ULTIMA THULE / LOCAL BANDS/ARTISTS
The Agonal Trace, Lee Allatson, Alto Stratus, Maureen Anderson, And Then We Danced, Approaching Infinity, Audible Light, Aurelie, Avant Garden, Biomechanoid, Black Carrot, Black Widow, Victoria Bourne, Cardboard, Roger Chapman, Continuum, Chris Conway, Courtyard Moth, Dark Spanner, Dead Cowboy Culture, Deep Freeze Mice, Shekhar Raj Dhain, Dragon Or Emperor, Earth Trumpet, Echolocation, Endgame, Eruption, Escape Route, Extremities, Family, Alan Freeman, Steve Freeman, Alan & Steve Freeman, Gypsy, Nigel Harris, Heliotrope, Her Name Is Calla, Kevin Hewick, David Hindmarch, Hopscotch Boulevard, Impromptu Electronic, The Inhabited Sky, Jeweller's Eye, Carol Leeming, The Marshmallow Maelstrom, Toffy McDougall & The Primal Soup Troubadours, Memory Wire, Misterlee, Aaron Moore, Nick Mott, Multimorph, The Newt Hounds, New World Chaos, Okoku Araya, Carl Peberdy, Pesky Gee, The Planet Scanners, Plexus, Polymorph, Proust Ét Tout l'Acousmatté, Roger Pugh & Earthly, Quadelectronic, The Rain Garden, Satsuma Nightmare, The Scanner Game, Shapeshifter, Songs Of Norway, Spring, Stench, Streetwalkers, Simon Styring, Ola Szmidt, Jim Tetlow, Thurston Lava Tube, Triax, Turtle Om, 2/3, The Varp, Volcano The Bear, Vrije, John Young, Zircon & The Burning Brains, The Zircon Game
I decided to do this page after someone said to me he'd never come across any good music from Leicester. I was quick to put him right on the matter - of course. But then I did some research and found that there was actually nowhere documenting prog or experimental music from Leicester. No actual resource where I could suggest that people look to find out more. So, the idea for what you are now looking at was born.
Leicester has a rich cultural diversity, which in part is the reason why so much music covering such a wide range of styles and cultures has come from here. Since the 1960s with the internationally well-known Family, Black Widow, and top pop acts like Showaddywaddy and the notorious Diesel Park West, and then there's Kasabian whose members were known to frequent the Ultima Thule shop. There was also apparently a big punk/indie scene here that passed me by, and today there's a growing thriving underground. Throwing the blanket a bit wider to cover all Leicestershire, this page covers all the local bands I know of that I'd class of interest. Inevitably there are bound to be loads of others. I welcome any corrections, omissions, additions, suggestions, etc. So, here we go with the list of interesting bands/artists from the Leicester area, in a rough chronology...
The earliest and most well-known of Leicester rooted "prog" bands. Family existed since 1967, mixing beat with psychedelic, classical, folk and experimental musics. They were adept at both chart hits and being weird in their early days. Fronted by the gruff gargly voice of Roger Chapman, the rest of the band comprised: Charlie Whitney (guitar), Rick Grech (bass, violin), Jim King (woodwinds), Rob Townsend (drums). Their debut album MUSIC IN A DOLLS HOUSE (Reprise RSLP 6312) came out in 1968 and is an oddball mixture of pop hits, prog and eccentric stuff, and went some way to hinting at their finest 1969's FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT (Reprise RSLP 6340) where they pulled out all the creative stops and really went for it. Of course it wasn't until they pretty much left Leicester for good that they became internationally famous, getting into the charts with singles like: The Weavers Answer and Burlesque. The band never existed long beyond 1973 though, with Chapman & Whitney forming Streetwalkers, who later changed into Roger Chapman & The Shortlist. Rick Grech is however the most prolific member being involved in the super group Blind Faith, and a wealth of other bands.
See also: Wikipedia
Historic band formed circa 1968, from the Braunstone area if I remember right. Their sole eponymous album (also known as "!" or "Exclamation Mark") came out on Pye (NSPL 18293) in 1969. A single was also culled from it: Where Is My Mind / Place Of Heartbreak, on Pye 7N 17708. The band comprised: Kay Garrett (vocals), Kip Trevor (vocals), Jim Gannon (guitar), Bob Bond (bass), Jess Taylor (organ), Clive Jones (saxophone), Clive Box (drums). Their album wasn't extraordinary, but certainly had a unique charm, being mostly cover versions of hits given a prog touch, with classical and jazzy edges, and good male and female vocals. Pesky Gee later became Leicester's second best known prog act Black Widow. See also: MySpace
Out of the ashes of Pesky Gee, five members continued under this new guise: Kip Trevor (vocals), Jim Gannon (guitar), Bob Bond (bass), Jess "Zoot" Taylor (organ, piano), Clive Jones (saxophone, flute), joined by Romeo Challenger (drums). Adopting a fantasy concept, involving mock rituals and dramatics on stage they soon became notorious, and more than once had the plug pulled on them when the venue owners thought they'd gone too far! Their style was complex brass rock, which made them a natural choice for CBS records. Their debut LP came out in early 1970, called SACRIFICE (CBS 63948) it's very much of its time and a little dated now, though still a good one. After that Bob Bond was replaced by one Geoff Griffiths. They got a little more serious with their second, simply called BLACK WIDOW (CBS 64133) and then the more laid-back mellow prog III (CBS 64562) in 1971. As far as I gather, after they moved base to London and got on the international tour circuit pressures became too much and the band folded soon after. Clive Jones we still see around occasionally with his sax case, doing session work when needed, and he's been into the UT shop a few times for a chat. As to the others, Romeo Challenger joined Showaddywaddy, Jim Gannon went on to Fox, Yellow Dog, and other projects. See also: peskygeeblackwidow.htm
From this part of Leicester, so I'm told the drummer lived at 3 Conduit Street (long ago demolished) and they were regulars at the El Rondo Club (all before my time!). They are famous for just the one much touted and now sought after album SPRING (Neon NE6) dating from 1971, which came out with a lavish 3-fold cover. Apparently Spring changed line-up a lot, and during the recording of the LP the bassist changed. The line-up is documented as: Pat Moran (vocals, Mellotron), Ray Martinez (guitar, Mellotron), Kips Brown (piano, organ, Mellotron), Peter DeCindis (bass), Adrian Maloney (bass), and Pick Withers (drums). Although 3 members are credited with Mellotron, the band didn't have on themselves! Partly in the spirit of early King Crimson, with strong ballads and Mellotron, they had a melancholy akin to other bands of the era like Cressida, Genesis or Barclay James Harvest. I don't think the album quite merits its legendary status. Spring were very good, but not brilliant, if you ask me. Others differ, like Magic Mixture who quoted it as "One of the best progressive albums ever made and so rare." As far as I know the band split circa 1972, with Pick Withers later turning up in Dire Straits, and the much travelled Ray Martinez eventually ended up in Showaddywaddy! Kipps Brown seems to be the only one that returned to Leicester and kept active on the local scene. See also: alexgitlin.com
A band I forgot were from Leicester! Gypsy started as a flower power psych outfit before becoming Leicester's "top and most popular" (to quote their own words) heavy rock act. They made two LPs and issued a few singles. The debut: GYPSY (United Artists UAS 29155) came out in 1971, line-up: John Knapp (guitar, keyboards, vocals), David McCarthy (bass, vocals), Robin Pizer (guitar, vocals), Rod Read (guitar, vocals), Moth Smith (drums). I knew we'd heard Gypsy, and a search through old Ultima Thule mail-order catalogues revealed: Gypsy - BRENDA & THE RATTLESNAKE (UA: IN) LP vg+/vg+ £7.50 - Little known Leicester band, their 2nd album in Neutrons, Man, Help Yourself vein. So there you go! After United Artists cancelled their contract in 1973 the band, in dismay, split up. Drummer Moth later turned up in Diesel Park West.
Distinctive and influential singer, with a wide-ranging career. Mentioned above in the Family write-up!
