Canterbury Sound: Place, Music and Myth, Christ Church University, Canterbury, 28 October 2017

It’s taken nearly a week to post something up about this amazing event, but then it’s taken nearly a week to surface from quite a whirlwind few days down south.

After around 25 years of correspondence, I finally got to meet Aymeric Leroy, author of the Calyx website, Big Bang progressive fanzines, moderator of the What’s Rattlin’ Newsgroup, and more recently author of the ‘L’Ecole de Canterbury’ biography. We met at Phil Miller’s funeral in Plaistow on Friday, chatted at the wake, where he kindly introduced me to many of my heroes, and shared a car down to Canterbury later that evening where he was kind enough not to comment too harshly on my lack of nous about directions! Aymeric’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Canterbury music (and beyond…) is not just confined to carefully filed reams of information – it is matched by instant recall of dates, places and anecdotes which sometimes make me feel like a half-arsed amateur!

lapis lazuli

Lapis Lazuli – photo: Asya Draganova

We’d been brought together as fellow speakers at the Canterbury Sound event, an event hosted by Christ Church University in the city, and curated by leading university academics Dr Asya Draganova and Professor Shane Blackman. The whole-day event consisted of a series of talks, including ones from Aymeric about Calyx and his book, my own about the genesis and development of Facelift, and other more academic perspectives from speakers jetting in from places as far flung as the US and Australia. My favourite slots were the insights provided by musicians Geoff Richardson (who came to settle in Canterbury in 1972) and Brian Hopper (who was already there!) and guitarist Jack Hues (a current practitioner). Talks and general discussion (all speakers also contributed to an ongoing ‘panel’ fielding questions from the floor) centred about what exactly the Canterbury scene/sound was, whether it had occurred as a result of local and cultural factors, and how it matched other geographically-based scenes. I’m not sure that the panel really came to any firm conclusions, but maybe that wasn’t the point. Personally, I liked most Geoff’s perspective that he was a ‘moth drawn to the flame’ of Canterbury, a phenomenon that I have observed so many times both in terms of musicians relocating geographically, but perhaps even more so metaphorically its many fans.

canterbury soundAny doubt that the flame is being kept alive was dispersed by the utterly memorable music which punctuated the day, initially with Jack Hues and the quartet, augmented for the most part by lengthy spoken word sections. The music was alternately sparse, atmospheric and driven, backed by the rhythm section of the very fine Led Bib. I would love to hear more of this. Koloto, a local composer followed in the afternoon with a set of electronic soundscapes, before the conference venue was cleared for the evening’s main performances.

With their unfathomable name, freakish promo photo and the eloquence of drummer Adam Brodigan who provided an insight into the local music scene in one of the later talks, a sense of anticipation built up for local band Lapis Lazuli, who for me were the revelation of the entire day. Extended but extremely tightly-knit compositions (‘Reich’ and ‘School’) from their superb ‘Wrong Meeting’ album, bought on the spot, revealed a power-driven quartet consisting of two guitars, bass and drums, producing intricate, funky compositions. The great thing about bands that you’re often instantly sold on is that you can’t accurately compare them to anyone else, because, they’re … um… unique. That’s how I felt about Syd Arthur when I first heard their folk-infused early stuff – but Lapis Lazuli are spikier, grungier and rarely staying in one spot long enough for the audience to settle in their groove, before they move on to the next meticulously scored passage. During Adam’s earlier words, he described the evolution of gig venues and clubs in recent years from smoke-filled dens of iniquity to a much cleaner environment where psychedelic stimulation had to come from the music alone, and how Lapis Lazuli aimed to take you there. Such was the mind-bending nature of the music that they certainly got (me) there tonight.

