Tag Archives: electric guitar

July 2018 – upcoming avant-pop gigs – Liam Singer in New York and Catskill with Sontag Shogun, Alexander Turnquist and Tim Mislock (12th, 13th July)

6 Jul

Liam Singer, 2018Bar his efforts in assembling a performance of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ under the Brooklyn Bridge last year, not enough has been heard from Liam Singer since he released his gorgeously limpid ‘Arc Iris’ album in 2013. In fact, he’s quit New York City and moved upstate to Catskill, where he’s now co-running HiLo – a combined cafe, bar, art gallery, and performance space. New responsibilities, however, haven’t stemmed his musical flow. Two imminent shows (one at HiLo and one in his old Brooklyn stomping grounds) mark this month’s release of his fifth album, ‘Finish Him‘, on Birdwatcher Records.

Centred on his piano and the sweet murmur of his voice, Liam’s previous records brought in strings, glass harmonicas and spectral studio reverb; the clink and clatter of gamelan and prepared instruments, Morton Feldman namedrops, and women’s voices shading into birdsong. They sketched out a sharply etched dreamworld which seemed to take place in and on the towns, roads and headlands of a permeable New England coastline – one in which ancient mythology and personal headspace interpenetrated, and danced their way up and down from the seabed to the constellations. Either that, or they evoked loft life in an idealised, slightly antiquated boho New York or upscale university town – Art Deco bannisters, rumpled stockings discarded by elusive free-spirited lovers; mannered speech, books on the Harlem Renaissance.

It was pop, but pop over which Steve Reich and the aforementioned Feldman presided as occasional guardian angels (as did Henry Cowell and Shaker music), amidst a papery flutter of old books and wallpaper witnessings, and of dust being blown off enthralling junk-shop discoveries. Longtime co-producer Scott Solter likes to link it to “Edward Gorey and the Brothers Quay“. The descriptions may sound precious, but the songs aren’t. No showboater, Liam is nonetheless one of those singers whose tones gently, subtly shift and refract between wonder, melancholy, wry self-deprecation and ecstacy: a caster of light upon things, rather than a hoarder or showcaser. The folding of literary and mythical references into his songs – and their subtly eclectic instrumentation – may bring him comparisons to Elliott Smith (especially in terms of the intimate delivery) and to Sufjan Stevens; but to me he’s a far more gentler character, bringing a human fragility and self-awareness to his steps in and out of a numinous music realm. A bit like an American William D. Drake, perhaps; though minus the occasional overt music-hall flourishes.

https://youtu.be/NZbZn8whOFQ
 
That said, ‘Finish Him’ (described as “a coming-out party”) sees Liam changing tack. Now he’s fully, publically embracing influences he’s previously only hinted at – predominantly colourful 1980s art pop “from a time when traces of the Baroque and avant-garde began to seep into the margins of the mainstream alongside the iconic synths, gated reverbs and big hair.” The science-fiction bacofoil-meets-CGI video, drum machine and layered synths of pilot single Test Tone determinedly sets out this new stall – like Wes Anderson simultaneously taking on ‘Tron’ or one of those Saturday afternoon space operas – and while new tracks like The Devil and I Want To See Sparks are less immediately brash, they’ve set aside some of the diaphanous sound of previously-on-Liam in favour of grander, brighter colourings, scrim-sweeps of noise, and bolder narratives about the struggle between selfishness and connection, the booting over of applecarts.



 
If there’s a new parallel, it’s the latterday work of Paddy McAloon – the revealing of extra bite and sharp points behind the musical meringue, the emergence of perspective and bone-deep feeling that comes with age and gravity taking more of a hold. The magic and mists are still there, just with a little more lightning.

Main support at both shows comes from Liam’s friends in the “lullanoise” project Sontag Shogun, who travel the world and bring back armfuls of noise and aural capturings of different places and times, only to re-knit them into ambiguous/meaningful post-minimalist mood pieces of piano and soundscape. Evoking or manufacturing memories filled with beauty and displacement, they produce music which is part hypnagogic tape, part four-dimensional postcard or souvenir.

For the Brooklyn show, the core Shogun trio (pianist Ian Temple, laptop/field recordings manipulator Jesse Perlstein and tapesman/oscillator operator/microphonist Jeremy Young) are “reformatting and outfitting” the band with a string quartet (thus forming the Sontag String Ensemble) and are playing “all new music, marrying improvisational and experimental sound with composed string arrangements by Ian.” For the Catskill show, they’re reverting to the trio format.


https://youtu.be/WZFGL_AM_6o
 
Each of the two shows will be bolstered by another instrumental set, each by a different guitarist/composer. In Brooklyn, it’s Alexander Turnquist, whose instrumental reflections on nature and philosophy blend virtuosic twelve-string acoustic fingerstyle with studio-based electronic noise aesthetics, producing a melodious state-shifting thunder of folk baroque/New Acoustic stringwork and reverberant processing which perhaps makes him the heart of an imaginary triangle between Michael Hedges, John Fahey and Jim O’Rourke.

