Tag Archives: music from Berlin (Germany)

September 2016 – upcoming gigs – Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Andrew Heath and Christopher Chaplin in Stroud (15th); Daylight Music returns to London with Michele Stodart, Alright Gandhi, Alev Lenz and Joli Blon (17th)

1 Sep

Towards the middle of the month, there are opportunities to see a German kosmische pioneer playing up in the quiets of Gloucestershire, and to catch the return of Daylight Music semi-acoustica to London. Read on…

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Hans-Joachim Roedelius

Stroud Valleys Artspace/Resound presents
Hans-Joachim Roedelius + Andrew Heath + Christopher Chaplin
The Brunel Goods Shed, Station Approach, Stroud, GL5 3AP
Thursday 15th September 2016, 8.00pm
– information here and here

“Resound presents a fantastic opportunity to see a true pioneer. Hans-Joachim Roedelius – the Godfather of Ambient – is a pioneer in the field of the exploitation of electrically generated tones, sounds and noises. One of the founders of contemporary popular electronic music, he was a key player at the birth of kosmische, Krautrock, synthpop and ambient music. Onetime collaborator Brian Eno describes him as “one of the true originals of modern music. His delicate and wistful compositions seem to come from some long and secret musical tradition – like the meditations of Sufi poets, or the haikus of Zen monks.”

Hans-Joachim Roedelius

Hans-Joachim Roedelius

Roedelius’ collaborations with Eno, Dieter Moebius, Michael Rother and many others (in groups such as Cluster, Harmonia, Geräusche and PlusMinus) are at least the equal of the more well-known innovations of German cohorts Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and Can. His forty-plus solo albums are just as radical in seeking an unlikely reconciliation with the past – cross-wiring Krautrock’s brutalist modernism with an earlier strain of Teutonic enquiry, melding weird improvised electronica with folk, jazz and classical sounds to often stunning effect.

Roedelius has also worked as nurse, physiotherapist, masseur, escort of the dying, writer, poet, photo-collage-artist, producer and curator.”

Playing at Stroud’s Goods Shed for the second time (the first was in 2012), Roedelius will be joined by two of his latterday collaborators.


 
Andrew Heath initially came to attention as half of the ’90s ambient keyboard duo Aqueous (who recorded 1997’s ‘Meeting The Magus‘ with Roedelius) in which he was the digitally-inclined partner of quixotic analogue player Felix Jay. Following Felix’s retirement, Andrew has continued various aspects of the Aqueous project in both visual and musical forms, seeking to “introduce both the listener and the viewer, to a sonic and visual hinterland… a dreamlike state that lies somewhere between sleeping and waking.”


 
Christopher Chaplin spent most of his early career as an actor (in keeping with his family heritage – he’s one of the sons of Charlie Chaplin). However, his personal artistic roots are as a pianist – having studied, as a young man, under Irène Dénéréaz in Vevey. In 2005, Christopher reorientated towards work as a composer and musician, working variously on theatre music and orchestral string pieces, but also with Viennese electronic musician Kava. In 2011, he was personally chosen by Roedelius to record and remix one of the latter’s live piano sets: the results led to further collaborations including the ‘King Of Hearts’ album in 2012 and further concerts played around the world. In October 2016, he releases his solo album debut, ‘Je suis le Ténébreux’.



 

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Daylight Music #232A couple of days later, in London, ‘Misfit City’ favourite Daylight Music starts up its autumn season of pop, acoustica, classical crossover and electrophonic treats, all packaged up for the Saturday lunchtime crowd.

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 232: Michele Stodart + Alright Gandhi + Alev Lenz + Joli Blon
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 17th September 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

What they’ve told us, so far, about the lineup…

Michele Stodart has taken temporary leave of The Magic Numbers to release her second solo album. Brushed with country and blues, her beautiful, intimate music will hold you close while breaking your heart.

Alright Gandhi came together in 2014, meeting and meshing during chaotic underground jam sessions in Berlin; rather than making experimental music, they claim they’re making music that likes to experiment.

Alev Lenz is a remarkable songwriter, composer and singer, whose music fuses filmic, world and classical influences. Her bittersweet voice and utterly personal lyrics combine with inspiring hooks that take you by surprise.

Joli Blon are a British Cajun band, who’ll have you tapping your toes with traditional Louisiana dance tunes.”


 

More London gigs, second week of October – electro-industrial (Necro Deathmort/DeadFader/Cementimental), intercontinental at Café Oto (Maurice Louca/John Bence/Sam Shalabi), fringe jazz (The Geordie Approach/A Sweet Niche), noise-rock (Hey Colossus/Lower Slaughter/Kogumaza), acoustic/alt.country at Daylight Music (Applewood Road/Holly Macve/Arborist) and the Fidelio Trio with Beethoven, Ravel and a Benjamin Dwyer premiere

4 Oct

More gigs for the coming week…

Firstly, Baba Yaga’s Hut are running an evening at Corsica Studios, which takes in the London date of an electro-industrial tour.

Necro Deathmort/DeadFader/Cementimental @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 5th October 2015Necro Deathmort + Deadfader + Cementimental (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, London, SE17 1LB, UK, Monday 5th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £6.00

As if Necro Deathmort‘s name didn’t tell you enough about them, over an eight year career they’ve released albums called ‘This Beat Is Necrotronic’ and ‘Music Of Bleak Origin’ (although more recent albums have seen a shift towards a less morbid and more science-fictional outlook. Dark electronica festival veterans with a drone, doom and noise approach, the project entangles electronic instrumentalist AJ Cookson (The Montauk Project, Medes, Sol Invicto) with Matthew Rozeik (guitarist from post-metal/post-prog band Astrohenge). Their music rises from gurgling boneyard beats, medical-equipment breakdowns, squishy miasmas and faux-sax drones towards something ruined and regal – a grand deathbed vision.

Sharing Necro Deathmort’s current tour is Berlin-based dubstep/noise/electro fusilladeer DeadFader – memorably described as “chainsaw-step” by Baked Goods Distribution (who went on to rave about how the project coughs up “the most seismic grooves imaginable” and that the music “sinks its teeth into your arm and refuses to let go”). I can’t top that as a description right now – have a listen below and see if you agree with it.

Joining Necro Deathmort and DeadFader for the London date are CementimentalEverything I can dig up about these guys is a barking blur of ludicrous disinformation: almost the only lucid facts coughed up from their promotional flotsam is that they’re led by a “noisician” called Dr. Age (or Tim Drage, who may or may not have a daytime/surface job in cute Lego animations) and have been doing “harsh noise, circuit-bending, rough music since 2000AD”. The Dr. is supported by a cast of obscure and possibly imaginary characters – a guitarist called Toru, a part-time turntablist, a man called Mrs Columbo (who handles the incoherent screaming), and “additionalists” called Murray the Eel and Sir Concord Discount (the latter’s a “rock goblin”). Maybe this makes Centimental sound like the joke band on the bill, and there’s plenty of humour in what they do (a couple of early tracks were called Too Long and Merzbow It Ain’t, while a more recent one’s called Commendable Amputation Of An Excessive Gargoyle), but the fact remains that they’ve been going for nearly half again as long as their gigmates. Draw your own conclusions.


 

Up-to-date info here, tickets here.

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On the Thursday, there’s a Cafe Oto convening of music from Cairo, Bristol and Montreal, running in parallel to events in Egypt and Lebanon and covering a broad variety of influences and outcomes.

Maurice Louca + John Bence + Sam Shalabi, October 8th 2015

Maurice Louca + John Bence + Sam Shalabi (Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, UK, October 8th 2015, 8.00pm) – £12.00/£14.00

Cafe Oto, in collaboration with Thirtythree Thirtythree   and Nawa Recordings, bring you the second edition of the five-part event series entitled ‘Labyrinths’ (or ‘Mātāhāt’ in Arabic) and based in London, Cairo and Beirut over October and November.

Maurice Louca is an Egyptian musician and composer born in Cairo where he lives and works. As well as being the co-founder of the bands Bikya, Alif and Dwarves Of East Agouza, he lends his sound to numerous projects, composing for theatre, film and contemporary art. Inspired by many influences, from psychedelic to Egyptian shaabi, his second album ‘Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot)’, released on Nawa Recordings in November 2014, shattered the confines of musical and cultural labelling and was dubbed by many as a game-changer for the region’s bustling independent music scene. Amidst his collaborations and inconspicuous touring across Europe and the Arab world in the last few years, Louca has sought a richer and much more complex sound. ‘Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan’, the fruit of such intense reinvention and a departure from his first solo album ‘Garraya’, is a work that leaves ample space for fluidity and improvisation, paving the way for unique live renderings.

