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

19 Apr

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

April 2018 – upcoming London gigs – the BABY clubnight launches in Walthamstow with Warm Brains, David Callahan and ex-Evans The Death member’s Clingfilm project (18th April); 3Peace, Gentle Stranger, Great Dad and Suitman Jungle at DIY Space (26th April)

14 Apr

Warm Brains + David Callahan + Clingfilm  @ BABY #01. 16th April 2018

Eleanor Payne used to run the ‘Candyskin’ art/indie zine and its corresponding music night in Walthamstow – she’s now taken both of them away, shaken them out and restored them with a new name. This coming week’s debut BABY music night will also launch the brand-new ‘BABY’ zine (“featuring writing and art on culture from all kinds of cool people”) and carry old ‘Candyskin’ issues for those who want to catch up on the past. Eleanor and others – including Liberty Hodes from ‘A Comedy Night That Passes the Bechdel Test’ – will be DJ-ing with an inclination toward “the best of indie pop, disco, post-punk, pop and girl groups (and) the best songs for dancing”. The live acts, meanwhile, have a pleasing feel of reviving that envelope-pushing Too Pure ethos from the more wide-thinking end of 1990s British indie: the samplers, the wrenched guitars, the sharp non-conforming anti-complacent lyrics and the broad bench of snatched and recombined elements.

Top of the bill is the urban-psychedelic post-punk of Warm Brains, a.k.a. Rory Atwell from Test Icicles, KASMs and Die! Die! Die! We hadn’t heard much from the Brains since 2015’s ‘Big Wow’ album, but last month’s new Circles Of The Scythe single (Rory’s first Brains material for several years, following his relocation to current London creative hotspot South Tottenham) – really ups their game. It’s a sardonic study of cultural and personal immolation: Rory whistling as he walks into the darkness, kicking a sardonic rolling can across a pile of gasping, trash-spawning consumerism and asocial/dysfunctional personality disorders, while marshalling a washing-machine judder of half-hinged guitars and rhythm pulses.


 
Although indie pop heroes Evans The Death called it a day last autumn, former guitarist Dan Moss has quickly whirred back into action with Clingfilm, who make their live debut here. Over the course of their three albums, his old band weren’t short of ambition and seemed increasingly eager to evolve and to unglue themselves; but they could never quite wriggle more than an arm and a shoulder out of the indie straitjacket. That said, the increasingly belligerent, beautiful, noisy gesturing they managed with that one free limb suggest that anything which sprouts from an ex-Evans will be worth paying attention to.

Dan isn’t the first to surface – that’d be his brother Olly, who started his work as Smiling Disease while still in the band – but the debut Clingfilm EP (which popped up at the beginning of the month on Bandcamp) is a fascinating thing. Collisions of Motown, pitchbend My Bloody Valentine wail and experimental noise planecrash; industrial broadsides and glocktinkles, electro-noise shotgun pop and dry sneers. At points a pocket Foetus dancing with Pere Ubu, at other times sounding like a more meticulous-aimed junior PiL, Dan’s subject matter includes nightmares, secrets, and friends with misogyny problems.


 
At points, Clingfilm sound like nothing so much as the early ‘Eva Luna’-period Moonshake; so it’s appropriate that Moonshake’s own David Callahan is also on hand, representing the older guard and providing a link with the original Too Pure attitude. Coming fresh from a support slot with The Mekons last week, David’s historically a ludicrously undersung hero of that brief phase when British post-rock meant more than endless, blanked-out repetitions of FX aurorae and crashing guitar cadences; when it focussed instead on powerful welds of motivating force, a revolving palette of jabbing noise, and lyrics which locked and engaged with complicated inner and outer worlds. Not that he sits and mopes about that. While he may be gradually incubating a fresh batch of post-Moonshake sampler-churn on the quiet, David’s solo sets are currently acoustic or near-as-dammit; focussing more on the bristlingly intelligent, if more conventional, breed of art-pop which he continues to hone with his other band, the revived Wolfhounds.

