Last European Home

January 2020
The Rossi Bar

Hardworking Families

So, Hardworking Families starts the evening, Tom sat hands rummaging inside a black box containing Some Things, the lid flaps open towards us, balanced on top is a small PCB with a pot and a couple of other components. By the side of the box is a cassette player. His set starts with stuttering feedback-ish stammer. There’s something of a rumble train-ish, very reverbed coughing.  The rumbling gets grainier and bassier. A pseudo rhythm of gulps hits away in the background and everything falls away around it. A thin tone somewhere between a Casio organ and a reedy metallic whine is conjured from something hidden away. Something happens with the cassette and the reedy whine becomes a thin shard of feedback. There’s some static Morse code. Wind-jammed mic.  Whirr of an oscillator that rolls down into a pretty meaty judder while the Morse flips inside the tone to form a noise barrage. Other oscillators go about similar dirty business and we suddenly get into this toney noise wall that modulates outwards into several frequency strands all winding around each other. Something with some proper bass struggles up from beneath this like a jetliner over a Sicilian beach then it all gets very quiet before one last hurrah of a mechanical woodpecker getting to work in a lumber mill.


Monty Oxymoron

Monty Oxymoron had the second set, he’d played at The Spirit of Gravity previously as part of a trio and a quartet (once famously on copper dog and bird cage) but this was the first time we’d had him play solo, and I think the first time I’ve seen him do a set solely as a musical piece playing the keys on a keyboard (rather than extemporising on the case, lid, stand and anything nearby as well). It’s a piano/synth setup. He starts with some sparkling space jazz that sounds like something of Sun Ra’s from the head, shimmering flourishes and chords that spangle off into a little squelching synth line before zooming off. Some bassy synth crushes bring us back, then its twinkling off again before modulating chords bring back a hint of the original melody and then a little chord riff takes us off again to get lost in fantastical arpeggios. There’s a passage of wah wah stasis that’s rather lovely, that gets eventually overrun with harpsichordian dances of notes that slowly mutate back to piano sounds of the melody again then the electronic drum we can’t see at his feet comes into play. Starting with a jazzy ride with occasional rolls around the virtual kit while his hands keep at work fidgeting away at filtered stabbing chords the feet working away at an insistent rhythm under the table that fades away into an electric piano flourish drowned in a sweeping massive phase. Lovely. Then there’s a bit of an encore, a more orthodox-ish jazz piano ballad, that gets into a Yes Album left hand on a synth chord accompaniment for a bit of a dynamic with a slow wind down.


Kina:Suttsu and E-Da Kazuhisa

Kina:Suttsu and E-Da Kazuhisa finish off the evening. Kina with a midi roll flat piano keyboard starting with backwards piano into a slowly decaying long delay pedal building up a slowly revolving insistent piano part that she wordlessly vocalises over. E-da has a physical ride cymbal that he tings over this. There is birdsong the piano part decays into a churning organic murk, Kina keeps working away at her piano roll pushing notes into the delay chain until it loses all form in an undulating wave of little notes, E-da picks up the tempo on the ride to match this until it all slowly fades away. Kina brings the birdsong back, E-da gets a hand drum to work and Kina starts on the alto saxophone, a stutter skronk alternating with longer lines. E-Da is putting some effects on his drum, the bassy thumps really getting some presence. Kina gets some fire in her playing and E-Da follows her round, the birdsong seems to spiral off tiny electronic tones that glitter in the inner ear.  E-da gets right into it, driving us on under Kinas spiralling lines, then it all falls away underneath her. And she returns to the piano. Single notes: high, low, the memory of the last leaving a notion of melodic drift as it loops, she breathes the sax gently over the top. E-da has some rattling and rainstick washing away. She eventually starts adding extra notes in and the loops build up the effect of delays as E-Da starts with a beater on the cymbal. It all gets a bit psychedelic. Mushing, washing in and out like great waves. The deep layers of piano producing odd accordion-like tonalities amongst the sparkling of the high note hits. It ends like a two chord riff with E-Das cymbals rolling in like great Atlantic rollers, slow and stately and all enveloping, and then Kina beaks it all up with some free form playing on the piano and saxophone and we’re done for the night. subtlety.


Shirt flapping fun

April 2016
Green Door Store

Hardworking Families

Hardworking Families

Billed as a laptop set, Hardworking Families do have one on stage and even plugged in. To the mains. Tom plays it with a small radio. passing the device back and forth over the screen front (AND back), keyboard, power supply etc., and feeding the results through his usual array of pedals and other malarkey. It’s a pure noise set with an interesting variety of tones and textures and I particularly liked the way you could see the source of the range of harsh tonalities.


Lend Me Your Underbelly

Lend Me Your Underbelly

Second act of the evening was Lend Me Your Underbelly, over from The Netherlands. He played a guitar and a synth into a super drone machine for the first set of the mentioned sartorial vibrational bassy goodness. Over this he plays some quite delicate pointed guitar, clean and understated. It’s a contrast that works well, giving the drones a wash of psychedelic overtones. It’s like a thick hearty, satisfying soup that also tackles your palate with some citrussy high notes for surprise and to top it off.


