Tag Archives: Tell Tale Tusk

February 2018 – upcoming London gigs (folk, jazz, soul, and eclectic acoustica) – Ian Beetlestone & the Drowning Rats (10th February); Matsudisho and Alice Phelps (18th February); plus Tell Tale Tusk (12th February), Alice Zawadski’s cello-heavy Valentine Show (14th February) and Kabantu’s album launch (8th February)

5 Feb

Even more than the Magic Garden (as covered a few posts back), Camden’s Green Note serves as a London folk-boutique par excellence. Most evenings, its small café space wedges in the cream of roots acts, the care they take over choice, presentation and atmosphere often justifying the priceyness of an evening out. You get what you pay for.

Here are a few things on offer there during early February:

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Ian Beetlestone & The Drowning Rats, 10th February 2018

Ian Beetlestone & The Drowning Rats
The Basement Bar @ The Green Note, 106 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AN, England ·
Saturday 10th February 2018, 8:00pm
– information here, here and here

Plenty of charming elements and conversational topics converge in Ian Beetlestone. He’s a Yorkshireman-turned-Londoner, a pop and chanson connoisseur, a gay man and a cabbie. Several of these come together in his lively, engaging cabbie’s blog; even more of them combine in the fact that for the last couple of years Ian’s driven the capital’s first (and, to date, only) rainbow-coloured taxi (for what it’s worth, it’s becoming a much-loved city ornament both inside and outside of Pride, and he gets more stick from fellow cabbies over the Transport for London logo than he does for the LGBT+ associations).

As for the musicality, that flourishes in his all-singing acoustic trio The Drowning Rats, who offer “(a) unique combination of ratty jazz, drowned pop, magic, mystery, darkness and light to the capricious twin deities of love and song with ever pleading, hopeful eyes.” Having started up in Leeds about a decade and a half ago (and survived a subsequent re-potting in London), they’ve been the players of regular gigs in Soho (until recently, at the Blue Posts) and their home turf of Kings Cross (at the Star of Kings) as well as the Green Note.


 
With Ian’s florid piano backed by Dom Coles’ drumkit and Tom Fry’s double bass (and with occasional visitations from beery horns and assorted vocal foils), they deliver songs bursting with melody, harmony and joie de vivre; nodding to Brel and barrelhouse, Tom Waits and Paul Weller, Nina Simone and the Shangri-Las; suffused with wry reflection, wit and camaraderie. Ian rolls them out in a joyful soul growl – honey, gravel, fur and phlegm, with the hint of a romantic tenor under the wear and tear. It’s a little Tom Waits, but it’s rather more Dr John (if instead of immersing himself in the Big Easy, he’d taken a ship up the Thames estuary to found a bayoux in a London canal basin).

If you’re specifically after queerness, you’ll find it in the subtle and rosy sexual glow which illuminates many of the songs like fireside warmth, and also in the elastic inclusive community etched out in hints and amongst the broader scope of Ian’s songwriting. Inclusivity’s the word, in fact: there’s little details and easter eggs sown throughout the songs if you want to pick them up and decode them, but in general it’s all woven together with subtlety and open-heartedness. You can walk through their door and enjoy epic magic-realist power ballads about the A40, jaunts around the concerns, compromises and evasions of friendships, sly ballads which put the boot into Soho gentrification, and cheerfully apocalyptic accounts of mornings-after… all without worrying that you need to belong to any particular club. Although, in the extremely cosy confines of the Green Note’s basement bar, you’ll soon feel as if you do belong to one.



 
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Matshidiso + Alice Phelps
The Green Note, 106 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AN, England
Sunday 18th February 2018, 8:30pm
– information here, here and here

Matshidiso, 2017
I’m not sure just how hard you have to work, just how much you have to do, blossom and branch out before you burst the “secret” side of “well-kept secret” wide open. I would have thought that Matshidiso would have reached that point a long time ago.

Music flows through pretty much everything she lives and does, stemming from the cosmopolitan stew of her upbringing (a native Londoner with Jamaican and Sotho heritage, a classical piano trainee with a parallel love of soul, hip-hop and the cream of 1970s singer-songwriters) and blossoming into her realisation of herself as do-it-all artist – on-call pianist and singer, producer/writer/arranger for herself and for others. Sometimes a band leader, always a constant communicator, Matshidiso has led creative workshops; run song sessions across the internet from her own front room and played venues from the Southbank Centre to South Africa. All this and she’s also a qualified and multilingual international human rights barrister (with experience fighting sex trafficking rings in Ethiopia); a spokesperson for activism around positive African and female identity; a visiting music therapist at the Royal Marsden; a rehabilitating coach and encourager for young male offenders at various prisons; and a onetime relief worker in Haiti.

