Thursday, April 13, 2017

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 45

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 45

An almost forgotten Richard Sinclair song from Caravan's In the Land of Grey and Pink sessions, Don Cherry guesting with System 7 twenty years ago, some very Canterbury-sounding fusion from Belgium and France in 1971, a slab of Hugh Hopper's "Monster Band" live in '74, Robert Wyatt talking Trump and singing a Cuban love song, plus more from that magnificent Suzanne Ciani and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith modular synth collaboration album Sunergy. From the Canterbury of recent times, we have Little Bulb Theatre, Luca Afrobeat Band and an hour-long mix of exquisite electronica and postrock courtesy of organic glitch producer Koloto a.k.a. Maria Sullivan.

a message for Thom Yorke

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 44

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 44

Egg, Steve Hillage's System 7 sampling Gong, Gong themselves celebrating twenty-five years of cosmic silliness, a late period Lindsay Cooper ambient collaboration, four unknown Japanese amateur musicians playing National Health's "Collapso" (having never played together before!), a old Robert Wyatt piece reworked with a Palestinian MC, the Delta Saxphone Quartet mashing up a couple of pieces from Soft Machine's "Third" album, Hugh Hopper with American experimentalists Caveman Shoestore and something from Kevin Ayers' 1972 "Banana Follies" stage show. From the Canterbury of recent times, a live set from Lapis Lazuli, an intriguing miniature from Humble Pious and friend, an almost-lost 2010 demo from Bardo Thodol and ambient works from two of the musicians behind that band. Also some spiritual jazz from Pharaoh Sanders, modular synth wizardry from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and an overdue tribute to John Wetton (RIP).

Friday, March 10, 2017

new Evil Usses

I'm not usually too bothered about music videos, but this is a good one from my Bristol friends the Evil Usses. Their new album Amateur Pro Wrestling is out imminently, mixed by John Dietrich of Deerhoof:

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

jams with Phil

Phil and Loyda's house, Canterbury
3rd March 2017

Phil and Loyda kindly invited me over for dinner and a jam. Phil plugged my saz into an amp of his (so relative volume wasn't an issue) played tenor sax, piano, percussion, chalumeau and a five double-stringed acoustic instrument that Loyda thought might be called a "quinto" (from Venezuela?). Loyda joined in on some occasional percussion.

Listen Here

(The collection also includes a couple of jams from a few nights earlier with Dominic from Little Bulb Theatre.)

Little Bulb's Wail

Monday 27th February 2017
Gulbenkian Theatre, UKC campus, Canterbury
 


In my experience, everything Little Bulb Theatre do is wonderful and this was no exception. The show is sort of about humpback whales and why they sing, and why humans sing — a kind of unclassifiable merging of gig, lecture and gently surreal comedy. Just Dominic and Claire in this one, both playing numerous instruments. Claire sang a beautiful old whaling song, accompanied by Dom on mandolin, beat the tympani while Dom shredded on electric guitar, did a brief Freddy Mercury impression, etc.... they got the whole audience imitating the four components of humpback whalesong at one point (creak, moan, whoop, shreik...I'm sure I'll never forget them now). They ended with a a piece called "Wail", the two of them playing a bit of everything, layered up on an old loop pedal, culminating in a rather epic blue plastic trombone duet (despite neither of them having any previous brass experience)!
 


I recorded some late night jams with Dom afterwards (our occasional musical collaborations go back to a magickal incident in midsummmer 2007).
 


They're also included in this collection, which is mostly stuff I recorded with Phil Holmes (now ex-Lapis Lazuli) a few days later:

Listen Here

dub at The Monument

1st March 2017
The Monument, St. Dunstans, Canterbury

This was a UKC Psychedelics Society social, the second time I'd been in the Monument since it's reopening as a groovy music pub. After some eclectic global sounds from (El Presidente) Timmy, Lucas and Johannes took to the decks playing a non-stop vinyl dub selection. Amazing sounds! I'm usually disappointed by the selection when I go to a reggae night, but this was the second one in less than a week that was rock solid. And a very full pub for a Tuesday night (good to see the place doing so well already, although the conversational noise floor started to impinge on the dub somewhat).

