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January/February 2018 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Where Pathways Meet (17th January); Laura Jurd, KIM Trio and Têtes de Pois at a celebration of women in jazz (4th February)

9 Jan

Quick news on a couple more London jazz shows – a free-entry cosmic jazz performance in Peckham, and a woman-centric triple bill in Soho.

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Where Pathways Meet, 17th January 2018

Peckham Levels and Ghost Notes present:
Where Pathways Meet
Ghost Notes, 95a Rye Lane, Peckham, London, SE15 4ST, England
Wednesday 17th January 2018, 7.30pm
– free event – information here and here

“Ostensibly, a Where Pathways Meet performance serves as a latter-day tribute to the outergalactic sounds of Sun Ra. In actuality, the collective are as just as forward-facing as the great cosmonaut himself and, rather than revisiting the sounds of decades gone by, epitomise everything that’s exciting about the community of young South London musicians they call friends. As with immediate peers like Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd and Ezra Collective, Where Pathways Meet draw as much from the contemporary sounds that surround them as they do from the art form’s traditional conventions; amid all the intricate arrangements and the cosmic interplay there are as many nods to West London’s Broken Beat scene and as anything attributable to the Arkestra.

“Headed up by trumpet player and bandleader Axel Kaner-Lidstrom, the double-drumming ensemble features an extensive cast of musicians who are each involved in their own South East London based projects. As such, Where Pathways Meet serves as what the band themselves describe as an open conduit to the area’s underground scene. Having recently smashed the stage at their Jazz Re:Freshed debut we’re delighted to welcome WPM for something of a homecoming show in Peckham this January.”

For the curious – the strongest of Where Pathways Meet’s links seem to be with Tomorrow’s Warriors and SE Dub Collective, with the group members apparently a nucleus of tenor saxophonist James Mollison (SEDC, Ezra Collective, Akua Naru), drummer Jake Long (another SEDC member and leader of Afro-spiritualists Maisha), trombonist Rosie Turton (SEDC, the TW-affiliated Nérija and her own quintet) and guitarist Mark Mollison, augmented by second drummer Sam Jones (Binker Golding Quartet) plus a shifting talent pool including bass players Mutale Chashi (Kokoroko, Idiom), Michael Shrimpling and Mick T Shirt and keyboard players Amané Suganami (Maisha, etc), Sara Tandy (Watertight Group etc) and Dominic Stephen Canning (Steam Down).


 
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Celebrating Women In Jazz (Laura Jurd + KIM Trio + Têtes de Pois), 4th February 2018

Independent Venue Week and Help Musicians UK present:
Celebrating Women in Jazz: IVW18 – Laura Jurd + KIM Trio + Têtes de Pois
The 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street, Soho, London, W1D 1LL, England
Sunday 4th February 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“Independent Venue Week in partnership with Help Musicians UK, present a special event celebrating women in jazz at the 100 Club London, featuring some of the UK Jazz scene’s most dazzling artists.

“Internationally-acclaimed Mercury-Prize-nominated trumpeter Laura Jurd headlines with a formidable new quartet. This is an unmissable opportunity to witness a stellar group of players improvising together.” (NOTE – the quartet is probably Laura, regular drummer Corrie Dick, bassist Tom Herbert (Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear, The Invisible) and her fellow trumpeter and Trinity Laban mentor Chris Batchelor of Loose Tubes, Big Air and many more. Laura will also playing a longer evening set at Poplar Union’s Jazz Herstory season on 15th February, leading a trio completed by Corrie and Tom.)


 
KIM Trio is led by tenor saxophonist and Peter Whittingham Jazz Award 2017 winner Helena Kay, and features Misha Mullov-Abbado on double bass and David Ingamells on drums. Inspired by greats such as Sonny Rollins and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and by contemporary names like Melissa Aldana and Larry Goldings, the trio enjoy performing a varied mixture of Helena’s originals and tunes from the jazz canon.


 
Têtes de Pois (a tight genre-bending seven-piece ensemble fresh out of Leeds College of Music) fuse jazz, hip-hop and neo-soul. Featuring alto/baritone saxophonist Jasmine Whalley, tenor saxophonist/singer Harry Fowler, , guitarist Ben Haskins, keyboard player George McDonald, bass guitarist Owen Burns, drummer George Hall and percussionist Josh Ketch (plus, until recently, Eloise Oates Lidar on trumpet), they’ve recently been awarded an additional development fund as part of the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award.”


 

January 2018 – upcoming London post-classical/gamelan gigs – Lubomyr Melnyk and James Heather (17th January), Aloysius Suwardi’s Planet Harmonik (18th January)

7 Jan

A quick, press-release only nod to a couple of upcoming higher-profile concerts – one for post-classical piano, the other for experimental gamelan…

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Lubomyr Melnyk + James Heather, 17th January 2018

Erased Tapes presents:
Lubomyr Melnyk + James Heather
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Wednesday 17th January 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Lubomyr Melnyk is a Ukrainian composer and pianist who has pioneered “continuous piano music”. Classically trained and influenced by the minimalist movement in the early 1970s, he has developed his own unique language for the piano, named after the principle of maintaining a continuous, unbroken stream of sound. A true innovator, his mission is to explore new directions for contemporary music. Not only is he regarded as one of the world’s fastest concert pianists, his compositions also truly carry the listener to new realms. To witness one of his rare live performances is nothing short of a mind-opening experience.


