Tag Archives: Tom Slatter

January 2018 – upcoming gigs – piano/soul/art pop/verbiage with Society of Friends, Blert Ademi, Stone Deep and poets at the SOIF Soiree in London (5th); cutting an altfolkrock swathe with Orion’s Belt, Tom Slatter and Marcus Doo in Glasgow (6th); experimental pop with Snails, Edward Penfold and Eugene Capper/Rhodri Brooks in Bristol (13th)

1 Jan

Starting off the New Year, there’s a diverse brace of upcoming shows dotted around the country… In London, there’s the Society Of Imaginary Friends’ monthly musicians’n’poets soiree (this month, one that’s particularly heavy on the poets). In Glasgow, there’s a “feast of psych and folk wonderment” linking the folkworlds around Trembling Bells and Alasdair Robert with arch proggy steampunk songwriting. Down in Bristol, there’s “an evening of pop pleasures and wonky wonders.” Read on…

* * * * * * * *

Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree, 5th January 2018

Society of Imaginary Friends presents:
“For Those in Peril on the Sea” Soiree: Society of Imaginary Friends + Blert Ademi + Debra Watson + Stone Deep + Amy Neilson Smith + Ernie Burns + DJ Miracle Rhythm
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 5th January 2018, 7.30pm
– free event – information here and here

From the Society:

“A still boat in a raging storm, our January Soiree – the month of cataclysmic cyclones battering our little island, foam fills the air, cool seagulls ride the tempest and the Society Of Imaginary Friends gather in their cabin around a crackling fire and tell stories of things past and things to come.


“We are joined by the fabulous young pianist Blert Ademi; brilliant, hard hitting poetess Debra Watson; new intriguing soul music from Stone Deep; charismatic performer, Shakespearian beauty and wonderful poetess Amy Neilson Smith; lusty, revealing super-wordsmith Ernie Burns; on the wheels of steel, the vinyl singles DJ extraordinaire DJ Miracle Rhythm; and the Society Of Imaginary Friends taking you back to a beautiful solstice evening in the Glastonbury Green Field. (More amazing performers to be announced – watch this space!) Cordon bleu vegan delights available to purchase from top chefs Kathy and Roger. Free entry. Dinner from 6pm, live performances start at 8pm.”

I couldn’t find anything on – or by – Stone Deep; but here’s a look at the rest of the lineup so far, beginning with an old SOIF track…






 
* * * * * * * *

A day later, there’s the Scottish event: a delightful, consensus-bucking meld of the credible, the incredible and the extramural.

Orions Belt + Tom Slatter + Marcus Doo, 6th January 2018

Orion’s Belt + Tom Slatter + Marcus Doo
Nice’n’Sleazy, 421 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3LG, Scotland
Saturday 6th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Headliners Orion’s Belt are a “seven-piece behemoth” of latterday Glasgow-via-Canterbury psychedelic folk, sometimes compared to “Kevin Ayers & The Whole World with Judy Collins handling the vocals”. They’re led by singer Lavinia Blackwall, best known as the voice of Trembling Bells but a longstanding mainstay of Glaswegian early music and avant-folk. Prior to their work as Trembling Bells, she and Alex Neilson collaborated as free-improv folkers Directing Hand: outside of the Bells they still sing together (alongside Harry Campbell and Katy Cooper of Muldoon’s Picnic) as four-part a capella voice quartet Crying Lion, who blend madrigal, folk, Gregorian and Sacred Harp elements into original songs.

In comparison, Orion’s Belt sounds like one of Lavinia’s more easy-going projects but ought to be magical nonetheless. Also on board in the band, picked from Glasgow’s gutsier psych, prog and folk underground, are members of “ongoing sloth-themed rock opera” collective Sloth Metropolis, prog-folkers Big Hogg, and “neo-psychedelic ninjas” Helicon (plus perhaps a few more people from Trembling Bells). Sorry – it still seems to be too new to have generated any recordings or Youtubings yet, but as a compensation here’s Lavinia’s five-year-old version of Richard Farina’s ‘The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood’ performed with Maddy Prior, Thea Gilmore and the late Dave Swarbrick.


 
Originally with mid-noughties post-rockers Ancient Monsters, Highland-born singer-songwriter Marcus Doo has since made the transition to modern-day folk; initially with his own Spanish-based Secret Family, who explored the genre via their “Magpie Returned the Ring” album and scores for a Spanish Royal Theatre version of Ted Hughes’ ‘Gaudete’ and for Chema Rodríguez’s ‘Anochece en la India’. He’s been described by author Graeme Macrae Burnet as “a songwriter with a rare mastery of both melody and lyrics… his songs are satisfying as a rounded pebble in your hand, and he performs them with such passion and intensity that I would defy anyone not to be moved.” Since his 2015 return to Glasgow, Marcus has been working with sympathetic figures including Alasdair Roberts (with whom he’s recently toured), Alex Neilson and Mike Hastings of Trembling Bells, and Tom Davis of Big Hogg.

All of the latter appear on Marcus’ debut solo effort ‘Kid Wonder’, a loosely conceptual folk album about “an older man looking back at his life, towards death and in search of any Golden Apple (an old Norse emblem of eternal youth) of memory that may help him accept what has gone and what is about to come. Through various adventures to an ever-clearer destination he is emboldened by memories of places and people past, and gives thanks to them.” Other contributors to the record include Trembling Bells’ Valinia Black, various other members of the Doo family (including Marcus’ recently deceased grandfather), France-based flamenco-ist Genaro Alonso and Clova fiddler Aoife McGarrigle.

To have a listen to ‘Kid Wonder’ you’ll need to visit Marcus’ own music page, but here’s another substitute in the shape of an old Secret Family track.


 
In the middle of the bill is sardonic London bard-of-the-fantastical Tom Slatter, whose reliably arch and intricate songbook of weird-fiction songstories (steampunk murders, tentacled monstrosities running amok) has built up across a string of theatrical albums and EPs since the early noughties. Hailed for “epic tales of darkness and light (which) fuse the bile of Roy Harper with humour and a sharp musical mind”, he’s previously delivered them live via a single strummed acoustic guitar, but is now generally accompanied by electric guitarist Gareth Cole. Here’s the video for a particular bit of 2015 Slatter tentaculation:


 
In case you think that Tom sounds like an odd, forced fit in the midst of this sincere Scottish folk stew – and it’s fair to admit that a man who calls his own concert album ‘Live, Discomfiting and Overly Whimsical’ might be bringing the hurt down on himself – it’s worth remembering that (in between the Lovecraft/Sterling/GameCon rampages) his catalogue features scattered, glowing moments of unguarded psychedelic beauty such as the ‘Earthbound’ single. On top of that, Tom’s most recent solo album – last year’s ‘Happy People‘ – took an unexpected sideswerve away from the monster galleries, the top hats and the cog-driven toy theatres into a much more nuanced consideration of the human condition. Tom probably wouldn’t thank me for pointing this out, mind; and if you’re solidly unconvinced, come along and heckle him anyway. By many accounts, he loves a good heckle, especially if topped off by a dose of cunning wordplay.

* * * * * * * *

Snails + Edward Penfold + Eugene Capper & Rhodri Brooks, 13th January 2018

Pop Or Not Promotions and Undergrowth present:
Pop/Not: Snails, Edward Penfold, Eugene Capper & Rhodri Brooks
Cube Microplex, Dove Street South (off top-left of King Square), Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8JD, England
Saturday 13th January 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

In the Cube Microplex (the squirreled-away Bristol theatre-turned-cinema/venue which recently hosted a rollicking showing of Cardiacs’ ‘Mare’s Nest’ concert film plus The Scaramanga Six), there are some more workings along the pop fringe. Over to the promoters…

“Led by songwriter Dan Weltman and described as “eerie, beautiful, modestly majestic” by Stephen McRobbie of The Pastels, five-piece experimental pop band Snails generate moments of suburban guitar pop reverie for lonely people walking to the shops. Their sound bears the influence of ’60s folk and psychedelia with a peppering of ’90s pop. Mavericks such as Syd Barrett and Nico mingle with the likes of the Gorky’s or even Belle and Sebastian; though, having no desire to recreate the past, Snails sensitively combine a passion for classic sounds with inventive songwritting to create their own heartfelt pop music. For this unique Bristol show they will be playing brand new material from their upcoming second LP.


