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March/April 2017 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Matt Cargill/Sam Edwards at More News from Nowhere (29th March); a Tony Conrad celebration at the Horse Hospital with Neil Campbell & Michael Flower of Vibracathedral Orchestra plus screening of ‘Completely in the Present’ (5th & 6th April)

15 Mar

Something on the drones’n’noise’n’whistles More News From Nowhere gig at the end of the month…

'More News From Nowhere' #15. 29th March 2017 (image © Daniel Oines)

‘More News From Nowhere’ #15. 29th March 2017 (image © Daniel Oines)

More News From Nowhere presents:
MNFN #15: Matt Cargill + Sam Edwards + Ashcircle
The Victoria, 186 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 4QH, England
Wednesday 29th March 2017, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

From MNFN: “We’re really excited to announce that we’re putting out our first tape – a super-limited run of thirty hand-decorated cassettes featuring Matt Cargill (Sly & The Family Drone)’s blinding solo set from of tape processing and live loops (featuring a surprise banger) from the Rose and Crown last year. On the flip side is multi-instrumental improviser Sam Edwards‘s amazing performance from the William Morris Gallery at Stowfest last year – it’s a nice contrast to Matt’s with contemplative, harmonic synth drones and skittering, pulsing percussion. You’ll be able to pick one up on the night for a fiver (or a tenner in total on the door for a ticket/tape bundle), or subsequently on Bandcamp.


 
“Both of them will be playing live on the night with support from Ashcircle (aka MNFN’s own Ciaran Mackle, collaborating with South Circular’s Tom Macarte).”


 
* * * * * * * *

In early April, down at the Horse Hospital, there’s a two-day celebration of the life and work of the bolshy, challenging art-polymath Tony Conrad, marking the first anniversary of his death. Crash course here:

“Tony Conrad was one of the great American artists of our time, yet to the world at large he remains criminally underappreciated. Since the early 1960s, Conrad’s films and compositions have been the stuff of legend for artists and musicians everywhere. His vast, inter-disciplinary repertoire has single-handedly created and influenced major film and compositional movements. He performed in and recorded the soundtrack to Jack Smith’s legendary ‘Flaming Creatures’; he turned the paradigms of cinema upside down with ‘The Flicker’, a film composed of only black-and-white frames; his development and practice of just intonation and minimalism through his work with Stockhausen and La Monte Young still has the music establishment scratching their heads; his pivotal role in the formation of The Velvet Underground has directly or indirectly influenced everyone who has picked up a guitar since; as an early adopter of activist public access television he democratized the emerging medium of portable video. In his later years he continued to perform and make work that pushed the boundaries of reason for which he has finally begun to receive worldwide attention.”

The celebration consists of one Conrad-inspired gig, and one documentary screening:

Neil Campbell & Michael Flower, 5th April 2017

Muckle Mouth presents
Neil Campbell & Michael Flower
The Horse HospitalThe Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Wednesday 5th April 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Neil Campbell and Michael Flower are founding members of legendary Leeds freak-out collective Vibracathedral Orchestra, the “totemic ensemble of contemporary British outsider music”…

“Neil has been active on the lunatic fringe of underground music since at least 1979. In that time, as well as his work with Vibracathedral Orchestra he has performed and recorded widely as solo performer, ad hoc collaborator and core member of groups such as A Band and Astral Social Club. His collaborations are myriad, including work with Richard Youngs, Campbell Kneale, High Wolf, Grumbling Fur, John Clyde-Evans, Filthy Turd, Oren Ambarchi, Ashtray Navigations, Spider Stacy, David Larcher, Blood Stereo, John Olson and Matthew Bower. Writers have described him variously as “a one-man subculture”, a “grandfather figure” with “a hallucinogenically inclined pallet.” Neil shares his birthday with Grace Jones, Malcolm X, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot and Joey Ramone – look out!

“Michael operates in a similar musical territory which focuses on the droning element of strings, guitars, wind instruments and handheld percussion. Occasional vocal mutterings may remind people of traditional Indian ragas, while other parts of his work hints more at the academic influence of, say, a Henry Flynt or Tony Conrad. Mick has also played with everyone from Chris Corsano (as Flower-Corsano Duo), Pete Nolan’s Magik Markers side project Spectre Folk, MV&EE w/The Golden Road and Sunburned Hand Of The Man.”


