Thursday evening ended with The Snake playing as the venue emptied out , you really have to Keep On Keepin’ On through, the Snake always divided Northern Soul opinion so much. Things evolve, things move, buildings go, venues, galleries and more being lost almost on a weekly basis now, where did that one go? Another block of flats that nobody can afford? Miraculous Mule were seriously dialed in last night, we kind of knew they would be. Or did we? Surely they couldn’t be as good as last time, surely they can’t do it again, not in such an unconventional venue? Miraculous Mule really nailed it again last night at the last night of Paper Dress, it doesn’t get much better than a dialed-in Miraculous Mule playing in a dimly lit window of a vintage dress shop, silhouettes of manikin dummies to the right of the dark figure of a bass player, brightly lit buses going past the big window, neon shining in from across the street, a secondary audience gathering on the pavement.
Hang on though, this particular chapter started around twenty four hours or so earlier under a railway arch over in Bethnal Green with members of Henry Cow chewing the fat and well, no we can’t really repeat the conversations that were going on outside the venue but…. The Redchurch Brewery is under a railway arch in Poyner Street, just behind Cambridge Heath overground station, back of Cambridge Heath Road. The brewery taproom, tonight’s venue, can be found up the stairs, underneath the rattling low-end swish of the trains and above the Heisenberg-like silver vats of creativity (that are all under the watchful eye of the brewery cat).
It was all very Kandinsky-like in terms of the sound and accuracy that set it all free and no, this isn’t just improvised music, it isn’t just happening, this appears to be very considered, very precise, controlled and right there, cleverly immediate. We’re upstairs, above a gathering of chrome brewing tanks in a small taproom bar, under a railway arch (just down the from the Royal Enfield motorcycle showroom, the rather inviting aroma of curry and the fresh street art of Clare street over in Bethnal Green, (there’s one or two interesting pieces of art going up on Clare Street recently, some of that spontaneous energy that is so often missing around many of East London’s seemingly very “organized” and tediously “policed” walls right now, street art in London has become rather sanitised and unadventurously conservative in recent times, there’s one or two things here that rise above the mundane, worth a wonder down should you be passing).
The event tonight is an intimate word-of-mouth gathering, a gig put together by respected experimental avant musician Yumi Hara – she’s launching a new album and celebrating a birthday by inviting some friends to come and make some music. A small crowd, some knowing smiles, a couple of DJs playing some rather experimental rock, one of them a six times snooker world champion, the other a champion of Other Rock on London’s finest radio station Resonance FM. Several sets and various combinations of Yumi Hara (currently part of The Artaud Beats and recently of a band called You Me and Us, a rather fine band that featured the recently departed Gong leader Daevid Allen), Geoff Leigh (of the aforementioned Artaud Beats as well as one time member of legendary 70’s experimental band Henry Cow, a man with a colorful musical history that’s said to have started in the Northern Soul scene and Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, wonder what he thinks of The Snake?), Tim Hodgkinson (also a one-time core member of seminal avant-rock group Henry Cow as well as many other experimental bands and projects – “At heart, Tim Hodgkinson is an improviser, but he is also a composer, experimenting with the use of rock production techniques to create contemporary classical music”) and last nut not least Guy Harries (“a composer/performer based in London. He performs with voice, electronics, and wind instruments, and is involved in projects ranging from garage rock to chamber opera, from sound art to electro art pop to multimedia musicals”).
We’re treated to various bits of flowing harp, angular saxophone and steel guitar, electronica, almost violently hit keyboard, floating flutes, layers of voices, strange bits of visual noise made with giant pieces of engulfing tissue, tape and who knows what. The musicians are set up on tables in the corner of the bar, laptops and wind instruments joust underneath the brewery dartboard, (now and again accompanied by the brewery cat from the foot of the stairs). Various combinations of highly-respected musicians igniting each other and performing experimental sets, improvising together, flowing as one whole and culminating in a seriously attention-demanding piece of creativity involving all four of them – there’s improv chemistry here, a brew years in the making, a knowing nod and an natural unstated understanding of where to take that awkward honking noise or those delicate glass-like twangs or that violent thrust. none of it is obvious (none of it is that violent really, although Yumi doesn’t hold back on that keyboard). It flows and while it should be really difficult and hard-boiled, and YES it is difficult and hard-boiled, it really really isn’t. Those yells are so delicate, the fractures so precise, the bird-like sax outbursts so tuned in with the guitar strings or the voices that suddenly come in almost unnoticed until you suddenly do notice, hey, there’s singing and voices and words, when did that come in?