Here are some songs from a Callahan appearance at The Hangover Lounge a few years back. They’re brisk acoustic skeletons compared to his bandwork and his past recordings, but they reveal an artist who’s not hung up on either style or reputation, and who still steers his exploring curiosity through whichever mood and influence inspires him. In this case, the piquant satire of Thanks; the surprising journey into ancient-sounding dronefolk on She Passes Through The Night.



 
Whatever David’s got in mind for the BABY evening, he’s promising plenty of new material… plus appearances by assorted and unspecified special guests. One advantage for people with impeccable work behind them, who were active at pivotal times, is that they tend to have interesting contacts lists. Start speculating now.

If you want an even fuller evening, Eleanor and co. have timed the BABY gig to fit around Walthamstow Rock n Roll Book Club’s event, earlier on the same evening at the Walthamstow Waterstone’s. Journalist and cultural commentator Jeff Evans will be reading from and discussing his book ‘The Story Of Rock & Pop On British TV’, a study of the blossoming and withering of pop music programmes which offers “some warm memories and some surprises” from a time when culture was about deferred anticipation and the thrill of events fixed in time, rather than a vast body of instant downloadables. Jeff starts at six, the BABY live sets at nine.

BABY presents:
BABY #01 – Warm Brains + David Callahan + Clingfilm
The Victoria, 186 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 4QH, England
Wednesday 18th April 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here
 

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3Peace + Gentle Stranger + Great Dad + Suitman Jungle, 26th April 2018Assuming that you don’t already have a date with the industrial dub techno world of Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin by treating yourself to the Zonal and Moor Mother gig in Elephant and Castle on 26th April, it might well be worth your while casting a little further south-east to the Bermondsey/Peckham borders and the DIY Space. Two sets of promoters (Parallel Lines and GLOWS) are pooling gig resources on the same night: the first of two “Middle of the Room” shows blending all manner of musicians and art sparks…

Saxophonist Nat Phillips, drummer Pike Ogilvy and synthman Sam Bates make up the jazztronic trio 3Peace, merging semi-minimal pop electronica and jungle/techno/ambient club beats with jazz ideas. So far they’re just scratching in the sandbox of their potential talent: on their demos, they sometimes sound like bedroom dreamers on grey English days, dreaming of sunswept bay beaches and trying to conjure them up by making downtempo grooves on a phone.

Live – when they have space and time to work their way out of the cramping effects of budget recording – it’s a different story. Perhaps it takes a while to build (and perhaps there’s still a little too much chill-station reticence to their current chemistry), but whenever Nat’s saxophone kicks in with its cryptic Wayne Shorter commentaries, 3Peace take a step towards becoming a squat-scene Weather Report, with rolling grooves in the vein of a MIDI-ed-up ‘Sweetnighter’. Someone needs to tell them to cut loose from the easiness: to start scaring a few horses, start jousting each other, allow themselves to burn a little. There’s the option for so much more here.

 
Enigmatic, extrovert and deep underground, Dada jam band Gentle Stranger don’t give out much in terms of information bar their gig dates, their deliberately ludicrous attempts to tag themselves as “post clown”, and a succession of bungled, enigmatic, absurdist haikus about television, teething or caterpillars. I’ve not seen any of their gigs yet, but ‘Subculture‘ webzine – quicker off the mark than me, or just, with its Fred Perry tie-ins, better connected) tells me they’re dressed all in white… the Gods’ jam group, the Mount Olympus house band. Sprawling prog riffs meet footloose brass motifs and contrapuntal vocals from each heavily made-up member. A spectacle, to say the least”, while UCL’s ‘Savage’ reports back with “brash brass shenanigans coupled with shout-pop spleen“, and ‘Gigsoup‘ has them down as a performance-art blend of megaphone chanting, furious singing, folkiness, free jazz, no wave and funky noise”.