 
Joining him on the bill will be Ninja Tune’s post-classical pianist James Heather, one of the new school set of ‘post classical’ artists flourishing in the wake of the long, steady but recently accelerated success of figureheads like Max Richter, Ben Lukas Boyson and Jóhann Johannsson, and the wider public’s overdue but now burgeoning relationship with this varied genre. His debut album – ‘Stories From Far Away On Piano’ – was released in August 2017 via Coldcut’s Ahead Of Our Time label.

“The album concept and artwork (layers of Indian ink repeatedly bled into newspaper print representing the recirculation of information) centres on Heather’s musical interpretations of real world stories; Isis jihadists hijacking the Facebook account of an executed female activist in Syria (Ruqia), the British Empire’s imprisonment of Boers in South Africa (Empire Sounds), a missing Malaysia Airlines jet in the Indian Ocean (MHope), the Paris terror suspect who reportedly had a Last Minute Change Of Heart and the Los Angeles man freed after 16 years in prison after being wrongly identified by a Teardrop Tattoo.”


 
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Aloysius Suwardi - Planet Harmonik, 18th January 2018


The Barbican, Kazum! and Europalia present:
Aloysius Suwardi: “Planet Harmonik”
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Silk Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 9BH, England
Thursday 18th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“Composer, instrument-maker and gamelan expert Aloysius Suwardi presents his ‘Planet Harmonik’ project for the first time outside of his native Indonesia. Bringing together a host of self-made instruments – from giant gambang xylophones, to hydraulic bamboo flutes – Suwardi’s ‘Planet Harmonik’ takes its inspiration from the Pythagorean theory of “music of the spheres”. It’s the idea that the proportional relationship between planets is equivalent to the relationship between musical notes – that the sun, the moon and Earth all emit their own tone.

The instruments of Aloysius Suwardi (photo © Witjak Widhi Cahya)

The instruments of Aloysius Suwardi (photo © Witjak Widhi Cahya)

As Aloysius comments on the Barbican blog, “when I first read about the Pythagorean theory… my imagination was ignited. He suggested the cosmos consisted of separate spheres, one each for the planets, moon, and sun, which moved around the earth at different velocities, producing different sounds. The concept inspired me to make instruments capable of producing strong harmonics or overtones, to represent the music of the spheres.

“When I’m making musical instruments I have two starting points: firstly, I aim to make an instrument based on my mental picture of its shape, without considering the resulting sound. Secondly, I aim to make an instrument to obtain a specific sound that is derived from a sound imagined in my head. I decided to make a new ensemble to explore the possibilities of obtaining a series of harmonics produced by the instruments. The clearest and loudest harmonics are used for the pitch to be arranged as either slendro or pelog gamelan tuning scales.”

“Like the planets, ‘Planet Harmonik’ is a piece that moves with grace despite its complexity, rooted in the rich history of gamelan while also looking to the future.”


 

January 2018 – upcoming London rock and folk gigs – twists and weaves with Prescott, Lost Crowns and Kavus Torabi (11th January); a carpet of acid-folk/chanson dreams with Alison O’Donnell & Firefay (18th January); a lysergic lattice with a Knifeworld double-set (20th January)

6 Jan

Prescott + Lost Crowns + Kavus Torabi, 11th January 2018

Prescott + Lost Crowns + Kavus Torabi
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 11th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Reunited with guitarist Keith Moliné (who had to sit out some of their engagements last year), instrumental avant-rockers Prescott bring their springy barrage of warm, bouncy tune-mozaics back to London at Servant Jazz Quarters. On the evidence of last year’s ‘Thing Or Two’ album, the band (completed by spacey fretless bassist/composer Kev Hopper, keyboard quibbler Rhodri Marsden and swap’n’go drummer Frank Byng) is growing like a tricksy hedgerow. New layers, extensions and scrabbling digressions continue to bud out of their riotous cellular approach; and out of the games of post-minimalist chicken which they use to hold and release each other from their stack of cunning microloops.

It’s still fair to say that Prescott’s relationship with their own instrumental cleverness is an edgy and oblique one. Fine and rebellious players all, they’re too suspicious of straight prog, jazz or lofty experimentalism to have a straight relationship with any of them. Consequently they come across on record as jitterbug countercultural eggheads – ones who play obstinate, transfigured parallels to clavinet jazz-funk (post-Miles, post-Headhunters) or twinkly-marimba’d Zappa passages, but who nail it all down to a precise post-punk, post-virtuoso sensibility. Still, this only sketches part of the Prescott picture while missing the heart of it. Despite the band’s tendencies towards deadpan stage presence (and the eschewment of anything even vaguely wacky), each and every Prescott gig ends up as a generous, audience-delighting puzzle of pulses, traps and tickles on the funny bone.

