Tag Archives: listening to women

June 2017 – upcoming London/German gigs – Lindsay Cooper remembered by Half The Sky (22nd June – plus Avantgarde Festival appearance on 25th June)

15 Jun
Half The Sky, 22nd June 2017

Half The Sky (photo © Jean-Hervé Péron)

Long before the knot of current pop culture wrangling over women’s control over the music they make, the late Lindsay Cooper was plugging away in her own corner, striving (and ultimately succeeding) for much the same thing in the often arid and unforgiving spaces of British art rock, improv and jazz. Later this month, the Half The Sky ensemble (led by vigorous curator/arranger /multi-instrumentalist Yumi Hara) will be bringing their showcase of her music both to London and to a small town outside Hamburg, re-animating the work she created for Henry Cow, News From Babel and Music For Films between the late ’70s and the mid-’80s.

Originally formed in 2015 for festival appearances in Japan and France, Half The Sky derive their name from the Maoist/feminist maxim, “women hold up half the sky”, as used by Lindsay as a composition title on Henry Cow’s ‘Western Culture’ album, back in 1978) and feature an impressive alliance of British and Japanese art-rock musicians. As well as Yumi on keyboards, lever harp and vocals, the ensemble features two members of Cicala-Mvta (Miwazow on koto, ching-dong percussion and voice; Wataru Okhuma on alto saxophone and clarinet), the Korekyojinn/Altered States bass guitarist Nasuno Mitsuru; Chlöe Herington (the reeds and melodica player from Knifeworld, Chrome Hoof and V Ä L V Ē) and finally two of Lindsay’s former Henry Cow/News From Babel colleagues (singer Dagmar Krause and drummer Chris Cutler). As Yumi points out, “the gender split follows Lindsay’s general practice and the example of the original bands – Henry Cow (50% female) and News from Babel (75% female).”

Yumi’s comments on the music:

“In 2013, soon after Lindsay passed away, Matthew Watkins made a call for arrangements of her mini-composition ‘Slice’ for a special edition of his podcast ‘Canterbury Sans Frontières‘. I made a transcription of the piece and recorded it for solo clavichord. Chris Cutler and I also played it in Japan and New York. A little later, inspired by the three memorial concerts Chris Cutler organised in 2014 with the original bands, I put Half The Sky together to play Lindsay’s music in Japan.

“With the exception of ‘Slice’, it was only after – and because of – the 2014 concerts that any working scores for the Henry Cow pieces became available, having been painstakingly assembled from Lindsay’s notebooks, original band-members’ surviving parts and careful analysis of the recordings. A handful of the News from Babel songs – none of which had ever been performed live – had already been reconstructed for the memorial concert by Zeena Parkins; the rest I had to work out from scratch – as well as rearranging everything for a mixture of occidental and oriental instruments.

“This programme is approached very much as a music of the present – and not as an academic reconstruction.”

In addition to Half The Sky’s performance, the London show will feature DJ sets from two of London’s more interesting musical personalities. Marina Organ’s known both for three decades of staunch work as writer/co-driving force of ‘Organ’ magazine and for her indefatigable DJ/interviewing work on ‘The Other Rock Show’. James Larcombe is the keyboard player and sometime composer with Stars In Battledress, Arch Garrison, North Sea Radio Orchestra, Zag & The Coloured Beads and the William D. Drake band; now he seems to be extending his talents (or at least his brassy neck), to disc-spinning.

Half the Sky: Music of Lindsay Cooper

  • Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Thursday 22nd June 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Avantgarde Festival, Steinhorster Weg 2, 23847 Schiphorst, Deutschland, Sunday 25th June 2017, 2.15pm – information here and here


 
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Pinning down the nature of a woman’s work in art – or women’s work in general – is not always an easy thing, nor even desirable. Even the most positive intentions can produce more restrictive categories, more unwanted boxings and demands to conform. In the case of Lindsay, whose career always foregrounded honest effort and end product over personality showboating, and which was tinted by doubt and determination, it’s probably best to concentrate mostly on the mind behind the music: to listen to the querying voice coming through.

Operating over a set of times in which both contemporaries and colleagues had a tendency towards answers and stances, stated in both bald pronouncements and modernist-baroque ornamentations, she opted to bring a more questioning tone which nonetheless carried some of its possible answers in both action and presentation. Hers was a polymathic but purer musicality: an instrumental voice which voyaged alongside others’ often harsher pronouncements, détournements and doctrines and drew from them while never being subject to them, and which always kept a gentler, more accommodating side open to allow growing space and to consistently rebuild.

Although she also put in stints with both the cheery Canterbury fusioneering of National Health and the terrifying dark-folk band Comus during the 1970s, Lindsay was probably best known for her work with the powerful political chamber-prog of proto-Rock In Opposition ensemble Henry Cow (a creative ferment which she joined and left twice and, like most Cow-ers, never entirely left behind). Having initially brought in her toolkit of reeds, woodwind and piano skills to play on the band’s second album ‘Unrest’, she subsequently made small inroads into the writing, contributing to a number of group compositions on ‘In Praise of Learning’ and the ‘Concerts’ set. As a composer, though, she finally came into her own on the band’s final, all-instrumental statement ‘Western Culture’, on which she was responsible for most of the piled jazzy grandeur of the second side (finding previously unexplored links between the music of New York, Canterbury and Switzerland).

