Monday, 13 April 2009

Cardboard Soup For Tea.

It's not often I tend to blog (in general this working out to be something of a 'Quarterly'. And still less) about gigs I have attended. Maybe it's partly due to various of my own performances being given short shrift by the occasional wannabe music journo with a broadband connection. Partly, no doubt to Zappa's 'dancing about architecture' maxim. But anyhow, I have returned, this Easter night, from a gig of revelatory proportions. Support bands Resurrection Men (aptly named for such a gig) and Tenebrous Liar did an able job, the former's three guitar riffing being particularly pleasing at times. But it was the Carrot which stole the show with their... well, frankly indescribable mix of. Stuff which I shall now attempt vainly to describe.

Songs about all the fat skinny people and tall short people seem apt played by this group of Harborough lads. They are a loose tight hotchpotch of consistent contradictions. Stewart Brackley's inimitable yawling croaky vocal is so off kilter, one can forget he's also providing half of a thunderous rhythm section. His banter with Ollie Betts (sax, bass recorder, keys) is a stream of vaudevillian privates jokes into which a rapt audience is effortlessly inducted . This translates musically into some wonderfully supple call and response work between keys and vocals (most notable in the 'one about Thatcher': NOT ACTUAL TITLE.) Beneath, or maybe alongside, the prog outs and free noise lie songs strong enough to be taken apart, dusted off and rewelded with a jazz sensibility and ounces of rock balls. The result: a sound which is earnestly experimental but never inaccessible. With beats that stomp (even without percussion lothario Euan Rodger: swanning AWOL in Paree.) fuzzy guitar riffing and warbling warped woodwind. A band which gels so remarkably onstage that the comprehensive reinvention they appear to have have undergone in shy of a month since I last saw them seems just like a natural progression .

Perhaps the greatest contradiction being that despite all the madness it all seems to make perfect sense. Maybe it's the dream logic of the schizophrenic mind. Or the fact that an unpretentious band of variously bearded, decent, drinking chaps can get away with creating such lunacy. But I went away feeling that if, somehow, in an absurd comedy mixup, these guys could headline Wembley in lieu of, say, Coldplay, on, say, September 18th / 19th, an ailing music industry might be just be saved. Or at least entertainingly euthanised.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Creating a Stench.

Last week I attended an event by the name of Stench, an evening of electronic music and visual art in Leicester's soon to be moved art house cinema: The Phoenix. I was performing with the below mentioned Quadelctronic folk, who took over the upstairs cafe for two half hour sets. this necessitated a slightly shorter playing time for the improvisations, which to my mind helped rather than hindered the enterprise.

A condensed video document of the night can be viewed here:

The whole thing went pretty well, and there was encouraging talk of a more regular incarnation (this was the third Stench in three years). I must confess I was equally amused and irked by what I thought was an audience member's phone ringing just as John Richards' laptop orchestra were finishing their set. It took a couple of minutes to realise that it was A-ha playing from the i-pod in my pocket. Now 'Take On Me' is a fine piece of pop in any context. But when blaring uninvited from miniscule (but surprisingly loud) headphones, somewhat rude. So, if I ruined anyone's listening experience I apologise. I shall attempt to cue up something less jarringly inappropriate for nest time...

Monday, 6 April 2009

A quarter of a year later/

I write again. It's been a funny few weeks. Busy with music of various sorts. A gig in Leeds with aurelie, supporting one of the oddest groups I have ever come across. The frontman was a one armed Northern gentleman resplendent in tweeds, backed by a guitarist, tuba, violinist and pianist. A lady fried bacon into a microphone onstage. Then a frenetic section in which Barney (the sartorially elegant leader) operated an ancient manual typewriter accompanied by the young oriental woman on an equally archaic looking sewing machine. From here things only got weirder, with a group of audience members summoned onstage to read from randomly selected pages of various books, the most striking being a text on the derivation of the word Scatological. At one point Barney took a break from conducting the racket to relieve himself (thankfully in the correct area) and deelgated his role to another audience member whilst so doing. the set closed with a rousing number which involved the violinist sanding down a table as the resulting dust was hoovered up by an industrial strength vacuum cleaner. It made my own experiments feel extremely conservative. 

