Tag Archives: Delicate AWOL

June 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Nordic musical stories, bass guitar filigrees, brass-laced soundscapes and howling animal men – ‘The Devil’s Purse’ stories at the Forge (22nd); Rothko and Ghost Mind at IKLECTIK (23rd); Ánde Somby at Café Oto (24th)

19 Jun

Three more engaging shows around the London fringes. Two have press releases which speak for themselves, while I wrote some babble for the other one (since it’s the first time I’ve covered one of the bands in a long time, while the other band turns out to be a trio who could use some more words spent on them)…

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Crick Crack Club Presents
Fairytales for Grown-ups – The Devil’s Purse
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Wednesday 22nd June 2016, 7:30 pm
information

“Beguiling, tricksy, highly-strung, and suspiciously helpful – the Little People are waiting in the shadows, beneath your feet, under the tables, and even in the cracks in the walls. They’re waiting to prove just how hard it is to tell that they are there… On hot summer nights their world is a breath away and on long winter evenings they have far too much time on their hands.

Dominic Kelly, Bridget Marsden and Leif Ottosson fuse storytelling performance and Nordic music in a wild journey into the cinema of the imagination. A lost traveller finds himself guided through the mountain mists; a farmer marries an apparently perfect wife; a drunk gambles with a purse that is forever full, and an anxious mother watches her child turn to skin and bone… Come spend some time in the company of Themselves, the Gentry Below, the Good Folk, the sylphs, the sprites, the fairies, and a labyrinth of stories.


 
“Dominic is a performance storyteller whose dynamic style has captivated audiences across the UK, Sweden, and around the world. He has performed in many prominent venues and festivals including The Barbican and the National Theatre in London, The Times Literature Festival, and on tour internationally from India to the Arctic Circle. Bridget and Leif form a duo whose interpretations of Nordic folk music take place in a filmic borderland of tunes and soundscapes. Leif challenges conventional ways of using the accordion and has distinguished himself on the Swedish folk scene as an instrumentalist, composer and arranger. Bridget studied folk music at Stockholm’s Kungliga Musikhögskolan: her band Stormsteg won Best Newcomer at the Swedish Folk & World Music Awards 2012.”


 

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IKLECTIK presents:
Rothko + Ghost Mind
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 23rd June 2016, 8.00pm
information

At IKLECTIK, a concert of two fascinating experimental acts creating powerfully visual and immersive music.


 
Aiming to explore the full sonic possibilities of his instrument (and inspired by the towering ‘Seagram Murals’ in the Tate Gallery), bass guitarist Mark Beazley founded Rothko in London during 1997. The initial lineup was a triple-bass trio with Crawford Blair and Jon Meade (of on-off London math-rockers Geiger Counter), which for three years clanged, droned, whirred and rumbled around its own constantly expanding iron-grey niche.


 
Creating great frowning arches of dark notes, torrential thrums of noise or transcendent etched outlines in the lower ranges, Rothko insisted on being judged as pure music, batting away any enclosing accusations of being post-punk, post-Gothic, post-rock, or anything similar. Somehow they managed to achieve this aim, defying all expectations by becoming universal and making inroads into the awareness, the perception and the affections of a wide and diverse audience. They found favour amongst the kind of sternly political art-music devotees who’d immerse themselves in ‘The Wire’, amongst the brain-knitting psychedelic leanings of London math-rock enthusiasts, and amongst the surprised followers of various indie bands who’d taken a shine to them and taken the opportunity to stick them onto a live bill. After three albums (and various EPs and collaborations) they bowed out in 2001 after a successful support slot with Porcupine Tree, playing to an audience of progressive rock fans.

 
While the original Rothko is arguably the best-known version, Mark maintained the Rothko name and core concept for another nine years across a solo presentation, a bass duo, an wide-screen ambient septet (which swallowed up consenting fellow travellers Delicate AWOL) and a more rhythmic quartet. While the various versions of the band were always underpinned by Mark’s resonant four-string underlay – a slatey burr or baritonic voice speaking out of the deep – the bass-guitar-only rule was relaxed to allow other instruments into the space such as flute, voice, electric guitar, piano and viola (while the synths and drums of the last and longest-lived lineup even occasionally hinted at a post-Can rumble). After Rothko, Mark took his skills and explorations solo, and formed new bass-friendly projects: Low Bias (with Pere Ubu’s syntheur Gagarin), Signals (with Phil Julian and textural guitarist Chris Gowers), Tetherdown (with Anne Garner and James Murray), and Rome Pays Off (in which he reunited with Crawford Blair)


