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Eurovision 2017

Eurovision 2017

It’s the time of year in Europe when days grow longer, spring blossoms multiply andthe Eurovision Song Contest heaves into view; which also entails Kev Nickells going through each and every entry with a vengeance.

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Benedict Taylor – Transit Check / A Purposeless Play ; Benedict Taylor And Anton Mobin – Stow | Phasing; Tom Jackson, Benedict Taylor, Daniel Thompson – Hunt At The Brook

Benedict Taylor and Anton Mobin - Stow | Phasing

Benedict Taylor: dashing young blade of the London (and beyond) free improv scene. He’s a busy man and a fine player and in possession of a veritable encyclopaedia of techniques. The scratchy ones, the frittery ones, the ones that sound a bit like a helicopter in the distance. But not showy, in case you’re worried that it’s going to sound like a viola lesson.

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Every Contact Leaves A Trace label feature revisited (Henry Collins / Helen White / Marvin Tate, Joseph Clayton Mills)

Helen White - Solar Wind Chime

So. I did some reviews of the first batch of Every Contact Leaves A Trace releases, which were fine indeed. And here we are, just two short years on, in a world that looks slightly different. And yet, on plod sound-art micro-labels, furrowing obstinate fields. I say that in a fashion that might sound derisory, but if I know one thing about ECLAT label-head Seth Cooke, it’s that he’s bloody-minded.

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Various Artists – Eurovision Song Contest Copenhagen 2014: Official Album

With the annual festival of all things Europop upon the screens of a continent and beyond, Kev Nickells runs through the entries.

Eurovision Song Contest Copenhagen 2014 - Official AlbumEurovision – a cherished institution. Writing this has been a bit of a nightmare, to be honest, because Europe’s a lot bigger than you think it is. Spreads all the way over to Azerbaijan. And for all the tack/awesome stage-setting, it’s a timely reminder that Europe, as a concept, is a weird thing. And a thing in which popular culture is, y’know, pretty indistinguishable.

I’ve mentioned the ‘world music’ caveat before, where it’s easy to write yourself into knots talking about unfamiliar traditions, but that’s not really the problem with Eurovision. The problem with Eurovision is that

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Every Contact Leaves a Trace label feature (Seth Cooke/Henry Collins/Ignacio Agrimbau/Dominic Lash and Will Montgomery)

Four releases from a shiny new label devoted to something like sound-art, but not as asceptic and dry as that genre has a habit of implying. Hopefully, label head Seth Cooke is already known to Freq readers, but if not his is a formidable CV – sometime Freq writer, engine, petrol and tillerman for Bang The Bore, previously one of spazzy rock’s finest drummers (Hunting Lodge), an improviser of God knows how many outfits, episodic A Bander, contemporary composition performer (mostly on the Wandelweiser side of things), conceptual sound-art tickler and probably a raft of things I’ve forgotten.

Before I start cooking the meat of the corpus, it’s worth pointing out that the label, thus far at least, is pretty concept-heavy. Concept is often a perilous matter – sound-art/experimental/whatever tends to rest atop well-articulated concepts but if there’s not much attention paid to whether or not it’s worth following through

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Sweet Baboo – live, interview and album feature

The Third Golden Age of Welsh Pop™ shows little sign of abating any time soon. Following his contributions to Cate le Bon‘s two extraordinary Cyrk releases and Euros Childs‘ sunshine classic Summer Special last year, Stephen Black now unleashes his own long awaited fourth album as Sweet Baboo. Originally from Trefriw in north Wales’ Conwy valley, SB has long been an integral part of the Cardiff musical community that includes Cate, Euros, H Hawkline, Richard James and Gruff Rhys, who can often be heard helping out on each other’s records. Their individual records bear little relation to any musical fashions but neither do they sound like each other, although a common aesthetic can, I think, be detected.

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Conny Plank – Who’s That Man?

Conny Plank - Who's That ManGrönland released their epic four-disc tribute to legendary producer Conny Plank in February 2013. Leon Muraglia of the Kosmische Club looks back at the man, his music and some of the artists whose distinctive, revolutionary sounds he helped create.

“Do you feel like a ride into the forest?”’ Conny Plank asked Brian Eno one warm autumn evening. After a short drive in Plank’s old Merc, they parked in a forest clearing and sat talking, surrounded only by the birds and the breeze. “Do you want to hear something on the radio?” Conny asked. “Why not?” Eno replied. He switched on the radio – and it broadcast the piece they’d been working on all day. Conny had set up a transmitter

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Figures of Light – Drop Dead


For most bands, tackling that ‘difficult’ second album can be a daunting experience; the expectation, the pressure to top their debut, and the need to break new ground can all conspire to form a perilous trap for the unwary and the uninitiated. Most bands, however, don’t record their second album 41 years after forming.

Figures of Light, a ghost legion of the proto-punk army who fought almost single-handedly around New York and New Jersey during the early 1970s, have returned to the studio, however, and recorded a new album, following on from their 2007 ‘debut’ Smash Hits. That album, which collated vintage material from as far back as 1970 alongside recordings made that year, was a first step in placing the band back into their proper historical context, elevating them into their proper place as a lost link between the 1960s

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Paolo Angeli – Tibi/Fred Frith – Live in Japan

Paolo Angeli – TibiFred Frith - Live in JapanThere are four main ways of making music that sounds different to anyone else: by devising your own conceptual framework; using rare or unique instruments and equipment; developing an unusual approach to your instrument; or by training until your technique is broader, faster or more specialised than that of other players. Depending on your level of insecurity you may reinforce these with deliberate obfuscation, whether that entails removing the labels from your vinyl, claiming that you don’t understand or aren’t interested in your own process or ability, hiding your equipment or simply not answering questions. It depends whether or not you’re afraid of the competition or you think you’re the kind of person who’s only going to have one decent idea in your lifetime…

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Dead Can Dance – 1981-1998

Label: 4AD Format: DVD+3xCD

Dead Can Cance 1981-1996 - sleeve There is an air of finality about the title and contents of 1981-1998. With the dissolution of their musical partnership into separate solo careers, Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry are no longer Dead Can Dance, but as the extensive essay on the group included in the luxurious slip-cased hardbacked book (jam-packed with landscape photos) which makes up the packaging of the set observes, the band lives on through its music. However trite that may appear at first – all now-split bands or deceased artists exist beyond their actual personal existence together, barring reunions and the like – somehow it seems even more appropriate when considering Dead Can Dance, who practically embody the idea of timelessness in their uniquely overwhelming sound.

One of the aspects of the group’s career which is remarked upon in

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Psychic TV – Time’s Up Live

Label: Studio Philo/Music Video Distributors Format: DVD

Time's Up Live - jacketWhen Genesis P-Orridge returned to London in 1999 after nearly a decade of tabloid media-inspired witchhunt and subsequent exile to America, there was no doubt that the reappearance of Psychic TV on stage would be an event. That GPO’s manifestation resulted in broadsheet The Guardian running an extensive feature on his welcoming into the very heart of the arts establishment was almost as remarkable as the fact that PTV would be playing in the Royal Festival Hall itself, site of many a surprise underground-made-overground event before and since, but never one quite so outré.

Thanks for this eagerly-anticipated marathon gig is largely due to the then-head of contemporary arts programming, David Sefton, and as the accompanying Cut Up Concert documentary on the DVD recognizes, Time’s Up was quite a pageant of psychedelic

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