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June 2017 – the month’s Daylight Music gigs in London – Jherek Bischoff, Emma Gatrill & Liam Byrne (June 3rd); Epic45, The Great Albatross, and BJ Cole & Emily Burridge (June 10th); Louis Barabbas, Melissa Parmenter and Ben McManus & Clara Delfina (June 17th); Trans-Siberian March Band, Antony Elvin & His Men and Toby Hay (June 24th)

25 May

The people behind eclectic, free, family-friendly London event (and ‘Misfit City’ favourite) Daylight Music are swirling back into action in June with four weekly gigs to start their summer season (even if two of them aren’t nominally DM events, the Daylight imprint shows clearly). Here’s me simply boosting the existing signal…

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Daylight Music 252, 3rd June 2017

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 252 – Jherek Bischoff + Emma Gatrill + Liam Byrne
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 3rd June 2017, 12.00pm
– free event (recommended donation: £5.00) – information

“Only Jherek Bischoff would record an album in an empty, two-million-gallon underground water tank (with a reverb delay lasting forty-five seconds). A fabulously inventive and playful musician, Jherek is a mostly self-taught composer whose music dazzles, confounds and delights.

 
Liam Byrne divides his time between playing very old and very new music on the viol. ‘The Times’ praised his “nuanced and expressive, stylish virtuosity”. He’s worked with artists including Damon Albarn, Nils Frahm and Matthew Herbert, and the likes of Nico Muhly have written works for him.

 
Emma Gatrill is a multi-instrumentalist based in Brighton. Playing live, she augments her harp and vocal with ambient analogue synths and drums machines, layered with guitar atmospherics from Marcus Hamblett.”


 
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Daylight Music 253, 10th June 2017
Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 253 – Epic45 + The Great Albatross + BJ Cole & Emily Burridge
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 10th June 2017, 12.00pm
– free event (recommended donation: £5.00) – information

“The much-loved epic45 — championed by the much-missed John Peel — have been making music for over twenty years. Their celebrated EPs and albums are inspired by the ever-changing English landscapes.


 
The Great Albatross tug gently on the heartstrings with their sweetly shimmering indie songs. Formed in Glasgow by A. Wesley Chung (formerly of Boris Smile), the group has an expansive, international list of contributors and collaborators.


 
“If you had to combine any two instruments, you might not immediately think of putting cello and steel guitar together, but BJ Cole and Emily Burridge confound expectations with their dynamic, sophisticated music. Hailed as “languorous, sensuous, moving music…amazing!” by ‘Art Nouveau’, these fine musicians weave around each other, mixing their intuitive improvisations with inspired, moving interpretations of classic pieces.”


 
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Louis Barabbas, Melissa Parmenter + Ben McManus & Clara Delfina, 17th June 2017

Arctic Circle presents:
Louis Barabbas + Melissa Parmenter + Ben McManus & Clara Delfina
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 17th June 2017, 12.00pm
– free event (recommended donation: £5.00) – information

Louis Barabbas is a Daylight Music favourite, thrilling the audience and tearing up the stage with his caustic love songs and energetic show. A writer, performer and label director, he’s performed all over the world and shared stages with acts including Motörhead, Supergrass and The Blockheads.


 
Melissa Parmenter is a well-respected film producer, who’s collaborated closely with director Michael Winterbottom over the last fifteen years, including producing all three series of ‘The Trip’ trilogy. She’s also an accomplished composer and pianist, having scored a number of films including ‘Genova’, ‘The Killer Inside Me’ and ‘Comes A Bright Day’.


 
“After repeatedly meeting at various festivals last year, Ben McManus & Clara Delfina decided to join forces to sing American old-time and bluegrass music, blending banjo, fiddle and guitar with their beautiful harmonies.”


 

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Trans-Siberian March Band, Antony Elvin & His Men and Toby Hay, 24th June 2017

Arctic Circle presents:
Trans-Siberian March Band + Antony Elvin & His Men (with Nina Miranda) + Toby Hay
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 24th June 2017, 12.00pm
– free event (recommended donation: £5.00) – information

“Summer Solstice edition…

“It’s always a party when the Trans-Siberian March Band are around! A riotous jumble of cabaret, carnival and overwhelming joy, this 13-piece Balkan brass band have delighted audiences at Glastonbury, Woman and the Royal Albert Hall. The Times called them “hugely entertaining… perfect festival crowd-pleasures.” They’ll be playing their winning mix of traditional Turkish and gypsy tunes, Russian sing-alongs and swinging klezmer.


