Match&Fuse, London 2015

Climbing the Eiger’s Mordwand is tough, but if you are a band trying to get a gig in the UK, then you really face a challenge. And it’s not much better anywhere else.
Presenting the most engaging artists from Europe’s progressive scenes

The musician Dave Morecroft started Match&Fuse (M&F) in 2011 to attack this problem – with energy. He wanted his band (World Service Project) to tour abroad, so in 2011 he found a Norwegian act to ‘match’ his and asked them to find three gigs in Norway for this double bill, whilst he used his UK contacts to book gigs at home. It worked, and the following year Match&Fuse launched its first festival with the aim of presenting the most engaging artists from Europe’s progressive scenes – giving audiences a taster of music from inside and outside their own borders and, more crucially, enabling musicians to extend their contacts abroad.


Great Harry Hillman Photos: Steven Cropper

Since then Match&Fuse (M&F) has developed co-producers with festivals in Toulouse, Warsaw, Rome and Oslo. Their annual event in the buzzing Dalston area of London uses venues such as Cafe Oto, Vortex and Servant Jazz Quarters and this year, Swiss bands, the Great Harry Hillman (GHH) and duo, 2henning were invited to play. I spoke to them about their experience.


‘We could see our music has many different sides’

‘The gig was big fun,’ said Nils Fischer of the GHH, ‘with a conscientious audience. We would have loved to play more than 35 minutes, but the time was sufficient to present our music and get involved in some interesting talk – feedback and discussions, after.’ Valeria Zangger of 2henning also appreciated getting feedback, adding, ‘It showed us some very important stuff that we still have to do, but we could see our music has many different sides and can fit in with a real variety of music programming which is good.’


2henning (Steven Cropper)

‘Getting all this inspiration in a few days, was invaluable’

They were scheduled alongside other emerging European artists such as Strobes, Laura Moody, J=J, Kaja Draksler and Alarmist as well as unique collaborations such as Isabel Sörling with Leafcutter John (of Polar Bear). 2Henning felt that, ‘There was room for free improvisation as well as for more pop/rock oriented music…Playing in that context with a lot of different bands and styles – and getting all this inspiration in a few days, was invaluable.’

‘The idea to unite the bands in a soundpainting orchestra is great’

The ‘fuse’ of the festival brings the bands together in an improvisation in each venue before they proceed to a square outside where they play together in an ‘orchestra’. Using the soundpainting technique with a conductor and hand signals, it can be powerful, fun and completely chaotic. ‘The idea to unite the bands in a soundpainting orchestra is great. We had a very energetic session inside [at the Vortex],’ said Nils. ‘Maybe we stretched the session too long and missed the right point to stop, but it was big fun to meet everybody in the square.’ 2henning agreed, ‘When we began it wasn’t really defined, but then, as we walked to the square in front of the Vortex and met with the other musicians, it was great…people were listening and we played some cool ideas.’


Match&Fuse Orchestra (Steven Cropper)

‘Everybody was giving their best’

The GHH hope to continue being part of the M&F family, taking part in exchange tours, meeting other bands and contacts, ‘Back at home we discussed the option to do another UK trip during our next tour,’ they told me. 2Henning who also played a Sofa Sound night (gigs in people’s living rooms), did a school workshop and appeared on London Live TV as part of their M&F festival experience said, ‘It is helpful to use the name Match&Fuse, but also to have London as a reference,’ before adding, ‘Everybody was giving their best and I think people could feel that…I really had the feeling we belonged to the Match&Fuse family.’

It is a slow and long process with no guarantees

It’s not just about getting gigs and tours abroad – quality of experience matters and concrete benefits. Despite vital support from embassies and cultural organisations, there is not much financial renumeration so M&F need to build media relations in order that musicians get useful reviews. What they do well is encourage exposure of specialist musics, connect musicians and help them develop fanbases across Europe. It is a slow and long process with no guarantees but what was clear from Match&Fuse London 2015 was not only the breadth of talent but the good feeling, positivity and confidence that came out of it for both M&F and the artists.

M&F also had three events during the EFG London Jazz Festival with the Swiss/Russian band Jazzator. It will develop more ‘threads’ through other festivals both in the UK and abroad. M&F festivals are confirmed for Toulouse and London in 2016 as well as tours in Sweden, Poland and Ireland.
Soundcloud: Match&Fuse, London 2015 Mix
Match&Fuse Facebook

Jürg Frey at hcmf

Jurg Frey2015An advocate of silence as sound

Jürg Frey allows musical notes to appear on his blank sheet in a playful way, ‘Not because I have something in my mind…but I like to draw dots and strings. And through this process, the impression of what this piece could be, starts to come into the foreground.’ From there he begins a dialogue with the music; it’s a mindful approach, apparent in his work. Part of the ’90s Wandelweiser group, Frey has been an advocate of silence as sound; the contrails of which are still present in his slow-moving pieces or long, solitary notes.

‘We feel the ‘handwriting’ of Graham McKenzie’

He is being truly celebrated at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf) this November with the UK premier of String Quartet No.3 played by Quatuor Bozzini and world premier of Accurate Placement with double bassist, Dominic Lash, amongst other work. This highly respected event is nearly 40 years old and as Frey describes it, ‘We feel the ‘handwriting’ of Graham McKenzie,’ the innovative festival director who added improvisation and electronica to the contemporary classical menu. This year even features an interdisciplinary piece with Graham Massey of 808 State and visual artists.

