Friday, 29 April 2016

Liane Carroll

Liane Carroll

Annie's Jazz Club, Thorpe Hall Golf Club

19th April, 2016

Annie's Jazz club, which is currently celebrating its 8th year of 'bringing London to you' (the 'you' in this case being the coastal fringes of Essex) has a nomadic history. During the early days, it was hosted by a variety of pubs, in and around Southend-on-Sea. In recent times it has settled into an unlikely new home at the golf club, in leafy, well-heeled Thorpe Bay, where it convenes every Tuesday evening. It is a popular night out, drawing a lively and appreciative crowd, with an average age sitting somewhere between 60 and 70.

A return visit from Liane Carroll, a singer and piano player, who combines vocal jazz with salacious anecdotes and asides, has sold out the small venue. In the main bar, where a row of tall, plate glass windows overlook a manicured fairway and some distant sand traps bordering an adjacent green, every available space between the tables seems to be occupied by a chair. Waiters, bearing steaming plates of food, manoeuvre sideways along narrow trails through the shifting labyrinth, squeezing past members of audience, who are advancing single file, in snaking columns, in the opposite direction, towards the bar.

Eventually the room settles down and the lights are dimmed. Visible over a sea of nodding grey heads, ensconced behind a small electric piano, in front of a shuttered trophy cabinet, Carroll is a perpetually smiling presence, her eyes closed and her head tilted back and bobbing in the general vicinity of the microphone. She has one of those effortless, malleable voices that sounds like it could go anywhere, and seems to be carried along on an outpouring of joy, as she roams freely back and forth between the lyrics of other people's songs and her own scat singing.

Her sense of mischievousness, which is not evident early on, gradually comes to the fore over the course of three sets, or “trimesters” as she calls them, aided and abetted by tall glasses of “cucumber water” procured from the bar.

She pauses in the introduction to one song to ask an elderly gentleman who is struggling to remove a red sweater whether he is okay. “I've got some spaceships,” she says, referring to what appears to be a bag of sherbet saucers on top of the piano, which she playfully threatens to flick at anyone in the audience who falls asleep. She recalls her recent purchase of a Nutribullet: “It's supposed to be healthy but so far I've only used mine to make pina coladas.”

With Carroll the poignant and the absurd go hand in hand, neither one encroaching upon the other. It's like watching a skilled high wire artist who delights in throwing herself comically off-balance.

Her plaintive rendition of Misty - a vulnerable and open-hearted declaration of love - incorporates a lengthy instrumental break, the piano settling into a holding pattern while she tells the following joke:

(I am paraphrasing here)

My uncle was walking past a club in Essex when this blonde girl comes tumbling out through the front doors. She looks him up and down, then she says:

'Why have you got L and R painted on your boots?'

My uncle replies: 'It's to remind me which boot goes on which foot.'

'Oh,' says the girl. 'Is that why my knickers have got C&A written on them?'”

(For the benefit of American or millennial readers, C&A was a popular clothing store in the UK back in the 80s and 90s)

Mixed in among the standards are a smattering of relatively contemporary songs. A brisk run through Donald Fagen's Walk Between The Raindrops. Taking It With Me from the Tom Waits album Mule Variations. You Can Let Go Now (subtitled by Carroll as “the Imodium song”) originally by the soulful crooner and former Doobie Brother, Michael McDonald.

More anecdotes follow:

- A childhood piano teacher who threatened to cut an inch off her hair for every mistake that she made.

- A nomination for Best Vocalist in the (then) impending Jazz FM awards. She hasn't been invited to perform at the ceremony so doesn't fancy her chances, but is going anyway for the canapés.

- Her recent “adventures with dentures” that prompted her to cancel what would have been a live performance on the BBC, due to her concerns that her teeth might fly out of her mouth in front of an audience of millions.

Before the final set there is a raffle. All jazz clubs should have a raffle. It cuts through any chin-stroking pretension and brings an air of conviviality to the room.

Annie (founder of the club) is summoned to the piano to duet while protesting “I've got a Fisherman's Friend in my mouth.”

