Tag Archives: Todmorden (England)

June-July 2016 – upcoming gigs – Sharron Kraus and Gillian Chadwick’s psych-folk duo Rusalnaia on tour in England with Nick Jonah Davis, Arianne Churchman, Fuzzy Hell, Sproatly Smith and Frances Chang making showings (20th June – 10th July)

18 Jun


 

Fresh off their appearance at the remarkable Sin Eater Festival (which I’ll really have to pay some better attention to, next year), psychedelic folk duo
Rusalnaia embark on a short English tour this coming week.

A sisterly alliance of acclaimed Anglo-American dark-folkster Sharron Kraus and prog/neopsych-influenced American folkie Gillian Chadwick (of Ex Reverie and Woodwose), the duo originally took shape while both women were neighbours in Fishtown, Philadelphia. Named after a placatory festival for mischievous, tickling and murderous Slavic water-nymphs, citing such touchstones as Comus, Trees, Mellow Candle, Ingar Bergman and Jefferson Airplane as influences, and self-described as “a luminously pagan witches brew”, the project is a close-bound duet of voices and (mostly) acoustic guitars. Softly-sung, it limns its lovely and carefully-crafted songs with a halo of harmonies and a mood of anticipation (and, on record at least, dashes of electric acid lead guitar, dulcimer, penny whistles and goat’s-nail shakers).

The imminent second Rusalnaia album ‘Time Takes Away’ is a rockier affair than the debut. In order to perform it live, Gill and Sharron will be backed by Sheffield drummer Guy Whittaker (Magpies, Big Eyes Family Players, Sarah Smout) and by Nottingham acoustic/electric guitarist Nick Jonah Davis (an acclaimed modal player in a mingled Bert Jansch/Nick Drake/John Fahey tradition, who usually plays either solo or as a member of the Fains duo alongside violinist Jo Cormack). Between them, Sharron and Nick will also be covering most of the tour’s support slots as solo performers.




 

Tour dates are as follows:

There will also be two further Rusalnaia festival appearances – at the free Leigh Folk Festival, Leigh-on-Sea, on Saturday 25th June; and at the SoL Party event near Hawkhurst in Kent (some time between Friday 8th and Sunday 10th July, during which time Sharron will be performing another solo set).

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En route, Rusalnaia will be linking up with some other, fascinating folk performers. The Hereford show features (in addition to a DJ set by Jus-Jay) Sproatly Smith, a self-propelled Welsh Borders institution led by guitarist and sonic visionary Ian Smith and multi-instrumentalist Matt King. This acoustic/electric collective create enthralling music inspired by rural life, ancient landscape, sundry traditional piecings (they draw on all manner of British Isles folk), Anglican metaphysics (they’ve written a whole album of Thomas Traherne poetry settings) and transitional psychedelic experiences.

The Sproatly sound is that of hilltop trips, in either sense – they sound like wide-open rural receivers, drawing in feelings, events and memories across multiple times and from multiple simultaneous perspectives. They spin out booming resonant instrumentals; hums and fragments and drones; tangles of spidery guitar and banjo; drifting childlike backward-reverbed vocals, nursery rhymes and field recordings, while still touching the earth with one toe (via singer Sarah’s anchoring of words and melody). Sitting at the heart of a growing Hereford scene of exploratory traditional musicians; they’ve redubbed their home country “Weirdshire”. When you listen to what their surroundings have inspired in their music, you can entirely empathize.


At the Sheffield show – dedicated to the summer solstice – one of the event organisers, Rob Lee, will be adding a DJ set drawing on “ethnographic recordings, velvet-clad Canterbury scenesters, private-press vanity folk, analogue madrigals and pagan jazz.” The folk remit is expanded even further with the addition of performance artist Arianne Churchman, who explores British folk traditions and rituals and reinterprets the same into modern life. Not a musician per se, she uses film, sound sculpture and costumed dancing in her works; so expect something a little immersive which won’t necessarily stay on the stage. Here are a couple of videos – one dealing with her Metal Harvest project and one recording a previous collaboration with Sharron Kraus.



