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

15 Jun
Half The Sky, 22nd June 2017

Half The Sky (photo © Jean-Hervé Péron)

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

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

Yumi’s comments on the music:

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

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

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

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

Half the Sky: Music of Lindsay Cooper

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


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

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

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

Lindsay Cooper

Lindsay Cooper

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

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

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

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

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


 

June 2017 – upcoming English gigs – the return of Pram with the immersive ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’ event in Birmingham (June 3rd); Zarjaz Baby and Jon Slade/Night of the Comet in London (June 3rd); Arthur Russell’s ‘Calling Out Of Context’ revisited in London (June 7th)

23 May

Some shows and events to start June off. In Birmingham, experimental dream pop/post rock band Pram (one of the most original and charming groups ever to work in either genre) have resurfaced and are taking over an Edgbaston park for a very different kind of performance. Back in London there are opportunities to catch up with Zarjaz Baby (one of the wilder characters from the original wave of British post-punk) an acoustic set from Jon Slade (who’s navigated his way through a heap of scenes from art-punk to Riot Grrl to a thousand indie DJ nights); and a recreation of the cello/pop songs of Arthur Russell, one of the darlings of the 1980s New York loft music scene.

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Pram: 'Under The Blossom That Hangs On The Bough', 3rd June 2017

for-Wards, MAC Birmingham and Pram present:
Pram: ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’
Martineau Gardens, 27 Priory Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B5 7UG, England
Saturday 3rd June 2017, 4:30pm
– free event – information here, here and here

“Composers and sonic artists Pram have been exploring south Birmingham with the help of local community groups to uncover the sounds of the locality. The results are both familiar and surprising.

“Let Pram take you on a journey through the city, a sound trail through the four wards of Birmingham’s Edgbaston district. Hear the world from the perspective of a bee as it flutters and forages. The snuffles of a tiny baby become the snores of a lion, the gurgle of a stream a mighty cataract. Come along and follow the woodland trail, bring a picnic and settle down for a performance inspired by the sound of the city as you’ve never heard it before.

“Set in the magical surroundings of Martineau Gardens, ‘Under the Blossom that Hangs on the Bough’ is an installation and performance by Pram, celebrating the sounds of Edgbaston. It will take place at Martineau Gardens on the afternoon of Saturday 3rd June, concluding at 6.30pm with a Pram performance inspired by sound recordings made in the wards of Quinton, Harborne, Edgbaston and Bartley Green. Free admission if you register at Eventbrite…”

This isn’t quite the same Pram that charmed us and subverted pop for a surprisingly long stint in the ’90s and noughties across a string of albums which included ‘Dark Island’ and ‘Sargasso Sea’ and a sound that seemed to be part child’s murmur, part clinking post-kosmische stroll and part friendly haunted house. Most obviously, singer and lyricist Rosie Cuckston (she who used to mount her keyboard on an ironing board at concerts) is absent, having moved on into academia and a more direct form of the social activism which the band’s eclectic inclusiveness and tendency to take philosophical side roads only hinted. That said, the rest of the band’s original creative core (multi-instrumentalists Matt Eaton, Sam Owen and Max Simpson) are all present, having spent the interim years of Pram downtime working with wonky loops as Two Dogs, creating film and theatre sound and making sonic art out of books with the Sound Book Project.

This also isn’t the first time that the post-Rosie Pram’s reappeared. Earlier in May they made an appearance at Imaginary Musics in Switzerland, playing a “music for Kopfkino” audio-visual set in a festival dedicated to “cinematic, recomposed and fictional musics”, and it seems as if losing Rosie’s quiet reflective voice and cocooned lyrics has shifted them further over into the areas suggested by Matt’s sound design and by Sam and Max’s live sound art. On-spec, it seems as if they’ve succeeded in becoming a kind of “post-band”, with a foot in their old live work, song-structures and performance coherence, but leaning towards something far more abstract and ego-free. ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’ sounds as if it will be something fascinating to be immersed in – an urban psychedelic afternoon stroll with the family, an aural refraction of Birmingham through leaves, greenery and company.