 
Reactivated in 2015, a revived Rothko saw Mark re-teamed with ex-Delicate AWOL bassist and later solo recordist Michael D. Donnelly (his main partner in the post-2000 lineups). Together, they revisited their previous duo work while expanding it with additional lessons learned (in technique, in sonic attitude, in being an interpreter of feeling) during the five year break. A new EP, ‘Severed Tense’ arrived in September last year; a new album ‘Discover The Lost’ is now available on pre-order.


(recent Rothko track Truths And Signs)
 
This particular gig at IKLECTIK, however, showcases a newer Rothko lineup of Mark plus Johny Brown (the latter better known as the frontman of long-running post-punk poetry rockers Band Of Holy Joy, with whom Mark played during the Rothko layoff). Eschewing both past and recent work, they’ll be performing a set of all-new material from a work in progress – a new album called ‘A Young Fist Wrapped Around A Cinder For A Wager’, which they’re planning to record shortly.

While I might be behind the most recent developments, listening to the recent Beazley/Donnelly material has reminded me about what drew me to Rothko in the first place – their ability to grab such fascinating visual evocations out of the kind of low frequencies which you’d think would restrict them. From dirty crumbling bass notes they sketch a grumbling, majestic London ambience of half-forgotten post-industrial structure: the kind you find while turning down sidestreets running under grimy, half-forgotten Victorian railway viaducts or hosting the grand shells of factories. At least, that’s what they seem to do from where I’m listening. Mark apparently draws significant inspiration from sojourns in quiet rural locations far from the pressure and grime of great cities. It’s generally true that what any one listener draws out of Rothko tends to be only a few facets of the band’s mysterious kaleidoscope.

With roots in the Cheltenham Improvisers Orchestra, Ghost Mind is an experimental soundscape collaboration currently consisting of trumpet player Pete Robson, percussionist Stuart Wilding, and Jon Andriessen on heavily-treated guitar, combined with a background of found sounds gathered from around the planet. They present themselves as “a four-person trio” (the fourth member being the titular ghost). Live, they’re a magical concoction, with Stuart’s percussion exploits recalling the startling, fleeting and unforgettable work that Jamie Muir brought to various Derek Bailey bands and King Crimson in the 1970s, Pete’s trumpet journeying from jazz-mute musings and trombone impressions to free-improv mouthpiece splutters, and Jon’s heavily-processed guitar creating dense architectural fabrics and noise blocks but sometimes rising up with plangent, momentary clean licks.

Working together, Ghost Mind create aural experiences which suggest both the world traveller and the documentary edit suite. Their instrumental illustrations and interspersed field recordings link temples to shopping precincts or treetops hung with birdsong, or link toyshops to ping-pong matches; while further human-driven sounds flicker briefly through the mileu via interjections of harmonica and glockenspiel, water-warbling bird whistles, drum notes to shoe-scrapes and miscellaneous tickings. The fact that it all sounds musical throughout – as compelling to children and casual attendees as to dedicated deep listeners – is another of their creative triumphs.


 
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Tigmus presents:
Ánde Somby: The Animals Inside The Man And The Man Outside The Animals
Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Friday 24th June 2016, 7.00pm
information

“The Sámi people are a transnational minority living in Sápmi, an area of land stretching across the borders of northern Scandinavia, Finland, and throughout the Kola Peninsula of north-western Russia. Yoik (also spelt joik or jojk) is the Sámi’s ancient and characteristic vocal art, with yoiks traditionally used to invoke a person, animal, place, or experience. You don’t yoik about something, you just ‘yoik it’.

Ánde Somby yoiks animals including salmon, grouse, bear, crow and mosquito, but his signature yoik is that of the wolf. The wolf yoik is a traditional yoik that Somby has developed with dramatic elements in an expressive performance. Somby has been an active musician since 1976 and has performed for royalty, heads of state and even at the funeral of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren! His many animal yoiks are inspired by the idea of transformation in the pre-Christian Sámi religion, when the noaidi (shaman) used yoiks to transform into an animal and back into a human. Somby is also a professor of law at the University of Tromsø and is engaged in Sámi social and political issues.

