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November 2017 – London and Birmingham instrumental giggery – Kabantu at 1901 Club (16th); Alex Roth double bill playing with Future Current and scoring Kasia Witek’s ‘One Wall of Me’ for Olie Brice & Ruth Goller (17th); Steve Lawson with Bryan Corbett at Tower of Song (19th)

9 Nov

A quick sweep through three diverse mid-month gigs in London and Birmingham, covering duets of loop-bass and trumpet, some global acoustic fusion, and a double-bill of experimental guitar trio plus double-bass-accompanied dance piece…

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Kabantu, 16th November 2017

Hattori Foundation presents:
Hattori Foundation Rush-Hour Recital: Kabantu
1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Thursday 16th November 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“Reinventing global sounds, rewriting the rulebook – winners of the Royal Over-Seas League Competition 2017, Kabantu (meaning “of the people”), is a five-piece hailing from Manchester who unravel new marriages of music from around the globe to celebrate the space where different cultures meet. Formed in 2014 at the Royal Northern College of Music and combining the virtuosity of classical training with the opportunity to explore music from around the world, Kabantu musically reflect their interest in global cultures, arrangement and improvisation.

“The instrumentation comprises violin (Katie Foster), cello (Abel Selaocoe), guitar (Ben Sayah), double bass (Ali McMath) and percussion (Delia Stevens). Vocal harmonies from South Africa coalesce with everything from Celtic reels and Brazilian samba to Balkan folk music and beyond. Kabantu use music to bridge countries and cultures, creating an exuberant and joyful sound. They have just recorded their debut album with Mercury-nominated producer Gerry Diver and very much look forward to releasing it alongside a UK-wide launch tour in February 2018.

“The programme will include Scotland/Good Call (a set of two tunes, one penned by the group’s Edinburgh-born violinist Katie Foster and one traditional, fused with Kabantu’s take on Scottish music, including bowed banjo woven with intricate rhythmic decoration) and Ulidzele (a traditional song brought to Kabantu by their South African cellist Abel Selaocoe, using a blend of African vocal harmonies preceded by vibrant chanting and percussion to tell the story of a funeral celebrating a life, rather than mourning it.”



 
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London Jazz Festival presents:
Kasia Witek’s ‘One Wall of Me’ (featuring Olie Brice & Ruth Goller playing music by Alex Roth) + Future Currents
Jazz Cafe POSK @ POSK (Polish Social & Cultural Association), 238-246 King Street, Hammersmith, London, W6 0RF, England
Friday 17th November 2017, 7.30pm
information

Kasia Witek/Future Currents, 17th November 2017“Conceived specifically for a new company of three dancers and two musicians, Kasia Witek‘s new performance piece ‘One Wall of Me’ investigates and celebrates the intelligence of the body. Through the practice of embodied awareness, the performers awaken a sense of belonging, togetherness, and joy. Watch and listen as the meditation on endless interconnectivity unfolds before you.

“An original score by award-winning composer/improviser Alex Roth, drawing on the deep sonorities and physicality of double bass (played live by renowned improvisers and “double double bass team” Olie Brice and Ruth Goller), provides an integral counterpoint to Kasia’s highly physical choreography, danced by Elisa Vassena, Stella Papi and Tora Hed.

Future Currents is an electric guitar ensemble formed by Alex Roth to explore the full range of the instrument’s sonic potential. Bringing together three of the UK’s most acclaimed improvising guitarists, (Alex, Chris Montague and Chris Sharkey, who between them are members of Troyka, Sephiroth, trioVD, Otriad and Blue-Eyed Hawk), the group creates new music of extremes, informed as much by composers like Morton Feldman, Frank Zappa, Olivier Messiaen and Richard D James as by pioneering guitarists such as Fred Frith, Robert Fripp, Marc Ducret and Bill Frisell.”


 

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Steve Lawson & Brian Corbett, 19th November 2017

Steve Lawson with Bryan Corbett
Tower of Song, 107 Pershore Road South, Kings Norton, Birmingham B30 3EL, England
Sunday 19th November 2017, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Back at Tower Of Song in Birmingham, bass guitarist, loop musician and ToS/’Misfit City’ regular Steve Lawson embarks on a launch gig for his latest album ‘PS, You Are Brilliant’.

