Tag Archives: multimedia

October 2017 – upcoming English gigs – Holly Penfield chops and changes in London (18th October); Minute Taker’s multimedia love-and-ghosts story ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ in Glasgow, London & Brighton (15th, 21st, 22nd October); Cardiacs’ ‘Marenest’ fundraiser showing in Bristol with The Scaramanga Six (21st October); and something on Paul Diello

7 Oct

Holly Penfield presents:
‘Holly Penfield – Spooky Little Girl’
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 372 Kennington Lane, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5HY, England
Wednesday 18th October 2017, 8.00pm
– information here

Holly Penfield: 'Fragile Human Monster', 18th October 2017For a while, there, I was spun back. Twentysomething years ago, I was a regular at Holly Penfield‘s ‘Fragile Human Monster Show’ (having first caught her performance on a random Edinburgh night back in 1992). Ostensibly based around sleek ’80s synth’n’sequencer pop, her shows had a number of twists. More like ’70s songwriter confessionals, they stirred yearning jazz and blues strands back into a genre which had mostly eschewed them. Based around Holly, her Kurzweil keyboard and a saxophonist (usually her husband Ian Ritchie, who’s had a hand in everything from Scouse artniks Deaf School to the Roger Waters band and the ‘Lonely Planet’ theme), they also had a compelling and bizarre Californian theatrical edge which variously sat in your lap and purred, wailed over your head, broke down in front of you, or made you feel less alone – always in the same set.

If you can dig up Holly’s long-lost debut album ‘Full Grown Child‘ – a brash early ‘80s Chinnichap production – you’ll hear an Innuendo-strewn, pop-belting cross between Suzi Quatro, a bleach-blond Rizzo, ABBA and full-on coke-blizzard-era Stevie Nicks. ‘Fragile Human Monster’ was the fallout from all that: an onstage realisation of Holly’s independent followup ‘Parts Of My Privacy’, in which she and Ian went back to her bluesier and torchier San Francisco roots, merged it with Ian’s techno-pop skills and teased out a series of passionate, cracked paeans (plus jarring digressions into performance art) about fear, instability and how the lost rebuild their lives and make their way. Tremendously tuneful but at odds to the music biz, the ‘Fragile Human Monster Show’ was that rare thing: outsider music with genuine craft and skill. It was also pretty queer and culty, drawing a diverse squadron of waifs and strays of all stripes (including me) to Holly’s home venue on the Kilburn High Road. Eventually it wore Holly out: putting it to rest, but still hanging onto her stubborn kookiness, she applied her remarkable voice and stage presence to a new career as a jazz cabaret diva. She’s made, I think, just one revisitation to Monster territory since (which you can read about here).

Holly Penfield: 'Spooky Little Girl', 18th October 2017Late this summer, though, Holly announced that she was bringing the old show back for an evening in October, though she wasn’t clear about how she’d be doing it: perhaps reworked for the acoustic jazz band she’s used for the last couple of decades, or perhaps with her going it alone (with the Kurzweil and sequencers brought out of mothballs and will go it alone). At any rate, I thought I’d be going along – possibly in search of my own confused, similarly theatrical mid-twenties self, perhaps to see if I got along with him a little better.

However, everything was upended in early September following Holly’s jolting appearance in the auditions for ‘The X-Factor’. Ubercamp, leather-clad and singing Meredith Brooks’ Bitch, she went full-on nightclub and came on to Simon Cowell like a kinky Weimar nightmare with a riding crop. Inspired by the experience (and not a little miffed at the mocking edit that made it to TV) Holly’s now claiming that “the evil jazz cabaret performer in (me) has clawed its way to the surface”, and has morphed the October show into an upbeat Halloween “Spooky Little Girl” special (billed as “cabaret classics, spooktacular rocking favourites and self-penned songs as only our Diva can deliver them”).

I can’t help thinking that an opportunity’s been lost (or steamrollered) but I might show up anyway. She’s still promising to pepper all of the knowing cornballery with old FHM songs; several existing set standbys (such as Stay With Me, seen below in a torch-jazz arrangement from 2009) originated in the old show, and a new-ish piano/vocal song Confessions (posted up online a year ago) suggests a creative leaning back towards the old days of torch and bearing witness. Regardless of any of that, there’s still the voice; there’s still the onstage magnetism. Should be some sort of a blast.



