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October 2019 – upcoming London experimental gigs – a London visit for Asuna’s ‘100 Keyboards’ (2nd); psychonauts UnicaZürn step up to save the Horse Hospital (5th); Andrew Heath & Anne Chris Bakker play an ambient evening with Matt Atkins, Andrew Sherwell and Kevin Buckland (6th)

28 Sep

As part of London ambient sound festival MODE 2019, Japanese sound/drone artist Asuna will bring the occasional travelling installation in which he arranges a hundred battery-powered budget (or toy) analogue keyboards in concentric circles within a studio space (in this case, South London Gallery’s Clore Studio) and plays, sets up or alters single notes or clusters off each of them (usually sticking keys down with Sellotape) to produce “waves of overlapping sound”.

The results are a chorused spatial drone which you can wander through, in which the intention is to “generat(e) an undulating sonic harmony both mesmerising and mysterious. Sound waves on the same frequency multiply and bounce off in myriad directions, creating a complex sonic field of interference and reverberation that swells and changes over time. Subtle acoustic variations emerge, hover and retreat based on your location in the performance space.” The cheapness of the technology, the variability of battery performance and other factors will also provide additional variations to the setup. The three-minute excerpt below gives an idea of its grating shimmer.


 
On 5th October, psychedelic trio UnicaZürn (uniting members of Coil, Cyclobe, Guapo and Shock Headed Peters) will be playing at Bloomsbury avant-garde stronghold The Horse Hospital, showcasing music from their recent ‘Sensudestricto’ album plus brand new pieces created especially for the concert.

UnicaZürn, 5th October 2019

I’ve previously described their work as a “scenic but chilly slow-evolving boil of waterside atmospherics and psychedelic sound-painting”. ‘Sensudestricto’, explicitly based around situational revolt (“has there ever been a better time to fuck off to the stars? Is a prison breakout “escapism”? Crisis carve some wound-space to let the dreams back in…” ) continues to build on that promise, evoking late ’60s oil projections and space rock, ’70s synth patterning and occult counterculture, and various subsequent shades of psych revolt, dark folk and hauntological weirdness.

The Horse Hospital itself (a twist of history, art and countercultural resistance lurking like a bold and salty tattoo in the heart of one of London’s plushest districts) is once again under threat of being priced out of existence via a rent increase demand of over three hundred per cent, plus other bullying gentrification pressures, so this is a benefit gig. Attend, talk, add some cash to the Kickstarter, etc.

 
Having been releasing ambient/drone/experimental atmospheric music for a little under two years now from its Farnham base, not-for-profit independent tape label Rusted Tone Recordings is starting off a live season at IKLEKTIK with a concert by Aqueous keyboard player/piano minimalist Andrew Heath and Dutch ambient bowed-guitarist/slowcore escapee Anne Chris Bakker.

Rusted Tone Recordings Live #1, 6th October 2019

The duo have recently collaborated on an upcoming RTR release (the north-Netherlands-recorded ‘A Gift for the Ephemerist’) which blends both men’s interest in space, sparseness and field recordings into a record which “is overwhelmingly informed both by an open, minimal landscape and a love of process, allowing lower case sounds to form as you would unfold a map – each section revealing a new and uncharted vista…suspended in time and place, are modulating drones, fragile notes, texture and immersive driftscapes which shimmer and pulse with half-glimpsed melodies that seem to hang in the air.”


 
Support slots come from fellow ambientarians and experimentalists Matthew Atkins, Andrew Sherwell, and Kevin Buckland. Although he’s sometimes a drummer for assorted projects he’s encountered or helped form via the London Improviser’s Workshop, Matthew spends most of his time on sound and visual art. When performing his own music he uses percussion, assorted objects, cassettes and laptop for sound collaging which pursues (or more properly, accepts) elements of “reductionism, chance, repetition and texture.” (Usually he’s working in collaboration with someone else; usually, it also seems, he’s providing the odder or more exploratory parts.) Similarly, Kevin is sometimes a solo bassist, but spends more time outdoors as a traveller, photographer and field recordist intrigued by “the underlying intrinsic musical character that I believe is present within the everyday soundscape; whether rural or urban, indoors or outside.” This in turn takes him back to slow-evolving electronic music of his own, often released on his own Quietest Records label and playing dusky subliminal spells with sound he’s captured along his voyages.



 
As for Andrew, he’s found a niche of his own, and sticks to it; but it’s a particularly cavernous, ecclesiastical niche. He marries field recordings from churches and cathedrals from across Britain and Europe with existing choral recordings, plunderphonicised from random choir albums found in charity shops or, when he can, recording the genuine article first-hand. The results are a devotional post-Christian drone, heavily processed from its source material, flooding through an imaginary nave like a ghostly draught.


 
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Dates:

South London Gallery/Thirty Three Thirty Three/Laurel Halo/The Japan Foundation present:
MODE 2019: Asuna presents ‘100 Keyboards’
South London Gallery, 65-67 Peckham Road, Camberwell, London, SE5 8UH, England
Wednesday 2nd October 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here

UnicaZürn – A benefit gig in support of the Horse Hospital
The Horse Hospital, The Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Saturday 5th October, 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Rusted Tone Recordings presents:
Rusted Tone RecordingsLive #1: Andrew Heath & Anne Chris Bakker + Matt Atkins + Andrew Sherwell + Kevin Buckland
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Sunday 6th October 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

December 2018 – upcoming London rock gigs – Terry Bickers guests with ZOFFF at a psychedelic extravaganza also featuring Knifeworld, Spratleys Japs, assorted Cardiacs and Mike Vennart (21st December)

4 Dec

Spratleys Japs + Knifeworld + ZOFFF. 21st December 2018Just before Christmas, Terry Bickers (evergreen cult guitarist with The House of Love, and one of a slim pantheon of late ’80s/early ’90s Brit-indie guitar heroes alongside Johnny Marr, John Squire, Nick McCabe and a handful of others) is playing a London guest slot with Brightonian psych-rockers ZOFFF. This isn’t the first time he’s done it. A similar collision and happy entanglement is recorded and celebrated on ZOFF’s brand new live album ‘IV’, capturing the September 2017 set in Brighton in which Terry first joined them on stage.

It’s a reconciliation as much as a guesting – after his first spectacular falling-out with The House Of Love, back in 1989, Terry spent four years fronting post-punk psychmonsters Levitation, interweaving his cetacean-contrail guitars with those of former Cardiac Bic Hayes. It’s a period of his career that’s played down now, in the usual, conservative prodigal-son narrative which implies that he was a one-band indie hero who went astray, fiddled about with nothing much, finally saw sense and came back. But while Levitation lasted they were pretty inspirational: a hell-for-leather band of roaring textures and high anxiety which lasted until a depression-fuelled spat saw Terry falling out with the entire band and very publically ejecting himself.


 
It took a long time – and a long course of growing up – for rapprochement to happen, but happen it did. Bic now strums, wails and noises for ZOFFF (alongside Brighton go-to drummer Damo Waters, modular audio-visual synth maverick Richard Gorbutt and Crayola Lectern duo Chris Anderson and Al Strachan) creating a massive brass-laden textural throb of psychedelic sleet. As part of the renewed friendship, Terry’s increasingly been invited along to ZOFFF shows by Bic to resume their mutually supportive, strange-bedfellow guitar duello. By all accounts, he fits right in. Here’s a preview of all of them, including Terry, raising consciousness and the roof down at the ‘IV’ gig in Brighton last autumn (plus a brief phone clip of Terry in action and in the moment)…



 
ZOFFF are playing as part of a pre-Christmas bill which maintains a much-missed tradition. Until they were brought to a crashing halt a decade ago, Cardiacs hosted an annual gathering of their diverse fantribe (usually at the London Astoria) at which they’d play their exuberant, noisy, cryptid pop songs (transmissions from some imaginary Atlantic plateau where no musical forms either died out or became incompatible) and, like kind eccentric uncles, fostered support slots for the likes of Oceansize, Goddamn Whores, The Monsoon Bassoon, Sidi Bou Said, Johnny 4 and other acts from off the beaten track. It was one of the most warm and exciting nights in the alt.rock, or alt.universe, pop calendar, and since Cardiacs’ enforced retirement in 2008 (when leader Tim Smith got very sick indeed – see plenty of past posts), it’s been down to people from those bands, and others, to keep the tradition going. Which they have, building up to this biggest-yet post-Cardiacs event.


 
Nominally headlining are Spratleys Japs – at one time, an obscure Cardiacs/Tim Smith spinoff. In recent years they’ve been resurrected by their co-vocalist Jo Spratley to celebrate this studio-bound hedge-rock corner of Tim’s work: a kind of wild forest variant on Cardiacs (like a series of strange tome pages, faulty language primer scraps and tufts of Syd Barrett’s pubes ritually scattered and hung from briars throughout Mythago Wood). Now, they’re advancing along the neglected but still-open pathways it set up. Joined by her son Jesse on bass, plus ZOFF’s Damo Waters and psychedelic French escapees the Rodes brothers, Jo’s reinvigorated the original knotty/peculiar Japs songs and (over the past year) built some more of them from scratch, much to Tim’s delight. (“You get wisped away round some corner of God knows wot. You knew it was gonna be good, but not this good…”)

A few of these new songs will be made available at the show as the band launch a boutique vinyl single – the usual deal: limited edition, double-yer-action a-side, hand-carved by trained mice, signatures and so forth. For a longer, more fleshed-out story, try here. For a taste of Spratleys old and new, see below.




 
Also at the party are ever-rising post-Cardiacs crew Knifeworld, led by the irrepressible Kavus Torabi. His ever-broadening string of exploits have included fronting the current Gong and the long-lost Monsoon Bassoon, guitarring for Guapo and the late-lineup Cardiacs, gabbling nonsense in between records on DJ dates with snooker ace-turned-weird-rock patron Steve Davis, and adding a little extra weirdness to the interim-Pogues music of Spider Stacy. Over the course of a decade and four records, his Knifeworld work has spiralled up from a solo project to become a honkingly powerful brass-and-reed-laden all-star octet; interlacing prog, indie rock, psych, experimental tones and cycling minimalism into an exuberant package of lysergic babble and quadruple-ended hookery.


 
Everything’s being lit by south coast psychedelic illuminators Innerstrings; and for bonuses, Bic’s contributing a DJ set, as are Kavus and Steve Davies. Plus, there’s going to be a jamboree set of Cardiacs covers and reinterpretations. This will feature a pile-on scratch band featuring Spratleys Japs bolstered by members of all three of the night’s other bands, plus yet another former Cardiacs guitarist (wildcard and Wildheart Jon Poole) and former Oceansize frontman Mike Vennart (currently stretching ears and punishing stages with his post-Oceansize projects Vennart and British Theatre, as well as putting big-league time in as a hired-hand guitar ace for Biffy Clyro).

As a low-key taster for what this might be like, here’s Kavus guesting with Spratleys Japs for a couple of Cardiacs numbers in Brighton last year. This month’s full show is likely to be a friendly cyclone full of flying twigs and bright colours. If you want to find out what all the fuss is about, get on down there.


 
Spratleys Japs + Knifeworld + ZOFFF
The Garage, 20-22 Highbury Corner, Highbury, London, N5 1RD, England
Friday 21st December 2018, 6.00pm
– information here, here and here

July 2018 – some post-Doran thoughts on smaller music festivals; and next week’s EppyFest in Cheltenham (27th & 28th July)

21 Jul

John Doran of ‘The Quietus’ wrote a pithy, on-the-nose article a while back about the ongoing corruption of big music festivals, lambasting them as “unsatisfying money hoovers designed to deplete your bank account for minimal return… a heavily branded and patronisingly over-mediated experience – with little in the way of the rough round the edges, unexpected, challenging or genuinely exciting experience that makes being a music fan worthwhile; just a massive spoonfed dose of the ubiquitous, the hyped and the monolithically popular.”

As a follow-up punch, John slashed a hole in the backdrop in order to expose the ethics behind the festival business: how, even as you’re frolicking in a ludicrously overpriced facsimile of countercultural free-spiritedness, your ticket money wriggles its way into the war chests and “shockingly regressive campaigns” of suspect billionaires intent on crushing any genuine counterculture that’s little more than a cheery mask on a product, funding a host of life-killing causes including anti-LGBTQ, anti-union and anti-immigration initiatives. Unsurprisingly, he concluded “personally I’d sooner go to a smaller, more grass-roots independent festival and have a clutch of genuinely odd, uplifting, joyous and memorable experiences on a smaller, freer scale.” He lists plenty of smaller, more conscientious festivals which might better suit your ethics or your conscience – Supersonic, End of the Road, many more. Modestly, he didn’t mention ‘The Quietus’s own efforts .

I might lack John’s edge, but I’ll still say amen to all that. There’s also always the option of going further off the map, seeking out festivals beyond the tents’n’burgers belch. I’ve covered some such here… Marchlands’ annual musical/theatrical celebration of reaching across borders and understanding history; the composer-driven London New Wind Festival; New York’s wonderfully brainy and diverse Ecstatic Music Festival. On a more domestic level, there’s next month’s Whole World Window 2 in Preston, raising urgent money for psychedelic hero Tim Smith’s health care while also functioning as a focussing lens for assorted rock and pop acts existing in a rowdy, complex continuum outside ot the mainstream. The staunchest supportive and communal ethics, unsurprisingly, still hover around punk events, those pass-around-a-donation-bucket battles for big values in small places (I might often be bored by the music, but I profoundly admire the commitment and the generosity of spirit).

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As regards the coming week, Gloucestershire’s EppyFest – just a week away now – is the epitome of a pocket festival. Now heading in its seventh year, it also pretty much defines “boutique”. Its amiably knitted-together selections of psychedelic rock and pop, folk, electric and acoustic chamber music and accomplished instrumentalist is undeniably cosy, but in the right way – unashamed and unaggressive, slightly specialised while toting an inclusive audience ethic. There’s a rosy English glow to it, alright, but not the kind which shoulders out differences while indulging a truculent and moneyed bucolic fantasy. The Eppyfest England is one which is comfortable in itself, but not too smug to look outwards: mostly white, but not bleached and angry. In the best sense and intimation, it’s a liberal parish.

Gong, 2018

The Friday lineup, starting in the evening – is the briefer concert, with just two sets of performers. The headliners are the current and ongoing version of cosmic-rock libertine troupe Gong, still romping along after the death of founding holy prankster Daevid Allen. This isn’t the first time there’s been a post-Allen Gong: percussionist Pierre Moerlen floated a de-hippified mid’-70s jazz-rock version around Europe which had little to do with Allen’s mischievous space rock parables, while the band’s original feminine-mystiquer Gilli Smyth led a sporadic Mother Gong version at points in the ’80s. This, however, is the first Gong that’s been a direct continuation of Allen’s work: thumbing its collective nose at his departure from music and from life, and mourning him by celebrating his ethos.

This Gong iteration is helmed by delightfully wayward, larger-than-life Anglo-Persian prodigy (and ‘Misfit City’ favourite) Kavus Torabi, who established himself as one of the premier, most open-eared British psychedelic talents while with The Monsoon Bassoon and Cardiacs, has continued it with Knifeworld and Guapo, and who has in effect been rehearsing for Gong leadership for the whole of his musical life. Expect the same applecart-overturning riffs, the mingled brass and electric strings, the space-dust party atmospheres. The old firm’s still a family.



 
In support, Liverpudlian guitarist Neil Campbell is arguably one of the most gifted musicians still unknown to the general public. An omnivorous stylistic polymath, he’s mastered contemporary classical, progressive rock, jazz and assorted other styles to the point in which he can pass seamlessly between and through them; and he comes trailing awestruck references from guitar scholars and crossover music master musicians alike. Working off nylon- and steel-strung acoustic guitars (with a chain of echoes, loop pedals and other processors) he creates detailed, fiery electro-acoustic tapestries when playing solo: given the opportunity, he’ll also roll out orchestral concerti, small ensemble pieces, vital building-block contributions to the larger works of other, and site-specific concerts in venues of all kinds.



 
North Sea Radio Orchestra headline Saturday’s seven hours of music – as ever, they draw together Anglo-pastoral classical, a stolen kiss or two of folk melody, crossover chamber music and English art-rock. (They’ve covered Robert Wyatt, as well as old Christmas carols and Vernon Elliot). Sixteen years in, they’re a little smaller and tighter than they used to be – the choir is long gone and the ensemble streamlined, with most of the Victorian poetry settings consigned back to the bookshelf in favour of more personal lyrics of chalkhills and children, lost loved ones and the make-do-and-mend of life.

North Sea Radio Orchestra, 2nd June 2018

They’re still a quietly enchanting proposition, gently webbed together by a deceptive fragility, a village-singer tone and Craig Fortnam’s elegant compositions, and they grow ever more comfortable in themselves as the years pass. From German kosmische, they bring in that cosmic powerplant throb: from Frank Zappa and Canterbury, the somersaults of harmony and tinkle of xylophone (with the lyrical coarseness and silly whimsy gently steered out of the picture); from English chamber music, the gentle green ache. All soft borders, all subtle mind.



 
Second down the bill is Doris Brendel. The Vienna-born multi-instrumentalist daughter of concert-piano legend Alfred Brendel, she originally made her mark in ‘90s neoprog and underground AOR providing vocals, guitar, sax and flageolet to The Violet Hour: when that didn’t last, she applied herself to whatever was going while cultivating her own records in her own time. She’s refined her earlier approach, but what you get now is still pretty much what you got then – a singer who can go from a dream-folk murmur to a gutsy rhythm-and-blues blast, who puts on an assured show of muscular rock and costumed pizazz. An old-school rock chick, but one who’s taken control and honed it to excellence. There might be differences in tone, but latter-day ladyrockers like She Makes War and Ciara Clifford might look to her and immediately see a spiritual older sister.



 
Via a shifting gambler’s hand of interrelated projects – and a proven ability to survive practical and artistic disruption – the persistently thoughtful Oxford prog-rock collective Sanguine Hum have explored music for nearly twenty years now. In many respects, they’re a back-to-first-principles prog-initiative. Rather than constructing vast vanity pieces (as if to impress their aspirational Mellotronic forebears), the Hum are based very much in a lush’n’lambent ’70s pop mode – as least as much Neil Young, Steely Dan or David Bowie as Genesis, Zappa or Canterbury – which they can then wilfully and logically expand to bigger and broader things (engulfing and building upon later influences such as Boards Of Canada along the way).

For this acoustic-slanted EppyFest slot, lead singer/guitarist Joff Winks and keyboard player Matt Baber (the latter fresh from last month’s release of his “ambient prog minimalism” solo album ‘Suite For Piano and Electronics‘) will play as a duo; exploring at least one track from each of the project’s scattered albums and personae, with new material as a bonus.



 
Electric chamber group Firefly Burning were to have held the middle of the bill but had to pull out. To replace them, in comes a harder noise in the shape of the explosive wit, ominous chording and multi-layered songwriting of London’s Thumpermonkey. I described them a while back as “the missing link between Peter Hammill and Neal Stephenson”: a tag which they really seemed to like, so let’s run with it. A motley crew of brainiacs, meticulators and fast friends with their heads in lofty places and their toes sunk in dirty post-metal, they have the kind of esoteric preoccupations (and the wherewithal to communicate them) which encourage interest rather than eye-rolling and detachment. Unshamedly weird-fictional, the songs have covered Nigerian email fraud, Aztec hauntings, bizarre medical conditions and Victorian explorers amongst many other topics, all via a rich filter of literary and cinematic techniques and dark, sophisticated humour.

As for the music, Thumpermonkey play within that increasingly rare strata of hard rock in which there’s room to breathe, think, listen and explore beauty as well as nail down a predatory riff. Michael Woodman sings like an athletic college don moonlighting as an operatic priest, while his cohorts Ben, Sam and Rael construct a moving fortress, observatory and interdimensional vessel for him to stand on. They’re the kind of band that either make you proud to be curious, or will magnetize your brain into a state of curiosity. In effect, they’re the ‘Infinite Monkey Cage’ of British post-prog and we’re bloody lucky to have them.



 
Bristolian progressive-grunge rockers Lord Of Worms cite Meshuggah, Soundgarden, Tool and Ufomammut as influences, and there’s certainly some roiling springy punktone bass and restless post-hardcore rhythmic shifts in the mix. Their folk lilts and Zoie Green’s burnished-silver vocals simultaneously tie them into a tradition of female-fronted folk-rock acts like Renaissance and The Morrigan. Judge for yourselves…



 
Like Sanguine Hum, Dutch/American crossover prog poppers Fractal Mirror will be playing under reduced circumstances as regards personnel, but probably not in terms of the music. While the band can rely on the assistance of Echolyn polymath Brett Kull, among others, in the studio, this live date will just feature their core duo of singer/guitarist/keyboard and recorder player Leo Koperdraat and lyric-writing drummer Frank Urbaniak. Expect intimate expansions on their recipe of dove-soft Mellotronics and pastoral post-Porcupine Tree moods, with their hidden freight of darker, reflective lyrics.



