Monday, November 22, 2010

Who You Gonna Call? JUICEBUSTERS!

Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24: a highly-paid 1
Watching: Series 2 of Misfits
Hair Day: nobbut middling
Things I Can See From My Flat Window No. 4: Scruffy coal tits

Yesterday saw juice turn into the Charlie's Angels of the classical music circuit, with a last-minute call on the juicephone from Anthony Wilkinson of the Wimbledon Festival, desperate for us to replace Alfred Brendel at the eleventh hour. Yes, Alfred Brendel, the colossally-renowned pianist-turned-poet, who was supposed to be reading his surrealist poetry interspersed with his son Adrian on 'cello, until he lost his voice. Getting over the hilarious idea that three rather younger vocal ensemble lasses were to replace the uber-famous KBE-holder, we hot-footed it over to the very gloriously crumbling Southside House, a Georgian mansion fit to burst with costumes, period furniture and paintings, including a prized original of Charles II. Hot damn! Getting ready in the lovely little shabby/chic basement room, with the daughters of the house in waitress uniforms running out from the kitchen with canapes for the select guests milling about upstairs, all felt terribly Downton Abbey...

Following a lovely introduction from Anthony (calling us his 'secret weapon'), we really enjoyed our second half of Love Songs and juice faves, all met with a welcoming reception from the wine-warmed guests, none of whom seemed to want to riot at the fact that we weren't a 79 year-old Faber-published recitalist with several Grand Prixes to his name and honorary degrees from Oxford and Yale. In fact, some were overheard to say that they didn't feel that they were short-changed at all and that Anthony was a 'programming genius!' Hurrah! This is clearly the way to get ahead. Instead of (sometimes) having to scratch around for audiences given our (relatively) low profile, we kidnap Andrea Bocelli or Lang Lang, bundle him into the back of a car, make a crank call to the promoter saying he's caught man-flu and wait for the juice hotline to ring, then breeze in and perform wacky and technically-brilliant a cappella numbers to a gobsmacked audience who then buy up our debut CD in bulk. It's foolproof!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Extremely Wild Cats

Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24: 1
Reading: Bruce Cole's The Composer's Handbook
Hair Day: Drying
Things I Can See From My Flat Window No. 4: Battersea Power Station

juice had an excellent 2 days' final recording at Nonclassical Towers where, fuelled by chocolate, tea and prawn jalfrezi from Bethnal Green's friendliest curry house, we laid down nine more pieces to potentially go on our debut album. Whoopee! Our earlier sessions in the summer had been enacted in face-melting heat; this time, we really hit our stride, aided by Gabriel's subtle direction in the producer's hotseat. Now we just need a pithy title that gets across our genre-hopping, experimental vocal, text-exploring, gasping/hollering/crooning style in about three words. Ummmm....

I made my London Jazz Festival debut this week, singing with Metamorphic at a happily heaving Cafe Oto. Ace promoters The Local, helmed by drawlingly droll Northerner Howard Monk, had thrown three utterly diverse acts into the mix; following our prog-jazz shizzle was the delightful Kyrie Kristmanson, who delivered bravely bare songs with a smattering of trumpet, tambourine or guitar whilst appearing to sport the scalp of a yeti as a hat. After this gorgeous interlude, we were lastly pummelled into submission by the musical equivalent of an extreme BDSM session: hardcorenoiseimprov merchants Puma. An electric guitar/synths/drums trio from Norway, they were a study in crescendos, drawing us in fairly gently at first with brooding drones before we were unwittingly sucked into their snarling, mathy doomrock, with moments variously suggesting a bagpipe player on a murderous rampage, Kevin Bacon (the guitarist Stian was the spitting image) having a nervous breakdown, and some sort of witchy cave-ritual with extra gongs. It was like being dragged to the end of the world, led by the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse, accompanied by the synth keyboardist's hell-raisingly joyful whoops. They left us glued to our chairs, our craniums throbbing and soggy, unable to fathom that we were still in Dalston and not in some eternal, slightly blissful underworld. Puma!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Robin Robertson and a Thousand Gigs

Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24: 3
Reading: Blake Morrison's South of the River
Hair Day: Snappy
Things I Can See From My Flat Window No. 3: Fireworks! Splendid death stars over to the north-east, lovely rainbowed cloudbursts way west and a few little plucky flares nearer home, south of the river; plus a lot more popping and crackling going on behind our flats...

It's been Big Gig Week here in Kerry Towers!

