Tag Archives: music for theremin

June 2016 – upcoming London jazz – Entropi & Mike Chillingworth Trio at the Vortex, The Tommy Remon Quartet at Map (both on the 5th), and nearly ten hours of international LUME festival at the end of the month (26th)

31 May

There’s an imminent weekend of jazz coming up, plus an all-dayer at the end of the month…

* * * * * * * *

LUME presents:
Entropi & Mike Chillingworth Trio
Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Street, N16 8JH.
Sunday 5th June 2016, 7.30pm
more information

“To round off this season of LUME at The Vortex, we’ve got an exciting double bill of new and improvised music.

Entropi (photo by Carl Hyde)

Entropi (photo by Carl Hyde)

Entropi is a vehicle for Dee Byrne‘s ‘space-jazz’ compositions, exploring a narrative of life-pondering, stargazing and risk-taking. Juggling order and chaos, composition and improvisation, the group takes listeners on a journey with compelling group interplay, strong themes, open-ended improvisation, dark grooves and interweaving melodic textures. The ensemble comprises Dee (on alto saxophone), trumpeter Andre Canniere, keyboardist Rebecca Nash, drummer Matt Fisher and bassist Olie Brice. Having performed live together for some time, the band has achieved a striking empathy and freedom to take risks. Their debut album ‘New Era’ was released on the F-IRE Presents label in June 2015, with their second album to come on Whirlwind Recordings in 2017.

Mike Chillingworth

Mike Chillingworth

“We are really looking forward to welcoming alto saxophonist and composer Mike Chillingworth and his trio. In his own words:

“‘I formed this trio last year as a means to play music with an emphasis on spontaneity and improvisation. I have another project, a septet, which is all about detailed written compositions. This trio is the antidote to that. I will be performing with two fantastic improvisers: US drum legend Jeff Williams (who has played with everybody, including two of my favourite saxophonists Joe Lovano and Stan Getz) and Conor Chaplin on bass (who plays in many of the most exciting new UK bands at of the moment).

“I often deliberately avoid choosing repertoire for a gig until the last moment, often writing new tunes in the days leading up to a performance, or taking ideas from whatever I happen to be listening to at the time. Whatever we choose to play on this occasion the emphasis will be on improvising, communicating, listening and exploring together.'”

* * * * * * * *

On the same night, you’ve also got the chance to check out some new start-of-career talent at one of London’s nicest small venues – the Map Studio Café, tucked away in the Kentish Town side-streets. I’ve wanted to talk about this place since discovering it on a random stroll after a swimming session at the Prince of Wales Baths, when its easygoing atmosphere and hopeful spirit provided an ideal wind-down opportunity: the compact performance space upstairs and the talk of a built-in recording studio piqued my interest, and this week’s gig gives me something solid to plug…

Map Studio Café presents:
The Tommy Remon Quartet
Map Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Sunday 5th June 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Tommy Remon, 2016

Tommy Remon, 2016

Led by up-and-coming guitarist Tommy Remon, this quartet has emerged from the Tomorrow’s Warriors Organisation, which encourages young British jazz talent (focussing on people from the African diaspora, with an additional focus on encouraging girls and women into the form). Currently playing hard bop and modal tunes from the jazz canon, as well as their own original compositions, the band are at a self-confessed early stage despite their collective musical strength, and are hungry to develop further insight and breadth. Now, however, is the ideal time to catch them while they’re young, hungry and open, and about to start on their first significant expansion.

The other members of the band are double bass player Rio Kai (who’s played with Jason Yarde and Alex Garnett), drummer Patrick Boyle (Tomorrow’s Warriors Big Band, Nathaniel Facey) – both of whom previously worked with Tommy in a trio – and trumpeter Dylan Jones, who’s still an undergraduate at Trinity Laban, but is already a member of EZRA Collective. Between them, the band members have also worked with Tomorrow’s Warriors founder Gary Crosby, Nérija, Binker Golding and Kokoroko.

* * * * * * * *

Three weeks later we’ll be back with LUME, who are summarising their current state of play via their first festival, which they successfully crowdfunded following an appeal earlier in the year (with backup from Arts Council England, and the Austrian Cultural Forum). It looks as if it’s going to be both a broad and a familial occasion, with many LUME regulars reappearing in a variety of bands and contexts, with strong playing contributions from the LUME organisers themselves, and with a substantial presence as regards the female jazz musicians which LUME in part encourages (just over a quarter of the twenty-seven players involved are women, most of them also being group leaders, co-leaders and composers). Tickets are limited and are going on sale at the start of June.

