Tuesday 30 June 2015

Zrazy - You Make Me Happy

Maria Walsh - Flute
There were real narratives not just imagined ones from Zrazy at London's Surya (28/05/2015). You don't need me to tell you that too much time is spent in imagined worlds, toying with the fanciful or indulging in inspections of one's own navel. Zrazy supplied the antidote, there was authenticity without worthiness, an absence of bullshit, good tunes and fine voices.

Carole Nelson - Keys
Although it was late in May, Zrazy's 'Come Out Everybody' gave us all an excuse to stretch out in the metaphorical sun, unroll ourselves in satisfaction. There was a slow pull to our spines like a cat elongating itself in one of those public displays of flexibility. Despite the physicality of the song that oozed the shoulders into relaxed hillocks it was also a song of celebration. Just a few hours earlier the Republic of Ireland had announced the result of Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution Referendum. Yes, it was a Yes in favour of same-sex marriage. Yes.

Maria Walsh
This was a chance for Maria Walsh (voice, percussion and flute) and Carole Nelson (keys and voice) to express themselves with their new single 'You Make Me Happy'. Joyous and unashamedly.... well....happy.

You'll never guess how Zrazy made us feel.


In July Zrazy are touring to support their 2nd single release, 'Heaven is Here' from the forthcoming album 'The Art of Happy Accidents' due out in autumn 2015.
Bierkeller, Manchester, UK - 23rd July 2015
Tramlines Festival, Sheffield - 25th July 2015
The Finsbury, London - 26th July 2015

Thursday 25 June 2015

Jeeps - Edvina Fahlqvist & Glen Strachan

Edvina Fahlqvist
The short set of London duo Jeeps evoked such deep meaning and pathos in the bowels of Surya (28/05/2015) that it didn't go undetected on minds worthy of expression and imagination. Although they were eventually joined by singer Camille Alexander from Parisian band OVER it was the exchanges between Glen Strachan and Edvina Fahlqvist that spur these words.

Glen Strachan
The lyrics and delivery of Glen Strachan talk of a moor landscape, a Pennine world not of Heathcliff but even more dark and modern. Although Edvina Fahlqvist sports a fringe a la Hindley (Myra) still do not be deceived, references to buried children are not included. There is a reedy whip to the music of Jeeps, the burr of their tone rubs into the skin, the themes discordant as they seep into bone and lung.

The friction of Jeeps is long overdue for this flea bitten animal. They are the fence to scratch an irritated hide against and the branch that wears against its kin, perhaps the self harm of Nature itself. It is a man's landscape though that implores exploration. Glen Strachan's theatre is the lamplight that pools on green settees and sucks you in like the quicksand of shagpile dreams.


Tumultuous Tenors - Sam Walker & Kelvin Christiane

Sam Walker - Tenor Saxophone
When two tenor saxophones come together it is often like watching two stags rutting in nearby Bushy Park. They stamp upon each other up, puffing chests and locking horns. Not so at Twickenham Jazz Club (19/05/2015) with the twin barrels of Tumultuous Tenors Kelvin Christiane and Sam Walker. This was a thinking man's performance from two musicians not afraid to show their cerebral side, where the bond was brotherhood rather than battle.

Jim Treweek - piano
It would be easy to have gourmand eyes for just the main Tenor dish, but it was a gentle start and one that suited Jim Treweek on piano. He is no stranger to the finer arts and with sleek fingers to match his chiselled cheek and jaw he makes an excellent artist's model. He is no stranger to pencil and pad himself, like the bassist Larry Bartley it seems Treweek is one of our many renaissance men on London's Jazz circuit.

Akos Hosznos - Bass
Wayne Shorter's 'Down Under' was broken apart and reconstructed by the Tenors, it was a puzzler, a gilt edged jigsaw. It was Thelonious Monk's 'Well, You Needn't' though that really swelled the chests of musicians and audience alike. Its first breath was of discordant colours, but soon these were worn with pride on lapels, there was a dandy stride that reeked of confidence and the twin tenors of Christiane and Walker wore stripes and spots in a winning combination.

Kelvin Christiane - Tenor Saxophone
Walker excelled in broken short mouthed stabs that were an anthem for the anxious amongst us. His stride lengthened too and although the Monk tune was penned in 1944 the arrangement by Tony Faulkner made us think of more modern times. We strode with confidence down Twickenham highways, the Burger Kings slipped past, we were urban heroes who danced through the crowds, sidestep and jink took us past buzzing diners. There was a resistance and yet a revelling in the modern life, there was disquiet and still a joy in living.

Noel Joyce - drums
Walker was at it again on 'You Don't Know What Love Is' and he drew the crepuscular blanket across the gap in lazy day and lazy night. It was a languid flight of the bumblebee, thick with dreams and an insomniac night air.

Never forget 'Angel Eyes' herself, Lesley Christiane started the second set but will be performing the full repertoire at the next Twickenham Jazz Club art exhibition and barbeque on the 26th July 2015. Free entry and delicious food from 1-5pm.

