Here’s the second of two previews for the first week of September, this one covering the weekend which has just arrived. Four gigs on Saturday (from post-classical to garage rock, from Afrobeat and kosmiche-influenced art pop to Canterbury-inspired lo-fi, from witty post-prog to Southern rock) and a chamber jazz gig on Sunday.
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After ten years of putting on post-classical club nights in east London, some way outside the heart of the British classical establishment, the Nonclassical organisation gets to play in the centre – a festival role, a high-profile corporate sponsorship, ads on the Tube and all. Come and judge whether they’re changing the game or being absorbed (beneficially or otherwise) into the belly of the beast. Whichever way this is going, the concert itself looks fascinating.
Nonclassical label leader Gabriel Prokofiev (a polystylist composer with a background in electroacoustic work whose works include a Concerto for Turntables & Orchestra, an “orchestral remix” of Beethoven’s Ninth and production work on hip hop, grime, and electro records) will be performing at the event, as will five-string-electric-cellist/composer/technologist Peter Gregson (whose adventures in sound include film soundtracking, multiple premieres of newly composed work plus three albums of original compositions, and a “data sonification” of Twitter).
Also performing will be the amplified prepared-piano artist Klavikon (a.k.a. Leon Michener, who uses various pickups, real time analogue processing and playing-mechanism inventions including a robot dog to fuse aleatoric ideas from Stockhausen and Cage with electronic dancefloor work including “cascading batteries of percussion, sub-basses and abstract soundscapes”); the “post-a-cappella” group Juice Vocal Ensemble (whose voicework encompasses everything from classical sources to hip hop, Irish folk, close-harmony vocal jazz and the experimental approaches of Meredith Monk and of Björk’s ‘Medúlla’), and Gabriel’s DJ collaborator Mr Switch.
There will also be a collaboration between classical soprano Sarah Dacey and the “Tendons” music theatre project initiated earlier this year by Holly Lowe and Nwando Ebizie. Based around harp, spoken word, performance art and electronics while mingling repertoire work with improvisation, this draws on and expands two modern classical pieces (Salvatore Sciarrino’s ‘L’addio a Trachis’ and John Cage’s ‘Dream’) plus the ‘Siciliano’ from Bach’s ‘Sonata in E flat’ and was premiered in June at the Nonclassical Downtown Loft Concert at The Russet in Shacklewell – one of the label’s ongoing attempts to encourage a London equivalent of the New York loft-music scene of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
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If you prefer to have your brain tickled by other means, Group Therapy are presenting what they call a night of “good ol’-fashioned noise rock” down at an east London art-rock stronghold.
What this actually seems to be is a night mixing a sharp-minded self-aware take on post-progressive rock and a rollicking contemporary version of what my local library used to call “popular instrumental”, and would stick in a rack alongside James Last and The Shadows (from which, long ago, in the early days of my musical education, I’d pull out the likes of Mike Oldfield, Sky and Vangelis’ ‘Heaven and Hell’, and later the raging electric jazz raga of David Torn’s ‘Cloud About Mercury‘ – ten years later, I’d might been using it to catch the Deodato lounge revival). But if my comment makes the gig sound as if it’s in any way mild or lounge-friendly or mild, think again. This is very much a rock evening and it’s explicitly clear that this night’s crop of bands have soaked up Boredoms, Swans, Big Black, Sonic Youth and The Melvins alongside any Genesis or King Crimson which they might have imbibed. It’s just that it’s refreshing to be able to go along to one of those gigs, with that label, and not encounter yet another bunch of predictable art-punks posing with their distortion pedals and their feedback zones while reheating old daydreams about free jazz and No Wave…
I’m bitching. I don’t like doing that. Let’s have a look at the bands on the bill.
Manchester’s Trojan Horse are post-prog omnivores with tuneful hearts and a refreshing lack of shame. While their records pillage, digest and absorb a wide diet from Pink Floyd to James Brown to The Kinks to the 13th Floor Elevators, they also use their appetites to build their own muscle and identity – one through which they filter a broad, contemplative awareness of British and Mancunian history and how it soaks through into the lives of present-day people (although you don’t need to analyse that in order to enjoy one of their rambunctious gigs).
Simultaneously theatrical and punk-lean, Thumpermonkey can stake a claim to being one of the smartest British bands this side of Everything Everything (with whom they share a geeky brainiac quality driven home by vigorous, tuneful force). Couched in a crunching but colourful hard-rock vein with big pinches of post-hardcore and prog, their dramatic convoluted stalk-and-punch compositions are playful but melodious and rewarding. You can bang your head to a Thumpermonkey song, but you can also think to it. In Michael Woodman (a man like a knowing fusion of Peter Hammill, Nick Cave and Peter Blegvad) they’ve also got a frontman who’s one of the best singers and cleverest current lyricists in rock, delivering allusive and elusive barrages of sly wordplay in a resonant rock-operatic voice.
Finally, the big, bold, brazen sound of Godzilla Black lands precisely midway between No Wave and pin-sharp easy-listening film themes, or between James Black and the John Barry Seven, with rollicking drums, tight stunt brass (and yes, all right, distortion and computer sleet). They also play at a blistering, speaker-pummelling volume, so maybe there’s something in that noise rock description).
In case you needed any more wheedling, here’s a typically effusive pre-gig write-up from ‘Organ’.
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An alternative is this friendly North/South art pop nudge down in Brixton.
