Tag Archives: Ted Hughes

May 2020 – single & track reviews – Heavy Lamb/Jesse Cutts’ ‘CONFINEMENT-release4’; Jack Hayter’s ‘Let’s Go Shopping’ (Sultans of Ping F.C cover); Billie Bottle sings ‘Ted Hughes – Wind: Upheaval Imminent’

11 May

Jesse Cutts/Heavy Lamb: 'CONFINEMENT​/​release4'

Jesse Cutts/Heavy Lamb: ‘CONFINEMENT​/​release4’

The fourth helping of Brighton psychedelia from the Confinement Tapes series is more Heavy Lamb, and more Jesse Cutts. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. As was the case last time, while Jesse isn’t the only Lamb player the line between what’s him and what’s Lamb is blurring into the inconsequential. Certainly ‘All Dust’ is an actual Heavy Lamb piece at least: revisited, re-arranged and re-seasoned by Jesse and the other remaining Lambkin (John Gee), with Jesse’s mum, frequent collaborator and core Confinementeer Jo Spratley back on lead vocals, as she was for last month’s take on Cardiacs’ ‘Odd Even’.

It’s tempting to suggest that they should make it a permanent arrangement: Jo sounds happier doing Lambwork than she does in any other project, and the song itself is a delightful complication, unpacking plentiful musical material from inside a sleek indie-pop/rock shell. Threes against fours, sudden teases of hot spaces; voice keeping inside the chords but finding any conceivable space to hop around inside there; Propelled by Jesse’s cunning, slippery bass the chords themselves obligingly fold over and flip into new spaces so as to give the melody more space to roam and loop back. The Cardiacs influence is strong, but so’s the love for any batch of raucous goodtime English sunshine-pop. The lyric’s as complicated, digressive and warm as the music; something about fragile hearts surviving on the tide, something about continual replenishment. So far, it’s peak Lamb: not just an ideal bridge between rock disco and broader music, but great fun in its own right.


 
As with ‘All Dust’, the two instrumental pieces also contained in the package are new recordings, all played in their entirety by Jesse; in contrast to some of the more archival odds and sods on Confinement Tapes releases, these were only put together this month. In ‘Gutter Pigeon’, wobbled piano encountered during a downpour switching into orchestrated chord clambering, a lazy little pavement circus. After a shimmery start, ‘Small Things’ compresses and unpacks an album’s worth of development in a single six-minute tune. Lovely. If there’s a prog tone to all of this, it’s in keeping with those leisurely Kent’n’Sussex prog tones from Canterbury, Herne Bay and all of the other Mellow-on-Seas these kind of sunny benevolent English meanders come from.



 
From up the Thames estuary (and following his life-blasted, gutter-country cover of ‘The Dark End of the Street’ at the end of last month), Jack Hayter continues his lockdown broadcasts with a visit to 1990s Irish indie. As he recounts, “in 2004 an American band provided the British with a national anthem… ‘Mr Brightside’. Back in 1992 an Irish band did the same thing with ‘Where’s Me Jumper’. In the time of Corona we’re not dancing in the disco bumper-to-bumper. Neither are we going out shopping much… so this is all a bit pants, really. Dunno why I did this.. and I played bum notes too.”


 
Yes, the bum notes are obvious (not least because Jack lampshades each one of them with a quirk and a chuckle), but his warmth, humour and charm – even via webcam – are so engaging that it’s all forgivable. More importantly, it’s what he brings to the song that matters more than a finger-slip or two. The original Sultans of Ping version of ‘Let’s Go Shopping’ – the product of young men imagining a contented, domestic afterlife for a reformed raver and pillhead – almost vanishes under the sweet conscious hokiness of its string arrangements and its honky-tonk drum click. Jack’s version (basic voice and guitar) gently trims off the hints of irony and any tongue-in-cheek trappings.

As I mentioned last time, few people have such a skill at uncovering the tender core of a song. Watching Jack’s treatment is like watching a great little bit of subtle pub theatre story unfold. In his hands, it’s no longer something simple and jolly, but something grown touching and tender. Love for one’s wife, a nostalgia for wilder times but no regrets of any kind; embracing grown-up responsibilities (and burdens) with a sunny chuckle – “you can push the trolley – and I’ll push the pram.” And then, after this cheerful jaunt, lazy and affectionate, the cloud comes: lockdown bleakness casting a shadow over Jack’s face for a moment as the world shrinks and chills, and even dull everyday pleasures become fraught with peril. “Let’s go shopping, / we can wish away our fears. / Let’s go shopping, / the shops are really… near.” Jack plays this cover down as some kind of throwaway. Nothing he ever does is really a throwaway.

Billie Bottle‘s life has been in flux for a while – the transition from “he” to “they” to “she”, the rearrangement of day-to-day living and bands and dressing and sundry ways of doing things. Still, Billie’s an unfailingly positive and proactive character (as shown in her series of songs with non-binary musician/activist Kimwei – the most recently-aired one being here) and most of the unsettledness had eased down just before the plague blew in this spring.