Lindsay Cooper

Lindsay Cooper

Perhaps more significantly, by this point in the late ’70s Lindsay had already formed the witty, subversive Feminist Improvising Group, or FIG; a project which she co-ran with vocalist Maggie Nichols in parallel with her Cow work. Generally considered to be the preoccupation and property of educated, intense, white men, the British and European free improvising of the time tended to be a little short on jokes (bar occasional pranking along the lines of the Free Art Research Trio). FIG allied Lindsay and Maggie with various other musical and performance talents – “feminist rock” trumpeter Corine Liensol (who’d played in Jam Today with a young Deirdre Cartwright), pianist Cathy Williams (who’d worked with another Cow-er, Geoff Leigh, in the Rag Doll duo), future filmmaker Sally Potter, latterday Cow cellist Georgie Born and Swiss free-jazz pianist Irène Schweizer (the last being allegedly the only European female improviser on the ‘60s and ‘70s scene). In classic feminist tradition, FIG not only enabled previously sidelined female voices onto the improv scene but deliberately upturned expectations as to what such a scene could achieve.

In comparison to the demanding and abstruse Maoist politics of Henry Cow (which, in private, sometimes resembled a brutally masculine university debating society preoccupied with games of political high-grounding), FIG were spontaneous, mutually supportive and – just as importantly – funny. With a strong and personal rooting in lesbian, class-based and feminist activism (plus parallel feelings of sidelining and denial on the part of others) but a suspicion of dogma, they expressed frustration and political challenge by drawing on a collective sense of the absurd and of the sympathetic. In addition to the music, their shows featured parodic stagings and examinations of domestic work (such as kitchenwork and cleaning) and of consumer preoccupations. Vegetables were peeled onstage; household tools such as dustpans and brooms pressed into service as props and noisemakers; oppressive or manipulative memes transformed into call-and-response singing.

Reading accounts of FIG work reveals a tale of tough gigs, audience misunderstandings and frequent frustration. Men carped, frowned and cold-shouldered; women laughed, argued and sometimes welcomed; the group members continually challenged their own sense of self and role; but the work itself sounds joyously unshackled – something I would have loved to have been around to see. It’s a shame that much improv and theatrical work is always of the moment and tends to vanish like dew in the morn. Without recorded evidence or restaging, it fades into hearsay, and in this case an important chapter in Lindsay’s work has to dwell in a kind of word-of-mouth samizdat.

Post-Cow and FIG, Lindsay ran her own Film Music Orchestra to create and record arthouse soundtracks (often working in cinematic cahoots with Sally Potter). She rejoined another former Cow colleague ((the now-mellowed Chris Cutler) for the 1980s post-Marxist art-song project News From Babel: here, Chris’ social and political musings would make a happier marriage with the pop-cabaret end of Lindsay’s music. She also contributed to the counter-cultural jazz colours of various Mike Westbrook and John Wolf Brennan bands, played with Pere Ubu ranter David Thomas, worked in theatre and (in the ’90s) composed a more formal chamber music which nonetheless retained the edge and inquiring spirit of her work in avant-rock and political art. She’d collaborate with Potter again for the Cold War song cycle ‘Oh, Moscow’ in the late ’80s, to which Chris Cutler also contributed. If encroaching multiple sclerosis (which had privately dogged her throughout her post-Cow career) hadn’t dragged her into early retirement in the late ’90s, there would have been more.

Half The Sky provide a welcome re-introduction to Lindsay’s work, performed by committed people whose sympathy with Lindsay Cooper’s music is absolute. However, they should also be viewed as a window onto the wider career of a quietly remarkable woman whose death in 2013 forced a premature coda onto the work of a mind whose personal humility had been more than balanced by its nimbleness, thoughtful and flexibility. Come along to these concerts and hear some of that mindwork and heartwork come alive again.


 

June 2017 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Kammer Klang double event – ‘Soarings: A Salon on Else Marie Pade’ (5th June); Apartment House and Jacob Kirkegaard play Pade and Henning Christiansen, plus Vitalija Glovackyte (6th June)

24 May

The June Kammer Klang is a double event centred loosely around Danish composers Else Marie Pade and Henning Christiansen, who variously pioneered mid-twentieth century electronic music and cross-genre intermedia Fluxus experiments.

Kammer Klang presents:
‘Soarings: A Salon on Else Marie Pade’
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Monday 5th June 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here
and
Apartment House (performing Henning Christiansen) + Jacob Kierkegaard (presenting Else Marie Pade) + Vitalija Glovackyte + Aguirre DJs
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 6th June 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

'Soarings: A Salon on Else Marie Pade', 5th June 2017

“The sounds outside became concrete music, and in the evening I could imagine that the stars and the moon and the sky uttered sounds and those turned into electronic music.” – Else Marie Pade.