 
Sonic Bond Promotions & The Epileptic Gibbon Podcast present:
EppyFest 7: North Sea Radio Orchestra + Gong + Neil Campbell + Sanguine Hum + Doris Brendel + Thumpermonkey + Lord Of Worms + Fractal Mirror
St Margaret’s Hall & Annex, Coniston Road, Hatherley, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 3NU, England
Friday 27th July 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
Saturday 28th July 2018, 1.00pm – information here and here

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It would be stupid of me to represent EppyFest as some kind of absolute template for festivals. It’s its own little Gloucestershire gem, it has its context and its taste-palette, and while it’s a fine refresher there’s far more to contemporary music – to a nourishing cultural diet – than even a thoughtful slipped-weekend like this one can provide.

What I am advocating is a spreading of its care-filled cottage ethos; its preference for building a relatively equal, mutually supportive community of performers and audients in a warm and humble space, rather than driving a rush of drainable, soakable human cattle through the money-mill. Events like this are worth the seeking-out, worth the effort that goes into their creation. Go find some. Go make some. Come tell me about them.
 

March 2018 – a psych/noise cavalcade in London for Rocket Recordings’ 20th anniversary (9th to 11th March)

28 Feb

There are still some tickets left for the rollicking, rampaging twentieth-anniversary concerts for venerable yet vital psychedelic noise label Rocket Recordings. These will be packing out the Garage and its sister venue Thousand Island in north London for three consecutive days over an early March weekend.

It’s not the first time that Highbury Corner’s been rammed with psychoactive weirdness and well-plumbing musical explorations. In its earlier incarnation as Upstairs at the Garage, the smaller Thousand Island saw hundreds of strange and wonderful leftfield acts pass through; to pick just one example, twenty years ago the building hosted occult ensemble Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels and their ‘Highbury Working’ “beat seance” in which Alan Moore and David J explored and mined the hidden histories of the Holloway Road from the horse goddess Epona to the rapidly poisoned utopianism of the Black House, from the schemata of Aleister Crowley to the madness of Joe Meek. So the Corner’s no stranger to strangeness… but it’s good, for a full weekend, to see strangeness rise so outrightly overground amongst the traffic fumes, creeping gentrification and salsa nights.

* * * * * * * *

The Rocket days kick off on Friday 9th. Fluxus-inspired Italian garage groove-band Julie’s Haircut mingle smearing, chuckling Ash Ra Tempel guitars and flutes with a Georgio Moroder wobble, while from Sweden there’s creamy-toned garage darlings Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation (whose more recent recordings pulse along on a fluting, closed-eyed Can patter) and the detailed anticipations of Flowers Must Die, who burst shining locked disco grooves through hanging tapestries of improvised “oriental-influenced” psychedelia (like an unexpected frug in a Tibetan temple). A couple of spinoff acts from Salford industrial/sociological alchemists Gnod are playing– the fleshy beats, brutual mechanisms and cellar drones of Chris Haslam’s electronica project Dwellings and the “slow burning vocal loops (and) devotional mindscapes” of A.P Macarte’s AHRKH. Also on the bill is the spontaneous, impulse/emotion-driven semi-improvised “dirty techno” of Coldnose, swilling in acid house, industrial, electro, drum and bass and distorted vocal snarls. For the after-show winddown, there’s DJ-ing from assorted Teeth Of The Sea members, but more on them later…







 
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Sorry, but it’s returns only for Saturday 10th. Although Hills (with their gruff and deafening meditational rock, like Joy Division trapped inside a raga) have had to pull out, their Swedish compatriots Goat (costumed acid/world fusioneers who’ve already made a big splash at Glastonbury) are still in play. So are Italian “kosmitronic” rockers Mamuthones – a delightful confection of slippery tinkling rhythms, chatterbox riffage explosions of lateral noise and sing-song babble, they’re what Dutch Uncles might have sounded like if they had less of a taste for arch Roxy-isms and had taken more of a liking to Pere Ubu. There are also slots for the onetime heavy doom-psych of Hey Colossus (who, like their spiritual forebears The Birthday Party, are evolving steadily out of the chaotic London murk they began in and starting to tell stories) and the bellowing, unreconstructed Tyneside sludge-acid of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. Minimalist Malmö trance-rockers Ved preview their imminent Rocket EP ‘DDTT’, and there are sets from amelodic No Wave revisitors Housewives, block-partying noise duo Gum Takes Tooth and the elasticated buzzing Russian “stargaze” band Gnoomes.









 
In addition, there’ll be a rare solo appearance by Teeth Of The Sea’s modular analogue synth guy Mike Bourne who – in parallel to his band work – has recently put out a couple of odds and ends on Bandcamp including the gradually-evolving ‘pætʃ’ album of electronic experiments (including black-and-white vampire music and harmonium/Harmonium-esque sketches with a dash of Geiger-counter, and the vast shadow-steeped minimalism of his soundtrack to Ben Lister’s horror short ‘Wine Dark Sea’). Opening the evening, the blipping electronics, kettle-banging, forceful ranting and rises to aggressive crescendos of Temple Ov BBV (a collaboration between Gnod and Dutch experimental psychedelicists Radar Men From The Moon) resemble a more spacious meeting between early Swans and cultural rhythmatist John Chernoff). DJ-ing for the evening comes from a four-strong squad of Cherrystones, Jamie Paton, Mike Keeling and Chris Reeder.



 
* * * * * * * *

The highlight of the Sunday show – at least as far as Rocket themselves are concerned – has been their success in securing the British live debut for the duo project by Polish reeds/keyboard player Wacław Zimpel and his compatriot, the “magic brutalistStara Rzeka guitarist/singer Kuba Ziołek, as Zimpel/Ziołek. They’ll be showcasing the psychoactive-minimalist jazz-folk stew of last year’s eponymous album.



 
That said, there’ll be pretty strong competition from trumpet-toting electronic rock partisans Teeth Of The Sea. Having DJ-ed on the first night, they’re returning at full band strength for what will presumably provide another exhilarating set and another chance for us all to slither around in a puddle of non-stick definitions (are they noise? are they rave? are they dream-metal? are they what you might’ve had if Miles Davis had rashly agreed to a Foetus production job?). Also returning are Gnod – this time in person, playing a “greatest hits” set, which you can vote for here).



 
There’s further Gnodness via yet another pair of spin-offs: Paddy Shine’s immersive “tantric vocal loop” project Ayn Sof and Marlene Ribeiro’s work as Negra Branca (around which circulates various splutters including “squashy analogue”, “temple goddess” and “dreamscape”). Veteran psych bass player Gareth Turner is making two appearance – one as a third of the Anthroprophh trio (in which he’s joined by Heads guitarist Paul Allen and drummer Jesse Webb to blend “garage-bound filth (with) wayward, abstract artistry”), and the other as half of Kuro (in which he grabs a double bass and joins forces with violinist Agathe Max for electrically-enhanced string-drones). Finally, there’s also space for Liverpudlian heavy-psychedelic noise-rockers Bonnacons Of Doom and shamanic ritual trio H.U.M. (Mark Wagner, Heloise Zamzam and Uiutna) whom I last described as “a kind of psychic cross-cultural art coven, citing “alchemical practice, incantation, chanting, drones, ritual drumming, French variété” as both inspiration and activity.”







 
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Further details and ticket/info links below… if you’re reading about this for the first time, you’re already stragglers, so get going…

Rocket Recordings 20, 9th-11th March 2018

Baba Yaga’s Hut & DHP present:
‘Rocket Recordings Twenty’
The Garage/Thousand Island, 20-22 Highbury Corner, Highbury, London, N5 1RD, England
Friday 9th March 2018, 7.30pm
Saturday 10th March 2018, 3.30pm
Sunday 11th March 2018, 7.30pm

– information here and here
 

November 2017 – upcoming free rock gigs – Tonochrome back in action in London (25th November); All Hail Hyena host a quadruple-headed evening in Preston with Dirty Bare Feet and Soldato plus the return of Sleepy People for their first gig in sixteen years (11th November)

2 Nov

Tonochrome, 25th November 2017

Tonochrome
The Spice of Life, 6 Moor Street, Soho, London, W1D 5NA, England
Saturday 25th November 2017, 7.30pm
– free entry – information

London progressive pop band Tonochrome have been away for a while – they were last onstage towards the end of 2013. This new gig towards the end of the month is something of a return and reshuffle – it’s their first with the newest in a run of bass players (Andres Castellanos), and an opportunity for singer Andres Razzini and his other cohorts (keyboard player Steve Holmes, drummer Jack Painting and, on guitar, transdisciplinary musical wanderer Charlie Cawood) to show us the latest developments for a promising band. Over an increasingly interesting pair of EPs, Tonochrome have explored glam pop, aspirational indie and a touch of expansive prog, building towards a definitive, textured statement. I don’t know if they’ve got there yet, but this show is free, so get in and see what they have to offer.


 
* * * * * * * *

Dirty Bare Feet + All Hail Hyena + Sleepy People + Soldato, 11th November 2017Hyena Inc. presents:
Dirty Bare Feet + All Hail Hyena + Sleepy People + Soldato
Ships And Giggles, 3 Fylde Road, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 2XQ, England
Saturday 11th November 2017, 7.00pm
– free entry – information here and here

Meanwhile, up in Preston, herky-jerky odd-rock band All Hail Hyena (who’ve made an initial name for themselves by storming and/or organising assorted Tim Smith benefit gigs) continue their work as promoters Hyena Inc. via a free DIY gig celebrating “one night of pop-punk-rap-reggae-soul-psychedelic space ska nursery-rhymes rock lo-fi metal bossa-nova prog tri-fi music from four diverse and very different brilliant northern bands”. As well as putting on the night and providing the lollipops, they’re performing themselves, bringing new songs of “neon lipstick, the thrill of a stolen kiss, and powerful pop ballads infused with filthy guitars and hot sex”. The gig will be closed by another growing Preston institution, Dirty Bare Feet, playing an audience pleasing “myriad of rap, soul, reggae, dance, pop, disco and jazz”; and opened by Chorley hard rockers Soldato (“four hairy northerners making noise with wood and wire”).




 
Of most interest to me, however, is that this gig marks a long-overdue return to live action by Tyneside underground heroes Sleepy People. Teasers and tinkerers at the coalface of psychedelic pop, they’ve always been a wilfully eccentric bunch; mingling the countercultural clowning and cosmic glissandi of Gong with bursts of twinkling synth melody, pulses of ska and post-punk guitar chug, set off by moonstruck flute and held together by Paul Hope’s odd yet jaunty songs (which chunter along like sugar-frosted tank engines). The last time they trod the boards was back in 2001: reunited with original singer Tiny Wood (better known as the frontman for ongoing cult-glamsters Ultrasound) they’re seeing what the contemporary world offers them, and vice versa.

Sleepy People, 11th November 2017Despite a strong work ethic Sleepy People never got as far as they should have done during their first lease of life; partly thanks to a constant stop-start of personnel turnover (with Paul and Rachel Hope the only consistent members) but also due to their continual goofiness and repeated nose-thumbing at any conception of cool. Daevid Allen might well have applauded, but the insouciant clowning tended to obscure surprisingly thoughtful songwriting which – while it happily dipped into a soup of esoterica from Gurdjieff to Freemasonry – frequently raised an arch, quizzical eyebrow at contemporary concerns. Among the tales of the frieze of myth and of men turning themselves into birds, the Sleepies also sang about the encroachment of shopping malls, about futile attempts at freezing yourself into immortality, or about modern-day nightmares in orphanages and retirement homes. At other times they’d cast numinous halos of wonder around everyday occurrences (a winter walk home which slowly becomes freighted with significance; the joy of a child running across a beach; or, perhaps on the same beach, the uncomprehending travails of a newly-hatched turtle perilously navigating by the moon).

Things can only be improved by the ongoing reunion with Tiny (who actually rejoined for part of the band’s final stint as Blue Apple Boy around 2002 before they called it a day). Striving to be Wakefield’s own David Bowie and its David Thomas; possessed of a hulking, dramatic stage presence; singing in foreboding and flinty tones like a pop crooner reincarnated as a battlefield crow… he’s always been the best, and the edgiest, foil for Paul’s songwriting. The tail end of the Blue Apple Boy period saw them writing together, Tiny’s more personalised art-punk anguish proving the perfect sour complement to Paul’s sweet, playful tunefulness: let’s hope that they’ve kept that up for the revival.

As for Sleepy People on the web, they’ve still got much to improve on their Facebook page (you’re better off checking them out on Wikipedia) and embeddable delights are few and scattered. Here’s what I could come up with, though – a twirl through Halfway World (with Tiny’s original replacement Phil Sears); recent rough’n’ready rehearsal footage of Every Wave Is Higher On The Beach and Nicky’s Little Army; and half an hour of grainy, raucous footage of a Tiny-fronted band lineup in 1993 (complete with three-fifths of the original Ultrasound).





 

November/December 2017 – more assorted Smithery – BarmyFiveseveN play Tim Smith at Connector V, Amsterdam (2nd November); Spratleys Japs’ Wonderful Winter Wonderland tour of England (14th-17th December)

15 Oct

Coverage of the complex, perverse and joyful musical work of the sadly incapacitated Tim Smith – whether inside or outside his mothership Cardiacs band – frequently figures in here. It’s good to bring you all more about his continued crossover from cult status to something wider: this time, with news of a conservatory jazz gig in Amsterdam and of the continued afterlife of Spratleys Japs.

Connector V, 2nd November 2017

Broedplaats Lely & Steim present:
Connector V
Steim, Schipluidenlaan 12-3E, 1062HE Amsterdam, Netherlands
Thursday 2nd November 2017, 8.00pm
information

“Composers are not necessarily dead. They also do not necessarily write symphonies in D flat minor in a 4/4 time signature.

“Tim Smith, frontman of the British band called Cardiacs, is a great composer who wrote lots of music permeated with energy, humour, beauty, Britishness. By people who only partly open their ears (or their minds for that matter), his music has been defined as being “chaotic”. The opposite is true, however: it is strongly organised music and all one needs to be able to do is count past four (and not forget about prime numbers). This challenging mix of punk, prog rock, orchestral and live electronic music (also known as “pronk”) will be performed by BarmyFiveseveN, a “small big band” ensemble of around fifteen players from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, armed with live electronic extensions.”

Connector V is part of a monthly series at Steim: regular readers should recognise this particular one as a follow-up to the Smith-covering set by Alex Brajkovic Ensemble at Amsterdam’s Jazz Ensemble Festival back in April, and it does in fact feature most or all of the same players, put together by rebel prog professor Jos Zwaanenburg. No-one seems to have recorded/posted evidence from the last time, so I can’t show you how it went – but as before, I can give you some very loose indications as to how this concert might might turn out by referring you to English Rose Orchestrations’ string quartet version of one of the featured pieces, The Duck And Roger The Horse.


 

* * * * * * * *

Spratleys Japs, 14th-17th December 2017The following month, Spratleys Japs consolidate the success of their Brighton and London reunion shows over the last couple of years by setting out on a bigger, broader English tour taking in Yorkshire and the West as well as the south east, with a mass of current/former Cardiacs and friends coalescing as support around the tour dates.

Read more about SJ here: in brief, though, they’re a short-lived and swampy alternate-universe pop project (part alien folk maunderings, part glam-punk punch and part spindly antiprog) which Tim put together in the mid-’90s with then-girlfriend/muse Jo Spratley. Now revived by Jo and a collection of Brighton art rockers, they’ve got a second wind and have been rattling through fresh gigs partially in tribute to Tim and partially because the enthralling, infuriating puzzle-box songs have a peculiar life of their own.


As regards the backup, looming raconteur Stephen Evens brings his scowling, sardonic British pop along to the London, Brighton and Bristol shows (possibly with full band in tow for all of them). In a similar vein, Yorkshire dark-melodrama rockers The Scaramanga Six pile in at the Huddersfield date, while the Brighton show also sports vigorous dream poppers Hurtling and noisy art-rock goons Ham Legion (the latter performing their Syd Barrett tribute as “Vegetable Men” (plus another acoustic set from Kavus Torabi, squeezing in time in between fronting Gong, Knifeworld and his radio broadcasts). At Bristol there’s another onetime Cardiacs guitarist, Jon Poole, possibly bringing both solo stuff and one-man versions of his clever-pop work with The Dowling Poole; plus ZOFFF (the reverberant south coast kosmische/deep-psych band featuring Crayola Lectern‘s Chris Anderson and yet another ex-Cardiac six-stringer, Bic Hayes).

As with most Cardiacs-related events, these give you a cross-section of a under-celebrated ongoing British sub-scene; stretching from surprisingly accessible, sharply written latter-day take on Britpop right through to mantric pedal noise and squirts of lysergic space-cadet juice. Here’s a selection of sundries from all concerned:









 
Full dates:

  • The Parish, 28 Kirksgate, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, HD1 1QQ, England, Thursday 14th December 2017, 7.30pm (with The Scaramanga Six) – information here and here
  • Exchange, 72-73 Old Market, Bristol, Avon, BS2 0EJ, England, Friday 15th December 2017, 7.30pm (with Jon Poole + ZOFFF + Stephen Evens) – information here and here
  • The Green Door Store, 2-4 Trafalgar Arches, Lower Goods Yard, Brighton Train Station, Brighton BN1 4FQ, England, Saturday 16th December 2017, 6.00pm (with Kavus Torabi + Stephen Evens (full band) + Hurtling + Ham Legion As Vegetable Men) – information here and here
  • The Windmill, 22 Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, London, SW2 5BZ, England, Sunday 17th December 2017 (with Stephen Evens + others tbc) – information t.b.c.

UPDATE, 18th October – apparently we can also expect a couple of imminent fundraising Cardiacs cover versions from Spratleys Japs and Stephen Evens (Odd Even and Two Bites of Cherry), plus other surprises they’re keeping a little tightlipped about for the moment.

Meanwhile, Cornish psychedelic folkie Emily Jones (another Spratleys friend from previous gigs) has been added to the Brighton concert, which now also features a Torabi/Steve Davis DJ set. Support for the Brixton Windmill show in London is going to be thrashy prog-pop stuntmeisters The Display Team and rapidly rising Windmill favourites Black Midi. Below are a couple of moments from Emily and the ‘Team. (There’s not much more I can give you about Black MIDI. They’re so new that the paint’s hardly dry on them, and their Soundcloud page is still empty; but I did manage to establish that they’re an experimental/instrumental rock five-piece of teenage Croydonians and that they’re “purveyors of the darkest dreamscapes”…)



 

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

3 Mar

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

Oscillations V, 10th March 2017

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

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


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


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


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

* * * * * * * *

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

The Real Music Club, 25th March 2017

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

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

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

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


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


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


 

August 2016 – upcoming gigs – odds and ends – Dennis bring North-Eastern mining-town pop to London (19th); noisy psychedelic rackets cooked up by Three Dimensional Tanx in Lancaster (20th) and by the Rocket Recordings All Dayer in London (20th – with Teeth of the Sea, Gum Takes Tooth, Necro Deathmort, Housewives, Anthroprophh, H.U.M, Kuro, Coldnose)

17 Aug

I’m not even going to pretend that there’s a connecting thread within this post – it’s just a roundup of Friday and Saturday gigs while I try to fit some more updates into what’s going to be a busy August outside of the blog.

It seems that my rant about ersatz brass bands and the appropriation of Northern British folk forms earlier in the month has borne some fruit, or at least generated some kind of knock-on effect. I’ve just been emailed about Dennis, an eight-piece “folk pit-pop & colliery brass band” from Hetton-le-Hole in the minelands of County Durham, who claim heirdom to “a working class cultural heritage and community spirit.” and who are playing a free gig in London on Friday. In many ways they’re a sugared-tea version of ascerbic ‘80s Hullensians The Housemartins – a soul-touched ‘60s guitar pop, with the soul horn section transmogrified into the distinctively mournful, dusty sound of a pit head brass ensemble.

While some of that comparison’s on point – they’ve certainly got the tunes, and spring even more directly from the culture, with even the guitarists learning pit brass back in primary school prior to an apprenticeship in indie – Dennis do lack the Housemartins’ explicit political bite. There’s little of the gadfly lyrical attacks, or an equivalent to Paul Heaton’s upfront socialism and targeting of privilege and exploitation. Instead, much of their ethos is expressed via their visual identity. Artwork and videos are festooned with mining and trade union banners and footage of workers’ marches, while some clips make use of elderly retirees in mining town social clubs (notably, the latter are invited to join in with the singing, instead of being treated either as craggy scenery or as crushing embarrassments).


 
Outwardly, Dennis seem to deal in softer topics – more personal, adolescent or universal, or more diffuse folky sing-alongs – but a quick closer look reveals an undercurrent of glowingly nostalgic communalism (the band are veterans of fundraisers and community support events), and lyrics which hanker back, obliquely, to community spirit and mutual help. Perhaps more will be revealed on their debut album ‘Open Your Eyes’, due at the start of September when they’ll be playing on home turf at Northumberland’s Coquetfest.

Dennis, and Sapien Records Ltd. present:
Dennis
Mau Mau Bar, 265 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 1LR, England
Friday 19th August 2016, 7.00pm
– free event – information


 

* * * * * * * *

Over in the North-West, Lancaster psych-punk five piece Three Dimensional Tanx are playing a hometown gig on Saturday. With Stooges, Can and Velvet Underground comparisons in the bag, they’re following a pretty clear lineage: personally, I’m also hearing Question Mark and the Mysterians plus the garage rock end of the Sy Barrett Floyd; while other songs beat relentlessly at the forehead like Suicide or embark on long, stewed musical journeys.


