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March 2018 – The Ecstatic Music Festival in New York (part 2) with Bent Knee, big dog little dog, Arone Dyer’s Dronechoir, Mahogany L. Browne, Glasser acoustic trio and Mantra Percussion (1st, 22nd, 29th March)

19 Feb

Over in New York, the Ecstatic Music Festival continues throughout March with three more concerts across a brace of Thursdays, criss-crossing contemporary classical percussion, slam poetry, choirwork, experimental pop and progressive industrial metal in a thrilling cross-genre splay.

Arone Dyer’s Dronechoir & Mahogany L. Browne
Thursday 1st March 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Dronechoir is the latest innovation by Arone Dyer of Buke And Gase. Since February 2015 she has been examining dis/comfort within performance through a series of long-durational choral pieces, and has assembled a group of talented women from completely different musical backgrounds to engage in spontaneous performance that bridges the gaps between them.

“They’ll be joined by the celebrated poet and spoken word artist Mahogany L. Browne (Cave Canem Fellow and Programming Coordinator of Black Lives Matter Pratt @ Pratt Institute) for an evening of powerful vocal performances addressing Black Lives, gender equity and racial equality (featuring poets Imani Davis, Shanelle Gabriel and poet and singer Camonghne Felix).”






 
Glasser (acoustic trio) + big dog little dog
Thursday 22nd March 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Glasser (aka Cameron Mesirow), known for her ethereal vocals and atmospheric electro-pop, will venture into fresh sonic territory with her new all-acoustic trio, which features multi-instrumentalist Robbie Lee and bassist Eleonore Oppenheim.

“They will be joined by big dog little dog, Eleanor’s new duo project with composer-violinist Jessie Montgomery. Each band will perform sets of their own material, then together they’ll premiere a new piece written for the Festival.”



 
Bent Knee & Mantra Percussion
Thursday 29th March 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“The “silo-smashing” sextet Bent Knee “taps into chamber pop, industrial rock, metal and prog-rock” (‘Wall Street Journal’). This hard-hitting experimental Boston band comes together with the visionary, “superhuman” (‘Time Out New York’) Mantra Percussion for new works expanding their already enormous scope and sound. The two ensembles will perform separate sets and then come together to premiere a new work by Bent Knee that weaves influences from across the rock, pop and avant-garde spectrums into a seamless, thrilling whole.”

 
As with the previous month’s worth of EMF concerts, all of these will take place at Merkin Concert Hall @ Kaufman Music Center, 129 W 67th Street, Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York, NY 10023, USA.

If I was in New York, I’d see you there.

Ecstatic Music Festival, 2018
 

January 2018 – upcoming gigs – Moor Mother in London and Leeds (10th and 12th January), with No Home, AlgernonCornelius and Basic Switches

5 Jan

Moor Mother, 10th & 12th January 2018

Over five dense and rapidly-evolving years of releasing and expressing, exploring and pushing, the unification of music and words by Moor Mother (a.k.a. Philly sound art/witness-bearing hip hop interdisciplinarian Camae Ayewa) 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.

Moor Mother, 2017A 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 Camae 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 Camae 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…”)



 
Camae’s in England next week for a couple of shows in London and in Leeds. These should be unmissable. Dates below (tickets are now down to the last fifty or so in London, though I’m not so sure about Leeds).

  • The Islington, 1 Tolpuddle Street, Angel, London, N1 0XT, England, Wednesday 10th January 2018, 7.30pm – information here, here, here and here
  • Headrow House, Bramley’s Yard, 19 The Headrow, Leeds, Yorkshire, LS1 6PU, England, Friday 12th January 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here

In London, Camae’s supported by No Home, a.k.a. emergent blackgirl punk Charlie Joseph, who blends wounded lo-fi murmurs and nightmare dream-folk blues wails with suffocating doses of peat-bog guitar noise plus brooding sub-bassy post-punk atmospheres: all of which is a sleight-of-hand cover for the vulnerabilities and contradictions of her songwriting (as if a teenaged, slightly more fucked-up Tracy Chapman had hired in Gnod as producers). Charlie’s own cited touchstones include Mitzi’s building-a-girl narratives and the floating, questioning experimental R’n’B identities of Frank Ocean, plus the shifting roots-tronic approach of Bon Iver and the populist indie of The Strokes. Her interesting, elusive lyrics touch on current soul-aches like toxic masculinity, besieged defensiveness and post-capitalist malaise (though they’re a little too slippery to stick there).

Still a little crude and understated (in comparison to the expansive, whip-smart Moor Mother barrage she’s got to warm up for), Charlie’s only just scraped the surface of what she’s got to say. Give her time – and a few more turns in carefully-chosen, blazing-kiln support slots like this one – and I think we’ll be looking at something quite special. Right now, she’s the whispering ghost of her own future.



 
In Leeds, the local supports are AlgernonCornelius and Basic Switches – the former a trans-Pennine beatsmaker, the latter a one-woman/circuit-bending/voice-and-effects-pedal show by Hilary Knott (from longstanding Leeds punk-pop “idiosyncrats” Cowtown).

