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April/May 2019 – upcoming English gigs – soul, folk, hip hop, poetry, glimmer pop and more on Lilith Ai’s Bare Radical tour through Cambridge, Bradford, Nottingham, Bristol, Reading and London (9th/14th/19th April, 1st/3rd/9th May) with her assorted support club of singer-songwriters, performance poets, folksters and dream/garage rockers

8 Apr

If you just took Lilith Ai at her word as being the possessor of a “pretty mouth and a dirty tongue”, and you’d also heard that she rapped, you’d be expecting a London version of Nikki Minaj.


 
Not the case. A more accurate parallel would be a latterday Joan Armatrading, or perhaps a lower-key Lauryn Hill; Lilith’s an accomplished and intimate singer-songwriter drawing subtly on folk, soul, hip-hop and R&B and pulling them onwards. Comparisons will only get you so far, though, since Lilith bypasses Armatrading’s discreet ’70s reticence and instead owns a lippier and punkier streak; and although she shares Hill’s love of a street beat, a bent note and a woke stance, she lacks the latter’s self-righteous, self-sabotaging chippiness. Dirty tongue claims notwithstanding, she’s also less of an out’n’out cusser than she might suggest. The occasion f-bomb strike is part of the no-nonsense, “you-can-stop-right-there-boy” feminism which provides the steely core to what she does: offset by the engaging warmth of an artist who is as much interested in people as in stances.

The British music biz isn’t always kind to talented black girls with guitars – Joan might have done OK, but whatever happened to Peppercorn? – but Lilith isn’t the sort to be eaten alive. Untangling her past provides some interesting complexities and clashes. There’s some fine material for legend-building here – her mingled Afro, Chinese and Indian ancestry, and the fact that she spent part of her early twenties sleeping rough and near-penniless in both Tottenham and Queens (at one point in a wrecked car, later towed away in a scenario that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Tom Waits song). Set against that is her additional background as a music school grad who can hang with and work alongside a surprising breadth of allies, from fearsome bluespunknoise grrlforce Skinny Girl Diet to rising fashion aristocracy in the shape of Georgia May Jagger.



 
The key to understanding how this all fits together is in how Lilith structures her approach to art and community. With artistic roots in comic-writing geekery, she’s always had a strong sense of mood and detail. Later along the line, as a developing songwriter, she’s allied it to a fervent desire to create a mostly female (and queer-friendly) movement which rejects counterproductive competitive bitchery in favour of an ethic of sympathy and mutual support, stepping up to political solidarity. All of this also needs to be seen through the arty barrier-trashing lens of punk spirit, which explains her Fight Like A Girl crew. A loosely-defined friendship-in-art arrangement, F.L.A.G. is a feminist/LGBT+ art/music collective inspired equally by late ’70s summers of Britpunk, by the political ferment of ’90s Olympia and by latterday movements like #TimesUp. It involves zinework, recording and enthusiastic intimate gigs in makeshift scratch locations, all within a fearless female atmosphere allied to a sense that rigid genre (and rigid gender) boundaries are less important than constructive intent and political engagement.

While Lilith’s upcoming Bare Radical mini-tour isn’t explicitly a Fight Like A Girl event, it bears all of the hallmarks. It’s packed with other female artists (plus assorted sympathetic male players and a hefty proportion of non-binary artists) and takes place in a dissimilar scatter of formal venues and found spaces in bookshops, community centres, cafes and co-operatives up and down England. Lilith will also be laying off on her beats and concentrating on the acoustic/unplugged side of things as she performs and promotes her new ‘Bare Radical’ EP. She’s still budding, still climbing, poised on the lip of the excellence her early work promised. Now is a perfect time to join the event, while she’s still in venues close enough to share breath.



 
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Along for most of the dates is the delightfully energised craft-popper Myles McCabe (generally best known as guitarist for London pop punkers Fresh), who’s playing at Cambridge, Bradford and Nottingham with his Me Rex project. On the surface Myles has got a pretty high tweeness count. All of his Rex albums and EPs are named after prehistoric creatures from mammoths to stegosauri, most of his pet sounds are cheap ones (synth parps, guitar clunks, snatches of bedroom rave, a little piano), and his voice is sweetly vulnerable, bending under a little rhotacistic twist and folding like paper on the high notes.

On the other hand, there’s a blazing articulate passion to what he does, his songs volcanoing out of an initial small hotspot and expanding into broadening emotional tapestries in which simple ideas link inexorably to others like agitated mercury blobs, layering into a gorgeous pop outburst. He describes himself as “kind of like a cross between Art Brut and Kraftwerk. That started off as a pun about arts & crafts but then I really liked the way it sounded.” It’s a good gag, but self-deflating indie jokes aren’t really what he’s about.


 
At Cambridge, a couple of singer-songwriters are hoppping on board. There’s local girl Helen Robertson, an enthusiastic music homecrafter and constant collaborator who (although she seems to have been a bit quiet recently) released a twelve-month sprint of EPs across 2014. Hers is an unfussy, chameleonic, DIY hobby-table approach which embraces strummy-or-noisy kitchen-sink indie, blobby instrumental synth pop, pub gig comedy, and various overdubbed a cappella work from solo folk-pop chorales to patter songs. There’s also Sophie Foster, the self-professed teenaged “lever harp megababe” who usually lurks behind the name of The Sunday School. To be honest, I’m baffled about her: this brief appearance on YouTube and the couple of Soundcloud demos below suggests that rather than harping she blip-pongs away on a little keyboard and murmurs reflections on uncertainties and diary notes; while other Soundcloudings suggest a lo-fi guitar trudger, and there’s something else on Spotify which I don’t know about thanks to my still holding out on the platform. Her Twitter presence suggests someone fierce and grrly behind the whispering.

I’m guessing that Sophie’s someone whom you have to discover and to follow live for quite a while, picking up scraplings before you get the full story. As for Helen, attempting to pick a key track seems to be a waste of time, so I’m just throwing three together at random here.

 
It’s the same at Bradford, where self-propelled onetime busker-for-a-bet Liam Jarvis joins the bill, alongside gently punk-oustic Leeds folkie Sarah Carey (whose music is divided between disaffected urban acoustica and committed folk baroque instrumentals, groping between them for a doorway to somewhere better). I’ve got nothing for Liam, but here’s Sarah:


 
In Nottingham, Lilith’s supported by both Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something and Matt Abbott. Once the guitarist for heavy dream-rockers Landshapes, Jenna now offers up sardonic psychedelic glam-rocking with a band featuring Furniture/Transglobal Underground drummer Hamilton Lee, moonlighting producer/bassist Mark Estall, and Krupa on synth and backing vocals. Wakefield wordsmith Matt runs the spoken word label Nymphs & Thugs and both writes and performs poetry for kids and adults replete with “socio-political commentary, human struggle and kitchen sink realism” (plus, for the kids “playful rebellion (and the) challenging (of) societal stereotypes”).




