Tag Archives: music from Sheffield (England)

April 2017 – upcoming gigs – two shades of prog in Southampton with Haze and A Formal Horse (12th)

29 Mar

Call me an ignorant metropolitan snob if you like, but Southampton isn’t the first place I would have looked to find an interesting or individual music scene – which is why it’s been a delight to find outposts like The Art House striving to prove me wrong. The Talking Heads might well be another such venue (the name already bodes well), and among the upcoming gigs there next month is this prog-happy show, in which veteran neo-proggers from the turn of the ’70s shake hands with an enterprising local band who are picking up the torch in their own particular way.

Haze + A Formal Horse, 12th April 2017

CentralSouthCoast Progressive Rock presents:
Haze + A Formal Horse
The Talking Heads, 16-22 The Polygon, Southampton, Hampshire, SO15 2BN, England
Wednesday 12th April 2017, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

“Formed in Sheffield during the late 1970s by brothers Chris & Paul McMahon, Haze established their reputation as one of the hardest-working underground bands of the ’80s, releasing two albums, three singles and countless cassettes while playing over five hundred shows around the UK and Europe After the band disbanded in 1988, the McMahon brothers continued with World Turtle, but reformed Haze in 1998 for a twentieth anniversary show. Haze performed intermittently over the next ten years while the brothers mainly focussed on their acoustic folk band Treebeard. In 2013, Haze released a comeback album ‘The Last Battle’ and reissued their first release ‘The Cellar Tapes’ as a thirtieth anniversary CD (remixed and including previously unreleased tracks and online bonus tracks).

“Despite building their reputation as a progressive rock band, Haze have always drawn on a wide variety of influences, ranging from pop, rock, funk, metal and meandering psychedelic jams to tightly structured prog epics. The new material draws on all these, plus a strong folk, acoustic and medieval influence (from Ceri Ashton’s contribution on whistle, flute, clarinet, viola and cello, and sister Catrin’s on fiddle, mandolin and flute), combined with latest recruit Danny McMahon’s powerhouse drumming. The band took part in the ‘2weeks 2make it’ video competition a few years ago with a video for Faces On The Wall, and are currently writing material for a new album.



 
A Formal Horse is a visceral rock quartet working out of Southampton. The band released their debut EP in June 2014, recorded by Rob Aubrey (John Wetton, Big Big Train). They’ve since performed at A New Day Festival alongside The Stranglers and Focus, released a second EP, been nominated for a Progressive Music Award and garnered plenty of critical acclaim (‘Prog Magazine’ saluted their “warmth and charm” plus their “ability to turn on a dime with such élan”, while ‘Classic Rock’ admired their “nervy, twitching rhythms – think XTC playing Voivod’s back catalogue – with pure-as-the-driven female vocals… oddly intoxicating.”). They continue to play shows in the UK and Europe, and are currently working on two follow-up records – their third EP, ‘Made In Chelsea’, is out at the end of March.”

(They’ve also shown up in here before – click here for more of that.)


 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs – picking through BBC Music Day

29 May

BBC Music Day

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

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

Twelfth Doctor with guitar

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Cambridge…

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

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

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



 

In Nottingham…

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

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

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





 

Sheffield also deserves credit for working outside the comfy box…

A Law Unto Ourselves, 3rd June 2016

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

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

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

ERC


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

* * * * * * * *

In Bristol…

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

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

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

 

…and finally…

Shaun the Sheep

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

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

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


 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – street-level shamanism and more at the Gnod weekender in London, April 9th & 10th

7 Apr

In some respects Gnod – who are curating, and playing at, an extended gig in London this weekend – are a dubby Salfordian reflection of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. They share certain working methods – a collective, leaderless initiative springing from communal warehouse living; a passionate ethos of anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian feeling expressed in vast, cavernous and primarily instrumental musicscapes; an atmosphere sourced from circulating cultural-economic ghosts of deprivation and stagnation.

