Tag Archives: Stick In The Wheel

November 2016 – upcoming London gigs – a dash through the weekend (26th, 27th) – various adventures in international folk music, experimental music, hip hop and underground rock via Tuesdays Post, Daylight Music, Laura Cannell, Nest Collective Baba Yaga’s Hut and others…

23 Nov

This week finds me ill, exhausted, busy and needing to catch up with things outside the blog – and hence unable to go into the usual detail. Consequently, the usual semi-coherent stammering of recommendations is being cut short. I’m just going to offer a few quick notes and pointers to my picks from this London weekend’s explosion of interesting concerts, and will let you catch up with them yourselves.

Daylight Music 240, 26th November 2016On Saturday, Laura Cannell‘s hosting her ‘Memory Mapping’ afternoon at Daylight Music, including an improvised duet between herself and fellow alt.violinist Angharad Davies, the coastline sound creations of former ‘Wire’ writer Jennifer Lucy Allan and what looks like a Charles Hayward piano piece which may or may not be a song cycle. I’ve already previewed that here a few weeks ago (complete with sounds and visions), so go back and have a look.

The Song Collectors Collective Gathering, 2016At the same time, an incredible wealth of acoustic, folk and international-indigenous music talent will be riding into east London for two twinned and overlapping Nest Collective events at the same impressive Dalston venue – St Mark Church, a grand Early English Gothic Revival pile sometimes described as “the East End’s cathedral”.

Beginning in the morning, the Song Collectors Collective Gathering celebrates and presents the people who conserve rare oral culture within their communities in Britain, Ireland and beyond; and explores ideas spinning off from that. This year it features (among others) storyteller Hugh Lupton, tireless folk archivists Doc Rowe and Paul Wilson, ethnomusicologists Angela Impey and Shzr Ee Tan, and ethnobotanist Sarah Edwards. Topics explored will include song collecting in South Sudan and Taiwan, Doc’s vast archive of unseen videos of Britain’s great traditional singers, political-musical activism on the internet, and “plant knowledge collected with the Songman”.

Starting up in the afternoon is Unamplifire – a jaw-dropping seven-hour assemblage of international folk talent which, at a better time, would warrant a whole post to itself. Traditional and curated music from England, Ireland, Eastern Europe and West Africa, Okinawa and Taiwan, both pure and cross-pollinated; with encompassed styles including griot, London psych-folk and deep-probing acoustic pop and instrumentation including kora, whistles, violins, acoustic guitars, electronics and – above all – the human voice in all of its diversity. For the full list of Unamplifire players, take a look at the details below.

Unamplifire lineup, 2016
 
Tuesdays Post, 26th November 2016Having successfully transferred from north-east London to west London, Tuesdays Post are staging another gig of electronic-slanted progressive/improvisational music on Saturday evening. This week, founder/regular Georgina Brett picks up her voiceloops to engage in a pair of superbly cluttered duets. One of these will be with Jono Podmore (the theremin, delay and ring modulator–wielding Metamono member and Kumo mastermind, who’s promising to bring along an extra selection of intriguing technological gizmos), and another with electro-acoustic instrument inventor Tom Fox (creator of the Springything, the Multi-Dronemachine and the Twitter-triggered Hummingbird). Tom will also be appearing as one-third of improvising experimental textural noise trio YOAF (the other two thirds being Jon Saunders and Tim Yates). Interactive visuals will be provided by Hanzo.

Dälek + Necro Deathmort, 26th November 2016Baba Yaga’s Hut (who haven’t featured in ‘Misfit City’ for a while, thanks to buggered-up mailing list problems) are also doing the honours with two interesting sounding gigs over the weekend. Each of them features what’s becoming a regular Baba Yaga format: an intriguing well-known underground import plus a home-grown Baba regular.

The first of these is an electro/beat fest with long-lived New Jersey hip-hoppers Dälek (whose dense, industrially-slanted noise-stew has annoyed purists and thrilled listeners since 1998) and edge-of-the-seat electronicists Necro Deathmort whose tangled fusion of doom metal, droning dystopian science-fiction synth noise and free-jazz echoes sees them flit like plague mosquitoes from genre to genre. The second is a free showcase for all-female Finnish trio Olimpia Splendid (whose Can-like psychedelic grooves, dogged dour-skew riffing and growly babydoll vocals have been gathering them plenty of attention over the last couple of years) and London pagan “aggrocultural punktronicist” trio Snapped Ankles (the ones who dress up in striking topiary costumes as wild woodwoses, swaying behind various customised instruments like giant hedge carvings while picking out noisy ritual rhythms and post-rural, post-industrial chanting).

