Tag Archives: Southampton (England)

May 2019 – upcoming gigs – theatrical rock and weirdtronica from Major Parkinson, Alwanzatar and Army Of Moths in London (2nd, 3rd); simmering avant-rock angles from Thumpermonkey and A Formal Horse in Southampton (2nd); eclectic music From My Octopus Mind and Daniel Inzani in Bristol plus a dance video premiere by Bethany Stenning (2nd)

23 Apr

Major Parkinson + Alwantazar + Army Of Moths, 2nd & 3rd May 2019The last time that Bergen rock dramatists Major Parkinson came to England, they amazed and were amazed – bringing an evening of dark-tinged theatrical music, and leaving grateful and a little thunderstruck at the attention they’d received and the energy and loyalty they’d stirred up. It had something to do with the fact that they’d unexpectedly tapped into the interests of Cardiacs fans, known for their family loyalty and their generally un-English zest for manic expressiveness and musical complexity. A perfect match, really. Fronted by Jon Ivar Kollbotn and massing up an armoury of violins, guitars and keyboards, Major Parkinson are a Jägerbomb of a band. Rich, heady, a little reminiscent of Cardiacs’ turbulent complexity, but with plenty of other things in the brew – a dash of Nick Cave’s Gothic cabaret, the huge dark orchestral-pop airs of Cousteau, the shipwreck timbers of black metal, the ambitions that come from staring at a shelfload of out-there music while still pawing over your childhood copy of ‘Sgt. Pepper’.

They’re back in England at the beginning of next month to play a London double – an official show at Tufnell Park’s Dome, plus (for Dome ticket holders) a pre-Dome warm-up at a secret location. No idea where the latter is. They’re selling it as some kind of thieves’ kitchen or secret cupboard, in which you’ll come as an audience member but helplessly spill onto the stage, presumably becoming one of the characters in a Parkinson tale. It’s all a mystery. Pick up a Dome ticket and be prepared to make an early weekend of it.



 
At the Dome show, there’s support from Alwanzatar, a solo “extraterrestrial world music” project from Krizla (who plays with Norwegian prog-psych-folkers Tusmørke). Founded around electronics, flute, synth gloop and incantations, it sounds a little like a reanimated Popul Vuh, raised up by dark rites and dragged into the world of bedroom electronica. Also on hand are Army Of Moths: usually a similarly theatre’lectrical racket to Major Parkinson themselves, playing an unhinged kind of power pop (great brick arches of song with a definite Cardiacs-y clamberosity involved, plus vocals scurrying around them like woozy wayward ivy or clamouring like a young Bowie). This time they’re playing in acoustic format.




 
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It’s going to be a busy Thursday for this kind of tuneful, extravagant fringe rock. Also on the 2nd – balefully powerful London avant-prog band Thumpermonkey up sticks for an evening and roll their dark laughter, their constantly shapeshifting compositions and their baffling, brainiac-surreal perspective out of London, taking the road down to Southampton to play for the determined diehards at Solent Area Prog.

Thumpermonkey + A Formal Horse, 2nd May 2019Like Major Parkinson, Thumpermonkey are a heady brew of ideas and drama. In their way, they’re one of Britain’s most ambitious rock bands, deftly striding and shifting between different musical kernels from prog, dark pop or experimental metal to a kind of science-fiction cabaret, languidly licking up and stirring in any intriguing nugget or story fragment they birth or encounter. Unpacking their decade-plus back catalogue of recordings is like getting trapped in one of those clever-dick contemporary polymath novels written about everything and anything, stitched together with a little magic and mystique – they’ve sung about computer games, Nigerian fraudsters, Mexican acid westerns and strange diseases and made it sound as if it were all part of the same complex semi-submerged story. Their most recent album, ‘Make Me Young, etc.’ is a surprisingly sober banking-down of the usual playful creative fires: a crepuscular meditation on the end of the world as observed through dreams, portents, reality and intimations.



 
Once a concoction of pointy elbows and sudden shifts, Southampton avant-rockers A Formal Horse (playing in support) are growing up, out and a little away from their post-prog beginnings, powered by Hayley McDonnell’s strong carolling tones. More recent songs (like 2018’s Bird) yearn toward a kind of florid dream-folk, even as the drumming nails mozaics into the floor and the guitar describes steely math-rock machinery forms. A couple of years ago, I described them as “a bounding conceptual glitterball”. In some respects, they’ve calmed down a little since then, but only in order to apply more considered forms of straining at their genre. At the moment, they’re like a muscle developing – over-straining, gently tearing, but with the intention and ability to rebuild and go further.



 
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In contrast to the journeys being carried out by Major Parkinson and Thumpermonkey next week, My Octopus Mind are staying happily at home in Bristol for their own 2nd May gig. Following their jaunt around the country back in February (and a brief vigorous five-date sizzle through France and Belgium earlier this month) this time they’re choosing to draw the wider world over to themselves.

