Tag Archives: V A L V E

October 2019 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Retrophonica at the Brunel Museum (13th); Charles Hayward presents Sly & The Family Drone, V Ä L V Ē, Timestretch Alarmsong and Atatat (19th)

5 Oct

Retrophonica, 13th October 2019

Retrophonica is a new, very accessible multi-media performance project; currently focussed on the branching aerials, primal wooo and touch-me-not anticipations of theremin playing. It’s launching itself with an evening of two (identical) concerts in the yawning brick gullet of the Brunel Museum’s Grand Entrance Chamber (also known as the top of the southern Thames Tunnel shaft).

Celebrating the instrument’s centenary, these will be an “immersive evening of music for theremin and full orchestra”, while delving into the story of the instrument’s creator, Léon Theremin. From here, it sounds as if the concerts will be a cross between a pops-orchestra occasion, a slide-show history lesson writ large and a session of nostalgic avant-garde tinkering; all of it enclosed in that bleak, beautiful and magnificently functional Victorian civil-engineering maw.

As they say themselves,“prepare for an immersive audio-visual experience, complemented by cocktails, lightshow, and narration, featuring original and adapted music for theremin by Dmitri Shostakovich, Bohuslav Martinů, Miklós Rózsa, Les Baxter, Claude Debussy and John Williams, performed by Retrophonica with thereminist Charlie Draper, new arrangements and works by Alex Palmer, and bespoke narration from author Ken Hollings.”



 
You might already know Charlie from all manner of bookings, everywhere, for both theremin and ondes martenot: here’s an earlier mention. Alex has written and arranged extensively for theatre, film and concert hall, and looks as if he’ll be adding the sweeter edge to the evening. As for Ken, although I suspect that he’ll be operating on calmer terms tonight, he’s most likely to be the one to toss in a wild card or two. Having started work in the 1970s as a literary factual editor (how ominous such a description sounds now) he went on to an early-’80s spell as vocalist and cut-up’er in Manchester post-punk band Biting Tongues, followed by an expansion into essays, libretti and experimental fiction (all of which have dipped into and across other disciplines from Japanese films to twentieth-and-twenty-first century politics to data structures).

I’ve no idea who’s contributed the orchestra. As for the cocktails, there’s no further word on them; nor on how you might mix one called a Thames Tunnel.

* * * * * * * *

Just under a week later, downriver at Deptford, London art-rock/post-punk/improvisation godfather Charles Hayward will be putting together the second of this year’s “genre-fluid” Charles Hayward Presents concerts at the Albany, unfurling “new sounds from the underground and outsider scenes of London and beyond” and massing together elements of jazz/improv, art punk, noise, contemporary classical and electronic music.

Charles Hayward Presents..., 19th October 2019According to Charles himself, his own performance centrepiece will be the project-cum-band Timestretch Alarmsong… a sequence of tunes and sound snakes that I’ve put together with Tom Challenger (Dice Factory/Ma saxophonist), Yoni Silver (multi-instrumentalist with Hyperion Ensemble and many others), Roberto Sassi (Cardosanto/Anatrofobia/Snorkel guitarist), Nick Doyne-Ditmas (double bassist and Hayward collaborator in Monkey Puzzle Trio).

“It’s tightly rehearsed and goes through a wide range of attitudes and (more importantly) emotional energies. To my ears it’s super exciting and I feel like we’ve pushed at a few barriers and come up with something new that has melody, shape and grooves from light to super heavy/dark. There’s no clips available but we will be recording the project for future release. All the players are fantastic musicians and working on the project has been a study in joyful cooperation.”

In the absence of a collective clip, here’s a scatter of solo ones and examples of related projects:





 
Three other acts join in for the night. ‘Gentle Persuaders’, the latest album from contemporary drum/noise/saxophone ritualists Sly & The Family Drone – is intended as “the politest of bludgeonings”; its creators still merge Ayler-esque free jazz, industrial rock pummel, celebratory machine hiss and the loose-hanging exploratory feel of a bass-less duo. They also still give out drums at their concerts, inviting a congregation of noise.



 
Also back in the fray is V Ä L V Ē, with music that’s less workshop than workshed. Strongly DIY (featuring reed instruments, electronics, invented gizmos, bass guitar, concert harp and singing women), it’s the sound of a trio of highly trained musical minds phasing back into spontaneity and play. A sort of three-way attempt to become idiot savants via assorted glitchery and boink, semi-spontaneous nursery rhymes and tunelets and musical devices (built out of shelves, tobacco tins, old house bells and similar Branestawmery), but via a female pattern.


 
Finally, there’s Atatat – a solo project from Liverpool art-freak music mainstay J.C. Barbara (best known as drummer/ranter for aPAtT and Barberos, and here using a very Haywardian array of drums, contact mics, loops and vocals).


 
Designer Raimund Wong (whose work has adorned posters and releases by Total Refreshment Centre, Church Of Sound and Baba Yaga’s Hut, and who shares Charles’ interest in chance theory and the ingenuity forced on artists via DIY minimalism) will be DJ-ing.

* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Retrophonica
Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 4LF, England
Sunday 13th October 2019, 6.00pm & 8:30pm
– information here, here and here

Charles Hayward Presents… (featuring Sly & The Family Drone + VÄLVĒ + Timestretch Alarmsong + Atatat + DJ Raimund Wong)
The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, SE8 4AG London, United Kingdom
Saturday, 19 October 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

May/June 2019 – upcoming experimental gigs – ‘Towards A Progressive Magic” at the Horse Hospital with Amy Hale and Hawthonn (30th May); ‘Overlaps’ #2 with Kay Grant, Keith Moliné, Jasmine Pender, Tim Hodgkinson, Frank Byng and Chlöe Herington (5th June); the Sonic Electronics Festival at IKLECTIK (30th May to 2nd June)

26 May

At a time when our politics are tangibly darkening with currents of bigotry and nationalism and vicious, exclusionary stories, you might consider that looking at fascism within magic is a frivolous exercise.

Anthropologist Dr. Amy Hale (Atlanta, US) would disagree with you. She’s delivering the spoken-word part of an upcoming “night of magical resistance” at the Horse Hospital (London’s home of esoterica, underground cinema, public magick and wild frocks) for which the musical aspect’s being provided by Leeds-based Hawthonn, made up of “dual star daemons” Layla and Phil Legard, who specialise in “twenty-first century moon musick… underground spectralism meets edgeland herbalism…”

'Towards A Progressive Magic': Amy Hale + Hawthonn, 30th May 2019

This isn’t necessarily a new thing. Plenty of the frowning white-nativist movements in Europe and the States force parasitic roots into ideas about submerged culture, or ideas of a purity predating Christianity, liberalism and rationalism, into which disappointed or indignant people drift in the hope of finding and defining themselves. If you’ve dabbled in Nordic revivalism, for example, you may well have brushed up against it: racism smudging the runes. Similarly, some sonic pagans have always pushed back (having always associated their own musical explorations with a live-and-let-live freedom or a rejection of the controlling homegenisations of fascism), and even more of them are pushing back now.

Amy’s lecture, ‘Is A Progressive Magick Even Possible?’, examines what happens when “as the world takes an awkward lurch towards right wing authoritarianism, underground and fringe cultures, organisations and scenes are becoming increasingly attuned to the attempts by radical right wing groups to infiltrate and coerce their members… Modern occult practice, for many, relies on structures, ideas, values, and aesthetics that are inherently linked to conservative and reactionary thought. Examples of this are the valorisation of tradition, the idea of an initiated spiritual elite and the notion of a highly-ordered Neoplatonic universe, where everything is in its right place – including people and cultures.

“These conservative traits create opportunities for activists to use the social mechanisms of occult subcultures – for example festivals and conferences, book publishing, the music and fashion industries – to promote radical political and cultural agendas without people even noticing that it has happened. Tonight’s presentations discuss how, and why, contemporary magical cultures have become attractive territories for recruitment and expansion by far right organisations… I will discuss how ideas of tradition and “nature” are exploited, and how the discourses of “free speech” are deployed to create and justify platforms for radical, intolerant politics in an occult milieu… We will also learn to recognise such entryism in action, and how to stop it.”