 

Possibly encouraged by promoters Tor Press (who’ve already got a reputation for presenting and championing interesting music in and around their Yorkshire fastness) the Todmorden show teams up the travelling Rusalnaia circus with a couple of artists from New York State’s DIY label Life On An Island.

I’m not sure of the identity of the woman who travels under the name of Fuzzy Hell, nor of where she parks her guitar: the information which I can pick up suggests Long Island beginnings but a possible self-chosen, on/off exile in rural Ireland. All I can go on are the songs, which are wonderful. Sharply observant, witty, detached and sometimes sad; their spare, precise fingerpicking seasoned with sonic reversals, sound-aura or tape warble, their tone lies somewhere between Liz Phair and Dorothy Parker, dipping into classical legend, contemporary barlife and timeless personal complications with an equal and universal aplomb and without floundering self-indulgence. The kind of bird-bright-eyed songwriter whom you’d yearn to meet, but would be terrified of making a fool of yourself in front of.





 

Frances Chang is currently best known as the co-fronter of New York neo-shoegaze band Giant Peach, whose insouciant guitar-fuzzed alt.rock songs have garnered them plenty of praise in recent years. Her work as songwriter, however, started around a decade ago with her own bedroom solo project Neato Fleets (which apparently informs this current solo outing). Sonically, these songs can travel quite a distance from traditional or even psychedelic folk – electric from the off, the technique often a lo-fi indie scrub, the presentation sometimes undergoing casual, almost unconscious intensifications into deafening distortion. But the underpinnings are folk, and are evidence of the sensibilities of a born singer-songwriter – melodic, open lyrical examinations and sharings of intense, expanding feelings, and of making sense of the inrush of sensation when you seem to be missing a thicker skin. It’d be interesting to see what she makes of this different live setting – a thousand miles from home, in an English market town, in a mostly acoustic milieu.



 

January 2016 – upcoming gigs – Kiran Leonard’s UK mini-tour; Laura Cannell plays Liverpool, Glasgow and Bradford (with In Atoms, Jozef van Wissem, Magpahi and Stephanie Hladowski); in London, a Julian Dawes fundraiser at The Forge and an Ichi show at the Harrison; in New York, Legs play the Manhattan Inn and Rough Trade NYC with Blank Paper, Tropic Of Pisces and SKP (Lip Talk, Cosmicide). And Tom Slatter doesn’t play Brighton, yet…

10 Jan

Born in Oldham, currently Saddleworth-based, but occupying a wayward and exciting multi-instrumental/multi-genre orbit (which takes in, among many others, Todd Rundgren, spangled electronica, Dirty Projectors, Van Morrison and Nancy Chodorow) teenage wunderkind turned twenty-year-old psych-pop pioneer Kiran Leonard embarks on a quick British tour this coming week. For a sampling of what’s on offer, have a listen to Kiran’s most recent single, which examines the panicked, unwilling misogyny of pubescent boys and uses it as a launchpad for sixteen minutes of charging, spontaneous-sounding twist-and-turn musical quest. Spattered with snippets of radio, cut’n’paste ADHD changes and lo-fi turnarounds, it sounds like Lou Reed and Jim O’Rourke grappling over the steering wheel of a gawky teenage Yes.

For the tour, Kiran’s four-piece band features three other flexible Manchester music luminaries. Guitarist Dan Bridgewood Hill also plays as dbh and with NASDAQ, Irma Vep Band and Seatoller), bass player Dave Rowe is from Plank and Andrew Cheetham drums with acts including Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura, Easter, Butcher The Bar, the Birchall/Cheetham Duo and experimental rock duo Yerba Mansa. Support across the dates comes, variously, from Yerba Mansa, introverted Manchester singer-songwriter Tom Settle, Marc Rooney (taking a solo break from his usual band, Glaswegian “past post-modern bug-eyed beatniks” Pronto Mama), Edinburgh rock juveniles Redolent and inventive Sussex girl duo Let’s Eat Grandma.

Something of what to expect from the support bands is below:




This gig info was added to the top of this post at the last minute, and these gigs are selling out fast, so move quickly.