Here’s what I wrote about them last time, which they’ve liked enough to quote themselves, and which I might as well requote myself – “My Octopus Mind occupy a pleasing position, settled in their own web of connections between a number of different influences but reliant upon none of them. There’s a jazzy rattle, predominantly via the gloriously noisy effected double bass of Izy Ellis (a growling, punchy, conversational art-box; upfront timber and raw electronic treatments). The whole band’s informed by post-Radiohead/Mars Volta art rock and by the mating of contrasts implicit in assorted culture collisions (such the Hindustani-classical meets New-York-loft-music teaming achieved in one particular favourite, Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar’s ‘Passages’). Frontman singer and guitarist Liam O’Connell cites the sonic and psychological crescendos of Jeff Buckley and Josh Homme’s mix of heaviness and irony, but also the restraint of Jose Gonzales. Ex-Lambhorneer Oliver Cocup adds refreshed drum bounce, and racing through the whole thing is a rivulet – or, more accurately, an unstoppable jet of skittish Balkan folk.”

While going out on tour, My Octopus Mind are a trio. On home turf, they’re a sextet. They’ve had an extra pair of plug-in string players for a while, but the sixth member remains a mystery for the moment. The other thing they’ll be unveiling at this gig is their second video release: a “magical” piece of stop-motion animation by Roos Mattaar, part of Bristol’s crop of world-class animators, and the woman previously responsible for most of the video for Father John Misty’s Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution.


 
More music visuals come from Bethany Stenning, whose “tender genderless, measureless, dimensionless” Stanlæy project has migrated between Paris, Ireland and Bristol in various shapes and forms since 2016 (with Bethany constantly at the core of the catherine wheel, throwing off strands of violin, piano, guitar, voice, synth and found sound). As musician and multi-instrumentalist, Bethany starts from a perspective of “ethereal gypsy punk-pop” and moves outwards from there into the kind of neverland/neverwas experimental folk music that we used to hear from Joanna Newsom; with her fey, unusual, offbeat-beautiful voice and lyrics exploring “human life in the modern world…our ancient relationships to nature… contemplations about consciousness and free will” while nestling in sparse yet evocative post-classical, free-sounding arrangements.

Stanlæy’s current incarnation (a spacious acoustic quartet) would fit right into the night’s gig lineup; but instead we’re getting a look at Bethany’s broader artistic concerns and abilities. Her involvement tonight has more to do with her visual art side and her passion for painting, illustrating, observing and questioning the human body via story and dance. In collaboration with cinematographer Rob Ellis, she scripts and directs video art, something which first came substantially together in 2017’s ‘The Human Project’ (“seven elements embodied within seven sonic visuals… seven hues, revealing the body as a canvas to represent natural elements as a metaphor for cognitive states of mind, and the evolution of the body. The human body transforms itself into a real life canvas.”) On this occasion, she’s presenting ‘Wear The Line’, a twenty -minute short film that’s “a thought-provoking and uncannily realised representation of the current climate of gender roles and their ambiguity. Set in a universe much like our own where one word or concept can have as many meanings as there are people, the film explores the formula of femininity. It features lead performances by Flora Whitmarsh, Taylor Young and Phoebe Hopwood.” Bethany also provided the music for the film – from what I’ve heard, a hypnotic and open-ended chamber-classical ambience.



 
Also on board for the evening is Daniel Inzani, playing a mid-bill set of piano pieces. Though he’s perhaps best known at the moment for the classical/jazz/folk chamber fusion music (simultaneously luxuriant, ghostly and sprightly) which he composes for his Spindle Ensemble quartet, Daniel’s work has also embraced vigorously visual Ethopian jazz fusion with his Tezeta octet; the performance of ska, rocksteady and Mahavishnu Orchestra music; and support work in a pair of Bristolian psychedelic assemblages (Graeme Smith’s blues-reggae-meets-lounge project Dubi Dolczek and Conrad Singh’s buzz/drone Americana folk-pop array Cloudshoes). His piano solos catch up and rework bits of his own compositions, rearrangements for different spaces.


 
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Dates:

Major Parkinson:

  • (secret location, London) – Thursday 2nd May 2019, time t.b.c. – special warm-up gig available to ticketholders for the Dome show
  • The Dome, 2a Dartmouth Park Hill, Tufnell Park, London, NW5 1HL, England – Friday 3rd May 2019, 7.00pm – information here, here and here

Solent Area Prog presents:
Thumpermonkey + A Formal Horse
The Joiners, 141 St Mary Street, Southampton, SO14 1NS, England
Thursday 2nd May 2019, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

My Octopus Mind + Daniel Inzani + Bethany Stenning’s ‘Wear The Line’ (video premiere)
Cube Microplex, 4 Princess Row, Bristol, BS2 8NQ, England
Thursday 2nd May 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here
 

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.)


 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – kletzmer in New York, Southampton, Liverpool and London, from Geoff Berner/Luisa Muhr and She’Koyokh (7th, 9th, 10th, 17th)

27 Feb

Some news on some upcoming kletzmer-related gigs in New York and across England during the first couple of weeks in March.

