Phil Freeman Every year offers unforgettable live music experiences. In 2018 I saw Kamasi Washington and band rock an outdoor stadium in Queens, New York; Erland Dahlen give a solo percussion performance in a 14th century Norwegian church; and Harriet Tubman join forces with tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis’s trio, trumpeter Jaimie Branch, and alto saxophonist Darius Jones to reshape Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz. I discovered or rediscovered McCoy Tyner’s 1970s albums, Louis Prima’s 50s work, and Shostakovich’s symphonies. I read books by and/or about Can (by Wire editor emeritus Rob Young), Dexter Gordon and Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing. I listened to well over 20 new jazz albums a month (fans of the currently exploding London scene, don’t overlook Ill Considered, Camilla George or Maisha) and still found time to dive deep into the subterranean Bandcamp-housed world of brutal death metal, one iridescent alien flesh-ripping album cover at a time. Interviewing synth legend Klaus Schulze, even via email, for this magazine was a life goal achieved, and the aforementioned trip to Norway – astonishingly beautiful in spring – was a revelation. As political conditions in my country (and others) degenerate both rapidly and steadily, moments of joy become more and more important. Seek them out.
Frances Gooding Some of the best things to happen to me this year came directly from my work with The Wire – it was a great privilege to write about Shabaka Hutchings, Rodrigo Tavares (whose Congo LP was a genuine revelation), Jason Yarde and the inimitable Louise Landes Levi. Musically, there was heavy rotation for a grip of blog-gleaned Moroccan gnawa tape rips, the late Tuareg guitarist Koudede’s 2012 album Taghlamt and Thabang Tabane’s tough new malombo record Matjale. Park Jiha’s beautiful Communion belatedly led me to The Avant Trio’s 2016 South Korean jazz monster Blue Suns – reedsman Kim Oki is the most exciting saxophonist I’ve heard for years, but hearing Andre 3000’s bass clarinet turn on Look Ma No Hands was like unlocking a secret level. Shirley Collins’s darkling Love, Death And The Lady was the melancholy companion to her memoir All In The Downs; what a wise and remarkable person. A Latin American heavy psych itch was scratched by both Hijo de la Tormanta’s El Manto De La Especie and Tajak’s bruising Ciclos. Words: baffled and transported by the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili; thoroughly disorientated by Phillip K Dick’s 2-3-74 notebooks; excited that an English translation of Michel
Leiris’s strange and rich Phantom Africa is finally available. No cons, if you don’t count living amid the rise of fascism in planetary end times.
Lewis Gordon On a personal level, 2018 has been defined by a move from London to Glasgow. Saying goodbye to friends was difficult but Glasgow greeted me with a bustling scene of radical, uncompromising music and arts. VAJ.Power and Sarra Wild’s OH141 nights offer much needed disruption to the city’s techno-centric landscape, bringing in guests such as Ziúr and Flohio, while GAS has hosted a range of parties sympathetic to its explicitly anti-capitalist ethos: sometimes hedonism is the best form of protest. Elsewhere, A+E Collective’s launch night provided a range of challenging, multidisciplinary responses to eco-anxiety. Submerging myself in the stone, moss and cool water of Scotland’s wilds certainly helped too. Carl Stone and Miki Yui, Bright Phoebus Revisited and MHYSA were all live highlights. In arts, Counterflows festival introduced me to Jean-Marie Massou’s work, a recluse of 30 years who has carved out a lattice-like network of subterranean tunnels in the French rock.
Cons: As I write this Theresa May is facing down votes of no confidence and Mark Fisher’s posthumous collection has just been published by Repeater. I wish he were here to help us forge a different road forwards.
Louise Gray I wonder if what Jessica Sligter might term a polycrisis is helping those who want to affirm bonds of community, friendship, compassion. If so, there was plenty to be found in various forms. The Eavesdropping concerts and symposium, the latter in snow-dusted March, on women in new music – all the brainchild of soprano
Juliet Fraser – were inspirational (hello, new friends!). Finishing my PhD – thank you, Ellen Fullman, Éliane Radigue, Annea Lockwood, Joan La Barbara and the late Pauline Oliveros for being part of it – has launched me on a new path as the oldest early career researcher in town. There was catharsis in the form of Laurie Anderson, at the LRB bookshop for All The Things I Lost In The Flood, who led us in a Yoko Ono-inspired group scream; and dignity in Memorial, the epic poem by Alice Oswald scored by Jocelyn Pook, recited by Helen Morse and staged by Brink Productions. Radigue’s OCCAM XXV, given its world premiere in London by Frédéric Blondy, was profoundly altering in all the best ways, and, right now, Marianne Faithfull and Nick Cave’s “The Gypsy Faerie Queen” is on constant rotation chez moi, Warren Ellis carrying its tune across terrains of time and space and mythology. And goodbye, Conway Savage and Takehisa Kosugi: thank you for the music.
