned prop store, and with an eye on delivering a future community spirit in ominous times…. so they’ll have all that to unpack with a click and a whoop. Anyhow, here’s them vocalising Lindisfarne (the holy island and bird sanctuary, not the folk rockers).

 
At the Swansea date (for Welsh art-music initiative NAWR) there’s another double support. The first is Newcastle folk duo Cath & Phil Tyler, latter-day exponents of traditional folk narratives, American mountain banjo and full-voiced Sacred Harp singing, which they strip down to its most minimal and concentrated folk, able to bewitch anything from the most cramped little folk club to the vast arena of the Albert Hall. The second is Welsh music-and-movement project Good News From The Future, a collective of mature performers (in their fifties or older) co-ordinated by Mike Pearson (once of 1980s Cardiff avant-garde site-specific theatre company Brith Gof, now emeritus professor of performance studies at the University of Aberystywth). It’s unclear about exactly what they’re doing this time around: some sources say a spoken-word piece, others a movement piece. By all accounts they’re equally skilled at telling a story either way. Here’s something of what – and how – they performed a few years ago at Cardiff’s Chapter venue.


 
* * * * * * * *

Air Loom dates:

  • The Marlborough Pub & Theatre, 4 Princes Street, Brighton, BN2 1RD, England – Tuesday 26th March 2019, 8.00pm (with Kate Arnold) – information here, here and here
  • Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England – Saturday 30th March 2019, 8.00pm (with Kate Arnold) – information here and here
  • The Glad Café C.I.C, 1006A Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow, G41 2HG, Scotland – Wednesday 3rd April 2019, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Star & Shadow Cinema, Warwick Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 1BB, England – Thursday 4th April 2019, 7.30pm (with Noize Choir) – information here and here
  • The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Engine House, Chorlton Mill, 3 Cambridge Street, Manchester, M1 5BY, England – Friday 5th April 2019, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The Golden Lion, Fielden Square, Todmorden, OL14 6LZ, England – Saturday 6th April 2019, 8.00pm (with Embla Quickbeam and Ben Gwilliam) – information here
  • The Cube, Dove Street South (off top-left of King Square), Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD, England – Sunday 7th April 2019, 7.30pm (with Thomas Stone) – information here and here
  • NAWR#35 @ BBC Hall at Swansea Studios, 32 Alexandra Road, Swansea, SA1 5DT, Wales – Monday 8th April 2019, 7.00pm (with Good News from The Future and Cath & Phil Tyler) – information here, here, here and here

…and here’s Sarah’s robot carillon again, this time transmitting bird song (to the audible delight of a baby)…

 

February/March 2019 – upcoming British folk/experimental gigs – Bell Lungs on tour with Raiments (20th February to 2nd March, various) with appearances by Despicable Zee, Michael Clark, The Nature Centre, Halcyon Jane, Tara Clerkin Trio and various DJs. Plus sundry other Bell Lungs shows in March including a København evening with Hugh Tweedie and Tanja Vesterbye Jessen, a show with David Toop and Rashad Becker, a date with Gaze Is Ghost.

16 Feb

Working with a multi-instrumental, device-heavy palette which includes guitar, harmonium, Omnichord, electric violin, lyre, bouzouki, saz, voice and a host of effects pedals, avant-folk singer/writer/sometime promoter Ceylan Hay (a.k.a. Bell Lungs) sits at the middle of a host of possible routes. Her sound incorporates post-folk and drone, dream pop, noise and free improv, psychedelia and site-specific realisations, while her psychohistorian subject matter takes in the ancient, the near-ancient and the presently numinous: probing prehistoric spaces, the ghosts of the industrial age, day-to-day feelings and the slide into a new virtual existence space via online culture.

Reflecting these overlaid levels (and what might be, at different perspective points, either shockingly near or completely occluded), her vocal delivery steps between ornamental trad-folk crenellations, feathery ambient warbles and horrific screams. You can never quite tell whether she’s going to lull you or scare you, but you know she cares about what she’s ferrying across to you.

With a new EP, the wintry ‘Wolves Behind Us‘, to promote (apparently it’s a return to folk and landscapes after recent science fiction/site-specific digressions, and is “Joan Aiken’s ‘Wolves of Willoughby Chase’, Olaf Stapledon’s ‘Last and First Men’, caravan living in the Highlands and the ancient cosmology idea of dividing the year into two halves; the opening and closing of the wolf’s mouth”), Bell’s embarking on five weeks of touring (primarily alongside Raiments) through Scotland, England, Wales, followed up by other Raiments-less shows in Scotland, England and Denmark. (She’ll also be playing in Wales next month, but more on that later…)




 
Before taking a look at the tour, let’s take a look at her tourmates. Formed on the Berlin avant-garde scene, Raiments are fronted by sing-murmurer/left-field guitarist Mano Camatsos, and they sound like a soft-stepping muttering blend of Lou Reed and Momus fronting a band that mixes lurking dark-jazz styling (hardwood clarinet burr and groove-pattering trashdrums) with the DIY rattle of Pram and the dark throb of Morphine. Mano’s wildcard guitar is a clinking noisemaker and pulse generator taking note of hip hop, of avant-garde classical extended techniques and of mysterious instruments and methods gleaned from ethnological recordings. His songwriting voice is a oddball surreal instinct leading inexorably towards songs about ants or baffling seductions.



 
Tracing their upcoming footsteps on the tour is a joy, like following a plough which turns up small treasures as it reveals what’s in the earth. It’s partly the succession of intriguing off-the-beaten-path venues – squatty art-pubs, recovered eighteenth-century coal basins, pocket cinemas and art centres, diehard folk rooms and out-of-the-way sipperys – but also the revealing of similarly off-the-wall musical talents and enthusiasts they join up with en route.

In Edinburgh, Bell and Raiments are playing with Claquer – previously three-piece improvisers Claque until they spun off their American drummer an unspecified time ago. Now it’s just the Edinburgh contingent: free/experimental guitarist Jer Reid and viola player/speaker Lisa Fannen. They deal in lo-fi clangs, loopings and scrapes and spoken word: momentary moment-music.


 
In Newcastle, the main support comes from the soft melody murmurs and drowsy, cushioned keens of ambient/improv folk duo Halcyon Jane, a Tyneside/Humberside teamup. Upfront with the voice, guitar and devices is Newcastle performance art polymath Jayne Dent, better known via her own electronic/noisy folk project Me Lost Me, in which she buffers and buffets her singing with concertinas and samplers: when she played Hull back in December, support came from local ambient electronic beatsman Halcyon Neumann, who’s worked with The Body Farmers and with Sarah Shiels and who carries out sonic explorations of “the technological vs. the archaic/the spiritual vs. the scientific/the supernatural vs. the psychological.” Together they tease out a semi-improvised border music, part weird electro-folk and part post-shoegaze wisp.

Also playing is Michael Clark, providing slurred, wise, trepidatious and crepuscular folk music with fogrolls of noise behind an acoustic guitar. Despite being a Londoner, he sounds more like a moor-dweller; or like someone who lives in the kind of port city London used to be, one in which strange tales and intimation billow up the streets with the dock mist: this time out, his strange tales are backed up by a full band.

 
I’ve encountered The Nature Centre before. Headlining the Club Integral-hosted Birmingham show above Bell Lung and Raiments, they’re an affable rural/suburban pop quartet like a four-person one-man band, sprouting banjos and clarinets and found percussion alongside their drum kit and guitars. Drawn to playing at weirder gigs, they’ve shared bills with people like Bob Drake and have their own batchful of three-minute pop songs avidly reflecting the off-kilter visions of previous English songwriter eccentrics (the Syd Barretts, Robyn Hitchcocks and Tim Smiths). Handling the in-between-bands slot is someone new to me but not new to Brum’s vinyl-istas: Moseley Folk Festival’s house DJ and Moseley Record Fair co-organiser DJ Rome, promising his own selection of crate-dug oddities and inspirations.


 
In Bristol, the DJ backup comes from “bleary-eyed staggerer” Siegfried Translator of the Grey Area radio show (another haven for intriguingly weird music from all over the globe), but the gig predominantly features the Tara Clerkin Trio: the DIY musical brainchild of a ceramicist who also seems to have a yen for gamelan/minimalist-sounding pattern tinkling sprinkled with voiceloops, friendly saxophonic intrusions and other pitch-ins from whichever musical friends she can rope in for the occasion. (At other times, she creates her own slumberous take on experimental countrified pop.)

 
The Oxford show (promoted by Divine Schism) is primarily a launch event for the second EP by Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani, a.k.a. Despicable Zee – a live-looper, improviser and conscious patterner of fifteen years standing, mixed Anglo/Irish/Iranian heritage, and a history of drumming in Oxford bands since her teens. Now the drums (plus loopstations and recordings) are used to create live solo tracks in which Zee employs a lo-fi, lo-technique approach to overlapping rhythm garlands and triggered conversations. As an artist (as well as an educator and mother), Zee’s increasingly conscious of the female lines she carries within her: the patched-in samples which wobble her current project along feature the voices of her mother and grandmother, mingling with Zee’s own sing-speak-raps as if they’ve dropped by for some kind of experimental music cross-cultural kaffee klatsch.


 
The London show (at Paper Dress Vintage) is an evening of music and spoken word put together by promoters Spilt Milk in order to raise money and awareness for North London Action for the Homeless. Shapeshifter experimental pop poet Alabaster dePlume comperes: also in the corner is Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business, who showed up in ‘Misfit City’ a little over a year ago.

Jenny’s another artist whose field extends from the visual and situational into action and music: the Mystic Business involves pulling together friends and strangers into a collective performance event that’s part communal clapalong choir, part percussion workshop and good-natured culture-jamming protest (with food). Guileless and charming, but nonetheless political and détournementational, it’s an attempt to get collective conscience back into the body, containing and encouraging a cheerful but insistent protest.



 
The Conventry and Brighton gigs appear to feature just Bell Lungs and Raiments on their own, but news just coming in re. the Liverpool date (at dockside art-pub Drop the Dumbulls) says that support there comes from Merseyside “synthwhisperer” and outsider synthpopper Claire Welles. She’s been rolling out her contrary songs for over a decade now, singing increasingly unsettling lyrics in a deep deadpan tone with a sarcastic medicated edge, while the backings deliquesce from elegant ageless Europop into something a little misshapen. It all becomes something like those conversations during which you wake up a third of the way in, not quite sure how you got into them, not quite believing that you’re stuck in there and will just have to ride it out.



 
* * * * * * * *

Following the Raiments tour, Bell heads off separately for other shows. A mid-March showing at Manchester’s Peer Hat is a solo gig, but there’s also an Argyll event (in the enchanting recording-studio-as-art-nook surroundings of St Marys Space) at which she’s supporting baroque poptronic project Gaze Is Ghost: itinerant Northern Irish singer/songwriter/post-classical composer Laura McGarrigle, noted for “spectral vocals and impressionist piano playing” as well as drifts into harmonium and ambient atmospherics. In recent years Laura’s let Zed Penguin drummer/artist Casey Miller into the project and (following a number of pre-Casey singles), Gaze Is Ghost are finally readying a debut album as a duo.

 
A return to Glasgow on 28th March sees Bell performing on a talk’n’play bill with musicologist and audio culturer David Toop and Berlin sonicist Rashad Becker (who, having polished over a thousand records by other people spanning noise to techno, has begun stepping out into music creation of his own with the resonant faux-ethnological synthwork of ‘Traditional Music of Notional Species, Vol. I’).

On the 30th she’s back in Edinburgh to support another experimental folker, looper and performance artist: David Thomas Broughton, whose brilliantly wayward path has included looping his own heckles, blurring the line between song performance and experimental theatre. Along the way he’s released eight albums of accessible, tremulous, oddly haunting alt.folk delivered in an arresting genderless vocal tone a little reminiscent of Anthony/Anohni, and won the respect and collaborative contributions of (among others) Beth Orton, Sam Amidon, and Aidan Moffat. David will be in the early stages of his own tour, which I really should cover on its own.





 
Before any of these, though, she’s crossing the North Sea to perform at an experimental folk event in København. Part of the city’s Fanø Free Folk Festival, it’s hosted by local label Dendron Records, specializers in “small runs of abstract electronics, ghostly folk songs and surprisingly hummable tunes.” The concert will also feature two København-based British emigres Hugh Tweedie and Tanja Vesterbye Jessen. Hugh’s been operating for years under various names including The Weave And The Weft and Taiga Taiga, creating shadowy understated mostly-acoustic songs with a literary bent, and he regularly helps out with David Folkmann Drost’s homemade folk project Moongazing Hare. Previously known as a radical electric guitarist in Vinyl Dog Joy, Amstrong and Distortion Girls, Tanja recently struck out on her own with a solo debut, ‘Feeling Love’ in which she embraces and deconstructs pop songs, writing them acoustically before bringing assorted damaged amplification and effects-pedal interference to bear on them, resulting in songscapes covering a field from heavy-lidded noise-folk to cataclysmic “drone-metal disco”.




 
* * * * * * * *
Dates:

Bell Lungs & Raiments tour:

  • Henry’s Cellar Bar, 16A Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8BJ – Wednesday 20th February 2019, 7.00pm (with Claquer) – information here
  • Cobalt Studios, 10-16 Boyd Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE2 1AP, England – Thursday 21st February 2019, 7.00pm(with Michael Clark + Halcyon Jane) – information here
  • The Edge, 79-81 Cheapside, Digbeth, Birmingham, B12 0QH, England – Friday 22nd February 2019, 8.00pm (with The Nature Centre + DJ Rome) – information here and here
  • Cube Cinema, Dove Street South (off top-left of King Square), Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD, England – Sunday 24th February 2019, 8.00pm(with Tara Clerkin Trio + The Grey Area DJs) – information here and here
  • Fusion Arts, 44b Princes Street, Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1DD, England – Monday 25th February 2019, 7.30pm(with Despicable Zee) – information here
  • Paper Dress Vintage Bar & Boutique, 352a Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England – Tuesday 26th February 2019. 7.30pm (with Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business + Alabaster dePlume) – information here and here
  • The Rose Hill Tavern, 70-71 Rose Hill Terrace, Brighton, West Sussex, BN1 4JL, England – Thursday 28th February 2019, 7.00pm – information here
  • The Tin @ The Coal Vaults, Unit 1-4 Coventry Canal Basin, St. Nicholas Street, Coventry, CV1 4LY, England – Friday 1st March 2019, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Drop the Dumbulls @ The Bull, 2 Dublin Street, Liverpool, L3 7DT, England – Saturday 2nd March 2019, 7.00pm (with Claire Welles) – information here

Bell Lungs standalone dates with various others (tbc):

  • Fanø Free Folk Festival @ Alice, Norre Alle 7, DK-2200 København N, Norway – Monday 4th March 2019, 7.00pm(with Hugh Tweedie + Tanja Vesterbye Jessen) – information here
  • St Marys Space, Fasnacloich, Argyll, Scotland, PA38 4BJ – Saturday 9th March 2019, 7.00pm(supporting Gaze Is Ghost) – information here
  • The Peer Hat, 14-16 Faraday Street, Manchester M1 1BE – Thursday 14th March 2019, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Stereo/The Old Hairdressers, 20-28 Renfield Lane, Glasgow, G2 5AR, Scotland – Thursday 28th March 2019, 7.00pm (with David Toop + Rashad Becker) – information here and here
  • The Waverley, 3-5 St. Mary’s Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1TA, Scotland – Saturday 30th March 2019, 9.00pm (supporting David Thomas Broughton) – information here

February 2019 – upcoming London experimental gigs – drone evenings – NYX & Iona Fortune plus Flora Yin-Wong (3rd February); Matthew Shaw, Anji Cheung and English Heretic (7th February)

29 Jan

A couple of evenings of drone and weird noise for you, here in the Smoke.

