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February 2018 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Christine Tobin’s PELT (3rd February); Jason Yarde’s TRiO !Wah! plus JAE (11th February); Adam Ben Ezra plus the Dan Casimir Quintet (16th February)

28 Jan

A quick whistle-stop, cut’n’paste rush through some of early February’s interesting jazz gigs… not much from me this time, so you’ll just have to trust the press releases…

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Christine Tobin, 2014

Christine Tobin, 2014

Christine Tobin: ‘PELT’
Hall Two @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Saturday 3rd February 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“Having been an integral part of the UK music scene for many years, Christine Tobin is now based between NYC and London. The Irish-born vocalist and composer is renowned for her unique rich voice and original compositional style. With eleven highly acclaimed albums under her own name and four major awards under her belt, Christine is treasured in the UK and far beyond as one of the leading lights on the contemporary scene. MOJO described her as an artist who “really transcends glib genre-fication. Her expressive range acknowledges finely acquired folk, jazz and 20th-century classical influences, which already sets her apart. And everything is shot through with an unmistakable refinement, free-spirited earthiness and giddy romanticism… this singer-songwriter is in a field of one.”

“Christine’s most recent album – 2016’s ‘PELT’ – is her settings of poems and lyrics by contemporary Pulitzer Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon. Although a continuation of her alchemy with fine words and music and her exploration of the chemistry between the two, ‘PELT’ marks a new direction and a new musical soundscape… both daring and dreamlike, passionate and playful. Tobin leads her musicians across a kaleidoscopic panorama, sometimes as junkyard blues philosopher, or snappy beat seductress, sometimes as a conduit for exquisite zen-like harmonies, or reflective Americana.


 
“The seed of the idea for setting Paul Muldoon’s poems came when the pair were invited to collaborate and perform a piece at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2011. Christine had long admired Muldoon’s work and he was greatly impressed by her British Composer Award-winning settings of W.B. Yeats. When they discussed setting his poems, Paul gave Christine a copy of his collection ‘Paul Muldoon Poems 1968 – 1998’ and gave her carte blanche to choose the poems she wished to work with. He also sent her new lyrics and as the project unfolded, the texts chosen ended up a being mix of poems and lyrics. The result is a rich and engaging collection with Tobin’s trademark originality.”

(Meanwhile, I’ve been slack enough to miss the fact that this is just part of an ongoing British tour which, by the time it hits London, will already have been through Bridport, Calstock, Torrington, Exeter, Southampton and Derby and is going on to Gateshead, Cardiff, Bristol and Nottingham before winding up at Birmingham on 10th February. For the full dates and details, check here: more on the personnel below.

“For this tour, Tobin has assembled a stellar band which includes seminal figures on the jazz scene Gareth Lockrane (flutes), Phil Robson (guitar/electronics), Steve Hamilton (piano/keyboard/laptop), Kate Shortt (cello/vocals/deaf signing), Richard Jones (violin), Dave Whitford (upright/electric bass) and Simon Lea (drums). In ‘Jazzwise’ magazine, Peter Quinn described them as “a cast of players who are all perfectly attuned to Tobin’s vision and artistry.” The London concert will feature a guest reading by the acclaimed multi-award winning Brooklyn poet Eva Salzman, who has also collaborated with Christine on past projects.”

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Jason Yarde's TRiO !WAH! + JAE, 11th February 2018

Tom Skinner presents
Jason Yarde’s TRiO !Wah! + JAE
The Pickle Factory, 13-14 The Oval, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9DU, England
Sunday 11th February 2018, 6.00pm
– information here, here and here

“On 11th February, revered jazz drummer Tom Skinner returns for a Sunday evening residency at The Pickle Factory, curating a forward-thinking evening of jazz music every other month. Over the past year Tom has hosted some true jazz greats – Ezra Collective, Shabaka Hutchings – and has some special evenings planned for 2018.