LUME Festival 2016

LUME presents:
LUME Festival: Word Of Moth + Ant Traditions + Hot Beef Three + Little Church + Kjær/Musson/Marshall + Blueblut + Article XI
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Sunday 26th June 2016, 1.00pm-10.30pm
more information

  • The day’s headliners are Word Of Moth, the London-based collaborative quartet which includes the two LUME founders on saxophones (Dee Byrne on alto, Cath Roberts on baritone) alongside Seth Bennett (bass) and Tom Greenhalgh (drums).
  • Article XI is a freewheeling large ensemble led by guitarist Anton Hunter, originally put together for the 2014 Manchester Jazz Festival but deemed too good not to continue with. Mingling free improvisation with tightly-composed contrapuntal writing, it also features Oliver Dover (alto sax, also of Saxoctopus and many others), Tom Ward (tenor sax), Cath Roberts (baritone sax), Johnny Hunter (drums), Seth Bennett (bass), Graham South and Nick Walters (trumpets), and Tullis Rennie and Richard Foote (trombones).
  • Vienna-based Blueblut was founded by three musical powerhouses, famous in their respective spheres of jazz, electronic and avant-rock music. The band have the intensity of rock, the space and openness of electronica and the razor-sharp precision and wild improvisation of jazz. Featuring Led Bib’s Mark Holub on drums, Pamela Stickney on theremin and Chris Janka (flying machine maker, sound engineer, automata creator and Viennese Caractacus Potts figure) on guitar and overall production.
  • Musson/Kjær/Marshall are a fantastic London trio of committed European-scene improvisers and extended-technique instrumentalists, all of whom happen to be female: Rachel Musson (tenor sax), Julie Kjær (alto sax) and Hannah Marshall (cello).
  • Little Church are a Birmingham-based fusion quartet, playing compositions both from and inspired by Miles Davis’ electric period. Led by keyboard player David Austin Grey, the rest of the band is made up from Aaron Diaz (trumpet), Rachael Cohen (alto sax), Chris Mapp (double bass, bass guitar and electronics) and Tymek Joswiak (drums). Little Church fuses live acoustic instruments with synthesizers and electronics to produce a wonderfully ambient soundscape, which moves from meditative and hypnotising through to driving and funky with a seamless fluidity.
  • Hot Beef Three brings some of Leeds’ finest improvisers together: saxophonist Oliver Dover (see above),  guitarist Craig Scott (Ikestra, Craig Scott’s Lobotomy) and drummer Andrew Lisle. (All three already play together as part of Leeds’ notorious eclecti-chaos band Shatner’s Bassoon.)
  • Ant Traditions are a top-notch Manchester improv duo featuring Adam Fairhall (toy pianos) and Dave Birchall (electric guitar).

There’s a sonic buffet provided below to keep you happy until the end of June:








 

REVIEW – Meczûp: ‘Hanging From The Purgatory’s Pendulum’ album, 2010 (“intimations of strings, pipes and carefully torn air”)

21 Jun

History can catch at things and mess them around. Take the theremin – a serious instrument, reduced to a circus trick, with a story that reads like a map of twentieth-century aspirations and follies. Early days were heady: born from Russian security research, Léon Theremin’s electronic instrument was quickly diverted to more high-minded classical music uses: mostly summoning up the sounds of the ethereal spheres for mystically-minded intellectuals. Now? The gimmick tray. Its “woo-woo” glissandi are used to evoke gimcrack spookiness, or as a quick and flashy shorthand for psychedelic derangement.

Worse – on half of those occasions when you’re assured that you’re actually hearing a theremin (Good Vibrations, the original ‘Star Trek’ theme, early Portishead) what you’re actually hearing is a forgery. Based on motion detectors and on hands that aren’t allowed to touch anything, the genuine instrument is tougher to play than a greased fiddle. Hence (for those who want a quick route to the theremin sound without the sweat, physicality and sheer involvement of playing one) the slew of knock-off devices and plug-ins available for faking the flitter.

It’s all a little sad. Despite the efforts of a distinguished handful of composers (not least Shostakovich and Miklós Rózsa) the theremin passed quickly from being the sound-of-the-future to becoming a sonic trinket and a source of freaky icing – all via pop culture, counterfeitery and the Cold War. You could scarcely blame Léon Theremin if he were spinning in his grave (sounding a heavenly wavering burble of rage as he did so). Hearing a theremin played in a way that’s even slightly close to the original intent is something of a rarity these days. While he’s not exactly a purist, Cihan Gülbudak (better known as Meczûp) clearly takes his own theremin seriously enough to steer it back to roots-level.

On ‘Hanging From The Purgatory’s Pendulum’, Meczûp’s theremin is accompanied only by its own looped signals, and sometimes by a gauzy, delicate brushing of fuzz-noise shrouding the pure tone in a gentle, finely-milled distortion. Mostly, though, Meczûp suspends the instrument in wide space, sending its sliding, sustained tones out as a majestic keen. His control is exemplary, mastering the air-shaping swoops and pinches necessary to pull away from plain electronic tone and towards intimations of strings, pipes and carefully torn air. Where a little more flex is required there’s a whammy-pedal available, heaving the pitches up and down in tidal zooms, and giving the music the apocalyptic boom of a Messaien organ-blast.