From a family background rich in classical pedigree and firmly embedded in Bristol’s forward-facing electronic music culture, John Bence has pooled a breadth of influence scarcely credible for a composer only entering his second decade, and now he is starting to put his inspiration into live and recorded motion. As a producer he is already thinking ten steps ahead, often incorporating voice or home recorded percussion into his cyclical technique of scoring, recording, manipulating, re-scoring and re-recording in waves, creating heady, intoxicating ripples of harmony and noise. An obscure snippet of dub-plate drone under a previous moniker was enough for Nicolas Jaar, who instantly approached him about a release on his Other People label. Six months on, ‘Disquiet’ was released – a masterful hybrid of classical and electronic clocking in at a tantalising ten minutes. More, much more, is coming. Mercurial, elusive and of seemingly limitless imagination, John Bence is rising to the surface.

Sam Shalabi is an Egyptian-Canadian composer and improviser living between Montreal, Quebec and Cairo, Egypt. Beginning in punk rock in the late 70s, his work has evolved into a fusion of experimental, modern Arabic music that incorporates traditional Arabic, shaabi, noise, classical, text, free improvisation and jazz. He has released five solo albums (including ‘On Hashish’- a musical mediation on German writer Walter Benjamin; ‘Osama’, an audio collage on Arabophobia in the wake of 9/11; and his most recent ‘Music for Arabs’), five albums with Shalabi Effect (a free improvisation quartet that bridges western psychedelic music and Arabic Maqam scales) and three albums with Land Of Kush (an experimental 30-member orchestra for which he composes). He has appeared on over sixty albums and toured Europe, North America and North Africa. Recent projects include the release of the sixth Shalabi Effect album, a duo album with Stefan Christoff, two albums on the Italian label Sagittarius with Beirut, Turkish and Egyptian musicians and a tour in the eastern U.S with Alvarius B (playing solo oud). He is also releasing ‘Isis and Osiris’ (a new composition for oud and electronics) on Nashazphone as well as releasing an album with The Dwarves Of East Agouza (a Cairo based trio with Maurice Louca and Alan Bishop) while currently working on his sixth solo album.

Tickets and up-to-date information are here and here.

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“More accomplished musicians have a loud argument about what ‘jazz’ even is these days,” say Chaos Theory Promotions. Their Jazz Market evenings continue to provide space for such arguments, and here’s another one…

Jazz Market - The Geordie Approach + A Sweet Niche, 9th October 2015

The Geordie Approach + A Sweet Niche (Chaos Theory Promotions present The Jazz Market @ The Sebright Arms, 33-35 Coate Street, London, E2 9AG, UK, Friday 9th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £5.00/£7.00

The Geordie Approach is possibly the oldest secret from three internationally renowned musicians who’ve been working together for over ten years. It features acclaimed Leeds guitarist and producer Chris Sharkey (Acoustic Ladyland/Shiver/TrioVD), and Norwegian musicians Petter Frost Fadnes and Ståle Birkeland, best known for playing sax and bass respectively in Stavanger Kitchen Orchestra. This uncompromising and experimental trio pursues music within loose improvisational structures, adding a surprisingly broad range of flavours to their overall sound world. The trio has a reputation for adapting and utilizing their performance space in an extremely effective and engaging manner. Birkeland, Frost Fadnes and Sharkey produce musical elements that often are contradictory in shape, moving between melody and noise, ambient grooves and abstract textures. They have performed across Europe, Japan and the UK in churches, art galleries, improvisation clubs, squats, abandoned tobacco houses, jazz festivals, concert halls and flamenco clubs. Each performance is a unique experience.

We hail the return of jazz punk trio A Sweet Niche to The Jazz Market after a seriously impressive performance in 2013. Band composers Keir Cooper and Oliver Sellwood (on guitar and saxophone respectively) explore an aesthetic of intricate rhythms & song-structures within a punchy energetic rock band format. The nature of their collaboration is unique; Keir is an award-winning non-academy artist and Oliver is an award-winning PhD composer and academic. Despite their two tangential angles of experience, they have a shared musical vocabulary honed over nearly two decades. With new album ‘EJECT’ on the way in 2016 (and the recent addition of Big Beat Manifesto drummer Tim Doyle to the band), it’s high time we pulled these performers out of the murky underworld they reside in.

Tickets are available from here, and up-to-date information is here.

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There’s another Baba Yaga’s Hut evening on the same night as the Oto gig, this time concentrating on various noise-rock angles (from the reformatting of classic rock to the restructuring of sound to the straightforward joy of a gibbering hardcore racket.) See below.

Hey Colossus/Lower Slaughter/Kogumaza @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 9th October 2015Hey Colossus + Lower Slaughter + Kogumaza (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ Electrowerkz, The Islington Metal Works, 7 Torrens Street, Angel, Islington, London, EC1V 1NQ, UK, 9th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £9.00

Variously from Somerset, Watford and London, six-piece Hey Colossus https://www.facebook.com/heycolossus have spent a decade gradually becoming alt.rock darlings thanks to their   journey through assorted doomy noise rock avenues. Their current recipe involves slowing down and narcotising their alleged classic rock influences (Fleetwood Mac is one of those cited) via psychedelic echo and a certain post-rock dourness. It works well too – much of the time they sound like a guttering Led Zeppelin on strong cough mixture, or feed crunching brass-riff processionals and Stoogesque whomps through an amber-toned ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ filter.

I suspect that the concept of supergroups doesn’t fit into noiserock and post-hardcore. Nonetheless, Brighton’s Lower Slaughter  does sort of fit into that category, uniting people better known for other bands (bass player Barney Wakefield for Shudder Pulps, guitarist Jon Wood for “harsh party music” outfit Fat Bicth, Max Levy for vertiginously nervy singing in King Of Cats) and welding them together into a noisy, queasy-confident, raw-scream whole.

Creating hypnotic drones and grooves via two guitars and tom-centric drumming, Nottingham quartet Kogumaza have their feet in sludge metal and in post-rock; but while the latter’s become an increasing predictable and conservative genre Kogumaza have set out to reclaim some of its earlier, more inventive ideas (such as the lapping sonics of Seefeel) via their fourth member, live sound mixer Mark Spivey, who brings in dub-inspired approaches and old tape-looping techology to further manipulate and displace the band’s sound both live and on record. Fond of collaborations and split releases, they’ve also been known to bring in an unexpected banjo (although they probably won’t tonight).


 
Up-to-date info here, tickets here.

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And finally, from all of this noise to something acoustic for a Saturday noontime…

Daylight Music 202

Daylight Music 202: Applewood Road, Holly Macve + Arborist (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, UK – Saturday 10th October 2015, 12.00pm-2.00pm) – free entry, suggested donation £5.00

An early afternoon of songwriter-folk, America and alternative country from one of ‘Misfit City’s favourite free/pay-what-you-like events:

Applewood Road is an Australian/American alliance of three solo songwriters – Amy Speace, Amber Rubarth  (also known as one half of The Paper Raincoat) and Emily Barker (also known for her work with the-low-country and The Red Clay Halo). In September 2014, they all met for the first time in a cafe in East Nashville. Two hours later they had written the song they called Applewood Road. They booked studio time at Nashville’s super-cool analogue studio Welcome To 1979, and the following week recorded the song live to tape, with just double bass as accompaniment. So excited were they by the song, they decided to expand the idea in to a whole album. Six months later they reconvened in Nashville to write, rehearse and record songs to make up a full album, with the project and album all called ‘Applewood Road’. This is their first show in the UK, with the debut Applewood Road album due for an early 2016 release on Gearbox Records.

Bella Union label boss Simon Raymonde says, of Holly Macve“little is known of Holly other than she is a 20 year old from Yorkshire who appeared out of nowhere in Brighton late last year. I had a tip-off to go to a basement bar where she was playing. In a room full of beery boys chatting across all the music beforehand, the minute Holly opened her mouth the room fell silent. Hers is a rare gift.” Simon signed her shortly afterwards. The label has yet to release anything formally, but Holly herself has posted a demo track onto Soundcloud (see below), and she’s already won support slots with Ben Howard and Mercury Rev on the strength of what she’s offering.

