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October 2019 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Retrophonica at the Brunel Museum (13th); Charles Hayward presents Sly & The Family Drone, V Ä L V Ē, Timestretch Alarmsong and Atatat (19th)

5 Oct

Retrophonica, 13th October 2019

Retrophonica is a new, very accessible multi-media performance project; currently focussed on the branching aerials, primal wooo and touch-me-not anticipations of theremin playing. It’s launching itself with an evening of two (identical) concerts in the yawning brick gullet of the Brunel Museum’s Grand Entrance Chamber (also known as the top of the southern Thames Tunnel shaft).

Celebrating the instrument’s centenary, these will be an “immersive evening of music for theremin and full orchestra”, while delving into the story of the instrument’s creator, Léon Theremin. From here, it sounds as if the concerts will be a cross between a pops-orchestra occasion, a slide-show history lesson writ large and a session of nostalgic avant-garde tinkering; all of it enclosed in that bleak, beautiful and magnificently functional Victorian civil-engineering maw.

As they say themselves,“prepare for an immersive audio-visual experience, complemented by cocktails, lightshow, and narration, featuring original and adapted music for theremin by Dmitri Shostakovich, Bohuslav Martinů, Miklós Rózsa, Les Baxter, Claude Debussy and John Williams, performed by Retrophonica with thereminist Charlie Draper, new arrangements and works by Alex Palmer, and bespoke narration from author Ken Hollings.”



 
You might already know Charlie from all manner of bookings, everywhere, for both theremin and ondes martenot: here’s an earlier mention. Alex has written and arranged extensively for theatre, film and concert hall, and looks as if he’ll be adding the sweeter edge to the evening. As for Ken, although I suspect that he’ll be operating on calmer terms tonight, he’s most likely to be the one to toss in a wild card or two. Having started work in the 1970s as a literary factual editor (how ominous such a description sounds now) he went on to an early-’80s spell as vocalist and cut-up’er in Manchester post-punk band Biting Tongues, followed by an expansion into essays, libretti and experimental fiction (all of which have dipped into and across other disciplines from Japanese films to twentieth-and-twenty-first century politics to data structures).

I’ve no idea who’s contributed the orchestra. As for the cocktails, there’s no further word on them; nor on how you might mix one called a Thames Tunnel.

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Just under a week later, downriver at Deptford, London art-rock/post-punk/improvisation godfather Charles Hayward will be putting together the second of this year’s “genre-fluid” Charles Hayward Presents concerts at the Albany, unfurling “new sounds from the underground and outsider scenes of London and beyond” and massing together elements of jazz/improv, art punk, noise, contemporary classical and electronic music.

Charles Hayward Presents..., 19th October 2019According to Charles himself, his own performance centrepiece will be the project-cum-band Timestretch Alarmsong… a sequence of tunes and sound snakes that I’ve put together with Tom Challenger (Dice Factory/Ma saxophonist), Yoni Silver (multi-instrumentalist with Hyperion Ensemble and many others), Roberto Sassi (Cardosanto/Anatrofobia/Snorkel guitarist), Nick Doyne-Ditmas (double bassist and Hayward collaborator in Monkey Puzzle Trio).

“It’s tightly rehearsed and goes through a wide range of attitudes and (more importantly) emotional energies. To my ears it’s super exciting and I feel like we’ve pushed at a few barriers and come up with something new that has melody, shape and grooves from light to super heavy/dark. There’s no clips available but we will be recording the project for future release. All the players are fantastic musicians and working on the project has been a study in joyful cooperation.”

In the absence of a collective clip, here’s a scatter of solo ones and examples of related projects:





 
Three other acts join in for the night. ‘Gentle Persuaders’, the latest album from contemporary drum/noise/saxophone ritualists Sly & The Family Drone – is intended as “the politest of bludgeonings”; its creators still merge Ayler-esque free jazz, industrial rock pummel, celebratory machine hiss and the loose-hanging exploratory feel of a bass-less duo. They also still give out drums at their concerts, inviting a congregation of noise.



 
Also back in the fray is V Ä L V Ē, with music that’s less workshop than workshed. Strongly DIY (featuring reed instruments, electronics, invented gizmos, bass guitar, concert harp and singing women), it’s the sound of a trio of highly trained musical minds phasing back into spontaneity and play. A sort of three-way attempt to become idiot savants via assorted glitchery and boink, semi-spontaneous nursery rhymes and tunelets and musical devices (built out of shelves, tobacco tins, old house bells and similar Branestawmery), but via a female pattern.


 
Finally, there’s Atatat – a solo project from Liverpool art-freak music mainstay J.C. Barbara (best known as drummer/ranter for aPAtT and Barberos, and here using a very Haywardian array of drums, contact mics, loops and vocals).


 
Designer Raimund Wong (whose work has adorned posters and releases by Total Refreshment Centre, Church Of Sound and Baba Yaga’s Hut, and who shares Charles’ interest in chance theory and the ingenuity forced on artists via DIY minimalism) will be DJ-ing.

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Dates:

Retrophonica
Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 4LF, England
Sunday 13th October 2019, 6.00pm & 8:30pm
– information here, here and here

Charles Hayward Presents… (featuring Sly & The Family Drone + VÄLVĒ + Timestretch Alarmsong + Atatat + DJ Raimund Wong)
The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, SE8 4AG London, United Kingdom
Saturday, 19 October 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

October 2019 – upcoming rock gigs in England from mathcore to magic, part 2 – The Display Team’s October tour (with Project Mork, The Mighty Bossmags, Masiro, Lonely Dakota, Mutant-Thoughts, Flag Fen, Spank Hair, Barringtone, Memory Of Elephants, Alter Ego and Vonhorn); a Jazz from Hell concert in Brighton including Son Of Ugly, BallPointKen and Fukushima Dolphin (23rd October); The Hare and Hoofe, The Galileo 7 and Ulysses in London (26th October)

1 Oct

The Display Team on tour, October 2019In the last post, I covered this month’s Octobear tour of assorted post-hardcore sproutings, plus the Portals All-Dayer of math rock, post-rock and similar.

At around the same time, London post-Zappa/post-Cardiacs jitterbugs The Display Team will be embarking on a brief east-to-west English tour of their own, delivering densely-written, yelling wrangles and conniptions of guitars, drums and heavy brass to various appreciative audiences.



 
At both of their East Anglian dates in Cambridge and Ipswich, The Display Team are playing with the same backup. One of the two bands in tow are Norwich-based Project Mork, who juggle a spasming, shape-shifting pulp-culture impasto of sung comic-book catchphrases, thrash-riffs, ska bumps, and stunt-metal guitars. The other are crunchy Warrington art punk/ska cabaret rockers The Mighty Bossmags, monster-mask-clad theatricals with leering “cirque du punk” stances and a taste for macabre chanson and heavy bursts.



 
There’s something of a different support set up in Bristol, where sleek proggy art rockers Mutant-Thoughts provide their glistening, synth-heavy groove explorations, and where Flag Fen provide psychogeographic drone. The latter is a “bio-electrical resistance project” developed by Adam Burrows and Keith Hall, featuring noise guitars atop a dirty flag of drone and rattling drums, with bits of folky recitation pulled through like a flaxen thread. There’s a backstory in there somewhere about a possibly occulted, potentially dangerous Bronze Age archaeological site with a tendency to firebug any situations connected to it. What’s less uncertain is that Adam and Keith are both former members of Bristol noise-beat outfit Big Joan, and pull in collaborators such as Mancunian industrial poet-rapper and Gnod associate Michael O’Neill, Steve James (from screeching Bristol flailers Geisha Noise Research Group) and My
Octopus Mind frontman Liam O’Connell.

 
In Oxford, support comes from post/tech metal act Masiro whom I’ve previously referred to as “a melange of prog, metal and funk grooves… if that makes them sound like early ’90s macho blokes in shorts, imagine a trio who went the other way, reframing and reappraising those elements from a confusing refracted perspective. As a listener, they make you work to get back to the sources, but it’s a compelling game of reconstruction.”. Also present are local rhythm-warping “twinkly emo-punk” trio Spank Hair. In Southampton, the support acts are straightforward London/Hampshire hard rockers Lonely Dakota and the rather more-difficult to track down Alter Ego: I’ve got something swaggering from the former, but sadly nothing from the latter.




 
In London, urban-baroque pop trio Barringtone open the show (plenty more on them, their Clor heritage and their journey from motoric cool to increasingly proggy enthusiasm is here), while Memory Of Elephants bring a multi-decker pink noise sandwich of joyous experimental metal along with them. While I can still get away with requoting myself, I’ve called them “a restless, conspiratorial mask-dance of a band” and as playing “a welter of restless multipolar mood changes and psych-cyclones with a bewildering delightful stockpile of guitar tones; from mechanistic hissing growls, fire-ribbon swishes and sudden injections of Detroit proto-punk to great woozy carousing fuzzwalls of MBV dreampop, Chinese orchestras and – at one point – what sounds like a gnarly old organ playing itself.”



 
In the late-nighter at Gloucester, support is by sharp Hereford-&-Worcester mutant-power-pop band Vonhorn. While drummer Dominic Luckman brings cult value (and a stylish precision) from his years in Cardiacs, frontman Adam Daffurn has been boinking around the Hereford scene for ages, previously leading Noughties-wave Britpop act The Dandelion Killers, who betrayed many of the same aspects as Vonhorn does: crunchy crisp pop with unexpected chords, rhythmic flicks and spiked-cream harmonies. Consider XTC and the more circus-y moments of The Beatles; consider latter-day clever-classic underground guitar pop acts like Flipron and The Downing Poole.


 
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Towards the end of their tour, The Display Team are also headlining Fresh Lenin’s Jazz From Hell night in Brighton, an “autumnal commie cocktail of jazz, prog, ska, punk, rock and psychedelia made with the help of trombone, sousaphone, bagpipes, saxophones, multiple pedals and all of the less weird instruments.”

'Jazz From Hell', 23rd October 2019

Plenty of Brighton musical fringery is springing into the spotlight for the occasion. The aforementioned bagpipes and sousaphone (stirred with a drumkit) come courtesy of pranky, deliberately obscure psychedelic wind trio BallPointKen (who are playing two sets). “Cinematic weirdcore” quintet Son Of Ugly are instrumentalists and Secret Chiefs 3 fans who’ve gobbled up and regurgitate “elements of 60’s and 70’s cartoons, spy action, noir jazz, surf and world music, sometimes in the same song.” In fact they’re less frenetic and Zorn-y than such a summary would suggest, being drawn more to the driving drama of theme songs and the glitter of exotica, thereby turning Brighton’s Lanes into swerving Prague alleyways and glittering dream-souks.

 
That just leaves Fukushima Dolphin – a full band last year, but now a drums-and-guitar loop duo fronted by the irrepressible Josh Butler (who stretches them toward a kind of energised, tuneful pure pop, whatever else happens or whatever tools they need to employ. In the current incarnation, Josh sometimes sounds surprisingly like a junior Mike Scott trying to sing his way out of a post-shoegazer’s cocoon of ‘90s indie-dance beats and dreampop echo. Earlier this year, Fukushima Dolphin were bulking up their setlist with an interleaved cover-version set, with textural art-rock versions of MGMT and Nirvana songs coming to the forefront alongside the band’s own urgent originals.


 
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For five or six years now, the various members of Kentish psychedelic troupe The Hare And Hoofe have incubated various tunes down in Folkestone, with an album finally bulging out last year. In the last week of October, they’ll be splurging it all over Islington in a London gig with fellow spirits The Galileo 7 and Ulysses.

What unites all three bands, I guess, is that they’re a collective love-letter to the glitter and stubble and mind-bubbles of a particularly British corner of ‘60s and ‘70s British rock – the clank and rough brinksmanship of garage bands, the rustle of the dressing-up box, the brickie harmonies of power-pop, the quivering flush of freakbeat. Various common enthusiasms loom large: Syd Barrett, Question Mark & The Mysterians, fuzz pedals. It’s all going to be pretty old-school, but expect enough of a surging, hairy, enthusiastic evening that nobody will mind about that.

The Hare And Hoofe + The Galileo 7 + Ulysses, 26th October 2019

Given their leader Allan Crockford’s lengthy background with those crowd-pleasing Medway garage-psych and mod-friendly bands who swirl, in a familial cloud around, The Prisoners and The James Taylor Quartet, The Galileo 7 are the least likely of the three bands to be caught fannying around dressed up as knights in armour, as wizards or Roxy Music’s vampire doppelgangers. Instead they deal in familiar bucketing Prisoners-esque ’60s musical purity: creaky electric organ swerves, fuzz pedals, tambourines and ooh-oohs. In contrast, brash Bathonians Ulysses swagger into view like the second coming of Roy Wood being cheered on by Slade (and are cute enough to confess to a liking for Wings and The Cars). They do like dressing up, and they bring with them hooky, stomping songs like rocking wooden cabinets buffed to a mighty sheen with golden syrup and sandpaper.



 
It’s got to be said that The Hare And Hoofe are the most outrightly magical and theatrical of the three, though – a kind of amicable collision of most of the above ingredients, topped by a meeting between Hawkwind, ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ and Steeleye Span (or, to pick a more recent example, Circulus on fizzing monkey drugs). If they’re garage, they’re the garage that gets transformed into Santa’s den. They’re all about jolly singalongs in which all manner of additions and interjections are poking through or going on behind. Lysergic guitar and spurting proggy keyboard figures crash around dopey harmonies, delirous mistrals of solo flute wind their way through folk singalongs; as psychedelic mixing and screeching echo froth is boosted to the max, the music changes shape and speed as if jerked into form by a solid brass gearshift. They’ll play heavy rhythm-and-blues version of eighteenth century English myths, and the second half of their debut album is a full-blown pocket rock opera of time-travelling scientists and giant laser-eyed robots. It’s called The Terror Of Melton.



 
Admittedly in magical terms all of this isn’t exactly cabalistic frenzy or New Weird hauntology. It’s more about capering blokes in pointy paper hats with moons-and-stars on. But The Hare And Hoofe are clearly enjoying the party too much to worry about this, and we sometimes need the kind of silliness which makes us nine years old again, happy, and laughing ourselves well.

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Dates:

The Display Team on tour:

  • The Stage Door, 78 West Marlands Road, Southampton, SO14 7FW, England – – Friday 18th October 2019, 7.30pm (with Lonely Dakota + Alter Ego) – information here and here
  • The Blue Moon, 2 Norfolk Street, Cambridge, CB1 2LF, England – – Saturday 19th October 2019, 8.00pm (with Project Mork + The Mighty Bossmags) – information here and here
  • The Steamboat Tavern, 78 New Cut West, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP2 8HW, England – Sunday 20th October 2019, 8.00pm (with Project Mork + The Mighty Bossmags) – information here
  • Port Mahon, 82 St Clement’s Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX4 1AW, England – Sunday 20th October 2019, 8.00pm (with Masiro + Spank Hair) – information here and here
  • The Crofters Rights, 117-119 Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3RW, England – Tuesday 22nd October 2019, 7.30pm (with Mutant-Thoughts + Flag Fen) – information here, here and here
  • Paper Dress Vintage Bar & Boutique,, 352a Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England – Thursday 24th October 2019, 8.00pm (with Memory Of Elephants + Barringtone) – information here and here
  • Café René, 31 Southgate Street, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, GL1 1TP, England – Friday 25th October 2019, 11.00pm (with Vonhorn) – information here

Fresh Lenins presents:
Jazz from Hell (featuring The Display Team + Son Of Ugly + Fukushima Dolphin + BallPointKen)
The Green Door Store, 2-4 Trafalgar Arches, Lower Goods Yard, Brighton Train Station, Brighton, BN1 4FQ, England
Wednesday 23rd October 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

The Hare And Hoofe + The Galileo 7 + Ulysses
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Saturday 26th October 2019, 7.00pm
– information here, here and
here
 

October 2019 (and onwards) – various upcoming jazz gigs – Yazz Ahmed’s Electric Dreams, Rosie Turton Quintet, Alina Bzhezhinska in London (3rd October); Electric Dreams in Newcastle (4th October); Forq and SEN3 in London (30th October); SEN3 in London and Brighton (1st & 8th October); Jim Rattigan’s October-to-January Pavillon tour of England (6th October onwards)

29 Sep

At the start of the month, a Women In Jazz summit in London brings Yazz Ahmed’s Electric Dreams, the Rosie Turton Quintet and Alina Bzhezhinska to the Jazz Café.

Trumpeter/flugelhorn player Yazz Ahmed has been covered in here before (thanks to Polar Union’s Jazz Herstory series) – a young British-Bahraini already being dubbed “the high priestess of psychedelic Arabic jazz” thanks to her exploration (across two previous albums) of her mixed cultural heritage, and via the use of a custom quarter-tone flugelhorn which enables her to explore the microtonal pitching within Arabic music. Electric Dreams is her electrophonic/acoustic multi-textural tie-up with drummer Rod Youngs, guitarist Samuel Hällkvist and “vocal sculptor” Jason Singh. Emerging from Yazz’ interest in spontaneous composition, “these free-flowing and conversational improvisations make use of electronic effects, sound design, live looping and sampling, in an exploration of contemporary jazz from a different angle.”

Trombonist Rosie Turton is usually to be found as part of all-female Tomorrow’s Warriors-linked octet Nérija alongside other expanding-profile bandmates including Nubya Garcia, Cassie Kinoshi, Zoe Rahman and Shirley Tetteh (the latter of whom, not content with being a jazz guitar name to watch, also operates as one-woman pop project Nardeydey). As I’ve noted before, Rosie’s own leanings are towards Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, with digressions via hip hop and Himalayan ragas; and her quintet (sometimes known as 5ive) “works around a sensually airy intertwining of Indian violin (played by Johanna Burnheart), trombone and electric piano (from Maria Chiara Argirò), in which adventurous tunes effloresce and sway around light-on-their-feet rhythm grooves: a clever, flowing, flowery architecture.” The quintet’s completed by drummer Jake Long and bassist Twm Dylan.