Lesley Christiane

Tuesday 16 June 2015

EYOT - Stone Upon Stone Festival, Nis, Serbia

Slađan Milenović - guitar
Despite there being one more day to come of the Stone Upon Stone festival in Nis, Serbia this night was the axis for many of the audience (17/04/2015). It was the turn of local heroes EYOT to make their appearance on stage. Alongside poet Dalibor Popović the organisation of the festival had rested in the hands of EYOT pianist Dejan Ilijic. Not only had they put their sweat and tears into this 4 day fiesta but the title of the festival originates from their 2010 tune 'Stone Upon Stone' from their 2010 album Horizon.

Marko Stojiljković - bass
It was a trademark EYOT performance that dwelt in warm, dark and sickly themes yet retains that uplifting riposte through pulse and musical battery. Every time you experience EYOT you come to them afresh, a blank canvas if you will. To use another empty metaphor, a sheet of virgin lino sat before us on this night. As they opened their set we cut into our impressionable minds with our sharpened lino tools, we gauged its flat surface with their ruts. The dark ink of EYOT's sound pooled into our grooves and after each song we were left with this black sticky residue. We were unable to let go of their themes, to make sense of every complexity, we struggled to quell our delirium tremens.

Dejan Ilijic - piano
Dejan Ilijic plays the simple fool in the EYOT line up but do not be deceived. While the heavy machinery of Marko Stojiljković (bass), Slađan Milenović (guitar) and Miloš Vojvodić (drums) slam into the molten steel he is the flash that spits and sparks. As the crucible runs dry we can still hear the crackles of the cooling metal as it passes through Dejan Ilijic's piano.

EYOT are more than weighty metals and stone shorn from deep quarry. There is also majesty that unravels in delicate terms, a finery of thread, a golden braid which isn't so much about construction as its slow regal decline. Although Stojiljković towers on stage it was Milenović's guitar which held court, his sound was strong and monumental.

Miloš Vojvodić - drums
It is easy to get lost in the EYOT repertoire, you feel that you tread a road with no sign and no name but it doesn't seem to matter. Often it is about the building swell of themes but once again Slađan Milenović gave us something else, a slow creep that stopped any daydream in its tracks. It was like turning your head at a very slow pace, while trying not to let your eyes scan ahead, to be in this moment. Just to be here.


Monday 15 June 2015

Alen Ilijic - Red Faces - Stone Upon Stone Festival, Nis, Serbia

Alen Ilijic
The work of Alen Ilijic divides opinion. He is polymath, composer, musician, artist and prolific thinker. His formative years were spent in England studying film music at City of Westminster College but home is now Serbia where he completed his education in composition, orchestration, electronic music and sound engineering at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade. During his studies in London, as a singer-songwriter and guitarist, Alen Ilijic formed the band Zealot and immediately made a big impact on the British underground scene as well as secruring himself a deal with record label BMI.

Alen Ilijic - piano
In the run up to Alen Ilijic's appearance at the inaugural Stone Upon Stone festival (17/04/2015) I had the pleasure of sharing his home and hospitality, alongside his wife, Milica. This gave me an insight into the bubbling creativity that drives Alen Ilijic, he pins his improvised and highly personal expression on sheet music that is heavily annotated and is a work of art in itself. Ilijic is a born innovator and it was both refreshing and electrifying to be near him. His love of English culture made him both an excellent translator and companion in my journey through the culture of Nis.

The 45-50 minute performance by Alen Ilijic at the Nis Symphony Orchestra hall was a real odyssey. It was adventurous and uncomfortable, it made some people feel so uneasy that they walked out, never to return. The stage was cast in a sickly red light, which played a claustrophobic refrain even before the music started. In fact it was silence that challenged us first, Ilijic stood stock still, only the rapid fire of camera clicks interrupting the tense air. The manifestation of his internalised thoughts flowed through into his fingertips and we too checked our own inner compasses. His hands lifted, swatting imaginary flies as though he was decomposing before our very eyes. What followed was other-worldly and although there was no hint of black magic here was a man possessed.

To think of it simply Alen Ilijic's performance consisted of two halves. The first with piano and second with guitar and amp. There were broken oohs and aahs which escaped the piano as Ilijic perched above it. It was the now which weighed most heavily, broken pieces of language exhaled from the mouth, the slash, the choke of the deep red light. We were held, it suffocated, the rhythm of our mouths gawped like fishes yet there was no sound from the audience. The scream and the words from Ilijic made us uncomfortable, one hand rolled across the piano while another fluttered under his chin. He whimpers as though calling for a mother or father, he was an animal. This is not a dream this is an awake state, a panting which threatens to tumble out all our emotions from within our guts.

Alen Ilijic - Red Faces
The music and theatre that erupted from the second half was a rapid fire of asymmetric popcorn firing in a pan. The amp becomes a instrument of torture as well as pleasure. Alen Ilijic's guitar hits us in waves with a pulsating gamut of sentiments. There is love and there is embarrassment alongside thoughts that make us feel uneasy. Is it acceptable to enjoy someone else's pain? I think about stopping the performance, I care about the man, I worry that he is unwell and on the verge of breaking mentally and physically. Then he rides his guitar like it were a surfboard and our red faces have smiles too.

