Tag Archives: The Forge (venue) – Camden Town – London – England

April/June/July 2017 – upcoming classical gigs – William Howard’s ‘Love Music?’ project for piano – London showcase with Judith Weir (26th April); further shows in London (26th June) and Cheltenham (9th July)

13 Apr

William Howard writes “Throughout my professional career I have enjoyed working with composers and commissioning new works. While I was preparing to record my album of romantic love songs for piano, I started wondering what their contemporary equivalents might sound like. I thought many composers might not take to the idea of writing a piano ‘love song’, with its suggestions of a romantic genre, but almost every composer I approached reacted with great enthusiasm. Since love is a theme common to music across the world and across the centuries, I realised that a collection of twenty-first century piano love songs could provide a perfect introduction to the different musical languages of living composers, especially for listeners who come to new music somewhat reluctantly.”

This is the outcome.

Hoxton Hall/Spitalfields Music presents:
William Howard & Judith Weir: ‘Love Music?’
Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6SH, England
Wednesday 26th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

William Howard: 'Love Music', 26th April 2017“How do today’s composers write about love? Join pianist William Howard and composer Judith Weir, Master of the Queens Music, to explore a fascinating selection of new piano pieces expressing different aspects of love through different musical styles.

“William Howard will premiere works by Richard Reed Parry (from Arcade Fire), Joby Talbot (once of The Divine Comedy), Robert Saxton, David Knotts and leading Czech composer Pavel Zemek Novák, together with the winning pieces of his recent composing competition that attracted over five hundred entries from fifty-four countries.

“This is an informal evening with contributions from several composers. Questions and feedback from the audience will be welcome.”

Having selected the concert pieces, William’s just commented “they are all very different in character, mood and level of difficulty and offer a fascinating taster menu of different ways in which composers approach writing music of a very personal nature. ‘Camille’ by Joby Talbot is dedicated to his eight-month-old daughter, Robert Saxton’s ‘For Teresa’ is dedicated to his wife. Richard Reed Parry’s ‘Fast Cloud’ is a fantasy of swirling fast notes, Pavel Zemek Novák’s ‘Little Song of Love and Mercy is a spiritual reflection. The two winning pieces of my composing competition are also very contrasted. Chia-Ying Lin‘s ‘Chanson Perpétuelle’ describes “the kind of love which is everlasting and constantly renewed over time” in an imaginative sound world of crystalline textures, while Freddy Viner‘s ‘Herz an Herz’ is an unashamedly romantic piece evoking the spirit of Wagner. The concert will end with Cheryl Frances-Hoad‘s glorious tribute to Dusty Springfield.”

Programme (in no particular order):

David Knotts – Album Leaf
Chia-Ying Lin – Chanson Perpétuelle (winner, Over 25 category)
Pavel Zemek Novák – Little Song Of Love And Mercy
Richard Reed Parry – Fast Cloud
Robert Saxton – For Teresa
Joby Talbot – Camille
Frederick Viner – Herz an Herz (winner, Under 25 category)
Cheryl Frances-Hoad – Love Song For Dusty

It’s a pity that there doesn’t seem to be a chance of hearing the runner-up pieces (Simon Mawhinney’s ‘ Daniel Josiah is Sleeping ‘, Nathan James Dearden’s ‘love holds me captive again’, Samuel Cho Lik Heng’s ‘Arbophillia’ and Daniel Fardon’s ‘Saudade’) but perhaps they’ll surface at some point. Meanwhile, William has a couple of follow-up Love Songs concerts scheduled:

 
The new pieces act as a companion set to the works on William’s 2016 release ‘Sixteen Love Songs’ (on Orchid Classics).


 

April 2017 – upcoming ambient/textural gigs in London, Stroud and Berlin – two ‘A Gift for the Ephemerist’ shows with Andrew Heath, Anne Chris Bakker, Romke Kleefstra and Jan Kleefstra (14th & 15th); Luke Howard in London and Berlin (19th, 20th) plus Charlie Coxedge. Plus a nod to the Fat Out Festival in Salford (14th-16th)

6 Apr

Four upcoming shows from the more elegant, pianistic end of ambient (although guitar noise is never far away)…

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'A Gift For The Ephemerist', 14th & 15th April 2017

