Tag Archives: multi-instrumentalists

February/March 2019 – upcoming British folk/experimental gigs – Bell Lungs on tour with Raiments (20th February to 2nd March, various) with appearances by Despicable Zee, Michael Clark, The Nature Centre, Halcyon Jane, Tara Clerkin Trio and various DJs. Plus sundry other Bell Lungs shows in March including a København evening with Hugh Tweedie and Tanja Vesterbye Jessen, a show with David Toop and Rashad Becker, a date with Gaze Is Ghost.

16 Feb

Working with a multi-instrumental, device-heavy palette which includes guitar, harmonium, Omnichord, electric violin, lyre, bouzouki, saz, voice and a host of effects pedals, avant-folk singer/writer/sometime promoter Ceylan Hay (a.k.a. Bell Lungs) sits at the middle of a host of possible routes. Her sound incorporates post-folk and drone, dream pop, noise and free improv, psychedelia and site-specific realisations, while her psychohistorian subject matter takes in the ancient, the near-ancient and the presently numinous: probing prehistoric spaces, the ghosts of the industrial age, day-to-day feelings and the slide into a new virtual existence space via online culture.

Reflecting these overlaid levels (and what might be, at different perspective points, either shockingly near or completely occluded), her vocal delivery steps between ornamental trad-folk crenellations, feathery ambient warbles and horrific screams. You can never quite tell whether she’s going to lull you or scare you, but you know she cares about what she’s ferrying across to you.

With a new EP, the wintry ‘Wolves Behind Us‘, to promote (apparently it’s a return to folk and landscapes after recent science fiction/site-specific digressions, and is “Joan Aiken’s ‘Wolves of Willoughby Chase’, Olaf Stapledon’s ‘Last and First Men’, caravan living in the Highlands and the ancient cosmology idea of dividing the year into two halves; the opening and closing of the wolf’s mouth”), Bell’s embarking on five weeks of touring (primarily alongside Raiments) through Scotland, England, Wales, followed up by other Raiments-less shows in Scotland, England and Denmark. (She’ll also be playing in Wales next month, but more on that later…)




 
Before taking a look at the tour, let’s take a look at her tourmates. Formed on the Berlin avant-garde scene, Raiments are fronted by sing-murmurer/left-field guitarist Mano Camatsos, and they sound like a soft-stepping muttering blend of Lou Reed and Momus fronting a band that mixes lurking dark-jazz styling (hardwood clarinet burr and groove-pattering trashdrums) with the DIY rattle of Pram and the dark throb of Morphine. Mano’s wildcard guitar is a clinking noisemaker and pulse generator taking note of hip hop, of avant-garde classical extended techniques and of mysterious instruments and methods gleaned from ethnological recordings. His songwriting voice is a oddball surreal instinct leading inexorably towards songs about ants or baffling seductions.



 
Tracing their upcoming footsteps on the tour is a joy, like following a plough which turns up small treasures as it reveals what’s in the earth. It’s partly the succession of intriguing off-the-beaten-path venues – squatty art-pubs, recovered eighteenth-century coal basins, pocket cinemas and art centres, diehard folk rooms and out-of-the-way sipperys – but also the revealing of similarly off-the-wall musical talents and enthusiasts they join up with en route.

In Edinburgh, Bell and Raiments are playing with Claquer – previously three-piece improvisers Claque until they spun off their American drummer an unspecified time ago. Now it’s just the Edinburgh contingent: free/experimental guitarist Jer Reid and viola player/speaker Lisa Fannen. They deal in lo-fi clangs, loopings and scrapes and spoken word: momentary moment-music.


 
In Newcastle, the main support comes from the soft melody murmurs and drowsy, cushioned keens of ambient/improv folk duo Halcyon Jane, a Tyneside/Humberside teamup. Upfront with the voice, guitar and devices is Newcastle performance art polymath Jayne Dent, better known via her own electronic/noisy folk project Me Lost Me, in which she buffers and buffets her singing with concertinas and samplers: when she played Hull back in December, support came from local ambient electronic beatsman Halcyon Neumann, who’s worked with The Body Farmers and with Sarah Shiels and who carries out sonic explorations of “the technological vs. the archaic/the spiritual vs. the scientific/the supernatural vs. the psychological.” Together they tease out a semi-improvised border music, part weird electro-folk and part post-shoegaze wisp.

Also playing is Michael Clark, providing slurred, wise, trepidatious and crepuscular folk music with fogrolls of noise behind an acoustic guitar. Despite being a Londoner, he sounds more like a moor-dweller; or like someone who lives in the kind of port city London used to be, one in which strange tales and intimation billow up the streets with the dock mist: this time out, his strange tales are backed up by a full band.

 
I’ve encountered The Nature Centre before. Headlining the Club Integral-hosted Birmingham show above Bell Lung and Raiments, they’re an affable rural/suburban pop quartet like a four-person one-man band, sprouting banjos and clarinets and found percussion alongside their drum kit and guitars. Drawn to playing at weirder gigs, they’ve shared bills with people like Bob Drake and have their own batchful of three-minute pop songs avidly reflecting the off-kilter visions of previous English songwriter eccentrics (the Syd Barretts, Robyn Hitchcocks and Tim Smiths). Handling the in-between-bands slot is someone new to me but not new to Brum’s vinyl-istas: Moseley Folk Festival’s house DJ and Moseley Record Fair co-organiser DJ Rome, promising his own selection of crate-dug oddities and inspirations.


 
In Bristol, the DJ backup comes from “bleary-eyed staggerer” Siegfried Translator of the Grey Area radio show (another haven for intriguingly weird music from all over the globe), but the gig predominantly features the Tara Clerkin Trio: the DIY musical brainchild of a ceramicist who also seems to have a yen for gamelan/minimalist-sounding pattern tinkling sprinkled with voiceloops, friendly saxophonic intrusions and other pitch-ins from whichever musical friends she can rope in for the occasion. (At other times, she creates her own slumberous take on experimental countrified pop.)

 
The Oxford show (promoted by Divine Schism) is primarily a launch event for the second EP by Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani, a.k.a. Despicable Zee – a live-looper, improviser and conscious patterner of fifteen years standing, mixed Anglo/Irish/Iranian heritage, and a history of drumming in Oxford bands since her teens. Now the drums (plus loopstations and recordings) are used to create live solo tracks in which Zee employs a lo-fi, lo-technique approach to overlapping rhythm garlands and triggered conversations. As an artist (as well as an educator and mother), Zee’s increasingly conscious of the female lines she carries within her: the patched-in samples which wobble her current project along feature the voices of her mother and grandmother, mingling with Zee’s own sing-speak-raps as if they’ve dropped by for some kind of experimental music cross-cultural kaffee klatsch.


 
The London show (at Paper Dress Vintage) is an evening of music and spoken word put together by promoters Spilt Milk in order to raise money and awareness for North London Action for the Homeless. Shapeshifter experimental pop poet Alabaster dePlume comperes: also in the corner is Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business, who showed up in ‘Misfit City’ a little over a year ago.

Jenny’s another artist whose field extends from the visual and situational into action and music: the Mystic Business involves pulling together friends and strangers into a collective performance event that’s part communal clapalong choir, part percussion workshop and good-natured culture-jamming protest (with food). Guileless and charming, but nonetheless political and détournementational, it’s an attempt to get collective conscience back into the body, containing and encouraging a cheerful but insistent protest.



 
The Conventry and Brighton gigs appear to feature just Bell Lungs and Raiments on their own, but news just coming in re. the Liverpool date (at dockside art-pub Drop the Dumbulls) says that support there comes from Merseyside “synthwhisperer” and outsider synthpopper Claire Welles. She’s been rolling out her contrary songs for over a decade now, singing increasingly unsettling lyrics in a deep deadpan tone with a sarcastic medicated edge, while the backings deliquesce from elegant ageless Europop into something a little misshapen. It all becomes something like those conversations during which you wake up a third of the way in, not quite sure how you got into them, not quite believing that you’re stuck in there and will just have to ride it out.



 
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Following the Raiments tour, Bell heads off separately for other shows. A mid-March showing at Manchester’s Peer Hat is a solo gig, but there’s also an Argyll event (in the enchanting recording-studio-as-art-nook surroundings of St Marys Space) at which she’s supporting baroque poptronic project Gaze Is Ghost: itinerant Northern Irish singer/songwriter/post-classical composer Laura McGarrigle, noted for “spectral vocals and impressionist piano playing” as well as drifts into harmonium and ambient atmospherics. In recent years Laura’s let Zed Penguin drummer/artist Casey Miller into the project and (following a number of pre-Casey singles), Gaze Is Ghost are finally readying a debut album as a duo.

 
A return to Glasgow on 28th March sees Bell performing on a talk’n’play bill with musicologist and audio culturer David Toop and Berlin sonicist Rashad Becker (who, having polished over a thousand records by other people spanning noise to techno, has begun stepping out into music creation of his own with the resonant faux-ethnological synthwork of ‘Traditional Music of Notional Species, Vol. I’).

On the 30th she’s back in Edinburgh to support another experimental folker, looper and performance artist: David Thomas Broughton, whose brilliantly wayward path has included looping his own heckles, blurring the line between song performance and experimental theatre. Along the way he’s released eight albums of accessible, tremulous, oddly haunting alt.folk delivered in an arresting genderless vocal tone a little reminiscent of Anthony/Anohni, and won the respect and collaborative contributions of (among others) Beth Orton, Sam Amidon, and Aidan Moffat. David will be in the early stages of his own tour, which I really should cover on its own.





 
Before any of these, though, she’s crossing the North Sea to perform at an experimental folk event in København. Part of the city’s Fanø Free Folk Festival, it’s hosted by local label Dendron Records, specializers in “small runs of abstract electronics, ghostly folk songs and surprisingly hummable tunes.” The concert will also feature two København-based British emigres Hugh Tweedie and Tanja Vesterbye Jessen. Hugh’s been operating for years under various names including The Weave And The Weft and Taiga Taiga, creating shadowy understated mostly-acoustic songs with a literary bent, and he regularly helps out with David Folkmann Drost’s homemade folk project Moongazing Hare. Previously known as a radical electric guitarist in Vinyl Dog Joy, Amstrong and Distortion Girls, Tanja recently struck out on her own with a solo debut, ‘Feeling Love’ in which she embraces and deconstructs pop songs, writing them acoustically before bringing assorted damaged amplification and effects-pedal interference to bear on them, resulting in songscapes covering a field from heavy-lidded noise-folk to cataclysmic “drone-metal disco”.




 
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Dates:

Bell Lungs & Raiments tour:

  • Henry’s Cellar Bar, 16A Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8BJ – Wednesday 20th February 2019, 7.00pm (with Claquer) – information here
  • Cobalt Studios, 10-16 Boyd Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE2 1AP, England – Thursday 21st February 2019, 7.00pm(with Michael Clark + Halcyon Jane) – information here
  • The Edge, 79-81 Cheapside, Digbeth, Birmingham, B12 0QH, England – Friday 22nd February 2019, 8.00pm (with The Nature Centre + DJ Rome) – information here and here
  • Cube Cinema, Dove Street South (off top-left of King Square), Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD, England – Sunday 24th February 2019, 8.00pm(with Tara Clerkin Trio + The Grey Area DJs) – information here and here
  • Fusion Arts, 44b Princes Street, Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1DD, England – Monday 25th February 2019, 7.30pm(with Despicable Zee) – information here
  • Paper Dress Vintage Bar & Boutique, 352a Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England – Tuesday 26th February 2019. 7.30pm (with Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business + Alabaster dePlume) – information here and here
  • The Rose Hill Tavern, 70-71 Rose Hill Terrace, Brighton, West Sussex, BN1 4JL, England – Thursday 28th February 2019, 7.00pm – information here
  • The Tin @ The Coal Vaults, Unit 1-4 Coventry Canal Basin, St. Nicholas Street, Coventry, CV1 4LY, England – Friday 1st March 2019, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Drop the Dumbulls @ The Bull, 2 Dublin Street, Liverpool, L3 7DT, England – Saturday 2nd March 2019, 7.00pm (with Claire Welles) – information here

Bell Lungs standalone dates with various others (tbc):

  • Fanø Free Folk Festival @ Alice, Norre Alle 7, DK-2200 København N, Norway – Monday 4th March 2019, 7.00pm(with Hugh Tweedie + Tanja Vesterbye Jessen) – information here
  • St Marys Space, Fasnacloich, Argyll, Scotland, PA38 4BJ – Saturday 9th March 2019, 7.00pm(supporting Gaze Is Ghost) – information here
  • The Peer Hat, 14-16 Faraday Street, Manchester M1 1BE – Thursday 14th March 2019, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Stereo/The Old Hairdressers, 20-28 Renfield Lane, Glasgow, G2 5AR, Scotland – Thursday 28th March 2019, 7.00pm (with David Toop + Rashad Becker) – information here and here
  • The Waverley, 3-5 St. Mary’s Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1TA, Scotland – Saturday 30th March 2019, 9.00pm (supporting David Thomas Broughton) – information here

August-December 2018 – upcoming British and Irish rock gigs – Kiran Leonard on tour (26th August to 5th December, various)

20 Aug

Between late August and early December, the unsettlingly-talented Kiran Leonard will be making his way through England, Ireland and Scotland on a sporadic but wide-ranging tour; preparing for and celebrating the mid-October release of his new album, ‘Western Culture‘.

The first of Kiran’s albums to be recorded in a professional studio with a full band, ‘Western Culture’ comes at the tail-end of a comet-spray of home-made releases. Over the course of these, he’s leapt stylistically between the vigorous home-made eclectic pop of ‘Grapefruit’ and ‘Bowler Hat Soup’, sundry pop and rock songs (including twenty-plus-minute science fiction doom epics and explosive three-minute celebrations), the yearning piano-strings-and-yelp literary explorations of ‘Derevaun Seraun’ and the lo-fi live-and-bedroom song/improv captures of ‘Monarchs Of The Crescent Pail’ and ‘A Bit of Violence With These Old Engines’ (all of this punctuated, too, by the scrabbling electronica paste he releases as Pend Oreille and the prolonged experimental piano/oddments/electronics pieces he puts out as Akrotiri Poacher).

As much at home with kitchen metals as with a ukelele, a piano, or a fuzzy wasp-toned guitar solo, Kiran’s cut-up titles and his wild and indulgent genre-busting complexities are reminiscent of Zappa or The Mars Volta, while his budget ingenuity and fearless/compulsive pursuit of thoughts and his occasional psychic nakedness recall outsider bard Daniel Johnston. On top of that, he’s got the multi-instrumental verve of Roy Wood, Prince or Todd Rundgren; and his stock of bubbling energy and eccentric pop bliss means you can toss Mike Scott, Fyffe Dangerfield or Trevor Wilson into the basket of comparisons, though you’ll never quite get the recipe right.



 

As before, Kiran’s out with his usual band (Dan Bridgewood-Hill on guitar, violin and keyboards, Andrew Cheetham on drums, Dave Rowe on bass), which propels him into something nominally simpler – a ranting, explosive, incantatory mesh of art punk and garage-guitar rock which might lose many of the timbral trimmings of the records, but which is riddled with plenty of rhythmic and lyrical time bombs to compensate; a kind of punky outreach. Most of the dates appear to be Kiran and band alone, though supports are promised (but not yet confirmed or revealed) for Dublin, Brighton, Birmingham, Newcastle and Norwich; and his festival appearances at This Must Be The Place, End of the Road and Ritual Union will be shared with other acts aplenty. No doubt all details will surface over time.


 
What we do know is that the August date in London will also feature Stef Ketteringham, the former Shield Your Eyes guitarist who now performs splintered experimental blues: previewing his appearance in Margate last month, I described his playing as being “like an instinctive discovery: more punk than professorial, bursting from his gut via his heart to tell its shattered, hollered, mostly wordless stories and personal bulletins without the constraint of manners or moderation. For all that, it’s still got the skeleton of blues rules – the existential moan, the bent pitches and percussive protest that demand attention and serve notice of presence.” Judge for yourselves below.


 

The first Manchester date – in September – will be shared with Cult Party and The Birthmarks. The former’s the brainchild of Leo Robinson: multi-disciplinary artist, Kiran associate and songwriter; a cut-back Cohen or Redbone with a couple of string players to hand, delivering dry understated daydream folk songs (from the Americana mumble of Rabbit Dog to the twenty-minute meander of Hurricane Girl, which goes from afternoon murmur to chopping squall mantra and back again). The latter are long-running Manchester cult indie rock in the classic mold – over the years they seem to have been a clearing house or drop-in band for “people that are or have been involved with Sex Hands, Irma Vep, Klaus Kinski, Aldous RH, Egyptian Hip Hip, Human Hair, Sydney, lovvers, TDA, Wait Loss and many more.”