Geoff Berner & Lisa Muhr, 7th & 9th March 2017

In New York, as part of the Jalopy Theatre’s ongoing NY Klezmer Series in Brooklyn, there’s a newly created, first-collaboration show from two Vancouver-based musicians – singer-songwriter-accordionist Geoff Berner and singer Luisa Muhr (both of whom can collectively muster up talents across novel-writing, theatre directing, community activism and movement art, but that’s several other stories…)

“Being part of the Klezmer and Yiddish music and performance scene in the US, Canada and Europe, Geoff and Luisa first met at the renowned KlezKanada music camp where they spent many hours singing together. ‘Songs of People Other People Don’t Like So Much’ has been created out of the necessity of producing political work in times that need it. Geoff and Luisa will sing you stories of the underdogs (and unpopular overdogs) of our society: some in Yiddish, some with quite some Klezmer, some in their own words, some in someone else’s. Join us, listen, engage, and enjoy!”

The project’s too new for soundclips or videos: but here’s Geoff performing a solo song from 2013 (tearing with righteous venom into Vancouver’s rotten civic developments), and Luisa fronting a Yidishe Lider concert about a year ago.



 
In addition to the Jalopy show, Geoff and Luisa are presenting another Brooklyn performance, in the shape of a preview version a couple of days earlier at Freddy’s Bar & Backroom. This is a pay-what-you-like event (though they suggest a ten bucks minimum and you’re also tied to a minimum-of-two-drinks rule). This particular evening is for twenty-one year olds or over: not because of any added salty adult content, but purely because of licencing laws for the bar.

Dates:

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She'Koyokh, 2017

Meanwhile, back here in England, She’Koyokh – who have been hailed as “one of London’s musical treasures” (‘Evening Standard’) and “one of the finest kletzmer ensembles on the planet” (‘The Australian’) – are out on the road launching their fourth studio album, ‘First Dance On Second Avenue’.

“With a name roughly translated from the original Yiddish as “nice one”, She’Koyokh have spent over a decade absorbing the rich folk music traditions of Jewish Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Balkans. Their evolution spans the origins of busking at East London’s Columbia Road flower market to performing in the famous concert halls of Europe including Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the Gasteig in Munich and London’s Southbank Centre. She’koyokh’s members hail from the UK, USA, Serbia, Sweden and Turkey, forging a unique sound that is traditional yet original.

“Their live shows are an expertly crafted, multi-lingual exploration from the Baltic to the Black Sea virtuosic, toe-tapping klezmer instrumentals, Gypsy music, soulful songs and the best Balkan dance tunes from Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia. They’ll take you on a journey sampling polyphonic singing from Bulgaria, a Serbian song about a pigeon on the raspberries, a steamy quarrel between mother-in-laws in a Turkish sauna, a duet between a father and daughter about who she’s going to marry – in the end she chooses the drunken one! – and a love song for a Gypsy girl with penetrating green eyes.”


 
Dates:

 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – two types of British folk tour: Michael Chapman and Moulettes, plus a menagerie of support acts (United Sound of Joy, Richard Moss, Marcus Bonfanti, The Brackish, The Horse Loom, Dirty Old Folkers, Colour Trap)

19 Apr

Two British tours start this week, reflecting – in their way – very different aspects of British folk music.

Recently celebrated by ‘Mojo’, Michael Chapman isn’t just one of the sturdiest and most independent of the singer-songwriters coming out of the homegrown British folk revival of the 1960s: he’s also one of the last acoustic guitar masters standing from the generation which included Bert Jansch, Davy Graham and John Renbourne (all of whom are now gone). His playing reveals a fascination with Southern blues, folk, slide and ragtime jazz styles (all of which he’s mastered), while his pursuit of sound and setting has drawn him towards drones, delay, and loop effects (all of which he’s used as an adjunct to his unadorned playing, rather than as a replacement or distraction). As a singer and songwriter, there are parallels with J.J. Cale; and, rightly or wrongly, I can also hear echoes or anticipations of fellow Cale devotee Mark Knopfler in there, in terms of the husk, the fingerpicking clarity and the unprecious observational skills. (For what it’s worth, the two are connected by time in Leeds and both shared, however fleetingly, original Dire Straits drummer Pick Withers, whose jazz-influenced drummer kept the band both grounded and textured in the days before stadiums and weariness).

Here’s the press release for the upcoming tour:

“2016 marks noted guitarist & songwriter Michael Chapman’s 75th birthday and fifty years since he went on the road professionally in 1966. To coincide with the celebrations, Michael’s new instrumental album, ‘Fish’ has just been released on US imprint Tompkins Square & is already gathering much praise. To mark this important milestone in his life and career Michael Chapman tours in the UK as part of a stripped-back trio also featuring two longstanding allies – pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole (whose association with Chapman goes back a long, long way to the early 1970s) and Sarah Smout on cello (Chapman’s favourite musical instrument, which many fans will recall featured strongly on his classic 1970 album ‘Fully Qualified Survivor’.). The trio will be playing material from Michael’s incredible five-decade performing history as well as some new and experimental music.”




