Tag Archives: Cube Microplex (venue) – Bristol – England

October 2017 – upcoming English gigs – Holly Penfield chops and changes in London (18th October); Minute Taker’s multimedia love-and-ghosts story ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ in Glasgow, London & Brighton (15th, 21st, 22nd October); Cardiacs’ ‘Marenest’ fundraiser showing in Bristol with The Scaramanga Six (21st October); and something on Paul Diello

7 Oct

Holly Penfield presents:
‘Holly Penfield – Spooky Little Girl’
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 372 Kennington Lane, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5HY, England
Wednesday 18th October 2017, 8.00pm
– information here

Holly Penfield: 'Fragile Human Monster', 18th October 2017For a while, there, I was spun back. Twentysomething years ago, I was a regular at Holly Penfield‘s ‘Fragile Human Monster Show’ (having first caught her performance on a random Edinburgh night back in 1992). Ostensibly based around sleek ’80s synth’n’sequencer pop, her shows had a number of twists. More like ’70s songwriter confessionals, they stirred yearning jazz and blues strands back into a genre which had mostly eschewed them. Based around Holly, her Kurzweil keyboard and a saxophonist (usually her husband Ian Ritchie, who’s had a hand in everything from Scouse artniks Deaf School to the Roger Waters band and the ‘Lonely Planet’ theme), they also had a compelling and bizarre Californian theatrical edge which variously sat in your lap and purred, wailed over your head, broke down in front of you, or made you feel less alone – always in the same set.

If you can dig up Holly’s long-lost debut album ‘Full Grown Child‘ – a brash early ‘80s Chinnichap production – you’ll hear an Innuendo-strewn, pop-belting cross between Suzi Quatro, a bleach-blond Rizzo, ABBA and full-on coke-blizzard-era Stevie Nicks. ‘Fragile Human Monster’ was the fallout from all that: an onstage realisation of Holly’s independent followup ‘Parts Of My Privacy’, in which she and Ian went back to her bluesier and torchier San Francisco roots, merged it with Ian’s techno-pop skills and teased out a series of passionate, cracked paeans (plus jarring digressions into performance art) about fear, instability and how the lost rebuild their lives and make their way. Tremendously tuneful but at odds to the music biz, the ‘Fragile Human Monster Show’ was that rare thing: outsider music with genuine craft and skill. It was also pretty queer and culty, drawing a diverse squadron of waifs and strays of all stripes (including me) to Holly’s home venue on the Kilburn High Road. Eventually it wore Holly out: putting it to rest, but still hanging onto her stubborn kookiness, she applied her remarkable voice and stage presence to a new career as a jazz cabaret diva. She’s made, I think, just one revisitation to Monster territory since (which you can read about here).

Holly Penfield: 'Spooky Little Girl', 18th October 2017Late this summer, though, Holly announced that she was bringing the old show back for an evening in October, though she wasn’t clear about how she’d be doing it: perhaps reworked for the acoustic jazz band she’s used for the last couple of decades, or perhaps with her going it alone (with the Kurzweil and sequencers brought out of mothballs and will go it alone). At any rate, I thought I’d be going along – possibly in search of my own confused, similarly theatrical mid-twenties self, perhaps to see if I got along with him a little better.

However, everything was upended in early September following Holly’s jolting appearance in the auditions for ‘The X-Factor’. Ubercamp, leather-clad and singing Meredith Brooks’ Bitch, she went full-on nightclub and came on to Simon Cowell like a kinky Weimar nightmare with a riding crop. Inspired by the experience (and not a little miffed at the mocking edit that made it to TV) Holly’s now claiming that “the evil jazz cabaret performer in (me) has clawed its way to the surface”, and has morphed the October show into an upbeat Halloween “Spooky Little Girl” special (billed as “cabaret classics, spooktacular rocking favourites and self-penned songs as only our Diva can deliver them”).

I can’t help thinking that an opportunity’s been lost (or steamrollered) but I might show up anyway. She’s still promising to pepper all of the knowing cornballery with old FHM songs; several existing set standbys (such as Stay With Me, seen below in a torch-jazz arrangement from 2009) originated in the old show, and a new-ish piano/vocal song Confessions (posted up online a year ago) suggests a creative leaning back towards the old days of torch and bearing witness. Regardless of any of that, there’s still the voice; there’s still the onstage magnetism. Should be some sort of a blast.