As for Hawthonn, this is their first London appearance; their first live musical ritual within the M25; and their first chance to present their particular stance to the capital. Delving (in the tradition of Coil) into post-industrial esoteric drones and vocalisations, their work has so far embraced edgeland/feminist associations on ‘Red Goddess’ and implied erotic ritualisations on ‘The Well Head’, with more associations and purposes evolving. I don’t know what they’ll be coming up with on this occasion; but I’m assuming that it’s going to pull on their increasing conviction that ritual needs to engage (if not necessarily with materialism) with the fabric of daily practical necessities and practical history.




 
To quote them – “as esotericists we often believe that we have stepped beyond ‘mere politics’ – that our minds are turned to a higher world, which has little relation to the mundane – despite, paradoxically, believing that our magical actions influence the phenomenal world. Yet many contemporary scholars of esotericism and religion analyse the currents of occultism, paganism and the New Age as socially constructed phenomena: elaborate mythic structures enforcing certain norms, beliefs and practices, while justifying themselves through appeals to authority, lineage and experience, even science and rationality. Such historiographic or sociological approaches have been accused by many practitioners of base reductionism, undermining the authority of their particular traditions.

“Yet, what if practitioners of esotericism were to accept – or at least entertain for a moment – a constructivist, rather than transcendentalist, paradigm? We posit that such an acceptance can lead to another form of practice, which acknowledges the way in which esotericism is inseparable from the historical, social and economic fabric of our lives and which – rather than denying the viscerality of ritual and experience – uses them as tools to question the traditions and assumptions of the esoteric worldview, leading to a fluid and reflexive ‘critical magick’.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Drifting through Kings Cross – away from the cosy confines of the Harrison and back to its spiritual home at Westminster Kingsway College – and still driven by joint organisers Chlöe Herington (V A L V E, Knifeworld, Lindsay Cooper Songbook, Hirvikolari) and Keith Moliné (Pere Ubu, Prescott), the Overlaps “six musicians on the spot” concert series continues to burnish its particular niche. Improvising, but outside of the usual free-jazz grammar; perhaps owing something to art rock, but tearing one end wide open. Assimilating injections of the wilder shaggier side of experimental pop. Tag-teaming, but with a little friendly risk; part-prepared, but mostly of the moment.

'Overlaps 2', 5th June 2019

In addition to Chlöe’s avant-rock reeds and home-made noiseboxes and Keith’s startling bricolage guitarwork, the debut Overlaps evening back in January also featured jazz/art-rock-toned drum-and-bass artist Farz and fringe-pop experimenter/spoken-word persona shifter Merlin Nova; plus another British art rock guitar mainstay in Chloe’s Knifeworld bandmate Kavus Torabi and creative sideslip drumming from Keith’s Prescott bandmate Frank Byng (also of Snorkel and This Is Not This Heat). Chlöe, Keith and Frank are all back for round two, with the remaining three players coming in from other assorted corners of noisework, avant-garde and New Classical – often simultaneously.

While performing her dramatic, noisy electric cello soundscapes, Jasmine Pender usually goes under the alias of Rotten Bliss, sousing her sound in effects and singing along with a terrifying gorgeousness: storm-strings and surreal marine tales. For Overlaps, though, she’s performing under her own name. Perhaps it’s in solidarity with the other, unmasked performers not hiding behind their project names or band tags; or perhaps it means she’s going to be trying something a little different. You’ll need to turn up and see.


 
Originally coming up through the New York downtown arts, in her time Kay Grant has sung pop, jazz, rock, choral classical and opera (and built the ranges for each). She still touches on several of them today – most notably the jazz, with her own vocalise-based Kay Grant All-four and song duo Living Standards, and via guestings with the more standards-slanted Cyril Bass Quartet and Big Swing Big Band. But when she gives herself full improvisatory range her voice is an untethered exploratory device – coasting, feinting and arcing with the full subliminal structural knowledge of her training, but completely free to embrace a scattering palate of noise, tones and intimations.


 
Tim Hodgkinson, of course, is best known for his 1970s work as a founder and consistent member of Henry Cow: foundational art-rock radicalism within which he and his bandmates pursued a continuous course of questioning, dissonance, learning and overturning. Since then (usually armed with reed instruments, tapes, lap steel guitar and keyboards), he’s maintained a core Cow method: exploring, playing and composing via a cerebral and committed musicality which initially challenges and overwhelms his own technical skills but constantly forces him to advance. He’s equally likely to be found at work in art-house shows worldwide or in ferociously experimental British pub gigs, stretching his skills between improvised blowings, committed collaging or the conduction of post-classical chamber music which sounds like the skitterings of unruly ghost feet pursuing an unfinished argument.

Again, I’ve little idea of what he’ll be doing – it could be solo clarinet, it could be something with tapes and counterpoint, it could be something which bridges his interest in shamanic music and cultural anthropology.




 
* * * * * * * *

Sonic Electronic Festival, 30th May to 2nd June 2019There’s also time to mention (in brief) the concerts and chat around the sprawling Sonic Electronics Festival coming up at IKLECTIK and straddling late May and early June. Fascinated by coding and by digital evolution, the event’s as much academic as it is instinctive and will contain far too many ideas, implications and theory to be easily abridged and listed here. So this is a quick sketch of what’s lined up rather than a definitive description.

On 31st May, the evening concert is a London live AV performance incorporating toys/scrabbles/tapeloops collective Morphogenesis (bolstered by audio sculptor John Wall and electro-acoustic/noise performer Mark Durgan), the electronic-junk-assisted dronescapes of raxil4, woodwinder-turned-synth minimalist Bernhard Living and masked audio-visual circuit-building ritualists Isn’tses (the last of whom will also be running a Fort processor building workshop on the morning of Saturday 1st June). The Saturday evening is a pass-it-on event of international live audiovisual performance with VJ and visual/sonics encoder Chris Speed, videomapping performance artists Blanca Regina, extended vocal/multimedia performer Alessandra Eramo and feminine-industrial explorers Slow Slow Loris

The show on the evening of 2nd June involves the 4.1 Soundsystem. Here you can hear and watch a teaming of sound foleyist Rebecca Glover and the squelchy Fritha Jenkins (who’s inspired by shorelines of sand and mud);
spacial-stereo sound artist Bioni Samp (whose work and subject matter is informed by his own beekeeping and by concerns about bee extinction); the “theogynous” industrial/classical polyphonic vocals of Vera Bremerton; “grainyl”-ist Tony James Morton (who takes the cut’n’plunder techniques of hip hop DJs and feeds them through the alterations of granular synthesis); and the deep-listening drones of Johannes de Silentio (a.k.a. Lucius Works Here, a.k.a. Barcelonan sound art DJ Shak Benavides).

If you want to immerse yourself in theory, debate and other verbals, you’ll be wanting to go along to the event launch on the evening of 30th May. Here, there will be talks from Lucia Farinati, Nina Power and Giles Greenaway (about the intersections, overlaps and interferences of audiovisual technology with philosophy and live culture, and about process patterns taken from living creatures). There’ll also be a live AV performance of experimental electromagnetic power noise from Laura Netz, using hand-built technology.

* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Strange Attractor presents:
‘Towards a Progressive Magic’ (featuring Dr. Amy Hale + Hawthonn)
The Horse Hospital, The Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Thursday 30th May 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Sonic Electronics Festival: Digital Arts & Analogue Devices
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 30th May 2019 to Sunday 2nd June 2019, various times
– information here, here, here, here, here and here

Westking Music and Performing Arts presents:
‘Overlaps’ #2: Kay Grant + Keith Moliné + Jasmine Pender + Tim Hodgkinson + Frank Byng + Chlöe Herington
Westminster Kingsway College, 211 Gray’s Inn Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8RA, England
Wednesday 5th June 2019, 6.30pm
– information here
 

July 2018 – upcoming gigs – V Ä L V Ē, Stef Ketteringham and Lily Buchanan (of The Graphites) in Margate (29th July)

24 Jul

V A L V E + Stef Kettering + Lily of The Graphites, 29th July 2018Details on a show this coming Sunday in one of the smallest, most enchanting venues in Kent (Margate’s Tom Thumb Theatre), featuring an mostly-female bill with three different projects (all adventurous; all, in their way, visionary).