“This time, Tom Skinner invites monster ex-Jazz Warrior multi-reedist Jason Yarde – famed for his work as an arranger with the sadly departed Hugh Masekela – who presents his lauded jazz ensemble TRiO !WAH!, featuring Yarde on saxes, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer Mike Pickering. In contrast to playing in the big bands of Andrew Hill, McCoy Tyner, Sam Rivers, Hermeto Pascoal, Roy Ayers, Manu Dibango and his own Acoutastic Bombastic, Trio WAH! is a chance to hear Yarde’s playing and compositions in an intimate and stripped-down setting. Jason and Larry (Courtney Pine, Byron Wallen, etc) forged their musical relationship through playing in the original Jazz Warriors; and Mike (Billy Jenkins, Christine Tobin, etc) and Jason through the London based twelve-piece Rare Mix. Over the fifteen-plus years since, they have developed a fluid trio connection covering greatly varied musical terrain.

“From tight and constantly shifting rhythmic patterns to free flowing rhapsodic episodes, Trio !WAH! can cover the calm and the storm within a few bars, never losing the important elements of rhythm, melody and even harmony in this exposed format. ‘Jazzwise’ noted that the group “modulates easily from spacious post-bop to dirty grooves via Ornette-ish noise, showing a creative approach to form”, while ‘The Guardian’ said “it’s fascinating to witness how seamlessly Yarde’s writing and improvising intertwine… Swing, hip-hop, improv, you name it, he can make it all sound as if it was meant to live together, and he’s getting better at it all the time…”


 
“They’re joined by JAE, a mysterious keyboard and drums duo playing music influenced by King Tubby, Madlib and Larry Levan…”

(I found a little more on JAE, to render them less annoyingly anonymous. It turns out that it’s a team-up of longterm south London jazz buddies Joe Armon Jones (keyboard player with Ezra Collective, Sumo Chief, Nubya Garcia band and others) and drummer Jake Long (drummer with Maisha, SE Dub Collective and Where Pathways Meet).

Also, here’s eighty easygoing seconds of JAE doodle…

 

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Adam Ben Ezra + Dan Casimir Quintet, 16th February 2018

Adam Ben Ezra + Dan Casimir Quintet
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Friday 16th February 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“Double bass phenomenon, multi-instrumentalist and online sensation Adam Ben Ezra; a man seemingly on a mission to bring his instrument from its status as a background note to the dominant front-presence it deserves. For the past few years Adam has been pushing his craft in new, exciting directions and carving out a unique spot for himself in today’s international musical landscape, with both his virtuosity and musicianship earning him great success along the way.

“With more than ten million hits on YouTube and a strong following on all social media platforms, it is clear Adam is a bonafide star in the internet world. However, his success is certainly not limited to the web, having performed around the globe in major international music festivals and shared stages with some of the world’s fusion giants – including Pat Metheny, Victor Wooten and Richard Bona – over the last few years.


 
“Support comes from award winning bassist and composer Dan Casimir. Having made a name for himself with his EP ‘Escapee’, released on Jazz re:freshed in 2016, Dan has also lent his bass skills to the likes of Julian Joseph, Jason Rebello, Lonnie Liston Smith, Ashley Henry, Camilla George and Nubya Garcia to name a few.”


 
(As far as I know, the Dan Casimir Quintet is Dan plus pianist Sarah Tandy, guitarist Shirley Tetteh, singer Tess Hirst and drummer Olly Sarkar…)
 

January 2018 – upcoming London rock and folk gigs – twists and weaves with Prescott, Lost Crowns and Kavus Torabi (11th January); a carpet of acid-folk/chanson dreams with Alison O’Donnell & Firefay (18th January); a lysergic lattice with a Knifeworld double-set (20th January)

6 Jan

Prescott + Lost Crowns + Kavus Torabi, 11th January 2018

Prescott + Lost Crowns + Kavus Torabi
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 11th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Reunited with guitarist Keith Moliné (who had to sit out some of their engagements last year), instrumental avant-rockers Prescott bring their springy barrage of warm, bouncy tune-mozaics back to London at Servant Jazz Quarters. On the evidence of last year’s ‘Thing Or Two’ album, the band (completed by spacey fretless bassist/composer Kev Hopper, keyboard quibbler Rhodri Marsden and swap’n’go drummer Frank Byng) is growing like a tricksy hedgerow. New layers, extensions and scrabbling digressions continue to bud out of their riotous cellular approach; and out of the games of post-minimalist chicken which they use to hold and release each other from their stack of cunning microloops.