Chapman & Whitney from Family, playing a similar, if more straight ahead rock music,
Experimental new-wave, unclassifiable left-field outfit. The first we came across them via the additional update on the Nurse With Wound list, where they were included for the one side track on their MY GERANIUMS ARE BULLETPROOF (Mole Embalming MOLE1) album, an uncharacteristically weird experimental opus, featuring processed piano and collage. Mostly though, Deep Freeze Mice were a side-step from indie-pop, with a wry tongue-in-cheek playfulness that made them much more engaging than the average band of the era. Deep Freeze Mice gave birth to a number of other projects, see Thurston Lava Tube below.
Apparently this band, whose name is an obvious role reversal play on Tangerine Dream, had been around since 1983. One early ex member told me that Chris Conway was at one time involved. As far as I can tell, they debuted with LIVE AT THE OLD COFFEE BAR CLUB in 1983, line-up: Alan Stocker (synths) and Bill Henderson (guitar, synths), later joined by Jon Humphries (guitar, vocals) and have issued at least 7 others since, including: ANOTHER FINE MESS and UNIVERSAL FRUIT (both 1994) that we used to stock at UT. As time went on they became the project of Alan Stocker, a trio of synths and guitar when we caught them live at The Shed. The cassettes we had were not bad, but I don't think they ever realised their potential. Alan Stocker has also issued two solos: DREAMS OF HOME (1996/98) and A SET OF INTERLUDES (2008). See also: Discogs, soundclick
Born in the late 1950s, just slightly too late to catch a lot of the music I love best first time round. My first ever record was a "Thunderbirds Are Go" - Yes, I've been a sci-fi and fantasy fan since a young age and always loved things weird. Though I was a T.Rex fan in my early teens, I soon grew out of that! Things like UFO's "Flying", White Noise and stuff I caught on The Old Grey Whistle Test and deejay Alan "Fluff" Freeman's Saturday Rock Show soon changed all that. Prog and weird stuff from anywhere became my obsession! I've long been fascinated with electronics, and when unemployed in the 1980s I used to spend hours in the mornings with the headphones on experimenting with electronic processing and collage techniques. So aside from my work together with Steve (my brother) in other projects like Vrije, Alto Stratus, ZBB, I also issued a series of experimental cassettes. As my confidence grew as a musician I also moved into doing synth music, usually of the dark/cosmic type, not the normal melodic stuff. More cassettes of such stuff followed. In the mid 1990s I joined Shapeshifter as, to quote Daevid Allen "the Tim Blake of the band". This led to a resurgence of musical activity, new solo experimentation, pulling Alto Stratus out of limbo and then the formation of Endgame. More recently I've issued a number of solo CDs, synth, experimental, a guitar album and even a "new age" one. Of course, in keeping with my ethic, none of this is your normal fare! I'm involved with lots of other projects and am a Quadelectronic regular. See also: UT pages
My brother Steve has not really excelled as a soloist. He prefers to work in collaboration with others. Although, he's done a number of interesting solos over the years. At first I think it was because I'd done one he had to prove himself too. He's also done some pet projects, like the bleak concept album CATACLYSM which I would never have thought of, and the more recent solo CONUNDRUM which is unlike anything else you're likely to encounter. Steve has been involved in all the other projects I have, like Vrije, Alto Stratus, ZBB, except for Shapeshifter, and is also a Quadelectronic regular. See also: UT pages
One of the early projects of our own. That's me Alan Freeman and my brother Steve. Our first experiments (long lost) date from when we lived in Loughborough in the late 1970s. Then in the spirit of Throbbing Gristle and Nurse With wound we chose the anachronistic name Holy Atheist for our early industrial noise outings. Unemployed and living in Leicester we started to experiment further, discovered primitive forms of feedback electronics, and gradually developed a way of working, multi-layering cassettes, and kept a look-out for cheap synthesizers being sold in junk shops. Vrije (from the Dutch, meaning "to be free") became our new working name, until we realised it had other connotations, so we chose a name that fitted our ethic, taking the "Al" from Alan and "St" from Steve, we came up with Alto Stratus (high stratospheric clouds). As Vrije we issued a dozen or so cassettes in the early 1980s, as well as other releases under the names: (Q.S.O.), Region 5, Electric Junk and Adhara. See also: Auricle Archive
I first met Nigel in Revolver Records, here in Leicester, after I realised he was looking in all the same sections I was! I think it was the third time I'd seen him when I plucked up the courage to have a chat. And, the rest is history... as they say! Every opportunity, Nigel would come round our place to listen to music, and then after hearing what we were up to with Holy Atheist and then Vrije, Nigel also started to experiment. He joined Zircon & The Burning Brains (ZBB) and also recorded some solo cassettes under the name Annonce Grotesque. Later on Nigel met a Japanese girl (student in Leicester) fell in love and ended up in Japan. He's since carried on musical exploration under the guise of Sukurappu Koujou Sumire Gumi, and recently collaborated with us again in some new ZBB projects. See also: MySpace
Zircon & The Burning
This was to be our live improvising band, the name derived from a classic Zappa quote "Zircon encrusted tweezers" and the "Burning Brain" scenario detail in the cover of Tangerine Dream's ELECTRONIC MEDITATION. Zircon was the name we game our wrongly wired up feedback cassette recorder, an old ITT machine that made the strangest electronic belching and stuttering noises. The concept intrigued a friend of ours Nigel Harris, who also discovered he could get similar sounds by cross-wiring an old cassette deck, and then Zircon & The Burning Brains (ZBB) the trio were formed. We always saw ZBB as an industrial band, and Nigel's fascination with cross-culture against a hybrid of Throbbing Gristle, avant-garde and Krautrock/NDW influences yielded a unique style developed over the course of several cassette albums. Our finest outing CORTEX! later came out on CD (Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 001) and is still available from Ultima Thule. After Nigel moved to Japan ZBB died. ZBB was later resurrected as a mail project in 2003 resulting in ZIRCOGNITION (Auricle AMCDR 057), and then when Nigel came back to the UK we spontaneously made another album OCCIDENTAL ENCOUNTER (Auricle AMCDR 061) proving that we hadn't lost the chemistry at all. A hybrid ZBB/Endgame project was also recorded. See also: UT pages
You can read about the roots of this project above under Vrije. Alto Stratus is the duo of brothers Alan & Steve Freeman, and has existed on and off ever since the early 1980s through to now, with a hiatus in the early 1990s as we got the Ultima Thule Shop running. Alto Stratus can be seen as an experimental electronic band, but conforming to no actual genre, part synthesizer music, part industrial, featuring guitars, noise and pure experimentation. Alto Stratus proper started in December 1983, and went on to issue a dozen or so cassettes, as well as both of us recording a few solos, and sideline projects like Biomechanoid. After reissuing TACHYON one of our most satisfying cassette releases of the 80s on CD (Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 002) Alto Stratus were brought out of hibernation and have since recorded a number of new albums, reinventing the 80s spirit anew, and now with a much better session to release success rate. On rare occasions you may even catch us live! See also: UT pages, MySpace, Discogs
Actually Alto Stratus incognito, with a special project dedicated to the paintings of H.R. Giger. It goes to show how important a concept can be, as the cassette ATMOSPHERES & MELODIES INSPIRED BY THE PAINTINGS OF H.R. GIGER (AMC 013) issued in 1986 far outsold all of our other releases for a while, even some of those by more well-known artists! In fact, due to the deliberately musical aspect of this, few guessed it was really a thinly disguised project of the Freeman brothers. To those doubters we proved we could do more than just paint with sound, we could be musical in a sense, although (excepting Alto Stratus' THE RITUAL) it would be well over a decade later before we would prove that we could take all this a lot further! We reissued the Biomechanoid album on CD in 2000 (with a bonus track) and it still available. See also: UT pages
Alan & Steve Freeman
Biography by Rolf Semprebon
The Freeman brothers have been tireless in their championing music from around the world that runs counter to popular culture, from the more experimental and underground veins of progressive and Krautrock to avant-garde electronic music and industrial. As publishers of Audion Magazine, as well as one of the few reference guides on Krautrock, the brothers Freeman are a valuable source for information on music that is ignored by the mainstream media. Their own releases under many different guises have explored everything from noise, cosmic synth, industrial, musique concrete, audio collage, and improvised electronics.