 
Matt and Me Rex both resurface for the London date, which also features a pair of junior traditioneers in the shape of “teenage lo-fi soul singer” Charlie Mburaki (who sang with Lilith on the latter’s recent Warrior Queen) and drawling junior-Dylan-esque folk rocker Oliver Rodzianko

 
There are more fierce, plangent words at the Bristol gig. It’s a free event in a bookshop in which punk and slam poetry have an equal presence to musicin the shape of Bridget Hart (teller of tough, gritty tales and compiler of a poetic “love-letter to women and female solidarity”) and in the sliding, pulsing genderqueer cadences of Aiysha’s accounts and explorations of “mental illness, love, trauma and gender identity”.

Also on hand is the slow, sad, beautiful “shimmer pop” and voiceloops of Georgie Biggins, a.k.a. GINS, who from one angle sounds like a lo-fi gender-swapped bedsit Blue Nile passed through an a capella dream-pop filter and from another like f.k.a. Twigs morphing into ’90s goth-wispers Cranes. Don’t be entirely misled by the soft and introverted textures, though. Underneath Georgie’s apparent mournfulness, the gossamer delicacy and the blurred, haunting visuals there’s both resistance and outright challenge, just framed in a different way; the secret thought that’s a couple of steps away from a marching flag.



 
GINS is also onboard for the Reading show, where Lilith is joined by the fluttering acoustic pop-soul singing of Amya-Ray; by the sometimes-psychedelic, sometimes-instrumental acoustic-indie-folk of Colours & Fires (who’ve placed themselves firmly on the gender-equality frontlines); and by the mysterious, frankly undocumented RIYA (who could be punk or poet, first-person singular or group, for all the info they’ve provided… but the open-ended mystery’s at least in keeping with the rest of the Bare Radical openness).

 

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Full Lilith Ai ‘Bare Radical’ tour dates:

  • The Blue Moon, 2 Norfolk Street, Cambridge, CB1 2LF, Cambridgeshire, England – Tuesday 9th April 2019, 9.00pm (with Me Rex + Sophie Foster + Helen Robertson) – information here and here
  • The 1 in 12 Club, 21-23 Albion Street, Bradford, BD1 2LY, England – Sunday 14th April 2019, 7.00pm (with Me Rex + Sarah Carey + Liam Jarvis) – information here and here
  • City Arts, 11-13 Hockley, Nottingham, NG1 1FH, England – Friday 19th April 2019, 7.00pm (with Me Rex + Jemma Freeman & the Cosmic Something + Matt Abbott) – information here and here
  • Hydra Books, 34 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EZ, England – Wednesday 1st May 2019, 7.00pm (with GINS + Bridget Hart + Aiysha) – free event – information here and here
  • Reading University Students Union, Whiteknights Campus, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6AZ, England – Friday 3rd May 2019, 7.30pm (with GINS + RIYA + Amya-Ray + Colours & Fires) – information here and here
  • VFD, 66 Stoke Newington Road, Shacklewell, London, N16 7XB, England – Thursday 9th May 2019, 8.00pm (with Me Rex + Matt Abbott + Charlie Mburaki + Oliver Rodzianko) – information here, here and here

 

April 2019 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Kammer Klang celebrates Annea Lockwood with Xenia Pestova Bennett, Nate Wooley, Jennifer Lucy Allan, Diffusions and the Cafe Oto Experimental Choir, plus Evie Hilyer and Amalia Young performing Chiyoko Szlavnics, Laura Cannell performing Peter Hannan and CRiSAP students performing EVOL and Yoshi Wada (6th & 7th)

2 Apr

Kammer Klang, 6th & 7th April 2019

Another Kammer Klang in Dalston provides a two-day weekend residency for Annea Lockwood; the New Zealand-born composer who started her career in the ferment of 1960s summer-schools at Darmstadt (with their focus on organised electronic composition) but who rapidly went far beyond that. Curated by former ‘Wire’ online editor Jennifer Lucy Allan, the weekend features various Lockwood European premieres alongside work by Chiyoko Szlavnics, EVOL, Yoshi Wada and Peter Hannan.

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For the Saturday event, Jennifer will be reading from ‘Annea Lockwood – Sound Streams’, an essay written by The Wire’s Louise Gray (for the Edition Festival for Other Music) which explores Annea’s ethos through from her early Darmstadt days to the present. En route, it touches on her playful Fluxus-influenced piano stunts, such as floating a tiny, tinkling musical box, attached to a bright childlike bunching of helium balloons, out of the body of a grand and into a the space of formal concert hall; or kitting out an old upright with integrated, foregrounded toys which not only made avant-garde noises but also visibly kept their toy nature.

The essay also delves into Annea’s later approach of mapping sound and space as a listener, mapper and translator – having ditched electronic sound-sources as master tone generators (while retaining electronics for processing), she moved to reconfiguring and (crucially) interacting sympathetically with natural environmental sounds. Even while imposing her own will on those sounds as recordings and as material, she’s consistently respected and illuminated their original sources and context, including the functions which they represent and the continuance which they embody.

There will be audio playbacks of two entirely electroacoustic Lockwood pieces. 2012’s ‘Dusk’ presents a mixture of “low frequency sounds generated by seafloor black smoker hydrothermal vents, transposed bat calls, and percussionist William Winant playing a tamtam”. Initially, 2013’s ‘Bouyant’ seems to travel from the pastoral to the sinister to comfortingly aural wit, as dipping, paddling water noises alternate with sinister low-frequency drones, haunting frictional creaks and indistinct faraway howls, which in turn give way to cheerful, pastoral farmyard animals bleating and babbling in the middle distance. It’s as if a canoeing trip (filmed in rapid disassociated jumps between panoramic scene shots and extreme close-ups, and between air and underwater) had started out being stalked by eldritch forest monsters and emerged in the millflow beside Old McDonald’s farm.

 
I’ve just read that last bit back and am laughing at myself again for the splats of fancy that I came up with. Maybe I’m just too trapped in a habit of floridly verbalising what I hear, as I try to shift my impressions from incoming sound to outflowing text. I suspect that in doing so I’m missing the point of what Annea does with her compositional process and what her intentions are when she brings it out of the sound lab and to the listener. Jamming a corny, boyish narrative of external horror-movie threat and cartoon silliness onto what I’m hearing isn’t the right approach. What I should be doing is dropping the whimsy and listening to the sounds as they were made and processed, without my input. It’s probably more accurate to interpret ‘Buoyant’ as a full-range representation of a segmented river journey passing through inscrutable wildernesses and the managed densities of rural agriculture (each of them with their differing environments and functionality) while realising that my listening human ears impose subjective meaning and story onto what they hear; as those of any listener might.

