JAZZ Free RadICCAls Glasgow: CCA, Fri 28 Apr—Sun 7 May.
If your idea of 'modern jazz' is still based around the misconception that it's some kind of sonic palliative, a soundtrack for wine- swishing in hotel lobbies, then hold onto your scalp. Some of Europe’s most forward thinking free musicians are gathering for a serious-as-your-life lesson in the aesthetics of raging avant-jazz lung- bleeding. The titanic British saxophonist Evan Parker, a veteran of the European improv scene for more than 30 years, is the curator of the ‘Free RadiCCAls' series.
'T he jazz tradition seems to have gone into reverse,’ Parker bemoans. 'There’s been such an emphasis on retrospection, re-visiting the styles of the 505, while I subscribe more to the view that jazz is an open-ended tradition rather than a classical tradition.’ Indeed, Parker’s aesthetic is so off-the-map that he no longer sees the music he's involved with as having much connection with the jazz tradition anymore. 'If there’s a connection then it's pretty tenuous,’ he states. 'It's now more about finding out where the music can go rather than thinking of it as a closed book. I think the future is always open; there will always be new possibilities to explore.’
Parker’s programming of the festival is every bit as eclectic as his outlook would suggest. As well as appearing himself in both duo and
'It's now more about finding out where the music can 90 rather than thinking of it as a closed book'
trio formations, other highlights include levitational free-droners AMM, now into their fifth decade of mapless musical exploration, and a first Scottish visit for the amazing German pianist and founder of the Globe Unity Orchestra, Alex Von Schlippenbach. US free- blower Steve Lacy, whose astonishing vinyl slabs for labels like ESP and BYG still sound dangerously loose and thrilling, opens the whole shebang with a rare solo performance.
Parker is enthusiastic about what he sees as a resurgence of interest in such resolutely uncompromising avant-sounds. 'I think more people are becoming interested in experimental music,’ he says. 'I
think some of it is coming from the more experimental aspects of rock and pop music; people like Tricky, Bjork and Sonic Youth. There are many examples you could call up from current contemporary music where the attitude is pretty open and experimental and I think peOple are now interested in tracing the source of some ideas, in finding out where particular traditions come from and where they’re leading. The more people understand the way they’re sold to and the way they’re manipulated in order to be sold to, the more interested they become in music that isn't done that way or with those motives. It's a great time for this music.’ (David Keenan)
'Top Of The Pops really makes me want to chuck my TV out of a top floor window‘
They arrived, at the dawn of Britpop, in a fluster of burping stop-start chords and masticated vowels. Many grumbled that they'd heard it all before, that Elastica were nothing more than a vapid rehash of Stranglers riffs and Blondie bubblegum; post- modernism in scuffed DM5 and Revlon. Just as many others hailed them as Britpop‘s sexiest, sharpest export, a yelping antidote to the trad-boy parochialism of their anorak-sporting compadres.
After a still fresh-sounding debut album and a clutter of chart-wrestling singles however, Elastica disappeared. For five years, they laid low amid rumours of inter-band acrimony, heavy drug use and all-round plot-loss. Band members came and went, most noticeably guitarist Donna Matthews, Keef to singer Justine Frischmann's Mick. Last year they jesurfaced as a six- piece, releasing a low-key, defiantly uneasy EP to mixed reviews. Their second album, The Menace, finally appeared last month, a patchy but
sporadically impressive collection of Fall-paloured art-rock.
In the five years since their debut, the fortunes of alternative music have taken a definite downward turn. Frischmann, however, is defiant. ’I think it’s actually a more exciting time to be releasing music as it seems like there is a lot to react against,’ she says. ’Daytime radio and the charts are so bland that Top Of The Pops really makes me want to chuck my TV out of a top floor window.’
New keyboardist Mew (no surname apparently) shares Frischmann's optimism. ’I think the next album will be even better,’ she says. ’A lot of this album was written without a lot of the current band. The next one will just be the six of us, the way we sound now. I’m really excited about proving ourselves.’
Elastica: they're sensible, they're optimistic, they‘ve lots of new members who no one can remember and their next album will be even better. Roll on 2005. (Paul Whitelaw)
ELECTRONIC Luke Slater
Glasgow: Pressure, The Arches, Fri 28 Apr.
’It’s a rude album,’ says techno producer Luke Slater of his second long player Wireless. 'Not rude as in "oo-er missus, you're a bit rude", it’s just a bit abrasive for some people's palate.’
Although it received rave reviews - despite the pressure of following up the enormously popular Freek Funk - and had critics reaching for their thesaurus groping for appropriate descriptions, he believes that some people thought, well, that it was a bit rude.
'Some people just really hated it. Like I was playing in Germany, or was it Belgium? Anyway, we were having a drink, then Sven Vath came over and he goes (adopts corny German accent) "Looke, your alboom, I do not theenk the Germahn people are going to like it mooch”. So I had the word from the man in Germany that they weren’t up for it. it's strange, really; the album has caused a lot of offence in certain areas. I just wanted to do something with a bit of attitude.’
Slater is one of the few producers who can take that attitude out of the studio and onto the stage; you need only witness the frenzy among the crowd at his live events to be convinced.
There's a concerted effort from Slater to ’break out of the mould’. 'It’s this thing about being comfortable; I have a big problem with it.’ In your music, or in your life as a whole? ‘Sometimes I feel as though everyone in the world is trying to get comfortable; no peaks, no highs, no lows, a humdrum kind of thing. And it’s totally unacceptable.
’The lows teach you things that you had never even thought about in your life before. Maybe I find happiness in depression . . oh no, this is getting too deep now, we’re getting into all that analytical Freudian shit.’
'It's this thing about being comfortable; I have a big problem with it’