Tag Archives: Café Oto (venue) – Dalston – London – England

April 2017 – upcoming London gigs – three songwriters – Momus (10th); BC Camplight (20th); David Vaughan (29th)

4 Apr

This month, there’s the chance to catch the work of three distinctive and different songwriters who are making individual appearances in London.

In reverse date order – there’s the warm and witty cabaret folk of David Vaughan, who ruminates on subjects from cheerful lust to the downfall of Andrew Mitchell, to the resolve of bereaved children. There’s the wrecked, wracked, shaggy-falsetto alternative pop of Philly refugee-turned-Manchester revenant BC Camplight. Finally – or firstly – there’s whatever a reflective, career-compiling Momus currently cares to pick out from his twenty-six years of contentious adventure (whether it’s the sampler pop performance art palimpsests of his recent work, the Pet-Shop-Boys-do-transgressive-Gainsbourg synth pop of his middle period, or the dazzlingly literate acoustic folk of the early years when he lined up alongside Cave, Cohen and Brel as a speculative, lethally witty chronicler/observer of the possible, the askew and the perverse).

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Momus
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Monday 10th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

Momus, 2017“Nick Currie, more popularly known under the artist name Momus (after the Greek god of mockery), is a Scottish songwriter who lives in Japan. He also writes fiction and reviews contemporary art.

“A veteran of British indie labels, Momus is currently in the midst of a re-release program which will see all his early material reissued by Cherry Red. His latest LP of new compositions is ‘Scobberlotchers’ — a response to Brexit and Trump — and his latest novel is ‘Popppappp’, the tale of two graphic designers captured by fanatical followers of Mark E. Smith.”




 
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Parallel Lines presents:
BC Camplight
St Pancras Old Church, Pancras Road, Camden Town, London, NW1 1UL, England
Thursday 20th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

“Lost treasure needn’t be found in the distant past; the 21st century hides many artists who disappeared into the great wide yonder. BC Camplight (the alter-ego of American songwriter Brian Christinzio) is one such example.

BC Lamplight, 20th April 2017“Originally from New Jersey, Christinzio started playing piano aged just four, inspired by his mum’s Jerry Lee Lewis and Nilsson records and his Dad’s classical collection. Depression and crippling hypochondria clashed with captaining the football team and a penchant for boxing. Post-school, he fell in with people, “willing to go through shit to be a musician,” which saw him relocate to Philadelphia where he occasionally played live with Philly faves The War On Drugs and guested on Sharon Van Etten’s album ‘Epic’. He went on to release his own albums in 2005 and 2007, both gems of a certain psych-pop vintage, combining eloquent songwriting with a self-destructive bent. Christinzio certainly knew it – he’s described himself as “the guy who blew it.”

“But this sublime talent with the keening vocal and fearless approach to lyrical introspection has another chance. His new album ‘How To Die In The North’, recorded in his newly adopted home of Manchester, England, is a fantastically rich, stylistically diverse trip. From dramatic, layered pop to a haunted take on Sixties sunshine-pop, from blue-eyed soul to speedy surf-pop, from sparser piano balladry to psychedelic showstoppers and a grand finale that’s part Nilsson and part Broadway showtune.”

There’s a further twist to the tale in that BC has recently fallen foul of Britain’s ludicrous visa laws and is now having to split his living time between Paris and Philadelphia (the very place he had to leave in order to achieve this artistic and personal rebirth). Come along to this solo piano-and-voice gig on the 20th to at least express a little sympathy.


 

 

(UPDATE, 7th April 2017 – Another sorry twist. This gig has been moved to St Pancras Old Church following the sad, sudden closing of The Forge. Another great venue goes down… At least this means that the show doesn’t get pulled and that more tickets are available.)

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MAP Studio Café presents:
David Vaughan
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Saturday 29th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

David Vaughan“Singer-songwriter David Vaughan’s highly original mix of chanson, latin jazz and classical music comes to MAP for the very first time. Playing two forty-five minute sets of original songs arranged especially for voice, piano/classical guitar, accordion and clarinet, David calls on a number of influences including French chanson of the mid 20th century, modern and traditional Latin jazz, and classical music. They are melodic in nature with intricately arranged accompaniments highlighting David’s talents as both a performer, composer and arranger.

“With a varied career that spans work as a big band jazz trumpeter, jazz fusion keyboard-player (with Matt Borgmann’s 1990s band Meander), rock singer, commercial music composer and music teacher, David leads the show in his own relaxed, friendly style putting his audience at ease for what is an intimate, often heart-felt, sometimes dramatic, sometimes virtuosic show. Few contemporary British songwriters propose such an original blend both of instrumentation and of musical styles. The sound of top UK cabaret/jazz accordionist Romano Viazzani, combined with the mellow tone of upcoming classical clarinetist Jordi Juan Pérez, provides an inimitable backdrop to Vaughan’s songs. And yet this is neither folk nor traditional song, but something entirely original.”


 


 

March/April 2017 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Kammer Klang taken over by moss, yeast and bacteria (via Hackuarium’s Living Instruments project and the We Spoke Ensemble); plus music for spectral/timbral moods and for mute/hands/voice (via Explore Ensemble and Wai-Nok Angela Hui performances of Mark Applebaum, Fausto Romitelli, Gérard Grisey) – 31st March to 4th April

24 Mar

Punters at Café Oto will tell you that the beloved Dalston art pit sells a variety of craft beers. To my knowledge, none of them are made with singing yeasts. Next month, that might change.

Kammer Klang, 4th April 2017The centrepiece of this month’s Kammer Klang activities at Oto are the Living Instruments – “musical instruments based on microorganisms, built by a team including classically trained musicians and professional and hobbyist scientists” – which are making their British debut following their world debut at Le Bourg, Lausanne and an appearance in Darmstadt at the 2016 International Summer Course for New Music. Initiated by Swiss DIY-biology open lab Hackuarium as a low-tech, low-cost, open source interdisciplinary research project, they’re being presented and performed by the Swiss-Anglo ensemble We Spoke, who’ll be triggering the lifeforms and interpreting their output.

