Monday, October 31, 2011

Dawn Chorus Canterbury Fringe event

Dawn Chorus Fringe 291011 poster

This was the perfect continuation of the events of the previous evening. In fact, the Sondryfolk event had originally been intended for this date, until we found out what our friends at Dawn Chorus had in mind, at which point, we rescheduled. With a bit more notice, some interesting fusion might have been planned between the two evenings, but it was there in a way, as many of the same people were present, sharing a lingering sense of woodland magic. The full Arlet, in lineup particular, played a gorgeous unamplified set in the foyer, almost visibly glowing from their truly spectacular involvement the night before.

A group of us walked down there together (including Sven and Katrijn, their last night in the country) — the new UKC arts building (named after Derek Jarman) has a rather ugly exterior, and it's the first time I'd been in there. But its geographical location is highly significant: a stonesthrow from Tanglewood, the Hopper family home, where Brian Hopper, and Mike Ratledge played chamber music as Simon Langton schoolboys, where the Wilde Flowers rehearsed, where Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers both briefly lodged, etc.

In fact, the room where the bands played was in the downstairs corner closest to Tanglewood. I was standing outside the window peering over at the little white house in the streetlight as Liam (from Syd Arthur) started his solo set with a spacey effects-oriented intro. I was thinking about this (which I read here, original source unknown):

"Hugh became interested in tape loops ten years before this album [1984 (1973)] was created while living with Daevid Allen and Gilli Smythe in Paris. "Daevid had already been exposed to the work of Terry Riley and was producing sound-pieces made up of repeated tape loops". Hugh was just 18 at this time and living outside of England for the first time. Hugh goes on to say: "For the next year or so I carried on assembling my own loop-pieces. Back in Canterbury Pye Hastings lent me his Ferrograph for a while. I tinkered also with eight-millimeter movies,filming Mike Ratledge and my brother Brian being poetic or Robert Wyatt playing trumpet while looning around in a field of yellow flowers. Occasionally when our parents were away on holiday we had Cultural Evenings — tape and movies together!"

Tanglewood in the early 60s
Tanglewood in the early 60s (photo: Brian Hopper)

I went in just in time to catch Liam going into "Black Wave", which features as an acoustic B-side of Syd's new 7" vinyl single, "Ode to the Summer". Raven wasn't able to be there, being in France for family reasons, but even without his violin parts, it's a beautiful song. It's all a bit blurry now (having hardly slept for days, and all the stimulus of the night before), but I remember the feeling of the space, very tastefully, softly lit with minimal psychedelic projections (some others out in the foyer), log stools and hessian drapes, all very soft. Liam continued to surprise with a string of unfamiliar or minimally familiar songs, each one with its own subtle magic, his unique vocals floating overhead. Brother Joel was at the desk all night, providing excellent sound throughout.

On the theme of the remark we got about the Sondryfolk Jamboree feeling "like the beginning of a renaissance", between bands, we audience members found ourselves drifting into the adjacent gallery space to check out the works of seven young local artists somehow affiliated with Dawn Chorus. It was all 2-d visual work (including a new piece by Tom Langley developing the theme of his "Get Rich" 'relational aesthetic' blackboard installation at Smugglers Festival in early September), except Andrew Kirby's piece, which involved a carefully made cast of his own face in frozen sawdust, gradually melting and dripping into a formation on the floor during the course of the exhibition — this also builds on his piece from the Sondryfolk/Smugglers 'exhibition', Vessel & Void, with a similar creation/destruction cycle.

Out in the foyer, Arlet played a stunning unamplified set. Libby, who surprised us by coming along (rarely gets out, rarely sees bands, isn't that interested in the particulars of music) had been sufficiently enchanted by the night before, and Arlet left her completely entranced. Thom's now playing both euphonium and trombone, and Cam seems to be fully part of the lineup playing double bass (despite temporarily living in Brighton and being in two other Canterbury bands).

As with the last time I saw them, Rae were without saxophonist Lorenzo. Last time Raven filled in on violin (wonderful). This time it was Owen (Arlet, Zoo) on saxophone, doing an expert job, having noticeably learned all the parts in detail. Leonie's voice left everyone stunned, yet again, but a gig in a rectangular institutional space (however beautifully laid out) was never going to compare to seeing her on the strawbale woodland amphitheatre by a fire the night before. No "Eyed Ear" (my favourite) either. Still, it was a massive treat to get the full Rae experience as well as the magical fireside solo set.

Rae promo shot

To conclude, The Boot Lagoon plugged in and tore it down before a very happy, appreciative audience. They just keep getting better: a lot of dynamics and texture, Pete's occasionally spacey soulful Santana-like guitar lines nicely loosening up the more mathematical proginess of the overall Boot sound. Bert Jansch (RIP) got a respectful shout from Cameron (who now seems to have taken over the frontman role, Callum seemingly happy to just lose himself behind his keyboard). And they just had the few minutes necessary available at the end to bless us with the lead track off their forthcoming EP ("it's been forthcoming for a year now", lamented Cam), what's become a kind of signature tune for them, the one called "Businessman". The mad stomp section in the second half got everyone madly stomping. With any luck, I should be interviewing them for a Canterbury Soundwaves episode fairly soon, letting them choose some favourite tracks, rather like the Syd Arthur interview I did earlier this year.


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