Steve Freeman was born in England in November of 1956, and his brother Alan in May of 1959. Steve's interest in producing music was launched after listening to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music all the way through (a feat in itself) and thinking that he could do something similar. He began to make sounds with an incorrectly wired tape recorder, radio, and pocket calculator. By July 1977, he and Alan, who had played drums in high-school pop and jazz bands, decided to pursue their similar musical interests further, and they started an industrial noise project, Holy Atheist, in Loughborough, England. By the very early '80s, they had moved to Leicester, and decided to move in a more "musical" direction with their next group, Vrije. In the fall of 1981, they began to collaborate with Nigel Harris in another music project called Zircon & the Burning Brains. By 1983, Vrije had morphed into Alto Stratos, and both Freeman brothers had solo projects going as well, Alan under the name Xylem, and Steve as SF1 and then Scorpio.
Throughout these years, they had numerous cassettes releases, recorded and mixed from their home studio, under all these names and others like Biomechanoid and Electric Junk as well. In 1986, they had formed the label, Auricle, to put out their own work and material by like-minded artists. That same year, the Freemans, with their enthusiasm for experimental progressive music, launched Audion; originally a fanzine, it has since grown to become a respected resource for information on this music. The next step was to open a record shop and mail-order business, Ultima Thule.
By the early '90s, the Freemans music output had slowed as more time was consumed by these other endeavors, as well as work on their comprehensive encyclopedia of Krautrock and other German experimental progressive music, The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, which was published in 1996. Near the end of that year, Alan Freeman finally found the courage to join the group Shapeshifter after repeated invitations from Shapeshifter's leader, Maureen Anderson. Whereas the Freemans own projects were mostly studio-oriented, Shapeshifter gigged regularly, and Alan sometimes opened with a solo performance under his old name, Xylem. In July 1999, Alan and Jim Tetlow, also from Shapeshifter, along with Steve, formed a new group, Endgame. Both Freeman brothers have also contributed to various albums by Volcano the Bear. Members of Volcano the Bear and Shapeshifter have returned the favor by appearing on the Freemans project, the Newt Hounds.
The Rain Garden
The duo of Chris Conway (guitar, keyboards, bombarde, whistle, etc.) and Carl Peberdy (sitar, percussion, etc.) playing a unique brand of cross-culture musics. They were a huge surprise, with their debut cassette IN ANOTHER SPHERE (TRG Music 001) appearing in 1989, they soon went from strength to strength playing regularly at various local pub music venues. Always excellent, developing a unique rapport and further quality releases like BACK OF BEYOND (TRG Music 002) and then into the 90s with PRACTICAL CANDLE MAGIC (TRG Music 006) and others. The band grew to a quartet, and they played further afield, through to the late 1990s, although albums became fewer per year and some of the original daring was subdued and glossed-over. Both Chris and Carl have been prolific in numerous other projects since, and much of that you can read about in the 1990s section below.
See also: www.chrisconway.org
If there was anyone else making interesting music in Leicester in the 1980s we never encountered it. This was largely due to us being unemployed and we rarely went out except on record buying trips to London. We did know of Steve Hill's band The Marmite Sisters. We first met him when he worked at World Records, and he always insisted that "they were not our sort of thing" and more recently I learned he was right. I also understand that Chris Conway was also doing something then on the local live scene. I first met him in the jazz record department, upstairs at Blackthorn Books on the High Street, when we got talking about Terje Rypdal and other things. I think that was 1988, and the start of a long friendship.
A rarity of the 1990s Courtyard Moth were authentic 1970s prog and heavy rock, but with their own fresh new twist. The two brothers in the band had been indulging in a diet of SBB, Garybaldi, and other obscure rock and fusion innovators, at the UT shop, broadening their outlook beyond the realms of Focus, Deep Purple or Soft Machine. The band comprised: Adam Banaszkiewicz (guitar, bass), Robert Banaszkiewicz (guitar, bass), Carl Fernandes (drums), and Mark Rag (vocals), basically a Jimi Hendrix type power trio fronted by an excellent singer. We attended dozens of gigs circa 1993 to '94 and were never disappointed. We even issued a cassette documenting choice gig recordings: ALIVE 'N' GIGGING + (Auricle AMC 045) which got rave review by Eurock Magazine's Archie Patterson. After that, with new drummer "Flash" they never quite got it together again, although they did gone on to improvise more and do some even more out-there gigs. The plans for a proper album came to nothing. A shame really, as Courtyard Moth were one of Leicester's best. After their demise Adam later joined Funkafari with ex Heliotrope musicians. Flash more recently turned up again in Kevin Hewick's new trio. I occasionally still meet Robert and Mark, but they're both now family men I believe and not active in music any more. See also: UT pages
Originally from Loughborough, Heliotrope started life as a reggae band, but had moved on considerably by the time I first encountered them. The band comprised: Paul Gee (guitar, vocals), Alan Shaw (bass), Andy Radburn (synths, sampler), Stu (didjeridoo, percussion), Will Dickinson (drums), and others. They'd been getting into Gong, playing at free festivals, and really got into the left-field hippy type thing. Heliotrope gigs didn't always satisfy, but they played many memorable gigs, and were best when they could wig-it-out. Some of this was down to touring with the likes of Dr. Brown, a similarly unfocused but nonetheless interesting band that played many gigs at the Pump & Tap on Braunstone Gate here in the early 1990s. As I write this we still have a few copies of the cassette release ROLLING OVER AELION (TROPE 4) in the UT shop, which offers a good cross-section of their music. Heliotrope also featured as the core of an early incarnation of Shapeshifter (see below) and transmuted into other projects after disbanding, like Paul Gee's New Band and Funkafari.
Jim Tetlow adds: Stuart "Stu" Smith now works with pure electronics via circuit bending etc. (occasionally conducting no-previous-experience-required circuit bending workshops), works solo under the guise of ASMO (Anti Social Music Order), is one half of the experimental electronica duo Threep and is otherwise involved in the Stench project.
A man of many talents and many guises, Chris Conway makes his living largely by playing piano in bars, but that's not his passion. He's also a singer songwriter for which he's widely esteemed. But that's not the Chris Conway we know best. We know him as a gifted improvisational talent, be it in electronic music, cross-culture, or with his jazz trio. The gigs we caught in the early 1990s by the Chris Conway Trio at the Magazine pub introduced us to John Runcie, a nimble adept and intuitive drummer, and a new twist on the ECM type fusion sound, with which Chris added his unique "isms" and invention. Chris has had many other jazz projects over the years, some of which I've encountered (i.e. Leaf Storm, Jazz Orient, etc.) and lots that I haven't. Chris is also well-known now as Leicster's master of the Theremin, and made the 58 minuute opus SCANNING PLANET 3 (Auricle AMCDR 029) in 2003, followed by CONTACT LIGHT (Auricle AMCDR 045) both albums with the Theremin at the core, embellished by synths and his usual entourage of ethnic instruments. More recently Chris formed The Planet Scanners, and then got together again with John Runcie in the improv space fusion project Continuum. See also: UT pages, MySpace.com, www.chrisconway.org
Primarily a sitar player, an ethnomusicologist and wide-ranging multi-instrumental talent. Carl first came to our attention in The Rain Garden. He then became a prolific fixture on the live scene working with a wide variety of bands, from Roger Pugh's Earthly to Shapeshifter. He also recorded a solo cassette. We still see Carl occasionally since he left Leicester. I think he now tends to work as a teacher.
Proust Ét Tout
The electroacoustic experiments of Yvonne "Eve" Thacker, as documented on a series of cassettes issued in 1991. For a while Eve was an enthusiastic visitor at the UT shop, but her health increasingly held her back. She also worked with The Rain Garden as Avant Garden (see below). But no one has heard from her for years.