* * * * * * * *

I feel as if I’ve covered V Ä L V E what seems like innumerable times this year. Reedswoman/composer Chlöe Herington’s synaesthesia-slanted experimental music project has spent a year or so evolving into a live collective trio of herself, harpist Elen Evans and bass/synth player Emma Sullivan. Previously known for her bassoon, clarinet and saxophone contributions to Chrome Hoof and Knifeworld (and more recently to The Lindsay Cooper Songbook and Hirvikolari), Chlöe’s solo work has involved shed-tinkering as she builds unlikely instruments from scratch and scrap; and the pulling in of compositional ideas from medical charts, found patterns and (literal) rubbish.

On record, the results have percolated around the realms of electric art-rock experimentalism (post-Zappa, post-Henry Cow), parping chamber wind music intimacy, playfully baffling bouts of improv and bewildering schematics. Live, V Ä L V E has mutated further, drawn on by Chloe’s interest in finding out how to trigger her audience’s minds with an evolving toolkit of sensory input, and by the different dynamic of three women involved in discovery together (happy bouts of lateral thinking, plus moments when they combine in obliquely touching bouts of harmonizing song). It’s a winning combination that’s taken the band all the way to airplay on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Late Junction’ – care of ‘The Quietus’s John Doran – and to the Barn stage at the Supernormal festival.



 
Formerly with abstract noise-blues trio Shield Your Eyes, guitarist/bass-drum booter/occasional vocalist Stef Ketteringham now works alone. His improvised solo music is a guttering, chattering, restlessly emotive take on exploded electro-acoustic blues, integral to which is his brawling, brutal and fearless guitar technique.

Elastic and vocal, with a gutting-knife timbre, its passing similarities to the pitch-bend avant-howls and tremolo-purrs of Henry Kaiser and David Torn is probably pure coincidence. Stef’s wildly gestural guitar-playing sounds like an instinctive discovery: more punk than professorial, bursting from his gut via his heart to tell its shattered, hollered, mostly wordless stories and personal bulletins without the constraint of manners or moderation. For all that, it’s still got the skeleton of blues rules – the existential moan, the bent pitches and percussive protest that demand attention and serve notice of presence.


 
Guitar in hand, Scottish singer-songwriter Lily Buchanan usually fronts and voices interesting south London pop-punkers The Graphites (who in turn were formerly her solo project The Graphite Set). The Graphites’ lilting jig rhythms, their echoes of girl groups and Lily’s subtly unorthodox song-structures (recalling both Chrissie Hynde and Nico, but with an understated elliptical focus that’s all Lily’s own) put them several cuts above the competition.

This is hardly surprising: Lily’s work springs out of both folk music and a life spent painting. But while many art-school music spinoffs are happy to lose themselves in arrogant vagueness, vacuity and sonic scurf, Lily’s half-spoken songs make much of their clarity of line; their deceptive ability to digress and orbit while never truly losing sight of the core matter, casting new light on it with each pass.

All by herself this evening, Lily will be performing something new – “a series of folk songs inspired by her recent intrigue into collecting sea fauna.” She’s being billed here as “Lily Of The Graphites”. Such a shame that’s not the actual project name. There’s not enough courtly allotropic geology in the world.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of Graphites songs…



 
NFA presents:
V Ä L V Ē + Stef Ketteringham + Lily of The Graphites
Tom Thumb Theatre, 2 Eastern Esplanade, Cliftonville, Margate, Kent, CT9 2LB, England
Sunday 29th July 2018, 7:00 pm
– information here, here and here
 

June 2018 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Monkey Puzzle Trio and V Ä L V Ē (10th June); Laura Cannell’s ‘Modern Ritual’, with Charles Hayward, Hoofus, Jennifer Lucy Allan and Luke Turner (16th June); Ashley Paul & Tom James Scott, Glowering Figs and Ben Pritchard (22nd June)

4 Jun


 
Despite their increasing whirl of gigs over the past year, it’s difficult to find performance video of V Ä L V Ē besides these gnomic little fragments: glimpses of feet and harps, pedals and synths, shuffles and patch wires. They’ve been rapidly evolving far beyond their beginnings as Chlöe Herington’s vehicle for musical jokes, chance theory and post-Zappa woodwind patchworks and her experiments with samples and homemade instruments. Now, they’re a live, surprisingly accessible avant-everything trio with Elen Evans and Emma Sullivan – reeds and microsynth, melodica, harpstrings and bass, RIO/Raincoats-style vocals that inhabit both the forthright and the naïve – and they’re getting pieces in ‘The Quietus’ about how they’re expanding on synaesthesia and spacework and the disjunction of time, and mining the weird yet archetypal templates of Chlöe’s recurring dreams.

While we’re waiting for more evidence to emerge, here are a couple of pieces which represent a couple of V Ä L V Ē’s varied polarities – the avant-rock all-in wrestle match of Rhythm Strip (based on an EEG reading from Chlöe’s mum) and the warming songwork of the more recent Lights – plus one of those distracted fly-on-the wall videos (this time, of Chlöe negotiating a keyboard, pretty much literally).


 
V Ä L V Ē’s next show (just over a week before Chlöe pops up again with the Lindsay Cooper Songbook) is this coming Sunday, supporting the Monkey Puzzle Trio – which unites perpetually/perversely-journeying art-rock and improv drummer Charles Hayward, Pinski Zoo bassist Nick Doyne-Ditmas and longstanding sound-and-place voice artist Viv Corringham. It’s a post-jazz music of deformed rounds, ranging chatter and a kind of reimagined dub focus, via Charles’ assured yet regularly broken-up and disrupted drum cycles, Viv’s cavernous range of vocal effects (stippled by loop pedal and flexible larynx, augmented by mini-disc abuse) and Nick’s bass, which seems to be travelling at two-thirds of the thinking speed of the voice and drums but always knows where to settle and lean on the moving beat.


 
V Ä L V Ē and Charles Hayward present:
Monkey Puzzle Trio + V Ä L V Ē
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Sunday 10th June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

* * * * * * * *

Charles Hayward shows up again just under a week later when he guests at Laura Cannell’s ‘Modern Ritual’ show at LSO St Lukes, performing a self-explanatory experimental piece called ‘30 Minute Snare Drum Roll’, an “improvisational piece that sees him develop a rudimental drum technique into something more complex, subtlety changing density, pressure and volume before our ears.” There are precedents for this kind of thing – people like Max Roach or Art Blakey keeping an audience enthralled by a quarter of an hour of carefully modulated hi-hat – but any excuse to see Charles thinking hard behind a drum kit is a good one.

In many respects, this is a revisitation of the ‘Memory Mapping’ show which Laura brought to Daylight Music in November 2016. More to the point, it also revives an event at Cafe Oto last March, with repeat appearances for Charles’ drum roll, for ‘Wire’/Resonance FM/Arc Light Editions mainstay Jennifer Lucy Allan and for Suffolk-based “edgelands” musician Andre “Hoofus” Bosman.

Hoofus’ experiments in FM overlaps, raw-formed percussion and drifting oscillators “(explore) the uncanny beauty of the intangible, the occult and the arcane seeping through into the post-industrial 21st century world of reason and corporate compliance” resulting in “music of eerie wonder, where oscillating melodic loops meld with distorted rhythms.” In contrast, Jennifer presents her combined talk and performance ‘Foulis’s Daughter: Social and Cultural History of the Foghorn in 30 Interrupted Acts’ accompanied by “the ghost of a long de-activated foghorn which is on a fifteen-second loop”: Jennifer’s history is narrated during the gaps between blasts, tracing “a rhythmic history of the foghorn at the edges of the Atlantic: along the fog-bound Labrador Coast; at a bend on the Firth of Clyde; on the tip of The Lizard and from the cliffs at the South Foreland in Kent.”



