December 2014

Highlights of the Year #3

This is the third in our series of end-of-year posts. Scroll down or click the links to read part 1 or part 2 

The storming Diagonal label had a pretty much near-flawless barrage of releases this year. Highlights were the salvo of head honcho Powell's Club Music and Russell Haswell's 37 Minute Workout. I don't really buy into the whole deconstructed techno label people seem so keen to apply: I think this is unrelenting and single-minded music that doesn't care if you dance to it or not. And it's great. Haswell also provided a live highlight in his collaboration/confrontation with Kevin Drumm at OTO in July. At times hard to work out if they were playing at or with each other, it was gnarly, incendiary, occasionally jarring, but never less than engrossing.

I was a bit late getting to Koenraad Ecker's Ill Fares The Land on Digitalis but it's highly worth seeking out. Murky and peculiar, rhythmic claustraphobia gives way to bass-heavy cello composition. Weird in all the right ways. Lawrence English's Wilderness of Mirrors for his own Room40 imprint managed to stand out above the flood of drone/ambient releases. Visceral, moving, and unwavering in approach, this record demanded attention. 

Other notable picks of the year include Pascal Nichols' skittering drum improv record Nihilist Chakai Houses for Discombobulate, Keith Fullerton Whitman and Mark Fell demonstrating their craft in what felt almost like a workshop rather than a live performance at OTO, Sun Kil Moon's Benji from the opposite end of the spectrum (despite Mark Kozalek's seeming pursuit since then of erasing all goodwill towards him), pretty much everything on Spectrum Spools, and excellent releases from Tartaruga favourites Petrels (particuarly The Silver Chimney Club on Denovali), Brassica (Man is Deaf for Civil), and Call Super (Suzi Ecto for Houndstooth).

And live highlight of the year, already mentioned in part 2, was undoubtedly the dark, cold, November evening down in Brixton when Hey Colossus blew the roof off the Windmill. Last year's album on MIE was great, but live they're a different proposition, and we can't wait for next year's In Black and Gold

Finally, tips to the following for providing ever-interesting sources of new music: London's best record shop Electric Knife, the Anti-Gravity Bunny blog, the awesome Crow Versus Crow radio show, and the superb Antidote Podcast

 

Highlights of the Year #2

This is part 2 of our unordered-highlights-of-the-year. Read part 1 here.
This post is from Oliver Barrett, whose 
The Nuckelavee will be released by Tartaruga in early 2015 

Roughly chronological order with the caveat being bad memory not entirely down to too much ale. Limited to purely musical endeavours - others and my own - after I realised there was more than enough on that front after I started to write it down. I've bought far too little music that actually came out this year so this is all live but anyhow, highlights include…

/  the debut Astrothrone gig at the ICA which involved me and Wayne making a noisy scree over fragments of tracks whilst everybody in the bar did their best to ignore it  
/  Paul Watson, aka Bbblood, stopping halfway through his set at OTO to lead an impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday to Andie Brown - which must have been pretty unsettling to anybody who was unaware it was a birthday party in the first place  
/  seeing the David Alden production of Peter Grimes at the ENO for the second time, which was every bit as incredible as the first despite the fact that seemingly every single member of the cast had been struck down with flu  
/  playing a set in the atrium of the Musiekgebauw in Amsterdam with the lights across the water acting as a backdrop behind me and a stomach-churning glass floor beneath me   
/  playing cello as part of a short-live trio with John Chantler and Jennifer Allum - wish we'd done more  
/  playing amongst the old machinery at the incredible Zollverein mining complex in Essen - and especially just wandering around the buildings beforehand in the twilight  
/  playing at the fantastic FUSE space in Bradford - long may it continue
/  Seeing Johns Lunds & Maria Bertel, aka G.E.K., tear the roof off with sax and trombone through several amps at OTO before Lean Left obliterated the remnants the following night  