Andy Hamilton Audiences never cease to amaze – most strikingly, when an ageless Joe McPhee kicked off the Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music in October, in a simpatico trio with John Pope (bass) and Paul Hession (drums). It was a lunchtime gig at King’s Hall, Newcastle University, in a series mostly of classical recitals – free music in both senses, with McPhee uncompromising on tenor. At most points in the 50 year history of free jazz, I’d guess, many of this large audience of non-fans would have slipped out. But held by the power and humanity of the music, no one left. Other gigs of the year: David Brown aka Candlesnuffer on solo prepared guitar, triumphing over an instrument damaged in transit from Melbourne, at the same festival; Christian McBride’s New Jawn, Malta Jazz Festival, with echoes of Ornette Coleman, and Old And New Dreams; Adam Bohman and Lee Patterson curating wonderful small instruments at Newcastle’s Tusk. Finally, an intensely moving Porgy And Bess at English National Opera – Gershwin is a great jazz composer, and I’d love to hear a production with jazz singers and Gil Evans arrangements, in place of the opera’s classical orchestration. I’ll go on hoping…
Adam Harper Another year of trying to get used to the ungetusedable, whether that be national, international, planetary events, or continuing attempts to learn the emerging languages of underground music. I don’t know if I remember these levels of noise and experimentalism commanding such attention in previous years: twisted riddles like Amnesia Scanner’s Another
Life, Organ Tapes Into One Name, Rabit’s Life After Death, much of Pan’s ever visionary offerings, or Klein’s cc taking us deeper into her unique and disquieting intersection of the intimate and the alien. Even Colin Self’s Siblings or Casey MQ’s Nudes, artful and surprising records by any measure, felt like guilty pleasures for their spicing of melodic sensuality. My 2018 favourites breathed the mutant air of out-there sounds but retained the motion and social context of club music, such as 8ulentina’s Eucalyptus, Lotic’s Power, Nkisi’s DJ Kitoko Vol 2 and the return of the Physically Sick compilation. This year London hosted my top gig – Bala Club Forever at Emily’s Bar, with Swan Meat’s worlds and worlds of sound, and Yayoyanoh and Uli on the mic – but also saw a series of UK drill musicians killed in the streets. Feels like I no longer know what music is.
Jim Haynes 2018 marked the first year in which I was not gainfully employed in the music industry. I had a good run of about 23 years, with almost 20 of those spent at Aquarius Records. Yes, I still run Helen Scarsdale Agency, but that has always been and will continue to be a labour of love. Stubbornly, I persist in championing what I know to be beautiful noise and exquisite sound. My eagerness to keep listening continues to take me down rabbit holes elsewhere in the global underbelly of experimental musics. This nagging curiosity led me to discover the psychological horrorscapes of Peter J Woods and the vacant echoes of No Dreams. These two artists in particular introduced me to deep catalogues previously unknown to me and rivalling those of Dave Phillips and Puce Mary, both of whom were also responsible for very impressive recordings. I should note the posthumous release from Them Are Us Too, if only because of “Floor”, which continues to rattle in my head from the moment I first heard it.
Biba Kopf Two inspiring encounters bracketed a year of stolen pleasures. One with Elaine Mitchener to talk about Sweet Tooth, her immensely moving voice performance work examining the UK’s corrosive legacy of slavery; the other, a verbal joust with AGF arguing for and against English as the universal language of music. Me, I’m all for Babel, and so many highlights transcended immediate understanding: Raphael Roginski & Genowefa Lenarcik’s duo Zywizna at Cafe Oto; Otaco, Mayuko Hino, We Will Fail and Lappetites at Iklectik’s Coding In GE; Jun Togawa and Yan Jun’s Tea Rockers at Tomorrow Festival in
Jr lliott Jerome Brown
42 | The Wire | 2018 Rewind