 
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Minute Taker: 'To Love Somebody Melancholy' (live show)Also during the midmonth, acclaimed LBTQ folktronicist Minute Taker (aka Ben McGarvey) takes his multimedia show ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ out on tour in England and Scotland. I missed the news about his summer tour (which spiralled out from his homebase of Manchester, taking in Oldham, Chorlton and the Didsbury Art Festival plus a trans-Pennine appearance at Hebden Bridge) but managed to catch the news about his autumn followups in Glasgow, Brighton and London (including an appearance at the seventeenth century “actor’s church”, St Pauls in Covent Garden). Here’s the story:

“Singer-songwriter Minute Taker and BFI award-winning animation artist Ana Stefaniak have created a haunting, modern fable told through projected film and an epic live band performance of Minute Taker’s upcoming album… Expect to be immersed in a dark and magical world of strange animated characters and piano songs brimming with ethereal harmonies, fizzing synthesisers and orchestral twists.

“In ancient Greek philosophy Aristotle first popularised the notion that artists, poets and writers were of a melancholic disposition. In the middle ages melancholics were thought to be possessed by demons if they could not be “cured” of their depressive tendencies. Set on a desolate seashore, ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ explores the notion of the archetypal artist as he journeys through the euphoric highs and the self-destructive lows of his creative cycles. A new romantic relationship brings the artist the contentment he craves but it soon becomes apparent that there’s something else lurking in the shadows; a ghostly, shapeshifting third entity whose form is entirely dependent upon the artist’s current mindset. Sometimes a saviour, a source of inspiration and hope, sometimes a savage, ruthlessly determined on driving his lover away.”


 
Ben comments “one of my biggest influences when creating ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ was Kate Bush’s masterpiece ‘The Ninth Wave’. Such a wonderfully magical, otherworldly and at times frightening journey into the unknown. I never tire of going on this adventure with her. Come join our own dark adventure, inspired by Kate’s.”

Dates:

  • Websters Theatre, 416 Great Western Road, Woodlands, Glasgow, G4 9HZ, Scotland, Sunday 15th October 2017, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • St Paul’s Church, 29 Bedford St, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9ED, London, England, Saturday 21st October 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Latest Music Bar, 14-17 Manchester Street, Brighton, BN2 1TF, England, Sunday 22nd October 2017, 7.30pm (with Paul Diello) – information here

Additional support comes in Brighton comes from the award-winning “pop/folk/fabulous” singer-songwriter Paul Diello, who recently wowed the Brighton Fringe Festival with a sold out run of five-star-review shows and who promises “a special set of songs” for the occasion. Citing Madonna, Bowie, Kate Bush and Anohni as inspirations, Paul is an increasingly powerful artistic presence in the LGBT underground, operating in the febrile interface between cabaret, chart pop, queerness and visual staging (in particular, via video). Provocative and insidious, with an ear for the brazen tunes of ‘80s synthpop, Paul reminds me of a tougher Marc Almond – albeit with the sturdy physique of a dockside bouncer – while his songs are sharp confections of fists, flowers and standing your ground.


 
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Kate Bush seems to have become a recurring presence in this thread. Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I’ve always drawn a vague connecting line between ‘The Ninth Wave’ and Cardiacs’ 1989 album ‘On Land And In The Sea’.

Despite their common south London roots and the bare three years between them, there doesn’t initially seem to be much linking Bush’s silky-petalled Fairlight-driven art pop with the shrill, switchbacking, horns-and-artpunk firepower of Cardiacs, let alone their urchin squawks versus her sensual coo (though I’d have loved to have heard them cover each other). Dipping beneath the surface, however, reveals plenty to unite the two work. There’s the common and commonly transmogrified debt to English prog (in the structural ambition, the little flourishes of grandeur, and the enthusiastic mining of everything from twinkling tunes to violent psychedelic riffs, looming synth orchestration to jigs and jittering dreamscapes). There’s the common immersive marine motif – even when the sea’s banished from the foreground, it’s always present to embrace, propel, threaten or dissolve the bobbing characters within the songs. And although ‘The Ninth Wave’ centres pretty clearly on the near-death experience and night journey of a single castaway, while ‘On Land…’ zig-zags crazily over suburbs, shorelines, skies and inlets while weaving through multiple blurred perspectives (from the individual to that of a kind of profoundly skewed post-war national consciousness) in both works a half-sleeping, half-waking British mythology gets forked up and worked over anew, with a relentless filmic curiosity.


