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March 2017 – upcoming Brighton gigs – Oscillations V on the 10th (JØTA, M U M M Y, Maskulin); The Real Music Club on the 25th (Brother Twain, Gail Storm Edmunds, Jack Pout)

3 Mar

Here are a couple of imminent Brighton events which caught my attention, initially through their connection with a certain strand of south-coast English psychedelia – gently self-exiled, looking outward from the shore, murmurating in open-sky freedom) which spans contact, membership, inspiration or practical fellowship with the likes of Damo Sukuki, The House of Love, Cardiacs, Stereolab, Levitation, the Lewes Psychedelic Festival et al.

That said, the full range of what you eventually get here, along Brighton’s eclectic seafront, seems to sit itself more in other areas: ‘60s pop and Anglo rhythm-and-blues (Love, Traffic, The Walker Brothers), synthpop, European dance music and broken beats, folk-club fingerpicking, slightly eldritch post-punk noise. Everything meets by the sea.

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The first of these two gigs takes place in central Brighton’s rock’n’roll boutique hotel, Hotel Pelirocco – two Regency townhouses turned into a glamour warren. Oscillations have been running free nights of electronic/psychedelic music and visuals there since last autumn, inspired by fifty years of assorted countercultures and altered states of mind: I’m only just catching up with this now.

Oscillations V, 10th March 2017

Oscillations presents:
Oscillations V – JØTA + M U M M Y + Maskulin
Hotel Pelirocco, 10 Regency Square, Brighton, BN1 2FG, England
Friday 10th March 2017, 7.30pm
– free event – information

JØTA is electronic music producer Peter J.D Mason (half of Becky Becky, one-fifth of Cloud and formerly one-thirtieth of Fence Collective. He improvises electro-space-disco-synth-experimental-Soviet-dance tunes on cheap anal/igital synths inspired by the Soviet space programme of the ’50s and ’60s.


 
M U M M Y‘s Jo Spratley and Bic Hayes breathe and drink and eat and live with all the other creatures and plants and beings in England near The Sea. They need very little to survive. They dedicate their noise to the vanishing ones and long to slip through the deep with the seal.


 
Maskulin provides a versatile collection of content generating modern twist on the beats scene. Expect vibrant combinations of genres from the likes of jazz and soul with modern rap to engineer a sound unique within the Brighton music scene.”


 
Also on hand are the “mind-melting visual projections” of Innerstrings, the “lumière” side of the son-et-lumière at Lewes Psychedelic Festival. DJ sets come from from the Oscillations organisers themselves and from DJ MessyTrax: “proud owner of one of the largest private collections of Legowelt vinyl in Fiveways… spinning a selection of tunes old and new, including aliases, side projects, collaborations and remixes… essential slam-jack electronics.”

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Later in the month, there’s an airier, gentler evening being staged a step or two westward in Hove, at which one of the newer Brighton bands are making their first live appearance.

The Real Music Club, 25th March 2017

The Real Music Club presents:
“The Triangulation of the New”: Brother Twain + Gail Storm Edmunds + Jack Pout
The Brunswick, 1-3 Holland Road, Hove, West Sussex, BN3 1JF, England
Saturday 25th March 2017, 8.00pm
– information here or here

“The name “Brother Twain” has been rumoured and whispered about on the Brighton scene for a few years now, especially amongst fans of legendary Brighton garage band CLOWWNS. The time has arrived for the Rodes brothers, Étienne and Adrien, to launch the band: drawing influences from classic pop, less classic pop, Krautrock, crooners, bluegrass and film music, it’s grown-up-psych-prog-baroque pop (with a love of circular melodies and unexpected chords via guitars, strings and brass).

“Brighton dwellers since the early 2000s, Adrien and Étienne hail from the historic city of Versailles, France. It’s perhaps unsurprising (or inevitable) therefore that their sister went to school with members of Phoenix, and that Nicolas Godin of Air once studied under the benevolent supervision of their father at the Versailles School of Architecture. Adrien previously busied himself with recording under the aliases Topo Gigio and Rec.Tangle for mancunian label Melodic Records, while Étienne joined Stereolab offshoot Imitation Electric Piano (with Simon Johns and Joe Watson) for their second album, before becoming part of CLOWWNS. Most recently, both brothers participated in the live rendition of Tim Smith’s Spratleys Japs album ‘Pony’.

“United by blood and an undying love for a crafty tune (and armed with a long list of tracks written over the last ten years), the Rodes brothers joined forces and got to work in Adrien’s six-meter square studio on the Brighton seafront along with singer/lyricist Miles Heathfield (CLOWWNS, Poppycocks) and drummer Damo Waters (CLOWWNS, Tim Smith’s Spratleys Japs, Electric Soft Parade, Field Music, SLUG), while hired hands played strings and brass. Adrien and Étienne played everything else and everyone chipped in for backing vocals. The Brother Twain debut album has been out since 19th February; this is their debut gig.


 
“Niece of the late trombone legend Rico Rodriquez, Gail Storm Edmunds grew up heavily influenced by reggae, soul, jazz and blues. Having played sessions and toured all over the world with the likes of Eddie Floyd, Terence Trent D’Arby, Heidi Berry and Sacha Stone, she’s pioneers her own “Hippy Soul” sound, blending her strong, rich, powerful yet classical voice to simple, affective acoustic guitar, meaningful songwriting and a catchy, upbeat, positive style. Though Gail’s original debut album ‘Time Is The Master’ (recorded back in 1999) ended up unreleased – and she subsequently took time out for happy motherhood – she is making a comeback (having played a number of festivals last year) with the upcoming ‘This is Hippie Soul’ EP.


 
Jack Pout is a BBC Folk Award-nominated singer/songwriter inspired by the revivalist musicians of the ’60s and ’70s. Jack’s music carries nuances of numerous influences such as John Martyn, Duster Bennett, Bob Dylan and Chris Smither but with an individuality that makes his music inimitably his. In 2015 he released his debut EP “Baksun” and he has just followed that up with the release of ‘Chrono Manual Man’ (an EP of his favourite songs from the ‘40s, ‘50’s, ‘70’s and 2016). Jack continues to play shows across the UK and Europe, playing and hosting stages at numerous festivals: his honest, and often deeply personal, style of writing is married to a love for humour. His live shows are known for their friendly and conversational style with audiences, and feared for his love of puns.”


 

November 2016 – upcoming gigs – the glorious 12th: some of many gigs scattered around England on my birthday tomorrow – Mother, North Sea Radio Orchestra, ILL, Nick Costley-White, India McKellar, Alice Zawadski, Merrick’s Tusk, Snowapple, Captives On The Carousel, Mark Lewandowski, Steve Strong, Shield Patterns, Jamie Safiruddin, The Yossarians, Boy & A Balloon, Bruxa | Cosa, Ed Dowie, Carl Woodford, Andy Or Jenny, Patrons…

11 Nov

Tomorrow I turn forty-six. About half of those years have been spent as an on-and-off writer, scrambling round the edges of music and music culture, attempting to understand this great amorphous art form with its thousands of doors and voices. I had a sombre, or at least a serious, preamble planned: one of those reflective commentator essays that you see on many of the more literate blogs. I threw it away.

