Martin Archer is a leading light in the Sheffield and UK improv scene, with many releases to his name. He’s the same age as I am and our paths have occaisionally crossed (I supported Bass Tone Trap at the Leadmill in the 80s and we both played with Chris Meloche’s Outward Sound Ensemble in the noughties) but it’s curious that we’ve never actually played together as a duo, until now.
Our musical paths have been quite different, he following a challenging, some might say extreme approach to music, whereas I had a far more conventional “band-based” approach, although my solo looping has been an important strand since the 80s. So, it’s wonderful that we find common ground after all these years.
We had a single warm-up session the night before, but otherwise went into the performance with few structured ideas. You can judge for yourself how the meeting of minds went – I’ve split the video into two parts so as to ease your pain somewhat. Despite the visual evidence to the contrary, I *was* there!
Meson at the 3 cranes 2013 – photo Richard Webb Wood Gledhill
There is, a pub, in Sheffield
They call the Three-ee Cranes
And it’s bin, the venue, for many a band
And god, I know I’m two.
Yes, the TRaMpOLinES festival organised by Bo Meson, Rob Tarana and a horde of volunteers turned the 3 Cranes in central Sheffield into a festival of Woodstockian proportions (kind of). Frankly, I’d forgotten that pubs like this were still open near the Sheffield city centre – most have been turned into diners or wine bars, essentially full of twa*ts.
This pub is cosy, friendly, welcoming, good nosh, has a pool table you don’t have to queue for, and they opened up to allow musicians, poets and performers of all kinds to “express themselves” over three days (and nights). Punters of all kinds and predelictions mingled amiably.
I played on Saturday night as part of the legendary Meson collective, this time with Rob Tarana on drums and Roddy McMillan on bass with the initimable Bo hisself. The mood of the evening was that of “fecund jazz” and so I strayed into atonal territories now and again! Sunday night saw me on my lonesome, looping away with my laptop. As ever it crashed during the soundcheck, then behaved itself for the rest of the night. I was even inspired to add a section of Riley-esque looped organ, for good measure.
The festival was judged a success by all and I hope will be returning before too long.
My annual jaunt to Burton On Trent was yet another wonderful evening of music from the Ambient Live team. I played first, followed by Neil Fellowes (and son Callum) and the truly wonderful AirSculpture. The audience was slightly larger than usual, with an unexpected smattering of (gasp!) women to be seen.
The temperature indoors was unpleasantly high, not helped by the rigid seating (I forget every time to bring a cushion). Complaints about “noise” from a local resident meant the doors had to be closed during performances, although not for mine, being so gentle on the ears 😉
My laptop had it’s daily crash during the soundcheck, so performed impeccably for my 35 minute set. I’m still struggling to make effective use of the controller, largely due to the faff of selecting control map sets using a rotary controller and pressing another key to switch the active channel on ableton. I’m sure this will get easier with practise, but I probably need to find another controller. I resisted the temptation to use the keyboard itself!
One feature of the Awakenings gigs is that you can buy a “virtual ticket” and receive an audio file of the complete evening – this is a wonderful idea, recognisijng that ambient fans can’t be expected to travel the length and breadth of Britain for their fix. I look forward to reliving the evenings performances in due course.
Spotted this fabulous video by Gareth Whittock on a facebook looping group – it’s just wonderful! Expressive and amazingly, doesn’t sound at all like an e-bow to my ears! I’ve tried it on various guitars without luck – maybe my ebow isn’t charged up enough to vibrate the string whilst touching it, however gently. I may need to scour ebay for a lappy now
An eerie sounding scale, Bill Walker (check his superb looping work on youtube says it’s arabian minor. R, b2, maj3 ,P4, P5, b6, maj7. This *will* work its way into my set at some stage – truly ispirational.
I’ve had an email from Andrew Keeling, who is writing the definitive book about the criminally ignored Comsat Angels. Pragmatically, he’s sticking to the facts and not the internal politics (bit of a shame 🙂
He’s asked me to write about the brief time I spent with them in the 80s, so I’ve obliged. The memories I’ve unearthed are tinged with sadness, but ultimately happy ones!
Here’s a shot of Mik and Andy (plus Chris McMahon of Haze) jamming with me at my 30th birthday party. I’m playng Steve’s gold Strat. As I recall, we played “Third stone from the sun”, “Purple Haze” and others.
The last track that I mixed of the collaboration between myself and Peter Hill is online at soundcloud. Sadly, the partnership didn’t turn into a longer-term project, but it was a hugely creative and inspiring few months. I wish Pete all the best in his future projects.
For many years I’ve used (and loved) the Alesis airFX – a truly revolutionary concept. However, one huge drawback is the lack of midi output.
Thus, you’re tied to the effects in the unit and cannot use it to control other devices. I pointed out this obvious next step to Alesis, to which they replied “we have no plans to continue development of this unit” and it’s been discontinued. Naturally, they won’t share any technical information about it. Well boo hiss!
So, how do we achieve this using the flexible, cheap and wonderful Ardunio board, which I used elsewhere? This page seems a good way forwards and I’ve ordered a couple of cheap sensors from China for tenner via ebay (look for Arduino Sharp GP2Y0A2YK). Will keep you updated.
I’m currently having a wonderful time playing with a Sheffield musician called Pete Hill – he plays drums, all kinds of percussion, keyboards and lot more besides. Here’s the fruits of yesterdays session, recorded live onto his computer and given a slightly-tweaked mix by me.
Direction-wise, we’d just spent an hour trying to recreate an arrangement of an earlier (improvised) tune. We decided to chill for a while and Pete set an i-phone pattern going, which sparked this relaxed mood. All the guitar looping & processing was done in Ableton.
A Blue Peter badge to the first person to spot what the title references…