Sunday, January 15, 2017

Suzanne Ciani and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - Sunergy


This is my current candidate for best thing ever! Suzanne Ciani was a 1970s synth pioneer, and FRKWAYS paired her up with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (another Buchla synth enthusiast) as part of their series of intergenerational, improvisational releases. Beautiful sounds, beautiful visuals... This is what I've always wanted electronic music to be. The album is transcendent, and this film is just beautiful.

Kaitlyn is from Orcas Island in Washington State, was home-educated and then studied composition before discovering the Buchla. Here she is explaining what she does:


...and here she is playing some tracks, mostly (I think) from last year's album Ears

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 42

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 42

Richard Sinclair recorded recently in southwest France, Robert Wyatt with Annie Whitehead and an African choir in the 80s, Kevin Ayers live in Dorset in 2002, an early Hatfield lineup involving Dave Sinclair on keyboards and Robert Wyatt on guest vocals, lysergic poetry from Allen Ginsberg and a tribute to Greg Lake, King Crimson's first bass player/vocalist. Also some vintage Jamaican dub, a set of new music that emerged from the Canterbury area in 2016 (Syd Arthur, Bison Bonasus, Jamie Dams, Witchdoctor, Gneng), something from Canterbury's twin city (Rheims) and a guest mix from listener Joe in Toronto featuring a variety of music from that city's thriving underground scene.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy 70th Birthday Patti Smith!

She's still a huge inspiration to me, after almost three decades. As someone wrote online "Patti: woman of genius, woman of inspiration, embodiment of the very spirit of art."

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 41

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 41

More from Gilli Smyth's "Gong Matrices" project, a couple of overlooked Wyatt pieces, a wind quartet from Egg, some live Soft Machine from the brief Phil Howard era, a '68 Caravan radio session, a rather good song from one of Kevin Ayers lesser albums and a slab of Matching Mole's debut album. From the Canterbury of now, another side from the new Lapis Lazuli double album and a cosmic instrumental from Syd Arthur's recently released third album Apricity. This episode also features a one-hour mix involving Japanese keyboard player Yumi Hara collaborating with Hugh Hopper, Daevid Allen, members of Henry Cow and Faust, as well as leading the new project "Half The Sky" which exists solely to play the music of bassoonist/composer Lindsay Cooper (1951-2013), and covering the Matching Mole classic "O Caroline".

Monday, December 05, 2016

late 2016 jams

I've finally got round to editing some recordings that have been amassing since August.

There was a psychedelic jam session at Bramleys in Canterbury back in late August. They've been hosting jazz and blues jams on alternate Tuesdays for a while, so Jules pushed for this, but unfortunately the management didn't want it to continue.

Most of Lapis Lazuli acted as a sort of house band with various musicians coming and going from the stage, including me playing some saz. Unfortunately the levels were set too high, so there's some nasty distortion in places, but it's still worthy of preservation. I rarely get to rock out like this on the saz... more of these jams, please!

Listen Here

Then there's a variety of other bits and pieces. There was an intimate Sunday evening with Yiannis and Roberto (Magga Tiempo) in mid-October with their friends Konstantis, a Greek violinist, and Laura, his Irish-American wife who taught herself Greek and explained a lot of the political/cultural history of Greece and Asia Minor to me, putting the rebetika they were playing into perspective. Konstantis wanted to have a go on my saz, so I went and got it, then ended up playing "Kaike en Sholio" with them (the only rebetiko I know). I then realised I could join in with some of the other stuff they were doing. A beautiful occasion (ended with Roberto playing a couple of Cuban songs). There's a couple of songs ("Gallows Pole", the ancient ballad popularised by Led Zep, and "Whisky in the Jar", an old Irish rebel song popularised by Thin Lizzy) played with Conrad "Cloudshoes" Singh at the end of his secret woodland gig... he called me, Phil and Aidan (2/3 of the Papylonian Babooshkies, who supported him) up to join him in a very spontaneous closing jam. Similarly, there are a couple of songs from Leonie's new Collaborations Volume 1 which she asked me to join her on during a woodland album launch gig she did otherwise solo. To round things off, there are some improv jams with Phil Holmes (ex-member of Lapis Lazuli as of a couple of days ago, a peaceful separation, Jules having now learned his parts). These are from a couple of relaxed evening sessions which, as usual, involved at least as much chatting as jamming.