“In January 2016 Somby released the album “Yoiking With The Winged Ones”, recorded outdoors in Lofoten by the renowned British sound artist artist and field recorder, Chris Watson. The recordings took place in Kvalnes, mid June 2014, in a moment while the Arctic winds were having a little rest.”
 

REVIEW – Delicate AWOL: ‘Driesh’ EP, 2001 (“a majestic, footsore sway of poignant, lead-heavy guitars”)

1 Oct
Delicate AWOL: 'Driesh'

Delicate AWOL: ‘Driesh’

“Driesh” sounds like one of those arcane words which early-Noughties art-rockers festoon their work with. It’s actually the name of one of Delicate AWOL’s favourite mountains. When not hiding out in Stockwell recording increasingly soulful post-rock melodies, they’ve got a taste for scrambling cheerfully up the heights of the Scottish highlands, all fleeces and crampons.

On the subject of mountain climbing (sort of), Delicate AWOL are still ascending. ‘Driesh’ is their finest EP to date. It’s not a question of ambition, more one of balance. Delicate AWOL have never sounded more balanced, more aware of music as an expression of what is instead of what you force it to be.

The magnificent Dust – a majestic, footsore sway of poignant, lead-heavy guitars – demonstrates this principle. The first time you hear it you have no idea what it is: you’re just caught up in Caroline Ross’ powerful and moving, yet surrendering, vocal. The second time, you realize where the surrender comes from. This is a paean to pollutants, no less: small things which change our immediate world with neither our volition nor our involvement. And this is a song that finds, without a hint of irony, beauty in these changes; honing that balance with acceptance and a fine-art vision. “Dust from satellites fills the skies, / lends an orange hue to buildings they designed in grey /… Dirt from satellites coats the meteorites, / shares its redder touch with rocks that are mostly dust. / And I give thanks for dust.”

Off to one side, Evergreen China Prairie Tribunal is one of the band’s affectionate amblings into mutant country/Hawaiian instrumentals. Short guitar notes are stretched lazily and luxuriantly during their brief lifespans; slide guitar, flown behind like a kite, does some happy yawning. The drums and bass patter on, chattering like a pair of old mule drivers on a slow road.

On the other side, the quietly swarming clang of Moggie is one of Delicate AWOL’s periodic nods to Mogwai’s crowded fuzz-riffing. However, it’s more homespun, imbued with a positive energy rather than Mogwai’s rampant insecurity. Where Mogwai are tight and tense, Delicate AWOL are endearingly woolly: they’re unconcerned with occasional sloppy accents, and lessen the weight on the guitars to let light sliding curls of notes unravel from the ends of the song. Caroline’s soft, half-buried wail drifts in like a cat singing in the hallway.

Only one song on the EP goes against this serene and meditative stasis. In the languid, perturbed awakening of What In The World To Do Ingrid, Caroline serenades a woman whose stasis is a matter of routine, and an unwelcome routine at that. “Had enough of breaking bread, / had enough of freaking out. / What in the world to do, Ingrid? / Summer will be here sooner now.” As faintly ominous guitars stir against Caroline’s questioning, they hint that Ingrid’s own nature, under stress, is beginning to crack both her routine and her normality. “Rising inside her – / another, more beautiful woman. / Caught another glimpse of her, hiding in the mirror frame. / What in the world to do, Ingrid? / she’ll be taking over sooner than…”

Just when you think this is going to turn into another tale of a woman slipping into madness, there’s a happier transformation. A joyous hand-clapping lift and gurgles of Hammond organ (the latter straight out of old Memphis R’n’B), and the song becomes a story about stripping off the safety of a firm uniform in favour of striding off naked but unburdened. Caroline sings out another question – “Could it be worse?” – but with the brightening quizzical tones of someone who knows that it won’t be.

Delicate AWOL: ‘Driesh’
day Release Records Ltd., DR401 (no barcode)
CD-only EP
Released: 2001

Buy it from:
Long-deleted – try to find this second-hand.

Delicate AWOL online:
MySpace

REVIEW – Delicate AWOL: ‘Hurray For Sugar’ single, 2000 (“lilts and tilts like a girl on a lazy swing”)

29 Jul

Delicate AWOL: 'Hurray For Sugar'

Delicate AWOL: ‘Hurray For Sugar’

The effect is similar to one of those pocket mandalas you pick up at weekend markets. Do you know the ones I mean? Those little spheres of interwoven articulated wires which, under simple pressure, reform to flat discs; or extrude themselves out and around to form new, near-identical spheres with tiny spatial differences.