 
'Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present'

‘Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present’ – full screening
The Horse HospitalThe Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Thursday 6th April 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“Director Tyler Hubby (editor of ‘The Devil and Daniel Johnston’ and ‘The Great Invisible’) makes his directorial debut with ‘Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present‘, a non-fiction film examining the pioneering life and works of artist, musician, and educator, Tony Conrad….

“Utilizing intimate footage of Conrad and his collaborators shot by the director over the last twenty-two years, as well as Tony’s own archive of recordings and films, Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present mirrors Conrad’s own playfully radical approach to art making. The non-linear structure allows Conrad to wildly free associate his streams of consciousness, revealing an honest and humane way of navigating a remarkable, creative life.

“Chronicling Conrad’s life, work and pervasive influence over the years and through multiple mediums, this highly anticipated film is on tour of some the world’s most esteemed museums, galleries and film festivals – the Viennale, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Big Sky Film Festival, The Tate Modern, Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art, Brighton CineCity Film Festival, HOME Manchester, CCA Glasgow, among more than fifty others.”

“Starring: Tony Conrad, Tony Oursler, Jim O’Rourke, David Grubbs, Marie Losier, John Cale, Moby, Branden Joseph, Jeff Hunt, Charlemagne Palestine, Jay Sanders, Jennifer Walshe.”


 

March/April 2017 – upcoming London & Hastings gigs – a start to the Folk at the Foundling season (Three Cane Whale on 24th March; Jimmy Aldrige & Sid Goldsmith with Samantha Whates on 28th April); Non-Blank soundtrack Dr Caligari (1st April)

14 Mar

A quick reminder of the two upcoming London concerts launching this year’s Folk at The Foundling season…

“Folk at the Foundling brings traditional music from the British Isles and beyond to the unique surroundings of the Foundling Museum, showcasing folk legends and breakthrough artists. Set in the our intimate Picture Gallery, the evenings offer the chance to explore the Museum and learn about our rich musical past. Guests can wander through the beautiful rooms whilst enjoying a drink, before hearing music from some of today’s best folk artists, brought to you by The Nest Collective.”

Three Cane Whale
The Nest Collective presents:
Folk At The Foundling: Three Cane Whale
The Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, St Pancras, London, WC1N 1AZ, England
Friday 24th March 2017, 6.30pm
– information here and here

“Multi-instrumental acoustic trio Three Cane Whale comprises Alex Vann (mandolinist for Spiro), Pete Judge (trumpeter for Get The Blessing and Eyebrow) and Paul Bradley (acoustic guitarist for Scottish Dance Theatre). They combine the influences of folk, minimalism, classical and film music to produce intricate works with a cinematic sweep and intimate delicacy, something “fascinating, remarkable, and impressively original” (‘The Guardian’), in which “the aroma of muddy leaves and old nettles is almost tangible” (‘The Observer’).

“The band’s eponymous debut album was recorded live in an 18th century Bristol church, and chosen by Cerys Matthews as one of her top five modern folk albums in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’. Second album ‘Holts And Hovers’ was recorded in twenty different locations, including churches, chapels, a greenwood barn, an allotment shed, the top of a Welsh waterfall, and the underside of a Bristol flyover: it was awarded ‘fRoots’ Editor’s Choice Album of 2013. Tonight they’ll be performing an intimate unamplified double set.”



 

 
Sid & Jimmy + Samantha Whates, 28th April 2017
The Nest Collective presents:
Folk At The Foundling: Jimmy Aldrige & Sid Goldsmith + Samantha Whates
The Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, St Pancras, London, WC1N 1AZ, England
Friday 28th April 2017, 6.30pm
– information here and here

“Acclaimed folk duo Jimmy & Sid (Jimmy Aldrige and Sid Goldsmith) are fast building a reputation for their arresting and moving performances of traditional and original folk song from the British Isles. Their sensitive musical arrangements and stunning vocals bring an integrity to their performances, telling stories of hardship, joy, struggle and celebration. Their second album ‘Night Hours’ has been well-received by critics, with its driving banjo and guitar arrangements alongside close vocal harmonies.

Samantha Whates‘ beguiling voice draws on the contemporary music scene, whilst retaining a strong affinity with the traditional music of her Scottish roots. She has performed throughout the UK and at major London venues including the Union Chapel, the Vortex and Cecil Sharp House: her 2013 debut album of original works, ‘Dark Nights Make For Brighter Days’, has enjoyed critical acclaim and radio play on BBC 6 Music.”