All of which would be gems on anyone’s resume (and which suggests someone who’s already learned and given back more than most of us will in an entire lifetime) but as a musician, the final proof has to be in the songs Matshidiso sings. Traditional they might be, but she’s learnt well from the craft of forebears such as Roberta Flack, Laura Nyro and Lauryn Hill, creating harmonically rich keyboard-driven work drawing from songwriter soul, gospel and pop through which she roams with self-awareness and generous interest in other people’s efforts and struggles.


 
Maybe Matshidiso’s relatively low profile is because of the fact that, despite being the best part of a decade into her career, she’s yet to record a debut album, or even that many releases. There’s been a smattering of very occasional singles; there’s been a 2012 EP of nursery rhymes reconfigured for adults (an idea that fits neatly into of what ‘The Guardian’s called her whimsical yet solicitous approach, and one that’s far more successful than its spec would suggest). In many artists this would seem to be a flaw – a shortage of the hunger, the self-assertion, the pushy pride which is needed to succeed.

I’d suggest the opposite – that Matshidiso’s artistic presence is one that’s absolutely caught up in the moment, too much so to have prioritised lumping her output down into artefacts or commodities. Her work is live, whether it’s in the concerts in which she improvises made-up-on-the-spot stories from the personal accounts of audience members, or the connection she makes with prisoners, the lost, the under-represented as part of work which goes beyond being an entertainer and engages itself with re-weaving music (with all of its connecting and healing qualities) back into the fabric of everyday life.



 

Opening the show is Leeds-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alice Phelps (who, with her full band, was delighting Daylight Music earlier in the weekend). Harpist, guitarist, pianist, violinist and rich grainy singer, Alice spins blues into folk, Irish, Chinese and otherworldly elements to create original songs and a full-bodied chamber pop. On this occasion, she’s on her own; but she’ll be back at the Green Note next month with a full ensemble of strings, harp and choir. For now, enjoy her songs in their simpler format.



 

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A few more familiar faces are showing up at the Green Note at around the same time. On 12th February, contemporary female folk ensemble Tell Tale Tusk, who work “spellbinding (and award-winning) vocal harmonies…around melodious instrumentals to reimagine folktales old and give light to folktales new” bring their harmonies and humour back to Camden Town for an evening of old and new songs. On 14th February, Alice Zawadzki – whose name has been scattered around these pages for her voice and/or violin work alone or with Sefiroth, Jamie Safir and others – presents a Valentine’s Day Special of known and unknown songs, covers and originals (assisted by dual cello improvisers Alice Purton and Shirley Smart). Or – if you fancy a different venue and a different blend of polycultural acoustica – then on 8th February Manchester world quintet Kabantu are launching their debut album down at Rich Mix in Shoreditch. Plentiful…




 

November/December 2017 – upcoming London folk gigs – Tell Tale Tusk in Rotherhithe (29th November); Sefiroth in Poplar (3rd December)

22 Nov

One of the best things about running the gig notification side of ‘Misfit City’ is uncovering unknown venues – ones which were previously unknown to me, at least. The ongoing embittering saga of London’s shuttering venues (gobbled up by flats or zoning, squeezed out by skyrocketing rents or bullying neighbours) is at least offset by news of new ones, be they dedicated performance buildings or reclaimed/improvised spaces. From what I hear, half of Peckham seems to be sprouting pop-up performance opportunities: but on this occasion, I’m taking a look at a couple of spaces nearer the river.

I can’t think why I’ve not heard of Sands Films Studios before – as institution and location, they’ve been in place for forty-two years, nearly as long as me. Based in an 18th century granary in the same corner of Rotherhithe as The Mayflower pub, they’ve made most of their money from costumery (sumptuous hand-embroidery for Merchant Ivory, ‘Wolf Hall’, ‘Doctor Who’, the film version of the Lloyd Webber ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and many more) but over the years have expanded into sound and film staging, some of it contained in a small, sofa-filled, enchanted-looking theatre space like a pocket Georgian dream. Judging the latter to be “an inspiringly intimate place to hear fabulous music”, promoters Tunedin.London have swooped on it. Since this September alone, it’s hosted Chilean flamenco from Natalia Garcia Huidobro, polyglot West African songs from Jean Paul Samputu, Galician music from Uxía, and trans-Manche Celtic songcraft from both Siobhan Wilson and Mary Ann Kennedy, with upcoming baroque and rebetiko concerts to come.

