Tag Archives: Anji Cheung

February 2019 – upcoming London experimental gigs – drone evenings – NYX & Iona Fortune plus Flora Yin-Wong (3rd February); Matthew Shaw, Anji Cheung and English Heretic (7th February)

29 Jan

A couple of evenings of drone and weird noise for you, here in the Smoke.

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Electronic drone choir NYX and Glaswegian electro-acoustic drone instrumentalist Iona Fortune join forces in Bethnal Green during the coming weekend, for what they’re calling “a liminal ceremony” based on an exploration of the I Ching. The latter’s a particular interest of Iona’s – she’s already released the first of a planned octet of releases on the subject. Live, she blends instrumental performance work on the gamelan percussion set and guzheng zither with vintage electronic textures generated by the EMS Synthi AKS (the same early-’70s suitcase synth that’s responsible for early Pink Floyd sequencing, mid-period radiophonics and various Enossifications), via a composition technique which “involves inner cultivation”. For their part, NYX (eight veiled women singing together from behind two tables strewn with vocal sound processors) stress “mindful experiences, psycho-acoustics and sound healing through an immersive exploration of ambient, noise and electronic music”. Expect a mixture of avant-garde eeriness and ancient intimations, then, mixed with a fat emollient smear of New Age healer atmospherics: something silkily psychoactive.

The focus on I Ching divinations might be Iona’s choice, but the sonic method is NYX’s, who are leading a series of similar concerts (this is the third of four, it seems) in which they coax a collaborator to let go of some of their own battery of electronics and/or field recordings and allow NYX to replace it with their own poly-chorused vocal blocks and twinings. A recent ‘If Only’ interview with NYX’s Sian O’Gorman has plenty of talk about mother principles and the like, but it does make them sound genuine: intrigued by the interaction of specific voices with specific bits of electronic kit, and well aware of different vocal practises delved into across hundreds of years and thousands of miles.

They’re also determined – and proud – to promote the female voice, skills and mindset. All performers in the concert series have been women: unsettling folktronica performance artist Gazelle Twin following operatic chanter Hatis Noit, with layering classical/noise minimalist Alicia Jane Turner scheduled for the next event.

Meanwhile here’s a little of Iona working on her own, plus a snippet of NYX working with Gazelle Twin. Chop, edit and remix in your mind’s eye as appropriate.


 
As a kind of counterbalance to the concert’s Orientalist leanings (for all the sincerity, with this amount of New Agery it can feel as if it’s an act of looking in rather than belonging), the support slot goes to an actual Asian diasporan musician: electronicist Flora Yin-Wong, Chinese-Malaysian by roots but London-born. With an outright interest in club culture and dissonance, Flora seems to be more futurist than tourist but touches on the evening’s mystical tone via her use of field recordings from south-East Asian temples, re-brewed and teased within electronic processing and contemporary beat frameworks. Some of what she does twinkles, but other parts form arresting fields of explosive ritual noise right from the first note – see below.

 
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The following Thursday, up in Manor House, New River Studios plays host to the London launch event for Matthew Shaw‘s “debut” album ‘Among The Never Setting Stars’.

Calling it a debut is a little disingenous, since Matthew’s been putting out music for two decades now. At the turn of the century he sat somewhere between Bark Psychosis, Mojave 3 and a sedated Mike Oldfield, releasing soft-edged, deeply rural dream pop as Tex La Homa. At the start it was murmured acoustic-indie guitar folk – equal parts Drake and Velvets – expanded by synth rills, echo and field recordings; but gradually the singing diminished and the backing tracks became more interesting, the sounds took over and the local Dorset landscape (both physical and psychic, stone circles and solstices) impressed itself ever more deeply on the music. Though Matthew was also spending time helping to add sonic depth and audio subtext to folktronic pop band Sancho, in his own work the pop structures were dissolving away to allow the other ingredients to billow forwards.

By the middle of the decade Matthew was carrying out duo work: bizarre electrophonic ritual music with Nick Grey as 230 Divisadero and theosophical dronery with Andrew Paine as The Blue Tree. Since 2010, he’s run the limited-edition experimental label Apollolaan Recordings and issued a couple of Cornish/antiquarian-slanted location music releases in collaboration with Brian Lavelle as Fougou. Suggesting that he’s only officially going solo now is also a little disingenous – there have been releases under the Matthew Shaw name since he started Apollolaan, with a host of them still on Bandcamp. They’ve explored the usual territories of the recurring mystic tradition – alchemy and magick, psychogeography, cosmic astrology – but without the pomposity that’s usually bundled into the package.

