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November 2016 – upcoming London classical/post-classical gigs – ensemble work, throat-singing and dance with Ayan-ool Sam, 12 Ensemble and Camilla Isola at Kammer Klang (1st); a baroque-to-now SOLO performance by violinist Daniel Pioro (25th)

29 Oct

At opposite ends of the month, here are the latest examples of two regular and recurring London gigs with their roots in classical music but navigating (especially in the case of Kammer Klang) its rewarding outer margins and potential associations.

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Kammer Klang, 1st November 2016Kammer Klang presents:
Ayan-ool Sam + 12 Ensemble + Camilla Isola + Carrier Records DJ set
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 1st November 2016, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Headliner Ayan-ool Sam is an acclaimed xöömeizhi, or master of xöömei throat singing (the traditional droning polyphonic music of the Tuva republic in southern Siberia: solo vocalisations developed to mimic and revere both animate and inanimate sounds from nature, in line with the region’s ancient animism). He’s a former student of “xöömeizhi’s xöömeizhi” Kongar-ool, half of Alash Ensemble (with Bady-Dorzhu Ondar), and a frequent throat-singing competition winner whose garlands range from being voted this year’s People’s Xöömeizhi of the Republic of Tuva to gaining the nickname of “Golden Throat” from banjo ace and prolific world music collaborator Béla Fleck. He’ll be performing traditional xöömei as counterpart and capstone to the rest of the evening’s repertoire and explorations.


 
Having spent the earlier part of the year in Iceland for a HEIMA artistic residency (as well as providing the musical backbone for Max Richter’s ‘Vivaldi Recomposed’ project in Paris), orchestral duodecet 12 Ensemble are back in their London hometown for this show. Considered to be London’s foremost un-conducted string orchestra, they’ve recorded and are currently readying a debut album for next year, featuring works by William Walton, Johns Woolrich and Tavener, and the young British composer Kate Whitley (you can see the group performing her piece, ‘Autumn Songs’, below). Previously, 12 Ensemble were Ensemble in Residence for two years at the Forge in Camden, collaborating with several international artists including the tenor Nicky Spence, the pianist Mei Yi Foo and the violist Simon Rowland-Jones. On this occasion, they’ll be performing works by Alex Hills and Ruth Crawford Seeger.

 
Alex Hills is a London-based contemporary composer with a growing reputation for his “interesting and considerable gifts” (Tempo). His recent album of chamber compositions ‘The Music Of Making Strange‘ showcases his interest in diverse elements including spectralism, experimental chamber and punk rock. A performance of one of its pieces, ‘Knight’s Move’, is below.


 
The Hills piece receiving its world premiere tonight is ‘OutsideIn’, which takes inspiration from E. A. Abbott’s classic 1884 novel ‘Flatland‘ (a geometric and philosophical satire). ‘Flatland’ is a recurring source of ideas for Alex – another such piece, a choral work named after the book, can be downloaded for free here. Discussing his interest in “‘flat’ musical worlds”, Alex explains “in a two-dimensional world, a highly complex ‘inside’ would be quite invisible from the ‘outside’, yet to a hypothetical three-dimensional being staring down from above, that same inside would appear completely different.”

Regarding ‘OutsideIn’, Alex continues by describing the piece as “an attempt to think about the relationship between a soloist and an ensemble (a concerto?) in spatial terms. Rather than an ensemble acting as an accompanist to a virtuosic soloist, or a discursive, dialogue-like relationship between them, I place the soloist inside or outside the ensemble’s sound (or the ensemble in or out of the soloist’s)… ‘In’ and ‘out’ also imply boundaries and a centre, which on the one hand are made physically by the ensemble in a horizontal way, with the soloist in the centre and the other two most prominent instruments (first violin and double bass) at the edges, and also by how the musical lines move in register (vertical musical space), initially continually drawn inwards towards a centre of gravity, then at the end of the piece escaping away from that centre outwards.” Alex gives credit for further inspiration to the “virtuosity, imagination and creative freedom” of 12 Ensemble violinist and longtime Hills collaborator Aisha Orazbayev, who’ll be the featured soloist for the premiere.

A valued contemporary and fellow traveller to American modernists such as Charles Ives and Henry Cowell, Ruth Crawford Seeger was a self-taught composer pioneering a specifically American brand of dissonant, meta-mystical music. Among the elements feeding into this were Ruth’s early fascination with the atonal, innovative and highly personal mysticisms of Alexander Scriabin and her own friendship with the poet Carl Sandburg (who was the almost exclusive source of the texts she set to music, although she also carried out a self-translated, twelve-tone setting of the Bhagvad Gita). Her own pugnacious, assertive modernism was further tempered by her studies with musicologist and theorist Charles Seeger, whose concept of “dissonant counterpoint” became a major element in her work and whose cultural Marxism she came to share (leading her into an increasingly missionary devotion to curating American folk music, at the expense of her own composing) and whom she married in 1931 (at a stroke, becoming the stepmother of future folk music hero Pete Seeger).

