Tag Archives: Dutch Uncles

September/October 2016 – film time – Dutch Uncles’ Robin Richards performs live score for ‘Birdsong: Stories From Pripyat ‘ in Manchester, Stockport and Salford (30th September, 6th-7th October); Scalarama Glasgow screens Cardiacs’ ‘Maresnest’ concert movie with live solo show from Kavus Torabi (22nd September)

17 Sep
Still from 'Birdsong' (Pripyat Palace of Culture)

Still from ‘Birdsong’ (Pripyat Palace of Culture)

In a couple of weeks’ time, Robin Richards (bass guitarist and driving force in Stockport art-poppers Dutch Uncles, and cross-disciplinary composer on the not-so-quiet) unveils the latest in his growing series of film collaborations, via three screenings and live score performances in the Manchester area.

“An amusement park in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat was due to be opened on the 1st May 1986, but the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred just a few miles away on 26th April. The park’s owners opened the park for a couple of hours the following day for the people of Pripyat before the city was evacuated. Eerie images of the deserted Pripyat Amusement Park now permeate the visual representation of the city’s desolation.

“Robin Richards: “Since hearing about the trips young evacuees from Pripyat and neighbouring towns made to my hometown Stockport as part of charity programmes over the last twenty-five years, and reading personal accounts of those affected by the catastrophic nuclear disaster I have wanted to create an art piece depicting the stories, whilst also addressing environmental and scientific dimensions. I am fascinated by the gestural vocabulary of film and its relationship to the formal properties of musical composition. I want to push beyond the notion that music should always be in service to visual narrative, and explore the possibilities of music’s power to create and transform meaning.”

Still from 'Birdsong' (Pripyat ferris wheel)

Still from ‘Birdsong’ (Pripyat ferris wheel)

“The resulting piece, comprising a forty-minute original film and live score with chamber ensemble will be performed at related venues in North West England in late 2016, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the disaster. A screening of the film with recorded score is programmed as part of an exhibition in Kiev in late October 2016.

“Combining the immediacy and energy of live musical performance with the visual impact of film, ‘Birdsong: Stories from Pripyat‘ aims to revisit a dramatic and devastating historical event using personal and scientific narratives to draw out the tensions and truths at play in our collective, cultural memories of this unfathomable event. This cross-artform project brings together original contemporary classical composition with film to explore an historic event through storytelling, montage and archival footage.

Robin Richards’ forty-minute score incorporates first-hand testimonies of evacuees and liquidators from Ukraine and Belarus, while Clara Casian’s filmmaking process is underpinned by nuclear research, and incorporates found and archival footage with original material filmed on location in Ukraine. The pair made a four-day research trip to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in May 2016 to meet with local artists, filmmakers and historians, collect original footage and archival material. The narrative arc of the film follows the journey of people with first-hand experience of the disaster, as personal records and testimonies are interwoven with original material. Music enters into a continuous dialogue with film as part of a nuanced artistic process, designed to evoke the experiences of people from Pripyat and their recollections of the evacuation and the cleaning process following the 1986 disaster.”

The piece will premiere as the highlight of HOME’s Artist Film Weekender in Manchester, followed by a second performance in Stockport’s historic art deco cinema The Plaza and a third at the University of Salford. Dates below:

Each night also features another showing, performance or event.

The University of Salford performance will also feature a question and answer session with Robin and Clara (also billed as a music-and-film masterclass with Robin, who’s an alumnus of the University’s Music course, having graduated in 2011 with a first-class honours degree, the Elgar Howarth Composition Shield and the Award for Innovative Audience Engagement).

The Manchester performance will be preceded by the showing of another Robin Richards-scored film, ‘Wizard’. Directed by Nick Middleton, this is “a short film about magic and madness”, which premiered earlier in the month at The Smalls film festival in Shoreditch, London.