 
What I like about this band is the dogged way in which they conduct themselves, and the way in which they seem to have colonised this particular Lancaster pub – circling around in its schedule like a persistently returning comet and playing several sets each time, as if pushing themselves through an arts lab. Turning the show into a five-decker lysergic sandwich, North-Western vinyl archivist Sie Norfolk (Sunstone Records/Psych Fest) will take slots before and after the band as well as during a break between sets, playing a “psychedelic dance party” from his record collection. If they’re going to continue to make this thing a regular event, I hope that they succeed in turning it into a psychedelic node, feeding more mindstretcher bands into and through Lancaster and beyond.


 

Three Dimensional Tanx + DJ Sie Norfolk
The Golden Lion, 33 Moor Lane, Lancaster, LA1 1QD, England
Saturday 20th August 2016, 9.00pm
information
 

* * * * * * * *

Staying in choppy psychedelic waters, the Rocket Recordings label has an eight-band concert back down in London, hosted (inevitably) by those persistent stewards of noise at Baba Yaga’s Hut. Many of the names are familiar – certainly to the dedicated noisies who follow the Hut and swing hard with ‘The Quietus’ – but for those who might not know them so well, here’s a quick primer.

As Baba Yaga favourites, Teeth Of The Sea keep popping up in here: a craggy yet celebratory electro-psychedelic throb from a full-band rock lineup embracing techno, polytextured brass, analogue synthwarp, tough corners of metal, and dance imperatives that span Chicago clubs and mud-sodden English field parties. Meanwhile, Necro Deathmort were among the electro-industrialists running rampant at at Cafe Oto last October: an all-out banger project which swings like a macabre wrecking ball across the borders of hard techno, blootered industrial electronica and doom metal. This year’s album ‘The Capsule’ takes a step into the scuzzy pack-ice of dark ambience: glowering, and majestically dour.



 

An explicitly magickal Anglo-French-Swiss trio of Mark Wagner, Heloise Zamzam and Olmo Uiutna, the spiritually/psi-ritually-inclined H.U.M. played at April’s Gnod Weekender. Back then I described them as a “psychic cross-cultural art coven”, creating consciousness-expanding installation-cum-ritual sound performances via chants, drones and drums, with both the music and Mark’s improvised narratives drawing on cybernetics, the occult, sound visualisations, and ancient alchemical ideas. They also like Rimbaud, Artaud, Colombian shamans and the Gallic pop of Francois Hardy, which makes for one hell of an art-sprawl.


 

Both Housewives and Anthroprophh showed up in ‘Misfit City’ only the other day, as participants in the current Sax Ruins/Massicot tours – the former an amelodic No Wave-inspired noise quartet, the latter a trio led by a sludge-guitar hero balancing “fifty years of psychedelic culture and esoteric art” on his shoulders.



 

That leaves Gum Takes Tooth, Kuro and Coldnose. Two of these, at least, are two-person teamings. Gum Takes Tooth are drummer Thomas Fuglesang and singer/synth-player/electronoise generator Jussi Brightmore, who pursue a rhythmic communion with their audiences inspired by psychedelic rituals and sound-system block parties (their recent single, Bone Weapon, sounds like a choral mass conducted inside a floor polisher). Kuro is a new project uniting bass guitarist Gareth Turner (an Anthroprophh contributor and half of Big Naturals) with French amplified violinist Agathe Max (a classical music escapee who’s been making improvised sonic textural music for two decades). As for who Coldnose are, nobody seems to know. Perhaps they’re just an idea to fill up the poster. Perhaps they’ll simply coalesce on the day.



 
Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Rocket Recordings All Dayer (featuring Teeth Of The Sea + Gum Takes Tooth + Necro Deathmort + Housewives + Anthroprophh + H.U.M + Kuro + Coldnose)
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Saturday 20th August 2016
information

There’ll also be barbeques and beer, the latter an Intergalactic Pale Ale devised by Rocket label people in collaboration with London hopsmasters Brewage à Trois. Yep, there’s a signature beer for psych-happy London heads now…
 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – a Chord Orchard evening in Brighton (with The Fiction Aisle, Crayola Lectern and Lutine) and Alexander Ardakov’s classical piano fundraiser in Amersham

26 Apr

I’m still recovering from the aftermath of moving house, but here are another couple of gig posts for shows later in the week. There’s one classical-piano fundraiser just outside London (following up the recent one by Olga Stezkho, and for the same cause) plus an evening of marginal-yet-melodic pop in Brighton (for those who thought the town was all about counterculture…)

* * * * * * * *

Alexander Ardakov
The Spinney Theatre, The Beacon School, 15 Amersham Road, Chesham Bois, Amersham, HP6 5PF, England
Thursday 28th April 2016, 7.00pm
– more information here
and here

“A graduate of the Moscow Conservatoire and a prizewinner at the Viotti International competition in Italy, Alexander Ardakov has been living in England where, in addition to his performing career throughout the world, he is a Professor of Piano at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance. The move to Britain and to Trinity where he has taught since 1991 has enabled him to develop as an international recitalist of exceptional versatility and musical integrity. Among his notable radio recordings are those for BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. Alexander feels at home not only with the Russian classics but also with the composers of the romantic period such as Chopin, Liszt and Schumann. Indeed, Alexander’s audiences are never left indifferent, they are swept up in the sensitivity, intensity and passion of his playing that takes them on a journey from the most tender and intimate perceptions to the dramatic peaks of life’s greatest moments. Each meeting with him is a virtuoso performance that leaves the hearer emotionally sated yet still thirsty for more. Alexander’s extensive discography includes Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson. Further CD recordings are planned.”

Programme:

Johann Sebastian Bach – Ferruccio Busoni (1685-1760, 1866-1924)
Johann Sebastian Bach – Chorale Prelude “Ich ruf zu Dir”
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Nocturne op 19 no 4
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Romance op 5
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Meditation op 72 no 5
Sergei Rachmaninoff – Melodie op 3 no 3 in E major
Sergei Rachmaninoff – Elegie op 3 no 1 in E flat minor
Sergei Rachmaninoff – Musical Moment op 16 no 3 in B major
Christoph Willibald Gluck – Sgambati (1714-1787, 1841-1914)
Christoph Willibald Gluck – Dance of the blessed spirits
Robert Schumann – Warum (Why?)
Robert Schumann – Aufschwung (Upswing)
Ludwig van Beethoven – Seven Variations on the Theme ‘God Save the King’
Frédéric Chopin – Ballade op 23 no 1 in G minor
Frédéric Chopin – Ballade op 38 no 2 in A minor
Frédéric Chopin – Ballade op 47 no 3 in A flat major
Frédéric Chopin – Ballade op 52 no 4 in F minor


* * * * * * * *

Chord Orchard Evening, 30th April 2016Chord Orchard presents
CO.2 featuring The Fiction Aisle + Crayola Lectern + Lutine (+ DJs & Innerstrings lightshow)
Wagner Hall @ St Paul’s Church, West Street, Brighton, BN1 2RQ, England
Saturday 30th April 2016, 7.30pm
more information

The project of Chord Orchard leader Thomas White, The Fiction Aisle is “big, cinematic music that’s hewn in the shadow of John Barry, John Grant, Lloyd Cole and the Last Shadow Puppets, yet is very much its own creature. Much of it is a delicious investigation of old-fashioned pre-rock songwriting, but done from the heart rather than for kitsch kicks…a gorgeous surprise.” (‘The Arts Desk’)

Crayola Lectern released his debut double album, “The Fall and Rise of…” to great critical acclaim in 2013. The work and muse continue apace with the second album nearing completion and the third underway. Piano-oriented songs and adventures which affect people greatly, forming a unique musical world, all of its own, in thrall to nobody, best described as “what psychedelic music would have sounded like had the Edwardians invented it.”

Lutine“occupy the shifting, elemental space of their songs – a space that is sometimes airy, sometimes watery – in a way that is both effortlessly minimal and somehow whole. The result is a beautiful lucid dream of a record.” (‘Folk Radio’)

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – street-level shamanism and more at the Gnod weekender in London, April 9th & 10th

7 Apr

In some respects Gnod – who are curating, and playing at, an extended gig in London this weekend – are a dubby Salfordian reflection of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. They share certain working methods – a collective, leaderless initiative springing from communal warehouse living; a passionate ethos of anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian feeling expressed in vast, cavernous and primarily instrumental musicscapes; an atmosphere sourced from circulating cultural-economic ghosts of deprivation and stagnation.

As regards the music itself, the parallels shift a little. Though both bands use drones and scattered, marginal snippets of speech, Gnod’s approach is a good deal broader and looser than Godspeed’s blend of classical/minimal string austerity and wind-tunnel punk rage, seeding itself from a variety of persistently underground forms. In the stew are industrial dance music, noise rock and anarchic dub; mystical hippy staples of overtone chanting and psychedelic ritual music (stripped of their frivolous navel-gazing associations and brought back to their mind-opening sources); free jazz; and a swathe of aural art-punk collagery (the latter of which, in Gnod form, recalls apocalyptic Godspeedian end-of-days graffiti, an approving response to Linder Sterling’s sharp visual comments on consumerism, and diary notes from besieged squats and hermit bedsits).

Other information is there if you choose to dig it up. We know that Gnod are from the other Islington – that liminal corner of Salford in the elbow of the River Irwell between the rails, the university and the skeletons of light industry, where the Islington Mill Arts Centre (in which the band live and work) has flourished since the mid-‘90s. We know that multi-instrumentalists and producer-theorists Chris Haslam and Paddy Shine have been in the band from the start: we know that the other two current members happen to be Marlene Ribeiro and Alex Macarte. We know that what seems to be dozens of others (but might be the same six people in a constant shuffle of personae) phase in and out of the band according to need, whim and inspiration; and that these include Manchester improv saxophonist David McLean, journeyman keyboard player John Paul Moran and drummer Chris Morley (once of Welsh experimental rockers Klaus Kinski, now propelling no-wave’d punk-funkers target=”_blank”>Queer’d Science).

We also know that the hybrid steam of subcultural influences and spirit of resistance that boils off from all of these ingredients is winning Gnod awestruck acclaim. ‘The Quietus’ (increasingly the British tastemaker as regards bands negotiating that slippery margin between absolute chthonic obscurity and cultural penetration) has not only sung their praises but been seduced into actually recording with them; while digging into Gnod’s web of ongoing connections and activities shakes up all kinds of other possibilities. The Gnod network of fellowship stretches across Europe and encompasses ever-roving Can singer Damo Suzuki, billowing gonzoid sample-psych from the late ‘80s (revived arsequake veterans Terminal Cheesecake sport former Gnoddist Neil Francis as their current frontman), classic British post-punk (via The Monochrome Set and The Blue Orchids), Louise Woodcock’s multi-media feminist art and a Catalonian psychedelic scene which gives a new meaning to Spanish castle magic (a few years ago, Gnod teamed up with Barcelona’s Black Bombaim as “Black Gnod”).

Having been casting out recordings since 2009, Gnod came up to speed with the beefy-but-spectral ecclesiastic dubgrind of 2011’s ‘INGNODWETRUST’ (following up with 2012’s ‘Science & Industry’, a sort of post-industrial ‘Sketches of Spain’ for trumpet, drones, ironscrape guitar haze and indistinct female declamations). They’re currently best known for 2014’s mammoth 110-minute ‘Infinity Machines’, in which their instincts for mood and social challenge came into focus. For that album, Gnod returned to (scorched) earth and conjured up a classic post-war Mancunian landscape of bones, threat and concrete; marrying a bleak Joy Division grind and deadzone chimes with knell-beating Rhodes piano, distorted boomings like rusting gasholders being beaten into dub drums, and aghast chemtrails of free sax which sounded like black-sailed galleons creeping up the Ship Canal and advancing into the Irwell. Amidst the grindings and slithering drones and the pollutant-smeared sleet, vocal samples of resistance and disquiet gave shape to a dawning and outspoken atmosphere of scepticism; in Breaking The Hex, they finally unleashed an eleventh-hour blast of dub/punk/sax/noise rebellion, while the title track was a harmonium keen over dark sonic bubbles.

While it didn’t wear its manifesto in the shape of a set of placardable lyrics, ‘Infinity Machines’ was a work of Salford shamanism, spitting the city’s ongoing gentrification back into its own face. Since then, Gnod have refused to simply rework it – instead they’ve allowed the feelings that inspired it to lead them naturally into new forms. Last year’s ‘Mirror’ album was written on tour in a slew of traveller’s energy and impacted by destructive mental turbulence within the Gnod circle: inspired in part by rage at government austerity programs which apparently declared war on the poor) propelled the band away from grand studioscapes and into a raw, live feel. It’s more personalised, its anger and alienation borne on pendulous and discombobulated noise-punk anti-grooves. Hands slam onto instruments and slip beats; the music flares into outright rage rather than stern painterly stews. Amidst the overtone vocals and chants, there’s persistent raw yelling; while the soundscapes have shifted towards slowed sirens, and a dragging, coshing pace: a clear early Swans influence.

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Gnod Weekender, part 1: Gnod + Blood Sport
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Saturday 9th April 2016, 8.00pm
more informationtickets
Gnod Weekender part 2: Locean + Water + Futuro de Hierro + H.U.M + Dwellings + Negra Branca + Arkh Wagner + Ayn Sof
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Sunday 10th April 2016, 3.00pm to 11.00pm
more informationtickets

Gnod Weekender, 9th-10th April 2016Much of all of the above is going to come together over the course of this weekend, in which Gnod and a host of like-minded friends bring their collective approach to the current homestead of quirky London rock.

Saturday sees a full Gnod performance, supported by Sheffield trio Blood Sport, whose spindly and aggressive style is a ghostly, glassy-toned, black-sun approximation of Afrobeat and soukous. As for what Gnod themselves might be doing, the grind and gnarl of ‘Mirror’ might be their current output but they have a history of changing state and presenting an expectant audience with something unexpected: so be prepared for anything which reflects their history and their potentials (up to and including party blowers, possibly).

Sunday’s afternoon-to-late-night show features Gnod side projects and assorted friends in an eight-hour orgy. Some feature current Gnod members. Paddy Shine’s immersive “tantric vocal loop” project Ayn Sof will be opening the show; Dwellings is founder and bass player Chris Haslam doing hard-beat industrial electronica – dull-thud compulsive flesh beats, like the woody rattle of an early S&M loom, played in tandem with dank gothic synth drones. Negra Branca is a Marlene Ribeiro project, expanding on the “melodic and tonal dreamscapes” which she plays as part of the main band, full of squashy analogue synth shapes and temple-goddess vocals.



In Arkh Wagner, Alex Macarte (one of the more directly mystical Gnod members, if his online talk is anything to go by) teams up with Mark Wagner, a London-based multi-disciplinary artist and cybernetic mysticist, whose working practices are steeped in “cymagick” (a visualization of sound which takes in invisible and occult connections and “the vibratory nature of all things”). Their track Turn Off Your Mind (a narrative backed by a deepening pulse-chime in a confusion of noise surf) is a meditation on staring into the void, and on going too far out.


 

Mark Wagner’s also taking the stage as one-third of H.U.M. (or “Hypnotic Ultrasonic Magick”), a merging with two similarly shamanic noisemakers from Bristol’s ZamZam Records (these being the enigmatic surnameless H, or “Heloise”, who slipped into Bristol six years ago from a French fine arts background and has since been bewitching audiences with gigs that fall somewhere between installation and ritual and take place in caves, swimming pools and sundry found space, and fellow émigré and ambient droner Uiutna, originally from Switzerland but making her own way in the Bristolian avant-garde). H and Uiutna relocated to France recently but return to England for this event. H.U.M. present themselves as a kind of psychic cross-cultural art coven, citing “alchemical practice, incantation, chanting, drones, ritual drumming, French variété” as both inspiration and activity… although “French variété” is also on the list, so either a showbiz tinge or a sliver of hidden humour has been worked deep into the atmospheres. Here’s a clip of them in action:


 

Over in Barcelona, multi-instrumentalist, producer and happeneer Víctor Hurtado is the core of a “magic-inspired” scene of ritual psychedelic music. First coming to notice as the man behind acid-assemblage unit Qa’a (a richly detailed stew of lysergic rock and Nurse With Wound noise-and-texture garnishing), he’d soon diversify into a greater spontaneity with Huan (a project which he describes as “animalistic pulsations… almost like a living organism, that is at times sick, dying or excited”). Having collaborated with Jochen Arbeit, Steven Stapleton and more recently with Chris Haslam in the “monolithic, rhythmic, repetitive” Ordre Etern, Victor is bringing his Futuro de Hierro project to London for the Gnod Weekender. His latest musical pathway, it’s an outgrowth of his interest in more extreme and violent forms of electronic dance (such as speedcore and gabba) fused with techno, music concrete and a heightened psychedelic sensibility, featuring “disjointed rhythms” and “destroyed sounds, sonic detritus and live sound manipulation.”


All-female “art-carnage” troupe Water are another part of the Venn diagram which Gnod inhabit. Specifically, they represent the circles which intersect Manchester’s visual arts and multimedia, and the Devi Collective which coalesced around the Mill to commemorate and interpret last year’s William Burroughs centenary. Citing Throbbing Gristle, Wu-Tang Clan’s Rza and “well-witch horror scores” as creative spurs, they’re currently a five piece of multi-media “queen bee” Louise Woodcock, spoken-word poet/noise-guitarist Laura Bolger, visual artists Amy Horgan and Rachel Goodyear, and Emma Thompson (usually encountered as a DIY/punk/experimental gig promoter).

Soundcloud clips reveal something sounding like post-industrial Maenads: eerie threadlike female choruses and Laura’s dub-echo declamations seeping through a freeform background of womb-bass, malfunctioning engine drones, clanks and whistles, piston hisses, machine scrapes and tekiah blasts. The involvement of at least three women from a visual arts background – plus some striking photos – suggests that there’s a spectacle involved. Evidence of lengthy Water performances inspired by Aleister Crowley, by séances and by water rituals suggest that they’re fascinated with rite, summoning and form in a way which spans primordiality, Greek legend and map-fixes on esoterica ranging from Renaissance art to the present day. All of it slips through the fingers if seized on second-hand: it seems as if Water are an experience best soaked up live.


 

Laura Bolger reappears to add smeared, dreamlike vocals and narrations to the final act on the bill, Locean – another full-on Irwellian music collective in the Gnod and Devi orbit (sharing both Louse Woodcock and sometime Gnod tapesman/ranter Neil Francis). Offering another queasy grinding ride of driving punk-psych, noise improvisations and punk wail, their mantric sound binds The Velvet Underground, Mother Gong, Bauhaus and an abrasive Fall-esque groove in with bass-echo and wheel-rim guitar. As with Gnod and Water, they’re technically minimal but build up to a grand scale with their scratching, multiplying sonic detail: Laura’s words and musings, floating on the sound-wash like scraps of diaries and manifestos, ranges from odd and oblique polemics to numinous childhood memories.




 

As I post this, tickets are still available. If you’re spending most of your time trapped in London’s gravity well, this might be your best chance for a while to get something of that Islington Mill atmosphere and inspiration, and to beat along with Gnod’s dark-toned, troubled yet committed heart.
 

February 2016 – upcoming gigs – From Now On 2016 festival in Cardiff; Laura Cannell, Rhodri Davies, Milo Newman & Matt Davies bring ‘The Lost City Of Dunwich’ to Bristol; Paperface, Jim Ghedi & Toby Hay, Dearbhla Minogue (The Drink, The Wharves) all play Daylight Music; an evening of Bad Elephant music with The Gift, Twice Bitten, Tom Slatter, jh; Teeth of the Sea + Ramleh at Electrowerks; The Centrals + Picturebox in Whitechapel; the Jonny Gee Quartet play Archway jazz.

9 Feb

Looking for further news on shows by Laura Cannell (mediaevalist improviser on fiddles and double recorder, previously covered here), I came across this:

From Now On 2016

Shape and Chapter present:
From Now On Festival 2016 @ Chapter Arts Centre, 2 Market House, Market Rd, Cardiff, CF5 1QE, Wales
Friday 12th-Sunday 14th February 2016
more information

“From Now On returns for the third year to fill Chapter with adventurous, fresh and boundary pushing music. Over three days you will be able to delve into a multi-genred soundscape of analogue dance, ancient re-imaginings, improvisation, silky balladry and lo-fi punk. We have sourced significant international visitors and some of the most intriguing performers working in Wales and the UK today.

As part of the celebrations, Chapter Cinema will be screening a compelling programme of music film and we are proud to present our first artist in residence. Acts include US experimental pop luminary Julia Holter; surreal electronic trio Stealing Sheep; paradoxical medieval/improv fiddler Laura Cannell; Bas Jan, a new krautpop trio from Serafina Steer; ambient explorer Mark Lyken and minimalist synth duo Happy Meals. Meilyr Jones will be presenting new work informed by his recent exploits in film and theatre that will be made in residence in the week leading up to the festival. Anna Homler & Stephen Warwick present a dance- and film-led performance of ‘Breadwoman’, a version of Tim Parkinson’s anti-opera ‘Time With People’; and Sweet Baboo invites you to join his ‘Synthfonia Cymru’, a collaborative synth performance.