 
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Dates as follows:

(August 2018)

  • This Must Be The Place @ Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen, 1-1A Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, Yorkshire, LS2 8JP, England, Sunday 26th August 2018, 1.00 pm (full event start time) – information here and here
  • The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England, Wednesday 29th August 2018, 7.30pm (with Steff Kettering) – information here and here
  • End Of The Road Festival (Tipi Stage) @ Larmer Tree Gardens Tollard Royal, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 5PY, England, Thursday 30th August 2018, 9.45 pm – information here and here

(September 2018)

  • Partisan, 19 Cheetham Hill Road, Strangeways, Manchester, M4 4FY, England, Saturday 8th September 2018, 7.30pm (with Cult Party + The Birthmarks) – information here and here

(October 2018)

  • Ritual Union festival @ The Bullingdon, 162 Cowley Rd, Oxford, OX4 1UE, Saturday 20th October 2018, 11.00am (full event start time) – information here, here and here
  • The Cookie, 68 High Street, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE1 5YP, England, Monday 22nd October 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The Portland Arms, 129 Chesterton Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB4 3BA, England, Tuesday 23rd October 2018, 7.00pm – information here
  • The Boileroom, 13 Stokefields, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 4LS, England, Wednesday 24th October 2018, 7.00pm – information here, here and here
  • The Crescent Working Men’s Club, 8 The Crescent, York, Yorkshire, YO24 1AW, England, Thursday 25th October 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The Parish, 28 Kirkgate, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, HD1 1QQ, England, Friday 26th October 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The Green Room, Green Dragon Yard, Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, TS18 1AT, England, Saturday 27th October 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here

(November 2018)

  • The Roisin Dubh, Dominic Street, Galway, Ireland, Wednesday 21st November 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Whelan’s, 25 Wexford Street, Dublin 2, Ireland, Thursday 22nd November 2018, 8.00pm (with support t.b.c.) – information here and here
  • Kasbah Social Club, 5 Dock Road, Limerick, Ireland, Friday 23rd November 2018, 9.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Cyprus Avenue, Caroline Street, Cork, T12 PY8A, Ireland, Saturday 24th November 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The Green Door Store, 2-4 Trafalgar Arches, Lower Goods Yard, Brighton Train Station, Brighton BN1 4FQ, England, Monday 26th November 2018, 7.00pm (+ support t.b.c.) – information here and here
  • Soup Kitchen, 31-33 Spear Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M1 1DF, England, Wednesday 28th November 2018, 7.00pm – information here, here and here
  • The Hare & Hounds, 106 High Street, Kings Heath, Birmingham, B14 7JZ, England, Thursday 29th November 2018, 7.30pm (+ support t.b.c.) – information here and here
  • The Hug & Pint, 171 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G4 9AW, Scotland, Friday 30th November 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here

(December 2018)

  • The Cumberland Arms, James Place Street, Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE6 1LD, England, Saturday 1st December 2018, 7.30pm (+ support t.b.c.) – information here and here
  • Norwich Arts Centre, St. Benedict’s Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 4PG, England, Monday 3rd December 2018, 8.00pm (+ support t.b.c.) – information here and here
  • Rough Trade, Unit 3 Bridewell Street, Bristol, BS1 2QD, England, Tuesday 4th December 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Clwb Ifor Bach, 11 Womanby Street, Cardiff, CF10 1BR, Wales, Wednesday 5th December 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here

 

February 2018 – upcoming London gigs (folk, jazz, soul, and eclectic acoustica) – Ian Beetlestone & the Drowning Rats (10th February); Matsudisho and Alice Phelps (18th February); plus Tell Tale Tusk (12th February), Alice Zawadski’s cello-heavy Valentine Show (14th February) and Kabantu’s album launch (8th February)

5 Feb

Even more than the Magic Garden (as covered a few posts back), Camden’s Green Note serves as a London folk-boutique par excellence. Most evenings, its small café space wedges in the cream of roots acts, the care they take over choice, presentation and atmosphere often justifying the priceyness of an evening out. You get what you pay for.

Here are a few things on offer there during early February:

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Ian Beetlestone & The Drowning Rats, 10th February 2018

Ian Beetlestone & The Drowning Rats
The Basement Bar @ The Green Note, 106 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AN, England ·
Saturday 10th February 2018, 8:00pm
– information here, here and here

Plenty of charming elements and conversational topics converge in Ian Beetlestone. He’s a Yorkshireman-turned-Londoner, a pop and chanson connoisseur, a gay man and a cabbie. Several of these come together in his lively, engaging cabbie’s blog; even more of them combine in the fact that for the last couple of years Ian’s driven the capital’s first (and, to date, only) rainbow-coloured taxi (for what it’s worth, it’s becoming a much-loved city ornament both inside and outside of Pride, and he gets more stick from fellow cabbies over the Transport for London logo than he does for the LGBT+ associations).

As for the musicality, that flourishes in his all-singing acoustic trio The Drowning Rats, who offer “(a) unique combination of ratty jazz, drowned pop, magic, mystery, darkness and light to the capricious twin deities of love and song with ever pleading, hopeful eyes.” Having started up in Leeds about a decade and a half ago (and survived a subsequent re-potting in London), they’ve been the players of regular gigs in Soho (until recently, at the Blue Posts) and their home turf of Kings Cross (at the Star of Kings) as well as the Green Note.


 
With Ian’s florid piano backed by Dom Coles’ drumkit and Tom Fry’s double bass (and with occasional visitations from beery horns and assorted vocal foils), they deliver songs bursting with melody, harmony and joie de vivre; nodding to Brel and barrelhouse, Tom Waits and Paul Weller, Nina Simone and the Shangri-Las; suffused with wry reflection, wit and camaraderie. Ian rolls them out in a joyful soul growl – honey, gravel, fur and phlegm, with the hint of a romantic tenor under the wear and tear. It’s a little Tom Waits, but it’s rather more Dr John (if instead of immersing himself in the Big Easy, he’d taken a ship up the Thames estuary to found a bayoux in a London canal basin).

If you’re specifically after queerness, you’ll find it in the subtle and rosy sexual glow which illuminates many of the songs like fireside warmth, and also in the elastic inclusive community etched out in hints and amongst the broader scope of Ian’s songwriting. Inclusivity’s the word, in fact: there’s little details and easter eggs sown throughout the songs if you want to pick them up and decode them, but in general it’s all woven together with subtlety and open-heartedness. You can walk through their door and enjoy epic magic-realist power ballads about the A40, jaunts around the concerns, compromises and evasions of friendships, sly ballads which put the boot into Soho gentrification, and cheerfully apocalyptic accounts of mornings-after… all without worrying that you need to belong to any particular club. Although, in the extremely cosy confines of the Green Note’s basement bar, you’ll soon feel as if you do belong to one.



 
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Matshidiso + Alice Phelps
The Green Note, 106 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AN, England
Sunday 18th February 2018, 8:30pm
– information here, here and here

Matshidiso, 2017
I’m not sure just how hard you have to work, just how much you have to do, blossom and branch out before you burst the “secret” side of “well-kept secret” wide open. I would have thought that Matshidiso would have reached that point a long time ago.

Music flows through pretty much everything she lives and does, stemming from the cosmopolitan stew of her upbringing (a native Londoner with Jamaican and Sotho heritage, a classical piano trainee with a parallel love of soul, hip-hop and the cream of 1970s singer-songwriters) and blossoming into her realisation of herself as do-it-all artist – on-call pianist and singer, producer/writer/arranger for herself and for others. Sometimes a band leader, always a constant communicator, Matshidiso has led creative workshops; run song sessions across the internet from her own front room and played venues from the Southbank Centre to South Africa. All this and she’s also a qualified and multilingual international human rights barrister (with experience fighting sex trafficking rings in Ethiopia); a spokesperson for activism around positive African and female identity; a visiting music therapist at the Royal Marsden; a rehabilitating coach and encourager for young male offenders at various prisons; and a onetime relief worker in Haiti.

All of which would be gems on anyone’s resume (and which suggests someone who’s already learned and given back more than most of us will in an entire lifetime) but as a musician, the final proof has to be in the songs Matshidiso sings. Traditional they might be, but she’s learnt well from the craft of forebears such as Roberta Flack, Laura Nyro and Lauryn Hill, creating harmonically rich keyboard-driven work drawing from songwriter soul, gospel and pop through which she roams with self-awareness and generous interest in other people’s efforts and struggles.


 
Maybe Matshidiso’s relatively low profile is because of the fact that, despite being the best part of a decade into her career, she’s yet to record a debut album, or even that many releases. There’s been a smattering of very occasional singles; there’s been a 2012 EP of nursery rhymes reconfigured for adults (an idea that fits neatly into of what ‘The Guardian’s called her whimsical yet solicitous approach, and one that’s far more successful than its spec would suggest). In many artists this would seem to be a flaw – a shortage of the hunger, the self-assertion, the pushy pride which is needed to succeed.

I’d suggest the opposite – that Matshidiso’s artistic presence is one that’s absolutely caught up in the moment, too much so to have prioritised lumping her output down into artefacts or commodities. Her work is live, whether it’s in the concerts in which she improvises made-up-on-the-spot stories from the personal accounts of audience members, or the connection she makes with prisoners, the lost, the under-represented as part of work which goes beyond being an entertainer and engages itself with re-weaving music (with all of its connecting and healing qualities) back into the fabric of everyday life.



 

Opening the show is Leeds-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alice Phelps (who, with her full band, was delighting Daylight Music earlier in the weekend). Harpist, guitarist, pianist, violinist and rich grainy singer, Alice spins blues into folk, Irish, Chinese and otherworldly elements to create original songs and a full-bodied chamber pop. On this occasion, she’s on her own; but she’ll be back at the Green Note next month with a full ensemble of strings, harp and choir. For now, enjoy her songs in their simpler format.



 

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A few more familiar faces are showing up at the Green Note at around the same time. On 12th February, contemporary female folk ensemble Tell Tale Tusk, who work “spellbinding (and award-winning) vocal harmonies…around melodious instrumentals to reimagine folktales old and give light to folktales new” bring their harmonies and humour back to Camden Town for an evening of old and new songs. On 14th February, Alice Zawadzki – whose name has been scattered around these pages for her voice and/or violin work alone or with Sefiroth, Jamie Safir and others – presents a Valentine’s Day Special of known and unknown songs, covers and originals (assisted by dual cello improvisers Alice Purton and Shirley Smart). Or – if you fancy a different venue and a different blend of polycultural acoustica – then on 8th February Manchester world quintet Kabantu are launching their debut album down at Rich Mix in Shoreditch. Plentiful…




 

June 2017 – the month’s Daylight Music gigs in London – Jherek Bischoff, Emma Gatrill & Liam Byrne (June 3rd); Epic45, The Great Albatross, and B. J. Cole & Emily Burridge (June 10th); Louis Barabbas, Melissa Parmenter and Ben McManus & Clara Delfina (June 17th); Trans-Siberian March Band, Antony Elvin & His Men and Toby Hay (June 24th)

25 May

The people behind eclectic, free, family-friendly London event (and ‘Misfit City’ favourite) Daylight Music are swirling back into action in June with four weekly gigs to start their summer season (even if two of them aren’t nominally DM events, the Daylight imprint shows clearly). Here’s me simply boosting the existing signal…

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Daylight Music 252, 3rd June 2017

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 252 – Jherek Bischoff + Emma Gatrill + Liam Byrne
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 3rd June 2017, 12.00pm
– free event (recommended donation: £5.00) – information

“Only Jherek Bischoff would record an album in an empty, two-million-gallon underground water tank (with a reverb delay lasting forty-five seconds). A fabulously inventive and playful musician, Jherek is a mostly self-taught composer whose music dazzles, confounds and delights.

 
Liam Byrne divides his time between playing very old and very new music on the viol. ‘The Times’ praised his “nuanced and expressive, stylish virtuosity”. He’s worked with artists including Damon Albarn, Nils Frahm and Matthew Herbert, and the likes of Nico Muhly have written works for him.

 
Emma Gatrill is a multi-instrumentalist based in Brighton. Playing live, she augments her harp and vocal with ambient analogue synths and drums machines, layered with guitar atmospherics from Marcus Hamblett.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music 253, 10th June 2017
Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 253 – Epic45 + The Great Albatross + B. J. Cole & Emily Burridge
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 10th June 2017, 12.00pm
– free event (recommended donation: £5.00) – information

“The much-loved epic45 — championed by the much-missed John Peel — have been making music for over twenty years. Their celebrated EPs and albums are inspired by the ever-changing English landscapes.


 
The Great Albatross tug gently on the heartstrings with their sweetly shimmering indie songs. Formed in Glasgow by A. Wesley Chung (formerly of Boris Smile), the group has an expansive, international list of contributors and collaborators.


 
“If you had to combine any two instruments, you might not immediately think of putting cello and steel guitar together, but B. J. Cole and Emily Burridge confound expectations with their dynamic, sophisticated music. Hailed as “languorous, sensuous, moving music…amazing!” by ‘Art Nouveau’, these fine musicians weave around each other, mixing their intuitive improvisations with inspired, moving interpretations of classic pieces.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Louis Barabbas, Melissa Parmenter + Ben McManus & Clara Delfina, 17th June 2017

Arctic Circle presents:
Louis Barabbas + Melissa Parmenter + Ben McManus & Clara Delfina
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 17th June 2017, 12.00pm
– free event (recommended donation: £5.00) – information

Louis Barabbas is a Daylight Music favourite, thrilling the audience and tearing up the stage with his caustic love songs and energetic show. A writer, performer and label director, he’s performed all over the world and shared stages with acts including Motörhead, Supergrass and The Blockheads.


 
Melissa Parmenter is a well-respected film producer, who’s collaborated closely with director Michael Winterbottom over the last fifteen years, including producing all three series of ‘The Trip’ trilogy. She’s also an accomplished composer and pianist, having scored a number of films including ‘Genova’, ‘The Killer Inside Me’ and ‘Comes A Bright Day’.


 
“After repeatedly meeting at various festivals last year, Ben McManus & Clara Delfina decided to join forces to sing American old-time and bluegrass music, blending banjo, fiddle and guitar with their beautiful harmonies.”


 

* * * * * * * *

Trans-Siberian March Band, Antony Elvin & His Men and Toby Hay, 24th June 2017

Arctic Circle presents:
Trans-Siberian March Band + Antony Elvin & His Men (with Nina Miranda) + Toby Hay
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 24th June 2017, 12.00pm
– free event (recommended donation: £5.00) – information

“Summer Solstice edition…

“It’s always a party when the Trans-Siberian March Band are around! A riotous jumble of cabaret, carnival and overwhelming joy, this 13-piece Balkan brass band have delighted audiences at Glastonbury, Woman and the Royal Albert Hall. The Times called them “hugely entertaining… perfect festival crowd-pleasures.” They’ll be playing their winning mix of traditional Turkish and gypsy tunes, Russian sing-alongs and swinging klezmer.


 
Antony Elvin (“a Noel Coward for the Noel Fielding generation!’, according to Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh!) is a singer/songwriter from London. His songs take the listener out on a ridiculous spree, in ‘Perfect London’ – a London of your dreams, gaslit yet modern,­ pastoral yet subliminally violent. In a strong English accent, he sings about the characters he meets and the romances of the day without the vulgar baggage of angst. Special guest for this concert is Nina Miranda of Smoke City, Shrift and Zeep – she of ‘Underwater Love’ fame.

Toby Hay makes instrumental music inspired by the landscape, people and history of Mid Wales. A guitarist and composer, ‘Folkroom‘ claim that “he’s one of the finest storytellers… and he’s never sung a word.”


 

* * * * * * * *

As ever, there are likely to be interstitial musical acts filling in the gaps between acts (via loops, atmospheres or turns on the venue’s grand piano or massive church organ), plus late in-the-day extra recruitments. These will be announced closer to the time.

Good to see Toby Hay on one of the bills – his debut EP featured in ‘Misfit City’ several years ago, and since then he’s become a mainstay of the Lamplight acoustic nights up at Regather in Sheffield…

May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Beatrix Players + King Of The Opera (May 11th); Cosmo Sheldrake + A House In The Trees (May 12th)

2 May

A few more warmly off-kilter London gigs coming up in early May: Beatrix Players‘ elegant chamber-pop, King Of The Opera‘s rough-edged alternative folk, Cosmo Sheldrake‘s poly-instrumental Edward Lear-inspired busk whimsy, A House In The Trees‘ oblique chillout…

* * * * * * * *

Beatrix Players, 11th May 2017

Beatrix Players present:
Beatrix Players + King Of The Opera
Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6SH, England
Thursday 11th May 2017, 7:30pm
information

“Through their enchantingly dark and evocative melodies, expansive arrangements and empowered orchestral sound Beatrix Players tell stories of real life and fantasy. Citing influences as diverse as Michael Nyman and Regina Spektor and drawing comparisons to the likes of Kate Bush and Einaudi Ludovico, this London-based, all-female trio combine elements of folk, jazz, progressive and classical music.

“In 2015 the band took their unique sound – a beautiful combination of vocals, piano and cello – into the studio to record their self-produced debut album, which has been mixed by two-time BBC Folk Award winner, Jim Moray. That album, titled ‘Magnified’, is now brought to you in an evening with musicians from the album: Robyn Hemmings on double bass, Maria Kroon on violin, Emanuela Monni on percussion, Jez Houghton on French horn. Pop/soul/funk choir Sound will also be joining in.”



 
King Of The Opera (formerly known as Samuel Katarro) is the musical project of Alberto Mariotti – a songwriter from Tuscany, Italy – first introduced to the public at the renowned Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona in the Spring of 2012. The project’s strength lies in its continuous search of the meeting points between seemingly irreconcilable genres: distorted punk-blues, bewildered (and bewildering) folk ballads and digressions into the acid realm of psychedelia.

“In 2016 King Of The Opera released his new album ‘Pangos Sessions’, ten songs that summarize his musical career in a pretty original way, alternating acoustic reinterpretations from the King Of The Opera/Samuel Katarro songbook and five cover songs (originally released in Mariotti’s birth year, 1985), by The Cure, The Waterboys, The Replacements, Tom Waits and Sonic Youth. The collection also includes the unreleased alt-folk-ballad By The Shore.”


 

 
* * * * * * * *

Cosmo Sheldrake, 12th May 2017

Rockfeedback presents:
Cosmo Sheldrake + A House In The Trees
The Moth Club, Old Trades Hall, Valette Street, Hackney, London, E9 6NU, England
Friday 12th May 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Cosmo Sheldrake is a twenty-five-year-old multi-instrumentalist musician, composer and producer. He regularly performs on banjo, loop station, keyboards, double bass, drums, penny whistle, sousaphone, accordion and many more. He is an inspirational singer and improviser, and much of his work is concerned with play, nonsense and the sonorous environment.

“Cosmo composes music for film and theatre and tours internationally, performing solo and with several bands including Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit and the Gentle Mystics. He ran a community choir until 2013, teaches in schools and privately and has facilitated music workshops and youth empowerment and nature awareness camps across Europe and North America.”



 
Support comes from smooth and hallucinatory dark-pop/trip hop act A House In The Trees, the core of New Cross’ Rising Sun Collective.


