Sound and visions: Sean Shibe, ‘Lost & Found’

The latest album from Sean Shibe is original and rewarding; inspired and inspirational. And the more I play it, the more it also feels like a game-changer, the kind of release that could challenge any preconceptions about the instrument featured and open new avenues of writing and recording for it. * For those unfamiliar, Shibe…

Ice flows: Penguin Cafe, Barbican, London

Penguin Cafe’s recent performance at London’s Barbican Centre is likely to go down, in my own personal annals, as one of my favourite concerts of all time. It still feels like hyperbole to type that: it was only a few weeks ago. But how can I explain? – that wave of euphoria that carries you…

The dark ascending: Dead Space Chamber Music, ‘The Black Hours’

This is music at once vivid, immediate – and at the same time, otherworldly, almost surreal. In its heady combination of genres, approaches and sounds, the album feels both timeless and original. In the best sense, it’s a sonic trap, daring you to identify familiar elements and motifs, only to snatch them away and re-purpose…

Album release: Georgia Train, ‘Needles & Pinches’

Here is a singer-songwriter confessional that blasts new energy into the genre. Violently resistant to any cliché, the entire album walks a tightrope between the accessible and avant-garde: unflinching, uncompromising and ultimately unforgettable. Georgia Train has already built up a rich back catalogue. I first heard her music as one half of duo Bitter Ruin…

Manc union: Prom 20, Manchester Collective with Mahan Esfahani

Back to the ‘dome from home’ for another evening, and for what turned out to be one of the most thrilling Proms I’ve ever attended, for a whole host of reasons. Mainly, I think it was the sheer energy sustained throughout – the performers set out to electrify the audience, and succeeded. Rewind to what…

Lost in music: Daniel Bachman, ‘Axacan’

This is an extraordinary piece of work: a new suite of tracks from an artist previously new to me, which had me pressing my headphones to my ears on repeat plays, hungry for every morsel of sonic detail, and enveloping me in a shifting atmosphere of both delight and dread. Absolute required listening. * Daniel…

Pastoral, personal, political: Sieben before, during and beyond lockdown

Matt Howden is a Sheffield-based singer, songwriter, composer, violinist, looping/sequencing technology expert, and teacher/practitioner of sound design and production. An independent, unstoppable musical force who somehow finds enough room under the radar to soar, he is always unpredictable, always reliable. One might have thought the restrictions imposed by the pandemic would slow him down a…

20 from 2020

However badly this year has treated us – and in the UK, it has treated those working in the arts very badly indeed – we have still been lucky enough to hear an astonishing amount of great music. Before joining ArtMuseLondon, I would normally assemble a couple of ‘round-up’ posts for my own blog ‘Specs’…

Past presence: Dead Space Chamber Music and Kate Arnold

Two brilliantly-timed records that for me sum up the word ‘spirit’: both in the eerie, evocative atmospheres they conjure up, and the sheer inventive brio with which the music was created. * Dead Space Chamber Music are an intriguing collective from Bristol, UK, who seemingly belong to all genres or none. Within the first few…

Spired and emotional: the Oxford Lieder Festival 2020

On paper, the Oxford Lieder festival (wholly online this year, for contagious reasons) ended about a month ago. But not for me. Right up to the last minute, I’ve been extracting the maximum value I possibly can from my catch-up pass, viewing as many concerts as possible before the on-demand video archive finally vanishes from…