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

5 Oct

Retrophonica, 13th October 2019

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

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

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



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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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





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



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


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


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

* * * * * * * *

Dates:

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

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

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

1 Oct

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

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



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



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

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




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



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


 
* * * * * * * *

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

'Jazz From Hell', 23rd October 2019

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

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


 
* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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



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



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

* * * * * * * *

Dates:

The Display Team on tour:

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

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

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

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

30 Sep

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



 
* * * * * * * * *

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

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



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

* * * * * * * * *

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



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




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

 
* * * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * * *

Full dates:

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

 

May 2018 – Bob Drake’s complicated solo pulp fantasia on tour in England and France (4th-12th May), and details on some of his gigmates en route…

26 Apr

I started mentioning upcoming Bob Drake shows a few posts ago, but wasn’t able to go further than that until they coalesced; now, like spits of mud hitting a wall, they’ve fallen into place.

Born in the American mid-West, forged and frustrated in Denver and Los Angeles, and now living happily in the south of France, Bob’s become an increasingly regular visitor to British shores, able to take advantage of a growing number of friendships and affinities which provide fertile space for his delightfully off-the-wall guitar-and-voice gigs. He’s built on a previous career in heavy avant-prog bands (such as Thinking Plague, 5uus and The Science Group) to kick off and develop his own very specific brand of American musical storytelling. Rather than sombre accounts of depressions and dustbowl, or frontier myths, or urban cowboy ditties, he creates crazy quilts of short-but-complicated songcraft drinking deep from the well of American pulp fiction – specifically, the weird end. Modern (or at least recent-antique) spieling and riffing on monsters and strangeness; never far away from horse-laughs and absurdity, but also a couple of dimensional rips away from the kind of spindle-fold-and-mutilate pocket universe which, one sometimes suspects, he feeds his music through.


 
These days, he’s variously described as “a pop alchemist”, “a multi-fingered, omnipotent, all-seeing instrumentalist”, “a peddlar of avant-garde, individual but always highly melodic tales of bears, skulls, meerkats, griffins and more” and as the player of songs about “anthropomorphic animals, haunted farmhouses, mystical reveries and inexplicable phenomena”. All of the descriptions fit. So does the one that suggests he’s actually a kid’s TV presenter who saw the fnords one day and happily went rogue.

Dates:

  • Le 108, 108 Rue de Bourgogne, 45000 Orléans, France, Friday 4th May 2018, 8.30pminformation
  • The Others, 6-8 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, London, N16 5SA, England, Sunday 6th May at 19:30–22:30 (with Bing Selfish & The Windors + IG Witzelsucht) – information here and here
  • The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England, Tuesday 8th May 2018, 7.00pm (with Moliné/Gagarin Summit and others t.b.c.) – information
  • The Cellar Arts Club, 70 Marine Parade (basement), Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 3QB, England, Wednesday 9th May 2018, 7.30pm (with Random Nature) – information
  • The Evening Star, 55-56 Surrey Street, Brighton, West Sussex, BN1 3PB, England, Thursday 10th May 2018, 8.00pm (with Kemper Norton) – free event – information
  • The Urban Bar, 176 Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel, London, E1 1BJ, England, Friday 11th May 2018, 8.00pm (with Bing Selfish & The Windsors + Kazumi Taguchi) – information
  • ‘A Spring Symposium’ @ Coombe Bissett Village Hall, Shutts Lane, Homington Road, Coombe Bissett, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 4LU, England, Saturday 12th May 2018, 2.00pm – information here and here

While the Orléans event is Bob and Bob alone, it’s the only time (bar a quiet house gig along the way) that he’ll will be playing on his own.

Of the three shows in London, the one at the Harrison on the 8th should be of interest to Pere Ubu fans since it also features Moliné/Gagarin Summit, a fresh teaming of Keith Moliné and Graham “Gagarin” Dowdall, musical compadres for two decades who currently hold down/expand on the guitarist and synthesist roles within Ubu. Between them, they can also muster a history of stints with Frank Black, Nico, Roshi feat. Pars Radio, Ludus, Prescott and They Came From The Stars I Saw Them.

What’s likely to emerge may feature some of Ubu’s “avant-garage” touch; the factories, beasts and spill of Keith’s guitar noises; the blend of electronic grain and field recording in Gagarin-sound. Or perhaps none of these things. All they’re promising is “guitars that don’t sound like guitars and electronics that don’t sound electronic, presided over by intense, exploratory artists who have just as little idea where the music is heading as you do.” There should be other people alighting on the bill closer to the date, pulled from the intriguing contact book of organisers Westking Music & Performing Arts… meanwhile, I’ve just dug up something from Keith’n’Graham as a musical pointer.


 
Both of the other two London shows – on the 6th and 11th – see Bob reunited with a regular gig-sharing friend: sarcastic avant-garde underground pop star Bing Selfish, plus the experimental surf/garage-pop of his micro-lounge backing band The Windsors. Also in place are Rotterdam experimental music supergroup IG Witzelsucht featuring guitarist Lukas Simonis, drummer Cor Hoogerdijk and multi-instrumental/polydisciplinary flâneur Ergo Phizmiz, whose work includes singing, sound collage and opera as well as stop-motion animation and radio drama: at least a few of these skills will make their way into the set. The band’s been described as “a rapid-fire songwriting bonanza (with) tunes about mermaids, mistakes, compost manufacture, celebrity perverts, geometry, and so on”, so Bob’s songs will be in good company.


 
I don’t know about the rest of the Depresstivallians on offer. There’s some incomprehensible gargle about “Bill Oddie’s Goth Watch”, “data wrangling”, “an angrier and less prolific Joanna Newsom” and a possible guest slot for the mysterious “guy from the kebab shop”. The last is probably one of many absurdist Depresstival in-jokes; but I’m really hoping that some guy with a greasy apron saunters in and explodes into a sword dance with a pair of those giant doner slicers.

The gig on the 11th also features a set by Kazumi Taguchi. Once she was half of cult/spoof London-Japanese art-popsters Frank Chickens, who sang about ninjas, geishas, karaoke and other aspects of Japan-aphernalia, simultaneously entertaining, mocking, embracing and challenging their Western audience. These days, Kazumi presents and cross-fertilises her home culture more soberly: drawing on Okinawan folk and classical music, Noh theatre and Korean drumming, she performs art-gallery gigs and assorted musical teamups on Okinawan sanshin (a three-string proto-shamisen) and sanba (castanets) and Chinese guqin zither. I know no more than that. It’s quite a turnaround from the old days of pop culture gags, but then the separation between high and low art can be as thin as fine rice paper these days… or cheap bog-roll.


 
It’ll be a more conventional evening at Worthing on the 9th, when Bob shares his stage with the doubled acoustic guitars and easygoing songcraft of the Random Nature duo. He’s likely to make up for that the following night in Brighton, when he’s playing a free/donations-only gig with ambient landscape-folk singer Kemper Norton, a genial lyrical hauntologist with a love of folding noise and field recordings into his songs. Kemper rejoins Bob a couple of days later when both play the Tim Smith ‘Spring Symposium’ fundraiser just outside Salisbury. There, they’ll be joining a host of musicians who balance happily on multiple cusps: folk, punk, progressive rock, psychedelia, dashes of prog and kosmische, and a warm inclusive feel of roots they’ve crafted and grafted themselves. More on that later…



 

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

10 Jan

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

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

Nøught + Dead Days Beyond Help, 17th January 2018

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

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

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


 

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

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



 
* * * * * * * *

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

Data Quack + Alex Ward, 31st January 2018

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

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

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


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


 

December 2017 – experimental gigs up and down Britain – Kammer Klang plays Mary Jane Leach in London (5th December) plus Mette Rasmussen, Sofia Jernberg and Dawn Scarfe; Gnod R&D on tour with URUK and pals (7th, 8th, 10th); Xposed Club at Cheltenham with Alexander Hawkins, Raymond MacDonald, Sharon Gal, Stuart Wilding, Chris Cundy (8th)

30 Nov

Kammer Klang presents:
Kammer Klang: Ashley Paul & Ensemble (performing Mary Jane Leach) + Mette Rasmussen & Sofia Jernberg + Dawn Scarfe
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 5th December 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Kammer Klang, 5th December 2017 The coming month’s Kammer Klang has only a tenuous relationship with contemporary classical, concentrating as it does on musicians who espouse either free improvisation or natural resonance.

The evening centres on an ensemble led by clattering, free-form multi-instrumentalist and composer Ashley Paul (who recently supported Powerdove further north at the Old Dentist) and featuring Hyperion Ensemble bass clarinettist/utility person Yoni Silver, cellist/Kammer Klang organiser Lucy Railton, onetime Sonic Youth guitarist-turned-ubiquitous London art musician Thurston Moore and Charcoal Owls’ multi-instrumentalist Tom James Scott on piano (a man who generally brings a specifically Cumbrian twist to his playing, gizmo fiddling and use of field recordings). They’ll be playing ‘Wolff Tones E-Tude’, a cellular Christian-Wolff-inspired piece by American composer Mary Jane Leach (example performance below).


 
Much of Mary Jane’s work focusses on acoustic properties and how sound environments form in specific spaces with particular resonances and opportunities for difference, combination, and interference tones; in addition, how these may be manipulated by a performer, composer or editor (or by someone who’s a combination of all or some of those things). She herself will be present for the performance, which also includes a stereo-diffused playback of her 1992 radio sound piece/hörspiel ‘Kirchtraum’ (about which she says “Have you ever walked into a church, and it seems as if there is sound rolling around the space that’s been there for a long time? I created ‘Kirchtraum’ to create a sound dreamscape to create that kind of feeling. It uses the phases of a dream, going progressively further back into the past and becoming more chaotic with each phase. I used nightingales to punctuate the different phases of the dream, to differentiate between the dream and the environment…”). In addition, she’ll be present for a pre-concert workshop on Sunday 3rd December from noon until 5.00pm (giving a lecture and offering feedback on pieces any composers care to bring in) and, prior to the concert on the Tuesday, participating in a public talk with Frances Morgan at 7.00pm.

 

Opening in the Fresh Klang slot is Dawn Scarfe, a sound artist preoccupied with “things that seem to sound themselves, such as resonating glasses, Aeolian wires and self-opening swell boxes”, and who’s brought this preoccupation to sound installations between Cumbria and London, Exeter and Estonia, Brussels and Seoul. Her projects include the livestreamed ‘Reveil‘ “an annual crowdsourced live broadcast which “tracks the sound of the sunrise around the world for twenty-four hours” using open microphones provided by streamers around the world: she’s described it as intending “to open a space for listening to something else – especially from places where humans and not humans meet – and in the course of one earth day to provide a sketch of this emerging field.” 2017’s edition included contributions from Maputo, Tehran, New York, Kolkata, Santiago de Cali, nature reserves in Cumbria’s Walney Island and Australia’s Noosa Biosphere Reserve, and even the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. On this occasion, Dawn will be performing ‘Tuning to Spheres’, written for wine glasses, sine tone generators and turntables.