 
Edward Penfold’s music is a blend of the old and the new, nostalgic but not dated. More than anything it sounds like now. It’s music from the heart – a hazy collection of sounds and moods, sometimes upbeat, sometimes down, but always genuine and always captivating. His lyricism reflects the eloquence and observation of a very English sort of poetry, seeing the depth in the shallows of life, the profundity in the mundane; all accepted with a matter-of-factness that is reflected in the driving impetus in every song, whether slow or fast or groovy. His new album ‘Denny Island Drive’ came out in late November 2017.

https://youtu.be/O0tpLUUNN0A
 
“After two years of ongoing collaboration and development, Cardiff twosome Eugene Capper and Rhodri Brooks have just released their beautiful debut LP ‘Pontvane’. Individually, both Capper and Brooks have developed back catalogues of diverse musicality and influence, incorporating elements of surf, lo-fi, Americana and psych. Their first release as a duo further emphasises this eclecticism, effortlessly stitching together disparate sonic fragments into a cohesive, compelling whole. Take a listen…”

 

July 2016 – a pair of one-day English festivals on the 16th (EppyFest 5 in Stroud, The Whole World Window in Preston)

13 Jul

This Saturday sees a couple of interesting pocket festivals taking place in the west and north-west of England – there’s still a chance for last-minute tickets or walk-ups for each of them.

The fifth in the series of EppyFests is happening this Saturday in Stroud, Gloucestershire. As with the previous four, it’s the brainchild of Stroud-based psychologist and music enthusiast Ian Fairholm and is a spinoff of his well-respected Epileptic Gibbon music podcast, whose remit rambles enthusiastically across “prog rock, art rock, post rock, prog metal, jazz rock, folk rock, math rock, downtempo, chill-out, ambient electronica, IDM, chamber pop, folktronica, psychedelia , neo-classical , film and TV soundtracks and experimental/avant garde music”.

EppyFest is an attempt at translating the podcast’s flavour into live music and live socializing. A well-run, self-starting pocket occasion (complete with its own T-shirts and integral dinner options) its previous events have featured ferocious British post-prog (Thumpermonkey, The Fierce & The Dead, Trojan Horse), latter prog/jazz-rock/jam acts (Sanguine Hum, Schnauzer, Henry Fool, Unto Us, Flutatious and Andy Pickford) and (in the case of Stackridge and The Korgis), a 70s prog outfit and a band of Britpop precursors sharing a last hurrah in the same body. Also in the mix has been loop guitar (Matt Stevens), classical/world chamber-fusion (Firefly Burning) and folk performers with extra ingredients stretching from neo-Celticana to chalkhill psychedelia, European electronica or Balkan jazz (Sheelanagig, I Am Your Autopilot, Tinker’s Cuss, Arch Garrison). As you might expect from a thoughtful curator married to an accomplished female musician, Eppyfest has also featured a healthy proportion of women players including bandleaders and solo artists (such as Becky Rose, Candythief and She Makes War).

Assuming that you’re not already committed to attending the Felix M-B gig down the road on the same day, EppyFest 5 looks set to carry on the tradition in fine form. (I’m jealous. I wouldn’t mind running something like that myself. It’s time to start thinking about empire, or benevolent despotry…)

The Epileptic Gibbon Podcast presents:
‘EppyFest 5’: William D. Drake + Judy Dyble & Her Band of Perfect Strangers + Marvyn B. Naylor + Darkroom (with Elif Yalvac) + Tom Slatter + Sirkis/Bialas International Quartet
Lansdown Hall, Lansdown, Stroud, GL5 1BB, England
Saturday 16th July 2016 , 4.00pm to 11.00pm
information & tickets

Eppyfest 5, 2016

Over the years, I’ve said plenty about this year’s EppyFest headliner William D. Drake over the years, and will probably say more. Woody-throated singer and former Cardiac; the organic keyboard wizard who turns television sets into organs; the man you might find if you went looking for the place where baroque pop meets Punch-and-Judy professor. Bill’s songs suggest a parallel English music: one in which antique pop songs on crackling wax cylinders mingle seamless with both Henry Purcell and Frank Zappa.

In his mid-fifties, and with the release of his fifth album ‘Revere Reach’, Bill’s reached a crucial point in his career, in which the jolly avuncular eccentricities of his earlier work have finally given way to the blossoming kernel of beauty within his compositions. He’s probably far too rounded a person and songwriter to entirely give into it, though. Expect the full range of glorious pastoralism and bouncy humour from a full chamber pop band including members of Stars In Battledress and North Sea Radio Orchestra.

 

I’ve also said plenty about Darkroom , the textural electro-morphic partnership of sometime No-Man/Samuel Smiles/Henry Fool guitarist Michael Bearpark and loop/synth/woodwind/patch-man Andrew Ostler. Over two decades Darkroom have delivered a massively underrated body of work straddling gigantic cosmic soundscapes like deliquescing Hubble images, intricate cerebral dance rhythms, broodingly beautiful guitar tones and (recently) cryptic bass clarinet and flute strands, touching upon influences as diverse as OMD, Autechre, Robert Fripp, Neil Young, Delia Derbyshire, Can and Bennie Maupin.

For this concert their polyglot electronica is augmented by a special guest, Turkish electronic guitarist Hazal Elif Yalvaç an Istanbul-based composer, musician and linguist. We’ll have to see whether Elif’s work (much of it glitching, grumbling guitartronic abstractions) brings out Darkroom’s more abstract instincts; or whether Os and Michael’s knack for direct expressiveness brings out that proggier aspect which Elif’s threatening to reveal in her forthcoming Light Curve project.


Show opener Tom Slatter also shows up in ‘Misfit City’ quite often. He’s a Victorian town-crier with a guitar and a slew of fantastical tales about monsters of air, land and sea, strange goings on in laboratories, haunted gentlemen and master criminals loose on the railways. On record he’s a multi-instrumental steampunk proggie, building himself instrumental Rube Goldberg machines (and occasionally collaborating with one). Live, he’s mostly unplugged and solo, letting his charm make up for the shortfall in instrumentation. One day he will build himself a bicycle-powered, bat-winged portable orchestrion out of old tuba piping and traction engine spares, to allow him to merge both situations. It will probably go off course and fly him somewhere horrible.

One of the prime strengths of jazz players is that they can come from anywhere in the world, meet each other for the first time and immediately speak a common improvising language of immediate flexibility. The four musicians who make up the Sirkis/Bialas International QuartetAsaf Sirkis (drums, Israeli, Londoner), Sylwia Bialas (voice, Polish, currently a Londoner but only recently a Würzburg resident), Kevin Glasgow (bass guitar, a Scottish Londoner via Ireland, but Invernessian rather than actual Glaswegian, replacing an Englishman who originally reached the band via Australia, Scotland and the United States) and Frank Harrison (keyboards, English, surprising lack of other complications) – make more of their scattered nature than most.

With all of that in mind, you’d expect a riotous mix of cultures, making hay out of clashes. What you actually get is aquamarine almost-acoustic jazz, cupped and propelled by Asaf’s winds-of-the-forest percussion subtleties, sung in Polish or vocalese, sheathed in softness and in smoothly-flowing instrumental gestures. The lightness of touch and the Northern hemisphere reserve hearken towards both Pacific Northwestern new age and ECM atmospherics; the light-as-a-feather scatting, twirling Rhodes piano and lissom six-string electric bass suggests a hushed Kurpie version of Flora Purim’s time with Return to Forever.

While the pure, piping soprano tones of co-headliner Judy Dyble might distract you from her full story, they do tie her firmly to the 1960s folk revival. It’s a true tie, as well – teenage friendships with Ashley Hutchings and Richard Thompson led her to spend a year as the singer for the original lineup of Fairport Convention. This auspicious start was followed by a brief, obscure stint in King Crimson prelude band Giles, Giles & Fripp, a more celebrated year as half of much-touted psychedelic folk duo Trader Horne; and finally a handful of gigs in the company of Canterbury characters Lol Coxhill, Steve Miller and Phil Miller.

