Tag Archives: Glowering Figs

June 2018 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Monkey Puzzle Trio and V Ä L V Ē (10th June); Laura Cannell’s ‘Modern Ritual’, with Charles Hayward, Hoofus, Jennifer Lucy Allan and Luke Turner (16th June); Ashley Paul & Tom James Scott, Glowering Figs and Ben Pritchard (22nd June)

4 Jun


 
Despite their increasing whirl of gigs over the past year, it’s difficult to find performance video of V Ä L V Ē besides these gnomic little fragments: glimpses of feet and harps, pedals and synths, shuffles and patch wires. They’ve been rapidly evolving far beyond their beginnings as Chlöe Herington’s vehicle for musical jokes, chance theory and post-Zappa woodwind patchworks and her experiments with samples and homemade instruments. Now, they’re a live, surprisingly accessible avant-everything trio with Elen Evans and Emma Sullivan – reeds and microsynth, melodica, harpstrings and bass, RIO/Raincoats-style vocals that inhabit both the forthright and the naïve – and they’re getting pieces in ‘The Quietus’ about how they’re expanding on synaesthesia and spacework and the disjunction of time, and mining the weird yet archetypal templates of Chlöe’s recurring dreams.

While we’re waiting for more evidence to emerge, here are a couple of pieces which represent a couple of V Ä L V Ē’s varied polarities – the avant-rock all-in wrestle match of Rhythm Strip (based on an EEG reading from Chlöe’s mum) and the warming songwork of the more recent Lights – plus one of those distracted fly-on-the wall videos (this time, of Chlöe negotiating a keyboard, pretty much literally).


 
V Ä L V Ē’s next show (just over a week before Chlöe pops up again with the Lindsay Cooper Songbook) is this coming Sunday, supporting the Monkey Puzzle Trio – which unites perpetually/perversely-journeying art-rock and improv drummer Charles Hayward, Pinski Zoo bassist Nick Doyne-Ditmas and longstanding sound-and-place voice artist Viv Corringham. It’s a post-jazz music of deformed rounds, ranging chatter and a kind of reimagined dub focus, via Charles’ assured yet regularly broken-up and disrupted drum cycles, Viv’s cavernous range of vocal effects (stippled by loop pedal and flexible larynx, augmented by mini-disc abuse) and Nick’s bass, which seems to be travelling at two-thirds of the thinking speed of the voice and drums but always knows where to settle and lean on the moving beat.


 
V Ä L V Ē and Charles Hayward present:
Monkey Puzzle Trio + V Ä L V Ē
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Sunday 10th June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

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Charles Hayward shows up again just under a week later when he guests at Laura Cannell’s ‘Modern Ritual’ show at LSO St Lukes, performing a self-explanatory experimental piece called ‘30 Minute Snare Drum Roll’, an “improvisational piece that sees him develop a rudimental drum technique into something more complex, subtlety changing density, pressure and volume before our ears.” There are precedents for this kind of thing – people like Max Roach or Art Blakey keeping an audience enthralled by a quarter of an hour of carefully modulated hi-hat – but any excuse to see Charles thinking hard behind a drum kit is a good one.

In many respects, this is a revisitation of the ‘Memory Mapping’ show which Laura brought to Daylight Music in November 2016. More to the point, it also revives an event at Cafe Oto last March, with repeat appearances for Charles’ drum roll, for ‘Wire’/Resonance FM/Arc Light Editions mainstay Jennifer Lucy Allan and for Suffolk-based “edgelands” musician Andre “Hoofus” Bosman.

Hoofus’ experiments in FM overlaps, raw-formed percussion and drifting oscillators “(explore) the uncanny beauty of the intangible, the occult and the arcane seeping through into the post-industrial 21st century world of reason and corporate compliance” resulting in “music of eerie wonder, where oscillating melodic loops meld with distorted rhythms.” In contrast, Jennifer presents her combined talk and performance ‘Foulis’s Daughter: Social and Cultural History of the Foghorn in 30 Interrupted Acts’ accompanied by “the ghost of a long de-activated foghorn which is on a fifteen-second loop”: Jennifer’s history is narrated during the gaps between blasts, tracing “a rhythmic history of the foghorn at the edges of the Atlantic: along the fog-bound Labrador Coast; at a bend on the Firth of Clyde; on the tip of The Lizard and from the cliffs at the South Foreland in Kent.”



