Monday, 22 December 2014

Album Releases of 2014: A Personal Best

In no particular order, and no excuses for reissues.......

Aphex Twin - Syro (Warp)

Scott Walker and Sunn o))) - Soused (4AD)_

Sleaford Mods - Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)

St. Vincent - St. Vincent (Loma Vista)

Nat Birchall Quintet - Live in Larissa (Sound Soul and Spirit)

Dylan Howe - Subterranean (Motorik)

John Coltrane - Offering: Live at Temple University (Impulse!/Resonance)

Jon Hassell and Brian Eno - Fourth World Vol. : Possible Musics (Glitterbeat)

Marshall Allen Presents Sun Ra And His Arkestra - In The Orbit Of Ra (Strut)

Miles Davis - Miles at the Filmore 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 (Columbia Legacy)

Jane Weaver - The Silver Globe (Finders Keepers)

Captain Beefheart - Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-72 (Rhino)

King Crimson - Starless Box Set (DGM/PANEGYRIC)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Jazz Goes To Leeds 87.7FM Radio Show 9th December 2014

As part of the ELFM "Tuned In" festival of live FM broadcasts I produced a show of jazz, improvised and experimental music broadcast 6pm Tuesday 9th December 2014. The show was originally broadcast on 87.7FM. 

"An hour of jazz and improvised music from in and around the Leeds area, illustrating the diversity of styles that the music can incorporate. Jazz Goes To Leeds will feature recorded music from around the region in conjunction with live music and discussion with Sam Jackson and his latest “Drawing Hands” project"

Link to a stream of the live FM show originally broadcast 6pm 9th December 2014

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Fusebox at Leeds Carriageworks October 3rd 2014

As part of Light Night Leeds a group of improvising musicians performed, in a variety of combinations, at The Carriageworks in Leeds. Audience members were invited on to the stage to "conduct" the musicians, who could respond to their movements and actions. At one point this even included a baby. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Steve Lawson and Jon Thorne – “Diversion: Live at the London Bass Guitar Show”

Capturing a special event in time and music can occasionally be a matter of good fortune, as this recording of Steve Lawson and Jon Thorne improvising at the London Bass Guitar Show in 2014 illustrates. As can be the case with well-executed improvised music the listener is drawn into the moment with the players, and can, with enough time and patience, almost become part of the performance itself. “Diversion” is a gently undulating aural massage with the occasional provocative shard of eddying electronica. The overall mood is one of fragility held together with a restrained tension that pulls the listener further and further into the traded phrases. The fretless bass guitar sound has a melancholy all of its’ own, and here we see it used to add further levels of poignancy. Slightly shorter in duration, “A Place of Beauty” has all the exquisiteness of an improvisation held together with a sense of premeditated composition. Double bass guitar solos and improvisations often hold a further organic quality as the sound of the strings being plucked and manoeuvred can add human textures to the sound. Layer this with sensitive electronics and the overall experience can highlight the symbiotic relationship between the acoustic and the electronic.

Two pieces in all, and twenty minutes in total, “Diversion” feels that the collaboration could have produced some intricately moving pieces of improvisation. But, as we have considered, capturing these moments is not always something that can be premeditated, and we must console ourselves with the knowledge that there are players and events that can facilitate these luxurious recordings.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Helicopter Quartet – “Leading Edges”

“Leading Edges” is the latest full-length release from Leeds based duo Helicopter Quartet. Immediately disrupting the thought patterns by calling themselves Helicopter Quartet, Chrissie Caulfield on violin and synthesiser and Michael Capstick on guitar and bass have succeeded in producing unsettling, yet fragile, swathes of sound, that are at times swaying with prettiness and delight whilst at others jarring the ears with dissonance and discord. Whilst these two states of being may seem incongruous, “Leading Edges” succeeds in melting them together in a glorious miasma of otherworldliness. Born out of the remnants of Catscans, Helicopter Quartet set out on a mission to create new musical spaces in an attempt to create “…confusion and often fear”.  “The Way It Never Was”, for example, opens this release with pulsing violin and guitar reminiscent at times of early experimental Philip Glass circa. “Music in Twelve Parts”. Before too long, however, the mood veers off into a sinister pastoral violin monologue that brings to mind King Crimson’s “Larks Tongues in Aspic Part 1”. If these comparisons are whetting the listener’s appetite, then please read on. “Refuge (2014)” balances gentle and mournful to perfection. Droning violin crying, over lightly undulating guitar and electronics, makes for a seamless mood changer.
 Despondent guitar and violin characterise “110” which succeeds in instilling not only a mood of apprehension and foreboding, but also an insidious sense of inquisitiveness. The mood remains constant for over seven minutes as the music slides laboriously over an unnatural, yet organic, landscape. It is not until the end when the guitar rears it’s ugly, yet majestic head, that the texture is disrupted. A sense of alien longing permeates “Trailing Edge” which continues the familiar drone, but infuses it with soaring, and somehow medieval, qualities. The crescendo that is hinted at through these pieces comes with “Hothouse”, which mutates into an intense flare of restrained noise bringing the album itself to an expansive conclusion.  The Pierrotechnique remix of “Refuge” adds some muscle and further consistency to the original, with a tender pulse underpinning throughout.
The influences cited give some idea as to how to approach this release with The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Sonic Youth, Karlheinz Stockhausen (whose “Helicopter String Quartet” bears an uncanny similarity in name to the duo), Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Curved Air and Dimitri Shostakovich all apparent throughout. If any of these names are unfamiliar to the new listener, then “Leading Edges” by Helicopter Quartet, should, in all fairness, be approached with care.  To the listener who reads this and nods with approval inside, this release will not disappoint. Who can fail to enjoy an album by a band whose interests are listed as “Effects pedals and mains hum”?