 

July 2016 – upcoming and ongoing gigs – some pickings from the Frome Festival, west of England (1st-10th)

2 Jul

While I missed the chance to plug the Sin Eater Festival a few weeks ago, I’m just about in time for the modest fireworks which herald the Frome Festival in Wiltshire.

I’m too late to plug the opening party (in which Frome’s own electro-poppers Sweet Machine shared a bill with psychedelic synth-cabarettier, rock biographer and all-round performance character Alan Clayson); I don’t have much to say about the festival’s big-draw act Reef (currently enjoying a new revival of their original ‘90s revival of 70s blues-rock); and I feel sorry that the free gig by “ukular fusion” band The Mother Ukers doesn’t involve furious Mahavishnukulele jazz shredding (instead of being a variation on banjo-happy rockgrass covers). But there’s plenty more on offer, so here are a few other things picked out from the billing.

It’s by no means everything on offer (the festival’s full of visual art, talks and theatre; there’s plenty more jazz and classical; and there’s a show by Billy Bragg which will probably take care of itself) but these represent the bits-between-the-bits which are closest to ‘Misfit City’s natural constituency (if such a thing exists).

* * * * * * * *

The Magical Folk Garden @ The Archangel, 1 King Street, Frome, BA11 1BH, England
Tuesday 5th-Friday 8th July 2016, 7.30pm each night
– information: Tuesday 5th / Wednesday 6th / Thursday 7th / Friday 8th

At the upstairs room at the Archangel pub, The Magical Folk Garden continues to turn itself into an annual institution with a series of cushion-strewn/standing-room-only unplugged gigs, creating a “euphonious forest of folk and contemporary acoustic music from some of the UK’s finest talents.” It’s all pretty well-scrubbed and tasteful – there’s nothing to scare the horses here. That said, a few of the performers might own horses, and some might whisper them; while a few might go all ‘Poldark’ and ride off on one, bareback and bare-chested, a honey-coloured guitar bouncing up and down on the withers (it all probably depends on the state of the booze and the pollen count).

The Tuesday show features two Bath acts – lit-pop cello-and-guitar duo The Bookshop Band and romantic solo-balladeer Tom Corneill – plus the sunny pure-pop/psychedelic fizz of Trowbridge’s The Pigeons.


The Wednesday show has a band-backed performance from Frome’s Al O’Kane (a gravel-and-honey country-blues-folker who, with his mix of rolling American roots guitar and British mysticism, can come across as a one-man ‘Led Zeppelin III’). Also playing are Alex Taylor (bouncy, jazz-and-funk-tinged, broadening his sound and filling out his pockets with pedals and loops) and young songwriter Emma Shoosmith, whose output has ranged from thoughtful folkified Taylor Swift covers to the lilting ska-tinted song shown below.




 

The Thursday show has a chamber-folk air. Bookshop Band multi-instrumentalist Beth Porter returns with her own augmented-string quartet band The Availables and her own clutch of intricate literary songs. Also on board are the strings, percussion rustles and detailed guitar of Rivers Of England (fronted by Rob Spaulding) who, although they take on some pretty familiar modern folk tropes, land them in an interesting marginal territory in which the early-’70s John Martyn and the early-’80s Julian Cope sit down to exchange lines and tips. The bill’s completed by the lost-boy charm of Avebury singer-songwriter (and Nick Harper protégé) George Wilding with his warm, abstracted songs of distraction and heartbreak (simultaneously soothing and haunting).




 

The Friday folk-final involves wayward Bristol-and-Bath folk septet The Cedar. Beth Porter makes her third Magical Folk Garden appearance of the week as the band’s cellist, alongside five other musicians. Playing a variety of instruments and implements (from guitar, glockenspiel, viola, organ and ukulele to calculator, screwdriver, musical and tri-square) they weave Neil Gay’s slightly distracted songs into a musical fabric that’s sometimes Belle-&-Sebastian communal, sometimes music-school precise, and sometimes as frayed as a scrap-basket oddment.

The rest of the evening gently mixes Western with Western. Accompanying herself on guitar, baritone ukulele, harmonium or shruti box, Bradford-on-Avon’s Jess Vincent delivers a set of original country-folk songs with a sound and demeanour that’s seen her compared to both Iris DeMent and Kate Bush. Evening openers Ali George and Ruby Brown do their own take on Gram-and-Emmylou duets, filtered through Ali’s trunkful of original English folk/clawhammer guitar songs.




 

* * * * * * * *

The town’s Rook Lane Chapel arts centre is hosting plenty of events. These two in particular caught my ear:

Snowapple
Rook Lane Chapel, Bath Street, Frome, BA11 1DN, England
Thursday 7th July 2016, 7:30pm
information

Snowapple is an outstanding female harmony trio from Amsterdam who draw on folk, classical and chanson influences, in unique, charming and beautiful arrangements of original songs. Having sold out the Granary for the last two years, Snowapple have earned a reputation all over Europe and the US, and this year appear in the perfect setting of Rook Lane Arts.”

Praying For The Rain
Rook Lane Chapel, Bath Street, Frome, BA11 1DN, England
Friday 8th July 2016, 8.00pm
information

From the blurb: “Known for their dynamic and compelling live performances, Praying For The Rain blend contemporary folk, Celtic and world music with irresistible rhythms, memorable melodies, beautifully crafted vocals and inspired musicianship. Their music brings to mind a modern blend of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Robert Plant, to Fleet Foxes and the Dave Matthews Band, creating a truly uplifting experience. Following last year’s sell out concert, Praying for the Rain return to Rook Lane for Frome Festival 2016. Expect an exhilarating night of high energy, movement and wonderfully engaging songs.“

I’m sure I remember Praying For The Rain from when I was a regular at Martyn Swain’s wonderful Dreamhouse acoustic nights, a refuge of warm bohemian chic and unplugged music alongside the Splash Club in scuzzy mid-’90s Kings Cross. These were the same shows at which I was delighted by up-close performances from Marcy Detroit, Simons Warner and Whitaker and many more… there’s a little bit about Dreamhouse here, since someone’s been writing a crowdfunded book about the Splash years (and you can still pitch in to help it). Dreamhouse was the kind of night where you could expect table candles and belly dancing interludes most weeks; but during their own slot, Praying For The Rain completely overflowed the little Water Rats stage with finger-cymbals, accordions, cellos, cirrus-band harmonies and what seemed like about ten people on whispering percussion, temporarily transforming the place to a full-on New Age folk temple.

Although they seem rather more bluesy and straightforward-rootsy than I remember through the gauzes of memory, it’s good to see that they’ve lasted the twenty-year distance and garnered themselves a new up-to-date list of comparisons.


 
* * * * * * * *

Over at the Granary, there’s a semi-unplugged triple bill and a visit from a ‘Misfit City’ favourite.

Three Is The Magic Number presents:
Three Corners + Molly Ross + Gum Girl
The Granary @ The George Hotel, 4 Market Place, Frome, BA11 1AF, England
Friday 8th July 2016, 8.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like

Regular Frome-and-Wiltshire unplugged night Acoustic Plus takes on a new identity for this three-act bill of “original songs, haunting vocals, mesmeric music” celebrating a diversity of approach via three different acts. Molly Ross offers fledgling piano pop touches on folk and R&B; Three Corners (with their roots in 1980s new-wavers The Impossible Dreamers, and featuring ex-Dreamers Nick Waterhouse and Caroline Radcliffe) play sparse, questing songs around more of a loose blues-and-jazz-informed tip; but the one I find most interesting is the dreamy beat’n’texture pop of Gum Girl.




 
Arch Garrison
The Granary @ The George Hotel, 4 Market Place, Frome, BA11 1AF, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.00pm
– information http://cheeseandgrain.ticketsolve.com/shows/873554307

As Arch Garrison, North Sea Radio Orchestra mastermind Craig Fortnam and Stars In Battledress‘ James Larcombe explore gentle, intricate psychedelic folk: partly gentle clean chapel tones, partly kosmische textures, partly chalk-ridge geomancy. A duo of Craig’s nylon-strung acoustic guitar and James’ assorted keyboards (organ, monosynth, harmonium and piano), their two albums’ worth of songs have enabled Craig to bring the smaller and more personal songs he writes to life, when they don’t fit the grander feel of NSRO. Their ‘Will Be A Pilgrim‘ album was one of my favourites of 2014 – an unexpected gem of small voice and thinking space. Support comes from local favourites Dexter’s Extra Breakfast, playing Dave Clark’s soft-petalled and “Weltschmerzian” songs of middle-aged reflection.

 

* * * * * * * *

John D Revelator
The Griffin, 25 Milk Street, Frome, BA11 3DB, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.00pm
– free event

At the Griffin, John D Revelator will be bringing along their dark-tinged acoustic swamp-pop for a free show. Even if there’s not actually such a thing as the “Somerset Levels delta”, they’ll lie to their last tooth and their last busted guitar string trying to persuade you that it does exist.


 

* * * * * * * *

Towards the end of the festival, the second of Frome’s two substantial concert halls is offering two very different performances on the same day. One is a post-lunchtime concert of vividly Catalonian Spanish classical music from the twentieth century; the other is an evening show of polymusical fusion from an all-star collective trio.

Elena Riu & Clara Sanabras: ’A Taste Of Spain’
Cooper Hall @ Selwood Manor, Jacks Lane, Frome, BA11 3NL, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 1.00pm
information

Pianist Elena Riu and singing multi-instrumentalist Clara Sanabras (the latter on voice, harp, oud, charango and guitar) perform selections from the ‘Songs & Dances’ of Catalan impressionist/miniaturist composer Federico Mompou and the ‘Spanish Dances’ of his compatriot Enrique Granados, interspersed with Clara’s performances of the original Catalan folk songs on which Mompou drew.

Birdworld
Cooper Hall @ Selwood Manor, Jacks Lane, Frome, BA11 3NL, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.30pm
– information http://cheeseandgrain.ticketsolve.com/shows/873554308

“Birdworld is made up of musicians Adam Teixeira (drums/percussion), Gregor Riddell (cello/electronics); and Alex Stuart (guitar). The project came about when Gregor and Adam met during self-directed Banff Creative Residencies where they discovered a shared interest in blending electronic and acoustic sounds. Since Adam moved to the UK in 2014 they have continued to develop BirdWorld, adding Alex along the way. Combining their artistic voices as both instrumentalists and composers, the trio will showcase each members original compositions arranged specifically for this unique musical exchange. Creating a unified sound that blends the inspirations of modern jazz, world music, contemporary classical, rock and electronic music in a rare concert setting.”

Here’s a video of the original two-piece in action, to give you two-thirds of an idea of what might be on offer.

 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs in London – beats and folk and blues and poems in a remembrance wake for Roger Lloyd Pack (9th); Nat and the Noise Brigade, Ellie Ford and The Pop-Up Choir at Daylight Music (11th)

6 Jun

Friends of Highgate Library presents:
‘Sixteen Sunsets – In memory of Roger Lloyd Pack’
Highgate Library Civic & Cultural Centre, Children’s Corner, Croftdown Road, London, NW5 1HB, England
Thursday 9th June 2016, 7.00pm
– free event, donations encouraged for Pancreatic Cancer UK

In memory of Roger Lloyd PackIt’s been two years now since the death of Roger Lloyd Pack. Though the eulogies flooded in at the time, hailing his work as actor, pop-culture hero (he played Trigger in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ and Owen in ‘The Vicar of Dibley’) and longstanding man of the people, one of the finest tributes to Roger only surfaced earlier this year when his widow (Jehane Markham) and son (Hartley Lloyd Pack) finally completed ‘Sixteen Sunsets’, an album project which they’d conceived together to help them work through their grief at the loss of Roger, and to raise money to fight the pancreatic cancer that felled him.

‘Sixteen Sunsets’ is one of the most touching records I’ve heard this year, or any year. It might have been a portrait of everyday heroism, or an obituary column with a mawkish soundtrack. It’s neither of these things. At root, it’s a fertile absence: an aching space into which layer of memories and flashes of emotion drift, to be woven into a portrait of love for a partner and father, of the hard-won acceptance of loss, and an exploration of how the recalling of things lost and a new reality of life without those things settle together. It’s a mixture of vigil notes and valediction played out under a wan London sky, simultaneously unfixed in time and subject to its relentless onward push.

Sixteen Sunsets: 'Sixteen Sunsets'

Sixteen Sunsets: ‘Sixteen Sunsets’


The words and music (a mixture of Hartley’s organic hip hop delivery and Jehane’s stark poetry, plus voices and traces from r&b, folk, drone music and blues) gradually sketching out the shape of bereavement: sometimes dry and blank, sometimes aching or angry; and sometimes a source of pride and substance, a building block for the future. On hand to help put a shape to things are Kill Light’s Tom Vella and Richard Day, singers Sam Lee and Janai, singing cellist Natalie Rosario and crossover harmony group Trills: also in attendance are jazzmen Patrick Naylor and Michael Storey plus classical composer Keith Burstein (the last making an unaccustomed foray into tack piano and barbed, Weillian cabaret swing).


This is not the first time that Sixteen Sunsets’ songs have surfaced live – some were played at a cancer fundraiser at Wilton’s Music Hall at the end of January this year, while Map Studio Café hosted the project’s formal album launch in mid-February. This show, however, might have been particularly close to Roger’s heart: this particular library on the fringe of Camden (a bracing walk’s distance from the Lloyd Pack family home in Kentish Town, and a mere stone’s throw from his resting place in Highgate Cemetery) was one of his several cause celebres and a place which he vigorously defended in the face of government cuts and economic neglect. It’s not absolutely clear if everyone involved in the project is performing, although it seems that most of them will be (Hartley, Jehane, Natalie Rosario and Trills have all tweeted announcement about their own participation, and I may have missed news from the others.) It’s nominally a free event, but you’re encouraged to make a cash donation to Pancreatic Cancer UK on the door, in Roger’s memory.

* * * * * * * *

Later in the week, there are some more touches of folk, rhythm and community music at the usual Daylight shindig:

Daylight Music 227, 11th June 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 227: Nat & The Noise Brigade + Ellie Ford + The Pop-Up Choir
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 11th June 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like event (suggested donation: £5.00) – more information

“Grabbing anything they can get their hands on – brass, flutes, violins and even saucepans and biscuit tins – Nat & The Noise Brigade will be storming the stage. They’re a ten-piece band from East London, with songs ranging from politically charged grooves to anthems about poor punctuality via some unique cover versions (fancy some “ska Mozart” or “doo-wop Radiohead”?).

Ellie Ford‘s music is both thought provoking and utterly absorbing. Her songs are enchanting with harp and guitar parts underpinning sultry vocals. As a solo performer Ellie Ford is captivating, but she also fronts a five-piece band of multi-instrumentalists who play a mix of modern and classical instrumentation (harp, violin, clarinet, guitar and drums). Taking influence from a range of genres, Ellie Ford has an edge and variation that cements her uniqueness in the alt-folk world.

“There’s also a chance to enjoy south London’s fabulous Pop-Up Choir; a cappella ensemble of twenty-five singers who delight and surprise with their playful arrangements.”


 

May 2016 – upcoming gigs – The Burning Hell spend May in Britain and Ireland; a short English tour for Knifeworld and The Cesarians; V A L V E soundtrack London’s Mysterical Day.

6 May

Smart, talkative Canadian pop band The Burning Hell are playing a UK tour for most of the month, in support of their new album ‘Public Library’. The vehicle for songwriter Mathias Kom, they deliver engaging and melodious indie/folk/pop tunes about building enthusiasms, about making connections and conversations, and about the small absurdities of serious life, all with a delightful rapid-patter lyrical delivery. Recent examples are below, as are the tour dates:


  • Magic Lantern Cinema, Penbryn Corbett Avenue, Tywyn, LL36 0AH, Wales, Sunday 8th May 2016
  • The Roisin Dubh, Dominic Street, Galway, Ireland, Monday 9th May 2016
  • Whelan’s, 25 Wexford Street, Dublin 2, Ireland, Tuesday 10th May 2016
  • DeBarra’s Folk Club, 55 Pearse Street, Clonakilty, West Cork, Ireland Wednesday 11th May 2016
  • Start The Bus, 7-9 Baldwin Street, Bristol, BS1 1RU, England, Thursday 12th May 2016
  • Clwb Ifor Bach, 11 Womanby Street, Cardiff, CF10 1BR, Wales, Friday 13th May 2016
  • The Eagle Inn, 18-19 Collier Street, Salford, M3 7DW, England, Saturday 14th May 2016 (both matinee and evening performances)
  • Arden Road Social Club, Arden Road, Halifax, HX1 3AG, England, Monday 16th May 2016
  • The Crescent Working Men’s Club, 8 The Crescent, York,YO24 1AW, England, Tuesday 17th May 2016
  • The Lemon Tree, 5 West North Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5AT, Scotland, Wednesday 18th May 2016
  • The Drouthy Cobbler, 48A High Street, Elgin IV30 1BU, Scotland, Thursday 19th May 2016
  • The Hug & Pint, 171 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G4 9AW, Scotland, Friday 20th May 2016
  • Mickleton Village Hall, Market Place, Mickleton-in-Teesdale, Durham, DL12 0JY England, Saturday 21st May 2016
  • Spanky van Dykes, 17 Goldsmith Street, Nottingham NG1 5JT, England, Sunday 22nd May 2016
  • Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art, Centre Square, Middlesbrough, TS1 2AZ, England, Monday 23rd May 2016 (free show)
  • Oslo, 1a Amhurst Road, Hackney, London, E8 1LL, England, Tuesday 24th May 2016
  • The Hope & Ruin, 11-12 Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3WA, England, Wednesday 25th May 2016
  • Moshi Moshi @ Tom Thumb Theatre, 2a Eastern Esplanade, Cliftonville, Margate, CT9 2LB, England, Thursday 26th May 2016

* * * * * * * *

Starting at around the same time, Knifeworld English tour, May 2016Knifeworld will be performing a quick four-date English tour, promoting their new album ‘Bottled Out Of Eden’. Regular readers will need little introduction to the band, whose ornate and crenellated puzzle-box psychedelia has been featuring in here for years; newcomers should definitely check out their wanton, decorative, brass-rich tunes which span a web of influences and comparisons from Syd Barrett, Mercury Rev, Steve Reich, Cardiacs and XTC while maintaining the distinctive and complex songwriting vision of leader Kavus Torabi. Support on all dates will be from string-and-horn-drenched art-rockers The Cesarians, whose tunes run the gamut from lush pop to flea-itching rap scrapes.