Alexander’s counterpart at the Catskill show is Tim Mislock, whose use of simple electric figures and slow, ebbing ambient-country pulses… renders him more similar to Britain’s Rob Jackson or to a Nashville-saturated Robert Fripp, while also dipping into the lonesome romantic post-rock minimalism of Explosions In The Sky. His current album ‘Now Is The Last Best Time’ is “a heartfelt ode to (his) mother, who over the course of the past decade, has been the primary caregiver to her husband and Mislock’s stepfather; as he slowly fades into the ever-present silence of Alzheimer’s disease.” It’s a project encompassing love, regret, compassion and drift, and you can feel all of them in every note.

https://youtu.be/fooYDkbxHjI

Dates:

  • Liam Singer + Sontag String Ensemble + Alexander Turnquist – Wonders Of Nature, 131 Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, New York 11249, USA, Thursday 12th July 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Liam Singer + Sontag Shogun + Tim Mislock – HiLo Catskill, 365 Main Street, Catskill, New York 12414, USA, Friday 13th July 2018, 8.00pm – information here

 

October 2016 – upcoming London gigs – two-part experimental concert from Laura Steenberge, Michael Winter and friends at IKLECTIK and Hundred Years Gallery (7th & 9th)

5 Oct

Two Los Angeles composer-experimentalists – Laura Steenberge and Michael Winter – flit between two London art-music venues at the end of this week, joining forces for a two-part concert.

‘Open… and perhaps not yet fully formed’, 7th & 9th October 2016Mira Benjamin presents:
‘Open… and perhaps not yet fully formed’ (with Laura Steenberge and Michael Winter)

  • Part I – IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England, Friday 7th October 2016, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Part II – Hundred Years Gallery, 13 Pearson Street, Hoxton, London, E2 8JD, England, Sunday 9th October 2016, 3:30pm – information here and here

The two visiting musicians make an interesting and complementary pair. Laura’s linguistic training backs up her musicality and instills a curiosity about the roots of communication, with her ‘Chant Etudes’ series attempting to recreate or recapture a “deep past, when the idea of a musical instrument was not yet fully formed.” Making and playing rudimentary part-salvaged instruments (which combine standard recorder or trumpet mouthpieces with flexible metal or plastic piping), Laura blows and sings into them while also whirling them, combining simple and complex harmonies from instrument and voice while participating in a sound which she partially controls and partially doesn’t. It conflates ideas of natural wind sound, air-hung instruments which play without human intercession (such as Aeolian harps) and human attempts at music making which suggest both the pre- and post-industrial. There’s a mystical element too, as Laura deliberately searches out “the secret vibrations hidden among the controlled tones.”

https://vimeo.com/164002884
 
As for Michael, he’s more computationally-minded: setting out his algorhythmic pieces via scores involving minimal standard notation, or minimal graphical cues, or succinct but meticulous lines of text, and drawing structural elements from other disciplines (science, architecture, mathematics, different art fields). Both concerts will feature a performance of Michael’s ‘for Sol LeWitt’ – a text score piece for solo glissando and four sustained tones, which on these occasion will be performed with at least one amplified/processed violin. (Perform it yourself, right now, using any available sound source, from the instructions here – otherwise, cop a listen to the slow-evolving version below).


 
Four London-based players are joining in on both occasions, fanning the event out out into a loose potential sextet. Two of these are avant-garde violinists – prepared-instrument/improv doyenne Angharad Davies; microtonal specialist Mira Benjamin. The remaining two are objects-and-electronics player John Lely and fellow object botherer/roving conceptualist/sometime pianist Tim Parkinson.

I’m being more than a little glib and flippant in my descriptions here. Just think of them as being like the tabs in a pop-up book, something which you pull out to unfold the details what these assorted players really do – a cascade of directions and deconstructions springing off from the music and situations they engage with. Many of the ensemble are also active encouragers or curators of New Music – Mira through the vigorous commissioning and nurturing of new compositions, as well as serving as the impresario for these two ‘Open…’ shows; others through running various performance nights in LA or London (Michael’s experimental institution the wulf.; the ‘Music We’d Like to Hear‘ series which John and Tim run with Marcus Trunk).

In addition, two ‘Music We’d Like to Hear’ semi-regulars – double bass player/onetime Oxford Improviser Dominic Lash and cellist/Apartment House founder Anton Lukoszevieze – will join in for the second concert. (Anton will be playing John Leles’ self-descriptively-titled ‘The Harmonics of Real Strings’).


 

* * * * * * * *

Beyond the pieces I’ve mentioned before, the programmes vary between the concerts, although the general brief is “simple processes and open forms.” One inclusion will be another Michael Winter piece (the rhythmic three-line drone-counterpoint process ‘tergiversate’). Another will be a second John Leles composition, ‘All About the Piano’, in which the initial piano lines are recorded onto a series of dictaphones as they’re played, and are then replayed later on in lo-fi over the top of later lines. (This enables the piece’s history to repeat – the first time as grace, the second time as what sounds like a distant, distracting coterie of ice cream vans.)