Monday, 19 May 2014

Crow Black Chicken – “Rumble Shake” album review

It may be inevitable that a blues band originating from the Cork area of Ireland will be compared to Rory Gallagher. Add to that a blues band with beards, and thoughts immediately go towards ZZ Top. Throw away any preconceived ideas then dear listener as “Rumble Shake”, the second full length release by Crow Black Chicken, maintains the organic, languid texture of the first album, and adds an extra serving of melodic blues, to give it a depth and originality that can so often be lacking in this field. “Hang ‘Em High”, which opens the album, would have the most cynical blues-hater singing along to the chorus and strapping on a weather-beaten air guitar. As an album opener “Hang ‘Em High” has everything the listener could possibly need; the tempo, the hook, the searing guitar. Little respite before “Two-Seven” and by now the overwhelming feeling is that, listening to this album, you are having a good time. The music is uplifting and engaging and takes the listener to a place where they are free to engage in basic hedonistic behaviour. What more could one want from the music? “Bitter” and “Little Paths” slow the tempo right down without losing any of the personality. The soloing on these pieces has an originality that is inspirational and exhilarating to hear.
The title track “Rumble Shake” is a gloriously uplifting romp through a number of styles and influences that suggest that Crow Black Chicken could be something very special to see in a live setting. “Black Asphalt” and “Black Man’s Gold” contain a gritty sensuousness that is both charming and dangerous in equal measure. “Rumble Shake” has a number of levels on which it parades its allures however. “Priest Hunter” has a gentler, but no less poignant atmosphere whilst “Jessie Mae” is a straightforward, languorous blues.  Almost coming full circle “Sit With Satan” revisits the mood captured on “Hang ‘Em High” and closes the album with a crescendo of blues guitar passion.

“Rumble Shake “ is undoubtedly a blues based album that will appeal not only to aficionados of that genre, but anyone prepared to listen to candid imaginative music in general. The production on the album is just the right side of grubby. It would not be out of place to add the label “progressive” to this description of Crow Black Chicken’s music, as they are certainly pushing the envelope of blues based music which will hopefully open up whole new audience possibilities for them.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Harbour at Amp Awards O2 Academy Leeds 24th March 2014

On 24th March 2014 my daughter played with her band Harbour at the O2 Academy in Leeds as part of the Amp Awards. Proud father face not shown.....

Amp Awards website

Thursday, 20 March 2014

If anyone were in any doubt as to why I have no friends.....

This is what I call easy listening......

Mats Gustafsson and Thurston Moore

Follow the Sound - 40th Anniversary 1973-2013

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Rich O’Brien Project – “Horizons” album review

The latest release from Bristol born bassist Richard O’Brien appears to have been perfectly timed to coincide with the change in weather that has occurred throughout the United Kingdom in March 2014. As the cold, gloomy winter nights gradually give way to spring, and the reappearance of light and colour lift the nations collective mood, an album such as “Horizons” is perfectly placed to provide the soundtrack to this reawakening.
 The influences that have shaped Richard musically are worn proudly on his sleeve, as can be heard on the opening piece “Co-Incidence”. Instantly memorable bass and brass lines provide a rock solid foundation for muscular soloing. Poignant keyboards tease their way through the mix giving the piece a mid 70’s soulful edge, which provides the perfect introduction and sets the stall out for the rest of this release. Not letting the joyful mood slip once, “Strawberry Kisses” bounces forward on deep and dirty bass lines which provides a firm foundation for some upliftingly sweltering guitar soloing. By the third track in the sun is beating down into your back garden and thoughts of cleaning down the barbecue are beginning to become a reality. As the first glass of wine is poured, “Juvenile” gives you no inclination that there is any reason to go back indoors. Tight arrangements again support fluid soloing, which sustain the momentum and keep the album optimistic and inspiring.

The vocal appearances on ”Promiscuous” and “Stay”, rather than disrupt the mood, add an additional weapon to the Richard O’Brien Arsenal of Soul, principally with the introduction of ‘seductiveness’ to the array of adjectives that could be applied to the music on “Horizons”. Slowing the pace down temporarily, “Ricardinho” could not be any more furtive and contented if it actively tried, and is complemented by some sumptuous keyboard and guitar playing that would not be out of place on a mid 70’s Miles Davis release. “Horizons Interlude” and “Nostalgia” provide tender fleeting vignettes compared to the cheerful agendas that make up the rest of this release, but are valuable additions that illustrate the flexibility of arrangement and playing. Tremendous music for the approaching summer months that will also help sustain the mood into subsequent years.