A gentle, often reticent character, Judy’s musicality wasn’t enough to keep her comfortably engaged with the bruising demands of the music business; and in 1973, after six years of flitting nervously in and out of the spotlight, she retired from music into a quiet life of family and library work while still barely into her twenties. Perhaps it wasn’t as mysterious or dramatic a withdrawal as that of peers such as Anne Briggs or Vashti Bunyan, but it was enough to reduce her reputation to a shadow for all except those who dug up her handful of recordings in search of half-forgotten treasure and found something that didn’t deserve to be overshadowed.

Bar a couple of flitting, fitful Fairport reengagements at Cropredy in the early ‘80s, little was heard from Judy for three decades until – widowed and empty-nested – she was inveigled back into recording by Astralasia’s Mike Swordfish in 2002. Since then she’s pursued a quiet but exploratory revival of her musicality, working in fields fromfolk-rock to trancetronica and experimental art pop, and with collaborators including Dodson & Fogg, Tim Bowness, Sand Snowman, Joxfield Projex, Fuxa and Thee Faction. Her regular home, however, is with her Perfect Strangers ensemble (mostly drawn from co-writer Alistair Murphy’s Cromerzone project) with whom she’ll be performing at EppyFest. Throughout all of this, Judy’s signature tone has remained intact – the folk sweetness, the subliminal hint at hesitancy and tremble which betrays the nerviness and unsurety which has both interrupted her career and given her work its humanity and honesty. As she heads towards her seventies, both tone and temperament have become allied to a longer perspective of value, loss and change – something which, strengthened and deepened by time, she’s grown into and fleshed out with natural experience.

Completing the bill is another, even less well-known hidden treasure. Winchester singer-songwriter Marvyn B. Naylor has been delivering music for twelve underappreciated years now. His mixture of intricate, allusive psychedelic pop songs and pulsating 12-string guitar folk instrumentals tip nods to and shake hands with inspirations including the early David Bowie, Edward Elgar, the Beatles, Joyce Kilmer, Frank Sinatra, Francisco Tarrega and Guy de Maupassant: but he’s a whole meal in himself.


 

* * * * * * * *

There’s just one former Cardiac on the bill at EppyFest. Technically speaking – unless it’s true that Kavus Torabi is DJ-ing – there are no former Cardiacs at The Whole World Window, which takes place on the same day as EppyFest but five counties up (in Lancashire). In spite of this the bill, spread across two stages, is suffused with Cardiacs enthusiasm. Unsurprising, since it’s the latest in a series of benefits for the band’s stroke-felled leader Tim Smith.

Greg Braysford presents:
‘The Whole World Window – A Benefit for Tim Smith’: Britney + All Hail Hyena + 7Shades + The Scaramanga Six + Sweet Deals On Surgery + Sterbus + Trojan Horse + Adam Shaw + The Jackpot Golden Boys + Sean Keefe + Ahsa + others tbc (or fibbed about)
The New Continental, South Meadow Lane, Preston PR1 8JP, England
Saturday 16th July 2016, 2.00pm
– information here – tickets here and here

The Whole World Window, 2016Bellowing Scots Britney are as garish and hardcore as a fairground teddy-grabber covered in backstreet tattoos. They’re given to one-and-a-half-minute bursts of earsplitting rock numbers plastered with crumpled ice-cream-van melodies. The latter trait, something of a Cardiacs stock-in-trade, tinkles through several of the other bands on the bill – be they outright disciples 7Shades (who lovingly pillage the ornate Cardiacs style wholesale) or pyjama-clad Burley power-pop trio All Hail Hyena (who sound like Bo Diddley rocking an birthday-cake castle).


Something more grandiose is offered by Huddersfield rock bullies The Scaramanga Six. They’ve devoted twenty-one years and enormous musical flair to hammering out poperatic tunes and bursts of garage gonzo, providing tragicomic insight into the flawed and unsettled ethics of everyday men (all carried out with assured baroque brutality and gallows humour). Self-styled “noisy prog rock bastards” Trojan Horse might not be returning to EppyFest this year, but they are bringing their omnivorous Salfordian rock cocktail to Preston: a catalogue of work which plunges into swaggering ‘70’s funk, belting avant-garage moments, broad-spectrum Beatles-pop and audacious psychogeographic experiments. Power-poppers Sweet Deals On Surgery lean towards the punkier side, bucketing towards the end of a song as if it were a race, but distractedly bursting into different versions halfway. For God’s sake, keep them off the Haribos…



All the way from Italy, Sterbus (Smith/Fripp/Zappa obsessive and noblest-Roman-of-them-all) will be coming to either yomp through some of his triple-jointed proggy power pop or to play leafy psychedelic summer-lounge acoustica (which may or may not include some of his takes on Cardiacs, Spratleys Japs and other limbs of Smithiana). If he doesn’t hold up the acoustic end, rest assured that Ivan Campo frontman Adam Shaw will, as he brings along his light-touch, thoughtful folk pop for us to unravel.


The rest of the bill’s made up of bands which predominantly reflect the humour (if not necessarily the horse-laughs and art-punk prankery) of the Cardiacs world. Silly-goodtime pop culture obsessives The Jackpot Golden Boys throw assorted metal, pop and funk chops at things from TV theme tunes to geek topics and hope that a few of them stay embedded. Militant hat wearer, slide guitarist, Strumstick player, comedy yarner and genre-mash novelist Sean Keefe – brings along his own version of honky-tonk Americana.



 
The (known) lineup is completed by acapella singer Asha Hewitt (seen below performing with Gummo Cleyre and Alex Dickinson as Yorkshire Latin pop band Solana). Asha might be the last kind of musician you’d expect to see getting up at a Smith benefit gig; but her presence is proof positive that the happy skewed tastes of the Cardiacs audience let in all kinds of light. Once they’ve stopped cheerfully bawling for their mashed-up chord sequences, that is…


 

February 2016 – upcoming London gigs – the Jonny Gee Quartet play Archway jazz; an evening of Bad Elephant music with The Gift, Twice Bitten, Tom Slatter and jh; Teeth of the Sea + Ramleh at Electrowerks; The Centrals + Picturebox in Whitechapel

9 Feb

I’ve grumbled before about the encroachments and exclusions which lurk in the ongoing gentrification of London, but there are positive sides too. In Archway, amongst the brush-ups and the shouldering aside of community resources for what looks like the usual drive towards more and more luxury flats (see here for some of the fallout from that) there are sundry encouraging pop-ups and lower-key investments.

One such is the move of the Forks and Corks cafe from the edge of Parliament Hill to a new location, livening barren and wind-sucked plaza outside Archway station. Ensconsed in a former betting shop, twenty seconds walk from the tube station, they cook up deli food and serve craft beers, ciders and wines in an atmosphere of comfy sofas, child-friendliness and an encouraging make-do and mend spirit. Part of the latter includes a battered old piano, which in turn is leading to music evenings…

Jonny Gee Quartet @ Forks & Corks, 12th February 2016

Jazz in Archway presents:
The Jonny Gee Quartet
Forks & Corks, 2 Archway Mall, Junction Road, Archway, London, N19 5PH, England
Friday 12th February 2016, 8.00pm
– free event – more information

The Quartet are Jonny Gee (leader and double bass), Mick Foster (saxophone), Dan Hewson (piano) and Andrea Trillo (drums). From the photo, you can tell that they don’t take themselves too seriously, but don’t expect the same to apply to the music. Although you can expect a breezy, funky and accessible take on acoustic jazz, it’s going to be played by some serious musicians – most of them bandleaders in their own right – who don’t see why joy and sunniness can’t flood their playing. Between them they draw on years of experience with jazz, classical and dance forms (having collectively clocked up work with Stan Sulzmann, Ravi Shankar, Mike Garrick, Jacqui Dankworth, Zoë Rahman, The Sixteen, Pete King, the London Jazz Orchestra, Dave O’Higgins, Jon Toussaint, Jerry Dammers and Antonio Forcione). Not a bad collective draw for a scruffy, warmed-up concrete box in the middle of Archway…

* * * * * * * *

Still in London, on the 13th there’s the usual wash of Saturday gigs – acoustica, contemporary prog, electro-psych and power electronics, and lo-fi pop. Let’s make a start on that.

