A busy week: I should just remind you that tickets might still be available for the second of this month’s two London Annette Peacock gigs at Cafe Oto (the one on Monday) and that the combined Vennart/Knifeworld/Cleft tour is sweeping across Britain during the week (leaving a lot of fans of math/psych/twitch-rock bobbing happily in its wake), but there’s more coming too.
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At the start of the week, Ismena Collective present a multi-media piece. More information below, at length (cobbled together from assorted press releases, bits of essays, etc…)
Formed in 2008 by Mayda Narvey and Sara Cluderay, Ismena Collective is an eclectic group of musicians, singers, composers, writers and actors inspired by multi-disciplinary collaborations and the synthesis of music and words. Their unusual and innovative projects have explored subjects as diverse as the 19th century German Romantics and the 1942 New York arts commune to which Benjamin Britten and WH Auden belonged. Performing in venues across London and beyond, they have delighted audiences with their genre-defying presentations and their insightful approach to the manner in which literature can elucidate music and music can illuminate literature.
Collaborating with dramaturg and director Danielle Allen, Ismena has created a new and unusual theatrical collage of music and words exploring the world of diarist and novelist Anaïs Nin, whose complex, chaotic but compelling inner and outer lives involved many transgressions and secret affairs. Her father (a Cuban-Spanish composer and pianist) was her first love and it was his abandonment of the family and her subsequent complicated relationship with him that engendered both her passion for music and her passion for lies. In her journals, she documented her own fragmentation into Self and Other, and thinly disguised herself in her fiction as a spectrum of different characters. Married to two husbands at the same time, she negotiated her “bicoastal trapeze” between her West coast and East coast relationships by keeping track of her lies in a “Lie Box”.
Nin wrote constantly about lies, confessing “when I talk, I feel that I lie imperceptibly in order to cover myself. I put on costumes. I hate to expose myself truly… The truth is I only face human beings in fragments… I always find the mensonge vital necessary — the one lie which separates me from each person… I have a sense of all that I leave out – the lacunae, especially the dreams, the hallucinations. Also the lies are left out, a desperate necessity to embellish. So I do not write them down. The journal is therefore a lie.” In fact, she reworked and rewrote her diaries constantly until they became well-honed works of fiction.
In the words of her composer brother, Joaquin Nin-Culmell (from his introduction to her childhood diaries, ‘Linotte’): “Later she reinterpreted many events, many situations, many impressions. Linotte may seem to contradict these later interpretations, but I do not feel that this is so. After all, reality is many layered. We peel off one layer only to discover that the process must be repeated. It is evident from the very beginning that Anais’s heart went out to the intuitive, to the poetic, to the magic of subjectivity.”
It is fascinating to reflect upon this uneasy relationship between truth and fiction, between reality and lies. It is equally fascinating to ponder Nin’s relationship to music which seemed to embody for her both her sensuality and her creativity. In her own words, “jazz is the music of the body. The breath comes through brass. It is the body’s breath and the strings’ wails and moans are echoes of the body’s music. It is the body’s vibrations which ripple from the fingers. And the mystery of the withheld theme, known to jazz musicians alone, is like the mystery of our secret life. We give to others only peripheral improvisations. When he was five years old, my brother Joaquin, a spirited and restless child no one could tame, would spend hours absolutely still on the staircase of our home in Brussels, listening to the musicians rehearsing. That was the sign of his vocation. We both listened. I can still hear the lines of Bach which were most often repeated. Joaquin became a musician and in me music was channeled into writing.”
With score and presentation inspired by the soundworld of the surreal art films Nin performed in during the 1940s (and reprising some of the fascinating selections of Nin’s writing and her father and brother’s compositions that Ismena performed in May of this year) ‘The Lie Box’ explores Nin’s life, the musical influences that threaded through it, and the uneasy ground between truth and fiction. As Joaquin Nin-Culmell put it: “After all, reality is many layered. We peel off one layer only to discover that the process must be repeated. It is evident from the very beginning that Anaïs’ heart went out to the intuitive, to the poetic, to the magic of subjectivity.”