Headliners and equally anticipated were Soup Songs, the jazzy outfit performing the songs of (and thoroughly approved of by) Robert Wyatt. I’d never seen this much-vaunted band before and quite aside from the sheer privilege of hearing for the first time, live performances of iconic tracks such as ‘Sea Song’, (possibly my all-time favourite track, complete with the heart-rending coda played out by Annie Whitehead’s trombone), and ‘O Caroline’, here was a band that genuinely grooved. Backed by an all-star rhythm section of Tim Harries and Liam Genockey, names familiar to most Canterburyfiles in different contexts, and an all-female frontline of Whitehead, Sarah Jane Morris and singer/guitarist Jennifer Maidman, this was a classy, gutsy performance. Whilst the main soloists were Steve Lodder on keyboards and Mark Lockhart (sax); Geoff Richardson was invited on stage for several memorable viola interventions, whilst Brian Hopper stole the night with an extended sax solo on ‘Soup Song’ itself. A fitting way to end a memorable day from one of the founders of it all…

matt watkins

Postscript: The event provided an opportunity to display some of my old newspaper clipping archives which Aymeric had brought back from France, alongside no less than 7 different Canterbury family trees. Last thoughts regard the publication of ‘You Are Here’ by Matt Watkins, author of the Canterbury sans Frontieres soundblog. A full review to follow when this whirlwind week stops and I can start to dive properly into his unique and beautifully illustrated book. Matt gave a short talk starting to plot the geographically significant points of Canterbury mythdom through an interactive Google Map – this was the part of the day that perhaps unwittingly drew the most audience participation, and was presented with a wryness which added to the delivery. More on the book soon…

Advertisements

The funeral of Phil Miller, 27 October 2017

Posting publicly about a funeral feels  slightly odd, but it seems remiss not  to mark the passing of Phil Miller, a giant of the Canterbury scene, with as many respectful words  as this forum will allow.

phil miller funeral

Whilst hardly claiming to know Phil well personally, I was lucky enough to meet him enough times to feel that I could at least pay my respects, and so my travel plans to get down to Canterbury for the Sound event the day after were hastily re-arranged on hearing that Phil’s funeral would be held in Plaistow last Friday.

The crematorium service was a simple one, presented by a neighbour (and apologies for not catching the name) with both a sensitivity for Phil’s qualities both personally and as a musician. Whilst the service was topped and tailed with extracts from Phil and Fred Baker’s beautifully gentle album ‘Double Up’, the centrepiece of the ceremony was a series of speeches, including an opening from Aymeric Leroy, providing something of a tribute to Phil’s musical pedigree. A series of more personal thoughts and reminiscences followed from many of Phil’s friends and collaborators such as Hatfieldist Alex McGuire, Caravan guitarist Doug Boyle, bassist Jack Monck (who accompanied Phil at the start and end of his musical career with Delivery and the Relatives); and musical soulmate Fred Baker. Mark Hewins gave a very moving off the cuff speech, whilst musician and author Henk Weltewreden read his own bitter-sweet and very funny piece based around the lyrics to Phil’s ‘God Song’. The prevailing themes of the speeches were Phil’s loving gift of music; the meticulous nature of his playing and composing, his striving for the perfectly fine-tuned arrangement in both him and others; his fierce loyalty; and  his enduring love with Herm.

The wake was a beautifully informal affair at St Barnabas Hall in Dalston, with fine food downstairs and a succession of musicians playing the best of Phil’s music upstairs, such as ‘Underdub’, ‘God Song’, ‘Above and Below’ and ‘It Didn’t Matter Anyway’. I lost some of the detail of the particular denominations who played whilst chatting to various guests including the likes of Bill MacCormick, Yumi Hara, Geoff Leigh and Rick Biddulph, but there were combinations of In Cahoots musicians including Jim Dvorak and Pete Lemer; a fabulous reprise of a Miller/Baker duo number with Fred taking Phil Miller’s guitar line whilst Jack Monck played bass; Phil’s most recent collaborator Marc Hadley on  sax; Theo Travis on flute; Mark Hewins on guitar and many many more. I felt very privileged to have been there – the mood was sombre but Phil’s spirit prevailed….

Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso UFO – Hebden Bridge Trades Club 20 October 2017

Acid Mothers Temple are nearing the end of their annual autumnal attack on broad-minded European gigging venues and once again played the Trades in Hebden Bridge, host over the years to numerous Gong-related musicians, if not yet Gong themselves.

acid mothersThe ‘Mothers’ are a Japanese collective with around 20 years history behind them, and Daevid Allen collaborated extensively with their guitarist and leader Kawabata Makoto in the Noughties (including the album ‘Acid Motherhood’ which went out under the Gong name in 2003.) Their style is an all-pervasive assault on the senses with an unbelievably loud and dense sound, smoke machines and a visual presence which is unparalleled – for starters you’re unlikely to see quite as much hair on one stage!

Whilst in particular guitarist Makoto and high-octane drummer Satoshima Nani  flail around like whirling dervishes, frontman Higashi Hiroshi, an extraordinarily striking figure with long white hair and beard, maintains a zen-like presence up front as he peddles sonic effects including a state of the art theremin .

The band are renowned for their wigged out appropriations of iconic musical anthems both psychedelic and beyond, and I remember when I saw them for the first time in 2015 spending the first 20 minutes of the gig with my jaw dropping to the floor as they performed a track which I assume was ‘Son of a Bitches Brew’. I wasn’t entirely sure I liked it, but it was clear enough I’d never heard anything quite like it before.

Tonight as they launched into their first track, I was delighted to realise that it was Black Sabbath’s ‘The Wizard’, here treated with cacophonous layer upon layer of sound as a backdrop, and punctuated with gusto by Hiroshi on harmonica.

Gong’s ‘Flying Teacup’ riff followed, an extended workout around a single bass-line, and later we had the Om Riff sandwiched in between renderings of long-time Acid Mothers’ centrepiece ‘Pink Lady Lemonade’.

I couldn’t tell you the couple of tracks beyond this, but to be honest, that helped, as without a recognisable theme to hook into, I succumbed to the frenzied trance most of the rest of the audience had been wound up into. The sound is messy, high-energy and all-encompassing – all musicians, particularly lead guitar, the brilliant bass of ‘S/T aka Wolf’ and drums rattling along at breakneck speed, but even this, (with additional layers provided by second guitarist Mitsuko Tabata and effects) is further backed up by sheets of sound from backing tapes. It’s an astonishing spectacle. I think the crowd were too stunned to holler for an encore, most repairing to outside for a recupatory fag as the band quietly packed up, shifted a few T-shirts, and were waved off at the door as they made tracks for their next gig north of the border.

Phil Miller

The very sad news emerged yesterday that guitarist Phil Miller had died after a long illness. I wanted to pay tribute here to Phil’s unique talents – both as a guitarist and a songwriter.

issue 15 cover copy

His CV almost reads like a wishlist of  seminal Canterbury bands: first Delivery (with, amongst others Roy Babbington, Pip Pyle and Lol Coxhill), then Matching Mole, followed by Hatfield and the North and National Health. He later spent 30 years fronting his own band In Cahoots, itself a stomping ground for many of the scene’s key players: Elton Dean, Pip Pyle, Richard Sinclair, Hugh Hopper amongst them. He also briefly co-led Short Wave with Pyle, Hopper and Didier Malherbe and had a unique duo with equally dextrous long term collaborator Fred Baker. He was an understated giant within the scene and whilst his trademark calling card was those tortured electric solos, he was a fine rhythm guitarist and a brilliant songwriter – two of the scene’s anthemic pieces, Matching Mole’s God Song and Hatfields’ Calyx were his.