Billed like this, they could be a jazz-rock Fischerspooner, a post-Gentle Giant/Zappa/Zorn cataclysm, or a London take on – say – the art-prankery of a.P.a.T.t. I’ve seen photos of them gallivanting about in white burnouses and giant dunce caps; they’ve sometimes been part of the wave of cunning bacchanalian art-gigs hosted by the shapeshifting HMLTD… and here’s the video evidence. A trio (or trio-plus – it’s difficult to tell who’s in the band simply from who’s onstage) with a Jesus-robed drummer and a pair of ADHD multi-instrumentalists continually swapping between saxophones, trombone, flutes, guitar and bass. One of them regularly grabs an accordion, to wander the venue like an amnesiac busker. There are frocks and yelps and tinkling bells; there’s what looks like a stage invasion by a Riverdancer; and the music itself follows a curving, crazed path like a growing flood in a gutter, catching up little singalongs, burst of death metal and Balkan folk, nursery ditties and hornpipes along the way. They may well do everything differently next month.


 

Two-thirds of promising genderqueer alt.punk band Worm Hears also operate as Great Dad. It’s an excuse for drummer Gabriel Manzi and singing guitarist Charlie Loane (both currently broadening their horizons on the Popular Music course at Goldsmith’s) to set guitar-rock approaches aside in order to investigate a subtly disorientating slew of experimental pop. They played support to Charles Hayward last year; this year ought to see them getting recognition in their own right.

For my money, their electronic bricolage and sparse bleat-burrs of guitar make for a far more interesting, far more transformative project than does Worm Hears. It frees up Charlie, in particular, to apply those plaintive epicene Belfast-punk tones (a transitioning choirboy enraged by a broader world) across a variety of pedal-assisted pitches and registers including R&B queen, lonely Autotuned cyborg and cynical grouch-rock baritone. The songs, meanwhile, phase through walls and frameworks in a series of weird, wide-awake narrative arabesques – the glitchdream of Spanish pop in Wasp Honey; the seasick blippery, ringing organ shadows and voice-tweaking of Walk Around are free-associating mashups of love, political paranoia, consumer anomie, salty language and an ever-strange out-of-step physicality half-trapped between distress and wonder.



 
Suitman Jungle’s particular schtick is that he’s a humble financial-sector worker consumed by a rabid love of jungle/drum and bass beats. In character, decorously sheathed in formal jacket and tie, he’s meek and sweet-natured; eager to make a connection with his audience but just as eager to let rip on a set of stand-up drums and a sampling pad. Suitman sets are semi-theatrical performance pieces, crossing gently satirical spoken word with hammertastic live-beat mash-ups and a rave aesthetic. Through all of this, he threads sound pictures of London life – the rituals and private rebellions of commuting, the bearpit bellicosity of the Houses of Parliament, and so on.

He’s an oddly-positioned character: a kind of pre-escape, post-millennial Peter Pan, musing quietly on the absurdity of adult life and office etiquette, one ear constantly cocked to the utopian call to fly away into the heart of the drumming. I’m not sure how far all of this develops, or if (like 3Peace) Suitman’s being held back by format; but on spec he’s worth checking out to see how far he’ll go, and to see just how those frictions are going to play out.




 
As with the BABY night, there’s more here to make it more of an event – an in-the-round setting, DJ sets from organisers GLOWS and from electronic musician Lucaufer, plus presence of various kinds from zine/radio/gigzone gender-egalitarians The Femme Collective, haunted electronicist GG Skips, design company Spit Tease and Slow Dance, Autre Half and Grandma (the last three of whom operate in the blurred imprint area between, and encompassing, gigwork and record release). There’ll also be “a continuous circulation” of art – films, objects and images – curated by Felix Bayley-Higgins and finding room for material by Luis Jacobs, playful designer/repurposer Harry Grundy, irreverent sculptor/former ‘Spitting Image’ headbuilder Wilfrid Wood, and theatrical designer Willa Hilditch among others. And if you like the sound of all of this, it seems as if they’re repeating it a month later on 24th May; but for now, see below…

Parallel Lines & GLOWS presents
3Peace + Gentle Stranger + Great Dad + Suitman Jungle
DIY Space For London, 96-108 Ormside Street, South Bermondsey, London, SE15 1TF, England
Thursday 26th April 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

April 2018 – folk-theatre in progress in London and Bristol: ‘Travelling With Thomas’ (12th, 23rd, 24th April)

8 Apr

I can’t believe that, up until now, I’ve managed to miss news of this. A team gradually workshopping a brand-new folk musical and bringing it to the public in Bristol and London this month – a folk opera, really, based on an old, old story (in fact, one of my favourites of its kind, about a man given the twisted gift of prophecy along with the inability to lie, often with the proviso that the results will come back and hit him).