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The past week’s death of Pierre Boulez cast an overwhelming shadow over the classical and avant-garde worlds. Under that pall, it’s easy to forget that breed of composers that the post-war work of Boulez and his acolytes sometimes eclipsed – working at a humbler altitude, often inclined to traditional tonalism and craftsmanship and generally writing for the vast and undersung body of working musicians and small regional music groups, their work’s left out of the big conversations. It may break fewer boundaries, or no boundaries at all, but (to my mind, at least) it doesn’t necessarily have a lesser value. Not only does it often demonstrate an empathy for the musician over the concept, it demonstrates music’s quality of constant giving, showing that the older schemes which a younger and more intemperate Boulez once dismissed as being played out are anything but: revealing an ever-renewing, ever-fertile grain to be worked with and against even in well-mined territories.

To my ears, the work of Julian Dawes fits into this category. Five decades of his composing has produced chamber and keyboard music, theatre compositions, youth pieces, assorted works on Jewish themes (including Kaddish songs, Exodus cantatas and Holocaust pieces) plus an acclaimed mandolin concerto. All of it displays a lambent, empathetic feel for subject, performer and musician; and this coming Wednesday sees some of it compiled for a dedicated concert in London.

A Concert of Commemorative Music by Julian Dawes  (The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England, Wednesday 13th January 2016, 7.30pm) – £9.00 to £12.00 – information & tickets

This is an evening of music which Julian has written to celebrate people and events. The night is also in memory of Emma Daly, and the proceeds of the concert will go to the Rosewood Chemo Ward at the Darenth Valley Hospital.

Programme:

Love Life and Lyric (for soprano and piano)
Reflection on Psalm 43 (for piano) – first concert performance
Homage (for string quartet)
Wedding Song (Louisa) (for soprano, violin & piano) – world premiere
Piano Sonata – world premiere
Bagatelle for a Wedding (for string quartet)
Songs from ‘The Song of Solomon’ (for mezzo soprano, tenor & piano)
String Quartet (slow movement)
Sonata for Violin and Piano

Performers:

The Holywell String Quartet
Vivienne Bellos, Helena Massip (sopranos)
Camille Maalawy (mezzo soprano)
Cantor Jason Green (tenor)
Sophie Lockett, Louisa Stuber (violins)
Mitra Alice Tham, Stephen Dickinson, Andrew Gellert, Alex Knapp, Julian Dawes (piano)

Soundclips of Julian Dawes’ music on the web are few and far between, but I’ve managed to dredge up these two videos – one of Cantor Jason Green performing one of Julian’s vocal pieces, and a low-key one of Julian talking about his work (on behalf of the publishing service Tutti). You can also listen to soundclips of some of his work at the page for Omnibus Classics’ release of his ‘Chamber Music’ CD.


Julian’s most recently completed project is ‘Pesach Cantata’ with a libretto by Roderick Young telling the story of Passover. This will be premiered at the New London Synagogue in April 2016: I’ll post about that closer to the time.

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There are a series of concerts coming up featuring East Anglian musician Laura Cannell. Playing a variety of instruments (predominantly straight or overbowed fiddle and double recorders, but also percussion and “other rarified wind instruments”, Laura fuses early and mediaeval music with a mixed ancient-and-modern approach to improvisation and to transcendent musical ceremony, taking fragments or inspirations from earlier sounds and melodies as the basis for exploration, illustration and linkages.


Laura will be playing up and down the country over the next few months at a variety of different events and locations, Each one has different musicians on the bill – Brooklyn-based Dutch lutenist and composer Josef van Wissem, who’s bringing the baroque lute out towards the worlds of experimental rock, folk and film; Liverpudlian tape-loop composer In Atoms whose “blissful and evocative” soundscapes and tones mix heath music and throbbing clubby sub-bass with the industrial and reveal him straddling Anglo-pastoralism and the European electronic grandeur of the Schultzes and Jarres; and two Yorkshire singers, Stephanie Hladowski (whose work stretches from reggae to traditional folk) and Magpahi (a.k.a. Todmorden based multi-instrumentalist Alison Cooper, who assembles a collage of folk song, fairy tale, Elizabethan poetry and dreamworld sonics from a variety of instruments and is inspired by “sepia stories, stray animals and recurring dreams of migration”).