 

Dates are as follows:

A diverse set of interesting support acts are showing up at points during the tour, reflecting both the breadth of Michael’s musical references and the way in which venue promoters feel that they can successfully fit others around him on a bill. At Blackburn, the evening will be opened by Richard Moss: Lancashire singer-songwriter, fingerstyle guitarist, mandolin player and member of Anglo-Malaysian guitar duo Squirrels In Space, Irish music band Drop The Floor and the Union Street Country Dance & Ceilidh Band. At the Sinderhope show, support comes from hardcore punk escapee turned folk-baroque guitarist Steve Malley, otherwise known as The Horse Loom.



 

At the first gig of the tour (up in Hull), it’s Bristolian post-punk/psych/jazz band The Brackish who sound like an artfully spilled bookshelf of three decades worth of vinyl. Their muscly, slightly boggled tone mixes in urban blues, Ventures-tinged surf tunes, Frank Zappa air-sculptures and a few of Captain Beefheart’s broader brushstrokes (plus a tooth-in-the wind guitar edge which recalls the rawest work of Adrian Belew, at his analogue-screaming decennial point midway between Zappa and King Crimson).


 

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Although they’re also a product of the British folk tradition, Moulettes come from a different angle – one which is more fanciful and playful, in which authenticity is less the Holy Grail and more of a switchable ingredient. Like Rose Kemp, their take on folk draws on heavier sounds and on nearly fifty years of extraordinary, fanciful rock music. A Moulettes song comes at you like a dose of multi-instrumental chamber prog, adding cello, bassoon and autoharp to the guitars, bass and drums and the triple-decker lead vocals. Their storytelling itch, sense of mischief and enjoyment of each other’s company just glows out of both of these video clips below:



 

Dates are as follows:

  • The Brook, 466 Portswood Rd, Southampton, SO17 3SD, England, Thursday 21st April 2016
  • The Cellar, Frewin Court, Oxford, OX1 3HZ, England, Friday 22nd April 2016
  • Islington Assembly Hall, Upper Street, London, N1 2UD, England, Saturday 23rd April 2016, 7.00pm (with United Sounds Of Joy)
  • Exchange, 72-73 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EJ, England, Sunday 24th April 2016
  • The Apex, 1 Charter Square, Bury Saint Edmunds, IP33 3FD, England, Tuesday 26th April 2016
  • The Dark Horse, Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 8JP, England, Wednesday 27th April 2016, 7.00pm (with Marcus Bonfanti + The Dirty Old Folkers)more information
  • The Musician, 42 Crafton St West, Leicester, LE1 2DE, England, Thursday 28th April 2016
  • The Mash House, Hastie’s Close, 37 Guthrie Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JQ, Scotland, Friday 29th April 2016 (with Colour Trap)more information
  • The Duchess, Stonebow House, The Stonebow, York, YO1 7NP, England, Tuesday 3rd May 2016 (support tbc) – more information
  • The Greystones, Greystones Road, Sheffield, S11 7BS, England, Wednesday 4th May 2016
  • Band On The Wall, 25 Swan Street, The Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 5JZ, England, Thursday 5th May 2016 (support t.b.c.) – more information
  • The Convent, Convent Lane, Stroud, GL5 5HS, England, Friday 6th May 2016more information
  • The Tolmen Centre, Fore Street, Constantine, near Falmouth, TR11 5AA, England, Saturday 7th May 2016, 7.30pmmore information

As with Michael Chapman, the support slot arrangements fan out over a diverse range of styles: in fact, even more diverse than the Chapman tour. The London gig features United Sounds Of Joy, the slow-burn sensual pop-noir duo reuniting Michael J. Sheehy and Alex Vald (who, during the 1990s, alternately spat savage vindictive rock filth or crooned a creased and seedy London romanticism with Dream City Film Club).



 

At Birmingham, support comes from straightahead London blues guitarist Marcus Bonfanti and from wisecracking locals The Dirty Old Folkers (who describe themselves as “a Viz comic, being narrated by the Pogues” and deliver a raucous, sometimes smutty set which might be good-time but which still draws heavily on bad times and working-class resilience).



 

In Edinburgh, Moulettes are joined by local trad-indie rockers Colour Trap, who look back to golden-age British rock and Britpop scenes of the ‘60s and ‘90s.

 

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – Schnellertollermeier on tour in Ireland and England (with guest showings by ReDiviDEr, Taupe, Tasmin A, Lambhorn, Shatner’s Bassoon and Motherese); bassfest in Southampton (with Steve Lawson, BassDbler, Grant Sharkey, A Ninja Slob Drew Me); Steve Lawson and Poppy Porter’s synaesthesic show in Guildford.

6 Mar


 

In a few days time, Swiss avant-rock trio Schnellertollermeier begin a tour of Ireland and England. The group’s mellifluous name cutely overlaps and portmanteaus those of each of its members – bass guitarist Andi Schnellmann, guitar player Manuel Troller and drummer David Meier – but also mirrors their working method. Their music, too, is an overlap – a mosaic of small obsessive note-figures either written or improvised, which all three pick up on and play with almost neurologically tight collective timing. They’re also masters of dynamics, able to play each fragment at clean moth-wing softness or biting punk fuzz-roar at will and in sync as the moment demands.