For ‘The Lie Box’, Ismena-founding cellist, composer and writer Mayda Narvey performs with actress Sally Mortemore, Danish soprano Lene Sahlholdt and pianist Horacio López Redondo. All four are also working in conjunction with music by electronic composer Daniel Thomas Freeman (whose evocative score to the British indie film ‘Catch Me Daddy’ was heard in cinemas across the country earlier this year).
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Over the next two days, there are two Baba Yaga’s Hut gigs in rapid succession. At time of posting, both of these look set to sell out soon, so move fast if you’re interested. The first of them, on the Tuesday, sees the London debut of two interesting American bands.
From Athens in Georgia, four-piece Maserati style themselves as being “sleek, sexy and sophisticated as the legendary Italian sports car” and meticulously tailor various musical loves together – English psychedelic artiness (Pink Floyd, Eno), its parallel German precision (Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel) and post-psych, post-punk arena-rock swagger (U2, ZZ Top). The cocky, stiffly-shaking result is not a million miles away from what post-rock pomp-boys Trans-Am might have produced if they’d been a little less clenched. Maserati’s Moroder-ified robo-psych seems to be aimed at inducing rock club crowds into unselfconscious flappy dancing: hitting an unexpected triggerpoint at which art-rock meets headbanging meets drone grooves, and where maths twitches the pelvis. You’d expect them to play to an audience of silent, ecstatic mannequins.
Support comes from bicoastal U.S duo Insect Ark. Finding their own space between doom metal crush, ritual experimental loops, wall-of-noise grandeur and the kind of spacious, springy and hypnotic percussion that brings to mind both Can and Steve Jansen, Dana Schechter (bass and lap steel guitar, synths) and Ashley Spungin (drums and electronics) create engrossing and ancient-sounding all-instrumental soundscapes filled with the baleful, the mournful, the grinding and the flat-out apocalyptically lovely.
On the Wednesday, it’s the turn of some London-based crews. Well, not entirely London-based…
The Comet Is Coming + Snapped Ankles + Flamingods (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ The Shacklewell Arms, 71 Shacklewell Lane, Shacklewell, London, E8 2EB, UK, Wednesday 25th November 2015, 8.00pm) – £7.00 – information – tickets
Formed in mid-2014, The Comet Is Coming are what happened when Betamax Killer and Danalogue The Conqueror (the duo behind synthpunktronica band Soccer96 joined forces with London reeds polymath Shabaka Hutchings. Like a punkier, power-trio take on Jaga Jazzist, Betamax and Danalogue generate a wall of stiff, arresting dayglo nu jazz grooves on drumkit and analogue synths, on which Shabaka – like a grand graffiti professor – bursts and tags figures from his battery of saxophones.
The results blur Soccer96’s omnivorous dance music tastes and conversational punky immediacy with Shabaka’s deep and broad engagement with jazz, African, free and classical forms; all tempered with a shared shamanic, psychedelic approach to jam and composition and with a dash of pulpy science fiction mysticism. These ideas spill all over their debut EP, released late last week; from the lead track Neon Baby (in which a Moroder/motorik pulse is set against freewheeling chiptune, phased tom passes and ballsy Afrobeat sax riffs) to the pop-up computerised jump jive of Do The Milky Way or the larger-form compositional tapestry of Star Exploding In Slow Motion.
More punktronica comes from “pagan funk, art wave dropouts” support band Snapped Ankles. Performing in huge and shaggy walking-hedge costumes (based on the legends of the Woodwose, or ancient European wild-man-of-the-woods), the trio thump out gnarly drum-filled collaboration grooves on customised instruments and describe themselves as an “agricultural Kraftwerk”.