Olimpia Splendid, 2016
 
All of this going on… and I’m too knackered to drag myself to any of it. The story of my year, really.

Addresses, links, times etc below.

The Nest Collective presents:
Song Collectors Collective Gathering 2016
St Mark Church Dalston, St Mark’s Rise/Colveston Crescent, Dalston, London, E8 2LJ, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 10.30am to 6pm
information

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 240: Laura Cannell presents “Memory Mapping”: Laura Cannell + Charles Hayward + Mythos Of Violins + Jennifer Lucy Allan
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

The Nest Collective presents:
Unamplifire 2
St Mark Church Dalston, St Mark’s Rise/Colveston Crescent, Dalston, London, E8 2LJ, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 4.00pm to 11.00pm
information

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Dälek + Necro Deathmort
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Tuesdays Post present:
YOAF + Jono Podmore + Tom Fox & Georgina Brett
The Muse Gallery, 269 Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove, London, W11 1LR, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Olimpia Splendid + Snapped Ankles
Birthdays, 33-35 Stoke Newington Road, Stoke Newington, London N16 8BJ
– free event (but sign up for tickets) – information here and here
 

September 2016 – sounds over water – a preview of Claudia Molitor’s ‘The Singing Bridge’ at Somerset House and Waterloo Bridge, London (9th-25th)

30 Aug

Quick news on an imminent (and free) immersive event coming up in central London, for anyone who likes the intersection of music, event and historical curiosity. It’s part of the month-long Totally Thames festival…

Totally Thames in partnership with Somerset House present:
‘The Singing Bridge’ by Claudia Molitor
Waterloo Bridge, London – starting at Somerset House (New Wing), Strand, London, WC2R 1LA, England)
Friday 9th to Sunday 25 September 2016, 4.00pm to 9pm (Wednesday to Friday) & 1.00pm to 6.00pm (Saturday & Sunday)
– free event – information

“Fascinated by the rich and largely unearthed social history of Waterloo Bridge (and its rebuilding during World War II by a predominantly female workforce), composer and artist Claudia Molitor presents a brand new work comprising a musical response to the bridge: its history, its structure and its surrounding landscape. The work is available to experience in-situ on Waterloo Bridge itself during September.


 
“Collect a headset from Somerset House to begin your forty-minute musical experience that features new compositions by Molitor, with contributions from poet S.J. Fowler, London-based folk band Stick In The Wheel and drum-and-synth duo AK/DK. The Singing Bridge weaves you along Waterloo Bridge and its surrounding paths to give you time and space to consider your relationship to this bridge and its environs. As you drift through the piece, it evokes images of London’s urban landscape and the sprawling River Thames. The clunks and clicks of Claudia’s prepared piano, along with the wheezing drones and location recordings, give the piece an industrial feel. There is also a chance for reflection with the melancholic Below the Siren’s call; a nod to the past with traditional folk piece Sweet Thames, and to the present with AK/DK’s Electricity.

Regarding the participants:

Claudia Molitor is an Anglo-German conceptual composer, and half of the duo Lemon Drizzle (whose site-sensitive part-performance art works unravel the relationship and the perceived roles of composer and performer). Interested in the confluence of music and other media, she has also composed more traditionally-performed work for contemporary classical orchestras and ensembles such as Apartment House.

AK/DK (Graham Sowerby and Ed Chivers) use acoustic drums and a myriad of synthesizers to create complex and evolving music with layers of arpeggios, crashing drums and searing electronic sounds. Their largely improvised live shows are juxtaposed by more delicate compositions and commissions for theatre, film and installations.

Claudia Molitor: 'The Singing Bridge'

Claudia Molitor: ‘The Singing Bridge’

Stick In The Wheel “rip apart the preconceptions surrounding folk music” (‘Clash Music’). Their abrasive delivery of both original and traditional tracks, is not empty nostalgia, but a voice linking now to then. Stripped-back songs speak for themselves, telling tales of everyday life. Four-times nominated for BBC Folk Awards and winners of ‘fRoots’ Album of the Year 2015.

