Tag Archives: Maria Jardardottir

March/April 2016 – upcoming gigs – Motherese (Aby Vulliamy, Laura Cole, Maria Jardardottir and more) in a mothers-in-arms jazz tour

6 Mar

I briefly mentioned the Motherese project in passing during the previous post (having found out about them as one of the several support bands in the Schnellertollermeir tour). For various reasons – not least that they seemed to be bringing a specific and structured practical ethos to their live experience, one which voyaged above and beyond the music – I wanted to follow that up…

Aby Vuillamy, 2016

From what they themselves say, Motherese is/are “a band of mothers brought together especially for this year’s Women In Music Festival in Newcastle run by Jazz North East. The collaboration involves a core trio of composers and improvisers, using an exciting combination of pre-composed music, structured improvisation and free improvisation, loosely exploring the theme of parenthood. The core trio have several dates booked in various cities, and in each place, they will be joined by local musician mothers, whose impromptu contributions will be incorporated with flexibility, sensitivity and creativity; all necessary attributes for parents adapting and responding to their families’ ever-changing needs.

“The organic and spontaneous nature of the whole process, in terms of writing, developing and performing the work, reflects our experience of motherhood; we’ve felt very inspired and excited and energised, as well as a little lost and overwhelmed at times. We’re confident that the music will be interesting and challenging and exciting and beautiful and moving at times, and we hope folk will want to come and experience it.”

Sounds good…

The group is led by Aby Vulliamy, a multi-instrumentalist, composer and constant collaborator across multiple disciplines. In addition to ongoing work with Stevie Jones’s brain-rattling acoustic music project Sound of Yell and Bill Well’s National Jazz Trio of Scotland, this includes experimental rock (via a teaming with Faust’s Hans Joachim Irmler), indie rock (Norman Blake, Aidan Moffat, assorted Belle & Sebastian spin-offs), old and new folk strains (via work with Bridget St John, Mary Hampton, Ali Roberts, Lucy Farrell, The Trembling Bells and Mike Heron) , orchestral music (Scottish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra) and the jazz/improv field (Evan Parker, Matt Bourne, Maggie Nichols, Karen Mantler, John Tchicai and many others).

Though she can also play piano and musical saw, Aby concentrates on singing and playing viola for Motherese as well as handling the bulk of the composing, which is based around her recent musical explorations of the theme of motherhood. Aby also works as a music therapist, something which profoundly affects the working ethos of this new project. In addition to sharing the experience and challenges of motherhood, the two other core members of Motherese share sympathies or practical parallels (or both) with this latter strand of Aby’s work.

Singer/pianist Laura Cole has won plaudits as an established leader or co-leader of multiple bands in her own right. These include the Leeds-based Bennett Cole Orchestra and the London jazz-folk sextet Metamorphic (for which she’s also the main composer/arranger) and she also plays in Martin Archer’s percussion-heavy twelvetet Engine Room Favourites. However, she’s a past sufferer of both depression and Repetitive Strain Injury. Though recovered, she speak openly about both of these conditions and about their impact on her and (by extension) on other people, instead of submerging this part of her history under a brittle faux-professionalism.

The third member of the trio is Norwegian improvising singer Maria Jardardottir, who keeps herself busy with a frightening number of jazz and contemporary music projects. Performing as electro-acoustic solo project Melatonin, with singer-songwriter duo Caer Caradoc and with free improvisation trio Endenor, she’s also a member of the voice ensembles Røyst Trio and Curious Voice Duo (plus the former’s cross-arts collaboration project WoCalling) as well as a composer for the all-female nine-piece chamber ensemble evamigra. On top of this, Maria’s an Iyengar Yoga teacher interested in “the voice and body as one organic instrument for a natural, playful and raw expression of inner processes… serving the moment with openness, curiosity and a wish to share what is unspoken…”

All of these shared preoccupations throw up further questions and potential answers. Musicality and its wider implications, including its impact on health and wellbeing. The intricately interspersed and interstitial nature of how one simultaneously makes one’s way as striver and as parent. Interest in what a maternal perspective might add to the business of making music; and ideas of mutual support extending beyond simple musical gangs and artistic movements and into the fabric of a broader life. There’s nothing new about these ideas, but they’re often blurred into the background, If feminism, at its roots, is about shaping a better world by bringing constructive female perspectives into play, improving life for everyone, here – in the often oblivious, self-indulgent world of high-art music making – is an example of it in action.