Generally speaking, Matthew comes across as a listener rather than an imposer; travelling from temporary cottage to temporary cottage and from site to site with his guitars, sampler, KAOSS pad and electronics as an itinerant tinker would carry his tools. His work often sounds like an attempt to fuse an English pastoral tradition with spiritual/kosmische protractions and with occult/avant-garde post-punk aesthetics, blending in a folk-inspired interest in the cycles of seasons and life plus the rituals one makes to mark them. Typically New Weird Britain, then – and ‘Among The Never Setting Stars’, true to form, is apparently based around field recordings of “occult landscapes”. I would have expected the resulting pieces to have been more alarming, or at least more disorientating in the standard dark-ambient style (in which thunderheads mass like war in heaven and nature is overwhelmed by random electricity and ferociously foraging ants). On this occasion, however, Matthew seems to have been brought to a pitch of innocent (if slightly eerie) pastoral serenity – his source material buried to the point of absolute dilution or effective erasure beneath a gentle edgeless electrophonic skirl, like a cloud-organ recital in a roofless, open green church.


 
Also on board for the New River concert are the harsher drone-and-sample-scapes of Anji Cheung. Sometimes these are unnerving, frowning amplifier buzzes rolling over the listener like a gigantic clumsy wheel, with dramatically chopped/distorted/otherwise incomprehensible vocals implying pirate-radio-eavesdropping on a covert ritual. Sometimes they’re car-boot clatter under a lowering sky; sometimes they’re beautiful lost female murmur-melodies stalked by drainage-ditch fuzz. If Matthew’s work remains rural (and white), Anji’s is another aspect of NWB: ambiguously multicultural and urban, mixing and obscuring London and Chinese references, but sounding mostly as if it stems from a place where jerry-built tower blocks break up old fields around the city’s tired periphery and where unknown syncretic practises are carried out (perhaps only half-understood even by the people involved).



 
Playing hosts are English Heretic, the multimedia collective who for fifteen years have been self-appointed English psycho-historical curators, magickal Situationists and NWB forerunners. They’ve always carried their enthusiastic immersion in all things Britannic, eldritch and peculiar with warmth and wit, embracing the absurd without turning it into a cheap laugh; and putting a more inclusive and welcoming face onto the uncanny, sometimes belying the depth of their work. If I ever need an exorcism (or, more likely, some kind of psychic mediator) I’ll probably give them a call.

Plenty of music can be fed into the English Heretic stewpot – they’ve cited “psychedelic folk, ritual ethnographic recordings, electronica” as part of their fuel, and they’re very happy to drop into thrumming cusp-of-the-’70s psych rock at any opportunity, but in many respect the music’s secondary to the tales and the texts, the visual images and the intimations. Head Heritageur Andy Sharp has mentioned, in ‘The Quietus’, his tendency to extrapolate scraps and findings into something bardic and numimous – “reading around, something will catch your attention, and then I treat it in a magical context: taking the view that restless spirits or troubled souls inhabit the environment.” Sparks from hidden resonances (including those which are actually in plain sight and hearing) permeate the work.

For this particular concert, English Heritage is airing part of the ongoing audio-visual project ‘London’s Imagined Dead: Cinematic Deaths in London’. The section they’ve picked takes its cues from the Brit-horror era of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s: the era which spawned ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘The Blood on Satan’s Claw’, although they’re focussing on a lesser-known Hammer offering, ‘The Asphyx’. A 1972 tale of horribly botched Victorian research into the transmigration of souls, the film’s final sequence features the cadaverous, wandering-Jew meanderings of the story’s main character, still alive in the 1970s and condemned to a hateful, decrepit, guilt-ridden immortality. That last sequence was filmed at Battersea’s Winstanley Estate, later briefly notorious (in UK garage circles and in tabloid-land) as the home turf of So Solid Crew.

The finale of 'The Asphyx'. (Well, it was the early '70s and they'd run out of budget. Just concentrate on the concept...)

