4

Live From Birmingham: Alabama 3, Craobh Rua, Fanfare Ciocărlia & Wrangler

Martin Longley By

Sign in to view read count
First, absolutely inexplicably, the rows of seats were still fixed for this rollicking Romanian gypsy brass gig. The stalls of the Town Hall are multi-purpose, and can be cleared of seats, with drinks-vending tables situated to the rear, turning the space into a club zone. Unfortunately, this didn't happen. Even though Fanfare Ciocărlia tend to play at racing speed, and with deeply involved time signatures, some attempt at dancing is usually likely, even if feet and bodies are inhumanly misplaced. So, this large ensemble had to work much harder to produce their desired atmosphere, not helped by the oddly sparse attendance and the very prompt 8pm start. No sooner had the audience arrived (and some still hadn't), than they were plunged into an immediately hyperactive musical frenzy. These Romanians, from the village of Zece Prăjini, play every note as if someone's getting married, and has been partying all day. It takes a while to acclimatise, so fortunately there was an interval, in the name of re-grouping.

Fanfare is the term used to designate a brass band, and Ciocărlia means 'skylark.' The band have existed in this touring form for nearly two decades. The repertoire included two or three oft-heard classics from the Balkan region, but also a clutch of re-designed numbers from the spheres of jazz and popular music: "Caravan," "Summertime," "Born To Be Wild" and the 007 theme, although not much like any way that we've heard them previously, and also inserted within other tunes. The general structure involves a back line of low-plunged traditional tenor and baritone horns, huffing out basslines with remarkable nimbleness, and then a pair of percussionists, working with a very minimalist set-up. The contribution of a tiny ringing cymbal that rested atop a big harness-slung bass drum was quite crucial. Out front, the trumpets made coordinated flourishes, and the chief soloing horn was an alto saxophone, striated with reverb, way beyond the already spacious natural sound of the hall. This fared surprisingly well, as nothing could halt or impair the rapid percussive attack of the involved soloing constructions, always seeking to perch on a higher and higher rafter.

In the end, the Romanians took a rather flat beginning, herding their lost audience towards the front rows, goading them into standing, then even coaxing a few females up onstage for a brass-worshipping dance. The second set took off into another dimension, populated by some of the best songs, and featuring the most riveting solos. There was one tune that employed a dual lead vocal technique, but many more that swapped the vocal roles around, from frontman to sideline helpers. Then, for the encore, the band paraded around the hall, and out into the foyer, with not one tune but three or four, offering up a substantial long goodbye, including that evocative theme from Emir Kusturica's Time Of The Gypsies movie, the traditional "Ederlezi." This wasn't exactly their natural habitat, but the Romanians managed to invade, colonise and convert into a designated party zone.

Wrangler
The Tin
March 21, 2015

This Coventry gig was the Saturday night climax of a two-day Synthcurious mini-festival which featured an afternoon of films, discussion and electronics activism. Wrangler have a low profile considering the pedigree of the trio's players. Not least Stephen Mallinder, a founder of Sheffield's Cabaret Voltaire, one of the most significant UK alternative industrial-funk electronic music outfits. He's partnered by Phil Winter, from Tuung, those pioneers of folktronica, and Benge, who's played with original Ultravox singer John Foxx. The opening set came courtesy of Attrition, a local Coventry act that's been active almost as long as the Cabs. Nowadays, Attrition is mostly Martin Bowes, no longer working with co-founder Julia Niblock. The set was much better than expected, as Attrition's sound is now stripped to a darkened core, shorn of its old Gothic trappings. Bowes has scalpeled the palette down to a harder, minimalist anti-glam doom-pop, loaded with attractive amounts of alienation.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read WOMAD 2017 Live Reviews WOMAD 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Punkt Festival 2017 Live Reviews Punkt Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: September 17, 2017
Read Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium Live Reviews Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: September 16, 2017
Read 38th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival Live Reviews 38th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 15, 2017
Read Sue Rynhart at The Cresent Arts Centre Live Reviews Sue Rynhart at The Cresent Arts Centre
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 15, 2017
Read 38th International Jazzfestival Saalfelden Live Reviews 38th International Jazzfestival Saalfelden
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: September 15, 2017
Read "The Donny McCaslin Group at The Arden Gild Hall" Live Reviews The Donny McCaslin Group at The Arden Gild Hall
by Mike Jacobs
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "The Cookers at Nighttown" Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read "Internationales Jazz Festival Münster 2017" Live Reviews Internationales Jazz Festival Münster 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: January 26, 2017
Read "Jazzkaar 2017" Live Reviews Jazzkaar 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: May 29, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.