Having previously worked as a songwriter around France, London and Dublin, Mark McCambridge played his first show as Arborist in February 2013, opening for James Yorkston in Belfast. A solo tour of Ireland followed before impressive performances led to notable support slots alongside Low, Cat Power, Echo & The Bunnymen and Alasdair Roberts. In May 2015 Arborist released the country-tinged ‘Twisted Arrow’. Recorded during dark winter nights in Belfast and in Dayton, Ohio (and featuring vocal harmonies by Kim Deal). A debut album is due this coming winter.

 

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Not finally, in fact – there’s a chance to squeeze in a last-minute classical addition, since it’s always a shame to miss a premiere.

The Fidelio Trio, 2015

The Fidelio Trio @ The London Chamber Music Series (Hall One, Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, UK, Sunday 11th October 2015, 6.30pm) – £9.50 to £29.50

The celebrated Fidelio Trio – Mary Dullea (piano), Adi Tal (cello), Darragh Morgan (violin) – perform Beethoven’s hugely popular ‘Ghost Trio’, with its iconic eerie slow movement, and also Ravel’s remarkably imaginative and colourful ‘Piano Trio’, premiered 100 years ago this year in Paris in 1915.

In between comes the premiere of Irish composer Benjamin Dwyer‘s ‘Nocturnal’, inspired by Benjamin Britten’s famous own ‘Nocturnal after John Dowland (for solo guitar)’, and drawing upon a theme from Britten’s opera ‘Gloriana’, as well as a madrigal by English early seventeenth-century composer Thomas Wilbye. There will be a free pre-concert talk at 5.15pm in the St Pancras Room at Kings Place, in which composer and LCM Series director Peter Fribbins interviews Benjamin Dwyer about his new work and his interest in the music of Benjamin Britten.

More information here and tickets here.

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More October gig previews coming up shortly…

More London gigs, first week of October – folk supergroup The Furrow Collective at Kings Place on the 1st; Mary Hampton/Nadine Khouri/Daudi Matsiko at Daylight Music and Alexander Hacke/Danielle de Picciotto/Thomas Ragsdale at the Hackney Attic on the 3rd; Andre Canniere at the Vortex on the 4th

26 Sep

A look forward to the first week of the coming month, with plenty of alternative folk, acoustic singer-songwriters and some multi-media music from a couple of former Berlin arts-scene linchpins, ending up with some jazz…

The Furrow Collective (Hall Two @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, UK, Thursday, 1 October 2015 – 8:00pm) – £9.50/£14.50

The Furrow Collective brings together four of the finest, award winning musicians on the UK folk scene – Rachel Newton, Lucy Farrell, Emily Portman and Alasdair Roberts – and delves into the obscure world of balladry at its darkest and quirkiest.

Each singer airs lesser-known gems from their traditional repertoire with an eclectic backing of harp, guitar, viola, concertina, banjo, musical saw and rousing harmonies. With a bold, improvisatory approach, their common focus is to capture the raw edges and fleeting magic of ballads, with storytelling taking centre stage. Emily and Alasdair are both known for their original, folklore-influenced songwriting, and, often finding themselves on the same bills they struck up a musical friendship, sharing stages and collaborating on each others albums. Lucy and Rachel are both bewitching solo artists in their own right as well as being sought-after session players and long-time collaborators with Emily Portman in her trio.

The Furrow Collective’s 2014 debut release, ‘At Our Next Meeting’ received widespread critical acclaim, as well as a BBC Radio Two Folk Award for Best Group and a Best Traditional Track nomination this year. A new EP is currently being recorded for release in autumn 2015, followed by an album in early 2016.

Tickets available here.

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More people singing at the weekend…

Daylight Music #201

Daylight Music 201: Mary Hampton, Nadine Khouri + Daudi Matsiko (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, UK – Saturday 3rd October 2015, 12.00pm-2.00pm) – free entry, suggested donation £5.00

Inspired by a passion for the winding road of the oral tradition from Homer onwards, Brighton-based songwriter Mary Hampton‘s songs possess an unusual transportive energy, moving her listeners through a sequence of shimmering landscapes that belong to past and present simultaneously. Accompanying herself on tenor guitar, and sometimes with members of her band Cotillion, she interprets material gathered from a wide range of sources, performing traditional songs alongside original work and settings of literary prose and poetry.

Nadine Khouri is a singer-songwriter currently based in London. A guitar-wielding folkie, with a love for shoegaze, moody soundtracks and spoken-word, Khouri’s music has been described by Rough Trade as a “music born of perennial outsider-status.” Her last release ‘A Song to the City’ was co-produced with Ryan Alfred (Calexico.) The EP also caught the attention of producer John Parish (PJ Harvey, This is the Kit) who invited her to guest on a song for his ‘Screenplay’ LP and subsequently to record her first album in his hometown of Bristol. Recorded live in a Georgian basement with a band assembled by Khouri, the resulting album ‘Lost Continents’ is a raw, atmospheric collection of meditations on loss and transformation, held within the hushed intimacy of Khouri’s voice. The first single from the album, You Got A Fire, is due for release in late October 2015.

Huntingdon is not famous for much. It was the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell and its local MP for many years was former Prime Minister John Major. Unlikelier still that the extraordinary songwriting talents of Daudi Matsiko (his name is pronounced “dowdy”) were nurtured in nearby Ramsey. Yet Daudi’s roots were somewhat further than Ramsey, his parents moving over from Uganda in the early 1980s. Daudi has been playing music since he was eight years old and writing songs since he was a teenager: although he’s still young, they speak of experience and trauma and gathered wisdom. Having suffered mental health problems in the past, he has used his music as a crucial salve in times of strife and stress. Daudi was lucky to grow up among a strong community of musicians – many of his Cambridgeshire buddies played on his breakthrough EP ‘A Brief Introduction To Failure’, which was supported by Gilles Peterson and helped bring him to a wider audience. His influences run the gamut, from The Mars Volta to Jeff Buckley, Beach Boys to Nick Drake. Plans are afoot for a new EP (working title: ‘The Lingering Effects Of Disconnection’).

More information on the concert is here.

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On the evening of the same day, Chaos Theory Promotions are back, displaying a continued knack for landing substantial art-music names…

Alexander Hacke/Danielle de Picciotto, October 3rd 2015

Alexander Hacke & Danielle de Picciotto + Thomas Ragsdale (Chaos Theory @ The Hackney Attic, Hackney Picturehouse, 270 Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HE, UK, Saturday 3rd October 2015, 8.00pm) – £14.00/£18.00

Chaos Theory enthuse:

We cannot wait to share this.

After watching the onset of gentrification filling their previous creative oasis in Berlin, the extraordinary duo of multi-instrumentalist/producer Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten) & multimedia artist-musician Danielle de Picciotto (of Berlin club culture, Pop Surrealism and Love Parade fame, as well as being a member of the latest Crime & The City Solution lineup alongside Alexander) have been nomadic since 2010.

Alexander Hacke/Danielle de Picciotto, 2015Giving up their home and most of their possessions, Danielle and Alexander have been touring the world, performing in Australia, doing residencies in Prague, Canada and Ireland, working in New York and recording in the Mojave Desert. (You may have seen them performing at Café Oto earlier this year, alongside Jarboe and Helen Money, as part of our 5 Years Of Chaos celebrations.)

This is the only UK show in their ongoing ‘We Are Gypsies Now’ tour, in which they will present music from Danielle’s new solo album ‘Tacoma’ (which speaks of leaving everything behind and trusting destiny to lead one’s way) and from their communal album ‘Perseverantia’ (which speaks of the strength and persistence necessary to survive outside of the grid) as well as material from their graphic diary ‘We Are Gypsies Now’ (which tells of how they gradually chose to become nomads) via glorious cinematic visuals. Here’s a small excerpt of their performance of ‘Perseverantia’ in February:

Thomas Ragsdale – best known as half of Manchester techno duo Ghosting Season and ambient duo worriedaboutsatan, as well as for his solo project Winter Son), also works as a film composer. He released his new album ‘Bait’ at the end of August via This Is It Forever, to coincide with the screening of Dominic Brunt’s film of the same name at Film4 Frightfest.