 
The orchestral harp is always a potentially explosive instrument. Particularly so when it’s under the fingers of Alina Bzhezhinska – a soulful beast of a player who steps easily between classical demands and jazz immediacy. She’ll be playing a solo jazz set to open the evening.

 
Yazz and Electric Dreams will also be playing – on their own, this time – up in Newcastle the day after the London gig.

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At the end of the month, New York new-school jazz rock quartet Forq also play the Jazz Café. Fluid, grooving and highly accessible improvisers, they’re strongly Snarky Puppy-affiliated. Two of the current Forq-ers, plus the band’s departed co-leader Michael League, also play in the celebrated Brooklyn jam family, while keyboard-playing Forq leader Henry Hey is even something of a Big Apple mentor to League, having first convinced the Snarky Puppy leader to move and set up shop there.

As originally conceived by Hey and League, Forq’s music doesn’t stray too far from the Snarky blueprint (dextrous young super-sidemen put together a fizzy stew of everything they’ve learned from playing jazz, blues, rock, funk, etc), but according to League “we had the idea to start a band that was bi-i-i-i-i-ig on groove and sonic exploration, without getting caught in the snags of the modern jazz world. We want to play shit with personality, character, and not nerdy, brainy stuff. Also, we want people to shake their asses. I think the band has a very hard, NYC-style sound that is industrial but also innovative, but also has some serious Texas flavour…” League moved on a couple of years ago, replaced on bass by Kevin Scott, but the band, currently completed by Snarky guitarist Chris McQueen and drummer JT Thomas, continue the initial work.


 
In support is London trio SEN3: in some respects, a transatlantic Forq mirror image. They’re another grouping of top-notch overtrained pop and rock sidemen who fancied doing something fun, immersive and different. Citing “Pink Floyd’s ethereal epic-ness, Thundercat’s psychedelic soul-funk, a touch of J-Dilla/Madlib beat conducting with a twist of Led Zeppelin riffs” as inspiration and aims. Max O’Donnell (on guitars, synths and assorted tuned percussives), Dan Gulino (on bass guitar and synths) and Saleem Raman (on drums) put together something jazzy, dubby, reverb-y and floaty: very much a product of the London melting pot they’re proud of.


 
SEN3 are also playing two dates of their own earlier in the month – at Kansas Smitty’s in London on 1st October, and at The Mesmerist in Brighton on 8th October.

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French horn virtuoso and bandleader Jim Rattigan continues to step up activity with his Pavillon twelvetet, currently featuring Martin Speake, Andy Panayi and Mick Foster on saxophones, Percy Pursglove, Steve Fishwick and Robbie Robson on trumpets, Mark Nightingale and Sarah Williams on trombones, and a rhythm section of Hans Koller (piano), Dave Whitford (double bass) and Martin France (drums).

Pavillon’s new album ‘The Freedom Of Movement’ comes out in mid-October, featuring more of Jim’s original tunes (which have been compared to Charles Mingus, Gil Evans and Duke Ellington). To help it on its way, he’s taking Pavillon out extensively (around southern England and the Midlands) on assorted dates over the next four months, between early October and mid-January.

Previous Pavillon commentary from me – “confident, breezy, swing-happy music seamlessly blending inspirations from different times and places; beery, wise and cosmopolitan but also very English. It’s the sort of sound you’d expect to hear currently curving its way around London’s seawall, if such a thing existed.”



 
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Dates:

Women In Jazz presents:
Yazz Ahmed’s Electric Dream + Rosie Turton Quintet + Alina Bzhezhinska
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Thursday 3rd October 2019, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Jazz North East presents:
Yazz Ahmed’s Electric Dreams
Gosforth Civic Theatre, 125 Regent Farm Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE3 3HD, England
Friday 4th October 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

SEN3:

  • Kansas Smitty’s, 63-65 Broadway Market, Dalston, London, E8 4PH, England – Monday 1st October 2019, 7.00pm – information here
  • The Mesmerist, 1-3 Prince Albert Street, Brighton, West Sussex, BN1 1HE, England – Monday 8th October 2019, 8.00pm – information here and here

Forq + SEN3
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Wednesday 30th October 2019, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Jim Rattigan’s Pavillon:

 

February 2019 – upcoming English folk-rock-but-not-just-folk-rock gigs – My Octopus Mind on tour (13th, 16th, 21st, 22nd February) with Jakabol, The Display Team, Lapis Lazuli and Malika Collective; Hexvessel and Arktau Eos in London (22nd February)

10 Feb

Flexible Bristol almost-acoustic trio My Octopus Mind occupy a pleasing position, settled in their own web of connections between a number of different influences but reliant upon none of them. There’s a jazzy rattle, predominantly via the gloriously noisy effected double bass of Izy Ellis (a growling, punchy, conversational art-box; upfront timber and raw electronic treatments). The whole band’s informed by post-Radiohead/Mars Volta art rock and by the mating of contrasts implicit in assorted culture collisions (such the Hindustani-classical meets New-York-loft-music teaming achieved in one particular favourite, Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar’s ‘Passages’). Frontman singer and guitarist Liam O’Connell cites the sonic and psychological crescendos of Jeff Buckley and Josh Homme’s mix of heaviness and irony, but also the restraint of Jose Gonzales. Ex-Lambhorneer Oliver Cocup adds refreshed drum bounce, and racing through the whole thing is a rivulet – or, more accurately, an unstoppable jet – of skittish Balkan folk.


 
With a debut album, ‘Maladyne Cave’, nearing release, My Octopus Mind are out on a brief English tour wriggle this month, taking in Manchester, Canterbury, London and their hometown. In part, it’s to celebrate the recent release of their debut single Elska, with its increasingly disturbing Coppelian dance video (in which a man wheels an impassive doll-woman around in a suitcase, engaging in secret and increasingly frustrated trysts with her).

While Manchester is an evening for the band on their own, various temporary tourmates slot in elsewhere – in London, it’ll be the accomplished Afro-Latin groove band Malika Collective. The Canterbury show sports an eclectic psychedelic edge with local jam band and “maximalist psych-prog heroes” Lapis Lazuli plus the convoluted Zappa-brass meets London-urchin-pop of The Display Team (see passim) and psych/prog/punk funk/soul/dub/afro combination DJ interludes from Professor Appleblossom. The Bristol tour launch show, meanwhile, also features Jakabol, a warm Bristolian instrumental band in which violin, harp, guitar and drums leap and lurch tunefully around a set pitched midway between post-rock gutter and country hoedown (perhaps a further extension of the rural post-rocking I’ve been hearing from Rumour Cubes and Apricot Rail).



 
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Linkings between folk music and heavy rock go back pretty much all of the way to the start of the latter, especially in Europe. In plain sight, Led Zeppelin regularly immersed themselves in Welsh border hillsides and Janschian jangle; a little later, Jethro Tull brought in the jigs, liltings and mandolins while allying them to Ian Anderson’s witty, sardonic absolutely-in-the-moment songwriting voice (which swept in the eclectic interests and erudition of a restless, randy, contemporary urban boulevardier who could’ve make the idea of a leprechaun in your sitting room sound like something contemporary, adult and immediate rather than twee). In the ‘90s a swell of Celtic/Nordic folk metal and Gothic paganism via bands such as Skyclad led to a revival of mythic musical drama; in the Noughties, there was the feeling that the likes of Opeth were peering over their successive ramparts of black metal and prog in search of something offering more air and antiquity. Nowadays, you can hardly move for this sort of thing sprouting up from Ireland to Israel: driving a guitar through a hefty amp seems like one of the most effective ways to kick off an interest in your own folk history.

In many respects, latterday Anglo-Irish-Finnish heavy-folk-rockers Hexvessel hanker back to Tull – some of the lilts and jangles are there, as are the banging barn-door blurts of chunky electric guitar work – but they also trade in some of the dramatic minor keys and broody, nonconforming, subculture-meets-antiquity feel of Skyclad. Of course, this is probably incidental: it would be more constructive to reconsidering the swirling body of interests and philosophy surrounding singer and prime mover Mat McNerney. Despite Mat’s former black metal links (as “Kvohst”, he cavorted across stages with bands like Dødheimsgard and Code), Hexvessel avoid certain predictable pitfalls – no ludicrous demonic posturing; no arid hating; no polluted white-is-right old-Europe nationalism. This is primarily because under the corpse paint Kvohst always seems to have been a thoughtful and sensible chap with a well-calibrated bullshit detector, sorting the nourishing myths from the toxic ones.




 
Instead, Hexvessel explore a range of thinking stimuli – post-/pre-Catholic pagan magick; the connecting threads connecting contemporary Finnish woodland psych with the brooding kosmische stews of Amon Duul and the chatty verbal maximalism of early ‘70s British psych folk; comic book legendariums; and respectful pro-feminist reintegrations of women back into musical forms that have often wandered too far down macho paths. Later this month, they’re setting up camp at St Johns Bethnal Green; playing a London show as part of the European tour in support of brand new album ‘All Tree’, in which they’ve endeavoured to blend Mat’s memories of old ghost stories and other transmissions of folk culture with their own dramatic Samhain vibes and symbolic forest-folk musical experiments (including playing tree boughs with violin bows). Mat sees it as a way of connecting to Samhain’s liminal side; a time when ancestors, as spirits and memories, are that much closer.

Hexvessel’s tree-bowing was captured out by the band’s resident field recording/sound conjuring wizard Antti Haapapuro. In another incarnation – as half of sacking-masked ritual ambient/oneiric duo Arktau Eos – he and fellow Eosian Antti Litmanen open the show, rubbing the psychic gateways open with their primeval sounding drones, swells and invocation of significant spaces – simultaneously post-industrial and prehistoric, thrumming out of a green church, resonating nook or ancient gravehole like a stone-tape playback of ancient, dignified rites.

Steeped in hermetic philosophy and Apophatic theology, Arktau Eos come across as thoughtful ceremonial scholars in interviews such as this one in the ‘This Is Darkness’ ezine. Eloquent and courteous if you care to track them down for a respectful conversation, but unswayed by distractions from their business of the mining of the “ur-currents” of religious faith; the pull of site-specific mysteries, apprehending experience without attempting to stare it in the face or pin it down with sentences. In a similar spirit, I think I should just leave the descriptions there, as they stand. Essentially, it’s all in the sound and the placement, and the ceremonial use of the available moment. Understand them that way.


 
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Dates:

My Octopus Mind:

  • The Crofters Rights, 117-119 Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3RW, England – Wednesday 13th February 2019, 7.30pm (with Jakabol) – information here and here
  • The Old Abbey Taphouse, Guildhall Close, Manchester, M15 6SY, England – Saturday 16th February 2019, 7.30pm – information here
  • UCA Bar Canterbury, New Dover Road, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 3AN, England – Thursday 21st February 2019, 7.30pm (with The Display Team + Lapis Lazuli) – information here
  • The Magic Garden, 231 Battersea Park Road, Battersea, London, SW11 4LG, England – Friday 22nd February 2019, 7.00pm (with Malika Collective) – information here and here

Old Empire proudly presents:
Hexvessel + Arktau Eos
St John on Bethnal Green, 200 Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9PA, England
Friday 22nd February 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

February 2019 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Gemini Trio (12th, 21st, 23rd, 28th February); Adam Ben Ezra with Joseph Tawadros plus Uniting Of Opposites (22nd February); Nick Walters & The Paradox Ensemble (22nd February)

3 Feb

Having taken some first steps in public at the Putney Half Moon and Folklore Hoxton over the last few months, London-based Italian jazz-rockers Gemini Trio will be embarking on a five-gig journey around London from mid-February (with more to follow in March and April).

Formed at BIMM by three young Milanese players (guitarist Adriano Balducci Moncada, bass guitarist Edoardo Marcarini and drummer Alessandro Iannicelli, they’re a mellow, airy, accessible alliance. In terms of their jazz and rock roots, they cite some fairly predictable roots (John Coltrane and Pat Metheny at one end, Radiohead, Tool and Led Zeppelin at the other) but they also apparently harbour inspirations from African music and from progressive and indie rock and which they’re less specific about (bar a friendly name-drop for Milanese Zappa torch-bearers Elio e Le Storie Tese). It’ll probably unfold over time: it’s early days for them yet, and their stew’s still in the early stages of brewing.

Right now they’re fluent, agreeable flashboys with a likeable lightness of touch and a debut single called Vivacissimo. With a title like that you’d expect a helping of ELO or disco cheese to be stirred into their music, but instead they seem happy to win you over with something breezy and sunny to overcome English winter gloom… and here it is. I’m enjoying putting it on loop, perhaps because I still miss What?!


 
* * * * * * * *

Surfing a substantial career wave at the moment (partly thanks to his canny understanding of the entertainment potential of YouTube clips) is Israeli solo double bassist and master showman Adam Ben Ezra, who’s back headlining the Jazz Café on the 22nd. Bold, humorous and technically dazzling, Adam covers a spectrum of music from serious swing to percussive melodious modern jazz tunes to flurrying flamencoid spasms to popcorn pop-culture gags (he’s enticed in a lot of jazz-wary fans thanks to the bait of his virtuosic, web-viral renditions of TV themes).

Although he’s cited Eddie Gomez and fellow performance monster Jaco Pastorius as main bass influences, Adam’s forceful flexibility, punchy tone, swinging rhythmicality and wit also happily channels the ghost of Bob Haggart. His knack for live-looping tricks’n’textures and electronic media savvy, meanwhile, echo Steve Lawson; and his tendency to temporarily set aside his bass and burst out with other instruments over the course of an evening or an album recall another heavy-acoustic virtuoso, Michael Hedges.


 
Adam’s guest for the show will be progressive cross-genre oud player Joseph Tawadros. An adopted Aussie with Egyptian Coptic roots (though he’s also been a Londoner for a couple of years now), Joseph has released sixteen albums over fourteen years of career. Musically, he’s a friendly rebel and natural showman who (like Khyam Allami) pulls oud music out of its Middle Eastern classical niche and introduces it to jazz, Western classical and any other cross-pollination he can get hold of.

He’s also a scarily talented bastard who took on fifty-two different instruments on a recent album. While I’ve heard that that was more spur-of-the-moment one-man-band than fully-polished ensemble, his oud playing is internationally reknowned and has won him collaborations with Béla Fleck, John Abercrombie, The Academy of Ancient Music and plenty more.


 
Getting things moving are show openers Uniting Of Opposites, a cross-generational contemporary Indo-jazz project allied to and releasing on Brighton label Tru Thoughts. With a past as UK dance DJ/producer Tim Deluxe, (and for 2002 house hit It Just Won’t Do) Tim Liken had long since supplemented his original career with an expanding self-education on jazz piano by the time he hooked up with the existing duo of Ben Hazleton and Clem Allford. Sitarist Clem was already a musical veteran (with five decades of work behind him including a sitar toting pilgrimage to India in order to learn from the source, plus film and session work and membership of pioneering early ‘70s Indo-psyche folkers Magic Carpet. Double bassist Ben was a former Young Jazz Musician of the Year who’d notched up time with Jonathan Gee and Tony Kofi.

To expand the music, they’ve added drummer Eddie Hick (who’s been all over ‘Misfit City’ recently thanks to gigs with Steam Down and Ruby Rushton), tabla player Manjeet Singh Rasiya, clarinettist Idris Rahman, and singer/F’ire Collective graduate Marcina Arnold. Last summer’s debut album ‘Ancient Lights‘ (arriving with a twist of psychedelic sonic illumination and dance-culture bliss, plus a pinch of surrealist flavour) reveals a band whose propulsive energy, enthusiasm, agelessness and hopefulness look set to give Adam a run for his money.



 
* * * * * * * *

Playing on the same day as Adam, Joseph and Uniting of Opposites is Nick Walters, known in British jazz circles as a trumpeter’s trumpeter, and on this occasion leading his thirteen-piece Paradox Ensemble big band – a thirteentet? – through a set of part-composed, part-improvised pieces mingling Mingus with Western Africa, and Woody Shaw with Eastern mysticism.

Like Eddie Hick, Nick’s known for his playing with Ruby Rushton, and at least two RR compadres show up in this group – saxophonist/flautist Tenderlonious and keyboard player Aidan Shepherd on synth and accordion. The group’s four-track mini-album ‘Awakening’ showed up at the end of last month, featuring music which runs from assured playing-around with Togo rhythms to tributes to cricket commentator Henry Blofeld (as well as employing less common jazz instrumentation such as sousaphone and harp).



 
Paradox Ensemble are playing as guests of the Church of Sound promotional project, which brings brings beautiful music to holy places – mostly, as in this case, the Victorian church of St James the Great in Lower Clapton, which has already seen them host shows by Kokoroko, Mansur Brown, Nubya Garcia and many others.

* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Gemini Trio:

  • Babel Café 86 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, London N16 7PA, England – Tuesday 12th February 2019, 8.00pm – information here
  • Grow, 98c Main Yard, Wallis Road, Hackney Wick, London, E9 5LN, England – Thursday 21st February 2019, 8:00 PM – free event – information here and here
  • Bar Lorca, 175 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 0LH, England – Thursday 21st February 2019, 11:59 pm – information here
  • MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England – Saturday 23rd February 2019, 5.00pm – information here and here
  • Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England – Thursday 28th February 2019, 8.00pm – information here

Adam Ben Ezra (with Joseph Tawadros) + Uniting Of Opposites
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Friday 22nd February 2019, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Church of Sound presents:
Nick Walters & The Paradox Ensemble: Blowing Gold
St James the Great, 188 Lower Clapton Road, Clapton, London, E5 8EG, England
Friday 22nd February 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

January 2019 – upcoming English rock gigs – Francis Dunnery’s ‘Big Lad In The Windmill’ mini-tour (18th to 20th January)

12 Jan

Next week, gloriously wayward singer-songwriter Francis Dunnery revisits his past with It Bites – in solo format – as he takes music from their 1986 debut album ‘The Big Lad In The Windmill’ out on an English micro-tour.