 
In keeping with this drift into New Weird Britain ambience, writer, filmmaker and ‘Quietus’ co-founder Luke Turner explores his own world of liminals with a talk on “urban forests, family, death and sexuality”. This is based around his forthcoming “spiritual memoir” ‘Out Of The Woods’ – a study of Luke’s own coming-to-terms with his bisexual identity and his past experiences with sexual abuse and a religious upbringing, alongside his investigations of “memory and experience in the context of landscape and the natural world”. It’s ​a journey framed by the trees and the history of Epping Forest, which for Luke seems to have become representative of an ur-forest which allows for the expression of “a wilder, truer, more spiritual self” (and brings those wood-woses, drones and leafery which have threaded through ‘The Quietus’ into fuller perspective). Laura, meanwhile, keeps up her own traditions of reinvention, refurbishment and recontextualising on double recorder and bow-threaded violin: generating eerie, often-violent sonic landscapes of folk melodies and sharp-minded post-classical noise, each calibrated to the particular place where it’s being performed.


 
The evening will be topped off by a large group collaboration involving all of the named performers plus additional guests.

Laura Cannell: ‘Modern Ritual’
LSO St Lukes, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England
Saturday 16th June 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 
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More assorted improvisations and explorations come on the 22nd, when Ashley Paul​ and Tom James Scott team up as a duo at The Old Dentist in Homerton. Both have a fair amount in common, as multi-instrumentalists heading up small exploratory record labels (Ashley with Wagtail, Tom with Skire). Equally, there’s enough distinction between them to make for some interesting friendly frictions as Ashley’s American background, reeds leanings and free-form tastes interact with Tom’s Cumbrian background and the process that’s taken him from classical guitarist to experimental minimalist.



 
In support are improvising trio Glowering Figs, made up of venerable Ya Basta! free jazzers Ivor Kallin and Dave Fowler (on electric upright bass/vocals and drums, respectively), plus Ivor’s London Improvisers Orchestra comrade and ex-Astrakan member Jerry Wigens on guitar. Come for bilious, awkward avant-power-rock noodlings topped with Ivor’s authoritative stream-of-conscious rantings: here’s an example…


 
Opening the show is Ben Pritchard – not to be confused with the former Fall guitarist, he’s a London-based artist, songwriter, experimental musician and Ashley Paul bandmember who writes disintegrating-shack instrumentals for prepared acoustic guitar and percussion – strangely compelling pings, scrapes, rattles and string noise with an emotive visual quality as well as a knack for summoning in illusions. You can somehow hear impressions of ghost fiddles, a whittler’s workshop, or vocal chords tweaked by breeze gusts. When he wanders into song, it’s along the frail, fluttering-shirt lines of end-of-the-road Talk Talk, or the sparsest of Robert Wyatt: spontaneous-sounding experimental folk sketches with an undertone of parched, amnesiac blues.



 
Muckle Mouth presents
Ashley Paul & Tom James Scott + Glowering Figs + Ben Pritchard
The Old Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road, Homerton, London, E5 0LH, England
Friday 22nd June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Ashley Paul & Tom James Scott + Glowering Figs + Ben Pritchard, 22nd June 2018
 

April 2018 – London classical/classical fusion/experimental gigs – North Sea Radio Orchestra and V Ä L V E at the Lexington (15th April); Sarah Deere-Jones harp-and-choir song cycle in the heart of Westminster (21st April)

3 Apr

North Sea Radio Orchestra + V Ä L V E , 15th April 2018

North Sea Radio Orchestra + V Ä L V E
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, N1 9JB, London, England
Sunday 15th April 2018, 4.00pm
– information here, here and here

Last seen using their classical leanings to command the gorgeous baroque interior of Oxford’s Holywell Music Room, chamber-fusion group North Sea Radio Orchestra are heading back to London to fistbump the other branch of their own roots. Arguably, the Lexington is London’s current home of forward-looking eclectic prog and psychedelia; and the NSRO (whose own moist-aired and mournfully jaunty English psychedelic sensibility is inspired by both Robert Wyatt and Cardiacs) are paying it a visit.

Led, as ever, by the husband-and-wife Fortnam team of Craig and Sharron, they’ll bring along their combination of Anglo-pastoral classical gentility, their London clay bed foundations, their motorik strings-and-reeds chamber-kosmische (equal parts Britten, Neu!, Penguin Café Orchestra and ‘Ivor The Engine’) and their unorthodox vocals (Craig’s vulnerable, transparent murmur; Sharron’s homespun clarion of mezzo-soprano-meets-folk-punk). They’ve always possessed a mingling of the down-to-earth and the numinous, as well as their own spin on English psych’s way of plugging into ancient national myths (the patient ones tucked away in strata far, far below the more prickly, hijackable old pomp-and-circumstances).



 
Yet, in parallel to the Fortnams’ relocation from London to Salisbury, NSRO’s gradual songwriting and compositional journey (especially over the last couple of albums) has seen them move away from Victorian revivals and fine church woodwork; shifting their poetic patron spirit from their early taste for Tennyson (and through a transitional fix on Blake) to end up with Craig and Sharron’s own experiences of landscape magic, familial loss and loyalties. The process has also seen NSRO quietly phase into a worldview that’s less of a beautifully polished bubble of English nostalgia, and is now more implicitly inclusive of gentle acknowledgements of English connections and fallibilities as well as paeans to oak, ash, ridgeways and birds.

To be fair to them (in times when celebrations of antique, semi-rural Englishness can lead to accusation of chocolate-box/mug-of-tea fascism), NSRO have always seemed naïve as opposed to genuinely being naïve. More recent centrepiece songs and pieces have reflected on the balefulness of nationalism, and celebrated more benevolent co-operations such as the Berlin Airluft – the Fortnam’s kinder, fiercer convictions now written more clearly in the texture of their music; a demonstration that that taste for Wyatt goes deeper than just mood-shadings.

In support are the apparently tireless V Ä L V E – click here for a string of recent posts in which I babble repetitively about their bassoonical beginnings, messy play with lost objects, Rock in Opposition links, and current status as harp/bass/reed toting classical/experimental punks. As with many of the band’s recent gigs, this is familial (V A L V E being another branch on the rambling Cardiacs shrub thanks to mainwoman Chlöe Herington’s role as Knifeworld bassoonist), but V A L V E is a far more elusive beast, deeply embedded in avant-garde visual scoring, synthaesthesia and a kind of feminist tyro-science approach to memory and associations as well as an opportunity to make a noisy puckish semi-improvised racket and a group singing session.



 
* * * * * * * *

Sarah Deere-Jones and Cornwall Harp Centre present:
Sarah Deere-Jones: ‘Carmina Iocunda: Songs for the Seasons’
St Matthew’s Church, 20 Great Peter Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 2BU, London, England
Saturday 21st April 2018, 6.00pm
– free event – information here

Sarah Deere-Jones' 'Carmina Iocunda: Songs for the Seasons', 21st April 2018
Harpist and composer Sarah Deere Jones premieres the first complete performance of her new composition ‘Carmina Iocunda (Songs For The Seasons)’ a twenty-two minute song cycle for choir and lever harp which she describes as “a combination of everything I love – mediaeval literature, the English countryside, the changing seasons, choral music and of course, the sound of the harp.” The piece sets eight mediaeval poems (one by Chaucer, one by Shakespeare, the rest anonymous or unassigned) in four blocks of two, or two for each season, in a format which Sarah notes is “similar to Britten’s famous ‘Ceremony of Carols’.”

The concert is free and runs for an hour – there are no details or confirmation yet, but this suggests that Sarah might also be performing other pieces from her repertoire , whether as composer or as specialist player (in addition to her work on pedal and lever harps, she’s currently the only authentic-style performer on the Regency harp-lute and the dital harp).

Below is a video clip of the original choral version (minus harp) of one of the eight ‘Carmina Iocunda’ pieces, ‘Blou northern wind’ (as performed by Exeter University Chapel Choir back in 2015, while the larger work was still being assembled), as well as one of Sarah in action on both concert harp and windblown Aeolian harp out at Glastonbury Abbey and the Somerset Levels.



