Saturday, February 26, 2011


Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24: 9
Listening: James Blake's surprisingly out-there post-pop (or post-'wussy-dubstep' as Andy calls it)
Hair Day:  'Like La Roux's', says my lady in Bullfrogs, Greenwich
Things I Can See From My Flat Window No. 8: a sunset of ballet-dancing and big blousy marshmallows

You Are Wolf graced two small South London pub venues this week, firstly at The Glad in Borough, a gorgeous wee place with instruments hanging from the ceiling and a mostly hushed and attentive crowd. It was another twinning with Firefly, and certainly the best collaboration yet, with the boys and girl doing an amazingly evocative job on my trad. English tunes. If I could just pack them into my suitcase I wouldn't need my loop station at ALL! Secondly, I attended a rather curious night at Stockwell's The Cavendish Arms, in Will Self's neck of the woods. Quite what the loquaciously deadpan one would have made of the night I can't imagine: there were conflicting musical nights in the bar and in the dedicated music venue out the back. We cringed over our pre-gig bratwursts as some solo boys and geetars acoustically performed their well-meaning but very hapless introspective whinings, becoming bewildered and cowed by the punctuating raucous blarings from the back room. My own set was aided by lovely sound and a cheering crowd, and hampered by the next band's 'cellist who chose to practise his part in the green room next door during my quietest bits. Damn fool. I felt several decades older and frankly a billion times more talented than the sub-Mumford & Sons headline band, who bounded around like puppies on speed in the sound check (I whispered 'are they high?' to Andy; 'No' he shook his head sadly, 'they're just young'. Sob!) and assumed, upon seeing us arrive, that we were vocals (girl) and acoustic guitar (boy), probably about to play the same sort of sub-emo mewlings heard in the bar. Ugh, as IF, losers! A peculiar night. Here's a vid!
Amongst some high-octane workshoppery at the likes of Handel House, Wigmore Hall and Trinity/LABAN, I have found time to get down to Camberwell Crypt for their Friday jazz session to support my Metamorphic compadre John Martin in his new quartet venture, and it was packed to the rafters with as near as you'll get to hipsters in South London.  The week later was more of a damp squib, with singer Juliet Kelly's eccentric shtick and ghastly original lyrics more suited to a pub in Driffield on a weeknight (rule one of songwriting: never start your song with 'he wore faded denim/the colour of his eyes'... agh!), and the stoopid audience plebs' jabbering obliterating every instrumental solo. So it's true, we'd be happier if the Crypt blasted out acid-skronk-metal, but it is just about the only live music option in Cambers and the shadowy basement should be used more often. It does need to work on its heating: clearly the chilly old ghosts down there like a spot of straight-ahead dinner jazz with their eternal rest. Brrr....

So used to hanging around in scruffy holes listening to difficult music am I that it seemed rather formal at the ICA last weekend, where I supported some of my muso-aquaintances perform as part of their short Notation and Interpretation series. Some fun-looking graphic scores lined the walls (no surprise to see Claudia Molitor among them), and it was sweet to see scores displayed in a gallery space, especially when they're normally so workaday to me. Will Dutta presented a new piece for piano and electronics by Plaid; both the twinkly piano riffs and trippy visuals leant dangerously near '90s dance for me, and it was overlong, but had some good moments. Larry Goves and Mira Calix shared their acoustic/electronic trade-offs in the second half, with Sarah Nicholls and Olly Coates pitching in on piano and 'cello. The frankly awful presenting let it all down rather; there were some excellent moments, particularly in a big throbbing Calix/Coates piece, but somehow I wasn't feeling it in the ICA's arch atmosphere. Looking forward to Nonclassical's album launch of Tansy Davies' new album at Cargo to redress the balance...

Friday, February 11, 2011

You Are Wolf does the Vortex!

Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24: 3
Watching: Being Human, the British attempt at Buffy
Hair Day:  leftover temporary red hints
Things I Can See From My Flat Window No. 7: that nasty tall building at Elephant and Castle which looks like a crap digital watch

My spring term of high-octane freelancery continues, amidst a whirlwind of meetings with tv producers and opera people, PR agencies for You Are Wolf, organising juice's week in America (a gig now sorted in New York before we go to SXSW in Austin!), violently knocking a carol into some sort of shape to be published, recording a track with Metamorphic at Hackney's finest studio The Premises (Madness rehearsing next door) and trying to squeeze in composition of my 20-minute piece for City Chorus. Somewhere in the next week I have to ferret out some time to dash off a quick juice piece too, to be in honour of Anna's daughter Molly and her best friend, the very funky yet eerily inanimate Monkey. 

Last week I made my Vortex debut, with You Are Wolf supporting the cream of London's music-workshop-leader world who distil their folk-Reich genius into the band Firefly. The guys were launching their debut album, lightships, which you can download here.  We had a lovely rehearsal stitching our two worlds together for two of my folk songs, and two of their originals to add to the mix. The gig itself was an unusually petrifying experience: something about the auspiciousness of the venue, the sell-out crowd, the lack of reverb and the pin-drop hush, and possibly the cup of tea I'd just had made me something of a caffeine-riddled jellyfish, unable to quell my quiveriness throughout my set. Hopefully I got away with it; I think my best moment was my try-out of Miss Otis Regrets, complete with clinking cutlery and ringing wine glass... There's a right nice review of the gig here!