Tag Archives: music for classical guitar

June 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Horsefight, Godzilla Black and HVMAN in New Cross (23rd); Victoria Park Singers, Kemper Norton, Settembre and Paul Reynolds take Daylight Music (25th); Copperhead Lucy and Boy And A Balloon play MAP Studio Cafe (26th)

20 Jun

Quick snapshots of three more shows for the week – a spiky south London rock gig, a warm/eclectic Daylight event, and an Americana/art-busk evening at MAP…

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Horsefight/Godzilla Black/HVMAN @ New Cross Inn, 23rd June 2016

New Cross Inn presents:
Horsefight + Godzilla Black + HVMAN
New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Road, New Cross, London, SE14 6AS, England
Thursday 23rd June 2016, 7.00pm
information

Tight as fuck, gonzoid and with Berlin, Brisbane and London in their veins, Horsefight let their glam-prog/psychobilly/New Wave songs pogo about on giant spidery legs. They sound like a superimposition of The Fall, King Crimson and The Cramps, call themselves “obnoxious bounce music” and deliver songs on the verge of seizure, twitching over the Fall from Eden and going into near-hysterics about Derren Brown. A band up for hurling themselves into the heat of any given moment, they’ll eyeball it for a second and wet their lips before assembling a rapid strategy. They exist somewhere between spontaneity, rapid brainwork and the magnesium flare which upsets it all.



 

Still establishing themselves as one of the capital’s sharpest and wittiest propositions, Godzilla Black bring their snappy blare to New Cross, sounding like a horns-and-swagger big band that’s been carved up in a Peckinpah shootout and come out of it both crazed and leaner. Part sharp-dressed schizoid men, part lysergic spy movie cocktail, with an edging of amplifier hiss and flesh frenzy: the neurotic beast in the impeccable suit.



 
Up against these guys, and promising “big brash pop tunes with a sharp-edged alternative rock aftertaste”, HVMAN used to write glam-punk songs about beautiful people and E-numbers, full of blipping synths, dry songspiel asides and strutting guitar. They’ve now stirred in a deeper, rougher, and more yearning tone, some hurt-child dramatics, and the odd garnishing of bluesy resonator guitar. They’ve also added a new singer, Kane, who fits in with this sudden injection of classic-rock melodrama: although exactly how he bounces off the insouciant detachment of the band’s other singer, Louise, remains to be seen. For now, HVMAN (while citing Imagine Dragons, YYYs, Hurts and Talking Heads) suggest a clash of Ultrasound and The Flying Lizards over a few Eddie Vedder daydreams.


 

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On the other side of the fuzz pedal, Daylight Music are striving even harder than usual this week to merge community music, pop experimentation, and wood/string/space acoustica. Since this is the third or fourth time this season that they’ve put a scratch-choir singing pop hits on the bill (and the first time they’ve had one as the headliner), I was about to complain about a Daylight cosiness epidemic. Having had a look further down the list of the weekend’s acts I’d rather applaud them for their guile, their stealth and their soft-power persuasiveness. I shouldn’t have doubted them.

Daylight Music 229, 25th June 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 229 – Midsummer Madness: Victoria Park Singers, Kemper Norton + Settembre + Paul Reynolds
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 25th June 2016, 12.00pm
free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

“Obviously Daylight Music should hail the solstice; it’s the most Daylight possible!

The Victoria Park Singers are a big community choir, singing a special selection of summer melodies, including songs by Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Marvin Gaye.

“The ‘coastal slurtronic folk’ of Cornishman-turned-Brightonian Kemper Norton uses digital and analogue hardware and software, acoustic instruments , field recordings and traditional song to explore neglected or original areas of landscape and folklore. His most recent album, ‘Loor’, was inspired by real and imagined cities from childhood, bathed in traditional folk, found sounds and community chants, celebrations and invocations. ‘Loor’ (which is Cornish for moon) represents the next ambitious transmission in the expanding audio landscape that Kemper Norton is creating. The songs on the album are a loose trilogy of nocturnal encounters, searches and awakenings, often with Kemper Norton revisiting old foes from previous albums and encouraging new treacherous encounters. Today he also performs his solstice inspired songs.


Settembre is a duo formed in 2015 by London-based Italian musicians Angela Cicchetti (vocals) and Ivan Imperiali (guitar). They take the essence of Italy’s songwriting tradition, and reshape it with elements from the great Brazilian, Spanish and Portuguese schools, creating a delightful combination of delicate singing and classical guitar informed by cantautori, fado, bossa and choro forms amongst others.

