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

7 Apr

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

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

Emma Jean Thackray, 2016

Emma-Jean Thackray, 2016

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

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



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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



 
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Jazz @ The Sitara, 24th April 2017

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

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

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

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

November 2016 – upcoming London gigs – a dash through the weekend (26th, 27th) – various adventures in international folk music, experimental music, hip hop and underground rock via Tuesdays Post, Daylight Music, Laura Cannell, Nest Collective Baba Yaga’s Hut and others…

23 Nov

This week finds me ill, exhausted, busy and needing to catch up with things outside the blog – and hence unable to go into the usual detail. Consequently, the usual semi-coherent stammering of recommendations is being cut short. I’m just going to offer a few quick notes and pointers to my picks from this London weekend’s explosion of interesting concerts, and will let you catch up with them yourselves.

Daylight Music 240, 26th November 2016On Saturday, Laura Cannell‘s hosting her ‘Memory Mapping’ afternoon at Daylight Music, including an improvised duet between herself and fellow alt.violinist Angharad Davies, the coastline sound creations of former ‘Wire’ writer Jennifer Lucy Allan and what looks like a Charles Hayward piano piece which may or may not be a song cycle. I’ve already previewed that here a few weeks ago (complete with sounds and visions), so go back and have a look.

The Song Collectors Collective Gathering, 2016At the same time, an incredible wealth of acoustic, folk and international-indigenous music talent will be riding into east London for two twinned and overlapping Nest Collective events at the same impressive Dalston venue – St Mark Church, a grand Early English Gothic Revival pile sometimes described as “the East End’s cathedral”.

Beginning in the morning, the Song Collectors Collective Gathering celebrates and presents the people who conserve rare oral culture within their communities in Britain, Ireland and beyond; and explores ideas spinning off from that. This year it features (among others) storyteller Hugh Lupton, tireless folk archivists Doc Rowe and Paul Wilson, ethnomusicologists Angela Impey and Shzr Ee Tan, and ethnobotanist Sarah Edwards. Topics explored will include song collecting in South Sudan and Taiwan, Doc’s vast archive of unseen videos of Britain’s great traditional singers, political-musical activism on the internet, and “plant knowledge collected with the Songman”.

Starting up in the afternoon is Unamplifire – a jaw-dropping seven-hour assemblage of international folk talent which, at a better time, would warrant a whole post to itself. Traditional and curated music from England, Ireland, Eastern Europe and West Africa, Okinawa and Taiwan, both pure and cross-pollinated; with encompassed styles including griot, London psych-folk and deep-probing acoustic pop and instrumentation including kora, whistles, violins, acoustic guitars, electronics and – above all – the human voice in all of its diversity. For the full list of Unamplifire players, take a look at the details below.

Unamplifire lineup, 2016
 
Tuesdays Post, 26th November 2016Having successfully transferred from north-east London to west London, Tuesdays Post are staging another gig of electronic-slanted progressive/improvisational music on Saturday evening. This week, founder/regular Georgina Brett picks up her voiceloops to engage in a pair of superbly cluttered duets. One of these will be with Jono Podmore (the theremin, delay and ring modulator–wielding Metamono member and Kumo mastermind, who’s promising to bring along an extra selection of intriguing technological gizmos), and another with electro-acoustic instrument inventor Tom Fox (creator of the Springything, the Multi-Dronemachine and the Twitter-triggered Hummingbird). Tom will also be appearing as one-third of improvising experimental textural noise trio YOAF (the other two thirds being Jon Saunders and Tim Yates). Interactive visuals will be provided by Hanzo.

Dälek + Necro Deathmort, 26th November 2016Baba Yaga’s Hut (who haven’t featured in ‘Misfit City’ for a while, thanks to buggered-up mailing list problems) are also doing the honours with two interesting sounding gigs over the weekend. Each of them features what’s becoming a regular Baba Yaga format: an intriguing well-known underground import plus a home-grown Baba regular.

The first of these is an electro/beat fest with long-lived New Jersey hip-hoppers Dälek (whose dense, industrially-slanted noise-stew has annoyed purists and thrilled listeners since 1998) and edge-of-the-seat electronicists Necro Deathmort whose tangled fusion of doom metal, droning dystopian science-fiction synth noise and free-jazz echoes sees them flit like plague mosquitoes from genre to genre. The second is a free showcase for all-female Finnish trio Olimpia Splendid (whose Can-like psychedelic grooves, dogged dour-skew riffing and growly babydoll vocals have been gathering them plenty of attention over the last couple of years) and London pagan “aggrocultural punktronicist” trio Snapped Ankles (the ones who dress up in striking topiary costumes as wild woodwoses, swaying behind various customised instruments like giant hedge carvings while picking out noisy ritual rhythms and post-rural, post-industrial chanting).

Olimpia Splendid, 2016
 
All of this going on… and I’m too knackered to drag myself to any of it. The story of my year, really.

Addresses, links, times etc below.