 

Closing the evening out will be a free experimental duet between raw Danish Trio Riot saxophonist Mette Rasmussen (who works with both plain and prepared instruments) and Swedish/Norwegian singer/composer Sofia Jernberg (who works with a twisting barrage of vocal techniques including split tone singing, pitchless singing and distorted singing)



 

* * * * * * * *

Fresh from some well-publicised collaborations with avant-rock godfathers Faust, countercultural Salford sound wizards Gnod are returning to their ongoing “R&D” tour. For more on their London weekender from last year, click here; at the moment, they’re stripped back down to their core duo of Chris Haslam and Paddy Shine in order to explore the next, as-yet-undecided developments from last year’s seethe of slow, dirty riffage on their bed of dub, urban discontent, psychic reportage and ritual. As part of that development, they’re throwing the stage open to volunteer collaborators on the night, “be it singing , shouting, dancing, bringing an instrument/device to the table or just simply tuning in and coming along for the ride.” Dust off your home-made Azimuth Co-ordinator or pocket Tettix Wave Accumulator; grab that Aztec death whistle from the back of the kitchen drawer; head down and dive in.



 
Gnod + Uruk, 7th December 2017

Following the Italian/Slovenian leg in November (in which they toured with Italian noise-rock guitar/voice/drums duo OvO and Godspeed-associated Montreal wallcrashers Big ‡ Brave), the British tour will see a blurring of support slot and Gnod expansion. The band’s ranks will be pre-swollen in Glasgow by drummer and oscillator king Julian Dicken (from Glaswegian psych-rockers The Cosmic Dead) and in Bristol by murky industral-technoist Tony Child (a.k.a. Surgeon) and drummer Dan Johnson (from jazz-punkers Run Logan Run). In London, they’ll be augmented by a five-strong gang of John Doran (head ‘Quietus‘ ranter), heavy electronicist Mark Dicker (ex-Trencher, Palehorse, Bruxa Maria), Mark O. Pilkington and Michael J. York of synth-and-bagpipe psychonauts Teleplasmiste and Teeth Of The Sea trumpeter Sam Barton. In addition, the London gig has a clearly defined support act in the shape of URUK, a teamup of bass player Massimo Pupillo (of expansive no-wave trio Zu) and synthesist/multi-instrumentalist Thighpaulsandra (Coil, Spiritualized, various Julian Cope bands). URUK originates from 2016 when mutual fans Massimo and Thipe finally got together; the resulting music, debuted on this year’s ‘I Leave A Silver Trail Through Blackness’ album, references both Coil and Zu but sinks deeper into the world of highly textured dark-ambient drones.

Dates:

  • Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England, Thursday 7th December 2017, 8.00pminformation
  • Broadcast, 427 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3LG, Scotland, Friday 8th December 2017, 7.00pminformation
  • Exchange, 72-73 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EJ, England, Sunday 10 December 2017, 7.30pminformation

* * * * * * * *
Xposed Club, 8th December 2017
Just time, too, to mention another Xposed Club incident over in Cheltenham, in which there’ll be a meet-up duo of pianist Alexander Hawkins and saxophonist Raymond MacDonald (who between them have notched up work and/or leadership duties with Convergence Quartet, Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, Decoy and more – we also recently saw Raymond exploring the art of the graphic score in London). Also on the bill is well-respected London experimental vocalist/Resonance FM founder Sharon Gal, engaging in duo work with Ghost Mind percussionist (and Xposed host) Stuart Wilding; and a solo set from avant-garde bass clarinet virtuoso Chris Cundy who, as mentioned here some time back, “dips into everything from the philosophical experiments of Cornelius Cardew and John Cage to out-and-out improv to theatre work.”

Various tasters below:





 
Xposed Club presents:
Alexander Hawkins & Raymond MacDonald + Sharon Gal & Stuart Wilding + Chris Cundy
The Xposed Club @ Francis Close Hall, University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, England
Friday 8th December 2017, 8.00pm
information
 

June 2017 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Alice Zawadzki & Jamie Safir (24th June); the LUME Festival 2017 (24th & 25th June)

17 Jun

A quick London jazz update, in two contrasting flavours (jazz-pop in a plush Soho brasserie; wild improv and thick sound in a Lambeth art space).

Alice Zawadzki & Jamie Safir, 24th June 2017

Live At Zédel presents:
Alice Zawadzki & Jamie Safir
Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London W1F 7ED, England
Saturday 24th December 2016, 7.00pm
information

“Following a sold-out show in January, Alice Zawadzki and Jamie Safir return to their favourite venue for an evening of power-ballads and pop-songs: rearrangements of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s classics stripped bare and drastically re-imagined in this intimate jazz setting. Described by ‘The Guardian’ as “a genuine original” and by ‘MOJO’ magazine as “something of a phenomenon”, Alice truly possesses a unique musical gift on both voice and violin. Tonight she will be ably accompanied by accomplished, young pianist and arranger Jamie Safir, a regular at Zedel, and a creative and virtuosic improviser whose sensitivity and skill when accompanying vocalists has led to him work recently with Will Young, Ian Shaw, Olly Murs and Barb Jungr amongst others.”

I couldn’t find any clips of Alice and Jamie working together (they’ve done this show before at Zédel, but no-one seems to have thought to film it). Still, to give you an idea, here’s Alice’s separate guitar/violin/bass trio cover of Nobody’s Fault But Mine, brought down to a thrumming pitch of apprehension. Not that the original’s a power ballad, but it fits the mould if you stretch the latter beyond belief (and carefully ignore the fact that the original’s actually a Blind Willie Johnson blues moan rather than a crushing Led Zeppelin behemoth), though I’m not sure whether she’ll be applying similar techniques to Hold The Line, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now or other ‘School Disco‘/’Guilty Pleasures’ stalwarts.


 
* * * * * * * *

LUME Festival, 24th & 25th June 2017

LUME presents
LUME Festival 2017
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 24th June 2017 & Sunday 25th June 2017 (3.00pm to 10.30pm, both days)
– information http://iklectikartlab.com/lume-festival-2017/ here, https://luminouslabel.bandcamp.com/merch here and here https://www.facebook.com/events/539918599729636/

At the same time, London experimental jazz organisation LUME will be throwing a two-day performance party in the shape of their own yearly LUME Festival. Drawing on the success of last year’s event, it brings a selection of old and new faces to town.

Both of the LUME organisers are bringing along their own quintets: Cath Roberts’ growling, exploded free-blues explorers Sloth Racket (with tenorist Sam Andreae, guitarist Anton Hunter, bass player Seth Bennett and drummer Johnny Hunter) and Dee Byrne’s flowing, cosmological, space-jazzing Entropi (with trumpeter Andre Canniere, keyboardist Rebecca Nash, drummer Matt Fisher and bassist Olie Brice). So too is Derby vibraphone theorist Corey Mwamba, playing his extended piece ‘as_the_tex(t): body’ in a band featuring Robert Mitchell, Rachel Musson, Liran Donin, and Richard Olatunde.

Newer to LUME are multi-layered Newcastle trio Archipelago (Christian Alderson, John Pope and Faye MacCalman, who throw piano, tapes, mbiras and handheld Monotron synths into the jazz-meets-garage-rock fusion of their bass/reeds/drums lineup) and the stormy murmuring chants of Laura Cole’s jazz-folk sextet Metamorphic, in which she’s joined by saxophonists John Martin and Chris Williams (the latter also of Led Bib), drummer Tom Greenhalgh, loop vocalist Kerry Andrew (of Juice Vocal Ensemble) and a bass chair that’s filled either by Paul Sandy of The Rude Mechanicals or by Sloth Racket’s Seth Bennett. Also in the mix are solo sets by visually-minded trumpeter and laptop wizard Alex Bonney (of Splice, Loop Collective, Leverton Fox and many others) and by electric trombonist and field recorder Tullis Rennie.

On top of this, there are some new entanglements. There’s the “brutally physical” Manchester/London teamup of David Birchall, Andrew Cheetham, Otto Willberg and Colin Webster; the Ma/ti/om percussion/bass/woodwind teaming of Matilda Rolfsson, Tim Fairhall and Tom Ward; plus whatever the random ensemble shuffle of The Hat Speaks throws up. To round off, there’s the mass blowing of the LUMEkestra as it debuts new work by Sam Andreae, Adam Fairhall, Dee Byrne and others.

Time details and daily lineups below, plus the usual wobbly stack of tunes, snippets and aural collisions to warm you up for the event.

LUME Festival, 24th & 25th June 2017


 

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

27 Mar

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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




 
* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

SOIF Soiree, 7th April 2017

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

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

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

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

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





 

February to May 2017 – upcoming London jazz gigs – the LUME Lab season with Word of Moth, Julie Kjær, Craig Scott and Anton Hunter

31 Jan

News from London’s LUME jazz organization on their forthcoming season, featuring several of the performers who featured in last year’s LUMEFEST.

LUME Lab, 2017“LUME is back with something new for 2017: LUME Lab. Making a space for artists to create new work, four evenings of brand new composition and improvised music will be accompanied by the LUME Lab project blog, letting the audience in on the creative process.

“LUME Lab marks a change of direction for us: we’re moving away from being a platform for guest artists, rolling up our sleeves and getting involved in creating new music with the community of musicians who have gathered around LUME over the past three-and-a-half years.

“LUME Lab gigs will take place at IKLECTIK, the South London arts space that played host to our inaugural festival last summer and the LUMEkestra’s debut in November. The series opens in February with a new incarnation of our quartet Word Of Moth, then we settle down for the ride and get ready to enjoy new music from three of the most exciting artists on the UK scene right now. We invite you to join us. Tickets are available for individual gigs, and for slightly less you can purchase a season ticket for all four, or a ticket to use at two dates of your choice. Buy tickets now from our Luminous Bandcamp page.”

Word of Moth (photo © Tom Ward)Word Of Moth
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Wednesday 8th February 2017, 8.00pm
information

Word Of Moth’s ‘spontaneous group explorations and tightly-scored, big-booted riffs’ were praised by Daniel Spicer in ‘The Wire’ magazine after their appearance at LUME Festival. The collaborative quartet explores the intersection of freedom and structure, with LUME founders Dee Byrne (alto sax) and Cath Roberts (baritone sax) joined by Seth Bennett on bass and Johnny Hunter on drums.”
 