“Also this week, Paul Reynolds (usually to be found as the guitarist of Vespers) will be at the piano, weaving his chilled improvisations and atmospheric melodies through Daylight’s Summer celebration.”


 
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Copperhead Lucy + Boy And A Balloon @ MAP Studio Cafe, 26th June 2016Copperhead Lucy + Boy And A Balloon
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Sunday 26th June 2016, 8.00pm
information

Further north in Camden, Map Studio Cafe continues the live sessions from local bands with a show by Americana quartet Copperhead Lucy. As they describe themselves, Copperhead Lucy were “formed after a chance encounter in a cello shop in Camden and based around the delicate voice and songs of Abigail Newis… (their) songs describe lives sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, often morbid, set to a backdrop of junkyard drums, double bass and smoking hot guitar lines. Taking inspiration from the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Portishead and PJ Harvey, the songs run from ethereal whispers to raucous, tantrumic shouts.”

Here are a couple of videos, the second being a recording of the band’s first gig, back at Kentish Town’s Abbey in 2011 (a short, drunken stagger away from Map).



 
In support is Adam Hall, otherwise known as Boy And A Balloon (who played a Daylight Music show earlier in the month). Bringing his experience both as street musician and soul/pop session man to bear on a growing aesthetic of spontaneous roughness, Adam plays his own deliberately simple songs through a battered three-quarters-scale nylon-string guitar and a scratchy-toned broken-signalled busker’s amp, pursuing a philosophy of “songwriting will shine through roughness”, drawing on his own thirty-year span choice of pop music (from the ’40s to the ’70s) and musing on “the innocent and inevitable loss of something human, precious and innocent – so apparent in today’s fast paced and overwhelming technological world.”


 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs – picking through BBC Music Day

29 May

BBC Music Day

The annual BBC Music Day comes up this year and this week on Friday 3rd June. It’s a generally beneficial nation-building exercise in typical BBC style, informed by magazine-style news, middle-range tastes and light entertainment. Much of what’s on is comfortably communal – plenty of light music choirs, familiar regional touches of brass and pipes.

In all fairness, there’s plenty here to like. There’s a scheme organising gentle live shows in hospitals throughout Scotland and England. There’s a focussing on church bell ringings around the country which is free of gimmick and simply lets the art speak for itself (emphasising both its national status and its localism). There’s the ‘Take It To The Bridge‘ programme, during which the nation’s bridges will be briefly overrun by symbolic musical meetings, community choirs, time-travelling orchestras and local songwriters.

Twelfth Doctor with guitar

Sadly not joining in with any time-travelling orchestras…(© BBC 2015)

There’s also a strong sense of that other nation – the one which the BBC still encourages in the face of rumbling political dissatisfaction, manipulation and discomfort. It might be a non-partisan wash of generic English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish decency which doesn’t offer much to scare the horses, doesn’t break a sweat breaking new ground, and doesn’t ultimately provide much event-by-event challenge; but it should still be applauded for at least trying to encourage common ground and (at a time when art is being squeezed out of schools) a culture of engagement with music. For the full programme – and for British readers who want to find out exactly what’s going on in their region – check the links above.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been sifting through the programme with my jaundiced, picky eye and selecting out what I feel are some of the more unusual or rewarding events dotted around the comfy musical quilt (more or less in order of occurrence), starting in the middle of another festival in Hay-on-Wye…

BBC Radio 3 Live/Hay Festival presents:
Hay Festival Guitar Jam with Morgan Szymanski
Friends Café @ Hay Festival Site, Dairy Meadows, Brecon Road, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5PJ, Wales
Friday 3rd June 2016, 9.30am

BBC Music Day - Get Playing!“Prior to his Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert (a collaboration with the Cremona String Quartet at 1.00pm, and already sold out) classical guitar ace Morgan Szymanski will be inviting amateur guitarists to join him for a morning guitar jam. Help create and perform a brand new piece for a hundred guitarists to be featured in the concert. Morgan will lead you through the process, whatever your level, from beginner to advanced. The event includes a special master class from Nitin Sawhney on playing the guitar.”

Unlike the walk-up nature of most of the other events listed here, a Hay Festival ticket is required for this one.

In Cambridge…

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire presents:
English Pocket Opera vs. Imperial & K.I.N.E.T.I.K
Silver Street Bridge, Silver Street, Cambridge, CB24 5LF, England
Friday 3rd June 2016, 11.30am

English Pocket Opera will be performing on a punt through the waterways of Cambridge. As they approach Silver Street bridge the opera will be joined by a local ‘BBC Introducing’ hip-hop duo Imperial & K.I.N.E.T.I.K, on top of the bridge. Hip-hop and opera will merge to create a brand new sound.”