The Stockport performance will be accompanied by ‘Celluloid History Songs’, by Anglo-African Mancunian singer-songwriter Josephine Oniyama: a “spellbinding… live multimedia performance against a backdrop of historical footage drawn from the North West Film Archive held at Manchester Metropolitan University, and edited by filmmaker Kim May of Asta Films. The specially-commissioned songs were influenced by scenes of Northerners at leisure, taken from the archive’s many inspiring images of industrial working-class people, young and old, discovering ways to spend their new leisure time.” This work was previously performed at HOME’s 2015 launch event, in tandem with Robin’s own previous soundtrack engagement (a new score for Pal Fejos’s 1928 silent New York romance ‘Lonesome’).

Update, 22nd September 2016 – Robin has just shared a recording of one of the ‘Birdsong’ soundtrack pieces. As he describes it, it’s “inspired by the liquidators working on the Chernobyl nuclear plant after the disaster. The liquidators were civil and military personnel called upon by the Soviet Union in to clean, burn and bury contaminated areas and materials around the power plant. The first part of this section is based on archival footage of the liquidators cleaning and digging in 1986, with the rhythmic jostling of the strings representing the movement of the workers, and the deep synthesisers representing the overriding radiation. The second part is inspired by the testimonies of four liquidators we interviewed in Borispol during our trip to Ukraine in May this year; their memories of the clean up and the years that followed the disaster.”


 
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Scalarama screening of 'Maresnest' (poster stencil image by Abe Peachment)

Scalarama screening of ‘Maresnest’ (poster stencil image by Abe Peachment)

A little earlier in the month – as part of September’s ongoing Scalarama film festival – there’ll be a public showing of the Cardiacs’ concert film ‘Maresnest’ in Glasgow.

Organisers Luminous Monsters call ‘Maresnest’ “the greatest concert movie ever made! Recorded one glorious afternoon at the Salisbury Arts Centre in 1990, ‘Maresnest’ captures all of the manic intensity and joyous delirium of one of the UK’s, nay, the world’s finest bands. Theres nothing quite like Cardiacs at full force. ‘Maresnest’ takes Cardiacs kaleidoscope-prog and ultra-pop impossibility and gives it a fiery hoof up the colon. From the bruising, nigh-industrial intro through the perilous frenzy of To Go Off And Things to the sustained climax of unlikely minor hit Is This The Life?, this is delirious, potent stuff, the sound of wild ideas obsessively woven from flesh and wire and moments.”

While this isn’t exactly a once-in-a-lifetime showing – the film was disinterred from VHS purgatory to be reissued and released on DVD three years ago – there are three extra selling points. The first is that the event is another of those fundraisers for the much-needed medical rehabilitation of Cardiacs’s life-mauled Tim Smith (see plenty of past ‘Misfit City’ posts for more on this particular story). Another is that the event also features a solo set from the band’s onetime guitarist Kavus Torabi (these days better known for Knifeworld, for exuberant radio hosting and for an ongoing role as the post-Daevid Allen frontman for Gong), who’ll be performing “songs of extreme loveliness and brilliance.”

The last is that Luminous Monsters are quite right about the value of ‘Maresnest’. It’s one of the great rock concert films, comfortably up on the same level with the likes of ‘Stop Making Sense’, ‘Tourfilm’, ‘The Last Waltz’ and ‘Sign ‘O’ The Times’. Capturing the band live in 1989 – then, as ever, inhabiting a murky cult status which could nonetheless draw thousand-strong crowds – it also caught them at a particularly turbulent time. The one-off seven-piece version of their close and familial lineup, as featured in the film, featured a guesting recent departee plus a new recruit and a pair of longstanding mainstays who’d both soon be gone from the band. Cardiacs shows were already volcanically energetic events, laced with disturbing performance-art overtones in which the band played at being frightened, stubborn children at odds with the perplexing and fascinating world around them. The fact that the aforementioned recent departee was Tim’s soon-to-be-ex-wife Sarah, and that the show was teetering on the edge of disaster due to equipment breakdowns and raw nerves, added an extra frisson of tension and imminent madness to this particular concert.