 

‘On Land And In The Sea’ provided most of the songs played in Cardiacs’ 1990 concert film ‘Marenest’, which brings its own chaotic theatrics to a fundraiser showing in Bristol. Live support comes from brutally grand, macabre Yorkshire rockers The Scaramanga Six, bringing a punchy live set based in part on their new crowdfunded ‘Chaotica’ album.

If ‘On Land…’ really was intended as some kind of concept album, it hid the fact under a typically Cardiacs welter of invention and disinformation. In contrast, ‘Chaotica’ wears its conceptual heart on a stained sleeve – the Scaramangas have been pretty open about its roots in “an abstract story roughly hewn from a concept of a dystopian island society. A place where everything has fallen into ruin, yet people still seem to have the same preoccupation with the trivial crap they had before. The population trudge through a chaotic existence on top of each other with absolutely no hope of a better life. Society is reduced to its base behaviour yet people still crave superficial fixes. The human condition carries on regardless. There is no outcome, no lessons to be learned. Familiar?” ‘Chaotica’ might not quite be a Brexit ‘Quadrophenia’, but it’s clearly leaning that way.


 
As is generally the rule with Cardiacs-related events these days, all profits on the day (including bonus donations by bucket or booking-stage gifting) are going to fund the care of Cardiacs’ driving force Tim Smith as he continues to battle against the aftermath of heart attacks and stroke. Note that the venue is quite hard to find, hidden as it is away behind the rubbish bins in a nondescript Bristol car park. Some Cardiacs fans would claim that this is only appropriate.

‘Maresnest’: Tim Smith Benefit with The Scaramanga Six
Cube Microplex, Dove Street South (off top-left of King Square), Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD, England
Saturday 21st October 2017, 7.00pm
information
 

May 2016 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Kammer Klang with Scenatet/Matt Rogers, David Helbich, Benjamin Oliver/Yshani Perinpanayagam (May 2nd); Ensemble in Process presents a showcase of modern American composers (May 15th)

27 Apr

Ensemble In Process: Americuration, 15th May 2017

Ensemble In Process presents:
Ensemble In Process: Americuration (featuring Zubin Kanga, Marsyas Trio, Jonathan Russell, Seth Bedford & Maria Fiore Mazzarini)
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Monday 15th May 2017, 7.30pm
information

Formed just under a year and a half ago, Ensemble In Process has progressed from being a small chamber ensemble (formed to compete in Nonclassical‘s annual Battle of the Bands Competition) to being a multiple-direction contemporary music project. Now straddling London and New York – and planning performances, programming and networking across the UK, America, Europe and the wider globe – they have a particular focus on helping contemporary composers without sufficient UK resources to achieve performances of their work within the UK.

Their debut concert as both performers and organizers showcases American composers. Bookended by performances of well-established Steve Reich pieces (from the ‘Counterpoint’ series), it also features works by George Crumb, Michael Gordon, Timo Andres, David Lang, Missy Mazzoli and Jonathan Russell as well as premieres of music by Seth Bedford, Ryan Brown and Ian Dicke, and by EIP’s artistic director Brian Mark.

Participating are the three members of the Marsyas Trio – pianist Zubin Kanga, flautist Helen Vidovich and cellist Valerie Welbanks – and violinist Maria Fiore Mazzarini (plus Seth Bedford and Brian Mark, performing voice and piano respectively on some of their own works and on those of others).

Programme:

Steve Reich – Vermont Counterpoint (for flute & tape)
Timo Andres – At the River (for piano)
David Lang – Killer (for violin & electronics)
Ian Dicke – Get Rich Quick (for piano & fixed media) (UK premiere)
Seth Bedford – Three Cabaret Songs (for piano & voice) (UK premiere)
George Crumb – Vox Balaenae (for electric flute, cello and amplified piano)
Jonathan Russell – Assorted Past (for piano)
Missy Mazzoli – Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos (for piano & video installation)
Ryan Brown – Bedside Manner (for flute & cello) (UK premiere)
Brian Mark – Lucid Dreaming (for flute & cello) (world premiere)
Michael Gordon – Light is Calling (for violin)
Steve Reich – Piano Counterpoint (for piano & electronics)

Regarding the future, Brian claims that “Ensemble In Process… will be a rotating vehicle with respect to size, instrumentation, and nature of specific programming. Eventually, it will also feature a special annual transatlantic event, which will become a six-hour concert marathon that will take place between London and select US cities via live streaming. After its debut concert and the first year of operation, Ensemble in Process… will eventually launch into an annual series of multiple diverse concerts and other exciting outreach activities.”