Francis Dunnery, 11th and 18th to 20th January 2019

When pompous would-be music tastemakers like myself roll out their list of great pop and rock albums of the 1980s, ‘The Big Lad In The Windmill’ generally isn’t on there. That’s unsurprising. As a decade, the ‘80s sprawled into outspoken ideological polarisation, during which it sometimes seemed as if everyone in popular music was a purist poseur of some kind or other; whether they were swanning about on yachts sporting terrifying ozone-threatening hairstyles, acting out grimly righteous/reductionist salt-of-the-earth positionings, haute-couture megaphoning about The Future or (rather more constructively) hurtling around America in vans trying to build an alternative economy. Perhaps that’s over-simplifying, but it’s certainly true that it was an age of vivid stances, and that some terrible and reductive snobberies developed as a side-effect of said stances and manifestos. In such a time and in such a milieu, ‘The Big Lad’ was the kind of album that wasn’t supposed to happen… and many people seemed (and still seem) to think it shouldn’t have been allowed to happen.

It Bites: 'The Big Lad In The Windmill'

It Bites: ‘The Big Lad In The Windmill’

Admittedly on spec it was also a little preposterous. A shotgun marriage of glutinous, glittery ‘80s pop with hard rock snorts and cartwheeling prog stunts, it was recorded by four self-confessed working-class hicks from England’s gorgeous, isolated Lake District, who also happened to be unfashionably virtuosic as musicians. Possessing a keen ear for pastiche and adaptation, they’d had a prehistory back home as a badly-behaved covers band. Plying the tough Cumbrian circuit of nightclubs and working men’s clubs, they’d mastered reams of contemporary pop hits (Level 42, Police, Haircut 100 and so on) while simultanously nursing a profound love for the 70’s complexity and flourishes of Genesis and Yes, UK and Weather Report. All of which showed by the time they came to write their own stuff. By the mid-‘80s (abetted by resident keyboard popinjay and arrangements genius John Beck), Dunnery was putting together original songs which played on both sets of preoccupations.

Some smartarse once tagged It Bites as “bubblegum prog”, which isn’t too bad a label. It encapsulates the band’s mastery of the kind of throwaway immediate pop tunes which prove to have a tenacious, sticky life of their own: it also takes into account their taste for florid illustrative musical passages. In addition, their playing had a layer of fantasy-funk and soul itch (due to admixtures of Steve Arrington and Prince, plus Dick Nolan’s stalking, slippery bass grooves), and some hard rock crunch (staunch, sturdy drummer Bob Dalton was a Led Zeppelin guy at heart). Collectively, It Bites aspired to the well-drilled, muscular “follow-this” ethic of a black showband; which seemed to be judged as less of a virtue when coming from a white British rock band of the times, where restrictive amateurism or beefy stiffness was the order of the day.

Bear in mind that this was years before white-boy eclecticism inveigled its way back into mainstream rock and pop. Ween were still only releasing home-made cassettes; Jellyfish wouldn’t show up for another three years, and while Frank Zappa stubbornly flew the flag for stylistic fluidity, he was an elder statesman turned cult artiste in a niche of his own. Even Queen had calmed down a bit. Had they slipped into a more parodic approach lyrical approach, It Bites might have suddenly woken up to find that their nearest British equivalents were The Barron Knights. Fortunately, they took themselves a little more seriously: there was silliness in their playful approach, but it was matched by an earnest bravado which won them affection from audiences even as it drew critical disdain.


 
Once signed by Virgin and given a shot at making a record, It Bites treated it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to throw everything they had into the effort and stir it up like crazy. Throughout ‘The Big Lad’ they’re coltish and restless, latching onto impeccable mainstream pop-rock stylings only to suddenly career off into wildly played, cunningly constructed breaks. Turn Me Loose and I Got You Eating Out Of My Hand mercilessly run straightforward pop songs through a mill of transformational time and mood changes. Almost anything goes – heavy metal, jazz-fusion arrhythmia, Al di Meola flamenco, even the drum machine and Bontempi drone of a narcotized lounge act – although the band backtrack and flawlessly reconstruct the songs at the end.

Producer Alan Shacklock entered into the spirit of things with a vengeance. He kept a “riot track” free in the mix to capture the band’s raucous in-studio jabbering; he delivered a gleefully glittering plastic sound which revelled in every Japanese-digital synth chime, every start/stop noise-gate interruption and every over-exaggerated bit of sound-panning. He also accidentally sped up the master tape, resulting in the band sounding (according to Francis) “like Pinky and Perky.” The result was – and is – a record which feels like a sudden soda pop binge after months away from the stuff.

‘The Big Lad’ is generally remembered for a surprise Top Ten single. Cantering toytown hit Calling All The Heroes married the band’s musical deftness to old Republic serials, rocking cradles and boyhood cowboy games, fuelled by an earworm chorus and some sneaky false endings. (Presumably the Wild West schtick struck a chord with Shacklock – his own early ‘70s prog band Babe Ruth had recorded The Mexican, an Alamo-themed story with which Calling All The Heroes shares a number of passing musical similarities). For many people, this song is where It Bites have been permanently stuck: pegged to a couple of fanfaring pop hooks remembered by almost every Briton who lived through mid-‘80s chart pop. In the video a bleached’n’styled, cutesied-up Dunnery and co. bob nervously, like a loopier Go West, presaging the marketing problems which would plague them for the rest of their existence. Live, they’d pull out the full prog trickbag.


 
It’s a shame that the album’s glossy, hyperactive surfaces and loop-the-loop stunting make it easy to ignore the substance beneath. Fair enough: something like Wanna Shout mostly exists in order to run demented macho-guitar heroics over stuttering go-go synths, and All In Red does little more than throb like a fourteen-year-old boy’s heat dream of Zeppelin colliding with Level 42. This isn’t the kind of record you put on to remember angry alienation in pre-punk-era Manchester, or to recapture political struggles, or even to remember belonging to anything much (unless it was being part of the crowd which understood the band’s straightforward musical verve and the down-to-earth Cumbrian personalities which bedrocked it).

Yet elsewhere on ‘The Big Lad’, genuine stories about real people emerge from beneath Beck’s thunderous keyboard chimes and Dunnery’s barrel-roll guitar playing. The band’s follow-up single Whole New World is mostly forgotten. It’s actually a fine, agonised pop song, whose horn-assisted contortions marry dashes of dumped-bloke Motown and Memphis under the Christmas-tree synths. On first impressions, Cold Tired And Hungry might be a screamingly uncool rock-snortin’ melodrama, but on a second look its histrionics run parallel to the naked, hurt-boy stances Prince was trying on at the time (although it sounds more like Steve Marriott locked into a sobbing death spiral with Brian May).

Best, though, are a couple of tracks which embrace genuine personal memories rather than generic pop tropes. Under the bravado, Screaming On The Beaches is a flipside take on Calling All The Heroes’ daydream battles. Based on Dunnery’s teasing-out of traumatic wartime memories from his dad (who’d served as a soldier in the Burma Campaign), it’s tech-laden and roaring, screwing its disorientating picture of ordinary men coming apart under fire into a party mixture of twisted pop-metal riffing, jazz-funk cat pounces and Beck’s wailing keytar. Over the next few years, the band would polish it up into a stompingly danceable live highlight, demonstrating that they had almost as much in common with Trouble Funk as they did with Genesis. Conversely, You’ll Never Go To Heaven is one of the 1980s’ great lost lighters-aloft anthems. A heart-wringing Catholic-guilt ballad (capped with Philip Glass pulse-synths and angel choirs), it features a desperate, spiralling outro solo from Dunnery that sounds like Allan Holdsworth giving vent to a primal scream.



 
* * * * * * * *

Francis Dunnery’s come a long way from the nervous, bullish twenty-three-year-old he was when he recorded ‘The Big Lad’. Four years and two albums after its release, his restless nature (plus a much-confessed dip into a serious drink problem) split him away from his more stolid bandmates. While It Bites have gone on to have a belated second life without him, he’s spent the intervening time following a solo career demonstrating that he’s a rough diamond who decided that he prefers to stay a little rough.

At the time, the necessary polish and consistency required to play the pop game wasn’t right for him. It still isn’t, but he’s managed to turn it to his advantage. Now entirely independent, he follows his own particular muse, popping out records as and when it suits him, and building a relationship with his listeners which has the same mixture of generosity, conversationality and occasional cantankerousness as a genuine friendship. At fifty-six, Francis resembles that old lag with delightful hidden depths whom you might meet during stints on a building site: the one who retains his working-class saltiness, cracks wicked jokes and is still handy in a fist-fight, but likes to sit you down during lunchbreaks and talk about Jung, history and esoterica.

His records have run a similar lane-swapping gamut – the kind of tasteful fingerpicked adult pop which gives the genre a good name; acoustic meditations on life and wounds and healing; fanbase-bewildering dips into laptop R&B; reconstructive tributes to the gothic Cumbrian jazz-metal written by his late brother Barry, and so on. Psychology, astronomy, metaphysics, bite-backs and broad jokes litter his songs. Freed from the standard album-tour-album treadmill, a typical Dunnery gig is now a mixture of friendly encounter group and surreal pub talent night. As well as playing songs, he’ll be telling his audience stories, teasing them about prog cliches or dwarf porn, gleefully upending a performance with comedy and spontaneous competitions, or spicing things up with unexpected guest appearances from his capacious address book (could be a musical friend like Robert Plant, Theo Travis or Steve Hackett; could be an actual fucking pantomime horse…)

While they’ve kept much of the musicality, recent Francis reworkings of the ‘Big Lad’ songs (on his ‘Vampires‘ album) are a touch more sedate and patient – breezier, and partially shorn of their pyrotechnic plastic-synth fizz. In truth, while he’s still more than capable of wringing out the dazzling guitar flash and the singing, the years do make something of a difference: mostly because when set against later Dunnery work (with its accounts of mid-life bereavement, parenthood and the battles fought between a person’s ever-resistant roots and the idea of who they’re trying to be) ‘The Big Lad’ is a bit too callow and fizzy. It’ll always be a young man’s album – drunk on possibilities and grappling with the spirit of discovery while working out some of that immediate post-childhood angst; over-aware of its own muscles and energy; distractedly trying to jigsaw together a sense of history, background and its own place within it via song and allusion. Perhaps that’s part of the thinking behind retaining Francis’ onetime protégé Luke Machin (a former teen guitar prodigy-turned-twentysomething jazz/prog/metal ace) in a crack, hand-picked live band also including Tiger Moth Tales’ Peter Jones and Freak Kitchen drummer Björn Fryklund (plus fretless bassist Paul Brown, holding down the ever-underrated Dick Nolan role).

Regardless of this, even if ‘The Big Lad In The Windmill’ is two parts kiddie sherbet to one part brilliance – and even if you want to clobber it over the head as an example of undeniable ’80s excess – it still stands up. Looking back, it’s still recognisably Dunnery music, a handful of rough adolescent prisms through which his younger, fearful self blinks from underneath the dazzle. Catholic-rooted, disaster-prone but unstoppable; heartfelt and playful; naïve and wise; soft and noisy, driven and impulsive. The man Francis would become – the man he is now – is still waiting in those songs; waiting to be knocked into shape via further adventures, further bumps and arguments along the way. I bet that there are plenty of ’80s pop refugees who wish they’d written juvenilia like this: songs with heart, flash and legs.

Dates:

  • The Slade Rooms, 32-40 Broad Street, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, WV1 1HP, England, Friday 18th January 2019, 7. 00pm – information here, here and here
  • Manchester Academy, University Of Manchester Students’ Union, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PR, England, Saturday 19th January 2019, 7.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, London, W12 7LJ, England, Sunday 20th January 2019, 7.00pm – information here, here and here

 

October 2018 – upcoming rock/experimental/dance gigs in England – The Evil Usses on tour in Liverpool, Salford and Derby (4th, 6th, 7th October) with shows also featuring Unstoppable Sweeties Show, The Age Of Glass, Mal, Night Stage, Shunya and Unicursal

30 Sep

This coming week, The Evil Usses take their witty, post-Beefheart/No Wave skronk-rock out of Bristol to travel in a brief arc across the Midlands and the North.



 
* * * * * * * * *

In Liverpool, they’ll be playing a saxophone-heavy Postmusic night with three Merseyside acts.

Jazz-punk absurdists Unstoppable Sweeties Show will be celebrating the release of their second album “Bring Kath her Breamcatcher [the musical]”. Styling themselves as “post-pronk” or as “passive-aggressive progressive prog” they come across as prime nonsensical Scouse upsetters: singer Yashaswi Sharma sounds like a young PJ Harvey yelping nonsequiturs, drug babble and occasional obscenities against an omnidirectional springy racket of guitars, saxophone and drums (while a bassline rushes across the gaps like a spider on a slender bridge, under fire). Incorporating “free improvisation, spoken word, avant-garde, noise, and comedy” as blunt objects in their armoury, USS are part of the scattered North-West English rock weirdness which includes a.P.a.t.t., White Blacula and Poisoned Electrick Head. (They’ve got members of the first two on board, plus people from the LAZE and from Elmo & The Styx, making them something of a Mersey anti-supergroup).



 
Rounding out the Liverpool bill, Mal provide ritualistic occult-industrial ambient noise (employing synth pads and doubled saxophones for “brutal sermons” and “chilling sideways sweeps at things”), while Unicursal bring cut-up acoustic noise via guitar and tape loop.

* * * * * * * * *

For Salford’s Space Cassette night, Evil Usses will be playing with delightfully spindly Manchester band The Age Of Glass, who employ skinny acoustic guitar skank, rolling jazz bass and crisp percussion to create their own yelping electronic dance/dub/funk combination.



 
Age Of Glass’ samplehead Alan Keary will also be performing as his own multi-instrumental, multi-genre project Shunya, using his mastery of guitar, programming, jazz double bass and other strings to create a rattled, skittish combination of post-classical, jazz and electronic dance ideas. Firing live beats across live instrumentation that can vary from duo performances to a twelve-piece band, he’s already made a name for himself by remixing the work of latterday choral composer Eric Whitacre, and drawn collaborative interest from members of GoGo Penguin: his future’s looking bright and intriguing.




 
In addition, Talos 4000 (specialist in “acid rave/cosmic dross”) and Burnibus (curator of eclectic electronica show Non Dualism Podcast) will be providing the DJ sets. Here’s an example of some previous Space Cassette-ing…

 
* * * * * * * * *

In Derby, Evil Usses’ support comes from Night Stages: the brainchild of Dubrek Studio owner and Derby music stalwart Jay, who’s put together his own “psychedelic noise-rock super group” featuring members of assorted Derby strivers Them Are They, Twinkie and YouNoGoDie. They’re still so underground and emergent that they’ve got no web presence yet, so all we’ve got to go on is an account from Derby arts-blog ‘Storge’, from a previous Dubrek all-dayer – “they are loud, shimmering sludge, and at one point the rhythm section sounds like pure, glorious metal. The guitar sounds Jay provides at times sound like shattering glass and if he hits that red pedal of doom you know it means trouble for your hearing.”

* * * * * * * * *

Full dates:

  • Postmusic @ DROP The Dumbulls Gallery, Dublin Street, Liverpool, L3 7DT, England, Thursday 4th October 2018, 7.30pm (with Unstoppable Sweeties Show + Mal + Unicursal) – information here
  • Space Cassette @ Siren Asylum, 24 Missouri Avenue, Salford, M50 2NP, England, Saturday 6th October 2018, 10.00pm (with The Age of Glass + Shunya) – information here and here
  • Dubrek Studio, 6 Becket Street, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1 1HT, England, Sunday 7th October 2018, 6.30pm (with Night Stages) – information here and here

 

August 2018 – upcoming London gigs – Phaze Theory blends occult Blake-and-Yeats visions with brooding jazz rock (28th August)

25 Aug

Phaze Theory, 28th August 2018

When I think of musicians citing the mystical, revolutionary poetry of Yeats or Blake, I’m likely to think of assorted classic rock fops; or young white literate/ dissolute pretenders fitting the pair in between their Rimbaud and Verlaine namedrops. The Libertines loved Blake; as have a swathe of musicans ranging from stadium botherers Robert Plant, Richard Ashcroft and U2 to dedicated underground upsetters like The Fugs, Duglen and Coil. Further delving turns up quotings and reverent steals by Pet Shop Boys and Bloc Party, plus the fact that Blake himself was a songwriter. As for Yeats, Joni Mitchell has set him to music, as has Van Morrison: the Hold Steady met him at a party in Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night, Bright Eyes quotes him in Four Winds; and from her debut album, Sinead O’Connor’s devastating Troy reshapes and reclaims his ‘No Second Troy’.

As for those who take on both, there’s North Sea Radio Orchestra with their sweet folk-toned chamber music settings. More prominently, there’s Patti Smith, who shook Blake-and-Yeats vision out into her early punk poetry and has kept it up ever since. Then there’s Patti’s ardent acolyte, Mike Scott of The Waterboys, who’s kept both by him on his travels: snarling about Blakean tigers and savage earth hearts on his debut album, capping ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ by fusing Yeats fairy tales with New York minimalism and Irish chamber-folk, and devoting a whole album to Yeats-isms twenty-three years after that.


 
What I’m getting at is that Blake-and-Yeats setters and expressers, in music, tend to be storm-tossed white romantics… with the music to match. Bar guesting singers here and there (including some formidable soul wailers), Phaze Theory are certainly white, are probably romantics, and may well be storm-tossed, but it’s initially a surprise to encounter their own take on this particular poetry; working it as a collective muse for a band that, while it calls its music art rock, has more in common with reggae, dub and the glowering Dark Magus electric wrack of Miles Davis in the early ‘70s.

