Tag Archives: Moonshake

December 2015 – upcoming gigs, London and elsewhere – classical/folk/songwriter fusion with James McVinnie, Mara Carlyle, Liam Byrne and HART at Daylight Music; an experimental boilup at St Johns Hackney with Faust/Nurse With Wound/Cut Hands; and some Sunday jazz (Chris Laurence Quartet with Henry Lowther in Crouch End and LUME’s Deemer/Survival Skills show at the Vortex). Plus Tom Slatter’s steampunk prog acoustica in Winchester, a Gong spinoff in Brighton (with Dave Sturt, Kavus Torabi & Ian East), Ray Dickaty’s Noise Of Wings in Warsaw and a final Yorkshire shout from Was Is Das? (Skullflower + Tor Invocation Band at Inkfolk in Hebden Bridge)

1 Dec

There were too many gigs this week to fit into the last post – go back there for details on assorted chamber music, folk, sample pop and the Anawan gigs in New York (one of which spills over into the weekend). For my usual erratic pick of what’s on over this coming weekend, keep reading.

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Daylight Music 209, 5th December 2015

Daylight Music 209 – James McVinnie, Mara Carlyle, Liam Byrne + HART (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, UK,12.00pm) – free (suggested donation £5.00) – information

World famous organist James McVinnie makes the perfect partner for the Union Chapel’s 200-year-old Henry Willis organ. In the spirit of Christmas, James has invited his closest musical chums to share the stage with him: Mara Carlyle, Liam Byrne and HART. Together, they’ll be presenting some of their own music and doing arrangements of hidden gems and forgotten carols.

Organist James McVinnie was Assistant Organist at Westminster Abbey between 2008 and 2011 (playing for both regular and special services as well as directing the Abbey’s world-famous choir) and has held similar positions at St Paul’s and St Albans Cathedral. He appears on numerous recordings of vocal and choral music and, as a continuo player, he has appeared at most European early music festivals. In parallel to this, he is internationally renowned both as a soloist and a collaborator in new music whose boundless approach to music has lead him to collaborations with some of the world’s leading composers and performers. David Lang (winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in music), Martin Creed (winner of the 2001 Turner Prize), Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Pee Wee Ellis, Max de Wardener, Mara Carlyle and Bryce Dessner (The National) have all written works for him. He is a member of Bedroom Community, the Icelandic record label and close-knit collective comprising like-minded, yet diverse musicians from different corners of the globe. ‘Cycles’, his debut release of music written for him by Nico Muhly was released on this label in 2013 to widespread critical acclaim. 2016 will see releases of music for organ by J S Bach and Philip Glass.


Originally from Shropshire and now living in London, Mara Carlyle is a singer-songwriter, an arranger and electronic orchestrator, and a player of both ukelele and musical saw. The child of musical parents (with whom she played in assorted folk projects from childhood) and the product of classical training, she’s also the possessor of an eclectic taste as much enthused by A-Ha and Amerie as by Henry Purcell.Initially known as a guest singer on a succession of Plaid albums between 1997 and 2001, she released her first solo album in 2004. Mara’s own work blends her operatic voice with classical structures, torch jazz and electronic flourishes. In addition to her own original material, she specialises in interpretations and adaptations from the classical, baroque, Romantic and modern-classical canon including works by Handel, Purcell (Dido’s Lament), Robert Schumann (whose Ich Grolle Nicht was the basis of her single I Blame You Not), Walford Davies and Jacques Offenbach. Since 2014 she’s been part of the presenting team on Late Junction. Mara is currently in the process of recording her third album.


Liam Byrne divides his time between playing very old and very new music on the viol. With the firm belief that baroque music can be vibrant and expressive on its own terms, Liam’s solo work regularly explores lesser known corners of the 16th and 17th century repertoire. For several years he was a member of Fretwork, and has also toured and recorded with the Dunedin Consort, The Sixteen, Le Concert d’Astrée, i Fagiolini, Concerto Caledonia, and the viol consorts Phantasm and Concordia, among many others. Liam’s interpretative curiosity has also led him to work increasingly with living composers, and he has had new solo works written for him by Edmund Finnis, Nico Muhly, Valgeir Sigurðsson and others. Beyond the realm of classical music, he has worked with a wide variety of artists including Nils Frahm, Matthew Herbert, Martin Parker and The Hidden Cameras. He has played a significant musical role in the creation of several large-scale operatic works: Damon Albarn’s ‘Dr Dee’, Shara Worden’s ‘You Us We All’ , and Valgeir Sigurðsson’s ‘Wide Slumber’ . In 2015 he will undertake a new project with Belgian ensemble Baroque Orchestration X and Icelandic musician Mugison. Liam plays a 7-string bass viol by John Pringle, a 6-string bass by Marc Soubeyran, and a treble viol by Dietrich Kessler, which is graciously on loan from Marc Soubeyran.

