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October 2018 – upcoming London pop gigs – Bellatrix and Amy León; Clémentine March, Garden Party and Svetlana Smith (both 2nd October)

29 Sep

Bellatrix + Amy León, 2nd October 2018Polydisciplinary pop-charmer Belle Ehresman – better known as Bellatrix – pops up at Elektrowerx at the start of October. She’s been on the up for a couple of years now: the former leader of The Boxettes and a onetime UK beatboxing champion (as well as someone who’s chalked up a parallel musical life as a jazz double bassist), she’s recently subsumed all of these skills into a freeform pop approach.

I caught her a couple of years ago at Rich Mix, just her on her own. Citing influences from Bjork, Ravel, Nina Simone and Sun Ra, to Mingus, Fleetwood Mac and The Pharcyde, she was nothing if not eclectic. For half an hour the venue was her sketchpad as she flung out work-in-progress – a set of unclenched, openhanded musicality in which she finger-painted in assured fashion on mini-synth, loop station and double bass; unfurling songs, meditations and mouth-driven beatscapes in jazz, experimental pop and the loosest of hip hop tones; floating dreamily a little way above the earth.

Since then, Belle’s put together a band, spat out a couple of quirky EPs and stormed the big streaming services, bypassing Bandcamp and Soundcloud to go straight with the Tidals, the Deezers and the Spotifys. For all the boho trappings and the whimsicality (her first EP was called ‘Real Stuffed Owls’), there’s clearly quite a bit of faith and funding behind her. While her former freeformery has settled into more accessible attention-gripping songcraft, I’m hoping that her wholesome world will mesh enough with the demands of that level of glaring attention sharky commercial demands: dropping into one of her sessions should feel like visiting an enchanted workshop, not like chasing a YouTuber.



 
In support is New York singer, songwriter and slam-poet Amy León. Once part of the Nuyorican Slam Team, she now rolls solo: a powerful, joyous, positive-political performer with her work rooted in specific experiences (blackness, womanhood, social inequality) and fusing them all into a compulsive stew of hip-hop spoken-word and sung R&B. Amy’s subject matter’s stirred by rage and outrage, the surviving of brutality and broad sweeps of oppression. Her ethic is to overcome it (in time-honoured civil-rights-movement manner), via a celebration of love, bursting through shame and tears with defiance.

She can sing like battered, determined grass, giving with the gale; she can speak soft; she can wail with rage. Her hard-hitting grit will anchor Belle’s dextrous free-floating thistledown. It would be fascinating to see what they came up with together.

 
Bellatrix + Amy Leon
Electrowerkz, 7 Torrens Street, Islington, London, EC1V 1NQ, England
Tuesday 2nd October 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

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Clémentine March + Garden Party + Svetlana Smith, 2nd October 2018 On the same night, Friends Serene are putting on a show of their own. Headlining is former Water Babies member and current Snapped Ankles-er Clémentine March – French-born, Brazil-schooled, London-cradled. Solo, she mixes the pressing, noisy dynamic of ‘90s indie rock with the airy, summery liberation of French and Latin pop melodies. Clanging, precisely-tooled guitar parts (like little iron chandeliers) mesh gently with her sleepy Gallic coo, which in turn rises to indie-siren clarions as she rambles across three languages at will. She’s a sleepy intermittent whirlwind, variously flicking up the debris and festival decorations in Mediterranean towns, and sometimes swirling them into intent little vortices as the mood takes her.


 
In support, Garden Party are the duo of singer Yujin Jo and instrumentalist George Edmondson. They bring along bedsit-glamour trip hop sounds in a Portishead/Moloko tradition, reaching towards a skinny R&B feel. It sounds thin as tissue paper or thrift-shop bedsheets at points, and Yujin’s voice is a tiny Eartha-kitten laze. Still, Garden Party revel in the worn, recovered texture of their soundworld and – on recent track Real Tapes – sometimes reach out for something a little more ambitious; rattling their collection of instruments, oddments and samples to reach out through the radio towards a bigger world.

 
Russian-inspired “neurotic synthpop duo” Svetlana Smith complete the bill: they’ve had a debut EP out since July, which you can find on Spotify if you like. As with Bellatrix, they seem to have vaulted a promotional stage: and since I object to streaming services which rip their clients off, I avoid Spotify like the plague and have stayed pretty ignorant as to what SS sound like. However, both ‘Bittersweet Symphonies‘ and ‘From the Streets‘ caught them just under a year ago: the latter highlighted “innocent but empowering love songs, preaching about love for yourself not another, all bought together in an elegant package taped together by sickly sweet and catchy melodies” while the former reported back on something “cynical and sexy, sweet but deadly… synth-pop with bitter lyrics of heartbreak and disdain.”

That’s the way of it, I suppose: a person can show completely different faces to different people on the same occasion, and one man’s light ear candy is another’s compelling poison. At least they agreed on the initial sweet taste; while I’m left wondering whether Svetlana Smith is deliberately Janus-faced, a kind of emotional double agent or just some kind of cannily blank song-canvas. You’ll have to find out for yourself.

This is a free event, but the usual “book-your-slot-first-and-turn-up-early” business applies.

