Tag Archives: Union Chapel

Vladislav Delay featuring Lucio Capece at Union Chapel

Before I delve in, I have to say how delighted I was to return to such a beautiful and lovely sounding venue – particularly when the stage was flanked with two proper stacks of Funktion 1 sound. We’re lucky to have a chance-taking venue of this calibre in London, particularly when it has to share its time with religious duties. But to get to the point without further delay (geddit?), here’s my report on Vladislav Delay‘s visit to Union Chapel.

Sasu Ripatti and Lucio Capece performed about an hour’s worth of material from Tummaa. It was very live. Most of the music originated from an alto saxophone without a neck, with various mouthpieces attached to it and a bizarre assortment of bespoke mutes on the other end – to the extent that there was hardly ever any recognisable saxophone in the mix. When the mouthpiece wasn’t being used for blowing, Lucio Capece made odd clicks and other percussive noises with it. He also abused the mutes for all manner of unexpected output.

These were strange mutes. One looked like a hollowed-out telephoto lense attached to a paper towell roll. They were variously tapped with mallets, bowed and things were shoved in them. In one of the oddest perversions of instrumentation I’ve ever seen, he covered one of the mutes on a bass clarinet with a circular piece of paper, balanced a tiny ball in the middle and kept it levitated with constant exhalation. The ball rattled around atop the floating sheet next to a microphone, but it’s hard to know exactly what this sounded like relative to the final output. I imagine he must have been breathing circularly to pull this off. Indeed, a lot of the time he seemed to be producing constant sound, so that he was achieving something more like a bagpipe or a didgeridoo than a saxophone/clarinet.

Not that you could really hear what it sounded like, since all of this was sampled, effected and often completely removed from the mix in its unadulterated form. It was basically the source of almost every sound that came out of the Ripatti’s laptop, save some bizarre percussive pops/clicks that looked like they were coming from the naked skeleton of an autoharp and some other pad thing he was tapping on from time to time.

What was amazing about this was how much it resembled the sounds of the album, since nearly all of it seemed to be generated, modified, sampled, sequenced, arranged and dubbed in real time. It seemed like Ripatti had some kind of Kaos pad type of thing that he would tremolo things up with as they were recorded and he would actually play a lot of the percussive bits himself. In short, it’s hard to know who made what at which point. I’ve seen similar performances where a lot is left to chance and improvisation, which can be excellent, but I was unprepared to hear something so similar to Tummaa, achieved in such an imaginative, unusual and genuinely live way. It was captivating.

There did seem to be a couple of pre-recorded bits, but from what I could tell they were just the bits that would have come from a keyboard, and there was no keyboardist. This was about .1% of the total music played, and no slight on what they did. Oh, and on the last or next-to-last track Lucio Capece had some bizarre arcane wooden box with some vaguely accordian-esque properties, routed through his own tiny mixer. This was really cool too. I’d love to know what the front of the box looks like and what the hell it was.

I’m also just remembering that during the first track there were a lot of people walking back in to the chapel from the bar and some of their footsteps and a cough from the audience were captured by on-stage microphones and wound up in the mix. This was really intriguing to hear, as they were just building up the sounds that would form the beginning of the set and it felt like the acoustics of the building were becoming a part of the music itself.

My only complaint is that I couldn’t recognise Toive in what they played. It’s my favourite song from the album (one of my favourites of the year full-stop) and I was really looking forward to hearing that kick come in, as it has a huge impact in contrast to an album’s worth of ambience. It’s possible that it was played, but I didn’t spot it, for whatever that’s worth. Anyway, this is a very minor complaint and we left very happy. It was a great performance that will sit nicely beside my other great memories of the Union Chapel.

Vladislav Delay stuff

I’ve been meaning to write up this album for a while now, as it’s not leaving my mp3 player any time soon, but I’ve just caught up on some reading and noticed that it’s already received an excellent treatment from Toby @ Bleep 43.

In case you missed my tweet the other day, there’s also a fantastic video for Toive up on Vimeo that is totally worth checking.

I’ll surely have more to report on Vladislav Delay later this month, following their gig @ Union Chapel on 12 November (tickets still seem to be available).

Accidental Power Cut

Here’s the original press release from the show I went to last night. Same place I saw Monade, The High Llamas and The Sea and Cake last year.


