Hand Of & Sage Gateshead 2020-21

August 2020

Two exciting developments! The first is that this August it was my great pleasure to rejoin the stalwart Hand Of team, enhanced by a crack team of musicians and educators I had yet to do art with, to do a project with students from three secondary schools in North Tyneside. Over the course of two weeks (slightly longer for the adults involved), we made three sound walks (see the work of Janet Cardiff, Justin Bennett, or Soundwalk Rotterdam if you’re new to this world) covering historically fascinating routes in and around North Shields. The work is–without wishing to toot students’ horns too loudly–really, really good. The walks will be made available in collaboration with Nexus, the purveyors of note of public transport on rails up in this part of England. Hand Of are putting together a guide on how to run arts education projects like this one ahead of the next year of activities, and I have taken their cue to think a bit deeper about being somebody who makes art for a living, and might also put the skills that such employ requires to practical use in the community. I haven’t written this essay yet, but when I do, I’ll post it here. Bait your breath. 

Hand Of North Tyneside Soundwalk Project [Fox Moon Photography]

The second of development is that for the coming year, I’ll be one of four artists in residence at Sage Gateshead. Properly exciting. Depending on how our collective public lives unfold over the next ten months, the outcome may be a performance of a ridiculous gesamtkunstwerk about near-death experiences, Greek myth, Riviera House and ‘90s Glasgow pop’s relation to Nashville (you know, the usual), OR all of these things in some kind of interesting online format. Presently, I’m veering towards internet-conspiracy-theory-land-meets-easter-egg-hunt–that is, hiding links to beautiful and sincere chamber music in the darkest threads of 4chan and beyond. Whatever the outcome, it will include two things for certain: the establishment of a new local music and art band by the name of NORTHUMBERLAND RADICAL FUN GROUP–if you are or know one or even two boss drummer(s) in this part of the world who would be up for making seriously fun music, email me and/or keep an eye on the community notices at the Asda at the bottom of your road–and also the starting of a reading and writing group based in the North East that meets (or doesn’t, as fate may have it), to think collectively about what the hell is art and also about what is it, more or less, that we think or want art to accomplish as the world burns and floods etc etc etc. If that sounds like a good time to you, email me.

Finally, look mom I have been reimagining smooooooth classics for the NRFG’s debut. Also the only baritone saxophone player I know well enough to subject to rudenesses such as these basslines is a very nice German gentleman, ergo not local, ergo if you play said saxophone in the far north of England, let me know you exist via… email me. Or go to your nearest Asda’s noticeboard.

Joyrobix UK Tour, Various / Sound and Music Composer-Curator / Musarc

Apr 2019

Updates! The new record, Joyrobix, came out on the 4th of April, and The Quietus’ Robert Barry wrote some very nice words about it here. Thanks, Robert! It also got some radio play, which is deliciously (t)rad in the age of Youtube, on BBC 3’s Late Junction and BBC 6 Music’s Freak Zone. Sick one; thanks to Slip for setting those up. Also, Laurie Tompkins and I did a little hour on NTS. Buy the record, help artists eat! Together with bandbuddies Louise Snape and Jethro Cooke – and every night with Laurie & Suze, too – we did 8 shows to support the record. Photo below of our Manchester opening night at Soup Kitchen by FoxMoon Photography.

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Thank you to everybody who came out to see the music up & down the country; we had fun, and got to see some beautiful places we’ve never been (whaddup Bradford, Bristol, all of Sussex – what on actual earth is Arundel?!…) Berlin at the weekend, and our first clutch of Euro shows in June. In lieu of proper documentation, here’s a little mediatic taste of what we’ve been doing:

In other news, the composer-in-residence project with percussionist Delia Stevens‘ madly ambitious Conundrums project is officially underway; we’re one of bunch of folks on Sound and Music‘s composer-curator program for the year ahead. There are going to be tours and panels and podcasts and loads of sick repertoire for percussion ensemble, and some classic plinky plonky hot-takes courtesy of yours truly on issues from social capitalism to the housing crisis. Also, possibly a piece for the super cool London choral collective Musarc, details forthcoming.