Julie Kjær © David LaskowskiJulie Kjær
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 16th March 2017, 8.00pm
information

“Saxophonist Julie Kjær is firmly established on the European stage. Her acclaimed trio with Steve Noble and John Edwards released its debut recording ‘Dobbeltgænger’ on the Clean Feed label in 2016, and she tours with Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love‘s Large Unit as well as being involved in many other projects in the UK and beyond.”


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

Craig Scott’s music is ‘part human, part machine and revelling the glory and error of both.’ His studio project Craig Scott’s Lobotomy transforms recordings of improvisations by Craig and others using homemade equipment, re-constructing them with digital audio software. He is a member of formidable Leeds quintet Shatner’s Bassoon.”


 
Anton Hunter (photo © Mark Whitaker)Anton Hunter
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Wednesday 24th May 2017, 8.00pm
information

“Improvisation is at the core of Anton Hunter’s work. His Article XI project incorporates the personalities of eleven improvising musicians into the compositional process, exploring the relationship between composer and large ensemble. He leads his own trio with Seth Bennett and Johnny Hunter, and co-founded the long-running Manchester free improvisation night The Noise Upstairs.”


 

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

14 Sep

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

* * * * * * * *

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

From Kings Place:

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

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



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




 

* * * * * * * *


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

From Chaos Theory:

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

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



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



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


 
* * * * * * * * *

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

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


 

August 2016 – upcoming British tours – Sax Ruins & Barberos (16th-21st) overlap Massicot (18th-27th); with Housewives, a.P.A.t.t., That Fucking Tank, Big Naturals & Anthroprophh, Guttersnipe, Rattle, Negative Midas Touch, Soft Walls and The Furious Sleep all putting in appearances.

14 Aug

I was only intending this post and the last one to be brief… I was going to quickly cover the upcoming Kiran Leonard tour and a couple of avant-prog dates in Yorkshire and London, but looking deeper into the latter meant that a whole lot of other dates and bands came springing out at me, as if I’d hit a tripwire.

Such are the ways of digging around for live previews for ‘Misfit City’ without a map or all of the details… I often come back with information on artists and venues I’ve never heard of before. (It’s exhilarating, and an education in itself, but it plays hell with my schedule.)

Anyway…

* * * * * * * *


 

Following their last UK visit (in October last year), Sax Ruins return for another go. The most active current version of the Ruins project (an ever-altering minimal-maximal mash-up of jazz, prog and avant-rock ideas centred, for three decades, around Japanese drummer and vocalist Tatsuya Yoshida) Sax Ruins features Tatsuya alongside Ryorchestra saxophone improviser Ryoko Ono in a spilling, furious, brassy power duo augmented by a battery of effects pedals, covering all bases from skronk to Rock In Opposition and big-band jazz across written and improvised material of baffling complexity.

The London show also features a set by what’s billed as “Ruins” – this is most probably a “Ruins-alone” drums-and-tapes set by Tatsuya rather than a spontaneous revival of the band’s original bass-and-drums lineup (unless a secret call’s gone out for ambitious London bass guitarists to step up and cover).
 

 

Tour dates in full:

  • Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Tuesday 16th August 2016, 8.00pm (with Ruins + Barberos) – information
  • Exchange, 72-73 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EJ, England, Wednesday 17th August 2016, 7.30pm (with Barberos + Big Naturals & Anthroprophh) – information
  • Delius Arts & Cultural Centre, 29 Great Horton Road, Bradford, BD7 1AA, England, Thursday 18th August 2016, 7.00pm (with Barberos + a.P.A.t.T. + That Fucking Tank) – information here and here
  • The Car Park Space, 45-51 Duke Street, Liverpool, L1 5AP, England, Friday 19th August 2016, time t.b.c. (with Barberos) – information
  • Doune The Rabbit Hole Festival, Cardross Estate, Port of Menteith, Doune, FK8 3JY , Scotland, Saturday 20th August 2016 (with Barberos)
  • Islington Mill Arts Centre, James Street, Salford, M3 5HW, England, Sunday 21st August 2016, 5.00pm (with Barberos + a.P.A.t.T. + Massicot) – information

Along the tour, Sax Ruins are embracing and encouraging a set of post-Ruins bands. Support on all dates comes from Barberos – drumtronic electro-noise experimentalists from Liverpool. Live (and they’re very much a live concern), they resemble a trio convocation of nuclear power station workers and fetish gimps. A pair of kit drummers, swathed in or vacformed into latex bodysuits and full-head masks, batter away in parallel like wrestling brain hemispheres. A single begoggled head-nodding keyboard player exploits a baffling range of electronic organ sounds. Any or all of them can suddenly burst into cloth-muffled shouting. The sound varies from full-clog percussive noise-traps (the kind that’ll have you wondering whether the band’s deliberately using the wrong definition of “jam”), through to passing plateaux of psychedelic reflection and still points of droning, delicate hush.
 

 
In Bristol, both bands are joined by Big Naturals & Anthroprophh – a two-plus-one alliance featuring the noise-rock duo team of bass/electronic warper Gareth Turner and motorik-attack drummer Jesse Webb (Big Naturals) and rogue psychedelic sludge player Paul Allen from longstanding Bristolian psych-stoners The Heads. While it’s ostensibly Paul who travels under the Anthroprophh solo moniker, it’s increasingly unclear where the boundary lies between Anthroprophh and the partner duo, or whether there’s a boundary at all. Best to treat all three as a collective entity delivering a frowning fuzzed wall of experimental psychedelia: a ritual of heavy bricking.
 

 
Chipping in at Bradford and Salford (though, oddly enough, not at the Car Park show) are a.P.A.t.T., the deft and enigmatic gang of Liverpudlians who deliver a rolling multi-media extravaganza best described as “serious pranking”, and who skip around multiple musical styles in a boiling froth of play. Via their loose collective membership, they have family connections with a host of other Liverpool bands (including Barberos) but no-one ever seems to have sat down and laid out who’s who behind the pseudonyms and lab coats, the puffs of suspect facial hair and the occasional maskwork. Perhaps refraining to pin them down and pull them apart counts as a mark of respect.

Similarly, it’s difficult to summarise or bottle a.P.A.t.T. via anything that’s definitely representative, although tagging them as a Scouse spin on the methodology of The Residents is perhaps as good as anything. However, if you take a quick delve into the plinketting synth-pop minimalism and jazz operatics of Give My Regards To Bold St (with its playful am-dram video of everyday banality set against urban terrorism), their atmosphere/installation piece Seachimes or the Devo-esque Yes… That’s Positive (the last of which displays the punchy musicianship behind the art-school stunts) you might get an idea of how they work.
 



 
Also playing at the Bradford show are deafeningly loud drumkit-and-baritone-guitar duo That Fucking Tank, whose abrasive DIY noise rock has quaked venues from Yorkshire to China for nearly a decade and a half now. As with plenty of contemporary bass-end-plus-drums rock twosomes, you can track down a bit of Ruinous DNA in their work (alongside that of Nomeansno and Lightning Bolt), though they seem to be as much inspired by the nodding insouciant momentum of electronic dance as they do by any Rock In Opposition or post-hardcore ideas.
 

 

* * * * * * * *


 
At the Salford show, the Sax Ruins tour collides with (and briefly joins forces with) a different one by Genevan art-punks Massicot. Named after an electric paper cutter, the latter are a loose and twitchy four-woman array of scratch and propulsion. They pump out charming sophisti-primitive rhythmic instrumentals in which slice-happy guitar and lunging sproings of toy bass are decorated by squeaky violin and barky vocals, all of it bouncing atop a mattress of intricate drumming which apparently prides itself on a blend of “Krautrock and tropicalia”. All of the members draw on shared backgrounds of fine-art schooling and years of instinctive, untutored pre-Massicot bandwork (which, in drummer Colline Grosjean, has resulted in the creation of at least one accidental virtuoso).

Massicot’s music relies on maintaining and capturing the open-minded approach of the original improvisations which generate it, avoiding polish or emblandening; as a result, it keeps its instinctive, childlike sense of motion and immediacy. This kind of restless work – fizzing in a fug of assertive, iconoclastic female spontaneity – always gets the Slits and Raincoats names chucked at it, as well as that of No Wave: Massicot, however, pull off the trick or the triumph of making it sound like a fresh oblique discovery. For the curious, their first two albums – plus a demo – are available for free/pay-what-you-like at their Bandcamp site.
 

 

Here are the Massicot dates:

 

 
As with Sax Ruins, Massicot will be trailed and complemented by fellow travellers of one kind or another up and down the land. At London, Brighton, Exeter and Cambridge, the support comes from powerful, broody London four-piece Housewives. Noise-rock favourites since their formation in 2013, playing dissonant tectonic music with a future-chaos tinge on home-made guitars, the band mingle their rumbling No-Wave/no certainties approach and surging, forbidding dynamics with an adaptive and pragmatic artistic practicality, making drawbacks and serendipity a strong part of the process.

For instance, when their 2015 recording sessions at a remote country farm in France ran into trouble, Housewives salvaged them with a site-specific ingenuity entirely in tune with their musical ethos. With interference from the farm’s electric fence preventing proper recording of electric guitars and basses, the band postponed those particular tasks for another time and place and switched instead to working with the farm’s fabric rather than against it – making spontaneous field recordings; generating feedback models of the farm architecture by looping its ambient sounds; interacting with agricultural machinery by layering found items for percussion or playing reverberant drumkit parts from inside silage tanks. (The end results, with the guitars added from later and elsewhere, can be heard on their 2015 album ‘Work’. All this and a hint of Samuel Beckett, too.)
 


 
 
At Cambridge, there’ll be extra support from windstripped local post-punk ranters The Furious Sleep and at Brighton from Soft Walls, the psychedelic echo-pop/“Krauty bedroom noise” solo project by Cold Pumas/Faux Discx man Dan Reeves (which played at this year’s Lewes Psychedelic Festival).
 


 
In Leeds, Massicot will be joined by two bands. The only one that’s actually confirmed right now are mysterious local noiseniks Guttersnipe, who seem to have blown up (in all senses) this year. Consisting of cuddly, pseudonymously-frenzied couple Xyloxopa Violaxia and Bdallophytum Oxylepis, they’re a desperate lash-together of fragmenting volcanic drums, edge-of-unbearable guitar, flaying-knife electronics and blind, screeching, ranting vocals. In interviews, they talk up a cheery storm about black-metal fandom and deconstructive anti-technique. In action, they sound like a violent and querulous nervous breakdown, being bounced to pieces down an endless set of spiral staircases.
 