Monday, February 27, 2017

Professor Appleblossom at Free Range City

It seems I didn't blog about this at the time, but video has now surfaced of my eccentric alter ego Professor Appleblossom presenting a talk on "Retrocausality and other reverse-time phenomena" at "Free Range City", part of the International Festival of Projections, Rutherford College cloisters, University of Kent at Canterbury on 19th March 2016. He was assisted by sound artist and turntablist Dr. Matt Wright (one time UK scratch DJ champion!), plus Phil Holmes (Lapis Lazuli) on sax and Aidan Shepherd (Arlet) on accordion. Quite an extraordinary event, all in all:
 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Yianni and Roberto in session

Saturday 25th February 2017
secret woodland location near Canterbury

Just another mellow evening rebetiko session. Yiannis and Roberto were planning to come with their Greek/American friends Konstantis and Laura, but they'd had to fly to Paris for a sudden family emergency, so it was just the two of them. But Frances Knight was in the audience, and her accordion was in her vehicle parked nearby, so Yiannis urged her to go and get it, and the three of them played beautifully together (despite her not knowing the tunes). Transporting. I joined on saz at the end for "St. James Infirmary", nice to get a chance to play with them all together. A lovely little crew that night, too, with some surprising, unexpected connections made between people.

Poggy Hatton at Lo-Fi Zone

Monday 20th February 2017 Bramleys, Canterbury

I had to miss Poggy's album launch at the Lighthouse a couple of days later as I was DJing at Crash of Moons, but got to see this sweet little intimate acoustic thing a couple of days earlier as part of Luke Smith's weekly "Lo-Fi Zone".

Luke Smith and the Feelings currently consist of Luke, Dave the Drummer and Tom Holden on acoustic bass guitar. Most of the songs are deeply familiar after years, but they're still sounding great, and still get me thinking and feeling, depending on the mood I'm in. "She's Different On Her Own" stood out this time. As usual, there was a "Spoken Word Sojourn" with a couple of poems from Neelam Saredia. Poggy played a solo acoustic set, clearly keen to keep things moving, as there was only one song from her new album Woman (the title track, to end her set). Luke has a way of creating such a cosy atmosphere — a local treasure who really ought to be a national treasure.

Bubblin' in Itestable! Dub Organiser Hi-Fi in Whitstable

Friday 24th February 2017
The New Inn, Whitstable

This was the best reggae night I've been to in years. Graham from UKC Psychedelics Society brought it to my attention, so I decided to cycle over and check it out. I didn't get my expectations up as it's happened far too often that I've been taken in by red-yellow-and-green posters and flyers sporting Rasta iconography and promising "roots" and "dub", only to end up being subjected to hours of nasty dancehall and alienating modern techno-dub. Fortunately, this wasn't one of those occasions...

There's a lovely cosy little space at the end of The New Inn, perfect for a soundsystem of this size. The music gradually morphed from spiritual roots through rocksteady, Studio One sounds and rockers, lots of dub thrown in the DJ getting busy on the mic as the dancefloor filled up. There was a little bit of ska to keep the local former skinheads happy (but really tasteful jazzy stuff). I was dancing continually from 8 to 12pm (apart from a quick trip to the bar to get an orange juice), then realised I hadn't eaten that evening. I got home on a few ricecakes, woke up full of energy and joy.

It took the UKC PsychSoc crew arriving en masse and taking to the dancefloor to get the locals up and moving, so good on them and all their postivity. I have a happy memory of silly dancing with Emily of Bagpuss fame, she was having a great night, very merry... such a nice feeling of peace and unity is engendered by 70s reggae and dub played through an analogue system at a decent volume. Pure musical love.

To my great delight, they dropped this just before the end, an all-time favourite — love this bassline, and can't recall hearing the version before:
 

Dub Organiser are from Brixton, I think. Apparently they do this New Inn thing bimonthly. I'll be there! In fact, I'd go up to London for an evening of reggae like that.

another Exeter jam

12th January 2017
Henry's house, Exeter

I spent a week down in Devon in early January, which included a brief touching down in Exeter, so a jam with some of the old Children of the Drone crew was in order.

Henry — electronic drums
Keith — bass
Simon — EWI, iPad
me — saz

The EWI's an "electronic wind instrument", basically a breath-based MIDI controller, that Simon used to create some extraordinary textures. Henry's sent me the recordings (levels a bit too high, so some clipping) and I've edited them down as usual: some jams, some attempts to play some Orbis Tertius? tunes (that was the trio Keith, Henry and I had together for a while before I moved out of Exeter).

Listen Here

Babooshkies at Lo-Fi Zone

13th February 201
Bramleys, Canterbury

Always good to hear Aidan, Phil and Stewy playing together. They're really getting a great trio sound these days (Stewy playing bhodran with the accordion and tenor sax). Luke and the band sounding great too, and the "almost Valentines" concept worked well for Luke's songs of heartbreak, romantic frustration and unrequited love. Hardly anyone was there on this occasion, but those of us who were left happy. And we got some existential poetry from a dry Canadian academic too.