S.J. Fowler is a poet and artist. He has published five collections of poetry and been commissioned by Tate Modern, BBC Radio 3, The British Council and the Wellcome Collection. His work has been translated into eighteen languages and performed at venues across the world from Mexico City to Erbil, Iraq. He is a lecturer at Kingston University and curator of the Enemies project.”

‘The Singing Bridge’ will also be available as an album from NMC Recordings, which includes “a downloadable ‘film poem’ that explores Waterloo Bridge and its surroundings with a soundtrack featuring some of the pieces from the album.”
 

February 2016 – upcoming gigs – London end-of-month assortment – Project Instrumental play string quartets for free; Eddie Parker’s Mister Vertigo ascends again; an even more diverse Daylight Music than usual (with Stick In The Wheel, No Cars and Alabaster dePlume)

24 Feb

Two shows coming up on the Friday…

Project Instrumental, 2016

Friday Tonic presents:
Project Instrumental
Central Bar @ Royal Festival Hall @ Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 8XX, England
Friday 26th February 2016, 5.30pm
– free event – more information

“Making its Southbank Centre debut in quartet form, players from Project Instrumental invite you to greet Friday evening sipping on the sonorities of some 21st-century string quartets. Described as “simply knockout” (Alex Julyan, Wellcome Trust Fellow) and selected as a Time Out London Critic’s Choice, Project Instrumental brings thrilling performances to unbounded audiences. Instrument-inspired, rather than genre-led, the group evolves around a core of strings and what can be done with them, across genres and instrumental combinations, to create truly enlivening performances, for anyone. Bold, imaginative and boundary defying, this virtuosic group strips back the peripherals with their straightforward contemporary approach to, to create not just concerts, but experiences.”

Programme:

Thomas Seltz: String Quartet No.1
Joby Talbot: String Quartet No.2
Nico Muhly: Diacritical Marks
Bryce Dessner: Tenebre

Though Project Instrumental haven’t made this explicit, all of the contemporary classical composers whose quartets are being played either originally stem from, or confidently dip into, a broad field of popular music. Nico Muhly has long been a byword for latterday classical/pop crossovers, balancing operas and contemporary music ensemble commissions with arrangements and co-writes for Grizzly Bear, Björk, Antony and the Johnsons and Philip Glass. Joby Talbot spent nine years playing on and expanding Neil Hannon’s chamber-pop songs for The Divine Comedy before moving on to a diverse compositional career of ballets, concerti, orchestral and choral works and madrigals (while still doing film scores and arrangement works relating to pop, such as his reworking of songs by The White Stripes for choreographer Wayne McGregor). Bryce Dessner is still best known as half of the guitar/compositional team for Brooklyn indie-rock darlings The National, but balances this against a powerfully prolific output of orchestral, percussion, film and installation-based instrumental works, as well as classical improvisation with the Clogs quintet and work curating Cleveland’s MusicNOW New Music festival for ten years.

Even the most obscure of the four, Thomas Seltz, spent his teenage years recording and touring as a rock guitarist and songwriter with French rock bands (most notably TORO) before making the shift to classical composition at the University of Edinburgh from 2006. Since then, he’s maintained his interest in the classical/popular faultline, writing an electric bass guitar concerto (for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and John Patitucci), ‘Awesome X’ (a comic opera about reality TV) and ‘Mandarin’ (a concerto written for Chinese erhu player Peng Yueqiang and Edinburgh crossover-chamber ensemble Mr McFall’s Chamber).

All four composers refuse to be pigeonholed either by their established classical reputations or by their current or past roots/impingements upon pop and rock, seeing it all as a set of disciplines between which they can step as they choose. Seltz’s quartet (completed only last year) documents and honours his musical history, in particular his transition from rock musician to contemporary composer, via rock-inspired “strong dynamic, rhythmic and melodic elements”. Talbot’s possesses a wheeling dovelike softness in its graceful minimal approach, while Dessner’s takes tips from Reich, Adams and Glass but explodes them with a hoedown vigour. Sidestepping his confessed anxieties regarding the emotional exposure of the form, Muhly’s is bookended by an emphasis on lively ticking mechanisms and accents, counterbalanced by a more rhapsodic (and possibly concealing) middle section.