They’re not quite rock, despite the electric power-team lineup and the locked, riffing minimalism. They’re not quite jazz, although they function on a similar level of technical assurance, small-group telepathy and potentially mutative rhythm. They describe themselves as “a little about quiet, and a lot about anger, silliness and precision,” which is one way of drawing a loose line around their bag of impetus.If they’re anything, Schnellertollermeir are an unconstrained cellular dance – fizzing on what’s initially a fixed grid of possibilities, then working around it at ever-smaller, ever-more-complex levels of detail and option; using slivers of math-rock, post-hardcore and free-jazz idiom to get themselves there.

The other quote they toss out is that the group “sounds like classic literature, where you have to keep on re-reading a sentence until you understand. But when you have finally understood, you understand a lot more.” Listening to them myself, they’re more like a tremendously extended Peter Blegvad palindrome – clever, obscurely arch, coasting on the brink of tumbledown nonsense but staying in place and in grace by a touch of sheer skill and a hinting at a good deep-level joke to share.

Dates:


 

While most of the tour appears to be one-act concerts for Schnellertollermeir alone, at points it sweeps up interesting local bands as well. Unfortunately I can’t find out much about the Darwen support act Tasmin A – apart from the fact that she’s a tourmate and backing singer for JD Meatyard (a.k.a. John Donaldson of Levellers 5) – but the Dublin gig features ReDiviDeR, an anagram-fixated two-horns-no-chords quartet led by drummer/composer Matt Jacobson with Derek Whyte (bass) and Nick Roth (alto sax) and Colm O’Hara (trombone), playing “downtown grooves , catchy melodies and collective improves” and taking inspiration from Charles Mingus, Steve Coleman, Deerhoof and Phil Ivey. In support at the Bristol gig are the “instrumental surf prog” band Lambhorn, while the London gig features Taupe (the hip hop and heavy metal-quoting “power-jazz commando team” who first showed up on my radar at last year’s Manchester Jazz Festival).


Surprisingly for a Manchester show, the gig at the Dulcimer Bar doesn’t feature any of the masses of experimental projects which throng the city. Instead, “six-piece madcap surrealists” Shatner’s Bassoon (a double-drum pile-on of jazz and wayward electronics barely containing Michael Bardon, Ollie Dover, Joost Hendrickx, Andrew Lisle, Johnny Richards and Craig Scott) hop across the Pennines from Leeds. The Leeds gig itself features Motherese – a teamup of vocalist/violist Aby Vulliamy, pianist/singer Laura Cole (of Metamorphic) and improvising singer Maria Jardardottir. Motherese aren’t even playing their first gig for a couple of days yet, so I’ll feature more about them in the next post.


 
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Steve Lawson (bass guitar virtuoso, loop musician, occasional avant-garde teddy bear and unstoppable Twittergob) can generally be relied upon to conceive, or latch onto, interesting gigs. With his own work spanning from textural ambience and tasteful but outgoing songwriter accompaniment to New Age, multi-collaborator jazz fusion and even political death metal (and since he’s a man who’s perpetually enthused by new contexts to explore) he’s naturally going to be drawn to more unorthodox events… and, generally speaking, not the standard type of unorthodox events either. This month he has two of them in southern England.

Innovate Guildford Festival of Science and the Arts presents:
Poppy Porter & Steve Lawson
G Live, London Road, Guildford, GU1 2AA, England,
Saturday 12th March 2016, at some point between 10.00am and 4.00pm
– free event – more information

“As a synaesthetic, abstract artist/jeweller Poppy Porter has a visual response to sound – she specialises in making jewellery inspired by the abstract shapes and colours of her synaesthetic inner landscape, and her art is mostly object-centred (as she puts it, “sound goes into my ears and art comes out of my hands”). Steve Lawson is a solo bassist who is best known for his improvised music and whose art is almost solely performed.

The duo perform in a collaboration that follows the evolving process of the work between them. Steve plays, building a layered, improvised sonic landscape to which Poppy responds by drawing what she “sees” synaesthesically (shape, colour, movement). Steve then reacts to what has been drawn, using the fresh drawings as a visual score and improvises further. A feedback loop is created between them. Although Poppy and Steve’s individual art forms are different, there is a meeting of minds that pushes beyond the physical object or sonic creation giving rise to a visual, musical, aural and performance element in the work.

Following the performance, the audience will have an opportunity to have a go at drawing the music themselves. The idea of this workshop is to get the audience to try looking at the world in a different way. Rather than drawing an object, Poppy and Steve ask the audience to have a go at expressing how the music affects them. Paper and pencils will be provided and the audience can then listen to Steve play and express what the music is telling them in whatever way they choose with the art materials. We hope that the audience will be inspired to look at creating art in unusual ways and become aware of how we all think and express ourselves differently.”

For the precise performance time, it’s probably best to check on Steve’s Facebook or Twitter accounts closer to the time. This event is part of a larger one-day festival of imagination and practical application taking place in Guildford over the course of a day. Further details and a promo video are below:

“Innovate Guildford will ignite the imaginations of young and old through a stunning showcase of innovation taking place in Guildford – from cutting-edge research to a sneak preview into the future. Our free festival is for everyone and will particularly appeal to young people – to inspire and nurture the scientists, engineers, artists and innovators of tomorrow.”