Instead (and in keeping with what ‘Misfit City’ has been up to for most of the year), here’s a particularly long garland of gig notices. It’s not here to illustrate any particular school of thought, being the usual melange of tastes and forms – jazz, folk, art-punk, acoustic singer-songwriter, prog, performance art, drone, classical fusion and lush noise. It’s that particular kind of broad, inconsistent, credibility-trampling aural palette which (back when I started doing this in the mid-’90s), wasn’t suggested much outside of the pages of ‘Organ’ or the less austere corners of ‘The Wire’, or indeed ‘Misfit City’; but which now seems to be almost a mainstream stance.

Some other day – perhaps some other birthday – will be the right time for an essay or a grand declaration. If I’ve got a point to make right now (if only by implication and example), it’s that at a tired, fairly battered forty-six I’m still curious, still enthusiastic, still in the business of learning; at a time and place in life which might otherwise ossify my tastes and reduce music to just another commodity or flattened signifier. Spread out over this post are details on concerts, all of them in England, all of them scattered across my birthday. There’s no way I could attend all of them, even with an entirely free hand, but all of them attract me; and at any one of them you’d have found me leaning against a wall, pen and pad in hand, taking notes, looking for new thoughts.

I’ve already posted about the iamthemorning/Tim Bowness teamup for the iO Pages festival, but I can’t really squeeze in the flight to the Netherlands. (Besides, I’m catching them in London on Monday). I’ve also posted about the evening’s Hallkvist/Taylor/Goller/Hayward jazz-fusion show (plus a side order of Charlie Stacey) at the Lambeth art incubator of IKLECTIK, as part of an update on Charles Hayward’s burst of late-year shows. Since that one’s in London, it’s a more likely option for me; but also down at IKLECTIK, in the early afternoon, London jazz incubator Jazz Nursery will be joining in with the ongoing EFG London Jazz Festival in order to present a couple of young bandleaders with relatively accessible projects.

Well, why not start there – start mellow…

Guitarist Nick Costley-White has a trio featuring Conor Chaplin on double bass and David Ingamells on drums and offers fresh, swinging takes on Jerome Kern and Cole Porter (with the leader described by ‘Jazz News’ as “a classy player with an elegant and subtle way with a good tune”). Bassist Mark Lewandowski (“sonorous, fluent… an indispensable part of our scene” – ‘London Jazz’) sets aside his busy calendar as a sideman to compose for and lead a quartet of American drum legend Jeff Williams (Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano etc) as well as tenor saxophonist Tom Challenger (Brass Mask, Wedding Music, Dice Factory, Ma) and pianist Liam Noble (Stan Sulzman, Bobby Wellins, many records as leader).

Nick Costley-White, 2016Jazz Nursery/EFG London Jazz Festival presents:
Nick Costley-White Trio + Mark Lewandowski Quartet
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 2.30pm
information

It looks as if this particular Mark Lewandowski band is too new to have been recorded, but here’s a clip of the Costley-White Trio at work:


 
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'Liberate yourself from my vice like grip", 12th November 2016
Were I up in the north-west I’d be listening to something entirely different, tempted by ‘Liberate yourself from my vice like grip’, the R.D. Laing-inspired exhibition/concert/happening that’s playing at Islington Mill in Salford. Set up by contemporary art organisation Broken Grey Wires, it’s part of their scheme to create safe psychological spaces for people with various mental health issues; to use art as “a facilitator for recovery… to encourage people to make something special for themselves”, following Laing’s own suggestion that “madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through.” 

(Yep – I know how to relax on my own special days.)

For the musical component, co-curators Fat Out have put together a typically eclectic and Mill-ready line-up of mostly local bands. Included are soundscaping folk-indie/jazz-shoegaze performance artists Mother, psychedelic folk-rock jam-jivers The Yossarians and colourful, blippy post-punk femme/art/pop troupe ILL (proudly strident champions of “disobedient noise” who believe in “creating music until something tingles, and performing dance noise until something bleeds”, and who were namechecked in ‘The Guardian’ today as one of the fifty new pop projects shaping the future). Also on the bill are ambient improvisers Andy Or Jenny, the “atavistic” Berlin-based Welsh looptronica singer Bruxa | Cosa, and landscape-ghosting Peak District ambient-pop duo Shield Patterns.

For the ongoing exhibition BGW have brought in various artists who explore mental health, gender, identity and subjective reality in their work (Lizz Brady, Robert Good, Amy Mizrahi, David Sheery, Kirsty Harris, Paul Kindersley, Jared Pappas-Kelley, Alexander Storey Gordon) all of whom raise so many questions, options and ways of seeing that I’d go on for ages trying to clumsily summarise them. Instead, I’d suggest that you follow them up on Facebook through the second info link below…

Broken Grey Wires & Fat Out present:
‘Liberate yourself from my vice like grip’
Islngton Mill Arts Centre, James Street, Salford, M3 5HW, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 6.00pm
– information here and here





 
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Steve Strong + Patrons + Merrick's Tusk, 12th November 2016If I were in Durham, I could make up for missing one-man post/math/trip-hop band Steve Strong‘s set of simultaneous guitar-loops/drums/electronic-noise hybrids at Wakizashi last month, by catching up with him up at his Empty Shop show in Durham – alongside the trepidatious post-hardcore of Plymouth four-piece Patrons and the blitzing sentimental charge of Derby trio Merrick’s Tusk (currently touring their melodic, heart-on-sleeve half-emo rock around the country). While I was at it, I could feel as if I was contributing more to the community than just the usual couple of hours of head-nodding. (See more about the constructive, cohesion-building Empty Shop ethos here.)

Sapien Records Ltd/Empty Shop presents:
Steve Strong + Patrons + Merrick’s Tusk
Empty Shop HQ, 35c Framwellgate Bridge (above ‘Ciao Ciao’), Durham, DH1 4SJ, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 8:00 pm
– information here and here




 

India McKellar, 2016

India McKellar

If in Sheffield, I’d probably be in a softer mood, heading over to the Regather co-op for one of their cosier gigs: the second of the recently-established acoustic evenings run by local cello/voice/guitar folk duo Captives On The Carousel.

This week (in addition to the Carouselers usual warm starting set), the night’s playing host to two other Sheffield-area singer-songwriters – India McKellar, whose previous adventures on piano, as a traditional Celtic harpist and as a onetime prog-rocker have set her up well for her matured, quietly captivating role as Laurel-Canyon-by-way-of-West Riding adult songwriter; and rootsier Drake-and-Jansch-inspired guitar-and-banjo picker Carl Woodford.