1) First off: another You Are Wolf trip to the always-supportive Monday Monday folk-ish night up at Camden's Green Note. I was playing with my favourite live band of the hour, the heart-wilting Firefly boys and girl, so managed to rope them in for a couple of trad. folk numbers, re-arranged in ad hoc style for the lot of us.  I tried out a new, supremely dark (quel surprise) version of Tam Lyn which you can see here!

2) On Thursday juice ventured to the unknown wastelands of The West to the very glamorous and posh contemporary gallery Louise Blouin Foundation  for their contemporary concert series. This was juice's first chance to air their long-gestating collaboration with our buddy Damien Harron. Damien is an amazingly theatrical and vocal percussionist; we've wanted to cosy up for ages, blurring our roles in bringing together the primal forces of singing and banging things. It wasn't a wholly successful concert - a stiff-shirted, largely bemused audience for one - though had some lovely moments (I loved rocking the 'Little Drummer Girl' look, and bowing the vibes) and it's at least a good starting point for future voice-percussion-offs.

3) On Saturday night juice glitzed up to the Frozen North to bring the Love Songs to York for their Late Music Concert Series. Though braindead from a hyper-busy two months, we gave it our gusto'd all, and had a lovely time in front of an audience of friendly Yorkie faces, including my Mum beaming away in the front row, whose proud motherly gaze I had to studiously ignore all concert for fear of corpsing. We brought rats, prayers, naughty childrens' deaths, and Sumerian insults (courtesy of our friend Stef Conner) to the wee chapel just near Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate.

4) Back to Friday: after doing my Dead Poets Society Bit For The Greater Good by kicking off a composition project in a rowdy secondary school near Bellingham, it was off to the Front Room of the QEH for a complicatedly-titled 'Friday Tonic Presents Ladyfest Ten: Girl Fawkes' Night' as part of Poetry International at the South Bank. I had no idea this would turn out to be my most populated You Are Wolf gig ever, singing to 200 or so folks. It would be the night that my throat became an arid dustbowl due to the evil aircon and my nerves kicked in, with my right leg turning into the pale milk jelly Mum used to dish up when she was feeling creative. After me was the totally ace Lulu and the Lampshades, a feisty set of girls and guy with a homemade rock 'n' folk feel; they pounded tin drums and sang harmonies with high-energy gumption, as well as belting through a barnstorming plastic-cup-percussion finale. Brilliant.

As a happy coincidence, my favourite poet Robin Robertson - whose poem/translation 'Fall' I had set for the Joyful Company of Singers (now up for that BASCA award, whoop whoop) was performing up in the gods at the Royal Festival Hall on Bonfire Night, so we went along, hoping to say hello afterwards. It was a much more brow-furrowed affair than the happy-go-lucky feminism of next door (where my favourite phrase of the show was, in promoting next week's Ladyfest anniversary celebrations, 'you could crochet a vagina!' Erk); I wasn't keen on Elisabeth Bletsoe's po-faced impenetrability, much more taken with Kathleen Jamie's prose on visiting the deserted isle of Rona, but most excited to finally see RR in the flesh, since we possess all of his books and I have been in a little correspondence with him. Onstage, he had a quite terrifying presence, all deliberately drawn-out burr and dramatic quiver, and seemed like some sort of Scottish Poetry Godfather who could probably casually slice you into bits with a deftly-enunciated dactyl if you so much as sniffed. His poems were - naturally - great: dark, sensual, wry and mired in the land. Afterwards, I went over, slightly nervously, to say hello, and Robin turned out to be bubbling over with charm and irreverent humour, immediately debunking the stuffy atmosphere and inviting Andy and I into the artists' area. Over free wine, he had us in fits over the demographic of his usual audience ('sitting there in their mobility scooters') and comparison of the approving sounds that poetry audiences to 'whimpering farmyard animals'. Whilst Andy and the terribly earnest intellectual chap who introduced the night gushed over American responses to W.G. Sebald, Robin cheerfully dismissed it all as 'bollocks!' to which Intellectual Chap backtracked slightly, stuttering 'yes, well, indeed there ARE cultural differences...' Tee hee. He told us of a new collaboration with Alasdair Roberts (whilst Andy tried to pimp me as their backing singer), and I rather got the impression that Robin was not keen on my contemporary choral setting of 'Fall'. Eek. It's probably just not his shizzle, but as he suggested that 'the Wolf thing' would be much better suited to his poetry, I think I'd better get onto it pretty sharpish before he whittles those dactyls...