Around in various forms since 2014, they’re led by a questing mystic of a tuba player, Christopher Barrett. Their conservatoire backgrounds and well-schooled chops belie their strange geological ferocity, stemming from an interest in Britain’s occult traditions and how these break through into sounds and words. Dedicated to “exploring the vastness of the musical cosmos” they lay claim to “roots in the deep grooves of the earth and the city and our branches reaching to the stars… we seek to free your feet, open your heart and liberate your spirit.”

In tone and intent, and at full heat, they’re an unexpected outpost of New Weird Britain, set in a jazzier wilderness in which Marco Quarantotto’s echoed drums, Tal Janes’ gnarled heavy guitar and in particular Barrett’s rumbling, adroit, effects-burnished electric tuba (which shifts seamlessly from bass to horn parts, sometimes with no immediate break) probe and scald across a foreboding, eerie terrain of post-industrial brambles, Tannoy vocals and perhaps a little Hendrix crunch. Compare and contrast their troubling, hallucinatory take on The Song of Wandering Aengus (recorded with Manchester singer Rae Jones) with the polished, melodious elegance of the Waterboys version above.



 
Currently collaborating with London rhythm-&-blues/Southern soul singer Arthur Lea, this imminent end-of-the-month gig at the Vortex is part of their ongoing process of bringing their music back to London and England after a brief Californian shift. Back to the grime but also back to the original fertility, I guess.

Phaze Theory
The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, Dalston, London, N16 8AZ, England
Tuesday 28th August 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here
 

June 2018 – upcoming London gigs – Multi-Storey’s 1st Birthday Party with WorstWorldProblems, Augustus, Tony Njoku, Elsa Hewitt, The Mantis Opera and Socket; experimental choralists Haha Sounds Collective sing David Axelrod, with Blueprint Blue and Lætitia Sadier (both 9th June)

6 Jun

A couple of posts ago I was grumbling vaguely about ‘Misfit City’ getting too rarefied, cubbyholed and white. If I’m absolutely honest, that’s probably my default setting – the subcultural narrowness, that is, not the complaining. Part of the point of the blog is to expand my own musical education: it’s a process of broadening my outlook and involvement as a listener. Still, I’m well aware that I frequently travel and listen more like a toy fisherman in a novelty clock – rotating in a small circle around an established axis while flicking out a line for what must often seem more like show than anything else.

Gratifyingly, a new gig’s hoving into view at the end of the coming week involving two of the acts I’ve previously covered – one outright punk, the other convoluted RIO techprog – rubbing up against hip-hop, textured ‘tronica and avant-soul-pop. On the same day, an indie-slanted choral group duck the spell of Britpop-grunge covers by investigating David Axelrod alongside an Americana band and a showing by Gallo-Anglo lounge-pop queen Lætitia Sadier. Sometimes you don’t have to force or hanker after cross-pollination: sometimes it comes to you, unprompted.

* * * * * * * *

From promoters Multi-Storey:

“We’ve actually made it to our first birthday and it’s all down to the amazing people who have played, danced, and generally been friendly and encouraging at our shows! We’ve had an absolute pleasure meeting and listening to some of the most thrilling new bands both from London and further afield over the past 365 and a bit days, so we thought that a big monstrous party/gig/exhibition with some of our favourites would be the perfect way to round off a wonderful year. We want to say thanks to those who have been so helpful, say hi to some new friends, and toss ourselves around like a sentient salad. We’ll be joined at one of our favourite venues by an eclectic and spectacular line-up of our favourite and most exciting new acts, which we will be announcing over the next few weeks. Get yourself a ticket for a late night with unexpected levels to it, and some fantastic music that you never knew existed – stay tuned for announcements!”

Multi-Storey's First Birthday Party, 9th June 2018

Multi-Storey presents:
‘Multi-Storey’s 1st Birthday Party’ featuring Worst World Problems + Augustus + Tony Njoku + Elsa Hewitt + The Mantis Opera + Socket
Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, 42-46 Pollard Row, Bethnal Green, London, E2 6NB, England
Saturday 9th June 2018, 9.00pm
– information here and here

Announcements have duly arrived. Up in the headliner slot, Worst World Problems are a new hip-hop collective. On the evidence of their mini-album ‘Tape One’ their sound’s a blend of chilly ‘80s synthpop nightscapes, data-bus drift and exhausted, hooded, sore-heeled rapping. Inevitable ‘Mezzanine’ and Drake comparisons ensue: there’s that same draggled, overcast feel in the sad ambient production billows and the flow, but WWP take it even further. Their raps feel like echoes around corners, anti-brags, collarbone murmurs from introspective three-quarters-broken boys feeling reamed out and deadened by romantic disintegrations. You feel that at some point they’re going to blow themselves out with a sigh.


 
Augustus is producer/drummer/keyboard player Gus Lobban, who for the past four years has mixed and dispensed cheery ice-cream-flavoured Anglo-J-pop with Kero Kero Bonito, more recently upping the fuzz-rock/stage-school urchin content. I’m not sure what he intends for this solo appearance, but here’s KKB’s recent Only Acting single: pick out his contributions if you can. Here, the breakdown sounds like a literal breakdown: he might still be surfing the shockwave.

 
Anglo/Nigerian/cosmic artiste Tony Njoku writes and sings eccentric, thread-fine, vulnerable electro/sort-of-soul, reflecting a young life spent mostly in “grey areas”. Beneath his papery falsetto, slide-clicking trap beats and silly-putty analogue synthwork align with lyrics about origami swans, seraphim and care-powered balloons. African tin-can beats are sideswiped by colossal dance drones and billowing symphonic modular-synth stackings. Pick-out piano fragments leans against rice-paper inserts of gospel tones. It’s psychedelic, but it’s a long way from the muscularity of P-Funk or The Temptations: Afrodelic in hue, it’s also untrammelled by cultural confines.

Imagine a set of constellatory echoes of David McAlmont and Arca; of Wayne Coyne and Frank Ocean; of Jackie Shane and Ahnoni; even bits of Jon Anderson and Arthur Russell. Gossamer and guts. As for Tony himself, his music comes with the feeling that he’s unhitching from as many enforced identities and narratives as he’s clambering onto: as if he’s escaping in plain sight.

 
“Electronic – lo-fi – avant garde – experimental – singer-songwriter – ambient – if there is one thing I am not, I know that it is pop… catchy nonetheless.” The releaser of a series of cassette albums (rising to a prolific swell in 2017), Elsa Hewitt creates assorted soft and mesmeric musical shapes on samplers, loopers, guitars or pianos; or on captured, folded sounds; or with banked and buried voices. It’s electronica of a kind, but without the matter-of-fact construction – this stuff sounds genuinely collaged and soft-sculptural, its cycles and processes and dream-pop sibilances ready for flexion or redeployment at any time. Some of her work is like chiming cartoon birdsongs, some of it like knitted cirrus or a cove-caught sea of whispering mouths. There are plenty of loopers and glitchers about, but few who can make their work sound so organic and subtly potent.



If you missed my original summary of The Mantis Opera late last month, I suggested that they “fused Henry Cow, Battles and early Scritti Politti…. Guitarist, singer and electronics meddler Allister Kellaway… delivers his stirring, challenging constructions via a full electro-experimental synth-rock band, voicing a collection of “avant-garde grumbles” via a multiplicity of synth sounds and colliding pop tones. If this sounds inaccessible and snooty, it isn’t. It’s just that the tunes arrive in complicated cascading splinters, many parts urging in parallel towards an out-of-sight coda, while a dreamily precise atmosphere prevails: avant-prog keeping watch from under a dream-pop veil.

“The pieces themselves display an ambitious, orchestral thinking – Reykjavik, for example, is less a guitar clang with lofty ambitions and more of a cerebral/visceral string quartet piece transposed for rock band. Allister’s winding, philosophical lyrics, meanwhile, are very reminiscent of Henry Cow and of Rock in Opposition preoccupations, dissecting as they do themes of resistance, logic, language and compliance with the air of a man trying to bring intellectual rigour to the pub, grabbing at the misty answers before the closing bell rings.”


 
As regards emergent punkers Socket, I’ve previously summed them up as “female-fronted firecrackers (who) don’t worry about anything like (angry, disenfranchised boredom and frustration), specialising in a hell-for-leather guitar pelt with capacious Lust For Life drumming and barely controlled chant-yelling.” That’s probably a bit reductive. For a start, they’re female-founded and female-focused as well as female-fronted (with unassuming, supportive drummer Morgan the only bloke in the lineup).

Read the ‘Beautiful Freaks’ interview here for more insight into the intertwining (or lack of it) of their band work with their assorted Fine Art and game music studies and the happy melding of schooled and unschooled musicality within the band. I suspect that you’ll get more out of that than you will out of this Bandcamp posting.


 
Adding to the texture, there’s offstage artwork, writings and chat from grassroots rock zines/nascent promoters ‘See You Mate – Yeah, See You Mate‘, and ‘Some Might Say‘, and from activist/theatre person Maya Harrison, with more to filter in in due course.

* * * * * * * *

Incredible Society For The Exploration Of Popular Song presents:
Haha Sounds Collective + Blueprint Blue + Laetitia Sadier
The Amersham Arms, 388 New Cross Road, New Cross, London, SE14 6TY, England
Saturday 9th June 2018, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

HAHA Sounds Collective + Blueprint Blue + Lætitia Sadier, 9th June 2018Part of the broader HAHA musical empire operating out of central Hackney (also including a studio and an independent record label, HAHA Sounds Collective are a new, experimental choral project and supergroup of art-pop-moonlighters exploring avant-garde arrangements. Led by Victoria Hamblett (singer for NO CEREMONY///), and Cathy Lucas (singer for Vanishing Twin, Fanfarlo and Innerspace Orchestra) with input from Syd Kemp, the choir and fully integrated band also includes Lætitia Sadier (more on her later), Clémentine March, Iko Chérie and various unnamed “past and present” members of Ulrika Spacek, Pollyanna Valentine, Broadcast, Blue House, Viewfinder, and Younghusband.

Their first project is a songbook version of David Axelrod’s 1970 jazz-funk cantata ‘Earth Rot’… and when I say jazz-funk, I’m not talking slap-grooves and plastic synth burbles, but the close-harmony vocalising in swagged cadenzas, twang-pocketed funk basslines, a pushing saxophone backed by a battery of brass. Strangely overlooked at the time of its original release on record (apparently down to it being too much of a leap out of Axelrod’s existing groove), it’s a vaulting, stained-glass show of an album: an early venture into pop-culture ecology drawing on Old Testament text and Navajo legend, celebrating the planet and chiding humans for the mess they’re making of it. The music’s now been transcribed for voice, by ear, by Arthur Sajas of Gabelt, ÉPÉE and Syd Kemp (who also serves as HAHA’s conductor).

This will be the work’s second performance, following its debut outing at Servant Jazz Quarters in February – yes, that slipped my notice too. This one doesn’t have to slip yours. Here’s a brief clip of HAHA Sounds Collective warming up, plus a taste of the original album.


 
Ostensibly an Americana band, Blueprint Blue actually use Americana’s moods, tones and characteristics to add coloration to what are otherwise very British songs about weather, walking and mild disappointments – the kind which might appear on the mimsier kind of folk-pop album, or which would have been half-smothered in noise or feedback on first-generation shoegazer records a quarter-century ago. Like a mixed bag of British players before them (including Gomez and Mark Knopfler, but more recently Acadian Driftwood and Horatio James) they’ve certainly mastered the sonic signifiers of American roads and roadhouses; but that’s not enough to fully inhabit the form.

The trouble with Americana is that the further you are from the situations which shaped its tones and subjects (and an ocean’s breadth doesn’t help with this), the more it starts sounding like a tinkle in a hollowed-out theatre. If you’ve got to pay tribute you’ve also got to pay dues, or fake it more convincingly. Songwise, at least, Blueprint Blue need some more grease on their axles; some more heartache and heartstring damage; some more blown-away shacks and more chances to sit dripping angry tears into their johnnycakes. Otherwise, it’s going to be a life of striving to be just a bit more like Mojave 3.


 
There may come a time when Lætitia Sadier isn’t associated, first and foremost, with Stereolab. I hope so. It’s not that there wasn’t, or isn’t, plenty to admire about her former band – just to pick out a few things, there was their unabashed musicality and willingness to draw on broad varieties of tone or reference; their matter-of-fact bilinguality and ready play of ideas; and the fact that they actually managed to revisit their varied roots and to somehow advance and transmute them (something of a holy grail achievement for many musical projects, but rarely achieved). But I, for one, am glad that her post-‘Lab work (with Source Ensemble and others) has unshackled her from that post-Velvets/post-motorik/brainiac-garage pulse: the rhythm cliche that blights so many otherwise promising acts; presses them out into two unforgiving dimensions; makes those who should be innovators and developers into enmired followers.

Lætitia’s set is either an evening opener or a middle-of-the-bill event, so I don’t know whether she’s brought along the Source Ensemble for accompaniment (for all I know, many of them may be in HAHA), or whether this is going to be a chance to hear her alone and independent/unencumbered. Either way, I hope it offers us the chance to hear her as she truly is now – a belatedly great French folk singer, although one neither bonded to the obligations of traditions or the past, nor restricted from broader conceptual and textual pallettes. In effect, an embodiment of a folk impulse reborn into the current age – with all of its opportunities for research and reflection and fresher global instincts – and let loose to create.


 

January 2018 – upcoming London experimental rock gigs – Nøught & Dead Days Beyond Hope (17th January), Data Quack + Alex Ward (31st January)

10 Jan

Another quickie – Oxford-rooted avant-rock guitarists James Sedwards and Alex Ward (who’ve been in cahoots for at least twenty years) take their respective bands to the stage at Café Oto this month.

Nøught + Dead Days Beyond Help
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Wednesday 17th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Nøught + Dead Days Beyond Help, 17th January 2018

“All-out, high-voltage line-up with James Sedwards’ avant-punk/jazz-prog/noise-rock group Nøught, and Alex Ward and Jem Doulton’s Dead Days Beyond Help project.

“Nøught is a synthesis of the experimental, avant-punk, jazz-prog and noise-rock credos, distilled into the paradoxical confines of a musically volatile, instrumental power-quartet. Originally formed in Oxford in the late ’90s by eminent guitarist James Sedwards (Thurston Moore Group/Guapo/The Devil), the current line-up has been based in London since 2002.

“Their music is profoundly exhilarating when encountered and often provokes an hypnotic sensation from an audience, as their incendiary live performances can easily entice and captivate a listener due to the highly artful, polished and demanding compositions. Pieces span the extremes of short, catchy, three minute eruptions to long, dense and evolving half-hour incantations. Nøught’s music provides an uncommonly refreshing, non-derivative sensibility and approach, and they continually astound as they develop, invoke and deliver their singularly potent blend of sonic diabolism.


 

“Dead Days Beyond Help have honed a compositional approach heard to its fullest extent on their 2014 Believers Roast release ‘Severance Pay’ described by ‘The Wire’ as “a reminder that there are still thrills aplenty to be gained from the pursuit of complexity… as playful as it is heavy, as atmospheric as it is cerebral”.

“In their live performances, these variously intricate, sweeping and violent compositions sit side by side with free-wheeling improvisational excursions (reflecting the members’ work with the likes of Steve Noble, Alan Wilkinson and Thurston Moore) and the whims of the moment, which could involve a leap into either a wall of flattening noise or the most emotionally direct country song. In negotiating this dizzying range of materials, DDBH bypass the pitfalls of irony and the obstacle course of genre by the simple guiding principle: intensity-at-all-costs.”



 
* * * * * * * *

And Alex is back again at the end of the month, supporting bubbling-under experimental group Data Quack in one of the increasingly interesting gigs being put on at Westminster Kingsway.

Data Quack + Alex Ward, 31st January 2018

Westking Music and Performing Arts presents:
Data Quack + Alex Ward
WKC Theatre @ Westminster Kingsway College, 211 Gray’s Inn Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8RA, England
31st January 2018, 6.30pm
– information here and here

Data Quack is a relatively new group: hanging in the air like a sunny cloud, a silver nitrate window of manly oomph, pronoun prim, joey pouch casually askew. They are likely to blow your mind. Data Quack’s music moves through an array of abstract textures, car chase sequences and violent grooves. Trigger warning: you will be triggered, that’s what music does.

“They are saxophonist and electronics player Ben Vince (who’s been making waves with a series of solo releases and collaborations with Housewives and Mica Levi, threading his way through the London underground like a goods train); drummer Charles Hayward (follower of a 45 year music journey from This Heat to This Is Not This Heat and beyond); keyboard player Merlin Nova (who works in a variety of media, everything changes everything else, no borders, radio, film, song, movement, spoken word, and drawing, and works solo as well as currently gigging with This Is Not This Heat); and guitar/radio/cassette-tape operater Pascal Colman (lifts heavy objects, installations, minimalist funk agogo; a witty, charming, illegible bachelor).


 
Alex Ward will be supporting in his solo guise, blowing your mind with guitar, clarinet and voice sonic magic.”


 

June 2017 – upcoming London/German gigs – Lindsay Cooper remembered by Half The Sky (22nd June – plus Avantgarde Festival appearance on 25th June)

15 Jun
Half The Sky, 22nd June 2017

Half The Sky (photo © Jean-Hervé Péron)

Long before the knot of current pop culture wrangling over women’s control over the music they make, the late Lindsay Cooper was plugging away in her own corner, striving (and ultimately succeeding) for much the same thing in the often arid and unforgiving spaces of British art rock, improv and jazz. Later this month, the Half The Sky ensemble (led by vigorous curator/arranger /multi-instrumentalist Yumi Hara) will be bringing their showcase of her music both to London and to a small town outside Hamburg, re-animating the work she created for Henry Cow, News From Babel and Music For Films between the late ’70s and the mid-’80s.

