Tag Archives: Gagarin (Graham Dowdall)

May 2018 – Bob Drake’s complicated solo pulp fantasia on tour in England and France (4th-12th May), and details on some of his gigmates en route…

26 Apr

I started mentioning upcoming Bob Drake shows a few posts ago, but wasn’t able to go further than that until they coalesced; now, like spits of mud hitting a wall, they’ve fallen into place.

Born in the American mid-West, forged and frustrated in Denver and Los Angeles, and now living happily in the south of France, Bob’s become an increasingly regular visitor to British shores, able to take advantage of a growing number of friendships and affinities which provide fertile space for his delightfully off-the-wall guitar-and-voice gigs. He’s built on a previous career in heavy avant-prog bands (such as Thinking Plague, 5uus and The Science Group) to kick off and develop his own very specific brand of American musical storytelling. Rather than sombre accounts of depressions and dustbowl, or frontier myths, or urban cowboy ditties, he creates crazy quilts of short-but-complicated songcraft drinking deep from the well of American pulp fiction – specifically, the weird end. Modern (or at least recent-antique) spieling and riffing on monsters and strangeness; never far away from horse-laughs and absurdity, but also a couple of dimensional rips away from the kind of spindle-fold-and-mutilate pocket universe which, one sometimes suspects, he feeds his music through.


 
These days, he’s variously described as “a pop alchemist”, “a multi-fingered, omnipotent, all-seeing instrumentalist”, “a peddlar of avant-garde, individual but always highly melodic tales of bears, skulls, meerkats, griffins and more” and as the player of songs about “anthropomorphic animals, haunted farmhouses, mystical reveries and inexplicable phenomena”. All of the descriptions fit. So does the one that suggests he’s actually a kid’s TV presenter who saw the fnords one day and happily went rogue.

Dates:

  • Le 108, 108 Rue de Bourgogne, 45000 Orléans, France, Friday 4th May 2018, 8.30pminformation
  • The Others, 6-8 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, London, N16 5SA, England, Sunday 6th May at 19:30–22:30 (with Bing Selfish & The Windors + IG Witzelsucht) – information here and here
  • The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England, Tuesday 8th May 2018, 7.00pm (with Moliné/Gagarin Summit and others t.b.c.) – information
  • The Cellar Arts Club, 70 Marine Parade (basement), Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 3QB, England, Wednesday 9th May 2018, 7.30pm (with Random Nature) – information
  • The Evening Star, 55-56 Surrey Street, Brighton, West Sussex, BN1 3PB, England, Thursday 10th May 2018, 8.00pm (with Kemper Norton) – free event – information
  • The Urban Bar, 176 Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel, London, E1 1BJ, England, Friday 11th May 2018, 8.00pm (with Bing Selfish & The Windsors + Kazumi Taguchi) – information
  • ‘A Spring Symposium’ @ Coombe Bissett Village Hall, Shutts Lane, Homington Road, Coombe Bissett, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 4LU, England, Saturday 12th May 2018, 2.00pm – information here and here

While the Orléans event is Bob and Bob alone, it’s the only time (bar a quiet house gig along the way) that he’ll will be playing on his own.

Of the three shows in London, the one at the Harrison on the 8th should be of interest to Pere Ubu fans since it also features Moliné/Gagarin Summit, a fresh teaming of Keith Moliné and Graham “Gagarin” Dowdall, musical compadres for two decades who currently hold down/expand on the guitarist and synthesist roles within Ubu. Between them, they can also muster a history of stints with Frank Black, Nico, Roshi feat. Pars Radio, Ludus, Prescott and They Came From The Stars I Saw Them.

What’s likely to emerge may feature some of Ubu’s “avant-garage” touch; the factories, beasts and spill of Keith’s guitar noises; the blend of electronic grain and field recording in Gagarin-sound. Or perhaps none of these things. All they’re promising is “guitars that don’t sound like guitars and electronics that don’t sound electronic, presided over by intense, exploratory artists who have just as little idea where the music is heading as you do.” There should be other people alighting on the bill closer to the date, pulled from the intriguing contact book of organisers Westking Music & Performing Arts… meanwhile, I’ve just dug up something from Keith’n’Graham as a musical pointer.