If you’re interested in the purest end of Annea’s interpretations of field-recordings, her four-channel sound installation, ‘A Sound Map of the Housatonic River’ will be open to the public at Cafe Oto Project Space throughout the weekend. It’s another water piece – extracted from a hundred-and-fifty-mile stretch of New England waterway via recordings made at points from river source to river mouth, both underwater and on the surface. Subsequently, it’s been formed into a polyphonic tricklerushflow of noises, crafted to capture the character of a river made up from the sum of its users, denizens, dynamics and fluid functions: a character which available to the ears if you know how to sit back and absorb it. You can listen to a downloadable excerpt here.

Saturday also provides the opportunity to listen to another strand of Annea’s music: two piano pieces performed by Xenia Pestova Bennett which are closer to the concert hall, building on bedrock conceptual carvings more akin the deconstructions of John Cage and the rumbles of James Tenney. In 1993’s ‘Red Mesa’ clustered drips of piano notes, gently sophisticated chordings and zither-strums inside the case result in something (to these misleadable ears, at least) strangely close to a Bill Evans jazz romance. 2001’s ‘RCSC’ takes the same principles and techniques but pursues them somewhere much darker and more reverberant, where the piano body becomes a roiling haunted canyon of clangs, stutters and trapped lashing stiflings, or perhaps just an objective map of unforgiving terrain. There’s an earlier interpretation of ‘RCSC’ below:


 
Supporting the Lockwood work will be a pair of duets played by emerging violinists Evie Hilyer and Amalia Young. ‘This Is Only Here’ and ‘HC91’ are both composed by electroacoustic specialist Chiyoko Szlavnics, who devises her pieces (in part) through drawings, and whose work has a focus on the “beating” phenomenon which occurs when two imperfectly tuned pitches interact with each other in an oscillating throb.

The Fresh Klang contribution for Saturday will be ‘Three hundred grams of latex and steel in one day‘: a 2011 spatial performance piece being restaged by students from the CRiSAP program (Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice, at the University of the Arts London). Using groupings of balloons and hex nuts at varied distances from the observer, it was originally composed/conceived by EVOL (the dual-composing, music-squashing, party-hooligan-cum-research-science team of Roc Jiménez de Cisneros and Stephen Sharp) as a way of exploring a modelled algorithmic process in perverse, potentially frustrating real-world terms. In practise, it’s mostly about EVOL’s fondness for deformatory music, and about the inspiring, embraceable awkwardness and randomness of trying to get an avant-garde composition off the ground by molesting blown-up latex. Squu-u-u-u-u-arr-r-r-r-r-kk-k-k….

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The Sunday event starts with a free afternoon Q&A session with both Annea Lockwood and composer/improviser Nate Wooley. During the evening concert, Nate will be performing the European premiere of his 2018 co-composition with Annea, ‘Becoming Air’, on trumpet and tamtam. It made its debut at Nate’s own FOR/WITH festival, and uses circular breathing, an effects pedal and a constantly-fiddled-with miked-up trumpet to capture overtones: it’s been noted for “using much of his improvising electro-acoustic vocabulary (while being) absolutely an Annea Lockwood composition: performative, shamanic, and with an attention to the naturalness of sound that makes the audience rethink their aural surroundings.” as well as containing sounds which (as ‘The Information Superhighway‘ put it) are “suggestive of a sprinkler system that’s gained consciousness.”

The other Lockwood composition for the evening will be the vocal piece ‘Water & Memory’, again receiving a European premiere. Based around hums and reiteration of water-words in Hindi, Thai and Hebrew and spacing a group of voice performers all around the venue, it’s conceived for amateur musicians and requires audience participation. This is billed as being performed by the “Cafe Oto Experimental Choir”. In practise – and on the night – I guess that that means you as well.

In addition to the evening’s Lockwoodia, there’ll be a visit from iterant Early/avant-music specialist Laura Cannell (see passim), interpreting ‘Rsrch 4/83’ by electro-acoustic orientated composer Peter Hannan; himself a former recorder player who wrote the ‘Rsrch’ series to explore, express and comment on musical and technical problems with the instrument. For this one, the recorder and the performer’s voice go through electronic delay system to pursue and realise “a rich texture of overtones” resulting in an incantatory buzzing reminiscent of throat singing.

More overtone work is provided by the CRiSAP students, returning for another Fresh Klang piece. This time they’re reviving ‘Lament for the Rise and Fall of Handy-Horn’, a (probably) deafening 1990s composition by Japanese Fluxus/drone composer Yoshi Wada. For this one, a set of nautical air horns are triggered and left to blare until all the compressed air has blown out of their tanks.

The impact of ‘Lament’ has relatively little to do with planned pitches, and everything to do with other factors such as the oppressive volume (which helps with the overtones), the sense of situational alarm (springing up even in a prepared audience), and the increased air pressure in the room (which comes with the discharging of the horns). I just hope that the performance of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ next door at the Arcola Theatre will already be particularly noisy, rowdy and oblivious…

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Dates:

Kammer Klang presents:
Jennifer Lucy Allan/Diffusions/Xenia Pestova Bennett perform Annea Lockwood / Evie Hilyer and Amalia Young perform Chiyoko Szlavnics / CRiSAP students perform EVOL
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Saturday 6th April, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Kammer Klang presents:
Annea Lockwood/Nate Wooley/Cafe Oto Experimental Choir perform Annea Lockwood / Laura Cannell performs Peter Hannan / CRiSAP students perform Yoshi Wada
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Sunday 7th April 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here
 

April 2019 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Sonic Imperfections at Telegraph Hill Festival with Darkroom, Handäoline, Jo Thomas and Minus Pilots (5th) and your chance to jump into some more of their Festival work yourself (13th)

1 Apr

Having inveigled their way into a second home in a hilltop church a stone’s throw from New Cross (and half a klick away from their usual home at the Montague Arms), south London experimental evening Sonic Imperfections are presenting an early April sound’n’space gig at the end of the coming week, continuing their ongoing work with the Telegraph Hill festival. It features various contributions from Darkroom, Handäoline, Jo Thomas and Minus Pilots, all endeavouring to fill up the nave and the arch with reverberance of one kind or another.