Ruth’s late return to focussing on her own compositions (after years of selflessly serving and propogating the folk songs of others) was cut short by her death from cancer at the age of fifty-two, although not before she’d delivered a final Suite for wind quintet which incorporated everything she’d learned across her musical life; from post-tonal pluralism, American serialism and Russian-inspired mysticism to her later immersion in folk. Obscured by the reputations of her male contemporaries for many years, Ruth’s work and reputation (particularly that of her 1930s work) has been being revived. 12 Ensemble will be performing her 1931 ‘Andante for string quartet’: a key Crawford Seeger piece whose carefully structured technical dissonances do not deny its growing tragic melody line. Ruth herself valued the latter to the extent that she rearranged the piece for orchestra seven years later, in the hope that the larger arrangement and a skilled conductor would bring out the embedded line to greater effect. Here’s a taste of the original quartet version:


 
The Fresh Klang act for November is dancer, choreographer and performance artist Camilla Isola, a Trinity Laban graduate in her early twenties at the start of what promises to be an interesting career. She’ll be premiering a brand new solo work which, like the Alex Hills piece, draws on ideas and inspirations from ‘Flatland’, exploring dimensional states and the physical dilemma of the body. One of her previous pieces is shown below:

 
DJs from Carrier Records (the seven-year-old New York improv, experimental and contemporary classical label who released the Alex Hill album mentioned above) will see out the remaining gaps in the evening.

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SOLO presents:
SOLO 02: Daniel Pioro
Crypt of @ St Andrew Holborn, 5 St Andrew St, Holborn, London, EC4A 3AB, England
Friday 25 November 2016, 7.00pm
information

The intimate concert recital series SOLO – showcasing unusual works for solo instruments from early music through to new commissions – returns with a showcase in the vaulted crypt of St Andrew Holborn from acclaimed violinist Daniel Pioro.

Daniel Pioro, 2016 (photo © Claire Shovelton)

Daniel Pioro, 2016 (photo © Claire Shovelton)

As player, commissioner, leader and active champion of new music, Daniel’s experience is broad and assertive. He’s a member of innovative chamber ensemble CHROMA, current leader of the Fibonacci Sequence, and the former leader of the London Contemporary Orchestra (with whom he’s played, amongst other pieces, the ‘Triple Concerto’ by Radiohead polymath Jonny Greenwood and Schnittke’s notorious ‘Concerto Grosso No. 1’). He’s worked as a soloist or ensemble player with the Orchestra of St Johns Smith Square (Mozart’s ‘Sinfonia Concertante’, John Woolrich’s ‘Capriccio’), the BBC Philharmonic (Colin Matthews’ ‘Violin Concerto’, Thomas Adès’s ‘Concentric Paths’) and the London Sinfonietta. Daniel has also forged close musical working and performance relationships with a variety of contemporary dancers and with author Michael Morpurgo.

For this concert, Daniel will celebrate and share his eclectic tastes via a set list including “everything from the intricacies of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s ‘Passacaglia for Solo Violin’ to the mind-bending repetitions of ‘Knee Play No. 2′ from Philip Glass’ extraordinary opera ‘Einstein on the Beach’.” Also on the set list is ‘Elsewhere’ by Edmund Finnis (a violin-and-reverb piece which Daniel debuted at St Johns Smith Square in June this year), works by American composers La Monte Young and Pulitzer Prize-winning Caroline Shaw (of ACME and Roomful Of Teeth) and the world première of a new piece by SOLO curator Alex Groves. There’ll also be another as-yet-unspecified baroque violin piece: this time by eighteenth-century composer-performer Nicola Matteis, an emigre virtuoso once reknowned throughout Georgian London, subsequently forgotten as a composer until the late twentieth century. (This performance will restore some of his music to its old haunts.)

No doubt there’ll be a more detailed set list emerging shortly, when tickets go on sale.
 

October 2016 – upcoming gigs in London – more avant-classical/experimental ensemble work as new Kammer Klang season opens at Café Oto with Miles Cooper Seaton, Distractfold Ensemble and Martyna Poznańska (4th October)

30 Sep

Heading off the end of his Kammer Klang-sponsored Oto residency, Miles Cooper Seaton moves seamlessly into headlining the first concert of the Kammer Klang 2016/2017 season.

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Kammer Klang, 4th October 2016Kammer Klang presents:
Miles Cooper Seaton & ensemble + Distractfold Ensemble + Martyna Poznańska + Monocreo DJs
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 4th October 2016, 8.00pm
information

The word on Miles (again): “For over a decade, (his) work has defied genre and discipline, spanning immersive ambient installations, intimate sets in sacred spaces and festival stages from Los Angeles to Tokyo – as a solo artist, with his own band Akron/Family and as a member of Michael Gira’s Angels of Light. Their common thread is the raw emotional charge that infuses every performance with incendiary energy, leaving listeners hyper-sensitised to their own feelings and bodies, to each other and to the world around them.”