 
At Nottingham, two gigmates have been confirmed. Rattle are a warm, post-punkified union of double drum-set and conversational, exploring anti-pop vocal from Kogumaza‘s Katharine Eira Brown and Fists‘ Theresa Wrigley, whose air of distracted discovery belies their strategic percussive planning. (Read more details on both that and the Rattle mindset here.) Also on board is the writhing, sibilant, whispering one-woman power-electronics concern Negative Midas Touch, completing a lineup which renders the Notts gig an all-female experimentation zone.
 


 

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.




 
* * * * * * * *

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.



 

July 2016 – upcoming London gigs – improvisation running rampant at the Classwar Karaoke mini-festival (16th & 17th)

14 Jul

Classwar Karaoke mini-festival, Greenwich, 16th-17th July 2016

Minesweeper Collective presents:
Classwar Karaoke Mini Festival
A secret location in Greenwich, London, England
Saturday 16 & Sunday 17th July 2016, time t.b.c.
information

Experimental music and short-film label Classwar Karaoke celebrates its eighth year of existence and collective-based “unambiguous meritocracy” by assembling a host of improvisers and audio-visualisers for the third in its series of underground mini-festivals. The event will be embedded somewhere deep in the London Borough of Greenwich along with the laser-limned meridian line, the maritime history and the stand-up comedy. We’re told we can “expect such things as improv, free jazz, avant-rock, jokes, theatre, noise, audio-visuals, absurdism, spoken word.”

The first of the two days features a sixteen-strong lineup of Murmurists, the project which coalesces around the work – if not precisely the leadership – of Anthony Donovan (composer, musician, poet, filmmaker and Classwar Karaoke  founder). Murmurists date back to 1991 and use varied lineups to realize Anthony’s compositions in live situations. Over the years, these have moved from being small and predominantly improvisational line-ups to becoming larger and more meticulously-directed ensembles which employ graphic scores and timing instructions to deliver Anthony’s written material. Latterday Murmurist ensembles – both on and off record – use speech, narrative and foley work (spontaneous live sound effects) as key components alongside the musical ones; while live performances employ film projections and dance.

On this occasion, Murmurists are as follows:

  • Anthony Donovan (on voice, bass and film work)
  • dancer-vocalists Rebecca Bogue, Carolyn Roy and Jane Munro
  • foley performers/vocalists Annie Dee (Destroyevsky) and Michael Clough
  • percussionists/vocalists/electronics operators Lawrence Casserley (a frequent Evan Parker/Bob Cobbing collaborator) and David Cunliffe (Spidey Agutter, Igor’s Roomy Labcoat and Coffin Boffin)
  • Geoff Leigh on flute/soprano sax/voice (best known as an early Henry Cow member, but also for Ex-Wise-Heads, The Artaud Beats, Black Sheep, and many others)
  • Mark Browne on soprano sax/percussion/ voice (a three-and-a-half-decade veteran of multiple projects and collaborations including Cockpit Improvised Music, Conspiracy, The Fanatics Of Disaster and The Fastidious Amateurs Of Grief)
  • K.T.Reeder on trombone and voice
  • Martin Archer on bass clarinet/recorder/voice
  • Tim Drage (a.k.a. Cementimental) on electronics
  • Black Howler and Union Furnace duo Anthony and Rosie Osborne (saxophone/keyboards/voice)
  • percussionist/vocalist Walt Shaw

The large Murmurist group will be supported by small-group improv work from various Murmurists members – lineups to be drawn from a hat.


 
* * * * * * * *

The second day of the festival, July 17th, features a wider lineup of individual projects.

  • Lewisham-based improvising trio LOFE describe themselves thus, in lapping wordplay: “driving beats, driven words. jewel carriageway chords. It’s got that biodynamic, organic whole grain texture and that lively lambic yeasty rhythm. It hits 260°C, when it’s baking.” The man who’s probably guilty of scribbling that account is their performance-poet/fractal-rapper vocalist Zolan Quobble (a Deptford Urban Free Festival founder who’s also voiced One True Dog, Rabbidog and Dodmen). Other involved parties are bass guitarist Elwell (a multi-instrumentalist whom at various times has played with Brain of Morbius, Bert Shaft Orchestra, One True Dog, Foul Geese and South East London Music Collective) and one-man keyboard-and-Ableton orchestra NikTheDeks (see also NakeDBeatZ Radio, Furby-Core, Gabber-Karaoke and others)
  • Warrior Squares is a Hastings-based free improvising electronic/acoustic four piece comprising Geoff Leigh (flute, sax, voice, electronics) James Weaver (electronics, guitar), Paul Gardner (iPad, percussion) and Nick Weekes (bass, sticks, found items).

  • Adam Bohman improvises sounds from “stuff we ignore – toast racks, clothes pegs, styrofoam, upholstery springs, you name it” as well as making tape collages (read some more about him here).

  • Harmergeddon is the duo of audio-visual performance artists Nathan and Fae Harmer, who since 2010 have been creating performance material from mongrelised data sources, physical oddments and information detritus (mangled VHS cassettes, bar code check outs, etc), crossing it over from one format to another. They build instruments and performances from “the unwanted, unheard and unseen… rebuilt from the ground up with whatever comes to hand” and present “sound pieces and visuals improvised as a feedback loop between gesture and combined consciousness.” A Harmergeddon performance is usually a collation of profound industrial drones, haunting sounds, voice snatches and found-object noises with lights which interact with signal sources or body movements, plus abstractions on TV screens. (See below.)

  • Jeffersubstanshall Helicopter is most probably another version of whoever’s behind Oblivian Substanshall, the anti-novelist/performance poet/absurdist contributor to various Klasswar and Deptford events of the past. With those pseudonymic hat-tilts to both the Bonzo Dog Band and West Coast psychedelia, expect some late-‘60s-inspired counterculture/cut-up lunacy. Here’s something of what he did under the original moniker:

  • Phil Durrant & Kev Hopper will provide a duo performance from two very different and complementary masters of a musical continuum stretching from avant-garde to pop and dance. A classical music graduate who plays violin, synth, electronics and (increasingly) state-of-the-art software instruments, Phil has been composing, improvising and performing since 1977 over a career that’s spanned over sixty albums, almost as many collaborations and probably thousands of improvised gigs. His work has included being the third leg of an influential trio with John Butcher and John Russell, sundry ensembles (including Secret Measures, Quatuor Accorde, Lunge, Beinhaltung, Assumed Possibilities and the international electronic orchestra Mimeo), 1990s house/breakbeat work with Fabio, Grooverider and Shut Up And Dance, and exploits into dance-theatre music, site-specific installations and sound design. Kev first came to attention as the fretless bassist whose rubberband playing style anchored early ‘90s popsurdists Stump. Subsequent adventures have involved various avant-garde improviser lineups, albums of musical saw playing, and most recent the delightful improv-rock quartet Prescott. He and Phil previously played together in ’90s improvising quartet Ticklish.


     

June 2016 – upcoming gigs in London – Tim Hodgkinson triple event with Zinc Trio, John Greaves, Yumi Hara, Geraldine Swayne, Guy Harries, Static Memories, Tom White and Rob Lyle (14th-17th)

7 Jun

The continued association shared by the former members of Henry Cow (and their ceaseless inspiration to work either collectively and individually) remains a gift that keeps on giving. Over the course of a single week in London this month, Henry Cow reeds-and-keyboard player Tim Hodgkinson (arguably the band’s most prolific and rigorously avant-garde member) plays at two shows at the Iklectik Arts Lab, one of which also features his old Cow sparring partner John Greaves as well as two vigorously creative women from the younger generation of the ever-broadening Cow/Faust/Rock In Opposition avant-rock circles. In between, he’s launching a book and delivering a talk on his own concept of musicality, complete with another live musical performance.

* * * * * * * *

The Horse Improvised Music Club presents:
Gus Garside/Dan Powell/Tom White/Rob Lye + Zinc Trio (Tim Hodgkinson/Hannah Marshall/Paul May)
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Tuesday 14th June 2016, 8.45pm
– more information

At this evening for Lambeth experimental night The Horse Improv Club, Tim Hodgkinson plays clarinet in spontaneous free-jazz team Zinc Trio, which also features Hannah Marshall on cello and Paul May on drums. Paul is the most recent member of the trio, which previously saw Tim and Hannah working with another drummer – English improv legend Roger Turner. The earlier trio can be seen here, scurrying and forging through a full-torrent 2009 improvisation.

Also on the bill are a new and possibly one-off quartet. Brighton duo The Static Memories, made up of Arc/In Sand/Safehouse collective member Gus Garside (double bass player, educator and National Arts Development Manager for Mencap) and Dan Powell (guitar and electronics, also a member of mischievous Brighton performance duo Nil and one of the people behind Brighton’s Spirit of Gravity experimental night) team up with the London duo of Tom White and Rob Lye (who work with electronics and reel-to-reel tape recorder). Here’s a Static Memories clip to clue you in, along with a White/Lye one: soundclash them together all on your own.

 
* * * * * * * *

Tim Hodgkinson book launch, 16th June 2016

CPAD (Centre of Performing Arts Development) at School of Arts and Digital Industries, University of East London, presents:
UEL Practice as Research event Series #1: ‘Music and the Myth of Wholeness’ talk and performance by Tim Hodgkinson (hosted by Yumi Hara and Guy Harries)
US.3.02 (Studio 3) University Square Stratford, University of East London,
1 Salway Road, Stratford London, E15 1NF, England
Thursday 16th June 2016, 7.00 pm
– free ticketed event with very limited space – tickets here

This is a launch event for Tim’s latest book, in which he “proposes a theory of aesthetics and music grounded in the boundary between nature and culture within the human being. His analysis discards the conventional idea of the human being as an integrated whole in favor of a rich and complex field in which incompatible kinds of information — biological and cultural—collide… As a young musician, Hodgkinson realized that music was, in some mysterious way, ‘of itself’ —not isolated from life, but not entirely continuous with it, either. Drawing on his experiences as a musician, composer, and anthropologist, Hodgkinson shows how when we listen to music a new subjectivity comes to life in ourselves. The normal mode of agency is suspended, and the subjectivity inscribed in the music comes toward us as a formative ‘other’ to engage with. But this is not our reproduction of the composer’s own subjectivation; when we perform our listening of the music, we are sharing the formative risks taken by its maker.”

