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All posts for the month August, 2017

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/08/31/charlie-cawood-my-tricksy-spirit/

With the release of the debut album from My Tricksy Spirit on 1st September, courtesy of the good folk at Bad Elephant Music, TPA’s Roger Trenwith had a chat with Charlie Cawood, player of guitars, bass, sitar and tsouras, and also a member of Knifeworld and Mediaeval Baebes, about the genesis of their “Psychedelic-Gamelan-Trip-Hop-Dub” and where they go from here…


Charlie Cawood - My Tricksy Spirit

A quick Google reveals that My Tricksy Spirit goes back at least two years. How and when did the project come about?

I believe the original conception of the project was as far back as 2010. It started as a series of improvised jams between Nick Gray and Joe Chapman, an Oxford-based multi-instrumentalist, formerly of Psyche-Rock band Spiral 25 (with whom Nick guested on violin), and currently of Neon Violets. The intention was to use Nick’s instrument of choice, the Balinese gendér wayang, in a Western Psychedelic Rock context. Nick learnt and practiced the instrument, a keyed metallophone traditionally used to accompany shadow puppet plays, extensively while on a 3-year stay in Bali.

I came on board in 2011, after having met Nick while studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies. My initial role was playing electric guitar and bass on several recordings, which had now become more song-based. These recordings were of a Psyche-Rock style, but with the Dub and Trip-Hop elements taking a greater precedent. Joe at this stage was acting as drummer and producer.

My Tricksy SpiritAfter several years of working on and off between Oxford and London, the band became exclusively London-based, and tentative attempts were made to make the band function as a live ensemble. Following several incarnations of a live line-up, Rob Shipster, a drummer and producer also from SOAS, was brought on board in order to finish the album. Given Rob’s experience as a producer, the sound of the album took on even more of an electronic quality, incorporating elements of psy-trance and ambient music, while retaining the dub and trip-hop of previous recordings. Various collaborators were brought in, including Julian Vicary (synthesizers) and Tomoya Forster (electronics). This incarnation of the band made its live debut at The Forge, Camden in October 2015.

You mention “several recordings”…is there another vast back catalogue to explore?

No, just a few improvised jams that were used for demo purposes. We did release the original mix of Free of Stars (along with Dub of Stars as a B-side) as a downloadable single a few years ago, but that’s the extent of it. This album is the first ‘official’ release, and the sound of both of those tunes has changed somewhat since then.

Listening to the album, I get a distinct connection to Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart, specifically his very fine and quite mad offering Take Me To God. You both seem to have an urban multi-cultural heady vibe on display, plus of course the lovely dub bass. Is all that merely coincidental, or are one or all of you fans of Mr Wobble’s work?

I know his Japanese and Chinese Dub albums, but that’s about it. We’re aware of, and enjoy, his solo work and back catalogue with PiL, but I wouldn’t say he was a direct influence. I think the dub elements were originally a result of Joe’s love of King Tubby and Mad Professor, and the fact that it was being combined with ‘World’ influences was a coincidence. As such, the earlier recordings had a more analogue quality, which changed somewhat when Rob took over production duties.

There was a long-running joke that we had to get to mixing Dub and Gamelan before Jah Wobble, though!

Ha! At least I wasn’t totally wrong for once. 🙂

Electronica or no, the album is very human, very organic, it all goes down to groove. It certainly works as a “warm summer evening record”, Pimms in hand.

That’s good to hear!

Are there plans for gigs? I would love to see this performed live.

There’s currently talks of how to perform the set with a more stripped down version of the band, with loops and a sound-system. I think Rob has a new rig that he’s been working on for that very purpose!

Charlie Cawood - My Tricksy Spirit

Presumably, the gendér wayang and the other Indonesian/Asian instruments are in the mix as a result of the SOAS connections of most of you?

Possibly, though I’d been playing multiple stringed instruments for quite a few years before attending SOAS.

I notice that “gendér wayang” as well as being an instrument, is also the description given to the smallest gamelan ensemble, which confused me to start with. The instrument is like a wooden xylophone or vibes, it seems?