Taking tips from Rza, A Tribe Called Quest and J. Dilla, AlgernonCornelius has spent the last couple of years blending and waxing across a range of hip hop/IDM ideas (from his glitch-soul mangling of Minnie Riperton on 2015’s ‘Blind’ to the shimmying RSJ dub of last year’s ‘Blood Claat’). Basic Switches looks like an extension of Hilary’s other circuit-bending project, Skellingtons, in which she aims for “the harshest possible sound” from twee little Yahama and Casio keyboards plus toys, loop pedals and “broken, cheap drum machines that have previously been rejected by all self respecting electronic music makers.” Wilfully tricky to pin down outside of catching her at a live gig, this unguarded live-at-home Christmas mash-take on George Michael should at least give you some idea of how she works.



 

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

26 Aug

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

* * * * * * * *


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

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


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


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


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


 

And here they are, drumming up business in Edinburgh…


 
Dates below:

* * * * * * * *

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

Four Owls, 2016

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

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


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



 

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



 

* * * * * * * *

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

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


 

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


 

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



 

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



 

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


 

August 2016 – upcoming gigs – three-date British tour of saz balladry by Aşıq Nargile (plus choral fizz, oddrock and pedal steel strangeness from Tut Vu Vu, Muldoon’s Picnic and Heather Leigh – 2nd-4th); Hackney Colliery Band & Bring Your Own Brass kick off Borderless in London (2nd)

30 Jul

In between appearances at the WOMAD and Supernormal festivals, Georgian saz player and singer Aşıq Nargile is embarking on a three-date British microtour in August, calling in at points in Scotland, Yorkshire and London.

Aşıq Nargile

In case you’re looking at the picture and thinking (lazily) “another girl folk singer”, it’s worth noting that “Aşıq” is an honorific, not a forename. It denotes a particular type of traditional Georgian bard, multilingual and mobile, who travels through the country’s diverse regions as vessels for music, news, concepts and culture both old and new. (A little like a Caucasian version of a West African griot, although perhaps without the satirical upsetter elements).

Originally from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, Nargile Mehtiyeva has carried the cosmopolitan traditions of her home town with her, but has chosen to base herself in the southern Borcali region. For the moment, she’s the only female aşıq at work there. A trilingual singer and player of the saz lute since her mid-teens, she’s now both a teacher of the traditional forms and (via the Sayat Nova initiative) an ambassador for Georgian culture. Her concerts involve interlocking musicality and literacy – a “vocal recital of epic folk poetry (in) Azerbaijani, Georgian, and Russian… by turns ecstatic and deeply expressive… interspersed with bursts of virtuosic, highly ornamented saz.” in the shape of “moving laments or upbeat folk dances.” For those who don’t speak any of those languages, the shows are still musically sensual experiences – propulsive and silvery cascades of wiry stringwork, accompanied by a vocal like an elastic lassoo and the stately assurance of someone backed up by a couple of thousand years of heritage.


 
Tour dates are as follows:

  • The Old Hairdressers, 23 Renfield Lane, Glasgow G2 6PH, Scotland, Tuesday 2nd August 2016, 7.30pm (supported by Tut Vu Vu + Muldoon’s Picnic) – information
  • Delius Arts & Cultural Centre, 29 Great Horton Road, Bradford, BD7 1AA, England, Wednesday 3rd August 2016…. (+ support act t.b.c.) – information here and here
  • The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England, Thursday 4th August 2016, 7.30pm (with Heather Leigh) – information

While the Bradford gig is solo, the Glasgow show sees Nargile playing as part of a splendidly adventurous and diverse triple bill alongside two very different Glaswegian groups who have next to nothing in common bar their musicality.

Despite their cosy and informal appearance, a name that comes from drunken Irish misadventure, a repertoire reaching from “the sublime to the ridiculous” and their emphasis on fun and friendship in singing, acapella group Muldoon’s Picnic unites a number of very dedicated and talented Glasgow-based singer and scholars. Its six or seven regular members (not least in-house arranger Katy L. Cooper) have already made their mark in a brace of other vocal ensembles – Trembling Bells spin-off Crying Lion, Glasgow Madrigirls, The Four Hoarse Men, Voicebeat, Voicemale, Sang Scule, and “barbershop-prog” group Honey & The Herbs – plus more church, chapel, cathedral, workplace and community choirs than you could shake a stave at. As for that repertoire, it embraces gospel, shanties, Scots ballads, English carols, Afro-American spirituals, sacred harp songs, Victorian parlour music and music hall songs and assorted pieces cast up and circulated by the world music movement. Where other choral groups dabble, this one delves. The songs are sung not just in English but in other tongues of the British Isles (Scots Gaelic, Cornish, Manx and Welsh) and further afield: Breton, southern African Sotho, Ugandan Luganda and eastern European languages (Bulgarian, Croatian and Georgian – in the latter’s polyphonic music, they touch base with Nargile.)