Tim will be expounding on this in a lecture including passing examinations of “three composers who have each claimed to stimulate a new way of listening: Pierre Schaeffer, John Cage, and Helmut Lachenmann.”. In addition, there’ll be a music performance in which Tim is joined by University of East London lecturers and musicians Yumi Hara (voice, harp and found objects) and Guy Harries (flute and found objects). Both are experienced and diverse musicians – as well as being a perpetually active solo performer and serial collaborator, Yumi is a member of various Henry Cow/Faust related projects (The Artaud Beats, Jump for Joy!, Lindsay Cooper repertoire band Half the Sky), was a former Frank Chickens member, and was the driving force behind London’s ‘Bonobo’s Ark’ events (at which ‘Misfit City’ spent a number of intriguing evenings in the late ’90s); while Guy’s work spans singer-songwriter projects, experimental multimedia musicals and opera, and assorted collectives (Bodylab Arts Foundation, the POW Ensemble, Live Hazard) across multiple genres.

* * * * * * * *
'Other, Of Itself', 17th June 2016

Iklectik Arts Lab presents:
‘Other, Of Itself’: Yumi Hara + Tim Hodgkinson + Geraldine Swayne + John Greaves
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Friday 17th June 2016, 8.30pm
more info

Yumi (on voice, harp and piano) and Tim (on bass clarinet and pedal steel guitar) reunite the very next evening for another concert. For this one, they’ll be joined on keyboards, electronics and voice by Geraldine Swayne (fine artist, film maker and – as musician – a member of both Faust and …bender) and by Tim’s old Henry Cow sparring partner John Greaves (voice, bass guitar, piano). It’s a loosely-structured quartet evening during which the four musician will work in various combinations including a Hodgkinson/Hara duet and a John Greaves solo set on voice and piano (performing selections from his own song repertoire).
In addition, Marina Organ (‘Organ‘, ‘The Other Rock Show‘) will be contributing a DJ set.
 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – London jazz (imminent gigs for Bright Moments Trio with Graham Clark and for Madwort Sax Quartet; plus a crowdfunder for a LUME festival in June).

14 Apr

Two imminent London jazz gigs which might be of interest…

* * * * * * * *

Bright Moments Trio with Graham Clark, 15th April 2016

Jazz at The Richmond presents:
Bright Moments Trio with Graham Clark
The Richmond Arms, 1 Orchardson Street, Lisson Grove, London, NW8 8NG, England
Friday 15th April 2016, 8.00pm
more information

A low-key concert of “originals and standards” from the Bright Moments Trio (who are Jonathan Cohen on keyboards and vocals, Dave Fowler on drums and Francois Moreau on double bass. At this gig, they’re augmented by Graham Clark on violin.

All of which sounds bland – just another earnest listing at another jazz pub – unless you’re looking into the pedigree of the people involved. With Dave’s involvement with assorted Flimflam acts (such as free-yak London improv favourites Ya Basta!), a near-thirty-year journey for Francois across the New Wave of British Heavy Metal en route to blues and jazz, and Jonathan’s own tireless and enthrallingly broad body of work across multiple genres and instrumentation, theatre and conceptual songwriting (including, for the jazz purists, work with Alec Dankworth and Christine Tobin.) As for Graham – while he mostly presents as an obliging Buxton-based jazz violinist these days, his history takes in a stint with Gong and a long history of hook-ups with fervid Manchester improvisers and London players. Come along to this one: I think that you’ll be surprised.

* * * * * * * *

Madwort Sax Quartet, 2016

LUME presents:
Madwort Saxophone Quartet
Hundred Years Gallery, 13 Pearson Street, Hoxton, London, E2 8JD, England
Saturday 16th April 2016, 7.30pm
more information

Blurb compiled from various sources:

“We’re very happy to welcome the Madwort Sax Quartet – Tom Ward (alto saxophone/compositions); Chris Williams (alto/soprano saxophone); Andy Woolf (tenor sax); Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone) – to Hundred Years Gallery for an exciting event in the group’s life: the recording of their debut album. Yes indeed, this gig will be expertly captured by the technical wizardry of Alex Bonney for a future release. Having played a sold-out gig at Manchester Jazz Festival in the summer – ably assisted at the last minute by LUME’s own Dee Byrne – the quartet are now back on home turf for this special performance.

The band explores irregular grooves and unusual harmonies inspired by mathematics and numerology, framed by the intuitive expressionism of free improvisation. This is a challenging line-up that allows for beautifully blended harmonies, intricate polyrhythms and abrasive dissonances. Inspirations include the movement of the planet earth through space, Steve Coleman, pioneering saxophone quartet Rova, Tim Berne, and transcriptions of bird song. The group also explores contemporary techniques such as complex time signatures and metric modulations without the presence of a dedicated drummer or percussionist, and harmony without a chordal instrument. All of the members bring their own individual, contrasting voices to the saxophone: Andy’s warm-toned, mellifluous tenor; Chris’s assertive, energetic alto (familiar to fans of Led Bib); Tom’s lyrical, passionate but more reserved alto; and Cath’s fluid, assured baritone. When required, though, the ensemble manages to blend beautifully into a homogenous whole that belies these contrasts.”

Here’s a gig recording for you:


 

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While on the subject of LUME gigs, they’ve just put out a call for crowdfunding for their planned end-of-June London festival:

LUME Festival, 26th June 2016

“We’re rounding off our 2015/16 season of gigs with the first ever LUME Festival. On Sunday 26th June we’re taking over IKLECTIK Art Lab near Waterloo for a one-day celebration of all things LUME: original and improvised music from the UK and beyond, friendly vibes and good times. To make it happen we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign – and we need your support.

After three days of intensive listening and discussion, we’ve put together a day of fresh, cutting-edge new music that your ears won’t be able to get enough of. We had a tough time narrowing it down, but the final lineup is as follows:

  • Ant Traditions (Manchester)
  • Musson/Kjær/Marshall (London)
  • Little Church (Birmingham)
  • Hot Beef Three (Leeds)
  • Blueblut (Austria)
  • Anton Hunter‘s Article XI (Manchester)

Our core programme of LUME gigs this year is supported by Arts Council England, and there will be part of this funding left for the festival. There’s enough to put on about three bands and have a nice evening. But after all the amazing music we’ve listened to, that’s not quite enough for us. We want to do more – and this is where you come in. With your help, we can put on everyone in the list above and pack the day full of music. We’ve also invited Gina Southgate to come and capture the day on canvas, and Alex Fiennes to record the performances!

To make this happen we need to hit a Kickstarter target of £3500, all of which will go towards artist fees and travel expenses. Help us get there by treating yourself to a plethora of exciting rewards including early bird festival tickets and exclusive LUME Festival merchandise: posters, stickers and even limited edition LUME Festival t-shirts. Make sure you’ve got your fix of new original/improvised music sorted for the next twelve months by becoming a LUME member for 2016/17. Join LUME founders Cath and Dee on a special trip to the London Aquarium as an homage to our power animal, the anglerfish. Or for those of you who seek a more exclusive, one-off experience: commission leading avant-jazz quartet and LUME house band Word Of Moth to compose a tune in your honour, perform it at the festival and record it for inclusion on their forthcoming debut album. Yes, that’s a thing that could actually happen. Join us. Let’s do this!”

If you’re interested, here’s the link, and I’ve tracked down a couple of soundclips here.



 

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – a polymusical London Wednesday and weekend – young Royal Academy of Music composers invade the Forge; King Capisce, Jam Tarts Choir and Grace Lightman mellow out at Daylight Music; and Nøught, Golden Oriole and Dead Days Beyond Help (with Alan Wilkinson) tear up Café Oto

9 Mar

Some gig previews for what remains of the week…

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The first of the three gigs I’m posting about here features music that’s mostly new enough not to have any videos or soundclips available… If I’m wrong about this, I’ll post a few up later, but since I’m putting the original post up on the day of the gig, if you’re going you’ll just have to go on faith…

Academy Composers at The Forge: a concert of new works by composers from the Royal Academy of Music
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Wednesday 9th March 2016, 7.30pm
– more information here and here

“Join us for an exciting evening of new music and film! The concert will showcase a selection of new works by young composers, performed by the Royal Academy of Music‘s talented student ensembles and soloists. The evening will also feature a screening of new animation shorts, created during the annual collaborative project between the Royal Academy of Music and the Bristol School of Animation.”

Programme:

Short films from the Bristol School of Animation
Thomas Gibbs – Etudes Tableaux
Yuanfan Yang – Silhouettes
Maya Hishida – Three pieces for flute and piano
William ColeHer face was full of woe (for solo harp)
Matthew Olyver – Miranda’s Lesson (for mezzo soprano & accordion)
William Marsey – Three piano pieces about food
Tim Tate – Endless Present

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Daylight Music’s offering for this coming Saturday shows their knack for promoting and harbouring music which walks a line between the intriguingly arty and the lunchtime cosy. This week, they’re putting on a young singer-songwriter who melds the sex-kitten rasp of Eartha Kitt with the sinous, sensuous spiritual dissolve of a latterday Kate Bush piano ballads; plus one of those energetic pop choirs which specializes in indie hits; and finally, a band which merges indie-rock and jazz (falling somewhere between Duke Ellington, South African township jazz, the easygoing Anglo-romanticism of Perfect Houseplants and string-shredding Mogwai-ish post rock).

Daylight Music 219

Daylight Music presents:
Daylight Music 219 – King Capisce + Jam Tarts Choir + Grace Lightman
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 12th March 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-want event (suggested donation: £5.00) – more information

Over to the Daylight word-of-mouth machine…

King Capisce is a five-piece from Sheffield have been moving from strength to strength in recent years, gathering praise from ‘The Guardian’ and ‘Drowned in Sound’. Tom Robinson at BBC 6Music, claims they’re “an exciting cross-genre talent, fusing jazz with other influences to create a sound that is unmistakably their own”.

The current set for 60-piece Brighton indie choir Jam Tarts Choir includes barnstorming interpretations of songs by artists as diverse as The Cure, Goldfrapp, Arcade Fire and Lambchop.

There’s something timeless about Grace Lightman. Maybe it’s that honeyed voice that ever so gently tugs at your heartstrings. Perhaps it’s those careful and considered nods to the iconic moments, faces and places of musical history….”

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The third gig rounds up jazz, prog, noise, grandeur and chaos and flings them all at the wall…

Nøught @ Cafe Oto, 13th March 2016

Nøught + Golden Oriole + Dead Days Beyond Help (with Alan Wilkinson)
Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Sunday 13th March 2016, 7.00pm
more information

“A killer, high-voltage line-up…

Nøught is a synthesis of the experimental, avant-punk, jazz-prog and noise-rock credos, distilled into the paradoxical confines of a musically volatile, instrumental power-quartet. Originally formed in Oxford in the late 90’s by eminent guitarist James Sedwards (also of Thurston Moore Group, Guapo ,The Devil), the current line-up has been based in London since 2002. Their music is profoundly exhilarating when encountered and often provokes an hypnotic sensation from an audience as their incendiary live performances can easily entice and captivate a listener, due to the highly artful, polished and demanding compositions. Pieces span the extremes of short, catchy, three minute eruptions to long, dense and evolving half-hour incantations. Nøught’s music provides an uncommonly refreshing, non-derivative sensibility and approach, and they continually astound as they develop, invoke and deliver their singularly potent blend of sonic diabolism.