The Nest Collective presents:
Song Collectors Collective Gathering 2016
St Mark Church Dalston, St Mark’s Rise/Colveston Crescent, Dalston, London, E8 2LJ, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 10.30am to 6pm
information

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 240: Laura Cannell presents “Memory Mapping”: Laura Cannell + Charles Hayward + Mythos Of Violins + Jennifer Lucy Allan
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

The Nest Collective presents:
Unamplifire 2
St Mark Church Dalston, St Mark’s Rise/Colveston Crescent, Dalston, London, E8 2LJ, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 4.00pm to 11.00pm
information

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Dälek + Necro Deathmort
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Tuesdays Post present:
YOAF + Jono Podmore + Tom Fox & Georgina Brett
The Muse Gallery, 269 Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove, London, W11 1LR, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Olimpia Splendid + Snapped Ankles
Birthdays, 33-35 Stoke Newington Road, Stoke Newington, London N16 8BJ
– free event (but sign up for tickets) – information here and here
 

August/September 2016 – upcoming gigs – an English tour for Sage Francis & B. Dolan’s ‘Strange Speech, Famous Development” (Aug 29th-Sep 3rd); The Four Owls, Virus Syndicate, Mr Woodnote and Lil Rhys, Bellatrix, Divinity Roxx and Steve Lawson variously mix it up in London (17th, 29th).

26 Aug

Here’s some info on various upcoming shows from London to Leeds, with hip hop as the binding element in common. (Though what you’ll actually get stretches as far as ambient bass guitar soundscapes, spoken word and – on one occasion – some suspect sweary bird impressions.)

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Following a stint at the Edinburgh fringe, left-field rapper-poets Sage Francis and B. Dolan start to take their ‘Strange Speech, Famous Development’ spoken-word show on tour around selected venues in England. Roll the blurb:

“Sage Francis and B. Dolan are two internationally renowned hip-hop lyricists & spoken word poets – dynamos touted for their lyricism, activism, humour & performance art – with oddly parallel stories. Without prior knowledge of each other, both were born & raised in Rhode Island, where they developed an unlikely love of hip hop music. Although they grew up only one town apart from each other, they didn’t cross paths until 2002 via the Providence Poetry Slam. Each moved to New York City in search of the art-form, stumbled into the spoken word scene and developed a knack for razor sharp lyricism and stagecraft.


 
“Noted as one of the most articulate and broad-focussed of underground MCs, Sage came to widespread media attention in 2001 after his song ‘Makeshift Patriot’(which critiqued the behaviour and language of American media during, and immediately following, the September 11 attacks) became an internet hit. Though he’s released records on labels including Epitaph and Anti, he’s also seen his own Strange Famous Records grow from a late-’90s tape label releasing his own less obviously commercial material to a full-fledged fifteen artist independent.


 
“B. Dolan has made his own name via more than a decade’s worth of continually shapeshifting presentation, outsider perspective, and masterful execution. He enjoyed wide-spread attention for his activism in addressing homophobia in hip hop, and notably for his video single/campaign ‘Film The Police’ (which Russell Brand explored in a highly entertaining episode of ‘The Trews’.


 
“Although B. has been releasing records on Strange Famous since 2008 – when he made his career breakthough with the lo-fi, apocalyptic concept record ‘The Failure’ – he and Sage were working on music together as early as 2005. Several world tours later, their platonic life partnership was made official by forging a rap group called Epic Beard Men. ‘Strange Speech/Famous Development’ is the debut show that brings two legends of underground rap together on a very intimate stage. They’ll trade poems, songs, vivid stories and their now signature blend of offensive and insightful content. From personal to political and back again, the duo promise an inspiring performance.”


 

And here they are, drumming up business in Edinburgh…


 
Dates below:

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Mid-month, various spurs and outcrops of British hip hop make a showing in London at the Underworld for a night of rhymes, beats, and gimmicks-turned-triumphs.

Four Owls, 2016

Nightshift Promotions presents:
The Four Owls vs Virus Syndicate + Mr Woodnote & Lil Rhys + Bellatrix
The Underworld, 174 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 0NE, England Saturday 17 September 2016, 5.30pm
information

Headlining London crew The Four Owls might look like trim, slightly self-conscious lucha libre wrestlers lurking behind bird masks, but come out bating and striking. More lairy, scruffy hawk than owl, they certainly make a racket. A supergroup of High Focus Records solo rappers Leaf Dog, Fliptrix, BVA & Verb T, they specialise in souped-up, combative, old-school-cum-gang-surreal battle flow, echoing tumbling Wu-Tang semi-sequiturs and arcane/profane Kool Keith gabble, with additional British street lip and humour.


 
For the Owls, a shot of bad taste just adds to the juiciness of a spit. If you’ve got the stomach for the occasional nasty switchback, check out the outrageous braggy stack-ups and lyrical misbehaviour on ‘Much Too Much’ from back in 2011 (though its dips into shockery and the tacky sex-horror-in-the-woodz video ain’t for all tastes, to put it mildly.) But if it gets you riled up about hip hop misogyny squashing or sidelining women, the presence of Bellatrix on the bill provides a fine corrective. A onetime Boxette and award-winning world-champion beatboxer, she’s since been revealing multiple further talents – fine, jazz-inspired double bass playing; off-the-wall singer-songwriter tactics which make her sound like a West Country Björk; a knack for burbling textural synth loops and choral layering. All done live and solo, interwoven in real time, without a net. And she’s still talking about it as if it’s baby steps. What’ll she have proved herself capable of once she feels she’s fully up to speed?