We also have an alternative Valentine’s Day orgy of bands and short films curated by Club Foot Foot. In the cinema H. Hawkline soundtracks ‘Gwaed Ar Y Ser’ and experimental Welsh music films from CAM Sinema.”

(Other acts confirmed include Apostille, Sleeper Society, Club Foot Foot, L’Ocelle Mare, and Laura J Martin.)

Laura plays From Now On during Saturday 13th February. On the following day she’ll be crossing the Severn to play this event:

The Lost City of Dunwich

Onomato Collective present:
‘The Lost City Of Dunwich’ (featuring Laura Cannell, Rhodri Davies, Milo Newman and Matt Davies)
Café Kino, 108 Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3RU, England
Sunday 14th February 2016, 8.00pm
more information

“Onomato are delighted to bring together four artists to sonically explore the mystery and intrigue that surrounds the submerged town of Dunwich on the coastal region of Suffolk, East Anglia.

Matt Davies and Milo Newman will construct an 8-channel sound installation of their on-going work ‘By the mark, the deep‘. Utilising their field recordings from the waters of Dunwich’s ruins they will create a sonic framework for Laura Cannell with her evocative over-bowed fiddle and recorder, and un-traditional harpist Rhodri Davies to respond to.

Hailing from the region, Laura Cannell’s music draws on ‘folkish mysteries and the stark landscapes of East Anglia’s coasts’ and the event will begin with a conversation about a shared fascination with Dunwich’s esoteric submerged town.”


 

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Back in London, here’s something a little lighter. I’ve grumbled before about the encroachments and exclusions which lurk in the ongoing gentrification of the city but there are positive sides too. In Archway, amongst the brush-ups and the shouldering aside of community resources for what looks like the usual drive towards more and more luxury flats (see here for some of the fallout from that) there are sundry encouraging pop-ups and lower-key investments.

One such is the move of the Forks and Corks cafe from the edge of Parliament Hill to a new location, livening barren and wind-sucked plaza outside Archway station. Ensconsed in a former betting shop, twenty seconds walk from the tube station, they cook up deli food and serve craft beers, ciders and wines in an atmosphere of comfy sofas, child-friendliness and an encouraging make-do and mend spirit. Part of the latter includes a battered old piano, which in turn is leading to music evenings…

Jonny Gee Quartet @ Forks & Corks, 12th February 2016

Jazz in Archway presents:
The Jonny Gee Quartet
Forks & Corks, 2 Archway Mall, Junction Road, Archway, London, N19 5PH, England
Friday 12th February 2016, 8.00pm
– free event – more information

The Quartet are Jonny Gee (leader and double bass), Mick Foster (saxophone), Dan Hewson (piano) and Andrea Trillo (drums). From the photo, you can tell that they don’t take themselves too seriously, but don’t expect the same to apply to the music. Although you can expect a breezy, funky and accessible take on acoustic jazz, it’s going to be played by some serious musicians – most of them bandleaders in their own right – who don’t see why joy and sunniness can’t flood their playing. Between them they draw on years of experience with jazz, classical and dance forms (having collectively clocked up work with Stan Sulzmann, Ravi Shankar, Mike Garrick, Jacqui Dankworth, Zoë Rahman, The Sixteen, Pete King, the London Jazz Orchestra, Dave O’Higgins, Jon Toussaint, Jerry Dammers and Antonio Forcione). Not a bad collective draw for a scruffy, warmed-up concrete box in the middle of Archway…

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Still in London, on the 13th there’s the usual wash of Saturday gigs – acoustica, contemporary prog, electropsych and power electronics, and lo-fi pop.

In order of arrival…

Daylight Music 215, 13th February 2016

Daylight Music 215: Paperface + Jim Ghedi & Toby Hay + Dearbhla Minogue
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 13th February 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like event (suggested donation £5.00) – more information

Direct from the Daylight Music press mill:

Paperface has just released (from his lighthouse studio) his critically acclaimed debut album ‘Out Of Time’, inspired no doubt, by the choppy waters of the Thames lying in one direction, and the urban sprawl that lies in the other. He is probably up there hard at work on his next creation right now (weather permitting, of course).

We also welcome instrumental guitar duo Jim Ghedi and Toby Hay. Sheffield-based Jim’s influences range from African music, jazz and Eastern European folklore. Toby is from near Rhayader in mid-Wales: he is influenced by Indian Ragas, African Kora music and ancient Welsh harp music.


Dearbhla Minogue is a singer and guitarist in both The Drink and The Wharves. She will be playing electric guitar and doing some band songs as well as songs written to be played solo – and a couple of folk covers.

The brilliant The Leaf Library will be our in-between performer this week creating some weird and wonderful soundscapes – the icing on our Daylight Music sonic cake!”


 

(There’ll be more about Jim Ghedi and Toby Hay in the next post – this is a busy month for them…)

Meanwhile, Bad Elephant Music have been one of the most industrious of British cottage labels this past year, putting out a steady and careful stream of latterday prog, post-prog, folk rock and sophisticated AOR albums. This home gig should live up to the label’s familial reputation…

An Evening of Bad Elephant Music, 13th February 2016

Bad Elephant Music/House of Progression/Prog Magazine present:
An Evening of Bad Elephant Music: The Gift + Twice Bitten + Tom Slatter + jh
Boston Music Room, 178 Junction Road, Tufnell Park, London, N19 5QQ, England
Saturday 13th February 2016, 7.00pm
more information

Straight from the Elephant’s mouth:

“With their powerful and hypnotic songwriting, The Gift are supreme purveyors of the storytelling art and the perfect band to headline this event. The band will be staging a performance of their classic first album, ‘Awake And Dreaming’. 2016 sees the 10th anniversary of this long-deleted album, and to celebrate its birthday BEM will be reissuing it in a deluxe version, with brand new design. It is available for sale bundled with pre-ordered tickets for the evening, and also at the show. It won’t be on general release until later in the year, so this is a unique opportunity to get your copy and hear the album before it’s in the wild.

Twice Bitten will be making a rare live appearance, following BEM’s release of their first ever CD, ‘Late Cut’, in 2015. Formed in 1982, this legendary ‘heavy wood’ duo performed with most of the second-wave progressive rock bands of the Eighties, and will be well-known to anyone who frequented the Marquee back in the day. In keeping with their idiom, this appearance represents the launch event for ‘Late Cut’ – only six months after its release!

Tom Slatter‘s music is a listening experience like no other, with epic songs and deliciously dark storylines. Tom has eccentricity, inventiveness and mad genius at the core of everything he does – musician who is continually re-inventing himself. Tom is currently working on his fifth full-length album, a followup to ‘Fit The Fourth’, released by BEM in 2015. Tom certainly knows the meaning of ‘left field’ when it comes to the ideas and execution of his steampunk prog.

jh‘s uniquely British songwriting is a testament to his love of the album as an art form and his to his integrity as a musician. His eclectic yet cohesive music is full of melodies that will glue themselves inside your head. ‘Morning Sun’, an anthology of jh’s first three albums, has been a favourite for many visitors to the BEM store, and 2016 will see the release his first new collection of material since 2013′s ‘So Much Promise’.”

LATE UPDATE:

Unfortunately Rog Patterson – one half of Twice Bitten – has suffered a slipped disc in his neck, and is unable to even hold a guitar, let alone play one. Twice Bitten have, therefore, had to withdraw from An Evening of Bad Elephant Music. However… all is not lost! At the eleventh hour We Are Kin have stepped into the fray with a special acoustic performance of songs from their album ‘Pandora’.

 

Something a little noisier…

Teeth Of The Sea, 2016

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Teeth Of The Sea + Ramleh
Electrowerkz @ Islington Metal Works, 5 Torrens Street, Islington, London, EC1V 1NQ, England
Saturday 13th February 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Having just finished a British tour in support of their fourth album, ‘Highly Deadly Black Tarantula’, Teeth Of The Sea (returning to one of their London home-venues) have shown up in ‘Misfit City’ before. Their driving part-electronic instrumentals – packed with wailing guitars, rasping analogue synths and effected kaleidoscopic trumpet – owe equal debts to counterculture techno and to the aggressive end of psychedelic rock. ‘The Guardian’ has described their sound as “a more malevolent Morricone… widescreen and atmospheric throughout, but with a sense of dread running through its veins.” That’s close enough to nail it, though I’d also salute the four-to-the-floor beats, the cavernous space echo, and the dark pop shimmer that seals their overall appeal. Lurking epic dread notwithstanding, a Teeth Of The Sea gig is also a grand black-winged dance party – a huge Gothic laugh.

In support are Ramleh, whose lengthy and intermittent history dates back to the early ‘80s when they were launched as a solo power electronics project by founder and constant member Gary Mundy. As Gary and collaborator Philip Best developed, their sound generators, tunnelling shock-noise and lacings of screamed and hateful imagery gradually gave way to more flexible live instrumentation and more cryptically-inclined song-texts. Gary would become one of the key members of another crew of brutal noise-rock improvisers, Skullflower, whose explorations and personnel both contributed to Ramleh’s second and more psychedelic incarnation, which lasted through to the late ‘90s.

Since reuniting for a second time in 2009 (this time without Philip Best, now concentrating on the transcendently confrontational noise of his Consumer Electronics project) Ramleh have honed their sound to what you’ll hear on their newest album ‘Circular Time’ – dark guitar peals, blipping synth tones, pillared bass and supple, controlled-demolition drum-and-percussion flexings which can skulk in a kind of dubby minimalism or engage in furious death-spiral embraces of crowded noise. The Ramleh you see at this concert could be the rock trio version (Gary, Antony diFranco, Martyn Watts) or the drumless duo version of Gary and Anthony (I’m guessing that it’ll be the former…)


 

There’s just time to quickly mention this one too…

The Centrals + Picturebox @ The Union Bar, 13th February 2016

The Centrals + Picturebox
The Urban Bar, 176 Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel, London, E1 1BJ, England
Saturday 13th February 2016, 8.00pm
more information

The Centrals return to The Urban Bar in Whitechapel. Expect a fast-paced set full of catchy scrappy numbers that rarely break the 3min barrier. No messin’. Alongside them will be Picturebox, with their unique brand of lo-fi pop music from the cathedral city of Canterbury.”



 

* * * * * * * *

More very soon…

March & June 2016 – upcoming tour and festival nods for 2016 – Sussex action at the Lewes Psychedelic Festival and the all-female Her Festival in Worthing

13 Jan

The first of a few pointers towards upcoming festivals and tours happening this year. The first of these are both in Sussex during the spring and summer.

* * * * * * * *

Lewes Psychedelic Festival, 2016

Lewes Psychedelic Festival 2016 (presented by Innerstrings & Melting Vinyl)
All Saints Centre, Friars Walk, Lewes, BN7 2LE, England
Saturday 19 March 2016, 6.00pm
more information
(All-ages event, but under-16s must be accompanied by an adult)

Here’s what they have to say:

“Initially conceived by former Lewes resident Richard Norris (The Grid, Beyond the Wizards Sleeve, Circle Sky) over a pint of Harveys, Lewes Psychedelic Festival was an immediate success, selling out it’s first event way back in 2009. For the first two years, the event was held at All Saints Centre, a beautiful Norman church in the heart of Lewes. In 2012, the event moved to Zu Studios, which again was hugely successful. With mind bending visuals from Innerstrings since the festival’s inception, the event has seen performances from such great bands as The Soundcarriers, The Yellow Moon Band, Voice of The Seven Thunders, Black Market Karma, Himmel – Music For Massed Fuzz Organs, Crayola Lectern, Diagonal, kontakte, Notorious HiFi Killers and The Time & Space Machine. This year, Lewes Psychedelic Festival returns to the intimate 200 capacity All Saints Centre. On word of mouth alone, it’s already virtually sold out, but a few tickets remain available from physical outlets in the south coast area (The Vinyl Frontier, Music’s Not DeadPebbles and Wow And Flutter. These will go fast, so buy now.

The Cult Of Dom Keller will headline this year’s festival. The Nottingham four-piece are a groovy bunch of sonic alchemists, who create whacked-out soundscapes and songs that appear to have been born from another universe: their fuzz-laden psych pop is infectious and consuming and are destined to blow you away. The south London group Virginia Wing are a perfect blend of psychedelic majesty, speaking to everyday anxiety and isolation as well as seeking to evoke an inner world of pastoral fortification. They draw influence from the radiophonic sounds of Broadcast, the kosmische wonder of Cluster and the rhythmic propulsion of This Heat whilst never directly emulating any particular style. We are more than excited to have them join this stellar line-up!


Brighton-based (with a Lewes connection) Soft Walls is the solitude, singular and unique vision of Cold Pumas member and Faux Discx overseer Dan Reeves, who incorporates a broad palette of sonic textures from psychedelic pop to found sounds and ’60s echo. We also needed some youths on the line-up and new Brighton up-and-comers Wax Machine fit the bill. They are pure psychedelic rockers with a love for the ’60s, alongside a contemporary and experimental approach to the hazy, lo-fi sounds of psychedelia.


We are really pleased to have booked Novella after seeing them play an amazing set (with fan Bobby Gillespie in attendance) in London back in May. London-based (but originally from these shores), the band create their own intensively psych-ethereal harmonies and melodic garage sound. Finally, ZOFFF are a south-coast-based psychedelic krautrock band, assembled from various members of the rather brilliant Cardiacs, Levitation, Sons of Noel and Adrian, Clowwns and Crayola Lectern. It was Crayola Lectern’s mind-blowing performance of ‘Trip In D’ at the last Lewes Psych Fest that inspired them to form this collective. Intense and unpredictable, ZOFFF’s performances are the stuff of future legend.”


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While the Psychedelic Festival may well have sold out by the time you read this, the next one probably hasn’t: and if you’re female, you might even still have a chance to pitch for a performance slot. Read on…

Her Festival, 2016

Her Festival 2016 (presented by Samurai Nights)
various venues, Worthing, England
Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th June 2016

As befits a town in the Brighton orbit, Worthing has its share of a questioning and revolutionary undercurrent, with challenging countercultural/counter-status-quo ideas being constantly tossed around against that backdrop of Georgian-to-Edwardian seaside gentilities and bland housing developments. Albeit, sometimes this is off in the sidestreets and on the quiet, but it’s promising to hear news that someone there is planning an all-female music festival (with boys and men still welcome, but only in the audience this time). Details have been sketchy for a while (and it’s unclear whether there are going to be any stylistic tendencies or restrictions – they’ve mentioned band and dance stages and an “urban” component, but not suggested that anyone’s likely to be locked out due to not fitting the sound of the show). Here’s what the organisers have said so far:

Her Festival, 2016Samurai Nights presents Her Festival – a brand new festival that aims to lead in showcasing women in music. Held in Worthing, West Sussex, UK, the three day festival will showcase female DJs/bands/urban artists in three fantastic venues including Worthing Pavilion (the Dance Stage) and Worthing Assembly Hall (the Band Stage). Acts will be a mixture of grass roots, emerging and very established headline acts. We will also hold a VIP music industry convention that will hold discussions, workshops and Q&A sessions that will cover topics such as pregnancy in the music industry, radio, entertainment law and booking agencies to name a few. Day/weekend /VIP-industry tickets will be available”

So far the only confirmed act is beatboxer/ambient pop singer Grace Savage (a 2015 beatbox team champion and onetime member of BURD), with more to follow. The organisers are still teasing the audience by asking them to name people whom they’d like to see on the bill. I’d say that any women reading this (whether performers or just attendees) who are in with a chance of getting anywhere near Worthing in the summertime, should take them up on it. They said “grassroots”, so give them grassroots. Any building information and developments can be found here and here as it arrives. I’ll do an update later.

 

November 2015 – upcoming gigs – Julia Holter’s experimental pop tours the UK; chamber music at the Forge (Ensemble Perpetuo’s galactic tour, CHROMA’s British Music Collection show with Martin Scheuregger & David Gorton premieres); Baba Yaga Hut London rocktronica double (Tropic of Cancer, Shift Work and Telefon Tel Aviv down south; Teeth of the Sea and Charles Hayward’s Anonymous Bash out east); Olga Stezhko takes her Lucid Dream piano concert to the Wigmore & Bridgewater Halls; Vôdûn rocks out Afro-psych-metal at Westminster Kingsway; Dub Trio and Thumpermonkey mix it up at The Underworld; Haiku Salut, Camden Voices and Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch bring post-folk, soundtrack classical and community chorale to Daylight Music

8 Nov

Since when did November become so generous? There’s plenty to see and hear this coming week, including the continuing Jenny Hval/Briana Marela tour (with Bristol and London dates), Laura Moody following up recent shows in Cardiff and Sheffield with a house concert in Edinburgh on the 12th (email her directly in case tickets are still available) and, in London, the opening dates of the London Jazz Festival and the End Festival. Plus the following:

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With Briana Marela, Jenny Hval and Holly Herndon all touring or playing in Britain this month – and with Joanna Newsom having already sold out her lone British date at the Eventim Apollo on Monday – it’s a good month for seeing art-pop with a distinctly female hue or ethos (although to be honest there’s always a wealth of such things around, if you look hard enough and dip under the radar).

To the above, add  Julia Holter, who’s working a short British tour over the course of the week. It’s an opportunity to see how rapidly Julia’s exploratory, highly literary work has evolved and altered over a decade of recording time: from the Debussy-an glistenings of 2006’s ‘Eating The Stars’ to the oblique sonic and textual puzzles of 2011’s ‘Tragedy’ (mixing transfigured Greek drama, disorientating found sound and transparent barely-there parings of songcraft) and the impressionistic jazz-novel assemblage of ‘Loud City Song’ in 2013 (which drew on Collette, MGM musicals and belle-epoque).

Julia’s newest album, this year’s ‘Have You In My Wilderness’, is something of a step into the known. Her once-baffling minimal musical stylings – which, on ‘Tragedy’ in particular, hung precariously on the edge of what might be described as “song” – have by now transformed themselves into what sounds like dreamy, distracted takes on late-‘60s/early-‘70s Brill Building songwriter pop. That said, the album’s meditations on solitude and companionship (real, imagined, rejected or deconstructed) retain Julia’s distinctive tone of lateral thinking and musing, and if the songs seem more conservative on the outside they soon reveal themselves as different, more fluid creations, if Carole King had been enticed into French surrealism (note the nods to Dali, Bunuel, Germaine Dulac and Gérard de Nerval in the video for ‘The Sea Calls Me Home’, above). It’s also clear that if ‘Have You In My Wilderness’ does invite a broader audience by way of its more comfortable textures, it’s not a sell-out: keeping firmly in touch with her earlier impulses and schemas, Julia has included a re-recording of Betsy On The Roof (a pre-‘Tragedy’ song best known from her rare 2010 live tapes).

Julia Holter:

Note that the Leeds gig at the Brudenell is part of their High & Lonesome Festival in which Julia will be sharing a stage with Josh T. Pearson, Neil Halstead &and many others.

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There are two chamber music concerts coming up at The Forge in London:

Ensemble Perpetuo

Ensemble Perpetuo presents: Heavenly Sights (The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, UK, Monday 9th November 2015, 7.30pm) – £10.00 to £12.00 – information & tickets – more information

Founded in 2013 by English oboist James Turnbull, Ensemble Perpetuo is a dynamic and versatile collective of musicians who perform a wide variety of traditional and contemporary chamber music in new settings; bringing it to new audiences through exciting collaborations and innovative repertoire choices; and seeking new pathways in which to experiment and augment the concert experience through multi-art form collaborations. Perpetuo has embarked on a number of exciting mini-residences throughout the UK and is taking music to new venues including concerts in theatres, museums, cafes, found spaces and other unexpected locations.

Join Perpetuo for the final event in their groundbreaking series of chamber music concerts for 2015 – an evening of incredible music that takes you on a journey to the furthest reaches of the galaxy. ‘Heavenly Sights’ is an evening of music inspired by space, flight and motion. Featuring music from Beethoven and Piazzolla to Weir and Muhly, experience over two hundred years of chamber music in one evening.

Programme:

Robert Schumann – Mondnacht (arr. Colin Matthews)
George Benjamin – Flight
Nico Muhly – Motion
Judith Weir – Airs From Another Planet
Anthony Powers – In Sunlight
Charlotte Bray – Trail Of Light
Astor Piazzolla – Milonga del Angel
Ludwig van Beethoven – Moonlight Sonata
Cheryl Frances-Hoad – My Fleeting Angel

 

CHROMA ensemble

CHROMA: Gorton, Scheuregger and British Music (The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, UK,Wednesday 11th November 2015, 7.30pm) – £10.00-£12.00 – information & tickets – more information

Founded in 1997, the critically acclaimed CHROMA is an acclaimed, London-based, flexible chamber ensemble dedicated both to new music and to revisiting classic repertoire in fresh and exciting contexts; mentoring the next generation of composers, and involving audiences in compelling, inspirational experiences. Closely associated with the performance of contemporary music the ensemble has forged close links with many prominent British composers through many commissioned premières and collaborations (including work with Luke Bedford, Michael Nyman, David Bruce,  Tarik O’Regan,  Michael Zev Gordon, Raymond Yiu, Claudia Molitor, Julian Grant, Arlene Sierra, and Marcus Barcham-Stevens) .

