Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ail Fionn: Lannemezan (Inity Sessions 2)

I finally got round to editing down the hours of jams recorded with Inge down at her place in Lannemezan (south of Toulouse) in August. Just in time for her birthday, I set up Bandcamp page for Ail Fionn (what we've been calling our occasional duo project since '95). There's about 47 minutes of improvisations and rough tunes. It's all slightly wonky (my saz playing seemed really rusty at the time), but there's a vibe, and our friends seem to be enjoying hearing this. I'll add some of our other collections of recordings to the Bandcamp page once I've dug out all the old CDs with the original lossless quality recordings on them. For now they're all available in MP3 form here.

The collection is the second in the "Inity" series inspired by an intense dream I had in which we stole twelve 12-string guitars from a luthier in Glastonbury and then felt an unbearable, crushing guilt. So the idea is to do twelve of these. As with the first one, this one's also available at as usual.

Daevid poetry video

I found an old memory card on New Years Eve, discovered it to be from a digital camera once belonging to my Canadian friend Paul Clifford (now back in Ontario). It was corrupted, but contained some images and video clips from our day out in Canterbury with Daevid Allen in September of 2012. It's a tiny fragment, but seems worthy of preservation. The wind on the mic blew the poetry away, but you can hear a complete reading of this as part of the Canterbury Soundwaves podcast episode I put together from that day.

Juliet emerges from the musical closet

My good friend Juliet has been coming out of the musical closet lately, I'm glad to report. Until recently she couldn't even play/sing in front of me (or anyone she considered a "real" musician). But in recent weeks she's been out busking, played her first open mic, and now this (filmed in a little country church near Teynham):

The song's by Son House. I first heard it sung a cappella by Billy Childish, at a poetry reading he did up at UKC's Rutherford College in about '89.

Juliet's also featured singing (as "Bea Wolff") on Hide, the new beat-tape by our mutual friend Laszlo (aka Humble Pious) for which she also contributed the artwork...


...and I play a bit of saz on one of the tracks (these are suitable for looping up and spitting over, if any MCs out there are interested):


Well that was strange. I went to Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral yesterday. Their website had claimed the choir were to be singing William Byrd's "Evening Service in Five Parts". That didn't happen. The usual choir were on half-term holiday, so there were some people from a music course filling in. They were competent, but the lack of precision was noticeable (never expected to go to Evensong and find the choir weren't quite on form). I can usually tolerate all the readings and endless sitting/standing 'cos the music's so far-out, but this was all a bit dreary, not much of the usual celestial organ playing (which can get quite "prog" sometimes, with all the gentle chromatic freakouts). So as the choir filed out, I was feeling a bit disappointed.

And then the organist launched into the oddest bit of organ playing...and everyone sat and listened...and then tentatively applauded before leaving. I've never witnessed that before. The piece was in 5 or 7, curiously jazzy, and played quite stiffly, with some strange synthy choices of organ sound. An elderly gent to my left afterwards leaned over to his friend, laughed and said something about "Brubeck". And that was it — it was like Jean-Michel Jarre had hijacked the organ for a few minutes and played a bit of Brubeck he'd only just learned. What was that??

postscript: OK, I just communicated with the Cathedral via Twitter and found out what it was:

It was composed last year, I discovered here. And the stiffness was in the composition — no swing at all — not in the organist's playing, as you can hear here. So the idea of Ant Saggers' (aka Stray Ghost's) extraordinary Lament, or some Soft Machine, being played in the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury (to give it it's full name) doesn't seem that unreasonable. Would they let me curate?

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 43

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 42

Gong live in Rotterdam 1974 (with Bill Bruford), Matching Mole live in Paris 1972, the Steve Hillage band live in Amsterdam 2006, a "hidden" Robert Wyatt track you've probably never heard, Caravan on the radio in 1968, Soft Machine with current Fairport Convention fiddler Ric Sanders in '78, classics from Hatfield, National Health and Kevin Ayers, and Hugh Hopper collaborating with New York oddball producer Kramer. Also, something from the latest iteration of King Crimson, a lost gem from Mahavishnu Orchestra, more from that Terry Riley/John Coltrane mashup, the Kronos Quartet playing Riley, and tributes to Bobby Hutcherson and Dave Swarbrick.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

new Smugglers venue

The Talking Drum, Cliftonville, Margate
18th December 2016

I'm writing this a few weeks later, and sadly this (never fully opened) venue didn't work out in the end. But I had a great evening, the second of two midwinter weekend happenings there. There was a jumble sale when I arrived (far too early), so I dug through for a few clothes, then headed to the Turner Contemporary gallery cafe nearby to finish Leonora Carrington's wonderful surrealist novel The Hearing Trumpet. Then back for a series of excellent sets from:

  • The Kent Fantasy Orchestra (quite a few new pieces in the repertoire, including the seasonal "Fairytale of New York"... my friend Kirstie's joined as a vocalist too, which was good to see... Jesse's ability to make this project happen is truly inspiring)
  • Poggy Hatton (solo, playing a lot of stuff not on her new album reviewed a while ago on this blog)
  • The Papalonian Babooshkies Big Band (Aidan has arranged the Papylonian trio material for a larger group, including Domi on violin...sadly I missed half the set dealing with a necessary phonecall)
  • Itchy Teeth (very entertaining, very funny, great band)
  • Bison Bonasus (they just keep getting better, got us all dancing... I ended up missing my lift home as a result, but fortunately Will and Gabrielle (behind this venure) put me up in their flat above the venue, so all was well)

Monday, January 23, 2017

new Humble Pious beat-tape

So my mate Laszlo "Humble Pious" Hewitt has again put down the mic, questioning his motives for being a hiphop MC. He's a great lyricist, but has these periodic existential crises about his participation in an ego-driven artform. But he's still making beats and interesting bits of instrumental music. He's just put a new "beat-tape" called Hide up on Bandcamp. I'm playing saz on one of the tracks ("Peng Wei"). Our mutual friend Juliet sings on "Dinosaur Bones", for which she wrote the lyrics. She also did this rather extraordinary album art for it (I've watched this evolve from a simple monochrome sketch over a few weeks)...

...and she wrote the "liner notes", which are worth repeating here:

good morning, listeners, and congratulations on having made it across this desolate psychedelic tundra, and finding your way here, to the smokers lounge at the end of the apocalypse; where neon polar bears in electromagnetic black-tie are always at hand with tiny still-living scientific curiosities and experiments-gone-wrong in crystal vials for your refreshment, and where conversation is never so engaging as that which can be shared with the candid, voluptuous fruit-bodies sprouting from the glowing mould which serves for lamps in the corners. mingle and swap spores with the toast of this post-apocalypse ghost metropolis. we hope your enjoyment of this specially-generated radio music experience is not impeded by the growing awareness that you are being stored at below freezing temperatures for use in live food presentations here at the sushi bar at the end of the end of the apocalypse. clinical trials have proven that sudden and pressing reminders of mortality are a precursor to heightened sensory perception, which should open you up to an ecstatically unifying and holistically purifying listener experience. screaming, weeping, laughing, ascension to a higher plane and reverting to an animal state are all also appropriate responses to these aurgasmic stimuli.

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.