Both ensemble and organisms are taking up residence at Café Oto for five days, incorporating a public exhibition, a two-day composer’s workship culminating in a free performance, and a headlining slot on the April Kammer Klang bill. Here’s more on the science and method behind the project:

“Performers will stimulate fermentation bubbles, paramecia, moss, visualised radioactive traces and other curiosities of nature, their activity and data converted into sound via sensors. The nature of the instruments allows the performers to engage with them interactively, and the cyclic behaviour of the living objects is reflected musically in rich grooves and rhythmic patterns.”

Control devices featured include the Mossphone (which monitors the physical reactions of moss when it’s touched, and interprets them as analogues to “singing, snarling, murmuring or growling”), the yeast-driven Bubble Organ, the bacteriological marshal-and-track Paramecia Controller and the iPadPix app (part Geiger counter, part cloud chamber, part drum machine), in conjunction with the Virtual Soprano instrument controller (which translates facial movements into music). Some of the chemical and biological actions will be projected onto screens as a visual accompaniment.

The Living Instruments in action

The Living Instruments in action

The composer’s workshop (with ten places available to those who can send a CV and a couple of sentences outlining their interest in the project) gives composers a crash-course in the workings of the organisms and their control devices, plus the opportunity to compose and fine tune a piece using the control software, to be presented to the public on the Monday night concert.

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Also playing at Kammer Klang are twentieth/twenty-first century classical specialists Explore Ensemble, made up of soloists associated with the Royal College of Music. They’ll be playing two pieces: both of them by composers whose lives were unfairly cut short, and both of whom were associated with the evolving-timbre-over-time school of spectral music.

The first of these is ‘Talea’, a 1986 piece by spectral pioneer Gérard Grisey. Here’s something on the piece from ‘The Strad‘s Bruce Hodges, taken from a description of a performance by the Talea Ensemble:

“In Latin, “talea” means “cutting,” and in Gérard Grisey’s ‘Talea’, an initial idea is gradually excised—elements removed and others taking their place. In two parts played without pause, the work is intended to — in the composer’s words — “express two aspects or, more precisely, two auditory angles of a single phenomenon.” But his concise description feels inadequate to describe the experience of hearing the score. ‘Talea’s power comes from its examination and illumination of an overtone cycle, a phenomenon integral to Grisey’s output (and spectral music in general).

“Somehow when one hears the ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano) illuminating Grisey’s argument, it feels like being exposed to one of life’s basic building blocks—like grasping at DNA and holding it in your hands. The five players alternate between moments of great ferocity (especially in the piano), and those of eerie quietude — at times almost as if everything has been shut down completely; at others, sounds emerge like soft groans from the earth itself. The timbres float, hover, barge into your brain, recede, reform themselves, take you hostage. As the scurrying of the first part calms down in the second, the waters reform, interrupted by various phenomena, until a kind of miraculous climax occurs near the end. Bit by bit, the violinist states the overtone scale with a thrilling baldness—as if everything previously had been building toward this moment—before the violinist repeats the scale again, and this time the sequence is abruptly cut off.”

The second piece is ‘Domeniche alla periferia dell’impero’, composed by Fausto Romitelli (a student of Grisey’s who took strong inspiration from both him). The piece – the second section of which is dedicated to Grisey and his fellow Spectralist Hugues Dufourt – was worked out in various versions between 1996 and 2000 prior to Romitelli’s untimely death from cancer. Again, I’ve lifted a little text from the Talea Ensemble pages to illustrate the nature of his work:

“Romitelli’s music is a collage of styles that defy classification; his work drawing from all corners and incorporating timbres associated with psychedelic rock music and spectral harmony. From screaming electric guitar and electronics to sensual textures, his music is fresh and innovative in the contemporary canon. At times, his hellish sound-world evokes nightmarish and hallucinatory qualities that inspire a visceral listening experience.”

The composer himself once laid his methods out as follows: “At the centre of my composing lies the idea of considering sound as a material into which one plunges in order to forge its physical and perceptive characteristics: grain, thickness, porosity, luminosity, density and elasticity. Hence it is sculpture of sound, instrumental synthesis, anamorphosis, transformation of the spectral morphology, and a constant drift towards unsustainable densities, distortions and interferences, thanks also to the assistance of electro-acoustic technologies. And increasing importance is given to the sonorities of non-academic derivation and to the sullied, violent sound of a prevalently metallic origin of certain rock and techno music.”

Examples of both pieces below, plus excerpts of Explore Ensemble performing another Romitelli piece, ‘Professor Bad Trip’:




 
This month’s Fresh Klang item is provided by London-based percussionist Wai-Nok Angela Hui, one of the percussion finalists in the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2010 and a performer with the BBC Symphony Orchestra as well as a soloist and chamber musician. She searches for the unexplored possibilities between classical music, musical theatre and art, and collaborates with artists, poets and painters, incorporating a multitude of instruments and styles.

She’ll be performing ‘Aphasia’ by Mark Applebaum– a demanding physical/philosophical performance piece written for hand gestures synchronised to pre-recorded sound. (The latter is based on thousands of edited and transformed vocal samples originated by baritone Nicholas Isherwood, from sung notes, musical phrases and intoned numbers in a variety of language through to drones, lip smacks and hiccups). Here’s an excerpt from Camille Brown’s ‘Stanford Report’ essay on the original work, plus a video of Applebaum himself performing it.

“While the piece was inspired by a conversation between Isherwood and Applebaum, the idea to write a piece for a mute singer with hand motions was Applebaum’s own “obsession.” His intention was to have Aphasia come across as a metaphor for “expressive paralysis,” something that unnerves him every time he “confronts the terror of composing a new piece.” So how does one go about the paradox of writing a composition for a performance that has no form of verbal communication or written words?

“Applebaum began by collaborating with Isherwood to produce the sounds, a collection of three hours of Isherwood singing. The singing consisted of “a bunch of crazy sounds – very strange things I asked of him.” From there Applebaum isolated individual samples and transformed his selections radically through computer processes. The result, he said, “was a garbled voice of sorts.” Applebaum then choreographed “a kind of invented nonsense sign language” to accompany the now otherworldly sound sequence. Based on everyday activities, the gestures were recorded as a written musical score, using icons with names such as “give me the money” and “Post-it Notes.”