CHROMA has a lively strand of intimate chamber concerts combining music and storytelling, which has resulted both in its first own-label album ‘Folk Tales’ and in various opera stagings in association with the opera festival  Tête à Tête,  the Linbury Studio Theatre and others.  The ensemble’s mentoring programme includes ongoing work with student composers at the Royal Academy of Music, Royal Holloway University of London and Oxford University.

This concert (featuring Roderick Chadwick on piano) is the culmination of composer Martin Scheuregger’s residency at the British Music Collection. Martin’s new work, ‘Harlequin’, and ‘Burgh Castle’ by David Gorton form the centre of the programme. Harlequin engages with and reflects on the themes and ideas Martin has been exploring through the music of The Collection, whilst ‘Burgh Castle’ – a CHROMA aural-visual commission for piano and ensemble – is inspired by the landscape of the East Anglian Fens. Pieces from the BMC – from both lesser-known and established composers – place these new works in the context of Martin’s residency and the music with which he has surrounded himself for the last 18 months.

Programme:

Philip Cashian – Horn Trio
Helen Grime – Snow and Snow
Martin Scheuregger – Harlequin (world premiere)
David Gorton – Burgh Castle (world premiere)
Anthony Powers – In Sunlight
Sadie Harrison – The Bride’s Journey In Three Songs And A Memory

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On the 12th November, Baba Yaga’s Hut are presenting a double event in London: simultaneous gigs in the east and the south, each blending rock and electronica in different ways and at different intensities.

event-20151109-tropicofcancTropic of Cancer + Shift Work + Telefon Tel Aviv (DJ) (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, London, SE17 1LB, UK, Thursday 12th November 2015, 8.00pm) – £10.00 – informationtickets

Gauzy, morbid-romantic dream pop project Tropic of Cancer (comprising murmurer and instrumentalist Camella Lobo plus collaborators) return to London for another set of blurred lyrics and slow-burner Gothic psychedelic-tinged tunes. Expect lapping echoes, grey-draped music and a numbed atmosphere with concealed drama: self-confessed romantic and “hyperbolic dramatist” Camella admits that the driving concept behind most of her songs is “a love so supernatural it lasts beyond death, but also a love that is sometimes not strong enough to conquer human weakness in the living.” 

The live Tropic Of Cancer band now includes Joshua Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv (and also Sons of Magdalene, Puscifer and the Nine Inch Nails tour band) who’ll apparently be playing a DJ set under his TTA moniker.  Further support comes from London dance-electronica minimalists Shift Work.

 

event-20151112-teethoftheseTeeth of the Sea + Anonymous Bash (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ The Brewhouse, London Fields Brewery, 369-370 Helmsley Place, South Hackney, London, E8 3SB, UK, Thursday 12th November 2015, 8.00pm) – £9.00 – informationtickets

At this gig, the increasingly acclaimed Teeth Of The Sea launch their fourth album – the subtly-titled ‘Highly Deadly Black Tarantula’.

The London band’s assured and stormy concoction of spacey psychedelic guitar rock  dramatics, heavily-processed Fourth World trumpet, counter-culture festival techno,  electronica and drone music – plus their assured-to-arrogant stage presence and mastery of performance – has been winning them a wide range of fans from across the board. The clips below should give you an idea of what to expect both on record and onstage.

Support comes from Anonymous Bash, featuring veteran experimental drummer Charles Hayward (of This Heat, Camberwell Now, Massacre and the myriad collaborations of Accidents + Emergencies). Based on the music springing from last year’s four-week Hayward residency at Salford’s Islington Mill (during which Charles collaborated with over twenty musicians from the Manchester regions), the project features a taut, dubby experimental sound centred around the sonic marriage of his own percussion, melodica and vocals with shifting, abrasive rock aspects brought in by his collaborators.  The Salford-based Gnod ensemble (a mixture of  kosmiche and cult-spoofery) played a substantial role in the Anonymous Bash album, and join Charles in the ongoing live lineup.

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Olga Stezhko, 2015Increasingly a ‘Misfit City’ regular, the Belarusian classical pianist Olga Stezhko (whose superb technique is equalled by her audacious, densely intellectual approach to programming her repertoire) chalks up two landmark concerts at two British classical music institutions this week as she makes her debut at both the Wigmore Hall and the Bridgewater Hall. To each venue, Olga is bringing her ‘Lucid Dreams’ programme – a selection of pieces exploring ideas of childhood and children’s music.

Olga comments “this programme is deeply personal to me. It is a conscious attempt to rediscover those things that were central to the development of my musical identity. Inevitably this can appear to be a sort of light musical psychoanalysis, but as I recall my childhood I remember vividly being surrounded by magic, with all its signs and symbols, which greatly affected how I felt towards the world around me at the time. To some extent, I have never lost touch with my younger self thanks to my extensive teaching work with children. Their distinctive personalities are an endless source for artistic inspiration; I wish therefore to dedicate my concert to those boys and girls.

“The narrative of the programme reflects the development of our perception of reality during different stages of life. It moves from the magical realism of a child’s worldview in the first half (Toys & Dances) to the broader metaphysical questions we all face at some point in life in the second part (Images & Visions).”

Olga Stezhko: ‘Lucid Dreams’ piano recital (Kirckman Concert Society @ Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore Street, London, W1U 2BP, UK,  Tuesday 10th November 2015, 7:30pm) information & tickets

Programme:

Part One: Toys & Dances

Sergei Prokofiev – Old Grandmother’s Tales Op. 31
Sofia Gubaidulina – Musical Toys
Dmitri Shostakovich – Three Fantastic Dances Op. 5
Claude Debussy – Suite Bergamasque: Menuet
Lev Abeliovich – Tarantella
Aleksandr Skriabin – Deux Danses Op. 73

Part Two: Images & Visions

Claude Debussy – Images, Series 1
Aleksandr Skriabin – Cinq préludes Op. 74
Claude Debussy – Images, Series 2
Aleksandr Skriabin – Vers la flamme, poème Op. 72

Olga Stezhko (The Manchester Mid-day Concerts Society  @ Bridgewater Hall, Lower Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3WS, UK, Thursday 12th November 2015, 1:10pm) – £7.00-£11.50 – informationtickets

Programme:

Sergei Prokofiev – Old Grandmother’s Tales Op. 31
Sofia Gubaidulina – Musical Toys
Claude Debussy – Images, Series 1
Aleksandr Skriabin – Vers la flamme, poème Op. 72

(Note that the Manchester concert features a much shorter version of the ‘Lucid Dreams’ programme.)

Throughout the programme, Olga explores the further deeper brought up in her music choices, investigating Debussy’s complex psyche and relationship with his daughter, the cognitive differences between children and adults (including the former’s belief, often shared with adult musicians, that they shape the world by thought and action), her own childhood impulses as a pre-teen musician, and the roles of parent figures in successive generations of composers. She also challenges the subordinate role that children’s music seems forced to play, arguing “what is the definition of children’s music anyway? I believe when these works emerge as an innermost urge from a mature master, it epitomizes their most sincere and unpretentious artistic output.

“Such music as Gubaidulina’s Musical Toys (part of my future recording project ‘Toys & Tales’) or, for example, Debussy’s Children’s Corner (to be included into my next all-Debussy album) is as rich with imagery, colour, trepidation, emotion and symbolism as any symphonic masterpiece. Moreover, it is perhaps the most accurate musical description of any composer and their inner worlds. Both performers and listeners can relate to this kind of music precisely because there is something universal about it as we all were children once, authentic and genuine in our relationship with the world.”

Olga’s full thoughts behind ‘Lucid Dreams’ (from which the above notes and quotes are taken) can be found here, and are well worth reading.

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Another couple of London rock gigs show up midweek and at the end of the week. Summaries below:

Vôdûn + support t.b.c. (WestkingMusic Live @ Westminster Kingsway College Theatre, 211 Grays Inn Rd, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8RA, UK, Thursday 12th November 2015, 6.30pm) – £2.00-£5.00 – information

Emerging out of a cloud of voodoo-scented bombast (in the centre of which you’ll find former Do Me Bad /Chrome Hoof singer Chantal Brown) Afro-psych/doom metal band Vôdûn bring a welcome taste of old-school Black Rock Coalition determination back to the party along with their artfulness. A churning bass-less power trio – multi-racial, two-thirds women, and taking on the names of loa spirits – they set wall-of-noise guitar against galloping drums and full-throated soul-power vocal melisma.

The band make much of West African spirit power, possession and cosmology: but from what initially seems like a stew of schtick brewed from heavy metal and voodoo swagger, various Afrocentric and feminist images bubble up (not least in the assertive vigour of the female players, and in the way they remind us of the passionate feminine component in the rituals and worldview of the original vodun culture). The current Vôdûn single Mino’s Army is a tribute to the fearsome all-female musket regiment which (by the nineteenth century) made up a third of the Dahomeyan army, played a leading role in the nation’s military policy, and honed female ferocity into a powerful fighting force which dismayed and won the admiration of male opponents (including the French, whom the Mino repeatedly mashed in early stages of the colonial wars). The blood-and-fire video pays tribute to this, and to the acres of severed heads which the victorious Mino left behind them, though perhaps not to the fact that the Mino came to strive against slavery in their own nation as well as the slavery fostered by the Europeans.

Inevitably, Vôdûn are going to be inspiring questions and challenges about the African traditions they’re playing with, and perhaps a deeper approach to storytelling doesn’t currently fit the spontaneous and immediate nature of the band as it stands. But in spite of this, and behind the surface theatrics, the signs are promising. One to watch…

Thumpermonkey, 2015

Dub Trio + Thumpermonkey (Nightshift/Rock-A-Rolla @ The Underworld, 174 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 0NE, Sunday 15th November 2015,…. ) – price – information – tickets

Later in the week,  Dub Trio return to London, bringing their live dub/rock skills and their interdependent mutually-looping interactions back to the stage of the Underworld. Here’s a long clip of a full, relatively recent show to get you in the mood.

In support are London’s Thumpermonkey (another bunch of ‘Misfit City’ regulars) whose intricately-constructed heavy post-progressive sound is in some ways the antithesis of Dub Trio’s semi-spontaneous instrumental tightrope act. I’d argue that that was the joy of a well-arranged rock gig – in this case, the contrast between two equally deft, clever and complementary bands keeps one’s brain fizzing away happily, and you leave the gig feeling smarter and more alive than you did when you arrived. Certainly Thumpermonkey’s crammed and ingenious musical constructions, topped off with Michael Woodman’s theatrical songlines and multi-layered lyrics, remain one of the current underrated treasures of British rock.

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On the Saturday there’s another Daylight Music – a typically involved crossover gig of post-rock, soundtrack classical and communal musical spirit. Details and promo blurb below…

Haiku Salut, 2015

Daylight Music 206 – Haiku Salut + Camden Voices & Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, UK, Saturday 14th November 2015, 12.00pm–2.00pm) – free (£3.50 donation suggested) – information

The wonderful Haiku Salut are best described as an instrumental dream-pop-post-folk-neo-everything trio from the Derbyshire Dales, and their talent for combining joyous folk, intricate electronica and spellbinding neo-classical has seen them compared to everyone from Beirut and múm to Sigur Ros and Aphex Twin. Their second album ‘Etch And Etch Deep’ has received acclaim from ‘Uncut’ (who called it “both warmly familiar and completely, fearlessly new”) and ‘Popmatters’ (“vividly coloured sonic canvas”), while ‘The Line Of Best Fit’ described the opening track and recent single, Bleak And Beautiful (All Things), as “uniquely stunning… isn’t afraid to tear up the rulebook and begin fresh.”

Formed in 2013, Camden Voices is a choir of thirty passionate singers, instrumentalists and teachers, as well as those working outside of the music world. Rehearsing weekly in the heart of Camden Town, they aim for high musical standards whilst keeping a friendly and fun sense of community at our heart. With groove and harmony as their foundation, they develop new approaches to ensemble singing; using new arranging talent, they dust off neglected gems from the worlds of jazz, soul, gospel, and a cappella with a vibrant contemporary twist.

You can also hear the elegant, beautiful music of Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, an award-winning French pianist/composer currently living in London. Spanning film score, bespoke composition and art installations, her work is connected by both its high quality and evocative, meticulous craft – a common sensibility of elegant, instinctual composition. In 2015, she created a sound-walk for London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and her debut album ‘Like Water Through The Sand’ is set for a November release on FatCat’s post-classical imprint 130701.

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If ‘ve got a moment over the next few days, I’ll post up something on the London Jazz Festival and on The End – failing that, more November gig news to follow.

October/November 2015 – upcoming London gigs – gamelan/dance fusion with My Tricksy Spirit, Wax Wings and Segara Madu; Nordic pop at Ja Ja Ja (Kill J, Loveless and Maasai); anarchistwood’s Samhain/NYE party (with Rude Mechanicals, Jane Ruby and more); intercontinental psych & noise with Baba Yaga (Bitchin’ Bajas, Tomaga and Demian Castellanos, Acid Mothers Temple and Zeni Geva); and more LUME jazz

24 Oct

Pausing only to remind you that the last week of October includes two of the Pierre Bensusan acoustic gigs at the Half Moon in Putney (which I mentioned in the previous post), here are the last of my selected London gigs for the month, plus one for the start of November. As ever, it’s just a small sampling of what’s on in town, but it’s what’s caught my attention.

Bitchin’ Bajas + Tomaga + Demian Castellanos (Baba Yaga’s Hut & Hands In The Dark @ Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, UK, Monday 26th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £9.00

Baba Yaga's Hut, 26th October 2015I’ve heard Chicago trio Bitchin’ Bajas described as “psychedelic easy listening” – presumably by someone who insists on being shouted at in conversation. Despite that swaggering faux-dumb name (the one that makes them sound as if they play manic Tejano to be drowned out by fist-fighting oil workers) they’re more ‘Bitches Brew’ than cathouse. They spin out protracted rhapsodic instrumentals drawing on a variety of introspective, mindful influences and parallels, looking back to the hallowed bucolic trance of Harmonia and Cluster, the ecstatic modular pulses of Terry Riley, the breezy but depthless Pacific cool of West Coast jazz, and perhaps the dissolving pastoralism of Talk Talk. Though they’re multi-instrumentalists, they wear their skills lightly, working wind instruments and mallet percussion into their mists of keyboard and workhorse organ and their landscape of lively rolling, rilling glissandi and drone chords. Sometimes overlapping into ambient electronica, they’re never quite dilute enough to fit into it: even at their most vaporous and transparent, they’re the smoke that never quite fades, the tang that holds your attention. As the clip below shows, they’re perhaps a little too diffuse to work at an open air festival: embraced by the Oto space, they should do just fine.

Synth/sounds looper Tom Relleen and drummer Valentina Magaletti keep in step – just about – as Tomaga, an impressionistic improvising duo drawing on drone music, free jazz and modular synth work hanging off the edge of rock. Simple oscillating melodies percolate loosely over a syncopated jazz lope with hanging coffee-can taps and rattles and shortwave radio whines; sometimes a synth organ hangs by itself, burbling, while the percussion sways and alarms like an approaching freight train. It’s music of preoccupation, with brief flashes of bright sunlight through the pressing focus.

Best known as the figure behind London psychedelic/kosmische projects The Orichalc Phase and The Oscillation, Cornish-born loop guitarist Demian Castellanos steps out under his own name for his most personal work so far. Like Fred Frith or G.P. Hall, Demian’s had a history of playing guitar with implements – paper, cutlery or whatever else came to hand – and feeding the sounds through volume swells and sundry pedals: like Hall, he’s also possessed of a nature-inspired, painterly view of music. For this current work, he’s going back to his formative years of woodshedding as a cottage-bound teenager at the isolated southernmost tip of the British coast; creating rich, portentous and melodious sound layers drawing on early-‘90s shoegaze, on raga and drone, and on echoing, guttering British, Indian, American and German psychedelic influences.


More gig info is here, and tickets are available here.

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As the opening concert of the South East Asian Festival 2015, there’s a performance at the Forge by My Tricksy Spirit, a new musical project which fuses the shimmering sounds of gendér wayang – Balinese gamelan instruments – with dub, electronic, ambient, trip-hop, and psychedelic rock. The Forge’s writeup is below (tweaked a little by me).

My Tricksy Spirit @ The Forge, 28th October 2015

My Tricksy Spirit (The Forge , 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, UK, Monday 26th October 2015, ) – £10.00 

Performed on the bronze-and-bamboo “gendér” metallophones which gives the music its name – and featuring intricate, interlocking melodies played with mallets and damped with the wrists – gendér wayang is a subset of Balinese gamelan music. Involving between two and four players (a small number for a gamelan ensemble) it is used in the island’s Hindu rituals including life-cycle ceremonies, temple festivals, purification rituals and cremations (as well as in the sacred wayang kulit shadow-puppet dramas, based on ancient Indian epics).

The My Tricksy Spirit project was started by Nick Gray, who teaches south-east Asian music at the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London, and who runs the gendér group that forms the basis of the band. Using Ableton Live, several synths and effects, guitar, bass and drums, the music is played through a mixing desk – much like dub – to create an intense psychedelic journey through sound.

Tonight’s band features Nick Gray (violin and vocal), Paula Friar and Rachel Wilcox (gendérs) and four other musicians: Tomoya Forster of Pumarosa (bass guitar, effects, mixing desk), Julian Vickary of General Skank (synthesizer and effects), Charlie Cawood of Knifeworld (bass guitar, sitar, guitar) and Rob Shipster of Buttress Root Drumming (electronics, drums), who also produced My Tricksy Spirit’s upcoming album.

Support comes from electronica/world-house act Wax Wings and from another of Nick Gray’s SOAS gendér wayang ensembles, Segara Madu (who mostly play repertoire pieces from the Balinese village of Sukawati, as taught by the late I Wayan Loceng). More information and gig tickets are here, with the Facebook event page here.

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Arguably, there’s not been enough pop or R&B in here recently. Let’s set that straight.

Ja Ja Ja, 29th October 2015

Kill J + Loveless + Maasai (Ja Ja Ja @ The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, UK, Thursday 29th October 2015,) – £5.00/£7.00

Straight from the publicity:

Founded in 2009, Ja Ja Ja is the definitive Nordic website and club night celebrating the very best new music emerging from Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Denmark. Each month at London’s The Lexington, Ja Ja Ja hand-picks the finest emerging talent from the Nordic countries, making sure that only the best music is filtered through to your ears.

KIll J (a.k.a. Julie Aagaard) has been turning heads the past two years with her signature blend of dark experimental pop. A devastating one-two-punch with debut singles Phoenix and Bullet set the blogosphere buzzing, also catching the keen eye of ‘The Guardian’, ‘Indie ‘, ‘Stereogum’, ‘Pigeons and Planes’ and landing airplay on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6music. Deliciously diverse, the sugary sweet Cold Stone revealed a more innocent and naive side of KIll J, whilst Propaganda burst forth as “a bombastic, fangs-bared snarl at sexism” (‘Stereogum’). There’s more to come too, with an EP promised this fall.

Prominent identities in their own right, Eirik Tillerli and Filip Kollsete teamed up late 2013 to form Norwegian beat crooners Loveless. Following back-to-back remixes, debut single How To Love You was instantly added to national radio. Clocking in excess of 500K streams last year, their music has picked up attention from blogs, magazines and DJs all over the world; also landing them on some of the biggest festivals in Norway, not to mention their own club night in Oslo, Klubb Loveless (where guests include Artful/Artful Dodger and NVOY). New single They Don’t Know was recently hailed Record of the Week on BBC Radio 1xtra, serving the first taste of upcoming project ‘Relationships’.

Maasai is a Stockholm-based duo consisting of Dominique Teymouri and Zackarias Ekelund. Together they create soulful sound landscapes with a cinematic touch and lyrical depths. The pair broke on to the scene with debut single Memories, pulling inspiration from varied and abstract constructs – places, people, surroundings and everywhere in between. Follow-up tracks The Healer and Forgive Me have since held a captive audience; also hinting to the fearless, fragile and all-the-while dreamy atmosphere inhabited by MAASAI’s upcoming debut album – set for release later this year.

Resident DJs Project Fresh Socks are along for the ride in October; having also spun up a storm at Ja Ja Ja’s first club night of the season last week at The Lexington with CHINAH (Denmark), The Fjords (Norway) and Axel Flovent (Iceland).

Up to date information for this particular Ja Ja Ja night is here and tickets are here.

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Flapping-in-the-wind time… here’s what looks like a very interesting gig, but the colourful cloud of information around it keeps changing shape. Here we go..

Subterfuge presents Samhain Special/Labiatory New Year’s Eve Party with Rude Mechanicals + NiMBUL + Bad Suburban Nightmare + We Are A Communist + Jane Ruby + Milky Sugar (Subterfuge @ The Others, 6-8 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, London, N16 5SA, UK, Friday 30th October 2015, 7.00pm) – £3.00 to £6.00 and upwards

Samhain Subterfuge, 30th October 2015

Run by arch, arty but heartful prank-rockers anarchistwood (whose own ingredients span post-punk cantatas, skeletal lo-fi garage pop, silly voices and quickfire sampler collages), this is the last Subterfuge club night of the year (hence the split between a Halloween/Samhain night and a New Year’s Eve shindig) and promises a fabulous musical sprawl – a right old grab-bag of this and that, in the best way. anarchistwood themselves are playing, though at the moment it’s unclear whether or not they’re teaming up with dysfunctional Chatham polymath and Stuckist art brute Sexton Ming (as the anti-supergroup called Nimbul), or playing as themselves. I guess that whichever way it goes you could expect a roughly equal mix of distracted behaviour, political protest, self-absorbed memory jigsaws and détournements with echoes of Beefheart, Crass, The Raincoats and the high point of a Pride parade. But that’s all it is – a guess.

