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November 2016 – upcoming gigs – the glorious 12th: some of many gigs scattered around England on my birthday tomorrow – Mother, North Sea Radio Orchestra, ILL, Nick Costley-White, India McKellar, Alice Zawadski, Merrick’s Tusk, Snowapple, Captives On The Carousel, Mark Lewandowski, Steve Strong, Shield Patterns, Jamie Safiruddin, The Yossarians, Boy & A Balloon, Bruxa | Cosa, Ed Dowie, Carl Woodford, Andy Or Jenny, Patrons…

11 Nov

Tomorrow I turn forty-six. About half of those years have been spent as an on-and-off writer, scrambling round the edges of music and music culture, attempting to understand this great amorphous art form with its thousands of doors and voices. I had a sombre, or at least a serious, preamble planned: one of those reflective commentator essays that you see on many of the more literate blogs. I threw it away.

Instead (and in keeping with what ‘Misfit City’ has been up to for most of the year), here’s a particularly long garland of gig notices. It’s not here to illustrate any particular school of thought, being the usual melange of tastes and forms – jazz, folk, art-punk, acoustic singer-songwriter, prog, performance art, drone, classical fusion and lush noise. It’s that particular kind of broad, inconsistent, credibility-trampling aural palette which (back when I started doing this in the mid-’90s), wasn’t suggested much outside of the pages of ‘Organ’ or the less austere corners of ‘The Wire’, or indeed ‘Misfit City’; but which now seems to be almost a mainstream stance.

Some other day – perhaps some other birthday – will be the right time for an essay or a grand declaration. If I’ve got a point to make right now (if only by implication and example), it’s that at a tired, fairly battered forty-six I’m still curious, still enthusiastic, still in the business of learning; at a time and place in life which might otherwise ossify my tastes and reduce music to just another commodity or flattened signifier. Spread out over this post are details on concerts, all of them in England, all of them scattered across my birthday. There’s no way I could attend all of them, even with an entirely free hand, but all of them attract me; and at any one of them you’d have found me leaning against a wall, pen and pad in hand, taking notes, looking for new thoughts.

I’ve already posted about the iamthemorning/Tim Bowness teamup for the iO Pages festival, but I can’t really squeeze in the flight to the Netherlands. (Besides, I’m catching them in London on Monday). I’ve also posted about the evening’s Hallkvist/Taylor/Goller/Hayward jazz-fusion show (plus a side order of Charlie Stacey) at the Lambeth art incubator of IKLECTIK, as part of an update on Charles Hayward’s burst of late-year shows. Since that one’s in London, it’s a more likely option for me; but also down at IKLECTIK, in the early afternoon, London jazz incubator Jazz Nursery will be joining in with the ongoing EFG London Jazz Festival in order to present a couple of young bandleaders with relatively accessible projects.

Well, why not start there – start mellow…

Guitarist Nick Costley-White has a trio featuring Conor Chaplin on double bass and David Ingamells on drums and offers fresh, swinging takes on Jerome Kern and Cole Porter (with the leader described by ‘Jazz News’ as “a classy player with an elegant and subtle way with a good tune”). Bassist Mark Lewandowski (“sonorous, fluent… an indispensable part of our scene” – ‘London Jazz’) sets aside his busy calendar as a sideman to compose for and lead a quartet of American drum legend Jeff Williams (Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano etc) as well as tenor saxophonist Tom Challenger (Brass Mask, Wedding Music, Dice Factory, Ma) and pianist Liam Noble (Stan Sulzman, Bobby Wellins, many records as leader).

Nick Costley-White, 2016Jazz Nursery/EFG London Jazz Festival presents:
Nick Costley-White Trio + Mark Lewandowski Quartet
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 2.30pm
information

It looks as if this particular Mark Lewandowski band is too new to have been recorded, but here’s a clip of the Costley-White Trio at work:


 
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'Liberate yourself from my vice like grip", 12th November 2016
Were I up in the north-west I’d be listening to something entirely different, tempted by ‘Liberate yourself from my vice like grip’, the R.D. Laing-inspired exhibition/concert/happening that’s playing at Islington Mill in Salford. Set up by contemporary art organisation Broken Grey Wires, it’s part of their scheme to create safe psychological spaces for people with various mental health issues; to use art as “a facilitator for recovery… to encourage people to make something special for themselves”, following Laing’s own suggestion that “madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through.” 

(Yep – I know how to relax on my own special days.)