Maybe if they’ve got anything as corny as a raison d’être (that is, beyond executing Kev’s pieces with deftness, style and pleasure) it might be about evaporating the frequently frustrating and gummed-up relationship between musicality, suffocating ideology and good humour. For all of their self-imposed restrictions, Prescott are in some senses a freer band than almost anyone else in their field: an expansive Lego set of musical options concealed in a deceptively small box.


 
Thanks to both the burgeoning stature of Knifeworld and his helming of the post-Daevid Allen Gong (plus entanglements with Guapo and Cardiacs, and his garrulous showings on radio and in print), Kavus Torabi is rapidly becoming a senior figure at the culty end of psychedelic art-rock. Even his rough-and-ready solo acoustic performances are becoming a draw in their own right, although he’s mostly (and modestly) restraining them to support slots, presenting gravelly-voiced house-party strumalongs rather than electric-genius showcases. Such is the case with his opening slot for Prescott, which also sees him broaden his guitar playing with trips to the harmonium.

On previous form, expect established songs, songs-in-progress and song unveilings from Kavus’ Knifeworld catalogue (plus visits to his old work with The Monsoon Bassoon and possibly a bit of latterday Gong-ing if any of it translates away from the group’s electric Om). If you’re hoping for Guapo stuff, you’d better wait for one of his gigs with them. If you want him to rip into a Cardiac song, you’re best off catching him guesting at one of the growing number of Spratleys Japs shows (increasingly become rolling parties celebrating the Cardiacs spirit, pulling in hit-and-run appearances from the band’s alumni and songbook).


 
Invigorating as a Prescott/Torabi summit might be, the night’s real draw is Lost Crowns: only the third live venture for this carefully-concealed solo project from Richard Larcombe. You might have seen the Crowns step out at either one of a culty pair of Alphabet Business Concern shows in 2013 and 2017: otherwise, you’ve not seen or heard them at all. If you’ve followed Richard’s on/off work singing and guitaring for fraternal duo Stars In Battledress (alongside his brother James), you’ll have some idea of the rich, unfolding master-craftsman’s confection to expect. Complex, artfully-meandering songs built from delightfully byzantine chords and arpeggios that cycle through ever-evolving patterns like palace clockwork; accompanied by rich, lazy clouds of hilarious, hyper-literate, wonderfully arcane lyrics; all sealed by an arch, out-of-time English manner which (in tone and timbre) falls into a never-was neverworld between Richard Sinclair, Stephen Fry, Noel Coward and a posh, Devonian Frank Zappa.

Reared on English folk and art-rock but steeped in both Chicago math-rock and (via radio, television and film) in sophisticated comic absurdity from the likes of the Marx Brothers, Spike Milligan and Vivian Stanshall, Richard is in fact one of the most aggravatingly unknown, self-effacing, even self-concealing talents of his generation. In the fifteen years since his last, short-lived solo foray Defeat The Young he’s kept his own work closely hidden, apparently preferring the shared burden and brotherly warmth of occasional shows with the similarly-obscure Battledress, or to play supporting roles with William D. Drake or sea-shanty-ers Admirals Hard. Were he not so damn elusive, he’d be regularly cited alongside the likes of Colin Meloy or Neil Hannon as an exemplar of bookish art-pop wit. For the most part, though, Richard seems happiest with his other career (in children’s theatre, an area in which, incidentally, he’s equally talented) although I suspect that the truth is that his perfectionist’s need for control gets a little on top of him, though never enough to ruffle his brow. According to Richard, this particular live surfacing’s going to be a “limited-capacity probably-not-to-be-repeated-often event”, but he clearly means business, having armed himself with the kind of musical crack squad that can do his work justice – London art-rock go-to-guy Charlie Cawood on bass, Drake band regular Nicky Baigent on clarinet, the enigmatic “Keepsie” on drums and a doubled-up keyboard arrangement of Rhodri Marsden (hopping over from Prescott) and Josh Perl (coming in from Knifeworld and The Display Team).

As regards firmer, more specific details on what Lost Crowns will be like, Richard himself will only murmur that the songs are “quite long, with a lot of notes.” Rhodri Marsden (a man more given to gags than gush) has chipped in with a wide-eyed “utterly mindbending and completely beautiful”; rumours abound re ditties about synthesia and/or the quirks of historical figures; and what’s filtered through from attendees at those previous ABC shows is that the Larcombe boy has seriously outdone himself with this project. The rest of us will have to wait and see. Meanwhile, in the absence of any available Lost Crown-ings to link to or embed, here are a couple of live examples of Richard’s artistry with Stars In Battledress.



 
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Alison O’Donnell + Firefay
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 18th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Same time, same place, but one week later – another rare treat in the shape of a London appearance from “fairy queen of acid folk” Alison O’Donnell, allied with Anglo-French folk-noirists Firefay.