Thomas Ragsdale, 2015

The album started life as a film score to the UK thriller; but rather than just release the various background drones and atmospheres, Ragsdale re-opened the files he’d given Brunt and started to re-imagine the whole thing as one complete album, as opposed to merely a soundtrack. Thomas adds “after carefully editing the original soundtrack by expanding on some parts, and cutting back on others, ‘Bait’ was sequenced to take you down a similar path to the movie: at once beautiful as it is beguiling, intense as it is disturbing – shimmering drones give way to gnarled bass, refracting synth lines clatter over arctic atmospheres.” This night we’ll see the full fruits of his labours in a multi-media performance.

Tickets are available here.

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And finally…

LUME logo

Andre Canniere (LUME @ The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, London, N16 8AZ, UK, Sunday 4th October 2015, 7.30pm) – £8.00/£10.00

LUME pitch in with some words:

For our October gig at the Vortex, we are pleased to welcome the fantastic trumpet player and LUME On Tour survivor Andre Canniere!

Andre Canniere is an acclaimed trumpet player, composer and educator. Originally from rural Pennsylvania (USA), he spent the first five years of his career in New York City where he worked with artists such as Maria Schneider, Bjorkestra, Kate McGarry, Ingrid Jensen, Donny McCaslin and Darcy James Argue. He has toured widely throughout the United States and Europe with performances at Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, Birdland, the London Jazz Festival, The Hague Jazz Festival and the Rochester International Jazz Festival.

Since his arrival in the UK, Canniere’s profile has been steadily rising, both as a solo artist and a collaborator. ‘Coalescence’ (defined as “the union of diverse things into one body or form”) is his second release for Whirlwind Recordings and follows the critically acclaimed debut ‘Forward Space’, which Jazzwise Magazine hailed as “one of the best recordings in a long time” and included in their Albums of the Year list. Tonight Canniere presents his exciting new band – himself on trumpet plus Brigitte Beraha (voice), Tori Freestone (tenor saxophone), John Turville (piano), Dave Manington (bass), Tim Giles (drums) – performing new music inspired by the poetry of Charles Bukowski and Rainer Maria Rilke.

More on upcoming October gigs shortly, as I take a look at the second week…

…oh, hold on, here’s one more

Upcoming London gigs for 3rd July (Shiver/The Fierce & The Dead/Alex’s Hand in Camden, and The Spiders of Destiny in Deptford); Tim Bowness tours in August; a release date for Levitation’s ‘Meanwhile Gardens’

30 Jun

More art-rock roars coming up…

Facemelter, 3rd July 2015

Shiver, The Fierce And The Dead, Alex’s Hand @ The Facemelter (The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, Camden, London, NW1 0AP, UK, Friday 3rd July, 7.30pm – £8.00/£6.00)

A night of insane math rock, prog, jazzcore and experimental riffs from some of Europe’s finest.

Shiver are the latest group from Acoustic Ladyland and TrioVD guitarist and producer Chris Sharkey. The trio have been challenging audiences perceptions of music for just over a year, sitting as comfortably at EFG London Jazz Festival as they have when headlining the PX3 stage at ArcTanGent Festival. Stretching the span of instrumentation and the imagination, this trio flits between solid, head-nodding riffs, ambient spaces and frantic electronic cacophony. Tonight they will be playing new material from their recently released third album.

The Fierce & The Dead are a hugely respected and critically acclaimed noisy pronk four-piece from London. Their precise musicianship and schizophrenic, immensely complex, yet catchy music has earned them headline slots all over the UK. Featuring internationally renowned guitarist, loop artist, blogger and all-round independent music guru Matt Stevens, TFATD have shared the stage with bands including PHILM, Knifeworld, Thumpermonkey, Anathema, Cleft and Lost in the Riots. Tonight they will premiere unheard material from their upcoming EP.

Formed in Seattle a few short years ago, experimental four-piece  Alex’s Hand subsequently relocated to Berlin and have been wreaking havoc on Europe’s DIY noise, post-punk and garage ever since. They’ve shared the stage with MoRkObOt, which must have been a bizarre evening. As at home on stage as they are playing avant garde installations (such as 24 hour festival Avant Garden) in a punk squat in Berlin, this will be their first venture to the UK.

More details here, and tickets available here.

I should put in a particular word for Alex’s Hand here, having watched them grow and sprawl over the past few years along a meandering but inspiring path from arch art-pop parodists to noisy song-brawlers and most recently to a kind of spontaneous noise-prog ensemble. There are a few ‘Misfit City’ reviews of their earlier material – one for ‘Madame Psychosis‘ and one for ‘This Cat Is A Genius‘. Although I’ve not covered Shiver yet, I do also have reviews of early Fierce & The Dead material (here and here), as well as a look at the band’s Matt Stevens playing a solo slot.

******

If you’d rather spend a free evening with Uncle Frank, The Spiders of Destiny are playing another London gig of Zappa music on the same day. As ever, expect some of London’s most accomplished art-rockers to work their way back and forth through the Zappa catalogue. The Deptford venue they’re playing this time has plenty of history, whether under its current name, its old monicker of The Oxford Arms or any other title it’s enjoyed over several hundred years. If you don’t spot Frank’s ghost leaning on the sound desk and having an appreciative smoke, you could try looking out for the ghosts of Dire Straits or Christopher Marlowe instead… Up-to-date details here or here, with two-as-yet unnamed bands to be added to the bill.

The Spiders of Destiny (The Birds Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street, London, SE8 4RZ, Friday 3rd July 2015 – 7.30pm, free)

The Spiders of Destiny play Zappa, The Birds Nest, July 5th 2015

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Tim Bowness live flyer, August 2015Looking further ahead, Tim Bowness is out on a very brief tour in August, playing a handful of dates in England and Poland to promote his imminent album ‘Stupid Things That Mean The World’ as mentioned last month. His band features his usual cohorts of Andrew Booker (drums – also of Sanguine Hum), Michael Bearpark (guitar – Darkroom, Henry Fool), Stephen Bennett (keyboards – Henry Fool) and the more recent recruit Colin Edwin (bass guitar – Porcupine Tree).

The Lousiana, Wapping Road, Bathurst Terrace, Bristol, BS1 6UA, UK, Tuesday 25th August, 7.00pm – tickets here and here.

The Boston Music Room, 178 Junction Road, London, N19 5QQ, UK, Wednesday 26th August, 7.00pm – £17.00 – tickets here and here.

Ino Rock Festival, Theatre Letni, Inoclaw, Poland, Saturday 29th August – 35.94 euros – tickets here (other acts at the festival are Fish, Motorpsycho, State Urge and Millenium).

Playing support at the Bristol and London gigs will be Improvizone, the flexible live-ambient improvising collective led by Bowness band drummer Andrew Booker. The rest of the Improvizone lineup looks as if it will be drawn from the current Bowness band (Michael Bearpark is a frequent Improvizoner) so perhaps you should expect the same band playing in two very different configurations. Up-to-date news will be here.

*****

Levitation: 'Meanwhile Gardens' (2015 issue)

Levitation: ‘Meanwhile Gardens’ (2015 issue)

Another follow-up from last month – there’s now a release date from Flashback Records for the lost Levitation album ‘Meanwhile Gardens’. Mark Burgess of Flashback posted the following on the Facebook fan page for the band’s lost recordings yesterday:

There is at last a provisional release date for ‘Meanwhile Gardens’. 23rd October 2015! Pre-orders will be available in due course from the Bandcamp site and elsewhere. The album is now with the pressing plant, but the lead time on the vinyl is long (pressing plants are straining under the pressure of so much vinyl at the moment, hence the provisional nature of the release date). You should all give yourselves a pat on the back and raise a toast to this group because without this page it might never have happened. Thank you all for your enthusiastic support!

Levitation, circa 1992

CONCERT REVIEW – half of a Lost Weekend – Daylight Music presents The Middle Ones/Freschard/The Pictish Trail @ Union Chapel, Islington, London, 18th January 2014 (“the weekend swallowed us”)

21 Sep

What a pulsating Union Chapel hangover might be like...

