Half The Sky then, another Thursday evening in East London, art, music and more, how beautifully easy on the ear was that last night? Surely music that complex, music that impressively difficult shouldn’t be that enjoyable? Half The Sky played London’s Cafe Oto last night, their first performance on Lindsay Cooper’s home soil, “We were formed in 2015 to play Lindsay Cooper’s music” so says leader Yumi Hara, there’s an enormous story to be told here, the piecing together and scoring of the music, some of which had never been played before, the whole story of Lindsay herself, the way Half The Sky play it and what a line up that boast by the way. Sadly Lindsay passed away in 2013, the detective work to find the scores and put it all together is a story in itself, a serious collective labout of love and more from the seven band members and a few more besides.
“Lindsay Cooper (1951-2013) brought the bassoon and the compositional techniques of 20th century art music into the world of ‘70s experimental rock. She was a musical polyglot, equally fluent in classical, rock, jazz, and free improvisation and the author of many film and theatre soundtracks. She was a member of the groups Comus, Henry Cow, National Health, David Thomas and the Pedestrians and the Mike Westbrook Orchestra. She co-founded News from Babel and the Feminist Improvising Group and led her own projects Music for Films and Oh Moscow. She lived for many years with multiple sclerosis, which eventually forced her to retire from performing in the 1990s”.
Yes, there’s an enormous story to be told here, the tale of how the rather incredible Yumi Hara pulled together Half The Sky, how the music was pieced back together, how the band and their very impressive line up was assembled, the traditional Japanese interpretations and some incredible musicians working together is such a impressively natural way. The band are Yumi Hara: arrangements, piano, keyboards, lever harp, voice (The Artaud Beats, you me & us, Jump for Joy! etc), Miwazow: koto, ching-dong percussion, voice (CICALA-MVTA) Chlöe Herington: bassoon, soprano sax, melodica (Knifeworld, Chrome Hoof, VÄLVĒ), Dagmar Krause: voice (Henry Cow, News from Babel, Slapp Happy etc), Wataru Okhuma: alto sax, clarinet (CICALA-MVTA), Nasuno Mitsuru: bass (Korekyojinn, Altered States etc) and Chris Cutler: drums (Henry Cow, News from Babel, The Artaud Beats etc), and today is not the day to tell the long story (we’ll do that next week), today is the day to write down the joy of last night’s gloriously uplifiting performance.
Today is the day, the morning after the night before, a day to write down the joy of it all, to tell of the joy of what should have been a difficult hard-boiled performance, a performance that was in fact a warm infectious joyous couple of musical sets, the joy of people performing with such obvious delight and emotion, a delightful gig and a pleasure and a privilage to be at. Yes it was impressively hard-boiled, yes it was gloriously orchestrated and yes, so so impressive in terms of the complex chemistry and the physics of it all. Impossible to know who to watch, Miwazow playing with such obvious smiling delight, drummer Chris Cutler with such balletic grace (how does he do that? Should his arms move that way, are those angles possible?), Yumi herself sometimes lost in the depth of the moment, sometimes directing it all and somehow gluing the beauty together, Dagmar Krause impressively going for it and all seven of them just creating some kind of ridiculously good chemistry, some high-end orchestration and a real work of art that was a privilege to witness.
At one point early on in the first of two sets, A News from Babel set, there’s an exquisite counting in of a song, (or should I call it a piece?), a counting in that just settles everything down perfectly before we serenely set off again, and yes this is beautifully fluent classical music, this is glorious awkward avant rock or flowing jazz or maybe complex other-progressiveness, or maybe delightfully flavoured free improvisation, oh who cares what you call it, this is just brilliant. And so impressively orchestrated and structured, mesmerizing music played by a mesmerizing group of musicians and the further evolution of some rather beautifully challenging compositions that really deserve to be heard and performed again and again. Hang on thought, surely music this interlectually challenging shouldn’t be this enjoyable? This much fun? This delightful? Music that may appear dark or heavy in terms of thought or composition, so beautifully moving in here in this intimate room tonight, so alive, so good! Half The Sky are surely just about the coolest band in the world to watch, a band playing with such a respectful sense of joy. Incredible that they pulled it together and pulled it off, and a just a big big privilege to be there to see and hear it all.