Originally formed in 2015 for festival appearances in Japan and France, Half The Sky derive their name from the Maoist/feminist maxim, “women hold up half the sky”, as used by Lindsay as a composition title on Henry Cow’s ‘Western Culture’ album, back in 1978) and feature an impressive alliance of British and Japanese art-rock musicians. As well as Yumi on keyboards, lever harp and vocals, the ensemble features two members of Cicala-Mvta (Miwazow on koto, ching-dong percussion and voice; Wataru Okhuma on alto saxophone and clarinet), the Korekyojinn/Altered States bass guitarist Nasuno Mitsuru; Chlöe Herington (the reeds and melodica player from Knifeworld, Chrome Hoof and V Ä L V Ē) and finally two of Lindsay’s former Henry Cow/News From Babel colleagues (singer Dagmar Krause and drummer Chris Cutler). As Yumi points out, “the gender split follows Lindsay’s general practice and the example of the original bands – Henry Cow (50% female) and News from Babel (75% female).”

Yumi’s comments on the music:

“In 2013, soon after Lindsay passed away, Matthew Watkins made a call for arrangements of her mini-composition ‘Slice’ for a special edition of his podcast ‘Canterbury Sans Frontières‘. I made a transcription of the piece and recorded it for solo clavichord. Chris Cutler and I also played it in Japan and New York. A little later, inspired by the three memorial concerts Chris Cutler organised in 2014 with the original bands, I put Half The Sky together to play Lindsay’s music in Japan.

“With the exception of ‘Slice’, it was only after – and because of – the 2014 concerts that any working scores for the Henry Cow pieces became available, having been painstakingly assembled from Lindsay’s notebooks, original band-members’ surviving parts and careful analysis of the recordings. A handful of the News from Babel songs – none of which had ever been performed live – had already been reconstructed for the memorial concert by Zeena Parkins; the rest I had to work out from scratch – as well as rearranging everything for a mixture of occidental and oriental instruments.

“This programme is approached very much as a music of the present – and not as an academic reconstruction.”

In addition to Half The Sky’s performance, the London show will feature DJ sets from two of London’s more interesting musical personalities. Marina Organ’s known both for three decades of staunch work as writer/co-driving force of ‘Organ’ magazine and for her indefatigable DJ/interviewing work on ‘The Other Rock Show’. James Larcombe is the keyboard player and sometime composer with Stars In Battledress, Arch Garrison, North Sea Radio Orchestra, Zag & The Coloured Beads and the William D. Drake band; now he seems to be extending his talents (or at least his brassy neck), to disc-spinning.

Half the Sky: Music of Lindsay Cooper

  • Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Thursday 22nd June 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Avantgarde Festival, Steinhorster Weg 2, 23847 Schiphorst, Deutschland, Sunday 25th June 2017, 2.15pm – information here and here


 
* * * * * * * *

Pinning down the nature of a woman’s work in art – or women’s work in general – is not always an easy thing, nor even desirable. Even the most positive intentions can produce more restrictive categories, more unwanted boxings and demands to conform. In the case of Lindsay, whose career always foregrounded honest effort and end product over personality showboating, and which was tinted by doubt and determination, it’s probably best to concentrate mostly on the mind behind the music: to listen to the querying voice coming through.

Operating over a set of times in which both contemporaries and colleagues had a tendency towards answers and stances, stated in both bald pronouncements and modernist-baroque ornamentations, she opted to bring a more questioning tone which nonetheless carried some of its possible answers in both action and presentation. Hers was a polymathic but purer musicality: an instrumental voice which voyaged alongside others’ often harsher pronouncements, détournements and doctrines and drew from them while never being subject to them, and which always kept a gentler, more accommodating side open to allow growing space and to consistently rebuild.

Although she also put in stints with both the cheery Canterbury fusioneering of National Health and the terrifying dark-folk band Comus during the 1970s, Lindsay was probably best known for her work with the powerful political chamber-prog of proto-Rock In Opposition ensemble Henry Cow (a creative ferment which she joined and left twice and, like most Cow-ers, never entirely left behind). Having initially brought in her toolkit of reeds, woodwind and piano skills to play on the band’s second album ‘Unrest’, she subsequently made small inroads into the writing, contributing to a number of group compositions on ‘In Praise of Learning’ and the ‘Concerts’ set. As a composer, though, she finally came into her own on the band’s final, all-instrumental statement ‘Western Culture’, on which she was responsible for most of the piled jazzy grandeur of the second side (finding previously unexplored links between the music of New York, Canterbury and Switzerland).

Lindsay Cooper

Lindsay Cooper

Perhaps more significantly, by this point in the late ’70s Lindsay had already formed the witty, subversive Feminist Improvising Group, or FIG; a project which she co-ran with vocalist Maggie Nichols in parallel with her Cow work. Generally considered to be the preoccupation and property of educated, intense, white men, the British and European free improvising of the time tended to be a little short on jokes (bar occasional pranking along the lines of the Free Art Research Trio). FIG allied Lindsay and Maggie with various other musical and performance talents – “feminist rock” trumpeter Corine Liensol (who’d played in Jam Today with a young Deirdre Cartwright), pianist Cathy Williams (who’d worked with another Cow-er, Geoff Leigh, in the Rag Doll duo), future filmmaker Sally Potter, latterday Cow cellist Georgie Born and Swiss free-jazz pianist Irène Schweizer (the last being allegedly the only European female improviser on the ‘60s and ‘70s scene). In classic feminist tradition, FIG not only enabled previously sidelined female voices onto the improv scene but deliberately upturned expectations as to what such a scene could achieve.

In comparison to the demanding and abstruse Maoist politics of Henry Cow (which, in private, sometimes resembled a brutally masculine university debating society preoccupied with games of political high-grounding), FIG were spontaneous, mutually supportive and – just as importantly – funny. With a strong and personal rooting in lesbian, class-based and feminist activism (plus parallel feelings of sidelining and denial on the part of others) but a suspicion of dogma, they expressed frustration and political challenge by drawing on a collective sense of the absurd and of the sympathetic. In addition to the music, their shows featured parodic stagings and examinations of domestic work (such as kitchenwork and cleaning) and of consumer preoccupations. Vegetables were peeled onstage; household tools such as dustpans and brooms pressed into service as props and noisemakers; oppressive or manipulative memes transformed into call-and-response singing.

Reading accounts of FIG work reveals a tale of tough gigs, audience misunderstandings and frequent frustration. Men carped, frowned and cold-shouldered; women laughed, argued and sometimes welcomed; the group members continually challenged their own sense of self and role; but the work itself sounds joyously unshackled – something I would have loved to have been around to see. It’s a shame that much improv and theatrical work is always of the moment and tends to vanish like dew in the morn. Without recorded evidence or restaging, it fades into hearsay, and in this case an important chapter in Lindsay’s work has to dwell in a kind of word-of-mouth samizdat.

Post-Cow and FIG, Lindsay ran her own Film Music Orchestra to create and record arthouse soundtracks (often working in cinematic cahoots with Sally Potter). She rejoined another former Cow colleague ((the now-mellowed Chris Cutler) for the 1980s post-Marxist art-song project News From Babel: here, Chris’ social and political musings would make a happier marriage with the pop-cabaret end of Lindsay’s music. She also contributed to the counter-cultural jazz colours of various Mike Westbrook and John Wolf Brennan bands, played with Pere Ubu ranter David Thomas, worked in theatre and (in the ’90s) composed a more formal chamber music which nonetheless retained the edge and inquiring spirit of her work in avant-rock and political art. She’d collaborate with Potter again for the Cold War song cycle ‘Oh, Moscow’ in the late ’80s, to which Chris Cutler also contributed. If encroaching multiple sclerosis (which had privately dogged her throughout her post-Cow career) hadn’t dragged her into early retirement in the late ’90s, there would have been more.

Half The Sky provide a welcome re-introduction to Lindsay’s work, performed by committed people whose sympathy with Lindsay Cooper’s music is absolute. However, they should also be viewed as a window onto the wider career of a quietly remarkable woman whose death in 2013 forced a premature coda onto the work of a mind whose personal humility had been more than balanced by its nimbleness, thoughtful and flexibility. Come along to these concerts and hear some of that mindwork and heartwork come alive again.


 

May 2017 – upcoming London and Brighton gigs – Roar, Steve Strong and Tony協Yap get noisy (May 21st); Prescott and The Evil Usses spiralize our ears (May 24th); MUMMY curate a free cavalcade of psychedelia/folk/oddpop on the side of the Alternative Escape festival (May 19th)

16 May

Roar + Steve Strong + Tony協Yap, 21st May 2017

Best of Bandcamp, SPREAD and New River Studios present:
Roar + Steve Strong + Tony協Yap
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Sunday 21st May 2017, 6.00pm
information

Yokohama band Roar (dipping into London as part of a British and American tour) are a two-piece of Shusei on guitar and Taketo on drums. Noisy and immediate, their sound’s an immediately accessible, unconstrained rock sound churning together aspects of surf music, Hendrix, Nirvana, Foetus and The Melvins.

Two support acts add to the fray. Steve Strong provides his usual one-man-band post-rock loop act, layering assertive, precise live drumkit work with rattling spidery guitar riffs and surging wads of noise texture. Keyboard player Gman Leong & drummer Alessandro Salzano make up London experimental noise/beat duo Tony協Yap: more live drumkit, this time paired with abrasive synth jabs and snarls. Taunting us with the possibility of dynamics, they usually come at us full-tilt – a jammed rave cannonade with occasional vivid lacunae of downtime and ebbed space, stripped and shaped by small sounds (such as the ring of Alessandro’s singing-bowl).





 

* * * * * * * *

Prescott + The Evil Usses, 24th May 2017

Prescott presents:
Prescott + The Evil Usses
Paper Dress Vintage Bar & Boutique,, 352a Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England
Wednesday 24th May 2017, 8.00pm
– information here and here

Like Tony協Yap, the dogged, quirky Prescott are a band who know a thing or two about teasing. A vehicle for the cellular, bafflingly elasticated compositions of onetime Stump bassist Kev Hopper, they’re also an excuse for underground art-rock drummer Frank Byng, out-there guitarist Keith Moliné and improbable synth player Rhodri Marsden to unpredictably shunt each other around pitch and beat.

With the various members drawing on stints with projects as diverse/perverse as Pere Ubu, Snorkel, The Keatons, Scritti Politti, The Free French, Ticklish and This Is Not This Heat, there’s plenty of scope and impetus for lateral thinking, coupled with a poker-faced goofy accessibility. Their second album, ‘Thing Or Two’, is another stylish raspberry in the face of sensibility and torpor. Imagine the swoop and ping of Brand X rendered in far too many inappropriate Lego bricks; imagine Weather Report fed on a diet of Dada and No Wave; imagine a fusillade of perky post-punk blips like XTC spending a stint as a Koji Kondo covers band.

In support, there’s Bristol’s The Evil Usses, whom I last encountered in the runup to Bristol’s Wakizashi festival last October, and whom I described back then as “a deconstructive, fiercely humorous No Wave jazz-rock quartet, who share some of Knifeworld’s brassy exuberance but take it over the escarpment and down into a stomping, seven-league-booted Beefheart country.” Come along and have your cortex ruffled.



 
* * * * * *

Two of the Alternative Escape gigs in Brighton, 18-19 May 2017

Before either of these, though, there’s a particular free all-dayer at The Black Dove in Brighton on 19th May – part of the extensive Alternative Escape fringe event that’s coiled around the city’s huge Great Escape festival. Certain bands and projects affiliated to the great swarming ferment of the Cardiacs tradition tend to repeatedly pepper ‘Misfit City’ coverage. This particular gig packs a bunch of these together like a explosion of overnight mushrooms (appropriately, since the tang of a particular kind of psychedelia hangs over it).

Up in the curator role are MUMMY, the psychogothadelic thrumming of Jo Spratley and ex-Cardiac/Dark Star/Levitation-eer Bic Hayes. Bic’s also part of the motorik lysergic driving-machine ZOFFF (who’ll be playing their own set towards the end of the night, fresh from their recent show backing Damo Suzuki). ZOFFF pull together plenty of people from the Brightonian psychedelic axis – including Chris Anderson, who’s bringing along both his shipwreck-and-dreams songwriter project Crayola Lectern and his spacegazing pop band La Momo.

Friendly one-man personality cult Kavus Torabi will take another bare-bones acoustic tilt at the ornate songs he’s written for Knifeworld and the Monsoon Bassoon, while touching on the inspirations he’s shared in his work with Cardiacs and Gong. Psych-tinged folk baroque is provided by Emily Jones and Arch Garrison (bringing liberal dashes of Cornwall and Wiltshire psychogeography with them) and there’s frowning, shadowy, mordantly hilarious Kinks-Gothic popcraft from Stephen Evens. Also on board are noisy punk-prog/alt.pop trio Ham Legion, and Chloe Herington’s experimental music project V A L V E (who make obliquely thoughtful, oddly accessible music from bassoons, melodicas, tape-loops, concert harps, electronics, doorbells and things found on walks and in skips).

Just about the only band here that’s not a ‘Misfit City’ regular is Hurtling, the alt./dream-rock trio featuring Jen Macro and Jon Clayton (formerly of stuffy/thefuses and Something Beginning With L) with Smallgang/Splintered Man bassist Simon Kobayashi. Boasting sturdy support musician links to My Bloody Valentine, Shonen Knife Graham Coxon, Robyn Hitchcock and Bitch Magnet (and taking inspiration from alt.rock heroes such as The Breeders, Sebadoh and Warpaint), they’re possibly the best connected band on the bill: also one of the most straightforward, and a link to the Great Escape outside.


 
Throughout, you’ve got illuminations from south coast psych-lighters of choice Innerstrings. See below for performance schedule and time; see above for links to the wealth of things I’ve previously written about most of these people; go here for the Facebook event page…

Programme:

2.00pm – doors
3.00pm – Ham Legion
3.40pm – Emily Jones
4.20pm – Crayola Lectern
5.00pm – Hurtling
6.00pm – La Momo
6.40pm – Stephen Evens
7.20pm – M U M M Y
8.00pm – V A L V E
8.40pm – Arch Garrison
9.20pm – Kavus Torabi
10.00pm – ZOFFF
afterwards, until 3.00am – DJ Moke
 

April 2017 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Ella Hohnen-Ford Quartet (8th), The Delegation (22nd), TEXTURE (28th)

3 Apr

Three upcoming jazz gigs this month – shimmering vibes-and-voice-led songwork; large-scale and purposeful big-band abstractions like a collapsing city; cartoon-coloured Weather Report-ish synth and drum grooves…

* * * * * * * *

MAP Studio Café presents:
Ella Hohnen-Ford Quartet
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Saturday 8th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

Ella Hohnen-Ford Quartet, 8th April 2017“The unusual line up of bass, drums, voice and vibraphone adds to the unique sound created by the Ella Hohnen-Ford Quartet, a vibrant jazz/cross-genre quartet of passionate young players, currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall. With influences ranging from the jazz greats (such as Ella Fitzgerald and Shirley Horn), to modern composers (including Kenny Wheeler and Marius Neset) and singer-songwriters such as Nora Jones and James Taylor, the group have a truly individual and confident sound. A debut performance not to missed, featuring arrangements of songs we love and compositions written by and for this specific line up.

“The band features Ella Hohnen-Ford (currently the only singer studying at the Royal Academy of Music’s jazz course), vibraphonist/composer Jonny Mansfield, drummer Boz Martin-Jones and bassist Will Sach (who currently holds the world record for playing the highest altitude bass line, at 40,000 feet). Ella and Boz also play in Johnny’s hotly-tipped Elftet band.”

I couldn’t find anything by the whole band, let alone any sneak previews of their original tunes, but here’s what sounds like Jonny and Ella at work on an old standard:


 
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MAP Studio Café presents:
The Delegation
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Saturday 22nd April 2017, 7.30pm
information

Gabriel ZuckerGabriel Zucker’s indie jazz orchestra The Delegation was founded in 2013, and has already broken new ground in New York’s dynamic music scene. Combining an array of disparate influences into a unique and emotionally immediate sound, The Delegation has performed throughout the Northeast and Canada, and Zucker’s compositions for the group have received awards from ASCAP and the American Composers Forum JFund grant. The group’s singular musical philosophy has been profiled at length by the Ottawa Citizen, Jazz Gallery, and the American Composers Forum.

“Last autumn, The Delegation brought its unique concept to life with the release of ‘Evergreen (Canceled World)’, Zucker’s maximalist 12-movement composition that serves as the band’s sprawlingly ambitious debut record. In ‘World Music Report’, Raul da Gama wrote “in Zucker’s almost confrontational writing I find the vision of one who is hugely expressive. Here is a young man with a profound sense of tone and colour and how it can be wrought from diverse instrumentation to be affectingly “cantorial”, expressive and hugely symphonic too.”

“‘Evergreen’ also received 4.5 stars in ‘Downbeat’ and 4 stars in ‘All About Jazz’. With protean production by Zucker and pop producer Chris Connors, the nearly-two-hour record features everything from angular rhythmic grooves to Radiohead-inspired soundscapes to jarring electronics-infused chamber music to enigmatic lullabies, and is one of the year’s only contemporary releases on the prestigious ESP-Disk label.


 

 

“Support comes from Introspection, a new seven-piece contemporary modal jazz and jazz-rock ensemble, soon to release their eponymous debut EP. The group plays the original compositions and arrangements of its bandleader and guitarist Julian Woods, which explore colourful modal harmony, open improvisation, dense textures, contemporary through-composition, and rock-like timbres.”

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IKLECTIK Art Lab presents:
TEXTURE
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Friday 28th April 2017, 8:00 pm
information

TEXTURE, 2014“TEXTURE is an original drums/keyboards duo project of drummer, percussionist and composer Adam Teixeira, featuring Chris Pruden on analogue keyboards and synthesizers. Based in South London and Berlin, the two musicians began playing together in Toronto, Canada in 2012 and have since performed across North America and Europe collaborating with a variety of international musicians.