 
* * * * * * * *

On a different tack, the beginning of April also sees sinister textures massing on a corner of the south coast…

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari @ Kino-Theatr, 1st April 2017Kino-Teatr presents:
‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ – With an Original Live Soundtrack
Kino-Teatr, 43-49 Norman Road, St. Leonards, Hastings, East Sussex, TN38 0EQ, England
Saturday 1 April 2017, 7.15pm
– information here, here and here

“This classic 1920 German silent horror film, directed by Robert Wiene, is considered the quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema. It tells the story of an insane hypnotist (Werner Krauss) who uses a somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) to commit murders. The film features a dark and twisted visual style, with sharp-pointed forms, oblique and curving lines, structures and landscapes that lean and twist in unusual angles, and shadows and streaks of light painted directly onto the sets.

“The live music for this performance is provided by Non-Blank (Oliver Cherer, Jack Hayter, Riz Maslen and Darren Morris) who perform semi-improvised suites of music based on recordings, schemes and strategies made and devised in and around various locations, collections and libraries of sounds. Having sprung from London’s improvised music scene, Darren is a seasoned performer, composer and producer (recent projects include the soundtrack to the Sundance premiered film ‘We Are What We Are’, pre-production of the internationally performed ‘Massive Attack v Adam Curtis’ and touring work with former Beta Band-er Steve Mason). Riz is well known for her long list of recordings and projects under the Neotropic moniker; while Oliver has been trading for the last decade under his musical alias Dollboy. Jack (formerly guitarist with pop band Hefner) has carved out a niche as a pedal steel player, along with his unique story-telling combining electronic loops, samples and traditional instruments.

“Non-Blank use old tape machines, organic/analogue/digital instruments and voices to improvise around and react to each venue they play in, responding to each environment they inhabit. Recent shows (at various venues including the Union Chapel, H20 Finland, the De La Warr Pavilion and Coastal Currents) have included spontaneous compositions involving church organs, a male voice choir, audience members and school children armed with hand bells and bloogle resonators. The group bring their unique and often off-kilter talents in these journeys of discovery: no two shows are alike and it is their aim to bring these performances to as many new audiences as possible, particularly in public spaces.”

(Below is a forty-five video of Non-Blank in action in 2014 at the De La Warr…)

 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Ramp Local show in New York on the 8th (Lily & Horn Horse, Macula Dog, Gavin Riley Smoke Machine, The Cradle); Whispers & Hurricanes show in London on the 9th (Danielle de Picciotto, Alexander Hacke, Jo Quail)

2 Mar

A little convocation of bands associated with Philadelphia’s Ramp Local label are playing at the Glove, an out-of-the-way Brooklyn performance theater and art shrine. (Apparently the Glove’s been set up by the same people responsible for the Grove performance space, and seems to be so in-the-moment that it’s impossible to find a formal address for it – you’ll either have to private-message their Facebook page, ask the right kind of friend, or get off at the MTA stop by Flushing Avenue and Broadway and take the chance that you’ll spot it.)

Lily and Horn Horse + Macula Dog + Gavin Reilly Smoke Machine + The Cradle, 8th March 2017

Ramp Local presents:
Lily & Horn Horse + Macula Dog + Gavin Reilly Smoke Machine + The Cradle
The Glove, (somewhere in) Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York City, NY 11221, USA
Wednesday 8th March 2017, 8.00pm
information

The gig’s a launch event for the debut album by Lily & Horn Horse, more on which below:

”Lily Konigsberg is a member of the experimental punk band Palberta, hailed by ‘Pitchfork’ for their “mercurial gestures, barking acidity, and off-the-cuff creativity” as well as for their taste for swapping or abandoning instruments midflow. Fellow multi-instrumentalist Matt Norman performs as Horn Horse. Together they formed a group called Lily & Horn Horse, who will release a collaborative cassette album – ‘Lily On Horn Horse’ – on March 3rd 2017 (on the heels of Palberta’s most recent album ‘Bye Bye Berta’), by way of Philly’s Ramp Local Records.

