Monday, May 12, 2014

Magga Tiempo and Arlet in the Woods

secret woodland location
Sunday 13th April 2014

This was the first one of these woodland gigs of 2014, a date proposed by Arlet as part of a mini-tour they'd booked. And we love Arlet, so the amphitheatre space was renewed and re-beautified for the occasion. That evening we got perfect, still, clear conditions, a perfect-sized and attuned audience, bluebells and wood anemones everywhere, communal feasting, a big fire of birch logs... The kind of occasion that just makes you happy to be alive, I think most of those in attendance would agree.


thanks to Neil Sloman for the photos

Magga Tiempo played a Sunday afternoon set last year and were keen to return for a support set. This time we got a bit more of Roberto's lovely charango playing (although it was mostly two guitars), as well as Yiannis' ultra-dry deadpan humour and genius comic timing (I'm not sure he realises just how effective it is). Lots of odd time signatures (sometimes several in one tune) and odd-time-signature-themed humour. They played what Yiannis described as a kind of "gypsified tango" (after playing his original "Guchav" which sounded to me like a kind of "gypsified rebetiko". He dropped an amusing little Hendrix "Voodoo Chile" allusion into anther of his originals. A lot of Balkan influence, touches of Flamenco and a "Canterbury Hora" to end a great little set.

Roberto and Yiannis busking in Canterbury High Street last summer

Arlet were the core five-piece this time, totally at home in the setting (they've played in it more than anyone else, they're almost the house band now!). They'd decided to try out a few newer things, including "The Boy Who Dreams of Flying in a Magical Pirate Ship" (title based on a child's description of Arlet's music), "Swiss Gourmet", some "skid jigs" in 15/8 (a bit like slip jigs or slide jigs, but even more so!), and guitarist Ben's first composition for the group, "Like a Lost Dog Looking for Home" (dedicated to a troubled but brilliant Belgian cyclist from the 70s whose name escapes me). I wasn't sure if they were ever going to play Aidan's arrangement of Brian Eno's "The Big Ship" again (they suprised me with it last summer, as I'd suggested it many months earlier and then forgotten), but they did, and it was even better. "Better than the Eno version!" I remember declaring at the time. Another suprise was their quasi-aleatoric "Bell Tent" piece (how often do I get a chance to use the word "quasi-aleatoric"?) from their residency last summer.

From the established repertoire, they played "Big Red Sun" (inspired by Yann Tiersen, Aidan explained", "Jesus Mi Amigo" (given new life after having been retired for a while), "Smugglers", "Soundtrack", "Ciao Regazzi", and (at my request) a beautiful encore of "Summertimes" → "Medway Services".

Aidan also introduced his brand new accordion, which is called a "Watkins Super-M"(!) with unbelievably high picolo reeds.

Arlet, not far away, last summer

All of this got recorded (I've finally worked out where best to place my Zoom H2 recorder, and remembered to switch to WAV quality sound), and is currently up on my Soundcloud account as "private" tracks (some of it may become public, eventually, with the musicians' consent).

Once everyone else had drifted away, a memorable hour or two were spent around the remains of the fire with Miriam, Owen, Rosie and Thom talking probable nonsense and finishing off various consumables which had been left on the feasting table. A great start to another season, so many thanks to everyone involved.


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