Increasingly recognised as Denmark’s first composer of electronic music, Else Marie Pade imagined “aural pictures” during a childhood afflicted by illness, and later learned jazz piano. Operating within the Danish resistance in the Second World War while still a teenager, she was captured by the Nazis and imprisoned in the Frøslevlejren internment: an experience which must have had a long-lasting and damaging effect since it undermined her post-war attempts to train as a classical pianist. Undaunted, she concentrated on composing instead: finding her particular niche after hearing a 1952 Danmarks Radio programme on Pierre Schaeffer’s musique concrète and realising that he’d given aural shape to the same ideas she’d had as a child. From the mid-1950s she was in at the start of art programmes on Danish television, establishing a lifelong position for herself both as a Danmarks Radio producer and as a pre-eminent radio and television composer (at a time when that strand of musical work offered as much genuine creative opportunity as anything in the avant-garde).

Over the course of her lifetime Pade produced a wide variety of sensuous, stimulating electronic compositions to entwine with various broadcast work: avant-garde documentary work, audiovisual ballet and more. Having studied with Schaeffer during the 1950s, she also attended the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt during the 1960s and early 1970s, studying under Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez and György Ligeti (and impressing Stockhausen enough that he’d use her own ‘Glass Bead Game’ piece as a lecture topic). Apparently taken for granted in her home country, Pade’s reputation was greater abroad – her work was eventually compiled in a three-LP retrospective on Important Records (‘Electronic Works 1958-1995’) in 2014, two years before her death.

Regarding the ‘Soarings’ salon:

“…”Soarings” is a rough translation of the Danish word “svævninger” – a word coined by Pade to encompass both the phenomenon of different frequencies colliding to make an interference beat, and the more poetic image of soaring through the air. The ‘Soarings’ salon event is a special opportunity to hear more about her work via talks, film screening and discussion.

“The evening begins with a talk from artist and composer Jacob Kirkegaard, a long-time friend and colleague of Pade’s. Jacob will speak about Pade’s life and work from his unique perspective, having both produced her three-LP retrospective and collaborated with her on their joint composition ‘Svævninger’ (released by Important Records in 2012, and from which the evening takes its name). His presentation will include new images (including recently digitised scores) never previously shown in public.

“The evening will include the UK premiere of Pade’s extraordinary audiovisual piece ‘En dag på Dyrehavsbakken’: one of her very earliest works, which was first broadcast in 1955 by DR (the Danish Broadcasting Corporation). It consists of pictures and sounds recorded over two summers at Dyrehavsbakken, near Klampenborg in Denmark, and also includes electronically-produced sine tones and echo effects. This makes it the first piece of musique concrete and electronic music made by a Danish composer.


 
“The salon will conclude with a panel discussion with diverse contributions and reflections on Pade’s work and its wider context from Danish musicologist (and ‘Seismograf‘ editor) Sanne Krogh Groth, sound designer/studio manager Jo Langton and ‘Wire’/’Sight & Sound’ writer Frances Morgan. There’ll also be a reading by sound artist Ain Bailey (whose work includes sonic autobiographies and investigations of both architectural acoustics and the role of sound in the formation of identity).”

Kammer Klang, 6th June 2017Jacob Kierkegaard returns for the full Kammer Klang show the following night, where he’ll be presenting Pade’s 1962 work ‘Faust Suite’, generally considered her masterpiece and described by Jennifer Hor of ‘The Sound Projector’ as “beautiful and mysterious, elegant and eerie music that can express deep solitude or wonder… a secret three-dimensional universe where the most amazing experiences may be had.” Over half an hour of sensually chiming oscillator churn (with nimble, challenging digressions of timbre, tone and emphasis), it places Pade’s work in parallel to the electrophonic imaginings of Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram – similarly thoughtful, similarly detailed and discursive; part of a wave of highly individual and original female composers and sonic réalisatrices with much of their work taking place within broadcast media, dancing apart yet in step.


 
Opening the show is composer/performer Vitalija Glovackyte, who “creates deep-felt chirpy music, bringing together conventional and homemade instruments, electronics, lo-fi devices and visuals. Her works span intimate solo sets and large-scale multimedia performances. Aside from her solo work, Vitalija co-runs the Almost Credible Music Ensemble and is one-half of the experimental pop duo Kinder Meccano.”


 
The track above stems from an eighteen month residency Vitalija spent with modern chamber ensemble Apartment House, who are also contributing to the evening in a seven-piece formation of Gordon MacKay (violin), Lucy Railton (cello), Frank Gratkowski (bass clarinet), Simon Limbrick (percussion), Kerry Yong (keyboard/piano), Loré Lixenberg (voice) and AH founder Anton Lukoszevieze as conceptualizer and director. They’ll be presenting the UK premiere of Anton’s adaptation of ‘Requiem of Art (NYC) – Fluxorum Organum’, a Henning Christiansen piece originally performed in 1967 (and reworked three years ago by Anton for an Ultima New York performance).