Bad Elephant Music have been one of the most industrious of British cottage labels this past year, putting out a steady and careful stream of latterday prog, post-prog, folk rock and sophisticated AOR albums. This home gig should live up to the label’s familial reputation…

An Evening of Bad Elephant Music, 13th February 2016

Bad Elephant Music/House of Progression/Prog Magazine present:
An Evening of Bad Elephant Music: The Gift + Twice Bitten + Tom Slatter + jh
Boston Music Room, 178 Junction Road, Tufnell Park, London, N19 5QQ, England
Saturday 13th February 2016, 7.00pm
more information

Straight from the Elephant’s mouth:

“With their powerful and hypnotic songwriting, The Gift are supreme purveyors of the storytelling art and the perfect band to headline this event. The band will be staging a performance of their classic first album, ‘Awake And Dreaming’. 2016 sees the 10th anniversary of this long-deleted album, and to celebrate its birthday BEM will be reissuing it in a deluxe version, with brand new design. It is available for sale bundled with pre-ordered tickets for the evening, and also at the show. It won’t be on general release until later in the year, so this is a unique opportunity to get your copy and hear the album before it’s in the wild.

Twice Bitten will be making a rare live appearance, following BEM’s release of their first ever CD, ‘Late Cut’, in 2015. Formed in 1982, this legendary ‘heavy wood’ duo performed with most of the second-wave progressive rock bands of the Eighties, and will be well-known to anyone who frequented the Marquee back in the day. In keeping with their idiom, this appearance represents the launch event for ‘Late Cut’ – only six months after its release!

Tom Slatter‘s music is a listening experience like no other, with epic songs and deliciously dark storylines. Tom has eccentricity, inventiveness and mad genius at the core of everything he does – musician who is continually re-inventing himself. Tom is currently working on his fifth full-length album, a followup to ‘Fit The Fourth’, released by BEM in 2015. Tom certainly knows the meaning of ‘left field’ when it comes to the ideas and execution of his steampunk prog.

jh‘s uniquely British songwriting is a testament to his love of the album as an art form and his to his integrity as a musician. His eclectic yet cohesive music is full of melodies that will glue themselves inside your head. ‘Morning Sun’, an anthology of jh’s first three albums, has been a favourite for many visitors to the BEM store, and 2016 will see the release his first new collection of material since 2013′s ‘So Much Promise’.”

LATE UPDATE:

Unfortunately Rog Patterson – one half of Twice Bitten – has suffered a slipped disc in his neck, and is unable to even hold a guitar, let alone play one. Twice Bitten have, therefore, had to withdraw from An Evening of Bad Elephant Music. However… all is not lost! At the eleventh hour We Are Kin have stepped into the fray with a special acoustic performance of songs from their album ‘Pandora’.

* * * * * * * *

Something a little noisier…

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Teeth of the Sea + Ramleh
Electrowerkz @ Islington Metal Works, 5 Torrens Street, Islington, London, EC1V 1NQ, England
Saturday 13th February 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Teeth Of The Sea, 2016

Having just finished a British tour in support of their fourth album, ‘Highly Deadly Black Tarantula’, Teeth of the Sea (returning to one of their London home-venues) have shown up in ‘Misfit City’ before. Their driving part-electronic instrumentals – packed with wailing guitars, rasping analogue synths and effected kaleidoscopic trumpet – owe equal debts to counterculture techno and to the aggressive end of psychedelic rock. ‘The Guardian’ has described their sound as “a more malevolent Morricone… widescreen and atmospheric throughout, but with a sense of dread running through its veins.” That’s close enough to nail it, though I’d also salute the four-to-the-floor beats, the cavernous space echo, and the dark pop shimmer that seals their overall appeal. Lurking epic dread notwithstanding, a Teeth of the Sea gig is also a grand black-winged dance party – a huge Gothic laugh.

In support are Ramleh, whose lengthy and intermittent history dates back to the early ‘80s when they were launched as a solo power electronics project by founder and constant member Gary Mundy. As Gary and collaborator Philip Best developed, their sound generators, tunnelling shock-noise and lacings of screamed and hateful imagery gradually gave way to more flexible live instrumentation and more cryptically-inclined song-texts. Gary would become one of the key members of another crew of brutal noise-rock improvisers, Skullflower, whose explorations and personnel both contributed to Ramleh’s second and more psychedelic incarnation, which lasted through to the late ‘90s.

Since reuniting for a second time in 2009 (this time without Philip Best, now concentrating on the transcendently confrontational noise of his Consumer Electronics project), Ramleh have honed their sound to what you’ll hear on their newest album ‘Circular Time’ – dark guitar peals, blipping synth tones, pillared bass and supple, controlled-demolition drum-and-percussion flexings which can skulk in a kind of dubby minimalism or engage in furious death-spiral embraces of crowded noise. The Ramleh you see at this concert could be the rock trio version (Gary, Antony diFranco, Martyn Watts) or the drumless duo version of Gary and Anthony (I’m guessing that it’ll be the former…)

* * * * * * * *

There’s just time to quickly mention this one too…

The Centrals + Picturebox @ The Union Bar, 13th February 2016

The Centrals + Picturebox
The Urban Bar, 176 Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel, London, E1 1BJ, England
Saturday 13th February 2016, 8.00pm
more information

The Centrals return to The Urban Bar in Whitechapel. Expect a fast-paced set full of catchy scrappy numbers that rarely break the 3min barrier. No messin’. Alongside them will be Picturebox, with their unique brand of lo-fi pop music from the cathedral city of Canterbury.”


January 2016 – upcoming gigs – Laura Cannell plays Liverpool, Glasgow and Bradford (with In Atoms, Jozef van Wissem, Magpahi and Stephanie Hladowski); in London, and an Ichi show at the Harrison. And Tom Slatter doesn’t play Brighton, yet…

12 Jan

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.

* * * * * * * *

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)”.


* * * * * * * *

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.”

* * * * * * * *

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

December 2015 – upcoming gigs, London and elsewhere – classical/folk/songwriter fusion with James McVinnie, Mara Carlyle, Liam Byrne and HART at Daylight Music; an experimental boilup at St Johns Hackney with Faust/Nurse with Wound/Cut Hands; plus Tom Slatter’s steampunk prog acoustica in Winchester, and a Gong spinoff in Brighton (with Dave Sturt, Kavus Torabi & Ian East)

1 Dec

There were too many gigs this week to fit into the last post – go back there for details on assorted chamber music, folk, sample pop and the Anawan gigs in New York (one of which spills over into the weekend). For my usual erratic pick of what’s on over this coming weekend, keep reading.

* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music 209, 5th December 2015

Daylight Music 209 – James McVinnie, Mara Carlyle, Liam Byrne + HART (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, UK,12.00pm) – free (suggested donation £5.00) – information

World famous organist James McVinnie makes the perfect partner for the Union Chapel’s 200-year-old Henry Willis organ. In the spirit of Christmas, James has invited his closest musical chums to share the stage with him: Mara Carlyle, Liam Byrne and HART. Together, they’ll be presenting some of their own music and doing arrangements of hidden gems and forgotten carols.

Organist James McVinnie was Assistant Organist at Westminster Abbey between 2008 and 2011 (playing for both regular and special services as well as directing the Abbey’s world-famous choir) and has held similar positions at St Paul’s and St Albans Cathedral. He appears on numerous recordings of vocal and choral music and, as a continuo player, he has appeared at most European early music festivals. In parallel to this, he is internationally renowned both as a soloist and a collaborator in new music whose boundless approach to music has lead him to collaborations with some of the world’s leading composers and performers. David Lang (winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in music), Martin Creed (winner of the 2001 Turner Prize), Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Pee Wee Ellis, Max de Wardener, Mara Carlyle and Bryce Dessner (The National) have all written works for him. He is a member of Bedroom Community, the Icelandic record label and close-knit collective comprising like-minded, yet diverse musicians from different corners of the globe. ‘Cycles’, his debut release of music written for him by Nico Muhly was released on this label in 2013 to widespread critical acclaim. 2016 will see releases of music for organ by J S Bach and Philip Glass.