Compared to Earth and Neil Young at their most dogged and noisy, Dan Hrekow – a.k.a Bad Suburban Nightmare – plays “impossibly slow and melancholic” grunge-drone instrumentals on a minimal setup of distorted guitar and pedals. In violent contrast, Rude Mechanicals play party music for paranoid schizophrenics, fronted by the peroxide-beehive rantings of Miss Roberts (who looks like a doubled-back-drag-queen version of Patsy Stone, and speak-sings like a collision between Dagmar Krause and Holly Penfield), Their songs are rattling hallucinatory-jam sandwiches about sinister neighbours, stand-up arguments and alien mice on the Tube, mixing jazz, punk and cabaret together in equal measures and played with both needle-sharp precision and full glamour oomph.

Of the rest, We Are A Communist provide “trashy guitar-laden sci-fi surf music, with stylophones to boot – a must for Man or Astroman? fans”; onetime Naked Ruby frontwoman (and current Deptford Beach Babes member) Jane Ruby turns up to sing her solo mixture of torch, garage rock’n’roll, flamenco and blues songs with twists of Spanish & Arabic flavours; and Milky Sugar performs “punk go go”… but that’s where I run out of information.

I’ve no actual idea about the order in which everyone’s going on, as the various info and flyers seem to contradict each other: either that or the whole event is morphing too fast for me to keep up with it. Presumably they’re working to some functional anarchist or I Ching method to establish it, or you just turn up and see what happens. Perhaps that’s what they’re doing. Either/and/or DJ Sugarlump SS, DJ KG Lumphead and MC Sadogasm provide some extra noises, punkvertery & Kodek provide visuals, and they’ve got a proactive but generous door price policy – three quid if you’re unwaged, four quid if you’re a student with an NUS card, and six quid if you’re neither but have shown enough commitment to arrive before 9pm. After that, they charge more. More information is here; keep track of developments as best you can on Facebook here; and there’s the usual array of tasters below.

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On the Sunday, it’s time for the monthly LUME gig: more jazz in Dalston…

LUME logo

Tom Taylor/Rob Luft and Cath Roberts/Seth Bennett/Andrew Lisle (LUME @ The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, Dalston, London, N16 8JH, UK, Sunday 1st November 2015, 7.30pm) – £10.00

For our November Vortex gig, we welcome a duo and a trio to the stage, for a night of improvised music.

Tonight sees the first meeting of a new improvising trio featuring LUME’s co-director Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone), Seth Bennett (double bass) and Andrew Lisle (drums). Andrew is known for being one of the drummers in heavyweight Leeds anarcho-sextet Shatner’s Bassoon, and as a prolific improviser working with a multitude of musicians on the free scene (Colin Webster, Alex Ward, Daniel Thompson, Tom Wheatley and more). Seth leads his own ensembles Nut Club and En Bas Quartet, as well as being involved in many other projects across musical styles including Fragments Trio, Metamorphic and The Horse Loom. He and Cath play together as a duo, as well as in Word of Moth and Cath’s quintet Sloth Racket. In addition to this and her LUME work, Cath also leads Quadraceratops (a septet) and has a duo with guitarist Anton Hunter, Ripsaw Catfish.

Seth Bennett, Cath Roberts, Andrew Lisle

The new duo featuring Tom Taylor and Rob Luft is a recent collaboration borne out of a mutual love of improvised music. The music draws attention to the many common features of the two instruments, and mixes high-intensity improvisation with more tender and reflective textures.

A former award-winning classical piano graduate at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, Tom is now a rising British jazz star, having transferred to London in 2009 to pursue a Masters in jazz piano at Trinity College of Music (studying with Simon Purcell, Liam Noble and Nick Weldon). Since then he’s played the main jazz festivals in Manchester and London and Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway. He’s a member of the Jack Davies Big Band and of Southbound (both of whom have recorded for V&V Records) and also plays in the collaborative electro-acoustic trio duck-rabbit with saxophonist Joe Wright and double bass player James Opstad. Rob began his career as a jazz guitarist in Sevenoaks, where he took lessons from Mike Outram and turned professional at 15. He has been a mainstay of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra for many years, having been its guitarist since 2010 and having played in the associated NYJO Nonet. He currently co-leads the band Organism and plays with various groups on the London jazz circuit; including positions with Nigel Hitchcock, Gareth Lockrane and the Callum Au Big Band.

Rob Luft, Tom Taylor

More information here, and tickets here.

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Finally (and also on the Sunday) there’s a double bill of Japanese heaviness at Corsica Studios.

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO + Zeni Geva (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, London, SE17 1LB, UK, Sunday 1st November 2015, 7.30pm) – £14.00

Zeni Geva (or Zeni Gaiva, depending on how you translate the phonetics – conceptually, it translates as “money violence”) have been around since 1987. Led by guitarist/singer/noise-chopper KK Null, and currently backed up solely by drummer Tatsuya Yoshida to make a quake-strength power duo, they have initial links to legendary noise-Dadaists The Boredoms (and even the venue-destroying pre-Boredoms chaos act Hanatarash, which featured Mitsuru Tabata, until relatively recently Zeni Geva’s second guitarist). You’d expect them to have an abrasive side, and you’d be right. Their default musical setting is one of boiling, barking aggression, with tight and furious knots of threshing machine guitar; their records have savage, sadistic titles like ‘Total Castration’ and ‘Desire For Agony’; their progressive hardcore approach takes assorted forms hostage (aside from the obvious, there’s math and noise rock, psychedelia and death metal in the tangle) and makes them jump like puppets.

And yet, in spite of this, there’s a world of difference between Zeni Geva and your average long-lived heavy-thunderfuck band. It’s mostly in the way they use calm – little, perfectly-formed lacunae of space in between the blurs and blows, bringing their bursts of frenzy into focus (Steve Albini is both fan and sometime collaborator, and you can see why). It’s a terrible cliché to compare Japanese musicians to martial artists, but in this case there’s some substance to it. The brutality is sheer craft rather than an end in itself, every movement seems considered and purely executed; and live, in between each flurry of songblows and each ugly song name, they seem enormously humble, friendly and pleased to be there.

Acid Mothers Temple have taken twenty years to set themselves up as a revered psychedelic institution, but it seems as if they’ve been doing it for much longer, such is leader Makoto Kawabata’s talent for back-engineering himself into the culture. Part of this is down to the way he and his cohorts have mastered the ingredients, including the tearing metallic squalls, mellow blues tracery and starry smears of Hendrixian guitar, the whispering lapping Gong synths, the Pink Floyd mantra riffs and Zappa-esque air sculpture solos, and the zoned-out post-James Brown grooves (with the addition of Japanese chanting and noise-squalls). Much of the rest of it is to do with AMT’s open, overlapping community approach. Their musical impetus has utilised multiple faces and names, from their own simpler reconfigurations (the heavier trippier playing of Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno, the Sabbath-y sludge of Acid Mothers Temple & Space Paranoid) to the friendly absorption or co-opting of contemporaries (Acid Mothers Temple SWR, with Ruins, and Acid Mothers Afrirampo) and of heroes from the original psychedelic generation (the team-up with Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth as Acid Mothers Gong, and with Mani Neumeier as Acid Mothers Guru Guru). If old heroes are unavailable or disinclined to pool resources, AMT have simply shrugged and continued anyway (such as when they took up hurdy-gurdys and acid folk and briefly became Acid Mothers Temple & the Incredible Strange Band).

If this makes Kawabata and co sound like slick chancers (and even if AMT album titles like ‘Starless and Bible Black Sabbath’ do suggest both avid, nerdy fandom and piss-taking on a Julian Cope level), I’m selling them short. Acid Mothers Temple might be a brand as much as an ethos, but that hasn‘t stopped their project and record-releasing ethics being continually dedicated to possibilities and continuance,rather than simply banking a following (or colonizing someone else’s). Their communal origins may have been two decades behind those of their inspiration but were hardly any less sincere; and their exploration of less obvious musical areas en route (including opera, Terry Riley minimalism, Nepalese folk and southern European Occitan culture) have led them into interesting places and opened further doors to anyone following them.

First and foremost, anyone who’s seen AMT play will vouch to their talent of both mastering their sources and creating music which lives, thrills and involves in the moment. This week’s London concert features the more space-rock inclined Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. lineup – probably the easiest entry point to an increasingly rewarding musical world. See below for a full-length concert clip of the band in action.

More gig info is here, and tickets are available here.

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More November gig previews shortly…

October 2015 – upcoming London gigs (12th to 18th) – an art rock blitz with Sax Ruins and Richard Pinhas; new classical music with Darragh Morgan & Mary Dullea; William D. Drake, Bill Pritchard and Bill Botting make a trio of songwriting Bills for Daylight Music; Sex Swing, Early Mammal and Casual Sect make a racket; Laura Moody and a host of others play at Match&Fuse

7 Oct

And October rushes on…

Sax Ruins + Richard Pinhas @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 12th October 2015Sax Ruins + Richard Pinhas (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, London, SE17 1LB, UK, Monday 12th October 2015, 7.30pm) – £11.00

Ruins (in both their original configuration and their various spinoffs) are among the best-known and most influential of Japanese experimental rock bands, with their complex rhythmic ideas and expression stretching across progressive rock, Rock in Opposition, jazz and punk. Founded in 1985, their stretchy, power-flurried drums-and-voice/bass guitar/nothing else approach has been described as “a palace revolt against the established role of the rhythm section” and set the initial format for any number of loud-bastard bass-and-drums duos. Since 1994 they’ve also run assorted noise-rock and improv collaborations including Ronruins (a romping trio alliance with multi-instrumentalist Ron Anderson) and longstanding hook-ups with Derek Bailey, Kazuhisa Uchihashi and Keiji Haino. Post-2004, Ruins has given way to Ruins-alone: a solo project in both practical and actual terms, with Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins’ drummer, jabberer, main composer and only consistent member) opting to tour and record solo as a drums-and-tapes act.

Active since 2006, Sax Ruins is yet another iteration of the Ruins concept – a musical tag team in which Yoshida spars happily with Nagoya-based saxophonist Ryoko Ono of Ryorchestra (an all-round improviser steeped in jazz, rock, funk, rhythm & blues classical and hip hop. Their recordings are “extremely complex with irregular beats, frequent excessive overdubbing, and restructured orchestration. The result sounds like a big band playing progressive jazz hardcore. For live performance of Sax Ruins they make hardcore sound like a huge band by full use of effects, also incorporating improvisation. Their shows unfold as a vehement drama.” For further evidence, see below.

Composer, guitarist and synthesizer player Richard Pinhas has often laboured under the reductive tag of “the French Robert Fripp”. This is unfair to him; he may have begun as an admirer of both Fripp and Brian Eno, but whatever he’s learned from them he took in his own direction. Starting out in the early ‘70s with a Sorbonne philosophy doctorate, a keen interest in speculative science fiction and a brief stint heading the post-Hawkwind psych outfit Schizo, Pinhas went on to lead the second-generation progressive rock band Heldon for four years between 1974 and 1978. Geographically and conceptually, Heldon sat bang in the ‘70s midpoint between the artier end of British prog, the proggier end of British art-pop and the chilly sequenced robo-mantras of German electronics. Initially inspired by King Crimson, Eno and Tangerine Dream, they also shared both musicians and ideas with Magma, and at times squinted over the Atlantic towards Zappa and Utopia: no passive followers, they always brought their own assertive, inquiring spin to the party. (A late ‘90s revival version of the band brought in the psychedelic punk and techno imperatives of the dance movement).

Since Heldon, Pinhas has pursued an ongoing and diverse solo career. It’s taken in collaborations with Scanner, Peter Frohmader, Merzbow, Råd Kjetil Senza Testa, Wolf Eyes and Pascal Fromade, plus assorted words-and music projects involving speculative writers and philosophers such as Maurice Dantec, Philip K. Dick, Gilles Deleuze, Norman Spinrad and Chloe Delaume (these include the cyberpunk-inspired Schizotrope). When performing solo, Pinhas uses a loops-layers-and-textures guitar approach which parallels (and to some ears, surpasses) the densely processed and layered Soundscapes work of his original inspiration Fripp. I guess it’s most likely that he’ll employ this at Corsica Studios on the 12th (although as Tatsuya Yoshida has been another of Pinhas’ collaborators over the years, perhaps you might expect another spontaneous team-up…)

Up-to-date info on the concert is here, with tickets available here.

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During the midweek, there’s a set of new or rare contemporary classical pieces being performed in Camden Town.

Darragh Morgan and Mary Dullea, 2015

Picking Up The Pieces: Darragh Morgan & Mary Dullea (The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, UK, Wednesday 14th October 2015, 7.30pm) – £10.00/£12.00

Here’s what the Forge has to say about it:

Described by BBC Music Magazine as ‘agile, incisive and impassioned’ violinist Darragh Morgan and pianist Mary Dullea are renowned soloists of new music as well as members of The Fidelio Trio, one of the UK’s leading chamber ensembles. ‘Picking up the Pieces’ explores new and recent repertoire, much of it written for this duo, by a diverse selection of composers. Among the program items, Richard Causton’s ‘Seven States of Rain’ (dedicated to Mary and Darragh) won the first ever British Composers’ Award; while Gerald Barry’s ‘Midday’ receives its world premiere alongside other London premieres from Camden Reeves and Benedict Schlepper-Connolly.

Programme:

Richard Causton – Seven States of Rain
Gerald Barry – Midday (world premiere)
Benedict Schlepper-Connolly – Ekstase I (UK premiere)
Dobrinka Tabakova – Through the Cold Smoke
Kate Whitley – Three Pieces for violin and piano
Sam Hayden – Picking up the Pieces
Camden Reeves – Gorgon’s Head (London premiere)

Here’s the original premiere recording of Darragh and Mary playing ‘Seven States of Rain’.

Tickets and up-to-date information are here. This concert is being recorded by BBC Radio for future transmission on Hear & Now.

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On the Saturday, it’s a triple bill of Bills at Daylight Music. Now that’s cute, even for them. Here are the words direct from the top…

Daylight Music 203, 17th October 2015

Daylight Music 203: William D. Drake + Bill Pritchard + Bill Botting (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, UK – Saturday 17th October 2015, 12.00pm-2.00pm) – free entry, suggested donation £5.00

For his fifth solo excursion, former Cardiacs keysmith William D Drake takes us on a serpentine path through the inner regions of ‘Revere Reach’, a part-imagined landscape composed of memory and fantasy. At once heart-felt, hearty and absurd, its heady reveries blend ancient-seeming modal folk melody with an obliquely-slanted rock thrust.

Bill Pritchard is a beloved cult British-born singer/songwriter. You may remember. You may not. He started writing songs for various bands at school but it wasn’t until he spent time in Bordeaux as part of a college degree that his style flourished. He did a weekly show with two friends on the radio station La Vie au Grand Hertz (part of the burgeoning ‘radio libre’ movement) and was introduced to a lot of French artists from Antoine to Taxi Girl. In 2014 Bill released – Trip to the Coast (Tapeste Records). He’s recently resurfaced with a cracking new album, the songs of which are classic Bill Pritchard. Guitar pop, hooky chorus’, melodic ballads and personal everyday lyrics about love, loss, and Stoke-On-Trent.

Our final Bill is Bill Botting – best known as the bass player from Allo Darlin with the encouraging face, or as one half of indie electro wierdos Moustache of Insanity. Bill returned to playing his own music sometime in 2014. What started as a solo act has now grown into a complete band featuring members of Owl and Mouse, Allo Darlin and The Wave Pictures. A 7-inch single out later in the year on the wiaiwya label has a country slant but an indie heart.

Up-to-date info on this particular Daylight Music afternoon is here.

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On the Saturday evening, Baba Yaga’s Hut is running another gig, much of it apparently based around the noise-and-sludge projects which record at south London’s Dropout Studio in Camberwell. I’ve got to admit that I’m quite ambivalent about the hit-and-miss nature of noise-rock – I suspect that it’s too much of a haven for charlatans, and if I can’t drag out anything interesting to say about the noise they produce bar a slew of reference points, then what am I doing if not reviewing my own boredom? – but I like BYH’s omnivorous, ambitious and sharing attitude as promoters, so I’m happy to boost the signal on this one.

Sex Swing + Early Mammal + Casual Sect (Baba Yaga’s HutThe Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, UK, Saturday 17th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £7.00

Sex Swing + Early Mammal + Casual Sect @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 17th October 2015
Sex Swing are “a drone supergroup” featuring South London noisenik Tim Cedar (one of Dropout Studio’s owner/producers, previously a member of both Ligament and Part Chimp), Dethscalator’s Dan Chandler and Stuart Bell, Jason Stoll (bass player with Liverpool kraut-psych band Mugstar) and skronkophonist Colin Webster. On aural evidence, they inhabit a post-Can, post-Suicide hinterland of hell, spring-echoed and tannoy-vocaled – a sinister quotidian landscape of blank anomie and oppression; a Los Alamos penal colony haunted by uranium ghosts, ancient Morse telegraphs, metal fatigue and the zombie husks of Albert Ayler and Ian Curtis. (Well, that’s certainly someone’s perfect birthday present.)

Described variously as raw power, psych-blues, primitive lysergia and threatening backwoods jams, Early Mammal are another Dropout-affiliated Camberwell band. They’re a stoner rock three-piece who’ve drawn further comparisons not just to latterday stoner crews like White Hills or Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, or to predictable perennial touchstones like Captain Beefheart and Hawkwind parallels; but also to broody Harvest Records psych (Edgar Broughton and the ‘Obscured by Clouds’ Pink Floyd), Irmin Schmidt and (a rare and welcome cite, this) the grand dramatics of Aphrodite’s Child (the late-‘60s Greek prog band which skirted the 1966 Paris riots and served as an unlikely launch pad for both Vangelis and Demis Roussos).

Past incarnations have seen Early Mammal stir in some “Turkish-flavoured synth”, but the current lineup is a power trio of ex-Elks guitarist Rob Herian and 85bear’s Ben Tat and Ben Davis, adding baritone guitar and drone box to the usual guitar/bass/drums array.

I’m less sure about the south London/Dropout associations as regards Casual Sect, who seem to be north-of-the-river people; but, armed with their own hardcore noise-punk, they’ll either clatter away like wind-up toys or belly-sprawl on great bluffs of surly noise. They seem to love both citing and mocking conspiracy theory, so I’ll let them yell away on their own behalf – see below…


 
Up-to-date info on this gig is here, and tickets are available from here.

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Laura Moody’s captivating cello-and-voice songcraft (which edges along the boundary lines of avant-garde classical, art pop and heart-on-sleeve folk music, while demonstrating a daunting mastery of both vocal and instrument) has been a favourite of mine for a while. On this particular week, she’s performing as part of the Match&Fuse Festival in London on 17th October, which I’d have made more of a noise about had I cottoned on to it earlier. She’ll be following up her London show with a date on 20th October at Leeds College of Music: unfortunately, this concert (which also features a talk) is only for LCM students/staff, but if you happen to be attending the college, grab the chance to go along.

There’ll be more on Laura shortly, as she’s embarking on a brief British tour next month which dovetails quite neatly with some other brief tours I’d like to tie together in a post. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, I might as well provide a quick rundown of the Match&Fuse events. This will be a short and scrappy cut’n’paste’n’link, since I’m honouring my own last-minute pickup (and, to be honest, because I exhausted myself listing out all the details of the Manchester Jazz Festival events earlier in the year).

By the sound of it, though, the festival deserves more attention than I’m providing. Even just on spec, it’s a delightful bursting suitcase of British and European music; much of which consists of various forms of jazz and improvisation, but which also takes in electronica, math rock, accordion-driven Tyrolean folk-rap, vocalese, glam punk, the aforementioned Ms. Moody and what appears to be a huge scratch ensemble closing the events each night. It’s spread over three days including a wild triple event on the Saturday. Tickets are starting to sell out; so if you want to attend, be quick.

Match&Fuse Festival, London, 2015

Committed to the composers and bands who propel, compel and challenge, Match&Fuse turns it on and ignites the 4th London festival in October. Dissolving barriers between genres and countries, it’s a rare chance to hear a spectrum of sounds from underground European and UK artists. On Saturday 17th October our popular wristband event will give you access to three Dalston venues and about thirteen artists and bands. Strike a match…

The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, London, N16 8AZ, UK, Thursday 15th October 2015, 7.30pm – £9.90

Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London E1 6LA, UK, Friday 16th October 2015, 7.30pm – £13.20

The Vortex/Café Oto/Oto Project Space/ Servant Jazz Quarters simultaneous event, Saturday 17th October 2015, 8.00pm – £11.00/£16.50

Café Oto/Oto Project Space, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, UK

Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, UK

The Vortex Jazz Club/Vortex Downstairs, 11 Gillett Square, London, N16 8AZ, UK

Full details of Match&Fuse London 2015 are here and here, with tickets (including wristbands) available here. There’s also a playlist available – see below.