  • The Musician, 42 Crafton Street West, Leicester, LE1 2DE, England, Monday 9th May 2016
  • Brudenell Social Club, 17 Brudenell Road, Leeds, LS6 1HA, England, Tuesday 10th May 2016
  • The Green Door Store, Lower Goods Yard, Brighton Train Station, Brighton BN1 4FQ, England, Wednesday 11th May 2016
  • Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, London, W12 7LJ, England, Thursday 12th May 2016

* * * * * * * *
It’s also worth mentioning that Knifeworld bassoonist/saxophonist/occasional singer Chlöe Herington (also known for her work as part of Chrome Hoof) will be taking her experimental project V A L V E out again later in the month. The project – which has been known to make music from diagrammatic sources including transposed ECG readings and fragmentary notation found in skips, as well as Chloe’s own instrumentation (which extends beyond reeds to guitar and sampler) – makes an live soundtrack contribution to feminist-slanted arts-meet A Mysterical Day.

A Mysterical Day, 14th May 2016

Serpentine Galleries present:
A Mysterical Day
The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, Lisson Grove, London, NW8 8EH, England
Saturday 14th May 2016, 1.00pm
– more information here and here

“Inspired by the life and work of Hilma af Klint, as well as the exhibition of DAS INSTITUT, this session brings together artists, writers and historians to explore mysticism, feminism and performance. Participants include Saelia Aparicio, Clodagh Emoe, Florence Peake, Zina Saro-Wiwa, Tai Shani, V A L V E (Chlöe Herington/Elen Evans) and more. Programmed in collaboration with artist Tai Shani.”

All I know re the V A L V E contribution is that Chlöe is being joined by harpist Elen Evans for the performance, that she’ll be working with various invented instruments of her own devising, and that pieces will include “FEM – a five-note ‘automated’ cycle – and Futures, in which the melodic structure is determined by a tarot card score.” Meanwhile, here are a couple of V A L V E soundclips, plus one of a tinkling, echoing new instrument which Chlöe built recently out of contact microphones and sundry rubble.




 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – street-level shamanism and more at the Gnod weekender in London, April 9th & 10th

7 Apr

In some respects Gnod – who are curating, and playing at, an extended gig in London this weekend – are a dubby Salfordian reflection of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. They share certain working methods – a collective, leaderless initiative springing from communal warehouse living; a passionate ethos of anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian feeling expressed in vast, cavernous and primarily instrumental musicscapes; an atmosphere sourced from circulating cultural-economic ghosts of deprivation and stagnation.

As regards the music itself, the parallels shift a little. Though both bands use drones and scattered, marginal snippets of speech, Gnod’s approach is a good deal broader and looser than Godspeed’s blend of classical/minimal string austerity and wind-tunnel punk rage, seeding itself from a variety of persistently underground forms. In the stew are industrial dance music, noise rock and anarchic dub; mystical hippy staples of overtone chanting and psychedelic ritual music (stripped of their frivolous navel-gazing associations and brought back to their mind-opening sources); free jazz; and a swathe of aural art-punk collagery (the latter of which, in Gnod form, recalls apocalyptic Godspeedian end-of-days graffiti, an approving response to Linder Sterling’s sharp visual comments on consumerism, and diary notes from besieged squats and hermit bedsits).

Other information is there if you choose to dig it up. We know that Gnod are from the other Islington – that liminal corner of Salford in the elbow of the River Irwell between the rails, the university and the skeletons of light industry, where the Islington Mill Arts Centre (in which the band live and work) has flourished since the mid-‘90s. We know that multi-instrumentalists and producer-theorists Chris Haslam and Paddy Shine have been in the band from the start: we know that the other two current members happen to be Marlene Ribeiro and Alex Macarte. We know that what seems to be dozens of others (but might be the same six people in a constant shuffle of personae) phase in and out of the band according to need, whim and inspiration; and that these include Manchester improv saxophonist David McLean, journeyman keyboard player John Paul Moran and drummer Chris Morley (once of Welsh experimental rockers Klaus Kinski, now propelling no-wave’d punk-funkers target=”_blank”>Queer’d Science).

We also know that the hybrid steam of subcultural influences and spirit of resistance that boils off from all of these ingredients is winning Gnod awestruck acclaim. ‘The Quietus’ (increasingly the British tastemaker as regards bands negotiating that slippery margin between absolute chthonic obscurity and cultural penetration) has not only sung their praises but been seduced into actually recording with them; while digging into Gnod’s web of ongoing connections and activities shakes up all kinds of other possibilities. The Gnod network of fellowship stretches across Europe and encompasses ever-roving Can singer Damo Suzuki, billowing gonzoid sample-psych from the late ‘80s (revived arsequake veterans Terminal Cheesecake sport former Gnoddist Neil Francis as their current frontman), classic British post-punk (via The Monochrome Set and The Blue Orchids), Louise Woodcock’s multi-media feminist art and a Catalonian psychedelic scene which gives a new meaning to Spanish castle magic (a few years ago, Gnod teamed up with Barcelona’s Black Bombaim as “Black Gnod”).

Having been casting out recordings since 2009, Gnod came up to speed with the beefy-but-spectral ecclesiastic dubgrind of 2011’s ‘INGNODWETRUST’ (following up with 2012’s ‘Science & Industry’, a sort of post-industrial ‘Sketches of Spain’ for trumpet, drones, ironscrape guitar haze and indistinct female declamations). They’re currently best known for 2014’s mammoth 110-minute ‘Infinity Machines’, in which their instincts for mood and social challenge came into focus. For that album, Gnod returned to (scorched) earth and conjured up a classic post-war Mancunian landscape of bones, threat and concrete; marrying a bleak Joy Division grind and deadzone chimes with knell-beating Rhodes piano, distorted boomings like rusting gasholders being beaten into dub drums, and aghast chemtrails of free sax which sounded like black-sailed galleons creeping up the Ship Canal and advancing into the Irwell. Amidst the grindings and slithering drones and the pollutant-smeared sleet, vocal samples of resistance and disquiet gave shape to a dawning and outspoken atmosphere of scepticism; in Breaking The Hex, they finally unleashed an eleventh-hour blast of dub/punk/sax/noise rebellion, while the title track was a harmonium keen over dark sonic bubbles.

While it didn’t wear its manifesto in the shape of a set of placardable lyrics, ‘Infinity Machines’ was a work of Salford shamanism, spitting the city’s ongoing gentrification back into its own face. Since then, Gnod have refused to simply rework it – instead they’ve allowed the feelings that inspired it to lead them naturally into new forms. Last year’s ‘Mirror’ album was written on tour in a slew of traveller’s energy and impacted by destructive mental turbulence within the Gnod circle: inspired in part by rage at government austerity programs which apparently declared war on the poor) propelled the band away from grand studioscapes and into a raw, live feel. It’s more personalised, its anger and alienation borne on pendulous and discombobulated noise-punk anti-grooves. Hands slam onto instruments and slip beats; the music flares into outright rage rather than stern painterly stews. Amidst the overtone vocals and chants, there’s persistent raw yelling; while the soundscapes have shifted towards slowed sirens, and a dragging, coshing pace: a clear early Swans influence.

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Gnod Weekender, part 1: Gnod + Blood Sport
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Saturday 9th April 2016, 8.00pm
more informationtickets
Gnod Weekender part 2: Locean + Water + Futuro de Hierro + H.U.M + Dwellings + Negra Branca + Arkh Wagner + Ayn Sof
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Sunday 10th April 2016, 3.00pm to 11.00pm
more informationtickets

Gnod Weekender, 9th-10th April 2016Much of all of the above is going to come together over the course of this weekend, in which Gnod and a host of like-minded friends bring their collective approach to the current homestead of quirky London rock.

Saturday sees a full Gnod performance, supported by Sheffield trio Blood Sport, whose spindly and aggressive style is a ghostly, glassy-toned, black-sun approximation of Afrobeat and soukous. As for what Gnod themselves might be doing, the grind and gnarl of ‘Mirror’ might be their current output but they have a history of changing state and presenting an expectant audience with something unexpected: so be prepared for anything which reflects their history and their potentials (up to and including party blowers, possibly).

Sunday’s afternoon-to-late-night show features Gnod side projects and assorted friends in an eight-hour orgy. Some feature current Gnod members. Paddy Shine’s immersive “tantric vocal loop” project Ayn Sof will be opening the show; Dwellings is founder and bass player Chris Haslam doing hard-beat industrial electronica – dull-thud compulsive flesh beats, like the woody rattle of an early S&M loom, played in tandem with dank gothic synth drones. Negra Branca is a Marlene Ribeiro project, expanding on the “melodic and tonal dreamscapes” which she plays as part of the main band, full of squashy analogue synth shapes and temple-goddess vocals.



In Arkh Wagner, Alex Macarte (one of the more directly mystical Gnod members, if his online talk is anything to go by) teams up with Mark Wagner, a London-based multi-disciplinary artist and cybernetic mysticist, whose working practices are steeped in “cymagick” (a visualization of sound which takes in invisible and occult connections and “the vibratory nature of all things”). Their track Turn Off Your Mind (a narrative backed by a deepening pulse-chime in a confusion of noise surf) is a meditation on staring into the void, and on going too far out.


 

Mark Wagner’s also taking the stage as one-third of H.U.M. (or “Hypnotic Ultrasonic Magick”), a merging with two similarly shamanic noisemakers from Bristol’s ZamZam Records (these being the enigmatic surnameless H, or “Heloise”, who slipped into Bristol six years ago from a French fine arts background and has since been bewitching audiences with gigs that fall somewhere between installation and ritual and take place in caves, swimming pools and sundry found space, and fellow émigré and ambient droner Uiutna, originally from Switzerland but making her own way in the Bristolian avant-garde). H and Uiutna relocated to France recently but return to England for this event. H.U.M. present themselves as a kind of psychic cross-cultural art coven, citing “alchemical practice, incantation, chanting, drones, ritual drumming, French variété” as both inspiration and activity… although “French variété” is also on the list, so either a showbiz tinge or a sliver of hidden humour has been worked deep into the atmospheres. Here’s a clip of them in action:


 

Over in Barcelona, multi-instrumentalist, producer and happeneer Víctor Hurtado is the core of a “magic-inspired” scene of ritual psychedelic music. First coming to notice as the man behind acid-assemblage unit Qa’a (a richly detailed stew of lysergic rock and Nurse With Wound noise-and-texture garnishing), he’d soon diversify into a greater spontaneity with Huan (a project which he describes as “animalistic pulsations… almost like a living organism, that is at times sick, dying or excited”). Having collaborated with Jochen Arbeit, Steven Stapleton and more recently with Chris Haslam in the “monolithic, rhythmic, repetitive” Ordre Etern, Victor is bringing his Futuro de Hierro project to London for the Gnod Weekender. His latest musical pathway, it’s an outgrowth of his interest in more extreme and violent forms of electronic dance (such as speedcore and gabba) fused with techno, music concrete and a heightened psychedelic sensibility, featuring “disjointed rhythms” and “destroyed sounds, sonic detritus and live sound manipulation.”


All-female “art-carnage” troupe Water are another part of the Venn diagram which Gnod inhabit. Specifically, they represent the circles which intersect Manchester’s visual arts and multimedia, and the Devi Collective which coalesced around the Mill to commemorate and interpret last year’s William Burroughs centenary. Citing Throbbing Gristle, Wu-Tang Clan’s Rza and “well-witch horror scores” as creative spurs, they’re currently a five piece of multi-media “queen bee” Louise Woodcock, spoken-word poet/noise-guitarist Laura Bolger, visual artists Amy Horgan and Rachel Goodyear, and Emma Thompson (usually encountered as a DIY/punk/experimental gig promoter).

Soundcloud clips reveal something sounding like post-industrial Maenads: eerie threadlike female choruses and Laura’s dub-echo declamations seeping through a freeform background of womb-bass, malfunctioning engine drones, clanks and whistles, piston hisses, machine scrapes and tekiah blasts. The involvement of at least three women from a visual arts background – plus some striking photos – suggests that there’s a spectacle involved. Evidence of lengthy Water performances inspired by Aleister Crowley, by séances and by water rituals suggest that they’re fascinated with rite, summoning and form in a way which spans primordiality, Greek legend and map-fixes on esoterica ranging from Renaissance art to the present day. All of it slips through the fingers if seized on second-hand: it seems as if Water are an experience best soaked up live.


 

Laura Bolger reappears to add smeared, dreamlike vocals and narrations to the final act on the bill, Locean – another full-on Irwellian music collective in the Gnod and Devi orbit (sharing both Louse Woodcock and sometime Gnod tapesman/ranter Neil Francis). Offering another queasy grinding ride of driving punk-psych, noise improvisations and punk wail, their mantric sound binds The Velvet Underground, Mother Gong, Bauhaus and an abrasive Fall-esque groove in with bass-echo and wheel-rim guitar. As with Gnod and Water, they’re technically minimal but build up to a grand scale with their scratching, multiplying sonic detail: Laura’s words and musings, floating on the sound-wash like scraps of diaries and manifestos, ranges from odd and oblique polemics to numinous childhood memories.




 

As I post this, tickets are still available. If you’re spending most of your time trapped in London’s gravity well, this might be your best chance for a while to get something of that Islington Mill atmosphere and inspiration, and to beat along with Gnod’s dark-toned, troubled yet committed heart.
 

December 2015 – upcoming gigs, London & elsewhere – Serafina Steer & Bas Jan at Kings Place; assorted Others cabaret from punk to accordiana with The Bohemianauts and Bad Fractals; a Lost Map afternoon with The Pictish Trail/Seamus Fogarty/Tuff Love/Kid Canaveral at Daylight Music; Thumpermonkey, The Mayors Of Miyazaki and Lolita Laytex hit The Albany in Deptford; and the 2015 London Contemporary Music Festival part 1 (sounds for and from London, West Coast America and the time continuum). Plus the return of Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward in a Scottish village hall; Olga Stezhko in a Staffordshire chapel; and Rocket From The Tombs in London and Leeds.

6 Dec

The end of the month, and the year, is nigh – so what are we looking forward to this week?

Mulholland, Ward, Sissoko & D'Hoine @ Ford Village Hall, 8th December 2015

Mark Mulholland, Craig Ward, Yacouba Sissoko & Hannes D’Hoine (Ford Village Hall, Ford, Argyll, Scotland, Tuesday 8th December 2015, 7.30pm) – £5.00 minimum – information – tickets on the door

Back in 2012, two wandering Scottish singer-songwriter-guitarists – Mark Mulholland (ex-Two Dollar Bash) and onetime dEUS member Craig Ward – quietly released one of the finest records of the year. A compelling murmur of acoustic guitar folk, ‘Waiting For The Storm’ was soaked in the Scottish and British folk-baroque of Davey Graham, Pentangle and John Martyn but, in its settings of moist heat, tin roofs, typhoons and dark forces, it was also informed by the Haitian setting of Port-au-Prince, Mark’s home for the previous two years. Some of you may remember that I liked it.

With Mark now relocated to Mali and Craig settled in the little Argyll village of Ford, the duo are collaborating on a follow-up (provisionally called ‘The Darkness Between The Leaves’) on which they’ll be joined by Flemish double bass player Hannes D’Hoine – who played the Danny Thompson anchor-cable role on ‘Waiting For The Storm’ – and by Mark’s newest collaborator, the Malian djely and multi-instrumentalist Yacouba Sissoko, a master kora and ngoni player. The quartet have been preparing and recording in a number of different countries, and the end of the Scottish sessions will be marked by a Ford performance both taking place in and raising funds for Ford Village Hall, with prices set on a pay-what-you-like basis starting from five pounds.

In its quiet way this should be one of the gigs of the year, so if you’re in western Scotland and have a free Tuesday evening, consider heading over to Ford (at the south-western end of Loch Awe, north-west of Glasgow, with the nearest substantial town being Kilmartin.) If you miss this one, they’re playing again in Glasgow at 7.00pm on Wednesday 9th; a low-key gig at the Hidden Lane Gallery in Finnieston.

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After that – for me – the week doesn’t pick up until a very busy Friday and weekend. Too subjective, probably. Here we go, anyway.

Serafina Steer & Bas Jan (Hall Two @ (Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England, Friday 11th December 2015, 8.00pm) – £9.50-£12.50 – information & tickets

The hitherto independent worlds of contemporary harp music and experimental kraut-pop will collide – or at least bump each other – in this concert of two halves by harpist/songwriter Serafina Steer and her new band Bas Jan.

After a few years of mainly only using the harp for her own writings, Serafina went on a roadtrip around Eastern Europe busking, discovering and rediscovering pieces along the way. The result of this experience will form the first half of the programme, which will feature compositions by Richard Barratt (‘tendril’), Benjamin Britten (‘Suite For Harp’), Stephen Dodgson (‘Fantasy’), Rhodri Davies (‘Aqcua Alta’) and Serafina’s own father Michael Maxwell Steer (‘Grovelly Wood’)

The second half of the show will be a performance by Bas Jan, Serafina’s latest collaborative project in which she plays bass guitar and keyboards and writes minimally arranged songs about the Essex coast, the Anglo-Saxons, sex, part-time work and love; with sound artist Sarah Anderson playing violin and OP1 mini-synthesizer and performance visual artist Jenny Moore playing drums (all three women also sing). Bas Jan’s first gig was to six thousand people at Brixton Academy and since then they have gone on – via support slots for Xylouris White and The Decemberists – to entertain smaller and smaller audiences.