Alison O'Donnell & Firefay, 18th January 2018The possessor of a warm declamatory folk voice (one well suited to storytelling), Alison began her musical journey at convent school in 1960s Dublin with childhood friend Clodagh Simonds. Writing and singing folk songs together, the two became the core of mystical folk-rockers Mellow Candle: scoring a faintly lysergic orchestral-pop single before either girl had turned seventeen, Clodagh and Alison then spent five years exploring and finessing the baroque/progressive folk sounds eventually captured on Mellow Candle’s one-and-only album ‘Swaddling Songs’.

Ahead of its time (and mishandled by the record company), it followed the example of other recent genre-stretching folk albums by Trees and Nick Drake and sold poorly. By the time that the disillusioned band disintegrated in 1973, Alison was still only twenty. She spent the next three decades travelling in a slow arc across the world and across music: spending long stretches of time in South Africa, London, and Brussels before returning to Dublin in 2001, she passed – en route – through traditional English, Irish and Flemish folk bands (including Flibbertigibbet, Éishtlinn and Oeda) as well as stints in theatre and satire, and in contemporary jazz band Earthling. As she entered her mid-fifties, though, Alison’s career entered a surprising and fruitful second stage. She finally began releasing material under her own name – initially with multi-instrumentalist Isabel Ní Chuireáin (for the part-trad/part-original ‘Mise Agus Ise’ in 2006), and then alone or with her band Bajik from 2009’s ‘Hey Hey Hippy Witch’ onward.

Meanwhile, the slow transition of ‘Swaddling Songs” from forgotten ’70s flop to early Noughties word-of-mouth lost classic brought Alison into active collaboration with a fresh generation of musicians who’d been captivated by the record. Agitated Radio Pilot’s Dave Colohan came in for on 2007’s ‘World Winding Down’, Steven Collins of The Owl Service for 2008’s ‘The Fabric of Folk’ EP, and Graham Lockett of Head South By Weaving for 2012’s ‘The Execution Of Frederick Baker’. Colohan in particular has become a regular ally and co-writer, playing a big part in Alison’s 2017’s ‘Climb Sheer The Fields Of Peace’ album and inviting her into his Irish psych-folk collective United Bible Studies. There have also been teamups with metal bands Cathedral and Moonroot, with folktronicists Big Dwarf, and with Michael Tyack of psych-folkers Circulus.

Among the most promising of these latterday collaborations has been her 2012 teaming with Firefay (fronted by the trilingual Carole Bulewski) for the much-admired ‘Anointed Queen’ album. This month’s concert revisits that project and beyond, Alison and Firefay performing in a meticulously interwoven partnership which will dip into songs from ‘Anointed Queen’ in addition to Firefay material and songs from Alison’s own back catalogue, from Mellow Candle through to ‘Climb Sheer The Fields Of Peace’. Come expecting a world/wyrd-folk wealth of keyboard drones, strings, bells, reeds and ouds, all mingled in a lysergia-flecked folk-rooted song continuum stretching from Ireland to Brittany and Flanders (across the British Isles and London, with look-ins from Gallic chanson, kletzmer, urban baroque, boozy sea songs, tints of Canterbury art-prog and even hints of the Sudan and Middle East.)


 
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Knifeworld, 20th January 2018Guided Missile presents:
Knifeworld (double set)
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Saturday 20th January 2018, 7:30pm
– information here , here and here

Just over a week after their leader disports himself (mostly) unplugged and exposed in Dalston, Knifeworld themselves burst back into action in Islington, getting a whole show to themselves at the Lexington. Currently revelling in the flexibility and range of tones available to their eight-piece lineup, they’ll be drawing on their last couple of years of songwriting and performance by playing a full acoustic set followed by a full electric set.

If you’re not yet familiar with Knifeworld’s work, you’re probably new to the blog – ‘Misfit City’ has been saturated with it ever since the band first emerged eight years ago – look back over past posts to acclimatise yourself to their dancing, springy, psychedelic mix of oboes, guitars, saxophones, drums and warm, wood-rough head-next-door vocals. It’s a skewed but precise brew of pointillistic acid-patter pulling in sounds, tones and attitude from five decades of music – you can spot ’50s rockabilly, late ’60s lysergic swirl, full on ’70s prog/soul complexity, ’80s and ’90s art pop noise and suss and beyond – all topped off by Kavus’ particular wide-eyed worldview. Eccentric and garbled on the surface, his songs still couch pungently honest depths of feelings, fears and hope if you’re prepared to push past the distraction of tatters and gags – as with two of his mentors, Tim Smith and Daevid Allen, Kavus treats psychedelia as a tool to explore, question and deepen the subject of human existence rather than trance it away in a blur.