For this particular concert, Miles will be presenting the British premiere of ‘Transient Music #2’, performed by a seven-piece ensemble featuring an enviably broad set of musicians from varied traditions. In addition to the two Italian musicians who’ve been his right-hand men for the whole of his residency over the previous week (singer/guitarist Tobia Poltroneri, percussionist Alessandro Cau), he’ll be joined by post-rock/art-pop heroine Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab, Monade), by Oliver Coates (curator, cross-discipline collaborator and principal cellist in several prominent orchestras), by multi-instrumentalist Cathy Lucas (Orlando, Vanishing Twin, School Of Hypnosis, Earth Moon Earth) and by Japanese-French throat-singer/flautist Maïa Barouh.

Describing his ‘Transient Music’ series as “an evolving composition for modular ensemble”, Miles adds “music as an art form is truly realised when it is perceived. It is reciprocity that gives it life. Given this fact, it is the field of perception or awareness that is the context in which a composition is experienced. Though we have a visceral and instinctual relationship with music as primordial utterance, our modern experiences of music are often bound more to the intellectual barriers we place around sound in order to compartmentalise and understand its intention.

“Transient Music aims to engage the intuitive or pre-descriptive space that exists in the gap between experience and understanding. Members of the ensemble are given principal guideposts and cues that relate to their own cosmologies in order to encourage the cultivation of a spontaneous and empathetic awareness. This awareness is then activated sonically and energetically, and finally made manifest as a collective gesture of inclusivity as the tonal field gradually extends to the perceiver.”

Further information on the others playing at the event:

Manchester-based Distractfold are a contemporary music ensemble who “specialise in performing instrumental, electro-acoustic and mixed chamber music from the twenty-first century. Founded by composers/artistic directors Mauricio Pauly and Sam Salem with clarinettist Rocío Bolaños, violinist Linda Jankowska, cellist Alice Purton and viola player Emma Richards, Distractfold have presented over forty concerts around the world since 2011 and became the first British ensemble to be awarded to the prestigious Kranichstein Prize for Interpretation at the 47th International Summer Course for New Music, Darmstadt.” The ensemble will be joined by an associate – the young electric guitarist Daniel Brew (Beats & Pieces), with technical director Constantin Popp offering technological support.

The Distractfold programme includes an “ecstatic” piece by the Australian composer Liza Lim, who establishes her compositional ideas around a nexus of “Australian Indigenous aesthetics; Asian ritual forms and performance practices… Sufi poetics of bewilderment, loss, communion and ecstasy; and the textilic arts of weaving and knot-making as a cross-modal technology for thinking.”

Distractfold will also be presenting British premieres of new works by Mauricio Pauly and Sam Salem. Both pieces were originally premiered this year, back on 7th August in Darmstadt (as part of the 48th International Summer Course for New Music) and display the differing approaches of the two Distractfold directors – Mauricio concentrating on ensemble music with unorthodox lineups plus “amplification, performative electronics and prefabricated sounds”, while Sam concentrates on more mixed-media work founded on “the sounds of urban environments (and) specific geographical location(s)… aspir(ing) to illuminate and explore the hidden musicality and beauty of his geographical subjects, as well as his own relationship to his environment as both a source of inspiration and musical material.”

Bookending the evening will be individual sets by Berlin-based cross-disciplinary artist Martyna Poznańska and by DJs from the Milton Keynes record label Monocreo. Using field recordings, writing, composition and visual material including video and photography (plus her background in linguistics, Spanish literature and sound art), Martyna explores “the processes of remembering and forgetting, growth, decay and transformation” via installation and performance work. Monotreo’s releases, based around the remit of “sound art and outer limits”, have included recordings of post-punk and rhythmic electronic music as well as graphic scores.

Performers:

Miles Cooper Seaton + ensemble
Distractfold Ensemble
Martyna Poznańska
Monocreo DJs

Programme:

Martyna Poznańska – unspecified work for ‘Fresh Klang” programme
Mauricio Pauly – Charred Edifice Shining, for amplified string trio (2016) (UK premiere)
Liza Lim – Inguz (Fertility), for clarinet in A and violoncello (1996)
Sam Salem – Untitled Valley of Fear, for three object operators, tape and video (2016) (UK premiere)
Miles Cooper Seaton: Transient Music #2 (UK premiere)
Monocreo DJ set

Here’s a set of examples of other work by the composers and performers involved, including one from a previous Oto appearance:



 

September 2016 – upcoming London gigs – free (in all respects) Miles Cooper Seaton & Friends residency at Café Oto (26th-30th)

23 Sep

Over the last four days of September, Miles Cooper Seaton (one limb of the Akron/Family trio, and as of the last three years a roaming solo artist) is setting up home in Café Oto. He’s there for an exploratory residency which should cover the whole range of his work – from spontaneous musical narrative to immersive ambience, intimate songwriting performance, outright improvisation and explorations of sacred space (both constructed and induced).