I saw Phil perform on many occasions, and looking back at a feature which was published in the nascent Facelift website where I asked regular contributors  to identify their top 5 gigs, Phil Miller appeared in the nearly everyone’s lists in various guises (and three times in mine! ) in the Hatfields, National Health or most notably In Cahoots. My own favourite gigs included the ones below:

  • In Cahoots at the Band on the Wall – my first live exposure to ‘Canterbury scene’ musicians – I remember being astonished that his first solo album (‘Cutting Both Ways’) managed to garner so many of my heroes, but then to see them live with a line-up that also included so many of my heroes, hitherto just names on record sleeves or recognisable musical styles through my speakers completely blew my mind. The idea of seeing Phil Miller, Pip Pyle, Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean all on the same stage was almost incomprehensible as a Canterbury novice – I was sold for life.
  • In Cahoots again, this time as part of one of very many memorable Sonic Relief showcases at the Brixton Fridge. Sonic Relief tapped into a brief moment in time when progressive music, particularly at the psychedelic end, started to become an acceptable musical format again at the start of the 90s – billings included Gong, Caravan, Ozric Tentacles, The Orb and Tim Blake. In Cahoots were the support act for Caravan on one fine evening – was this their biggest ever audience? So heartwarming to see their music watched and appreciated by a large, lively crowd.
  • The Miller/Baker duo, not just for a gig we put on in Manchester (more below) in 1993, but as part of an extraordinary double header with Mark Hewins and Hugh Hopper at the Vortex in Islington.
  • And finally, with Short Wave, a Canterbury supergroup if ever there was one and whose album we reviewed here Having witnessed a superb gig down in Chester, we saw them in their element at Gong 25, where for us anorakked Canterbury aficionados, they represented an unofficial highlight.

Phil managed to combine an understated personality with a quite towering stage presence – I won’t be the only one who associates his meticulously constructed guitar lines with his pained expressions as he eked out another gut-twisting solo from a seemingly bottomless well. I must have met Phil on half a dozen occasions, but it’s probably testament to our mutual shyness and reserve that I couldn’t ever remember what we talked about… Nick Loebner got much further than I with an excellent interview for Facelift here

In the autumn of 1993 a few Manchester friends (Martin Wakeling, editor of the Kevin Ayers fanzine ‘Why Are We Sleeping’, regular Facelift scribe Nick Loebner and my long-term gigging partner ‘Long’ Dave Wragg) and I concocted a plan to bring Phil and In Cahoots bass player Fred Baker to Manchester for a duo gig – this on the back of their superb album Double Up which saw them perform Miller classics such ‘Calyx’ and ‘Underdub’ alongside many fabulous new compositions for double guitar or guitar/bass. We managed to procure a venue for nothing, got lots of free publicity in the arts/entertainment magazine Up Town I then worked for, got a preview in a rival magazine City life, listings in the Guardian and sold tickets in the legendary and supportive Manchester jazz/roots record shop Decoy. Phil and Fred had kindly agreed to bring their own PA.

miller & bakerWe then sat back and waited for the tickets to sell. It was a long wait. The venue, although on the circuit for rock music, was a bit off the beaten track, set back in the gloom from Piccadilly station. Charlie, who owned the Star and Garter, had given us the venue for nothing, no doubt intending to make his money back on drinks. His generosity didn’t extend to heating, because in his eyes the hordes of people we’d promised him would warm up the large room we were using with body heat.

I reckon we packed in about 50 punters. It was a magical night – I caught one chap crying in the toilets because he’d finally got to hear ‘Calyx’ live. Phil and Fred played beautifully with their almost telepathic understanding. A testament to Phil in that he offered to take a cut on his and Fred’s tiny appearance fee because of the low turn out.  We of course refused – it was a privilege to have him performing for a few select aficionados, but indicative of the everyday travails of innovatory British jazz musicians.

I can’t remember the last time I saw him – I don’t live in Manchester any more and have fewer opportunities to go to London, and I suspect gigs were getting thinner and thinner on the ground. ‘Conspiracy Theories’, admittedly a few years back, was right up there with the best of his output and showed him still in his element as a unique songwriter and guitar voice.

Phil was a colossus within the scene – he’ll be sorely missed.