“With ‘Lily On Horn Horse’, Lily and Matt deliver a twenty-eight-track collaboration that synthesizes the eclectic musical talents of both multi-instrumentalists. Originally presented as a CD, the compilation was sold and packaged in origami during an August 2016 tour of the north-east USA. The album is more a snapshot of a creative time and place than concept-album. As Lily and Matt say “The release of Matt’s ‘Horn Horse‘ album featured Lily on most songs, most of which are included in y’own tape. Around the same time Lily was developing a mega set of karaoke music and instructed Matt to blow down some car horn charts which were eventually replaced by baritone horn parts and inserted into the recordings gently sleeping inside thine tape.”


 
“The record ends up a coherent pastiche of diverse tracks full of free jazz-inspired brass freak-outs, ethereal piano ballads, and synth arrangements skewed toward electronic composition. Lily’s siren-like voice calls from a perfume-cloud of disco-inspired grooves while Horn Horse’s vocals hit robotic and angular production. Tracks like Today and She Doesn’t Have A Good Brain bring to mind an Arthur Russell-like elevation of pop-music experimentation. In short, the record is a curated-tour through the frontiers of Lilly and Horn Horse’s creative landscape.”


 
The gig also offers three other acts. There’s discombobulated glitch-funk played with “inebriated, mule-like precision” from Macula Dog. There’s Big Neck Police‘s Paco Cathcart, performing with Palberta’s Ani Ivry-Block and The Gradients‘ Sammy Weissberg as The Cradle – woozy tenement indie-folk songs, a little like an accordion-and-double-bass equipped Mazzy Star at war with drum machines and bad aircon. Finally, there’s the goofy multi-media work of Gavin Riley Smoke Machine.



 
For me the most satisfying of the support acts is Gavin, who creates his own live-music take on a Choose Your Own Adventure paperback. He does this by gumming together a spitball of nerdy white-boy hip hop, blow-by-blow audience interaction and goofy pulp fiction/afternoon TV storytelling (a schoolkid caught up in a whirl of mutants, drug gangs, sinister teachers, the FBI and parents with mysterious pasts), topped off with some endearing homemade animation. In theory, it should fall flat on its face: instead, it can turn an audience of jaded hipsters back into eager, happy children.


 
* * * * * * *

Back in London, Chaos Theory’s airier spin-off Whispers & Hurricanes is back in business with a few old friends:

Hacke & De Picciotto + Jo Quail, 9th March 2017

Chaos Theory presents:
Whispers & Hurricanes: Hacke & De Picciotto, Jo Quail
Strongroom Bar, 120-124 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3SQ, England
Thursday 9th March 2017, 7.30pm
information

“The first Whispers & Hurricanes of the year sees the return of two legendary multimedia performers (whose entire life together is an ongoing work of art), as well as a prolific contemporary cellist and loop artist.

“German-American artist couple Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke are internationally known – she as the co-founder of the Love Parade, he a founding member of the band Einstürzende Neubauten – and both of them together members of Crime & The City Solution. Since 2010 they have been leading a nomadic life, touring the world with music and theatre projects, never staying still for too long. After two breathtaking shows for us at Cafe Oto and at Hackney Attic, this unconventional and versatile duo return to the UK with new additions to their show.

“Tonight they will perform music from their recently released and widely acclaimed album ‘Perseverantia’ – made up of instrumental sounds, a few spoken words by Danielle, throat singing by Alexander, purrs and squeaks of the hurdy-gurdy and autoharp, melancholic melodies of the violin, and bass and guitar hums.

“We will also have a first chance to hear new pieces that they are working on for their next album, comprised of recordings made in a huge cathedral in Austria, mixed with Mexican found sounds and desert drones. It will be intense.

 
Jo Quail is a visionary cellist who never ceases to push boundaries and her own limitations, with equally dramatic and contemplative compositions as well as with her use of loops and effects. Over the last seven years, her career has seen her release three full albums, a live DVD, several collaborative works, and many international tours, most recently with post-rock giants Caspian.

“Her music has captured the hearts of rock, classical, experimental, metal, post-rock, gothic and folk fans alike, and she is known for creating a unique experience with each performance.”


 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree, 3rd March – guitars, sopranos, art-pop, poets etc

28 Feb

The third of the year’s Society of Imaginary Friends soirees takes place in north London on the first Friday in March – the usual cosy-glorious, thought-provoking mishmash of sundry singer-songwriters, poets, classical musicians and people with ideas, encouraged and topped off by the all-bases-covered chamber pop of the Society themselves.