Described as possessing “one of the most noteworthy male voices of the last twenty years,” (‘For Folk’s Sake‘), singer/songwriter Daniel Pattison trades under the project name of HART. Featuring elements of dream-pop, folk, avant-garde psychedelic rock, electronica and contemporary classical songcraft, his debut EP ‘Songs Of The Summer’ (featuring string arrangements from Nico Muhly) was released in October this year).

Playing in-between on this weeks festive edition will be singer songwriter Harry Strange, a singer-songwriter from London currently working on his first EP.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh4QI2necOg

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If all of that sounds too genteel, the same evening brings this triple-legend concert of experimental and industrial music heroes (also in a church). Putting this one on is a real point of pride for the organisers, who describe it as “a dream line up for us as we are all very heavily influenced by each of these artists. It will be an amazing show and the last one of 2015 from us.” I’ve just seen that tickets for the concert are selling out even as I post this – so move fast.

Faust/Cut Hands/Nurse With Wound @ St John Sessions, 5th December 2015

Faust/Nurse With Wound/Cut Hands (St John Sessions & Thirtythree Thirtythree @ St John at Hackney Church, Lower Clapton Road, Clapton, London, E5 0PD, UK, Saturday 5th December 2015, 7.30pm) – £18.15 – informationtickets

Roadmaking equipment onstage, self-invented instruments, performers who refuse to conform even to standard roles of getting onstage and playing…if any or all of this sounds familiar (or even the kind of thing that’s mentioned in ‘Misfit City’ every other week) it’s because Faust set the blueprints at the start of the 1970s, or at least brought them into the world of popular music. An inspiration for innumerable questioning music-makers for over forty years, the band (or, more accurately, the collective event which calls itself Faust) have maintained the same sense of spontaneity, constructive pranking, rude assertion and open-ended possibilities throughout an erratic and frequently interrupted existence.

Initially assembled and pitched (by record producer/journalist-philosopher Uwe Nettelbeck) as a counter-cultural boy band for the lucrative but conservative German record market in 1970 – as if they were a Hamburg take on The Monkees – Faust showed their true avant-garde colours immediately and deliberately. Only a rock band in the very loosest sense of the word (perhaps only their electric instrumentation, amplification, time of emergence and love of rough immediacy really plugs them into the genre), their music has combined free improvisation, garage-band jamming, a pre-punk inspiration-over-technique aesthetic and a distinctly Dada perspective. Stories about perverse, inspired experimentation and behaviour in the face of an increasingly bewildered and irritated music industry have passed into legend: rebellions which seem, for once, to have been essential and genuinely inseparable from the band’s music creation (even from their very existence). Today’s Faust may be mining a tradition rather than breaking new ground, but even as the original members pass through their sixties and into their seventies they retain their commitment to the methodology they unearthed.

To be honest with you, I’ve got only the faintest idea about which of the parallel current incarnations of Faust (each featuring various different original members) is playing in London this coming week, although the evidence is pointing towards a grouping of Zappi W. Diermaier/Jean Herve Péron/Maxime Manac’h/Uwe Bastiansen). The members themselves seem particularly unconcerned: Péron has never much concerned himself with rules and (in an eminently readable interview with ‘The Quietus’) founding organist/noise-marshaller Hans Joachim Irmler from the other main faction has confessed “our idea was that all six original members could be Faust but there should never be two Fausts at the same time. It was an agreement but the version of Faust based around Diermaier, Péron and [Amaury] Cambuzat broke the rules, in a way. It took a little while for me to get used to it but now I think… ‘Why not?!'” If they don’t mind, maybe we shouldn’t either. Increasingly, Faust is of more an idea than a band, per se – or perhaps it’s best to call them a travelling opportunity, an open mind; a self-contained performance space.