‘A Gift for the Ephemerist’: Andrew Heath & Anne Chris Bakker + Kleefstra|Bakker|Kleefstra

  • IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England, Friday 14th April 2017, 8:00information
  • Secret Garden @ The Museum in the Park, Stratford Park, Stratford Road, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 4AF, England, Saturday 15th April 2017, 12.00-3.00pm – free event – information here and here

“In 2015, an invitation from Aqueous synthesist Andrew Heath to Anne Chris Bakker (to play in the UK as part of a Resound performance) cemented a friendship and mutual admiration of each other’s music. Early the following year, Andrew visited Chris in the north of the Netherlands for a week of inspired improvisation – spending their time gathering field recordings, composing and of course, cycling. Combining Bakker’s beautiful bowed guitar and Heath’s quiet and minimal piano and textures, the collaboration has produced no less than two exquisite albums – ‘The Ephemerist’s Collection’ and ‘Lichtzen’. Pause and contemplate, for here are immersive driftscapes which shimmer and pulse with fragile, half-glimpsed melodies.

“Combining improvised dark-ambient with spoken word, Kleefstra|Bakker|Kleefstra is the work of Anne Chris Bakker with fellow experimental guitarist Romke Kleefstra plus poet Jan Kleefstra. The trio have worked together for several years – following their debut album ‘Wink’ in 2009, they played throughout Europe and Japan. ‘The Wire’ wrote about the trio: “two guitarists construct an icy enclave out of frozen drones and amplifier crackle, a veritable Fortress Of Solitude whose isolation is further emphasised by the poet’s intimately close-miked tones and distant echoes, giving an acute impression of expanses and depths both internal and external.” K|B|K have also collaborated with Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm, Greg Haines and Machinefabriek.”




 

Note also that Kleefstra|Bakker|Kleefstra will be playing on the 16th April at the Fat Out Festival in Salford – a pretty stunning array of musical experimentalists, noiseniks, avant-jazzers and more, running between the 14th and the 16th, and featuring far more contributors and collaborators than I can hope to pin down in a single blogpost anymore, let alone a shared one. If you’re in the area and sufficiently clued up, you’ll know about this avant-art ferment already. If not, it’s not too late to jump in – all details are here.

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Luke Howard, 19th April 2017“Melbourne-born composer and pianist Luke Howard (joined by Australian jazz drummer Daniel Farrugia) presents a selection of solo piano and ambient works from his records ‘Sun, Cloud’ and ‘Two Places’.

“Luke studied classical piano as a child before graduating with honours from the Victorian College of the Arts. He was twice a finalist in the Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition and has written music for both film and theatre. In 2013 he released the Australian Music Prize long-listed record ‘Sun, Cloud’. Luke’s score to ‘ Where Do Lilacs Come From ‘ won Best Music for a Short Film at the 2014 APRA/AMCOS Screen Music Awards. His second solo album, ‘Two Places’, was released in April 2016.

“Dividing his time between Europe and Australia, in recent years Luke has opened for Benjamin Clementine and Ben Frost, and performed with artists as diverse as Lior and Jeff Mills. His music has been described as “totally sublime” (‘Headphone Commute‘, February 2014), “absolutely heavenly” (Mary Anne Hobbs of BBC Radio 6, July 2013), and “cinematic in its approach” (‘The Age‘, October 2009).”



 
The month’s pair of dates:

  • Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, London, W12 7LJ, England, Wednesday 19th April 2017, 7.30pm (with Charlie Coxedge) – information here and here
  • Lido Berlin, Cuvrystraße 7, 10997 Berlin, Germany, Thursday 19th April 2017, 8.00pm – information here and here

In London, support comes from Charlie Coxedge (a.ka Charlie Cocksedge of Money), who’ll be performing solo sets of looped guitar music.



 
The London Howard/Coxedge show is another of the gigs repositioned following the sad and sudden closure of the Forge in Camden (see also the BC Camplight show at St Pancras Old Church the following day). It’s comforting to see that the artists can be accommodated so quickly rather than just having holes blown in their schedules; although it doesn’t entirely make up for the loss of a great venue and the closure of all of the work that went into building it up.
 

April 2017 – upcoming London gigs – three songwriters – Momus (10th); BC Camplight (20th); David Vaughan (29th)

4 Apr

This month, there’s the chance to catch the work of three distinctive and different songwriters who are making individual appearances in London.