Christ, this one could be a car-crash in multiple senses. I mean, it’s hard enough to handle a Cambridge punt at the best of time – it’s an unhappy marriage of Newton and Zen – let alone try to synchronise it with anything else. Still, given the sunny, positive and playful nature of both sets of musicians involved (don’t expect a collision of ‘Wozzeck’ and Kanye), let’s give them the benefit of the doubt… and just to put it into perspective, I‘m an appalling puntsman and these guys know their music.



 

In Nottingham…

Afro Therapy, 3rd June 2016Can’t Stop Won’t Stop presents:
Afro Therapy: featuring Jourdan Pierre Blair + Ella Knight + Early Bird + Garton + D Dot + others tbc
Rough Trade Nottingham, 5 Broad Street, Nottingham, NG1 3AJ
Friday 3rd June 2016, 7.00pm

“Live music and DJs will be putting music of black origin in the spotlight. Unsigned and independent artists Ella Knight, beat maker Early Bird, and MCs Garton, D-Dot and Jourdan Pierre Blair (the last better known as Jah Digga) will represent a range of R’n’B and hip hop styles with a British stamp on global music. This free event is open to people over the age of 14.”

I’ve got to say that – for all of the community ethos being trumpeted elsewhere – this show is probably the most proactively street-level event on a day which needs to be about everyone in the country, not just people who like choirs and crumpets. (I’m not trying to bitch here; I just… noticed.) Here’s a run of video and soundclips for most of those involved.





 

Sheffield also deserves credit for working outside the comfy box…

A Law Unto Ourselves, 3rd June 2016

Yellow Arch Studios present:
A Law Unto Ourselves: The Eccentronic Research Council (featuring Maxine Peake) + The Death Rays of Ardilla + Sieben + The Third Half
Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England
Friday 3rd June 2016, 7.30pm
– free event – more information

This is probably the most experimental event of the lot: an opportunistic but rewarding live spotlight on Sheffield’s unique independent music scene. There should have been more events like this dotted up and down the country – not necessarily with an experimental pop thrill, but emphasizing local current indigenous music which could only have happened in particular towns and at this particular time. All respect is due to Sheffield musicians, to the Yellow Arch venue and to curator Sophie Toes for taking the trouble to spot this challenge and rise to it.

Probably the biggest draw for A Law Unto Ourselves are the headliners – The Eccentronic Research Council, barbed and crafty exponents of their own scenic and sample-heavy “library/soundtrack, experimental, folkloric/non-populist pop”. They’ll be accompanied by their own established muse and mouthpiece – Maxine Peake (actress, declaimer, proud overturner of complacent applecarts) – and are the most questioning act across Music Day, bringing a touch of dissent, argument and the British radical tradition into its general cosiness. In support are spaced-out and (literally) brotherly garage-rock duo The Death Rays of Ardilla, Sieben (a.k.a. beater, plucker, tickler and layerer of voice and violin Matt Howden) and The Third Half (a duo who combine and alternate harp, celeste, guitar and voice in “twenty-first century neo-pastoral rare groove”).

ERC


There will also be DJ sets from representatives of some of Sheffield’s other interesting underground or experimental bands – spooky lysergic-child-song folksters Antique Doll, progtronicians I Monster, psychedelic country-and-western band The Cuckoo Clocks – plus one from Sophie Toes herself. There’s limited capacity for this show, so early arrival is recommended to avoid disappointment.

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In Bristol…

Charles Hazlewood and the British Paraorchestra
Colston Hall, Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5AR, England
Friday 3rd June 2016, 8.00pm

“After the success of last year, the ground-breaking British Paraorchestra, the world’s first professional ensemble of disabled musicians, return to Colston Hall to perform for BBC Music Day. The group is headed up by Charles Hazlewood, a genuine pioneer and innovator in the world of classical music. In a unique show, the Paraorchestra will be joined on-stage by performers from Extraordinary Bodies, the professional integrated circus company and partnership between Cirque Bijou and Diverse City. The combined effect of The British Paraorchestra and Extraordinary Bodies playing ‘In C’ by composer Terry Riley, promises to be cathartic and uplifting. The aural equivalent to climbing inside a giant lava lamp.”