 
In keeping with this drift into New Weird Britain ambience, writer, filmmaker and ‘Quietus’ co-founder Luke Turner explores his own world of liminals with a talk on “urban forests, family, death and sexuality”. This is based around his forthcoming “spiritual memoir” ‘Out Of The Woods’ – a study of Luke’s own coming-to-terms with his bisexual identity and his past experiences with sexual abuse and a religious upbringing, alongside his investigations of “memory and experience in the context of landscape and the natural world”. It’s ​a journey framed by the trees and the history of Epping Forest, which for Luke seems to have become representative of an ur-forest which allows for the expression of “a wilder, truer, more spiritual self” (and brings those wood-woses, drones and leafery which have threaded through ‘The Quietus’ into fuller perspective). Laura, meanwhile, keeps up her own traditions of reinvention, refurbishment and recontextualising on double recorder and bow-threaded violin: generating eerie, often-violent sonic landscapes of folk melodies and sharp-minded post-classical noise, each calibrated to the particular place where it’s being performed.


 
The evening will be topped off by a large group collaboration involving all of the named performers plus additional guests.

Laura Cannell: ‘Modern Ritual’
LSO St Lukes, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England
Saturday 16th June 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 
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More assorted improvisations and explorations come on the 22nd, when Ashley Paul​ and Tom James Scott team up as a duo at The Old Dentist in Homerton. Both have a fair amount in common, as multi-instrumentalists heading up small exploratory record labels (Ashley with Wagtail, Tom with Skire). Equally, there’s enough distinction between them to make for some interesting friendly frictions as Ashley’s American background, reeds leanings and free-form tastes interact with Tom’s Cumbrian background and the process that’s taken him from classical guitarist to experimental minimalist.



 
In support are improvising trio Glowering Figs, made up of venerable Ya Basta! free jazzers Ivor Kallin and Dave Fowler (on electric upright bass/vocals and drums, respectively), plus Ivor’s London Improvisers Orchestra comrade and ex-Astrakan member Jerry Wigens on guitar. Come for bilious, awkward avant-power-rock noodlings topped with Ivor’s authoritative stream-of-conscious rantings: here’s an example…


 
Opening the show is Ben Pritchard – not to be confused with the former Fall guitarist, he’s a London-based artist, songwriter, experimental musician and Ashley Paul bandmember who writes disintegrating-shack instrumentals for prepared acoustic guitar and percussion – strangely compelling pings, scrapes, rattles and string noise with an emotive visual quality as well as a knack for summoning in illusions. You can somehow hear impressions of ghost fiddles, a whittler’s workshop, or vocal chords tweaked by breeze gusts. When he wanders into song, it’s along the frail, fluttering-shirt lines of end-of-the-road Talk Talk, or the sparsest of Robert Wyatt: spontaneous-sounding experimental folk sketches with an undertone of parched, amnesiac blues.



 
Muckle Mouth presents
Ashley Paul & Tom James Scott + Glowering Figs + Ben Pritchard
The Old Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Friday 22nd June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Ashley Paul & Tom James Scott + Glowering Figs + Ben Pritchard, 22nd June 2018
 

February 2018 – upcoming London gigs – Society Of Imaginary Friends Soiree with Meg Lee Chin, Keiko Kitamura, I Am Her, Kosmic Troubadour, Math Jones (2nd February); Peter Blegvad Trio and Bob Drake (9th February – plus the Club Integral Resonance Benefit Gala on the 8th); Evil Blizzard and Nasty Little Lonely (10th February)

29 Jan

SOIF Soiree, 2nd February 2018

Society of Imaginary Friends presents:
“Into The Forest” Soiree: Meg Lee Chin + Keiko Kitamura + I Am Her + Kosmic Troubadour + Math Jones
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 2nd February 2018, 7.30pm
– free event – information here

After a few events which were perhaps a little more predictable than we’d’ve hoped, this month’s Society Of Imaginary Friends-hosted concert moves up a gear with the involvement of “two goddesses of Earth and Heaven”. Purple twilight time:

“We take the path that leads down from the fell, over the style, over a stream and into the heart of the forest. At first it seems completely lifeless in the wood, all of its creatures hibernating deep in the ground; but as our eyes become adjusted to the dusky dark and senses atuned to its music..the rustle of a robin in the dried leaves, a squirrel’s staccato, a falling pine cone. Suddenly we are in a clearing of softest moss – a place of refuge and rest, where a clear spring rises and sunlight dances. Welcome to our “Into the Forest” Soiree.”

A mid-‘90s Pigface member (and the former frontwoman for female noise band Crunch), industrial pop/darkwave/hip hop songstress and hands-on producer Meg Lee Chin is a prime example of longstanding female creativity and independence. Having rattled cages and excited commentators with her turn on Pigface’s ‘Nutopia’, she then spearheaded contemporary home-studio recording with her 1999 solo album ‘Piece and Love’ and went on to found pro-audio community Gearslutz. Although released music has been sporadic for the last couple of decades, Meg’s kept her reputation as a fascinating, brilliant performer and composer and as an outspoken, sometimes contrary blogger. SOIF, in turn, have a reputation for coaxing people’s slumbering performance talents out of semi-retirement: if Meg’s risen to the occasion in response, this ought to be pretty exciting.