The finale of ‘The Asphyx’. (Well, it was the early ’70s and they’d run out of budget. Just concentrate on the concept…)

Visiting the present-day location, EH have taken note of the estate’s mysterious-looking murals (actually reliefs, carved into the Winstanley’s concrete walls) and have drawn from them to create new visual scores. Full of primal symbols and strange abstracted geometries, the carvings have an ancient air to them; but actually they’re early ‘60s commissions from William Mitchell Design Consultants, formally put up as part of the refurbishment during the estate’s post-war rebuild, and not even a decade old when ‘The Asphyx’ was filmed. English Heretic know this, of course, but are well aware that the ideas which places, objects and initial associations trigger off are at least as important as the actual truth. In this case, they’ve intersected film and building fabric to inspire literal musique concrète. Their pun, not mine. Not that I’m sulking about having been beaten to the punch…

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Dates:

comm-une presents:
NYX with Iona Fortune
The Pickle Factory, 13-14 The Oval, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9DT, England
Sunday 3rd February 2019, 6.30pm
– information here and here

English Heretic presents:
Matthew Shaw + Anji Cheung + English Heretic
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Thursday 7th February 2019, 8.00pm
– information here
 

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – three shows from another packed London weekend – Daylight Music’s Piano Day prelude (with Haiku Salut, Poppy Ackroyd, Gavin Greenaway, Angus MacRae and Oliver Cherer) and a double event for Baba Yaga’s Hut (spaceyness from rock to electronics with The Lucid Dream, Vena Cava and Fragments Of Space Hex on Saturday; art-punk, improv and sensual noise with Hypochristmutreefuzz, Warren Schoenbright and Anji Cheung on Sunday).

25 Mar

Three more London shows for the upcoming weekend. If regular readers are finding it all too predictable to find Baba Yaga and Daylight Music shows listed in these posts, I’d have to agree with you that those guys aren’t the only game in town – it’s just that both of them run a persistently strong game.

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Piano Day, 2016

Daylight Music presents:
Daylight Music 221: Haiku Salut + Poppy Ackroyd + Gavin Greenaway + Angus MacRae + Oliver Cherer
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 26th March 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like event (suggested donation: £5.00) – more information

“For the last event in their current season, Daylight Music is delighted to join in the celebrations for this year’s Piano Day – with piano highlights and delights including lots of artists playing on a baby grand on the Union Chapel stage – in a concert kindly supported by UK publishers Manners McDade.”

Born in Belgrade, Serbia, but resident in Paris for many years, Ivan Ilić is best known for his solo performances of French classical piano music (in particular an acclaimed and controversial 2008 recording of Debussy’s 24 Préludes and a recording of Leopold Godowsky’s left-hand Studies on Chopin’s Études) He also performs music by contemporary composers including Morton Feldman (the subject of his next recording), John Metcalf, Keeril Makan and Dmitri Tymoczko.

Haiku Salut – the Derbyshire-based dream pop/post-folk/neo-everything trio (influenced equally by the evocative film soundtracks of Yann Tiersen and Benoît Charest, the genre-melting electronica of early Múm, and the impressionistic writing of Haruki Murakami) will be setting aside their multi-instrumental skills to play a short piano trio set.

Fresh from her support slot to Jo Quail last week, Poppy Ackroyd will be performing several of her own post-classical piano originals; perhaps making use of field recordings, but certainly incorporating the specific sonic qualities of the Union Chapel space into the performance.

Gavin Greenaway (whose work as composer and conductor covers an extensive variety of film scores, Paul McCartney’s oratorio ‘Ecce Cor Meum’, the 2012 Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant and assorted theme park and sporting events) previews his “immediately engaging, unashamedly melodic and deeply personal” solo piano album ‘Il Falco Bianco’ on Tenuto Records, which takes in alternating flavours of post-minimalism, concert-hall majesty, jazz and prepared piano (with eighty-eight table tennis balls).

Angus MacRae (who has composed for and in conjuction with filmmakers, choreographers, theatre pieces, animations and photography exhibitions) performs pieces from his piano repertoire which “blend melancholic melodies with minimalist structures and rich, atmospheric electronics”.


 

In between the acts, Oliver Cherer – a.k.a. ambient isolationist-turned-pagan folkscaper Dollboy – will explore the inside of the piano.