The name refers to both the instrument, as well as the ensemble. It’s different to other gamelan in that it’s exclusively played in pairs, or groups of four. Like other Balinese keyed metallophones, though, the ensemble uses paired tuning – where the instruments are slightly out of tune with each other, which creates a shimmering oscillation effect. The instruments themselves are bronze keys laid over bamboo resonating tubes, which would later influence the design of the Western vibraphone. The playing technique is very advanced, in that the player uses two hands to simultaneously play melodic lines and patterns that interlock with the other member of the pair, requiring a large amount of coordination.

The particular pair of instruments used in MTS are tuned very similarly to a Western C minor pentatonic scale, which makes them playable alongside Western instruments (other pairs of gendér wayang might not be tuned in such a way, so not playable in Western tuning systems).

Also, we always use that particular pair of instruments live, so no sampling. This requires another player to perform the interlocking parts. Nick also runs a traditional gendér wayang ensemble called Segaru Madu, so usually we’ll call upon another member of that group to help us out.

Hours and hours of practice I’d imagine. And not the easiest instrument to lunk about between gigs!

The songs sound like they were built in the studio from the ground up….or did Nick present rough first drafts that you all added to? In other words, how does MTS’s songwriting work from a practical point of view?

The usual process is that Nick will write a riff on the gendér, as well as a corresponding pattern that interlocks with it, which will be split between the two instruments. Then Nick will write a song around that riff, which is then arranged by Rob during production. Then I’ll arrange a bassline and any other parts around that, possibly adding some guitar or other stringed instrument.

Charlie, you are currently in Mediaeval Baebes and Knifeworld, and no doubt Nick and Rob have other musical projects in operation. Will there be any more from MTS as far as recorded music goes?

I believe Nick and Rob are currently building new songs and arrangements in the studio, so the second album is already underway! I expect I’ll be adding my parts once they take on a more complete shape.

That’s good to hear, I look forward to that. Best of luck with this fab album, and I hope to see MTS on stage sometime soon!

Thanks, Roger!

My Tricksy Spirit


[And you can read Roger’s review of the My Tricksy Spirit album HERE.]


LINKS
Charlie Cawood – Facebook
My Tricksy Spirit – Facebook | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/08/31/my-tricksy-spirit-my-tricksy-spirit/

My Tricksy Spirit is a project started by songwriter Nick Gray at London University’s School Of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), ably assisted by kindred spirits and fellow alumni. If Alan Freeman was still with us, and he had suddenly developed a taste for the “out there”, he probably would have followed a spinning of any track you like from the band’s personal manifesto My Tricksy Spirit as “Gamelantastic!” Supranormal imaginings aside, this fine album reveals the collective tricksy spirit on show as playful, imaginative, caring and contemplative in equal measure.

My Tricksy Sprit conjures a steamy multi-cultural urban gestalt formed of near seamless parts into a blissful and uplifting whole, crafted into sonorous sonic washes by producer Rob Shipster. The group is based around Nick Gray’s Balinese gendér wayang, a kind of cross between wooden vibes and a xylophone, and an instrument used in traditional Balinese puppet shows and associated rituals, as well as being the name given to the smallest ensemble of instruments in the gamelan tradition. The unusual instrumentation is used to craft melodies in exotic non-European scales, put through trip hop and acid jazz stylings, and much electronic manipulation, all underpinned by the most massive dub bass this side of Jah Wobble’s superbly barking Take Me To God album. In fact there is certainly a similarity in outlook between those two albums, coincidental or not.

My Tricksy Spirit now revolve around a core of Nick Gray, who crafts the basic songs around his gendér wayang patterns, multi-instrumentalist Charlie Cawood who adds the icing on the cake, and producer Rob Shipster who puts it all through a psychedelic electronic blender. They were recently joined by Roxanne Aisthorpe as a permanent member, who is described as “a singer and a lawyer”, probably not concurrently, I’d imagine!

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…a very short but tantalising glimpse…check out the Bandcamp streaming for the full-on experience!

After the introductory pop buzz of the euphoric Always With You, showcasing the talents of the whole band, not least the interlocking patterns of the gendér wayang (which you can read more about in the interview with Charlie Cawood which accompanies this review), and a great soulful vocal from Roxanne, the rest of the album is bookended by the swirling dub of Free Of Stars/Dub Of Stars. This features the dexterous Joe Chapman at the controls, who was an original member of the band. He moves sliders through drifting clouds of smoke, maybe or maybe not of the metaphorical variety.

