Tag Archives: Test Dept.

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Richard Barbieri and Grice’s brief English tour with Duncan Chave and Lisen Rylander Love (16th, 26th, 28th); plus ’80s synthpop heaven at Birmingham’s Seventh Wave Festival with Rusty Egan, Chris Payne, Test Dept. and more… (23rd-26th)

26 Feb

Richard Barbieri + Grice on tour, March 2017In mid-March, Richard Barbieri heads out on a five-date English tour supporting his new album ‘Planets & Persona’: on all but one of the dates he’ll be sharing the bill with art-pop singer-songwriter Grice.

Over a five-decade career as a keyboard player, Richard has exemplified a precise balance between pop and the avant-garde. Initially compared to both Brian Eno and Karlheinz Stockhausen, his work anticipated the likes of Aphex Twin and a host of shrouded twenty-first century electronica artists. Initially finding fame as the keyboard player in art-pop band Japan, his approach reached its first apogee in the chimes-and-sibilance atmospherics of their 1982 single Ghosts: unwilling to be restricted by the glamour-punk through which he’d entered music (yet unsuited to either roots playing or the formal technicalities of progressive rock) he’d concentrated instead on developing electrophonic timbre and immaculately-planned textural arrangements, allied to subtle pop tunefulness.

Richard went on to refine his techniques in the post-Japan realignment projects Rain Tree Crow and Jansen Barbieri Karn, to work with left-field instrumentalists and bands (including Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Percy Jones, No-Man and The Bays), and to become an experimental sonic foil for singer-songwriters (Steve Hogarth, Tim Bowness, his own wife Suzanne on ambient folk project Indigo Falls). For seventeen years he was a member of Porcupine Tree, helping to shape the texture of the band’s music as it shifted from psychedelic space rock through prog to metallic adult rock, while simultaneous honing his own skills with more conventional keyboard playing on organ, clavinet and Mellotron. Richard’s recent string of solo albums – including ‘Planets & Persona’ – marry his past experiences with further inspirations from contemporary dance, electronica and left-field progressives.


 

One of the singer-songwriters who’ve benefited from Richard’s textural input, Grice is a more recent art-rock emergent. London-born but now Devon-based, he began as an early ‘90s arty Britpopper with the bands Laugh Like A Madman and The Burning Martyrs before refining his work with the successor project hungersleep. Since 2012 he’s been a solo artist.The subsequent ‘Propeller’ and ‘Alexandrine’ albums – plus last year’s ‘Refractions’ EP – have explored Grice’s drive towards dramatic and emotive songcraft. Blending his ballad-singer openness and the feathered strength-and-vulnerability of his high, breathy voice with a wide range of acoustic and electronic ingredients (brass-band and acoustic guitar, Uillean pipes and violins, touchstyle instrumentation and electronic glitch) they’ve rewarded him with acclaim in art-pop and progressive rock circles, plus the opportunity to collaborate on his own terms with instrumental and production luminaries such as BJ Cole, Markus Reuter, Raphael Ravenscroft, Lee Fletcher, Hossam Ramzy and Steve Jansen.


 

Dates:

  • Vibraphonic Festival @ Exeter Phoenix, Bradninch Place, Gandy Street, Exeter, EX4 3LS, England, Thursday 16th March 2017, 8.00pminformation
  • Seventh Wave Festival of Electronic Music @ The Blue Orange Theatre, 118 Great Hampton Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B18 6AD, England, Sunday 26th March 2017, 1.30pminformation
  • Seventh Wave Festival of Electronic Music @ The Blue Orange Theatre, 118 Great Hampton Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B18 6AD, England, Sunday 26th March 2017, 6.30pminformation
  • Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6SH, England, Tuesday 28th March 2017, 7.00pminformation

On all dates, GRICE will be performing with his collaborator Duncan Chave, a Devon-based theatre composer and sound designer who (in addition to handling loops and programming) plays the Eigenharp, an intriguing breath/strip/finger-flex MIDI controller. In Exeter, they’ll also be joined by the rest of GRICE’s band (Jo Breban on drums, Al Swainger on bass and pedals).

In contrast, Richard Barbieri performs solo at Exeter, but at the Birmingham theatre shows and the London date will be performing with Swedish singer/saxophonist/electronics player Lisen Rylander Löve, formerly half of experimental pop/jazztronica duo Midaircondo and one of the major guest contributors to ‘Planets & Persona’.

* * * * * * * *

While I’m here, a little more on the other events in the Seventh Wave Festival in Birmingham (for more information on Exeter’s Vibraphonic event, go browsing, since they don’t seem to have put a website together this year…) Put together by the people behind the local electronica radio show of the same name, Seventh Wave Festival expands the show’s sideline of putting on electronica, synthpop, post-punk, Goth and New Wave music nights in Birmingham.