An adherent to the Fluxus art movement, Christiansen spent his artistic life rejecting standard distinctions of stylistic boundaries (including those between nominally different art forms) and the concept of the lone genius. Instead, much of his work was based on direct, implied or encouraged collaboration, whether he was encouraging others to freely interpret his ideas or whether he was actually working in equalized tandem with another artist. In its original form, ‘Fluxorum Organum’ is an example of the latter situation (having been created as the soundtrack portion to a film collaboration between Christiansen and conceptual art godfather Joseph Beuys) while its Lukoszevieze reinterpretation brings it back under the first method. You can view the original Beuys/Christiansen collaboration below:


 
The month’s Kammer Klang DJ slot is taken care of by representatives of Belgian record label/mail order distributors Aguirre who release and/or stock a wide range of electronic, ambient, experimental to rock, jazz, new wave and reggae. (including Pade and Christiansen recordings plus reissues from the revered French avant-garde record label Shandar. They’ll be playing various selections both from their catalogue and from their enthusiasms.
 

Programme:

Fresh Klang: Vitalija Glovackyte
Henning Christiansen – ‘Requiem of Art (NYC) – Fluxorum Organum’ (1967-68) adapted by Anton Lukoszevieze for Ultima New York at Issue Project Room, 2014 (UK premiere) – performed by Apartment House
Else Marie Pade – ‘Faust Suite’ (1962) performed by Jacob Kirkegaard
DJs: Aguirre
 

May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – new SIKE! psych-rock night in Holloway (featuring The Spanish Infanta, Dazy Crown, Eyre Llew and Niris, May 11th); dance/pop/jazz with Agar Agar and Lucien & The Kimono Orchestra plus Is Tropical DJ set (May 16th); a womantronic evening with electric:indigo, A’bear and Lisa Busby (May 18th)

4 May

SIKE, 11th May 2017

gigmit presents
SIKE! (featuring The Spanish Infanta + Dazy Crown + Eyre Llew + Niris)
Nambucca, 596 Holloway Road, Upper Holloway, London, N7 6LB, England
Thursday 11th May 2017, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

A new psychedelic rock night, launching at Nambucca in upper Holloway this month, attempts to capture the whole of the range within the genre. Good luck with that – Baba Yaga are still scooping up variations after years of plugging away at it.

That said, SIKE!’s debut night scintillates across a determined four-act psych spectrum from gritty backstreet hardness to sunkissed airiness. There’s the lysergic gutbucket garage sludge of The Spanish Infanta; the gentler post-punk-meets-West Coast-y songs of Dazy Crown, the soaring Icelandic-inspired raptures and wreckage of Nottingham’s Eyre Llew; and the Balearic chillout of instrumental duo Niris (a teaming of guitarist/multi-instrumentalists Nick Engel and Chris Hatwell which covers a broad range between uplit flamenco-inspired guitar duets, ambient sunrise electronica, and breezy dance songs). Examples below.






 
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Snap Crackle & Pop Live presents:
Agar Agar + Lucien & The Kimono Orchestra + Is Tropical (DJ set)
The Moth Club, Old Trades Hall, Valette Street, Hackney, London, E9 6NU, England
Tuesday 16th May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Agar Agar + Lucien & The Kimono Orchestra + Is Tropical DJ set, 16th May 2017Over in Hackney, the Snap Crackle & Pop label are running a Cracki Records night featuring a couple of French and Belgian acts who explore luminous, involved dance-and-groove styles (plus a DJ set from squat-party experimentalists turned international poptronicists Is Tropical).

The ’80s synth pop/acid disco hybrid of Agar Agar mixes resurrected old analogue tech with art school smarts and fluid contemporary sensibilities on identity and expression. Blending electro sunniness with the feeling of a haunt in the full noon brightness, there’s also (as with Elephant) an ineffable bruised melancholy creaming off the top. Their songview’s full of interesting propositions – from Prettiest Virgin’s dancefloor ballad of yearning, slightly predatory female longing (complete with suggestive, part-animated video clip of lost girl, naked dancers, dolphins and fleshy tunnelling) to the surreal night journey of I Am That Guy (with its burnishings of ominous analogue hornsynth, its intimations of housebreaking, and the profanity-laden, deracinated blues-growl of its cross-gender vocal).



 
Like Agar Agar, Lucien & The Kimono Orchestra draw on the 1980s (predominantly in their attempts to recapture impressions of French cinema and Japanese funk) but also look back towards the ’70s. Like Carl Hudson’s Moon Unit, they breathe new life into Lonnie Liston Smith cosmic jazz-funk, retool a handed-down Horace Silver vocabulary, and flood jazzy cascades and stabbing Wurlitzer syncopations through contemporary dance club sensibilities. On their vocal collaborations – such as Ship, with FM Laeti – they coast towards a Morcheeba cool. Left to their own devices, they’ll veer towards warm, skittish brain-grooves, occasionally like a slightly less oblique French take on Weather Report (or, as on Galaxies, like Brand X or the more fusionesque moments of Genesis).