Exceptionally excited by what’s coming up, the band are promising “a gig like no other…. your chance to hear many rarely- or never-played songs before. A whole night of delirious, mindbending and beautifully strange music.” Below is forty-one minutes of slightly shaky, slightly scratchy Knifeworld footage from the Supernormal 2016 festival, in order to light the fuse…


 

January to March 2018 – the Jazz Herstory season at Poplar Union in London – Nérija (18th January); Laura Jurd (15th February); Yazz Ahmed (15th March)

2 Jan

Sitting tight beside the Limehouse Cut (up above the Isle of Dogs), Poplar Union, is one of London’s newest, friendliest and most promising arts centres. It’s already had some early-days gig triumphs with Norwegian jazz-pop duo 1816 and Simon Roth’s folk/classical quintet Land Of If, and (most recently) has warmed me with a stunning early-December evening of jazz-and-folk-infused Sephardic love songs from Sefiroth.

These are now being followed up with a triple set of gigs in collaboration with the enthusiastic feminist jazz initiative Jazz Herstory, which among other things presents “female led bands playing jazz now, spanning styles, sounds and generations. Showcasing the richness of jazz being made in the UK today and celebrating the women who contribute, Jazz Herstory presents award winning bands and instrumentalists, composers of national and international acclaim and people making waves locally. We aim to share: to bring women from the background to a balanced foreground in jazz. Female instrumentalists have not been part of the story of jazz as much as their male counterparts and we want to play a part in writing a more balanced story from here on in and dissolve stereotypes in the process.”

In turn, Poplar Union comments “we are very excited to present this series of live performances featuring a line-up of true talent from the up-coming London jazz scene. This is an integrative platform, aiming to bring women from the background to a balanced foreground in jazz.” This debut series – hopefully the first of many – features three different acts in three different concerts (one per month), all scheduled for a fairly family-friendly early-night start. (Bring your young daughters, and granddaughters. Bring your nieces…)

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Nérija are a London-based collective playing exciting and original music inspired by jazz, hip hop, Afrobeat and South African township. Their eclectic repertoire has appealed to not only the UK jazz scene but also given them a presence within rap and pop-focused festivals. The collective (trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey, trombonist Rosie Turton, saxophonists Cassie Kinoshi and Nubya Garcia, guitarist Shirley Tetteh, double bass player Rio Kai and drummer Lizy Exell) were winners of the Jazz Newcomer Parliamentary Jazz Award 2017 and Jazz FM Breakthrough Act of the Year 2016 nominees. They will be showcasing work from their unreleased new album as well as picking from their critically acclaimed self-titled 2016 EP.”


 
“Highly active throughout the UK scene, Laura Jurd has developed a formidable reputation as one of the most creative young musicians to emerge in recent years: an award-winning trumpet player, composer, leader of the 2017 Mercury-Prize-nominated Dinosaur, and a BBC New Generation Artist for 2015-2017. Described by ‘All About Jazz’ as a musician who “embraces melody, harmony and groove as much as she provokes with blasts of dissonance and gutsy angularity”, it is her ability to combine the soft with the abrasive, the calm with the fiery, that makes her music-making so compelling.”

(For her Jazz Herstory concert, Laura will be playing with a brand-new trio in which she’s joined by regular Dinosaur drummer Corrie Dick but also by a newer collaborator – bassist Tom Herbert of Polar Bear, The Invisible and Acoustic Ladyland).


 
“Since releasing her debut album ‘Finding My Way Home’ in 2011, British-Bahraini trumpet player Yazz Ahmed has emerged as a distinctive voice on the UK Jazz scene, both as a soloist and composer. Her new album, ‘La Saboteuse’, is a deep exploration of her mixed heritage and her growing interest in sound design and electronic effects. The album has been described as “intoxicating, compelling and sonically outstanding”, and as transforming what jazz means in the twenty-first century. As an LSO Soundhub composer, Yazz has explored writing music for her newly developed quarter-tone flugelhorn to enable her to get closer to the spiritual nature of the blue notes in Arabic music; and in recent years has led her quartet and her seven-piece, Ahmed Family Hafla, in concerts around the UK and abroad”


 
All concerts are at Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England. Dates as follows:

  • Nérija – Thursday 18th January 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Laura Jurd – Thursday 15th February 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Yazz Ahmed – Thursday 15th March 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here

Incidentally, the Jazz Herstory Facebook page is a fine place to wander for a engaging, rapid-fire primer and pointer in obscure (or, rather, obscured) female jazz artists throughout the music’s history: not dwelling too much on what they weren’t allowed to achieve but on what they did achieve… and it’s been impressive. I’ve rarely felt so rapidly educated.
 

