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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » John Lewis


Actress x Stockhausen Sin (x) II review – transcendent AI-driven opera

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Wed 15 May 2019 12:47 pm

Royal Festival Hall, London
DJ and producer Actress strays even further from the dancefloor as he takes on Stockhausen’s famously over the top Mittwoch by sampling Westminster debates

You can see why Karlheinz Stockhausen might appeal to the DJ and producer Darren Cunningham, AKA Actress. Like Stockhausen, Actress makes mischievous soundscapes that gleefully cite arcane references, from absurdist Japanese painter Yayoi Kusama to sculptor Anish Kapoor, from Milton’s Paradise Lost to Jungian psychology.

Tonight’s performance is loosely based on the opening act of Mittwoch, part of Stockhausen’s bonkers 29-hour opera cycle Licht. The complete work famously features a dancing camel and a quartet of cellos, each playing in separate airborne helicopters. This section is adapted from the opening act, Welt-Parliament, in which a group of politicians – played by a medieval-style plainsong choir – discuss the meaning of love. (Tonight’s script uses actual quotes from a recent Westminster debate.)

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Ishmael Ensemble: A State of Flow review | John Lewis’s contemporary album of the month

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Fri 26 Apr 2019 8:30 am

(Severn Songs)
Combining genres from jazz to minimalism with a great city’s musical heritage, without resorting to pastiche, is no mean feat

Ishmael is a saxophonist, DJ, producer and bandleader, known to his friends as Pete Cunningham. Over the past few years, he’s conducted some madly varied DJ sets, created stately remixes of tracks by Detroit techno legend Carl Craig and performed a whole album’s worth of songs by the Yellow Magic Orchestra. He’s also brought his studio-bound inventions to life with the help of a band, the Ishmael Ensemble, making music that’s pitched somewhere between astral jazz, burbling electronica, trippy minimalism, psychedelic dub and 20 years of club culture.

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LCO/Ames: Pioneers of Sound review – probing music’s outer reaches

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Tue 24 Jul 2018 2:22 pm

Royal Albert Hall, London
A thrilling late-night Prom featured five women who push back the frontiers of electronic composition

It seems almost incidental that all five composers featured in this Prom happen to be women. More relevant is the fact that all of them are radical composers who have not only explored the outer reaches of electronic composition but have also built and programmed their own instruments – each one a Stradivari, a Stockhausen and an Ada Lovelace in their own right.

Related: Now for a lampshade solo: how the Radiophonic Workshop built the future of sound

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Contemporary album of the month: Walton: Black Lotus

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Fri 20 Jul 2018 7:15 am

The electronic minimalist composer takes apart the sonic signatures of grime music and reassembles them with clockwork precision

The writer Albert Goldman once observed that every dance craze – from ragtime to rumba to rave – tends to go through a similar life cycle. Each starts as slightly scandalous underground scene that is painted as a symptom of decadence and criminality. It then goes overground, reaching out beyond its core demographic. It then fades from the mainstream and starts a gradual process of gentrification, to be curated by ethnomusicologists and rare-groove archivists.

It’s a cycle we’ve seen repeated for more than a century: from tango to techno, from habanera to hip-hop. Weirdly, with grime – a music that’s been a part of the British musical landscape for nearly 20 years – all of these stages are still happening simultaneously. Grime is still scandalous (and parochial) enough to attract massive police attention, mainstream enough to spawn such huge stars as Stormzy and Skepta, yet gentrified enough to attract the attention of highbrow bloggers who’ll archive pirate radio recordings and rhapsodise about grime’s references to gamelan and Steve Reich.

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Contemporary album of the month – Jon Hassell: Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume I)

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Fri 25 May 2018 8:30 am

Hassell’s ‘fourth world’ fusion of hi-tech minimalism with world rhythms proves the 81-year-old is still experimental after all these years

In the late 70s, long before terms such as “world music” or “cultural appropriation” were in common usage, the trumpeter and composer Jon Hassell devised the term “Fourth World” to describe his music. It explored what he called “primitive futurism”, where shantytown squalor coexisted with hi-tech western studio technology, fusing Hassell’s early minimalist work with Terry Riley and La Monte Young with his studies of Indian, African and Indonesian music.