For three decades and over fifty releases, sonic collage project and “purveyor of sinister whim to the wretched” Nurse With Wound (predominantly the work of Steven Stapleton) has been drawing directly on nearly every musical genre imaginable, mixing them up via tape loops, samples and whichever methods work to illustrate Stapleton’s curiosity and sense of humour, itself influenced by surrealism, Dada and absurdism (which explains why John Cage, filched easy-listening and snatches of kosmiche could be rubbing shoulders on any given NWW track). The project’s music is also informed by Stapleton’s keen visual and fine-art sensibilities, reflecting his other work as painter and sculptor.

Originally the key figure in transgressive 1980s power electronics band Whitehouse, William Bennett has been exploring “Afro-noise” under the Cut Hands moniker since 2008. The project is heavily inspired by William’s fascination with Haitian vaudou, deploying Central African percussion in radical new ways and generating an intense sound unrivalled in its physical and emotional intensity. In a recent interview with ‘Self Titled‘, William has commented “with Cut Hands, one of the original intents was to try and achieve the same kinds of emotional transformation through polyrhythmic percussion where once words were used… I confess there is a bit of a crazy, beardy New Age composer trying desperately to break free.”

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If you’re in Winchester that night, rather than in London, and you fancy a bit of budget-imaginarium fun, I can point you towards this…

Tom Slatter (Heart Of Saturday Night @ The Art Café, 2 De Lunn Buildings, Jewry Street, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 8SA, UK, Saturday 5th December 2015, 7.30pm) – free (donations encouraged) – information

record-tomslatter-ftfThis is Tom’s last gig of the year (although he’s got a few lined up for both London and Brighton in early 2016) and it’s free entry, though a hat might be passed around at some point for donations – possibly the topper which Tom is famous for wearing while he delivers his Victoriana prog songs.

I might as well requote my quick description of Tom from a few months ago, since he’s cheerfully seized on at least part of it for himself – “Tom describes his work as “the sort of music you’d get if Genesis started writing songs with Nick Cave after watching too much ‘Doctor Who'”, while one of his occasional collaborators, Jordan Brown of airy London prog-poppers The Rube Goldberg Machine, calls him “a sci-fi storyteller with a penchant for odd time signatures and soundscapes.” Both descriptions ring true but fail to pinpoint the cheerfully pulpy weird-fiction exuberance of Tom’s work as a one-man band. He’s a man not just happily out of his time, but making a virtue of it – a latter-day Victorian street-theatre barker with a guitar promising tales of mystery, imagination, ‘orrible murders and bloody great waving tentacles.”

For a second opinion, try this from ‘The Progressive Aspect‘ – “Tom is an engaging singer with a resonant voice and an unorthodox songwriter whose songs push the boundaries of what can be expected from the solo acoustic guitar troubadour, straying into the darkest of corners. There is a strange mind at work here but one that makes for a compelling and fascinating listen.”

Recorded and live tasters below…

Meanwhile, over in Brighton, there’s something for the psychedelic crew:

Inspiral Trio & The Fibroid Nebulae @ Real Music Club, Brighton, 5th December 2015

Inspiral Trio + The Fibroid Nebulae (The Real Music Club  @ The Prince Albert, 48 Trafalgar Street, BN1 4ED Brighton, England, Saturday 5th December 2015, 8.00pm) – £8.80-£11.00 – information – tickets

The Real Music Club is delighted to present an intimate night of highly eclectic music.

Within Inspiral Trio, three current members of Gong explore their harmonious musical synergy. Dave Sturt (bass guitarist and composer) has worked with Gong, Bill Nelson, Steve Hillage, Jade Warrior and Cipher. His solo album ‘Dreams & Absurdities’ will be released on Esoteric Antenna on October 30th. Ian East (sax/woodwinds player and composer) has worked in multiple genres, from Gong to Balkanatics. Ian is currently producing a solo album to be released in 2016. Kavus Torabi (guitarist, singer and composer) has worked with Cardiacs, Gong, Knifeworld, Guapo and Mediavel Baebes – much of his work can be found on his own label, Believers Roast. Solo sets from each man (with Kavus promising some acoustic renditions of tunes from the forthcoming Knifeworld album in his one) will be followed by an improvised set from all three players together. Come and enjoy a tasteful melange of solo and triadic creations from these unique musicians.