As regards the music itself, the parallels shift a little. Though both bands use drones and scattered, marginal snippets of speech, Gnod’s approach is a good deal broader and looser than Godspeed’s blend of classical/minimal string austerity and wind-tunnel punk rage, seeding itself from a variety of persistently underground forms. In the stew are industrial dance music, noise rock and anarchic dub; mystical hippy staples of overtone chanting and psychedelic ritual music (stripped of their frivolous navel-gazing associations and brought back to their mind-opening sources); free jazz; and a swathe of aural art-punk collagery (the latter of which, in Gnod form, recalls apocalyptic Godspeedian end-of-days graffiti, an approving response to Linder Sterling’s sharp visual comments on consumerism, and diary notes from besieged squats and hermit bedsits).

Other information is there if you choose to dig it up. We know that Gnod are from the other Islington – that liminal corner of Salford in the elbow of the River Irwell between the rails, the university and the skeletons of light industry, where the Islington Mill Arts Centre (in which the band live and work) has flourished since the mid-‘90s. We know that multi-instrumentalists and producer-theorists Chris Haslam and Paddy Shine have been in the band from the start: we know that the other two current members happen to be Marlene Ribeiro and Alex Macarte. We know that what seems to be dozens of others (but might be the same six people in a constant shuffle of personae) phase in and out of the band according to need, whim and inspiration; and that these include Manchester improv saxophonist David McLean, journeyman keyboard player John Paul Moran and drummer Chris Morley (once of Welsh experimental rockers Klaus Kinski, now propelling no-wave’d punk-funkers target=”_blank”>Queer’d Science).

We also know that the hybrid steam of subcultural influences and spirit of resistance that boils off from all of these ingredients is winning Gnod awestruck acclaim. ‘The Quietus’ (increasingly the British tastemaker as regards bands negotiating that slippery margin between absolute chthonic obscurity and cultural penetration) has not only sung their praises but been seduced into actually recording with them; while digging into Gnod’s web of ongoing connections and activities shakes up all kinds of other possibilities. The Gnod network of fellowship stretches across Europe and encompasses ever-roving Can singer Damo Suzuki, billowing gonzoid sample-psych from the late ‘80s (revived arsequake veterans Terminal Cheesecake sport former Gnoddist Neil Francis as their current frontman), classic British post-punk (via The Monochrome Set and The Blue Orchids), Louise Woodcock’s multi-media feminist art and a Catalonian psychedelic scene which gives a new meaning to Spanish castle magic (a few years ago, Gnod teamed up with Barcelona’s Black Bombaim as “Black Gnod”).

Having been casting out recordings since 2009, Gnod came up to speed with the beefy-but-spectral ecclesiastic dubgrind of 2011’s ‘INGNODWETRUST’ (following up with 2012’s ‘Science & Industry’, a sort of post-industrial ‘Sketches of Spain’ for trumpet, drones, ironscrape guitar haze and indistinct female declamations). They’re currently best known for 2014’s mammoth 110-minute ‘Infinity Machines’, in which their instincts for mood and social challenge came into focus. For that album, Gnod returned to (scorched) earth and conjured up a classic post-war Mancunian landscape of bones, threat and concrete; marrying a bleak Joy Division grind and deadzone chimes with knell-beating Rhodes piano, distorted boomings like rusting gasholders being beaten into dub drums, and aghast chemtrails of free sax which sounded like black-sailed galleons creeping up the Ship Canal and advancing into the Irwell. Amidst the grindings and slithering drones and the pollutant-smeared sleet, vocal samples of resistance and disquiet gave shape to a dawning and outspoken atmosphere of scepticism; in Breaking The Hex, they finally unleashed an eleventh-hour blast of dub/punk/sax/noise rebellion, while the title track was a harmonium keen over dark sonic bubbles.

While it didn’t wear its manifesto in the shape of a set of placardable lyrics, ‘Infinity Machines’ was a work of Salford shamanism, spitting the city’s ongoing gentrification back into its own face. Since then, Gnod have refused to simply rework it – instead they’ve allowed the feelings that inspired it to lead them naturally into new forms. Last year’s ‘Mirror’ album was written on tour in a slew of traveller’s energy and impacted by destructive mental turbulence within the Gnod circle: inspired in part by rage at government austerity programs which apparently declared war on the poor) propelled the band away from grand studioscapes and into a raw, live feel. It’s more personalised, its anger and alienation borne on pendulous and discombobulated noise-punk anti-grooves. Hands slam onto instruments and slip beats; the music flares into outright rage rather than stern painterly stews. Amidst the overtone vocals and chants, there’s persistent raw yelling; while the soundscapes have shifted towards slowed sirens, and a dragging, coshing pace: a clear early Swans influence.