Captives on the Carousel present:
Captives Vol. 2: India McKellar + Carl Woodford + Captives On The Carousel
Regather Works, 57-59 Club Garden Road, Sheffield, S11 8BU, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 7.30pm
information




 
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Alice Zawadski, 2016

Alice Zawadski

Back in London, I’d also be tempted (were it not already sold out) by Alice Zawadski’s Joni Mitchell evening down at Brasserie Zedel. I’m not keen on the institution of the average cover version, and embarrassingly average covers of Joni songs are the bane of many an acoustic evening: honeytraps for earnest women with guitars who cover them reverently, winsomely and really badly. Every time, I picture Joni seething in the audience, her notorious strongmindededness in full bullish effect: snarling at the women onstage, cursing them out for skipping her weird tunings, for ignoring the orchestral conception behind the compositions, or for just sugaring the fine vinegar.

This one might well be different, for several reasons. One is that Alice already comes with acclaim, experience and enough background to serve the songs – extensively trained in both jazz and classical skills, a violinist and arranger as well as a singer, she’ll be thinking on maybe as many levels as Joni herself. Another is that her gig partner and pianist Jamie Safiruddin has racked up time and plaudits accompanist and/or musical director with prime British jazz, ballad and folk interpreters Ian Shaw, Claire Martin and Barb Jungr and Ben Cox, as well as pop adventures with Will Young (plus he already has Joni-form, having “played Edith And The Kingpin with exquisite poise” according to ‘The Arts Desk’).

A third reason is that this is primarily a jazz gig; Jamie and Alice joined by Seafarers saxophonist Matthew Herd, bassist Conor Chaplin (strolling over from the earlier Costley-White trio show), drummer and Conor’s Fabled buddy and drummerWill Glaser. No matter how many copies of ‘Blue’ you pitch at my head, I’ll always maintain that Joni was at her original best when diving into jazz, interweaving with Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius as her words kaleidoscoped, her notes ached and flexed and the potential in the arrangement spanned and fanned. Alice is promising Joni’s most well-worn hits and folky standards (‘Big Yellow Taxi’, ‘A Case of You’, ‘Woodstock’) but also “lesser-known gems from throughout her long and fruitful back-catalogue”, and it’s not always that you get the chance to hear someone dipping into the more challenging territories of ‘Hejira’, ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’ or ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’.

Here are the details for anyone who’s a better ligger/doorstaff wheedler than I am; and below that’s a clip of Alice at work with saxophonist Joe Wright on a song which, even if it’s not quite Joni, shows what her mind and approach could be bringing to the Mitchell catalogue.

Jamie Safiruddin & Alice Zawadski
The Crazy Coqs @ Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London, W1F 7ED, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 9.00pm
information


 
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As for me, I can only guarantee that I’ll be in one particular place tomorrow. At noontime I’ll be in the Union Chapel, at one of the Daylight Music shows which I constantly plug here but all to often have to miss. Accompanied by family (and perhaps even a few unexpected friends), I’ll be down there listening to the soft, distracted keyboard songs of Ed Dowie; watching the charming and daffy Dutch folk-pop trio SnowApple delight and dazzle an audience in a fizz of swapped instruments, leapt genres, blended voices and eye-catching outfits; taking in the interstitial battered-pop moments from Boy And a Balloon‘s Alex Hall; and finally immersing myself in the ringing, humming chamber-ensemble arrangements of Craig Fortnam’s North Sea Radio Orchestra as they navigate (in a bright-toned weave of nylon-strung guitar, bassoon, strings, keyboards and voice) between the Britten-esque and the kosmische, between gurgling Vernon Elliott and sighing Robert Wyatt, between the hopping pulse of downtown minimalism and the Anglican warmth of a Wiltshire harvest festival.

Maybe Daylight shows are at the cuddlier end of what interests me within this blog; but it’s also fair to say that, out of everything covered here, perhaps the rambling, all-points Daylight positivity reflects ‘Misfit City’s own attitude best of all. And in a similar spirit… say hello if you see me there.

Daylight Music 238, 12th November 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 238: North Sea Radio Orchestra + Snowapple + Ed Dowie + Boy & A Balloon
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information here and here





 

October 2016 – upcoming London gigs (Independent Country, She Makes War and Zoot Lynam at Daylight Music on the 1st; the debut London shows for Flock Of Dimes on the 4th) – plus Simon Reynolds’ glam tome launch events in Sheffield, London and Manchester (4th to 6th)

24 Sep

At the start of October, the Daylight Music autumn season continues with a splash of country, a clash of cymbal, and just a dash of kohl…

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Daylight Music 234

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 234: Independent Country + She Makes War + Zoot Lynam
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 1st October 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

Blurbs by Daylight Music, with interjections by me…

Independent Country are a six-piece band who play country versions of classic indie hits from the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s. Hear your favourite shoegazing tunes reimagined with pedal steel, lush three-part harmonies and fiddle.” Sounds as if someone’s taking the Mojave 3 idea and yanking it to the logical ludicrous extreme. Their debut album’s called ‘TrailerParkLife’… Well, at least it’s not another sodding rockgrass band; and Independent Country’s version of an old Jesus and Mary Chain tune (originally from the latter’s oft-slated, synth-pop-slanted ‘Automatic’), pulls off the neat trick of sounding as if it’s the original, rather than the cover. Either they’ve genuinely discovered Jim Reid’s inner roadhouse man, or they’re just really good at putting new blue-denim flesh on pallid British songbones.


 
She Makes War is the gloom-pop solo project of multi-instrumentalist, visual artist and all-round polymath Laura Kidd…” whom ‘Misfit City’s covered before, back at the start of August when she did a runaround British tour with Carina Round. Back then I made a few appreciative noises about Laura’s one-woman cottage-industry explorations: dark, brooding song topics sheathed in driven, melodic alt-(but-not-too-alt).rock, and self-directed videos which make the most of her Goth-next-door/folkie looks and still presence. Here’s one of the latter – a semi-animated video for her song Paper Thin, shot in New York and Boston with a comradely guest appearance from Belly’s Tanya Donnelly.


 
Zoot Lynam doesn’t just march to the beat of a different drum; he plays a different drum altogether: Zoot’s instrument of choice is the handpan (or “hang”), which is essentially a sci-fi spaceship of a percussion instrument. This is the first time a handpan’s been played at Daylight Music, so come and see it in action!” Web information on Zoot is a little thin on the ground – frankly, there’s not much more to that homepage than a bold stare and a waxed moustache – but it seems that he started to make his name back in the 1990s as an actor via work in various British theatres and voiceover performances in cartoons (I must have heard him thousands of times while my son watched ‘The Willows in Winter’).

I’m guessing that his move into music ties in with his theatre work, since I’ve tracked down odds and ends about live scoring and workshops, and because he comes to his gigs with a reputation as a raconteur. All of the evidence suggests that he’s one of those perpetually youthful, puckish characters existing on the dividing line between theatre and other arts: a stage polymath with a little bit of the mystic or magician to him. It’s a little early in the season, but here he is with something Christmassy on the handpans (to be honest, it’s all that I could find…)

 
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promo-2016-flockofdimes

Only a few posts ago, I was writing about Jane Siberry and was musing on other, next-generation musicians who seem to be following the trail Jane beat for a female art pop perspective back in the 1980s (some of whom, apparently guided by a mutual sense of community and affinity, are playing support slots on her ongoing British tour). It seems that I missed another one out.