* * * * * * * *

 
Electronic drone choir NYX and Glaswegian electro-acoustic drone instrumentalist Iona Fortune join forces in Bethnal Green during the coming weekend, for what they’re calling “a liminal ceremony” based on an exploration of the I Ching. The latter’s a particular interest of Iona’s – she’s already released the first of a planned octet of releases on the subject. Live, she blends instrumental performance work on the gamelan percussion set and guzheng zither with vintage electronic textures generated by the EMS Synthi AKS (the same early-’70s suitcase synth that’s responsible for early Pink Floyd sequencing, mid-period radiophonics and various Enossifications), via a composition technique which “involves inner cultivation”. For their part, NYX (eight veiled women singing together from behind two tables strewn with vocal sound processors) stress “mindful experiences, psycho-acoustics and sound healing through an immersive exploration of ambient, noise and electronic music”. Expect a mixture of avant-garde eeriness and ancient intimations, then, mixed with a fat emollient smear of New Age healer atmospherics: something silkily psychoactive.

The focus on I Ching divinations might be Iona’s choice, but the sonic method is NYX’s, who are leading a series of similar concerts (this is the third of four, it seems) in which they coax a collaborator to let go of some of their own battery of electronics and/or field recordings and allow NYX to replace it with their own poly-chorused vocal blocks and twinings. A recent ‘If Only’ interview with NYX’s Sian O’Gorman has plenty of talk about mother principles and the like, but it does make them sound genuine: intrigued by the interaction of specific voices with specific bits of electronic kit, and well aware of different vocal practises delved into across hundreds of years and thousands of miles.

They’re also determined – and proud – to promote the female voice, skills and mindset. All performers in the concert series have been women: unsettling folktronica performance artist Gazelle Twin following operatic chanter Hatis Noit, with layering classical/noise minimalist Alicia Jane Turner scheduled for the next event.

Meanwhile here’s a little of Iona working on her own, plus a snippet of NYX working with Gazelle Twin. Chop, edit and remix in your mind’s eye as appropriate.


 
As a kind of counterbalance to the concert’s Orientalist leanings (for all the sincerity, with this amount of New Agery it can feel as if it’s an act of looking in rather than belonging), the support slot goes to an actual Asian diasporan musician: electronicist Flora Yin-Wong, Chinese-Malaysian by roots but London-born. With an outright interest in club culture and dissonance, Flora seems to be more futurist than tourist but touches on the evening’s mystical tone via her use of field recordings from south-East Asian temples, re-brewed and teased within electronic processing and contemporary beat frameworks. Some of what she does twinkles, but other parts form arresting fields of explosive ritual noise right from the first note – see below.

 
* * * * * * * *

The following Thursday, up in Manor House, New River Studios plays host to the London launch event for Matthew Shaw‘s “debut” album ‘Among The Never Setting Stars’.

Calling it a debut is a little disingenous, since Matthew’s been putting out music for two decades now. At the turn of the century he sat somewhere between Bark Psychosis, Mojave 3 and a sedated Mike Oldfield, releasing soft-edged, deeply rural dream pop as Tex La Homa. At the start it was murmured acoustic-indie guitar folk – equal parts Drake and Velvets – expanded by synth rills, echo and field recordings; but gradually the singing diminished and the backing tracks became more interesting, the sounds took over and the local Dorset landscape (both physical and psychic, stone circles and solstices) impressed itself ever more deeply on the music. Though Matthew was also spending time helping to add sonic depth and audio subtext to folktronic pop band Sancho, in his own work the pop structures were dissolving away to allow the other ingredients to billow forwards.

By the middle of the decade Matthew was carrying out duo work: bizarre electrophonic ritual music with Nick Grey as 230 Divisadero and theosophical dronery with Andrew Paine as The Blue Tree. Since 2010, he’s run the limited-edition experimental label Apollolaan Recordings and issued a couple of Cornish/antiquarian-slanted location music releases in collaboration with Brian Lavelle as Fougou. Suggesting that he’s only officially going solo now is also a little disingenous – there have been releases under the Matthew Shaw name since he started Apollolaan, with a host of them still on Bandcamp. They’ve explored the usual territories of the recurring mystic tradition – alchemy and magick, psychogeography, cosmic astrology – but without the pomposity that’s usually bundled into the package.

Generally speaking, Matthew comes across as a listener rather than an imposer; travelling from temporary cottage to temporary cottage and from site to site with his guitars, sampler, KAOSS pad and electronics as an itinerant tinker would carry his tools. His work often sounds like an attempt to fuse an English pastoral tradition with spiritual/kosmische protractions and with occult/avant-garde post-punk aesthetics, blending in a folk-inspired interest in the cycles of seasons and life plus the rituals one makes to mark them. Typically New Weird Britain, then – and ‘Among The Never Setting Stars’, true to form, is apparently based around field recordings of “occult landscapes”. I would have expected the resulting pieces to have been more alarming, or at least more disorientating in the standard dark-ambient style (in which thunderheads mass like war in heaven and nature is overwhelmed by random electricity and ferociously foraging ants). On this occasion, however, Matthew seems to have been brought to a pitch of innocent (if slightly eerie) pastoral serenity – his source material buried to the point of absolute dilution or effective erasure beneath a gentle edgeless electrophonic skirl, like a cloud-organ recital in a roofless, open green church.


 
Also on board for the New River concert are the harsher drone-and-sample-scapes of Anji Cheung. Sometimes these are unnerving, frowning amplifier buzzes rolling over the listener like a gigantic clumsy wheel, with dramatically chopped/distorted/otherwise incomprehensible vocals implying pirate-radio-eavesdropping on a covert ritual. Sometimes they’re car-boot clatter under a lowering sky; sometimes they’re beautiful lost female murmur-melodies stalked by drainage-ditch fuzz. If Matthew’s work remains rural (and white), Anji’s is another aspect of NWB: ambiguously multicultural and urban, mixing and obscuring London and Chinese references, but sounding mostly as if it stems from a place where jerry-built tower blocks break up old fields around the city’s tired periphery and where unknown syncretic practises are carried out (perhaps only half-understood even by the people involved).



 
Playing hosts are English Heretic, the multimedia collective who for fifteen years have been self-appointed English psycho-historical curators, magickal Situationists and NWB forerunners. They’ve always carried their enthusiastic immersion in all things Britannic, eldritch and peculiar with warmth and wit, embracing the absurd without turning it into a cheap laugh; and putting a more inclusive and welcoming face onto the uncanny, sometimes belying the depth of their work. If I ever need an exorcism (or, more likely, some kind of psychic mediator) I’ll probably give them a call.

Plenty of music can be fed into the English Heretic stewpot – they’ve cited “psychedelic folk, ritual ethnographic recordings, electronica” as part of their fuel, and they’re very happy to drop into thrumming cusp-of-the-’70s psych rock at any opportunity, but in many respect the music’s secondary to the tales and the texts, the visual images and the intimations. Head Heritageur Andy Sharp has mentioned, in ‘The Quietus’, his tendency to extrapolate scraps and findings into something bardic and numimous – “reading around, something will catch your attention, and then I treat it in a magical context: taking the view that restless spirits or troubled souls inhabit the environment.” Sparks from hidden resonances (including those which are actually in plain sight and hearing) permeate the work.

For this particular concert, English Heritage is airing part of the ongoing audio-visual project ‘London’s Imagined Dead: Cinematic Deaths in London’. The section they’ve picked takes its cues from the Brit-horror era of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s: the era which spawned ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘The Blood on Satan’s Claw’, although they’re focussing on a lesser-known Hammer offering, ‘The Asphyx’. A 1972 tale of horribly botched Victorian research into the transmigration of souls, the film’s final sequence features the cadaverous, wandering-Jew meanderings of the story’s main character, still alive in the 1970s and condemned to a hateful, decrepit, guilt-ridden immortality. That last sequence was filmed at Battersea’s Winstanley Estate, later briefly notorious (in UK garage circles and in tabloid-land) as the home turf of So Solid Crew.

The finale of 'The Asphyx'. (Well, it was the early '70s and they'd run out of budget. Just concentrate on the concept...)

The finale of ‘The Asphyx’. (Well, it was the early ’70s and they’d run out of budget. Just concentrate on the concept…)

Visiting the present-day location, EH have taken note of the estate’s mysterious-looking murals (actually reliefs, carved into the Winstanley’s concrete walls) and have drawn from them to create new visual scores. Full of primal symbols and strange abstracted geometries, the carvings have an ancient air to them; but actually they’re early ‘60s commissions from William Mitchell Design Consultants, formally put up as part of the refurbishment during the estate’s post-war rebuild, and not even a decade old when ‘The Asphyx’ was filmed. English Heretic know this, of course, but are well aware that the ideas which places, objects and initial associations trigger off are at least as important as the actual truth. In this case, they’ve intersected film and building fabric to inspire literal musique concrète. Their pun, not mine. Not that I’m sulking about having been beaten to the punch…

* * * * * * * *

Dates:

comm-une presents:
NYX with Iona Fortune
The Pickle Factory, 13-14 The Oval, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9DT, England
Sunday 3rd February 2019, 6.30pm
– information here and here

English Heretic presents:
Matthew Shaw + Anji Cheung + English Heretic
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Thursday 7th February 2019, 8.00pm
– information here
 

September 2018 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Merlin Nova, Bell Lungs and Inchindown at the Horse Hospital (21st September)

15 Sep

There’s an interesting show coming up at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury next week. A wilder, more countercultural echo of the ICA, and clinging onto the fringes of the university district and the gentrification around the Brunswick Centre, the place mostly features transgressive films, performance art and sundry esoterica, but it’s always worth keeping an eye on their music schedule. This particular gig is musical fringework: weird and beautiful urban and rural atmospherics, vocal hauntings, transformations of places and times, acoustic folk and electronic noise.

Am hurrying off to do something else right now, but I’ll just give you the press release before I go…

* * * * * * * *

Merlin Nova + Bell Lungs + Inchindown, 21st September 2018

“The Horse Hospital presents a night of expanded musical performance spanning adventures in sound, pop theatrics and psychedelia with Merlin Nova, Bell Lungs and Inchindown.

Merlin Nova is sound, song and movement. Ecstatic energy blast. Clear-cut. Quick fix. Immediate. Set scene sound. Landscape, temperature and feeling. Here with you, together.

“Her debut EP, ‘Protect Your Flame’, celebrates determination and life, a vast and colourful human emotional landscape that explores sounds ability to excite visualisation. Each track is a scene to exist within. Vocal delivery, stripped back instrumentation and use of sound effects convey a state of being as efficient as possible. This way of making music evolved out of her weekly radio show Nova Waves, which broadcasted from Subcity Radio: on the show Merlin would create music, soundscapes and use sound effects to build imagined worlds. It was not until she was asked to DJ at Subcity’s 20th Birthday Exhibition, ‘pure radio sex’, that she chose to combine her own soundscapes, poetry and song – thus beginning the assemblage of this music.

 
Bell Lungs is a one-woman band from Scotland, where she’s been building an excellent live reputation and carving out her unique post-folk sound using layered vocals, electric violin, guitar, tuned percussion, field recordings and effects pedals since 2016. Her music is atmospheric; a shifting soundscape incorporating snippets of songs with field recordings to create inherently transcendental experiences, musing upon rural idylls, post-industrial heartlands and online culture infused with psychedelic, drone, improvisational, jazz, dream pop and folk elements.



 
Inchindown is a collaboration between Tim Garratt (Moon Zero) & Matthew Heywood (Bruised Skies), whose self-titled debut album Inchindown is released by Blank Editions. Their self-titled debut album portrays a powerfully mournful, but beautifully stark work. The soundtrack to walking through a storm of ash, only to realise that the city is on fire and viewing this incredible spectacle from afar. It is a dark, yet somehow hopeful record and a focussed collaboration that expands upon their ambient solo work. Although named after a small industrial town in Scotland, the record grounds itself to their hometown of Hackney. The three-part ‘Ridley Road’, with its waves of distorted bass, metallic synths and detuned vocals could be heard as a tone poem for the rapid gentrification that threatens to engulf the historic market street, before authentic field recordings remind us of what we stand to lose.”



 
Merlin Nova + Bell Lungs + Inchindown
The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, WC1N1 London, United Kingdom
Friday 21st September 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

August 2018 – upcoming London pop & rock gigs – Loop Pedal Lunacy with Steve Strong, Fetherstone, Alex Taylor, Sam Martin and She, Robot (8th August); plus a rare free Silvery acoustic show (10th August)

3 Aug

An evening of pop-looping at Paper Dress; and the return of some London art-pop rascals…

* * * * * * * *

First, the loopfest…

Loop Pedal Lunacy, 8th August 2018

Steve Strong is a one man arsenal of beats, tapped guitar and lush textural melodies. His music is as witheld as it is grandiose, as skeletal as it is layered, equal parts shimmering and pulsing. It glimmers, swings and explodes in all the right places, sliding gracefully from one section to another, played as tightly as it is loose and free. Steve’s ability to bridge the gap between technical ability and captivation is completely instinctual, tattoed onto his musical consciousness like the art on his body. His music seems to encompass many different styles without feeling contrived or forced; every strand of inspiration in Steve’s music is carefully placed and melted. This music will not be held down!


 
“As She, Robot, award winning loop artist Suzy Condrad is a seasoned performer and authentic underground artist who has written and self-produced three albums and established herself as a leader in her field, winning the title of Boss Looping UK Champion in 2011. She effortlessly juggles instruments and genres with a dynamic and arresting one-woman show which has amazed and delighted audiences from Shambala to Boomtown Fair, Bearded Theory to Beautiful Days. Dancehall, ska, doo-wop, folk and electro collide with blistering beats and haunting, sublime vocal gymnastics to take you on an ever-looping journey which balances real-time loop juggling against timeless songwriting. Edgy, raw, beatbox and bass driven sensual sounds, layered to perfection, create a mesmerising performance which is powerful yet ethereal. Woman meets machine in a musical maelstrom that will make your head spin, your spirit lift and your feet move.

 
“Already compared by reviewers to the likes of Bill Withers, John Martyn and Jeff Buckley, Bristol-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumental loop pedal artist Alex Taylor is one of the shining lights of the acoustic scene and a troubadour of world-class standing. Drawing on varied influences from a wide musical spectrum, Alex’s style splices elements of soul, nu-folk and electronica to place his shape-shifting voice and dextrous, original acoustic guitar playing firmly in the spotlight. Touring extensively, Alex has notched up hundreds of gigs, sharing stages with such luminaries as Jack Savoretti, Roachford and Michael Kiwanuka: a festival favourite, he recently headlined the BBC stage at Bristol’s Harbour Festival, and has played many other stages including Cambridge Folk Festival and Cheltenham Jazz Festival. His critically acclaimed debut album features performances from members of The Invisible, Newton Faulkner’s band, Portishead and Massive Attack.