“Adam has recently released this music on his debut album (also called ‘TEXTURE’), which features hypnotic and infectious drumset grooves, kalimba melodies, atmospheric synth landscapes; exploring a unique blend of folkloric rhythmic traditions stemming from African, Caribbean and Indian classical roots with modern jazz and electronic influences, and providing the perfect setting for the musicians to launch into energetic improvisations.”



 

April/May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – across-the-board instrumental progressive – Flies Are Spies From Hell + A-Sun Amissa + Only Echoes Remain (7th); Piko Cloud Booker + Mein Haus + Matt Baber of Sanguine Hum (April 20th); Mouse On The Keys + Mutiny On The Bounty + Strobes (May 1st)

30 Mar

Three upcoming London gigs across April and leading into the start of May: all of them batting around ideas in the progressive field, whichever particular road they took into it. In early April – a Chaos Theory post-rock show with three bands offering successive palettes of solitary guitar sketches, sombre filmic post-Godspeed tonescapes, and bright-toned romantic futurism. In mid-April – the debut of a brand new progtronic trio alongside an experimental string duo and a humble keyboard star. On May Day, an international rhythmatic threesome at Rich Mix mixing up post-Squarepusher tech-fusion, bursting guitar instrumentals and twenty-first century dual-keyboard/drumkit jazz-rock barrage.

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Flies Are Spies From Hell + A-Sun Amissa + Only Echoes Remain, 7th April 2017

Chaos Theory Promotions presents:
The Facemelter: Flies Are Spies From Hell + A-Sun Amissa + Only Echoes Remain
The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, Camden Town, London, NW1 0AP, England
Friday 7th April 7.30pm
information and here

“This month The Facemelter features a glorious night with some truly brilliant veterans of post-rock, drone and ambient sounds, with new and seasoned projects alike.

“Formed thirteen years ago, Flies are Spies from Hell have climbed up from humble beginnings to international fame. The years have seen them move on from small local gigs, to sharing the stage with behemoths such as Russian Circles, And So I Watch You From Afar, *shels, Latitudes and Vessels, to a couple of European tours, and appearances at ArcTanGent and Dunk!festival. Two years after the release of their second album ‘Underdog Underfoot’, they’ll finally grace the stage at The Facemelter.


 
A-Sun Amissa are a powerful (mostly) instrumental collective possessed of “a rusted industrial aesthetic that lurks in the periphery of perception” (‘Rock-A-Rolla’), founded and led by Richard Knox (Shield Patterns, Glissando, The Rustle of the Stars) and Angela Chan (Tomorrow We Sail, Lanterns On The Lake, The Rustle of the Stars) that has featured an array of members and collaborators since its formation in 2011, as well as two albums out on Gizeh Records.

“Producing dense, drone-like atmospheres with evocative, melodic string and woodwind sections, intertwining guitars and field recordings, their live performance is a mixture of recorded output combined with improvisation to explore progressions in the music every time. Their ever-flowing lineup of collaborators have included members of Amenra, Nadja, Gnod, Oiseaux-Tempête and Hundred Year Old Man.


 
Only Echoes Remain serve up incredibly cinematic post-rock, without becoming too cliched thanks to generous smatterings of math, ambient and classic prog influences. They have already played with the likes of Her name Is Calla, TOTORRO, VASA, Poly-Math and Waking Aida, and will be releasing their debut LP early this year.”


 
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Piko Cloud Booker + Mein Haus + Matt Baber, 20th April 2017

Piko Cloud Booker present:
Piko Cloud Booker + Mein Haus + Matt Baber
Paper Dress Vintage Bar & Boutique, 352a Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England
Thursday 20 April 2017, 7.00pm
information

Piko Cloud Booker are a modern-day progressive rock trio combining King Crimson-esque cyclical guitar patterns in a mix-up of wacky time signatures with the expansive sequencer-driven explorations of early Tangerine Dream. PCB are guitarist Cameron Piko (mastermind of Australian prog-metal unit Montresor), bassist/violinist Gaz Cloud (one half of dream-technoists Cloud & Owl) and drummer Andrew Booker (no-man, Tim Bowness, Sanguine Hum).”

(This project’s so new that’s there’s no music available to present for it – instead, I’ve had to give you a few ideas via these clips from the member’s other projects, including Andrew’s ten years of undersung work with jamming collective Improvizone:)




 
“Supporting them will be string duo Mein Haus, consisting of Patricia Stepien (violin) and Elliot Murphy (cello, guitar). Their music is by turns creepy and sparse, then intense and dramatic. But whether it’s complex rhythmic interplay, or crunching cello and soaring violin, you feel the humour is never far away. From gigsite ‘Go Out Of Tune‘ – “based in East London but hailing from Poland and Ireland originally, they’ve been making music together since they met on a train in Deptford over a year ago. Their performances are high in energy and musically unpredictable. Their music has been described as: ‘Shostakovich and Arvo Part being kicked down a flight of stairs in an oil barrel’, with influences ranging from the Sex Pistols through Penderecki, Battles and Kraftwerk.”


 
Matt Baber is a co-founding half of the continuing Oxford-based musical journey that is currently Sanguine Hum, having made its way through various earlier incarnations. He has played keyboards throughout, both crafting his unique synth atmospheres plus stamping down complex piano riffs on his Fender Rhodes. Expect more of the latter this time, as he delves into his Jarrett/Emerson-flavoured solo material for his first ever solo keyboard show.”


 
Note that Gaz Cloud – as half of Cloud & Owl – will also be playing this Askarabaskara techno/house gig five days earlier, demonstrating part of the elements-puzzle which makes up his new band.

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Mouse On The Keys + Mutiny On The Bounty + Strobes, 1st May 2017Chaos Theory Promotions presents:
Mouse On The Keys + Mutiny On The Bounty + Strobes
Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London, E1 6LA, England
Monday 1st May 2017, 7.30pm
-information here, here and here

“An ultrasonic mammoth of a lineup, packed with dreamlike jazz, vast math rock, ambient precision and mesmerising polyrhythmic beats!

“The extraordinary Mouse On The Keys trio are back from Japan, armed with fresh material from their new album ‘Out Of Body’, out last January via Topshelf Records. This is a pristine example of blending minimal-phrased piano and dynamic drumming, while creating a live experience composed of visual and audio elements. Formed in 2006, with elements of jazz, funk, post‐rock and electronic music, Mouse On The Keys fits into a genre of their own.

“The trio consists of two former members of the influential Japanese underground band Nine Days Wonder – Akira Kawasaki and Atsushi Kiyota – who teamed up with Daisuke Niitome (who has played drums as well as composed music for countless jazz‐funk and hip hop bands). Their unique sound, comprising two pianos, two keyboards and drums, continues to stand at the forefront of the Japanese music scene.


 
“Luxembourg quartet Mutiny On The Bounty bring a torrent of groovy rhythms, guitar acrobatics and joyous melodies our way. These guys have been showcasing their unique brand of math-rock and instrumental music throughout Europe and have played close to five hundred shows supporting bands such as Biffy Clyro, And So I Watch You From Afar, TTNG and Maps & Atlases as well as playing some of the biggest festivals like Roskilde, Primavera and Fusion festival.

“Following on from their album ‘Trials’, released in 2012 and recorded by producer Matt Bayles, Mutiny On The Bounty released their latest album ‘Digital Tropics’ via Small Pond, which encompasses facets of their personalities ranging from rock, to electro, 80’s pop and even hip-hop. A reverb-infused, pop groove-laden feast of staccato guitar melodies, loops and math rock beats.


 
Strobes‘ triangle of electrified polyrhythms, spaced-out synth jams and off-kilter beats will open the evening. Featuring guitar and synth-work by Matt Calvert (Three Trapped Tigers), drums by Joshua Backmore (Troyka) and keys by Dan Nicholls (who has collaborated with Squarepusher and Matthew Herbert), the trio flickers effortlessly between the worlds of electro-improv, minimalist polyrhythm and distinctively original hooks.

“Like a twisted love child of Aphex Twin, Brainfeeder and Battles, Strobes have been heard individually with the likes of Squarepusher, Matthew Herbert and Three Trapped Tigers. Built from collective composition, studio production, live sampling and improv jams, the band smashes out exhilarating odd-tempo loops, polyphonic synth soundscapes and big headnodding beats. Their new album ‘Brokespeak’, out via Blood And Biscuits, is a true work of genius.


 
“With DJ sets from Bojan Nikolic (The Brain Center At Whipple’s, Battleship Grey), this will be an intensely satisfying feast of jawdropping talent and headnodding beats.”

 

April 2017 – upcoming London gigs – “wonk rock” with The Display Team + A Sweet Niche + Ham Legion (3rd); Patricia Hammond & Matt Redman’s Edwardian pop (3rd); SOIF Soiree with Society Of Imaginary Friends, David Skinner, The Support Stockings, Cian Binchy, Millie George, I Am Her, Martin Wakefield, Jed Demochowski, Anne Corrigan etc. (7th)

27 Mar

I was moved to jam these three early April gigs together for a preview. On the Wednesday, it’s up to you whether you go for the tangled electric loom of wonky pop/jazz/punk noise or for the hundred-year-old pop hits with the Keep Calm And Carry On teatowels. Either way, you still get to attend the latest mixed-music-and-poetry SOIF cabaret on the following Friday…

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The Display Team + A Sweet Niche + Ham Legion, 3rd April 2017Bad Hedge presents:
The Display Team + A Sweet Niche + Ham Legion
The Birds Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street, Deptford, London, SE8 4RZ, England
Monday 3rd April 2017, 7.00pm
information

“A repulsive onstage three-way shocker! For one night in April, three heavyweights of the widely ignored wonk rock scene will spill off the stage in one of London’s best (and cheapest) small venues. And all for free! The Display Team: nob-bothering high-octave brutalitarians; like a small orchestra with big balls. A Sweet Niche: skronky honkies that bring an ominous twistin’ y’all can’t be resistin’. Ham Legion: kaleidoscopic power-pop rompers with more dinner ideas than you’ve had hot.”

For a little more on these people from back in the ‘Misfit City’ archives, have a peek here, here and here. Meanwhile, here’s the obligatory fistful of tunes.




 
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Patricia Hammond & Matt Redman - 3rd April 2017Wiltons Music Hall presents:
Monday Night Music: Patricia Hammond with Matt Redman
The Mahogany Bar @ Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, E1 8JB, England
Monday 3rd April 2017, 8.00pm – free event
– information here and here

“An evening of rousing Edwardian pop! Patricia Hammond and Matt Redman, world-renowned specialists in authentic historical performance, will play an assortment of pop songs from the Edwardian era, including some of the first songs ever written about motorised transport: Willie Had A Motor-Boat, In My Merry Oldsmobile, My Rickenbacker Car, Wait Till You Get Them Up In The Air, Boys, and many, many more delights. If you’re very nice to them, Patricia and Matt also promise some rousing singalongs to gems such as If You Were The Only Girl In The World and, for the WW1 Centenary’s sake, Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit-Bag.

 
Matt will be performing on piano, guitar, banjo and accordion, and will treat people to instrumentals of some of the new dance crazes of the 1900s and 1910s, such as tango, chorinho, ragtime, Hawaiian and blues. Of course, this being Wilton’s, songs of the great music hall era will also feature. All together now!”

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SOIF Soiree, 7th April 2017

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:
Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree: “For Absent Friends” (featuring Society Of Imaginary Friends + David Skinner + The Support Stockings + Cian Binchy + Millie George + I Am Her + Martin Wakefield + Evie + Jed Demochowski + Anne Corrigan + Dj Onjdrew + others t.b.c.)
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 7th April 2017, 8.00pm – free event
information

The latest in Society of Imaginary Friends’ ongoing series of grab-bag gigs, featuring a number of faces which ought to be familiar from recent performances:

“A sunny spring park comes to life crowded with absent friends, friends turned imaginary, walking with the sun, singing and humming, playing rounders, turning summersaults, laughing with the children,climbing trees, smiling into the breeze and as the sun sets we gather round a bandstand at the centre of a green. Vegan ma-nah is brought out by sensual peace-loving Daleks… a gorgeous offering of sound and light a celebration of friendship.

“Performing on 7th is the virtuosic guitarist and velvety voiced singer David Skinner; harmonious vocal stylings from our choir The Support Stockings; fresh from his sold-out national tour, Cian Binchy; the fabulous young poet and star of the Round House and Young Vic Millie George; urban punk from the mighty Julie Riley‘s I Am Her; Martin Wakefield and Evie with inspiring poetry, music and verse; Jed Demochowski (of the VIPs) and his new band; Anne Corrigan delighting us with her poems; DJ Onjdrew, and a couple of super amazing surprise star guests. Plus us, theSociety Of Imaginary Friends.

“Please come and bring a memory, a line or two about your absent friend to say on the night. Looking forward to seeing you there. Don’t forget it is free entry and there is amazing vegan food and award-winning beverages to purchase.”





 

April 2017 – upcoming gigs – Billy Bottle & The Multiple bring ‘The Other Place’ to Exeter (2nd)

26 Mar

Pastoral jazzers and questioning songmakers Billy Bottle & The Multiple are bringing their show ‘The Other Place’ (a kind of Brexit-themed pilgrimage-cum-road movie, dealing with questions of connection, national moods and democracy) to Exeter at the beginning of April.

I wrote something extensive about the show’s roots and methods back in mid-2016, so you can read more about that here.

In other news, the band have launched a Pledgemusic crowdfunding campaign to fund the recording and release of the album version of the show – more on that here.

Billy Bottle & The Multiple: 'The Other Place'

‘The Other Place’ by Billy Bottle & The Multiple
The Barnfield Theatre, Barnfield Road, Exeter, Devon, EX1 1SN, England
Sunday 2nd April 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 


 

 

March/April 2017 – upcoming London jazz-and-related gigs – Chimera Trio + Glaser Rapley Robinson @ Jazz Nursery (30th March); Chris Sharkey’s Survival Skills + Zeitgeist @ Jazz Market (13th April); Collocutor + Ill Considered + Ashley Henry Trio @ Jazz Café (15th April); a quick Craig Scott @ LUME lab reminder (19th April)

25 Mar

Quick notes on four upcoming London jazz gigs of various kinds, from Jazz Nursery’s more traditional double bill to the contemporary electro-digital fusion soup at Jazz Market, from an Afrocosmic evening in Camden to the cut-up wildness at LUME Lab…

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Jazz Nursery, 30th March 2017Jazz Nursery presents:
Chimera Trio + Glaser Rapley Robinson
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 30th March 2017, 7.30pm
information

“The Chimera Trio is a modern take on the classic organ trio sound inspired by the likes of Larry Young and Woody Shaw. The band features Sam Warner on trumpet, Jamie Safiruddin on organ and Dave Ingamells on drums, fusing elements of the organ tradition with more contemporary grooves, melodic ideas and improvisations. The trio started while studying together at Guildhall and went on to be shortlisted for the Chartered Surveyor Jazz Prize.

Glaser Rapley Robinson (with Matt Robinson on piano, Sam Rapley on tenor sax/clarinet and Will Glaser on drums – all members of Rapley’s music-and-storytelling quintet Fabled) aims to explore early songbook and jazz repertoire in an open and honest way. Although it’s an opportunity to work in a slightly unusual line up, the trio’s focus is on how they improvise collectively and is primarily an excuse for them to play tunes they love together and to see where they can take them.”

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Jazz Market, 13th April 2017

Chaos Theory Music Promotions presents:
Jazz Market: Survival Skills + Zeitgeist
Strongroom Bar, 120-124 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3SQ, England
Thursday 13th April 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“The Jazz Market is all about the spirit and essence of jazz, redefining traditional sounds and approaches to music, so it’s super exciting to have a chance to see what the latest creatives are working on.

“On Thursday 13th April (the night before Easter weekend!) at Strongroom Bar, the legendary Chris Sharkey returns to London with his ever-evolving solo/improvisational electronic project Survival Skills, which involves electronic production and improvised guitar with a mass of effects. We were lucky enough to host the live premiere of Survival Skills in 2014 (at Battleship Grey’s single launch), and then again at Rich Mix last year for Bitch ‘n’ Monk’s album launch. Chris is a truly understated visionary, whose vast CV includes being a guitarist (and more recently a producer) in Acoustic Ladyland, TrioVD, Shiver and The Geordie Approach, and who has performed at countless international festivals in the jazz and math rock scenes. He’s a boundary-pushing artist who only looks forward, and one who captures the true spirit of everything we look for in people we work with.

“Also on the bill are newcomers from Bristol, Zeitgeist, laying down heavy prog funk. A trio of musicians “fusing together the harmony and improvisation of jazz, the robust and hypnotic rhythm of hip-hop and the rhythmic complexity and unusual structure of progressive rock” (according to ‘Leeds Music Scene’), their unique brand of jazz with metal undertones has captured the attention and praise of musicians such as John Gomm and Alpha Male Tea Party. Since their inception in 2011, they’ve amassed a loyal following and are now ready to take on London.”


 
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To the Pyramids: A Journey Through Spiritual Jazz - 15th April 2017

To the Pyramids: A Journey Through Spiritual Jazz (featuring Collocutor + Ill Considered + The Ashley Henry Trio + DJ Pete (On The Corner Records)
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Saturday 15th April 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“Spearheaded by the great John Coltrane, the spiritual jazz movement saw a handful of artists striving towards spirituality and transcendence through their music. Players like Coltrane, his wife Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Lonnie Liston Smith, Miles Davis and Pharoah Sanders began taking their music on wild, otherworldly excursions with track recordings often reaching half an hour or more. It’s a sound that has recently come back to the fore thanks to the horn work of Kamasi Washington as well as in the electronic productions of artists like Four Tet and Caribou.

“Off the back of their recent album launch, we’re inviting Tamar Osborn‘s seven-piece group Collocutor to take us on a transportive journey into supreme sound and spirituality – combining jazz with aspects of Afrobeat, Indian classical, Ethiopian roots and minimalism.”