 
Antony Elvin (“a Noel Coward for the Noel Fielding generation!’, according to Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh!) is a singer/songwriter from London. His songs take the listener out on a ridiculous spree, in ‘Perfect London’ – a London of your dreams, gaslit yet modern,­ pastoral yet subliminally violent. In a strong English accent, he sings about the characters he meets and the romances of the day without the vulgar baggage of angst. Special guest for this concert is Nina Miranda of Smoke City, Shrift and Zeep – she of ‘Underwater Love’ fame.

Toby Hay makes instrumental music inspired by the landscape, people and history of Mid Wales. A guitarist and composer, ‘Folkroom‘ claim that “he’s one of the finest storytellers… and he’s never sung a word.”


 

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As ever, there are likely to be interstitial musical acts filling in the gaps between acts (via loops, atmospheres or turns on the venue’s grand piano or massive church organ), plus late in-the-day extra recruitments. These will be announced closer to the time.

Good to see Toby Hay on one of the bills – his debut EP featured in ‘Misfit City’ several years ago, and since then he’s become a mainstay of the Lamplight acoustic nights up at Regather in Sheffield…

May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – I’m This I’m That play Moondog, plus Ed Dowie (19th May); Trembling Bells spinoff Alex Rex plus The Left Outsides and Plague Dogs (20th May)

14 May

It’s always good to hear that Homerton’s 33 Chatworth Road – a.k.a. “The Dentist” – is hosting another of its gig-cum-house-parties. I’ve still got fond memories of the first concert I ever went to there: a mixture of jazz atmospheres, experimental folk and mythic New York chamber pop from Sealionwoman, Foxout! and Liam Singer (which you can read all about here.)

I’ve been out of the loop regarding their activities for too long, but here’s quick news on another couple of imminent shows there in collaboration, one in collaboration with folk promoter Muckle Mouth and the other with the Tin Label. (There are another two coming in the following week…).

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I'm This, I'm That, 19th May 2017

Muckle Mouth and 33 Chatsworth Road present:
I’m This, I’m That (playing the songs of Moondog) + Ed Dowie
33 Chatsworth Road/The Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Friday 19th May 2017, 7.00 pm
– information here, here and here

Assembled rapidly from the gig publicity, and from Wikipedia:

“Louis Thomas Hardin, better known as Moondog, was an American composer, musician and poet. His music took inspiration from street sounds, such as the subway or a foghorn. It was characterized by what he called “snaketime” and described as “a slithery rhythm, in times that are not ordinary […] I’m not gonna die in 4/4 time.” Many of his works were highly contrapuntal, and he worked hard on perfecting his counterpoint. He was also the inventor of several musical instruments (including a small triangular-shaped harp known as the “oo”, another which he named the “ooo-ya-tsu”, and a triangular stringed instrument played with a bow that he called the “hüs” (after the Norwegian, “hus”, meaning “house”). Perhaps his best known creation is the “trimba”, a triangular percussion instrument that the composer invented in the late 40s..

“Moondog was blind from the age of sixteen. In New York from the late 1940s, until he left in 1972, he could often be found on 6th Avenue between 52nd and 55th Street wearing a cloak and Viking-style helmet, sometimes busking or selling music, but often just standing silent and still. He was widely recognized as “the Viking of 6th Avenue” by thousands of passersby and residents who weren’t aware of his musical career.

“Dedicated Moondog interpreters I’m This, I’m That return to The Dentist performing their own arrangements/transcriptions of Moondog compositions with support from Ed Dowie (a Daylight Music favourite – there’s more about him here). Due to massive demand, there will be a double performance – an early show and a late show, with the one you see depending on when you’ve bought your ticket. Doors open at 7.00pm for fire/drinks/chat…”

Schedule:

7.30pm – first Ed Dowie set
8.15pm – first I’m This I’m That set
9.15pm – second Ed Dowie set
10:00pm -second I’m This I’m That set

Here are a couple of clips from the previous I’m This I’m That Moondog show back in July 2015, plus a taste of Ed Dowie:




 

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33 Chatsworth Rd and Tin Angel Records present:
Alex Rex + The Left Outsides + Plague Dogs
33 Chatsworth Road/The Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Saturday 20th May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Alex Rex: 'Vermillion'“This is the one and only live outing with full band for Vermillion – Alex Neilson (of Trembling Bells)’ solo record as Alex Rex. Aside from a Cerys Matthews session the following morning, the material from this fantastic record will never be performed again.”

From ‘The Guardian‘:

“His debut solo album Vermilion presents him as a provocative, poetic lothario with the alter ego Alex Rex. On record, rose thorns grow in Rex’s throat and he sleeps with girls for their minds as well as their bodies… Written during a “particularly self-destructive” period in his life in late 2015, Vermilion begins with the Gregorian chant-inspired blues of The Screaming Cathedral, with a chorus telling of “horror heaped on horror”. Please God Make Me Good (But Not Yet) features a girl sticking pins into a voodoo sex doll of him, before he has a “hit on myself.”

