Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Free Range and PITW

Thursday 9th February 2014
Veg Box Cafe, Canterbury

Sam Bailey's weekly Free Range series started up again while I was away, and it looks like I missed some good stuff (including something involving Tim Hodgkinson from Henry Cow). The first Thursday I was back was the night Koloto was playing, so I missed something called "Unsustainable light, discontinuous song, unpayable debt" which involved poetry and innovative trombone player Gail Brand. I'll have to study my Carlos Castaneda and work on the bilocation skills.

The next one I did get to. As usual, Sam played a short set, this time an improvisation followed by an unexplained piece of Bach (I think) which he seemed uncharacteristically nervous about. Then the duo of Jen Walsh (Ireland) and Panos Ghikas (Greece) played a brilliant, daring and often hilarious set invoving her non-conventional vocals (mostly using sounds not associated with singing: shrieks, gasps, wails, etc.) and his electronic percussion, playing a kit which triggered mostly non-percussive samples (which he later explained had been recycled from previous performances, and that this is an ongoing process of iterative sonic recycling!). They're incredibly well tuned into each other, so the timing and responsiveness that was evident had a thrilling edge to it.

They played one acoustic piece of free improvisation where he played violin and she "played" the trumpet (no actual trumpet sounds, but just about every other sound you can make by passing air through a trumpet!). And she was bowing some kind of stringed instrument at one point (couldn't see quite what, from where I was sitting, but it was laid horizontally on a table).

Panos mentioned a Japanese speed metal/noise band called Melt-Banana and something they do involving playing dozens of songs in a couple of minutes, and insisting the audience pay attention and applaud at the end of each one! So they did the same thing with twelve improvised pieces in two minutes, I think. The Free Range audience happily rose to the occasion.

The evening was billed "Good Teeth" which is also the name of a vinyl album they had for sale (with download code for digital version — this is the way to go), but I'm not sure if the duo goes by that name or not.

Before the Piano in the Woods event on the Sunday, Sam mentioned that Jen Walsh is best known as a composer (and a very highly regarded one, it seems).

* * *

Sunday 9th Feburary 2014
Littlehall Pinetum

This installation of PITW involved a poet called Eleanor Perry reading her (what sounded like cut-up) poetry alternating with Sam playing directly on the strings of the piano (tipped on its back, as last month, so he doesn't have to squat underneath it in the damp for half an hour). This month he wasn't using any of his usual preparations or instruments, just using his hands and some "forest materials" found around the place (cones, twigs, needly coniferous branches, ferns and a big chunk of old rusty metal!). There was a small but captivated audience (and an intervention early on from a cat lurking nearby), listening through the sound of the wind in the trees to hear some of the more delicate sounds. There was something quite moving about it, almost like a post-apocalyptic religious ceremony or something, ten or so of us hovering around or sat in plastic chairs patiently listening to a discontinuous, arational liturgy and a man conjuring powerfully weird and evocative sounds out of a totally destroyed old piano. Riddley Walker territory! Sam later told me that he found this particular performance strangely cathartic, leaving him feeling "clearheaded and filled with love" (and that's not the way Sam typically expresses things).

[a couple of Neil Sloman's photos from the month before]

We also discussed the PITW exhibition that's going to be happening at the Sydney Cooper Gallery in early May as part of the Sounds New festival. That'll involve audio, film, video, slides, prints, text and the piano itself is going to get moved down there as part of it!

I also seem to have volunteered to be the audio archivist for Free Range. Now that Sam's got two kids (and a career, and a weekly event to organise), the FR Soundcloud stream rarely gets updated. I offered to help out, so a hard-drive full of FR recordings is coming my way. It's the least I can do for all the work he puts in (and it means I get access to all the recordings!). Expect the Boot Lagoon's wonderful jazzy acoustic set from last year on my Canterbury Sans Frontières podcast soon...


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