Well, actually this is the next-to-last gigs post of the year (I’ve still got to do the second round of Christmas parties). Apologies for terseness and excessive recycling of press-release blurb, but there’s a lot to pack in both here and elsewhere this month.
About half of these gigs are seriously avant-garde concerts for the London Contemporary Music Festival, with even more of a blizzard of links and odd video clips than usual. This particular flavour is a part of what ‘Misfit City’ does, but it’s not for everybody, so I’ll stash those down at the bottom of the post. That said, I’m starting with a couple of full-on jazz or electronic improvising gigs, so what I’ve ended up with is an unorthodox concert sandwich: the tough stuff at the top and the bottom and the easier, sweeter more tuneful stuff packed into the middle. Hopefully it will be easier to swallow that way. Scroll right down for news of the LCMF gigs at the start of the week, if you’re eager to catch them.
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Walthamstow’s newest (and only?) regular night of experimental/noisy/generally interesting music, returns with sets of bracing electronic experimentation from Phantom Chips and MXLX(the amazingly prolific Matt Loveridge, aka Fairhorns, Team Brick, and one third of BEAK>, among others), as well as the MNFN DJs playing ’til late.
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The Hat Speaks (LUME @ Hundred Years Gallery, 13 Pearson Street, Hoxton, London, E2 8JD, England, Thursday 17th December 2015, 7.30pm) – pay-what-you-want (£5.00 minimum) – information – tickets on the door
For our last gig of 2015 we return to Hundred Years Gallery in Hoxton, for the second edition of our dice-and-hat improvised music night. We held the first one in July to celebrate our second birthday, and it was so much fun we decided to do it again. As before, a nebulous ensemble of UK improvisers will gather to make spontaneous music together. This time the list looks like this:
Alison Blunt (violin, voice, assorted instruments) – Alex Bonney (trumpet) – Dee Byrne(saxophone) – Tim Fairhall (double bass) – Tom Greenhalgh (guitar, voice) – Anton Hunter (guitar) – Andrew Lisle (drums) – Percy Pursglove (trumpet, double bass) – Martin Pyne (percussion) – Tullis Rennie (trombone and possibly field recordings) – Ed Riches (guitar) – Cath Roberts (saxophone) – Tom Ward (saxophone, bass clarinet) – Colin Webster (saxophone) plus a couple more to be confirmed.
Taking inspiration from long-running Manchester night The Noise Upstairs (founded by Anton Hunter and Tullis Rennie, no less), we will put all the players’ names into a hat, throw the dice to determine how many musicians will play, and then draw out the names. The result is lots of mini- sets from often completely new combinations of people! (Some groups from last time have decided to carry on playing together too: Tom Ward and Adam Fairhall are now collaborating on a new quartet for 2016 after their hat encounter in the summer).
Do join us for this last gig of the year – it’s been a blast, so let’s see it off in style! Entry, as usual, is one Bank of England note of your choice.
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Singer-songwriter GRICE is something of a hidden treasure: the owner of a sweet, yearning, swooning voice and the writer of heart-on-sleeve songs of love, faith and regret which he’ll wrap in anything from grand Pink Floyd soundstaging, acoustic intimacy, glitch electronics to buttery prog-soul . Based down in the West Country, he’s bringing the music of his first two albums – ‘Propeller’ and ‘Alexandrine’ to a full-band December gig in Exeter. To give you an idea of the ambition of the records, they’ve featured a studding of art-rock talent – pedal steel master B.J. Cole, touch guitarist Markus Reuter, ‘Baker Street’ saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft, multi-instrumental producer Lee Fletcher, Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramsay and restless polymusical talent O5ric – with the more recent ‘Alexandrine’ boasting extensive input from Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri (both ex-Japan). See below for a taste of the live show.