Fortunately, the band rose both to and above the occasion – pulling a powerful, massing set out of this chaotic fuel, and it was all caught on tape. Though ‘Maresnest’ is laced with and interrupted by additional faux-found footage from backstage (in which, in nightmarish glimpses, the band continue to act out disturbing dysfunctional and childlike personae; like ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ being wrenched out of shape by David Lynch) it’s ultimately about the music – which is ecstatic, churning, and strangely shamanic, tapping into a distorted British sub-mythology of old war films, children’s television and everyday ritual, and whipping it up into an ambiguous apotheosis for a delighted crowd.


 
Luminous Monsters present:
Scalarama 2016: ‘Cardiacs – All That Glitters is A Maresnest’ + Kavus Torabi (live set)
The Old Hairdressers, 23 Renfield Lane, Glasgow, G2 6PH, Scotland
Thursday 22nd September 2016, 7:30pm
– information here, here and here

It’s been a good month for Cardiacs-related news: more of that coming along shortly. Meanwhile, for more info on Scalarama’s ongoing events around the UK (and at the festival’s outpost in Spain), click here.
 

December 2015 – some musical Christmas parties, London – Fire Records (with the Jazz Butcher Quartet); The Glass Child’s online Christmas show; Memphis Industries’ Lost Christmas (with Dutch Uncles, The Go! Team, Menace Beach, Outfit, NZCA/Lines & slug); Gare Du Nord’s Arrivée/Départ II (a Viennese whirl with Martin Klein, Bon Bon Beast, Hefner escapees and many others); Arctic Circle’s Santas in Space (with Camden Voices, Left With Pictures, Laish & boy and a balloon); Baba Yaga’s Hut (with Bad Guys, Melting Hand, Wren)

9 Dec

I’ve been posting mostly shout-outs for gigs this year, so I might just as well submit to becoming Santa’s little shill as regards this month’s sprouting of Christmas/Hannukah/seasonal parties. From the flood on my Facebook account to the rumours and snippets I hear, this is a selection of what’s on for the next week or so (just London this time, though I’ve got some gigs elsewhere ready for the follow-up…)

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Fire Records Christmas gig 2015

Fire Records Xmas Party with The Jazz Butcher Quartet + very special guest + Fire Records DJs (Servant Jazz Quarters, 10A Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England, Friday 11th December 2015, 8.00pm) – free – information here and here

The first of several gigs in this post taking place at the Servant Jazz Quarters amongst the bottles, foxes and curios. Fire Records DJs will be playing from their typically wide-ranging hoard of music, and there’ll be two sets of live music. One guest is as-yet unnamed (it’s a surprise) and the other is the latest iteration of the three working decades of absurdist Northampton-based singer-songwriter Pat Fish as The Jazz Butcher.

The Jazz Butcher Quartet sees Pat take a sideways step away from the cunningly meandering rock’n’strum that he’s generally known for, and tease the ever-present jazziness out of his songs and into full focus via a collaboration with three dedicated jazz musicians The Jazz Butcher – drummer Steve Garofalo, trumpeter Simon Taylor and double bass player Steve New. The Steves and Pat were already old buddies from their time in the Northampton music scene, in particular due to their mutual work with the magnificently wise and strange alternative folk singer Tom Hall. The result’s a refreshed acoustic take on Jazz Butcher staples, wrapping itself round the old and new tunes and the playful wandering lyrics with utter flexibility.

The evening is absolutely free, apart from the drinks, but the Servant Jazz Quarters is a small place – so show up early if you want to be able to get in. Some footage of the JBQ is below.

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Swedish singer-songwriter Charlotte Eriksson, a.k.a. The Glass Child is hosting her own Christmas gig online. It sort of fits with her itinerant nature – having left her Gothenburg home at the age of eighteen, she built up both a label and a career while sofa-surfing through London, England and Berlin. You can’t fault the girl for thrift, for ambition and for investigating the art of the possible while living out of a suitcase. Playing a big interactive gig, but from nowhere in particular, certainly suits her style so far.

