Concert Reviews

Sunday 19th June

June 19, 2011

So the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that things look a little different here again as today I managed to get the new design launched here following the hassles of the last week or so. Its not completely finished and there are still quite a few things needing tweaking, but the bulk of things […]

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Saturday 18th June

June 19, 2011

Another long tough day then resulting in no real post here, but today at least I have the excuse of attending a concert in London. I was up at 5AM and put in a nine hour shift at work before heading over to the big smoke to catch the first of the two night residency […]

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CD Reviews

Friday 17th June

June 17, 2011

Another fine release of improvised music on the Another Timbre label tonight then, and another CD that seems to inhabit a stylistic middle ground that takes on the best of the various approaches to this area of music while not being easy to define as anything other than improvised music. Actually the disc in question, […]

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CD Reviews

Thursday 16th June

June 16, 2011

Today’s release is another involving Nick Hoffman, the youngish Chicago based musician who also runs the Pilgrim Talk label, on which this CD, named Noise without tears was issued. I was actually sent both a CD copy and a clear vinyl 10″ disc (a lathe cut apparently, whatever one of those may be) of what […]

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Wednesday 15th June

June 15, 2011

No post tonight I am afraid, primarily because since getting home from a long day at work I have had my head buried in no end of php code trying to get the new design for this site rushed through and in place. I’m nearly done with it, and I hope to have at least the basic framework up here by this time tomorrow with just some embellishments left to tie up. I am off of work tomorrow, and hope to get the required work here finished during the day, so if you are passing through at any point on Thursday and things look a bit peculiar here fear not there might be a bit of a transition period while I get everything aligned. The new design should hopefully be simpler than the current one, with some new bits and pieces, but hopefully, and most importantly, my coding this time, given that it is much less maverick than the last attempt, should hold up better as the various bits of software, plug-ins etc become more advanced. Now, if none of that meant anything to you, fear not, its all very dull.

I have been listening to some music tonight, and I even managed to write a paragraph as an introduction to a review, but when it came to putting my thoughts into words I found that they weren’t there, and my attention this evening just hasn’t been focused enough to be able to share anything of any value, particularly as I didn’t like the CD in question all that much, and if I am going to write anything negative I want to be sure my thoughts are straight before I do so.

A quick plug then for a two day residency this coming weekend at London’s Café Oto for Axel Dorner, who will play various sets with various local musicians. Work has meant that I have had to miss a few concerts lately that I really had wanted to attend, but I should make it along to these two. Say hi if you come along.

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 14th June

June 14, 2011

No matter how much in touch with the world of improvised music I think I might be, no matter how many CDs fall through my letter box there are still odd occasions when Brian writes about something I hadn’t heard of, my interest is piqued and I go and buy the CD in question. The most recent example of this was a new disc by the duo of Jamie Drouin and Lance Austin Olsen, two Canadian musicians who, according to the very nicely designed website for their very nicely designed label Infrequency Editions have been releasing CDs for ten years now without me noticing them. Shows what I know….

The disc I ordered then is a recent duo disc named Absence and Forgiveness. Its a CDr wrapped in a very lovely, though somewhat bereft of information card sleeve released in an edition of 100. The image on the sleeve is of a monochrome reproduction of what looks like a simple, unadorned yet detailed wash of colour. This image seems apt for the music on the disc, which masks a wealth of detail and careful construction behind a mask of simplicity and restraint.

It isn’t clear what either of the musicians work with to make their music, but it is vaguely speaking electro-acoustic in texture, perhaps guitar pick-ups or contact mics are in use, perhaps instruments (tabletop guitar? I sense I hear strings here and there) are used, perhaps not, but it doesn’t matter much. There is a radio to be heard often throughout the three pieces, contributing little jabs of spoken word in the first pieces, and longer streams in the final, slightly more dense third and final track. The music here sounds like it was improvised without any post production, though I may of course be completely wrong. It is generally speaking very sparse, quiet and full of either white space, or quite often grey expanses of varying density and texture. Scattered about though are little fragments of sound of varying types, some radio bursts, some sudden hits of white noise, shards of harsh feedback etc, but these are infrequent and placed with great care so as to continually challenge and shape the music into different directions, keep it from slipping into any kind of ambient flatlining.

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Monday 13th June

June 13, 2011

So as you can see I haven’t been able to fix the problem with the site so have switched back to the old design that I used until a couple of years ago. I kept a copy of it saved just in case something like this happened. This will just be a temporary fix. It probably won’t come as a surprise to long term readers that I have actually been working for a while, very slowly and with no real intended completion date, on a new design for the blog, something more simple but with more modern features. This little hiccup has suddenly made that project much more of a pressing concern, but I hope I should have a new design up and running within two or three days. The content here by the way, is not affected at all. I use a wordpress framework here that holds the content, which is then overlaid with a design that arranges everything on screen. The design broke last night, but the content remains intact. It might just look a bit odd here for a few days.

So while I have been scurrying around trying to make this place readable I haven’t had a chance to write anything for tonight’s post. I was up early and home late from work today, so time has been limited. One silver lining to today’s cloud though was finding the new issue of The Wire in the post when I got home, and opening it finding my John Wall piece, as well as a review of the i and e Festival tucked inside. As a reader, I have bought every single copy of the magazine since early 1992, and so finding four or five pages of my writing in this new issue felt strange, and it made me proud to show it to Julie when we went for a short walk earlier. Its no big deal, I know, but then I never intended to ever write professionally, on any kind of scale, and seeing my name there feels as bemusing as it does satisfying. if you get a chance to read it I’d appreciate knowing your thoughts.

So, time to switch into Olaf mode again…..

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CD Reviews

Sunday 12th June

June 13, 2011

Actually the CD I have been listening to is one that probably only requires a brief review anyway. I say this not because the music is insubstantial in any way, but rather because the music is quite simple in its structure and content, and because if there is a lot to discuss about the way it was made, or the reasons for which it was made, then this isn’t clear. So we are left to just listen to the sounds on the CD and take them for what they are.

The CDr in question is Richard Kamerman’s recent release on the Engraved Glass label named Changes.txt. Now, before I had heard this collection of four pieces, and before I had read the track titles or the short description of the work at the label’s website, I had, simply because of the title of the album decided for myself that the music here could be audio processes of a computer text file. I don’t think this is the case though, despite my recollection of Kamerman doing something like this before. The note at the EG site then reads as follows:

focusing on the acoustic material offered up in one room, this recording session captures a spirit of creative field recording & focused interaction with the contained sounds and objects.

This description, coupled with the track titles, which suggest that Kamerman did not have full control over the sounds included (The second track is named In which I again try to concede authority and the third In which I accept a new potential) lead me to wonder if some kind of process was used to pull together the sounds here outside of merely using the items in a particular room to create them. The fact is, beyond the information we have, and the detail that the recordings were all mace in one day, we are left to make educated guesses about how this music was made, and on this occasion I admit defeat, accept that I don’t have a clue, and just choose to sit and enjoy it.