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Zarjaz Baby + Jon Slade, 3rd June 2017

Zarjaz Baby + Jon Slade
The Horse Hospital, The Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Saturday 3rd June 2017, 7.00pm
information

“An existentialist extravaganza featuring a solo acoustic set from Zarjaz Baby (Freakapuss and former Tronics). Zarjaz will be performing dark atmospheric songs, full of imagery, with jazz, blues, early ’60s beat and pop influences, with live performance artists, in a style not seen since the basement and candles days of Beatniks.

“Also featured on the night is a solo acoustic Love-Rock revival set from Jon Slade/Knight Of The Comet, incorporating songs from his former bands Huggy Bear and Comet Gain, plus a Fire Department number, some Electric Bull re-workings, as well as songs he wrote with Wolfy Jones.


 
“’60s European pop music in between sets, Francoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot, Gillian Hills. Expect sombre girls dressed in black and boys in Breton shirts.”

For more information contact incoming@freakapuss.com

For more on Zarjaz’s chequered life and career, have a read of this interview he did with ‘The Quietus’ three years ago, featuring accounts of brushes with mental illness, of releasing surreal post-punk songs with titles like Shark Fucks, of arguing with ‘2000AD’ over his stage name, and of having his image ripped off by Sigue Sigue Sputnik.


 
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Arthur Russell: 'Calling Out Of Context', 7th June 2017

XOYO Live and Milestones present:
‘Arthur Russell – A Classic Reinterpreted’
XOYO, 32-37 Cowper Street, St Lukes, London, EC2A 4AP, England
Wednesday 7th June 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“It’s been said that “Arthur’s songs were so personal that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music.”

“Twenty-five years after Arthur Russell‘s death, some of the most exciting, forward-thinking faces in music are set to present a unique rendition of Arthur Russell’s timeless album ‘Calling Out Of Context’. A posthumous album that brought together twelve incredible tracks from across two previously unreleased LPs, ‘Calling Out Of Context’ represents Arthur in his prime. Two decades later and the music sounds as contemporary as ever – a huge inspiration for those performing on the night. We’re very excited to hear this new rendition.”

Bringing together elements of electropop, classical minimalism, post-disco, hip hop and singer-songwriter work, the ‘Calling Out Of Context’ songs span twenty years of Arthur’s composing and creative history while he was battling to fuse the parallel New York worlds of dance culture and art music between the late ’70s and the early ’90s – a pioneer of the freewheeling musical eclectism which today we pretty much take for granted. Take a look at this salvaged 1987 interview feature from the ‘Melody Maker’ for more on the topic, featuring reflections from Arthur and others on Indian music, the pulse shared by formal minimalism and New York dance clubs, and the social and cultural challenges of the time regarding blending “high” and “low” cultures.

The band for this London performance consists of Ashley Henry (keyboards), Midori Jaeger (cello), Alica Higgins (vocals), Sam Gardner (drums) and Joe Downard (bass).


 

May 2017 – upcoming gigs – Brian Madigan’s ‘Think Of A Song’ experiment in Bath (May 31st)

22 May

Former members of cult ’90s psychedelic folk band The Wise Wound always tend to have gone on to do something interesting. Their musing percussionist/flautist/interjector Brian Madigan’s been no exception, but for this show (for this year’s Bath Fringe Festival) he’s excelled himself…

'Think Of A Song', 31st May 2017

Brian Madigan: ‘Think of a Song’ (+ Paul Bradley)
The Old Theatre Royal, 12 Old Orchard Street, Bath, Somerset, BA1 1JU, England
Wednesday 31st May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

“When we go to a show or concert, what are our expectations? To what extent do we, the audience, create the performance? How does the space affect us? How do other audience members impact on our experience? ‘Think Of A Song‘ sets out to explore these and other questions in a unique, collective, experimental-theatre experience.