Canterbury Sound Festival – Sat October 28th

Really excited to have been invited to take part in a day dedicated to the Canterbury ‘Sound’ at Augustine House, Canterbury – it’s a day and evening event of discussions dedicated to the music we’re all fans of, and featuring music from Canterbury both past and present.

Canterbury Sound image

Full ticket price details here: and full content details below:

As Aymeric Leroy, (who has run the Calyx website, What’s Rattlin forum group, and has also recently published a book ‘L’Ecole de Canterbury’), is bringing my old Canterbury archive (which extends to half a car boot load) back over the UK, I hope to be displaying some tasty snippets at the event, as well as selling some fanzines. Hope to see you there!

DAYTIME PROGRAMME
10:30-10:50 Welcome; health and safety notices; event concept and programme for the day to be presented by Asya Draganova
10:50 – 11:20 Coffee break and introducing the Archive, Music, and Book Stalls
11:20 – 12:50 Panel 1: “Canterbury Sound” myths and realities

Talks from: Professor Andy Bennett, Geoffrey Richardson, Brian Hopper, Jack Hues, Professor Murray Smith a discussion panel

12:50 – 13:00 Comfort break

13:00 – 13:45 Performance: Jack Hues and the Quartet

13:45 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 16:00 Panel 2: Archives and futures of the online and offline “Canterbury Sound”

Talks from Aymeric Leroy, Phil Howitt, Asya Draganova and Shane Blackman, Matt Watkins, and Alan Payne + discussion panel

16:00 – 16:10 Comfort break

16:10 – 16:50 Performance by Koloto

16:50 – 17:00 Comfort break

17:00 – 18:00 Fan forum: mapping the spaces and places of the “Canterbury Sound” with the participation of audiences

EVENING PROGRAMME

19:00 – 22:00: Lapis Lazuli and SoupSongs performances: a musical dialogue within the “Canterbury Sound”

Magic Bus – Phillip The Egg

A chap who came to our door the other day asked me where I got my green sackcloth Nepalese  shirt from, and I explained that my wardrobe was largely topped up at festivals where I shamelessly bulk-bought band-related T-shirts and hippy clothing in the same way that others might visit TKMaxx in search of bargains. I compared it to the way that at same said festivals I always come away with some new music to follow based on some unexpected treat in a tent somewhere. Like the t-shirts  it keeps me going through a winter or several until I irreparably damage them.

Over the years this has seen me get into bands as diverse as Asian Dub Foundation (a Brighton 3-dayer, if I remember, where our tent got nicked and I got food poisoning from a Vietnamese noodle bar);  Subgiant (wondrous South Coast electronic dub), the Egg (classic festival grooves), and possibly best of all LaXula (Spanish gypsy music with a hint of burlesque). Last year at Kozfest it was Andy Bole. This year it could well be Magic Bus. And I’m beginning to wonder how they escaped my clutches for so long.

 

The marvellous video posted here shows the Magic Bus band in their full glory. Subtract the nattily turned out lead guitarist and the band could have been directly parachuted from the late 60s into the studio, and the music follows suit. In amongst the swathes of screaming guitar or the pounding reggae beats which pervade Kozfest, Magic Bus at Judge Trev’s stage were an altogether much more gentle affair. The Caravan comparisons are almost a given: strummed rhythm guitar and flowery vocals, an intense longhair hunched and rocking over a screaming keyboard which appears to be the main soloing instrument, and soaring flute lines recalling Jimmy Hastings. But there’s more at work here: on ‘Phillip the Egg’ alone, the band work their way through numerous sub-sections, shifts in tempo and mood to provide a really tightly scored composition stretched over many minutes. There’s even a spot of Van der Graaf ‘galumphing’ to increase the heart rate. Great stuff, can’t tell you much more at present on the basis of a short (frequently revisited) video and a late night gig at Kozfest. I can tell you though that the rest of their latest album sounds bloody marvellous too, but I’ve already outstayed my welcome streaming it on bandcamp so I’ll waste no more time and buy myself a copy forthwith…

Kozfest 2017

Friday 28 July – Sunday 30 July, Bobby’s Farm, Uffculme, Devon

kozfest timings

For the unitiated, Kozfest is a unique festival set in the rolling hills of the Devon countryside. In the big picture of festivaldom, it’s a tiny speck, limited to 500 punters but blessed by up to 300 performers, many of whom have direct or indirect links to musicians covered by Facelift magazine over the years, particularly at the psychedelic end of the scene.  Unlike last year’s sun-drenched bake-out, this was a muddy affair, not quite Glastonbury but enough to dampen the campers’ spirits a little, if not deterring musically from another feast.