“These gestures, each of which are described in detail in the work’s appendix, are intended to reflect the composer’s fascination in “absurdity that seems to be the consequence of tedious, obsessive attention to ridiculous things.” Or, in other words, how bizarre the actions of our mundane routine of activity seem when they are examined out of context… The fast-paced and unexpected nature of Aphasia in performance that gives it charm and broad appeal. Since the piece is so far removed from what is recognized as common musical practice, it is equally accessible to music experts and novice listeners alike. As Applebaum points out, “Kids love it. So do people who need a break from conventional modes of expression.”


 
This months’ Kammer Klang DJ set is provided by Neu Records, an independent label which, last year, released We Spoke’s album ‘Different Beat’ (featuring the music of Fritz Hauser). Based in Barcelona, the label is devoted to recording contemporary music in surround and 3D formats, as well as providing a platform for interaction between international composers and performers of the highest level.

Programme summary:

Fresh Klang: Mark Applebaum – Aphasia (performed by Wai-Nok Angela Hui)
Explore Ensemble performs:
Gérard Grisey – Talea (for violin, cello, flute, clarinet, and piano) (performed by Explore Ensemble)
Fausto Romitelli – Domeniche alla periferia dell’impero (for four instruments) (performed by Explore Ensemble)
Living Instruments (UK premiere – presented and performed by We Spoke Ensemble & Hackuarium)
DJs: Neu Records

Full dates:

  • Living Instruments Composers’ Workshop – Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Friday 31st March 2017, 12.00pm-7.00pm & Monday 3rd April 2017, 12.00pm-7.00pm – information here and here
  • Living Instruments Exhibition – Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Saturday 1st April 2017, 11.00am-8.00pm – information here and here
  • Living Instruments free performance (featuring outcomes of Composers’ Workshop) – Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Monday 3rd April 2017, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Kammer Klang (We Spoke & Living Instruments + Explore Ensemble + Wai-Nok Angela Hui)- Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Tuesday 4th April 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here

 

March 2017 – upcoming London classical/classical-experimental gigs, (7th, 16th, 17th) – Kammer Klang (with Klara Lewis/Nik Colk Void, Christopher Redgate, Phaedra Ensemble performing Leo Chadburn and John Uren); Tomos Xerri & Claire Wickes’ rush-hour duets (with a new Liam Mattison piece); Elisabeth Turmo & Elena Toponogova’s Norwegian/Russian celebration

1 Mar

As well as composers ranging from Grieg to Takemitsu, these three upcoming London gigs take in trolls, moths, David Bowie, extended fiddles and oboes, and just a tiny hint of saw abuse. Let’s have a look and listen.

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Kammer Klang, 7th March 2017Kammer Klang presents:
Klara Lewis + Phaedra Ensemble (performing Leo Chadburn) + Christopher Redgate + John Uren + Holodisc DJs
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 7th March 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

From the Kammerers (supplemented by a few text raids from here and there)…

“In our second show of 2017 we are joined by Klara Lewis, the critically acclaimed sound sculptress who has performed in clubs and art galleries around the world. Lewis builds her work from heavily manipulated samples and field recordings, creating a unique combination of the organic and the digital. Klara’s second album ‘Too’ was released in 2016 on Editions Mego to great acclaim. She will be performing with Nik Colk Void, an experimental electronic recording artist who is one part of Factory Floor (an alliance with Gabriel Gurnsey) and one-third of Carter Tutti Void (with former Throbbing Gristle members Cosey Fanny Tutti and Chris Carter). Coming from an English art school background, and an education that was decidedly non-musical in nature, Nik’s work is as conceptual as it is visceral – exploring the out-regions of pushing and manipulating sound (via modular synthesis, extended guitar techniques and vocal processing), and collaborating with contemporary visual artists such as Haroon Mirza and Philippe Parreno.



 
“We are also joined by Phaedra Ensemble, whose performances explore the spaces between classical, experimental and contemporary music. Phaedra brings together some of London’s most exciting musicians to curate programmes with new collaborations, reinterpretations of well-known modern works and forgotten classics. Its members have a strong intuition for genre-crossing and interdisciplinary work, often in collaboration with artists from other disciplines. This month Phaedra will perform ‘The Indistinguishables’, a 2014 string-quartet-and-electronics work by Leo Chadburn. Leo is a composer and performer of experimental and electronic music, gallery music and (as Simon Bookish) avant-pop. ‘The Indistinguishables’ works through a cycle of seventy names of UK moth species, each accompanied by a chord or phrase, like a fleeting soundtrack to these evocative words. The recordings are triggered by the quartet, so the pacing of the pauses and resonances is under their control, part of their ensemble dynamic.


 
“Phaedra will also be performing this month’s “Fresh Klang” work, which is from British composer John Uren. ‘A few weeks after David Bowie’s death in January 2016, Dr Mark Taubert, a palliative care doctor based in Cardiff, wrote an open letter to Bowie, posthumously thanking him for the soundtrack he had provided to his life, his dedication to his art, and the inspiration he was, and continues to be, for others also facing end-of-life illnesses. Retweeted by Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, Mark’s letter has gone on to have a huge impact, and has been recited at several Letters Live events by Jarvis Cocker and Benedict Cumberbatch. John collaborated with Mark for this composition, combining a recording of Mark reading his own beautiful letter with fragile strings and electronic timbres; acting as a cushion for Mark’s words to drift across.


 
“The distinguished oboeist Christopher Redgate will perform his own work ‘Multiphonia’. Since his time as a student at the Royal Academy of Music, he has specialised in the performance of contemporary oboe music. Now the Evelyn Barbirolli Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Music and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, Christopher (in collaboration with Howarth of London) has redesigned the instrument. He performs exclusively on his creation, the Howarth-Redgate 21st Century Oboe, which offers extended capability for twenty-first-century music including microtones, multiphonics, extended range and electronics.