Meanwhile, here are soundclips and video examples for the concert programme (where I could find them…):



 






 
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A little under two weeks previously, there’s another Kammer Klang session at Café Oto, presenting an evening of London loft music on the ground floor again. This time, the concert has a particularly strong theatrical tinge, though not necessarily in a conventional manner.

strong>Kammer Klang presents:
Scenatet performs Matt Rogers + David Helbich + Yshani Perinpanayagam performs Benjamin Oliver + Slips DJs
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 2nd May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Kammer Klang, 2nd May 2017The Fresh Klang performance this month is a new keyboard duet by Benjamin Oliver ‘Mr. Turquoise Synth’, which “explores how the contrasting sonorities of the piano (acoustic) and synth (low memory electronics) and modes of production (human/computer agency) can be combined and juxtaposed. Initially the duet partners are isolated but gradually become entwined in a playful and dynamic relationship.” It’ll be performed as a solo by pianist/keyboard player Yshani Perinpanayagam (Del Mar Piano Trio, Rambert Dance Company, and ‘Showstopper! The Improvised Musical’) and features both the venue piano and a bespoke one-bit pulse synthesiser designed by chiptune jazzer Blake Troise (Protodome).

Brussels-based philosopher-composer David Helbich (perhaps best known for his ‘Belgian Solutions‘ project, which spots, photographs and documents various frequently absurd-but-human fixings and methods) goes beyond the territory of being a conceptual musician in order to explore and share along the very faultline which separates musical concepts from non-musical concepts. It’s worth noting that David is the kind of composer who chooses to write for air guitar. Having dispensed with instruments, sound and multi-media trappings, what he’s mostly now interested in is the audience, with whom he will be performing one of his “No Music” sessions,

“No Music is no music, but still a musical experience. No music, still for your ears. Since 2010 I have worked on scores for pieces that could be performed right at the spot, in whatever context, as long as one could freely use both hands and had two functioning ears. The pieces offer notated situations of organised listening and simple ear manipulations. I understand the this material more as a practice than as a series of composition, even though they can appear as such. Pieces appear in printed form as well as in spontaneous performances or entirely set theatrical or concert performances. These interventions are entirely personal and therefore not so much interactive as “inner-active”, self-performative. The reader as the performer as the listener.”

Below is an example from a performance in Brussels.


 

In between, there’s Scenatet – an ensemble working under the remit of “art music theatre in unusual spaces” and generally works with younger Danish composers, creating cross-genre performances involving elements of drama and “happenings” as well as music. Though the ensemble consists of twelve permanent musicians, for this concert, they’ll be down to a trio of Vicky Wright (clarinet), Mina Fred (viola) and My Hellgren (cello) in order to perform the world premiere of Matt Rogers‘ ‘Weep At The Elastic As It Stretches’ The piece is an attempt to “embody the attitudes and spirit” of N.F. Simpson’s 1958 absurdist play ‘A Resounding Tinkle’, which “ask(s) that we rejoice in all manner of unexpected objects, situations and concepts, taking great delight in the most categorical of descriptions and in a complete lack of distinction between the mundane and the exotic.”

This month’s Kammer Klang DJ set is provided by Tom Rose and Laurie Tompkins, the people behind the London/Berlin record label Slip (which specializes in “exploratory work which negotiates the fringes of new instrumental and electronic music” and is heavily involved with site-specific live events from instrumental performances through to club nights).

Programme:

Fresh Klang: Benjamin Oliver – Mr. Turquoise Synth
Matt Rogers – Weep at the Elastic as it Stretches (world premiere)
David Helbich – No Music (a performative rehearsal)
DJs: Slip
 

November/December 2016 – upcoming gigs – more English dates for Billy Bottle & The Multiple’s ‘The Other Place’ (4th & 20th November, 10th December)

28 Oct

Billy Bottle & The Multiple - 'The Other Place' tour, 2016Mike Westbrook-affiliated pastoral Anglo-jazz explorers Billy Bottle & The Multiple have added more dates on their evolving, ongoing ‘The Other Place’ tour.