 
Both of the other two London shows – on the 6th and 11th – see Bob reunited with a regular gig-sharing friend: sarcastic avant-garde underground pop star Bing Selfish, plus the experimental surf/garage-pop of his micro-lounge backing band The Windsors. Also in place are Rotterdam experimental music supergroup IG Witzelsucht featuring guitarist Lukas Simonis, drummer Cor Hoogerdijk and multi-instrumental/polydisciplinary flâneur Ergo Phizmiz, whose work includes singing, sound collage and opera as well as stop-motion animation and radio drama: at least a few of these skills will make their way into the set. The band’s been described as “a rapid-fire songwriting bonanza (with) tunes about mermaids, mistakes, compost manufacture, celebrity perverts, geometry, and so on”, so Bob’s songs will be in good company.


 
I don’t know about the rest of the Depresstivallians on offer. There’s some incomprehensible gargle about “Bill Oddie’s Goth Watch”, “data wrangling”, “an angrier and less prolific Joanna Newsom” and a possible guest slot for the mysterious “guy from the kebab shop”. The last is probably one of many absurdist Depresstival in-jokes; but I’m really hoping that some guy with a greasy apron saunters in and explodes into a sword dance with a pair of those giant doner slicers.

The gig on the 11th also features a set by Kazumi Taguchi. Once she was half of cult/spoof London-Japanese art-popsters Frank Chickens, who sang about ninjas, geishas, karaoke and other aspects of Japan-aphernalia, simultaneously entertaining, mocking, embracing and challenging their Western audience. These days, Kazumi presents and cross-fertilises her home culture more soberly: drawing on Okinawan folk and classical music, Noh theatre and Korean drumming, she performs art-gallery gigs and assorted musical teamups on Okinawan sanshin (a three-string proto-shamisen) and sanba (castanets) and Chinese guqin zither. I know no more than that. It’s quite a turnaround from the old days of pop culture gags, but then the separation between high and low art can be as thin as fine rice paper these days… or cheap bog-roll.


 
It’ll be a more conventional evening at Worthing on the 9th, when Bob shares his stage with the doubled acoustic guitars and easygoing songcraft of the Random Nature duo. He’s likely to make up for that the following night in Brighton, when he’s playing a free/donations-only gig with ambient landscape-folk singer Kemper Norton, a genial lyrical hauntologist with a love of folding noise and field recordings into his songs. Kemper rejoins Bob a couple of days later when both play the Tim Smith ‘Spring Symposium’ fundraiser just outside Salisbury. There, they’ll be joining a host of musicians who balance happily on multiple cusps: folk, punk, progressive rock, psychedelia, dashes of prog and kosmische, and a warm inclusive feel of roots they’ve crafted and grafted themselves. More on that later…



 

March 2018 – pop/folk/etc gigs in London – Roshi Featuring Pars Radio (plus KES, Ivan Bushbye and Euan Sutherland – 6th March); Bella Spinks, Laura Frances and Gillie Ione (1st March); SOIF Soiree including Society Of Imaginary Friends, Hungry Dog Brand, Gisela Meyer, Tamara Canada, Blert Ademi, Global Warming Records and others (2nd March)

23 Feb

Roshi Featuring Pars Radio + Kes + Euan Sutherland + Ivan Bushbye, 6th March 2018Westking Music presents:
Roshi Featuring Pars Radio + KES + Ivan Bushbye + Euan Sutherland
The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England
Tuesday 6th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Multiple influences come into play in the music of Roshi Nasehi – her Iranian heritage (embodied in her parents, their memories and their old cassettes), the folk songs and choirs in the Welsh milieu of her upbringing, the bleeding-in of tunes from 1980s British pop radio; piano and violin lessons and the jazz she studied at college in Cardiff; her early stint singing with Keith Tippett. All of these have settled somewhere in her current work, but none of them in a fixed and permanent location: they’re loose factors, like an office full of papers which can be picked up and whirled about by a fresh gust of wind from an open window.