 
Tim Parkinson will be contributing two brand-new pieces – ‘No. 4’ and ‘No. 5’ – about which he’s not provided any information. Having recently composed an almost actionless opera with a combined orchestra-pit-cum-stage-set of trash and rubble, without any music (bar stolen snippets of Handel and Rossini as performance bookends), and which mostly consists of the performers wading through the wreckage, he’s arguably the most playful of the composers contributing to ‘Open’. Expect anything; and then expect to see that anything dismantled.

Outside of music sourced by the ensemble members themselves, ‘Open…’ will see a performance of one of the Circular Music piano pieces by Swiss composer Jürg Frey (a member of the Wandelweiser Group, who pursue a John Cage-inspired integration of silence and humble reticence into composition). ‘Circular Music part 6’ is part of a series in which Frey seems to have been skirting around the avant-garde composer’s fear of (or suspicion of) virtuoso cliché or cultural determinism – aiming instead to naturally compose something which is both starkly simple and, at the same time, significant.

In an interview with Sheffield record label Another Timbre, Frey expanded on this by talking about how he was “looking to find a confidence in chords, dyads and single notes… I hope that accordingly they will resonate with confidence. This applies to every material, whether stones or a piano, but with the piano it seems to be more challenging because of the clarity of the material and how the instrument itself suggests it should be used.” (Full interview text here, while one of the other Circular Music pieces is linked below.)

https://youtu.be/UOKnlwuApuo
 
The last piece confirmed for the concert (although there should be others) is ‘Another’, by Christian Wolff: conceptual composer, final survivor of the Cage-led New York School of experimental classical, a muso-political provocateur in step with Cornelius Cardew, and an avowed influence on both Tim Parkinson and John Leles. ‘Another’ isn’t a piece I can actually find in Woolf’s catalogue. It may well be a version of his floating, fragmentary but surprisingly lovely nine-minute electric guitar piece ‘Another Possibility’, which is and was a response to a 1966 piece which Woolf’s friend Morton Feldman had composed for him to perform on electric guitar (despite Woolf’s own unfamiliarity with the instrument).

Woolf would later recall the process of making ‘The Possibility Of A New Work For Electric Guitar’ as “we immediately set to work, (Feldman) at the piano, playing a chord: “can you do that?” I could. “How about this?” With some contortions (the guitar was laid flat so I could better see what I was doing – I’m not a guitar player, and this way I could finger and pluck with either hand), yes.”This?” Not quite. “Now” (with changed voicing, or a new chord)? Yes. And so on, until he had made the piece. Tempo was slow and dynamics soft, the structure dictated by the amount of time we were able to concentrate on the work. The sound, the chords or single notes, were reverberations set off by his (characteristic) piano playing, feeling for a resonance, then confidently transferred to the guitar within that instrument’s capacities (sometimes adding one of its particular features, the ability to make small slides with a vibrato bar).” Woolf only performed Feldman’s composition three times before both guitar and the manuscript were stolen from his car the following year – but he’d subsequently use the memory of the lost piece for inspiration.

Incidentally, three years after Woolf composed ‘Another Possibility’ (and some forty years after the theft), a recording of the stolen Feldman score was recovered, and it was subsequently transcribed and put back into the repertoire. The full story is here, and you can compare the two related pieces below – ‘Another Possibility’ via an interesting effect-sprinkled performance (Andy Summers-gone-avant-garde) by Swiss omin-guitarist Gilbert Impérial, and the original Feldman ‘…Possibility…’ in a straight, reverent reading by Japanese classical/electric crossover player Gaku Yamada.

https://youtu.be/nacVUOb0Vpo
https://youtu.be/y2KvQuLJspY
 
* * * * * * * *

Here’s a quick rundown of ‘Open…’ again.

Performers:

Laura Steenberge (objects and voice)
Michael Winter (guitalele, objects, electronics)
Mira Benjamin (violin)
Angharad Davies (violin)
John Lely (objects, electronics)
Tim Parkinson (piano, objects)
Dominic Lash (double bass – Part 2 only)
Anton Lukoszevieze (cello – Part 2 only)

Programme:

Part 1 includes:
Laura Steenberge – The Chant Etudes
Michael Winter – for Sol LeWitt
John Lely – All About the Piano
Jürg Frey – Circular Music No. 6
Tim Parkinson – No.4 (2016) & No.5 (2016)

Part 2 includes:
Laura Steenberge – The Chant Etudes
Michael Winter – tergiversate
John Lely – The Harmonics of Real Strings
Michael Winter – for Sol LeWitt
Christian Wolff – Another
 

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – Kiran Leonard tours Britain again (March into April) and reveals new single; London gigs from Whispers & Hurricanes (with Madam, Kat May and RobinPlaysChords) and a guitar double from Dean McPhee and Seabuckthorn