January 2018 – assorted English and Scottish gigs – piano, soul, art pop and verbiage with Society of Friends, Blert Ademi, Soul Deep and a host of poets at the SOIF Soiree (London, 5th); cutting an altfolkrock swathe with a Trembling-Bells-flavoured show by Orion’s Belt, Tom Slatter and Marcus Doo (Glasgow, 6th); experimental pop with Snails, Edward Penfold and Eugene Capper/Rhodri Brooks (Bristol, 13th)

1 Jan

Starting off the New Year, there’s a diverse brace of upcoming shows dotted around the country… In London, there’s the Society Of Imaginary Friends’ monthly musicians’n’poets soiree (this month, one that’s particularly heavy on the poets). In Glasgow, there’s a “feast of psych and folk wonderment” linking the folkworlds around Trembling Bells and Alasdair Robert with arch proggy steampunk songwriting. Down in Bristol, there’s “an evening of pop pleasures and wonky wonders.” Read on…

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Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree, 5th January 2018

Society of Imaginary Friends presents:
“For Those in Peril on the Sea” Soiree: Society of Imaginary Friends + Blert Ademi + Debra Watson + Stone Deep + Amy Neilson Smith + Ernie Burns + DJ Miracle Rhythm
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 5th January 2018, 7.30pm
– free event – information here and here

From the Society:

“A still boat in a raging storm, our January Soiree – the month of cataclysmic cyclones battering our little island, foam fills the air, cool seagulls ride the tempest and the Society Of Imaginary Friends gather in their cabin around a crackling fire and tell stories of things past and things to come.

“We are joined by the fabulous young pianist Blert Ademi; brilliant, hard hitting poetess Debra Watson; new intriguing soul music from Stone Deep; charismatic performer, Shakespearian beauty and wonderful poetess Amy Neilson Smith; lusty, revealing super-wordsmith Ernie Burns; on the wheels of steel, the vinyl singles DJ extraordinaire DJ Miracle Rhythm; and the Society Of Imaginary Friends taking you back to a beautiful solstice evening in the Glastonbury Green Field. (More amazing performers to be announced – watch this space!) Cordon bleu vegan delights available to purchase from top chefs Kathy and Roger. Free entry. Dinner from 6pm, live performances start at 8pm.”

I couldn’t find anything on – or by – Stone Deep; but here’s a look at the rest of the lineup so far, beginning with an old SOIF track…






 
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A day later, there’s the Scottish event: a delightful, consensus-bucking meld of the credible, the incredible and the extramural.

Orions Belt + Tom Slatter + Marcus Doo, 6th January 2018

Orion’s Belt + Tom Slatter + Marcus Doo
Nice’n’Sleazy, 421 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3LG, Scotland
Saturday 6th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Headliners Orion’s Belt are a “seven-piece behemoth” of latterday Glasgow-via-Canterbury psychedelic folk, sometimes compared to “Kevin Ayers & The Whole World with Judy Collins handling the vocals”. They’re led by singer Lavinia Blackwall, best known as the voice of Trembling Bells but a longstanding mainstay of Glaswegian early music and avant-folk. Prior to their work as Trembling Bells, she and Alex Neilson collaborated as free-improv folkers Directing Hand: outside of the Bells they still sing together (alongside Harry Campbell and Katy Cooper of Muldoon’s Picnic) as four-part a capella voice quartet Crying Lion, who blend madrigal, folk, Gregorian and Sacred Harp elements into original songs.

In comparison, Orion’s Belt sounds like one of Lavinia’s more easy-going projects but ought to be magical nonetheless. Also on board in the band, picked from Glasgow’s gutsier psych, prog and folk underground, are members of “ongoing sloth-themed rock opera” collective Sloth Metropolis, prog-folkers Big Hogg, and “neo-psychedelic ninjas” Helicon (plus perhaps a few more people from Trembling Bells). Sorry – it still seems to be too new to have generated any recordings or Youtubings yet, but as a compensation here’s Lavinia’s five-year-old version of Richard Farina’s ‘The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood’ performed with Maddy Prior, Thea Gilmore and the late Dave Swarbrick.


 
Originally with mid-noughties post-rockers Ancient Monsters, Highland-born singer-songwriter Marcus Doo has since made the transition to modern-day folk; initially with his own Spanish-based Secret Family, who explored the genre via their “Magpie Returned the Ring” album and scores for a Spanish Royal Theatre version of Ted Hughes’ ‘Gaudete’ and for Chema Rodríguez’s ‘Anochece en la India’. He’s been described by author Graeme Macrae Burnet as “a songwriter with a rare mastery of both melody and lyrics… his songs are satisfying as a rounded pebble in your hand, and he performs them with such passion and intensity that I would defy anyone not to be moved.” Since his 2015 return to Glasgow, Marcus has been working with sympathetic figures including Alasdair Roberts (with whom he’s recently toured), Alex Neilson and Mike Hastings of Trembling Bells, and Tom Davis of Big Hogg.

All of the latter appear on Marcus’ debut solo effort ‘Kid Wonder’, a loosely conceptual folk album about “an older man looking back at his life, towards death and in search of any Golden Apple (an old Norse emblem of eternal youth) of memory that may help him accept what has gone and what is about to come. Through various adventures to an ever-clearer destination he is emboldened by memories of places and people past, and gives thanks to them.” Other contributors to the record include Trembling Bells’ Valinia Black, various other members of the Doo family (including Marcus’ recently deceased grandfather), France-based flamenco-ist Genaro Alonso and Clova fiddler Aoife McGarrigle.