 
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electric:indigo + A'bear + Lisa Busby, 18th May 2017

The Engine Room + Austrian Cultural Forum + The Wire presents:
electric:indigo + A’bear + Lisa Busby (DJ Set)
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 18th May 2017, 8.00pm
information

If you’re more interested in an evening of female musicians working way out in the left-field, IKLECTIK are offering the first British gig in twenty years for Austrian electro-polymath Susanne Kirchmayr – a.k.a. electric:indigo. Composer, DJ, producer and founder of female:pressure (the go-to directory for women in electronic music), on this occasion she’ll be performing “a unique version of her six-channel sound art piece ‘109.47 degrees’. The title of the ultra-wide hyper-stereo piece refers to “the ideal tetrahedral angle in foams as described in Plateau’s laws”. From a set of small acoustic particles ‘109.47 degrees’ creates complex sonic structures that “live on friction, cohesion and constant movement”…” Suzanne will also be being interviewed by ‘The Wire’s Emily Bick.


 
In support, “vocal/techno/experimental/rap/rainbow workout” artist Janine A’Bear will be performing a synths-and-voicewarp-and computers set of “electronic poetry” boasting “carefully constructed verse combined with themes of a cosmic nature.” That’s quite a lot of grab-quotes there. I’ve also grabbed a few examples of her work and laid them out here – shimmering, layered rivulets of synthesis at a post-techno pulse rate, there’s plenty in there, but if you want to explore her verse it sounds as if you’ll have to tease it out of the soundscaping with a wool-comb.

 
Working the DJ decks for the evening is musician, Goldsmiths music lecturer and Editions Of You head Lisa Busby; also known for her work with The Nomadic Female DJ Troupe, noise/improve/playback crew Rutger Hauser and electro-Dada duo Sleeps In Oysters (as well as a solo career as singer-composer exploring “the fringes of song… using domestic or outdated playback media as instruments, but also work(ing) in text-based score, installation and site specific performance…”). Come and listen to her uncrate her mind.

If you want to dig a little deeper, it’s worth noting that this concert is part of international sound art exhibition The Engine Room, running between 4th May and 1st June between IKLECTIK and the nearby Morley College.
 

April/June/July 2017 – upcoming classical gigs – William Howard’s ‘Love Music?’ project for piano – London showcase with Judith Weir (26th April); further shows in London (26th June) and Cheltenham (9th July)

13 Apr

William Howard writes “Throughout my professional career I have enjoyed working with composers and commissioning new works. While I was preparing to record my album of romantic love songs for piano, I started wondering what their contemporary equivalents might sound like. I thought many composers might not take to the idea of writing a piano ‘love song’, with its suggestions of a romantic genre, but almost every composer I approached reacted with great enthusiasm. Since love is a theme common to music across the world and across the centuries, I realised that a collection of twenty-first century piano love songs could provide a perfect introduction to the different musical languages of living composers, especially for listeners who come to new music somewhat reluctantly.”

This is the outcome.

Hoxton Hall/Spitalfields Music presents:
William Howard & Judith Weir: ‘Love Music?’
Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6SH, England
Wednesday 26th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

William Howard: 'Love Music', 26th April 2017“How do today’s composers write about love? Join pianist William Howard and composer Judith Weir, Master of the Queens Music, to explore a fascinating selection of new piano pieces expressing different aspects of love through different musical styles.

“William Howard will premiere works by Richard Reed Parry (from Arcade Fire), Joby Talbot (once of The Divine Comedy), Robert Saxton, David Knotts and leading Czech composer Pavel Zemek Novák, together with the winning pieces of his recent composing competition that attracted over five hundred entries from fifty-four countries.

“This is an informal evening with contributions from several composers. Questions and feedback from the audience will be welcome.”

Having selected the concert pieces, William’s just commented “they are all very different in character, mood and level of difficulty and offer a fascinating taster menu of different ways in which composers approach writing music of a very personal nature. ‘Camille’ by Joby Talbot is dedicated to his eight-month-old daughter, Robert Saxton’s ‘For Teresa’ is dedicated to his wife. Richard Reed Parry’s ‘Fast Cloud’ is a fantasy of swirling fast notes, Pavel Zemek Novák’s ‘Little Song of Love and Mercy is a spiritual reflection. The two winning pieces of my composing competition are also very contrasted. Chia-Ying Lin‘s ‘Chanson Perpétuelle’ describes “the kind of love which is everlasting and constantly renewed over time” in an imaginative sound world of crystalline textures, while Freddy Viner‘s ‘Herz an Herz’ is an unashamedly romantic piece evoking the spirit of Wagner. The concert will end with Cheryl Frances-Hoad‘s glorious tribute to Dusty Springfield.”

Programme (in no particular order):

David Knotts – Album Leaf
Chia-Ying Lin – Chanson Perpétuelle (winner, Over 25 category)
Pavel Zemek Novák – Little Song Of Love And Mercy
Richard Reed Parry – Fast Cloud
Robert Saxton – For Teresa
Joby Talbot – Camille
Frederick Viner – Herz an Herz (winner, Under 25 category)
Cheryl Frances-Hoad – Love Song For Dusty

It’s a pity that there doesn’t seem to be a chance of hearing the runner-up pieces (Simon Mawhinney’s ‘ Daniel Josiah is Sleeping ‘, Nathan James Dearden’s ‘love holds me captive again’, Samuel Cho Lik Heng’s ‘Arbophillia’ and Daniel Fardon’s ‘Saudade’) but perhaps they’ll surface at some point. Meanwhile, William has a couple of follow-up Love Songs concerts scheduled:

 
The new pieces act as a companion set to the works on William’s 2016 release ‘Sixteen Love Songs’ (on Orchid Classics).