Among many fine examples of Charlie’s dubwise tripping the heavy fantastic is the amorphous and ever shifting Time To Go, that when played at the desired volume will make your ornaments dance with shamanic abandon. “Amorphous” is a good, woody word, and half of Amorphous Androgynous, another reference point I can see in my mind’s eye. This is no bad thing indeed, and it is Circle Of Light that points me that way. That track and the whole album is a deeply psychedelic experience.

My Tricksy Spirit is a record for the sultry summer evening, star gazing or soul gazing, glass of Pimms in hand. Invite the neighbours round, otherwise they’ll be complaining about the thunderous lower frequencies. Plans are afoot to take this sonic experience on the road. I’m definitely looking forward to that!

[And you can read Roger’s interview with Charlie Cawood HERE.]

TRACK LISTING
01. Always With You (10:49)
02. Free Of Stars (7:30)
03. Coming Down Again (4:53)
04. Winter Story (7:00)
05. Time To Go (10:35)
06. Circle Of Light (10:46)
07. Dub Of Stars (6:06)

Total Time – 57:42

MUSICIANS
Roxanne Aisthorpe – Vocals (on Always With You)
Charlie Cawood – Bass Guitar, Guitar, Sitar, Tsouras
Joe Chapman – Production, Drums, Electronics (on Free of Stars & Dub of Stars)
Bella Copleston – Backing Vocals (on Time To Go)
Tomoya Forster – Bass Synth (on Circle of Light)
Nick Gray – Gendér Wayang, Vocals, Violin
Anna Lau – Vocals (on Winter Story)
Sirishkumar Manji – Tabla (on Always With You)
Kristian Marr – Vocals (on Circle of Light)
Polly Murdoch – Backing Vocals (on Always With You)
Rob Shipster – Production, Drums, Electronics
Julian Vicary – Keyboards (on Circle of Light)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Catalogue#: BEM048
Date of Release: 1st September 2017

LINKS
My Tricksy Spirit – Facebook | Bandcamp

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This week on Prog-Watch: Part 2 of my coverage of Prog Rock Icon Arjen Anthony Lucassen! Hear the remainder of my conversation with Arjen, as well as lots of great music from Star One, Ayreon, Ambeon, The Gentle Storm and Stream of Passion!

435: Prog Rock Icon Arjen Lucassen, Pt. 2

By the way, if you missed Part 1, you can find it here:

423: Arjen Lucassen, Pt. 1

Edition 109 of Sounds That Can Be Made is now available as a podcast!

Playlist:

Leprous – From the Flame (from Malina)
Soup – Going Somewhere (from Remedies)
Kim Seviour – Call to Action (from Recovery is Learning)
Mystery – The Sailor and the Mermaid (from Second Home)
Public Service Broadcasting – Progress (feat. Tracyanne Campbell) (from Every Valley)

Connect 4:
David Bowie – Beauty And The Beast (Special Extended Version) (from Beauty And The Beast 12”)
King Crimson – The Deception Of The Thrush (live) (from The Elements: Tour Box 2014)
Genesis – The Cinema Show (from Selling England By The Pound)
Comedy Of Errors – Spirit (from Spirit)

Gazpacho – Molok Rising (from Molok)
Radiohead – Decks Dark (from A Moon Shaped Pool)
Anekdoten – What Should But Did Not Die (from Gravity)

Jurassic Prog:
Styx – The Serpent Is Rising (from The Serpent Is Rising)
Rush – Bytor And The Snow Dog (from Fly By Night)

Monsters of Progzilla:


Jethro Tull – Cross-Eyed Mary (live)
Solution – Divergence (live)
Wishbone Ash – The King Will Come (live)
Tangerine Dream – Cherokee Lane (live)
Focus – Eruption (live)
Pink Floyd – Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (live)

Crimson Sky – The Sea (from Misunderstood)


I’m delighted to announce that the podcast for edition 211 of Live From Progzilla Towers is now available.