The sunny title may seem to counterpoint Steve’s recent set of more sombre-toned releases such as ‘If They Had Won’ and ‘Referendum’, mourning the enmity, deprival and confusion of Brexit and the austerity age (as well as providing a restful break before he reimmerses himself in the polemical communitarian thrash/protest metal of Torycore later in the month). However, it seems that the music is more of an extension of the work on his last full album ‘The Surrender Of Time’ (“dark, dissonant layers of sound coupled with glitchy, wonky hip-hop beats and odd time-signature chance-based loops that bring an even more complex set of relationships between the various layers at work”).

The title itself is a quote from and tribute to the late arts producer Roanne Dods (of the Jerwood Foundation and Small Is Beautiful) whom Steve describes as “one of the most relentlessly encouraging people I’ve ever come across… she brought a sense of possibility to every conversation, and alongside that was so, so good at actually making things happen, at organising and pulling together teams to make sure that those ideas, that impetus and all that amazing encouragement came to fruition. I think about her pretty much every day, as I do things that she encouraged me to do, as I reach to be the best that I can be in every area of my life, and pass on that encouragement to others.”

Joining Steve at Tower of Song is “one of my most favourite collaborators ever as special guest – Bryan Corbett on trumpet. Bryan is one of the most brilliant improvisors I’ve ever worked with – he has an otherworldly ability to arrange and orchestrate his sounds on the fly, using subtle effects and exemplary technique to lift everything he plays on to a higher level. It’s been way too long since we last played together, and this will be our first ever duo gig.”

The eticket deal includes a free download of If They Had Won (one of the tracks from ‘PS, You Are Brilliant’). Have an advance listen to it here…


 

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).





 

November 2017 – experimental gigs in England – Christine Ott on tour in Salford, Leeds and London (5th-8th November)

29 Oct


 
French experimental keyboard player Christine Ott – a sometime collaborator with Radiohead, Yann Tiersen and Tindersticks – is about to visit England as part of an ongoing European tour.

There are only three dates on this part of the tour, but they reveal a constantly shifting focus as Christine moves between different projects and presentations. In Salford, she’s part of a Gizeh Records-sponsored triple bill shared with two Manchester area experimental acts. In Leeds, she’s performing a live, self-penned soundtrack to a classic 1930s silent film blending romantic drama and docufiction, while in London, she’s got an evening split between a solo set and a performance of her duo project Snowdrops, in which she and fellow keyboard player Mathieu Gabry blend assorted keyboards and soundscapes. All will feature Christine’s work on piano and on the ondes Martenot, an antique années folles proto-synthesizer from the 1920s using vacuum tubes, slide controls, early filters and a selection of varied speaker devices to create eerie swooping cadences and strangely-coloured sonic outputs.

Dates:

  • The Eagle Inn, 18-19 Collier Street, Salford, M3 7DW, England, Sunday 5th November 2017, 7.30pm (with A-Sun-Amissa & ARC Soundtracks) – information here and here
  • Leeds International Film Festival @ Victoria Hall, Victoria Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3.., England, Monday 6th November 2017, 8.15pm (TABU live)information
  • IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England, Wednesday 8th November 2017, 8.00pm (solo performance + Snowdrops performance) – information here and here

More on the film project:

F.W. Murnau’s last silent film classic, the poetic and moving ‘Tabu‘, is the story of an impossible love on Bora-Bora island, between Matahi, a young pearl diver, and Reri, a young woman promised to the gods. Christine Ott’s soundtrack alternates modern classical piano pieces with avant-garde tracks on the mysterious and mesmerising ondes Martenot.”


 
More on Snowdrops:

“Alert launchers. A rogue wave. A burning forest… Musical landscapes in chiaroscuro, from melodies to “sculptures sonores”… Christine’s work in the Snowdrops duet goes beyond certain lines outlined in ‘Only Silence Remains’. An eminently powerful and spontaneous music, but also open and natural. A mixed universe of jazz, neo-classical, cinematographic and improvised music, which could vaguely sketch in the features of Sigur Rós, Steve Reich and Claude Debussy.”


 
More on Christine’s support acts in Salford:

“The audio/visual project of K. Craig and David Armes, ARC Soundtracks combines a dense, multi-layered sound-world with ritualistic visuals to create an immersive, hypnotic work. New album ‘DERELICTION//MIRROR’ takes us into a bleak auditory realm of post-industrial structures and traces the role of the body within these liminal spaces. Strained harmonics and industrial, discordance mesh with veiled rhythms and spoken-word narrative to create a heavy, static energy to both sound and visuals.