'Travelling With Thomas', 2018

“An ancient tale. A new twist. A musical journey. ‘Travelling With Thomas‘ presents an interactive gig that presents beautiful new songs, music and artwork to explore the legends and folklore of Thomas the Rhymer. Forced to travel to Fairyland, Thomas is helped and hindered as he tries to find a safe way home. It is a tale of fairness, love, truth and time. Come and join the journey!

“Composer Laurel Swift and designer Lizzie Watts invite you to share their journey with some of the finest performers on the scene as they start to create a new folk musical, and conclude their first year-long collaborative project. This fourth and final showcase is a summary of the perilous journey so far and a tantalising insight into what’s to come. It’s a unique, behind the scenes insight into the artistic development of ‘Travelling with Thomas’. Through an exhibition and concert, view Lizzie’s distinctive artwork and hear Laurel’s contagious music performed by a captivating cast of leading folk performers.”

Laurel’s already an inspiring (or intimidating) talent – the founder, leader and choreographer of the self-explanatory Morris Offspring dance troupe; ceilidh fiddler and singer in The Gloworms; double bassist in Gadarene; and clogdancer in pretty much everything she does. She’s dipped into storytelling before, telling a semi-improvised selkie tale as the instrumental/dancing half of the ‘Under Her Skin‘ team (alongside performance storyteller Debs Newbold). Lizzie is even more deeply embedded in tale-telling, probably being best known as a third of the three-woman core of Thimble Theatre who assemble physical theatre out of circus, music and traditional arts.

In addition, the ensemble putting the music together is a pretty fantastic cross-section of British folk, classical and theatrical crossover. It features singer and fiddler Ben Moss (Lauren’s partner in both Ben & Laurel and the spring-themed touring show ‘A Branch of May’), plus Lizzie’s Thimble Theatre cohort Harriet Riley (marimba and percussion, also in Spindle Ensemble and Tezeta). Other members are Hazel Askew (voice and flute, from Lady Maisery and The Askew Sisters), Nick Janaway (a.k.a. Newton Disc, voice and guitar), Deb Chalmers (fiddle and viola, from Stepling, The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra and innumerable sessions), Sarah Moody (cello and voice, from The Devil’s Violin), and finally the Bellowhead/Faustus duo of Benji Kirkpatrick (voice, bouzouki) and Paul Sartin (fiddle, oboe, voice).

Dates and places:

  • Horsefair (formerly the Alliance Boots store), 49 The Horsefair, Broadmead Shopping Centre, Bristol, BS1 3JY, England, Thursday 12th April 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Gunnersbury Park Museum @ The Small Mansion, Gunnersbury Park, Acton, London, W3 8LQ, England, Monday 23rd April 2018, 1.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Road, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AY, England, Tuesday 24th April 2018, 7.30pm – information here, here and here

Sadly, I’ve picked this up too late to bring news of opportunities for you to get involved in the early developments, but at least you now get to see the work in something close to a finished form. Here are a couple of videos to explain more of the concept…

 

April 2018 – upcoming London experimental/electronic/hip hop gigs – Zonal (Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin) with Moor Mother (26th April)

7 Apr

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Zonal with Moor Mother
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Thursday 26th April 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Zonal + Moor Mother, 26th April 2018Back in 2003 – wracked from crises of confidence and mental stability, and apparently sick of playing to the same audience every night… white dudes dressed in blackKevin Martin and Justin Broadrick put the cap on twelve years of playing industrial dub and hip hop charge as Techno Animal. Simultaneously, they were suspending a decade-and-a-half of mutual appreciation and collaborations: omnivorous industrial noise-rockers God, free-jazz/hip hop/sound garglers Ice, the sax/breakbeat/datascreams of Curse Of The Golden Vampire…

Techno Animal had begun in 1990: a response by two English Midlanders to the barrelling drums, noise-volleys and unsettling atmospheres of the international industrial movement (at the time, exemplified by the varied but mutually steely work of Tackhead, Swans, Foetus and The Young Gods). Over the course of the following decade, they travelled from the boulevard screeches, Penderecki string-squeals, found broadcasts and tangled jazz steals of their ‘Ghosts’ debut through the squidgier, more meditative tones of ‘Re-Entry’ (dropping much of the hardnut New York door-hammering en route) and the chilly, minimal, irritated illbient moods of the ‘Symbiotics’ album (split with German dub techno duo Porter Ricks).