In reverse date order – there’s the warm and witty cabaret folk of David Vaughan, who ruminates on subjects from cheerful lust to the downfall of Andrew Mitchell, to the resolve of bereaved children. There’s the wrecked, wracked, shaggy-falsetto alternative pop of Philly refugee-turned-Manchester revenant BC Camplight. Finally – or firstly – there’s whatever a reflective, career-compiling Momus currently cares to pick out from his twenty-six years of contentious adventure (whether it’s the sampler pop performance art palimpsests of his recent work, the Pet-Shop-Boys-do-transgressive-Gainsbourg synth pop of his middle period, or the dazzlingly literate acoustic folk of the early years when he lined up alongside Cave, Cohen and Brel as a speculative, lethally witty chronicler/observer of the possible, the askew and the perverse).

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Momus
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Monday 10th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

Momus, 2017“Nick Currie, more popularly known under the artist name Momus (after the Greek god of mockery), is a Scottish songwriter who lives in Japan. He also writes fiction and reviews contemporary art.

“A veteran of British indie labels, Momus is currently in the midst of a re-release program which will see all his early material reissued by Cherry Red. His latest LP of new compositions is ‘Scobberlotchers’ — a response to Brexit and Trump — and his latest novel is ‘Popppappp’, the tale of two graphic designers captured by fanatical followers of Mark E. Smith.”




 
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Parallel Lines presents:
BC Camplight
St Pancras Old Church, Pancras Road, Camden Town, London, NW1 1UL, England
Thursday 20th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

“Lost treasure needn’t be found in the distant past; the 21st century hides many artists who disappeared into the great wide yonder. BC Camplight (the alter-ego of American songwriter Brian Christinzio) is one such example.

BC Lamplight, 20th April 2017“Originally from New Jersey, Christinzio started playing piano aged just four, inspired by his mum’s Jerry Lee Lewis and Nilsson records and his Dad’s classical collection. Depression and crippling hypochondria clashed with captaining the football team and a penchant for boxing. Post-school, he fell in with people, “willing to go through shit to be a musician,” which saw him relocate to Philadelphia where he occasionally played live with Philly faves The War On Drugs and guested on Sharon Van Etten’s album ‘Epic’. He went on to release his own albums in 2005 and 2007, both gems of a certain psych-pop vintage, combining eloquent songwriting with a self-destructive bent. Christinzio certainly knew it – he’s described himself as “the guy who blew it.”

“But this sublime talent with the keening vocal and fearless approach to lyrical introspection has another chance. His new album ‘How To Die In The North’, recorded in his newly adopted home of Manchester, England, is a fantastically rich, stylistically diverse trip. From dramatic, layered pop to a haunted take on Sixties sunshine-pop, from blue-eyed soul to speedy surf-pop, from sparser piano balladry to psychedelic showstoppers and a grand finale that’s part Nilsson and part Broadway showtune.”

There’s a further twist to the tale in that BC has recently fallen foul of Britain’s ludicrous visa laws and is now having to split his living time between Paris and Philadelphia (the very place he had to leave in order to achieve this artistic and personal rebirth). Come along to this solo piano-and-voice gig on the 20th to at least express a little sympathy.


 

 

(UPDATE, 7th April 2017 – Another sorry twist. This gig has been moved to St Pancras Old Church following the sad, sudden closing of The Forge. Another great venue goes down… At least this means that the show doesn’t get pulled and that more tickets are available.)

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MAP Studio Café presents:
David Vaughan
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Saturday 29th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

David Vaughan“Singer-songwriter David Vaughan’s highly original mix of chanson, latin jazz and classical music comes to MAP for the very first time. Playing two forty-five minute sets of original songs arranged especially for voice, piano/classical guitar, accordion and clarinet, David calls on a number of influences including French chanson of the mid 20th century, modern and traditional Latin jazz, and classical music. They are melodic in nature with intricately arranged accompaniments highlighting David’s talents as both a performer, composer and arranger.