Friends Serene presents:
Clémentine March + Garden Party + Svetlana Smith
The Shacklewell Arms, 71 Shacklewell Lane, Shacklewell, London, E8 2EB, England
Tuesday 2nd October 2018, 7.30pm
– free event – information here, here and here
 

June 2018 – the first of the year’s Woodburner world-acoustica sessions at Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens – Faith Mussa and Jally Kebba Susso (5th June); Blue Lab Beats, The Dylema Collective and DemiMa (12th June); K.O.G, Bamako Overground and Eckoes (19th June); Meadowlark, Only Girl and Amy & The Calamities (26th June)

1 Jun

Adding to the long list of London things I’ve previously missed…

For five years, acoustic music promoters Woodburner have been regularly hosting a summertime session in the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. Each year they strive to “(capture) the essence of a weekend rural festival in the centre of Dalston… The phenomenal surrounds of the garden combine with delicious pizzas from David Latto, and a supreme and ever-evolving roster of acts, to create a magical atmosphere which brings people together in a friendly and welcoming space. It’s a community of music-lovers, summer-lovers and life-lovers, brought together to celebrate the warm months in a carefree and supportive atmosphere, with a compelling live soundtrack.”


 
This happens every Tuesday evening between June and September – here’s details on the June shows. All blurb is from Woodburner and the artists themselves; all inevitable judicious and finicky edits are mine. If you sometimes tire of the art-rock cubbyholes, peculiar modern classical or experimental sounds covered in here, or just find the entire damn blog too white (I feel that way sometimes myself), some of these gigs might appeal to you a little more.

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“The 5th June launch show features Malawian superstar Faith Mussa, and London-based kora master Jally Kebba Susso.

Faith Mussa is an Afro-soul singer, songwriter and guitarist, currently Malawi’s first and only “electronic one-man band” combining traditional African vibes with modern sounds. He is an energetic music performer and excellent music writer who has performed at some of the world most respected festivals, earned several awards (including the prestigious Malawi Special Achievers Award in the UK) worked with a variety of charity initiatives and is currently an ambassador for Oxfam and music writer for Girl Effect Malawi. His second album is set to be released early this year, and will contain music recorded from all over the world with some of the best talent he has collaborated with along the way.


 
“Gambian kora master Jally Kebba Susso expands on West African griot musical tradition, whether solo or with his band Manding Sabu. Jally comes from a very long line of Manding griots from the Gambia. He started playing the kora, the emblematic instrument of the griots at the age of seven, learning its delicate flowing intricacies from his father and older brothers. By the age of thirteen, Susso was touring Europe with a number of Gambian stars including Baatou Askan Wi, Maslabii and his sister Sambou Susso’s group. Over recent years Susso has been experimenting with blends of traditional griot music mixing hip hop, jazz, blues and now funk.”


 
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“The 12th June concert features London-based production duo Blue Lab Beats, love-jazz sensation The Dylema Collective and spoken word songstress DemiMa.

Blue Lab Beats is the brainchild of NK-OK and Mr D.M, who met at the WAC weekend arts club in Belsize Park and began making music in the now Infamous Blue Lab Studios. Many production rooms that produce a lot of good music historically are tiny – Motown in Detroit was one, Sun Studios was another such studio and Blue Lab boasts a shortage of space that would leave scratch marks on many an elbow. Still the music is hot – and that’s what counts. It’s the musical mishmash of Mr DM’s instrumental wizardry and a whole lotta NK-OK bottom end and programming knowhow (from a production journey which started with grime) that gives Blue Lab Beats the edge and takes it out of straight jazz format, whilst paying full respect to the art form (with influences including Mad Lib, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Knxwledge, J. Dilla, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson and A Tribe Called Quest).

Blue Lab Beats are now the engine room behind many of the freshest new acts (Age Of Luna, Ruby Francis, Louis VI) and also remixers for Jodie Abacus, Dua Lipa, Rag’n’Bone man to name a few. Their production style is raw but also sophisticated – musical but not introvert. Their recent ‘Blue Skies’ EP intro video caught the attention of ‘Dazed and Confused’ and has been clocking up views ever since. They’re currently in the process of making their own album.


 
“Sweet spoken neo-soul. Dope-ass funk. Multi-sensory killa jazz. The kinda music that makes your brain and booty dance. This is the infectious blend of groove, swag and often disarming fragility that confronts you as The Dylema Collective oozes their way through their young yet hypnotic set. Drawing on a smorgasbord of musical influences (inevitable, considering the diverse backgrounds of its members) you find Russian classicism and Nigerian Afrobeat meeting Latin-American rhythms and old-school soul, all woven into London’s contemporary jazz sound. The inspiring, empowering poetry that flows from Dylema’s lips and effortlessly between these poly-rhythms and sounds makes for an overall magnetic experience: one full of trembling crescendos, tingling intimacy and simpering sexuality.”


 

(Um… “simpering”? Anyway…)

“Demi “DemiMa” Mseleku is an Anglo-Zulu word and sound artist from south-west London – a singer, songwriter and poet – who creates soulful multi-sensorial performances to provoke conscious dialogue. Inspired by themes of identity, spirituality, social dynamics, divine femininity and Afrofuturism, DemiMa’s passion for improvisation enables her to freely channel sounds as a canvas for her poetry.She is the co-creator of A L C H E M Y (a monthly event honouring the art of word, sound, soul).


 
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“The 19th June concert features spoken word dynamo K.O.G, Afro-folk from Bamako Overground, and electronic songstress Eckoes.

“Born in Ghana, resident in Sheffield, K.O.G. (Kweku of Ghana) is a prolific writer and virtuosic performer, comfortable across a wide range of styles from house and Afrobeats to Afro-funk, dancehall and jungle, electrifying live audiences with his wildly energetic stage presence. Though known for his incredible vocal performances, K.O.G is also a talented arranger and percussionist, from balafon and djembe to his trademark dinner tray!