“Singer-songwriter Brian Madigan is famed for his lengthy, spoken intros. Indeed, during a previous Fringe Festival performance, he got the biggest cheer of the night when he introduced his last song but ran out of time to perform it. So what if he were to remove the songs altogether – only thinking them “out loud” as the audience were invited to imagine them? Would that be deeply uncomfortable? Transcendental? A brief moment of sanity amid the cacophony of everyday madness? Or an evening wasted?

“There is, of course, only one way to find out. If you only go to one high-risk, experimental, participatory, silent-music performance this Fringe, make it ‘Think Of A Song’. One thing is for certain: you won’t forget it in a hurry… A unique journey – not only into the mind of a performer but also into the audience’s own. Inspired by the works of John Cage and Marina Abramovic, this is powerful, immersive and unforgettable experimental performance at its experimentalist!”

If you’re planning to attend, note that ‘Think Of A Song’ is also going to be recorded by filmmaker Martin Tomkins. Brian: “The show comprises two performances: one with and one without audience. The first will take place in advance of the public show on May 31st, in the empty space, before it is set up for the Fringe. This will be filmed and recorded, the audio then presented to audience members after the live show on a complementary CD. The film will capture and blend the two parts. In the first , I will be thinking the intros and singing the songs out loud in the empty space. In the second, I will be speaking the intros, then thinking the songs “out loud” in front of an audience (including you, hopefully…) As well as providing a document of this unique event, the filming will serve to underline the role of audience as participants. In essence, you are the show.”

Support comes from “the incomparable Paul Bradley – right-strung left-handed guitarist, bandleader, composer, triple-octave singer, improviser, sessioneer, collaborator, children’s musician and multi-instrumental livelooper-cum-raconteur. If you have never encountered Paul before, you are in for a real treat. It would be no exaggeration to say that he alone is worth the ticket price.”



 

April 2017 – upcoming London experimental gigs – very messy play with the Lone Taxidermist plus Martin Tomlinson and Heart Years (25th); Myth-O-Rama evening with Eleventh Hour Adventists, Seven-Headed Raven, Miss Roberts and Rotten Bliss (28th April)

20 Apr

A couple of imminent gigs from the dark-cabaret end of experimental music:

Lone Taxidermist, 25th April 2017
Homemade Disco presents:
Lone Taxidermist + Martin Tomlinson + Heart Years
Paper Dress Vintage, 352A Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England
Tuesday 25th April 2017, 7.30pm
– information here, here & here

Homemade Disco put on a Laura Cannell/Hirvikolari double bill back in March, which I managed to miss but which set out their wide-ranging experimental stall. Headlining this next effort is Lone Taxidermist, the multi-media-friendly project helmed by Natalie Sharp, who’s been variously described as a “cosmic Cumbrian synth artist”, an “all-round creative explosion”, a “synth-eating powerhouse with a voice that rolls like hot thunder” and “a cavewoman crossed with an urban Ava Gardner.”. Aided by Tunng bassist Philip Winter and electronicist Will Kwerk (part of a shifting backline of collaborators) she’s using this gig to showcase her current, brand-new Lone Taxidermist project ‘Trifle’ which explores “the murky, intertwined depths of sexual fetishes and food (including) the shadowy worlds of sploshing, cake-sitting and crush fetish.”

Expect ‘Trifle’s fittings and features to include spongecake-rubber/full-fat plastic costumes, “giant cream-squirting custard vaginas” and “extreme female grooming techniques”, plus projections from audiovisual artist Ross Blake intercut with footage from obliging YouTube cake fetishists. For a dripping taste of the Ross-eye view of the project, see below; for other peeks at ‘Trifle’, see this ‘Manchester Metalheads’ review of the performance at this month’s Fat Out Fest or this interview/preview in ‘The Quietus’.

 
Squelch.

For more on the world of Lone Taxidermist, have a read of this ‘onepointfour’ interview, and below is a Soundclouding of an earlier, unrelated live set:


 

Support comes from spangly but spiteful Martin Tomlinson, former clown-suited lead provocateur with Selfish Cunt (the trans/ag/gressive electronic noise-rock project with London’s most family-friendly bandname, even if Shitwife are mounting a latterday challenge).