On spec, this may sound like a case of worthiness over content – but while it’s true that (despite the Riley) the Paraorchestra plays its fair share of light-ent pop transcriptions to sugar the pill, albeit in its own way – it’s also worth noting that the ensemble isn’t just about the state of bodies. The Paraorchestra also explodes a lot of ideas about how an orchestra might work, in terms of instrumentation and approach: likewise, Extraordinary Bodies has plenty of challenges and delight to offer. See below:

 

…and finally…

Shaun the Sheep

Aardman Animation/Colston Hall/Bristol Museums present:
Shaun the Sheep’s Vegetable Orchestra
Studio 2, The M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN, England / Colston Hall, Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5AR, England
Friday 3rd June 2016
Workshops and rehearsals at Studio 2: 10.15am, 11.15am & 12.15pm (tel: 0117 352 6600 for details)
Veg Orchestra Finale! featuring Shaun the Sheep and his Vegetable Orchestra at Colston Hall: 1.40pm

“In celebration of BBC Music Day and Aardman’s 40th anniversary, children are invited to join Shaun the Sheep and become part of his Vegetable Orchestra for a live performance at Colston Hall. (There will also be an Aardman birthday singalong and cake presentation.) There will also be pre-performance workshops at M Shed to decorate your veg instruments and learn how to play your part, all set to the ‘Shaun The Sheep’ theme tune. Workshops presented by Farmer characters & Shaun himself, it’s ‘flock ‘n’ roll’ for all ages and all set on Mossy Bottom Farm!”

Sorry. For a variety of reasons (parenthood, humour, a taste for experimentalism and a love of everything Aardman-esque) I just couldn’t bloody resist that last one… and it turns out that the foremost practitioners of the vegetable orchestral art are as cheerfully experimental and conceptual as anything else I tend to feature in here…


 

More London gigs, third week of November 2015 (16th to 22nd) – Baba Yaga’s Hut brings Josefin Öhrn & The Liberation + The Wharves + Mr Silla to the Shacklewell Arms; The Magic Band play Captain Beefheart at Under The Bridge; Annette Peacock plays Café Oto; Raf & O + Arhai + Lucy Claire at Whispers & Hurricanes; Guitar Journey Duet at Songs From The Cellar in Highgate; Lo Recordings bring Grasscut + Astronauts + Lilith Ai to Daylight Music

16 Nov

I’ve not got quite as many gigs to cover this time, but bear in mind that The End Festival is still happily raging in Crouch End this week (if it were a standalone concert, The End’s Feast of St Cecilia weird-folk afternoon would be taking pride of place here), as is the London Jazz Festival. As I’m also a little more squeezed for time than usual this week, there’ll be less personal reflection and much more press-release in the coverage of the gigs in this post. Sorry about that. I’ll opinionate a little more next time.

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First up, a Baba Yaga mid-week gig: the debut British show for Josefin Öhrn, who’s rapidly becoming a darling of the urban psychedelic crowd. With her band The Liberation, she creates a beautifully spacious, light touch sound: some Krautrock motorik, enough rock’n’roll minimalism to slip smoothly into the sweet spot between hypnotic and monotonous, a strident skullbone rattle-and-drone where it’s needed, and a repertoire of subtle sonic finessing (shimmer, backwards reverb, rises, rainbow tone curves, all of the ingredients precisely and skilfully placed). To cap it, there’s Josefin’s voice – as perfectly-judged as the rest of the instrumentation and as cool as a drink of iced milk on a parched day, floating in the ever-present thought-space between the band’s chassis and roof.

event-20151118-josefineohrn

Josefin Öhrn & The Liberation (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ The Shacklewell Arms, 71 Shacklewell Lane, Shacklewell, London, E8 2EB, UK, 8.00pm) – £7.00 – informationtickets

In an era in which “psychedelia” can often mean merely a grab-bag of influences from which wah-wah pedals and two-note riffs are dispensed as signifiers and signposts into a realm of easy accessibility as opposed to gateways to another dimension, it can be a rarity to come across a band who are genuinely fixated on creating alternate realities for the listener. Yet this is exactly how Stockholm’s Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation view their incandescent art, and it’s this sensibility that’s led to the kaleidoscopic splendour of their debut full-length for Rocket Recordings, ‘Horse Dance’. “It’s a continuum that flows beyond here and now, and psychedelic music seems to be a really powerful way to unveil those deeper oceans of being that are our true home,” reflects Josefin, who forms half the core of the band with Fredrik Joelson. The last twelve months have seem a dramatic rise to prominence for The Liberation (who take their band name from the Tibetan Book Of The Dead) with their EP ‘Diamond Waves’ leading to shows in their homeland with Goat and Les Big Byrd, a nomination for a Swedish Grammy as best newcomer, and rapturously received appearances at festivals like Roskilde.