Cue more raised eyebrows from Liane, who launches into another anecdote that showcases her delight in sowing the seeds of chaos: During a lunch at The Roslin Hotel earlier in the day, Annie's dog was mistaken for Liane's and much admired by the staff.

He's not mine, “ she told them, before adding untruthfully “but I looked after him while your mummy was in prison, didn't I.”

As the evening draws towards its end, and with Annie's birthday a few hours away, a cake is brought on stage and we all sing Happy Birthday.

Liane introduces Seaside, the title track of her recent album, then, at the last moment, decides to perform Bye Bye Blackbird instead, inviting the audience to repeat her scat singing back to her, which we pull off in a rather overly-mannered and straight-jacketed fashion. She ends on a flourish, improvising lyrics thanking Annie and the other guest musicians who have joined her on stage, the golf club and everyone in the room for coming to see her play.

The genuine applause that follows apparently merits an encore.

Oh, do play Seaside, Liane,” begs one lady in the audience.

She acquiesces and the evening concludes on a touching note.

Liane Carroll will be playing three more times at Annie's Jazz Club in 2016, and, no doubt, at other venues across the country. This will include a performance at the Proms where she will be collaborating with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Impaled Northern Moonforest - Impaled Northern Moonforest

Impaled Northern Moonforest 
Occasionally a band will find itself in a situation where its members must compromise if they are to achieve their creative vision. By way of example, when the California alternative rock group - Camper Van Beethoven – reconvened, nine years after an acrimonious split, they recorded a song-for-song cover version of the Fleetwood Mac album Tusk, as a test to see if they could still work together.

Similarly, when veteran members of Anal Cunt decided, at 3 o'clock one morning in 1997, to form a black metal band, they were faced with the uphill challenge of realising their dream while not waking up somebody who was sleeping nearby.

To quell the volume, the drums and electric guitars, which would have traditionally formed the backbone of such a combo, were dispensed with in favour of gentler acoustic instrumentation. Percussion was generated by the vocalist, Seth Putnam, frenziedly slapping his palms against his knees and a mattress.

Commentators on YouTube, where Impaled Northern Moonforest's meagre canon of songs now languishes (mostly unheard, and apparently unwanted by any record label) have noted that the irregular drumming patterns bear a strong sonic resemblance to a frenetic act of unfettered masturbation.

These comparisons are probably fanciful. Putman - a man who, shortly before his death from heart failure, at the age of 43 - was photographed standing stark-naked, with a syringe dangling from one arm, while in the act of being orally pleasured by his wife, would certainly have had no qualms about listing his penis as an instrument had it been used as such.

Impaled Northern Moonforest's attempt to parody black metal was further hampered by Putnam's limited knowledge of the genre. By his own admission he didn't really listen to black metal and regarded any band playing this style of music who had formed after the mid-1980s (about 99% of all black metal bands) as poseurs. He appeared to mock his ignorance of the genre in a song recorded by Anal Cunt a few years earlier: Living Colour Is My Favourite Black Metal Band deliberately confused the African American rock band Living Colour, with the output of a fringe element of corpse-painted, mostly Scandinavian metal bands, whose lyrics often explored Satanism and pagan folklore.

The music that emerged from Impaled Northern Moonforest's debut 3am rehearsal session was a rapid-tempo strain of Eastern European / hillbilly folk, with garbled vocals reminiscent of the demonically-possessed 12 year old girl from The Exorcist. Abrupt shifts in tempo are commonplace. In line with the attention deficit disorder that determined the duration of much of Anal Cunt's repertoire, the songs are short, ranging from 20 seconds (Entranced By The Northern Impaled Necrowizard's Blasphemous Incantation Amidst The Agonizing Abomination Of The Lusting Necrocorpse) to the relatively lengthy (and, in my opinion, overlong) one minute and 28 seconds of Nocturnal Cauldrons Aflame Amidst The Northern Hellwitch's Perpetual Blasphemy.