For the musical component, co-curators Fat Out have put together a typically eclectic and Mill-ready line-up of mostly local bands. Included are soundscaping folk-indie/jazz-shoegaze performance artists Mother, psychedelic folk-rock jam-jivers The Yossarians and colourful, blippy post-punk femme/art/pop troupe ILL (proudly strident champions of “disobedient noise” who believe in “creating music until something tingles, and performing dance noise until something bleeds”, and who were namechecked in ‘The Guardian’ today as one of the fifty new pop projects shaping the future). Also on the bill are ambient improvisers Andy Or Jenny, the “atavistic” Berlin-based Welsh looptronica singer Bruxa | Cosa, and landscape-ghosting Peak District ambient-pop duo Shield Patterns.

For the ongoing exhibition BGW have brought in various artists who explore mental health, gender, identity and subjective reality in their work (Lizz Brady, Robert Good, Amy Mizrahi, David Sheery, Kirsty Harris, Paul Kindersley, Jared Pappas-Kelley, Alexander Storey Gordon) all of whom raise so many questions, options and ways of seeing that I’d go on for ages trying to clumsily summarise them. Instead, I’d suggest that you follow them up on Facebook through the second info link below…

Broken Grey Wires & Fat Out present:
‘Liberate yourself from my vice like grip’
Islngton Mill Arts Centre, James Street, Salford, M3 5HW, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 6.00pm
– information here and here





 
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Steve Strong + Patrons + Merrick's Tusk, 12th November 2016If I were in Durham, I could make up for missing one-man post/math/trip-hop band Steve Strong‘s set of simultaneous guitar-loops/drums/electronic-noise hybrids at Wakizashi last month, by catching up with him up at his Empty Shop show in Durham – alongside the trepidatious post-hardcore of Plymouth four-piece Patrons and the blitzing sentimental charge of Derby trio Merrick’s Tusk (currently touring their melodic, heart-on-sleeve half-emo rock around the country). While I was at it, I could feel as if I was contributing more to the community than just the usual couple of hours of head-nodding. (See more about the constructive, cohesion-building Empty Shop ethos here.)

Sapien Records Ltd/Empty Shop presents:
Steve Strong + Patrons + Merrick’s Tusk
Empty Shop HQ, 35c Framwellgate Bridge (above ‘Ciao Ciao’), Durham, DH1 4SJ, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 8:00 pm
– information here and here




 

India McKellar, 2016

India McKellar

If in Sheffield, I’d probably be in a softer mood, heading over to the Regather co-op for one of their cosier gigs: the second of the recently-established acoustic evenings run by local cello/voice/guitar folk duo Captives On The Carousel.

This week (in addition to the Carouselers usual warm starting set), the night’s playing host to two other Sheffield-area singer-songwriters – India McKellar, whose previous adventures on piano, as a traditional Celtic harpist and as a onetime prog-rocker have set her up well for her matured, quietly captivating role as Laurel-Canyon-by-way-of-West Riding adult songwriter; and rootsier Drake-and-Jansch-inspired guitar-and-banjo picker Carl Woodford.

Captives on the Carousel present:
Captives Vol. 2: India McKellar + Carl Woodford + Captives On The Carousel
Regather Works, 57-59 Club Garden Road, Sheffield, S11 8BU, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 7.30pm
information




 
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Alice Zawadski, 2016

Alice Zawadski

Back in London, I’d also be tempted (were it not already sold out) by Alice Zawadski’s Joni Mitchell evening down at Brasserie Zedel. I’m not keen on the institution of the average cover version, and embarrassingly average covers of Joni songs are the bane of many an acoustic evening: honeytraps for earnest women with guitars who cover them reverently, winsomely and really badly. Every time, I picture Joni seething in the audience, her notorious strongmindededness in full bullish effect: snarling at the women onstage, cursing them out for skipping her weird tunings, for ignoring the orchestral conception behind the compositions, or for just sugaring the fine vinegar.

This one might well be different, for several reasons. One is that Alice already comes with acclaim, experience and enough background to serve the songs – extensively trained in both jazz and classical skills, a violinist and arranger as well as a singer, she’ll be thinking on maybe as many levels as Joni herself. Another is that her gig partner and pianist Jamie Safiruddin has racked up time and plaudits accompanist and/or musical director with prime British jazz, ballad and folk interpreters Ian Shaw, Claire Martin and Barb Jungr and Ben Cox, as well as pop adventures with Will Young (plus he already has Joni-form, having “played Edith And The Kingpin with exquisite poise” according to ‘The Arts Desk’).