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The Aristocrats + The Fierce & The Dead (Tidal Concerts @ Heaven, Under The Arches, Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NG, UK, Friday 18th December 2015, 6.00pm) – £28.25 – information here and here – tickets
It’s clear that the instrumental inquisitiveness of the three players in The Aristocrats can’t be contained or satisfied by their high-profile jobs as virtuoso rock sessioneers. In and out of a career as eclectic all-genre guitar commentator and instructor, Guthrie Govan has played for pomp-prog veterans Asia, for Steven Wilson and (in several genre swerve) for EDM mash-up project The Young Punx and hip hop star Dizzee Rascal. Bass player Bryan Beller has rumbled alongside assorted Frank Zappa alumni, been part of a literal cartoon band (Dethklok) and holds down the low end for instrumental metal guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani. Drummer Marco Minnemann overlaps both of his bandmates via gigs with Wilson and Satriani, has followed both Bill Bruford and Terry Bozzio in UK and has rattled along with Beller in metalcore punk/jazz fusion band Ephel Duath.
With that kind of collective pedigree you’d expect the kind of extreme burnished technique that’s found at the intersection of metal and prog, and you get it in spades. The Aristocrat’s instrumental rock fusion is packed with the spiralling festoonery, profound harmonic vocabulary and blizzarding speed of Allan Holdsworth; the leathers, hairstyles and bright tonal sheen of shred guitar and hair metal, and (possibly above all else) the polymorphic compositional swagger, virtuoso blurt and dirty-joke song titles of Frank Zappa.
This kind of stuff is Marmite music for sure. For every person bowing or happily moshing at the altar of The Aristocrats’ skills, there’ll be someone else sneering about technique-elitism, lack of soul or the perpetual hairy adolescence of metal (or making mean-spirited jokes about the Guitar Institute of Technology and acronyms). However, it’s a mistake to square off The Aristocrats and stick them into a handy box. After two albums of circus tricks and power-trio rock-outs, the band is stretching out, experimenting with layering, transcending their initial rock-audience pleasing. Most importantly, the improvisation which has always been a part of the band is also expanding, heading out into the realms of conversation and risk. There might still be a wide gap between them and say, the last few Miles Davis bands, but it’s starting to close.
An interesting – and welcome sign – of The Aristocrats’ broadening and development is their choice of support act. The Fierce & The Dead have been making their own waves in the same instrumental prog and metal ponds as the headliners, but although both bands touch in similar territories they’re coming from different places. The Fierce & The Dead are a much rougher-edged proposition than The Aristocrats, and it’s part of their charm: any one of their pieces is likely to sound like a hundred jewelled prog scarabs swarming over a vast chunk of gnarled punk wood, gnashing away. See below for evidence.
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Something happy and breezy now. Sara Spade sings, plays ukelele and (backed by crack acoustic duo The Noisy Boys) charges up and down nearly a century of popular music, cheerfully bending it to her will. Cases in point – “acoustic versions of George Michael’s ‘Faith’ dancing happily beside flapper & prohibition tunes, calypsos like ‘Rum & Coca Cola’ and ballads like ‘Secret Love’ from the 1953 movie ‘Calamity Jane’.” Sara also writes her own bubbly jazz-pop originals, one of which is here (with a video which, on evidence, I suspect was filmed on rooftops only a few streets away from ‘Misfit City’ HQ. It certainly looks the way that the summertime looks around here. If I’d been out and about on the right day, I could have tossed them a rose or something…)
Alt.rock and art rock diehards, please note that that’s Jonny Mattocks on the drums… yes, him who used to be in Spacemen 3, Spiritualized and The Breeders, and who seems to be having a pretty good time here. The other Noisy Boy is do-everything double bass player Jonny Gee. Sometimes ubiquitous British jazz guitar ace Rod Fogg joins in. Everyone sings.
I don’t generally go for cover bands very much; but bands who reinvent their stack of crowd-pleasing repertoire are a different matter, and frequently a guilty pleasure for which you should just drop the guilt. Sara’s wowed Jools Holland, Bestival, the British aristocracy and Hank Marvin, and you may greet this particular news with delight or horror… but either way, why should we let them keep her to themselves? It’s up to you, but an evening in her company seems like a good way to spend the last Saturday before Christmas.
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And to close, here’s that run-down through the remaining London Contemporary Music Festival concerts.