These adventures have set the stage for a spectacular movement into the unknown from their earlier work. ‘Horse Dance’ is a razor-sharp collection of ditties that marry dreamlike radiance with hypnotic rhythmic drive, set alight by a prismatic experimental glow. It inhabits a realm in which a propulsive ’60s-tinged pop song like ‘Sunny Afternoon’ can be elevated skyward with krautrock-tinged repetition, dub echo and analogue curlicues alike, and one in which a Broadcast-style mantra like You Have Arrived can tap into a psychic lineage that stretches all the way from The United States Of America to Portishead’s ‘Third’. Yet whilst ghosts of the like of Laika, Cat’s Eyes and The Creatures may lurk in the darker recesses of these songs, this is a band paying no homage to bygone glories.

The Liberation cite a myriad influences in both their philosophical stance and their aesthetic, from 12th century iconoclasts like Milarepa to 20th century sonic voyagers like Catherine Ribeiro, and from Kandinsky’s abstract expressions of synaesthesia to the avant-jazz of Moondog. Yet at all times their transcendental extrapolations are married to icy and enticing melodic flourishes, making for a revitalising clash between the chic and the transcendental, and a sound as biting as it is beatific. “I definitely think that the human need for altered states – to see oneself from a bigger perspective – is a deep fundamental need,” Josefin elaborates. “We’ve been deprived of access to our full nature by a restrictive system where altered states may be the ultimate taboo.” With ‘Horse Dance’, Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation step into a world where all such restrictions and taboos are null and void, and this journey is already proving quite the spectacle to behold.

Dunes

Support comes from all-female rock trio The Wharves (whose resonant clear-voiced indie sound, with a stack of folk-pop harmony and a sheen of blurred fluidity, sometimes sounds like a raindrop on the verge of collapsing) and from Mr. Silla (the solo project from former múm member Sigurlaug Gísladóttir, who’s joined live by guitarist Tyler Ludwick of Princess Music). There will also be DJ-ing from Daun of Swedish space-rockers Flowers Must Die.

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To be honest, I’m expecting half of the committed freaks in town to be at this next gig; and to have bought their tickets months ago…

The Magic Band @ Under The Bridge, London, 20th November 2015

The Magic Band (Under the Bridge, Stamford Bridge, Fulham Road, Fulham, London, SW6 1HS, UK, Friday 20th November 2015, 7.00pm) – £20.70 – information here and heretickets

After a sold out Under The Bridge gig in 2013, The Magic Band are back! Sharing the vision of celebrating the music of the late Don Van Vliet – aka Captain Beefheart – the band re-visits the classic Beefheart tunes with renewed fervour.Fans of the Captain won’t, wouldn’t and couldn’t miss this! Avant-garde blues at its finest and most rambunctious!

Speaking for myself, the enjoyment of Beefheart’s particular, perverse genius is always marred by the appalling stories of how he maltreated his colleagues. In many respects the man’s life was in tune with mischievous American folk-hero mythology. Those stories of microphone-busting vocals and of teaching his musicians all of their skills from scratch fit happily into the grand tradition of the American liar, the itinerant teller of tall tales and outright whoppers. Still, as the years have gone by, and as the other stories have bled through (about Beefheart’s take-the-money-and-lie attitude, his theft of credit for all of his players’ skills and work, and especially the brutally entitled sadism and psychological warfare meted out to his musical serfs as the band wrung out the tunes) the shine and mystique has well and truly worn off the man. What’s left, as ever, is the music: that tangle of bloodshot rolling blare and skew-whiff insight, the stubborn blues limp and the wrong-angle harmony attacks, the unorthodox barbed hooks that have kept generations of musicians and listeners transfixed.

With the Captain himself dead and gone for five years, reduced to a baleful honk of memory in a speaker, it’s been down to those who played alongside him in the various Magic Bands – and who, in the long run, finally survived him – to regularly blow on the embers and revive the noise. Since the Magic Band’s first reformation in 2006, some of the original members have, for various reasons passed out of the lineup again (first Robert Williams and Gary Lucas; most recently, Denny Walley) but the group still features singer and multi-instrumentalist John “Drumbo” French and bass player Mark “Rockette Morton” Boston. For this gig they’re joined by their current roster of sympatico recruits: guitarist Eric Klerks, drummer Andrew Niven and the newest recruit, Walley’s replacement Max Kutner (a multi-instrumentalist known for his work with Mike Keneally and Oingo Boingo and with Zappa tributeers Grandmothers of Invention, as well as his own projects such as Evil Genius and The Royal US).