 

The third act on the Glasgow bill, Tut Vu Vu, play their dark-browed and looming electrophonic instrumentals in a cloud of disinformation. When someone compares them to Anaïs Nin and David Lynch and they claim that it’s all a misunderstanding; someone else mentions musique concrète and they respond with askance, amused looks. When given the chances to set things straight, they deliver misleading mission statements filled with science fiction technogabble about phased plasma and hydrogen sulphide. What’s demonstrably true is that they’re an alliance of Glasgow art-punks who’ve already been around a decade’s cycle of experimental groups – Iban Perez in The Sparkling Shadazz, Rags & Feathers and A Rhythmtic) Raydale Dower, Matthew Black and Jamie Bolland in rattling theatricalists Uncle John & Whitelock.

Expect something of an oblique and inscrutable wall between the quartet’s current work and their previous brainy trash-lungings. A band apparently in search of a new dialect (while drawing on assorted shredded utterances from Krautrock, Beefheart, ‘90s rave or ‘80s arsequake) a typical TVV track can be a bizarre collage of muffled falsetto wails and feedback drones, of layered tribal toms and analogue-synth bass-farts, of approaching-horns guitar shapes; all of which is cunningly and immediately sculpted for maximum enigmatic impact, rather than being tossed out of the speakers for someone else to sweep up.




 

In London, Nargile is playing a double header gig with Heather Leigh. One of the most unconventional pedal steel guitarists in contemporary music, Heather belies her traditional country music heritage (a West Virginia birth, a descent from coal miners) and instead reinvents both her instrument and her voice as a conduit for strange and ghostly improvisations. Aided by cruel amplifier tones and strange, skittering, instinctive hand techniques, her compositions emerge like spectral possessions of strings, pedals, larynx and language. Often touching on themes of trauma, abuse and hidden, subjective experience, Heather’s eerie and disturbing work has already led her to collaborations with Peter Brötzmann, Jandek, Thurston Moore and plenty of others since her emergence in the 1990s.




 
* * * * * * * *

August also sees the start of Borderless, a delightfully rambling live music series at Battersea Arts Centre running roughly parallel to the Olympic Games in Rio. Run in collaboration with GOAT Music (set up last year by former Roundhouse music bosses David Gaydon and Lou Birkett) it aim to showcase “the UK’s best homegrown talent and unique artists from around the globe, in the intimate and beautiful setting of the Council Chamber… Borderless will provide an alternative cross-cultural celebration. Samba to tropical beats, dance to Afrobeat legends, skank to reggae and let the new generation of jazz take you to another place. Break down the borders and shuffle your feet to global rhythms to hear the biggest tunes from all over the planet. We’ll also provide a platform for the freshest artists and exciting talent currently taking the UK by storm. Hear the artists sound tracking the underground scene, dominating the airwaves and paving the way for the alternative UK music scene.”

Glad to hear it. Bring it on. What do you have?

GOAT Music and Battersea Arts Centre present:
Borderless: Hackney Colliery Band + Bring Your Own Brass
Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, Battersea, London, SW11 5TN, England
Tuesday 2nd August 2016, 8.00pm
information

Hearing about Hackney Colliery Band initially caught me between hackles and chuckles. For a moment, I thought it was about taking the piss out of a great and still-living industrial British art form while cynically attempting to replace it. After all, when there are still genuine colliery bands maintaining the tradition across old mining heartlands from Tyneside to Derbyshire, Shropshire to Leicestershire and the Rhondda Valley (and dotted across the Yorkshire pitscape from Grimethorpe to Dinnington, Frickley to Queensbury) why would you want to substitute them with a slick London parody? On the other hand, my sense of the absurd soon kicked in – since Hackney’s been sprouting all kinds of cartoonish artisan features for the past decade (from craft beer to boutique muffins and shoes), why not an ersatz coal mine?

As it happens, HCB have got little to do with any of this. The name’s a little dab of post-modern British showbiz and the band (excellent, by the way) don’t stick to the grand dignity and mournfulness of colliery music, being more of an omnivorous brass beast immersed in and rejigging a variety of horn-party traditions from jazz, r&b, funk and others, including New Orleans tunes from both fun and funerals. Much the same can be said of the support act, Bring Your Own Brass – a band who, as “up-and-coming brass hip-hop ripsnorters”, have been known to parp out a Rakim cover or two. If this makes them sounds like a novelty act, they aren’t. Sound and vision reveal them to be well-scrubbed, well-studied white disciples of a wide span of styles, clambering over Afrobeat, rap, funk and marching-band ideas with head-bopping panache.

Recently, both bands seem to have cornered the market in boutique festivals and showbiz event (between them they’ve got Olympic Games and Brit/Mercury award appearances under their belts, as well as shows at Ally Pally, with slots at Wilderness, Stow and Meatopia to come later in August for BYOB and a hefty European tour for HCB). HCB’s previous set at the MOBO awards suggests that they can impress at a formal roots level as well, unless it was a case of contacts trumping authenticity. Just as long as bands like these aren’t crowding out bands like Kokoroko; although BYOB’s teamup with Bristolian rapper and slam poet Solomon O.B (see below) suggests that, as far as fellow musicians are concerned, there aren’t any practical or philosophical problems.



 

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