The evening opens (presumably in a dastardly attempt to soften us up) with wispy-boy-vulnerable London dream-poppers Heart Years. Their twang-echoed synthscapes deal in “lost thoughts, hopeless ideals and ‘80s fade outs” and sound like a determined teenage mope in the Balearics; and whose new single ‘The Great Fades’ has been out for a month or so.



 
John Doran from ‘The Quietus’ will also be contributing a DJ set…

* * * * * * * *

Myth-O-Rama, 28th April 2017

The Light & Shadow Salon presents:
Myth-O-Rama: Eleventh Hour Adventists + Seven-Headed Raven + Miss Roberts + Rotten Bliss
The Horse HospitalThe Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Friday 28th Apr 2017, 7.00pm
information

“An evening of sonic adventures… featuring various exciting collaborations between the various performers.

Eleventh Hour Adventists are a collaboration between Jasmine Pender (who is a vocalist and electric cellist), and Jowe Head (ex-Swell Maps, Television Personalities, The Demi-Monde), who contributes vocals, slide guitar and mandocello. They usually operate as a duo, with guest Ravi Low-Beer contributing his unique deft skills on drums and percussion. Between them, they weave a tense and terse sound-world. Jasmine’s electronically treated cello emits deep hypnotic drones and bursts of uncanny minimal melody. Jowe’s clipped manipulation of stringed instruments usually providing the pulse, and interjections of top-end shards of shiny noise. Their vocals tend to blend together in close harmonies, their voices twisting together in a sensual struggle.

“Their work is mainly self-composed, some of it referring to ancient mythological themes. Material includes Jasmine’s reflective and often profane imagery on one hand, and Jowe’s more quirky lyrics on the other. The material includes an eerie ballad about Tempelhof airfield in Berlin and a series of mythological tableaux. There is also an ancient murder ballad that’s undergone gender reversal, and a radical arrangement of a song by blues pioneer Skip James. This is their first headlining performance since returning from their first overseas concert, in Berlin.


 
Seven-Headed Raven are an international, multi-national folk ensemble, performing, performing both traditional and contemporary music, featuring cello, kookie (Latvian dulcimer), and bowed saw. Their sound suffused in nature worship, melancholy and nature. This weird band has a pagan feel, and features multi-instrumentalist and singer Catherine Gerbrands (Valerie & Her Week of Wonders, An Infernal Contraption) and cellist/vocalist Tim Bowen (Chrome Hoof), both former members of Jowe Head’s band The Demi-Monde, who shall be leading a multi-national band playing their own arrangements of traditional tunes and their own material.

“The mysterious and ethereal Miss Roberts (chanteuse with the decadent surreal Rude Mechanicals) presents a performance called ‘Curious Contraption’, which shall weave a sinister web of surreal intrigue featuring surreal stories, dramatic monologues, poetry and song in a visual whirlwind of bizarre costumes, audience interactions and gestures, with sound effects and ambient music provided by Jowe Head.

“Jasmine Pender has described her solo project, Rotten Bliss, as a research project into the outer limits of the electric cello and voice. Part exploration and part revelation, Rotten Bliss builds up sonic storms of exploratory textures with FX-laden cello, giving way to brutally bare arrangements made from haunting vocals sung over sparse bass riffs. Jasmine defies expectations of the cello her abrasive playing style, evoking the possession and freedom of rock and roll, deconstruction and decay. The result is a hypnotic, seasick voyage that takes in elements of folk, noise, surrealism and drone, referencing dystopian harbours, amorous fishes, nightwatchmen and transcendence.”

 

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

26 Mar

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

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

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

Billy Bottle & The Multiple: 'The Other Place'

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


 

 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – selections from the Sheffield Classical Weekend (17th-19th)

6 Mar

There’s plenty going on at the three-day mid-March Sheffield Classical Weekend, with the city permeated with music including many old and new favourites. Among what’s on offer are two different performances of Arvo Pärt’s ‘Fratres’ (one by a wind band, one by a host of strings), two Dreams of China concerts covering formal Chinese classical compositions) and a host of choral shows (the classic monk’s-debauchery of Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’ via Schubert’s ‘Mirjam’s Siegesgesang’ and Brahms’ ‘Ziguenerlieder’, through to a variety of pops choirs.) Though I’d advise checking out the entire, pleasingly diverse programme, here are my own brief and subjective picks from it, if you’re interested.