The Fibroid Nebulae was formed by Damned/Sumerian Kyngs keyboardist Monty Oxymoron after opening the Real Music Club’s ‘Drones4Daevid’ gig in February 2015. The band consists of Monty (keyboards and vocals), Francesca Burrow (vocals, sax, clarinet and keyboards), Dave Berk (of Jonny Moped) on drums and vocals, Andy Power (Sumerian Kyngs) on bass and the Real Music Club’s own Gregg McKella (Paradise 9/Glissando Guitar Orchestra/Peyote Guru/Gregg & Kev) on synthy bits, vocals, guitar and glissando guitar. The Fibroid Nebulae play offbeat tracks and fuse their own styles and quirks with some lo-fi groove psychedelia, ambient sounds and Krautrock – taking in Soft Machine, Gong, Neu! and Pink Floyd along the way!

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Increasingly, Sunday night in these listings seems to be the night for jazz – or near-jazz. Something accessible’s going on in Crouch End, just down the road from ‘Misfit City’; something spikier’s in preparation at the Vortex over in Dalston; and a thousand miles away in Warsaw, an old favourite’s taking a new step.

In order of proximity, then..

The Chris Laurence Quartet with guest Henry Lowther (Sunday Night Jazz @ The Supper Room, Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre, The Broadway, Crouch End, London, N8 9JJ, UK, Sunday 6th December 2015, 8.00pm) – £11.00 – informationtickets

Chris Laurence Quintet @ Three Sundays of Inspiration Music, 6th December 2015For several decades, Chris Laurence has skilfully straddled the worlds of British jazz, British classical and British popular music without compromising his artistry in any of them. He’s played double bass on tracks by Elton John, Sting or David Gilmour and spent many years as principal double bassist with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and the London Bach Orchestra; but the prime outlet for his melodic, propulsive playing has always been jazz, whether he’s been working in controlled explosions with free-jazz drummer Tony Oxley or in more measured compositional jazz space with Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor or John Surman.

His own Chris Laurence Quartet has been active since the mid-2000s, with the other three members being vibraphonist Frank Ricotti (a longtime Laurence collaborator and bandleader in his own right, as well as being a British percussion-session legend) and past/present Loose Tubes players John Parricelli (guitar) and Martin France (drums). Their lone album to date – 2007’s ‘New View’ – includes Laurencian takes on compositions by Wheeler, Surman, Taylor, Stan Sulzmann, Joni Mitchell and Andy Laverne. As well as featuring guest appearances from Norma Winstone, it also showcases the interplay of Chris’ vigorous bass playing and the subtle implicatory musicianship of his cohorts.

For this particular concert, Henry Lowther (whose five-decades-plus career of playing has seen him grace work by Mike Westerbrook, Gil Evans, Talk Talk, John Dankworth and many others including various jazz orchestras) will be guesting on trumpet. The Quartet is playing as part of a brief Three Sundays of Inspirational Music season at Hornsey Town Hall, which concludes on the 6th and features various jazz, baroque and classical performances.

Deemer, 2015

Deemer + Survival Skills (LUME @ The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, Dalston, London, N16 8AZ, UK, Sunday 6th December 2015, 7.30pm) – £11.00 – informationtickets

The next concert’s billed as “a special evening of improvised music with electronics” and hangs onto whatever jazziness it has by its fingertips alone: but if you’re interested in creative spontaneous music, don’t let that put you off in the slightest.

Deemer is the brain-child of Merijn Royaards and Dee Byrne. Deemer started life in 2006 as a weekly improvisation/electronics session in a warehouse in Hackney Wick. The project has since evolved into an installation/performance based electro-acoustic two-piece orchestra, whose aural narratives are created within fluid frameworks that map a trajectory in time, but leave the sonic textures and compositions entirely free and undetermined. Deemer employ, among other things, alto saxophone, analogue electronics, tape, transducer microphones/speakers to instantly compose, activate space, and blur the boundaries between free jazz and sound installation. They are releasing their debut album ‘Interference Patterns’ on Monday 7th December on the new LUME record label, Luminous.

Chris Sharkey, 2015Survival Skills is the solo project of Chris Sharkey (trioVD, Acoustic Ladyland, Shiver). It has no fixed instrumentation but the music is often comprised of various processed layers created in real time by hardware including synths, sequencers, cassette recordings, vocals and guitar – the results have been described as “a lo-fi vision of mangled techno, where beats cluster and stumble in their fight for dominance; a highly intriguing piece of noise art…” (‘Data Transmission‘).