All of this should draw on Miles’ mixed heritage of freak-folk and post-hardcore experimentalism, his interest in spiritual and “functional” music (from post-European choirs to pre-Colombian chants), as set against personalised songwriting, and the “visceral, confrontational and humanist values” which he formed on his journey through the worlds of countercultural art and punk rock, as well as encounters and collaborations with the likes of Hamid Drake, Michael Gira, Keiji Haino, William Parker and the Sun Ra Arkestra.

As it happens, you’re invited along too.


 
Kammer Klang presents:
Miles Cooper Seaton & Friends Residency
Oto Project Space @ Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Monday 26th to Friday 30th September 2016, 10.00am-6.00pm (plus evening shows)
– free events – information

Here’s what Miles himself said as part of the announcement (interruptions and asides added by me afterwards):

“After being asked by Kammer Klang to perform as part of their series (…more on that later…), the idea came up to spend time in Cafe Oto’s Project Space. I was immediately attracted by the opportunity to engage the atmosphere where I would be staging ‘Transient Music’, as I consider the piece to be so deeply about the place where it occurs. Maybe the work itself is about building a context to inhabit, a temporary home inside the deluge of messages and impressions. In any event, applying that same schema onto a residency appealed to me.

“Recently, work has led me to spend the majority of my time in Italy with musicians and artists local to the cities and villages I visit. Two of the many people I have met along the way who have informed, inspired or facilitated the continued development and understanding of the nature of this work are Alessandro Cau (promiscuously collaborating improvising/experimental percussionist and timbre researcher) and Tobia Poltroneri (Veronese singer, songwriter and guitarist for C+C=Maxigross, as well as curator of Lessinia Psych Fest). They will join me at the studio at their leisure to work on what seems interesting.

“Daily, the door will be open for intervention, sonic and otherwise, from the surrounding neighbourhood and what-or-whomever compels itself in our direction.

“There will also be two evening events in the Project Space. In addition to Cau and Poltroneri performing solo, I will perform some works in progress, and more will be announced…

“Perhaps we will manifest a well-tuned collective psychic environment that fosters lateral approach, favors a whim, and provides fertile soil for the tangents that eventually result as (in this case artistic) innovation. Perhaps nothing will happen and we’ll just enjoy the time together. Either way, time will pass.”

At least some of the promised events and activities have solidified now. As stated, throughout the whole residency there’s the opportunity for anyone to drop into the studio space and join the creative process between eleven in the morning and seven at night. At eight in the evening on Wednesday 28th, Miles, Alessandro and Tobia will deliver a triple set of intimate solo performances; and for the whole of Thursday 29th they’ll be exploring Western, African and Cuban forms during an all-day drop-in improvisation session featuring local guest musicians (with the day intended for listening, and the night intended for dancing).

All of this is free to attend. Whether or not you’re booze-bribeable, there’s free beer available to help sustain the atmosphere.

Here’s some additional performance and interview footage of Miles, to add to the understanding.


 

August 2016 – upcoming gigs – three-date British tour of saz balladry by Aşıq Nargile (plus choral fizz, oddrock and pedal steel strangeness from Tut Vu Vu, Muldoon’s Picnic and Heather Leigh – 2nd-4th); Hackney Colliery Band & Bring Your Own Brass kick off Borderless in London (2nd)

30 Jul

In between appearances at the WOMAD and Supernormal festivals, Georgian saz player and singer Aşıq Nargile is embarking on a three-date British microtour in August, calling in at points in Scotland, Yorkshire and London.

Aşıq Nargile

In case you’re looking at the picture and thinking (lazily) “another girl folk singer”, it’s worth noting that “Aşıq” is an honorific, not a forename. It denotes a particular type of traditional Georgian bard, multilingual and mobile, who travels through the country’s diverse regions as vessels for music, news, concepts and culture both old and new. (A little like a Caucasian version of a West African griot, although perhaps without the satirical upsetter elements).

Originally from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, Nargile Mehtiyeva has carried the cosmopolitan traditions of her home town with her, but has chosen to base herself in the southern Borcali region. For the moment, she’s the only female aşıq at work there. A trilingual singer and player of the saz lute since her mid-teens, she’s now both a teacher of the traditional forms and (via the Sayat Nova initiative) an ambassador for Georgian culture. Her concerts involve interlocking musicality and literacy – a “vocal recital of epic folk poetry (in) Azerbaijani, Georgian, and Russian… by turns ecstatic and deeply expressive… interspersed with bursts of virtuosic, highly ornamented saz.” in the shape of “moving laments or upbeat folk dances.” For those who don’t speak any of those languages, the shows are still musically sensual experiences – propulsive and silvery cascades of wiry stringwork, accompanied by a vocal like an elastic lassoo and the stately assurance of someone backed up by a couple of thousand years of heritage.