SOIF Soiree, 3rd March 2017

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree: “A Breath Of Fresh Air” (featuring Society of Imaginary Friends + Anne Corrigan + David Skinner + Martin Wakefield + I Am Her + Duet Diana + Millie George
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 3rd March 2017, 8.00pm
– free event – information

Word from SOIF’s Alfie and Louise:

“People have said “my goodness, Soif Soirees are unpredictable,” “Soif Soirees are like nothing I have experienced before,” or even ‘Soif Soirees feature some of the most moving and talented performers in London,’ and that Soif Soirees are a ‘a breath of fresh air.’ So this is our theme for our March Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree. A breathe of fresh air… remember what that used to feel like? Sweet oxygen hitting your lungs?… Your body aching with gratitude for the relief of it?… Yes, that’s good old Soiree wholesomeness… brought to you by our sponser TOYFE inc (Turn Off your Fucking Engine).

“Like a breeze from the mountains, we have new work from the incredible Millie George (poet laureate of the new generation); Duet Diana (a.k.a. Katie Morel Orchard and Sarah Lenney with their gorgeous operatic duets); punk mistress I Am Her (a.k.a. Julie Riley); god of small things Martin Wakefield. David Skinner is coming all the way from Cork, Ireland to delight us with his velvety tones and virtuosic guitar playing; the extraordinary Anne Corrigan will be reciting her poetry and – like a glass full of magical Listerine – we have the Society Of Imaginary Friends, so breathe deep and tune in. Remember the Piccadilly line is now running twenty-four hours, and there will be incredible vegan food on sale by the master chefs Kathy and Roger. We hope to see you on Friday for fun and a breath of fresh air…”

There are a few tasters below. I’m sorry that I couldn’t find more.




 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – kletzmer in New York, Southampton, Liverpool and London, from Geoff Berner/Luisa Muhr and She’Koyokh (7th, 9th, 10th, 17th)

27 Feb

Some news on some upcoming kletzmer-related gigs in New York and across England during the first couple of weeks in March.

Geoff Berner & Lisa Muhr, 7th & 9th March 2017

In New York, as part of the Jalopy Theatre’s ongoing NY Klezmer Series in Brooklyn, there’s a newly created, first-collaboration show from two Vancouver-based musicians – singer-songwriter-accordionist Geoff Berner and singer Luisa Muhr (both of whom can collectively muster up talents across novel-writing, theatre directing, community activism and movement art, but that’s several other stories…)

“Being part of the Klezmer and Yiddish music and performance scene in the US, Canada and Europe, Geoff and Luisa first met at the renowned KlezKanada music camp where they spent many hours singing together. ‘Songs of People Other People Don’t Like So Much’ has been created out of the necessity of producing political work in times that need it. Geoff and Luisa will sing you stories of the underdogs (and unpopular overdogs) of our society: some in Yiddish, some with quite some Klezmer, some in their own words, some in someone else’s. Join us, listen, engage, and enjoy!”

The project’s too new for soundclips or videos: but here’s Geoff performing a solo song from 2013 (tearing with righteous venom into Vancouver’s rotten civic developments), and Luisa fronting a Yidishe Lider concert about a year ago.



 
In addition to the Jalopy show, Geoff and Luisa are presenting another Brooklyn performance, in the shape of a preview version a couple of days earlier at Freddy’s Bar & Backroom. This is a pay-what-you-like event (though they suggest a ten bucks minimum and you’re also tied to a minimum-of-two-drinks rule). This particular evening is for twenty-one year olds or over: not because of any added salty adult content, but purely because of licencing laws for the bar.

Dates:

* * * * * * * *

She'Koyokh, 2017

Meanwhile, back here in England, She’Koyokh – who have been hailed as “one of London’s musical treasures” (‘Evening Standard’) and “one of the finest kletzmer ensembles on the planet” (‘The Australian’) – are out on the road launching their fourth studio album, ‘First Dance On Second Avenue’.

“With a name roughly translated from the original Yiddish as “nice one”, She’Koyokh have spent over a decade absorbing the rich folk music traditions of Jewish Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Balkans. Their evolution spans the origins of busking at East London’s Columbia Road flower market to performing in the famous concert halls of Europe including Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the Gasteig in Munich and London’s Southbank Centre. She’koyokh’s members hail from the UK, USA, Serbia, Sweden and Turkey, forging a unique sound that is traditional yet original.