 

March 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Ghost Car, Secret Tongues and Strange Lipsticks in Peckham (11th); Hanging Valleys and Swan Levitt in Camden (21st)

4 Mar

Ghost Tongues (photo © Maria Dela O Garrido)

Ghost Tongues (photo © Maria Dela O Garrido)

Ghost Car + Secret Tongues + Strange Lipsticks
The Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, Peckham, London, SE15 2PA, England
Saturday 11th March 2017, 7.00pm
– information here

What’s on the invite:

Ghost Car are inviting you to the launch party celebrating their debut single ‘Stuck In The Mud’ (released on New York label Greenway Records), on Saturday 11th of March at The Montague Arms, with support from Secret Tongues and Strange Lipsticks.”

What you get:

From Ghost Car – careening, shifting, minor-key garage rock with sweet’n’sour organ punches plus flavours of bolshy girl-group and of honey-and-yoghurt Gallic pop (despite the fact that, although the members hail from a wonderful pre-Brexit splatter of Spanish, Irish and British roots, none of them are French). The video for ‘Stuck In The Mud’ is a little low-budget hymn to female tensions – office-girl restlessness, transposed rage at impenetrable masculine spaces. It’s a collage of impeccable makeup methods, fusty corridors, and slammed or locked doors, with a nod to the way in which the women’s toilets can double as a sanctuary, a place to compose yourself, even a rallying zone.


 
From Secret Tongues, you get relatively conventionally dreampop indie. Permeated with a lazy but lipsmacking eroticism, it switches between languorous, scenic verses and upbeat, jouncy choruses. Recent single ‘Glass Beach’ is typical of their work – a song of arousal, of “pheromones playing with our hormones” (and it comes with a sloppy-sensual video full of orality and come-hither eyes).


 
For my money, the most persuasive reason to pitch up for the gig is for show opener Strange Lipsticks, a.k.a. singer-songwriter Mary Fritz. Over the times during which she’s shuttled between London and Boston, her music’s evolved from lo-fi tick/echo/strum songcraft (orchestrated with tremolo, warble and skate) to a shifting, half-moored folk sound interpolated with background noises and a wan tone of solitary council-estate psychedelia. Mary’s weary folk-chant of a voice (a little reminiscent of the unsettling intonation of Scottish post-folker Pinkie Maclure) remains the key note: breeding her songs’ atmospheres of ill-health and of a disturbed, distracted intelligence feeling its way around, angling for clarity.



 

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Hanging Valleys + Swan Levitt, 21st March 2017Hanging Valleys + Swan Levitt
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Tuesday 21 March 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

What’s on the other invite:

Hanging Valleys is an alternative band founded by Thom Byles in 2016, in which he’s joined by Mike Phillips (guitar, vocals) and Alexis Meridol (beats, synthesizer). Their music is centred around soaring falsetto vocals accompanied by ethereal atmospheric phrasing on electric and acoustic guitars, which combine to create a rich shifting soundscape. An unusual percussive playing style on the acoustic is blended with percussion and self-produced samples to create pulsing rhythms with captivating crescendos. The band’s debut EP will be released on 10th March 2017.

Swan Levitt is an English singer-songwriter from the Isle of Wight, UK. Blending together acoustic folk with refreshingly modern themes, his emotionally charged voice lets you in on a personal level, taking intricate melodies and crafting them into a fully cinematic experience. Uniquely adept at songwriting, Swan Levitt carries the listener on a character building journey. Using his personal struggles and his passion for science to create music that is acoustic at heart, yet interwoven with subtle electronic atmospheres. Levitt is currently recording his debut album at Studio Humbug on the Isle of Wight with accomplished production duo, Boe Weaver and Organ Records.”

What you get:

Beyond the initial hype (and the little cloud of thumbs-ups from various people at BBC Radio 6), you get two acts coalescing from their initial post-folk vagueness. For the past year or so, as they built themselves up from being Thom’s solo project into being an actual band, Hanging Valleys have been dotting Bandcamp and Soundcloud with individual tracks. On the positive side, they’ve got an exquisite, downy, murmuring sound which – if anything – their press releases undersell. On the other, they’ve sometimes used it to be over-evasive, apparently more interested in capturing the perfect curve of a shadow-croon or the glint of a guitar-string harmonic over anything requiring a commitment of story or setpiece. Their most recent track, ‘T.B.D’, seems to indicate that they’re finally hitting the right balance.