“With a varied career that spans work as a big band jazz trumpeter, jazz fusion keyboard-player (with Matt Borgmann’s 1990s band Meander), rock singer, commercial music composer and music teacher, David leads the show in his own relaxed, friendly style putting his audience at ease for what is an intimate, often heart-felt, sometimes dramatic, sometimes virtuosic show. Few contemporary British songwriters propose such an original blend both of instrumentation and of musical styles. The sound of top UK cabaret/jazz accordionist Romano Viazzani, combined with the mellow tone of upcoming classical clarinetist Jordi Juan Pérez, provides an inimitable backdrop to Vaughan’s songs. And yet this is neither folk nor traditional song, but something entirely original.”


 


 

March 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Ghost Car, Secret Tongues and Strange Lipsticks in Peckham (11th); Hanging Valleys and Swan Levitt in Camden (21st)

4 Mar

Ghost Tongues (photo © Maria Dela O Garrido)

Ghost Tongues (photo © Maria Dela O Garrido)

Ghost Car + Secret Tongues + Strange Lipsticks
The Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, Peckham, London, SE15 2PA, England
Saturday 11th March 2017, 7.00pm
– information here

What’s on the invite:

Ghost Car are inviting you to the launch party celebrating their debut single ‘Stuck In The Mud’ (released on New York label Greenway Records), on Saturday 11th of March at The Montague Arms, with support from Secret Tongues and Strange Lipsticks.”

What you get:

From Ghost Car – careening, shifting, minor-key garage rock with sweet’n’sour organ punches plus flavours of bolshy girl-group and of honey-and-yoghurt Gallic pop (despite the fact that, although the members hail from a wonderful pre-Brexit splatter of Spanish, Irish and British roots, none of them are French). The video for ‘Stuck In The Mud’ is a little low-budget hymn to female tensions – office-girl restlessness, transposed rage at impenetrable masculine spaces. It’s a collage of impeccable makeup methods, fusty corridors, and slammed or locked doors, with a nod to the way in which the women’s toilets can double as a sanctuary, a place to compose yourself, even a rallying zone.


 
From Secret Tongues, you get relatively conventionally dreampop indie. Permeated with a lazy but lipsmacking eroticism, it switches between languorous, scenic verses and upbeat, jouncy choruses. Recent single ‘Glass Beach’ is typical of their work – a song of arousal, of “pheromones playing with our hormones” (and it comes with a sloppy-sensual video full of orality and come-hither eyes).


 
For my money, the most persuasive reason to pitch up for the gig is for show opener Strange Lipsticks, a.k.a. singer-songwriter Mary Fritz. Over the times during which she’s shuttled between London and Boston, her music’s evolved from lo-fi tick/echo/strum songcraft (orchestrated with tremolo, warble and skate) to a shifting, half-moored folk sound interpolated with background noises and a wan tone of solitary council-estate psychedelia. Mary’s weary folk-chant of a voice (a little reminiscent of the unsettling intonation of Scottish post-folker Pinkie Maclure) remains the key note: breeding her songs’ atmospheres of ill-health and of a disturbed, distracted intelligence feeling its way around, angling for clarity.



 

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Hanging Valleys + Swan Levitt, 21st March 2017Hanging Valleys + Swan Levitt
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Tuesday 21 March 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

What’s on the other invite:

Hanging Valleys is an alternative band founded by Thom Byles in 2016, in which he’s joined by Mike Phillips (guitar, vocals) and Alexis Meridol (beats, synthesizer). Their music is centred around soaring falsetto vocals accompanied by ethereal atmospheric phrasing on electric and acoustic guitars, which combine to create a rich shifting soundscape. An unusual percussive playing style on the acoustic is blended with percussion and self-produced samples to create pulsing rhythms with captivating crescendos. The band’s debut EP will be released on 10th March 2017.

Swan Levitt is an English singer-songwriter from the Isle of Wight, UK. Blending together acoustic folk with refreshingly modern themes, his emotionally charged voice lets you in on a personal level, taking intricate melodies and crafting them into a fully cinematic experience. Uniquely adept at songwriting, Swan Levitt carries the listener on a character building journey. Using his personal struggles and his passion for science to create music that is acoustic at heart, yet interwoven with subtle electronic atmospheres. Levitt is currently recording his debut album at Studio Humbug on the Isle of Wight with accomplished production duo, Boe Weaver and Organ Records.”