From indoors, she’s just revealed some multi-layered new work taking on and reflecting both her innate calm and musicality, and the impact of an unsettled world. For now, though it’s just a lyrics video, with Billie announcing “well me lovelies, it feels like the right time to share one of the projects that have been on the go here in Bottledom over seven weeks of UK lockdown. My auntie read me the Ted Hughes poem, ‘Wind’, down the phone and I was struck by its power and pertinence. It blew itself into a kind of song, ‘Wind: Upheaval Imminent’. May you also be filled with its gustiness!”

As a member of Mike Westbrook’s band, Billie’s an heiress to his chamber-jazz poetics as well as to the playful jazzy lilt of the Canterbury sound. Both were well in evidence on last year’s ‘Grazie Miller’ EP, and they’re just as clear on ‘Wind: Upheaval Imminent’, a Hughesian account of a storm which “wielded / blade-light, luminous black and emerald, / flexing like the lens of a mad eye.”). Initially it’s an interplay between Billie’s high androgynous tenor and a sketching, dabbing piano; with drums, subtle blocks of organ, a near-subliminal bass, and a few judiciously-placed sound effects and concrete-instrumental coloration making their way into the mix.


 
Mostly, though, it’s the words and the voice. Billie responds to a setting in much the same way that Robert Wyatt handles a cover, and her carefully-timed leaps from note to note (all with an underlying, broken-up sense of swing) recapture the poem’s sense of awe; its trepidation and exultation, its illustration of the way that fragility shades strength. (“The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace, / At any second to bang and vanish with a flap: / The wind flung a magpie away and a black- / back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house / rang like some fine green goblet in the note / that any second would shatter it.” ) She uses the sprung challenges of jazz – the rhythm eddies, the intrusion of unexpected harmonic currents – to dig into the hinted upheaval in Hughes’ words.

As with the poem, the music ends unresolved – “now deep / in chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip / our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought, / or each other. We watch the fire blazing, / and feel the roots of the house move, but sit on, / seeing the window tremble to come in, / hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.” Structurally brilliant, captivatingly emotive, and an excellent marriage of text and music, it’s one of the best things Billie has ever done in a persistently ripening career.

Heavy Lamb/Jesse Cutts: ‘CONFINEMENT-release4’
The Confinement Tapes, CONFINEMENT_release4
Download/streaming single
Released: 4th May 2020
Get it from:
free/pay-what-you-like download from Bandcamp
Heavy Lamb/Jesse Cutts online:
Facebook Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM

Jack Hayter: ‘Let’s Go Shopping’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Video-only single
Released: 10th May 2020
Get it from:
currently view-only on YouTube
Jack Hayter online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM YouTube Vimeo Deezer Spotify Amazon Music

Billie Bottle: ‘Ted Hughes – Wind: Upheaval Imminent’
self-released, no catalogue number or barcode
Video-only single
Released: 11th May 2020
Get it from:
currently view-only on YouTube
Billie Bottle online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Bandcamp Last FM YouTube Spotify Instagram Amazon Music
 

May 2018 – upcoming gigs – world folk through various filters with Brona McVittie, Marcus Corbett and Sebastian Reynolds in Oxford (16th May); Jack Miguel and Sam Mumford’s rap-folk exploration of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath with ‘A Murder Of Crows’ in London (18th May)

11 May

Marcus Corbett + Brona McVittie + Sebastian Reynolds, 16th May 2018Here’s another prompt for me to pay more regular attention to what’s going on at the Daylight Music shows in London – British folk guitarist Marcus Corbett is playing there this month, and next Wednesday (alongside Brona McVittie, whose own Daylight performance I missed back in March due to looking elsewhere), they’re both playing at a separate event in Oxford.

It’s easy to miss or forget the pointers at concerts which might lead you somewhere interesting – and I only picked up information on this Oxford event – billed as “a night of Thai electronica, Indian classical meets British folk and pastoral Celtic folk through a kosmiche filter” – by accident. Meanwhile, here’s a bit more on Marcus and Brona…

Marcus Corbett is an Anglo-Indian singer and guitarist spending his time between the English West Country and Pune in India: likewise, his guitar playing draws on Western-shaped ideas of folk and blues, but also on the world and tones of Indian classical music. His most recent recording is 2013’s ‘Strung Deep’, which also calls upon the talents of bansuri flute player Milind Date, violinist Sanjay Upadhye and tabla players Ntin Gaikwad and Sharanappa Guttaragi. It’s this record, amongst others, that he’ll be playing from for this concert, for which he’s rejoined by Ntin Gaikwad. (Both Marcus and Ntin are currently on a wider tour together, which you can find out more about here.)



