Tag Archives: Michael Woodman

February 2016 – upcoming gigs – an evening of post-prog rumbles with O.R.k., Thumpermonkey, Landskap, The Earls of Mars and Komara; goodbye to Forks & Corks in Archway with a Pike/Daniels Quartet gig

19 Feb

Coming up on Sunday, there’s an evening of rumbling post-prog and post-metal:

Nightshift Promotions and Rock-A-Rolla Magazine present:
O.R.k. + Thumpermonkey + Landskap + The Earls Of Mars + Komara
The Underworld, 174 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 0NE, England
Sunday 21st February 2016, 7.00pm
more information

O.R.k. @ The Underworld, 21st February 2016O.R.k. are an intercontinental quartet of prog, post-prog and art-rock stars: two Italians, one Anglo-Australian, one American. Colin Edwin provides bass bedrock, Carmelo Pipitone adds an impressive assortment of guitar tones, Pat Mastelotto sets up his usual whirl of drums and electronic triggers, and Lorenzo Esposito “Lef” Fornasari sings and handles the odd drapes and strikes of keyboard and synthesizer. Their debut album, ‘Inflamed Rides’, has been attracting quite a bit of attention since its release last year.

They’ve certainly got the credentials, but to my ears O.R.k. remains a band searching for an identity of their own, still trying on various mix-and-match suits beneath which to flex their impressive collective muscle. There’s certainly a strong flavour of other projects which the various members have been involved with (including the clunk-and-cigarette art-rock croon of David Sylvian and Robert Fripp’s ‘The First Day’, which Pat toured around the world, prior to getting the drum slot in King Crimson, and the interim soundscapes of Colin’s work with Porcupine Tree and latterday Ex-Wise Heads). Lef sings and emotes in a variety of familiar tones recalling Sylvian, Maynard James Keenan and Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt, as well as Mike Patton (with whom he shares extreme flexibility and a sense of skewed drama).

Having said that, O.R.k. are accomplished setters of mood and tone, transforming gracefully from folk-prog delicacy to death-metal rasp and ambient billows. Carmelo in particular is emerging as a superb and chameleonic rock polystylist (incorporating but transcending the punk-edged folk guitar webwork he shows with his main band Marta sui Tubi via electric drones, sheet-lightning riffage, and stress-damage lead lines).

All in all, the band are possibly closest to Lef’s work with Fourth World polyfusion project Berserk! a few years ago, but restrained by a thicker wall of progressive metal and possessing less of the jazz, lightness of touch or overall flexibility, as if it were being grappled around the knees by the arty sludge-rock of Lef’s other main recent project, Obake. There’s plenty of latent promise, especially since Lef’s a genuine musical polymath whose other collaborations span work with Bill Laswell, Nils Petter Molvaer, Italian post-hardcore heroes Ephel Duath and even singing in Nino Rota operas.

If there’s a problem, it’s just that O.R.k. are still groping in the dark for the elusive, necessary spark to shock them into fully being themselves. Come along and perhaps you’ll get to see the moment when they catch it. Meanwhile, here’s a chop-and-change video of live snippets from Milan earlier in the month, plus a few more album tracks:

Assuming that my mixed reactions to O.R.k. haven’t put you off, I should add that the support bands are at least as much of a draw.

Pat Mastelotto makes another appearance in the opening act, Komara – a heady and ferocious live-fusion trio which draw equally on the steely tendons of Crimson/Tool art rock, scintillating sheens of club electronica, and the balance of supple inventiveness fiery plasticity in Scandinavian nu-jazz acts such as Jaga Jazzist. Always one of the most inventive yet undervalued drummers of latterday prog, Pat is on particularly stirring form in this collaboration, which hooks him up with Italian electrophonic trumpeter Paolo Raineri (a collaborator with Stefano Battaglia, Junkfood and Blessed Beat, and with LEF in Berserk!) and Slovakian everything-guitarist David Kollar (an audacious polydisciplinary musician, playing his homemade instrument through an unusual array of pedals, effects and electronics).

Described disarmingly by David as “punky, ambient, electronic and avant-garde stuff”, Komara is actually much less of a spass-jazz kickaround than that would suggest. Informed by David’s work in film and dance projects . Paolo’s love for rock and free improv, and Pat’s knack for surging heavy polyrhythms, it has a sense of dark flamboyant drama: filled with kaleidoscopic brass and guitar textures and burning electrical energy, it flows and seethes more along the lines of David Torn’s still-arresting ‘Cloud About Mercury’ or of Andy Diagram’s work with Spaceheads.