Sonic Imperfections, 5th April 2019

Despite now being geographically split between Hertfordshire (where guitarist Michael Bearpark lives) and Edinburgh (where synthesist and reedsman Andrew Ostler is making solo inroads into the Scottish improvisation scene), the Darkroom duo remain tightly loyal to each other even as they stay conceptually loose, artistically inscrutable and absolutely in command of their vivid, grand scale abstractions after twenty years of making them. The boiling, heavy-ambience starstuff of the early years (with its post-prog wails, stepped pyramids of piled-up textures and the pulses which snaked alongside club music while never being shackled to it) has long since given way to something different: Darkroom now sound woody, or deep-carved and ancient, even as their music takes place behind winking lights and modular plug-ins.

Still underrated as one of Britain’s top guitarists in that rarified field where commanding emotion meets marvellous texturology, Michael’s playing exudes both confidence and a broadminded framework; sometimes stirring up a broody hauntological fog, sometimes exuding a cobweb of ominous data, sometimes licking at the music with the fiery tongue of a melodic soloist on a tight leash. Os (increasingly drawn to his bass clarinet booms and voicings) brings the wind through the bracings and the horns to the shoreline even as he runs Darkroom’s complex instinctive sonic architecture through his custom preamps and plugins. Any Darkroom performance is an ear-opener, and this should be no exception.



 
Handäoline is a new-ish familial teaming of Death In Vegas founder-turned-experimental sonics journeyman Steve Hellier, ‘Late Junction’-eer Freya Hellier and (in a sense) Steve’s late great-uncle Wally, a soldier killed in action during the World War II offensive in Italy. The inspiration is Wally’s old melodeon (rescued from his possessions after his death and kept in the family) and his handwritten notes for a piece of 1940s pop called ‘The Chocolate Soldier’s Daughter’. On accordion, Freya recreates and acknowledges some of this history while Steve passes her playing through sound processors and adds his own contributions via laptop and mixing: laced with further sound samples from the Hellier family archives, it’s a different kind of album project, surrealizing and loosening familial memory and once-or-twice-removed community history.

It’s all new enough to stop me from being able to bring you a soundclip or two, so you’ll just have to imagine your own way into this one. As compensation, here’s the original version of Wally’s old favourite…


 
Freeforming with “raw and sensitive sonic matter” (and working mostly from her own processed voice, tabletop electronics, found sounds and a Chapman Stick), electronic instrumentalist Jo Thomas explores the world around herself in a matter-of-fact manner which emerges as suggestive, obliquely sensual abstractions. By this I don’t mean erotic-sensual (although that shouldn’t be entirely ruled out). I mean that she records her impressions of atmospherics, situational weight and association, weighs them and returns them to us transformed or blanketed in evocative, unearthly, sometimes confrontational noise.

By some distance the most experimental act on the bill, Jo’s an abstract expressionist of sound. Her music takes varied shapes – the slow-evolve fluting-organ drones of 2017’s ‘Random Feathers’ (electrophonically realising her reflections on Emily Dickinson); the conglomerations of large-scale equipment hiss and rumble from a particle accelerator, as recorded and reworked on 2011’s Crystal Sounds Synchrotron; the recent Radiophonic inspirations of Natures Numbers (in which Jo follows in the blip-and-ghost-ridden footsteps of Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram, and adds a few of her own, a fellow traveller). At the input stage, her inspirations are clues: by the output stage, they’ve become mysteries.


 
Minus Pilots are bassist Adam Barringer and percussionist Matt Pittori: post-rockers who’ve drifted far from rock. Their sounds are gentle, post-industrial, even a little reverent. They’re the kind of holy minimalism you might get from an allegedly reformed psych-rocker sitting quietly and shaggily among the congregation towards the back of the church, secretly tonguing a decal of blotter acid as he eyes the rose window and daydreams of the ruins of an old chocolate factory. Expect hum and crackle, expect frayed fences and distant boom; expect the sound of a parched-out spiritual rinse; expect, too, the shatter of free jazz as Matt cuts a little loose.



 

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Sonic Imperfections, 13th April 2019

Continuing their Telegraph Hill Festival work this month, Sonic Imperfections are also running a sign-up and turn-up immersive event for improvisers in Telegraph Hill Park on 13th April, as part of the Festival’s 25th Anniversary Spectacular. This involves a shifting, spontaneous play-along to a silent film or two as well as providing the sonic backdrop to an audience being led around the park. If you’re interested in playing, you can put your name down here on the Facebook page.

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Dates:

Sonic Imperfections presents:
Darkroom + Handäoline + Jo Thomas + Minus Pilots
St Catherine’s Church, 102a Pepys Road, Telegraph Hill, London, SE14 5SG, England
Friday 5th April 2019, 8.00pm
– information here

Sonic Imperfections presents:
Sonic Imperfections @ Telegraph Hill Festival 2019 – 25th Anniversary Spectacular
Telegraph Hill Park (Lower Park), Pepys Road, Telegraph Hill, London, SE14 5TJ, England
Saturday 13th April 2019, 8.30pm
– information here
 

April/May 2019 – upcoming folk/experimental gigs – Sam Lee’s ‘Singing With Nightingales’ season

30 Mar

Details on the upcoming season of Sam Lee’s ‘Singing With Nightingales’ – slightly massaged press text follows…

'Singing With Nightingales', April/May 2019

“Join folk singer, song collector and nature lover Sam Lee in the forest, sit by the fireside and listen to intoxicating song, as some of the finest musicians in the land duet with the sweet sound of the nightingale. Immerse yourself in the folklore and ways of our native birds, savour the music of world-renowned guest artists from folk, classical, world music, and jazz arenas. Join us in a rare and thrilling journey as darkness falls upon the springtime woodlands of Kent, Sussex and Gloucestershire from 18th April to 26th May.

“Each year, for a few months from mid-April, a few thousand nightingales fly to the southern UK from Africa. They can be heard in just a small number of special locations, taking up songful residence after dusk. The territorial males serenade loyally each night for no more than six weeks among the blackthorn and forest margins, giving unbelievable privilege to those who know where to go. Inspired by infamous recordings of cellist Beatrice Harrison playing with nightingales as far back as 1924, Sam has been hosting reverent celebrations of this endangered bird each spring since 2014. These events have spanned multiple events at four different sites, a ‘Pick of The Year’ BBC Radio 4 documentary, a critically acclaimed adaptation for theatres and concert halls, and many broadcasts on BBC Radio 3.