Listen Here

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Logos Robot Orchestra, Gent

When I was visiting Sven over the Channel in G(h)ent earlier this year, he pointed out a warehouse space just across from where he was living and told me something about a "robot orchestra" that an eccentric inventor had created in there. This sounded pretty fascinating, but it faded from my mind until Sven visited recently and urged me to have a look online. Check this out (and stick with it, it might take a minute to figure out what you're seeing)!
 

ridiculous few days

This was a bit like a five-day musical weekend.

Wednesday 16th November, 2016
Crash of Moons Club, Bramleys
 

This was Lapis Lazuli's Wrong Meeting album launch. Support came from Oneirhythm, the first UK gig for this excellent young French band who bridge the gap between Hatfield and the North and Tame Impala, who consider Canterbury to be their spiritual home, and who really dug Prof. Appleblossom's DJ selections (playlist here, starting with Moving Gelatine Plates, another French Canterbury-obsessed band, but from 40+ years ago). Oneirhythm are, remarkably, from Rheims, Canterbury's twin city. We learned that it isn't actually pronounced like "reams" (there's a Rheims Way which forms part of the ring-road, and that's how everyone says it here), but more like "ghhhhrrrrauuun"!! They have a very dynamic and enthusiastic lead singer, but my favourite part of the set was when they played an instrumental called "Harum Scarum", prefaced by a keyboard improvisation which Léopold started with a lovely quote from Soft Machine's "The Moon In June".

Adam insisted that I end my set with "Leave Me Alone" by Michael Jackson (some kind of in-joke with the band), so I made it clear that this was being played under duress:
 

Still in Professor Appleblossom mode, I introduced Lapis with a disorienting spoken word intro, mashing up various text excerpts that I'd found by searching for the words "wrong meeting" via GoogleScholar. This involved everything from bluefin tuna fishing management to irritable bowel syndrome to holocene coastal changes in the Netherlands (a lot of people have found themselves in a lot of wrong meetings over the years!). New recruit Jules, soon to be replacing Phil, added a second tenor sax and a bit of flute on the first piece "School" (one of three twenty minute album side epics that make up Wrong Meeting). A certain someone, having overdone a certain something, fell off the stage at one point, vanished for a while, but returned to finish the song, if rather wonkily. They powered through "Phighphye" and "Reich" despite the wonkiness, somehow managing to contain it with their collective precision. But this was all very upsetting for Adam (along with the fact that Lapis couldn't fill the venue for a hometown album launch that cost £5... what's up with that?), so the evening ended on a bit of weird note. But it's to the credit of the sober majority of the band that most of the audience seemed unaware that anything was wrong and left elated after a great night.
 

Thurs 17th November
Rose Hill Tavern, Bristol
 

This was another date on Leonie's album launch tour, this one time backed up by 3/5 of Jouis (Louis, Adam and Joe Woodham),currently a band in transition. As Prof. Appleblossom, Leonie had asked me to do a freestyle maths set before she played. Joe Woodham warmed the crowd up first with a solo set of his thoughtful, lyrical songs (he's an excellent fingerpicking guitarist as well as a bass monster!). I wasn't sure how it would be received, but the Prof's first pub gig went down remarkably well. I'm sure it helped that this was an "arts hub" pub in Brighton, run by Cassia, one of the singers in the local reggae/dub band The Resonators. But regardless, people asked questions about the ontological status of number, about imaginary numbers, Schrödinger's Cat, the usual sorts of things, and I got fully engaged with my blackboard (and an oil wheel lightshow behind that — psychedelic maths in effect!)
 