“Their live shows are an expertly crafted, multi-lingual exploration from the Baltic to the Black Sea virtuosic, toe-tapping klezmer instrumentals, Gypsy music, soulful songs and the best Balkan dance tunes from Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia. They’ll take you on a journey sampling polyphonic singing from Bulgaria, a Serbian song about a pigeon on the raspberries, a steamy quarrel between mother-in-laws in a Turkish sauna, a duet between a father and daughter about who she’s going to marry – in the end she chooses the drunken one! – and a love song for a Gypsy girl with penetrating green eyes.”


 
Dates:

 

January 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Society of Imaginary Friends soiree with Swifty Lazarre, Millie George, I Am Her, Cian Binchy & Nighmar Ascouski (6th); Tom O.C Wilson and Beetles play Café Oto (11th)

3 Jan

Another year comes around, and it’s back to the small rooms and the hidden wonders…

Soif Soiree , 6th January 2016

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:
‘New Year Soif Soiree’: Society of Imaginary Friends + The Right Reverend Swifty Lazarre + Millie George + I Am Her + Cian Binchey + Nighmar Askouski
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London N22 6UJ, England
Friday 6th December 2017, 8:00pm
– free entry – information

Kicking off a new year, Society Of Imaginary Friends have another of their left-field, mixed-art, performance’n’protest soirees rolling up in Wood Green this Friday.

As hosts, the Society have previously offered grand Kate Bush-styled prog-pop, transfigured folk, and even miniature rock operas about the speaking clock. This time, they’re unveiling “a sad blues for this ecstatic blue jewel that we ride across the Universe.” There’ll also be soiree regulars performing – two actor-performers (autism-positive Cian Binchy and sometime dark poet Nighmar Ascouski) offer a kind of cross-set dialogue, the one providing “a glimpse of a better world, a Utopian vision of every one stopping messing about and just kind of sorting it out” and the other “a glimpse of what to expect if we don’t.” Julie D. Riley is also returning with her singer-songwriter project I Am Her in order to “fill our hearts with punk fury at the crass stupidity of it all.”


 
In keeping with their taste for statements of resistance and community voicing (and, fresh for 2017, that sense of impending dread), the Society have announced that “the theme for our January Soiree is ‘lets stop climate disaster in 2017’. Sir David Hempleman-Adams has just completed a circumnavigation of the Arctic Polar region in a sailing boat. A journey that would have in the past taken three years because of the ice and pack-ice has just taken him four months. He saw very little ice. The infamous North West Passage was virtually ice-free…

“What are we going to do to meet the challenge we all face? Please give it some thought over the next few days and bring your ideas to the Soiree to be aired. We are hoping to have a video link-up with a genuine climate activist speaking from a secret location… briefing us on the current state of affairs so that we can all work towards a solution to avoid this global catastrophe as the evening progresses.”

Also on hand to entertain and provoke are slide guitar blues preacher and alleged Devil’s poker buddy The Right Reverend Swifty Le Zarre – here to represent “an extremely disconcerted deity” while dipping into a stack of pre- and post-war blues classics – and activist performance-poet Millie George, who’s been compared to both Angela Davis and Sylvia Plath and is representing “the very unhappy youth who are watching us fiddle as the world burns…”


 
Other than that, the usual SOIF circumstances applies – the free entry, the communal atmosphere, the top-notch vegan food; the general likelihood of them pulling some unknown/obscure/future star onstage for you.

* * * * * * * *

Tom O.C. Wilson (photo by James Birtwistle)

Tom O.C Wilson + Beetles
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Wednesday 11 January 2017, 8.00pminformation

A few days later, Tom O.C. Wilson gets to take over the art shack at Café Oto for an evening. Tom was last seen in December, supporting Bob Drake on the latter’s joyful, loose cannon art-rock swings through London. On that occasion he brought along Beetles, his alt.pop duo with Laila Woozeer which he’ll be bringing to this gig too (as well as headlining with his own four-piece band featuring drummer James Ashdown, bass player Steve Haynes and keyboard player Steve Troughton).