“There will also be DJ sets from the people behind British experimental music label Holodisc.”

Programme:

Fresh Klang: John Uren – Her Own Dying Moments (performed by Phaedra Ensemble)
Leo Chadburn – The Indistinguishables (performed by Phaedra Ensemble)
Christopher Redgate – Multiphonia (for solo oboe)
Klara Lewis + Nik Colk Void – improvised set

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South and slightly west, here are a couple of interesting-looking duo shows at the 1901 Club in Waterloo – picked out from the rest of the venue’s busy schedule by dint of having interesting instrumentation, interesting juxtapositions, or the promise of new pieces being premiered.

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Tomos Xerri, 2017Hattori Foundation presents:
Hattori Foundation Rush-Hour Recital: Tomos Xerri & Claire Wickes
1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Thursday 16th March 2017, 6.00pm
information

Outstanding contemporary harpist and Riot Ensemble member Tomos Xerri performs regular duet concerts with English National Opera’s principal flautist Claire Wickes (who also plays as guest principal with most of the big London orchestras, as well as the São Paulo Symphony). Here’s one of those shows – one of the Hattori Foundation’s showcase concerts, nicely timed for the Waterloo homeward-bounders.

Claire Wickes, 2017

While Claire and Tomos will be playing a set of established pieces by Takemitsu, Debussy, Piazzolla and American tonal hero Lowell Liebermann (as well as a sonata by the distinguished twentieth-century British polymath William Alwyn), they are both strong enthusiasts for contemporary music, and are premiering a new composition by Trinity Laban alumnus Liam Mattison (a recent partipant in the LSO’s Panufnik Composers Scheme).

Look out, too, for any mention of Tomas’ upcoming musical-saw-and-electronics project… which at the moment seems to be more of a tingling promise than anything concrete. If any more evidence shows up, I’ll blog it myself.

Programme:

Astor Piazzolla – Bordel 1900 (from Histoire du Tango)
Lowell Liebermann – Sonata for Flute & Harp
Claude Debussy – La Chevelure (from Trois Chansons de Bilitis), Nuit D’Étoiles
Tōru Takemitsu – Toward the Sea III
Liam Mattison – new commission
William Alwyn – Naiades (Fantasy-Sonata)

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Elisabeth Turmo, 20171901 Club presents:
Elisabeth Turmo & Elena Toponogova: “Two Journeys”
1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Friday 17th March 2017, 6.30pm
information

This is a musical celebration of two cultures, Norwegian and Russian, performed by Norwegian violinist Elisabeth Turmo and Siberian pianist Elena Toponogova. Both are recent or imminent Masters graduates from the Royal College of Music, with growing international reputations. Elizabeth has performed as a soloist with the Arctic Philharmonic, the Oslo Chamber Orchestra, the Toppen International Festival Orchestra and the Barratt Due Symphony Orchestra; while Elena has performed as a chamber musician and soloist across the United Kingdom, Russia and Germany.

Elena Tonogova, 2017Already tagged as “conveying the stormful temperament of a northern Norwegian” in her concert performances, Elisabeth is also an up-and-coming exponent of the hardingfele, or “Hardanger fiddle” – the thin-wooded Norwegian violin with additional sympathetic strings which is traditionally used for folk dances and church processionals, and which bridges the gap between Norway’s ecclesiastical life and its supernatural mythology (by way of “troll-tunings” and Robert Johnson-esque myths about music lessons from the Devil).

Several hardingfele pieces will be performed as part of the concert set. I doubt that these will include a solo arrangement of Michael Grolid’s recent ‘Ouverture’ (as played here two years ago by Elizabeth and Barratt Due’s Symphony Orchestra) but I’ve included it in lieu of her having posted up any other recordings with the instrument.


 
Programme:

Ole Bull – A Mountain Vision
Selected pieces for hardingfele
Bjarne Brustad – Fairy-tail for violin (solo)
Edvard Grieg – Solveig’s Song (from the ‘Peer Gynt’ suite)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Melody for violin and piano Op.42 No.3
Nikolai Medtner – Sonata Reminiscenza Op.38 (from ‘Forgotten Melodies’
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – (arr. Mikhail Pletnev ) – Intermezzo (from ‘The Nutcracker Suite’)
Igor Frolov (from George Gershwin) – Concert Fantasy on Themes from ‘Porgy and Bess’
 

January 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Society of Imaginary Friends soiree with Swifty Lazarre, Millie George, I Am Her, Cian Binchy & Nighmar Ascouski (6th); Tom O.C Wilson and Beetles play Café Oto (11th)

3 Jan

Another year comes around, and it’s back to the small rooms and the hidden wonders…

Soif Soiree , 6th January 2016

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:
‘New Year Soif Soiree’: Society of Imaginary Friends + The Right Reverend Swifty Lazarre + Millie George + I Am Her + Cian Binchey + Nighmar Askouski
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London N22 6UJ, England
Friday 6th December 2017, 8:00pm
– free entry – information

Kicking off a new year, Society Of Imaginary Friends have another of their left-field, mixed-art, performance’n’protest soirees rolling up in Wood Green this Friday.

As hosts, the Society have previously offered grand Kate Bush-styled prog-pop, transfigured folk, and even miniature rock operas about the speaking clock. This time, they’re unveiling “a sad blues for this ecstatic blue jewel that we ride across the Universe.” There’ll also be soiree regulars performing – two actor-performers (autism-positive Cian Binchy and sometime dark poet Nighmar Ascouski) offer a kind of cross-set dialogue, the one providing “a glimpse of a better world, a Utopian vision of every one stopping messing about and just kind of sorting it out” and the other “a glimpse of what to expect if we don’t.” Julie D. Riley is also returning with her singer-songwriter project I Am Her in order to “fill our hearts with punk fury at the crass stupidity of it all.”