The three London bands that make up the rest of the bill are all headliner-worthy, too. I’ve written plenty already about the mordant, tricksy brilliance of Thumpermonkey, whose melodious heavy-progressive songs are packed with mood and texture changes, rich vocals, gruff punk-and-metal-sourced energy and sly, literate lyric puzzles. They’re a band whose work you can stomp and head-bang to, yet spend a happy age unpicking.

The Earls of Mars plough a similarly playful furrow, though in a skinnier and more oblique vein. A morbidly humorous alliance between Harry Armstrong (once of early Noughties prog-metal stoners End Of Level Boss, and ‘90s doom metallers Decomposed and Hangnail) and Dan Hardingham (from horrorscape project Onethirtyeight), plus stand-up bassist Si McCarthy and drummer Dave Newman, they offer curdled cabaret dramatics and Tom Waits-ian/Mike Patton-esque takes on heavy metal, weird fiction and burlesque. The jokes swim under the surface of the music, like lurking alligators.


Landskap are a more sober and slow-welling affair altogether. If you’ve ever felt that Elbow are what happens when a band steeped in pastoral prog hits the mainstream, you might feel that Landskap is what might happen if it were coaxed back again. Although they cite late ‘60s and early ‘70s psychedelic rock as key influences, I’m more inclined to hear Isaac Hayes, Portishead or No-Man in their sound.

With that funk swing to the drumming, the bluesy smears, the clusters of electric piano and the solidity in the whole package, they sound more like a prog band who dream of being a soul or rhythm-and-blues band (as many of them did, back then, at the start). There’s also an authoritative, earthy ache in Jake Harding’s stern singing tones – a little of Jim Morrison, a little of Ian McCulloch – making him an earthbound anchor to the band’s flights. In an evening which has more than its fair share of cosmic jazz blurs, Gothic artifice and mischievous humour, Landskap are likely to add a little human depth and straightforwardness.


* * * * * * * *

Something good ending too soon? Only a few posts ago I was urging you all towards my neighbourhood venue Forks & Corks, the deli venue at the foot of Archway Tower, and its developing series of jazz gigs: I even took my own advice and made it to to the Jonny Gee quartet show the other Friday, bringing along a group of friends to have their feelings soothed in the wake of a funeral. In a swirl of Parker, Ellington and Porter interpretations, plus the quartet’s own originals, the job was done, buoyed up by the warmth of a Forks & Corks full house drawn from around the community and friends, plus the feeling that something was being built up in this unprepossessing but lovingly inhabited, carefully decorated space.

Now I hear that the latest gig there is likely to be the last Forks & Corks jazz show for a while. Quiet and ominous rumours suggest that it will be the last jazz show there ever, and that the venue itself (which was always sitting on a questionable future in the heart of an Archway redevelopment that’s increasingly out of control) is going to quietly close. I’ve no idea what will crop up in its place: presumably it will be yet another coffee shop to go with the newly-announced Coffee Republic a few doors down and the eight or ten other coffee joints scattered around the junction. Part of the scenario for a regenerated Archway appears to be encouraging us Archway residents to circulate, grinning, from well-furnished caffeine pump to well-furnished caffeine pump, pretending we’re in a ceaseless round of ‘Friends’ re-runs.

Anyway, here’s the information for that last gig.

Pike/Daniels Quartet, Forks & Corks, 20th February 2016


Jazz in Archway presents:
The Pike/Daniels Quartet
Forks & Corks, 2 Archway Mall, Junction Road, Archway, London, N19 5PH, England
Saturday 20th February 2016, 8.00pm
more information

A quick scuffle around the search engines turned up a bit of information on the band. It’s co-led by London jazz-noir singer Kate Daniels. and composer/multi-instrumentalist Graham Pike (who can play chromatic harmonica, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone and keyboards); guitarist Phil Danter leads the jazz-pop octet Straight On Red and generally seems to live the dream, while bass player Kevin Dunford’s been a London fusion mainstay for years and plays with The Incredibly Strange Film Band. There’s not much news on the quartet as a whole, but that shouldn’t count against them. London jazz is full of obscurities, word-of-mouth and ad-hoc teamups: this may well be the start of another one.

As for Forks & Corks, if anything replaces its original spirit and its jazz initiative, I’ll post up that news whenever I get to hear about it. Whatever the future for the venue itself, its manager’s passion for jazz is heartfelt, so I wouldn’t write him off yet… Meanwhile, if you’re passing the deli, drop in for a snack while you still can.