Leaner and less cutely baroque than his earlier work as Freeze Puppy, Tom’s more recent solo work on Soundcloud shows how he’s pushing his idiosyncratic and elliptical songwriting voice forwards. Though the half-spoken, half-conversationally-sung vocals are familiar from Puppy Time (as are the clambering, almost-jazzy melodies) the dusty synth trumpets replacing the cute keyboard tones suggest a growing interest in natural timbres. More significantly, he’s shedding some of his previous, precocious preciousness and becoming more literary while at the same time managing to become more compelling a listen: a neat trick to pull off.


 
Itchy and unnerving, swaying between a surprising number of key shifts across its three-and-a-half minutes, The Wagon is a self-proclaimed “song of struggle”, ostensibly about quitting cigarettes; but as the lines and distractions unfold, it could as much be about quitting a person, or jabbing around the edges of artistic compulsion in search of the route to an aim. If you were to pick a comparison, it would have to be a narrative wrangled between Stephen Malkmus at his most effusive and the looping literary embroideries of Stars In Battledress – a delightfully skewed and verbose transatlantic mixture which mirrors Tom’s own mixed English and American roots.

Beetles (photo by Paul @ bitoclass)

Beetles (photo by Paul @ bitoclass)


Beetles – lo-fi unwinders of “intricate, skeletal pop songs” – have a scrappier and almost-unplugged approach, with their instrumentation limited to Tom’s slippery, feathery electric guitar and to the deceptively loose twining of Tom and Laila’s voices. The sparse pair of tracks they put up on Soundcloud this past autumn tease through ideas as if working on stubborn, resistant knots in the hair. Tom and Laila offer thoughtful pop song perspectives from the losing sides of open relationships, from in and around deceptions; stories-in-process from (or about) unreliable people, or people who might have bitten off more than they can chew. They cite Regina Spektor, Nirvana and the other Beatles (the one with the “a”) as inspiration: for me, though, I keep imagining an alternate Sonny and Cher, immured in a thin-walled apartment for months on end, toning down the carolling and coming up with increasingly fractured songs as they start to forget which of them is whom.



 

December 2016 – upcoming gigs – ‘Staggerlee Wonders’ with Robert Mitchell, Debbie Sanders, Corey Mwamba, John Edwards, Elaine Michener, Mark Sanders and others (London, 8th); Trio Generations with Maggie Nichols/Lisa Ullén/Matilda Rolfsson (Cheltenham and London, 9th & 11th)

5 Dec

StaggerLee Wonders
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 8th December 2016, 8.00pm
– information here and here

'Staggerlee Wonders', 8th December 2016Billed as “an evening of radical poetry and prose fused with free improvised music”, this event’s title is taken from James Baldwin’s blazingly scornful, almost conversational poem – itself named for the black outlaw/hoodlum who flits and thunders through a set of conflicting American tales and songs, taking on the roles of murderer, proud badass, pimp and more.

In all cases, Stagger Lee’s become a byword and signifier for transgressive black resistance to cultural pressure and norms. A lengthy lope in a thickly jazzy, declamatory style, Baldwin’s version takes up the final, revolutionary Stagger Lee position, setting aside the thuggery, choosing instead to weigh up the protests, delusions and not-so-secret wickednesses of white hegemony in one Afro-American palm (seamed with exile, scepticism and righteous ire) before firing up his sardonic, acidic tongue to flay and spit the flesh right off their bones. It’s not clear whether Baldwin’s take will be performed as the evening’s centrepiece, or whether it simply serves as an inspiration; but it certainly sets the bar high, both artistically and politically.

Various performers, both black and white, are confirmed to attend. Hopefully, they’ll all rise to the explicit challenge. Reknowned for his weighty slowhand approach, jazz pianist Robert Mitchell has worked with Epiphany3, F-ire Collective and Panacea. Jazz/folktronicist Corey Mwamba plays small instruments, dulcimer and electronics across assorted projects but is best known for his highly dynamic, hammers-to-humming vibraphone playing and for the ongoing questioning spirit which he explores in both live music and academia (and any intersections he can make between the two). Voices come from restless, movement performer and polygenre singer Elaine Michener (recently seen at the Cockpit Theatre in a quartet with Alexander Hawkins) and from storytelling singer/composer Debbie Sanders (currently heading up Mina Minou Productions, previously embedded in proto-acid-jazz, trip-hop and British R&B via work with Skylab and Chapter & The Verse).