By all accounts, in spite of time and circumstance whittling away at the roster of original players, the band retains their magic (judge for yourselves from the clip below). For me what clinches it is that at least some of the right guys are finally being paid, both in cash on the nail and in the credit they’ve damn well earned.

(All right – I did find time and room for some opinionating…)

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On Friday (and on the following Monday), Annette Peacock – a great undersung pioneer of various strains of songwriting, jazz experiments and electronics, as well as being an anticipator of many of the intriguing trends in female-led art music of today – is playing a couple of shows at Café Oto.

Annette Peacock @ Café Oto, 20th & 23rd November 2015

Annette Peacock (Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, London, E8 3DL,UK, Friday November 20th & Monday November 23rd 2015, 8:00 PM) – £22.00-£30.00informationtickets for Fridaytickets for Monday

“We’re very excited to host the first OTO appearance – and first show in London for quite some time – from visionary composer and songwriter, Annette Peacock. Always ahead of her time, Peacock has influenced a huge array or genres whilst never letting herself be pinned down by one, resulting in a music that is as captivating as it is unique. This should be very special indeed.” – Café Oto press release

“Annette Peacock’s wondrous, immersive trailblaze across recorded music’s rich history has marveled the likes of David Bowie, Brian Eno and one-time collaborator Salvador Dalí. Peacock once jokingly told The Quietus she has been fighting her way back to reality ever since taking LSD at Timothy Leary’s Millbrook estate in the early 1960s. Her plunge into otherworldly sonic wellsprings made her one of the first artists to synthesize her own vocals, pioneering the realms of minimalism, free jazz, rap, classical music and psychedelic funk along the way. After Robert Moog gifted Peacock one of his elusive prototype-synthesizers, she started implementing the makeshift device into her already individualistic, free-form lingo of songwriting and composing. To hear music skip so radically across exotic new touchstones, who needs reality, right?” – ‘Le Guess Who’

“Annette Peacock is a stone cold original – an innovator, an outlier, authentically sui generis.” – John Doran, ‘The Quietus’

“Nothing prepares you for the howl of her searingly high notes spiralling up out of spooky organ chords and soul-brass riffs.” – John Fordham, ‘The Guardian’

“A pioneer of rap, live electronic music and synth-pop, Annette Peacock’s achievements are monumental.” – ‘Scarufi’

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A few months ago, I briefly covered folk/classical/pop fusion night Whispers & Hurricanes (the latest arm of the Chaos Theory Promotions mini-empire) and they’re back this week.

Whispers & Hurricanes @ The Sebright Arms, 20th November 2015

Raf & O + ArHai + Lucy Claire + guests (Whispers & Hurricanes @ The Sebright Arms, 33-35 Coate Street, Bethnal Green London, E2 9AG, UK, Friday November 20th 2015, 7:30pm) – £6.00 – informationtickets

After a wonderful launch in September, our newest night is back with inspired musicians who fuse traditional sounds with groundbreaking techniques in an evening of mesmeric triphop, folktronica, avant pop and contemporary classical electronics. Fans of Portishead, Bowie, Lamb, Bjork and Eric Satie will enjoy.

Raf & O are a duo from south-east London who are garnering widespread acclaim in the UK and Europe, creating a buzz via exciting performances of their uniquely detailed avant-pop and its vortex of live electronics, acoustic instruments and fragile, magnetic, strange lullabies. After supporting artists such as Faust and Little Annie Bandez, they were special guests in Richard Strange’s production for William S. Burroughs’ centenary at Queen Elizabeth Hall, and recently composed for the theatre play ‘That Woman’s Voice’ (a tribute to Jean Cocteau). Raf and O’s second album ‘Time Machine’ was named as one of ‘FACT Magazine’s Top 10 albums of 2014, with their “avant-bizarre” interpretation of David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul pricking the ear of Bowie’s pianist, Mike Garson (who praised their minimalist approach) and leading to appearances at two Memory Of A Free Festival concerts (re-stagings of the legendary Beckenham Free Festival organised by David Bowie and The Beckenham Arts Lab back in 1969). Tonight we’ll hear them perform music from their first two albums, as well as unheard music from their upcoming third album.

ArHai is an electronic Balkan folk duo, consisting of Serbian-born composer and singer Jovana Backovic and British multi-instrumentalist Adrian Lever. Their music is a fusion of electronic music and folk with medieval influences from both the Gaelic and Balkan traditions. Underlined with breathtaking visuals, Arhai breathes new life into the sounds of the Bulgarian 8-string tambura lute and hammered dulcimer (played by Adrian), blending them with Jovana’s ethereal vocals and electronic production. Their previous album ‘Eastern Roads’ is a must have. Tonight’s show celebrates the launch of their new website and the upcoming release of their single.