Petrushka Reloaded @ Szczecin Filharmonia, PL & Berlin Konzerthaus, DE / Grapefruit

Mar 2019

Heavens what exciting times! First, I can’t thank the junge norddeutsche philharmonie enough for an extraordinary experience, first in Hamburg, then in Szczecin (whose hall is so golden), then in Berlin. This group of twenty-somethings are so good at playing music and so energetically up for it. It was my favourite experience ever of being, by some considerable way, both the worst and the laziest musician in the room. Ihr seid der Hammer. Here is a picture by Markus Werner of Berlin’s concert:

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My homeboy Hannes Fritsch, who engineered the tour’s sound, is polishing up a recording, and I shall post it when it comes. Hire him and never worry about anything ever again. There are quite a few people whose energies made this project happen: conductor Christoph Altstaed’s inspiring energy drove it, orchestrator Simon Nathan fixed everything up so perfectly, and Konstantin Udert’s organisational chops brought us all together. I am still excited daily by the camaraderie-plus-mad-skills of my fellow quartet-ers Evi Filippou, Nina Guo, and Max Trieder. I can’t wait for all the awesome stuff we’re going to do next, you lot. 

Today Slip put out the first video from the new record Joyrobix. The track is called Grapefruit and is, as the working-out in real life of a long-held fantasy, very satisfying to watch. It’s moderately NSFW, but is basically SFW. Actually, your work colleagues will totally thank you for sharing. And so will I! Stay tuned for all our UK and European tour dates; we’re doing, like, 15 or something before the summer. Also another track here.

Finally, I stumbled over something on the Internet written by Sascha Thiele, which I didn’t know existed. It’s rare that you get to read somebody’s thing about your thing in which you discover somebody’s having heard all the things you hoped people would hear in your thing. Thanks, Sascha! Sascha, by the way, is an extremely fine guitar player who I saw play Jacob TV’s Grab It! a year-ish ago. Sascha’s playing & Jacob TV’s piece will totally improve your life.

Fleck, Flob, Flop @ Redon, London / Petrushka Reloaded Tour Dates, PL + DE

Nov 2018 – Feb 2019

Radical! Joe Bates and the merry Filthy Lucre lot invited power-Mancunians ACM and yours truly to do our live-typed text piece from 2015, Fleck Flob Flop at the newly opened Redon club in Bethnal Green, and it was great. Thanks very much guys – your sound engineer was one of the Greatest Of All Time. Here’s a little snap of Vitalija Glovackyte and Robbie Gardiner doubling down on the tough stuff, in a photo credited to Filthy Lucre:

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I’ve been shirking documentarian duties here for a while, but in a good way: so much music got made! First, the new record Joyrobix is actually done–I heard the test pressing on Monday and it’s coming out as SLP047 on April 4th, just before we hit the road with it. Second, here is a tiny slice of the big orchestral refix of Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka that’s coming up in March, which I said in a previous post would have vocoder all over it. It still definitely does, but more importantly it also sounds like the end of your favourite Disney film. Forgive the mix, it’s a thrown-together demo, but I was too excited to wait until a recording of the real thing comes in later this spring. 🙂

The piece, which is called Petrushka Reloaded, is for the kind of weird little ensembles I cobble together (a quartet this time: SPD & feedback station, electric guitar, vocoder & midi heaven, singer & toys), plus one hundred actual people with real instruments. Thanks to Konstantin and Pauli at the orchestra for their stewardship, and to the indefatigable Christoph Altstaedt and Simon Nathan (who has like literally done Rick Wakeman’s arrangements) for taking my half-baked, chamber-weirdo croonfest and exploding it into something that sounds actually rather like the old master. So fun. There’ll be mad projections from Stanisław Zaleski, too. March 7th we’re at the Philharmonic Hall, Szczecin, March 9th at the Konzerthaus, Berlin, and June 5th we play the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg twice in one day. Bonkers.