The Glass Child Christmas StageIt Show (online, Sunday 13th December 2015, 7.00pm CET) – pay-what-you-can – information & tickets

Charlotte’s own message:

Christmas, my children, is not a date. It’s a state of mind. December 13th is the day that Swedes celebrate “Lucia”, which basically means Swedish Christmas songs, gingerbread, tons and tons of candles, mulled wine (Swedish Glögg) and cosiness all around. Basically all of my favourite things!

Lucia is an ancient mythical figure with an abiding role as a bearer of light in the dark Swedish winters. The many Lucia songs all have the same theme: “The night treads heavily around yards and dwellings / In places unreached by sun, the shadows brood. / Into our dark house she comes, bearing lighted candles, / Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.” All Swedes know the standard Lucia song by heart, and everyone can sing it, in or out of tune. On the morning of Lucia Day, the radio plays some rather more expert renderings, by school choirs or the like. The Lucia celebrations also include ginger snaps and sweet, saffron-flavoured buns (lussekatter) shaped like curled-up cats and with raisin eyes. You eat them with glögg or coffee. (Do you guys understand why this is my favourite Swedish tradition?)

So I thought, what better way to celebrate this little Swedish Lucia day than with you! A cosy acoustic Christmas show with music, candles and maybe my first ever performance of a Swedish song. Like always: some new songs, some old songs, questions, chat and some insights behind my new album that I’m currently working on. Please join me for this evening show and we’ll create a memory worth remembering.

Some examples of Glass Child work so far are below.

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On the Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week, there’s a pair of simultaneous double-evening multi-band events happening within a mile of each other. The first of these is the Memphis Industries shindig – “two nights of festive fun” from one of the smartest small British pop labels at work today, with six bands and a host of present giveaways including limited edition art prints.

Lost Christmas @ Oslo, 14th & 15th December 2015

Lost Christmas – A Memphis Industries Christmas Special with Dutch Uncles, Outfit and NZCA LINES, The Go! Team, Menace Beach and Slug (Oslo, 1A Amhurst Road, Hackney, London, E8 1LL, England, Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th December 2015, 7.00pm) – £16.50 for each night / £30 for both nights – information & ticketsmore information

Monday night kicks things off with three of the label’s bands “art-rocking till they drop”. The striking prog-pop babble of Dutch Uncles headlines; doom-toned Liverpudlian tech-pop band Outfit play the middle set; and (following a brace of high-concept singles over the course of the year) one-man white-pop/R&B hybrid NZCA/Lines opens the show.




 

Tuesday promises “unparalleled noisy fun, and possibly sailor outfits”. Flipzoid Brighton pop crew The Go! Team headline, their lineup a little different from that of recent years but their magpie polymusical energies still intact. Leeds indie supergroup Menace Beach are in the middle; while reformed noiseniks and north-eastern eclecti-pop upsetters Slug open things up with a live band including Peter and David Brewis of Field Music.




 

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The second of the double-night events is the one run by Gare du Nord Records, a pair of concerts which have an almost familial feel, revolving around certain hub projects (Hefner, Death In Vegas), certain locations (Walthamstow, Canterbury, Vienna), certain other sympathetic labels (Fortuna Pop, Audio Antihero) and a smart, sometimes wordy aesthetic.

Arrivée/Départ II @ Servant Jazz Quarters, 14th & 15th December 2015

Arrivée/Départ II – Gare Du Nord Records 2-Night Revue (Servant Jazz Quarters, 10A Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England, Monday 14th December & Tuesday 15th December 2015, 7.30pm) – £5.00 each night – information – tickets on the door

Both nights are revues – a long main set from each of the two special Austrian guests, bolstered by short mini-sets from the other bands. There’s a lot of personnel crossover. Expect the same faces to keep popping up, reshuffled.