“As well as the outdoor night shows, you can also enjoy the sound of the nightingales’ song in the comfort of concert halls across the UK from 14th April. After a hugely popular run in 2018, our ‘Singing With Nightingales: Live’ tour is back, bringing you diverse musicians in relaxed, low-lit settings improvising in collaboration with live birdsong via live broadcast feed from the countryside. Joining Sam on stage will be a duo (depending on the date) of either violin-playing jazz world/folk singer Alice Zawadzki plus kora-playing Senegalese Griot Kadialy Kouyate, or Welsh folk-singer/songwriter/harpist Georgia Ruth plus Bristolian post-jazz trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Pete Judge. In addition, an abridged version of ‘Singing With Nightingales: Live’ will feature at London’s South Bank as the late show in the ‘Absolute Bird’ concert (a night of classical music inspired by birdsong).


 
“Brand new for this year, we are launching a mini festival experience with the nightingales at Fingringhoe Wick , Essex, on 27th April. Hosted by Sam, the night will feature three performances from Irish 10-string drone fiddler Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh and from experimental songwriters and instrumentalists Serafina Steer and Cosmo Sheldrake, all joined in song with the nightingale.

We’re offering return travel from London for selected events; and we’re very happy to say that we have received some funding from Arts Council England which means we’re able to put a number of concessions tickets on sale for selected events. These are strictly for people on low income. We also have a number of concession tickets available for our Singing With Nightingales Festival event at Fingringhoe Wick nature reserve, Essex on April 27th.”

Other musicians involved in the open air concerts come from a variety of different genres. There are classical and jazz flautists (Paul Cheneour; and Marsyas Trio‘s Helen Vidovich) and assorted polygenre players (eclectic South African cellist Abel Selaocoe, post-classical/post-folk chamberist Kate St John, Globe Theatre music director Bill Barclay, multi-instrumental composer Christo Squier). There are singers from various strands of contemporary folk (Lisa Knapp, Furrow Collective’s Lucy Farrell, ESKA) and soul-jazz singer-cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson. There’s the choral work of vocal trio Blood Moon Project (featuring Heloise Tunstall Behrens, Tanya Auclair and Luisa Gerstein). There are also representatives of music from further afield (Zimbabwean singer/mbira master Chartwell Dutiro, travelling shakuhachi-ist Adrian Freedman, Afghan music specialists John Baily & Veronica Doubleday and Dublin vocalist Fergus “Faró” Cahillane, the latter known for Irish and Irish/Viking acappella folk work with Anúna and M’anam).


 
Update, 13th April – in the latest development, ‘Singing With Nightingales’ is linking up in London with the Extinction Rebellion movement, on 29th April, for a “peaceful sit down intervention” in central London, called ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square‘:

“In the midst of the heightened attention to climate change and environmental catastrophe we want to bring people together in celebration of the musical beauty of the natural world. Poets, musicians and nature lovers will join together to perform the most romantic rebellion.

“Written in 1939, the renowned ballad tells of the impossible moment when a now critically endangered nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) sings in Mayfair’s famous garden square. Nightingales have not been heard in Central London, let alone Mayfair, for several hundred years. However, through the magical power of people and technology this April 29th, XR, Sam Lee, The Nest Collective and a pop-up flash mob of nature enthusiasts, musicians and supporters will gather to rewild nightingale song back into Berkeley Square.

“Through synchronised streaming of the nightingale’s mesmeric yet seldom heard courtship song via mobile phones and mobile speakers, our pop-up action will fill the park and surrounding streets with the song of a creature nearing extinction on this island. The birdsong will be accompanied by offerings from musicians, singers, poets and anyone who wants to collaborate with the finest singer in the world. This central London rewilding action aims to bring poetic focus to the shocking demise of our own native species and give Londoners the opportunity to hear a once ubiquitous songbird, now near extinct in the UK, in its mythic notional home.”

* * * * * * * *

Full dates for everything:

Open-air shows at Green Farm Kent, Church Lane, Shadoxhurst, Kent, TN26 1LS, England

  • Friday 19th April 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Bill Barclay) – information here and here
  • Saturday 20th April 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Paul Cheneour) – information here and here
  • Sunday 21st April 2019 (featuring Sam Lee & Christo Squier) – information here and here
  • Friday 17th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Helen Vidovich) – information here and here
  • Saturday 18th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Abel Selaocoe) – information here and here
  • Sunday 19th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Blood Moon Project) – information here and here

Open-air shows at a secret location near Spithurst, Lewes, Sussex, BN8 5EF, England

  • Thursday 25th April 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh) – information here and here
  • Friday 26th April 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh) – information here and here
  • Friday 3rd May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Lisa Knapp) – information here and here
  • Saturday 4th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Kate St John) – information here and here
  • Sunday 5th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Ayanna Witter-Johnson) – information here and here
  • Monday 6th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Lucy Farrell) – information here and here
  • Saturday 25th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee + ESKA + John Baily & Veronica Doubleday) – information here and here
  • Sunday 26th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Fergus Cahillane) – information here and here

Open-air shows at Highnam Woods, Highnam, Gloucestershire, GL2 8AA, England

  • Thursday 9th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Pete Judge) – information here and here
  • Friday 10th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Chartwell Dutiro) – information here and here
  • Saturday 11th May 2019, 6.30pm (featuring Sam Lee & Adrian Freedman) – information here and here

‘Singing With Nightingales: Live’ (indoor concerts)

  • Ropetackle Arts Centre, Little High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, BN43 5EG, England – Sunday 14th April 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Alice Zawadzki + Kadialy Kouyate) – information here and here
  • The Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AQ, England – Tuesday 23rd April 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Alice Zawadzki + Kadialy Kouyate) – information here and here
  • Warwick Arts Centre, University Road, Coventry, CV4 7AL, England – Wednesday 24th April 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Alice Zawadzki + Kadialy Kouyate) – information here and here
  • Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6EL, Tuesday 30th April 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Alice Zawadzki + Kadialy Kouyate) – information here and here
  • Wyeside Arts Centre, Castle Street, Builth Wells, LD2 3BN, Wales – Wednesday 8th May 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Pete Judge + Georgia Ruth) – information here and here
  • St Laurence’s Church, Church Street, Stroud, GL5 1JL, England – Wednesday 15th May 2019, … (featuring Sam Lee + Pete Judge + Georgia Ruth) – information here and here.
  • Gulbenkian Theatre, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NB, England – Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Pete Judge + Georgia Ruth) – information here and here
  • Junction II @ Cambridge Junction, Clifton Way, Cambridge, CB1 7GX, England – Thursday 23rd May 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee + Pete Judge + Georgia Ruth) – information here and here
  • ’Absolute Bird: Translating Nature’ Queen Elizabeth Hall @ Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 8XX, England – Friday 24th May 2019, 8.00pm (featuring Sam Lee, Alice Zawadzki plus selected members of City of London Sinfonia) – information here and here.