Who is Raymond? @ Mayhem [DK], AHEAD [LT] / junge norddeutsche philharmonie / Joyrobix

Late 2018

More travelling with my pal Raymond, this time on a train that went on a boat, to Copenhagen’s lovely Mayhem spot. Big thanks to Danielle Dahl for the invitation, and the awesome mini hamburgers. Raymond and I also paid a visit, at long last, to the distant lands of Lithuania, and specifically to the AHEAD electronic music festival. Cheers to Vitalija Glovackyte for the hook up, to Edvardas Šumila and Dominykas Digimas for the wintry fun, especially the rather nifty afterparty in the old railway station.

AHEAD Photo

It’s been a while since the last entry here, but not for want of work: hermetic noodlings on the next record and making weird art with NYU undergraduates have been the order of days. And there’s a fat load of work to be birthed in the immediate future, huzzah. First, the new record, definitively titled Joyrobix, is in the final stages of mixing, and it’s a carefully deranged half-hour song cycle that sounds like a commercial radio station loaded into a shopping trolley with children’s toys, a few of my uncle’s favourite adult contemporary records, my best Michael Bublé impression, and then kicked down a long flight of stairs. It’s really smooth until the wheels start to come off. Cheeky rough-mix snippet below:

Second, in a new and marvellous development, the fine folks of Berlin’s junge norddeutsche philharmonie have asked me to write a 30’, brightly coloured ode to Stravinsky’s Petrushka for performances next year. Among a bunch of other spots, it’ll be at the Philharmonic Hall in Szczecin, Berlin’s Konzerthaus and Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, all of which is in equal measures thrilling and terrifying. I’m thinking an abstract portrait of Igor’s little puppet as a heartbroken manic dude, with lots of vocoder. I’m also thinking of that Orchestra Hit sound from those keyboards we had at school. Mmhm, this one.

Finally, two homeboys have records out! You can get Michael Cutting’s beautiful tape machine studies here, and Laurie Tompkins’ explorations of the furthest reaches of Netflix and synth with cellist Ollie Coates, here. Rejoice!

 

Café Oto + Wonder Inn [UK], NYU + National Sawdust [US], Casa del Popolo [CA], Roter Salon [DE], Liverpool Victoria Gallery & Museum [UK]

Dec 2016 – Mar 2017

A fun couple of months bouncing around with four different pieces. Who is Raymond? happened at Manchester’s wonderful Wonder Inn; thanks to Vitalija Glovackyte for the invitation! It also happened at New York University’s Waverly Project as part of ACM ensemble’s residency there, and again with Kinder Meccano at Casa del Popolo in Montreal; thanks to Noam Bierstone and his NO HAY BANDA series, and all of the marvellous audiences.Who Is Raymond [Press]Together, ACM and I gave Fleck Flob Flop its US premiere at National Sawdust in New York, which was every bit the great show we hoped it would be. Thanks to everybody who came out and was a part of making it that, also to Nico Muhly, Courtenay Casey, and Katie Jones for looking after us so amazingly, and to Michael Cutting and Vitalija Glovackyte for being game. And to Robbie Gardiner (below) for playing clarinet like a boss with lips bloody from the cold.

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Herr Andreas Dzialocha put out this very special record on Hyperdelia, the new label he’s running with point man Malte Kobel, and it was my great pleasure to test run some new material at their launch party at the very red Roter Salon in Berlin. Some sounds for your perusal:

Finally, after Aldeburgh Music (May) and Café Oto (December), The House of Bedlam gave Disappointment & Small Relief (Hospital Scenes) its third outing at the Leggate Theatre, erstwhile home to public autopsies, in Liverpool. Some serious synergy between site, sounds & band name right there. Gigantic thanks to the ensemble and to Larry Goves, as ever.

I’m taking a break from regular shows for the next twelve months to finish the follow-up to 2015’s Brittle Love, which y’all can still get at the link you just read past. It’s tentatively titled Joyrobix, and will be touring all of Europe and North America in spring 2019. With my little sister, which is the most exciting prospect.