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Concert Reviews

Saturday 11th June

June 12, 2011

Anyway, the concert yesterday took place in St Margaret’s Church in Whalley Range, Manchester, a slightly odd, quite disconcerting, still-actrive church in one of the less salubrious parts of the city. There were two sets- an opening twenty-five minute solo performance by Patrick Farmer followed by John Tilbury performing a version of Samuel Beckett’s novella Worstward Ho for piano and spoken word. Now I have seen Patrick Farmer play his turntable set-up an awful lot of late, and I had driven up with him for this gig, so a balanced, objective review probably isn’t possible, but I did enjoy his performance, which was actually the first time I had seen him play solo with any instrumentation. Having seen Patrick play a lot recently, I have noted often that he has often taken up the role of disruptor- choosing to break up the flow of any groups he has worked in, allowing music to settle for a while before completely changing its direction, often quite forcefully. In a solo context this was obviously not so easy, but even last night it seemed like Patrick applied this same tactic, letting things grow naturally, not thinking about where the music might develop and allowing it to find a course of its own before suddenly reeling it in abruptly.

Opening with a densely detailed section made up of crunchy, brittle sounds as various objects such as steel wool were contact miked and screwed up, scraped about and kicked around the floor, the music jolting about off into different directions a few times, underpinned with rattling feedback tones sent from a speaker cone through a snare drum. After a while and following the pattern of letting the music find its level before kicking it (often literally) off into a new set of shapes, Farmer somehow found himself in near silence, taking regularly spaced, sharp strikes at the snare with assorted objects, some with mics attached, a kind of brutal, harshly lo-fi rhythm that ended with the snare being upturned and sent flying under the table with a crash, so ending the set. I enjoyed the performance a lot, but above all it felt thoroughly and excitingly alive and unpredictable. Despite seeing Patrick play a lot of late I hadn’t seen or heard anything quite the same as this before. he’s a friend, so you can take this with as big a pinch of salt as you like, but Mr Farmer is playing right at the top of his game right now and if you get the chance to see him live I recommend you do.

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Uncategorized

Friday 10th June

June 11, 2011

Urrgh. I’m writing this at 4AM, because I was too rushed / forgot to write earlier. I have just got back from a long long journey up to Manchester and back, so barely have the energy to turn this computer on and write here. I worked overnight last night in the dayjob, and got home at 7AM, went to sleep straight away fro a few hours before setting off again at about midday to pick up Patrick Farmer and deliver him to a particularly disconcerting church in central Manchester in time for tonight’s concert at which he shared a bill with John Tilbury, who played a realisation of a score he had written that essentially transformed Beckett’s Worstward Ho novella into a text and music piece. I’m far far far too tired to even begin to write anything about it tonight, but it was all good and a thoroughly enjoyable time was had. The only downside to the evening, (apart from the eight hours travelling) was the low turnout for the event- maybe just twenty people there, which for a rare Tilbury solo showing in Manchester seemed crazy. Anyway, I’ll write a report tomorrow evening.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 9th June

June 9, 2011

Well this isn’t the lengthy review I had hoped to post today, but I’m still some way off of finishing that one so it will have to wait a further few days. For now then, a few lines on a CDr I listened to a couple of times yesterday and then some more this morning, a release on an American label called Ilse which appears to serve the interesting American underground of musicians falling somewhere between noise and improvisation. This release, the fourth on the label is one of several discs sent to me recently in a parcel from Nick Hoffman. Its a duo release named Lost Corner featuring Hoffman and Aaron Zarzutzki that included other, older releases by the duo that I’ll try to get to in time.

Lost Corner contains two pieces of music recorded for a Chicago radio programme. There are no descriptions of what is being played by whom on the CD sleeve, but there is a photo of the studio set up that shows an electric sewing machine and assorted pieces of metal, tin foil, effects pedals and the like. A bit of further googling reveals that on the day Zazutzki used a turntable without a stylus to vibrate and rattle various objects, a la Ferran Fages, Patrick Farmer etc… and Hoffman here plays the sewing machine, trumpet and some simple electronics. One we have this information, trying to pin down which sound comes from where, and who responds to whom at what point in the recordings is somewhat futile and I guess ultimately pointless.

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Uncategorized

Wednesday 8th June

June 9, 2011

No real post tonight I’m afraid. I’ve managed eight reviews over the last nine days though so I don’t feel the need to apologise on this occasion… I have actually been listening to music all day, since I had the day off of work, but I just haven’t quite worked my way through anything solidly enough to be able to write. Tomorrow I am working through the night, from 6pm to 6am on Friday, so I will have some time tomorrow lunchtime to write a review of the music I have been playing today. Otherwise today has been good, a lazy day really, a few administrative jobs done, though the pile of CDs on my desk that badly need sorting and filing away on shelves is still sat there, leaning slightly towards me in a menacing manner… This evening was lovely, a nice meal cooked for me by my better half, a while watching a pigeon wander aimlessly around the garden, followed by a hedgehog doing much the same thing but with far more purpose, and then we watched the last in the series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, which has been masterfully brilliant from start to finish.

If you are anywhere near Manchester, or can get there on Friday even if you are not, then it would be crazy to miss John Tilbury’s performance at St Margaret’s Church in Whalley Range, a reworking of Samuel Beckett’s wonderful novella Worstward Ho. Details can be found here, complete with misspelling of the Beckett piece and a woefully dated bio of Tilbury, but still, we should be very pleased that these guys have made this concert happen. Support will come from Patrick Farmer, or at least it will do if I manage to deliver him there on time!

Finally, British readers of roughly my age will be saddened to hear of the death of Roy Skelton today, the man who gave a voice to Zippy and George. For many of us this is very sad news. Very few ‘people’ had more of an affect on my very early years than Zippy. A few people have even noted the resemblance between our characters today. The only real difference is that when Zippy went on and on somebody could reach over and zip up his mouth. In my case I don’t think that you could do such…..

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CD Reviews

Tuesday 7th June

June 7, 2011

Irrespective of how the music sounds, today’s CDr deserves a mention here simply because of the way it is packaged. Remember how shops used to remove the disc from CD packaging on their shelves so that they could not be stolen, and then file the disc behind the counter in a card sleeve? I’m not definite, but I think that With Lumps, the new duo album by the percussion/acoustic guitar duo of Fritz Welch and Neil Davidson respectively recycles these old card sleeves- so that the name of the disc once housed in the sleeve in a shop is still written in marker pen on one side, with a With Lumps sticker pasted over the other side. My copy then (which I suspect might have been carefully chosen by Mr Davidson!) used to contain a Michael Bolton album called Vintage. I’m pleased to say that it doesn’t any longer.