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Gnod Weekender, part 1: Gnod + Blood Sport
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Saturday 9th April 2016, 8.00pm
more informationtickets
Gnod Weekender part 2: Locean + Water + Futuro de Hierro + H.U.M + Dwellings + Negra Branca + Arkh Wagner + Ayn Sof
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Sunday 10th April 2016, 3.00pm to 11.00pm
more informationtickets

Gnod Weekender, 9th-10th April 2016Much of all of the above is going to come together over the course of this weekend, in which Gnod and a host of like-minded friends bring their collective approach to the current homestead of quirky London rock.

Saturday sees a full Gnod performance, supported by Sheffield trio Blood Sport, whose spindly and aggressive style is a ghostly, glassy-toned, black-sun approximation of Afrobeat and soukous. As for what Gnod themselves might be doing, the grind and gnarl of ‘Mirror’ might be their current output but they have a history of changing state and presenting an expectant audience with something unexpected: so be prepared for anything which reflects their history and their potentials (up to and including party blowers, possibly).

Sunday’s afternoon-to-late-night show features Gnod side projects and assorted friends in an eight-hour orgy. Some feature current Gnod members. Paddy Shine’s immersive “tantric vocal loop” project Ayn Sof will be opening the show; Dwellings is founder and bass player Chris Haslam doing hard-beat industrial electronica – dull-thud compulsive flesh beats, like the woody rattle of an early S&M loom, played in tandem with dank gothic synth drones. Negra Branca is a Marlene Ribeiro project, expanding on the “melodic and tonal dreamscapes” which she plays as part of the main band, full of squashy analogue synth shapes and temple-goddess vocals.



In Arkh Wagner, Alex Macarte (one of the more directly mystical Gnod members, if his online talk is anything to go by) teams up with Mark Wagner, a London-based multi-disciplinary artist and cybernetic mysticist, whose working practices are steeped in “cymagick” (a visualization of sound which takes in invisible and occult connections and “the vibratory nature of all things”). Their track Turn Off Your Mind (a narrative backed by a deepening pulse-chime in a confusion of noise surf) is a meditation on staring into the void, and on going too far out.


 

Mark Wagner’s also taking the stage as one-third of H.U.M. (or “Hypnotic Ultrasonic Magick”), a merging with two similarly shamanic noisemakers from Bristol’s ZamZam Records (these being the enigmatic surnameless H, or “Heloise”, who slipped into Bristol six years ago from a French fine arts background and has since been bewitching audiences with gigs that fall somewhere between installation and ritual and take place in caves, swimming pools and sundry found space, and fellow émigré and ambient droner Uiutna, originally from Switzerland but making her own way in the Bristolian avant-garde). H and Uiutna relocated to France recently but return to England for this event. H.U.M. present themselves as a kind of psychic cross-cultural art coven, citing “alchemical practice, incantation, chanting, drones, ritual drumming, French variété” as both inspiration and activity… although “French variété” is also on the list, so either a showbiz tinge or a sliver of hidden humour has been worked deep into the atmospheres. Here’s a clip of them in action:


 

Over in Barcelona, multi-instrumentalist, producer and happeneer Víctor Hurtado is the core of a “magic-inspired” scene of ritual psychedelic music. First coming to notice as the man behind acid-assemblage unit Qa’a (a richly detailed stew of lysergic rock and Nurse With Wound noise-and-texture garnishing), he’d soon diversify into a greater spontaneity with Huan (a project which he describes as “animalistic pulsations… almost like a living organism, that is at times sick, dying or excited”). Having collaborated with Jochen Arbeit, Steven Stapleton and more recently with Chris Haslam in the “monolithic, rhythmic, repetitive” Ordre Etern, Victor is bringing his Futuro de Hierro project to London for the Gnod Weekender. His latest musical pathway, it’s an outgrowth of his interest in more extreme and violent forms of electronic dance (such as speedcore and gabba) fused with techno, music concrete and a heightened psychedelic sensibility, featuring “disjointed rhythms” and “destroyed sounds, sonic detritus and live sound manipulation.”