Sad news that has just in: Yvonne Valerie Thacker passed away peacefully on 27th January 2013 aged 66 years. A bit more background from her husband Vince: After, or possibly concurrently with, her ventures with the Rain Garden, Eve worked with Kevin Busby at Birmingham University, who ran, or still runs, the Earthrid label. Eve collaborated with Kevin to produce a CD called "Audio Space Research", and later produced another CD entitled "Bisonogram". In these, she continued to explore multiple sound beds and environmental sounds. Sadly, this all became too difficult for her to sustain, and she became less and less mobile and prone to dementia. This was a great loss long before she died.
Even back in the early 1990s, Chris had the idea to experiment with electronics. The Avant Garden was an impromptu one-off, with The Rain Garden: Chris Conway (keyboards, guitar, flute, etc.), Carl Peberdy (sitar, tabla, percussion, etc.), joined by Eve Thacker (synthesizer, effects, electronics). Eve had a home studio full of old electronic instruments, a VCS3 and other such things. She also dabbled with sound collage and electroacoustics. The resulting LIVING IN THE HERE & THERE (TRG 009) featured two huge experimental excursions "Those Moondrops Are So Hard To Find" and "Dorian Morian's Flying Carpet", followed by the light relief coda "Flying Home". It was quite remarkable really, and is still pretty fresh today.
& The Primal Soup Troubadours
If I recall correctly, Toffy McDougall was a busker, often heard on the city centre streets of Leicester, a hippy folky whose legacy would have been lost if it weren't for Chris Conway. The cassette TROUBADOURS OF THE LAST FRONTIER (TRG 010) featured six additional musicians, including Chris & Carl of The Rain Garden, and it amounted to a hybrid of all sorts of things, a less electric Quintessence possibly, and uncannily feels close to the Kraut-folk trippiness of Amon Düül's PARA DIESWÄRTS DÜÜL, an album that I doubt any of the musicians had ever heard!
A short-lived project that we caught just the once. These comprised Carl Peberdy from The Rain Garden and David Hindmarch, a blind musician of considerable talent. The gig at the Magazine pub was very on-the-edge improvisation full of excitement, twists and turns galore in fact. There was talk of them recording an album, but that never happened, and instead they both ended up joining Shapeshifter!
Celtic folk outfit featuring Noel Sheehan (from Sheehan's Music Services, shop next door to the UT shop for many years), and quite interesting, if a little light for my tastes. I caught them twice in the mid 1990s, and had a CD by them. Not sure if they're still going. The latest documentation I could find dates from 2006, with the release of a new CD called: ROCKS OF FRANCE and the line-up of: Steve McRobb, Noel Sheehan, Graham Summers, Jenny Carter, Jeremy Rider. See also: www.jewellers-eye.co.uk
New World Chaos
From Shepshed (near Loughborough) New World Chaos were regulars at pub gigs in Leicester in the early 1990s. They were very unusual too, playing a hybrid of industrial music, melodic and atonal styles, with some "kind of" songs, and even some crazed punk off-the-wall attitude. Their 1995 CD release VICTIM OF LIES (Headstone CDSTONE1) was nowhere near as exciting as they were live. I remember well the gig at the Abbey Park festival where they created such a cacophonous din that the engineer pulled the plug on them!
One of Leicester's "best kept secrets" of the mid-1990s, Cardboard were the most authentically psychedelic, trippy and eccentric of bands around. They took over the mantle from Courtyard Moth really, with dozens of memorable gigs over an 18 month period. They are only documented by the one cassette: CONCENTRATE (on Sycophant) when the line-up comprised: Matt Formica (vocals, guitars), Pete Chipboard (bass), Mr. X (percussion, vocals), Steve Pinepanel (drums), Mr. Y (keyboards), Adam 'Ski' Hardwood (samples) - you guessed they were not really a serious troupe, one part Syd Barret era Pink Floyd, the other Bonzo's with an experimental prog edge. For a while Matt bought almost everything I compared them to: Nine Day's wonder, Cornucopia, Gnidrolog, etc., and regularly frequented the UT shop. At one time they were doing really well and a record deal was in the pipeline. Then line-up problems caused them to refocus, with a friend of ours Malcolm joining as the new drummer, when they would psychedelic freak-outs spinning their outrageous take on the Pink Panther Them to its limits, and some. Eventually though they fizzled out, with Matt attempting reinvent them under the guise of Psydeboard, and later with the name Electric Orange, but the magic was now lost. A shame, as they were amongst Leicester's finest.
Maureen Anderson's often ad hoc and ever developing project. A fixture of the Leicester live scene for almost two decades. Maureen's a white South African who ended up in Leicester in the 1980s and decided to stay, liking the city's cultural diversity and friendly people. An inspired poet, lovely (dare I say it) eccentric lady who's always into trying out something new, she's continued to develop her musical talents too, although she's never quite got the idea of singing in tune. We have to forgive her for that, in being the hub of inspiration for lots of Leicester's most exciting musicians. Chris Conway was the first to take her "seriously" issuing the Shapeshifter cassette GODSEYE (Oblong 23) in 1995. The band then comprised of: Maureen (vocals, flute), Danny (didgeridoo, vocals), Stu (keyboards, effects), with Chris (guitar, zither, penny whistle, keyboards, vocals) filling-in on everything else that was needed. In fact Chris was a part-time member throughout much of the bands life. He and Carl (of The Rain Garden) were present when I joined the band in December 1996 for the sessions of UNWRAPPING THE FAMILIAR (Ultima Thule UTSS CD1) at which time the band was: Maureen Anderson (vocals, flute), Alan Freeman (synthesizers), Dave Greene (percussion), Dave Johnson (guitar), Carl Peberdy (sitar, whistles, vocals, percussion), Lucy Slocombe (bass). The development of Shapeshifter had always been a rocky road, not least in the number of bassists that came and went, and in 1998 the band had grown to a 9 piece (sometimes we had even more on stage). One of the best ever gigs can be found on the 2CD set TIME CAPSULE (Ultima Thule UTSS CD 2/3), which also includes a disc of cosmic session jams called "Easier To Feel". After this, and several line-up changes later, Maureen was convinced unwisely to take the band in a more commercial direction, after which I left and then did Jim Tetlow (two months later we formed Endgame), then Dave Johnson departed, The whole band gradually changed, people fell-out, and then gradually the core of the mid 1990s band came back together, now with a more hippy rock feel. I would occasionally play with them when needed as would Chris Conway, and the whole thing developed to a live show with dancers, theatrics and psychedelic light shows. Shapeshifter came to end on the day of Dave Johnson's funeral (he'd been battling with cancer and lost) in March 2009, when we did a memorial gig in his memory. See Polymorph and Multimorph below for more. See also: UT pages
The Leicester based (Welsh born I think) folk singer Roger Pugh has been a fixture on the Leicester live scene as long as I can remember. I've seen him play support dozens of times, and his original instrumental dexterity puts him heads and shoulders above most folk soloists. His best work, at least where my own taste is concerned, was with the group Earthly which featured a good few ex Shapeshifter people, Chris Conway, Carl Peberdy, Mick Oxtoby and others. Some Earthly gigs would get quite mystical, drawing in Celtic musics, Oriental and other influences.
See also: www.roger-pugh.co.uk
A rarity in Leicester, a symphonic progressive rock band. They were one of the early bands of guitarist Simon Styring who had a passion for early 1970s Genesis, and it showed! They issued at least a couple of self produced CDR's of which THE FESTIVAL OF FISH (Oblong) was the best, blending all manner of influences: Camel/Yes/Hackett bits and jazzy/spacey edges. As a studio only band Turtle Om seemed to run themselves down a blind alley, never realising the ambitious prog opus Simon told me they working on. I don't know what the other members did since (one I occasionally see around) but Simon has diversified a lot, proving to be a most talented "Frippertronic" type soundscape guitarist, and has also worked in a number of Chris Conway related projects.