Also on hand – and in delightful contrast – is Keiko Kitamura: known for activities ranging from replaying Japanese court music to Jah Wobble’s Nippon Dub Ensemble, is a leading international koto player (in particular, the 17-string bass version) as well as a singer and shamisen player. Expect a mixture of tradition and originality.




 
The rest of the appropriately quirky SOIF bill is filled out by eccentric rainbow keyboard warrior The Kosmic Troubadour, poet/dramatist Math Jones (with a sheaf of forest poems) and Soiree regular I Am Her, a.k.a. ex-Rosa Mota singer Julie D. Riley (who also, with fellow Rosacian Sacha Galvagna, makes up transatlantic transcontinental electropop minimalists Crown Estate). As ever, the Society themselves are performing, presenting (presumably) art-pop forest ballads to take in with the Karamel vegan feast that’s part and parcel of a SOIF event. This time, you get an appropriately woody wild forest mushroom soup, a mushroom and root vegetable pizza and some Black Forest gateau…


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Here’s news on one of the several fundraisers for London alt.culture radio station Resonance FM, helping it to keep up its mission of broadcasting the wild and wonderful across the Smoke’s airwaves and around the world online. Even setting aside the calibre of the night’s performers, it’s pretty much worth going along for that reason alone.

Peter Blegvad Trio, 9th February 2018

Resonance FM presents:
Peter Blegvad Trio with Bob Drake
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Friday 9th February 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

I’ve always had a lot of admiration for Peter Blegvad – not only for the owlish wit of his songs (including his skill as palindromist and wordplayer) and the enviable polymathic breadth of skills which means he’s also a fine experimental cartoonist, audio dramatist and commentator. It’s also because anyone who can get himself sacked from ‘70s avant/oppositional prog gods Henry Cow by outrightly twitting their seriousness at the height of their brow-furrowing Maoist phase (and apparently by writing a lyric about a woman chucking raisins at a skeleton) is a man who knows something about whistling in the face of sternness.

Well, perhaps I shouldn’t make too much of this. For one thing, despite (and because of) Henry Cow’s high-flying, generally admirable idealism, spending time there seems to have been argumentative for everyone (in particular during the period in which almost every potential action appeared to have its cripping counter-bourgeois condemnation, during which a man of Peter’s wayward questioning wit and self-declared flippancy would have stuck out like a slammable thumb in the way of a door). Once out of the mothership, though, it was evidently easier to be familial. Showing up most artistic spats and internal rock band feuds for the pique and piffle that they are, all of the ex-Cow-ers grew up (and grew past their arguments) to become a mutually supportive bunch. Threading in and out of each other’s concerts and solo careers, they rapidly learned to welcome and celebrate the diversity of their collective interests and ideas, and they’ve stayed that way.


 
Proving this yet again, whenever the Peter Blegvad Trio comes back together it reunites Peter with two regular Cowfriends: John Greaves (bassist and longtime ally both during and after Cowdays, from the ‘Kew.Rhone.’ project onwards) and Chris Cutler (drummer and owner of the eclectic and honourable post-Cow record label ReR Megacorp which, since 1988, has released four widely-spaced Blegvad albums – ‘Downtime’, ‘Just Woke Up’, ‘Hangman’s Hill’ and last year’s ‘Go Figure’). Thirty-seven years of on/off playing together has resulted in a relaxed, gently telepathic connection: not a mysterious communion, nor an alliance of breakneck musical stuntwork, but an easy, comfortable instinct for what’s required to frame the song and no more. As for Peter himself, if you’re unfamiliar with his work it’s best to think of someone with one foot in the sardonic-wit songworld of Loudon P. Wainwright, Leon Rosselson, Richard Thompson and Kinky Friedman, and the other in the counterflow rock camp which the Cow shared with (among others) Faust and Pere Ubu.


 
And that brings me to the second point – ultimately, it’s really pretty misleading to define Peter by the lineaments of Henry Cow, art-prog or Rock In Opposition. Granted, he’s spent quite a bit of time paddling away in those areas (in addition to ‘Kew.Rhone’ and the Cow work, there’s been Slapp Happy, Faust and The Lodge, as well as swing-by dates with The Golden Palominos and Art Bears). Yet if you put him firmly in the driving seat on his own, what you get isn’t hyperliterate trickery, but intelligent, light-touch, surprisingly roots-rocking songs with a smart economy of tale-telling and reflection.