The sleeve actually holds a forty minute long album spilt into four tracks of straight up free improvisation that is all acoustic, and yet often quite noisy while also busy and bustling without really sounding that dated. Welch uses what I am guessing is a full drum kit here, but he doesn’t ever really ‘play’ the drums in a traditional manner, choosing instead to scrape and rub and rattle things around, so creating a set of vaguely industrial sounds. Davidson pretty much attacks his acoustic guitar any way you can without ever plucking a string. His instrument buzzes more than it chimes, groans and crashes more than it twangs and strums. The four pieces are all similar in style, studies in dirty, gritty sounds that layer together and infect each other so that it becomes hard to tell one musician’s sounds from the other.

The recording here isn’t that great, its all a bit cloudy and murky, and trying to pick sounds apart becomes even harder, but turned up loud the music sounds great, a kind of lo-fi Will Guthrie set, bristling with activity, but all jagged, metallic sounds, often so much happening at once, but with enough spaces appearing when things calm down that tiny glimpses of chiming metal or softly bowed wood come through.

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CD Reviews

Monday 6th June

June 6, 2011

So tonight I listened to a CD sent to me a few weeks back by the Polish Mathka label. This one had sat on the side for a while unplayed, the oversized (and unfortunately not that nice) packaging not really enticing me to pick it up and play it. Until the weekend the name of the music’s composer was also unknown to me as well- Denis Kolokol. However it was while writing about the PRES Revisited album a few days back, which includes music rescored by Kolokol that it suddenly occurred to me that the disc sat beside me was composed by the same person, so I gave it a spin yesterday and then listened a couple of times more this evening.

The album is named Proud to be loud, and contains four tracks of digitally sequenced sounds, some instrumental, some vocal, some electronic. If I had to place it into any one convenient category maybe I would go for musique concrete, but in all honestly it doesn’t quite fit easily anywhere. The nearest immediate comparison I might make would be with Parmegiani, but only stylistically. It sadly isn’t anywhere near as interesting to me. The first of the four pieces is named Feedback Glotka and is made up of guitar parts recorded by Alexander Chikmakov and vocal snippets and electronics by Kolokol. Unusually for my taste, it isn’t the vocal parts that turn me off of this track. Kolokol seems to use tiny guttaral snippets of gasping breath, smacking lips etc which he brings together to create little sections of sound that actually work quite well. On this track then its the guitar, and to some degree the electronics that don’t work so well to my ears. The guitar often shifts into a tinkling, semi-ambient mode, sometimes pulling away to a kind of sub-Bailey abstraction, but also quite often disappearing into a really quite off-putting post-Eno prettiness complete with some unfortunate effects. The electronics aren’t as bad, all bits and pieces of crunchy (sampled?) sounds and processed elements the origin of which can’t be easily ascertained. These parts seem to just don’t work against the cheesy guitar work though, and we are left with a bit of a mess with the guitar layered over the top. I found this track really very hard to listen to.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 5th June

June 5, 2011

I should start this review by saying that I actually heard this music for the first time maybe five years ago, around the time that my then-radio presenter colleague Alastair Wilson wrote the liner notes for its supposed release, in his own inimitable style. What’s more, I really didn’t like it at all back then. It was one of several albums at the time that contained Mark Wastell’s tam tam sound, and there were other, better releases out there that used the recordings in a manner I preferred. Listening again now, as the recording has finally found a home on the Monotype label i certainly don’t have quite the same adverse reaction to it as I did back then, though its still not entirely my cup of tea.

The recording has quite a story behind it. Back in 2004, Mark Wastell was meant to travel to Paris to play a gig, but after confusion over train tickets, he didn’t go, and as his weekend was free, and he had hired a tam tam for the event, he went instead to Norfolk, and Graham Halliwell’s house, where Graham recorded Mark playing the instrument in various ways. These recordings have made their way onto a number of CDs since. Not long after, Wastell sent them on to Lasse Marhaug, the popular Norwegian noise/drone musician, who treated, processed, arranged and added to the recordings to make a complete new composition that made its way around several potential labels before eventually arriving at Monotype five years later. Oh and somewhere on the line the duo chose the (somewhat dreadful!) title Kiss of Acid as well.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 4th June

June 4, 2011

In a relatively melancholic mood this evening, for a number of reasons not worth going into here, so it seemed a good evening to write about an album of music I have been enjoying a great deal, another recent release on the tireless Another Timbre label, a CD named Spiral Inputs by Sophie Agnel, Bertrand Gauguet and Andrea Neumann. I’m a fan of all of these musicians, Agnel relatively recently, Gauguet for a few years and Neumann for quite a bit longer. This is one of those groups that makes sense even before you hear their combined music. The saxophonist Gauguet always seems to work well alongside a piano, and here he appears with one pianist playing a traditional instrument (Agnel) and a second playing the frame of a piano, removed from the instrument and attached to assorted electronic devices. (Neumann).

There are four tracks on Spiral Inputs, lasting a total of fifty-one minutes, all recorded in various live and studio situations in France across a two year period. So tracks one and four here were recorded in February 2010, and track three just a day later, but then track two was captured way back in June 2008. Despite the two year gap that separates the second track from the other three all of the music here feels like it fits together seamlessly. The second track (named Spiral #2) may be a little more boisterous and eventful than the others, but then maybe this might also just be my imagination. The music across all four tracks fits perfectly in that area of improvisation that has gradually become the dominant form in Europe of late, not quiet, not minimal, but also not fuelled by adrenalin and cluttered. Spiral Inputs is all about the interaction between sounds, tonal and percussive, electronic and acoustic, sharp and soft. It slips between loud and eventful sections to near silent restful periods. It can only really be described as improvised music. No sub genres easily apply.

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CD Reviews

Friday 3rd June

June 3, 2011

After putting them off for ages, or rather, trying to find the time to work my way through them thoroughly enough, I have begun over recent days to try and make a listening dent in the collection of two, three and four CD sets that seem to have accumulated here of late. When listening and writing time is limited, as it has been here recently, getting through some of these longer releases can be very difficult. I have been methodically and carefully listening over recent days though, and so hopefully I can get some of these items written about before its too late.