Mavericks striving for the boldest version of their music

Originally a clarinetist, Jürg was brought up in the ’50s with his dad playing violin in an amateur orchestra and sax in a jazz combo – a rarity then – as Frey says, ‘We played Mozart and Benny Goodman.’ As a composer he found his form and took inspiration from the ‘individualists’ that Switzerland is so good at producing. It’s also what drew me to Swiss artists: mavericks striving for the boldest version of their music, unrestrained by conventionality or the mainstream.

Their paint strokes affected the rhythm of his pulse

This is hard, hard work though, and risky. And for Jürg there are traps in his highly reduced music; how can it be so minimised yet still breathing? ‘The danger is that you have something that is death…10 minutes of music and 20 minutes of death material!’ It was the abstract painting of Agnes Martin that showed there was a way. ‘It is flat on the wall, but floats in space, and fills up the whole space,’ is Frey’s magical description of Martin’s artwork, and as he spoke of her and the still life painter, Giorgio Morandi, I sensed how they had changed him, and it is this changed person who composes. As if their paint strokes affected the rhythm of his pulse.

JurgFrey_CirclesandLandscapesListening to the new album, Circles and Landscapes (out on Another Timbre), it has the solo pianist Philip Thomas press the keys with such resonating deliberation I felt I was at the piano with him. There is not only vibrant life in this music, but maturity. Frey’s journey continues, he is not ‘there’ yet, but he is beyond the need to prove something, or make a point. His music just is.

Jürg Frey at hcmf
22 Nov: Quatuor Bozzini
24 Nov: Konus Quartett
27 Nov: Ensemble Grizzana
27 Nov: Philip Thomas

Plaistow present ‘Titan’

Photo: Mehdi Benkler

Photo: Mehdi Benkler

Plaistow set the bar high

Distilling their sound to its very essence, Plaistow have produced, Titan, a big statement from this piano trio led by Johann Bourquenez. With lofty track titles that have the double aspect of Saturn’s moons, and characters in Greek mythology, Plaistow set the bar high, but do they reach it?

They break their own spell

Very young children like to repeatedly bang a drum until you feel you want to punch them. Plaistow use a similar style with chords stabbed over and again, or single piano keys thumped, as in ‘Phoebe’ where Johann’s low notes are emphasised by Cyril Bondi’s simultaneous, single drum hits. This reiteration goes on, enforcing a sort of hypnosis, on both us and them, before – stop. They break their own spell with a sudden spin-around, taking a new direction in rhythm or melody. Plaistow are in control.

Subtle but malevolent bass strings

Often the beats don’t have any slack, or swing, although the deliberate rhythm-shifting and off-beats work well. ‘Kari’ starts with drama: a rattling snake of percussion, subtle but malevolent bass strings, and brushes of piano wire. Johann launches unapologetic, driving notes and with Cyril’s sparse drums, breaks the mood. There are movements in their compositions; each track becomes a surprising journey within itself.

A drone that cements the music

Cyril Bondi has upped his game with a few, assured themes. There are scuttling creatures, percussive bullet rounds and a cymbal-edge metal whine that’s particularly vital, a drone that cements the music to our ears. Vincent Ruiz’s bass is less confident, but within his subtlety there is a distinctive voice emerging, notably in ‘Pan’.

In my interview with Johann last year he explained that Plaistow disguise themselves a jazz trio but are “filled with techno and noise walls”. The tension between these impulses is exciting. Titan is a few tracks too long for me, but Plaistow have avoided an arrogant album by embracing whatever emerged in their improvisations; a genuine range of emotion. Some of these noise walls are woven from elegant melodies; there are romantic glimmers and a veil of Middle Eastern texture.

The piano runs are disturbing and unhinged

As a student I was into Jean Cocteau’s work. He spoke of self-realisation requiring someone to close their eyes, let themselves be taken unawares and follow their dark angel… Bourquenez also follows his light, he taps into his subconscious and gives voice to what he finds. This music has a palpable artistic energy because of that.

In ‘Tethys’ the piano runs are disturbing and unhinged but have the opposite effect in ‘Daphnis’ where the music literally washes wounds with wave after soothing wave. It brings a lump to my throat. ‘Enceladus’ makes my skin crawl, the goosebumps hardening momentarily before the music seems to force open the heart. It feels almost religious, a simple but stunning piece. Much of the album’s impact is physical.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, or being too personal, but when I first met Johann he looked like he smoked too much and drank too many dark espressos. For this album, he kicked smoking, cycled daily and swam in Lac Leman. Titan is like a discovery of the physical self and of the elation kids feel when they run, climb, roll or bang a drum over and over and over…

New record
Plaistow, ‘Titan’

Plaistow tour dates:
07.11 Jazz Festival, Berlin (DE)
09.11 Jazzdor, Strasbourg (FR)
27.11 Les Murs du Son, La Chaux-de-Fonds (CH)
04.12 Jazz Festival, Jerusalem (IL)
10.12 Paradox, Tilburg (NL)
12.12 State-X Festival, The Hague (NL)
13.12 Jazzdock, Prague (CZ)
22.12 Moods, Zürich (CH)
13.01 2016 Bee-Flat, Bern (CH)

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