I have partaken of weird activities whilst attending festivals. Punk bingo at Scumfest, wild man life drawing at Supersonic, and this weekend I was part of The Hat Speaks, a passive part I hasten to add, as this is an activity whereby the musician’s names are drawn randomly from a hat (I drew one or two names) and they then create an improvised experimental jazz jam for ten minutes to open the festival for the day.
I think this is something that we could embrace farther afield from the iprov experimental jazz scene. How about seeing stoner sludge bands jam it out and go with a vibe, or modernist black metal musicians riding off each other creating merry hell…?
Well, I have spoken on these pages of how the avant-garde is influencing elements of the current black metal scene, with acts such as Wreche focussing on lead piano and Pongavranjen opening with a saxophone placing them outside the norm for blackened metal, what better than to indulge myself in some avant-garde experimental music for the weekend.
The improv pieces showcase some very interesting and expressive takes on how to utilise your instrument with players scrubbing, hitting and tapping drums and horns in many ways other than what is in the instruction manuals.
Tina Edwards, founding editor of Jazz Standard wears a ‘Smooth Jazz Sucks’ t-shirt on her twitter pic, which I take as similar to our battle cry of ‘Death to False Metal’ – outsiders only see a mainstream version and don’t understand the depth and breadth on offer. But I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce some of these bands at the cutting edge, the precipice of ‘new’. The bands I managed to check out included the following.
MA/TI/OM a trio of sax, drum and double bass, and I don’t think I saw the drummer ‘drum’ at all. She utilised every bit of the body of the drum, tapping, scraping, laying items on the drum skin to resonate whilst the bass playing brought out deep and dark sounds out of the belly of a Jaws soundtrack.
Archipelago takes the bass guitar playing in to new lands by using his pedals and turning the sound completely inside out. You may be familiar with bass and drum duos such as Ghold or Slow Plague but the sax takes the lead whilst the bass experiments with some backing track styles and at times completely changes its essence. So, fans of modern angular progressive rock wouldn’t do too bad checking this trio out. Spiky tempo changes, breaks, silences, slow anticipation with sudden cliff drops and raging chaos can all be found herein.
Sloth Racket have the disjointed time changes on the lines of grindcore and power violence. With a name like this they were a deal maker form me coming along to this festival! Celebrating tonight as their album launch for Shapeshifters and their use of horns is within similar territory of guitar feedback with screaming, screeching, fervent rasps of noise. The line-up includes Cath Roberts which is one half of the Luminous crew that curated this weekend’s shenanigans.
Sam Andreae one of the dual saxophone engine rooms of power brings out an array of whistles and flutes, sometimes to blow, other times to hit and scrape up and down his sax. It reminds me of the intensity of watching Hendrix as he attacked his guitar in a frenzy to extract as much as he could out of his piece of wood and metal.
Webster (Birchall/Cheetam/Webster/Willberg) – some of you may know Colin Webster already from work with jazz grindcore fusionistas Dead Neanderthal. This is a mixed martial arts contest of sparring drums, sax, double bass and guitar. Angular attacks of demonic possession, it reminds me of watching early Diagonal before they smoothed their sound with Rise Above studio production.
Metamorphic took us to some very dark places with their tune ‘Deer Medicine’ the double bass playing lays down the foundation for very intense saxophone leads, whilst Laura’s piano pulls on the heart strings and her whisper poetry style vocals can be quite dark and despairing – as far from Gilli Smyth’s space whisper as possible!
And finally, a shout out to the curators at Luminous Music: https://luminouslabel.bandcamp.com/