It’s still fair to say that Prescott’s relationship with their own instrumental cleverness is an edgy and oblique one. Fine and rebellious players all, they’re too suspicious of straight prog, jazz or lofty experimentalism to have a straight relationship with any of them. Consequently they come across on record as jitterbug countercultural eggheads – ones who play obstinate, transfigured parallels to clavinet jazz-funk (post-Miles, post-Headhunters) or twinkly-marimba’d Zappa passages, but who nail it all down to a precise post-punk, post-virtuoso sensibility. Still, this only sketches part of the Prescott picture while missing the heart of it. Despite the band’s tendencies towards deadpan stage presence (and the eschewment of anything even vaguely wacky), each and every Prescott gig ends up as a generous, audience-delighting puzzle of pulses, traps and tickles on the funny bone.

Maybe if they’ve got anything as corny as a raison d’être (that is, beyond executing Kev’s pieces with deftness, style and pleasure) it might be about evaporating the frequently frustrating and gummed-up relationship between musicality, suffocating ideology and good humour. For all of their self-imposed restrictions, Prescott are in some senses a freer band than almost anyone else in their field: an expansive Lego set of musical options concealed in a deceptively small box.


 
Thanks to both the burgeoning stature of Knifeworld and his helming of the post-Daevid Allen Gong (plus entanglements with Guapo and Cardiacs, and his garrulous showings on radio and in print), Kavus Torabi is rapidly becoming a senior figure at the culty end of psychedelic art-rock. Even his rough-and-ready solo acoustic performances are becoming a draw in their own right, although he’s mostly (and modestly) restraining them to support slots, presenting gravelly-voiced house-party strumalongs rather than electric-genius showcases. Such is the case with his opening slot for Prescott, which also sees him broaden his guitar playing with trips to the harmonium.

On previous form, expect established songs, songs-in-progress and song unveilings from Kavus’ Knifeworld catalogue (plus visits to his old work with The Monsoon Bassoon and possibly a bit of latterday Gong-ing if any of it translates away from the group’s electric Om). If you’re hoping for Guapo stuff, you’d better wait for one of his gigs with them. If you want him to rip into a Cardiac song, you’re best off catching him guesting at one of the growing number of Spratleys Japs shows (increasingly become rolling parties celebrating the Cardiacs spirit, pulling in hit-and-run appearances from the band’s alumni and songbook).


 
Invigorating as a Prescott/Torabi summit might be, the night’s real draw is Lost Crowns: only the third live venture for this carefully-concealed solo project from Richard Larcombe. You might have seen the Crowns step out at either one of a culty pair of Alphabet Business Concern shows in 2013 and 2017: otherwise, you’ve not seen or heard them at all. If you’ve followed Richard’s on/off work singing and guitaring for fraternal duo Stars In Battledress (alongside his brother James), you’ll have some idea of the rich, unfolding master-craftsman’s confection to expect. Complex, artfully-meandering songs built from delightfully byzantine chords and arpeggios that cycle through ever-evolving patterns like palace clockwork; accompanied by rich, lazy clouds of hilarious, hyper-literate, wonderfully arcane lyrics; all sealed by an arch, out-of-time English manner which (in tone and timbre) falls into a never-was neverworld between Richard Sinclair, Stephen Fry, Noel Coward and a posh, Devonian Frank Zappa.

Reared on English folk and art-rock but steeped in both Chicago math-rock and (via radio, television and film) in sophisticated comic absurdity from the likes of the Marx Brothers, Spike Milligan and Vivian Stanshall, Richard is in fact one of the most aggravatingly unknown, self-effacing, even self-concealing talents of his generation. In the fifteen years since his last, short-lived solo foray Defeat The Young he’s kept his own work closely hidden, apparently preferring the shared burden and brotherly warmth of occasional shows with the similarly-obscure Battledress, or to play supporting roles with William D. Drake or sea-shanty-ers Admirals Hard. Were he not so damn elusive, he’d be regularly cited alongside the likes of Colin Meloy or Neil Hannon as an exemplar of bookish art-pop wit. For the most part, though, Richard seems happiest with his other career (in children’s theatre, an area in which, incidentally, he’s equally talented) although I suspect that the truth is that his perfectionist’s need for control gets a little on top of him, though never enough to ruffle his brow. According to Richard, this particular live surfacing’s going to be a “limited-capacity probably-not-to-be-repeated-often event”, but he clearly means business, having armed himself with the kind of musical crack squad that can do his work justice – London art-rock go-to-guy Charlie Cawood on bass, Drake band regular Nicky Baigent on clarinet, the enigmatic “Keepsie” on drums and a doubled-up keyboard arrangement of Rhodri Marsden (hopping over from Prescott) and Josh Perl (coming in from Knifeworld and The Display Team).