 

Noise of Wings (Staromiejski Dom Kultury, Rynek Starego Miasta 2, 00-272 Warsaw, Poland, Sunday 6th December 2015, 7.00pm) – 20 zł – information – tickets on the door, one hour before concert

Noise Of Wings

Saxophonist Ray Dickaty has travelled a long way in twenty-odd years – both geographically (Liverpool and London, via assorted world tours, to Warsaw) and musically (British avant/alt-rock with Spiritualized, Moonshake and Gallon Drunk, then the brutal jazzpunk of Solar Fire Trio, and his current work as an improviser). Now embedded deep in experimental jazz (plus a host of projects around the Warszawa Improvisers Orchestra) he’s stepping out as a frontline composer. For Noise Of Wings, Ray twins his tenor sax with that of Maciej Rodakowski, adding avant-garde double bass player Wojtek Traczyk and polygenre drummer Hubert Zemler to form a quartet playing “inside and outside” Ray’s own written pieces.

Though the project’s influences and ingredients come from Terry Riley, Ornette Coleman, “mediaeval darkness”, drone culture and Albert Ayler free-forming, Ray claims that the final results“are not free jazz blowout music; this is a carefully considered sonic palette… It may be considered dark ambient jazz, with a hint of contemporary classical: melodic and yet full of interesting twists and turns… The saxes are pushed to their limits sonically and all the time the volume is kept down.” The project is still too young for me to be able to provide any sonic evidence, but this December gig at Warsaw’s Staromiejski Dom Kultury is being pitched as “a very special concert in a very special sounding room” and will be recorded live for rapid release.

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Bringing up that last Warsaw gig reminds me that I’ve been trying to look further afield than London for news on interesting concerts, in attempts to escape the complacent gravity of the capital and my own complacence as a born-and-bred Londoner. The results can be rewarding, and although I don’t want to spend all my time as a gig-advertising service, there’s definitely some satisfaction involved in supporting people’s efforts to foster and promote interesting music away from the biggest cities and media hubs. The flipside, though, is an occasional feeling that I’ve started doing this too late.

Take this Was Ist Das? concert, for instance – the latest effort by an enthusiastic promoter and instigator of rare noise in West Yorkshire, but also the final effort. The story might not have quite such a sad ending – this thing’s coming to an end not due to disillusionment but because of the promoter emigrating – but it’s still a shame to see a gig series wink out of existence in a place where it will be missed. All the more reason to catch this particular concert before the end…

Skullflower & Tor Invocation Band @ Was Is Das?/Inkfolk, 6th December 2015Skullflower + Tor Invocation Band (Was Ist Das? @ Inkfolk @ Machpelah Mill, Station Road, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8AU, UK, Sunday 6th December 2015, 8.00pm) – price t.b.c – information – tickets on the door

The final Was Ist Das? gig before I emigrate to America and there’s only one way to go out….with a bang.

Formed in 1987, Skullflower emerged from the Broken Flag noise scene but with a sound far more guitar-driven than most of their peers. Their intense sonic assaults have been influential on such bands as Bardo Pond and Godflesh. Band leader Matthew Bower has worked with many of the leading lights of the UK underground such as Vibracathedral Orchestra, Richard Youngs, Ramleh and Colin Potter.

Tor Invocation Band is a nebulous, international unit of seasoned improvisers. As given to the light as to the dark, their exploration of space, sound, noise and sacred spaces. The exact line-up is yet to be completely confirmed but if it is what I hear it is… Well, don’t turn up late. It seems like the perfect way to end it all, with our ears ringing!

Further information – this gig’s part of the Inkfolk December gathering, sprawling from 3rd 6th December. I think that the Tor Invocation Band may have something to do with the group of improvising musicians associated with Tor Press (who run various psychedelic.drone.folk.metal.noise Tor Bookings events in Todmorden Unitarian Church a few miles from Hebden Bridge, but I can’t be sure. Meanwhile, Skullflower have the following comment on the whole affair – “On the Sixth of December we will descend on Hebden Bridge to evoke the Dakshini Force and build altars of Set/Guedhe in the Werewolf Universe with that shadow stuff that their bible calls ‘the Darkness of Aegypt’. Driving over the moors to the Calder Valley, I have seen, the world cloaked in mist below me, and only a few plateaus, like islands, left, as if the world were drowned, cleansed.” With the minimum of tweaking, that’s the band’s Christmas card written too.