Lots more about Half The Sky and the performance and Lindsay Cooper very soon, today, this morning after the night before, is the time to just thanks them and record how wonderful it all was at Cafe Oto last night. (by the way, there’s some fundraising going on to keep all this going, getting those big Japanese instruments half way around the globe can’t be cheap) . ‘Women hold up half the sky’ (Mao Tse Tung), and yes, Lindsay’s music was played “in the spirit in which it was written, as a band and not as a museum project”.
And before Half The Sky, at Cafe Oto, this being Dalston and the edges of East London and Hackney, there’s another art show to explore, a quick dash along the KIngland Road and the latest opening over at self-proclaimed Urban Art gallery BSMT Space. Last night the basement gallery offered the open of a show called Get Lit, a show promising neon and well, more neon? Getting awfully tiresome isn’t it? Can’t go to an art show without another damn neon slogan on the wall, a slogan that most of the time would surely be laughed off said gallery wall if it was just painted? And just how many neon shops have opened in East London in the last two weeks? They’ll be rivalling the coffee holes and the tattoo inflictions soon! Not more neon? Not really expecting much from BSMT Space tonight. Cynical smile in place, we’ll have a quick look, it will probably just be the artists, the bloggers and the scenesters of the street art scene congratulating each other and going on about how he or she is “smashing it” and how so and so’s piece is “the bomb” once again. What an insular scene it has become, why don’t these people broaden their horizons just a little? Take an artistic risk or two, maybe come eat a pasty with Sir Ian McKellen, come on! Get out of your comfort zones you gallery curators, you bloggers and photo-takers!
Hang on thought, hang on, this Get Lit show isn’t as obvious as we were expecting it to be, this isn’t just another collection of tedious neon words and the usual parade of glowing clichés, this is a rather impressive collection of paintings, installation, colour, light and yes, positive artistic attitude…
“BSMT SPACE is kick starting this summer with ‘GET LIT’, an exhibition on fire with light and colour and carefully curated to feature only the freshest interpretations in working with light. The line-up features who we feel are some of the best Urban, Graffiti and Contemporary artists working with neon and light. Expect to see light manipulated in everything from actual neon to light boxes, canvas work, cross stitch and prints with work coming in from the US, Europe and Australia. The basement gallery is going to treat you to a private view LIT with the performance of neon artist Jylle Navarro…”
The Artist line-up includes 616, A.CE, ATOMS, ALEX EMERY (PARTY), ANDY DOIG, DSCREET, FANAKAPAN, JYLLE NAVARRO, NERONE, NICK FLATT, PAUL PUNK, PHIL DAVISON, REBECCA MASON, SATURNO, THE REAL DILL, STRAKER, WILLIAM KINGETT and VOYDER and yes of course things are very colourful in the basement tonight, fluorescent hangings, slick paintings, graphic wholesomeness, exciting colour and yes, sure, there is a neon cliché or two but it all kind of works as one great whole and a show that stands up rather impressively as one very bright body of work.
GET LIT will be running from June 23rd to July 16th, BSMT SPACE is open Tue-Sat 12-7 and Sun 11-5. You can find them just beyond the crossroads at 5d Stoke Newington Rd, London, N16 8BH. Put away your cynical smiles, little bit more than just another collection of neon words here, a little more than just another slick urban art show and another rather impressive art exhibition down in the Dalston basement space. They Ssmashed it again, indeed it was the bomb, now come of people, come on gallery owners, come on, broaden your horizons, get out and eat some pasties or maybe some pasteries, get out of your safe little art-tribe pigeonholes and explore a little more, all these little sub-sections and self-impossed rules are getting a little tedious now, we dare you to explore a little, cross-pollination is the way forward, damn fine show, go see Get Lit…. (sw)
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