What you get:

Beyond the initial hype (and the little cloud of thumbs-ups from various people at BBC Radio 6), you get two acts coalescing from their initial post-folk vagueness. For the past year or so, as they built themselves up from being Thom’s solo project into being an actual band, Hanging Valleys have been dotting Bandcamp and Soundcloud with individual tracks. On the positive side, they’ve got an exquisite, downy, murmuring sound which – if anything – their press releases undersell. On the other, they’ve sometimes used it to be over-evasive, apparently more interested in capturing the perfect curve of a shadow-croon or the glint of a guitar-string harmonic over anything requiring a commitment of story or setpiece. Their most recent track, ‘T.B.D’, seems to indicate that they’re finally hitting the right balance.



 
As for Swan Levitt, he initially came to general attention last year thanks to two softly pained, quietly dramatic post-Damien Rice-ish singles – ‘Alive’ and ‘Singularity’ – which sounded gorgeous but also on the lazy side of sparse: as with the early Hanging Gardens stuff, songs which seemed to prioritise furnishing over content. His third single, ‘You Were Human’, is a big step forwards; a mourning, brush-drummed lament with an offbeat, unsettling perspective, casting an eye on the destructive vortex of male desire and sentimentality while weaving together ideas of artificial intelligence and human feeling cribbed from ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Ex Machina’ (and blurring the lines between lovesong and murder-ballad). He’s a lot more interesting now that he’s come out as a questioning geek instead of just being a beautiful attic voice.



 

November 2016 – upcoming London classical gigs – The Riot Ensemble play Mark Simpson/Jack Sheen/Tigran Mansurian premieres plus Morton Feldman, Mark Bowden and Anna Meredith for ‘The Viola in my Life’ (21st); Clara Rodríguez & TangOpera Duo’s ‘Great Latin American Composers’ featuring Antonio Estévez and Alberto Ginastera, plus Villa-Lobos, Cervantes and Ruiz (24th)

20 Nov

A very quick note on two upcoming shows:

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The Riot Ensemble presents:
The Riot Ensemble: ‘The Viola in my Life’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Monday 21st November 2016, 7.00pm
information

The Riot Ensemble's 'The Viola In My Life', 21st November 2016“Led by a core group of seven musicians, The Riot Ensemble programme a wide array of the new music from across the globe, connecting people to great contemporary music and collaborating with a prestigious roster of guest artists in musician-led and organised performances. One of the few emerging ensembles in the UK to regularly commission and perform music by international emerging composers, they present the young composers they commission alongside exciting and established music from Bach to Birtwistle.

“This performance – The Viola in my Life’ – features Riot’s new Artistic Board Member Stephen Upshaw, who programmed this concert alongside fellow rioters Sarah Mason & Claudia Maria Racovicean.”

Programme:

Mark Simpson – New Work for Solo Viola (world premiere)
Morton Feldman – The Viola in My Life 3 (for viola and piano)
Mark Bowden – Hoist (for solo percussion)
Jack Sheen – Each One Cancels Out the Last (for viola, piano and tape) (world premiere)
Anna Meredith – Flex (for solo percussion)
Tigran Mansurian – Duet (for viola and percussion) (UK premiere)

Performers:

Stephen Upshaw – viola
Sarah Mason – percussion
Claudia Maria Racovicean – piano

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Clara Rodriguez' 'Great Latin American Composers', 24th November 2016Iberian & Latin American Music Society presents:
Echoes Festival: Clara Rodríguez & Friends – ‘Great Latin American Composers’
Bolívar Hall, 54 Grafton Way, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 5DL, England
Thursday 24th November 2016, 7.30pm
information

“Venezuelan virtuoso pianist Clara Rodríguez joins forces with TangOpera Duo to mark the centenary of her compatriot, composer Antonio Estévez (1916-1988) with a concert showcasing his works for piano and voice as part of a vibrant programme of piano pieces by some of the giants of Latin American classical music, including the seminal Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera (Argentina) (1916-1983), who also celebrates his centenary this year.

“Antonio Estévez is one of the most important Venezuelan composers of the 20th century, known especially for his ‘Cantata criolla’ and ‘Mediodía en el llan’o, recorded by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in 2008. A leading light of the Parisian-Venezuelan avant garde, Estévez’s music stands out for its rare beauty and profound originality. In Clara Rodríguez, Estévez has a longstanding ambassador for his legacy – her successful campaign to establish his output on the ABRSM 2015-2016 exam syllabus saw his music performed by thousands of pianists in the UK.