 

It seems as if this Project Instrumental set (or most of it) will be repeated at a National Portrait Gallery Late Shift appearance on April 1st (PI have been performing versions of it since at least last November). I’ll repost details closer to the time. Also in April, look out for a Britten Sinfonia mini-tour featuring a Bryce Dessner premiere.

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Eddie Parker, 2016

Eddie Parker’s Mister Vertigo
The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, Dalston, London, N16 8AZ, England
Friday 26th February 2016, 8.00pm
– more information

Ever since I was a teenager I’ve been crossing paths with Eddie Parker on record, in concert and (on a few occasions) in person. Back in the ‘80s he was a key member of the raucous, expansive yet deceptively deep-thinking jazz band Loose Tubes, holding his own as both player and composer alongside Django Bates, Steve Berry, Chris Batchelor and many others who went on to shape both pre-millennial British jazz and what came afterwards. While Loose Tubes may always be Eddie’s best-known gig (he also went on to play and write in the sequel band Delightful Precipice), like most jazz musicians he has form elsewhere; having worked as part of John Stevens’ Freebop and as an outstanding soloist and collaborator in the band of South African pianist Bheki Mseleku, as well as leading various groups including the “quartet of twenty instruments” Twittering Machine. In all of these projects, he’s known predominantly for the assured brilliance of his flute playing. Elegant and assertive, full-toned and flexible without ever being forced, it’s an expression of a supple mind-muscle which can shape-shift from tripping lightness to pooling shade in a single graceful motion.

Eddie should, however, be at least as well regarded for his skill as an all-in composer. Drawn from his early training in avant-garde classical, fleshed out by his immersion in jazz, and characterized by both an egalitarian ethos and a sophisticated-magpie taste for eclectic listening, his compositions draw on a vast array of ideas, influences and traditions. Around jazz touchstones such as Gil Evans, Mahavishnu, Eric Dolphy and Weather Report swim disparate seasonings and elements – South Africa, Stravinsky and Debussy; Elizabethan chamber music; salsa and progressive rock; mantras and mediaevalism; Bartok, Berg, Berio and Brazilian – but never in a mere showy and dyspeptic jam of ideas.

Many composers (jazz or otherwise) turn out music which seems to be disassociated from their day-to-day personality, or which is at least canted towards a slightly different space or a stand-alone ideal. This is not the case with Eddie. His tunes and arrangements are a clear reflection of the man himself – by turns committed, kind, cheeky, bucolic and fiery; all with a glittering riverine current of lively intelligence and an eye on the small details of the world. He’s also pretty lucid as regards talking about them – his own blog comments on early and recent material that he’s written for Loose Tubes are well worth reading.

These skills haven’t gone unrecognised, and commissions for Eddie from the Apollo Saxophone Quartet and Ensemble Bash are just part of it: but there’s also been immensely valuable community composing, promotion and guidance work from Eddie, such as his efforts with with Impro Integrated and his ongoing children’s educational project Groove On. His 2001 endeavour ‘People Symphony’ picked up on the human and cultural complexity of London, sprawling via public performance and collective practise across four London boroughs and thirty pro musicians plus students of all ages, abilities and disabilities, joining in a rich stew of Indian, Brazilian, African and Turkish-inspired music mingled with jazz, rock and pop. All of this is memorable – still, in the process of digging up information for this news post, it struck me how little information on it survives. Perhaps much of Eddie’s work is like most jazz performances – a collision of opportunity and uniqueness tied to a particular time and place, a particular coming-together of people which (especially on a good night) results in a grand flare of cooperation and shared memory, echoing on in the minds and the rolled-out histories of those who were there, but forever unknown to everyone who was outside that room on that night. Maybe there’s something precious in that, but I can’t help but feel that there should be more memory, more awareness… a fuller appreciation of what’s gone down and soared up.

Rather than go on in this vein, instead I’ll be a little more positive and draw the attention to Eddie’s longest-running concern: his Mister Vertigo sextet, who play in London this weekend. Eddie’s longterm cohorts Steve Watts (double bass, another Loose Tuber), Julian Nicholas (saxophone) and Mike Pickering (drums) have been in the band since its mid-‘90s inception, while the newest recruits are up-and-coming guitarist Rob Luft (replacing John Parricelli) and pianist Matt Robinson, who follows in the footsteps of Troyka’s Kit Downes and the band’s long-standing original piano maverick Pete Saberton (who died in 2012). As a unit, Mister Vertigo is a light-footed, easily accessible ensemble whose apparent breeziness subtly disguises the opportunity to experience Eddie’s compositional work up close and intimate. Expect fine playing, a warm chamber of illuminated discourse and wide-ranging thought.