Glib jokes apart, publicizing this last gig has made me feel both sad and inspired. I’m increasingly feeling that this kind of concert (not in terms of genre, but in terms of hope and pluck – small and hopeful endeavours) is what I should be plugging more. So – best of luck to the mysterious Was Is Das person as he sets up again in America, and an open and obvious invitation to everyone else: if any of you are reading this and trying to run small, committed gigs of interesting music somewhere, please get in touch.

Upcoming London gigs this weekend – Daylight Music on Saturday (with Lucy Claire & Imogen Bland/HART/Thomas Stone/Laish); Hangover Lounge on Sunday (David Callahan/The Left Outsides)

25 Jun

Two good-looking free gigs from Daylight Music and The Hangover Lounge are happening in London over the weekend. Details below.

Daylight Music 195: Lucy Claire & Imogen Bland + HART + Thomas Stone, with Laish (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN – Saturday 27th June, 12pm to 2pm) 

A Daylight Music exclusive, with the premier performance of musician Lucy Claire and dancer/choreographer Imogen Bland’s ‘Moon/Yew‘. The pair present a stark and beautiful music-and-movement exploration of Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’. The music is a mix of classical ambience, field recordings and glitchy electronics. An ethereal atmospheric sound, warm and comforting yet strange and haunting with choreography telling a tale of isolation, ritualistic acts and unclear paths ahead. It’s the first time that Daylight has welcomed a dancer to the stage, making this an even more special occasion.*

HART is the ethereal shoe-gazing dream-pop/folk project of singer/songwriter Daniel Pattison. His debut EP is out in May 2015 and features string arrangements from the acclaimed American composer Nico Muhly.

Thomas Stone creates his immersive music using contrabassoon, samplers and activated percussion, exploring themes of ritual and presence while blurring the boundaries of electronic and acoustic sound production. An enforced simplicity runs throughout the compositions – long tones underpinning slowly evolving motifs punctuated by cyclic rhythms, and gentle dissonances breaking to moments of fragile beauty.

In between the main performances this week will be shorter ones from Daniel Green, a.k.a. Laish.  A member of Brighton-based acoustic revivalists The Willkommen Collective, he’s made a name for himself as a writer and deliverer of captivating stories in song: on this occasion, however, he’ll be treating us to improvised guitar sets.

There’s a Soundcloud preview here.

Free entry, but donations are (as ever) encouraged.

Up-to-date information on the event is here.

* Actually, it’s not the first time – they had a flamenco dancer onstage last year with Ida y Vuelta. It says a lot about just how much happens at Daylight Music that they can actually forget things like that while writing their own blurb.

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In spite of fairly frequent visits to Daylight Music, so far I’ve not made it down the road to visit the affiliated Hangover Lounge (part distant cousin, part slightly-more-rumpled neighbour). If they’re going to put on more free bills like the one on this Sunday, I’ll have to make more of an effort.

David Callahan + The Left-Outsides @ The Hangover Lounge, 28th June 2015

David Callahan + The Left Outsides (The Hangover Lounge @ The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9JB, Sunday 28th June 2015, 3.00pm – free)

David Callahan is best known as the frontman – or co-frontman – of two bands. The first of these, The Wolfhounds, was a mid-’80s post-punk band associated (for good or ill) with NME’s infamous C86 cassette to which they contributed alongside The Wedding Present, a young Primal Scream, The Pastels and others. While C86 set up and juxtaposed what were to become British indie archetypes (on the one side a parochial pop of jangling guitars and under-achievement, on the other an abrasive noisiness and surreal tendencies), The Wolfhounds were always a cut above, aided by a jagged garage-noisy way with a melody and their broader conceptual focus, plus David’ smart pointed way with a lyric and his arresting vocal (a precise, razoring punk sneer a few shades away from bitter blues – imagine a less theatrical Matt Johnson, if that helps). ‘If You Know What I Mean’ has described them as “the Stooges tempered by Big Star poetics” – read some more about that here.

Much of this carried over into David’s next project, Moonshake: one of a number of diverse but loosely-affiliated East London post-rock and indietronica bands (also including Stereolab, Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis and A.R. Kane) who, for a few years, vigorously stripped out and rebooted pop and rock forms with experimental techniques. For the first few Moonshake albums (an exciting mangle of dub bass, guitar-noise and sample barrages owing equal amounts to hip hop and musique concrete), David worked in an exciting, two-headed arrangement with an equally distinctive singer-songwriter, Margaret Fiedler. When this ended in acrimony (and after Margaret wheeled away with half of the band to form Laika), David led Moonshake on his own for two further albums, adopting an increasingly cinematic and introspective approach (I’ve got a review of the last one here).