What a pulsating Union Chapel hangover might be like…

You reckon that lost weekends are just for drunks? Try parenthood. Joyous as it may be, it can also be a swirl of cash-and time-poverty, torn-up plans, and utter confusion, much of which homes in on the weekend and turns it upside down. It’s the same, I tell you. The smear of lost hours, the existential dread, the sensation that you’ve fallen into a pocket outside of the real world; not to mention the worry that you won’t make it through to the end…

Regular ‘Misfit City’ readers know that my family and I tend to use Daylight Music’s Saturday concert afternoons (at the Union Chapel, up in the neck of Islington), as a way of finding ourselves again and of giving our weekends a bit of shape. Child-friendly and refreshing – and free – it’s something of a life-saver. So here we are again, slightly blurred and bleary. On this occasion, Daylight Music are doing their own Lost Weekend, teaming up with musical-comedown club The Hangover Lounge (another cultured and kid-friendly free event a few streets away in Pentonville) for a concert which sprawls over two days rather than one. Sounds interesting. Let’s see what we can make of it, starting at the Chapel… and come on, I shouldn’t be moaning. Just in order to be here, everyone playing today has travelled a lot further than we have.

Take the two women who make up The Middle Ones. Originally from different bits of the north of England, Anna Nols (voice, guitar, knee-socks) and Grace Denton (voice, occasional accordion, sceptical warmth) met up in Norwich, over to the east. These days, they’re separated between east and west – while Anna’s stayed put, Grace now lives and works in Bristol. Any Middle Ones activity now must involve clambering into a bus, a train or a tiny car, then driving a couple of hundred miles (quite a substantial, exciting deal in a country the size of England), and piling straight into playing or recording.

Anna Nols of The Middle Ones.

Anna Nols of The Middle Ones.

They don’t let this slow them down. I suspect that they thrive on it. If it turns out that Grace and Anna are smart, economical and unromantic (the kind of band who just email each other soundfiles over their iPhones) I’ll be broken-hearted. I prefer to think of The Middle Ones as being as spontaneous and goofy as their onstage chemistry suggests, like a happy hen-party stumbling across a pier. Beneath the horseplay, just as affectionate and committed to each other as they ever were, even if they now live leagues and leagues apart.

On record Anna and Grace are artful, exploratory and spontaneous, recording ad-hoc and lo-fi in churches, kitchens and staircases. Wrapped and soused in ingenious bumblescapes and immediate invention, their songs embrace slopped kitchen metals, slurred kid’s-band horns, and drunken drones, staggering enthusiastically through their rumpled mixes. Live, The Middle Ones trim themselves back to semi-acoustica: just an enthusiastic down-strummed indie guitar, that accordion and the sweet undubbed snag of their paired voices.

That Faust/Raincoats side to their work takes a back seat as a consequence, but another strand from their skein jumps right up to take its place. It’s the post-punk folkswoman tradition: the one which ladders down through Marine Girls, Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays, the fizzing, intermittent charms of The Bush The Tree & Me and many others. Anna and Grace might be less finessed than any of the above, but they make a virtue out of it. Gawky and charming, they twinkle at the Chapel’s imposing space; chuckle about their own shyness; lose track of their thoughts, and make jokes about being hemmed in by the mikes.

Grace Denton of The Middle Ones.

Grace Denton of The Middle Ones.

If that makes The Middle One sound like a pair of simpering dollies, you’re getting the wrong idea. When they stumble and laugh, I see no defensive, please-like-me gush; no apologies for being on a bigger stage than they think they deserve. I see two women well aware of how ludicrous performance can be, and of the inevitable clumsiness of gestures under a spotlight. I see them accept and forgive it all, happy to be nobody’s stars and nobody’s muses. Here’s a particularly female state of mind in which everything is both serious and funny at the same time, and where fresh insight sprouts in fertile terrain far away from narcissism. (As a dogged, navel-gazing writerbloke I’ve got to confess that I envy it.)

Their onstage demeanour, in fact, reveals what they’re really about as artists as well as performers. As they gently josh or beam at each other – or bend double over a shared joke – their songs celebrate the spectrum of sympathy and friendship in all of its impossibility, unlikeliness, awkward junctures and rebounding. In Quite Something (an indie jig underpinned and smeared about with Grace’s wayward accordion), they chew this over, singing “My lover, my love in a hundred different ways. / Still, you’re right – we could never quite both be the same.” Another song deals with the fluttering nerves of a faltering first date: cutting rapidly between the viewpoints of boy and girl, it puts them and their choices into a perspective of unrolling time. “She is lying on the grass, with her arm across her waist, / she is trying to be brave but I know what she won’t say… I don’t want to look back and think ‘why didn’t I say that?’ / I don’t want to look back and think ‘I should have shown him that – I should have shown him more.’”

Anna and Grace sing about the saddest or sweetest of things with the same bright earnestness. It makes them look straightforward. Actually, it distracts from their complexities. Like plenty of songwriters (or short-story stylists, come to that) The Middle Ones deal mostly with variants of the same situation, but shift around the factors – characters, memory, the weather. “This is something like faith, but a bit more real-life,” they announce on Courage, a clarion call for passion on the upswing. “It is the rehearsal that will make this – / we were not born to fit together. / Sleeping side by side, occasionally entwined, / there is a design but it’s not so divine… I like to see your name written down, the warmth is folding round… / looks like you’re coming home with me.” As regards relationships what seems to fascinate them is not so much individual feelings but the way in which people overlap and merge, sometimes imperfectly, sometimes not. At one point, they sing “we are two thoughts that fade together,” and this idea of wobbly unity is reflected in the way their voices interlace: an untutored, empathic harmony.

In the lyrics, this can become an echo of overlapped, stumbling thoughts. Upbeat and enthused – positively illuminated – I Liked You Straight Away sees their singing become a shingled babble of thoughts and joy-jets. “I liked you straight away (who wouldn’t?) / I like to think I’d say (I suddenly) / knew there’d come a day when I would think of little… yes,/ but how the light (a miracle) / round your mouth and eyes (a miracle) / make me sad, and I will always find something… / In supermarket aisles I’ll see you / laugh to look like fire (I’m dancing). / Dearest friend of mine, you were a perfect stranger – / I wish that I could see / the moment when it first hit me.” As it peaks, the song races away in a delighted game of shifting grammar and ecstatic time-travelling adoration, while Grace and Anna frisk onstage. “Oh, love, I should have known it then. / Love, I should have known you then. / Oh, love, didn’t I know back then. / Love, if I had know you then.”

The Middle Ones.

The Middle Ones.

While The Middle Ones are great at sprinkling insight into this breathless, puppy-tumbling eroticism, they’re just as good when tackling other kinds of involvement. Portraying a younger woman’s friendship with an elderly man (on Young Explorer), they work out its strands and its development without ever needing to hammer home detail. They don’t reveal whether he’s friend, neighbour or relative. What’s important is that he’s one of her fixtures – one who’s about to be swallowed by time, one who’ll be missed. “I thought the old houses would all fall down / I thought the cobblestones would surely overturn / before they came and took and moved you out / to someone else’s road, / and someone else’s strange white clothes.” Over the course of the song, an initial childlike affection shades into deeper understanding (“your clever words struggled to be heard, / but your eyes still shine like in older times / when you were crossing borders, stranger waters … / With your luggage tied around the handle bars, / you don’t know where you’re going but you’re headed pretty far,”) and eventually an unexpected torch is passed as his long-ago young-man’s efforts inspire her own present-day awakening. Empathy blossoms like roses in the final harmonies: while the sentences tumble, the joy and fellow-feeling are daylight-clear. “The words, these are the words that you said. / Here we stand, up, up here, / and I can see you. / I can see you from up, up here. / I can see, oh / so much more now.”

Again and again, The Middle Ones’ songs delve into time – its chemistry and alterations, its revelations and decodings. In Hannah, they look at long-standing female friendships and how they simultaneously decay and sustain themselves: Passing years, marked through correspondence, see illnesses wax and wane, marriages arrive, and old bonds gradually fade to early chapters. “You’re the sweetest girl I’ve ever known… / I know you have shaped me, / just like I know we both keep changing, / but I’ll always be grateful – but I was twenty, and with you… I looked at myself and I saw you.”