All-female “art-carnage” troupe Water are another part of the Venn diagram which Gnod inhabit. Specifically, they represent the circles which intersect Manchester’s visual arts and multimedia, and the Devi Collective which coalesced around the Mill to commemorate and interpret last year’s William Burroughs centenary. Citing Throbbing Gristle, Wu-Tang Clan’s Rza and “well-witch horror scores” as creative spurs, they’re currently a five piece of multi-media “queen bee” Louise Woodcock, spoken-word poet/noise-guitarist Laura Bolger, visual artists Amy Horgan and Rachel Goodyear, and Emma Thompson (usually encountered as a DIY/punk/experimental gig promoter).

Soundcloud clips reveal something sounding like post-industrial Maenads: eerie threadlike female choruses and Laura’s dub-echo declamations seeping through a freeform background of womb-bass, malfunctioning engine drones, clanks and whistles, piston hisses, machine scrapes and tekiah blasts. The involvement of at least three women from a visual arts background – plus some striking photos – suggests that there’s a spectacle involved. Evidence of lengthy Water performances inspired by Aleister Crowley, by séances and by water rituals suggest that they’re fascinated with rite, summoning and form in a way which spans primordiality, Greek legend and map-fixes on esoterica ranging from Renaissance art to the present day. All of it slips through the fingers if seized on second-hand: it seems as if Water are an experience best soaked up live.


 

Laura Bolger reappears to add smeared, dreamlike vocals and narrations to the final act on the bill, Locean – another full-on Irwellian music collective in the Gnod and Devi orbit (sharing both Louse Woodcock and sometime Gnod tapesman/ranter Neil Francis). Offering another queasy grinding ride of driving punk-psych, noise improvisations and punk wail, their mantric sound binds The Velvet Underground, Mother Gong, Bauhaus and an abrasive Fall-esque groove in with bass-echo and wheel-rim guitar. As with Gnod and Water, they’re technically minimal but build up to a grand scale with their scratching, multiplying sonic detail: Laura’s words and musings, floating on the sound-wash like scraps of diaries and manifestos, ranges from odd and oblique polemics to numinous childhood memories.




 

As I post this, tickets are still available. If you’re spending most of your time trapped in London’s gravity well, this might be your best chance for a while to get something of that Islington Mill atmosphere and inspiration, and to beat along with Gnod’s dark-toned, troubled yet committed heart.
 

Upcoming gigs at the end of July and onwards – Thumpermonkey/The Earls Of Mars/Ham Legion in London; Holly Penfield’s Judy Garland show hits the Hippodrome; The Luck Of Eden Hall tour the UK

25 Jul

Next week sees the first gig (for some time) for one of the most interesting of current British rock bands; some high-gloss cabaret; and the start of a psychedelic pop roadshow travelling around the UK. Read on…

Thumpermonkey @ The Islington, 30th July 2015

Thumpermonkey + The Earls Of Mars + Ham Legion (Guided Missile Special People Club, The Islington, 1 Tolpuddle Street, N1 0XT, London, UK, Thursday 30th July, 8.00pm) – £7.00/£6.00

Thumpermonkey don’t get as much attention as they deserve. It’s possible that this is because they don’t seem to take things seriously, addressing almost everything with a skewed and multi-levelled sense of cryptic grand-baroque geek humour. Just to illustrate this – a current work-in-progress Thumpermonkey song is “something which we’re calling Giraffes, which includes some vague narrative about doing a conga during an asteroid-based extinction-level event.” One of their older albums is called ‘Chap With The Wings, Five Rounds Rapid’ – a wry kill-the-monsters line filched from ‘Doctor Who”s laconic and unflappable Brigadier. In the same spirit as that reference, I’d suggest that while they are serious about what they do, they’re not necessarily serious about the way they do it – like many of my favourite things.