 
“An instrumental music collective founded and led by Richard Knox (The Rustle of the Stars, Shield Patterns, Glissando), A-Sun Amissa has featured an array of members and collaborators since it’s formation in 2011. To date they have released two albums on Richard’s own Gizeh Records label. The group produce a dense, drone-like atmosphere, accompanying evocative, melodic string and woodwind sections, intertwining guitars and field recordings. The live show features sections of the recorded output combined with improvisation to unlock new movements and progressions in the music. The subtle, considered textures and the hypnotic interaction between players and instruments provide an intense live performance.”


 

November 2017 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – pieces by Javier Álvarez, Jonathan Harvey, Trevor Wishart and Lauren Marshall at Kammer Klang (8th November); Kim Macari, Raymond McDonald and Club Inegales look into the art of the graphic score (10th November)

28 Oct

For the launch of their new season, Kammer Klang team up with the London Sinfonietta for a set of chamber pieces performed by Sinfonietta solo instrumentalists or as playback items, all of which dovetail into the Sinfonietta’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Kammer Klang, 8th November 2017

Kammer Klang & London Sinfonietta present:
Kammer Klang: Tim Gill + Alistair Mackie (playing Javier Álvarez/Jonathan Harvey/Lauren Marshall) + Trevor Wishart
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Wednesday 8th November 2017, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Cellist Tim Gill and trumpeter Alistair Mackie (assisted by sound design setups from Sound Intermedia) will be applying their talents to electro-acoustic pieces. One, by the late Jonathan Harvey, sees a solo trumpet transformed into a garrulous ensemble. Another, by the Mexican-Korean-influenced Javier Álvarez is a fabulously dramatic ritual, teeming and menacing, for string sounds and and-bowed-gong ritual inspired by a pairing of two short silent films from the 1920s (a Man Ray image sequence, preceded by horribly compelling footage of a feeding snake). There’ll also be a stereo diffusion playback of Trevor Wishart’s software-driven studio piece ‘Globalalia’, a rapid-fire collage of vocal samples which he describes as “a universal dance of human speech as revealed in twenty tales from everywhere, spoken in tongues”.




 
In addition, Tim will be performing the evening’s usual ‘Fresh Klang’ item – in this case, a cello-and-electronics piece by Lauren Marshall, principal composer with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Online examples of Lauren’s work are still quite rare, but I’ve included a couple of her Soundcloud clips in the roundup below: ‘Hi-Seas’, her violin/string ensemble/electronics mediation on disassociative loneliness, and her luxuriant expanded-orchestra fantasia ‘Suspended Between Earth And Air’ (hailed in ‘Seen And Heard‘, after its premiere back in January, as “a miracle of inspiration (with) stupendous impact”). Both display the work of a young composer with a remarkable flair for slow reveal and the implementation of artful drones with a dreamy Romantic melodicism. Her assured talents translate down well from full Wagnerian orchestras to smaller ensembles, so the same should hold true of this new duet between cellist and software.

 

Programme:

Fresh Klang: Lauren Marshall – Chang’e flies to the moon (for cello and electronics) – performed by Tim Gill
Jonathan Harvey – Other Presences (for trumpet & electronics) – performed by Alistair Mackie with Sound Intermedia electronics
Jonathan Harvey – Ricercare una Melodia (for trumpet & electronics) – performed by Alistair Mackie with Sound Intermedia electronics
Javier Álvarez – Le repas du serpent & Retour à la raison (for cello & electronics) – performed by Tim Gill with Sound Intermedia electronics)
Trevor Wishart – Globalalia (stereo diffusion)

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For those of you interested in the workings and applications of the graphic score, there’s an event a couple of days after Kammer Klang which delves into the world of this intriguing avant-garde tool, as part of the Royal Academy’s Jasper Johns exhibition

‘Visualising Music: The Art of the Graphic Score’ - 10th November 2017

Club Inégales & EFG London Jazz Festival presents:
‘Visualising Music: The Art of the Graphic Score’
The Reynolds Room @ Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 0BD, England
Friday 10th November 2017, 6.30pm
– information here and here

“In response to the dynamic that brought Jasper Johns and John Cage together in the 60s, musicians from Club Inégales combine with trumpeter/composer Kim Macari (leader of Family Band, founder of the Apollo Jazz Network and the Orpheus Project) and saxophonist/composer Raymond MacDonald (Professor of Music Psychology and Improvisation at Edinburgh University, co-founder of the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, and veteran of over sixty album releases), for a performance and discussion exploring the world of graphic scores, improvisation and structure.

