mon 10/08/2020

Loop Collective Club Night, The Vortex | reviews, news & interviews

Loop Collective Club Night, The Vortex

Loop Collective Club Night, The Vortex

New musical collective shows both the range and ambition of its electronic improvisation

Dan Nicholls' trio Strobes, experimenting with musical visuals

The emergence of artists’ collectives, bristling with idealism and wacky manifestoes, is usually a sign of a vigorous cultural scene. London’s new improvised music scene enjoys several successful examples, of which Loop is perhaps the most prominent. Last night’s Loop club night at the Vortex showed the idea at its best, combining new and established acts across a range of genres.

There was - in homage to Valentine’s Day? - something old, something new, plenty that was borrowed, and even something blue. The new act was the band of percussionist Bex Burch, who plays the gyilli, a Ghanaian xylophone, in arrangements that were a blend of minimalistic phrasing and West African melody. It was a strikingly original and appealing sound, with repeated phrases on the piercingly bright gyilli building over the soporific, bluesy drawl of Tom Challenger’s saxophone. The rhythmical variation - essential for keeping a long track of this kind interesting - ran out of steam a couple of minutes before the end, but it will undoubtedly develop as Burch builds the band. They are one to watch.

Shabaka Hutchings’ quartet is one of Loop’s highest-profile bands, its members laden with more garlands than a Sochi florist. Drummer Tom Skinner and pioneering electronics player Leafcutter John have worked together for many years in Polar Bear, while bassist Ruth Goller is best known as part of Acoustic Ladyland. Hutchings, meanwhile, is fresh from the MOBO ceremony where he was awarded for another project, Sons of Kemet.

Both Strobes and Hutchings’ quartet offered a glimpse of future of improvised music

This quartet is both traditional and highly innovative. A line-up of drums, electric bass and two soloists wouldn’t usually shock anyone, but the use of Leafcutter John’s battery of electronica as a solo instrument alongside Hutchings’ sax, in place of its usual role creating rhythm and atmosphere, was both exciting and highly effective. Leafcutter John has a kind of wizardly calm, sitting at his laptop throwing grenades of cascading beats and howling spears of icicle-smooth sound. It wouldn’t work for the acoustic purist, of course, but this kind of electronic performance offers, inevitably, a far greater range of improvisational possibility than any single acoustic instrument. Beneath the surface, Goller and Skinner toyed skilfully with the bass line.   

With the arrival of Strobes for the final live set, the mood moved to clubland as the beat exploded, making loose clothing shimmer, and earrings rattle. Keyboardist Dan Nicholls’ trio premiered this new collaboration with New York visual artist Stephen Byram at last year’s London Jazz Festival. Combining Byram’s projected images (a mixture of line drawings, abstract patterns and photographs), which change with the music, with Strobes’ big beats and warped electronica, created a multimedia show that worked both as art and as clubland entertainment. Byram’s visuals became a bit samey after about ten minutes, but such a complex collaboration needs time to build. Both Strobes and Hutchings’ quartet offered a glimpse of future of improvised music.

Leafcutter John has a kind of wizardly calm, throwing grenades of cascading beats and howling spears of icicle-smooth sound

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4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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