Friday, February 29, 2008

The Lost Troubadours Return to Earth

Pok's 43rd birthday gig at The Gladstone in Brighton, the first appearance of his and Aurelie's new concept/band The Lost Troubadours (or possibly "The Lost Troubadours of Magmu")

Pok - vocals, mandola, electric guitar
Auralie - vocals, tambura, dulcimer, recorder, percussion
me - saz, percussion
Justin Love - vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion
Mark - Korg MiniSynth, vocals
Selena - electric bass guitar, vocals

Lost Troubadours 27/02/08 poster

Pok's quite well known in Brighton (where he was based when The Spacegoats came together in '91), so he put word out and managed to summon a fairly healthy audience for a midweek evening. We were very much among friends, including Nadine who used to play melodica in Gadjo, and Clive who used to play didg in The Spacegoats (in black coat and hat, playing the sax these days). It felt a bit like busking - very little rehearsal, no setlist, continually changing line-up, style and instrumentation.

Pok and I did quite a few things together: "Big Railroad Blues", Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and the Hunter/Garcia gem "Mountains of the Moon", The Beatles' "It's All Too Much", an amalgam of Incredible String Band songs and fragments ("The Greatest Friend", "One light/light that is one though the lamps be many" from "Douglas Traherne Harding", "Krishna colours on the wall..." from "You Get Brighter" and "may the long time sun shine upon you..." from "A Very Cellular Song").

Pok at the Gladstone
Pok, in his element (thanks to Phil for the photo)

The Troubadours have a sort of mythological theme-song Pok has penned about the wingèd cats of Planet Magmu, which he and Auralie sing to the tune of "Lyke Wake Dirge" with a sort of prog-synth swooshiness in the background. Witnessing this (from onstage) with Pok in purple velvet wizard robe, all of us in glittery feline carnival masks, made for quite an extraordinary quarter-of-an-hour. He's written an epic new drone-based song called "Albion", including the lines "Albion's dreaming/and William Blake/has just rung to say/it's never too late". Playing along with that (near the end of the session, having fully loosened up) felt incredible. Typically, the battery in my MiniDisc recorder had died sometime earlier.

Auralie's just getting used to playing music in public, microphones, etc., so this was quite a big thing for her. She's written a Breton-style whistle tune and written some French lyrics to it. This got woven into a general droney jam involving tampura, dulcimer, etc. Not difficult to play along with, a simple musical environment in which it's possible to express quite a lot.

Of the recording, Pok says:

"troubadours recording not bad...more a 'historical' than a great gig...not too balanced sound, but great insight, esp. in what to learn from..(I am pushing voice too much where i could lay back a bit more ....not always.

Like to record all gigs and put them up in this new/old archiving"

Listen Here

Mark and Selena did some synth and vocals stuff on their own, and Justin accompanied some heart-songs of his with simple skanky guitar grooves, inviting me up to accompany him (he even did a simple, reggae-ish "Stairway to Heaven" without it sounding like some kind of novelty fusion joke).

* * *

The night before I was in the bar of the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury where three friends of a friend were singing unaccompanied folksongs. Will, Ed and Ginge have been walking around the country 10 of the last 18 months, singing songs and learning new ones from the people they meet. There seems to be some periodic folk-club or something that happens there, and they preceded a guitarist/singer on the Martin Carthy/John Renbourn/Bert Jansch side of things. They started with "Stand Up Diggers All", and immediately blew me away with their beautiful harmonies and general vibe. They sang another one that Chumbawamba did on that English Rebel Songs album, the WWI footsoldiers' "The Old Barbed Wire", also "John Barleycorn" and a few others I recognised. I immediately thought of that Oxfordshire protest song Andy Bard sang at the BGG last summer - "Otmoor Forever" - and wanted to suggest to them that they learn it, but they were surrounded by enthusiastic folkies after finishing their set, so I'll have to wait until I meet them properly (as I'm sure I will at some point). It's heartening to see people their age getting into this music (and tuning into the land as part of the musical exploration).

Oddly (or perhaps not), when looking for a Youtube clip Pok told me about (him busking in Glastonbury High Street), I found this of Will and Ed singing outside Glastonbury's Mocha Berry Cafe:


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