Since reuniting with a reinvigorated Wolfhounds in 2005 (a belated reunion album, ‘Middle Aged Freaks’, arrived nine years later), David has reverted to a more guitar-based sound but continued to write and record, with his broad and trenchant perspective intact. This Sunday’s solo appearance looks as if it’s going to be a rare acoustic set from him – featuring “all-new songs, sometimes in funny tunings” – but as he recently dug out his old Moonshake sampler for work with Manyfingers, he might surprise us with something a little more torrential and noisy.

I know less about the opening act, The Left Outsides, so the following is stolen straight from their Facebook page:

The Left Outsides are Mark Nicholas and Alison Cotton, a duo from Walthamstow, London who have been playing together since the winter of 2003. Both are former members of The Eighteenth Day of May and Mark is a former member of acid expressionists Of Arrowe Hill. Alison’s considerable viola skills have been put to good use in numerous bands including Saloon and Mathew Sawyer & The Ghosts. Their debut EP ‘Leaving The Frozen Butterflies Behind’ was released on the I Wish I Was Unpopular label in January 2006 and their album (titled ‘And Colours In Between’) was released in May 2007 on Transistor Records. A live album titled ‘Live At The Drop Out’ was self-released in January 2008. A 7″ single ‘The Third Light’ was released on the Hi-Beat Records label in July 2008. The Left Outsides are currently awaiting the release of their most recent album.

Up-to-date information on the Hangover Lounge gig is here.

Moonshake: ‘Dirty And Divine’ album (“like ghost trains – whistling and rattling across the room”)

10 Oct
Moonshake: 'Dirty And Divine'

Moonshake: ‘Dirty And Divine’

Even as a small chunk of mid-’90s London rediscovered how to swing and posed for Time Magazine, life carried on as usual for most of the rest of us. The weeks of quiet desperation, the litter in the corners, the urges and the grinds that don’t match up. While the Britpop scene whooped it up in the happening neighbourhoods, Moonshake were sitting up late with whitened knuckles in rented high-rise rooms, or prowling the mean streets spitting out stories.

Moonshake’s intensely visual songwriting and soundcraft always seemed born of hard-boiled cinematic overload. On 1994’s stunning ‘The Sound Your Eyes Can Follow’, lead ‘Shake Dave Callahan rubbed the unsparing urban soul-mining of The The up against The Young Gods’ overpowering walls of sampled sound, and beat both of them for sheer grit and presence. Determinedly guitar-free, taking their cornered-rat savagery from Callahan’s paint-stripping sneer and Raymond Dickaty’s ferocious arsenal of treated saxes and flutes, Moonshake’s harrowing street-literature songs were heavily sample-textured: but they travelled light and fast, drawing on tooth-rattling, uptight, Can-inflected dub grooves. They were twenty-first-century urban blues, as tough and unyielding as steel wire. Most importantly, sound was everywhere: cramming into the ears, surrounding the head with a blurred, terrifying out-of-scale world.

For some, the methodology of post-rock has served as an excuse to get lost, to unshackle yourself from precision, swallow your own guitar, womb yourself up in universal sonic tissue and drop out of language altogether. For Moonshake, it goes the other way. Callahan’s bitter, precise, dramatic language – shading his harsh sorties into hard-times lives with a poetic flair reminiscent of a punk Dickens, or of Brecht and Weill – is central. It’s just that rock instrumentation is too imprecise, too blunt to do it justice. Post-rock possibilities, and the overwhelming landscapes regurgitated by samplers is the only sensible framework for the way this band captures the world. Moonshake songs are like ghost trains – whistling and rattling across the room on forbidding, chilling loops of warped and mangled sampled sound, whirling you through a clatter of noise; dropping you into the thick of things; fucking with your sense of placement and angles, and thrusting gritty reality into your face.