 
“Heavily influenced by her ninety-four-year-old artistic grandmother, Aussie-born Fetherstone brings together the quirky sounds of electronic pop and the swooping melodies of folk, and combines them with her emotive reflective story-telling. Based in London since 2015, 2017’s ‘Debut’ EP was produced and engineered by London native Harry Tarlton (Kobalt, Union J, Stooshe, WarnerUK), with the last single Two Hands On Deck hand-picked by Newton Faulker to feature on the Richer Unsigned record store day Vinyl compilation, April 2018. Fetherstone’s live shows captivate audiences using a loop/effects pedal, percussion and electronic drums. Recent performances include The Camden Assembly (supporting for Frida Sundemo), Richer Unsigned Live at Melomania, TV Nights Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s, The Servant Jazz Quarters (supporting Ella Janes), Live at The Bedford and The Troubadour (supporting The Modern Strangers).

 
“Since an early age, Sam Martin has written and performed his own music around the UK, both supporting and headlining on nation wide tours. In 2010 he recorded his first independent solo EP and has since recorded three studio EPs which have gained a mass following in the UK and Europe as well as Australia and North America. With a vocal/guitar/loop-pedal musical style incorporating blues, jazz and alternative soul, Sam’s vocal and instrumental ability is testament to both his inspirations and musical evolution.”


 
Loop Pedal Lunacy – A Night of Live Looping (featuring Steve Strong, Fetherstone, Alex Taylor, Sam Martin and She, Robot)
Paper Dress Vintage Bar & Boutique,, 352a Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England
Wednesday 8th August 2018, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, the coming week also sees the first gig in a year for London art/glam/pile-on rockers Silvery. Snatching an early night slot before the late-night jazz funk at Jazz After Dark, they’re going for a repeat performance (of sorts) of last year’s free Soho acoustic gig: this time, in order to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their debut album ‘Thunderer & Excelsior’.

Simultaneously effete and rowdy, Silvery are a wonky London pop sense made flesh, sounding as if they’ve sprung from the same zigzagging suburban allotments-of-weird which also brought up The Kinks, The Monochrome Set, Cardiacs and The Stranglers. They’re more urchin-esque than Franz Ferdinand, but less leery than Blur. They’re an erudite and wayward Carnaby Roxy; the Dodgers to Bowie’s Fagin; and as rocking goes, they’re only “garage” if said garage had started life as a spooky Victorian stable block.

In their live heyday, Silvery would dress up as Bow Street Runners and fill the capital’s little venues with sweat and joy; these days, their gigs are few and far between, so make the most of this one. If it’s anything like the last time, it’ll be just the two Silveries – Simon Harris and front guy James Orman – thwacking out the old stuff on 12-string acoustic guitar and piano. Below, to get you in the mood, there’s a couple of full-bore electric ‘Thunderer…’ excerpts plus a teaser for a forthcoming film they’ve been making.




 
Silvery: Live Acoustic
Jazz After Dark, 9 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 4DQ, England
Friday 10th August 2018, 8.00pm
– free event – information here
 

July 2018 – upcoming gigs – V Ä L V Ē, Stef Ketteringham and Lily Buchanan (of The Graphites) in Margate (29th July)

24 Jul

V A L V E + Stef Kettering + Lily of The Graphites, 29th July 2018Details on a show this coming Sunday in one of the smallest, most enchanting venues in Kent (Margate’s Tom Thumb Theatre), featuring an mostly-female bill with three different projects (all adventurous; all, in their way, visionary).

* * * * * * * *

I feel as if I’ve covered V Ä L V E what seems like innumerable times this year. Reedswoman/composer Chlöe Herington’s synaesthesia-slanted experimental music project has spent a year or so evolving into a live collective trio of herself, harpist Elen Evans and bass/synth player Emma Sullivan. Previously known for her bassoon, clarinet and saxophone contributions to Chrome Hoof and Knifeworld (and more recently to The Lindsay Cooper Songbook and Hirvikolari), Chlöe’s solo work has involved shed-tinkering as she builds unlikely instruments from scratch and scrap; and the pulling in of compositional ideas from medical charts, found patterns and (literal) rubbish.

On record, the results have percolated around the realms of electric art-rock experimentalism (post-Zappa, post-Henry Cow), parping chamber wind music intimacy, playfully baffling bouts of improv and bewildering schematics. Live, V Ä L V E has mutated further, drawn on by Chloe’s interest in finding out how to trigger her audience’s minds with an evolving toolkit of sensory input, and by the different dynamic of three women involved in discovery together (happy bouts of lateral thinking, plus moments when they combine in obliquely touching bouts of harmonizing song). It’s a winning combination that’s taken the band all the way to airplay on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Late Junction’ – care of ‘The Quietus’s John Doran – and to the Barn stage at the Supernormal festival.



 
Formerly with abstract noise-blues trio Shield Your Eyes, guitarist/bass-drum booter/occasional vocalist Stef Ketteringham now works alone. His improvised solo music is a guttering, chattering, restlessly emotive take on exploded electro-acoustic blues, integral to which is his brawling, brutal and fearless guitar technique.

Elastic and vocal, with a gutting-knife timbre, its passing similarities to the pitch-bend avant-howls and tremolo-purrs of Henry Kaiser and David Torn is probably pure coincidence. Stef’s wildly gestural guitar-playing sounds like an instinctive discovery: more punk than professorial, bursting from his gut via his heart to tell its shattered, hollered, mostly wordless stories and personal bulletins without the constraint of manners or moderation. For all that, it’s still got the skeleton of blues rules – the existential moan, the bent pitches and percussive protest that demand attention and serve notice of presence.


 
Guitar in hand, Scottish singer-songwriter Lily Buchanan usually fronts and voices interesting south London pop-punkers The Graphites (who in turn were formerly her solo project The Graphite Set). The Graphites’ lilting jig rhythms, their echoes of girl groups and Lily’s subtly unorthodox song-structures (recalling both Chrissie Hynde and Nico, but with an understated elliptical focus that’s all Lily’s own) put them several cuts above the competition.

This is hardly surprising: Lily’s work springs out of both folk music and a life spent painting. But while many art-school music spinoffs are happy to lose themselves in arrogant vagueness, vacuity and sonic scurf, Lily’s half-spoken songs make much of their clarity of line; their deceptive ability to digress and orbit while never truly losing sight of the core matter, casting new light on it with each pass.

All by herself this evening, Lily will be performing something new – “a series of folk songs inspired by her recent intrigue into collecting sea fauna.” She’s being billed here as “Lily Of The Graphites”. Such a shame that’s not the actual project name. There’s not enough courtly allotropic geology in the world.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of Graphites songs…



 
NFA presents:
V Ä L V Ē + Stef Ketteringham + Lily of The Graphites
Tom Thumb Theatre, 2 Eastern Esplanade, Cliftonville, Margate, Kent, CT9 2LB, England
Sunday 29th July 2018, 7:00 pm
– information here, here and here
 

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.”


 

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

12 Jun

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

Pram, 22nd July 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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





 
Pram, 2012
 

May 2018 – upcoming gigs – world folk through various filters with Brona McVittie, Marcus Corbett and Sebastian Reynolds in Oxford (16th May); Jack Miguel and Sam Mumford’s rap-folk exploration of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath with ‘A Murder Of Crows’ in London (18th May)

11 May

Marcus Corbett + Brona McVittie + Sebastian Reynolds, 16th May 2018Here’s another prompt for me to pay more regular attention to what’s going on at the Daylight Music shows in London – British folk guitarist Marcus Corbett is playing there this month, and next Wednesday (alongside Brona McVittie, whose own Daylight performance I missed back in March due to looking elsewhere), they’re both playing at a separate event in Oxford.

It’s easy to miss or forget the pointers at concerts which might lead you somewhere interesting – and I only picked up information on this Oxford event – billed as “a night of Thai electronica, Indian classical meets British folk and pastoral Celtic folk through a kosmiche filter” – by accident. Meanwhile, here’s a bit more on Marcus and Brona…

Marcus Corbett is an Anglo-Indian singer and guitarist spending his time between the English West Country and Pune in India: likewise, his guitar playing draws on Western-shaped ideas of folk and blues, but also on the world and tones of Indian classical music. His most recent recording is 2013’s ‘Strung Deep’, which also calls upon the talents of bansuri flute player Milind Date, violinist Sanjay Upadhye and tabla players Ntin Gaikwad and Sharanappa Guttaragi. It’s this record, amongst others, that he’ll be playing from for this concert, for which he’s rejoined by Ntin Gaikwad. (Both Marcus and Ntin are currently on a wider tour together, which you can find out more about here.)



 
Brona McVittie is an Irish harpist, singer and electronic musician from County Down, perhaps best known for fronting/plucking for acclaimed London-Irish trad outfit The London Lasses and for adding the Early Music influences to the Orla Wren-affiliated neo-impressionist project littlebow. During the noughties, she played in folk duos Footnote and The Balance and Footnote duos, followed by a spell leading experimental folktronica band Forestbrook. More recently, her occasional experimental folk-pop work as Queen Of Corkbots has displayed a sprightly humour in electro-acoustic arrangements as well as a love of reviving and gently reinventing old folk songs, carols and not-so-innocent children’s ditties in a web of electronic blips, Mellotronic flutes, pattering synth percussion and other delicate ornamentation.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this comes the new work under her own name which she’s gathered up into her formal solo debut album, ‘We Are The Wildlife’. Voice, harp, flute and strings combine with careful well-honed electronic arrangements for what’s described as “a psycho-geographic journey through a collection of traditional folk ballads and original compositions inspired as much by the geometries of London’s urban fringes as by the sonic phenomena within the great rural landscapes of Mourne.”

For this performance, Brona will be accompanied by friend, collaborator and American émigré Myles Cochran on slide guitar; himself an established solo artist in the more psychedelic, atmospheric end of UK Americana. Here’s the title track from ‘We Are The Wildlife’, plus the album’s version of Irish traditional song Molly Brannigan.



 
The third act at the concert is Oxford musician and PinDrop promoter Sebastian Reynolds. Possibly solo, or possibly accompanied by his Solo Ensemble (also featuring keyboard player Jody Prewett, cellist Anne Müller and violinist Alex Stolze), he’ll be performing excerpts from his Mahajanaka Dance Drama project score (released on a Bandcamp EP last month). The music itself is founded on sampled loops taken from recordings of a piphat (high Thai classical) session undertaken by Thai pop ensemble the Krajidrid Band, which Sebastian has continued to build on.

The Mahajanaka story tells a tale from Buddhist mythology concerning a shipwrecked prince who survives alone at sea until the goddess of the ocean comes to his rescue. Here’s both Sebastian’s original version and a shimmering, urgent live treatment from the Solo Collective; plus a video documentary about the research into, and making of, the source music.


 
TMD Media and PinDrop present:
Marcus Corbett + Brona McVittie + Sebastian Reynolds
Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 1BP, England
Wednesday 16th May 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 
* * * * * * * *

A Murder Of Crows, 18th May 2018Back in London, at Poplar Union, there’s a coming together of spoken word, poetry, rap and experimental folk for Mental Health Awareness Week, as poet/rapper Jack Miguel collaborates with exploratory post-folk musician Sam Mumford in ‘A Murder Of Crows’, a multimedia response to ‘Crow‘, Ted Hughes’ collection of poems dealing with his own “demons” following the suicide of his wife and fellow poet Sylvia Plath. All proceeds will go towards supporting the Campaign Against Living Miserably, an award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide (the single biggest killer of men under the age of forty-five in Britain) with additional donations encouraged on the door. This is a work-in-progress, so expect – even savour – a few rough edges, which might be part of the point.

Well established as a guitarist, singer, composer and sound artist, Sam makes a kind of deconstructed and rebuilt electro-acoustic folk music which draws equal comparisons to Bob Dylan, Joan Armatrading, Aphex Twin and Venetian Snares. While electronic sound techniques and collagery (taken from Sam’s love of dub, techno, drum and bass and electronica) lean in to both the mix and the toolbox, shaping and impling, Sam’s work is rooted in fingerpicking and voice, resulting in an unmoored new folk music which carries its roots with it as sleepwalking instinct, leaving him free to explore the here and now, whether addressing personal concerns or broader contemporary matters.

In this he’s well matched by Jack, whose own previous work has encompassed sound design, sculpture and moving image. The first poet and rapper to attend the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, he’s gone on (as “Jakaboski”) to become a writer and performer with psychedelic hip hop group Strangelove (and release his own solo debut, the ‘Mount Strive’ EP, in 2014). He also also exibits his own art installations, and works as a diverse arts educator with a particular specialisation in damaged but nurturable psyches (working in hospitals, pupil referral units and secure psychiatric units).

The latter, in particular, has led to work like Jack’s collaborative installation and performance study ‘The Turning of the Leaves’, a meditation on the First World War, masculinity and intergenerational trauma (drawing on the aforementioned Hughes, Carl Jung and Kendrick Lamar, and dealing directly with “the challenges facing men today amidst inherited narratives of power, violence and invulnerability.”) It will be interesting – and important – to see how this interest in toxic and tortured masculinity feeds into Jack and Sam’s examination of Hughes: well known, even beyond his poetry, as a man’s man and an alpha male; and whose treatment of Plath (including his co-opting of her posthumous legacy) has come under increasing challenge and outright attack in recent years (a further darkening of the story).
 



 
Also engaged with the project are two special guests – performance poet and theatre maker Cecilia Knapp and cellist-composer Natasha Zielanzinski (who specialises in contemporary repertoire, early music, free improvisation and folk music and whose performance history spans Sadlers Wells, Kanye West, the Royal Court Theatre and Kate Tempest). More special guests may be announced closer to concert time, although there’s only a week to go…

Jack Miguel & Sam Mumford present:
‘A Murder of Crows’
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Friday 18th May 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

May 2018 – the start of the Daylight Music summer season in London – Green Seagull, respectfulchild and Twenty-Three Hanging Trees (12th May); Firestations, Seán Mac Erlaine and Hatchie (19th May); Vesperados, Guastalla Quartet and Marcus Corbett (26th May)

7 May

Although they were a ‘Misfit City’ mainstay for a number of years, it’s been a while since I’ve put up any previews for Daylight Music‘s free Saturday noontime concerts at the Union Chapel. Blame this on the slapdashery that passes for “method”, back here at ‘Misfit City’ HQ; blame concentration or distraction by other things, but for goodness’ sake don’t blame Daylight Music themselves.

I suppose that it might be possible for a regular attender to sometimes feel as if you’ve had enough of Daylight’s particular cosiness – that warm wooly-sweatered whimsicality, the cake stall, or the feeling that you might just crack if you see another community choir singing alt.pop cover versions. But ultimately it’s churlish to take swipes at them for the side trappings when what really counts is the musing intelligence and the well-honed curatorial instincts underneath the family-friendly fuzz. In the end, there are precious few regular gigs in London that can match Daylight for unassuming stealth education: few that will host a baroque quartet alongside rustling sampledelia, set guileless acoustica off against arch indie, season your ears with sudden rushes of Baltic sound or pipe organ interludes; introduce you to musicians and songwriters who leave you astonished and blinking about the fact that you’ve never heard of them before; and all the while balancing the kiddie-friendly with the uncompromising and actually pulling it off. There are few gigs that are just so plain generous.

So, without more ado, here’s a quick signal-boost for the first few gigs of their imminent summer season…

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Daylight Music 280: Green Seagull + respectfulchild + Twenty-Three Hanging Trees, 12th May 2018

“The 12th May show features Green Seagull, respectfulchild and Twenty Three Hanging Trees. Green Seagull are the latest band to burst out of London’s burgeoning neo-psych scene. Their harmony-laden baroque/freakbeat sound draws upon influences such as the Left Banke, the Kinks and the Association. respectfulchild is the solo instrumental project of Gan from Saskatoon on Treaty 6 Territory. Their music is electronic in nature while being acoustically created, building experimental ambient soundscapes through slow progressions of meticulous improvisation. Their sound has been likened to Brian Eno, Nils Frahm and Owen Pallett.