It’s also true that similar initiatives exist up and down the country – I’ve seen similar things at the odd Ladyfest, and there’s probably one anywhere where there’s a community of inquisitive women whose explorations overlap health and music – but it’s rare and refreshing to see musicality of this strength brought to bear on one of them. Hopefully it might become less rare.

* * * * * * * *

So far, Motherese have three shows lined up:

Jazz North East present: “Women Make Music”:
Motherese + Jennifer Parry + Zoe Gilby Trio
Literary and Philosophical Society, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 1SE, England
Tuesday 8th March 2016, 8.00pm
more information

This debut gig feature Motherese in its core trio format, with Tynesider and experimental folk-jazz singer Zoë Gilby in support. Zoë blends a scat-bebop singing style drawn from voice pioneer Sheila Jordan with the 1970s art-pop and songwriter-folk methods of Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell and Pink Floyd, brings a clutch of original songs with her and also has a taste for transforming classic and challenging jazz compositions by the likes of Thelonious Monk into new songs by adding her own carefully thought-out lyrics. A musician who thrives on restlessness and change, Zoë’s albums and live shows have constantly seen her revise her approach, whether it’s by using loop technology to deliver a textured tribute to the versatility of the human voice, making herself part of a free-improv trio of relative strangers, or simply rejigging interpretations of the Great American songbook. For her WMM set, Zoe will be accompanied by her own Trio (featuring regular musical partners Mark Williams and Andy Champion).

Between the two groups, and adding yet another dimension to the evening, local artist Jennifer Parry will present a multimedia performance, manipulating pre-recorded vocals and projections to create a unique and shape-shifting environment.

Given the Motherese setup and working methods, it’s not impossible that Zoë and Jennifer may also augment the headliners for an expanded performance…

Fusebox presents:
Schnellertollermeir + Motherese
The Fox & Newt, 9 Burley Street, Leeds, LS3 1LD, England, Friday 18th March 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Supporting Swiss avant-rockers Schnellertollermeir on the Leeds leg of their Anglo-Irish tour, this gig sees Motherese augmented by Yorkshire-based guest vocalists Kari Bleivik (Maria’s Norwegian compatriot and colleague in Røyst Trio and WoCalling, as well as singer with Vehere and The Tommy Evans Orchestra, among others) and Stephanie Hladowski (who shuttles fluidly between pop, folk and reggae with a wide number of bands and projects – time allowing). A late addition to the bill is singer Cath Campbell, who’ll also be joining the Motherese huddle.

The Glasgow show – part of April’s Counterflows Festival – is a much less constrained event. Not simply a straightforward gig, it lets us see (and interact with) Motherese within the project’s full potential.

Counterflows Festival presents:
Motherese: Aby Vulliamy + Maria Jardardottir + Laura Cole + Nerea Bello
Glad Café Foundation & Bar, 1006A Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow, G41 2HG, Scotland
Sunday 10th April 2016, 11.00am
– free event – more information

At this gig, the group promise “a fun and accessible music workshop, with support from music therapist and trombonist George Murray plus some local guest musicians including Basque singer Nerea Bello (from post-punk folk improvisers Tattie Toes). Inviting volunteers from children and adults of all ages and abilities to ‘conduct’ the ensemble in whatever manner they like (anything from minimal eye movements to free-style dance), we will create a thrilling and intimate experience of interactive music-making, using instruments, body percussion and vocalisations.

The workshop explores concepts of ‘attunement’ (mirroring and tuning into the feelings behind actions and facial expressions) and cross-modal communication (eg translation from movement to sound and vice versa), both of which are powerful aspects of the instinctive relationship between a pre-verbal baby and parent. Activities will culminate in a ‘musical group self-portrait’, a vibrant and dynamic experience of spontaneous group expression, proving that whatever our age or ability, we are all inherently musical.”

If you’re interested in pursuing this deeper aspect of the project, three half-hour workshop sessions take place during the morning (the first one being at 11.30am) with the formal performance happening at 2.00pm.

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – Schnellertollermeier on tour in Ireland and England (with guest showings by ReDiviDEr, Taupe, Tasmin A, Lambhorn, Shatner’s Bassoon and Motherese); bassfest in Southampton (with Steve Lawson, BassDbler, Grant Sharkey, A Ninja Slob Drew Me); Steve Lawson and Poppy Porter’s synaesthesic show in Guildford.

6 Mar


 

In a few days time, Swiss avant-rock trio Schnellertollermeier begin a tour of Ireland and England. The group’s mellifluous name cutely overlaps and portmanteaus those of each of its members – bass guitarist Andi Schnellmann, guitar player Manuel Troller and drummer David Meier – but also mirrors their working method. Their music, too, is an overlap – a mosaic of small obsessive note-figures either written or improvised, which all three pick up on and play with almost neurologically tight collective timing. They’re also masters of dynamics, able to play each fragment at clean moth-wing softness or biting punk fuzz-roar at will and in sync as the moment demands.