If what I’ve written so far leads you to expect strained, fey, sub-Zappa wackiness, then think again. Both in the flesh and on record, Thumpermonkey are a brooding and atmospheric proposition – seriously musical, travelling from blitzingly heavy quasi-metal riffs to spidery post-rock, from threshing post-hardcore to theatrical mane-tossing prog at a moment’s notice while Michael Woodman’s grand edgy vocals and complex multi-levelled lyrics ride on top like an arcane mahout with an arched eyebrow. They’ve been called “a sustained victory for intuitive cross-pollination” by ‘Prog’ magazine and every gig they play confirms this particular accolade. Here they are playing 419 (a song which at first appears to be one of their more delicate offerings, revealing its intensities later).

The other two bands on the bill are less well known to me, but aren’t short of blurb:

The Earls Of Mars are probably the most original thing you’ll hear all year. At their heart, the band are a ’70s-influenced rock band bringing together jazz, prog, space rock, doom and blues and forming it into a barking mad noise that you’ll either get or you won’t. If you don’t get it then close the door on your way out of the spaceship, as those of us who want to stay are off on a fantastical journey to who-knows-where, with The Earls Of Mars steering the ship. Enjoy the trip, ladies and gentlemen, as it’s going to be a fun ride.

Ham Legion‘s noisy lo-fi pop is punctuated with proggy outbursts, psychedelic breakdowns and passages of cod-metal joy. Tangy and tart guitar, egg noddle bass lines and light crispy drums are smothered in gooey boy/girl harmonies. Eat in or take away. For fans of Cardiacs, Deerhoof, They Might Be Giants, Split Enz, Heavy Vegetable.

Judge for yourselves – here are the videos for the Earls’ ‘Astronomer Pig’ single from last year, followed by some footage of a Ham Legion gig in Brighton a couple of years ago. As for tickets, they’re available here.

 

* * * * *

The day after the Thumpermonkey gig, Holly Penfield plays one of her biggest gigs of the year…

Holly Penfield as Judy Garland

Holly Penfield sings Judy Garland, The Hippodrome Casino, Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square, London, WC2H 7JH, UK, Friday 31st July 2015, 8.00pm) – £15.00 and upwards

Following a triumphant debut last year, Holly returns to the London Hippodrome, singing the songs of the legendary Judy Garland in her own inimitable style. Holly will be joined by her musical director Sam Watts and his magnificent seven-piece band. An unmissable evening for Holly and Judy fans alike, set in the glorious Matcham Room, located inside the Hippodrome Casino – formerly known as The Talk Of The Town, this is the venue of legends and home to Judy’s final London concerts.

Longer-term readers will know that I got to know Holly years ago via her own original ‘Fragile Human Monster Show‘ and the ‘Parts Of My Privacy’ album (which I wrote about ages ago – that review’s due a revamp and remount, I think). Both of those, though original songwriter pop, had their own theatrical and psychodynamic aspects which pointed towards Holly’s current work in vivid cabaret (and, latterly, as half of swing revivalists The Cricklewood Cats). As for Holly’s interpretations, she can and does cover cute showbiz camp and heart-tugging pathos within the same performance – you can see a couple of examples below.

Up-to-date information on the Judy concert is here and here, while tickets are available here. A mischievous part of me fancies swapping the audience from Holly’s show with the one from the Thumpermonkey/Earls/Ham Legion gig, and vice versa. I suspect that they all might enjoy it more than they’d expect to…

* * * * *

The Luck Of Eden Hall, 2015

On the same night that Thumpermonkey and co. play, The Luck Of Eden Hall are over from Chicago to play the first of two London gigs, launching a Kickstarter-funded UK tour which will take them to a wide array of venues and mini-festivals around England, Scotland and Wales, accompanied by a shifting cast of local psych heroes, left-field blues artists and quirky alt.pop shoegazers.

As for the headliners, you can expect clear-voiced, well-made classic pop beset by sudden gusts of psychedelic blizzarding. The Luck Of Eden Hall remind me of the drawn-out trucker-and-motorist tussle in ‘Duel’ – they come across like a more sombre Neil Finn or Andy Sturmer being stalked, dogged and sideswiped by Hawkwind, Ride or ‘Saucerful’-era Pink Floyd. Here’s a little evidence:


 

Full tour dates below:

The Luck Of Eden Hall UK tour

 

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a closer listen

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New Jazz: We Search. We Recommend. You Listen.

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The title says it all, I guess!

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