Also on the bill are Flamingods, Britain-and-Bahrain-based worldbeat globalists who form their music from instinctive, unschooled plucking and hammering on assorted regional instruments collected from around the world. Both their intuitive adapt-and-make-do approach and their displaced, separated way of life (the seed of the project came from when group member Kamal Rasool was pushed out of Britain by visa restrictions, and group members variously live in, work in or trace roots to London, Dubai and Jamaica) echo the varied plights, both good and bad, of latterday migrants and world-trotters. For those interested in more of what this might cast up, Flamingods are also heading an evening of global exotica and cross-cultural DJing at their own event, Eastern Mystics, on the Friday, at Café 1001 in Brick Lane – details here.
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For the second week in a row, I get to welcome a new London music night. More News From Nowhere are launching a series of “experimental/noise/generally interesting left-field music” up in Walthamstow/ At their debut night, they’re promising “a double-headline masterclass in brass-and-electronics brilliance.”
Gyratory System + Hirvikolari + Fragments Of Space Hex + Luke Turner of The Quietus DJ set (More News From Nowhere @ The Victoria, 188 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 4QH, UK, Wednesday 25th November 2015, 8.00pm) £4.40-£6.00 – information – tickets
Back in the earlier days of ‘Misfit City’ (late ‘90s, pre-blog) I covered a jazztronica band called Blowpipe, of which the core members were father-and-son horn team Robin and Andrew Blick and which mutated through various lineups, bouncing off various passing and evolving dance forms while threading their own impressive knowledge and multi-instrumental adaptability through them. Blowpipe may have petered out, but only in order to make a further mutation into Gyratory System(the Blicks plus James Weaver), who make a slightly different noise, steering away from subverting club beats in favour of making a “brass-inflected kosmiche racket” heavy on Andrew Blick’s multi-levelled synth programming but maintaining Blowpipe’s cunning way with a breezy hook.
Hirvikolari, a splinter group from psychedelic rock band Teeth Of The Sea, are effects-ridden trumpeter Sam Barton and
modular synth interferer Mike Bourne. While Teeth Of The Sea tend to play great stomping horror-slabs of musical architecture (a flying saucer spitting out rows and rows of heavily-armed tower blocks) Hirvikolari prefer to take the slow path and evolve themselves a great bolus of stewed electronic burble and resonating brass tracks. Ennio Morricone’s been cited as a comparison, as has the long tradition of counter-culture festival techno: both comparisons have some grounding.
Also playing are Fragments Of Space Hex, synth experimentalists given to hypnotic jams: behind the mocking and probably bogus Crosby Stills Nash & Young obsessions they’re Andrew Nixon (who usually plays as drone-kosmiche scenarist Deathcount In Silicone Valley) and Ciaran Mackle (of dub-techno project Ashplant). To keep things ticking along, half of the Hamburger Ladies (i.e, Luke Turner of ‘The Quietus’) will be playing a DJ set.
There’ll be another More News From Nowhere night in late December – hopefully the second of many. I’ll preview that in due course.
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Two gigs follow featuring ‘Misfit City’ favourites The Fierce & The Dead who should need no introduction to regular readers – for those of you fresh into these pages, you can familiarise yourself with their friendly, gnarled prog-punk-highlife-whatever hybrid via the clip above.
Following a tumultous couple of years in which they were hobbled by a bitter internal feud, Crippled Black Phoenix have regrouped, reshuffled and reasserted. Now they’re on tour again, in all of their usual looming, black-clouded, apprehensive glory. As ever, their mixture of sombre folk balladry, political resistance and seething post-rock volume is realised by an expanded octet of massed guitars and keyboards, with strings, saws and anything else which fits plugged in where necessary.