As regards firmer, more specific details on what Lost Crowns will be like, Richard himself will only murmur that the songs are “quite long, with a lot of notes.” Rhodri Marsden (a man more given to gags than gush) has chipped in with a wide-eyed “utterly mindbending and completely beautiful”; rumours abound re ditties about synthesia and/or the quirks of historical figures; and what’s filtered through from attendees at those previous ABC shows is that the Larcombe boy has seriously outdone himself with this project. The rest of us will have to wait and see. Meanwhile, in the absence of any available Lost Crown-ings to link to or embed, here are a couple of live examples of Richard’s artistry with Stars In Battledress.



 
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Alison O’Donnell + Firefay
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 18th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Same time, same place, but one week later – another rare treat in the shape of a London appearance from “fairy queen of acid folk” Alison O’Donnell, allied with Anglo-French folk-noirists Firefay.

Alison O'Donnell & Firefay, 18th January 2018The possessor of a warm declamatory folk voice (one well suited to storytelling), Alison began her musical journey at convent school in 1960s Dublin with childhood friend Clodagh Simonds. Writing and singing folk songs together, the two became the core of mystical folk-rockers Mellow Candle: scoring a faintly lysergic orchestral-pop single before either girl had turned seventeen, Clodagh and Alison then spent five years exploring and finessing the baroque/progressive folk sounds eventually captured on Mellow Candle’s one-and-only album ‘Swaddling Songs’.

Ahead of its time (and mishandled by the record company), it followed the example of other recent genre-stretching folk albums by Trees and Nick Drake and sold poorly. By the time that the disillusioned band disintegrated in 1973, Alison was still only twenty. She spent the next three decades travelling in a slow arc across the world and across music: spending long stretches of time in South Africa, London, and Brussels before returning to Dublin in 2001, she passed – en route – through traditional English, Irish and Flemish folk bands (including Flibbertigibbet, Éishtlinn and Oeda) as well as stints in theatre and satire, and in contemporary jazz band Earthling. As she entered her mid-fifties, though, Alison’s career entered a surprising and fruitful second stage. She finally began releasing material under her own name – initially with multi-instrumentalist Isabel Ní Chuireáin (for the part-trad/part-original ‘Mise Agus Ise’ in 2006), and then alone or with her band Bajik from 2009’s ‘Hey Hey Hippy Witch’ onward.

Meanwhile, the slow transition of ‘Swaddling Songs” from forgotten ’70s flop to early Noughties word-of-mouth lost classic brought Alison into active collaboration with a fresh generation of musicians who’d been captivated by the record. Agitated Radio Pilot’s Dave Colohan came in for on 2007’s ‘World Winding Down’, Steven Collins of The Owl Service for 2008’s ‘The Fabric of Folk’ EP, and Graham Lockett of Head South By Weaving for 2012’s ‘The Execution Of Frederick Baker’. Colohan in particular has become a regular ally and co-writer, playing a big part in Alison’s 2017’s ‘Climb Sheer The Fields Of Peace’ album and inviting her into his Irish psych-folk collective United Bible Studies. There have also been teamups with metal bands Cathedral and Moonroot, with folktronicists Big Dwarf, and with Michael Tyack of psych-folkers Circulus.

Among the most promising of these latterday collaborations has been her 2012 teaming with Firefay (fronted by the trilingual Carole Bulewski) for the much-admired ‘Anointed Queen’ album. This month’s concert revisits that project and beyond, Alison and Firefay performing in a meticulously interwoven partnership which will dip into songs from ‘Anointed Queen’ in addition to Firefay material and songs from Alison’s own back catalogue, from Mellow Candle through to ‘Climb Sheer The Fields Of Peace’. Come expecting a world/wyrd-folk wealth of keyboard drones, strings, bells, reeds and ouds, all mingled in a lysergia-flecked folk-rooted song continuum stretching from Ireland to Brittany and Flanders (across the British Isles and London, with look-ins from Gallic chanson, kletzmer, urban baroque, boozy sea songs, tints of Canterbury art-prog and even hints of the Sudan and Middle East.)