Today, and late yesterday, I have been listening to one of three large scale releases on the Polish Bolt label that have each a link to the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, an experimental sound laboratory at Poland’s national radio centre, that was formed in the late fifties and seems to be still operative today. In the sixties and early seventies, according to the thorough and interesting booklet that accompanies the set of music I have heard this evening, many links were forged to Polish electroacoustic composers such as Penderecki and Schaeffer, and the studio saw many longer works created as well as incidental pieces designed for radio. This set then is named PRES Revisited, and contains two discs, the first containing seven original works by four composers created in the sixties and early seventies, and the second disc, intriguingly, containing reworkings of the pieces by a group of improvisers live at Café Oto in London in December last year.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 2nd June

June 2, 2011

So some thoughts on the new double CD by the French improv group Hubbub, a release on the Matchless label named Whobub. Now I have been playing these CDs a great deal since I first picked up my copy at the Freedom of the City festival over a month ago now. As I hinted last night, I have really been struggling to think of what to say about this music. The problem is, beyond calling it really beautiful and describing in floral metaphors, as I have so often done with CDs before, it is hard to know what to say. It is, quite frankly very beautiful indeed, but I have to somehow do better than just saying that.

Hubbub are Frédéric Blondy (piano) Betrand Denzler (tenor sax) Jean-Luc Guionnet (alto sax) Jean-Sébastian Mariage (electric guitar) and Edward Peraud (percussion). The group have been playing together, on and off for more than a decade, having formed back in 1999, and this double disc set is (I think) their fifth release. They are about as “tight” a group as can probably be found in this vague area of improvisation right now, featuring five musicians who are each thoroughly experienced and skilled with their selected instruments, but also seem to play and think together with exceptional harmony. The music they make just all seems to flow together with incredible ease. It does, in fact, often sound composed.

In one of the first things I ever wrote about improvised music, a comment somewhere on a forum that I can no longer track down, maybe six or seven years ago (believe it or not I have only been on the internet that long!) I said how much I liked a couple of the early Hubbub albums that also came out on Matchless, and remarked, in my vaguely naive opinion how much they reminded me of AMM. Well now a few years later, this new release leads me in some ways to do the same, but also I cannot get the CD releases from a year or two back by the American group Haptic out of my head. With Haptic, I found myself massively enjoying the experience of wallowing in what were huge swathes of thoroughly rich, beautiful sound, bowed percussion, electronic tones etc, but all coming together into swells of sound that were full of detail and undercut with some subtle grit, but still, to me, glorious, colourful works. They reminded me of a Turner sky- full of passion and drama, and slightly over the top, but wonderfully, beautifully so. Well this new set by Hubbub fits into exactly that category for me as well. The combined sounds just pull together so well into dozens of little waves of sound, soft sax notes, always tonal, but rarely with any attack, the guitar almost recogniseable, more eBowed waves and lightly tapped rhythms than anything axe-like. The piano is played mostly on the inside, as a stringed instrument, so more shimmering glows and piercing scrapes, and the percussion is probably the most disruptive (not that anything is at all) influence in the music, occasionally pushing the music off into more troubled waters, and providing the grit that stops it all from going anywhere near ambient sound.

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Uncategorized

Wednesday 1st June

June 1, 2011

OK, so I have completed three straight CD reviews before bottling out again today. I actually have genuinely tried to listen and write today, as I have had the day off of work and have in theory had the time for once, but it just hasn’t worked out that way. Having been so rushed in every aspect of my life of late I spent today trying to catch up on all of those little tasks that needed doing, and well, I underestimated how much there was to do and how little energy I had to do it!

Plus, I spent much of the afternoon unexpectedly arguing with EasyJet. I booked a flight online for my parents, but in my rush I booked it for the wrong day. Trying to immediately amend the booking online could not then be done without accepting a £70 charge for changing the date. It should be noted that I only wanted to move the booking back one single day, from a Sunday to a Monday, and that the listed price for the flight on both days was exactly the same. The change of booking would have been entirely automated, no human would have been involved, and yet still apparently this justified a £70 charge… So i phoned EasyJet, several times, and eventually got somebody to agree to change the booking “As a gesture of their goodwill” without the £70 charge. I was however then told that because there was a difference in price between flights on the same plane booked online and over the phone there would still be £20 extra to pay. Looking into cancelling the flight altogether showed that there would still be a £70 charge. Really, it should come as no surprise that I haven’t had the chance to focus on music today as this was a seriously annoying situation, but what can you do? I could write to someone, but ultimately they can do whatever they want.

Sorry for moaning…. I have been able to listen to quite a bit of music today, albeit whilst arguing on the ‘phone. One of the CDs I heard was a disc tucked into the back of a Japanese book titled Substantials #04, which is the journal of a number of workshops and talks held in Japan by Toshiya Tsunoda, Akio Suzuki, Keith Rowe, Marcus Schmickler and Jim O’Rourke. Its an interesting document and a good, if quick read, plus the CD, featuring music by each of the musicians is quite good. I’ll try and write that one up soon. I also have been listening a lot to the new 2CD set from Hubbub, a release that’s been spinning freely here for a few weeks, but I just haven’t known what to write about it. I’m still not sure I know, but will get there eventually.

So I am off to Julie’s right now to cook dinner with her. A better post tomorrow then. The image above is a self-portrait I took of myself this afternoon.

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Cassette Reviews, CD Reviews

Tuesday 31st May

June 1, 2011

Today’s review is of another tape. yep, another one. Its not me is it? These damned things really are making a comeback! Fortunately again I was lucky enough to have been sent a download link to the digital files, though I did still purchase the physical object as well, despite the fact I have nothing to play it on. The release in question then is a set of two pieces (though maybe they both might have been edited from the same live set?) by the duo of Michael Johnsen (electronics and saw) and Pascal Battus (magnetic pick-ups) Recorded live at a venue named Bitches in Nantes, France, the tape then is titled Bitche Session and is released on the Organised Music from Thessaloniki label.

Now I am not that familiar with Michael Johnsen’s music, having not heard any of it before, but a very thorough write-up of it can be found here. Pascal Battus’ work on the other hand, I know very well. Combined here it is very difficult to ascertain which of the two musicians is making which of the sounds. The overall feel of the music is of a rough, raw set of live music recorded on just a couple of microphones. Its a clear recording but has that certain distant feel to it that many live recordings of this type feature. Whether this would be possible to discern once the music has been placed onto a cassette tape though I’ve no idea. The music then is abrasive and ugly, mostly shortish sounds, either the result of tiny electroacoustic blasts of one kind of another or Johnsen’s contact miked saw wobbling about. The feel is all very brittle and devoid of anything that might traditionally be called beautiful, but the strength of the music is in its conversational aspects, as the work has a strong narrative, almost chatty feel to it. Overall what we actually here is very much traditional improvised music, not that sparse, not that hectic either, but just using rough, edgy electronics and the bowed and flexed saw as the tools of choice.

