Tag Archives: multi-instrumentalists

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).

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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.




 

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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.


 
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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.

 

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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.


 

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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.

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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.”


 

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 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…

 

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