Heard here alongside some of Latin America’s most famous composers, such as Villa-Lobos (Brazil) and Cervantes (Cuba), this event places Estévez firmly amongst the panoply of Latin America’s ‘great’ composers. If you are unfamiliar with his music, this programme will be a revelation.”

Programme:

Antonio Estévez – 17 Piezas infantiles
Antonio Estévez – Songs (Selection)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Bachianas brasileiras No. 4 (Selection)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Ciclo brasileiro (Selection)
Alberto Ginastera – Three Argentinean Dances
Alberto Ginastera – Dos canciones Op. 3
Ignacio Cervantes – Three Cuban Dances
Federico Ruiz – Encuentro de Antonio y Florentino

Performers:

Clara Rodríguez – piano
TangOpera Duo – soprano & piano
William Roberts – actor
Timothy Adès – translator-poet
 

November/December 2016 – upcoming British gigs – William D. Drake plays Preston (with Paul Morricone and All Hail Hyena!), and London (18th November, 1st December); Bob Drake unveiled in London, helped by Kavus Torabi and The Beetles (9th December)

17 Nov

For Cardiacs fans (plus any interested fans of psychedelic folk, multi-mood cut-up pop and perhaps a touch of Rock In Opposition) even if the Spratleys Japs show I posted about earlier is sold out, there’s still room in the audience for when William D. Drake fits in a final couple of shows for 2016, and for when various Knifeworlders help American avant-rocker Bob Drake to touch down in London.

(Yes, two Drakes. A coincidence. It’s not actually family, but it’s sort of familial anyway…)

* * * * * * * *

I’ve written plenty about William D. Drake over the months and years, to the extent that I sometimes wonder whether I’ve written myself out. So instead, I’ll rummage through the immediate press kit clippings written by other people, which hail him as “one of the most gifted and diverse composers of the modern age”, “a master of both modern classical piano composition and of experimental popular music” and the possessor of “a unique and prodigious skill as a composer and arranger of complex, intelligent and eccentric musical psychedelia; creating a cornucopia of diverse melodic styles whilst playing a plethora of keyboards and synthesizers.”

William. D Drake on the Millennium BridgeThe same one-sheets heap praise on his music – “an homage to lost music of the past, whilst taking a very English approach to composition which touches on the work of Robert Wyatt and Peter Hammill”, “weaving layers of textured melody with rock undertones… journey(ing) through the surreal and psychedelic, telling curious tales with sideways humour” and “jerk(ing) wildly from the gloriously epic to the intimately prophetic.”

PR to die for, really: and yet none of it mentions the other main draw, which is the warmth. Many attempts to bridge rock, folk and classical builds on pomp and posturing which verges on the desperately anxious, as if in dread of some grand and booted critic rising up, kicking down a cardboard set, pointing at the cowering artist and bellowing “naked! Fraud!” Others (especially from the classical side) skate around the business of integration by ironing half of the ingredients flat before inserting them – an ostentatious patina of orchestral papier-mache; or stiff, ungenerous impressions of rock beat and noise (or communal folk storytelling) fed into an ensemble piece with looseness of rhythms and fervency of engagement extracted.

Bill, in contrast, approaches it all with a laugh: the music’s all manuscript on the same rough paper, to be shuffled and interpreted for pleasure, or a rough tasty stew cooked up from memory, free to be meddled with and added to. For all of the impressive content and heart, it keeps its amateur edge in the best possible way -the enthusiasm of putting a family puzzle together; of teaching your nephew a song you’ve found in a street market; of suddenly remembering something intricate, odd, charming and half-forgotten from your childhood, then tracking it down to the back of a cupboard and finding that not only does it still work, it fits in beautifully with something else you’re working on.

This also translates to the shows. At a Bill gig, it sometimes feels if everyone’s crammed cheerfully into a slightly messy Edwardian parlour, eating jam with a spoon. Or, according to those press sheets, you get “a feast of gorgeous instrumentation, masterful piano, ancient grinding hurdy-gurdy, harmonium, clarinet, guitar, drums… topped with growly vocals and angelic choral singing.” I can vouch for that too.

Meanwhile, here’s a range of Bill pieces (probably over-familiar to ‘Misfit City’ readers, but what the hell) – a waltzing live-in-the-studio session full-band jaunt, a larky official video full of theatrical gestures and in jokes, and last month’s seizing of the Union Chapel’s grand Willis organ for a song of shipwreck.