 
As for Swan Levitt, he initially came to general attention last year thanks to two softly pained, quietly dramatic post-Damien Rice-ish singles – ‘Alive’ and ‘Singularity’ – which sounded gorgeous but also on the lazy side of sparse: as with the early Hanging Gardens stuff, songs which seemed to prioritise furnishing over content. His third single, ‘You Were Human’, is a big step forwards; a mourning, brush-drummed lament with an offbeat, unsettling perspective, casting an eye on the destructive vortex of male desire and sentimentality while weaving together ideas of artificial intelligence and human feeling cribbed from ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Ex Machina’ (and blurring the lines between lovesong and murder-ballad). He’s a lot more interesting now that he’s come out as a questioning geek instead of just being a beautiful attic voice.



 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Coven ’17 English tour, 2nd-13th March (fightin’ women’s folk from O’Hooley & Tidow, Lady Maisery and Grace Petrie)

17 Feb
Coven, 2017

Coven, 2017

Last month’s astonishing Women’s March laid bare a fairly fundamental truth – that the backbone and much of the driving force of protest movements (certainly the successful ones) are made up of women.

Historically, one of the binding factors of this has been folk music – women singing, women playing, women writing or interpreting, and women inspiring from the stage. Though this kind of music’s often had a rough ride from the fashion police who drag it in and out of style, generally the performers have treated this as little more than an incidental matter – noted, grunted at, and set aside while the serious matter of talk’n’listen is gotten on with. Similarly, there’s nothing saying that folk performers whose public image might mostly be that of making pretty sounds on the radio won’t also retain, sustain or develop deep commitments to social politics, and thereby draw in anyone who’s prepared to think of them as more than an aural accessory to go with the wallpaper. At any time there are plenty of tours and shows taking place and reinforcing this, although I, for one don’t get to hear enough about them. Here’s one which I did get to hear about – six outspoken women on tour in March with a brace of songs and collective commitment, stirring up discussion and solidarity. Past craft; present engagement.

Woven from the usual brace of press releases:

“Coven are a collective of three of the British folk scene’s finest, most formidable and forthright female acts, taking to the stage to celebrate International Women’s Day in a week of unforgettable concerts. The exquisitely harmonic songwriting duo and BBC 6 Music favourites O’Hooley & Tidow (described as “defiant, robust, political, Northern, poetical folk music for the times we live in” by the ‘Independent’) will be joined by the enchanting BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Finalists Lady Maisery (“women with ideas, purpose and urgency… powerful, enthralling work” – ‘Songlines’) and the irrepressible Leicester songwriter, activist and performer Grace Petrie (“a powerful new songwriting voice” – ‘The Guardian’).

“Three years ago, they all got together to celebrate International Women’s Day in March with a series of three concerts. Since then, the tour has extended year on year… Experience these thought-provoking, entertaining and enthralling women debuting the music from their first collective EP, ‘Unholy Choir’ (recorded at Frome’s Cooper Hall in the early part of 2017), and performing both individually and collectively on one stage.”

Here are examples of work by each of the three Coven components; followed by a clip of all of them together, performing an extended harmony-folk take on Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work. A version of the latter is on ‘Unholy Choir’ along with the Maisery’s Rowan Rheingans’ resetting of female labour anthem Bread & Roses, a cover of the late Maggie Roche’s Quitting Time, an a capella version of Pat Humphries ’ Never Turning Back, a new version of Grace’s If There’s A Fire In Your Heart and a full sextet version of Coil & Spring (O’Hooley and Tidow’s Pussy Riot tribute, co-written with former Chumbawamba mainstay Boff Whalley). So far, the plan is for the EP to only be available at the gigs. Early on, at least, you’ll need to attend one to get one.





 

Full tour dates:

Coven, 2017
 

December 2016 – upcoming gigs – ‘Staggerlee Wonders’ with Robert Mitchell, Debbie Sanders, Corey Mwamba, John Edwards, Elaine Michener, Mark Sanders and others (London, 8th); Trio Generations with Maggie Nichols/Lisa Ullén/Matilda Rolfsson (Cheltenham and London, 9th & 11th)

5 Dec

StaggerLee Wonders
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 8th December 2016, 8.00pm
– information here and here

'Staggerlee Wonders', 8th December 2016Billed as “an evening of radical poetry and prose fused with free improvised music”, this event’s title is taken from James Baldwin’s blazingly scornful, almost conversational poem – itself named for the black outlaw/hoodlum who flits and thunders through a set of conflicting American tales and songs, taking on the roles of murderer, proud badass, pimp and more.

In all cases, Stagger Lee’s become a byword and signifier for transgressive black resistance to cultural pressure and norms. A lengthy lope in a thickly jazzy, declamatory style, Baldwin’s version takes up the final, revolutionary Stagger Lee position, setting aside the thuggery, choosing instead to weigh up the protests, delusions and not-so-secret wickednesses of white hegemony in one Afro-American palm (seamed with exile, scepticism and righteous ire) before firing up his sardonic, acidic tongue to flay and spit the flesh right off their bones. It’s not clear whether Baldwin’s take will be performed as the evening’s centrepiece, or whether it simply serves as an inspiration; but it certainly sets the bar high, both artistically and politically.