Although parallel Kev’n’Justin projects kept popping up, they always eventually seemed to get subsumed back into the Techno Animal mothership. The hip-hop components of Ice, in particular, informed the narcotic murmurs and beat collages of TA’s third full album ‘Radio Hades’: it was even more apparent in the subsequent full-on turntable scratches and furious apocalyptic rap-spits riding the chassis of 2001’s ‘The Brotherhood of the Bomb’ (which featured top-notch MC-ing from El-P, Dälek, Vast Aire and the triple-tag alliance of Anti Pop Consortium). Whether impassive or garrulous, all of Techno Animal’s music sported a vein of austere, dank ambience; a pall of stern, frowning horror. Some of the evidence suggests that this came mainly from Justin, who since the late ‘80s had been exorcising his philosophical outrage and his horror at the world via his industrial metal band Godflesh. Eventually it would overwhelm him, with the disbanding of Techno Animal being just one symptom of a fleeing into temporary breakdown and retirement.

Many musical partnerships, especially those which disintegrate under strain, end with mixed feelings: often a toxic rage which pollutes the memory for years to come. Refreshiingly, for Justin and Kevin, there seems to have been none of this. Techno Animal’s working legacy has been more a mixture of affection, mutual pride, acceptance and bewilderment; plus a sense of unfinished business which neither seemed to be able to completely pick up on. Justin worked his way back up to continue some elements of Techno Animal’s work in his JK Flesh project, while Kevin already had another dance music platform in place in the shape of longterm downtempo/dub/ragga project The Bug (and, more recently, King Midas Sound. Both men also became more and more involved with DJ culture, and in 2009 there was a welcome gesture of common warmth when King Midas Sound supported a revived Godflesh at Supersonic Festival.



 
That said, it’s taken fourteen years on for Kevin and Justin to fully settle back in each other’s pockets and build on what they can do together. For now, at least – it seems to be a comfortable mutual fit. Resurrecting yet another project name (from an obscure CD-R album they spat out back in 2000 – see above), they’re now travelling as Zonal, picking up on old Techno Animal pieces and some of the working methods, but apparently rejecting some of the “bruising” older preoccupations in favour of a “smacked-out hip hop” approach. Whether the minimal electronica bounce of the original Zonal is going to hold any sway over the new work is another matter: the revived partnership made a Berlin debut last year, but under the old Techno Animal monicker (footage below suggesting that whatever they’ve changed they’re still well in touch with the old material). As far as I can tell, this Baba Yaga show is both their British debut and the formal assumption of the new Zonal identity. Possibly a project in flux; more likely a well-established idea trying on a new and better-fitting coat.


 
Whatever they’re calling themselves, they couldn’t choose a more suitable – a more timely – guest partner, than the unflinching powerful experimental rapper Moor Mother, who’ll be delivering a set of her own before joining the Zonal performance. Here’s what I wrote about her back in January:

“Over five dense and rapidly-evolving years of releasing and expressing, exploring and pushing, (she) has become something terrifyingly vital, cathartic and challenging. From the smooth and simple, app-driven, almost homely patchworks of her first EPs, her soundscaping and beat conjuring has developed into a jolting, stirring, often terrifying sonic canvas. Her lightning-raddled masterpiece, 2016’s ‘Fetish Bones’ (hailed at the time as a record of the year by a sweep of critics, from the furious pseudonymous screeders on the most obscure specialised blogs right up to the ponderous proclaimers of ‘Rolling Stone’), could just as equally be record of the year now. Nothing about it has dated, from the explosive Afro-futurist industrial gumbo of its construction to the horrendously untreated, uncorrected misdeeds it chronicles and the righteous rage it swings back with.