 
In keeping with their taste for statements of resistance and community voicing (and, fresh for 2017, that sense of impending dread), the Society have announced that “the theme for our January Soiree is ‘lets stop climate disaster in 2017’. Sir David Hempleman-Adams has just completed a circumnavigation of the Arctic Polar region in a sailing boat. A journey that would have in the past taken three years because of the ice and pack-ice has just taken him four months. He saw very little ice. The infamous North West Passage was virtually ice-free…

“What are we going to do to meet the challenge we all face? Please give it some thought over the next few days and bring your ideas to the Soiree to be aired. We are hoping to have a video link-up with a genuine climate activist speaking from a secret location… briefing us on the current state of affairs so that we can all work towards a solution to avoid this global catastrophe as the evening progresses.”

Also on hand to entertain and provoke are slide guitar blues preacher and alleged Devil’s poker buddy The Right Reverend Swifty Le Zarre – here to represent “an extremely disconcerted deity” while dipping into a stack of pre- and post-war blues classics – and activist performance-poet Millie George, who’s been compared to both Angela Davis and Sylvia Plath and is representing “the very unhappy youth who are watching us fiddle as the world burns…”


 
Other than that, the usual SOIF circumstances applies – the free entry, the communal atmosphere, the top-notch vegan food; the general likelihood of them pulling some unknown/obscure/future star onstage for you.

* * * * * * * *

Tom O.C. Wilson (photo by James Birtwistle)

Tom O.C Wilson + Beetles
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Wednesday 11 January 2017, 8.00pminformation

A few days later, Tom O.C. Wilson gets to take over the art shack at Café Oto for an evening. Tom was last seen in December, supporting Bob Drake on the latter’s joyful, loose cannon art-rock swings through London. On that occasion he brought along Beetles, his alt.pop duo with Laila Woozeer which he’ll be bringing to this gig too (as well as headlining with his own four-piece band featuring drummer James Ashdown, bass player Steve Haynes and keyboard player Steve Troughton).

Leaner and less cutely baroque than his earlier work as Freeze Puppy, Tom’s more recent solo work on Soundcloud shows how he’s pushing his idiosyncratic and elliptical songwriting voice forwards. Though the half-spoken, half-conversationally-sung vocals are familiar from Puppy Time (as are the clambering, almost-jazzy melodies) the dusty synth trumpets replacing the cute keyboard tones suggest a growing interest in natural timbres. More significantly, he’s shedding some of his previous, precocious preciousness and becoming more literary while at the same time managing to become more compelling a listen: a neat trick to pull off.


 
Itchy and unnerving, swaying between a surprising number of key shifts across its three-and-a-half minutes, The Wagon is a self-proclaimed “song of struggle”, ostensibly about quitting cigarettes; but as the lines and distractions unfold, it could as much be about quitting a person, or jabbing around the edges of artistic compulsion in search of the route to an aim. If you were to pick a comparison, it would have to be a narrative wrangled between Stephen Malkmus at his most effusive and the looping literary embroideries of Stars In Battledress – a delightfully skewed and verbose transatlantic mixture which mirrors Tom’s own mixed English and American roots.

Beetles (photo by Paul @ bitoclass)

Beetles (photo by Paul @ bitoclass)


Beetles – lo-fi unwinders of “intricate, skeletal pop songs” – have a scrappier and almost-unplugged approach, with their instrumentation limited to Tom’s slippery, feathery electric guitar and to the deceptively loose twining of Tom and Laila’s voices. The sparse pair of tracks they put up on Soundcloud this past autumn tease through ideas as if working on stubborn, resistant knots in the hair. Tom and Laila offer thoughtful pop song perspectives from the losing sides of open relationships, from in and around deceptions; stories-in-process from (or about) unreliable people, or people who might have bitten off more than they can chew. They cite Regina Spektor, Nirvana and the other Beatles (the one with the “a”) as inspiration: for me, though, I keep imagining an alternate Sonny and Cher, immured in a thin-walled apartment for months on end, toning down the carolling and coming up with increasingly fractured songs as they start to forget which of them is whom.



 

December 2016 – upcoming gigs – ‘Staggerlee Wonders’ with Robert Mitchell, Debbie Sanders, Corey Mwamba, John Edwards, Elaine Michener, Mark Sanders and others (London, 8th); Trio Generations with Maggie Nichols/Lisa Ullén/Matilda Rolfsson (Cheltenham and London, 9th & 11th)

5 Dec

StaggerLee Wonders
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 8th December 2016, 8.00pm
– information here and here

'Staggerlee Wonders', 8th December 2016Billed as “an evening of radical poetry and prose fused with free improvised music”, this event’s title is taken from James Baldwin’s blazingly scornful, almost conversational poem – itself named for the black outlaw/hoodlum who flits and thunders through a set of conflicting American tales and songs, taking on the roles of murderer, proud badass, pimp and more.

In all cases, Stagger Lee’s become a byword and signifier for transgressive black resistance to cultural pressure and norms. A lengthy lope in a thickly jazzy, declamatory style, Baldwin’s version takes up the final, revolutionary Stagger Lee position, setting aside the thuggery, choosing instead to weigh up the protests, delusions and not-so-secret wickednesses of white hegemony in one Afro-American palm (seamed with exile, scepticism and righteous ire) before firing up his sardonic, acidic tongue to flay and spit the flesh right off their bones. It’s not clear whether Baldwin’s take will be performed as the evening’s centrepiece, or whether it simply serves as an inspiration; but it certainly sets the bar high, both artistically and politically.

Various performers, both black and white, are confirmed to attend. Hopefully, they’ll all rise to the explicit challenge. Reknowned for his weighty slowhand approach, jazz pianist Robert Mitchell has worked with Epiphany3, F-ire Collective and Panacea. Jazz/folktronicist Corey Mwamba plays small instruments, dulcimer and electronics across assorted projects but is best known for his highly dynamic, hammers-to-humming vibraphone playing and for the ongoing questioning spirit which he explores in both live music and academia (and any intersections he can make between the two). Voices come from restless, movement performer and polygenre singer Elaine Michener (recently seen at the Cockpit Theatre in a quartet with Alexander Hawkins) and from storytelling singer/composer Debbie Sanders (currently heading up Mina Minou Productions, previously embedded in proto-acid-jazz, trip-hop and British R&B via work with Skylab and Chapter & The Verse).