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CD Reviews

Monday 30th May

May 31, 2011

This evening I have been playing Forma II, the deceptively titled first CD collaboration by the Berlin based duo of Thomas Ankersmit and Valerio Tricoli. The disc consists of five pieces that are described as electroacoustic compositions “based largely on analogue synthesizer material and one long-form swarm-like composition for multiple overdubbed saxophones.” while this description is very helpful in identifying how this music might have been put together, what it doesn’t do is really explain who does what here. Ankersmit is a saxophonist at heart, but also plays the analogue synth, and his recent releases and performances have featured a lot of digital treatment, so it isn’t clear as to whether he provided the sounds for Tricoli to then compose with, or whether (as I suspect) the duo sat and worked the sounds together into this music together.

A lot happens across these five pieces then. The fifth track is based around a long drone, so it almost sits separately to the other four , which all inhabit a constantly changing, often dense, often sparse field of fizzing distortion, abrupt squelches, screaming tones and the occasional sound that feels like it was recorded elsewhere and blended into the mesh of sound. There is a really nice sense of a narrative composition at work here. My favourite track by some distance is the third one, the cinematic, post-concrete drama of Hunt, an excellently named combination of cavernous bellows that crash in and out with a thud over an otherwise wintry backdrop of thin, slithery synth scribbles and heavy tones, with no small amount of other sonic detritus spread about as well. Its quite a ride listening to this piece either turned up loud or sat in the dark via headphones, a somewhat all-encompassing piece of music that feels like it is crowding around you, tugging at the senses for attention.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 29th May

May 29, 2011

The role of the solo improviser recording an album is always a difficult one. Inevitably (s)he will find himself in one of a few scenarios, either sticking to the limitations of the chosen instrumentation, trying hard to stretch those limits out via extended, unfamiliar technique, or utilising recording technology to bypass the restrictions of playing alone. In many ways, on his new, second solo album called The bird and the giant, the Swedish improvising percussionist Erik Carlsson manages to take all three approaches at different times.

There are five tracks here, or six if you wait and seek out the hidden bonus at the end. Each of them uses multitracking techniques to layer separately recorded, but resolutely unedited parts over one another. So we hear Carlsson improvising live, but alongside himself, perhaps several times over in places. This then avoids the inevitable restrictions that being a human being with only so many limbs presents the percussionist, but still the music has a certain vibrancy and energy to it. It doesn’t sound like a set of contrived pieces. Carlsson is one of the rare breed amongst modern improvising percussionists that is not afraid to make music by hitting things, perhaps playing percussion closer to how it was originally intended to be played than many of his contemporaries. His playing exudes a certain confidence. He is not afraid to strike objects, form patterns with his sounds, let tones hang in the air and slowly decay, and yet he also understands the colour and textures possible with his battery of sounds very well. His work on this album is sensual and richly detailed, but he has found these qualities through a combination of intuitive playing in the moment and a finely structured compositional integrity pulled together across the separate tracks.

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Concert Reviews

Saturday 28th May

May 28, 2011

So last night’s concert then. Obviously because I had a hand in the organisation of this one I don’t think I can really write anything that objective about the event, but I can try and describe things a little, and add a few comments from Julie, my girlfriend, who attended last night’s show, and helped out with its organisation, even though she generally speaking can’t stand the music I listen to! There were two sets last night, an opener by the trio of Patrick Farmer, Sarah Hughes and Stephen Cornford, followed by the Norwegian/Japanese quintet Koboku Senju.

The opening performance was a real mix. The trio of Farmer, Hughes and Cornford is a group that shows a lot of promise. A CD featuring them, recorded a couple of months back in Oxford is due for release some time this summer. Their mix of tonal, textural and downright ugly sounds works well for me, and last night they showed how the various elements in that mix come together, and equally how they disrupt each other. At one point last night Sarah Hughes, playing amplified autoharp found a space in the music to pick out a little melodic passage, actually really very tuneful, just a pattern of four softly plucked notes repeated over and over. If this element was nice to listen to, the sudden, very loud attack from Farmer that virtually bludgeoned everything else out of the way, (in fact a wire scrubber forced down onto a contact mic) was quite the opposite, but this constant collision of soft and beautiful sounds with abrupt and often unpleasant sounds made the set for me. Julie wasn’t so much a fan of the Farmer, Hughes, Cornford trio, but that maybe doesn’t surprise me as the music they made was some way off of accessible. Talking to her tonight to try and understand her perspective on this music I made her sit and listen to, she used the word ‘disjointed’ to describe the opening trio, which is a possibly quite obvious, but also very accurate description of the music.

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Friday 27th May

May 28, 2011

Wow, tonight’s concert went well. Oxford doesn’t see all that many concerts that fall under the vague umbrella of music that I write about here, so it was really good to not only help out with the organisation of the Koboku Senju concert in Oxford this evening, but also to see a really healthy turnout of around forty people come through the door at the Art Jericho gallery. Julie and I have been on the go all day, driving tables and tubas and Tetuzis and Toshis about and trying to remember how to pronounce assorted Norwegian names, so we are both exhausted and neither of us is in the mood to write a review tonight, but Ill get something done after work tomorrow. The biggest congratulations are probably due to Patrick and Sarah of the Compost and Height corporation, with some help from Stephen Cornford who did all of the hard work putting the concert together tonight. So a little more about the concert tomorrow but for now, yes, another brief post, but I’ve been told not to apologise for writing these, so I won’t.

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Thursday 26th May

May 26, 2011

No post of value again tonight, but rest assured I have been working hard again, and I’m pleased to say I have now finished the first revision of the John wall piece for The Wire, adding an extra thousand or so words int he process, and extending it from four pages in the magazine to six. I notice that the daily readership here has fallen very slightly over the last week or two, and I’m not surprised as I have clearly not been able to put the effort in here that I usually manage, but I can only say again that I have been working on a few projects that mean a lot to me and that eventually all will see the light of day. All of my deadlines run out after this forthcoming bank holiday, so normal service will resume here then if not earlier. Tomorrow I will be tied up with the Koboku Senju concert in Oxford, an event I am very much looking forward to as much as I will be relieved when it all passes by without hitch. If you are able to make it along to the concert please say hello, and if anyone out there feels like they would like to write a review of it please let me know. I don’t think I will be able to do so objectively, and while I mischievously intend to try and convince Julie to write something for me tomorrow about the gig another more informed opinion could be good as well. So that’s it for now, I don’t have anything else to plug I’m afraid and apologise again for the dirth of anything interesting here, Will do better soon. The photo above is of Toshi and Tetuzi of Koboku Senju soundchecking in Manchester this evening.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 25th May

May 25, 2011

Its very late, I have been writing all evening after a long day at work and the last little bit of common sense in me is telling me to not write at length here tonight, but as I have stepped aside from writing a review for the past couple of evenings, I feel a duty to tonight. While I have been writing I have had one piece of music playing continually over and over, or maybe two pieces of music, either side of a cassette tape, but with each piece lasting just slightly more than ten minutes and the recordings (burned to a CD again I’m afraid) looped over and over to the point that the start and finish of either piece is just a blur, this has been a hazy, difficult listening session, but one that I think has been worthwhile.