Tickets are still available for the debut London shows for Flock Of Dimes (the solo project from Wye Oak frontwoman and guitarist Jenn Wasner) in early October. She’ll be playing a lunchtime instore show at Rough Trade East, followed by a full evening show up the road at the Hackney in Victoria. Flock Of Dimes has been developing for the last four years alongside Jenn’s decade-long body of work with Wye Oak (and her occasional ventures into dance pop as half of Dungeonesse. It’s taken until now, however, for Jenn to release a full Dimes album (something which perhaps coincides with her departure last year from her longtime Baltimore home to resettle in Durham, North Carolina). That album, ‘If You See Me, Say Yes’, was released yesterday on Partisan Records, and has been trailed in recent months by a pair of singles, Semaphore and Everything Is Happening Today.

Jenn has described her vision for the former single as the “struggle to communicate with each other, over distances literal and figurative, great and small,” and worked with film directors Michael Patrick O’Leary and Ashley North Compton to create a striking animated video for the song. According to Ashley and Patrick, all involved “wanted to present the tension of reaching out and not being able to touch. Fleeting communication with an outside world, felt but not seen, and Jenn’s interaction with her own double, create a hallucinatory sense of limbo. It creates a solitary confinement, wherein no matter how partnered or joined we find ourselves, those selves, our own best and worst companions, are all we have.”



 

Fantasies of isolation aside, the current form of Flock Of Dimes sounds liberating and upbeat, with less of the noisy indie mumble of Wye Oak. The project brings her pop melancholy into focus. Wye Oak might have become a poppier proposition in the last few years – 2011’s Spiral single definitely had a touch of the funk – but even Spiral left Jenn echoing in the distance like a mermaid dream, while the same year’s Civilian had more of an indie mumble. In contrast (and maybe on account of Jenn’s earlier dry runs at R&B with Dungeonesse), Semaphore is percolating electronic commercial art-pop in a 1986 Jane Siberry/Peter Gabriel vein, with a dash of country and bursts of beefy funk-roll bassline: qualities shared by Everything Is Happening Today, even if the latter has a more contemporary-sounding, speaker-busting alt.rock distortion halo wrapped around the chorus.

As you’ll gather from the names I’m dropping here, Dimes also has 1980s art pop written all over it – the stadium-scale reverb in which the guitars float and jostle like belfry runaways; the slick electronic technology which sounds as if it’s on the verge of cracking and hatching into a giant ungainly chick; and most of all the sense of an empowered, expressive perspective using all of this sonic trickery to blow open the windows and release the songs. I hate to sound as if I’m trying to ring a band’s death-knell (and I suspect that Jenn’s personal loyalties inform, inspire and justify her musical work as much as anything else) but on record, at least, Flock Of Dimes suggests ways forward for Jenn which Wye Oak simply doesn’t.

  • Rough Trade East, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, London, E1 6QL, England, Tuesday 4th October 2016, 12:45pminformation
  • The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England, Tuesday 4th October 2016, 7.30pminformation

Flock Of Dimes: 'If You See Me' (promotional flyer)

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Simon Reynolds: 'Shock And Awe'

Simon Reynolds: ‘Shock And Awe’

Finally, legendary music writer Simon Reynolds – the man who defined post-rock and re-canonised post-punk, and has striven to contextualise and illuminate every ingredient in contemporary pop (from the most challenging Afro-American sub-bass growl’n’gurgle to the flossiest bit of floating white vanity-froth) has most recently been focussing on glam rock.

He’ll be launching his new book ‘Shock And Awe: Glam Rock & Its Legacy‘ via a short English book tour in early October. Dates and summary below:

“In ‘Shock And Awe…’, Simon Reynolds explores this most decadent of genres on both sides of the Atlantic. Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, The Sweet, Gary Glitter, New York Dolls, Sparks, Slade, Suzi Quatro, Cockney Rebel, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Mott The Hoople — all are represented here. Reynolds charts the retro-future sounds, outrageous styles and gender-fluid sexual politics that came to define the first half of the seventies and brings it right up to date with a final chapter on glam in hip hop, Lady Gaga, and the aftershocks of David Bowie’s death.”

All events will also feature a glam rock film screening: there’s no information on what’s playing at Sheffield, but for Manchester it’ll be Ringo Starr’s 1972 T-Rex rockumentary ‘Born To Boogie’ and for London it’ll be a “special curated series” of glam rock videos.

Again, there’s no mention of a sparring partner at Sheffield: but in Manchester Simon will be talking with a fellow ‘Melody Maker’ polymath (journalist, curator, pop historian, film director and St Etienne member Bob Stanley) and in London with ‘Guardian’ pop music critic Alexis Petridis from ‘The Guardian’. Simon Price (a Reynolds friend and contemporary who knows more than a little about the glamour chase and how to spin a polemic on it) will be joining in at London with a guest DJ set.
 

June 2016 – upcoming London gigs – four for Saturday 18th (Glass, Matthew Bourne, Darren Morris, and The Leaf Library at Daylight Music; Tanya Tagaq soundtracks ‘Nanook of the North’ at the Forge; Rock Candy Girlz & Malcolm Bruce at MAP Studio Café; the Pussywarmers at Wilton’s)

16 Jun

An interesting London Saturday is coming up, with music ranging from shattering electronic jazz to faintly worrying lounge music and psychedelic pop; pipe organ explorations to Inuit vocalese; transfigured electropop to sing-alongs and drone-strumentals… with the odd dancing gorilla and shocking pink hairpiece showing up too.

More below…

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Daylight Music 228, 18th June 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 228 (‘Electric Dreams’): Glass + Matthew Bourne + Darren Morris + The Leaf Library
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 18th June 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation – £5.00) – information

“Daylight Music goes electronic this week with three superb acts.

“Rising pop duo Glass are set for big things in 2016. Their spectacularly roaring body of work and captivating live shows have seen them hotly tipped as ‘ones to watch’ by The Maccabees, Huw Stephens and Tom Robinson. Jessica Winter’s haunting, enunciated vocals and Scott Rimington’s other-worldly guitar break-outs meet to create a language all of its own, underpinned with pummeling grooves, meticulous synth lines and addictive ear-worm hooks. Today they’ll be playing an acoustic set.

“With a reputation as a fearlessly unpredictable pianist and composer, multi-award-winning musician Matthew Bourne is a passionate explorer of sound, possessed of a burning desire to make music on anything old, broken or infirm. Renowned for his intensely personal and sometimes confrontational solo work, his uncanny ability to balance delicacy and virtuosity – while establishing a close affinity with his audience – have become hallmarks of his concert performances. He has his fingerprints on a huge number of projects, having worked with artists as diverse as John Zorn, Annette Peacock, Nils Frahm, Nostalgia 77, Broadway Project, and Amon Tobin.