Ironic, then, that Anna and Grace seem so untouched by time themselves. Edging towards their thirties, each woman still looks and acts like the half of the undergraduate duo they once were. Anna – pencil-slender, blinking and beaming through her glasses as she pecks happily away at her guitar – is the spit’n’archetype of the bohemian homespinner: all thrift-shop ingenuity, universally adored. Keying the accordion while punctuating the songs with delicate frowns and bursts of baffled humour, Grace is her unlikely travelling companion: the Thirties screen-queen lookalike, the one who’d frankly rather be Anna’s kind of bohemian. All of this might be camouflage for those keen songwriting minds – but I think not. For all of their onstage bumps and stumbles, they seem so comfortable in their skins that I can’t see it as anything other than genuine. They’re the odd couple who turn out to be the natural couple. They’ve come a long way. I can imagine them still travelling it, still chuckling along it, in fifty years time, with purple ribbons threaded into the accordion.

Plenty of hints are dropped today that most of the crowd has come for Clémence Freschard. I can see why. She ticks plenty of boxes for the kind of person who carefully, calculatedly chooses cooler brands of cigarette and songwriter. Her personal travelogue alone (which stretches from her beginnings in rural France through Parisian trottoirs, a spell in New York as a Brooklyner, and her present-day arty-émigré berth in Berlin) is more than enough to tickle the taste of a landlocked London hipster.

Clemence Freschard.

Clémence Freschard.

Added to that, there’s her lean, quiet singing – with its slight falling quality and its accented European English – and her eerie agelessness, in which those glints in her fall of bark-brown hair could be spotlight reflections or strands of early silver. Most of all, there’s her imperturbable presence. She delivers few, if any stage announcements. She doesn’t try to win us over with jokes. Whichever scenarios are played out in her lyrics (and, by implication, in her history) never ruffle her still expression. In both person and in song, she suggests an apparently blank slate – one which slowly and softly reveals its secret etchings.

Yet though she’s doll-like in her impassivity, she’s certainly not trying to be anyone’s toy. I couldn’t really call her Stepfordian (any more than I could call her Clémence – that “Freschard” mask is a perfect fit) but there’s an eerie automatic quality to her movements and playing, and to the mood that she projects. She smiles quite often. Her gaze maintains a bright, slightly absent sheen throughout her set, only warming a little when she spots a songwriter ally up in the gallery and invites him to sing along with her.

I remember that Laurie Anderson once described herself as a spy. It’s tempting to wonder whether Freschard might be following the same path. It’s certainly easy to imagine her sitting motionless in the same chair forever, with people coming and going around her in a shuffled, speeded blur, while all of the time she’s watching, observing.

Clemence Freschard.

Freschard – the impassive spy.

Sometimes she seems to be nothing but poise. Minus even the minimal arrangements of her records (the clipped touches of horn and mandriola, the bare and drowsy bossa percussion) she’s left with the classic, cloudy ring of her black guitar and those slight, faint-lined songs. Even these seem to have carefully combed and stripped before she came to play. Everything deemed surplus to requirement has long since floated away; unregarded; long stray hairs of songcraft coiling off, abandoned, on silent air currents.

It’s often difficult to make out what she’s left behind to hold on to. There’s plenty of falling rain, for sure, and plenty of inbetween moments. Too much of either, in fact. Aimless, distracted and lonely, I Miss You leans on First Avenue scenery for support, but does nothing with it. When Freschard murmurs about swamp water, dry whisky, Cajun stations and woozy kisses (on Sweet Sweet South) it feels as if she’s listlessly shuffling through antique Dixie postcards in a flea market before dropping them back, unbought. When she attempts to conjure the ennui of abandonment via a song about drumming fingers and staring out of windows, she skirts self-parody.

Angel finally tips the scale from delicate to dreary. Probably it’s a love song; perhaps something more morbid and sinister; but as its grey lines meander tiredly and tracelessly through my attention, it feels the same either way. That’s hard to forgive. Sometime it seems as if Freschard is no more than we choose to project onto her; and that if we really got bored, she might just cruise to a halt, staring blankly ahead until we had another idea.

Gradually, as better songs and better implications make a virtue of that impassive calm, she becomes more compelling. She begins to draw me into her unrippled world: one tune, mingling drowsy funk and Russian folk tune (dotted with hums and a languid hint of sex) curls insistently around my ears like a preening cat. Another – Boom Biddy Boom – maps eerie Eastern European folk inflections onto old rhythm-and-blues bop. It’s part-Diddley, part-John Lee Hooker, and either would have added a twist of salaciousness or solace to the swing. Freschard plays it as blank as a catwalk dancer, as a sleight-of-sashay, presenting fleeting and enigmatic visions of desperation in between the sways. “But’s and no, yes’es and no’es, / her hands on her hips, here she goes… / She’s a shout, she’s mighty fine. / Spit it out – she’s dynamite… / She’s sick sometime, / bound to lose. / Didn’t choose, didn’t plan. / Get the bouncing shoes… / It’s easy to start, it’s easy to let go. / Cross my heart, kiss my elbow.”

Wit and wickedness are welcome developments, and Freschard’s songs pick up when she allows herself to exercise them. Inside the thrumming pulse of Investigate, she probes themes of faithlessness and obsession with dry, vengeful precision. “When I’m not sleuthing, I’m gumshoe-ing, / I follow your every movement… / You think murder is my favourite crime, because it’s different every time / I have to tell you that’s not true / I just guess who loves who.” Fans and skeptics alike warm up a little. Her faint smile turns a little more mischievous.

But it’s two other songs that really slip out from beneath Freschard’s imperturbable gloss, fleshing out her stillness while making the best use of it. Where Did You Go – agoraphobic and lonely, absent and chilling – suggests that quietness is sometimes a deflated scream. “Household’s dry / like a river run dry… / I keep heading for the window like a locked-up fly, / with the birds buzzing in my head,” she sighs, with tired dysfunctionality seeping out from every line. “Didn’t make a difference – just to know,” she admits, before murmuring “I hit my head on the window pane” over and over again; a deadened mantra of acceptance. The song winds towards a conclusion of utter pathos – “if you come back I’ll put on an act, and you will never see / how I’ve fallen apart, and how sentimental I can be.” If you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss the vein of madness in the unmoving flesh, the pool of darkness spreading underneath the song. But then, that’s the point.

On her set-closer, High Tides, Freschard leafs through bittersweet recent memories, mapping the last dissolving phase of a love affair in which people fade from being ex-lovers to baffled friends grown thin and insubstantial. Shuffling disappointments without slipping under them, the song suggests a shaping, an accommodation; something to help with living alongside the letdowns. “You let salt water come between us. / We haven’t been wet; salt’s for peanuts,” she chides, softly. “But you know what? I don’t mind. / At least we cared, at least we tried.” Drawing happier times into the present, she lets them slip and fade away into a wistful dusk. “Told me, when you came around, my sun was sinking into the ground. / I found it cute, but it was true. / I thought of my first trip with you, / and the part I liked the most was the drive along the coast. / The driver’s jokes, the rear-view glances – / he called us ‘Mr and Mrs.’”

What’s left are those small signs of regret, the other small signs of tenderness, and in them there’s a kind of forgiveness. “Cleaning out my closet, I found your shirt / I wondered whose it was at first – / and when I go to bed, I wear it. / I know it’s strange, but I like the smell of it.” She breathes in and, at last, breaches her facade for us.

“There’ll be a lot of miserable songs,” warns Johnny Lynch, about a third of the way into his set. He eyes us – mock-beady, mock-bullish – over his tuning pegs. “I’m in a foul mood. I’m taking it out on you. If I’ve made one person cry, it’s been worth it.”

The Pictish Trail.

Johnny Lynch, a.k.a, The Pictish Trail.

We Londoners are happy to lap up Freschard’s blend of continental mystique and Brooklyn cool, but we’re also suckers for this kind of thing. Contrary to what you’d believe, we love being the butt of classic passive-aggressive Scottish wit… just as long as it growls at us with a twinkle in its eye. Johnny’s already got us in the palm of his hand, and he knows it. You’d expect the man behind The Pictish Trail‘s lo-fi folktronica to be shy and hunched. Instead, he’s ebullient – a natural, friendly showman who squanders half of his set on stand-up comedy and comes off none the worst for it.

The lone bloke on the bill today, he’s a manic sweating ball of cheerful energy: a short-legged fisherman figure, bobble-hatted, bristling of beard, remarkably charismatic. He’s dressed less for the Chapel’s mild wintery chill than for stiff sea breezes. He teases us with wry digressions. We tease him with friendly heckles, which he cheerfully fields and slings back at us. It feels as if we’re in a conspiracy together. He might want to make us blub, but he’s also got some bobble-hats to sell us; and, perhaps, some more things to share.