 

It looks as if the London gig will be just Bill plus band, but the Preston show features a couple of guest slots. Paul Morricone is best known for his work as the more prolific and dramatically brooding of the two songwriting brothers in Huddersfield rock dramatists The Scaramanga Six, who “lurch wildly from dark and lurid ballads to visceral punk tinged psychedelia.” In recent years, Paul has taken to occasional acoustic solo gigs in which he sings songs from the twenty-year-old Scaramanga back catalogue (with its tales of fools, brutes and people stuck in between the two) and sometimes tries out unreleased, unrecorded and work-in-progress songs for size. See below for a full forty-minute set from such a gig, as well as a growling stop-start hard-math-pop burst from the third act on the bill – Burnley band All Hail Hyena!, who promise “a selection of frenetic psych-pop frenzies, intersected with melodic brilliance, punctuated by attitude and melting into rapture. A seething mass of unpredictability which will leave your brain reeling like a fish on a hook.”



 

  • They Eat Culture @ The New Continental, South Meadow Lane, Preston, PR1 8JP, England, Friday 18th November 2016, 8.00pm (with Paul Morricone + All Hail Hyena!) – information here and here
  • The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England, Wednesday 1st December 2016, 7.30pm (no support)- information

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Bob Drake’s last appearance in London (as far as I know) was a startling, affectionate and consensual stage invasion at the very start of a Knifeworld gig at Bush Hall. Clad in the surprisingly convincing snow-white bear suit he’s made famous from capering behind the drumkit at Thinking Plague gigs, he seized the mike and propelled what was already set to be a triumphant show up to a different level of vim and laughter.

It’s in keeping with what the man does. A veteran of the more rattling, curious end of American prog (not only with the Plague but with 5uus, his own Cabinet of Curiosities and plenty more), Bob’s equipped with all of the production nous and polyinstrumental expertise to act as his own ensemble on record; but he balances his impressive technical skill with just the right dose of lo-fi get-it-done-now irreverence to hit that elusive sweet spot between prog precision and friendly spontaneity. In doing so, he not only gives himself space to indulge an affably friendly musicality but knocks down any of the strict confining fences which might restrict both his freedom and the warm buzz of his audience’s involvement. If something off-beat and of-the-moment isn’t happening at one of Bob’s gigs, then it’s something that’s missing: or to put it another way, if something isn’t going slightly wrong, then the gig’s not going right.

This has nothing to do with prog spoofery, or comedy rock. It’s got more to do with Bob’s records and shows being intricate shaggy-dog (or perhaps shaggy-bear) stories in which the digressions on the journey, the ragged human edges and distractions, are more important than awe-inspiring structures or a revelatory destination. There’s plenty of nifty fingerwork – and plenty of irregular musical gems and twists that probably took more work and planning than he’s letting on – but what seems to matter the festooning of structure with invention… and with humour, the key to knowing that the moment is here and now, and knocks against expectation and time, and that a laugh isn’t necessarily a punchline, but the acknowledgement of an enthusiasm shared.

There are plenty of little musical signposts to point the way to Bob – there’s Yes (he got into all of this through a fascination with Chris Squire’s high-stepping buzz-bomb basslines), Henry Cow (for deliberately imperfect noise, and for toppling eagerly over the edge of the comfort zone in search of adventure), Stateside folk and bluegrass (plus the baroque Americana of The Beach Boys), the swivelling dial of midwestern classic rock radio and the mix-and-match repertoire of the zillion bar bands he played in on the way up; and probably the shadow of Zappa. There are other islands in the soup which may be coincidental – the convoluted indie rock of Guided By Voices, the fact that some of his songs sound like a ragged Jellyfish, or as if he’s roughed up an English cabaret star in a trucker’s joint; the possibility that his time in Los Angeles engineering hip hop tracks may have reinforced his interest in cut’n’paste textures. Yet ultimately Bob is Bob; moment by moment; grabbing hold of what’s there, spinning out what comes. Here are a few examples, including a snippet of a Cabinet of Curiosities gig where the theatre of the furry absurd is in full effect.




