Friday, September 18, 2009


Level of conviction in own genius: 8
Hours of creative activity achieved today: 4, in the realm of singing
Reading: Juggling 'Corvus' for erudite comfort reading and Will Self's 'Cock and Bull' for hardass tube book-time
Hair Day: Bit pink. With a small 'p', not a large 'P', though have oddly been told more than once that I look like the rage-y rockpop queen. Hhm.

So juice had a Big Night Out yesterday, featuring in Blank Canvas' new series at London's coolest music venue, Cafe Oto, up in E8. Many a Dalston virgin was agape at the true fabulousness of the place, whilst Andy and I of course, old hands at popping in to see off-kilter Japanese free improv on trumpet, live electronics and cutlery, shrugged smugly. BC is one of the core alt-classical family, brothers with nonclassical and Kammer Klang and second cousins with straighter classical models like the Little Proms. We kicked off the night with some a cappella bits and bobs and some choons with electronics, braving three new ones off by heart - hopefully we look like we're engaging thoroughly with our audience when in fact our brains are going into minor meltdown trying to remember whether it's 'mikatamikikaiwa' or 'mikikaiwakataki'. Ha ha. Then all-round beatboxing mastermind Shlomo, he of Bjork's 'Medulla'-album and Vocal Orchestra fame, took to the stage to improvise a megamouthful of big beats and clever vocal trickery. He's more musical than most beatboxers, and uses his loop station, the same model as mine, with rather more deftness than I! My favourite moment was an abstract looped aviary of tweeting birds; the challenge for beatboxers is creating something that takes it past an amazing novelty, and Shlomo's definitely nearer than most, though I won't be happy til there's a beatboxer who creates clever little jazz drum licks in 5/8... Am very excited about Shlo's collaboration with old York mucker Anna Meredith though - they're going to be creating a concerto for beatboxer and orchestra, and last night we heard an exciting initial sketch following their first workshop with some instrumentalists. Anna was at Blank Canvas with the Camberwell Composers' Collective, who presented a few works for 'cello, clarinet and percussion. With their riff-driven, electronica-massaged sound, they're fashioning themselves as a Bang on a Can for this side of the Atlantic. The highlight of the night for us was a wee improv with the man Shlomo himself; with the shortest of rehearsals at something similar in the sound check, it was slightly nerve-racking, but worked pretty well, in a sort of chilled, Bobby McFerrin's 'Circle Songs' kind of way... phew! All in all a fab night, full of shmoozing with the alt-classical scenesters (ha, of which we are a part!) and a few of our newer musical friends, whom it was lovely to see.

Today we popped up the road from my flat to the nonclassical studios (in a rather, um, colourful building which houses, among other things, nostril-burning-weed-smoking grime producers, a snooker club full of burly East End chaps, and the rather suspectly-named 'Holborn College of London' - hmm...) for some mic-testing and initial try-outs of material for our nonclassical juice album, to be released sometime next year. The possibilities of which pieces we use, and what new material we create, are endless: I'm getting rather excited about a kids' voice-changer (complete with LED lights!) I bought from eBay. The image of the three of us using flashing red loudspeakers live is a gleeful one and I must write us something, although mostly so far I have been using it to creep Andy out by talking dirty to him in a weird minor-second-clashing robot voice. Ha ha!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Glam Girls

Hours of creative activity acheived today: 2
Level of conviction in own genius: 8
Reading: 'Cock and Bull' by Will Self. Witty, super-erudite, challengingly masculine.
Watching: The excellent 'Red Road' finally, directed by Andrea Arnold, whose second feature 'Fish Tank' is out this week. Countering Will Self's brute masculinity with a steely-eyed feminine slant.
Hair day: just-got-out-of-bed look. Not in a good way.

juice have dived headfirst, making bubble-noises and mouth-pops all the way, into our autumn season. Last week we crammed six gigs in two days into the valleys of South Wales, putting the 'glam' in Vale of Glamorgan. We belted our way through four community gigs in the gritty districts of Barry and Abedare, and did our own evening gig, trying desperately to not be distracted by the over-enthusiastic man in the front row who tried to sing all the words to everything we did, despite the fact most was new music he could never have heard before. We were also drafted in the night after, pretending to be a children's choir in Ozzie composer Ross Edwards' 5th Symphony, alongside the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. We flew by the seat of our cute pink pants in the gig, as though our parts were easy, they were framed in bars and bars of 5/8, 3/8, 3/4, 2/8, 3/8, 3/8, conducted at hyper-speed by floppy-haired Zen-ish Andre De Ridder. It'll be on Radio 3 at some point. Blink and you'll miss us!