Originally from Shropshire and now living in London, Mara Carlyle is a singer-songwriter, an arranger and electronic orchestrator, and a player of both ukelele and musical saw. The child of musical parents (with whom she played in assorted folk projects from childhood) and the product of classical training, she’s also the possessor of an eclectic taste as much enthused by A-Ha and Amerie as by Henry Purcell.Initially known as a guest singer on a succession of Plaid albums between 1997 and 2001, she released her first solo album in 2004. Mara’s own work blends her operatic voice with classical structures, torch jazz and electronic flourishes. In addition to her own original material, she specialises in interpretations and adaptations from the classical, baroque, Romantic and modern-classical canon including works by Handel, Purcell (Dido’s Lament), Robert Schumann (whose Ich Grolle Nicht was the basis of her single I Blame You Not), Walford Davies and Jacques Offenbach. Since 2014 she’s been part of the presenting team on Late Junction. Mara is currently in the process of recording her third album.


Liam Byrne divides his time between playing very old and very new music on the viol. With the firm belief that baroque music can be vibrant and expressive on its own terms, Liam’s solo work regularly explores lesser known corners of the 16th and 17th century repertoire. For several years he was a member of Fretwork, and has also toured and recorded with the Dunedin Consort, The Sixteen, Le Concert d’Astrée, i Fagiolini, Concerto Caledonia, and the viol consorts Phantasm and Concordia, among many others. Liam’s interpretative curiosity has also led him to work increasingly with living composers, and he has had new solo works written for him by Edmund Finnis, Nico Muhly, Valgeir Sigurðsson and others. Beyond the realm of classical music, he has worked with a wide variety of artists including Nils Frahm, Matthew Herbert, Martin Parker and The Hidden Cameras. He has played a significant musical role in the creation of several large-scale operatic works: Damon Albarn’s ‘Dr Dee’, Shara Worden’s ‘You Us We All’ , and Valgeir Sigurðsson’s ‘Wide Slumber’ . In 2015 he will undertake a new project with Belgian ensemble Baroque Orchestration X and Icelandic musician Mugison. Liam plays a 7-string bass viol by John Pringle, a 6-string bass by Marc Soubeyran, and a treble viol by Dietrich Kessler, which is graciously on loan from Marc Soubeyran.

Described as possessing “one of the most noteworthy male voices of the last twenty years,” (‘For Folk’s Sake‘), singer/songwriter Daniel Pattison trades under the project name of HART. Featuring elements of dream-pop, folk, avant-garde psychedelic rock, electronica and contemporary classical songcraft, his debut EP ‘Songs Of The Summer’ (featuring string arrangements from Nico Muhly) was released in October this year).

Playing in-between on this weeks festive edition will be singer songwriter Harry Strange, a singer-songwriter from London currently working on his first EP.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh4QI2necOg

* * * * * * * *

If all of that sounds too genteel, the same evening brings this triple-legend concert of experimental and industrial music heroes (also in a church). Putting this one on is a real point of pride for the organisers, who describe it as “a dream line up for us as we are all very heavily influenced by each of these artists. It will be an amazing show and the last one of 2015 from us.” I’ve just seen that tickets for the concert are selling out even as I post this – so move fast.

Faust/Cut Hands/Nurse With Wound @ St John Sessions, 5th December 2015

Faust/Nurse With Wound/Cut Hands (St John Sessions & Thirtythree Thirtythree @ St John at Hackney Church, Lower Clapton Road, Clapton, London, E5 0PD, UK, Saturday 5th December 2015, 7.30pm) – £18.15 – informationtickets

Roadmaking equipment onstage, self-invented instruments, performers who refuse to conform even to standard roles of getting onstage and playing…if any or all of this sounds familiar (or even the kind of thing that’s mentioned in ‘Misfit City’ every other week) it’s because Faust set the blueprints at the start of the 1970s, or at least brought them into the world of popular music. An inspiration for innumerable questioning music-makers for over forty years, the band (or, more accurately, the collective event which calls itself Faust) have maintained the same sense of spontaneity, constructive pranking, rude assertion and open-ended possibilities throughout an erratic and frequently interrupted existence.

Initially assembled and pitched (by record producer/journalist-philosopher Uwe Nettelbeck) as a counter-cultural boy band for the lucrative but conservative German record market in 1970 – as if they were a Hamburg take on The Monkees – Faust showed their true avant-garde colours immediately and deliberately. Only a rock band in the very loosest sense of the word (perhaps only their electric instrumentation, amplification, time of emergence and love of rough immediacy really plugs them into the genre), their music has combined free improvisation, garage-band jamming, a pre-punk inspiration-over-technique aesthetic and a distinctly Dada perspective. Stories about perverse, inspired experimentation and behaviour in the face of an increasingly bewildered and irritated music industry have passed into legend: rebellions which seem, for once, to have been essential and genuinely inseparable from the band’s music creation (even from their very existence). Today’s Faust may be mining a tradition rather than breaking new ground, but even as the original members pass through their sixties and into their seventies they retain their commitment to the methodology they unearthed.

To be honest with you, I’ve got only the faintest idea about which of the parallel current incarnations of Faust (each featuring various different original members) is playing in London this coming week, although the evidence is pointing towards a grouping of Zappi W. Diermaier/Jean Herve Péron/Maxime Manac’h/Uwe Bastiansen). The members themselves seem particularly unconcerned: Péron has never much concerned himself with rules and (in an eminently readable interview with ‘The Quietus’) founding organist/noise-marshaller Hans Joachim Irmler from the other main faction has confessed “our idea was that all six original members could be Faust but there should never be two Fausts at the same time. It was an agreement but the version of Faust based around Diermaier, Péron and [Amaury] Cambuzat broke the rules, in a way. It took a little while for me to get used to it but now I think… ‘Why not?!'” If they don’t mind, maybe we shouldn’t either. Increasingly, Faust is of more an idea than a band, per se – or perhaps it’s best to call them a travelling opportunity, an open mind; a self-contained performance space.

For three decades and over fifty releases, sonic collage project and “purveyor of sinister whim to the wretched” Nurse With Wound (predominantly the work of Steven Stapleton) has been drawing directly on nearly every musical genre imaginable, mixing them up via tape loops, samples and whichever methods work to illustrate Stapleton’s curiosity and sense of humour, itself influenced by surrealism, Dada and absurdism (which explains why John Cage, filched easy-listening and snatches of kosmiche could be rubbing shoulders on any given NWW track). The project’s music is also informed by Stapleton’s keen visual and fine-art sensibilities, reflecting his other work as painter and sculptor.

Originally the key figure in transgressive 1980s power electronics band Whitehouse, William Bennett has been exploring “Afro-noise” under the Cut Hands moniker since 2008. The project is heavily inspired by William’s fascination with Haitian vaudou, deploying Central African percussion in radical new ways and generating an intense sound unrivalled in its physical and emotional intensity. In a recent interview with ‘Self Titled‘, William has commented “with Cut Hands, one of the original intents was to try and achieve the same kinds of emotional transformation through polyrhythmic percussion where once words were used… I confess there is a bit of a crazy, beardy New Age composer trying desperately to break free.”

* * * * * * * *

If you’re in Winchester that night, rather than in London, and you fancy a bit of budget-imaginarium fun, I can point you towards this…

Tom Slatter (Heart Of Saturday Night @ The Art Café, 2 De Lunn Buildings, Jewry Street, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 8SA, UK, Saturday 5th December 2015, 7.30pm) – free (donations encouraged) – information

record-tomslatter-ftfThis is Tom’s last gig of the year (although he’s got a few lined up for both London and Brighton in early 2016) and it’s free entry, though a hat might be passed around at some point for donations – possibly the topper which Tom is famous for wearing while he delivers his Victoriana prog songs.