He’s still got a yen for throwing up a thesis and exploring it (this is, after all, a man who once explored the roots and fears of the European Union via a teasing, erudite and baffling lyrical mirror-maze of classical borrowings), but more often than not he’ll now use a folk or country-folk form to do so, or pick a nuanced idea to polish in a few simple strokes: something a child could pick up on but which an adult might savour. From some angles you could even confuse him (via that nasal, tuneful, breathy bark of a voice) with a more relaxed Mike Scott in acoustic mode, or even with Mark Knopfler in a moment of sardonic humanism. Although neither of them would have written a love ballad as sparse and sorrowful as Shirt And Comb, honed a metaphysical gag like Something Else (Is Working Harder) or tweaked, explored and upended a common cultural assumption the way Peter does on Gold.


 
One of the contributors to ‘Go Figure’ (along with Karen Mantler) was the delightful Bob Drake – the erstwhile Thinking Plague and 5uu’s mainstay turned offbeat producer and solo artist. For more of my rambles on him, take a look over here. The long and the short about him, though, is that he’s a multi-instrumentalist and hedge-bard with broad and rambling ideas about just how far you can stretch and mutate an open-ended thought or song, who now regularly heads out for solo voice-and-guitar gigs (often performing, for reasons both flippant and serious, in a lovely white bear-dog suit). Like Peter Blegvad, Bob’s got a liking for complexity and warm perverse wit; but what you take away from his shows is literal shaggy-doggery: peculiar sung tales both finished and unfinished about strange mammals, haunted houses, odd habits, monster-movie scenarios and twisted eldritch dimensions.

When I originally posted this, I was under the impression that Bob was playing a solo Oto support slot, but it now appears that he’s actually beefing up the Trio to a quartet, with or without the animal suit. If you still want to see Bob in solo mode, however, you could set aside some time the previous evening for another Resonance FM fundraiser: Club Integral‘s annual Resonance tin-shaker, being held south of the river at IKLEKTIK on Thursday 8th.

Offering “thirteen minute sets from thirteen acts”, this features a wealth of music-and/or-noise-makers from the Integral playlists: improv pranksters Glowering Figs, audiovisual sculptress Franziska Lantz, ARCO composer Neil Luck, mixed-ability folk internationalists the No Frills Band, Found Drowned/Four Seasons Television guitar manipulator James O’Sullivan, sound designer/Howlround member Robin The Fog, Bob and Roberta Smith (a.ka. artist/advocate/utopian Patrick Brill) playing with his own “musical intervention” project The Apathy Band, restlessly morphing New Wave survivors Spizz, and whoever St Moritz, Two Horns, Robert Storey, Strayaway Child, Swordfish and King/Cornetto happen to be. Plus Bob – who was hoping to balance his thirteen-minute time limit with the playing of thirteen one-minute songs, but has apparently opted to settle for eleven.


 
(If Bob’s wily, he’ll also strap a few tentacles onto that fur-suit and go up and do a bit of busking by Camden Lock, staking out the London Lovecraft Festival that’s also taking place that week…)

* * * * * * * *

Evil Blizzard, 10th February 2018

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Evil Blizzard + Nasty Little Lonely
The Underworld, 174 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 0NE, England
Wednesday 10th February 2018, 6.00pm
– information here and here

Filling in a three-cornered gap between Public Image Ltd, Poisoned Electrick Head and The Residents, hilariously distressing Preston lords of misrule Evil Blizzard are bringing their act south in order to launch their ‘Fast Forward Rewind’ single (from upcoming third album ‘The Worst Show On Earth’). Their gigs are part banging art-punk party and part horror-comedy masked ball, featuring four cranky and disparate bass guitarists; a singing, chanting drummer; and a pair of in-house stage invaders in the shape of a dancing money-chucking pig and a man running wild with a mop.

The assorted masks (hilarious and creepy) and the threatening mannequin/orc lunges may make it all look like an Auton’s cheese-dream or a riot in a Black Lodge dollhouse, but underneath the screaming horse-laughs are a rattling good party band. Over the years, they’ve won over many a psychedelic or underground festival audience and even their own musical heroes (with Killing Joke, Hawkwind and PiL having invited them on for support slots).



 
Also playing are stomping industrial post-punk duo Nasty Little Lonely, who provide a bandsaw-guitar set of “post apocalyptic decadence, discarded trappings of consumerism gone awry, alienation and small furry creatures with very sharp teeth.” They might possibly be tempted to dance afterwards if you encourage them enough.


 

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