To have a listen to ‘Kid Wonder’ you’ll need to visit Marcus’ own music page, but here’s another substitute in the shape of an old Secret Family track.


 
In the middle of the bill is sardonic London bard-of-the-fantastical Tom Slatter, whose reliably arch and intricate songbook of weird-fiction songstories (steampunk murders, tentacled monstrosities running amok) has built up across a string of theatrical albums and EPs since the early noughties. Hailed for “epic tales of darkness and light (which) fuse the bile of Roy Harper with humour and a sharp musical mind”, he’s previously delivered them live via a single strummed acoustic guitar, but is now generally accompanied by electric guitarist Gareth Cole. Here’s the video for a particular bit of 2015 Slatter tentaculation:


 
In case you think that Tom sounds like an odd, forced fit in the midst of this sincere Scottish folk stew – and it’s fair to admit that a man who calls his own concert album ‘Live, Discomfiting and Overly Whimsical’ might be bringing the hurt down on himself – it’s worth remembering that (in between the Lovecraft/Sterling/GameCon rampages) his catalogue features scattered, glowing moments of unguarded psychedelic beauty such as the ‘Earthbound’ single. On top of that, Tom’s most recent solo album – last year’s ‘Happy People‘ – took an unexpected sideswerve away from the monster galleries, the top hats and the cog-driven toy theatres into a much more nuanced consideration of the human condition. Tom probably wouldn’t thank me for pointing this out, mind; and if you’re solidly unconvinced, come along and heckle him anyway. By many accounts, he loves a good heckle, especially if topped off by a dose of cunning wordplay.

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Snails + Edward Penfold + Eugene Capper & Rhodri Brooks, 13th January 2018

Pop Or Not Promotions and Undergrowth present:
Pop/Not: Snails, Edward Penfold, Eugene Capper & Rhodri Brooks
Cube Microplex, Dove Street South (off top-left of King Square), Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD, England
Saturday 13th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

In the Cube Microplex (the squirreled-away Bristol theatre-turned-cinema/venue which recently hosted a rollicking showing of Cardiacs’ ‘Mare’s Nest’ concert film plus The Scaramanga Six), there are some more workings along the pop fringe. Over to the promoters…

“Led by songwriter Dan Weltman and described as “eerie, beautiful, modestly majestic” by Stephen McRobbie of The Pastels, five-piece experimental pop band Snails generate moments of suburban guitar pop reverie for lonely people walking to the shops. Their sound bears the influence of ’60s folk and psychedelia with a peppering of ’90s pop. Mavericks such as Syd Barrett and Nico mingle with the likes of the Gorky’s or even Belle and Sebastian; though, having no desire to recreate the past, Snails sensitively combine a passion for classic sounds with inventive songwritting to create their own heartfelt pop music. For this unique Bristol show they will be playing brand new material from their upcoming second LP.


 
Edward Penfold’s music is a blend of the old and the new, nostalgic but not dated. More than anything it sounds like now. It’s music from the heart – a hazy collection of sounds and moods, sometimes upbeat, sometimes down, but always genuine and always captivating. His lyricism reflects the eloquence and observation of a very English sort of poetry, seeing the depth in the shallows of life, the profundity in the mundane; all accepted with a matter-of-factness that is reflected in the driving impetus in every song, whether slow or fast or groovy. His new album ‘Denny Island Drive’ came out in late November 2017.


 
“After two years of ongoing collaboration and development, Cardiff twosome Eugene Capper and Rhodri Brooks have just released their beautiful debut LP ‘Pontvane’. Individually, both Capper and Brooks have developed back catalogues of diverse musicality and influence, incorporating elements of surf, lo-fi, Americana and psych. Their first release as a duo further emphasises this eclecticism, effortlessly stitching together disparate sonic fragments into a cohesive, compelling whole. Take a listen…”

 

December 2017 – strange and wonderful sounds in and out of London – Alien, Adrian Lane and Stuart Bowditch in Leigh-on-Sea (14th December); Dean McPhee, Sam McLoughlin, David Chatton Barker, Amy Cutler and Sylvia Hallett up in Homerton (16th December)

6 Dec

As Christmas approaches I find myself in a tearing hurry; so don’t be too surprised if the remaining gig posts for the year rely even more on text ripped straight off Facebook or other gig notifications. I’m just here to boost the signals and blend the options for the month, though I’ll also patch in any missing information as I go.

Now – December news on various Essex sonic artists coming together out on the Thames estuary, and on a Homerton gathering of atmosphere-guitar, homemade instruments and film…

* * * * * * * *

Alien + Adrian Lane + Stuart Bowditch, 14th December 2017

Courier Sound presents:
Alien + Adrian Lane + Stuart Bowditch
Phuse Media, Polar House, 103 Rectory Grove, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, SS9 2HW, England
Thursday 14th December 2017, 8.00pm
information

“Courier Sound invite you to a launch party celebrating the release of Alien‘s ‘Perimeter’. Al Johnson’s long form piece, made with a bass guitar and a variety of electronics, is presented on a super-limited edition (30) mini CD in a bespoke arigato pack (designed by Machindo, cut by Damien Robinson), with two inserts, a sticker and a decal on the CD. In the small and intimate setting of his own office, Al will be playing a live improvised set, alongside live sets from Adrian Lane and Stuart Bowditch. Entry is free and early arrival is advised. Bring some booze.”