The festival is almost like a private party, except that firstly you can invite yourself (if you get hold of tickets in time) and secondly that you might not know anyone – (at least at first). It’s unique because at any set time you can look to either side of you realise that you’re surrounded by people you’ve spoken to around your tent or at the various stalls, or musicians you’ve been watching. There’s no distinguishing between punters and performers in terms of egos at least, it’s all one happy colourful family. The place is festooned with memorably coiffeured, dressed or chisel-featured characters – it’s almost inevitable that the bloke in the cape and goggles in front of you in the pizza queue is going to pop up on a stage at some point – it’s just a question of when. Kozmic Ken, who gives the name to the festival, bumbles around the festival amiably, presenting the bands on the main stage and dispensing good vibes to all.spiral navigators

Spiral Navigators – photo Annie Roberts

With Here and Now, System 7 (Steve Hillage/Miquette Giraudy) and Soft Machine headlining the 3 nights respectively, it seems strange to report that I only saw Here and Now, but I was visiting the festival, as one does, very much in punter rather than band bucketlist mode. Plus with two young children in tow, energies were flagging when the final band came on each evening at 10.30pm. More about those three headlining bands later.

For all the undoubted kudos for Kozfest of attracting the headliners, which ensures a steady build up of anticipation throughout the day, much of the vibe of the festival is exploring a few musical connections, delving into something entirely new, or witnessing a spontaneous happening. The musical onslaught is relentless – it’s possible but probably not advisable to see every band on the main billings through drifting sheeplike from one stage to another. The festival layout is inspired: within its tiny acreage, the entire event is spread over only two fields – a flat one at the bottom for motorhomes, cars and a few tents, and a sloping one above leading to a flat platform at the top in which is contained the entire gamut of facilities: 4 or 5 food stalls, the Tat for Tibet quartermasters stores, Gong’s GAS merchandise tent, and various other small arts/crafts/clothes concerns. At either end of the platform is a marquee – the Daevid Allen stage a larger, more functional, white-sided marquees with official merchandise at the back; and the Judge Trev stage – smaller, more atmospheric with its red interior setting a more atmospheric feel for the bands within. DSC04922The scheduling is pure genius – bands play their 1 hour sets in one tent whilst the following band in the other tent do their soundcheck. There’s a 10 minute overlap where two bands will be playing simultaneously, which also means that most bands start off with a very small audience only for half the festival to drift in to populate the tent after 10 minutes or so. Browse the photos on the Kozfest Facebook pages and you could be forgiven for thinking that the festival is populated by a load of untogether stoner types – and in terms of us punters that might have a ring of truth, but in terms of organisation this is as tightly scheduled as anything I’ve seen – bands arrived and left the stage on the dot, and not just to meet the midnight curfew. At the Judge Trev stage the meticulous nature of the timings was particularly evident with soundchecks punctuated with shouts of “5 minutes”, “2 minutes” barked out in the preamble to a band coming on. One band (Magic Bus) were hauled off stage for starting 4 minutes too early! It’s possible to spend 12 hours meandering between each stage without a break and have constant music piped into your ears – and we certainly dipped into this mode of operation at times, but at the same time with two small children to entertain we also managed to engineer a weird parallel universe:  a sort of soundcheck crawl where we arrived in an empty marquee as bands finished to allow the kids to run free in the open spaces as the rain beat down outside. I now know lots about how sound engineers set up their rig, as well as being the proud patentor of a new children’s game where the participants attempt to throw soggy rolled up socks into a pair of open wellington boots.