They’re not quite rock, despite the electric power-team lineup and the locked, riffing minimalism. They’re not quite jazz, although they function on a similar level of technical assurance, small-group telepathy and potentially mutative rhythm. They describe themselves as “a little about quiet, and a lot about anger, silliness and precision,” which is one way of drawing a loose line around their bag of impetus.If they’re anything, Schnellertollermeir are an unconstrained cellular dance – fizzing on what’s initially a fixed grid of possibilities, then working around it at ever-smaller, ever-more-complex levels of detail and option; using slivers of math-rock, post-hardcore and free-jazz idiom to get themselves there.

The other quote they toss out is that the group “sounds like classic literature, where you have to keep on re-reading a sentence until you understand. But when you have finally understood, you understand a lot more.” Listening to them myself, they’re more like a tremendously extended Peter Blegvad palindrome – clever, obscurely arch, coasting on the brink of tumbledown nonsense but staying in place and in grace by a touch of sheer skill and a hinting at a good deep-level joke to share.

Dates:


 

While most of the tour appears to be one-act concerts for Schnellertollermeir alone, at points it sweeps up interesting local bands as well. Unfortunately I can’t find out much about the Darwen support act Tasmin A – apart from the fact that she’s a tourmate and backing singer for JD Meatyard (a.k.a. John Donaldson of Levellers 5) – but the Dublin gig features ReDiviDeR, an anagram-fixated two-horns-no-chords quartet led by drummer/composer Matt Jacobson with Derek Whyte (bass) and Nick Roth (alto sax) and Colm O’Hara (trombone), playing “downtown grooves , catchy melodies and collective improves” and taking inspiration from Charles Mingus, Steve Coleman, Deerhoof and Phil Ivey. In support at the Bristol gig are the “instrumental surf prog” band Lambhorn, while the London gig features Taupe (the hip hop and heavy metal-quoting “power-jazz commando team” who first showed up on my radar at last year’s Manchester Jazz Festival).


Surprisingly for a Manchester show, the gig at the Dulcimer Bar doesn’t feature any of the masses of experimental projects which throng the city. Instead, “six-piece madcap surrealists” Shatner’s Bassoon (a double-drum pile-on of jazz and wayward electronics barely containing Michael Bardon, Ollie Dover, Joost Hendrickx, Andrew Lisle, Johnny Richards and Craig Scott) hop across the Pennines from Leeds. The Leeds gig itself features Motherese – a teamup of vocalist/violist Aby Vulliamy, pianist/singer Laura Cole (of Metamorphic) and improvising singer Maria Jardardottir. Motherese aren’t even playing their first gig for a couple of days yet, so I’ll feature more about them in the next post.


 
* * * * * * * *

Steve Lawson (bass guitar virtuoso, loop musician, occasional avant-garde teddy bear and unstoppable Twittergob) can generally be relied upon to conceive, or latch onto, interesting gigs. With his own work spanning from textural ambience and tasteful but outgoing songwriter accompaniment to New Age, multi-collaborator jazz fusion and even political death metal (and since he’s a man who’s perpetually enthused by new contexts to explore) he’s naturally going to be drawn to more unorthodox events… and, generally speaking, not the standard type of unorthodox events either. This month he has two of them in southern England.

Innovate Guildford Festival of Science and the Arts presents:
Poppy Porter & Steve Lawson
G Live, London Road, Guildford, GU1 2AA, England,
Saturday 12th March 2016, at some point between 10.00am and 4.00pm
– free event – more information

“As a synaesthetic, abstract artist/jeweller Poppy Porter has a visual response to sound – she specialises in making jewellery inspired by the abstract shapes and colours of her synaesthetic inner landscape, and her art is mostly object-centred (as she puts it, “sound goes into my ears and art comes out of my hands”). Steve Lawson is a solo bassist who is best known for his improvised music and whose art is almost solely performed.

The duo perform in a collaboration that follows the evolving process of the work between them. Steve plays, building a layered, improvised sonic landscape to which Poppy responds by drawing what she “sees” synaesthesically (shape, colour, movement). Steve then reacts to what has been drawn, using the fresh drawings as a visual score and improvises further. A feedback loop is created between them. Although Poppy and Steve’s individual art forms are different, there is a meeting of minds that pushes beyond the physical object or sonic creation giving rise to a visual, musical, aural and performance element in the work.

