Tuesday, March 22, 2011

a lot going on...

Thursday 10th March: I recorded an interview for my latest Canterbury Soundwaves podcast with Joel, Raven and Liam from Syd Arthur out at the old farmhouse in Boughton where they have their rehearsal studio (Fred was away giving a drum lesson). We covered a lot of ground, as I'd asked them to choose a selection of Canterbury-related tracks to play and talk about. So we got some Gong and Hatfield (and a story about how they'd discovered them via a friend's Dad's record collection), some Soft Machine, Kevin Ayers, Caravan and Egg, as well as something totally new to me from Hermeto Pascoal (scroll down three posts if you don't know him already) and The-Quartet (a local jazz-rock ensemble with whom they collaborated on a cover of the Softs' "Facelift" a couple of years back, and whose pianist taught at St. Edmunds, where they all went to school) .

The next night I ended up at a party at "The Bungalow" on the Old Dover Road where some of the local bands Delta Sleep (formerly Sávlön) and Lapis Lazuli reside. They've been hosting regular jam parties, which I'd heard about through Phil the sax player (Mr. Lovebucket, Madame Molotof) who works at the wholefoods shop and always has time to talk about music- and consciousness-related matters. Liam mentioned this particular session the night before, so I cycled over with my saz and a little Pignose busking amp. Various members of Zoo For You, Delta Sleep and Lapis were jamming in the music room when I arrived. I ended up playing some really nice stuff with Neil, guitarist from Lapis — he immediately plugged me into the PA and was incredibly welcoming. Also some good stuff with Adam (drums)and Maria (bass) from Delta Sleep with Zoo's guitarist Barney on drums, and with a guitarist called Tom, among others. I'd been planning to play some Lapis on the next podcast — a 13-minute epic called "Triton Gnast", which, despite sounding entirely 'done' to me, but which Neil assures me is merely a demo, recorded in the back room in which this jam was going on. And it went on. Quite loud, not always coherent, but always pushing, always exploring. There should be things like this going on everywhere, all the time... but as there aren't, this was an incredibly welcome happening.

The next night it was Syd Arthur's first gig in quite a while, at Canterbury's acoustically-challenged venue known as The Farmhouse. It was packed out, hardly room to move. And Saturday night...as Joel pointed out later, one problem with these popular hometown gigs is that they provide an opportunity for a lot of friends to get together, so (after a couple of hours of drinking) the noise floor goes right up. This particularly afflicted the support band, Rae, from Bath/Bristol, whose gentle music was largely trampled on by the audience chatter, but still maintained it's floaty Anglo-Hispanic dignity (Leonie has an extraordinary voice, and sings quite a bit in Spanish — one song was the words of a Spanish poet put to music — but there's something very English about the whole atmosphere they create, something very calm and understated, rather like Robert Wyatt's exploration of the Spanish language). Tenor sax, acoustic bass guitar, sensitive drums, and Leonie on wow! vocals and big red semi-acoustic guitar. I just wish I could have heard them a bit better.

Syd started their set by launching into something I've heard a few times now, but don't know the name of. I managed to find a spot near one of the PA speakers, among a more-attentive-than-usual cluster of friends and settle into the sound. A long, tight, powerful set. Raven playing a bit of pianet on one piece. Six new songs (a couple having been played once or twice, the rest debuts). "Dorothy" and "Ode to Summer" are clearly going to become significant parts of their repertoire, and "Truth Seeker" (only played a couple of times before) already has. From the forthcoming Moving World EP, we got "Exit Domino", "Pulse" and "Morning's Calling" (they've changed the name since "Dawn Chorus" was adopted as a label name), but not much older than that. They keep moving. The whole set was extremely well received. No gimmicks, no hitches, just one BIG, almost overwhelming, flow of music. Talking to Joel outside afterwards, he was clearly exhausted — just from the sheer concentration involved in successfully delivering this increasingly complex music. I wish I'd been a bit less tired and that there'd been more room to move so I could have fully absorbed what they were doing. In any case, they got one of the most enthusiastic encores I've witnessed in a while (they played "Second Difference"), and if it weren't for licensing issues, I think the audience would have kept them there for a good while longer.

Happily dancing dancing afterwards to Fela Kuti records with a happy, thinned out crowd, I counted my blessings. The live music scene around here has gone into slight recession, but when it's happening, it can be something rare and precious and not to be taken for granted.


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