 

Leonie's set was perhaps my favourite thing I've ever seen from her, mostly because of the backing band. Joe, Adam and Louis play together as such a tight unit these days, as well as being individually virtuosic. Louis was playing his Nord keyboard mostly, but turned around and made use of the pub's piano for one of Leonie's Cuban-tinged Spanish language numbers, as well as unleashing his Roland Juno arpegiations at a few strategic moments. Again, Leonie asked me to play saz on "Kagayaku" and "Freya". The first of these worked especially well, with Louis arpegiating throughout. The Rose Hill crew were extremely hospitable, I got fed and paid, and we all ended up back at Enterprise Point (the "legal squat" where Louis and Adam live and the band have their studio space) listening to Texan-Thai instrumental trio Khruangbin and chilling late into the night.
 

Friday 18th November
Colyer-Fergusson Building, UKC, Canterbury
 

Joel rang that afternoon to ask if I'd compere the event, to which I agreed. I got an easy lift from Brighton to Canterbury with Adam, his girlfriend Rosie and Leonie (she was on the bill, again backed up by 60% of Jouis) and then spent a few hours hanging about during the setup, scribbling down ideas for band introductions that would add useful context and make sense of the whole thing to people who weren't already familiar with the scene from which Syd Arthur both sprang and helped create.

First up was the oblique art-pop of Bison Bonasus. Jamie Dams was depping on keys for Callum, away in Barcelona, with her beaming smile, singer Bruno also looked like he was really enjoying the occasion. They got a nice clean mix, the best through which I've heard them, and as with each former Bison gig, they made a bit more sense to me than the previous time. Their new stuff (part of a forthcoming EP, to be released soon with a comic book, and in cassette format!) is perhaps the best yet — "Eddie's Gone To Tel Aviv" is the only title I can recall.

As people filed out of the main hall, Luke Smith and the Feelings started up on a small stage in the foyer. Their sound got a bit lost in the hubbub, but still quite a lot of people listening intently and enjoying it. Local veteran player Peter Cook added some guest sax to "When You've Seen A Bit Of Life", and apparently the monitoring was so problematic that Tom H played all his bass parts by memory, not hearing a single note of his own playing. Despite the difficulties with the sound, Luke remained cheerful. His post-Brexit rewrite of "Luke's National Anthem" was particularly noteworthy (the original was a rather sweet, explicitly non-nationalistic ode to what he loves about England, but he felt he had to change the words after the referendum vote).

The Quartet, featuring Sam Bailey and Jack Hues (but the original old lineup with Matthew Senior on drums and Rutledge Turner on bass, rather than the Led Bib rhythm section) were up next in the man hall. They started with an Eric Dolphy number, then a long, wonderfully jammed-out "Begonia Heights" (a track the Syd boys introduced me to when I interviewed them for Canterbury Soundwaves back in 2011), a new Jack Hues ballad (instrumental)... This was deep, spacey psychedelic jazz, and it worked amazingly well in the context, much better than I was expecting.
 

Back outside again, and Leonie was on. Jamie D sang harmony vocals on three songs, which it turned out that she'd only just learned from the album (one in Japanese and one in Spanish...and she smashed it, as is said these days). Once again, Leonie called me up to played saz on "Kagayaku", rather familiar by now, so the fact I couldn't really hear myself in the monitors wasn't as much of a problem as it might have been.

Syd Arthur took the stage to the sound of Terry Riley's "A Rainbow in Curved Air" (their intro music on the recent UK tour) and delivered a killer set, with a HUGE sound. The setlist was similar to what I saw in Brighton: they opened with "Ode to the Summer", played the whole of the new album minus "Plane Crash", interspersed with a few tracks from Sound Mirror. The "Garden of Time" and "Singularity" jams were incandesent, even "What's Your Secret" (not a great favourite) was hard not to like with it's new synth-heavy arrangement. As usual, I wish I could have chosen the setlist ("All and Everything", "Paradise Lost", "Planet of Love" → "Hermethio" and "Pulse" would have been in there), but they filled the place up, it felt like everyone was behind them, the event a huge celebration of their ten years of musical evolution. Not a weak moment. They encored with latest B-side "Monster" and then title track "Apricity" ("Willow Tree" or "Mystic Mole" would have been nice, but yeah...). Afterwards, we all ended up down at a late night bar adjacent to the Westgate Towers, a former police station called The Pound, being subjected to unnecessarily loud R'n'B, but I got a chance to catch up with Tom H, Luke Smith, Hannah and Adam Dawson so it was worth another late night.
 