Embeddable examples of Eddie’s work are thin on the ground, but here’s a brief video of Mister Vertigo in action (albeit with Eddie leading from keyboard rather than flute) plus a Debussy-inspired piano piece from Groove Music…



 

Incidentally, Eddie’s occasional keyboard work has developed into a fuller occupation in recent years, due not least to his work as one of a battalion of keyboard players in the vintage analogue synth group The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble, for which he also composes. He’s just released an album of synth compositions called ‘The Exoplanets Suite’, which will be launched at the Mister Vertigo gig (copies should be available there for about £12.00, but can also be ordered via Eddie’s Facebook page).

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The following evening, there’s a Daylight Music afternoon with no particular theme… or, to put it another, an afternoon of their own free eclectica.

Daylight Music 217, 27th February 2016

Daylight Music presents:
Daylight 217: Stick In The Wheel + No Cars + Alabaster dePlume
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 27th February 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like event (£5.00 donation suggested) – more information

Stick In The Wheel are a folk band from East London. Championed by John Kennedy (Radio X/Mercury judge) and fresh from winning fRoots Magazine’s 2015 Album of the Year, they’re “ripping apart the preconceptions surrounding folk music to retrieve the tender, beating heart at the centre of traditional English culture” (CLASH Music) – as the band themselves put it, “this is our culture, our tradition.”

No Cars is a Japanese pop band formed and based in Hackney, London UK – a mixture of rock, garage, gipsy, swing, jazz, calypso, punk, Punjabi etc. with a Japanese pop twist.

 

Alabaster dePlume (Gus Fairbairn), is a performer, writer and musician. Since 2011 he has produced three albums on Manchester label Debt Records, toured Europe as a solo performer, produced short films, and written/performed a play with circus-aerial in Dublin. He has also presented a series of combined-arts events, and his recordings are played on national radio, most recently described as “cheerfully uneasy” on Radio 3.

Joel Clayton – from Indo-Anglo folk-fusioneers (and unlikely steampunk-scene heroes) Sunday Driver, and sometimes known as trappedanimal – joins us on sitar in our fourth/in-between slot this week.

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News on March concerts coming up shortly…
 

December 2015 – upcoming gigs, London and elsewhere – another Forge flurry (Boccherini and Schubert quintets with Arensky Chamber Orchestra, sample pop from Cosmo Sheldrake, tango nuevo from The Deco Ensemble); the Ghosts At Our Shoulders folk meet (with Martin Carthy, Alasdair Roberts, Chris Wood, Kirsty Potts, The Devil’s Interval and Stick In The Wheel); and Project Instrumental’s Pärt/Fokkens post-classical passacaglia at Hackney Attic. Plus Anawan’s Brooklyn chamber pop double-night and New York farewell.

28 Nov

Straight into December, then (I’m ignoring the last day of November – it’s done me no favours this year) and before the splurge of upcoming musical Christmas parties, here are some assorted one-off gigs. Classical, post-classical and tango nuevo chamber concerts; Brooklyn art-pop; a small but significant folk festival; and a man battering experimental songs out of a piece of beef. That’ll do. As ever, these are mostly London shows, although as mentioned New York does get a look in at the end. Over the coming weekend – a man in a top hat sings songs of Victorian-Edwardian never-weres, wild noise in Hackney and Yorkshire, and a couple of spells of jazz… but more on that later.

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The Arensky Chamber Orchestra presents ‘Surround Sound II’ (The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, UK, Tuesday 1st December 2015, 8.00pm) – £12.00 – information & tickets

Since its debut in 2009, The Arensky Chamber Orchestra has established itself as one of London’s most exciting young ensembles, dedicated to revitalising the concert experience with theatrical and brilliant productions of classical music. Led by international prize-winning conductor William Kunhardt, the orchestra’s performances fuse electric performance with lighting design, ‘live’ programme notes delivered from the stage and unusual venue use. The ACO also regularly combine their performances with specially created food and drink menus and commissioned work from other artists, including video DJs, artists, actors and dancers. This will be the Forge’s second immersive ‘in the round’ performance from the Arensky Chamber Orchestra’s brilliant principal players; and on the menu are performances of two of the great string quintets.