“Featuring members of Norwegian noise-rock bands Staer and of Tralten Eller Utpult, skull-twisting face-melters Golden Oriole produce abstract and minimal music – musique pommes frites meets funky concrète.


 

Dead Days Beyond Help (Alex Ward and Jem Doulton) take the physical assault of rock and the free-wheeling exploration of post-idiomatic improvisation to new levels of power and density, while Alan Wilkinson comes blazing out of a saxophone tradition that includes the likes of Albert Ayler, Roscoe Mitchell, Mike Osborne, Evan Parker and Casper Brötzmann with a highly vocalized and personal style. DDBH’s most recent album (2014’s “Severance Pay” on Believers Roast Records), was described by ‘The Wire’ as “a reminder that there are still thrills aplenty to be gained from the pursuit of complexity”; and Stewart Lee has called Alan Wilkinson’s trio with John Edwards and Steve Noble “as powerful as The Stooges and as fluid as John Coltrane”. Given their collective pedigree of collaborations with such luminaries of free music and avant-rock as Derek Bailey, Thurston Moore, Tatsuya Yoshida, Talibam!, Weasel Walter and Chris Corsano, it is no surprise that when the three musicians join forces the results are brutally intense, deliriously virtuosic, and utterly untrammelled by stylistic constraints.”

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More March gigs to follow…
 

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…
 

July/August 2015 – upcoming London gigs for 3rd July (Shiver/The Fierce & The Dead/Alex’s Hand in Camden, and The Spiders of Destiny in Deptford); Tim Bowness tours in August; a release date for Levitation’s ‘Meanwhile Gardens’

30 Jun

More art-rock roars coming up…

Facemelter, 3rd July 2015

Shiver, The Fierce And The Dead, Alex’s Hand @ The Facemelter (The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, Camden, London, NW1 0AP, UK, Friday 3rd July, 7.30pm – £8.00/£6.00)

A night of insane math rock, prog, jazzcore and experimental riffs from some of Europe’s finest.

Shiver are the latest group from Acoustic Ladyland and TrioVD guitarist and producer Chris Sharkey. The trio have been challenging audiences perceptions of music for just over a year, sitting as comfortably at EFG London Jazz Festival as they have when headlining the PX3 stage at ArcTanGent Festival. Stretching the span of instrumentation and the imagination, this trio flits between solid, head-nodding riffs, ambient spaces and frantic electronic cacophony. Tonight they will be playing new material from their recently released third album.

The Fierce & The Dead are a hugely respected and critically acclaimed noisy pronk four-piece from London. Their precise musicianship and schizophrenic, immensely complex, yet catchy music has earned them headline slots all over the UK. Featuring internationally renowned guitarist, loop artist, blogger and all-round independent music guru Matt Stevens, TFATD have shared the stage with bands including PHILM, Knifeworld, Thumpermonkey, Anathema, Cleft and Lost in the Riots. Tonight they will premiere unheard material from their upcoming EP.

Formed in Seattle a few short years ago, experimental four-piece  Alex’s Hand subsequently relocated to Berlin and have been wreaking havoc on Europe’s DIY noise, post-punk and garage ever since. They’ve shared the stage with MoRkObOt, which must have been a bizarre evening. As at home on stage as they are playing avant garde installations (such as 24 hour festival Avant Garden) in a punk squat in Berlin, this will be their first venture to the UK.

More details here, and tickets available here.

I should put in a particular word for Alex’s Hand here, having watched them grow and sprawl over the past few years along a meandering but inspiring path from arch art-pop parodists to noisy song-brawlers and most recently to a kind of spontaneous noise-prog ensemble. There are a few ‘Misfit City’ reviews of their earlier material – one for ‘Madame Psychosis‘ and one for ‘This Cat Is A Genius‘. Although I’ve not covered Shiver yet, I do also have reviews of early Fierce & The Dead material (here and here), as well as a look at the band’s Matt Stevens playing a solo slot.

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If you’d rather spend a free evening with Uncle Frank, The Spiders of Destiny are playing another London gig of Zappa music on the same day. As ever, expect some of London’s most accomplished art-rockers to work their way back and forth through the Zappa catalogue. The Deptford venue they’re playing this time has plenty of history, whether under its current name, its old monicker of The Oxford Arms or any other title it’s enjoyed over several hundred years. If you don’t spot Frank’s ghost leaning on the sound desk and having an appreciative smoke, you could try looking out for the ghosts of Dire Straits or Christopher Marlowe instead… Up-to-date details here or here, with two-as-yet unnamed bands to be added to the bill.

The Spiders of Destiny (The Birds Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street, London, SE8 4RZ, Friday 3rd July 2015 – 7.30pm, free)

The Spiders of Destiny play Zappa, The Birds Nest, July 5th 2015

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Tim Bowness live flyer, August 2015Looking further ahead, Tim Bowness is out on a very brief tour in August, playing a handful of dates in England and Poland to promote his imminent album ‘Stupid Things That Mean The World’ as mentioned last month. His band features his usual cohorts of Andrew Booker (drums – also of Sanguine Hum), Michael Bearpark (guitar – Darkroom, Henry Fool), Stephen Bennett (keyboards – Henry Fool) and the more recent recruit Colin Edwin (bass guitar – Porcupine Tree).

The Lousiana, Wapping Road, Bathurst Terrace, Bristol, BS1 6UA, UK, Tuesday 25th August, 7.00pm – tickets here and here.

The Boston Music Room, 178 Junction Road, London, N19 5QQ, UK, Wednesday 26th August, 7.00pm – £17.00 – tickets here and here.

Ino Rock Festival, Theatre Letni, Inoclaw, Poland, Saturday 29th August – 35.94 euros – tickets here (other acts at the festival are Fish, Motorpsycho, State Urge and Millenium).

Playing support at the Bristol and London gigs will be Improvizone, the flexible live-ambient improvising collective led by Bowness band drummer Andrew Booker. The rest of the Improvizone lineup looks as if it will be drawn from the current Bowness band (Michael Bearpark is a frequent Improvizoner) so perhaps you should expect the same band playing in two very different configurations. Up-to-date news will be here.

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Levitation: 'Meanwhile Gardens' (2015 issue)

Levitation: ‘Meanwhile Gardens’ (2015 issue)

Another follow-up from last month – there’s now a release date from Flashback Records for the lost Levitation album ‘Meanwhile Gardens’. Mark Burgess of Flashback posted the following on the Facebook fan page for the band’s lost recordings yesterday:

There is at last a provisional release date for ‘Meanwhile Gardens’. 23rd October 2015! Pre-orders will be available in due course from the Bandcamp site and elsewhere. The album is now with the pressing plant, but the lead time on the vinyl is long (pressing plants are straining under the pressure of so much vinyl at the moment, hence the provisional nature of the release date). You should all give yourselves a pat on the back and raise a toast to this group because without this page it might never have happened. Thank you all for your enthusiastic support!

Levitation, circa 1992

December 2002 – album reviews – Various Artists: ‘House of Stairs Volume 1: Useless in Bed’ compilation (“happily balanced on the rougher brinks and fringes”)

4 Dec

Various Artists: 'House of Stairs Vol. 1 - Useless in Bed'

Various Artists: ‘House of Stairs Vol. 1 – Useless in Bed’

Placing yourself on faultlines, rather than easily marketable turf, brings risks but inspiration – ask a San Franciscan. That the three London art-rock bands who originally set up the House of Stairs label (The Monsoon Bassoon, Geiger Counter, and Ursa) have all now split or mutated into something else is perhaps proof of both.

Regardless, ‘Useless In Bed’ – the first House of Stairs release – is a declaration of brotherhood. Compiling the work of musicians dwelling on various faultlines (though still mostly centred on London art-rock, it also takes in music from Chicago, Atlanta and Bordeaux), it both defines the edges of prog, jazz, art-rock, hardcore, electronica, folk, improv and noise rock, or encourages people to spill across them.


 
Hard-rocking math-proggers Foe – sprung from the wreckage of Geiger Counter – offer the most urgent track. ‘Triangulator’ is full of furious refracting guitar lines over Crawford Blair’s piano-growl of bass. For six minutes it swings, chops, drops down trapdoors, executes perverse King Crimson leaps between mordantly grim chords, and savages minor keys like The 5uu’s on far too much coffee. Geiger Counter’s posthumous statement is ‘Drink Your Milk’ – less obviously wired than ‘Triangulator’, it still carves up its grunge-y math riffs with heavy enthusiasm, embracing sweeter interludes of short-lived luminous peace as it does so. Nouveau Metal is spreading…

The Monsoon Bassoon‘s own posthumous offering is a explosive and complicated song from when their mingling of Henry Cow and gamelan-Crimson art-rock ran full tilt into their love of American alt.rockers like Shudder To Think. The psychedelic squeal of guitars on ‘Stag’ marches from plateau to jagged plateau in a skirl of trippy flute and meshing riffs, held together by the band’s tight discipline.


 
These days various Bassooners have regrouped in Miss Helsinki, who deliver a sparkling piece of progressive pop called ‘I Felt Your Arms Around Me’. Less surreal than most Bassoon confections, it’s still an acid-flavoured love song whose rattling good XTC jangle and tootling clarinets don’t stop it hurtling delightedly into a complex, storm-tossed middle section in which they see just how much you can rock the train without slinging it off the rails.

 
If you’d prefer to stick with the Bassoon’s skronkier legacy, Chicago’s Sweep the Leg Johnny are still juggling that torch. With the superb ‘Only in a Rerun’, they’re obviously on a roll – it’s a rich mixture of harsh Schizoid Man tones and flamboyant jazz-metal attack from the raw husky wail of Steve Sostak’s alto sax and Chris Daly’s bloodthirsty roar of guitar, tossing Sostak’s airy vocal like a bull tossing a skinny matador. Slewing between dEUS busyness and violent post-Slint minimalism, this is a rough bareback ride to put a wicked smile on your face.


 
Manic Glaswegian pranksters Lapsus Linguae provide ‘Olestra (There’s Only One Drinking Fountain in Heaven)’. A stab of theatrical art-metal somewhere between Faith No More and Beck (with a Resident eyeballing it from the director’s chair) it has all you need to storm the castle of pomp. There’s a man called Penelope Collegefriend singing in a rampant bellow like a punk Freddie Mercury; there’s an inexplicable strings break and a rolling piano line continually chopped off with guillotine precision; there are namechecks for Hermann Hesse and Charlton Heston, and choicely bizarre lyrics like “More I eat, the hungrier I feel – / I lick menus, ignore the meals.”