 

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Steve’s second March event is more familiar territory for him, since it’s what’s described as “a night of genre-defying solo bass performances from some of the most innovative bass players around.” Pretty much a plural version of the day-job, then.

'Sorry To Hear You're A Bass Player', 17th March 2016

Gigs In The Gallery presents:
“Sorry To Hear You’re a Bassist!” – Steve Lawson + BassDbler + Grant Sharkey + A Ninja Slob Drew Me + Greyum May (DJ sets)
The Art House, 178 Above Bar Street, Southampton, SO14 7DW, England
Thursday 17th March 2016, 7.30pm
more information

J.D. Short, a.k.a. BassDbler, grew up playing alternative rock and hardcore in Chicago, Nashville, Indianapolis, and Louisville before studying music formally and moving on to build guitars for Rickenbacker. It was only on his relocation to New Zealand that he developed an affinity for electronic music and realised that it held a similar DIY ethic to the music of his youth. The resulting approach also partially inspired by science fiction (specifically Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ saga) described by Aquarius Records as “bass-heavy dubstep electro-prog ambience” has been revealed on a pair of albums: ‘Slow Blade Penetrates The Shield’ and its slightly-more-acoustic follow-up ‘Machine & Ghola’. When not working on BassDbler projects J.D. creates film scores and works as music director for the Giant Fire Breathing Robot website and podcasts.

In 2013 singing/songwriting/double-bass-playing Grant Sharkey (previously a member of Southampton drum-and-two-basses absurdists Toupé) pledged to independently record and release an album every six months over a period of twenty years. Now it’s 2016 and he’s up to six albums – one of which is a single forty-five-minute song (dealing with “how amazing live music is compared to a life of television”), while another he wrote while recovering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome surgery on both wrists.Usually the albums are recorded around Grant’s bass and voice with drums and assorted guest vocals added later, although ukelele and other sounds aren’t unknown.

Grant’s most recent effort is the combined album/political concept ‘Ignoramus’, which was released into the wild last November and which is (depending on how you look at it) either a set of double-bass-plus-voice songs or a philosophical/political manifesto for a new nation based on questioning our current course as a species, or probably both. It follows up and inverts some of the portrayals in his previous, nationalism-inspired album ‘Goon’ – “the five-part life-cycle of someone that doesn’t ask any questions about their situation.”


Another Southampton act – A Ninja Slob Drew Me – is extended-range seven-string bass player Daniel James, who since 2007 has created “moody, mostly instrumental albums” of finger-tapped ambience and distortion, citing post-rock, film soundtracks and trip hop as influences. After four albums as a solo act, Daniel introduced violinist and vocalist Jo Stevens into the project last year as a full partner, with their first album as a duo due to arrive later this year.

Former Ozric Tentacles/Firebird bass player Greyum May (more recently occupied with his own psychedelic/progressive project Keepers Brew) will be playing host but (as far as I know) will be staying off the bass himself in favour of playing a DJ set of “the best in bass-heavy tunes.”

Headlining, Steve Lawson will presumably be offering what he usually offers – deftly melodic bass playing which he’ll simultaneously loop, layer, warp, e-bow and KAOSS-Pad into semi-improvised minimal-maximal solo orchestrations which mingle jazz tunefulness, crowd-pleasing rock directness, and the textured rhythmic detail of prime electronica. Half of the time it won’t sound like a bass, and a third of the time it’ll sound like nothing on earth; with the added bonus being that you won’t necessarily need to be a hardened avant-gardener to appreciate it.

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More gig news shortly…
 

February 2016 – upcoming gigs – a classical sweep: Britten Sinfonia tour Debussy, Donatoni, Takemitsu, Jolivet and a Daníel Bjarnason premiere; the Hermes Experiment go audio-visual with Bennett, Kate Whitley, Soosan Lolavar, Ed Scolding and Giles Swayne; Busch Piano Trio play Brahms, Schubert and Loevendie; the latest of Susanne Kessel’s ‘250 Piano Pieces For Beethoven’ project brings premieres by Mike Garson, Ivo van Emmerik, Robert HP Platz, Claudio Puntin, Markus Reuter, Klaus Runze, Mateo Soto and Knut Vaage.

11 Feb

Some news on upcoming classical-and-related gigs spanning from Southampton to London to Cambridge to Norwich, and over to Bonn in Germany…

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The Hermes Experiment - 'Sonic Visions' @ The Forge, 16th February 2016

The Hermes Experiment presents: Sonic Visions
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Tuesday 16th February 2016, 8:00 pm
more information

“Described as “barmy but brilliant” by ‘Classical Music Magazine’ (and winners of both Park Lane Group Young Artists 2015/16 and of Nonclassical’s Battle of the Bands 2014), The Hermes Experiment is an ensemble of four young professional musicians who are passionate about contemporary and experimental music, and thus inspired to create something innovative and unique. Capitalising on their deliberately idiosyncratic combination of instruments, the ensemble regularly commissions new works, as well as creating their own innovative arrangements and venturing into live free improvisation.