“As well as being the frontman for much-loved eight-piece Afro-funk outfit K.O.G & The Zongo Brigade, Kweku is the front man for the new Onipa project (with Nubiyan Twist MD Tom Excell) and is working on collaborations with Afriquoi, Congo Natty, Umoja, iZem, Jus Now and The Busy Twist. On the night, he will be joined by Tom Excell himself for a very special duo performance.


 
“Born in the inspired mind of London’s own Malian rhythm buff Hans Sutton, Bamako Overground have been busy forging a new sound. The trio are irresistibly seduced by the music of West Africa, blending its influences overtly and covertly with their own carefully-selected flavours to settle into mystical dance grooves and desert blues. Deep and soulful rhythms meet soaring melodies, while smooth three-part vocal harmonies spin allegories in Bamanakan and English to complete a brew that’s compelling and utterly unique. Hans plays his distinctive hybrid drum kit (which has previously brought Mandé styles to artists such as Nick Mulvey and Cocos Lovers), while at his flanks are the sparkling guitar of Yaaba Funk co-founder Tobias Sturmer and the hypnotic, heavy bass of folk maestro and Woodburner impresario Theo Bard.


 
“British musician Eckoes merges cutting-edge textures with soulful hooks to entice you into her sublime and unmistakeable sonic world. Possessed of a voice that will “make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up” (according to BBC Radio) she’s one of the most intriguing and emotive new outpourings to emerge from the London circuit. Naturally, tastemakers’ praise has come in thick and fast from BBC 6 Music, Clash Magazine, Q, Wonderland, BBC Introducing, Indie Shuffle, Afropunk, and the MOBO Awards amongst others. A prolific songwriter outside of her solo project, she has penned songs for many other artists, hitting #13 in the UK Club Charts last summer with Deeper (a track she co wrote and featured on, produced by Le Visiteur). At the helm of her project she stands, a six-foot statuesque weaver of hypnotic sounds taking the industry by storm.


 
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“The 26th June show features “viral songwriters” Meadowlark, rising star Only Girl, and blues champions Amy & The Calamities.

“Delicate, emotional, yet current and powerful songs, delivered beautifully from the minds of two extraordinary musicians, Meadowlark are nothing short of incredible. Their debut single ‘Eyes Wide’ in 2015 was added to BBC Radio 1’s Introducing playlist, XFM’s evening playlist and featured on Hype Machine’s Top 20. This led to sessions on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio 2 show, playing Glastonbury’s Introducing stage as well as the Alt Escape, the MAMA festival in Paris, and Dot to Dot. The song also appeared on episodes of ‘Vampire Diaries’ and ‘Made in Chelsea’.

“In 2016 Meadowlark were embraced into the UK touring circuit to support the release of their second EP ‘Paraffin’ and the incredibly well received most recent single Headlights. Their summer Bushstock performance in 2016 received a glowing review from ‘Popped Music’ who said “their vocals never ever miss a note and you could hear a pin drop.” The band’s debut album was released this year through Believe Records and their recent tour across the UK sold incredibly well, with sellouts in Bristol and London.


 
Only Girl is the pseudonym of Ellen Murphy, a soulful young artist emerging from the DIY music scene of south-east London. To date she has released several independent singles, gaining widespread support across BBC Introducing, Spotify, BBC Radio 1 and 2, BBC6 Music and online tastemakers including ‘The Fader’, ‘Notion’, ‘Clash’, ‘Mahogany’ and Red Bull Music.
The past eighteen months have seen her feature on releases with Zero 7, Kultur, Kitty Cash’s ‘Love The Free’ mixtape, her debut performance on UK TV on ‘The Nightly Show’ (ITV), and playing sold-out headline shows in London at the Courtyard Theatre and The Borderline.

“Her debut EP ‘Bittersweet’ (produced by long term collaborator Henry Binns of Zero 7) was released in early April – a swirl of soulful R&B harmonies with heart-aching lyrics set over a warm bed of rich organ sounds and bassy beats. She’s currently working on new music for release later on in the year.



 
Amy & The Calamities is the vehicle for Amy Wawn, a musician and singer-songwriter from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. As a solo performer, Amy’s style ranges from lively foot-stomping folk rhythms to the dirty-delicious sounds of delta blues on the slide guitar, accompanied by a dark, brooding vocal range, lilting melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Amy studied piano from a young age, and began learning guitar and violin in her teens. After being accepted to the University of Cape Town for a music degree, she decided to take a break from classical training and instead studied a degree in languages and translation whilst focusing more on the guitar and songwriting. She began performing in her hometown of Bulawayo after a brief stint of travelling on her own and working her way around Europe in 2014.

“Over the last three years, Amy has performed at several major festivals and events around Zimbabwe and is now living and performing full time as a solo artist in Camden Town, London. She released her debut EP ‘The Suspects’ in February 2018, in collaboration with exquisitely talented violinist, Georgina Leach.”


 
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All events are at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, 13 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England. Dates below:

  • Faith Mussa + Jally Kebba Susso, Tuesday 5th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Blue Lab Beats + The Dylema Collective + DemiMa, Tuesday 12th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • K.O.G + Bamako Overground + Eckoes, Tuesday 19th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Meadowlark + Only Girl + Amy Wawn, Tuesday 26th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here

 

May 2018 – the start of the Daylight Music summer season in London – Green Seagull, respectfulchild and Twenty-Three Hanging Trees (12th May); Firestations, Seán Mac Erlaine and Hatchie (19th May); Vesperados, Guastalla Quartet and Marcus Corbett (26th May)

7 May

Although they were a ‘Misfit City’ mainstay for a number of years, it’s been a while since I’ve put up any previews for Daylight Music‘s free Saturday noontime concerts at the Union Chapel. Blame this on the slapdashery that passes for “method”, back here at ‘Misfit City’ HQ; blame concentration or distraction by other things, but for goodness’ sake don’t blame Daylight Music themselves.