Luigi Boccherini’s String Quintet in E major is one of the most famous quintets in the classical repertoire. The timeless melody of its third movement, ‘The Celebrated Minuet’, is woven into popular culture (appearing in ‘The Blues Brothers’ and ‘This is Spinal Tap’ as well as many other contexts). Tonight’s performance is in the original configuration (a conventional string quartet of two violins, viola and cello, plus a second cello as the fifth instrument) but over the years the piece has been rescored for a startling breadth of instruments including organ, mandolin duo, accordion and saxophone.

Franz Schubert’s String Quintet in C was the composer’s last instrumental work (composed during the final weeks of his life) and possibly his greatest accomplishment. It’s most iconic movement is the Adagio – a piece of such sublime tranquility that time seems to stand still throughout. Yet every other movement lives up to this extraordinary standard as well – from the expanse of the opening Allegro to the dazzling scherzo, it is a work of endless invention, radiant and rich sound-worlds and infinite varieties of texture and colour.

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The Deco Ensemble (The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, UK, Wednesday 2nd December 2015, 7.30pm) – £10.00 – information & tickets here and here

Established in 2013, The Deco Ensemble performs an eclectic and colourful combination of classical masterpieces, little-known gems and new avant-garde works. Rich in poignant harmonies, bold rhythms and elaborate ornamentations, their exuberant and glamorous repertoire includes works by Gustavo Beytelmann, Yannis Constantinidis, Frédéric Devreese, Ramiro Gallo, Graham Lynch, Astor Piazzolla, Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel and Anibal Troilo. A quintet of Sabina Rakcheyeva (violin), Bartosz Glowacki (accordion), Ricardo Gosalbo (piano), Rob Luft (electric guitar) and Elena Marigómez (double bass), they also collaborate with many of the world’s most promising and intriguing composers and performers, and write their own arrangements.

The ensemble’s adventurous approach and spirit of fearless exploration has its origins in the music of Piazzolla, re-imagining the Tango Nuevo Quintet which the composer formed during the 1960s in order to lay down the foundations of modern tango writing and to combine classical, jazz and traditional influences. Already the veterans of extensive European touring, Deco Ensemble have performed sellout concerts across Britain and across the breadth of Europe from west to east. Their critically-acclaimed debut album ‘Encuentro’ was released in July 2015.

Programme:

Ramiro Gallo – El último kurdo
Gustavo Beytelmann – Travesía
Astor Piazzolla – Muerte del ángel
Astor Piazzolla – Milonga del ángel
Astor Piazzolla – Tango del diablo
Frédéric Devreese – Passage à 5
Frédéric Devreese – Dream & Tango
Gustavo Beytelmann – Encuentro
Astor Piazzolla – Triunfal
Astor Piazzolla – Oblivion
Ramiro Gallo – Las malenas

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Now here’s something interesting…

Cosmo Sheldrake (Rockfeedback Concerts @ The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, UK, Thursday 3rd December 2015, 7.30pm) – £11.00 – information & tickets

A multi-instrumentalist, an improvising sampler/looper and the crafter of sweet unorthodox earworms, Cosmo Sheldrake has been described as “a relentlessly experimental artist taking organic samples from the world and turning them into dreamy songs.” Certainly his best-known single, ‘Rich’, is a case in point. Its tripping, sunny melodies – apparently moulded from stray chunks of both English folk and contemporary R&B – bob over a rhythm made by tearing meat from a cow carcass.

This kind of experimentation and juxtaposition (the cute tunes and the occasionally slightly-sinister underpinning; the initiation of whimsical but multi-layered musical questions; the rough-and-ready play across a huge musical vocabulary) seems to lie at the heart of what Cosmo does. He’s certainly steeped in music – aside from the wide-spanning instrumentalism (beginning with early days on piano at age four, building upwards and outwards and somehow never stopping), he’s been a founder member of nine-piece polygenre band Gentle Mystics since 2007, and also runs assorted instrumental and beatboxing workshops, plus a choir, in his Brighton hometown. He’s also known for performances in unusual locations including boats, farmyards, laundrettes and public swimming pools; and takes inspiration from the world around him with unfiltered, undifferentiated spontaneity; being as likely to turn out a song about pelicans as he is one about humans.