I might as well requote my quick description of Tom from a few months ago, since he’s cheerfully seized on at least part of it for himself – “Tom describes his work as “the sort of music you’d get if Genesis started writing songs with Nick Cave after watching too much ‘Doctor Who'”, while one of his occasional collaborators, Jordan Brown of airy London prog-poppers The Rube Goldberg Machine, calls him “a sci-fi storyteller with a penchant for odd time signatures and soundscapes.” Both descriptions ring true but fail to pinpoint the cheerfully pulpy weird-fiction exuberance of Tom’s work as a one-man band. He’s a man not just happily out of his time, but making a virtue of it – a latter-day Victorian street-theatre barker with a guitar promising tales of mystery, imagination, ‘orrible murders and bloody great waving tentacles.”

For a second opinion, try this from ‘The Progressive Aspect‘ – “Tom is an engaging singer with a resonant voice and an unorthodox songwriter whose songs push the boundaries of what can be expected from the solo acoustic guitar troubadour, straying into the darkest of corners. There is a strange mind at work here but one that makes for a compelling and fascinating listen.”

Recorded and live tasters below…

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, over in Brighton, there’s something for the psychedelic crew:

Inspiral Trio & The Fibroid Nebulae @ Real Music Club, Brighton, 5th December 2015

Inspiral Trio + The Fibroid Nebulae (The Real Music Club  @ The Prince Albert, 48 Trafalgar Street, BN1 4ED Brighton, England, Saturday 5th December 2015, 8.00pm) – £8.80-£11.00 – information – tickets

The Real Music Club is delighted to present an intimate night of highly eclectic music.

Within Inspiral Trio, three current members of Gong explore their harmonious musical synergy. Dave Sturt (bass guitarist and composer) has worked with Gong, Bill Nelson, Steve Hillage, Jade Warrior and Cipher. His solo album ‘Dreams & Absurdities’ will be released on Esoteric Antenna on October 30th. Ian East (sax/woodwinds player and composer) has worked in multiple genres, from Gong to Balkanatics. Ian is currently producing a solo album to be released in 2016. Kavus Torabi (guitarist, singer and composer) has worked with Cardiacs, Gong, Knifeworld, Guapo and Mediavel Baebes – much of his work can be found on his own label, Believers Roast. Solo sets from each man (with Kavus promising some acoustic renditions of tunes from the forthcoming Knifeworld album in his one) will be followed by an improvised set from all three players together. Come and enjoy a tasteful melange of solo and triadic creations from these unique musicians.

The Fibroid Nebulae was formed by Damned/Sumerian Kyngs keyboardist Monty Oxymoron after opening the Real Music Club’s ‘Drones4Daevid’ gig in February 2015. The band consists of Monty (keyboards and vocals), Francesca Burrow (vocals, sax, clarinet and keyboards), Dave Berk (of Jonny Moped) on drums and vocals, Andy Power (Sumerian Kyngs) on bass and the Real Music Club’s own Gregg McKella (Paradise 9/Glissando Guitar Orchestra/Peyote Guru/Gregg & Kev) on synthy bits, vocals, guitar and glissando guitar. The Fibroid Nebulae play offbeat tracks and fuse their own styles and quirks with some lo-fi groove psychedelia, ambient sounds and Krautrock – taking in Soft Machine, Gong, Neu! and Pink Floyd along the way!

* * * * * * * *

And there’s more shortly

July 2015 – upcoming London gigs on Saturday and Tuesday – the Independent Label Market; Tom Slatter & jh’s free gig in Bethnal Green; William D. Drake with Stars In Battledress and Steven Evens

10 Jul

The Carvery at the Independent Label Market

If your musical instincts include any crate-digging, hoarding or hunter-gathering aspects, you could try checking out the Independent Label Market this Saturday, 11th July, at Old Spitalfields Market in east London. I got my own heads-up about this via The Carvery, who say:

We will be representing a strong and eclectic mix of labels we work with… There will be a limited amount of stock hand picked by each label at a reduced price for one day only. Expect releases and limited edition items from Sofrito, Tropical Discotheque, Matsuli Music, Numero Group, Five Easy Pieces, Names You Can Trust, Bastard Jazz, Paradise Bangkok, Rhythm Section, High Focus, Faux Discx Records, ALTER, NICE UP! Records and Reggae Roast.

No, I know none of these labels. Expect many others, plus other mastering companies and record manufacturers, to be there on the day selling independent-label music at bargain prices. For anyone who attends, the event is likely to be an education in itself. It starts at 11am, goes through until 6 in the evening.

Later on, but not very far away, there’s this…

Tom Slatter @ St Margaret's House, 11th July 2015

Tom Slatter + jh (The Chapel, St Margaret’s House, Old Ford Road, London, E2 9PL, UK, Saturday 11th July, 7.30 pm)– free

Disarmingly, Tom describes his work as “the sort of music you’d get if Genesis started writing songs with Nick Cave after watching too much ‘Doctor Who'”, while one of his occasional collaborators, Jordan Brown of airy London prog-poppers The Rube Goldberg Machine, calls him “a sci-fi storyteller with a penchant for odd time signatures and soundscapes.” Both descriptions ring true but fail to pinpoint the cheerfully pulpy weird-fiction exuberance of Tom’s work as a one-man band. He’s a man not just happily out of his time, but making a virtue of it – a latter-day Victorian street-theatre barker with a guitar promising tales of mystery, imagination, ‘orrible murders and bloody great waving tentacles.

This gig’s an acoustic show, with Tom mostly playing versions of songs from his recent ‘Fit The Fourth‘ album (out on Bad Elephant Music last month). Part of me hopes that he’ll take his taste for Victoriana a step further and rig himself up like a phoney spiritualist – little bits of prestidigitation, a tambourine between the knees, plus additional instruments and sound effects triggered by fishing line attached to thighs and elbows. We probably won’t get all of that, but what we will get is a performer who’s blissfully committed to the inherent fun and theatricality of his material. Something to treasure. Here he is at play in the video for his recent single, ‘Some Of The Creatures Have Broken The Locks On The Door To Lab 558’ (for better or worse, the title says it all), plus another video taken from an acoustic show he did amidst the wheels, pistons and cams of the London Museum of Water & Steam down at Kew Bridge.

Playing support is Tom’s fellow Bad Elephanteer jh in a similar acoustic slot, promoting his ‘Morning Sun‘ compilation and the upcoming Bad Elephant release of his back catalogue. With the soul of a confessional busker but the expansive sound-draping instincts of an electric-Eden acid rocker, jh (on record, at least) is the missing link between Joe Strummer and Roy Harper with a touch of prog pastoral thrown in. Live and unplugged, he’s likely to be wirier and relying on his narratives to hold your attention. Personally, I warm to a man who can write an eighteen-minute Anglo-prog epic (complete with Michael Caine references and conversational swearing) and call it ‘Making Tea Is Freedom’.

Up-to-date info on the concert should be here, while tickets can be reserved here (as I post, there are twenty-nine left).

Tom Slatter gig flyer 11th july 2015

On the following Tuesday, William D. Drake follows up last Sunday’s launch gig in Brighton for his new ‘Revere’s Reach’ album with a second launch gig in London. I’ve been putting up plenty of posts about his exuberant music and its clever, affecting mash-up of folk, rock and classical; its beguiling nonsense, its striking beauty and its deceptive humanity. Expect a few more of those shortly. Support comes from a rare appearance from Stars In Battledress (the Larcombe brothers’ cryptic, witty psychedelic folk duo – read an account of them onstage here) and the mysterious Steven Evens, about whom I know nothing (update – ah, it’s a new incarnation of Stuffy Gilchrist!). Current event info is here, tickets are here, and the basic info plus a brace of videos are below.

William D. Drake + Stars In Battledress + Stephen Evens (The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, N1 9JB, London, UK, Tuesday 14th July, 7.30 pm)– £11.00

UPDATE, JULY 13th – sadly, the William D. Drake gig has had to be postponed due to bereavement. I’ll repost about it once it’s been rescheduled.