The Monday gig’s main set comes from Martin Klein, the Viennese singer-songwriter whose piano songs albums of and witty, deadpan performances are making him a rising star in Austria and Germany, and whose questioning, sometimes undercut romanticism should translate across further borders. Among the short sets are appearances by two former Hefner members: their frontman and prime creative force Darren Hayman and their multi-instrumentalist Jack Hayter, both now established as significant and highly individual solo songwriters (and while Darren might be the better known of the two, don’t underestimate Jack – I was enchanted by a battered set he played at Union Chapel last year).


Other players on the Monday bill are Cockney surf-punks Pit Ponies, Allo Darlin’ guitarist Paul Rains (taking a solo step-out from his main band’s classic indie-pop styles) and the “prim and improper” antifolk punksters Lucy’s Diary. There are also two acts who specialise in the soft-and-sharp – Cambridge’s Alex Highton (whose folk-, pop- and jazz-smattered songs conceal quick jabs of wit beneath their light and luscious surfaces) and Vienna-via-Canterbury trio Rotifer (creators of pitch-perfect country-tinged indie pop songs, sallies and snarks, and who also serve as a kind of scattered house band since various members play in six of the acts on offer during the night).





The Tuesday gig’s Viennese treat headliner is Bon Bon Beast – two multi-instrumental singer/producers, one of them Austrian (Ernst Tiefenthaler) and the other Swiss (Eloui), filtering their diverse past experiences into a straightforward acoustic jolly. Among the support acts, former Weather Prophets/Ellis Island Sound man Pete Astor continues his low-key live renaissance, and former Death In Vegas guitarist Ian Button brings along one of the various lineups of his psych-dusted pop project Papernut Cambridge. Since many of the people who play in the band are appearing in (or as) other acts during the evening, it’ll have been an easy roundup: Papernut Cambridge backing singer Helene Bradley, for instance, is performing a solo set as Citizen Helene (showcasing the soulful delivery and wistful irony which places her somewhere between Mama Cass and Kirsty MacColl).




 
Also playing are baroque orchestral pop songwriter Ralegh Long (presumably detached from the small orchestra which tends to follow him around) and Emma Winston’s one-woman Deerful project (miniature synths and brittle stories). Two Kentish acts round out the evening: lo-fi Canterbury pop band Picturebox and Whitstable’s Alex Williams (whose swerving career so far has encompassed indie rock with Fleeting Things, folk music with New Old World and lo-fi outsider clatter-pop with The Psychotic Reaction, as well as the odd ABC cover).




 

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I’ve been covering Daylight Music gigs for several years now, but anyone who spends much time around those will know that parent organisation Arctic Circle spreads its activities a lot wider than those Saturday afternoons at Union Chapel – and in this case, a lot higher. Over to them:

'Santas In Space' 2015

Santas in Space’ featuring Camden Voices + Left With Pictures + Laish + boy and a balloon (Arctic Circle @ ArcelorMittal Orbit, 3 Thornton Street, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London, E20 2AD, UK, Wednesday 16th December 2015, 6.30pm) – £15.00 – informationtickets

We return to the most spectacular venue in London to bringing our unique brand of Fuzzy Feeling to the 376 feet high platform of the Arcelormittal Orbit. With the sparkling lights of London as a spectacular backdrop, watch as the sculpture becomes an astronomic live music space celebrating the Christmas season! Camden Voices will start the night off with their thirty-strong choir proclaiming yuletide glee followed by a series of the finest fuzziest musicians from our Daylight Music series – from the chamber indie of Left With Pictures to the luscious folk of Laish and the lo-fi pop of Alex Hall’s boy and a balloon. Finish the evening by wrapping your ear around a winter-warming set from DJ Ben Eshmade (Arctic Circle Radio/Chill) with a festive drink or cocktail in hand. Please note this event is for over-18s only.