We also welcome back the brilliant composer Lucy Claire, who launched her beautiful ‘Collaborations’ EP with us last year. A soundscape artist and a contemporary classical composer with influences from the likes of Satie, Peter Broderick and Björk, Lucy composes music with a very organic heart to it and in a style so unique and diverse that it has resulted in her performing to classical, electronic, acoustic and post-rock audiences, as well as live performances on BBC London’s breakfast show and BBC6 Music. Her sound initially seems soft and ambient, but reveals a defiant spirit and gentle force breaking its way through. This evening we will see her perform new collaborative works with some special guests, some of whom you may know already.

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It’s always nice to hail a new music night, especially one that’s only a short stroll from your own front door. In the Archway cutting, just up the road from the current Misfit City HQ, Songs From The Cellar have begun to fill a café basement with sound: next week it’s an investigation of antique popular songs, but this week it’s guitar instrumentals…

Guitar Journey Duet (Songs From The Cellar @ Zelas Cafe, 216 Archway Road, London, N6 5AX, UK, Friday 20th November 2015, 8.00pm) – £8.00 – information – tickets on the door

Songs From The Cellar, 20th November 2015Guitar Journey Duet is a team-up between two leading London cross-disciplinary guitarists – British player Jonny Phillips (a member of Oriole and F-ire Collective) and Sardinian-born Giorgio Serci (whose twenty years of recordings, collaborations and performance has included work with Antonio Forcione, Eduardo Niebla, Denys Baptiste and Shirley Bassey).

Between them Jonny and Giorgio cover jazz, classical, flamenco, samba, art rock, British folk and African jazz. They might be off to play Verdi at the Albert Hall barely a week after this concert, but what they get up to in this small Highgate basement might well be something completely different. The only clue as to what they’re playing is that they’re favouring Spanish guitars tonight, as they are in the video below.

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The last gig I’m listing for the week is another Daylight Music effort, bridging the acoustic and the electronic, the pastoral and the urban.

Daylight Music 207, 21st November 2015
Daylight Music 207 – 20 Years Of Lo Recordings: Grasscut + Astronauts + Lilith Ai (Union Chapel, Saturday 21st November 2015, 12.00pm–2.00pm) – free (£3.50 donation suggested) – information

Renowned for quality esoteric music, Shoreditch’s Lo Recordings has released music by Thurston Moore, Four Tet, Aphex Twin and others. Now the label is celebrating its 20th birthday with a special showcase at Daylight Music featuring label artists Grasscut, Astronauts and Lilith Ai.

Many accolades have been heaped on Grasscut, the teaming of Andrew Phillips (voice, keyboards, guitar) and Marcus O’Dair (keyboards, double bass) in a wide-thinking Brighton-based duo which encompasses electronica, classical minimalism and multi-media, and which draws inspiration from landscapes and history. Andrew, who writes and produces all Grasscut music, is also known for his soundtrack work for HBO, BBC Films and Channel 4: he has been nominated for an Emmy and shortlisted for an Ivor Novello. Marcus (who manages the band in addition to his instrumental contributions) also occupies himself with journalism for the Guardian and Financial, lecturing in Popular Music at Middlesex University and work as a broadcaster in particular on Stuart Maconie’s ‘Freakzone’: he is also the author of ‘Different Every Time: The Authorised Biography Of Robert Wyatt’. At this concert Grasscut will be playing music from their new album (and first for Lo Recordings), ‘Everyone Was A Bird’.

Astronauts is the solo project from Dan Carney (formerly of Dark Captain). Described by Sputnik Music as “often bleak and highly contemplative indie-folk”, according to Facebook, the project is mainly in the business of creating “ham-fisted bleep-folk neoliberal takedowns”. As with Grasscut, Dan’s interests and influences extend beyond making music: he is a qualified developmental psychologist with an interest in short-term memory development and in Williams and Down’s syndromes.

Lilith Ai is a new signing to Lo Recordings. A member of the Fight Like A Girl collective, she performs poignant tales of modern city living. Drawing from blues, folk and acoustic R’n’B, and dusted by subtle electronic shades and beats, Lilith’s songs show urban life through a clear lens which does not hesitate to reveal her own dark life experience.

 

REVIEW – Matthieu Jacquot: ‘Plucked String Instrument Recital’ EP, 2009 (“a thoughtful, analytical performer”)

8 Sep
Matthieu Jacquot: 'Plucked String Instrument Recital'

Matthieu Jacquot: ‘Plucked String Instrument Recital’

Matthieu Jacquot – a Parisian classical guitarist and lutenist – is not yet an established name. On the basic of this EP he’s not only worth a listen, but worth some serious consideration.