 
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Minute Taker: 'To Love Somebody Melancholy' (live show)Also during the midmonth, acclaimed LBTQ folktronicist Minute Taker (aka Ben McGarvey) takes his multimedia show ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ out on tour in England and Scotland. I missed the news about his summer tour (which spiralled out from his homebase of Manchester, taking in Oldham, Chorlton and the Didsbury Art Festival plus a trans-Pennine appearance at Hebden Bridge) but managed to catch the news about his autumn followups in Glasgow, Brighton and London (including an appearance at the seventeenth century “actor’s church”, St Pauls in Covent Garden). Here’s the story:

“Singer-songwriter Minute Taker and BFI award-winning animation artist Ana Stefaniak have created a haunting, modern fable told through projected film and an epic live band performance of Minute Taker’s upcoming album… Expect to be immersed in a dark and magical world of strange animated characters and piano songs brimming with ethereal harmonies, fizzing synthesisers and orchestral twists.

“In ancient Greek philosophy Aristotle first popularised the notion that artists, poets and writers were of a melancholic disposition. In the middle ages melancholics were thought to be possessed by demons if they could not be “cured” of their depressive tendencies. Set on a desolate seashore, ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ explores the notion of the archetypal artist as he journeys through the euphoric highs and the self-destructive lows of his creative cycles. A new romantic relationship brings the artist the contentment he craves but it soon becomes apparent that there’s something else lurking in the shadows; a ghostly, shapeshifting third entity whose form is entirely dependent upon the artist’s current mindset. Sometimes a saviour, a source of inspiration and hope, sometimes a savage, ruthlessly determined on driving his lover away.”


 
Ben comments “one of my biggest influences when creating ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ was Kate Bush’s masterpiece ‘The Ninth Wave’. Such a wonderfully magical, otherworldly and at times frightening journey into the unknown. I never tire of going on this adventure with her. Come join our own dark adventure, inspired by Kate’s.”

Dates:

  • Websters Theatre, 416 Great Western Road, Woodlands, Glasgow, G4 9HZ, Scotland, Sunday 15th October 2017, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • St Paul’s Church, 29 Bedford St, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9ED, London, England, Saturday 21st October 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Latest Music Bar, 14-17 Manchester Street, Brighton, BN2 1TF, England, Sunday 22nd October 2017, 7.30pm (with Paul Diello) – information here

Additional support comes in Brighton comes from the award-winning “pop/folk/fabulous” singer-songwriter Paul Diello, who recently wowed the Brighton Fringe Festival with a sold out run of five-star-review shows and who promises “a special set of songs” for the occasion. Citing Madonna, Bowie, Kate Bush and Anohni as inspirations, Paul is an increasingly powerful artistic presence in the LGBT underground, operating in the febrile interface between cabaret, chart pop, queerness and visual staging (in particular, via video). Provocative and insidious, with an ear for the brazen tunes of ‘80s synthpop, Paul reminds me of a tougher Marc Almond – albeit with the sturdy physique of a dockside bouncer – while his songs are sharp confections of fists, flowers and standing your ground.


 
* * * * * * * *

Kate Bush seems to have become a recurring presence in this thread. Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I’ve always drawn a vague connecting line between ‘The Ninth Wave’ and Cardiacs’ 1989 album ‘On Land And In The Sea’.

Despite their common south London roots and the bare three years between them, there doesn’t initially seem to be much linking Bush’s silky-petalled Fairlight-driven art pop with the shrill, switchbacking, horns-and-artpunk firepower of Cardiacs, let alone their urchin squawks versus her sensual coo (though I’d have loved to have heard them cover each other). Dipping beneath the surface, however, reveals plenty to unite the two work. There’s the common and commonly transmogrified debt to English prog (in the structural ambition, the little flourishes of grandeur, and the enthusiastic mining of everything from twinkling tunes to violent psychedelic riffs, looming synth orchestration to jigs and jittering dreamscapes). There’s the common immersive marine motif – even when the sea’s banished from the foreground, it’s always present to embrace, propel, threaten or dissolve the bobbing characters within the songs. And although ‘The Ninth Wave’ centres pretty clearly on the near-death experience and night journey of a single castaway, while ‘On Land…’ zig-zags crazily over suburbs, shorelines, skies and inlets while weaving through multiple blurred perspectives (from the individual to that of a kind of profoundly skewed post-war national consciousness) in both works a half-sleeping, half-waking British mythology gets forked up and worked over anew, with a relentless filmic curiosity.