“A furious free-electronic beat investigation into the very fabric of American history from its battered black underbelly, the timbre and horror of ‘Fetish Bones’ reveals (her) as a burst but ever-renewing griot – willingly overwhelmed but still fighting the fight that needs to be fought. Her spit of ideas and incriminations are the symptom of an ongoing wound that won’t stop being burst open: “still had enough blood in my throat to gargle up nine words – “I resist to being both the survivor and the victim” – but I know the reality…” A stern, fearless presence, she rides a broken levee’s worth of dirty-historical floodwater and swirling cyclonic indictments, holding American crimes to account – male violence; systematic and institutionalised white brutality against black bodies and souls, or against the nation’s own tormented psyche. Around her voice (sharp beads of slam poetry chorused and gravelled by a flicker of concrete distortion) there’s a massed, jump-cutting collage of industrial-strength beats, chain gang and plantation songs, subway trains rattling into darkness, layered speeches of resistance, samplings of gospel ecstasy crossing into screams of operatic rage.

“What initially seems like a crazed searchlight, swinging pitilessly and furiously from atrocity to atrocity, rapidly reveals itself as being driven by a diamond-hard intelligence as (she) time-travels back and forth across two American centuries of wrongness, relentlessly weaving her case from aural snapshots of black culture suffering and resisting under the heel that hammers it, and never sugarcoating the price and courage of struggle (“like how mama made biscuits outa nothing, all while having a dope needle in her arm…”)


 
Justin and Kevin will also be performing Zonal-toned DJ sets around the main event; as will Bristolian DJ Schwet, who gets the between-acts slot. As BYH are saying, “gonna get HEAVY”.
 

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

28 Mar

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

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

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


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





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

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


 
* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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


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

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




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

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

 

April/May 2018 – solo tours in Britain/Europe for Kavus Torabi and Cosmo Sheldrake (4th April to 24th May various, with guest appearances from I See Rivers, Paul Morricone, Bunty, V Ä L V E, Peaks, Arch Garrison, Madilan, Stephen Evens, Bovril, Redbus Noface and May The Night Bless You With Heavenly Dreams)

25 Mar

It’s not exactly surprising that Kavus Torabi has finally gone solo. There’s too much hopeful, demanding inventiveness in him ever to submit entirely to the dynamics of a group, despite the fact that he’s currently got at least three on the go, most of them with him at the helm – the brassy lysergically-illuminated avant-pop of Knifeworld; the ritual instrumentalism of Guapo, and the cantering countercultural circus of Gong (transferred onto his lanky shoulders, history and all, following the 2015 death of Daevid Allen).

What’s more surprising is the direction he’s chosen for the first records under his own name (the new ‘Solar Divination’ EP and a full upcoming album for later in the year). A darker, more agrarian take on his psychedelic homeground, this time it’s drumless, bassless, hornless – rinsed clear of the capering squirrel energy he’s shown for twenty-odd years, in order to reveal muted, angsty bones. Mostly based around slow, smoky-lunged harmonium stretches and sparse flotsam drags of guitar chording, this is a more foreboding turn of song, haunted by deaths, loss and disintegrations. It’s never mopey or lachrymose, thank goodness (even in Knifeworld or The Monsoon Bassoon, Kavus knew how to undercut joyous tootling with passing shadows without souring the milk) but these new songs are overcast with sombre vulnerability: the gravel-grain in Kavus’ voice welling up from deeper, ghostlier territories than before.



 
Despite being a couple of decades younger than Kavus, Cosmo Sheldrake has been out on his own for a bit longer. It’s been four-and-a-half years since Cosmo put out anything as part of super-eclectic mongrel troupe Gentle Mystics, but during that time he’s been gently dabbing the release schedules with occasional singles, videos and EPs of his own. Earlier work brought some of the Mystics weird and charming vibe along with it: a homemade-toy, party-in-the-fairy-forest feeling, Cosmo lilting skewed nursery-rhyme verses over softly bouncing weaves of melody. In the videos, he came across as a generous digital troubadour on a set of meandering visitations, playing his lashed-up keyboards-and-tech assemblages for performances in model villages, truck beds, pigsties and fishing boats.