 

On the same night, one of ‘Misfit City’s favourite classical musicians is spreading her own particular musical gospel up in Staffordshire:

Olga Stezhko (Abbotsholme Arts Society @ Abbotsholme School Chapel, Rocester, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, ST14 5BS, England, Friday 11th December 2015, 8.00pm)information – limited number of tickets available, phone 01543 263 304 for details

Olga Stezhko, 2015Following up her recent debut performances at both the Wigmore and Bridgewater Halls (at which she performed full or partial versions of her ‘Lucid Dreams‘ assemblage, a programme of music exploring people’s changing perception of reality from childhood through to adulthood), classical pianist and multi-disciplinary thinker Olga Stezhko is bringing her sophisticated, metaphysical perspective and repertoire to the audience at Abbotsholme.

On this occasion, her choice of music is a little more conventional (leaning on well-established favourites by Mozart, Bach and Prokofiev rather then stretching to the Sophia Gubaidulina pieces she was playing last month). However, there’s still room in the programme for work by one of her compositional touchstones, Alexandr Scriabin; and you can be assured that whichever pieces Olga plays will have been carefully thought out and put into context as part of a programme intended to inspire thought and broader conceptual connections as well as straightforward musical enjoyment.

Programme:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Sonata in B flat major, K.570
Johannes Brahms – Six Pieces, Op.118
Alexandr Scriabin – Two Dances Op.73; Five Preludes Op.74; Vers la flamme Op.72,
John Adams – China Gates
Sergei Prokofiev – Sonata no.4 in C minor, Op.29

Back in London, meanwhile, there’s cabaret afoot, plus breathless press releases.

Bad Fractals vs Bohemianauts @ The Others, 11th December 2015

The Bohemianauts + Bad Fractals (Bohemiocracy @ The Others, 6-8 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, London, N16 5SA, England, Friday 11th December 2015, 8.00pm) – £8.00-£10.00 –  information & tickets here and here

An epic face-off between two amazing, unique and bizarre bands.

Bad Fractals are shaman gangsters shooting bullets of love, tearing their way through acid punk, malevolent music hall and trailer-trash blues in a world gone mad. Join us at the crossroads, in a theatre of the absurd: hear story and song shift with the wild wonder of fractals! Watch psychedelic punks get drunk with clown kings! Glare at artificial angels dancing with deadbeat demons! Gasp as astral travellers gather in galactic taverns!

The Bohemianauts are decadent divas of demi-monde carnivalism, playing weird waltzes, pithy polkas and rollicking rhumbas: they will take you on a theatrical musical journey through strange landscapes with absurd humour, exquisite noise and songs of unrequited dread. Tonight they will unleash their female alter-egos, as they parade in their geezer-bird finery, performing for your pleasure as the rarely-seen Bohemianauts – Drag-ed on Stage. (Trigger warning: Bearded Drag.)

PLUS – Visuals and projections from Jaime Rory Lucy‘s Rucksack Cinema and half-time performance interventions from Oleg the Mystic.


 

Friday also sees the start of the London Contemporary Music Festival, which (as if it were part of a conspiracy theory) is lurking in a giant underground bunker near Baker Street…

LCMF 2015: ‘Collective Capital’

LCMF 2015: ‘Collective Capital’ (London Contemporary Music Festival 2015 @ Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS, England, Friday 11th December 2015, 6.30pm) – £11.25 – information – tickets

London takes centre stage in our opening night, as we celebrate the exploratory fringes of the city’s music scene and the collective imperative that has been a spur to some of the capital’s greatest experiments. The proliferation of collectives among young musician-composers is reflected in new commissions from some of the most adventurous of these musical laboratories. The night will include premieres from Charlie Hope and Jamie Hamilton   (a.k.a. Topophobia), Neil Luck (performing with his Squib Box ensemble) and John Wall & Tom Mudd (Utterpsalm and Contingent Events). We hear recent work by composers Edward Henderson (Bastard Assignments), Shelley Parker and the artist duo Claudia Hunte. We welcome an iconic figure and chronicler of London’s musical edgelands, David Toop, and offer a live improvisation from Poulomi Desai (Usurp), who started the Hounslow Arts Co-op at the age of 14.

We also offer a world premiere from artists Richard Wilson and Anne Bean. In the 1980s, Anne, Richard and Paul Burwell formed the legendary Bow Gamelan Ensemble, enthralled by the aural poetry and parallel visions of the Thames. Now, Wilson and Bean enter the territory as W0B. Theirs is a world that cracks and splinters and grinds into being as it races backwards and forwards through friendships of forty years. ‘NALEMAG’ becomes the totemic incarnation of their endless scrabbling around boat-yards, scrap-yards, gas depots, pyrotechnic munitions, voyages on many rivers in countless vessels and a frenzy of carrying, welding, investigating and making across the planet. The trajectory culminates with a landmark new AV performance from south London’s Visionist, whose singular language emerges from the fragmentation of dubstep and grime.

Programme:

David Toop – Many Private Concerts
Anne Bean/Richard Wilson – NALEMAG (world premiere)
Poulomi Desai – Vermillion Sands (world premiere)
Neil Luck – Via Gut (world premiere – LCMF commission)
Jamie Hamilton/Charlie Hope – New work (world premiere)
Edward Henderson – Tape Piece
Claudia Hunte – The Elephant In The Room Is Afraid Of Dying
Shelley Parker – Live set
John Wall – Live set
Tom Mudd – Live set
Visionist – Live set (AV)

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On Saturday, there’s what looks like a particularly engaging Daylight Music afternoon, with the return of a familiar face…

The Pictish Trail & other Lost Map artists at Daylight Music, 12th December 2015

Daylight Music 210 – The Pictish Trail + artists from the Lost Map label: Seamus Fogarty + Tuff Love + Kid Canaveral (Union Chapel, Saturday 12th November 2015, 12.00pm) – free (suggested donation £5.00) – information

Wrapping up this season of Daylight Music are Lost Map; a loose-knit DIY label/collective from the Hebrides founded by alt-folk troubadour, Johnny Lynch, a.k.a. The Pictish Trail. For this special Christmas show, Johnny will be ice-skating back to the mainland, bringing a selection box of pals from his Lost Map roster, for a cosy festive afternoon of stripped back acoustic merriment, frost-bitten Casio hymns, and mulled-tea fuelled carols.

While The Pictish Trail often comes across on record as an eerie digifolk creation (like a Scottish oil-town-and-fishing-port David Lynch, with that surreal supernatural undertow suffused by Gaelic angst rather than Americana), anyone who’s caught one of the live acoustic shows will know that Johnny has an altogether more joyous side as unplugged strummer. Many of his tales may be based on shyness, grief and confusion, but I’ve seen few people who take such unalloyed pleasure in warming up and including an audience the way he does. For a reminder of this, have a read of my review of his last Daylight Music appearance back in January… and see below.

Mayo-born but London-based, Seamus Fogarty plays and sings his own soulful version of contemporary Irish folk, dabbled with electronic found sound. His output’s been described as “songs about mountains that steal T-shirts, women who look like dinosaurs and various other unfortunate incidents” and as “summoning all manner of odd noises and audio ghosts”. Taken from his current album ‘God Damn You Mountain’, here’s Rita Jack’s Lament, which showcases all of his various tendencies to the maximum.


 

Glaswegian fuzzy-pop duo Tuff Love represent Lost Map’s more-out-and-out indie rock side, although their cottage-industry approach (recording and producing everything at home themselves rather than chasing studios and jaded professional engineers) reflects the label’s d-i-y philosophy. Julie Eisenstein and Suse Bear (augmented for concerts by Phantom Band drummer Iain Stewart deliver “dazzling, sun-streaked guitar pop songs with mesmerising lyrics, heart-wrenching vocals and dreamy melodies like the sound of pure summer.” Over a scant few years of existence, they’ve already supported Paulo Nutini and Ride and played several overflowing handfuls of rock festivals. ‘Resort’ – a not-quite-debut album pulling together the three EPs that Tuff Love have put out so far – is out in January, but meanwhile here’s what will either be a reminder of their existing delights or an introduction to their world: somewhat shoegaze-y but with mischievous glimpses up through the eyelashes.

Edinburgh four-piece Kid Canaveral (whom Lost Map described as “ADHD pop splendour”) met at university in St Andrews and have been playing together ever since. Imaginative alternative pop, they manage to recall the early-‘80s cleverness of Postcard Records pop or the ramshackle poignancy of Belle & Sebastian without actually sounding much like either. It’s more a matter of spirit, a discreet but inclusive sophistication which reaches out, brushes your arm and invites you along. Two albums in, with a third in preparation, they’re a delightful discovery whenever you happen to encounter them. Their clever videos are a treat, too – here are a couple of tastes below, the first of which had my four-year-old son continually tapping the replay button.


(For anyone who wants a more substantial dose of Kid Canaveral, note that they’re playing a full set at the Shacklewell Arms on the evening of the same day.)

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On the Saturday evening, you’ve got your pick of twisty London rock and West Coast American art music (plus Rocket From The Tombs, but I’ll come to them shortly…)

Thumpermonkey @ The Islington, 30th July 2015

Thumpermonkey + Mayors Of Miyazaki + Lolita Laytex (Something’s Gonna Happen @ The AlbanyDouglas Way, Deptford, London, SE8 4AG, England, Saturday 12th December 2015, 7.30pm) – £3.00-£5.00 – information – tickets on the door

Welcome back everybody: and once again we have two superb outfits centre stage, Thumpermonkey (heavy progressive music) and Mayors Of Miyazaki (DIY 3-piece based in south London, guaranteed to spit and sweat on us at close quarters). The lovely Lolita Laytex will be joining us to add the flavour of burlesque. Yes, people of the universe, with all those ingredients in store, you know the score: £3.00 concessions and a fiver on the door. Bring ya skin!

I’ve said quite a bit about Thumpermonkey over the course of the year. Grand, clever and atmospheric, they also have enough sly, self-aware wit and humour to undercut all of the previous. They’re also tricky to pigeonhole – a band who create intricate catastrophe epics (part Radiohead, part Van der Graff Generator) but also trill the occasional Mastodon cover in the style of early Kate Bush; a prog band with a singer who sounds like an old-time theatrical knight, but also a noise band who happen to wrap their wildness into tightly-composed structures; geeky popcorn information omnivores drawing from Jodorowsky to Lovecraft to William Gibson, but salting it with Chomsky and science magazines before whipping it up into artful tornados of song. This little sample here is both characteristic and unique within what Thumpermonkey do, which in itself probably tells you all you need to know.


 

I don’t think Mayors Of Miyazaki have been in here before, but they should have been. In their way, their music’s as grand and complex as that of Thumpermonkey and even more enthused by its options. It’s punk with all the chains blown off, joyriding math-rock, de-Ritalined bratprog. A typical song sounds like both chase sequence and protracted explosion: spiky, switch-and-swap assemblages of guitar parts doubling back through alleys and charging halfway up walls, over which sibling team Gareth and Claire Thomas declaim a punky boy-girl barkathon, a speaky-drawl of sparking thoughts. Fugazi and The Fall both might be in there, though you could also pull Bis and long-lost ‘90s psych tanglers The Monsoon Bassoon out of the root cluster.


 

I don’t know much about Lolita Laytex except that she’s a fetish model as well as an alternative burlesque performer and fetish model. Not much information about a third-stream digression into music: so perhaps you should expect something sensual and mobile, which squeaks a little when it flexes. (UPDATE, 10th December – Well, that’s that laboured gag wasted. Lolita’s off the bill, replaced by Deptford punk-poppers The Kill Raimi’s. Some video evidence below…

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The second London Contemporary Music Festival night sees the series take a broad stylistic and historical sweep across twentieth and twenty-first century California (with one digression to Alaska, so it’s not all sun.)

LCMF 2015: ‘West Coast Night’

LCMF 2015: ‘West Coast Night’ (London Contemporary Music Festival 2015 @ Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS, England, Saturday 12th December 2015, 6.30pm) – £11.75 – information – tickets 

The second night of LCMF 2015 is dedicated to the music of the American West Coast, an exploration of 100 years of musical non-conformism, from the piano insurrections of Henry Cowell to the deep listening of Pauline Oliveros (performing her own music on v-accordion). Oliveros is joined by another founding legend of the pioneering San Francisco Tape Music Center, Morton Subotnick, who presents a solo Buchla set and the UK premiere of a 1960s Tape Center composition with a film by Tony Martin. Another composer associated with the Tape Center was Terry Riley, whose ‘Keyboard Study No. 2’ gets a rare outing.

Alongside this we zig-zag through the experimental landscape, calling on John Cage‘s concussive ‘First Construction (In Metal)’, which premiered in Seattle in 1939, John Luther Adams‘s monumental ‘Among Red Mountains’ and Catherine Lamb‘s subterranean ‘Frames’. We excavate two gems from California’s 1980s computer music scene, Maggi Payne‘s ‘Flights Of Fancy’ and Carl Stone‘s ‘Wall Me Do’. On the fiftieth anniversary of the Watts Uprising we present an extremely rare performance from Otis O’Solomon, whose collective The Watts Prophets emerged from the rubble of that uprising and helped lay the foundations for hip-hop.

Programme:

Henry Cowell – The Banshee (for piano) – performed by Gwenaëlle Rouger
John Cage – First Construction (in Metal) (for percussion ensemble) – performed by PERC’M and Serge Vuille
Morton Subotnick/Tony Martin – PLAY! No. 3 (1965) (UK premiere)
Terry Riley – Keyboard Study No. 2
Maggi Payne – Flights of Fancy
Carl Stone – Wall Me Do
John Luther Adams – Among Red Mountains (for piano) – performed by Gwenaëlle Rouger
Catherine Lamb – Frames for cello & bass recorder (UK premiere) – performed by Anton Lukoszevieze/Lucia Mense
Otis O’Solomon – Selected poems
Pauline Oliveros – Pauline’s Solo (1992)
Morton Subotnick – solo Buchla set

 

 

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On Sunday, the third LCMF event has a polycultured and temporal feel:

LCMF 2015: ‘Five Ways to Kill Time’

LCMF 2015: ‘Five Ways To Kill Time’ (London Contemporary Music Festival 2015 @ Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS, England, Sunday 13th December 2015, 6.30pm) – £11.75 – information – tickets 

Time is stretched, bent and finally dissolved in ‘Five Ways To Kill Time’. Sound artist Ellen Fullman opens the night with a UK premiere of The Watch Reprise, which will be performed on her 50-foot Long String instrument that one writer compared to “standing inside a giant grand piano.” Ethiopian composer, pianist and nun Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou makes her first visit to the UK to perform a selection of her intimate piano miniatures that seem to drift through space. Plus Minus Ensemble, meanwhile, offers up the intricate and disorientating world of Bryn Harrison‘s ‘Repetitions In Extended Time’ (conducted by Mark Knoop and featuring strings, organs, piano, guitar and clarinet). Mixing spoken text and music, theatre maker Tim Etchells (Forced Entertainment) and violinist Aisha Orazbayeva offer a set of fragmentary improvisations in ‘Seeping Through’, a work fresh from a critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe. We end with a time-obliterating live set from doom pioneer Stephen O’Malley, whose work within and beyond his seminal group Sunn O))) exists in a kind of transcendent stasis.

Programme:

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou – selected piano works
Bryn Harrison – Repetitions in Extended Time
Tim Etchells/Aisha Orazbayeva – Seeping Through
Ellen Fullman – The Watch Reprise (world premiere)
Stephen O’Malley – live set


 
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And finally…

Rocket From The Tombs, 2015

Rocket From The Tombs + Luminous Bodies (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ The Brewhouse, @ London Fields Brewery, 369-370 Helmsley Place, South Hackney, London, E8 3SB, England, Saturday 12th December 2015, 8.00pm) – £19.25 – informationtickets

Rocket From The Tombs (Brudenell Social Club, 17 Brudenell Road, Leeds, LS6 1HA, England, Sunday 13th December 2015, 8.00pm) – £17.60 – informationtickets

In their initial lifetime they never got past a series of scorching mid-‘70s gigs in their Cleveland hometown (plus a handful of demos and radio sessions). Yet Rocket From The Tombs have long been counted as proto-punk ancestors, kicking up a frumious Velvets-and-Stooges racket long before every other garage band was doing it. These days, onstage rock rage is quotidian; when Rocket From The Tombs brought it to the gig, it was a revelation. Following a headstrong and punchy split, they even spawned several other key bands. Main ranter David Thomas, doomed-and-driven guitarist Peter Laughner and soundman-turned-bass-player Tim Wright would create the first lineup of Pere Ubu. Second guitarist Cheetah Chrome and drummer Johnny Blitz hooked up with Stiv Bators and others to form hardcore punk pioneers Dead Boys. The rest was bootlegs and rumbling mythology. Rocket From The Tombs became one of the ur-bands, a surviving impression holding its ghostly mark but pushing onwards, providing inspiration above and beyond its initial ideals.

Rocket From The Tombs/Luminous Bodies @ Baba Yaga's Hut, December 2015By the ex-members’ accounts, being in the band had been a short, brutal and vivid experience; but it seems that there may also have been an unspoken, slow-burning sense of unfinished business. Twenty-eight years later, in their grizzled early fifties, and with plenty of other experience clocked up, most of the surviving band members (minus the retired Blitz and the long-dead Laughner) reunited for piss-and-vinegar-fuelled gigs, a long-delayed debut album and an actual afterlife. Although Laughner’s initial replacement (ex-Television guitar star Richard Lloyd), left in 2011 and a tour-burned Cheetah Chrome is now opting to sit out the live gigs, Rocket From The Tombs are still going – very much the garage end of Cleveland’s infamous avant-garage, making the most of this ornery self-driven second shot while bleeding in lessons learned from Pere Ubu and elsewhere.

The band have never played in Britain before, something which is being remedied with these two gigs in Leeds and London. In an interview with ‘The Guardian’ earlier this year, a currently chair-bound David Thomas growled “I’m approaching the end of my life, I’ve got my foot to the floor and I’m going to be going full speed ahead when I hit the wall.” It’s probably worth your while coming to one of these shows to check out his main accelerant.

There’ll be no support band at the Leeds gig, but in London things will be warmed up by Luminous Bodies, a “knuckle-dragging rock & roll” supergroup stealing members from Part Chimp, Terminal Cheesecake, Ikara Colt and others. See below.

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And that’s that. More coming shortly with the remaining December gigs and the seasonal parties… keep warm…

 

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.

December 2015 – upcoming gigs, London and elsewhere – another Forge flurry (Boccherini and Schubert quintets with Arensky Chamber Orchestra, sample pop from Cosmo Sheldrake, tango nuevo from The Deco Ensemble); the Ghosts At Our Shoulders folk meet (with Martin Carthy, Alasdair Roberts, Chris Wood, Kirsty Potts, The Devil’s Interval and Stick In The Wheel); and Project Instrumental’s Pärt/Fokkens post-classical passacaglia at Hackney Attic. Plus Anawan’s Brooklyn chamber pop double-night and New York farewell.

28 Nov

Straight into December, then (I’m ignoring the last day of November – it’s done me no favours this year) and before the splurge of upcoming musical Christmas parties, here are some assorted one-off gigs. Classical, post-classical and tango nuevo chamber concerts; Brooklyn art-pop; a small but significant folk festival; and a man battering experimental songs out of a piece of beef. That’ll do. As ever, these are mostly London shows, although as mentioned New York does get a look in at the end. Over the coming weekend – a man in a top hat sings songs of Victorian-Edwardian never-weres, wild noise in Hackney and Yorkshire, and a couple of spells of jazz… but more on that later.

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The Arensky Chamber Orchestra presents ‘Surround Sound II’ (The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, UK, Tuesday 1st December 2015, 8.00pm) – £12.00 – information & tickets

Since its debut in 2009, The Arensky Chamber Orchestra has established itself as one of London’s most exciting young ensembles, dedicated to revitalising the concert experience with theatrical and brilliant productions of classical music. Led by international prize-winning conductor William Kunhardt, the orchestra’s performances fuse electric performance with lighting design, ‘live’ programme notes delivered from the stage and unusual venue use. The ACO also regularly combine their performances with specially created food and drink menus and commissioned work from other artists, including video DJs, artists, actors and dancers. This will be the Forge’s second immersive ‘in the round’ performance from the Arensky Chamber Orchestra’s brilliant principal players; and on the menu are performances of two of the great string quintets.

Luigi Boccherini’s String Quintet in E major is one of the most famous quintets in the classical repertoire. The timeless melody of its third movement, ‘The Celebrated Minuet’, is woven into popular culture (appearing in ‘The Blues Brothers’ and ‘This is Spinal Tap’ as well as many other contexts). Tonight’s performance is in the original configuration (a conventional string quartet of two violins, viola and cello, plus a second cello as the fifth instrument) but over the years the piece has been rescored for a startling breadth of instruments including organ, mandolin duo, accordion and saxophone.

Franz Schubert’s String Quintet in C was the composer’s last instrumental work (composed during the final weeks of his life) and possibly his greatest accomplishment. It’s most iconic movement is the Adagio – a piece of such sublime tranquility that time seems to stand still throughout. Yet every other movement lives up to this extraordinary standard as well – from the expanse of the opening Allegro to the dazzling scherzo, it is a work of endless invention, radiant and rich sound-worlds and infinite varieties of texture and colour.

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The Deco Ensemble (The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, UK, Wednesday 2nd December 2015, 7.30pm) – £10.00 – information & tickets here and here

Established in 2013, The Deco Ensemble performs an eclectic and colourful combination of classical masterpieces, little-known gems and new avant-garde works. Rich in poignant harmonies, bold rhythms and elaborate ornamentations, their exuberant and glamorous repertoire includes works by Gustavo Beytelmann, Yannis Constantinidis, Frédéric Devreese, Ramiro Gallo, Graham Lynch, Astor Piazzolla, Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel and Anibal Troilo. A quintet of Sabina Rakcheyeva (violin), Bartosz Glowacki (accordion), Ricardo Gosalbo (piano), Rob Luft (electric guitar) and Elena Marigómez (double bass), they also collaborate with many of the world’s most promising and intriguing composers and performers, and write their own arrangements.

The ensemble’s adventurous approach and spirit of fearless exploration has its origins in the music of Piazzolla, re-imagining the Tango Nuevo Quintet which the composer formed during the 1960s in order to lay down the foundations of modern tango writing and to combine classical, jazz and traditional influences. Already the veterans of extensive European touring, Deco Ensemble have performed sellout concerts across Britain and across the breadth of Europe from west to east. Their critically-acclaimed debut album ‘Encuentro’ was released in July 2015.

Programme:

Ramiro Gallo – El último kurdo
Gustavo Beytelmann – Travesía
Astor Piazzolla – Muerte del ángel
Astor Piazzolla – Milonga del ángel
Astor Piazzolla – Tango del diablo
Frédéric Devreese – Passage à 5
Frédéric Devreese – Dream & Tango
Gustavo Beytelmann – Encuentro
Astor Piazzolla – Triunfal
Astor Piazzolla – Oblivion
Ramiro Gallo – Las malenas

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Now here’s something interesting…

Cosmo Sheldrake (Rockfeedback Concerts @ The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, UK, Thursday 3rd December 2015, 7.30pm) – £11.00 – information & tickets

A multi-instrumentalist, an improvising sampler/looper and the crafter of sweet unorthodox earworms, Cosmo Sheldrake has been described as “a relentlessly experimental artist taking organic samples from the world and turning them into dreamy songs.” Certainly his best-known single, ‘Rich’, is a case in point. Its tripping, sunny melodies – apparently moulded from stray chunks of both English folk and contemporary R&B – bob over a rhythm made by tearing meat from a cow carcass.

This kind of experimentation and juxtaposition (the cute tunes and the occasionally slightly-sinister underpinning; the initiation of whimsical but multi-layered musical questions; the rough-and-ready play across a huge musical vocabulary) seems to lie at the heart of what Cosmo does. He’s certainly steeped in music – aside from the wide-spanning instrumentalism (beginning with early days on piano at age four, building upwards and outwards and somehow never stopping), he’s been a founder member of nine-piece polygenre band Gentle Mystics since 2007, and also runs assorted instrumental and beatboxing workshops, plus a choir, in his Brighton hometown. He’s also known for performances in unusual locations including boats, farmyards, laundrettes and public swimming pools; and takes inspiration from the world around him with unfiltered, undifferentiated spontaneity; being as likely to turn out a song about pelicans as he is one about humans.

This week’s show promises to be mostly improvised, intimate and has a pretty small number of tickets, so move fast if you’re interested.

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Moving on to some purer folk…

Martin Carthy @ Ghosts At Our Shoulders, December 2015

‘Ghosts At Our Shoulders – The Tradition Unfolds’ featuring Chris Wood + Alasdair Roberts + Kirsty Potts + Stick In The Wheel + Martin Carthy + The Devil’s Interval (Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, UK, Thursday 3rd to Saturday 5th December 2015, various times) – various prices (£9.50-£22.50) – information & tickets

“The men have withdrawn and left me alone in a roomful of relics / But they gave me the song, so I carry the song that all men inherit.” – Alasdair Roberts

A series of songwriters and song interpreters inspired by tradition. The rich folk song tradition in these isles is a never-ending well of ideas and sensibilities as well as source material. The traditional canon is often attributed to ‘Anon.’ – a ghost perched on the shoulders of contemporary performers, who carry tradition forward and forge their own paths inspired by that legacy. This series of concerts features some of the most thoughtful and creative interpreters of song, whose unifying focus is the telling of the song. Voices close to the source, acting as a link from the then to the now.

With his work sometimes compared to that of Richard Thompson (though he cites his major influence as ‘Anon.’), Chris Wood is an uncompromising singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter whose music reveals his love for the un-official history of the English-speaking peoples, weaving his own contemporary parables into the tradition. His lateral take on the modern world follows an ideological thread from the likes of John Clare and William Blake, and as well as humble hymns and wry observations of the small things in life, his songs have included Hollow Point (a chilling ballad of the shooting of Jean Charles Menezez).

The twenty-year, eleven-album career of Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist Alasdair Roberts has taken him from the early alt.folk of his Appendix Out project via mingled traditional and self-penned work to his latest, self-titled solo recording, featuring a span of Glaswegian folk talent. He performs songs which are “elliptical and gnomic, direct and personal, romantic and tender” and which have moved from an early economical style (partially inspired by the sparse aesthetic of indie rock) to the complex, esoteric and spiritual work of more recent albums. An enthusiastic and generous collaborator, he’ll be sharing the stage with Kirsty Potts, a singer of traditional Scottish folk for thirty years. Having recorded six albums with the famous folk duo of Alison McMorland (Kirsty’s mother) and Geordie McIntrye, she’s recently released her own long-delayed debut solo album ‘The Seeds of Life’.

Raw and uncompromising London folk quintet Stick In The Wheel record to the sound of sirens and birdsong in their long-rented East End front rooms. Brought up in the thriving culture of working class London and cutting their teeth in its diverse musical landscape, they now bring those influences and attitudes to their traditional music. Across three EPs, multiple festivals and award nominations and the release of their debut album in September this year, their music is as authentic as it comes, capturing a culture that is rapidly disappearing, and is at times brutally honest and grabbing.

Over five decades of a varied career (with Waterson Carthy, Steeleye Span, solo and beyond), Martin Carthy has been one of folk music’s greatest innovators, one of its best loved, most enthusiastic and, at times, most quietly controversial of figures. He’s a ballad singer, a ground-breaking acoustic and electric-guitarist and an authoritative interpreter of newly composed material; always preferring to follow an insatiable musical curiosity rather than cash in on his unrivalled position.

Playing in support of Martin are some of his regular tourmates: recently-reunited vocal group The Devil’s Interval (the teaming of singers Jim Causley, Emily Portman and Lauren McCormick, each of them solo artists in their own right). The group are well-loved for their spell-binding harmonies and passion for captivating story-telling through the medium of traditional song: their three distinctive voices blend beautifully, bringing new life to some of the old jewels of the folk-song canon.

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Project Instrumental's Built on Bass, 4th December 2015

Project Instrumental + Tpongle + Zach Walker + DJ Jesse Bescoby present ‘Built On Bass’ (Hackney Attic 2170 Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HE, UK, Friday 4th December 2015, 7:30pm) – £6.00 – information here and heretickets

Project Instrumental bring thrilling performances to unbounded audiences. Bold, imaginative and boundary defying, this virtuosic ensemble strips back the peripherals with their straightforward contemporary approach to create not just concerts, but experiences. For ‘Built On Bass’, they bring together a composer, a sound artist and a visual artist to create a multi-sensory musical environment using sound, electronics and cymatics. Taking a four-hundred year-old form defined by variations against a bass motif, they connect a passacaglia-inspired programme of music written within the last fifty years and create a twenty-first century experience, responding to the written repertoire through live collaborations that explore the physical sensation of sound and auditory-visual interactions.

The world premiere of a commission from composer Robert Fokkens features in an irresistible confluence of timelessness, change, cycles and variance alongside Arvo Pärt’s mesmeric Passacaglia in its version for 2 violins and Dmitri Shostakovich’s powerful Chamber Symphony op.118a. Inspired by and sampling the programmed repertoire, sound artist, producer and DJ Tpongle creates a ‘passacaglia for the present’, weaving a bass thread through the night, culminating in a live electronic set. Zack Walker‘s striking projections will extend the sound experience in space using his live liquid cymatics sculpture, original film content and analog feedback projections to respond to the live musical performance. Ace Hotel Guest DJ Jesse Bescoby rounds the night off with a set exploring the gap between contemporary classical and experimental, independent music. All can be taken with locally produced craft beers and food available to order throughout the evening.

Programme:

Arvo Pärt – Passacaglia
Robert Fokkens – New Commission World Premiere
Dmitri Shostakovich – Chamber Symphony op.118a
Tpongle – Live electronic set
Zach Walker – Live cymatics sculpture

For a glimpse of Zach’s cymatic sculpture work, see below.

 

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Finally, something for readers in New York who like their art pop. Trevor Wilson of Anawan has been in touch with a welcoming Christmas message as cute, rambling, perky and openhearted as his band is. See below.

Anawan – ‘Having Fun’ show (Briscoe Music Space, 3 Sackett Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York, New York State, USA, Friday 4th and Saturday 5th December 2015, 8.00pm) – $5.00-$15.00 (pay-what-you-want) – information and tickets

We are doing a huge show on two nights, December 4th and 5th, at our music space in Red Hook, Brooklyn! At the intersection of danger and confidence comes, perhaps, one of the most important reasons for being alive. Sometimes ‘having fun’ is outwardly bold and courageous- motosports – skydiving. Sometimes just going out on a limb and making a joke is the boldest thing you can do in a day- just cracking a smile can take years for some! Love is more bold than any physical challenge- hearts are huge, sometimes mountains, with hiking trails to be lost in, make plans, need more, need less- as my friend Ethan Woods says, “love takes time”. But also, man, love is the funnest thing of all… what’s around the corner? You don’t know!

The “sound” of fun is loose and electric, sometimes passionate, sometimes flippant. The songs for this very special show include new songs inspired by fun – but don’t expect them to all sound like it… that would be too easy, and what’s the fun in that? In addition to working with my dear historical Anawan members, we’re working with some new folks and doing things in a new way, and that in and of itself is the most palpably fun element of this whole production. It’s going to be a huge ten-piece ensemble playing songs old and new; a rhythm section, string trio, electronics, and the usual Anawan gang. We’ll round the show off with some Anawan standbys as well as a supremely fun song from wa-a-ay back when. I really hope to see you there! I leave NYC at the end of the year to live elsewhere! This is it, guys! Let’s do it! I’m not gonna say it again!

Jesse Rifkin (a.ka. Jesse R. Berlin) will play electric guitar (one of my oldest and bestest musical pals – we met each other on Myspace in 2005 – such a beautiful guitar player). Tom Montagliano (of Maudlin Maladies) will provide the soundtrack to an experimental universe that will begin the night! Also involved – singing and more by Maia Friedman (Uni Ika Ai, Toebow), Alice Tolan-Mee (True Lucy) and Ethan Woods (Rokenri), percussion by Sandy Gordon (Silent Isle, Causings), violin by Elori Kramer (Alpenglow), keyboard and more by Judith Shimer (The Sneaky Mister), violin by Sarah Tolan-Mee (who is awesome) and elemental forces by Andrew Wells Ryder (True Lucy).

Tickets are donation based- we won’t turn anyone away- but this will go towards paying the performers and keeping the space warm. Make sure to come by 8.00pm so you do not miss anything. This could make a huge difference in your life! Or it may go on the same as always! See you there!

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More shortly, as we take on the weekend…

 

June 2015 – 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.

June 2015 – upcoming London gigs – Daylight Music this weekend (with Field Harmonics, Component#4, Benjamin Thomas Holton, Seamajesty)

18 Jun

Another week and another free/pay-what-you-want Daylight Music event in London, to flesh out your Saturday.

Daylight Music 194: Field Harmonics + Component#4 + Benjamin Thomas Holton, with Seamajesty (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN – Saturday 20th June, 12pm to 2pm) 

The second label showcase of the season, this time for Staffordshire-based Wayside and Woodland Recordings, bringing Field Harmonics, Benjamin Thomas Holton and Component#4 to the Union Chapel’s stage.

Following 2013’s critically acclaimed debut album ‘Walls’, Midlands electropop favourites Field Harmonics spring into 2015 with an even more accomplished and confident sound and vision, bolstered by the addition of new frontwoman Bryony Williams. Eighteen-year-old multi-instrumentalist Williams joins musician/producer Rob Glover (of ambient pastoralists epic45) for Phase II of Field Harmonics, bringing with her an assured swagger far beyond her years and an iconic vocal style that perfectly complements Glover’s crisp production.

Benjamin Thomas Holton has been creating and releasing music for nearly 20 years, whether as part of ambient pastoralists epic45, with the folk tinged song and sound experiments of My Autumn Empire or under various other shadowy pseudonyms. For this exclusive solo performance, Benjamin will be performing stripped down versions of songs from the forthcoming My Autumn Empire album ‘Dreams Of Death And Other Favourites’, as well as a handful of songs from previous releases.

Component#4 is Mike Rowley. Born and raised in the postindustrial, post-Thatcher remnants of the Black Country, Rowley’s music draws on the decaying factories, vandalized bus shelters and litter-strewn canals which formed the landscape of his childhood. Live, Rowley is joined by Andy Langford on drums and will perform versions of tracks from the 12″ EP ‘Barbed Wire Sunday’ and the recently released Component#4 debut album ‘Into Memory’.

The afternoon will also feature short laptop-based sets by Seamajesty (a.k.a. James Yates) using material he has recently built up under the project of ‘Tea and Biscuits’. Previously the drummer for such bands as The Pattern Theory and epic45, or session percussionist for German metal bands WFAHM or The Ocean, James’ current work as an engineer has helped him home in on certain directions he knew he wanted to pursue. To this end he built a studio in his garage, and started experimenting, recording to analog wherever possible and using several car-boot-found reel-to-reel and cassette tape machines to shape the recordings, adding a much loved lo-fi grit.

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

As an additional bonus, since this is an early afternoon event it still leaves you free to go to that inaugural Baltic Music Society concert in the evening. Not that I’m putting pressure on you…

June 2015 – upcoming gigs – Imminent shows at the Hope & Ruin in Brighton (Liebezeit & Irmler, Prolapse & Slum of Legs), plus the tours they belong to

11 Jun

If I was a Brightonian, I suspect that I’d be spending quite a lot of evenings at the Hope & Ruin. Not only does it host some of the town’s most interesting gigs, its interior décor – patched together in a pack-rat/caddis-fly jumble of enthusiasm – makes it feel like the vessel   of some spacegoing carny out of ‘Firefly’ or ‘Doctor Who’.

I’m guessing that most people who’ve read the post title will already know all about these – since cult art, Brighton and a gossip grapevine make a happy mash – but two upcoming Hope & Ruin gigs have caught my attention. One features two leading lights of the original Krautrock/kosmische/German experimental rock scene (something else that’s become as Brightonian as the Pavilion). The other one sees the return of one of Britain’s more interesting wrangle-rock rackets from the 1990s: on this occasion, backed up by a more than worthy heir from the current decade. Both are stops on longer UK tours – I’ll include details on those as well.

Jaki Liebezeit & Hans Joachim Irmler @ The Hope & Ruin, 11-12 Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3WA, UK, Thursday 17th June (doors 8.00pm)

The former Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit is one of the great beat stylists of experimental rock. Described as “a master of the pause and the stop”, he plays cutting, lean and propulsive rhythms from a small kit: alongside Neu!’s Klaus Dinger, he pioneered the mechanistic motorik beat which you’ll hear behind half a hundred nouveau-Krautrock bands. Hans Joachim Irmler () has had various multi-instrumental and production role in and around Faust over the years, but predominantly plays organ (a highly customisable transistor model which he built himself over forty years ago) and boxes-of-tricks (having created or co-created most of Faust’s unusual noise processors). Longstanding collaborators, Irmler and Liebezeit released the ‘FLUT’ album in 2014 featuring a “hypnotic maelstrom” of organ and drum improvisations. I’ve not reviewed it, but the ever-reliable ‘Quietus’ did – and it’s this vein of music which they’ll be performing.

More details here – although if you’re a fan, all of this will be old news and you’ll already have your tickets. If the Krautrock galaxy is still relatively new and obscure to you – and you’re within grabbing distance of Brighton – this sounds like the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the cult. (If recent rumblings about Liebezeit’s retirement are true, it might also be one of your last opportunities to taste the original flavour). If you’re not in Brighton, note that there are also tour dates in London, Fife and Glasgow (beginning on Friday) as listed below:

    Sunday 14th June 2015 – Platform, The Bridge, 1000 Westerhouse Road, Glasgow, G34 9JW, UK – details here.
    Tuesday 16th June – Cafe OTO, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL, UK – details here.

Prolapse + Slum Of Legs @ The Hope & Ruin, 11-12 Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3WA, UK, Tuesday 23rd June (doors 8.00pm)

Art-punks who emerged in the 1990s, Prolapse came up with a much more assured and individual take on the form than most, apparently by accident. The dual vocal frontline of Linda Steelyard and Mick Derrick (the former singing and the latter ranting,) often came across as disruptive theatre, a performance partnership which veered dramatically between combative duologues, utter disjunction or play-fights. Meanwhile the band behind them pegged brutally away on Krautrockian/Fall-esque rhythms, riffs and noises, like a Dada Hummvee worn down to its wheel-rims. The members have tended to claim that it all happened spontaneously and in general was a muckaround, but this was a band that was smart enough to work out when not to think – if you dug deep enough into them you found Master’s degrees, archaeologists, ceramicists and future journalists.

In 1999, after three albums and enough touring to wear them down, Prolapse very sensibly split up just before the point when it all became too frustrating. This year, having been enticed back from various locations and interesting jobs by Mogwai (who’ve invited them to play support at the latter’s 20th anniversary shows) they’ve opted to play a six-date UK tour, for which the other remaining dates are:

    Friday 19th June – The Maze, 257 Mansfield Road, City Centre, Nottingham, NG1 3FT, UK, 19th June (supported by Grey Hairs and Hot Shorts) – buy tickets here.

Playing support at the Brighton gig are Slum of Legs – an inspirational, instrument-swapping, all-female travelling brainstorm of a band. Although they have roots in Raincoats-style post-punk and Riot Grrl (and more than a few similarities to the spontaneous inventiveness of Prolapse) Slum Of Legs have a particular approach to lyric writing which is all their own – intricate, irreverent, literate and broad-ranging. So even if the musical style doesn’t altogether appeal to you, go for the sake of the words and see what else falls into place. (Again, I’m late to the table for this one, so I’ll refer you to this spray of enthusiasm from ‘Collapse Board’, which sets out a view of the Slum Of Legs stall in a way that’s far better, and probably far closer to their pulse, than I could right now.) More info on the gig is here.

June 2015 – upcoming gigs this weekend – Daylight Music in London (with Jo Mango, The Great Albatross, Circle Meets Dot), Matt Stevens house concert in Rome

11 Jun

Here are the details on this weekend’s Daylight Music event in London…

Daylight Music 193: Jo Mango + The Great Albatross + Circle Meets Dot (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN – Saturday 13th June, 12pm to 2pm)

Glasgow-based multi-instrumentalist Jo Mango’s second album ‘Murmuration’ was released in 2012 to great acclaim. This wonderfully wistful album combined unique selections from Jo’s eclectic musical instrument collection, with inspiration from her adventures: travelling the world as a member of Vashti Bunyan’s band; her experiences completing a Doctorate in Musicology; her collaborations with David Byrne, Devendra Banhart, Coco Rosie, Teenage Fanclub and Admiral Fallow amongst others.

The Great Albatross is the indie music project of singer/songwriter A. Wesley Chung (formerly of Boris Smile). The project was formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 2011 and consists of an expansive, international list of contributors and collaborators. The project has performed both in the US and UK, including both days of the 2013 Count Your Lucky Stars/Topshelf Records SXSW showcase in Austin, TX. The Great Albatross have performed alongside the likes of Into It. Over It., Admiral Fallow, Miaoux Miaoux, Jo Mango, Owen, Joan of Arc, Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), Joie de Vivre, and Football, Etc.

Sparking with the energy of a brand new meeting of minds, Circle Meets Dot is an emerging collaboration between Wesley Chung of The Great Albatross and Jo Mango. Soaring summer melodies steeped in California sunshine meet cloudy-day Scottish literary lyricism

Ed Dowie will be providing some light bird music in between the acts today/on Saturday. Using his mouth, his keyboard, some Max/MSP twiddlings and a whole host of bird recordings, he hopes to soundtrack the audience’s toilet and coffee breaks, as well as providing a backdrop to some cardboard bird spotting around James Cubitt’s beautiful building. Ed has been making music since the late 1990s, firstly as one third of Parlophone’s Brothers in Sound, then later a solo act under the name Redarthur. After a 5-year hiatus which he spent living in University libraries & music technology labs making strange bleeps, he returned to the music industry to join The Paper Cinema, a puppetry/animation/theatre/music hybrid (that tours both internationally & in Hackney).

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

Or if you’re in Rome, looping guitarist Matt Stevens is playing a house concert in the Batteria Nomentana district in the evening. As it’s a private gig, public information is scarce, but tickets and details are available here. For an earlier account of Matt in action, here’s a live review of his appearance at Roastfest from a few years ago. Matt will be performing again in the UK shortly with The Fierce & The Dead – more details on that soon.

May 2015 – upcoming London rock gigs – Gryphon’s crumhorn-wielding at the Union Chapel (preview via ‘Organ’)

28 May

I’m really out of the loop – I didn’t even know that Gryphon were playing, let alone touring. If I’d known, I’d have blogged about it earlier (and perhaps saved up for a ticket).

Gryphon are a wonderful band – a serious-minded but no-bullshit bassoon-and-crumhorn-toting electric folk/prog oddity with a perfect and elegant focus. They seemed to come about almost by accident in the early ’70s, as if a group of matter-of-fact mediaeval music scholars had suddenly been caught up on a lolling tongue of rock and taken off for a ride for a few years. I’ve not seen them play since 2009, when after thirty-one years they finally put on a reunion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. In a lone concession to rock theatre, reed player Brian Gulland turned up in a Wild Man of Borneo barnet and matching beard, and had the latter shaved off with a straight razor during the encore. Otherwise it was a straight demonstration that it was Gryphon’s music which had always mattered – inclusive, always choosing the deft path over the clotted, as clear as a bell and never overblown. They promised us a new album, but went quiet about that very quickly: at least they’re still up for playing.

If you’ve not already committed to something else for tomorrow’s London evening (and I know I’ve already pitched you two other options in the past week) do go along, but don’t just take my word for it. Here’s Organ’s typically gonzo-rapturous take on the band and the tour. I couldn’t agree with them more.

THE ORGAN

gryphon_unionchapel_flyeGryphon are on tour, this is a very very good thing, Gryphon are gloriously beautiful, they’re like Bagpuss or strawberry jam on toast, they’re like every good thing from back there when all was good, pipe organs and tank engines and crumhorn-wielding and jousting and as cool as f. And tomorrow is the final night of their rather unexpected current tour – It has been a long time coming and so it is with enormous pleasure that we announce the Gryphon “None the Wiser” tour. – Gryphon bring their unique blend of English prog, refined folk and mediaeval warmth to London’s Union Chappel

Gryphon is the oldest and the newest thing – a legendary British band that’s as exhilarating, energetic, unpredictable and addictive now as it was when the band last toured, in the 1970s. At that time, no-one could pigeonhole Gryphon. The band appeared on BBC Radios 1, 2…

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May 2014 – through the feed – Sontag Shogun debut album

12 May

Sontag Shogun: 'Tale'

Sontag Shogun: ‘Tale’

Multi-disciplinary New York trio Sontag Shogun (including Jeremy Young, whom I reviewed playing live in London last year as Foxout!’s guitarist) sent me some news about the recent release of their debut album ‘Tale’. Ostensibly post-rockers, Sontag Shogun don’t conform much to the genre’s more insular tendencies, being made up of three restless multi-media artists moving from craft to craft and from continent to continent. Jeremy, for instance, also co-runs the band’s not-just-a-record-label Palaver Press, which unifies sound publication with assorted texts and fine-art bookbinding.

‘Tale’ was recorded in carefully-hoarded scraps created around the world while Jeremy (sound sources and contact miking) was studying in London, Jesse Perlstein (laptop, tweaked voice and kleptomaniac microphone) was traveling in Korea, and Ian Temple (the grand piano) was back at home in Brooklyn. Field recordings were gleaned from diverse adventures including “a trek through a Columbian jungle, a piano tuner testing the ivory at the Southbank Centre and a South Korean traditional singer hitting a buk (or leather folk drum).” Back in New York, the results were looped, layered and mixed with planned performance (both final takes and rehearsal scrapings) to create a tender collage and a trans-genre which Sontag Shogun call “lullanoise”.

For a taste of what this sounds like, here’s the simple and beautiful but implicatory video for one of the album’s piano-led tracks, The Musk Ox (directed by Isabel Nao):

and here’s a video of Sontag Shogun performing another album track, Let The Flies In, live in France in 2013:

‘Tale’ is available as either CD and download and can be ordered from here.

Sontag Shogun online:
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REVIEW – Kiran Leonard: ‘Dear Lincoln’ single, 2013 (“a joyride through the Day of the Dead”)

18 May

Kiran Leonard: 'Dear Lincoln'

Kiran Leonard: ‘Dear Lincoln’

Now here’s something.

Kiran Leonard’s already an established teenage wunderkind – a bedroom-industry frenzy act who’s rapidly gummed together a string of homemade albums and slung them out, via Soundcloud and Bandcamp, to a surprised and unsuspecting world. When he’s not doing that, he’s charging round his family’s Oldham house waving a caiman head, or shooting his own scratch videos on a budget of tuppence. He plays most of the instruments he needs, wrestling tunes out of pianos, drums and guitars; ukuleles, laptops, screwdrivers and radiators. While his music’s just about ramshackle -raw enough to avoid trouble with the indie-rock police, his ambitions and application have leaned closer to prog and to a grandiose psychedelia. In 2012, for instance, he cooked up a rambling, apocalyptic single about the Mayan doomsday prophecy. It topped out at around 24 minutes long and tied together the wilder bits of ‘Cloud Atlas’ and the paranoid, grinding Pink Floyd of 1977.

It’ll still be three years before Kiran turns twenty. I could wonder what he’s going to do when he grows up, but I almost hope that he doesn’t.

Dear Lincoln is something different for Kiran – much lighter and more immediate. Traveling backwards as he goes forwards, Kiran seems to have suddenly discovered pop in all of its concise hooks, blind momentum and smart throwaway logic. Actually, he’s rediscovered it – Dear Lincoln was written some time ago, while he was a ripe 14 – but now seems to be the perfect time to unveil it. Its a bust-out. It sounds like a joyride through the Day of the Dead. Kiran, hammering away at a tack piano and squawking like a glammed-up crow, drives the gauges into the red and embraces Bolan swagger, a swaying Robyn Hitchcock playfulness, some of the wild euphoria of Guillemots and even a needling tinge of Kevin Coyne. Earlier in 2013, there was the ‘Oakland Highball’ EP, which showed that he was getting interested in snappier, noisier forms. Dear Lincoln nails it. If we could work out what he was singing, it’d even be singalong.

What’s it about? God knows. The words are a babbling wodge of mondegreens-in-waiting about suit-crevices and moonlight, thrown out at us as Kiran carries out his lyrical handbrake turns. “Murderous plain,” he protests, in passing, but it certainly isn’t. Not unless he’s talking about death again. The song could be about gunned-down Presidents, it could just be about missing the family cat, but one thing Dear Lincoln does do is blur the lines between the living and the dead – a rollicking Halloween dance, or a resurrection day stomp. Even that long-croaked, ranting old herald of the Übermensch, Friedrich Nietzche, has a ghostly cameo; prowling the English parishes as a witness before succumbing to anxiety, melting away and vanishing. In the chopped froth of the lyrics, Kiran playfully juggles around ideas of resurrection, rousing, and where he’ll be standing when it all comes to pass; but constantly swats away any navel-gazing with onomatopoeic streams of Little Richard-isms. “Praying for the bodies to assemble and wake… / Come back today, bou-la-ray / oh, ta-hoo-lay.”

Don’t get the idea that this is all a casual throw-together. Anyone keeping half an eye on how Kiran thinks will know that he’s meticulous; that he worries like crazy about getting things right. But Dear Lincoln’s explosive delivery – its immediacy, its ability to swing round the story without stopping to count the words – suggest that he’s finally able to harness his particular genius and to let it live in the moment. This is by no means the first we’ve seen of Kiran Leonard, but it feels like the start of him.

Kiran Leonard: ‘Dear Lincoln’
Hand of Glory Records (catalogue number & barcode t.b.c.)
Vinyl/streamed single
Released: 16th May 2013 (streamed), 2nd September 2013 (vinyl)

Get it from:
Hand of Glory store (vinyl), or Soundcloud (stream)

Kiran Leonard online:
Homepage Facebook Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM YouTube

REVIEW – Robert White: ‘Everything Is Free’ video single, 2013 (“blown up with a wondrous inner light”)

12 Apr

“Everything is free now, / that’s what they say. / Everything I ever done, / gonna give it away.”

Innocence blisters. Sometimes you have to take it – and yourself – away for a while, to cradle it and let it heal.

In spite of over thirty years in the songwriting business (he started young, with anything that he could get his hands on), Robert White still has that quality of innocence. If he’s got scars, he bears them calmly and with acceptance, but he must have suffered some psychic sunburn along the way. There were those early ’80s swirls around no-budget London psychedelia, keeping up a fit of giggles and avoiding becoming a casualty. Then there was the bristling musical tensions of Levitation, continually blowing their own heat-shield and ending up as five men biting each others ankles. Finally, there was the pearly, patchy career of his own Milk & Honey Band.

It’s not as if the Milks were the only people in the last couple of decades who smoked and breathed that Beatles mix of singalong wit, music hall parp and peacock splendor (Karl Wallinger and Roland Orzabal, to name but two, made a decent fist of it). But for my money, if you want that luminous Lennon/McCartney glow picked up and rolled out like a quilt, then Bob’s yer avuncular. He and the Milks should have been treasured by everyone. You; your granny; ‘Mojo’ Man; that painfully hip little boy down the road who secretly yearns for pure pop and papers his bedroom wall with old Byrds and Teenage Fanclub sleeves. Instead, you probably never got to hear them. Shame. And for three years, Bob has been hiding up and keeping quiet: skulking in Fulking, on the South Downs chalkhills. Those gifts which he used to apply to music, he’s been spending on photography instead – pictures of local landscapes blown up with a wondrous inner light; an illumination rendering sweeping Sussex hillsides alive with warm energies.

Here, though, is Bob alone; drawn back to instruments, woodshedding again. Now he’s pulling the dustcloth off a beautiful brand new Gillian Welch cover for us to have a listen to. Welch seems to be something of a go-to girl for art-rockers; at least, for those of them who are thirsty for a wellspring of country without the taste of cattle and spurs (see also A Marble Calm’s glorious Frisell-meets-Eno roll through I Dream A Highway) and Bob’s version honours her original simplicity. He could have festooned it in harmonies and ringing guitars, but instead it’s mostly just him, a light-as-moonbeams piano, and the kind of reverb that turns slapback into caress. Everything else there has blossomed onto the song like dew. There are touches of synth cello, a glockenspiel or two; maybe a celesta towards the end. As things travel onwards, water-drop swells of backward sound are delicately varnished onto the keystrokes.

That’s the sound: now listen to the song, and the singer. Bob’s voice is lower than it was, perhaps tempered with a couple of hairline cracks of resignation, as he slips inside Welch’s words and makes them his own. The business bruises; the thoughts of escape, and of dignity – “I can get a tip jar, gas up the car, / try to make a little change down at the bar. / Or I can get a straight job – I’ve done it before. / Never minded working hard, it’s who I’m working for.” Disaffection, though, doesn’t entirely clog up the world. The compulsion of songs is sometimes sung about as if it were a curse: here, it’s more about music coming regardless. It’s hard not to feel that Bob’s singing for himself when he murmurs out lines of guarded, flowing creation (“every day I wake up humming a song / but I don’t need to run around, I just stay home,”) and, finally, resolution. (“I’m going to do it anyway / even if it doesn’t pay.”) I think he’s back. Please don’t miss him this time, will you?

Robert White: ‘Everything Is Free’
Robert White (no catalogue number or barcode)
Video-only single
Released: 13th February 2013

Get it from:
Currently only viewable as video – no wider release announced yet. Video by Nick Power @ iseetigers.

Robert White online:
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REVIEW – Apricot Rail: ‘Basket Press’ single, 2013 (“a five-minute garland”)

22 Jan
Apricot Rail: 'Basket Press'

Apricot Rail: ‘Basket Press’

Damn, but latter-day post-rock bands can be dour. Something renders so many of them dry, or scrunched up into a kind of passive-aggressive melodrama. Too many of them belong to the post-Mogwai/Explosions In The Sky faction – increasingly hackneyed building blocks of minimal, stilted guitar arpeggios, building to a fuzzed-up tumble of noise via a gradual crescendo. I’ve heard it too often now. It’s like watching the same slow-motion fireworks every night – every time, the same chilly histrionics.

Perth sextet Apricot Rail, trailing this new single for their second album ‘Quarrels’, manage to avoid that disappointment. As ever, they bring some of the original post-rock enchantment back as well as plenty of enchantment of their own. Admittedly, on a first hearing Basket Press is more conventionally post-rocky than their previous outing (2011’s ‘Surry Hills’ EP, in which whirring warmth and a sun-dappled shuffling of approaches gave their music the vivid craft of a beautiful set of handmade holiday postcards). The band have even returned to those pluck/build/fuzz/hallucinate ingredients I’ve just been savaging, and there’s less of the generous instrument-swapping that’s freshened their approach in the past.

In spite of this, Apricot Rail manage to avoid drabness and predictability. Basket Press is a five-minute garland of distinct and graceful stages. Part summery harvest-time music, part rippling classical suite, part affectionate conversation, it’s bound together with a palpable friendliness. First there’s a lone guitar sketching out slow American-folk arpeggios with a touch of echo (the chords, save for one crucial falling note, reworking the floating Pink Floyd melancholia of Us And Them). Then, as woodwind player Mayuka airs a fuzzy flute trail of sustained notes, there are three. Guitarists Ambrose, Jack and Justin strum, curl and gently chisel out firmer chords over a cosy fuss of drums, as if they were rounding off a carved scroll. From this, a move to that on-the-one post-rock downstrum – then, as two guitars mix a light picking of melody with pinging counter harmonics, Mayuka’s flute wakes into a twining, rising counterpoint. Bass and drums move in via a low dotting – a patter, and a dialogue.

All along, the feeling is of a mutual binding, of teamwork, all six musicians facing inwards to share the exchange. The music slips through phases like breathing, like the momentum of thoughts; like assured working hands shifting their grip on a gardening hoe. A rare and understated joy wells through it, passing hints. In many respects, all of this is moving to a similar pulse as that mid-’70s sweep of world-folk and chamber-jazz melanged into being by Paul McCandless, Ralph Towner and their colleagues in Oregon. As the lowest-pitched guitar stirs a new folkier rhythm into the band circle, Mayuka responds with sweet McCandless-esque clarinet curves. Upping the ante, a detailed guitar study – a Mediterranean sparkle – works its way in over rising supportive drums. Another guitar, sitting in the mid-register, embroiders sweet minimal rosettes of lazy cycling notes.

Eventually the band builds through a mass of roaring pedalwork and noise into the kind of land-sliding, sleeting mass of guitar-descend which we’re used to as that conclusive Mogwai-tradition flourish. This time, though: it’s been prepared for. Rather than the expected ragged glory of a ruined Sysiphus-bound downwards into gravity’s clutches, it’s a payoff – a burst of energy from what the musicians have put into the song and stored there.

For the curious – a basket press is a wine-making device, one used for over a thousand years. I can see the connection. Harvest arrives.

Apricot Rail: ‘Basket Press’
Hidden Shoals Recordings (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only single
Released: 10th January 2013

Buy it from:
Bandcamp

Apricot Rail online:
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REVIEW – Elephant: ‘Golden’ single, 2012 (“playing in the sunshine”)

8 Sep
Elephant: 'Golden'

Elephant: ‘Golden’

Hmm. It’s only taken Elephant a year and a half to journey from being walkers in the gloaming (singing out their queasy, dissolved surrealism) to playing in the sunshine. There were some clues on their previous EP, ‘Assembly‘, which embraced mainstream pop while twirling mournfully like a mascara-ed panda; yet this is a firm step outwards from the obsessive feel of their early singles. Or is it?

Whether it’s Amelia Rivas’ French ancestry coming through, or just a shared and surfacing taste for classy Europop, Golden sees Elephant strip away their cavernous post-punk layers of dream-pop guitars and blood-throb synths in favour of gently bobbing acoustic strums, shimmering organ string pads, a touch of swing and bell-like keyboard smears. Actually, come to think of it, they’ve been here before on Actors, the surprising B-side to their second single Allured. This is altogether more sedate, though – a leisurely boat trip as compared to Actors’ chic bike ride, or perhaps a gentle merry-go-round bump’n’whirl. Compared to the hallucinatory greyness of their earlier work, it’s full-colour. French-tinged pop, for certain: an antique kind, filtered through Goffin and King and through Elephant’s subtle and invisible technical skills.

The link to what’s come before remains Amelia’s voice (still mournful and carrying a dry-eyed narcotic timbre, whatever she’s singing about) and her baffling way with a lyric, in which she dabs loosely associated words and phrases into a line like painted highlights and hopes that you’ll focus on her own scattered picture. With this kind of tune – this lightness, this air of sated contentment – I’m assuming that Golden is a love song. It certainly starts as intimate (“speaking in codes to you / in a drowned-out room. / Chandelier shelters us – / only space for two,”) but a chorus that gives equal weight to the words “escapade” and “hate” suggests something a little more complex.

Certainly by the second verse – “gazing from this altitude, / trapeze transforms to new. / The old was there all along. / Telescope straight to you,” – we’re in lyrical warpspace. Though Elephant have never sounded so cosy, so lovewrapped on the outside, the usual hallucinations are bleeding up from the inside. By the third verse, the summertime and the sunlight are taking on a shadow-etched ‘Twin Peaks’ hue – “The trees they whisper too, / as I glare from a bird’s eye view. / The grass entwines my feet and hands – / they hold me like you do.”

If you look at something too closely, cracks appear, and that’s true both when looking at songs and looking at love. Love and rage: the cuddle that ebbs away into a stifle… I’m backing off. Today I was promised sunshine, and a dank draught from the basement wasn’t part of the plan.

Perhaps if I don’t look too hard, I’ll be able to glide along on the surface, hold hands and enjoy the golden light. Perhaps it will all be OK. Will it?

Elephant: ‘Golden’
Elephant (self-released)
Download-only single
Released: 6th June 2012

Buy it from:
Soundcloud

Elephant online:
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REVIEW – Elephant: ‘Allured/Actors’ single, 2011 (“a slow jam that’s strayed”)

6 Jun
Elephant: 'Allured/Actors'

Elephant: ‘Allured/Actors’

“Oh, hello, / I’m a never-ever-let-it-show – / But I know that you know. / Maybe I should let it, let it show…”

On past evidence Elephant have a knack for drawing us in while admitting to little. Their debut single mingled dream-pop with reggae and industrial chill, and cold electronics with fairy-tale flashes. They ride on a solid understanding of black pop, yet constantly swerve away from it into Euro-cool whiteness. They readily confuse, and they excel in oblique feelings – perhaps they can’t help it. Amelia’s blank singing, their aloof and obscure post-punk textures, their taste for quick-cut lyrics and surreal, visual word-imagery… while their work so far is memorable, all of it’s a conundrum. Yet for a moment, on this second single, everything is clearer.

With only the subtlest indie-pop bleachings and dream-pop shadings, Allured is an R’n’B piano ballad: plain and simple. There’s the deep, minimal support of bass. There’s the gaps, space and swat of a heavy-lidded slow sex-beat; the sparse flick of tambourine like a shimmying skirt-fringe. Essentially it’s a slow jam that’s strayed out of the dance club in its heels and skintights, taken a wrong turning past the taxi rank, and been painlessly swallowed by Elephant’s dreamy way of doing things. In the video we watch as voyeurs as Amelia and Christian languidly nuzzle and smooch each other – lengthily, and uninterruptedly. Either they’re answering that “are-they-aren’t-they?” question that’s hung around Elephant since the beginning, or they’re very committed to the world of this particular song.

Whether Elephant have simply been infected by R’n’B’s outright and intoxicated sexuality, or whether they’ve swallowed it deliberately, is open to question. I suspect the latter. Few areas of twenty-first century pop haven’t rolled over and submitted to R’n’B’s sweaty vigour and its gobby, blinged-up sex’n’suss’n’opportunity confidence. While some diehard indie-poppers might still scream and scrub it off; or cling to older schools of soul, Elephant see a good thing and slurp it up, embracing and engulfing it in their turn. So here they are, reaching out greedily into the wide-open mainstream while happily sunk in obsession, drunk with sensuality.

Only the lyrics retain that peculiar Elephantine distortion. Amelia rolls the words around on her tongue, dabbing them with glottal stops and her own strange short-circuiting shifts of accent or syntax, whether wriggling into a tangled lick of coyness, circling orgasm (“our own anatomy, so I find the path – my brain / it carousels instantly, drives me to insane,”) or swimming in a stupor of surrendered identity (“I dreamt he’d written me… He took me away, crossed me away from the crowd…”) By rights, this clotted wordplay should cripple the song. Instead it lolls sexily across the beat, as if on the brink of falling out of bed.

Then the B-side – Actors – throws us right off the scent. Same old Elephant; entirely different set of clothes. Rather than the wallow of bass and beats, here are acoustic guitars on the strum, a skinny ice-rink organ, and a dose of fast-paced pop soufflé which chuffs around its drum track like a toy steam train. It’s a tune for people in mini-dresses to run around Paris to, or chase summer bicycles through Spanish Harlem. Once again, Amelia’s dazed delivery and tangled string of lyrics ensure that it keeps the Elephant stamp.

It’s anyone’s guess as to what she’s singing about this time – “hop around aimlessly, simply surrender to time. /Animations out past under the feet, imitating a shadow spine.” Somehow the words fall into place as she sings of paying the rent “with a monogram eye” or murmurs about “the highest apple in the tree.” Perhaps, like many of the best and sexiest club hook-ups, it’s just a happy accident.

Elephant: ‘Allured/Actors’
Memphis Industries, MI0193S/D
vinyl 7″/download single
released: 18th July 2011

Buy it from:
Memphis Industries.

Elephant online:
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REVIEW – Elephant: ‘Ants’ single, 2011 (“somewhere between love-gone-wrong and epilepsy”)

30 May
Elephant: 'Ants/Wolf Cry'

Elephant: ‘Ants/Wolf Cry’

Band named after large thing actually sounds small. Single named after tiny things suggests that small-sounding band (named after large thing) could go massive. Sometimes I love pop’s ridiculous anti-logic.

Elephant are two. Christian Pinchbeck coaxes noises out of computers and wrangles chittering textures from guitars. Amelia Rivas plays old sounds on modern keyboards while swimming and sighing distractedly through the middle, avoiding eye contact. It’s synth-pop, allegedly, but it’s also nothing quite so obvious. Amelia and Christian may or may not be a couple, but that’s not clear either. With Elephant, not much is.

Ants is Elephant’s debut single, and it spends its three minutes cunningly, surprisingly persuading various things that shouldn’t work together to cosy up and make something which does work. A gentle reggae bounce, a dribble of whiter-than-anything psychedelic guitar direct from Cocteau Twins; a roughed-up reedy synth figure like a bass accordion with hiccups. As for what the song might be about, it’s somewhere between love-gone-wrong and epilepsy; like David Lynch reimagined as lovers rock. “I’m tired and I’m bruised for you,” Amelia murmurs, moping elegantly across the backbeat. “The war that I fought made my body contort… I’m down in the black, and I’m blue.”

When we talk of indie-pop being sickly, we usually mean that it lacks power. Here, sickliness is power. Unease and disease blend together, reality is erased by symptoms, and experience is somehow amplified by the giddiness and blank alarm. Throughout, there are references to buckling knees; to floating and amnesia and jump-offs; to falling to the ground or into song. Even the chorus avoids clarity in favour of hallucinatory warp (“Ants now scurry on the floor, / I just can’t remember before,”) with all perspective thrown right out-of-whack. Yet Elephant snatch a victory from these flashes of confusion and disaster, sheathing them into a subtle, catchy, play-it-again heartbeat of song; a cool, black-and-white flicker of distress call.

While Ants cloaks strangeness under bits of spooky washed-out reggae ballad, its flipside Wolf Cry goes for out-and-out surrealism in a stream of Bunuel electro-punk. Amelia sings of seasons, seafarers and parted lovers. Deeper into the song, she jinks these acid-folk fairytales into blurred dreams of power struggles, throwing out images of hunky aristocrats or “militants on the roof.” Everything hangs together – precariously – over Christian’s alienated instrumental bonework: a flat backdrop of flat echoing skitters, deep red bassquakes, ghostly chords and spray-can snare hits. As the song riffles balefully through its repertoire of cinematic flashes, impressions build and cut (“the ticking of a clock, jumps to interior,”) or flirt, archly, around games of obscurity (“we all wear a mask to a fellow passer-by.”)

Ultimately, Wolf Cry comes apart in the fingers if you squeeze too hard (the strange syntax, the dodging of plot, their mingling of seduction and avoidance) in much the same way that the story of Ants comes to us half-melted. Elephant have a knack for this kind of anti-logical play, squeezing into the gaps in the story. Besides, they’ve already demonstrated that they’re masters at magicking something coherent out of disorientated fragments – not least via a fine mournful tune or two. Evasive or not, they’re very much in the room. I suspect that I’m going to go on talking about them.

Elephant: ‘Ants’
Memphis Industries, MI0172S
vinyl 7″/download single
released: 17th January 2011

Get it from:
Memphis Industries.

Elephant online:
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November 2011 – EP reviews – Elephant’s ‘Assembly’ (“how the war is contained”)

20 Nov

Elephant: 'Assembly'

Elephant: ‘Assembly’

Though Elephant’s Amelia and Christian actually hail from semi-rural English idylls (Pontefract and Stroud), their band is a London band and behaves like one. Rather, it presents itself in the way many pop bands made in London by incomers tend to. There’s something a little guarded about Elephant’s music – detailed and consuming notes from the inner life versus a chilly, self-constructed poise. It’s difficult to see which side is winning. It’s interesting seeing how the war is contained.

Two previous singles, ‘Ants’ and ‘Allured’, have dabbled in pop-reggae and R’n’B respectively, merging these with Amelia’s dazed and distorted lyricism and Christian’s avant-garde dream-pop trickery. With ‘Assembly’, Elephant now seem to be moving into more mainstream territories – more Anglo or European, certainly a little whiter. Think of a tranquillized Yazoo strained through 1960s West Coast pop; and then through the submarine guitar rills of Cocteau Twins, Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine. Think of a poppier yet more introspective Broadcast.

Think, also, of slow-paced black and white movies in which no-one seems to do much. While most synth-pop blazes outwards, Elephant’s blanched-out songs (offhanded in manner but carefully constructed) are always on the verge of collapsing inwards. Smooth swatches of organ, pulses of vintage keyboard and a solid sense of classic pop songwriting provide their work with an anchorage. But even when the synth trills and frills are at their liveliest, Elephant are increasingly trading in infinite shades of grey – monochrome filigree, slanted shadows, deadened responses. Amelia’s hopeless, surrendered sigh should be the band’s weak point, flattening Elephant’s pop soar into a graceful, endless nose-dive. In practise, those last drops of romance which cling to her resignation render the songs that much more intriguing.

Within the songs, the band’s brains are ticking away even when they sound as if they’re dazed by cough-mixture hangovers. Under its icy shrouding, Assembly pop-bops and puppy-bounces like The Teardrop Explodes; but still takes its medication straight to a frozen heart, anatomizing and dissecting the impact of closeness gone wrong. “It’s like a disease,” complains Amelia. “Think too hard, the brain goes cold.” While she’s dishing out a few sharp survival tips amongst the scalloped echoes and fairy-dust twinkles – “don’t dwell on who won’t dwell over you” – most of the song is convalescence and consolidation. “I have a mind,” she muses, pulling herself in. “The rest is numb, just a skeleton.”

The deeper into the EP you go, the further Elephant conceal outright emotion under festoons of Cocteau Twins guitar, blood-pulse synth and studied blankness. This is happening even as the lines they deliver lean more and more towards the romantic. Even the desert island setting of Shipwrecked doesn’t cut the chill. Amelia wanders through blurs of physicality (“shuffle, ricochet on the ground”), then fails to connect (“don’t try to confuse me again, / you speak so slow, sand falls on my head”) and finally all but gives up (“What’s the point of time? It dissolves in the sea. / If you sail with the tide, will you shipwreck back to me?”) While Christian’s sounds trail and spiral onwards, Amelia chases a half-stunned chorus – “that’s where my heart, the rest of my heart is” – as if grasping after a pair of slow-moving balloons.

The imperious blast of keyboards at the start of Hopeless herald an out-and-out dizzy love song. It’s part classic ’60s girl-group, part hi-NRG synth-pop. In its way – in Elephant’s particular way – it’s even quite triumphant. Elephant’s way, though, usually involves some kind of collapse. Amelia spins through the middle of the song, twirling like a stray leaf, sounding happy to be blown around by feeling. “Hopeless I know, I sway to and fro – / I can’t hide from you.”

But by the end of the EP, Elephant are hiding out. At Twilight is a step back to their earlier, artier work: from its swallowed-up chorused vocals and witch-queen intro, to its deathly pace and dreamy lyrics about a “circus moon”, it’s also deep trip-hop collapsing into Gothwave. A bass pulse lags and limps outside of the funereal beat: Amelia stares at her hands and murmurs “I need to leave, but I don’t know how,” as a foam of feedback gradually fills up the space. Inner life boiling over? Perhaps. Elephant play a teasing game with their songwriting tensions. It makes us keep listening.

Elephant: ‘Assembly’
Memphis Industries, MI0200CD/D
CD/download EP
released: 14th November 2011

Buy it from:
Memphis Industries.

Elephant online:
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