Arguably the most extraordinary and groundbreaking of all Leicester bands ever. Born in the mid 1990s, they went through a number of changes before settling down as the pretty constant four piece of: Nick Mott (guitar, violin, etc.), Aaron Moore (drums, vocals, etc.), Laurence Coleman (loops, electronics, etc.), Daniel Padden (clarinet, vocals, etc.) although there was nothing constant about the instrumentation! Rooted in new-wave and free-jazz, with influences from almost everyone of interest you could imagine, they were Krautrock, RIO, folk, Dada, noise, surreal comedy, pure avant-garde and more, managing to concoct a style that may have sounded like the bastard son of This Heat, but was even more daring and adventurous. You rarely knew what to expect at a VtB gig, no two were at all alike, and when their debut album YAK FOLKS Y' ARE (Pickled Egg EGG 7) came out in 1999 it was inevitable that they were going to become world famous. If only they could keep it up. They did, and some! Getting onto Nurse With Wound's United dairies label was one coup and big stepping stone, with THE INHAZER DECLINE (United Dairies UD055CD) further perplexing the world with its diverse and so creative, eccentric mixture of twisted folk, electronics, mutated jazz and the likes. For the next six years they were on a roll, that was until life commitments got in the way, and the band ended up as just the duo of Aaron and Nick playing a more fragmented music. Still good live, the album CATONAPOTATO was nothing compared to the dozen or so albums and live discs before it. After that the quartet got back together again and went on a hard slog of recording so much material that albums keep appearing years after. Although they've kept going in some form since (despite Aaron now living in the US, Daniel in Scotland, Nick in Cornwall) their gig at The Phoenix in June 2006 was a brilliant farewell to Leicester, and the end of a wonderful decade of music. See also: MySpace, bandcamp
Songs Of Norway
These were really a "not quite Volcano The Bear" i.e. Nick Mott and Aaron Moore, with Stewart Brackley (later with Black Carrot) on bass, doing a more avant-improv music with a jazzy edge. They were much more interesting than Aaron's earlier River project, whose brand of "fee jazz" was far too Albert Ayler for my taste! I saw a couple of interesting gigs by them, and they released a curious LP called DESPITE THE CLOAK (Beta-Lactam Ring mt058a).
See also: Brainwashed
Formed in July 1999, when Alan Freeman and then Jim Tetlow left Shapeshifter, not willing to go with their then more "commercial" direction. Jim liked a lot of Alan and Steve's work as Alto Stratus, also Alan and Jim had gained quite a good working rapport in Shapeshifter. It was inevitable that when Alan's (my) attempts to stimulate an improv project with ex Shapeshifter musicians and others came to nothing. Steve had also wanted to work with Jim, so Endgame was born. The chemistry was almost instantly magical, and weekly sessions yielded lots of material, but it wasn't until 2000 with the advent of cheaper digital technology that we started to really blossom. The debut cassette STRETCHED ACROSS THE SEA (Auricle AMC 046) was pretty much in the spirit of German cosmic electronics of the early 1970s, whereas the debut on CD the double opus CATALYST (Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 004/5) took the Endgame style to a whole new level. Alongside a plethora of releases Endgame also started to play live in 2001, and then went on to explore ever more experimental realms, with an expanding changing instrumentation. Even with a number of pauses (when Jim went off to Australia) Endgame has continued to develop, change and become ever more professional, whilst keeping to the ethic of everything being purely improvised. With some 50 odd album releases (some of them doubles), a series of 11 live discs, and various other releases and related projects, Endgame show no signs of running out of steam or new ideas. In fact the album MEMENTO (Auricle AMCDR 135) recorded in early 2008 documents us in an almost "classical" avant-garde frame of mind, so I gave it a mock Deutsche Grammophon cover! Endgame also exist in other guises, in collaboration with others, and whilst Jim was "on walkabout" we proliferated with our other project Triax. Endgame are still active live as well, we played in London in December 2008, are regulars at Quadelectronic sessions, and also feature in Maureen Anderson's new Multimorph project. All this is just a brief round-up of Endgame, as there's tons more to be told! See also: UT pages, MySpace, Discogs
A special one-off session project of Endgame joined by "El Monte" Nick Mott from Volcano The Bear on violin, recorded on 15 September 1999. The band name was a dedication to the Berlin Krautrock avant-garde underground project of the same name circa 1970. Pitting Nick's violin against the semi-melodic and abstract electroacoustic textures of Endgame worked really well, and resulted in the CDR album LAVA (Auricle AMCDR 019) issued in 2002. There was every intention of doing it again, but then Volcano The Bear became famous, were on the road and way too busy. Thus it's an island unto itself.
From Elmsthorpe, a few miles west of Leicester, Jim first met me (as a lot of people have) when visiting the Ultima Thule shop. As I tend to, I got to know his taste and helped him expand his horizons. I first got to know that he was a musician when seeing him playing in a band called Bluish (who I'd previously seen before under a different name) and learned that he also played in some local jamming percussion groups. Thus, when I knew Shapeshifter needed a new percussionist I suggested him as a replacement. Having seen some Shapeshifter gigs he jumped at the opportunity. In Shapeshifter he revealed that his talents were much wider ranging, and for a while Shapeshifter was transformed into the trippiest of bands. Wanting to keep that spirit going, Jim joined up with Steve and myself forming Endgame (see below). Jim has also recorded a number of solos, mostly in the vein of atmospheric synth, although with a weird character that's all his own, and let's not forget that he's an excellent surreal artist too. Over the years Jim has had numerous other projects, first the Hemamorphite trio with long-time friend Steve Bell, then with Nigel Harris as "2/3" and then after a few sojurns in Australia, he's since seemed to try and work with every like-minded local talent he can do, like Julian Broadhurst (from Derby) and Dave Dhonau (of Aurelie) to name but two. Concrete results are yet to surface however. Jim's also a regular at Quadelectronic, and has become the project's archivist. See also: MySpace, art pages at: flickr
The Newt Hounds
Another incognito project of the Freeman brothers, aka Alto Stratus, a purely studio concept that we billed in a Zappa-esque fashion "Could this be an irreverent homage to Nurse With Wound? ...or is it a Dadaist/surreal musical vision of the world of B. Kliban?" involving lots of sonic construction, collage, and things in the manner of Nurse With Wound. B. Kliban is a surreal cartoonist by the way. Not a tribute or copy in any way, we took more of a sideways glance, and played around with ideas, coming up with the CD album THE POIGNANT DEVICE (Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 008) in 2000, and later the unique 99 tracks in 78 minutes opus: LOOSE NUTS (Auricle AMCDR 090) a whirlwind plethora of ditties, sketches and sound jokes/fragments playable in any order! See also: UT pages
A project that was inevitable, in spite of quitting Shapeshifter we all remained friends, and Maureen needed some different creative release to the more rock angle Shapeshifter were going in. So, Endgame + Maureen = what? Watching "Red Dwarf" gave the answer: Polymorph! The album SHAMAN (Auricle AMCDR 023) comprised most of one totally improvised session (26 February, 2001), and was a pretty weird beast quite unlike any Endgame really. We also did a couple of gigs in 2001, and more recently. Polymorph also gave birth to Multimorph, a big hybrid live band debuting in spring 2009. See also: UT pages
The project of Laurence Coleman from Volcano The Bear, using a mixture of live instruments, collage and multi-tracking. The debut EARTH TRUMPET (Cenotaph Audio CT-004) originally came out as a self produced CDR, then as a proper CD on Cenotaph later. Like a hybrid of Faust, The Residents and all sorts of ethnic musics, pub piano, crazy collage, musical and not. A side-step from VtB, and really out-there. A year on the mini album ROMAN (private) took it all a step further, whereas the third DYNAMIC WOMAN (private) was way too eccentric for its own good. Seems that Laurence then gave up, concentrating on VtB instead.