Byronic-looking but Branestawm-minded, Cosmo’s a shed-pop tinkerer and a baffling multi-instrumentalist with a mixed mystical/academic background. Part kid’s entertainer and part hippy-boffin, he has a shamanical nose for the margin between nonsense and connection. More recent efforts (trailing the imminent release of his debut album ‘The Much Much How How and I’) have seen chewier, pacier and poppier songs. The videos, meanwhile, have become an ingenious riot of increasingly theatrical, fantastical and sometimes macabre fabling in which foil monsters swim in canvas seas and giant fluffy headlice run amok. There’s a communal, childlike warmth to what he does: not perhaps a guileless wonder, but a sense of celebration, where fables and singalongs and misadventures become part of the accepted, useful junk with which we build our nests.



 
Kavus’ upcoming tour is a brief series of simmering April dots around England and Wales; Cosmo’s is a more leisurely, lengthy two-month loop, garlanding the British Isles and western Europe. They’re not sharing any shows, or even any venues. The only time they overlap in any respect is on the 25th of April, when they’re playing different but simultaneous one-man shows a stone’s throw apart in Bristol. It would be nice to think of them looking up midset on that one evening, peering across that city-central loop of the Avon, and nodding to each other. Not necessarily natural comrades but, in their way, parallel leywalkers. Each with a bit of Barrett in the back pocket, each with a peculiar charm of innocence, each with fingertips in the otherworldly and the mythic. The uncontainables…

Kavus’ tour also happens to be a chance to catch an intriguing spread of fellow musicians, reflecting the wide body of musical ideas and affinities he touches upon. While in Margate (squeezed into a former Victorian coach house transformed into the Japanese/Alpine cheese dream of a minature theatre), he lines up with two left-field folk acts: the organ-draped, ridge-walking green-chapel psychedelia of Arch Garrison and the mysterious brand-new “wonk-folk” of Bovril (featuring Tuung’s Mike Lindsay). In Birmingham, the bill sharer is Scaramanga Six songwriter Paul Morricone, providing gutsy acoustic songs of fear and brutality with lashing of dark Yorkshire humour. Paul and Kavus also reunite in York for the Tim Smith fundraiser Evening of Fadeless Splendour, alongside the off-kilter art rock of Redbus Noface and the sarcastic-bastard English songcraft of Stephen Gilchrist (a.k.a. Stephen Evens).




 
On his Manchester date, Kavus will be supported by Peaks (Ben Forrester, formerly of shouty slacker-punk duo Bad Grammar and Manc math-rock supertrio Gug, now performing “loop-driven emo pop”). In London, it’ll be V Ä L V E – once an avant-garde solo project (full of belches and found sounds, situational scoring and sound-art jokes) for Kavus’ Knifeworld bandmate Chloe Herington, now an increasingly ubiquitous three-woman live trio (evolved and evolving into a warm-hearted feminist/Fluxus/Rock In Opposition massing of harps, bassoon, punk bass and singalong bunker-folk). In Leeds, Kavus plays the quiet support act in a free gig for tintinnabulating Sheffield post-metallers May The Night Bless You With Heavenly Dreams (whose echoing tremstrumental pinings add a little magical shimmy to the usual doleful post-rock astronomy) and Bristolian experimental rockers Madilan (whose songs recall both the angst-shredded psychedelic night-journeys of Oceansize and also, in their spindly electronics and Autotuned vocal musing, post-Oceansize rocktronicists British Theatre).




 
In contrast, most of Cosmo’s dates are solo – possibly because once he’s unshipped his assorted instruments and gizmos (from euphoniums and banjos to loop pedals and pennywhistles), there’s not much room for anyone else in the dressing room. Nonetheless, support for eight of the European April dates comes from Liverpool-based Norwegian girl trio I See Rivers, who wed their outstanding and eerily resonant Scandinavian vocal harmonies, sunny dispositions and scanty guitar to their own balloon-light, touching folk-pop songs and to heart-thawing covers of Daughter (Medicine), George Ezra (Budapest), and Whitney Houston (‘80s wedding fave I Wanna Dance With Somebody).