Yumi Hara has an incredible voice, an amazing singer, a slight figure, so powerful, quarter tones, the spaces between, these are music brains developed over years and years, crafted experimentalism, a noise with such huge fractal depth, so much detail here, layers of goodness and well, improv, it really shouldn’t work, just self indulgence right? Surely anyone could do it, not like this though, not as precise and piercing as this, self indulgence that pulls you in, self indulgence can occasionally be a very good thing. There’s a connection, a chemistry and that chemistry extends to the appreciative audience, resist as you might, the detail pulls you in to the accessible flow of the glorious awkwardness, the inviting obtuseness, and if it is hard-boiled and challenging than in its invitingly so, this is music that says come in, this is colour that’s warm, smells that arouse, captivating experimental sound demanding attention. Flowing, jagged, pointy, smooth, poignant, incisive, running away with time, tissue tearing tape, saxophone poking voice, string reacting to bowls, offerings placed, offering of sounds, counterpoints, plot points, notes that arrive all together at the right place at the right time without the audience really knowing how they would get there? How much of it is planned or rehearsed, almost impossible to know without really sitting in on session after session and really to do that would be to spoil the moment, the evening and the music is something that doesn’t need analysis, it isn’t about the construction , (or the deconstructing of that construction here with these words), we’ll leave all the how it works to the makers and just bask in the awkward hard-boiled beauty of it all. And it was all about the alive beautiful of it all, the swish, the flow, the easy feel of the very clever things they’re doing together, the chemistry, the knowing chemistry of some seasoned musicians who really do understand the delicious complexity of what they do, who really do understand the flow if it all. What an excellent evening (in a rather fine venue), really wasn’t expecting it to be that good (and that snooker bloke wasn’t a bad DJ either)
That was Wednesday, and well, several parts of the ongoing #365ArtDrops piece later – a bottle taken back the brewery, a cardboard piece left on a boarded up windowsill on Clare Street and now we’re on the other side of Thursday now (with the damn Snake still stuck in heads) and Miraculous Mule couldn’t possibly have been as good as they were last time could they?
Before the Mule in that East London dress shop window, before the evening ended with The Snake taking us in (for heaven’s sake) and sometime after dropping more pieces under bridges in Shoreditch and next to pointillist paintings just off Redchurch Street (that were destined to be found by university professors who would write on Facebook about their finds) and before the latest encounter with Miraculous Mule, there was more of the never-ending ever-hopeful exploring of art galleries and a group show or two. Even the most uninteresting group shows can so often throw up a rewarding piece or a new artist to check out, tonight’s shows really didn’t demand we spend any time, space or spilt words here. And more galleries with doors locked closed, that and paranoid door men blocking entry when they are open, you can’t come in here! The Thierry Noir show is on at the Howard Griffin Gallery, been meaning to get to that, almost forgot until the colour grab our eye
“Howard Griffin Gallery presents Jazz, a unique synthesis between the worlds of art and music as seen through the eyes of infamous Berlin Wall artist Thierry Noir”.
He must be sick of reading about that damn wall by now? Here’s the blurb, rather like Thierry’s style, you don’t need the blurb really, you just need ot experience the colour and the character. This time he’s taken over the whole gallery, everything has been painted in his bold way, some kind all enclosing Thierry world… here’s the official blurb, and there’s a bag load of photos, rather like his world.
In the 1980s, Thierry Noir moved to Berlin to follow a burgeoning underground music scene. Berlin was the capital of alternative music at that time, from Nu Wave to Hip Hop, Punk Rock to Jazz. Fuelled by the creative energy that electrified the city in the midst of intense political and social upheavals, Noir began to spontaneously paint his characters. As Noir says, “If I had not been an artist, I would have been a musician”. With Jazz, Noir returns to the musical influences that brought him to Berlin, capturing the spirit of the times through art that has come to visually define an era.