Saturday 19th November
The Fox and Firkin, Lewisham
 

This almost didn't happen. Adam had asked me about DJing for this some weeks earlier, but it had escaped my mind. Fortunately I answered an unrecognised number (a phone he'd borrowed) on a whim the afternoon before, and sorted out a cheap coach ticket to Lewisham. This was the last of four gigs that Lapis did with Oneirhythm (the first being the problematic night at Bramleys). As usual, the Prof. selected tunes before, between and after the bands, trying to stitch their live sets into a seamless musical journey (an approximate playlist is here). Ashley "Famous James" is now the manager of this place (it's an eclectic music pub linked to The Magic Garden in Battersea) and so we all got treated with incredible hospitality (got fed, paid and a place to sleep for the night). Oneirhythm's songs already seemed very familiar, despite only having heard them a couple of times before. Again, the instrumental "Harum Scarum" was a highlight, although Leopold's into didn't include the "The Moon In June" reference, that seemingly just being a nod to the Soft Machine for the audience down in Canterbury a few nights earlier. Lapis were on staggeringly good form, a real contrast to the gig at Bramleys, the two guitars meshing together as one, everyone focussed and enjoying the experience of playing together. New bassist Luke is seriously loving being in the band (he'd been a regular at gigs for some years before) and is bringing a new energy and enthusiasm to the lineup.

Everyone else had to head back to Kent, but Adam and I stayed up late with the French visitors, selecting classic prog tunes, talking nonsense, conducting the final movement of "Atom Heart Mother" with my toothbrush, etc.. The next day I didn't even have to walk back to the coach stop, getting a lift back with Ash (who's moved back to Canterbury, despite working in London), ended up in Barham having lunch with Adam, Kim and Baby Lila, talking things over.
 

Sunday 20th November
I was hoping to make it to The Lighthouse in Deal to catch Meg Janaway's set, but not surprisingly spent a good part of the day catching up on sleep!

Leonie's album launch

13th November 2016
secret woodland location near Canterbury

This was the first of these woodland gigs I've facilitated where I didn't get more than one act involved. It was part of Leonie's tour to launch her magnificent Collaborations Volume 1 album, which has been getting a lot of love from BBC 6 Music's Cerys Matthews lately (Cerys's eclectic tastes and Sunday morning slot would fit quite neatly into my life if only I had some means of listening to digital radio). No one else available seemed to quite suit the occasion, so I suggested to Leonie that she play two sets — one based on the new album, and one of old jazz, blues, requests, whatever she felt like.
 


Leonie's hand-drawn album cover art

The album consists of nine tracks, each recorded with a different band, all part of her extensive network of musical friends (you can see a press release I wrote about that on her website). On some of the tour dates, some of these bands were going to be playing the whole album with her. On this occasion, it was a solo thing, the songs stripped right back to just Leonie and her lovely Gretsch hollow-body electric guitar (unamplified). Having said that, she did talk me into quickly figuring out saz parts for a couple of the songs: "Kagayaku", as recorded with Yama Warashi, where I replaced the koto part she played (she having made that up spontaneously on her friend Yoshino's granny's koto one afternoon) and "Freya", which she recorded with Cocos Lovers. That went reasonably well. I was surprised how relaxed I felt playing in front of everyone (the audience included quite a few musicians who are of an entirely different calibre to myself).

The second set was a lovely melange of Leonieness: gospel-blues, country-blues, jazz standards, "The Littlest Birds" (a Jolie Holland song Hannah requested) and a "Foreign Lands" singalong to finish (I'd proposed a Leonard Cohen song since the great man had only just departed this earthly plane, but Leonie didn't know any, nor could she remember how to play some of her older songs I suggested). There was a decent amount of "frumpet" (her mouth trumpet technique) and very relaxed between-song banter. Part of what's so special about seeing Leonie play live is just how relaxed she is about the whole thing — it puts everyone at ease, creating a rare atmosphere of chilled-out receptivity.