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If that last one seems to be bordering on the twee for you, another ‘Misfit City’ regular event is offering something typically noisier and rucked-up around the edges:

Bad Guys/Melting Hand/Wren @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 16th December 2015

Baba Yaga’s Hut Xmas Bash with Bad Guys, Melting Hand, Wren (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ Corsica Studios, 5 Elephant Lane, Newington, London, SE17 1LB, England, Wednesday 16th December 2015, 7.30pm) – £5.00 – informationtickets

Again, over to them:

Come down to the Baba Yaga’s Hut Xmas party. Three very heavy acts for you, mulled wine. Xmas hats. Getting drunk, the usual. London’s best classic metal band Bad Guys headline; plus the first ever London show for new heavy-psych/improvising jam supergroup Melting Hand (featuring Gordon & Russell of Terminal Cheesecake, Mike Vest of Bong/Drunk in Hell etc etc and Tom Fug of Gum Takes Tooth); and a Baba Yaga’s debut for London post-metal/sludge four piece Wren.



 
More Christmas gigs shortly, including some events elsewhere in Britain…

REVIEW – Dutch Uncles: ‘Fester’ single, 2012 (“a butter-toffee in a world of cheap smokes”)

26 Oct

Dutch Uncles: 'Fester'

Dutch Uncles: ‘Fester’


That’s a repulsive title for a single. Then again, Dutch Uncles have always been something of an irritant. I mean that in a good way, as it happens. Some of my favourite bands are irritants. Too many bands just want to be stimulants – crude and obvious, they roar in with a snort and a thump, hammering hard on the most obvious buttons. After a while, you just need more and more of it to elicit even a small buzz, and you end up bored and bloated.

An irritant, on the other hand – that does its job of stirring up a reaction in a different way. You can’t ignore it. It focuses the attention, often by making you aware of sensitivities that you didn’t even know you had. Dutch Uncles have always been happy to spike the necessary nerve and keep feeding a pulse into it. If you’re familiar with those dancing, sidestepping cycles of guitar riff which festooned and hiccuped all over their earlier singles (Fragrant, The Ink, Face In) then Fester will sound halfway familiar. If you persuaded Steve Reich to write around eleven Disco Phases, then stacked them up on top of each other, you’d have the basic bones already. It rotates like a carousel full of drunk mathematicians, with Duncan Wallis’ warm alto hoot (still a butter-toffee in a world of cheap smokes) muttering and musing atop the pile.

What’s new for Dutch Uncles is a delightful infusion of art-rock colourings – that bass guitar which thunks like a piano; that bony clink of marimba hook; the guitar which blows and bloozes like a sleepy horn solo. There’s a delicious feeling of confusion and clothes-swapping wrapped into the song: it’s reminiscent of early Roxy Music and their upsetting of texture, of the otherworldly kink of Associates. With Duncan’s tone of repressed and airy hysteria, there’s also got something of the closeted wildness of Sparks (albeit in one of their mellower moods). Dutch Uncles have that nervy theatrical cleverness to them, as if they’re delicately stepping along a rail with ideas dropping out of their pockets and with tell-tales twitching at the corners of their eyes.

I mentioned a song, didn’t I? It’s built into the jittery mosaic of instruments; and it’s a protest, of sorts. “There’s a time to hide everything – the way that you are; where you’ve been. / And the feeling I’ve tried to fight, / pieces I’m left in inside.” In a genteel way, Duncan’s pissed off; chanting “takes me to the bone” as he swats, distractedly, at a lingering pain. Fractured syntax dribbling in his wake, he argues his position and tells his story like a hungover man struggling with a jigsaw. “And the times you cry at everything / for reasons we don’t mean anything. / And the times I hide behind a smile / that says you were right, you were always right.” By the end of his efforts, he’s trying to strip-mine his way into sense by plunging headlong into tongue-twisters (“The worst is hardly, hardly known, / I trust the worst is hard to know. / The worst is hardly, hardly known, / I know the worst is hard to know,”) as the band pound delicately around him. Irritation confuses, scatters against structure: but few things are better at making you feel.

Dutch Uncles: ‘Fester’
Memphis Industries, MI0250D/MI0250S
vinyl 7″/download single
released: 20th September (download) & 12th November (vinyl) 2012

Buy it from:
Memphis Industries (vinyl); Dutch Uncles homepage
or Memphis Industries news page (download)

Dutch Uncles online:
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