Monday 23 January 2017, 7.30pm
A unique meeting between improv guitar great John Russell and avant-rock duo Dead Days Beyond Help. One of the joys of recent years for guitar-watchers has been the unveiling of John Russell's electric playing which, far from being a simple extension of his acoustic work, has also plunged into startlingly extreme noise territory via the deft use of a plethora of electronic effects. Mirroring this trajectory, the music of Dead Days Beyond Help is informed by the members' experiences in a wide variety of musical contexts, even if on the surface Jem Doulton's visceral drumming and Alex Ward's amped-up guitar attack might seem far removed from Ward's work on clarinet as a long-standing presence in the UK improvised music scene.
The evening will start with a solo improvisation by John on his trademark acoustic guitar, followed by DDBH performing a set of their inventive and idiosyncratic compositions. In the second half, the three musicians will reconvene with Russell switching to the electric for a no-holds-barred improvised collaboration which promises to shake the Oto walls.
“formidably knotty, complex music which avoids the dry geekiness of US math rock while beating it hands down in terms of intensity and fluidity... Ward’s guitar work leaps between metallic crunch, Fripp-esque tangle and Chadbourne choogle with astounding energy and precision, while Doulton’s drumming swings with commensurate joy and fury.” – Derek Walmsley, The Wire
Dead Days Beyond Help is the duo of Alex Ward (guitar/vocals) and Jem Doulton (drums). Since forming in 2006, DDBH have honed a compositional approach heard to its fullest extent on their 2014 Believers Roast release "SEVERANCE PAY", described by The Wire Magazine as "a reminder that there are still thrills aplenty to be gained from the pursuit of complexity... as playful as it is heavy, as atmospheric as it is cerebral". In their live performances, these variously intricate, sweeping and violent compositions sit side by side with free-wheeling improvisational excursions (reflecting the members' work with the likes of Steve Noble, Alan Wilkinson and Thurston Moore) and the whims of the moment, which could involve a leap into either a wall of flattening noise or the most emotionally direct country song. In negotiating this dizzying range of materials, DDBH bypass the pitfalls of irony and the obstacle course of genre by the simple guiding principle: intensity-at-all-costs.
“Ward’s guitar work leaps between metallic crunch, Fripp-esque tangle and Chadbourne choogle with astounding energy and precision, while Doulton’s drumming swings with commensurate joy and fury” – Joseph Stannard, The Wire.
“Dead Days Beyond Help are just the job after a hard day at the void machine, their precise and frenetic compositions blowing away the debris and cleansing the mind.” – Simon Lewis, Terrascope Online.
“for Russell the fingerboard is apparently multiple. He finds new tones in the same place, new relationships in the same gesture. A second trip across the fingerboard is always a different excursion. The harmonic is a transparent sound: silence and ambient sound pass through it. It accounts for Russell’s unhurried pace and his sense of order, even when he’s playing fast: there’s simply so much going on.” - Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure
John Russell got his first guitar in 1965 while living in Kent and began to play in and around London from 1971 onwards. An early involvement with the emerging free improvisation scene (from 1972) followed, seeing him play in such places as The Little Theatre Club, Ronnie Scott’s, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Musicians’ Co-Op and the London Musicians’ Collective.
From 1974 his work extended into teaching, broadcasts (radio and television) and touring in the United Kingdom and, ever extensively, in other countries around the world . He has played with many of the world’s leading improvisers and his work can be heard on over 50 CDs. In 1981, he founded QUAQUA, a large bank of improvisers put together in different combinations for specific projects and, in 1991, he started MOPOMOSO which has become the UK’s longest running concert series featuring mainly improvised music.