23 Mar

Details on two London shows from a packed upcoming weekend: but first, an extended British tour from a major talent…

* * * * * * * *

Tomorrow, explosively gifted singer-songwriter Kiran Leonard charges off on another British tour with his all-star quartet of Manchester art rock luminaries (completed by Dan Bridgwood Hill, Dave Rowe, and Andrew Cheetham – see the note on his previous tour for their credentials). Support on most of the tour comes from dark-glam Manchester pop act Irma Vep, although some dates feature folk musicians Richard Dawson and Salvation Bill (in Newcastle and Oxford respectively) and Bristolian “jazz/rock/post-op pop” quartet The Evil Usses (who fill the bill in Bath), with other acts to be confirmed (though they might have been added to the individual gig pages by now…)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=thABL75F3fo


https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lUZK97eABf8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkniFBNjExc

Meanwhile, here’s Kiran’s brand-new nine-and-a-half-minute single – a terrific and spontaneous-sounding interweaving of otherworldly folk baroque, chamber prog, post-hardcore racket and kitchen-warrior percussion. The parent album, ‘Grapefruit’, is out on Moshi Moshi on Friday.


 

* * * * * * * *
In London, at the weekend, there’s a third-outing triple bill for Whispers & Hurricanes (the quieter wing of Chaos Theory Promotions, for when they fancy putting on an act that doesn’t sound like a giant metallic jazz centipede in manga boots)…

Whispers & Hurricanes, 26th March 2016

Chaos Theory presents:
Whispers & Hurricanes: Madam + Kat May + RobinPlaysChords
The Sebright Arms, 33-35 Coate Street, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9AG, England
Saturday 26th March 2016, 7.30pm
more information

“A five-piece London based band, fronted by charismatic singer-songwriter and composer Sukie Smith, Madam create nocturnal, intricate-yet-cinematic soundscapes showcasing songs that are at once confessional and a call to arms, and have been compared to both Mazzy Star and Cat Power. The band has amassed a loyal legion of fans at home and abroad, showcasing their smoky sound at intimate gigs and packed venues across Europe. Tonight they will launch their haunting single When I Met You, taken from their upcoming album ‘Back To The Sea’.” (Meanwhile, here’s an earlier track from their previous album, ‘Gone Before Morning’; plus their darned slinky cover of Oscar Brown’s tale of treachery, ‘The Snake’ – a welcome antidote to the song’s recent co-opting by Donald Trump.)



 

Whispers & Hurricanes, 26th March 2016“After many years we are reunited with the extraordinary singer-songwriter Kat May, who is inspired by the melancholy of Scandinavia, the urban textures of her base in London and the literary song-writing of her native France. Her atmospheric indie folk-pop has been hailed by France’s biggest music magazine, ‘Les InRocks’, as “cathartic and elegant”, and by ‘Lomography’ as “visually dreamy, melancholic and emotionally arresting all at the same time.” We caught the launch of her debut album ‘Beyond The North Wind’ at St Pancras Old Church back in 2014, and it’s still a regular feature on our playlists. Tonight she will perform her music on piano and voice, with violin and cello accompaniments.


 

Robin Jax’s exploits as RobinPlaysChords have been built on a slow but steady sonic development. Hailing from his remote country abode near Leamington Spa, the solitary songwriter uses his guitar and loopstation to create percussion, shimmering ambience and distorted hooks for him to place his honest lyrics over. Garnering comparisons to David Bowie and Patrick Wolf, RobinPlaysChords has previously won over audiences when opening for The Irrepressibles, Larsen, Thomas Truax and others, as well as undertaking his first shows in continental Europe in 2015.”


 

* * * * * * * *

Finally for now, a doubled gig of textured, looped and echoed guitar, but with a pastoral edge…

Dean McPhee + Seabuckthorn
The Slaughtered Lamb, 34-35 Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1V 0DX, England
Saturday 26th March 2016, 8.30pm
more information

“West Yorkshire based solo electric guitarist Dean McPhee plays a Fender Telecaster through a valve amp and effects pedals, combining clean, chiming melodic lines with deep layers of decaying delay and cavernous echo. Over years of improvisation and experimentation he has developed a unique style of playing which draws together influences from British folk, dub, kosmische, post-rock, Mali blues and modal jazz. His releases on the Blast First Petite, Hood Faire and World in Winter labels have been critically acclaimed by ‘The Wire’, ‘Uncut’, ‘Record Collector’, ‘Music OMH’, ‘Dusted’, ‘Brainwashed’, ‘The Out Door’, ‘Drowned in Sound’ and ‘The Quietus’ amongst others. He has supported artists/bands including Thurston Moore (as UK tour support), Acid Mothers Temple, Wolf People, James Blackshaw, Emeralds, Josh T Pearson, The Magic Band, Sharon Van Etten, Michael Hurley, Josephine Foster, Meg Baird, Bohren and der Club of Gore and Charalambides. Dean is currently working on a new album which uses a kick drum pedal to introduce a pulsing, percussive undercurrent to his most recent compositions,