 
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Knifeworld, 20th January 2018Guided Missile presents:
Knifeworld (double set)
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Saturday 20th January 2018, 7:30pm
– information here , here and here

Just over a week after their leader disports himself (mostly) unplugged and exposed in Dalston, Knifeworld themselves burst back into action in Islington, getting a whole show to themselves at the Lexington. Currently revelling in the flexibility and range of tones available to their eight-piece lineup, they’ll be drawing on their last couple of years of songwriting and performance by playing a full acoustic set followed by a full electric set.

If you’re not yet familiar with Knifeworld’s work, you’re probably new to the blog – ‘Misfit City’ has been saturated with it ever since the band first emerged eight years ago – look back over past posts to acclimatise yourself to their dancing, springy, psychedelic mix of oboes, guitars, saxophones, drums and warm, wood-rough head-next-door vocals. It’s a skewed but precise brew of pointillistic acid-patter pulling in sounds, tones and attitude from five decades of music – you can spot ’50s rockabilly, late ’60s lysergic swirl, full on ’70s prog/soul complexity, ’80s and ’90s art pop noise and suss and beyond – all topped off by Kavus’ particular wide-eyed worldview. Eccentric and garbled on the surface, his songs still couch pungently honest depths of feelings, fears and hope if you’re prepared to push past the distraction of tatters and gags – as with two of his mentors, Tim Smith and Daevid Allen, Kavus treats psychedelia as a tool to explore, question and deepen the subject of human existence rather than trance it away in a blur.

Exceptionally excited by what’s coming up, the band are promising “a gig like no other…. your chance to hear many rarely- or never-played songs before. A whole night of delirious, mindbending and beautifully strange music.” Below is forty-one minutes of slightly shaky, slightly scratchy Knifeworld footage from the Supernormal 2016 festival, in order to light the fuse…


 

November 2017 – upcoming free rock gigs – Tonochrome back in action in London (25th November); All Hail Hyena host a quadruple-headed evening in Preston with Dirty Bare Feet and Soldato plus the return of Sleepy People for their first gig in sixteen years (11th November)

2 Nov

Tonochrome, 25th November 2017

Tonochrome
The Spice of Life, 6 Moor Street, Soho, London, W1D 5NA, England
Saturday 25th November 2017, 7.30pm
– free entry – information

London progressive pop band Tonochrome have been away for a while – they were last onstage towards the end of 2013. This new gig towards the end of the month is something of a return and reshuffle – it’s their first with the newest in a run of bass players (Andres Castellanos), and an opportunity for singer Andres Razzini and his other cohorts (keyboard player Steve Holmes, drummer Jack Painting and, on guitar, transdisciplinary musical wanderer Charlie Cawood) to show us the latest developments for a promising band. Over an increasingly interesting pair of EPs, Tonochrome have explored glam pop, aspirational indie and a touch of expansive prog, building towards a definitive, textured statement. I don’t know if they’ve got there yet, but this show is free, so get in and see what they have to offer.


 
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Dirty Bare Feet + All Hail Hyena + Sleepy People + Soldato, 11th November 2017Hyena Inc. presents:
Dirty Bare Feet + All Hail Hyena + Sleepy People + Soldato
Ships And Giggles, 3 Fylde Road, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 2XQ, England
Saturday 11th November 2017, 7.00pm
– free entry – information here and here

Meanwhile, up in Preston, herky-jerky odd-rock band All Hail Hyena (who’ve made an initial name for themselves by storming and/or organising assorted Tim Smith benefit gigs) continue their work as promoters Hyena Inc. via a free DIY gig celebrating “one night of pop-punk-rap-reggae-soul-psychedelic space ska nursery-rhymes rock lo-fi metal bossa-nova prog tri-fi music from four diverse and very different brilliant northern bands”. As well as putting on the night and providing the lollipops, they’re performing themselves, bringing new songs of “neon lipstick, the thrill of a stolen kiss, and powerful pop ballads infused with filthy guitars and hot sex”. The gig will be closed by another growing Preston institution, Dirty Bare Feet, playing an audience pleasing “myriad of rap, soul, reggae, dance, pop, disco and jazz”; and opened by Chorley hard rockers Soldato (“four hairy northerners making noise with wood and wire”).