In this Prancing Dog edition we heard the following music:

  1. BT – Firewater #epichouse
  2. Disco Biscuits – Float Like A Butterfly #livetronica
  3. Blue Pearl – Naked In The Rain #house
  4. Killing Joke – Love Like Blood (Deedrah Remix) #techno
  5. Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart (Todd Terry Mix) #house
  6. The Avalanches – Frontier Psychiatrist #turntablism
  7. Double Dee & Steinski – Lesson 3 (History of Hip Hop Mix) #turntablism
  8. Outkast – Hey Ya! #rnb
  9. Iron Maiden & Michael Jackson – Beat It Trooper #mashup
  10. Jaga Jazzist – Bananfluer Overalt (Clark Remix) #techno
  11. Supermax – Lovemachine #disco
  12. Quantum Fantay – Skytopia #spacerock
  13. Mahavishnu Orchestra – Planetary Citizen #jazzfusion
  14. Mike Oldfield – Ommadawn (Tubular Beats Mix) #trance
  15. Pete Lazonby – Sacred Cycles (Quivver Mix) #trance
  16. DC The Midi Alien – Man Made Ways (Feat. Slaine, Vinnie Paz, Trademarc & Sabac Red) #hiphop
  17. Circle Of Illusion – The Beginning #disco
  18. Thomas Dolby – One Of Our Submarines (Salz Remix) #house
  19. Shpongle – Around The World In A Tea Daze #psytrance
  20. Future Sound Of London – Flak #edm
  21. Tinyfish – Big Red Womble Mix #weirdshit
  22. The Algorithm – Access Granted #progmetaledm
  23. Lindsey Stirling – Crystallize #dubstep

iTunes/iPod users*: Just search for ‘Progzilla’ or subscribe to: http://podcasts.progzilla.com/cliff/podcast.xml

Enjoy!

Edition 98 of Steve Blease’s Heavy Elements is now available as a podcast.

Playlist:

Coheed and Cambria – World of Lines
Jurojin – The Scars
Avantasia – Carry Me Over
Therion – The Wild Hunt
Periphery – The Gods Must Be Crazy!
Savatage – Strange Wings
Jon Oliva’s Pain – Adding the Cost

Epic at 11: Dream Theater – Twelve Step Suite
• I. “Reflection”
• II. “Restoration”
• III. “Revelation”
• IV. “Reflections of Reality (Revisited)”
• V. “Release”
• VI. “Ready”
• VII. “Remove”
• VIII. “Regret”
• IX. “Restitution”
• X. “Restraint”
• XI. “Receive”
• XII. “Responsible”

Queensrÿche – Arrow of Time

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/08/30/touch-touch/

When searching for your next prog fix, you can never tell when you’ll uncover a true gem. You certainly can’t expect it to come from a tiny record shop in Bayswater priced at a measly £5. And yet here I am with one of the most astonishing albums I’ve ever heard. Most albums that we review are sent to us, but listening to the sounds this American band had to offer simply inspired me to write this review so that more people might hear it.

I only picked this record up because the artwork seemed familiar; perhaps I’d seen it on some greatest American prog albums list. But I’d incorrectly assumed that the music contained within came from circa 1976. After all, the Americans got their prog influences from us Brits, right? Wrong, Touch was released in 1968. We’re talking pre-Crimson, pre-Yes, pre-nearly everything else. The age of this album, combined with its sheer prog value, already makes this disc a must-have. But on top of that, the music is actually brilliant. Let’s dive in…

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We Feel Fine kicks things off with a heady mix of psychedelia and rock n’ roll, surely inspired by Touch’s contemporaries Vanilla Fudge. With contrasting dynamic and rhythmic sections, one already gets the sense that this is going to be an interesting and diverse album. Drawing to a chaotic finish, this is the ideal opener to such a legendary album. It certainly feels like something left off the Yes debut.

Track two seems a little too early to show the band’s restrained side, but when you find out what’s coming up, you’ll realise there’s simply no space to put this ditty anywhere else. No percussion is featured on this track, and none is needed. Starting with a quiet vocal section, more than half of the track is a flighty instrumental focused on Don Gallucci’s impressive piano arrangement. One is reminded of PFM’s Il Banchetto.

Miss Teach is undoubtedly the weak point of the album, seemingly a satire of the education system and how it divides the nation: “Whites to the left, and the others of you form a line on the right”. Very well, but the bastardisation of the blues sound attempted here simply isn’t that palatable. It’s still clever, it’s just not that good. Fortunately, this is the only poor song on an otherwise spectacular album.