May 2010 – single & track reviews – Tom Slatter’s ‘Seven Curses/Lines in the Dirt’; Zoo Kid’s ‘A Lizard State’; Madvillain’s ‘Papermill’

26 May
Tom Slatter: 'Seven Curses/Lines in the Dirt'
Tom Slatter: ‘Seven Curses/Lines in the Dirt’

As you might have expected if you’d already heard his ‘Spinning the Compass’ album, Tom Slatter’s ‘Seven Curses’ plays as if plucked straight from an Edwardian hardback or for an early Hammer horror short. It all rarely rises above tale-telling folk dynamics, but Tom’s voice creaks with hammy foreboding, while the music is draped with spooky death-strings and apprehensive guitar cadences.

His patronising English explorer (for which read “tomb-robber”) gets punished when he walks straight into a crossfire of malignant defensive spells, rendering him a disaster magnet spilling misfortune and death onto people around. It’s the other ‘Get Carter’. Tom sort of plays it straight, but fireside-storyteller straight, more than willing to bug his eyes and make spooky gestures of voice and arm if it helps the tale roll along. In the end, it’s a fragment of weird-camp, its plot unresolved, its narrator muttering evasively about a “compulsion” which might be his determination to tough it out or a coded admission of responsibilities for the series of mysterious deaths which are beginning to blot his passage through life.

‘Lines in the Dirt’, on the flipside, shuffles its sorcerous signifiers like Tarot cards. “Geoglyphs and pyramids, / the voices of the aliens. / Mashing up the holy root. / The feathers sprouting from your skin, / shaping babies’ skulls.” Again, there are witchy metal bands out there who’d play this straight, lurking by bookcases and growling out of the depths of their trench coats, drawing sigils with one hand and, with the other, fingering mysterious objects deep in their pockets. Tom, by comparison, sings it almost like a lounge song, despite the encroaching minor-key darkness of his chord voicings. A coda of droning, low-heat psychedelic guitars and Moog-y squeals restores some mystique, but it still feels as if Tom’s teasing us by flapping a book cover at us. Both songs feel like preludes, not quite satisfying in themselves: dainty bait to pull us into a full Slatter show with all of the invisible strings, stage-winks and poltergeist cupboard-flutters.

Zoo Kid has a similar home-made feel to his music, although on the evidence of ‘A Lizard State’, he favours boudoir soul rather than cosy weird-fic. As with the Slatterisms above, you can see mechanisms and levers being exposed within the songs, but in Zoo Kid’s case it seems to be because he can’t help those songs from starting to fall apart. ‘A Lizard State’ starts off like a soul record with a strong splash of doo-wop, but very quickly begins to warp. Literally. The rhythm guitar licks are off-kilter; the bass popping like yeast-bubbles from a dodgy batch. It’s increasingly unclear what’s coming from futzed samples and turntables and what’s coming from crooked live instruments.

Zoo Kid himself seems to be trying to embark on an Isaac Hayes-ian, blues-shaded song-rap about love and frustrations, but keeps baring fangs and throwing moodies, continually sabotaging himself with bursts of bitter insults and hip hop disses. As the song wobbles along, the feeling grows of being both pissed and pissed off while huddled up in the corner of some lounge club, losing control of the playlist. I’m guessing that what we’ve got here is a carefully-orchestrated live car-crash – lo-fi and saboteur-minded, ramshackle but clever, with Zoo thumbing his nose at conventional storytelling songcraft while embracing chaotic moods and sour, jittery emotional stews. I want to hear more of these messes.

Madvillain: 'Papermill'
Madvillain: ‘Papermill’

Combining the densely threaded raps of MF Doom with the broad sonic curiosity and production suss of Madlibz, hip hop groundbreakers Madvillain have been pretty quiet since their dazzling 2004 debut: various remixes and placeholders have kept things humming on a protracted low rumble while the two members pursue separate paths. Abrupt and deliberately inconclusive, a sudden slap out of nowhere, ‘Papermill’ breaks up the silence and moves things along.

Jerking loudly into life with no warning, as if woken with a cattle prod, it seems to be pretending that there’s been no hiatus, no interim questions. A deep-funk scat-and-guitar loop stolen from an obscure German band wobbles like a stack of pancakes. Doom freestyles over it in a blizzard of surreal sentence fragments, bits of loopy hustler aggrandisement scattering across flashes of lucidity and poet boasts – “stirred not shaken, / absurd verbs since word to hot bacon. / Wrote this rhyme on standard sandpaper, / worked out the plan and plot for grand caper.” There seems to be an underlying theme of conning the curious, and of baiting chaos in order to keep sharp. “Any bent ‘cept, idle threats all irrelevant. / Get your man’s wallet, tell him “found it”, and sell him it… / Forest Gump chumps get clumps of nuttin’ for nuttin’ / Tourist, show ’em where the shore is where the shark’s at. / Hold up, spark that, park rat… / Hand in the jar, got stuck, took it.”

There’s a Koranic quote near the end which translates as “you have your religion, while I have mine”. In true MC style, Doom’s positioning himself as being better, but it seems just as important that he’s different; building himself a portable compound of words and schemes, all too oblique to let himself be pinned down by anyone. There’s no attempt to build anything with clarity. You get a peek into the moment and that’s it, sucker. You’ll just have to wait until the next time that they swing over. Six more years? Perhaps, if you’re lucky.

Tom Slatter: ‘Seven Curses/Lines in the Dirt’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
23rd May 2010

Get/stream it from:
(2022 update) Currently unavailable; might be reissued at some point as part of Tom Slatter’s Immoral Supporters club content.

Tom Slatter online:
Homepage, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Instagram, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Vimeo, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon Music

Zoo Kid: ‘A Lizard State’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
23rd May 2010

Get/stream it from:
(2022 update) Soundcloud, YouTube. Original download single was later made available on Zoo Kid’s ‘U.F.O.W.A.V.E.’ album. Currently reissued on the Kid Krule album ‘6 Feet Below the Moon’, streamable/downloadable from Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify and Amazon Music.

Zoo Kid (King Krule) online:
Homepage, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Instagram, online store, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon Music 

Madvillain: ‘Papermill’
[adult swim] (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
26th May 2010

Get/stream it from:
(2022 update) Original download no longer available; still streamable via YouTube. Track was briefly available on the download-only Various Artists compilation ‘Adult Swim Singles Program’.

Madvillain online:
Homepage, Soundcloud, online store, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon Music

May 2009 – album reviews – Tom Slatter’s ‘Spinning the Compass’ (“…the heart amongst the wheels…”)

1 May
Tom Slatter: 'Spinning the Compass'
Tom Slatter: ‘Spinning the Compass’

Previously half of the obscure “post-apocalyptic quasi-acoustic indie-folk” duo Comrade Robot, Tom Slatter now marches off on his own, cogs a-whirring, with a short debut solo album mixing the macabre, the jolly and the poignant… all in the manner of a brainy kid’s puppet show. In part, the latter is down to the theatrical delivery: Tom’s ringmaster-next-door vocals, simultaneously declamatory and humble. In part, it’s due to the Cabaret Mechanical nature of the music itself – the lo-fi clack of programmed drums, the keyboards which are rarely far from stiff calliope posturing; the George Stephenson rattle of (mostly) acoustic guitar and piano; the steam-whistle synths. But a lot of it, frankly, is the robot-men.

Yes; lyrically, at least, ‘Spinning the Compass’ is a steampunk album: Victorian in tone, and riddled with altered, augmented characters who click and wheeze with gears, lenses, bellows and casements. Given the plumminess and the ambitions in the music, “steamprog” might be a better tag. The lone instrumental here pitches hooty synth against classical sounding guitarpeggios marching rapidly across a strange chord progression, disruptive but fluid.

What do you do with Tom Slatter: a man who leans towards the musical and lyrical complications of a Roy Harper, a Thomas Dolby or a Peter Hammill, but who also runs his scenarios like a cardboard pop-up theatre; and who could put a warm grin on the face of the ghost of Jim Henson? You settle back in your comfy chair and you listen to him, that’s what you do. You enjoy the jiggling figures. You laugh along with the stage whispers.