The cassette tape in question is a recent solo release by Adam Sonderberg named American Hours with German Efficiency and is a release (yet again) on the Entr’acte label. There are two pieces here then obviously, one either side of the tape, and they are very separate works, each recorded for different purposes, but it is strange and interesting to me that when the music is recontextualised as I have done, taking the music away from the tape format and placing it on a CD, so you no longer have to get up and turn the tape over after one side ends, how it all seems to come together as one piece. I listened for a couple of days to this music a great deal before I read the liner notes, which can be read here, and found that I had almost forgotten that the music was made up of two tracks, let alone two completely different works. The two sides of the tape played in quick succession work very well together.

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Tuesday 24th May

May 24, 2011

So I have written a couple of thousand words today, but alas none of them for this website as I have to leave you with another evening of spacious excuses. I did actually set out very late tonight to try and write something about another cassette release, this one a piece of music by Adam Sonderberg issued by Entr’acte and named American hours with German efficiency, but having only started listening to this piece early this morning before work, and despite playing it several times tonight I still don’t think i have heard it enough to pass comment on it as it is a curious, difficult to grasp set of two short pieces. I will try and get a review written tomorrow anyway. My workload remains heavy but as I return home from work a few hours earlier tomorrow I should be able to get more done. I an only assure you that I am not being lazy or wilfully neglecting these pages and that the current overload is the result of a few things landing here coincidentally rather than any ongoing situation.

Now I aim to get some sleep before my typing fingers seize up completely and before my MacBook’s screen completely blurs into one big blob, but not before I polish off the large Irish whiskey I have been nursing for much of the last few hours. The photo above is a random one taken in Ireland last weekend. Its a graffiti’d shop window if I remember correctly.

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Monday 23rd May

May 23, 2011

OK, so no real post tonight, but I have been working hard today, during every one of the few hours I was not at work in the dayjob writing and rewriting stuff for The Wire. I will get all of this finished soon and return to more regular review posting here, (I have to, the pile of stuff to write about is getting ridiculous again) and well, I have still managed three CD reviews over the last four days, so its not been all bad. I try and avoid self-promotion here, but it has been gratifying and humbling over recent weeks to be asked to write a few different things for different places. Ultimately I am only an avid listener that decided to start a blog to house all of his overexcited burbling in one place. Its good to know that the hard work I put into this blog doesn’t go unnoticed anyway. I just wish I had the time to do it properly, but I guess that will never come.

Something else close to self-promotion then- on Friday there will be a concert in oxford by the Norwegian/Japanese group Koboku Senju, who are also playing in London at Café Oto tonight and tomorrow. This isn’t really self-promotion though as reports that I might have had anything to do with the organisation are wildly exaggerated- Patrick Farmer and Sarah Hughes, aka Compost and Height’s dual head honchos have done all of the organisation. I’ll probably just stand near the door looking important on the day. I’m good like that. The suggestion that I designed the concert’s poster, which can be seen full size here aren’t really even true. I spent ten minutes resizing the group’s album artwork, the overworked fraud that I am… Still, if you are anywhere near Oxford on Friday night please come along. The city doesn’t get all that many concerts of this kind and every bum on a seat might mean future events could happen easier. Bring a friend if you can as well. Even if they don’t want to come. You never know, they might thank you for it.

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CD Reviews

Sunday 22nd May

May 22, 2011

Tonight I have been listening to a CD by Neil Davidson, a composition named String Quartet, though it actually isn’t a string quartet, released as a CDr by Neil himself. What I am not entirely sure about is how it might be available to purchase, but if you are interested in buying a copy let me know and I’ll pass your enquiry along to Neil. String Quartet is the composition that Neil performed a couple of times at last year’s Instal festival up in Glasgow. It is a charmingly simple work that consists of the following text score:

Play a tone when you are remembering a string quartet
make the tone you play simple and quiet
when not playing, listen

Duration: an hour or longer

The realisation here then is by a quartet, though not string based. The musicians are Lina Rozite, (flute) Michael Shearer, (clarinet) Nicole McNeilly (trombone) and Neil Davidson (guitar). Since I first heard this piece played last year it has fascinated me. While it is very simple in its concept the instructions could be taken in more than one way, and the musical taste and knowledge of the musicians involved will then dictate how it sounds in a manner that I as far as I know has not been done before. Do the musicians have to know how a particular quartet sounds? Do they have to think of its tune in their heads or is merely knowing a quartet exists enough? I can’t imagine that the latter can be the case, as the minute you know that Shostakovich wrote fifteen quartets you instantly have fifteen tones to play. I suspect then that the musicians took the score to men that they had to know the music involved, but maybe this was open to individual interpretation.

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CD Reviews

Saturday 21st May

May 21, 2011

Horsky Park is the title of the rather fine new album by Thomas Lehn and Tiziana Bertoncini, one of yet another new batch of discs on the seemingly infatigueable Another Timbre label. Lehn’s music I know very well, his work on analogue synth is, in my opinion unrivalled. Bertoncini however, an Italian violinist is a new name to me, though about of googling around informs me that she has been working in various ways with Lehn for almost a decade now. This is the fortieth AT release ‘proper’, but Lehn also appeared on one my favourites from the label, the Obdo duo with Frédéric Blondy. This one follows hot on the heels, but, as we might expect from Lehn, who is one of the most versatile and yet still consistent improvisers working today, this CD is quite different.

There are two tracks, an opening piece named Galverna that lasts half an hour and is a straight improv recording, and then Moss Agate, clocking in at thirteen minutes and apparently recorded during a “dance-installation-media festival” in Germany, the two musicians performed in separate “open containers” that faced each other, with Bertoncini’s sounds fed into an input on Lehn’s synth, and as other events took place in other nearby “containers” so some external sounds creep in. The CD begins quietly and cautiously, but quite soon the amplified violin can be heard confidently thrusting sounds at us, rasping bow strokes and firm, almost violent sounding wrenches across the strings. Around and between these attacks Lehn very cleverly drops a wide variety of sounds, from soft purrs and whines to sudden aggressive splashes and one or two thoroughly angry explosions. The violin reminds me of Luigi Nono’s composition so often, in places I hear Fragmente-Stille’s tormented struggles with language present, but it is probably the sense of harsh, vibrant musicality that pushes me that way the most, reminding me often of Nono’s more troubled, upsetting music.

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Friday 20th May

May 21, 2011

OK, so it was inevitable that this would happen from time to time. I worked long and hard in the dayjob today, and then on arriving home, complete with headache, I sat and listened to some fine music, the album Horsky Park by the duo of Thomas Lehn and Tiziana Bertonici, a disc that has been playing here a lot over recent days. Anyway I cooked dinner, ate it, or rather ate most if it, and feel asleep on the sofa before finishing, while the CD played. I woke soon after, and made my way upstairs where i had a hot bath to try and freshen up, made a strong coffee and put the CD on again. At about 11PM I seem to have fallen asleep again though, and now at half past one I’ve woken to silence, as the CD has long ended, and my body aches and is telling me it needs to be resting. So yet again I must leave you without a review, and apologise. My workload on several fronts right now is putting a lot of strain on this blog, but things should level off soon. Tomorrow evening I will have time to relax and will get a review of the Lehn/Bertonici written and posted. Until then please bear with me, and above is a picture of a particularly nice, and very strong cup of coffee I had in Dublin. i could do with one like that right now.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 19th May

May 20, 2011

Because I have written a long piece for The Wire about John Wall and his new CD collaboration with the artist and poet Alex Rodgers I have spent more time with this music over the past couple of months than I have with any other disc for a couple of years. I have long been a huge admirer of Wall’s work, and have followed his progression from desktop computer composer to laptop improviser and onwards over the last decade or more. I had an older review published with John here back in 2008, and as someone recently pointed out to me, if I was ever to appear on Mastermind he would probably be my specialist subject. So having said all of this, when it comes to just writing a review of the new album, why do I find it so difficult to do? Can you be too familiar with music to be able to write sensibly about it?

Even before you put the disc into your player the title hits you as something very different for Wall. The CD is named Work 2006-2011 rather than Cphon or Alterstill or some other fantastically created word.  Naming the album was about the only area that the duo found it hard to agree on, but the simple title that they settled on is somehow perfectly fitting. Wall and Rodgers have worked together informally and irregularly for the best part of two decades, but it has been since Wall took the leap into improvisation, roughly five years ago that the potential for their collaborations to become something more solid has evolved. So the pair have worked together, either just informally in Wall’s studio or out playing live gigs since 2006, and they have essentially just worked and produced a body of material that Wall has then sculpted into the composition that appears on the CD. The sounds that we hear then are the output of that work together. The CD extends far beyond mere documentation but the trace of this progression of time is present in the music, so ‘Work’ is the perfect title.

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Concert Reviews

Wednesday 18th May

May 19, 2011

So a briefish write up of the seventh annual i and e Festival in Dublin then that happened last weekend. I am writing a further review for The Wire, so I will try and keep this one short and a little different to what I will write for the magazine, to keep me from getting bored writing the same thing twice if nothing else!

The festival took place at the Ireland Institute, its home for the past few years and a nice, intimate little venue far enough away from the main street to keep external sounds at bay. the festival began with what what was probably the most anticipated set for me, the duo of David Lacey and Patrick Farmer. Now I have been able to follow Farmer’s work quite closely over recent months since he has relocated near to me, and so perhaps I’m the last person to be able to be completely objective, but I hugely enjoyed this performance. Although they have worked on music together from a distance, this was the first meeting of the duo, but it really didn’t show. Though both musicians began life as drummers and still occasionally work in that vein their performance was electroacoustic, Lacey working with electronics and vibrating surfaces on a drum, Farmer playing acoustic turntable, essentially allowing the spinning disc to rub against assorted objects held against it. The set was busy and bristling with event, often bursting into aggressive activity, sometimes flying off at angles, such as when Lacey picked up a hammer and hit a large fire alarm-like bell here and there. If the set seemed to slip towards a textural middle ground at any point one or the other would disrupt it, with Farmer in particular seemingly enjoying breaking up any sign of natural momentum at every opportunity. A great opening to the festival.

There followed the duo of Roy Carroll and Miles Perkin. Though both musicians now reside in Berlin, Carroll only moved there recently from Dublin, and Perkin is Canadian by birth. Carroll set up a system of many upturned speaker cones around the floor, into which he would drop stones, paper and other similar items, Unami-style as he set them vibrating by passing deep tones through them from his laptop. Perkin played double bass, sometimes channelling its sound through a tiny and tinny speaker at his feet. I had a few problems with this set. I wasn’t a big fan of some of Carroll’s sounds, which on occasions leapt into a kind of ugly, squelchy synth sound. I also found it quite hard to pull the two musicians’ sounds together in my head, perhaps as they were so different in style and form, as the groans and rattles of the speakers was matched with a relatively constant series of bowed scrapes and rustles from Perkin. I struggled to make the connection in my head between the two sets of sounds and so follow the interaction, which took quite a bit away from what was otherwise a nice performance.

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Tuesday 17th May

May 17, 2011

So, after promising that, without a doubt I would write in more detail this evening I’m going to have to go back on my promise and give you yet another content-free post. I have been writing today, both for this blog and other places, and my review of the i and e festival, or at least, the one I’ll post here is close to finished, but not quite. Today I have found it quite hard to focus and operate properly doing just about anything, primarily because I’ve been falling asleep every ten minutes or so, but also because I’ve spent a lot of time with Julie, planning to finish the review late tonight, only to find out without much notice that I have to go into work at six in the morning, which means I have to be out of bed at half four, which is only a few hours away. The review is going to have to wait until tomorrow then, apologies for the lack of stamina today!

In the meantime, here is another set of photos from the festival at the weekend, courtesy of Cif. Some nice shots here that manage to capture the intimate, communal aspects of the festival well. While I’m here, my apologies to anyone awaiting a reply to an email, I have a few days to catch up on but will get there very soon. Apologies then to all for being a bit crap right now, this has probably been the longest I have gone without a proper post since beginning my daily blogging routine, but  normal service will be resumed very soon.

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Monday 16th May

May 16, 2011

Boy oh boy I’m tired again tonight. We flew home late afternoon and then drove straight to Oxford where we headed straight over to the Folly Bridge pub to see Nate Wooly play with Paul Lytton upstairs. The gig was actually really good, fiery and yet wonderfully controlled stuff, but I was just so exhausted that focussing properly was just about impossible. The drive back home from Oxford alone this evening was particularly tough as well, hard to keep alert, though sitting on wasabi peas that a certain someone had been throwing about in the car earlier kept me awake in true princess and the pea style.

I am very aware that I have now written four or five rubbish posts in succession, but I hope you understand how hard it is to keep this blog going daily while away and sharing the company of others as I have been. As I have little to write about tonight, and as I will certainly, definitely, without a doubt write in far more detail tomorrow, I will take this opportunity to thank David, Paul and Cliona for the great festival and for the fine hospitality once again. I had a great time, though its also good to be home. The first half an hour tonight was spent opening jiffy bags full of CDs and records, the ten minutes have been spent writing this post, and then next I’m off to soak in a bath with an Irish whiskey before bed and then I’m going to see my ever patient girlfriend in the morning. The photo tonight is of Jean-Luc Guionnet and Seijiro Murayama playing outside at the festival Saturday night.