“Getting the worst bits of himself out there was therapeutic and necessary for Neilson. “I wanted songs that spilt out of themselves. The records I cherish most are asymmetrical things, full of blemishes,” he says. But there’s plenty of perky, almost poppy moments too. Neilson wrote the skronky psych-blues of Song for Dora while reading “lots of Ovid and taking MDMA”, while Postcards from a dream has a remarkably radio-friendly, West Coast-brightened Hammond organ intro before it kills its A-list potential with lyrics about “a necklace of bungee cord” and Adam “cup[ping] his nuts behind the tree.” Sex is everywhere, but this shouldn’t surprising for a folk musician, Neilson laughs. “The oldest folk songs are lusty and carnal. And I like having sex! People do!”




 
This in from the promoters: The Left Outsides have joined the bill, playing in an Alison/Mark guitar duo formation.” If you remember, these are further Daylight Music favourites, so I’ll just steal the blurb from a previous DM show I posted about – “Mark Nicholas and Alison Cotton (are) a London-based husband and wife duo whose atmospheric, hypnotic songs echo Nico’s icy European folk, pastoral psychedelia and chilly English fields at dawn.”


 
The third act is Plague Dogs, about whom I’ve been able to find out precisely nothing: but they must have impressed Muckle Mouth, since they’re also playing at the Family Élan gig the following. Maybe when I get around to posting about that I’ll have found out more…
 

May 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Naïm Amor and Keith John Adams up close in Fitzrovia (May 12th); Howe Gelb’s Piano Trio and Naïm Amor at Café Oto (May 13th)

6 May

Quick news of a snug gig piggybacked onto a larger tour…

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Shaun Hendry, Naïm Amor & Cyril Moya present:
“From Paris, Tucson”: Naïm Amor + Keith John Adams
The King & Queen, 1 Foley Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1W 6DL, England
Friday 12th May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Naïm Amor + Keith John Adams, 12th May 2017“Ahead of his performance the following night at Cafe Oto with Howe Gelb, Naïm Amor plays his first London show in nine years; and we’re delighted that he’s joined by a rejuvenated Keith John Adams.

“Naïm first started out on the Parisian underground punk scene before his (recently revived) Amor Belhom Duo act found their way out to Tucson, Arizona. Collaborations with Calexico followed, resulting in the ‘A.B.B.C. ‘ album and a Shane Meadows soundtrack appearance before Naïm went solo, working with John Parish (and pretty much the full Tucson A-Z of musicians) across a number of song based albums and his series of ‘Soundtracks’ collections.

“Last year’s collaboration with Calexico drummer John Convertino on the album ‘The Western Suite And Siesta Songs’ further enhanced his reputation; and 2017 finds him on tour both supporting and playing alongside Howe Gelb and his Piano Trio (with whom Naim guested on the album ‘Future Standards’, adding his delicate Django-esque guitar motifs).


 

“Keith is in that great tradition of artists (think Robyn Hitchcock) adept at coupling pop nous with sometimes seemingly off-centre lyrics that do not belie their astute insight on the human condition. Adored in the suburbs of Paris, where his music is the preferred soundtrack to a Sunday night session of anarcho-bingo; cherished by the good people of London and its radio station de choix… BBC 6Music, finding favour with the likes of Gideon Coe, Steve Lamacq and Stuart Maconie; and supported label-wise in the USA from Athens to Washington by way of Tucson, we are delighted to welcome him back for his first show on home turf in many a moon.”


 

Not that it was mentioned above, but some of you may remember Keith as the frontman and principal songwriter from art pop/prog/skiffle band Zuno Men, who had a delightful run of near-notoriety during the late 1990s…


 
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Meanwhile there are still tickets available for that aforementioned Howe Gelb show at Oto – so for anyone interested but still unbriefed, here’s the info…

Howe Gelb Piano Trio, 13th May 2017

Bird on the Wire presents:
Howe Gelb Piano Trio + Naïm Amor
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Saturday 13 May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here

“Let me set the scene – irresponsible lovers are canoodling in semi-lit booths, the jukebox is playing some old tunes by Frank and there’s some people over there who never want to fall in love again. It’s the last bar still open and the piano player mooches over to the battered grand. This guy, we know, is great. He expertly and succinctly slides in words like “iconoclast”, “apropos”, “tumult” and “ludicrous”, he even name checks Constantinople – that’s proper old school.