I suppose that it might be possible for a regular attender to sometimes feel as if you’ve had enough of Daylight’s particular cosiness – that warm wooly-sweatered whimsicality, the cake stall, or the feeling that you might just crack if you see another community choir singing alt.pop cover versions. But ultimately it’s churlish to take swipes at them for the side trappings when what really counts is the musing intelligence and the well-honed curatorial instincts underneath the family-friendly fuzz. In the end, there are precious few regular gigs in London that can match Daylight for unassuming stealth education: few that will host a baroque quartet alongside rustling sampledelia, set guileless acoustica off against arch indie, season your ears with sudden rushes of Baltic sound or pipe organ interludes; introduce you to musicians and songwriters who leave you astonished and blinking about the fact that you’ve never heard of them before; and all the while balancing the kiddie-friendly with the uncompromising and actually pulling it off. There are few gigs that are just so plain generous.

So, without more ado, here’s a quick signal-boost for the first few gigs of their imminent summer season…

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Daylight Music 280: Green Seagull + respectfulchild + Twenty-Three Hanging Trees, 12th May 2018

“The 12th May show features Green Seagull, respectfulchild and Twenty Three Hanging Trees. Green Seagull are the latest band to burst out of London’s burgeoning neo-psych scene. Their harmony-laden baroque/freakbeat sound draws upon influences such as the Left Banke, the Kinks and the Association. respectfulchild is the solo instrumental project of Gan from Saskatoon on Treaty 6 Territory. Their music is electronic in nature while being acoustically created, building experimental ambient soundscapes through slow progressions of meticulous improvisation. Their sound has been likened to Brian Eno, Nils Frahm and Owen Pallett.



 
Twenty Three Hanging Trees is the meditative modular synth exploration project of Xavier Watkins (Fuzzy Lights/Violet Woods/Red Red Eyes.) The project’s progression from hazy guitar drones to electronic-based explorations with dusty, contemplative tonalities has been a transformative one. Learning to express himself with synthesis was like learning a new language, each step having to be carefully planned and executed so as to maintain the fragile equilibrium created. While 2016’s ‘Nocturne’, released on the Sacred Tapes label, had a contemplative, embryonic stillness, 2017’s ‘Prémonitions’ has a deeper, more emotional heart, tempered by subtle rhythmic buzzing, shimmering oceanic drones and solemn arcs of melody.

 
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Daylight Music 281: Firestations + Seán Mac Erlaine + Hatchie, 19th May 2018

“The 19th May show features Firestations, Seán Mac Erlaine and Hatchie. Firestations are an alt-pop band who write simple songs then paint over them with drones, vocal harmonies, electronica and unusual rhythms. Their second album ‘The Year Dot’ has recently released by Lost Map Records. Séan MacErlaine is a Dublin-based woodwind instrumentalist, composer and music producer, recognised as one of Ireland’s most forward-thinking creative musicians. His work intersects folk, free improvisation, jazz and traditional music.



 
Hatchie is the world of Harriette Pilbeam. To hear her music is to step inside her mind; a dreamy landscape where cascading synths, jangling guitars, propulsive rhythms and white noise undulate beneath undeniable and irresistible pop melodies. This will be a special acoustic set.


 
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Daylight Music 282: Vesperados + Guastalla Quartet + Marcus Corbett

“The 26th May show features Vesperados, Guastalla Quartet and Marcus Corbett. Award-winning composer and jazz musician James Brady first formed Vesperados in 2011, bringing together musicians to explore African, Caribbean and Latin American influences in jazz through original music. Formed in 2013, The Guastalla Quartet brings together musicians from the finest conservatoires in Europe to form a chamber music group dedicated to the exploration of the string quartet repertoire from its roots to as yet unwritten works. Between them, they have performed at world-famous venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Wigmore Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin, Katara Opera House and the National Concert Hall of Taiwan.



 
“The Guastalla Quartet will also join Vesperados for an octet set during their performance: the use of strings will allow the full expression of rich jazz harmony alongside the rhythmic engine of Vesperados’ Latin-infused grooves.

“Completing the lineup, Marcus Corbett is a singer, acoustic guitarist and composer based between the UK and Pune, Maharashtra, India. He has been studying Indian classical music and working with musicians in India for over 10 years, skillfully combining the worlds of Indian classical and British folk music and producing a string of albums. He will perform with one of his key Indian collaborators, Tabla maestro Nitin Gaikwad.”


 
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As ever, all gigs are at Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England and are free, though it’s good form to donate a fiver on the way in or out. Dates below:

  • Daylight Music 280: Green Seagull, respectfulchild + Twenty-Three Hanging Trees, Saturday 12th May 2018, 12:00pminformation
  • Daylight Music 281: Firestations, Seán Mac Erlaine + Hatchie, Saturday 19th May 2018, 12:00pminformation
  • Daylight Music 282: Vesperados, Guastalla Quartet + Marcus Corbett, Saturday 26th May 2018, 12:00pminformation

March 2018 – upcoming London gigs of various kinds – folk-jazz and loop-tinted songcraft from Gabriela Eva and Yasmyn Hendrix (20th March); post-blues and wakeful dream-pop from Cavey and Moon Panda (26th March)

16 Mar

Woodburner presents:
Gabriela Eva + Yasmyn Hendrix
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Tuesday 20th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here


 
On video, Gabriela Eva is a colourful explosion of appropriated and deftly spun images. In many respects she’s a tourist, but the kind who pulls off her acquisitive magpie business to perfection – a keen eye for the fabric she can repurpose, the hairstyle she can adapt, the body-paint or tattoo that can be repositioned. A globetrotter and a photographer’s darling even before she dropped her debut EP last month, she’s a natural at the subtly chameleonic star act; the dance of other people’s veils illuminated, assimilated and penetrated by her own charisma.