 
Twenty Three Hanging Trees is the meditative modular synth exploration project of Xavier Watkins (Fuzzy Lights/Violet Woods/Red Red Eyes.) The project’s progression from hazy guitar drones to electronic-based explorations with dusty, contemplative tonalities has been a transformative one. Learning to express himself with synthesis was like learning a new language, each step having to be carefully planned and executed so as to maintain the fragile equilibrium created. While 2016’s ‘Nocturne’, released on the Sacred Tapes label, had a contemplative, embryonic stillness, 2017’s ‘Prémonitions’ has a deeper, more emotional heart, tempered by subtle rhythmic buzzing, shimmering oceanic drones and solemn arcs of melody.

 
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Daylight Music 281: Firestations + Seán Mac Erlaine + Hatchie, 19th May 2018

“The 19th May show features Firestations, Seán Mac Erlaine and Hatchie. Firestations are an alt-pop band who write simple songs then paint over them with drones, vocal harmonies, electronica and unusual rhythms. Their second album ‘The Year Dot’ has recently released by Lost Map Records. Séan MacErlaine is a Dublin-based woodwind instrumentalist, composer and music producer, recognised as one of Ireland’s most forward-thinking creative musicians. His work intersects folk, free improvisation, jazz and traditional music.



 
Hatchie is the world of Harriette Pilbeam. To hear her music is to step inside her mind; a dreamy landscape where cascading synths, jangling guitars, propulsive rhythms and white noise undulate beneath undeniable and irresistible pop melodies. This will be a special acoustic set.


 
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Daylight Music 282: Vesperados + Guastalla Quartet + Marcus Corbett

“The 26th May show features Vesperados, Guastalla Quartet and Marcus Corbett. Award-winning composer and jazz musician James Brady first formed Vesperados in 2011, bringing together musicians to explore African, Caribbean and Latin American influences in jazz through original music. Formed in 2013, The Guastalla Quartet brings together musicians from the finest conservatoires in Europe to form a chamber music group dedicated to the exploration of the string quartet repertoire from its roots to as yet unwritten works. Between them, they have performed at world-famous venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Wigmore Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin, Katara Opera House and the National Concert Hall of Taiwan.



 
“The Guastalla Quartet will also join Vesperados for an octet set during their performance: the use of strings will allow the full expression of rich jazz harmony alongside the rhythmic engine of Vesperados’ Latin-infused grooves.

“Completing the lineup, Marcus Corbett is a singer, acoustic guitarist and composer based between the UK and Pune, Maharashtra, India. He has been studying Indian classical music and working with musicians in India for over 10 years, skillfully combining the worlds of Indian classical and British folk music and producing a string of albums. He will perform with one of his key Indian collaborators, Tabla maestro Nitin Gaikwad.”


 
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As ever, all gigs are at Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England and are free, though it’s good form to donate a fiver on the way in or out. Dates below:

  • Daylight Music 280: Green Seagull, respectfulchild + Twenty-Three Hanging Trees, Saturday 12th May 2018, 12:00pminformation
  • Daylight Music 281: Firestations, Seán Mac Erlaine + Hatchie, Saturday 19th May 2018, 12:00pminformation
  • Daylight Music 282: Vesperados, Guastalla Quartet + Marcus Corbett, Saturday 26th May 2018, 12:00pminformation

May/June 2018 – gigs for Crayola Lectern in London and Brighton with Joss Cope, The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Husband and others t.b.c. (16th May, 1st June); ‘A Spring Symposium’ fundraiser for Tim Smith near Salisbury with Lake Of Puppies, Arch Garrison, Crayola Lectern, Bob Drake, Kemper Norton and Emily Jones (12th May)

1 May

Crayola Lectern + Joss Cope + The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Husband, 16th May 2018First things first: the murmuring, brass-dappled Crayola Lectern trio are making their way up for a rare London gig in the middle of May, followed by a Brighton launch show for the new Crayola Lectern album, ‘Happy Endings’, at the start of June. The vehicle for Chris Anderson’s tidal, sometimes melancholic, often softly funny songs – low-key dramas of reflection, resignation and not-quite acceptance – they’re powered by his piano, Al Strachan’s sleepy cornet and percussion and Brighton uberdrummer Damo Waters’ parallel skills on keyboards.

It’s not been confirmed yet who’s joining in at Brighton, though the whispers are that it’ll be someone – or several someones – drawn from Chris’ Brighton psychedelic circles, which includes driving psych-rock ensemble ZOFFF, Kemper Norton (more on whom shortly), CLOWWNS and Spratleys Japs. However, the London bill has its two support acts.

Psych-pop journeyman Joss Cope, armed with his strongest project yet (last year’s ‘Unrequited Lullabies’) will be along for the ride. I recently described the album as “a luscious living-room tranche of psych-pop with a sharp wit; dappled with dextrous pop guitars, carousel prog, fake horns and laps of Mellotron”. Live, you may get a little less of the texturing, but you’ll still get the songs: chatty, wry commentaries on a world wobbling off the rails. The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Husband also happens to be Nick Howiantz, who otherwise divides his time between running Brixton Hill Studios and fronting sporadic, noisy Brighton psych-pop rompers Ham Legion. I’ve no idea about what’s behind the genderswapping ecclesiastical mask, but he/she/they are being tagged as a “veritable modern day Syd Barrett”, so come along and see whether that’s a claim worth claiming or whether it falls interestingly wide of the mark.




 
Dates:

  • Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England, Wednesday 16th May 2018, 7:30pm (with Joss Cope + The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Husband) – information here, here and here
  • The Rose Hill, 70-71 Rosehill Terrace, Brighton, BN1 4JL, England, Friday 1st June 2018, 8.00pm (support t.b.c.) – information here

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A Spring Symposium (for Tim Smith), 12th May 2018
I was talking about Crayola – and William D. Drake – only a few posts ago, as regards their Worthing fundraiser for Tim Smith on 19th May. A week before that, both of them (in various permutations) will be joining another Tim fundraiser – this one an all-dayer in Coombe Bissett, nestled in the Wiltshire chalk downs south-west of Salisbury.

‘A Spring Symposium’ is the brainchild – or heartchild – of onetime Cornish folkie Emily Jones, who’s now joined the cluster of Cardiacs family musicians living around Salisbury. Her own songs of seal-wives, haunted bungalows, witchery and other glimpses beyond the vale will be part of the event, alongside contributions from various other characters well-known to Cardiacs followers or to aficionados of certain weird-folk, Rock in Opposition and hauntological camps.




 
Emily’s near-neighbours, Craig and Sharron Fortnam of North Sea Radio Orchestra, will be taking part in various permutations. Craig will be bringing along his Arch Garrison duo with James Larcombe, singing soft songs (on gut-strung acoustic guitar and buzzing organs and monosynths) about long walks, lost brothers, ancient roads, dogs, death and bereavement and the various gentle tug-of-wars between family and necessary solitude, compromise and truthfulness, art and earning. Craig and Sharron will both be playing in a second reunion of Lake Of Puppies, the rollicking, affectionate acoustic-psychedelic folk-pop band they formed with avuncular ex-Cardiac and alternative keyboard virtuoso William D. Drake over twenty years ago. During the mid-‘90s they’d play regular small gigs around London; bobbing up with their bouncy songs of life, good humour and growing things, like a rosy apple in a tub. Sadly, they went their separate and amiable ways after only a few years and no more than a couple of rough demos. Having reconvened in the summer of 2013 (for a lovingly received appearance at the Alphabet Business Convention), they promptly disappeared again, but have been working out a long-delayed debut album on the quiet. Some of that ought to show up at this concert. See below for a couple of dashes of their particular flavour. Large Life might be billed as Bill’s, but it’s Puppies to the bone, and their 2013 set from Salisbury should give you an idea as to how they are now.




 
I’ve already mentioned the Crayola Lectern set; there’ll also be one from Bob Drake (the onetime 5uus and Thinking Plague guy currently bouncing around the country on a tour of his own). Sit at Uncle Bobby’s feet; listen to his electric guitar jangle, pop and change its mind every other mid-phrase; and take in some loveably bizarre constantly changing one-minute songs about sinister meerkats, experiments gone wrong, and the way in which assorted eldritch beasts from dark dimensions annoyingly disrupt your life, your shopping and your evening’s relaxation. If Ogden Nash, Fred Frith, Roald Dahl and Neil Young had all crept up to H.P. Lovecraft’s house one larky summer’s evening with a pint of moonshine and some tall tales – and really made him laugh – it would have sounded something like this.


 
While there may be a couple of extra guests showing up as a surprise, the Symposium roster is formally rounded off by Kemper Norton and by Libbertine Vale – the former an electro-acoustic folk-culture miner of music and landscapes, (armed with instruments, electronics and field recordings to remap both physical terrain and song terrains), the latter the Omnia Opera/7shades singer who’s revealed herself as a rebel Midlands folkie, digging deep into the more macabre corners of the folk-song catalogue and coming back with “uncomfortable songs about death, a capella sqwarking that will kill or heal your ears, dependent on your disposition.” It’s tough to track Libby down on the web, but here’s a bit of Kemper.



 
There’s only ten days to go ‘til the event, but there’s still time to arrange to get there. There’ll be cakes and ale, there’ll be vegetarian food; Tim Smith himself will probably be in attendance, and Emily’s suggested that you caravan-camp out on the chalk downs. If this English May makes its mind up (and settles for being a good springsummer), it all ought to be lovely.

Emily Jones presents:
A Spring Symposium: Lake of Puppies + Crayola Lectern + Arch Garrison + Bob Drake + Kemper Norton + Libbertine Vale + Emily Jones
Coombe Bissett Village Hall, Shutts Lane, Homington Road, Coombe Bissett, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 4LU, England
Saturday 12th May 2018, 2.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

May 2018 – Bob Drake’s complicated solo pulp fantasia on tour in England and France (4th-12th May), and details on some of his gigmates en route…

26 Apr

I started mentioning upcoming Bob Drake shows a few posts ago, but wasn’t able to go further than that until they coalesced; now, like spits of mud hitting a wall, they’ve fallen into place.

Born in the American mid-West, forged and frustrated in Denver and Los Angeles, and now living happily in the south of France, Bob’s become an increasingly regular visitor to British shores, able to take advantage of a growing number of friendships and affinities which provide fertile space for his delightfully off-the-wall guitar-and-voice gigs. He’s built on a previous career in heavy avant-prog bands (such as Thinking Plague, 5uus and The Science Group) to kick off and develop his own very specific brand of American musical storytelling. Rather than sombre accounts of depressions and dustbowl, or frontier myths, or urban cowboy ditties, he creates crazy quilts of short-but-complicated songcraft drinking deep from the well of American pulp fiction – specifically, the weird end. Modern (or at least recent-antique) spieling and riffing on monsters and strangeness; never far away from horse-laughs and absurdity, but also a couple of dimensional rips away from the kind of spindle-fold-and-mutilate pocket universe which, one sometimes suspects, he feeds his music through.


 
These days, he’s variously described as “a pop alchemist”, “a multi-fingered, omnipotent, all-seeing instrumentalist”, “a peddlar of avant-garde, individual but always highly melodic tales of bears, skulls, meerkats, griffins and more” and as the player of songs about “anthropomorphic animals, haunted farmhouses, mystical reveries and inexplicable phenomena”. All of the descriptions fit. So does the one that suggests he’s actually a kid’s TV presenter who saw the fnords one day and happily went rogue.

Dates:

  • Le 108, 108 Rue de Bourgogne, 45000 Orléans, France, Friday 4th May 2018, 8.30pminformation
  • The Others, 6-8 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, London, N16 5SA, England, Sunday 6th May at 19:30–22:30 (with Bing Selfish & The Windors + IG Witzelsucht) – information here and here
  • The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England, Tuesday 8th May 2018, 7.00pm (with Moliné/Gagarin Summit and others t.b.c.) – information
  • The Cellar Arts Club, 70 Marine Parade (basement), Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 3QB, England, Wednesday 9th May 2018, 7.30pm (with Random Nature) – information
  • The Evening Star, 55-56 Surrey Street, Brighton, West Sussex, BN1 3PB, England, Thursday 10th May 2018, 8.00pm (with Kemper Norton) – free event – information
  • The Urban Bar, 176 Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel, London, E1 1BJ, England, Friday 11th May 2018, 8.00pm (with Bing Selfish & The Windsors + Kazumi Taguchi) – information
  • ‘A Spring Symposium’ @ Coombe Bissett Village Hall, Shutts Lane, Homington Road, Coombe Bissett, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 4LU, England, Saturday 12th May 2018, 2.00pm – information here and here

While the Orléans event is Bob and Bob alone, it’s the only time (bar a quiet house gig along the way) that he’ll will be playing on his own.

Of the three shows in London, the one at the Harrison on the 8th should be of interest to Pere Ubu fans since it also features Moliné/Gagarin Summit, a fresh teaming of Keith Moliné and Graham “Gagarin” Dowdall, musical compadres for two decades who currently hold down/expand on the guitarist and synthesist roles within Ubu. Between them, they can also muster a history of stints with Frank Black, Nico, Roshi feat. Pars Radio, Ludus, Prescott and They Came From The Stars I Saw Them.

What’s likely to emerge may feature some of Ubu’s “avant-garage” touch; the factories, beasts and spill of Keith’s guitar noises; the blend of electronic grain and field recording in Gagarin-sound. Or perhaps none of these things. All they’re promising is “guitars that don’t sound like guitars and electronics that don’t sound electronic, presided over by intense, exploratory artists who have just as little idea where the music is heading as you do.” There should be other people alighting on the bill closer to the date, pulled from the intriguing contact book of organisers Westking Music & Performing Arts… meanwhile, I’ve just dug up something from Keith’n’Graham as a musical pointer.


 
Both of the other two London shows – on the 6th and 11th – see Bob reunited with a regular gig-sharing friend: sarcastic avant-garde underground pop star Bing Selfish, plus the experimental surf/garage-pop of his micro-lounge backing band The Windsors. Also in place are Rotterdam experimental music supergroup IG Witzelsucht featuring guitarist Lukas Simonis, drummer Cor Hoogerdijk and multi-instrumental/polydisciplinary flâneur Ergo Phizmiz, whose work includes singing, sound collage and opera as well as stop-motion animation and radio drama: at least a few of these skills will make their way into the set. The band’s been described as “a rapid-fire songwriting bonanza (with) tunes about mermaids, mistakes, compost manufacture, celebrity perverts, geometry, and so on”, so Bob’s songs will be in good company.


 
I don’t know about the rest of the Depresstivallians on offer. There’s some incomprehensible gargle about “Bill Oddie’s Goth Watch”, “data wrangling”, “an angrier and less prolific Joanna Newsom” and a possible guest slot for the mysterious “guy from the kebab shop”. The last is probably one of many absurdist Depresstival in-jokes; but I’m really hoping that some guy with a greasy apron saunters in and explodes into a sword dance with a pair of those giant doner slicers.

The gig on the 11th also features a set by Kazumi Taguchi. Once she was half of cult/spoof London-Japanese art-popsters Frank Chickens, who sang about ninjas, geishas, karaoke and other aspects of Japan-aphernalia, simultaneously entertaining, mocking, embracing and challenging their Western audience. These days, Kazumi presents and cross-fertilises her home culture more soberly: drawing on Okinawan folk and classical music, Noh theatre and Korean drumming, she performs art-gallery gigs and assorted musical teamups on Okinawan sanshin (a three-string proto-shamisen) and sanba (castanets) and Chinese guqin zither. I know no more than that. It’s quite a turnaround from the old days of pop culture gags, but then the separation between high and low art can be as thin as fine rice paper these days… or cheap bog-roll.