In such a way, Delicate AWOL have turned themselves inside out – the old shape inverting and realigning within itself. The blunt, metallic math-rock dots and points remain, as do the little axe-blows of guitar and the keen, floating intelligence. But the hard-bitten, streetwise urban perspectives they displayed on ‘Random Blinking Lights‘ have been flexed away, replaced by a blunted pastel sleepiness. Their music used to fit the sullen sludge of London’s clogged traffic arteries. Now it sounds as if it’s drifting through an endlessly attenuated suburban daybreak: through sleeping ranks of tidy little white subdivision houses, stretched out along the fringes of some anonymous American town.

None of the above is a slag-off. Yes, Delicate AWOL have retired their striking Throwing Muses-versus-Laika qualities of nerve, and have replaced them with the oddly narcotic soulfulness and dusty whispering you’d expect from Low or Cowboy Junkies. No, this is not a bad move. It’s allowed their minds to work in a different way, letting their thoughts seep out instead of being propelled out onto tape.

Warm, intimate, laden with clinging morning torpor, Hurray For Sugar lilts and tilts like a girl on a lazy swing; Caroline’s voice stroking your floppy ears, a lone glockenspiel tingling out a little scatter of light. “Arise, you’re waking – hurray for sugar. / Aware, a little – hurray for coffee… / beside your body, catherine wheels spin.” And even if the guitars have a clotted sleep-dirt feel to them, this is still a song about vision; or about the moments of utterly unguarded perception which adhere to the sticky margin between sleeping and fully waking. “I breathe in, I open the curtains. / I look outside at my neighbours, / behind their fences… such radiant faces.” A lovely piece of work, shambling like a sated and drowsy lover.

Having reabsorbed their 40 Shades Of Black instrumental alter-ego, Delicate AWOL express it again in Camford Heights: which sounds like a sort of Sonic Youth picnic for the close of a West English summer, the sun slanting away down the back of a sky like a rumpled sofa. Blunted, slurred jazz chords and round, resounding Manchester bass carry the tune, completed with casual drop-in visits from all kinds of other fellow travellers: Mogwai all stoned and finger-mumbling a cryptic chant off their massed steel strings, a young Adrian Belew in noise-haze mode, Frank Zappa adding a dirty air-sculpture like a colophon of smog. Before it’s over, Delicate AWOL have passed through a bewitching slew of guitar sounds: passing train bells, crashing wires, the music of pylons in the wind. From wan, sweet daybreak to dusty, sun-stupored dusk, they’ve got it all covered.

Delicate AWOL: ‘Hurray For Sugar’
day Release Records Ltd., DR106 (no barcode)
Vinyl-only single
Released: 2000

Buy it from:
Long-deleted – try to find this second-hand.

Delicate AWOL online:
MySpace

REVIEW – Forty Shades Of Black: ‘Belisha’ single, 1999 (“smudged and ever-so-slightly stifling”)

13 Jul

Forty Shades Of Black rear up with the dirty, sticky, galumphing riffs of Belisha – an elephantine math-rock construction with stubble somewhere that’s annoying it. It lumbers around, red-eyed and furious, tearing a few trees up in fits of fiery rage. It also provides a way for the spiky London post-rockers Delicate AWOL to let off steam (Forty Shades Of Black is basically a handy alter-ego for them when they don’t want to sing).

We’ve met Belisha before, on Delicate AWOL’s ‘Random Blinking Lights‘ EP. Put centre-stage, its grind’n’chop, Mogwai-meets-Ruins sardine-can shapes bang aggressively against your eardrums, and look set to dominate. That is, until the band unveil the smudged and ever-so-slightly stifling sound-painted dreams of the other tracks. These reveal themselves gradually, like disintegrating lacework peeling off an old dressmaker’s dummy.

The soft explorations of Sidings are a post-rocker’s picture of a shunting yard being swallowed by the encroaching dark. Intermittent bass throbs mutter alongside shivering guitar. Caroline’s quiet moans float past alongside feathery passes of brushes on drumskins. Notes slide by, softly massive and indifferent – red lanterns looming out of the darkness. Much less of a reverie, Advanced Formula is as fragile and awkwardly stretched as a crane fly. Spidery math-rock chording scratches out a place to sit: an E-Bowed solo paints a long wavering strip of electric-blue Bill Nelson light across the cloud cover, while the shapes give way to a relaxed out-of-synch swing.