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Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
The Lucid Dream + Vena Cava + Fragments of Space Hex
Electrowerkz @ Islington Metal Works, 5 Torrens Street, Islington, London, EC1V 1NQ, England
Saturday 26th March 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Baba Yaga's Hut, 26th March 2016The first of two Baba Yaga gigs for the weekend stretches its fingers out across psychedelia, noise and spacetronica.

The Lucid Dream meld a variety of factors into their sound. A Seeds-style, garage-rock sense of the groove; mechanistic drums which flail like a dogged threshing machine with an ‘Unknown Pleasures’ fixation, pinning the sound to the ground; spacious, folded-over guitar contrails which travel from chilly vapour to scalding smoke in a couple of heartbeats. They sound as if they spring from a West Coast town that’s swapped its soul with the most blasted Motown-less end of Detroit or the frowning shadow-Philadelphia of ‘Eraserhead’. They’re actually from the relatively unravaged streets of Carlisle.


Bristol-based Vena Cava are “a noise rock band that enjoys frequent flirtations with shoegaze, space rock and no wave” Well, that covers most of the hang-out-and-rattle scenes. They also call themselves “sludgegaze”, which more or less nails it – guttering mantra-riffs which start out like Lush or Cranes taking on ‘Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun’ and end up pulping themselves against a grille in a welter of grinding distortion.


 

Fragments Of Space Hex flitted across these pages late last year when they played More News From Nowhere up in Walthamstow. An electronic confabulation of dub-techno musician Ciaran Mackle (Ashplant) and drone-kosmischian Andrew Nixon (Deathcount In Silicone Valley), they’re part BBC radiophonic, part Germanic oscillators and part Bakelite space-age, layering in bits of antique broadcast and hands-on synth lines in their rippling, lapping, pulsescapes.



 

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Hypochristmutreefuzz, 2016

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Hypochristmutreefuzz + Warren Schoenbright + Anji Cheung
Birthdays, 33-35 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston, London, N16 8BJ, England
Sunday 27th March 2016, 7.00pm
– free event – more information

To round off the week, Baba Yaga offers a free show featuring “three fantastic bands.”

Ghent art-punk fivesome Hypochristmutreefuzz headline, folding together sturdily uncomfortable but compelling riffs and musical figures (in the King Crimson/Les Savy Fav vein), punk drawls and a space-rocking burble of echoing synth. The music’s smart, bright, cheeky and oblique: like some mocking street-genius eating an ice-cream cone at you. I can also hear some of the clanging swagger of long-lost ‘90s art-hooligans Campag Velocet (although rather than dropping names, puns and flakes of Nadsat, this band tend to yank ideas from the floating debris at the top of the mind). I’m intrigued.


 

London-based noise/improv duo Warren Schoenbright are Daniel McClennan on drumkit, Matthew Pastkewicz on electronics and a shuffled deck of noises. When I listen to them, they remind me of the hackle-raising anticipatory stillness of Bark Psychosis on ‘Scum’, or of the eerie King Crimson sextet improvs from the mid-‘90s (murky, pulmonary, oft-detonating free-instrumental ghost-rides – once described by ‘Q’ as “ambient music for giants”, which is a phrase that’s far too good not to steal when you need it). Hissing, spitting drum improvisations and head-slithers from a jazz corner combine with boiling brewing ambient vapours from the electronic side to form spectacular instrumental illuminations.

Dynamically speaking, it can go from all-out drum hammering and scourscreech to tense gaps and lacunae in which the sound withdraws and poises. Often it sounds like slow-motion night trains caught in a series of stretched-out near misses, watched from the goods-yard shadows by a pair of twitchy, punchy hobos. Here’s fourteen minutes of live set from 2014, to show you what I mean.


 

Multi-instrumentalist and sound-sculptress Anji Cheung might make unsettling ritual drones out of frantically overdriven noise and subterranean bass frequencies, but she also murmurs sensual, semi-comprehensible fragmentary monologues on top; or brings in other women to add their own voices. It’s a compelling mix, and one which adds body – often a literal and living impression of thinking, human body – to the often deliberate alienating and dehumanising world of noise music. Some of Anji’s pieces sound like Raudive experiments (capturing a dead voice on bared electrical wires), or like an encounter with an occult ritual caught in the kink of a broadband cable. Some explore cruelty and subjugation, others the vulnerability of natural environments; some end in hypnotic folk songs. This noise may have been shaped by industry and electronics; but its exploring roots continue to grow deeper and downwards.


 

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