In the last year, Matthew set up a studio in his rural West Yorkshire home in order to capture the spontaneous moments of inspiration his concerts have become famed for. With a nod to the pioneering work of Annette Peacock and Paul Bley, he has turned his considerable talents to the world of analogue synthesisers; arming himself with an arsenal of vintage electronics, tape delays and a creaky harmonium alongside his trusty piano and cello, and preparing for a period of intense and varied activity in his own name after many years of collaboration. Growing from improvised live performances, new compositions have taken shape in the studio as Bourne explored and moulded the vast sonic possibilities of voltage-controlled oscillators.

“The seed for this project was planted when Matthew acquired an uncooperative 1982 Memorymoog, having it painstakingly modified and upgraded by Rudi Linhard in Germany. Created without the use of computers or sequencers, ‘moogmemory’ is the first album to be recorded using only the Lintronics Advanced Memorymoog. This process also served as a pathway to another of his current projects, ‘Radioland: Radio-Activity Revisited’, a visceral live audio/visual experience created to mark the 40th anniversary of Kraftwerk’s seminal Radio-Activity album. In collaboration with electronic composer Franck Vigroux and installation artist Antoine Schmitt, ‘Radioland…’ sees him pushing his work with synthesisers into uncompromising new territory, as earth-shattering bass frequencies are contrasted with moments of eerie near-silence.

“The intriguing Darren Morris worked as a producer and musician for twenty years (with the likes of David Holmes, Tim Goldsworthy, Ashley Beedle) and he’s currently touring with former Beta Band-er Steve Mason. He’s been performing live as a professional musician for over fifteen years, playing keyboards, synths, and bass with a variety of artists including Gabrielle, Sugardaddy (side project of Groove Armada’s Tom Findlay), and Robin Hitchcock. He has a background in improvisation, working alongside many well-respected and influential players on the London improv scene such as Veryan Weston, Hugh Metcalfe, Sibyl Madrigal, Lol Coxhill, Gail Brand, Jon Edwards and Mark Sanders. Today, Darren will be playing the Chapel’s glorious 125-year old Henry Willis organ.”

Just noting that Darren isn’t a stranger to this particular instrument… Here’s the outcome of one of his previous encounters, plus an explanation:


 

“(This) started out as a ninety-minute improvisation, performed on the amazing organ that lives in the Union Chapel Islington. I was just zoning into the instrument and the building it breathes in, traveling through various pockets of 20th century western concert music, modal ’50s jazz, glimpses of Sun Ra, Terry Riley, daydreaming of space and psychedelic films here and there. The recording wasn’t anything special but it was easy to get sucked back in on listening back. I haven’t been able to leave it alone. For a few weeks I’ve been chipping away at it, adding a sort of electronic orchestra of synthesizers and string machines. I hope this album can make you believe it was all there at that moment, being recorded and witnessed. Maybe I’ll get this space orchestra together one day and return to the Union Chapel for a rather extraordinary gig. Hope you can be there!”

Back to the press release:

“There’ll also be improvised electronics from The Leaf Library, whose drone-pop love songs are particular Daylight favourites. If that wasn’t enough watch out for a special appearance by The Action Men who will bring their EU-topian roboto dance vision to our stage.”



 

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Tanya Tagaq @ The Forge, 18th June 2016

Tigmus and The Nest Collective present:
Tanya Tagaq in concert with ‘Nanook of the North’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Saturday 18th June 2016, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“Award-winning Inuit vocalist Tanya Tagaq, known for her intense, evocative style based on traditional throat singing, performs a live accompaniment to Robert Flaherty’s controversial 1922 silent film Nanook of the North. Joined by percussionist Jean Martin and violinist Jesse Zubot, Tagaq reclaims the film’s images of life in an early twentieth-century Inuit community in Northern Quebec. This is not an experimental performance to be missed.

“Commissioned by the Toronto Film Festival, Tagaq’s work with Nanook began with a sonic exploration of the film’s imagery. With her own sense of the sounds of places shown in the film, she transforms its images, adding feeling and depth to what is a complex mix of poignant representations and racially charged clichés. The film, one of the world’s first major works of non-fiction filmmaking, is rife with contradictions. Flaherty lived and worked with Inuit communities for many years, and yet he included staged scenes of buffoonery and feigned Inuit ignorance of modern technology and accoutrements.”

Tanya’s own comments on the project:

“Everyone will take what they want from it. I have no intention of spoon feeding people what they need to know. Yet, hopefully, via coaxing and innuendo and emotion, I can elevate people’s consciousness of Inuit culture, and of culture in general. I can take a small bite out of the underground racism against Inuit and Aboriginal people. I have faith that if people are educated about what’s actually happening, and if people believe, it can be fixed. But you have to acknowledge the bad to sprout the good.”

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MAP Live Lounge, 18th June 2016Rock Candy Management present:
MAP Live Lounge: Rock Candy Girlz + Malcolm Bruce
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Saturday 18th June 2016, 7.30pm

Saturday Live Lounge at MAP Café is a regular night of eclectic live music. It’s hosted by Rock Candy Girlz, a three-piece West London band featuring members of ‘90s charting band Amazulu who do “quirky interpretations of classic songs” in a lively glammed-up fashion. I’m usually left cold by this kind of Scissor Sisters thing – the crowd-pleasing cover versions, the high-camp glow, the pink wigs etc (although I’m a secret slut for dressing up) – but the Girlz’ wit and roguery win me over. Here they are doing a Kylie Minogue cover. Underneath that is a trailer for the first Live Lounge, sans glad rags, which shows that some people aren’t remotely slowed, subdued or suppressed by middle age. Good on them. If I could muster half of this kind of charisma, people would be falling over themselves to read the blog.


Their special guest this week is multi-instrumentalist and classic rock scion Malcolm Bruce, son of Cream’s Jack Bruce and grafter in a number of different musical zones (rock, jazz-rock, folk) since his mid-teens. It’s hard not to talk about Malcolm without reference to his dad, since Malcolm’s musicality reveals some of the genetic and cultural debt he owes to Jack. They share a similar singing voice (a forceful high-rise tenor which ranges from pugnacious to yearning), and Malcolm paid some of his dues as the guitarist in Jack’s band. Also, he can – and sometimes does – work some of the same musical seams that his father did.

However, Malcolm’s Soundcloud page reveals him as a softer, more intimate songwriter and interpreter than Jack was – touched by a more lucent strand of Celtic romanticism (as with Brian Kennedy, Van Morrison, Paul Buchanan), annealed by a touch of the sensibilities of another great ’60s white rhythm-and-blues star (Steve Winwood) and counterbalanced with judicious dashes of technical smarts and abilities (an accomplished acoustic folk guitarist, he’s also a lyrical, Satriani-esque electric hard rock player with arena sensibilities). Here are a couple of tracks from an EP he’s putting together for a Pledge Music crowdfunder goodie, as an enticement to help record his forthcoming album. One’s a straight folk lovesong, another’s a version of Purcell’s ‘Dido’s Lament’.