‘Plucked String Instrument Recital’ may have been recorded, primarily, as a pitch for performance work. However, its unromantic (and borderline deconstructed) name and its discreet pushes at performance form reveals not just a skilled player but a thoughtful, analytical performer. Four different repertoire pieces, each by a different composer and arranged in chronological order (two Baroque, two on the cusp of Romanticism and modernism) allow Matthieu not to demonstrate his instrumental mastery of various eras, but also to investigate or imply connections between them.

The first of these, John Dowland’s Preludium (for Renaissance lute but performed here on archlute), is played straight. As a solo lutenist, Matthieu is graceful and expressive, but he’s also played blues, and some of that elastic stretch of time and expression seems to have made it into his classical playing style too, mingling with his sense of rubato. Tackling a second and subsequent Baroque piece (Gaspar Sanz’s Folias, one of the first iterations of one of the most lasting chord progressions of classical music), Matthieu swaps his archlute for classical guitar. Recorded a little more intimately – close enough to hear Matthieu’s breathing – it balances folky earnestness and a strong unhurried classical technique, with fine switches between fingerpicking and rasgueado strums,

It’s during the second half that things stay beautiful, but become a little more interesting. Take – as Matthieu has – Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie #1. Initially composed as a rebellion against Romanticism, it’s been transformed over the years (partially due to the curse of its pretty tune) into a mild-mannered and amiable carthorse. Innumerable interpretations bob across relaxation records. There are pop – or pop-tinged – covers by Sky, Blood Sweat & Tears and Gary Numan. It’s even become a concert apéritif for performances of the Romantic works it was supposed to be kicking against. Matthieu’s own version is ambivalent, but refreshing.

Classical guitar arrangements of the Gymnopédie are commonplace, but Matthieu has avoided standardisation by scoring it as a subtly overdubbed quartet version for himself – a bassline played on one guitar, melody on another, two more to handle the arcs of arpeggio and a second pass at the melody in deft harmonics. He also has no fear of stressing the incipient awkwardness which hovers behind the precise rhythms. In this version, you can hear the work of playing involved, without that taking anything away from his skill. In other hands, the additional swells of overdubbed gong he’s added would be a joke: a superficial New Age attempt to link Satie’s elegant economy of notes to a spurious Oriental tranquility. To be honest, Matthieu may have had a similar idea. However, he uses the gong as part of the ensemble: a piece of punctuation linked to the structuring of the music, a marker of key points. Instead of scenery, it links process and rituals: the musician’s shaping of phrases, the precise physical routines of Asian exercise and centering.

The last piece is the most ambitious. Le Gibet is the second of three demanding narrative pieces Maurice Ravel wrote as a suite for solo piano and called ‘Gaspard de la nuit’. In its original form, it’s bookended by two demanding and vigorous pieces of musical storytelling (both supernaturally themed, both cascading with notes and rhythms. By comparison, Le Gibet is a slice of static narrative, more of an illustration in music, complete with implications. The original scene, as set out by Ravel, is a desert view, a distant gallows in centre view, an equally distant city with the sound of a tolling bell rising from over the walls (the latter carried by an ominous pedal point ostinato).

Matthieu has arranged this as a duet between two guitars, making the most of both the music and the interplay between loss and gain due to the shift in instrumentation. Certainly, something is lost – the effects of the soft felt and pedal dynamics of the piano (so vital in adding the different colours, timbres and volume shifts of Romantic music) can’t be replicated on guitar, and some details fade. Instead, Matthieu’s approach dessicates the music into an additional desert toughness. The creaks of string noise and of shifting posture, the dry attack of the guitars and Matthieu’s plentiful use of harmonics – all of this takes away Ravel’s detailed coloration and turns his narrative into a sharp, leathery etching; a musical concentrate of the scene. It’s like someone reshooting a film along less forgiving, more minimal lines; or curing Ravel’s desert fantasy down to biltong.

Throughout, Matthieu draws implicit connections via his playing style; his sparse economy drawing a line between Satie’s proto-minimalism, Downland’s perfect miniature, the precise structure of the Folias and the concentration of his own arrangement of Ravel. Among the plucking, some enquiring tweaks.

Matthieu Jacquot: ‘Plucked String Instrument Recital’
Matthieu Jacquot (self-released)
Download-only EP
Released: 21st August 2009

Buy it from:
Bandcamp

Matthieu Jacquot online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Bandcamp

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