 

Seabuckthorn is the solo project of UK acoustic guitarist Andy Cartwright. Releasing 6 albums since 2008 he explores alternative terrains on six to twelve strings, often with minimal layered accompaniments to form musical landscapes. Cartwright uses the techniques of finger picking & bowing combined with various open tunings to create a well curated mixture of approaches. Falling into the cinematic and soundtrack genres, his music is evident of influences ranging from the traditional styles of Robbie Basho and Jack Rose, to more modern players like Ben Chasny, Zak Riles, and Gustavo Santaolalla with whom Cartwright shares an emphasis on atmospheric and multi-instrumental compositions. Sometimes quietly ambient, often powerfully expressive. As well as live performances around the UK, Cartwright has performed in numerous shows & festivals all over France & the southern deserts of Tunisia.


 

Dean McPhee and Seabuckthorn are recording a split 7″ single to be released later this year.”

* * * * * * * *

News on more London weekend shows are coming up next time…
 

February 2016 – upcoming gigs – interlocking British tours by Yorkston Thorne Khan, Toby Hay/Jim Ghedi and Laura Moody offer Anglo-Indian crossover folk, fingerstyle guitar, folk baroque and cello bewitchment.

10 Feb

I didn’t catch up with this next tour until a couple of its January dates had gone by, but it’s still worth catching up with the rest of it:

Yorkston Thorne Khan, 2015

Yorkston/Thorne/Khan are an experimental group that includes James Yorkston (hailed as one of the most “influential singer/songwriters on the Scottish folk scene”), Suhail Yusuf Khan (award winning sarangi player and classical singer from New Delhi) and Jon Thorne (best known as jazz double bass player with electro outfit Lamb). The trio are currently touring to support their collaborative debut album ‘Everything Sacred’, which was released in mid-January 2016.

This is Scottish-Irish-Indian-English music in the raw – Yorkston’s familiar steel guitar strings pulled, pushed and bent into more unfamiliar acoustic drones, the bass dropping anchors through the floor. Rather than world music per se, this sounds more idiosyncratic, a temporary structure bivouacking by the side of the indie-folk, art music tradition, while its widening horizons extend back to the Sixties heyday of the Incredible String Band, and forward to this singular album’s satellite orbit over the folk music, Indian classical and indie music of today – all these musical ley lines threaded into a new kind of eclectic, domestic setting.

James: “Playing together as Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, we tackle a wide array of different sounds and songs. Alongside pieces of our own, there’s a fair chunk of improvisation, plus covers of Ivor Cutler’s Little Black Buzzer and Lal Waterson’s Song For Thirza. Jon’s jazz background definitely comes to the fore, as does Suhail’s devotional singing and outstanding sarangi playing. I just do my best to keep up…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVIcoWtvww4
 

Dates:

Upcoming London gigs this week – LUME on Thursday (Nick Costley-White/Bleep Test); Daylight Music on Saturday (The UCC Handbell Ringers/Ryan Teague/Ellie Lovegrove, with Angèle David-Guillou)

13 Jul

More upcoming London gigs this week. Firstly, various kinds of jazz on Thursday…

LUME logo

Nick Costley-White & Bleep Test (LUME @ Long White Cloud, 151 Hackney Road, Hoxton, London, E2 8JL, UK, Thursday 16th July, 8.00pm

This week at LUME… original and improvised music. We’ve got a tasty double bill for you this Thursday with solo guitar explorations and an exciting new electronic jazz ensemble mixing beats and tunes. Should be a great evening of cutting edge new sounds. Entry is one Bank of England note of your choice. (£5, £10, £20… £50???!)

Bleep Test (Fraser Smith – tenor sax/effects; Joe Webb – synths; Lloyd Haines – drums; Matthew Read – bass) combine house, breaks, drum & bass and jazz. Analog synths, electric drums and a screaming saxophone tie this band to the growing scene of exciting, genre defying music groups emerging from London’s creative underground. Fiery grooves and memorable melodies push these musicians out of the traditional jazz improvisation realm and into another soundscape that hits hard.

Nick Costley-White is fast becoming one of the most in demand young guitarists in the London jazz scene. With a developed sound and individual voice on his instrument, Nick has had the opportunity to perform professionally with some of the country’s finest musicians including Stan Sulzmann, Jeff Williams, Gareth Lockrane, Tom Challenger, Martin Speake, Ivo Neame, Tommy Andrews, Jon Scott, Dave Hamblet and Josh Arcoleo.
Nick studied jazz and classical guitar at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Phil Robson, Colin Oxley and John Parricelli, graduating with first class honours and awarded the 2011 Yamaha Jazz Scholarship for Outstanding Musicians.

See you there!

On Saturday, there’s the last Daylight Music concert of the season, with definite sacred and classical tinges to it…

The UCC Handbell Ringers @ Daylight Music, 18th July 2015

 

Daylight Music 197: The UCC Handbell Ringers + Ryan Teague + Ellie Lovegrove (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN – Saturday 18th July, 12pm to 2pm)

A Bells and Bronze afternoon will ring out this season of Daylight in style.

