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Monday, 28 November 2011

Active Crossover / Practical Electronica

Taking place in two adjacent rooms at Brighton’s Phoenix Gallery, free events Active Crossover / Practical Electronica showcased two complementary yet disparate sound/visual artforms to a capacity audience.
Due to my practical involvement with Simon Whetham’s Active Crossover component of the evening, I unfortunately missed out on both programmes of Ian Helliwell’s Practical Electronica film screenings. I gather the first programme consisted of films by pioneering film-makers including Fred Judd, while the second was a collection of Ian Helliwell’s recent film work. I recommend you take a look at for more information. Plus you can still catch Ian’s gallery exhibition Practical Electronica which runs at The Phoenix Gallery until the 18th of December 2011.
The idea of Active Crossover concerts is to pair up musicians who have not played together before to perform “crossover” duets where one player begins; plays for about ten minutes; then the second player joins in; they improvise for ten minutes and then the first player drops out to allow the second to complete the performance playing solo.
The first of the Crossover performances was by Simon Whetham and Bela Emerson. Simon opened his laptop in the darkened room and began with a selection of placid field recordings. I’ve always been impressed by Simon’s unorthodox presentation of his own recorded material. Where other field recordists can perhaps rely on a purist, unmolested realtime document of events or phenomena, Whetham is unafraid of the jarring jump-cut, unusual juxtapositions, layering, surround-sound manipulation, (occasionally his day-job), and presenting the unrecognisable and surprising convergences. I didn’t recognise a lot of the sounds he used but could have listened to them eyes closed for a lot longer than this Crossover performance allowed. When cellist Bela Emerson joined in, she presented an unusually delicate palette of extended technique for the majority of their improvisation. Gradually, her more recognisable melodic bow work looped out from her electronics but in quiet, gossamer strands rather than the bold, wide brushstrokes she employed during a recent solo set I caught at the Green Door Store. By the time Simon Whetham finished his contribution, Bela was firmly in the familiar territory of her solo improvisations but still grasping a fragility of sound not usual in her solo work. A deeply immersive collaboration by a surprising yet rewarding combination of musicians.
While the first instalment of the Practical Electronica screenings began with the audience relocated to the next door red room, the white room was prepared for Duncan Harrison and Paul Khimasia Morgan’s performance. Harrison is no stranger to improvised groupings as he regularly tours with drone outfit Plurals, and in a duo with Ian Murphy, plus he has performed in Brighton with acts as diverse as The A Band, HUH 5PIN and Adam Lygo. Paul Khimasia Morgan has performed at a previous Active Crossover with Simon Whetham, (this leading on to their releases on con-v), and is similarly interested in improvising opportunities. Recently, he has participated in groupings including Ryu Hankil, Seijiro Murayama, Jez riley French, Patrick Farmer, Daichi Ishikawa and Daniel Jones.
Both musicians had prepared weird assemblages of objects, devices and instruments; Paul on a tabletop and Duncan on the floor. Duncan began this performance, kneeling amid his equipment, starting by amplifying his jittery utterances into a long duration loop device while scraping and striking various parts of his array of sonic objects. I noticed about a dozen cassette tapes ready for use in his pair of portable machines, and quite a few small metal objects in his arsenal. What’s more interesting than Duncan’s unusual choice of equipment though, is the way he seems to genuinely and quickly attain a trance state in which to perform. It’s a fidgety, shakey physical trance which I’ve sometimes witnessed and been mildly disturbed by. In this state, Harrison seems to be genuinely troubled and using performance as a way of venting...something. I’m not sure this is definitely his motivation though – you’d have to ask him yourselves. As Paul Khimasia Morgan crawled under his table to commence the collaborative section of the performance, Harrison proceeded to crawl away into the audience clutching one of his portable infernal cassette machines.
Khimasia Morgan then presented a lurid and angry set of loud, scraped stones and gritty sand sounds, rattling, mains hum, buzzing motors, incipient voltage clicking with flashing lights while occasionally throwing insubordinate or unsatisfactory objects from the performance area in a claustrophobic demonstration of ill humour. More than once, almost-silences were rudely punctuated by extremely loud and gritty outbursts or preprepared samples of his previous experiments digitally rendered into harsh distortion. Perhaps the psychological fallout of Duncan Harrison’s approach rendered Khimasia Morgan’s usually restrained output down into its constituent rancorous parts. More please.
As the audience dutifully upped and bombarded themselves with Ian Helliwell’s final selection of avant-film for half an hour, then good naturedly hauled themselves back into their seats for Alexander Wendt and Slow Listener, an almost tangible air of expectation filled the white room. During the films, Alexander Wendt had busily constructed a soundart installation of small speakers set upon the room’s stage riser, amplified by two microphones suspended from the ceiling, swinging in small arcs across each speaker. Wendt augmented the resulting pulses of Alvin Lucier-ish feedback with clean, digital chatter from his laptop. Minimal but effective lighting rendered some interesting silhouettes of the movements of the equipment and Wendt onto the walls as he set about his work of making (what seemed to be) tiny subtle adjustments to his sounds.
Slow Listener countered with terse analogue crackling and dark monosynth grumblings that evolved over quite long durations compared to the evening’s previous musicians and suited Alexander Wendt’s somewhat austere material extremely well. Solo, Slow Listener’s drones kicked up into a more brusque and eager gear until he abandoned all his electronics completely and finished his performance by coming out from behind his table armed only with an unamplified bowed cymbal.

photograph of Duncan Harrison's equipment by Paul Khimasia Morgan.

Monday, 21 November 2011

sok040 GIMLET EYED MARINERS - Dark Secret Love

Gimlet-Eyed Mariners hail from Wiveliscombe, Somerset. The duo was conceived in early 2009, but various other projects involving its members delayed its birth until the late summer of that year, when the first official recorded session, Leopard Slugs, was cut. This session produced “In the Howling Storm” and the title track of their release, Dark Secret Love, on The Slightly Off Kilter Label.

The band was formed to create the kind of music and soundscapes that its members wanted to hear, but seldom could. The Mariners’ music can be categorised as electro-acoustic, acousmatic total-Improv, concerned primarily with colour, texture and dynamics, spontaneous interaction, and the organic, unpredictable evolution of each performance. Their improvisations start from scratch: the players never rehearse in the sense of working on a piece until it evolves into something “presentable”. In the studio they reject editing, over-dubbing and re-mixing: if a performance is not working, it will be abandoned, and the duo will move on to a new improvisation. Accidents are part of the adventure: they do not consider this approach as foisting unfinished “product” on the audience, but as an invitation to their listeners to join them on a journey of discovery.

An improvisation by the duo may incorporate hypnotic, densely-textured, multi-layered constructs, evanescent drifts of colour and insubstantial texture, mysterious and ambiguous sonorities, eruptions of viscera-endangering industrial noise, compulsive dance beats evoking music from the remotest reaches of the globe, or, often, all of these simultaneously.

Although they arrived at it from somewhat different directions, the two Mariners share a vision, and have a common admiration for musique concrete & electronic music pioneers like Pierre Schaeffer, Luc Ferrari, Pierre Henry, Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram and the great Tonmeister, Stockhausen.

Michael Fairfax is a sculptor and designer who studied under the tutelage of his grandfather, Ernest Berk, a pioneer of musique concrete, cutting and splicing recorded tape, toying with oscillators and generally playing around with sound. During his career as a public artist he created a number of sound-works using computer technology, before embarking on adventures in music in its own right, firstly with Tapes+Ashes and now with Gimlet-Eyed Mariners. The exploitation of sound as an improvised unit gives him the space and expansiveness that is the antithesis of public art.

Barry Witherden was also a member of Tapes+Ashes, and began tinkering with low-tech, tape-based collages when, in his late teens, he discovered Schaeffer and Henri. He is a freelance music journalist currently writing for The Wire, Jazz Journal and BBC Music, and has been a regular contributor to Jazz Review, The Gramophone and Classic CD. His writing has also been included in The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music, The Rough Guide to Classical Music and The Guinness Who’s Who of Jazz. His inspirations include Morton Feldman, the early process/systems pieces of Steve Reich and the work of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

© Barry Witherden, July 2011

Current Ten Titles:

prices all include postage within the UK:

sok040 Gimlet Eyed Mariners Dark Secret Love cd-r £5 NEW!
sok039 Daniel Spicer engruntled cd-r £5
sok038 Martin Preston Vapour cd-r £5
sok037 Adam Lygo The Girl With The Leopard In Her Mouth 2 x cd-r SOLD OUT
sok036 Anthony Murphy Trio Blood Blister 1 x 5” cd-r & 1 x 3” cd-r SOLD OUT
sok035 PMT Frosty Lee / THFCKWT ep cd-r £5
sok034 Adam Lygo & EMB Live At The Musicbar 3”cd-r SOLD OUT
sok033 Ortolan Fragments cd-r £5
sok032 Simon Whetham undercurrent cd-r £5 LAST FEW REMAINING
sok031 EMB Nyama Choma Diode cd-r £5 LAST FEW REMAINING

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Friday, 11 November 2011

right place right time

Last friday, the 4th of november 2011, i blundered into the Green Door Store under Brighton Station in a state of post-work bewilderment to witness some amazing acoustic quiet improv courtesy of Diatribes.

This was the final night on a seven date uk tour for this grouping under the Diatribes moniker, (Cyril Bondi & d'incise being the lynchpins), featuring cellist Hannah Marshall, double bassist Dom Lash and percussionist Patrick Farmer.

The decision to perform acoustically was to prove an exceptionally good one as each player's output was equally discernable with no-one overpowering anyone else and i'm guessing making it easy for all players to listen to each other effectively. The audience very quickly settled into a quiet and very attentive state after loud, dense amplified sets from supports Bela Emerson and Noteherder & McCloud who utilized the venue's powerful PA system.

If i had to point out my particular favourite elements of Diatribes' improvisation, i would have to say i enjoyed witnessing Dom Lash's deliberate and fascinating bass playing for the first time, having heard him on just a handful of his substantial recorded output. Cyril Bondi, to whom i stood the closest, employed a large selection of tiny metal bells, chimes and cymbals, applying them to the head of his single large tom drum which sat neatly on a side table in readiness, and of course its always a joy to see the spectacle of Patrick Farmer who abused a pair of small hi-fi turntables by way of striking and dropping them, rubbing them with styrofoam, and even upending a cup of tiny stones, (perhaps filched from the beach earlier in the day?), from an upstretched hand. Beautiful, beautiful...

Bela Emerson produced a pair of dense, bucolic cello improvisations and Noteherder & McCloud wove a tapestry of drone electronics and extended saxophone technique including some guttural voicings through the sax in a kind of growling circular breathing attempt, nicely.

Thanks to Club Zygotic for putting this excellent show together.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Lambs Gamble and Deepkiss 720 pictures


Their music covers a wealth of sonic and textural landscapes in their interactions, with an emphasis on logic and contrasting concepts guiding the overall shape of the work. The resulting sound is meditative and ambient at times, yet hints at free jazz and electro acoustic improvisational influences as well.

[Recorded Fields]

The starting point for composer Robert Curgenven's work is his Transparence dubplate, developed as part of the O'A.I.R. Artist In Residence program at O'Artoteca, Milan. The dubplate was created from feedback recordings that were run through the O' gallery space, resulting in a drone signal capturing the subtle resonances of the room.

"The best 12k/LINE release in ages, dark, Lynchian, eroded tape-loops and analogue menace"
- Boomkat

Both performances will feature the venue’s Grand Piano.

Plus an additional performance by

[con-V, emgraved glass]

Paul Khimasia Morgan's uneasy solo improvisations employ brass objects, dc motors, natural materials and his own spoken word recordings.

Tuesday 8th November 2011
The Friends’ Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton

Friday, 2 September 2011

Lambs gamble advance notice...

Fritz Welch, Eric Boros and George Cremaschi's sideways frozen halfling with abstract crunch.
[Members of Vialka, Peeesseye and KRK].

Three way hoot-up with added juice.

Not inconsiderably arresting.

Vibrations and the sounds they make.

Monday September 26th.

8 till late.
The Cowley Club, London Road, Brighton
Members and Guests welcome.
£4 suggested donation.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

no sign of the rapture, then...

Slightly Off Kilter sat 21st may 2011 Caroline of Brunswick review

A breezy Saturday night in Brighton in the middle of the Festival. A plush upstairs salon bursting with experimental music aficionados. Beer. Nice Cornish ale on draught to start with. Unfortunately that doesn’t last long before the barrel runs dry and make do with a generic euro lager for the rest of the evening. urrgh. Oh well, luckily there’s no generic euro sound/poetry, (whatever that may be), on the bill for our entertainment this evening so lets proceed.

Tonight’s event is a four-way album launch for the latest releases on The Slightly Off Kilter Label; Daniel Spicer’s engruntled, Anthony Murphy, Adam Lygo and EMB’s 2-disc set blood blister, Adam’s solo 2-disc set The Girl With The Leopard In her Mouth and Martin Preston’s Vapour.

The running order is as follows; a grouping of Adam Lygo, Duncan Harrison & EMB; The Anthony Murphy Quartet and finally Daniel Spicer solo. An attempt to screen footage of some vintage 1990’s performances by Martin Preston was unfortunately derailed at the eleventh hour. Hopefully this will happen at the next Slightly Off Kilter event. Musical interludes were provided by Slightly Off Kilter’s house DJ Mr Stephen Drennan who has been augmenting SOK events for the last ten years. Stephen drew on his mammoth 7” vinyl collection and we were treated to tracks from Wild Man Fischer, late-period Captain Beefheart, and that’s where I stopped recognising stuff.

Adam Lygo carried out his glossolalic piece accompanied by Duncan Harrison on prepared, amplified acoustic guitar and the man known as Euphonious Murmur Blend on subtle electronics. Lygo’s vocal approach was alternately severe and overdriven and haunting and laryngeal. Both approaches benefitted from augmentation by digital reverb controlled by a masked Adam. The mask wearing added an element of both theatricality and unease. Meanwhile, Harrison wrestled with his acoustic guitar, worrying it with a small thumb piano and contact mics before severing its head completely while EMB seemed to do nothing at all for a long time until it suddenly became apparent to me that what I had at first taken to be a hum from the PA had turned into a crisp metallic drone almost without me noticing. A convincing stab at vocalese from Adam Lygo, particularly as I gather it was the first time he’d performed this material in front of an audience, with an intriguing sonic element.

I sensed that The Anthony Murphy Quartet (Anthony Murphy – prose, Adam Lygo – guitar, EMB - electronics, Jet – more electronics) were bent on making a bigger noise than Adam Lygo’s trio the moment Lygo strapped his guitar on for their set with a mischievous look in his eye. That and electronicist Jet’s gargantuan (for this small venue) laser theremin pulsing red in the exhaust cloud of a fog machine. And so they did, so much so that Anthony Murphy’s vocals were a little lost in the mix for the first few minutes despite being processed through Jet’s amorphous synthesisers. With the vocal levels corrected, Murphy’s prose became audible and his stories began a mighty tussle with Jet’s processing. After about ten or twelve minutes, Murphy capitulated to allow the behemoth of the instrumentalists’ digital outputs to crank up a gear and slowly chew the venue walls off. EMB produced a particularly disorientating church organ drone which crossed over from Terry Riley territory to what I imagine La Monte Young would sound like if he joined Sunn O))) (please let me know if this has already happened). The group created a wall of sound which grew in intensity until it imploded in a cloud of ash and static.

After a lengthy break to allow audience members the chance to recharge their glasses in the downstairs bar, no doubt braving the charms of the rock/metal karaoke activity going on down there, Daniel Spicer took to the stage. Armed with an amplified, processed violin, a couple of gongs and later a harmonica, Spicer presented one ten or so minute piece. His prose reminded me of Burroughs’ cut-up technique in part, but delivered in a smooth conversational way. Surreal perhaps, (not sure if he’d describe it that way) and attenuated with sudden gong, shouts or town cryer-like singing. Not without humour either: the line “that’s not a tea towel – it’s a stick!!” getting a big laugh. Despite it all potentially coming over as entertaining wordplay nonsense on first hearing, there were interesting references to The Rapture, Deep Heat, the church, natural history, clubland’s year zero 1989, and more. The violining is a psychedelic echo scrape and despite competence, had no folk reference whatsoever, although Spicer’s blues harmonica is just that complete with manic ape-like footstomping. Overall, Daniel Spicer is an engrossing and fascinating proposition, offering a strangely edifying glimpse into his own brand of post-ecstatic passementerie.

All four albums are available now direct from us at the following prices all including postage:
Daniel Spicer engruntled cd-r £5
Martin Preston Vapour cd-r £5
Anthony Murphy Trio blood blister 1 x 5” cd-r & 1 x 3” cd-r £8
Adam Lygo The Girl With The Leopard In Her Mouth 2 x cd-r £7
Please Paypal or email us for alternative payment arrangements.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Gold Dust headphone concerts

Gold Dust headphone concert at The Ceramic House, 75 Stanmer Villas, Brighton on Wednesday 18th May 2011 7pm £8/5 concs. Sound / Art performances by Joseph Young, Paul Khimasia Morgan, Neil Luck and Michalis Mavronas.

The final Gold Dust performance will feature performances by Joseph Young, Jon Aveney and Marcus Leadley. 7pm £8/5 concs. Saturday 28th May 2011 at The Ceramic House.

Organised by Joseph Young as part of Open Houses/Brighton Fringe Festival.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Club Silencio 5 - review