Bass and drums are provided by two stunning soloists who also happen to make up one of London music’s most formidable rhythm partnerships. Both double bass player John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders are capable of a breadth of sound and attack on their respective instruments, running across an orchestral breadth from whisper to hailstone attack (via conversation or monologue, from growling belligerence to kidding conversation or querying patter).

More people may be showing up to play, but that’s already a pretty thrilling loose sextet to work with and to choose from.

* * * * * *

Trio Generations is an intermittent name for a convocation of three top European improvisers, Maggie Nichols, Lisa Ullén and Matilda Rolfsson. Formed last year, they’re playing a couple of English shows to bookend the upcoming weekend. Outlines below, mostly from the Café Oto pages:

Trio Generations, 2016

Trio Generations, 2016

Maggie Nicols joined London’s legendary Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1968 as a free improvisation vocalist. She then became active running voice workshops with an involvement in local experimental theatre. She later joined the group Centipede, led by Keith and Julie Tippets and in 1977, with musician/composer Lindsay Cooper, formed the remarkable Feminist Improvising Group. She lives in Wales and continues performing and recording challenging and beautiful work, in music and theatre, either in collaborations with a range of artists (Irene Schweitzer, Joelle Leandre, Ken Hyder, Caroline Kraabel) as well as solo.

Matilda Rolfsson is a Swedish percussionist and free improviser, based in Trondheim, Norway. During the spring of 2015 she was temporarily based in London where she finished her masters in free improvisation and the relationship between improvised music and dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. During her London stay Matilda got the chance to meet and play with some of Londons most efficient improvisers: Phil Minton, Sylvia Hallett and London Improvisers Orchestra with Maggie Nichols. With her 20” vintage Gretsch bass drum, Tibetan bowls, gongs, bells and plastic isolations, sticks, fingers and brushes, Matilda explores the free improvisation and the instant compositions shaped in the moment: dynamics, orchestrations – structure and chaos. To make rules and break rules, always with the question: where’s the music going, and where’s the freedom?

“Pianist Lisa Ullén grew up in the northern part of Sweden, and is based in Stockholm. A versatile player with a singular musical vision, Lisa has repeatedly proven her ability to imprint her absolute sense for tonal texture on whatever musical context she appears in. Besides working as a soloist and leader of her own groups, Lisa has collaborated extensively with many well-known Swedish artists and dancers, and has also scored several dramatic productions. She’s also performed and recorded music by contemporary composers.”
 
To provide a sense of what might be coming, here’s the full half-hour set from their debut performance at IKLECTIK in 2015: a fractured, prolonged collective improvisation which swaps mood, pace and suggestions like a game of speed poker, with passing shreds of blues. Although Lisa and Matilda match her with lethally-aimed flinders of explosive, challenging percussion and piano, Maggie remains the centre of attention via a performance that’s as much stand-up comedy or theatre piece as it is free jazz. She produces not only the clucks, hisses, pants and operatics of free-voice improv but a bewildering spiky cavalcade of female voices and archetypes (hopeful chitterer, wise sly crone, mother in labour, put-upon wailer, deft gossiper) while including fleeting lyrics from jazz, blues or music hall and assorted Dada twists (including a phase which sounds like a demonic toothbrushing session).


 

This month’s Trio Generations dates:

  • Xposed Club @ Francis Close Hall, University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, England, Friday 9th December 2016, 8.00pm (with Chris Cundy) – information
  • Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Monday 11th December 2016, 8.00pminformation

At the Café Oto show, John Edwards will be joining in to make the group a quartet. While there’s no support act at Oto, at the Xposed Club Cheltenham reedsman/multi-instrumentalist Chris Cundy will be providing a solo slot on bass clarinet and saxophone. A tactile extended-technique player, Chris began as a self-taught Medway busker coming into his own under the combined influence of Eric Dolphy (on record) and Billy Childish (in the flesh and in the kitchen). Following a relocation to Cheltenham to pursue fine art, Chris has broadened his scope into a world of other collaborations in film, electronica, free improvisation and pop. He’s worked extensively with Fyfe Dangerfield (as part of the Guillemots horn section and as an integral member of Gannets), with Canadian freak-folkers Timbre Timbre and a succession of left-field singer-songwriters. His extended techniques (including multi-phonics, circular breathing and microtonality) have also led him into exploring the works of Cage and Cardew and those of contemporary avant-garde composers such as Thanos Chrysakis and Pete M Wyer, as well as producing a growing number of albums of his own work.


 

November 2016 – upcoming London classical/post-classical gigs – ensemble work, throat-singing and dance with Ayan-ool Sam, 12 Ensemble and Camilla Isola at Kammer Klang (1st); a baroque-to-now SOLO performance by violinist Daniel Pioro (25th)

29 Oct

At opposite ends of the month, here are the latest examples of two regular and recurring London gigs with their roots in classical music but navigating (especially in the case of Kammer Klang) its rewarding outer margins and potential associations.

* * * * * * * *

Kammer Klang, 1st November 2016Kammer Klang presents:
Ayan-ool Sam + 12 Ensemble + Camilla Isola + Carrier Records DJ set
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 1st November 2016, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Headliner Ayan-ool Sam is an acclaimed xöömeizhi, or master of xöömei throat singing (the traditional droning polyphonic music of the Tuva republic in southern Siberia: solo vocalisations developed to mimic and revere both animate and inanimate sounds from nature, in line with the region’s ancient animism). He’s a former student of “xöömeizhi’s xöömeizhi” Kongar-ool, half of Alash Ensemble (with Bady-Dorzhu Ondar), and a frequent throat-singing competition winner whose garlands range from being voted this year’s People’s Xöömeizhi of the Republic of Tuva to gaining the nickname of “Golden Throat” from banjo ace and prolific world music collaborator Béla Fleck. He’ll be performing traditional xöömei as counterpart and capstone to the rest of the evening’s repertoire and explorations.


