Tag Archives: Allister Kellaway

June 2018 – upcoming London rock gigs – gloriously complex experimental rock evenings – The Mantis Opera, Barringtone and New Born Animal (8th June); Lost Crowns with Sharron Fortnam and Kavus Torabi (June 14th)

27 May

Several of London’s more convoluted art-rock genii are emerging from the woodwork to play live in the early part of June, accompanied by assorted fellow travellers and burlesque pop sympathisers. Read on…

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The Mantis Opera + Barringtone + New Born Animal, 8th June 2018

If you’ve wondering what a band might sound like if it fused Henry Cow, Battles and early Scritti Politti, you’re in luck… and, to be honest, probably pretty marginal. Come over here and sit next to me.

Stemming from solo work by guitarist, singer and electronics meddler Allister Kellaway, The Mantis Opera now delivers his stirring, challenging constructions via a full electro-experimental synth-rock band, voicing a collection of “avant-garde grumbles” via a multiplicity of synth sounds and colliding pop tones. If this sounds inaccessible and snooty, it isn’t. It’s just that the tunes arrive in complicated cascading splinters, many parts urging in parallel towards an out-of-sight coda, while a dreamily precise atmosphere prevails: avant-prog keeping watch from under a dream-pop veil.

The pieces themselves display an ambitious, orchestral thinking – Reykjavik, for example, is less a guitar clang with lofty ambitions and more of a cerebral/visceral string quartet piece transposed for rock band. Allister’s winding, philosophical lyrics, meanwhile, are very reminiscent of Henry Cow and of Rock in Opposition preoccupations, dissecting as they do themes of resistance, logic, language and compliance with the air of a man trying to bring intellectual rigour to the pub, grabbing at the misty answers before the closing bell rings.



 
Assuming that recent reports of a broken-wristed drummer haven’t entirely torpedoed their availability, Barringtone should be in support, continuing their live drive towards the release of their debut album on Onamatopoeia this summer. Released songs have been sparse over the past few years; but enjoy this new-ish brainy little post-power-pop conundrum, exhibiting Barry Dobbins’ own ambitions as he moves up from the band’s previous wry, ornamented motorik drive into much more castellated, conversational proggy territories while keeping their knuckly XTC-inspired edge intact.


 
Seven-piece big-pop band New Born Animal complete the lineup at this Friends Serene gig. Headed by singer/songwriter/arranger Thomas Armstrong, they’re a sonorous wall-of-drunken-sound effort who sound like Blur (during their music-hall period) dragging the Walker Brothers into a dressing-room tipple too far. If so, they also sound like the stage before it all turns nasty: slightly discombobulated singalongs where self-consciousness is just rags in the breeze, the emotional valves have been opened up and everyone in the room is temporarily your lifelong friend. If this in turn sounds sloppy, then I’d suggest that there’s a lot of craft going into something which sags and collapses so gloriously and visibly, but which never disintegrates. There’s longing, wonder and helpless laughter all brimming at the back of this.


 

On top of this, the whole evening’s free if you turn up soon enough…

Friends Serene presents:
The Mantis Opera + Barringtone + New Born Animal
The Shacklewell Arms, 71 Shacklewell Lane, Shacklewell, London, E8 2EB, England
Friday 8th June 2018, 7.30pm
– free entry – information here and here

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Lost Crowns + Kavus Torabi, 14th June 2018

The following week, Richard Larcombe’s Lost Crowns spearhead “an evening of songs with a lot going on in them”. In many respects, it’s a re-run of their triumphant London debut at the same venue back in January. No Prescott this time, sadly (though their instrumental ping-pong twitch would have been welcome), but Kavus Torabi is back with a guitar, a hand-pumped harmonium and more songs from his ongoing solo project. Launched the other month with the ‘Solar Divination’ EP, this might be a holiday from the jewelled and roaring intricacies of his main gig with Knifeworld, but it’s certainly not an escape from the psychedelic shadows which nightwing their way through the band’s apparently celebratory rainbow arcs. For this isolated, darker, more grinding work, Kavus strips the flash-bangs away and leaves us with the droning echoes: the meditative bruises, fears and queries, many of which nonetheless contain their own seeds of determination and a kind of celebratory acceptance.


 
As for the headliners, last time I anticipated Lost Crowns as likely to be (deep breath) “a rich, unfolding master-craftsman’s confection… 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.”

A tall order (even it was based on what Richard’s delivered in previous projects), but I wasn’t disappointed. With Lost Crowns, Richard’s created the most dynamic and surprising music of his career.