Regarding Tom’s song romps, the aforementioned Hammill is the easiest comparison to make. More specifically, the deliberately boyish songs Hammill (with fellow Van Der Graaf Generator alumnus Judge Smith) wrote about Vikings and airships on ‘Fool’s Mate’, with their whiff of yellowing comics pages and pulp ink. As with the more baroque Hammill moments, there’s a deliberate antiquity to this music. Tom, too, seems to love machines and dashing adventures, and the neurotic pomp of Empire. More accurately, as a storyteller he enjoys the twists and kinks and predicaments into which they place people. He’s got an interest in the way that the ponderous, increasingly amoral gravity of such things – of such seductive opportunities – warps both a person’s culture and their choices; even their ability, beyond a certain point, to choose at all.

Not all of ‘Spinning the Compass’ digs that deep. Some of it is simple, geeky fun. Aspects of Comrade Robot’s gleeful pulpiness remain in ‘Gaslight’, a triumphantly romantic love song which turns out to be set in a world plunged into eternal darkness – “even if they got on their knees and prayed for the dawn to come, / if they screamed to the heavens the night would never end / and you’d stay there beside me in the chill glow of the night.” A few other songs are straightforwardly robust Gothic nightmares, most obviously ‘Bad Dream’ with its flourishing Cardiacs-y guitar lines; and also the hammering ‘Lines Overheard at a Seance’ which builds its atmosphere of creepy weird-fiction madness while edging around the indescribable specifics. (“On a cold cold night I saw something evil – / turned the red, red walls a deep shade of grey, / and I’m not breaking down.”)

Throughout the album, Tom switches from hat to hat, playing individual characters in quirky situations or struggling, knowingly or otherwise, with their own moral choices and compromises. The balloon-riding Victorian hunter in the parlour-jazzy ‘Home’, for instance, lives a privileged, gun-toting ‘Boys’ Own’ life as one of the “kings of the great game, on top of the sky”, but he yearns to escape his macho, beast-slaughtering environment and reunite with his sweetheart. This, however, is a rare example of a ‘Spinning the Compass’ character choosing human-scaled love or humility over some form of devious power, or a hideous longevity. Most of Tom’s protagonists are sinking into (or already condemning themselves to) something far more horrible, whether they recognise it or not; and the further they commit themselves, the worse it gets.

For example, the triumphantly augmented Dickensian cyborg who narrates ‘Ingenious Devices’ is an oblivious monster; sardonic, and horribly selfish. As he watches lovers and family perish of old age, he himself revels in the engineering that keeps him alive (“My heart beats by pendulum. / I’ve filled grave with cogs and wheels, / so there’s no room.”) Ultimately his triumph resides in a post-human callousness, a reptilian dismissal – “I’ve seen them, with cracking skin, / greying hair, yellow teeth / and haunted eyes. / I’ll not be one of them. / I’ll fill my lungs with oil and steam /and never die.” In ‘I Still Smile’, Tom takes machine-man uncanniness to greater heights as (over a ghostly, stately, scintillating instrumental part) he plays the role of someone’s automated love-puppet, its memories and motivations mere shallow simulacrums of emotions and responsibilities – “My arms are always here / to make you feel complete / My face is fixed in a permanent grin / My latex skin never frowns / You bought me, to make you feel complete / And I’ll always be here. / Even when you’re crying, I still smile. /And your last touch of real skin hurt too much. / But I have all the time you need / My love never dies.”

As Tom warns elsewhere, though, “roses in the chains, / burning a pilot light / isn’t carrying a flame.” Even as early as the opening track, he’s flying the cautionary flags about how the mechanistic life dehumanises us all. “This mechanism, it’s driving us apart. / It shines a prism on the kind of love we share. / This mechanism is making passion spoil / It tastes of something, the cloying tang of wine and oil. /Our love relies on clockwork, / the careful use of gears and wheel – / this mechanism, it isn’t how we feel.” On a surface level, he’s playing that old trope of how horrible it is to become a Cyberman, or to be hijacked by the Maschinenmensch from ‘Metropolis’. On another, less geeky level, he’s singing about harbouring the wrong kind of awareness – analytics and risk assessments killing your spontaneity; cultivated programming replacing reactions, your arousals and your sympathies. Willingly importing programs into your mind can be as bad as literally forcing machinery into your flesh.

In the concluding song – the album’s title track – Tom addresses this while also ending up with the narrator’s role which is perhaps closest to himself. ‘Spinning the Compass’ is also his proggiest cut: ominous, wandering across assorted minor keys, and showing off his compositional strengths during a protracted acoustic guitar passage. The words, however, are what gives it its true core. Abandoning the previous metaphors of iron lungs and mannequin features, Tom sings about disintegrating crosswords and uncontrolled acceleration, about a gradual deterioration of sense and coherent structure.

At the end of the album, he’s placing himself as the human being now pinned (helplessly, and to his own horror) in the centre of an unbalanced and out-of-scale world, conned and gaslit into relinquishing his own corner of control within it. “Changing the rules while I was looking away, / five paths in the same dial. / Like living in a world of your own / all the time shrinking till all the roads meet. / White lines dashing past at speed / And up is left, east is west and no-one cares… / Like living in a mind not your own, / thinking thoughts you don’t understand… Do you get the feeling we’re running out time? / Have you heard the rumours of war planes in the skies? / With this spinning the end is surely nigh?” Apprehensive and pessimistic as it is, it’s a reaffirmation of the heart amongst the wheels, a shout out from the rose enmeshed in the chains.

Tom Slatter: ‘Spinning the Compass’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only album
Released:
1st May 2009
Get/stream it from:
(2022 update) Currently available as remastered 2016 edition with two extra tracks – stream/download from Bandcamp, Apple Music, Deezer and Spotify 

Tom Slatter online:
Homepage, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Instagram, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Vimeo, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon Music   

SWOONAGE

Swoon. /swo͞on/ A verb. To be emotionally affected by someone or something that one admires; become ecstatic. Here are some people and things that make me swoon. #swoon #swoonage

Post-Punk Monk

Searching for divinity in records from '78-'85 or so…

theartyassassin

...wandering through music...

Get In Her Ears

Promoting and Supporting Women in Music

Die or D.I.Y.?

...wandering through music...

The Music Aficionado

Quality articles about the golden age of music

THE ACTIVE LISTENER

...wandering through music...

Planet Hugill

...wandering through music...

Listening to Ladies

...wandering through music...

ATTN:Magazine

Not from concentrate.

Xposed Club

improvised/experimental/music

The Quietus | All Articles

...wandering through music...

I Quite Like Gigs

Music Reviews, music thoughts and musical wonderings

furia log

...wandering through music...

A jumped-up pantry boy

To say the least, oh truly disappointed

PROOF POSITIVE

A new semi-regular gig in London

We need no swords

Organized sounds. If you like.

Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

...wandering through music...

When The Horn Blows

...wandering through music...

:::::::::::: Ekho :::::::::::: Women in Sonic Art

Celebrating the Work of Women within Sonic Art: an expanding archive promoting equality in the sonic field

Ned Raggett Ponders It All

Just another WordPress.com weblog

FLIPSIDE REVIEWS

...wandering through music...

Headphone Commute

honest words on honest music

The One-Liner Miner

...wandering through music...

Yeah I Know It Sucks

an absurdist review blog

Obat Kanker Payudara Ginseng RH 2

...wandering through music...

poplifer.wordpress.com/

Waiting for the gift of sound and vision

Good Music Speaks

A music blog written by Rich Brown

Do The Math

...wandering through music...

Archived Music Press

Scans from the Melody Maker and N.M.E. circa 1987-1996

The World's Worst Records

...wandering through music...

Soundscapes

...wandering through music...

OLD SCHOOL RECORD REVIEW

Where You Are Always Wrong

FRIDAY NIGHT BOYS

...wandering through music...

Fragile or Possibly Extinct

Life Outside the Womb

a closer listen

a home for instrumental and experimental music

Bird is the Worm

New Jazz: We Search. We Recommend. You Listen.

...wandering through music...

Life Just Bounces

...wandering through music...

Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Aquarium Drunkard

...wandering through music...

eyesplinters

Just another WordPress.com site

NewFrontEars

...wandering through music...

%d bloggers like this: