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.

Winchester Cathedral

Over the last weekend I was fortunate enough to visit Winchester Cathedral. I don’t think I have been here before, or at least if I have, I have no memory of it. Winchester is the oldest cathedral in England, and, when it was first built, the city was the capitol, which is a strange thought in itself. Winchester city is small. Not that that is a bad thing in any way. I quite like it.

The cathedral itself is rather beautiful. Whilst there I was lucky enough to go on two tours around the building. Both of these tours focused on the history and politics of the building, which, whilst very interesting, seemed to miss the essential purpose of the cathedral, as a place of worship. Now I understand that these kinds of tours are aimed at tourists, that’s a given, but I still consider that at least some mention of why it is there and what its core purpose is, would be not just relevant, but really quite essential.

Whilst I was there I also listened to a rather beautiful performance by a choir. It was only 20 minutes long, but thoroughly enjoyable. If you’re interested in it, you can find it on my podcast.

Bristol Full Court Press

I was in Bristol over the weekend and had a chance to visit an old favourite. A coffee shop called Full Court Press. The last time I was there was in 2019, before the pandemic. The coffee was excellent back then, and yesterday it was still great. It seems to be so hard to find really good coffee where someone cares about how to make it. There is so much average coffee around.

If you ever find yourself in Bristol city centre and you like really good coffee, I can thoroughly recommend this place. It is superb. The picture is from their window, and it amused me.

Winchelsea Beach

I don’t think I have been to Winchelsea beach before. But the day I went it was beautiful. Very peaceful and calm.

The calm was literally before the storm. So my time there was a little limited. As you can see from the sky it was a dramatic scene, but strangely peaceful and still.

Why is it that waves are so calming? Why is it that the sound of the sea is so peaceful. I seriously think that I could have stayed all day in that moment. Longer probably.

But the tide was coming in, and the rain was about to fall in a rather dramatic way. But the moment was still perfect.

I hope to go back again.

Knoops, hot chocolate

I have been to knoops before, back in 2018. The hot chocolate was amazing. Both excellent and very different. As I was back in Rye just last weekend I thought I would pop in and try it again. I looked up the knoops website and was interested to find out that there are now four stores. The one in Rye is still there, but there are a couple in London and another opening soon. When I had visited a few years ago I had no idea it would franchise out into a chain. Somehow that just didn’t seem very likely.

But I was wrong. Now knoops is a chain and the Rye shop is just one of the outlets. But, most importantly, was the hot chocolate any good? The short answer, yes, it was. It was very good, but there was one thing missing. Something not as it was back in 2018. When I had originally visited the Rye shop was run by the owner and he was brilliant at explaining everything about the different percentages of cocoa and what that meant.

This time round it was just like going to any other chain. Perhaps a bit nicer, but it didn’t have that local feel, that independent feel. I guess that is the price you pay for things expanding. The loss of the personal touch. The loss of that feel of something truly unique.

Knoops is still good though. The hot chocolate is still good, and I would still recommend it to anyone who likes hot chocolate.

The Windmill at Rye

It has been a long time since I was last in Rye. I think it was 2018 actually. It is a lovely little town. Full of Character and history, and, over the years, I have spent many happy times there.

I was due to go back in 2020, but like so many plans, that had to be put on hold. So it was wonderful to get back there again. Just for a few days, and with the intention of doing very little indeed. In fact, just being somewhere other than at home is a blessing these days, and I’m sure that many people feel the same.

The last time I visited Rye I stayed in the windmill, and it was so lovely that I had to go back. In many ways I am just glad that it is still there. So many places and businesses have vanished through the pandemic and I am very happy to say that the windmill in Rye is not one of them.

The actual windmill suite is the top two floors of the windmill itself, and as such is fully self contained. You might wonder why I wanted to stay there again. I think that I just like windmills. This one is obviously not a working mill. I don’t think it would be quite as comfortable a stay if it were working, but from the outside it is still obvious what the building was, and inside is very comfortable indeed.

As a place to stay it is very peaceful, and more than anything, that is what I needed. As my stay was just prior to a number of lockdown restrictions being lifted it was a slightly different stay in Rye to previous visits, but that was okay. I didn’t mind. Also the weather was particularly horrible, but again, I think at the moment I can forgive a great deal just to be somewhere other.

As a location I can commend it in every way, and, if you are interested in staying here, you should take a look at this website. I am sure that I will go back again. Perhaps not this year, but certainly in the future. Even in poor weather it is a lovely place to just be.

Berlin Musical Instrument Museum

I visited the Berlin Musical Instrument Museum at the beginning of December last year. I’d never been before, but I do love to visit museums of this kind. Whilst for the most part it was largely concerned with traditional instruments, it did have a little corner tucked away for electronic instruments, and that was nice. Not huge by any means, but nice.

Overall it was a fun place to visit, although, unlike some similar museums, I probably wouldn’t go again.