The Langham Research Centre at Cafe Oto

I first saw the Langham Research Centre at the Barbican last month. I was really impressed by them. So when I got an email from Cafe Oto sent an email about them playing I decided I should go. Cafe Oto is a lovely place to see music, and I even played there once myself.

The LRC were great, as expected, and I also managed to have a quick chat with Robert Worby about sound and the words we use to describe sounds, or rather the fact that we have very few words that actually do describe sounds. It’s an interesting subject and one that needs some thought.

Next I think I need to probably buy some of the recordings. There is plenty on Bandcamp, which is where I will start. I am especially drawn to their piece ‘Gateshead Multi-storey Car Park’.

Fifteen years of Nouvelle Vague

When I first heard Nouvelle Vague I was really amazed. I remember it clearly. It was at WOMAD and they were playing ‘Blue Monday’. Of course it didn’t sound like ‘Blue Monday’. I knew all the words but I could not for the life of me think of what the song was.

Since them I’ve seen them a few times live and have always enjoyed their music, or rather the music they play. So I was looking forward to seeing them again, especially at Union Chapel, which is such an amazing venue.

But I’m sad to say I found them less than inspiring. Firstly there were only four of them and no bass player at all. Their selection of songs was poor. There were some good songs, and in fact they made a good start, but after that it was a little dull. I have no idea if anyone else there had similar thoughts, and there were a lot of people there.

I still like a lot of what they’ve done over the years, but for now, I doubt I’ll go to see them again.

Nonclassical: Listening to Place at the Barbican

I found out about this event from an email from ‘Cities and Memories’, and, as someone who is very interested in field recording I was keen to go along. Also as a Londoner I need little persuasion to head to the Barbican.

This was more than just a performance though. This was a whole day about field recording, comprising multiple performances and a panel discussion as well. There are a few details on Nonclassical’s site. Personally I was most interested in the panel discussion, which was interesting, but mostly because of the contributions of Robert Worby from the Langham Research Centre. He had some really useful insights into the practice of field recording. Food for thought.

The performance was a bit of a curate’s egg on the whole. Some very good pieces, some less successful in my opinion. I particularly liked the performance by Li Yilei which I thought integrated field recordings most successfully. Kate Carr’s work was also very good, but it felt like it lacked a direction, or at least it every time it felt like it was going somewhere interesting she changed direction. Just my opinion of course.

The Langham Research Centre was a high point for me and I’m looking forward to listening to more of their work in the coming days.

These kinds of events are few and far between, and for the most part I usually hear about them long after they’ve happened. So I was really glad to actually make it to this. I really enjoyed the whole day, and it was both interesting and inspiring.

Well done to Nonclassical and the Barbican for organising it.

Barbican: Britain on the move

I went to this on Sunday as I was invited by a friend. I probably would have overlooked this event if it wasn’t for that. But it was good. Quite unique in fact.

I have always had a love of trains, or perhaps, to be more accurate, a love of being on long train journeys. So this appealed to me simply for that fact.

The films shown were of mixed quality. All of them showed different aspects of train travel in different parts of the UK. From busy cities, to the countryside and seaside. The one I liked the best was the first commuter inter city train. The film of that was very focused on the comfort and luxury of the journey. It was very business centric, but, as a piece of social history, very interesting. As was the music, which was live and performed by an ensemble of musicians from the guild hall. They had composed the score themselves, and whilst some of it was electronic and appealed to me a bit more, a lot of it was more generally contemporary.

Overall it was a very good experience. Well put together. Enjoyable. I would certainly go to something like that again.

Beyond the border postponed

Like so many other events Beyond the Border has been postponed. It’s a shame. The last time I went was at St Donat’s, which is a beautiful venue for a festival like this. The next time the festival runs it will be somewhere else, and I’m not sure that’ll work for me. Sometimes it is a good idea to know when you just want the memories of a thing to be left as something beautiful to look back on.

It might be now for me. It might be a good time to leave it anyway. Given that it’s postponed for now I don’t really have to decide. I hope that it does get going again next year. It would be a shame for it to end completely.

Record Store Day 2019

I do realise that this was quite a long time ago now, back in April in fact. But it is an event that I like to celebrate and, when I can, be a part of. This year I was again. However, in terms of how many things I got from my list, I wasn’t very successful at all. In fact, it was a bit of a bust to be honest.

Whilst that was a shame, I did manage to get a few bits and pieces, and I was pleased with that. I plan to go again in 2020, but I won’t be sure until I can see what’s on the list, and that won’t be for a few months yet.

Back in 2018 I decided that the simplest way to do Record Store day was to stay in a hotel around the corner, and I think that might be my best bet in 2020 if there’s enough on the list to actually tempt me.

Robyn’s Rocket at Cafe Oto

On Wednesday I had the rare privilege of playing live at Cafe Oto with the amazingly talented Robyn. She is a gifted trumpet player and had a whole night of acts at Cafe Oto. I’ve been there many times and seen some amazing artists, so to play there myself was incredible.

It was a really great night too. Robyn was, of course, amazing. My small part was to bring some improvised electronics in the form of a couple of Bastl Instruments Kastle synths. To be precise a 1.0 and a new 1.5 Kastle. These little synths are amazing and incredibly versatile. There’s so much you can do with them.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get some of the footage and sound from the gig. When I do, I’ll be sharing that.

Soundhouses: The Radiophonic Workshop at 60

I’ve been a fan of the Radiophonic workshop even before I knew who they were. Since I started watching Doctor Who. I could probably say that their music was a contributory factor to me being interested in electronic music. So whenever I can get to see them, be that a talk or a performance, I make the effort.

The best part of this evening was the talk. In fact it was the best part by far. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the performance, I did. I was just a lot more interested in their stories and hearing about how they did some of the amazing things back at the height of the workshop’s era.

The best part of the talk by far was the description of how the original Doctor Who theme was made. They had a multitrack version that showed all of the individual parts of the track and how they work together. Of course, Delia didn’t have anything like this when she made it. She had to splice individual notes for each and every track.

They had great stories too. Stuff about how they made things. How they solved problems and made incredible music in a totally analogue environment. It was awesome.