 
Tour dates are as follows:

  • The Old Hairdressers, 23 Renfield Lane, Glasgow G2 6PH, Scotland, Tuesday 2nd August 2016, 7.30pm (supported by Tut Vu Vu + Muldoon’s Picnic) – information
  • Delius Arts & Cultural Centre, 29 Great Horton Road, Bradford, BD7 1AA, England, Wednesday 3rd August 2016…. (+ support act t.b.c.) – information here and here
  • The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England, Thursday 4th August 2016, 7.30pm (with Heather Leigh) – information

While the Bradford gig is solo, the Glasgow show sees Nargile playing as part of a splendidly adventurous and diverse triple bill alongside two very different Glaswegian groups who have next to nothing in common bar their musicality.

Despite their cosy and informal appearance, a name that comes from drunken Irish misadventure, a repertoire reaching from “the sublime to the ridiculous” and their emphasis on fun and friendship in singing, acapella group Muldoon’s Picnic unites a number of very dedicated and talented Glasgow-based singer and scholars. Its six or seven regular members (not least in-house arranger Katy L. Cooper) have already made their mark in a brace of other vocal ensembles – Trembling Bells spin-off Crying Lion, Glasgow Madrigirls, The Four Hoarse Men, Voicebeat, Voicemale, Sang Scule, and “barbershop-prog” group Honey & The Herbs – plus more church, chapel, cathedral, workplace and community choirs than you could shake a stave at. As for that repertoire, it embraces gospel, shanties, Scots ballads, English carols, Afro-American spirituals, sacred harp songs, Victorian parlour music and music hall songs and assorted pieces cast up and circulated by the world music movement. Where other choral groups dabble, this one delves. The songs are sung not just in English but in other tongues of the British Isles (Scots Gaelic, Cornish, Manx and Welsh) and further afield: Breton, southern African Sotho, Ugandan Luganda and eastern European languages (Bulgarian, Croatian and Georgian – in the latter’s polyphonic music, they touch base with Nargile.)


 

The third act on the Glasgow bill, Tut Vu Vu, play their dark-browed and looming electrophonic instrumentals in a cloud of disinformation. When someone compares them to Anaïs Nin and David Lynch and they claim that it’s all a misunderstanding; someone else mentions musique concrète and they respond with askance, amused looks. When given the chances to set things straight, they deliver misleading mission statements filled with science fiction technogabble about phased plasma and hydrogen sulphide. What’s demonstrably true is that they’re an alliance of Glasgow art-punks who’ve already been around a decade’s cycle of experimental groups – Iban Perez in The Sparkling Shadazz, Rags & Feathers and A Rhythmtic) Raydale Dower, Matthew Black and Jamie Bolland in rattling theatricalists Uncle John & Whitelock.

Expect something of an oblique and inscrutable wall between the quartet’s current work and their previous brainy trash-lungings. A band apparently in search of a new dialect (while drawing on assorted shredded utterances from Krautrock, Beefheart, ‘90s rave or ‘80s arsequake) a typical TVV track can be a bizarre collage of muffled falsetto wails and feedback drones, of layered tribal toms and analogue-synth bass-farts, of approaching-horns guitar shapes; all of which is cunningly and immediately sculpted for maximum enigmatic impact, rather than being tossed out of the speakers for someone else to sweep up.




 

In London, Nargile is playing a double header gig with Heather Leigh. One of the most unconventional pedal steel guitarists in contemporary music, Heather belies her traditional country music heritage (a West Virginia birth, a descent from coal miners) and instead reinvents both her instrument and her voice as a conduit for strange and ghostly improvisations. Aided by cruel amplifier tones and strange, skittering, instinctive hand techniques, her compositions emerge like spectral possessions of strings, pedals, larynx and language. Often touching on themes of trauma, abuse and hidden, subjective experience, Heather’s eerie and disturbing work has already led her to collaborations with Peter Brötzmann, Jandek, Thurston Moore and plenty of others since her emergence in the 1990s.




 
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August also sees the start of Borderless, a delightfully rambling live music series at Battersea Arts Centre running roughly parallel to the Olympic Games in Rio. Run in collaboration with GOAT Music (set up last year by former Roundhouse music bosses David Gaydon and Lou Birkett) it aim to showcase “the UK’s best homegrown talent and unique artists from around the globe, in the intimate and beautiful setting of the Council Chamber… Borderless will provide an alternative cross-cultural celebration. Samba to tropical beats, dance to Afrobeat legends, skank to reggae and let the new generation of jazz take you to another place. Break down the borders and shuffle your feet to global rhythms to hear the biggest tunes from all over the planet. We’ll also provide a platform for the freshest artists and exciting talent currently taking the UK by storm. Hear the artists sound tracking the underground scene, dominating the airwaves and paving the way for the alternative UK music scene.”