The self-imposed limitations governing the choice of instruments, and a lack of familiarity with the genre, were not the only difficulties faced by the band. After recording their 13 song demo, Putman mislaid the hastily-conceived cover art which contained the only record of the track-listing, and so was forced to come up with new song titles. Since a few of the demos had already been mailed out with the original covers, a request was made on the band's website for anybody who possessed a copy of the album to get in touch.

A further error of judgment was Impaled Northern Moonforest's decision to forgo a contemporary model of marketing and distributing their music, choosing instead a release schedule that was governed by the whims of a powerful necrowizard. This practice resulted in an indefinite delay in the release of the band's only 7 inch single – Return of the Necrowizard. It was this postponement that arguably stymied their commercial growth and rise to mainstream popularity.

One thing that is immediately noticeable during a cursory first listen of Impaled Northern Moonforest's recorded output is how quickly their sound develops and matures. There is a marked stylistic shift between demo one (recorded in March 1997) and demo two (recorded in September 1997) as the band grow in confidence and ambition. This upward trend continues during the first 10 or so seconds of their belated comeback single Return Of The Necrowizard, which momentarily rises to a level of quality that one might honestly describe as “quite good” while also maintaining a straight face.

Demo one opener - the atmospheric Grim And Frostbitten Moongoats Of The North – begins with somebody (presumably Josh Martin) imitating a frozen arctic wind while, in the background, Putman rasps and gargles like an angry caged demon with Tourette Syndrome. With the grim and frostbitten stage set, there is a sudden eruption of fast-paced, off-kilter, out of tune strumming, garnished by the aforementioned rapid-fire knee-slapping percussion, as the song accelerates towards its rickety, trembling climax.

Moongoats functions best as an aperitif and scene-setter to its more varied sequel - Forlorned Invocations Of Blasphemous Congregations Of Lusting Goat Sodomizing Satanists. This is, in my opinion is one of the better Impaled Northern Moonforest compositions, comprising a 55 second acoustic black metal rock opera. It begins with what could be interpreted, by somebody who has never heard any Latvian folk music, as a Latvian folk song, played on an acoustic guitar at roughly three times the normal speed, and accompanied by Putnam's indecipherable satanic ravings. At 27 seconds there is an abrupt transition as the guitar affects the kind of plodding strum that characterises the late Nirvana frontman – Kurt Cobain's - acoustic home demos, before the tone once again shifts to a fast-paced bluegrass clog dance. In many ways the song represents the black metal of equivalent of The Beach Boys' Surf's Up or Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

The scampering up-and-down the scales, and the choppy tempo changes that characterise the demo are supplemented in the coda - Transfixing The Forbidden Blasphemous Incantation Of The Conjuring Wintergoat – by chiming horror-movie keyboards - a random succession of sustained glacial notes before the inevitable explosion of frenzied banjo thrash joins the thrilling melee and the song assumes the dimensions of something that might have once graced the stage of The Fast Show's Jazz club.

Six months later, Impaled Northern Moonforest reconvened to record their second demo. Never one to rest upon his laurels, Putman's thigh-slapping percussion had improved markedly, scaling new levels of complexity. Whether his growth as a musician was brought about through iron will and dedicated practice, or was the result of a meeting with the devil itself, at a grim and frostbitten crossroads, I cannot, or will not, say. The complicated hand-to-knee-patter that opens Lustfully Worshipping The Inverted Moongoat While Skiing Down The Inverted Necromountain Of Necrodeathmortum and it's successor, Awaiting The Frozen Blasphemy Of The Necroyeti's Lusting Necrobation Upon The Altar Of Voxrfszzzisnzf represents, I think, a special and extraordinary feat of rhythmic mastery.

Add to the off-kilter percussion, the atonal guitar strum and the sustained discordant keyboards and you have conjured a sound that very accurately predicts the direction of late period Radiohead, in particular the Oxfordshire band's recent attempt at recording a song for the Bond movie - Spectre. I am not saying outright that Radiohead ripped off Impaled Northern Moon because I don't want to be sued by Thom Yorke. However there are similarities and a case could be argued that the musical landscapes evoked by the nascent black metal band lie at the root of Radiohead's reinvention and the grandiose orchestral concoctions that they periodically record in stately homes up and down the UK.