 

‘On Land And In The Sea’ provided most of the songs played in Cardiacs’ 1990 concert film ‘Marenest’, which brings its own chaotic theatrics to a fundraiser showing in Bristol. Live support comes from brutally grand, macabre Yorkshire rockers The Scaramanga Six, bringing a punchy live set based in part on their new crowdfunded ‘Chaotica’ album.

If ‘On Land…’ really was intended as some kind of concept album, it hid the fact under a typically Cardiacs welter of invention and disinformation. In contrast, ‘Chaotica’ wears its conceptual heart on a stained sleeve – the Scaramangas have been pretty open about its roots in “an abstract story roughly hewn from a concept of a dystopian island society. A place where everything has fallen into ruin, yet people still seem to have the same preoccupation with the trivial crap they had before. The population trudge through a chaotic existence on top of each other with absolutely no hope of a better life. Society is reduced to its base behaviour yet people still crave superficial fixes. The human condition carries on regardless. There is no outcome, no lessons to be learned. Familiar?” ‘Chaotica’ might not quite be a Brexit ‘Quadrophenia’, but it’s clearly leaning that way.


 
As is generally the rule with Cardiacs-related events these days, all profits on the day (including bonus donations by bucket or booking-stage gifting) are going to fund the care of Cardiacs’ driving force Tim Smith as he continues to battle against the aftermath of heart attacks and stroke. Note that the venue is quite hard to find, hidden as it is away behind the rubbish bins in a nondescript Bristol car park. Some Cardiacs fans would claim that this is only appropriate.

‘Maresnest’: Tim Smith Benefit with The Scaramanga Six
Cube Microplex, Dove Street South (off top-left of King Square), Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD, England
Saturday 21st October 2017, 7.00pm
information
 

November 2016 – upcoming Bristol gigs – Iyabe’s EP launch with Run Logan Run, LICE and Sugar Horse (4th); the Lone Wolves experimental evening kicks off with Silver Waves, theskyisthinaspaperhere and Louise Brady (5th)

1 Nov

Whether or not you caught any or all of the art and fringe music at Bristol’s splendid-sounding Wakizashi festival last month, you’ve got an imminent chance to catch up with more from two of the acts that played there. On Friday, Iyabe hold a launch concert for their debut EP, accompanied by three other Bristolian bands who skim from layered jazz experimentation to sarcastic surf bounce. On Saturday, Christelle Atenstaedt (who performed a solo Wakizashi set of looped avant-folk and brambly dream pop noise under the name of Twin) launches her Lone Wolves experimental music evening.

* * * * * * * *

Iyabe, 4th November 2016Iyabe present:
Iyabe + Run Logan Run + LICE + Sugar Horse + DJs DJs Dan Johnson & Annie Gardiner
Cube Microplex, 4 Princess Row, Bristol, BS2 8DJ, England
Friday 4th November, 8.00pm
information

Fronted by the voice and words of Sophie-Louise Dawes, (her murmured messages always hovering on the verge of being delivered, always withdrawn after the first few dotted clues), “minimally loud” art-pop five-piece Iyabe explore “found sound and unconventional songwriting techniques” as well as taking notes from R&B, neo-soul, punk and noise. Last time around, I described them as “skeletal… soft pings, drum clicks, bass shadows… a pencil-sketch ghost of Seefeel’s dub-rock dreaminess.” I could add that what emerges from their various influences is a kind of oblique and embryonic post-rock Portishead – their soft touches and minimal fragments played loud, tied together in a web of song with enough space for the various ingredients to make themselves known and to run loose alongside each other.

The debut Iyabe EP, ‘Biology. Biography. Culture.’ (assembled from “four years of collecting, collage and collapse”) is finally ready for release, and the band are celebrating with a launch show accompanied by visual and performance artists, and by other Bristolian bandfriends.


 

I’ve no information on the visual and performance turns (perhaps they’re as mysterious and flitting as Sophie-Louise’s lyrics), but I do have some on the other bands. Second from the top slot, Run Logan Run are the gnarly jazz-punk sax-and-drums duo of Andrew Neil Hayes and Dan Johnson. Mingling physical techniques (circular breathing) and technology (rackfuls of electronic effects), they navigate by the brassy light of Colin Stetson (to whom they’ve played support), Pharoah Sanders, Can, Sons of Kemet and Lightning Bolt; and are amassing acclaim not only for their instrumental skills but for the strong, coherent compositions which they use as improvisation launchpads.