 
For the London album launch for ‘The Much Much How How and I’, Cosmo and I See Rivers are joined by Bunty“multi-dimensional beat merchant and vocal juggler” Kassia Zermon. Also to be found fronting jazz/junk/folk trio Le Juki, co-fronting dub act Resonators, and co-running Brightonian experimental label Beatabet, Kassia’s run Bunty for years as a loopstation-based “one woman electro-orchestra” bolstered by her multi-instrumentalism and vivid imagination. Parallels with Cosmo are clear (the looping and beatboxing, a life blossoming with social art initiatives and therapeutic work beyond the entertainments) and she guests on one of the ‘Much Much’ tracks (very much an equal passing through, with a cheeky hug and a bit of upstaging), but her own vision is distinct. Giddier, jazzier, less directly English in its whimsy, with input from her Moroccan heritage and from her taste for Andy Kaufman; a slightly more cosmic playbox; imaginary languages; an undiluted Brightonian fabulosity.

Kassia’s last Bunty album, ‘Multimos’, was a pocket-sized multimedia event spanning apps, interactive AV, dream machines, audience choirs and gaming cues. Time and occasion will probably only allow a smidgin of that, this time around, but it’ll be a window onto her explosively colourful world.



 

* * * * * * * *

Kavus’ full tour dates:

 

Cosmo’s full tour dates:

  • More Human Than Human @ The Haunt, 10 Pool Valley, Brighton, BN1 1NJ, England, 4th April 2018, 7.00pm (+ I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3PQ, England, Thursday 5th April 2018, 7.30pm (album launch, with Bunty + I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Soup Kitchen, 31-33 Spear Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M1 1DF, England, Friday 6th April 2018, 7.00pm (+ tbc) – information here and here
  • Headrow House, 19 The Headrow, LS1 6PU Leeds, Saturday 7th April 2018, 8.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Fluc + Fluc Wanne, Praterstern 5, 1020 Vienna, Austria, Austria, Monday 9th April 2018, 8.00pm (with I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Feierwerk, Hansastr. 39-41, 81373 Munich, Germany, Tuesday 10th April 2018, 7.30pm (with I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Artheater, Ehrenfeldgürtel 127, 50823 Cologne, Germany, Wednesday 11th April 2018, 8.00pm (with I See Rivers) – information
  • Molotow, Nobistor 14, 22767 Hamburg, Germany, Thursday 12th April 2018, 7.00pm (with I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Lido, Cuvrystrasse 7, 10997 Berlin, Germany, Friday 13th April 2018, 8.00pm (with I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Paradiso, Weteringschans 6-8, 1017SG Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday 17th April 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Exchange, 72-73 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EJ, England, Wednesday 25th April 2018, 7.30pm (+ tbc) – information here and here
  • Ancienne Belgique, Anspachlaan 110, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, Friday 27th April 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Ninkasi Gerland Kafé, 267 Rue Marcel Mérieux, 69007 Lyon, France, Wednesday 2nd May 2018, 8.30pm – information here
  • Point Éphémère, 200 Quai de Valmy, 75010 Paris, France, Thursday 3rd May 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Unplugged in Monti @ Black Market Art Gallery, Via Panisperna 101, Rione Monti, 00184 Rome, Italy, Wednesday 9th May 2018, 7.00pm – information here
  • Serraglio, Via Gualdo Priorato 5, 20134 Milan, Italy, Thursday 10th May 2018, 9.00pm – information here and here
  • Freakout Club, Via Emilio Zago, 7c, 40128 Bologna, Italy, Friday 11th May 2018, 9.00pm – information here
  • The Hug and Pint, 171 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G4 9AW, Scotland, Tuesday 22nd May 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The Globe, 125 Albany Road, Cardiff, CF24 3PE, Wales, Wednesday 23rd May 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Plug, Sheffield, Thursday 24th May 2018, 7.30pm – information here, here and here

 

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