 
Of most interest to me, however, is that this gig marks a long-overdue return to live action by Tyneside underground heroes Sleepy People. Teasers and tinkerers at the coalface of psychedelic pop, they’ve always been a wilfully eccentric bunch; mingling the countercultural clowning and cosmic glissandi of Gong with bursts of twinkling synth melody, pulses of ska and post-punk guitar chug, set off by moonstruck flute and held together by Paul Hope’s odd yet jaunty songs (which chunter along like sugar-frosted tank engines). The last time they trod the boards was back in 2001: reunited with original singer Tiny Wood (better known as the frontman for ongoing cult-glamsters Ultrasound) they’re seeing what the contemporary world offers them, and vice versa.

Sleepy People, 11th November 2017Despite a strong work ethic Sleepy People never got as far as they should have done during their first lease of life; partly thanks to a constant stop-start of personnel turnover (with Paul and Rachel Hope the only consistent members) but also due to their continual goofiness and repeated nose-thumbing at any conception of cool. Daevid Allen might well have applauded, but the insouciant clowning tended to obscure surprisingly thoughtful songwriting which – while it happily dipped into a soup of esoterica from Gurdjieff to Freemasonry – frequently raised an arch, quizzical eyebrow at contemporary concerns. Among the tales of the frieze of myth and of men turning themselves into birds, the Sleepies also sang about the encroachment of shopping malls, about futile attempts at freezing yourself into immortality, or about modern-day nightmares in orphanages and retirement homes. At other times they’d cast numinous halos of wonder around everyday occurrences (a winter walk home which slowly becomes freighted with significance; the joy of a child running across a beach; or, perhaps on the same beach, the uncomprehending travails of a newly-hatched turtle perilously navigating by the moon).

Things can only be improved by the ongoing reunion with Tiny (who actually rejoined for part of the band’s final stint as Blue Apple Boy around 2002 before they called it a day). Striving to be Wakefield’s own David Bowie and its David Thomas; possessed of a hulking, dramatic stage presence; singing in foreboding and flinty tones like a pop crooner reincarnated as a battlefield crow… he’s always been the best, and the edgiest, foil for Paul’s songwriting. The tail end of the Blue Apple Boy period saw them writing together, Tiny’s more personalised art-punk anguish proving the perfect sour complement to Paul’s sweet, playful tunefulness: let’s hope that they’ve kept that up for the revival.

As for Sleepy People on the web, they’ve still got much to improve on their Facebook page (you’re better off checking them out on Wikipedia) and embeddable delights are few and scattered. Here’s what I could come up with, though – a twirl through Halfway World (with Tiny’s original replacement Phil Sears); recent rough’n’ready rehearsal footage of Every Wave Is Higher On The Beach and Nicky’s Little Army; and half an hour of grainy, raucous footage of a Tiny-fronted band lineup in 1993 (complete with three-fifths of the original Ultrasound).





 

October 2017 – upcoming London gigs – heavy art rock with Thumpermonkey, The Fierce & The Dead and Ham Legion; another Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree with Beth Jones, WondRwomN and others (both 6th October)

1 Oct

A couple of London choices for this Friday…

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Thumpermonkey + The Fierce & The Dead + Ham Legion, 6th October 2017

Chaos Theory Promotions presents:
The Facemelter: Thumpermonkey + The Fierce & The Dead + Ham Legion
The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, Camden Town, London, NW1 0AP, England
Friday 6th October 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

There’s still a few grab-’em-while-you-can tickets for this friendly clash between these three varied exemplars of British art rock. I keep posting odds and ends about them and always fear running out of something new to say, but here goes…

Described, this time out, as a “merry band of loony pronk heroes”, Thumpermonkey are better pegged as arch New Weird rockers, or as geeks-made-good. Bright, sharp, literate tale-tellers and brain-twisting scenarists, they roll out blistering tales and portraits of strange perspectives and stranger goings on festooned in kinked, scree-slipping riffs and grand declamatory vocals with an ever-present tinge of dark laughter. Unpicking the puzzlebox machinery of a typical Thumpermonkey song is a route to mingled glee and frustration, since singer, lyricist and concept director Michael Woodman packs in tight multi-dimensional digressions and inferences with the skill of a master.