The second demo also marked a broadening of lyrical themes, with an interest in winter sports evident in Masturbating On The Unholy Inverted Tracks Of The Grim & Frostbitten Necrobobsledders – a song where randomly depressed sections of a keyboard give way to random jabs of noise as the band set sail on the choppy waters of acoustic black jazz metal.

Fittingly the band's finale - a 7 inch single titled Return Of The Necrowizard represents the high point of their creativity. A loop consisting of a deep guitar strum,  followed by some delicate finger-picking, is accompanied by robust beat-boxing, thumped out on a mattress. I find it extraordinary in this age of drum machines and samplers that such rhythmic perfection can be achieved using live instruments. Even Putnam can't maintain it for very long. The considered beat quickly degenerates to a rapid patter before the song regresses to the tried and tested pattern of insane hill-billy bluegrass and mostly incoherent ranting.

An accompanying animated video  depicts the levitating Necrowizard raining down fire and destruction upon an Eskimo village, melting igloos and reducing the inhabitants to red wet stains in the grim and frostbitten snow.

Unfortunately the band never ventured past the demo stage of recording. Putnam, when asked, said: "I can't imagine anyone wanting to hear a full length I.N.M. record, or I can't imagine us wanting to record that much. Anything's possible though.”

On the Impaled Northern Moonforest website (which endures despite missing the content of its downloads page and its community forums) there remain tantalizing hints of some unreleased material: “Seth has written a song title that contains about 10 variants of the word "Abazagorath" (such as Abazagoration, Abazagorizing etc.) and will give it to me for the site when he finds it.”

With the not entirely unexpected death of Putnam in 2011, it would appear that this song and others like it have been lost to the ages.

He is in hell now, playing in a thrash zydeco band with Satan, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein.

Impaled Northern Moonforest - Forlorned Invocations Of Blasphemous Congregations Of Lusting Goat Sodomizing Satanists

Impaled Northern Moonforest – Impaled Northern Moonforest
(Menace To Sobriety Records)

Release Date: At some point in 2000

Track Listing and Timings

Demo One

1. Grim And Frostbitten Moongoats Of The North 1:04
2. Forlorned Invocations Of Blasphemous Congregations Of Lusting Goat Sodomizing Satanists 0:55
3. Gazing At The Blasphemous Moon While Perched Atop A Very Very Very Very Very Very Very Forsaken Crest Of The Northern Mountain 0:34
4. Bloodlustfully Praising Satan's Unholy Almightiness In The Woods At Midnight 0:45
5. Nocturnal Cauldrons Aflame Amidst The Northern Hellwitch's Perpetual Blasphemy 1:28
6. Transfixing The Forbidden Blasphemous Incantation Of The Conjuring Wintergoat 1:00

Demo Two

1. Masturbating On The Unholy Inverted Tracks Of The Grim & Frostbitten Necrobobsledders 0:45
2. Awaiting The Blasphemous Abomination Of The Necroyeti While Sailing On The Northernmost Fjord Of Xzfgiiizmtsath 0:38
3. Lustfully Worshipping The Inverted Moongoat While Skiing Down The Inverted Necromountain Of Necrodeathmortum 0:44
4. Awaiting The Frozen Blasphemy Of The Necroyeti's Lusting Necrobation Upon The Altar Of Voxrfszzzisnzf 0:51
5. Summoning The Unholy Frozen Winterdemons To The Grimmest And Most Frostbitten Inverted Forest Of Abazagorath 0:39
6. Entranced By The Northern Impaled Necrowizard's Blasphemous Incantation Amidst The Agonizing Abomination Of The Lusting Necrocorpse 0:20
7. Grim And Frostbitten Gay Bar 0:31

7 Inch Single

Return Of The Necrowizard 1:12