“A ground-breaking composer and associate of Jasper Johns, John Cage was a keen graphic score composer, using visual symbols beyond traditional music notation to guide musicians in the performance of his work. Since then, composers and artists have played with pictures to create extraordinary visual scores to redefine the possibilities within composition, merging art and sound.

“In this exclusive event, Kim Macari will then be joined by founder of Club Inégales Peter Wiegold and Professor Raymond MacDonald, chair of Music Psychology and Improvisation at The University of Edinburgh, to explore the art of the graphic score.”
 

October 2017 – upcoming gigs – world fusion guitar with Pierre Bensusan’s English tour (12th-18th October); various jazziness/spoken word/flaneûrism at MAP Cafe in London with Abstract Word (12th October), Alexander Dubovoy/Eli Brown (14th October), Jazz In Cinema (21st October) and Grain Of Sand (26th October)

8 Oct

There’s an imminent brief English tour for acoustic fusion guitar ace Pierre Bensusan this month. Here’s what I said about him last time:

“World music’s an often-abused term, especially when you can see crude joins within it. Yesterday’s exotic-record discovery shopped and slopped onto whichever beats selling; or the sound of one particular city’s overbearing acquisitiveness, engulfing and pickling the music of its immigrants rather than fostering it. Pierre’s music is an example of how you can revitalise and justify the term.

“I’ve spoken before about the French-Algerian-Sephardic background which gave him a head start as regards polycultural vision, but perhaps what he actually embodies is the mixed grain of musical acceptance: the travelling tunes and the more intangible freight of cultures soaking and blending into his playing without strain. Neither jazz nor folk nor Spanish classical, neither rai nor chaabi, nor flamenco (old or new), it nonetheless contains all of these – a translucent, fully-realised and seamless chamber-acoustic melange, played softly and without affectation.”


 

As before, among the venues Pierre is playing are some out-of-the-way ones which it’s a pleasure to find out about. Full tour dates below:

  • Chapel Arts Centre, St. James’s Memorial Hall, Lower Borough Walls, Bath, Somerset, BA1 1QR, England, Thursday 12th October 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • The Ale House, Mill Lane, Colwall (near Great Malvern), Hertfordshire, WR13 6HJ, Friday 13th October 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • St Mary’s Church, Alveley Village (near Kidderminster), Shropshire, WV15 6ND, England, Saturday 14th October 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • The Half Moon, 93 Lower Richmond Road, Putney, London, SW15 1EU England, Tuesday 17th October 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • The Greystones, Greystones Road, Sheffield, Yorkshire, S11 7BS, England, Wednesday 18th October 2017, 8.00pminformation


 
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Meanwhile, back in London, there are a number of jazz or jazz-inspired dates this month at another undersung out-of-the-way venue – Kentish Town’s MAP Cafe. I’ll just run through them below…

Abstract Word, September-December 2017Abstract Word
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Thursday 12th October 2017, 8.00pm
 – information

“A chance to see a unique blend of music & spoken word fused with vocal and poetic verse… A night of music & rhythmic words featuring performers from the Abstract Word collective, as well as a range of performance poets and spoken word artists crafting their words to a rhythmic backdrop provided by longtime Jazz Jam collaborator Oliver Staines on eight-string guitar plus trombone and saxophones provided by Richmond “Journeyman” Trew and other horn players. Also a songwriter and performer, Richmond is the spearhead of Abstract Word and has been providing his unique “abstract rhythmic” style since 1995.”

 

Alexander Dubovoy/Eli Brown, 14th October 2017

Alexander Dubovoy/Eli Bown
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Friday 14th October 2017, 8.00pm
information

“While attending Yale University, Alexander Dubovoy and Eli Brown played in the quartet Newspeak. They are featured on its debut album Machinery of Night, recorded by 11-time Grammy-winner Jack Renner. After touring domestically and internationally, Newspeak put its work on hold after its older members graduated.

“Now, Dubovoy and Brown have moved to London – having played at top New York venues and toured internationally, Alexander’s first piano-and-songs solo album ‘Portraits Drawn Without You‘ was released in summer 2017, while Eli is currently a student in the conducting department at Royal Academy of Music (while remaining active as a trumpet player focusing primarily on new and Early music). The two will be performing their first gig together in the UK at MAP, playing improvised duo music (including old and new repertoire) as part of this reunion.”