A third reason is that this is primarily a jazz gig; Jamie and Alice joined by Seafarers saxophonist Matthew Herd, bassist Conor Chaplin (strolling over from the earlier Costley-White trio show), drummer and Conor’s Fabled buddy and drummerWill Glaser. No matter how many copies of ‘Blue’ you pitch at my head, I’ll always maintain that Joni was at her original best when diving into jazz, interweaving with Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius as her words kaleidoscoped, her notes ached and flexed and the potential in the arrangement spanned and fanned. Alice is promising Joni’s most well-worn hits and folky standards (‘Big Yellow Taxi’, ‘A Case of You’, ‘Woodstock’) but also “lesser-known gems from throughout her long and fruitful back-catalogue”, and it’s not always that you get the chance to hear someone dipping into the more challenging territories of ‘Hejira’, ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’ or ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’.

Here are the details for anyone who’s a better ligger/doorstaff wheedler than I am; and below that’s a clip of Alice at work with saxophonist Joe Wright on a song which, even if it’s not quite Joni, shows what her mind and approach could be bringing to the Mitchell catalogue.

Jamie Safiruddin & Alice Zawadski
The Crazy Coqs @ Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London, W1F 7ED, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 9.00pm
information


 
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As for me, I can only guarantee that I’ll be in one particular place tomorrow. At noontime I’ll be in the Union Chapel, at one of the Daylight Music shows which I constantly plug here but all to often have to miss. Accompanied by family (and perhaps even a few unexpected friends), I’ll be down there listening to the soft, distracted keyboard songs of Ed Dowie; watching the charming and daffy Dutch folk-pop trio SnowApple delight and dazzle an audience in a fizz of swapped instruments, leapt genres, blended voices and eye-catching outfits; taking in the interstitial battered-pop moments from Boy And a Balloon‘s Alex Hall; and finally immersing myself in the ringing, humming chamber-ensemble arrangements of Craig Fortnam’s North Sea Radio Orchestra as they navigate (in a bright-toned weave of nylon-strung guitar, bassoon, strings, keyboards and voice) between the Britten-esque and the kosmische, between gurgling Vernon Elliott and sighing Robert Wyatt, between the hopping pulse of downtown minimalism and the Anglican warmth of a Wiltshire harvest festival.

Maybe Daylight shows are at the cuddlier end of what interests me within this blog; but it’s also fair to say that, out of everything covered here, perhaps the rambling, all-points Daylight positivity reflects ‘Misfit City’s own attitude best of all. And in a similar spirit… say hello if you see me there.

Daylight Music 238, 12th November 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 238: North Sea Radio Orchestra + Snowapple + Ed Dowie + Boy & A Balloon
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 12th November 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information here and here





 

Quietness…

27 Oct

As some of you may have noticed, it’s been pretty quiet around here for the last few months. The truth of the matter is that I’ve been finding it hard to keep up with steady blogging, for reasons I won’t bore you with (some are mundane, others more serious). The outcome is that I’ve got to change the way that I blog.

As of yet, I don’t quite know how this is going to work. I’ve no wish for ‘Misfit City’ to become a post-for-the-sake-of-it site doing nothing but advertising, as the blogosphere is awash with that kind of thing. What I’ve done for the moment is to call a halt to submissions, so that I can spend more time honouring coverage of what I’ve been sent already. (I’m not, however, putting myself out of reach – anyone interested in future coverage can still write to me, several people are blithely ignoring the “no submissions” note I put up a while ago, and I’m still downloading items when they arrive.)

What I suspect is going to happen is that the blog is going to move even further away from trying to keep up with the industry schedule: I’m going to be even less likely to chase each month’s singles or attempt to keep abreast of what’s currently buzzing. Again, plenty of blogs are already doing that and it’s a safe bet that ‘Misfit City’ would never displace the most popular ones as a first port of call.

Instead, ‘Misfit City’ is going to go a little further inwards, and concentrate on improving what it’s already best at: clambering inside music which catches my attention and attempting to emerge with some kind of insight. Expect coverage of music from any year which occurs to me (including this year, as I’m not going to completely detach myself from the present day), and expect posts which – with any luck – people will read for the sake of the writing rather than because it’s covering this week’s thing. Obviously this approach is as much to make up for my failings as it is to cultivate a blogging philosophy, but I have to start somewhere.

Well, as you’ve read this far, have a look over to the right and see if there’s anything else you’d like to read via the Recent Posts list or the Category Cloud. I’m back off to my review drafts. I’ll see you later.

…in which he nervously eyes the pulpit…

29 May

Welcome. Thanks for dropping by.