The Spiritual Death of Howard Greer is where the real meat starts. Featuring a funeral-like organ-led opening not dissimilar to Padre by Reale Accademia di Musica, this mini-epic features strong musical themes, diverse sections and excellent instrumentals, including a very proggy fast-paced organ part in the first half.

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However, the lyrics are interesting by themselves. In the first portion of the song it is suggested that the titular character has died, but not his body: “He seems alive and well and even Howard cannot tell.” But then moments later, in the joyous rock-n-roll section of the track, Howard is portrayed as being a happy man with “a house and a car and a pretty wife.” I had a theory about the meaning of this song, that Howard actually loses his individuality and therefore his spirit when he gains these commodities that every stereotypical American male should have, especially when I heard the lyric “Life is a bore when you know it’s all guaranteed to make you happy!” Trapped by the opiate of eternal happiness, Howard’s spirit will never again reach its full potential. Only today, when researching this album, did I discover that I’d misheard that lyric, as Touch actually sing “ball” instead of “bore”. I like to think that my meaning can still apply to this song. Ultimately, the lyrics give very little away, and I’d love to find out the true meaning of this epic, as it was clearly very carefully composed. Let’s start a discussion thread in the comments, please!

Now to side two, opened by the almost totally instrumental jazz-touched and acid-soaked Down at Circe’s Place. An energetic number, reminiscent of much English prog. This is quickly followed by the wistful piano-led Alesha and Others. Don Gallucci’s tinklings are masterful, ranging from symphonic to jazzy in the space of a couple of minutes. The coda to this track sets up the final piece, the 11-minute epic Seventy Five.

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I can’t say I’ve ever heard a track like Seventy Five before, but knowing a track like this was released before Yes ever recorded has made me review my opinions about the development of progressive rock as a genre. Led by powerful organ stabs and decisive, pounding drumming, the track has an anthemic opening with mystical lyrics to rival Jon Anderson’s. Later on, a decidedly odd time signature prevails during the fast-tempo instrumental. There is masterful playing all around, especially in the guitar solo during the song’s emotional epilogue. This is the kind of track you’d put on to help you complete a marathon or perhaps even reach the summit of a mountain.

It certainly seems that Touch reached a new pinnacle back in 1968, and Esoteric have gone above and beyond to give a full picture of the band, with an informative essay by Esoteric exec Mark Powell, foldout liner notes that show the album’s artwork in full, including the poster from the original U.S. edition and 39 minutes of bonus tracks – almost as long as the album itself. These include a fantastic live in the studio recording of The Spiritual Death of Howard Greer, and two twelve minute instrumentals, Blue Feeling and The Second Coming of Suzanne. The latter was recorded in 1973 and was intended for use as a film soundtrack. Unsurprisingly, there’s more than a passing resemblance to the music of Goblin.

I’ve often pondered how celebrated bands like Starcastle would have been if they’d managed to somehow write their music earlier than Yes. With Touch, I’ve managed to find an answer. Certainly, the year of this record has much to do with how astonishing the music is, but that doesn’t take away from the strength of these recordings. I will be listening to The Spiritual Death of Howard Greer and Seventy Five long after completing this review, and touting Touch whenever I hear a conversation about the origins of prog. It’s about time they were recognised as the pioneers they truly were.

TRACK LISTING
01. We Feel Fine (4:41)
02. Friendly Birds (4:54)
03. Miss Teach (3:30)
04. The Spiritual Death of Howard Greer (8:53)
05. Down at Circe’s Place (4:01)
06. Alesha and Others (3:06)
07. Seventy Five (11:12)
~ Bonus Tracks
08. We Finally Met Today (3:43)
09. Alesha and Others (Live Studio Demo) (3:18)
10. Blue Feeling (11:47)
11. The Spiritual Death of Howard Greer (Live Studio Demo) (8:07)
12. The Second Coming of Suzanne (12:20)

Total Time – 79:24

MUSICIANS
Don Gallucci – Keyboards, Vocals
John Bordonaro – Percussion, Vocals
Joey Newman – Guitar, Vocals
Bruce Hauser – Bass, Vocals
Jeff Hawks – Vocals
~ With:
Roger Johnson – Guitar (track 12)
Trey Thompson – Bass (track 12)
Jim Varley – Drums (track 12)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue#: ECLEC 2310
Date of Release: 30th January 2012

LINKS
Touch – Facebook | Cherry Red Product Page

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