Many parallels can be drawn between Noir’s iconic visual language and the music that inspired it. Clashing colours appear like discordant notes that, once played, reveal an unexpected beauty. The spontaneous nature of his practice emphasises speed, movement and immediacy; like jazz, it is never static. The dance of line and colour is instinctive and energetic. For Noir, art is a performance.
In Jazz, Noir will exhibit new works exploring the harmony of art and music. His depiction of instruments draws many allusions to Picasso, and in fact Noir has often called himself ‘The Picasso of the street’. In the exhibition, Noir will show an exploration and refinement of his use of line as a primary tool. This emphasis brings his work further in line with the Primitivist tradition, elevating simplicity in form and execution to become a primary concern.
Upon entering the gallery space, the viewer will find themselves enveloped in an overwhelming sensory experience as they are drawn into Noir’s world. On all sides, Noir’s vivid imagery will assault and absorb the eye. The exhibition will explore the unending line of Noir’s work as it moves into other forms and objects. Within the space, large scale sculptural works and playable musical instruments inspired by Noir’s imagery will act as a continuation of the feeling of his works in physical space. The instant recognition of these objects show the power of Noir’s artistic vocabulary and its adaptable and freeflowing form. These sculptures are a collaboration between Noir and Chris Tsonias.
Chris Tsonias’ practice sees discarded materials like paper and fabric reimagined into sculpture, musical instruments and functional audio speakers. Music has long been central to his work, expressed through beautifully crafted, original sculptural forms of fully functioning violins, cellos, flutes, recorders and other instruments. For Jazz, Tsonias brings to three-dimensional sculptural life a selection of Noir’s most iconic images and characters.
Alongside the exhibition a series of new screen prints based around the theme of Noir’s musicians will be released. Howard Griffin Gallery has also commissioned several new murals to be painted throughout the course of the exhibition by Noir in London. Throughout the run of the exhibition internationally known bands and DJs will play exclusive gigs and sets with the uniquely designed instruments in the form of Noir characters.
Miraculous Mule couldn’t possibly have been as good as they were last time could they? Last time was on a “proper” stage in a “proper” music venue with a “proper” sound system, tonight they’re in an East London vintage dress shop. They’re actually in the window of an East End vintage dress shop, the stage is the widow, we’re in the shop, the floor has been cleared, the people are passing by on the pavement outside (some, are stopping, dancing, taking photos, faces pressed to the window), the buses are passing by on the busy road outside, the Mule have their backs to the window and the passing traffic, the widow is steaming up, the greens, reds and gold of street lights reflecting in the condensation. Miraculous Mule are dialed in once more, damn, this band are ridiculously good, outrageously so! Hey look, we described it last time, yes, they were as good this time, it was different, just as magical, they never play two gigs the same. the audience inside know, the faces you see at every gig, the people witnessing it for a first time, those stopping to watch through the window are catching on, those on the buses are getting a flavour, they’re dialed in, we’re dialed in, the band are dialed, the riffs and words and the attitude are all flowing, they’re dishing out their raw blues and their gospel and that satisfied soul, they’re keeping on moving on like the best moments of bands who’s names we could drop but you’d just think it ridiculous.
Miraculous Mule probably are just about the best live band in London right now with their raw blues and all that soul, that wired in gospel and that knowing swagger of musical righteousness, that Satisfied moving on and oh go read the previous review, really don’t know how many more times we can keep on saying it. Were they were as good tonight? Of course they were. Miraculous Mule, stopping the traffic in the window and the neon and the heat for one last night at the venue, these moments and these times are special, Miraculous Mule did it again, they sent the place off in style, even The Snake sounded good in the heat of it all, we clutched it to our bosom, your so beautiful we cried as we went off those shit eating we’ve just seen Miraculous Mule grins on our faces again… (SW)
Click on an image to enlarge or run the slide show…