 

April/May 2018 – solo tours in Britain/Europe for Kavus Torabi and Cosmo Sheldrake (4th April to 24th May various, with guest appearances from I See Rivers, Paul Morricone, Bunty, V Ä L V E, Peaks, Arch Garrison, Madilan, Stephen Evens, Bovril, Redbus Noface and May The Night Bless You With Heavenly Dreams)

25 Mar

It’s not exactly surprising that Kavus Torabi has finally gone solo. There’s too much hopeful, demanding inventiveness in him ever to submit entirely to the dynamics of a group, despite the fact that he’s currently got at least three on the go, most of them with him at the helm – the brassy lysergically-illuminated avant-pop of Knifeworld; the ritual instrumentalism of Guapo, and the cantering countercultural circus of Gong (transferred onto his lanky shoulders, history and all, following the 2015 death of Daevid Allen).

What’s more surprising is the direction he’s chosen for the first records under his own name (the new ‘Solar Divination’ EP and a full upcoming album for later in the year). A darker, more agrarian take on his psychedelic homeground, this time it’s drumless, bassless, hornless – rinsed clear of the capering squirrel energy he’s shown for twenty-odd years, in order to reveal muted, angsty bones. Mostly based around slow, smoky-lunged harmonium stretches and sparse flotsam drags of guitar chording, this is a more foreboding turn of song, haunted by deaths, loss and disintegrations. It’s never mopey or lachrymose, thank goodness (even in Knifeworld or The Monsoon Bassoon, Kavus knew how to undercut joyous tootling with passing shadows without souring the milk) but these new songs are overcast with sombre vulnerability: the gravel-grain in Kavus’ voice welling up from deeper, ghostlier territories than before.



 
Despite being a couple of decades younger than Kavus, Cosmo Sheldrake has been out on his own for a bit longer. It’s been four-and-a-half years since Cosmo put out anything as part of super-eclectic mongrel troupe Gentle Mystics, but during that time he’s been gently dabbing the release schedules with occasional singles, videos and EPs of his own. Earlier work brought some of the Mystics weird and charming vibe along with it: a homemade-toy, party-in-the-fairy-forest feeling, Cosmo lilting skewed nursery-rhyme verses over softly bouncing weaves of melody. In the videos, he came across as a generous digital troubadour on a set of meandering visitations, playing his lashed-up keyboards-and-tech assemblages for performances in model villages, truck beds, pigsties and fishing boats.

Byronic-looking but Branestawm-minded, Cosmo’s a shed-pop tinkerer and a baffling multi-instrumentalist with a mixed mystical/academic background. Part kid’s entertainer and part hippy-boffin, he has a shamanical nose for the margin between nonsense and connection. More recent efforts (trailing the imminent release of his debut album ‘The Much Much How How and I’) have seen chewier, pacier and poppier songs. The videos, meanwhile, have become an ingenious riot of increasingly theatrical, fantastical and sometimes macabre fabling in which foil monsters swim in canvas seas and giant fluffy headlice run amok. There’s a communal, childlike warmth to what he does: not perhaps a guileless wonder, but a sense of celebration, where fables and singalongs and misadventures become part of the accepted, useful junk with which we build our nests.



 
Kavus’ upcoming tour is a brief series of simmering April dots around England and Wales; Cosmo’s is a more leisurely, lengthy two-month loop, garlanding the British Isles and western Europe. They’re not sharing any shows, or even any venues. The only time they overlap in any respect is on the 25th of April, when they’re playing different but simultaneous one-man shows a stone’s throw apart in Bristol. It would be nice to think of them looking up midset on that one evening, peering across that city-central loop of the Avon, and nodding to each other. Not necessarily natural comrades but, in their way, parallel leywalkers. Each with a bit of Barrett in the back pocket, each with a peculiar charm of innocence, each with fingertips in the otherworldly and the mythic. The uncontainables…

Kavus’ tour also happens to be a chance to catch an intriguing spread of fellow musicians, reflecting the wide body of musical ideas and affinities he touches upon. While in Margate (squeezed into a former Victorian coach house transformed into the Japanese/Alpine cheese dream of a minature theatre), he lines up with two left-field folk acts: the organ-draped, ridge-walking green-chapel psychedelia of Arch Garrison and the mysterious brand-new “wonk-folk” of Bovril (featuring Tuung’s Mike Lindsay). In Birmingham, the bill sharer is Scaramanga Six songwriter Paul Morricone, providing gutsy acoustic songs of fear and brutality with lashing of dark Yorkshire humour. Paul and Kavus also reunite in York for the Tim Smith fundraiser Evening of Fadeless Splendour, alongside the off-kilter art rock of Redbus Noface and the sarcastic-bastard English songcraft of Stephen Gilchrist (a.k.a. Stephen Evens).




 
On his Manchester date, Kavus will be supported by Peaks (Ben Forrester, formerly of shouty slacker-punk duo Bad Grammar and Manc math-rock supertrio Gug, now performing “loop-driven emo pop”). In London, it’ll be V Ä L V E – once an avant-garde solo project (full of belches and found sounds, situational scoring and sound-art jokes) for Kavus’ Knifeworld bandmate Chloe Herington, now an increasingly ubiquitous three-woman live trio (evolved and evolving into a warm-hearted feminist/Fluxus/Rock In Opposition massing of harps, bassoon, punk bass and singalong bunker-folk). In Leeds, Kavus plays the quiet support act in a free gig for tintinnabulating Sheffield post-metallers May The Night Bless You With Heavenly Dreams (whose echoing tremstrumental pinings add a little magical shimmy to the usual doleful post-rock astronomy) and Bristolian experimental rockers Madilan (whose songs recall both the angst-shredded psychedelic night-journeys of Oceansize and also, in their spindly electronics and Autotuned vocal musing, post-Oceansize rocktronicists British Theatre).




 
In contrast, most of Cosmo’s dates are solo – possibly because once he’s unshipped his assorted instruments and gizmos (from euphoniums and banjos to loop pedals and pennywhistles), there’s not much room for anyone else in the dressing room. Nonetheless, support for eight of the European April dates comes from Liverpool-based Norwegian girl trio I See Rivers, who wed their outstanding and eerily resonant Scandinavian vocal harmonies, sunny dispositions and scanty guitar to their own balloon-light, touching folk-pop songs and to heart-thawing covers of Daughter (Medicine), George Ezra (Budapest), and Whitney Houston (‘80s wedding fave I Wanna Dance With Somebody).



 
For the London album launch for ‘The Much Much How How and I’, Cosmo and I See Rivers are joined by Bunty“multi-dimensional beat merchant and vocal juggler” Kassia Zermon. Also to be found fronting jazz/junk/folk trio Le Juki, co-fronting dub act Resonators, and co-running Brightonian experimental label Beatabet, Kassia’s run Bunty for years as a loopstation-based “one woman electro-orchestra” bolstered by her multi-instrumentalism and vivid imagination. Parallels with Cosmo are clear (the looping and beatboxing, a life blossoming with social art initiatives and therapeutic work beyond the entertainments) and she guests on one of the ‘Much Much’ tracks (very much an equal passing through, with a cheeky hug and a bit of upstaging), but her own vision is distinct. Giddier, jazzier, less directly English in its whimsy, with input from her Moroccan heritage and from her taste for Andy Kaufman; a slightly more cosmic playbox; imaginary languages; an undiluted Brightonian fabulosity.

Kassia’s last Bunty album, ‘Multimos’, was a pocket-sized multimedia event spanning apps, interactive AV, dream machines, audience choirs and gaming cues. Time and occasion will probably only allow a smidgin of that, this time around, but it’ll be a window onto her explosively colourful world.