The UCC Handbell Ringers are a select group of nineteen young people, ages fourteen to eighteen, from the University Christian Church in Fort Worth, Texas. This Church is situated across the street from the Texas Christian University School of Music and since its founding in 1873, the music ministry has been an integral part in the life of the church. The UCC Ringers ring one of the church’s two five-octave sets of English handbells cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. The bell choirs have a long tradition of musical excellence and have been an integral part of the life of the church for many years. They have toured regularly. In addition to being the first bell choir to perform at Westminster Abbey, they have played in worship services and in concert at the Royal Festival Hall, York Minster, St. Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol and the Collegiate Church of St. Mary in Warwick; and at Exeter, Bristol, Gloucester, Canterbury, Winchester, Salisbury, Christ Church Oxford and Coventry Cathedrals.

Ryan Teague is a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist based in Bristol. His music combines acoustic instrumentation and arrangements with electronic and processed material, the results of which incorporate minimalist, ambient and electro-acoustic music. Ryan has released numerous albums and EPs on labels including Village Green, Sonic Pieces and Type Records. He also produces music and sound design for various film & TV productions and has spent an extended period of time in Indonesia studying Javanese gamelan music. This afternoon’s music will also feature a new and exclusive composition premiere ‘Storm Or Tempest May Stop Play’ by Ryan Teague with Gamelan Ensemble.

From a musical family in Ware, Hertfordshire, Ellie Lovegrove began learning the trumpet at school aged seven. She later played principal trumpet with the Hertfordshire County Youth Orchestra, joined the National Youth Orchestra at the Proms, and went on to study at the Royal College of Music, London. Here she received tuition from Paul Beniston, Neil Brough and Michael Laird, winning the Brass Ensemble Prize and the Brass Concerto Competition. Ellie continued her studies with Kristian Steenstrup and Mark David. Professionally, Ellie enjoys a varied freelance career. Her work as an orchestral player includes concerts and broadcasts with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Royal Ballet Sinfonia and the Britten Sinfonia. She has also deputised for the the Royal Shakespeare Company as the onstage trumpeter in their production of ‘The Roaring Girl’ and in their recent production of ‘Henry IV’ at the Barbican. As a chamber musician, Ellie has performed at The London Handel Festival on period instruments, and has enjoyed working with Chaconne Brass, including a commercial recording of a new work by Bob Chilcott with Wells Cathedral Choir. Her trumpet and organ duo Illumina have performed recitals at St Paul’s Cathedral, Fairfield Halls and Alexandra Palace, and have recently commissioned a new work from composer Paul Burke.

If that wasn’t enough magic then Angèle David-Guillou will plays some chiming melodies on the piano. Angèle is best known for a brace of critically acclaimed electro-acoustic dream-pop albums under the alias Klima, for her signature contributions to cult Anglo-French ensemble Piano Magic and for cameos on albums by the likes of The Go! Team, Peter Astor and Ginger Ale. In contrast to much of her oeuvre to date, Angèle’s debut album under her given name is a largely, if not exclusively, instrumental work, predominantly consisting of melodically opulent, emotionally compelling compositions for the grand piano (and, on three songs, a Wurlitzer electric piano), many of them emblazoned with vivid arrangements for strings, woodwind, musical saw and percussion.

Free entry, but donations are (as ever) encouraged.

REVIEW – Tony Harn: ‘Moving Moons’ album, 2001 (“beautiful liquid-gold guitar with its shoes kicked off”)

19 May

Tony Harn: 'Moving Moons'

Tony Harn: ‘Moving Moons’

Little has changed in Tony Harn’s approach, but the Warrington fusion-rock guitarist has never sounded happier. His lyrical, tightly-controlled hard-rock drive is still set off against tumbling, multi-faceted art-rock arpeggios, plus enquiring shapes and vocalised textures drawn in from the world of modern jazz guitar. But the lightness of touch on ‘Moving Moons’ – and its renewed breadth of expression – makes it his most assured work to date.

This third album seems to be about simply enjoying the flow. Its gently sparkling mood is that of a well-pleased man, leaning sensually into his work. As ever, Harn (playing or programming all the instruments) blends his music without cynicism or self-consciousness about his comfortable sound. The bright, guileless weave of cyclic minimalism, gleaming Factory Records economy and judiciously-employed jazz-prog flamboyance retains Harn in a small, well-kept territory of his own.

You can trace a Pat Metheny legacy in some of those friendly guitar percolations, and that of Vini Reilly in the glittering, spindly-but-intricate echo-box patterns. But the overdriven keens of his lead lines have the affable, comfy edge of a ’70s geezer rocker – good-natured, puppy-rough and serenely blissful. At root, ‘Headstart’ is a Satriani-style rocker, growling from the pit of its sulky, dirty wah-rhythm and attempting to swagger. Yet Harn focuses and soothes it, opening the music outwards and festooning it with reflective pointillistic arpeggios; finally leading it towards inclusiveness and away from posturing.