Following the performance, the audience will have an opportunity to have a go at drawing the music themselves. The idea of this workshop is to get the audience to try looking at the world in a different way. Rather than drawing an object, Poppy and Steve ask the audience to have a go at expressing how the music affects them. Paper and pencils will be provided and the audience can then listen to Steve play and express what the music is telling them in whatever way they choose with the art materials. We hope that the audience will be inspired to look at creating art in unusual ways and become aware of how we all think and express ourselves differently.”

For the precise performance time, it’s probably best to check on Steve’s Facebook or Twitter accounts closer to the time. This event is part of a larger one-day festival of imagination and practical application taking place in Guildford over the course of a day. Further details and a promo video are below:

“Innovate Guildford will ignite the imaginations of young and old through a stunning showcase of innovation taking place in Guildford – from cutting-edge research to a sneak preview into the future. Our free festival is for everyone and will particularly appeal to young people – to inspire and nurture the scientists, engineers, artists and innovators of tomorrow.”


 

* * * * * * * *

Steve’s second March event is more familiar territory for him, since it’s what’s described as “a night of genre-defying solo bass performances from some of the most innovative bass players around.” Pretty much a plural version of the day-job, then.

'Sorry To Hear You're A Bass Player', 17th March 2016

Gigs In The Gallery presents:
“Sorry To Hear You’re a Bassist!” – Steve Lawson + BassDbler + Grant Sharkey + A Ninja Slob Drew Me + Greyum May (DJ sets)
The Art House, 178 Above Bar Street, Southampton, SO14 7DW, England
Thursday 17th March 2016, 7.30pm
more information

J.D. Short, a.k.a. BassDbler, grew up playing alternative rock and hardcore in Chicago, Nashville, Indianapolis, and Louisville before studying music formally and moving on to build guitars for Rickenbacker. It was only on his relocation to New Zealand that he developed an affinity for electronic music and realised that it held a similar DIY ethic to the music of his youth. The resulting approach also partially inspired by science fiction (specifically Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ saga) described by Aquarius Records as “bass-heavy dubstep electro-prog ambience” has been revealed on a pair of albums: ‘Slow Blade Penetrates The Shield’ and its slightly-more-acoustic follow-up ‘Machine & Ghola’. When not working on BassDbler projects J.D. creates film scores and works as music director for the Giant Fire Breathing Robot website and podcasts.

In 2013 singing/songwriting/double-bass-playing Grant Sharkey (previously a member of Southampton drum-and-two-basses absurdists Toupé) pledged to independently record and release an album every six months over a period of twenty years. Now it’s 2016 and he’s up to six albums – one of which is a single forty-five-minute song (dealing with “how amazing live music is compared to a life of television”), while another he wrote while recovering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome surgery on both wrists.Usually the albums are recorded around Grant’s bass and voice with drums and assorted guest vocals added later, although ukelele and other sounds aren’t unknown.

Grant’s most recent effort is the combined album/political concept ‘Ignoramus’, which was released into the wild last November and which is (depending on how you look at it) either a set of double-bass-plus-voice songs or a philosophical/political manifesto for a new nation based on questioning our current course as a species, or probably both. It follows up and inverts some of the portrayals in his previous, nationalism-inspired album ‘Goon’ – “the five-part life-cycle of someone that doesn’t ask any questions about their situation.”


Another Southampton act – A Ninja Slob Drew Me – is extended-range seven-string bass player Daniel James, who since 2007 has created “moody, mostly instrumental albums” of finger-tapped ambience and distortion, citing post-rock, film soundtracks and trip hop as influences. After four albums as a solo act, Daniel introduced violinist and vocalist Jo Stevens into the project last year as a full partner, with their first album as a duo due to arrive later this year.

Former Ozric Tentacles/Firebird bass player Greyum May (more recently occupied with his own psychedelic/progressive project Keepers Brew) will be playing host but (as far as I know) will be staying off the bass himself in favour of playing a DJ set of “the best in bass-heavy tunes.”

Headlining, Steve Lawson will presumably be offering what he usually offers – deftly melodic bass playing which he’ll simultaneously loop, layer, warp, e-bow and KAOSS-Pad into semi-improvised minimal-maximal solo orchestrations which mingle jazz tunefulness, crowd-pleasing rock directness, and the textured rhythmic detail of prime electronica. Half of the time it won’t sound like a bass, and a third of the time it’ll sound like nothing on earth; with the added bonus being that you won’t necessarily need to be a hardened avant-gardener to appreciate it.

* * * * * * * *

More gig news shortly…
 

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