 

Regarding the latter, it’s tough to go up against some of the existing pop versions which this beautiful tune has spawned over the years (including grand, soaring counter-tenor renditions from Klaus Nomi and Jeff Buckley, and the heart-melting voice-and-piano folk version Barbara Dickson and Troy Donockley performed on ‘Full Circle’) but Malcolm approaches his own arrangement with pluck and honesty. It’s also a tricky task to switch between baroque lute elegance and full-blooded pomp rock – let alone fold a brand new anti-war song into the second half – without resulting in a hamfisted mess. Yet somehow Malcolm manages to pull it off and cover all of the necessary bases.

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Babel Festival of Literature & Translation presents:
The Pussywarmers
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, E1 8JB, England
Saturday 18th June 2016, 9.00pm
information

This in from Wilton’s:

The Pussywarmers bring you a lively mixture of music from the dope’n’glory jazz era of the mid-1920s. With horns, upright bass banjo and many more acoustic instruments, they have a wild and dusty character… plus trumpets. Cosmically bound to their Hungarian ladyfriend Réka, spasmodically accompanied on their travels by unpredictable trumpeters, The Pussywarmers – originally from the Mediterranean district of Switzerland – have spread their credo all over the continent. Indeed, audiences of all ages have fallen under their spell – a charming and obscure concoction of melodies that stubbornly eludes all attempts at a definition but which is leaving ever more gig-goers indefinably warmhearted.”

This doesn’t actually cover the half of it. What it doesn’t mention is this band’s teasing, wayward unknowability; their honey-sliding psychedelic atmospheres (like a half-cut Mamas & The Papas if they’d been woozily rebounding from the Haight); their playful lack of embarrassment and their apparent attachment to the Dada of their hometown. All of this can be seen in the video for their song ‘Young Men Living’, which blends Freud, Godard and Melanie Klein into three minutes and forty-three second of messy-play picnic.

If you’d prefer something less psychosexual, the video for Sunrise sees the band dancing blankly across Swiss hilltops in colour-bleached film stock; which, to a Brit, is going to look like a teasing ’70s memory from childhood forays onto BBC2. (Then again, if you’re not wanting something psychosexual, perhaps you shouldn’t be checking out a group called The Pussywarmers…)

The band is appearing as part of the tenth Babel Festival of Literature & Translation, described as “(a) unique border-crossing event (with) its own special brand of linguistic hospitality… a celebration of voices, rhythms, linguistic diversity, creolisation and hybridisation.” Usually based in Switzerland, it’s celebrating its decennial in London and at Wilton’s instead, bringing a day of “readings from writers and translators spanning China, Mexico, Poland, Bosnia, Switzerland and the USA.” . Full info on the whole event is here if you fancy making a fuller day of it.
 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs – Merz’s English tour with Julian Sartorius (12th-19th) plus The Sound Book Project, Hayley Ross, Megan Carlile and Christopher Anderson

9 Jun

In 1999 Merz popped up, apparently out of nowhere, with the Many Weathers Apart single. It was delightfully bizarre – there were deck scratches, a warbling rubber-guitar lick, a screaming soul sample. Merz himself was a crowy, androgynous pop squawk riding on a reverbed conga boom as big as the circling horizon. A hippy priest with a boombox, plugged into the metaphysical mainline, he sang in fluttering scraps about separation, connection and rainstorms and somehow tied them all together. The equally out-there follow-up, Lovely Daughter, was a sideswipe at subjugation and exploitation – ostensibly about young brides, but perhaps also about outflanked cultures. It sounded like Anthony Newley trapped in a tropical aviary, sprinkled with reggae-dust while tussling with Prince and Beck. Refreshingly, both songs were modest hits.

A bold debut album followed, on a Sony subsidiary. Merz surrounded the darting, hummingbird heart of his songcraft with paper-chain folk guitar, string orchestras and rain-dewed colliery brass bands, as well as what sounded like tips of the hat to Public Enemy, Sinatra and Van Morrison. He also added psychedelic flourishes, looted with elan, from a range of sources (be they worldbeat, Eurodance, the buccaneering edges of late-‘90s club culture, or acid-fuzzed corners of the Incredible String Band’s cottage). Unfortunately, 1999 wasn’t the best year for innovative eclectic-pop. However unfairly, Merz seemed to be at the tail end of a wave of experimentalists riding in Björk’s cooling wake. In the face of a much bigger wave of Latin disco and lighter entertainment, the hoped-for bigger hits didn’t happen for him. The album sold indifferently, the record deal foundered, and Merz walked. In music business terms that should have been the end of a familiar and often-repeated story. A&R takes a punt on something unusual; it rapidly runs out of steam; and the pet eccentric promptly drops back into obscurity, a footnote for geeks.

Merz (photo by Tabea Hubeli)

For Merz, in fact, all of this was simply one chapter of work; and it hadn’t even been the first chapter. Under his real name, Conrad Lambert, he’d been recording and releasing songs for over a decade before Many Weathers Apart broke cover. Even though that stage monicker turns out to have been a chance appropriation (rather than a nod to Kurt Schwitters), Merz had, from an early age, followed the connective prompts of a Bahá’í upbringing and a personal artistic bent (which had had him picking up the bagpipes as a first instrument at the age of six). His own restless nature spurred him on to early travelling, and would later drive the adult Conrad to make homes from town to town and from country to country. Ultimately, parting company with Sony and with an audience of turn-of-the-millennium hipsters just seems to have been another thing to shrug off. Merz had different things to do. Even if he didn’t quite know what they were yet. Then, as now, open possibilities beckoned… and security was a straitjacket.

As for the obscurity, that’s a matter of perspective. Merz seems to been quietly and steadily embraced by continental Europe (perhaps one of the reasons why he now makes his home in the Swiss Alps). His albums – including last year’s ‘Thinking Like A Mountain’ – are persistently and publically hailed across magazines and online review sites as the welcome surfacings of an inventive, tuneful and touching mind. If, in spite of this, he still remains cult it’s partly because it seems to suit him. Musically, he’s mellowed without slackening. As with Geddy Lee, what was once a strident corvine vocal has matured into a warmer, more human sound without losing its fundamental chirp. Across time he’s delivered songs which might only rarely touch the earth but which flutter and roost in stray corners of the mind for years; from the Northern-brass love-call of Lotus to the offset rhythms and flamenco fairing of Goodbye My Chimera, the melding of baroque harpsichord waltz and bubbling phuture-pop on Dangerous Heady Love Scheme, and the melding of Buckleylalia with blootering, breakneck industrial techno in the recent Ten Gorgeous Blocks.