We all walked out into the fresh April air stunned. We had just all witnessed and shared a period of time that none of us would forget. There were those who were weak at the knees and those that were trying to make sense of themselves. The last piece of red was the blood that caked the fingertips of Alen Ilijic. His commitment to the cause was never in doubt.


Wednesday 3 June 2015

Majmoon - Stone Upon Stone Festival, Nis

Sebastian Meyhöfer
The presence of Munich based Majmoon at the Stone Upon Stone festival in Nis, Serbia owed as much to Art as it did to Music. When speaking of Art it is not talk of painted portraits or lush landscapes but the contemporary kind that is fueled by concept rather than beauty. The sounds come hand in hand with the visuals of Anton Kaun who is known for his haunting images for projection, performance and video.

Asmir Sabic
Think in terms of systems and ritual when considering Majmoon, for both these concepts contribute to the ideas of Asmir Sabic (guitar), Axel Wagner (drums,electronics), Josip Pavlov (guitar,bass,trumpet), Thomas Westner (guitar) and Sebastian Meyhöfer (violin,bass,xylophone). Their appearance at the Klub Feedback (16/04/2015) started with an attrition of grinding repetition that never abated but grew with each brick, upon brick, upon brick that they laid.

Axel Wagner - drums
 Imagine that you traced a loop with your finger on a page of paper, the shape is a upside down tear that crosses at the end. Imagine doing that again and again, traced and retraced, going round and around. Your body starts to lose it's fleshiness and the kinetics of being start to take over. What was once your heart beat is now the throb of an engine, your inner propeller ready to burst free. It never does, the machine's throb stays behind the walls with a sinister edge, like a revolver in the pocket. After the Robert Calvert style growl all we feel is the asymmetric click as our engines cool.

Thomas Westner
All is not high-octane as the violin of Sebastian Meyhöfer plays a slower pull. We escape the machine like Julia and Winston in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, looking out of the ruins of our paneless windows. Majmoon's sound is both cerebral and primitive. It elevates your perspective as though viewing our globe from a mile high, we watch the planet rotate slowly, the dawn light creeping in a line that bisects night from day. These musical themes splash across us like a birthmark of light, the visual projections of Anton Kaun are never far behind.

Josip Pavlov
Before long the loop is back again, more often than not Majmoon work as a team, tracing and retracing together. They work the docks like a group of men pulling a steamer's rope but there is always a thread that winds free. Toward the end of their set this loose canon was the ox like figure of Josip Pavlov. So penetrating was this combination of repetition and thrust that it cut the Feedback audience in half. The knife which cut the bread kept on going, slicing through the board and ultimately the table, who knows whether it will cut the earth between our feet too.


Tuesday 2 June 2015

There - Stone Upon Stone Festival, Nis

Janko Džambas
True to its seedling roots the Stone Upon Stone festival went underground at the Klub Feedback with a performance by There in their hometown of Nis, Serbia. The club itself was seething with bodies, heat and smoke, in the darkest of conditions 5 men took to the stage. Projected upon them was a kaleidoscope of colour and patterns. A feast for the restless eye and this sketchers hands moved unseen and unfettered.

Uros Kostic - guitar

Headed by the charismatic stoicism of Janko Dzambas there was little to feel in the blackness except foreboding. The dapper attire and stiff upper lips of There represented a formality from another century but the music was very much cast in this time. Although modern it was a Grimm fairytale of a start with the twin guitars of Janko Dzambas and Uros Kostic chopping with their axes down indiscriminately in the dark.

Pavle Dinic - Keys

There is a cinematic thread to much that flowed out after the guitar chop, with a narrative that came from the hunched back of Pavle Dinic on keys. The rhythm section made sure the tide was forever building, there was a pressure that made it impossible to escape, yet the imagination did. The film which played across our minds was one of loneliness and chase. Running through empty corridors until the sense of solitariness became too much.

Luka Basic - drums

Introspection was the byword that would have escaped the lips if anything had been muttered. The circus lights pulsed in scything sabres of yellow and electric beams. The harsh pool which cascaded down upon Pavle Dinic gave him an orthodox beard of shadow, it pulled our eyes toward him as though a blessing was just moments away.

There is no communication between the players and the lights give us the animation which mirrors the music's energy. Spider webs of slippery eels pulsed over the 5 players but still our drummer Luka Basic languished in the dark recesses. The anthemic sound, the darkness and loudness of the venue suit the Stone Upon Stone's cutting edge. Despite the deadpan demeanour of There it didn't take long for their flavours to rupture and splatter over us.

Marko Mitić Čapa - Bass
The guitars broke the veins with their sawing themes but it was the bass of Marko Mitić Čapa who burst the dam. As we approached the end of their performance we rallied ourselves as an audience, creating that breakwater, for we were the stones in the raging river. Our bodies piled up to resist the punching blows from There, the blood pulsed in our ears, garbled pedalled voices persisted until our rubble collapsed. A thousand pin pricks of light pierced the smoky fug of the Klub Feedback and there was just a twinkling melody that persisted as though Labi Siffre had been locked in a music box.