Having spent a heroic decade up in Fife (helping his erstwhile buddy King Creosote to run the D-I-Y folk initiative Fence Collective), Johnny moved on a year or so ago when the wheels came off Fence’s cart. Precisely what happened, and who’s in or out (or indeed, exactly what “out” means) is still a little vague – a gentleman’s disagreement, it seems, involving a metaphorical exchange of keys and a certain amount of clumping around before it was settled. Now Johnny’s on the other side of Scotland: settled on the Isle of Eigg, building his own house and his own new label, Lost Map. Expect no backbiting. Any scars from Fence seem to have been shrugged off. He’d prefer to show us his engagement ring, joke about London trains, and enthuse about Reeves and Mortimer’s bollock-tugging. He seems to enjoy sharing. Johnny’s come the best part of six hundred miles to entertain us for free. He seems happy with that too.

Cheerfulness – even that particular, mordant, Scottish cheerfulness-with-an-edge – isn’t something you’d usually associate with The Pictish Trail. On record, Johnny squashes cheap, startling synth-and-drumbox noises into his homemade recordings, ending up just as crumpled and experimental as The Middle Ones are. Suggestive and disfocussed, Pictish songs usually sound as if they’ve been recorded onto rubberized burlap. Blipping, spurting, gacking and murmuring from the shadows, they’re often both sinister and exhausted. When Johnny rolls them out in this more portable live setup (just voice and steel-string guitar) he has to steer them back towards traditional singer-songwriter territory. Fortunately, they make the crossing with some of their eerie magic intact. Settling back onto the barer uplands of acoustic folk, they touch down lightly but tellingly: a drift of plastic supermarket bags with freshly-scrawled stories on them.

Johnny’s voice – a high, carrying thing – comes across far better than it does when it has to wend its way through the fuzz and interruptions of his gizmos. It lifts and drops like a dying wind, going from thistledown-tender to elevated keen. While this wood-and-bare-wires version of his work has a few stray echoes of John Martyn in its brooding fingerpicking dynamism (and in Johnny’s own stealthy charisma) he shares with Alisdair Roberts a reluctance to play the polished singer-entertainer offering up something bonneted and twee, preferring instead to go and dig for ghost-songs and ancient patterns and to float them back into the present. I can also hear faint echoes of the Celtic impressionism which feeds, variously, Van Morrison, The Bathers and The Blue Nile – songs evanescing out into misty thinness without ever losing their emotional impact; or those deliberate, savouring steps that Johnny takes away from the expected path or the finishing point. It’s also there in that dusting of pervasive melancholia, settling without ever hardening into crude sentimental crusts.

Banter aside, Johnny’s working in serious territory. His songs carry plenty in them – much of it sorrowful – but much of it contained in verbal texture and suggestion rather than a straightforward lyric. He gives us deliberately blurred, inconclusive tales and narratives, dissolved down to elusive scraps and evocative fragments. Often, the songs seem to be rolling over in bed, as if driven by unquiet sleep. The Handstand Crowd, a sad soft account of isolation (“a party that everyone’s going to… / I’m staying at home… / you shouldn’t expect the worst, / it’s what you deserve,”) gradually deepens from its lonesome indie-folk mope and saturates with hallucinatory paranoia, like a napkin filling with dark water. “I can’t hide – / there’s no reason to your shadows closing in. /Oh, sordid silhouettes appear tonight… / he is tapping at my window.”

Johnny Lynch, a.k.a. The Pictish Trail.

Pictish brood.

Earlier on, Johnny’s been singing unsettling suggestions which spiral straight out of childhood nightmares – “You know what’s good for you? /To leave the puppets in their cupboard with white sheets around their stomachs, / like they’re standing up in bed – are you sure they’re not dead?” Getting through these hauntings seems to be the greatest triumph (“Good morning, I don’t care… / I’m still alive, / I’ve waited the longest night.”) A little later, Johnny will introduce The Lighthouse as a tale “about a lighthouse keeper – he starts turning off the light and watching people die.” We chuckle along with him at the cheesy Gothic suspense story this brings to mind. The song – when it arrives – is a vision of the paralysis which chews away at a person’s responsibility and sense of connection. “I collect these thoughts…, / my lighthouse keeping the sun switched on… / My days I sleep alone; my nights I turn to stone… / and I watch you struggle – oh, I watch you struggle.”

A fervent, thoughtful cover of Graham Coxon’s A Day Is Far Too Long fits right into this lowering milieu, like a stone sunk into a wet beach. “On sticks and sand, lost my money, lost my hand. / Blood on my brain, too much salt in my veins, / and I thought pain was clean, and I thought hearts were strong, / but bones aren’t sticks anymore, and a day is far too long.” On I Will Pour It Down, the story that Johnny’s telling meets a flood of rural imagery and blurs right into it – “to the edge of time, I ride my bike to the sea – the colours of the fields, the glow when they start burning. / I’m calling in the cows, the horses and the sheep; / I’m calling in the light and the years.” Merging into a psychedelic tributary to a mass of time and landscape, it doesn’t quite dissolve to the point where Johnny’s hints of reproach dissolve as well. “If I was the sun I would not hide behind the cloud. / If I could rain, I would pour it down, / I would pour it down. / I would pour it down on your town.”

The Pictish Trail, ensconced in the Chapel.

Lynch faces the mob…

This afternoon’s all-acoustic version of Wait Until is dedicated to Trigger from ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Another gag. We probably need it. It’s one of the first songs that Johnny wrote after the death of his mother – one which seems to mingle a helplessly dependent love song with a dreamscaped murder ballad. The original electrobeat-chiller version (with its stark, unsettling video of a stricken and glowering Johnny presiding over a basement full of hard-faced dancing schoolchildren) is almost too much to take on. Today, unplugged and unpropped, Johnny quietly underplays it; and while some of its furious edge melts away, its shifting painful core remains. “Wait until I arrive to tell me you’re going away / to tell me you’re so sorry. / Can we wait for water one last time / until the water covers our mouths? and our eyes, our eyes, our eyes. / Wait until your last chance to say goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.” Grief and violence thread inexorably together, betrayal merges with extinction. “I’m pushing you over so I can’t get up, I’m pushing you in fast so I can’t pull you out… / Oh the crime, the crime – / cover for me, cover me in your love, your love. / Tell me of your love, stay here my love.”

If you’re listening to the noises, it’s no more than a sad and sorry breath in the heather. If you tune in properly, it’s a primal scream. Maybe Johnny’s stand-up act – all of that friendly swashbuckling wit – isn’t just charm, but necessity. Maybe the gags and the friendly buffets are there to stop him, and us, from falling into the songs. In between two numbers, he delivers another quip: we laugh, and he grins like a flying cannonball. In another song, he asserts “I will just talk behind my stories and tell my life, spill my guts / I couldn’t live more, feel nothing at all – I live, or not.”

On the other hand, maybe he’s bearing witness rather than using his audience as a confessional. Those Scots intonations, soft and human, are rolling over a greater darkness – rain-stippled postcard beauty hunched on top of frowning granite. As with Iceland, the Hebrides (and Eigg in particular) have a reputation for hard-bitten common sense coexisting with the numinous and dangerous. I don’t know how much of that is true – you’d have to ask Johnny, and what’s true for Eigg might be less true in Fife, where some of his stories were born. It’s certainly true that Pictish Trail songs, however vague or mumbled, have been striped through with a fearful beauty and with a sense of inexplicable forces. The characters within them, even when they’re from this day and age, seem to tread old grooves of ritual and remembrance, weather and wake. Their new sorrows fall, naturally, into ancient places.

As Daylight Music ends for today, Johnny’s out at the front doing the meet-and-greet. People – little children, grandparents, students, young mothers – flock around him like happy birds. Some of them seem to have bought his bobble-hats, some haven’t. He looks overjoyed either way, as if there’s nowhere he’d rather be than here, enthusiastically making contact. Whatever ghosts and forces may have reared up as he sang, he himself looks far from haunted.

***

What? Oh yes…

The other half of the Lost Weekend, in which three other bands played on the following day down at the Hangover Lounge? We didn’t make it. Sorry – the weekend swallowed us again. I could try to make some comment about conceptual continuity here, and pretend to be pleased with it, but I’m too annoyed and embarrassed that we didn’t try to travel a little further, just this one time. It’s not as if we didn’t have some good examples to follow. We chickened out. I’m going to have to blame it on those bloody weekend timewarps.