Photo: Dawid Laskowski

/  playing a string of dates around Belgium, Germany and Holland with the great Talvihorros and Laid Eyes combo  
/  hearing the all-female choir take shape for a track on the next Petrels album  
/  hearing the LSO echo around St Pauls  
/  seeing Apartment House's incredible rendition of Harley Garber's monumental 'The Winds Rise In The North' despite loud coverage of the World Cup final filtering in through every wall and window  
/  Kevin Drumm and Russell Haswell's coruscating duo set at OTO  
/  every bit of the 5-day Corsano residency that I got to see but especially his sets with John Butcher/Okkyung Lee, Evan Parker/John Edwards and Massimo Pupillo  
/  the incredible Fort Process allayer at Newhaven Fort which I think I could have gone to another 3 times and still not caught everything  
/  Fire! Orchestra being every bit as good as I hoped they would be at The Laundry  
/  doing my own version of a big-band (well, relatively speaking - a 5-piece) with Petrels at Swingfest in Essen  
/  pure coruscation from Hijokaidan and Borbetomagus at OTO  
/  John Chantler basically playing the room at St John  
/  Hey Colossus at the Windmill which is definitely up there as one of my gigs of the year  
/  and lastly, every single set of the two Cordyceps Is Your Friend nights - more to come in 2015.

Highlights of the Year #1

It's back. A selection of unordered and unstructured highlights that we've picked out from the last twelve months. We don't really believe in top tens or numbered lists, so read this instead simply as a selection of the things that have stood out from the rest. The ones we remember anyway.

(This is part 1 of 3 - the next two will appear as separate posts over the next few days)

Books

Miriam Elia, We go to the gallery
http://wegotothegallery.com/products/we-go-to-the-gallery

Peter and Jane go with mummy to witness The Death of Meaning. In Miriam Elia’s homage to the Harlequin Ladybird series, “Jolly colourful illustrations […] enable your child to smoothly internalize all of the debilitating middle class self-hatred contained in the artworks.” There are vaginas and penises, because “God is dead and everything is sex.” It’s funny, and already into its second edition.

Carolyn Drake, Wild Pigeon
http://carolyndrake.com/

Since 2007 Carolyn Drake has been visiting Xinjiang province in Western China, home to the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority whose identity and homeland are being eroded and invaded by the authorities in Beijing. Drake’s haunting images stand alone as vestiges of beauty, memory and subjugation, before her subjects rework them. They are annotated, drawn upon, and cut-up into collage. Then darkness descends and we are plunged into night.  The title Wild Pigeon is taken from Nurmuhemmet Yasin’s 2004 story by the same name, which is included at the end of the book. The allegory led to a 10-year prison for the author, which is due to come to an end this year. It is not known if he is still alive.

Patrick Brown, Trading to Extinction
http://www.dewilewis.com/products/trading-to-extinction

Over a decade in the making, Trading to Extinction is Patrick Brown’s epic journey across Asia to expose the shameful black-market trade in endangered species. The numbers involved are staggering and heart breaking, 30,000 primates, 5 million birds, 10 million reptile skins and 500 million tropical fish are traded each year. Quite simply, this is photojournalism at its best.

Laia Abril, The Epilogue
http://www.dewilewis.com/products/the-epilogue-1

Combining Abril’s original photography with primary materials and archive imagery, The Epilogue tells the story of the Robinson family – and the aftermath of losing their 26 year-old daughter to bulimia.  It is the combination of source materials and Abril’s subtle and sensitive photography that allows this painful story to unfold. It is an incredibly successful piece of storytelling formed around the devastatingly unsuccessful attempt to save a young woman’s life.

George Georgiou, Last Stop
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/566063007/last-stop-a-photo-book

Although not officially released until mid-December, I’ve been lucky to see this project evolve through its various dummies. It takes the form of a double-sided concertina that documents London through the windows of its buses. The reader is able to refold and reorder the frames to create unique juxtapositions and rhythms. It’s fun, tactile and perhaps the most informative portrait of London I can think of.