The hub and Accidental Records are proud to present:



Commencing at 8 O’clock

The night will feature the incomparable vocalist Ms Dani Siciliano and keyboard maestro Mr Phil Parnell playing the music of big band leader, producer and accordianist Mr Matthew Herbert, Mr Max de Wardener will play with his band on their incredible musical bowls and indescribable devices!!! Ms. Mara Carlyle, accompanied by her group of first-class musicians will perform songs and airs featured on her debut Long Player “The Lovely”, and Mr John Matthias singer songwriter extraordinaire.

To these esteemed artists we will add special guests who cannot be named on this piece of promotional material

Artists appearing will be playing without recourse to or assistance from electrical instruments, amplification or sound reinforcement to whit:


We believe that such a night as this, offering wholly acoustic interpretations of electronic music, is a debut presentation by any impresario or collection of performers anywhere in the world.

Tickets may be purchased using a computer connected to the World Wide Web for the sum of £10 sterling at www.unionchapel.org.uk

the hub and The Accidental Records Company assure you that this performance will be second to none!

Further information can be found at http://www.thehubuk.com/powercut.html




Tickets £10 from www.unionchapel.org.uk


Aside from Dani Siciliano’s microphone problems, it all went great. Max de Wardener had these huge glass bell things that he and two other percussionists were playing, although he mostly played the bass. He also used the mamothing organ. The music really translated well from the album from what I can tell (although I’ve only heard it straight-through once). Really hipnotic, slightly Reich-y stuff.

Siciliano and Mara Carlyle both used mics – the only amplification all night. Originally it was supposed to be amplification-free, but when John Matthias sang without one you could see why they chose to birng them out (he was really hard to hear). Part of the problem with Siciliano’s mic was that it clearly wasn’t the sort you are meant to sing directly into (it was clipped to her shirt originally), and when she did sing directly into it you often got loud nose sounds and shit like that. Nothing horrendous, but a distraction. She gradually got more acustomed to it as her set went on though, and when she closed with some more upbeat tunes she was well on-form. What a voice! Sounded just like it does on the recordings. She played all Herbert songs that she originally sung on, except one from her album, if I count correctly.

John Matthias was good, but eventually started to sound like the soundtrack to I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!.

I mean, what was up with the dude who had the maracas in his pocket? Or was that not part of that show??? Poop. Can’t remember.

Mara Carlyle was fucking stunning. She opened up with her three ‘angels’ singing some hymnal shit while she played the saw. She followed that up with a good chunk of her album. Her voice is just amazing. It’s been so long since I’ve seen someone who sings across so much range that they actually use their body to get the notes out right. She kinda reminds me of Allison Moyet, but better. Totally enthralling. Really glad I went.

Monade, The High Llamas and The Sea and Cake at the Union Chapel

I have too much to say about this show, so strap in, pour yourself a hot chocolate, grab your best spectacles and read on!

Last night was my first trip to The Union Chapel in Islington. I got off the bus a couple of stops too early, walking up Upper Street for about 10 minutes on my way there. I passed 3 other churches on the way, each looking more magnificent than the last. When I finally arrived at Union Chapel I could hardly it would be so tall, yet there was a line of indy rockers, ready to rock out, so I made my way over. I paid my £13, spent my last £10 on 4 cans of John Smith’s and found myself a seat near the aisle with a view of the trap set. I knew I wanted to see what John McIntire was up to more than anything else. This strategy paid off. Between 7:30 and 8:00 more people filtered in, I examined the stunning church around me, and took in some amazing entrance music that sounded like the string arrangement in the last ½ of Nobekazu Takemura’s remix of Yo La Tango’s Danelectro. It probably was another Takemura I haven’t heard yet, and it played between all of the intervals. It really set the mood and made the anticipation that much sweeter. One other thing I noticed during the intermissions was that the crowd seemed to be very American. This was not nearly as bad as the Superbowl the night before, but strangely annoying. They should quit following me… 🙂 Anyway, on to the show…

Monade was up first, in what I would later find out was their first performance, when the singer of the High Llama’s pointed it out. Monade is Jim O’Rourke, who has produced everyone and everyone’s mom, including Stereolab, The Sea and Cake, Sonic Youth and Wilco. He also has a number of his own projects under his belt. Laetitia Sadier from Stereolab joined him, along with an unknown rhythm section. I imagine this was probably the first time she’s performed live without Mary Hansen since she was killed in a biking accident in London last month. Given that I’ve never heard her sing without Mary Hansen’s accompaniment, the first few songs sounded very lonely. I could’ve been reading that into it on my own, or it could have been really there. In either case, it was there for me, since I missed Mary Hansen’s voice next to Laetitia’s. It was also strange when the male bassist would sing along with her. Mary Hansen will indeed be missed.

You could also tell there was a composed anxiousness from these performers, who have all got tons of experience on stage, but none as a unit. There were a few near-mistakes in the first few songs – nothing that leapt out as terribly bad but a few unexpected ‘errors’ fed the energy of a raw, experimentation with new material. For instance, Laetitia would be concentrating so hard on the chords she was playing on guitar she would sometimes pull away from the microphone accidentally. There was also the really silly entrance before the first song, where they all got ready to play, and then Laetitia realized she didn’t have here pick. She fumbled though her corduroy pockets in front of a full room of antsy customers who all seemed to be enjoying the humanity of the moment. Towards the end of the first song, she busted out some trombone, but it wasn’t exactly the best tromboning I’ve ever heard. Still fun though!

The music itself was splendid. It sounded like a paired-down Stereolab. I got the feeling they are still working out some of the mixing issues, because Jim O’Rourke’s Nord Electro keys often drifted into the background. Again, it didn’t detract at all for me, as all of the rawness translated into untold enthusiasm elsewhere. One thing that stood out (for all but one song) was the de-emphasized rhythm section. It seemed to be very squarely on the shoulders of Laetitia and Jim. No complaints here. More than anything else, what really made its mark on me was Laetitia’s voice. She slides in and out of French monotone to a scary, accurate range that seems to come out of nowhere. In one song, she started singing before Jim O’Rourke’s synth line crept in, which created a perfect-pitch ‘reverb’ to her words on entry, trailing off just after her voice. It was a creepy and effective technique that really took me by surprise. You expect a singer to match key to an instrument, not to be so perfect that a keyboard can join in unnoticed. Her voice simply transformed into a synthesizer, and continued to do so throughout the refrain. I was also blown away by how accurate her voice sounds live to the quality on her recordings. There is no difference at all from what I can tell, further evidenced by the sometimes-strange facial contortions she makes to hit some notes. Real singing does not usually look pretty. It was really refreshing to watch someone bare all on stage like that, rather than look good and lower their register. Her voice was given the spotlight throughout, and she seemed to take advantage of that liberty even more than she does with Stereolab. This was all I could’ve hoped for and more, especially for their first performance. Everyone at ATP should run to check this out (I hope she will be there – Jim O’Rourke is confirmed).

I must confess to knowing very little about the High Llama’s. They are Irish, and very Stereolabesque, for lack of a better word. There are six guys as follows:

-Drummer on trap set

-Percussionist on vibes and Roland drum pad with effects (playing with four mallets at once and twiddling drum pad effects)

-Keyboardist on two keyboards (sounded like a Rhodes and a Farfisa to my ears, although from what I understand the Farfisa does not travel well, so it may have been something else, or at least this is why I hear Stereolab does not travel with theirs)

-6 string Guitarist/Banjoist (about a 50/50 split between the two)

-6 string bass

-Singer/12 string guitar/keyboard (also could have been a Farfisa, not sure)

The singer was really humble and polite. Probably a weird thing to say in a music review, but it really came through. The first things he said on stage was that he really loved Monade’s debut, and that it was an honor to play with them and Stereolab. The guy just oozed ‘nice-guyness’. His singing was a bit ‘folksy’ for my taste, but I have to say his brief speeches between songs really endeared me to the authenticity of his singing. When he wasn’t singing, the songs broke out into very Stereolabesque territory, meandering everywhere, with slight variations on a theme. I enjoyed them more as the set progressed. One thing that made the biggest impression on me was how amazing the vibes sounded in that church. Wow! They rung out with the most luscious authentic reverb I’ve ever heard. Amazing…

I need to preface the rest of my comments by confessing that The Sea and Cake are my favorite band. I have easily listened to them more than anything else in my collection for the last three years solid. In my estimation, Archer Prewitt is the best guitarist since Johnny Marr and John McIntire is the best drummer ever. Add to that an uncanny musical chemistry between the two, the discordant vocals of Sam Prekop, his own excellent guitaring, bass work that knows its place, a healthy does of synths, and you have the definitive modern band. Nearly every song has vocals, but most allow at least half the song for the instruments to breath.

