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Main | 18/2018 »
Friday
Dec282018

BRÅK


BRÅK happened just as I had almost decided that when it came to free jazz and improvised music South London sucked, and that all exciting gigs in the genre happened at Café Oto in Dalston. Then Colin Webster invited me to a gig in Brockley, at Waterintobeer. I wondered if they diluted beer with water. But it turned out they turn water into beer, and support free-improv. I heard three amazing free improv duos and had a fun evening connecting with Brockley locals. If you’re not hip to BRÅK, you’re missing out. Here’s all about BRÅK in the words of the three outstanding musicians who jazzed up their SE London neighborhood, reeds players Cath Roberts, Colin Webster and Tom Ward.

Genesis
Cath: BRÅK originally came into being in summer 2017 when I was asked to put on a one-off gig at waterintobeer as part of Brockley Max festival. I invited Colin and Tom to play sets too, and we each inited a guest improviser to play with. It was a great night with a lovely crowd, and after the gig Tim and Helen from the shop asked me whether I’d like to make it a regular night! I immediately asked the others if they’d be up for doing it as a collaborative thing, and BRÅK was born. 

Music
Tom: Freely improvised music. Which means that it varies depending on who's playing... obviously I'm always myself, which is to say heavily jazz-influenced, more recently free-improv-extended-techniques-influenced, and a bit influenced by loads of other stuff. But for instance when I've played with a heavily free-jazz-influenced double bass player it's gone in one direction, and when I've played with a contemporary experimental modular synth player it's maybe (hopefully!) gone in a slightly different direction. The exciting thing about playing with somebody different every time is that you never quite know what's going to happen, and there's always something new & challenging. 

Philosophy
Tom: Improvisation and outstanding beer with friends, in a venue that we can walk home from...

Colin: BRÅK is a word that means ‘noise’ in Norwegian, and also ‘argument’ in Swedish, and although some of the music we play is actually not noisy at all, and we all get on well, we thought the name really sums up what goes on at our nights. Also, the sound of the word is a bit like ‘Brockley’ – the area of London where we all live and where waterintobeer is. I think for a long time we were all really after this kind of space that was local and open to this kind of free experimentation.

Expectations
Cath: For me I love to use my BRÅK sets to play with new people. It’s a totally relaxed, informal way of collaborating for the first time. The sets can also lead to new ongoing collaborations; for example I’m now playing regularly gigs in a duo with Benedict Taylor, which was originally a BRÅK pairing. We’ve gigged a lot this year and we’re planning a recording: the combination of viola and baritone sax is really fun. The othre nice thing about BRÅK is the social vibe: we all hang out with some beers after the gigs, so it’s also a good place to catch up with people, chill out with the person you’ve just played with, etc.

Tom: Originally it was just nice thing to do - a good excuse to get some friends together, drink some beer & make some noise. But I've found the practice of playing duo with a different person every time has really given me an opportunity to introspect how I approach duo improvisation (and improvisation more widely), given me deeper insights into the musical thinking of some of my peers, and been a really great opportunity to play with people that I might not otherwise have played with. It's always easy to meet musicians and say "let's play together some time", but this gives a nice context to actually follow through on that.



Logistics
Tom: It's pretty de-centralized, so we each organise our own partners & their logistics individually. I don't think there's a huge amount of work involved, we don't have a big publicity machine or anything, it's pretty much all word-of-mouth and some haphazard social media. Every few months the three of us will get together and set a new batch of dates and chat about whatever comes up. I just ordered our first round of merch, though, so maybe we have to start keeping track of money.

Colin: There are a few logistical restrictions - the shop is quite small so we always play in duos. Also it’s in a residential area so to keep the neighbours sweet we don’t have drum kits or loud amps. That said, we’ve had a huge range of instruments in the shop.. vibraphone, laptop, home-made instruments, all kinds of brass, woodwind, strings etc. Also the night is 100% DIY and our budget is limited so getting artists from outside of London takes a bit of effort. Somehow we manage though.

Waterintobeer
Tom: Tim and Helen (who run waterintobeer) are awesome, they've both been very supportive right from the start, even though I'm not sure they had really checked out this music before...! When we were first talking about putting on gigs, we were like "you know what this music is, right?" - "yep" - "you know sometimes we might not get much of an audience, right?" - "yep no worries. we'll have fun just ourselves then". That kind of support from a venue owner is so rare & so valuable. Tim's background is in the DIY/punk scene from Leeds, so he really gets what we're trying to do with making our own music and doing stuff ourselves - more on that here.

Audience Response
Tom: Audience response has been very positive. We quickly picked up a few regular attendees, we've been gradually picking up a few more since then. Some months when the stars align we've had very busy nights & the shop's been rammed, which is really cool. Most of the audience are people already familiar with the improv scene. 
When the gigs are on, the shop is still open to the public as an off-licence, which can be brilliant. When a random person comes in off the street, and there's somebody in the corner of the room screaming and making gagging noises whilst someone else is making some ridiculously abrasive noise on a saxophone, their reactions can be great.
Oh and there's a twitter-famous cat, Olly, that hangs out in waterintobeer, he doesn't like the gigs, he always listens to the first minute or so and then leaves.



Happy
Cath: I am so happy with it. It just came together in a really natural way, without us needing to do huge amounts of work on promotion or logistics. I think the fact that the venue had the idea, rather than us pitching the night to them, massively helps. They dig what we’re doing and (unlike with some venues) we’re not worrying constantly about whether they’re happy with it. All in all it’s a pretty ideal setup right now!

Tom: Love it! It's one of my favorite gigs - it's not big or flashy, but to me it's really starting to feel like a warm little community, and I'm always really into the music.

Colin: Playing and listening to improvised music with world-class musicians, 30 seconds from my front door… yes I am happy with it.

Links
Cath 
http://cathrobertsmusic.co.uk/
https://slothracket.bandcamp.com/
https://blurtsgrowls.bandcamp.com/album/blurts-growls
https://rawtonkrecords.bandcamp.com/album/namazu
Label co-run with Dee Byrne: https://luminouslabel.bandcamp.com/

Tom Ward 
https://madwort.bandcamp.com/ 
https://madwort.co.uk/  

Colin
http://webstology.wordpress.com
http://rawtonkrecords.bandcamp.com 

 

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