Glad to hear it. Bring it on. What do you have?

GOAT Music and Battersea Arts Centre present:
Borderless: Hackney Colliery Band + Bring Your Own Brass
Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, Battersea, London, SW11 5TN, England
Tuesday 2nd August 2016, 8.00pm
information

Hearing about Hackney Colliery Band initially caught me between hackles and chuckles. For a moment, I thought it was about taking the piss out of a great and still-living industrial British art form while cynically attempting to replace it. After all, when there are still genuine colliery bands maintaining the tradition across old mining heartlands from Tyneside to Derbyshire, Shropshire to Leicestershire and the Rhondda Valley (and dotted across the Yorkshire pitscape from Grimethorpe to Dinnington, Frickley to Queensbury) why would you want to substitute them with a slick London parody? On the other hand, my sense of the absurd soon kicked in – since Hackney’s been sprouting all kinds of cartoonish artisan features for the past decade (from craft beer to boutique muffins and shoes), why not an ersatz coal mine?

As it happens, HCB have got little to do with any of this. The name’s a little dab of post-modern British showbiz and the band (excellent, by the way) don’t stick to the grand dignity and mournfulness of colliery music, being more of an omnivorous brass beast immersed in and rejigging a variety of horn-party traditions from jazz, r&b, funk and others, including New Orleans tunes from both fun and funerals. Much the same can be said of the support act, Bring Your Own Brass – a band who, as “up-and-coming brass hip-hop ripsnorters”, have been known to parp out a Rakim cover or two. If this makes them sounds like a novelty act, they aren’t. Sound and vision reveal them to be well-scrubbed, well-studied white disciples of a wide span of styles, clambering over Afrobeat, rap, funk and marching-band ideas with head-bopping panache.

Recently, both bands seem to have cornered the market in boutique festivals and showbiz event (between them they’ve got Olympic Games and Brit/Mercury award appearances under their belts, as well as shows at Ally Pally, with slots at Wilderness, Stow and Meatopia to come later in August for BYOB and a hefty European tour for HCB). HCB’s previous set at the MOBO awards suggests that they can impress at a formal roots level as well, unless it was a case of contacts trumping authenticity. Just as long as bands like these aren’t crowding out bands like Kokoroko; although BYOB’s teamup with Bristolian rapper and slam poet Solomon O.B (see below) suggests that, as far as fellow musicians are concerned, there aren’t any practical or philosophical problems.



 

More London gigs, last week of October into November (26th to 1st) – gamelan/dance fusion with My Tricksy Spirit/Wax Wings/Segara Madu; Nordic pop at Ja Ja Ja (Kill J/Loveless/Maasai); anarchistwood’s Samhain/NYE party (with Rude Mechanicals, Jane Ruby and more); intercontinental psych & noise with Baba Yaga (Bitchin’ Bajas/Tomaga/Demian Castellanos, Acid Mothers Temple/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…

Upcoming London gigs this week – LUME on Thursday (Nick Costley-White/Bleep Test); Daylight Music on Saturday (The UCC Handbell Ringers/Ryan Teague/Ellie Lovegrove, with Angèle David-Guillou)

13 Jul

More upcoming London gigs this week. Firstly, various kinds of jazz on Thursday…

LUME logo

Nick Costley-White & Bleep Test (LUME @ Long White Cloud, 151 Hackney Road, Hoxton, London, E2 8JL, UK, Thursday 16th July, 8.00pm

This week at LUME… original and improvised music. We’ve got a tasty double bill for you this Thursday with solo guitar explorations and an exciting new electronic jazz ensemble mixing beats and tunes. Should be a great evening of cutting edge new sounds. Entry is one Bank of England note of your choice. (£5, £10, £20… £50???!)

Bleep Test (Fraser Smith – tenor sax/effects; Joe Webb – synths; Lloyd Haines – drums; Matthew Read – bass) combine house, breaks, drum & bass and jazz. Analog synths, electric drums and a screaming saxophone tie this band to the growing scene of exciting, genre defying music groups emerging from London’s creative underground. Fiery grooves and memorable melodies push these musicians out of the traditional jazz improvisation realm and into another soundscape that hits hard.

Nick Costley-White is fast becoming one of the most in demand young guitarists in the London jazz scene. With a developed sound and individual voice on his instrument, Nick has had the opportunity to perform professionally with some of the country’s finest musicians including Stan Sulzmann, Jeff Williams, Gareth Lockrane, Tom Challenger, Martin Speake, Ivo Neame, Tommy Andrews, Jon Scott, Dave Hamblet and Josh Arcoleo.
Nick studied jazz and classical guitar at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Phil Robson, Colin Oxley and John Parricelli, graduating with first class honours and awarded the 2011 Yamaha Jazz Scholarship for Outstanding Musicians.

See you there!