The Babooshkies were going to be recording their album the next day, so if their set was anything to go by, it'll be a good one.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Return of the Spacegoats!

The Assembly Rooms, Glastonbury
11th February 2017

Like a lot of people, I didn't think this would ever happen. But it did. 25 years after their formation, The Spacegoats returned for this extraordinary, magickal occasion. The original Pok/Chris/Clive/Matt lineup (missing Carrie on percussion, sadly, though new Goat-recruit Gerry filled in perfectly) plus Stella from a bit later in the band's evolution were supplemented Chris's partner Rosie on vocal harmonies and percussion and Aurelie filling in for Clive on didg (his lungs have had it, but he played percussion and sang a bit, and looked completely amazing, tribal and in his element!). So, nicely gender balanced. The event sold out, and the crowd were SO into it, that the initial problems with feedback (amplifying a hammered dulcimer isn't easy!) and the band struggling to hear each other didn't really matter. They'd asked me to do an intro as Professor Appleblossom, so I told my story of meeting the 'Goats atop Silbury Hill just after summer solstice sunrise in 1993 (they started with "Avebury Ring" which was perfect). Two long sets, and eventually the sound settled in. Such an ecstatic energy and audience-band communication, like nothing I can remember — reminded me of some older Deadheads' descriptions of Grateful Dead shows in their 70's heyday. In fact the two sets had something of the same arc as a Dead show. They took their time to settle in, played some familiar songs, got everyone going, took a break, came back for longer pieces, more spacey jams, took it out there, then encored with something Chuck Berry-inspired and a crazy dance freakout favourite...

Lots of old faces too, people I'd not seen in twenty years, people who remembered me from brief conversations at festivals...sisters Emily and Claire who'd given me a lift from Avebury to Glastonbury (or vice versa) in their camper van sometime in the late 90s... the soundman, who recognised me from pictures on the Children of the Drone website (I wasn't expecting that). Faces from the travelling and eco-protest scenes, some youngsters, kids running about, a couple of young women from Andy Letcher's new "Ecology and Spirituality" MA at Schumacher College (on a kind of research trip, but having a great time!)... someone who'd found my wallet in a Glastonbury phonebox in about '97, posted it back to me, and still remembered my face from an ID card (and the fact I'd posted her some book tokens as a thankyou).

Highlights were "Diamond Rain" in the first set. "Tears of the Goddess" (which Pok introduced as a "new" song, but I think it just never made it into the Spacegoats repertoire before), "Pixie's Jinx" (great start to the second set), "Shalom/Salaam" and the "Pat-a-Pan" encore that got everyone stomping (that was the second encore, the first being the wonderfully silly "Coming At You Now"). I should have grabbed a setlist but didn't. Too occupied talking to people (Prof A did a spontaneous little outro too — during the second set I suddenly remembered asking Pok, happily befuddled by this extraordinary entourage I'd just met in summer '93 "Who ARE you people? Where are you FROM?" and his reply: "We're the people who live at the point at the centre of the spiral!", so I related this exchange and my opinion that after such a monumental gig, I think they probably are those people.

Non-stop networking activist Phoenix was already talking about a "Tribal Reawakening Tour" by later that night, so perhaps there'll be more Spacegoat magick this summer. This one's worth lots of photos (thanks to Sammy Pea):

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Crash of Moons: Luca and Sea Slugs

Wednesday 22nd Feburary 2017
Bramleys, Canterbury

Finally a decent crowd for a Crash of Moons Club! Despite the rain outside the place filled up and the atmosphere was bordering on ecstatic. Luca (now having integrated Phil Holmes, ex-Lapis, on tenor sax) are really evolving — becoming a kind of twisty-turny Canterbury-Afro-prog band more than than another carbon copy Fela-inspired Afrobeat band. They even dropped in an Afrobeatified cover Black Sabbath's "The Wizard"! The Sea Slugs were a super-tight six-piece who integrated some spoken word and righteous Tory-bashing like it was 1989, got everyone jumping.