 

* * * * * * * *

Kavus’ full tour dates:

 

Cosmo’s full tour dates:

  • More Human Than Human @ The Haunt, 10 Pool Valley, Brighton, BN1 1NJ, England, 4th April 2018, 7.00pm (+ I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3PQ, England, Thursday 5th April 2018, 7.30pm (album launch, with Bunty + I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Soup Kitchen, 31-33 Spear Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M1 1DF, England, Friday 6th April 2018, 7.00pm (+ tbc) – information here and here
  • Headrow House, 19 The Headrow, LS1 6PU Leeds, Saturday 7th April 2018, 8.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Fluc + Fluc Wanne, Praterstern 5, 1020 Vienna, Austria, Austria, Monday 9th April 2018, 8.00pm (with I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Feierwerk, Hansastr. 39-41, 81373 Munich, Germany, Tuesday 10th April 2018, 7.30pm (with I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Artheater, Ehrenfeldgürtel 127, 50823 Cologne, Germany, Wednesday 11th April 2018, 8.00pm (with I See Rivers) – information
  • Molotow, Nobistor 14, 22767 Hamburg, Germany, Thursday 12th April 2018, 7.00pm (with I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Lido, Cuvrystrasse 7, 10997 Berlin, Germany, Friday 13th April 2018, 8.00pm (with I See Rivers) – information here and here
  • Paradiso, Weteringschans 6-8, 1017SG Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday 17th April 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Exchange, 72-73 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EJ, England, Wednesday 25th April 2018, 7.30pm (+ tbc) – information here and here
  • Ancienne Belgique, Anspachlaan 110, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, Friday 27th April 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Ninkasi Gerland Kafé, 267 Rue Marcel Mérieux, 69007 Lyon, France, Wednesday 2nd May 2018, 8.30pm – information here
  • Point Éphémère, 200 Quai de Valmy, 75010 Paris, France, Thursday 3rd May 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Unplugged in Monti @ Black Market Art Gallery, Via Panisperna 101, Rione Monti, 00184 Rome, Italy, Wednesday 9th May 2018, 7.00pm – information here
  • Serraglio, Via Gualdo Priorato 5, 20134 Milan, Italy, Thursday 10th May 2018, 9.00pm – information here and here
  • Freakout Club, Via Emilio Zago, 7c, 40128 Bologna, Italy, Friday 11th May 2018, 9.00pm – information here
  • The Hug and Pint, 171 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G4 9AW, Scotland, Tuesday 22nd May 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The Globe, 125 Albany Road, Cardiff, CF24 3PE, Wales, Wednesday 23rd May 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Plug, Sheffield, Thursday 24th May 2018, 7.30pm – information here, here and here

 

March 2018 – upcoming London experimental gigs – More News From Nowhere ambient/noise/jazz/post-everything alldayer (30th March)

20 Mar

More News From Nowhere presents:
MNFN Good Friday All-Dayer (featuring Kodian Trio + Warren Schoenbright + V Ä L V E + Marlo Eggplant + Minus Pilots + Ow Te + Blick | Trio + Grave Threat + Red Team)
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Friday 30th March 2018, 3.00pm
– information here and here

More News From Nowhere All-Dayer, 30th March 2018Walthamstow experimental evening More News From Nowhere hops the Lea again for another stint at the New River Studios in Harringay: this time an all-dayer.

A number of improvising threesomes are on hand. Kodian Trio (tagged as “meticulously disjointed free improv” by ‘Cyberinsekt’) unites saxophonist and Raw Tonk label head Colin Webster (who played at MNFN’s February event), Belgian dronetronic guitarist Dirk Serries (better known as Vidna Obmana or Fear Falls Burning) and Shatner’s Bassoon drummer Andrew Lisle. A more directly ambient-jazz approach is offered by Blick | Trio (comprising Blowpipe/Gyratory System veteran Robin Blick on assorted wind and brass, Andrew Moran on drums and James Weaver on bass, synth and programming). It’s a bit of a competition, but probably the least formal of the lot are Stoke-on-Trent-based “math-jazz wizards” Ow Te (featuring members of Stokie punks Amateur Assassins and Bong Idle, and citing a love of Karate, Codeine and The For Carnation, among others).




 

Another trio is being brought in by reedswoman and experimentalist Chlöe Herington: her increasingly industrious V Ä L V E project continues to build on its beginnings (synaesthesic graphic scores created and realised by Chlöe, bound in with specific memories and events) while simultaneously evolving into a R.I.O./Raincoats-friendly three-woman exploration vehicle via reeds, bass, concert harp and voices. Further female input into the all-dayer is provided by Marlo Eggplant (the Corpus Callosum label head, onetime Olympia punk and lead figure in the “Ladyz In Noyz” initiative), whose own dense drone improvisations are built with processed autoharp and contact mics.


 
As regards duos, there’s an appearance from Minus Pilots (percussionist Matt Pittori and bassist Adam Barringer, who “weave sparse textures, crumbling atmospheres and fractured drones with currents of gentle crackle”) and from slithering, thickety London drums-and-electronics pairing Warren Schoenbright (Daniel McClennan and Matthew Pastkewicz) who craft lengthy, ambitious and luminous experiments from poised near-silence to hammering viciousness.



 
A collaboration between two other projects (the “hard Brexit/funeral electronics” of Ashcircle and the effects-chain noise of MNFN’s own Tim Cowlishaw as Violence) was scheduled to lead to Cruciform Passage Grave: something slanting towards the New Weird Britain end of sinister occult soundcraft. In the event, this needed more rehearsal than time allowed; so instead, Tim’s bringing in Cowboy Flying Saucer drummer Dave Bamford to open up the evening with a reunion of their “kraut-psych-improv-noise” duo Red Team (while Ashcircle’s Tom Macarte and Ciaran Mackle reformat themselves as the siren-in-a-washing-machine screech of Grave Threat).

 

January 2018 – upcoming London gigs – rock and ranging experimentalism with Ciara Clifford + V Ä L V Ē (26th January); pointillist folk-rock and music for digital paintings from Jack Cheshire and Mally Harpaz (30th January); avant-folk and literature with Kelly Andrews’ combined You Are Wolf concert and book launch (31st January)

11 Jan

Here are three end-of-the-month concerts: two odd couplings, and one odd doubling. Collectively, they incorporate muscular indie-rock, transformative avant-folk, short film scores, quirky experimental music shuffles and psychedelia-tinted folk rock. Much, though not all, of it is female-led or female-driven.

* * * * * * * *

Ciara Clifford, 26th January 2018

Ladies Of The Canyon Records presents
Ciara Clifford + V Ä L V Ē
Aces & Eights Saloon Bar, 156-158 Fortess Road, Tufnell Park, London, NW5 2HP, England
Friday 26th January 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here

Ciara Clifford is inspired in part by distinctive major-signed female rock and pop acts like tUnE-yArDs, St. Vincent and Anna Calvi (as well by her taste for jazz-bass virtuosi Tal Wilkenfeld and Jaco Pastorius and the unfettered rock roar of System Of A Down or Linkin Park). That said, she’s perhaps closer to the parallel-mainstream world of She Makes War’s Laura Kidd or Candythief’s Diana de Cabarrus: hard-grafting, self-propelled British indie women carving out their own cottage-industry efforts.

With a self-funded eponymous debut album behind her (released last year on her own Lady Of The Canyon Records) Ciara took her first steps last year in promoting it via assorted shows at venues like the Betsey Trotwood, The Strongroom and Paper Dress Vintage. Now she’s trying on the slick rock’n-roll roadhouse environment of Tufnell Park’s Aces and Eights, accompanied by fellow Calvi bandmember Mally Harpaz on drums and by jazzy London bassist Pablo Rodriguez.


 
For support this time, Ciara’s taken the unusual step of booking V Ä L V Ē, Chlöe Herington’s triple-woman avantronic reeds/harp/electronics ensemble. As well as being experimental, Chlöe’s work is determinedly playful and, at points, comical. A bold tinkerer with graphic scores and representational notation, she’s also got form for picking up junk or an unlikely, tasty sound and then repurposing it for a quick, quirky composition. This has included sampling her own Pepsi-slurping and belching, rescoring and recording musical fragments found in skips, writing for a chorus of antique doorbells or (rather more touchingly) using her late mother’s ECG printouts as the basis for notation.