Compared to the pastoral English flavour of Harn’s previous album ‘Lifebox‘, ‘Moving Moons’ is built on a summery Mediterranean warmth – hot nights of brilliant stars, or energising washes of daylight and bright stucco walls. Although Harn sometimes lets his airy keyboards dominate (especially on the pocket-funk throb of Pulsecode, synth riffs chuckling like contented babies), the pervading sound of the album is acoustic, or near-acoustic. Despite of the squadron of stratospheric rock wails and the sheath of Andy Summers textural swells, what really informs Jackal is Spanish guitar, all tangy attack and tremolo. Anger And Empathy provides a dynamic demonstration of Harn’s experimental side – a slow-motion volcano-burst of bent whammy-bar swells, scrapes and tortured violin-bow noises, all fed through outer-space distortions and echoes. But this too flows forward into another Spanish-styled guitar progression, clean and sweet: and ‘Safe Again’ is full of perky acoustic strumming as Harn takes flight, deliciously chasing his own echo.

Although this strays closer to driving music for the Algarve than it does to Paco Peña, Harn invariably saves the day with his ear for tunes, his knack for beautifully refracted arrangements, or his mastery of unabashed constructive naivety. The marriage of technology and innocence – a rare quality in guitarists – is Harn’s ace card, and a surprisingly effective one.

Moving Moons itself is a fragrant nightscape – tootling synths kissing up to arpeggio guitar and the sound of floats bobbing in reflective water. Sweet meteor trails of guitar-wail arc across the air for a rendezvous with moving cross-rhythms; and more spare, sweet paths of feedback show up on the deliciously lazy study of Standing In The Doorway To Your World. Here, they play over the gently assured structures built up by Harn’s synths and organs, or ease breathlessly across a classical-minimal duo of Reilly-esque clean guitars. Lake Song has Harn orchestrating a duet of twinkling post-punk guitar and hooting ’70s overdrive, the drumbox teased by reggae-tinted bass beneath those double-stopped minimalist patterns.

Generally avoiding the temptation to rampage incessantly across his fretboard, Harn’s drawn instead towards finding and sitting on pretty patterns. Sometimes this gets dangerously close to cuteness – the breezy Bubbleburst, for example, like a chance meeting between Alphonso Johnson and Brian May in the kids’ end of the jazz-rock pool. User One (Moon Two) also lives in the bright-eyed zone, bouncing its swirly jangle of notes against the night sky, keeping them up and moving via its pumping, lightly-whipped funk bass-line.

As a counterweight, Harn addresses his jazz leanings more substantially in a couple of loose fusion ballads. Time For Answers merges swing rhythms, prog assertions and a Django Reinhardt gypsy wriggle, leading them all through to a celebratory duet of guitar and tootling synth. Sixlowdown aims at the jazz pocket through the gaps of another reggae-styled bassline: a bubbling, tripping sway like a mid-’80s Miles Davis ballad, emphasized by the growl of bluesy distortion Harn employs for terse comments from the sidelines, flexing a few John McLaughlin sensibilities.

‘Moving Moons’ sometimes seems a little becalmed within its coasting motions – a touch too happy in its light’n’easy beauty – but with such lovely scenery to glide through, it’s little wonder that Harn’s opting to cruise easily. Ultimately, this time he’s offering beautiful liquid-gold guitar with its shoes kicked off, and whether you choose to join him on the sundeck is your own affair. But he couldn’t be any more welcoming if he tried.

Tony Harn: ‘Moving Moons’
Tony Harn, THCD2 (no barcode)
CD-only album
Released: 2001

Buy it from:
Burning Shed.

Tony Harn online:
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Through the feed – Johnny Parry Orchestra, Matt Stevens: new and new-ish albums

19 May

I keep a regular eye on the ‘Organ’ blog. In the good old, grim old days of print, paste, photocopy and crude HTML, ‘Organ’ was a big inspiration for ‘Misfit City’. While there’s been a lot of turbulent water under the bridge since then, and though Sean Worrall – he who is ‘Organ’ – claims his days of animated gonzo reviewing are long past, the current blog is still a great source of news and rapid-fire information/reaction regarding music, the London art scene, occasional politics and whatever other related thoughts are passing through Sean’s head. Some time (when I’m feeling even more solipsistic than usual) I might write some more about ‘Organ’ and ‘Misfit City’ and the 1990s, although I suspect that few people can pronounce better on Sean and his singular range of experiences than he can himself. (I’m hoping that he writes a proper memoir one of these days.)

Right now, here’s something I picked up from ‘Organ’ late last week and am sharing now: it triggers a different kind of nostalgia.

