Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kernow trip

I had most of a week down in West Cornwall recently, working with Matt T on finishing Vol. 3 of our trilogy of psychedelic maths books. I happened to arrive the day before the first gig by his new band ALP (with Martha Tilston on vocals, her bloke Robin on percussion, laptop and oboe, and Nick Marshall from Kangaroo Moon on guitar). So I got to hear them rehearse that evening — it's kind of downtempo/trip-hoppy stuff, Martha looking to have some fun and move beyond the rather stuffy confines of the English folk scene. I'm glad I got to hear the rehearsal, as the gig (at Miss Peapod's) itself was packed out with West Cornwall friends (many familiar to me) all so happy to see each other and be having a night out during this dingy time of the year that everyone was chattering loudly throughout, making the music almost impossible to hear (especially for the people making it!). But no one seemed to mind. It was a pleasantly enthusiastic, familiar and forgiving crowd to play a first gig to.

The first act was someone calling himself Greenlighting Henry playing electric guitar and singing over pre-programmed beats. The pre-programmed beats were the one constant that night, as ALP use them as well as the headline act, Spacecat. They're are a new psychedelic project with our old friend Pagan Steve on analogue synths, his pal Jamie (once of 3 Daft Monkeys) on bass, Hannah the Luthier on violin, Rebecca(?) on cello and ecstatic vocals (her singing was the best thing about that evening, really joyful stuff)...but also an earnest dreadlocked character hunched over a laptop doing something involving pre-sequenced beats. The problem is, you can never tell quite what they're doing, so it ends up feeling like a band playing along to backing tracks. I'm not complaining, as I had an excellent night (as a social/musical occasion), but the music can't really breathe when it's temporally locked down like that, and I'm never transported to the place I want to go when I hear music...

Matt and I listened to a lot of BBC Radio 6 while we were working on the book. I do find Mark Radcliffe and Stuart MacConie's afternoon show to be extremely entertaining, to the point that I almost resolved to get myself a digital radio. But after a few days, it became evident that the station isn't as freeform as it first appears — there are singles on "heavy rotation", the usual kind of radio station stuff. Here's a good Radio 6 joke, though (assuming you're familiar with British protest culture, German experimental music and Ulster accents!),

What do we want?
Northern Irish krautrock!
When do we want it?

I took my saz with me, but it never made it out of its case :(    Too much book work to get on with. Oh well, we're almost there, and I've been promising myself that I'll spend a lot more time playing music once this book is finished. The closest we came to playing music was after an evening round at Curly Lisa's, having had dinner and then watched various Muppets video clips on YouTube, e.g.

...waiting around for something, Matt and I twanged for a few minutes on Lisa's son Tarran's out-of-tune toy guitar and ukelele. Not one of the greatest jams of our time.

I also got a chance to catch up with Rosy from Canterbury, visiting her now-very-cosy geodesic dome and listening to a few bits of old vinyl on her turntable (vinyl! analogue sound! I'd almost forgotten!): "Sun Zoom Spark" off Beefheart's Clear Spot and "Winter Wine" off Caravan's In the Land of Grey and Pink. I then got whisked away to Matt's girlfriend Anna's for dinner, but Rosy managed to recommend a few artists I wasn't familiar with:

Dorothy Ashby (Afro-American jazz harpist, who turns out to be the inspiration behind Syd Arthur's "Dorothy", and who made a concept album based on The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam called The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby!):

Annette Peacock — a highly unusual vocalist who worked with everyone from Albert Ayler to Bill Bruford:

Antibalas — a powerful Brooklyn-based multi-ethnic Afrobeat ensemble directly modelled on Fela Kuti's Africa 70:

Matt and I left Kernow together, drove to East Sussex via Somerset (dropping into Wooden Books HQ in Glastonbury to pick up some image files, then a quick, muddy, walk around the Tor, and on to Tony the Luthier's to collect a guitar) as he was about to do some more production work with Stella (working on her second album) and Carrie Tree (living nearby, also working on a new record). I got to sit up late talking with Stella, but no music. Still, she's decided she want some saz on the new album, so there will be time for that...


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