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Sunday 15th May

May 15, 2011

Back in my little apartment here in Dublin much earlier tonight, mainly because I only had three and a half hours sleep last night, because I went to sleep at about 5AM just as the sun was coming up. Then today eight of us when for a long walk around the coast south of Dublin, hoping to see some seals as we have done before, but alas no luck today. The walk was great though, just what the doctor ordered after a couple of days sat in a dark concert space listening to music. The festival has been great as ever, a review will follow when I get home, but as always its the social element of this great little festival that I have loved as much as anything, and today’s little excursion underlined that side of things again.

One noticeable element of the trip this time has been watching the city get ready for its first visit from the British Queen for a very long time. She arrives the day after we depart on Tuesday. Listening to people here the british monarch is understandably as disliked as ever, and I can’t quite fathom out why she is visiting somewhere that clearly doesn’t really want her around, but then there’s quite a lot I can fathom out about that woman… One legacy of the visit though that will last for many months are the yellow spanner silhouettes sprayed in paint on every manhole cover in the city. It appears as the Queen’s visit is such a high security risk that every manhole cover has been lifted, checked for signs of a bomb hidden under it and then sprayed as in the picture above. As the paint is permanent is seems that this odd symbol will remain plastered underfoot int he city for a long time yet, a reminder of the legacy of the British monarchy, as if such a reminder could ever be needed…

More tomorrow then, and probably another briefish post until normal service is resumed on Tuesday. until then…

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Saturday 14th May

May 15, 2011

OK, so my apologies for not writing about yesterday’s music earlier as I suggested I would today. I did get an opportunity earlier but to be honest I was a little too frazzled to get my words in order and I grabbed an hour of sleep instead. I’m glad I did so, as its now well past 4AM and I’ve only just got back to my room after another great evening of music followed by serious discussion and debate of the kind that can only really be found at 3AM in Dublin…

Fear not, a review of some kind will appear here at some point soon, and there has been some great music to write about, but for now it has to wait until I have some time at a sensible hour when I’m not tired out. Tomorrow a bunch of us plan to travel out to the coast south of Dublin to undertake what has become a bit of an annual walk for me, in search of seals, beaches and a little respite after a hectic couple of days. Hopefully the weather will hold, but if not, we shall get wet. So, I will try again and write at more length in the morning (It’s already the morning really, I’m quite often just getting up at this time…) but for now I need to sleep.

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Friday 13th May

May 14, 2011

So its almost half past two in the morning and I am back from the first evening of the i and e Festival in Dublin, and post-concert drinks and discussions. I will certainly try and write something about the music tomorrow morning if time allows, but tonight I am a little exhausted and still processing the evening’s entertainment to some degree. Certainly though there were sets that I enjoyed a great deal and others I couldn’t connect with. I am also writing a review of the festival for The Wire so I will write a review from a slightly different slant tomorrow than maybe I might usually.

This morning however I had the pleasure of visiting the National Gallery here in Dublin in the company of Sarah Hughes and Keith Rowe. The gallery is under a lot of maintenance / pointless overhaul work and so much of it was not open, but the parts we saw included the highlights of the gallery’s collection, which is pretty great in itself. It was of particular pleasure to see Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ along with Keith. This is the painting that inspired the MIMEO album The Hands of Caravaggio, and is a truly stunning work that was made all the more interesting when viewed with Mr Rowe. However as good as the painting is, I was possibly personally even more moved by the small Vermeer painting that sits int he next room, Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid. this painting, even as one of Vermeer’s lesser works has something special for me. Both the Caravaggio and the Vermeer have had incredible histories, the Caravaggio famously only being discovered relatively recently (1990) having been wrongly mistaken as a copy of the great painting for many years. The Vermeer though has also been stolen and recovered twice, and has a remarkable story of its own. What makes The Private Life of an Easter Masterpiece for me, alongside the remarkable skill involved in the work’s creation, is the subject matter…. Vermeer made something special out of the very ordinary. He brought his camera to bear on what was, and still seems, a very simplistic, uneventful occasion, at least when compared to the sheer drama of the Caravaggio. While the latter painting tells the incredible (Most likely far too incredible) tale of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, or at least captures one dramatic moment in that tale, the Vermeer, while a far, far quieter and less eventful painting manages to speak with a quiet intensity merely by casting a light upon the thoroughly average and uneventful. Such a way of thinking always appeals to me.

Still, a really great day then. All being well I should be able to share some at least brief notes on tonight’s music tomorrow morning. Until then.

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Thursday 12th May

May 13, 2011

So we arrived safe and sound in Dublin this afternoon, settled everyone into their various places to sleep and then this evening dinner and drinks were had, with Messrs and Ms’s Lacey, Vogel, Rowe, Harmey, Farmer, Hughes and Jones present at different times. This is, I think, my tenth visit to Dublin in a little under six years, and each time I come I immediately feel welcome and at home. This time, with so many good friends in one place, and more due to arrive tomorrow it feels even more special than usual. The music starts tomorrow evening, so tomorrow morning may well involve taking in a gallery or two, but for now, having had one or two drinks, and having been on the go since about seven this morning I’m going to get to bed in the little apartment I have booked for the stay, which has, as you may well have figured out, a good broadband connection, so I hope to be able to write regularly and easily during my stay.

I’ll probably write a little in the morning before going out then. For now I bid thee goodnight with a picture taken on the rather awful ‘plane flight over today, a detail from the Ryan Air safety procedures card. You can work out what exactly the man in the image is meant to be doing…

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Wednesday 11th May

May 12, 2011

Well I had planned to write about a CD tonight, as I am away for the net few days in Ireland, and while I should hopefully have a broadband connection in my room I probably won’t write any CD reviews while away and posting will be the usual commentary on my visit to Dublin. Still, the day today has been a little hectic, a trip into Oxford this morning to undertake the world’s most pathetic attempt at flyposting took up the first few hours of the day, then I did a little clothes shopping before heading home to pack a case and then go over to my ever patient girlfriend to see her for the evening before I go away for a few days. Even then I made her watch the second episode of Stewart Lee’s new series before she was allowed to go to bed. As I said, so patient…

Anyway, if you are cool enough you will already be heading to Dublin yourself for this weekend’s i and e Festival, but if not, if you have somehow managed to miss my endless plugs for what is actually a really great little annual event that deserves every bit of support it can get. Click here for more details, and come along if you possibly can.

Another repeated plug as well for anyone within easy (or even quite difficult) travel distance of Oxford, the concert I’ve managed to put up about five posters for today is on the 27th May. Details for that one are here. Sorry then for repeating myself, and for the dull post, I will try my best to make the next few days of posts a little more interesting.

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