Singing With Nightingales: Festival (with Sam Lee + Serafina Steer + Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh + Cosmo Sheldrake)
Visitor Centre @ Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve, South Green Road, Colchester, Essex, CO5 7DN, England
Saturday 27th April 2019, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Extinction Rebellion: ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’
Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, W1J, England
Monday 29th April 2019, 6.00pm
– information here
 

March/April 2019 – upcoming British experimental gigs – Sarah Angliss’ eerie Air Loom on tour in Britain (26th March to 8th April, various) – also featuring Noize Choir, Kate Arnold, Thomas Stone, Embla Quickbeam, Good News From The Future, Ben Gwilliam and Cath & Phil Tyler

23 Mar

The Air Loom project is on tour across England (with appearances in Scotland and Wales) during the end of March and early April.

Headed up by electro-acoustic composer and inventor Sarah Angliss, the project also features soprano vocalist Sarah Gabriel and Ensemble Bash percussionist Stephen Hiscock; but the vision is entirely an Angliss one: one of “phantasmagoria” and “electrical mysticism” which can incorporate“robotic carillons, telephonic counterpoint and a new instrument made from the salvaged parts of a Welsh chapel organ.” A former folk-club performer, Sarah is steeped and classically trained in the music of the baroque and Renaissance eras, and spends much of her time constructing and delivering music for theatre and for live film soundtracks. She’s also part of a generation of composer-performers who re-examine the archaic and antique from both a present-day perspective and a feeling of questing connection.


 
This kind of thing doesn’t always work out (folktronica’s a fine idea but often gets reduced to the cliché of just playing folk music on synths), but Sarah’s approach is a fresh one – folding the process over with technological visions which themselves are deliberately selected for their own innate antiquity in order to explore “resonances between English folklore and early notions of sound and machines.” Possessing traditional Early Music instrumental skills (on recorder and ancestral keyboards), she mates them with contemporary jiggery-pokery: the latter covering the kind of twentieth-century technology now acquiring a museum patina (theremins, analogue telephones, radiophonic devices) and more virtual twenty-first century tech such as current custom MAX patches and apps.


 
Backed up by Stephen and by Sarah G, the Air Loom tour and album features Sarah performing on a mixture of recorders, electronics, theremin and the clavisimbalum (a “sonorous, fourteenth-century Latvian cousin of the harpsichord” – in this case one that’s been connected to custom synth processing). The other things to mention are the eerie, enchanting robotic instruments which she conceives, designs and then brings on tour to operate, building them out of bits of abandoned acoustic instruments and sundry homely/associative objects. Some are more anthropomorphic and animatronic – a drum-playing 1960s shop mannequin; a handbag playing triple duty as a heart and a drumbox; a theremin-playing doll called Clara; a disembodied ventriloquist’s-dummy head operating as a spycam; a robot crow. Others present more clearly as machines, such as the automated, radiation-sensitive, hyperspeed bell carillion built with technologist Dan Stowell which was the centrepiece of her previous ‘Ealing Feeder’ album and the “wheezing, robotic Shruti box” that’s the centrepiece of ‘Air Loom’.



 
The resulting music is enthralling and a little displaced. Rumbles, chimes and airs adding up to hauntology-in-the-machine stuff; all of it in line with Sarah’s desire to create work which captures the “disquieting and uncanny” and “the crackle of the galvanic on the telephone wire.” While there isn’t currently any grabbable Air Loom work online for me to show you, here’s something a little similar – Sarah in the grand baroque Hawksmoor space of St Anne’s Limehouse two years ago, performing her ‘Ealing Feeder’ piece A Wren In The Cathedral along with Stephen Hiscock, Colin Utley and her animatronics. Echoes of the unearthly, the mundane and the dignified run through the performance: summonings, weaving, the patience of listening, the trances of spaces.


 
As you’d expect, a tour like this draws in interesting supports.

In Brighton and in London, Kate Arnold from Fear Of The Forest will open the Air Loom shows with a solo hammer-dulcimer-and-voice set of the kind with which she’s been tremendously busy over the past year (see passim). Looping full-range contrabassoonist and sound-triggerer Thomas Stone supports at Bristol, providing his usual slow-evolve sonic immersion from reed tones, beat and hiss.



 
At the Yorkshire art-nexus of Todmorden, Air Loom are joined by a couple of field-recording and sound collage artists – Embla Quickbeam (who opts for a naturalistic approach, overlaying and engraining recordings of places with homemade sonics) and Ben Gwilliam, who prefers to affect and manipulate similar recordings via open tape reels, magnets and a mingling of technical performance art with a kind of deconstructive electrophonic storytelling which can vary from absolute obliqueness to narrative snagging. This time he’s working with “super 8 projectors, ice and homemade electronics in an attempt to amplify the space between microphone and medium.”

 
At Newcastle, support comes from local avant-garde vocal performance collective Noize Choir, who wield an extended human-voice approach “free of the traditional restraints of typical choral settings, language or musical notation” in which singing, breathing, coughing, wailing, humming or any other vocal excursion has equal merit. They also investigate and reflect on the venues which they perform at via “phenomenological explorations (or) imaginings of our geological past” while pegging themselves firmly to a very North-East England post-industrial perspective in which science, landscape and culture merge. On this particular evening everyone’s performing in an award-winning conversion of a former carpet warehouse, now housing an independent cinema company first based on the quayside and then in a squatted abandoned prop store, and with an eye on delivering a future community spirit in ominous times…. so they’ll have all that to unpack with a click and a whoop. Anyhow, here’s them vocalising Lindisfarne (the holy island and bird sanctuary, not the folk rockers).

 
At the Swansea date (for Welsh art-music initiative NAWR) there’s another double support. The first is Newcastle folk duo Cath & Phil Tyler, latter-day exponents of traditional folk narratives, American mountain banjo and full-voiced Sacred Harp singing, which they strip down to its most minimal and concentrated folk, able to bewitch anything from the most cramped little folk club to the vast arena of the Albert Hall. The second is Welsh music-and-movement project Good News From The Future, a collective of mature performers (in their fifties or older) co-ordinated by Mike Pearson (once of 1980s Cardiff avant-garde site-specific theatre company Brith Gof, now emeritus professor of performance studies at the University of Aberystywth). It’s unclear about exactly what they’re doing this time around: some sources say a spoken-word piece, others a movement piece. By all accounts they’re equally skilled at telling a story either way. Here’s something of what – and how – they performed a few years ago at Cardiff’s Chapter venue.