‘Dirty And Divine’ is – at first hearing, anyway – more modest in its scope than ‘The Sound Your Eyes Can Follow’, That album lunged out of the speakers and went for your throat, both the epic stinking script and score for a vast, hideous film about the downside of the London experience. In comparison, ‘Dirty And Divine’ is more Mike Leigh to its predecessor’s Terry Gilliam. The ram-raided orchestra samples are pared back in favour of metallic whooshes and industrial-sump bubbling; Dickaty’s been given a free rein to mutate himself into an ensemble of mangled brass and breath. Centrally, Callahan’s songwriting emphasis has narrowed down. The clank and snap of Cranes sets the agenda, capturing the ebb and flow of a locked-down, clock-watching workforce in widescreen: “the builders are earning their daily bread / and they make sure they eat it every day at one o’clock… / The housewife’s dreams evaporate / as her husband’s nightshift ends at eight.”

Yet ‘Dirty And Divine’ also provides the backdrop for rebellions against the timeclock and the grind. Most of the album homes in on the stories of individuals. Where previous songs were a pageant of strain, entrapment and stagnation (a whore and her regulars, a protracted divorce) this record deals with what happens when frustration breaks out and escalates into quests for further, greater stimulation. The chance-addict of Gambler’s Blues gropes for a chance to be empowered, to face a challenge he can respect (“sometimes I pluck order out of the form – / I slack for a moment, the moment is gone”) but pays the price anyway: “I’m a gambler, and sometimes I lose, / but the kick’s in the playing, not paying the dues. / Always an offer I cannot refuse, / always a time-bomb I cannot defuse.”

In Exotic Siren Song, a young man hits the wide world for a perilous life of opium-dens, brothels and high stakes, keeping company with gun-runners and fraudsters, dodging pirates and police. Initially rejoicing at the chance to live by his wits, he ends up jaded, complaining “nothing now is really new.” The adrenalin-hooked petty crook on Up For Anything lives by his instincts and his appetites – “I’ll balance on the balcony, twenty-one floors high, / swinging from the vapour trails, ropes in the sky… / I can’t count the conquests and I can’t tell the time.” The buzz is still strong enough for him to dismiss the damage that will come, when “in ten year’s time I’ll be the boy with the mashed potato body. / All this champagne living on beer money, / out among the bumper-car people who never say sorry.” His counterpart, the elusive criminal in House On Fire (think Nine Inch Nails meets ‘Badlands’) has perfected the art of living on the edge. His wife may break under police questioning, his invisibility may evaporate and the law pounce on him, but he’s already working on plans for manipulating his fellow jailbirds.

He’s the exception – in most songs the downslide is never far away. Throughout the album, speed and appetite are portrayed as a drive that becomes a monkey on the back. Yet while it lasts it’s a hell of a ride. Another of Callahan’s savage stress-head characters snarls: “You’re too open, and you’re too easy. / When I’m out, I do as I damn well pleasey… / The only light I need sweeps through the window… / Keeping a monster comes in handy. / Hard candy…” To stop and think in this rolling, callous world is to invite despair.

To do him credit, Callahan unflinchingly represents this as well, offering up a couple of his most intimate songs. The make-or-break musings of Nothing But Time ponder the next step (“now I come to a fork in the road”) and weigh up possibilities: “Shall I cause some destruction that none shall understand, / undyke my finger and flood the whole land?… / I let you go and then you come back. / Shall I pick at your nature until you react?” Ultimately, plans are left perpetually hanging in weary, lonely resignation (“I’ve got my own design for something quite grand… / You can appreciate even if you don’t understand,”) all wrapped in rolling Arabian horns and the gonging sound of empty vessels.

Too late. The Taboo (swathed in flugelhorn and rippling harpstrings) surfaces at the end of the album: the last moment of awful drunken clarity before the final fall. It’s a lament for the loss of honesty – for the lost ability to be vulnerable and unveil the tender truth of yourself. Cards should be on the table, but no-one will make the move. “If I were to be really careful, / and take pride in everything I do, / I would show you what ‘really’ is – / and I can’t, ‘cos it’s taboo.” The seasick backing music swirls: vision flattens. The loved one recedes across the table, behind a wall of well- worn gambling chips and smeared shot-glasses. “If I were to show you how I feel, / would you call me blue? / If we could reach out and touch each other? / But we can’t, ‘cos it’s taboo.” Almost touching, but out of sight. House wins.

This album is a brutally compassionate mausoleum to burnout, made from raw words and cracked sinews. Lay those dusty dreams to rest.

Moonshake: ‘Dirty And Divine’
C/Z Records/World Domination Records, WDOM028CD (5032059002822)
CD-only album
Released: 4th October 1996

Buy it from:
Various suppliers, or second-hand.

Moonshake online:
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