 
Brona McVittie is an Irish harpist, singer and electronic musician from County Down, perhaps best known for fronting/plucking for acclaimed London-Irish trad outfit The London Lasses and for adding the Early Music influences to the Orla Wren-affiliated neo-impressionist project littlebow. During the noughties, she played in folk duos Footnote and The Balance and Footnote duos, followed by a spell leading experimental folktronica band Forestbrook. More recently, her occasional experimental folk-pop work as Queen Of Corkbots has displayed a sprightly humour in electro-acoustic arrangements as well as a love of reviving and gently reinventing old folk songs, carols and not-so-innocent children’s ditties in a web of electronic blips, Mellotronic flutes, pattering synth percussion and other delicate ornamentation.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this comes the new work under her own name which she’s gathered up into her formal solo debut album, ‘We Are The Wildlife’. Voice, harp, flute and strings combine with careful well-honed electronic arrangements for what’s described as “a psycho-geographic journey through a collection of traditional folk ballads and original compositions inspired as much by the geometries of London’s urban fringes as by the sonic phenomena within the great rural landscapes of Mourne.”

For this performance, Brona will be accompanied by friend, collaborator and American émigré Myles Cochran on slide guitar; himself an established solo artist in the more psychedelic, atmospheric end of UK Americana. Here’s the title track from ‘We Are The Wildlife’, plus the album’s version of Irish traditional song Molly Brannigan.



 
The third act at the concert is Oxford musician and PinDrop promoter Sebastian Reynolds. Possibly solo, or possibly accompanied by his Solo Ensemble (also featuring keyboard player Jody Prewett, cellist Anne Müller and violinist Alex Stolze), he’ll be performing excerpts from his Mahajanaka Dance Drama project score (released on a Bandcamp EP last month). The music itself is founded on sampled loops taken from recordings of a piphat (high Thai classical) session undertaken by Thai pop ensemble the Krajidrid Band, which Sebastian has continued to build on.

The Mahajanaka story tells a tale from Buddhist mythology concerning a shipwrecked prince who survives alone at sea until the goddess of the ocean comes to his rescue. Here’s both Sebastian’s original version and a shimmering, urgent live treatment from the Solo Collective; plus a video documentary about the research into, and making of, the source music.


 
TMD Media and PinDrop present:
Marcus Corbett + Brona McVittie + Sebastian Reynolds
Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 1BP, England
Wednesday 16th May 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 
* * * * * * * *

A Murder Of Crows, 18th May 2018Back in London, at Poplar Union, there’s a coming together of spoken word, poetry, rap and experimental folk for Mental Health Awareness Week, as poet/rapper Jack Miguel collaborates with exploratory post-folk musician Sam Mumford in ‘A Murder Of Crows’, a multimedia response to ‘Crow‘, Ted Hughes’ collection of poems dealing with his own “demons” following the suicide of his wife and fellow poet Sylvia Plath. All proceeds will go towards supporting the Campaign Against Living Miserably, an award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide (the single biggest killer of men under the age of forty-five in Britain) with additional donations encouraged on the door. This is a work-in-progress, so expect – even savour – a few rough edges, which might be part of the point.

Well established as a guitarist, singer, composer and sound artist, Sam makes a kind of deconstructed and rebuilt electro-acoustic folk music which draws equal comparisons to Bob Dylan, Joan Armatrading, Aphex Twin and Venetian Snares. While electronic sound techniques and collagery (taken from Sam’s love of dub, techno, drum and bass and electronica) lean in to both the mix and the toolbox, shaping and impling, Sam’s work is rooted in fingerpicking and voice, resulting in an unmoored new folk music which carries its roots with it as sleepwalking instinct, leaving him free to explore the here and now, whether addressing personal concerns or broader contemporary matters.

In this he’s well matched by Jack, whose own previous work has encompassed sound design, sculpture and moving image. The first poet and rapper to attend the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, he’s gone on (as “Jakaboski”) to become a writer and performer with psychedelic hip hop group Strangelove (and release his own solo debut, the ‘Mount Strive’ EP, in 2014). He also also exibits his own art installations, and works as a diverse arts educator with a particular specialisation in damaged but nurturable psyches (working in hospitals, pupil referral units and secure psychiatric units).

The latter, in particular, has led to work like Jack’s collaborative installation and performance study ‘The Turning of the Leaves’, a meditation on the First World War, masculinity and intergenerational trauma (drawing on the aforementioned Hughes, Carl Jung and Kendrick Lamar, and dealing directly with “the challenges facing men today amidst inherited narratives of power, violence and invulnerability.”) It will be interesting – and important – to see how this interest in toxic and tortured masculinity feeds into Jack and Sam’s examination of Hughes: well known, even beyond his poetry, as a man’s man and an alpha male; and whose treatment of Plath (including his co-opting of her posthumous legacy) has come under increasing challenge and outright attack in recent years (a further darkening of the story).
 



 
Also engaged with the project are two special guests – performance poet and theatre maker Cecilia Knapp and cellist-composer Natasha Zielanzinski (who specialises in contemporary repertoire, early music, free improvisation and folk music and whose performance history spans Sadlers Wells, Kanye West, the Royal Court Theatre and Kate Tempest). More special guests may be announced closer to concert time, although there’s only a week to go…

Jack Miguel & Sam Mumford present:
‘A Murder of Crows’
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Friday 18th May 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

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