A regular UT customer since the mid/late 1990s, Dave Powell (from Redditch in the West Midlands) had also become quite an Endgame fan attending gigs at The Victory in 2001. He told me of his hurdy-gurdy, and thought that it would work really well as a drone instrument along with Endgame, if only he could work out how to amplify it and make it more "electric". So, I suggested that he invests in a contact microphone and a guitar effects unit. He did, and it worked. So he then joined in on a couple of Endgame gigs, and then a few sessions, and thus Extremities was born. Culled from four sessions the double CDR debut VIELLE A CRU (AMACDR 034/35) was part Endgame, and a step to something totally new. An air of Faust, notably due to Dave's fried sonics and drones, meeting the free spirit of the Third Ear Band, whilst increasing the use of live digital electronics, processing, sampling, percussion, etc., becoming a definitive entity with QUANTUM MECHANICS (Auricle AMCDR 059) and TURBULENCE (Auricle AMCDR 069) in 2005, and further albums once a year since. 2007's FRACTURE (Auricle AMCDR 112) is probably my favourite to date. Along side all this, Extremities without Jim Tetlow continued as the more avant-garde and industrial trio Triax (see below).
See also: UT pages
Born out of Extremities (see above) in January 2003 as the trio of: Alan Freeman, Steve Freeman and Dave Powell, the very first Triax recording "3 Bows & 23 Strings" set the mode of our live performance openers, drone/tone ethnic/industrial ooze - one could call it. The debut MUSIK ZU ARCANA (Auricle AMCDR 027) was pretty primordial and spontaneous, riding on the edge of chaos and breaking new ground. I think that with each new release we've pushed on and developed. We've also done some unusual concept too, like MOEBIUSSTRIP (Auricle AMCDR 075/6) a 2CDR release comprising of just one 121 minute work, and the later similarly conceived CYCLE (Auricle AMCDR 118) comprising the disc long, and infinitely repeatable "Ouroboros". Since early 2006 Dave began to expand his instrumental scope, adding violin and percussion on the groundbreaking ALIEN FOLK (Auricle AMCDR 082) and flute on EMBRYO (Auricle AMCDR 085). Triax can be anything from sonic sludge through to monstrous rollicking Krautrock, loads of places in between and places that no one else has ever been! THREADS (Auricle AMCDR 136/7) recorded in August 2008 was album number 20, and as I update this in August 2018 album 42 is imminent!
See also: UT pages, MySpace, Discogs
Originating from Barwell (near Leicester, if I recall correctly) Nick moved to Leicester, and lived down the road from me in Highfields in the early 1990s. As far as I recall, the first time I saw him live was with a kind of trip-rock dub band. Nick did have dreadlocks at the time. He then apparently went through a whole plethora of punk, experimental and jazz outfits before becoming a key member of Volcano The Bear. A talented guitarist, violinist, all round experimentalist, he later also took up the saxophone, like a duck to water! He also played with us on the Eruption LAVA album. But it took him until 2003 to do an album with his name on the front cover, be it his nom-de-plume "El Monte". That was recorded with Nurse With wound friend, the Irish violinist/multi-instrumentalist Aranos. ALLIED COOKING BUT NOT AS YOU'D KNOW IT! (Pieros 003 CD) was a mixed bag of a release though, and would have been better without the Aronos song parts. Nick now lives in Cornwall, and has resign from Volcano The Bear, preferring to paint (he's an excellent surreal artist too) and work on his first real solo album. See also: an email from Nick
Wanting to explore improvisation more and give a prominent role to his new favourite instrument the Theremin, Chris Conway established the Planet Scanners, named after his Theremin based solo album SCANNING PLANET 3 (Auricle AMCDR 029) issued in 2003. From the early days of our "Impromptu Electronic" gigs LIVE AND SCANNING (Auricle AMCDR 054) saw the trio of Chris Conway (keyboards, Theremin, flutes, etc.), Mick Oxtoby (violin, guitar) and Andy Fitzsimons (percussion) exploring new avenues, a hybrid of ethnic/folk and out-there trippiness. Instantly cohesive, having worked together in various projects before, they were great to see live. Two further albums followed, but the project came to a halt when Mick moved away to the West Country.
See also: UT pages, www.chrisconway.org
The Scanner Game
Long before the birth of Quadelectronic we tried the idea of fusing The Planet Scanners and Endgame, doing totally unrehearsed live jams at three concerts at The Musician in 2004/5. The results were two CDR releases: MUSICI (Auricle AMCDR 053) and COURTEOUS (Auricle AMCDR 068) which blended a wide range of styles into something totally new. The chemistry was vital and fresh, and we continued with various different formats with gigs at Bambu, resulting in the projects: Impromptu Electronic and Escape Route. See also: UT pages
The Zircon Game
After we'd called the hybrid The Planet Scanners and Endgame "The Scanner Game" what would we call a one-off hybrid of Zircon & The Burning Brains and Endgame? The Zircon Game - naturally! Totally unplanned, this just happened! Magic was obviously in the air, and it was as if we'd always played together. On the edge, daring, outrageous, the CDR release FIRE LANE (Auricle AMCDR 055) is a totally unique beast! See also: UT pages
Simon's musical history goes back a long way. In the 90s he was with the prog band Turtle Om, he also filled-in for Steve Cartwright on fretless bass with Shapeshifter a couple of times in the late 1990s, notably appearing on the TIME CAPSULE live disc. "Simon Strange Guitar" as Chris tends to list him. He debuted with his solo "Frippian" ethereal space-trance music at a Scanner Game night at the Musician. He's documented on a few releases, notably his 13 minute "Infinite Guitar" track on the Impromptu Electronic 2CD set LIVE @ BAMBU (Auricle AMCDR 115/6). He's working on a solo album and has also been collaborating with Jim Tetlow recently. But nothing has appeared yet. And people are waiting, to quote Peter Smith in his Escape Route feature in Audion magazine #54 "...if Simon isn’t in a studio working on a solo album right now as I type these words then he better have a pretty good excuse." Will he ever complete it? We wonder. Simon is dogged by ill-health these days. Anyway, his musical interests are diverse, and he also sings in a choir!
I mentioned David before with The Marshmallow Maelstrom, and he also played with Shapeshifter for a while. Dave is an enthusiastic and talented guy, but with one disadvantage - he's blind. But that hasn't stopped him forging ahead as an electroacoustic composer, with studies at BEAST in Birmingham. He's released two extremely good albums as well: THE DEVIL'S WAVE (private) very Bayle, Smalley, Wishart inspired, and THE LONG TRICK (private) exploring voice collage and sonic mutation, with aplomb!
Alan Jenkins has been a key musician of the left-field indie scene in Leicester since the early 1980s. Some may remember him from the Deep Freeze Mice, Ruth's Refrigerator, etc. His Thurston Lava Tube are an instrumental "surf music" band who "transported us back to the early-1960s as though Frank Zappa's ghost was playing with The Shadows!" according to my review of their gig at The Charlotte in 2006. See also: MySpace
A Market Harborough band (interconnected with many a Leicester act) Black Carrot first came to our attention in autumn 2004. Possibly the worst of all venues I've ever been to, The Attic was hosting some sort of rave party upstairs, Black Carrot still managed to kick up enough of a raucous sound to drown much of it out, and really made an impression. Black Carrot then consisted of the Betts brothers: Oliver "Olly" (bass recorder, sax, keyboards, guitar, vocals, etc.) and Tom (drums, percussion), along with Stewart Brackley (basses, vocals). Stewart we'd known a long while, yet his vocal talents came as a big surprise. Unclassifiable and impossible to pigeonhole, they've pretty much taken over the mantle from Volcano The Bear as the most exciting "avant rock" band around. One part new-wave meets RIO jazz-folk, one part punk jazz psychedelia, fused into their very own innovation. A distinctive factor in the Black Carrot sound is Stewart's vocals. The popular quote is David Thomas from Pere Ubu, yet that's only a clue, as Stu is far more outrageous and eccentric. Their debut album CLUK (Moon City Music MCITYM02) came out in 2005 and surprising from beginning to end. Nothing can really prepare you for it! There are many facets to Black Carrot, and for a while there was the collaborative project with improvising voice actor Nick Parkin and a number of concept releases based around the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Kafka and others. Over the years since the band has expanded to a quintet, first with the addition of Euan Rodger (drums, percussion, live electronics) and then Oliie Warren (guitar) fleshing out the sound even more. DRINK THE BLACK FOREST (Tin Angel Records TAR009) came out in 2008 from the 4 piece version of the band, with material that we'd heard at many gigs by the quintet version, amounting to a more cohesive yet just as innovative collection as the debut. On Sunday 12th April 2009 Black Carrot proved that in no way were they getting into a rut, astounding the audience at The Musician with one of the most outrageously eccentric and entertaining gigs I've seen in years!