 
It’s a little unclear as to exactly how many other acts are on the bill, but current evidence suggests there’ll be a set by cosmic/ambient/Afrobeat quartet Ill Considered, a new project headed by former Ibibio Sound Machine and current Fontanelles bassist Leon Brichard (accompanied by saxophonist Idris Rahman, drummer Emre Ramazanoglu and percussionist Yahael Camara-Onono). There might also be one from The Ashley Henry Trio (with the leader’s piano and compositions supported by Sam Gardner on drums and Sam Vicary on bass). There’ll certainly be a DJ set from Pete of the house-to-jazz On The Corner record label.



 

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Also note that on 19th April, Leeds electro-digital splatterjazz exponent Craig Scott will be playing his LUME Lab event at IKLECTIK – more news on that is back on this older post.

Craig Scott (photo © Josh Crocker)LUME presents:
LUME Lab: Craig Scott
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Wednesday 19th April 2017, 8.00pm
information


 

November 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Society Of Imaginary Friends’ ‘Time Saturated Soiree’ with The Astronauts, Taktylos, Beth Jones, Marius French and Nighmar Ascousky (4th); Revere, Alasdair Maclean and Colm Mac Con Iomair play Daylight Music (5th)

30 Oct

Those frowning former commercial and light industrial blocks in Wood Green have been enjoying a change of function in recent years as the area gradually, awkwardly morphs into a London art hub (while rents and avaricious developments continue to push the city artists and shoestring events out of the near-east-and-centre). I’m guessing that this will only accelerate, with the artier spaces around the backstreets near the library and the old gasometers acquiring glossier licks of gentrification as the money follows. At the moment, it’s hovering in the grey area between pop-up and plush: for now, slightly outré things can still happen.

One such thing has been happening for a few years now, with the astonishingly assured art-pop quartet Society Of Imaginary Friends running musical soirees at the high-rep vegan eaterie Karamel Café (as they do in other venues dotted around London – Soho, Clerkenwell, Kingston – and occasionally in the Orkney Islands). It’s taken me a while to catch up with them.

Time Saturated Soif Soiree, 4th November 2016

Society Of Imaginary Friends presents:
‘Time Saturated Soiree’: The Astronauts + Taktylos + Society Of Imaginary Friends + Beth Jones + Marius French + Nighmar Ascousky + Onjdrew DJ set
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 4th November 2016, 8.00pm – free entry – information

Frequently tinged with some degree of rebel rhetoric and counterculture spirit (albeit dappled, in turn, by outright theatricality), on this occasion the Soiree makes a tongue-in-cheek grab for the occult aspects of British daylight saving. “As the clocks go back, we celebrate together the extraordinary gift of an extra hour of life from the God Chronos. Of course this means that not only do we have an extra hour in bed on Sunday but an extra hour is also available to enjoy our Time Saturated Soiree on 4th November. We will feature artists abundant in time and time signatures of the non linear variety.”

Society Of Imaginary Friends are curating from somewhere in the middle of the bill. I’m surprised that I haven’t found out about them before, since they’re right up my alley – dramatic song stories and glam-chanson-prog-folk operas which can be as smooth as mountain lakes or tossed around like cartoon galleons (that is, when they’ve not turned inwards and intimate, for creepy journeys into the shadowy nooks of the house or the cupboard under the stairs).

Orkney-born singer Louise Kleboe, (who recently wowed an audience at Organ Reframed in a teamup with William D. Drake) serves as powerful female voice and figurehead. The music (drawing on Orcadian lays and Balkan jags as much as it does English art pop and psychedelic folk) is underpinned by a constantly flexible electro-acoustic palette of piano, accordion, guitar and violin; plus sundry keyboard samplers which cough up sleight-of-eardrum aural tricks and tinkles to take us deeper into the band’s conceptual toybox. Kate Bush would be an obvious comparison; so, too, would a braver Goldfrapp; you could also stir in the Gothic intimations of Danielle Dax (if not so much of the thorny racket) and add shades of the overt theatrical danger which Holly Penfield has brought to both her singer-songwriter work and her cabaret shows.

Below are two Society songs – the smoothly rhapsodic The Moors (something to draw in and caress the New Agers) and The Easy Way (to grab them by the lapels and flip them over for a shakedown). The fact that the latter can slip into a video cut from footage of Elem Klimov’s harrowing war film ‘Come and See’ – and thrive there – speaks volumes about its own strident power.



 
In line with the soiree theme, the Society will be presenting a miniature new temporal project of their own. “The briefest of rock operas – ‘On The Third Stroke’, based on the life and times of Ethel Jane Cain, the very first speaking clock, (‘glamorous and exact, the living embodiment of precision… she sat between the tick and the tock… swinging in the hammock strung between the Sun and the Moon…’, as ‘The Idler Magazine’ put it.” No preview samples are available, unfortunately, but here’s that original clock with that original voice…


 
Society guitarist Brian O’Lenehan puts in double duty on this concert, since he also plays in skeletal-spacey instrumental fusion band Taktylos. The Society hail them as “live from the event horizon”: a little more helpfully, the ‘Guardian’ describes them as “Philip Glass meets Soft Machine”.

It’s a fair description of a band in which a collection of London musicians – the others being journeying drummer Tom Cambata, wind-synther Rod Arran, German keyboard player Chris Bihlmaier and bass guitarist David Rees – seem to gingerly and painstakingly align their ingredients (squishy late-‘70s fusion tootles, pared-back guitar shapes, mathematical percussion arrangements) into place as if they were jellied blocks of unstable explosive, rather than chunks of musical conversation. I’m not sure whether the resulting minimalist leanings are the results of being tentative or of attempting to dab a tune into shape with the fewest and most economical strokes (like a Japanese ink drawing). Still, assuming that Taktylos don’t go roaring off down more standard bulked-up jazz-fusion lines in the future, they’ve got themselves a potentially interesting niche.



 
Topping the bill (I think) are the most recent iteration of The Astronauts – longstanding post-punk absurdists spun off from onetime new town Welwyn. Formed in 1981 (and, despite langours, never quite gone since then), they’ve sometimes had to singlehandedly hold up the town’s early ‘80s anarcho-punk reputation, standing defiant and crooked to the “affluent deadzone” qualities into which the place has sleepwalked. It’s kind of de rigeur to include ‘Rock & Reel’s description of front man/last man standing Mark Astronaut as “the post-punk Dylan of Welwyn Garden City” and add that certain people also risk a Prestwich verbal maiming by mentioning him in the same breath as Mark E. Smith.

He’s actually much more straightforward than either (perhaps “a kitchen-sink Robert Calvert” might be a better description). As for the band, while they never quite match the driving, morphing truculence of The Fall they’re accomplished post-punk chameleons – flicking between West Coast punks or hippies within the same few bars, suddenly huddling in dank subways with the young Paul Weller, or morphing into a studiously awkward Zombies as they back Mark’s singular satellite-town vision.



 
This particular evening may be bolstered with actor, autism ambassador and mordant performance poet Cian Binchy dropping by for a return appearance; meanwhile, Nighmar Ascousky (hyperactive polymath, Soiree evening regular, fantasy geek and friendly Laveyan Satanist) will be taking time out from his acting, modelling, painting, film-making and singing work in order to deliver some “shock and awe” poetry (and perhaps just take the opportunity to sit down for a while). Beyond that the evening starts to rampage further into the astrological and mystical, with returning “fabulously, beautiful, talented, rising star singer/songwriter Beth Jones representing the sun, and “supremely talented multi-instrumentalist Marius French covering the same task for the moon. There’s a chance of further off-the-list performers; and there’s a DJ set until the early morning.

Regarding Beth and Marius – they might be gigantic talents, or even catalysts for sympathetic magic; but I can’t find more information on either of them anywhere. Those glowing references could all be hype, or the Society could be lining up a genuinely impressive bill. The chances are that it’ll be the latter, since the roll-call of previous Soiree performers is a delightful array of present-and-correct, past-blasts and future shinings. Just to give a partial picture, past shows have included music contributions from William D. Drake (the endearing grand-and-gawky ex-Cardiac keyboard wizard); harpsinger Sheila Moyan; Virginia Plain (a.k.a Nick Watkinson, cross-dressing ex-frontman of late-’70s power-pop heroes The Jags); psychedelic keyboards warrior Kosmic Troubadour; Kirsten Morrison (rising folk-baroque queen and Lene Lovich ally); and woodwind player William Summers (who’s had Circulus, The Loki Broken Consort and Princes In The Tower in his bagful of bands). The same run of shows have had recitation, chats and rants from (among others) Camden rapper Lid Lid, poets Keleigh Wolf, Ernie Burns and Gabriel Moreno, and ‘New Internationalist’ artivist/activist/commentator Jamie Kelsey Fry.

Best to enjoy this kind of thing while it lasts. Who knows – it might not be long before occasions like this are pushed out by encroaching cash and a tidal wave of karaoke salsa; but even if that turns out to be so, I don’t think the Society will take it lying down. They’re irrepressible. We’d see them pop up somewhere else, soiree in tow; somewhere where they were least expected.

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, showing no signs of slowing down (and still in residence in long-gentrified central Islington), Daylight Music returns after its half-term break.

Daylight Music 237, 5th November 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 237: Revere + Alasdair Maclean + Colm Mac Con Iomaire
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 5th November 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

Slightly tweaked press release:

“When it comes to influences, Revere has had a firmly open-door policy over their fifteen years of existence, incorporating chamber pop, dance music, post rock and progressive elements into their trademark wall of sound, garnering a great live reputation for their multi-layered wall of sound. After fifteen years, two albums, nine EPs and a clutch of singles (and with around fifty musicians having passed through the band), they’re amicably calling it quits, with the current and final six-piece choosing to play their last British show at Daylight Music.

(For fans of occasion, the actual last ever Revere show is a Dutch farewell at Vessel 11 in Rotterdam on 3rd December).



 
“In the middle of the bill is a set by Alasdair Maclean, singer, songwriter and guitarist for legendary band The Clientele, who formed a long time ago in the backwoods of suburban Hampshire (initially playing together as kids at school, later rehearsing in a thatched cottage remote from any kind of music scene but hypnotized by the magical strangeness of Galaxie 500 and Felt and the psych pop of Love and the Zombies). Alasdair still recalls a pub conversation where the band collectively voted that it was OK to be influenced by surrealist poetry but not OK to have any shouting or blues guitar solos. From that moment on, they put their stamp on a kind of eerie, distanced pure pop, stripped to its essentials and recorded quickly to four-track analogue tape.

Instantly identifiable, The Clientele sound like no one else, although they are cited as an influence by bands as diverse as Spoon, Panda Bear, The War on Drugs and the Fleet Foxes. It’s been said that the greatest bands always create their own individual sound; The Clientele have gone one further and created their own world.


 
“In a crowded field of outstanding Irish fiddle players and interpreters of traditional music Colm Mac Con Iomaire is unique. From school trad band Kila and street busking to wildly popular days playing fiddle with The Frames, his voice is unmistakably his own and his music bears distinctive creative hallmarks which have as much to do with his personality and character as with his impressive technical mastery, musical authority and exquisitely expressive playing. Almost twenty years ago Colm struggled to describe his early attempts at composition and made a distinction between
‘tunes’ and ‘music’. With his father’s people coming from the Irish-speaking Conamara Gaeltacht, Colm learned ‘tunes’ (the dance music which makes up much of the instrumental repertoire in Irish traditional music) and sean nós unaccompanied singing; on his mother’s side there was classical instrumental ‘music’ on the violin and piano. The creative tension between these two notions produced a player, composer and film score arranger who seems always to have been aware and inspired by the dualities in his musical and cultural world.


 
“During the late nineties Irish broadcaster TG4 offered Colm opportunities to write scores for film, allowing him to allowed him to progress and mature as an orchestrator of his own compositions. The compositions Colm made for these productions came from an interior place whose deep roots lay in traditional Irish music but also in an older way of life and thought, consciously mediated through his personal life lived out in the contemporary space. The title for Colm’s first solo album ‘The Hare’s Corner/Cúinne an Ghiorria’ signified not only an acknowledgement of the importance of that old culture but also an urgent plea for
‘the hare’s corner’ in contemporary culture… a still place where space and time are set aside for something beautiful for its own sake. The title of his second, ‘And Now the Weather’, refers to the introduction to the final item on radio and tv news bulletins, viewed as a means of keeping the distress of reality at bay: it is a title riven with irony.”

 

November/December 2016 – upcoming gigs – more English dates for Billy Bottle & The Multiple’s ‘The Other Place’ (4th & 20th November, 10th December)

28 Oct

Billy Bottle & The Multiple - 'The Other Place' tour, 2016Mike Westbrook-affiliated pastoral Anglo-jazz explorers Billy Bottle & The Multiple have added more dates on their evolving, ongoing ‘The Other Place’ tour.

The show has its roots in a personal odyssey and serious socio-political stunt from band core Billy and Martine, who took advantage of their brief infamy as guests on ‘The Voice’ to run a whistle-stop free busking tour across southern and western England just prior to the 2015 election. In the process, they sounded out a disgruntled, despairing populace about what they thought about democracy and connection. Later, Billy and Martine put together this semi-theatrical vox-pop song-and-music roadshow on what they found, tracing a shadow of disaffection which culminated in the Brexit vote earlier this year.

For the full skinny on ‘The Other Place’, click back a few months. I’ve been slow off the mark again, and missed promoting their Margate and Brighton dates in September; but here are the rest of the dates between now and Christmas… unless they wangle a few more in the interim, which is entirely possible. For now, there are two shows in Cornwall (the first being the 4th November) and one in London.

As before, the band for ‘The Other Place’ consists of Billy Bottle (voice, keyboards, guitar), Martine Waltier (voice, violin, guitar, percussion), Roz Harding (alto saxophone, recorder, percussion), flautist/singer/percussionist Vivien Goodwin-Darke (flute, voice, percussion) and Lee Fletcher (synths, soundscapes, percussion).
 

September/October 2016 – upcoming and ongoing London gigs and music theatre – Laura Moody’s ongoing work in ‘dreamplay’ at The Vaults (plus a solo song show on October 11th); Keir Cooper and Rose Biggin collide pole dancing and noise-guitar in their ‘Badass Grammar’ revival at Camden People’s Theatre (5th & 6th October)

22 Sep

A couple of interesting (and very different) elisions between music and theatre, plus a solo gig…

* * * * * * * *

Currently engaged in providing live cello for Jocelyn Pook‘s score to the current Globe Theatre production of ‘Macbeth’, audaciously accomplished cellist and singer-songwriter Laura Moody (see passim) is also doubling down at Waterloo to perform in BAZ Productions‘ performance piece ‘dreamplay’.

'dreamplay'

BAZ Productions present:
‘dreamplay’
The Vaults Theatre @ The Vaults, Arch 236 Leake Street, London SE1 7NN, England (use the Launcelot Street entrance off Lower Marsh)
Saturday 10th September 2016 to Saturday 1st October 2016 (Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm; Saturday matinees 3pm; BSL Performance on Saturday 24th September)
– information here

A reworking of and response to August Strindberg’s classic proto-expressionist work of the same name (and scripted by BAZ director Sarah Bedi and the performers), the piece features “a mysterious woman (who) arrives on Earth, intent on uncovering the truth about human suffering. Her dream-like quest leads her through shifting landscapes and into contact with a host of disturbing characters as she searches for the ever elusive Door, behind which she is certain the answer lies … Can she discover the unconscious truth and return home?” (Sadly, ‘dreamplay’ is already halfway through its run – if I’d known about it earlier myself I’d have posted about it sooner…)

 
Direct from Laura: “I appear as a variety of characters, as part of a wonderful cast of five, performing all the music I’ve created for the show live. I also give my acting debut! I’m really delighted that just a few days into opening my music/soundscape for ‘dreamplay’ has been nominated for an Off West End Theatre Award for best sound design.

“Played out in the tunnels underneath Waterloo Station, ‘dreamplay’ is an immersive, challenging piece that casts you, the audience, as the dreamer and leads you through a labyrinth of scenes, images and situations prompting fundamental questions about humanity. I, for example, finished opening night contemplating how exactly I had managed to acquire quite so many inexplicable bruises on my limbs and HP sauce on my bow. Such are the mysteries that await you, and many more…”

Laura Moody performing in 'dreamplay' (photo © Cesare De Giglio)

Laura Moody performing in ‘dreamplay’ (photo © Cesare De Giglio)

Once ‘dreamplay’ is finished, Laura will be performing one of her intermittent London solo gigs – an hour-long song set with no support act – at City University..

City University presents:
Laura Moody
Music Department @ City University, Northampton Square, Finsbury, London, EC1V 0HB, England
Tuesday 11th October 2016, 7.00pm
-free event requiring ticket reservations – information here

To whet the appetite for this, here are a couple of videos shot back in June at the Dartington Estate during Laura’s gig there, in which she duets with Adem on a version of her song We Are Waiting (and on Adem’s own Love And Other Planets).



 
* * * * * * *

Earlier in the year, Keir Cooper (who’s previously graced this blog as guitarist and composer for noisy experimental jazz-rockers A Sweet Niche) teamed up with fellow theatremaker and physical performer Rose Biggin to create the performance piece ‘Badass Grammar’, in which Keir’s blistering guitar is paired with Rose’s dynamic pole dancing in an hour-long dialogue of ideas.

'Badass Grammar' (photo © Rachel Manns)

‘Badass Grammar’ (photo © Rachel Manns)

Rose and Keir describe ‘Badass Grammar’ as “sexy, smart, witty as houses and obviously featur(ing) big bold dance and electric guitar duets.” A longer description suggests “a theatrical collaboration between a pole dancer and a guitarist, a composition in exploded view. With a mischievous agenda, the performance invites in the mucky subjects of shame, power and privilege. And takes them dancing. Peering down at the nuts and bolts, the muscle and bone. The pole dislocated, the guitar unfretted. Sparkling, witty, savage, fabulous: we draw on the invisible histories of our disciplines and are building a new one. Starting now. Come with us.”

