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Bonnie “Prince” Billy / London Sacred Harp (live at the Union Chapel)

London 27 July 2017

Bonnie Prince Billy live July 2017Growing up in North Carolina with a fair amount of Baptist and other mountain church influence, I have been no stranger to shape note, or square hymn singing. It’s a strange old thing which the London Sacred Harp group has perfected for the here and now.

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Hypnopazūzu / The Stargazer’s Assistant (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

The Union Chapel, London 22 October 2016

Hypnopazūzu live October 2016Lovely to be back at the Union Chapel again, without doubt one of the jewel venues of London. The vivid bruises of coloured light curving all that gothic finery, spot-lit chandeliers transformed into floating pentagrams. Just looking up at the vaulted ceiling was awesome in itself. You could say this was the perfect pitch for tonight’s esoteric expectations. I saw Current 93 here a few years back and it was made all the more special because of this fact.

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Caravan (live at the Union Chapel)

Caravan live at the Union Chapel March 2016London 14 March 2016

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, the Jules Rimet still gleamed in the trophy cabinets of old Albion, Patrick McGoohan was recognisable to the nation as Danger Man John Drake rather than some arsy bloke being pursued across a Welsh beach by a weird white ball, and Harold Wilson was the dynamic, thrusting young politician thrilling the body politic. Around the same time, although Swinging London was grabbing all the headlines and covers of Time magazine, the Canterbury scene was also a seriously happening event.

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Current 93/Shirley Collins/Macgillivary (live at the Union Chapel)

Macgillivary - live at The Union ChapelLondon 8 February 2014

Macgillivary started proceedings with some rather spooky vocals, multiple choirs caught in the looper’s long corridors, trapped trajectories, cloister curving, quickly followed by a souped-up electric zither accompaniment, as her sorrowful voice continued to work its magic through the vastness of the chapel. She pulled out some nice feedback too, and those ‘white horse’ piano tides were superb, reminded me so much of Galás‘ dark inroads or a more shadow-cast Enya. She concluded her set by walking into the wings, leaving the looper to stretch her vocals ad infinitum, the audience left to clap an empty stage.

Shirley Collins - live at The Union ChapelCurrent 93/Shirley Collins/Macgillivary (live at the Union Chapel) […]

A Silver Mt. Zion (live)

The Union Chapel, London 21st January 2001

A Silver Mt. ZionBack at the Union Chapel for another of its most appropriate events, A Silver Mt. Zion playing their coolly Classical and most definitely Goth set from the album “He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms”. Union Chapel being as it is the most gothic of venues sans the cobwebs and Halloween decoration set designs gave a perfect ambiance to the darkly macabre but without the make-up sounds of Silver Mt. Zion. This is Shelley-style gothick, romantic Frankenstein beauty hidden in monster sort, asexual and tragic to the last.

A big stand-up contrabass, two violins, one cello, a daunting piano and distorted guitar make the sounds that woo. In long dramatic pieces with arrangements recalling antique Baroque, the ensemble move consciously through gorgeous songs piqued with heart-pulling nuances.

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Rother & Moebius/White Noise/Alquimia/Waveworld (live)

The Third Millennium Festival Union Chapel, London 14th October 2000

Generally I would say that if you want to see a gig in London, there are not many more beautiful places than Union Chapel. I would also add to try for summer. This cavernous gothic spired chapel all of stone and wood and beautiful doorways into maze-like passages provides an atmosphere of spooky tranquility and usually gorgeous acoustic quality. Unfortunately, the cold could not be kept out this night, even with the radiation of a dozen or more electric heaters, and according to some of the artists, the sound system was more than a little off. Putting an audience on hard pews in a cold stone room and expecting them to stay awake for hours on end of quiet dreamy music proved to be too much, so what should have been a promising bunch of performances did eventually become tedious

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Thomas Köner & Jürgen Reble/Pluramon/Kaffe Matthews (live)

Interference Union Chapel, London 30th October 1998

The cold snap is just hitting London in time for this event, set in the chilly North London church (OK, technically it’s a chapel, but it looks and feels more like a Gothic construction, all pointed arches and uncomfortable pews) which has played host to some of the best gigs of recent years. Fortunately the management have installed electric bar heaters around the walls, which also cast a rather odd red glow over the proceedings.

First out on the stage in front of the splendid pulpit is Kaffe Matthews and her LISA control system for MIDI and violin, with which she produces some quite amazing sounds. Free improvisation meets electronic noise to good effect, as Matthews’ tweaks the sliders deftly in an energetic show of pure enjoyment, almost glee, at the deformations she perfoms on the violin, here used more as sound

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