This week’s show promises to be mostly improvised, intimate and has a pretty small number of tickets, so move fast if you’re interested.

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Moving on to some purer folk…

Martin Carthy @ Ghosts At Our Shoulders, December 2015

‘Ghosts At Our Shoulders – The Tradition Unfolds’ featuring Chris Wood + Alasdair Roberts + Kirsty Potts + Stick In The Wheel + Martin Carthy + The Devil’s Interval (Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, UK, Thursday 3rd to Saturday 5th December 2015, various times) – various prices (£9.50-£22.50) – information & tickets

“The men have withdrawn and left me alone in a roomful of relics / But they gave me the song, so I carry the song that all men inherit.” – Alasdair Roberts

A series of songwriters and song interpreters inspired by tradition. The rich folk song tradition in these isles is a never-ending well of ideas and sensibilities as well as source material. The traditional canon is often attributed to ‘Anon.’ – a ghost perched on the shoulders of contemporary performers, who carry tradition forward and forge their own paths inspired by that legacy. This series of concerts features some of the most thoughtful and creative interpreters of song, whose unifying focus is the telling of the song. Voices close to the source, acting as a link from the then to the now.

With his work sometimes compared to that of Richard Thompson (though he cites his major influence as ‘Anon.’), Chris Wood is an uncompromising singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter whose music reveals his love for the un-official history of the English-speaking peoples, weaving his own contemporary parables into the tradition. His lateral take on the modern world follows an ideological thread from the likes of John Clare and William Blake, and as well as humble hymns and wry observations of the small things in life, his songs have included Hollow Point (a chilling ballad of the shooting of Jean Charles Menezez).

The twenty-year, eleven-album career of Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist Alasdair Roberts has taken him from the early alt.folk of his Appendix Out project via mingled traditional and self-penned work to his latest, self-titled solo recording, featuring a span of Glaswegian folk talent. He performs songs which are “elliptical and gnomic, direct and personal, romantic and tender” and which have moved from an early economical style (partially inspired by the sparse aesthetic of indie rock) to the complex, esoteric and spiritual work of more recent albums. An enthusiastic and generous collaborator, he’ll be sharing the stage with Kirsty Potts, a singer of traditional Scottish folk for thirty years. Having recorded six albums with the famous folk duo of Alison McMorland (Kirsty’s mother) and Geordie McIntrye, she’s recently released her own long-delayed debut solo album ‘The Seeds of Life’.

Raw and uncompromising London folk quintet Stick In The Wheel record to the sound of sirens and birdsong in their long-rented East End front rooms. Brought up in the thriving culture of working class London and cutting their teeth in its diverse musical landscape, they now bring those influences and attitudes to their traditional music. Across three EPs, multiple festivals and award nominations and the release of their debut album in September this year, their music is as authentic as it comes, capturing a culture that is rapidly disappearing, and is at times brutally honest and grabbing.

Over five decades of a varied career (with Waterson Carthy, Steeleye Span, solo and beyond), Martin Carthy has been one of folk music’s greatest innovators, one of its best loved, most enthusiastic and, at times, most quietly controversial of figures. He’s a ballad singer, a ground-breaking acoustic and electric-guitarist and an authoritative interpreter of newly composed material; always preferring to follow an insatiable musical curiosity rather than cash in on his unrivalled position.

Playing in support of Martin are some of his regular tourmates: recently-reunited vocal group The Devil’s Interval (the teaming of singers Jim Causley, Emily Portman and Lauren McCormick, each of them solo artists in their own right). The group are well-loved for their spell-binding harmonies and passion for captivating story-telling through the medium of traditional song: their three distinctive voices blend beautifully, bringing new life to some of the old jewels of the folk-song canon.

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Project Instrumental's Built on Bass, 4th December 2015

Project Instrumental + Tpongle + Zach Walker + DJ Jesse Bescoby present ‘Built On Bass’ (Hackney Attic 2170 Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HE, UK, Friday 4th December 2015, 7:30pm) – £6.00 – information here and heretickets

Project Instrumental bring thrilling performances to unbounded audiences. Bold, imaginative and boundary defying, this virtuosic ensemble strips back the peripherals with their straightforward contemporary approach to create not just concerts, but experiences. For ‘Built On Bass’, they bring together a composer, a sound artist and a visual artist to create a multi-sensory musical environment using sound, electronics and cymatics. Taking a four-hundred year-old form defined by variations against a bass motif, they connect a passacaglia-inspired programme of music written within the last fifty years and create a twenty-first century experience, responding to the written repertoire through live collaborations that explore the physical sensation of sound and auditory-visual interactions.