“For those celebrated guys who hit on the standards – Monk, Cohen, Bacharach, even Merle Haggard – Howe Gelb is creating new tunes with cathartic one-liners and malleable melodies that suggest any singer could interpret these dozen American piano ballads and take his offbeat worldview and make it their own. Who wouldn’t want to begin the beguine with the line “World peace declared, no problem spared…”?

“These are ‘Future Standards’ by The Howe Gelb Piano Trio, taking an outsider view of early gospel and rhythm-and-blues: both part of the American musical socialization that he touched on with 2006’s ‘Sno Angel’. Now he’s on a jazz-tinged trip, bending the genre, taking it back to his shack, giving an innovative fine tune in the lean-to garage.”


 

May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Beatrix Players + King Of The Opera (May 11th); Cosmo Sheldrake + A House In The Trees (May 12th)

2 May

A few more warmly off-kilter London gigs coming up in early May: Beatrix Players‘ elegant chamber-pop, King Of The Opera‘s rough-edged alternative folk, Cosmo Sheldrake‘s poly-instrumental Edward Lear-inspired busk whimsy, A House In The Trees‘ oblique chillout…

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Beatrix Players, 11th May 2017

Beatrix Players present:
Beatrix Players + King Of The Opera
Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6SH, England
Thursday 11th May 2017, 7:30pm
information

“Through their enchantingly dark and evocative melodies, expansive arrangements and empowered orchestral sound Beatrix Players tell stories of real life and fantasy. Citing influences as diverse as Michael Nyman and Regina Spektor and drawing comparisons to the likes of Kate Bush and Einaudi Ludovico, this London-based, all-female trio combine elements of folk, jazz, progressive and classical music.

“In 2015 the band took their unique sound – a beautiful combination of vocals, piano and cello – into the studio to record their self-produced debut album, which has been mixed by two-time BBC Folk Award winner, Jim Moray. That album, titled ‘Magnified’, is now brought to you in an evening with musicians from the album: Robyn Hemmings on double bass, Maria Kroon on violin, Emanuela Monni on percussion, Jez Houghton on French horn. Pop/soul/funk choir Sound will also be joining in.”



 
King Of The Opera (formerly known as Samuel Katarro) is the musical project of Alberto Mariotti – a songwriter from Tuscany, Italy – first introduced to the public at the renowned Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona in the Spring of 2012. The project’s strength lies in its continuous search of the meeting points between seemingly irreconcilable genres: distorted punk-blues, bewildered (and bewildering) folk ballads and digressions into the acid realm of psychedelia.

“In 2016 King Of The Opera released his new album ‘Pangos Sessions’, ten songs that summarize his musical career in a pretty original way, alternating acoustic reinterpretations from the King Of The Opera/Samuel Katarro songbook and five cover songs (originally released in Mariotti’s birth year, 1985), by The Cure, The Waterboys, The Replacements, Tom Waits and Sonic Youth. The collection also includes the unreleased alt-folk-ballad By The Shore.”


 

 
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Cosmo Sheldrake, 12th May 2017

Rockfeedback presents:
Cosmo Sheldrake + A House In The Trees
The Moth Club, Old Trades Hall, Valette Street, Hackney, London, E9 6NU, England
Friday 12th May 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Cosmo Sheldrake is a twenty-five-year-old multi-instrumentalist musician, composer and producer. He regularly performs on banjo, loop station, keyboards, double bass, drums, penny whistle, sousaphone, accordion and many more. He is an inspirational singer and improviser, and much of his work is concerned with play, nonsense and the sonorous environment.

“Cosmo composes music for film and theatre and tours internationally, performing solo and with several bands including Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit and the Gentle Mystics. He ran a community choir until 2013, teaches in schools and privately and has facilitated music workshops and youth empowerment and nature awareness camps across Europe and North America.”



 
Support comes from smooth and hallucinatory dark-pop/trip hop act A House In The Trees, the core of New Cross’ Rising Sun Collective.


 

April 2017 – upcoming London experimental gigs – very messy play with the Lone Taxidermist plus Martin Tomlinson and Heart Years (25th); Myth-O-Rama evening with Eleventh Hour Adventists, Seven-Headed Raven, Miss Roberts and Rotten Bliss (28th April)

20 Apr

A couple of imminent gigs from the dark-cabaret end of experimental music:

Lone Taxidermist, 25th April 2017
Homemade Disco presents:
Lone Taxidermist + Martin Tomlinson + Heart Years
Paper Dress Vintage, 352A Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England
Tuesday 25th April 2017, 7.30pm
– information here, here & here

Homemade Disco put on a Laura Cannell/Hirvikolari double bill back in March, which I managed to miss but which set out their wide-ranging experimental stall. Headlining this next effort is Lone Taxidermist, the multi-media-friendly project helmed by Natalie Sharp, who’s been variously described as a “cosmic Cumbrian synth artist”, an “all-round creative explosion”, a “synth-eating powerhouse with a voice that rolls like hot thunder” and “a cavewoman crossed with an urban Ava Gardner.”. Aided by Tunng bassist Philip Winter and electronicist Will Kwerk (part of a shifting backline of collaborators) she’s using this gig to showcase her current, brand-new Lone Taxidermist project ‘Trifle’ which explores “the murky, intertwined depths of sexual fetishes and food (including) the shadowy worlds of sploshing, cake-sitting and crush fetish.”