As before, the rest of the band’s lineup is a cross-section of London art-rock luminaries: Charlie Cawood, Nicola Baigent, Rhodri Marsden, Josh Perl, drummer “Keepsie”. Certainly the influence of Richard’s brother and usual collaborator James is missed (his genial, warm, embroidering effect on Richard’s work is underrated) but his absence allows both Richard and the band to stretch out in different directions – fiercer, more crammed, sometimes brutal in their complication.

A vortex of influences funnel around Richard, including Chicago math, witty Daevid Allen psych rampage, contemporary classical music and skipping, tuneful folk singalongs. Shaped by his particular persona and thought processes – as well as his innate Englishness – it all emerges as a kind of prog, but one in which the fat and the posturing has all been burned off by the nerves and the detail, and in which his dry, melodious wit winds around the work playing mirror-tricks, theatrical feints, and the conspiratorial winks of a master boulevardier. As much at home playfully slagging off the precious venerations of synaesthesia as they are with nine-minute epics with titles like Housemaid’s Knee, Lost Crowns are a delightful self-assembling puzzle.

Frustratingly, with Richard still keeping everything close to his chest (outside of Lost Crowns’ welcoming gig environment), I’ve got nothing to show you. No embedded songs, no videos, nothing but those words and these words. Richard’s likely to keep everything culty, so the best way that you can find out whether I’m just lying through garlands here is to go to the gig yourself.

Originally this was to be a double-header with Lost Crowns’ other friends and allies, the revived psychedelic-acoustic band Lake Of Puppies (re-teaming North Sea Radio Orchestra’s Craig and Sharron Fortnam with William D. Drake, in order to build on the bouncing life-pop they cheerfully hawked around London together in the late ‘90s). Sadly, the Puppies have had to pull out of the show following Bill’s collision with pianist’s RSI in early May. Instead, Lost Crowns will play an extended set with Sharron woven into it as a special guest; while Kavus will be stretching out his own set, covering the remaining time that’s not taken up with snooker-ace-turned-avant-rock-uncle Steve Davis on DJ duty.

Lost Crowns (with special guest Sharron Fortnam) + Kavus Torabi + DJ Steve Davis
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 14th June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and
here
 

January 2018 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Scenatet Ensemble, David Helbich and Joseph Houston at Kammer Klang (13th January, including performances of Matt Rogers and Antonia Barnett-McIntosh); Nonclassical throws it all open (17th January); Candlelight Quartet plays work by assorted new composers at London Composers Platform (14th January)

4 Jan

Kammer Klang presents:
Kammer Klang: Scenatet Ensemble (performing Matt Rogers) + David Helbich + Joseph Houston (performing Antonia Barnett-McIntosh)
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Saturday 13th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Kammer Klang, 13th January 2018
The year’s first Kammer Klang continues the concert series’ journey away from the more predictable rigours of contemporary classical tradition, and into areas of conceptual gesture and experiment, welcoming composers and musical enablers drawing from chance and the theatre and from the sometimes chaotic, sometimes magical diversity of human interpretation.

Pianist Joseph Houston (whose tally of experimental music collaborations and interpretations includes work with and by Christian Wolff, Simon Holt, Brian Ferneyhough, Colin Matthews, Rebecca Saunders, Christian Mason, and Klaus Lang) will be opening the show for the usual Fresh Klang sequence. He’ll be performing work by transdisciplinary composer, sound artist, performer and sometime curator Antonia Barnett-McIntosh who describes her compositional concerns and approaches as “the specificity of sound gestures and their variation, translation and adaptation, often employing chance-based and procedural operations.” Here’s a video of Joseph playing Luigi Nono, followed by one of Antonia’s pieces.

 
Brussels-based David Helbich is not so much a composer as a philosophical conceptualist interested in performance. In his travels, he “creates various experimental works on stage, on page, online and in public space… (moving) between representative and interactive works, pieces and interventions, between conceptual work and actions. A recurring interest is in the understanding of an audience as active individuals and the search for an opening-up of experiences in an artistically restricted space.”

In keeping with this, he’ll be engaging the venue audience in a “performative rehearsal” of his ‘No Music’ piece, guiding and suggesting their own collaborative potential soundmaking abilities into a spontaneous, instrumentless timbral noisework never to be exactly repeated. As he says, “No Music is no music, but still a musical experience. No music, still for your ears. Since 2010 I have worked on scores for pieces that could be performed right at the spot, in whatever context, as long as one could freely use both hands and had two functioning ears. The pieces offer notated situations of organised listening and simple ear manipulations. I understand this material more as a practice than as a series of composition, even though they can appear as such. Pieces appear in printed form as well as in spontaneous performances or entirely set theatrical or concert performances. These interventions are entirely personal and therefore not so much interactive as ‘inner-active’, self-performative. The reader as the performer as the listener.”