* * * * * * * *

Oliver Coates & cellists: ‘Canticles of the Sky’ – Kelham Island Museum, Alma St, Sheffield, S3 8RY, England, Saturday 18th March 2017, 3:30pm & 5.00pminformation

“A UK premiere featuring star cellist Oliver Coates (Radiohead, ‘Under The Skin’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’). Olly and a host of cellists will surround the Kelham Island audience and lift you skyward with this ethereal and dreamy work from Pulitzer and Grammy-winning composer John Luther Adams. Also featuring extracts from J.S Bach’s Cello Suites.”

* * * * * * * *

Five Choirs: Sounds From Heaven – St Marie’s Cathedral, Norfolk Row, Sheffield S1 2JB, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 2:30pminformation

“Perched around the sides of the excellent acoustic space within the Cathedral Church of St Marie, five Sheffield chamber choirs – Abbeydale Singers, Sheffield Chamber Choir, Sterndale Singers, Sheffield Chorale and Viva Voce – will “create a swoonsome heart-lifting soundscape of song.” As well as old and new choral standbys by John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, Felix Mendelssohn and others, the concert will include the premiere of ‘Kraal’ a commission for five simultaneous choirs written by Jenny Jackson (a member of Sheffield’s own contemporary composer collective, Platform 4).”

* * * * * * * *

More music fostered by Platform 4 will be popping up a few times over the weekend. Flautist Rachel Shirley performs “a selection of colourful and inventive works for flute, piano, blown bottles and saxophone“; there’s an evening date at Yellow Arch Studios with players from Sheffield Music Academy, performing the collective’s own “imaginative cutting-edge compositions”. There’s a “mind-bending” collaboration with Opera On Location in which “stories are turned upside down and endings become beginnings in (a) selection of operatic palindromes, where the music is the same both backwards and forwards… featuring Paul Hindemith’s short opera ‘Hin Und Zurück’ (‘There And Back’), plus new bitesize and puzzling pieces…” Platform 4 also contribute the cello-and-electric keyboard piece ‘Upright Stance’ to be performed alongside Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto at Oliver Coates’ concert with Sheffield Music Hub Senior Schools.

  • Opera On Location with Platform 4 – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 8:30pminformation (contains strong and sexually explicit language – recommended for 18+)
  • Rachel Shirley: ‘Hooting & Drinking’ – Channing Hall @ Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, Saturday 18th March 2017, 3.30pminformation
  • Oliver Coates & Sheffield Music Hub Senior Schools: ‘From The Heart: Shostakovich’ – City Hall Ballroom @ Sheffield City Hall, Barkers Pool, Sheffield, S1 2JA, England, Sunday 19th March, 12:00pminformation
  • Platform 4 with Sheffield Music Academy – Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 6:30pminformation

* * * * * * * *

On the Friday and the Saturday, there are some thoughtfully programmed Sound Laboratory events centring on the music, ideas and influence of Pierre Boulez. Saturday sees a triple-banked set featuring pianists Beate Toyka and Matthew Odell, violinists Darragh Morgan and Lucy Phillips, clarinettist Sarah Watts and the University of Sheffield New Music Ensemble.

Each of these mini-concerts sets one of Boulez’s first three Piano Sonatas against another piece. ‘The Conflict And The Passion’ pitches ‘Piano Sonata No. 1’ against Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata in a study of thwarted passions. ‘Deconstruction & Digitalisation’ presents the classical deconstruction of ‘Piano Sonata No. 2’ and the electro-acoustic contrasts of ‘Anthemes II’. ‘Choice And Chance’ (the only one of the concerts to feature two Boulez compositions) offers ‘Piano Sonata No. 3’ and the clarinet-and-orchestra piece ‘Domaines’, contrasting a piece in which major options are available to the performer and one which is considerably more ordered and regimented.