 
It’ll be a more conventional evening at Worthing on the 9th, when Bob shares his stage with the doubled acoustic guitars and easygoing songcraft of the Random Nature duo. He’s likely to make up for that the following night in Brighton, when he’s playing a free/donations-only gig with ambient landscape-folk singer Kemper Norton, a genial lyrical hauntologist with a love of folding noise and field recordings into his songs. Kemper rejoins Bob a couple of days later when both play the Tim Smith ‘Spring Symposium’ fundraiser just outside Salisbury. There, they’ll be joining a host of musicians who balance happily on multiple cusps: folk, punk, progressive rock, psychedelia, dashes of prog and kosmische, and a warm inclusive feel of roots they’ve crafted and grafted themselves. More on that later…



 

April 2018 – upcoming London classical/experimental/folk gigs – Caterina Barbieri solotronic set at Kammer Klang, plus Zwerm Ensemble and the RAM’s Experimental Music Ensemble playing Feldman, Dowland, Brown and Baillie (3rd April); the ‘What is England?’ festival including Bishi/Jeff Cook’s ‘The Good Immigrant”, Ansuman Biswas, Suna Alan and John Spiers (20th-23rd April)

28 Mar

Dips into the mid-twentieth century New York School (including its work with graphic scores) and into unintentionally sprightly electronica characterise a surprisingly sober, instrumentally-based April show for Kammer Klang.

Kammer Klang, 3rd April 2018Kammer Klang presents:
Kammer Klang: Caterina Barbieri + Zwerm Ensemble (playing John Dowland, Earle Brown and Joanna Baillie) + RAM Experimental Music Ensemble (playing Morton Feldman)
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 3rd April 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Opening, the Royal Academy of Music’s Experimental Music Ensemble present Morton Feldman‘s rarely-performed, highly textured septet piece ‘The Straits Of Magellan’. Dating back to 1961, the piece’s graphical score is an array of coded time boxes, each containing representative symbols for single or simultaneous notes/durations/colourations; while the dynamics of the composition are explicitly and sternly noted (with minimal note attacks, a generally quiet approach but multiple instructions for glissandi, harmonics etc), the pitches are left entirely up to the players’ choices. Here’s one of the many possible interpretations:


 
In the middle of the bill are Belgian electric guitar quartet Zwerm Ensemble (avant-garde favourites whose collaborations and performance credits include Fred Frith, Mauro Pawlowski, Larry Polansky, Eric Thielemans, Yannis Kyriakides and Etienne Guilloteau) The four members (Toon CallierJohannes WestendorpBruno Nelissen and Kobe van Cauwenberghe) will present arrangements of ‘Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens’ (by peerless Renaissance lute composer John Dowland), ‘December 1952’ (by twentieth century “open form” pioneer Earle Brown,and, like the Feldman piece, sourced from a graphic score) plus a performance of ‘Last Song From Charleroi’, a new seventeen-minute work for four electric guitars and tape composed by Joanna Bailie. Examples of playing, pieces and general composer tone below…





 
Headlining, Italian composer and voltage-controlled-sequencer specialist Caterina Barbieri will perform a solo electronic set of her “ecstatic computation” music. Berlin-based, she explores “themes related to machine intelligence and object oriented perception in sound through a focus on minimalism” and “psycho-physical effects of repetition and pattern-based operations in music, by investigating the polyphonic and polyrhythmic potential of sequencers to draw severe, complex geometries in time and space.”

In practise, this is surprisingly accessible. Her work (including her recent ‘Patterns Of Consciousness’ album, composed entirely on Verbos Harmonic Oscillator and ER-101 Indexed Quad Sequencer) initially sounds closer to the pop-synth airiness of Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream records from the ‘70s; even to the rhythmic clink of Larry Heard or the warm chitter of Jean-Michel Jarre. But even if there are similarities to ‘Pong’ or ‘Popcorn’ – especially live – this is merely a side effect of structure. Caterina’s work is intended as an austere examination of qualities: its primitive but plaintive blippery coming about due to her wish to avoid signature synth sounds, concentrating instead on careful shifts of accenture, attack and shaping on basic sine tones, accelerating and decelerating. The emotional content – like the unexpected danceability – apparently comes despite her intentions. Live, she fits right in with populist EM; sometimes, though, in the studio, she can come across as more raw, glitchy and forbidding. Perhaps in the tougher Kammer Klang environment, more of this side will will emerge.


 
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Information’s starting to come through on a defiantly heterogenous and diverse festival springing up in Stoke Newington towards the end of the month, delving into electroclassical and folk music forms, queerness, multiculturalism and the concept of English nationality in (and in spite of) ugly times. Details on this are still taking shape, so I’ll drop in what I’ve got now and add to it later, when I can…

The Old Church, The Nest Collective & others present:
‘What is England?’
The Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 9ES, England,
20th-23rd April 2018, various times
– information here

'What Is England?', 20th-23rd April 2018“A four-day festival in the run up to St George’s Day, ‘What Is England?’ offers a chance for everyone to reimagine ‘Englishness’ in an inclusive, welcoming way, at a time when a toxic form of nationalism is on the rise.

“The festival includes the European debut of ‘The Good Immigrant’, an electroclassical song cycle for voice looper, sitar and electronics about race and identity by vocalist/composer Bishi. Co-produced with composer and sound designer Jeff Cook, the song cycle received its world premiere at The Ferus Festival in January 2018 in New York. The music is inspired by ‘The Good Immigrant’ by Nikesh Shukla, a collection of essays by 21 BAME writers, ruminating on race & identity in contemporary Britain. Each song is a response to a particular essay in the book, with special audio quotes sampled in from personal interviews conducted with writers Nikesh Shukla, Salena Godden and Darren Chetty, ending with a choral setting of Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where The Mind is Without Fear’.

“In this work, Bishi takes a personal & intersectional journey reflecting on her experiences. As a British-Bengali daughter of immigrants, adopted by London’s community of alternative queer nightlife, she has lived through a unique cross-section of London’s contemporary urban landscape. ‘The Good Immigrant’ is a call to arms to explore our differences so that we may find more unity and empathy in a divided world. Having been trained in eastern and western classical music, and experienced performing in a Bulgarian choir, Bishi takes her influences from a variety of musical styles. Major musical influences include electronic producers Burial and Arca, and vocalists such as Meredith Monk and Lisa Gerrard.


 
“Also as part of the festival, modern folk initiative The Nest Collective presents a very special St George’s day involving established and merging talent in English folk, again looking at the idea of Englishness. Confirmed artists so far include Ansuman Biswas, Suna Alan and John Spiers.

“Believing that “music spreads throughout the environment like a perfume.. it soaks into the fabric of other things and people”, Ansuman is an Kolkata-born percussionist, interdisciplinary artist and composer who has been commissioned by Tate Modern, National Theatre, English Ballet and has worked with Bjork and the London Philharmonic Orchestra and in world music hybrid quartet Newanderthal (“four humans, three continents”). Suna is a Kurdish/Alevi singer based in London whose family moved to Smyrna (Izmir) in her early childhood (meaning that much of her formative years were spent surrounded by traditional Kurdish dengbêj music and Kurdish-Alevi laments within a rich cosmopolitan cultural environment). Her main focus is Kurdish folk songs from the four regions of Kurdistan, namely Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, but her repertoire also includes Armenian, Greek, Sephardic and Turkish songs. John Spiers, known better in folk circles as Squeezy, has made a name for himself as one of the leading squeezebox players of his generation, playing with Eliza Carthy’s Ratcatchers band, Bellowhead and the duo Spiers and Boden (with Jon Boden).”




 
Rough details on the festival dates and events below: with panel events, DJs and an as-yet-unrevealed event for the Sunday slot, expect things to expand. With ‘The Quietus’ involved, I wouldn’t be surprised if a New Weird Britain strand began to weave its way into proceedings…

  • Friday 20 April, 7.00pm – festival launch: ‘The Good Immigrant’, plus NTS and The Quietus DJs and What Is England? panel eventtickets
  • Saturday 21 April, 10.30am – OPEN: Morning including “make-you-own-flag” event with OPEN:Art/Output Arts tickets
  • Saturday 21 April, 7.00pm – The Good Immigrant, with DJs and ‘The Good Nationalist?’ panel eventtickets
  • Sunday 22 April – details t.b.c.
  • Monday 23 April, 7.00pm – Nest Collective’s St George’s day event featuring Ansuman Biswas, Suna Alan, John Spiers and others t.b.c.tickets

 

March 2018 – pop/folk/etc gigs in London – Roshi Featuring Pars Radio (plus KES, Ivan Bushbye and Euan Sutherland – 6th March); Bella Spinks, Laura Frances and Gillie Ione (1st March); SOIF Soiree including Society Of Imaginary Friends, Hungry Dog Brand, Gisela Meyer, Tamara Canada, Blert Ademi, Global Warming Records and others (2nd March)

23 Feb

Roshi Featuring Pars Radio + Kes + Euan Sutherland + Ivan Bushbye, 6th March 2018Westking Music presents:
Roshi Featuring Pars Radio + KES + Ivan Bushbye + Euan Sutherland
The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England
Tuesday 6th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Multiple influences come into play in the music of Roshi Nasehi – her Iranian heritage (embodied in her parents, their memories and their old cassettes), the folk songs and choirs in the Welsh milieu of her upbringing, the bleeding-in of tunes from 1980s British pop radio; piano and violin lessons and the jazz she studied at college in Cardiff; her early stint singing with Keith Tippett. All of these have settled somewhere in her current work, but none of them in a fixed and permanent location: they’re loose factors, like an office full of papers which can be picked up and whirled about by a fresh gust of wind from an open window.

Roshi Featuring Pars RadioDuring eighteen years in London Roshi has made a name for herself as performer, collaborator, workshopper, academic, installationeer and recorder of musical events. Her main song outlet is Roshi Featuring Pars Radio, a collaboration with Graham “Gagarin” Dowdall (prolific percussionist, producer, Pere Ubu-ist and John Cale/Nico collaborator). They describe it as “Welsh-Iranian folk pop”, with an electronic, experimentalist edge to it; a shuffleable span of folktronica strata which somehow captures the thinning links, the stubborn clingings and the disjunctive adaptations of the immigrant experience (whether circumstances have blown you into town from Alavicheh or from Gorseinon).

Some of Roshi’s ‘80s pop heritage manifests in its echos of Kate Bush – I don’t mean in Bronte-pop twirls or vocal lushnesses, but in beautiful cramped murmurs which recall the subvocal/sublingual keenings and chamberings of ‘The Dreaming’. The soundworld is deliberately intimate but obscure; Gagarin’s signature “sound-leakage” palette of finely-milled noises interpenetrating field recordings, Roshi’s keyboard parts questioning and unanchored; her language shifting between English and Pharsi, with versions of Iranian songs cut and rising up through the deck.

 
Also playing are the usual Westking gig-gaggle of emerging students, undergoing their solo live performance assessment by being hurled into support slots. This time round it’s lo-fi electronic pop/soul musician KES, “understated folk” performer Euan Sutherland and contemporary pianist Ivan Bushbye. All of them are too fresh on the scene to have much online to follow up on (Euan also shares his name with a Scottish clothing magnate who got tangled up with the Co-op a few years ago, and this doesn’t help either). However, I did find this video of Ivan playing Ryiuchi Sakamoto’s ‘Forbidden Colours’, so that will have to do for now.


 
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Back at the very start of May, there’s a summit of young female songwriters tucked away into the basement of Servant Jazz Quarters.

Sublime Music presents:
Bella Spinks + Laura Frances + Gillie Ione
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 1st March 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Bella Spinks + Laura Frances + Gillie Ione, 1st March 2018Brightonian Bella Spinks has been performing in public since she was twelve: not annoying R&B impressions on the top deck of the bus to Worthing, but a full-blown debut at the Concorde 2 round about 2006. Since then, she’s had plenty of time to broaden and hone her ideas, and has filled the interim years well, preparing her developing work and playing teenaged support slots to a range of performers from Martha Wainwright to Sea of Bees, Ellie Goulding to Ron Sexsmith, The Staves to Viv Albertine. As for herself, she’s already a mistress of the verbally and musically articulate solo piano ballad, a songwriter who can build a hooky and accessible pop single around Platonic philosophy, and a woman with a knack for sonorities (be it undulating basslines, hot-space gaps in the vocal lines or the woody rhythms of a struck’n’knocked piano frame).

The debut album isn’t due for another few months, but come along to celebrate the recent, aforementioned Platonic single ‘Noble Lie’, in which Bella muses and storytells across various forms of implied alchemy. Right now, she’s on a cusp – some idiot could talk her into smoothing everything down into mainstream kitchen-radio ballads, or she could hang onto her inquisitive nature and keep driving down the path of her subtle, slightly bookish originality. I really hope that she sticks with the latter.



 
She’s tagged as “a dark, baritone Joni Mitchell baring herself in her songs with a refreshing depth and brevity”, but rather than carrying out yet another sub-Joni confessional shtick Laura Frances wraps herself in the robes of yearning, classic dark-folk: the kind which I first heard on my mother’s Cynthia Gooding records from the 1950s folk revival – rich-voiced, majestic and ancient. It’s unsurprising to hear that her songwriting springs first and foremost from poetry, her stark modernity constantly slipping back towards mediaeval mystique. It’s also unsurprising to hear Mazzy Star and Leonard Cohen also mentioned in her train of influences. There’s a touch (just a touch, mind) of the urban-playing/rural-dreaming Gothic to her tunes: solemnly waltzing guitar, lonesome woodsaw string parts, and the abiding melancholy in her tone.

 
With a mini-album (2016’s ‘Misapprehension’) and a couple of standalone download singles behind her, Welshwoman-turned-Londoner Gillie Ione makes quick darts through self-produced restless talky songs, like well-made Tracy Chapman /Melissa Etheridge pieces with an experimental pop bent and bonus scurries of motormouthing. On record, she floats about between introspective guitar lines, spacious drum patter and strange ambients knocks and wanders; the scenery shifting behind her fluttery chatting, her glinting disparate observations being molded into a larger, broader picture of meaning.



 
* * * * * * * *

Society of Imaginary Friends presents:
SOIF Soiree: HARE !!! (the Musical) – Society Of Imaginary Friends + Hungry Dog Brand + Gisela Meyer & John Human + Outre Dan Steele (Darren & Isobel Hirst) + Tamara Canada + Blert Ademi + Global Warming Records + Cian Binchy
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 2nd March 2018, 7.30pm
– free event – information here

SOIF Soiree, 2nd March 2018Greeting the alleged arrival of the English spring (I’ll believe it when I see it), Society Of Imaginary Friends are bringing another of their art-pop mini-musicals to the March event in their monthly Wood Green soirees. This time, it’s ‘HARE!’ about which they’re saying nothing yet, though you can pick up a few clues from the evening’s lead-in text – (“…we climb out of our warm dark burrows into the golden slanting sunlight, our hearts swell with joy, and we dance a manic tarantella – chase each other in crazy circles, play-box under the serene blue sky and, as the moon rises, the static electrical frenzy of fizzical freedom – it’s mating time!”)