November 2015 – upcoming London gigs – Vôdûn rocks out Afro-psych-metal at Westminster Kingsway; Dub Trio and Thumpermonkey mix it up at The Underworld

8 Nov

Another couple of London rock gigs show up midweek and at the end of the week. Summaries below:

Vôdûn + support t.b.c. (WestkingMusic Live @ Westminster Kingsway College Theatre, 211 Grays Inn Rd, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8RA, UK, Thursday 12th November 2015, 6.30pm) – £2.00-£5.00 – information

Emerging out of a cloud of voodoo-scented bombast (in the centre of which you’ll find former Do Me Bad /Chrome Hoof singer Chantal Brown) Afro-psych/doom metal band Vôdûn bring a welcome taste of old-school Black Rock Coalition determination back to the party along with their artfulness. A churning bass-less power trio – multi-racial, two-thirds women, and taking on the names of loa spirits – they set wall-of-noise guitar against galloping drums and full-throated soul-power vocal melisma.

The band make much of West African spirit power, possession and cosmology: but from what initially seems like a stew of schtick brewed from heavy metal and voodoo swagger, various Afrocentric and feminist images bubble up (not least in the assertive vigour of the female players, and in the way they remind us of the passionate feminine component in the rituals and worldview of the original vodun culture). The current Vôdûn single Mino’s Army is a tribute to the fearsome all-female musket regiment which (by the nineteenth century) made up a third of the Dahomeyan army, played a leading role in the nation’s military policy, and honed female ferocity into a powerful fighting force which dismayed and won the admiration of male opponents (including the French, whom the Mino repeatedly mashed in early stages of the colonial wars). The blood-and-fire video pays tribute to this, and to the acres of severed heads which the victorious Mino left behind them, though perhaps not to the fact that the Mino came to strive against slavery in their own nation as well as the slavery fostered by the Europeans.

Inevitably, Vôdûn are going to be inspiring questions and challenges about the African traditions they’re playing with, and perhaps a deeper approach to storytelling doesn’t currently fit the spontaneous and immediate nature of the band as it stands. But in spite of this, and behind the surface theatrics, the signs are promising. One to watch…

Thumpermonkey, 2015

Dub Trio + Thumpermonkey (Nightshift/Rock-A-Rolla @ The Underworld, 174 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 0NE, Sunday 15th November 2015) – price – information – tickets

On the following Sunday,  Dub Trio return to London, bringing their live dub/rock skills and their interdependent mutually-looping interactions back to the stage of the Underworld. Here’s a long clip of a full, relatively recent show to get you in the mood.

In support are London’s Thumpermonkey (another bunch of ‘Misfit City’ regulars) whose intricately-constructed heavy post-progressive sound is in some ways the antithesis of Dub Trio’s semi-spontaneous instrumental tightrope act. I’d argue that that was the joy of a well-arranged rock gig – in this case, the contrast between two equally deft, clever and complementary bands keeps one’s brain fizzing away happily, and you leave the gig feeling smarter and more alive than you did when you arrived. Certainly Thumpermonkey’s crammed and ingenious musical constructions, topped off with Michael Woodman’s theatrical songlines and multi-layered lyrics, remain one of the current underrated treasures of British rock.

* * * * * * *

If ‘ve got a moment over the next few days, I’ll post up something on the London Jazz Festival and on The End – failing that, more November gig news to follow.

June 2015 – some videos – Tim Bowness, William D. Drake, Thumpermonkey

2 Jun

A few videos to pass the time.

Firstly, here’s the newest video from Tim Bowness, promoting the lead single from next month’s ‘Stupid Things That Mean The World’ album. The Great Electric Teenage Dream features a cut’n’paste scratch effort built up from fragments from the Prelinger archive.

While I’m limbering up for a big William D. Drake catchup (reviews of this month’s ‘Revere Reach’ album and its predecessor ‘The Rising Of The Lights’), here’s the uproarious Chaos Engineers video from the former’s lead single. ‘Distant Buzzing’ features appearances, on- or off-video, from assorted Drake associates – the Larcombe Brothers (from Stars In Battledress), Dug Parker (from North Sea Radio Orchestra), Stuffy Gilchrist and many others…including a certain sordid, waxy tyrant from the 1980s. And a donkey.

Finally, do you ever hear anyone complaining bitterly that all of the artistry has gone out of rock vocals? If so, play them this video of Thumpermonkey‘s Woody recording voicework for the band’s upcoming album, and watch a grin breaking like sunrise across their face. (I don’t cover Thumpermonkey enough in this blog. That’s going to change.)

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