Today we made our Colourscape debut at Clapham Common. Colourscape is a family-friendly vast-chambered inflatable paradise - simply a load of womb-like rubber tents (and many vaginal corridors - hhm, think have been reading too many feminist books) in a field, but all so luminously-coloured that you feel like you're an extra in a never-ending Barbarella remake. We sang some bits and pieces and did a lot of improv, sometimes with a bearded, gold-caped live electronics chap called Lawrence, and sometimes with a crystal ball-toting dancer guy. It was a great experience, particularly when sitting on my own in a green room, singing with Sarah and Anna but only hearing them through a speaker; the many excitable kids clambering all over us whilst attempting to riff on Morton Feldman's 'Three Voices' made it a little tricky.

We recovered afterwards over tea in translucent china cups and macarons, tiny chewy 10p pieces of loveliness, in the patisserie in Clapham Old Town: we hooked up with MaJiKer, our vocal idol Camille's English producer, who's interested in writing us a piece. Hurrah! We also met his mate, singer Indi, and Will from cool night Blank Canvas. This week we also encounter Shlomo at said night. The creative networking fun continues!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Summer is Over (but the Autumn has just begun)

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: LOADS
Reading / Watching: Guiltily have taken hiatus on 'Corvus', lovely book on crows, to cram first CJ Sansom Shardlake series book / Sobbing to Gareth's work on 'The Choir'
Hair Day: Bit rubbish

Had another lovely cultural bank holiday weekend, as we always manage to do. We kicked off by going to Free Fridays at Cargo for unoriginal electro-indie shenanigans, where somehow Andy and I were the coolest people in there (well, I was sporting American Apparel socks with a little black number), but it was so loud my jaw almost unhinged itself and clattered around on the floor. Wandering around Shoho with our ears ringing, we stumbled upon a marvellous little bar at the bottom of Hoxton Street called Troy, where we enjoyed hilariously uncool jazz fusion, totally mud-stuck in the '70s, with all the players tossing out ludicrously virtuosic solos whilst chatting nonchalantly to their bandmates. Excellent.

On Saturday we decided to go back to my Sarf London roots, but venturing further than I'd ever been, to Morden Hall Park at the deepest, dustiest end of the Northern Line. We stuffed our bellies with Sainsbury's finest cheeses in the meadowy grounds, then wend our way along the River Wandle, managing to totally miss the feted marshlands and bird reserves and instead ending up as unlikely tourists in the districts of Mitcham Junction and Hackbridge. Still, the river was quite charming, lurching from grassy and sedate to litter-filled - with upended trolleys looking like fat dead geese - and should surely help generate a new verb ('to wandle': to amble along a river, whilst getting a bit lost and waxing lyrical on a variety of subjects from math-rock to Henry VIII). Once we'd arrived in the heroin chic of Hackbridge, we made haste up to my first London hood of Tooting, where I checked out my old house (they seem glassy-eyed and impassive when you don't know who lives in them). We were there as seasoned curry heads, seeking out the Sri Lankan/Keralan delights that the Tooting fave Radha Krishna Bhavan had to offer, before catching up with a few Southies at Brixton's always lovely Mango Landin'.

A bitter-eyed, windy Sunday saw us explore the back streets on a walk from Bethnal Green to Tate Modern. We got down onto the grimy northside beach west of the Tower of London to mudlark and make some impromptu art out of whatever we found. There were loads of old bits of white pipe and chunks of pottery, let's say Roman (hhm... probably. Or from the nearest BHS Homestores), but the highlight was picking up a big brown bone the size of a forearm. It may be my first human bone-holding experience. Gulp. Still, I happily added it to my sculpture and we went on our merry way to the Futurism exhibition, which was more stimulating for its manifestos than most of its paintings; any art movement that caused regular fisticuffs in the street has to be applauded, but only momentarily; I would throw a few punches of my own to Marinetti and co for their wanton disrespect of women, the ignorant misogynistic fuckers.

The sun finally came out on Bank Hol Monday, when we bypassed the Carnival to catch the last day of David Byrne's 'Playing the Building' at the Roundhouse. Quite literally a great wheeze, this installation hooked up an old pipe organ to lots of bits of the building, and then allowed the public to play it. Unfortunately it was full of people who weren't really there to listen to the surround-sound of clattering pillars and heavy-breathing pipes but to just queue for their go and chat, so some of the point for me was lost. We then celebrated the sun's coming out by dipping into Hampstead Mixed Bathing Ponds for the first time, an altogether bracingly gorgeous experience, most unlike the clinical rat-race of York Hall; feeling the cool, green-mud-thickened pondwater on my skin, and not knowing the depths of the pool was fabulous. Though I did momentarily freak out when my foot caught a buoy rope, thinking it was some killer pike seeking its next middle-class victim. Ha. We then lingered on the Heath as the sun drew down, the trees' long shadows like spent balloons, in a last silken sigh of summer.