Athelstan Sound

10th November 2016
Water Lane Cafe, Canterbury Another Thursday night Free Range event organised by Sam Bailey. Sadly I wasn't able to stick around for the main attraction, performance artist Megan Garrett-Jones (who was busy preparing some experimentally flavoured jellies while I was there). The support set came from Athelstan Sound, an improv collective from Margate. They reminded me a bit of Children of the Drone, the improv collective I've been involved with in Exeter over the years — mixed ages and genders, using a wide range of sonic textures, some visual projections. This piece started with one of them reading the news aloud (while listening to it via the radio, I suspect, repeating word for word what he heard in real time):

Friday, December 02, 2016

Steal This Evening

10th November 2016
Bramleys, Canterbury

Sven was visiting from Belgium — this was the day Trump's election victory was declared, so everything felt pretty weird and uncertain — we decided to go down to Bramleys to catch Bearded Sphynx's set at this event, but just missed them. The night was organised by some uncharacteristically interesting students who publish a (hard copy!) zine called Steal This MagaZine, seemingly influenced by the Adbusters aesthetic. Graham from the UKC Psychedelics Society was spinning some reggae tunes before we caught a bit of a local indie-psych guitar band called Tokyo Tearoom. All rather encouraging. Popping out for chips, we heard tireless troubadour Sam Brothers singing Dylan's "I Want You" from inside the Bell and Crown, so stopped in to listen to his set. By the time we go back to Bramleys the place had filled up, so we headed to The Unicorn in St. Dunstans instead to catch up with Joel from Syd Arthur, his girlfriend Hannah and SA soundman Mark, ended up talking Trump, inevitably. To counteract the gloom, Luke Smith was playing some piano on the other side of the pub. When he saw me come in, he quickly launched into Matching Mole's "O Caroline", bless him...

Max, Witchdoctor and Gneng

4th November 2016
Club Burrito, Canterbury
 

Max Martin started things off with a pleasingly shambolic set (including the usual Roky Erikson covers), this time with Jules on sax and Rachel on drums — all unrehearsed, but that wasn't really a problem. Herne Bay band Witchdoctor closed the night with their enthusiastic garage-prog mayhem, dropping three songs by their favourite band, the Cardiacs ("Inner City Lining", "Anything I Can't Eat" and "Arnold"), as well as a jokey "Loving You" by Minnie Riperton while adjusting their sound at the outset. In between was a short set from new local space-rock band Gneng, their first ever gig. Gneng are Harry and Ellen from acid-folk duo Bearded Sphynx, guitarist Pete Edlin from The Boot Lagoon (also on keyboards), former Zoo For You bassist Andrew Prowse and Richie Ryan on drums. Harry launched had the project just a few weeks earlier after hearing Gong's Camembert Electrique album for the first time. He got in touch to ask about possible drummers and I suggested Richie (who I'd seen playing guitar in Plume as well as drumming with the CCCU Scratch Orchestra and a new jazz-fusion band called Gorgonzola). Richie may have to move on soon, but he seems to be loving it for the time being — here's a little clip he posted after the gig.
 

Endwar Powers and Dubi Dolczek

6th November 2016
secret woodland location near Canterbury


Dubi Dolczek and friends at Smugglers Festival, last summer or perhaps the one before

Another wond'rous, intimate occasion, including Endwar Powers (a.k.a. Andrew Prowse) singing in public for only the second time. Mystery man and adventurer Dubi Doczek (a.k.a. Graeme Smith) showed up with only his pal Lewis Fitzjohn (from Yama Warashi) rather than the usual motley crew, but the two of them managed to play a magnificently varied and deeply psychedelic set, mixing up forgotten 20s jazz songs, beautiful old rocksteady and a few songs from the extraordinary Dubi Dolczek and the Haunted Lagoon album ("Fishbone Jim", "A Million Flamingos") plus the forthcoming Dubi In Space ("Planet of the Grey-Haired Babies"). Dubi played something that looked like a hybrid clarinet/soprano saxophone with Lewis on guitar, percussion and battery-powered keyboard. Most memorable of all was the spontaneous doo-wop sing-along they instigated at the end of "(I Met Her At The) Laser Dojo".