 
Founded in 2008, the Scenatet ensemble have enjoyed nearly a decade working in the overlapping area of live music, film, art spaces and conceptual staging, choosing to move “in a cross-genre field of music, drama and happenings towards areas with yet undefined genre… aiming to create conceptual art works where music is part of a larger whole.” Three Scenatet musicians (clarinettist Vicky Wright, viola player Gijs Kramers and cellist My Hellgren) will be premiering a new piece by British composer Matt Rogers (who, among other career triumphs, was the first composer to be commissioned by Transport for London’s Art on the Underground programme). His new piece, ‘Weep At The Elastic As It Stretches’, is a musical adaptation of ‘Prayer’, itself an excerpt of N.F. Simpson’s classic 1958 absurdist play ‘A Resounding Tinkle’.

As Matt recounts, the original text piece “takes place as a radio broadcast within a scene which is both domestic and ludicrous.It takes the form of a prayer of thanks, but the content is entirely atypical, asking that we rejoice in all manner of unexpected objects, situations and concepts, taking great delight in the most categorical of descriptions and in a complete lack of distinction between the mundane and the exotic. As is typical of Simpson’s work the effect is both ridiculous and sublime, encapsulating the ineffability of an existence somehow both arbitrary and profound. ‘Weep at the Elastic’ as it Stretches wishes to embody the attitudes and spirit of Simpson’s prayer, the final stage direction of which reads “The introductory bars of ‘Sweet Polly Oliver’ in an orchestrated version are heard from the wireless.”…”

A couple of related videos…

 

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After that, 2018’s first Nonclassical concert might feel like a comparative retreat to the familiar. A “Battle of the Bands” event transposed to the contemporary classical world, it’ll be judged by Nonclassical’s own Gabriel Prokofiev and Eleanor Ward (plus Dominic Murcott of Trinity Label and BBC Radio 3 controller Alan Davey), and aims to throw open some doors of opportunity for unheard or underheard contemporary composers, musicians and ensembles at the start of what might be an interesting career.

Nonclassical Battle of the Bands, 17th January 2018

Nonclassical presents:
Battle of the Bands (performers t.b.c.)
The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England
Wednesday 17th January 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here

“Battle of the Bands is back! Join us at The Victoria, Dalston on 17 January 2018 as we try and find the next big artists who want to showcase new and experimental classical music. From avant-garde classics to works with electronics, spoken words or improvisation, the night will showcase some of the best up and coming talent in the alt-classical scene.

“Battle of the Bands is an open contest for soloists and groups of any size. Instrumentation is limited only by your imagination! Any combination of acoustic and electronic instruments will be considered. Playing time is from five to fifteen minutes.”

I stress that it might seem like a retreat to the familiar. In fact, they’re encouraging contributions “from avant-garde classics to works with electronics, spoken words or improvisation” in order to “showcase some of the best up and coming talent in the alt-classical scene.” If all contestants really choose to stretch the envelope, we could end up with something as left-field as the Kammer Klang event above.

In a feat of considerable brinksmanship, Nonclassical are closing the competition a slender eight days before the concert. If you’re interested in entering, you have until Wednesday 10th January to fill in the application form and link to a demo track on SoundCloud, YouTube or Vimeo.

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London Composers Platform presents:
London Composers Platform: The Candlelight Quartet performs Miguel Alonso, Stirling Copland, Bertie Douglas, Allister Kellaway, Tom Mudie, Grady Steele and others
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Sunday 14th January 2018, 7.00pm
information

In between the two gigs above (both in terms of dates and the various Hackney locations), Servant Jazz Quarters is putting on an evening of “new works for piano and string trio composed by musicians from popular and classical music backgrounds.” The Candlelight Quartet will premiere a string of new contemporary classical works by an assortment of young composers: most of them at the start of their careers, and many of them currently known for work in other musical fields, including Allister Kellaway, who leads avant-rockers The Mantis Opera), dance pop experimentalist Tom Mudie (a.k.a. Mom Tudie) and Grady Steele (who spends much of his time as singer/guitarist for young indie/art-rockers Shark Dentist, who have a couple of singles out on Ra-Ra Rok Records). Other composers with works in the mix include Miguel Alonso, Bertie Douglas and Stirling Copland (the last of whom has had at least one string quartet performed at an LCP event before). It all has a welcome air of self-starter to it.


 

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