Johnny Parry Orchestra: 'An Anthology Of All Things'

Johnny Parry Orchestra: ‘An Anthology Of All Things’

Today, the Johnny Parry Orchestra release their second album ‘An Anthology Of All Things’. I first became aware of Johnny in 2002 when, as a solo act, he sent his debut album ‘Break Your Little Heart’ to the original incarnation of ‘Misfit City’. At the time ‘Misfit City’ was going down with all hands (ie, me) and so despite all best intentions and protestations, the album just sat on my shelf. I think it’s still there. I owe it to Johnny to revisit it properly sometime.

Fortunately (for my conscience, anyway), being neglected by me hasn’t hurt Johnny in the slightest. In the intervening twelve years he’s continued to work on and release music from his base in Bedford, steadily building himself up from solo dream-popster to trio leader, then becoming a small-ensemble boss and eventually expanding to the role of orchestral maestro. Now moving with assurance within the world of substantial arts grants, community music and event concerts, the latter-day Johnny Parry composes, arranges and conducts on a large scale and has worked with musical names as diverse as Talvin Singh, Michael Nyman, Seb Rochford and Beth Orton as well as Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed. Not bad for someone whom in 2002 was wandering Toronto amidst the wreckage of a record contract, seeking solace and inspiration from the city’s buskers. If life handed him a lemon, he certainly went on to grow lemon groves.

‘An Anthology Of All Things’ is Johnny’s second orchestral/choral album – funded by Bedford Creative Arts, it features (in addition to the JPO) the Bedford Arts Choir and soprano Donna Lennard. Already gaining comparisons to Benjamin Britten – albeit a Britten with a strong pop leaning – it’s very much community-shaped, with Johnny drawing his settable texts from lyrics donated (consciously or otherwise) by the Bedford public. The video excerpts below should demonstrate how this works. The first of these (for the sixth movement) is the result of Johnny soliciting and assembling original romantic testaments from friends, including couples, about their own feelings:

The second video is for the fifth movement, which gleans its text from the dedications on park benches in and around Bedford:

Some of the remaining movements are inspired by reflections on Bedford historical figures and childhood heroes, plus the town’s memories of the Second World War: others draw on more general or abstracted themes such as the human body, the elements of narrative, the components of travel and “youthful boundary defiance”. Here are a few more snippings from the press release:

“A captivating small town experience that has a far wider resonance… magnificent, masterful and sweepingly heart-warming, and performs a velvety emotional cut and paste approach. It dares to be huge and expansive but retains a deeply personal core which carries the intimate, often evocative thoughts and statements that are at times uncomfortable, innocent, whimsical and on occasions playfully risqué.”

The album can be ordered directly from here (though you’ll need to use PayPal)

While I’m beating myself up a little for not keeping up with obligations, here’s something from someone else whose work I need to keep up with more regularly. Matt Stevens is no stranger to ‘Misfit City’ – see this review of him threshing up a lively storm at Roastfest a few years ago with just an acoustic guitar, loops, a pedalboard and plenty of bearish enthusiasm. Likewise, there are a couple of reviews of his early work with the collaborative band The Fierce & The Dead (here and here), an outfit which has grown from a trio of interesting polystylistic rock dabblers into a roaring garage-prog quartet with a shaggy, behemoth sound to it.

Matt Stevens: 'Lucid'

Matt Stevens: ‘Lucid’

First and foremost, though, Matt is a ceaselessly enthusiastic solo artist, and in March he released his fourth solo album ‘Lucid’. Compared to his earlier solo work, it’s more of a band record, predominantly based around Matt’s friends and contemporaries in British art-rock (Stuart Marshall from The Fierce & The Dead and Charlie Cawood from Knifeworld are the rhythm section for most of the record, while sundry other Fiercies, Knifeworlders, Trojan Horses, Guapo-sians and Chrome Hoofers also make a showing – hello Emmett Elvin, Nick Duke and Kev Feazey). However, it also draws from latterday prog via Jem Godfrey (of Frost*), dark ambience from Helicopter Quartet‘s violinist Chrissie Caulfield, and cosmic jazz in the shape of Lorenzo Feliciati of Naked Truth, who may or may not be responsible for the presence on the album of his NT bandmate Pat Mastelloto, the increasingly ubiquitous and inventive King Crimson drummer who’s become something of a touchstone for art-rock crossovers. (Mysterious vibraphone player Jon Hart is also on board but, as always, wherever he’s coming from is anyone’s guess.)

Matt himself describes ‘Lucid’ as:

“a significant step up from the previous albums. It’s inspired by a bit of a dark time, but hopefully it’s an uplifting record… all the players really were outstanding. It’s a record that reflects my love of Jesu and Celtic Frost as much as the Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson or even Peter Gabriel and I’m really proud of it. If you’re not going to take risks and try and do something interesting what’s the point?”

The preview video below (which has been out for a few months now) should give you some idea of what Matt’s aiming for. If you like what you hear, the album’s out on Esoteric Antenna Records and you can get it either from Burning Shed or Cherry Red.

Johnny Parry online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter YouTube

Matt Stevens online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Bandcamp LastFM YouTube

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