An intermittent surfacer, Alien has previously released work on labels including Southend’s Hottwerk; but here’s some very recent material (uploaded to Soundcloud yesterday!) plus a video swiped from Facebook…

 
And here’s some more I dug up on the guest acts…

Adrian Lane – who’s also recorded as Calicoade and (in collaboration with Guido Lusetti), as That Faint Light – is a man of mutually superimposed talents. He’s a visual artist as well as a musician, or perhaps he’s better described as a simultaneously visual and musical artist: his music integrating acoustic and electronic elements, struggling in a dreamy web of neoclassical/mediaeval folk inspirations and textural ambient foggings. Adrian’s newest album, ‘Playing With Ghosts’, uses cut-up and re-ordered samples of hundred-year-old wax cylinder recordings as its main sound source (something Adrian goes into in greater depth in this interview with his record company Preserved Sounds.

 
The work of Stuart Bowditch (who also records under the names of Hybernation, USRNM and Furrows) is primarily based in sound design and field recordings. As his biog puts it, he’s mostly “inspired by location and the people and experiences he encounters there. He is interested primarily in the sounds of everyday life and those who create them, making work that is inclusive and accessible.His music, sound tracks and art installations are often site-responsive and developed with community groups, the public or people who would not consider themselves interested in ‘art’. In this way of working he tries to make sense of the world he lives in and his place within it. Simultaneously, the creations and experiences of others end up intrinsically embedded in his work, creating a rich texture of layers, representing his life and those he has encountered along the way.”

 
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Dean McPhee + Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker + Amy Cutler & Sylvia Hallett, 16th December 2016

The Old Dentist presents:
Dean McPhee + Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker + Amy Cutler & Sylvia Hallett
The Old Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Saturday 16th December 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“A night of deep audio-visual sorcery in three acts to mark the release of solo electric guitarist Dean McPhee’s much anticipated third album ‘Four Stones’ – featuring Dean’s hypnotic drone-folk guitar work and the visual feedback footage of Barry Hale, the homemade instrument/OHP séance shadow-puppetry of Folklore Tapes duo Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Baker and the films and musical improvisations of Amy Cutler and Sylvia Hallett.

Dean McPhee is a solo electric guitarist who combines fluid, chiming melodic lines with shimmering drones and deep layers of decaying delay and echo. He has a unique style of playing which draws together influences from British folk, dub, kosmische, post-rock and Mali blues, and his music has a hypnotic and dreamlike quality. His latest album ‘Four Stones’ is due to be released on Hood Faire (a label run collectively by Dean, Sam McLoughlin and David Chatton-Barker) in January 2018… For this gig Dean will be playing to footage of video artist Barry Hale‘s Intraference visual feedback films.



 
Sam McLoughlin plays homemade instruments and contraptions along with guitar, analog synths, harmonium and pump organ. Sometimes he sings songs; at other times he combines handmade Moondog-like percussion with microphone feedback, synth drones and unpredictable bowed textures to produce improvised music with magical and shamanic overtones. Sam recently released the album ‘Flaming Liar’ on Them There Records and has previously released music on Andy Votel’s Twisted Nerve as well as Folklore Tapes, Pre Cert Entertainment and Hood Faire.

“David Chatton-Barker is the co-founder and captain of the highly regarded Folklore Tapes label which was recently described by Brainwashed.com as “possibly the most unique and fascinating label around”. As well as being a visual artist and film-maker, David also specialises in playful and atmospheric collages of sound, dictaphone recordings and live improvisation. Like Sam, he also builds his own very inventive and visually striking homemade instruments and sound-making devices, which he uses to perform live (along with projections and ritualistic interventions).

 
“As a new duo, geographer-poet Amy Cutler and multi-instrumentalist Sylvia Hallett draw on the dark sides of nature: from sea parasites to forensic botany to elegies based on Arctic bird migrations. They perform live improvisatory settings of pieces drawing on natural history, such as ‘you, the stingbearers’, based on Jean-Henri Fabre’s nineteenth-century chronicle of human desolation, ‘The Life of the Fly’. Instruments include the viola, the musical saw, and Sylvia’s Russian garden vines. Amy’s projections include kaleidoscopes of tree rot and insect forms in nature documentaries, and she will also screen some of her short music videos inspired by drone music and experimental landscape cinema.”
(See below for Sylvia at work on a bicycle wheel, plus Amy’s short film ‘Incantations From Yin Valley’ – made this year with experimental drone musician Bridget Hayden, previously of Vibracathedral Orchestra).



 

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