With The Fierce And The Dead in the middle of the gig sandwich, the third band on the bill is Masakichi, another of the musical brainchildren of guitarist/producer Reuben Gotto (of prog band Twin Zero and various business with Foals, Sack Trick, The Maccabees and others). Masakichi dwell on the careful cusp between the springy rhythms shared by bass player Hattie Williams (formerly of post-progressive rockers Telegraphs) and drummer Ben Calvert and the more Gothic, textural tendencies of Reuben and singer Hannah Cartwright (the latter of whom also holds down a gig with folktronicists Snow Ghosts). The result is a winning mixture of sinewy motions, carefully blurred riffs and atmospheres, and (for once) icicle-clear vocals that don’t hide in a lazy haze of recycled shoegazery. See for yourselves:
The Fierce & The Dead get to headline on Friday at another gig, way up the road in Nottingham. I’d not heard of former warehouse venue J.T. Soars, but it sounds as if we have another art-rock outpost in the Midlands, which is cause for celebration.
The Fierce & The Dead + Mannheim + Memory Of Elephants (bUTTONpUSHER & Mountains Of Records @ J.T. Soars, Aberdeen Street, Nottingham, NG3 2DG, UK, Friday 27th November 2015, 8.00pm) – £3.00-£4.00 – information – tickets on the door
Of the other two bands on the bill, Memory Of Elephants are an “eclectic noise” trio from Bristol whose grinding metallic base-sound is belied, stretched and exploded by the quickfire changes of time, pattern, mood and arrangement which they put it through: they’re a restless, conspiratorial mask-dance of a band. Mannheim are a heavy quartet from the Netherlands: saxophone, guitar, bass guitar and drums applied to a stern headcrushing math-and-post-rock structure. Up in the metal end of post-rock, they’re overpowering but somehow vulnerable – like a dogged, accelerating stilt-charge with a snarling dark-jazz edge.
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Three more varied London gigs on Friday:
Jimmy Cannon: The Best Of British Song (Songs From The Cellar @ Zelas Cafe, 216 Archway Road, London, N6 5AX, UK, Friday 27th November 2015, time) – no ticket price available yet – information – tickets on the door
In the first performance of a new show, Jimmy Cannon explores the repertoire of the ‘Great British Songbook’: the songs associated with British composers and singers from the golden age of songwriting. As he comments, “the much-loved American Songbook reflects Hollywood’s heyday, from the first ‘talkies’ in the 1920s right up to the demise of the legendary Hollywood orchestras in the late 1960s – but many of these great songs aren’t quite as American as you might think!” For this show, Jimmy will be accompanied by pianist Matthew Regan (from The John Wilson Orchestra).
Jimmy is a current British easy-listening star – a versatile singer and saxophonist who has performed with Tom Jones and in West End shows (The Commitments, The Rat Pack, Elvis The Ultimate Performance) and in the classic-swing/soul/pop band Jazz Cannons. However, he’s also a song historian, an arranger and an adapter, bringing his curiosity, knowledge and skills to bear on a wide variety of songs. Drawing on his Cornish roots, Jimmy also sings in the English Heritage band Burton Bradstock – a collaboration with pianist and arranger Dorian Ford which nurtures and revives a repertoire of English folk songs (predominantly mid-to-late 19th century work songs) in brand new settings performed by a band of British jazz luminaries including Iain Ballamy, Julian Ferraretto, Riaan Vosloo, Tim Giles and Pete Berryman.