Roshi Featuring Pars RadioDuring eighteen years in London Roshi has made a name for herself as performer, collaborator, workshopper, academic, installationeer and recorder of musical events. Her main song outlet is Roshi Featuring Pars Radio, a collaboration with Graham “Gagarin” Dowdall (prolific percussionist, producer, Pere Ubu-ist and John Cale/Nico collaborator). They describe it as “Welsh-Iranian folk pop”, with an electronic, experimentalist edge to it; a shuffleable span of folktronica strata which somehow captures the thinning links, the stubborn clingings and the disjunctive adaptations of the immigrant experience (whether circumstances have blown you into town from Alavicheh or from Gorseinon).

Some of Roshi’s ‘80s pop heritage manifests in its echos of Kate Bush – I don’t mean in Bronte-pop twirls or vocal lushnesses, but in beautiful cramped murmurs which recall the subvocal/sublingual keenings and chamberings of ‘The Dreaming’. The soundworld is deliberately intimate but obscure; Gagarin’s signature “sound-leakage” palette of finely-milled noises interpenetrating field recordings, Roshi’s keyboard parts questioning and unanchored; her language shifting between English and Pharsi, with versions of Iranian songs cut and rising up through the deck.

 
Also playing are the usual Westking gig-gaggle of emerging students, undergoing their solo live performance assessment by being hurled into support slots. This time round it’s lo-fi electronic pop/soul musician KES, “understated folk” performer Euan Sutherland and contemporary pianist Ivan Bushbye. All of them are too fresh on the scene to have much online to follow up on (Euan also shares his name with a Scottish clothing magnate who got tangled up with the Co-op a few years ago, and this doesn’t help either). However, I did find this video of Ivan playing Ryiuchi Sakamoto’s ‘Forbidden Colours’, so that will have to do for now.


 
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Back at the very start of May, there’s a summit of young female songwriters tucked away into the basement of Servant Jazz Quarters.

Sublime Music presents:
Bella Spinks + Laura Frances + Gillie Ione
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 1st March 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Bella Spinks + Laura Frances + Gillie Ione, 1st March 2018Brightonian Bella Spinks has been performing in public since she was twelve: not annoying R&B impressions on the top deck of the bus to Worthing, but a full-blown debut at the Concorde 2 round about 2006. Since then, she’s had plenty of time to broaden and hone her ideas, and has filled the interim years well, preparing her developing work and playing teenaged support slots to a range of performers from Martha Wainwright to Sea of Bees, Ellie Goulding to Ron Sexsmith, The Staves to Viv Albertine. As for herself, she’s already a mistress of the verbally and musically articulate solo piano ballad, a songwriter who can build a hooky and accessible pop single around Platonic philosophy, and a woman with a knack for sonorities (be it undulating basslines, hot-space gaps in the vocal lines or the woody rhythms of a struck’n’knocked piano frame).

The debut album isn’t due for another few months, but come along to celebrate the recent, aforementioned Platonic single ‘Noble Lie’, in which Bella muses and storytells across various forms of implied alchemy. Right now, she’s on a cusp – some idiot could talk her into smoothing everything down into mainstream kitchen-radio ballads, or she could hang onto her inquisitive nature and keep driving down the path of her subtle, slightly bookish originality. I really hope that she sticks with the latter.



 
She’s tagged as “a dark, baritone Joni Mitchell baring herself in her songs with a refreshing depth and brevity”, but rather than carrying out yet another sub-Joni confessional shtick Laura Frances wraps herself in the robes of yearning, classic dark-folk: the kind which I first heard on my mother’s Cynthia Gooding records from the 1950s folk revival – rich-voiced, majestic and ancient. It’s unsurprising to hear that her songwriting springs first and foremost from poetry, her stark modernity constantly slipping back towards mediaeval mystique. It’s also unsurprising to hear Mazzy Star and Leonard Cohen also mentioned in her train of influences. There’s a touch (just a touch, mind) of the urban-playing/rural-dreaming Gothic to her tunes: solemnly waltzing guitar, lonesome woodsaw string parts, and the abiding melancholy in her tone.