 

Jazz In Cinema, 21st October 2017

Jazz In Cinema
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Saturday 21st October 2017, 7.30pm
 – information

Germana La Sorsa and Joe Boyle come together as Jazz In Cinema. In this harmonious Italian/English duo they bring you the finest jazz music as written for, or used in, movies over the course of the last century.

“The interesting arrangement of just voice (Germana) and double bass (Joe) creates some interesting textures, from wistfully open to tense and sinister, with bountiful experimentation and freedom. Neither, however, strays too far from the roots of the music or the mood they create.”
 

 

Grain Of Sand, 26th October 2017
Grain Of Sand
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Thursday 26th October 2017, 8.00pm
information

“The fruits of excessive people-watching, eradicating anonymity one tale at a time. From the flaneûr’s eye, humorous characters, drenched in poetic language, retell their adventures. Accompanied by the finely tuned fingers of pianist Alexi Bromsky, maestro prose performer Alex Glendinning graces these sketches with his musical mystique.

“Investigating the fantastic potential of the city, the stories give reign to the bizarre and hopeful conjectures of everyday observation – the passing glance at the bus stop, the sombre couple in the coffee shop – and delight in its quotidian beauty, discarded daily amongst the infernal throng. With piano and bass, an hour of snapshot stories awaits. Drop in and out as you like and enjoy the stories with a crowd’s fluidity. Imagine the face, as you brace the morning commute, which recalls a lost lover, beloved brother, or terrifying sister. The glimmer of bewilderment, terror, or joy in those fleeting seconds, swept away in the tube’s slipstream, now becomes a seed for reflection.

“These stories are also a sentimental conversation with the whims that we deem trivial. Lively, satirical, laced with romance and introspective nostalgia, they are performed through the eye of a brash, sharp romantic, lavished with mortal pathos.”
 

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

7 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

Dates:

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

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


 
* * * * * * * *

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

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


 

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

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


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

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

October/November 2017 – upcoming London experimental gigs – post-various loops and shades from Rothko, Yellow6 and Darkroom (12th October); Moondog For Gamelan plus Steve Lawson/Corey Mwamba duo (28th October); Steel Pan Fusion plays Philip Glass (23rd November)

4 Oct

Several longstanding Misfit City experimental favourites (all veterans of the liminal cross-encroachments between British post-rock, noise and electronic explorations during the 1990s) feature in a mid-month triple bill of shifting noise, words and melodies down at IKLECTIK.

Champion Version presents:
Edition 1: Rothko + Yellow6 + Darkroom
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 12th October 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Champion Versions Edition 1, 12th October 2017Though they’ve passed through a shifting variety of lineups and different instrumentation, Rothko are based around a single constant: Mark Beazley’s resonant post-industrial bass guitar, which speaks stern granite-y notes and impressionistic chthonic drones and blurs, sketching and deepen evocatic musical landscapes from unyielding post-punk city visions to soft-edged post-rock hillscapes.

On this occasion they’re appearing in an expanded version of the beautifully bleak words-and-shades trio last mentioned in ‘Misfit City’ just under a year ago (in which Mark was joined by recitateur Johnny Brown from Band of Holy Joy, and by Inga Tillere on projected visuals). In place for tonight’s show is a fourth member – Mark’s Low Bias colleague Graham Dowdall (a.k.a. Gagarin), whose synth wizardry’s brought him into collaboration with Pere Ubu, Suns of Arqa, Roshi and no less than two former Velvet Undergroundeers (Nico and John Cale).


 
Intermittent and elusive, yet steadily prolific, Jon Attwood’s solo guitar project Yellow6 has links with the undersung east London post-rock scene of the 1990s (which also spawned A.R. Kane, Disco Inferno, Moonshake and Bark Psychosis (BP’s drummer Mark Hartnett would later put in a Yellow6 stint). Moving away from his initial goth and anarcho-punk roots (tempered with soul), Jon was drawn into the world of minimalism, repetition and reverbed/distorted drone loops. Shaped equally by Jon’s natural humility and his “obsessive need to create” toward an artistic peak he’s not yet reached, Yellow6 has produced over fifty releases with results variously described as “gentle shape-shifting misery” and “beautiful, shimmering and blissful”.