All right – stand by for sex, violence and gratuitous crocuses. Meanwhile, here’s something they did earlier…


 
Making Soiree returns are pianist/composer Blert Ademi and regular-of-regulars Cian Binchy (actor, standup, spoken-worder and autism activist, just back from his Mexican tour). Fresh to the Soiree stage are emerging R&B singer Tamara Canada, post-apocalyptic ecologically-obsessed techno burster Global Warming Records (a.k.a. ‘Driftshift’ presenter Franziska Lantz from Resonance FM) and author/reviewer/punk-poet Martin Dowsing’s Hungry Dog Brand (providing “very English sounding fictional narrative-based songs in a new wave / garage rock style with a touch of seaside gothic” plus a touch of the abrasive wit of their “No Wankers Aloud” club nights from the much-missed original 12 Bar Club).

In typically diverse Soiree fashion, the evening’s rounded off (or thrown engagingly off course) by a turn from internationally acclaimed cellist and concert pianist Gisela Meyer (who, surprisingly, is dropping bow and abandoning keyboard in order to sing three Debussy love songs accompanied by Anglo-Indian classical/improv pianist John Human) and by what looks like a partially-exploded performance by the Outre Dan Steele duo, a.k.a. Darren and Isobel Hirst. Darren (who’s squeezed writing for the NME, working as a vicar, reviewing theatre and being a “professor of baseball” into his life so far), will be interrupting, or moonlighting from, the duo in order to deliver Shakespearean soliloquys. I’m presuming he means actual Shakespeare rather than anguished cod-Tudor monologues about the pains of being a twenty-first century Renaissance man…

The usual Soiree terms and conditions apply – free entry, but you pay for the fine vegan grub. As regards some advance listening, with music and sound for several of the acts wilfully obscure, stuck in the MySpace graveyard or mysteriously pulled from circulation, here’s what I could throw together. Apologies for the occasional bedroom/phone footage look…




 

January 2018 – upcoming London gigs – rock and ranging experimentalism with Ciara Clifford + V Ä L V Ē (26th January); pointillist folk-rock and music for digital paintings from Jack Cheshire and Mally Harpaz (30th January); avant-folk and literature with Kelly Andrews’ combined You Are Wolf concert and book launch (31st January)

11 Jan

Here are three end-of-the-month concerts: two odd couplings, and one odd doubling. Collectively, they incorporate muscular indie-rock, transformative avant-folk, short film scores, quirky experimental music shuffles and psychedelia-tinted folk rock. Much, though not all, of it is female-led or female-driven.

* * * * * * * *

Ciara Clifford, 26th January 2018

Ladies Of The Canyon Records presents
Ciara Clifford + V Ä L V Ē
Aces & Eights Saloon Bar, 156-158 Fortess Road, Tufnell Park, London, NW5 2HP, England
Friday 26th January 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here

Ciara Clifford is inspired in part by distinctive major-signed female rock and pop acts like tUnE-yArDs, St. Vincent and Anna Calvi (as well by her taste for jazz-bass virtuosi Tal Wilkenfeld and Jaco Pastorius and the unfettered rock roar of System Of A Down or Linkin Park). That said, she’s perhaps closer to the parallel-mainstream world of She Makes War’s Laura Kidd or Candythief’s Diana de Cabarrus: hard-grafting, self-propelled British indie women carving out their own cottage-industry efforts.

With a self-funded eponymous debut album behind her (released last year on her own Lady Of The Canyon Records) Ciara took her first steps last year in promoting it via assorted shows at venues like the Betsey Trotwood, The Strongroom and Paper Dress Vintage. Now she’s trying on the slick rock’n-roll roadhouse environment of Tufnell Park’s Aces and Eights, accompanied by fellow Calvi bandmember Mally Harpaz on drums and by jazzy London bassist Pablo Rodriguez.


 
For support this time, Ciara’s taken the unusual step of booking V Ä L V Ē, Chlöe Herington’s triple-woman avantronic reeds/harp/electronics ensemble. As well as being experimental, Chlöe’s work is determinedly playful and, at points, comical. A bold tinkerer with graphic scores and representational notation, she’s also got form for picking up junk or an unlikely, tasty sound and then repurposing it for a quick, quirky composition. This has included sampling her own Pepsi-slurping and belching, rescoring and recording musical fragments found in skips, writing for a chorus of antique doorbells or (rather more touchingly) using her late mother’s ECG printouts as the basis for notation.

There’s a serious point to all this, as the pieces are intended to “explore synaesthetic memory and collective experience”. This aim is amplified by V Ä L V Ē’s live work, in which Chlöe augments her bassoon, saxophones, samples and gizmos with Emma Sullivan’s bass and Microkorg synth, and with Elen Evans’ harp. With all three women singing and vocalising too, the music diverges from individual gags and solipsisms and heads towards more of a common experience, from a shared cackle to a kitchen chorale.




 
With Ciara’s relatively straightforward songcraft and Chlöe’s envelope-popping peculiarities, this is certainly an odd billing, especially considering the honky-tonk theme of the venue. It’s almost like a gigshare between Jack Peñate and John Cage – or, to pull in an X-chromosome equivalent, one between Carina Round and the late Lindsay Cooper (whose music Chlöe plays as a member of Half The Sky) – playing at Bob’s Country Bunker.

Then again, sometimes musical affinities go beyond the obvious. It’s probably worth turning up just to see what kind of atmosphere and chemistry this particular juxtaposition will create.

* * * * * * * *

Jack Cheshire + Molly Harpaz, 30th January 2018Both Chlöe Herington and Mally Harpaz resurface for a gig a few days later. Although the former’s vanishing behind the scenes to be an organiser, the latter’s stepping out from behind the drumkit to showcase some of her own music for short animations.

Westking Music & Performing Arts presents:
Jack Cheshire + Mally Harpaz
WKC Theatre @ Westminster Kingsway College, 211 Gray’s Inn Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8RA, England
Tuesday 30th January 2018, 6.30pm
– information here and here

In part, this concert is a re-run of the set Mally played as support to Colonial Sun last month: keyboard-led small ensemble tunes written for a set of short animations. This time, Mally’s ensemble is playing support to another full-band performance by Jack Cheshire, whose music has been hailed as “spooky, pointillist, strings-driven pastoralia” by the Sunday Times and by ‘Clash Magazine’ as “curious, idiosyncratic (…) artful pop… psychedelic in a very English way… imbued with remarkable depth.” This, too, is something of a re-run, following up Jack’s gig at Nest Collective last November.

Jack Cheshire + Mally Harpaz, 30th January 2018Another odd and slightly disparate pairing, then, but one which reflects Westking’s refreshingly flexible approach under Chlöe’s booking regime. Here’s a repeat of the press releases I cited last time around:

Jack Cheshire(‘s) contemporary alt-folk sound with a post-rock twist has led him to share bills with luminary peers Songhoy Blues and Josh T. Pearson, and grace the stages of The Green Man Festival and Kings Place. The ghosts of Nick Drake and Syd Barrett skirt the edges of his songs, embellished by what ‘Uncut’ magazine calls an “Ian McCulloch-style croon”, with a “burnished psychedelia (that) takes this music to the skies”. He released his 2017 album ‘Black Light Theatre’ to universal press and radio acclaim, making fans of 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne and Tom Robinson along the way.

Mally Harpaz (photo © Barbara Muller)

Mally Harpaz (photo © Barbara Muller)

“Drummer, pianist and multi-instrumentalist Mally Harpaz (who’s played with Lunatic Crash, Anna Calvi, Hazel Iris, Ciara Clifford and Jessica Lauren) will be performing her original compositions joined by a small number of phenomenal musicians and special guests.

“These distinct pieces were mainly written as part of a collaboration with award-winning video artist Clara Aparicio Yoldi for several short films including ‘Iconosfera’, ‘Zoom Out’, and ‘Zoom In’: the original recordings feature (among others) Anna Calvi, Mark Neary and Mally’s old Lunatic Crash bandmate Eran Karniel. Mally’s reverence for the profound creates mysterious melodic lines and shares a luscious ambience with other contemporary pioneers such as Steve Reich, Max Richter, and Nils Frahm.”

 

(UPDATE, 17th January 2018: Incidentally – Mally and Colonial Sun are literally repeating their December concert a few days earlier at Hundred Years Gallery on the 27th – more on that here.)
* * * * * * * *

As I mentioned, Jack’s last London show was with Nest Collective, who’ve been bringing a full-range flush of folk-related music to London for several years now, from the rootsiest Americana and puirt a beul to thrillingly peculiar and innovative latter-day spins on the old formulae.

Kerry Andrews (You Are Wolf), 31st January 2018

One such new spin comes from Kerry Andrew who, as You Are Wolf, has spent the last seven years reinventing folk standards as sparse laptop tapestries: a capella vocals (sometimes layered, more often solo or in fragmentary chorus or conversation) swung in eerie but inclusive cradles of cupping bass guitar, neophyte textural daubs of bark-rough ukelele and riffling recorder, and stately string quartets. She’s been compared to Björk – and rightly so – but don’t imagine a callow imitator reeling off spurts of calculated experimental pop clonery. Instead, think more of the ‘Medúlla’ project and of someone unafraid to recast ideas in intriguing yet accessible new forms from the ground up, centring on the human voice (whether naked or cunningly garlanded) and calling fresh, spontaneous sounds up from apparently familiar sources in order to have them sing along with it.

Kerry Andrew: 'Swansong'Having already broadened her profile beyond folkery via her chatty ‘University Challenge’ blog, Kerry’s currently venturing into more serious terrain with the arrival of her “charged, hallucinatory… powerful(ly) metaphoric” debut novel ‘Swansong’. Drawing on the ancient Irish ballad of ‘Molly Bawn’ (or ‘Polly Vaughan’, in which a young man shoots his lover while mistaking her for a swan), Kerry takes a myth that’s travelled across Scandinavia, Ireland and England, altering as it goes (an extant Scottish version throws in a jealous mother, a pair of death-and-resurrection transformations and a guilty suicide).

Taking her own turn at it, Kerry provides a further upending and reworking of the tale. Her new prose version is a post-‘Morvern Callar’ take with an empowered, self-willed, boisterous heroine. This particular Polly (fleeing to the Scottish Highlands to escape the aftermath of an unpleasant incident at home in London) entertains herself with drink, drugs and sex before finding the landscape drawing her into visions and strange encounters, including one with a mysterious man mutilating a bird… It’s not the first time that Kerry has approached this particular song and myth. There’s a version on her 2014 debut album ‘Hawk To The Hunting Gone’ in which she intersperses melodies or text from several versions with her own surreal alternative story. Seen from Molly’s point of view, it seems that neither petrification, death nor ghosthood appear to encumber her, seeming to be merely transformative steps between states of existence. Empowerment of a different kind.


 
Kerry is formally launching ‘Swansong’ in London at a Nest Collective evening featuring a performance by You Are Wolf. On this occasion, the project’s presenting as a trio, possibly with bass-playing sidekick Andrew Furlow and ‘Hawk…’ co-producer MaJiKer. I’m not sure of the details (just as I’m unsure of the balance there’ll be between readings and music), but I’m already convinced that it’s going to be one of January’s most magical evenings.

The Nest Collective presents:
Kerry Andrew: ‘Swansong’ book launch featuring You Are Wolf
The Old Queen’s Head, 44 Essex Road, Islington, London, N1 8LN, England
Wednesday 31 January 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here



 

December 2017 – upcoming London folk gigs – Gaelynn Lea at The Old Church (6th December); Tartine de Clous, Alasdair Roberts & Neil McDermott with guests Ivor Kallin & Sholto Dobie and The London Hardingfelelag (11th, 12th December); Gitta de Ridder and The Balkanoes at Collage Nights (13th December)

2 Dec

I keep missing Gaelynn Lea’s shows… and missing the opportunity to post about them. With her return to London for another gig this season, I’ve got a chance to catch up.

Blow the Fuse presents:
Gaelynn Lea
The Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 9ES, England
Wednesday 6th December, 2017, 8.30pm
– information here and here

Gaelynn Lea, 6th December 2017A classically-trained twenty-year veteran of violin playing whose limbs have been shortened from birth by osteogenesis imperfecta, Gaelynn plays her fiddle like a cello and sings original songs drawing from the well of traditional American, Irish, Scottish and English folk sources and blending them with her own ideas and experience. Her wistful honey-gravelled singing, her songwriting artistry and her textured playing (supplemented by improvisation and loop-pedal) is powerful and universal enough to have won NPR Music’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest, seeing off competition from around six thousand other American songwriters and performers.


 
Meanwhile, her performance presence and physical courage have moved audiences to tears and applause in her native Minnesota and across American and Europe (and have won her both admiration and a shared stage from Low’s Alan Sparhawk, country bluesman Charlie Parr, and New Acoustic touchstyle guitar star Billy McLaughlin). In addition to her musicality, Gaelynn is a powerful disability community advocate – speaking and blogging forthrightly and fearlessly about iniquities and the need for social change to accommodate and support disabled people, and covering subjects from everyday practical challenges to the expression and enjoyment of sexuality. Come for the music, stay for the strength; maybe leave with the encouragement to help make things better.

* * * * * * * *

Over in Homerton, the brilliantly ramshackle Old Dentist venue continues its rewarding partnership with Muckle Mouth, hosting yet another enthralling fringe-folk gig (although this one’s of a more traditional bent)…

Muckle Mouth, 11th December 2017

Muckle Mouth and The Old Dentist present:
Tartine de Clous, Alasdair Roberts & Neil McDermott, plus Ivor Kallin & Sholto Dobie (11th)/The London Hardingfelelag (12th)
The Old Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Monday 11th December 2017, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here
Tuesday 12th December 2017, 7.30pm – information here, here and here

“We are honoured to host a very special collaboration between French harmony-singing trio Tartine de Clous, legendary Scottish guitarist and folk singer Alasdair Roberts and fellow Glasgwegian fiddler Neil McDermott over two nights at The Old Dentist following their residency at Cube Microplex in Bristol.

“Tartine de Clous (Geoffroy Dudouit, Thomas Georget and Guillaume Maupin) are a singing trio originally from the department of Charente in western France. Following in the footsteps of some of the great French groups of the late twentieth century folk revival (such as Mélusine and La Bamboche), they sing largely unaccompanied three-part harmony arrangements of the traditional songs of their native land.


 
“In an echo of The Auld Alliance, Tartine de Clous will perform in collaboration with the Scottish songwriter, guitarist and folk singer Alasdair Roberts and his fellow Glaswegian, fiddler Neil McDermott over two nights at The Old Dentist. Alasdair has worked with Drag City Records for some twenty years, releasing records featuring both interpretations of traditional songs and those featuring his own songwriting. In addition to being a fine fiddler in the Scottish traditional style, Neil McDermott is currently researching the musical and political engagement of the 1960s Scottish folk scene with the anti-nuclear movement.

 
“They are joined on the 11th by veteran improviser Ivor Kallin (onetime co-curator of the 2:13 improvisation club, once rather unpleasantly described by The Times as “a bearded Scotsman given to stream-of-consciousness spew”) and Muckle Mouth curator Sholto Dobie (on viola and diatonic symphony hurdy gurdy respectively), and on the 12th by The London Hardingfelelag playing Norwegian tunes for Hardanger fiddle.”

There’s not much out there on the London Hardingfelelag (though I did find out that their ranks include Sylvia Hallett, Catherine Martin of the Gabrieli Players, Clare Salaman, Tania Simon, Clifford Rowe and until a few years ago, the late Wilf Gibson of ELO/’Spirit of Eden’ fame), but I did turn up a couple of videos of Ivor and Sholto, supplemented by one of the Hardanger fiddle in action…




 
* * * * * * * *
I caught up with the Collage Nights shows in Wood Green last month, just in time to learn about the final two gigs in their season. The last one rolls around mid-month, featuring Dutch-English singer-songwriter Gitta de Ridder and Balkan-styled party band The Balkanoes.