 
With a mini-album (2016’s ‘Misapprehension’) and a couple of standalone download singles behind her, Welshwoman-turned-Londoner Gillie Ione makes quick darts through self-produced restless talky songs, like well-made Tracy Chapman /Melissa Etheridge pieces with an experimental pop bent and bonus scurries of motormouthing. On record, she floats about between introspective guitar lines, spacious drum patter and strange ambients knocks and wanders; the scenery shifting behind her fluttery chatting, her glinting disparate observations being molded into a larger, broader picture of meaning.



 
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Society of Imaginary Friends presents:
SOIF Soiree: HARE !!! (the Musical) – Society Of Imaginary Friends + Hungry Dog Brand + Gisela Meyer & John Human + Outre Dan Steele (Darren & Isobel Hirst) + Tamara Canada + Blert Ademi + Global Warming Records + Cian Binchy
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 2nd March 2018, 7.30pm
– free event – information here

SOIF Soiree, 2nd March 2018Greeting the alleged arrival of the English spring (I’ll believe it when I see it), Society Of Imaginary Friends are bringing another of their art-pop mini-musicals to the March event in their monthly Wood Green soirees. This time, it’s ‘HARE!’ about which they’re saying nothing yet, though you can pick up a few clues from the evening’s lead-in text – (“…we climb out of our warm dark burrows into the golden slanting sunlight, our hearts swell with joy, and we dance a manic tarantella – chase each other in crazy circles, play-box under the serene blue sky and, as the moon rises, the static electrical frenzy of fizzical freedom – it’s mating time!”)

All right – stand by for sex, violence and gratuitous crocuses. Meanwhile, here’s something they did earlier…


 
Making Soiree returns are pianist/composer Blert Ademi and regular-of-regulars Cian Binchy (actor, standup, spoken-worder and autism activist, just back from his Mexican tour). Fresh to the Soiree stage are emerging R&B singer Tamara Canada, post-apocalyptic ecologically-obsessed techno burster Global Warming Records (a.k.a. ‘Driftshift’ presenter Franziska Lantz from Resonance FM) and author/reviewer/punk-poet Martin Dowsing’s Hungry Dog Brand (providing “very English sounding fictional narrative-based songs in a new wave / garage rock style with a touch of seaside gothic” plus a touch of the abrasive wit of their “No Wankers Aloud” club nights from the much-missed original 12 Bar Club).

In typically diverse Soiree fashion, the evening’s rounded off (or thrown engagingly off course) by a turn from internationally acclaimed cellist and concert pianist Gisela Meyer (who, surprisingly, is dropping bow and abandoning keyboard in order to sing three Debussy love songs accompanied by Anglo-Indian classical/improv pianist John Human) and by what looks like a partially-exploded performance by the Outre Dan Steele duo, a.k.a. Darren and Isobel Hirst. Darren (who’s squeezed writing for the NME, working as a vicar, reviewing theatre and being a “professor of baseball” into his life so far), will be interrupting, or moonlighting from, the duo in order to deliver Shakespearean soliloquys. I’m presuming he means actual Shakespeare rather than anguished cod-Tudor monologues about the pains of being a twenty-first century Renaissance man…

The usual Soiree terms and conditions apply – free entry, but you pay for the fine vegan grub. As regards some advance listening, with music and sound for several of the acts wilfully obscure, stuck in the MySpace graveyard or mysteriously pulled from circulation, here’s what I could throw together. Apologies for the occasional bedroom/phone footage look…




 

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)…

* * * * * * * *

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.”


 

* * * * * * * *

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.”
 

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