The show has its roots in a personal odyssey and serious socio-political stunt from band core Billy and Martine, who took advantage of their brief infamy as guests on ‘The Voice’ to run a whistle-stop free busking tour across southern and western England just prior to the 2015 election. In the process, they sounded out a disgruntled, despairing populace about what they thought about democracy and connection. Later, Billy and Martine put together this semi-theatrical vox-pop song-and-music roadshow on what they found, tracing a shadow of disaffection which culminated in the Brexit vote earlier this year.

For the full skinny on ‘The Other Place’, click back a few months. I’ve been slow off the mark again, and missed promoting their Margate and Brighton dates in September; but here are the rest of the dates between now and Christmas… unless they wangle a few more in the interim, which is entirely possible. For now, there are two shows in Cornwall (the first being the 4th November) and one in London.

As before, the band for ‘The Other Place’ consists of Billy Bottle (voice, keyboards, guitar), Martine Waltier (voice, violin, guitar, percussion), Roz Harding (alto saxophone, recorder, percussion), flautist/singer/percussionist Vivien Goodwin-Darke (flute, voice, percussion) and Lee Fletcher (synths, soundscapes, percussion).
 

September/October 2016 – film time – Dutch Uncles’ Robin Richards performs live score for ‘Birdsong: Stories From Pripyat ‘ in Manchester, Stockport and Salford (30th September, 6th-7th October); Scalarama Glasgow screens Cardiacs’ ‘Maresnest’ concert movie with live solo show from Kavus Torabi (22nd September)

17 Sep
Still from 'Birdsong' (Pripyat Palace of Culture)

Still from ‘Birdsong’ (Pripyat Palace of Culture)

In a couple of weeks’ time, Robin Richards (bass guitarist and driving force in Stockport art-poppers Dutch Uncles, and cross-disciplinary composer on the not-so-quiet) unveils the latest in his growing series of film collaborations, via three screenings and live score performances in the Manchester area.

“An amusement park in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat was due to be opened on the 1st May 1986, but the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred just a few miles away on 26th April. The park’s owners opened the park for a couple of hours the following day for the people of Pripyat before the city was evacuated. Eerie images of the deserted Pripyat Amusement Park now permeate the visual representation of the city’s desolation.

“Robin Richards: “Since hearing about the trips young evacuees from Pripyat and neighbouring towns made to my hometown Stockport as part of charity programmes over the last twenty-five years, and reading personal accounts of those affected by the catastrophic nuclear disaster I have wanted to create an art piece depicting the stories, whilst also addressing environmental and scientific dimensions. I am fascinated by the gestural vocabulary of film and its relationship to the formal properties of musical composition. I want to push beyond the notion that music should always be in service to visual narrative, and explore the possibilities of music’s power to create and transform meaning.”

Still from 'Birdsong' (Pripyat ferris wheel)

Still from ‘Birdsong’ (Pripyat ferris wheel)

“The resulting piece, comprising a forty-minute original film and live score with chamber ensemble will be performed at related venues in North West England in late 2016, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the disaster. A screening of the film with recorded score is programmed as part of an exhibition in Kiev in late October 2016.

“Combining the immediacy and energy of live musical performance with the visual impact of film, ‘Birdsong: Stories from Pripyat‘ aims to revisit a dramatic and devastating historical event using personal and scientific narratives to draw out the tensions and truths at play in our collective, cultural memories of this unfathomable event. This cross-artform project brings together original contemporary classical composition with film to explore an historic event through storytelling, montage and archival footage.

Robin Richards’ forty-minute score incorporates first-hand testimonies of evacuees and liquidators from Ukraine and Belarus, while Clara Casian’s filmmaking process is underpinned by nuclear research, and incorporates found and archival footage with original material filmed on location in Ukraine. The pair made a four-day research trip to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in May 2016 to meet with local artists, filmmakers and historians, collect original footage and archival material. The narrative arc of the film follows the journey of people with first-hand experience of the disaster, as personal records and testimonies are interwoven with original material. Music enters into a continuous dialogue with film as part of a nuanced artistic process, designed to evoke the experiences of people from Pripyat and their recollections of the evacuation and the cleaning process following the 1986 disaster.”