Expect ‘Trifle’s fittings and features to include spongecake-rubber/full-fat plastic costumes, “giant cream-squirting custard vaginas” and “extreme female grooming techniques”, plus projections from audiovisual artist Ross Blake intercut with footage from obliging YouTube cake fetishists. For a dripping taste of the Ross-eye view of the project, see below; for other peeks at ‘Trifle’, see this ‘Manchester Metalheads’ review of the performance at this month’s Fat Out Fest or this interview/preview in ‘The Quietus’.

 
Squelch.

For more on the world of Lone Taxidermist, have a read of this ‘onepointfour’ interview, and below is a Soundclouding of an earlier, unrelated live set:


 

Support comes from spangly but spiteful Martin Tomlinson, former clown-suited lead provocateur with Selfish Cunt (the trans/ag/gressive electronic noise-rock project with London’s most family-friendly bandname, even if Shitwife are mounting a latterday challenge).

The evening opens (presumably in a dastardly attempt to soften us up) with wispy-boy-vulnerable London dream-poppers Heart Years. Their twang-echoed synthscapes deal in “lost thoughts, hopeless ideals and ‘80s fade outs” and sound like a determined teenage mope in the Balearics; and whose new single ‘The Great Fades’ has been out for a month or so.



 
John Doran from ‘The Quietus’ will also be contributing a DJ set…

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Myth-O-Rama, 28th April 2017

The Light & Shadow Salon presents:
Myth-O-Rama: Eleventh Hour Adventists + Seven-Headed Raven + Miss Roberts + Rotten Bliss
The Horse HospitalThe Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Friday 28th Apr 2017, 7.00pm
information

“An evening of sonic adventures… featuring various exciting collaborations between the various performers.

Eleventh Hour Adventists are a collaboration between Jasmine Pender (who is a vocalist and electric cellist), and Jowe Head (ex-Swell Maps, Television Personalities, The Demi-Monde), who contributes vocals, slide guitar and mandocello. They usually operate as a duo, with guest Ravi Low-Beer contributing his unique deft skills on drums and percussion. Between them, they weave a tense and terse sound-world. Jasmine’s electronically treated cello emits deep hypnotic drones and bursts of uncanny minimal melody. Jowe’s clipped manipulation of stringed instruments usually providing the pulse, and interjections of top-end shards of shiny noise. Their vocals tend to blend together in close harmonies, their voices twisting together in a sensual struggle.

“Their work is mainly self-composed, some of it referring to ancient mythological themes. Material includes Jasmine’s reflective and often profane imagery on one hand, and Jowe’s more quirky lyrics on the other. The material includes an eerie ballad about Tempelhof airfield in Berlin and a series of mythological tableaux. There is also an ancient murder ballad that’s undergone gender reversal, and a radical arrangement of a song by blues pioneer Skip James. This is their first headlining performance since returning from their first overseas concert, in Berlin.


 
Seven-Headed Raven are an international, multi-national folk ensemble, performing, performing both traditional and contemporary music, featuring cello, kookie (Latvian dulcimer), and bowed saw. Their sound suffused in nature worship, melancholy and nature. This weird band has a pagan feel, and features multi-instrumentalist and singer Catherine Gerbrands (Valerie & Her Week of Wonders, An Infernal Contraption) and cellist/vocalist Tim Bowen (Chrome Hoof), both former members of Jowe Head’s band The Demi-Monde, who shall be leading a multi-national band playing their own arrangements of traditional tunes and their own material.

“The mysterious and ethereal Miss Roberts (chanteuse with the decadent surreal Rude Mechanicals) presents a performance called ‘Curious Contraption’, which shall weave a sinister web of surreal intrigue featuring surreal stories, dramatic monologues, poetry and song in a visual whirlwind of bizarre costumes, audience interactions and gestures, with sound effects and ambient music provided by Jowe Head.