Undaunted, a few weeks previously I was offered an opportunity to perform alongside Japanese noise merchant Damo Suzuki (ex Can vocalist). I naturally obliged, despite feeling extremely under the weather with a chest infection. Dosed up, as I was, on antibiotics and altogether bleary the undeniable gravity of the situation only hit me later - perhaps a good thing. I played bass guitar while members of Black Carrot (including aurelie drummer Euan Rodger) and Mister Lee ably provided the rest of the instrumentation. The set lasted 50 minutes a portion of which C/can be seen here:

Continuing the reverse chronology, I have in recent months become something of a regular at monthly night of experimental improvised music: Quadelectronic. My weapon of choice is usually the 'cello run though various effects. The lion's share of attendees are performers, who are divided into randomly chosen ensembles (usually trios or quartets), and then perform, for a maximum of ten minutes. Participants come from a range of backgrounds. All out progressive noise makers play alongside more 'traditional' vocalists / instrumentalists often with startling results. I find myself somewhere inbetween: producing textures with radio or rudimentary sampling on dictaphone, as well as using 'cello to create drones or percussive elements. The night is extensively documented (thanks to the diligence of Quad regular Jim Tetlow) and performances can be viewed here:

the latter being a rare solo performance.

I had better sign off as this becomes characteristically lengthy.

Last, but by no means least, dear friends and musicians Ola and Sergei have been blessed with a baby girl Amelie. Who is lovely. To the parents many congrats. To the nipper: The World welcomes you...


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Behold The Salt

is the name of a song I just listened to. What else is new since I wrote? Well, I completed a commission, composing music for a spoken word / poetry stage show. The writers were a group of young men, who have experienced mental health issues. They were also paid for the work they did and mentored by an excellent group of writers, some of whom have had similar experiences. The show was here in Leicester at the Y Theatre and went down a storm. It was quite a journey for all involved. Will post a linky dink when the documentation is webbed.

November was a strange month. My mother's 60th birthday, my graduation, a gig in London, a funeral and a friend's wedding (also in London) all fell within the space of a week. Rites of Passage R- Us and then some. I came close to forcibly Christening a child, just for the sake of completeness, but didn't have the courage. 

The weather nips, I hibernate much of the time twixt gigs, huddled beneath a duvet or around my heater. I write beats by night and try to read. I am not a good reader. for some reason it takes a lot of effort. I zipped through a book on Evolution and Theology in a couple of day. Ubik has been hanging around - need to get on top of that as it's a library one. I have also started reading the diary of a Jewish woman called Etty Hillesum who died in Auschwitz  in 1943 aged 29. But the Holocaust is just the dark background against which her very personal voyage of spiritual discovery shines. A remarkable woman by all accounts.

I think it takes a certain type of person to be a good diarist. I'm pretty certain I am not such an one. Perhaps as a  new years resolution I may try to write more often, and shorter blog entries. Yes. Resolve David! Discipline is needed.

My uncle is over from Ireland. Which is very pleasant, but has precipitated a kind of cold war between his small elderly dog Doolittle and our small youthful cat Lulu. Maybe war is too strong a word. Lulu fled for the security of underneath my mum's bed at the mere sound of Dooly's collar tinkling through the front door. The little feline has since emerged tentatively on seems relatively comfortable. They even met briefly today. there was no barking. Dooly's cat chasing days are long over. The difficult bit is assuring Lulu that this is the case. Pet diplomacy is, I think an undervalued art.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Red Run

My homage to Muybridge. Big up Eadweard. The Age of NuRave salutes you.

End of MA, start of Autumn.

My Masters' course came to the usual academic anticlimactic ending.  You pour all your sweat and stress into a few sheets of A4 and then, it just sort of fizzles out. This, said the Creative Technologies MA was a good experience, broadening my artistic and technical horizons, introducing me to new ways of working and thinking. Over the past year I have made some very nice friends too. 