 
Having spent the earlier part of the year in Iceland for a HEIMA artistic residency (as well as providing the musical backbone for Max Richter’s ‘Vivaldi Recomposed’ project in Paris), orchestral duodecet 12 Ensemble are back in their London hometown for this show. Considered to be London’s foremost un-conducted string orchestra, they’ve recorded and are currently readying a debut album for next year, featuring works by William Walton, Johns Woolrich and Tavener, and the young British composer Kate Whitley (you can see the group performing her piece, ‘Autumn Songs’, below). Previously, 12 Ensemble were Ensemble in Residence for two years at the Forge in Camden, collaborating with several international artists including the tenor Nicky Spence, the pianist Mei Yi Foo and the violist Simon Rowland-Jones. On this occasion, they’ll be performing works by Alex Hills and Ruth Crawford Seeger.

 
Alex Hills is a London-based contemporary composer with a growing reputation for his “interesting and considerable gifts” (Tempo). His recent album of chamber compositions ‘The Music Of Making Strange‘ showcases his interest in diverse elements including spectralism, experimental chamber and punk rock. A performance of one of its pieces, ‘Knight’s Move’, is below.


 
The Hills piece receiving its world premiere tonight is ‘OutsideIn’, which takes inspiration from E. A. Abbott’s classic 1884 novel ‘Flatland‘ (a geometric and philosophical satire). ‘Flatland’ is a recurring source of ideas for Alex – another such piece, a choral work named after the book, can be downloaded for free here. Discussing his interest in “‘flat’ musical worlds”, Alex explains “in a two-dimensional world, a highly complex ‘inside’ would be quite invisible from the ‘outside’, yet to a hypothetical three-dimensional being staring down from above, that same inside would appear completely different.”

Regarding ‘OutsideIn’, Alex continues by describing the piece as “an attempt to think about the relationship between a soloist and an ensemble (a concerto?) in spatial terms. Rather than an ensemble acting as an accompanist to a virtuosic soloist, or a discursive, dialogue-like relationship between them, I place the soloist inside or outside the ensemble’s sound (or the ensemble in or out of the soloist’s)… ‘In’ and ‘out’ also imply boundaries and a centre, which on the one hand are made physically by the ensemble in a horizontal way, with the soloist in the centre and the other two most prominent instruments (first violin and double bass) at the edges, and also by how the musical lines move in register (vertical musical space), initially continually drawn inwards towards a centre of gravity, then at the end of the piece escaping away from that centre outwards.” Alex gives credit for further inspiration to the “virtuosity, imagination and creative freedom” of 12 Ensemble violinist and longtime Hills collaborator Aisha Orazbayev, who’ll be the featured soloist for the premiere.

A valued contemporary and fellow traveller to American modernists such as Charles Ives and Henry Cowell, Ruth Crawford Seeger was a self-taught composer pioneering a specifically American brand of dissonant, meta-mystical music. Among the elements feeding into this were Ruth’s early fascination with the atonal, innovative and highly personal mysticisms of Alexander Scriabin and her own friendship with the poet Carl Sandburg (who was the almost exclusive source of the texts she set to music, although she also carried out a self-translated, twelve-tone setting of the Bhagvad Gita). Her own pugnacious, assertive modernism was further tempered by her studies with musicologist and theorist Charles Seeger, whose concept of “dissonant counterpoint” became a major element in her work and whose cultural Marxism she came to share (leading her into an increasingly missionary devotion to curating American folk music, at the expense of her own composing) and whom she married in 1931 (at a stroke, becoming the stepmother of future folk music hero Pete Seeger).

Ruth’s late return to focussing on her own compositions (after years of selflessly serving and propogating the folk songs of others) was cut short by her death from cancer at the age of fifty-two, although not before she’d delivered a final Suite for wind quintet which incorporated everything she’d learned across her musical life; from post-tonal pluralism, American serialism and Russian-inspired mysticism to her later immersion in folk. Obscured by the reputations of her male contemporaries for many years, Ruth’s work and reputation (particularly that of her 1930s work) has been being revived. 12 Ensemble will be performing her 1931 ‘Andante for string quartet’: a key Crawford Seeger piece whose carefully structured technical dissonances do not deny its growing tragic melody line. Ruth herself valued the latter to the extent that she rearranged the piece for orchestra seven years later, in the hope that the larger arrangement and a skilled conductor would bring out the embedded line to greater effect. Here’s a taste of the original quartet version:


 
The Fresh Klang act for November is dancer, choreographer and performance artist Camilla Isola, a Trinity Laban graduate in her early twenties at the start of what promises to be an interesting career. She’ll be premiering a brand new solo work which, like the Alex Hills piece, draws on ideas and inspirations from ‘Flatland’, exploring dimensional states and the physical dilemma of the body. One of her previous pieces is shown below:

 
DJs from Carrier Records (the seven-year-old New York improv, experimental and contemporary classical label who released the Alex Hill album mentioned above) will see out the remaining gaps in the evening.

* * * * * * * *

SOLO presents:
SOLO 02: Daniel Pioro
Crypt of @ St Andrew Holborn, 5 St Andrew St, Holborn, London, EC4A 3AB, England
Friday 25 November 2016, 7.00pm
information

The intimate concert recital series SOLO – showcasing unusual works for solo instruments from early music through to new commissions – returns with a showcase in the vaulted crypt of St Andrew Holborn from acclaimed violinist Daniel Pioro.

Daniel Pioro, 2016 (photo © Claire Shovelton)

Daniel Pioro, 2016 (photo © Claire Shovelton)

As player, commissioner, leader and active champion of new music, Daniel’s experience is broad and assertive. He’s a member of innovative chamber ensemble CHROMA, current leader of the Fibonacci Sequence, and the former leader of the London Contemporary Orchestra (with whom he’s played, amongst other pieces, the ‘Triple Concerto’ by Radiohead polymath Jonny Greenwood and Schnittke’s notorious ‘Concerto Grosso No. 1’). He’s worked as a soloist or ensemble player with the Orchestra of St Johns Smith Square (Mozart’s ‘Sinfonia Concertante’, John Woolrich’s ‘Capriccio’), the BBC Philharmonic (Colin Matthews’ ‘Violin Concerto’, Thomas Adès’s ‘Concentric Paths’) and the London Sinfonietta. Daniel has also forged close musical working and performance relationships with a variety of contemporary dancers and with author Michael Morpurgo.