On Saturday, there’s the last Daylight Music concert of the season, with definite sacred and classical tinges to it…

The UCC Handbell Ringers @ Daylight Music, 18th July 2015

 

Daylight Music 197: The UCC Handbell Ringers + Ryan Teague + Ellie Lovegrove (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN – Saturday 18th July, 12pm to 2pm)

A Bells and Bronze afternoon will ring out this season of Daylight in style.

The UCC Handbell Ringers are a select group of nineteen young people, ages fourteen to eighteen, from the University Christian Church in Fort Worth, Texas. This Church is situated across the street from the Texas Christian University School of Music and since its founding in 1873, the music ministry has been an integral part in the life of the church. The UCC Ringers ring one of the church’s two five-octave sets of English handbells cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. The bell choirs have a long tradition of musical excellence and have been an integral part of the life of the church for many years. They have toured regularly. In addition to being the first bell choir to perform at Westminster Abbey, they have played in worship services and in concert at the Royal Festival Hall, York Minster, St. Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol and the Collegiate Church of St. Mary in Warwick; and at Exeter, Bristol, Gloucester, Canterbury, Winchester, Salisbury, Christ Church Oxford and Coventry Cathedrals.

Ryan Teague is a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist based in Bristol. His music combines acoustic instrumentation and arrangements with electronic and processed material, the results of which incorporate minimalist, ambient and electro-acoustic music. Ryan has released numerous albums and EPs on labels including Village Green, Sonic Pieces and Type Records. He also produces music and sound design for various film & TV productions and has spent an extended period of time in Indonesia studying Javanese gamelan music. This afternoon’s music will also feature a new and exclusive composition premiere ‘Storm Or Tempest May Stop Play’ by Ryan Teague with Gamelan Ensemble.

From a musical family in Ware, Hertfordshire, Ellie Lovegrove began learning the trumpet at school aged seven. She later played principal trumpet with the Hertfordshire County Youth Orchestra, joined the National Youth Orchestra at the Proms, and went on to study at the Royal College of Music, London. Here she received tuition from Paul Beniston, Neil Brough and Michael Laird, winning the Brass Ensemble Prize and the Brass Concerto Competition. Ellie continued her studies with Kristian Steenstrup and Mark David. Professionally, Ellie enjoys a varied freelance career. Her work as an orchestral player includes concerts and broadcasts with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Royal Ballet Sinfonia and the Britten Sinfonia. She has also deputised for the the Royal Shakespeare Company as the onstage trumpeter in their production of ‘The Roaring Girl’ and in their recent production of ‘Henry IV’ at the Barbican. As a chamber musician, Ellie has performed at The London Handel Festival on period instruments, and has enjoyed working with Chaconne Brass, including a commercial recording of a new work by Bob Chilcott with Wells Cathedral Choir. Her trumpet and organ duo Illumina have performed recitals at St Paul’s Cathedral, Fairfield Halls and Alexandra Palace, and have recently commissioned a new work from composer Paul Burke.

If that wasn’t enough magic then Angèle David-Guillou will plays some chiming melodies on the piano. Angèle is best known for a brace of critically acclaimed electro-acoustic dream-pop albums under the alias Klima, for her signature contributions to cult Anglo-French ensemble Piano Magic and for cameos on albums by the likes of The Go! Team, Peter Astor and Ginger Ale. In contrast to much of her oeuvre to date, Angèle’s debut album under her given name is a largely, if not exclusively, instrumental work, predominantly consisting of melodically opulent, emotionally compelling compositions for the grand piano (and, on three songs, a Wurlitzer electric piano), many of them emblazoned with vivid arrangements for strings, woodwind, musical saw and percussion.

Free entry, but donations are (as ever) encouraged.

REVIEW – Edwige: ‘Rise And Sing’ album, 2004 (“while she’s not yet citing chapter and verse, the sacred aspect is clearer now”)

22 Mar
Edwige: 'Rise And Sing'

Edwige: ‘Rise And Sing’

Having made her initial mark with a couple of quirky, tricky-to-pigeonhole folk-pop albums, Edwige has made one on which she intends to celebrate “God’s beautiful gift of singing.” This could mean a lot of things. Perhaps she’s taking that unorthodox, archly beautiful voice of hers on an exploration of experimental a-capella songs, or a pure set of vocal rounds. Perhaps she’s made an album of devotional folk; or an unexpected gospel record.

As it happens, none of these are exactly the case. Edwige’s embrace of the joy of singing may be heartfelt, but it’s also comfortable. The key tone of ‘Rise and Sing’ is relaxation, and of Edwige’s assurance in her own work and her own methods. In many respects, it remains a familiar Edwige album. Many familiar tastes certainly remain intact. She still favours upfront lyrical messages, and continues to steer a course placing her somewhere between cabaret entertainer (especially on the oompah-pop of Bad Hair Day) and announcing angel.