Gabriela Eva + Yazmyn Hendrix, 20th March 2018I’m hoping that this translates well to the stage once Gabriela’s tucked under the stairs at Servant Jazz Quarters – belatedly launching that selfsame EP, trapped behind her guitar without access to the self-edit suite, the quick-change boudoir screen and the magical boxes for makeup and jewels. That’s when it’ll either all fall apart or show its core roots. She doesn’t lack courage: previously part of Colchester duo Passive Passengers, she’s busked alone, braved the stage at Ronnie Scott’s and she’s certainly thrown her meme-anchors down (while “future organic” could mean bloody anything from cottage-industry world-changers to rich hippies with busy self-aggrandising Snapchat accounts, “driven, dyslexic, dreadlocked” is as good a packed’n’loaded personal tag as I’ve heard recently).

As for the music, there’s skipping rhythmic and harmonic footwork from jazz, some rhythmic echoes from hip hop, some party looseness from the breezier end of soul and R&B. You can trace your fingers through Gabriela’s songs and tease out strands from clear forebears – Erykah Badu, Astrid Gilberto, Van Morrison, Minnie Riperton (for her part, she claims Nina Simone, Little Dragon, Alanis Morrisette and Incubus) – yet her prime musical descent (probably through accidental parallels) seems to be Eva Abraham, the acoustic London jazzfolksoul luminary who, despite having boiled up cauldron after cauldron of superb transfigured rootsiness for twenty years now, seems doomed to remain a perpetual (though beloved) secret.

Setting aside the quick visual fix of a memorable video, though, that’s not a bad place to be, musically. Close your eyes and you’re still left with Gabriela’s rolling carpet of songcraft: just picking three, there’s her conversational, hip-hop storytelling cover of Estelle and Kanye’s American Boy, the airborne soul-jazz of Sailing Over The City and the twinkling Rise Up (heading that first EP – a light-touch groove salute to advance-and-reclaim, flickering through a clutch of delicate psychedelic changes and nodding to the short-lived but renewable hopes of the Arab spring).




 
In support is Yazmyn Hendrix, whom I last saw four-and-a-half years ago providing guest-vocal accompaniment to What?! (a long-dispersed jazz-rock trio). Nowaday’s she’s still most visible for further collaborations (with Euro-soul act Retrospective For Love and with jazz-rapper Mrisi) plus a smattering of Soundcloud cover versions (including Laura Mvula’s Green Gardens, John Legend’s All Of Me, Adele’s Chasing Pavements and Massive Attack’s Teardrop). By herself – armed with a microphone, a loop station, and assorted live percussion and beatboxing – she creates layered a capella choirs and vocal ensembles out of herself: either simple classic sounding pop songs, the cover versions mentioned above, or assorted vocalese experiments.


 
So far there’s not much direct evidence of the harnessed synaesthesia which Yazmyn claims shapes her music-making (and which means that she “associates each song, each word and each instrument with colours and textures”). Let’s assume that the full breakthrough in that direction is still working its way through development and caution, and that one day she’ll be giving us her own ear-boggling parallel to ‘Medúlla’ or ‘Starsailor’ or Todd Rundgren’s ‘A Capella’. Given her tunes-over-weirdness tastes, I’m guessing that we can rule out a head-to-head with Mike Patton in more tangled territory. For now, she stands as a capable one-woman Manhattan Transfer (or a sleepier, slowed-paced Grace McLean) for contemporary pop songs; and that’ll do in the short run.



 
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Cavey + Moon Panda, 26th March 2018

Decave Discovers presents:
Cavey + Moon Panda
The Waiting Room, 175 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoek Newington, London, N16 0LH, England
Monday 26th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Young post-blues singer-guitarist Luke Cave – a.k.a. Cavey – is already known as half of stoner-fuzz rock duo Rad Frü. He’s already engaging in some solo wing-stretching, parking the Zep-happy Rad in favour of collaborating with Blaenavon bassist/producer Frank Wright, laying down songs with junior Wrecking Crews full of heavy-duty young session dudes. Not far out of his teens, it’s as if he’s trying to echo Robert Plant’s career development, while simultaneously crushing it down from fifty years to a mere decade.

Perhaps that’s a bit glib of me, as well as overstating the classic rock thing. Similarly, I’m not sure if he’s the same Luke Cave as the one who sprang (literally) from Nick Cave’s loins back in 1991, but even if he is, there’s not much trace of Cave the Elder here. Cavey himself cites Jim O’Rourke, T-Bone Walker, Hamilton Leithauser and Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen as influences; and in his light-touch songs I can also hear a dash of Gomez. Here’s a live performance of his recent Living Room Parade single, plus the studio take of its predecessor Day And Night.



 
Born in Boston but currently London-based (and sporting members coming in from Denmark, Sweden and Scotland), dream pop band Moon Panda will inevitably always ring Californian, not least because of the sheer sun-kissed San Diegan beauty of frontwoman Maddy Myers. A blonde, delicately-freckled photographer’s dream on honeyslide vocals and soft dots of bass guitar, she probably finds this kind of objectivifying attention a damn nuisance. For one thing, it distracts from the thoughtful, intricate details of the songs she writes: just as there was always more to Stevie Nicks than posturing and chiffon, there’s more to Maddy than blank-canvas prettiness or swoony lashes.