Bass and drums are provided by two stunning soloists who also happen to make up one of London music’s most formidable rhythm partnerships. Both double bass player John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders are capable of a breadth of sound and attack on their respective instruments, running across an orchestral breadth from whisper to hailstone attack (via conversation or monologue, from growling belligerence to kidding conversation or querying patter).

More people may be showing up to play, but that’s already a pretty thrilling loose sextet to work with and to choose from.

* * * * * *

Trio Generations is an intermittent name for a convocation of three top European improvisers, Maggie Nichols, Lisa Ullén and Matilda Rolfsson. Formed last year, they’re playing a couple of English shows to bookend the upcoming weekend. Outlines below, mostly from the Café Oto pages:

Trio Generations, 2016

Trio Generations, 2016

Maggie Nicols joined London’s legendary Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1968 as a free improvisation vocalist. She then became active running voice workshops with an involvement in local experimental theatre. She later joined the group Centipede, led by Keith and Julie Tippets and in 1977, with musician/composer Lindsay Cooper, formed the remarkable Feminist Improvising Group. She lives in Wales and continues performing and recording challenging and beautiful work, in music and theatre, either in collaborations with a range of artists (Irene Schweitzer, Joelle Leandre, Ken Hyder, Caroline Kraabel) as well as solo.

Matilda Rolfsson is a Swedish percussionist and free improviser, based in Trondheim, Norway. During the spring of 2015 she was temporarily based in London where she finished her masters in free improvisation and the relationship between improvised music and dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. During her London stay Matilda got the chance to meet and play with some of Londons most efficient improvisers: Phil Minton, Sylvia Hallett and London Improvisers Orchestra with Maggie Nichols. With her 20” vintage Gretsch bass drum, Tibetan bowls, gongs, bells and plastic isolations, sticks, fingers and brushes, Matilda explores the free improvisation and the instant compositions shaped in the moment: dynamics, orchestrations – structure and chaos. To make rules and break rules, always with the question: where’s the music going, and where’s the freedom?

“Pianist Lisa Ullén grew up in the northern part of Sweden, and is based in Stockholm. A versatile player with a singular musical vision, Lisa has repeatedly proven her ability to imprint her absolute sense for tonal texture on whatever musical context she appears in. Besides working as a soloist and leader of her own groups, Lisa has collaborated extensively with many well-known Swedish artists and dancers, and has also scored several dramatic productions. She’s also performed and recorded music by contemporary composers.”
 
To provide a sense of what might be coming, here’s the full half-hour set from their debut performance at IKLECTIK in 2015: a fractured, prolonged collective improvisation which swaps mood, pace and suggestions like a game of speed poker, with passing shreds of blues. Although Lisa and Matilda match her with lethally-aimed flinders of explosive, challenging percussion and piano, Maggie remains the centre of attention via a performance that’s as much stand-up comedy or theatre piece as it is free jazz. She produces not only the clucks, hisses, pants and operatics of free-voice improv but a bewildering spiky cavalcade of female voices and archetypes (hopeful chitterer, wise sly crone, mother in labour, put-upon wailer, deft gossiper) while including fleeting lyrics from jazz, blues or music hall and assorted Dada twists (including a phase which sounds like a demonic toothbrushing session).


 

This month’s Trio Generations dates:

  • Xposed Club @ Francis Close Hall, University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, England, Friday 9th December 2016, 8.00pm (with Chris Cundy) – information
  • Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Monday 11th December 2016, 8.00pminformation

At the Café Oto show, John Edwards will be joining in to make the group a quartet. While there’s no support act at Oto, at the Xposed Club Cheltenham reedsman/multi-instrumentalist Chris Cundy will be providing a solo slot on bass clarinet and saxophone. A tactile extended-technique player, Chris began as a self-taught Medway busker coming into his own under the combined influence of Eric Dolphy (on record) and Billy Childish (in the flesh and in the kitchen). Following a relocation to Cheltenham to pursue fine art, Chris has broadened his scope into a world of other collaborations in film, electronica, free improvisation and pop. He’s worked extensively with Fyfe Dangerfield (as part of the Guillemots horn section and as an integral member of Gannets), with Canadian freak-folkers Timbre Timbre and a succession of left-field singer-songwriters. His extended techniques (including multi-phonics, circular breathing and microtonality) have also led him into exploring the works of Cage and Cardew and those of contemporary avant-garde composers such as Thanos Chrysakis and Pete M Wyer, as well as producing a growing number of albums of his own work.


 

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