If Kozfest 2016, was for me at least, savouring not just the new Gong incarnation, but finding Gong emigrees such as Steffe, Mike Howlett and Graham Clark popping up in a variety of new contexts, then 2017 was very much about the wider Ozric Tentacles family.

Whilst I managed to miss the Oroonies and Zub Zub, (both with Ozrics connections), I’d identified that the band I really wanted to see at Kozfest was the Ullulators, a band led by original Ozrics guitarist Gavin Griffiths. Familiar with their early cassette tape (Share a Clam), the superb official release Flaming Khaos LP and having streamed their recent comeback album, their highly polished blend of reggae beats, electronica and Ozricsesque guitar work was an undoubted highlight of the festival – slick, spacey and utterly compelling. Added spice was given by the fact that we’d already spotted Ed Wynne, the Ozrics main man and guitarist around site – anticipation grew as he moved towards  side stage and was then seen twiddling with an amp ready to come on. Outstanding versions of ‘Gunk Rock’ and ‘Special Brew’ preceded him appearing on stage for the last two numbers: with Gavin and Ed on guitars Tig on drums, Joie Hinton on synths and I think Paul Hankin on congas, this was pretty close to an original Ozrics line up. The icing on the cake was the announcement at the end of the set that Ed and associated musicians would be appearing on the final morning at midday for ‘an hour long jam’. Given that we’d also seen ‘Jumping’ John the flute player also on site, could this be a bona fide Ozrics reunion?

ullulators

Ullulators with guest Ed Wynne – photo – Annie Roberts

Anyway, in the meantime other matters: lots to report on the Here and Now axis. The band have just altered their lineup twice over with a new guitarist (Andy ) and drummer replacing Slim and Woody who were nevertheless on site with Beastfish (more later). First time since the late 80s/early 90s that I’ve seen the band without guitarist Steffe, and I’d probably not appreciated before quite how the (for now dormant) axis between him and Keith Missile works in terms of songs. That early 90s lineup was quite ska-based in sound, and worthy as it was, I do seem to regularly remember hanging on in there for the rollout of ‘Floating Anarchy’ or ‘Opium For the People’. Tonight’s session was a mixture of those old 80s/90s tunes on the one hand, and more spaced out stuff on the other. No prizes for guessing which I preferred, and it was admittedly excellent – Keith is such an outstanding purveyor of bass grooves. This lineup has two keyboards, with Mark Robson joined by the other Andy, both also sing. The sound suffered a bit live, which meant that the clear talents of the lead guitarist were somewhat unheard – a shame.

DSC04926

Beastfish

The Here and Now set was the finale of a Friday which also saw two of its members also perform in the Music of the Andys (!), joined on stage by Mark Robson’s didgeridoo. Much more memorable for me was the aforementioned Beastfish. I’d heard about this lot because fellow Hebdenite and multi-instrumentalist Mick West plays keyboards with them, and they also feature recent Here and Now members Slim Verhoef (guitar) and Woody (drums). A few Youtube videos had revealed some polished  instrumental work and off-the-wall vocals, but that doesn’t tell the half of it – Beastfish are a quite extraordinary outfit  – tight and extremely intricate compositions forming the backdrop to a quite mesmerising spoken word performance. A quick chat with the frontman afterwards revealed that the tracks are individual poems performed with considerable charisma and stage presence.  Shades of the punk poets of the 80s or the Fall here (although their music was never so finely honed), others suggested Robert Calvert or the Stranglers – it was that good.

