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…

Second time, round: Kate Arnold, ‘Rota Fortunae II’ EP

For the second year running, Kate Arnold has released a set of songs that possess so much beauty, intricacy and eloquence, they are like precision hits of perfection. This is a genuinely long-awaited release: I’ve looked forward to a sequel ever since Arnold issued ‘Rota Fortunae I’ in February 2020. Understandably, the follow-up has taken…

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…

Mystery lays: Stef Conner, ‘Riddle Songs’

This startling, life-affirming record somehow manages a feat that has otherwise eluded science so far: time travel. Stef Conner has composed a suite of songs that demonstrate how, through the arts, the past is all there, all at once, running parallel to our present. What are its secrets? A bit of background (although Conner’s liner…

Yes, surprises: Rick Simpson, ‘Everything All of the Time: Kid A Revisited’

This album is an extraordinary achievement – certainly no ordinary ‘covers project’. Rick Simpson and his ensemble wilfully tackle head-on perhaps the original writers’ most elusive set of tracks and, fittingly, bring the same sense of adventure to the material as Radiohead might recognise from recording much of their music first time around. It’s impossible…

Blackford’s Love Song to Nature

  In October 2019 I interviewed composer Richard Blackford in London. I was about to attend a performance of his rich and moving choral work Pièta which premiered at the Cadogan Hall in London to great acclaim. See my review here https://bit.ly/36E60s7 During our meeting I questioned Blackford on his optimum environment for composing. He…