The piece will premiere as the highlight of HOME’s Artist Film Weekender in Manchester, followed by a second performance in Stockport’s historic art deco cinema The Plaza and a third at the University of Salford. Dates below:

Each night also features another showing, performance or event.

The University of Salford performance will also feature a question and answer session with Robin and Clara (also billed as a music-and-film masterclass with Robin, who’s an alumnus of the University’s Music course, having graduated in 2011 with a first-class honours degree, the Elgar Howarth Composition Shield and the Award for Innovative Audience Engagement).

The Manchester performance will be preceded by the showing of another Robin Richards-scored film, ‘Wizard’. Directed by Nick Middleton, this is “a short film about magic and madness”, which premiered earlier in the month at The Smalls film festival in Shoreditch, London.

The Stockport performance will be accompanied by ‘Celluloid History Songs’, by Anglo-African Mancunian singer-songwriter Josephine Oniyama: a “spellbinding… live multimedia performance against a backdrop of historical footage drawn from the North West Film Archive held at Manchester Metropolitan University, and edited by filmmaker Kim May of Asta Films. The specially-commissioned songs were influenced by scenes of Northerners at leisure, taken from the archive’s many inspiring images of industrial working-class people, young and old, discovering ways to spend their new leisure time.” This work was previously performed at HOME’s 2015 launch event, in tandem with Robin’s own previous soundtrack engagement (a new score for Pal Fejos’s 1928 silent New York romance ‘Lonesome’).

Update, 22nd September 2016 – Robin has just shared a recording of one of the ‘Birdsong’ soundtrack pieces. As he describes it, it’s “inspired by the liquidators working on the Chernobyl nuclear plant after the disaster. The liquidators were civil and military personnel called upon by the Soviet Union in to clean, burn and bury contaminated areas and materials around the power plant. The first part of this section is based on archival footage of the liquidators cleaning and digging in 1986, with the rhythmic jostling of the strings representing the movement of the workers, and the deep synthesisers representing the overriding radiation. The second part is inspired by the testimonies of four liquidators we interviewed in Borispol during our trip to Ukraine in May this year; their memories of the clean up and the years that followed the disaster.”


 
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Scalarama screening of 'Maresnest' (poster stencil image by Abe Peachment)

Scalarama screening of ‘Maresnest’ (poster stencil image by Abe Peachment)

A little earlier in the month – as part of September’s ongoing Scalarama film festival – there’ll be a public showing of the Cardiacs’ concert film ‘Maresnest’ in Glasgow.

Organisers Luminous Monsters call ‘Maresnest’ “the greatest concert movie ever made! Recorded one glorious afternoon at the Salisbury Arts Centre in 1990, ‘Maresnest’ captures all of the manic intensity and joyous delirium of one of the UK’s, nay, the world’s finest bands. Theres nothing quite like Cardiacs at full force. ‘Maresnest’ takes Cardiacs kaleidoscope-prog and ultra-pop impossibility and gives it a fiery hoof up the colon. From the bruising, nigh-industrial intro through the perilous frenzy of To Go Off And Things to the sustained climax of unlikely minor hit Is This The Life?, this is delirious, potent stuff, the sound of wild ideas obsessively woven from flesh and wire and moments.”

While this isn’t exactly a once-in-a-lifetime showing – the film was disinterred from VHS purgatory to be reissued and released on DVD three years ago – there are three extra selling points. The first is that the event is another of those fundraisers for the much-needed medical rehabilitation of Cardiacs’s life-mauled Tim Smith (see plenty of past ‘Misfit City’ posts for more on this particular story). Another is that the event also features a solo set from the band’s onetime guitarist Kavus Torabi (these days better known for Knifeworld, for exuberant radio hosting and for an ongoing role as the post-Daevid Allen frontman for Gong), who’ll be performing “songs of extreme loveliness and brilliance.”