LCMF 2015: Chris Watson premiere (London Contemporary Music Festival 2015 @ Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS, England, Monday 14th December 2015, 7.30pm) – (probably) £11.75 – information – advance tickets sold out: limited tickets available on the door.
We present the world premiere of a monumental new work by sound artist and recordist Chris Watson. Drawing on extensive underwater recordings gathered by the artist from oceans around the world, ‘Okeanos’ – a multi-channel sound installation that will play in complete darkness – celebrates the songs, rhythms and music of the oceanic depths.
LCMF 2015: ‘To A New Definition Of Opera II ‘ (London Contemporary Music Festival 2015 @ Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS, England, Tuesday 15th December 2015, 6.30pm) – £11.75 – information – tickets
In an attempt to shift our perception of what opera can do and be, we present a second instalment of ‘To A New Definition of Opera’, in which performance, video art and neglected modernist opera rub shoulders. Alongside a new commission from British performance artist Sue Tompkins, the night will include composer Tim Parkinson’s apocalyptic anti-opera ‘Time With People’ (performed by the University of Huddersfield’s edges ensemble) and Los Angeles-based artist Ryan Trecartin‘s dystopian film ‘CENTER JENNY’.
The centrepiece of the evening will be the UK premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s celebrated ‘Pieta’ from ‘Dienstag aus Licht’, with the voice of Lore Lixenberg and flugelhorn of Marco Blaauw. Interlaced throughout the evening will be an extremely rare performance of excerpts from Ezra Pound’s troubadour opera about medieval ne’er-do-wells, ‘Le Testament de Villon‘, which critic Richard Taruskin called “a modernist triumph.”
Ezra Pound – excerpts from ‘Le Testament de Villon’ 1926 version (UK premiere) – performed by Lore Lixenberg (voice), Aisha Orazbayeva (violin), Lucy Railton (cello), Ian Sankey (trombone), Serge Vuille (percussion) Christopher Stark (conductor)
Karlheinz Stockhausen – Pieta from ‘Dienstag aus Licht'(UK premiere) – performed by Marco Blaauw (flugelhorn) and Lore Lixenberg (voice)
Ryan Trecartin – CENTER JENNY
Tim Parkinson – Opus 1, 2, 3 and 4 from ‘Time With People’ – performed by edges ensemble: John Aulich, Mira Benjamin, Jorge Boehringer, Eleanor Cully, Beavan Flanagan, Stephen Harvey, Dorothy Lee, Asher Leverton, David Pocknee and James Woods
Sue Tompkins – Like Sake (world premiere, LCMF commission) – performed by Sue Tompkins
LCMF 2015: ‘A Martian Sends A Postcard Home’ (London Contemporary Music Festival 2015 @ Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS, England, Wednesday 16th December 2015, 6.30pm) – £11.75 – information – tickets
‘A Martian Sends A Postcard Home’ takes its name from a poem by Craig Raine that sought to re-see the world through bold acts of defamiliarisation. This night celebrates the Martianist turn in music, with an exploration of composers who have made the familiar fresh.
The night will include the European premiere of Norwegian composer Øyvind Torvund‘s lawless chamber work ‘Untitled School/Mud Jam/Campfire Tunes’, performed by the Plus Minus Ensemble, and Andrew Hamilton‘s electrifying ‘music for people who like art’. In ‘Mezcal No. 8’ Swedish composer/performer Hanna Hartman transforms a copse of steel rods and washers into a sounding presence.
We honour two standard bearers of “making strange” in composition: Helmut Lachenmann and Dieter Schnebel. Aisha Orazbayeva performs Lachenmann’s ‘Toccatina’ alongside a recital of Russian poems by Mayakovsky and Yesenin that live and breathe the idea of estrangement or ostranenie. Meanwhile, composer and musician Christian Kesten presents Schnebel’s celebrated ‘Maulwerke’ where vocal technique is pulled apart into its constituent parts, alongside his own ‘Zunge Lösen’ that seeks to stage the tongues of three performers.
Artist Tino Sehgal takes on the body, intellectual property and materiality itself. ‘Instead of allowing some thing to rise up to your face dancing bruce and dan and other things’ is his earliest “livework”. It sees performer Louise Höjer transformed into, in the words of ‘Frieze Magazine’, a “hydraulic android”.