Besides the skill of Meczûp’s fingertips, the other key ingredient in his work is locale. Based in Istanbul, he sits at the historic conceptual crossroads of East and West. Seemingly setting aside contemporary blendings of globalization and cyberculture, his music taps into older frictions and fertilizations. There’s an old-fashioned sense of discovery here. Geographies slide across each other and voices strain to mingle, from the earnestly mangled English of the song titles to the cross-sifting of the musical impulses. Throughout the album, echoes of the classical European yearn-to-order meet intimations of Eastern devotional. Despite Meczûp’s classic theremin technique his musical lines don’t have the chilly ethereality of the original approach. They sound more like ney flutes, duduks or zurnas – Middle Eastern wind instruments with their own connection to Sufi, shamanism and oral histories; to the angelic and diabolic aspects of spiritual experience; or the difficult memories of the region’s blood-mottled sway between the heights of civilization and the depths of brutality and pain. There are notes of beauty and agony here, calling up more than a few old ghosts.

Meczûp: 'Hanging From The Purgatory's Pendulum' (previous cover)

Meczûp: ‘Hanging From The Purgatory’s Pendulum’ (previous cover)

At its most basic, Meczûp’s music sounds predominantly Eastern (the brief Arabic piping of Shadow: A Parable) but the musical crossings-over are far more interesting. Beneath the long whining melodies that cap and guide A Tale For Lancinant Screws, a kind of slender and abbreviated suggestion of Renaissance counterpoint emerges. It’s less an outright structure than a kind of haunting, like the image of a face flattened out across an endless carpet. A similar device haunts The Ribald Genie, ghosting underneath a lonely melody which gradually alters from pure keen to distorted scream and finally to a melancholy sarangi moan. For the brief but wide-ranging Garoun A, more of these suggestions blur into whalesong glissandi: a succession of theremin voices from teetering soprano to slithering sub-bass chase each other before tailing off into echoes.

Meczûp’s sharp appreciation of lines of beauty dominates the record, although at points this is deliberately overstretch to the point of breakdown. On Puriest Morning of All Times, baroque intimation destroys its own bounds: a vaulting lead melody (first soprano, then alto) strides downwards into echo-space before more parts build into a looping, uneasy fugue. As it moves on, the theremin sound begins to rip and degrade, eventually becoming a mass of gargling sharp-edged rattles like a rockslide or a Geiger counter. Blossoming in Cemetery sits between Bach liturgy and Armenian lament, maintaining an ache and yearn for six minutes before the theremin’s translucent cloak of distortion cracks and dissolves, and the melody starts to reiterate as a scabrous insect buzz.

In spite of his austere tendencies, Meczûp allows a little fantasy into the mix for a couple of pieces, drawing on and transforming pinches of popular culture. The first of these is Kwaidan, rooted in Japanese ghost tales via Lafcadio Hearn and cinema. Relinquishing the counterpoint which informs the rest of the record, it brings out more of the Eastern melodies while walls of looped theremin churn in the background, fluttering and stuttering on a grand scale.

The second is The Bridge of Khazad-dûm – an etiolated isolationist drone which becomes perhaps the most powerful work on an album already full of grand-scale intimations. It takes its inspiration from Tolkien: specifically, that chasm-spanning subterranean stone bridge which (at a key point in ‘Lord of the Rings’) becomes a locus for death, despair and ruin. Meczûp interprets another aspect, capturing something of Tolkien usually drowned under torrents of merchandising: his valedictory quality, the way his stories shuffle and re-deal the racked old bones of history, romance and inevitable decay for one final mournful hurrah. Meczûp’s vision of the bridge is of an ancient, significant place deserted. Plangent teary layers of theremin fuse together, cold spaces emerge in the music, and entwined senses of antiquity and abandonment are caught in broad view.

In fact, this sense of stricken grandeur applies equally to the rest of the album. Meczûp’s eerie, assertive picking-over and teasing-out of elements within of his music feels like a week spent immersed in history. It has the same tasting of triumphs and fleeting beauty; the same dawning feeling that one somehow fits into something so much broader and complicated. Through it all, the theremin rises triumphant. Survival and vindication.

Meczûp: ‘Hanging From The Purgatory’s Pendulum’
BFW Recordings, BFW038 (no barcode)
Download-only album
Released: 1st March 2010

Buy it from:
BWF Recordings, Magyar Walltapper or Reverb Nation. 9-track version also available from Bandcamp

Meczûp online:
Facebook Twitter MySpace Bandcamp

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