 
Holding up the genteel-er proggie end are the whimsical and witty projects of the Larcombe brothers. With ‘Sand (Blowing About)’, Stars in Battledress provide a beautiful dance of fluent piano and autoharp: but beyond the divertimento prettiness, James Larcombe leads the duo through eddies of suggestive Debussyan chords.

Richard Larcombe goes on to turn in a conceptual tease on Defeat the Young‘s wonderful ‘I’m Ruining Something’ – an absurdist essay on the corruptions of power which blends Gentle Giant with Lewis Carroll and Stravinsky. Larcombe greets his ensemble of actors, trombone, and full-blown operatic chorus as a lounge-lizard lord of misrule, sighing a manifesto of playful destruction in his arch, refined tones. “I’m recognised as your one sovereign Lord Protector / Trust me – I’ve learned of your country by tape and slide projector. / Each day I’ll go out of my way to spoil, deface and tarnish, / like he who ruins carpentry by swapping glue for varnish.” Oboe, piano and hammer dulcimer float in a dreamy arrangement like an August haze. Apparently there’s a whole album’s worth of this story in the Larcombe shed – ‘The Golden Spike’ – and it’s only one of their dastardly plans.

Both of House Of Stairs’ lo-fi electronica boffins seem to grab inspiration from bargain-bucket electrical goods. Desmotabs create an appealing Stylophone fanfare buzz on ‘Gaseous Exchange at the Alveoli’, let their drum machine go nuts and assault a heart monitor, and squiggle some demented Mini-Moog solos before the entire track melts like a Dali model. Max Tundra (the Frank Zappa of the techno world) continues his marvellous and bizarre mission to fuse hardcore dance music with prog rock. ‘Life in a Lift Shaft’ equals Desmotabs buzz-for-buzz while festooning tough and hilariously uptight Tundra beats with jittery robot piano and fat sub-bass from the tar-pits. Alarm-clocks fly past on tiny wings trying to take bites out of the zany, sunny tune.

The free-er bands – as usual – have a harder time. Gnarly bass-and-drums duo Guapo can be the missing link between ‘Red’ and Ruins when they want to be. However, their grinding ‘Pharoah’ – despite Dave Smith’s excellent Brufordian snarework – is mostly as subtle as a flying breezeblock. Dragging large chunks of pyramid across the desert and insisting that you appreciate each tortuous step, they occasionally snap, shoot off the flywheel and go ape with some fearsome tattoo riffs. Hardcore acoustic fusioneers Cheval de Frise hop up and down with impatience on ‘Chiendents’, banging their heads against their own lo-fi envelope, manically coiling up tighter and tighter acoustic guitar scrabbles against the tussling drums. Compression to destruction, breaking out in wild slashes.


 
And finally there’s the hardcore department, with the recently defunct Ursa demonstrating why they’ll be a sad loss to the British heavy scene. Avoiding hardcore’s usual fixed, deafening riffage and reductive howling, ‘The Blooding’ begins with a studied ponderousness and heaviness which gives way to an inspiring controlled demolition. Galloping punked-up Iron Maiden guitar runs charge under giant toppling riffs, the band dodging falling masonry via nifty turn-on-a-dime spins while losing none of their brute power. American Heritage, likewise, execute proggie timeswitches with rapid and brutal thrash flair, their sound a bleak, bare cliff of thick guitar noise. It’s anyone’s guess as to why they’ve called their track ‘Phil Collins’ – it’s an unlikely tribute, whether it’s aimed square at the Genesis drumstool or at the white-soul crowdpleaser.


 
Anyhow… here’s a house of many doors, happily balanced on the rougher brinks and fringes and demonstrating the breadth of personalities camped out in even one small part of today’s art-rock community. Admirable.

Various Artists: ‘House of Stairs Volume 1: Useless in Bed’
House of Stairs, HOS001 (5030094077829)
CD-only compilation album
Released: 2nd December 2002
Get it from:
(2020 update) best obtained second-hand
 

October 2000 – album reissue reviews – King Crimson’s ‘Lizard’ & ‘Islands’ 30th anniversary reissues (“some of their most surprising – yet most neglected – music”)

7 Oct

From 1970 to 1972, King Crimson existed as a kind of invalid’s cats-cradle between its two ideas men (guitarist/composer Robert Fripp and lyricist/lights man/presentation polymath Peter Sinfield), with one faithful and exceptionally talented sax’n’flute player (Mel Collins) hanging on philosophically to the bouncing threads.

Perhaps it was a comedown for the band who, only a couple of years previously, had single-handedly redefined British rock music and almost stolen Hyde Park from the Rolling Stones in concert. However, this was still a time when they produced prolifically. Matters weren’t helped by internal conflict and a regular turnover of personnel (lead singers in particular). But despite having already lost key members to ELP (magisterial manchild singer Greg Lake), the sessions world (dazzling but personally wayward drummer Michael Giles) and Foreigner (composer and jack-of-all-instruments Ian McDonald, though strictly speaking he wouldn’t help form the AOR collossi for another few years yet), Crimson soldiered on. And, in the process, came up with some of their most surprising – yet most neglected – music.

King Crimson: 'Lizard'

King Crimson: ‘Lizard’

Psychologically, ‘Lizard’ has always felt like the oddest King Crimson album. Hurtling out at the tail-end of 1970 (less than a year after ‘In the Wake of Poseidon‘) and with a shroud of silence surrounding its making, it’s like a black hole in King Crimson’s history. No-one involved in the making of ‘Lizard’ seems to talk about it much. The fact that the band started recordings with a brand new vocal/rhythm section (singing bassist Gordon Haskell from Fleur De Lys and ex-Manfred Mann drummer Andy McCulloch), and ended the sessions with both men shot out of the saddle and vanishing before even playing a note onstage, has given the album’s reputation more than a tinge of sulphur and daggers drawn. Haskell still doesn’t talk to Fripp, and his contributions have been ostentatiously removed from Crimson compilations ever since. Silent prickles. Ooh, nasty.

The new remaster provides few clues to the musical politics behind ‘Lizard’, but does throw its obsessive ambition into sharp relief. It’s a remarkable record – the most panoramic thing Robert Fripp ever attempted until he blew up ambient music with his Soundscapes twenty years later. And it’s also the most anti-rock record he’s released to this day; as far from being a “band” album as this particular Crimson were from being a live band.

The music comes in floods of cryptic decoration, riding on the back of Fripp’s dark and abrasive chordal imagination. Both leaders are on intriguingly different form: Fripp mostly leaving his Les Paul untouched and playing devilishly tricky acoustic guitar, Sinfield throwing away most of his clotted Gothic lyric totems in favour of shifting psychedelic parlour tricks. But pride of place goes to semi-detached piano player Keith Tippett, a jazz guerilla who constantly refused Fripp’s offers of joint musical leadership of King Crimson but (for ‘Lizard’, anyhow) seems to have taken it on anyway.


 
Fripp had produced and played with Tippett’s band Centipede; and the jazzer returns the favour in full measure here, bringing along oboe player Robin Millar, trombonist Nick Evans and cornet player Mark Charig (all reknowned for Soft Machine contributions) to join Mel Collins and himself in expanding King Crimson’s musical voicings. Consequently ‘Lizard’ jangles and loons with a bright, big-band free-jazz sound as the horn section and Tippett’s fulsomely unpredictable pianos joust with Fripp’s gargantuan Mellotron sounds and the blooping cartoon synthesizers. Certain songs – Happy Family in particular, seem to abandon the rigorous Crimson discipline altogether and worry themselves to bits, with Tippett keeping a relaxed but steady grip on the anarchic play.


 
Peter Sinfield, for his part, stays in an almost domestic realm for the first half of the album. His lyric for the perky Indoor Games is a bizarre Bunuel-meets-Doctor-Seuss poke at the pretentions of bourgeois bohemians, his protagonist barely keeping himself afloat in the showy menagerie of his household. The Cirkus which opens the album is reached in a dream-voyage, a gaudy cruel entertainment which immediately succumbs to stampede and peril. Happy Family is one of the acts which could’ve been performed there – an impossibly tortuous metaphorical tribute to the sorry end of The Beatles. Throughout, Tippett tops every surreal word-twist with another kink in his piano playing.


 
Tippett, in fact, is far more at home than half of the official Crimsons. Gordon Haskell’s a great bluesy singer; but while sunk in this whirling confection of oboes and exploding pianos, drowning in Sinfield’s crossword puzzle wordplay, he struggles even to be heard (let alone draw meaning out of the songs). Andy McCulloch copes better with music that requires him to jump between drum approaches from jazz hiss to orchestral percussion and military rattle. Still, you can almost hear him furrowing his brow and wondering what the hell all this has got to do with headlining the Marquee Club.


 
Poor old Haskell – a good guy in a bad position – gets some respite on Lady of the Dancing Waters where they give him a wistful tune with a trombone and a little English clearing to serenade in… only for him to be upstaged by the beautifully husky choirboy vocals of Yes singer Jon Anderson for the next song. At the conclusion of Indoor Games he unleashes one of the most fascinating laughs in rock history – a demented, yelping hiccup of crazed, fearful mirth which the engineer picks up and slaps back and forth across the speakers. It’s all in keeping with the chamber-jazz-on-laughing-gas feel of ‘Lizard’. But it also sounds like a helplessly honest reaction to the horribly sinister undercurrent beneath the playfulness – the oily black saw of Mellotron, the thousand little knives in Fripp’s clean cross-picking and Tippett’s electric piano jabs.

The second half – the Lizard suite itself – is King Crimson’s most ambitious conception up until that point, in which chamber symphonics and iconic mediaeval imagery return to the band’s music again. Prince Rupert Awakes opens the suite with a tragic cryptic ballad: a heraldic Anderson singing over Tippett’s rippling piano, tension intruding from the wind-chimes which ripple the surface of the beauty and from the deliberately discordant Mellotron which flicks ghastly shadows across the daylight.

Although Sinfield’s overcooked poetry is almost impenetrable, there’s substance here. Near-suffocated beneath rococo imagery of temple wax, peacocks and “tarnished devil’s spoons” is a small saga of civilisations clashing in a profitless war. Rather than a tale of heroism, it represents the fear, frenzied mood swings and devastation that war visits on human beings. Bolero (anchored on McCulloch’s half-march/half-dance drumming) starts with a long, lyrically sad oboe line bidding farewell to peace, but soon moves into a jagged desperate revelry, the partying before the fight. Slurring, drunken trombone and sax grab the oboe theme and o roaring off with it as Tippett’s piano becomes steadily more impressionistic and jumpy and Fripp’s Mellotron infuses an uneasy, compromised warmth.