For this concert, Daniel will celebrate and share his eclectic tastes via a set list including “everything from the intricacies of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s ‘Passacaglia for Solo Violin’ to the mind-bending repetitions of ‘Knee Play No. 2′ from Philip Glass’ extraordinary opera ‘Einstein on the Beach’.” Also on the set list is ‘Elsewhere’ by Edmund Finnis (a violin-and-reverb piece which Daniel debuted at St Johns Smith Square in June this year), works by American composers La Monte Young and Pulitzer Prize-winning Caroline Shaw (of ACME and Roomful Of Teeth) and the world première of a new piece by SOLO curator Alex Groves. There’ll also be another as-yet-unspecified baroque violin piece: this time by eighteenth-century composer-performer Nicola Matteis, an emigre virtuoso once reknowned throughout Georgian London, subsequently forgotten as a composer until the late twentieth century. (This performance will restore some of his music to its old haunts.)

No doubt there’ll be a more detailed set list emerging shortly, when tickets go on sale.
 

November 2016 – upcoming gigs – electronics and harps and balloons – Morton Subotnick + Kevin Drumm & Jason Lescalleet + Áine O’Dwyer in London (1st); Judy Dunaway’s inflatable European tour (1st to 30th)

28 Oct

Here’s some close-to-the-event news about an imminent avant-garde, fringing-on-noise event in Hackney; plus news on one of the oddest upcoming tours that I’ve ever had the pleasure of previewing in here.

* * * * * * * *

Morton Subotnick + Kevin Drumm & Jason Lescalleet + Áine O'Dwyer at St Johns Hackney, 1st November 2016

St John Sessions present:
Morton Subotnick + Kevin Drumm & Jason Lescalleet + Áine O’Dwyer
St John at Hackney Church, Lower Clapton Road, Clapton, London, E5 0PD, England
Tuesday 1st November 2016, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Full description scrounged from various press releases:

“Innovators and sonic architects come together for a St John Sessions performance.

Morton Subotnick is a true electronic pioneer who has worked extensively with interactive electronics and multi-media performance (often in collaboration with his wife, vocal virtuoso Joan La Barbara). With Pauline Oliveros and Ramon Sender, Subotnick co-founded the San Francisco Tape Center, an influential cultural organisation and electronic music studio. The Centre was instrumental in the invention and development of the Buchla synthesizer and was, in turn, a fundamental influence on all electronic music that followed.

“Subotnick is an innovator in works involving instruments and other media, including interactive computer music systems. Most of his music calls for a computer part, or live electronic processing; his oeuvre utilizes many of the important technological breakthroughs in the history of the genre. Tonight, Subotnick performs a solo set on the Buchla synthesizer – undulating, moving and almost psychedelic.


 
“Preceding this performance, we are pleased to present the debut UK performance from Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet. Emerging from Chicago’s improvised music scene during the 1990s, Kevin became one of the world’s pre-eminent prepared guitar players, later expanding his work to include electroacoustic compositions and live electronic music made with laptop computers and analog modular synthesizers. His early recordings contain mostly sparse, quiet sounds; recent works have been more loud and dense. For twenty years, Jason has been making electro-acoustic sound work, using all manner of source material to engage listeners in both site and narrative by providing a rich and physical sense of place. Two formidable musicians and performers in their own right, their collaborative releases on Erstwhile Records create a soundworld that is at turns beautiful and terrifying, comprising ambient recordings and brooding drone.


 
“Irish musician Áine O’Dwyer creates chance- and improvisation-based compositions, and has performed widely as a solo artist on harp, organ and various objects, and also regularly performs with United Bible Studies, Charlemagne Palestine and Mark Fry. Her album of improvised church organ music, ‘Music for Church Cleaners’ (released on MIE last year), received critical acclaim. Here, she brings her idiosyncratic approach to composition to sacred space once more.”


 
* * * * * * * *

You might not have thought that a person could still bring what’s essentially a party trick into culture houses and make a career of it; but if so, Judy Dunaway is proving you wrong…

Judy Dunaway, 2016

“Judy Dunaway performs avant-garde compositions and free improvisations on amplified latex balloons played as musical instruments. She is known internationally as a ‘virtuoso of the balloon.’ She plays a variety of shapes and sizes of balloon instruments, each with its own special qualities, pushing the extremes of both pitch range and artistic limits. Her large rubbed ‘tenor’ balloon gives Jimi Hendrix’s guitar a run for the money and her giant balloon pulsates into the depths of the subaudio. Her abstract music and sounds are difficult to equate with other forms, depending upon the perception of the individual like the images seen in fire or clouds.”

Below are a couple of videos – one of which is an overview of Judy’s techniques and approaches as regards her ballooning skills (including audience interaction), and one in which she performs uninterrupted.



 
I’ll admit that (as with most friction-based instrumentation which leans over the borderline into readymade art) listening to this kind of material can end up as a test of endurance in which your mileage and tolerance, plus the outcome, may vary. As far as I know, no-one’s yet tried to tune and tour a scraped blackboard. Yet ultimately, Judy’s commitment to this kind of music making is fascinating. No one-trick pony, she also worked as a guitar-toting singer-songwriter on other occasions up until 1995; but she’s entirely serious about ballooning – publishing papers on her approach, making points about microtonality, and collaborating with string quartets on serious avant-garde compositions. Having mastered a variety of dextrous noise-making techniques which drive the amplifed latex into flexible, cunningly-controlled roars and squeals, she invites us to reconsider a balloon (quite legitimately) as an “orb-shaped string”.

On the other hand, she’s also integrated vibrating dildos into her balloonwork (in one case via a piece called Flying Fuck), so there’s clearly a downtown New York sense of humour at work as well.

Full dates for the European Solo Balloons Tour below:

 

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