The series opens on Friday with a special Boulez-inspired concert in which “the avant-garde becomes child’s play… primary school children from across the city explore the curious frontiers of contemporary electronic music and present the results of their musical experimentation.”

Sound Laboratory:

  • ‘Computer Music’ – Firth Hall @ University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 1:30pminformation
  • ‘The Conflict & The Passion’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 1:30pminformation
  • ‘Deconstruction & Digitalisation’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 3:30pminformation
  • ‘Choice and Chance’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 5:00pminformation

* * * * * * * *

Among the Chinese-inspired events is one in which Chinese and European chamber music merge as celebrated guzheng zither soloist Xia Jing teams up with The Fidelio Trio (Darragh Morgan on violin, Adi Tal on cello and Mary Dullea on piano). They’ll be presenting a concert of brand-new musical premieres – Gao Ping’s ‘Feng Zheng’ (‘Kite’), Jeroen Speak’s ‘Silk Dialogues 7’, Dylan Lardelli‘s ‘Shells’, and ‘Time Bends In The Rock’ by Sheffield-based composer Dorothy Ker.

Fidelio Trio & Xia Jing: ‘Global Soundtracks: Silk Dialogues’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 9:30pminformation

* * * * * * * *

In addition, there’s a variety of pop-up performances across the three days, featuring abbreviated sets by event headliners plus showings by small instrumental and vocal groups. It’s an open-minded spill moving out from classical forms to embrace folk, alt.chamber and other kinds of music.

One promising set of contributors are Manchester quintet Kabantu, who’ve thankfully dropped their previous name Project Jam Sandwich and who also “throw away the rulebook to bridge countries and cultures, creating an exuberant and joyful soundworld… vocal harmonies from South Africa coalesce with everything from Celtic reels and Brazilian samba to Balkan folk music and beyond.” Featuring violin, guitar, cello, double bass and percussion in addition to voices, they’re playing a pop-up show but also two separate consecutive-but-entirely-different sets at Yellow Arch Studios.

Classical by Night – Kabantu @ Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 6.30pm & 9:30pm – information here and here
 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Ramp Local show in New York on the 8th (Lily & Horn Horse, Macula Dog, Gavin Riley Smoke Machine, The Cradle); Whispers & Hurricanes show in London on the 9th (Danielle de Picciotto, Alexander Hacke, Jo Quail)

2 Mar

A little convocation of bands associated with Philadelphia’s Ramp Local label are playing at the Glove, an out-of-the-way Brooklyn performance theater and art shrine. (Apparently the Glove’s been set up by the same people responsible for the Grove performance space, and seems to be so in-the-moment that it’s impossible to find a formal address for it – you’ll either have to private-message their Facebook page, ask the right kind of friend, or get off at the MTA stop by Flushing Avenue and Broadway and take the chance that you’ll spot it.)

Lily and Horn Horse + Macula Dog + Gavin Reilly Smoke Machine + The Cradle, 8th March 2017

Ramp Local presents:
Lily & Horn Horse + Macula Dog + Gavin Reilly Smoke Machine + The Cradle
The Glove, (somewhere in) Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York City, NY 11221, USA
Wednesday 8th March 2017, 8.00pm
information

The gig’s a launch event for the debut album by Lily & Horn Horse, more on which below:

”Lily Konigsberg is a member of the experimental punk band Palberta, hailed by ‘Pitchfork’ for their “mercurial gestures, barking acidity, and off-the-cuff creativity” as well as for their taste for swapping or abandoning instruments midflow. Fellow multi-instrumentalist Matt Norman performs as Horn Horse. Together they formed a group called Lily & Horn Horse, who will release a collaborative cassette album – ‘Lily On Horn Horse’ – on March 3rd 2017 (on the heels of Palberta’s most recent album ‘Bye Bye Berta’), by way of Philly’s Ramp Local Records.