Graham Clark (Gong Maison violinist and Magick Brother) was on site but we managed to miss him performing – Andy Bole too, one of our highlights from last year – his excellent Rainbow Crow (looped bouzouki layers) album must be heard – he was performing an improvised backdrop to Nosferatu in the Wally Hope stage (actually a tipi no bigger than our own tent! – ‘bands’ popped up there all weekend). The Glissando Guitar Orchestra, a collection of 8 or 10 purveyors of the art, performed a series of Daevid Allen’s mediational drones – quite a spectacle, but also missed by us this time. What we did see and enjoyed were Red Sun, an Italian power trio of guitar/bass/drums pounding out riffs with a hint of Violeta de Outono (Fabio Golfetti’s Brazilian band), the slightly warped (post-rock) sounds of the Sendelica Drone orchestra; a shit hot young guitarist with the Cream-like Deltanauts. The Deviant Amps, another trio somewhat more  unconstructed than Red Sun, and led by festival co-organiser Paul Woodwright (bass player Subs appears on the Sentient live album) were as usual, tremendous value – check out some fine videos here; Magic Bus headlined on the Judge Trev stage on one night and were a gently complex treat – proggy vibes with more than a hint of Caravan. Shom were, as last year, excellent. Lots more lost somewhere in the festival mix and so many bands missed who I heard were excellent.

Glissando Guitar Orchestra/Sendelica Drone Band- photos – Annie Roberts

Now, returning to the two other big headliners, heard from a distance back at the tent. System 7, Steve Hillage & Miquette Giraudy’s dancebeat act pumped out the rhythms at the back end of Saturday night. I’ve seen this duo numerous times over the years, less so recently, but you know what you’re going to be getting. Saw them memorably at the Trades Club in Hebden a few years back for one of the their Sunday ‘chillout’ sessions, where Steve ran through a number of trademark Gong/solo sounds/riffs from the 70s, explaining their origins, before then breaking into Mirror System, the ‘ambient’ alterego of System 7. Even on a Sunday lunchtime that inevitably morphed into a techno wigout, and from our fireside pitch in the lower field at Kozfest this was very much the order of the evening. Good fun inside the tent, one assumes.

system 7

System 7 (Steve Hillage/Miquette Giraudy) – photo – Annie Roberts

The Soft Machine have recently finally dropped their ‘Legacy’ monicker, but essentially are the same settled lineup of ex Softs members (John Marshall, Roy Babbington, John Etheridge) plus ex Gong sax player Theo Travis. It’s actually quite weird seeing the name Soft Machine on a gig line-up and I did wonder when the last time a band under that name played a festival – mid 70s? When I found out that Soft Machine were headlining Kozfest, I did wonder how they’d go down – their sound is almost incongruous in the mix of grungy, spacey rock which pervades 90% of Kozfest’s lineup, consisting as it does of a jazz-rock pastiche of tracks from the 70s. Again from our firepit I could hear ‘Facelift’, stuff from ‘Softs’, probably material from ‘Six’ and ‘Seven’ that I’m less familiar with, and a brief medley involving the riff from ‘Hazard Profile’ as an endpoint. Good reception, clearly audible exceptional musicianship from 4 master craftsman and although I was a bit gutted not to see them, asking around the site, few people had them as their festival highlights, due to the nature of the music, I reckon.

DSC04933

Ed Wynne

Finally, back to that Ed Wynne appearance – midday on Sunday saw the larger Daevid Allen tent packed out for an impromptu gig. Joie Hinton was this year’s Mike Howlett, popping up on stage for his umpteenth performance on keyboards, Ed’s son Silas was also on keyboards, and the band alternated between 2 bassists both of whom we’d seen in other bands, the more dubby sounds coming from the Ullulators’ rhythm man, the more funky grooves from quite an extraordinary young man called Tom (I think). Unlike last year’s improvised sets by PsiGong (Mike Howlett) and Sentient (Steffe), highly adventurous but occasionally patchy fusion, the music here by Ed and co was supremely polished – the archetypal space jam – for a scratch outfit there was barely a bum note or wasted chord. Christened ‘Ozfest’ by Kozmic Ken, this was wonderful stuff which hopefully has been captured by somebody, and maybe a portend of Ozrics and Kozfests to come…