I’ve mentioned before how Delicate AWOL seem hung up on disintegration. This time, watching things decay and fall apart seems somehow satisfying – the return of something to its disassociated elements, instead of the fraying of desires. Whichever is your favourite collapse, inside or out, this band can orchestrate both.

Forty Shades Of Black: ‘Belisha’
day Release Records Ltd., DR102 (no barcode)
7-inch vinyl-only single
Released: 1999

Buy it from:
Long-deleted – try to find this second-hand.

Delicate AWOL (Forty Shades Of Black) online:
MySpace

REVIEW – Delicate AWOL vs. Forty Shades Of Black: ‘Random Blinking Lights’ EP, 1999 (“fifteen minutes before the machine blows”)

14 Jun
Delicate AWOL vs. Forty Shades Of Black: 'Random Blinking Lights'

Delicate AWOL vs. Forty Shades Of Black: ‘Random Blinking Lights’

“Accept that you cannot find your friend – / accept defeat and step inside.”

Welcome to the Crumbler. It’s what Guns’N’Roses might have warned you about had they been singing about an older, tired-er city than L.A., minus even the toxic smoggy sunshine. Delicate AWOL capture the worn-down feel of London’s scrag-end districts pretty well: the blinded indifference of railway arches, the crumbling cliffs of Victorian brick, and the washed-up bewildered old communities herded aside by no-stopping rat-runs. Their restless, borderline-sinister art-rock could’ve been made for the King’s Cross snarl-up.

There are a few touches of The Fall and Throwing Muses here, a bit of disaffected Banshees too, perhaps. But with its hard-bitten lyrics of frustration (and the spurts of noise-guitar, like aural graffiti tags, on the corrugated-iron lines of the riffs) this music is most clearly the heir to the sounds Margaret Fiedler and Dave Callahan violently worried out of the original Moonshake: eyeball to eyeball and teeth in meat. ‘Random Blinking Lights’ is a sour but arresting low-life bar vignette, with a bleak tune that cuts like glass on a lip. Underneath a low ceiling, guitars clank like homicidal vacuum cleaners busting a gasket. Meanwhile a cast made up of embittered barmaids, and of sundry people who’ve come in to duck out of the light, continue to cadge and haggle with each other – all of them out for whatever relief they can get.

A rancid dissatisfaction bleeds through the song. “Cosy cashmere wives sitting at home are unaware / that their husbands visit here / when they say there’s extra paperwork…” No mention of what the men are after. Whores? Gambling? The sharp anaesthetic tang of a coveted drink, or just the chance to pull themselves in and away from the tugging hands? Caroline Ross (sliding and seesawing her voice around the spilled ashtrays, stale air and puddles) brings all of this to life,. Now she’s as strident as a bingo caller; now hovering behind people’s shoulders and murmuring drips of frustration into their ears (“When are you gonna see two feet in front of you?”); now closing her eyes and drifting off – all objective – for a second. She catches the tedium and pressure of trapped lives and brings their nagging internal questions up close: like the first venomous rumble of steam, fifteen minutes before the machine blows.

As you’d guess from this – and from song titles like Unreleasable Fear – Delicate AWOL seem fascinated by feelings of trappedness. Only an unhindered Mogwai-ish instrumental called Belisha (and recorded under their side-project name, 40 Shades Of Black) provides relief. They generally observe the whole trap from the side rather than – as hardcore heroes might – howling from the centre of the condemned cell. Unreleasable Fear itself caps compressed, Slint-y dot music with a keening chorus; wary gentleness skirting the surges of a panic attack. For Plateau, a vertiginous organ hangs queasily in mid-air while Jim Version’s pointy, serrated guitars jump like startled cats and peer suspiciously round corners. The whole thing sways back and forth on the edge of a forbidding brink as Caroline rasps “it’s not what you wanted it to be, / and never will be… / I’ve come to the end of my wisdom… I’ve come to the end of my plateau.” Compelling.

Delicate AWOL vs. Forty Shades Of Black: ‘Random Blinking Lights’
day Release Records Ltd., DR101CD (no barcode)
CD-only EP
Released: 1999

Buy it from:
Long-deleted – try to find this second-hand.

Delicate AWOL online:
MySpace

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