London Pt. 5-John

Had a great flight to London. Flew in First Class. But don’t think Echoes is spending its money wildly. We got the upgrade as recompense for USAIR losing our luggage six times in the last year. It looked like they were going to do it again as well. After 45 minutes of watching luggage go around the carousel, I went to baggage claim to report our 7th lost luggage of the year. But just as I was filling out the form, they got a call. “It looks like they’ve just discovered 34 pieces of luggage from flight 98. Fortunately, four of them were ours.

We usually take the first day off to crash and readjust our clocks, but budgets are tight so we had a session the first day about an hour and a half south of Gatwick Airport. Amidst fields of sheep, cows and horses in a town near Brighton, we found Absolute Ambient, the duo of Matt Hillier, also known as Ishq, and Matt Coldrick. They each have wonderful albums of the their own. Coldrick released Music for a Busy Head a couple of years ago, and Ishq has several recordings, our favorite being the sublimely contemplative Orchid. Together, they released Elemental Journeys, which merged their sound into a more energized, but still ambient sound in 2005.

Surprisingly, despite their collaboration, they had only met face-to-face four times. And this was their very first performance ever. You’d never know it. Joined by flutist Heleanora Webb, they played two new pieces that they had worked up for a film score to a forthcoming documentary by Michele D’Acosta. She was the producer of Biggie & Tupac and Nick & Courtney among other documentaries. Despite the subject matter, the music is far from rap, following on the chilled heals of Elemental Journeys. We also gathered a last minute interview with D’Acosta on the same day, while she was in the midst of editing her film.

Hillier and Coldrick put on a great performance, weaving guitar, flute and electronics. And their interview should be fun to put together. Wait till you hear Coldrick’s cheesy (D’Acosta’s words, not mine) pop songs from an earlier life.

We strolled into our hotel about 10PM and just made it in time to a great, hidden Indian restaurant in Kensington, “Light of India”, located in the Montana Hotel.

Monday-May 15
The day from hell. We thought we had a fairly leisurely schedule, but failed to take into account the driving in London: no-motion traffic, no street signs, incomprehensible driving. We left an hour early to meet Radio Massacre International and got there 45 minutes late. 2-plus hours for a purported 32 minute trip.
RMI stripped down to a duo for this gig in member Duncan Goddard’s ramshackle apartment. His living room is a shrine to old electronics, from a vintage mellotron to old Roland synthesizers and Uher tape recorders. He and Steve Dinsdale cranked these machines up for epic sequencer journey’s into classic space music, improvising live on the spot. Their latest albums include Emissaries and Septentrional.

Then off to our second performance of the day. Armed with directional clarifications from locals, we thought we were a lock to make it early and get some dinner. Instead, our purported 12 minute journey took 2 hours of constant circling, wrong turns, missed intersections and erroneous guesses. We got to the Fortress Studios 30 minutes late. But Jamie Crossley and Roger Talbot of Marconi Union were graciously patient. Then we had to deal with the post-punk band rehearsing in the next studio and bleeding through. But with a PA system that dwarfed the room, Marconi Union cranked out a set that amplified the themes of their wonderful album, Distance. It’s great to hear music live that you think of as strictly a studio creation, even if much of it is pre-programmed. We have the second live performance from this group, and the first pictures, thus destroying their “enigmatic, mysterious and reclusive” reputations. All in a days work.

We then had a grueling ride home. Dinner was take-out from a shop around the corner from the hotel. Such are the glories of Echoes.

Tuesday May 16
Other than my iPod mysteriously discharging its battery, a good but harrowing day. Jeff Towne went off on the tube to interview Sounds from The Ground, and I hosted John Foxx. I talked about John in an earlier blog and nothing has changed. A brilliant, thoughtful and insightful man who somehow looks much like he did a quarter century ago. Still thin and model-sleek, dressed all in black with razor cut hair. The only difference is the hair is grey and there might be a few more lines in his face. We talked at length about his Mysterious Oceans CDs, his collaboration with Harold Budd, and his retro-futurist approach to electronic music. He also dropped the secret behind his new album, just out today, called Tiny Coloured Movies. You’ll have to wait on the feature for that.

We then hustled off to meet Leo Abrahams. We made great time for a change, but we started 45 minutes late. But it wasn’t a problem. Leo was talking on the phone to the police trying to track down his prized Gibson SG guitar which was stolen a week earlier. But Leo has lots of guitars and he played one in an intimate solo performance, looping and arranging his songs in real time. You can hear why people like Brian Eno, Imogen Heap and soundtrack composer David Holmes want to work with him. Leo also played music form his forthcoming ultra-ambient guitar CD, Scene Memory.

A two hour ride home of total tedium ensued, followed by a decent, but unexceptional meal at a place called Black & Blue. This will be remembered as The I Will Never Drive a Car in London Again trip. But the music and people have been worth it.

Tomorrow, Bombay Dub Orchestra, Steve Hillage and Ajanta Music.

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