(What a lame ending for a review. I need a drink.)

The Middle Ones online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Bandcamp

Freschard online:
Homepage Facebook MySpace Bandcamp Last FM

The Pictish Trail online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud

Daylight Music online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud

The Hangover Lounge online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter

Thanks to Andunemir for all of the videos.

Through the feed – Markus Reuter (soundscape & orchestral albums), Death In Texas (debut album news and promotion), Vespers (three little tastes)

1 Jun

Markus Reuter: 'Sultry Kissing Lounge'

Markus Reuter: ‘Sultry Kissing Lounge’

Fresh from his successful European spring tour with The Crimson ProjeKct (in which three veteran members of the 1990s King Crimson teamed up with three younger musicians in order to revisit and revitalise Crimson music of the ’80s and ’90s in concert mode), Markus Reuter has released an album called ‘Sultry Kissing Lounge’. This is a selection of the opening live improvisations/ instant compositions which Markus performed as curtain-raisers on the TCP tour.

Markus was filling some particularly big shoes for that particular tour. In King Crimson terms alone, he was taking on, developing, reinventing and re-personalising the live role once taken by the band’s prime mover/form-dictator Robert Fripp. In doing so, he played a key role in providing a window onto an alternative King Crimson – one minus Fripp’s key presence. By all accounts that I’ve heard, the results were no less potent than the original band was. (Sadly I had to miss the shows, so can’t bear witness myself).

Markus Reuter, 2014 (photo by Danil Golovkin)

Markus Reuter, 2014 (photo by Danil Golovkin)

Among other things, Markus was responsible for replacing those droning, skirling, semi-abstract soundscapes (sometimes celestial, sometimes nightmarish) which Fripp used to deepen Crimson textures, to uproot rigid Crimson structures and to express the band’s contradictory undercurrents of formal futurism, chance risks and frustrated romanticism. Historically, soundscapes have often been used as intros to Crimson concerts, gelling a mood and a context out of simple but deepening ingredients. Markus continued this tradition, playing his U8 Touch Guitar through extensive laptop processing and looping, and it’s this particular work that you’ll be listening to here. These pieces set the tone for each concert, and provided a launch-pad for TCP drummers Pat Mastellotto and Tobias Ralph to begin their own regular opening duet.

Markus brought his own tones and personality to the role. For those who are familiar with King Crimson, it’s interesting to contrast his soundscapes to those of Fripp. To my ears, Markus’ soundscapes tend to be more oblique: simultaneously more rational and more abstract than Fripp’s. They ask different questions, and in many respects give less away, seemingly more interested in opening up the audience’s minds rather than jogging their hearts or jogging their complacency. A Reuterscape demands a little more audience involvement, presenting a different vista in which to think rather than performing Fripp’s process of reeling in the listener by expressing wonder and those more tender, contradictory sensibilities that his more aggressive straight guitar playing didn’t allow. I may be wrong. Judge for yourselves – here are two of Markus’ soundscapes, recorded in the Czech Republic and in Switzerland respectively, and each named after a different woman (no doubt Markus can explain why.)


If these tempt you, ‘Sultry Kissing Lounge’ is available as a CD or download (featuring artwork by another TCP band-mate, bass guitarist Julie Slick) and can be ordered from here.

* * *

Later this month, Markus releases another long-cherished project – the full orchestral recording of his generative concerto ‘Todmorden 513’. I’ve touched on this in a previous bit of crowdfunder news. Originally a electro-acoustic ensemble work based mostly around Markus’ own touch guitar tracks, the composition has already been compared to those of Messiaen, Feldman and Debussy. It was re-arranged for full orchestra by Thomas A. Blomster (who, long ago, was half of Pale Boy) and then debuted and recorded by the Colorado Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Thomas.

Markus Reuter: 'Todmorden 513 (Concerto for Orchestra)'

Markus Reuter: ‘Todmorden 513 (Concerto for Orchestra)’

The documentary ‘Breaking 513‘ provides more information on how the project was conceived and developed. Here’s some interim compositional notes for those interested, taken from combined sources (including the original electro-acoustic version liner notes by Henry Warwick, plus comments by Joshua Meggitt of Cyclic Defrost):

“A continuous movement and sequence of five hundred and thirteen harmonies and triads generated by a combinatorial compositional technique of Reuter’s own design. The notes of each harmony or triad is then fed back into the same algorithm, resulting in a progression of chords and note clusters of highly varied density, ranging from simple two note harmonies to dense twelve note chords spread across several octaves. Starting on an A flat, the sequences of pitches form a kind of melodic or thematic line throughout… Each of the 50 string, woodwind, brass, and percussion musicians performing an individual solo part. These solo parts are in turn each a part of a trio or quartet, all joining together to form the orchestra… The rhythms (were) derived from the chord sequences themselves, which were looped across the whole piece, mapped to the notes of each chord, then mixed together. From there it was split into three or four independent voices respectively. The result is a shifting set of harmonic densities… Instruments mesh together, in ensembles of varying size, creating a kind of gauzy web through which development takes place.”

If you want to know what that might sound like (or if you’re just baffled by the description), there’s a video excerpt below:

The recording of the CCO performance is being released on 17 June 2014 on the 7D Media label, as a CD/DVD double pack with both stereo and surround sound mixes, plus an alternate 2.0 stereo mix by ambient music pioneer Robert Rich (see the embedded stream below). More info is here and the album can be pre-ordered from here.

* * *

Meanwhile, husband-and-wife team Ruth and Kane Powers – better known as virtuosic drama-pop duo Death In Texas – have also gotten in touch. Since the pair moved from New Zealand and started tearing up small venues in London five years ago, their self-confessed “grandiose, over the top and cinematic” music and performances – full of guts and gear-changes – has seen them compared to Lana Del Rey, The Dresden Dolls, Tori Amos and ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ (I’d suggest that they’ve also got a judicious dash of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in gleeful entertainer mode and perhaps a hint of Suzi Quatro). More recently they’ve been in flux, solidifying recent changes in tone, personnel and approach and preparing to get it all recorded. Over to them:

“Last time we wrote it was for the release of (the video for) Sonic Switchblade, so much has happened since then behind the scenes. We have been crazily writing songs, then rewriting them, arranging and recording them in our home studio and trying to make a good guide for what will eventually be our debut full-length record. We have been listening to a whole lot of new music, taking in new influences and have shaped a new sound for Death In Texas which we are excited to show you. In July we will be heading into the studio to begin recording an album we’ve spent the last seven months preparing for. This is the best music we’ve made yet; it’s ethereal, powerful and more refined. We’ll be excited to share it with you once it’s ripened.”

Death In Texas: 'Pluck' EP

Death In Texas: ‘Pluck’ EP

To fund the album, Ruth and Kane set up a crowdfunding deal a short time ago. As it happens, they’re already hit their target (and sold out of the initial run of the forthcoming DiT album) but in order to clear space and merchandise and to ensure that there’s enough in the album fund to cover eventualities, they’re currently offering an additional deal for T-shirts plus a free download of last year’s ‘Pluck‘ EP. If you’re interested, click here.

If you’re curious as to what you’d be getting, there are videos for two ‘Pluck tracks below, the music for which was recorded back when Death In Texas was a piano/ bass/drums trio. Assuming that they’ve built on their music for the forthcoming album, rather than utterly reformatting themselves, expect to hear more of Ruth’s arresting vocal and piano and of Kane’s dense-but-nimble drumming.

* * *

Finally – here’s a quick word about the London folk trio Vespers. I only really discovered them yesterday when I saw them play at Daylight Music (although they’ve been nice enough to follow the ‘Misfit City’ Twitter feed for a while). This definitely won’t be the last time I write about them – their generous blend of voices, their acoustic delicacy and their combined songwriting skills promise plenty, and their approach wells with compassion.

So far as I know, they have no album ready, and are still working to finesse a new demo which they’re happy with, but they do have three tracks up on Soundcloud in the meantime. I’ll save more comments for the live review later. Have a listen for yourselves.



Markus Reuter online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM YouTube

‘Todmorden 513’ project online:
Homepage

Death In Texas online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Bandcamp YouTube

Vespers online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud

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