 
Following its initial performances at The Yard, ‘Badass Grammar’ is being revived for Camden People’s Theatre as part of the annual Calm Down Dear festival of feminist performance.

Calm Down Dear #4 presents:
‘Badass Grammar: A Pole/Guitar Composition in Exploded View’
Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, Euston, London, NW1 2PY, England
Wednesday 5th & Thursday 6th October 2016, 9.00pm
information (presented in a double bill with ‘40 Days Of Rain‘ on the 5th)

Below, there’s a brief and tintinnabulating minute-and-a-half-long excerpt from Keir’s score – spilling, mercurially elusive guitar-noise shapes passing through hard rock distortion and riffing, and refracted as if glancing off the chromed mirrors of the pole podium. Some of the music from this and other theatre work should eventually surface on his proposed ‘Bodies‘ album, which will incorporate Keir’s guitar-and-effects-pedal contributions to collaborations with assorted artists across a variety of live dance and performance disciplines (including “strip punk” and flamenco).


 
In an expositionary piece written for Bellyflop Magazine back in May (and which you can read in full here) Rose and Kier present and explore some of the implications of their show; not ducking around the “massive inflatable grey elephant that comes tied to every pole” in the form’s inescapable ties to sex work, but raising other questions in response, including “are women to be judged harder if you don’t like their job?… What if I’m actually one of many feminists on the pole? Does that mean I can be listened to yet? Or still spoken for?”

As they state, “we’re making a show. It’s pole dance, which is sometimes sexy, and came from strip clubs. It’s also live electric guitar, which is often a lot of willy-waggling. It’s a show about shame, power and privilege. Let’s see what happens.

“Pole is a very visible arena for tensions around women’s bodies, women’s work, shame, power and privilege. Far from a casual choice – it is impossible not to be political when near this object… When we discuss our performance with folks, somebody will ask if Keir is pole dancing and Rose is playing the guitar. Sometimes this is asked as a joke – when it’s a joke, it’s always asked by a man. But sometimes it’s a genuine artistic question, and as such it’s a valid one.

“The short answer is no, because artistically, we’ve decided it would be pretty boring to watch people doing something they’re terrible at. (For an hour.) But the longer answer is no, because we think it is more interesting to utilise the forms from where we are and examine how it came to be that we got here. And what we will do now…”

I’ll just pinch from one more source to add a bit of extra colour. Here’s Rose’s irreverent, practical list from her ‘Badass Grammar’ article in ‘Standard Issue’ magazine, detailing what she’s learnt from the form…

Rose's list, part 1

…and not forgetting…

Rose's list, part 2
 

September 2016 – upcoming gigs, Aldershot and London – Knifeworld’s “prog all-dayer” with William D. Drake, Prescott, Eschar, Barringtone and others; Laura J. Martin, Oly Ralfe and Duotone at Daylight Music; Muscle and Marrow, Father Murphy and Tolerance Manoeuvre at New River Studios (all 24th)

20 Sep

A nicely-filled Saturday coming up…

* * * * * * * *

Knifeworld all-dayer, Aldershot, 24th September 2016
Knifeworld + William D. Drake + Prescott + Eschar + Barringtone + others tbc
West End Centre, Queens Road, Aldershot, GU11 3JD, England
Saturday 24th September 2016, 2.00pm
information

Fresh off his solo show in Glasgow on Thursday (and the band’s appearance at ArcTangent in August), Kavus Torabi leads his Knifeworld octet over to Aldershot, curating and headlining what the venue’s calling a “prog all-dayer”. In a pleasing echo of Kavus’ Roastfest mini-festival from a few years ago (with which this particular show shares a few acts and sensibilities), the remit actually stretches out a good deal further than that. I’m not sure whether this is slightly sloppy marketing on the part of the West End Centre, or whether it’s a further sign that prog’s finally slipped out of its straitjacketing… at any rate, the day also features revitalized elements of latterday psychedelic rock, motorik pop, alt.jazz fusion and art punk cheek and coffee house tunes (old Regency coffee houses from a couple of centuries ago, that is; not latterday beard-and-espresso joints) as well as record stalls and “questionable company.”


 
It seems almost redundant summing Knifeworld up here, since I’ve covered them so often in previous posts; and more so in that their dazzling, goofy-but-serious voyages of complex guitar, voice and brass interplay are making increasing inroads into a bigger potential audience. The same goes for the second act on the bill, William D. Drake, who continues to carve out a subgenre of his own. There’s not yet a word for music which combines acoustic psychedelia and friendly, frowsty pop with echoes of Georgian parlours, sixteenth-century catches and never-were folk tunes. I keep trying to think of one that doesn’t sound twee, rather than encompassing the beaming English warmth which Bill’s music embodies. While I continue to fail to do that, here are a couple more of his tunes from recent live shows – one jaunty bounce, one unrolling magic-carpet reverie.



 
Prescott aren’t strangers to this blog either – a hiccuping, percolating instrumental team of four smart, oblique talents who’ve all been round the block more than a few times (lending their individual skills to a bagful of other artists and bands including Pere Ubu, Stump, Snorkel, Scritti Politti, The Keatons and Frank Sidebottom). Kev Hopper, Rhodri Marsden, Frank Byng and Keith Moliné are all far too grounded to do anything other than laugh off the idea of being a supergroup, yet they do form something considerably more powerful when they come together: rubbery, convoluted groove-rock improvisations which come across as part particle accelerator, part mutant squash court, and part horse-laugh. From another angle, they’re a post-punk upending of 1980s jazz-fusion powered by a wry/awry sensibility, creating something pretty serious out of a very English irreverence and inquisitiveness. They’re what you’d expect to get if those smart skeptical bastards raising eyebrows at the backs of every other arty gig were challenged to get together and do better, and actually did.



 
New to both ‘Misfit City’ and to general Knifeworld entanglements are Woking instrumental rockers Eschar, who play an exuberantly tuneful and metallic take on psychedelic post-rock. Filtering sunny melodies and joyous little tempo curlicues through a jackhammering heavy attack, they sound like a grinning, breakdancing road-mender. A little more familiar is Barringtone, sequel to briefly-glowing mid-Noughties electro/oddpop stars Clor. Pumping out a motoric yet shapeshifting art-pop somewhere between Neu! and XTC (and compared, in their peripatetic shifting of tone, structure and subject matter to Todd Rundgren’s Utopia), they’ve been at it for eight years now but are yet to drop a full album. Instead they’ve fired off an intermittent series of quick releases on a succession of labels, popping briefly in and out of view like a stealth submarine to flash a bit of technique and invention before slipping under again.



 

More bands are being added to this bill in a last-week squeak of hope and enthusiasm. I’ve no idea of who these are likely to be (keep checking on the Facebook event page for periodic news shouts) but it’s reasonable to expect that a complicated ArcTangent ethos/Torabi-esque “funny music” atmosphere is going to prevail.

If the above doesn’t do it for you, you could stay in London for another free/donation-only folk-and-songwriter-filled noontime gig by Daylight Music, plus an evening gig from Chaos Theory which addresses the more expansive and heterogenous side of post-rock. As usual, both have provided their own press releases, so I’ll use those (only working in extra information where it might be necessary…)

* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music 233

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 233: Laura J Martin + Oly Ralfe + Duotone
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 24th September 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

“Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Laura J. Martin is a “musician of startling originality”, according to The Sunday Times. Her extraordinary, eclectic music speaks of disconnection and England’s blandification: some of the tracks on her third studio album, ‘On The Never Never’, tell of her feelings when returning home to Liverpool to find that all of the town’s individuality seemed to have been erased and replaced by gleaming empty flats.

“Shot through with wit and humour alongside the sociopolitical themes (one of the characters talks of bleaching toilets and taking trips to Lanzarote) ‘On The Never Never’ skips through waltz timings, bears influences from Scott Walker to the Compass Point Allstars and picks up a guest vocal from Benjamin Zephaniah along the way. The album itself was recorded in Nashville with renowned Lambchop/Bonnie Prince Billy producer Mark Nevers and features members of Lambchop, Silver Jews and The Jesus Lizard. Laura has produced a hopeful record, full of joy, beauty and tongue-in-cheek looks at those in charge.


 
Duotone is the alias of songwriter Barney Morse-Brown, cellist with multi-platinum artist Birdy, Chris Wood, Eliza Carthy, Jackie Oates and BBC Folk Award winners the Imagined Village, His mesmerising solo performances move seamlessly between riotous energy and heartfelt intimacy: his debut album ‘Work Harder & One Day You’ll Find Her’ and the critically acclaimed second LP ‘Ropes’ saw him navigating his way through a personal loss.

“Barney’s new album ‘Let’s Get Low’, is an intelligent and thoroughly modern record, infused with the melodic structures of ’80s pop and the emotional honesty of the best of the classic singer-songwriter era; a remarkably optimistic collection of songs, it presents a new perspective on his experiences and explores the meaning of home and his sense of place. Written at home on his narrowboat over a period of two years, it further reveals a songwriter who is unafraid to explore real-life experiences that are often hidden from view.


 
“This is a particularly special Daylight Music as it features the London premiere of Oly Ralfe’s new instrumental piano project, accompanied by Barney on cello. A musician, artists and filmmaker, Oly made significant contributions to the work of The Mighty Boosh both onscreen and in print (including songs, poem cameos and direction) as well as creating the Dylanologist documentary ‘The Ballad Of AJ Weberman’.

“For a decade or so, he’s led his own pop-folk ensemble The Ralfe Band, whose three albums and soundtrack for the film ‘Bunny & The Bull’ have been variously described as “moon-eyed beauty”, “regally drunk” and “alternately sweetly hushed, spooky and sad.” Mark Radcliffe of BBC 6 Music has been a long-time champion of Oly’s music, saying “there is something of the strange and beautiful in everything he does, like the mood created by the darkest of fairy tales. I’m a big fan…””.


 
* * * * * * * *

Father Murphy, 24th September 2016

Chaos Theory Promotions presents:
Father Murphy + Muscle And Marrow + Tolerance Manoeuvre
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Saturday 24th September 2016, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“A special event at the amazing artist community venue that is New River Studios in north London, in which two wildly exciting duos from dark experimental label The Flenser will join us from the USA and Italy to present us with their latest terrifying works. This will be a stimulating experience.

“After Father Murphy captivated us with their EP ‘Pain Is On Our Side Now’ (and terrified us all at the launch of their phenomenal and stimulating album ‘Croce’ last year), the hairs are already standing up on the backs of our necks in anticipation of working with the Stephen O’Malley, Jarboe and Michael Gira-endorsed visionaries once more.

One of the most mysterious and enigmatic musical entities to come out of Italy in recent years, Father Murphy are known for their collection of dark psychedelic/industrial cabaret, written as a response to living in a deeply Catholic environment. Merging shadowy, muddy and murky atmospheres with unexpected blurts of impossibly catchy noise pop, their sound is both textural and nuanced but also noisy and chaotic. Identified by Simon Reynolds and Julian Cope as part of the “new Italian Occult psychedelia”, Father Murphy are the sound of the Catholic sense of guilt – a downward spiral aiming at the bottom of the hollow, and then digging even deeper.


 
Muscle And Marrow – a duo from Portland, Oregon – write music that is intense and vaporous. Formed in 2013 by Kira Clark (voice, guitar) and Keith McGraw (drums, sounds), Muscle And Marrow quickly discovered their distinctive sound. Taking inspiration from visual and feminist art, as well as contemporary poetry and literature, they are an entity that is as thoughtful as it is fervent and as experimental as it is immediate.

“In April 2016 the band released their new album ‘Love’: a more powerful record than their previous release, with elements of joy, strength and anger present. During the album’s writing process Kira lost a family member, and much of the lyrical content focuses on loss, but also on love in general: how to love better, more and at all, and what happens when someone else loves you — the trap of that love but also the freedom it affords. Additionally, ‘Love’ touches on feminism and female archetypes, a topic that Kira is very interested in. These new songs are just as beautiful and complex as those on the band’s debut, but on ‘Love’, Muscle And Marrow push their craft further, bringing them to the frontier of avant-garde dark music.


 
“Having heard murmurings about Tolerance Manoeuvre for some time, we stood up and paid attention when they performed a brilliant live set on deXter Bentley’s Hello Goodbye Show on Resonance 104.4fm. With a unique combination of guitar, cello, trumpet and vocals, Tolerance Manoeuvre furrow a particularly British seam of post-rock previously mapped by the likes of Talk Talk and Bark Psychosis, but with their own, highly-personalised take. Managing to fuse stark yet luscious melody with ornate orchestration, the trio meticulously unfold and reconfigure space and structure to create a beguiling tapestry that is simultaneously dense and delicate.

“A mainstay on the London underground music scene since 2011, Tolerance Manoeuvre have played at venues as diverse as The Hundred Years Gallery, the Servant Jazz Quarters and the Macbeth, have appeared on MTV Greece, have shared the stage with acts such as The Wytches, Seward, Cara Sebastian, O-Arc and Fear Of The Forest, and have a vinyl LP available at all good record shops courtesy of Flashback Records.”


 

September 2016 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Jonathan Silk and Ben Lee bands at Kings Place (16th); Bitch’n’Monk, Survival Skills and Peter Ehwald at Rich Mix (22nd); free show by Tamas Teszary Quartet at Magic Garden (22nd)

14 Sep

More jazz and jazzlike London gigs for the coming month, presented more or less straight from the press releases (to ensure that the month’s news updates don’t drag too much…)

* * * * * * * *

Jazz at Kings Place/Stoney Lane Records present:
Jonathan Silk Big Band + Ben Lee Quintet
Hall Two @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Friday 16th September 2016, 8:00pm
information

From Kings Place:

“The third in a series of eclectic performances featuring artists from the burgeoning Stoney Lane Records label – and a special double album launch.

“Drummer and composer Jonathan Silk – dubbed “one To watch” by ‘Jazzwise‘ magazine – leads his dynamic big band, with strong influences from mentors and world renowned composers Maria Schneider and Vince Mendoza, along with contemporary New York improvisors Jim Black and Dave Binney. Playing music from Jonathan’s forthcoming album ‘Fragment’, the big band will perform a suite composed to explore the contrast between the powerful forces of a big band in full cry, and the more delicate touch of orchestral textures.



 
“Young guitarist Ben Lee is tipped as one of the rising stars in the jazz world, and launches his debut album this autumn. His beguiling quintet explore the many sounds and combinations of its unorthodox line-up, featuring guitar, alto sax, trombone, organ and drums. Inspired by a whole host of eclectic musicians, from Nirvana and Radiohead to many of the jazz greats, the Ben Lee Quintet bring punchy horn lines, groove, invention, original melodies and no lack of warmth and technical prowess.”




 

* * * * * * * *


Chaos Theory Promotions/Jazz Standard/United Artists present:
Bitch ‘n’ Monk + Peter Ehwald + Survival Skills
Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London, E1 6LA, England
Thursday 22nd September 2016, 7.30pm
information

From Chaos Theory:

“This is a special collaboration between ourselves, Tina Edwards of Jazz Standard (one of London’s best promoters of contemporary jazz), Rich Mix (one of London’s hottest hotbeds of contemporary creativity) and daringly experimental duo Bitch ‘n’ Monk, as they launch their new album ‘We Are Peering Over’ in an evening of experimental jazz, improv, art and electronica.

“Described as “a kaleidoscope of musical styles” by the BBC’s ‘Late Junction’ (and by ‘The Quietus‘ as musicians who “will send you into a lovesick coma and give you an electrifying kiss of life all at once”) Bitch’n’Monk are a wayward soprano and screaming flute duo from London and Colombia. They invite you to come to the edge of the music that you know, and peer over into something unpredictable, wild, and new to your ears (the ‘Guardian‘ has observed that “you’ll spend a while pondering how to classify them – prog folk? Operatic post-punk? Gothic reggae? – but they know how to write melodies.” Their new album is a masterpiece, and is a defiant fusion of arts and culture, allowing us each to explore it in our own unique way, with no two people experiencing it quite the same. Tonight ‘We Are Peering Over’ will be premiered live and audience members will have a chance to pre-order the album at a discount, and reserve it for collection at the merch desk ahead of its official release on 30th September.



 
“In support, Survival Skills is an electronic improvisational solo venture by respected contemporary and nu jazz guitarist and producer Chris Sharkey – a fiercely creative individual who is as at home playing the main stages at international festivals, or performing to an intimate audience in a hidden basement venue. Previously known for Acoustic Ladyland and TrioVD, some of you may remember his other projects Shiver at The Facemelter last July, and The Geordie Approach at The Jazz Market last October. Chaos Theory was lucky enough to host the live premiere of Survival Skills almost two years ago, so this will be a great opportunity to see how the solo project has developed.



 
“German musician Peter Ehwald is an adventurous saxophonist with a distinctive sound (described by ‘Jazzwise’ as “an affecting tonal range, moving artfully between Wayne Shorter-type floaty, snaking lines and tougher vocalised timbres.”). He’s known for The Backyard Jazz Orchestra, his collaborative project with the Goethe Institute and Stefan Schultze. He also performs solo with raw energy, creating a remarkably modern sound.”


 
* * * * * * * * *

Tamas Teszary Quartet
The Magic Garden, 231 Battersea Park Road, Battersea, London, SW11 4LG, England
Thursday 22nd September 2016, 9.00pm
free event – information

“If you get the chance to go and listen to the Tamas Teszary Quartet live don’t miss it! This quartet, led by vibraphone wizard Tamas Teszary, brings sizzling new originals to the jazz scene. His compositions invoke sensations from your brain as if traveling from the smoky jazz clubs of New York through the lush landscapes of Canada to the hustling streets of London. With driving bebop lines, funky beats and hip ­hop chills, from melancholic to twisted jazz harmonies, TTQ delivers the mind warp you’ve been thirsty for.”