Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Food + Vladislav Delay, Union Chapel, 12th November 2009

Food + Vladislav Delay, Union Chapel, 12th November 2009

Union Chapel is one of a handful of London’s holy buildings to have reinvented itself as a live music destination in recent years, with performances spanning jazz, electronica, avant-garde and experimental artists, acoustic shows and all kinds of music that requires people to shut up, stop fidgeting and LISTEN.

Tonight the chapel hosts Vladislav Delay, one of the many working names of Finnish electronic artist Sasu Ripatti, whose latest album Tummaa is out on The Leaf Label. Commonly described as a ‘clicks and cuts’ artist, Vladislav Delay is a more fluid, atmospheric exploration of that tag, where timbre and rhythm take precedence over melody and harmony.

Ripatti is accompanied by jazz musician Lucio Capece, who explores the unexpected sounds of soprano sax as well a couple of bespoke instruments. Avoiding jazzy phrases, Capece keeps his input minimal but engaging, making breathy percussive sounds using a drum mallet and violin bow which are then processed and warped by Ripatti, using drum pads and lashings of delay to create conflicting feelings of intimacy and distance.

Where Vladislav Delay is primarily an electronic music project, headliners Food take a more transparent, organic approach to their improvised tracks, combining astonishingly inventive percussion (largely played one-handed as drummer Thomas Strønen uses his free hand to add loops, layers and effects) with minimalist melodic lines from saxophonist Iain Bellamy, mutating with repetition and recalling experimental composers like Steve Reich and Terry Riley as much as free jazz.

Electronic music and jazz have obviously always been musical boundary-pushers, so it makes sense that the two should become acquainted through experimental artists like Vladislav Delay and Food. The relationship seems to be mutually beneficial too, with electronic music opening new horizons for jazz – which even in its freest, freakiest forms is still getting on a bit as a musical style – while jazz pushes electronic music away from dehumanised programmed rhythms and into more abstract and improvised territory, using real instruments played by real people.

Tonight’s show is like a sneak preview of future sounds, leaving us still and silent while our inner ears chatter with unthought thoughts and new beginnings.

Karen O And The Kids, Where The Wild Things Are OST

Karen O And The Kids
Where The Wild Things Are Motion Picture Soundtrack
DGC Records

If your ex-girlfriend was the inimitable Karen Orzolek – besequined screechbag and noted friend to children (see also, Tiny Masters of Today, her pre-teen punk protégés) – you’d know who to call when it came to soundtracking your blockbuster kiddie monster movie. With some inevitability, director Spike Jonze turned to Karen O and The Kids to add music to his forthcoming film Where The Wild Things Are, an adaptation of the classic US children’s book.

The kids in question turn out not be the spaghetti hoops and Sesame Street kind (probably for the best) but a selection of Karen O’s musical compadres, most of whom are well-known enough to have been credited more explicitly: her YYYs bandmates Nick Zinner and Brian Chase; long-limbed Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox; Dean Fertita of QOTSA and The Dead Weather; his bandmate Jack Lawrence, also of The Raconteurs; and multi-instrumentalist songwriter Imaad Wasif.

Often recalling Show Your Bones-era YYYs, the troupe of kidults contribute organ, marimba, bells and acoustic fingerpicking on gentle campfire songs and the occasional moment of Arcade Fire-style marching joyousness. A few bursts of kiddy chorus and a tinge of Americana almost tip proceedings into ‘wholesome’ territory, but the musicians’ punk credentials and Karen O’s yelped nursery rhyme lyrics serve as a balancing oddball factor.

The heartbreaking cover of Daniel Johnston’s ‘Worried Shoes’ is easily the standout track and should be bought by anyone with an interest in keeping their heart beating. Karen O’s voice – cracked and vulnerable, sweet but steadfast with that strong twang on her R’s – captures perfectly the childlike nature of both the film and Johnston’s songwriting.

Across the 14 tracks there are only a handful of proper songs, with some tracks barely making it past the minute mark and often reprising previous sounds and ideas – a typical soundtrack approach, but as an album it could do with turning those snippets into coherent songs like the tubthumping single ‘All Is Love’ or the wistful ‘Hide Away’. Still, like the film itself, the record has the difficult task of trying to appeal to everyone who loves the book, from adults to teenagers to toddlers. For that reason alone, Karen O and The Kids did good, making a record that goes beyond the call of duty and stands as a pretty ace album all by itself. A must-buy for fans of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Daniel Johnston, wistful indie-rock and huge shaggy monsters.