03.13.12 - 12:21pm
Some reviewage of the Kettle’s Yard thing. I wasn’t ecstatic about how my thing came over and out, to be honest, but KY is a weird jelly to be stuck in, especially at midday on a Sunday morning. Then again, I’d had a nagging feeling that what I was going to say was going to jar in this context, but I think that would have been fine if the music had been transcendentally amazing rather than rough tapey sketches, and I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was obligated to take part in something that was going to be awkward and lacklustre that I was presenting as an example of my own skill and flair, ha ha. Doesn’t help when you’re nervous, of course. I’ve tried this sort of thing several times, most recently in Belgium fucking ages ago, but I think there’s a reason why I don’t do it very often. Mr Doozer said it was unusual to hear someone talk about their thang from an emotional rather than an intellectual point of view, but in a way I wished I’d had the time/balls to elaborate on the philosophical questions my half-assed enquiry was throwing up. But then it would be folly to ask how art gets into a thing in 15 minutes when you want to play four shit tunes on a minidisc player as well. I should have done a handout, as God knows I’ve made a twat of myself passing them round in the dark at “normal” gigs before, and God also knows that it is normal practice with Bad Timing/New Music at Kettle’s Yard, but I started to feel like I was over-egging the pudding or something. So it was a bit of a flat, dry vegan pudding that people had to be nice about.
Anyway, here’s the actual text of niceness, with Rich putting the best possible light on it. Thanks Rich!:
It’s absolutely thrashing it down with rain. Luckily for me, I’m not on my bicycle today but even as I successfully find a parking space at the side of the road just up the road from Kettle’s Yard, my walk down Castle Hill involves stepping on a paving slab that ejaculates a muddy wash over my feet and trousers. Not exactly what I had in mind for a Sunday lunchtime. However, these Sunday concerts, newly re-branded under the title of “Hidden Channels” are celebrating a birthday – 10 years of championing DIY, experimental and electronic music and sound in Cambridge and the surrounding area. I’ve only ever made it to one previously, but their line-up and approach is more than just moving an evening’s worth of entertainment to a more friendly Sunday afternoon. Today is a good example. Whilst Simon Scott was supposed to be airing a new sound piece focusing on the “subterranean sound environment of the waterways of Cambridge”, he’d taken ill and was replaced my Pete Um running a seminar on influence rather than performing.
Prior to that we were treated to an introduction by Local Radio – a haunting piece of strings, broadcast from a tiny FM radio at the back of the venue. The sound then drifted up and into the vacant gallery above, fighting to be heard over the angry deluge of rain. This flowed nicely into Ypsmael’s piece for today entitled ‘Akystret’. An Eno-esque sound collage of shimmering noise through which treated guitar and field recordings were delicately placed. It felt like a soundtrack to human evolution. Beginning with the sound of our primordial beginnings, crawling out from the ocean through washes of sound and breaking, delicate riffs that then morphed into swaying trees and the clipped clicks of feet and swaying vegetation, before ending in the final metallic calls of urban living, the music finally morphed into a growing urban structure, reflecting humankind’s never ending ambition.
Having seen Pete Um perform on numerous occasions recently, it was refreshing to see him take a more personal approach to today’s event. Taking a step back from his music and casting, not quite a critical eye, but appreciating the correlation between events of his life and their subconscious effect on his music. Sitting in front of a desk with just a mini-disc player for company, he proceeded to play four pieces of music. Two were from a period in his life when things weren’t at their best – a long-term relationship was coming to an end and, as he sat in a flat by himself, he watched as a pigeon made a nest, laid eggs and battled to survive against swirling gale force winds. The second two pieces were from a more promising period – a new relationship was in its honeymoon period and he’d moved to Chelsea docks, living on a barge and watching a working river go about its daily business. With this information to hand it became obvious to the listeners the differences between the pieces. The first set were much darker: jarring sounds and heavy, metallic tones combined in a claustrophobic and oppressive noise, whilst alien sounds floated around. Fast forward to the more positive period and the music became a purring drone. The music was still Pete’s usual blend of lo-fi electronics but the texture was much lighter, whilst the tones here were a flowing, more gentle ripple. These points are, perhaps, not surprising. But Pete was trying to convey just how unconscious these influences were – he hadn’t set out to make the “gnarly” noises – they’d just happened. The subconscious playing its part in creating his art. It’s rare to hear an artist discuss these points so candidly, and it made for a revelatory experience.
The final performance in this showcase was a performance of Gavin Bryars’ 1-2-3-4. This “scratch” band of local performers (a drummer, bassist and guitarist), each had a personal cassette player. On that player each performer had a piece of music – something chosen under the theme of a “classic piece of underground music” but was “hidden” from us, the audience. Each of the artists were then to play their corresponding instruments’s piece and play it to completion. Usually, the piece starts in sync then slowly unravels but today, the syncronisation continued almost to the end – the final few minutes might have bee a bit esoteric, but the general sludgy riffs wouldn’t have sounded out of place at other experimental evenings I’ve attended. Listening to this slowly meandering river of noise made me think just how simple music is and how every piece of music is related through its lexicon – four players, all picking their way through a piece of music without practice, but still able to make sense of it, to make music. The players, consciously or not, finding a common groove and pattern. An inspiring listen that ended in the sound of thunderous rain pounding the roof reminding us that we, too, were hidden – albeit just from the elements this Sunday afternoon.
Also another review here by the nice lady from Wysing Arts who’s lost track of the number of times she’s seen me play. Actually that’s a relevant point, as Jo Bad Timing sorta post-verbalised at the show – “not many of you lot come down the Portland” etc, so it’s a lonely Venn section Donna and Rich are in, I’m sure we are grateful to them for writing about it, and I’m sorry I was crap