I have uploaded a video documenting the exhibition TIC TOC which comprised the bulk of my final Major Project. It consists of a four channel video installation, a piece played on a larger screen and a sound work played through a transistor radio. Central to the work is the notion of time. 

Explored in different forms are looped and edited time, natural and man-made time divisions and time as an element in technology and music. Makeshift useless video 'clocks' comprised of edits, loops and (sometimes absurd), repeated actions were created. In one video a cello is repeatedly tapped in time with a metronome. In another a piece of paper falls from a tree once every second. The interplay between images and sound was central to the work, exploiting the natural ability of the mind to make connections between disparate audio / visual elements (as well as between the onscreen images and the real 'readymade' objects that were displayed beneath.

In Red Run a rotating disc shows a galloping horse and rider which seem to be animated by a  red strobe light. Persistence of vision makes the horse seem to alternate between galloping forwards and backwards. This was shown upon a large screen. 

Between the two video installations a radio plays an endless collage of '1, 2 ,3, 4's, count-ins from my itunes library, severed from their respective songs. The combination of this sound with the ticking of the four screens creates a darkly hypnotic effect.

I have no idea what to 'do' next. Various musical projects are draining more money than they bring in. But I'm happy, autumn is on the way and my warm coat awaits.

What about Higher, Further, Higher education? How much longer can  hide I from the real world?  How long is the proverbial  piece of string?

Sunday, 25 May 2008

machine intelligence and human idiocy.

Time on this blog is "slowing down". This means, according to Ray Kurzweil, that the distance between salient events (read "blog posts"), is increasing. It happens to us as we grow older. In the womb things move pretty fast. new cells, new organs etc. As child things slow down a bit, but still change quick- getting a lot bigger, learning how to use a knife and fork (though not for milk), learning language and other stuff. Then adolescence. Ahem. Teens phn. Twenties zhmmmm. And now...

Discussing the phrase "To Butle" at length with people who do. ie. Butlers. And getting excited about Terry Wogan implying, albeit strongly, that he won't be doing Eurovision anymore. It's getting pretty slow. Apparently something similar happened at the beginning of the Universe. The time slowdown thing. Not the (drunken?) Eurovision debacle. (Not even the Woagester was around back then).

Time spend on trains is weird. There were only two ways the journey from Birmingham to Derby was going to end.

a. me throwing overpriced water over that man's face and saying something unrepeatable (and certainly unbutlerish).

b. remaining silent and chewing my own face off.

seriously. ask me and I'll tell you. I mean, who, in the real world asks a pretty girl on a train to "tell me three things about yourself"? calls himself a "life coach" (not to mention "scientist"), and harps on about happiness not coming from expensive cars or a nice house but from (hand on chest) here. Please (writer munches on cheek tissue). And that stuff about everyone dressing so generically (himself sporting River Island offscourings) and how she looks so unique. One would have supposed that when she tactfully says she's traveling to meet her boyfriend it would have been game over. But no, he keeps digging. Let one or other of us die ( I thought). Or both. Just to be safe ( I also thought). Actually, what the heck, nuke the whole train and we'll call it quits.

Please forgive the cynical tone of this blog. It does generally take a lot to get me this riled. But hey.

It's kind of comforting to think soon we may well all be downloaded onto the futuristic equivalent of a PC. (the digital sort. Not the Plod). In fact it might be genetic computer. Or even a quantum computer, which could theoretically solve in a billionth of a second a problem so massively intractable it would a digital computer the size of the physical universe (made up of as many tiny computers as there are neutrons, electrons and protons, each computing trillions of calcualtions per second) about thirty billion years. The only snag is someone has to be there to observe the answer, or it won't have happened. Playing a quantum computer at chess would be interesting as it would only decide whether to be white or black after the game had finished. Hey, if I could play like that, maybe even I'd win. But then, my consciousness would be in this computer anyway so. Gah. Don't quite understand what I'm... Or as David Moser said,

Quantum particles are the dreams that stuff is made of

Night night.