This gig is a launch party for Thumpermonkey’s new EP ‘Electricity‘, inspired by “the luminous magnificence of human foolishness” and the story of “Victorian MP and visionary Lord James Badger… atomized by technology he hoped would transform the canals of the Euphrates, all because he followed the instructions of an angelic visitation.” The particular genius of Thumpermonkey is that they can unroll these kind of parodic slipstream plots without ever toppling into cute whimsy. If you’re looking for the missing link between Mastodon, Zappa, China Miéville, Van der Graaf Generator, Alejandro Jodorowsky and the harder end of the Mighty Boosh (and God knows that if you’re looking for something like that, you’re pretty specific), you’ll find it here. Clever bastards.


 

Currently riding along on the scaly back of their recent live album ‘Field Recordings’, The Fierce & The Dead are heading towards their seventh year as an imposing, boundary-squatting instrumental rock band, forcibly blending post-hardcore, instrumental prog, post-punk immediacy and experimental noise. Despite their music being sweetened by the inclusion of tuneful loop-guitar honeybear Matt Stevens in the lineup, they sport a brutal, angular, drawer-popping rifftastic sound which variously resembles Led Zeppelin and Black Flag simultaneously shaking down a post-rock band, a hotel kitchen getting a forcible mid-meal remodelling by Archaos, or a carhenge attempting to twerk along to highlife. Have a listen to Dancing Robots below for a dose of their live crunch and down-to-earth banter – or, if you prefer, there’s a free Bandcamp download sampler available.


 
Intermittently active Brightonian trio Ham Legion will open the show with a set of their cramped, restless heavy art-pop, matching the other two bands blurt-for-blurt and switch-for-switch.


 
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If all of the above is not for you – or if your Friday funds only stretch to a Tube journey and a drink – cabaret art-poppers Society of Imaginary Friends are putting on another free soiree in Wood Green (see passim). As ever, there’s a theme and a new bit of performance art jiggery-pokery from the Society themselves.

Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree, 6th October 2017

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:
Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree: “It’s Our Home County Amateur Dramatic Class Soiree” (featuring Society Of Imaginary Friends + Beth Jones + WondRwomN + Martin Wakefield + Cian Binchy + Lord Buckley + Ted Sawyer/Frank Frenzy DJ sets)
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 6th October 2017, 8.00pm – free event
information

“From Tring to Crawley, Amersham to Reigate, the dusky Downs resound to the sound of dramatis personae… for this is the time of preparation… the drawing-in of the nights can mean only one thing to these outcasts… Panto season is approaching.

“Our October Soiree is dedicated to London’s cultural refugees who dwell beyond the M25 where things are quite different… in a quiet cul-de-sac of the mind they float… there is no music other than ’80s power-synth ballads or Gary Numan… the Am Dram village hall is at the centre of the Home Counties mock-Tudor universe… As a mark of deep respect for this tradition, Society of Imaginary Friends will be performing the premiere of their ‘Home Counties’ song cycle featuring their cosy pub classic Please Put That Hammer Away and It’s My Home Counties Amateur Dramatic Class.”

Also on the bill is the usual swirl of other words and music – bluesy singer-songwriter Beth Jones ; poet/raconteurs Martin Wakefield and Cian Binchy, emerging Tottenham groove goddess WondRwomN with a cocktail of psychedelic soul, funk, rap and “grit pop”; and the “deranged and strange” Lord Buckley (presumably a tribute act to the hipsemantic beat standup from the 1950s, unless SOIF have mastered necromancy this year and brought us back the real thing). There’s also a double DJ helping from Ted Sawyer (Northern Soul) and Frank Frenzy (that 1980s power disco sound mentioned earlier) plus Karamel’s usual prizewinning vegan food (this time “reimagining the ’70s classics like prawn cocktail and Boeuf Bourguignon as a death free feast”).

