Gigs, Blog entry, Synth Sounds

SynthJam - Friday 12th April - I'll be there with Moog...

If you’re in the Telegraph Hill area of south east London tomorrow evening, pack up your modular synth and bring it to SynthJam - an evening of jamming on Synths..! I’ll be there to jam, hope you can make it too!


Peter, the organiser says “Grab your modular, drum machine or synth, plug in and jam! Be part of an evening dedicated to live improvised electronic music (of sorts) Places will be limited so message me if you want to be part of the performance. I'm keen to bring as many different electronic textures to the group as possible including acoustic instruments manipulated through pedals or laptops. Spectators are most welcome and we'll hopefully have time for some hands-on audience participation. Message me if you have any questions, Lets Jam!”


BBC Biggest Weekend - gig reviews

Ok, so I wasn't at any of the events, but I watched a load on iPlayer; here are my reviews, starting with electronic music superstars Orbital and Underworld...


- Great set, all the classics (first five mins wasn't so keen on)
- Nice synth malfunction in Satan, proving something was being done live


- Rez into Underworld was amazing

- Born Slippy always raises the hairs, especially when seeing it enjoyed by 1000s of other people

- Rick Smith was clearly miming a record-perfect rendition of Rez. I mean, really? It’s not dignified to do that at his age!!



- Wanted to like it, but style of vocals just not my cup of tea

- I just can’t get on with live drums for an intensely electronic style such as D’n’B. See a foolish article I wrote for Sound on Sound in my youth: sss (I still stand by it!!!)



 - Quite fun 


Lykke Li

- Always loved Dance Dance Dance so giving this set a whirl

- This first song ‘Swimming Pool’ is going on a bit

- All the songs I’m finding a bit boring I’m afraid. One chord per bar, vocal style unchanging, etc. 

- Enjoyed the second half a bit better, more interesting sounds and evocative atmosphere.

- No Dance Dance Dance! Wot a swizz!


Public Service Broadcasting

- not entirely convinced by the four-part Titanic piece, but at least they’d made an effort for the location

- Will they play Spitfire?

- Yes!

- Enjoyed second half of their set from Spitfire onwards


Simple Minds

 - Yeah, I know, a bit of nostalgia. Good 80’s keyboard styles! 



- This was great, need to track down more of their material


Gig Review: Different Trains 1947

Different Trains 1947: Barbican
Sunday 1st October 2017


Different Trains

This began with a film featuring the composers enjoying their jolly to India. I’m not sure this did much to endear the artists to the audience if I’m perfectly honest, and when it finished, there was a kind of silence before a bit of clapping, suggestive of a kind of, ‘er, are we supposed to applaud that?’

Anyway, onto the piece. Each composer contributed a movement. 1) Actress, 2) Sandunes 3) Jack Bennet.

Of the three, Sandunes piece was the standout. It was the most easily relatable to the compositional concept of Steve Reich’s original. There were minimalistic riffs on synths and percussive type sounds, and vocal loops relating to trains. What lifted it even further was the extraordinary drumming by Jivraj Singh. He punctuated the melodic elements with panache, and kept up a constant groove which sometimes wasn’t even audible, but visual (he moved like a writhing snake!), and sometimes burst into dramatic staccato and sometimes hushed into a quiet intensity. It was basically great.

Part three was the next most successful, though not wildly interesting. It started with time-stretched vocals and moved into a section when Jivraj (hi again!) drummed along to the sound of a steam train. I could see the intent - it’s quite fun to hear drumming done in time with a steam train. But it was sort of not that successful, because a the train started slow as if pulling out of a station, and then as it speeded up, Jivraj kept pace, but he ultimately couldn’t go as fast as a real steam train would, because it would have been about 300bpm. So the recording just slowed down again. So no sense of momentum was really built up. I think I would have let the train go full speed and halved or even quartered the drumming tempo. Overall though, it was kind of interesting.

Part one. Well, not sure what happened here, there were technical issues at the start, which meant I was never quite sure if the piece was sounding as it should have done. It did sound a bit unfinished. General electronic LFO noises were accompanied by the singing of Priya Purushothaman. A very good Indian singer. But I wasn’t really sure what the point was. Seemed to be, ‘here’s some generic electronic type noise, here’s a traditional Indian singer, let’s just put one on top of the other’. I couldn’t really determine much interaction or conversation going between the two elements. In the end I just shut my eyes and let the piece waft over me, which was pleasant enough.

The other oddity was that the second two pieces had an accompanying film, but the first piece didn’t. That was weird - did they run out of time to make a third piece? To be honest, the films were just the usual looped bits of archival film in triptych (yes mirror images on the outer two panels), which gets pretty boring pretty quickly. Especially as they were really short and too grainy to make out the interesting detail that one would have liked.

As to the larger point of it all - trying to commemorate the partition of India in 1947, I don’t think that theme came across particularly well in any of the pieces. I certainly didn’t ‘learn’ anything about that event (of which I am mostly ignorant, I’m afraid to say). Perhaps the second part with it’s violent drumming and insistent loops were closest to approximating something like a response to those events.

So, overall|: an interesting, partially successful evening (from a musical perspective). Main outcome: I definitely want to find out more about Sandunes’ music.