My not knowing about Poplar Union is more understandable. it really is brand new – a dedicated arts and community centre for this neglected London neighbourhood above the Isle of Dogs, adding light and colour to a tower block beside the Limehouse Cut, its name a wry nod to the area’s former Victorian workhouse. Much of what goes on there is community workshops, but they’re also getting up to speed as an interesting gig venue, having hosted a double showcase for polyfusional song outfits 1816 and Land of If, with a vibrant sets of new jazz concerts lined up for next year.

Here’s what they’re doing next…

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Tuned In London present:
Tell Tale Tusk Quartet
Sands Films Studios, 82 St Marychurch Street, Rotherhithe, SE16 4HZ, London, England
Wednesday 29th November 2017, 7.45pm
– information here and here

Tell Tale Tusk, 2017Hailed as “clever, witty and deep” by Resonance FM – and based around singing clarinettists/guitarists Fiona Fey and Laura Inskip, singing percussionist Reyhan Yusuf and fiddle player Anna Lowenstein – folk band Tell Tale Tusk Quartet have “grown and developed together over the years, emerging first as an a capella trio, before collecting a fiddle player and setting hands upon new instruments to explore and expand their palette. Their highly collaborative process informs the diverse styles and varied sounds that can be heard within their music. Spellbinding (and award-winning) vocal harmonies weave around melodious instrumentals to reimagine folktales old and give light to folktales new. Tell Tale Tusk’s take on folk is boundlessly creative: as well as being inventive interpreters of music from around the British Isles, the ensemble are prolific writers, adding their distinctive and astute voices to modern day folksong.”

This end-of-November gig celebrates the recent launch of ‘Through The Morning’, the band’s crowdfunded debut EP as a quartet, featuring “an anthropomorphized journey through the changing seasons, a pensive ode to the Moon and a bawdy tale of a (not so) lascivious sailor… just some of the characters that come vividly to life through Tell Tale Tusk’s dynamic storytelling.” In keeping with Rotherhithe’s ongoing celebrations of the three-hundred-and-ninety-seventh anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, expect a few sea shanties too. Meanwhile, see below for the quartet’s arrangement of an old English folk song performed earlier in the year at Sofar Sounds, plus a rip through Ungrateful Wench from one of the occasions when the band goes out as a rhythm-section-bolstered sextet.



 
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Sefiroth
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Sunday 3rd December 2017, 6.30pm
information

Via projects such as Otriad, Blue-Eyed Hawk, Future Currents and Yurodny and through collaborations with orchestras such as the London Sinfonietta, the work of multi-disciplinary guitarist Alex Roth covers jazz, improv, contemporary classical, alternative folk and electronic music; and crosses over into dance and theatre events such as the Katarzyna Witek dance project aired earlier this month.

Sephiroth, 2017One of the projects closest to his heart is chamber-folk ensemble Sefiroth, founded with his brothers (saxophonist and flautist Nick, drummer Simon) to “explore and reimagine traditional Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) repertoire… Sung in Ladino, these ancient songs weave timeless stories of love, loss and yearning for home, evoking the lands in which the Sephardic diaspora settled: Iberia, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The group’s arrangements are as porous and wide-ranging as the history of the Sephardim, combining acoustic and electric instruments, contemporary harmony, improvisation and trance-inducing rhythms.”

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard anything new from Sephiroth, although various combinations of the band, drawn from a pool of mostly Anglo-Sephardic musicians – percussionist Francesco Turrisi, trumpeter Alex Bonney, cellist Shirley Smart and bassist Ruth Goller, with the vocals handled by Olesya Zdorovetska and violinist Alice Zawadzki – have regularly interacted with each other since the ensemble’s last full concert circa 2013. It now seems as if they’re all collectively refreshed and up for more. This Poplar Union show promises to be the first in a new set of dates for the band.

Meanwhile, see below for some excerpts from Sefiroth’s previous multimedia show, ‘Arvoles Lloran por Lluvia (The Trees Weep For Rain)’, which you can also pick up as a Bandcamp EP.



 

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