Friday, September 17, 2010

Are You Wolf? Erm...

Level of conviction in own genius (out of 10): 0. Perfect pitch and clever musicianship is little use in the world of mortgage lenders, solicitors and evil estate managers.
Amount of creative activity achieved today: Too busy attempting to buy houses, to little avail
Watching / Reading: Series 4 of 'Mad Men', hallelujah / A proof of 'The Report' by Jessica Francis Kane - a novel around the biggest single WW2 civilian disaster, in my old endz of Bethnal Green
Hair day: wilting

It took me to move out of Bethnal Green's sanctified environs (not by the Pope, you understand; merely beatified by the holy triumvariate of art, parks and undercuts) to discover a cool new hangout: 10 Gales, under the arches near the tube, which in true BG style, is a mix of boutique vintage shop, cafe, haircuttery, gallery and gig venue. The gig arch is very recent, so much so that it's still stinky, dank and a leetle drippy every time a train thunders overhead. But it feels like an underground room in Berlin with its hotchpotch chairs, little tea sets and £1 beers. I played a You Are Wolf gig there, which went very well, apart from my brain turning to plasticine and me introducing myself as 'I Am Wolf - no, You Are Wolf, no, that's who I am, You Are Wolf!'. Agh. It was nice to meet a mum and son there afterwards who were there as part of a local audience scheme, having been given free tickets to the night; they loved it and compared my voice to Alison Goldfrapp's. Nice! I also talked to a painter and did a significant double-take when the folk-singing best mate he kept referring to turned out to be Sheila Chandra. Sheila Chandra, one of my key experimental vocal influences along with Meredith Monk, Berio and Zap Mama, at least in the early days!

Andy and I were invited to the PRS Foundation New Music Award party in the Serpentine Pavilion last night, and had fun new-muso-spotting (and more importantly, beating Andy, in 5 mins flat, of black and red plastic chess, which is as good an achievement as winning to New Music Award in my book): Errollyn Wallen, Stephen Montague, Bishi, and a whole free-wine-quaffing host of journos, composers and players. Errollyn is a new acquaintance, having written one tenth of juice's monumental new commission, 'Laid Bare: 10 Love Songs', which was premiered at Catrin Finch's converted chapel venue in Wales for the Vale of Glamorgan last week. Considering that, as we also performed some little Tormis songs for the first time, we performed SEVENTEEN new pieces we'd never aired before, we did pretty well. The gin afterwards never tasted so good...

Monday, September 06, 2010

UK vs Sweden: Return Leg

Level of conviction in own genius: 8
Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 2
Watching: the screen of my beautiful new MacBook Pro for signs of dust which I immediately banish
Hair day: Bit dishevelled, but rockin' a marvellous Brockley-based cut.

Back in April, a motley band of dirty-minded, witty, rowdy British musicians collided head-on with a more sedately super-cool Swedish crew for some crisp-air-and-cutglass-lake-inspired collaborations up in a tucked-away corner of Sweden. This weekend saw the intrepid Swedes take the novel form of FLYING (we were scuppered by the Icelandic volcano and had a valiant 2-day affair featuring a squadron of local trains and one glorious ferry on our way back from Scandinavia). Where their country served up wonderful salmon and dill-based meals, wooden chalets, oceans of stars and a forest floor bouncy with pine needles, we offered student accommodation rife with silverfish, primary school-style packed lunches and windowless cells to devise in courtesy of the Guildhall's basement in the Barbican. Whoops!

So the working environment was a little more difficult to waft around in this time, but this was no-one's fault but the budget's (let's assume it's all down the evil Con-Libs and curse their heads). However, at the other end of the scale, we did at least show them: 1) the Most Cutting-Edge New Music Night in London (Gabriel's nonclassical at the Horse and Groom, with Joby Burgess' Powerplant doing delightful things with Fanta bottles and plastic bags - YES! 2) the Best Music Venue In London, Cafe Oto (catching the London Improviser's Orchestra) 3) Shoho/Spitalfields nightlife with some bevvies at the Ten Bells 4) Dalston's finest Turkish kebab takeaway 5) London's Best Club Bar None, Passing Clouds which some of them made it to, no doubt for some Congolese beats, squishy sofas and heart-warming vibes.

This time we were put in a quartet for two days. I think my group found negotiating the ground between choreography, loops, structured improv and personality differences a struggle at times, but I like to think we got there in the end. We went back to Oto to present our work; it was a wonderful gig, with the process of collaboration between such diverse practices bringing out a far more richly engaging night than most new music gigs. My favourite moments were:

  • The first piano/theatre/electronics piece - my friend described it as four surgeons carrying out nasty little operations on the piano; I thought they looked like futuristic zoologists working in a weird, robotic insect jungle.
  • Tappity-tapping canes on the floor, miked up and choregraphed/composed.
  • Larry and Bill's delicately suspended trio plus soundscape: a proper piece.
  • Leon wearing my piano necklace and looking like Liberace. Ha ha.
  • Performing our piece. I loved incorporating movement into our improv, so thank you Marie. And sorry to Matthias for probably giving him a heart attack by doing unexpected things to the loop station in odd places...
Back to work. This week sees an all-new juice challenge: get ten new pieces (some so new they're still toasty from the printer) ready for their premiere on Friday at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival. AGH!