Tag Archives: The Many Few

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.

REVIEW – The Many Few: assorted Soundcloud demos, 2011 (“as cosily misshapen as candle stubs”)

1 Jun

The Many Few don’t exactly do precision. One guitarist slops acoustic rhythms around like a drunken waiter losing control of a tray. The other doodles away cheerfully, or hiccups free-improv dribbles in a corner. Sometimes both of them land in the same song. Meanwhile, two singers are jostling together: Johnnynorms (he of the small, dry voice) and Melissa Wyatt (who aims for creamy breathiness and theatrical intimacy but ends up kittenish and blowsy). The drummer pins everything together, but worries and wobbles over anything more complex than a mid-paced chuff-along. The bass guitar stumbles vaguely after the other instruments, distracted by a nearby jazz gig.

Unless they’re deliberately deconstructing their pop, or unless they record only while cheerfully drunk (both of which are possible), The Many Few are a thorough fucking shambles, and I think they know it. Do you think I’m going to bury them for it? Hardly. That tumbledown, lopsided indie-pop stagger is integral to their approach and charm. You can toss in those usual Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart comparisons (you know, the ones applied to almost any wayward indie band who ramble outside the beat a little) but The Many Few are far too friendly and floppy for that. In their cheery, ramshackle way, they sound more like ’90s nouveau-skifflers Zuno Men… if the latter had been stuck in a house-share with a teenaged Kate Bush and spent most of their time half-cut.

You could easily imagine them all sprawled over a tatty sofa – arguing over the washing-up, loving each other and picking over the usual daily scams of living together. You can imagine them hurrying off, at any opportunity, to the local pub for the kind of lock-in which ends in howls of laughter and wrestlings over a battered old board game.  I wouldn’t want to be the one to try getting them organized. It would only spoil it. This scraggy comfort must have been all over the making of this enjoyable batch of songs, which they call “armchair surrealisms” and I’d call animated scrawls, as cosily misshapen as candle stubs.

On the irresistible Catching, Johnnynorms repeatedly starts off on a story, only for Melissa to barge in and take it over. As all of the stories are about naïve men making comically doomed attempts to win over smarter women, this is only appropriate. Wonky high-life guitar ambles around like a cheery woodpecker as Melissa teases “I’m sorry but she had a child when she was young / and she’s not catching that from you”, before announcing her intent of fleecing some other poor bloke for all he’s got.

The upbeat Sweep and Swipe (part genial commuter-belt revolt, part kid’s TV song) bumbles through work, procrastination and rebellion in a very British jumble. There’s a sense of urgent feelings swaddled up and hidden under a brittle, chirpy exterior: something which this song shares with another, Typical British Weather (itself tipsy, woozy and smiling a crooked smile in the rain). It’s left to the messy, chunky power-punk of Meet my Clone to sideline the shambling and the evasions via dirty guitar, a tight irritated momentum and the band’s most ingenious idea. Johnnynorms and Melissa wrangle over the doppelganger relationships of people grown close in appearance and habit, but not feelings: “Eye to eye you’d think we were the same. / But it’s me that feels all the guilt, and rage, and love, and shame.”

Past the 18th Town is entirely different. A haunting acoustic dirge touching (in the briefest of sketches) on transient people, it follows them as they move from rented room to rented room. As old roots fade and new roots become stunted, they lose their ability to recognize and return love. Tingles of guitar harmonics tickle the nerves while the band capture a world of disengagement in simple, telling lines like “send the letters on, / send them back unknown.” It suggests that the ghost of a cold and lonely wind, blowing under that gap in the door, sometimes haunts The Many Few’s sprawling house party.

The Many Few: assorted Soundcloud demos
Soundcloud (no catalogue numbers)
Free download tracks
Released: various dates in 2011

Get it from:
Free download from Soundcloud

The Many Few online:
HomepageMySpace Soundcloud

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