Brian Eno was an early adopter of Hassell’s aesthetic and, before long, other champions of pan-cultural fusion – David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian, Ry Cooder – were collaborating with Hassell and employing his methodology. As dozens more musicians started plundering exotic global sounds and placing them through electronic filters, Hassell was off exploring other worlds – adding his distinctive trumpet sound for artists as diverse as Björk, Tears for Fears, kd lang and 808 State; flirting with hip-hop and electro; creating “coffee-coloured” classical music with the Senegalese drummer Abdou Mboup; exploring ambient jazz with the likes of Naná Vasconcelos, Jacky Terrasson and Anouar Brahem.

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Contemporary album of the month: Brian Eno – Music for Installations

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Fri 27 Apr 2018 8:30 am

(UMC)
Despite his mainstream pop collaborations, Eno has never stopped making interesting ambient music, as is evident on this six-disc set

For those of us who grew up being thrilled by Brian Eno’s sonic innovations, the great man seemed to have lost his lustre around a decade ago. When not providing big, bland, blustery, stadium-rock productions for Coldplay and U2, he was collaborating with such cutting-edge mavericks as Andrea Corr, Jools Holland, Natalie Imbruglia, Belinda Carlisle and Dido. His “song-based” albums, both solo and with the likes of David Byrne, were becoming tasteful, characterless and anaemic. The wonderfully perverse producer-conceptualist who had transformed Bowie, invented ambient music and shaped no wave seemed to have turned into a rather dull hack.

However, it turns out that Eno never actually stopped making interesting ambient records – it’s just that they only got played at conceptual art exhibitions. This six-CD set assembles some of them: from a discordant, doom-laden, 20-minute dronefest for a gallery in Venice in 1985 to a glittering 21-minute soundscape recorded for an installation in Kazakhstan last year.

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Nils Frahm review – short on harmony but texture and tone in spades

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Fri 23 Feb 2018 12:16 am

Barbican, London
Frahm jokes about his musical limitations, but his piano solos are quiet riots that transport you to a higher plane

He might be the most popular solo pianist on earth at the moment but the Berlin-based “neo-classical” star Nils Frahm will be the first to admit that he’s not a classical pianist of any description. In this two-hour show there is little harmony or chordal development, scarcely any improvisation, and – with the exception of the jagged, nerve-wracking, Michael Nyman-ish piano solo Hammers – little virtuosity. What you get in spades, however, is texture – something that the classical conservatoires and jazz modules have always ignored.

You can buy the sheet music for Frahm’s piano solos, but the notes that he rattles out on his panoply of keyboards are almost incidental. What’s important is the tone; the grain; the satisfying way in which each studio-crafted voicing plonks and zings and bounces around the auditorium.

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James Holden & the Animal Spirits: The Animal Spirits review – shimmering astral jazz

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Thu 2 Nov 2017 7:00 pm

(Border Community)

James Holden is an Oxford University maths graduate turned DJ, producer and synth wizard who made his name with a suitably cerebral variety of Aphex Twin-inspired rave music. In the last decade, he’s forsaken DJing to front a live band that mixes minimalism, astral jazz and the rhythmic textures of north African gnawa music. The results are often joyous. Spinning Dance overlays Alice Coltrane’s rattling percussion with shamanic drones and ecstatic, burbling flute improvisations, while The Beginning and End of the Earth takes us through a shimmering, space-age, never-ending chord cycle, as if ascending into heaven. Other tracks evoke the buzzsaw organs and fractally mutating time signatures of Steve Reich. If there’s a slight problem here, it’s with the rather lame tenor saxophonist. These soundscapes require a Pharoah Sanders-style voyager who can fly us into stratospheric realms, but unfortunately, Etienne Jaumet’s solos just splutter along the runway without ever achieving lift-off.

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Portico Quartet: Art in the Age of Automation review – reunited foursome make dreamy, layered trance

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Thu 24 Aug 2017 6:00 pm

(Gondwana Records)

On their last album, they slimmed down to a trio, signed to Ninja Tune Records and reinvented themselves as an ambient synthpop outfit, with help from various guest vocalists. Now they’re back on their original label and reunited with Keir Vine, who provides those distinctive and hypnotic steelpan-style patterns on an instrument called the hang. Jazz purists may have lost interest in the band by now: saxophonist Jack Wylie rarely improvises in any meaningful way. Instead, his languorous lead lines are pitched somewhere between Arve Henriksen’s FX-laden trumpet and Graham Massey’s soprano sax in 808 State. But among the rather snoozy trance dirges are some delicious moments. Opening track Endless invokes Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, while A Luminous Beam mixes a punky two-note bassline with junglist breakbeats and astral electronic burbles. Best of all is the title track, a beautiful, symphonic layering of hushed horns, temple gongs, warm synth pads and dreamy strings.