After that Black Carrot split-up for a few years with members going onto other projects like: Fangtrouser, Dark Spanner, Jesus Car Fish, etc., and eventually reformed in 2017 with a different drummer.
See also: MySpace, www.blackcarrot.net
Apparently, despite having known each other since they were children Stewart Brackley's vocal talents in Black Carrot were as much a surprise to Volcano The Bear's Aaron Moore as the rest of us. Thus, during a hiatus in Volcano The Bear activities, Stewart and Aaron formed the avant-punk/jazz power duo Dragon Or Emperor. To see them live was quite extraordinary, Aaron was always the craziest of performers! A Vaudeville version of Ruins perhaps? Crazed and furious. They issued a CD on Pickled Egg, which never really grabbed me, and then when Aaron went to the USA his replacement Euan Rodger (although an excellent drummer) couldn't really fill the role. You would need at least three people to assimilate the talent, dexterity and personality of Aaron Moore! See also: MySpace
The drummer from Volcano The Bear, he also made a curious solo THE ACCIDENTAL (Elsie & Jack 017) on which he deliberately avoided being a drummer, going for sonics, tones and texture instead. A very odd release, surprisingly restrained and with some very unusual textures.
Experimental improv group from Loughborough (?), who we saw with Damo Suzuki at Quad in 2007. To quote their own site "(plexus) is a loose-knit collective of musical experimenters and improvisers based in the midlands(uk)." Plexus comprise: Rod Warner (guitar, bass, laptop), Murray Ward (keyboards, electronics, etc.), and have featured David Teledu (bass, guitars, etc.). Not sure if they're still around, as the last update on their site was March 28th, 2007. See also: MySpace
Another imrov project from Chris Conway and friends, Continuum also features: Simon Styring (electric guitar, effects) and John Runcie (drums, percussion) playing a music that sits somewhere between the electric fusion of ECM Records (i.e. Terje Rypdal, David Torn, Steve Tibbets) and more out-there space music, i.e. think Robert Fripp, Ozric Tentacles sans the rock. Well, kind of, maybe, but not really. No the mix as heard on NEPTUNE (AMCDR 096) and BEST KEPT SECRET (AMCDR 105) is never easy to classify. See also: UT pages, www.chrisconway.org
Culled from various ad-hoc incarnations of musicians from Continuum and Endgame, the 2CD set LIVE @ BAMBU (Auricle AMCDR 115/6) is a unique microcosm of the last days at Bambu, before the birth of Escape Route. The musicians were, in order of appearance Chris Conway (Theremin, synthesizers), Alan Freeman (spring-board, acoustic CD, bells, guitar, guitar-synth), Simon Styring (guitar, guitar-synth), Steve Freeman (prepared sounds, loops, acoustic CD), Jim Tetlow (computer, acoustic CD, djembe), with special guest Julian Broadhurst (djembe), a variety of solos and duos plus proto Escape Route, etc. on disc 1, and then the quintet of: Alan, Simon, Steve, Jim, Julian with the mammoth almost 80 minute "Trip" taking up disc 2. This still amazes me! See also: UT pages
Born out of the Impromptu Electronic series of gigs at Bambu, Escape Route comprise: Chris Conway (Theremin, synthesizers, etc.), Alan Freeman (spring-board, acoustic CD, guitar, guitar-synth), Steve Freeman (prepared sounds, loops, acoustic CD) and Simon Styring (guitar, guitar-synth). There's a full page feature on the band in issue #55 of Audion Magazine, where Peter Smith opens the review thus "The Escape Route, On paper it looks pretty straight forward, an improv collective made up of two thirds of Endgame and likewise two thirds of Continuum. The usual suspects have been quoted in other reviews and (sadly) occasional press snippet.. "Take a dash of ECM, mix in some other worldly theremin sounds season with a smattering of cosmic excursion and shove the whole thing through the notorious Freeman Blender (Patent pending folks!) and there you have it, The Escape Route!" And this was pretty much what I expected. But seconds in to opening the box and I realised that there was more, or to be more precise, I realised that there was so much more." See also: UT pages
A duo of Oliver Betts (from Black Carrot) and one Dr. Richard "Tate" Taylor, The Varp are exactly the eclectic and creative outfit I expected them to be. HYMNS FROM INSIDE A SNAIL (Moon City Musik MCITYMV01) is an overflowing cornucopia of new ideas. Each track explores a different field, fusing everything from Henry Cow to Krauty stuff, some very Volcano The Bear isms too. It seems though that The Varp are purely a studio outfit, as the amount of multi-tracking involved couldn't really be done live!
See also: www.blackcarrot.net
Not a band. Quadelectronic is an impromptu session event initiated by Chris Conway, with regulars Alan Freeman, Steve Freeman, Jim Tetlow, involving a random cast of other local musicians, and people from further afield, who get together once a month at Quad Studios. For more about this, check-out the Quadelectronic page!
A few Quadelectronic performers (not elsewhere on this page) worth a mention...
Victoria Bourne - female jazz/experimental vocalist/flautist: MySpace, www.victoriabourne.com
Shekhar Raj Dhain - technician, synthesist: soundcloud
Carol Leeming - female jazz/experimental vocalist/percussionist: MySpace
Ola Szmidt - female experimental vocalist/flautist.
Not listed? Tell us what you do, bring us some of your music to listen to!
Not a band. Stench is billed as "an artist led forum for innovative and experimental performance in Leicester and the surrounding area" and something to do with previous projects led by John Young and the DeMontfort University. They've organised 3 major events to date, of which Quadelectronic played at the Phoenix Arts do in March 2009. Performances range from sonic art through to techno, thus some of it is fascinating and some not at all my sort of thing.
See also: Stenchival'10 report - only remaining active link
I first recall seeing Kevin Hewick back in the early 1990s at The Charlotte on a Monday night, singing and playing acoustic guitar. Not at all my kettle of fish, I never expected him to do anything within my taste range. But, it's always nice when a musician proves me wrong. Kevin's recent trio may play all cover versions, but they do it well. Much of the material is Jimi Hendrix and Cream, yet they add a lot of their own original touches. The drummer at recent gigs turned out to be Flash who we knew long ago from Courtyard Moth. Kevin is a sporadic performer at Quadelectronic sessions and has worked with Shapeshifter and Multimorph. See also: MySpace
A staple for a while at gigs organised by Maureen Anderson. Echolocation are an unusual outfit, one part beat poetry set to music, kind of new-wave (nods to Joy Division, Killing Joke, Public Image Ltd) with a dash of Krautrocky psychedelia. Some of their songs are a mite dodgy, not least so the song about male period pains! But they can really storm along when they try. For a while they were getting better and better. The last gig I saw (21 March at The Musician) was rather disappointing though. See also: MySpace
First encountered as support to Black Carrot in Summer 2008, although we'd known members of the band in other projects over the years. Dead Cowboy Culture are a totally odd band, part Captain Beefheart, part indie pop, part experimental. Based on the few times I've seen them to date they don't change their set much, but they're occasionally brilliant, and well worth catching. See also: MySpace
The Agonal Trace
Another band that Maureen brought to our attention, I only rated a couple of numbers when I saw them live the first time. After that they the seemed to get better with each gig. The Agonal Trace seem to have stepped out of early 1980s indie rock and can be a mite too pop/punk for me, but they can whip-up-a-storm when they put violin to the front and start veering towards Godspeed You Black Emperor. See also: MySpace
An ambient experimental outfit we've only caught live once to date, supporting Black Carrot. They are listed as comprising: Francis O'Donnell Smith, Glenn Boulter, David Dhonau and Euan Rodger. When we caught them they were a trio, and it was interesting to Euan in yet another band. Basically Aurelie are usually an avant-ambient outfit, and they debuted back in 2003 with DESDE QUE NACI (Swim WM25) which I recall having at one time. The gig (25 October 2008) at The Leicester Gateway was certainly a different beast however and pretty much a side-step from early instrumental This Heat. We've also recently encountered AURELIE + BLACK CARROT - LIVE IMPROVISATION a hybrid project of the two bands in pure freeform mode. We've also since worked with David Dhonau at Quadelectronic sessions. He also has an offbeat songs group under the guise of Maximum Danger Project.