 
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More October gig previews coming up shortly, plus some more for November…
 

October 2015 – upcoming London gigs – electro-industrial (Necro Deathmort, DeadFader and Cementimental), intercontinental at Café Oto (Maurice Louca, John Bence and Sam Shalabi), fringe jazz (The Geordie Approach and A Sweet Niche), noise-rock (Hey Colossus, Lower Slaughter and Kogumaza), acoustic/alt.country at Daylight Music (Applewood Road, Holly Macve, Arborist) and the Fidelio Trio with Beethoven, Ravel and a Benjamin Dwyer premiere

4 Oct

More gigs for the coming week…

Firstly, Baba Yaga’s Hut are running an evening at Corsica Studios, which takes in the London date of an electro-industrial tour.

Necro Deathmort/DeadFader/Cementimental @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 5th October 2015Necro Deathmort + Deadfader + Cementimental (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, London, SE17 1LB, UK, Monday 5th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £6.00

As if Necro Deathmort‘s name didn’t tell you enough about them, over an eight year career they’ve released albums called ‘This Beat Is Necrotronic’ and ‘Music Of Bleak Origin’ (although more recent albums have seen a shift towards a less morbid and more science-fictional outlook. Dark electronica festival veterans with a drone, doom and noise approach, the project entangles electronic instrumentalist AJ Cookson (The Montauk Project, Medes, Sol Invicto) with Matthew Rozeik (guitarist from post-metal/post-prog band Astrohenge). Their music rises from gurgling boneyard beats, medical-equipment breakdowns, squishy miasmas and faux-sax drones towards something ruined and regal – a grand deathbed vision.

Sharing Necro Deathmort’s current tour is Berlin-based dubstep/noise/electro fusilladeer DeadFader – memorably described as “chainsaw-step” by Baked Goods Distribution (who went on to rave about how the project coughs up “the most seismic grooves imaginable” and that the music “sinks its teeth into your arm and refuses to let go”). I can’t top that as a description right now – have a listen below and see if you agree with it.

Joining Necro Deathmort and DeadFader for the London date are CementimentalEverything I can dig up about these guys is a barking blur of ludicrous disinformation: almost the only lucid facts coughed up from their promotional flotsam is that they’re led by a “noisician” called Dr. Age (or Tim Drage, who may or may not have a daytime/surface job in cute Lego animations) and have been doing “harsh noise, circuit-bending, rough music since 2000AD”. The Dr. is supported by a cast of obscure and possibly imaginary characters – a guitarist called Toru, a part-time turntablist, a man called Mrs Columbo (who handles the incoherent screaming), and “additionalists” called Murray the Eel and Sir Concord Discount (the latter’s a “rock goblin”). Maybe this makes Centimental sound like the joke band on the bill, and there’s plenty of humour in what they do (a couple of early tracks were called Too Long and Merzbow It Ain’t, while a more recent one’s called Commendable Amputation Of An Excessive Gargoyle), but the fact remains that they’ve been going for nearly half again as long as their gigmates. Draw your own conclusions.


 

Up-to-date info here, tickets here.

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On the Thursday, there’s a Cafe Oto convening of music from Cairo, Bristol and Montreal, running in parallel to events in Egypt and Lebanon and covering a broad variety of influences and outcomes.

Maurice Louca + John Bence + Sam Shalabi, October 8th 2015

Maurice Louca + John Bence + Sam Shalabi (Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, UK, October 8th 2015, 8.00pm) – £12.00/£14.00

Cafe Oto, in collaboration with Thirtythree Thirtythree   and Nawa Recordings, bring you the second edition of the five-part event series entitled ‘Labyrinths’ (or ‘Mātāhāt’ in Arabic) and based in London, Cairo and Beirut over October and November.

Maurice Louca is an Egyptian musician and composer born in Cairo where he lives and works. As well as being the co-founder of the bands Bikya, Alif and Dwarves Of East Agouza, he lends his sound to numerous projects, composing for theatre, film and contemporary art. Inspired by many influences, from psychedelic to Egyptian shaabi, his second album ‘Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot)’, released on Nawa Recordings in November 2014, shattered the confines of musical and cultural labelling and was dubbed by many as a game-changer for the region’s bustling independent music scene. Amidst his collaborations and inconspicuous touring across Europe and the Arab world in the last few years, Louca has sought a richer and much more complex sound. ‘Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan’, the fruit of such intense reinvention and a departure from his first solo album ‘Garraya’, is a work that leaves ample space for fluidity and improvisation, paving the way for unique live renderings.

From a family background rich in classical pedigree and firmly embedded in Bristol’s forward-facing electronic music culture, John Bence has pooled a breadth of influence scarcely credible for a composer only entering his second decade, and now he is starting to put his inspiration into live and recorded motion. As a producer he is already thinking ten steps ahead, often incorporating voice or home recorded percussion into his cyclical technique of scoring, recording, manipulating, re-scoring and re-recording in waves, creating heady, intoxicating ripples of harmony and noise. An obscure snippet of dub-plate drone under a previous moniker was enough for Nicolas Jaar, who instantly approached him about a release on his Other People label. Six months on, ‘Disquiet’ was released – a masterful hybrid of classical and electronic clocking in at a tantalising ten minutes. More, much more, is coming. Mercurial, elusive and of seemingly limitless imagination, John Bence is rising to the surface.

Sam Shalabi is an Egyptian-Canadian composer and improviser living between Montreal, Quebec and Cairo, Egypt. Beginning in punk rock in the late 70s, his work has evolved into a fusion of experimental, modern Arabic music that incorporates traditional Arabic, shaabi, noise, classical, text, free improvisation and jazz. He has released five solo albums (including ‘On Hashish’- a musical mediation on German writer Walter Benjamin; ‘Osama’, an audio collage on Arabophobia in the wake of 9/11; and his most recent ‘Music for Arabs’), five albums with Shalabi Effect (a free improvisation quartet that bridges western psychedelic music and Arabic Maqam scales) and three albums with Land Of Kush (an experimental 30-member orchestra for which he composes). He has appeared on over sixty albums and toured Europe, North America and North Africa. Recent projects include the release of the sixth Shalabi Effect album, a duo album with Stefan Christoff, two albums on the Italian label Sagittarius with Beirut, Turkish and Egyptian musicians and a tour in the eastern U.S with Alvarius B (playing solo oud). He is also releasing ‘Isis and Osiris’ (a new composition for oud and electronics) on Nashazphone as well as releasing an album with The Dwarves Of East Agouza (a Cairo based trio with Maurice Louca and Alan Bishop) while currently working on his sixth solo album.

Tickets and up-to-date information are here and here.

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“More accomplished musicians have a loud argument about what ‘jazz’ even is these days,” say Chaos Theory Promotions. Their Jazz Market evenings continue to provide space for such arguments, and here’s another one…

Jazz Market - The Geordie Approach + A Sweet Niche, 9th October 2015

The Geordie Approach + A Sweet Niche (Chaos Theory Promotions present The Jazz Market @ The Sebright Arms, 33-35 Coate Street, London, E2 9AG, UK, Friday 9th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £5.00/£7.00

The Geordie Approach is possibly the oldest secret from three internationally renowned musicians who’ve been working together for over ten years. It features acclaimed Leeds guitarist and producer Chris Sharkey (Acoustic Ladyland/Shiver/TrioVD), and Norwegian musicians Petter Frost Fadnes and Ståle Birkeland, best known for playing sax and bass respectively in Stavanger Kitchen Orchestra. This uncompromising and experimental trio pursues music within loose improvisational structures, adding a surprisingly broad range of flavours to their overall sound world. The trio has a reputation for adapting and utilizing their performance space in an extremely effective and engaging manner. Birkeland, Frost Fadnes and Sharkey produce musical elements that often are contradictory in shape, moving between melody and noise, ambient grooves and abstract textures. They have performed across Europe, Japan and the UK in churches, art galleries, improvisation clubs, squats, abandoned tobacco houses, jazz festivals, concert halls and flamenco clubs. Each performance is a unique experience.

We hail the return of jazz punk trio A Sweet Niche to The Jazz Market after a seriously impressive performance in 2013. Band composers Keir Cooper and Oliver Sellwood (on guitar and saxophone respectively) explore an aesthetic of intricate rhythms & song-structures within a punchy energetic rock band format. The nature of their collaboration is unique; Keir is an award-winning non-academy artist and Oliver is an award-winning PhD composer and academic. Despite their two tangential angles of experience, they have a shared musical vocabulary honed over nearly two decades. With new album ‘EJECT’ on the way in 2016 (and the recent addition of Big Beat Manifesto drummer Tim Doyle to the band), it’s high time we pulled these performers out of the murky underworld they reside in.

Tickets are available from here, and up-to-date information is here.

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There’s another Baba Yaga’s Hut evening on the same night as the Oto gig, this time concentrating on various noise-rock angles (from the reformatting of classic rock to the restructuring of sound to the straightforward joy of a gibbering hardcore racket.) See below.

Hey Colossus/Lower Slaughter/Kogumaza @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 9th October 2015Hey Colossus + Lower Slaughter + Kogumaza (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ Electrowerkz, The Islington Metal Works, 7 Torrens Street, Angel, Islington, London, EC1V 1NQ, UK, 9th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £9.00

Variously from Somerset, Watford and London, six-piece Hey Colossus https://www.facebook.com/heycolossus have spent a decade gradually becoming alt.rock darlings thanks to their   journey through assorted doomy noise rock avenues. Their current recipe involves slowing down and narcotising their alleged classic rock influences (Fleetwood Mac is one of those cited) via psychedelic echo and a certain post-rock dourness. It works well too – much of the time they sound like a guttering Led Zeppelin on strong cough mixture, or feed crunching brass-riff processionals and Stoogesque whomps through an amber-toned ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ filter.

I suspect that the concept of supergroups doesn’t fit into noiserock and post-hardcore. Nonetheless, Brighton’s Lower Slaughter  does sort of fit into that category, uniting people better known for other bands (bass player Barney Wakefield for Shudder Pulps, guitarist Jon Wood for “harsh party music” outfit Fat Bicth, Max Levy for vertiginously nervy singing in King Of Cats) and welding them together into a noisy, queasy-confident, raw-scream whole.

Creating hypnotic drones and grooves via two guitars and tom-centric drumming, Nottingham quartet Kogumaza have their feet in sludge metal and in post-rock; but while the latter’s become an increasing predictable and conservative genre Kogumaza have set out to reclaim some of its earlier, more inventive ideas (such as the lapping sonics of Seefeel) via their fourth member, live sound mixer Mark Spivey, who brings in dub-inspired approaches and old tape-looping techology to further manipulate and displace the band’s sound both live and on record. Fond of collaborations and split releases, they’ve also been known to bring in an unexpected banjo (although they probably won’t tonight).


 
Up-to-date info here, tickets here.

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And finally, from all of this noise to something acoustic for a Saturday noontime…

Daylight Music 202

Daylight Music 202: Applewood Road, Holly Macve + Arborist (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, UK – Saturday 10th October 2015, 12.00pm-2.00pm) – free entry, suggested donation £5.00

An early afternoon of songwriter-folk, America and alternative country from one of ‘Misfit City’s favourite free/pay-what-you-like events:

Applewood Road is an Australian/American alliance of three solo songwriters – Amy Speace, Amber Rubarth  (also known as one half of The Paper Raincoat) and Emily Barker (also known for her work with the-low-country and The Red Clay Halo). In September 2014, they all met for the first time in a cafe in East Nashville. Two hours later they had written the song they called Applewood Road. They booked studio time at Nashville’s super-cool analogue studio Welcome To 1979, and the following week recorded the song live to tape, with just double bass as accompaniment. So excited were they by the song, they decided to expand the idea in to a whole album. Six months later they reconvened in Nashville to write, rehearse and record songs to make up a full album, with the project and album all called ‘Applewood Road’. This is their first show in the UK, with the debut Applewood Road album due for an early 2016 release on Gearbox Records.

Bella Union label boss Simon Raymonde says, of Holly Macve“little is known of Holly other than she is a 20 year old from Yorkshire who appeared out of nowhere in Brighton late last year. I had a tip-off to go to a basement bar where she was playing. In a room full of beery boys chatting across all the music beforehand, the minute Holly opened her mouth the room fell silent. Hers is a rare gift.” Simon signed her shortly afterwards. The label has yet to release anything formally, but Holly herself has posted a demo track onto Soundcloud (see below), and she’s already won support slots with Ben Howard and Mercury Rev on the strength of what she’s offering.

Having previously worked as a songwriter around France, London and Dublin, Mark McCambridge played his first show as Arborist in February 2013, opening for James Yorkston in Belfast. A solo tour of Ireland followed before impressive performances led to notable support slots alongside Low, Cat Power, Echo & The Bunnymen and Alasdair Roberts. In May 2015 Arborist released the country-tinged ‘Twisted Arrow’. Recorded during dark winter nights in Belfast and in Dayton, Ohio (and featuring vocal harmonies by Kim Deal). A debut album is due this coming winter.

 

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Not finally, in fact – there’s a chance to squeeze in a last-minute classical addition, since it’s always a shame to miss a premiere.

The Fidelio Trio, 2015

The Fidelio Trio @ The London Chamber Music Series (Hall One, Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, UK, Sunday 11th October 2015, 6.30pm) – £9.50 to £29.50

The celebrated Fidelio Trio – Mary Dullea (piano), Adi Tal (cello), Darragh Morgan (violin) – perform Beethoven’s hugely popular ‘Ghost Trio’, with its iconic eerie slow movement, and also Ravel’s remarkably imaginative and colourful ‘Piano Trio’, premiered 100 years ago this year in Paris in 1915.

In between comes the premiere of Irish composer Benjamin Dwyer‘s ‘Nocturnal’, inspired by Benjamin Britten’s famous own ‘Nocturnal after John Dowland (for solo guitar)’, and drawing upon a theme from Britten’s opera ‘Gloriana’, as well as a madrigal by English early seventeenth-century composer Thomas Wilbye. There will be a free pre-concert talk at 5.15pm in the St Pancras Room at Kings Place, in which composer and LCM Series director Peter Fribbins interviews Benjamin Dwyer about his new work and his interest in the music of Benjamin Britten.

More information here and tickets here.

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More October gig previews coming up shortly…

July/August 2015 – upcoming gigs – Thumpermonkey/The Earls Of Mars/Ham Legion in London; Holly Penfield’s Judy Garland show hits the Hippodrome; The Luck Of Eden Hall tour the UK

25 Jul

Next week sees the first gig (for some time) for one of the most interesting of current British rock bands; some high-gloss cabaret; and the start of a psychedelic pop roadshow travelling around the UK. Read on…

Thumpermonkey @ The Islington, 30th July 2015

Thumpermonkey + The Earls Of Mars + Ham Legion (Guided Missile Special People Club, The Islington, 1 Tolpuddle Street, N1 0XT, London, UK, Thursday 30th July, 8.00pm) – £7.00/£6.00

Thumpermonkey don’t get as much attention as they deserve. It’s possible that this is because they don’t seem to take things seriously, addressing almost everything with a skewed and multi-levelled sense of cryptic grand-baroque geek humour. Just to illustrate this – a current work-in-progress Thumpermonkey song is “something which we’re calling Giraffes, which includes some vague narrative about doing a conga during an asteroid-based extinction-level event.” One of their older albums is called ‘Chap With The Wings, Five Rounds Rapid’ – a wry kill-the-monsters line filched from ‘Doctor Who”s laconic and unflappable Brigadier. In the same spirit as that reference, I’d suggest that while they are serious about what they do, they’re not necessarily serious about the way they do it – like many of my favourite things.

If what I’ve written so far leads you to expect strained, fey, sub-Zappa wackiness, then think again. Both in the flesh and on record, Thumpermonkey are a brooding and atmospheric proposition – seriously musical, travelling from blitzingly heavy quasi-metal riffs to spidery post-rock, from threshing post-hardcore to theatrical mane-tossing prog at a moment’s notice while Michael Woodman’s grand edgy vocals and complex multi-levelled lyrics ride on top like an arcane mahout with an arched eyebrow. They’ve been called “a sustained victory for intuitive cross-pollination” by ‘Prog’ magazine and every gig they play confirms this particular accolade. Here they are playing 419 (a song which at first appears to be one of their more delicate offerings, revealing its intensities later).

The other two bands on the bill are less well known to me, but aren’t short of blurb:

The Earls Of Mars are probably the most original thing you’ll hear all year. At their heart, the band are a ’70s-influenced rock band bringing together jazz, prog, space rock, doom and blues and forming it into a barking mad noise that you’ll either get or you won’t. If you don’t get it then close the door on your way out of the spaceship, as those of us who want to stay are off on a fantastical journey to who-knows-where, with The Earls Of Mars steering the ship. Enjoy the trip, ladies and gentlemen, as it’s going to be a fun ride.

Ham Legion‘s noisy lo-fi pop is punctuated with proggy outbursts, psychedelic breakdowns and passages of cod-metal joy. Tangy and tart guitar, egg noddle bass lines and light crispy drums are smothered in gooey boy/girl harmonies. Eat in or take away. For fans of Cardiacs, Deerhoof, They Might Be Giants, Split Enz, Heavy Vegetable.

Judge for yourselves – here are the videos for the Earls’ ‘Astronomer Pig’ single from last year, followed by some footage of a Ham Legion gig in Brighton a couple of years ago. As for tickets, they’re available here.

 

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The day after the Thumpermonkey gig, Holly Penfield plays one of her biggest gigs of the year…

Holly Penfield as Judy Garland

Holly Penfield sings Judy Garland, The Hippodrome Casino, Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square, London, WC2H 7JH, UK, Friday 31st July 2015, 8.00pm) – £15.00 and upwards

Following a triumphant debut last year, Holly returns to the London Hippodrome, singing the songs of the legendary Judy Garland in her own inimitable style. Holly will be joined by her musical director Sam Watts and his magnificent seven-piece band. An unmissable evening for Holly and Judy fans alike, set in the glorious Matcham Room, located inside the Hippodrome Casino – formerly known as The Talk Of The Town, this is the venue of legends and home to Judy’s final London concerts.

Longer-term readers will know that I got to know Holly years ago via her own original ‘Fragile Human Monster Show‘ and the ‘Parts Of My Privacy’ album (which I wrote about ages ago – that review’s due a revamp and remount, I think). Both of those, though original songwriter pop, had their own theatrical and psychodynamic aspects which pointed towards Holly’s current work in vivid cabaret (and, latterly, as half of swing revivalists The Cricklewood Cats). As for Holly’s interpretations, she can and does cover cute showbiz camp and heart-tugging pathos within the same performance – you can see a couple of examples below.

Up-to-date information on the Judy concert is here and here, while tickets are available here. A mischievous part of me fancies swapping the audience from Holly’s show with the one from the Thumpermonkey/Earls/Ham Legion gig, and vice versa. I suspect that they all might enjoy it more than they’d expect to…

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The Luck Of Eden Hall, 2015

On the same night that Thumpermonkey and co. play, The Luck Of Eden Hall are over from Chicago to play the first of two London gigs, launching a Kickstarter-funded UK tour which will take them to a wide array of venues and mini-festivals around England, Scotland and Wales, accompanied by a shifting cast of local psych heroes, left-field blues artists and quirky alt.pop shoegazers.

As for the headliners, you can expect clear-voiced, well-made classic pop beset by sudden gusts of psychedelic blizzarding. The Luck Of Eden Hall remind me of the drawn-out trucker-and-motorist tussle in ‘Duel’ – they come across like a more sombre Neil Finn or Andy Sturmer being stalked, dogged and sideswiped by Hawkwind, Ride or ‘Saucerful’-era Pink Floyd. Here’s a little evidence:


 

Full tour dates below:

The Luck Of Eden Hall UK tour

 

December 1998 – album reviews – Porcupine Tree’s ‘Metanoia’ (“the possibilities which the band’s music has while it’s still at the point of wide-eyed, newborn naivety”)

27 Dec

Porcupine Tree: 'Metanoia'

Porcupine Tree: ‘Metanoia’

As Porcupine Tree straighten out their more obviously exploratory aspects and firm up into a more solid rock configuration, Steven Wilson seems concerned to show us that although his psychedelic prog band is solidifying, it’s not becoming rigid. After last year’s live album ‘Coma Divine‘, here’s ‘Metanoia’: a collector’s set of band improvisations from the rehearsal studio during the making of ‘Signify’.

Obviously intended to illustrate the possibilities which the band’s music has while it’s still at the point of wide-eyed, newborn naivety, it’s also a window into the band’s uncensored enjoyment of music-making. At the beginning of Mesmer III you can hear drummer Chris Maitland enthusing like a schoolboy – “Brilliant, Richard… That’s really evil!” – while Richard Barbieri unwraps a particularly ominous electronic texture from his mysterious lash-up of analogue synths. Compared to the carefully-honed concert expansions of ‘Coma Divine’ (allowing the band to play out loud without ever getting too self-indulgent), ‘Metanoia’ takes Porcupine Tree’s live freedom off in a different direction, where the only limitations (or necessary brakes) are the musicians’ awareness of those specific moments in time.

Mesmer II is the most confident (and consequently least yielding) of the improvs. It begins as a Frippish guitar fanfare over Prince-style boom-bat drums; it gradually psyches itself up into more familar Porcupine Tree planetarium music, with orrery twinkles and rolls from Barbieri. But it’s an exploration in which the influences seem to have blended naturally into the moment – a good sign.