Collage Nights, 13th December 2017

Collage Nights presents:
Gitta de Ridder + The Balkanoes
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Wednesday 13th December 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Gitta’s debut album ‘Feathers’ came out last year. With its songs of family, friends and lovers (as opposed to hill gods, surreal landscapes or twisted urban short stories) it has a conventional tinge for the current time, but the delight is in the detail and the musicality. She’s a Joni Mitchell disciple less in the sense of pursuing the confessional or the coffee-table mope, more in the delightful flowering of orchestral chords and cats-cradle harmonies (as well as in her domestic wit).

As for the Balkanoes, they provide the standard pellmell Eastern European spaghetti-junction of Greek, Ottoman, Slavic and Romani musical threads, but have been known to career off into ‘Star Wars’ covers as well.

There’s also a special guest, but they’re keeping quiet about who that might be.




 

October 2017 – upcoming English gigs – Holly Penfield chops and changes in London (18th October); Minute Taker’s multimedia love-and-ghosts story ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ in Glasgow, London & Brighton (15th, 21st, 22nd October); Cardiacs’ ‘Marenest’ fundraiser showing in Bristol with The Scaramanga Six (21st October); and something on Paul Diello

7 Oct

Holly Penfield presents:
‘Holly Penfield – Spooky Little Girl’
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 372 Kennington Lane, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5HY, England
Wednesday 18th October 2017, 8.00pm
– information here

Holly Penfield: 'Fragile Human Monster', 18th October 2017For a while, there, I was spun back. Twentysomething years ago, I was a regular at Holly Penfield‘s ‘Fragile Human Monster Show’ (having first caught her performance on a random Edinburgh night back in 1992). Ostensibly based around sleek ’80s synth’n’sequencer pop, her shows had a number of twists. More like ’70s songwriter confessionals, they stirred yearning jazz and blues strands back into a genre which had mostly eschewed them. Based around Holly, her Kurzweil keyboard and a saxophonist (usually her husband Ian Ritchie, who’s had a hand in everything from Scouse artniks Deaf School to the Roger Waters band and the ‘Lonely Planet’ theme), they also had a compelling and bizarre Californian theatrical edge which variously sat in your lap and purred, wailed over your head, broke down in front of you, or made you feel less alone – always in the same set.

If you can dig up Holly’s long-lost debut album ‘Full Grown Child‘ – a brash early ‘80s Chinnichap production – you’ll hear an Innuendo-strewn, pop-belting cross between Suzi Quatro, a bleach-blond Rizzo, ABBA and full-on coke-blizzard-era Stevie Nicks. ‘Fragile Human Monster’ was the fallout from all that: an onstage realisation of Holly’s independent followup ‘Parts Of My Privacy’, in which she and Ian went back to her bluesier and torchier San Francisco roots, merged it with Ian’s techno-pop skills and teased out a series of passionate, cracked paeans (plus jarring digressions into performance art) about fear, instability and how the lost rebuild their lives and make their way. Tremendously tuneful but at odds to the music biz, the ‘Fragile Human Monster Show’ was that rare thing: outsider music with genuine craft and skill. It was also pretty queer and culty, drawing a diverse squadron of waifs and strays of all stripes (including me) to Holly’s home venue on the Kilburn High Road. Eventually it wore Holly out: putting it to rest, but still hanging onto her stubborn kookiness, she applied her remarkable voice and stage presence to a new career as a jazz cabaret diva. She’s made, I think, just one revisitation to Monster territory since (which you can read about here).

Holly Penfield: 'Spooky Little Girl', 18th October 2017Late this summer, though, Holly announced that she was bringing the old show back for an evening in October, though she wasn’t clear about how she’d be doing it: perhaps reworked for the acoustic jazz band she’s used for the last couple of decades, or perhaps with her going it alone (with the Kurzweil and sequencers brought out of mothballs and will go it alone). At any rate, I thought I’d be going along – possibly in search of my own confused, similarly theatrical mid-twenties self, perhaps to see if I got along with him a little better.

However, everything was upended in early September following Holly’s jolting appearance in the auditions for ‘The X-Factor’. Ubercamp, leather-clad and singing Meredith Brooks’ Bitch, she went full-on nightclub and came on to Simon Cowell like a kinky Weimar nightmare with a riding crop. Inspired by the experience (and not a little miffed at the mocking edit that made it to TV) Holly’s now claiming that “the evil jazz cabaret performer in (me) has clawed its way to the surface”, and has morphed the October show into an upbeat Halloween “Spooky Little Girl” special (billed as “cabaret classics, spooktacular rocking favourites and self-penned songs as only our Diva can deliver them”).

I can’t help thinking that an opportunity’s been lost (or steamrollered) but I might show up anyway. She’s still promising to pepper all of the knowing cornballery with old FHM songs; several existing set standbys (such as Stay With Me, seen below in a torch-jazz arrangement from 2009) originated in the old show, and a new-ish piano/vocal song Confessions (posted up online a year ago) suggests a creative leaning back towards the old days of torch and bearing witness. Regardless of any of that, there’s still the voice; there’s still the onstage magnetism. Should be some sort of a blast.



 
* * * * * * * * *

Minute Taker: 'To Love Somebody Melancholy' (live show)Also during the midmonth, acclaimed LBTQ folktronicist Minute Taker (aka Ben McGarvey) takes his multimedia show ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ out on tour in England and Scotland. I missed the news about his summer tour (which spiralled out from his homebase of Manchester, taking in Oldham, Chorlton and the Didsbury Art Festival plus a trans-Pennine appearance at Hebden Bridge) but managed to catch the news about his autumn followups in Glasgow, Brighton and London (including an appearance at the seventeenth century “actor’s church”, St Pauls in Covent Garden). Here’s the story:

“Singer-songwriter Minute Taker and BFI award-winning animation artist Ana Stefaniak have created a haunting, modern fable told through projected film and an epic live band performance of Minute Taker’s upcoming album… Expect to be immersed in a dark and magical world of strange animated characters and piano songs brimming with ethereal harmonies, fizzing synthesisers and orchestral twists.

“In ancient Greek philosophy Aristotle first popularised the notion that artists, poets and writers were of a melancholic disposition. In the middle ages melancholics were thought to be possessed by demons if they could not be “cured” of their depressive tendencies. Set on a desolate seashore, ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ explores the notion of the archetypal artist as he journeys through the euphoric highs and the self-destructive lows of his creative cycles. A new romantic relationship brings the artist the contentment he craves but it soon becomes apparent that there’s something else lurking in the shadows; a ghostly, shapeshifting third entity whose form is entirely dependent upon the artist’s current mindset. Sometimes a saviour, a source of inspiration and hope, sometimes a savage, ruthlessly determined on driving his lover away.”


 
Ben comments “one of my biggest influences when creating ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ was Kate Bush’s masterpiece ‘The Ninth Wave’. Such a wonderfully magical, otherworldly and at times frightening journey into the unknown. I never tire of going on this adventure with her. Come join our own dark adventure, inspired by Kate’s.”

Dates:

  • Websters Theatre, 416 Great Western Road, Woodlands, Glasgow, G4 9HZ, Scotland, Sunday 15th October 2017, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • St Paul’s Church, 29 Bedford St, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9ED, London, England, Saturday 21st October 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Latest Music Bar, 14-17 Manchester Street, Brighton, BN2 1TF, England, Sunday 22nd October 2017, 7.30pm (with Paul Diello) – information here

Additional support comes in Brighton comes from the award-winning “pop/folk/fabulous” singer-songwriter Paul Diello, who recently wowed the Brighton Fringe Festival with a sold out run of five-star-review shows and who promises “a special set of songs” for the occasion. Citing Madonna, Bowie, Kate Bush and Anohni as inspirations, Paul is an increasingly powerful artistic presence in the LGBT underground, operating in the febrile interface between cabaret, chart pop, queerness and visual staging (in particular, via video). Provocative and insidious, with an ear for the brazen tunes of ‘80s synthpop, Paul reminds me of a tougher Marc Almond – albeit with the sturdy physique of a dockside bouncer – while his songs are sharp confections of fists, flowers and standing your ground.


 
* * * * * * * *

Kate Bush seems to have become a recurring presence in this thread. Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I’ve always drawn a vague connecting line between ‘The Ninth Wave’ and Cardiacs’ 1989 album ‘On Land And In The Sea’.

Despite their common south London roots and the bare three years between them, there doesn’t initially seem to be much linking Bush’s silky-petalled Fairlight-driven art pop with the shrill, switchbacking, horns-and-artpunk firepower of Cardiacs, let alone their urchin squawks versus her sensual coo (though I’d have loved to have heard them cover each other). Dipping beneath the surface, however, reveals plenty to unite the two work. There’s the common and commonly transmogrified debt to English prog (in the structural ambition, the little flourishes of grandeur, and the enthusiastic mining of everything from twinkling tunes to violent psychedelic riffs, looming synth orchestration to jigs and jittering dreamscapes). There’s the common immersive marine motif – even when the sea’s banished from the foreground, it’s always present to embrace, propel, threaten or dissolve the bobbing characters within the songs. And although ‘The Ninth Wave’ centres pretty clearly on the near-death experience and night journey of a single castaway, while ‘On Land…’ zig-zags crazily over suburbs, shorelines, skies and inlets while weaving through multiple blurred perspectives (from the individual to that of a kind of profoundly skewed post-war national consciousness) in both works a half-sleeping, half-waking British mythology gets forked up and worked over anew, with a relentless filmic curiosity.


 

‘On Land And In The Sea’ provided most of the songs played in Cardiacs’ 1990 concert film ‘Marenest’, which brings its own chaotic theatrics to a fundraiser showing in Bristol. Live support comes from brutally grand, macabre Yorkshire rockers The Scaramanga Six, bringing a punchy live set based in part on their new crowdfunded ‘Chaotica’ album.

If ‘On Land…’ really was intended as some kind of concept album, it hid the fact under a typically Cardiacs welter of invention and disinformation. In contrast, ‘Chaotica’ wears its conceptual heart on a stained sleeve – the Scaramangas have been pretty open about its roots in “an abstract story roughly hewn from a concept of a dystopian island society. A place where everything has fallen into ruin, yet people still seem to have the same preoccupation with the trivial crap they had before. The population trudge through a chaotic existence on top of each other with absolutely no hope of a better life. Society is reduced to its base behaviour yet people still crave superficial fixes. The human condition carries on regardless. There is no outcome, no lessons to be learned. Familiar?” ‘Chaotica’ might not quite be a Brexit ‘Quadrophenia’, but it’s clearly leaning that way.


 
As is generally the rule with Cardiacs-related events these days, all profits on the day (including bonus donations by bucket or booking-stage gifting) are going to fund the care of Cardiacs’ driving force Tim Smith as he continues to battle against the aftermath of heart attacks and stroke. Note that the venue is quite hard to find, hidden as it is away behind the rubbish bins in a nondescript Bristol car park. Some Cardiacs fans would claim that this is only appropriate.

‘Maresnest’: Tim Smith Benefit with The Scaramanga Six
Cube Microplex, Dove Street South (off top-left of King Square), Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD, England
Saturday 21st October 2017, 7.00pm
information
 

June 2017 – upcoming English gigs – the return of Pram with the immersive ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’ event in Birmingham (June 3rd); Zarjaz Baby and Jon Slade/Night of the Comet in London (June 3rd); Arthur Russell’s ‘Calling Out Of Context’ revisited in London (June 7th)

23 May

Some shows and events to start June off. In Birmingham, experimental dream pop/post rock band Pram (one of the most original and charming groups ever to work in either genre) have resurfaced and are taking over an Edgbaston park for a very different kind of performance. Back in London there are opportunities to catch up with Zarjaz Baby (one of the wilder characters from the original wave of British post-punk) an acoustic set from Jon Slade (who’s navigated his way through a heap of scenes from art-punk to Riot Grrl to a thousand indie DJ nights); and a recreation of the cello/pop songs of Arthur Russell, one of the darlings of the 1980s New York loft music scene.

* * * * * * * *

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

for-Wards, MAC Birmingham and Pram present:
Pram: ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’
Martineau Gardens, 27 Priory Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B5 7UG, England
Saturday 3rd June 2017, 4:30pm
– free event – information here, here and here

“Composers and sonic artists Pram have been exploring south Birmingham with the help of local community groups to uncover the sounds of the locality. The results are both familiar and surprising.

“Let Pram take you on a journey through the city, a sound trail through the four wards of Birmingham’s Edgbaston district. Hear the world from the perspective of a bee as it flutters and forages. The snuffles of a tiny baby become the snores of a lion, the gurgle of a stream a mighty cataract. Come along and follow the woodland trail, bring a picnic and settle down for a performance inspired by the sound of the city as you’ve never heard it before.

“Set in the magical surroundings of Martineau Gardens, ‘Under the Blossom that Hangs on the Bough’ is an installation and performance by Pram, celebrating the sounds of Edgbaston. It will take place at Martineau Gardens on the afternoon of Saturday 3rd June, concluding at 6.30pm with a Pram performance inspired by sound recordings made in the wards of Quinton, Harborne, Edgbaston and Bartley Green. Free admission if you register at Eventbrite…”

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

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

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Zarjaz Baby + Jon Slade, 3rd June 2017

Zarjaz Baby + Jon Slade
The Horse Hospital, The Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Saturday 3rd June 2017, 7.00pm
information

“An existentialist extravaganza featuring a solo acoustic set from Zarjaz Baby (Freakapuss and former Tronics). Zarjaz will be performing dark atmospheric songs, full of imagery, with jazz, blues, early ’60s beat and pop influences, with live performance artists, in a style not seen since the basement and candles days of Beatniks.

“Also featured on the night is a solo acoustic Love-Rock revival set from Jon Slade/Knight Of The Comet, incorporating songs from his former bands Huggy Bear and Comet Gain, plus a Fire Department number, some Electric Bull re-workings, as well as songs he wrote with Wolfy Jones.


 
“’60s European pop music in between sets, Francoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot, Gillian Hills. Expect sombre girls dressed in black and boys in Breton shirts.”

For more information contact incoming@freakapuss.com

For more on Zarjaz’s chequered life and career, have a read of this interview he did with ‘The Quietus’ three years ago, featuring accounts of brushes with mental illness, of releasing surreal post-punk songs with titles like Shark Fucks, of arguing with ‘2000AD’ over his stage name, and of having his image ripped off by Sigue Sigue Sputnik.


 
* * * * * * * *

Arthur Russell: 'Calling Out Of Context', 7th June 2017

XOYO Live and Milestones present:
‘Arthur Russell – A Classic Reinterpreted’
XOYO, 32-37 Cowper Street, St Lukes, London, EC2A 4AP, England
Wednesday 7th June 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“It’s been said that “Arthur’s songs were so personal that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music.”

“Twenty-five years after Arthur Russell‘s death, some of the most exciting, forward-thinking faces in music are set to present a unique rendition of Arthur Russell’s timeless album ‘Calling Out Of Context’. A posthumous album that brought together twelve incredible tracks from across two previously unreleased LPs, ‘Calling Out Of Context’ represents Arthur in his prime. Two decades later and the music sounds as contemporary as ever – a huge inspiration for those performing on the night. We’re very excited to hear this new rendition.”