Let’s be honest – most dream pop bands think it’s enough to deliver blank blocks of navel-gazing noise and dirty snowplough billows: retrodden, remasticated sub-Lushness. Moon Panda don’t. Their songs are constantly, carefully changing beasts: encapsulated within their yearning melodies and taffy-stretched hooks, they have finely honed choral a capella parts, strange and revelatory key changes, sudden pauses and unorthodox shifts of time and dynamic. As with Gustav Moltke’s carefully-placed, only-there-when-you-need-them tidal smooshes of guitar, Maddy’s keen awareness of structure – of spectral drama, of just how softly and subtly you can make a jump-cut work – has a tendency to shatter the mood from within with a hard-hook shift in rhythm and intensity.



 
The lyrics too, eschew the cough-syrup blankness and drunken, dissolved sensual dazes of the genre; in effect, avoiding its copouts. Instead, Moon Panda are dream pop on the verge of waking up, or of piecing together the dreamwork. Shades of vulnerability, disquiet and suspicion run through these words: I’m still processing them, in the way that one works over the puzzling gristle of a dream, but I’m suspecting that these are songs for the gaslit, the fearful, the unwittingly immured: that they’re the etchings of the beginnings of an escape kit. Their videos, too, have an awareness to them – the disassociative motion, fall and sleep-roll of severed doll parts, ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Todd Haynes’ ‘Superstar’ and its Barbie-puppet retelling of the Karen Carpenter story; the road trip photography with its trapped, continuous-loop feel; Maddy’s own blank-faced ballet moves in which limbs stretch or a back twitches into restless determination.

It’s a shame that ‘Twin Peaks’ appears to be over and done now, and that Moon Panda are a year or two behind its production curve. In some respects they’d have made an ideal Roadhouse band. On the other hand, perhaps I’ve missed the point. Perhaps they wouldn’t have fitted the bill: not quite suited to the seamless and ominous cool, nor enigmatic enough for us to project our hungers, our apprehensions and confusions onto. From here, Moon Panda seem more like a measured curious hand rippling the waters or testing the surface of the mirror, fingertips uncovering and assessing what would otherwise been smoothed away. A band and a songwriter to keep a woken eye on, I think.
 

November 2017 – London and Birmingham instrumental giggery – Kabantu at 1901 Club (16th); Alex Roth double bill playing with Future Current and scoring Kasia Witek’s ‘One Wall of Me’ for Olie Brice & Ruth Goller (17th); Steve Lawson with Bryan Corbett at Tower of Song (19th)

9 Nov

A quick sweep through three diverse mid-month gigs in London and Birmingham, covering duets of loop-bass and trumpet, some global acoustic fusion, and a double-bill of experimental guitar trio plus double-bass-accompanied dance piece…

* * * * * * * *

Kabantu, 16th November 2017

Hattori Foundation presents:
Hattori Foundation Rush-Hour Recital: Kabantu
1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Thursday 16th November 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“Reinventing global sounds, rewriting the rulebook – winners of the Royal Over-Seas League Competition 2017, Kabantu (meaning “of the people”), is a five-piece hailing from Manchester who unravel new marriages of music from around the globe to celebrate the space where different cultures meet. Formed in 2014 at the Royal Northern College of Music and combining the virtuosity of classical training with the opportunity to explore music from around the world, Kabantu musically reflect their interest in global cultures, arrangement and improvisation.

“The instrumentation comprises violin (Katie Foster), cello (Abel Selaocoe), guitar (Ben Sayah), double bass (Ali McMath) and percussion (Delia Stevens). Vocal harmonies from South Africa coalesce with everything from Celtic reels and Brazilian samba to Balkan folk music and beyond. Kabantu use music to bridge countries and cultures, creating an exuberant and joyful sound. They have just recorded their debut album with Mercury-nominated producer Gerry Diver and very much look forward to releasing it alongside a UK-wide launch tour in February 2018.

“The programme will include Scotland/Good Call (a set of two tunes, one penned by the group’s Edinburgh-born violinist Katie Foster and one traditional, fused with Kabantu’s take on Scottish music, including bowed banjo woven with intricate rhythmic decoration) and Ulidzele (a traditional song brought to Kabantu by their South African cellist Abel Selaocoe, using a blend of African vocal harmonies preceded by vibrant chanting and percussion to tell the story of a funeral celebrating a life, rather than mourning it.”



 
* * * * * * * *

London Jazz Festival presents:
Kasia Witek’s ‘One Wall of Me’ (featuring Olie Brice & Ruth Goller playing music by Alex Roth) + Future Currents
Jazz Cafe POSK @ POSK (Polish Social & Cultural Association), 238-246 King Street, Hammersmith, London, W6 0RF, England
Friday 17th November 2017, 7.30pm
information

Kasia Witek/Future Currents, 17th November 2017“Conceived specifically for a new company of three dancers and two musicians, Kasia Witek‘s new performance piece ‘One Wall of Me’ investigates and celebrates the intelligence of the body. Through the practice of embodied awareness, the performers awaken a sense of belonging, togetherness, and joy. Watch and listen as the meditation on endless interconnectivity unfolds before you.

“An original score by award-winning composer/improviser Alex Roth, drawing on the deep sonorities and physicality of double bass (played live by renowned improvisers and “double double bass team” Olie Brice and Ruth Goller), provides an integral counterpoint to Kasia’s highly physical choreography, danced by Elisa Vassena, Stella Papi and Tora Hed.