See below for the Society’s poperatic tribute to social media, a harmonica-laden song about infidelity from Beth, and a couple of drum-and-‘bone-assisted joints from WondRwomN…


 

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

4 May

SIKE, 11th May 2017

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

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

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






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

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

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



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



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

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

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


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

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

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

April 2017 – even more jazz & jazz-ish gigs – Theo Travis in Rochester (23rd April); Spaceheads and Howie Reeve in London (21st April); Carl Hudson’s Moon Unit in London (27th April)

10 Apr

A quick addition to the previous jazz update featuring Theo Travis – as well as his imminent Essex date with Double Talk, he’ll be playing a free Sunday lunchtime show with his regular quartet Marc Parnell (drums), Alex Keen (bass) and Mike Gorman (piano). They’ll be “playing tracks from Theo’s solo catalogue including from albums such as ‘Live at Ronnies’, ‘Secret Island’ ‘Heart of the Sun’ and ‘Earth to Ether’.” It’s a low key event, but a high quality one; the kind that strangers walk into expecting some plodding duffer and coming out massively enthused instead.

Theo Travis Quartet
The Eagle Tavern, 124 High Street, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1JT, England
Sunday 23rd April 2017, 1.00pm


 
Meanwhile, here are a few more London dates:

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Club Integral presents:
Spaceheads (with Rucksack Cinema) + Howie Reeve
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Friday 21st April 2017, 8.00pm
information

Spaceheads are a duo. Andy Diagram’s hotwired trumpet produces live harmonised loops and breathy samples which he controls via a mobile phone attached to the top of his horn with a fish slice. The thick brass layers created are propelled by Richard Harrison’s drums, percussion and bent metal sheets. Over twenty-five years, Andy and Richard have achieved an intuition of what each is about to do next, which makes their semi-improvised gigs a joy to behold.

“Spaceheads formed in 1990 in Manchester and have toured the world and released eleven albums to date. Their latest album ‘Laughing Water’ was released in November 2016 and followed last years successful album ‘A Short Ride On The Arrow Of Time”. Both were released on their own label, Electric Brass Records.


 
Rucksack Cinema a.k.a. Jaime Rory Lucy – has been supplying delirious, innovative live video imagery since 2007. His astonishing and almost preternatural ability to mix imagery with what is happening on stage as well as creating strange and wonderful atmospheres throughout a room has made him an intrinsic part of any Spaceheads gig.

Howie Reeve plays solo bass and sings. He has released three albums, and a single (with Mike Watt of The Minutemen/fIREHOSE/The Stooges), and is about to release a new album titled ‘Not So Secret Garden’. Reeve previously found fame with experimental indie-pop band Tattie Toes and has been striding out on his own for several years, acoustic bass in hand, walking boot on footstool. His music is deeply introspective, considered and full of glorious dynamic range.”

(I’ve just had a listen to Howie’s stuff. Not the jazzy noodling or string squeak one might expect from an experimental-end gig: more of a richly harmonic multi-stopped bass guitar approach allied to nervy vocalising and alarming lyrics> He should be playing on one of Steve Lawson’s multi-bass nights. If you’re looking for an easy song-style tag to fix on Howie, though, the best thing to do is to tack away from jazz and head towards the eerie, distressingly beautiful DIY nightmare-folk of Lupin Crook, who’s been quiet for too long…)



 
* * * * * * * *

Splash Music Productions present:
Carl Hudson’s Moon Unit
Zigfrid von Underbelly, 11 Hoxton Square, Hoxton, London, N1 6NU, England
Thursday 27th April 2017, 7.00pm
information http://app.etickets.to/buy/?e=14818

“Splash Music Productions are proud to introduce the launch night of ‘Pixel Planet’ – the spectacular Album from Carl Hudson. Eclectic, futuristic, soulful, and danceable, Carl Hudson’s follow-up album to the critically acclaimed ‘Zoology For Martians’ doesn’t disappoint. ‘Pixel Planet’ oozes class from start to finish. His wizardry on the keyboard and his willingness to experiment with sound and melody, combine to create an aural extravagance that propels the listener to another world and compels their feet to dance.”

I’m not quite sure what’s going on here, since this “launch event” seems to be covering an album allegedly released over a year ago in February 2016… but if you like cosmic-tinged soul jazz in a Lonnie Liston Smith vein, or if you like warm music to Hubble to, this could be your thing. See below.


 

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.

* * * * * * * *

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.”



 
* * * * * * * *

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.



 
* * * * * * * *

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…
 

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