Bringing together elements of electropop, classical minimalism, post-disco, hip hop and singer-songwriter work, the ‘Calling Out Of Context’ songs span twenty years of Arthur’s composing and creative history while he was battling to fuse the parallel New York worlds of dance culture and art music between the late ’70s and the early ’90s – a pioneer of the freewheeling musical eclectism which today we pretty much take for granted. Take a look at this salvaged 1987 interview feature from the ‘Melody Maker’ for more on the topic, featuring reflections from Arthur and others on Indian music, the pulse shared by formal minimalism and New York dance clubs, and the social and cultural challenges of the time regarding blending “high” and “low” cultures.

The band for this London performance consists of Ashley Henry (keyboards), Midori Jaeger (cello), Alica Higgins (vocals), Sam Gardner (drums) and Joe Downard (bass).


 

May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Muckle Mouth bring us Le Ton Mité plus Chris Cundy (May 25th), and The Family Élan plus Plague Dogs (May 27th); Papernut Cambridge’s Beehive Yourself gig-hosting series continues with The Great Electric, Deerful and Mat Flint (May 27th)

20 May

More on that second set of May gigs at the Dentist in Homerton, plus a continuing set of gigs over in Bow…

* * * * * * * *
Le Ton Mité, 26th May 2017

Muckle Mouth and The Dentist present:
Le Ton Mité + Chris Cundy
33 Chatsworth Road/The Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Thursday 25th May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“This is the first ever London show of Le Ton Mité, a Belgian musical cooperative that revolves around the compositions of itinerant musician, instrument maker and fine artist McCloud Zicmuse, an American expatriate in permanent residence in Brussels.

“Having left the United States in the mid-noughties on a European sojourn that never ended, McCloud wound up in the Belgian capital in the fall of 2008. Half a decade on, a time in which he has embedded himself in European life via puppet shows, archery guilds, folkloric events, theatre projects and a catalogue of idiosyncratic solo and group works (perhaps most recognisably the 2011 Hoquets album on Crammed Discs called ‘Belgotronics’), McCloud returned to the States, to revisit places he had not seen, in some cases, for fifteen years. This informs his current musical set – an idiosyncratic blend of pop, folk, childrens music and jazz performed by a baroque-style quartet.


 
“To open the evening, there’s be a solo set by Chris Cundy performing his own works for bass clarinet. Chris is a musician, composer, and visual artist working on the fringes of experimental and popular music. He has long been interested with the material properties of acoustics and his music explores self-developed playing techniques such as multiphonics, circular breathing, micro-tonality and (generally speaking) a more tactile approach to the instrument.

“Chris performed with Mercury Award nominated indie-pop band Guillemots and continues to work with the bands frontman Fyfe Dangerfield. He has also collaborated with a variety of alt-pop artists both in Canada and the UK including Little Annie, Baby Dee, Timber Timbre, and Cold Specks.”


 
* * * * * * * *

The Family Élan + Chris Cundy, 27th May 2017

Muckle Mouth and The Dentist present:
The Family Élan & Plague Dogs
33 Chatsworth Road/The Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Saturday 27th May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“Muckle Mouth and The Dentist welcome Bradford psych-folk rockers The Family Élan (and their heady blend of party hits, Hindi film song and Turkish folk dances) back for a fling.

“The Family Élan generally performs as a trio, featuring Krzysztof Hładowski (of A Hawk and A Hacksaw, The One Ensemble, Nalle, Scatter fame) on Greek bouzouki, elektrosaz and vocals, Harry Wheeler on fancy bass, and Shakeeb Abu Hamdan (of Please, Ygrec, Cleckhuddersfax, The Wub) on Western drum kit. The scope of The Family Elan’s output ranges from self penned meditations in the key of Z minor and the odd party hit, to irreverent interpretations of everything from Hindi film songs to Turkish folk dances, delivered with the countenances of psychedelic rockers. Perhaps the unifying strand in all this is a deep interest in traditional music forms and their reinvention through group rock-outs.”


 
As with the Alex Rex gig earlier in the month, Plague Dogs will be in support… but now I know who they are. They’re an alliance of Trembling Bells/Alex Rex kingpin Alex Neilson with writer/curator/artist/cultural geographer Amy Cutler (at least, I’m assuming that it’s that Amy Cutler)… In which case, expect something textural, folk-tinged and audio-visual, probably provoking more questions than it answers..

(UPDATE, 26th May 2017 – this show’s been cancelled, with the hope that it can be rescheduled later in the summer…)
 

* * * * * * * *

I’ve been slow on picking up on renewed gig activity at the Dentist. Likewise with this set of shows over at the Beehive in Bow (the latest of which clashes with the Family Élan show, but there you go…)

Beehive Yourself 2 (Papernut Cambridge + The Great Electric + Deerful), 27th May 2017

Sound Event Solutions & Papernut Cambridge present:
Beehive Yourself #2: Papernut Cambridge + The Great Electric + Deerful + Mat Flint DJ set
The Beehive, 104-106 Empson Street, Bromley-by-Bow, London, E3 3LT, England
Saturday 27th May 2017, 7.00pm
information

“The second of three Saturday night shows for spring and early summer featuring Papernut Cambridge and a hand-picked selection of friends’ bands and DJs.

Papernut Cambridge is led by former Death In Vegas and Thrashing Doves guitarist (and now prolific underground producer/engineer) Ian Button, who has a list of current projects and collaborations that include Go Kart Mozart, David Cronenberg’s Wife, Deep Cut, Darren Hayman, Pete Astor, Rotifer, Paul Hawkins etc. The band is based on an imaginary band from a dream Ian had in 1990 and brought to life in 2013 by assembling a group of friends and collaborators. Papernut Cambridge have now released two albums (‘Cambridge Nutflake’ in 2013, ‘There’s No Underground’ in 2014) and a covers album (2015’s ‘Nutlets 1967-80’), all on Gare Du Nord Records. The next album release is ‘Love The Things Your Lover Loves’ in May 2016.


 
“As ever with this gig series, Papernut Cambridge will be playing the opening set. The very special guests to follow on May 27th are:

The Great Electric – electronic/motorik supergroup featuring Malcolm Doherty (guitars, effects), Rob Hyde (drums), Darren Hayman (synth), Duncan Hemphill (tones, drones and effects) and Pete Gofton (bass). With a band members’ past pedigree that includes Hefner, Kenickie, Go-Kart Mozart and Mum & Dad, expect a determined, nuanced yet mind-melting set inspired by German electronic and prog via Stereolab, music made in space, and radical hypnosis techniques.


 
“Following on from her past work backing or contributing to the work of Darren Hayman, Pete Astor, Owl & Mouse and Enderby’s Room, Emma Winston’s solo electronic project Deerful takes bright melodic indie pop and fuses it with crisp chiptune and electro shimmers, Gameboy beats, and emotive thought-provoking lyrics. Her live shows using an array of TFL-portable synths and devices are always a delight. Deerful’s first full length album ‘Peach’ is released this year on June 2nd.


 
“Former Revolver frontman, Death In Vegas bassist, and now leader of bravado dreampop project Deep Cut, Mat Flint is also a frequent record spinner at The Social, playing sets that range from Northern Soul and hip hop to dub and garage rock. We’re chuffed he’s coming along to pilot the wheel of steel for this show!”

 

May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – I’m This I’m That play Moondog, plus Ed Dowie (19th May); Trembling Bells spinoff Alex Rex plus The Left Outsides and Plague Dogs (20th May)

14 May

It’s always good to hear that Homerton’s 33 Chatworth Road – a.k.a. “The Dentist” – is hosting another of its gig-cum-house-parties. I’ve still got fond memories of the first concert I ever went to there: a mixture of jazz atmospheres, experimental folk and mythic New York chamber pop from Sealionwoman, Foxout! and Liam Singer (which you can read all about here.)

I’ve been out of the loop regarding their activities for too long, but here’s quick news on another couple of imminent shows there in collaboration, one in collaboration with folk promoter Muckle Mouth and the other with the Tin Label. (There are another two coming in the following week…).

* * * * * * * *

I'm This, I'm That, 19th May 2017

Muckle Mouth and 33 Chatsworth Road present:
I’m This, I’m That (playing the songs of Moondog) + Ed Dowie
33 Chatsworth Road/The Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Friday 19th May 2017, 7.00 pm
– information here, here and here

Assembled rapidly from the gig publicity, and from Wikipedia:

“Louis Thomas Hardin, better known as Moondog, was an American composer, musician and poet. His music took inspiration from street sounds, such as the subway or a foghorn. It was characterized by what he called “snaketime” and described as “a slithery rhythm, in times that are not ordinary […] I’m not gonna die in 4/4 time.” Many of his works were highly contrapuntal, and he worked hard on perfecting his counterpoint. He was also the inventor of several musical instruments (including a small triangular-shaped harp known as the “oo”, another which he named the “ooo-ya-tsu”, and a triangular stringed instrument played with a bow that he called the “hüs” (after the Norwegian, “hus”, meaning “house”). Perhaps his best known creation is the “trimba”, a triangular percussion instrument that the composer invented in the late 40s..

“Moondog was blind from the age of sixteen. In New York from the late 1940s, until he left in 1972, he could often be found on 6th Avenue between 52nd and 55th Street wearing a cloak and Viking-style helmet, sometimes busking or selling music, but often just standing silent and still. He was widely recognized as “the Viking of 6th Avenue” by thousands of passersby and residents who weren’t aware of his musical career.

“Dedicated Moondog interpreters I’m This, I’m That return to The Dentist performing their own arrangements/transcriptions of Moondog compositions with support from Ed Dowie (a Daylight Music favourite – there’s more about him here). Due to massive demand, there will be a double performance – an early show and a late show, with the one you see depending on when you’ve bought your ticket. Doors open at 7.00pm for fire/drinks/chat…”

Schedule:

7.30pm – first Ed Dowie set
8.15pm – first I’m This I’m That set
9.15pm – second Ed Dowie set
10:00pm -second I’m This I’m That set

Here are a couple of clips from the previous I’m This I’m That Moondog show back in July 2015, plus a taste of Ed Dowie:




 

* * * * * * * *

33 Chatsworth Rd and Tin Angel Records present:
Alex Rex + The Left Outsides + Plague Dogs
33 Chatsworth Road/The Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Saturday 20th May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Alex Rex: 'Vermillion'“This is the one and only live outing with full band for Vermillion – Alex Neilson (of Trembling Bells)’ solo record as Alex Rex. Aside from a Cerys Matthews session the following morning, the material from this fantastic record will never be performed again.”

From ‘The Guardian‘:

“His debut solo album Vermilion presents him as a provocative, poetic lothario with the alter ego Alex Rex. On record, rose thorns grow in Rex’s throat and he sleeps with girls for their minds as well as their bodies… Written during a “particularly self-destructive” period in his life in late 2015, Vermilion begins with the Gregorian chant-inspired blues of The Screaming Cathedral, with a chorus telling of “horror heaped on horror”. Please God Make Me Good (But Not Yet) features a girl sticking pins into a voodoo sex doll of him, before he has a “hit on myself.”

“Getting the worst bits of himself out there was therapeutic and necessary for Neilson. “I wanted songs that spilt out of themselves. The records I cherish most are asymmetrical things, full of blemishes,” he says. But there’s plenty of perky, almost poppy moments too. Neilson wrote the skronky psych-blues of Song for Dora while reading “lots of Ovid and taking MDMA”, while Postcards from a dream has a remarkably radio-friendly, West Coast-brightened Hammond organ intro before it kills its A-list potential with lyrics about “a necklace of bungee cord” and Adam “cup[ping] his nuts behind the tree.” Sex is everywhere, but this shouldn’t surprising for a folk musician, Neilson laughs. “The oldest folk songs are lusty and carnal. And I like having sex! People do!”




 
This in from the promoters: The Left Outsides have joined the bill, playing in an Alison/Mark guitar duo formation.” If you remember, these are further Daylight Music favourites, so I’ll just steal the blurb from a previous DM show I posted about – “Mark Nicholas and Alison Cotton (are) a London-based husband and wife duo whose atmospheric, hypnotic songs echo Nico’s icy European folk, pastoral psychedelia and chilly English fields at dawn.”


 
The third act is Plague Dogs, about whom I’ve been able to find out precisely nothing: but they must have impressed Muckle Mouth, since they’re also playing at the Family Élan gig the following. Maybe when I get around to posting about that I’ll have found out more…
 

May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Beatrix Players + King Of The Opera (May 11th); Cosmo Sheldrake + A House In The Trees (May 12th)

2 May

A few more warmly off-kilter London gigs coming up in early May: Beatrix Players‘ elegant chamber-pop, King Of The Opera‘s rough-edged alternative folk, Cosmo Sheldrake‘s poly-instrumental Edward Lear-inspired busk whimsy, A House In The Trees‘ oblique chillout…

* * * * * * * *

Beatrix Players, 11th May 2017

Beatrix Players present:
Beatrix Players + King Of The Opera
Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6SH, England
Thursday 11th May 2017, 7:30pm
information

“Through their enchantingly dark and evocative melodies, expansive arrangements and empowered orchestral sound Beatrix Players tell stories of real life and fantasy. Citing influences as diverse as Michael Nyman and Regina Spektor and drawing comparisons to the likes of Kate Bush and Einaudi Ludovico, this London-based, all-female trio combine elements of folk, jazz, progressive and classical music.

“In 2015 the band took their unique sound – a beautiful combination of vocals, piano and cello – into the studio to record their self-produced debut album, which has been mixed by two-time BBC Folk Award winner, Jim Moray. That album, titled ‘Magnified’, is now brought to you in an evening with musicians from the album: Robyn Hemmings on double bass, Maria Kroon on violin, Emanuela Monni on percussion, Jez Houghton on French horn. Pop/soul/funk choir Sound will also be joining in.”



 
King Of The Opera (formerly known as Samuel Katarro) is the musical project of Alberto Mariotti – a songwriter from Tuscany, Italy – first introduced to the public at the renowned Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona in the Spring of 2012. The project’s strength lies in its continuous search of the meeting points between seemingly irreconcilable genres: distorted punk-blues, bewildered (and bewildering) folk ballads and digressions into the acid realm of psychedelia.

“In 2016 King Of The Opera released his new album ‘Pangos Sessions’, ten songs that summarize his musical career in a pretty original way, alternating acoustic reinterpretations from the King Of The Opera/Samuel Katarro songbook and five cover songs (originally released in Mariotti’s birth year, 1985), by The Cure, The Waterboys, The Replacements, Tom Waits and Sonic Youth. The collection also includes the unreleased alt-folk-ballad By The Shore.”


 

 
* * * * * * * *

Cosmo Sheldrake, 12th May 2017

Rockfeedback presents:
Cosmo Sheldrake + A House In The Trees
The Moth Club, Old Trades Hall, Valette Street, Hackney, London, E9 6NU, England
Friday 12th May 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Cosmo Sheldrake is a twenty-five-year-old multi-instrumentalist musician, composer and producer. He regularly performs on banjo, loop station, keyboards, double bass, drums, penny whistle, sousaphone, accordion and many more. He is an inspirational singer and improviser, and much of his work is concerned with play, nonsense and the sonorous environment.

“Cosmo composes music for film and theatre and tours internationally, performing solo and with several bands including Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit and the Gentle Mystics. He ran a community choir until 2013, teaches in schools and privately and has facilitated music workshops and youth empowerment and nature awareness camps across Europe and North America.”



 
Support comes from smooth and hallucinatory dark-pop/trip hop act A House In The Trees, the core of New Cross’ Rising Sun Collective.