Future Currents is an electric guitar ensemble formed by Alex Roth to explore the full range of the instrument’s sonic potential. Bringing together three of the UK’s most acclaimed improvising guitarists, (Alex, Chris Montague and Chris Sharkey, who between them are members of Troyka, Sephiroth, trioVD, Otriad and Blue-Eyed Hawk), the group creates new music of extremes, informed as much by composers like Morton Feldman, Frank Zappa, Olivier Messiaen and Richard D James as by pioneering guitarists such as Fred Frith, Robert Fripp, Marc Ducret and Bill Frisell.”


 

* * * * * * * *

Steve Lawson & Brian Corbett, 19th November 2017

Steve Lawson with Bryan Corbett
Tower of Song, 107 Pershore Road South, Kings Norton, Birmingham B30 3EL, England
Sunday 19th November 2017, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Back at Tower Of Song in Birmingham, bass guitarist, loop musician and ToS/’Misfit City’ regular Steve Lawson embarks on a launch gig for his latest album ‘PS, You Are Brilliant’.

The sunny title may seem to counterpoint Steve’s recent set of more sombre-toned releases such as ‘If They Had Won’ and ‘Referendum’, mourning the enmity, deprival and confusion of Brexit and the austerity age (as well as providing a restful break before he reimmerses himself in the polemical communitarian thrash/protest metal of Torycore later in the month). However, it seems that the music is more of an extension of the work on his last full album ‘The Surrender Of Time’ (“dark, dissonant layers of sound coupled with glitchy, wonky hip-hop beats and odd time-signature chance-based loops that bring an even more complex set of relationships between the various layers at work”).

The title itself is a quote from and tribute to the late arts producer Roanne Dods (of the Jerwood Foundation and Small Is Beautiful) whom Steve describes as “one of the most relentlessly encouraging people I’ve ever come across… she brought a sense of possibility to every conversation, and alongside that was so, so good at actually making things happen, at organising and pulling together teams to make sure that those ideas, that impetus and all that amazing encouragement came to fruition. I think about her pretty much every day, as I do things that she encouraged me to do, as I reach to be the best that I can be in every area of my life, and pass on that encouragement to others.”

Joining Steve at Tower of Song is “one of my most favourite collaborators ever as special guest – Bryan Corbett on trumpet. Bryan is one of the most brilliant improvisors I’ve ever worked with – he has an otherworldly ability to arrange and orchestrate his sounds on the fly, using subtle effects and exemplary technique to lift everything he plays on to a higher level. It’s been way too long since we last played together, and this will be our first ever duo gig.”

The eticket deal includes a free download of If They Had Won (one of the tracks from ‘PS, You Are Brilliant’). Have an advance listen to it here…


 

October 2017 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Howard Skempton at 70 (13th October), Rarescale’s New Baroque (14th October)

5 Oct

A couple of quick referred notifications of a pair of upcoming gigs on the classical/experimental cusp – just the blurb…

* * * * * * * *

Howard Skempton @ 70, 13th October 2017

Club Inégales presents:
Howard Skempton at 70
Hall Two @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Friday 13th October 2017, 10.00pm
– information here and here

“Club Inégales’s live club nights in Euston create the unexpected chemistry that enables the special to happen as brings in the best in new and spontaneous performance. Its house ensemble Notes Inégales was created by two innovators in British music (Peter Wiegold and David Purser) and features some of the finest players in the country, dedicated to improvisation as well as other contemporary repertoire. Peter has been a pioneer of bringing together composition and improvisation, working directly with musicians in the creation of new work.

“Vocalist, accordionist and composer Howard Skempton has made two delightful visits to Club Inégales, performing his solo accordion pieces and singing and playing with the ensemble. In this special concert at Kings Place, Howard will be joining Notes Inégales to improvise and perform new arrangements of pieces including ‘In Cuba They Play With Maracas’, ‘Chorale Inégales’, Show Me The Limelight’, ‘Trapeze’ and a seventieth birthday tribute to American composer Christian Wolff, entitled ‘Forget the Minuet’.”

* * * * * * * *

rarescale's 'New Baroque', 14th October 2017

rarescale presents:
New Baroque (with Carla Rees & Michael Oliva)
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 14th October 2017, 8.00pm
– information here and here

“The first in a series of concerts combining new and old repertoire for baroque flute, ‘New Baroque’ explores how a historical instrument can be used in modern times through a series of collaborations with imaginative contemporary creators. In this eclectic programme, hear new works for baroque flute solo and with electronics by a range of living composers interspersed with music from the baroque era.

“The performers are rarescale regulars Carla Rees and Michael Oliva. A British-based low flutes player and arranger, Carla is the artistic director of rarescale and runs low-flutes publishing company Tetractys, working frequently in collaboration with composers to develop new repertoire and techniques. Originally trained as a biochemist, Michael is rarescale’s composer-in-residence: an electronic musician, with a fondness for woodwind he lectures in and teaches electroacoustic music and music technology at the Royal College of Music and Imperial College. In addition, he runs and premieres multimedia opera work with madestrange opera, a company dedicated to producing new forms of the genre for modern audiences. Recent works include a requiem commissioned by the choir Mosaic (2010) and a new full length opera, ‘Singularity’ (2015).”