 
* * * * * * * *

Air Loom dates:

  • The Marlborough Pub & Theatre, 4 Princes Street, Brighton, BN2 1RD, England – Tuesday 26th March 2019, 8.00pm (with Kate Arnold) – information here, here and here
  • Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England – Saturday 30th March 2019, 8.00pm (with Kate Arnold) – information here and here
  • The Glad Café C.I.C, 1006A Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow, G41 2HG, Scotland – Wednesday 3rd April 2019, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Star & Shadow Cinema, Warwick Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 1BB, England – Thursday 4th April 2019, 7.30pm (with Noize Choir) – information here and here
  • The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Engine House, Chorlton Mill, 3 Cambridge Street, Manchester, M1 5BY, England – Friday 5th April 2019, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The Golden Lion, Fielden Square, Todmorden, OL14 6LZ, England – Saturday 6th April 2019, 8.00pm (with Embla Quickbeam and Ben Gwilliam) – information here
  • The Cube, Dove Street South (off top-left of King Square), Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD, England – Sunday 7th April 2019, 7.30pm (with Thomas Stone) – information here and here
  • NAWR#35 @ BBC Hall at Swansea Studios, 32 Alexandra Road, Swansea, SA1 5DT, Wales – Monday 8th April 2019, 7.00pm (with Good News from The Future and Cath & Phil Tyler) – information here, here, here and here

…and here’s Sarah’s robot carillon again, this time transmitting bird song (to the audible delight of a baby)…

 

February 2019 – upcoming experimental gigs – Kammer Klang: Taylor Le Melle’s Afrodiasporic spectrum with Venus Ex Machina, Morgan Craft and Shenece Oretha (5th February)

31 Jan

Bah. I’ve got a swelling head cold and am consequently as thick as a cement omelette. Not the best time to try to preview a complicated experimental evening. Sorry for the vagueness in this post… even more than usual, this is hidden music to be sought out and learned from.

Kammer Klang: Venus Ex Machina + Morgan Craft + Shenece Oretha, 5th February 2019

The first Kammer Klang of the year unites various sonic experimentalists from the African diaspora under the curatorship of Taylor Le Melle. That’s probably the best way of putting it: the lack of a portentous event title means it’s not pinned down to any more specific narrative. Though predominantly a writer, Taylor spends a lot of time as a creative enabler (co-running independent publisher PSS and artist/workers’ audio-visual cooperative not/nowhere, and facilitating debate), and this isn’t her first Oto event. I’m assuming that it’s going to throw up ideas from across a broad spectrum of ideas and identities, some of which are outlined here.

Venus Ex Machina (a.k.a. Zimbabwean emigre Nontokozo F. Sihwa) is one of an ever-more visible number of interdisciplinary artists and computer coders eliding non-binary gender ideas into the worlds of music, games and visuals. Interested in “mythical and borderless” radio communication, she’ll be performing her own ‘Anno Lucis’ piece from 2018.

I’ve no idea whether this other Venus piece, ‘Paraquat’, is any reflection of what’s to be performed on the night; but here it is for illumination (with its mixture of Geiger counter industrial twists, ringing friction noise apparently siphoned from the bearings holding up the music of the spheres, and arrestingly vocal synth parts summoning up both heavenly European chapel choirs and complex African alarm whoops).

 
Attempting to place solo electric guitarist and sonic mystic/realist Morgan Craft involves multiple questions about geography, roots and discovery. A Minnesota-born African-American, he’s an escapee from the New York experimental scene of twenty years ago; but rather than questing directly into Africa he sought refreshment and new paths in the Tuscan mountains of Italy for over a decade (before settling in Amsterdam, where he works with Giulia “Mutamassik” Loli on the Circle of Light label and the Rough Americana project. Now he’s an “Afro-American Viking futurist”, whatever that means. Drawing on the classical legends and contemporary politics of African, European and American cultures alike, his essays sift and fold his multi-positional overview: an expatriate American black man querying his background, a critiquer of capitalist and street culture, a person with one eye on a new dawn due to rise over the muck.

Morgan’s textural guitar pieces are expansive and questioning personal monologues, abstracting manifold concerns into detailed shades. He will be performing his 2018 piece ‘Godel’: here are several earlier pieces from a big releasing burst in 2016.




 
Montserrat-born Shenece Oretha mostly concerns herself with polyvocality and immediate listening – as she puts it, “choreograph(ing) layers of music, voice, recordings and noise to shape moments of communion and ceremony.” Land-tilling metaphors of potential and nurturing pervade her definition of herself – “hypothetical gardener, future farmer, speculative horticulturalist.” Her sound work, or at least, that of it which I’ve heard so far, is much less pastoral; simultaneously dicing up and unifying strands of black experience from the wounded and fierce to the ecstatic and congregational, from the lone voice ululating to the whumphing in-your-face assertions of co-opted technology.

 
In addition to Oretha’s Fresh Klang performance – a piece called ‘to plot together, to breathe together’ – Testing Grounds (her “installation with multiple openings”) makes a temporary home at Oto for three days in advance of the show. With spaces for invited guests available (to “accompany the sound and participate in the sounding out”), it’s a live-performed sonic stew “present(ing) and incorporate(ing) her ongoing research project, black whole…, orchestrat(ing) a series of interruptions/interventions ‘in the breaks’.”

 
Kammer Klang presents:
Kammer Klang: Venus Ex Machina + Morgan Craft + Shenece Oretha
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 5th February 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here
(‘Testing Grounds’ – Saturday 2nd to Monday 4th February 2019, 5-9pm)
 

February 2019 – upcoming jazz gigs in London and Cambridge – Seed Ensemble (1st February); Warmer Than Blood (2nd February); Irreversible Entanglements and Matana Roberts (2nd February)

28 Jan

Cassie Kinoshi & SEED Ensemble, 1st February 2019

Perhaps there’s not a great deal that I need to say about Cassie Kinoshi. The most visible of the current generation of jazzwomen from the Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Collective, she’s clearly on the ascendant, working extensively across the jazz, classical, dance and drama worlds, and with her two-year-old SEED Ensemble now getting high-profile gigs. One of these is at Kings Place this Friday, in which SEED unveil their debut album ‘Driftglass’, showing off the end product of the multicultural London influences which inspire them: groove-based British jazz with strong flavour of West African and Caribbean diasporan music.

If that sounds a bit cuddly, then check out the title – and the combative, sarcastic thump – of the second of the two clips below. It’s a parodic, pointed Mingus-worthy musical representation of white people’s fear-driven misconceptions about black people, drawing on the wildness, grief and defiance of New Orleans funeral music and underpinned by the double-low-end honk-n’razz attack of Theon Cross’ tuba and Rio Kai’s double bass.