I’m new here. This is my first attempt at blogging, after several years when I felt that the blogosphere was saturated and didn’t believe that I myself had anything worthwhile to add. Words and feelings, however, have a habit of bleeding up after a while.

In my case, although I’m new here, I’ve also… been here before. I’m guessing that many of you who have dropped by to read this are doing so because of music reviews I’ve written in the past. This started out with bits and pieces for various British fanzines and small magazines (back while the age of paper was still rolling along nicely). By 1997, however, I was publishing online via my own ‘Misfit City’ music webzine, and if you’ve heard of me it will most likely have been via that.

Or perhaps I’m being arrogant. Maybe most of you have surfed in by accident, never having heard of ‘Misfit City’. In all honesty it was never more than a minor cult site: marginal, even for music webzines. It was London-based, eclectically musical, lushly-written and soft of underbelly. It wandered and waddled around the music scene between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s looking to have its synapses fondled (I myself did much the same thing while haunting various little venues in London). Initially this was all happening before the days when everything was online. Post-‘Pitchfork’ and ‘Organ’, certainly; but before the likes of ‘Stereogum‘, ‘Gorilla vs. Bear’ and ‘Drowned in Sound’ came to prominence. (AS it happens, halfway through the original ‘Misfit City’ run, ‘DiS’ came calling and invited me to play. Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if I’d said yes.)

‘Misfit City’ also pre-dated that rash of personal music blogs which stretch across the web now, and which don’t just offer comment and pictures but full multi-media. At the time, I thought I was doing well with my painstaking homepage links and contact addresses. With everything now interlinked via Facebook and beyond, possibilities have clearly moved on…

In addition,  ‘Misfit City’ was written in an attempt to be all-embracing: never a good move in an age of sharply-defined identities. At the time, the London music scene (always active but sometimes sclerotic) was a ferment of ideas from Britpop to hardcore, post-rock to jazz, acoustica to electronica, contemporary classical to strange forms of folk, and all kinds of various cross-disciplinary pursuits. I caught onto the edges of some of these and missed others entirely. I passed my weeks in a whirl of night buses, speaker stacks and long hours spent alone hacking away at the type-face. As I once wrote (sometime in the early 2000s), the zine occasionally found credibility, but usually because it had bumped into it en route to somewhere else.

Now, eight years after ‘Misfit City’ finally collapsed, went offline and vanished, I’m resurrecting it as a blog. I’m heading back out onto the pulpit with a handful of notes and impressions plus those insights I’ve gained from exploring music, and simply winging the rest. There are new pieces to be written, and perhaps a greater opportunity to bat ideas around. Even back in the old days, there was so much more to cover and consider than that which eventually made it into the zine. Beyond some vague urges of salvage and exploration, I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing beyond re-evaluating, re-working and re-posting. So for a number of months I’ve been listening and writing, preparing for once again travelling (and posting) in hope, allowing the blog to grow from there.

Reading certain blogs, one gets the impression that the writers have dropped fully-formed into the blogosphere – they’re wellsprings of information, opinions and discursive skill with all of their functions, fittings and rhetorical excellence in place. I doubt that this blog will be like that. My own mind has always been less regulated: it’s been more like a snow-globe or a kaleidoscope, full of whirling objects and tiny lenses through which I’ve viewed the world in squints and starts. This may mean that this blog starts out vague and smeary. Sorry, but so be it. Final form takes time to evolve. (The process of getting back into the saddle isn’t immediate either.)

While this is a new blog, and new items will be covered, don’t expect all of the posts to be covering brand new items or events. Far too much interesting material has sluiced over and past me over the years for me to ignore it just because it was released in a different year. Also, there’s plenty of music and reviews from the old days which deserve resurrection and fresh attention. So expect reviews of material released at any time, according to my whim. The agenda and base rule will be that if it still interests me, and I think that it’ll interest you, it’s going in. The original ‘zine was a sprawling jam of miscellaneous coverage (much as my listening habits were) and that’s not going to change now.

I’m aware that this also means that if there’s a defining character to this blog, it’ll be “wandering through my music collection.” Oh well… see the top of the page…

As ‘Misfit City’ takes on a new shape (as cities do when new demands and new ways of doing things impinge on them) I’m sure I’ll begin to find my way again. For the moment, I’m also considering the question of “why write about music”? – to which the answer is (in spite of all of the background noise, demands on my attention, arguments and frustrated stand-offs)  because it still speaks to me and I want to speak in response. It still opens me up, and I want to find out what’s there again.

See you again shortly.

Cheers,

Dann Chinn

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