Various performers, both black and white, are confirmed to attend. Hopefully, they’ll all rise to the explicit challenge. Reknowned for his weighty slowhand approach, jazz pianist Robert Mitchell has worked with Epiphany3, F-ire Collective and Panacea. Jazz/folktronicist Corey Mwamba plays small instruments, dulcimer and electronics across assorted projects but is best known for his highly dynamic, hammers-to-humming vibraphone playing and for the ongoing questioning spirit which he explores in both live music and academia (and any intersections he can make between the two). Voices come from restless, movement performer and polygenre singer Elaine Michener (recently seen at the Cockpit Theatre in a quartet with Alexander Hawkins) and from storytelling singer/composer Debbie Sanders (currently heading up Mina Minou Productions, previously embedded in proto-acid-jazz, trip-hop and British R&B via work with Skylab and Chapter & The Verse).

Bass and drums are provided by two stunning soloists who also happen to make up one of London music’s most formidable rhythm partnerships. Both double bass player John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders are capable of a breadth of sound and attack on their respective instruments, running across an orchestral breadth from whisper to hailstone attack (via conversation or monologue, from growling belligerence to kidding conversation or querying patter).

More people may be showing up to play, but that’s already a pretty thrilling loose sextet to work with and to choose from.

* * * * * *

Trio Generations is an intermittent name for a convocation of three top European improvisers, Maggie Nichols, Lisa Ullén and Matilda Rolfsson. Formed last year, they’re playing a couple of English shows to bookend the upcoming weekend. Outlines below, mostly from the Café Oto pages:

Trio Generations, 2016

Trio Generations, 2016

Maggie Nicols joined London’s legendary Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1968 as a free improvisation vocalist. She then became active running voice workshops with an involvement in local experimental theatre. She later joined the group Centipede, led by Keith and Julie Tippets and in 1977, with musician/composer Lindsay Cooper, formed the remarkable Feminist Improvising Group. She lives in Wales and continues performing and recording challenging and beautiful work, in music and theatre, either in collaborations with a range of artists (Irene Schweitzer, Joelle Leandre, Ken Hyder, Caroline Kraabel) as well as solo.

Matilda Rolfsson is a Swedish percussionist and free improviser, based in Trondheim, Norway. During the spring of 2015 she was temporarily based in London where she finished her masters in free improvisation and the relationship between improvised music and dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. During her London stay Matilda got the chance to meet and play with some of Londons most efficient improvisers: Phil Minton, Sylvia Hallett and London Improvisers Orchestra with Maggie Nichols. With her 20” vintage Gretsch bass drum, Tibetan bowls, gongs, bells and plastic isolations, sticks, fingers and brushes, Matilda explores the free improvisation and the instant compositions shaped in the moment: dynamics, orchestrations – structure and chaos. To make rules and break rules, always with the question: where’s the music going, and where’s the freedom?

“Pianist Lisa Ullén grew up in the northern part of Sweden, and is based in Stockholm. A versatile player with a singular musical vision, Lisa has repeatedly proven her ability to imprint her absolute sense for tonal texture on whatever musical context she appears in. Besides working as a soloist and leader of her own groups, Lisa has collaborated extensively with many well-known Swedish artists and dancers, and has also scored several dramatic productions. She’s also performed and recorded music by contemporary composers.”
 
To provide a sense of what might be coming, here’s the full half-hour set from their debut performance at IKLECTIK in 2015: a fractured, prolonged collective improvisation which swaps mood, pace and suggestions like a game of speed poker, with passing shreds of blues. Although Lisa and Matilda match her with lethally-aimed flinders of explosive, challenging percussion and piano, Maggie remains the centre of attention via a performance that’s as much stand-up comedy or theatre piece as it is free jazz. She produces not only the clucks, hisses, pants and operatics of free-voice improv but a bewildering spiky cavalcade of female voices and archetypes (hopeful chitterer, wise sly crone, mother in labour, put-upon wailer, deft gossiper) while including fleeting lyrics from jazz, blues or music hall and assorted Dada twists (including a phase which sounds like a demonic toothbrushing session).


 

This month’s Trio Generations dates:

  • Xposed Club @ Francis Close Hall, University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, England, Friday 9th December 2016, 8.00pm (with Chris Cundy) – information
  • Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Monday 11th December 2016, 8.00pminformation

At the Café Oto show, John Edwards will be joining in to make the group a quartet. While there’s no support act at Oto, at the Xposed Club Cheltenham reedsman/multi-instrumentalist Chris Cundy will be providing a solo slot on bass clarinet and saxophone. A tactile extended-technique player, Chris began as a self-taught Medway busker coming into his own under the combined influence of Eric Dolphy (on record) and Billy Childish (in the flesh and in the kitchen). Following a relocation to Cheltenham to pursue fine art, Chris has broadened his scope into a world of other collaborations in film, electronica, free improvisation and pop. He’s worked extensively with Fyfe Dangerfield (as part of the Guillemots horn section and as an integral member of Gannets), with Canadian freak-folkers Timbre Timbre and a succession of left-field singer-songwriters. His extended techniques (including multi-phonics, circular breathing and microtonality) have also led him into exploring the works of Cage and Cardew and those of contemporary avant-garde composers such as Thanos Chrysakis and Pete M Wyer, as well as producing a growing number of albums of his own work.


 

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