 

For this particular show (presented with fondness by Knifeworld’s resident reed avant-gardist Chlöe Herington), you just get Bob and his acoustic guitar – skill, repertoire and atmosphere probably more than compensating for the lack of a full band. In support is Kavus Torabi, fresh off a Gong tour, also feeding his songs through an acoustic – plus the unknown but immediately intriguing quality of Beetles, featuring ever-restless London avant-garde popsters Laila Woozeer and Tom O.C. Wilson, and who play “intricate, skeletal pop songs influenced by Regina Spektor, Lennon and McCartney and Kurt Cobain.” All of this is happening in a little basement room in a Kings Cross bar, so if you want to get a place there before a hundred London freaks swoop, get a move on.

Chlöe Herington presents:
Bob Drake + Kavus Torabi + Beetles
The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England
Friday 9th December 2016, 7.00pm
information
 

November 2016 – upcoming London classical gigs – Daire Halpin & Jean Kelly in David Wallace’s ‘London Irish Reflections’ (14th)

13 Nov

Some quick news on an interesting-sounding concert tomorrow, which I’ve only just picked up on:

'London Irish Reflections', 14th November 2016
Irish Heritage presents:
Daire Halpin & Jean Kelly: David Wallace’s ‘London Irish Reflections’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Monday 14th November 2016, 7.00pm
information

‘London Irish Reflections’ is a new song-cycle for soprano, acoustic and electric harps and electronics, which merges two distinct art music traditions – Western classical and traditional Irish – and which is based on the reflections and insights of the London Irish community. The piece came about through Cork-born cousins and musicians Daire Halpin (soprano) and Jean Kelly (harp) commissioning a piece from a Kilkenny-born musical polymath (composer, pianist, conductor and dancer David Wallace) in order to explore their interest in the diverse and sometimes contradictory experiences of those, like themselves, who’d emigrated from Ireland to London.

Thought up by a four-person creative team, all of them London Irish (with the fourth being ‘Guardian’ journalist and deputy business/consumer affairs editor Dan Milmo), the piece expanded into a communal musical reflection on the experience of Irish immigration to London within current living memory. Drawing on Dan’s interviews with attendees at the Southwark Irish Pensioners project, it was supplemented by similar discussions with family members and friends within the London Irish community, including Dan’s conversations with members of the Bloomberg group ‘Paddy Chat’ and a swathe of people ranging from working artists to manual labourers who laid the foundations of the London Tube train network to the chief executives of several major London firms.

The song cycle is structured around various themes – including displacement and belonging – which surfaced as common shared threads within Dan’s various interviews, with the words of the interviewees have been rearranged to both form and inform multi-perspective reflections throughout the piece. Dan comments “I found a lot of the discussions at the Pensioners Project very moving because the interviewees had so many fascinating stories to tell about themselves but they had never been recorded.”

Jean confesses that “we were moved by the tales of hardship endured by the audience members – a generation of Irish emigrants who arrived in London in the 1950s and ’60s. The comparison to our own trouble-free, racism-free experience of moving to London was shocking to me, and I came away feeling that I owed a huge debt to this group of people who contributed so much to change the attitude towards Irish people in Britain, and who allowed my transition from Cork to London to be so smooth.” However, ‘London Irish Reflections’ actively celebrates the community’s experience as much as dwelling on its hardships. Daire adds “being an emigrant myself, I found a lot of the literature focused on the darker, tragic side of life as an emigrant. I wanted to explore the experiences of other emigrants and find a way to share our stories so we can reach out to the many, many people whose lives have been touched by emigration.”

David Wallace adds: “I have tried to create a sound world for each of the bodies of text that allows the message behind the text to really shine through. Working with both concert and electric harps helped to create a contrast in sound world that the text seemed to contain, one where the old and the new collide with the same agenda: the sense of loss at having to relocate.”

* * * * * * * *

For something slightly similar and imminent – musically different but based around community vox pops (admittedly the pre-Brexit voices of depressed communities in southern England) – you could compare and contrast this with Billy Bottle & The Multiple’s ongoing roadshow ‘The Other Place‘, which rolls into London next Sunday. This has also reminded me of ‘I Could Read The Sky’, the 1999 Nichola Bruce film on the London Irish emigrant experience, which was soundtracked (with typically mournful rhapsody) by Iarla Ó Lionáird. I’ll have to dig that one out again…
 

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