At the core, today’s Merz is a roaming twenty-first century folk troubadour – centred around voice, a keyboard or laptop and a single fingerpicked guitar, making the most of both local ingredients and things intercepted en route. He’s based around instinctive heart rather than roots, and around spontaneous initiative rather than the solidity of tradition; spurred on by intuitive choices of collaborators, such as British electro-concrète producer Matthew Herbert. His current musical foil, wingman and licensed disruptor is Swiss drummer and sound artist Julian Sartorius, whom Merz met while recording his ‘No Compass Will Find Home’ album, and whom he subsequently allowed to strip out and repurpose his songs to form a further album’s-worth of startling drum-and-vocal renditions

As for his tours, they manage to be both quietly exhilarating and easy to miss. Ducking around and under the radar, they mount a clear challenge to the business of tired pop promotion. He seeks to make concerts – like live art works – unique and permanently memorable to the attendees, taking care over matters like time, place and involvement. In addition to fairly familiar arty venue types (picture galleries, music churches and house concerts), last year’s ‘In Intimate’ tour took in a village chapel, a working-men’s club and an Air Force Legion hall: even a cow barn, a Scottish castle, a yurt, a forest clearing, a railway arch, and a snooker club. This season’s tour isn’t quite as unusual, although it returns to a couple of In Intimate venues (in Middlesbrough and Oswestry). Elsewhere, Merz seems to have gone where he was invited… and made sure that it was either somewhere interesting or somewhere that strives (sprouting rock clubs in transient locations, or the sites of hopeful songwriter nights).

For many of the shows Merz will be playing as a duo alongside Julian Sartorius, who’ll also be playing a solo drumkit set to open the concert. On some evenings, support acts will be drawn from more straightforward singer-songwriter turf – in Hinckley, sixteen-year-old local open-mic promoter Megan Carlile; in Newcastle, local acoustic bard-of-observations Christopher Anderson; in Brighton, Hayley Ross (who leans towards a classic ‘70s style and expression but with a darker, cruel-hinting edge and occasional bursts of garage rock).


 
To counterbalance, at Oswestry support comes from the altogether stranger Sound Book Project, a sextet of multimedia artists and musicians (including a pair of Pram members) who use books as noisemakers and instruments – “wound, sprung, strummed, slapped and thrown” as well as being modified or miked-up – in an experimental, slightly fetishistic celebration of the sensuality of bound text as opposed to digital media, and the way in which sounds trigger memories and associations.

Similarly, the opening show at Middlesbrough’s MIMA is somewhat different from the others: it marks the closure of ‘When Now Becomes Then: Three Decades’, MIMA’s exhibition of the work of British abstract/gestural painter and printmaker Basil Beattie. Over two hours spread across the ground floor galleries, Merz will play songs from his repertoire which “allude to Beattie’s paintings both from a visual and spiritual point of view” and promises “a roving and impressionistic solo set.”
 

June 2016 – upcoming London experimental gigs – spiritual improv with Firefly at IKLECTIK (8th); electronic research-pop with ALMA, worriedaboutsatan, and Chagall at Whispers & Hurricanes (9th)

4 Jun

Here are a pair of imminent shows showcasing various directions in experimentation (from spiritual politics and improvisation to pop soundscaping and music technology) at two of London’s most undersung but exciting current venues.

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Firefly, 8th June 2016

IKLECTIK Arts Lab presents:
Firefly
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Wednesday 8 June 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Firefly is an improvising project led by Barcelona-born singer Cristina Carrasco, whose past work includes jazz, rock, soul and bossa nova. For the past five years Cristina has been working in free improvisation and experimental sound (she’s a recent alumnus of Cleveland WatkissStardust People’s Choir project, and also studied with voice improvisers Víctor Turull and Inés Lolago) and aims to combine this work with her other career in community arts and education, working towards promoting “equality and social integration, prioritising the idea of music and its benefits as a main element to heal any kind of society.

Cristina describes ‘Firefly’ as “a tribute to the surrender of human capacity. When we connect with our inner sound we are part of the universal vibration, we are in the present moment opening new channels of communication and creating expression. So, welcome to a free improvisation and experimental sound trip, where our soul leads the musical journey.” For this Firefly evening, Cristina will be joined by composer and broadcaster Daniel James Ross (Roddart, Mega Trio, ‘Beethoven Was Wrong‘) on electronics, former Goldie collaborator Justina “J Eye” Curtis on piano, and the remarkable arts-and-culture polymath Ansuman Biswas on percussion.

No soundclips for this one – you’ll just have to guess and attend…

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Chaos Theory Promotions presents: present:
Whispers & Hurricanes: Alma + worriedaboutsatan + Chagall
New River Studios, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Thursday 9th June 2016, 7.30pm
more information

Whispers & Hurricanes, 9th June 2016“We take our night of weirdly wonderful new downtempo sounds to one of London’s best new artist community venues, New River Studios. This month sees artists blending electronic production, post-rock and brand new technology.

“Alternative post-rock/pop duo ALMA – a project from Codes In The Clouds members Pete Lambrou and Ciaran Morahan (the former also of Monsters Build Mean Robots) – deploy a loop station, multiple delay pedals, a piano and strings to create a slow-moving, high-flying soundscape of luscious gravitas. Their sound has grasped the heartstrings of many, and led to them recently completing an extremely successful UK tour with Nordic Giants as well as a slot at Mutations Festival alongside Lightning Bolt, Metz, John Talabot and Chelsea Wolfe. At this gig, they’ll be launching their new double A-side single The Lighthouse/While Nothing, featuring remixes by maybeshewill and Message To Bears.



 
worriedaboutsatan are a Manchester-based electronica band made up of Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller (also known for their other project Ghosting Season). They incorporate swirling ambient melancholia, skyscraping post-rock guitar atmospherics, dark house and pounding slo-mo techno. Since starting life as a bedroom project back in 2006, the band has always retained a strong DIY ethos, and pride themselves on being very much a live band, rather than just another electronic project with a laptop. They’ve so far shared stages on tours and supports with a diverse array of musicians, such as Ólafur Arnalds, Clark, Dälek, Apparat, Errors, Pantha du Prince, HEALTH, Vessels, and many more.


 
Chagall (Chagall van den Berg) is a multimedia vocalist, songwriter and producer from Amsterdam. Singing live, she creates and triggers her rich electronic production, vocal effects and visuals by moving, bending and swaying her mi.mu gloves – wearable “gestural” technology developed with a team including Imogen Heap). Having spent some time on Universal/EMI’s roster, Chagall decided to quit the major label life and now prefers to make her way through Europe’s independent and underground music scene. Her live performance is unlike anything you’ll have witnessed.”


 

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – London murk and sarcasm – an industry-baiting evening of 30-second songs by the Pocket Gods and mystery buddies; plus noise rock from Arabrot, Shitwife and Godzilla Black at Corsica Studios

15 Mar

Two London gigs for Thursday…

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Pocket Gods @ Zigfrid von Underbelly, 17th March 2016

The Pocket Gods (’30 Second Song Set’) + tbc
Zigfrid von Underbelly, 11 Hoxton Square, Hoxton, London, N1 6NU, England
Thursday 17th March 2016, 7.00pm
– free event – more information

Here’s the chirp – ”London lo-fi indie popsters The Pocket Gods play a free St Patrick’s Day gig in Hoxton, London to promote their groundbreaking album ‘100×30’ – which features one hundred songs, all of which are thirty seconds long and some of which will be featured. Free entry and some great support bands!“

Sweet, isn’t it?