“Jasmine Pender has described her solo project, Rotten Bliss, as a research project into the outer limits of the electric cello and voice. Part exploration and part revelation, Rotten Bliss builds up sonic storms of exploratory textures with FX-laden cello, giving way to brutally bare arrangements made from haunting vocals sung over sparse bass riffs. Jasmine defies expectations of the cello her abrasive playing style, evoking the possession and freedom of rock and roll, deconstruction and decay. The result is a hypnotic, seasick voyage that takes in elements of folk, noise, surrealism and drone, referencing dystopian harbours, amorous fishes, nightwatchmen and transcendence.”

 

March 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Ghost Car, Secret Tongues and Strange Lipsticks in Peckham (11th); Hanging Valleys and Swan Levitt in Camden (21st)

4 Mar

Ghost Tongues (photo © Maria Dela O Garrido)

Ghost Tongues (photo © Maria Dela O Garrido)

Ghost Car + Secret Tongues + Strange Lipsticks
The Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, Peckham, London, SE15 2PA, England
Saturday 11th March 2017, 7.00pm
– information here

What’s on the invite:

Ghost Car are inviting you to the launch party celebrating their debut single ‘Stuck In The Mud’ (released on New York label Greenway Records), on Saturday 11th of March at The Montague Arms, with support from Secret Tongues and Strange Lipsticks.”

What you get:

From Ghost Car – careening, shifting, minor-key garage rock with sweet’n’sour organ punches plus flavours of bolshy girl-group and of honey-and-yoghurt Gallic pop (despite the fact that, although the members hail from a wonderful pre-Brexit splatter of Spanish, Irish and British roots, none of them are French). The video for ‘Stuck In The Mud’ is a little low-budget hymn to female tensions – office-girl restlessness, transposed rage at impenetrable masculine spaces. It’s a collage of impeccable makeup methods, fusty corridors, and slammed or locked doors, with a nod to the way in which the women’s toilets can double as a sanctuary, a place to compose yourself, even a rallying zone.


 
From Secret Tongues, you get relatively conventionally dreampop indie. Permeated with a lazy but lipsmacking eroticism, it switches between languorous, scenic verses and upbeat, jouncy choruses. Recent single ‘Glass Beach’ is typical of their work – a song of arousal, of “pheromones playing with our hormones” (and it comes with a sloppy-sensual video full of orality and come-hither eyes).


 
For my money, the most persuasive reason to pitch up for the gig is for show opener Strange Lipsticks, a.k.a. singer-songwriter Mary Fritz. Over the times during which she’s shuttled between London and Boston, her music’s evolved from lo-fi tick/echo/strum songcraft (orchestrated with tremolo, warble and skate) to a shifting, half-moored folk sound interpolated with background noises and a wan tone of solitary council-estate psychedelia. Mary’s weary folk-chant of a voice (a little reminiscent of the unsettling intonation of Scottish post-folker Pinkie Maclure) remains the key note: breeding her songs’ atmospheres of ill-health and of a disturbed, distracted intelligence feeling its way around, angling for clarity.



 

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Hanging Valleys + Swan Levitt, 21st March 2017Hanging Valleys + Swan Levitt
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Tuesday 21 March 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

What’s on the other invite:

Hanging Valleys is an alternative band founded by Thom Byles in 2016, in which he’s joined by Mike Phillips (guitar, vocals) and Alexis Meridol (beats, synthesizer). Their music is centred around soaring falsetto vocals accompanied by ethereal atmospheric phrasing on electric and acoustic guitars, which combine to create a rich shifting soundscape. An unusual percussive playing style on the acoustic is blended with percussion and self-produced samples to create pulsing rhythms with captivating crescendos. The band’s debut EP will be released on 10th March 2017.

Swan Levitt is an English singer-songwriter from the Isle of Wight, UK. Blending together acoustic folk with refreshingly modern themes, his emotionally charged voice lets you in on a personal level, taking intricate melodies and crafting them into a fully cinematic experience. Uniquely adept at songwriting, Swan Levitt carries the listener on a character building journey. Using his personal struggles and his passion for science to create music that is acoustic at heart, yet interwoven with subtle electronic atmospheres. Levitt is currently recording his debut album at Studio Humbug on the Isle of Wight with accomplished production duo, Boe Weaver and Organ Records.”

What you get:

Beyond the initial hype (and the little cloud of thumbs-ups from various people at BBC Radio 6), you get two acts coalescing from their initial post-folk vagueness. For the past year or so, as they built themselves up from being Thom’s solo project into being an actual band, Hanging Valleys have been dotting Bandcamp and Soundcloud with individual tracks. On the positive side, they’ve got an exquisite, downy, murmuring sound which – if anything – their press releases undersell. On the other, they’ve sometimes used it to be over-evasive, apparently more interested in capturing the perfect curve of a shadow-croon or the glint of a guitar-string harmonic over anything requiring a commitment of story or setpiece. Their most recent track, ‘T.B.D’, seems to indicate that they’re finally hitting the right balance.