There’s a serious point to all this, as the pieces are intended to “explore synaesthetic memory and collective experience”. This aim is amplified by V Ä L V Ē’s live work, in which Chlöe augments her bassoon, saxophones, samples and gizmos with Emma Sullivan’s bass and Microkorg synth, and with Elen Evans’ harp. With all three women singing and vocalising too, the music diverges from individual gags and solipsisms and heads towards more of a common experience, from a shared cackle to a kitchen chorale.




 
With Ciara’s relatively straightforward songcraft and Chlöe’s envelope-popping peculiarities, this is certainly an odd billing, especially considering the honky-tonk theme of the venue. It’s almost like a gigshare between Jack Peñate and John Cage – or, to pull in an X-chromosome equivalent, one between Carina Round and the late Lindsay Cooper (whose music Chlöe plays as a member of Half The Sky) – playing at Bob’s Country Bunker.

Then again, sometimes musical affinities go beyond the obvious. It’s probably worth turning up just to see what kind of atmosphere and chemistry this particular juxtaposition will create.

* * * * * * * *

Jack Cheshire + Molly Harpaz, 30th January 2018Both Chlöe Herington and Mally Harpaz resurface for a gig a few days later. Although the former’s vanishing behind the scenes to be an organiser, the latter’s stepping out from behind the drumkit to showcase some of her own music for short animations.

Westking Music & Performing Arts presents:
Jack Cheshire + Mally Harpaz
WKC Theatre @ Westminster Kingsway College, 211 Gray’s Inn Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8RA, England
Tuesday 30th January 2018, 6.30pm
– information here and here

In part, this concert is a re-run of the set Mally played as support to Colonial Sun last month: keyboard-led small ensemble tunes written for a set of short animations. This time, Mally’s ensemble is playing support to another full-band performance by Jack Cheshire, whose music has been hailed as “spooky, pointillist, strings-driven pastoralia” by the Sunday Times and by ‘Clash Magazine’ as “curious, idiosyncratic (…) artful pop… psychedelic in a very English way… imbued with remarkable depth.” This, too, is something of a re-run, following up Jack’s gig at Nest Collective last November.

Jack Cheshire + Mally Harpaz, 30th January 2018Another odd and slightly disparate pairing, then, but one which reflects Westking’s refreshingly flexible approach under Chlöe’s booking regime. Here’s a repeat of the press releases I cited last time around:

Jack Cheshire(‘s) contemporary alt-folk sound with a post-rock twist has led him to share bills with luminary peers Songhoy Blues and Josh T. Pearson, and grace the stages of The Green Man Festival and Kings Place. The ghosts of Nick Drake and Syd Barrett skirt the edges of his songs, embellished by what ‘Uncut’ magazine calls an “Ian McCulloch-style croon”, with a “burnished psychedelia (that) takes this music to the skies”. He released his 2017 album ‘Black Light Theatre’ to universal press and radio acclaim, making fans of 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne and Tom Robinson along the way.

Mally Harpaz (photo © Barbara Muller)

Mally Harpaz (photo © Barbara Muller)

“Drummer, pianist and multi-instrumentalist Mally Harpaz (who’s played with Lunatic Crash, Anna Calvi, Hazel Iris, Ciara Clifford and Jessica Lauren) will be performing her original compositions joined by a small number of phenomenal musicians and special guests.

“These distinct pieces were mainly written as part of a collaboration with award-winning video artist Clara Aparicio Yoldi for several short films including ‘Iconosfera’, ‘Zoom Out’, and ‘Zoom In’: the original recordings feature (among others) Anna Calvi, Mark Neary and Mally’s old Lunatic Crash bandmate Eran Karniel. Mally’s reverence for the profound creates mysterious melodic lines and shares a luscious ambience with other contemporary pioneers such as Steve Reich, Max Richter, and Nils Frahm.”

 

(UPDATE, 17th January 2018: Incidentally – Mally and Colonial Sun are literally repeating their December concert a few days earlier at Hundred Years Gallery on the 27th – more on that here.)
* * * * * * * *

As I mentioned, Jack’s last London show was with Nest Collective, who’ve been bringing a full-range flush of folk-related music to London for several years now, from the rootsiest Americana and puirt a beul to thrillingly peculiar and innovative latter-day spins on the old formulae.

Kerry Andrews (You Are Wolf), 31st January 2018

One such new spin comes from Kerry Andrew who, as You Are Wolf, has spent the last seven years reinventing folk standards as sparse laptop tapestries: a capella vocals (sometimes layered, more often solo or in fragmentary chorus or conversation) swung in eerie but inclusive cradles of cupping bass guitar, neophyte textural daubs of bark-rough ukelele and riffling recorder, and stately string quartets. She’s been compared to Björk – and rightly so – but don’t imagine a callow imitator reeling off spurts of calculated experimental pop clonery. Instead, think more of the ‘Medúlla’ project and of someone unafraid to recast ideas in intriguing yet accessible new forms from the ground up, centring on the human voice (whether naked or cunningly garlanded) and calling fresh, spontaneous sounds up from apparently familiar sources in order to have them sing along with it.

Kerry Andrew: 'Swansong'Having already broadened her profile beyond folkery via her chatty ‘University Challenge’ blog, Kerry’s currently venturing into more serious terrain with the arrival of her “charged, hallucinatory… powerful(ly) metaphoric” debut novel ‘Swansong’. Drawing on the ancient Irish ballad of ‘Molly Bawn’ (or ‘Polly Vaughan’, in which a young man shoots his lover while mistaking her for a swan), Kerry takes a myth that’s travelled across Scandinavia, Ireland and England, altering as it goes (an extant Scottish version throws in a jealous mother, a pair of death-and-resurrection transformations and a guilty suicide).

Taking her own turn at it, Kerry provides a further upending and reworking of the tale. Her new prose version is a post-‘Morvern Callar’ take with an empowered, self-willed, boisterous heroine. This particular Polly (fleeing to the Scottish Highlands to escape the aftermath of an unpleasant incident at home in London) entertains herself with drink, drugs and sex before finding the landscape drawing her into visions and strange encounters, including one with a mysterious man mutilating a bird… It’s not the first time that Kerry has approached this particular song and myth. There’s a version on her 2014 debut album ‘Hawk To The Hunting Gone’ in which she intersperses melodies or text from several versions with her own surreal alternative story. Seen from Molly’s point of view, it seems that neither petrification, death nor ghosthood appear to encumber her, seeming to be merely transformative steps between states of existence. Empowerment of a different kind.


 
Kerry is formally launching ‘Swansong’ in London at a Nest Collective evening featuring a performance by You Are Wolf. On this occasion, the project’s presenting as a trio, possibly with bass-playing sidekick Andrew Furlow and ‘Hawk…’ co-producer MaJiKer. I’m not sure of the details (just as I’m unsure of the balance there’ll be between readings and music), but I’m already convinced that it’s going to be one of January’s most magical evenings.

The Nest Collective presents:
Kerry Andrew: ‘Swansong’ book launch featuring You Are Wolf
The Old Queen’s Head, 44 Essex Road, Islington, London, N1 8LN, England
Wednesday 31 January 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here



 

June 2017 – upcoming London/German gigs – Lindsay Cooper remembered by Half The Sky (22nd June – plus Avantgarde Festival appearance on 25th June)

15 Jun
Half The Sky, 22nd June 2017

Half The Sky (photo © Jean-Hervé Péron)

Long before the knot of current pop culture wrangling over women’s control over the music they make, the late Lindsay Cooper was plugging away in her own corner, striving (and ultimately succeeding) for much the same thing in the often arid and unforgiving spaces of British art rock, improv and jazz. Later this month, the Half The Sky ensemble (led by vigorous curator/arranger /multi-instrumentalist Yumi Hara) will be bringing their showcase of her music both to London and to a small town outside Hamburg, re-animating the work she created for Henry Cow, News From Babel and Music For Films between the late ’70s and the mid-’80s.