Damn Vandals + Kloq + The Bay + The Many Few + Santonica (Bugbear @ The Dublin Castle, 94 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AN, UK, Friday 27th November, 8.00pm) – £5.00-£7.00 – information – tickets
The endearing Many Few (reviewed at an early stage back here) are playing at a “nights-are-drawing-in, gearing-up-for-Christmas, never-mind-the-November-dismals-come-and-do-the-Exquisite-Shark gig”. I’ve got to admit that the charm of their own gently skewed, probably-less-shambling-than-it-was Anglo-pop would be the main draw for me as regards this particular show, but here’s the breakdown of the bill from Bugbear:
Damn Vandals – four ex-graffiti artists who fell foul of the law and had to re-decorate a youth club apart of their community service: whilst there, they discovered a drum-kit and some guitars. Musically it’s twangsome garage swamp blues rock n roll, Alabama 3 via The Bad Seeds with a Mark Lanegan aspect to the vocals: not what you would expect from a bunch of graffiti artists, but fab all the same. Kloq – rock meets hiphop but way better than most in this genre: a very American rappy vocal that echoes Run DMC and other old school exponents whilst the music is a soulful funky shunky soul rock groove metal with a genuine drrrty vibe..N*E*R*D at their heaviest meets AC/DC via Metallica and some timely squelchy ‘dub step’ bits. Neat. The Bay – a high-octane mix of White Stripes, Band of Skulls and the punkier side of Nirvana. The Many Few – ‘The Many Few are armchair surrealisms, bizarre and wonderful journeys that touch on the absurdities and question marks of small town life, from which you never quite return’…yes indeedy, add a little classic ’80s era Peelite je ne sais qoui referencing awkward squad art pop happenings like Yeah Yeah Noh and Young Marble Giants and plenty of biting wit. Santonica – rousing indie rock with an electro interface, great delivery and actual tunes! Sounds like Editors via The Killers, by way of Bastille.
Down in Soho, something a little different…
Magic Brother + Manja & The Maytrons (Blow Up @ St Moritz Club, 159 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8WJ, UK, Friday 27th November, 9.30pm) – £6.00-£8.00 – information & tickets, plus Facebook event page
All the blurb that’s fit to print…
Magic Brother call up the spirits of the ancient masters of music and brew them into something just a little bit different. Think of a modern day Traffic or prime Jefferson Airplane with a twist. A band influenced by the sixties playing music very much for the future. Manja & The Maytrons are a three-piece beat combo originating from London, Hastings and Dresden, and their latest EP “Unexpected Side Effects” has been spun by Steve Lamacq on BBC 6 Music.
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As usual, I’m ending up with another Daylight Music gig:
Daylight Music 208 – Soviet Sounds & Cold War Cabaret: The Real Tuesday Weld + Polina Proutskova & IZBA Voices + Spaceship Mark (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, UK, Saturday 81st November 2015, 12.00pm–2.00pm) – free (£3.50 donation suggested) – information
Say a hearty “Здравствуйте” (“Hello!”) to The Real Tuesday Weld this week whose pioneered style combines old jazz sounds and electronics in something they’ve called “Antique Beat” which has influenced the current movement of electro-swing producers. This Russian-themed Daylight Music event will feature a selection of songs by film composer Mikael Tariverdiev (who’s been described as “the Russian Nina Rota”) in addition to a set of their own cinematic swing sounds. (There’s a little more on the project here.) They will be joined by a supporting selection of Russian and Russian-inspired musicians.
Polina Proutskova has been performing and researching Russian village singing traditions for over 15 years. This year IZBA Voices – a vocal ensemble led by Polina – has been formed of participants and folklore enthusiasts from the IZBA Club (a Russian cultural organization in London) and will be bringing their sounds, spirit and repertoire to Daylight Music.
For a final and inverted Soviet-era touch, the concert’s “in between” sounds will feature work-in-progress by Spaceship Mark (former Minions member Mark S. Williamson, who also works as Microscope Wilson and Crock Oss).
This particular multimedia project, ‘A Hole In The Ground’ features field recordings of sounds taken from the derelict sites of a number of the 1563 Royal Observer Corps bunkers, built as part of the UK’s Cold War nuclear response plans. There’s more information on the project here, and a preview below.
Moscow-based pianist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Dmitry Evgrafov (whose music blends intimate piano parts with delicately evocative string arrangements) was also scheduled to play at the concert, but for reasons outside of his control is no longer able to make it to the UK. Hopefully we will be able to reschedule an appearance for him at Daylight during 2016. Meanwhile, here’s a taster.
More next week, as we head into December.