In a recently, (regrettably), diminished performance area at Coachwerks, are squashed the table top tech of the five acts for the night. The rest of the space is crammed full of even more chairs than there were last time I was here. Good thing there are as a constant stream of experimental music lovers file in even before doors are officially open. Seated, this created a cosy, intimate environment.
First to perform are the recently expanded Anthony Murphy Quartet. No longer a trio; in addition to Murphy’s spoken word, Adam Lygo’s noise guitar and EMB’s zither and sampler combination is laser thereminist Jet. Jet’s contribution is substantial; not only visually, (his laser theremin is about six feet tall), but in having the ability to process Murphy’s vocals through his laptop, the Quartet have really hit their stride creatively. Their music is still improvised, Murphy’s poems still rigidly formatted but with a fourth element there is more space for everyone to relax a little more than was the case with the Trio. The resulting maelstrom of guitar clanging, organ drones, digital bit-mangling, manipulated voice and poetry moved dynamically and rhythmically through a twenty minute cycle of quiet/loud with propulsion and edginess.
After a short break while Jet breaks down his laser device, we are presented with his guitar/drums duo Twofold. An expanded live loop manipulation outfit utilizing guitar, bass, drums and vocals at various points of their performance, Twofold produce at times material reminiscent, (to me, at least), of Kid A-period Radiohead, or late 90’s Tortoise’s quieter moments; all with a dubby feel provided by the looped bass parts. It seemed that most if not all played parts were captured and then processed and looped by Jet’s bespoke digital processing equipment; many things were pitch shifted or sped up or down but occasionally a sound emerged that I was at a loss to recognise as an instrument. Intriguing. The idea of bringing the concept of the recording studio into a live performance is not a new one, but Twofold seem to have achieved it in a relatively portable and trouble-free way and thus given themselves the space to play with sonic ideas in real time.
Mass follow this with a more subdued performance than the one I witnessed late last year. Lygo again, this time paired with HRT member Russell. Both on guitar processed with various electronic devices. A more floating sound overall, more like a slightly more aggressive Invisible, (another Lygo project), performance rather than Adam Lygo’s trademark brutalist solo digital howl.
Up next is solo vocalist/visual artist Ever Orchid. Unfortunately, Ever is plagued by technical problems starting with incompatible cables for her projector, forcing her to rely on the screen of a laptop to display her exquisite visuals. Ever began with a piece composed of vocal harmony, soft wails and acoustic guitar backing; dark, brooding. Ever stood, cowled, behind her laptop in low light which overall looked great. Trouble soon raised its ugly head and after about two thirds of this first piece crackling started to become audible pre-empting a total cut-out of sound from the laptop. Ever continued to sing, ending the song and the audience seemed not to mind. The second piece passed without incident; this time a bed of multiple vocal parts allowed Ever to improvise a melody part. Mysterious surging synth noise and a clanking guitar sample were added as the piece progressed. The third piece, however, seemed to be too much for the ailing processor in the laptop. A jazzy upright bass sample and moving water sounds complemented Ever’s vocal and occasional violin for a couple of minutes before the soundfile gave up the ghost completely. Frustrating for Ever and for the audience who had been visibly enjoying the music up till this point.
Rounding off the evening was the ever-fascinating Duncan Harrison [pictured above] who conjured up a cacophony of close-mic’ed noises from a baking tray before ordering some ethereal drones from a four track tape recorder. I like his minimal use of delay as well – its easy to get carried away with certain effects, but Duncan uses all of his objects and devices in the same way a painter uses paint. Later, he uses a loop sampler to manipulate his vocal groans, huffs and tics; again in a very light and delicate way. The overall result of his actions, however, is far from delicate. A miniature dulcimer-like instrument is riffed and then processed to sound really, really dark. Other components follow: bells, gruff vocal incantation, a proggy synth/tape tone, overloaded signal, crackling, more vocal huff. And an abrupt stop all too soon. Classic Harrison. I could listen to his stuff for hours.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Our top records of 2010 Part 2

The Sealed Knot and we disappear [Another Timbre] cd

Detail. Lots and lots of detail. Not a particularly insightful appraisal, that. My apologies; I’ll have to do better than that. Detail. That was my first impression of this album and to be honest, I’m still grappling with my words now having spent most of the last year listening to it.
The musicians are of an extremely high calibre: Burkhard Beins, Rhodri Davies and Mark Wastell. I’m assuming the music is improvised. Taut, complex, reactive improvisation. And prepared. Really well prepared.

Tim Blechmann / Seijiro Murayama 347 [Non Visual Objects] cd

This is a recording of a performance Blechmann and Murayama gave in Paris. Percussionist Seijiro Murayama’s distinctive technique of sawing/sounding an object while modulating its sound and frequency in various ways is heavily in evidence here. Tim Blechmann, by contrast, seems to limit himself to room noise, hiss, hum, static, feedback; almost sonic dust motes one minute and grey watercolour wash the next.

Bolide the universal omphalus [self released] cd-r

My favourite free playing unit of the moment. I gather that they think of themselves as a jazz outfit but that’s okay with me even though this release is about as far away from that pigeonhole as you can possibly get.

Simon Whetham & Paul Khimasia Morgan grey area [con-V] cd

Yes, cheeky to include this but it was such a great experience making this recording and attending/performing at Simon’s Active Crossover exhibition at The Grey Area Gallery at the time that I felt I just had to.