 
Dawn Song is the morning after: Haskell sings softly and haltingly, to sparse piano and oboe, of broken ploughs and spokeless wheels, and of soldiers “burnt with dream and taut with fear” waiting for the inevitable reckoning of spears and armour. Which duly arrives in Last Skirmish with brutally knotted jazz snare and more typically Frippish minor key riffs, stately and dark – initially on Mellotron, then taken up by harsh baritone sax with a petrified overblown flute dipping and waving above. As battle commences in earnest, bluesier saxes and an enraged elephantine trombone wail alongside a resurgent Fripp guitar and Tippett’s increasingly shattered piano attack.

In the background, Fripp jacks up an initially sweet and civilised Mellotron string part until the pitch is tortured beyond endurance. Then there’s a brief respite (glimmering lucid guitar and distant rills of piano) before the sound of a hue and cry, galloping brass and hunting horn clamour in the most frantic moment yet. Finally, Prince Rupert’s Lament, the wreckage of bodies and hopes on the battlefield afterwards. A tolling bass ostinato, exhausted kettle drum rolls and a distant bagpipe shriek of Fripp guitar, utterly bereft and angry. ‘Lizard’ is over.

Abstract, absurdist and oblique it may be, but if you avoid involving yourself too literally in Sinfield’s wordplay and just allow the music to speak into you, ‘Lizard’ is an album which has plenty to offer. The game-playing cast of its music only adds to its power, puncturing prog pomposity and adding new dimensions of conceptual menace which the band had never previously achieved. At times, it’s like observing a particularly venomous orgy.

As the last part of ‘Lizard’ fades away, Big Top careens out of the silence – a quease-inducing carousel of circus music in which the pitch spirals further up and out of control than ever before, snagging the ensemble players like a Kansas tornado and dragging them off into the unknown skies, still squiggling out treacherous silvery worms of music.

King Crimson: 'Islands'

King Crimson: ‘Islands’

Although the ever-underrated ‘Lizard’ now jumps out of the speakers with renewed animation and significance, the real rediscovery from King Crimson’s current reissue phase is 1971’s ‘Islands’.
Long-unavailable on CD, this album was recorded by those Crimsoneers who’d survived the latest falling out (Sinfield, Collins and Fripp) with two new full-time recruits – Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace.

The new boys were grounded in rootsy jazz and rhythm’n’blues. Boz, in particular, seems antithetical to the perceived Way Of Crimson – a brash and commanding singer with scatting tendencies, and perhaps suspicious of Crimson’s grand designs as hatched on prog touchstone ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ and further honed on ‘In the Wake of Poseidon’ and the formal dementia of ‘Lizard’.

In spite of this, ‘Islands’ is the King Crimson album that’s furthest from the roots heartlands. There is one exception – Ladies of the Road, in which Sinfield turns in a salacious lyric of international groupie action that allows the band to engage in their dirtiest and most gleeful playing ever. Collins roars boozily on dick-grabbing tenor sax; Fripp plays as if his guitar’s strung with Mississippi baling wire and slams down some gloriously sloppy, sleazy little solos; and Boz revels in the rampant bluesy shouting. Even the flute and the fragrant Paul McCartney harmonies in the chorus can’t shake the sweat off this one.

 
It’s certainly a sharp contrast to The Letters. This is the album’s main sticking point, with aggressively stilted music rescued from Crimson’s early days and a lyric of pure antiquated Jacobean melodrama (poison pens, adultery, madness and suicide) in which sex is the engine of betrayal and degradation.

However, neither of these pieces fairly represent the unprecedented warmth and clarity of intent on ‘Islands’. If the preceding ‘Lizard’ was perhaps Tippett and Sinfield’s album – liberally dusted with the excitement and lawlessness of free jazz and untrammeled purple poetry – ‘Islands’ is most definitely Fripp’s, its scope narrowed down with superb clarity. It’s King Crimson’s simplest album by far, one in which the tunes and the placing of changes and instruments are far more important than complexity or the thrill of clash.

Several ‘Lizard’ buddies – jazz pianist Keith Tippett, Marc Charig on cornet and Robin Millar on oboe – are all along for the album sessions, and ‘Islands’ is also suffused with the warmth, light and mesmeric relaxing qualities of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, inspired by Sinfield’s travelling. After the demented rush of ‘Lizard’ it’s a much more contemplative work, with Tippett returning to a reflective supporting role and with that Crimson intensity redirected towards knowledge and timing instead of flamboyant theatre. Formentera Lady (introduced by fluttering flute, romantic swirls of piano and the deep bowed chording of Harry Miller’s double bass) sees Sinfield “shadowed by a dragon fig tree’s fan, /rRinged by ants and musing over man”, and that’s to be the central flavour of the album.


 
Ian Wallace was the perfect drummer for this music – well aware of the jazz and rock heat needed for the Crimson repertoire, but equally capable of the delicate timekeeping needed for the gentler pace of the new material. Formentera Lady ticks along on his hushed bass drum and cymbals, his trickles of wind chime and seed-pod percussion, and Boz’s gentle two-note bass riff. And whatever Boz’s feelings for the material might have been (he’s the prime suspect for having described much of ‘Islands’ as “airy-fairy shit”) he sings Sinfield’s contented landlocked reveries in a nostalgic, light tenor with a surprisingly humble and innocent charm. The gentle pulse of Fripp’s supportive acoustic guitar arrives four-and-a-half minutes in. Greek strings hum in trapezoidal shapes, and when King Crimson’s first familiar slip into the texture of legend arrives it happens seamlessly, cued by “here Odysseus charmed for dark Circe fell”, when guest soprano Paulina Lucas opens her throat for prolonged eerie siren singing, merging with Collins’s explorations on tenor sax.

Equally seamlessly, it gives way – on the rising heat of Wallace’s ride cymbal – to Sailor’s Tale, Fripp’s musical portrait of Odysseus’ doomed navigation between the parallel forces of destruction, Scylla and Charybdis. If Formentera Lady is King Crimson entranced in siesta time, Sailor’s Tale is a slow awakening to peril. Not the Gothic nightmares that the band used to specialise in. This time, what’s central to the piece’s power is the sheer excitement it generates.

Fripp and Collins (the former back on his rich drone of overdriven guitar) play prolonged horn notes off each other above Wallace’s rapid triple-time jazz pulse, reaching a peak at which they split off and howl their own paths – Collins squalling like Ayler or Coltrane, while Fripp prepares to deliver the most colossally dirty solo of his career. Played on a shattering echo like a deranged banjo, it passes through a maelstrom crescendo of hellish Mellotron and frantic cymballing out into free space, disintegrates spectacularly and falls into nothingness. Only the dark primeval bass of Sinfield’s prolonged oceanic synthesizer chords to witness its passing. The hairs don’t settle on the back of the neck for a good few minutes.


 
The rest of the album returns to the sun- and sea-warmed peace of Formentera Lady. The Song of the Gulls prelude is a small Fripp-written study for Robin Millar’s oboe and polite strings: no more than a serene intro to the album’s title-track finale, bridging the huge stylistic gap between Ladies of the Road and the final resolution of Sinfield’s escape. Islands itself is a subtle compositional triumph: King Crimson’s own miniature ‘Sketches of Spain’, finally proving that they can sustain a gentle and nourishing rhapsody without tweeness or needing to pounce back into violence. Wallace is almost invisible but for a few lightly brushed cymbals, letting Collins’s miraculously tender bass flute and Tippett’s delicately shaded Bill Evans-ish piano set the atmosphere. Fripp abandons guitar altogether to quietly pump a small harmonium (you can hear his feet patiently working the pedals).

Boz sings alone and unaffected, again displaying a surprising empathy for Sinfield’s lyric of separateness yielding to inclusion over time – “grain after grain love erodes / the high weathered walls which fend off the tide… / Equal in love, bound in circles. / Earth stream and tree return to the sea. / Waves sweep the sand from my island, / from me.” Mark Charig’s jazzy, sleepy cornet plays a crucial part, taking up the melody and soaking it in acceptance and the weary joy of homecoming, before a softly swelling finale where sedate and harmonious Mellotron strings lift the ensemble to resolution. “Beneath the wind turned wave, / infinite peace. / Islands join hands / ‘neath heaven’s sea.”


 
But for a brief hidden track (in which we hear a burst of studio tune-ups and Fripp’s soft Dorset burr patiently instructing the oboe and string players) that’s the end. Incidentally, it was also the end of King Crimson’s “grand design” phase. The core five-piece would briefly tour and squabble (with Peter Sinfield’s departure forever closing the early Crimson songbook) and the rootsy bar-band which lurked in the ‘Islands’ line-up would then honk its way across the States, jettisoning all the Debussy and fragrance of the album as it went.

It would all end in tooth-sucking enmity and anger, with everyone but Fripp abandoning King Crimson in favour of rhythm’n’blues. Boz would even end up thumping bass for Bad Company, which evidently pleased him musically and financially but seems a sorry waste of talent after his showing on ‘Islands’. The next time that Fripp surfaced, he’d be leading a far louder, far more cryptic improvisatory band, which would immediately overshadow his work here. This period of King Crimson’s existence is always outshone by the horns and flurries of the band’s debut years, by the bold and bitter brute minimalism of ‘Red’, by the stalking menace of the European improv years or the poppy art-rock of their New Wave era.

But both ‘Islands’ and its companion ‘Lizard’ – two of the most unusual to emerge from the body of rock – contain some of King Crimson’s best-planned, best executed and most intricately beautiful work, with a unified conceptual scope the bands would never really match again. These reissues bring that buried treasure back to light, revealing an exciting early ’70s meeting point between musical forms that’s been poorly served by an increasing suspect official history. It’s time to put it back on the chart. If more of today’s bands had the same open-minded determination – stumbles and all – that King Crimson exhibit here, we’d be better served ourselves.

King Crimson: ‘Lizard’
Virgin Records Ltd., CDVKCX3 (7243 8 48947 2 6)
King Crimson: ‘Islands’
Virgin Records Ltd., CDVKCX4 (7243 8 48949 2 4 )
CD-only reissue albums
Released:
4th October 2000
Get them from: (2020 update) Both records have now been superseded by 40th Anniversary Editions with new remastering and additional tracks. Current or former versions can be obtained from the King Crimson stores at Burning Shed and the Schizoid Shop.
King Crimson online:
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