 
* * * * * * * *

Up in Cambridge the following day, guitarist/composer Chris Montague (previously seen in here via his work with Alex Roth and Chris Sharkey in Future Currents) reveals his new project Warmer Than Blood. It’s a trio in which he combines with pianist Kit Downes (Troyka, F-IRE Collective) and bass guitarist Ruth Goller, whose pedigree takes in a host of projects from Acoustic Ladyland to Sephardim ballad revivers Sephiroth plus (amongst others) the manouche of Kamao Quintet, the punk jazz of Let Spin and rough-edged North African-influenced Melt Yourself Down, the Latin folk of Oriole and the up-in-the-air experimental indie-rock of Bug Prentice.

Warmer Than Blood, 2nd February 2019

All three are longtime friends and collaborators, seeking yet another new approach. They seem to have found it with Chris’ newest batch of compositions and improvisation-seeding situations, which he suggests consist of “intricate textures, dark pools of harmony, layered melodies, kinetic group improvisation and percussive prepared piano… fractious composed passages can inhabit the same sonic space as spare, ambient melodies, often described as melancholic and uplifting at the same time.”

Warmer Than Blood are a couple of months away from properly recording a debut album, but two live tracks on their homepage point the way in which they’re going. Introverted and ominous, their name-track’s a quiet etiolated piano exploration over a minimal pulsing guitar-chord cycle and locked-in bass rumble. The excerpt from a longer piece, FTM, is a gradual evolver in which Chris hovers in menacing sustain/volume-swell textural clouds and momentary dust-devils over ghost-Latin clicks and bass piano thuds (Kit muting the piano at both ends) before the trio expand into what’s partly a kind of haunted country music (like a Bill Frisell ensemble scoured to the bone by plains wind), and partly like a salsa band coming to terminal grief in a badlands dustbowl.

* * * * * * * *

Back in London, and also on the Saturday, the Barbican’s Milton Court hosts Brooklyn-based “liberation-minded free jazz collective” Irreversible Entanglements. If you’re after a jazz band to represent and reflect these increasingly ugly, stormy, oppressive times from the bottom up, you couldn’t find a better one – but be careful what you wish for. They aren’t an easy listen, and they’ve got no intention of being so.

Irreversible Entanglements, 2nd February 2019

Free jazz (especially, though not always, when it becomes a hand-me-down in the hands of white musicians) can often be a fussy, elitist abstraction. Irreversible Entanglements uncompromisingly return it to its roots in black radicalism and to an absolute connection to the injustices of society. In doing that, they’re stepping into the first-generation protest-jazz shoes of Archie Shepp, Joseph Jarman, Max Roach, Albert Ayler.

If you’ve been reading ‘Misfit City’ over the last couple of months, you may remember Elaine Mitchener reviving this tradition with her Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant Garde project last month. While operating in a similar field, Irreversible Entanglements have no interest in curating those impetus and protests as museum pieces. Instead, they create their own protest. It should go without saying that they’re tied deeply into the #BlackLivesMatter initiative. Originally forming the band four years ago to play at a Musicians Against Police Brutality event, saxophonist Keir Neuringer, bassist Luke Stewart and poet/proclaimer Camae Ayewa subsequently added trumpeter Aquiles Navarro and drummer Tcheser Holmes for more rhythm and flammability.

The resulting quintet sounds far bigger, far angrier and far more righteous than seems possible, jetting out sheets of rattling, scouring brass over gargantuan shifting rhythms like wrenched building piles. Key to it all is the fierce female voice at the core. Camae’s better known for her Moor Mother solo project, in which she declaims jarring, terrifying accounts of personal and cultural pain over a barrage of hip-hop/slamtronic sound. I’ve written previously about the way in which her deep drilling of psychic scar-tissue within the African-American experience turns her into time-traveller, authorative witness-bearer and angry documentarian. With Irreversible Entanglements, she taps into another heady well of black American cultural memory, this one passed down via saxophones, bop and overblown sheets of sound. It’s not the first time that a jazz band has been centred on a woman’s voice, but you’ll rarely, if ever, have heard it done this way, in which the texts and the delivery not only match the hurricane of music, but simultaneously drive and ride them. This is serious schooling.



 

In support at Milton Court is Chicago-born, New York-based saxophonist and sound experimentalist Matana Roberts. While it’s not unusual for a jazz player to appear on a record on post-rock spearhead label Constellation, it is unusual for one to be signed to the label. Matana, however, is not a standard jazzer (she prefers the term “sound adventurer”, considering herself to be a hybrid connected to multiple sonic approaches), and she was probably signed more because of her general experimental tendencies than because of her past collaborations with Silver Mt. Zion and with Tortoise members.

An orchestral clarinettist with a politicized background, Matana journeyed through punk, Riot Grrl and avant-garde music to where she is now. Though she seems quite capable of punching out Chicago post-bop/free sax on the stand, she doesn’t restrict herself to standard (though demanding) jazz forms. Instead, she treats music as a prime artistic unifier crossing over into dance, theatre, poetry…. not in itself unusual, but rather than just strapping standard music tropes onto other forms she allows those forms to wash in, dissolving and reforming her approach to her music.

Matana’s best known for her ongoing ‘Coin, Coin’ series, a projected twelve-album project started in 2005 and still in its relatively early stages (it’s about a third done). In this, whether working on her own or with others, she utilises a technique she originally dubbed “panoramic sound quilting”, joining together blocks of noise and scoring from a variety of sources but with an assemblage idea borrowed from rag-bag folk art. In particular when she’s recording alone, her pieces feature multiple Matanas – some rolling out saxophone lines, but many engaged in vocal chants or drones, or layered swatches of conversation. Some sing or scream, or hurtle along the arresting bloodied ribbon that separates the two: like Moor Mother, Matana takes pride in black history and resistance while establishing that it has to be represented via a certain sound of historical pain. The rawness there goes beyond filters of culture and into filters of humanness.”

Unsurprisingly, her performances have a reputation for being immersive experiences. Sounds like she’ll make the perfect gigmate for Irreversible Entanglements.



 
* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Jazz re:freshed present:
SEED Ensemble
Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Friday 1st February 2019, 8.00pm
– information here and here

Listen! presents
Warmer Than Blood
Unitarian Church, 5 Emmanuel Road, Cambridge, CB1 1JW, England
Saturday 2nd February 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Irreversible Entanglements + Matana Roberts
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Silk Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 8DT, England
Saturday 2nd February 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

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