Futuro De Hierro

Futuro De Hierro

Futuro De Hierro is a somewhat different kettle of fish, although he keeps the clothes flapping away quite nicely. He’s thunderous in the Green Door Store and really makes the fullest sense. The beats distortion adds thunder, the bass gets everywhere in the room, and Matt the sound man gets stuck into the Strobes (“I don’t normally do this for the Spirit of Gravity, but…”). Viktor works at his sequencers and effects, shouting in Spanish and swinging the microphone round by the monitors so he can get to work riding the feedback. It’s a wonderful racket, and I laugh like a series of drains.


Obfuscation and misdirection, the close up magic of aleatoric scores

December 2015
The Scope XVII

We don’t normally run a show this far into December, but we had the opportunity to do something with HardWorking Families and go about realising some of Dann Hignell’s text scores, so it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

Duncan Harrison

Duncan Harrison Duncan Harrison was originally slated for the middle slot, but as we had only three acts and were starting late he opted for the first. The score he was performing was this (page 115):
“A short reflection upon the fact
That those on the outside
Have as much right to be here as any of us that
Their voices carry through walls and
If they don’t they should
(I am not sure how you would put this to song but a good start
Might be to ask everyone to open a window)”

We didn’t know that at the time, but the realisation went something like this: Duncan had a portable cassette player on a table with a small stage type lamp next to it. He switched it on and it appeared to be a recording made downstairs in a bar, it was quite trebly and distorted. He started the tape and got up and ran around the room checking the windows and then turned the lights down and cleared off. We could hear noises coming from outside the door, so I was expecting him to come back. he didn’t after about 20 minutes during which we’d kind of worked out it was a recording from downstairs (punk, Saxon and suchlike through the distorted conversation) someone went downstairs for a drink.

“I don’t think he’s around”
Tom went and checked, “I can’t see him anywhere”
So at around 30 minutes we turned the lights back up and started setting up for Tom’ s set, but without the electrocreche, and we started chatting over it then at 45 minutes the tape finished “clunk” and everyone cheered.

It makes a lot more sense knowing which score he was performing, I don’t even think Dann Hignell did at the time – excellent levels of confusion.


Hardworking Families

HardWorking Families Hardworking Families without Nan; unfortunately Nan shipped their Cello off to far-most Africa two days before the show and we couldn’t source a replacement in time. This meant Hardworking Families had to step in to cover the fray on their own. I’m sure there’s some kind of wider metaphor there, but I’m going to move on.

Anyway, it was Tom Bench with his new glittery guitar from the Train of Thought Emporium. And a nicely constructed set of Noises through the effects chain, some playing of cassettes into the pickups and the player rubbed on the strings, some things inserted in the strings and general muckaboutery at a reasonable volume for the most part before he stood up and started trying to get some feedback going.

There was some feeling that the cassette voices at the beginning was almost a continuation or reference back to Duncan’s set, but I’m not sure if that was intentional, or just me.


Dan Hignell Ensemble

Dan Hignell Ensemble

Dan Hignell had his ensemble set up through the middle of the room facing the screen so they could see the scores. From left to right looking at the backs of their heads (i.e. towards the stage, if you like) were Dan Hignell on a lovely old portable organ, all brushed aluminium and slightly bent plastic sliders, Kev Nickells on Violin and sharing a French horn with John Guzek who played violin, too, then on the far side from me Barnabas Yianni on some electronic things.

They ran through about six of Dan’s scores with accompanying cards, the realisations varying from scratchy repeated violin figures, to the feeling of someone wrestling with a French horn on the beach. some pieces felt like the musicians were working against each other some as if everyone was in their own universe. The last piece was a bit special, it was quite a bit longer than all the others, Dan playing space organ drone figures, with very long violin slides from one player with the other providing some over the bridge wrenching and Yianni’s electronics running in the background bringing a repeated pip figures, with the piece ending on a slight crescendo with arpeggiating violin parts.

A good Scope to end the year, really filling out the ideas we had for it when we started doing it.


Bring the noise

June 2015
Green Door Store

Hardworking Families

Hard-Working Families For Hardworking Families, a Gibson SG was set up flat across an oil drum table, part of the half input mixing desk setup favoured by HWF this evening. There is something that looks like his chair knocking about, but it’s not his, and he steers clear. so it leaps out all squeals and thrills before Tom reins it in tightly with small moves and the uncontrol gives way to pulses and less harsh high end.


Clive Henry

Clive Henry Clive Henry was second on, he’s very precise with his set-up, a chair with a box in precisely the right place at his side that he has a metronome clacking on. He stands leaning forward hands behind his back with wires hanging out of his mouth. although his reputation is for Harsh Noise, the sounds his mouth is (presumably) making are very tonal. He has excellent control stomping around the stage. The second half of his set is quite different, the metronome is turned into something a bit clackier by some laptop processing and he switches to gutteral thrash singing and the noise levels come up. the stomping turns to stalking. he has great presence and you can see why he’s been barely able to speak all evening.


Slow Slow Loris

Slow Slow Loris

Slow Slow Loris are a duo with laptop and vocals, a cymbal with a resonator, lots of processing, like Iron Oxide in Cleveland they’re trying to bring the processes and ideas of noise into a song based and repeatable format. And pull it off really well. its properly abstract and pretty harsh in places, but with structure and even a chorus or two.


Lorenzo Abbatoir

Lorenzo Abbatoir Lorenzo Abbatoir is another kettle of fish, as abstract as things can get, starting with a crumpling plastic water bottle making a rhythm track he stomps and cracks his body music, like Clive it’s a very theatrical performance. Active and dynamic with every action having its auditory consequences. A kind of un-mime thing.