Sunday, December 13, 2015

the last three Free Range sessions of 2015

Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury
26th November 2015

This event was jointly a Free Range session and part of a residency at CCCU's Cooper Gallery, involving local turntablist/international sound artist Matt Wright working with Vietnamese/Swedish trio "The Six Tones" to peform a multi-media piece called Inside/Outside. This involved the three musicians in traditional Vietnamese costume, playing đàn tranh, đàn bầu and another stringed instrument (Swedish? Vietnamese?), inside glass boxes, while the sound was centrally processed by Matt and his laptop setup, then sent to speakers around the space. The boxed performers embellished their playing with strange, stylised gestures which turned out to be extreme exaggerations of gestures which female musical performers of Vietnamese folk music are expected to use in popular televised (and mimed) performances set against beautiful natural backdrops. It was explained that this "tradition" of musical choreography is an entirely post-1950s, Western-media-influenced invention, these instruments having been played solely by men, and never for concert-type audiences, prior to that. So there was a feminist, post-colonial angle to the whole thing.

The audience was encouraged to wander around the space during the performance, which led to continually shifting visual (due to the reflections in the glass) and sonic (due to the speaker positioning) perspectives. This was so interesting that I went back the next day to see a lunchtime performance (just me, Juliet, Kirsty, a handful of retired people and a gaggle of Simon Langton schoolgirls on a cultural outing).

Here's video of a performance of the piece at the Inter Arts Center in Malmö a year ago:

Prior to the Inside/Outside performance, there was a set of free improvisation from the same quartet, minus the costumes and choreography...

...and some super-intense poetry from locally-based Finnish performance poet Juha Virtänen, clanking chains, sporting tinfoil gauntlets, and overloading our nervous systems with his menancing, mechanoid recital of ominous, fragmented postmodern techno-verse over the top of a pre-recorded noise soundtrack:

From there, a total change of scene. Wandering down the High Street past the Lady Luck (Canterbury's punk/"alternative"/all-subcultures-welcome pub) I noticed a poster for a London-Irish punk band called The Lagan. I had some editing work to do on my laptop so I thought I'd stop for an orange juice, make use of their wi-fi, and catch a bit of celtic raucousness. I sat in the back room near a couple of middle-aged Polish punks deep in conversation and another couple playing pool badly on what appeared to be a very drunk first date, listening to the first two support bands — Dutch Courage playing earnest folk-punk and Thumbscrew & The Flicknife Barbers from Ashford playing some very attitude-based punk with lots of swearing and cheeky humour — while editing Paul J. Sally's bibliography. By this point I was punk'd out, so never got to hear the main attraction, but wandered home contentedly.

Ahh! Canterbury...

* * *

3rd December 2015
Water Lane Cafe, Canterbury

This was billed as a celebration of Saturnalia, the "pre-Christian winter celebration involving gift giving, over-eating and general lawlessness". First up was young Welsh hurdy-gurdy virtuoso Dylan Cairns. From the general reactions in the room, I get the impression that many present had never heard/seen a hurdy-gurdy played before. Having lived around them for years (and been to the luthiers' festival at Saint-Chartier a couple of times) I've heard a lot, but never like this. Dylan Cairns is like some kind of medieval synth wizard. His solo set was rather short, quite a bit of time taken up by him politely answering the inevitable questions about his instrument.

After a short break, an experimental collaboration began with Medway's "neolithic soul drone" beatnik trio "Hand of Stabs" improvising (electric guitar, frame drum and bowed/FX'd bicycle wheel) around the poet Carol Watts reading and Dylan (rather cautiously) injecting some gurdy drone action into the resulting soundscape. I have almost no idea what Carol Watts' words are "about", but I do like hearing them (she did a reading with HoS last Free Range season, over at Mrs. Jones' Kitchen, a great success). Perhaps the fact that she shares my mother's birth name has biased me, but I don't think so. The performance was intended to "explore the remnants of paganism that lurk under the surface of British culture" — I'm not sure how successful that bit was, but the performance was over far too soon for me, and those I spoke to afterwards:

* * *

10th December 2015
Water Lane Cafe, Canterbury

Leonie Evans played a solo set, all songs from her forthcoming crowdfunded album (she's been travelling around the country recording a song each with her favourite bands: Jouis, Count Bobo, Honeyfeet, Hot Feet, Cocos Lovers, Flying Ibex, Syd Arthur, etc.) apart from "My Plan", from the last Rae album. Leonie being Leonie, the place was packed out — nice to see members of The Boot Lagoon, Thirteen Club and Syd Arthur all out that night enjoying the last Free Range session of the 2015.

The main act was Bog Bodies, a collaborative audio-visual project involving CCCU's Robert Stillman (tenor sax, electronics), Anders Holst from Denmark (electric guitar, electronics), Seán Carpio from Ireland (drums, electronics) and Ben Rowley (analogue and digital projections). They played a long set, one continuous drone piece, at times abrasive, at times serene, all very dreamlike with the space visually immersed in patterns of dots and squiggles, montages of wildlife, decontextualisedd car chase scenes and other found footage. I imagine the audio will surface soon so I can embed it here. For now, here's some video from elsewhere to give you the general idea:


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