She’s also continuing to develop her tendencies towards baroque pop arrangements. I Just Can’t Resist That Love is given lift by a suspended chorus of trilling voices and sunny passages of oboe; Into View is threaded with reeds, harpsichord, and tuba; while a harp adds sparkle to the simple, open love song After The Rain. The perky swing of New Mexico – with its elasticated guitars and psychedelic pedal-steel keyboards in tow – shows another side of her tastes, this time a dash of country music for the road.

The most surprising aspect of ‘Rise And Sing’ is a new affection for noisy guitar pop. Edwige’s latest producer (former Homer/Robyn Hitchcock sideman Andrew Claridge) sploshes some crashing electric guitars around several songs here, beefing up the acoustic strumming with touches of indie-pop, swamp-rock and grunge. The unplugged directness of previous Edwige albums, with their ornate bursts of cuteness and their denser musical surprises, sounded as if they’d come from odd-shaped rooms in an apartment piled high with spiritual books and knick-knacks. This album suggests that Edwige has recently knocked through a wall or two, and built a nice scruffy garage to play in. Her voice, as ever, is peppered with odd pitch-swoops, vibrato and declamatory theatrical inflections, and is still French-accented even after years of living in London. It’s an odd match for this bristly rock clanging – yet she thrives on the cruder energy that the extra noise provides.

With her perpetual good humour intact, Edwige uses the extra force to help her to drive home a few righteous stilettos. Straddling a catchy swaggering hook on Ears On Fire, she takes dry pot-shots at questionable cults with unreliable gurus – “I heard he was unfaithful to his wife, / I promptly took his words, and boiled them with my rice.” On Elegy For You, she skewers another bad-news, would-be Mephistopheles, decorating her lines with layered falsetto shimmers of vocalese while using the main lyric to sketch his cunning in song – “You’re so good at enchanting – / you lure with hopes and dreams / held through your spindly fingers, / and have them crushed like a crumply paper ball.” She also draws on this energy on Time For The Glorious: switching between midvoice and falsetto, rising serenely over the fuzzy rock backing to declaim “the leaf wouldn’t be but for the tree, / the wave wouldn’t roll but for the sea, / your heart wouldn’t be / but for a love much greater than one can ever conceive.”

Ah, yes. There are God-songs on ‘Rise and Sing’. Previously Edwige has only alluded to her personal, devotional brand of Christianity through cryptic clues, but now she’s beginning to become more direct. While she’s not yet citing chapter and verse, or names, the sacred aspect is clearer now, and this in turn reveals the true nature of many of her previous songs. As for the new ones, I Just Can’t Resist That Love pulls off the old soul-music trick of blurring across the boundaries of love song and devotional hymn. Opting for generosity rather than hectoring, Edwige’s revealed evangelism takes a variety of forms over a broad range of experience and musical method.

We get our gospel song after all – I May Have, in which Edwige testifies doubts and faith over a soft bed of electric chapel organ and little electric guitar agreements. Behind the pretty arrangement, Into View reveals itself as a waltzing tale of a Damascene conversion. For the jazz-tinged acoustica of Tea Light Sympathy Edwige turns teacher, with a gentle (but stern) offer to share her path. On Fusion, she becomes an ecstatic celebrant, kicking off a startling, delirious cocktail of techno pulse, hard-rocking fuzzpunk and hoedown. Choppy cello and guitars meet up with a stomping dance-floor beat and speaker-trashing bassline, and are in turn covered in festoons of Edwige as she chants, lets rip again with the vocalese and sends up fireworks of singing.

The thing about devotion, though, is that it involves letting go. Edwige is such a determined performer – so enthralled with the message, the observations, the little dialogues of life – that little of this (bar the rampaging delight of Fusion) rips through into the ecstatic. The message is always already decided, never discovered, and so the sense of actual revelation is lost. That’s a shame – for believer and unbeliever alike, observing or sharing a revelation of faith is often a fuse for crucial sympathy, and on her songs Edwige seems to miss out on this transformatory moment.

There’s one significant exception, in which Edwige’s wayward journey takes her up into a place she’s never visited before in song. Do I is that music-of-the-moment that’s missing elsewhere. An unexpected (and welcome) bit of psychedelic noise-folk, it’s set on Nico organ drones and on a cloudy screech of guitars so overdriven that they sound like English brass bands scattered by gales. The lyric is the simplest of declarations – no angles, no patter, just a naked, assured statement of devotion. “Do I come? – I do. / Will I follow? – I will. / In the light or darkness, pray for strength, / ah my love, … / Give me the warmth of your love. / Safe with you forever, ever, ever, ever.” Stepping up from the chapel drone, rising above this massing, crashing confusion of tangled feedback, Edwige is making her leap of faith for us; all cabaret cuteness falling away.

It’s the kind of inspiring moment which that unearthly voice was made for. I wish she’d do more like this.

Edwige: ‘Keep The Change’
Quasar Music, EDW3CD
CD album
Released: 2004

Buy it from:
Quasar Music or CD Baby.

Edwige online:
Homepage YouTube

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