The ensemble has established itself on the London contemporary classical scene with regular performances across the city for organisations including Nonclassical, Kammerklang, Listenpony and Bastard Assignments. Other highlights have included being selected to perform at the 2014 UK Young Artists Festival in Leicester, and giving a concert at Aubazine Abbey in France as part of the L’Aura des Arts festival. The Hermes Experiment is also dedicated to the value of contemporary music in education and community contexts, having taken part in the Wigmore Hall Learning’s ‘Chamber Tots’ and ‘For Crying Out Loud’ 2014/15 schemes.

So far, The Hermes Experiment has commissioned new work from thirty-one composers at various stages of their careers (including Giles Swayne, Stevie Wishart and Misha Mullov-Abbado). The ensemble also strives to create a platform for cross-disciplinary collaboration and has recently created a ‘musical exhibition’ with photographer Thurstan Redding.

The Sonic Visions show will explore ways in which aural experiences have been influenced by visual stimuli. The programme is led by new commissions that respond to a visual element, as interpreted by composers Kate Whitley and Soosan Lolavar; plus a new piece devised in collaboration with Giles Swayne based on a graphic score, and the premiere of an animation by Izabela Barszcz based on Ed Scolding‘s ‘Black Sea’. The Hermes Experiment will also be interpreting three other new graphic scores, devised by Deborah Pritchard, Andy Ingamells and Eloise Gynn as part of a competition linked to the event. The programme will be completed by arrangements that explore three very varied composers/songwriters that have been inspired by the world of visual art: Claude Debussy, Richard Rodney Bennett and Don McLean. This concert is supported by the Britten-Pears Foundation and the Hinrichsen Foundation.

Programme:

Kate Whitley – My Hands (setting of a poem by Nadine Tunasi – world premiere)
Soosan Lolavar – Mah Didam (world premiere)
Ed Scolding – Black Sea (with new animation by Izabela Barszcz)
Claude Debussy – Mandoline and Fantoche
Richard Rodney Bennett – Slow Foxtrot (from ‘A History of Thé Dansant’)
Don McLean – Vincent (new arrangement by The Hermes Experiment)
New semi-improvised piece by Giles Swayne & The Hermes Experiment
New graphic scores by Deborah Pritchard, Andy Ingamells and Eloise Gynn

Performers:

Oliver Pashley – clarinet
Anne Denholm – harp
Marianne Schofield – double bass
Héloïse Werner – soprano/co-director

Supported by
Hanna Grzekiewicz – co-director/marketing/development

Kate Whitley and Soosan Lolavar have both provided blog entries discussing the genesis of their Sonic Visions pieces (based on a poem setting and on an exploration of the links between Iranian music and Renaissance Counterpoint, respectively). The graphic score for Deborah Pritchard’s piece (which is apparently called ‘Kandinsky Studies’) showed up on Twitter recently, so I’ve reproduced it below:

Deborah Pritchard:  score for 'Kandinsky Studies', 2016

Deborah Pritchard: score for ‘Kandinsky Studies’, 2016

Also below are a couple of videos – one of the Hermes Experiment in the flow of free improvisation, the other of them performing William Cole’s ‘me faytz trobar’.



 
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The Britten Sinfonia return for the second of this year’s (and the third overall) ‘At Lunch’ concert series of mid-day performances across the east of England, this time managing to stretch as far as the south coast.

Britten Sinfonia presents ‘At Lunch Three’

Daníel Bjarnason (photo by Samantha West)

Daníel Bjarnason (photo by Samantha West)

Programme:

Claude Debussy – Syrinx
Franco Donatoni – Small II
Daníel Bjarnason – new work (world premiere tour)
Franco Donatoni – Marches
Claude Debussy – Sonata for flute, viola and harp (L137)

amended setlist for Southampton adds:

André Jolivet – Petite Suite
Toru Takemitsu – And Then I Knew ‘Twas Wind

Performers:

Emer McDonough (flute)
Clare Finnimore (viola)
Lucy Wakeford (harp)

“The combination of flute, viola and harp may not be the most familiar trio ensemble, but it is one that certainly lends itself to the rich exploration of colour and harmonies that is typical of Debussy’s output. A deeply expressive curiosity in soundscapes and association with visual art also features in the compositions of Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason, whose new work features alongside that of Debussy in this programme.”

The London and Cambridge gigs include an “in conversation” event (a pre-concert discussion on Daníel Bjarnason’s new work) before the concert at 12.15pm in London, or after the concert at 2.15pm in Cambridge. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance in London, and are only available to concert ticket holders in Cambridge.

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Back in Norwich, there’s a promising trio concert…

Busch Trio, 2016

(Norfolk & Norwich Chamber Music Festival presents:
The Busch Trio
John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney Lane, Norwich, NR4 7UH, England
Saturday 20th February 2016, 7.30pm
more information

“Named after the legendary violinist Adolf Busch and inspired by trio member Mathieu van Bellen’s possession of Busch’s 1783 J.B. Guadagnini violin, the London-based Busch Trio – previously The Busch Ensemble – are emerging as one of the leading young piano trios among the new generation, receiving enthusiastic responses from audiences and critics across the UK and Europe. Recognised for their achievements and the “incredible verve” of their playing, they were winners of the 2012 Royal Overseas League Competition and went on to win several prizes including 2nd prize and the recording prize at the 2012 Salieri-Zinetti International Chamber Music Competition and the 3rd prize at the 2013 Pinerolo International Chamber Music Competition in Italy as well as the 2nd prize at the International Schumann Chamber Music Award in Frankfurt.