Sam Prekop’s vocals were brilliant. I still don’t understand what he’s on about most of the time, but one thing that really impressed me was how many of the vocals were different now. That is a dedication to writing, and the first evidence of their commitment to endless revision and a gift-giving live show. I wish I had words to describe Archer Prewitt’s guitar, but they are failing me. I can only compare it to the diversity of Johnny Marr, never requiring the focus, always delivering when it’s given. I also never realized how much singing he does, and how well he does it. Can’t believe I missed his solo stuff until now…

What really distinguishes both Tortoise and The Sea and Cake is that every song gives John McIntire a chance to shine in some way. He drums like a man possessed. The look in his eye is of a completely immersed consciousness, pounding precisely with a funk uncommon at half his speed. He rotates, massages and lends dynamics to beats in a way that no one else has ever done before. His funk is curved at a swing that doesn’t exist in time – just in rhythm. He literally massages the snare with his stick (to what effect I’m not sure), while drumming at 160 bpm. To watch him play subtle background rhythms is engrossing – to see him gain focus in their finale is awe inspiring. I have simply seen nothing like it, and am really regretting not having paid more attention to Tortoise when they played DEMF in 2001. Later that same day IIRC, The Roots’ drummer blew me away in his DEMF 2001 15-minute finale, but this is something altogether different. You need to hear it, learn it, then witness it live, with all the added variations that slide past unnoticed unless you watch him in action. One very minor detail that explains some of what needs to be seen is that with one hand, in the middle of a song, he unscrewed a tambourine from the foot pedal to which it was attached, did it in a way that it only shook once when he grabbed it, again when he lifted it, and one last time when he plopped it on the ground (it was still mic’d throughout this process). He did all of this while drumming with his other foot and hand, and each of those shakes was not only in-time, but perfectly accented the guitars that were dueling in the foreground.

The synth-man just came along for the tour – he is not an actual member of the band (they usually do this bit after recording, or have it sequenced while playing live, I suspect). He was this bigger crew-cut-lookin’ guy who totally looked out of place, but he had some sweet tricks up his sleeve. There was some sort of pen device he was using to play all of their legato synth solos with. That was really cool to see – the guy was literally writing music (I should know better than to throw out such a horrible pun towards the end of such a long review ;).

If I have any complaint at all about the show, it’s that The Sea and cake were trying out the material from their new album ‘One Bedroom’ live for apparently one of the first times. While I was really excited to hear what I haven’t bought yet, their music is crafted with such care that it often takes about 4 or 5 listens to start to hear it, and about 20 to really get the idea. Usually after hundreds I still pick out nuances I’ve missed. So when they only played about 5 older songs, I didn’t get quite what I’d bargained for. This is not to say the new stuff wasn’t great. In one of the first songs they played, Archer Prewitt busted out a rare solo that was mind-blowing. I’ll point it out when I get the CD. In that dueling guitar song I mentioned, Sam Prekop had his own solo, which I think is really unusual, and very cool to see.

The encore came quickly, to a crowd that was very subdued (it was a church full of people sitting in pews after all). At one point in between songs, Sam Prekop even said “Shhh…”, joking about how quiet it was in there. I’d love to see them in a more animated venue, although this was good in its own reverent way. So this finale lasted for about 15 minutes, in which John McIntire got to do three show-off songs. In two of them he completely recreated the beat from the original, in a way that was still recognizable, but completely reemphasized. These were also three of my favorite songs. The end of the last song even extended into a droney drum and guitar dialogue that explained all of the chemistry between Prewitt and McIntire. After only 75 minutes I wanted more. After only 15 minutes of uptempo McIntire madness I really wanted to hear The Man Who Never See’s a Pretty Girl That He Doesn’t Love Her a Little, which is his opus and probably my favorite song by them. But I was happy to have had an introduction to them live, knowing that they will probably stop back through here in May on their European tour. With all this music, it helps so much to know the songs inside and out before you see the live performance, which inevitably breaths new life into that material, no matter how well you know it. Good musicians will reinvent it and show you some more of what you can barely keep up with through speakers alone. It is precisely what music should be. It is what inspires me more than anything else these days.