“With ‘Lily On Horn Horse’, Lily and Matt deliver a twenty-eight-track collaboration that synthesizes the eclectic musical talents of both multi-instrumentalists. Originally presented as a CD, the compilation was sold and packaged in origami during an August 2016 tour of the north-east USA. The album is more a snapshot of a creative time and place than concept-album. As Lily and Matt say “The release of Matt’s ‘Horn Horse‘ album featured Lily on most songs, most of which are included in y’own tape. Around the same time Lily was developing a mega set of karaoke music and instructed Matt to blow down some car horn charts which were eventually replaced by baritone horn parts and inserted into the recordings gently sleeping inside thine tape.”


 
“The record ends up a coherent pastiche of diverse tracks full of free jazz-inspired brass freak-outs, ethereal piano ballads, and synth arrangements skewed toward electronic composition. Lily’s siren-like voice calls from a perfume-cloud of disco-inspired grooves while Horn Horse’s vocals hit robotic and angular production. Tracks like Today and She Doesn’t Have A Good Brain bring to mind an Arthur Russell-like elevation of pop-music experimentation. In short, the record is a curated-tour through the frontiers of Lilly and Horn Horse’s creative landscape.”


 
The gig also offers three other acts. There’s discombobulated glitch-funk played with “inebriated, mule-like precision” from Macula Dog. There’s Big Neck Police‘s Paco Cathcart, performing with Palberta’s Ani Ivry-Block and The Gradients‘ Sammy Weissberg as The Cradle – woozy tenement indie-folk songs, a little like an accordion-and-double-bass equipped Mazzy Star at war with drum machines and bad aircon. Finally, there’s the goofy multi-media work of Gavin Riley Smoke Machine.



 
For me the most satisfying of the support acts is Gavin, who creates his own live-music take on a Choose Your Own Adventure paperback. He does this by gumming together a spitball of nerdy white-boy hip hop, blow-by-blow audience interaction and goofy pulp fiction/afternoon TV storytelling (a schoolkid caught up in a whirl of mutants, drug gangs, sinister teachers, the FBI and parents with mysterious pasts), topped off with some endearing homemade animation. In theory, it should fall flat on its face: instead, it can turn an audience of jaded hipsters back into eager, happy children.


 
* * * * * * *

Back in London, Chaos Theory’s airier spin-off Whispers & Hurricanes is back in business with a few old friends:

Hacke & De Picciotto + Jo Quail, 9th March 2017

Chaos Theory presents:
Whispers & Hurricanes: Hacke & De Picciotto, Jo Quail
Strongroom Bar, 120-124 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3SQ, England
Thursday 9th March 2017, 7.30pm
information

“The first Whispers & Hurricanes of the year sees the return of two legendary multimedia performers (whose entire life together is an ongoing work of art), as well as a prolific contemporary cellist and loop artist.

“German-American artist couple Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke are internationally known – she as the co-founder of the Love Parade, he a founding member of the band Einstürzende Neubauten – and both of them together members of Crime & The City Solution. Since 2010 they have been leading a nomadic life, touring the world with music and theatre projects, never staying still for too long. After two breathtaking shows for us at Cafe Oto and at Hackney Attic, this unconventional and versatile duo return to the UK with new additions to their show.

“Tonight they will perform music from their recently released and widely acclaimed album ‘Perseverantia’ – made up of instrumental sounds, a few spoken words by Danielle, throat singing by Alexander, purrs and squeaks of the hurdy-gurdy and autoharp, melancholic melodies of the violin, and bass and guitar hums.

“We will also have a first chance to hear new pieces that they are working on for their next album, comprised of recordings made in a huge cathedral in Austria, mixed with Mexican found sounds and desert drones. It will be intense.

 
Jo Quail is a visionary cellist who never ceases to push boundaries and her own limitations, with equally dramatic and contemplative compositions as well as with her use of loops and effects. Over the last seven years, her career has seen her release three full albums, a live DVD, several collaborative works, and many international tours, most recently with post-rock giants Caspian.

“Her music has captured the hearts of rock, classical, experimental, metal, post-rock, gothic and folk fans alike, and she is known for creating a unique experience with each performance.”


 

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