Since its formation in 2012 highlights of the Trio’s performances in the UK have included the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Sage Gateshead and a critically acclaimed appearance at Wigmore Hall. They have also given concerts in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Denmark. The trio enjoys the support of the Tunnell Trust, the Kirckman Concert Society, the Park Lane Group and the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust, as well as being awarded the MMSF Philharmonia Orchestra Ensemble Award. Most recently they have completed the prestigious ChamberStudio Mentorship Programme, which has offered them teaching from some of the world’s leading musicians. They are currently receiving guidance from members of the Artemis Quartet at the Queen Elizabeth Music Chapel in Brussels.”

This concert includes a pre-concert discussion with the trio members at 6.30pm. In addition to two familiar Romantic-era classics, the programme includes a performance of ‘Ackermusik’ by jazz/Eastern-cultures-inspired Dutch composer Theo Loevendie (which Loevendie notes is “written in a mosaic form of five repetitive elements” and which possibly, though not explicitly, pays tribute to the low, breathy vibrato clarinet stylings of late British trad-jazzer Acker Bilk).

Programme:

Theo Loevendie – Ackermusik
Johannes Brahms – Piano Trio No. 2 in C major Op. 87
Franz Schubert – Piano Trio No 2 in E flat D929

Performers:

Omri Epstein – piano
Mathieu van Bellen – violin
Ori Epstein – cello

Here’s a recent recording of the Busch Trio performing the third (Poc adagio) movement of Dvorak’s Piano Trio in F minor, op.65, as well as a previous performance of ‘Ackermusic’ by the Van Baerle Trio.


 

 

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Finally, news on an ongoing concert and commissioning series…

Susanne Kessel - 250 Pieces For Beethoven

Bonner Kunstverein presents:
Susanne Kessel: ‘250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven’
Klavierhaus Klavins, Auguststrasse 26–28, 53229 Bonn, Germany
Thursday 25th February, 2016, 7.30pm
more information.

“In the year 2020, the world will celebrate the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born in Bonn. In partnership with German radio station WDR Köln, pianist and Bonn native Susanne Kessel has begun an international composition project, inviting composers from all over the world to write a short piano piece “for Beethoven” with a duration of four minutes or under.

Since the start of the project, Susanne has been performing all the pieces at a series of concerts in Bonn (with some pieces also being presented at Speicher am Kaufhauskanal in Hamburg). All pieces will subsequently be published in a “precious paper” sheet-music edition by Editions Musica Ferrum of London.”

As of February 5th of this year, Susanne has received fifty-seven of the planned two hundred and fifty pieces. The next of the concerts in the performance series takes place on February 25th, in the Bonn instrument store Klavierhaus Klavins, and will feature premieres of work by the following composers:

  • Ivo van Emmerik – Dutch composer and onetime student of, among others, John Cage, Brian Ferneyhough and Morton Feldman (regarding whom he’s sometimes been suggested as a successor) with a strong interest in multi-media musical staging, electronic music and computer applications.
  • Mike Garson – cross-disciplinary American jazz, rock and experimental pianist and arranger (best known for his mid-‘70s work with David Bowie).
  • Robert HP Platz – German composer and founder/conductor of Ensemble Köln, generally better known for large-scale projects which can include operatic works, children’s music, literature, poetry, audio tapes and visual arts.
  • Claudio Puntin – Swiss composer, clarinettist and loop musician best known for wild, beautiful and moody electronica and post-jazz as a member of ensembles including ambiq and Sepiasonic as well as work for film, television and theatre.
  • Markus Reuter – German cross-disciplinary composer, touch guitarist, teacher and instrument designer, known for his work with centrozoon, Stick Men and others (as well as for his recent full-scale orchestral piece ‘Todmorden 513’).
  • Klaus Runze – German “intermedia” artist, composer, educator and theorist (pursuing, amongst other things, structured improvisation, composition, sonic sculpture, and painting-while-performing)
  • Mateo Soto – award-winning Spanish composer and recent winner of YouTube CODE 2016 Series Call for Scores.
  • Knut Vaage – Norwegian composer and member of the ensembles JKL and Fat Battery, whose work explores the boundaries between composition and improvisations.

Five of the composers (van Emmerik, Platz, Puntin, Reuter and Vaage) will be attending and possibly speaking, as will German percussionist/composer/music professor Dennis Kuhn and Swiss composer-pianist Lars Werdenberg (founder of New Music platform Chaotic Moebius), both of whom have previously contributed pieces to the project.

News on the ongoing project can be followed here.

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More gig news shortly, including William D. Drake in Italy and Louis Barrabas on the rampage across Scotland and northern England.

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