See also: YouTube, Aurelie's old blog page
It was a surprise to learn that Misterlee, until recently, had featured Mick Oxtoby (from Shapeshifter, Earthly, The Planet Scanners and numerous other bands). Our first encounter with them was as a duo: 11 March 2009 supporting Damo Suzuki. In Al's Blog I say: intriguing, "an avant-garde David Bowie" one person commented, more "John Cale meets John Cage with a bit of The Damned" I thought, though maybe not. Looking back at it now, it was pretty original stuff and quite experimental too. Since then we worked with "Misterlee" himself Lee Allatson when Quadelectronic were guests at The Phoenix Arts' "Stench 3" event, which was great fun. We also recently caught a solo set by him, where he proved beyond doubt what an eccentric and original talent he is. See also: MySpace
Experimental electronics solist, nom-de-plume of Amit Patel. His background is in techno, but he's moving on elsewhere these days. His performance at Phoenix Arts "Stench 3" event with Sam Dodson was excellent, powerful and restrained ooze/sludge/sonic like the best abstract Zoviet France or Markus Schmickler. Their demo CD is not bad as well. Look forward to hearing what they come up with next! See also: YouTube
Apparently ex Dirty Backbeats (videos on YouTube!) Hopscotch Boulevard were billed as in the vein of Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, and they were! An instrumental trio of organ, guitar and drums, I could also see copious amounts of early Bo Hansson. As though we had been magically transported back to 1969! The two blues harmonica numbers they inserted (obviously to break up the set) were a mite too much at odds with the rest of what they doing. See also: MySpace
Keyboard player Lee Spreadbury has had a number of bands over the years, and also attended a few Quadelectronic events. His current (2018) band GU-RU also feature Malcolm D'Sa on drums (last seen with Cardboard in the 90s) playing a mixture of psychedelic jams and more trendy groove tripadelic stuff. See also: Bandcamp
Originally a hybrid semi-improv project born out of Shapeshifter, Polymorph and Endgame, comprising Maureen Anderson (vocals, flute, etc.), Rizz James (bass), Kevin Hewick (guitar), Alan Freeman (electronics), Steve Freeman (effects), Jim Tetlow (cajon), after the death of guitarist Dave Johnson. Early sessions and gigs moved on from Shapeshifter to more freaky "head music". When it became apparent that the band wasn't going in the direction as conceived the Freeman brothers left, and Multimorph have continued as what is essentially Shapeshifter under another name with a lot of other musicians coming and going over the years.
And Then We Danced
Short-lived project of Victoria Bourne and partner Chris, with Jim Tetlow & Dave Dhonau in eerie serene mode, reminds me of Dead Can Dance, mellow Miranda Sex Garden, music for David Lynch films, etc.
Her Name Is Calla
If they dropped the ballads these could be one of the best local bands around. Kind of Godspeed You Black Emperor, with Ennio Morricone touches and Amon Duul 2 freakouts, and a closing anthem at shows that really blitzes! See also: MySpace, Bandcamp
Improvising duo of Chris Conway and Jim Tetlow established in 2010 at Quadelectronic. See also: home page
Improvising quartet that started as an expanded version of Memory Wire in 2014. Andy Atyeo (guitar, laptop), Chris Conway (keyboards, theremin, etc.), Les Hayden (bass), Jim Tetlow (electronics, cajon). See also: home page
The Inhabited Sky
Project involving female voice (poetry/narration) and an improv duo of Steve Escott and Les Hayden, later expanded to a quartet, with: Steve Carroll and Jim Tetlow. See also: Bandcamp
Excellent offbeat project by three members of Black Carrot from 2017. See also: Discogs
There is indeed a thriving underground music scene here!
Jim Tetlow suggests...
Accortumn: kinda reflective pseudo-classical acoustic trio of Dave Dhonau (cello), Ola Szmidt (flute) and Mike Sole (piano). See myspace, and there's an eccentric video of them at The City Rooms on YouTube (think Ola must've been watching the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch!)
Fiefdom Of Yore: On another end of the musical scale, Dave is also one half of an eccentric bass/drums duo called Fiefdom Of Yore - he's played me a few tracks but don't think anything has been released and can't find anything on Google.
Non-Leicestershire acts based here...
Gavin Bryars: From Yorkshire, avant-garde composer. He was professor of music at Leicester Polytechnic 1986-1994.
A Hawk And A Hacksaw: the project of American Jeremy Barnes (from Bablicon) based in Leicester circa 1998-200?. This started as a one-man band, mutli-percussion, accordion, etc., with some amazing shows, growing into a band featuring other local talent (Olly Betts later of Black Carrot, Carl Peberdy and others), later returning to the USA and becoming Jeremy & spouse with a more folky rootsy music.
Daniel Padden: best-known with Volcano The Bear, and here for around a decade. In spite of his nickname "Paddy" he came from & now again resides in Scotland. He's issued solos and has The One Ensemble who've released at least two excellent albums and more to date.
John Young: An academic electroacoustic composer, born 1962 in Christchurch, New Zealand, he was resident at DeMontfort University's MTI electronic studios in Leicester. His LA LIMITE DU BRUIT (emprientes DIGITALes IMED 0261) CD release I summed up as "fascinatingly bizarre music for small sounds, fragmented granulations, electroacoustic collage". He was also involved in the Stench project. See also: Wikipedia
Also born here...
Dave Arbus (East Of Eden), Brian Davison (The Nice), John Lord (Deep Purple), ...
Other Leicestershire acts of peripheral
Crazyhead, The Devotees, Djembelei, Evil Dick & The Banned Members, Funkafari, Indianhead, Jody & The Creams, John, John Sim, The Marmite Sisters, Maximum Danger Project, Prolapse, River, Ruth's Refrigerator, Soft Touch, The Splitters, etc.
Other Midlands bands/artists of note...
A Band: avant-rock, jazz, noise, improv, with Richard Youngs, Jim Plaistow, etc: Wikipedia.org Nottingham
Julian Broadhurst: percussionist, ambient electroacoustics composer, artist. Derbyshire
Concept Devices: Martyn Greenwood, bassist, electronics dabbler. Bandcamp Rugeley
Ensemble 8: avant-garde, art, experimental performance: AllMusic Matlock, Derbyshire
Experimental Audio Research: electronics avant/improv project of Sonic Boom: MySpace.com Rugby
Interstellar Cement Mixers: long-running experimental synth outfit, with many excellent releases: Auricle releases Nottingham
Left Hand Right Hand: percussion based arts outfit: Nottingham
Modulator-ESP: synth music project of Jez Creek (also a Quadelectronic regular). Website Nottingham
Neverland: interesting folk-punk-psych band, regularly in Leicester in the early 1990s: Derbyshire
Dave Powell: hurdy-gurdy player, multi-instrumentalist, with Extremities, Triax, Tartovisti and solo (also Quadelectronic performer) Redditch
Walt Shaw: table-top sonics, percussion: MySpace.com Derbyshire
Spacemen 3: experimental pop/psych/rock, feat. Pete Kember (aka Sonic Boom) MySpace.com Rugby
Ten Years After: Famous blues & heavy rock pioneers, formed in 1967, with Alvin Lee: Wikipedia.org Nottingham
& who else? Peterborough? Northampton?
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