 
With roots in Cambridge science culture, propulsive and unorthodox ambient duo Darkroom initially found their feet in the fertile 1990s ferment surrounding art-poppers No-Man (initially sporting the latter’s singer Tim Bowness as a member, and providing that particular scene’s experimental edge alongside Steven Wilson’s electrodrones as Bass Communion). Since then, like a wide-orbiting comet, synthworker Os and guitarist Michael Bearpark have forged their own idiosyncratic path in and out of various drone, loop, texture and improv clusters, as well as becoming in-house soundtrackers for brain investigations at the Hub. Moving on from their earlier minglings of boiling starstuff, ambient techno and gasping tidal experimental textures, their more recent music is moody, beating improvised electronica increasingly shaped by Mike and Os’ rediscovery of attenuated blues tones, troubled elongated Neil Young guitar churns and dark bass clarinet voicings. For more assorted ‘Misfit City’ froth and musings on Darkroom, click here. Less celebrated than their gigmates, they’ll be opening the show. They could just as well be closing it.


 
This concert has been set up by boutique vinyl art-music label Champion Version, who’ll have one of their limited-edition vinyl EP featuring all three acts available on the night.

* * * * * * * *

Towards the end of the month, there’s an intriguing reconnection between late twentieth-century New York and the Indonesian form which inspired so much of it…

Moondog Gamelan, 28th October 2017
Europalia Arts Festival Indonesia presents:
Iwan Gunawan & Stefan Lakatos’ ‘Moondog For Gamelan’ + Steve Lawson/Corey Mwamba
LSO St Luke’s, 161 Old Street, St Luke’s, London, EC1V 9NG, England
Saturday 28th October 2017, 7.30pm
information

“Few musicians are the source of as much intrigue as Moondog. A blind man from Kansas transplanted to New York City, he dressed as a Viking and chose to live on the streets. His compositions reflect his experiences of hearing his way through the city – motifs borrowed from Jazz, Classical and Native American music unwind over the constant beating of a tom-tom drum, like the thumping of a subway train. Occasionally field recordings of traffic noise or crying babies sneak in, as if leaking through an open window. It’s the sound of a city, the sound of a wealth disparate parts coming together to create a complex whole – a kind of urban gamelan.

“For this concert, Moondog’s output is literally reimagined as gamelan by Iwan Gunawan (a reknowned contemporary Javanese gamelan composer known for combining the tradition with the use of electronics and computers) and Moondog’s friend and pupil Stefan Lakatos (who performs using a homemade percussion instrument given to him by the composer himself). Featuring instruments built especially for the occasion, this performance takes gamelan out of its traditional context, taking on Moondog’s experimental yet optimistic compositions. Almost minimalist in its construction – indeed, Moondog alleged that Phillip Glass once called him the “father of minimalism” – the influential outsider musician’s melodies resonate amid the controlled chaos of gamelan.”


 

In support, there’s a duo performance by another ‘Misfit City’ favourite – bass guitar looper Steve Lawson and experimental vibraphonist Corey Mwamba. Collaborators for at least a decade, they’re a pair of accessible yet stubborn musicians creating their own long-distance version of village music on the outskirts of the music business. Recorded/filmed evidence of what they do is surprisingly thin on the ground (I can’t find any) so you’ll have to go on word-of-mouth info about their past gigs. Expect some aspects taken from jazz and fed through sundry loops, delays and perky processors, but don’t expect them to be confined by that – their musical minds stretch from contemporary classical and process music to goofy tunes, and their textural tastes from lowdown murmur to ear-piercing noise. A big bucket to dip into.

* * * * * * * *

While we’re still on the topic of New York minimalism and Philip Glass, look out next month for what sounds like it’ll be an enthralling conjunction of Big Apple pulse and Caribbean tonal warmth…

Steel Pan Fusion Play Philip Glass, 23rd November 2017

‘Steel Pan Fusion Plays Philip Glass’
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Thursday 23rd November 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“One of the most influential and important composers of the twentieth century, Philip Glass is a pioneer of minimalist music alongside fellow luminaries Steve Reich and Terry Riley. With a body of work that stretches beyond contemporary classical music into film scores, operas and more, the source material is rich for reinterpretation. We have commissioned London based ensemble Steel Pan Fusion to perform a selection of works from Glass’ extensive repertoire, from his peerless ‘Glassworks’ to the soundtrack for ‘The Truman Show’.”



 

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