Before the gig, I was surprised, but then not, to overhear Graeme enthusiastically discussing oldskool hiphop with Laszlo (local MC Humble Pious). He's got quite a staggering wealth of musical knowledge, and it all filters through into his own, utterly original, work.

Here's some footage of Dubi and friends live in Bristol with (why not?) some superimposed fish species imagery:
 

end of Syd Arthur UK tour

3rd November 2016
Patterns, Brighton

This was the last night of their UK headline tour promoting the recently released Apricity album, and I got a last minute lift with Jamie Dams (partner of drummer Josh, but also creator of such fabulous music as this), had a fascinating conversation about consciousness all the way to Brighton. Support came from a pretty competent local prog band called Man Ray Sky. Syd played the played whole album minus "Plane Crash In Kansas", plus the "big" tracks from Sound Mirror and a bit of On An On. The previous time I'd seen them, in London, Raven had brought out his mandolin for part of the mighty "Chariots" → "Singularity" but this time no acoustic instruments were to be seen, he opting to instead shred wholly on his tenor (four-string) electric guitar and paint soundwashes with his analogue synth setup. The vocals were slightly muffled but the overall mix wasn't too bad. My highlight moment was probably the jam at the end of "Garden of Time" where once again I was (to quote Paul Weller from a recent MOJO piece) left standing, drop-jawed, wondering "How the f*** are they doing that?". Jamie and Josh stayed in Brighton, so I got a lift back to Canterbury with the rest of the band, helped them unload the van at Bramble Hall HQ near Boughton.

This Is The Kit at Union Chapel

Union Chapel, Islington, London
1st November 2016

This beautifully curated, celebratory evening marked the end of one-and-a-half years of touring to support TITK's acclaimed Bashed Out album. I'd been bought a ticket and had no idea what to expect — my first time inside the beautiful Union Chapel too. Not surprisingly, the gig was sold out.

The Fantasy Orchestra, directed by Kate's husband Jesse (while simultaneously playing some killer lead guitar), started things off: loads of them, as usual, playing an eclectic diversity of instruments in silly costumes, carnival masks, etc. Apparently quite a few of them had cycled from Bristol to London after a similar gig there a few days earlier. There was the usual dose of Morricone, but also a load of other stuff I'd not seen them do before including (something of a surprise) Jeffrey Lewis' "If You Shoot The Head You Kill The Ghoul". Rozi Plein, the bassist from TITK, came on to do her song "Best Team" backed by the FO. The sound was remarkably balanced throughout considering the number of people on stage.

Another Bristol friend of the band, Rachel Dadd, then played a set with Rozi and Kate backing her on vocals, plus a large part of the Fantasy Orchestra reappearing on stage for the last couple of songs ("Strike Our Scythes" and "Balloon").

TITK is an ever-changing entity with Kate Stables at its centre. I'd thought I'd see the quartet lineup I'd seen in Ramsgate a few months ago (her, Rozi, Neil Smith on lead guitar and Jamie on drums). Instead, it was that lineup augmented by Jesse on electric guitar, plus our dear friend Lorenzo Prati (Rae, Evil Usses, Count Bobo, Tezeta, Dubi Dolczek) and Melanie Wickham (I think) on saxophones. Such a beautiful ensemble sound! They didn't play most of my favourites, but I only realised that afterwards, so enraptured was I by the whole thing. The Fantasy Orchestra joined in for a few triumphant numbers towards the end of the set, and the evening ended with a gorgeous, sparse "Bashed Out" encore before I had to run for my train back to Canterbury.

There was a remarkably warm, inclusive atmosphere about the whole thing. The babysitters backstage even got a shout-out and round of applause, I'm happy to report. A very tasteful lightshow too:
 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"Famous Blue Raincoat"

This one was always my favourite. RIP Leonard Cohen.