The world premiere of a commission from composer Robert Fokkens features in an irresistible confluence of timelessness, change, cycles and variance alongside Arvo Pärt’s mesmeric Passacaglia in its version for 2 violins and Dmitri Shostakovich’s powerful Chamber Symphony op.118a. Inspired by and sampling the programmed repertoire, sound artist, producer and DJ Tpongle creates a ‘passacaglia for the present’, weaving a bass thread through the night, culminating in a live electronic set. Zack Walker‘s striking projections will extend the sound experience in space using his live liquid cymatics sculpture, original film content and analog feedback projections to respond to the live musical performance. Ace Hotel Guest DJ Jesse Bescoby rounds the night off with a set exploring the gap between contemporary classical and experimental, independent music. All can be taken with locally produced craft beers and food available to order throughout the evening.

Programme:

Arvo Pärt – Passacaglia
Robert Fokkens – New Commission World Premiere
Dmitri Shostakovich – Chamber Symphony op.118a
Tpongle – Live electronic set
Zach Walker – Live cymatics sculpture

For a glimpse of Zach’s cymatic sculpture work, see below.

 

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Finally, something for readers in New York who like their art pop. Trevor Wilson of Anawan has been in touch with a welcoming Christmas message as cute, rambling, perky and openhearted as his band is. See below.

Anawan – ‘Having Fun’ show (Briscoe Music Space, 3 Sackett Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York, New York State, USA, Friday 4th and Saturday 5th December 2015, 8.00pm) – $5.00-$15.00 (pay-what-you-want) – information and tickets

We are doing a huge show on two nights, December 4th and 5th, at our music space in Red Hook, Brooklyn! At the intersection of danger and confidence comes, perhaps, one of the most important reasons for being alive. Sometimes ‘having fun’ is outwardly bold and courageous- motosports – skydiving. Sometimes just going out on a limb and making a joke is the boldest thing you can do in a day- just cracking a smile can take years for some! Love is more bold than any physical challenge- hearts are huge, sometimes mountains, with hiking trails to be lost in, make plans, need more, need less- as my friend Ethan Woods says, “love takes time”. But also, man, love is the funnest thing of all… what’s around the corner? You don’t know!

The “sound” of fun is loose and electric, sometimes passionate, sometimes flippant. The songs for this very special show include new songs inspired by fun – but don’t expect them to all sound like it… that would be too easy, and what’s the fun in that? In addition to working with my dear historical Anawan members, we’re working with some new folks and doing things in a new way, and that in and of itself is the most palpably fun element of this whole production. It’s going to be a huge ten-piece ensemble playing songs old and new; a rhythm section, string trio, electronics, and the usual Anawan gang. We’ll round the show off with some Anawan standbys as well as a supremely fun song from wa-a-ay back when. I really hope to see you there! I leave NYC at the end of the year to live elsewhere! This is it, guys! Let’s do it! I’m not gonna say it again!

Jesse Rifkin (a.ka. Jesse R. Berlin) will play electric guitar (one of my oldest and bestest musical pals – we met each other on Myspace in 2005 – such a beautiful guitar player). Tom Montagliano (of Maudlin Maladies) will provide the soundtrack to an experimental universe that will begin the night! Also involved – singing and more by Maia Friedman (Uni Ika Ai, Toebow), Alice Tolan-Mee (True Lucy) and Ethan Woods (Rokenri), percussion by Sandy Gordon (Silent Isle, Causings), violin by Elori Kramer (Alpenglow), keyboard and more by Judith Shimer (The Sneaky Mister), violin by Sarah Tolan-Mee (who is awesome) and elemental forces by Andrew Wells Ryder (True Lucy).

Tickets are donation based- we won’t turn anyone away- but this will go towards paying the performers and keeping the space warm. Make sure to come by 8.00pm so you do not miss anything. This could make a huge difference in your life! Or it may go on the same as always! See you there!

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More shortly, as we take on the weekend…

 

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