Originally formed in 2015 for festival appearances in Japan and France, Half The Sky derive their name from the Maoist/feminist maxim, “women hold up half the sky”, as used by Lindsay as a composition title on Henry Cow’s ‘Western Culture’ album, back in 1978) and feature an impressive alliance of British and Japanese art-rock musicians. As well as Yumi on keyboards, lever harp and vocals, the ensemble features two members of Cicala-Mvta (Miwazow on koto, ching-dong percussion and voice; Wataru Okhuma on alto saxophone and clarinet), the Korekyojinn/Altered States bass guitarist Nasuno Mitsuru; Chlöe Herington (the reeds and melodica player from Knifeworld, Chrome Hoof and V Ä L V Ē) and finally two of Lindsay’s former Henry Cow/News From Babel colleagues (singer Dagmar Krause and drummer Chris Cutler). As Yumi points out, “the gender split follows Lindsay’s general practice and the example of the original bands – Henry Cow (50% female) and News from Babel (75% female).”

Yumi’s comments on the music:

“In 2013, soon after Lindsay passed away, Matthew Watkins made a call for arrangements of her mini-composition ‘Slice’ for a special edition of his podcast ‘Canterbury Sans Frontières‘. I made a transcription of the piece and recorded it for solo clavichord. Chris Cutler and I also played it in Japan and New York. A little later, inspired by the three memorial concerts Chris Cutler organised in 2014 with the original bands, I put Half The Sky together to play Lindsay’s music in Japan.

“With the exception of ‘Slice’, it was only after – and because of – the 2014 concerts that any working scores for the Henry Cow pieces became available, having been painstakingly assembled from Lindsay’s notebooks, original band-members’ surviving parts and careful analysis of the recordings. A handful of the News from Babel songs – none of which had ever been performed live – had already been reconstructed for the memorial concert by Zeena Parkins; the rest I had to work out from scratch – as well as rearranging everything for a mixture of occidental and oriental instruments.

“This programme is approached very much as a music of the present – and not as an academic reconstruction.”

In addition to Half The Sky’s performance, the London show will feature DJ sets from two of London’s more interesting musical personalities. Marina Organ’s known both for three decades of staunch work as writer/co-driving force of ‘Organ’ magazine and for her indefatigable DJ/interviewing work on ‘The Other Rock Show’. James Larcombe is the keyboard player and sometime composer with Stars In Battledress, Arch Garrison, North Sea Radio Orchestra, Zag & The Coloured Beads and the William D. Drake band; now he seems to be extending his talents (or at least his brassy neck), to disc-spinning.

Half the Sky: Music of Lindsay Cooper

  • Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Thursday 22nd June 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Avantgarde Festival, Steinhorster Weg 2, 23847 Schiphorst, Deutschland, Sunday 25th June 2017, 2.15pm – information here and here


 
* * * * * * * *

Pinning down the nature of a woman’s work in art – or women’s work in general – is not always an easy thing, nor even desirable. Even the most positive intentions can produce more restrictive categories, more unwanted boxings and demands to conform. In the case of Lindsay, whose career always foregrounded honest effort and end product over personality showboating, and which was tinted by doubt and determination, it’s probably best to concentrate mostly on the mind behind the music: to listen to the querying voice coming through.

Operating over a set of times in which both contemporaries and colleagues had a tendency towards answers and stances, stated in both bald pronouncements and modernist-baroque ornamentations, she opted to bring a more questioning tone which nonetheless carried some of its possible answers in both action and presentation. Hers was a polymathic but purer musicality: an instrumental voice which voyaged alongside others’ often harsher pronouncements, détournements and doctrines and drew from them while never being subject to them, and which always kept a gentler, more accommodating side open to allow growing space and to consistently rebuild.

Although she also put in stints with both the cheery Canterbury fusioneering of National Health and the terrifying dark-folk band Comus during the 1970s, Lindsay was probably best known for her work with the powerful political chamber-prog of proto-Rock In Opposition ensemble Henry Cow (a creative ferment which she joined and left twice and, like most Cow-ers, never entirely left behind). Having initially brought in her toolkit of reeds, woodwind and piano skills to play on the band’s second album ‘Unrest’, she subsequently made small inroads into the writing, contributing to a number of group compositions on ‘In Praise of Learning’ and the ‘Concerts’ set. As a composer, though, she finally came into her own on the band’s final, all-instrumental statement ‘Western Culture’, on which she was responsible for most of the piled jazzy grandeur of the second side (finding previously unexplored links between the music of New York, Canterbury and Switzerland).

Lindsay Cooper

Lindsay Cooper

Perhaps more significantly, by this point in the late ’70s Lindsay had already formed the witty, subversive Feminist Improvising Group, or FIG; a project which she co-ran with vocalist Maggie Nichols in parallel with her Cow work. Generally considered to be the preoccupation and property of educated, intense, white men, the British and European free improvising of the time tended to be a little short on jokes (bar occasional pranking along the lines of the Free Art Research Trio). FIG allied Lindsay and Maggie with various other musical and performance talents – “feminist rock” trumpeter Corine Liensol (who’d played in Jam Today with a young Deirdre Cartwright), pianist Cathy Williams (who’d worked with another Cow-er, Geoff Leigh, in the Rag Doll duo), future filmmaker Sally Potter, latterday Cow cellist Georgie Born and Swiss free-jazz pianist Irène Schweizer (the last being allegedly the only European female improviser on the ‘60s and ‘70s scene). In classic feminist tradition, FIG not only enabled previously sidelined female voices onto the improv scene but deliberately upturned expectations as to what such a scene could achieve.

In comparison to the demanding and abstruse Maoist politics of Henry Cow (which, in private, sometimes resembled a brutally masculine university debating society preoccupied with games of political high-grounding), FIG were spontaneous, mutually supportive and – just as importantly – funny. With a strong and personal rooting in lesbian, class-based and feminist activism (plus parallel feelings of sidelining and denial on the part of others) but a suspicion of dogma, they expressed frustration and political challenge by drawing on a collective sense of the absurd and of the sympathetic. In addition to the music, their shows featured parodic stagings and examinations of domestic work (such as kitchenwork and cleaning) and of consumer preoccupations. Vegetables were peeled onstage; household tools such as dustpans and brooms pressed into service as props and noisemakers; oppressive or manipulative memes transformed into call-and-response singing.

Reading accounts of FIG work reveals a tale of tough gigs, audience misunderstandings and frequent frustration. Men carped, frowned and cold-shouldered; women laughed, argued and sometimes welcomed; the group members continually challenged their own sense of self and role; but the work itself sounds joyously unshackled – something I would have loved to have been around to see. It’s a shame that much improv and theatrical work is always of the moment and tends to vanish like dew in the morn. Without recorded evidence or restaging, it fades into hearsay, and in this case an important chapter in Lindsay’s work has to dwell in a kind of word-of-mouth samizdat.

Post-Cow and FIG, Lindsay ran her own Film Music Orchestra to create and record arthouse soundtracks (often working in cinematic cahoots with Sally Potter). She rejoined another former Cow colleague ((the now-mellowed Chris Cutler) for the 1980s post-Marxist art-song project News From Babel: here, Chris’ social and political musings would make a happier marriage with the pop-cabaret end of Lindsay’s music. She also contributed to the counter-cultural jazz colours of various Mike Westbrook and John Wolf Brennan bands, played with Pere Ubu ranter David Thomas, worked in theatre and (in the ’90s) composed a more formal chamber music which nonetheless retained the edge and inquiring spirit of her work in avant-rock and political art. She’d collaborate with Potter again for the Cold War song cycle ‘Oh, Moscow’ in the late ’80s, to which Chris Cutler also contributed. If encroaching multiple sclerosis (which had privately dogged her throughout her post-Cow career) hadn’t dragged her into early retirement in the late ’90s, there would have been more.

Half The Sky provide a welcome re-introduction to Lindsay’s work, performed by committed people whose sympathy with Lindsay Cooper’s music is absolute. However, they should also be viewed as a window onto the wider career of a quietly remarkable woman whose death in 2013 forced a premature coda onto the work of a mind whose personal humility had been more than balanced by its nimbleness, thoughtful and flexibility. Come along to these concerts and hear some of that mindwork and heartwork come alive again.


 

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