 

Elsewhere on the bill, Manchester provides the dubstep/grime collective Virus Syndicate, who deliver claustrophobic, compelling narratives across chilly isolationist beats. In turn, Bristol offers the irresistibly peppy partnership of Lil Rhys and Mr Woodnote (the former a freestyle rapper who chatters like an engaging dancehall singer; the latter a saxophonist, EWI player and beatboxer who creates a smart-stepping one-man-band via loops and timing).



 

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A few weeks later, just down the road from the Underworld, Divinity Roxx will be slamming it out at the Jazz Café.

Divinity Roxx + Steve Lawson
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Tuesday 27th September 2016, 7.00pm
information
 


 

If I were to say that Divinity was Beyoncé’s bassist and musical director for two world tours, some might think that was the most interesting thing about her. I think that it isn’t. Being taken seriously as a player is good; for a female player, even more so. Being handed the MD-ship on one of the biggest shows in the business is even more of an honour – but there are plenty of yo-cat session players around who can handle that kind of thing, including plenty of female ones. Biz-wise, Divinity might be a bass player’s bass player, but there’s more to her than that, and it rolls out best in her solo work.


 

Playing flexible and diverse basslines, leading bands, delivering complex and confident live raps on top of her grooves, and possessing generous star quality of her own, Divinity can own a stage every bit as well as her erstwhile employer. With a repertoire already mining jazz, R&B, fusion, rock and hip hop, she can even deliver potential hits. In 2012’s ‘Get Here’, she swung old-school MC braggadocio around funk rock and a raw look-at-me stance; in last year’s ‘We Are’ she changed tack to wrap some flower-child hippy optism and civil-rights march vibes up with slick CCM-friendly gospel pop. Live, however, is where to catch her; and this month you can see her up-close before more people really start to cotton on to her. It’s only going to be a matter of time now.



 

For the Jazz Café show, Divinity will be joined by her musical buddy and fellow bass ace Steve Lawson. Steve’s otherworldly cinematic soundscapes, improvised live with nothing but a bass guitar, a MIDI controller and a bewildering array of pedals, have helped make him the most celebrated solo bassist in the UK. Since he’s also willing and eager to chat the legs of a fieldful of donkeys, it’ll be interesting to see what his daffy, teasing wit (and glammy dress sense) bring to the occasion. It’ll probably be like Ross Noble crashing a Neneh Cherry gig… assuming that Ross then went on to treat you to a set of tunes like Bootsy Collins, Pat Metheny and Boards of Canada all playing a convivial pass-the-parcel with Robert Fripp’s stage rig.



 

Steve has another couple of British gigs earlier in the month, which I’ll plug during the next jazz gig update in a few days’ time. If you can’t wait until then, click here to get the info direct from the source, and click here to read more about Steve from what’s been splashed across this blog over the years. Meanwhile, here he is busking in Frankfurt – in a jazzy mood, and without his usual wall of effects.


 

June 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Machinefabriek + Graham Dunning/Colin Webster at IKLECTIK (16th); a host of electro-noise-drone-loop-texturalists explore ‘Mechanical Dreams Along The River’ at New River Studios (17th); V A L V E, Haymanot Tesfa, Mark Braby, Ed Dowie and some Lonesome Cowboys From Hell at Scaledown (17th)

11 Jun

Boosting the signal for some experimental/eclectic gigs in London this coming week…

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Machinefabriek ( photo by Pieter Jan Minnebo)

Machinefabriek ( photo by Pieter Jan Minnebo)

IKLECTIK presents:
Machinefabriek + Graham Dunning & Colin Webster
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 16th June 2016, 8.00pm
information

Machinefabriek is the alias of Rutger Zuydervelt, whose music combines elements of ambient, noise, minimalism, drone, field recordings and electro-acoustic experiments. His pieces can be heard as sonic environments for the listener to dwell in. Finding tension in texture, tone and timing, the result can be very minimalistic at first glance, but reveals itself upon closer listening. The devil is in the details. Rutger has collaborated (on record and/or live) with numerous artists including Colin Webster, Jaap Blonk, Aaron Martin, Peter Broderick, Frans de Waard, Steve Roden, Michel Banabila, Dead Neanderthals and Gareth Davis, amongst many others.

“The duo of Graham Dunning & Colin Webster perform improvised music avoiding conventional playing of their respective instruments. Graham Dunning uses a single turntable with dubplates of field recordings, dentistry tools and other objects to create crackling textures, tones and disjointed noise. On saxophone, Colin Webster uses a range of techniques to bring a palette of percussive and textural sounds, drawn tones, and raw, searing blasts. The duo have recorded 3 albums, with their 4th out in May on Tombed Visions, and have also recorded a collaboration with tuba player Sam Underwood.”

 

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An evening of assorted collective noises:

'Mechanical Dreams Along The River', 17th June 2016

D503 present:
‘Mechanical Dreams Along the River’: Echoes… Leytonstone + Norvoir + Precocious Mouse + Shabash + D503 + Noteherder & McCloud
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Friday 17th June 2016, 7:30 pm
– information here and here

Echoes… Leytonstone is a solo project from James Shearman, interested in hypnagogia and inspired by musicians like Nadja, The Angelic Process and Birchville Cat Motel – ambient and ethereal dronegazing, minimal bellowing cave music.


 
Norvoir is an ambient/drone project by Sam Saljooghi, using his guitar to slowly build and create vast atmospheric soundscapes from which you can immerse yourself in through his use of delay, reverb and looping.


 
Precocious Mouse will be performing a new live iteration of the ‘seance’ project. Using a combination of generative, microsonics and found sound, the experimental/electronic/glitch piece explores themes of communication and alienation.


 

“A secret rendezvous of witches and sorcerers, characterized by orgiastic rites, dances and feasting and using violin, piano and noise, Shabash brings spirits of the deep forests and multidimensional realms, allowing different worlds to meet and journey together.


 

D503 are Nicola Serra (beats, synthesizer, percussion) and Francesco Garau (guitars and manipulations), a North London-based duo aiming to explore drone, techno and industrial by using primitive and minimal sounds.

Noteherder & McCloud undertake investigations. A thick grey soup of electronic noise and field recordings enlivened by some remarkable soprano sax playing from Chris Parfitt. We watch from dark corners where synthesisers struggle against illegal parameters.”


 

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Finding out everything that’s happening at a event at central London eclecti-night Scaledown always tends to be a last-minute matter, but here’s what was scheduled a working week before the latest show…

The Orchestra Pit presents:
Scaledown #119: V A L V E + Haymanot Tesfa + Frank E. & JK-ee (Lonesome Cowboys From Hell) + Mark Braby + Ed Dowie
The King & Queen, 1 Foley Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1W 6DL, England
Friday 17th June 2016, 7:30 pm
– information here and here

“Coming up this month we have:

V A L V E is a progressive/avant-garde sound project from Knifeworld’s Chloe Herington, featuring an ever-morphing line up of conspirators and collaborators and rather a lot of bassoons, saxophones and found sounds.

“The beloved singer and artist Haymanot Tesfa brings her lyre to enchant us with songs of Ethiopia, ancient and contemporary, fresh and traditional.

 
“Yee-haw…. last year we put out the call for some cowpunk, and this coming Friday we get the grits courtesy of Frank E. & Blind ‘Gentleman’ JK-ee, two of the low-down psycho-reprobates that are Lonesome Cowboys From Hell. They will be regaling Scaledown with tales of family strife and cross-country travellin’ life.


 
“Co-Scaledown host Mr Mark Braby will perform one short story, one or two wee rhymes, two songs and an improvisation which will last until Duane the intern informs him that he has to stop.

Ed Dowie has been making music since the late 1990s, firstly as one third of Parlophone’s Brothers in Sound, then later a solo act under the name Redarthur. After a five-year hiatus which he spent living in University libraries & music technology labs making strange bleeps, he returned to the music industry to join The Paper Cinema, a puppetry/animation/theatre/music hybrid (that tours both internationally & in Hackney). Now performing and recording under his own name, he makes music which fuses experimental techniques with melodic aspirations.”


 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs – Merz’s English tour with Julian Sartorius (12th-19th) plus The Sound Book Project, Hayley Ross, Megan Carlile and Christopher Anderson

9 Jun

In 1999 Merz popped up, apparently out of nowhere, with the Many Weathers Apart single. It was delightfully bizarre – there were deck scratches, a warbling rubber-guitar lick, a screaming soul sample. Merz himself was a crowy, androgynous pop squawk riding on a reverbed conga boom as big as the circling horizon. A hippy priest with a boombox, plugged into the metaphysical mainline, he sang in fluttering scraps about separation, connection and rainstorms and somehow tied them all together. The equally out-there follow-up, Lovely Daughter, was a sideswipe at subjugation and exploitation – ostensibly about young brides, but perhaps also about outflanked cultures. It sounded like Anthony Newley trapped in a tropical aviary, sprinkled with reggae-dust while tussling with Prince and Beck. Refreshingly, both songs were modest hits.

A bold debut album followed, on a Sony subsidiary. Merz surrounded the darting, hummingbird heart of his songcraft with paper-chain folk guitar, string orchestras and rain-dewed colliery brass bands, as well as what sounded like tips of the hat to Public Enemy, Sinatra and Van Morrison. He also added psychedelic flourishes, looted with elan, from a range of sources (be they worldbeat, Eurodance, the buccaneering edges of late-‘90s club culture, or acid-fuzzed corners of the Incredible String Band’s cottage). Unfortunately, 1999 wasn’t the best year for innovative eclectic-pop. However unfairly, Merz seemed to be at the tail end of a wave of experimentalists riding in Björk’s cooling wake. In the face of a much bigger wave of Latin disco and lighter entertainment, the hoped-for bigger hits didn’t happen for him. The album sold indifferently, the record deal foundered, and Merz walked. In music business terms that should have been the end of a familiar and often-repeated story. A&R takes a punt on something unusual; it rapidly runs out of steam; and the pet eccentric promptly drops back into obscurity, a footnote for geeks.

Merz (photo by Tabea Hubeli)

For Merz, in fact, all of this was simply one chapter of work; and it hadn’t even been the first chapter. Under his real name, Conrad Lambert, he’d been recording and releasing songs for over a decade before Many Weathers Apart broke cover. Even though that stage monicker turns out to have been a chance appropriation (rather than a nod to Kurt Schwitters), Merz had, from an early age, followed the connective prompts of a Bahá’í upbringing and a personal artistic bent (which had had him picking up the bagpipes as a first instrument at the age of six). His own restless nature spurred him on to early travelling, and would later drive the adult Conrad to make homes from town to town and from country to country. Ultimately, parting company with Sony and with an audience of turn-of-the-millennium hipsters just seems to have been another thing to shrug off. Merz had different things to do. Even if he didn’t quite know what they were yet. Then, as now, open possibilities beckoned… and security was a straitjacket.

As for the obscurity, that’s a matter of perspective. Merz seems to been quietly and steadily embraced by continental Europe (perhaps one of the reasons why he now makes his home in the Swiss Alps). His albums – including last year’s ‘Thinking Like A Mountain’ – are persistently and publically hailed across magazines and online review sites as the welcome surfacings of an inventive, tuneful and touching mind. If, in spite of this, he still remains cult it’s partly because it seems to suit him. Musically, he’s mellowed without slackening. As with Geddy Lee, what was once a strident corvine vocal has matured into a warmer, more human sound without losing its fundamental chirp. Across time he’s delivered songs which might only rarely touch the earth but which flutter and roost in stray corners of the mind for years; from the Northern-brass love-call of Lotus to the offset rhythms and flamenco fairing of Goodbye My Chimera, the melding of baroque harpsichord waltz and bubbling phuture-pop on Dangerous Heady Love Scheme, and the melding of Buckleylalia with blootering, breakneck industrial techno in the recent Ten Gorgeous Blocks.


At the core, today’s Merz is a roaming twenty-first century folk troubadour – centred around voice, a keyboard or laptop and a single fingerpicked guitar, making the most of both local ingredients and things intercepted en route. He’s based around instinctive heart rather than roots, and around spontaneous initiative rather than the solidity of tradition; spurred on by intuitive choices of collaborators, such as British electro-concrète producer Matthew Herbert. His current musical foil, wingman and licensed disruptor is Swiss drummer and sound artist Julian Sartorius, whom Merz met while recording his ‘No Compass Will Find Home’ album, and whom he subsequently allowed to strip out and repurpose his songs to form a further album’s-worth of startling drum-and-vocal renditions

As for his tours, they manage to be both quietly exhilarating and easy to miss. Ducking around and under the radar, they mount a clear challenge to the business of tired pop promotion. He seeks to make concerts – like live art works – unique and permanently memorable to the attendees, taking care over matters like time, place and involvement. In addition to fairly familiar arty venue types (picture galleries, music churches and house concerts), last year’s ‘In Intimate’ tour took in a village chapel, a working-men’s club and an Air Force Legion hall: even a cow barn, a Scottish castle, a yurt, a forest clearing, a railway arch, and a snooker club. This season’s tour isn’t quite as unusual, although it returns to a couple of In Intimate venues (in Middlesbrough and Oswestry). Elsewhere, Merz seems to have gone where he was invited… and made sure that it was either somewhere interesting or somewhere that strives (sprouting rock clubs in transient locations, or the sites of hopeful songwriter nights).

For many of the shows Merz will be playing as a duo alongside Julian Sartorius, who’ll also be playing a solo drumkit set to open the concert. On some evenings, support acts will be drawn from more straightforward singer-songwriter turf – in Hinckley, sixteen-year-old local open-mic promoter Megan Carlile; in Newcastle, local acoustic bard-of-observations Christopher Anderson; in Brighton, Hayley Ross (who leans towards a classic ‘70s style and expression but with a darker, cruel-hinting edge and occasional bursts of garage rock).


 
To counterbalance, at Oswestry support comes from the altogether stranger Sound Book Project, a sextet of multimedia artists and musicians (including a pair of Pram members) who use books as noisemakers and instruments – “wound, sprung, strummed, slapped and thrown” as well as being modified or miked-up – in an experimental, slightly fetishistic celebration of the sensuality of bound text as opposed to digital media, and the way in which sounds trigger memories and associations.

Similarly, the opening show at Middlesbrough’s MIMA is somewhat different from the others: it marks the closure of ‘When Now Becomes Then: Three Decades’, MIMA’s exhibition of the work of British abstract/gestural painter and printmaker Basil Beattie. Over two hours spread across the ground floor galleries, Merz will play songs from his repertoire which “allude to Beattie’s paintings both from a visual and spiritual point of view” and promises “a roving and impressionistic solo set.”
 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs – picking through BBC Music Day

29 May

BBC Music Day

The annual BBC Music Day comes up this year and this week on Friday 3rd June. It’s a generally beneficial nation-building exercise in typical BBC style, informed by magazine-style news, middle-range tastes and light entertainment. Much of what’s on is comfortably communal – plenty of light music choirs, familiar regional touches of brass and pipes.

In all fairness, there’s plenty here to like. There’s a scheme organising gentle live shows in hospitals throughout Scotland and England. There’s a focussing on church bell ringings around the country which is free of gimmick and simply lets the art speak for itself (emphasising both its national status and its localism). There’s the ‘Take It To The Bridge‘ programme, during which the nation’s bridges will be briefly overrun by symbolic musical meetings, community choirs, time-travelling orchestras and local songwriters.

Twelfth Doctor with guitar

Sadly not joining in with any time-travelling orchestras…(© BBC 2015)

There’s also a strong sense of that other nation – the one which the BBC still encourages in the face of rumbling political dissatisfaction, manipulation and discomfort. It might be a non-partisan wash of generic English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish decency which doesn’t offer much to scare the horses, doesn’t break a sweat breaking new ground, and doesn’t ultimately provide much event-by-event challenge; but it should still be applauded for at least trying to encourage common ground and (at a time when art is being squeezed out of schools) a culture of engagement with music. For the full programme – and for British readers who want to find out exactly what’s going on in their region – check the links above.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been sifting through the programme with my jaundiced, picky eye and selecting out what I feel are some of the more unusual or rewarding events dotted around the comfy musical quilt (more or less in order of occurrence), starting in the middle of another festival in Hay-on-Wye…

BBC Radio 3 Live/Hay Festival presents:
Hay Festival Guitar Jam with Morgan Szymanski
Friends Café @ Hay Festival Site, Dairy Meadows, Brecon Road, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5PJ, Wales
Friday 3rd June 2016, 9.30am

BBC Music Day - Get Playing!“Prior to his Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert (a collaboration with the Cremona String Quartet at 1.00pm, and already sold out) classical guitar ace Morgan Szymanski will be inviting amateur guitarists to join him for a morning guitar jam. Help create and perform a brand new piece for a hundred guitarists to be featured in the concert. Morgan will lead you through the process, whatever your level, from beginner to advanced. The event includes a special master class from Nitin Sawhney on playing the guitar.”

Unlike the walk-up nature of most of the other events listed here, a Hay Festival ticket is required for this one.

In Cambridge…

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire presents:
English Pocket Opera vs. Imperial & K.I.N.E.T.I.K
Silver Street Bridge, Silver Street, Cambridge, CB24 5LF, England
Friday 3rd June 2016, 11.30am

English Pocket Opera will be performing on a punt through the waterways of Cambridge. As they approach Silver Street bridge the opera will be joined by a local ‘BBC Introducing’ hip-hop duo Imperial & K.I.N.E.T.I.K, on top of the bridge. Hip-hop and opera will merge to create a brand new sound.”

Christ, this one could be a car-crash in multiple senses. I mean, it’s hard enough to handle a Cambridge punt at the best of time – it’s an unhappy marriage of Newton and Zen – let alone try to synchronise it with anything else. Still, given the sunny, positive and playful nature of both sets of musicians involved (don’t expect a collision of ‘Wozzeck’ and Kanye), let’s give them the benefit of the doubt… and just to put it into perspective, I‘m an appalling puntsman and these guys know their music.



 

In Nottingham…

Afro Therapy, 3rd June 2016Can’t Stop Won’t Stop presents:
Afro Therapy: featuring Jourdan Pierre Blair + Ella Knight + Early Bird + Garton + D Dot + others tbc
Rough Trade Nottingham, 5 Broad Street, Nottingham, NG1 3AJ
Friday 3rd June 2016, 7.00pm

“Live music and DJs will be putting music of black origin in the spotlight. Unsigned and independent artists Ella Knight, beat maker Early Bird, and MCs Garton, D-Dot and Jourdan Pierre Blair (the last better known as Jah Digga) will represent a range of R’n’B and hip hop styles with a British stamp on global music. This free event is open to people over the age of 14.”

I’ve got to say that – for all of the community ethos being trumpeted elsewhere – this show is probably the most proactively street-level event on a day which needs to be about everyone in the country, not just people who like choirs and crumpets. (I’m not trying to bitch here; I just… noticed.) Here’s a run of video and soundclips for most of those involved.





 

Sheffield also deserves credit for working outside the comfy box…

A Law Unto Ourselves, 3rd June 2016

Yellow Arch Studios present:
A Law Unto Ourselves: The Eccentronic Research Council (featuring Maxine Peake) + The Death Rays of Ardilla + Sieben + The Third Half
Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England
Friday 3rd June 2016, 7.30pm
– free event – more information

This is probably the most experimental event of the lot: an opportunistic but rewarding live spotlight on Sheffield’s unique independent music scene. There should have been more events like this dotted up and down the country – not necessarily with an experimental pop thrill, but emphasizing local current indigenous music which could only have happened in particular towns and at this particular time. All respect is due to Sheffield musicians, to the Yellow Arch venue and to curator Sophie Toes for taking the trouble to spot this challenge and rise to it.

Probably the biggest draw for A Law Unto Ourselves are the headliners – The Eccentronic Research Council, barbed and crafty exponents of their own scenic and sample-heavy “library/soundtrack, experimental, folkloric/non-populist pop”. They’ll be accompanied by their own established muse and mouthpiece – Maxine Peake (actress, declaimer, proud overturner of complacent applecarts) – and are the most questioning act across Music Day, bringing a touch of dissent, argument and the British radical tradition into its general cosiness. In support are spaced-out and (literally) brotherly garage-rock duo The Death Rays of Ardilla, Sieben (a.k.a. beater, plucker, tickler and layerer of voice and violin Matt Howden) and The Third Half (a duo who combine and alternate harp, celeste, guitar and voice in “twenty-first century neo-pastoral rare groove”).

ERC


There will also be DJ sets from representatives of some of Sheffield’s other interesting underground or experimental bands – spooky lysergic-child-song folksters Antique Doll, progtronicians I Monster, psychedelic country-and-western band The Cuckoo Clocks – plus one from Sophie Toes herself. There’s limited capacity for this show, so early arrival is recommended to avoid disappointment.

* * * * * * * *

In Bristol…

Charles Hazlewood and the British Paraorchestra
Colston Hall, Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5AR, England
Friday 3rd June 2016, 8.00pm

“After the success of last year, the ground-breaking British Paraorchestra, the world’s first professional ensemble of disabled musicians, return to Colston Hall to perform for BBC Music Day. The group is headed up by Charles Hazlewood, a genuine pioneer and innovator in the world of classical music. In a unique show, the Paraorchestra will be joined on-stage by performers from Extraordinary Bodies, the professional integrated circus company and partnership between Cirque Bijou and Diverse City. The combined effect of The British Paraorchestra and Extraordinary Bodies playing ‘In C’ by composer Terry Riley, promises to be cathartic and uplifting. The aural equivalent to climbing inside a giant lava lamp.”

On spec, this may sound like a case of worthiness over content – but while it’s true that (despite the Riley) the Paraorchestra plays its fair share of light-ent pop transcriptions to sugar the pill, albeit in its own way – it’s also worth noting that the ensemble isn’t just about the state of bodies. The Paraorchestra also explodes a lot of ideas about how an orchestra might work, in terms of instrumentation and approach: likewise, Extraordinary Bodies has plenty of challenges and delight to offer. See below:

 

…and finally…

Shaun the Sheep

Aardman Animation/Colston Hall/Bristol Museums present:
Shaun the Sheep’s Vegetable Orchestra
Studio 2, The M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN, England / Colston Hall, Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5AR, England
Friday 3rd June 2016
Workshops and rehearsals at Studio 2: 10.15am, 11.15am & 12.15pm (tel: 0117 352 6600 for details)
Veg Orchestra Finale! featuring Shaun the Sheep and his Vegetable Orchestra at Colston Hall: 1.40pm

“In celebration of BBC Music Day and Aardman’s 40th anniversary, children are invited to join Shaun the Sheep and become part of his Vegetable Orchestra for a live performance at Colston Hall. (There will also be an Aardman birthday singalong and cake presentation.) There will also be pre-performance workshops at M Shed to decorate your veg instruments and learn how to play your part, all set to the ‘Shaun The Sheep’ theme tune. Workshops presented by Farmer characters & Shaun himself, it’s ‘flock ‘n’ roll’ for all ages and all set on Mossy Bottom Farm!”

Sorry. For a variety of reasons (parenthood, humour, a taste for experimentalism and a love of everything Aardman-esque) I just couldn’t bloody resist that last one… and it turns out that the foremost practitioners of the vegetable orchestral art are as cheerfully experimental and conceptual as anything else I tend to feature in here…


 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – three for London – expanded hip hop tag with Beardyman’s Dream Team Sessions (with Bellatrix + Disraeli + LeeN + DJ JFB + Rob Lewis + Emre Ramazanoglu + Ben Sarfas); Poly-Math, Theo & evillookingbird play Chaos Theory’s late-night math-rock Facemelter; a LUME jazz evening with the Dave Kane Quartet and a Corey Mwamba/Cath Roberts/Olie Brice trio at the Vortex.

30 Mar

Three more interesting-looking early April London shows for the coming weekend, from improvisatory hip hop to assorted math rock to jazz. There should still be tickets (or, in the case of the Facemelter gig, free spaces) left for all of these. I’m in a hurry again, so the following is all promoter blurb… and if you’re quick on the Saturday, you could even catch most of the first two.

* * * * * * * *

Beardyman Dream Team Sessions, 2nd April 2016

Beardyman & Soundcrash present:
Beardyman: The Dream Team Sessions (featuring Beardyman + Bellatrix + Disraeli + LeeN + DJ JFB + Rob Lewis + Emre Ramazanoglu + Ben Sarfas)
Electric Brixton, Town Hall Parade, SW2 1RJ London, United Kingdom
Saturday 2nd April 2016, 7.00pm
more information

“Improvisation. Telepathy. Imagination. Beatboxing. One album. One hour.

Soundcrash are extremely happy to announce that the prodigiously talented Beardyman will be taking to the stage at Electric Brixton along with a mind-blowing ‘dream team’ consisting of some of the finest freestyle MCs and improvisatory talents the world has to offer. This team of extraordinary individuals will be using a mixture of telepathic communication and improvisatory prowess to create a brand new album right in front of the lucky audiences eyes, inspired by that same audience’s dreamt-up song titles.


 
Beardyman has made a name for himself for being one of the most multi-talented musicians on the face of the planet. One minute he’s winning the UK Beatbox competition, twice, next he’s winning best MC at Breakspoll, and then he’s playing a sold-out run of solo comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. As if he didn’t already have enough strings to his beat bow Beardyman outgrew the restrictions of the human mouth and stepped into the world of live looping using Kaoss pads to take his music into the rapturous world of live production.

Beardyman currently performs using the self-designed Beardytron, the world’s most advanced live music production system. This device allows him to improvise studio quality, cutting edge music in realtime. Using the Beardytron has led Beardyman to recently collaborating with Herbie Hancock and led him onto the collaborative path that has ended up with the formation of the ‘Dream Team’.


 
In this brand new show Beardyman will be combining his own improvisatory prowess with some of the leading talents in the UK’s improvisatory scene. Female World Beatbox Championship winner Bellatrix will be bringing her vocal and bass talents to the mix as well as her old band leader Dizraeli on freestyle vocals. Rob Lewis will be providing tantalising string parts on the cello whilst Emre Ramazanoglu shows us how he drummed on the last Michael Jackson record amongst many others.


 
One of the world’s leading freestyle MCs, LeeN, will also be spitting lyrics; whilst 3 times UK DMC champion JFB takes to the decks along with additional strings and saxophone from Ben Sarfas.”


 
(As a further indication of what’s on offer, here’s a previous full-length Dream Team Sessions show, from the Jazz Café…)


 

* * * * * * * *

Poly-Math + Theo + evillookingbird @ The Facemelter, 2nd April 2016

Chaos Theory presents:
The Facemelter: Poly-Math + Theo + evillookingbird
The Old Blue Last, 38 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3ES, England
Saturday 2 April 2016, 10.30pm
– free event – more information

“It’s a no-brainer really – a late-night, free entry math-rock party.

Brighton band Poly-Math are an absolute belter of a trio, who have mastered walking the line between complex polyrhythmic math rock and head-noddingly bouncy riffs. In only few short years, they’ve independently amassed a huge following across Europe’s prog and math rock scenes with the release of a few blindingly good early singles, hugely anticipated debut EP ‘Reptiles’, and some carefully chosen gigs, including an early slot at the first ever ArcTanGent, where we discovered them by accident. With new mini-album ‘Melencolia‘ coming out soon via Superstar Destroyer Records, we can expect some new sounds from the Brighton trio.


 
Theo is a one-man riff factory, known for setting up in the middle of the audience, laying down incredible math rock guitar riffs and looping them on top of each other, before sitting down at his drum kit and banging out some incredible rhythms. The fact that he manages to do this, create extraordinary dynamic changes, crescendos and down-tempo sections, while never letting the pace slack too much, explains why his name has rippled across the underground math rock scene all over Europe.


 
evillookingbird are an instrumental project from Belgium, who combine classical music, post-rock, noise and psych, to end up sounding a bit like Mogwai, Chopin and Battles are all fighting over the keys. This may be their first trip out of their home country, but evillookingbird are no stranger to familiar names in the European math rock scene, having supported the likes of Alright The Captain, Bear Makes Ninja, Mannheim, Hibagon, Celestial Wolves and more, as well as having been asked to perform at one of Europe’s biggest street festivals Gentse Feesten. They’ll be heading into the studio to record some new material, which we’ll get to hear at the show, but check out their EP ‘Labyrinth’ for now.


 
Afterwards Chaos Theory curator Kunal will DJ post-hardcore and math rock riffs, and Chaos Theory photographer Magda will DJ classic rock, power ballads, and anything you’ll love dancing to after a few beers at 3am.”

* * * * * * * *

LUME presents:
Dave Kane Quartet + Corey Mwamba/Cath Roberts/Olie Brice
The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, Dalston, London, N16 8AZ, England
Sunday 3rd April 2016, 7.30pm
– more information here and here

Dave Kane, 2016“The Dave Kane Quartet – Dave Kane (double bass), James Allsopp (saxophones and clarinet), Alex Bonney (trumpet) and Joost Hendrickx (drums) – will be playing music from their forthcoming album, to be released on Two Rivers Records later this year.

Dave says ‘This music is my own personal reflection and dedication to the jazz lineage, all of the music that I have listened to and the music that has influenced me the most. Each track on the record is a dedication to a composer/person that has influenced me greatly throughout my career. There are tracks dedicated to the following people: Charles Mingus, John Zorn, Hamid Drake, Eric Dolphy and Henry Threadgill. For me “the jazz lineage” means the records that are in my collection… my own personal lineage to the tradition, and my resulting music as a composer influenced and shaped by the music. Most people think of the jazz tradition as jazz standards, etc. This is not what I do, or what I am interested in. I have always listened to more adventurous composers & musicians who always pushed the music forward. This is what I have achieved with my new record. Although this music is still on the contemporary/avant garde side of jazz… I would say it is some of the most accessible music I have ever written.’


 
The improvising trio of Corey Mwamba (vibraphone), Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone) and Olie Brice (double bass) first played together in 2014, bringing together three musicians active on the UK jazz and improvised music scene. Olie Brice leads his own quartet as well as playing in numerous other collaborations including a trio with Toby Delius and Mark Sanders; BABs with Alex Bonney and James Allsopp; Nick Malcolm Quartet; Loz Speyer’s Inner Space Music; and Alex Ward Quintet/Sextet. Cath Roberts leads two groups playing her compositions, Sloth Racket and Quadraceratops, as well as writing and improvising new music with guitarist Anton Hunter as Ripsaw Catfish. She is a member of the Madwort Sax Quartet, Anton Hunter’s Article XI, the eight-piece improvising saxophone group Saxoctopus and the collaborative quartet Word Of Moth. Corey Mwamba leads his own trio, Yana, and is involved in a variety of other groups including Sonsale; duos with Rachel Musson, Orphy Robinson and Robert Mitchell; Martin Archer’s large ensemble Engine Room Favourites; and Nat Birchall’s quintet. He is recognised as a highly creative improviser and composer working across a wide range of jazz and contemporary music, as well as a programmer of forward-looking music in his home city of Derby.”

* * * * * * * *

More shortly on the upcoming Gnod weekender – or on anything else that flits across my radar.
 

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