 

The other two bands take self-deprecation to deafening levels. “Awful-sounding post-punk band” LICE love The Country Teasers, The Birthday Party and The Fall, lay claim to “that feeling you get when you accidentally tread on a snail in the dark”, and apparently boast a membership of one piece of drumming eye candy, one indeterminate shouter and flailer, and two makers of horrible noises. Soundcloud evidence actually reveals a tight, nimble art-garage outfit happily switching between drum machine atmospherics, scuffed-up Ventures surf zip and sheets of noise, with Alistair’s beady-eyed chant on top (in some ways, he’s not too far off being a Bristolian Charlie Finke).


 

Evening openers Sugar Horse bill themselves as “decidedly average” and claim that their entire three-man membership is made up of Steve Harris from Iron Maiden. On the evidence of their lone Bandcamp track, they’re guitar-frost shoegazers with a touch of lonely overwrought drama (think Cure or Oceansize), digressing into monstrous sludge once the singing is over.


 

Once all of the singing’s over, DJs Dan Johnson and Annie Gardiner will pick up the slack until the small hours; after which you can get ready for…

* * * * * * * *

Lone Wolves, 5th November 2016
Christelle Atenstaedt presents:
Lone Wolves: Silver Waves + theskyisthinaspaperhere + Louise Brady
The Old England, 43 Bath Buildings, Montpelier, Bristol, BS6 5PT, England
Saturday 5th November 2016, 8.30pm
– free entry – information

Although Christabelle doesn’t seem to be playing at her own brand-new event (either as Twin, or as any other possible persona) the stubborn, inquisitive stamp of her work is all over it. She intends Lone Wolves to be “a night for those who carve a solitary path through the musical wilderness, those who are doing it for themselves and don’t need nobody else. (You get the idea.) I’m aiming to make it a regular thing, and it will be great to put many of you on as I realized I know a lot of people of who are the musical equivalent of loners: also, so many solo people I admire and hope to lure to Bristol.” There’s a promise of visuals, projections and “smoke and mirrors” – it could be a classic séance, and even if they are a good few days behind schedule the dark-ambient tone of this first edition has a definite Halloween hint to it.

As Silver Waves, Dylan Mallett creates turbulent electronic chop’n’change music in which the upfront, feet-first noise menace is offset by dizzying theatrical panache. Tagged by ‘The Quietus ‘ as “industrial music to soundtrack Satan’s own space travels”, a typical track will leap and convulse through jackhammer factory drumming, radio whine, and sweeps of drum & bass (plus diced-in subbass drops) via scything foil-tearing noise, haunted-house bangings and creepy organ. At its most unhinged peaks, Silver Waves sounds like several simultaneous aircraft accidents hitting a chopped-and-screwed beat factory dead on. Even the quieter moments feature random hauntings of tortured sound, with distorted, wrecked and out-of-control noises barging through – a wrenched bell foundry; a careering Friday night train with the brakes off; the sudden scream of a driver skidding off a black-iced road.



 
An expert in mobile app programming and generative music, sound designer Marcus Dyer helped hone an early Silver Waves EP and played similar roles on both ‘The Spectacular Nowhere’ (Manyfingers chambertronic Moondog tribute in 2015) and Third Eye Foundation’s Matt Elliott’s forays into experiment folk music. As theskyisthinaspaperhere, he steps out into music of his own, creating a meticulous but grandly gestural music founded on live-coded generative and procedural composition techniques, post-rock and ambient electronica.

On debut album ‘Falling to an Ocean’s Floor (Gasping Evermore’, the outcome is music balanced gracefully between nature documentary and Bristolian club culture. Grand folding orchestral passages offer suffocating, morbidly romantic Góreckian deathscapes in sinking bathyspheres, while other tracks take glum, glinting post-Labradford/Morricone guitar melodies and dizzy them up with great swoons of reverberant arrangement (synth vapours and space plummets, sometimes the brisk, no-nonsense rattle of a club drum line or a woody jazz bass slide).



 
Over a year or so of Soundcloud activity, semi-ambient soundscaper Louise Brady has evolved from dark field drones, hushed Cluster lambency and warm, humming folk ghostings towards more complicated work into which she injects covert, surreptitious nightmare humour. M456 89led Lit V.BASS is a swirling, intermittent bottle-storm; a crowded sinister ambience full of horror movie spook-music tropes and whiffling white noise. On the other hand, tracks like The Beautiful Sounds Of The Microbrute! or Korg Noise see Louise openly, geekily enthused by the sounds that specific bits of her gear collection can make. (Since the former sounds like meditation music invaded by sardonic, sinister Black Lodge spirits, don’t expect this approach to get too cute).



 

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