Here’s the rest of the story.

‘100×30’ was released last December. It’s a sharp, timely yet self-mocking broadside aimed at the music industry as a whole, and also at the amorphous greed’n’gratification culture that’s gulping down what remains of it. Masterminding this collection of half-minute jabs are The Pocket Gods – shabby knowing masters of multiple styles, mix’n’matching shreds of chart pop, punk, synth-blurb, soggy psych and outright pisstakes (including Blur, and Dappy from N-Dubz). Sometimes they sound like a back-bedroom Zappa Band operating on cheapjack equipment from a small-town branch of Argos, and sometimes like a more eclectic Half Man Half Biscuit aiming more of their jokes at the towers of power.

Threaded through the whole album is a sense of indignation at the implosion of music as a workable career (“my royalty statement is a thing of wonder, and keeps me in a state of permanent hunger”) and the dismissal of artists who can no longer be counted as fresh and malleable meat. One lyric points out, with sardonic but righteous indignation, “I can write songs about anything, because I’ve lived a little longer”; and there’s quite a bit of moping about the prospect of a future which involves little more than making unwanted music on a laptop. Across the tracks, the subject matter paints a scathing, resolutely unimpressed picture of vulgarity and short-termisms. Songs attack the rent hikes which force music venue closures; lampoon the encroachment of multinational corporate interests into independent business (the entwinement of Orchard and Sony takes a pounding, which – since Orchard is releasing the album – is a particularly fanged move); and pour sarcasm onto side topics like the sorry parade of boss-pleasing reality-TV contestants, the cluelessness of A&R men and the ludicrous table prices at the Brits (apparent sideshows which point towards the bigger problem). The Gods even slag off laptop music and mount a harpsichord-driven assault on the memory of Steve Jobs. So much for the individual being independently empowered by technology.

With the proven flexibility of the Pocket Gods, it’s tempting to assume that the brace of performers elsewhere on the album are just pseudonyms. Not a bit of it. Some – including oddball pop mutterer Michael Panasuk and fuzz-guitar flourisher Brian Heywood – appear to be rogue film, television and library music composers. Two more are former chart stars (Owen Paul and Mungo Jerry’s Ray Dorset, each damn near unrecognisable).Some veer towards cabaret (the semi-genteel, character-vocalled acoustipop of The Low Countries) or sarky contrarian Scottish dolour (Bill Aitken). Others even sound like glossy successes in waiting, including power-popper Katy Thorn, gobby R&B-er Tricey R, immaculate faux-Californian rockers Dead Crow Road, countrified Elvis-alike Osborne Jones, twinkling white-boy hip hoppers Foxgrease and full-bore electropop drama queens Hands Of Industry. The burnished countrified chart-pop of Heywood Moore even sounds as if it could make a killing in the American Bible Belt (sweeping out of the same CCM radio playlists as the likes of Lexi Elisha – not bad for a band that’s actually from Dunstable). None of this seems to stop any of them from joining in. Some of them may be taking a long-delayed, heartfelt chomp at the hand that feeds so grudgingly, or refuses to feed at all; or which they see starving others, from audience to artist, both fiscally and spiritually.

Despite all of this justifiable resentment, it could all turn precious and self-righteous were it not for the jabs of anti-pomposity which the Gods and their friends turn in on themselves (the musician-skewering of ‘Small Town Musos’ and ‘Mac Book Ho’ made me laugh out loud, as did a song about the natural progression from ambitious Radio 1 listener to experienced Radio 2 couch-fogey). There are also the other moments – the flip side to the flipness – in which the half-minute song limit becomes a lesson in how much can be achieved in a short time. John Rowland’s plunderphonics and piano instrumentals; upROAR’s quick echo-laden harp passage, Orb collaborator Another Fine Day’s gorgeous burst of echo-soused kalimba; or when writer and narrator Michael Hingston (who’s already spent two tracks guesting with the Pocket Gods, bidding goodbye to the swelling ranks of closed-down London music venues in a hardbitten wise-barfly drawl) gently blows thirty seconds of tentative, unaccompanied saxophone.

Finally, there’s the persistent realist-absurdist wit of The Pocket Gods themselves – party hosts, project backbone and the only act formally confirmed as performing at the Hoxton gig on Thursday (yes, I was going to get back to that…) Come along to see who else makes it. Meanwhile, you can play through the whole album below; and even buy it (if you feel that that won’t somehow spoil either the joke or the protest).

 

* * * * * * * *

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Arabrot + Shitwife + Godzilla Black
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Thursday 17th March 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Arabrot + Shitwife +Godzilla Black @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 17th March 2016Norwegian noise-rockers Arabrot have spent a decade and a half feeding classical, Biblical, existential and surreal tropes through a grand and gothic avant-rock mangle. As you can imagine from this, both their gigs and records have had an immediate raw-lifed, raw-liver feel to them, despite what ‘The Quietus’ describes as the band’s “velveteen grace”. More recently, group leader Kjetil Nernes spent two years recovering from throat cancer, during which he’s fought off and defeated encroaching death not just via hospital treatment and homestay but by hurling himself back into Arabrot recording and touring. Having admitted that the experience was “as close to real physical and psychological hell as you can go”, Kjetil has spun his reactions into Arabrot’s latest album, ‘The Gospel’, which is suffused with spectres of death, illness and his own defiance.

Shitwife have possibly the most discouraging band name in history – an evil grunt of a handle, a surly trucker’s growl of a monicker. We last encountered them in the listings for a Christmas gig, in which they were described as an “astonishingly brutal drums/laptop/electronics juggernaut fusing rave, death metal, noise and post-hardcore.” As far as I know, they’ve had no reason to mess with that formula in the intervening three months. Here’s a clip of them in action at a different gig last September (just a short walk away from ‘Misfit City’ HQ, not that I knew it) plus a more recent video showing laptop/keyscruncher Wayne Adams engaged in a painting session (and looking far sweeter than he ought to, given that his other band’s called Ladyscraper).


As I’ve said before, Godzilla Black seem to have made themselves into London noise-rock favourites while not actually having much to do with noise-rock at all. Most of the latter’s in the brawling muscle which they apply to their John-Barry-writes-for-Ruins-or-King-Crimson tunes; and in the garnish of hiss and fry lying on top of that muscle, adding a pitch and pinch of disintegration to their drums-and-horns pimp-roll. Otherwise what I’m hearing is spy-movie glamour all the way, albeit gone slightly weird: extra panicky descends and clangings, sax stranglebursts and sampler squeals. Brand new single ‘First Class Flesh’ sounds as if its about some kind of disassociative disorder: singer John McKenzie boggling, all glazed and juicy, about body parts but not actually about bodies (ending up neither sexy nor creepy, but away in a skewed and disfocussed branch-off of both).


 

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More March gig previews shortly…
 

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