 
Of most obvious interest to regular Porcupine Tree followers will be the Metanoia I/Intermediate Jesus medley, featuring a first draft of the Intermediate Jesus instrumental from ‘Signify’. This version emerges out of a typical raw Porkies atmospheric. Dreamy, swampy psych-rock fragments flicker in and out of a quiet power-station ambience: Colin Edwin‘s small, arching bass hook becomes the keel over which Wilson decorates the distance with echo-guitar details. The music eventually settles down into a dark-tinged, broody, space-psych flavour with a backwash of drowsy sonic fabric: reminiscent of the beautiful golden haze which U2’s Eno-assisted ‘Unforgettable Fire’ revelled in, in between the rock hits. At this point, still uncertain of itself, the music of Porcupine Tree has an uncontrived innocence to it; something that’s rare anywhere in the current prog canon, let alone in their own history.


 
Mesmer I builds from minimal, grudging soundscapes of cymbal tones, electrosculpture and flanged guitar effects. Eventually, it’s been shaped into a disjointed groove (a gawkier, rockier take on ‘In A Silent Way’, maybe) up to the point where it’s hit U2 funk and a dance-groove recalling Porcupine Tree’s own ‘Voyage 34’. Here, Barbieri’s inventiveness plays foil to the brasher edge of Wilson’s stadium-rock guitar flourishes, brushing in and out of the mix with scratchily tender gusts of electronics like the wet coronas around streetlights. Metanoia II, like its predecessor, is anchored by a little Edwin bass hook around which Maitland lays haphazardly tremorous drumming, Wilson a fragmentary glissando, and Barbieri abuses his wibbling VCS3 in full On the Run tradition. This piece will subsequently (a) blossom lyrically and (b) accelerate into a kind of soft-edged speed-metal, with the same sort of instinctive flow as Porcupine Tree’s own ‘Moonloop’.


 
It’s Mesmer III/Coma Divine, though, that allows Porcupine Tree to insinuate themselves into the improvising tradition. “Do something completely different” suggests a restless Wilson. Time out for meditation – and already Steven is bored… Someone fiddles with a shortwave radio but, ending up with dull afternoon cut-ups, abandons it. Behind tiny touches from a dormant rhythm section, the band start to induce shifting planes of sound. A Barbieri noise (an orchestra haunting a train tunnel) ebbing in and out; hardly there, like kettle steam. A suspicion of an introverted ’70s jazz-rock, melted down in ’90s solvent, draining out in a Barbieri wing-flutter. A section which has the lonely looping meander of Bark Psychosis‘ Bloodrush. At last, a return to a very soft take on the band’s psych-rock drift, Wilson’s guitar trailing over rocking-chair drum and bass, transparent synth swathing a shroud of narcosis around it. A band usually lumped in with Marillion and Gong has just paid visits to the post-rock haunts of Tortoise, Labradford and beyond, without contrivance, drawing up natural sound from the source. When they finish, it’s like the shift in reality at the end of a sleepwalk.


 
As an afterthought, there’s Milan – Porcupine Tree out of the studio and captured in conversation during one of those bleached, interminable spare moments on tour. They’re uncomfortable, travel-blurred, in unfamiliar suits and ineptly trying to organise their Italian meal. In the “gastronomic capital of the world… known for its joi-de-vivre,” they’re ill-at-ease, messed around, trying to cope, teasing each other. “I just feel stupid,” is the final aggrieved statement of the album – a moment of Spinal Tap bathos to counter the explorations elsewhere. Displaced from normal patterns, they’re forced to improvise again, in the way we all have to. They’re surviving.

Porcupine Tree: ‘Metanoia’
Delerium Records/Chromatic Records, CHRM 003 (no barcode)
10-inch vinyl-only double album
Released:
December 1998
Get it from: (2020 update) Original vinyl version best obtained second-hand; album was later reissued on CD.
Porcupine Tree online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM Apple Music YouTube Vimeo Deezer Google Play Pandora Spotify Tidal Instagram Amazon Music
 

June 1998 – EP reviews – Mogwai’s ‘No Education=No Future (Fuck the Curfew)’ (“the politics are in the sound”)

30 Jun

Mogwai: 'No Education=No Future (Fuck the Curfew)' EP

Mogwai: ‘No Education=No Future (Fuck the Curfew)’ EP

Mogwai – Glasgow’s “young team” of guitar noise-puppies – are just drawing out of their teens, but they’re already two-and-a-half albums old, and tour veterans. The name’s appropriate – in the sleeve photos they may look a little cute and fresh-faced to an twenty-seven-year-old codger like me, but if ‘No Education…’ is any indication, they do change into something far scarier at night. (They beat Hanson’s burbling Ewoks, anyway).

The punch-card stabs of guitar are pure Slint, but whereas Slint would lay muttered, emotional stories over their six-stringed dots and dashes, Mogwai are vocal-free and rely on pure, bullish emotion as walloped out by plectrum and drumstick. The explicit political rage of the EP’s title isn’t spat out in teen-punk slogan songs, nor in Prodigy chants. It’s carried in the rushing up against the front of the beat: it’s in their surges against the decay of sound. It’s in the faith (which they share with Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine) in big dirty noise over a mediocre world. The politics are in the sound.

Perhaps it’s because of the sparse, distant, classical-in-rebellion melodies from Luke Sutherland’s guesting violin, but Xmas Steps carries an odd resemblance to King Crimson‘s Larks Tongues In Aspic. It emerges from a soft interlocking hush of irregular rolls of bass and barely-there guitars (similar to the tension-gatherings of Bark Psychosis) then rises – nerves preparing for the clench – to a building, slashing crescendo and an eventual scrubbing, screeching roar of amp-shredding overdrive and machine-gun spurts of snare, before unclenching its fists and subsiding down into peace again, calmed by the mothering voice of the violin. It nods to Neu!’s jerky rhythms of robot-thrash as much as to Slint or Crimson, but, crucially, it’s warmer than any of them. You can hear the exact moment when strummed guitars, under growing pressure, begin to rebel and distort. Towards the end there’s a papery bang of noise; perhaps an amp blowing up from suppressed rage and cutting across the quiet wind-down.


 
After Xmas Steps the other two tracks seem like little brothers, but maintain the interest. Rollerball’s a sort of classical Krautrock etude. Soft guitar figures, sub-audible tinkles of piano off on the fringes, rough points of drum decoration: the final sound is of the lads downing instruments and strolling out of the studio, and it’s as much a part of the piece as any of the notes were. Small Children in the Background lays its sleepy guitar glints over a glassy fuzz-trail. It rises, almost orchestral, to an emotional peak, then cuts out to small and precious ensemble playing as sensitive as an eyelash. Whispers of voice lap back and forth at the front of the mix.


 
Without words, without direct vocals, without even an individual signature to each player, Mogwai’s music is oddly impersonal… but still, somehow, powerfully emotional. As they glower out from behind their clanking guitars, they might place themselves among the Glasgow arties, but in fact they’re in another place altogether. They’ll hate me for mentioning the “prog” word, but – in the best sense – it’s there in the music already. They’re already far closer to the intensely shaped, angular expressionism of Rothko, Henry Cow or The Monsoon Bassoon than they are to The Delgados’ Velvet Undergound impressions or to Bis’ synthesised pogo-sticking.

At the moment, they’ve got all the dynamics, all the expressive intensity they need – all they need now is the technique, and they’ll break through to that level their music is yearning towards. Expect great things from them by the time they hit twenty-five. ‘Til then, the least we can do is to lift the curfew on them.

Mogwai: ‘No Education=No Future (Fuck the Curfew)’
Chemikal Underground Ltd., CHEM026CD (5 020667 342652)
CD-only EP
Released:
29th June 1998
Get it from: (2020 update) Original EP best obtained second-hand; download available from Chemikal Underground
Mogwai online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM Apple Music YouTube Vimeo Deezer Google Play Pandora Spotify Tidal Instagram Amazon Music
 

June 1998 – single & track reviews – James’ ‘Runaground’; The Monsoon Bassoon’s ‘Wise Guy/28 Days in Rocket Ship’; Sleepy People’s ‘All Systems Fail/Every Wave is Higher on the Beach’

28 Jun

James: 'Runaground'

James: ‘Runaground’

OK, it’s a marketing trick, alright? James have a Greatest Hits album out and apparently need filler. So this is one of those irritatingly “exclusive” singles which bands now record especially to give obsessives a reason for buying their compilation albums. But, despite all the incentive to hate it for that reason, this is one of the few times when the phrase “bonus track” actually makes sense.

Runaground is more than satisfying in its own right. Here’s one of James’ occasional warmly blue-tinted songs, coming from one of the reflective lulls between their big anthems (Laid, Sit Down, She’s a Star)and their bursts of dervish doolally (Avalanche, Bring a Gun, Sometimes): with a soft bush of guitars rather than a wall of them, a lilting breathy melody, and Saul Davies’ thin sweet glow of violin coming through like light under a mother’s door. “For every woman you will leave an open door / You find yourself thinking “why can’t I have more?” “.


 
There’s a directness to Tim Booth at such moments, an unguarded wistful sadness to his herald’s voice as he ditches the metaphysics and the egghead bluster. Runaground’s one for the frightened fool, grasping for every tiny illusory chance in order not to get stuck, only to find they’ve dropped everything that’s worthwhile anyway just to grasp at shadows, and that they’ve gotten stuck anyway. “Oh no, she’s gone, back wherever she came from. / You watch her go, your reactions much too slow. / Let her go. / Runaground.”

Is it one of Booth’s flagellating stabs at his own unreliability, as with Come Home and Don’t Wait That Long? Maybe. One thing’s for sure as the waves of another great James chorale surge up: with this, the Manchester stadium-pop weirdos have touched down gently on the human feelings they neglected too much on the patchy techno moves of the ‘Whiplash‘ album. Experimentation’s nothing without soul and empathy. “You take for granted all the riches of the world / You may have oysters, but you’ll never find your pearls…” Almost a desert island disc.

The Monsoon Bassoon: 'Wise Guy/28 Days in Rocket Ship'

The Monsoon Bassoon: ‘Wise Guy/28 Days in Rocket Ship’

For some, it’s best to kick off with a statement rather than an insinuation. Especially when it’s one which no-one can argue with. This debut single’s a double-barrelled shotgun blast of twisted intent. The Monsoon Bassoon (who’ve been regularly carving up Camden indie-pubs for several years now) are allegedly “psychedelic pop”. But if that automatically makes you pull out a checklist and start ticking off (a) druggy sonic syrup, (b) honeybee harmonies, (c) kiddie songs and (d) wobbly blues guitar ad infinitum, forget it. If they’re anything to do with current psych-pop, the Bassoon are Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci shorn of their Brian Wilson fixation, off their heads on chaos theory and frantically shagging a stapling machine. If you could fix it so that a tropical rainstorm could blast through a double reed, you probably would end up with this sort of shrapnel.

Both tracks on this double A-side start out as songs. With the emphasis on “start”: two duelling, slashing guitars and three voices quickly fractalise the songs into manic battling melodies. You get plenty of pop hooks, but before too long they’ve turned into egg-whisks and grappling irons mounting a major assault on pop strongholds. The Monsoon Bassoon can take a song and turn it into a sort of Philip Glass No-Wave party during which The Pixies, Henry Cow, and Television all get smashed and then get caught up in an argument which they enjoy so much that it takes the police to get them out of the building.


 
The prog word rears its head too, but with any hint of cosiness snipped off by Tim “Cardiacs” Smith’s rough’n’ready garage-y production. If the Bassoon sometimes resemble a younger, more hyperactive King Crimson – those revolving guitars, Sarah Measures’ daredevil flutes and reeds, the way the music booms back and forth between celestial minimalism and bellowing, screaming blasts of red-hot air – they’ve also got a good deal more of a sense of sheer fun and dynamism than Crimson themselves are exhibiting these days.


 
You might not remember the tunes, but you’ll certainly remember the commotion en route. The choppy pop of Wise Guy explodes like axe-heads coming through hotel-room doors, twirls the odd piroutte as it does so, and leaps up to a trumpeting, triumphant, speaker-melting fanfare. 28 Days in Rocket Ship is superficially calmer until the monster bass riffs and bells rock the belfry to bits. This is hardcore pronk to the max, with a eerie sideswiping charm to compound its relentless ecstatic ferocity. This music yells “fuck you, get out of my way,” and in the same breath, flashing a brilliant grin, adds “but you can come too.” Dancing on giddy splinters.

Sleepy People: 'All Systems Fail/Every Wave is Higher on the Beach'

Sleepy People: ‘All Systems Fail/Every Wave is Higher on the Beach’

With the effusive Phil Sears – a.k.a “Earl Slick” – waltzing out of the band shortly after the release of their second album, Sleepy People have spent some time singerless. Not a band to take things lying down, they’ve recruited new teenaged singer Lee Haley, messed around in the engine room a bit, and got these two songs down on tape, battling on to maintain momentum and taking another look at the songwriting business while they’re at it.

Sleepy leader Paul Hope has never been one to back off from a challenge; and writing for Haley’s lighter, more fragrant tones (a clarinet compared to Sears’ brazen and operatic trumpet) has certainly brought out the best in his glowing psychedelic pop. All Systems Fail compresses and channels the Sleepies’ usual sprawling, ornamental music while losing none of its jack-in-the-box explosiveness. Moogs burble and fizz, Paul’s guitars snarl and swipe like fuzzed-up little kittens, the rhythms are as jumpy and cheekily punka as ska on itching powder, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were juggling the odd plate as they recorded (“What goes round / Must come down”).

Lee skates through the whole thing with a suspicious schoolboy insouciance. Angel-faced or not, this is a guy who managed to shoot himself through the liver while messing about with a pistol between rehearsals: and he warbles like a naughty chorister alongside Rachel’s moonbeam harmonies, while everyone else yelps like dogs on the chorus: “steaming creatures with violent features… wind them up and run!” It could almost be a proggy Bis: glittery hairslides, sherbet flying saucers’n’all.

Every Wave is Higher On the Beach is more familiar Sleepyfare. Epic, complicated, Gongpop stuff, as moonstruck as ever: Rachel sending her flute in rolling smoketrails through Anna’s spooky streaks of keyboard as the band drive through the night. But this time their eccentricity has a much more haunting edge to it. At his best, Paul Hope’s one of the few pop people who can capture the eerie wonder of someone’s more mystical, Fortean Times-y experiences. And this is him at his best – urging a langorous, hypnotised performance out of Lee as a man in the grip of an atavistic compulsion, pulling out and away from the world. “Although I’ve never been, / I know the sea’s not far away from here. / Rumours carried on the waves / will help me find the way that I should go… / Although I’ve never seen, / I know there’s something really big out there. / Is that the moon I see, / or harbour lights leading me astray?”

As the bass throbs and the guitar mounts in a spiral of pulsating alarm, Sleepy People seem to be taking a great leap in the dark, “across the never-ending sand” out upwards from their frequent foolery and into somewhere far more soul-stroking, more threatening. The madness behind the face-paint isn’t so theatrical this time, but is far more effective. Sleepy People have proved they can take another body-blow and come back grinning.

James: ‘Runaground’
Mercury Records, JIMCD 20 / 568 853-2
CD/cassette single
Released:
23rd June 1998
Get it from: (2020 update) original single best obtained second-hand; song appears on several James compilations – ‘The Best of’ and ‘Fresh As a Daisy – The Singles’.
James online:
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The Monsoon Bassoon: ‘Wise Guy/28 Days In Rocket Ship’
Weird Neighbourhood Recordings, WNRS 1 (no barcode)
7-inch vinyl-only double A-side single
Released:
June 1998
Get it from: (2020 update) original single best obtained second-hand; ‘Wise Guy’ appears on The Monsoon Bassoon’s ‘I Dig Your Voodoo‘ album.
The Monsoon Bassoon online:
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Sleepy People: ‘All Systems Fail/Every Wave is Higher on the Beach’
The Soporific Foundation (no catalogue number or barcode)
Cassette-only double-A-side single

Released: June 1998
Get it from: (2020 update) original single best obtained second-hand; original song versions currently unavailable, but different versions sung by Tiny Wood appear on the Blue Apple Boy album ‘Salient‘.
Sleepy People online:
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October 1997 – live album reviews – Porcupine Tree’s ‘Coma Divine (“driving performances, captured with crystal clarity… showing what the band can be like when removed from Wilson’s zealous studio-bound quality control”)

27 Oct

Porcupine Tree: 'Coma Divine'

Porcupine Tree: ‘Coma Divine’

In the eleven years that he’s been developing it, Steven Wilson has guided his Porcupine Tree project along a path of sinuous, gentle, considered swerves. We’ve seen it emerge from a clutch of playful one-man bedroom-band attempts to emulate the psychedelic heroism of the Gong/Floyd/Hillage/Can era, and go on to flirt with the wide-eyed double dawn of acid-house and rave while dipping in and out of experimental sonic abstractions. Eventually it established itself as a full-figured four-man contemporary rock group, and today’s band is a much sleeker, more professional thing than its origins suggested. Solid and melodic, rocking effortlessly, drawing on the pellucid visions of psychedelic sound and the soaring space-blues solos of ‘Wish You Were Here’, reweaving them into the starfield sweeps of ’90s rave and trance-techno, and allowing them to blossom out of the heart of spectral English pop and folk dreams.

Wilson has an ambiguous, on-off relationship with progressive rock. One month he’ll be asserting himself as the British prog scene’s lone saviour amongst a swill of sub-Genesis, the next rebranding his work as “modern rock” among the likes of The Verve, Korn or Mansun. Something which belies the simple truth that Porcupine Tree are, in essence, a contemporary prog-rock band. But if so, they’re one which is practising what the scene ought to be practising. They’re leaning to past traditions of impeccable extended musicianship and structural ambition, but eschewing podgy FM blandness and looking instead to contemporary musical motifs, technologies and methodologies.


 
That said, 1996’s ‘Signify’ was almost too accomplished. Sixty-odd minutes of polished, grooving songs and sleek instrumental blowouts that went down like a little pinch of manna with a worldwide prog audience, but which also ensured the Porkies’ ascendency at the expense (to this reviewer, at least) of their warmth and their mutable possibilities. ‘Coma Divine’ redresses the balance a bit – not just by being a particularly good live album (driving performances, captured with crystal clarity) but by showing what the band can be like when removed from Wilson’s zealous studio-bound quality control. Recorded during the band’s Italian tour in 1997, it captures them in ripping form, tearing through the likes of ravening distorted acid-rocker Not Beautiful Anymore and the stabbing, mathematical Neu!-style thrash of Signify, expounding on the dreamy rock tone-poem of The Sky Moves Sideways, and delivering a poised, hypnotic Radioactive Toy to an ecstatic audience.



 
Porcupine Tree draw frequent Pink Floyd comparisons, invited by the band’s preference for atmosphere and solid construction over any temptations to proggy twiddles and busyness. And also by the cushioning synthesizers, Wilson’s quiet vocals and his protracted, articulate bluesy guitar leads. When you hear them live, the parallels don’t hold nearly as much water. Floyd have never really rocked out with such intensity as this band, and have always possessed a certain English stolidity which Porcupine Tree avoid (in spite of Wilson’s nonchalant approach to front-man duties). Waiting – previously no more than a Tree-by-numbers single – is reborn here, jauntified by Wilson’s jangling electric twelve-string. And even if The Sleep of No Dreaming strays dangerously near to the despised neo-prog (it’s just a little too close to a half-hearted ‘Dark Side of the Moon’), Wilson’s unusually raw wail on the chorus gives the live version all the authority it needs.



 
It’s the live freedom offered to other members of the band that makes the most difference. Colin Edwin‘s fretless bass, reliable but uninspired on record, becomes a looming stretchy presence on ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’. When he steps on his mutron pedal, he’s more Bootsy Collins than Roger Waters. Dislocated Day (always one of the Tree’s most thrilling moments) gets a huge boost from his interaction with Chris Maitland‘s hissing cymbals and turbocharged drums, the rhythm section taking the song and running with it. Although it’s keyboardist Richard Barbieri who proves to be the Tree’s ace-in-the-hole when he’s let off the leash. He matches Wilson blast for blast as he wrenches blistering melodies, frayed foaming tones and astonishingly vocal burbles out of his armoury of old analogue synths; or embraces the band in a sea of marble-sheened electronics.


 
And while Wilson’s guitar takes centre stage, it’s Barbieri’s utter mastery of sonics which gives Porcupine Tree their robe of starlight as – at their most liberated – they swell through the long, trancey second section of Waiting, the mesmerised improvisations that extend Radioactive Toy. Or the highlight of ‘Coma Divine’: a beautifully fluid journey through Moonloop which evolves through honey-warm ambience, glittering astronomical detail, guitar explorations that sleepwalk and levitate, to the final joyous rampage through spacey, ornamental, Ozrics-y riffing at the climax. Splendid.

Porcupine Tree: ‘Coma Divine’
Delerium Records, DELEC CD 067 (5 032966 096723)
CD-only album
Released:
October 1997
Get it from: (2020 update) Original CD best obtained second-hand; expanded 2016 double CD edition available from Burning Shed.
Porcupine Tree online:
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