 
As for Swan Levitt, he initially came to general attention last year thanks to two softly pained, quietly dramatic post-Damien Rice-ish singles – ‘Alive’ and ‘Singularity’ – which sounded gorgeous but also on the lazy side of sparse: as with the early Hanging Gardens stuff, songs which seemed to prioritise furnishing over content. His third single, ‘You Were Human’, is a big step forwards; a mourning, brush-drummed lament with an offbeat, unsettling perspective, casting an eye on the destructive vortex of male desire and sentimentality while weaving together ideas of artificial intelligence and human feeling cribbed from ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Ex Machina’ (and blurring the lines between lovesong and murder-ballad). He’s a lot more interesting now that he’s come out as a questioning geek instead of just being a beautiful attic voice.



 

November/December 2016 – upcoming British gigs – William D. Drake plays Preston (with Paul Morricone and All Hail Hyena!), and London (18th November, 1st December); Bob Drake unveiled in London, helped by Kavus Torabi and The Beetles (9th December)

17 Nov

For Cardiacs fans (plus any interested fans of psychedelic folk, multi-mood cut-up pop and perhaps a touch of Rock In Opposition) even if the Spratleys Japs show I posted about earlier is sold out, there’s still room in the audience for when William D. Drake fits in a final couple of shows for 2016, and for when various Knifeworlders help American avant-rocker Bob Drake to touch down in London.

(Yes, two Drakes. A coincidence. It’s not actually family, but it’s sort of familial anyway…)

* * * * * * * *

I’ve written plenty about William D. Drake over the months and years, to the extent that I sometimes wonder whether I’ve written myself out. So instead, I’ll rummage through the immediate press kit clippings written by other people, which hail him as “one of the most gifted and diverse composers of the modern age”, “a master of both modern classical piano composition and of experimental popular music” and the possessor of “a unique and prodigious skill as a composer and arranger of complex, intelligent and eccentric musical psychedelia; creating a cornucopia of diverse melodic styles whilst playing a plethora of keyboards and synthesizers.”

William. D Drake on the Millennium BridgeThe same one-sheets heap praise on his music – “an homage to lost music of the past, whilst taking a very English approach to composition which touches on the work of Robert Wyatt and Peter Hammill”, “weaving layers of textured melody with rock undertones… journey(ing) through the surreal and psychedelic, telling curious tales with sideways humour” and “jerk(ing) wildly from the gloriously epic to the intimately prophetic.”

PR to die for, really: and yet none of it mentions the other main draw, which is the warmth. Many attempts to bridge rock, folk and classical builds on pomp and posturing which verges on the desperately anxious, as if in dread of some grand and booted critic rising up, kicking down a cardboard set, pointing at the cowering artist and bellowing “naked! Fraud!” Others (especially from the classical side) skate around the business of integration by ironing half of the ingredients flat before inserting them – an ostentatious patina of orchestral papier-mache; or stiff, ungenerous impressions of rock beat and noise (or communal folk storytelling) fed into an ensemble piece with looseness of rhythms and fervency of engagement extracted.

Bill, in contrast, approaches it all with a laugh: the music’s all manuscript on the same rough paper, to be shuffled and interpreted for pleasure, or a rough tasty stew cooked up from memory, free to be meddled with and added to. For all of the impressive content and heart, it keeps its amateur edge in the best possible way -the enthusiasm of putting a family puzzle together; of teaching your nephew a song you’ve found in a street market; of suddenly remembering something intricate, odd, charming and half-forgotten from your childhood, then tracking it down to the back of a cupboard and finding that not only does it still work, it fits in beautifully with something else you’re working on.

This also translates to the shows. At a Bill gig, it sometimes feels if everyone’s crammed cheerfully into a slightly messy Edwardian parlour, eating jam with a spoon. Or, according to those press sheets, you get “a feast of gorgeous instrumentation, masterful piano, ancient grinding hurdy-gurdy, harmonium, clarinet, guitar, drums… topped with growly vocals and angelic choral singing.” I can vouch for that too.

Meanwhile, here’s a range of Bill pieces (probably over-familiar to ‘Misfit City’ readers, but what the hell) – a waltzing live-in-the-studio session full-band jaunt, a larky official video full of theatrical gestures and in jokes, and last month’s seizing of the Union Chapel’s grand Willis organ for a song of shipwreck.