The night ends with a visit from Cairo’s E.E.K. Under the fingers of Islam Chipsy (accompanied by drummers Khaled Mando and Islam Tata), a digital keyboard is wrenched into explosive new sonic territory, articulating the sound of post-Tahrir electro-chaabi.
Tino Sehgal – Instead of allowing some thing to rise up to your face dancing bruce and dan and other things – performed by Louise Höjer
Selected poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky and Sergei Yesenin – performed by Aisha Orazbayeva (voice)
Helmut Lachenmann – Toccatina – performed by Aisha Orazbayeva (violin)
Christian Kesten – Zunge Lösen (Releasing the Tongue) – performed by Christian Kesten (voice)
Andrew Hamilton – music for people who like art – performed by Becca Carson (piccolo), Ausiàs Garrigos Mórant (bass clarinet), Ian Sankey (trombone), Sam Wilson (percussion), Jack Ross (electric guitar), Siwan Rhys (piano), Joanne Evans (voice), Eloisa Fleur-Thom (violin), Valerie Albrecht (viola), Oliver Coates (cello), Martin Ludenbach (bass guitar), James Weeks (conductor)
Dieter Schnebel – Maulwerke (2015 solo version) – performed by Christian Kesten
Hanna Hartman – Mezcal No. 8 (UK premiere) – performed by Hanna Hartman
Øyvind Torvund – Untitled School/Mud Jam/Campfire Tunes (European premiere) – performed by Plus Minus Ensemble: Mark Knoop (piano), Roderick Chadwick (piano), Serge Vuille (percussion), Elsa Bradley (percussion
Islam Chipsy & EEK – live set
LCMF 2015: ‘Requiem for Reality’ (London Contemporary Music Festival 2015 @ Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS, England, Thursday 17th December 2015, 6.30pm) – £11.75 – information – tickets
Some call it post-internet art: others “the New Aesthetic”. Whatever the name, there’s no doubt that the internet has scrambled the way we think, see and listen. Yet if art has placed this new paradigm at its heart, we are only now beginning to distil what it means for musical composition.
One pioneer of musical attempts to understand how things are changing in the digital shadow is Jennifer Walshe. The final night of LCMF 2015 will see the UK premiere of her latest, major one-woman work ‘Total Mountain’. Two further UK premieres arrive from Germany. Berlin-based Neele Hülcker investigates (as does Claire Tolan) the online phenomenon of autonomous sensory meridian response – or ASMR – in her work ‘Copy!’, while Brigitta Muntendorf explores the YouTubed bedroom in ‘Public Privacy No 2’.
The flight from reality captured by this post-internet music is not new. Serialist trailblazers like Milton Babbitt got there first with works such as ‘Reflections for piano & synthesized tape’. The hyperactive, networked aesthetic of Walshe and others, meanwhile, was foreshadowed by Jacob TV in ‘Grab It! Both are performed tonight.
As an occasional collaborator with London-based collective PC Music, Felicita‘s music is one in which the tropes of pop’s most commercial statements are accelerated, amplified and brought riotously together into a language that, if satirical, is also wildly inventive in its own right.
We conclude and project into the future with the long-awaited UK return of James Ferraro, whose 2011 album ‘Far Side Virtual’ is an essential post-internet text. For his forthcoming release ‘Skid Row’, Ferraro turns his attention to contemporary Los Angeles, a kind of “hyper-America” where violent realities are obsessively mediated and reproduced.
Milton Babbitt – Reflections – performed by Mark Knoop (piano) with original tape recording
Jacob TV – Grab It! – performed by Nick Goodwin (electric guitar)
Brigitta Muntendorf – Public Privacy #2 (UK premiere) – performed by Brigitta Muntendorf with Mark Knoop (piano)
Neele Hülcker – Copy! (UK premiere) – performed by Neele Hülcker
Jennifer Walshe – Total Mountain (UK premiere) – performed by Jennifer Walshe
Felicita – live set
James Ferraro – new work
Right. On to the parties…