The last is that Luminous Monsters are quite right about the value of ‘Maresnest’. It’s one of the great rock concert films, comfortably up on the same level with the likes of ‘Stop Making Sense’, ‘Tourfilm’, ‘The Last Waltz’ and ‘Sign ‘O’ The Times’. Capturing the band live in 1989 – then, as ever, inhabiting a murky cult status which could nonetheless draw thousand-strong crowds – it also caught them at a particularly turbulent time. The one-off seven-piece version of their close and familial lineup, as featured in the film, featured a guesting recent departee plus a new recruit and a pair of longstanding mainstays who’d both soon be gone from the band. Cardiacs shows were already volcanically energetic events, laced with disturbing performance-art overtones in which the band played at being frightened, stubborn children at odds with the perplexing and fascinating world around them. The fact that the aforementioned recent departee was Tim’s soon-to-be-ex-wife Sarah, and that the show was teetering on the edge of disaster due to equipment breakdowns and raw nerves, added an extra frisson of tension and imminent madness to this particular concert.

Fortunately, the band rose both to and above the occasion – pulling a powerful, massing set out of this chaotic fuel, and it was all caught on tape. Though ‘Maresnest’ is laced with and interrupted by additional faux-found footage from backstage (in which, in nightmarish glimpses, the band continue to act out disturbing dysfunctional and childlike personae; like ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ being wrenched out of shape by David Lynch) it’s ultimately about the music – which is ecstatic, churning, and strangely shamanic, tapping into a distorted British sub-mythology of old war films, children’s television and everyday ritual, and whipping it up into an ambiguous apotheosis for a delighted crowd.


 
Luminous Monsters present:
Scalarama 2016: ‘Cardiacs – All That Glitters is A Maresnest’ + Kavus Torabi (live set)
The Old Hairdressers, 23 Renfield Lane, Glasgow, G2 6PH, Scotland
Thursday 22nd September 2016, 7:30pm
– information here, here and here

It’s been a good month for Cardiacs-related news: more of that coming along shortly. Meanwhile, for more info on Scalarama’s ongoing events around the UK (and at the festival’s outpost in Spain), click here.
 

September 2016 – upcoming gigs – multimedia Messiaen in Sheffield with ‘Sounds of the Birds’ (21st)

16 Sep

Following yesterday’s post regarding imminent piano concerts in London, here’s news about one in Sheffield. Part of Sheffield University’s ongoing Festival of the Mind this month (and part of the university’s Sound Laboratory series), it’s a free show blending one of the twentieth century’s major piano works with new visual content and scientific context. Not an offer you get every day…

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'Sounds of the Birds', 21st September 2016

“Birdsong is something that most of us hear every day, but how much notice do we really take? As part of the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind, the language of birds will be translated for solo piano in a unique, immersive and multi-sensory two-hour performance providing a mesmerising meditation on music, nature and landscape.

“Our adventure through science, music, nature and imagination is led by Tim Birkhead (ornithologist and Professor of Behavioural Ecology at the University of Sheffield), with pianist Noah Kang performing Olivier Messiaen’s monumental masterpiece ‘Catalogue d’Oiseaux’, which reproduces the songs of seventy-seven different birds (from the brightly insistent call of the skylark to the menacing tones of the tawny owl). The performance will capture the magic of birdsong, whilst immersing the audience in bold new visuals (inspired by Tim’s research and realised by Sheffield-based design team Human) which follow the music’s original task of vividly capturing the birds’ interactions with a series of stunning French landscapes.

“The concert itself starts at 7.30pm, with Professor Peter Hill providing a pre-concert talk about Messiaen and birds at 6.10pm.”

Festival of the Mind presents:
Tim Birkhead/Noah Kang/Human: ‘Sound Laboratory: Sounds of the Birds’
Firth Hall @ University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, England
Wednesday 21st September 2016, 6.10 pm
– free event (but requires pre-booking) – information

On the offchance that you weren’t already aware of this, Peter Hill is himself a celebrated interpreter of Messiaen’s piano works. Here’s part of his own version of the ‘Catalogue’.


 
Sound Laboratory (Department of Music, University of Sheffield)
 

September/October 2016 – upcoming London events (Carla Bozulich, 15th & 16th September; Destroy All Monsters exhibition, 16th September-15th October) – plus some ponderings on where ‘Misfit City’ goes next.

13 Sep

I’ve just come back from a brief one-week holiday on the South Coast – life lived at a slower pace, much of it spent waiting for bus connections under the startling deep blue sky of a summer which hadn’t realised that by September its time was up. Returning both to town and city, I’m sifting through notes and thoughts.