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 40

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 40

The epic opening track from the new Syd Arthur album, Caravan playing "For Richard" for a '74 Peel session, Kevin Ayers singing Syd Barrett, Syd Barrett singing Syd Barrett (several times), Sun Ra, Terry Riley, an Anglo-Japanese Lindsay Cooper tribute band inspired by this podcast(!), newish chamber-folk from Spiro and North Sea Radio Orchestra, National Health, Robert Wyatt, early Gong and a Soft Machine '68 miniature. Also featured in this episode is an hour-long guest mix from Indonesian fusion archivist Terry Collins, a listener in Jakarta.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Byron Wallen's Four Corners Quartet

27th October 2016
Water Lane Cafe, Canterbury

London-based jazz trumpeter Byron Wallen returned to Canterbury with his new band, just amazing! This was a Free Range event, listed as part of the annual Canterbury Festival, so the tiny Water Lane Cafe was properly packed out. Was that a flugelhorn BW was playing? Guitarist Rob Luft brought an almost Hillage-like "solar guitar hero" thing when he got to shine but mostly just played perfectly-judged, tasteful jazz guitar lines and chords. The rhythm section of Theon Cross on tuba and Rod Youngs on drums would be hard to beat (and RY looked like he was having such a good time). Byron's written pieces were systematically broken down into spaced-out jams, almost telepathically abstract and Grateful-Dead-like at times, where you're left wondering (in the best possible sense) "are they even playing music now, or...?". After seeing Luo the night before, this outpouring of joyful neo-jazz left me with a feeling of deep happiness.

Outside I spent a little while catching up with Andrew Prowse, formerly the bass player from Zoo For You, who'd moved back to Canterbury from Devon a week earlier and already been recruited into Gneng, the new jazzy spacerock project launched by Harry and Ellen of Bearded Sphynx (with Pete Edlin of The Boot Lagoon pn keys/guitar and now, at my suggestion, Richie Ryan of Plume on drums). Exciting musical times in Cantwarabyrig!

Poggy's Woman album

A pre-release copy of Woman, the first solo album by Mary-Anne "Poggy" Hatton has just come my way, another gem from the Smugglers Records collective down in Deal on the Kent coast.

The eleven tracks combine elements of 60s French pop sophistication, 80s jazz-pop (Style Council, Everything But The Girl, etc.) and touches of 90s triphop, Poggy's lyrics dealing with many aspects of womanhood, underlined by her striking vocal strength and confidence, ranging from Sade-like silkiness to the fierce authority of PJ Harvey. The whole thing is propelled along by superb drumming from her husband James and infused with the versatile twin guitars of Phil Self and her brother-in-law Dave Hatton, the latter bringing moments of Marc Ribot-style rawness and angularity to nicely offset the underlying sweetness of the record. Like the album's bassist, Billy Glynn, Phil and Dave are former bandmates of Poggy and James in Cocos Lovers, Smugglers' flagship band.

The rootsiness brought by the Cocos-and-friends crew is effectively contrasted by Richard Bundy's subtle 21st century production touches which at times bring to mind Stereolab or Radiohead (the dubbed-out section in "Memory" is particularly effective). Poggy's recent experience of singing with East Kent's Afrobeat/Ethio-jazz collective Volume 13 (also featuring several of the players on this album) is in evidence: there are some nice Afrobeat touches in the drumming and the choice of vintage keyboard sounds. Best of all are the harmony vocals (mostly Poggy harmonising with herself, but also with contributions from her sister Tasha and violinist Hetty Pound). These run through the album like interweaving veins of precious metal through a rockface. Her ability to put together vocal harmony arrangements like these, let alone sing all the parts the way she does, is particularly impressive. Her deep musicality is further demonstrated in her flute, accordion and cello contributions to the record.