Seventh Wave Festival of Electronic Music 2, March 2017This particular concert series has a strong late-’70s/early-’80s focus, calling in some big names from the first synthpop wave. Visage mainstay and onetime ‘Blitz’ club DJ Rusty Egan will be performing material from his new album ‘Welcome to the Dancefloor’, as well as providing DJ slots and talks. Rusty’s ‘Fade to Grey’ co-writer Chris Payne (who also worked with Dramatis and Dead or Alive, as well as spending a decade in Gary Numan’s band) will be showing up with a brief resurrection of his early ‘80s post-Numan project Electronic Circus – for more on that, have a read of his recent interview with ‘The Electricity Club’. There’ll also be appearances by Richard Barbieri and by Human League/Heaven 17/British Electric Foundation’s Martyn Ware.

Although late ’80s dance-poppers Scarlet Fantastic (of ‘No Memory’ fame) have had to pull out, they’ve been replaced by Peter Coyle of the revived The Lotus Eaters; his fellow New Wavers Blue Zoo are also in place. At the more experimental end, two members of electro-experimentalists Test Dept (Graham Cunnington and Paul Jamrozy) will be on hand with “an electronic remix preview of upcoming Test Dept album material” complete with audio-visual mix.

Also contributing are representatives of newer takes on the electronic approach – Salford’s expansive Gnod collective, Ade Bordicott’s drone project Mutate, the vintage synthpop movie soundtrack-inspired Agents Of Evolution and Tony Adamo’s Ten:Ten project.

  • Test Dept:Redux (Graham Cunnington/Paul Jamrozy) + Gnod + Mutate – The Flapper, Cambian Wharf, Kingston Row, Ladywood, Birmingham, B1 2NU, England, Thursday 23rd March 2017, 7.00pminformation
  • Chris Payne’s Electronic Circus (Gary Numan/Visage) + DJ Rusty Egan + Peter Coyle (Lotus Eaters) + Ten:Ten – The Flapper, Cambian Wharf, Kingston Row, Ladywood, Birmingham, B1 2NU, England, Friday 24th March 2017, 7.00pminformation
  • A Morning with… Richard Barbieri – Birmingham and Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, City Centre Core, Birmingham B3 3BS, England, Saturday 25th March 2017, 9.00 aminformation
  • Electronic Music Conference (featuring Martyn Ware, Chris Payne, Richard Barbieri & Rusty Egan) – Birmingham and Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, City Centre Core, Birmingham B3 3BS, England, Saturday 25th March 2017, 12.00pminformation
  • Rusty Egan (with Chris Payne) + DJ Martyn Ware + Blue Zoo + Agents Of Evolution – The Flapper, Cambian Wharf, Kingston Row, Ladywood, Birmingham, B1 2NU, England, Saturday 25th March 2017, 7.00 pminformation
  • (see also the Birmingham Richard Barbieri/Grice dates above…)

 

Upcoming London gigs on 26th June – Bing Selfish & The Windsors/Andrew Ford/élan/Ragmatic play Club Integral @ The Others; The Many Few/Purple Implosion/Halcyon Days play the Dublin Castle

20 Jun

Usually I’ve got pin-sharp memories of where and when I saw a band play. The one occasion when I saw The Kenny Process Team is an exception. I’ve got next to nothing. A scruffy black cube of a room somewhere, with guitar leads and primary-colours gaffa on the floor; a small-kit drummer ticking away with a pair of bisected sticks. A guitarist and bass player sit on amplifiers or boxes, playing with the whiskery, matter-of-fact precision of master joiners shaping their umpteenth wooden cabinet. A second guitarist stands off to one side, with a flowing sheaf of dreadlocks. The lone black guy in an otherwise white quartet, he almost looks as if he’s been teleported in from a reggae backline but his eyes, wary and committed, tell a different story. Clearly engrossed in the music, he plays blunt, abbreviated questioning lines against the rolling machinery of his bandmates; their mixture of Fifties-twang and conversational Fred Frith art-rock arpeggios, of lean spare proggy lines a-tilt on the wave tube.

As regards the rest of it, I remember nothing. Not the stairs up or down to the venue, nor where it was. “Somewhere in London” is the best I can do. Otherwise, this little memory exists in a cell of its own – a room floating in a void, a space that existed purely as a setting for the music. I certainly wasn’t drunk, nor under the influence of anything stronger than a semiquaver. I may well have been slightly hypnotised by the Team’s cramped fluidity, the crystallising complexities jagging up from simple bases. Bar a single, rare record, the band themselves have sometimes seemed to have vanished down a black hole. Even the web only offers the smallest scraps on them. While I only encountered them once, they apparently played together for eighteen years. Perpetually on the sidelines? Deliberate masters of self-effacement, only really coalescing for gigs?