 

It looks as if the London gig will be just Bill plus band, but the Preston show features a couple of guest slots. Paul Morricone is best known for his work as the more prolific and dramatically brooding of the two songwriting brothers in Huddersfield rock dramatists The Scaramanga Six, who “lurch wildly from dark and lurid ballads to visceral punk tinged psychedelia.” In recent years, Paul has taken to occasional acoustic solo gigs in which he sings songs from the twenty-year-old Scaramanga back catalogue (with its tales of fools, brutes and people stuck in between the two) and sometimes tries out unreleased, unrecorded and work-in-progress songs for size. See below for a full forty-minute set from such a gig, as well as a growling stop-start hard-math-pop burst from the third act on the bill – Burnley band All Hail Hyena!, who promise “a selection of frenetic psych-pop frenzies, intersected with melodic brilliance, punctuated by attitude and melting into rapture. A seething mass of unpredictability which will leave your brain reeling like a fish on a hook.”



 

  • They Eat Culture @ The New Continental, South Meadow Lane, Preston, PR1 8JP, England, Friday 18th November 2016, 8.00pm (with Paul Morricone + All Hail Hyena!) – information here and here
  • The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England, Wednesday 1st December 2016, 7.30pm (no support)- information

* * * * * * * *

Bob Drake’s last appearance in London (as far as I know) was a startling, affectionate and consensual stage invasion at the very start of a Knifeworld gig at Bush Hall. Clad in the surprisingly convincing snow-white bear suit he’s made famous from capering behind the drumkit at Thinking Plague gigs, he seized the mike and propelled what was already set to be a triumphant show up to a different level of vim and laughter.

It’s in keeping with what the man does. A veteran of the more rattling, curious end of American prog (not only with the Plague but with 5uus, his own Cabinet of Curiosities and plenty more), Bob’s equipped with all of the production nous and polyinstrumental expertise to act as his own ensemble on record; but he balances his impressive technical skill with just the right dose of lo-fi get-it-done-now irreverence to hit that elusive sweet spot between prog precision and friendly spontaneity. In doing so, he not only gives himself space to indulge an affably friendly musicality but knocks down any of the strict confining fences which might restrict both his freedom and the warm buzz of his audience’s involvement. If something off-beat and of-the-moment isn’t happening at one of Bob’s gigs, then it’s something that’s missing: or to put it another way, if something isn’t going slightly wrong, then the gig’s not going right.

This has nothing to do with prog spoofery, or comedy rock. It’s got more to do with Bob’s records and shows being intricate shaggy-dog (or perhaps shaggy-bear) stories in which the digressions on the journey, the ragged human edges and distractions, are more important than awe-inspiring structures or a revelatory destination. There’s plenty of nifty fingerwork – and plenty of irregular musical gems and twists that probably took more work and planning than he’s letting on – but what seems to matter the festooning of structure with invention… and with humour, the key to knowing that the moment is here and now, and knocks against expectation and time, and that a laugh isn’t necessarily a punchline, but the acknowledgement of an enthusiasm shared.

There are plenty of little musical signposts to point the way to Bob – there’s Yes (he got into all of this through a fascination with Chris Squire’s high-stepping buzz-bomb basslines), Henry Cow (for deliberately imperfect noise, and for toppling eagerly over the edge of the comfort zone in search of adventure), Stateside folk and bluegrass (plus the baroque Americana of The Beach Boys), the swivelling dial of midwestern classic rock radio and the mix-and-match repertoire of the zillion bar bands he played in on the way up; and probably the shadow of Zappa. There are other islands in the soup which may be coincidental – the convoluted indie rock of Guided By Voices, the fact that some of his songs sound like a ragged Jellyfish, or as if he’s roughed up an English cabaret star in a trucker’s joint; the possibility that his time in Los Angeles engineering hip hop tracks may have reinforced his interest in cut’n’paste textures. Yet ultimately Bob is Bob; moment by moment; grabbing hold of what’s there, spinning out what comes. Here are a few examples, including a snippet of a Cabinet of Curiosities gig where the theatre of the furry absurd is in full effect.




 

For this particular show (presented with fondness by Knifeworld’s resident reed avant-gardist Chlöe Herington), you just get Bob and his acoustic guitar – skill, repertoire and atmosphere probably more than compensating for the lack of a full band. In support is Kavus Torabi, fresh off a Gong tour, also feeding his songs through an acoustic – plus the unknown but immediately intriguing quality of Beetles, featuring ever-restless London avant-garde popsters Laila Woozeer and Tom O.C. Wilson, and who play “intricate, skeletal pop songs influenced by Regina Spektor, Lennon and McCartney and Kurt Cobain.” All of this is happening in a little basement room in a Kings Cross bar, so if you want to get a place there before a hundred London freaks swoop, get a move on.

Chlöe Herington presents:
Bob Drake + Kavus Torabi + Beetles
The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England
Friday 9th December 2016, 7.00pm
information
 

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