Here’s the gig list, and something from each of Laura’s gigmates (including something quite rare from Magpani via the Was Is Das clubnight and promotions):





Laura has further gigs coming up later in the year, which I’ll also be posting about in due course.

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Born in Nagoya, (but now based in Bristol with his wife and collaborator, alt.folk singer Rachael Dadd) Ichi is paying London another visit with his truckload of invented instruments and mind-snagging riffs, digging a dayglo-lined tunnel between the avant-garde and a children’s playroom.

Ichi (The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, London, WC1H 8JF, UK, Saturday 23rd January 2016, 8.00pm) – £11.00 – informationtickets

From the Harrison’s blurb:

Ichi takes the notion of a one-man band to new limits, combining his quirky handmade instrument inventions (stilt-bass, kalilaphone, balloon-pipes, hatbox-pedal-drum, tapumpet, percussion-shoes & hat-trick-hat) with steel-drum, ping-pong balls, toys & everyday objects all in the space of one short set. Somehow there’s an ancient, ritualistic feel to his performances – he’s like the misplaced leader of a tribe. To see Ichi live is to witness something so playful and unusual you know that you’re experiencing something entirely new. It`s fun, it`s danceable, it`s exciting…. Also a practicing and exhibiting artist and film-maker, Ichi is usually seen with a cine camera in his hand, or his hands rooting through Bristol skips for materials for his musical and sculptural inventions, or his hands in the earth making human sized interactive earth xylophones as he did at Bristol`s Forage Festival.

And where words fail, there’s always the video to Ichi’s recent single Go Gagambo, “a song about mistaken identity (gagambo is an insect unfortunate enough to be mistaken as a big mosquito, resulting in probable death by angry clapping hands)”.


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I’d been hoping to bring you news of London acoustic steampunk-prog hero Tom Slatter playing Britain’s first actual steampunk bar (the recently opened Yellow Book, which is squirreled away in the Lanes of Brighton and claims to have been founded by time-travelling Victorians). Sadly not. Message just in – “This gig has been postponed. Don’t go there expecting to see me on the 23rd! Do go there if you want to see the venue, which is lovely. I will be playing at the Yellow Book in the near future. Watch this space.”

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Lastly, there are a couple of New York gigs (this week and towards the end of the month) by a ‘Misfit City’ favourite of recent years, Brooklyn-based groove-pop band Legs, who mix irresistible New Wave dance grooves with twitchy emotional neurosis and a verbose, occasional waspish Steely Dan-esque approach to songcraft under the double-keyboard licks.

Legs + SKP (Hypnocraft @ The Manhattan Inn, 632 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11222, USA, Monday 11th January 2016, 8.30pm) – free event (suggested $5.00-$10.00- information

This pay-what-you-like gig is a Legs headliner, at which they’re supported by SKP – a.k.a. Sarah Kyle, frontwoman of Brooklyn psychedelic pop band Lip Talk. Sarah is also a member of recent Interpol tourmates Cosmicide, which features most of Lip Talk plus ex-Secret Machines leader Brandon Curtis.


Blank Paper + Tropic Of Pisces + Legs (Rough Trade NYC, 64 N 9th Street, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11249, USA, Friday 22nd January 2016, 8.00pm) – information here and heretickets

This latter one’s a bottom-of-the-bill show for Legs. Swings and roundabouts, but they can play on both. At least they get to perform at Rough Trade (should be a natural audience booster) and they also get to act as warm-up and gig primer for two other stylish and eminently compatible Brooklyn acts. Keytar-wielding Blank Paper mix up classic hip hop rhythms, distant glimmering-city synthpop tones and vocals with just the right degree of hauteur for detached explorations of love and obsession sheathed in immaculate tunes. Tropic Of Pisces is the new project from Mon Khmer/Oberhofer sideman Mathew Scheiner – his geeky white-boy solo funk seems to be inspired equally by glam, hip hop and South African township jive, though he himself describes it as “a warm, magical place that you must be special enough to have found.” Judge for yourselves below via the videos, with their ninja noir and tinfoil chic.


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More gig news next time, including shows by Of Arrowe Hill and Earl Zinger with the Emanative & Collocutor Duo; plus an appearance by Sealionwoman.

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