Seeing a different iteration of The Kenny Process Team pop up around a decade later for a Club Integral gig, therefore, is quite surprising, although everyone concerned has probably been hiding in plain sight. I guess that they won’t have been the invisible band to everyone (and, in particular, not the more knowledgeable people who are likely to make up a Club Integral audience) – but if, like me, you remember the Team as an oblique one-night encounter which snagged in your memory, here’s an opportunity to catch up.

Blurb follows…

Club Integral presents “A Thousand Butterfly Skeletons” featuring Bing Selfish & The Windsors, élan, Andrew Ford and Ragmatic (The Others, 6-8 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, London, N16 5SA, UK, Friday 26th June, 8.00 pm – price £5.00/£3.00 concession)

In an exciting one-off performance, fabled DIY pioneer and visionary misanthrope Bing Selfish is joined by micro-lounge minimalist rock quartet The Windsors. From the early eighties Bing Selfish has followed his own unique path, assisted on the journey by a plethora of maverick musicians from Jim Whelton, Rob Storey, through to Bill Gilonis and Chris Cornetto. Drawing from the well of European avant-garde sensibility, from the Symbolists to the Situationists, coupled with relentless punning and sardonic rhyming, Bing has built his own parallel world, defiantly in opposition to 21st century neo-conservative capitalism, and mainstream musical consurism. Many magazines, records, radio shows and films later he still stands upon the stage, and he’s still seriously pissed off. Chris Cutler has described him as “a phenomenon in the galaxy of songsters today” while ‘The Wire’ has hailed him as “an intuitively sharp lyricist with few peers.” More pungently, Options USA has imagined his character as “a self-pitying drunk, a self-loathing homosexual, a bitter poli-sci professor, or all of the above.”

The Windsors rose from the ashes of the legendary Kenny Process Team, described by Eugene Chadbourne as “forward-looking electric guitar music with a rock base, (stylistically) somewhere between the precision control of surf rock groups such as the Ventures and the almost classical compositions Captain Beefheart.” The new group (Simon King – guitar, Tom Murrow – drums, Matthew Armstrong – bass, and Phil Bartai – keyboards) play intricate, driving instrumentals composed by Kevin Plummer with the band. This is a one-off chance to hear them apply their genius for deftness, intricacy and dynamic arrangement to the anarchic poesy of Bing’s song catalogue.

élan is the kosmische muzik side-project of Dave Tucker (The Fall, London Improvisers Orchestra, Charm School) and friends. He is joined by Matt Chiltern (Spork) on bass, and Ed Lush (Test Dept. Spork) on drums and percussion. Expect krautrock.

Ragamatic is Reiner Heidhorn, a sitar-and-electronics musician from Weilheim in Germany. The music is a result of Reiner’s many years studying classical Hindustani music whilst simultaneously making electronic music. With an emphasis on ragas from northern India, played in the style of master sitar player Vilyat Khan, Reiner locates the natural meeting point between Indian classical music and contemporary electronics.”
Projections by Rudapinka, aka Inga Tillere.

Andrew Ford is also playing – details to be circulated later.

More information on the concert and on other Club Integral events is here.

If you’d prefer something a little more straightahead, then another option is to catch The Many Few playing on the same night, promising to “edify and exultate your earballs and eyedrums with our own original guitar-drum-and-vocal shenanigans… on an optimistically lovely Friday Juneful night coming soon, in the company of assorted fellow groovesters.”

(Headliners t.b.c.) + Purple Implosion + The Many Few + Halcyon Days (Bugbear @ The Dublin Castle, 94 Parkway, NW1 7AN, London, UK, Friday 26th June, 7.30pm – £7.00/£5.00)

I covered some early Many Few demos some years ago, offering assorted comments and insults on their witty, slightly wonky songcraft which the band still seems to remember with affection. As for other descriptions, Bugbear settles for “kitchen-sink lo-fi indie-pop with female/male harmonies and vocal sharings over some Smiths meets McCarthy C86 type backing. Some interesting twists and turns. A bit of The Monochrome Set, something of Yeah Yeah No and stuff like that.” (The Bugbears go on to quote a bit of the ‘Misfit City’ review a bit later on – or, rather, misquote it. It’s a bittersweet world, writing about indie-pop.)

Also on the bill are Halcyon Days (“hooky electro-pop with a nod to 80’s pop but with an electro interface more akin to New Order off-shoot Electronica”) and Purple Implosion (“another great band mixing spiky post-punking punk-funk with counter-cultural garage-birthed rock’n’roll featuring out-there frontman antics.. but always pretty damn danceable.”) In addition, there’s also an unconfirmed headline act. Probably Kate Bush again, or perhaps The Sonic Jewels. You’ll just have to go along and hope, I suppose.

More information here and tickets here.

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