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Matthew Bourne: Isotach review – piano at its most spartan and hypnotic

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Thu 17 Aug 2017 6:00 pm

(The Leaf Label)

With his recent Radioland tribute to Kraftwerk and his Moogmemory projects, Yorkshire-based pianist Matthew Bourne has shown that he’s one of those rare jazz musicians who knows how to grapple with a synthesiser, rather than simply playing it like an organ or a piano. Weirdly, these solo piano pieces – completed over an 18-month period when Bourne had virtually stopped practising his instrument – sound as if he is interrogating an alien sound source on an upright grand. On tracks such as Isotach and Isopleth, simple phrases are stated and restated, as if Bourne is thrilled by the sound of a piano for the first time in years. The parallel fourths on Extinction nod towards Radiohead’s Everything in Its Right Place; the parallel fifths on Isothere recall one of Harold Budd’s ambient piano pieces; while Isotherm sounds like Bourne is lingering quizzically on a single Erik Satie riff. The results are spartan, hypnotic and beautiful, if gloriously unresolved.

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Radioland: Kraftwerk’s Radio-Activity Revisited review

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Mon 23 Mar 2015 4:48 pm
Village Underground, London
The Anglo-French trio go avant-garde with Kraftwerk’s tunes and textures – which stand up well to the ensuing mutilation

In his sparky history of krautrock, Future Days, David Stubbs describes Kraftwerk’s 1975 album Radio-Activity as “a milestone in electronic music, one that marks a precise and signal midpoint between Stockhausen and Depeche Mode”.

Radioland, an Anglo-French trio named after the third track on the album, imagine an alternative history. Instead of using Radio-Activity as the launchpad for synthpop, this trio take the album’s melodies and textures as the starting point for avant-garde explorations. It’s done entirely live, with English pianist Matthew Bourne behind a bank of vintage Moogs, Minimoogs and Korgs, French composer Franck Vigroux supplying beats and basslines, and French installation artist Antoine Schmitt creating live programmed art.

Bourne has an ability to explore the synthesiser’s most Kraftwerkian properties

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Icebreaker: Kraftwerk Uncovered – review

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Sun 26 Jan 2014 5:59 pm

Science Museum, London
This British chamber ensemble reinvent early Kraftwerk, discovering something messy, minimalist and more interesting

The lucky few who nabbed tickets to see Kraftwerk at Tate Modern last year will have witnessed a recognisable brand. They are now the Teutonic Fab Four, besuited cyborgs standing motionless behind keyboards, presiding over a series of body-popping metronomic pulses. This tribute concert, however, reminds us that Kraftwerk started out as a very different entity. Their first few albums, recorded with Conny Plank, were the work of long-haired prog rockers. They played flutes and violins and skronky electric guitars. They indulged in lengthy, Grateful Dead-style jam sessions. They improvised. They even played bum notes.

It is the spirit of this early, hairy Kraftwerk that British chamber ensemble Icebreaker revisited in the Science Museum's IMAX theatre. There was little improvisation as such – these are meticulous arrangements for a 12-piece orchestra, synchronised with bleakly arty, black-and-white films – but they were quite radical reinventions. The discordant, ambient textures of Megaherz, from Kraftwerk's 1970 debut album, were turned into a chirruping Nymanesque symphony. Two excerpts from 1974's Autobahn were distended into hypnotic slices of Philip Glass-style minimalism, all burbling organs and parping saxes, while Hall of Mirrors (from 1977's Trans Europe Express) was put through the dub chamber. Elsewhere Icebreaker used their unorthodox lineup to replicate sounds in a manner you wouldn't associate with krautrock – sinister drones were played on accordions, synth riffs on pan-pipes, while pulsating basslines were bashed on an enormous bass drum.

Icebreaker weren't the only act paying tribute to Düsseldorf's finest: in another part of the museum, the Balanescu Quartet performed elegant readings of more orthodox Kraftwerk faves, such as The Model and Pocket Calculator. Their versions beautifully captured the surface textures of the music. But it was Icebreaker's reinterpretations that seemed to delve deep into Kraftwerk's innards, discovering something messy and frightening but more interesting.


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