The programme is still to be confirmed, but here’s a double taste of what’s likely to be involved:

&nsbp;

November 2016 – upcoming London jazz gigs (28th) – Alexander Hawkins-Elaine Mitchener Quartet, Michael Janisch and The James Beckwith Trio at the Cockpit; Ping Machine Quartet at the Sitara

26 Nov

Two London jazz-hops for Monday…

* * * * * * * *

Cockpit Productions present:
Jazz In The Round: Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quartet + Michael Janisch + The James Beckwith Trio
The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, Lisson Grove, London, NW8 8EH, England
Monday 28th November 2016, 7.00pm
information

According to their own description, the Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quartet work with “repertoire (which)“fuses Mitchener’s unique way with both melody and abstraction, with Hawkins’ idiosyncratic compositional and pianistic world; as well as spotlighting re-imaginings of a small number of non-original songs which reveal the influence of precursors such as Jeanne Lee and Linda Sharrock.” The project’s still young enough not to have spawned either recordings or video clips, so you’ll have to imagine it from the existing pedigree of its players and movers.

Pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins (a onetime renegade lawyer and youthful church organist who evolved into a jazz keyboard explorer of rare brilliance) has already made marks as a noted collaborator with Louis Moholo, Shabaka Hutchings and plenty of others, plus previous leader/co-leader work with Convergence Quartet, Hammond organ funk-improv trio Decoy and his own de-/free-constructive Trio and Ensemble. He’s been hailed as an exceptional talent within his generation.


 
Vocalist Elaine Mitchener, though she’s been following a decidedly more outre path, is also exceptional: twisting and fusing (or placing in parallel) vocal approaches from jazz, gospel, sound poetry, free improvisations and contemporary classical, and where possible blending it with performance aspects of movement theatre. A collaborator with the likes of Phil Minton and Evan Parker (music), Deborah Warner (theatre) and Christian Marclay (both and neither), she’s as happy with pre-linguistic gabble and the esoteric libretti of David Toop operas as she is with a standard. At least as likely to be found performing in a gallery space as in a jazz club, she’s one of Britain’s most daring singers; balanced conceptually (though not necessarily tonally) between Lauren Newton, Abbey Lincoln, Dagmar Krause and the latterday Scott Walker (as well as the aforementioned avant-jazz vocal trailblazers Lee and Sharrock), but carving out a highly individual expressive space of her own. Below is just one example of what she does.


 
The quartet is completed by double bass player Neil Charles (from Alexander’s existing Trio) and by drummer Steve Davis, who appear to be considerably more than sidemen: “structurally, the group function as complete equals, veering radically from the traditional norm of ‘singer plus rhythm section’, instead treating this as only one possible dynamic amongst many.”

Reknowned émigré-American bass player Michael Janisch (once of TransAtlantic Collective, more recently a member of City of Poets, leader of Paradigm Shift and prime mover of both Whirlwind Recordings and the Whirlwind Festival) is playing a solo set as the middle act. Outside of master classes, this is an unusual scenario for Michael: he’s generally to be found at the hearts of ensembles, pushing them on with inspired work whether on double bass or electric bass guitar. There’s no details on which of these he’s using this time (it might be both).

As opener, pianist James Beckwith brings the trio of himself, rising jazz-pop drummer Harry Pope and bass guitarist Joe Downard (a protégé of the great Herbie Flowers, now one of London’s busiest cross-disciplinary bass players in jazz, blues, country, soul and hip hop). Together they present a London spin on “New York contemporary jazz harmonies, the piano trio lineage, Middle Eastern and Asian folk, to mould strong rhythmic tunes delivered with driving energy”, working from fragmented syncopation to tight funky knots.


 

* * * * * * * *

Ping Machine Quartet, 28th November 2016Some time ago, I was bemoaning the loss of Archway scratch-deli Forks & Corks (an up-and-coming London jazz venue) to buildings works and gentrification. While I’ve been grumbling, Archway local (and cheerily formidable double bass hero) Jonny Gee, who had some responsibility for the music there) has picked himself up undaunted, and moved proceedings a minute or so’s walk south to the Sitara restaurant. There he’s continued to build plans for an Archway jazz scene with an unfolding series of surprising blink-and-you’ll-miss-them meal-plus-music gigs, of which this is the latest.

Jonny Gee presents:
Ping Machine Quartet
The Sitara, 784 Holloway Road, Archway, London, N19 3JH, England
Monday 28th November 2016, 6.00pm
information

There’s not too much information on this one besides from the words “improv, bebop, jazz” tossed onto the poster like hasty clip-art, so (as with the Hawkins/Mitchener Quartet) you’ll just have to go by the reputations of the people in the band. Nothing to do with the similarly-named polystylistic French ensemble, they’re a more recent alliance of Jonny, Orphy Robinson and two other impressive London musicians.

Jonny’s sideman and MD work for King Salsa, Antonio Forcione, Ravi Shankar and Cleo Laine only scratches the surfaces of a thrillingly animated career on bass, which has stretched from jazz to Latin dance to baroque classical and back again in a ongoing arc of possibilities. Orphy, meanwhile, is a beloved veteran of the ‘90s British jazz boom. Once a Jazz Warrior, subsequently a Blue Note-signed vibraphonist, he’s now firmly fixed at jazz statesman status thanks to diverse work within education and curation as well as his host of ongoing projects as a player (including Nubian Vibes, Bruise, Codefive, Clear Frame and his Black Top duo with pianist Pat Thomas).

Regarding the remaining half of the quartet – drummer Andrea Trillo has played with both Herbie Hancock and Jerry Dammers, as well as with Dave O’Higgins, Jon Toussaint, Simon Purcell and Tim Richards. Long steeped in jazz and Latin music, Shanti Paul Jayasinha’s played trumpet for Brand New Heavies, Jason Yarde, Tim Garland and Buena Vista Social Club as well as leading his own ShantiJazzWorld ensemble. He also plays flugelhorn and, for this gig, might be toting the Slumpet (his custom valve/slide trumpet). In case he doesn’t, this is what it sounds like.


 

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