Canteloupe + Barringtone + Gurglez + tbc (The Windmill, 22 Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, London, SW2 5BZ, UK, Saturday 5th September 2015, 8.00pm) – price tbc
Headlining, Nottingham’s Canteloupe offer an omnivorous mix of pop, Krautrock, Afrobeat and disco. London’s Barringtone (featuring former Clor frontman Barry Dobbin) continue to pursue their motoric English art pop in the wake of the ‘Fever Head’ single. From Bradford, Gurglez blend what their neighbours Jumbo Records call “the power of prog, the drama of opera and the AOR grooves of the 70’s… poetic moments à la Terry Durham and free-jazz à la Nice” and “(turn) them on their head with a kind of left of field madness that Zappa would be proud of” (which, to these ears. also makes them sound more than a little like Sleepy People…) There should also be one more act to be added, which you can find out about in due course with the other gig information here and here.
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If you’d prefer something a little looser (or, as a clincher, something that was free to get into) for Saturday night, there’s this literally free-for-all concert taking place in the middle of Hackney and hosted by Sound Events Solutions, who have also provided the summary…
The Little Things + Alkatraz + Picturebox + Marianne Hyatt + Pit Ponies (Sound Events Solutions @ Bohemia Hackney, Unit 2, Bohemia Place, Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1DU, United Kingdom, Saturday 5th September 2015, 7.45pm) – free
With The Little Things it’s funk, and then it’s 70s New York new wave alt-rock, and then it’s pop, but it’s all seamless and it’s funky and cool as fuck – an uncanny indie-ish dance party band that just never suck no matter how much they flirt with mass appeal.
Alkatraz provide the psychotic reactions and spontaneous psychedelic combustions of trippin’ psychedelic garage rock.
Picturebox (centred around home-recordist Robert Halcrow) are leading lights (and probably the main constituents) of Canterbury Lo-Fi, a new clandestine pop movement encapsulating all the charm but none of the noodling of the legendary old Canterbury Scene. When Halcrow sings a song like Ruth Bakes A Cake, he is neither being ironic nor twee nor coquettishly kitchen-sink. There is a light-hearted, profoundly uncynical love for humanity running through his lyrics that can sometimes remind you of the way Syd Barrett used to sing about the lost idea of simple kindness. Special things don’t always hit you over the head with a mallet, and neither will Picturebox. But you just never know, sometimes a movement can start with an instrumental named in allusion to a little hi-fi shop next to a supermarket car-park in Canterbury, some heartfelt tributes to pop stars, and lots of tea and cake.
Frontwoman of (variously) Dragstripper, Temple of Sound, Anarchistwood and Country Dirt, Marianne Hyatt is a London-based deep southern songstress from Austin Texas. She’s equal parts Patsy Cline, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, has sung with The Frogs at ATP, with Bill Callahan at Meltdown Festival and played a late-night pickup in Richard Linklater’s ‘Slacker’. She writes and plays platonic lovesongs to sexworkers, country reggae odes to schizophrenic madames and protest tunes to natural disasters… a walking triumph of lost causes and no-longer living legends.
Pit Ponies are renegades from Naughties rockney/post-punk/knees-up beer boys Corporal Machine & The Bombers, fusing ‘90s indie with pissed pub fights and ‘70s pub-rock. (In spite of this preamble, they’ll actually be playing an acoustic set.)
Up-to-date gig info here, some tasters here:
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After all of this, on Sunday, there’s jazz via the return of the LUME evenings via the Vortex. Blurb for the first evening is below.
A Moveable Feast is a group led by jazz pianist Mark Pringle (a Peter Whittingham Award winner for the year 2015, following in the footsteps of previous recipients Gwilym Simcock, Trish Clowes and Elliot Galvin). Heavily inspired by time spent studying in Paris in 2013, the music draws on multiple cultural influences, containing themes of nature, wildlife, literature, the chaos of cities, the lives of people who inhabit them, woodland creatures and strange beasts… This autumn sees the group undertaking a national tour to promote the release of their album, ‘A Moveable Feast’, on Stoney Lane Records.
Featuring a twelvetet line up of strings, horns and rhythm section, the group explore Mark’s music with great freedom of approach, resulting in music that is eclectic, adventurous and highly unique. The band are Mark Pringle (piano), Percy Pursglove (trumpet), Chris Young (alto saxophone), Dan Searjeant (tenor and alto saxophones, flute), Alicia Gardener-Trejo (bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, alto flute), Ben Lee (electric guitar), James Banner (double bass) and Euan Palmer (drums), plus a string quartet of Christine Cornwell, Sarah Farmer, Megan Jowett and Lucy French.
Rebecca Nash‘s music, written with the intention of creating a new cohesive sound, blends together all the things she loves about music. Most important is a sense of purpose, identity and beauty. It is inspired by many musical influences which primarily include jazz musicians such as Pat Metheny and Wayne Shorter but also other styles too, such as electronica and folk music. Rebecca’s own style, rooted in the contemporary jazz genre, blends acoustic and electronic elements with strong melodies, underpinned by dense harmonies and unusual grooves with the aim of creating one overall soundscape.
This latest project is Rebecca’s first as a bandleader, and all of the music performed is original material from her forthcoming album, due to be recorded later this year. Tonight she leads a small group with herself on piano, Percy Pursglove on trumpet, Matt Fisher on drums, and Chris Mapp on bass guitar.