As usual, I DJ'd as Prof. Appleblossom. Here's what got played: two Afro sets and dub/roots afterwards to wind down. The bands were really appreciative of my selections, so I felt like I succeeded in creating the appropriate musical atmosphere.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dreamweaver, Tin Foil Astronaut, Witchdoctor

Friday 17th February 2017
The Penny Theatre

The Penny can have a weird atmosphere — drunk students and regulars upstairs who seem to resent the fact there's live music downstairs, and the men all have to come down and barge through the front of the crowd to get to the toilets. I didn't really feel comfortable there, but stuck around for Dreamweaver (sounding great, but Harry's vocals were mixed all wrong and sounded unpleasantly harsh), Tin Foil Astronaut (very polished and well-rehearsed, touches of the 'hypnagogic' 80s uncanniness that Bison Bonasus are exploring, interesting stuff) and Witchdoctor (who again dropped in some Cardiacs covers, getting the youth bouncing, the frontman in a Tony the Tiger onesie). I couldn't fault the bands, but didn't really enjoy the occasion — a shame, 'cos I remember great times at the Penny in the early 90s...

Sat 18th Feb
Monumental Launch Party
The Monument, St. Dunstans, Canterbury

I stopped by The Monument in St. Dunstans for this event the next evening. The pub's been taken over by some new people (I think they're linked with Small World Festival, which is promising). Tireless local music organiser Jules put on acts all day. I got there in time to catch the end of a cheerful reggae/ska band called Jimmy and the Riddles, then Yanik doing a bit of rapping (Bulgarian and English) followed by more reggae from Hey Maggie (down to a four-piece: singer/acoustic guitarist, James Ross on sax, a beatboxer, and a bass player, rolling out all the classics in a very engaging sort of way). After that there was a bit of a raucous roots'n'blues singalong led by Jules, Josh, Sam Brothers and some of the other local buskers. Mainly I was struck by what a warm and inclusive social scene had established itself already in this place. It felt like we were all there together in our local hangout that we'd been coming to for years. Apparently they're going to have a permanent PA setup for an open mic whenever one wants to happen. I really hope they can keep this going (let's hope the neighbours agree!).

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fara, Dreamweaver, Nukli

25th January 2016
Colyer-Fergusson hall, UKC campus

First this for lunch, pleasant enough...

...then later on...

Crash of Moons Club
Bramleys, Canterbury This time featuring some veteran free-festie spacerockers from Hackney, supported by young local indie-psych/shoegaze unit Dreamweaver.

Nice to see the younger crowd grooving to the psychedelic sounds of Nukli, and the band were clearly enjoying themselves too. The singer/guitarist at one point observed that they'd chosen all of their most complicated numbers to play that night, then added "But we're in Canterbury, yeah — makes sense... Canterbury... it's got to be complicated!" (which perhaps was lost on some of the audience, but everyone seemed to approve). As resident DJ Professor Appleblossom, I attempted to contextualise the acts with sets of noisy shoegaze-type psych, heavy spacerock and then roots reggae and dub afterwards for dancing (which was well appreciated, nice to see). Here are the playlists.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Wintersound Festival

Saturday 14th January 2017
Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury

I only caught the last evening of this festival (effectively Free Range's 5th birthday party), but it was a good one:

Juha Virtänen (poetry)

Lauren Redhead (voice & electronics) / Sarah Brand (trombone) / Alistair Zaldua (violin)

Rhodri Davies (seriously amplified harp, overplucked until almost all the strings were broken!)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

lunchtime sitar concert

Wednesday 7th December 2016
Colyer-Fergusson Hall, UKC campus
Canterbury

Dharambir Singh — sitar
Sanju Saha — tabla

They'd come down from Leicester from this (Sanju Saha having just flown there from Paris). Dharambir Singh told us how happy he was to be able to play an afternoon raga, as these don't get much attention anymore, concerts tending to happen in the evening time. They encored with a short piece based on a (North?) Indian folk melody. Wonderful stuff.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lapis at the Lighthouse again

2nd December 2016
The Lighthouse, Deal

This was Phil's penultimate gig with Lapis before amicably leaving the band. The final one was in Brighton the next day (set two of which will be broadcast on the next Canterbury Sans Frontières, it's magnificent!)

They played two sets ("Big Bird" > "School" and "Alien" [excerpt] > "Phighyphe" > "Alien" [excerpt] > "Reich"). Great energy, and the few of us there really enjoyed the whole event (but being put off by a cold, rainy December night, the people of Deal missed out this wonderful and FREE gig).

Back in Canterbury (after a curious incident involving a missing bicycle lock key and an attempt at astral projection from the back of Phil's car) I ended up on the High Street with Juliet while Max Martin (out busking) sang gruesome murder ballads (and more) to the drunk Saturday night crowd. Crouching in the cold and the rain, it was interesting how just having a song going on nearby (rather like a small fire) made the otherwise unpleasant conditions just about OK.