Usually at this point I’d be jumping straight back into live gig exhortations – and as it happens, I’m still suggesting that any readers in or around London should consider getting over to Carla Bozulich‘s two-evening Café Oto residency tomorrow and Thursday; or to Friday’s Cary Loren talk (opening the Destroy All Monsters exhibition at the Horse Hospital). But on this occasion I’m going to let the artists and events – and the existing promo pages at the venue sites) speak for themselves.

There’ll be some more news posts along in a while, and other things happening behind the scenes. A few changes are underway already, and there will be some more to come. Every solo blog (unless its self-indulgence is in itself a justification for existence), needs some kind of raison d’être, and I’m not sure that ‘Misfit City’ has been justifying its own for a while now.

As regards the Carla and Cary shows, head over via the links above if you’re interested; and check out a couple of the clips below if doubtful or nonplussed; meanwhile, I’m rethinking what this blog does, how it does it and whether it should be doing it in the first place.


 


 


 

September 2016 – sounds over water – a preview of Claudia Molitor’s ‘The Singing Bridge’ at Somerset House and Waterloo Bridge, London (9th-25th)

30 Aug

Quick news on an imminent (and free) immersive event coming up in central London, for anyone who likes the intersection of music, event and historical curiosity. It’s part of the month-long Totally Thames festival…

Totally Thames in partnership with Somerset House present:
‘The Singing Bridge’ by Claudia Molitor
Waterloo Bridge, London – starting at Somerset House (New Wing), Strand, London, WC2R 1LA, England)
Friday 9th to Sunday 25 September 2016, 4.00pm to 9pm (Wednesday to Friday) & 1.00pm to 6.00pm (Saturday & Sunday)
– free event – information

“Fascinated by the rich and largely unearthed social history of Waterloo Bridge (and its rebuilding during World War II by a predominantly female workforce), composer and artist Claudia Molitor presents a brand new work comprising a musical response to the bridge: its history, its structure and its surrounding landscape. The work is available to experience in-situ on Waterloo Bridge itself during September.


 
“Collect a headset from Somerset House to begin your forty-minute musical experience that features new compositions by Molitor, with contributions from poet S.J. Fowler, London-based folk band Stick In The Wheel and drum-and-synth duo AK/DK. The Singing Bridge weaves you along Waterloo Bridge and its surrounding paths to give you time and space to consider your relationship to this bridge and its environs. As you drift through the piece, it evokes images of London’s urban landscape and the sprawling River Thames. The clunks and clicks of Claudia’s prepared piano, along with the wheezing drones and location recordings, give the piece an industrial feel. There is also a chance for reflection with the melancholic Below the Siren’s call; a nod to the past with traditional folk piece Sweet Thames, and to the present with AK/DK’s Electricity.

Regarding the participants:

Claudia Molitor is an Anglo-German conceptual composer, and half of the duo Lemon Drizzle (whose site-sensitive part-performance art works unravel the relationship and the perceived roles of composer and performer). Interested in the confluence of music and other media, she has also composed more traditionally-performed work for contemporary classical orchestras and ensembles such as Apartment House.

AK/DK (Graham Sowerby and Ed Chivers) use acoustic drums and a myriad of synthesizers to create complex and evolving music with layers of arpeggios, crashing drums and searing electronic sounds. Their largely improvised live shows are juxtaposed by more delicate compositions and commissions for theatre, film and installations.

Claudia Molitor: 'The Singing Bridge'

Claudia Molitor: ‘The Singing Bridge’

Stick In The Wheel “rip apart the preconceptions surrounding folk music” (‘Clash Music’). Their abrasive delivery of both original and traditional tracks, is not empty nostalgia, but a voice linking now to then. Stripped-back songs speak for themselves, telling tales of everyday life. Four-times nominated for BBC Folk Awards and winners of ‘fRoots’ Album of the Year 2015.

S.J. Fowler is a poet and artist. He has published five collections of poetry and been commissioned by Tate Modern, BBC Radio 3, The British Council and the Wellcome Collection. His work has been translated into eighteen languages and performed at venues across the world from Mexico City to Erbil, Iraq. He is a lecturer at Kingston University and curator of the Enemies project.”

‘The Singing Bridge’ will also be available as an album from NMC Recordings, which includes “a downloadable ‘film poem’ that explores Waterloo Bridge and its surroundings with a soundtrack featuring some of the pieces from the album.”