"Need to Change", with its twitchy drum'n'bass-type rhythm, lends itself nicely to some impressive rapping from Oli, a.k.a. MC Kotchin, an old friend of the Smugglers collective (I remember him jumping on stage to spit some bars the first time I saw Cocos Lovers in early 2009). His American-accented R'n'B style of singing (on that track and "You're Alright") isn't quite to my taste, but still doesn't detract. I'm guessing it's also Oli who adds the Bobby-McFerrin-style vocal percussion at the end of the beautiful a cappella "Beautiful Woman". Closing track "Backstreet Blues" make clear the nature of Poggy's contribution to the second Cocos Lovers album Elephant Land (particularly on its standout song "Door to the Andes"). The simple piano lines on "Backstreet Blues" are a lovely touch, and the soulful Soweto-township-style singing feels completely natural, worlds away from the "world music" exploitation of Graceland, etc.

Woman clocks in at a perfect 46m. The warmth in this album's ensemble playing could only have been achieved by a tight friends-and-family group like this. Many of its songs got stuck in my head after a couple of listens and don't seem to be interested in moving out anytime soon...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Luo at Crash of Moons

Crash of Moons Club
Bramleys, Canterbury
26th October 2016

Superb music from beginning to end, with

  • a heavy drone (analogue electronics) set from In Kit Form (someone called Chris Marsh from Canterbury who I was entirely unaware from, but who's go a huge amount of stuff up on his Bandcamp page)
  • another magnificent set from Koloto (a.k.a. Maria Sullivan), local creator of exquisite, bejewelled organic glitchtronic wonders
  • Luo!! Videos of them I'd seen showed a four piece (plus horns), but this was a leaner, more impressive trio (bass, keys/electronics and an unbelievable drummer).

Thanks as ever to Adam for all the effort he puts into getting these Crash of Moons events together. There was a pretty decent audience (and it was a deeply engaged audience), but he really needs to sell the place out every time just to break even. Where is everyone? This city is bristling with astonishing music like never before, has a student population of near 40,000 on top of the local one, so I just don't get it. Anyway, here are my eccentric alter ego Prof. Appleblossom's DJ sets from before/between/after acts, tailored (as ever) to make a continuous musical journey out of the night. That seemed to work this time.

Syd Arthur in Gatefield Sounds

21st October 2016
Gatefield Sounds, Whitstable

The Apricity album is finally out! I've had the tracks ever since they were mastered, but cycled over to Whitstable to pick up a vinyl copy and hear them play a quiet, stripped-down set. Liam was playing electric guitar but with no effect, Josh had the tiniest of kits and Raven was behind an uneffected Wurlitzer 200A electric piano. They told me later how much they enjoyed playing at a volume they could all hear everything clearly, and not having to concentrate so much on triggering effects, etc. so they could concentrate on just playing the songs.

They started with "Portal", the instrumental they've dedicated to Fred (their once incredible drummer who tragically had to leave due to ear problems), also played "Rebel Lands", "Evolution", "No Peace" and the epic "Into Eternity" from the new album, plus "What's Your Secret?" from Sound Mirror (a surprising choice, but it worked for the set). The record shop (serving Whitstable since 1972) was packed out, there were colour-themed orange balloons, craft ales, old friends and family, plus the young guitarist from Herne Bay's up-and-coming prog-rock outfit Witchdoctor, watching from the back, being awed by the band for the first time. Things keep rolling. Here's "Evolution":

A major feature on Syd Arthur appeared in the latest MOJO magazine a few days later, very enthusiastic, and sympathetic to what they're about. (Apricity had already been MOJO's album of the week.) There was an inserted bit written by Paul Weller describing watching them from the side of the stage when they were supporting him on tour, thinking "how the fuck are they doing that?", and I could completely relate to that, remembering back to a gig at the Farmhouse in 2008 probably when something just came into focus and it felt like they were performing sonic miracles. Long may they continue to do so. There's a welcome return to Canterbury on the 18th of November when they play at UKC's Colyer-Fergusson building with various old friends.

And here's something they've quietly slipped out (the original videoshoot for this song didn't work out, due to technical problems with drone photography, I think this works perfectly, in an unexpected way). Footage of Canterbury in the 1920s (I'm guessing) that I didn't know existed: